Friday, October 23, 2009

Sin City, Alpha Flight, the Question, Marv and more: Basin City Blues part two

“Basin City Blues, pt. 2”
Vic Sage watches a person in priestly robes on his knees, hands open in supplication as though he seeks complete surrender and communion with some higher power, his gaze facing above the pulpit, while at the back of the 1000 seat chapel Sage stands silently stock-still.
He sits with bated breath into one of the pews, as the apparent priest asks clearly aloud: ‘How will I know this Lady of Light? When will the world twist as before my eyes? How do I know, I am not still bound in purgatory?” Vic bows his head very low, listening inquisitively to this private soul searching.
But the soul for which he has sought---which, indeed, brought both of these unrelated men to this place---walks in from the vestibule, the lady tall, slender, yet demure, in black, her cuffs and closely-drawn neckline all in white lace, as is her belt. She is near to tears, stepping forward quickly, then pacing gently, releasing her sobs, staggering towards forgiveness.
Now newest friar of Cardinal Rourk’s parish, who stabbed the air with desperately pointed questions, turns allowing himself a slight smile. “There is no need for doubt, my child,” he says, for his own benefit as much as hers, “faith has brought you here for solace. Come to me, ye heavy laden.”
“I—I have sinned with such abandon, and I don’t remember why.” she says, softly, “I must be confessed of this cross I bear.” Sage places her accent as French Canadian.
“Then take up your cross,” he says, turning towards the confessional booth, gesturing grandly to the left wing of the cathedral,” and follow me.”

As Sage furtively takes leave of the chapel, he begins checking the church for online stories on his Blackberry. He walks nervously down the hallways into an adjourning wing, as his brain connects the image of someone he saw casually snooping around outside.
“Linebacker for the Packers,” he recalls, “Bartkowski? What was it...Langkowski!”
His phone finds the story in the previous week’s paper, how longtime parishioner Rev. Enock Fell was leaving this cathedral after twenty-two years of service, to be replaced by a Rev. Candela. Fishy thing about the priest’s transfer to Hub City: where’s any follow-up announcement about it in Hub City?
He peeks into a window, from a couple of feet back, and sees a classroom-type setting entirely packed with women: Thai, Filipino, Russians, Brazilians. He is suddenly not sure if this is a Sunday school class; there was nothing to keep the public away... but he surreptitiously slips into a broom closet as two tough-looking guys in pin-striped suits in keeping with church come down the hall.
As Sage shifts quietly inside the back of the closet and watches from a quarter inch of cracked open door, the two men pause there to talk about their problems. “I’m losing valuable time...” he thinks, as he releases the gas from his belt to bond to his face as his featureless mask.
“You been awfully open about your family situation today, Mac.”
“It’s the stuff that makes me, you know,” Mac replies. “All I know is, I got into this to pay the house off quicker, then I got caught up in the poker games and the late nights...but I’m still doin’ this for my kids! I’ve got good money sitting at the table every week to keep us afloat, and Martha shops for the stylish clothes.”
“You gonna try’n quit for them?”
“Might as well as Wall Street to stop stealin’! Once you figure out what you deserve and you know how to get it, what of it? ‘Sides, how’m I gonna quit now? I’m in the hole for services rendered, if you know whut I mean!”
The Question steps out of the closet and delivers a roundhouse to the chin of the one guy while punching Mac, saying,
“At least then you could see your own face in the mirror!”
He kicks Mac out cold while Mac kneels before him; “but for what it’s worth,” he says, parting, “here’s your absolution.”

As the Question rushes out the nearest exit, he peels off his mask, asking himself, “what am I doing here? I don’t need the Question or Vic Sage giving these guys a heads-up...but the girl herself is my only remaining clue, and I don’t need a clue to feel uneasy about this chapel. I can’t take chances, she’s in incredible danger. But I still haven’t seen anything that couldn’t be explained away...did I serve my own impatience and thirst for violence?”

Running out to the lawn beside the church, Vic Sage sees blond, broad, serious-faced Walter Langkowski. Vic continues at a more casual pace, jogging, attempting to conserve all energy and not startle the object of his attention, who he reaches while Langkowski successfully flags down a cab. Ahead of him, another taxi is departing, to his apparent consternation.
“Excuse me, you’re Walter Langkowski?”
“Who are you?”
“Vic Sage, reporter for...”
“I don’t do interviews. This is my cab, excuse me.”
“Aren’t you looking for someone?” Sage blurts out, desperate to keep conversing.
“Isn’t that why you are here at this church? Maybe why---both of us are here?”
Walt puts up a hand like a level, smooth chop, divorcing himself from contact. “Like I told them inside, I’m considering a chapel for a wedding.”
“That’s good. Maybe I should’ve thought of that myself, because I assure you I am in no way affiliated with this organization. You have every right to distrust them, in my opinion.”
“I want this cab following her,” Langkowski says to the cabbie, handing him a hundred dollar bill. He turns to Sage: “All in, or all out.” Sage climbs in beside Langkowski.
“I could see it in your eyes, you care for her,” Vic says point blank.
“Yeah,” Walt replies tersely. He keeps his eyes ahead on the road, crouching forward.
“So what’s the connection with the church? Help an out-of-towner connect the dots here.”
“She was raised in a convent by the loving grace of the state department, who let her brother be adopted by a couple who really could only take one child. I played a longshot, a hail Mary, because all my question have yielded zilch---I went back to what I knew about her, in case she went back to what she had known in order to find herself. In case she was free, but lost.”
“Lost,” Vic says, tentatively, then shifting his line of inquiry. “What do you know about kidnappers?”
“I am no gum shoe, in fact professionally I’m a trained scientist,” Walt replies. “I have wallowed in this town, gradually putting out interest in whoever trades in human beings. I’ve put my feelings down inside, so my mind could analyze things as a process. Only one name came up more than once; most of the other times, they decided to blow me off. Do you know anything about a white slavery business run by Manuel?”
The cabbie laughs snarkily. “Mister, Manuel you talking about, and his brothers? Dead, man. Been dead! Gunned down! Pkrr! Brat-a-tat-tat! Ha Ha! You lookin’ for a ghost, dude!”
Walt exhales in disgust. “Then just don’t lose this girl.”
“What, you want me to follow this girl home?” he replies. “What you do is your business, man, but at least appeal to my sense of decency!”
“More money?” snaps Vic.
“There’s no need to insult my chivalry,” he replies.
“Okay, okay, maybe this isn’t the best idea,” says Walt. “Have you ever given her a ride to work, then? Some place public I can meet her?”
“For all I knew, you was a stalker,” the cabbie points out. “I mean, considering where she works! Heh-heh!”
“What about it?” says Vic.
“I can almost remember the name of it,” says the cabbie, taking off his hat to scratch his head. Tiny flakes flutter out the window, many lighting on his shoulder as he continues. “I ain’t gonna lie to ya, I don’t try to get mixed up in people’s bidness. I must work eighteen hours a day; I have to sleep in this thing with no air conditioning when gas is too high! I am fuzzy about my log when you ask me about fares from, three, four months back? Maybe longer!”
“Sigh...does this help?”
“Don’t sweat it,” says Walter. “Money, I got! Green Bay was very generous back in the day. Can’t remember the last time I begged for anything...except from Aurora, heh.”
“Mmm...” says the cabbie, in mock contemplation. “I appreciate you trying to encourage me...hold on, where do you guys want to go now?”
“Might as well take us to the place, if you can remember it...”
“Well, if I drive around a bit, maybe it’ll hit me...” the cabbie says, becoming the background while Vic asks, “Aurora---is that her name?”
“Why don’t you know?” says Walter.
“All I know is people smuggling animals in Hub City got tied up in moving a person of interest around safely, inconspicuously, with the rest of a rather expansive slavery operation.”
“Damn! Jeanne-Marie Beaubier is her given name...she once shared an apartment with me in Vancouver, where I continued my research after I retired from pro ball.”
“I’ll just start with going to Old Town,” says the cabbie. “We should be able to figure things out from there!”

Some hours later, Vic and Walt are cooling their heels in Kadie’s, nursing cold beers as the evening’s entertainment begins.
Vic asks Walter a personal question: “Why don’t you just walk up to her when you see her?”
Walter leans back, exhales, stares ahead, then looks Vic in the face. “Jeanne-Marie has what people used to call a split-personality. It’s been a lifelong issue for her. I don’t mention it lightly.” He scans Vic’s face for a reaction, but all he gets, of course, is an inquisitive blank, awaiting the words.

“One part of her is deeply repressed, always prim, proper, and frankly, not in touch with her feelings,” he continues. “Intelligent, a trained mind, disciplined, reserved. The next personality to come along was her using those brains to figure out she is a free spirit, very brave, a woman of her own choosing---but reckless.”
“And you love the second one?” Vic offers.
“No, not exactly...she integrated those selves into a more settled, responsible personality, a very capable person...the things I wanted to see in myself, exalted by her feminine form...and I don’t know if I’m ever going to see that person again. But I will do everything in my power to protect Jeanne-Marie.”

Also awaiting her arrival where she works, Marv sits out of sight atop the mezzanine level of the club, overlooking the tables from stage left. Marv recalls being picked up by Nancy Callahan the night he shadowed the Dawn Angel to her abode...when Nancy’s observations of customers of some particularly nasty nature inspired Marv to pay attention and find the petite bald man, who he happens to note has returned tonight, apparently drinking alone.

“It just so happens she lives at the address she listed on her application,” explained Nancy. “I always know where to find your spare keys...for moving it in your absence, in case someone wants to car bomb your Caddie or some other crime against the country...God knows no-body will ever have the nerve to strip it!”
“I recognize that guy driving off,” says Marv. “He’s one of Rourk’s fighting dogs.”
“Did this girl invite you to prowl around her apartment playing Secret Service?” asked Nancy sarcastically.
Marv recalls: “Just wondering if the two guys who pulled up are the ones Nancy didn’t like. She doesn’t want to help me explore any curiosity about the situation, either. She thinks I’ll die. She worries I’ll kill. She thinks I don’t listen, but I do.”

He recalls her cursing, and saying, “people will die, Marv. At the end of the day, what do you think you will accomplish, my friend?” She swore. “I hate it when you won’t listen to me, Marv. Now I want you to take me back to my apartment---I carpooled with Rhona, I never have to worry about driving my own car, at any am I in the will for the car, Marv?”
He looked at her and gave a little smile.

1 comment:

  1. I like the flow, though I don't get the plot.

    - Mahesh Rajasuriya