Monthly Archives: November 2010

The Plot Thickens

Nate had to set things right. If he’d still had a body he would have paced the floor as the news anchor on the television detailed his sins.  Of course, he wasn’t entirely responsible. He, like Harry, was just an instrument of Charlie Bell’s revenge, but he was culpable none the less.

Desperate men do desperate things and dying men make rash decisions. Charlie had pegged them both.  Harry had been desperate and Nate had been dying. Charlie’s plan had been simple – if you believed in the paranormal and the supernatural.    

Harry had listened to his old friend for a while with a bemused expression on his face before interrupting. “You spent too much time in the joint, Charlie. You’ve gone just a little cuckoo.”

They were sitting in the living room of the house Charlie and Nate shared.  The room was a mess. Before Nate had gotten sick he’d kept the house looking real nice. But in recent weeks he barely had the energy to get to the toilet to vomit. The effects of the chemo were worse this time around and it was having no effect on the aggressive disease that was ravaging his once strong body. He’d finally had to level with Harry. His brother had taken it pretty hard, even blaming himself for Nate’s cancer. “It’s from all the stress I put you through – abandoning you and Papa, getting locked up, leaving you to look out for things.” Nate had tried to assure him that was absurd but Harry still carried the guilt around like a dead moose.

Now as he rested on the couch listening to Charlie’s proposition something in his brain whispered what if the son of a bitch is telling the truth?  Maybe it was all those years writing fantasy and science fiction.  Maybe it was all those flights of imagination he’d taken…or maybe it was just the drugs, but Charlie was starting to make sense.

Charlie sat with the little HP Mini in his lap. His big hands dwarfed the little laptop. He began by relating the account of his transplant. “Of course, when I began writing that story it was just to take my mind of dying. Sorry, Nate. But it happened just as I wrote it. I’m alive today because of it.”

Harry had looked unconvinced but Charlie continued. “I tried other experiments – simple stuff – baseball scores, lottery numbers.  I’m the one who’s responsible for the Steelers signing that quarterback from Arkansas.”

“When did you decide to turn this golden goose into a revenge machine?” Nate didn’t like Charlie but he wasn’t ready to dismiss his claim – yet.

“You’d do the same thing if you could, Nate. If you had a chance to get even with all the bastards who had made a shambles of your life, destroyed your family, and robbed you of your future – wouldn’t you do it? Wouldn’t you want to punish the cities that had scorned you?”

Nate had to admit that he would. Revenge could be an irresistible drug. If Charlie had been set up like he claimed he’d been, who couldn’t blame him for wanting a chance to get even.

Charlie laid out his plan – in detail.  He’d begin by typing the entire plot into his magic laptop. Once the file was saved they would just wait for the events to unfold. The idea of having Nate as the guardian angel of his design but it made sense. “Nate, you’re dying anyway.  This way your brother can profit from it – profit to the tune of five million dollars – and you can have a little fun on your way out.”

He explained how Nate would commit suicide in front of Sasha Carpenter and how he would keep tabs on her by possessing her. The idea was for Nate’s spirit to guide Sasha’s actions from the other side without drawing anyone’s attention. All Harry had to do was keep an eye on things and make regular reports to Charlie. He didn’t mention that Harry would also be planting a few bombs.

Nate was intrigued but he didn’t want Charlie to know it. “Even if I buy that you can control the outcome of baseball games and drafts, how do you know you can control things beyond the grave? How can you be sure that damn thing can control life and death?”

“Suppose I give you boys a little demonstration?”  He opened the lap top and began typing. The size of his fingers made it tedious but slowly the story appeared on the screen:

Nathan Anderson, Sr. had been dead for more than three years. He was making old bones in Glenwood Cemetery where he’d been laid to rest next to his first wife Louise.  But while Nathan’s body was dead and decomposing, his spirit was busy in the physical world. He kept and eye on his sons Henry and Nathan, Jr.  He didn’t want to be too obvious so his actions were subtle. One day – just before his son Nate was about to join him on the other side he made his presence known in a very trivial but incontrovertible manner. As Nate sat in the living room of the family home with his brother and an acquaintance  Nathan ‘whispered’ in his son’s ear:  ‘Nate, my boy. I left a hundred dollar bill in that biography of HG Wells that you gave me for my birthday. It is between pages 48 and 49. The book is still on the top shelf of the bookcase in my old room.’ “

Charlie stopped typing. “Do you want to see what I’ve written, Nate?”

Nate didn’t have to look at the screen. He knew. He’d heard his father’s voice as clearly as if he’d been in the room with him.

“Well, Nate. What are you waiting for?”

Nate wasn’t sure what he was feeling as he lifted himself from the couch and made his way with some effort into his father’s old room. Less than a minute later he’d returned with a hundred dollar bill in his hand.

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A Streetcar Named Death

Jill was caught up in her thoughts while she walked amid the crowd on St. Charles Avenue.  A hand yanked her back hard just as the streetcar passed.  She stepped back onto the sidewalk, shaken at how close she’d been to becoming a Garden District fatality.  Most of the accidents involved tourists, momentarily distracted by Greek Revival double-galleried town homes or searching for Anne Rice’s mansion on First Street. Jill had lived in the District most of her life.   She was distracted, but not by the architecture.

She smiled at the young man who was still holding her upper arm. “Thank you very much. I don’t know where my mind was.” She fanned herself with the letter in her left hand. Suddenly she was very warm.

“No problem, Ma’am.” He released her arm and smiled at her sheepishly.

She knew he’d recognized her and was searching for a suitable comment.  He’d saved her life, the least she could do was spare him more discomfort. “Yes. It is I.  It’s a miracle I ever survived four years in Washington DC. Of course, I had Secret Service Agents assigned to protect me and I didn’t have any streetcars to worry about.”  She treated him to the smile that had made her so popular with her husband’s constituents – even after they had grown dubious of Gann’s ability to serve them.

“Well you be careful, Mrs. Lawson. And give my regards to President Lawson. He must be real excited about the dedication next week. I guess that’s the reason for the crowds. That and the weather.”

“Yes, October is the most beautiful time of the year here in the Crescent City.  Well, goodbye and thanks again.”

She went off in search of a mailbox. Her mind was still on her conversation with Gann. What a stubborn man he was. And tactless.  How could he proceed with the dedication of his library when the nation had just suffered such a tragedy? He was absentminded too.  Just last week Maggie had called them to tell them her friend had been run over and killed. She shuddered, recalling on how close she’d been to suffering the same fate.

The young man who’d yanked her back onto the sidewalk reminded her of Nate – yes that was his name.   Such a nice young man. She had like Nate very much and she’d scolded Maggie for not preparing him better for his first meeting with her father. Gann Lawson could intimidate a head of state.  She could imagine how that poor boy had felt when he realized that the woman he’d been dating was the daughter of a former President.  That was just like Maggie. She’d kept a low profile when they were in the White House. Now that she was a young woman with her own life and her own career Jill imagined that many of her acquaintances were unaware of who she was.

She stopped at the mail box and frowned at the letter she was holding. It really was silly for her to continue to communicate the old fashion way, but she dropped the letter into the box anyway.  As she turned to walk away her cell phone rang. Looking at the display she saw Maggie’s number.

“Why hello, Sweetheart. I just dropped a letter to you into the mail box. I’m standing here at Prytania and 1st   trying to decide whether I should go home and argue with your father some more or walk over to The Rink and do a little shopping.”

Maggie didn’t respond with her usual easy laughter.  “Mama, you really must try to talk Daddy out of going ahead with the dedication of that damn library. Doesn’t he watch the news? It’s embarrassing. They are making him look awful.”

“I’ve tried. He won’t budge on this one. You’re still coming down here, aren’t you?”

Jill was afraid the controversy over the timing and the recent death of her friend had convinced Maggie to stay away. 

“Yes, Mama, I’m still coming. But, I’m just doing it for you. I’m planning to fly in on Wednesday night. Don’t send anyone to pick me up. I’ll take a taxi to the house.”

Jill let out a sigh of relief. “I am so glad. I can’t wait to see you.”

“Me too, Mama. And, Mama … go shopping. Love you, bye.”

Jill felt better after talking to her daughter.  She would go shopping. She might even get her hair done.   She decided she was long overdue for a makeover.

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Say it with Flowers….

After Gina left her alone Sasha sat down tentatively in the chair behind Melody’s desk. She noticed someone had brought her purse and computer case from her old desk. She unzipped the case and took out the laptop. It was still an hour until lunch but the privacy of her new office combined with an uncertainty about what she should be doing in it enticed her to open up revenge.docx and begin typing.

 As she began she heard the voice in her head again.  “Let’s see how your replacement handles this claim.”

 Joe Callahan stood at the plate glass window of his shop watching yet another motorcade snarl the traffic on M Street. “I should sell this business and move to the beach. This town is just too damned crowded.”  He spoke to no one in particular. The two women in the back of the florist shop were busy taking orders over the telephone and his driver was moving the afternoon deliveries from the front of the shop to the van that was double parked out front. Between the van and the motorcade cars were backed up all the way to 10th Street.

 “Mr. Callahan – call for you.” Irritated for no particular reason except that he was enjoying watching the traffic creep past his store he grunted and ambled to the back of the store.

 “Yeah? What do you want?” Callahan was a grouch. His customers knew that. His employees knew that. They expected it. That was part of his charm.  “I can’t hear you, lady. You gotta use your outside voice. Speak up.”  The call was a diversion. While he was distracted by the call a very ordinary looking gentleman in corduroy trousers and a cable knit pullover slipped into the shop and hid a tiny device among the lilies in an arrangement that was being delivered to the British Embassy that afternoon. He then slipped out again before Callahan slammed the received down in frustration.

 That evening there was a colossal explosion at the embassy. The blast was so loud it was heard on Capitol Hill and the damage so massive and widespread that traffic on Reservoir Road had to be diverted for two weeks.

 Sasha looked up to see Mr. Socket grinning at her from the doorway. “Wonderful. I see you’re getting right to work. I knew I’d made the right choice. I pride myself on knowing the strengths and abilities of each of my employee. I thought we might grab a bit to eat. Get acquainted. Talk about your responsibilities – though it doesn’t look like you need me to get you started.”

“I’d enjoy that very much, Mr. Socket. Thanks you.” She closed her laptop – but not before carefully saving revenge.docx.

She clearly heard the words “That’s a good girl” reverberate in her head, but she was getting used to it.

 

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