Nothing Good Comes from Violence, and Nothing Ever Could
New players get involved in the increasingly complex drama that is Lawndale. Also, Aaron Guthan becomes an escaped convict.
Daria (and associated characters and locations) is copyright © 1997-2000 MTV Networks.
This story is copyright © 2002 by Bacner () and has been written for personal enjoyment. No infringement of the above rights is intended.
“Damn it,” Paul Podgio, Rita Barksdale’s husband raged in their rented apartment. “Damn Eugene!” He flung a chair against a wall.
“Paul, calm down,” Maximilian Pierpont, the lawyer of Paul and his business associates, chided his client gently.
“Calm? How can I be calm?” the other man snapped. “My brother was dumb enough to slaughtered like a ram in a slaughter house! He riled us all up, and then did like Lucia Walcott – got dead. And just how dead! Nailed to a wall with his own photo tripod! Dead, because he photo-ed some beech that showed nothing out of ordinary – barring some paranoiac bastard’s mind!”
“Paul, calm down!” Maximilian spoke sternly. “Just why has Eugene Podgio riled all of you up?”
“What’s with the long face?”
“It’s Janet. She’s attending her ex-husband’s second wedding, and I… am nervous.”
“Well, don’t tell me – tell her!”
“I can’t! She isn’t here! And Anthony DeMartino isn’t the type of a man I'm wanting to be talking about this!”
“Yes, an Ex-Carmelite is a much better man to talk to,” Don Lincolne sarcastically said.
“Well, at least you don’t have that eye of Timothy’s, you know? When he gets angry… oh boy! I can never put much in edgewise, and since I'm the one that should be ranting… sorry.”
“No, don't be – just go on.”
And Timothy O’Neal rumbled-on.
Aaron Guthan was a very unhappy man. Currently, he was stuck in armoured train wagon transporting him to his place of judgement in D.C., and he was not thrilled about that fact alone. The fact that one of his ex-partners, Hassan, was participating in it, made him even less happy, and as to the investigator, who was assigned to him – well, that was just the proverbial icing!..
Charlotte De Vier (that was the investigator’s name) was a Vietnamese baby who had been adopted by a pair of Portuguese-speaking people. Personally, Aaron never liked Charlotte, he suspected of her being a pro-Aryan in his belief. And now, she was assigned to his case! Oh, the shame for him as Jew being dependent on the whims of that shrew! And Hassan too, whom Aaron never liked either.
And from that mixture of spite and bitter resentment, Aaron suddenly tensed his arms and jerked them from side to side, and he felt something give with a crack!
It was his handcuffs.
The phone rang. “Who is it” Alecto the Harpy spoke into it.
“Alecto? It’s Linda. Guess who’s in town?”
“Who?” Alecto said, warily.
“Can you get Effïndïe here or at least her address? One of those relatives got news he wants to share with her.”
“Oh,” Alecto frowned. The Birmingham siblings were a troublesome pack, and the fact that Linda Griffin was a close friend of one of them eased it up not. And as for Marcello Birmingham’s relationship with Alecto’s closest friend in the Harpies – “Try 173 Sugar St. If not there, then 18th alleyway. Other than that, I don't know.”
“Thanks!” Linda hang-up.
Alecto sat down heavily and groaned. “By Zeus, I hope that Effïndïe isn't at Jesse’s right now.”
Aaron slowly straightened-up. His legs have been left unchained and unshackled; De Vier and Hassan thought that binding his arms was enough, and with regular handcuffs as well. Fools! Sophia would’ve never done that, she knew how strong her less savage assistant was! But Sophia was back in Lawndale, or whatever that place was called.
Aaron didn’t have to contemplate, however, as he heard running and alarmed shouts in the corridor outside. Snarling savagely, Aaron rammed the barred window with all his might, and the screw that held the bars in place, popped-out. Aaron fell from the train and fled, considering that the railroad was just passing through the Berkshire Hills…
It was late in the afternoon for Lawndale. The sun was just starting to set, and it would be about two hours till night would fall. The grasshoppers were lazily playing on their fiddles in the Morgendorffers’ back yard-
-or at least they would, if Daria would just stop playing her harmonica.
“Did mom or dad ground you again?”
“No, I'm just in a maudlin mood.”
“Then take your mood and shove it! When dad rented ‘Captain Corelli’s Violin’ you didn’t feel any maudlin at all!”
“Over that lame film? Please! If one is putting a film on WWII, then one expects to see something concrete about WWII. This film was meant for Kevin and Brittany!” Daria paused. “Then again, it would be right up your alley too, I realize. Sorry. Now let me play in peace!”
“Now see here,” Quinn began to seethe. “I didn't criticize your gore-fest-“
“‘The Enemy at the Gate’, you mean? It was not a gore-fest, it was historically-accurate-“
“-Piece of crap!”
“Now see here, if we're talking about crap, maybe you should-“
Outside Fieldings’ Private School for Boys, all was peaceful and quiet. Suddenly, a car drove roaring into its’ parking lot. Two people exited it – Jo Bishops and Andrea Hecuba. Both looked ruffled and pissed. Both looked at each other and purposefully strode into the establishment.
“…Are they always like that?” Victoria asked Jake as the shouts of a growing argument began to reach them even in the living room.
“’Fraid so,” Jake Morgendorffer nodded. “They're always arguing when they’re talking.”
“And what does Helen do about it?”
“Basically, just makes it worse. The girls take from Helen’s side, you know?” He caught sight of his half-sister’s face. “Which is not to say that dad didn’t leave their marks on them, either. In-n a good way, I mean.”
“Jake, relax,” Victoria said amusedly. “Now, what can you tell me about Lawndale? I was here some time ago and I’m afraid I don’t remember it as much as I should.”
“Very well,” Jake nodded. “Where to begin?”
“At Lawndale High, I suppose.”
The Fieldings’ PA system suddenly turned to life. “Mr. Sloane, Mr. Calmanoff? You're wanted in the dean’s office now.” The voice sounded strange and unfamiliar – but both of the youths mentioned in the announcement suspected they knew who was on the other end. Since they were in different classes, they couldn’t exchange looks with each other, which would’ve ranged between nonchalant and surprised. But comply simultaneously from each other they did.
The phone rang.
“Who is it?” Trent Lane spoke, putting aside his guitar on which he was playing (or the crocodile, the one that he was skinning alive).
“Hello, Mr. Trent Lane?”
“Yeah, that’s me.”
“This is the funeral agency, ‘Atropos and Angels’. We were wondering, if you and your band could play tomorrow at the cremation ceremony of Eugene Podgio.”
“Sure,” Trent Lane nodded cheerfully. “How much you’ll be paying?”
“Will one thousand accommodate you?”
Trent whistled. “Yup. What kind of songs do you need?”
“Just something appropriate to send the deceased into the afterlife, you understand? Certainly nothing overly cheery, see?”
“Nothing cheery. Got it,” Trent nodded. “We’ll do it.”
The person on the other end hanged-up. Trent blessed his lucky star that he heard the phone on time, and called forth the other members of his band – they had a lot to practice to.
David and Tom did finally meet each other at the dean’s office. “Sounds like Buckle was on the other end,” David turned to the other boy. “Wonder why did she sound so pissed?”
“Let’s go inside,” Tom sighed. “Why do I have a feeling that it has something to do with Fitchburg?”
David raised an eyebrow. “What’s in Fitchburg?”
“I completed an errand for the Harpies there earlier this week.”
David winced. “No body parts, I hope?”
“No,” Tom shook his head thoughtfully. “No body parts… then. I hope that didn't change.” He steeled himself and stepped inside, followed by Calmanoff, who now no longer looked so cocky.
“Well Timothy, that is quite a tale you’ve told me, worthy of Saint Benedict himself!” Don Lincolne said, sounding genuinely impressed. “You really got over your head, didn't you?”
Timothy O’Neal shrugged helplessly. “What can I say? I did pray every night for a long time now to have a woman once again, and Janet Barch, well Janet Barch-“
“Probably thinks that you’re just what Dr. Love ordered for her,” Don smirked. “After all those manly men in her life, somebody like you is just what she needed. You don’t have to worry about a thing – she’ll keep you.”
O’Neal looked crossly at his friend. “That's not very flattering, Don.”
“Well, what do you want to hear? That you’re Hercules himself?”
“No, that’s Janet’s first husband,” O’Neal replied. “And their sons. Ye gods, if they were born before firearms were acclaimed and began to be used in warfare – they’d probably amass a mess of medals, insignia, war-honours, titles, ranks, estates-“
“You’ve been watching ‘Braveheart’ again, didn’t you?” Don spoke crossly.
“Hey, it’s much better than the ‘Patriot’,” O’Neal said with a sniff.
“Don't diss the film, Timmy!” Anthony DeMartino spoke-up suddenly, joining the conversation. “And where’s Francis, Don?”
“He’ll be coming soon,” Don Lincolne shrugged. “He won’t miss our bridge game, that's for sure.”
“Lovely view, isn’t it?” Jane asked.
“It is Janey, it is. So tell me, what’s bugging you?”
“Nothing much Allison, just that, well, I hate Ruttheimer III, I really did. But now that he’s dead, well, it kind-of sucks. I mean, he was obnoxious on the Austin Powers’ level, but he didn’t deserve to be decapitated.”
“Look at the bright side – he at least wasn't brained!”
Jane gave Allison an impatient and wry look. “That is what you can consider to be the bright side?”
“It’s all in perspective Jane, all is in the perspective. And speaking of it, I must say that your new painting is very nice.”
“Thanks,” Jane nodded.
“Still, what made you paint a war-time marine envoy?”
“Daria. Our bad movie nights have been kind of on a WWII kick lately, and, well, you get the rest.”
“Right, I should have thought about something like that, because I doubt that you’d be drawing something like the ‘Little Mermaid’.”
“Please,” Jane shuddered. “Once my sister Summer’s kids had taken-out some Disney videos – ‘Aladdin’, ‘The Little Mermaid’ and ‘Peter Pan’. I have some weird dreams after that, believe me! Disney’s yuck!”
“Yeah, that’s true,” nodded Allison, draping one of her arms on Jane’s shoulders, who just sighed and put her head onto Allison’s shoulder instead.
“Let’s just gaze for a while, shall we?” she said.
“Well boys, I’m so unimpressed with the whole masculine gender right now, that I just might castrate you,” Jo Bishops’ voice just dripped with oozing scorn that would’ve made Janet Barch green with envy. “Between you two you’re supposed to keep this place under some semblance of control, for crying outloud! Instead, what was supposed to be a clean, easy mission of recovery – for me, that is, turned into one of the biggest messes I ever was! And I’m not even starting to speak for this Andrea here, either!”
“Can you explain what has happened?” Tom carefully asked. Enraged Buckle was not something to be careless with, lest you would want to find yourself dying from being slashed into chunks.
“What has happened?” Jo icily asked. “Very well. Andrea, narrate.”
Not too short but still stubby Andrea Hecuba emerged from behind the desk, looking pale despite her Gothic make-up. “Well, what has happened was this…”
Andrea Hecuba opened her eyes once again. It was still dark, and it still stank of paper. “Where am I?” she wondered for a countless time. Her original captors, after freaking her out of her wits by threatening to eat her, instead drugged her out, and left her here, wherever here was. And that was just about as worrisome.
Suddenly the door slid open, and somebody stepped in.
“Andrea Hecuba?” the voice spoke.
“Are you here to let me out?” Andrea replied.
“Did you realize that raising panic and pandemonium is bad?”
“Sandi? Tiffany? Quinn? That any of you?” Andrea frowned. “Well, your pasty tricks will not intimidate me!” Andrea shouted braver than she felt.
“This is no trick. Just who do you think you are? Cassandra of Troy?”
“Well, maybe I’m her descendant! After all, Troy was in Turkey!”
“Great,” the figure’s tone turned sarcastic. “All Italians claim to have descended from Aeneas and his team of go-lucky Trojan escapees, and now, apparently, the Turks – or whoever passes for them here – claims to have descended from the rest of the house of Priam. Just great!” There was a slight slithering sound as the figure spoke, and Andrea realized that time was simply slipping away… And then something metaphorically hit her between the eyebrows, and spoke: “And you, Jo ‘Buckle’ Bishops are nowhere as scary as you claim to be!”
“And how do you know my name?” the figure was genuinely surprised.
“I… I don't know. I just had a vision. I think,” Andrea said diffidently.
“Then,” there was a dangerous edge in the voice now, “I’m going to have some old-fashioned Aussie fun, yes.”
Andrea gulped. “No.”
Laughing wickedly, Jo ‘Buckle’ Bishops gave chase.
Heart was seemingly pounding in Andrea’s ears and her breath went short. Admittedly, she seemed to have lost he pursuer, but she herself was seemingly lost as well. And the paper manufacturing plant was big! Big and dark, and if at Andrea’s “starting point” so light did filter through and coloured the surroundings grey, then right there right now it was completely dark.
Suddenly, Andrea seemingly struck something tough, yet more malleable then metal-covered walls of the building.
“Well, hello there!” snarled a voice.
Andrea, who was sitting flat on her ass, stared upwards. A man loomed above her – or at least the being was man-shaped. To Andrea, dizzy and disoriented in the darkness, it might as well been a Cyclops. The fact that new character spoke with an Italian accent didn’t ease things any. “Hey, Ridgy, what are you – stuck?” another male’s voice came from the darkness.
“No, Taras, I was right. There is another person in here!” the giant sneered.
“Just choke it and be done with it,” Taras’ voice resonated in the darkness. “The boss expects results, you know, and not leakages of information!”
Sneering, ‘Ridgy’ bent down to Andrea, who could just stare, how light from a flashlight made the giant’s eyes look glassy-
“Hialeah!” Jo’s battle cry came moments before herself, scything the giant’s legs from under him. He fell with a thump!
The next moment though, a shot reverberated from the darkness, and Andrea felt something whistle over her head. “There’s another man! Taras, I think!” she hissed nervously. The Aussie woman, at least, wasn’t planning to kill her now; instead she was dragging her away. Well, dragging was not exactly the right word; it was more like pulling her along. Several more shots sounded in the darkness, but none scored – Andrea and Jo had safely made it from out there.
“Well?” Jo asked, calmed-down a bit, but still looking with a serpentine gaze at two youths. “Who were those guys and what were they doing?”
“Let’s see,” Tom looked at David. “I'm thinking they’re Michael Keygahle’s men.”
“Keygahle. His folks are from Boston. The giant’s name is Breckenridge Elkins. He’s half Sicilian half Shoshone. The other guy is Taras Tarbell, he’s from Erie, Pennsylvania. Both are bodyguards of young Michael Keygahle. The guy’s parents are divorced. We don't know where his mother is, but his father is currently is either on Kiribati islands or in a city in Ukraine. He’s a corporate lawyer, highly skilled,” David said.
“We don’t get along with him,” Tom added. “He’s a stick-up and a bit of a puritan, really. But those two were his men, of that we two are sure.”
“Will you be willing to testify?”
“Not in an official court – not yet,” Tom shook her head.
“What about before my boss?”
“In Doc’s court? How can we refuse,” David said with a decisively crocodilian smile.
“Exactly,” Jo agreed with a chilling smile of her own. “Andrea, let’s go. We’ve got a long day ahead of us.”
“You know, this is a nice place,” Allison spoke suddenly. “Very Czech and all.”
“And how do you know Czech, hmm?” Jane asked, snuggling slightly.
“I had to do a number of nature paintings of the photos from Moravia,” Allison shrugged. “Also – Carpathian mountains.”
“Ooh! Seen Dracula?”
“No, but a couple of crazy wolves did their best to make up for the lack of folklore,” Allison chuckled. “Ever since then- what’s that sound?”
Both of the girls stiffened, trying to catch again some alarming noise, without actually knowing from whence it came.
Tiffany Blum-Deckler wanted to think. She was unhappy. For several days before she had spied in a mansion belonging to Jodie Landon’s half-grandmother-in-law, and she was depressed. Admittedly, the realization of the fact that Landons had any white relatives to begin with was rather fun to reminisce, but after Tiffany – on a spurge of idleness and mischief – slipped over to Andrew Landon’s chamber and whispered it into the ear, it grew old quickly. What Tiffany needed was something else to spice-up her life – metaphorically, at least.
Tiffany sighed. Things very getting complicated. Sandi had a steady boyfriend, Quinn – a funeral of an uncle’s brother, and Stacy – Tiffany didn't currently want to be around Stacy. She, Stacy and Sandi had been close friends from kindergarten, but now that Tiffany had plenty of time to think uninterrupted, she realized that mayhap friends were not the exact type of a word she would use for them. They were more of associates, she supposed. Sure, they had each other, but real friends didn't just drift apart on their own – or did they? Well, if worst came to worst, then Quinn would still have her family, which was a big and sprawling one, Tiffany presumed, Sandi would her new boyfriend, and Tiffany… would have Stacy, with vice versa also being true. Unfortunately, Tiffany would rather have the fairy tale’s Puss-in-the-Boots rather than Stacy. Her, anybody could have but Tiffany herself.
“Hmm,” Tiffany muttered, thoughtful. “Maybe I really should get a pet?”
That was her last conscious thought for a while. A heavy blow came down on the back of her head, and Tiffany was outcold.
“Why’d you call us here, Man?” Jesse said grumbling.
“Yeah,” nodded Nick, “what’s the rush?”
“We're playing at that funeral this Saturday,” Trent explained. “They're paying us one thousand – shared – to play there tomorrow.”
“All right! What are we playing?” the others exchanged looks. That looked to be their biggest gig yet. For two-fifty bucks a head, any personal problems could be set aside, at least for a while.
Jodie Landon looked around. An expensive-looking car has stopped at the curb next to her, and one of her newfound cousins, Nina Joneston, was looking at her. “Um, hello Nina. What's up?”
“Did you per any chance see my no-good brother? We can’t find him since lunch, grandma is very angry.”
“No. Well, if you see him, can you contact him?”
Jodie reluctantly nodded. Nina smiled and drove-off.
“So. Michael Keygahle, eh?” James “Goblin” Tompkins, the VP of Lawndale High and one of the most influential figures in Lawndale’s underworld looked at Jo and Andrea.
“That’s what they said,” the older female nodded.
Jason’s eyes narrowed. He went over to one of the cabinets in his other office (not of a VP), and pulled-out a file.
“Michael Keygahle. Nationality – Anglo-American. Birth – Boston. Interests – geology and chemistry and astrology. Other interests – money and power, does a bit of money-lending on the side. Influence – moderate. Assistants – Breckenridge ‘Giant’ Elkins, Taras ‘Toadstool’ Tarbell and Camilla ‘Rusalka’ Bogazi.”
“A child of Turkish immigrants, grew-up in Cincinnati, Ohio,” James elaborated. “Basically, two bodyguards-slash-thugs and a servant-slash-lover.”
“Gee, what a splendid arrangement!” Jo scoffed.
“This didn’t stop them from chasing us like hares!” Andrea snorted at her older companion-in-distress.
“And this brings forth another question on my side,” Jason said calmly. “Jo, what is she doing here? I told you to get her from Fitchburg, not lug her around!”
“Well, I thought you would want to her the story from her as well,” Jo said rather sheepishly.
“Jo! Her loving parents have probably grown all pining and yearning for their little girl to come home,” Jason replied.
Andrea snorted. “As if! Neither of them gives a damn as to where I am!”
“Really?” Jason looked thoughtful. “In this case, you wouldn't mind keeping Jo company?”
“Hah?” both females looked cleanly confused. “What do you mean, boss?” Jo finally said.
“You and your new… satellite are going to go back to Fitchburg and find-out just what were Breckenridge and Taras doing in that factory. And I am going to talk to Master Tom Sloane once again. Understood?”
The females nodded, and left his cabinet, leaving Jason thinking hard, very hard.
“Thanks a lot, Quinn!” Daria glared. “We were literally ousted of the house! ‘Can't keep quiet – go outside!’ And just when I gained a new aunt that looks very interesting, too!”
“Hey Daria!.. Quinn.”
“Jodie,” the two Morgendorffer siblings looked in the speaker’s direction. “What brings you to this neck of the woods?”
“A long story,” Jodie Landon shrugged. “Come on, I'll tell you all!”
Aaron Guthan nonchalantly sat in the driver’s seat of a small transporting vehicle, humming merrily to some Latin music. “Never could understand rabbi Zaltsman when he forbade listening to ‘infidels’ music,” Guthan mused. “Then again, if I didn’t voice it outloud, I may’ve become a rabbi myself yet. But oh! – c’est ce la vie! What’cha going to be doing about it?” he asked the gas gauge. “Hmm, running low, are we?” he thoughtfully mused. “Let’s see. The nearest habited place – Northampton, I believe, - is in about 2600 miles. Girl, please, hold on? I don't want to abandon you, okay?”
Feeling oddly pacified after such a bizarre speech, Aaron Guthan continued to drive-on into the town.
The phone rang.
“Hey, Stacy! What’s up?”
“Is Tiffany at your place? Blum-Decklers called, they want to know where Tiffany is.”
“No, she’s not at my place,” Quinn shook her head. “Did you try Sandi’s?”
“I tried, and Mr. Griffin told me that no, Stacy’s not at their place either. I'm worried, Quinn. What if that Decapitator escaped?”
Quinn looked sceptically. “Why would he want to come after Tiffany, of all people? I don't think that they even met in person! Still, maybe Blum-Decklers should call the police; I'm going to consult Mom all the same.”
“Good idea, Quinn,” Stacy said and hanged-up, planning to do the same thing with her own parents.
Jason Tompkins was thoughtful, very thoughtful, as he entered Lawndale’s Hospital Centre. “Dr. Phillips?” he asked the man he came here to see. “Can I ask you a question?”
“Mr. Tompkins,” the other man immediately became attentive. “If this is about Andrew Landon’s medical condition, then-“
“No, it’s not about Andrew Landon’s condition,” Jason shook his head. “Tell me doc, did Michael Keygahle ever come here or what?”
Phillips froze and looked-around. “Let’s go to my office,” he finally said. “This isn’t any casual information, Mr. Tompkins.”
“Hey kiddo, where are you going?” Jake called his younger daughter.
“To mom. Tiffany has vanished, and me and Stacy are worried. I want to ask mom’s advice.”
“You know,” Jake said, “your mom is kind-of busy with your aunt Rita, and can’t I help?”
“I don't know dad, this is kind of legalistic advice.”
“Well, she’s got you there Jake – your experience with legalistic advice is restricted solely to traffic tickets – check!”
“Is that so?” Jake Morgendorffer frowned. “Like you’re any different – hah! That’s your last bishop!”
“What are you two doing?” Quinn curiously asked.
“Look,” Dr. Phillips nervously said. “Mr. Tompkins, you’re a very big man in our little town.”
“But Michael Keygahle’s father has paid me generously to keep quiet.”
Another pause. “Look, look, so he may’ve had an STD experience, I'm not saying anything.”
“Oh, come on! Late Ruttheimer III might’ve had an STD experience, but young Keygahle? He’s a bit of a puritan in such matters, I understand.”
“Ever heard the term – hypocrite?” Dr. Phillips said crossly. “Look, I’m selling only what I've bought, and I've received the fact that Michael Keygahle has been visiting the corresponding department of our hospital rather regularly… for two-three years now, I can’t remember with any better precision. And his facial expression is very unpleasant, very unpleasant his facial expression is. I’m not psychologist, but I’m willing to bet that the lad has something loose in his cranium. Maybe you should ask his psychological evaluator instead.”
“Oh? And who is that?”
“Why, your own subordinate, Harriet Manson.”
A phone rang.
“Who is it?” asked Sophia Hakiojopoulos, finally separating from Michelle Landon. “You? What do you want? What? Right. Roger. I see. Yes, you’re an idiot. Oh, De Vier is in the same boat as you? If I wasn’t involved, it’d be fun. I'll see what I can do. Bye.”
“Who was it?” asked Michelle Landon lazily as Sophia put the phone receiver down, looking glum, if not downright sombre.
“It was Hassan. Guthan has escaped.”
There was a knock on the door, and Effïndïe, wondering who could that be, opened it. Marcello Birmingham stood on the doorstep, beaming like it was his birthday. “Hey precious,” he told cheerfully the music girl, “guess what? Kalim’s all assembled and ready! When do we start?”
Effïndïe just stared.
“Good day, Harriet.”
“Tompkins,” the school’s psychiatrist narrowed her eyes. “What do you want?”
“Ask you questions.”
“About Michael Keygahle. Phillips at the hospital told me that you have worked and evaluated him. Spill.”
Manson frowned. “Is there a problem?”
“There might be in the future, but for now – just narrate, please.”
“All right. Did you know that Keygahle junior had contacted an STD?”
“That’s a certainty?”
Manson hesitated. “Well, I can’t say anything in the physical sense – I’m a psychiatrist, not a doctor – but his mental type clearly demonstrated the complications of a serious STD complication.”
“Meaning? In layman’s terms, please?”
“The guy is nuts because of his trauma. Did you see his eyes? They're haunting. Did you hear him speak? His logic is warped. He is either applying logic or yelling and cursing – shrilly. And what’s more,” Manson’s voice lowered to a conspirational whisper. “Shortly before he was brought to me – by his bodyguards, there was that incident on the streets – the newspaper article ‘A Violent Drama?’, remember?”
Tompkins’ face turned stone. “Yeah, I remember. A hooker named Marjan Muhammedi got hacked into pieces with an axe. Whoever did this, was never found. But what’s the ties?”
“Marjan was supposedly a friend of Keygahles’ house-maid, Camilla,” Manson explained. “Taras said so.”
“Yes, the smaller body-guard. The other one, the big one… I don't want to talk about it.”
“Hmm, I see. Back to Keygahle himself. What is he?”
“As I've said before – a choleric type. Also – he’s under strong influence of Camilla Bogazi, who’s this apocalyptic girl who claims to believe in holy fire and stuff.”
“Right, and the bodyguards?”
“Elkins is big and dumb; Tarbell is smarter and nasty. A lovely quartet in short, no wonder that Michael’s father prefers to spend time in Norway rather than here.”
“I see. Well, thanks for your help, I'll call you if you’re needed.”
“Explain to me please Jodie, why shouldn’t I stop walking around Lawndale with you and not come home?”
“’Cause you sent Quinn there. You two were really at it together.”
“Oh yeah. Jodie, how did you get along with your younger sister so easily?”
“’Cause I was almost never home. Currently though, that may change.” Jodie paused. “Of course, we’re different too.”
“Less different than you think,” Daria smiled. “You see, my dad has this half-sister that-“
“Hey Daria, Jodie,” Jane and Allison approached the other two girls. “Can you tell us who lives as 1532 Appleton Dr.?”
“Why do you ask?”
“Because we saw Camilla Bogazi enter there.”
“So? Who’s this Camilla in the first place? Somebody you met at the art camp?”
“Well, you can say that.”
Jane opened her eyes, even though she still felt sleepy, and she felt sleepy because she didn't get enough sleep last night. More accurately, she was awake half the night because she was… busy. Very busy. Very, very busy. Apparently, she and Trent were more like alike than she had thought. “If I turn into a slacker artist like Trent is a slacker musician – I’ll shoot myself now and then,” she muttered.
“Awake already?” one of Jane’s dormitory neighbours asked her with mock compassion. “Gods, you look worse than Anaïs did when she returned from her date with that artist!”
“Screw your lips up, Caroline,” Jane growled. “What’s that arguing outside, eh?”
“I don't know,” Caroline said, disappointed about that state of matter. “I was just about to go and look. Want to join?”
“Wait for me,” Jane grunted in agreement and got up from her bunk.
Outside, an argument was taking place. Marge, the director of this art camp (or rather – a loosely organized brothel, as Jane re-christened it), was receiving a talking-to by the manager of metalwork, Jim Estel. “Look Marge,” he snarling. “What on earth did possess you to rent my shop to this Camilla and her friends? Do you even know what they are doing?”
“Working with metal, of course, Jim,” Marge shrugged.
“Working with metal, right. Are they members of the camp’s students? I don’t think so,” Jim pressed-on.
“It is irrelevant,” Marge shook her head. “They're good people.”
“Now listen, you blue-haired bimbo,” Jim snapped. “Did you actually see them? This Camilla got her arms covered in tattoos, and her male friends are clearly even crazier. For all we know, they’re cooking-up a bomb in there.”
“Come on Jim,” one of the male students – Jane didn't know him – tried to calm the irate man down. “They can't make a bomb in your shop!”
“They can! They brought their materials with them!” Jim snapped. “Look, as a responsible man I should’ve been informed about this first!”
“Well sir, it’s not like you’ve been given any choice in this matter,” the student pushed-on his advantage.
“Yes Jim,” Marge began, but the metalworks’ teacher turned onto her:
“F*ck-off, Marge, you’ve done enough damage already. Why couldn't you just go to Indonesia and stay there?”
“Hey girlfriend, what’s up?” Allison joined Caroline and Jane.
“What’s with Marge and Indonesia?” Jane asked bluntly.
“Oh, Jim has mixed-it-up all again,” Caroline replied instead. “Jett tells me that it wasn’t Indonesia, it was Kenya instead.”
“No, it was both,” Allison shook her head. “You see Jane, Marge likes to travel the world.”
“As a tourist?”
“No, as a sculptor. She makes sculptures from clay and such stuff. Anyways, as far as the rumour goes, she got once food-poisoned in Indonesia and lost in Kenya. And Jim here got-it mixed-up.”
“So, what’s the argument’s all about?”
“Some group rented the metal shop surpassing Jim who got zilch and Marge got all,” Caroline said. “Now Jim is telling Marge-“
“I heard that part,” Allison said. “What group?”
“From the side,” Jane said. “Somebody called Camilla and her friends.”
Allison looked thoughtful. “I think I've heard that name somewhere before. From my brother, maybe.”
“Well, there’s the family knowledge, girls. You see, my brother-“
Allison didn't finish, as a shadow had seemingly come-over them and the others.
“Is there a problem?” the owner of that shadow spoke.
Jane stared at him and so did the others. The owner of the giant was a man of gigantic height, and very muscular. He looked like a statue from reddish stone, polished too. His features were rather Mediterranean and quite appealing to the eye. And it was the man’s eyes that ruined the facial expression. They were glassy, lifeless, and cruel. Very unpleasant eyes, in other words.
“Eyes are windows into one’s soul, eh?” Jane muttered to Allison. “I'm thinking that Marge will regret getting involved with this guy and his crowd.”
“Is there a problem?” the owner of that shadow repeated his question.
“No,” was the unanimous answer and the crowd began to disperse.
“Good,” the giant nodded and left.
Caroline narrowed her eyes and looked at Jane and Allison. “I think Paris should know about this.”
“Wait a second,” Jodie spoke-up. “Who’s Caroline? Who’s Paris? Where does Camilla get into it and what’s so bad about her? Okay, that big guy was scary. That’s no reason to-“
“Look,” Jane said quickly. “I lived in the dorm with four other girls. Paris was sort of an R.A. a-la college. Caroline, Jett and Anaïs were the other girls. Allison lived separately in a cabin. And Camilla… she’s coming onto the scene later.”
“How much later?” Daria frowned.
“Soon enough,” Allison assured and she and Jane continued their tale.
Paris was found soon enough: she was sitting on a tree-covered hillock, writing something. “Hey!” Jane called-out, knowing by now that Paris was a serious female and unlike Caesar couldn’t pay attention to several things at once.
Paris looked away from whatever she was writing (five to one that about fauvism and Henri Matisse). “Jane. Caroline. Allison. What do you three want?”
“We’ve got news to spill,” Caroline said. “I think Marge got us all into trouble.”
Upon listening what the other three girls have described, Paris grew interested. “So what do I have to do with it?”
“Paris, you’re a smart girl and a friend of my brother’s,” Allison spoke all nice and friendly-like. “Do you know any Camilla in that circle?”
Paris looked thoughtful. “I don't know. Where is the metal-shop located? Why not go there and take a peak?”
“You didn't see the giant,” Caroline shook her head.
“No, I didn’t,” Paris shook her head. “But now I am curious. So – let’s go there and see what is happening there.”
“Well, good luck,” Caroline said.
“Uh, Caroline,” Paris said in a voice full of such love and tenderness, that the other girl paled.
“No,” she said quickly. “Girls, I'm not doing anything! No!”
“Why the fact am I doing this, again?” Caroline muttered to herself, as she walked to the metal shop – alone. “Jett was right. Paris and Jane and Allison are nice girls but they're no bohemians, no! I stick I’m being drawn into some crime or another! I hate my life!”
“Hey girl, what are you doing?” a voice punctured Caroline’s mental shroud a moment too late for a collision not to happen.
“Oof!” Caroline fell flat on her ass and looked forwards. An average man with a ratty, mottled face was looking at her. “What are you doing here?” he asked.
“Well, you see, I was curious,” Caroline said. “What’s doing up here? And there this really impressive comrade, I thought to pay a visit.” ‘Just what am I saying?’ she thought at the same time.
“Oh, you’re after Breck?” the man snorted amusedly. “I warned boss and Camilla that that might happen. Wait a sec, would you? I'll see what can be done.”
He went into the closed building.
After several moments nothing happened, and Caroline thought that all may be still okay, when the door opened, and a real megera appeared, accompanied by the impromptu doorman. The megera’s hair was long and dyed metallic yellow, if not downright gold, and her arms were covered in tattoos of red snakes, possibly vipers. “What do you want?” she snapped at Caroline in a very irritable voice.
“Nothing!” Caroline squeaked. “Bye!” And she fled as far as legs could carry her.
“And?” Daria spoke incredulously. “This is it?”
“Well yeah,” Jane said sheepishly. “Caroline freaked-out and dragged Paris along with her, and Paris wasn't that type of a girl to freak-out, not if she fell in love with Allison’s brother – he’s not an easy guy to live with, let alone love!.. Coincidentally, when’s their marriage?” she asked Allison.
“Don't worry,” the older girl assured her. “You’ll be informed.” She turned to confused Daria and Jodie. “Jane’s going to be a bridesmaid there.”
Daria blinked. “Look, back to Camilla. What of her?”
“Well, according to Jim, they made something big there, something that's not a bomb… but could very well be something explosive. And so, we were curious, what does Camilla do here, at Appleton Drive? After people floating upriver with no heads, well…”
“We see your point,” Daria groaned. “Let’s go and see the address book, shall we?”
Jason Tompkins examined the walls of they Keygahles’ mansion
with a critical eyes. Admittedly, this was no Mrs. Petersen’s, but it cut close
enough. The walls were built from solid stone, and behind them, in a small
garden, lay several flower beds and a few trees.
Jason Tompkins grinned, and pressed the door bell.
“Who is it?” came the voice from the door-speaker.
“Jason Tompkins,” the high school’s VP said truthfully. “I need to talk to Michael Keygahle about the events in Fitchburg.”
Jason gambled, and he realized that better than anyone. If Michael had any intelligence, he would deny everything from behind those white-stone falls and Jason would be at a complete loss, lest Jo and Andrea dig something up in Fitchburg. But, for some reason, Jason thought that his gamble had a good chance of paying for itself, and he was right: the electronic gates then opened with a clang.
Inside the Keygahles’ mansion was dim and gloomy – apparently, somebody economized on electrical energy. Jason didn't comment, he just noted. Currently, he noticed that the mansion was empty except for the two thugs behind him. Talk about Spartan! Jason Tompkins didn't have any obvious reason to worry, but something worried him all the same.
He arrived at his destination point.
“Come in,” spoke a boyish voice.
Jason Tompkins stepped inside. Inside was an impromptu conference room, almost empty but for Jason himself, his two conveyors, and two more people, one standing, one sitting.
The standing person was female, tall, powerfully built. Her hair was dyed yellowish-red with matching tattoos on her arms. Her facial expression was stern and cruel.
The sitting person was Michael Keygahle himself. The youth was of a slim built, with beetle brown hair and eye brows. The nose was long and pointy – more like Pinocchio’s than of a bird of prey. The mouth was thin-lipped and cruel also. And the eyes… they were empty, haunting, like twin bogs that drew everything in and released nothing out.
“Well?” the youth spoke impatiently. “What about Fitchburg?”
“What were your men doing there?” Jason replied calmly. “On a paper manufacturing plant?”
Keygahle’s voice got distorted from fury. “Get him!” he yelled at his thugs. “Operation Kimaira mustn’t be stopped!”
That was warning enough for Tompkins. With his trained hearing he heard click of a gun getting cocked and readied to fire, and kicked backwards.
And Taras’ gun caused whitewash and cement to fall-off from the ceiling.
And the woman - Camilla - reached behind Michael’s armchair and pulled-out a heavy rifle.
Jason’s own small handgun fired, and the woman dropped her weapon, holding her shoulder.
Jason barely dodged Elkins’ fist-slam – the blow of such magnitude would’ve nailed him to the floor. But he dodged it, and slammed his own blow into the giant’s face.
The giant’s head rocked back. Slightly. Then he tried to kick Jason Tompkins in the ribs. With a corner of his eyes Jason noticed the woman lifting the rifle again, and shot her now through the other shoulder. The rifle again fell down on the floor with a clang.
Elkins once again lashed with his fist. Tompkins grasped that arm by the wrist, spun the giant around his own axis, and slammed him – feet first – into Tarball, who was about to shoot him, and fled, yelling angry cries of Michael Keygahle behind him.
“This whole mess needs to be sorted-out stat,” he muttered, as he caught his breath outside Keygahles’ HQ. “Before it goes beyond logic. And what the hell is Kimaira?”
“Explain to me again,” Andrea scornfully told Jo, as they arrived at their destination place. “What are we searching for, again?”
“Don’t know,” Jo shrugged back. “One mustn’t argue with Jason when he’s in that mood, lest you want your mutilated remains found somewhere over Canadian border. But personally – I think those guys were manufacturing fake comics, collector stamps, or baseball cards – ah, here we are!”
The lock on the back door opened, and the two females saw what the two goons have been really at – and it stunned. “Buckle, call your boss,” Andrea said almost wordlessly.
Feeling pretty quiet herself, Jo Bishops complied.
“Sloane!” Jason yelled, manifesting in the boy’s room. “We need to talk.”
Tom blinked. This man was one of the most powerful key figures in Lawndale and such a house-call, in such a condition was an extra-ordinary thing. Also, considering how the older man looked, didn't give the student much hope for escaping unscathed. What a day! First’s Doc’s number-one executor, and now Doc himself! “What do you want to know?” he nervously asked.
“Tell me, Tommy, did you have any business contacts with Keygahles?” Jason asked.
“No; why do you ask?”
“Michael Keygahle has some sort of a lab in the same factory to which you have shipped Andrea on your girl-friend’s request,” Jason snapped. “Jo – on my orders – sent a team – both as a back-up and to bring the lab here. That’s a. And b, my young Tommy, what the hell is a Kimaira?”
“I don’t know,” Tom admitted. “Maybe Daria does.”
The phone rang.
“Who is it?” Victoria French spoke.
“Can I speak to Daria please?”
“That niece of mine isn't home. Should I take a message?”
“Yeah. Tell her that Tom Sloane called and asked what a Kimaira means.”
“Kimaira? You mean Chimera?”
“Just what is it? There’s this bet, you see, and I-“
“If my memory serves me correctly, the chimera was this Greek monster, sort of a three-headed fire-breathing dragon, I reckon,” Victoria muttered. “Anything else.”
“No, thanks, bye!”
And Tom Sloane hanged-up. Victoria French shrugged and turned back to her half-brother, who was teaching his younger daughter how to play chess.
“You heard her sir,” Tom Sloane said to Jason Tompkins. “Some sort of a Greek three-headed fire-breathing dragon.”
Jason frowned, and stopped smoking his usual hand-pipe. “Buckle?” he dialled a number on his cellular.
“Yes?” the latter replied from the other end.
“Any updates on your front?”
“Actually, yeah. The team has come, and according to them, the lab was based on primarily the incendentary qualities of various soils. Some sort of a pyro-geology, to be exact.”
“Pyro-geology, eh?” Jason frowned. “Anything more specific?”
“There’s also a computer program, but it’s been coded. Currently, only some sort a map of Lawndale with pinpoints has been decoded.”
Jason frowned. “I don't like this at all Buckle, get you and yours back here as soon as possible. Keygahle has a lot of time on his hands, a generous amount of cash, and a few mooks with a very high obedience rate. I don't like this at all.”
“Roger,” Jo replied and turned-off the phone.
Alecto looked with surprise at Effïndïe. The usually calm Harpy was very ruffled. “What’s wrong?” she asked.
“Marcello Birmingham! He’s ready to marry me!!”
“Um… cool?” Alecto asked, feeling as tongue-tied as Jesse Moreno usually was.
Effïndïe looked steamed. “You don’t understand! Marcello Birmingham is a good guy and all, but I… jittery, to say the truth.”
Alecto stared. “You? Jittery? You?”
“Yeah, I know,” Effïndïe replied with a drawn-out smile. “Where are Monique and Calais, by the way?”
“Bugger me if I know,” Alecto shrugged. “Why do you ask?”
“That guy who decapitated Ruttheimers – busted-out.”
“Say what?!!” Alecto roared so loudly, that white-wash fell down from the ceiling above them. “Let’s go and find them immediately!!”
Sandi Griffin looked with displeasure at her younger brothers, Sam and Chris Griffin. “What?” she asked crossly.
“Stacy Rowe called, asked if you’ve seen Tiffany lately. Quinn didn't see her, and neither did Stay nor Tiffany’s parents.”
Sandi frowned. “No, I didn’t. Does the police know about this?”
“We don't know,” Sam and Chris replied.
Sandi thought for a bit longer and went to call Quinn.
A phone rang.
“Who is this?” Tom Sloane asked.
“Tom? It’s Jane. Tell me, who lives on 1532 Appleton Drive?”
Tom (and Jason Tompkins) froze. “Why do you ask?”
“An acquaintance of mine from the art colony of last summer’s came into there,” Jane explained.
“Look, it’s… complicated. Can you drive to Lawndale park? Me and others will be waiting.”
“Well… okay,” Tom said seeing the approving nod of the older male. “Be there as soon as I can.” He hanged-up.
“Might as well get comfortable,” Jane said knowingly. “Tom’s Pinto is one slow mover!”
Mara Birmingham was not a happy vacationer. Well, partially she was. She was truly happy to see her ex-uncle Tom Griffin, fair enough. But what bothered her was the behaviour of her brother, Marcello. Unlike Anton, whose behaviour was always disturbed, Marcello was always cool and rational, till the last – the previous – time they came to Lawndale. After that, Marcello was never quite the same and even drove once to a city in Pennsylvania. Mara, admittedly, would’ve followed him, if it wasn’t for some pressing matters of her own, but now the problems were back home, and she was here, in Lawndale. Consequently, it was time to confront Marcello. Now, such a feat would’ve unnerved a few men, some – Marcello’s betters chronologically at least, but Mara had no such qualms. Neither did their brother Anton, but for a different reason.
It was then when Mara idly noticed a car stopping a short distance before her, near two girls. Another couple of girls leaned-out, and a short, but heated conversation began.
“Monique, Calais! Get into the car immediately!”
“Why, what’s wrong Alecto?”
“Guthan has escaped, we heard it on the radio!”
That ended the argument. Monique and Calais climbed into the vehicle and drove-off, leaving a rather confused Mara behind. Something needed to be learned by her, and Mara just knew the person to be taught from.
Penny Lane groaned inwardly. The band of her younger brother Trent was currently bending towards curly birches and eared wheat, and Penny felt like clobbering him with the large clay bee that she and Jane made earlier. Well, technically it was a bee. To a layman’s eye it looked more like a cross between a wingless bee and a spider, bearing rather calf-like proportions.
However, it was also made from some serious clay and could be an impressive clobbering weapon indeed. Penny was mentally weighting pros and cons of using it so, when there was a knock on the door.
“Who’s there?” she opened, yelling. “Oh, hello Ms. Li. What’s up?”
“Guthan,” the principal of Lawndale High said cheerlessly, “has escaped.”
Daria was sitting quietly, thinking. “What are you doing?” Jodie asked.
“Waiting for Tom?” Daria suggested helpfully.
“No,” Jodie shook her head. “They are waiting,” she pointed at Jane and Allison merrily chatting about something; “you are thinking.”
“Well forgive me, I didn't realize that I've entered into the Fahrenheit 451 universe.”
“I’m thinking more along the lines of Clockwork Orange or 1984,” Jodie shrugged.
“I’ve always was more partial to the Animal Farm myself,” Daria replied.
“Ever see the movie?”
“Yes, and I’m not happy. Whoever produced it, didn't think properly about what he was doing.”
“Oh Daria, you’re such a purist!”
Daria shrugged. When will Tom get here?, she idly wondered.
“What can Keygahle be up to?” David Calmanoff asked Jason Tompkins directly. “And why the f*ck, barring the obvious reasons, should I get involved? And if Soulless did it, it doesn’t count for me.”
Tompkins amusedly looked-over the Baltic boy. “Look, let’s go over the details,” he said finally. “Keygahle is unbalanced, alright?”
“I know that! Rumour goes around Fieldings’ that it is all consequences of a contact of an STD!”
“And he’s quite rich, isn't he?”
“Mike’s father’s a lawyer, of course he is rich!” David nodded. “’Course, my parents-“
“Leave the comparison to halls of Fieldings’, please,” Jason said. “Back to Mike and his retinue. Do you know a girl named Camilla Bogazi?”
David stiffened. “I saw her once or twice. I think she’s Mike’s partner – in bed. I also heard that she has friends – bad, unpleasant ones.”
“How unpleasant?” Jason said. Now he was getting something.
“The type of friend that has given America the little incident called September 11, 2001,” David spoke, without his trademark smile.
“This is incomprehensible! This is unconceivable!” Michael Keygahle raged throughout the Keygahle conference room, which was now somewhat ruined after the tussle of Elkins and Tarbell with Tompkins. “How the fuck a guy in Lawndale is supposed to know about our failures in Fitchburg?”
Elkins and Tarbell kept their silence, but the gazes they sent to Camilla Bogazi were getting more and more expressive.
“Michael! Enough!” Camilla exclaimed. “Think of how Marjan would’ve reacted if she saw you in this fashion!”
Michael froze and looked Camilla straight in the eye, and Camilla didn’t flinch from her – technically, at least – boss’s gaze. The silence went-on for some time, until Michael finally spoke. “You're right, Camilla, so what should we do now?”
Camilla nodded, solemnly. “All is in place. The package has arrived, has it not, Taras?”
The smaller man nodded.
“And all the data assessment has been finished and completed too, boss,” she turned back to Keygahle. “So-o, we still have some time, at least till they break the code, and that would take time and resources – something that they don't have, most probable! Ergo, the project Kimaira will be completed, as schedule.”
“Excellent,” Keygahle nodded, “excellent! Kimaira will be complete, and all of the Lawndale will burn, burn!”
And Keygahle laughed insanely.
“What is it, Sandi?” Linda slowly asked. The two Griffin women didn’t communicate between each other more than necessary, and currently there was a real urgency in Sandi’s voice. “Is it one of your friends?”
“Exactly. It’s Tiffany. She can’t be found and now I heard that that Guthan character has escaped!”
Linda Griffin acted fast. She reached towards her phone to call the Blum-Decklers, when her step-niece Mara Birmingham prevented that from happening by barging-in.
“What is happening here?” the latter shouted.
Jason Tompkins was walking through the Lawndale streets feeling mightily pissed. The fight with Keygahle’s underlings had not improved his disposition. On the plus side though, a gathering of facts by Tom Sloane and David Calmanoff will start, if not has start already.
Contrary to certain opinions, Jason Tompkins did not live his entire life in Lawndale. Actually, he came from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, did a number of odd jobs from Concord to Boston, until finally settling here, and establishing his network throughout the two states. This didn’t mean that he was all-powerful though; it only meant that he was very well informed. Yet, the current episode with Keygahle showed that a lot of things could slip through the cracks of his net yet. This didn't make him feel like a happy man, and the sight of Timothy O’Neal looking very nervous made him feel worse yet. “And what do you want?” he snarled at the meeker man.
“I- We just wanted to tell you that that Guthan fellow has escaped somewhere in the Berkshire Hills!”
Jason Tompkins’ response couldn't be quoted even in a barrack of veteran marines.
“So Rita,” Helen Barksdale spoke after some period of silence, “what are Paul’s plans about his brother’s burial?”
“Cremation, actually,” Rita shrugged. “One of your lawyer friends suggested this lovely undertaker firm, ‘Atropos and Angels’.”
“Must’ve been Riordan or Vitale,” Helen muttered. “Funny though, I thought that your in-laws would’ve liked to see their son buried at home.”
Rita giggled. “The parents of Paul and Eugene have come from a city that is now in a place called Montenegro,” she said. “I doubt that they would like to go home all that way just to marry Eugene, who was never popular anyways, I reckon.”
“Oh? And where do you and Paul live? Not in Montenegro, I reckon,” Helen said.
“Oh we live in Laconia, New Hampshire,” Rita explained. “Eugene lived somewhere in Rutland – I think.”
“Then why did both brothers decide to come here – to Lawndale, I mean?” Helen asked. “Some sort of a Podgio reunion?”
“I don’t know,” Rita sincerely sighed, “I don’t know.”
“Let me get this straight,” Maximilian Pierpont asked Paul Podgio meanwhile. “The characters who have shot all those people in the Great Smoky Mountains N.P. live here?”
“Yes,” Paul said tersely, “that’s right. And I have other suspicions, but that is irrelevant.”
“Oh, come on Paul! Those people were eaten by a wolf!”
“Aye, wolves that could turn invisible, and was of a giant size, and had teeth like a bear, and climbed trees like a lynx or a wild-cat!” Paul Podgio spat. “Max, whose father used to dress in a bear hide to steal bee hives in Montenegro till the Americans blew the whole south-eastern Europe to smithereens, hmm?”
“Your parents left that place way before that,” Pierpont shook his head.
Podgio looked sour for a moment, then shrugged. “At any rate, I'm having a business meeting before seeing Eugene’s cremation.” He sighed. “Damn Eugene, couldn't he have waited to get killed?!”
Maximilian Pierpont couldn't do anything, but shrug.
By the time Tom Sloane, driving his Pinto, arrived at the destination place of Jane and Co., the four girls very deep in discussion about various subjects. “Ah, Tom,” Daria said, “what did you do? Stop for beer and chicken wings?”
Tom rolled his eyes. “How droll,” he said curtly. “Now tell me, what do you know about Camilla Bogazi?”
“We think she has come from the south-east states,” Jane shrugged. “Seriously though, Allison’s brother,” she indicated the older girl, “has once told her that she has the flag of Turkey tattooed on her chest, and is rather orthodox and controversial figure in some circles.”
Tom nodded. “Me and Allison ran into her at the art colony in North Caroline,” Jane continued.
Tom got visibly more animated. “North… Carolina?” he re-asked his ex-girlfriend. “It wouldn’t perhaps be located close to the Great Smoky Mountains N.P., now would it?”
“No, it’s closer to Asheville,” Jane curiously replied. “Why do you ask?”
“He’s talking about the shooting,” Daria spoke in her trademark monotone. “Doesn't anybody besides us two read the papers?”
“No, not since seeing the events described there firsthand,” Jane said coolly.
“Yeah, Daria,” Jodie agreed apologetically.
“Anyways, Camilla came there not alone, but with-“
“-three other guys?” Tom suggested.
“We saw only two. We don't know if the third was a guy or a girl,” Allison said, just to be objective.
Tom nodded. “Well thanks.”
“Why’s the sudden interest?” Daria said, noticing that Tom was about to leave.
Tom looked uncomfortable. “Some people think that Camilla’s employer may be stirring some trouble in these already-mucked waters,” he said. “I just went to see if there’s something worthwhile to learn.”
“Was there?” Daria curiously asked.
“I honestly don't know.”
“What do you mean, Mara?” Linda asked the newcomer to her office.
“Just what has happened in Lawndale?” Mara demanded. “Who’s Guthan? I've heard him mentioned once, earlier today, already! What did he do – kill somebody?”
“Well… yes. Decapitated two people, nailed the third to the wall with the victim’s own photo-tripod.”
Mara didn't say anything. Her face just became even more immobile. “Go on, please,” was all she said.
“There’s nothing to say,” Linda shrugged. “He got arrested almost before you came, and escaped almost immediately after you three arrived. What’s there to tell?”
“And Tiffany is?”
“One of my friends,” Sandi shrugged.
“Oh. That explains a lot of stuff. Bye.” And Mara went away, leaving the other staring at her retreating backside.
“I swear,” Linda told her daughter, “that ex-niece of Tom’s – she’s just scaring me, sometimes!”
“Excuse me,” Aaron Guthan approached the gas station’s attendant. “But can I buy here a pack of cigarettes for the road?”
The attendant didn’t reply. The door to the impromptu shop was flung-open, as a pair of men, waving a couple of shotguns, stormed inside. “Hands up! This is a stick-up!” one of them spoke with a Spanish accent.
Guthan quietly cursed.
There was a knock on the door.
“Who is it?” spoke Louis Mendez, boyfriend of the Harpy Alecto Dupri.
“It’s me,” the latter replied.
The latter opened the door. “Alecto? Why are you all here in full assemblage? Monique here hasn’t gotten Trent in trouble again?”
“Not exactly,” Alecto said with a grimace. “The Decapitator escaped. We need a safe house.”
“And you thought of me why?”
“You know Kun-shan, and he certainly knows a safe house.”
“And you want it why? Did you all take turns stepping on his sore foot or something?”
“Look, we’re just estimating the costs of the neighbourhood,” Alecto said firmly. “It’s the old ‘fixing sleds in summer-time’ principle.”
“In this case,” Louis said wryly, “I've made myself a dugout in the steep behind my house. Will that work?”
“Why would you want to have a steep behind your house?” Calais spoke-up, confused.
Alecto shook her head and glared at her younger sister. It was clear to her, that bothering Louis like that was a bad idea.
“Hey mom, aunt Rita,” Quinn chirped, as she saw the two women finally come downstairs, “what’s up?”
“Quinn, Linda called and said that Sandi told her that-“
“Tiffany is missing? Sandi probably heard it from Stacy or from Tiffany’s folks, she’s been missing all afternoon by now.”
“All afternoon? Quinn, it’s quarter to seven! Dusk begins in about half an hour!” Helen exclaimed.
“Helen, come on! What bad can happen in such a poky hole of a place such as Lawndale? Nothing, most bloody likely!” Victoria spoke-up to her half-sister-in-law.
Helen looked crossly at the other woman. “I guess neither Jake nor Quinn have told you about the triple murders that have happened this week alone?” she asked.
“Say what?!” Victoria exclaimed. “Talk! Now!”
“And here the sun was setting into the golden swell of sea;
And then and there here did the maid yell: ‘Saint George, do rescue me’!”
Trent’s caterwauling voice could be heard even in Lanes’ back-yard, where Penny Lane and Ms. Li were busy talking.
“…So this guy wanted to be a rabbi?” Penny asked the older woman.
“Yes,” Ms. Li nodded. “That’s what I've gleamed from Tina. Unfortunately, though the knowledge was there wholeheartedly, his attitude… wasn't. For example he wasn't ready to agree that the Jews were the oldest people, claiming that some – like the Chinese – could give them a fair run.”
“A man after your own heart, eh?” Penny snorted.
“For your information, Miss Lane, I’m half Vietnamese, so lay off your prejudices now, lest it’ll be too late.”
“Right, sure, whatever. But that alone wasn't enough-“
“No, it wasn't. What had crippled Aaron’s chances of becoming a man of cloth – or whatever the Jewish religion calls them – was the Manuel scandal.”
“The Manuel scandal. Happened in 1960s. Officially was very hushed-up and few knew about it – at all, but underneath, ah, underneath…”
“Ms. Li, the suspense is killing me!”
“Hey, you rhymed, Miss Lane… Anyways, the movement – if you can call it – started in Mexico. The idea behind it was very simple – sort of a blend between Judaism and Christianity, a kind of reconciliation attempt between the two religions. Of course, the people of the America of the 60s, being who they are, treated the whole idea with unmentionable scorn – as little as they were aware of it. And those who were informed just a bit better…”
“Well, maybe. Anyways, what happened here was that preachers started to pop in the south-west states, from California to Texas. They were especially popular in Arizona, though; in there, it came to such an extent, that in Casa Grande and Lake Havasu City the movement established sort-of temporary HQ’s.”
“And the downside was?”
“By then – it was 1961 – the Bureau was contacted by the Federalis. According to them, the Mexican cities of Nogales, Tehuantepec and La Paz, where more of temp HQ’s were established, showed some serious tendencies, some of them clearly communistic.”
“Please,” Ms. Li winced, “let’s leave this leper alone! But you do realize, Miss Lane, that when Mexico – where McCarthy is mostly unknown even now – starts to talk about communism, we naturally got a bit tizzed-up, and began our own investigation. How did it go? Not very well. It was another witch-hunt, so to speak, and it went on both sides of the southern borders. Unfortunately, the new movement seemed to have communism’s life tenacity, if not its’ doctrines, though “remove and share” sounds suspiciously familiar, doesn't it?” Ms. Li asked.
“So then what happened?”
“Classified information. The public only needs to know that in 1963 the president JFK got shot and in few more months the movement got squeezed out of south-western US and whole of Mexico, moving further south – to Belize, Guatemala, etc.”
“This is all fascinating ma’am, but what its’ got to do with Aaron?”
“He and his buddy, Michael ‘Ox’ Levine were two of those who spoke in the movement’s defence. As you know, defending the losers…”
“Oh, right. So what happens now, I ask you?”
“Now… Alecto is searching for a safe house, and we’ll… we’ll have to deal with the man if he ever comes back to Lawndale.”
“Well, maybe he won’t?”
“He will,” Ms. Li said, her face darkening in the light of the setting sun. “I feel it in my gut that he will.”
“Hey bro, how the afternoon went?” Mara Birmingham asked her brother, Marcello.
“Good, good… I’m getting married soon,” Marcello Birmingham replied, startling his sister.
“What? Don't joke about such things!” Mara exclaimed.
“When did he joke?” Anton – the last Birmingham sibling joined the other. “Coincidentally, did you hear what I did?”
“No, but do tell.”
“There was a murder spree earlier this week, and the murderer has escaped the scales of justice and is returning here, to Lawndale!” Anton Birmingham hooted with delight. “Won't it be fun if I caught him?”
His siblings exchanged looks and then grabbed him by ears. “Look bro,” Mara spoke firmly. “Leave crook-catching to the police, do you hear?”
“Aw, guys, come on…”
“No, Anton, you will not thank us later, but you won't regret it either – understood?” Mara barked.
Anton Birmingham just nodded in fake agreement, and privately thought that he’ll do whatever he wants to do, but he’ll get this guy, no matter what problems will get thrown in his way.
Aaron Guthan expertly examined the two robbers. The speaker, as was mentioned before, spoke with a Spanish accent, and bore a cheap amethyst-imitation pendant on his neck. The pantyhose mask of the second one was semi-transparent, but Guthan could only distinguish the dark black hair behind it. Overall though, Guthan was not impressed. Those two idiots will just allow him to get caught faster, and Guthan knew that if he did, he won’t escape as easily as he had the first time. So, what to do?
At that point though, the spokesman of the pair walked over to the escaped convict, and that made the proverbial coin shake in indecisiveness.
“Didn't I see you somewhere before?” the spokesman spoke, and that made the coin fall.
Guthan’s hands shot-out and grabbed the shotgun, slamming the weapon’s butt into the man’s guts. And while the highwayman wheezed, the convict fired a round, making the second bandit jump away, accidentally dropping the weapon. In the next moment though, Guthan was outside, driving away as hard as he could.
“You okay, Victor?” the first bandit spoke.
“Yeah; you?” Victor replied.
“Yeah – let’s go and get that damn bastard!”
And the chase was on in the deepening evening gloom.
“Ah! Daria! Here you are!” Helen exclaimed with clear relief, seeing her oldest child alive and well.
“Yeah – here I am,” Daria said, surprised slightly. “Me and Jodie and Jane were just telling this week’s events to our new friend, Ms DeFoe’s substitute.”
“Really? What a coincidence!” Victoria French spoke-up suddenly. “Helen here was telling me about this week’s events as well! I now know everything?”
“Really? What’s the length of the river Danube in Europe?” Daria immediately asked.
“When I was your age, the gimmick was usually with trigonometry,” Victoria replied with a wise air. “Guess to each his own. Seriously though, what is happening here, an exodus of the teaching staff?”
“Nah, Ms. DeFoe is visiting her relatives – wherever they are – and Ms. Barch is attending the wedding of her ex-husband,” Daria specified. “Honest.”
Victoria shrugged. “I'll talk with your principal about that later. Currently though there’s nothing to be done. I'll wait.”
“This is a disaster!” Charlotte De Vier was telling Hassan. “How could Guthan escape like that?”
Hassan kept his council. He knew that whenever De Vier was ranting best not to interrupt those rants unless you wanted to experience character assassination to face. Besides, he was thinking: where would Guthan go?
Well, that part was easy. According to the report of one Dan Orkney, a man similar to Guthan – down to the ape-like body-build – has stolen his truck and drove east-north-east. This probably meant that Guthan was going back to Lawndale for some reason. Idiot. He should’ve gone to the West Coast or to Canadian border instead. Then they would’ve been in a real bind.
One must remember that Hassan wasn’t a very good strategist, and De Vier was too angry to think straight. Otherwise they might’ve thought that that was a ruse – but they didn't.
The phone rang.
“Who is it?” yelled Penny, overpowering Trent’s
“I've walked on the knife’s blade fearing-not castigation,
And for that I'll be hanged – sans court slash ‘vestigation!”
“Penny, chill!” Jane Lane yelled back. “Trent can’t be that loud!”
“Want to bet? They’ve broken every single sound barrier that was left untouched ever since I came back here!” Penny shouted. “They seem to have gotten a big gig tomorrow and are practicing!”
“Then don't diss them! They don’t deserve it – this time!”
“I'm not!.. Why’d you call?”
“I'm sleeping-over at a friend’s tonight, okay?”
“Fine!” Penny yelled. “It’s loud enough here without your snoring!”
“Did she fell for it?” Allison asked Jane lightly.
“Aha,” Jane nodded, smirking. “Now let’s go and do contortions – without any of my roomies offering helpful advice.”
The blinds covered the windows of Allison’s rented apartment…
“Well, Tina – what are we going to do?”
“Hmm? Ah Angela, you’re talking about Aaron, aren’t you?”
“Yes. He’s not an idiot like De Vier, for example.”
“Well, De Vier is no Ostermann, but she gets the job done.”
“Kindly refrain not to mention that bug in my presence again,” Angela Li coldly said.
“Why, Angela! I thought your reserved that tone of voice for me only!”
“You're getting too full of hot air, Tina, unlike Charlotte, who always was just too full – and not just of hot air, but of sh*t, as well!”
“What’s your bit with her?”
“She sidled more money than you have ever hustled in gold,” Angela said simply.
“We're not talking about that old delusion of yours again, are we?” Sophia said lightly. “Anyways-“
“Excuse me, are you Tina Eckett?”
A tall, dangly, scarecrow-like man suddenly appeared as if from underground. “Who're you?” the FBI-st declared.
“It is irrelevant at the point,” the man shook his head. “I’m… entrepreneur, sort of to speak.”
“The one that gets people to the bottom of the C?” Sophia re-quoted one of Terri Pratchet’s novels.
“Believe what you will. I've got rumours and some evidence that Lawndale may be the place of a new ter’act and want your expertise.”
“Really?” Sophia raised an eyebrow. “But what is your name?”
“People call me Kun-shan.”
“Very well, Kun-shan. Let’s walk and talk.”
“Good thinking, Miss Eckett, really good thinking.”
Rachael Landon carefully and quietly sat in her room and listened to her mother mutter and send curses in Sophia’s address about the FBI woman getting late. Mom never got so worried about dad being late before. Admittedly, Lawndale never had its’ own mad killer before, but still… Dad was sick, and shouldn’t mom be worried about him rather than about some woman? Unless… but Rachael just couldn’t believe it. Damn, what was going on, into where was the Landon family going to? Rachael Landon didn’t have any answers, and she was growing scared.
“Hey sis, what’s up?”
“Rita’s husband called, he’ll be out late. Aaron Guthan has escaped and is possibly coming here for try too. Rita is staying at our place… and you?”
“What about Eric?”
“Helen! Please! Advising me to stay overnight with your boss? For shame!”
Helen rolled her eyes. “Great. You're staying here. Rita is staying here. Victoria’s staying here-“
“Wait a second! When did Devil-horse appear on the scene?”
“Today. She’s our teacher substitute,” Daria said, appearing next to Helen, “and what did you call her?”
“Devil-horse. She’s got this driving style.”
“She’s got the Morgendorffer driving style!” Jake yelled from his room. “Dad may’ve been a mean old bastard, but when it came to driving, he-“
Helen looked pained. “Amy, if you want to go to a motel, can I come with you?”
Amy shook her head. “Sorry, no. I’m here to stay.”
“Taras, we need to talk.”
Taras looked with unhappiness at Camilla Bogazi. Unlike Breckenridge, he didn't have that type of mental slowness that is often accompanying physical prowess: Taras was a realist, and what he saw as his reality, scared him. The boss himself – Michael Keygahle – was nuts. He was bent on self-destruction, and Camilla’s influence didn’t help either. Camilla too was bent on self-destruction – but only by necessity, not on purpose. And Elkins – he apparently didn't care about what was going on, he was just an industrious corporal. In short, Tarball fell like he was one of “Flying Dutchman’s” crew members – not a pleasant feeling.
“What do you want to talk?” he responded to Camilla’s question all the same.
“About today’s visit. I don't like it. We still need at least two more days to set everything up, and with people asking questions and getting suspicious-“
“And if somebody connects us to that N.C.’s gore-fest,” Taras helpfully added.
Camilla looked at him impassively. “That’s what bothering you, T?”
“I don’t want to be sent to the chair or to the chamber, thank you very much,” Taras said firmly.
“Well, there’s always the lethal injection,” Camilla said calmly, “but do not worry – if all goes according to plan, none of us are going to be sent anywhere – we’ll all go straight into the arms of Allah.”
At that point sepulchral cold skimmed down Taras’ back and he realized that they were all going to die – because the boss was demented, Camilla was fanatical, Elkins was just dumb, and he – he was just a coward. And then, there was that bloody bail in North Carolina.
“Is there another reason why you’ve approached me?” he said in order to change the conversation’s flow.
“Yes. Do you know who our visitor was?”
Taras shook his head in disagreement.
“So. What’s your big scoop?” Sophia Hakiojopoulos asked Kun-shan.
“It’s a sad, sad story,” Kun-shan smiled. “Once there was a boy – a bright and good boy, maybe too sheltered and imaginative perhaps, but a good boy all the same. Sadly, the boy had no mother by then, and his father was always busy, visiting Italy one moment, and Czech republic the next. This allowed bad people to profit via the boy’s innocence.”
“Just how bad were those people?” Sophia sceptically asked. The scarecrow-like Chinaman looked more than just a bit half-witted.
“September the 11th bad,” Kun-shan calmly, not breaking his stride. Sophia’s stride, however, faltered. “You're not kidding, are you?”
Kun-shan shook his head. “No. As I was saying, the boy was hitting puberty, and they decided to catch him through that – catching on live bait, it is called.”
“Let me guess – a hooker was involved?”
“Yes. It was a set-up, but the agent who was playing the prostitute’s part, wasn’t as faithful to the cause as expected. Hell, she wasn't as pure as she let on, and the boy got sick. Very sick and very crazy.”
“Ye gods! I've read about something like that! That was the woman who got hacked-apart with an axe?”
“Yes. That totally unbalanced the boy, and driven further into madness by the whisperings of the new fanatics’ agent into his ears, he’s planning something big – something that by now was made through fire, and metal, and through blood of 19 people!”
“How did you know about the shooting in the Great Smoky Mountains N.P.?” Sophia demanded. “We’ve covered it all up!”
“Ah! The winds do whisper to the grasses, who whisper to stones, who whisper to sands, who whisper to water-springs, who talk back to the winds, what is going-on in the world. Rumours have thousands of eyes, ears, mouths – you can't close all of them!”
“Right,” Sophia said thoughtfully. “If you just give me any concrete names, you’ll see what the Bureau can do to such ‘Rumours’. But I digress. The finish to your fairy story, please?”
“In two days from now, something big is going to happen here, in Lawndale: it will burn,” Kun-shan said in a terrible voice. The fire from the burning town will raise as an ominous omen to the western world – you must prevent it!”
“I? Just I? What about you?”
“I've done my part. Now go to this address. There’ll you’ll hurry compatriots. Just tell them my tale and tell them that it’s mine, Kun-shan’s.”
And the tall Chinaman dissolved in the darkness, leaving Sophia very worried.
“Hey, boss!” Jo Bishops greeted Jason Tompkins. “What’s up?”
“I can ask you and your little friend the same question,” the man replied. “What’s up in Fitchburg?”
“The people are working on it!” Jo said calmly. “By tomorrow’s morning, the code will be cracked and the information – ours… Hey boss, you’re okay?”
Jason shook his head. “Not spiritually, no. We're dealing with real ad infinitum here Buckle, and I'm worried – what if tomorrow’s morning will be too late?”
The phone rang.
“Who is it?” a voice with a European accent spoke into it.
“Yes – Taras.”
“Yes. Look, my superiors want the service of your men. Can you provide it?”
“For a price!” Giacomo Rabarot spoke with certainty. “Me and my men are willing to do everything for a price.”
You could hear on the other end of the line the other interlocutor sighing in relief. “Then tomorrow, at ‘Atropos and Angels’, here’s what I want you to do…”
To be continued in “The Funeral of Eugene Podgio and Events of the similar humour”!