As our fifth year of exhibiting at New York Comic Con- NYCC- is upon us, a look back at our first year is in order, so I present the first chapter of The Great Con, a memoir/chronicle of Wayward Raven's journey among the tests, tragedies and triumphs. This is my perspective. This is my experience and it is odd.
Start from the Beginning
Happy Christmas and a well to do New Year to you as we present chapters 7-9 of Into the Light, an urban fantasy novel in serialized parts. The twists and turns of Blake's Moxley's mind will soon reach an axis, flummox a fulcrum, and turn the lever of the world but first the madness must be made to manifest so it too can put on its party hat and dance out in the festival of darkness and light. Hold on, it's going to get weird.
Into the Light
The vigor and confidence Blake had has slipped away after his last loss over the weekend but his wish to move out Manhattan has grown stronger since the bookie will not give him extra time to pay. The Monday morning is dull with overcast as he walks down Broadway to work.
Just before the official end to the work day, Juli approaches Blake and tells him they are going out. He nods and takes a long whiff of the jasmine scent rolling off Juli and then shuts down his computer. She chooses the avenue and the place to unwind. An English style pub called Pandemonium with a backwards blue circular sign in the window that reads--nepO-- is the destination. Blake thinks put a tism on the end and that explains a lot in the world.
The shadows play with the movement of outside lights as they rotate, illuminate, and conceal the regulars at the front of the establishment through a large pane window as Blake walks in. The drink specials are painted red on a chalk board. This is a place where those who wish to be seen are and those who wish to hide. The smuggler cheers for the doctor as he wins a bet at the track and the cop buys a drink for an ex-con all within Pandemonium.
The bar surface stretches along the whole right side and at the end, blacked out with a curtain, the shade shrouded back booths. The air smells of fried fish and the hand carved teardrop inlays on the face of the old oak bar intrigue Blake as they walk down and grab a small block table with steel chairs. An azure cube candle holder with no candle sits idles as a centerpiece next to a brass incense holder that reflects errant rays of light passing through the pane glass window. Two pieces of unlit cone incense huddle on the plate while stuck pointing to the low ceiling. Grizzled old men sit at the end of the bar staring at a small television screen inside an open cabinet hung on the wall.
Blake turns to Juli with a question posed on his lips but she preempts him.
“I know. Where did I find this place? I was in between reading Dante’s Purgatorio and Paradisio, when the poems prompted me to do a Google search the city for places called Inferno but Pandemonium came up. It’s like retro-English Punk Pub Primitive but cool. I came here with some friends, who you will meet in a few, and never stopped coming,” she says with a quick wink. The blood begins to flow between his legs with verve making his crouch to hide his growing erection.
“That wasn’t what I was going to ask,” he says trying to wish away his immerging hard-on.
“I was going to ask if you knew anyone here but I guess that was answered. Who are the friends?”
“You’ll like Cyn and Belladonna. They’re not like the people at work. I met them over a year ago and don’t know their real names but I think Cyn is short for something sinister and Victor is coming too.”
Cyn and Belladonna take themselves way too seriously and they profoundly suffer from what human psychologists call the The Illusion of Knowledge. Go ahead, look it up, I’ll wait.
Silly little hormones and compliments can really mold a mind in such annoying ways. Well back to the story and what’s important here is how Blake reacts or more importantly how he doesn’t. Oops, did I just give away too much. Don’t worry, you won’t get it all. Surprises are in store.
Blake rolls his fingers across his chin and hopes Juli doesn’t notice him leaning forward to help further conceal the throb from down below.
“Cyn, lovely. Let me guess a Goth performance artist?” he asks and thinks why is Victor coming?
“No, she’s a financial planner I think. Why, would that bother you if she were?”
“No, would it bother you if it bothered me?”
“Why, did you expect me to be lame?”
“Why did you expect me to be lame?”
“No, I knew you weren’t, but a girl can’t be too sure. It takes the fun out of probing you for flaws,” she says.
The waiter shimmies up. Blake orders a Campari and soda and Juli a dirty Appletini.
A television flickers at the corner of the bar as Blake strains to make out the picture. He scratches his left ear lobe with his thumb nail and thinks I got to get better shampoo, why am itchy? Juli lights an incense cone. It fizzles but then a thick stream of milky smoke pours out. The column of smoke catches a draft and rides.
A news flash on the screen piques all at the bar and the volume is turned up so the street noise is washed away. On screen, a reporter in a trench coat stands at the steps of the downtown courthouse brushing back his bad comb-over. Then, he looks up to the camera while holding his hand to his right ear. A crowd of protestors begins to surge around him and a small man with a black moustache exits the courthouse doors. Policemen flank him.
“The ruling has just come out. The man known as Pigeon-man has just been sentenced to three hundred hours of community service and his immigration status will be up for review. The environmentalists around me have just become unruly. They’re yelling, spitting and throwing signs at the Pigeon-man as he is being escorted away by the NYPD. Honestly, I thought the sentence would be more severe since he did break the Endangered Species Act. These protesters are getting even more agitated, back to you Steve.” The volume goes down and the bar resonates with boos.
“So what’s this pigeon man?” Blake asks Juli over the growing noise of the patrons.
“He’s some immigrant who kept pigeons on his roof as pets and he killed a Peregrine falcon because it was killing his birds. He shot a male bird from one of the breeding pairs that live on the Chrysler building I think.”
“That’s awful. I like falcons,” Blake says.
The girl in a tan shawl at the next table over runs her fingers through her blonde hair highlighted with purple and silver. She eyes Blake and thinks he’s cute and says, “Me too.” Juli turns and gives her a scornful look that would destroy the atomic bonds in carbon.
“Oh nothing, just saying I like falcons too” the girl says and realizes that a claim was staked. She pushes her chair back and heads to the bar. Blake fidgets with his tie and sits back.
Two striking women, Cyn and Belladonna, Brooklynites, part the crowd near the bar and pass through untouched. Cyn, a woman who makes hipsters swoon, taps Belladona’s shoulder and points over to Juli. Belladonna, a part-time dominatrix and full time Billie Holiday enthusiast, cracks a sultry smile and they catwalk down the aisle. Juli catches sight of her friends out of the corner of her eye. She spins in her seat to get a proper view. When the women notice Juli notice, they dip at the knees and lift their arms as if some victory of the sexes was won in a pretty size zero dress. Jul stands up in a shot. Blake stands, his mother would be offended if he didn’t, and looks down at the table wondering if there’s enough room for everyone.
“Belladonna and Cyn are here Blake. I hope you like Tequila,” Juli says.
Victor follows behind a second later dressed in an achromatic gunmetal gray suit.
The women hug and present side to side facial kisses only the air will ever feel. Blake shifts his semi-hard cock so the zipper will keep the old boy down. Victor stands behind the girls and lifts and lowers his eyebrows like he was Groucho Marx.
“This is Blake. The guy from work and he has a rent controlled apartment all to himself,” Juli says.
“Oh I got it from a friend. I was just lucky,” he says and sits.
Blake tries not to look but glances over the pretty women. Cyn’s brown varnished skin and jet black hair makes him think of Greece and her clear gray eyes so cold they could freeze nitrogen gives a chill. Her slinky black spaghetti strap dress shimmers in the meager light. Blake does a faster look over of Belladonna as he fakes like he checking out the patrons at the end of the bar. Belladonna is Cyn’s physical photo negative. Her dark blue knee length dress absorbs the light around her. Belladonna gives Blake a little wave.
Blake, sheltered by his glass, just listens to the women talk. Victor goes to the bar and returns with a snifter of cognac. He grabs a chair near the women and spins it around. The whole city is listening if you listen for it Blake thinks. The word Gnostic floats across the happy minute of conversation as an hour would be too much. The word has power and attractions attention.
Victor maneuvers his seat between Juli and Belladonna. Blake rolls his eyes for a second and then feels pressure coming from behind. He ignores it as Victor leans into the table turns to him.
“So Moxley you don’t look so bad tonight, but nothing compared to Victorious. You haven’t even made a move. My radiance holding you back?” Victor asks.
“No, just your aftershave,” Blake says with a smile.
“Touché’ my boy. Excuse me,” Victor says scoots closer to Belladonna.
A smell of musk and cigars leans on Blake. He feels the pressure again. Someone is approaching. Then a hand clamps on Blake’s shoulder. Attached to the smell is an attitude and it’s a man who thinks he is the center of all knowledge. The man, a Mr. D.B. Verges, wonders should I laugh in my Barry White voice. No but it’s time to work my magic.
Blake’s eyes don’t blink as a stubby man with a glistening bald head and a Hawaiian block his view to bar. D.B. thinks it must be destiny since I just saw a show on Gnosticism. Time to BECOME like how Jaspers’ book said.
This dude is a fool and not in the good Shakespearean way. That is my fault. I tried so hard with him and even influenced his name. Yes, that’s a big old hint.
If you were wondering, he once sold insurance but then had grand dreams of being an oil tanker captain, which didn’t realize. The first time he stepped on a commercial fishing vessel in Gloucester to see what it was like to be at sea, he promptly puked while they undocked.
“Hello, I am D.B Verges and I just overheard your conversation on Gnosticism. Are you or do you think you might be Gnostics? Knowledge seekers perhaps?” he says. Belladonna turns and looks at him like he was wearing a Santa costume smeared in feces.
“Hi there, I’m Bella and this Juli, and Jake. To answer your question, no not really and if you don’t mind this is private,” Belladonna says and thinks why do the crazy old guys always do this?
“Bella eh, what a beautiful namesake,” says D.B Verges.
“This is private so you can go back to Canada eh,” Belladonna says.
“Delightful, such a spirited, uh,”
“Bunch,” Blake says.
“Well, I was going to say woman but no. But really, you were discussing Gnosticism yes?” D.B Verges asks.
“No, actually I mentioned the band. Agnostic Front,” Cyn says.
“The thing is about Gnosticism is that it is misconstrued as being a new age philosophy when it was really in direct competition with Christianity. They believed that these divine eons existed in this realm beyond us and that the transcended God was called Depth and he could not be directly communicated with,” D.B. says.
Blake coughs and pushes his seat back.
“Dude, what are you doing? She said private. Don’t you understand what that means?” Blake says and stands up with his chest thrust out. Victor stands and looks around with nervous eyes.
“No this is interesting, seriously,” D.B says, puts his hand up to Blake, and continues, “Depth is like number one and there are all of these pairs and one called Wisdom or something like the capital of Bulgaria oh yes Sophistra, and they have this bad conversation turns into a material being but it is expelled into the void with amnesia.”
“Always the crazy guys Bella,” Cyn says and Juli chuckles as she sips her drink.
Blake crosses his arms and his eyes narrow as he can’t figure out why the guy won’t stop talking.
“See this thing had no memory and was in a void so it thought it was God and created the material universe and then all things after it. It was the God of the Old Testament! Wrathful, petty and actually evil. But there was some of that divine spark left over in the universe because he was from those eons and Jesus was an eon too,” D.B Verges says and tries to sit down. Blake pulls the chair away.
“Listen guy! I don’t want to be mean but we didn’t ask you to sit so just go back to where you were,” Blake says.
Victor nods quickly and says, “Yeah that’s right.”
“I know when I’m not wanted,” D.B. Verges says but then he thinks he hears the word ‘Masons’ drift from the bar. He just saw a TV show on the founding fathers and their ties with the Free Masons. He wobbles off but unknown to D.B. the patrons at the bar were discussing Perry Mason and not Patrick Henry.
“Impressive Jake,” Cyn says.
“Sorry. I was about ready to scream at the guy,” Cyn says.
“One more second and…” Victor says and is cutoff by Blake as he sits.
“… and another second would have gone by,” Blake says.
The pressure of his tormented bladder builds and Blake goes to the restroom. A line of regulars waits and at the table Cyn and Belladonna agree Blake is cute but not Hollywood handsome, nice but too nice. Juli does not care she likes him anyway. Cyn’s eyes flash and she wriggles in her chair. She pulls out directions to a club opening the next Friday.
“Got to go Juli. Bring Blake too. It’ll be outstanding,” Cyn says
“Definitely,” Juli says.
Blake comes back and rounds of tequila come and go with various toasts in different languages.
The end of the gathering comes quickly. The women hug goodbye. Cyn and Belladonna part the crowd as they leave untouched just like when they entered. Blake is relieved that the ordeal is done and wants to go home. He’s too drunk to have sex and figures he’d just say something stupid if he hung around Juli any longer.
He is about to say his goodbye when a drink comes from the waitress. Blake thinks it would rude not to take a free drink so he accepts. Victor stands, tosses his jacket over his shoulder and waves. He exits thinking only one more second and I could have been the hero. Juli orders a Midori Martini.
“I’m glad you got that weird guy away. He was starting to talk about religion. It never did anything for me and it ruined my brother’s life,” Juli says with sigh.
“Really, I’m sorry. I would have stopped that dude earlier if I had known.”
“Thanks. My brother was a gentle soul but I don’t think the world can have such people. He loved everything and was the only truly altruistic person I ever met,” she says.
“I have never met anyone like that,” Blake says.
“You remind me of him though. His name is Archie and he had this horrible experience with a home invasion and they tortured him. It was in the papers. He said he prayed and prayed but no divine helped came, and then the criminals were set free. So he vowed to destroy all untruths in religion. He’s now the loneliest person, I’ve ever seen. He changed so much before I graduated from college,” she says.
“Wow, that’s horrible. I’m sorry. If you want to talk about it go ahead,” Blake says
Juli looks into Blake’s eyes. He looks back.
“Archie said he had an anti-christ complex and created a thing called Atheosophy. His sadness made him want to burn all superstitions to the ground so he studied every religion. He actually wrote a great manuscript on debunking fake psychics who use electronic parlor tricks and the Internet. I’m sorry for rambling but I guess I needed to talk.”
“That’s fine with me go on,” Blake says as he looks into her tipsy eyes.
“Not much else to tell but now he runs an occult bookstore a few blocks from here. My family never talks about it. One thing I do remember him says was, ‘The Grapes of Wrath have gone sour and stained the pale theodicies of God’s way to man. Man is more than god.”
“Cool,” Blake says, coughs twice, “I still don’t know how I remind you of him though.”
“You do and I’ll tell you some other time. So you know, I made us plans. We’re going to a new club next Friday. Guess it’s time to go home and get some sleep. Ciao Blake,” she says, gets up and kisses him on the cheek. After exiting the door, she looks back through window and then blends with the foot traffic.
No hanky panky for Blake but at least he got to hear about Juli’s nutty professor brother. Nothing like saying to a guy “You remind me of my brother” to siphon the blood out of his penis. That and whiskey work about the same in my observations though but both are cooperation at this point.
And now the symptoms begin in his alteration.
Blake tips for his free drink and stumbles out of the bar. He checks his messages and has a text from the Bookie that reads See you on Great Jones Street sometime. He doesn’t care. He’s on autopilot. No longer buzzed, he is blotto and his battle with the tequila is lost. All he cares about is the pressure in his bladder as he gets a few blocks away. Almost falling, he regains his footing as he enters an alleyway and unzips. Blake staggers by a burly man dressed in four layers of ragged sweaters who is urinating between two piles of garbage bags. Before piss can soak his suit pants, Blake whips his dick out and spatters the wall as he rocks back and forth. The burly man can’t believe what the city has come to when a guy can’t take a piss in peace for God’s sake as he trickles, grunts and makes his leave.
The next day, Blake gives the Bookie a few grand to cool him off and stays in trying to figure out what team to bet on to eliminate his debt. The weekend does not give him enough time to devise a plan as Monday comes swiftly but the week dissolves as sugar in alcohol and Blake begins writing a journal after work. He doesn’t know why but the urge to write has possessed him.
He checks everyday to see if Juli still wants to go to the club opening and he can’t wait to get her alone. Then he’s off to the lush and proper gardens of the uber-suburbs for the Guilder’s party the next evening. Blake doesn’t know what makes him more nervous, the potential of scoring with Juli and her calling him a bad lay or seeing the Carlton’s parents, mythic figures in the financial sector.
“Every harlot was a virgin once.”
No alone time for Blake and Juli as the checkered mini-van cab is shared by four. The ride, a life threatening series of dramatic stops and starts, jams through the evening’s traffic and on to the club in Chelsea. Juli, Blake and Belladonna have their phones out and are trying to connect with their 4G networks but they pass through dead zones. In an act of generosity, the universe thins the downtown traffic and Blake tries to sit up straight only to get the pocket of his gravel gray coat caught on Cyn’s silver bracelets. The cab pulls to the curb and they spill out to the sidewalk. Each person checks their phone and finds the email Cyn sent with the VIP code.
In front of the chic club, the velvet rope and bouncers in tight black keep watch over the queue as other doormen scan ID’s. The sentries, all linked through a wireless network, watch each others backs and quietly whisper to one another about how crazy the night will get. Blake and the women, three Valkyries dressed to kill, present their VIP emails to the head doorman, a bald guy in white with a neck as thick and round as a trash can. The brass doors to club Apocalypse open.
Blake watches Juli walk like liquid lightning in her tight fitting sleeveless red dress and Blake thinks Cyn and Belladonna are wearing the same black miniskirts and tube tops but Cyn is wearing blue but the night makes it hard for him to tell.
The bass beats punch the patrons through their hollow cavities and sign language is the only real form of communication. The virile scene pulses as the densely packed club is filled with a pageant of club kids, celebrities and weekend warriors with overflowing wallets who present themselves as perpetually posh. The brass door closes behind and the inside of the club is a sarcophagus. Blake begins to feel the vibrations pin him down as the group tries to find an open booth or place to stand near the bar. Prescription drug laden thralls hop and bob their heads to the Electronica pulse. They come to a tight space and slip in and Blake scans the scene.
Everything is silver except a few recessed unoccupied VIP booths in royal purple and fire engine red. The dance floor stretches along half of the west side wall of the club and groups gather to obstruct the pathways to tile bathrooms where people check their Blackberries and snort lines off their spare cell phones. Mirrored lights and lasers track the floor and walls. Shiny tight clothes are worn by most of the men and women as mild nudity occurs in the corners. Men and women dance in all combinations to the grind of beats and blasts of a klaxon over the P. A. Drug dealers with oversized Philip Patek watches and three piece suits slink through the crowd as they stalk new high end clients.
It takes time for the women get drinks but Blake waits still as a stone cat standing guard over the claim. A chill runs up Blake’s spin and he smells cigar smoke but knows there’s no smoking in the club. He has the feeling that something bad is happening to someone he knows.
Across town, D.B. Verges staggers down the street after having one too many Jack and Cokes and slides into an alley. He leans against the brick wall and looks out to the cars whizzing by. He takes deep breaths hope it will sober him up. An arm reaches out of the darkness behind and snags D.B. verges. He is dragged back into the depths and puts up a valiant struggle. The blade of a box cutter flashes in the meager light. D.B. Verges ends his journey in this life and is left for the rats to feast upon. Squeak, squeak, nibble, nibble, dust to dust, as the vermin lap up the blood that leaves a stain of rust.
Now this is part is fucked up even by my standards. Yes, I said a bad word but I’m not the one who created it; however, to be fair, fuck is one of you human’s better words.
Back in the club Apocalypse, Blake starts moving to the beat as the booze starts to lubricate his systems and he sees a predator a slither towards him through the crowd as Juli and Cyn hold their drinks high but never spill as they drop down and gyrate their hips to the hard beat.
Blake watches a woman in thin rim glasses and a slinky gold gown come up to him.
“I’m Bobbi. I have a booth. Want to go sit,” Bobbi asks.
Blake thinks Juli might get angry. He looks over and sees her talking with a George Clooney simulacrum.
Juli must not be interested in me Blake thinks.
“Sure. Lead the way,” Blake says.
She takes his hand and leads him through the bouncing crowd. At her red booth a bouncer stands guard. A bottle of Dom Ruinart Rosé is already poured into two champagne flutes. The little bubbles stream up in single file columns of carbon dioxide. The bouncer is handed a fifty and Blake slips into the booth.
“Please have a glass,” Bobbi says.
Blake lifts a flute high.
“Cheers,” he says.
The music seems to get louder and louder to Blake. He begins to feel a warm sensation surge through his veins, wrap around his stomach, and travel up to pulsing head.
The George Clooney clone winks and slips away leaving the women to wonder where Blake slipped off to? Cyn sees an opportunity in Blake’s absence. She asks Belladonna to get some more drinks, on her, and builds up the courage to cast her fears off into the firmament and hopes that her honesty and regard will not be dismissed. Cyn takes a final breath like a sniper before the shot and pulls the trigger. She whispers just audible enough, “I want you”. Heat seizes Juli and impulses of electricity elevate. She is unsure
“I had no idea,” Juli says.
“Yes you did,” Cyn says.
“I’m flattered but haven’t ever,” Juli says.
Cyn touches Juli’s hand.
As the virile scene, ecstatic in lights and bass beats, grows ever more crowded Blake’s vision slips and images overlap.
“So what do you feel like?” Bobbi says and slides closer.
“What do you mean?” Blake asks.
“I asked what do you feel like? Emotionally, physically, you know?”
“No. What do you feel like?”
“Like silk and passion wrapped around an orgasm”
“You’re kidding me!” Blake snorts.
“Well, it’s nothing to laugh at silly.”
“Yes it is,” Blake says and for a moment sees Bobbi’s eyes glow yellow.
“What’s wrong? You look frightened.”
“Sorry, sorry. Just thought I saw something. It’s nothing.”
Blake eyes begin to flutter and his muscles go slack as he begins to slump down in the booth. With the last of his will he flips his head up and through his heavy blinks his mind captures a shot of Bobbi putting on a cheap Frankenstein’s Monster Halloween mask. Blake goes limp like wet wool scarf on a line.
Through the hard thumps of the music, a bouncer with a Mohawk patrols the scene squeezing his way through a group of kids dressed as Victorian vampires. A clearing opens up and at the booth in front of him he sees Blake passed out.
“A drunk businessman, again?” he says to himself.
Blake is a slung like a satchel and the bouncer hauls him out and through a spasmodic crowd of people dressed like pre-revolution French aristocracy. At that moment, Juli begins to look for Blake but can’t find him so she goes back to the spot where Cyn waits with a fresh drink for her. She figures Blake bailed.
“Want to dance?” Cyn asks.
“Sure. I have to text someone first,” Juli says and pulls out her phone. She text Blake the message Where R U?
The sun comes through a window stained by neglect and shines on Blake’s bare back. He can’t remember a thing. Rancid air from an overflowing dumpster below seeps through the window. His eyes clear to see a bed with no blankets or sheets and from the size and unclean state of the room he surmises he must be in a flophouse. Blake takes a few deep breaths, sits up and looks around as there may be some one watching. He is totally naked and his clothes are gone.
A creak comes from the door and opens. A short man with thin suspenders clamping his stained sleeveless t-shirt is revealed. He peeks through the crack and roars with machine gun like laughter. Blake curls up to hide his genitals.
“Hey, my shit was stolen?” Blake says.
“I don’t know nothing,” he says with a Russian accent.
“Fuck. Could you call the police? Please,” Blake asks.
“Not again,” the man says and closes the door.
A few minutes later a knock comes. Blake shuffles over and opens the door a sliver. The man stands there with a set of clothes.
“Did you call the police?” Blake asks.
“Yes. These for you. Don’t say we don’t give you nothing crazy guy,” he says.
The man sets worn jeans, a sour smelling yellow sweater and a pair of old Nikes at the door.
“Now I must give statement to police. Der mo.”
About thirty minutes later, two policemen arrive at the room.
“Hey buddy, tell us what really happened? We have the statement from the clerk and he said you paid for the room,” a tall cop with a goatee says.
“I don’t know what happened. I think I was drugged at a club last night,” Blake says.
“Drugged? Right,” says a thick necked cop who then sips his coffee.
“Seriously, I don’t do drugs,” Blake says.
“Of course you don’t. You just lost your clothes and your wallet because you’re sober,” the tall cop says.
The police tell Blake that the room is in a motel in Queens and he can’t recall the ride over in any way. The room is searched and the cops find nothing. Blake gives the police his information and the thick necked cop goes down to the cruiser to look Blake up through the DMV. He comes back a few minutes later.
“Well Blake Moxley, looks like you are real and have no criminal record. Better get clean before you do,” the thick necked cop says.
“Should I file a report? What should I do about my wallet and cell phone?” Blake asks. The cops look at each other.
He is told he’s lucky they don’t haul him in but since there’s nothing illegal in the room and no proof he was naked in public that he should just go home. Maybe someone will turn in his wallet but it is unlikely.
The tall cop once passed out at a strip bar in New Jersey and the thick necked cop, named Buddy, can’t ejaculate without getting slapped by a rubber glove. Just thought you’d want to know because it goes to show you humans are a special type of hypocrite. And I love you for it.
The police give him subway fare. He’ll get a bill in the mail. In an hour, he gets to his apartment and realizes there are set plans for that afternoon. Blake figures after the weekend is over, he’ll go buy a new phone and get a new I.D. First he must go to the Guilders.
Blake tosses and turns for three hours but gets some sleep only to be rattled out of repose by the alarm. He taps the rhythm of his heartbeat on his nose and lumbers out from under the knit blanket. The time to go to the Guilder’s party in Silver Ridge, at the Haven Estates approaches like a hawk above diving down to talon a pigeon below. His ride will be there in a couple hours.
Hunger has taken a tight hold of his stomach and wrenches it in knots as he chews his left pinky nail and dreams of Oreos as he checks his refrigerator for anything sweet. Nothing but a black banana and a pile of dead flies. He drags himself away and hurls the clothes the Russian him into the garbage. A shower brings no relief. As he steps onto the slick bathroom floor, Blake shakes his head.
“Juli. What the fuck happened?”
He wants to call her but decides some experiences are best kept hidden. As Blake dries off, Juli ushers Cyn out of her apartment.
“We have to do this again,” Cyn says.
The most important kind of freedom is to be what you really are. You trade in your reality for a role. You give up your ability to feel, and in exchange, put on a mask.
Jim sort of riffed T.S Eliot on that quote … In the room the women come and go/Talking of Michelangelo… but he is the Lizard King and can do anything. Guess he was wrong.
A black stretch limousine, beyond all sense of decorum, rolls as a chariot after a triumph at the Circus Maximus to the front of the Alexander building. Blake dons his best black suit and feeds Tyger before heading out the door. Carlton Guilder with swirls of cropped hair sips Johnny Walker Blue in the back of the limo and looks at his phone for the time. Blake slips out into the day and the world looks odd like the city was painted in watercolors. The city of windows growls in anticipation.
The driver, who looks like a shaved ferret to Blake, gets out and opens the door. He waves in acknowledgement. Carlton’s gleaming smile and saucer sunglasses reflect the timid autumn sunshine. He scoots over to let Blake slips in across the black leather. The driver closes the door.
“What the Hell are you doing? Let’s go knob the hobs,” Carlton says.
“Nothing,” Blake says.
“Touchy, touchy, touchy,” Carlton says and thinks this is going to be a horrible day if Blake keeps up the attitude.
“Sorry, I’ve had a bad couple days. So how long is this exercise in pretense going to last?”
“Chill, I brought you along to help you,” Carlton says and coughs.
“You brought me along for what?”
“To help you out of the bullshit.”
“Man I don’t need your help getting out of the bullshit.”
“So, you admit to the bullshit.”
“Of course I do.”
“Cool. Anyway, let’s get some free drinks and chow and see if any dignitaries’ daughters are there to impress. Most of them will probably be in high school so you have a shot,” Carlton says.
The limo shimmering like a piece of polished coal passes through the city of windows. The sounds of the streets do not penetrate the back seat. After ramming though a few congested streets they hop onto the FDR Drive that runs along the East River. As the buildings that scalpel the horizon cut off in the distance, the automobile that protects the fragile leaded glass minds of the passenger from the changes in economic levels launches onto I-87 after taking exit eighteen.
Power resides in social agreements such as laws, contracts and cash. The rich are allowed to have more. You agreed to it. You put faith into it. Money is nothing but a contract and power one person gives to another. But in a moment, it could all be gone. Power is nothing in a vacuum. Fun huh? Well, here are some rich folks to poke fun at as Blake falls slowly apart.
The destination is the Haven, in Silver Ridge, a place of sound, sight and out of mind, a true twilight zone of the idols, where Henry the Eighth and the Sultan of Brunei would be embarrassed by the excess.
“Moxie, get me the brandy will you. I don’t want to get there and be sober. Shit I haven’t been sober in that area of the country since I was ten.”
“I know what you mean, sort of.”
In a few brief exits and turns, the landscape changes to modest houses and buildings unable to go above certain heights because of zoning. Carlton drinks from the decanter and Blake sinks back. Carlton keeps his tongue from tasting the air and squashes certain comments before they come out of his mouth. His friend looks off, so he will allow him to get a buzz before prying.
Concrete and asphalt open their arms and bow to give way to cobblestone streets in the land of Silver Ridge. Houses get farther away from each other on the side of the road. The hills rise from the coast and transform with a gradual progression of old growth timber to resemble the Black Forest of Germany.
Blake holds up his hand to the light through a lowered window and inspects his digits. His finger glow with halos of light and Carlton snickers.
“Moxie you just get stranger every day but you’re not as strange as my father. Listen to this. He bought his own gas tank, or should I say station, and when gas is cheap he buys it and fills his huge ass tanks. Plus he’ll only drive the Rolls, twice a fucken year when he has insurance on it. June and July. Otherwise it’s the secret Honda Civic. He’s got solar panels, a fucking windmill with an electric turbine hidden in the back acres. He installed rain barrels, with my aid of course, to harvest rain water to water the lawn and plants and use in the toilets. Guy went all conservation on us.”
“That’s good though,” Blake says.
“Just another manic driven behavior though. He’s done it my whole life. When I was a kid he heard about saving money by not using you toilets all the time. I had to piss in one toilet downstairs and only flush it twice a day to save water.”
“It’s one thing to make money but it another to keep it,” Blake says.
“Really? The guy’s a billionaire and he buys toilet paper in bulk, three ply and makes a single ply by unrolling it and then re-rolling for one bathroom and double for him, it lasts for about a minute when I visit. But you won’t see any of that when his buddies are around,” Carlton says and swigs down the last of his booze.
Blake sees the massive estate coming up and breaks into a hot sweat as they reach the first iron gates. The main manor house looms above the rows of majestic trees lining the snaking driveway scattered with white stones. As the gates open, Blake thinks the place reminds him of a college campus. He knows this is not a college campus. It is more Versailles than Vassar. The divinely manicured main lawn is something that golf courses fantasize about.