Saturday, May 9, 2015

The Golden Parachute Chapter 1: The Same River Twice

Willum Mortimus Granger is still dead. How then is he standing, larger than life, at the entrance to my office? “Knock knock” he proffers

Knock knock? When I last saw Granger he was definitely splitsville, cut in half by A his amoral yet strangely overzealous clone lab director

You say “Cut in half? That’s ridiculous! No one would believe that!” CSI-Miami disagrees. Watch “Die By the Sword”

Granger had had a series of organ replacements at his cloning lab “Body Parts R Us”. The generally accepted theory was he sought immortality

As his surgeon, A slipped Granger fast absorbing sutures during his last procedure and then switched his cell ringtone to “Call to Post”.

Befuddled by toxic honey from his exwife’s beeviary, Granger answered his phone and split in two as his bottom half took off down the track

I know, sounds like a crazy and overcomplicated way to knock someone off, but no more so than a high speed bike ride with a Japanese sword.

A asserted killing Granger saved mankind from some kind of bondage. Or from Little Caesar’s pizzas. I wasn’t completely clear on that point.

It was something about haute Shakespearean princes and bas cuisine. Not your typical motive for murder, but definitely above my pay grade.

Maybe A was a few Twitter followers shy of a flock. He wasn’t the only one of his 26 single lettered siblings I encountered on that case.

I exchanged harsh words, or at least hard consonants, with his brother B, partner to Granger’s failed enterprise, Lavender Blue Dilly Dilly.

Thanks to a verbal tussle with B I haven’t fully recovered my voiced bilabial fricative. And I haven’t yet figured out the mysterious Mr. X.

Any of the twenty six siblings had motive to knock Granger off but only A had the tapioca to do it. His sole mistake was to follow my tweets

Following my every move on Twitter, A stayed a step ahead of me as I was bee stung, scent drenched, de-catheterized, and nearly freeze died.

Yes, I survived a series of painful misadventures to bring A to justice. The generally accepted theory is I seek to avoid that again.

Who am I? My name is Arkaby. You don’t know about me unless you have read a book by the name of Executive Severance; but that doesn’t matter

That book was made by Robert K. Blechman and he told the truth, mainly. There was things which he stretched, but mainly he told the truth.

Until the Willum Granger murder my cases were all routine. Murder victims were found with various grievous injuries, but seldom cut in twain

It appears that Granger is now not dead and somehow reassembled himself. He has returned from the grave and I have his undivided attention.

That also seldom happens. He isn’t a cat, so I assume he couldn’t be both dead and not dead. There are only two possible explanations.

One, Granger is actually dead and this isn’t him. As he stands before me playing “knock knock” games, this alternative has a disadvantage.

Two, Granger isn’t dead. This IS him. How can that be? I had found his severed body and had shared freezer time with his better halves.

If it isn’t him, who or what is it? Could the lab rats at “Body Parts R Us” have assembled a clone Willum Granger out of spare body parts?

If it is him, how has he cheated death? Is he just not-dead or actually un-dead? Is his appearance here precursor to a zombie apocalypse?

Or did my senses deceive me? A slight disorder of the stomach makes them cheats. Could he be an undigested bit of beef, a crumb of cheese?

Is there more of gravy than of grave about him? The dickens if I know. All I know for sure is he doesn’t go away when I rub my eyes.

My stomach rumbles. Extended deliberation always makes me hungry. I realize the way to resolve this puzzle is a savage two-fisted rejoinder.

“Who’s there?” I reply. By seeming to play along I’ll get him to reveal his true identity. That’s how I keep my cards close to my chest.

“Not who you think I am” he says. I wasn’t expecting that. He’s obviously well versed in ‘knock knock’ strategy. I’m forced to get serious.

“Not who you think I am, who?” I counter. “Hunh?” He seems confused. So am I. I was expecting a punchline. “Ask me who I was” he replies.

“Who you was, were - when?” “What?” “When were you who you were?” “What do you mean?” “To ask who you were, I need to know when you were.”

“Why do you need to know when?” “You are different people at different times. Willum Granger (2009) is clearly not Willum Granger (2013).”

“One tiny difference: Granger ‘09 was alive. Granger ‘13 has been four years dead. To understand who you were I need to know when you were.”

“And where. Granger wholly in the afterlife clearly is not Granger partially here on earth.” The doppelgänger clutches his head and moans.

“Look, there’s an essential question you haven’t asked.” “Yes. Do zombies get splitting headaches? That would be ironic.” He moans again.

“Wrong question. The cause and the cure for a zombie headache are the same. Use your brain. You’ve missed signs of a different apocalypse.”

“A better question is Why did Body Parts R Us perform all of Granger’s augmented clone surgery? Why were they trying to create a superman?”

“Didn’t those cloned augmentations go awry? I was told that during a brain transplant they switched Granger’s right and left hemispheres.”

“It’s a mistake anyone could make.” I look at him doubtfully. “How could A make Granger a superman if he wasn’t in his right right mind?”

“It’s not how it’s why.” “OK. Why?” “Instead of outering human abilities as our tools, superheroes internalize our tools as super powers.”

“Granger wanted super powers to prepare for when there might be no tools. Too bad A stopped him.” “What in the world are you talking about?”

“Ask yourself, why would anyone want the ability to leap a tall building, outpower a locomotive or run faster than a speeding bullet?”

“To stop bad guys.” He looks at me. “You are reputed to be a hard case. Is this true?” “Yes. I don’t have super powers but I’m hard enough.”

“Hard enough to deal with the end of the world as we know it?” “Depends” “Depends? On what?” “Are you speaking literally or figuratively?”

“There are plans afoot to alter the very structure of reality.” “Uh hunh. You’re starting to sound like an undigested bit of beef again.”

Granger’s doppelgänger lets out a great moan. “Unn! You are so difficult to talk to! Man of the worldly mind! Do you believe in me or not?’’

“Look pal, you waltz into my office masquerading as a dead man, chatter about altering reality and I’m the one who’s difficult to talk to?”

“Masquerading? Dead man? Who do you think I am?” “I’d bet my last shilling you’re an actor sent to pwn me.” “Did you just say ‘shilling’?”

“No I said ‘dime’ as in ‘I’d bet my last DIME.’” “You said shilling.” “I’m sure I didn’t.” “You really said SHILLING.” “NO, I said DIME.”


“HOW ABOUT I BEAT YOU WITH THE BLUNT OBJECT APP ON MY CELL PHONE?” He looks at me, then takes his phone, taps the screen and shows it to me.

On his Twitter account I see my words “I’d bet my last shilling…” Like a swift gut punch I realize the truth. “You follow me on Twitter?”

“Yes. You didn’t learn a lesson when A tagged your tweets last time.” A had spied on my Twitter feed during the Granger murder inquiry.

His Twitter awareness gave him an advantage in evading me. It also came to so preoccupy his attention that he ultimately gave himself away.

“OK. I said shilling. So what?” “You said shilling but remember dime.” “But what does it mean?” “I fear it may be earlier than I thought.”

“Earlier than you thought? Don’t you mean later?” “Later than what?” “Later than you thought.” “No, it’s earlier.” “How can it be earlier?

“While you engaged A in your half-twitted combat, gears turned and actions were taken.” “I disagree. Our confrontation was fully twitted.”

“When technologies clash there are winners and losers. In this case I won, A lost. Why did you say earlier?” “We may be ahead of ourselves.”

“The shilling has been gone since 1991, yet you referred to it as still in circulation. In addition, you’re not even British.” “Not lately.”

“A slip of my tongue is the result of time travel?” “One unanticipated consequence of a reality shift can be a phasing in and out of time.”

“If my tendency to tongue slip is a passing phase, this tale will be much shorter.” “One can only hope.” His words give me a lot to ponder.

I am onto something. I need to quickly get off. I’d best keep my tongue to myself. He paces back and forth. “This is really bad.” he says.

“If I grant your time-warped hypothesis,” I say “what has it got to do with me?” “You are the only regularly tweeting member of the police.”

“I just reality-checked you with your own Tweet. That’s what’s needed as our reality is attacked.” “What I saw is a cheap parlor trick.”

“There isn’t a shilling’s worth of proof in your argument and I use ‘shilling’ on purpose.” “You haven’t noticed the unexplained shortages?”

“And sudden unexpected outages?” “Why does that have anything to do with it?” “Item: The Chinese corner the market on rare earth minerals.”

“Item: Droughts, exports and ethanol create a corn shortage which produces a shortage in pork, beef and Doritos.” “I have one question.”

“What?” “Are we talking football stadium level power outages?” “Bigger than that. Think New York City in 2012. That was part of the plan.”

I was caught uptown with my pants down when the lights went out and the tide came in. “Not the hurricane? How about the 2003 NYC blackout?”

“NYC 2003 was just run-of-the-mill incompetence. But include the Fukushima meltdown, the Eyjafjallajökull volcano and the Twilight Saga.”

This is all hard to swallow much less pronounce. “You believe that every bad thing that happened in the past decade is part of some plot?”

“Except 9/11, of course.” “Which wasn’t part of the grand plot?” “No, which happened more than a decade ago.” “I find you hard to believe.”

“So, Detective, you can find something, sometime. I was beginning to think you stole Arkaby’s identity.” Nobody likes the smart aleck dead.

He sits in my guest chair. “Which part of my warning gives you trouble?” “All of it. Next you’ll be saying we’ve never been to the moon.”

“If only. I’m not that kind of lunatic.” “What kind are you?” He stares balefully at me. “You must visit three places” he says. “No thanks.”

“‘No thanks’?” “Last time I mixed it up with you people my mind left my body, I ran naked through a hospital and I was locked in a freezer.”

“I was hit on the head, stung by bees, plunged facefirst into a bowl of tapioca and nearly recited poetry.” “Sounds like a good time to me.”

“I owe the hospital over $30,000. I’m on semi-permanent police suspension and I wasn’t showcased at last year’s #TwitterFiction Festival.”

“There’s nothing you can say to make me get involved again.” “What if I told you that Regi was already deep into this and in great danger?”

Damn! Regi is Regna RG Granger. Her name is the same backwards or forwards and her initials don’t stand for anything. “I’m in.” I say.

Her father, the late Willum Granger, who may not be as late as expected and who may be standing before me, had an obsession for palindromes.

“Willum” is almost a palindrome, flipped at the end rather than reversed. How hard it must have been to live with a twisted palindrome name.

If Granger’s parents named him “Williw” instead of “Willum” would he have given Regi a more unidirectional appellation? Probably not.

But that, like a palindrome, is neither here nor there, or perhaps both here AND there. Granger is no doubt dead. Regi is very much alive.

Regi was ready to try anything twice if she liked it. Once if she didn’t. I couldn’t imagine a chance she wouldn’t hazard. Or a vice versa.

We first met at “Body Parts R Us”. I had been multitasking while driving, my mind left my body and I was prepped for cosmetic surgery.

When I first saw Regi, I felt something “click” in my solar plexus. When she yanked out my catheter I felt something “click” a bit lower.

“I won’t be able to use this for a month!” I cried. “I can wait.” she replied. Regi was a tall, cool drink I wanted to swallow in one gulp.

Anyone could see she needed no body part swapped. She had infiltrated Body Parts R Us under false pretenses to look into her father’s death.

“Your mind and body separated.” she noted, “Why are you prepped for cosmetic surgery?” “A beautiful mind is a terrible thing to waste.”

After Regi freed me from my medical tethers, we stumbled upon the horrors of the BP R U Genetics Museum where they had rhyme, but no reason.

Granger’s doctors had tailored his genes, cutting DNA corners, purging vestigial nucleotide sequences, swapping in augmented body parts.

Not content to surmount mortality through the miracle of cloning, Granger unnaturally selected a climb further up the evolutionary ladder.

So he thought. With some surgical malpractice, a compelling racetrack tune and a dollop of tapioca, A severed Granger’s higher aspirations.

Contemplating your own Executive Severance? You can download the fatal racetrack ringtone “Call To Post”:

But you didn’t hear it from me. Ignoring all my calls since our near fatal tryst in the Morgue freezer, Regi has given me the cold shoulder!

We both came out of the freezer with cold shoulders in the course of our aborted frozen entree, but I really thought we made a connection.

I’ve tried Facetiming her. I’ve tried Sametiming her. I’ve even tried two-timing her, just to get her attention. That didn’t work out well.

And now what happened to Regi? I turn back to the Granger doppelgänger, but he has disappeared! Leaping from my seat, I run for the door.

And collide with my implausible visitor. “Where did you go?” “You were lost in thought for so long I stepped out for a drink of water.”

“Every time I mention Regna you zone out. You must care for her.” “Baloney. She’s tall blond and easy to look at, NOT my kind of dame.”

“Uh huh. If you’re fading off somewhere again, I’m going out for a sandwich.” Since when does a ghost need to eat? “What happened to Regi?”

“She disappeared in the Bermuda Triangle.” No wonder she hasn’t returned my calls! “Why do you think that?” “She hasn’t returned my calls.”

“What was she doing down there?” “What I’ve tried to tell you. She enrolled as a student at a Caribbean medical school to gather facts.”

“Regna was always attracted to medicine. She grew up surrounded by the bleeding-edge medics at Body Parts R Us working with her father.”

“Posing as a medical student, she was trying to find out who is behind all the shortages and outages.” “At a Caribbean medical school?”

“It IS warmer there during the school year not to mention the scuba diving. Anyway, she didn’t have the MCAT scores for a stateside school.”

“So you’re saying any old Caribbean medical school would do. How did she end up lost in the Bermuda Triangle?” “You need to find out.”

It was a moment of decision. Do I stay safe, in debt and out of work, or do I risk my life, my fortune, my sacred honor to pursue a fantasy?

Do I go off on some harebrained quest with no support, no chance of success and little hope of survival? My gut knew I had only one choice.

“I can’t do it. Your very existence is doubtful. Therefore, anything you say is in doubt. You want me to risk everything on nothing,”

“There’s $50,000 in it for you. I’ll have cash in an escrow account by morning.” What did my gut know anyway? It was a moment of decision.

“I’ll do it. Here’s my plan: First, Find Regi.” “Fantastic!” “Second, look into the reality-altering scheme you’re worried about.” “Great!”

“Third, I’ll get the British to reinstate the shilling.” “I think you miss my point.” Fourth, I’ll learn how to pronounce Eyjafjallajökull.”

“That’s EYE-a-fyat-la-jo-kutl.” “If you say so. I have one question.” “What more do you need to know?” “Not who you think I am WHO?” “Hunh?”

“You’re not a ghost?” “No.” “Are you a figment of my imagination caused by a fragment of beef?” “No.” “Willum Granger, resurrected?” “No.”

“Returned from the beyond to warn me?” “NO.” “His zombie?’ “NO!” “So you must be his clone.” “In a manner of speaking.” “What do you mean?”

He backs toward the door which opens a little wider with every step until it is fully open. “Stressed spelled backwards is desserts” he says.

I’m not stressed but I want dessert so I go to the door. He has vanished! Whether he faded into mist, or mist enshrouded him, I can’t tell.

Faster than you’d say “doppelgänger” he is gone. Then from behind the door he says “My time grows short. Methinks I scent the morning air.”

“Yeeeah! Don’t do that!” He had been there all the time. “You must” “I know visit three places.” “I was going to say ‘get your door fixed’.”

“It swings opens by itself.” “I’ve been meaning to get it fixed.” “Kind of creepy, when it opens like that.” ‘Well, you should know creepy.”

“I’d argue that anything creepy has been in your own mind.” “Bah, Humbug!” “Check it out yourself. Just get started before it’s too early.”

“Do you have any suggestions about where to begin looking for Regi?” “The University has administrative offices stateside. I’d start there.”

“Don’t let them know I sent you” “I won’t” “Or why you’re probing.” I wouldn’t “Or tell them my name.” “I can’t. I don’t know who you are.”

“Be careful. The for-profit education business is brutal.” “And their stateside office is where I’ll find Regi?” “No. It’s a cheaper trip.”

“Wait. Before you vanish again, what do I call you?” “Don’t call me, I’ll call you.” With that he walks out and disappears down the hallway.