by Robert H. Prestridge
Table of Contents
Part 1 appears
in this issue.
|part 2 of 4|
Jack and I walked down a street, heading to the government-only parking garage where we kept our unmarked cruiser.
“We’ve got to find this meme,” Jack said, sounding very grave. Well, he always sounded grave when he wasn’t stoned. “All of this could end if we don’t.”
He motioned at the expanse of downtown Seattle, meaning not only it but everything beyond it.
I nodded and popped a pep into my mouth. The sounds of people’s footsteps on the sidewalk tasted like small chocolate bars.
“Let’s go check out the leads,” I said, adjusting my specially made sunglasses, which protected my eyes from overloads of sounds and sensations. “Cefalu’s first on the list.”
“Affirmative,” Jack replied.
At a small house at the northern end of the U. District, Jack and I stood on a porch cluttered with soggy old furniture, rusted appliances and other odds and ends. Jack knocked on the door. A few moments passed before lumbering steps coming from inside the ramshackle house announced Cefalu’s arrival at the front door.
The door opened. Cefalu was wearing a stained tank-top and Hawaiian shorts, can of beer in hand.
He scowled when he saw me. Of course he remembered when I had almost nailed him at Pier 66. Fortunately for him, the meme had run away and made it as far as the Pike Place Market. Fortunately for us, our people had snuffed it out.
“What do you want?” Cefalu asked, growling.
“What do you think we want?” I replied. “Where is she?”
“Don’t play dumb, Cefalu,” Jack said. “We don’t need a warrant, so-”
“Yeah, whatever,” Cefalu said, opening the door, obviously used to the routine. “Come in and look around for all I care.”
Jack and I entered the grungy home and began our search, both of us wearing gloves. The place looked, and smelled, as if it hadn’t been cleaned in years. I was glad that I was wearing my earplugs, noseplugs and specially made sunglasses because the assault on my senses would have been overwhelming.
As we searched, Cefalu finished his beer and then started another, making sure that Jack and I understood that he was drinking beer. Possessing or using hard liquor, like possessing or using tobacco, was a felony.
“Pretty early to drink, don’t you think?” I asked him.
He shrugged, and looked at Jack.
“I’d be more concerned about the weed,” Cefalu replied. “It leads to the harder stuff, ya know.”
“Right, and I bet your mother has a loud bark,” Jack said. To me: “Farinelli, you find anything?”
“Nothing,” I said.
“I’ll get a statement.”
“Statement for what?” Cefalu asked.
“A statement we’ll use against you later in court,” Jack snapped.
As Jack got a statement from Cefalu, I looked at Cefalu’s collections of antiques in a far corner. Some of the antiques were dusty vinyl 33s, and I found one 33 that stood out, the London Symphony Orchestra’s version of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. I felt my eyes light up; the album’s cover was an abstract painting of Gershwin, and the colors and lettering danced across the album and into the room.
“Put it down.”
I turned. Cefalu was glowering at me.
“I said put it down.”
“You hard of hearing, asswipe?” the burly man said. “The law gives you the right to search without a warrant. It doesn’t give you the right to steal MU-approved property.”
Any other cop, Jack included, would have busted the album over Cefalu’s head. But I had too much respect for classical music, particularly that of Gershwin, that I could never do such a thing.
I put the album to the exact spot from which I had gotten it.
“Satisfied?” I said, holding up my hands in mock surrender.
Cefalu smirked, then looked at Jack.
“You clowns finished?” the radical asked.
“We’re finished,” Jack said, leading the way to the front door. “Do yourself a favor, Cefalu, and get a maid.”
Outside, Jack removed his used gloves and tossed them aside. He wiped his hands on his suit jacket.
“Disgusting,” he said.
“He knows something,” I said.
“You saw his words?” Jack said. “What color were they, Farinelli?”
I opened the driver’s side of the unmarked cruiser and slid into the seat. Jack finished putting on his seatbelt.
“That’s the problem,” I said, removing my earplugs and noseplugs, but keeping on my specially made sunglasses. “I didn’t see anything. I think he’s learned how to fool us.”
“Constitution or no constitution, I’m going to get him next time,” Jack said, fishing a joint out of a pack of Panama Reds. “Christ, I need to get high.”
“We’re going to Bainbridge Island now. Take as much time as you need.”
Jack lit the Panama Red and turned on the stereo in the unmarked cruiser. “Lovely Rita,” from the Beatles’ Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band, played. That album had been Jack’s favorite in his pre-Resurrection days. And it remained so even now.
I took I-5, heading back towards downtown Seattle. Most of Seattle, fortunately, hadn’t been destroyed in the Apocalyptic War. They’d gotten the Space Needle, those goddamn memes, and a few other landmarks. But at least we had a new Space Needle, and the other landmarks had been replaced.
And at least the world now functioned as one. Seattle was, for the most part, like Beijing, which, for the most part, was like Moscow, which, for the most part, was like New York City.
Oh, there were the differences in languages and pre-Apocalyptic War memes. Some of the latter, like classical music, folk dances and customs were allowed to exist; others, like Patriotism, were executed on the spot; in fact, I was at Nuremberg II as an observer when Nationalism, a prissy, pug-faced meme, was on trial. Like many similar memes, it had failed to show due remorse and was summarily executed.
I parked the unmarked cruiser on a ferry going to Bainbridge Island. By now, Jack had finished another joint and we were listening to “Within You Without You,” Jack jiving to the staccato beat of the tabla and the melodic flow of the sitar. Glowing in E major, in ultra-violet, Jack told me that he had the munchies, and went off to get something to eat; I re-inserted my earplugs and noseplugs and went to the upper deck for the 30-minute or so trip across Puget Sound.
On the front deck, I watched the salty wind whipping across Puget Sound in azure gusts. Soft-feeling seagulls flew parallel with the ferry, eating squealing pieces of bread and candy passengers tossed.
I thought of the meme in the alley. Jesus, Joe, why didn’t you kill it when you had the chance? I asked myself. And goddamn, why did it have to look like Brandy?
“Enough,” I said.
A woman standing nearby looked at me, raised her eyebrows, then moved away.
I turned to see Jack sharing a joint with three coeds in the primary seating area. Jack and his new-found friends were all laughing as he escorted the three to somewhere in the back.
I sighed; I knew where they were going: weed, besides giving Jack an incredible appetite for food, gave him an incredible appetite for other things, too.
After we arrived at Bainbridge Island, I drove the unmarked cruiser towards Poulsbo.
Jack giggled. He was about to light another Panama Red.
“No more,” I said, turning off the stereo, cutting off the opening to “Good Morning Good Morning,” tossing the packet of pills at Jack. “It’s time to work.”
“Take the goddamn pill, Jack.”
Jack grumbled. Then he whined and argued like a little kid. But I wouldn’t give in.
Finally he took a pill after crossing his eyes, pulling his cheeks back with his index fingers and sticking his tongue out at me.
“All right, Farinelli. Let’s get serious here.”
We arrived in Poulsbo, and the GPS gave us the directions to Wilma Friedrichs’ home.
I had met here before on official business, and actually, I somewhat liked her because of her pleasant personality. Like Cefalu, she had been implicated as being a member of the Underground.
Unlike Cefalu, however, she kept a nice house; in fact, she was a landscape artist, and had won several awards around the greater Seattle area for her work.
But even though I somewhat liked her didn’t mean I trusted her in any measure; the kindest-appearing ones generally are the brutal bastards.
Jack and I found her on the front lawn, tending roses.
“Oh, hello, Agent Farinelli,” she said, glowing a bright A-major orange. “And who’s your friend here?”
Jack flipped out his badge and showed it to her.
“Agent Jack Webb,” he said. “You probably know of me because of my pre-Resurrection days.”
“I thought you looked vaguely familiar,” she said.
“Mind if we ask you a few questions?” I asked.
“You’re going to anyway,” she said, standing. “Let’s go to the back.”
We all sat in the backyard, underneath a patio awning. Friedrichs lit a Chesterfield joint. As I grilled her about the meme — Had she seen it before? Didn’t she realize that she was potentially facing the death penalty if we discovered she was part of the MU? Didn’t she know that we were on to her? — she answered each question politely and succinctly. And all the while, I could tell that Jack was salivating, just itching to light up a joint.
After I was done questioning her, I snapped my palmcom shut and thanked her.
“I wish I could say it was a pleasure seeing you again,” she said, standing. “Now if you don’t mind, or even if you do, I’m going back to my roses.”
“What do you make of her?” Jack said when she turned a corner. “You see her words?”
I shook my head. “No,” I said. “She comes off clean, like Cefalu.”
“Maybe they are clean.”
“No, they’re not.” I began walking, as did Jack. “I don’t know how yet, but she’s in it with Cefalu. I can feel it.”
“Feelings aren’t enough, Farinelli. Maybe she and Cefalu are innocent. Maybe you’re losing your touch.”
“Not hardly, Jack. I’m a synesthete, remember? Here.”
I tossed Jack the key to the unmarked cruiser.
“What’s this?” Jack said.
“But I wanted to get stoned-”
“Just drive, Jack.”
In the car, I debated about taking another pep or napping. I chose to take a nap. After all, I had allowed Jack to get stoned on the way to Poulsbo; the least he could do was let me get some much-needed sleep.
* * *
From the large, open back window of my downtown loft, I looked out at Puget Sound. The skies over it were dark because a storm was coming in from the Pacific.
Captain Morgan was growing angrier each day: “Why hasn’t that goddamn meme been caught?” she had asked repeatedly. Kowalski and Mellor were now on duty; perhaps they’d catch the goddamn meme and then we could all live in peace for another week or so before another meme inevitably appeared.
I sighed and finished my glass of merlot. I decided to watch The Godfather.
As far as I knew, The Godfather wasn’t outlawed, but that was probably because I had the sole surviving copy after the AW. And I wasn’t too worried; I wasn’t afraid that any memes or potential memes within the film might somehow harm me, or somehow cause me to become antisocial.
I opened a safe and removed a small disk, a copy of the film. I closed the safe and walked over to my EC. I gently put the disk in, then sat down to watch the show.
I used to keep a hologram of Brandy and me next to the futon sofa where I sat; in fact, she had introduced me to The Godfather and other films because she had been the Chief Archivist at the Seattle Museum of Memes; the International Governing Body had created laws, and one of them was the creation of meme museums in each city so that no one would be allowed to forget what the memes had done to us; we could never be allowed to forget.
As The Godfather played, I thought of Brandy, and closed my eyes.
“Watch where you’re going,” she said.
I blinked. I had been paying attention to the svelte derriere of a redhead as she undulated her way down 1st Avenue.
“Yeah, sorry,” I said to the blonde-haired woman, turning, walking away.
“You’re not really, you know.”
I stopped, turned and looked at her.
“Beg your pardon?” I said.
“You’re not really sorry,” she said. “That’s the problem with people in Seattle, even after the AW. They pretend to be nice when they aren’t.”
I smirked; she definitely wasn’t from around here.
I later found out, at a bistro in Pioneer Square, that no, indeed, she wasn’t from Seattle. She was from New York City, having grown up in midtown Manhattan. She’d studied film history at NYU, earning her bachelors, masters and PhD there, and she was working in Seattle to set noir films of the 1940s.
When did I fall in love with her? Was it the moment we left the Seven Gables after seeing Casablanca (a film newly reborn and praised for its overt, and subtle, anti-fascistic statements and sentiments), and getting caught in torrents of rain and taking shelter in a convenience store where we ended up buying frosties so that the clerk wouldn’t throw us out?
Or was it when we were in Volunteer Park, in front of the Seattle Asian Art Museum, just when the sun was setting, painting the horizon a brilliant turquoise green that sang in B major, creating an ambiance that caused her blonde hair to radiate like spun gold?
Perhaps it was everything: cumulative seconds, split seconds, moments that led to that feeling that we call love, or that we think is love.
Or perhaps I felt these things because of the loss.
I awoke as the ending credits and music to The Godfather played. I stood, told the EC to turn itself off and put the small disk back into my safe. Outside, it thundered and lightningned in C-sharp minor, an atmosphere that might have inspired Berlioz to compose Symphonie Fantastique II.
Groggy, I went to bed, hoping I wouldn’t have any more dreams about Brandy, wishing I had the macho stoicism of Michael Corleone.
Of course, I dreamed about her. And she was riding me, going to town on me with her well-toned PC muscle. The dream was so vivid, in fact, that I was coming...
I opened my eyes.
“What the hell!” I yelled.
She, it, the meme was riding me.
I pushed her off of me, and she fell to the wooden floor and scurried over to a dark corner. I aimed my plasma gun at her.
“Who are you?” I said.
“I am Abandon,” she said, her words scented sweet like a rainforest in the Cascades.
“And why did you come here?”
She ran from the bedroom. I chased her.
She stood on the balcony, nude, lithe body shimmering silver in the full moon reflected off of Puget Sound. Indigo winds whipped her blonde hair across her face.
“I am Abandon,” she said, and with that, she let herself fall over the railing.
I ran to the balcony. A trail of silvery-shaped objects led down to the street below, with no other trace of the meme.
I went back inside, locked the windows shut and debated about whether to call the Meme Unit. I decided not to, after popping a tranquilizer, because it was the second chance I had to kill the meme, and I had failed. Captain Morgan would chew my ass royally for that if she knew.
Soon I was soundly asleep in bed, and as far as I can remember, I dreamed about nothing.
* * *
To be continued...
Copyright © 2007 by Robert H. Prestridge