Monday, July 6, 2015

Riding The Centipede: Private Investigator Terrance Blake

Who's next? What character should I feature this time?  The glue for the mad tale that is Riding the Centipede is private investigator, Terrance Blake. So let's roll with him.

He's a big man, one unafraid to get physical if words fail in any situation. He's also one who knows his darkness well, brooding with every breath...yet deep inside, something of hope keeps him moving forward.  I mention in the novel he's a 'man in black,' and, yes, the Johnny Cash reference works for him.  There's mention of the Nine Inch Nails song, "Hurt," that Cash took and made his own.  I'd say there's an element of that in Terrance Blake as well.  Yet, again, he's tough and perseveres through all the shit the world throws at him. He is the glue, as mentioned.  Where his story starts is not where it ends, as you will see when you read the novel. 

I noticed, at least on this computer--I am switching over to a laptop shortly, as it will work for traveling and with me headed to Rome in a little over a week, well...--that the Amazon Look Inside function was not working properly. Now, this might be part of this computer's break down, matter.  Here's a sample from the first chapter of the book.  Remember, there are three main characters.  Chapters are titled after each character, to keep you aligned, though distinction in tone and what-have-you shouldn't make that necessary, it just seemed to make sense as the chapters don't always follow in a straight line, some leapfrog others, some veer to truly Weird places (the chapters in the middle with Blake and the enigmatic writer Peter Solon really embrace the Weird), but at least they all lead to the same place. 

And what a place that is! 

But for now, how about some Blake, as well as the Hollywood runaway, Marlon Teagarden's sister, Jane.


…as the current pulled the child away, he reached toward her with his damaged right hand. The current pushed back; it wanted its prize. He yelled and water filled his mouth. He tried again, desperate to save the child, his daughter, Claire. The frothing tide pushed against his fingers, intent on bending them all the way back to his wrist, flattened out as a stump sculpted from futility. “Daddy…” He watched his daughter’s shocked expression as she lost her grip on the car seat she should have been strapped into and was sucked out of the splintered halo of glass where the passenger side window should be. Jagged glass sliced into clothing and flesh, but the eyes moments ago filled with joy were now nothing more than dull buttons on the rag doll that remained. He yelled again, a stream of bubbles flowing from the inside roof of the car and out the crack in the driver’s side window. He pushed against the stick-shift with strong legs, his shoulder shattering the window. The sound was a muffled explosion. He watched the rag doll fade to black beyond the car’s beams. He closed his eyes, fighting back tears as he swam up, or somewhere, this watery oblivion, his personal hell…

     Chirping sounds clamored for his attention, a physical force pulling him up from the harsh realm of the dreamlands, grabbing his hand and winning the battle over the cloying mental quicksand that is Morpheus, not that this was a victory for Terrance Blake. The sound was akin to beetles picking at the remains of his dead past or the dregs of his present so-called life…or possibly of a future draped in shadows and secrecy and the same old, same old. Along with pain, the ever present calendar wrought in his bones, his soul, every breath.

     The promises spewed by the world of his hardscrabble youth, counterfeited and further cheapened by the accumulation of years. Endurance—the pin plucked from the grenade, while he waited for the explosion that never came. Endurance, the true meaning of life.

     The squalid five-dollar-a-fuck hotel room smelled of smoke, the cut glass ashtray overflowing with lipstick stained cigarette butts even before he’d lit up his first Marlboro. Remnants of passionless couplings.

     The stale stench of the room was infused with the ghosts of those who had passed through before him: transients and junkies and one night lovers, nomads and madmen and private investigators like him, getting by on somebody else’s dime, dismantling somebody else’s broken dreams.
     The chirping continued; his cell phone the culprit. He reached over in the dark thinking it couldn’t be time to be awake yet as shadows held conference in the room, his eyes. A glance toward the digital clock adjacent to the television confirmed his suspicions: 3:36 a.m. Scooping the phone into his thick, gnarled fingers, the light from the screen corralled motes of dust lifted by his clumsy maneuver. Dust he hadn’t noticed last night when he placed the bottle of whiskey there, the now two-thirds empty bottle.

     He wondered how long he’d been in this room, sleeping like Rip Van Winkle or dying with every stale inhalation, exhalation, and long pause to consider the prospect of terminating this bleak routine before carrying on, carrying on.
     He realized it was not the alarm that has inspired the insect revolution. It was a phone call. The name on the screen registered as familiar but not one he’d used often.

     “Mr. Blake, I’ve found evidence of Marlon’s whereabouts.”

     No matter how many times he had told her nobody called him Mr. Blake, it’s just Blake, she persisted. He let the miscue slide. The voice was unmistakably that of Jane Teagarden, a voice braided with iron and perseverance, something he could relate to.

     Jane Teagarden was the only daughter of successful Hollywood producers, Warren and Stella Teagarden. A production team made rich beyond filthy, producing a slew of action movies starring Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Snipes and Van Damme. All good things must come to an end, though, and with a glut of bombs, the freewheeling excess that had dominated their lives simmered cold and hard until rumors arose of Warren having affairs with some of the help; “affairs” being a polite take on the harsh underbelly of what often happens when the rich are overtaken by failures and/or their eccentricities.

     One of the maids made headlines with allegations of rape.

     One of the mechanics on the premises quit in a huff, suggesting Mr. Teagarden was a sexual deviant. A hush-hush payment altered his initial statements, casually sloughed off as a mistake of perception.

     The tabloids ran with it all, going so far as to suggest Stella Teagarden, fifteen years younger than Warren, subsisted on over-the-counter and extracurricular drugs that induced supportive silence, a sheep in fox’s clothing. The fox wired for the depraved transactions of the flesh of which her husband allegedly catered.
     Rumors, all rumors, erased with the remains of their dwindling bank account, until their only son, Marlon, two years Jane’s junior, ran away when he was fourteen, hitting the streets while hitting the newspapers with torrid accounts of sexual abuse nonpareil.

     The ruination such an incident would suggest disappeared as swiftly as Marlon had when Jane, dressed as one might imagine a modern day fairy tale princess—a formula façade worthy of Disney—made a televised statement to the contrary.

     I think it’s time I spoke up on my parents’ behalf. Over the last few years, rumors created by those seeking financial gain have cast my parents as monsters. She glanced down, considering her words. Her voice grew steady. I’m here to tell you nothing could be further from the truth. Two more loving and generous people one could never know. With the recent developments involving my brother, I must say, I do not know what world he lives in. Our lives are special and we are treated as special. We are shown love in…so many ways. But Marlon has always been a bit aloof. I am saddened by his disappearance and look forward to his return, so we can be the family you all know we are. And we can give him the help and love he needs. She smiled, her slim lips stretched tight, mouth unopened. Please leave us be while we deal with our sorrow and the authorities help us find him. Thank you.

     Blake remembered watching this little scene with curdled curiosity, thinking it an Oscar-worthy performance jammed into a B-movie steeped in melodrama and deception. Because there was nothing in sixteen year-old Jane Teagarden’s tone or expression that rang true. (Claire would have been sixteen, had she lived…) He hedged his bets on hollow and scripted. Yet the public ate it up. Her glassy, tear-stained eyes drew support from the legions whose bible was National Enquirer-style rags and who gave a flying-squirrel-fuck-all like-minded media manipulated television programs such as Entertainment Tonight. A month before her nineteenth birthday, her parents died in a suspicious house fire that turned any evidence within the scrubbed-clean and lie-imbued walls to ash. Blake thought it a perfect obliteration of the crime scene; investigators always missed something. Speculation may be the trigger to the gun his instinct wielded, but he knew deep down he was right.

     Because the false sympathy the search for Marlon elicited lasted less than the usual run for most sub-blockbuster movies, the Teagardens had taken refuge as phantoms in their own lives, their chilly castle. They became non-existent to those they used to call friends. Those not willing to believe in them, perhaps knowledgeable of the accusations prior to Marlon’s leaving. Perhaps protecting their own high-profile asses in attempting to avoid the harsh, accusatory bleat of “accomplice” or “participant.”

     Jane Teagarden inherited what most thought must have been meager financial remains, only to be proven wrong. The latest version of the will contained the updates and restructured profits for the DVD and burgeoning Blu-ray contracts—restructured a mere two months prior to the fire—that set her up for life.

     When Blake heard her voice on the phone, the muffled ringing of the truth he never heard in any of her statements at grief-stricken appearances traipsed into his migraine infused cranium. Nine months after the fire, her voice had gone from Hollywood-practiced and Hollywood-refined grief, to the voice he knew now on the phone. Strength tinged with desperation; iron braided with perseverance. She really wanted to find her brother.
Okay, that's enough for now.  If there's an error anywhere, that's just me transferring a pdf file to word then shaping it to fit here. 

I love this novel. What it does and where it goes. I hope you join Blake for the ride.

Here's the aforementioned Man in Black that I pictured could relate to Blake. Oh, and the cigarette.  Yes, definitely Blake...

1 comment:

  1. I got my first electronic cigarette kit on VaporFi, and I enjoy it a lot.