Chapter 15: EVIL HAIR
Brandon Krouse was on the down side of his up and down struggle to keep Hector Clay from leaving the house. One minute, the host of God was ready to accept the wisdom of staying home, the next minute he was challenging everything he had accepted before.
He was now taking exception to Brandons insistence that he and Shag Man were bound up in an inevitable convergence of events called a nexus which would allow neither of them to harm the other. His comparison of Hector to Charlemagne in trying to explain it cost him much of his credibility. But his further comparison of the Jimmy Cain Nexus to the shot that started World War Ithe first link in a chain of major wars that spilled over into the 21st centuryturned Hector completely off.
Though the effects of it were supposed to be as beneficial for humanity as the Austrian archdukes assassination was detrimental, it was its scope that gave Hector pause. He couldnt see how the death of a poor black drug runner in a common, ordinary disposal zone could make that much difference.
Hector was on the verge of recovering his Bogeyman bag and escorting Brandon to the door when the desperate Canadian set his attaché case on the coffee table and flipped open the lid.
"Look at this," he said. The machine inside the case turned on when the lid came up like the light in a refrigerator. Hectors eyes were drawn to the 3-D image of a stone head with two bearded faces pointed in opposite directionsJanus.
The image quickly dissolved into the faint glimmer of a time web with converging threads at three neon-red nodes on the screen.
Brandon pointed to the node in the lower left of the web. "That," he said, "is a nexus. What happened here in 1914 with the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand would have happened no matter what anybody knew in advance or tried to do about it. That doesnt include all of the capillary events on either side of it, only the veins of the past going in and the arterial events of the future coming out.
"Everybody whos going to mean something for the future gets drawn into those veins and the arteries eventually become veins for the next nexus. He moved the pointer to another red node near the center of the screen with a maze of threads running in and out of it and zoomed in on it. The intersecting threads became more clearly discernible as separate threads running close together, joining, entwining, diverging and sometimes splitting off into nowhere like frayed rope ends. "This one," he said, "the Jimmy Cain Nexus, happened early this morning."
Brandon opened the window framing a replay of the Jimmy Cain murder from an overhead view. It was far enough away to show Rick Tylers Pursuer entering the picture with its wailing siren and flashing lights at the same time Shag Man fired the fatal bullet. The closer his car got to Minas Lexus, the tighter the framing and the larger the picture.
Hector could see everything that happened in that dark alley with the flashback light enhancer as well as Mina, Rick and Shag Man could see with their Daylights. He could hear everything as well as they could. It took awhile, though, to make sense of it, to see the murder for what it was, to see the murderer for who he was. It took awhile to recognize the woman who got out of the Lexus as Mina Foski and to identify the left-handed cop who tried to scale the fence as the one he met at Vivians house.
When Shag Man escaped to his Taurus Classic parked on the street to the east of the alley, Brandon did something that Hector had heard about but had never seen for himself. First, he split the screen between the Taurus and the Pursuer. Then, he dissolved the roof of Shag Mans Taurus and Rick Tylers Pursuer leaving their occupants exposed to view.
"ELectronic Facsimiles," said Brandon, in answer to Hectors unspoken question about the Shag Man, the Rick Tyler and the Mina Foski images he was now looking at. "We cant really see this well inside of enclosed structures, but we can see and hear inside of them well enough to construct a reliable corresponding image...."
Hectors attention went back and fourth on the split screen between the conversation in the squad car and the man listening to it in the Taurus. The top view perspective never changed and Shag Mans jutting flat cap never allowed Hector to see his face. That didnt stop Hector from trying to soak up everything else in the window which might have helped him find the man.
Brandon saw what he was doing and switched back into the time web.
"Why did you do that?" asked Hector innocently.
Brandon glared at him. "You know damn well why I did that. Come on now, Dr. Clay, this is too big for what youre trying to do. Cant you see that, yet?"
"...No...I can see why disposal zones and the whole structure of law and disorder that keep them going are bound to get a lot of people killed. And I can see how a lot of peoples lives can get drawn into what happens to somebody else. I cant see what any of this has to do with fatethat boys fate, Vivians fate, or mine."
"Jesus Christ!" screamed Brandon, "What about the fate of the world? What about your vision of pursuing freedom, justice, prosperity, peace and progress in a rational sequence that can make them all work? Im talking about the bedrock of a sane and humane world that nobody who mattered took seriously until you started hosting God."
"Do you know what you sound like when you say things like that?"
"Yes," said Brandon. "I sound like every human being who ever lived with good reason to know something about the future that defies the conventional wisdom of thick-headed people in power like you."
"Power? What power do I have compared to Sam Jinks or Corey Becket or any of those other radio and T-window commentators that everybody knows?"
"Everybody who counts knows you. You are the foremost opinion leader of the 21st century and you will be for many centuries to come."
"Charlemagne again. Thats stupid," said Hector, clearly on the verge of ending their conversation.
Brandon looked up at the clock with its sweep second hand moving inexorably forward. At any moment, the stocky black man would go in search of the man who kidnapped Vivian Foski. When he did, it would be the same as if Brandon was strapped into the seat of a gas chamber and the exit door had closed and sealed behind the warden and the death row priest.
How ironic it was for Brandon to have to explain why Hector couldnt alter what was in store for him in order to alter what was unalterably in store for himself. That may have been the element of conviction that was lacking in his presentation. If so, how could he get past it?
"Look at this track," said Brandon, blowing up a portion of the time track leading away from the Jimmy Cain Nexus. I picked it arbitrarily." As he spoke, the enlarging process showed what appeared to be a cutaway section of a cartoon blood vessel with red spheres being swept along in the current of a pulsing heartbeat.
He boxed one of the spheres and pressed a button that brought up an image of a slightly overweight white woman in casual dress with short, mousy-brown hair.
"This," said Brandon, holding down the button "is an ELF that Janus made when I picked her out of the stream. At this level, you only get the basics of who people are as Janus sees them. So, when she starts talking, dont expect her to sound the way she would if she were talking to you or me. Janus is really doing the talking."
Brandon released the button, and the figure in the window began to speak:
"My name is Susan Binkman. I am a normal, white, 34-year-old working wife and mother. I was born white. My parents were white. I have a high school education and spend most of my spare time watching the telewindow. My parents were registered Republicans. I am a registered American. I love Japanese movies with white American actors. I live in an all white subdivision outside of Madison Wisconsin. I drive a cheap Ford midget called a Ho Chi that was manufactured in Vietnam. I wear granny dresses because my titties sag too much for good clothes and my cheap husband wont let me getem fixed."
Brandon typed in a command that turned the ELF back into a cell. Only this time, it was a bright yellow color to distinguish it from the others. "Were going to follow Susan Binkman and see where her life span takes her."
Brandon stepped down the magnification until all of the other cells disappeared and a number of intersections could be seen on the time tracks going to and from the red nodes. "Lets speed this up, say, two years per second."
"Why not ten years per second?"
Brandon typed in a "LIFE SPAN" command and, in no more than three seconds, Hector did see. The yellow dot became a yellow line running on an arterial time track through two intersections then off on a capillary with a dead end. However long it took her to reach the end, it was clear that her life would not be directly involved in the next nexus.
Hector looked askance at the yellow line. "How do you know she would have chosen that path for her life?"
"Would have chosen," said Brandon, "Or will choose? And to answer your question, I dont know. The fact is, Janus doesnt either. If we did this a hundred times we might see a hundred different paths but none of them go anywhere that mean anything. As far as Janus is concerned, one irrelevant path is as good as another and the past and the future are no different than either end of this room."
"Are you trying to tell me that this womans life doesnt matter?"
"No, of course not. Janus is saying that it doesnt matter in the same way Dean Pipers life does, or Shag Mans or Jimmy Cains or George Calloways or Margaret St.Clairs or yours. "
"Who is Margaret St.Clair?"
"Youll find out. The point is, Susan Binkman never had a choice that led anywhere and no power to create one. Thats what time track engineering is about; defining those limitations and tracking where they lead in time. Its a matter of collecting basic information and applying the right formulas. You could give that woman or millions of people like her endless lifetimes of choices and they wont mean a damn thing to the world at large because every one of them leads to a dead end. Thats what you get when you pick just anybody out of a time track. But if you trace the lives of the people going into a nexus, youll find out that the only choices they had were the ones that took them in."
"In other words," said Hector, "Jimmy Cain was born for the moment he got raped and killed."
"How can you be so sure about a thing like that?"
Brandon sat back in his chair and wrung his hands in distress. "I dont have time to get into all of that. We just know that it does work every time..."
The irony of those words together with the unmoved continence of Hector Clay sent Brandon to the brink of despair. Like a tissue paper dam in a flash flood, the barriers holding back the deluge disintegrated and the tears flowed unimpeded down his cheeks.
"Oh man," said Hector, not quite knowing what to do. "Hey! Hey! All right. I believe youre serious and I dont think youre crazy. Ill try to keep an open mind. I promise. But you have to promise me that youll try to stay calm."
Brandon sniffled and wiped away the tears, his hands trembling. "I cant believe I did that," he said.
Considering his words carefully, he said, "Have you ever wondered how you got through the war alive and relatively unmarked?"
Hector shrugged. "99% of the Guido Calvera War veterans returned the same way."
"That wont do," said Brandon. Only 20% were ever in life threatening situations. Of those, fewer than 3% saw as much combat as you did. That comes to 96 men. Of those, 64 made it back alive. Only 22 of the 64 escaped permanent injury. One of those incredibly lucky men was you, Sgt. Hector Clay, Bravo Rangers, 82nd Airborne Division.
"You should have died thirty times over and there is no statistical formula to explain why you didnt. Something else was clearly at work."
Hector shrugged, "God must have been looking out for me."
Brandon then surprised Hector again by leaping to his feet, jumping up and down and shouting, "Yes! Yes, you stupid fuckhead! God! It had to be God! But do you know how he did it? Do you understand the physical mechanisms involved?"
Brandon replied by pouncing on the computer keyboard and punching up scene after scene of Sgt. Hector Clay in mortal danger.
Some of those scenes were astonishingly similar to the ones he saw in his mind while others were only vaguely related to the facts as he remembered them. He tried to concentrate on what he was being shown but he found himself disconnecting from it the way he had in combat.
His mind drifted away from the telewindow and onto the technology that allowed him to see himself as he was twenty years before where there was nobody around with a camera. It was a technology that allowed anyone who possessed it to turn any segment of a persons life into a public spectacle: comedy, drama, action, adventure, romance...pornography.
He knew that some of his alleged sexual encounters had been broadcast on The X Channel and billed as flashback recordings, but he was careful not to see for himself. Now, as he watched the flashbacks of himself as a fearsome jungle fighter in deadly combat, he shrank inwardly in dread of being shown flashbacks of himself as a porn star in flagrante delicto. As long as he couldnt see it he could deny it. As long as he could deny it he could believe the denial or pretend to believe it well enough to get over the hump of having to deal with it.
Cold sweat poured down his face and he fidgeted in his chair trying to fight back the urge to either smash the machine on his coffee table or bolt from the house in panic. Only once had he felt that kind of unrelenting fear. That was in battle when he could see no way to come out of it alive.
His eyes glazed over. He hardly saw the last half of Brandons recording. What he saw instead, was Brandon Krouse directing his peeping TOM to spy on him in disposal zones where the Bogeyman murdered murderers. He saw the little man spying on him in South American brothels and every bed and couch and carpet of every female he ever had sex with, and then selling the flashback recordings to the highest bidder.
That was the image that melted his fear and molded it into something else.
He looked at the little man with the bowling pen shape and evil red hair and heard him babble about something that may or may not have been important. He couldnt tell because he couldnt think straight. He couldnt focus on anything but the feeling smoldering in his gut. He hated Brandon Krouse. He hated him as much as he had ever hated anyone. He looked at his skinny neck and saw how easily he could break it. He was walking a thin line of sanity over a bottomless pit and he was beginning to teeter.
For his part, Brandon saw the changing expressions on Hectors face and read into them evidence that he was finally getting the man to see the light. He couldnt stand the idea that his last minute decision to seek out his spiritual leader was a waste of time. If there was one thing he couldnt afford to do, it was to waste time.
Brandon was walking a thin line of his own.
The Fate Principle was working against him. He didnt know how long it would take for Hector and the others to join forces against The Circle. He had no idea what form the contest would take or how long it would last. He knew only that they would get together and there would be a crucial contest.
He knew that he was badly in need of sleep. And he knew that, within the next two hours at most, he would probably sleep forever.Back to top
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Contact the author: Jasper Garrison