Saturday, October 16, 2010

TG&SS Part III Synopsis 44

Part III chapter 1

William Witt watched the attack in the lake and remained a voyeur. As an adult, of the next seventeen years, he became a collector of pornography. His favorite moments in viewing his collection were those that offered a glimpse behind the camera. Rarely the actors would pass a mirror that revealed the photographer, camera and director. The limb of a technician might intrude into a frame. The actors might suddenly move or shift, obviously taking direction. When these glitches and bloopers occurred, William felt he understood the town better, since there was something behind the life of the town directing its daily processes with invisible humility. For months he would forget about this, but then, in his business of real estate, something would happen to remind him of the hidden hand. A glance from an older citizen, a crack in the street, water running from a soggy lawn were enough to remind him of the lake and the League of Virgins. He would feel at such times he was a participant in a strange story.

In spite of the seedy publicity, the town prospered as the Los Angeles area boomed and Simi Valley itself grew along with it. Several minor stars took up residence in Windbluff, on the hill. A palatial house was bought by comedian Buddy Vance, then the star of the highest-rated TV show on network television. A cowboy actor built a house on a spot below Vance's mansion. Silent movie star Helena Davis, nearly 80, lived in complete seclusion nearby. Occasionally a young man appeared in town – always six foot tall – always blond, declaring himself a friend of Miss Davis. The town referred to her mansion as “Iniquity's Den.”

The local mall also boomed. A health club was established along with two Szechuan restaurants, boutiques, a pool supply store, a nail sculpture service and tanning service were added as well as a karate school. The Mall expanded to two floors.

Occasionally a newcomer would ask, while browsing a boutique or getting a pedicure, about some vague past scandal in the town. Any long-standing resident would shift the conversation to something less controversial. Even a generation later, the natives thought the League of Virgins best forgotten.

Some couldn't forget, including William and Joyce McGuire, herself a quiet, religious woman who had brought up Tommy-Ray and Jo-Beth without a husband. Her parents moved to Florida years earlier, leaving the house to their daughter and grandchildren. She seldom went beyond its walls. Arleen's family moved to Thousand Oaks, but their reputation followed them. They moved again, to Louisiana, taking Arleen with them. She never fully recovered. William had heard that it took a week or more for her to put ten words together. Arleen had a younger sister, Jocelyn, who married and came back to live in the Blue Spruce neighborhood. But these people, though acquaintances, did not speak to each other. They didn't have to. They knew what they knew and lived uneasily with it.

Part III, chapter 2

Then came a man with shoulder-length black hair with dark eyes behind round spectacles. He had skin too pale to be a Californian. He didn't speak much, since he stammered. He rolled into down in an aging Pontiac convertible that was white but with rusted bodywork from the snow and salt of a dozen Chicago winters.

This young man correctly felt out of place with his corduroys and shabby jacket. In a town where your worth was demonstrated by which sneakers you wore, he sported black leather high-tops that he used until they fell apart; at that point, he'd buy an identical pair. He was in town for a good reason.

He needed directions. So he went into a frozen yoghurt store, the emptiest of stores in a row, and asked for a map. Instead he got directions to an inexpensive motel nearby. He exercised and showered and asked himself why he was coming to Palomo Grove. His girl friend Wendy had asked him who he was on that long night when she left him. She said she liked him but couldn't love him – because she didn't know him.

He replied that he was a man with a hole in his middle, a weird but true response. To his friends he was endearing, a “holy fool,” as his pal Lem said. But most people called him “Katz the klutz.” And Wendy's leaving him stung. He decided to find out more about himself by going to the town where he was born. And looking out his motel window at the lights of the town, he couldn't imagine why his mother ever left this pretty suburb an moved to Chicago. She had died in her sleep, suddenly, and he would have to solve that mystery for himself. Maybe in finding the answer, he would fill the hole in his middle.

The next morning, in a quiet Paloma Grove house, Jo-Beth got ready for work. Her mother, Joyce, was concerned. She felt sick again.. Specialists had come to see her and found nothing. There had been mumbles that between her ears was the problem, and she didn't want to hear that, since she'd once known a girl who had gone mad and been hospitalized, never to come out again. That made her afraid of madness, a word never spoken in her house. She asked Jo-Beth to have the Pastor call her. Her daughter agreed to do so. Then the daughter kissed her mother before going to work. Joyce didn't like her daughter working late. No place was safe. Jo-Beth had heard that all her young life, that the world was the Valley of Death, that the devil was in the world, right in Palomo Grove.

Jo-Beth started downstairs to leave the house and go to work. Tommy-Ray was at the foot of the flight, asking if his mother was asleep. “No, she's not,” Jo-Beth answered. Tommy-Ray had been drinking, and his mother had correctly suspected so. The two looked at each other in the mirror, admiring their resemblance to each other as twins. Tommy-Ray told his sister that he was pouting, afraid things were coming to an end. Jo-Beth tried to reassure him. They both agreed that they were each waiting for something, but neither know what.

Driving to work, she went over this conversation and agreed to herself that something was coming up that would bring changes. If it didn't come to her, she'd go looking for it.

Howie Katz noticed people didn't walk in this town. He went for a long morning walk and only found five pedestrians. Then he went to eat at a half-full steakhouse, struggling with his copy of Hesse's Siddhartha written in German. It was his mother's copy, though she never talked about the book. The waitress asked him if he wanted something to drink.

He was about to say, “Coke,” but his whole life changed when he saw Jo-Beth walk in through the front door to begin her workday. The looked and stared and smiled at each other. Then Jo-Beth went to the kitchen area to put on her apron and begin her work. She emerged and went to the far end of the restaurant to serve another customer. But Katz had developed infinite patience. He would wait forever for the chance to talk to her, if need be.

In the darkness of the ground beneath Palomo Grove, the inspirers of these two children still held on to each other as they had when the first fell to earth. Neither was willing to risk the other's freedom. Even when they rose to touch the bathers, they'd gone together. Fletcher had been slow to und4erstand the Jaff's intention, but he realized that the Jaff wanted to make children. So Fletcher did the same, reluctantly, but, he felt, necessarily. He hated being reduced to a spoiler of innocents, and Jaff knew it.

Jaff and Fletcher were buried together and didn't hunger nor sleep. They had only snatches of the progress of their children, as the mental links to them were weak, until this night.

They both waited for this moment. Exhausted by their fight against each other, they now had grown children able to fight for them. This time, kit would be a fight to the death. Or so they expected. Now, suddenly, they both felt the same pain – a spike thrust through both their souls. And this was nothing like war.

Howie ignored his steak an had it taken away. He asked for another Coke. The waitress, correctly guessing that he and Jo-Beth were interested in each other, had Jo-Beth bring the Coke to Howie.
“Do we know each other?” he asked, and she said no. He said he was from Chicago, but that he was born in Palomo Grove. He asked when she got off work and she told him.

He met her at the front door when she finished work. They talked. He said his mother had died and he wanted to find out about the town where he was born, which his mother vaguely referred to as a hellish place. Jo-Beth asked about his father. He stammered that he didn't have one. She thought that weird, since she didn't have a father either. She had a brother, though, and assured Howie that they would get along. She said she didn't know the person she was talking to, so she asked Howie how old he was.

The answer was 18. She was 18 also. What month was he born? April, the same month she was born.

They both felt strange about these coincidences. “I never saw a face so – transparent,” Howie said.

In the rock, the two spirits writhed. Every word of seduction they had heard twisted a blade. They were powerless to prevent the exchange. All they could do was sit in their children's heads and listen.

“Kiss me,” Jo-Beth said. The spirits shuddered.

Howie put his hands on her face. They shuddered until the ground around them shook.

She took a half step towards him and put her smiling lips on his. Cracks opened up in the concrete that eighteen years before had sealed them up. The spirits screamed in their children's ears to stop this.

“Did you feel something?” Howie asked.

She laughed. “Yes,” she said. “I think the earth moved.”

Part III chapter 3

Buddy Vance slept alone in his huge bed at the palatial home atop a hill in the Grove. Buddy was 54 and needed to get up and jog. Running made him feel old, but too many friends had died on him lately, his sometime agent being the most recent example. They had all died of the same excesses he was wallowing in.

So Vance saw his doctor. They argued, but Buddy caved in to the doctor's health and exercise regimen, which began with a daily jog before breakfast. Buddy ran downhill to the park and then had the chauffeur bring him back to his mansion. As the ground grew level, he entered the park and the woods. And as he jogged through the woods, he heard girls laughing, an odd thing to hear early in the morning. Their laughter seemed to change the entire wood. It seemed to change the very direction of the sun. With more laughter it became as bright as noon. A few yards away he saw girls stripping off their undergarments. He knew they weren't quite real, but he was cautious anyway. There were four of them, wading out into a lake that wasn't quite solid.

Buddy realized he was seeing ghosts, a scene from the past. Buddy saw them struggle, and even tried to help one who was afraid of drowning. The bottom of the lake trembled. Buddy looked down and saw a concrete bottom cracking and opening up. Buddy tried to jump to safety, but the world instead got icy and dark. Small bricks of concrete were falling with him. He thought the concrete pieces were noisily hitting the walls of the chasm. Then he realized the noise was from the breaking of his own bones as he fell. And fell more. And fell again.

Meanwhile, Howie woke up energized and refreshed, strongly possessed with love and obsessive about it. He knew she worked at the restaurant at night. She had also told him she had a job at a bookstore during the day. He got dressed and went to the Mall, looking for her store.

Jo-Beth woke up thinking it was a good idea to forget about work this day and go find Howie. She got ready and went downstairs for breakfast. Tommy-Ray was there. He wanted to know what had happened to her. Why was she awake most of the night? What went on? What happened to her? When she said, nothing, he responded by saying, “You're lying.” She had to go to work. Tommy would take her!

Although they quarreled, they drove to the Mall. She let him have the car, since she could get as ride home. Her brother kissed her good-bye. Then there was a call in the distance. “Jo-Beth!” It was Howie.

Tommy-Ray didn't get behind the wheel and drive He got out of the car, in spite of honking horns, to confront this stranger. Jo-Beth was afraid, but introduced her brother to Howie. She noticed that her brother's handsome features were contorted with malice. The two pretended to greet each other, and Tommy-Ray turned away and returned to the car, driving off.

Jo-Beth introduced Howie to the woman who ran the bookstore, Lois Knapp. Mrs. Knapp answered by saying, “Katz?” Again, “Katz?” Then she retreated to the store room. Howie and Jo-Beth agreed to meet at his motel when she could get away from work.

Later in the morning, Lois and Jo-Beth were sipping ice water together in the deserted store. Lois had remembered the name Katz. It was the name of a friend of Jo-Beth's mother. “One of the four – She was one of the four,” Jo-Beth replied. Lois reluctantly agreed. Jo-Beth wanted to talk to her mother and jog her memory.

Meanwhile, Buddy Vance's driver Jose waited fifty minutes at their agreed rendezvous before deciding his boss must have made it back up the hill under his own power. So he slowly drove back, looking for him but finding no one.

For Buddy himself, there was no pain. He was grateful, but he knew the deadly significance of it. He wanted to be optimistic – they'd be looking for him they'd see the fissure, they'd be down to his location by noon. He'd be in a hospital I the mid-afternoon. He began counting his heartbeat. He began to sob. Get me out of here, please God get me out of here, and I'll live like I never lived...

At 11am, Jose got in the car and drove back down the hill to see if he could spot his boss. Then he went to a food stop in the Mall frequented by Mr. Vance. Then he stopped at a record store. A customer stopped in and said that there was something serious going on at the East Grove – did someone get shot?

The road was closed by the time Jose arrived, but he talked to a policeman. The policeman wouldn't let Jose through. Jose explained that his boss was running down this road in the morning and hadn't come back yet. The cop walked Jose down the road to a crevasse that had opened to ten feet. The Chief of police was there, very interested in the fact that Buddy Vance had been jogging along this path in the early morning.

Buddy realized that he was alone. Then he realized that he wasn't alone, there were forms near him, and they somewhat resembled men. Pain came to him inexorably, making him feel like he was on a bed of knives. He needed rescue or death to relieve him. An hideous, great-headed, bearded spirit eyes him and then, horribly, reached out for him. “I am the Jaff,” it said, “give me your mind, I want terata.”
As the fingers touched Buddy's face there was a spurt of power he felt. Buddy felt terror at this power searching his body for what it wanted. Some horrible thing, faceless but with dozens of legs, came out of Buddy's body and was taken by the Jaff. Then the Jaff rose through the crevasse out into the world.

A remaining spirit fell back against the wall of the rift. “I'm Fletcher, “ he said to Buddy in a smooth voice. “Forget your pain.”

Fletcher asked Buddy to imagine his fondest wish other than death. Fletcher didn't want death, because he can't arm himself with that. Buddy wanted to know what he wanted to arm himself against. The Jaff was the answer. He told Buddy they were men once and spirits now. Enemies forever. He needed Buddy's help to avoid going to war naked.

Buddy wanted to know what the terata were. “Your primal fears made solid,” Fletcher answered. Fletcher asked for arms plucked from Buddy's head. But Buddy replied that nothing is left.

“Quiddity must be preserved,” Fletcher replied. “The dream-sea. You might even see its island, as you die. It's wonderful; I envy you the freedom to leave this world..l Heaven's only one of the many stories, told on the shores of Ephemeris. There are hundreds, and you'll know them all. So don't be afraid. Only give me a little of your mind, so that Quiddity may be preserved” from the Jaff.

Buddy didn't know this place.

“You've known it,” Fletcher replied. “You've swum Quiddity twice in your life. The night you were born, and the night you first slept beside the one you loved most in your life.... Imagine for me. Give me something more than regret to make an ally of. Who are your heroes? Picture them for me.”

Buddy's heroes were all comedians. An army of comedians! Buddy smiled and then laughed. “Hold that thought,” Fletcher said, reaching into Buddy's mind. But Buddy was sinking fast, exhausted by laughing and remembering. The life went out of him, leaving Fletcher with vapors in his hands too frail to be set against the Jaff.

Shortly thereafter, Howie toured the Grove, beginning with what had been his mother's house. He then went atop a hill to see the entire town from a distance. There was some commotion down there, trucks and police cars and blocked traffic. Howie wondered if they were making a movie down there.

Then he heard a voice in his head. And. How. And. How. Ard. Howardhowardhowardhoward...

He was being called down to the trees where the street was blocked off. It was as if the town led to this particular spot below in the distance. There was a crowd there when he arrived. The crowd told me a hole opened up in the ground and swallowed Buddy Vance whole. The crowd gathered out of morbid curiosity, a realization which revolted Howard. He turned away to return to his motel and to wait for Jo-Beth's arrival.

Part III chapter 4

A seedy tabloid reporter named Grillo was stepping out of the shower when his boss called him. Comedian Buddy Vance had turned up missing in Palomo Grove. They were trying to dig him out of a crevasse Grillo asked if his boss wanted a sob piece about this once-famous comedian?

No, the editor wanted dirt on the wives, the alcohol, why he ended up in Ventura County instead of Burbank and Bel Aire, what drugs were involved. Apparently Buddy died falling down a hole.

Grillo took off for the Grove. It was his job. He had been a high-priced top of the line investigative reporter until he'd been set up and dishonored. That should have ended his career. But he'd been enticed by the tabloid to continue doing what he did well – get people to talk. The longer he worked for the tabloid, the more it seemed like an error for him to take the job.

When he got into Ventura county and looked around the Grove, he liked what he saw, especially the curved streets of the hills and a refreshing degree of architectural diversity. Grillo flashed his credentials and talked to the cop at the barrier. No chance the corpse could be raised soon. It hadn't been located. Too early to talk to those in charge. None of the tackle around the fissure was being used yet.

Grillo retreated to the Mall and a public phone [this was 1989, before cell and mobile phones]. He called his boss and left a message asking for a photographer. He called his girlfriend and got past her screening her calls with her answering machine. She was an encyclopedia on the personal background of sex goddesses in Hollywood, but she'd heard the news about Vance and had looked some things up: married six times; once to seventeen-year-old. That lasted forty-two days. Second wife died of an overdose. Additions to women, controlled substances an fame; had a TV series, made films, fell from grace.

Grillo didn't remember Buddy Vance. He asked his girlfriend, Tesla, if Buddy was funny. Tesla's answer was that Buddy had a rubber face, you had to laugh at it. Buddy asked why such a man would be so successful with women. “The enormous appendage” was the answer.

Part III chapter 5

Joyce criticized Jo-Beth for not calling Pastor John. He didn't come, so Jo-Beth must have forgotten to call him.

Jo-Beth apologized. When Joyce asked why Jo-Beth was home instead of at the bookstore, Jo-Beth interrupted, saying, “Momma, listen to me. I have to ask you something very important.”

Joyce insisted on talking to the Pastor first.

Jo-Beth didn't give up: “...I have to know about a friend of yours.” Joyce responded with a frail face, but Jo-Beth had seen it too often to be subdued by it. “I met a man last night, Momma. His name is Howard Katz. His mother was Trudi Katz.”

Joyce's face showed an expression weirdly like satisfaction. “Didn't I say?” she murmured to herself. “How could it be over? How could it ever be over?” Then she repeated her desire to see the Pastor.
After an exchange, she said, “You mustn't go near Trudi's boy. You hear me? You mustn't see him, speak to him, even think of him. Promise me.”

But Jo-Beth refused to make that commitment and left the house as her mother called for her.

A short while later, Howard opened the door to his motel room to see his beloved Jo-Beth in tears.

They embraced until she stopped sobbing. Then she said that her mother knew Howie's mother. Howie was momentarily pleased: “So this was in the stars,” he said.

“Momma doesn't see it that way,” Jo-Beth replied. “...All my life there's been rumors about what happened before I was born. About Momma and her friends.... There were four of them. Your mother; mine; a girl called Carolyn Hotchkiss, whose father still lives in the Grove, and another. I forget her name. Arleen or something. They were attacked. Raped, I think.”

Howie was stunned.

“Now you wish you'd never come” to the Grove, Jo-Beth said.

“No. If I hadn't come I wouldn't have met you. Wouldn't have, have, have, fallen in love.”

“With someone who's probably your own sister?” she replied.

Howard could not believe that. Refused to believe it. He again proffered his love. She denied it because, “You can't. You don't know me.”

“I do! And I'm not going to give up on that because of gossip. We don't even know if any of this is true.” In his vehemence, all trace of his stammer had disappeared. “This could be all lies, right?”

So they talked. Jo-Beth thought she might do best by leaving. Howard talked her into staying. They lay down beside each other fully clothed and fell asleep.

Back in the grove, most of the morbidly curious had drifted away by the time Grillo got back. Security had become lax. Grillo stepped over the rope and showed his credentials to the policeman in charge of the operation. The cop told him that they had not found the body. There are rivers down there and the corpse could be in the Pacific. They expected to work through the night. The cop referred Grillo to a man in black standing nearby named Hotchkiss.

Grillo talked to him. It turned out that Hotchkiss was the individual who sealed the opening with concrete seventeen years earlier, because the caves “...were – they are – a danger to innocents.”

Grillo thought innocents was a strange word to use.

Elsewhere, Tommy-Ray had spent the afternoon in the gloom and heat of his bedroom, pouting. He felt if Jo-Beth had cheated on him, he would have to seek out new company, and where better to begin than with himself?

Then he heard her return and argue with Momma. During part of that discussion, his sister was sobbing on the stairs, so perhaps her pathetic romance had already fallen apart.

Lying on his bed in the heat, Tommy went into a trance, trying to figure things out. He had only incomplete images. There was blood. There was a rock. There was a pale, flickering, disgusting creature. There was another man he couldn't make out. If he sweated enough about it, it would become clear.

Back at the woods, the crevice itself began to shift and open. Hotchkiss himself was pulled in! Grillo managed to grab his arm and pull him out.

And at the motel, “neither Jo-Beth nor Howie woke, though both gasped and shuddered like lovers saved from drowning. There had been dreams of water for them both. Of a dark sea which was carrying them towards some wonderful place. But their journey had been interrupted. Something below their dreaming selves had snatched at them, dragging them out of that lulling tide and down into a shaft of rock and pain. Men were screaming all around them as they fell to their deaths, ropes following like obedient snakes.

“Somewhere in the confusion they heard each other, each sobbing the other's name, but there wasn't time for reunion before their downward motion was checked ad an upward surge caught them. It was icy cold; a torrent of water from a river that had never seen the sun but mounted the chasm now, bearing dead men, dreamers and whatever else occupied this nightmare, before it. The walls became a blur as they rose to meet the sky.”

Grillo and Hothkiss were four yards from the fissure when the waters broke. There was something alive in the flood.. Grillo saw briefly a form, or forms, that seemed human but also like the after-burn of fireworks. They backed away to the cov4er of the trees, to the company of a number of cops. The rain came down lightly here, not like the storm coming from the earth at the crevasse.

Tommy-Ray was soaking in his own sweat. He stared at the ceiling and laughed. He hadn't had a ride like that since the summer before last, out at Topanga, when a freak tide had thrown up a magnificent swell. He, Andy and Sean had ridden it for hours, high on speed. “I'm ready,” he said, wiping salt-water from his eyes. “ready and willing. Just come get me...”

Howie was bundled up on the bed with his teeth clenched and eyes closed, looking like a corpse. Jo-Beth awoke and backed away in shame. They had been lying together on the same bed. She had reamed that she was with Howie at the shore of the sea, in a dream that brought disaster and blood. Howie stirred and awoke, reaching for his spectacles, putting them on.

They agreed that they had shared a bad dream together. Howie talked her out of her fugue of guilt about it. But they didn't have any answers, and Jo-Beth was scared and frightened. Neither knew what would happen next. Jo-Beth left as Howie stood by the door.

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