Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Clash of the Figments - Chapter 8

The rest of the trip was uneventful and we arrived in Charlotte around midnight.  A low haze from the steel mills blanketed the city, giving the lights an eerie lime green hue.  Hue is also a village in Vietnam, but I think the slopes pronounce it “way”.  Don’t say I never taught you anything.  Cars drove up and down Independence Avenue and we almost hit a stray dog that came out from behind the Super Wal-Mart.  Yeah, the Queen City was just as I’d remembered it. 

Everything was looking good and going as planned until we arrived at our destination, the Roadkill Pub & Deli.  That’s where we ran into problem #1.  The whole essence of the problem, I mused, was that the Roadkill wasn’t there. 

At all. 

As we sat idling in a parking place where one of the eight pool tables had once been, the ever perceptive Simon seemed to perk up on the fact that something was wrong. 

“What’s wrong?”  he asked. 

“The bar’s not here,”  I replied.  Never give them more information than you have to if you can make them beg for it instead. 

“What do you mean, ‘the bar’s not here’?”  Simon pressed. 

“Like I said, it’s gone.” 

“You didn’t say ‘it’s gone’, you said ‘the bar’s not here’,”  Jimmy chimed in. 

“Shut up, Jimmy.” 


“The bar is gone,”  I continued.  “Apparently an overabundance of surplus asphalt coupled with the need for convenient downtown parking overcame the public’s desire for fine dining in a family atmosphere.” 

“And strippers,”  Jimmy added. 

“And strippers,”  I echoed.  A desolate sigh rang out from all three of us simultaneously as we stared into the heavens and thought of what might have been. 

“Such a waste,”  I said.  “So senseless.” 

“Well what the hell do we do now?”  Simon asked.  Just full of questions, this guy.  “I thought this was your “big source”  of information, your “wired in”  contact that was going to set us off on the trail of this moose guy.  What do we do now?” 

“I don’t know, Simone.  I don’t know.” 

“Don’t even start calling me Simone again.  You know I hate that.” 

“Sorry.  I’m just a little shaken up about this.  Annoying you takes my mind off of it.” 

“Well you need to get your mind back on it and think of something fast.  Three white guys sitting in a parking lot in this neighborhood at three in the morning is asking for trouble.” 

“It’s midnight Simon,”  I said.  “Not 3 a.m.” 

“How do you know?” 

“Says so at the beginning of this chapter.” 

“Alright, midnight then.  In any case we might as well hang up a great big banner with flashing lights that says “ROB US”. 

“Okay.  Hey Jimmy, we still got that banner in the trunk?” 

“Yeah.  I think so,”  he answered. 

“Oh, stop it!”  Simon said.  It appeared that our playful jocularity was wearing thin.  “What are we going to do?” 

“Hey,” Jimmy said, “how did you find this place anyway?  I mean, you know, in the first place?” 

“Just dumb luck,”  I said.  “A couple of years back I stopped in for a drink.  Got to talking to the barkeep & realized I’d stumbled on to a wealth of untapped information.” 

“Well, why don’t we just go to another bar?”  Jimmy asked. 

Simon threw up his hands in despair.  “What a bunch of idiots!  What are the odds of finding another bar with a bartender who also happens to be an ex-Navy Seal computer whiz who keeps up on the current status of international espionage?” 

I threw up my hands in exasperation.  “Do you have a better idea?” 

Jimmy threw up.  “I don’t know about all that,”  he said, wiping his mouth on his shirtsleeve, “I just wanted a beer.” 

“Oh my God,”  Simon said, “  I can’t believe I let myself get talked into this.  I want out.” 

“Out of the car?”  I asked. 

“No, out of this book!” 

“Hey, hey, look, we went over all this earlier.  You can’t go anywhere now.  That case is closed.  Besides, I think Jimmy may be on to something.” 

“You’ve got to be kidding!  The odds, Dick, the odds.  It’s simply implausible that we’ll find another source of information in a run-down bar.  It would be too much of a coincidence.  No one would believe it.  And no self-respecting author would insult the intelligence of his readers by implying as much.  It’s just too ridiculous!” 

“Actually it’s no more ridiculous than anything else that’s happened so far.  But that’s not what I was agreeing with Jimmy on.  I kind of liked his ‘getting a beer’ idea.  And if we happen to run into a good bartender, all the better.” 

“I can’t believe it.  What am I doing with you two?”  Simon fumed.  “You don’t know how to run an investigation.” 

“Like I said, you got any better ideas?” 

“Actually, yes - ”  he started saying, but before he could get any further Jimmy threw an Army blanket over his head and we spent the next few minutes beating the crap out of him. 
Now, I know that sounds a little harsh.  Maybe even a tad cruel.  Possibly totally unwarranted.  But .  .  .  .  .  .  okay, it was.  Violence for the sake of violence, pure and simple.  What’s your point?  Hey, somebody shot Bambi’s mom for no reason too, so don’t go non-linear on me & Jimmy just for throwing a blanket party and kicking the snot out of some uppity Ivy Leaguer who, BY -THE -WAY, had it coming. 

Simon decided not to share his ideas with us after all. 

We cranked up the Impala and went looking for a bar. 

Next Week:  Chapter 9

Monday, August 19, 2013

Clash of the Figments - Chapter 7

It was eight o’clock when we finally hit the road for the Queen City.  I didn’t figure we’d be there long, but it was a critical stop since we didn’t have any leads to follow on this Zodar fella.  Not that we’d really looked yet.  Actually, I didn’t really figure to pick up any leads there either, but I wanted a new Panther’s jersey and my mom lived close by so if we wanted a home cooked meal or needed to do some laundry we could score on that count. 

And then of course, there was Stinky Pete. 

There’s a little bar just out of downtown that I’ve used before as a source of hard to get mission critical information.  I’ve also used it as a source of cheap mission critical booze, so it had the advantage of dual purpose.  The bartender there was an ex-Navy Seal.  A big biker lookin’ fella, Stinky Pete stood about six feet-four and weighed maybe 275 pounds soaking wet.  Worked a second job as a jack stand at Jiffy Lube.  Strange source of information, I know, but he was plugged into the seamy underworld of international espionage like a lava lamp. 

“Okay, you got me into this thing, so where are we going to start?”  Simon asked.  Sounded like a question to me. 

“Charlotte,”  I replied. 

“Charlotte?  Why there?”  he asked.  Another question.  Simon was starting to be a nosy little bastard.  I started thinking maybe our trio was one too many.  Lots of country road ahead, plenty of places to dump a body.  But maybe killing him would be overdoing it a little.  I decided to fill him in instead.  That’s the kind of guy I am. 

“There’s a little bar just out of downtown that I’ve used before as a source of hard to get mission critical information.  I’ve also used it as a source of cheap mission critical booze, so it has the advantage of dual purpose.  The bartender there is an ex-Navy Seal.  A big biker lookin’ fella, Stinky Pete stands about six feet-four and weighs maybe 275 pounds soaking wet.  Works a second job as a jack stand at Jiffy Lube.  Strange source of information, I know, but he’s plugged into the seamy underworld of international espionage like a lava lamp.” 

“Okay,”  Simon said, “but do you really think he’s gonna know anything about a spy moose?” 

“If anybody knows, he will.  And Simon?  If you ask me another question I’ll break three of your fingers.” 

“Okay, okay, don’t get so bloody hostile.” 

“Hey, man,”  Jimmy piped up from the back, “why don’t we put on some tunage?  Help everybody relax.  Here, I brought my 8-tracks.”  He passed a bright orange case up to Simon. 

“The only thing more remarkable than you having an 8-track tape collection is that this car has an 8-track player,”  Simon said. 

“Well, you know, you can’t throw out, like, classics man,”  Jimmy replied. 

Simon opened the case and I took a peek.  Typical Jimmy:  The Angry Samoans, Violent Femmes, Black Flag, and, of course, the Sex Pistols to name a few.  No Neil Diamond though.  Simon would be disappointed. 

Jimmy saw Simon studying the titles with a confused expression.  “Didn’t think I’d have a collection of musik like that, did you?”  he said. 

“That’s ‘music’, with a ‘c’, and no, I must admit that most of this was beyond the realm of my Music Appreciation classes.” 

“Yeah, it’s a royal collection alright.  Here,”  he pointed, “I haven’t heard that one in a while.” 

Simon reluctantly complied and soon we were cruising to the melodious sounds of the Meatmen, the gentle rhythm of War of the Superbikes wafting through the night air. 

Jimmy relaxed in the center of the back seat, arms draped out to each side, nodding with the beat. 

Simon looked as if he were fighting the calling of a large bowel movement. 

I drove. 

“Yeah, man,”  Jimmy said, “I remember one night when we were opening up for the FPV’s, before STI got famous, - ”

“The who?”  Simon asked. 

“Naw, not 'The Who' man, the 'FPV’s',”  Jimmy replied. 

“What is an ‘FPV’?” 

“It’s not a what, it’s a them, dude,”  Jimmy explained.  “You know, 'The Phantom Panty Vipers'.  They were out of El Lay I think, had this real freaky looking dude playing lead guitar.  Wanted everyone to call him Duke ‘cause he wore this big thick collar around his neck and thought he was a dog.  We called him Johnny Forehead instead ‘cause he had this forehead that just kinda kept going back, and back, and back, you know?  Used to piss him off a lot –” 

“’Phantom starts with a ‘P’, not an ‘F’,”  Simon informed us.  “They should have been the ‘PPV’s’, not the “FPV’s’.” 

“Yeah, whatever man.  I mean, nobody said we were like English majors or anything.  We played tunes, man, you know?  We were musicians.” 

“Another debatable point that probably wouldn’t hold up to cross examination.” 


“Some people might make the argument that you weren’t musicians,”  Simon clarified. 

“Like who?” 

“Like anyone who ever heard you play.” 

Jimmy was silent for a moment.  Luckily, being in the backseat, he was downwind from me, or I might have gagged under the smoke that was no doubt belching from his ears as the fragile gears in his cranium ground together in a desperate attempt to determine if he had or had not just been ‘dissed’. 

Apparently, he had. 

“Oh yeah?”  he said. 

“Yes,”  Simon replied. 

“Well .  .  .well . . . you are.” 


“Yeah, uh-huh.  Don’t know what the fuck I’m talking about now, do ya?  Wish you did though, don’t you?  Huh?  Don’t you?” 

“What are you talking about?” 

“See!  See!  It’s killing you, ain’t it?” 

“Dick,”  Simon said to me, “what the hell is he talking about?” 

I looked at Simon and puffed thoughtfully on my pipe for a few seconds, surprised that I was smoking one and wondering when it was exactly that I had bought it. 

You are,”  I said. 

Jimmy started laughing so hard he threw up all over himself. 

Simon retreated without another word to the far side of the car where the air temperature was now over 110 degrees. 

I drove. 

Monday, August 12, 2013

Clash of the Figments - Chapter 6

Morning came to the Prestwick house.  I awoke temporarily insane, confused by my surroundings.  Gradually, the Miami Vice color scheme of the bedroom, the smell of breakfast hot dogs on the stove, and Priscilla’s singing from the kitchen reminded me of where I was.  Hell Bent for Leather.  Judas Priest.  What she was singing.  Metalheads, go figure. 

I roused myself and shook vigorously.  Got dressed and put on my shoulder holster.  Good place for a gun.  Mine was a big long barreled job, custom made.  Looked very similar to a .357 until you noticed that it had a barrel big enough to hide a roll of quarters.  The guy I bought it from had told me it was a guaranteed “one shot stop”. 

Slight understatement.  It would blow the head off a rhino.  Don’t ask; just trust me on that. 

The fire alarm started blaring.  Breakfast was ready.  I padded off to the kitchen. 

Simon was on the back porch, looking at the Wall Street Journal.  Somehow I had avoided ever reading that particular paper in my thirty-some-odd years.  No reason I could see to break a good streak. 

Jimmy was still sleeping on the couch.  He talked a lot in his sleep.  Apparently he was getting ready for a dreamy punch out.  His fists were clenched.  “Hey, man you’re not a local,”  he said.  Oh, the demons that surfers endured.  The clock read a little after ten o’clock.  Jimmy had a few more waves to catch before he would join us. 

I went in the kitchen and loaded up a plate with some chow.  Priscilla eyed me suspiciously, leaning against the counter, holding a cup of tea in front of her with both hands. 

“Touch me and I’ll scratch your eyes out,”  she said. 

I didn’t reply.  Just filled a glass with some OJ and headed out to join Simon, safe in the knowledge that my vision wasn’t in any immediate jeopardy. 

“I didn’t know your wife was Cajun,”  I said, taking a seat beside him. 

“It’s not blackened.  It’s burnt.”  His eyes never left the paper. 


“I’m sorry about last night.  Making such a big stink and all.  It just gets frustrating, you know?” 

“Yeah.”  I knew. 

“It just gets to me sometimes.  I mean, I don’t have a problem being the figment of somebody’s imagination, but it just bothers me sometimes to know that everything I say, everything I do, and everywhere I go is subject to the whims of somebody else.  It’s just so .  .  .  controlled.” 

“Yeah.”  It was. 

“I don’t know.  I guess I just thought it might be a little easier to stomach if I felt that what I was doing was really something important.  Something great.” 

“Yeah.”  It would. 

We sat in silence for a while, Simon reading his paper, me chipping away at my breakfast. 

“But on the bright side,”  I said at last, “Nobody in a Jack London novel ever got to blow spit bubbles.  And, if memory serves, there’s not a Kung Fu fight in anything Shakespeare ever wrote.” 

“Good points.  I know, I know, I’ve got nothing to be upset about.  This is a good gig.  Well, good enough.  I think we can really work with this spy moose thing.  Which reminds me, when are going to get moving?” 

“Are we back in character now?”  I asked. 

“Hell yeah.  C’mon, let’s go get Number 12 and blow this Popsicle stand.” 

We pulled out of Simon’s driveway just after noon.  Beautiful day.  Clear skies, light breeze, 85 degrees.  Strange weather pattern over the last 12 hours but I wasn’t complaining.  Jimmy was awake but had decided to go surfing. 

“So, where do we start?”  Simon asked. 

“Need to get some money.  For expenses,”  I said.  “Figured we’d go buy some cars.” 

Simon grimaced.  “Ahhh, man.  Do we have to?  It’s so embarrassing.” 

“No choice.  I didn’t get advance money,”  I said.  “Don’t worry though, it won’t take too long.  We’ll be done before dinner.” 

I pulled into the nearest car dealership – Chevrolet – and went to work.  First we traded in the Impala on a new Tahoe.  Pocketed the $2,500 rebate money and hit the road again.  Next stop was a Dodge dealer around the corner.  Traded in the Tahoe on a new Intrepid and walked off with another $3,500 cash back.  I always wanted cab forward technology and I had to admit I was impressed, at least for the five minutes that it took to reach the next car lot.  This one sold Toyotas. 

The whole thing was ridiculously easy, really.  Buy, get rebate, trade in, buy another, get another rebate.  The only hassle was dealing with the dealers.  But they never gave us a hard time because we usually bought some of the more expensive cars, didn’t balk at their initial asking price, and agreed to whatever interest rate they quoted.  We just made sure there was a rebate.  That was the trick. 

By sundown we had hit every single dealership in Wilmington and surrounding areas.  My last stop was back at the Chevy dealer that we had started with.  We were driving a high end Mercedes by this time.  I traded it in for next to nothing and got the Impala back plus the balance of the trade for the Mercedes, an additional $23,000.  They were so thrilled at getting a brand new Mercedes at half its list price and unloading the Impala at the same time I think they shit their pants.  Simon and I barreled out of the lot with a cloud of smoke and a grand total of just over $275,000 in our pocket. 

I always wondered why more people didn’t do this.  Just don’t like cars the way I do I guess.  The real beauty of the whole thing is that all of the dealerships wind up invoicing each other for the cars that were bought and traded in, each one charging the next in a chain reaction that ends up back at the beginning, forming a vicious payment circle.  They’d be busy for weeks trying to figure out what the hell happened. 

Okay, okay, I said it was easy, I didn’t say it was legal. 

We drove back down to the beach where we had dropped Jimmy off earlier.  We saw the Beach Patrol and figured that’s where we’d find our man.  Jimmy was pretty mellow, but he usually got arrested at least once whenever he went surfing.  A most territorial lad when it came to waves.  Luckily, they hadn’t cuffed him yet and Simon and I were able to assure the bike cops that we would keep Jimmy safely away from the general public. 

Simon threw his board in the trunk and I helped Jimmy unravel himself from the tangle of fishing line wrapped around his body. 

“Surfing the pier again?”  I asked. 

“Yeah, dude.” 

“Nasty gash here,”  I said, pulling a good size treble hook from his calf. 

“Yeah, that one hurt.  Dude started reeling it in right in front of me.” 

“You mean you saw it?” 


“And you ran right into it?” 


“Don’t you think that’s a little extreme?” 

“Maybe.  But it was a good wave.  I couldn’t just leave it.” 

“I worry about you Jimmy.  I really do.” 

We went back to Simon’s house to grab something to eat and pack up our things.  Priscilla had done us the favor of not bothering to cook any dinner.  I’m not being sarcastic.  It really was nice of her.  Simon headed to his room to pack while me and Jimmy threw our stuff back in the Impala.  Then we headed off to the kitchen to make some dinner. 

I made some PBJ’s for me and Jimmy since he had hard time with recipes that included more than two ingredients.  While I lathered up the bread, he took the time to find a tape measure to check the length of the cut on his calf.  Jimmy had a thing about scar size and kept a detailed record of all damage done to his body.  Several trees had so far given their lives for this documentation. 

Priscilla came in and sat down at the table.  Just for fun I gave her a smile and she shot back a look that made my lips bleed.  Jimmy took no notice.  Didn’t realize the temperature in the room had dropped 10 degrees.  But then again he was used to cool.  I said earlier that Priscilla hated our guts.  I guess to be more accurate, she hated mine.  Jimmy didn’t really bother her.  Probably because he didn’t complain about her cooking. 

“Ow,”  she said, looking at Jimmy.  “That’s a big cut.  Does it hurt?” 

“Yeah.  A little,”  Jimmy replied. 

“What are you doing, measuring it?”  she asked. 

“Yeah.  I keep track of how big my scars are.  I measure all of the wounds I get.” 

“Huh.  From the looks of things you must be pretty good at doing that by now,”  she said.  “Just do me a favor and don’t give the tape to your friend over there.  I don’t need him trying something juvenile like measuring my butt with it.” 

“Oh, he couldn’t do that anyway,”  Jimmy said.  “It’s only a 10 foot tape.” 

He went back to measuring his cut, the picture of innocence.  Priscilla looked at me in a non-smiling way. 

“What?”  I said. 

“Not a sound,”  she said.  “Not one peep.” 

I almost made it out of the kitchen before the giggles hit and I vaguely remember a heavy glass object impacting the wall behind my head as I ducked into the hall.  By the time I got to the front door I was laughing so hard I blew snot all over my hand. 

I decided it would be best to wait at the car until we were ready to leave. 

Next Week:  Chapter 7

Monday, August 5, 2013

Clash of the Figments - Chapter 5

I’d forgotten about Pricilla.  She was Simon’s wife.  She opened the door when we knocked.  She was from some rich family with old money.  She had gone to the same schools as Simon.  She really hated our guts. 

“Hi Pricilla,”  I said, feigning pleasure at seeing her again.  I noticed Pricilla didn’t bother feigning back.  So much for social protocol.  “Simon home?” 

“If I tell you he’s not will you go away?” 

“Nope.  We’ll just come inside and wait.” 

“What if he’s in Europe?” 

“We’ll make ourselves comfortable.” 

She glared at me for a moment.  “Yeah, you would, wouldn’t you,”  she said.  It wasn’t a question.  A look of disgusted resignation came over her.  “Well, get inside then.”  She turned and walked away without waiting.  I would’ve checked out her ass but she was, after all, Simon’s old lady.  Kind of gave me the willies. 

Me and Jimmy entered the house and kicked the caked up snow off of our boots.  Good thing all they had in the foyer was one of those Persian carpets.  Maybe Simon wasn’t doing so well financially if he couldn’t afford an American made rug.  I also found it odd that there would be snow in Wilmington this time of year.  Or any time of year for that matter.  I was about to ask Jimmy where the hell we had gotten boots from when Simon walked in. 

“Hello Dick,”  he said.  “Jimmy.”  Simon was a little shorter than me.  Sandy hair, hazel eyes.  Shopped at the Gap.  Starting to get a little pudge overlapping his belt I noticed.  Not much, just a start. 

“Good to see you Simon,”  I said. 

“Hey dude,”  Jimmy said meekly. 

“I figured you’d be coming to see me any time now,”  Simon said.  “Come on into the study.  Let’s hear what you’re into this time.” 

“Looking good yourself, Simon,”  Jimmy said.  He had been rehearsing responses in the car for the last 15 minutes.  Wasn’t hitting his cues perfectly.  Didn’t matter, Simon was already out of the room. 

We settled into the study and, once again, I related the story of my encounter with one Mr.  Jackson Burroughs.  I finished and sat back in my chair, satisfied that the impact of this particular assignment was weighing in heavily on Simon.  He stared at me for a full five minutes.  I sat still but ready, coiled to spring into action should another  Kung Fu fight be necessary.  Jimmy was apparently also thinking about the episode at his home earlier in the day.  He dozed only fitfully. 

“Okay.  Wait, wait.  Wait a minute,”  Simon said, holding his hands in the air.  “Let’s not go any further here.” 

“Why, what’s the matter?”  I asked. 

“I’m not doing a damn thing until I see the script,”  he said. 

“The what?” 

“Script.  I want to see the manuscript.” 

“Oh come on, Simon,”  I said.  “Don’t start up with this again.  Would I be here if it wasn’t good?” 

Apparently I could have been.  Simon didn’t say a word.  Just held out his hand.  Waiting. 

“Ahhh, shit,”  I said.  “You are such a pain in the ass.”  But I opened my briefcase and handed it over.  “Why do you always have to make such a stink over everything?” 

“Because I’m not officially under contract yet and I owe it to myself to check and see what this is all about.  If you were smart you’d have done the same.  Too late for you, but not for me.” 

With that, he sat back and started reading.  I waited impatiently, tapping my fingers, tapping my foot, counting to one thousand out loud, just trying my best to be as annoying as possible.  Jimmy was sleeping more soundly now.  He had a line of drool running down his check. 

“This is it?”  Simon said as he finished.  “This is all there is?” 

“Yeah, that’s it.  What’s the problem?”  I said. 

“What’s the problem?  What’s the problem?  There’s only four chapters here and part of the fifth.  Where’s the rest?” 

“There isn’t any more yet.” 

“Nothing?  Nothing at all?  Not a rough draft, a chapter summary?  Not even an outline?” 

“This guy doesn’t work like that.  He – “ 

“Look, Dick, I know you mean well, and I’d like to help you, I really would.  But I’ve got a wife and four kids to support now.  I need better material than this.” 

“You don’t have any kids, Simon.” 

“Okay, that part was a lie.  But the rest is true.  I’ve got loftier goals than this author will ever be able to push me to.” 

“Dammit, Simon.  You’ve been in some of the dumbest plots ever to hit paper.  Don’t try that shit with me.” 

“Exactly my point,”  he said, leaning in and pointing his finger at me.  “I’m tired of playing bit parts in second rate adventure stories that only come out in paperback.  I’m better than that.  A good story.  That’s all I want.  Is that asking for too much?  I don’t think so.  I mean, I’m not expecting to be in a Faulkner or a Hemmingway or even a Michener, too late for that.  But damn it, a Clancy shouldn’t be that difficult.  What the hell, I’m even willing to get my arms and legs hacked off to get into a Stephen King.  I’m talented enough to do that.  But oh no, here I am in yet another unprintable schmuckfest of literary crap.  I mean, this story sucks.  Spy Moose my ass.”  Simon shook his head and rubbed his temples as if in pain. 

“Oh chill out,”  I said.  “I’ve been in worse gigs than this.  We can salvage it.  We just need to make a few adjustments maybe, that’s all.” 

“We need Heather Locklear is what we need,”  Jimmy said suddenly. 

“Well that’s not an option we have at the moment,”  I said. 

“Heather Locklear?”  Simon asked, “And what in the world would Heather Locklear do for us?” 

“What, are you nuts?”  Jimmy said, looking at Simon’s big old pizza head in disbelief.  “Heather’s like...like Mrs.  Goodwrench.  She can fix anything.  Melrose Place?  Wayne’s World II?  Spin City?  Any of this ring a bell?  Have you been dead for the past decade?” 

“Okay, okay, knock it off,”  I said.  “Granted, Heather would be a big plus, but we’re running on a low budget so it’s out of the question.  Why don’t we direct our thoughts to something that we can do, rather than wasting all day on pipe dreams, hmmm?” 

“I guess you’re right,”  Jimmy admitted. 

“Agreed,”  said Simon. 

“Now,”  I continued, “If we do change anything up to this point the first four chapters may have to be revised.  I agree, the plot is suspect.  But I don’t think we can trust the author to do any major rewrites at this point and still have us making forward progress.  He’s obviously an amateur and his editing skills have to be considered as such.  So we’ll have to just accept what is already done and make the best of it from this point on.” 

“Why should we worry about his editing skills?  Isn’t that what a publishing house is for?”  Jimmy asked. 

“What publishing house?  We’re talking small press at best.  Limited resources.  Won’t happen.  Trust me.”  Simon informed us. 

“So we do nothing?  Nothing at all?”  Jimmy asked. 

  I really don’t think we can,”  I said.  “And we’ve all been introduced so there’s no backing out now, Simon.” 

“Next time I see my agent I’m gonna shove a toaster up his ass,”  Simon said. 

“Maybe not the best career move, but that’s your choice,”  I replied.  The rain continued to batter against the window panes, painting a gloomy mood that echoed our feelings about the current predicament. 

“Look,”  I said finally, “we’re all good actors.  I think if we pool our talents – “ 

“What about him?”  Simon said pointing at Jimmy.  He’s a talented actor?  He’s so burned out you shake his head it sounds like a maraca, brain cells bouncing around in there.” 

Jimmy looked hurt.  And a little defensive.  “Hey, man, I’ve had good gigs before.  I’ve been a cop, a homosexual dwarf, a pregnant cat, a schizophrenic superhero – “ 

“Does this author even know how to spell ‘schizophrenic’?”  Simon asked rhetorically. 

We all looked to see. 

“Yeah, I think he does,”  I said.  “’Rhetorically’ too.” 

“Still .  .  .  I don’t think Jimmy’s strong enough to pull his weight,”  Simon continued.  “What else have you done?” 

“Well, I already told you my big roles,”  Jimmy said gloomily.  “That’s it basically.  ‘Cept for that wizard thing.” 

“What “wizard thing?” 

“Oh, you probably never heard of it.  Way back when I was starting out.  Before I got into sniffing glue, I played a wizard in a little fantasy story.  Big tall old guy named Gandalf.” 

Simon and I both sat in stunned silence.  My jaw dropped down so far I got carpet burns. 

“You were in a Tolkien?”  Simon asked softly. 

“Tolkien, yeah!  That’s the dude’s name!  Man, that’s been keeping me up at night, you just don’t know.” 

“I don’t believe it.  You were Gandalf.  That’s got me beat.  Man, you were really good,”  I said. 

“Yeah,”  Jimmy said.  “I was pretty good, now that you mention it.  That book was probably the highlight of my career.  Wish I could remember what it was called.” 

“Book?”  Simon exclaimed, “Man, you were in a trilogy!  Lord of the Rings is still selling.  It’s a movie, a video game; it’s all over the place!” 

“Trilogy?  You mean, like, three books?  Whoa.  I must have started sniffing glue sooner than I thought.” 

“What do you think about Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn?”  I asked Simon. 

“He’s good,”  Simon replied. 

“Yeah, I think so too.  But I wasn’t too sure about him at first.” 

“Me neither.  But by the time Boromir got killed I had kind of warmed up to him” 

“Yeah, me too.  Boromir went down hard; three arrows.  Thick arrows.” 

“They were some nasty looking arrows too.” 

“But then Aragorn whacked off that dude’s head.” 

“Well deserved, if you ask me.” 

“Wmmrerglumdmflml”, said Pricilla. 

“Hey,”  I said, “Who tied up Pricilla and stuffed a gag in her mouth?  For that matter, how long has she been here?” 

“Oh, don’t worry about her.  She’s got some weird habits,”  Simon said, looking back at Jimmy.  “Damn.  Gandalf.  Damn!” 

“So that’s good right?”  Jimmy said.  “We can keep going with the story, right?” 

“Ah, what the hell,”  Simon said.  “Why not?” 

“Yeah,”  Jimmy continued, “maybe this will turn into a cult thing too.  Kind of a new Lord of the Rings for the 80’s.” 

“We’re a tad past the 80’s Jimmy,”  I said. 

“Really?  Whoa.  That would explain a lot.” 

“So, you in Simon?”  I asked. 

“Yeah, I’m in.” 

“Good.  Now maybe we can start actually doing something,”  I said. 

I leaned back in my chair and took a long pull from my cigarette.  When the hell do I keep lighting these things?  No matter.  All was well now.  Simon was in.  Jimmy was in.  Pricilla was laying on the floor, hardly struggling against her bonds anymore.  Simon was right, she was a weird chick. 

We were a sly team.  And we were ready to roll.  First thing in the morning the hunt was on.  The silence in the room told me that we were all thinking the same thing. 

“I’m hungry,”  Jimmy said.  “You got any Little Debbies?” 

Next Week - Chapter 6