Thursday, December 31, 2009
Happy New Year!
I'm leaving for the week-end and will be back on January 3rd so I won't post until there. Thank you all for reading Dead End Follies in 2009 and see you all next year. May you all have a year filled with love, health and success!!!
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
We went over it again and again. Cliff and me first, and then with Uncle Leibrandt. For a short moment, my brother and I accepted to suspend our disbelief, we accepted for the moment of a discussion to believe in every goddamn thing that was possible, probable and completely super fucking wacky. What Evie ¨said¨ to Cliff: THE MADMEN WILL BE INFUSED WITH TERRIBLE POWER, we didn't think it would apply to Uncle Leibrandt. He never seemed all that crazy to us. He was just an old timer and one hell of a rambler. But that's the way oldies were in Queens, rambling, talking to themselves, remembering better times.
Now, instead of helping us seeing clearer, Uncle Leibrandt talked perfectly sane for a second and complete non-sense the other. Without saying it, Cliff and I understood that cut from reality probably happened to him when he ¨saw¨, whatever he saw. We couldn't understand if the poor old man knew all along that the St.Cuthbert Guard existed, hell we didn't know if they existed at all, what kind of organization it was or if they were responsible for anything we were living. What we knew though, is that something supernatural was trying to communicate with us and that the St.Cuthbert Guard was one of the tangible leads we had. We ran the name of Gardner to Uncle Leibrandt. He was, according to Scooter MacKay and his racist friends, the guy I took out at the construction site. Leibrandt had that creepy ass laugh and said: ¨Don't worry about the ants when they're outside kids, there are bigger monsters. Ants are a part of the cycle of life.¨ He had a similar reaction when we asked him about Scooter MacKay. Except that he told us that MacKay always lived in the neighborhood, which Cliff and I completely ignored.
The other lead we had was Cliff's weird ass Twin Peaks dream. No one with a common sense would try anything from a dream they had, but when the whole world around you loses its common sense, what do you do? You follow the lead, that's what. I took my brother's dream as seriously as anything else we could get our hands on. In fact, my common sense was telling me to sit down and last out the quarantine, but something, a little voice inside of me told me we wouldn't be left alone if we did that. We had to be proactive and go hunt these cryptic messages we were being sent. I had read enough crime novels and seen enough documentaries to discern some important clues from the dream.
There was a huge emphasis on Gabrielle, the schizo sister-in-law and on madness. Hell, the whole dream didn't seem really fucking structured from the start. There were meltdowns in it that would have been rated R at least. That lead me to think that Gabrielle had most definitely a part to play in this dream. Cliff gave me a dark gaze when I said that, he was hoping that Evie was still out there looking out for him, but his dream left evidence that didn't lied. There were signs of mental disorder all over the dream. Cliff though came to the conclusion that Gabrielle might have taken over halfway from the dream since the first part was made out of a situation Evie and him only knew and it was all normal. I gave him the benefit of the doubt, he was the one who was there, he was the one who lives that spooky ass dream, not me. So he's the last judge of whatever could've happened.
We settled for one solution, going to Durango's. That pleased none of us, but retrieving Gabrielle, whatever she was alive or not, would probably make things clearer, since Uncle Leibrandt was not very eager to help us. He blurted out a few pearls of wisdom and foresight here and there, but most of the time, he just shut up and didn't eat much. He was always pretty damn skinny anyways. We would take the jeep we stole from the canning factory to go there, thankfully the gas tank was still near to full, which was more than enough to go there. There was no way we'd leave Uncle Leibrandt behind though, the old man had faced enough hardships as it was, we wouldn't leave him to his fate. He ¨saw¨ a lot but he was still and old and frail man walking in an open tomb with a poisonous cloud over it. He was coming with us, because we knew he would've done the same for us when we were kids. If this shitty situation would've happened when Cliff and I would've been under ten years old, he would've taken care of us. Now it was our turn. We would hose him off with the leaf blower I had to keep the front of the store clean. Cliff thought about it, I had completely forgot I even had it. That would remove most of the cyanide particles, so we hoped.
Like a coffin nail, Uncle Leibrandt stood the air blower like it was nothing. He was crouched up with his head in between his legs. He didn't even budged. When we got done he pulled his head back up and quite frankly, he looked a little strange. Cliff caught on faster than me on what happened.
¨Uncle, what's going on with your eyes?¨
There were bright red shadings moving under his eyelids like the stream of a river. My heart squeezed into my chest.
¨Yeah Uncle, are you feeling good at all?¨I asked, worried.
¨I'm feeling younger than I did in years kids, what are you talking about?¨
¨I don't know¨, said Cliff. ¨It's that...thang with your eyes.¨
¨What about them?¨
¨There are all red and stuff, but not really.¨
¨These are my eyes now, and they don't need to be open.¨
¨So, we are leaving for the aslym?¨
The asylum, not exactly politically correct. Old timer parlance.
¨Yeah¨I said.¨What do you think about it?¨.
He rubbed his beard with the palm of his hand, thoughtful.
¨You guys ain't afraid, that's for sure. But, going at the heart of the beast won't be easy, you won't be able to navigate with your perception, you will have to feel your way through it. You'll have to feel what's going to happen. If you feel it, it will happen. If you feel it won't it might still happen. The important is to feel.¨
Cliff and I looked at each other, confused.
¨Gee, thanks Uncle, let's go.¨ I said.
We went down to the single parking spot of my building. The jeep was there, unscathed. One of the uncanny streaks of luck we had was that our building was still unnoticed by thiefs and looters. With most of the people dead, it was not all that surprising, but it was still somewhat nice to feel that we were left off the hook after facing so many hardships. We loaded in the M4's, some knives we took from the kitchen, a gas cannister and a little bit of food, we expected to be back as soon as we could, so no need to travel too heavy.
I used to like to take a spin in the streets of my neighborhood with my car at night. Steetlights, people, calmly chit chatting in the street, gangsters, old timers, kids, being out of bed way too late for my taste, cafes opened up until midnight with their special clientele. Riding my car in my neighborhood always centered me. That reminded me who I was, there did I come from and why I was trying to educate my people so relentlessly. That was my moment of benevolent solitude. That always brought a smile to my face.
Riding a car that wasn't mine in a place that wasn't nobody's along with my brother and the oldest bag boy in the world was a lot more eerie. The end of the world and the wasteland is something a lot more progressive than I thought. The humanity always thought that nuclear power would doom them, but for the New York people, it's the invisible death that got to them. No spectacle, nothing broken down, the city still looked fine. There was a broken window here and there, the trashed car of someone caught by the gas while driving somewhere around the scenery, the flashing lights of a lamp post that needs repair, but for most, the city just looked to be seeping.
No exactly sleeping, more like a coma. There was a sick feeling in the poisonous air. The uncleaned dirt was starting to pile up and the wind moving the sand and the trash around gave it the feeling of a ghost town.
¨You OK brother?¨ said Cliff
¨Yeah, it's just...looking odd.¨
He nodded and turned around to Uncle Leibrandt in the back seet.
¨Yo Uncle, you think New York is going to get over that shit?¨
¨Your thoughts are too narrow Clifford.¨
¨What d'you mean?¨ he asked.
Uncle Leibrandt took a deep, soundly breath and reached out of Cliff's should. For a second and a half, Cliff seemed very tight, as if he was getting electrocuted by a very high current. Uncle Leibrandt pulled back, but they seemed to be stuck together. I yanked Uncle Leibrandts hand away from Cliff's and for an instant, I saw. I saw an old man on a chair carved out of rock. I saw also a very nice hallway, a hallways I've seen before, but in that vision, it was empty and dead like the streets of New York. Cliff went banging against the jeep's window and took a breath so painful he looked like he was drowning.
¨GUYS, WHAT THE FUCK?¨ I yelled, nervous.
Cliff was breathing heavy like after a football play when he was a running back.
¨Uncle¨said Cliff.¨How much of that is true?¨
¨I don't know if any of it is kid, I just see...I just see this all the time, over and over again.¨
¨FUCK¨I yelled again, loosing my mind from all that mystical mumbo,jumbo ¨TELL ME UNCLE, WHAT DO YOU KNOW HUH? TELL ME!¨.
¨I know the sun will rise again after forty days and forty night.¨
¨Uncle, that's not what we BOTH saw¨, said Cliff.
¨Narrow down this time Clifford, narrow down to what you know.¨
Cliff stayed silent for a moment.
¨New York right?¨ he said.¨The quarantine, only the quarantine will end, is that it?¨
Uncle hummed, I couldn't say if he was acknowledging or just clearing his throat. The old man was making me uneasy. He seemed to be feeling as bad as I was though. After a few, very tense seconds of silence, Uncle Leibrandt seemed to feel the need to talk again:
¨Kids, what do you know about Durango's Asylum?¨
¨Uncle, no more of that crypic shit all right?¨ I said, angry.
¨No, Marcus, I'm asking you a question now.¨
I gathered my thoughts, I didn't know diddly squat about that place.
¨I know Cliff's sis-in-law's in there, it's an old building, why?¨
¨This is not a place you want to stay in for too long, it has strange effects on you. You better know what you're looking for.¨
¨Yeah, I know, Gabrielle Worthington! Uncle, is there something you're not telling us about this fucking place? You're really making me nervous right now!¨
¨You know it wasn't always an aslyum? It was, for as long as I lived, but it gradually changed into a nut house. Beforehand, it was a monastery.¨
¨Yeah, maybe I cannot SEE, but I can READ, I've read there was a monastery there before, like four hundred years ago right? Hugo Durango was a monk that took care of the ill...mentally ill I guess.¨
¨You were always the smartass one Marcus. Let me tell you something you might not know then. There was never any changes made to the purpose of this place. The state sent people to take care of the monks, turning mad one after the other.¨
¨Uncle, is what I seen right?¨ asked Cliff, suddenly popping out of his silence.
¨I would assume so Cliff.¨
¨Shit guys, what is it?¨
¨Hugo Durango was the son of St. Cuthbert.¨
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Wrote this text for the Underground Write Club. I'm not in love with it or anything but I'm kinda sick right now, I'm not in love with anything I produce...sorry about that.
I am old...
When you live past your state of usefulness, people will wall you up and leave you to die. No one likes old. Society has been build on the power of youth and change. But I was good at what I did. All of my life, I dedicated to my one and true love, the needy children. When I close my eyes and think about a better time, I can heard the sound of the footsteps their bare feet did against the concrete blocks. The splashing sounds of the little bodies bombing in the swimming pool. I loved every single one of them, no matter how long they stayed with me. I was the mother of all, the ultimate barricade against the wild world threatening to eat them alive.
But now, everything is different. The wind blows and my bones are creaking. It's the only two sounds that keep me company day and night. I see every corner, every wall and every bed empty. They are filled with the sand and the dust that time brought. It's always dark, no one lights torches anymore. My eyes have been blocked so no one would get to my heart. Who did this? Why am I here? Lonely and blind, at the top of a mountain? Where are my children?
I try to remember. It's crazy how time is good to bury things. I have a thousand memories, but I cannot think of what could have happened. All I got is...a smell.It was like one of the cooks forgot bread in the oven for too long. Then I couldn't see anything...but...but...I could feel the fear, the confusion. Heck, I was even confused and usually I'm the everything, the totality of their world. When I came to my senses, I was lonely...and...empty. My whole life became dark, occasionally, I could see stripes of light coming from cracks in between the boards, but most of the time, everything was pitch black from my skin to my heart.
I thought I was rock hard. I was wrong, very wrong. I thought I was the light of their life, but no. In a world where men are kings, I am nothing. I am the chains that bound me. Sometimes I hear sounds, voices even. They are not kids, so I do not like them. The voices I heard are voices of men. I can't hear their words, but I sense in their tone than they are preoccupied. I wish they'd come to me. I could share the darkness that dwells inside of me. They, too, could understand what it is so truly suffer of loneliness. They'd tear the hair off their scalps and cry, cry like me, wishing for some better days.
But this won't happen. I' old and frail. What used to be a wall of stone is now weak and unreliable material. Maybe...maybe one day, when I will disappear, one day, they will see the sun.
Monday, December 28, 2009
One of my many nicknames was Lucky. Of all the many nicknames I've had over time: Cutthroat, Crazy, Banging, Batman this was by far the one I disliked the most. I don't remember who cam up with it first, but it was a direct attempt at making fun of the fact I had no luck in whatever I did. I was good at what I did. I deemed myself smarter and quicker to react than most people but, whatever bad that could happen, it would happen to me. Like, getting my throat slashed in a McDonald'sof all places. There were many other instances of that. When I was seventeen, I broke my ankle at my high school graduation because someone has left his chewing gum on the stage. Or last year I crashed my car because somehow I got caught in between TWO drunk drivers. Lucky in my badluck though, I only got cut up in the face a little. No broken bones. These are just three exemples of that kind of thing that keeps happening to me.
Today though, seemed to be a break in my streak of bad luck.What was an uninspired, droning move turned out to be complete gold. The Seattle Public Library kept on microfilm almost every newspaper in North America. They didn't keep records of nowhere, Idaho, but every major city of the United States was there, including Seattle...and Portland. Needless to say, with a little patience and thouroughness, brought me a substancial amount of information. For exemple, the life of Reed Greenwell has been attempted to three times. In 1973, 1979 and 1986. He was not a well like figure around Portland. Both law enforcement and the criminal underworld had a dislike for his pedantic and self-righteous attitude. In Portlant, Reed Greenwell was the law and nobody really could do anything about it. The old man dodged his bullet every time, but no one ever caught his attacker. The first two times, a bullet hit him out of nowhere. The first missed, the second hit him in the lap, breaking the bone and condemning him to walk with a cane for the rest of his life. The last time, someone broke into his house and attacked him with a knife. Greenwell smacked him with his cane a few times and locked himself in his room to call the police. Attacker fled, never to be found again.
Attacking such a powerful man wouldn't be without any consequences. There were major manhunts launched every time, but surprisingly enough, no one was caught. Every time, the attacker vanished in nature. That didn't made any sense. No one even took the fall for it. I knew the criminal underworld well enough to know a drug lord wouldn't have put a hit on a judge anyway...and if he did, he would offer at least a scapegoat for it. A bit like Lee Harvey Oswald took the fall for...whoever hired him. This could lead me only to one conclusion. There was a power struggle within law enforcement and three times rather than only one, someone tried to make Reed Greenwell disappear. Was it the same person each time? Or was Greenwell pissing so much people off that multiple attackers tried their luck at eliminating him? My guess was that Reed Greenwell only had one nemesis, but I couldn't be sure.
What was clearer though, was the nature of Trevor Greenwell's involvement in Glen Winchester's murder. It was all conjectures so far, but I could see a directive line from what happened. Reed, the puppet master has put Trevor in Seattle Police Academy because he had wanted something from Winchester. Made him climb ranks fast. Eliminated the chief of police and manipulated Greenwell into killing, getting rid of the body, or hell, both! Trevor, thinking he owes something to his grandfather, probably accepted and then, bang, Karen finds him in his garage, stuffinf the chief of police's head inside a garbage bag. I'd run the information by her and see if she could corroborate my information. After eight hours of search, I'd come back to the office to compile what I have gathered and wait for Karen. She was supposed to give me honoraries tonight. A hundred and fifty bucks a day plus expenses, which for the first two days were none.
She arrived around six thirty PM. I was happy to see her, I was tired and wanted to go home to rest a bit. She was as beautiful as ever. She was wearing a plain white shirt and tight jeans. She had beach flops in her feet, revealing a strange tattoo at the bottom of her foot. Her hair was slicked back against her skulls like the boys in the sixties used to do. I found it was cute as hell.
¨Heeey¨, she said, with that cute, shy smile.
She had an enveloppe in her hands.
¨Hey Karen¨ I said, throwing myself at the door to open up the door for her.
Silent smiles, discomfort.
¨I wanted to see how far you got if you don't mind. For the last two days, all I got was chit-chats and a shopping session with Mo. I feel like I'm hiring a new best friend¨.
She laughed. Alone with her, I realized how much I missed it, I felt the hollowness of desire in the middle of my chest. She was beautiful, bubbly like before and someone else's.
¨Sure, sure, I had a lot of things to run by you anyway, take a seat...if you...don't mind?¨
She nodded and accepted the chair I pulled.
¨Thanks¨, she said.
I turned around, hopped over my desk and landed in my chair perfectly. A motion I trained again and again in between investigations. In the loneliness of my office, I've learned to know every part of it. Honestly, I never knew what use it would have beside looking like a flashy idiot in front of my clients, but you never know. Karen had a distant smile when she saw me do that. She looked to be feeling a lot better than two days ago, but she looked worn out. She looked like she hadn't sleep for these two days and that she was in that insomniac state where you stop caring about what's life-threatening or not. She had bags under her eyes, what I didn't noticed first and despite wearing make up, she looked a little pale.
¨So, what's this information you got?¨
¨Reed Greenwell, please tell me about him please, what you know about the old man¨.
She looked genuinely surprised.
¨Well, he's the first of the Greenwells to be in law enforcement. I met him only three times, once a year on Christmas day, the big Greenwell gathering. He seemed like a nice enough man.¨
¨So he only sees Trevor only once a year?¨ I asked, visibly disappointed.
¨Oh, no, no it's not like that. Trevor goes to Portland many times a year to see his family. Mostly in the summer, where he goes fishing with his father, his grandfather and his little brother Tripp.¨
I nodded, absently. She seemed pretty unwary about what was going on, but at that new light, something was going on, that's for sure.
¨Did he start these trips to Oregon lately?¨
¨No, he did those for as long as I've known him. He was going there even when we were at the academy.¨
¨So you don't know anything else about the grandfather?¨
¨No, should I?¨
¨You didn't know someone attempted to his life three times?¨
¨The nice and easy going grandfather is one of the most powerful man in Portland Karen. Most powerful and most controversed¨.
¨What do you mean?¨
¨He was power hungry. He was the most feared judge in Portland and it ain't no coincidence if he's at the supreme court today. Everyone that opposed Reed Greenwell had disappeared, lost their job or moved out of the country. Karen, I think the old man is more mafia than Don Corleone.¨
¨What...no...no way...what would Trevor have to do with it?¨
¨Karen...Trevor is 23 years old and he's a damned lieutenant! No one is sergeant at this age.¨
She nodded silently.
¨How has Trevor been for the last two days?¨ I asked.
¨Nice, and quiet I'd say....it dosen't feel right though.¨
¨What do you mean?¨
¨It's not natural. He behaves like it didn't happened....like it didn't happened and like we just met. He's romantic. He bought me flowers, he cooked me dinner. He was always nice, but, he never did this.¨
¨It's evident he's feeling bad. If you want my opinion, he never wanted to have anything to do with Glen Winchester's death.¨
¨He would have been forced?¨
¨That's what I'm thinking. The Greenwell family is well settled in Portland. I think the old buzzer needed someone in Seattle and go Trevor sent there....whatever went wrong with Winchester, I don't know.¨
¨Yeah, continue looking please. I'm glad I can trust you to shed a light on this.¨ she said, putting the enveloppe on my office.
¨No problem, I will. You, try to get some sleep. You look exhausted. Do whatever you can to get some rest. Go sleep over at Mona's if you need. She's get you hammered and KO'ed in no time. Thus is her gift with people.¨
I felt bad to let her leave again. Karen looked so frail, I felt like she would vanish into thin air if this problem with her fiancés family would drag on for too long. I never admitted it to myself, but that struck me, seeing her leave like this, I don't think she would have had the fortitute to be in the police. She was a very smart person, fascinated by the dark side of human mind, but she would've been more suited to be a profiler or something like that. She had a way of extracting information out of people and to discuss with deranged minds that I seen no one before her have, but she had no stomach for long term tension. Right now, it was killing her.
I took the enveloppe from my desk and found the three hundred dollar, as it was said, but it was wrapped in a white sheet of paper which had a note scribbled on it. The note said:
I cannot swear it, but I think I'm being followed. There is this green Pontiac car I see everywhere I go. I never could see the plate, but please, check that out also.
Someone knocked on the door again. Not Karen. The sound was loud and manly. Someone wanted me to know he was here. He wanted me to know so much he opened the door. The man was a big and large, but old looking. He was bald with a grey crown of hair and he had a visible gut under his suit.
He whipped a badge out of his pocket. Damn, a federal.
¨Phil Blocker, FBI¨
¨How can I help you sir?¨
¨Security cameras have seen you trespass yesterday morning on the scene of a very important and private autopsy. I'm in charger of the investigation on Glen Winchester's death and I want to know what the fuck you were doing there.¨
¨Sylvia Perez is a long time friend of my family sir. I just wanted to say hi.¨
¨You're a PI aren't you Parker?¨
¨Yes, would that cause a problem?¨
¨It's causing me a problem if you're investigating the same thing than me.¨
¨Rest assured sir. Glen Winchester is not the object of my investigation¨.
¨Then who is it?¨
¨Can't tell you, professional secret¨
¨Is that Karen Tinsley I saw leaving?¨
¨Is it you that's been trailing her?¨
¨What are you talking about?¨
¨Karen Tinsley is my client, and she hired me because somebody is trailing her.¨
¨Who would that be?¨
¨I don't know, maybe you?¨ I said, tired of this useless guy.
¨Listen to me young punk. I know about you. You've went to school with Trevor Greenwell, you've done poorly in the psychologic test so you've failed. You've got your PI licence because of your criminal brothers, if you don't stop being such an idiot, you will loose your licence and your brother are going to jail all right?¨
I nodded. Whoever that fuckhead was, John & Pat needed to know about him.
Thursday, December 24, 2009
Maybe I'm a little drunk and it's the alcohol talking but I'm in the nineteenth hour of my lonely Christmas eve and the only thing I can think about right now is how much God Of War owns. Merry Christmas readership! Beware of my almighty manly video game review on God Of War Collection. It's going to own!
So this is Christmas. Merry Christmas everyone. I should be partying or caring about my loved ones, but professional life being what it is, I'm stuck at work sitting around and waiting for occupation that is not coming. What a perfect time to pass my year in review and share with you guys a thing or two I put in my toolbox in 2009.
Overall, it has been a very good year. No professional advancement and nothing tangible at the horizon, slight discouragement towards MMA training, master degree technicalities that are taking longer and longer...but all that is beside the point. These are hardships that a lot of people face and that you have to dodge with a smile or better shoot yourself now. No, 2009 has been very good, because unlike the other years, I wasn't complacent enough to call it a bullshit transition year. I actually put my fingers out of my nose and did something. I started writing. Oh I wrote before, but very little and I usually immediately threw everything to the garbage, but this year, I started taking writing seriously. I'd say I wrote around five hundred pages of material from January to December and kept maybe two hundred pages, a hundred and fifty on Dead End Follies and the fifty and something pages of this novel I'm writing.
In this article, I'm proposing observations I made about crucial things creative writers need to watch for. I learned a lot about the quirk and the traps of the craft and this is my vision of it. Don't take this too literally. This is not a rigid theory of any sort, just a practical guide for people, who, like me are passionate about writing and want to make a living out of it.
Here we go...
1)Beware of the absolute... Every creative writer has his big story. Everyone of us have that tale that is eating away at our insides and just want to come out. Everyone of these stories is powerful and can possibly make or break you. I have high respect for every of these stories that gnaw away at creative souls because they all have the potential to be great. But writers beware, you HAVE to handle these stories with care, why? For two reasons 1)They HAVE to come out and 2)They HAVE to come out right.
See, the absolute is the vision you have of your big story in your mind. It is perfect, moving, gut-wretching, whatever. I don't doubt that. This story has to come out of you because it will keep you from writing if it doesn't. Everything will seem pale and boring in comparison. Your mind will keep coming back to your big story and what you will work on will be meaningless. Go ahead, flush it out, write it on paper. You might feel a bit hollow when it's done, but it's all for the best.
But putting this big story out will be the most difficult thing you do. You have to abandon the vision you have of it in your mind. What will be on paper will differ in every possible way. There is a huge gap in between absolute and reality. Also, don't abandon it, don't throw it to the garbage and keep it in your face. Don't come back to the ethereal vision that blocks you from writing. It doesn't matter if the words aren't right and if things don't magically line up on the paper. Write down a first draft. Let it stew and then come back to it. Writing is a job, not a Shamanic trance. Once you understand that you will have to work hard, it will be easier
2)The poisonous gift of critic... One of the necessary evils of creative writing is critic. Most of the time it will suck, but it's a much needed step. Writing, as itself is easy. Anyone with creativity, passion and a lot of patience can write down lenghty romance on paper. Anyone. The hard part of writing is the success. How do you write a story that will be read and universally loved? That is the question. That is the hard part because critic involves the inner self of the writer getting twisted and torn apart by an outside point of view. It take humility and desire to be able to go through it without flinching.
Receiving critic is hard enough, but as if it wasn't all...you have to take this critic and build something constructive out of it, which is, in my humble opinion, the hardest, but the most rewarding step of creative writing. The thing with critic is that it's not all good and it's not all bad. You have to be smart and honest about it. You don't have to apply all the critics integrally if they don't work. You will lose the soul of your manuscript, what makes it unique. Some pointers are good, some parts of your story might be too complex or too lightly touched. You might need to go deeper at some points or ease up at others, but you are the last judge of what you do. Don't apply it if it is too far from what you want to do, learn to discern what's bad and to work on it. Also, learn to discern your target audience. Some people just might not feel compelled to your work, even if you think you're the next Hemingway, it can happen. Just avoid make this people read your text, they will just confuse you. The critic process is like playing Super Mario
you have to make your way from Draft A to Draft B while dodging the bad guys.
3)Micro Edit is crucial... I'm the first guy, when it comes to not proofread myself. When I'm done writing a story, I feel drained, in pain but satisfied like a the mother of Aleksandr Karelin when she gave birth. That's why I dread critic and that's why I used not to make anyone read what I did. Writing, by it's nature, needs readers. If you write something down, you create distance in between your ideas and yourself. Most of the time you will find it bland...and it will be bland. That's where micro-edit comes into play.
When you write down the first draft of a story, the important is to go from point A to B and get all of your ideas out. First draft is done? Well good for you, but the work has just started. Your draft will be filled up with lifeless sentences like: ¨He was happy that Jane recognized him¨ or ¨The rain was falling down heavily¨. Don't worry if you recognize yourself in this, it happens to everyone. You're not lazy or anything, you just need a good session of micro-edit. Gillian Roberts said that micro-edit is about finding your voice...and she's absolutely write. In the process of proofreading, bland sentences will jump in your face and you will be able to find the time to reformulate them. This is the time where you concentrate on making every of your sentences unique. You re-appropriate the story. If you concede enough time to micro-edit, it can be fun. Don't be too perfectionist neither though, because you will lose momentum. Select times to micro-edit and never go overboard with it. Your story needs to be written first. Write first, edit later...but you have to do it.
4)With a little help from my friends... Face it. You're not famous yet. No one knows how much of a genius you are. Your story has a lot of good knacks but the loopholes are big and boring enough to discourage everyone from reading (I discourage my girlfriend regularly from my stuff). That means you're experiencing problems with your fiction.
There are plenty of spots where it can go wrong. Characters, plot, conflict, tension, dialogues...you can shoot yourself in the leg so many times that you would discourage the most tenacious people from choosing writing for a job. There is nothing wrong with heaving weaknesses. Everyone does. There is nothing wrong with seeking help neither. Not everyone might know Dennis Lehane or Chuck Palahniuk, but there are books for that.
Writing help manuals are usually frowned upon, but I strongly encourage every creative writer to at least take a look. Especially when you're experiencing trouble writing. There are some general ones like Fire In The Fiction by Donald Maas, who are good, but I strongly suggest you buy books that address point you're having hard time with. There are two collections that come to my mind. Write Great Fiction and Elements Of Fiction are vowing entire volumes to single points of writing. They are all written by successful writers, there is no shame in using them, so let's go!
Here you go. The bulk of what I learned in 2009 is contained in these few words. I'm not a great writer yet, I have a constant readership of maybe twenty people at best, but still I worked hard and took valuable experience. Consider it for what it's worth but I think it's worthy of attention.
On that thanks a lot for reading Dead End Follies.
Writer, Editor and Owner of Dead End Follies
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
I read this very interesting article yesterday in Wired Magazine and I thought I should share it with you guys. The story of 3DRealms is the sad story that afflicts a lot of creators I know, the longing for absolute. This is also an exemple of the immaturity and the brashness of video games industry. Read Georges Broussard's story of lost ideals.
On the last day, they gathered for a group photo. They were videogame programmers, artists, level builders, artificial-intelligence experts. Their team was — finally — giving up, declaring defeat, and disbanding. So they headed down to the lobby of their building in Garland, Texas, to smile for the camera. They arranged themselves on top of their logo: a 10-foot-wide nuclear-radiation sign, inlaid in the marble floor.
To videogame fans, that logo is instantly recognizable. It’s the insignia of Duke Nukem 3D, a computer game that revolutionized shoot-’em-up virtual violence in 1996. Featuring a swaggering, steroidal, wisecracking hero, Duke Nukem 3D became one of the top-selling videogames ever, making its creators very wealthy and leaving fans absolutely delirious for a sequel. The team quickly began work on that sequel, Duke Nukem Forever, and it became one of the most hotly anticipated games of all time.
It was never completed. Screenshots and video snippets would leak out every few years, each time whipping fans into a lather — and each time, the game would recede from view. Normally, videogames take two to four years to build; five years is considered worryingly long. But the Duke Nukem Forever team worked for 12 years straight. As one patient fan pointed out, when development on Duke Nukem Forever started, most computers were still using Windows 95, Pixar had made only one movie — Toy Story — and Xbox did not yet exist.
On May 6, 2009, everything ended. Drained of funds after so many years of work, the game’s developer, 3D Realms, told its employees to collect their stuff and put it in boxes. The next week, the company was sued for millions by its publisher for failing to finish the sequel.
Front and center in the photo sits a large guy with a boyish face. You can’t tell from the picture, but he had gotten choked up when he made the announcement. His name is George Broussard, co-owner of 3D Realms and the man who headed the Duke Nukem Forever project for its entire 12-year run. Now 46 years old, he’d spent much of his adult life trying to make a single game, and failed over and over again. What happened to that project has been shrouded in secrecy, and rumors have flown about why Broussard couldn’t manage to finish his life’s work. What went so wrong?
This is what happened.
Broussard would not talk to Wired for this story. He was polite about it, but because his firm is being sued over its failure to complete Duke Nukem Forever, he declined to be interviewed, as did his cofounder and partner, Scott Miller. Broussard also emailed his former employees to warn them not to talk; many refused my requests, often because they remain friends with Broussard. But enough were willing to discuss the game — almost all anonymously — that a picture began to emerge, aided by Broussard’s and Miller’s prodigious postings on discussion boards and a handful of public interviews.
Broussard and Miller met in the late ’70s in Dallas, during Miller’s senior year of high school. They would hang out in the computer lab, programming clunky 2-D and text-adventure games. When Miller was in his twenties, he invented the shareware model of selling games and formed his company, Apogee (which started going by 3D Realms in 1994): He’d break a game into chunks, release it for free on BBSes, get people addicted, and then charge them for the remaining parts. By 1990, he was publishing and marketing titles created by others. He quit his day job and brought Broussard on. They were a study in contrasts: Miller, guarded and quiet, became the savvy business dealer, while Broussard — a voluble, energetic, ponytailed presence who carried around a single notebook as his organizational tool — became the creative impresario, famous for an unerring sense of what was fun. In 1992, the duo published Wolfenstein 3D, created by a then tiny studio called id Software. It was the first game to let players run around a 3-D first-person environment shooting enemies, and it became a breakout hit, selling 200,000 copies. 3D Realms went from being a $25,000-a-month startup to a $200,000-a-month corporation. The realistic, lead-spewing shoot-’em-up was born.
By 1994, Broussard began concocting his own breakout game — one that would upend the conventions of the fledgling genre. Where other titles were gloomy and self-important, his would be brassy, colorful, and funny. Instead of playing as a faceless marine, gamers would play as Duke Nukem, “a combo of John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, and Arnold,” as Broussard described him. Broussard and Miller assembled a seven-person team to build the product. The pair had a knack for discovering talent: One of their recruits was a 17-year-old programmer from Rhode Island — barely out of high school — who created their game engine, the crucial piece of software that displays the 3-D world for the player. After a year and a half of work, Duke Nukem 3D was released online in January 1996.
Sales were explosive. The game was addictively fun and crammed with racy humor, including strippers you could tip (at which point they’d flash their pixelated boobs) and mutant pigs dressed in LAPD-like uniforms. Critics went fairly mad with praise. In most games, the world was static, but Duke Nukem players could interact with objects — they could get Duke to play pool or admire himself in a mirror (”Damn, I’m looking good!” he’d say). The title sold about 3.5 million copies, making Miller and Broussard straightforwardly wealthy.
In April 1997, Broussard announced a follow-up: Duke Nukem Forever, which he promised would outdo the original in humor, interactivity, and fun. The firm set no formal deadline, but Miller predicted the game would be out within about a year, “well before” Christmas 1998. “We see Duke Nukem as a franchise that will be around 30 years from now, like James Bond,” Miller told a gaming site. Broussard compared Duke to Nintendo’s Mario — a character that would star in title after title, year after year.
But the cycle that would demolish Duke Nukem was about to begin.
To read the whole four pages of the article, click here.
My dreams were never like that.
Somehow I knew.
Maybe it was the heartbeat I heard throbbing under my feet. Maybe it was the complete absence of an environnement. I was standing there, walking into a dark and empty space, so filled up with smoke, it looked like the smoke machine at a George Clinton concert had break. Something didn't feel right, from the start. Never before, my dreams have looked like I've been seized by a collection agency. Hell, it never even happened in real life.
¨YO!¨ I yelled.
A loud, fat and distorted echo answered me. In front of me was a pitch black void. Nothing solid but the ground I was standing on. I wondered if all that gas hadn`t got to me after all? Marcus and I thought we were really clever with our filtering system,but maybe we got poisonned and were slowly agonizing in our sleep. Was I in limbo with the non-believers? Was Marcus going to be in heaven at least? This was not a dream, I was convinced, but how would I leave a place which seemed to be everywhere. Should I just close my eyes and walk forward? Marcus and I were doing just that for the last few weeks, we desperately tried to hold on, wishing for better times. Somebody said ¨Tough times never last, but tough people do¨, but I forgot who. Since Evie died, since New York has been changed in a mass grave, I started to slowly forget how things were before.
First there was footsteps. Feminine footsteps. Light, rythmed and high heeled. No one in the world has the same sound when they walk. Your footsteps are personal to you. Having worked in construction and being used to the vibrations emitted on steel foundations, I came to be able to identify people by the way they walked. For exemple, my feet had a the quiet thud of work boots and the broken rythm of someone that stops too much to talk to everyone. Marcus's feet were slipping lightly on the floor. His sound was not clear and defined, it was a rubbing, like the one of sandpaper on wood. Momma always told him to lift his feet when he walked, but Marcus never learned. Walking in a perfect, uninterrupted cadency at such a high pace wasn't something everybody could do. I only knew one person who could do that. Evie.
I closed my eyes and wished again everything was just a dream. The slow pace of everyday's survival dulled the pain of her death quite a bit, I didn't feel like going over this all over again. Not again, not now. Light slip to the right, one final big step to announce she was there, no doubt, it was Evie. My little angel came back to haunt me.
¨Please, Evie, tell me it`s not you¨,I said with my eyes still closed.
¨Clifford, baby, you're still not ready? Gabrielle is waiting for us. I don't want to make her wait, dammit. She doesn't need this right now.¨
I opened my eyes. It's like the world rewinded a few months back. We were at our appartment of Hartmann Street. Evie was on the carpet, ready to go, all checked up. I remembered that evening. That was more or less a month before she died. Gabrielle was her sister and the black sheep of the family. She was coming from a very populous family, they were six kids and Gabrielle was the one causing problems all the time. Criminal boyfriends, sex at a young age, cocain at fifteen years old, she was the typical baby girl gone wrong. That night was maybe a week after she was diagnosed with a light form of schizophrenia. She had been hospitalized at Durango Mental Health Facility in Long Island for two days after she tried to kill herself with a mirror she broke. We were about to go visit her and Eve was as agitated as she could get.
Since I had been dating her, I always dreaded family business with her. Her parents were the special type. Her dad, Devin was a history teacher at NYU. He met her mom there Sally, who was his student for a few years. Sally Worthington had since then, been also a history teacher at Queen`s community college. Both of them highly valued education. Honestly, they were pretty pedantic about it and before I met Evie, they kept trying to match her with some of Devin's brightest students. She wasn't having any of it though and when I met her, that didn't exactly provoked a string of good reactions in her family. Her dad accused her of dating me just to get on his nerves. The first time she tried to introduce me to them, he didn't even let me get in the house. He wasn't exactly an impressive sight in his doorstep, but I'm a polite guy, so I backed off. Evie cried for the whole evening when it happened.
Devin came to tolerate my presence when he saw Evie and I were seriously in business, but I was never really welcome in his household. When she died, no one in the Worthington family offered me any support. They thought I was somehow responsible for her death. In fact, Marcus and his wife Teena made a good job at shielding me from them at the funeral. They knew any contact between me and the Worthingtons at the funeral would do no good.
The night that I was reliving, I remembered it very well. I didn't want to go see Gabrielle. I thought she was an all right girl though. Mishandled in a strict upbringing, but nice enough. If Devin would've gave her a little more slack, maybe she wouldn't have seeked the most rebellious behavior. I didn't want to go there because Devin and Sally would be there and the atmosphere would be tense as hell. I was scared they would turn what happened against me because I was getting along with Gabrielle better than them. She had bee eating at our appartment every Sunday for a few months prior to her suicide attempt and I was scared Devin would go out of his way and call me a bad influence. The man was an uppity intellectual that despised everything that wasn't following the same path he did. I was trying to buy time and to get Evie to tell me I could stay home.
Reliving that night though felt like a second chance, dream, vision, whatever was happening, I had a chance to be stronger than I was on that day. I looked at myself, I was wearing the clothes I wore since we met the St. Cuthber's Guards in the construction site, gas mask included. This made no sense, but it was better than the t-shirt and boxers I was wearing on that night.
¨Baby, I know I'm not all neato and sexy like you, but I wanna go see Gabrielle. She's not gonna judge on my clothes anyway¨.
¨Yeah, but my dad will, c'mon, make an effort please¨she asked me with that tone I couldn't refuse anything from.
I removed the gask mask and looked at myself in the mirror to see if my hair was right. There was no reflection. I stayed put for a second, but I played the game.
¨Evie, it's cold as hell outside, the Giants are playing outside, but I want to go at creepy Durango with you because I'm really worried about your sister. She needs support. You think I look OK?¨
I took her in my arms. Evie smiled. It was not a nice smile, not even a forced one. It was like she was an anymated puppet and two invisible strings were pulling her cheek muscles up. She talked, but no sounds were coming out of her mouth. Just a muffled buzz, like the one you heard when you get punched hard or the one coming out from a broken TV. Sound tuned in and out of her mouth without coming clear. When she tuned correctly on a frequency, it was not her voice coming out of her mouth, but Gabrielle's:
¨She loves you, you know? Despite whatever could happen, you're still very important for her.¨
I didn't know how to answer, I was scared that breaking character would stop everything. Evie's short hair grew longer in a few seconds, at the lenght on Gabrielle's. She had the voice and the hair of Gabrielle, but the body of Evie. I had to try something.
¨I think she still doesn't know why she is, maybe we can help her find out.¨
That sinister smile again. That was not Evie. I was now convinced. The voice channeling process started again.
¨And you? Who do you think you are?¨she said, with Devin's voice.
The soft eyes of Evie were also replaced by the dark and serious eyes of her father. Things were going downhill, I wasn't sure who I was talking to, but I started to wish for it to end.
¨I'm Clifford Whitmore. I loved Evie and I still love her, beyond death, beyond whatever could happen. Nobody's opinion matters, no one is going to frighten me away from what I have left. I don't know who you are, but Evie's dead. Everybody's dead but Marcus and me. All I have is my brother and a thousand memories.¨
That person, avatar or whatever hugged me. That was not a hard or suffocating hold, that was the kind of warm hug she used to give me when she was alive. I closed my eyes again. That thing wouldn't leave me alone though. Even when I closed my eyes, darkness would not make this stop. It just teleported me in another place. A bedroom, the bedroom where I fell asleep a few hours before this madness started. There was no furniture though. It was empty, the light of the full moon gave a pale blue shade to the naked walls. Deanne, Marcus's older girl was standing right beside me in a white gown. She ran up to the wall and started drawing with her finger. Soon, the walls started dripping with what seemed to be fluorescent ink.
A lenghty message appeared all over the four walls that said:
THE SUN WILL LEAVE THE WASTELAND FOR FORTY DAYS AND FORTY NIGHTS. THE BALANCE WILL BE LOST. USURPATORS WILL WALK THE UNHOLY GROUND AND THE MADMEN WILL BE INFUSED WITH TERRIBLE POWER. DON'T BELIEVE WHAT YOU SEE. BELIEVE WHAT CANNOT HAPPEN. SEEK A PLACE OF HIGHER POWER. I LOVE YOU TOO CLIFF.
I woke up
The fluorescent ink was still on the walls for many seconds after I woke up. It slowly dripped and disappeared and I blinked and rubbed my eyes. I was drenched in sweat and I felt sore as if I had played a football game with NFL veterans. I heard voices in the hallway. Marcus was talking with Uncle Leibrandt, but I didn't quite got what they were saying. I opened the door and found Marcus looking at the wall as if he had seen the same ghosts than I did during my sleep.
¨Marcus!¨ I asked.
¨Tell me exactly, how many days has it been since the gas attacks?¨
¨I don't know, why do you want to know that?¨
¨Dammit man, just answer me, please....¨
¨Twenty something days....twenty four¨
If it was what she meant, there was sixteen days left before ¨the sun would come back¨, whatever that meant. I needed to brainstorm on what that meant, but I was scared Marcus would think I finally lost my mind. I looked and him and realized he didn't seem too well neither.
¨Marcus, brother...why are you wielding a steak knife and looking at the wall like Norman Bates?¨
He looked at his knife with a crazed stare, looked back at me and said:
¨Cliff...I would tell you, but you wouldn't believe me¨.
¨I don't know brother, maybe I feel like believing what cannot happen.¨
All turned quiet again, except for Uncle Leibrandt's muffled laugh coming from the room.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
The beat-em-up genre is making a lot of happy people in the video gaming industry lately. The great God Of War franchise re-released his two first titles not long ago and is about to give the world a third opus to worry about. Electronic Arts is about to give us the much hyped Dante's Inferno, which will be probably good...and will most likely have nothing to do with the book. But, Platinum Games is the next in line at taking a shot to the market with their intriguing new title Bayonetta. Platinum is relying on legendary game designer Hideki Kamiya to build this title's success. This is the same man who was behind the story for two first Resident Evil titles and the much vaunted (and much fun) Devil May Cry.
Famitsu, the japanese magazine gave it a perfect score a few months ago, but no one in America is really reading Famitsu, so it kinda went overboard. Today, the trend-setting and rather objective IGN had given it's review today and it's a whopping 9.5 out of 10. Excuse me sir, but I'm not intrigued!Critique Ryan Clements even started his piece of work by saying: " Bayonetta is the best action game I've ever played. " Yes sir, that's one hell of a statement for someone paid to do this all day. The PS3 version has been flagged with a couple issues already, but it seems like this game has set a few standards that other titles will have to live up to. That title was a big maybe for me, but not, consider me sold. I will pick up Bayonetta as it hits the shelves on January 5,will you?
Another piece written for the weekly Underground Write Club.
¨Jenny, for the last time, NO!¨
¨Come on, you're man enough to buy me tampons, but you cannot step into a Victoria's Secret without holding my hands?¨
¨Baby, there is a clear line in between a guy who buys tampons for his girlfriend and a panty sniffer.¨
¨What does panties have to do with anything?¨
Peter had seen enough, every year, Jen had these freaky costume ideas for Halloween, but usually, she worked on it herself. This time around, she had waited and waited to go shopping for their annual party at Sid Ramirez's house...and at the last minute, she was missing a red bra to go with her costume. She couldn't go get it herself because she had to go at the gynecologist with her mother.
¨Elektra didn't even had a red brad, she had a tank top!¨
¨The bra is to go under you nitwit. Having a red bra will prevent pervs from actually realizing I wear one¨.
¨Gnef, I guess you're right¨. Peter muttered.
That's how Peter Mullings found himself at the shopping mall, completely terrified in front of the newly opened Victoria's Secret megastore. The girly underwear haven had opened its doors in his hometown of Burlington, Vermont, it had been gradually populated by every girl he was ever attracted to. Selene his high school crush, fresh out the university with a bachelor degree in administration was the floor manager. Gwen, the brunette buxom whom he dated for approximatively seventy two hours was a salesperson along with Jessica and Clara, two girls who rejected his advances in college. Peter wouldn't even had dreamed to set a foot in the place if it was not for his well-intentioned love for Jenny and Elektra comics.
The girl at the counter was a new hired he didn't know, so Peter estimated he could yank the first red bra incognito and make a run for the cash register with minimum casualties. With racing heart and sweaty palms, brave Peter set a foot in the boutique. He realized fast that there was going to be a problem. Everything was separated by brands, not by accessory. The colours were also problematics. Lots of black, beige, brown, white...even pink...but among the mountains of women underwear, no trace of his excalibur. Before Peter could turn the Lshape of the boutique, he heard in a raspy, but sensual voice that he recognized:
¨Peter? Is that you?¨
Blood rushed to his head before he could even think about running away. He took a deep breath and decided to face his responsibilities. After all, he was there to help Jenny, that was a gesture of love, not a creepy panty sniffer run. Facing him with a puzzled look on her face was Selene. He found her beautiful with her thick black latina hair and that shoulder-less tight shirt. Poiting out of it, wrapping the soft and shiny skin of her shoulder was a red suspender. That was the first red bra Peter was today.
¨Peter, are you ok?¨ asked Selene, pushing her glasses up the bridge of her nose.
¨Yeah hem...yeah...it's nice to see your Selene.¨
¨Nice to see you too, it's been a while. Can I help you with anything?¨
¨Hem...no...no no....just you know...¨
¨hanging in a chick underwear store?¨
¨NO! NO!...no, no, no...don't call security or anything...yes, you can help me actually.¨
By the look on Selene's face, he knew he had to show he meant business.
¨I need...a...red bra!¨
¨Peter...why would you need that?¨
¨My...girlfriend...Jen! She's dressing up as Elektra for Halloween¨.
¨All right, I'm buying, I think I know what you need....YO JESSICA, SISTER! IS THERE ANY WONDERBRA LIKE THE ONE I'M WEARING LEFT?¨
Peter heard from the other side of the store: ¨I'M NOT SURE, WHY?¨
¨IT'S FOR PETER, YOU KNOW, PETER MULLINGS, REMEMBER HIM?¨
¨OH YEAH, I ALWAYS THOUGHT HE WAS GAY¨
Peter tried to disappear in between two rows of panties, but Selene pulled him by the sleeve.
¨Where are you going, I got exactly what you want.¨
Selene brought him to the cash register where they all were. Selene, Gwen, Jessica and Clara, along with the new girl who went by the name of Wendy. Jessica held up a red silk bra over her breast and asked Peter : ¨Is that what you need?¨
Peter battled with high blood pressure to answer: ¨Yeah, yeah, perfect...itsformygirlfriend¨.
¨You? You got a girlfriend?¨ asked Clara.
¨Who's that?¨ asked Jessica.
¨Jennifer...you know....Jennifer Carter?¨
¨Ooooh yeah, she was in my psychology classes, you're dating that sweetheart? You did good for yourself boy! Sorry for the gay comment by the way!¨
With a blue Victoria's Secret package under his arm, Peter left the store with his legs still wobbly. At night, when he proudly showed his purchase to an exhausted Jenny, she said:
¨Oh! I wanted lace on the suspenders, can you go back tomorrow please?¨
Monday, December 21, 2009
As you might have noticed, even weirdos like the Dead End Follies crew are having hollidays. I've been kept away from my computer for a long while this week-end so I couldn't update jack. It will go on for a week or two. Basically I'm leaving town (and my computer) on the 24th around noon (I'll be trying to make my editorial in the morning but no promise). I'll be out of town on the 25,26 and 27th of December, will be back for 28,29 and 30th adn will leave again for 31,1,2,3rd. From January 4th, I will be back to my regular schedule. As far as fictions are involved (for those of you who care), there will only be Law Of The Gun affected, but this will only make it better when it comes back. The video games portion of the site will suffer a little bit, but you know...you guys will all be eating turkey and cake like me anyway!
Happy holidays readership!
Fishing trips in the heart of the Pacific Ocean can be a life changing experience. A few weeks after I got out of the hospital after having my throat slit, my brother brought Mona and me fishing in high seas for two days in one of Tony Cullen’s boats. Over there, confined to the loneliness of the sea, we swore each other to always help out whoever in the family that needed support. John and Pat stopped being distant male figures who quietly watched over me and started to act like surrogate fathers to Mo and me. None of us exactly knew what a father was, so we tried all our best and we made the most of it. A very bonding experience overall.
I wonder if Daniel O’Leary and his son Sean knew that their life was about to change when they heard a heavy thud coming from under the boat. Sure thing, young Sean’s life had changed forever when the discovered the severed rotten limbs of Glen Winchester in a garbage bag. Funny how the luck of certain can be the nightmare of others. By taking onboard the corpse of the now late chief of police of Seattle, Good Citizen O’Leary facilitated the lives of many, but bought his son season tickets at the therapist. Sometimes I wonder if the guy that slashed my throat used the money he stole to give himself a second start at life. Would he be thankful to me because I poured blood for his redemption?
The first thing I did when I learned the news of “the possibility that Glen Winchester’s corpse was found drifting in the pacific” on the radio was to take my car and go down to the Seattle General Hospital’s morgue, where Doctor Sylvia Perez was working day shift. Syl had been a friend of the family for as long as I could remember. Mom and her were best friends since high school. Syl helped us a lot when she died. She took a few days out of her busy schedule to teach us how to cook, so that we could be self-reliant and eat healthy. Since then, we all became very good cooks and once a month, one of us invited her and her husband Carl over for dinner in order to say thank you, to show her our skills and to take some news. Carl and her were some of the few people that took genuine interest in the fate of the Parker kids.
I never had to require Sylvia’s favors for anything as of now, but I knew if I played my cards well and weaseled my way in between police lines, she’d share every details of the case with me. The car’s clock showed 8:04 AM, the day was young; I had all my chances to get to the morgue and blend in without having to fend off a bulk of press representatives. Good thing was that among the good investments of Tony Cullen were the two main city journals, the radio station and the public broadcasting station, so no one was in a hurry to give press coverage to anything that might implicate the boss. That was the most clever money laundering scheme Tony ever came up with. He transformed his psychotic murdered image into a more public-friendly Michael-Corleone image. The “Just-when-I-thought-I-was-out-they-pull-me-back-in” kind. Except that Tony was no penitent gangster like America’s favorite Don. He fucking loved his job.
The morgue parking was as I expected it to be. Empty, except for two police cars. Not much people know, but every hospital has a morgue parking. When people are already dead, they take them in that way in order not to cross the urgency room with a corpse. It’s considered bad manners. Most of the time it’s situated underground for obvious reasons. 1) The morgue is always in the basement, for the purpose of keeping the foul smell away and 2) It’s low profile. There are a lot of places in that parking in cases somebody famous dies (like when that baseball player overdosed on cocaine.) The morgue was also the place of choice to enter the hospital incognito. I had to do it twice in the past to go see hospitalized clients. I went to high school with Bradley, the guard, so sneaking in by that way was never really hard for me.
I shoved two cotton sticks up my nose, waved to Bradley, who was reading a “Mini-Trucker Magazine” with both of his feet on the counter and made my way to Sylvia’s office. So much for the security level of this place, if body snatchers ever happen to hit Seattle, I’ll know who to blame. Syl wasn’t in her office, so my guess was that she was still with Winchester’s remains in the autopsy room. Going in would be rather easy, but I tried to prepare myself for what I was about to see there. I’ve been around a few corpses before this investigation, but they were rather fresh compared to a chief of police who spent a week-end underwater, they would look (and smell) like newly baked bread. No one was guarding the autopsy door, so I walked in like I would walk into my living room. When you’re trespassing somewhere, it’s always best to act natural. Any home robber will tell you this.
Sylvia instinctively turned around and yelled: “I TOLD YOU ALREADY, NO ONE BUT MEDICAL PERSONNEL ALLOWED”
“Michael, what the hell are you doing here?”
“Is this handsome fellow Glen Winchester?” I said, pointing the curiously colored remains with my chin.
The body was dismembered, just like Karen had told me. Body, Legs, arms, head. The arms were separated at the elbow and both legs at the knee. The pieces were all put together on the steel table representing approximately what used to be a body. I couldn’t have identified the guy as Glen Winchester to save my life though. What I had in front of me looked like gigantic, malformed, steroid injected stinky prunes. The chief of police was turned into a prime example of why people should fear water more than fire. At least getting burned is quicker and neater. Sylvia had both hands in the ribcage and had started to put the internal organs in separate bowls. Everything about the poor Glen was of purplish black color. Sylvia smiled while still looking down at what she was doing. Winchester’s ribcage was emitting squishy sounds.
“Not too hard on your stomach my poor Mikey?”
“Nothing years of therapy won’t solve” I said, looking in the holes where used to be Glen Winchester’s eyes.
“If it can answer your question, dentals are a match, that was the only part of him that wasn’t removed.”
“What do you mean?”
“I can’t say it for sure, but I can’t find the eyes or the tongue, so that leads me to think they got removed prior to death. There is also what I think are signs of profuse bleeding.”
“So Winchester has been tortured, then killed, then dismembered, but the people that did this don’t care if the body is found?”
“Yep, sounds like Tony Cullen and his bullies to me young man.”
“You think so? Tony’s style is more of two bullets in the neck, two cement shoes and a sleeping bag. His bodies take months to come back up.”
Sylvia sighed, looked at me and asked:
“How are your brothers Mike?”
“Good, I have been busy lately, so we haven’t chat much, but we eat at John’s this Sunday, you want to crash in?”
“Nah, I am working twelve to midnight on Sunday. I would’ve loved to. Thanks for the invite.”
“No problem Syl. You’re always welcome. Tell me, you’ve got a C.O.D. on this?”
“Yep, exsanguination, the jugular and the carotid artery.”
“Someone slit his throat?” I asked, surprising myself, hoping Winchester had a merciful death.
“Maybe, but from the indentation marks I’d say his head got severed while he was still alive.”
A brutal death for a brutal man. Odd though for someone so highly placed on the right side of law. This kind of death is usually reserved to the prisoners of war or to the people with huge debts. Glen Winchester was neither of them and his body was most likely disposed by the guys he foresaw as his successor.
“A surgical bone saw”.
My heart jumped within my chest.
“Are you sure?”
“A hundred percent positive, I could do tests here if you want to compare.”
“No, no, it’s ok with me. When are you going to be done? We could go take a coffee after?”
“Don’t wait for me Mikey, I’m working until 6 today. After that I have my man to attend to.”
“All right” I said “Say hi to Carl to me.”
I headed out but I heard Sylvia’s voice saying “Mike wait.”
I turned heels, but I kept a hand on the door.
“My questions is what are YOU up to? Why are you asking me these questions on Winchester?”
There was a few people in the world I could trust. My family, Sylvia and oddly enough Tony Cullen. None of them ever failed me. I shouldn’t have opened my mouth, but blame it on first big case jitters, I did.
“Well…there is this case I’m on…”
“Is it related?” she asked me, sounding alarmed.
“Well, not really, but…”
“But? Mike? Don’t try your little thing on me. If you slip out I’ll call your brothers.”
“Well, remember my ex girlfriend Karen?”
“Karen Tinsley? Yeah she’d date Lieutenant Greenwell now right?” asked Sylvia, rhetorically. She always had such a good memory.
“Karen Tinsley herself.”
“What about her? She thinks Greenwell is involved?”
“Yeah, how do you know?”
Sylvia put her nightmarish surgical instruments aside, removed her plastic gloves and went to the sink to wash her hands.
“I’m almost done, I’ll let Doctor Griffin finish and handle the cops, he loves the spotlight anyway. We need to talk.”
Doctor Cordell Griffin was Sylvia’s colleague at the morgue, their shifts collided for four hours every time, because the hospital was required having two doctors in the morgue at every time. Syl hated that guy and thought very poorly of his skills, but she remained extremely professional towards him at all time. Griffin wasn’t a bad doctor, he was just a camera whore. Sylvia took me by the arm and almost threw me in her office.
“Mike, I know I can trust you with this.”
“Whatever it is, you can.” I said, confused.
She lowered her tone and said in my ear:
“Mike, I think someone from law enforcement killed Glen Winchester. There is too many evidence pointing for that. He has been tortured and dismembered using material only police would have access to. I don’t see who else.”
I decided to be a hundred percent honest with Sylvia. I was making myself vulnerable to her by giving her information of such nature, but she was an interesting ally to have:
“Look Syl, don’t repeat what I’m about to say, but I know that Trevor Greenwell is implicated. I don’t know to what extent, but he’s aware about Winchester’s death and I know he’s the one that disposed of the body.”
Sylvia had a shocked look on her face and said : “Poor Karen…does she know that Greenwell disposed of the body”.
“Yeah, she told me”.
“Poor thing….Mike…why do you think Glen Winchester died? I don’t get it?”
I thought about it for a second and then said:
“Sylvia, plenty of people had a good reason to kill the old man. What’s my concern here is to find who and why was it done in such a horrible way. What message was he trying to get through? To who? Sylvia, if you know about anything strange that happened to Glen Winchester in the last few weeks I have to know, Karen’s security might be at sake”.
She sat on her desk and put her head in her hand, thinking. Then she had an illumination: “Well, I don’t know if it’s of any help, but Winchester changed a good portion of his staff after the latest drug raid. He suspected some of his sergeant to have taken some of the stash, the numbers they got and the numbers they gave the press don’t add up…and you know Winchester. He’s trigger happy about this kind of thing. Greenwell was suspected too, but he was kept around.”
“That can help, thanks a lot Syl, I’ll let you back to your work”.
She nodded. We kissed on the cheeks and I left the way I came. Bradley still had his head buried in May’s edition of “Mini-Trucker Magazine.” Thanks to the O’Learys, I had now a lot on my plate to investigate about. The Greenwell family, the drug bust, the Winchester administration…hell….the registry of people having access to bone saws…it’s not your usual black market thing. I stopped at the flower shop and sent anonymously a dozen roses to the O’Leary household. I sent a card saying: “Thank You for all the fish.” ? I’m an idiot like that sometimes. Blame it on youth.
Friday, December 18, 2009
What I thought was just a cruel joke earlier in the morning revealed itself to be true! I found early today on the web an announcement on a shady site, saying Heavy Rain short stories would be available on the PSN at 4,99$ each, the first being free with the pre-order. I highly doubted this to be true, as it was silenced by all the legit site. Surprise surprise though, the BBC of video game journalism, Kotaku has confirmed the announcement. Well excuse me while I quiver with joy, faint and pre-order at the same time.
I thought it was way too good to be true. With such an ambitious project, I thought it would be way too much work to do episodic content...to go with the freaking launch! It's great news and a great strategy to lure people into playing an unconventional game. There has been a series announced (which I think will be 4, one for each character), but the first is about Madison Paige, the journalist. As I can't wait to get my hands on it, I sure hope for a little Scott Shelby action. He's the guy that intrigues me the most. With all the other characters being brushed with the blunt ¨Hollywood Emotion¨ crayon, I'm really really intrigued about how such a level-headed looking guys is drawn into that grim tear-jerker of a story. Quantic Dream, I love you already.
You know, having a Qore year subscription and all, I never really got into the whole online beta testing that they offer. I passed my turn on Uncharted 2 and MAG (OK maybe I shouldn't have), but with Christmas coming and all, I tried my luck with the family friendly ModNation Racers from developers United Front. Being the first game trying to cash in on Little Big Planet's greatness, I had high hopes. Because you know...Little Big Planet and Super Mario Kart are probably two games you can play in heaven!
So I downloaded the whole shabang on my Playstation and made for an interesting afternoon to say the least. United Front gives you two open options at the start. Online Race or Quick Race. Before hand though, I judged good to make a turn at the mod shop where I could create my character. Of course, the options were limited, most things were locked and only accessible in the retail title. The level of customization is interesting though. There is up to a hundred choice by piece (eyes, ears , clothes, that sort of thing) and your character cannot end up looking like another one, even if you try. So therefore, you can grow attached to your little thingie. There is also a little choice of karts you can have. You can't design one, but you have a selection of I would say 30.
But enough of that. On with the racing. In itself, it's very very cool. The courses offered (three of them) are simple but fun. There is nothing better than beating someone and pulling badass moves as you do it and ModNation Racers offers you the possibility to do plenty of that. The dreaded buckle turn is just an occasion to pull a kick ass hand brake stunt...and for the stunts themselves...well there is a point system judging how kamikaze you really are. The camera stick is very sensitive, but within a race it's very useful and you learn how to master it quickly.
Props also to United Front for putting the lenghty intro as a part of the beta. I'm not going to spoil anything here, but it's fun and brings some meat for an eventual career mode(as a part of the retail). It's one thing I can tell you ModNation Racers had on Little Big Planet, their humor is more verbal than function. Therefore there is a lot more place for laughs and giggles.
But you know...sadly the fun stops there. The design is brilliant and the execution is simple but from an online QA point of view, this is broken as hell. I was only able to attend a Quick Race because the United Front servers...just...don't work. I got in a lobby twice, once to get kicked out when the game started...and the second time to find no one online. It's not my machine that is wrongly plugged, I had just capped a lot of people in Uncharted 2 Online an hour before and my connection to PSN
was numero uno. The servers were broken that's what's going on. Not very professional.
The loading times were also crazy unpredictable. I started playing early this morning (as soon as I got my voucher), but as the day went by...it was slower...and slower...and slower. I just got off to write this article because for the third time, my loading screen softlocked to imprison me in an endless loop.
The game itself? Great! I cannot see one person that could dislike that sort of game. The maintenance made for the Beta...not so great. I still have great expectations for you ModNation Racers but you better tidy up before the hour, it will save you from the bargain bin!
According to the colour code, things were not looking up. Once you hit the special operations unit in the army, they taught you plenty of things they didn't teach to the normal soldier. The colour code was one of them. That was a part of the risk management policy. How to break down the universe with mathematics. The colour code was used in the army when you had to evaluate if someone was following you. When you were travelling by car, at every street corner, you had to count the car colours behind you and make an average and quickly, you'd isolate the colours that came back the most and after five blocks, you'd be able to spot even the best hidden follower. Walter was applying the colour code so often that he wasn't even taking notes anymore. He counted the cars and made the mathematics operations in his head. Two blocks away from the theater, he could establish that a red Honda Accord and a green Subaru jeep were following them.
Jill had the idea to go see a movie. There was nothing to do really at the house but to watch Salvatore D'Ambrosio repair the swing in his backyard and receive the visit of ten to fifteen shady italian guys everyday. The mafiosi had a suprisingly structured routine for someone working with drugs, prostitution and murder. He got up every day at 6:00 AM, went jogging for an hour with his doberman, ate breakfast, left for the morning, came back, ate lunch, then repaired something around his luxurious house for the whole afternoon before eating dinner (always with guests) until late at night. He`d go off to bed around 11:00 PM and would start his routine again the next time. Sal D'Ambrosio was a very regular man.
Target observation might had been fascinating for Walter, but Jill was getting bored at the house. Walter knew Aksoy wouldn`t come back to his house before D'Ambrosio would be in bed so, technically, they had nothing to do but to wait for the strange man to come back home. Although, after their strange escapade to the doctor`s office later that day, Walter highly doubted that Aksoy would come back home at night. At the visit, he recognized the traits of a man hardened by the fortunes of war. He knew Aksoy would prefer sleep three or four days on a cold cement floor rather than compromising whatever he was doing in his little demented clinic of his. So they were on their own.
The wait is a part of a soldier's duty. It's a good way to do useful things you wouldn't thing about when you're under fire. Things like preparing firepower or recon the field. After a whole afternoon of watching Sal D'Ambrosio kick around a few two by fours to fix the yard swing, Walter felt it was time to do team building activities with his partner. He found Jill on the living room couch, in a trance-like state in front of a show called ¨Dr.Phil¨. She was pretty happy to move from the house after an afternoon that had been dreadful to her. Walter agreed to the movie as he figured out that Aksoy wouldn't be back before the end of it anyway. He let Jill choose, so she settled for something called ¨Cloverleaf¨¨. Walter didn`t quite understand what the movie was about, but it displayed a catastrophe scenario, presumably a monster, and people having the survival skills of Marilyn Monroe on painkillers. He chuckled a few times during the representation, which got him a few puzzled looks from his partner.
She only asked him why he laughed in the car, after the representation, but then, Walter had spotted the two followers and the time was not to menial talk:
¨Walter, why did you laughed troughout the whole movie? It was supposed to spook you out you know?¨
¨Well, I guess they failed at their objective...see that green Subaru in the rear?¨
¨Yeah, look closely, it almost looks black because of the dark outside¨.
¨I guess, what about it?¨
¨He's been trailing us, front and back, along with the red honda you see ahead of us.¨
¨No way! What are we gonna do¨?
¨Fasten your seatbelt¨
¨Wait, who are they? Are you sure they're trailing us?¨
¨Fasten your seatbelt Jill.¨
¨All right ¨dad¨ ¨.
¨I ain't your dad, I'm your partner, but you're going to thank me on three, two, one....
Walter abruptly turned the steering wheel ninety degree and peeked through a car wash that was still opened. He entered backwards, so he was only going to get the car wet and soapy, but, if the two other cars wanted to follow him, they'd have to go by the same way, and being the first out of the car wash, he'd have the time to distance them in the suburban labyrinth of Bethesda`s residential streets. Jill emitted a short, high pitched scream when he started his movement, which got Walter on alert.
¨Don't, YELL like that.¨
Jill started to cry.
¨OK, sorry for yelling, I didn't mean it¨
¨Slow down please, you're going to get ourselves killed¨.
¨No, I'm going to get ourselves killed if I slow down partner.¨
¨Please Walter, you're scaring me.¨
¨Don't worry, I drove a humvee at a hundred and fifty miles an hour in the Kossovo mountains, you're safe with me.¨
Walter focused on the road. Jill was still crying, which was bizarrely affecting his emotional response, but he focused on the objective, which was to lose these two guys without alerting the police. He decided to use a move that he referred to as ¨the buckle¨, which he pulled on a broken highway in Bagdhad. He did the move a few times before, but it was the first time he would try it when there was some trafic on the road. War torn Bagdhad wasn't exactly a paradise for the automobile industry. Army vehicles, beat up lemons, horses and donkeys were the only thing you could find over there. But in special ops, they had this saying: ¨There's always a time for a first try.¨
The buckle was a simple confusion move. He'd hop on the highway to Washington D.C as soon as he'd have a distance with his pursuers, when over there, he'd carefully do a 180 degrees in order to turn around without leaving skid marks on the asphalt. Then he'd come back in the direction where he came from where the two pursuers were going to Washington D.C to chase him down. The logical move was to try to lose them in the big city, so they wouldn't expect a trained soldier to pull a full circle and come back where they started.
As Walter pulled the buckle on the Interstate highway, a sports car was cruising down in direction of Washington D.C at a blazing speed. When Walter pulled on the highway, the car pulled the breaks which emitted a screeching sound that meshed with another of Jill's high pitched screams. The car lost stability and tonneled over the vehicle that Walter was driving. Without loosing his momentum, he went back down the other highway exit and went back on his way to Bethesda. The move was pulled swiftly and by the time other people would realize what happened they would probably have forgotten the model and the colour of Walter`s Ford Escort.
The adrenaline went down a notch when Walter realized he hadn't been followed for over five blocks. He realized then that Jill's tears of fear made place to a quiet sob.
¨Come on¨, he said. ¨That was fun, wasn't it?¨
¨Come on partner! We owned these guys, they are probably on their way to Washington D.C looking all over the place for us. We'll come back home, have some cocoa for debriefing and go to bed. We had a rough day.¨
For only answer, Jill wrapped her arms around Walter`s right arm, put her head on his shoulder and said: ¨What's a debriefing¨?
¨Just a way to cool down after hard work Jill, nothing more.¨
Walter realized he might have spoken a bit too fast when they arrived to the house. He looked at his watch: 11:03 PM. In the driveway, there were three black vans, two black cars, and the lights were opened inside. There seemed to have the liveliness of a house party inside. Walter lowered the window of the truck and they could hear the voices of the people searching the house inside. Jill had stopped crying, she just looked at him and asked:
¨What do we do now?¨
¨I'll tell you what do. I go in there, and you go at the neighbors's house and call Mason. He left you his phone number?¨
¨Yeah, but what if they come to the neighbor to look out for me?¨
¨Believe me, they will look at every goddamn neighbor, but not this one.¨
¨Just trust me partner¨.
¨What are you going to do in there?¨
¨Just bake some pop-corn and watch by the window, there will be fireworks¨.
¨What?¨ he said,impatient for the incoming firearm showdown. He hadn't shot down anybdy for a few months.
¨Please, don't die.¨
He smiled at her. His smile had nothing warm or reassuring in it. It was a cocky smile that somebody gifted is giving you when he's being challenged.
¨I don't plan on it.¨ he said.
Walter hopped off the truck and whipped out a Beretta M9 handgun he was holding in his pants. Jill put a hand to her chest, surprised by the fact her partner was heavy the whole time, without her noticing it. She thought she developped a good eye when she trained with Harry. Walter took from the back seat a bulletproof vest, a twelve gauge shotgun and a RPG he kept there. He passed one of these multi-use belt that they sold in hardware stores around his waist and clipped the twelves gauge to a ring. He put bullet clips and shotgun rounds on the belt`s fanny pack and he inserted a grenade on top of the launcher. A Rambo-looking knife and the preparation was done. He passed a black trench coat over all of it to conceal the fact that he was so heavily armed and he was ready to go.
Jill stood on the sidewalk, mesmerized and silent. Walter smiled again. This time he seemed genuinely amused:
¨Partner, who are you?¨
He walked up to Jill, she had a step back but the fear in her eyes made Walter sure she wouldn't try to flee in panic or anything.
¨In every war, there are people like me. I'm the X factor. What I'm about to do here, I was brought in exactly for that. I hope you didn't like that house too much.¨
¨This is not a war Walter, this is an FBI investigation.¨
He caressed Jill's with the tenderness of fathers. She had been dragged into this for no good reason. Mason seeked revenge over Mike Penske and used her as a bait in a very dangerous mission. He could see in her eyes the gullible hope of children. She should not have been there, but like him, she was now into it neck deep.
¨Look, go see the neighbor and call 911 on the cell phone you were given. The police won't answer, it will be Harry. Then, look at the window and tell me if what you see is an investigation or a war.¨
She nodded and turned heels to Salvatore D'Ambrosio`s house. Walter knew he was awake and well aware of the suspicious activity in his new neighbor's house. No one around would be as well armed and dangerous to protect Jill from any kind of trouble.
Walter then, calmy made his way to the front yard of what had been ¨his¨ house for the last few weeks. He was about to blow his cover, but he couldn't care less. He felt good. Things were finally looking they were back to normal. The weight of the rocket launcher on his arm, the tingle of the shotgun rounds in the fanny pack, he was back in business.
The quiet front lawn was only disturbed by the muffled sounds from inside. Walter evaluated where should he shoot his grenade? They seemed to be concentrated in his bedroom, where most of the firearms are. It was a sure bet, if the ammo would explode, his bedroom would transform in a death machine for everyone on the floor for almost a minute. He aimed the rocket launcher to the window where he used to spy on the D'Ambrosio family.
¨Let me introduce myself¨, he said. ¨I am Walter, bringer of death and destruction.¨
He fired with a satisfaction smile on his face.