Most badass sea turtle ever.
Turtle, Chapter One
Old Man Frog was my master. I’d been apprenticed since I was ten. Two years left to eighteen, then I think the old man is gonna retire and make me the head watercatcher, which is a cushy gig for life on a ship like this.
Jeni’s mom, well, Jeni’s mom: Jeni and I had been friends since we were born, because our parents had been friends together in the raid, the big raid, the one that got us back on the Turtle. My mom was a weather specialist like me, it runs in the blood, and she summoned, well, I’m told she summoned quite a storm in her day. Jeni’s mom had of course been at the head with her maul swinging too and fro, my mom in the back reigning lightning on the Belandian pricks who were occupying it.
Difference is, Jeni’s mom’d made it. So now she’s a pirate princess. Mine didn’t. I got apprenticed to Old Man Frog. I can’t complain: power of lightning at my fingertips and an assured position on one of the biggest pirate vessels on the forty seas.
Artist's depiction of us sneaking in.
Last time I went to the Horned Ball, I was still living with Edward.
What a motherfucking lunatic.
He’s so crazy he told me to use his real name in this book.
But I didn’t.
Hanging out with Edward, I learned this: if you are friends with a pathological liar, you never have to pay the cover.
We’re from Gawker, he says.
I’m an innocent looking guy. I have an innocent face. I have an inherent Midwestern quality that just makes me look ineffably honest.
Plus I’m a giant. That helps out crashing a party even more than you might think. When I start walking people kinda sorta just start to dodge.
He’s my photographer, he says.
I nod again.
After we’re stamped and in, he tells me he knew he had to say Gawker.
If it was anyone else, they wouldn’t have let us in, he says.
I’m not really sure what Gawker is, even now.
Its some website or something, right?
Anyways, I’m used to going everywhere for free, so we just get stamped and pop in. Inside, its pretty fun.
Edward’s a talker and a charismatic savant. We meet people. We meet a lot of people. We meet some people you maybe don’t necessarily want to know. But we do meet them.
This was the night where Edward took the first steps to joining what he would later describe as a cult, and, I believe, the first steps towards his suicide attempt.
Like I said, people you maybe don’t necessarily want to know.
That was also the night I met Ki. More about her later.
The cult that Edward joined was not the Kostume Kult, btw. It was an entirely different cult. A weird electro-shaman-2012-apocalypse-monster-porno cult. Yes, I said monster-porno. The cult made monster porno.
They called it monsterotica.
That’s a completely different story, the cult thing, one I’ll get to in due time. Lets talk about Horned Ball.
I went. I didn’t know anyone. I couldn’t have felt more welcome.
I spent several days scouting stores to construct a costume. I ended up descending into the undergraduate costume rental shop at the University I attend. I’m not saying I bribed anyone, but I had an awesome costume.
Shorts and shirtless of course. Bouquets of green and yellow fabric spilling behind and around me. Leaves in a garland around my neck. One hand was covered in a gigantic leaf-glove borrowed from the costume shop. The other held a twice-folded leaf-patterned pillowcase full of yellow flower-bearing sticks. As soon as I got there, I had someone paint leaves all over my body.
I was plantman. These are the new hippies.
The theme of this party was Vikings, and berserking was encouraged in the invite, but everyone, everyone I saw, was at peace with themselves and the world.
| More Bushwick |
We took the train across the bridge, the light red against the buildings.
Every time we got to Manhattan we realized there was a nice world after all.
Manhattan has trees.
| More Bushwick |
Totes Animal Besties!
First day I saw a Conch was the first day I fell in love.
I was working at the water tower. It was my job to catch water. A ship does not last long at sea without it.
It was raining, just a little.
Jeni’s head popped over the lip of the ladder. She was wearing her red and black bandana.
I was directing a few minor elemental spirits as they stole water from the clouds and filled the tower with it. You know, standard stuff.
I looked up at her and I was stunned.
Thankfully I recovered before she looked at me.
“Look what I got out of the loot,” she said.
Two brand new Conches. Wow.
“One is for me and one is for you,” she said.
“There are like a thousand of these in the world right now,” I said.
“I know,” she said, “Enjoy.”
“So there was another raid?” I asked.
“Of course,” she said, “The ship can’t sustain itself. Until we get a full food and water system running we need to suplement.”
“Is that what your mom said,” I asked.
She rolled her eyes at me.
“Something like that, yeah,” she said.
“Let’s open them,” I said.
I chained the spirits ethereally and stepped out of the pentagram. Jeni put the Conches on the table. We sat down on those little wooden lab stools I used to have.
They were strange devices: flat, no visible markings, no buttons.
“What are these worth, like one million in magical components alone,” I asked.
“I don’t know,” she said, “And no one else on this ship does either, so keep your damn mouth shut about that, and some pirate won’t take it from you.”
Then she turned it on.
Up leapt dragons and unicorns, aswirl around us in pink and blue.
And that was just the opening animation.
We were hooked.
I had a picture of dragons and unicorns, but I like this one of a pig and a dog better.
You could call anyone. Anyone at all in the world. And since only wizards and rich people had them, everyone would answer.
I called the head of Wizardry at Montsalon. Montsalon!
He talked to me for an hour about a spell I was working on. Just because he wanted to try out the Conch. That’s how I learned to summon storm demons.
Jeni called the head of the Ytl Navy and told them where our ship was. That wasn’t wise. It made me a bit nervous. There are warrants out for my arrest in Ytl. Hers too.
And, then, the topper.
We called the King of Belandia.
And he answered.
“Hello,” he said.
“Hello, is this Adonard the 3rd?” asked Jeni.
“It is we,” he said, “To whom are we speaking?”
“I am the great pirate Jeni! And I have kidnapped the wizard Tuco!” she shouted.
She put her right arm around my neck and with her left hand drew her sword. It was a little intimidating. She was always bigger than me.
She shouted even louder, “I am the great pirate Jeni! And I have kidnapped Tuco the royal wizard!”
A couple of gulls squawked and flew off the tower.
Adonard looked fazed, for a second. Then he turned to look away from the Conch.
He said, “General Darington, do we have a royal wizard by the strange name of Tuco?”
The King nodded, and then he said, “You have nothing of mine. Now be off, or I will have you flogged!”
Its not every day you prank a King.
He couldn’t figure out how to turn off the Conch. He kept fumbling with it. We kept getting glimpses of satin furniture and bejeweled mirrors.
He even dropped the Conch down the sleeve of his robe. We went with it, sliding down auburn silk in the glow of the Conch’s crystal light.
A long arm reached in and pulled us out.
He put us up to his face and spit on us.
He was a mean looking man in a uniform and a mustache. General Darington.
He turned off the Conch.
We rolled around on the floor in laughter.
From that day on she was the great pirate Jeni and I was royal wizard Tuco.
And while we lived on the Turtle, we were never apart.
Chapter One: Rex
Chapter Two: Janet
Chapter Three: Albion
Rex Banion, idiot.
Not that I don’t appreciate him solving our dilemma with Daddy’s
little secret society games, but a man should know when someone’s
plotting his death. Its probably the booze. Coming in here with
whiskey on his breath. There is a constable stationed in the security
office, and if Rex hadn’t ducked him he could have been arrested.
I took a sip of my martini.
I picked up the phone and dialed zero.
“Miriam,” I said.
“Yes, Ms. Hemingway,” she said.
“Rex is leaving, have Henson and Jacobson follow him,” I said.
“Yes, Ma’am,” she said.
“If they can get the journals back without killing him, that’s better,” I said.
“Absolutely, Ma’am,” she said
“And Miriam, he’s slippery,” I said.
“I know Rex, Ma’am,” she said.
I was sure she did.
I hung up.
I’d been spending my whole life cleaning up Daddy’s indiscretions, waiting, waiting for the fortune that was rightly mine, and I wasn’t going to give it up now to Dunny or anyone else.
Since I turned eighteen Daddy’d held the will over my head like a paper sword. The old will, penned before I was born. All the money to Dunny except a little pittance to me to starve on. Why, I’d have to move out of the suite and get an apartment, like a barbarian.
And finally, finally, in those last and dying days, after I’d pushed all of his victims into the harbor and fobbed it off on the rum runners, he signed it. Signed the new will and sealed the old one inside the leather cover of one of his journals, just to let me know it wasn’t gone.
The day after Daddy’s death, Dunny called me up to say that he had a copy of the old will naming him as the sole heir, and also three letters that made Daddy look as mad as King George.
Of course I had to do something. I wasn’t about to stop now, with so much blood on my hands already.
Rex came from a family friend, with a reputation for secrecy, ruthlessness and a weakness for women. Even if he did talk, our friend had plenty of dirt on him from his days in the Boston P.D.
I’d sent Henson and Jacobson with Rex, but he’d slipped them somehow. They were supposed to watch him find the journals, and then we were supposed to find him floating face down in Pelham Bay.
Then he shows up here. The nerve. If he wasn’t so pretty, I’d have shot him myself.
Don’t want to get blood on the rug, either.
I took another sip of my martini.
I dialed zero again.
“Miriam,” I said, “Get me Senator Crane.”
“Yes, Ma’am,” she said.
It was time to cash in a favor.
Chapter Three: Albion
Chapter One: Rex
Chapter Two: Janet
Chapter Three: Albion
Don't Bogart my Bergman.
I awoke one morning to find that I had been transformed into a man who gave a damn what a dame thought of him.
There she was on the blue silk sheets, her golden hair fanned out around her, her slip hanging on her like a ballet partner: Janet Hemingway, the princess of sixth avenue.
I’d just worked a job for her. A little job, as it turned out, but no job is too little for Rex Banion, as it turns out.
Her highness rolled over. Her eyes opened: pale, viper green.
“Rex. I’m worried about Mommy. Now that Daddy’s gone, who will protect her honor? She would be devastated if all this nonsense about death cults reached the papers. All the blood and dismemberment. I think it’s best it we kept it between us, don’t you,” she said.
“You’re quick to corruption,” I said.
“Been doing it my whole life,” she said, “500 dollars, what do you say?”
“500 dollars might do,” I said, “But I’m not taking it out in time served.”
“Oh no, Mr. Banion, I wouldn’t dream of paying you for that.”
“Good,” I said.
“And,” she said, ”We can just destroy Daddy’s journals.”
“Of course,” I said.
I had the only copy of those journals, in a safety deposit box in Chicago.
“Good Rex,” she said,”Bring those journals here, and we can burn them together.”
“Your uncle asked me for those,” I said.
“Oh,” she said, ”My Uncle Dunwoody?”
“Yeah, Dimwitty, called me up and offered me a grand for each one,” I said.
“Oh,” she said, as she drew her finger around her lip, “You didn’t give them to him, did you, Rex?”
“No,” I said, “Should I?”
“No,” she said, “I’ll offer two grand each.”
“You want to give me six thousand dollars to destroy three books,” I asked.
“Is that so surprising? Didn’t you read those books, Rex,” she asked.
“No,” I lied.
“I think you might have, because your eyes, Rex, are fishy.”
“Yeah, I did read them,” I said.
“Don’t lie to me Rex, I know your eyes,” she said, “Rex, if word, ever got out, that my father was unstable, Rex, the family simply couldn’t stand the shock. We’d rend, Rex. Uncle Dunny and the European cousins would back away, and our finances would, well, I just don’t know, Rex, We’d have to sell Rockhaven. Its important for the family.”
“Six thousand dollars”, I said, “Don’t insult me. I read them. Your father was unstable. Those journals contain his confessions, Janet, to fifteen murders. I should take them to the police.”
“No, don’t do that, Rex,” she said. With a sharp breath, she stood up off the bed and walked away into the suite. She pulled her hair up and clasped it with her delicate hands, pulling it through her necklace.
I stood up and walked towards her. She smelled like strawberry, when it first comes off the vine.
I put my arm around her waist and leaned in behind her. She pushed her neck back on my shoulder. I wrapped my arms around her hips and kissed her neck.
“Don’t do that, Rex,” she said, “Don’t embarrass my family. Dunny is a bad man, Rex, he spreads lies about my father. Now that the New York dynasty is ending, they are trying to seize the family fortune. My father is the one that made all the money, and now those dancing little baronets in their summer cottages who suddenly aren’t too dirty to take automobile money are trying to steal it.”
“And yet you only offered me six thousand dollars,” I said.
“That’s a lot of money, Rex,” she said.
“Not as much as you might think I might think,” I said, “This would sell for twenty grand,” I said, as I wrapped my right hand around her necklace, “Maybe I should just take it.”
“Don’t do that, Rex,” she said, “I can pay you twenty grand. Don’t take the necklace.”
“Twenty grand it is,” I said, and let go of the necklace.
“Thank you, Rex,” she said. She walked a few steps ahead of me across the pink shag. Her room, here, at the Waldorf. All pink. Couple of white drapes, couple of white pillows, couple of white poodles. Yip and yap all the time.
“So its settled,” I said, “I’ll bring you the journals tomorrow.”
“You’re so kind, Rex,” she said.
She turned to face me, fastening her bra behind her.
“I may require your services again in the future,” she said.
“I’ll see you tomorrow,” I said, “At three o’clock.”
“Here, Rex,” she asked.
“No, meet me down in the lobby of the Hotel Amsterdam.”
“Fine,” she said, “Bring me the books, not ashes.”
“I will, kitten,” I said.
“Got claws, you know,” she said.
“I’ll see you tomorrow,” I said.
I turned to walk away to the door. I took my Stetson from the stand and put it on my head. Buttoning my jacket, I opened the door to the lobby: its tan carpets so bland against her pink. I turned around.
She was already there. We kissed. That’s when I fell for her.
Chapter Two: Janet