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Arts & Liberties => Writer's Block => Topic started by: Joel on December 10, 2006, 06:15:35 am

Title: Fugue State
Post by: Joel on December 10, 2006, 06:15:35 am
Michael Owens (the former George Sedlewitz) has not been having a nice life.  In this chapter, for the first time he goes completely apeshit.

3 – New Business

Berta’s dad had said, “She got two of’em, God love her.”  According to a between-the-lines reading of some of the angry but very careful newspaper accounts that had been so common for a week or two, she’d done better than that.  And Lex got his licks in, too, may doggie heaven be full of meat trees with low-hanging steaks.

There were times when my rage came right up out of my chest, like some special effect in a good bug-eyed monster movie.  There were times when all I could do was crouch on the floor and pound it, just pound it over and over and try to keep from screaming aloud until the fit left me.  And there were times when I felt a kind of joy, a kind of exaltation at the thought of killing these people.  At those times I knew I could do no wrong, that everything would be all right because I was the invincible fucking god of war, and by my mighty arm they were all going to die!

Then there were times when I felt normal – most of the time, really.  I tried to cling to those times, because then I could plan; I could see clearly what could and couldn’t be done.  Really, I tried to hang on to those times.

I needed to know what I was dealing with.  There were still eighteen guys at a minimum, two injured.  Some of the accounts of the ‘recovery’ of one of the wounded – the one Lex got – suggested that the meanest thing I could do to him would be to let him live.  Well, we’ll see.

You got two of them, Berta, and a piece of a third.  You did great, Babe, but I know you wanted more.

I’ll take it from here.  It’s the least I can do.

Their security was bad, but not as bad as I could have wished.  SWAT teams expect to make enemies, and so they heroically hide their faces and names, even internally.  Even after I cracked the office firewall, I couldn’t just read off a list from their personnel records.  Also, they had a really annoying habit of giving their internal groups meaningless three-letter acronyms which could be hard to sort out.  Lucky for me they chattered away about it all day long in their email traffic.  Being newly unemployed, I had nothing to do with my time but to sit there and work it into a picture.

And boy!  Was there a lot of traffic!  The raid on Berta had kicked over a beehive that hadn’t settled down much, even after weeks.  Heads were rolling through the corridors like bowling balls.  My old friend Winston had been used to soak up as much of the abuse as possible, but there was more than enough for any one sponge.  And the secondary recipient was someone named Porter.

Steven Porter, head of something called the SPT.  The chatter said he’d tried to steal Winston’s thunder, rushed the operation, and fucked up the surveillance.

Steven Porter.  Oh yeah.  We’ve gotta meet.

But not just you.  I want your friends, too.  Some for Berta, and some for Lex, and baby makes three.

I want you all.

Reading their mail wasn’t getting it done, though.  I needed more information, and could only think of one way to get it.  It was liable to lead to trouble, but I was past caring.  Either I’d kill them or they’d kill me.  Either way was fine.

First I visited a police department at night and stole a license tag at random from one of the personal cars in the lot.  Then I rented a van, using cash and one of my false driver’s licenses.  My new tag went on the van.  Over a couple of days, a few minutes at a time, I wandered the FBI building’s surprisingly small and undefended employee lot and mumbled vehicle descriptions and tag numbers into a little recorder.  Later I transcribed the information into my laptop and hacked DMV records for matches.  This might turn out to be useful, but mostly I was waiting for something to happen.  It finally did on the second day, during my fifth or sixth visit.

“Hey, you!”

The voice came from behind the van.  Out of my blind spot stepped a stocky woman in a beige business suit.  Her blunt face had “stern cop” written all over it.  Agent Sculley, she wasn’t.

Oh, wait a minute now. I hadn’t expected a woman.  Was I really ready to do this to a woman?  No: I needed to make my apologies and get the hell hence.  This was not going to work.

The god of war had other ideas.  He elbowed me aside and leaned out the window.  “Yes ma’am?” he said meekly.

She flashed a badge and FBI ID.  You could tell she was really into doing that.  And that’s when I surrendered to the god, at least for the moment.  It was the worst thing she could have done.

I looked again at the badge she held up.  Excellent!  I could use one of those.

“You’ve been in and out of this lot all day.  What do you think you’re doing?”

Why yes, I had, and thanks for finally noticing.  My cheap wig, baseball cap, sunglasses and the cotton balls I’d stuffed into my cheeks would hopefully keep the security cameras from recognizing my face.  But a closer examination would be a problem.  She mustn’t have a chance to call for help.

I just looked at her and shrugged.

“Get out of the van.”

“Okay.”  Keep my head low in what I hoped was a properly submissive posture, I obeyed. 

“What’ve you got in there?”

I’d been hoping – part of me had been fearing – that she’d ask.  Without speaking, I crossed in front of the van and led her to the side door which faced away from the building.  I opened it, stood aside to let her lean in – yes, she really was that trusting – and then sapped her in the back of the head as hard as I could.  I dumped the rest of her inside, quietly closed the door, and drove away as unobtrusively as possible.  Bet they’d fence this lot in, mighty soon.

A few blocks away I stopped, relieved her of her weapons, and applied duct tape to keep her quiet and trouble-free should she wake.  I hoped she would, but couldn’t be sure.  I’d walloped her pretty hard.  Then we took a nice long ride into the woods.

Turned out she was fine, though I imagine that headache was a bitch.  She struggled a bit while I taped her to a tree; it didn’t help.  I took the tape off her mouth.

“You son of a bitch!  You’re never gonna get away with this!  Do you know who I am?”

“Shut up.” 

While gathering weapons and other supplies, I’d splurged on a really nice knife; a Cold Steel UWK.  It’s a wicked-looking thing, but not in an overdone, fantasy-warfare kind of way.  Six and a half inches of thick, rigid, coal-black steel with an edge just this side of shaving-sharp.  A serious knife, for very serious purposes.  It’s the kind of knife that says, without your having to speak a word, “I care enough to torture you with the very best.”  Now I held it in my hand, and I knew I’d come to a threshold I couldn’t cross.  Only a monster could do this, and I was not a monster.

“Don’t be an ass,” said the god of war.  He suddenly drew the edge across her fleshy cheek, seeking the point of the bone.  The woman shrieked in horror and pain.  When I’d imagined doing this, I’d thought of going for the crotch.  Threaten a man’s bag, and his heart and mind will follow.  But this was a woman, and the god of war went for the face.

“You don’t know me,” the god of war said lightly.  I could feel his joy, his delight.  “But I’m guessing you’ve heard of my late girlfriend.  Berta?  Berta Oltavak?  Just nod.”

Eyes wide and streaming tears, she nodded convulsively. 

“And of course our unborn child, whom we never had a chance to name.  So I want you to try and imagine how pissed-off I am with you people.”  He unbuttoned her jacket.  “Try and conceive of the sheer depth and breadth and height of my pissed-offedness.”  He ripped her blouse open.  Buttons flew.  “And then I want you to remember that you’re the only one here, the only one I can express it all with.”  He slipped the knife between her bra and her breastbone and sliced through the undergarment.  “I’m an expressive kinda guy.  It’s been a problem before.”  Slowly, slowly, he peeled the cups away.  “They say I have real impulse management issues.”

The god of war stood back.  “Wow,” he said.  “Y’know, there are exercises that could have firmed those up for you.”

She gave me everything I wanted and more.  I often had to ask her to stop, just so I could catch up with my notes.  But finally we were done.  The god of war put the knife’s blade against her throat, and I yanked it away.

“Don’t be a pussy, Michael,” he said.  “Finish her slow.  She’s a fucking fed; she’s your enemy.”

“I’m not a goddamn monster,” I said.  “I’ll kill my enemies.  But it’s not supposed to be like this.”

I felt his contempt.  “Just do it,” he sighed.  “If you’re gonna be squeamish, use the gun.”

I sheathed the bloody knife and drew the Kimber.  It wasn’t supposed to be like this.  I put the muzzle against her forehead, but I couldn’t pull the trigger.

“You’re making her suffer, Michael.  Do you like her fear?  You know what you have to do.  She’s a fed!  Do it!”

The Kimber bucked in my hand.  The woman convulsed and sagged against the tape.

The god of war said, “Look at the numbers, Michael.  Look at the names she gave you.  You’d better get your act together.  I’ll give you victory, but not if you’re gonna be a wimp.  Keep on the way you are, and you’ll just die.  Then you can explain to Berta that you failed because you were too much of a prig to give her justice.”

“Not like this.  I’m not a monster.”  My voice was weak in my own ears, almost drowned by his sardonic laughter.

Afterward I watched the email traffic very carefully.  You’d have thought they would have connected Agent Ratchett’s disappearance to me, but if anybody made the connection he didn’t share it with friends.

But for all the information I gathered, the picture just kept getting worse.  It needed to be done as nearly simultaneously as possible, and it just couldn’t be.  There were twenty-three of them, and only one of me.  If word got out that shit was hitting their particular fan, they’d either band together or scatter.  Either one would make it impossible.

I planned it every which way, over weeks.  And finally, reluctantly, bitterly I admitted that it just wasn’t going to happen.  Not one guy with one pistol.  I fought against it; I raged against it!  But even the god of war didn’t deny that with the weapons I had, it wasn’t possible.

By this time I had traced them all; twenty-three men who lived all over Anchorage.  I knew where they lived, but how do does one guy do enough surveillance on that many men to know their habits?  Some of them got together socially; that had possibilities.  Others lived alone.  Porter spent a lot of time on his boat, an old cabin cruiser.  Two were still in the hospital.

If I knew something about explosives – like where to get some, for starters – then maybe.  But with a pistol?  No way.

Okay, so change of plan.  Could I take them piecemeal, a little at a time?  If I gave them one destructive evening, and then laid low for a little while, would they relax and go back to their habits?  Let me come at them again?

Probably not.  I wouldn’t.

No, face it, Michael.  You just don’t have the stuff.

Before I could take them all, I had to get the stuff.  I had to learn a new way to do an old thing.  And I wasn’t going to learn it here.  I had to find out where it could be learned, and go there.

That meant my big night of Ragnarok had to wait, maybe for a long time.

“Yeah, okay,” said the god.  “But I’ll give them something to remember me by, in the meantime.”

Michael was going to leave it alone; just do the one kill and be off.  He really can be a pussy; I don’t know what Berta saw in him.  But this was so perfect, I just couldn’t resist.  A hockey game!  I ask you, what’s a hockey game without a little violence?

These guys really didn’t know that they were feeding their internal communications directly to Michael.  It was awfully nice of them.  By this time it was early winter, and for all that winter is usually a big thing in Alaska I’d barely even noticed.  Hockey season had started, and six of the SPT guys started swapping interoffice memos about this big game between the Canucks and the Red Wings.  One of them, a bachelor, had a wide-screen television and the six planned to meet at his house.  As the great day approached, two dropped out amid much bitching and moaning about wives that just didn’t understand them.

Hey, guys?  You two should each give your wives a big, wet kiss. 

But the other four were luckier.  They swapped plans for who was bringing the beer, who the munchies.  There was also a killer nacho recipe, which I carefully copied for later use.  Sounded delicious.

Everything I was going to do on Ragnarok Mark One had to finish on the same evening.  So the date of the hockey game determined my schedule.

But there were practical considerations.  Porter and his boat, for example.  I had plans for that boat.  But with winter coming on, he might stop spending his evenings there.  And what if he put it up in storage?  Contingencies had to be allowed for, alternate plans drawn.  It was a busy time, and not altogether unhappy.

Turns out I needn’t have worried about him.  I checked in on him evening after evening, and I have to say that man was a real diehard deck partier.  As the nights got colder his guests got fewer and stayed more briefly.  But even when he was all alone he still sat there drinking beer and (I presume) enjoying himself until bedtime.  You really have to admire that; he knew what he liked.

The blessed evening arrived.  I checked my gear over and over; transport, alternate transport, some worn scrubs and fake ID, shift schedules, ammo, paths of entry and egress.  Money was becoming a real issue, but it didn’t matter.  These things work themselves out, and I wanted to make this a night to remember.

I waited until the second quarter, watching through the window and listening to the game through an earbud attached to a transistor radio in my pocket.  I’d already taken care of the lock on the back door, so entry was no problem at all.  Off a short hallway that led to the kitchen there was a mudroom, and in there I pocketed the earbud and checked my pistol.

I was surprised that my heart was pounding.  Four against one wouldn’t be anything to sneeze at for an ordinary man, but I was the invincible god of war.  What the hell did I have to worry about?

I strode into the living room.  They all had their backs to me, emoting at the TV.

“Excuse me.”

They didn’t notice!  They kept right on yelling at their stupid game!

“Hey!  You guys!”  I was tempted to put a round through the blaring television, but I needed the noise.  So instead I just shot one of them in the head.  That got the attention of the other three, real quick.  They jumped off the couch like it was electrified, and spun to face me.

“Good evening.  My name is Michael, and I’ll be your psycho killer tonight.”

I worked them from left to right.  The first two just stood there and took their bullets, but the last one was made of sterner stuff.  He jumped to my right, drew his pistol and snapped two shots at me.  Good for him!  Can’t say where the first one went, but the second left no doubt.  Something hit me in the side like a baseball bat, but I couldn’t be bothered with small things.  I fired three times, hitting him twice in the chest and once in the head.  Then I went around and made sure of the other three.

Four down; excellent.  The evening was off to a good start.  I did seem to be bleeding pretty badly, though.  I went into the bathroom and lifted my shirt.  Aw, it was nothing for the god of war to worry about.  It looked like the bullet went cleanly in and out on the side just under my ribs.  If my guts were intact I should be fine.  Right now there was work to do.  A real gung-ho operator like the party’s host was bound to have all sorts of nasty goodies stashed.  I wanted them.  And – hm, I really was bleeding – maybe a field dressing or two.

He deserved better treatment than this.  They must be giving him a placebo or something because even though he’d just had his pill for the evening, his left hand still felt like somebody was twisting it with hot pliers.  They kept telling him it would go away with time, but it never did.  Day and night it hurt.  It hurt!  And it wasn’t even there.  That bitch shot it off.

He didn’t even bother hitting the call button, because those twats on the night shift would only ignore him.  Again.  “You’ve had your medication, nothing we can do till morning.”  Cunts.  Somebody had tried to tell him early on that it paid to be nice to the nurses; they could make your life easier or they could make it hell.  But he was a federal agent, goddamn it!  Grievously wounded in the line of duty, and he deserved some fucking consideration!

He couldn’t wait till they finally checked him out of here; then there’d be nobody to tell him when he could take his “meds.”
Just then the door opened quietly.  It was some guy, an orderly or something, that he’d never seen before.  “Get the hell out of here!” he yelled.  “I didn’t call for anything.”

The man came to his bedside, smiling.  “I know,” he said softly.  “But somebody brought you a message.”

“Yeah?  What is it?”

A calloused palm that felt like iron crushed his mouth and nose.  He felt two fingers – so strong! – grab his windpipe and pull!

“Berta says hi, and that she’s really sorry she missed with the shotgun.”

I’d thought for weeks about all the ways I could board Porter’s boat without attracting attention.  The problem is, as I know as well as anybody, boats are like the sounding boards on guitars, and little ones rock; there just isn’t any way to get aboard without letting everybody there know it.  But I wasn’t in charge here.  The god of war took a direct approach.  He just walked up like he owned the place, which he did, and hopped right onto the cockpit.  Then he took the Kimber out of my left pocket.  Porter stared at it stupidly, not saying a word.

“Why don’t we go inside,” the god said.  Stumbling a bit, Porter obeyed.

The god of war closed and latched the door behind us, not taking his eyes off Porter.  Still holding the Kimber in my left hand, he drew the UWK with my right.  Then, perfectly deadpan, as I’d rehearsed it a million times, he said, “Hello.  My name is Inigo Montoya.  You killed my father.  Prepare to die.”

Porter really was drunk.  He tilted his head curiously.  “Huh?”

“Naw, just kidding.  My name is Michael Owens, and it was my girlfriend you killed.  But yeah, prepare to die.”  The god of war closed in and went to work with the knife.

The knife is quieter, and takes a lot longer.  Nobody wanted Porter dead right away anyhow.  Here was an enemy we could all agree on.
Title: Re: Fugue State
Post by: coloradohermit on December 10, 2006, 07:15:04 am
Wow! You sure can weave a spellbinder!  Looking forward to more.
Title: Re: Fugue State
Post by: ShortyDawkins on December 10, 2006, 08:15:36 am
Ditto, what hermit said! Wow!
Title: Re: Fugue State
Post by: cowardly lion on December 10, 2006, 10:52:23 am
I like it.

Title: Re: Fugue State
Post by: penguinsscareme on December 10, 2006, 12:58:41 pm
I waited until the second quarter

Hockey games consist of three "periods," not four quarters...unless this is meant to intentionally show how much he doesn't care about hockey.
Title: Re: Fugue State
Post by: penguinsscareme on December 10, 2006, 01:05:29 pm

Someone needs to subsidize you so you can just concentrate on doing what you do best.
Title: Re: Fugue State
Post by: Joel on December 10, 2006, 03:47:46 pm
I waited until the second quarter

Hockey games consist of three "periods," not four quarters...unless this is meant to intentionally show how much he doesn't care about hockey.
Oops.  Thanks; I'll fix that.  It unintentionally showed how much I don't care about hockey.

Title: Re: Fugue State
Post by: Bill St. Clair on December 10, 2006, 04:15:16 pm
Reminds me that I haven't read Unintended Consequences in a long time. Payback is a bitch, for those who deserve it. Glad to read about seven of the soulless being stripped of their bodies.
Title: Re: Fugue State
Post by: penguinsscareme on December 13, 2006, 12:06:19 pm
So far, George's victims have all been easy to hate, even if it took some self-convincing.  I'd like to see him come up against someone who is truly a decent person, maybe shows some unguarded regret about the rolling tragedy of George's circumstance.
Title: Re: Fugue State
Post by: Joel on December 13, 2006, 12:50:03 pm
So far, George's victims have all been easy to hate, even if it took some self-convincing.  I'd like to see him come up against someone who is truly a decent person, maybe shows some unguarded regret about the rolling tragedy of George's circumstance.

It's funny you should say that, because there is such a person.  Michael has a parallel character in Albert Winston, the FBI agent who hunted him in the first book.  They've already had an encounter in this book, after Berta's death, in which Michael blames him for her killing (he wasn't responsible, or even involved) and promises to kill him last.  Winston has had his own difficulties, has been misused by all and sundry, and has become a rather bitter man.  But he's not really a villain.
Title: Re: Fugue State
Post by: penguinsscareme on December 13, 2006, 12:54:22 pm
Cool!  This should make for a calamitous crisis of conscience and climactic confrontation.
Title: Re: Fugue State
Post by: Harleqwin on January 16, 2007, 09:08:58 pm
wHOA.    Dark.  and Psycho.

“Good evening.  My name is Michael, and I’ll be your psycho killer tonight.”
Title: Re: Fugue State
Post by: Pagan on January 17, 2007, 09:09:22 am

Someone needs to subsidize you so you can just concentrate on doing what you do best.

Several could use some help here. Unfortunately "subsidize" gives the wrong connotation.
Sure would like to be able to advance a payment or two, though. Maybe after the lottery comes through...
Title: Re: Fugue State
Post by: Joel on January 17, 2007, 10:42:54 am

Someone needs to subsidize you so you can just concentrate on doing what you do best.

Several could use some help here. Unfortunately "subsidize" gives the wrong connotation.
Sure would like to be able to advance a payment or two, though. Maybe after the lottery comes through...

Well, I don't know about that.  But remember me when Outlaw Press gets rolling, because I want in on the imprint.  Don't forget Walt's Gulch is still looking for a publisher...
Title: Re: Fugue State
Post by: Pagan on January 17, 2007, 10:52:06 am
Don't forget Walt's Gulch is still looking for a publisher...

I haven't forgotten.
Title: Re: Fugue State
Post by: gaurdduck on September 30, 2009, 10:50:43 pm
When can I buy this book?
Title: Re: Fugue State
Post by: Joel on October 01, 2009, 08:27:27 am
When can I buy this book?
Any time you want.  Click on the link in my sig.  My books are listed on the left margin of the blog.  Click on the cover for Songs of Bad Men and Good, and it'll take you to the buy link.
Title: Re: Fugue State
Post by: gaurdduck on October 01, 2009, 08:42:02 am