(Saturday, January 6, 2035)






          “Well, I think we have learned all there is to learn from this game… much about ourselves, perhaps, though less about the criminality at hand.  Thank you in any event, Mrs. Batter…” and Stimwood’s therapist motioned to one of the Academy attendants.

          “My toybox, Thor.”

          The ursine nurse in green carried a plain, cardboard box to his superior, and Dr. Shore removed a round object mounted on a thin, pointed stake… raising it eliciting an immediate response from Lola…

          “This another throw-back at me ‘cause I’m black?” she charged.

          “Not at all.  It’s just a monkey on a stick… don’t you recognize Paul Parchette?  From the peevee?”

          “Don’t watch that fex,” Lola glowered.

          “Too bad.  He is very popular, you know, very attuned to the now… a sort of zeitgeist for our times.  At any rate, the game's a simple one… I shall hand off this monkey on a stick, and the holder will have authority to ask anyone any question, about anything!  And the subject of the interview will be obliged to answer truthfully… who knows, these visitors from the Trouble Factory may be treated to full and detailed confessions from the perpetrator, or perpetrators, of the various crimes enumerated in connection with his case.  Or, at least, some useful observations… now, let me see who should be first to take the monkey?  Mrs. Reilly, how about you?  You, certainly, must have an intimate familiarity with Paul Parchette, and his interviews…”

          “Me!... intimate with that horrid monkey… man… man-monkey?” Peg disparaged. “Of course I watch his show… there's nothing else to watch?”

          “Point taken,” acknowledged the Doctor, entering his charmed circle and presenting her with the monkey on a stick which seemed, to Norlin, like a great, dark lollipop.  “And now, Peg, you have the authority to ask anyone in this room anything.  Anyone!  Even me,” he chuckled.

          And Peg glanced across the circle towards Norlin, markedly increasing his discomfiture.  Then, her gaze shortened and shifted, slightly, to her left, taking in the slouching King Jack Bard (whose cardboard crown had begun to slip again).


          “Me?” yawned the royal mountebank.

          “You!  After all, you are the most criminal criminal here, by your own boastings… oh, there may be others who’ve done a bad thing or two, maybe a very bad thing, but they were amateurs, and you are the professional, right?”

          “Me?  Professional?”  And Norlin found himself finding Jack’s suspension between discretion and bravado amusing, knowing; of course, that, in the end, the King would talk, and, indeed, he did… smiling and righting his crown, even brushing some imaginary dust from his sleeve.  “Quiz away, honeycakes!”

          Peg Reilly leveled an accusing finger.  "I have been keeping watch, you know... I have names and faces, license numbers.  I know all about Victor Iowa, and dogs."

          "Re-eeally?" smirked the cardboard-crowned King.  "Well, he knows all about you... ma'am... your linearity, closing in.  Triple J feared and hated linear extensions - he set the Law Firm, the City Council and... indeed... the great criminal establishment he knew would flourish to defy his prohibitions towards ensuring the hegemony of encirclement.  If you think that you've even tasted a fraction of what the Trouble Factory can dish out, old woman, you are seriously deluded.  They see behind your ruse - he sees," King Jack pointed to Norlin.  "And, when the time is right, you'll simply cease to be..."

          "Is he right, Corporal?" Peg appealed.

          "As for Commander Iowa," Bard foreclosed Norlin's impending denial, "he's always been far beyond your reach and, soon enough, will be beyond your scope.  He's earned a Jatespassport for his work, well done, and... soon enough... will be on his way to the sun.  Have I answered to your satisfaction?” King Jack smiled.

          ‘I think so, yes…” Peg admitted, and she didn’t even flinch when Bard advanced, passing Troosh and reaching, almost, the center of the square within the circle before jumping back and swatting at the air, as if beset by invisible bees…

          “The traitjackets.” Dr. Shore apologized.  “They're for your protection, really...” he shrugged, then took the monkey-on-a-stick himself, guiding a shivering King Jack back to his chair.  “Some of these people never learn,” he smiled ruefully to the three policemen on the dais.

          Ain’t that the truth?” Homer replied  And he nodded to Norlin, as if to remind the Corporal that he would also be on that voyage - and justice might be served, after all..

          King Jack Bard took a deep breath, bent over, rightened himself and, holding the grinning icon of Paul Parchette, slouched back in the metal chair, digging deep into the backside depths of his green scrubs.

          “I can ask anyone?”

          “So long as your inquiries have something to do with crime… and, of course, these men from the Trouble Factory will grant a wide latitude of relevance, given the circumstances,” Dr. Shore added, as if challenging Norlin or one of the others to object.

          King Jack looked past Dawn to Zihei but faltered as the shaven man in the blue traitjacket answered him with a murderous glare, impelling him to plunge his left hand down into his pants.  “Well, then.”  His weak, beady eyes roamed the circle for a victim... evading Norlin's challenge... then narrowed to the four girlfriends within Dr. Shore's gyre: Vona Rae fairly bursting out of her chair with a desire to be called upon, Peg, still processing the implication's of Victor's escape, Lola staring with contempt and disinterest at Bard's nether extremities and TrooshTroosh

          Coughing, not involuntarily, Jack raised the monkey face and tilted it west, towards Tony Debris, plunging his other hand down the front of his scrubtrousers - either as a gesture of offense, or because he'd acquired an unseemly mange.

          “How about you, arty-boy,” he proposed, glancing over his shoulder to the policemen and, then, back to his target.  “I’ll bet you know a few things about these crimes…”

          “Sure,” Tony Debris smiled back.

          Pretending a sort of palsy, Jack shook the stick, but if the effect was occult intimidation, it had an opposite effect upon Tony.

          “You received your… uh… scholarship to Stimwood after melting down the memorial statue of Tom Parker in front of the bus station,” the crook under the crown began, “…which sort of bugs me, because I find the Colonel simpatico, as MexAmericans would say…”

          Kebbin’ parasite, terminal’s better off with a view to a lump of slag.  And it’s more a fellowship than scholarship,” Tony corrected his inquisitor, “but who’s to keb over particularities when there’s another cultural criminal out there, running wild over the city…”

          Another criminal, you say?” and Jack pulled his Parchette-less hand from his pants to push back his crown, a gesture suddenly hampered by a brown streak of fex that seemed to leap, pantherlike from fist to forehead.  Norlin swallowed down an urge to vomit as the faultline from nasal cavities to bowels rustled again.  “A… rival?”

          “You could call it that…”

          “A successful rival… one who’s reaped his just rewards of robbery, spread mayhem across a great swath of Barataria and baffled these police?” King Jack needled, shaking the fex from his fingers “while you get caught in the act, first time out, and won yourself that fellowship, as you say…”

          You’re here,” Tony retaliated.

          “Yeah, but there’s plenty of times I got away with… well, I ain’t saying, but Stimwood knows.  Shore knows, maybe.  The police have suspicions…”

          The zook looked over his shoulder at Norlin, Henry Hat and Homer on the dais, a knowing smirk under his tilting crown – quickly submerged beneath a pained look and loud rumbling of bowels.  Judson Crawford lips parted, but whatever remark he seemed about to make disappeared in a shudder and a moan.

          “Hmmm… but you,” and Jack paused, taking a deep breath, “you’re so all kebbin’ proud of yourself, how do we know that it’s not your conscience keeps you from selling out, but that what you got... keb, my kebbin' stomach!... people ain’t buyin’?”

          “That is the power of artistic hip – veiled in property relationships and exaggerated,” Tony replied, “where the New Plastic clearly strives to expel relationships…”

          “So,” Norlin pointed an accusing finger, “you do rather agree with what this Mondretto has been spreading ‘round… new plastic, plasma, whatever you call it…”

          They can make up media to justify their endeavors,” Tony responded, “…plastic or plasma, concrete, cubes, impressions – whatever you will.  The summation of my virtuosity, which is to take their incompleteness, and complete it, is always the same…”

          “And what is that, young man?” Terushka Batter asked, across the circle.


          Troosh shook her head and waved him off, like any of the numerous foul winds that had sprung up in the Crisis Room.  Miles Shore took a step forward – stopped, winced and smiled, advanced towards King Jack…

          “Have you any more questions for this subject?”

          Keb, no!” Bard scowled.  “He’s your man,” the King told all three policemen on the dais… “I’m not saying that he’s guilty of any of those crimes you mention, just that, as someone to pin the tail on, he’ll do.  Look at the keb!… prob’ly be delighted at bein’ charged wit’ crimes as’ll give him a rep he don’t deserve… prob’ly even sign a kebbin’ confession, you lay it out in front of him…”

          “But,” admonished Homer Sack, “that would leave the real criminal at large…”

          “That ever stopped the Trouble Factory?  Right, Norlin… Max Bend’s been askin’ after you, know?  He’s been followinyour rather…uh… Jatesian career path…”

          And, transferring the cardboard monkey-on-a-stick to his soiled left hand, King Jack’s right forefinger traced a downward spiral towards the green floor of the Turner Crisis Room.

          “Since you apparently don’t have any more questions for Tony, it’s his turn to take the monkey and make inquiries,” Dr. Shore said.

          “Knock yourself out kebbers,” and Jack tossed him the grinning profile of Paul Parchette.  Shore caught it, one handed, and marched peevishly in front of Judson Crawford, who made an obscure gesture at the Doctor, presenting the totem to Tony Debris.

          “Now, this is yours.  You may ask anybody anything…”

          “Anything?  Anybody?”

          Shore blinked, as if expecting a reprisal, but the eyes of the twitchery little vandal… or artist, as he styled himself… were dancing all around the circle, from the dais to Norlin’s four girlfriends within, to ZiheiRocky… Pisgah…

          “He can’t turn back an’ ask me questions again, can he?” King Jack whined, across the rim of the circle.

          “If he wishes.  The power of Parchette is sublime,” said Dr. Shore.

          “Then I choose…” and Tony rubbed the base of the stick between his palms, as if to draw power from the peevee interviewer’s image… “I choose….”

          His jaw sagged, his shoulders jumped…

          “We’re waiting,” said an impatient Vona Rae.  “You wanna ask me something, ask away!  I got nothin’ to hide…”

          “He’s not conflicted,” said Dr. Wilson, “he’s sick.  As I am…"

          “Lucy!” Tony Debris blurted out… and, in fact, a thin rope of drool shot from his lips to the monkey stick, which had begun shaking in his grip…

          “Lucy,” Dr. Shore explained, “Tony is going to ask you a few questions, and I want you to answer him as you would confide in me…”

          And Dawn Dancingfeather winked at Norlin, murmuring: “That’ll be the day!”

          “You knew,” Tony grinned, waving the monkey before Lucy’s face like a hypnotist’s gold watch.  “You knew…”

          “She, obviously, doesn’t know much of anything,” Zihei sighed, throwing up his murderer’s hands (his face scrunched, as if to prevent his throwing up something else).

          “The monstrosity lags behind art’s intention,” Tony forged on, smugly.  “Let us not grovel before the pigeon-toed Old Plastic past – rather, purify everything!

          “No…” Lucy shook her head, weakly.

          “Timelessness is a dark, cheap replica,” the vandal scoffed, “so, Lucy, let us make  meadows of manic mannequins…”

          Troosh guffawed.  “Strange you should mention that – when I modeled for Avedon… or would it have been Newton, Helmut… we shot in black and white…”

          “I shot in colour,” Dawn interrupted... giggling, retching... giggling again.  "Red!"

          “Speaking of shots,” Tony waved his monkey totem for attention, “who was the father, Loosely?  Some gig on the North Node, a Hamorite bum… the determinate, in genetics, is often viewed as a clarity of colours and is, therefore, cleanly expressed.  As if, in fearful, actual symmetry, Gauguinistic… obtuse…”

          Lucy, eyes spinning, hesitantly lifted a hand, raising a finger to point.

          “Do it!” Tony challenged.  “This efficacy will become autifested, in legal sculpture, by perfecting the macrophagea of materialistic composition.”

          Her finger circled the circle, wavered, then…

          Rose, straight up.

          “God stands accused again,” King Jack sneered as Rocky leaned over and rested a heavy, hairy hand on Lucy’s shoulder.  "And Virgin Lucy knew the risk…"

          “Anything further?” the Doctor asked, and Tony shrugged, as if to suggest the vanity of arresting God was beyond, even, the capacities of Slag.  Shore took the monkey-on-a-stick from him, and pressed it into Lucy’s hands, whereupon it sagged, almost to the floor…

          “From that retard?” Bobby objected, “...can’t barely hold herself up, let alone play your stupid games.  Hey Lucy, ask something and I’ll take that monkey away… you can trust me…”

          “I doubt that,” Kid MacBeth spoke up, juggling three of the rubber balls, and then letting them plop… one after the other… into the topper on his lap, as he coaxed Lucy with a smile…

          “I… I…” and Lucy, cringing from King Jack’s glare, dismissing the four strangers in the center of the circle, shuddering as her eyes swept over the impassive Starrett

          “Are you really prepared to carry this imposture of an investigation further?” Wilson challenged.  “The child is terrified… she doesn’t belong here, I would…

          “You want to cut up my baby for science!” Lucy wailed and then, pointing to Judson Crawford as she raised the monkey defiantly, said: “Him!”

          Dr. Shore stepped back.  “Lucy has made her choice,” he shook his head, eyes rolling upwards towards the ceiling in helpless despair or, perhaps, appeal to a higher power.  “Ask your kebbin' question, then…”

          Lucy swayed, squinted… Shore's monkey-on-a-stick declining like a perfect beachfront sunset.

          "Put her out of her misery, Jud," King Jack sneered.  "He only trades on his grandfather's weird reputation," Bard told the three uncomfortable policemen… a great, windy flutter escaped from beneath Rocky's housecoat and Vona Rae bounced in her seat… "not only did that bad apple fall off the tree," Jack nodded, "it rolled all the way downhill to the apple-pie people who found worms in it, and threw it to the pigs…"

          Norlin raised his chin.  Something to do with Skark?

          "These became the bases for my spaces," Crawford answered Lucy's unvoiced question.

          The Paul Parchette stick rattled to the floor…

          "Although tu-man consciously experiences, he mimics individuality… his vissure is syndividuality."

          "And this room knows something of sin," volunteered Brother Pisgah.

          "I am sure you do," Crawford rebuffed, "but I was attempting to enlighten these men from the Trouble Factory as to the subject of their quest.  We do not delight in blessing the glamour of the Veronica; rather, in Becoming the force that it displaces...isn't that so, Lucy?  Lucy?"

          Almost daintily, Lucy sank to the floor, raising her yellow skirt under the traitjacket and closing her eyes - whereupon a great, brown afterbirth radiated forth in great, Jatesian waves.  Seizing the monkey before it could be contaminated by liquid fex, Shore left Lucy squatting and presented it to Judson Crawford.

          "It's yours, now," the Doctor winced, pressing Parchette's effigy into the gaunt man's fist - trembling with desire and rage.  "May Jates have mercy on us all..."

          Crawford, pointing the tip of the stick towards his colleagues, his hand weaving from side to side until it was aimed at the dais.

          "You, Corporal.  There are facts that you have been withholding from us, correct?"

          Despite the rumbling in his bowels, Norlin was gratified to acknowledge the challenge.

          "Of course there are.  This is a police matter - and we are the police!  If there's something I can tell you that will prompt insights that may advance the cause of this investigation, well, ask away.  Of course there are also facts… or suppositions… that we cannot disclose."

          And the Corporal extended a hand, so as to assure his questioners… and the rest of Stimwood's savants, by inclusion… that his official policy also bound Henry Hat, and Homer.

          "Garbage in… as they used to say, before the k'ball turned everything to garbage," Judson Crawford answered, spreading his hands in a benediction, "…garbage out."

          "You didn't tell us," Bobby assailed Shore, "that we were allowed to lie."

          "That should go without saying," the Doctor replied, disdainfully.  "Finish your smilk and cookie…"

          "Dedge, dedge, dedge," insisted Pisgah.

          "I feel sick," Bobby complained.