So Wha'cha Wha'cha Wha'cha Want?

Monday, April 08, 2019

Life in the Lion's Den (and New Novel Excerpts)

My new novel, He Will Live Up in the Sky, is not yet available for purchase like I had hoped. I got sidetracked by some very important business that needed my immediate attention. The book is currently being proofread and will be on sale before summertime.

But the delay has been rather helpful because I was inspired to write quite a bit of new material that strengthens the connective tissue of the story in some very crucial ways. And even though I set out to intentionally write a story that had no autobiographical elements whatsoever, they crept in nonetheless, in ways I could never have anticipated. 

As did a jolly little parade of synchronicity.

I've been working on this novel for five years now, even though it's gone through a number of major revisions and rewrites since. But the core plot line was established in 2015. I had set the story in Seattle, since the mcguffin of a missing grunge rock singer was initially inspired by my obsession with Tom Grant's investigation of Kurt Cobain's murder. In the grand tradition of over-ambitious amateur novelists, I originally plotted out three interconnecting books; one set in 1974, this one set in 1994 and another set in 2014-5.

But I changed the setting to Boston on account of knowing jackshit about Seattle. And I changed the band in question to a bunch of Soundgarden wannabes instead of Nirvana clones. That of course was two years before Chris Cornell's death completely upended my work here on the blog.

So as we saw in the first excerpt, the premise of the story is that a career DIA officer creates a cutout operation to track down reluctant remote-viewers and auction them off to corporate interests. I set it in 1994 because this was around the time the officially-recognized remote-viewing programs were winding down. The assumption of the book is that these programs were simply privatized so they wouldn't be subject to congressional oversight. As I'm sure actually happened.

I also set it in 1994 so no one would be pulling out a fucking smartphone every time the plot came to an impasse. Plus, I use the time period to retroactively prophesy the techno-dystopia we all live in today.

The first case this operation is assigned is the disappearance of an up and coming alt.rock singer during a concert. The disappearance happens at the moment a Manchurian Candidate-type was trying to shoot the would-be rockstar. The singer is of interest to the men running the remote-viewing program not only because he claimed to be an lifelong alien abductee, but because of his childhood history in a military psi-training program.

When you read the book and consider the timeline, you'll see the strong synchronicity at work there. 

Of course, I wrote about the syncs with this book and Stranger Things back in 2016. Seeing as how the book is not yet published, it's especially weird how certain elements sync up with the two stories.  But hey; did I mention Reality has come unglued? I guess it's been going on for some time.

Especially since that Stranger Things piece in question references the couple dozen or so similarities between Hanna and a film treatment a friend and I had written back in 2001. As you couldn't possibly not know by now, Hanna is now a TV series on Amazon. The title character is played by Esme Creed-Miles, daughter of Samantha Morton, on account of Reality being literally smashed to fuck.

And because Reality is not only now atomized but is in fact turning in on itself, the girl playing Hanna has mentioned in a number of recent articles that she listened to the effin' Cocteau Twins while working on the show.

How's your coma going?

BONUS SYNC: Remember when I started babbling on nonsensically about Galactic Center a month ago, which soon led to equally nonsensical ranting about supermassive black holes? Well, have you seen the recent news about purported imaging on the supermassive black hole at Galactic Center to be released this week? Well, there you go.

Anyhow, for reasons we can discuss when you read the book (and other reasons I'm not at liberty to divulge), this project has been a synchro-goldmine in ways I never anticipated. And in other ways I hoped never to anticipate. 

In fact, when you finally get to read this book we can go back to that Stranger Things post then discuss the various plot points and ensuing revelations. We can also discuss Orion Krause and other recentish news items again, for reasons that will become clear to you.

So without further ado, let's get to the excerpts....

After a trek through an endless maze of doors, floors, and corridors, they came to a cold, cinderblock dungeon the good doctor made available for them. The Screamer—Katie— sat strapped to a wheelchair beneath a harsh fluorescent light, looking as lost and miserable as anyone Darja or Porter had ever laid eyes on.

"Can you please get me out of this?" Katie begged, tears streaming down her reddened face. "I promise I won't make any trouble."

"Your promises don't count for much here, Katie," Darja said.

"Please, I can't take this. Please let me out of this. I'm seriously about to puke. I swear I won't do anything."

Darja nodded at the orderlies, who undid the restraints. The three of them sat down at a table and the orderlies went over to stand by the door.

Porter and Darja stared hard at Katie.  Neither of them could figure out the legitimate use for this space. Or much wanted to. It seemed engineered for maximum discomfort; metal folding chairs, steel table, hideous linoleum tile, harsh fluorescent lights. The temperature was maintained at a chilly 63°F.  This was definitely not a room a junkie wanted to get dopesick in. Darja took the lead on the interview, which she taped on her micro-recorder. Still feeling weak from his ordeal, Porter sat silently and gave the Screamer a dose of cop-eye.

"Don't I get a phone call?" Katie asked.

"No," Darja said bluntly.

"Don't you have to read me my rights?"

"No,” Darja repeated.

“Don’t I get a lawyer?”

“Fuck no.”

"What the hell kind of cops are you?"

"The kind that can make your life very miserable if you don't start cooperating,” Darja spat.

"Cooperate with what?" Katie said, hopelessly.

"Let's start with that bullshit at your apartment,” Darja said. “Who the fuck was that goon?”

“He's my dealer. His name is Jag. I owe him money. Actually, I owe him a lot of money. He's fucking crazy, which is why he jumped you."

“Jag? He actually calls himself Jag?” Darja shook her head in disbelief. “Is his last name ‘Off’?”

“It’s short for Jaguar,” Katie said. “That’s his actual birth name. I don’t remember his last name.”

Darja couldn’t think of a snappy comeback for that particular piece of information. So she went with, “Is Jag Gary's dealer too?”

"No, Gary is clean. He kicked two years ago."

“What was your habit running you a day, Katie?”

“It depends. Two, maybe two-fifty,” Katie said, meaning hundreds.

"Was Gary footing your bill?" Darja asked.

“Most of it, yeah. I paid some and Jag took the rest out in ass. But I guess he got sick of mine.”

“You in the life?”

“On and off, for this service in Braintree. I’m getting too old for most johns.”

“And how old is that, Katie?”

“I turned 22 in December,” she replied glumly.

"Does Jag have anything to do with Gary's vanishing act?"

"I have no idea," Katie said, widened-eyes scanning for an escape route.

"Why were you screaming?”

"I dunno. It seemed like the thing to do."

"Why?" Darja asked.

“I dunno. To scare him away, like someone might call the cops if I made enough noise.”

"Let's talk about Gary," Darja said, and opened a file folder. ”What did he say about his abductions?"

"You're kidding, right?" Katie said.

“Yes, that's right. We brought you all the way down here to tell you jokes.”

"I don't know, man," Katie said, raising her quaking hands again in distress.  "Nobody but me pays any attention to that shit. They just figure it’s his own trip, the way some guys are into model trains or baseball cards or whatever."

"Well, he must have told you something about them. What did he say?" Darja pressed.

"He didn't remember the abductions themselves, just bits and pieces," Katie said, straining to remember. "He said they would take him places. He said they would, like, take him to the art museum when it was closed and tell him all this weird shit, like places he'd been to in past lives. Oh, I do remember this; he said they'd take him into stores at night and let him take all this shit."
"What kind of shit?" Darja asked, her interest piqued.

"Everything. Sports stuff, record albums, stereo equipment. He used to have a storage unit filled with all this, like, merchandise. He'd pawn it off whenever we needed extra money."

"And you never questioned that?"

"No. I mean, I just assumed he stole it all. I never believed he got it from aliens or some shit like that. But he supports me and I support him, y’know? That’s how it works." Katie was wishing she'd brought her cigarettes so she could channel her anxiety somehow.

"Did he remember the first time it happened? With these so-called alien experiences, I mean,” Darja asked.

"He said he was coming home from grade school one day and these aliens were just waiting there for him in the field behind his house," Katie recalled. "He said they looked like elves and they spoke to him in his mind, like ESP. The shrinks tried to tell him it was sleep paralysis, but he insisted they never came to him in his sleep. He started remembering more at the hospital but they didn't take any of it seriously there, either. He'd get moody and pissed off, and just stopped talking about it. He'd just sit alone at parties and mope out. But if you read his lyrics they're all about his stories in one way or another. Music is a way for him to express his experiences."

"But you didn't believe any of it either," Darja pressed.

"No, I just think he’s crazy," Katie said, staring hard at the floor. "Like the rest of us."

"Alright, we're going to need you to fill out some paperwork," Darja said coldly.  "And a doctor is going to come to speak to you in greater detail about Gary."

"Listen, can we do all this later?" Katie pleaded, “I mean, I’m seriously getting dope-sick as hell here. In fact, I don't think I can talk much more until I fix…”

Darja checked her watch.

"I mean, you busted my only dealer,” Katie said with utter desperation. “So I'm, like, in some serious deep shit right now."

As if on cue, a heavy-set, ruddy-faced woman entered the room carrying a big white wicker basket.

"This nurse here is going to help you out, Katie," Darja said.  "The doctor prescribed a little something to make you feel all brand-new. We'll be back. In the meantime, try and remember more of Gary's stories."   

"You’ve got a lot of work to do, Katie," Porter added, finally breaking his silence. "Try to get some rest."


Travis called a meeting in the basement conference room, so he could be briefed on what Darja and Porter had found out from the Screamer. He threw a fit when he found out that they'd had been working with Sanderson without consulting him. But the agents protested that they were unable to reach Travis when the shit was hitting the fan in Roslindale, and that they had to find a way to keep Gary’s girlfriend out of jail so she could be interrogated about his abduction claims. This mellowed Travis out a bit, but he warned them that they were not to talk to anyone outside the house again unless he knew about it first. Porter got the very strong feeling that would be a hard order to fill, seeing as this was the first they’d seen or heard from their boss since he first put them on the Sutton thing.

"So what do we know about Sutton and his experiences?" Travis asked the team.

Darja realized Travis wanted to know about Gary’s UFO experiences, quote-unquote. "Well, according to the girlfriend, his first so-called experience came around eight years old, daytime, coming home from school,” she said.

"How reliable is she?" Travis inquired.

"She's not one of these UFO nuts, but she's also got a heavy habit,” Darja said. “So take your pick. She thinks Gary’s crazy. Apparently their whole crowd does, too."

"What did she have to say about his stories?" Travis asked, his frown growing ever-deeper.

"According to her, he claims to be a repeater,” Bruehle tagged in, much to Darja’s visible relief. “The girlfriend apparently says he told her about abductions throughout his school years but they were weird."

"How so?" Travis asked, obviously feeling more comfortable dealing with someone who knew the lingo.

“Gary reportedly claimed the aliens took him places like to museums or shopping malls after hours,” Bruehle said, “Says he'd wake up with a bunch of weird merchandise with the price tag still on, things like that."

"Sounds like MILABs,” Travis said.

“Could be, Skipper,” Bruehle said.

“Do we have any evidence of MILABs?” Travis asked. Neither Darja nor Porter had any clue what a MILABs was.

"Nothing on file,” Bruehle answered, rifling through printouts. “I called your contact at the FBI office in Boston. They seemed vaguely aware of Gary, but only because of his manager."

"What's the deal with the manager?" Travis said, turning back to Darja.

"Rumors of connections with organized crime, but we've crossed any possible mob involvement off our list here,” Darja offered, clearly thankful the conversation returned to actual reality.

"The manager works with over a dozen bands,” Porter said. “We can squeeze him again if you want, but I don't see the angle."

"What about the shooter? What's his story?" Travis asked.

“Paranoid-schizophrenic,” Porter said. “Met Gary in the hospital, got his head filled with his UFO stories. Went totally off the rails a few years ago when he hit his early 20s. "

"The funny thing is that he seemed to be the only one who believed Gary's bullshit,” Darja offered.

"So why try to kill him?" Travis asked     .

"Maybe he didn’t,” Darja replied.  “It's possible he just wanted Gary’s attention again, like the good old days."

"That's a plausible theory,” Travis said.  “A spin on the staged suicide attempt."

"This is interesting,” Bruehle said. “The shooter was thrown back in the cuckoo nest after he threatened an abductee support group with a baseball bat."

"Wait, wait, back up,” Travis said, gesturing Bruehle to slow down. “What happened?"

"There was an abductee support group that met in some Episcopal church in Waban, all wannabes from the look of it,” Bruehle said. “They’d kicked the shooter out for his erratic behavior. So he came in one night swinging a bat around so the cops came in and hauled him back to the nuthouse."

"They should've given him a medal,” Travis scoffed.

“The shooter apparently told his doctors that Gary was a fraud,” Bruehle replied, summarizing the reports,  “Gary was long gone by this time. Which takes us up to his recent hospitalization."

"What did the doctors say about Gary?" Travis said, turning now to Zaina, who already had the stack of hospital files bookmarked to the hilt with Post-it notes. She was wearing black-rimmed librarian glasses that made her look even more deadly-serious.

"They said he was a fantasy-prone personality who was otherwise emotionally stable,” Zaina replied and she scanned a report. “The prevailing opinion was that the alien-contact fantasies were compensation for a lack of peer support."

Travis frowned sourly at the psychobabble. “How many times has Gary been in?"

"He was first put in when he was twelve for observation after a suicide attempt that the doctors felt was not serious,” Zaina replied, “Superficial wrist slashing, barely broke the skin."
"The old cry for help?" Travis sniffed.

"Apparently,” Zaina concurred.

"Sounds like precedent to me,” Porter said.

“Possibly. Gary had a discipline problem, according to his file,” Zaina said as she continued to leaf through the reports. “He was in and out for several years. He was also disciplined for improper sexual relationships during one of his stays.”

"Improper how?" Travis asked.

"Well, leaving aside that all sexual relationships are considered improper for patients, we have reports of a running liaison with a nurse’s aide,” Zaina answered.  “She was let go after the relationship was discovered. A number of reports concerning Gary and other patients. There was also some talk about him seducing his social worker as well.”

"A total degenerate, like the rest of his generation,” Travis grumbled. "What about his songs? Any mention of aliens in them?”

Bruehle offered. "The band has a publishing deal but Gary just sent in gibberish for the lyrics. Don't know if we'll get a chance to look over the real ones.”

"What about the band?" Travis asked.

"Nothing to speak of. No files on them, no history to speak of,” Darja said, apparently trying to get a handle back on this conversation, “The Screamer—Katie, the girlfriend— is your typical junkie-whore. Occasionally tricks through an escort service. Sniffer, no needles. Nothing else hinky on her."

"Actually, there is something,” Bruehle said, shuffling his stack of printouts like a Vegas croupier. ”I found one weird thing on the girlfriend; a police report about a series of calls to her home when she was in middle school."

"What kind of calls?" Travis snapped.

"It's unspecified, but judging from the incident reports it sounds an awful lot like poltergeist activity."

"Any siblings?" Travis said, his interest now very much piqued.

Bruehle scanned a printout, then said, “None."

"What went down?" Travis asked impatiently.

”There was a lot of mysterious damage done to the house,” Breuhe said, “Family Services got involved, thought it was domestic violence. The social worker who looked into the situation was hospitalized for nervous exhaustion about two weeks into the investigation."

"How did it all shake out?" Travis asked.

"Family Services made no recommendations, cops said the family left the windows open during windy nights which caused the mysterious events,” Bruehle explained. "After the social worker was discharged, she was put on administrative leave. She returned to work for a month, then took early retirement."

"What was going on with the family?" Travis said.

"Parents divorced when the girlfriend was six. Mom had a series of boyfriends. She married one of them not long before the poltergeist events."

"What do we know about the stepfather?" Travis asked.

“Apparently, the marriage split up before Gary’s girlfriend left high school,” Bruehle continued. “The stepfather was later arrested during a prostitution sting involving seriously-underage girls from Honduras."

"So he was probably working on this girl, too,” Travis offered.

"Looks that way,” Bruehe agreed.

“Zaina, call Sanderson and tell him I want that girl given a top-to-toe work-up," Travis said, clearly excited about this in his own way. "I don't think she and Gary were together by accident."

"You think she has abilities?" Bruehle asked.

"I'd bet on it. It sounds like she manifested during the abuse situation with the stepfather,” Travis said, nearly smiling, “Poltergeists eat that shit up. Maybe if we apply the right kind of pressure, she might manifest her abilities again."
Travis called the meeting to a close. He, Bruehle and Zaina got up from the table and left the conference room. Porter and Darja stayed put and stared numbly at each other, stunned at what they’d both just heard.

“Porter, what the fuck have we gotten ourselves into here?" Darja asked.

Her partner cradled his head in his hands and said, “I don’t know, Darj. I really don’t know.”