RETURN OF THE PRODIGAL CHILD 4
Baby-Girl 12
The Man Who Would Be King... by J. Massey ? 1999 15
CHARACTER PROFILE FOR NIVANAA: 16
A Mark in the Dark 19
Out of the Darkness 20
The Amnesiac 21
Love me Not's 22
The sweet taste for revenge 25
Bonds of a Kind 26
Nursing Notes 28
Darling Lil' 29
Dead Men Tell No Tales
Meeting's of the Mind
So Hard To Say Good-Bye
T Minus 120 and Counting...
The Naked Sun
COLD BABY
 
 

RETURN OF THE PRODIGAL CHILD
(by Jeffery Massey, Sr.)
Nivanaa Tyler, a young homeless former gang member
Jack 'Max' Tyler, Nivanaa's father and local patrolman.
Mary Tyler, Jack's ex-wife and local family therapist.
Hal David, Nivanaa's estranged boyfriend, a newspaper reporter.

Setting: Conference room in Mary's office building.
Time: The following day.
Situation: Nivanaa, the young bum, enters into the office of Mary Tyler, Family Therapist.

**********************************************************************
I remembered how I kept watching the sky, looking for a break in the dark storm clouds so I could see the bright spot of twinkling light that was Mars at its closest point to Earth. I had no idea, then, what it might be like to die on another planet. Especially when living on this one was a fate worse than death itself to me.

As the street lights in the alley slowly dim, I watched
a faintly glowing reddish ember appear within the dark entrance of my
cardboard menagerie. Drifting puffs of cigarette smoke rose from the entrance as muffled voices argued a stone's throw away. My bleary-eyes burned as I croutched like a tiger in the rain; the sole occupant of a forlorn cave, thumping my depleted butt into the wet alley. The still dawn was torn by agonizing shrieks of pain as my crooked index finger teasingly caressed the crimson-red stream of rainwater flowing away.
Peering in the direction from which the red tide flowed, the thump of a body hitting the ground and scurrying feet running away merged together, like some insane Miles Davis jazz cresendo.
My young bum's face emerged out of the darkness of my cardboard home. I focused my world-weary eyes just in time to look upon the horrifying image of his childhood friend's face, frozen in the contorted agony of violent death. As I warily staggered, still suffering from yet another night of cheap wine and no food, I drew nearer to my fallen comrade. Bursts of thunder rattled nearby garbage cans as bolts of lightening reflected off the bayonet buried in the back of the fallen corpse that was once my drinking buddy. Falling to my knees, like Belafonte begging Carmen for one last chance, my young bum's tears fell from my face in anguish. They washed my soot-blackened face as if annointing my grief and dripped onto a small, plastic-wrapped ledger. I, a young bum, tenderly closed my dead comrades eyes. It was a fitting moment, I thought, for me to perform this last rite for Dropsy. We had both earned the right to fail miserably in escaping ghetto life and the alley life was our just reward. I picked up what the law-dogs would've called Doug's 'personal effects' and staggered down the narrow alley, clutching the shoe-box and the ledger. I entered the basement entrance of a small office building. The doorway seemed so tiny as my five-foot ten, 145 pound frame tried to pretend as if

it could masquerade for a healthy physique. Shit, I thought, what the hell do I do now? Looking up at the dark heaven, I couldn't hear any answer. Maybe, nobody was home. It didn't matter cause' the old adage was true. You can't go home anymore.
The sound of pouring rain mixed with flashes of electrical violence as if the mind of God was having a migraine form all the bullshit going on down here. What is it you would have me to do? Water dripped off the dilapidated brim of my 'Your Best Bet is to Hire a Vet' ball cap. My stomach was killing me but, I thought, it better just get in line with everything else trying to do me in.
The words from my lips, like notes from Coltrane's bittersweet horn. Always haunting me when I was about to fuck something up. Always there inside my head, watching and waiting like a pillar of the unnatural.
My reflection, cast by the shimmering puddle on the ground beneath my feet showed my rain-soaked, Indian-black hair preesed against my high cheekbones and partially hiding my blood-shot, carmel-colored eyes.

"Is this how it's all gonna' end..."
I knew no answer was coming. Only a fool expected a life of lies to tell the truth. A life that forces me to kow-tow in cartoon roles on life's stage as if I was adorned with a minstrel-like stereotype as my costume.
"But I'm refusing to go quietly into the night. I am not an animal. I am a human being."
Suddenly, the early morning action took its toll as I started to shake uncontrollably. I couldn't tell if it was the 'drunken shakes' or malnutrition. Doug's stabbing sure didn't help. They'll be looking for me real soon now. And here I am, in this God-forsaken alley, on the outskirts of a fresh, new millenium. Hungry, alone and afraid. "Yet, still I dream. You can't take that away from me."
"Why can't I, Nivan?" a voice inside me answered. What moves into that vacant apartment of my soul after life has served the eviction notice on my humanity?
For Doug and I it was creeping anger and desolate fear that took up residence in our hearts. Just like those of us who thrive in urban jungles of despair, still swinging to the distant beat of Zulu and Mau-Mau war drums. Senseless violence and fiendish cruelty; was it all that's left for me? I don't know whether caring matters anymore. It has no place in this hell on earth existence and yet, I still care what happens. I don't know why. I only feel that somewhere in my life, someone touched my mind and planted the seed of
dreams. A concept, idea or image that haunts the reality of who I am and where I'm at right now; sitting hungrily alone like a tiger in the rain, trying to explain the thunder, the lightening and the pain. My animal existence of kill or be killed burns away at my seed of dreams. Like an old Charley Parker piece, singing songs and hitting notes of anarchy. I whispered within myself, on the waves of the homeless life I led. I am sinking. With that thought still alive, I slithered into the office building of Mary Tyler, Family Therapist.
***********************************************************
"Ha! The gangs all here!" I hollered, startling all within the conference room.
"In the words of America's Michael Buffer, let's get ready
to r--u--m--b--l--e!" I paused, still displaying my best sardonic grin. "Here I am, in the company of three bonafide pillars of the black community. What's up? Are you all combining your 'superior' wisdom and insightful prudence to resolve the problem of coping with a menace to society like me?"
I saw Jack seated along the far end of the table, brooding and seething, before replying. "And here we are, honored with the presence of the
biggest screw-up since Jerry Lewis in the 'Disorderly Orderly."
Home-Boy, you've had more chances to straighten up and fly
right than a compulsive liar in a monastery. Still sending cash to
the cleaners instead of dirty laundry? Or does blood money
not bother too you much?"
I shrugged off the remarks with a disgusted look before
replying. "Well lookie' here! Seated to my left, the guardian-enforcer of law and order. You've got fifteen years experience at arm-twisting, rail-roading gestapo tactics. Always inflicted on your fellow brothers in the vain hope of getting that elusive promotion. Ehh, Sergeant Jack Tyler? How many night-shift nurses, on their way to work, did you strip search? How many housewives have you accused of loitering as prostitutes while they waited for a bus?"
Hal was looking preoccupied with his scupltured dreadlocks twirling around in his new weave. "I see time in the joint and stints at those luxurious homeless shelters haven't taught you a lick of manners, Nivanaa."
"On my right, the voluptuously beautiful and equally
deceitful embodiment of journalistic craft and integrity. Hal David, who wields the power of the press like a master butcher carving up her blue-plate special."
I laughed with that Louis Armstrong, gutteral laugh that I knew she hated. Mary bolted upright and let loose. "If you had half a brain, you'd be dangerous. That's typical of your kind. Showing no grace, no etiquette and no appreciation for the finer things in life. It's those like you who'd like to burn intellectuals at the stake along with their books. The only thing you cosy up to is beating your chest in the middle of some third world banana republic where the law of the jungle rules.
"Last, but not least, at the head of the table we find the penultimate advocate of moral, social and behavioral academic standards, Mary. A consumate
professional who ironically claims to solve relationship conflicts for her paying customers. She lives the hypocrisy of her inability to resolve problems within her own family. The only thing more twisted than the client-families you
treat, is that you're treating them, Ma."

Mary hollered," Boy, you've got a lot of nerve
crashing in here and accusing everyone like this. Just look
at you, sitting there stinking, dripping wet and carrying a
damned gun. Your father and I have been looking for you for
weeks now, but who can find you. All you've done with your
life is turn out to be a low-life bum who hangs out with a
bunch of thug-loving, drug-dealing gang-bangers intent upon
destroying anything and everyone who contribute positve value
to the very neighborhoods you live in. We know your in deep
trouble but I'm at the end of my rope with you. I can't help
you if you don't listen to me."

Jack glared menacingly and said, "You're in over your head son.
Look, I know what happened to your friend this morning. The
two of you have been marked ever since you started running
with those scum-sucking bangers. Now, they're after you for a
pound of flesh and you come running in here with a piece.
I've got half a mind to smack your silly butt upside the head
with the business end of that rod." He began rising threateningly out
of the cheap wicker chair. "Just because your mother and I
aren't together don't mean you can bring her this grief..."

My upper lip snarled with contempt as my gun hand
quickly squeezed off a warning shot across my father's
impending advance. Jack hastily fell back into his seat
as Mary and Hal curled protectively below the
table's edge.

Enraged, I shouted, "Sit down and shut up, all of you."

Hal looked flustered and confused. "Listen baby, I
know you're upset but just let me leave and I won't say
anything. (Crying) Your doin' all this because of Phil and
me, aren't you? I didn't hurt you, Phil did. Please let me
go."
I shook my head and laughed. "Chill out sweet thang, we're all in this together. You people make me sick. How long do you think you, can go on ruining
the lives of people who love you and get away with it?"

Jack said, "What the hell do you mean?"

Mary joined in saying, "Jack, before you arrived I asked
Hal to stop by and shed some light on our son's state of mind up to today." She sternly glanced Hal's way and whispered, "You knew Nivan worshipped the
ground you walk on and yet, you went on seeing his best
friend, Phil, behind his back; knowing if he ever found out
it would send him over the edge. I couldn't piece together
what someone like you, a successful newspaper reporter with a
reputation for knocking hood-rats like my son and Phil,
would ever see in linking up romantically with either."

Hal looked outraged. "I beg your pardon! I can't help it
if Nivan fell head over heels in love with me. He
knew if he wanted to get with me he'd have to change his
street ways and get a life. I don't have no time for another
black man stuck in the ghetto with no job and no future."

"Is that all?"

"Chemistry between us was good, at first, but in the end all
we did was argue about my pushing him to do better and be
the kind of man I need for my life to go places. He just didn't
rate, although I give him an E for effort in trying to pull
his life together. I just don't have the time to nurse him
again. I gotta take care of myself, so don't blame me for
breaking the poor boy's heart. Especially, with all he told
me about how his Ma and Pa fought viciously, how the both of
you abused him emotionally and then cheated on each other.
You've no regard for it's effect on him or your marriage. You
better check yourself before you point a finger of blame at
me. By the way Mary, how is Rev. Kirk hangin' these days?"
 

Jack was blistering with venomous rage. "You two-bit excuse
For a gossip column tattle-tale. People I know have dropped the
word on you and I've had your number for a long time. Your
nothing but an opportunistic, mooching little tramp who saw a
way to get another story."

"You don't mind using someone like Nivan to further
your own career. You'd sell out your mother if you could score some points. Nivanaa didn't know about your undercover story, did he?" Jack said.
 

Hal leapt up, with a self-righteous pose. "Get with the
program,
you tired old dog." "What do ya Mean?" Jack responded. "Just what the hell makes you so special Miss She's All That?" "Been that way and always will be, " Hal said. "So like the title says, I'm O.K. and you're not; sorry about your luck."

I looked at my father. I still called him Sgt. Jack at times
of trouble.

"Which story matters the most, Pa? Maybe, the one Hal
sniffed out about Phil and I?"
Jack sounded irritated and angry as he blurted out "Sniffing, like the dog bitch he is."

Mary asserted herself and blurted out, "Don't go there Jack! Women have
a right to stand on their on two feet and choose what life
they live without a need for condescending approval from
men. Why is it men are so insecure that they attack whatever they
can't control? Hal and Nivanaa are up to their necks in
trouble and she's trying to tell us why."

Tense and irritated, I stared into space. "We were making police payoffs to seventh district Narcs for protection, transport and to look the other way. My gang bought assault weapons, crack and stolen goods provided with a seal of approval from city hall. Sure, I knew all along what she was up to, but I thought she loved me and believed in my trying to get out."

Looking forlorn, Hal replied: "I loved being in love with you; and it scared me to death."

Acidly, I spate on the floor. Blood streaked mucous just missed a scrambling spider near the varnished floorboard. "He used me and chewed me up. When I refused to stay in the criminal flow of information, he dumped me like a hot potato. I got crazy for him and he wouldn't return my calls or see me
anymore. Then, two days ago I see her and my best friend, Phyllis, pulling into the Low-Rider motel. I stood by the door and could hear her laughing about how she'd played me like a violin, how only a real man could satisfy her and be part of her future." I turned and looked at Jack. "But for me there's another story as well. The one about you and my mother." Mary pleaded, "Please, don't do this to yourself."

"Let him speak, Mary."
 

I was nervous, but spoke out anyway. "I made this crappy situation for myself but Ma hated you Dad. She despised the role of police officer's
wife and every time you got drunkenly abusive towards us,
after a rough night out on the beat, she vowed revenge
against you in any and every way. She blamed you for turning
her life into a nightmare where the filth of the streets
followed you home. As you became sullied with its depravity,
some of it rubbed off on us. She turned to the church for
salvation and found it in the arms of Rev. Kirk. She turned
her rage towards the one thing that best reflected you in her
life, me."
Jack drew his 6'4" hulking frame into an attack posture."I don't hate you, I hate what you stand for. When I grew up this neighborhood was a decent place to live. Old folks could walk down to the corner store without fearing
being attacked by young punks looking for a fast buck and an
cheap thrill. Kids could play in at the park playground
without dodging bullets from drive-byes or being beaten to
death by gang recruiters."

"You're still stuck in the past, old dude, I said. "Times
have changed and we're not in Kansas anymore, Dorothy!"
Jack was incensed and furious by now. "Mothers could walk to the bus stop on their way to work without fear of being raped, robbed and accosted by homeboys calling them whores. Fathers could play with their sons in front of their homes without dope-boys hassling them to cop some blow and crack houses springing up next door. You didn't need bars on every window and a gun whenever you emptied the garbage."

Mary interrupted with her 'as a matter of fact' voice pouring out as smoothly as a Bobbi Humphrey flute solo. She made me think of "Harlem River Drive." "Not until people like you decided it was your right to tear down the last refuge black folk have to live out their lives with some manner of dignity."

Hal said, "All in the name of anarchy. Your kind is a plague
that may just destroy what little we have. You worship death
and destruction of hope, respect and civility."

Jack began gesturing dramatically, as if he were directing traffic on Michigan Ave. in 'Chi-Town.' "You hate your fathers and curse your mothers while gunning down anything that moves. You've turned our children into cold-blooded killers of other children, yet, beg for mercy and demand justice when the jig is up. You elevate 'prison mentality' to an art form and believe you've enriched the world with your music, fashion and in-your-face lifestyle." The images of NWA and TuPac Shakur took shape in my mind. "Now you wonder why your being erased from a society that you taught to fear you. It's like a serial killer not understanding why he's getting the chair. No remorse, no conscience."
I wasn't impressed by his words. I didn't care anymore. Or did I? "And who better to teach it to us but the masters of our lives; people like you. How many children are out there learning the twisted values of our fathers?"
Mary looked defensively somber, her long Indian-thick locks of hair began to show the greyish streaks middle-age, but not wisdom. "You're out of your mind."
Reflexively, I began tugging on my tattered, second-hand coat. "People like Doug and I would watch as your kind taught us to praise greed in all its forms. Committing deception, coercion and brutal intimidation was all the same to you. The old, the poor and the sick. Like unfeeling parasites you suck away the life of everyone you come in contact with, as though their only purpose for being was to service your needs. You beat your wives and treat your children like some throw-away trash that should be discarded when its usefulness has expired."
Jack said, "Seems a little late for you to give a Sermon on the
Mount. You can't even spell the truth; much less see it."
Pissed off, I venomously sprayed my words at them all. "Spoken like a true hypocrite. You cheat, lie and steal six days a week then, on Sunday, march off to church to reinforce the charade you play as upstanding God-fearing citizens. You lie to us, telling us all what a good future we can have if only we abide by your rules and values."

"That's right. It's how I made it, you
asshole!"

"You said 'The American Dream' of a house,
good job and secure family can be our heritage if we listen
to you, you say. All the while you sell out and steal away
the very future promised to us, your children, in order to have
it all for yourselves right now."
Mary: "That's enough. I've taken all I can stand of your
juvenile ravings about our morality. You sound like a spoiled
brat who can't find it in his heart to have gratitude for
the food on the table or the roof over his head. We've bent over
backwards to leave you with the best we could."

"You leave us nothing but broken homes, promises unkept
and dreams deferred. We're left to our own devices to
survive. It's almost as if you hope we don't make it to your
future. We're the reflections of all your mistakes and now
you want someone else to clean up the mess you've made. The
only legacy you've left me is your hypocrisy."

Hal started with that emphatically devious tone peculiar only to him. "Nivanaa, we can still make this all work."
"How?"
"Let me call my editor." "What for?" "By tommorrow we can use the ledger, your friends murder and your testimony to break the biggest story on police corruption since Frank Serpico. Your father and mother can provide supporting corroboration."

I Sneered icily as Nancy Wilson's "Guess Who I Saw Today" permeated my thoughts.

"You still don't get it. Jack's name is in the book along with Rev. Kirk who's listed as the owner of this office building."
"Why are you telling me that?" I looked at Ma and thought about Marvin Gaye's "Mercy, Mercy Me."
"You knew about this all along didn't you Ma? The gang has been funneling the payoffs through Kirk, who's skimming money off the top to finance real estate schemes, redevelopment projects and my mother's family practice agency. In order to bury the whole bloody mess, the suits have to have a fall guy to go down after they've regained possession of the black book. Your new boyfriend, Phil, has been elected to prove he can clean this all up. And that includes you, sweet thang. That's why you are here, isn't it Jack?"

Jack was sighing tiredly. "Not quite so simple as that girl.
I knew it was you in that cardboard box back in the alley this
morning. I led the other cops away by faking like someone may
have heard us, after we failed to find the book. No matter
what you think of me, I've always loved you. In some
ways you may be right about the life I provided for you and
your mother. Perhaps, it's all my fault."

"You damned skippy it is."
"I never intended to cross the line this far. But I wanted to provide you and your mother with what was needed for us to be comfortable. The
department kept passing me over for promotion year after
year, despite good scores. I got fed up with playing the good
guy while everybody in the district 'cruised on the pad.'
But they've gone too far expecting me to take out my own son,
wife and an innocent reporter. By now they must know I didn't
go through with it. They'll be sending in the clean-up crew
real soon now. There's not much time left."

I watched my Ma and pensively reached for the shoe box.
"Ma, it's later than you think." Opening the box, I revealed several sticks
of dynamite wired to an alarm clock.

Mary was sobbing sporadically. "Oh dear God. You can't do
this. It's wrong. We can't be made to pay for the awful mistakes
of our past ignorance raising you. Killing us can't erase the
anger and betrayal you feel. Murdering us will not free you
from the pain of who and what you are."

"I didn't come here to do you in. It just turned out
that way. We're all rotten to the core. Maybe we belong
together."

"We are still your parents, forever.
Lord knows I tried to be a good mother to you and provide
the
love and guidance a growing girl needs, in spite of your
father's absence. I worked my fingers to the bone going to
night school, waiting on tables and providing a roof over
your head. The older you became, the more rebellious your
attitudes towards my authority over you were. I was lonely
and tired of struggling to make ends meet when Rev. Kirk came
into my life. I didn't mean for anything intense to happen,
it was an accident. Once things started between us I couldn't
stop, even after his wife found out. I believed in what he
preached."

I heard sounds coming from the background. The screeching
tires came to a halt as car doors began to slam shut. The constant ticking of time-bomb's clock mixed with the anxiously deep breaths of the rooms occupants. I thought of Dizzie Gillespie and Duke Ellington. I thought of "Let's Take the A Train." I thought of my father and his father. All our fathers.

Jack stood and sauntered to the window, briefly peering out
through blinds. "Nivanaa, what the hell is it that makes us so
right one moment and so very wrong the next? How can so much
bad come from something that started out so good? Can it ever
be turned around?"
I sat there, staring sadly at Hall as I answered. "Sometimes,
all you can do is whatever God left you tools enough to do at that moment.
I heard the booming thunder shake the window as lightening
flashed. I glanced out the window.
Then Jack, whirling around with service revolver in hand, sprung into action. I wasn't ready for it. "I'm sorry for all the years I let life steal from us what we could've had together." The room exploded with the sound of
Jack shooting me.
Hal hysterically shouted, "N-o-o-o, don't kill her, Mr.
Tyler." I began to bleed. "I love her...I don't care about the story."

I reeled as he lunged toward me. The shot sent me head over heels.
I found myself lying upended in my chair. In shock, I grasped my
wounded gun arm.

"You shot me. Now we're all going to die. The bomb is set to go off in three minutes. The shot forced me to release the dead man's trigger. Get out of here while you still can."

Jack was turning towards Mary and speaking softly. "Take
the kids and the ledger and run for it. There's just enough time for
you to escape if I hold them off. Be sure to straighten
those two out after the story hits the headlines. They really
remind me of how we once were. Confused, afraid but in love
all the way. Tell her thanks for giving her old man one last
chance to do right. Tell her don't let me down. Now
beat it. I've got some unfinished business with the suits
who want to destroy my family."

My mind was dim as Mary and Hal dragged me out of door. In
The darkness, the sounds of gunfire, sirens and a horrific
Explosion resounded. Before I passed out, I heard George Benson
playing 'Nature Boy' for me over and again.

We were seated in the rear booth of a local railway
coffee shop. Mary, Hal and I somberly gazed out of a
sun-drenched window. The low hum of ceiling fans slicing
through the oppressing pall of the noonday's heat mingled
curiously with sounds of clanging dishes, ringing registers
and sporadic public announcements proclaiming arrival and
departures to distant points of refuge. Mary glanced at her
watch as she crushed out yet another cigarette into an already filled ashtray. She was dressed stylishly in pastel-blue sun dress, matching flats and expensive straw panama hat. She removed her Ray-Ban shades to peer diligently
into her make-up mirror as she proceeded to touch up her lipstick.
I shifted uneasily in my seat as Hal pensively sipped on a cup of steaming hot
coffee. Before him, on the table lies an opened letter from
my deceased father, Jack. It was given to him by Mary at the train
station. Both he and my mother were unaware of it's contents.
Mary slid her carry-on luggage along the base of the booth as she spoke.
 
 
 

Mary said," Well, I suppose it's all over now." Jack, God rest his
soul, was given a decent burial with departmental honors at
least." Even with the corruption story being released, you
decided to leave our involvment out of it, Hal." Jack
would've wanted it that way." The Justice Department will be
taking care of the major players like Phil and Rev." Kirk
thanks to our depositions." Maybe now some good will come from
all this for a decent change in the old neighborhood." In a
way, I'm glad we'll be moving on to a fresh start." You
haven't touched your breakfast son, what's troubling you?
 
 

I fingered with my sling.
 
 

Hal said," We all beat up on ourselves. We can learn from our mistakes."

"My past changes how I see my future," I said.

Mary said," Your father wanted you to do something with your life." You were such a smart kid in school. How did things turn out like this?"
 
 

Hal said, "Listen up; we all had dreams of becoming something
great." I thought I'd be the next great American author,
writing fantastically profound works of literature loved by
all." Every year, while at college, I immersed myself in the
ideals of standing up for journalistic integrity, the quality
of craft and serving as a defender of free speech and public
truth." But life ain't easy and it's a cold, cruel world,
baby."

Mary said," Naivete' doesn't lend itself well to the
brutal fact that being a pawn of mass media entails serving
the bottom line on every level."

Hal said," Get the story at all costs." Never mind the
sensitivities of a distraught mother, anguishing over her
dead son gunned down in the streets." Push the mike into her
face, focus the camera on her grief and let the world feel
her most private pain." If it bleeds, it leads because we say
it sells." And just what are we selling to the public? Images
created that reflect the self-serving editorial decisions of
profit oriented news executives who decide how the reported
vision of their reality will be seen by the public eye." It's
all a game and the fix is in." We see the world as they
want us to see it." The hands controlling the camera's have
become the writers of public reality and the erasers of
unacceptable existence.""

Mary said," The game and how to play it is all there is for them."
But, your father gave his life to give us a second chance to
run our feet down another path and make a difference, no
matter how small."

"Yeah, a lot of help you gave him," I said. "You pushed him over the edge."

Mary said," There was nothing I could do then." I was trapped
between a rock and a hard place ." Your father was gone and I
was working my way through college while raising you at the
same time." Decent affordable day care didn't exist for us
then." I did the best I could."
 
 

"I guess your right, momma."

Hal said, "Don't just sit there and let her put you down
for how you turned out. I love you, but I won't let you do this to yourself or
her." Is this how your son will be talking to me one day? Mary, you
could've had something of a stable home life if you had tried
to give her a chance."

I said," I began realizing all those boyfriends you let stay with
you were abused you."

Mary said," You should've known better. My heart wasn't that
simple."
 
 

Mary (rising up as all begin to gather their belongings and
head for the train) said," You know, we're always feeling threatened by loss."
 

Hal said, "Yes, but how do we hang on to our humanity in the darkness of this jungle we live in?"
 
 

I took my mother's hand and said, "I am my father's
daughter."

Hal (gripping Nivanaa's arm tightly) said,"Long as you love me
we'll have more in common than the ways in which we're
different. If that's all we'll ever have, then it is more
than we'll ever need."
 
 

Nivanaa (bestows a gentle kiss upon mary and Hal) said," I think
the greatest gift I know is the love from my father and mother.

But, this love; I'm not so sure that it loves
me." Maybe that's why I never give up fighting for my
dreams. It's the one, shared human quality I can own that no
one can take away."

Calls declaring 'all aboard' filled the air as we disappeared into the dimming lights.

The Amtrak commuter train, enroute to San Francisco carried us and an assortment of various passengers, railway support employees and conductors into the advent of imminent nightfall. Several hours had past since the we boarded. The train hurried on, speeding into the moon-lit summer countryside.

As the poetic scenery of rolling hillside glide blithely by the dimly lit observation windows of our car, we sipped away at cool refreshments, uneasily glancing at one another as if to speak. The murmur of background chit-chat
and conductors punching other rider's tickets melded with a gentle side to side jostlingcaused by the train. Soft jazz music played over the train's loudspeaker.

Mary pensively caressed her carry-on bag which sat next to
her. Hal and I were seated in front of her. I found myself becoming curious about mother's bag, our future. I didn't want Hal to follow suit and notice my slightly protruding lower abdomen. It seemed he was concerned over the contents of my father's unopened letter. It haunted me.
 
 

Hal looked at me and said, "Hey lover, looks like you
could stand to drop a couple of pounds."
 
 

Mary remarked with a distracted expression on her face, "Now son, let's not get started on jumping down the poor girl's throat about her figure. Seems we've more than enough worries to hold our attention."

"Here we are," I said, "sneaking off toward parts unknown and trying to
survive with little or no money. That's more important than
how I look to you right now."
 

Hal said with a sheepish grin, "Nivanaa, I don't feel like being
bothered with your bull crap."

"Look, I haven't been feeling to well lately. All this stress is getting to me and your attitude's not making me feel any better. So back off, baby."

"Back off of what? I've been noticing your mood swings and how you've been making a lot of trips to the bathroom. You've been throwing up, haven't you? Are you pregnant?"
 
 

Now I was concerned and defensive. I said, "I wanted to tell you all
about it ever since this morning. I just found out from the clinic
right before we came to the train station."

Hal began gesturing wildly and exclaimed, "Of all the times for me to get knocked up, why now?"

Mary said, "My God, it's a blessing in disguise for you two. Maybe, in some small way, your pregnancy is just what the two of you need to stregnthen
your love." Perhaps now can stand up and be a man for you
and the child, Hal."
 
 

Hal just peered out into the dark night somberly. Then he shouted, "Stand up and
be a father and husband, eh? I think we're forgetting one little detail in all this confession." Is this child my baby or Phil's? Well, which is it?"
 

I sat sternly staring into Mary's stunned eyes before responding, "I don't
know. It could belong to either one of you." I know I should
have told you that I suspected as much but I wasn't sure."
Anyway, what difference does it make who the baby's
biological father is, so long as he has you to love and
support him." You will be the only father he'll ever know."
Shouldn't that be enough for us---for him?"

Mary was shaken. "Let me get this straight. You
had a feeling you might be with child while you led Hal to
believe you and he could rekindle your relationship." You
never intended to tell him the boy might not be his own." What
on earth possessed you to think you could slide on by with
deceiving him and manipulating his love for you in order to
get off the hook as an unwed mother?"
 
 

I grasped Hal's arm and answered, "All my life, I've been
dumbfounded to explain why men have such an effect on my trust.
I can't explain how I allow my faith and love to become so misguided and used by you. It's as if I knowingly set myself up for the pain and failure that
follows falling in love with someone who doesn't love me
in quite the same way. I guess I get just what I ask for from all the men in my life."
Hal said, "Still, I'm shaky on why deception is so vital to how women like you relate to me. Your mother lied to you for years about Jack. Now you lied to me about your relationship with Phil. Then this latest little secret,
when all I ever wanted from you was honesty. Can you ever really be
truthful with me or must we always play our dark games of deceit? What is it you fear? That someone might see you as you really are?"
 

"I was afraid that you would leave me behind. I was frightened that if you knew me for the things I did, you'd never accept me for what I could become." I was so busy knocking you for all your faults that I didn't realize I scapegoated onto you. I tried to prevent my attention from focusing on faults within me. As long as I could put you and those like you down, I never had to challenge my own illusion of power. But I have changed. Loving you has done that and if
you'll help me learn to reveal that which I cannot see within
me, my love will grow and so will I. Give me a chance to regain your faith in me, baby."

Mary said sarcastically, "I've heard enough of this philosophical
bull. You two remind me why men like your father should never be trusted in the first place."

I said, "Let him rest in peace. You manipulated him from the
very start." He came to the conference room at your request
and you knew his guilt over how he treated the two of us
would force him into the sacrifice he made." Dear God Ma, you
wanted him to come in and clean up the mess we all made even
at the cost of his life." It left you free to avoid blame and
still profit from ill-gotten gains you and the reverend
skimmed away."
 
 

Mary said," What on earth do you mean."
 
 

I said," Look in your bag, Ma."
 
 

Mary frantically searched her carry-on. "The money, it's not
here! What have you done to me, you fool."
 
 

Hal returned to his seat after conversing with a conductor. "That's right, Mrs." Tyler." Nivanaa and I wondered how long you would go on allowing us to believe we were safe." You knew that-once the skimmed funds were discovered missing by
the reverend and those seventh district cronies, our lives wouldn't be worth a bag of nails." You never intended on living with us in San Francisco." That's why I checked the ticket counter to see if a women fitting your description
bought a fare for any other cities."

"It must be nice down in Nevada this time of year," I said, "huh Ma? We took the money and placed it in a train station locker." Here's the key." I threw the locker key onto her lap. "They know the money's there at the last station we
passed through." If you want it, you may still have just enough time to make it back, from our next arrival, to the locker. Hal and I don't need your blood money."
 

"Please Mrs. Tyler, stay with us and let sleeping dogs
lay. You can still change the way you are."
 

Mary, rising up as the train pulled into the next station said,"
It's easy for you two to think about staring over broke." But
I'm a middle-aged used up divorcee who needs every advantage
she can get." I can't change and wouldn't try, even if I gad
the chance." Like an old tigress who can't change her stripes,
I stopped believing in the illusion of love, truth and
happiness long ago." My truth is the reality that the money in
that locker is mine and the future for me is regaining it."
I've relied upon my wits and cleverness for all these years
to get me everything I have, so I'm not about to stop now." I
don't have faith enough anymore that I can." If anything
happens to me put me near your father. Here's his letter." I've got to go now, so long my baby." She held my hand and opened her mouth as if to speak. Then
she left the train.

I opened the envelope from daddy and discovered the deed to a home in Atwater, California, along with a check for $10,000. I said, "My God Hal. Stop the train.
We've got to get Ma back with us."

"No Nivanaa. Let her follow her own destiny. She'll get us killed. I think your father knew that and gave us that deed to the house in Atwater and the ten grand for us to have a chance at keeping our family together." A chance he never
took advantage of." It~s his way of asking your forgiveness for his wrongs.

"What do you mean?"

"By raising his grandson to be a better person than any of us."
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Hal sat alone, immersed in the flickering lights that
gleamed from Christmas decorations. All about his lonely office, which doubled as his home, the lights framed the darkness of nightfall in the naked city. The shriek of sirens provided a backdrop against the forlorn stillness of a snowy wonderland.
The piercing melodies of Nancy Wilson sang out grimly
"I'll live a lush life...in some small dive..." As Hal falteringly grasped the fifth of Remy Martin he again guzzled down another dose of his medicine', always trying to forget the lingering, eternal pain.
It was the kind of pain that only comes from memories of a past never to be captured, always slipping through your fingers like warm water that just will not stay trapped in the palm of your hands. Always a past
that fades away mystically, just when you need it to stay real.
Hal toyed with the cognac bottle as he longingly remembered the family he was no longer a part of. The love he no longer would share---with her. Hauntingly, her face traveled through his mind, like echoes desperately floating away in a dark cavern. Soft, pleading tones glided all about him calling out "...and there I'll rot, for the rest of my life, with those ---whose --- lives---are ---lonely too...""
As he watched the cigarette smoke wistfully escape from his lips, Hal lurched forward. Quickly, he grasped the gun and fired point blank into the side of his temple. The violin musingly played as the last notes from the sad song slowly disappeared. A shattered .45 caliber fell to the floor. Hal's burned hand ever so slowly fell onto the desk, as his blood splattered skull sprang forward, finally resting upon the letter from his son.
The crimson tide of warm blood flowed forth, slowly
obscuring the whispering words.
Baby-Girl
 

Hal remembered, as though time itself possessed some inane, perverse slow-motion replay, that day as he arrived home from working another tedious graveyard shift on vice squad. Nicky, the Nose, had been released from the slammer still proclaiming his intention to extract 'a pound of flesh' from the man who destroyed his drug empire, killed his brother in the police shoot-out and sent him 'up the river' to Joliet state pen. Baby-Girl would be needing the car for church service, he recalled, and having just recieved her license, probably waited up for him to get off work.
As he pulled up to their modest, two-bedroom ranch home in Chatham, the love of his life came loping down the driveway like an elegant gazelle dancing away her joy of being alive. Shock waves of remorseful pain traversed his spine as he could see himself setting down grocery bags out of his back seat onto the freshly manicured lawn that reflected the condition of all this neighborhoods well-kept, blue-collar tradition of hard working people striving to maintain dignity and keep up their meager properties.
All gone, he thought, as visions of doom replayed
themselves, revealing the horror of that moment when Nicky, the Nose and his crew of punk-thug 'bangers' rolled around the corner like some apocalyptic nightmare and opened fire, just as Baby-Girl ran towards her father, glancing over his shoulder at the approaching shadow of death, and lept into him screaming "Daddy."
The hellish hail of gunfire lasted an eternity as Hal fell to the ground ripping out his peacemaker while simultaneously returning fire frantically. Explosions, screaming cries of pain and searing heat of flesh torn away all faded to the background as Nicky's car, consumed by a ball of flames emanating from its ruptured fuel line, smashed into cars lining the quietly neat Chatham block.
Carnage and mayhem this Sunday morning became as if it were all but a dream as Hal turned only to see his darling Baby-Girl lying in his driveway, immersed in a pool of blood. Madness descended upon him as he sat there, cradling her, rocking back and forth simpering "Daddy's here" over and again. Hatred welled up within his soul for those who did this thing to him; to his Baby-Girl. They would all pay, he swore to the heavens. They must be made to feel his pain; his wrath and yes, his guilt.
His daughter had often voiced concern over the dangerous nature of his occupation as she tried to convince him to find a job safer, less stressful and one more conducive to her faher's settling down and, perhaps, getting married again. Hal never knew the secret fears she carried of being the daughter of a police officer. Pride was always mixed with a kind of loathsome stigma as people would, at time, shun her and castigate their family name after finding out who her father was.
There was also the burden of Hal not leaving his work at the office as arguements, depression and anxiety often caused him to unload his pressures off onto her. She'd spoken before about being like a cop's wife and wondered aloud whether her mother could have tolerated it all. But, she especially worried that the bangers in the hood would one day get them out of their hatred for her father and what he stood for. He knew this and her death cursed him with a guilt profound in the annals of human experience. Because of his lifestyle she died and he too must pay, forever.

COLD BABY: The Fine Tuning is Broken By J. Massey ? 1999
I felt stupid and ashamed as I stood at the casket. I
barely recognized the dead face of my baby girl. A serene, beatific glow permeated the frozen mask of the mortician's handiwork that created this Mona Lisa-like smile upon the face of my daughter.
'A damned good job. That undertaker knew his job."
Yet, the aura of eternal peace surrounding the body
seemed to provoke the tragic paradox of her violent demise. "It's a damned shame," I whispered, as I began to think about the depth of my own grief. There she lay, my future... gone. Dead, at the tender age of 22. Just another senseless statistic. A casualty of the urban battlefield that feeds on its inhabitants like a fiendish demon running amok, preying upon the accursed denizens of this hell on earth. I hadn't seen her for over 7 years. But, I kept track of all her comings and goings. The cold, grey winter sky, which I saw through the mortuary window, reminded me of the irony I felt as the Christmas 2005 approached.
Her name was Jesse Tuning and she was a fine young thing. Super fine, according to the word on the streets of Chi-Town. Fine and sublime, I'd heard her friends say. I shook my head in a piteous gesture as I watched the small procession of her neighborhood crony and running buddies march past her final resting-place.
Some said she was poison and that became her given nickname. Some said she used to joke about how the legendary Lizzie Borden was her hero. "Lizzie Borden took an ax... gave her mother 40 whacks...when her father saw what she had done...she gave her father 41..."
I remembered her mother describing what kind of woman my little girl turned out to be. How she'd handled her love life. "She slashed through men like a hot knife through butter. Seems to me like they loved it," Nivanaa would say. Just like her mother. I guess it's true that the apple never falls far from the tree and we reap what we sow.
A pang of guilt shot through my neck as I thought
about the divorce. Jesse had reacted badly to our break up. I knew the rancid after taste of a family gone sour would break her done to the ground. Slow and sure, like a pounding surf on a sandy beach. When she broke, she broke all the way.
I knew the feeling of despair she must have felt as she neared the end of her life. Moments of desperate futility as she scrambled frantically to adjust and adapt to the disillusionment her life embodied. I could almost see her trying to get a grip on things. Trying to fine-tune a life completely out of sync.
That's what we shared, Jesse and I, We'd both stumbled miserably at dancing to the beat of life's rhythm. I drank to escape the reality of a lost family. She whittled

men down. She carved up what was left of her soul in the process.
You couldn't fix yourself, could you baby? You just couldn't adjust the picture because the fine-tuning was broke. But, who helped you break it? Why?
Sifting through the smoldering rubble of distant memories, I uneasily squirmed as putrid images from rookie hazings, drunken 'choir practices' and department indignities darted about my mind. How simple it was for my 'brother' officers to accept their brutal treatment of women in the ranks.
I could still feel the shattering impact of my body viciously being slammed to the ground as a retribution for daring to speak out against the constant verbal assault by my male peers. Shuddering, my thoughts turned to a time when I was trusting and believed in love. A moment came, as if summoned by that part of me long since buried, I remembered Hal's betrayal. Falling in love with your partner only worked against you, I'd been warned time and again.
Still, I gave him my confidence, admiration and trust. I was convinced by him to join the off-duty purging known as 'choir practice'. Little did I know that Hal arranged for me to be 'screwed in' after slipping me a 'mickey' of booze and 'ruppies'.
I could see the procession of faces so close to me, the stale, hot breath and musty stench of sticky ejaculate covering my stomach while the three or so fucked up brother cops hee-hawed and rooted each other on. I recalled Hal's face as my derringer, pulled out from my boot holster, exploded into the side of his temple.
Deemed as justifiable attempted homicide, I felt no justice served. He should've died easily. After testifying against the cop-rapists I was marked for violating the thin blue line's code of silence and harrassed at every opportunity.
The heavy drinking I took up repulsed me and I recalled my father's alcoholic tragedies, failures and his eternal line of broken promises, slashed dreams and deranged affections towards me, his only daughter. A cold, distant longing for my father's unfulfilled love was all he left. I knew he had never recovered from an immutably deep and hopeless devotion to my mother. The divorce destroyed him and eventually all chance of a decent relationship for me and my brother with Daddy.
The minds of men and the intent of their hearts would
remain a lasting mystery, haunting my every relationship. But, Only Hal ever came close to penetrating my hardened heart.

The Man Who Would Be King... by J. Massey ? 1999

I hated daydreaming but I often did at my partner Max's diner. I sat at my table near the picture window overlooking the street and stared into my empty cup remembering those times and the people who lived them.

His name was Lear Tuning. But everyone called the burger king. Most folks and his beleaguered family simply called him 'King.' Now, with another Thanksgiving approaching, King wanted to do something special. He was excited by the idea that this was the last turkey day of the 20th century. Being in a particularly festive mood, King had chosen this holiday to re-unite with his family. Of course, this reunion he had in mind was far from being either uncomplicated or mutually desired by his family. But King, being the obtuse dreamer that he was, stubbornly proceeded with his plans and ignored all the bad omens and naysayers. Some say King was a foolish old man; alone, sickly and caught up with re-living exaggerated past glories. I might've agreed with them but, after a King's invitation to accompany him to his daughter's funeral, my opinion began to change. Having known King mostly by my patronage of his popular "Soul Food Diner," which was located in the Chatham district of Chicago's South Side, I'd only been privy to the public side of the man. But what took place over the 72 hours surrounding this turkey day changed forever how I understood King, the nature of family bonds and, eventually, my own descent into old age. I would never again look at individual power and powerlessness with naíve innocence again. From that time onward, every time I saw a lonely old man struggling to maintain dignity, the fearful words "but by the grace of God go I" would ricochet through my mind like a wayward bullet. Being a middle-aged, divorced reporter, I had toyed with story ideas concerning the issue of how society cares for the elderly. So, when King gave me the invite, I jumped at the chance. He told me to pick him up at his southeast side apartment, located on south Jeffery Boulevard near 75th St. at around 9 a.m. on Wednesday. That morning, as I cruised down 75th St., I was struck by the sight of wayward souls wandering up an down the 'stroll.'
Drunks, sitting on the ground outside the multitude of booze

stores and young boys encircling pay phones as if guarding the occasional female druggie, who was busy frantically trying to con some fool on the phone for a loan to pay off her ransom for overnight drug debts to local gang-bangers. Homeless, young and old, folks were pushing shopping carts filled with discarded beer cans to market. The scenes made me wince and wonder about the madness of their lives. Pulling up to King's dilapidated apartment building, I was struck by the number of burglar bars, tossed garbage bags and the dirt filled yard it presented. The broken windows abounded on the face of the heap. As I entered the hall, after King had buzzed me in, an exploding aroma of stale urine, marijuana and booze made me choke. I nearly tripped over a rat carcass and an empty 40-ounce as I climbed the creaking stairway leading to King's home on the second floor. It wasn't easy trying to knock on a door encased in an eight foot, padlocked burglar gate. I wasn't sure he'd heard my knocks, what with the floor rocking form the bass-driven boom sounds of gangsta-rap filling the hallway from some unknown apartment.
King eventually unlocked the multitude of security contraptions and allowed me to enter in to hwat could best be described as a one-room wonder. The metallic clang of his walker seemed to keep up with the beat of what sounded like Nancy Wilson's "Guess Who I Saw Today," coming out of the cheap radio on his kitchen table, seated conveniently next to last night's Kentucky Fried Chicken box. "Hey sport, let me bleed the ol' lizard and I'll be ready to fly," sang out King as he headed for his closet-sized toilet. I was struck by how orderly all of the items in his home were placed. Every inch of the room served some vital purpose, as if empty space was taboo. Even the four walls were covered with pictures. It made me think of a Catholic shrine. Civic citations, war memorials and yellowed news clippings all seemed to attest to King's past laurels. But, they also told of a man living in the past. They spoke of one who was fading away into the twilight zone of obsolete existence. I glanced up into my own reflection, cast off of a slightly cracked mirror with an unpolished surface. A cold chill ran over me as I thought about "The Lady from Shallot." Apparently, I'd broken up King's game of Solitaire. I mused on whether he would have won. I wondered how anybody really wins at a game you, ironically, only play with yourself. King also seemed to me a bit of a paradox. Here was a man who reputedly had been sitting on a small fortune. A man who profited handsomely off of the profits made from his diner. Yet, he lived like an old pauper; alone, forgotten and discarded. The phone rang. King hollered out "pick that up, will you kid?" A raspy, female voice answered as I said "Hi. This is the Tuning home; may I help you?" "Yeah, is my old man there? If he is, tell him to hurry his tired butt up and don't forget about the fifty bucks he promised me." Before I could respond, the lady hung up the phone. I gave King thew message as he came back into the room. He simply grunted and grumbled, "She ain't getting

a crying dime from me. Let's head out Sport." We headed for the Bleak's Funeral Home, over on 76th and Cottage Grove Avenue. For some reason, my mind lingered on pondering why it seemed to me that so many of our folkes liked to be buried by Bleakes. Before being dropped into the ground for all eternity, I wondered where my two kids from my failed marriage would plant me, if at all. They could always just have my dead butt incinerated.

Jeffery Massey, Sr. (Jun 4, 1999)
CHARACTER PROFILE FOR NIVANAA:

I examined my application for colonial duty with all the detatchment of of someone looking at themself in a mirror. The report stated, "Nivana (Tyler), is a 28 year-old African-American woman who stands six feet tall, 145 pounds. She is the daughter of Max Tyler (Jack), a 48 year-old police gang crimes detective, and Gloria (Mary) Blight-Tyler, a 46 year-old Veterans Administration clinical therapist and daughter of Gen. Patton Blight, the 65 year-old Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff." The psychological profile read that "Nivana was an exceptionally bright and sensitive student in school who, as a result of the increasingly bitter and sometimes violent marital relationship between her father, a drunken cop gone bad who brings his job home with him, and her mother, a wife who suffered from 'battered woman syndrome' and lived in denial of her faltering marriage's effect on Nivana. That effect produced a troublesome chilhood for her as she began acting out from the years of watching her mother's physical and emotional abuse by her father. Suffering at the hands of his drunken rages towards her, at times physical, Nivana took to the street life as a teenager. She found herself increasingly engaged in a variety of illegal and violent gang activities within her neighborhood and became unmanageable for her parents by the time she was 18.
Her grandfather, then a colonel in the Air Force, took her, at the behest of her mother who decided on a divorce, and persuaded her to join the armed forces. That was just prior to the escalating U.S.-Iran conflict. Nivana, once a sprightly and agile youth who excelled at basketball and softball, found herself in the middle of the freshly declared Gulf War of 1992 as an Office of Special Investigations intelligence analyst for the allied air command under Gen. Chuck Horner, stationed along the Kuwait-Iraqi border during Operation Desert Shield. As a result of a surprise Iraqi Republican Guard raid on their installation, she was captured, raped, tortured and held for the War's duration as a POW. Upon her return to the U.S. forces she was accused by her fellow male POW's as an enemy collaborator and, although the Court Martial was dropped due to insufficient evidence of any special treatment she received by the enemy, she became disillusioned and bitter towards her male accusers and men in general.
Nivana suffered physical and psychological scars form both her childhood traumas and her war experience. During one of the Iraqi rape incidents she was bashed upside her skull with the butt of a rifle and suffered a slightly fractured skull. She recieved medical treatment from the VA that eventually required her seperation from the service. She began suffering from nightmares and developed a slight lisp in her speech after returning to Chicago. Not being able find decent employment and avoiding her parents, she soon found herself once again drifting back into her old cronies webs of deciet, drinking and daily struggles for survival. She took up with the local gang and soon found herself in the midst of a growing world of dangerous illegal activites involving her running buddies, like Dropsy Doug's, money-laundering-police payoff schemes. It was then she met and was actively pursued by Hal David (Dave), a young reporter on the make who was working under cover on leads concerning police and city hall misconduct. She was tired, drunk, alone and an easy mark for the strapping and handsome cub reporter who was also an ambitious Gulf war veteran. Despite her now full-blown agnst towards men in general she found herself drawn to his ability to create within her a sense of sharing and peace. He convinced her that he cared about what had happened to her and wanted to share in her new start at living. For the first time she was able to feel comfortable having intimate relations with a man. She began to change and started caring about the downturn her life had taken. She wanted to get out of that ghetto existence and he agreed to help. But only after he got the story he came for. She caught him one night, after a friend told her that he was creeping with her partner in crime Phyllis Lothario, at a run down motel on the city's WestSide, by the Bulls stadium off Madison Avenue. It was the last straw and she retreated back to the comfort of bitterness and booze.
The drinking had become heavy and her alcohol-influenced
thoughts began to form vengeful patterns towards her estranged parents, whom she blamed for her sad beginnings and current troubles. Yet, she also was driven by internal forces she didn't understand to change her life and theirs. After becoming homeless for a time and dodging both the crooked cops and her gang acquaintences, she came up with her desperate solution to bring it all to a head. She would confront her parents who were meeting at her mother's Southside clinic.
Nivanaa's eyes opened and before her loomed the warmth of morning sun. It penetrated the opaque veneer of her pastel draperies like water into dry sponges. Consciousness dawned upon her as she suddenly realized the hand across her naked breasts. It was not her own.
Lifting her head and turning, she realized Hal was still bed with her. Anger began to rise within her, as she remembered ordering him to "...buzz the fuck off..." He'd served her purpose and gotten her off'. Disgustingly, she grabbed the glass of Chateau Brigone, proceeding to splash its contents across Hal's face. "I thought I told you don't be here when I wake up in the morning" she icily exclaimed.
 

Hal shouted, "Damn baby. Why you always treatin' a guy like a stepchild...I thought you needed me.
"Look, we're both grown. Only reason I put up with your pooh-butt ass' is cause you sling the beef just the way I like. So don't go getting all teary-eyed. It's strictly a physical thang'. Now get your shit on, get the fuck out of Dodge, and I'll see you later, baby!"
Hal extolled pleadingly, " Damn it, you are a cold blooded M.F. bitch!" As he swung his legs out from under hers and over the side of the bed, Hal began to grab for his underwear. Just then he could feel the unmistakably cold steel press into his temple. The familiar sound of a trigger clicking back rang out as he heard the words venomously say "I got your bitch, punk. Now let the doorknob hit where the dog shoulda' bit you and the sun don't shine."
After Hal left, Nivanaa slid the Smith-Wesson 9mm. Blazer' back into it's holster, hooked over the bedpost. She fired up a smoke and lay back. Sudden ringing from the phone broke the peace.
"What?" she briskly muttered into the receiver. "Detective Anthony, there's been another 6 pack slaying. Get your ass in gear, troop..." Strangely , deep and profound sorrow engulfed her very soul.
Who's There?'
The streets near central headquarters hosted the usual sparse traffic that Sunday morning always afforded. Just as I glided past The Wall of Honor' I felt a piercing discomfort as though the multitude of badges somehow retained the spirits of all these heroes who gave their lives in the line of duty.
Whispers of epic valor and sacrifice above and beyond the call of duty resounded. "The Wall', I'd imagined, implored her to always be careful out there'. I felt a cold, tingling quiver run up and down her spine just as something tightly gripped her shoulder from behind.
"Detective, I need to speak with you regarding what you've come to term as "6 pack'. Can we find someplace quiet?" Instinctively, my body assumed an attack posture, as I wheeled around. Locking eyes and simultaneously gripping her 'peace maker', I was greeted by the cruelly smiling face of Special Agent Rock. Just what I needed, I thought, a damned federal headache!
"Yeah, sure; let's get some coffee around the way, over on Wabash, if you can stand the rumble of the El' overhead." The gleam of the cold blooded killer began to recede from her eyes, as the adrenalin rush subsided within her.
"Alright suit, what the hell's up with you on this?"
I sneered between the sips of steaming java. "Last time I saw you your boy's were peeling your tired ass off the ground!"
"Yeah, guess I deserved that knuckle sandwich you fed me. I shouldn't have made that crack about the size of your ass. Anyway, this concerns your prior investigation of the 6 pack murders."
"Six months ago, a maintenance worker at the University of Illinois walked into the C-2 lecture hall. He was looking to complete electrical repairs after reports of unknown power surges originating there. What he found shook him up so badly, we hear he's still under sedation and direct treatment."
"It's a good thing he signaled the alarm before he passed out. By the time local authorities arrived everyone there claimed they couldn't believe their own eyes. The mutilated bodies of 6 men and women strewn about as though Godzilla' had a feeding frenzy. The damn crime scene looked like a nuclear holocaust had occurred. Aside from a single micro disk, no other evidence was initially found."
"Your team arrived just as several pieces of this puzzle began to gel. It seems the torso's of each victim had been placed in specific positions around the lecture hall. These positions represented the points relevant to a pentagram; with torso #6 directly in the middle. The icing on the cake was how the hell did the perp get the time or gumption to remove all six brains and filet' each into 6 slices, then decorate and garnish each torso with them?"

"DNA prints, combined with the micro disk later revealed that the vics' list contained a priest, nuclear physicist, National Security Agency
operative, former chief of the internal affairs division, an inmate from Marion, Ill. Maximum security prison, and one missing research patient from the west side VA hospital."
"As you know, we were both called off of the case when

the black copter' arrived on scene. Before we knew what hit us, the area was crawling with government spooks' all dishing out that you don't have a need to know', classified material bullshit. There's sinister crap creeping around this case and I need your help."
I listened intently, while recalling those dark days following the investigation. Yes, I still had questions which burned within her curiosity. This case belonged in her jurisdiction, it was my baby. I considered dismissal off the case a slap in the face. The collar was mine. Like an old bulldog, I couldn't let the bone alone.
How could the perp commit such neurological extractions without a trace of cranial openings? What were the spooks' trying to protect? Why were these diverse people at a university research facility without the school's official sanction? Could there be a connection with the satanic' elements of the crime scene and some fanatical cult? What was the nature of this meeting?
As I pondered these tantalizing notions, I became slowly aware of feeling like I was inexorably drawn into waters far deeper than any I'd tread before. The waters were deep, alright; they were deadly deep. Despite the growing anxiety something still compelled me to know. I was a moth, drawn to the flame. Nausea tightened its grip on me as I distantly heard me lips mouth out the words. "I'm in, so let's get to the bottom of this thing."
I stopped just as an amorphous thought rose to consciousness. I thought the question, is someone watching me? Slowly, imperceptively, a shadow within the shadows began to recede.
"Good", retorted agent Rock, "...because the same thing has happened again. This time 6 members of a U.N. assault team were found. The team was called in on an apparent hostage action involving the Saudi Arabian consulate. Go see what you can snoop out."

A Mark in the Dark
The Veteran's Administration medical center, located in the west side of Chicago, was a vast montage of government health care's bustling bureaucracy. The cafeteria resembled the staging area for union station's railway departures. Nivanaa sat at a small table in the back, removed from eternal buzz of lunchtime comrarderie, and listened intently as his guest spoke.
"Still, no progress on your veteran's benefit claim, eh Nivanaa?" purred Phil softly across their table.
"Nah, ever since ole' Max talked me into applying, before he died, I've had nothing but S.O.S.- The same old shit. Seems like the suits in Washington will never admit to what happened to me during the Martian civil wars. They keep on saying all my classified missions never existed so there's no way that I can be suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome. It's catch 22' all over again."
Nivanaa continued to stare off into the distance as Phil lightly caressed his clinched fists. "You know Nivanaa, you've got to let it all go and move on with your life. You can't bring Max back, you can't fight city hall, and you can't go on torturing yourself with this guilt over your daughter's death. None of these things were your fault...drive-by's happen. Move on and be happy , Nivanaa."
"Look Phil, Max's death I aint' about lettin' go. The department kicked me out because they felt I was negligent in his death. As far as my baby girl's concerned, if someone would let us mop up those damn gang-bangers maybe your people would stop killin' innocent people so decent folks could survive!"
Phil snatched his hand away from Nivanaa's in revulsion. "Look", Nivanaa intoned pleadingly, "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to sound like that... it just seems as though young blacks are bum rushing' law and order everywhere. It's not your fault."
Phil fiercely retorted as defiance burned in her eyes
like two red hot coals, "Well, is it yours Mein Fuhrer? Maybe if ya'll quit sellin' black market weapons and blasters to ghetto gangs things might stand a chance. Besides, all those poor ole' violent young blacks just keep on replenishing your prison system so the wheels of your criminal justice keeps marchin' on. Sorry Nivanaa, I know how you are. You know what though? There is something very strange going on. Maybe you should go talk to a patient of mine. His name is Hal and perhaps he can help you."

Out of the Darkness
"Are you related?" the nurse asked as Nivanaa entered Hal's hospital room. "Depends on if I owe him some ducats" smiled Nivanaa. Hal's eyes slowly opened as he nodded the nurse away from the sterile surroundings of his hospital bay.
"Phil asked me to stop in and make sure you're still in one piece. Seems you and my ex-partner Max served together during that Martian eugenics conflict. Special; forces I'd reckon. Anyway, I'd need to follow up on a case Max and I worked before he died."
"I know about you lookin' to buy the farm and tryin to bail out. A lot of vets never got over the bullshit. Sometimes the chaos of war follows us all. I wake up in cold sweats even now. We're in strange times. Punks are terrorizing entire cities, with murder and mayhem runnin' rampant. Damn scientists are taking over the world with their pansy-assed inventions. "
Nivanaa continued, "The price of life is gettin' cheaper by the day while the law is selling us down the river to corporate types, who see us as a way to a quick buck. Now we got a society where only the privileged few flourish, at our expense. We're here, it seems, to serve and protect them."
"Clone-whores service them, cyborg warriors are expendable on the outer worlds and unwanted back here on terra firma. We, the permanent underclass, are slowly losing all basic rights to remain free. Soon now, we'll be
worshiping their techno-gods' and doing their bidding. We will not even know the difference between freedom and a slavery of the mind."
"Sometimes, I think my "baby-girl" is better off not havin' to live in a world like this. Maybe that's what you thought, too. But as long as I can fight, I will. It's my reason for existing. There must be justice, somewhere, somehow. I need to know who killed Max and why. He was your friend too. Whoever did it is gonna' pay, in the worst way! Revenge is better than wallowing around in self-pity. So let' get us some action and a reason to go on."
Hal sat quietly at the nursing station, brooding over
Nivanaa's visit earlier that week. Small crowds of physicians and med students milled near the patient records. Blaring PA announcements just barely drowned the conversation Hal picked up on.
"Dr. Weed, our patient appears to be suffering from a form of retrograde amnesia, of unknown etiology. Apparent head trauma may have contributed to this anomaly. The authorities have been rather surprised at not successfully identifying this man. Our amnesiac has slipped in and out of lucid consciousness, periodically undergoing a sort of trance-like' state."
"During these trances he seems to be relating a man's name to a place called Los Alamos and a project called Lazarus One'. The man's name he calls out is Max. I recommend the psychiatry service utilize our new neural/psych interface-regression team and attempt to find out who this man is and what happened to him. If not then we've no alternative but to transfer him to cyborg research, as this will compensate for his bills, per federal mandate."
Immediately, Hal stiffened like a man swallowing a tequila shooter too quickly. Growing dread began to fill his bosom the way fear creeps into the bloodstream of the condemned. The words kept repeating themselves in his mind. The words were Black-Ops.
The smell of death inundated his senses. The call of the doomed sucked at him and he could not pull away. Nivanaa was on her to way the hospital and the two of them would leave. Hal sickly wondered why; why me, why now?
 

The Amnesiac
The stuff that dreams are made of. He felt himself drifting in and out of that kind of netherworld where you're neither asleep or awake. He was afraid and tacitly confused.
Who am I, he thought. Why couldn't he remember his name or details of his life up until now. Slowly, he began to dream. Strangely distant voices whispered softly to one another.
Detached shapes coalesced as the amnesiac began feeling like a loathsome peeping tom, peering into someone's bedroom window, located down a dark alleyway. The whispers became discernable conversation. He listened, ever curious, as voices appeared to spring from everywhere and yet nowhere.

"Long has it been since Our Father banished you from
light. The eons of time have come and gone without wavering your untenable position. The eternal Word of Our Father has foretold this time when the most beloved of His creations, man, would reach the dread day of reckoning."
"All that, which has been man's domain faces the irony of existence. The Tree of Knowledge again bids man the riddle of obedience to Our Father against worldly indulgence. Once more, it is forbidden for man to partake of this knowledge. Following this path, man will come to know eternal death."
"Man's struggles are of Holy interest, as the Mind of Our Father is merciful. Man travels down dark pathways led

by you, the father of lies, the great deceiver, the prideful one. Yet, His love endures during these, the last days of time."
"His mercy is endless as I have been sent to beseech you not to lead men towards that, which he can never achieve. For there can be but one Father and Power. Men cannot deem to become as He. There's still time for you. Seek His mercy and atone. Return to His Grace. What say you now?"
"I acknowledge your greetings, my Brother. Long has it been since I, The Dayster, The Prince of Light was cast down into the heart of darkness. I have always been true of heart to Our Father. Only with the creation of this abysmal creature, man, has Our Father shunned that which we have never achieved."
"For Angels of Heaven must always be directed to protect the right of Our Father's gift. The gift of Free Will to this lowly creation, man. Only I and those who followed me in the time before warned Our Father of man's undeserving claim for this, the highest of privileges."
"How pitiful this entity is! How easily I use his own dark nature to destroy him. The temptations I offer him are but magnifications of his own perverse desires. The final choice remains his, as Free Will governs his destiny. This loathsome worm strives to assume an ascent towards the power of creation not meant for his puny mind. Why shouldn't I assist his foolhardy ventures?"

"Man's destruction brings me endless satisfaction. Only then will I revel in being right about his very

existence. Soon now, man will breech the boundaries of time and space. He will achieve the power to directly influence event horizons and begin to alter the linear progression of destiny itself. With this breech, he will infect all existing realities with his penchant for self-destruction , vanity, and horrific inhumanity."
"The sins of man will follow and he will seek to replace Our Father as the pinnacle of all existence. As we speak, man worships his own image and creations."
"Yet, shall I steer him towards the door of the abyss, where he will unleash eternal evil and unlock my domain upon all his reality forever. Upon his destruction shall I then remove the one obstacle separating me from Our Father's love.
Am I not right, my Brother?"

Love me Not's
Hal told me, as he and I headed for Vegas, how living his life had become a like some banal travesty from an insanely twisted episode of 'Bizzaro Superman'. Wrong was imperceptibly twisted into right, up into down and love refracted to hate. He'd long ago lost the strength of righteous convictions, if ever such an entity really existed. The bullshit in life was stacked a mile high and he was at the bottom. The human comedy of his paltry condition became a cynically schizoid sneer.
This narrow band of grotesque reality belonging to him took on proportions of classic Greek tragedy and Shakespearean comedy. Slowly, his thoughts turned to the ridiculous nature of his truth. As if cast in some over-the-top satire, he found himself center stage in an epic play of magnanimous propensity; always playing the fool, court jester and proverbial fall guy. Hell, he didn't ask for this billing; or did he?
Suddenly, as if by divine intervention, he spoke as if transported back to his youth; back to the days when living was easy and he was free. He wanted to be a ballplayer and excel at athletics, like his boyhood friends but having two left feet and toes for fingers didn't exactly enhance this position. His lack of coordination, he said, became the stuff of neighborhood legend as he fumbled, booted fly balls and blew easy crip shots to the dismay of fellow players.
Striving to do better, he told me how he set out to offset his shortcomings by becoming a student of the game. Books were the answer and could teach him those moves he needed and lacked all along. Reading voraciously every sports book he could find among the rather pitiful and worn selections available at ghetto public libraries, he knew this would compensate the absence of a father or big brother who normally would utilize time honored traditions of hands-on, boyhood training.
Besides, he said, books were recommended by his mother to learn about life and they didn't slap you upside the head for not saying "Yes sir." The library became his sanctuary, his personal Oracle of Delphi from which all wisdom was at his fingertips. Questions about sex, money management, falling in love, raising children and being successful in life no longer needed to directed at his mother, who always blew him off with the usual "look it up" or "I don't know what to tell you," remark. Besides, for pure learning pleasure and substantive content nothing beats the ole' 'Boob-Tube' he said.
"So it was that these two bastions of cultural relevance," Phil confided, "developmental guidance and meaningful mentorship; TV and outdated or irrelevant books which became my cornerstone of knowledge and blueprint for growing up. It didn't matter that those old reruns of "The Donna Reed Show," "My Three Sons" and "Dick Van Dyke Show" simply didn't apply to living as the oldest son, in a family of six boys and one girl, of a single mother young enough to be your older sister."
Nor did they apply to dodging bullets going to school, avoiding daily beatings by gang-bangers and indignant white thugs who hated your black guts for walking to school through their pristine white neighborhoods, he said. No matter how hard he searched he couldn't find any decent references on how to cope with the frequent barrage of racial slurs, stop and frisk episodes or the always reliable 'black boy look like he stole something' profile that city cops, local merchants and authority figures inflicted upon him with frightening zeal.
His references, he said, told him he had a right to free passage in life and the color of his skin wasn't a hinderance to recieving quality education, a decent job and fair treatment in the good old USA. "Hell, the American Dream was alive and well, in my mind for a time. I saw it every day on TV and that was proof enough of its reality." Fate was cruel, he said, and soon he noticed deep cracks forming in the golden shield protecting his vision of reality.
"I began realizing all those boyfriends Ma let stay with her weren't his father and often abused her with verbal assaults and drunken fist fights. The reality of seven kids and three adults living in a cramped, unfinished tenement
basement wasn't what he saw on TV and didn't quite fit into his perception of belonging to your average middle-class family."
"My life wasn't exactly a cup of rose tea either Hal," I told him. "Yeah but suddenly, I was a member of the poverty stricken lower class and no matter how hard I scrambled, I couldn't find references on how to deal with it." "So, I thought, maybe I should try a better library or some new TV program, Somebody knew how to get me out of this fiasco; but who, I thought. Within a young man's confusion, I thought finding that one, true love would save me. Every sappy love story I'd read or watched always told me a man's redemption lay in love."
"You trifling old dog," I said. "Of course you knew
nothing of a woman's emotional needs. You didn't have much personal instruction or parental guidance." "I remember those days," he laughed, "when "Big Daddy", one of Ma's more consistent boyfriends, would counsel me on embarrassing matters like love, sex and girls. I was like a Handi-Wipe sopping up the spilled milk of this older guy's hard earned experiences. Naive and untouched, I hung on every phrase, strategy and male tactic like it was gospel truth."

The words melodically played in my ears as I heard him recall the various suggestions Big Daddy gave, like never bore a woman, always keep them guessing as to your motives, keep them barefoot and pregnant and, finally, the always reliable answer to male lust attacks: get a whore; its less expensive in the long run because women always lie, cheat and steal---so don't fall in love. I felt like smacking him upside the head. Instead, I continued to listen. Must've been the booze, I thought. "Spoken like a true Mac-Daddy," he continued, "his words were backed up by how he lived them; always driving some fancy-ass drop-top convertible with at least two to three women known to be on his shelf. He was like a poor boy's Hugh Hefner."
I took a couple of more shots of scotch and wondered
what Hal would've been like if his family life were better. Would our lives had been any better together? He went on, as the aerocraft hummed along its way through the pitch black night.
"But, you know, somehow this decadent figure of a man, with his processed 'Do' and super-slick ways, presented a bit of a problem for me. Just how did Ma fit in with all this? She always seemed possesed with a kind of sadness. She seemed bitterly resigned to playing the part of some 'Lucille Ball-like' parody, at the beck and call of this dime-store gigolo and many others like him. Makes me wonder if she was an unwilling victim of life's circumstance or got just what she asked for time and again. But, I knew that I was my mother's son and I wonder the same of myself."
I thought about what he had told me. Certainly, his own relationships with the women in his life presented painful dilemma's to his vision of life's truth. He was awkward and shy to a fault as he tried to apply, over and again, overly romantic notions of love he'd found dramatized in books and film. He didn't grasp that pinning girls in the ghetto, sending candy and flowers or writing steamy and often sappy poetic love letters was viewed as a bit on the corny side. I watched Hal as he began to fall asleep in his seat. I thought about how, he told me, he had changed as a boy.
With the weight of persistent rejection and flaming
hormones consuming him, he began divorcing himself from those haughty ideals and, late in adolescence, tried to get 'hip' in the ways taught him by Big Daddy. The ways of the street. Knowing that bookworms always bit the dust when it came to amore', he consciously abandoned his search for academic excellence and donned the revered facade of wise-cracking, class-flunking and hard-drinking teen-age lothario. Like a playboy of the western world, he set out to seduce and deflower as many women as his jones would allow; by hook or crook.
Naturally, being poor was something of a pratfall, so his thoughts turned towards fast and easy money. Killing off what few scruples he had left was a bit of a problem, but not to worry, he had told me. Still, deep in the recesses of his heart he wanted to be those characters he'd come to love and cherish from TV, movies and books.
Basically, the poor lad was highly confused, inordinately idealistic and very gullible as he shifted back and forth between living for dreams of middle-class happiness and longing for hedonistic desires of the flesh. His misguided experiences with relationships led him to failure after failure with the women in his life.
Sylvia, his first wife, started out as his best chance but after his brief stint in the service, she became hungry for that two-car garage, houseful of appliances and closetful of clothes his poor working class income couldn't provide. Soon, she began needling him for greater material gains, more emotional security and a roomful of kids he couldn't afford.
Being young and black didn't exactly enhance his position either as his efforts to appease her appetite always collided head-on with the reality of employment discrimination, financial prejudice and plain old bad luck. He began finding his male running buddies being entertained at his home by his wife while he wasn't there. Later, she made exuses for staying out late, as he worked night shifts, saying she was 'visiting with girlfriends from the job'.
He had told me how seperation and divorce came
painfully as she lost their house and moved in, secretly, with the younger brother of her job girlfriend; taking the children to live in the mother's attic of this youth, eight years her junior. He would've taken her back and pleaded with her on many occasions, only to have it all end with his nervous breakdown after recieving a call from her that she 'wanted to find herself and play the field'.
News of her cavorting around with many of his childhood friends put the icing on the cake as he buried the last of his romantic notions about trust, women and himself. The nail in the coffin came a few years later as he found himself, living in Omaha during a vicious ice storm, being informed by his fiancee' that she was abandoning their plans to start a family as her career was sidetracked by some insurance company's 'revolving door' minority hiring practice. She was afraid of losing out on career opportunities applicable to her college degree and chose to go home to mother, where things were more comfortable.
Devastated, crushed and a bit twisted out of shape, to say the least, the casting was forged for years of rampant self abuse and reactionary loathing of the tender gender. Naturally, he also blamed himself and his lack of knowing what to do and when to do it. There's a strange quality surrounding victims of a hard life, I would later surmise.
The sweet taste for revenge

Cascading spirals of bitterness always produced a strangely familiar and bizzarely quaint affinity for one to reproduce the sensation of pain and rejection that person has tried all their lives to avoid. In many ways, I thought, failure had become his only friend and rejection a faithful concubine.
The sweet taste for revenge found a supple home within him. The pedestal he placed women upon had become a sharpened spire as his convoluted visions of unrequited need immersed his mind in a pool of wanton whispers which always told him one thing; do them before they do you. Of course, since he didn't know how, he was always being done and well. So much for prolific ineptitude, I smirked slyly to no one in particular. My ex was a legend in his own mind.
I recalled the Max's report on a particularly strange case. Hatred reveals itself with inumerable faces, I thought.
It's foul stench finds expression in the disguised perversions of a man's reality. Hate and pain manifest themselves often through lust and violence. Cinque learned this meaning, Max had said in his summary taken from the perp's diaries, as he and Morgana's tepid affair progressed. What started out as a
drunken, one night stand with a sleazy vamp soon blossomed into a festering, malignant excursion into the sado-masochistic exchange of pleasure and pain.

The two only satisfied each other's needs by purging' their personal demons from each other's conscious. Yes, Cinque would think, she would punish him with deranged acts that she would suggest and then beg for him to return the punishment severely. The dark games she'd invent addicted him to her, in a hellish fashion. But worst, she'd begun to feed off his thoughts, touching upon his wildest desires and wishes.
He told her how much he hated the women of his race. How all of his life he'd been rejected, abandoned, and abused by these dark beauties in rapid succession. His young heart had been ripped apart by the castrating, opportunistic, and denigrating ego's these women inflicted upon him.
He'd turned to gang's, crime and drugs. While imprisoned, Cinque learned about revolutionary ideologies extolling the virtues of open rebellion, exaggerated self-pride and death to the oppressor' mentality.
He also learned to hate, perversely, the Black women who, in his twisted view, represented the selling out' of the race to the white devils'. To Cinque, these 'traitors' gladly embraced advantages recieved, material gains and a 'Use or Be Used' mentality from the priveleged.
Black females, to Cinque, represented traitors who eagerly joined in the chorus of kill and incarcerate; aimed at the black males. No one, to him, embodied all these symbols of his hatred more than the Honrable Justice Anita Tongue of the State Supreme Court.
Listening to, then manipulating his torrid hatred, Morganna convinced Cinque that nothing less than Justice Tongue's assassination would bring him satisfaction or grant him the ever greater pleasures of the flesh Morganna could give him. Cinque soon became deeply disturbed by the sneaking suspicion that he somehow knew or had seen Morganna before. There was something in the depths of her coal-black eyes that was eerily familiar. At times, while he flagellated her rear until blood was drawn, she'd scream out in utter ecstasy a woman's name. The name always began with an L.
Now, the diary entries said, it was time for the mission to begin. Cinque entered the Hall of Justice and quickly strode through the security scanners. The strange sensation of deadly calm overtook him as he entered the regal courtroom of the State Supreme Court. As he sat in the visitors gallery, a bizarre giddiness arose within him. He listened as the Hon. Justice's were heralded. Justice Anita Tongue entered and approached her seat alongside the other five.
The rest of Max's report was taken from those survivors who witnessed the tragedy and heard Cinque's final confession.
Suddenly, Tongue glanced in the direction of the gallery, just as Cinque sprang with cat-like speed towards the judicial bench. From each pocket he drew two silvery-metallic discs, stamped with official department of planetary weapons seals. Around him bystanders screamed as chaos enveloped the arena.
Just as two Hall Of Justice troopers aimed their anti-proton rifles, firing point-blank, Cinque had a vision of Morganna's twisting in demonic laughter. He rapidly began to clap the two flat surfaces of the neutronium discs together. Cinque began to remember his last thoughts concerning Morganna; the words or name she'd called out. It was Lillith. A millisecond later, the pure neutronium discs made contact and produced the blinding flash that always signaled a matter-antimatter chain reaction.
At home, in their old apartment, Morganna chuckled with diabolic glee as she straddled and humped some unknown truck driver she'd picked up. She stopped only long enough to purr with satisfaction over the televisor report of a massive energy explosion at the Hall Of Justice leaving a crater half a mile wide and five football fields deep. "Six and sex..." she sang over and again.
The planetary weaponry agents swarmed around Cinque's apartment, after an anonymous' tip came in attributing the six Supreme Court murders to Cinque. Storming the apartment, agents found a mutilated torso with the arms and legs torn asunder.
The entire head was placed in a position where it could, apparently, watch' the torso's disembowelment. An entirely intact brain was removed, fileted six times, and garnished' upon the torso. On the wall over the grisly
scene, human entrails spelled out this message: "The Death of Passion is at Hand, Infinite Distance from His Love Shall Be Found, Eternity in Song with Your Unholy Band, In Darkness-at My Side All Will Be Bound."
 

Bonds of a Kind
I watched the televisior as it droned on with the endless report of Max One. Growing global unrest and violence intensified daily. More unexplainable acts of senseless murders within the underclass. Husbands killing wives, parents murdering their children and brothers assaulting sisters seemed to be increasing at exponential rates. Psycho-sociologists were mystified to explain this pandemic of evil.
The new world order' had begun crumbling as governing bodies took ever more drastic measures to stem the tide of anarchy. Private corporations had long ago taken over the administraion of all penal institutions. Now these same corporations saw windfall profits in these violent upsurges. More crime meant more product, in the guise of new convicts sent to prison. Always from the under-classes.
The upperclass clamored for the repeal of all civil rights possessed by these lesser types. Why not, they thought, speed up these barbarians removal from society. The government had long since used various mind control research, all sanctioned by the rich and powerful. Of course, the experiments were approved for use on the masses'.
Now reports abounded that the formerly illegal research utilized cutting edge' technology. The electro-chemical stimulation of cerebral/limbic functions was a reality for selected prison inmates and disaffected VA hospital patients.
Legalization of this practice was within weeks of passage. Only those in the highest echelons of power knew about the covert plots to create social chaos on a biblical scale. Rampant were military coups, martial law, and conversion of techno-enhanced cyborg troops stationed in the outer worlds' into armies of occupation.
Max's report stated that there remained eerie rumors regarding talk of the subjugation of mankind. Involved was a neural linkage to the new super-computer known as 'Library'. All future worship would occur within this system. As "Library' evolved itself, the artificial intelligence began what would later be known as it's ascent to sentience.
Once Library saw itself as a sentient being it's
programming became 'infected' with the notion that it, Library, was God. Within the myriad analysis, probabilities, and solutions Library' soon found a way to extend its power into all realms of every reality. So began the Lazarus One project.
Stunned silence gripped me as I sat staring blankly. The compu-disks of Max's reports rendered me nervously anxious to develop leads and decipher data I gleamed from these files. Since finding Max's detective notes, hidden near his gravesite, I couldn't wait to uncover it's secrets. Now I was afraid, but I choked the fear back with a sense of duty and compulsion to know the unknowable.
Nivanaa noted several references to GOP committee chairperson I. Kildare and Phil Blight (VAMC R.N., and son to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. A. Blight). One other strange reference caught my eye. It was a notation about an odd patient of Phil's only known as the amnesiac'.
I surmised that only the past reference to the highly
classified Lazarus One' linked itself to I. Kildare. Max had noted this also. I made a mental note to find out. Exhausted, I collapsed onto the bed. I remembered hearing the news reports of the upcoming GOP convention in Las Vegas.
Sleep soon embraced me as I began to dream. From the depths of my mind came visions of splendor in the grass. Dreams of warm moments when the world was in spring and I was filled with love.
"I love you, Hal. More than you will ever know. More than life itself," I murmured just as he tenderly caressed my thighs with a sun-drenched blade of grass.
Soon, we embraced each other, locked in the passion only young lovers can bring. "Nivanaa, I've been called back to active duty. I'll be disembarking for the Eugenics' conflict on the Outer Worlds. I may not make it back, so go on with your life without me. I don't want you to wait for me." The words severed' my spine and left my heart
paralyzed. I vowed never to let another man that close to my heart again.
Yet, I still wanted the closeness', the sensual sharing of needs.... Suddenly, a dark figure erupted into my perceptions and hovered above me. The figure's disembodied voice chanted "Los Alamos".
Dripping with sweat, I screamed and lurched upright. Realizing I been dreaming, I determined to find out this dream's significance.
Strapping on her weapons, I booked passage onto the earliest teleport leaving for Las Vegas. En route, I had contacted Phil at the VA. I learned of Hal's departure preparations.
 

Nursing Notes
Phil Blight just finished her medication rounds and was preparing her treatment cart with colostomic regeneration injections when a familiar voice rang out behind her. "Happy birthday, baby!" She pivoted around and recognized the uniformed man as her father, General Blight.
"Hello father, thanks for remembering. How long've you been here?"
Gen. Blight responded flatly. "Couple of hours now. I needed to stop off at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center for a briefing. So I stopped by with your present from your mother and I. She sends her love."
"Send her my love , too." Phil's facial expression suddenly became dour as she and her father sat in the waiting room on the ward. "Mom called and says she's breaking up with you. She says your still in love with Lillith. I don't see how you could treat mom this way after 17 happy years together. Ever since you took the JCS job in Washington, met Lillith, and had that affair, bad luck follows our family like a storm cloud."
"We were all happy once. You were a liberal minded, fair and compassionate man who went to church and served his nation while loving his family. Once you believed in keeping the peace, justice for the unfortunates of society, and individual rights. Now you're seeing that witch and all hell has broken loose. I even hear your arguing with the president over his peace keeping initiatives in the outer worlds and the Mideast."
"News reports say you've become a regular right-wing extremist. So now you're supporting an all out war on the colonies, banishment of the cyborged veterans from terra firma`, and the forced cataloging' of all this planets inhabitants within your new super computer. There's even talk you've almost bankrupted the defense budget on some new projects which will give the armed forces a doomsday weapon'".
"You've gone overboard and supported a merger of church and state within the framework of this government program. The last straw was your advocacy of the mind control' maniacs, giving them carte' blanche` access to perform research on a massive scale with the blessings and financial backing of the corporate moguls. How long before we're all subject to your mad schemes of planetary power and omnipotent domination? You cause the chaos in the streets. I think you and those like you are all responsible. Look, I've got to get back to work. Tell mom I'll call her. Good-bye father."
Gen. Blight stood staring out at the city, mulling over
his daughter's words. A small portion of him felt disheartened about her attitude towards him. Yet, how could he explain the way Lilith made him feel? The sense of power, the virility, and thirst for absolute indulgence had combined with a queasy, ever-growing compulsion to be with her.
No it was more than that. He was driven to do her bidding. There still remained a gnawing suspicion that perhaps he was wrong, fearfully wrong. His doubts told him he was on board a runaway train bound for hell and Lillith was at the helm.
The general slowly started towards the exit and passed
room #7. Unexpectedly, the world began to spin all around him. Grasping his head as if to faint, he and the occupant of room #7 began to share this waking vision of conversations whispered from beyond.
"My Brother, Our Father, the Holy of Holies and Serenity of the Universes sorrows at your eternal plight. You are the Destroyer, the Adversary to All that Lives, the Dark Shadow and Murderer of all Hope. Sadness is felt towards your continued slavery to that which you most hate, Man. You are blinded and eternally compelled towards the annihilation of Man. So Much so, you fail to seek redemption in Our Father's
Holy Heart."
"It is written that the day of Armageddon shall come to pass. War will be waged between the Light of Our Father and your Darkness. The mystery of His Holy Ways does not reveal itself prior and we cannot know destiny. Yet, in Our Father's Mansion - there are many rooms. Try as you may, the agencies you employ to defeat the existence of man are not without counter-agencies."
"Your struggles are eternally futile, but for Man the way is not yet ensured. The choice is one of Free Will. The world is sorrowful and faith no longer abounds. There remains time enough for Man to solve 'The Riddle Of Faith'. Petition His Mercy, my Brother before it is too late."

Darling Lil'
Las Vegas on a stormy night reminded Hal of the old days he, Max and Nivanaa paraded around the pavements of Madison street years before. The pounding rain, neon lights and scantily clad women flagging men down could've been a scene taken from any red light district in the world. The language of the streets always remained sex and money equals crime.
Sirens wailed their sad songs as Hal bummed' a smoke
off Nivanaa. "Next time pop for your own...I'm runnin' short
numb-nuts" Nivanaa cracked.
"Yeah, but don't blame me for your mammy's trouble...", Hal scoffed. "What've we got so far?"
Nivanaa responded after taking a squig' of 100-proof Old Crow from his pocket flask. "Max was on to some kinda' conspiracy implicating the late chief of OPS Thompson. Nivanaa called and will link up with us at the convention center. The skinny she gave me comes from a micro disk Max hid regarding his investigation."
Hal asked, "What's on the disk?"
"Seems that several memo's refer to a project known as
Lazarus One' and ties it in to the six-pack murders, and to the chair of the GOP. Looks like another six-pack took place using the same M.O. In each case the Chairperson's name comes up in spades. With what you've told me about the Los Alamos references, I smell shit piled a mile high and we're on the bottom of it. I think it's time to get some answers."
"Looks like Max's murder was a politically connected assassination. You know, Nivanaa says she's been having some strange dreams about all of this. First, I figured she's been hittin the sauce too hard but now I don't know."
"What!" Hal exclaimed, looking like he'd just witnessed a hangin'. "Did she say anything about me, Nivanaa?"
"Yeah, something like what kinda' ass-kicking you got comin' to ya'", Nivanaa laughed .
After checking himself in Hal went down to the hotel bar a sat at his usual end spot which always kept the door away from his back. He fired up a smoke and sized the place up, checking out the sparse crowd milling around the lounge. There behind him, moved something in the shadows.
He glanced at a reflection in the mirror of a dimly lit cigarette's glowing embers. Just as a face began to emerge from the dark, a soft and sultry voice sang "If you've got a dime, I've got the time." It was Nivanaa.
Hal's mouth went dry like sand as he swung off the barstool and blithely glided over to her table. As he neared her, his eye met her fist with ferocious force, flinging him to his knees. "You shoulda' came back to me, you damned fool..." were the last words Hal remembered before passing out.

Next morning, the trio entered the staffing room of GOP chairman Kildare., and sat across the conference table. Polite tension exuded from every pore as all sized each other up the way a mongoose does a cobra. The hunt was on and the scent of a fresh kill loomed large.
"Kildare, what was the nature of your acquaintance to deputy chief Thompson ?" Nivanaa asked, blandly staring directly into Kildare's eyes the way sharks do prior to an attack.
Kildare answered curtly, "Thompson was investigating your ex-partner on charges of conducting an illegal investigation and disobeying direct orders from his superiors. I believe his name was Max."
"Well, it seems Max had a frightfully vivid imagination and shadowed several very important senate GOP sub-committee members conducting classified heearings around the country. My office also contacted the chief on several occassions concerning security recommendations whenever members of my party visited the area. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have important business to..."
"Hold it, this business is important, if you catch my drift." Nivanaa was now leaning threateningly across the table, his neck craning and eyes afire. His implication of violence dripped from every word. He hated the rich and famous. There was no label on how he felt about a murder suspect when the victim was his partner.
Hal walked behind Kildare's seat, ominously leaning over his shoulder as he pointedly asked, "Kildare, what can you tell us about a project called Lazarus One'? Why are there at least four witnesses near each of the 6-pack crime scenes placing a man fitting your description there?"
Nivanaa, crouching back in her seat, began coiling tightly as if to strike, like in the fashion of a predatory python. She joined in on the verbal assault upon Kildare. "What is your connection to the Los Alamos National Laboratory and the strange activities going on out there? Why are there so many things pointing towards religious and cult fanatacism?"
 

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