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A Day in the Life of Brooke Nescott
by Devon Pitlor
I. Brooke Nescott discovers herself alone On a rather fresh spring morning well before sunrise, Brooke Nescott, now nearing her thirty-eighth birthday, was pleasantly surprised to be pleasantly surprised at finding herself alone in her home in Aristock. Her two lovers, the peerless Dragonsnort and the equally inimitable Eric Palobay, were uncharacteristically absent on that morning, each for logical reasons that required no elaboration either for the reader or for Brooke herself. Likewise, her handsome and precocious son Jared was off with his club on a summer excursion planned by a religion-neutral group that often provided pseudo-educational outings for pre-teens during spring break. So Brooke was alone, and, despite her unconditional adoration of the three males in her life and the congenial domestic ménage-à-trois that they had perfected over the last few years, Brooke was happy and somewhat relieved of the pressure of performing her usual role of mother and mistress---a role that consumed her life, but at times wore thin, leaving Brooke with very little time to uncover the things about herself that still needed discovery before the last shreds of her first youth dropped away from her and gave way to the unavoidable archway beyond which loomed the sullen promise of advancing age and its heightened gift of harder-edged maturity. Just yesterday, Brooke had caught herself striding far too rapidly down one of the main streets of her city and had made a weak joke about the pace she was maintaining for no
apparent reason: Faster, she thought, middle age is gaining on you. Slowing down after a few steps farther, the lame witticism ceased to be funny, and Brooke forgot it. There was no way of outpacing middle age, and Brooke, still radiant, slim, agile and young in mind and form, had no reason to try. So that morning, in the void of her menfolk, Brooke wove herself gradually into a posture of self-rediscovery. She had lived a strange and extraordinary life, punctuated by many inexplicable events which can be found in other stories relating to her somewhere near these pages, and with a faultless sense of rationale, she had several months previously decided to sit down at the kitchen table in her breakfast nook and write about them. It would be a way a re-inventing herself and reviving some of the thoughts that she had, of necessity, suppressed in order to complement the domestic bliss she enjoyed with Dragonsnort, Palobay and her son Jared. In front of her was a spiral notebook full of her scribblings--bits and pieces of her early life, anecdotes about her rather distant father and her inscrutable mother, both dead at an early age. There was the story of how she met Dragonsnort, Jared's father. And of course, her experiences with representatives of a future society which she was certain she had saved from despotism and destruction. Eric Palobay and his strange, life-extending vap parasite also came under her pen, as did her very concrete arc into a dream world inhabited by creatures resembling gnomes and porcine ogres who had tried to kill her. Her rescue from this imbroglio by the mysterious Joel was not forgotten either. Amidst the anecdotes, Brooke interjected a good deal of herself: Her apathy toward convention, her lack of close friends, her abhorrence of her one-time classmates, her world-weariness with stultifying routine. She had always been prepared to write about it all. But Brooke cast the pen down finally in disgust. It was all disjointed. Who cared about
the boys she had first had sex with? Who really needed to know the arcane origins of Dragonsnort? And the reality of Eric's vap was sworn to absolute secrecy, anyway. So she couldn't really write much about that. Before the sun had risen over the rooftops of her street, Brooke realized that she was never going to complete a work about herself. There was simply too much to say and explain, and most of it did not come easy to her anyway. She often found herself in a deportment where she was not even sure of how she felt about the weird and wonderful events of her life. Ambiguity about herself loomed like a dark shade over the handwritten pages she had already composed. "I'm not sure even who I am or how I feel about me," she said aloud to her coffee cup. And scribbling about herself in notebooks that would never be published did not awaken any special insights either. Another course was necessary. Brooke wanted to write. She wanted to contribute something to the world's record, if only a small footnote. And so for that reason, she had planned at ten AM on that very Saturday to meet with a hazy woman named Torri Whack---certainly not her real name---at the Aristock Central Library, where Torri, who transitioned back and forth through Aristock's streets wearing of all things a gray veil over her eyes, conducted a free group of would-be creative writers. Brooke was not a joiner by any stretch, but she had decided to give Torri's group a try because it had been so highly praised in the local paper. If Torri or the others became too weird or, worse, insufferable, Brooke would simply go to the toilet and slip away. It might be fun to see what other people interested in creative fiction were writing about. There would be stories other than her own. Stories which she might understand better because
she had not been a part of them. And that was Torri's specialty. Investigative bio-fiction. Apparently Aristock and its sister city Marshcove were full of remarkable stories and unsolved mysteries that were largely unknown or only the unfinished stubs of whatever strange occurrences had prompted their telling. In a flyer describing the group and its intentions, a flyer garnished with a seductive facial photo of Torri Whack and a brief, non-informative summary of her qualifications, Torri had assured those interested that "Great writers have often gotten their start from the investigation of little unsolved news stories." So Brooke decided to be present at ten AM at the library. She also decided to walk. A exquisite spring day seemed to be announcing itself, and maybe Brooke, walking fast again, could outrun the middle age that was supposedly gaining on her. No. Not really. The joke still wasn't funny. II. An incident without beginning, end or resolution Brooke slid easily into the same jeans she had worn fifteen years ago and had probably been wearing twelve years ago when she met Dragonsnort and ultimately created Jared. That in itself was an act of outrunning middle age. Likewise, her other garments dated from much earlier eras and still fit her perfectly. She shoved a wallet into her pocket, left her cellphone at home, and walked out the front door of her house in the direction of downtown. Aristock was waking up. Brooke was waking up. She sensed that adventure, something she craved, might be stalking her right now ever bit as much as middle age. She relished the thought, but did not accelerate her pace. No need to outrun anything, she
thought. And then the unexpected. As she crossed the tiny wooded park that separated her neighborhood from Fleetwood Avenue, a man wearing a dark hooded parka approached her with a gun in his hand, a gun which was pointed directly at Brooke's chest. The hood cast a shadow over his face, but Brooke could see that it was a relatively young man with very large and arched eyebrows and what must have been a prominent nose. "Don't say a word," he sneered. "Just act normal and come with me." Brooke, who had faced danger in the past, realized that this was something she could not avoid. Panic and hysteria were not a part of her make up. She complied, therefore, and walked alongside of the stranger who kept his handgun pointed at her side. He brought her to a small, dented Toyota pickup truck parked on Cale Street by the side of the park and motioned for her to get in. He had apparently left the door unlocked. Brooke slipped effortlessly into the truck, moving aside accumulations of collected trash and old rags which seemed to be throughout the passenger side. "Don't move or I'll kill you," said the hooded man, who rushed around to the driver's side and jumped in, starting the motor and pulling away from the curb almost instantaneously. He drove with his left hand, keeping the gun pointed squarely at Brooke's chest as he navigated toward the Marshcove Highway and out of town. For the first few minutes, he was totally silent. Brooke casually crossed her legs and asked if she could smoke a cigarette which she had secreted in a pocket of her jacket. The man did not answer. As the country became more and more evident and Aristock began to peter out behind
them, he pushed back his hood and glared at Brooke with a crazed stare of pure malevolence. His eyebrows were indeed full and arched. His eyes were bloodshot and seemingly multicolored. His nose was well formed and characterized mostly by a pair of huge flaring nostrils. "Don't touch me," he snapped out of nowhere. Brooke shrugged and maintaining her calm said: "I thought that was supposed to be my line." "Shut up." When they finally arrived at the entrance to the state forest, the man, shaking slightly, pulled off onto a trail that was occluded from the main highway and parked between a row of pine trees which shaded the truck with the shadows of what was still early morning. This is where I get raped, Brooke thought. I wonder if he can do it. The stranger, still holding Brooke at gunpoint, shifted in his seat and said: "I want you to listen." Brooke motioned with her head that she would. The man, in a raspy nervous voice, began: "After I did four years in the military, I worked as an attendant in a trauma center. It drove me nuts. The people we saw were all crazy in one way or another. I used to drink a pint of whiskey every night. Sometimes I followed it with a six pack. I finally lost it when this homeless guy came in. He had long, stringy hair---like dreadlocks on a white man---that were so full of lice that he put ethyl alcohol all over his locks and then lit a cigarette and went up like a torch. That was all I could take."
Brooke looked at him somewhat puzzled and emboldened herself asking, "So that is why you kidnapped me and drove me to the woods? To tell me that?" "Yes," said the man. "I needed to tell someone, anyone. After I left the trauma center I did a few infomercials. I looked better back then. I did this routine about self-propelled toilet scrubbers. You put them in the toilet...." "And they scoured it out all by themselves." "Yeah. That was it. You never had to touch the toilet. Give me your cigarette." Brooke fished around in her pocket and found the lone cigarette she had been avoiding for weeks. Guarding her cool, she handed it to the man, who broke off the filter, stuck it between his lips and lit it with the truck lighter. He puffed out clouds of smoke, much of which seemed to be sucked back into him through his ever inflating nostrils. Then he put the gun down between the seats and said "Don't touch me" again. Finally, after some moments of reflective silence, he turned to Brooke and said "Let's get you back." Brooke smiled and said that would be a good idea. She had an appointment at the library at ten o'clock. Without further prologue, the man replaced his hood, started the truck engine and drove back out onto the highway and into Aristock. He skillfully navigated the snarl of little streets at the city limits and pulled out onto Gramercy Avenue in the downtown section. He kept looking at the building tops until at last he saw the town hall, the federal building and the huge and perennially broken clock tower which marked what was generally acknowledged to be the center of Aristock. These buildings were arranged
in a small, nameless square where Gramercy Avenue intersected with Column Street and the state business plaza. The courthouse and jail were also in the general vicinity. "Look at these buildings," he mumbled. "They have something to teach people. Maybe someone will learn someday." "Learn what?" said Brooke, her curiosity piqued. "Something I can't talk about---ever." "It's just the downtown. All cities have them. This is Saturday. The government offices are closed." "And the clock is broken," added the stranger. "It has been for as long as I can remember," said Brooke. "I was born and raised here." "Longer than that. I was born and raised here too, and I have to be older than you." At that moment Brooke made note that several locks of gray hair were indeed starting to show above the man's temples, although he was far from being old. Just older, thought Brooke. Maybe middle age had gained on him. The joke still wasn't funny. "My name is Nathan Sorrell. I want you to know that I am not a pervert. I never killed Draven and Raven." "Who in the fuck are Draven and Raven?" said Brooke, putting special emphasis on the word "fuck."
"Girls. Time for you to leave. You have a half hour before your appointment. Goodbye." With this, he reached across Brooke's lap and shoved open the passenger door, motioning for her to get out. The minute Brooke's feet touched the pavement, the Toyota sped away, leaving Brooke in a kind of puzzled daze. Certain vague memories were churning somewhere in the back of her mind. The name Nathan Sorrell, as well as Draven and Raven, seemed to mean something to her but she couldn't say what. It was not a repressed memory but rather the sort of thing that people who have lived in a particular town all their lives think they might know something about----events from an era that just barely preceded hers, something her parents or older classmates may have once spoken about. All towns are like that. They have semi-recent histories which are still nonetheless histories even if one is too young or naive to remember them. Next to the deserted courthouse was a small theatre. Inside, a group of men dressed in straw hats and striped shirts were practicing a song, an old retro tune. A standing sign inside the alcove of the theatre said something about a forthcoming performance of a barbershop quartet. This must have been them. Practicing. Brooke paused for a moment and looked at the men, who, taking no notice of her, broke out once again into a syncopated a-cappella song: She's old and gray and thrown away. All her tomorrows were yesterday. Her heart she has sold for jewels and gold, and it's time to pay. Fucking annoying lyrics, thought Brooke moving away. Fucking annoying barbershop quartet. III. The mystery of....
The library conference room was bustling with women who were, Brooke observed, mostly a few years older than her. In their midst stood the perennially veiled Torri Whack, whispering approval to whatever tales the others were starting to relate. "Yes, I remember that one too," said Torri at one point. "I have been here a long time." The ladies, bored housewives to be sure, all had scratch pads, and some had brought notebook computers. They were prepared to write. This was not their first meeting with Torri apparently. Brooke, once again, had to play the role of the newcomer...the outsider. Nobody was introducing anybody, and when the meeting finally began, some of the ladies got right into their "investigative bio-fiction." As they spoke, Brooke had the vague and uneasy feeling that she had once known some of them, or at least known about them. Likewise, Torri Whack and her veil and cape. Torri had once been someone else. Like Nathan Sorrell, the women sitting in front of their notepads at the table were like wraiths from an era that had just preceded Brooke's. They all had mysteries that they were exploring. Aristock mysteries. Brooke listened intently to some of them. The mystery of this. The mystery of that. Glancing occasionally at Torri with her signature veil, Brooke wondered about the mystery of Torri Whack. She wondered about the very fresh mystery of Nathan Sorrell. What had all that been about anyway? At one point, Brooke felt like interjecting herself into the conversation and asking about Nathan Sorrell, Draven and Raven, but thought the better of it. These ladies were already in motion. Their reading agendas were set amongst themselves. Everyone knew who was going first and then second, etc.
There was the mystery of Philomena somebody who had vanished in plain sight of her comrades while riding her white show horse in Watershed Meadow in 1973, a year before Brooke was born. Brooke thought she might have heard something about that but couldn't say what. Like everything else, the Philomena story was inconclusive. No one could explain why Philomena had disappeared, but many had theories---fictional theories. Then there was the unexplained dual murder of Winston Lamb and Latasha Palange by a drifter known only as The Cowboy and whose motive for the killing was never known. The Cowboy got off on insanity and was consigned to the state mental hospital where he was summarily strangled in his cot by parties unknown. Brooke knew nothing about that. Then there was Kizzie Flavell, otherwise known as Jalisa Tacy, Tiffany Loren, Tangela Dawn and finally just Tiffany when she returned from Los Angeles, hooked on prescription drugs and cocaine, and shot herself with a twenty-two caliber long rifle in her parents' house on Davey Street at the age of twenty after a short, two-year stint as a pornographic actress. Brooke knew a lot about Kizzie because Kizzie had gone to the same high school as Brooke before dropping out and moving with her boyfriend to California. That had been in 1985 when Kizzie was eighteen and Brooke was eleven. Kizzie had been a cheerleader and later became a fashion model, only to fall into first nude modeling and then making a splash entry into the porn world. She changed her name several times and finally ended up acting under the single name Tiffany until some stress in the demi-monde of pornography got to her and she came home and committed suicide. The story was well-known in Aristock. By the time Brooke entered Aristock Memorial High School, it had become a type of cautionary caveat against creeping dissolution repeated and embellished by teachers and parents alike.
Kizzie had been so sweet, the assembly agreed. How could she ever have done the things she did? That had always been the question. Bad company and drugs was always the answer. And in the words of its middle aged storyteller, these were still the answer. And that made Brooke wonder. A question came to her mind that buffered out all other thoughts. In fact, it became Brooke's central question of the day: How can one human being ever pretend to know another? The storyteller didn't seem to care. Drugs and the fast life had killed Kizzie, even though she had already won several awards from the sort of academies that honor erotic film actors and had been named the Penthouse Playmate of January, 1987. "The bullet pierced Kizzie's left temple, went through her brain and came out her right temple. The gun was discharged from such close range that the bullet left virtually star-shaped holes. Brain dead, Kizzie was rushed to the Aristock Medical Center where life support systems were disconnected after two days." The woman investigating and writing about the case was very pleased with her own graphic details. It would, Torri Whack agreed, make an awesome story. As more story summaries came forth, Brooke, still silent, noted that many were about disappearing people. And it was generally left to the aspiring fiction writers to creatively construct either a fabricated ending for these disappearances or supply a working theory in order to flesh out their tales. IV. Disappearing people As Brooke remained and listened to the often truncated and fractured accounts of the
unsolved mysteries of Aristock as told by their middle-aged fictionalizers, it became evident to her that baffling and unexplained vanishments were nearly as popular in this group as unsolved murders. There was, for example, the case of the Bastian brothers, Jeremy and Tristan, two little ten year old white boys who lived in the post-war veterans’ housing section of town. Jeremy and Tristan were both dirty-blond and very cute. They were both born in the late 1960s, which again made them older than Brooke. And once again, Brooke felt that she may have heard something about them but didn't know. The thick matronly lady who reviewed the details of their story, however, provided some details that caught Brooke's interest. They had both attended Baygrove Elementary School, as had Brooke, but that was not the most important detail. Apparently both Jeremy and Tristan liked to dig in the fields surrounding the veterans' housing project. No one knew exactly why. They were just diggers. Maybe they found stuff from the old jeep factory which had once been on the property. Maybe they just liked to dig. One day they told their mother that they were uncovering some carroty orange rocks which glowed faintly in the dark. And the speculation was that they brought a few of these rocks home. At any event, agents of some unnamed government office visited their house and confiscated whatever it was that the boys had brought in. And then a chain link fence was suddenly erected around the hole where the boys had been excavating. And then some men in suits arrived in a large unmarked sedan one day in 1978 and took both boys to the courthouse basement for some sort of questioning. And then they never returned home. The police were notified but could do nothing. For a time their parents, both longstanding citizens of Aristock, had run around frantically looking for help. They had even contacted psychics and private detectives, but nothing came of it. Finally, the Bastians themselves announced that it was too painful for them to live in Aristock anymore and vanished themselves, although in a rental truck filled with hastily packed boxes of their most
important possessions. The Bastians did, however, drop off the face of the Earth, as had their boys. No one knew where they drove off to. How in the hell does one disappear from a courthouse basement? thought Brooke. But then Torri raised her hand and called for a short break in the narrative and its subsequent speculations, which were starting to fly from seat to seat. V. The Bastian boys' story continues. When everyone was re-seated, the same unnamed lady who had been reviewing her work, replete with wild conjectures of the most elaborate guesswork about the Bastian boys and their parents, lifted up her notepad and was about to resume when Torri Whack waved her hands frantically and said to stop. "It's not a story," Torri said firmly. "No hard details and no room to surmise any." A murmur went through the group, but Torri's words were final. It was not a story. The narrator closed her notepad and sat back down. The Bastian boys' story was over. Torri said so. And then Torri made a point of looking at her watch and announced a somewhat early lunch break. As the ladies ambled out of the meeting room, to a one ignoring Brooke, Brooke spotted a younger woman who had been seated at the far end of the table. She was faintly acquainted with the woman because of one of her son's friends named Subaru (Darien)
Devaney, a member of the awe-inspiring Plus Sized Club, about which this story will not concern itself. The younger woman was closer to Brooke's age, and Brooke edged her way beside her at the doorway of the library. Her name was Simmony Devaney. She was Subaru's mother. Brooke knew that much and nothing more. "How's Subaru doing?" Brooke asked, anxious to strike up at least the semblance of a conversation. "Okay. What about Jared?" "Okay." The conversation would have probably ended there if Brooke had not interjected: "That last story seemed the most intriguing of them all. Wonder why Torri stifled it?" "Let's get away from here, and I'll tell you what I know," said Simmony quietly. "Let's eat lunch around at the Carbon Grill." Simony was a slim, angular woman with large, doe-like eyes and a naive-cum-aggressive manner. Brooke had no idea that Subaru's mother was interested in creative writing or investigative biographies. Unlike most of the other women present, Simmony Devaney wore a strapless dress and displayed bare and lightly freckled shoulders, something that was probably disapproved of. It was, however, enough to attract the attention of the waiters at the crowded Carbon Grill, who rushed over to Brooke and Simmony's table offering snappy services. It was clear, as usual. that pretty women got better assistance than others.
"Let's have a drink too," said Brooke. "These mysteries are starting to grind on my nerves." Over clinking vodka tonics, Simmony opened up. "The Bastians were from old money in Aristock," she began somewhat cautiously. "Even though they had fallen financially and lived in that veterans' zone, they still kept up pretenses and had a maid. She was a black woman named Charisma. When the boys disappeared and the Bastians left town, my father hired Charisma part time to take care of my grandmother at our house. That was when I was only four, of course. But my grandmother just kept on living. And Charisma just kept on working for us part time. When I was about eleven in 1985, I heard Charisma tell my parents what had gone on in the Bastian house. It was about those rocks." Brooke sipped on her drink and raised her eyebrows as if to say "Carry on." Simmony went on to relate Charisma's second-hand tale of how the boys lugged two large cantaloupe sized ginger rocks into their family's house. At first, the family thought they were just some radioactive detritus left over in what had been essentially a dumping ground for war surplus, but the Bastian father had a Geiger counter somewhere in his house and ascertained that, although the rocks did exude a faint glow in the dark, they showed no discharge of radioactivity. Nor did they disrupt the electrical circuitry of the house or any appliances. In all, they were just rather misshapen dull orange stones that Charisma would have preferred to have taken back outside. But the Bastian mother, having an artistic streak in her, felt they could be washed up and put in the patio near her other growing things. She told both boys that if they wanted to keep the rocks, they would need to clean them thoroughly. And so Charisma was summoned to bring in a couple of huge stewpots and fill them with water. The rocks were placed inside these to soak.
A large, hybrid-looking butterfly flapped around the lips of their drink glasses, as if deciding which one to finally land on. Brooke brushed it away with her hand and automatically reached into her jacket pocket for the cigarette she had given Nathan Sorrell earlier that morning. Realizing its absence, she grimaced and wondered briefly whether she should share her episode with Simmony. "And then what?" she said, deciding that the fate of the Bastian boys had to be far more interesting than her encounter with a homeless drifter armed with a pointless story in need of an audience. "The way I heard the story was that about fifteen minutes later, Charisma, who used to be excitable as all hell even when she worked for us, ran back into the house screaming that the water in the pots was boiling "something furious." And so it was. Whatever was in the orange rocks made water boil. The family proved that to themselves over and over again. One of the boys, Jeremy I think, chipped off a thumb-sized fragment and brought it to his 5th grade teacher who got the same results by clunking it into a glass of cold water." "Boiling?" "Yep. The stones heated water." Simmony seemed pleased with her revelation. "The rest of the story we've already heard. Some sort of agency people show up, confiscate the rocks and later take the boys downtown. They wanted to interrogate them and learn as much as they could about where in the ground the rocks had been found. They needed to keep the boys somewhere other than the jail, so the rooms under the old courthouse seemed the best place. They say there are tunnels under there and..." "I know," interrupted Brooke. "That is one story I have heard all my life. The caves and
tunnels under the courthouse. The teachers used to tell us that to scare us, remember?" Simmony remembered. They had indeed been in some of the same classes together, although never friends or even much of acquaintances. "The town has a lot of mysteries," said Brooke finally. "This writers circle...well, for my part, it's a lot of hypothetical supposition. None of those old hens are going to solve any cold crimes or find out who shot John and where the bodies are buried." "We can try," said Simmony. "It beats writing romances." "The weirdest part is how Torri Whack wanted to squelch the thing. The sordid crap of Kizzie Flavell and her suicide is totally okay for her to dredge up, even if some of Kizzie's family are still in Aristock, but the Bastian boys..." "Off limits," said Simmony. "I told Subaru the story once, and he informed me---as those Plus Sized Clubbers do---that it was all perfectly clear. The Bastians in 1978 had discovered new source of energy that could have been cheaply mined and available to anyone at little or no cost. In an era of gas rationing that wouldn't have done. The government or what passed for it under Jimmy Carter needed to suppress any kind of free energy. They even tried to outlaw solar power in those days." "And they will do it again," rejoined Brooke, "when the need arises. What happened to Charisma?" "She could be spooked easily. My father told her it might be some sort of witchcraft and to never talk about it outside of the house. The Bastian parents had moved. That was all anyone needed to know."
"Your father was wise." Finishing her drink and poking invidiously at her broadleaf salad, Simmony added "I hate government conspiracies. There are too many of them. I don't think any government in this country is even capable of keeping a secret, let alone making two boys and their families disappear." "There may be governments other than the one we know," said Brooke, arising from the table and preparing to return for the end of the writers meeting. VI. Aristock Memorial High School, class of 1992 As they returned to the library through the crowded streets of the central business district, Brooke once again heard the faint and disjointed strains of the barbershop quartet issuing from the tiny theatre next to the courthouse. She's old and gray and thrown away..." Etc. Brooke didn't want to hear anymore. She was neither old nor gray nor thrown away. And neither was Simmony. Both, it turned out, had been in the same graduating class at A.M.H.S. 1992, an unremarkable year, and Brooke had been far more focused on boys and having fun than on other girls. For that reason, she and Simmony had scarcely been aware of one another. Simmony ran around in the very pack of so-called college-bound girls, preppies, that Brooke had always keenly avoided. "You were bad," laughed Simmony at some point. "Now we're both just aging mothers. Subaru and Jared and the others will be teenagers next year, and pretty soon off to college themselves. That's why I joined the writing circle."
Behind the clutter of the huge stone government buildings to which the courthouse was curiously annexed, rose the green third storey roof of Aristock Memorial High School, where both girls had not known one another. Before Brooke could say a word, Simmony blurted out that "They are tearing it down this summer." "Memories?" said Brooke. "A few," said Simmony. "Not for me." "If you went in there, a few might come back to you. If you saw some of the old abandoned classrooms." "Suppose so." "Well, tonight's your chance. The special tax coalition is holding a fundraising carnival there this afternoon and evening. I plan on going. It is for a good cause. We need new sewers in Aristock." "The old ones smell terrible," said Brooke sniffing downward as she passed over an open grate. "Our husbands and kids are gone. We could go together." "And reminisce?" said Brooke with an undisguised sarcastic sneer. "Maybe we could find one another, or have another go at being girlfriends."
"That's what this writing thing was supposed to be about," said Simmony. "Finding our voices...our memories...applying them to something outside of ourselves. Something bigger." "Like Kizzie Flavell, the evaporating Philomena and her horse and the still unaccounted for Bastian boys." "I guess," shrugged Simmony, no doubt getting bored with Brooke's apathy. Then she pointed toward the restroom near the library stairwell. "There were mysteries there too, but I don't suppose you remember any." As Simmony spun away toward the restroom, Brooke realized that they had been sitting on opposite ends of the huge conference room table and would probably reassume their initial seats. She would probably not see Simmony again. She wondered briefly whether this was good or bad. "Like what?" she said as Simmony blended into the crowd waiting for the toilets. "Like what?" Brooke repeated louder. "Like Draven and Raven Ganzersky," came Simmony's voice from the crowd. Brooke was thunderstruck. The strange vagrant who had briefly kidnapped her that very morning had said those names. Staggered, Brooke realized that she had no idea of who they were. She had a vague memory of some shy, unassuming twins who went to her school and who had rhyming names, and there was some funny business about them that students in the senior class used to allude to at times, but Brooke had never seen Draven or Raven and knew nothing of the story except that the girls were identical twins.
More stupid mysteries, thought Brooke as she regained her seat. I need to get out of here on the next break. Brooke also realized that she needed to at least ask Simmony about Draven and Raven because of her own cockeyed adventure that morning. The lady who had been sketching out the details of the unfortunate Bastian boys and their parents had not returned to the meeting. Brooke wondered why. Torri Whack gave no explanation and simply went into a long diatribe about the nature of investigative bio-fiction. "When the facts run out," she said, "you have to invent your own. This is a creative writing platform. We are not cops or private detectives. Change the names and make up a good story. That is how you get published." Brooke timidly raised her hand. For a minute or two Torri, absorbed in her own monologue, ignored it. Then she finally pointed at Brooke to speak. "If you ask me, Ms. Whack, the Bastian boys vanishing in a courthouse basement should be a great story in itself. I could think of all sorts of imaginary details." "I bet you could," said Torri with undisguised disdain. "But that old orange rock story has been around for years. Nobody has ever found any orange rocks. That brownfield outside of the Veterans’ Project was fenced off because it was a dangerous dumping ground of War Department surplus. The Bastians should not have been digging in there to start with." Another attendee muttered some sort of muted agreement and added "We decided not to explore any so-called government conspiracies. They are just too...too...well...commonplace these days." Others in the room grunted their approval and Brooke once again fell silent.
Then another story stub came forward. The lone black woman in the gathering mustered up some vocal courage and began talking about a girl named Tomeka who had a girlfriend named Danea whom she smothered to death for no apparent reason in 1990. The group hushed to gather in the scant details. It was obvious that lurid murders were much more to the liking of the gathering than disappearances and orange rocks. The Tomeka and Danea story degenerated into a free-for-all discussion of teenage mores, and once again the twin demons of drugs and obscene music were invoked. There was a general and spirited agreement that these things were bad and often led to teenage murder and suicide. Brooke, disgusted, wondered whether Philomena, her horse and her friends, had been doing acid when the first two vanished in plain sight. That would have made a lot of the middle aged ladies very pleased. An easy explanation. As the early afternoon wound on, Brooke found herself thinking more and more about Draven and Raven and the outlandish Nathan Sorrell who had mentioned them. Maybe that would be her story, seeing as how she had already been a small part of it. Maybe she could find herself with Draven and Raven...what was their last name? Ganzersky. She needed to waylay Simmony when the meeting was over. When her mind finally regained consciousness of the discussion around her, Brooke began hearing a lot of breast beating about pedophiles and child molesters. The entire gathering was, apparently, against them. How this discussion had got started she did not know. But some unnamed person was being flaunted as the worst child killer to ever live in Aristock. Brooke did not hear a name, and so she did not know at the time that the ladies in somewhat hushed tones were discussing someone named Nathan Sorrell.
This was something she would learn later. VII. The Tax Party "I hate school carnivals," grumbled Brooke as she and Simmony Devaney purchased a ticket and walked into the now dusty and crumbling and soon to be demolished structure that had once been Aristock Memorial High School, a huge three-storey brick edifice that had outlived its usefulness but most certainly not its memories. "It's for a good cause," said Simmony. "We need an extra penny sales tax to pay for new sewers." A different group of much younger adults and their children roiled about the stage and gymnasium, the floor of which had been transformed into a carnival ground with several home made booths scattered over the rutted boards of the old indoor basketball court. Looking in all directions at once, Simmony seemed pleased. She greeted a few old friends and shook hands with children who seemed to be automatically drawn to her. "I was a cheerleader here once," she blurted to no one in particular. "But I don't suppose you remember." "I don't," said Brooke, somewhat annoyed. "This gym and that stage hold no memories for me. Oh, except one! I lost my virginity in the ninth grade behind those old seating stands." The remark was calculated to shock Simmony but failed. "I did too," said Simmony quietly.
Brooke was starting to see Subaru's hitherto unknown mother in a different light. Perhaps the two of them did, after all, have things in common. In all, the gym floor was speckled with little knots of happy, chattering citizens intermingled with local civic figures who, unlike Brooke, did not hate school carnivals. At every attraction booth there clustered excited little throngs who issued disconnected sound bites, the shreds of various truncated conversations that, taken as a whole, meant very little to Brooke, who had always maintained herself as a staunch outsider to Aristock society. Words flew up from the crowds. At one booth which featured bean bag throwing, a persuasive activist whom Brooke knew as Melody Chapman proclaimed to all present "I took a Xanax before I came here. Maybe that is why I am speaking slowly." Another end of the gym floor had been staked out as male territory, and a podgy man wearing a striped business suit announced to those around him that "It was because of drug deal gone bad." Brooke did not remain long enough to learn what the "it" was, but the words were pronounced with the kind of ersatz solemnity that marked the fringes of the evening's merriment. At a rather sloppy refreshment table, two women with retro beehive hairdos were rhapsodizing over how lovely the children were. One of them, a flabby, hair-dyed lady in too tight spandex pants exclaimed that she could not wait to see the children perform. A somewhat clumsy magician wearing a top hat and a gold -braided waistcoat was pulling balls and scarves out of people's mouths. At one point he reached inside his cummerbund and produced a rather sleepy rabbit which was coated in pink powder ostensibly in an effort to make it look brighter. He dragged the bunny forth and deposited it on a card table. The rabbit, immobile, immediately began sneezing and coughing.
"I didn't know rabbits coughed," said Brooke abstractly. "You'd cough too if you were covered in pink powder and stuffed in that dude's vest," said Simmony. Farther toward the raised stage, another group of excited mothers were dusting up and brushing off a little girl whom some of them eagerly deemed as being "just too cute." The girl's name was Janeen something, and she was preparing, somewhat reluctantly, to recite a epic poem which she had written in crayon on a long scrolled roll of brown paper. Janeen walked up to the microphone, stuttered a bit, and began. "Why We Need Sewers" was the title of her work, and she began in a squeaky, halting voice: "Yipes, yipes, we need pipes." The mothers in attendance clapped, encouraging her on, and---redfaced---Janeen continued. "Doers make sewers and we are doers." "Oh Jesus," said Brooke, "do we need to listen to this?" "Not really," said Simmony, tugging her away from the stage. Janeen, oblivious to who was listening or not, continued. "Yipes, yipes, we need pipes." Farther along, a group of four men dressed in broadly striped pants and straw hats were clearing their throats and preparing to perform something vocal. The goddamn barbershop quartet, thought Brooke. It is impossible to get away from them. Before Brooke and Simmony had worked their way through the crowd to a makeshift lottery wheel decorated with various clown faces, the quartet had already begun. She's old and gray and thrown away. All her tomorrows were yesterday...
"I can't stand this anymore," said Brooke suddenly taking Simmony's arm. "Let's get out before we're driven totally bonkers." "Not before we see something," said Simmony with a slightly cagey look creasing her face. "Remember we are investigators." Unfortunately, Simmony's last comment was overheard by a tall, feisty man in pantaloons wearing a chest badge that announced he was the master of ceremonies for the evening's events. As he was a member of the mayor's council and a local dignitary of sorts, Simmony was quick to introduce him to Brooke. His name sounded something like Arthur Armpit, and he was someone that everyone was supposed to know in Aristock. Simmony wasted no time in telling Brooke that Arthur had once been a coach at the high school, a job which he was now too old to perform. "Arthur was the last man to ever talk to Nathan Sorrell," volunteered Simmony. Brooke was dumbfounded upon hearing the name. She began to stammer out a question about Sorrell, but was interrupted by Arthur Armpit, whose real name turned out to be Ardpett. "That was a long time ago, ladies. Before you graduated. And I assure you that the filthy pervert is dead in a ditch somewhere. No one has seen him in Aristock for decades. I hope to god he is somewhere where he can't do any more harm." Ardpett seemed satisfied with his righteous role in this hushed-up scandal which passed totally beyond the comprehension of Brooke, but about which Simmony had an all-knowing look. "Who is Nathan Sorrell?" Brooke babbled in spite of herself. She was very close to divulging the events of the morning.
"I'll tell you later," said Simmony. "I'm surprised you can't remember. I guess we really did go our separate ways in high school." With that she steered Brooke away from the former coach-turned-civic-leader and sought refuge in a less populated corner of the bustling gymnasium. Behind them, the two women could hear the maddening jumble of mangled conversations punctuated by little Janeen who had not yet brought her unmitigated poem to a conclusion. "Yipes, yipes, we need pipes" she kept repeating. And then the barbershop quartet decided to roast up their act. They tapped their canes on their brimmed straw hats and gave a long and ramblingly melodramatic reprise of "She's old and gray and thrown away." "Yeah, we know," blurted Brooke, "All her tomorrows were yesterday." "This place is really getting to you," said Simmony. "Let's slip upstairs and find some memories." VIII. Room 303 The stairwell, one of four in the ancient condemned building, was lit only by a flickering bulb of the lowest possible wattage. Across the stairs was stretched a yellow folding fence with a handwritten sign: CAUTION DO NOT ENTER. STAIRS UNSAFE. Beyond the fence, the shadows closed in like the curled fingers of a somnolent giant. "C'mon," urged Simmony. "Let's not let an old stairwell scare us." "One can only imagine how many times we passed going up and down these steps," mused Brooke, lifting her legs carefully not to disturb the barrier. "Your problem was that you never gossiped with us enough back then," whispered
Simmony. "Just like now. You kept to yourself. Anyway, I lied." "About what?" "About not knowing you. I was well aware of you since the tenth grade. You were one of the pretty ones, like me, and I always wondered just what you were up to, why you didn't join us." "I was daydreaming of this very day," said Brooke with a tinge of sarcasm. "My future. I was preparing for it." The two women climbed higher and higher over the broken tiles of the school stairs until after a right angle turn they emerged in front of a door marked SECOND FLOOR. "Want to re-experience the second floor?" said Simmony. "I'm sure it is full of ghosts. What I really want is a cigarette." "Here," said Simmony, holding a mostly empty pack in front of her. "I've been saving one for you." "You smoke?" "Yes, and I drink too. And I dropped a lot of acid. And blew a lot of weed back then." "I did my share. Let's not tell Jared or Subaru about the cigarettes now. The club disapproves." "They disapprove of everything," said Simmony, shrugging her shoulders in the dark
stairwell. "Well, what about the second floor? We were in a biology lab together. Of course you don't remember." "Not really." "No big deal. As I said, I noticed you. I remember some of the classes we had together." "And now we're older and in another one. Which reminds me: Who is Nathan Sorrell?" "Go ask the folks below," said Simmony. "Lots of them are our age and older. They'll tell you exactly what Coach Ardpett did. Nathan was a pedophilic child molester and probably murdered two girls. You could start a great conversation with that." "Where and when did this all happen?" "Right here at Memorial. Once again, you were lost in your own world. Out of the loop." "No, I wasn't. I was fucking Josh Bratphram." "El-O-El." "What about Nathan Sorrell? What if I told you I kind of know him?" "You used to. We both did. Briefly. And that is part of the mystery. Remember we're supposed to be solving mysteries or at least adding to them. I started with the Bastian boys and their rocks but the trail led me to Sorrell." "I kind of figured you had more than a passing interest in those boys."
"Yeah. Old Charisma did her trick on me. But I reached a dead end, kind of." "So we knew Sorrell?" "Yep. But that is another floor up. Want to go? This is a cabinet of lost memories, this school." "Sure. Hey, what about a light for this cigarette? All I have is the habit." Simmony found a plastic lighter and reached out in the filmy darkness to light Brooke's cigarette. In the quick glow of the flame, Brooke saw the face of someone she now recognized even more clearly as a former classmate from over twenty years ago. A different Simmony flared up in her view, a kind of sinister drama queen reigning over a whole tribe of others like her. Brooke searched her mind for extended reasons to dislike her but found none. It really is impossible to say you know someone, she thought once again. We never get inside each others' skins until it is too late to care. But in some corner of her thoughts, Brooke was starting to care. The mother of her son's friend was transforming into what Brooke might have called a person of interest, and those were few and far between in Brooke’s life. Once again, the final staircase was illuminated by a dim security bulb, and there were other signs warning trespassers that the stairs were hazardous. Old plastic notebook covers, sheets of wadded paper, and ripped up textbooks littered the steps. Moving past them, the two women ascended into a denser darkness and arrived at the unhinged door of the school's third floor. "Let's stroll down the hall," said Simmony. "Maybe memories will start cascading into
your mind." "Memories of you? I don't think so." "Why not? We had some classes together. Twelfth grade. American Civics. Room 303. A required class where we did very little but fuck off. Taught at first by a coach like all the useless classes are. Taught by none other than...." "Arthur Armpit," said Brooke. "Didn't we used to call him that back then?" "Guess so. What a fucking waste. All he did was talk about the teams. We didn't learn shit until....Until in around February, when snow was up to our asses. Ardpett couldn't take any more, and they hired a new teacher because coaching season for baseball or some shit was coming up. So they finally got a new guy. You probably never noticed that either, fucking what's his name as you said." "Probably not. I hated school. Boring classes taught by coaches..." "Yeah, I know. But this new teacher was special." "No teachers were special." "This one was. Ah, here we are. Room 303, east corner, third floor. Wonder if the room is unlocked?" "Who was this new teacher?" persisted Brooke, "and why was he special?" "That, madam, is going to be in my book: The Mystery of Room 303. But let me say for
one he wasn't much older than us. Right out of college I guess. And kind of handsome. Suppose you didn't notice that either. He was lively and interesting, unlike the coach, and he actually tried to teach us something." "None of these goddamn teachers ever taught me anything. The first thing I ever really learned for sure was in college." Simmony, still in the semi-darkness, put her hand over the doorknob of Room 303 and twisted it. The lock creaked and the door swung open with a greater ease than it should have. Inside, the space was illuminated by the lights of Aristock shining in through four corner windows which, although filthy, admitted enough of the cold city lights to make the desks and bookshelves quite visible. "Any memories yet?" said Simmony. "A few," said Brooke glancing around. "But none of you." "You sat here," said Simmony pointing to a desk in the second row close to the door. "I sat back there with the girls." "Sounds like school to me. What great mystery took place here? And who was this new teacher?" "You haven't guessed? Who is this story about?" "Sorrell?" "Bingo." "So the child murderer was our teacher?"
"Yup, for about two weeks in February. Then he disappeared." Wiping some accumulated dust from a desk chair, Brooke sat down and stubbed her cigarette out on the wooden floor. "Another disappearance? This is getting old. I think you have been hanging around Torri Whack too much." "Remember she said that disappearances were less interesting than murders. There was supposed to be a murder...a dual murder here." "Who?" Simmony sat down beside Brooke in the deserted classroom without dusting off her desk. She found another cigarette, offered it to Brooke who refused, and lit up, blowing mangled rings of smoke into the street light luminosity. "That Josh Whatever must have really been good in the sack. You don't know a damn thing, do you? I guess I'm going to have to tell you what I remember, what has been known in most parts of town now for a long, long time." Suddenly, a soaring shadow blocked the classroom door. A stern, businesslike voice rang out. "You mean like how Nathan Sorrell brought the Ganzersky twins to this room, had some kind of hush-hush buzz with them, and that the last that was ever seen of them was in his car during the week before he left town himself?" It was, of course, Arthur Armpit, former coach and now civic leader promoting the one cent sewer tax. "You girls are trespassing, you know." "We know," said Simmony with some defiance. "I also know that you called the police in on Nathan Sorrell. For what reason I have no idea, but it was after he had a quick
conversation with you one day outside the school that the cops began crawling all over Sorrell looking for evidence. Evidence which apparently they never found. You were a one man show, Coach, in promoting your replacement's reputation as a murderer. But there never was enough data. Only you and your persistence. I also know that it was your wife Marie who called in the authorities years before on the Bastian kids, but that is a separate story." Ardpett entered the room and assumed a pedagogical pose in front of the two women. "The facts stand alone," he began. "You were here that day." "How would you know, Coach? Did you have your lecherous little beady eyes on senior girls too?" "Maybe. You were both very pretty back then." "Both?" said Brooke. "Back then?" "Oh, you're still pretty now, if that is what you're wanting to hear Ms. Nescott. And no, I only took note of who was in the class that day because I thought I would have needed witnesses. As it was, the facts were pretty clear. Right before the bell, Draven Ganzersky came up from her class on the first floor and spoke to Nathan. She had no business here. Raven was in Nathan's class. She arrived early and took a seat as usual. Nathan had some secret conversation with her before the start of class. Then Draven came in." "Really unusual, Coach. Enough to convict a guy for child murder?" "Yes, especially after both twins were seen in his car two days later. That alone was confirmation. Teachers are not supposed to be chauffeuring students around. And then
the girls were gone." "Just like the Bastians?" volunteered Brooke. "Very much so," said Ardpett. "Only that was years before." "But the funny thing," resumed Simmony is that the Ganzersky parents refused to cooperate. They eventually moved away from Aristock. It was like their twin daughters never existed or never mattered. They pressed no charges and asked for no investigation." "And let me guess," said Brooke, "Neither girl was ever seen again." "Never." "But you see," continued Simmony unruffled, "nothing really happened until Coach Ardpett came running up to Mr. Sorrell a day later in front of the school, where I and the others just happened to be. It was after that that the girls were seen in Sorrell's car. The whole story, therefore, hinges on whatever it was that you said to Nathan Sorrell outside the school. You were both trying to shout and whisper at the same time. You attracted a lot of attention that day." "You've done your research well, Ms. Devaney. But that was twenty years ago. The trail has gone very cold." "And yet you still persist in painting Nathan Sorrell as the grisly perpetrator of a crime. You have added your own details too over the years. Like how he molested the twins just before he kidnapped and killed them. Purely your details."
"Just like in our writing class," said Brooke, rather merrily, perhaps trying to break the tension. It still was not clear what Arthur Armpit was going to do to her and Simmony for their trespassing. Both women stood up. "We've reached another dead end here again, Brooke," said Simmony. Coach Ardpett isn't going to tell us anything about what began in this room in 1992 and ended with two forever-missing twins, nonchalant parents, and Nathan Sorrell going to another city." "Maybe Nathan Sorrell never went anywhere," said Brooke. Arthur Ardpett glared at Brooke through the sandy darkness. "I hope that doesn't mean what I think it does, Brooke." "We're on a first name basis now, Arthur?" "We were once." "That was then...etc." Arthur Ardpett turned and walked toward the classroom door. He spun around one final time and pointed a warning finger toward Brooke and Simmony. "Here is what I have to say. Both of you have no business up here, and I'll report you if you don't come back down right away. The Ganzersky case has been closed long ago. Everyone who is someone in Aristock knows it was Sorrell. And so... if one of you [he looked squarely at Brooke] knows something about him or has spoken with him, you'd be well advised to stop. The man is totally discredited. He went somewhere and became a drunk. They say he was kicked out of the army. They say he never held a steady job since. I know what I
know, but it doesn't matter anymore. Sorrell has no business in Aristock." With that, Ardpett thumped audibly in his descent down the litter-strewn stairs. Opening the hallway doors, he admitted the jumbled sounds of the carnival festivity. In the random noise that filtered upward, Brooke thought she heard little Janeen still bleating "Yipes, yipes, we need pipes." And, feeling twenty years older than the eighteen year old she had once been in this very room, she very definitely identified the barbershop quartet who endured with "She's old and gray and thrown away...etc." "I wish they'd all stop that shit" was the last thing Brooke muttered as she followed Simmony down the "dangerous" stairs and back into the festooned bunting and makeshift merriment of the tax party. IX. Brooke's day is still not over Brooke Nescott, without asking, settled down in the warm May evening air on a little wooden bench in the center of a tiny park nestled in the shadow of the Aristock Town Hall and Police Department, as well as in close range the requisite Federal Building and City Administrative Offices, all of which were clustered together and seemed somehow to be connected to one another. "Buildings tell stories," she said aloud to Simmony who had accompanied her away from the school carnival and was now sitting alongside of her in the park. "Suppose they do," agreed Simmony. "Lots of mysteries. Right here. Corrupt town officials. Government secrets. Conspiracies. Disappearing people. I suppose that is what it is all about." "Maybe not," said Brooke, thinking of her domestic partner Eric Palobay and his ultra-
secretive vap wearers society. "Maybe not." "So are you going to write something?" asked Simmony. "Not a word," said Brooke, who at length realized that on her day alone she had learned absolutely nothing about either herself or any of the other mysteries that had hounded her life. "What have we really learned today? Murders are more interesting than vanishing people. The Bastian twins were never seen again, nor were their rocks. An old coach from our school is now all enmeshed with town politics and probably knows more than he will ever admit. You and I kind of--sort of--knew one another in school. Yipes, yipes, we need pipes! And of course we're soon to be old and gray and thrown away. I don't feel like I know any more than what I began the morning with. Except...." "Except what?" said Simmony, showing a slightly elevated level of interest. In the emergent brightness of the full spring moon, Brooke then took it upon herself to relate the uncanny events which had preceded her arrival at the library writing club assembly that morning. Simmony listened fixedly, taking every detail in. At length she said "We could try to find him! There has to be more to his story. He must know about the government conspiracies...more than one. He would be old enough to remember the Bastians too. I know this is the work of the government at its worst. They have always lied to us." "Maybe not," said Brooke. "You said that before. Mind explaining?" "It's this way," began Brooke. "Lots of things are going on all the time which pass above
and beyond our detection. The world is governed in ways that we do not and probably could not understand, and it is not all government. Somewhere, somehow there are other powers. Powers which far exceed anything we know as simple government. There are groups, groups which have always been there since the dawn of civilization, groups which wield vast influence and forceful clandestine authority. That is the only thing I am sure of." "So we're at another dead end?" "Fraid so," said Brooke with a prolonged sigh of resignation. "Who are we to delve? We might discover things that were never meant to be discovered in the first place." "Like what is really behind the façades of those buildings," said Simmony. "Maybe. Or what is really organizing our destinies from somewhere else. I'm willing to bet that Nathan Sorrell has some idea." Brooke sighed again. "We're going to each be thirty-eight this year. I have a happy life and a great domestic plan. Jared, Eric and someone else you don't know named..." "Dragonsnort?" "Yes, and I'm not even going to ask how you know about him or what he is." "But we do have the disconnected pieces of the story of the Ganzersky twins. It's worth a line or two of semi-fiction. Something to please old Torri." "Hardly. Even their parents didn't care."
Unexpectedly, a shaky male voice issued from behind them. It was the voice of someone who had been there all along, someone who had been watching, no doubt following. It was a voice edged with years of strain and the corrosive damage of every sort of self-inflicted abuse. "That should tell you something," rasped the voice. A silhouette emerged from the gloomy, untended bushes in front of the courthouse. "I've been listening." It was, of course, Nathan Sorrell, hooded parka and gun. A ravaged and trembling skeleton of what had once been a strong and reportedly handsome man. "Too much of a coincidence," said Brooke. "You've shadowed me all day, haven't you?" "Not until I saw you going into the jamboree. I hang around here. I sleep here sometimes. I am a bum, to use a precise term. I suppose you saw that this morning. But I heard your comment about powers beyond our knowledge, and I want to tell you that you are right." Brooke looked at Simmony, wondering what the latter would do. She had come to faintly respect the courage and non-conformity of this woman. She wondered if Simmony would be alarmed by the sight of a down-and-out man in a hood with a gun. She was not. "An opportunity to get some answers," Simmony said. "Too bad he doesn't come with a fifth of whiskey and some smokes." "Maybe I do," said Sorrell. "Maybe I do. If you want to find out, let's get away from these government whorehouses and whatever secrets are behind their walls. Let's go sit in the parking lot of Mega-Mart. The store is closed and no one will bother us. I won't have to share my whiskey with the other tramps here either."
And so as the temperate spring Aristock evening darkened into night, the trio trudged off down Fleetwood Avenue to the dimly lit but spacious parking lot of one of Aristock's largest emporiums. "This may finally get interesting," said Brooke. "The day is not over, is it?" "Not by a longshot," agreed Simmony. X. Conclusion if there can be one: The account of Nathan Sorrell "Hope you ladies don't mind the accommodations," said Nathan, passing around a fifth of bourbon and lighting three cigarettes at once. "Not at all," said Brooke. "Most of the fun things I have learned in my life, I learned from homeless bums with a bottle of cheap booze in some out of the way place. I'm also guessing that your gun is and always has been empty." "Right about that," wheezed Sorrell. "You two were pretty in high school. But you have no fears from me. I'm done in. You can see that." "Yeah, and we have no plans to rescue you," added Brooke with an air of nonchalance. "You promised some explanations. My bet is that you have a need to talk and that will suffice." "Right again," said Nathan Sorrell. "Where should I start? The Bastians? That happened in 1978 right before I started college. Or should I jump right into the Ganzersky twins and our friend Coach Ardpett?"
"Just tell me one thing," interjected Simmony. "Our old family maid told us that the Bastian boys had discovered rocks that boil water, a new and free source of energy, and for that they were whisked away. Is that true?" "Yep. By a special association that protects the world from such atrocities as free energy as long as there is money to be made on petroleum, natural gas and such. So if you ever run into a source of free force, keep it quiet. Next question." Brooke took a long swig from the whiskey bottle and a deeper than usual drag on her cigarette. "I'm bored," she said. "I don't want to hear about super powers." Nathan Sorrell smiled pleasantly at her and winked his watery eyes. "Not into super heroes with real special powers either? Like in the movies." "Maybe that, but not agencies, associations, groups, assemblies, governments...etc." "Okay, I'll tell you about some super powers. If we had a Batman or a Hulk here, someone would be sure to use them unwisely. That is what happens to super powers, not like in the films." "Now I'm getting bored," sighed Simmony. "Why don't you start with Room 303. That day with Draven and Raven Ganzersky and take it from there." Nathan Sorrell took a big swallow from his bottle and began, almost in a nodding, dozy stupor. It was not clear that he was actually talking to Brooke and Simmony but rather at some unseen spirits emanating from behind the invisible curtains of a now-distant past. I was new at your school. Took over from that super patriot Ardpett whose sole mission it was
to inform the authorities about anything unusual like the Bastians. He had no idea of who he was relaying information too either. Never has. Just doing his duty. He had government connections back then too, but, as you know, we are not necessarily talking about government per se. Government officials are only conduits to something much, much larger. It was February. Snow covered all the streets of Aristock. I was finally out of college and on my first teaching assignment, and I wasn't really sure if that was what I wanted to do in my life. In so many ways, I was bored. "I can relate to boredom," interrupted Brooke. "I really can." I arrived at your class earlier than the students and was staring out of one of those third floor corner windows in the room, and I saw Raven and Draven Ganzersky walking down the street toward school. The only thing that struck me then was that they were in point of fact true identical twins. No one could tell them apart. That intrigued me for some reason. Raven was in my first period class. Her sister Draven was in another class on the first floor---gym with the famous Arthur Ardpett. That was about as far away from my room as one could get. Raven arrived, shyly as she always did and sat down in the back, opened her book and was quietly reading. Both girls were modest and undemandingly plain. I had a minute to talk to Raven alone, and so, on impulse, I did. I went back and asked her if ---as an identical twin--she had any special connection with her sister. It was like I was the first to ever show an interest in her or ask that question, so she looked up and answered me. She said of course she did. They were joined----mentally. Each was in contact with the other all the time. So I asked her to prove it. I asked her to get her sister to request a pass and come to my room without Raven budging from her seat. Could she do that? Of course she could. I said just get her to come up here right then or a little after class started. She could make an excuse to her
teacher. Everyone trusted the twins. The other students arrived. The bell rang. Class started, and no sooner had I began to teach than there was a knock on the door. It was Draven with a pass from Coach Ardpett. She wanted to see her sister for a moment. Would it be all right? I let her in and she whispered to Raven for a minute, smiled at me and left. In short, Raven had called her up three floors with her mental powers. It was enough proof to convince me for life. "Mentally conjoined twins," mused Brooke. Yes, and I was stupid enough to mention it at lunch the next day to Ardpett. He told me to never tell anyone and that he had friends---adult friends 'from downtown' who would want to speak to both girls about this ability. This super-power, as it were. And that is exactly what it was and is: a superior and unexplained gift, shared by these identical twins. I had proved it that very day at Memorial High. I knew something about Ardpett's involvement with the Bastians a few years before and began to sense the wrong I had done in mentioning it to him. I asked him not to repeat what I had told him, and he refused. He warned me that it was I who should never repeat what I knew about the twins. I did them both a huge disservice, and I knew it. So I went on my own to speak to their parents. Both parents were silent about the matter but understood. That was where I was driving the girls that day after school. I knew I had to act fast and not worry about who saw me. It was for the sake of the twins. Their parents made sure they were taken safely away from Aristock before anyone down Ardpett's pipeline could kidnap them and use them for whatever purposes that kind of
extraordinary gift could be used for...and you can be sure it would have been, to say the least, evildoing on some large scale. I risked my own reputation to save Draven and Raven, and saved them I did. Along with their parents, they got beyond the reach of ...of ...whatever. Some people call it The Centre, the ancient masters who direct and manipulate most human activities on Earth and could have well used bookend twins capable of mentally communicating over long distances. Think of the possibilities. It ruined my life. Ardpett warned me never to return to Aristock because of his friends, and he subsequently smeared my reputation, making me out to be the chief actor in their disappearances. And later he added child molestation and murder. Although neither have ever been proven. After finishing his monologue, Sorrell rose erratically to his feet, swayed a little under the influence of the alcohol and said a simple goodbye. "I am going to glide back into wherever I came from. Don't tell my story. Not here or anywhere else. The twins are still safe. They have changed identities and even faces, so I've heard. They deserve a normal life." Then he walked away. Neither Brooke nor Simmony would ever see him again. Later as midnight turned into early morning, Brooke, still alone on her free day, sat at her kitchen table with a pen in her hand and a yellow legal pad in front of her. She had the story now. As did Simmony. Simmony, however, had said she had no plans to write or embellish it. She never bothered to tell Brooke why. Brooke felt for a brief moment or two that she could do so. All I have to do is change the names, she thought. She stared long and hard at the legal pad in front of her.
And then the paradoxes of both her checkerboarded life and the intersecting stories of the Bastians and the Ganzerskys began clouding up in her brain. Life was inexplicable and bewildering. Her own strange experiences had already shown that. Did everything need to be explained? Nathan Sorrell had sacrificed his entire productive life to shield two seventeen year old, unnoticed and unseen, former classmates of hers. Who was she to get involved at thirty-eight? Where was the use in it? How could one human being ever hope to understand everything possible about another? In a sunken and now quietly comprehensive resignation, she looked at a family portrait of Jared, Eric and Dragonsnort. Then she threw the pen down on the table, rose to her feet and said: "Fuck it." _______________________________________________________ Devon Pitlor April, 2012 /*/*/*/*~~/*
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