The Beast Within


The heart itself is only a small vessel,
yet dragons are there, and lions,
there are poisonous beasts,
and all the treasures of evil.

-Makarios the Great


Namashkar, my Hindu Homeys. Would that today bring you happiness and sangria-flavored graitch. I also hope you find time to celebrate International Whozewhatzit Day. (And if you do not, you have only yourself to blame.)

Meanwhile, over on Monkey Barn we are coming up with Country Music Song Titles and voting on Who Used to be a Man, baby.

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[As I read over Chapter 3, I could not help but smile. The narration was still all over the place, but in some ways, I'm almost proud of myself. There is one scene where I change third-person perspective twice (between characters) in a matter of just a few paragraphs! I also remembered that I had just read The Maltese Falcon and seen CHINATOWN right before I wrote this, so I incorporated a detective agency into the story. The way the detective agency is described is straight Dashiell Hammett, or at least my attempt, and there is even some Madam Bovary in that section (go figure!). I have no idea where the Cockney street gang in Atlanta came from, but I now wish I'd taken more time to get it right and not just a parody. Maybe in the rewrite. Try to remember that I was still doing these once a month, so some catch-up was needed, and holding out Fagin's name was supposed to be suspenseful (it wouldn't work if you read it all together). Finally, in case you were wondering, I had a friend named JD Reiff who wrote me a poisonous email just before I penned this chapter. It was a pleasure to make him a character, a cuckold character at that. I sure hope you all are enjoying these.]



THE GREAT AND TERRIBLE ADVENTURES OF FAGIN DUPREE


Read Chapter 2



Chapter Three - The Beast Within


There is a beast that lives within the heart of every man; savage, uncontrolled: waiting to break free. At any time, our veneer of sophisticated domesticity and genteel humanity can come crashing down and reveal the darkness.

At least, this is Fagin Dupree's fervent hope. At the moment, he is having trouble summoning his inner beast in a Bruce Banner-esque manner. This chiefly owes to the fact that as we join Fagin, he is lying face down in the dirt with a rather large boot applying pressure to the back of his neck, while other boots take turns kicking him viciously.

Yes, if ever Fagin's inner-Hulk (at this point, he would even take "The Thing") was going to emerge and start bringing the Pain, now would be the time.

However, before we continue with Fagin on his downward spiral to unconsciousness and a lengthy hospital stay, let us back up a bit and see what events transpired to bring us to this sorry state of affairs.

*****

Three weeks ago

Christine Baran nervously locked the doors to her silver Subaru and walked up three steps to a non-descript brown door with plain black lettering that read: Pittsnogle Consulting Services. The door seemed innocent enough, but Christine still swallowed hard before entering.

The interior was the same as the outer d├ęcor: two worn couches on a threadbare grayish rug. Behind a desk sat a fiftyish matronly woman wearing those half-glasses in an owlish style and typing away at—of all things—a typewriter. The name placard on the desk read "Gloria."

Receptionist? Secretary? Gal Friday? In this place, a bit of all three, Christine decided. Whoever Gloria was, she looked up at the sound of the door opening and gave Christine a pleasant smile.

"Can I help you dear?"

"Yes. I have an appointment to see Mister….Pittsnogle." Even after practicing saying the name in the car for 10 minutes, it was hard not to laugh.

"He's just finishing up, dear. Why don't you have a seat?" Christine chose the couch closest to Gloria, because it made Christine feel safer, and right now, Christine would take anything she could get.

Next to the couch was a HIGHLIGHTS magazine from 1982! This instantly struck Christine so funny that she had a fit of the giggles, though she tried her best to maintain proper decorum. Christine felt like she was 12 again at the Dentist's office with her mom. In fact, this might be the same magazine from back then.

After a few minutes (spent trying in vain to do the HIGHLIGHTS crossword), the door behind Gloria opened and a small timid-looking man walked out. Just as if she were at the Doctor's office, Christine tried to figure out why the small man was here. Cheating Wife. It had to be. Just looking at the small man, Christine wanted to cheat on him.

Behind the small man came a very large man, dressed in a dingy tan suit that looked slept in for a week. The man was white, with sun-darkened skin and a flattop cut on what was left of a receding hairline. In his mouth was a cigar, apparently unlit. This could be none other than Frank Pittsnogle; founder, owner, and chief operator of Pittsnogle Consulting Services.

Pittsnogle sent Mr. Reiff on his way with a slap in the back and a hearty, "You get some rest now, J.D." At least, this was what he tried to say, but with the cigar clenched in his teeth it came out more like, "Ooh eh um ehh ow, ay ee."

Turning to the slim pretty thing on the couch—with a great set of gams—Pittsnogle took the slimy cigar out of his mouth and half bowed to her. (With his girth a full bow was ill-conceived.)

"Miss Baran, I take it. C'mon back here now and let's see what we can do to ease your pretty little mind."

More frightened by the minute, Christine followed the giant into his "office." It looked like a '50s barbershop frozen in time. All over the walls were grainy black and white pictures of prizefights and horse races. Books and papers were scattered everywhere. In the corner was a rack with a trench coat and fedora thrown casually over. Through the walls, Christine could hear Gloria start back up on her typewriter, and it seemed like Dashiell Hammett himself was writing this room and this man right before her very eyes.

Pittsnogle motioned Christine into a chair in front of a cluttered desk, and sat down heavily in the chair behind it. The chair complained loudly at the assault.

"On the phone you told my secretary Gloria that you wished to discuss a matter of most serious import. Why don't you tell me all about it?"

Pittsnogle was still smiling but his voice had dropped 40 decibels and he was all business now. This calmed Christine greatly, and she began.

"Three months ago my roommate Deelea Jensen disappeared. I got a telegram from her saying she was moving to Costa Rica to help starving kids, along with a check for six months worth of her share of the bills."

Pittsnogle nodded, scribbling down notes on a small pad.

"I do believe this is what happened. It's just not Deelea. And honestly, who sends a telegram!"

"People do go to Costa Rica." Pittsnogle said reasonably. "This helping children, is that something she was interested in?"

"Yes," Christine admitted grudgingly. "She cared a lot about kids. Deelea had talked before about going somewhere to help, but not seriously! To just get up and go like that, leaving her job, her family, her friends, me, with no notice! I don't believe it for a second."

"But it is possible." Pittsnogle said.

"It is possible, but here's the thing: on the day she disappeared, Deelea was going to break up with her boyfriend. He's a sniveling pathetic man, and Deelea was worried how he was going to take it. Frankly, he was far beneath her, something I finally got her to see."

"So, you were the reason they were breaking up?"

"He was a total loser, and she could do a lot better. I just helped her see the light." Christine said the last part strongly. "We were supposed to have dinner that night, to get the play-by-play, but she never showed. Two days later I'm going out of my mind and I get this telegram." Deelea thrust the telegram onto Pittsnogle's desk. He picked it up and read it without comment.

"You went to the police?"

"What good would they do? Plus…I cashed the check. I had bills…" Christine at least had the grace to blush. "I finally went to talk to her Ex myself."

"How did it go?"

"It was so creepy. He seemed like a totally different person. He had on clothes I'd never seen—he usually wore lamewear--, and he had a new hairstyle and seemed more confident and aggressive. He never even looked me in the eye before. Now he was…looking me up and down."

Pittsnogle looked the little filly up and down himself, and decided whatever the man had done, Pitty couldn't blame him for that.

Christine was on a roll. "He told me that Deelea had broken up with him so she could dedicate her life to children."

"You didn't believe him?"

"Not for a minute. There was something about the way he said it, so smooth and sure of himself, like he'd covered all the angles. "Christine paused and took a breath. "I think the scum killed her.

"I want him followed and see what evidence you can come up with to prove he's a murderer, and if he is then I want you to take care…"

"Whoa there, darlin'. One step at a time. This killer of yours: he got a name?"

"His name is Fagin Dupree."

*****

Life was good. The police were completely uninterested in Fagin Dupree, which meant he could start spending that hard-earned cash. Well, maybe not hard earned, but at least well earned.

The first thing Fagin did was to head to Vegas for a weekend. It was by all accounts a successful trip: Fagin returned one hundred and eleven thousand dollars poorer and with a slight limp, but that's all I can say about it (you know the rule).

When he got back home, Fagin started looking for a new home. He had planned to remodel his current abode, but why put sauce on hamburger when you can have steak?

The problem Fagin encountered was not finding nice places, but that his taste ran him out of his new price-range. Fagin had a little over $500,000 left, enough for a down payment, assuming he could talk his way into financing, but at his current salary, Fagin would never make the monthly note. Therefore, what he needed was another plan: an income-producing plan.

But Fagin Dupree had another problem. He was being followed. At first, he thought it was leftover paranoia from the Nashville cops, or maybe even the Feds, but soon Fagin realized this was something different. Somebody was following and watching his every move—not to catch him in a crime, but for something else. The only conclusion Fagin could draw was that it must be the partners of the gentlemen from whom Fagin had removed all the money in the first place. They wanted it back.

Fagin decide to set a trap. He took transit downtown one night and went barhopping, making himself easy to follow. Finally, at a club called "Tongue and Groove," Fagin pushed his way to the back and hit the exit. The night before—sure he was not being followed—Fagin had snuck out of his house and stashed a baseball bat in the back alley. He was ready for whatever was going to come out that door.

What Fagin Dupree was not ready for were the two guys in the alley waiting for him with his very own baseball bat. As Fagin took a shot to the ribs and crumpled to the ground, he contemplated that upon more mature consideration, perhaps the previous night's foray had not gone so unnoticed after all.

*****

This brings us back to Fagin now, face down, the proverbial tar expediently flying out of him. Fagin decided that the best immediate course of action—seeing that the Inner Beast was not forthcoming—was to quit fighting to stay alert and let unconsciousness overwhelm him. At least the pain would stop.

Fortunately for Fagin Dupree, once the "detectives" noticed Fagin inert, the beating stopped as well. To call these men private detectives was an insult to gumshoes everywhere. They were hired muscle, pure and simple. However, Pittsnogle had found that for some men (particularly, dumber men), giving them a "title" got them to work cheaper. Therefore, detectives they were.

The "sleuths" began discussing the case, unaware that someone who loses consciousness quickly can regain it as well. Fagin awoke to hear the following conversation:

"I thinks 'ee's guilty, 'ee is. 'Ee was runnin' from us, that shows 'ee's guilty."

"I wager 20 quid 'ee cut 'er up, the butchah. One look at 'em and you know 'ee's a sadistic buggah."

Idly, Fagin wondered if Atlanta was under siege from a new Cockney Street Gang (or he had taken a sharp blow to the head). The things we think of when we are lying in the dirt covered in bruises and blood.

After a few seconds, Fagin began to process what the men were saying and realized that wherever the Oliver Twist Crips came from, it was clear who had sent them.

Christine.

She was sure Fagin had killed Deelea, and unable to convince law enforcement of this, the bitch had taken matters into her own hands.

Luckily for Fagin, Christine was still clearly up to her penny-pinching ways, and had neglected to secure the services of a more professional group of Toughs. The men paid zero attention to Fagin, preferring to congratulate each other on a job well done and smoke some reefer.

For the first time in his life, Fagin was thankful for America's failed War on Drugs, and quietly got to his feet. He started to slip away, when he noticed the baseball bat had been casually thrown aside. Well, when God closes a door…

*****

Ricky was having an interesting evening. Usually standing in this corner slinging dope was as total bore: same people, same numb legs. Tonight was different. These two guys with crazy accents bought an ounce off him, then went into an alley behind "Tongue and Groove." Ricky figured they'd gone to smoke up, but when they didn't return after a bit Ricky got curious, so he shuffled over to see the two men hiding, looking at the club's back door. One now had a baseball bat.

Soon after a man emerged and the guy with the bat smashed him one, and then the two guys and a third who came out of the club started kicking the crap out of the poor S.O.B. Ricky thought about helping the guy out, but hey: all God's Children got problems.

A few minutes later the men stopped beating the poor guy and lit up a joint and started cackling to each other. They didn't notice him stir and get to his feet, and then take that same baseball bat and go to work. Two shots to two temples—the Babe couldn't have done better—and the goons dropped like stone.

The man then proceeded to expertly go through their pockets and check their wallets for ID. He took the wallets and their money, and seeing this, Ricky had to meet him. He ambled over and gave a friendly "Wassup."

"I saw what happened, Holmes. I was gonna help out, but you know how it is: a dawg like me don't like getting' in other peoples bidness."

"It's cool, dawg; I got my 'bidness' handled. You diss the Beast, you diss yo-self."

Ricky had to laugh. This was the whitest guy on Earth, but any Beast who could survive that beating and turn the tables could talk however he wanted. Just then, a customer came up and purchased a dime bag.

"So, what do you say, Beast?" Ricky asked the stranger after his transaction was completed. "I didn't see nothin' if you didn't see nothin'."

The man looked at Ricky for a minute and then smiled real slow, showing a lot of teeth.

"My good dawg, sir, you got yo-self a deal."

1 comment:

Koz said...

You, Me and Fagin Dupree