Dead for Now — Prelude/Chapter One
Introduction <<Unknown Knowns>>
From the YouTube Channel “Tom Paine Events,” in a video entitled:
<Unknown Knowns and Raising the Right Question>
Transcript: “In an article, philosopher Slavoj Žižek discussed the concept of ‘unknown knowns’–those events which we do not or pretend not to know about, although these events determine action and form policy. Žižek said, “…philosophy as the ‘public use of reason’ is not to solve problems, but to redeﬁne them; not to answer questions, but to raise the proper question.”
Perhaps the dead are the ultimate ‘unknown knowns.’ They were present and real at one time, but then faded from consciousness. Yet their death may determine other actions and form policy. Some deaths are ignored. Some are reconstructed to a different truth, although the original truth of the death still exists. In their death, they become a symbol: emotion, love, pride, justice, sorrow, evil. Some deaths are questionable–they are metadiegetic in that their death is a story within a story. Their death does not answer questions, but raises questions about society and what we choose to know. In videos to follow on this channel, aside from information and documentation of conspiracies going back over several decades, I will also have a philosophical take on mysterious deaths that have that metadiegetic quality. Are all these deaths conspiracies? Perhaps not. But in a sense the definite misdeeds of government, corporations, and evil interests create a hyperreality in which an actual conspiracy doesn’t matter–what matters is raising the questions about an official story. Any official story.”
“But it is just the truth that cannot be known of the multitude, for truth is revolutionary.” –From a 1912 pro-women’s suffrage periodical called “The Vote: The Organ of the Women’s Freedom League.”
According to Garson O’Toole (QuoteInvestigator.com), this quote is a possible origin of another alleged quote: “In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act,” which ironically is universally attributed to George Orwell, despite no evidence of his having written or said this.
However, as Ioan Culianu and Umberto Eco have suggested, a misinterpretation can create a reality greater than the truth. Perhaps Orwell would be pleased to own the quote that didn’t happen.
From the YouTube Channel “Tom Paine Events,” in a video entitled:
<Unknown Knowns: Alexander Litvinenko/The Spy>
Transcript: “Litvinenko was a dissident whistleblower and former Lt. Colonel in the Russian FSB, living in London. In November 2006 he became severely ill and died from poisoning by polonium-210. When he was in the FSB, he had targeted the Russian mafia. As a dissident, Litvinenko had publicly alleged Russian government-sponsored assassinations of journalists and bombings in Chechnya, and he also alleged corruption within the FSB itself. Litvinenko had told acquaintances of threats made to his life shortly before he was poisoned. He died horribly of organ failure due to the radioactive compound. Whistleblowers, as we’ve seen in the US and other countries, have not fared well. Speaking out–bringing light to abuse, injustice, and crimes–leads to persecution and death. Those who are guilty are unknown knowns. Litvinenko’s death raises the question of how can society better protect and listen to whistleblowers?”
Saturday, August 6, 2011
Warinanco Park, New Jersey 1:10 pm
A song is playing. Lush, moody, a hit in the Eighties. Joel McFadden sinks in the luxury of the leather seats in his leased Nissan Rogue, although he doesn’t turn the music up as he’s on his iPhone, using FaceTime.
“You really want this project to happen,” Travis Churchill comments on the on the other end of the call.
Joel makes his voice firm. “Yes. It’s what I want. I don’t care if you pay me for the mural; I want the Milk Center project funded.”
Churchill chuckles. “Joel, you know you’re getting both. My corporate offices here and in New York are going to be even more provocative and energetic with your murals–imagine if…who was it who tried to paint in Lincoln Center? Picasso? If his work hadn’t been censored or something.”
“Diego Rivera,” Joel responds mildly, although he rolls his eyes. “His mural in the Rockefeller Center. Man at the Crossroads. Our former governor Nelson Rockefeller ordered it destroyed because it appeared anti-capitalist.”
“I know I’m annoying you and I like seeing your face–even annoyed you’re beautiful.”
Joel glances over at the basketball court to check that Gabriel isn’t close enough to hear that. No. He looks back at the screen. Churchill, a nice-looking super-fit white guy in his late forties with wavy brown hair, smiles at him.
“Just so you know, I have it stipulated in the contract your work will not be destroyed–even if it’s nothing but dicks. I hope it’s more than just dicks, but still. If something happens to me and the board takes over and wants it gone, you can decide what to do with it. And I’m making a donation through my foundation to the Milk Center, to enrich your art project with the kids. Soon.”
“How soon?” Joel can be blunt with him. He’s earned the right.
“Monday. I have to twist the arm of the board, but I’ll be picturing you glaring at me impatiently the whole time. They’ll do it. I’ll call your friend Juanita at the Center to set it up.”
“And the donation for basic necessities. Don’t forget that.”
“Yes, your kids should be able to shower as needed.”
“Spartan Foundation is known for its community service, Joel. Look at our rating on Charity Navigator.” Spartan Foundation is the philanthropic offshoot of Spartan, the software/app company Churchill designed, founded, and which made him a billionaire. He had just started the company when he first hired Joel as an escort, back in 2001.
Churchill sighs. “Hold on a sec, one of my five other phones is going off.”
While on hold, Joel turns up the Breathe song and glances outside at the court again. By extra-sensory perception, Gabriel Ross in turn looks over his shoulder back at Joel. Even at a distance, Gabriel’s feelings are clear and Joel smiles faintly. Joel will probably have to fly overseas again soon, and so Hands to Heaven fits in with his feelings about leaving Gabriel for a week or so, alone and–
Then Gabriel’s close friend Bob Jarvey charges and slams into Gabriel, snatching the basketball out of his hands.
Joel can hear Gabriel’s “What the fuck?” even in his closed car. Bob is triumphant. “Too slow, my man. I’m like Wilt in two ways. Only one is on the court.”
“Because you cheat, you dick.” They go back to their strange one-on-one that seems to involve a lot of rough physical contact, like two dogs play-fighting. Both men are white, muscular and of dark Irish descent. Bob is more than ten years older than Gabriel’s 37, and at around 6’1, 4 inches taller, but they are evenly matched on the court.
Churchill returns and goes into boring but important details of times, dates, and whatnot.
Gabriel and Bob suddenly bounce into the side of the SUV; the two of them have somehow traveled the ball all the way to the edge of the court and into the parking lot.
Travis looks quizzical. “What’s that noise? Are you at some kind of sporting event?”
“I’m at a park in Jersey.”
“I bet I know who with. I remember Gabriel at that softball game a few weeks ago. What I like about Gabriel is his confidence. He keeps all eyes on him and he knows it.”
And true, a few stragglers have come up to the fence to watch Gabriel and Bob’s little show, Gladiator Basketball.
For whatever reason, Joel feels a little uncomfortable when Churchill discusses Gabriel. Churchill hasn’t tried to come on to Joel sexually since an attack of conscience a couple months ago. But he also seems to have sublimated his desire into sponsoring Joel’s art.
“Swing by and pick up the contract,” Churchill says. “Or do you need Isabella?”
“No, this is different than my gallery work.”
“Good. Come on by.”
Churchill could just email it, but Joel knows he wants to see Joel in person and talk. Joel can handle that. Joel wraps up the call, feeling that whatever Churchill’s kinks may be, it’s worth it for what he can do to help the homeless kids. He opens his window, and skips songs on his sound system, considering what he would play while working on Churchill’s murals.
Bob raps on the driver’s side window. Joel lowers it.
“Hey Joel,” Bob says. “Why you gots to be all business? Give your man a break. He’s trying to show off for you. He’s never this good.”
“If I don’t react, he tries harder. I like to see how far I can make him go.”
“You’re mean,” Bob responds, laughing. “Are women that mean? I guess so, but I can ignore it for the trim. Gabriel just turns into a helpless fool with the puppy dog eyes.”
“Don’t hate the player, hate the game.” Joel lights one of his clove cigarettes and coolly watches the men go back to the court. True enough, his demeanor makes Gabriel work harder to make an impression on him. Gabriel is fast on his feet and has excellent shooting abilities.
“Now who’s too slow, trash-talker,” Gabriel says to Bob after making an elegant jump shot.
“I let you do that,” Bob retorts. “I didn’t want you to look bad in front of your arm candy and not get any tonight.”
“You’re jealous of my skills.” Gabriel looks back at Joel again, and this time, Joel allows a smile that gets all of Gabriel’s attention. Impulsively, Joel crooks his finger at Gabriel, who immediately drops the ball and starts towards the car.
“Oh Jesus, this again,” Bob complains mockingly. “Time-out for foreplay.”
Ignoring him, Gabriel comes up to the window and leans on it. “Hey baby. What’s going on?”
Joel meets Gabriel’s dark brown eyes with his own blue-gray ones and moves his head closer. “I need to do some things. Can you get back on your own?”
“Too difficult being a sports husband?”
“If you were actually playing something instead of fucking around, I could take an interest. No, I’m kidding you. I really do have to take care of some stuff in order to be free later. You’ll reap the rewards.”
Gabriel takes Joel’s hand and raises it to his mouth, touching the index finger knuckle with his tongue. He bites softly, erotically. Joel pretends this doesn’t do anything to him, flicking his cigarette in the ashtray casually.
“I could mug you for that damn thing,” Gabriel says, still holding Joel’s hand. “The desire for it never ends.”
Joel leans forward so he’s almost speaking against Gabriel’s lips. “Humn. If you behave yourself, I’ll let you watch me smoke it later.”
Gabriel smiles. “You really want that ass-kicking, don’t you? Keep working that smart mouth, see what happens.”
“I know exactly what will happen.” Joel smiles back. “I can leave you in such a way now that you’ll be unable to play any more fake basketball. Unfortunately, you’ll only have Bob for company. No relief there unless you turn him out.”
Gabriel kisses Joel’s hand again. “I can do the same to you…unfortunately, if you’re going to see Isabella, she’ll notice for sure and offer to take care of it for you. Probably film it too for whatever Jeff Koons-type thing she has in mind…”
Joel never fails to be irritated at any mention of Koons. He says, changing his tone, “I’m going to see Travis.”
“Jesus Christ, same situation. I can’t win.”
“You’ve already won. Remember whom I’m coming home to.”
“Archie. You’re coming home to Archie–you’re his fun dad. I’m just the sucker dad who buys his food and catnip.”
“I can be your fun dad too.”
“Uhhh.” Gabriel straightens up. “That’s it, lost the erection. Don’t ever use the word ‘dad’ in a sexual way. I need to go to my happy place now.”
But he leans back in to kiss Joel on the mouth. Joel smiles and drives away, waving at Bob.
And then the hairs on the back of my neck go up. Various incidents over the past couple years have left me extraordinarily sensitive to things around me being off. Yeah, people are watching Bob and I play the fools. Yeah, a couple look uncomfortable when I kiss Joel. That isn’t what I’m feeling.
More like someone’s there who shouldn’t be. And that I’m under observation. I turn our one on one into boring practice shooting hoops to get the stragglers to lose interest. Then I pace the court with the ball, scanning all directions. An SUV is at the far end of the parking lot; it is dark with tinted windows. Something about it doesn’t sit right with me.
When Bob and I are done, we head for his Cherokee in the lot. He’s going to drop me at the train station to go back to NYC. I have him stop the Cherokee near the SUV and act like we need to check under the hood.
I pretend to look at the engine. “Can you set your alarm off?”
Bob does, with his remote. I lift my head to watch the SUV. When the alarm screeches, I see a hint of movement inside, and a subtle shift in the frame of the car. More than one person is inside. I nod at Bob and he slams the hood down. As I get in the passenger side of the Cherokee, I notice the SUV has extra antennas. Not obvious–the wires run with the chrome trim of the back window.
Bob asks, “Who do you think your new friends are?”
“Hard to say. As far as I know, neither the feds nor locals have a reason to be on my ass.”
Bob laughs. “It has to be you, though. I try to stay out of trouble these days. The city of Paterson sure isn’t fond of you. I thought those might be agents from the Passaic County Sheriff’s office.”
“I think they’d be more open about pulling us over and beating the shit of me. Like they did in the jail.”
I keep watch as we head to the station, but I don’t see anyone following us. I find hard to believe that any official agency would spring for a multiple-car tail. Granted someone could have put a tracer on Bob’s car so they could stay out of sight. But why? I’m not important.
My paranoia doesn’t get better on the PATH train to downtown New York. I surreptitiously scrutinize the people in my car. Most are summer tourists. But one short-haired man in a suit stands out.
A quote from the Nero Wolfe story The Doorbell Rang comes to mind, when Archie Goodwin catches a couple of FBI agents tailing him. “They were not-looking at me, the way they are trained to not-look in Washington.”
That describes this guy. He has an iPad held awkwardly in front of him and is studiously not-looking. For fun, I get up and wander over closer to him, as if I want to be near the door. Then I lean over him and rudely look at his iPad. I catch a glimpse of the subway car on the screen–he’s using some camera device to help him not-look.
He clutches the iPad to his chest. “Excuse me?” He has a faux-outraged tone.
I look him in the eye. “Technology is wonderful. But has technology helped you find Jesus?”
The two people next to him glance at me warily, in case I’m going to proselytize. But my man drops his eyes to his lap, frowning.
I laugh to myself as I get off the train at the World Trade Center stop. This could all be coincidence. I could be the crazy one. After all, nothing I’m doing is worthy of consideration from intelligence agencies.
In an unknown area of New York, two US intelligence personnel [REAPER and MORTEM] send a secure message to their supervisor [KISMET].
ypW0TgsssP vmtu0mKzOt A7149YE3KB 3SkosB2LTc qSjfFAhwBz
[Unscramble] ENIGMA Project/Eyes Only
From REAPER and MORTEM, to KISMET
This is a follow-up on our collective information regarding subject [Redacted: Gabriel Ross] Codename MAGICIAN, DOB 2/15/1974, who is worthy of consideration by our agency lately. Our asset ETERNITY has told us his colleague BEDEVIL is still maintaining surveillance of MAGICIAN. Because of BEDEVIL’s interest, we checked on ETERNITY’s information regarding MAGICIAN and we are adding to it from our own investigation.
As background, MAGICIAN has few family members. He doesn’t appear to be close to his father JEFFREY ROSS, Lt. Col. US ARMY. [See File Appendix] He has a half-sister he does not speak to. His mother KATERINA SHEEHAN ROSS is deceased from cancer, DOD 12/01/2003. MAGICIAN was very close to her and her younger brother DOMINIC SHEEHAN. SHEEHAN lived in the apartment MAGICIAN lives in now on Avenue A in the East Village. SHEEHAN died 09/12/2004. MAGICIAN started his own business with the insurance proceeds from their deaths. SHEEHAN’s death was due officially to being caught in a ‘freak accident’ construction collapse on the CUNY Midtown campus. [SEE File 8745-S/D re: PARADISE]
From the YouTube Channel “Tom Paine Events,” in a video entitled:
<Unknown Knowns: Danny Casolaro/The Nexus>
Transcript: “Casolaro was a freelance journalist working on a story of how the US government improperly stole a software called PROMIS from its developers. That story developed connections to various other sinister events and conspiracies. As Casolaro spoke to more and more disreputable and dangerous people, the information he discovered and put together became a deep interlocking spiral of government, intelligence, and crimes he called ‘The Octopus.’ Casolaro was in Martinsburg, West Virginia in August of 1991, to speak to a new source. He was found dead in his hotel room. It was declared suicide, but his wrists were slashed to the tendons 10-12 times–too painful for someone to do intentionally. His notes relating to Octopus, which he had brought with him, were missing. Casolaro’s death has strong indicia of a fake suicide and is an epitome of an unknown known. A death that has an official cause in spite of the blatant contradictory facts. Casolaro’s investigation raises the question of how deeply connected are seemingly random events that formulate government policy?”
Monday, August 8
West 90th Street 11:27 am
I’m working a case with my business partner and best friend, Veronica Gianni. Having decided last year to combine our talents, we named our business Gotham Investigations and just recently rented a new office in the West Village.
Our case started this summer, after I was released from being under house arrest in New Jersey. We’re investigating the theft of some antique documents from the New York Archival Institute, a quasi-private foundation that features a vast collection of original documents, plans, maps, and other artifacts pertaining to the New York City area.
We discovered the thief to be Wes Darrell, who is Chief Administrator for the NYC Office of Landmark Designation. Darrell had made numerous deceptive excuses to visit the Institute over the last two years, ostensibly to research various buildings’ landmark status. Actually he was taking advantage of a flaw in the security procedures within the Institute to swipe documents from a poorly-locked storage room and other places. He has been selling the documents through online auction sites.
Darrell had been smuggling the documents out in specially-tailored Brioni jackets with extra-large inside pockets. We found this out by reviewing a few hundred hours of security footage, where we caught Darrell’s strange actions on camera messing with his jacket. The video feed is kept on CDs for a five-year period. We later then tracked his actions online in selling the documents.
Before we take the case to the District Attorney, we’ve been documenting every instance of Darrell signing in to the Institute’s attendance book to compare with the video archives. The Institute has an old-school literal book to sign in. This is major part of private investigation work–careful evidence review. We’ll likely have to testify about it and take depositions on what we’ve done, so we’re careful.
Veronica and I are in a glassed-in private reading room. I have the book open for June 2010. The book has the name, signature, and the document each visitor officially requests. One of Darrell’s requests catches my eye for a different reason. The request is for original plans for the New York Foundation of Art and Culture. I know that place, as my former client Raymond Booth was on the board of the Foundation before he was killed. On a hunch, I flip back pages to earlier in the year, and find that Ethan Nelson, former director of the Foundation, visited the Institute several times. The time frame was just after he was hired. Using my camera phone, I take picture of these particular pages.
Veronica asks, “What’s that all about? Oh, Nelson. What do you suppose he was doing here?”
I show her the Darrell entry. “They both were looking at the building plans for the Foundation. You remember Nelson was involved in some fraud involving stolen art, and Darrell is involved in stolen documents. Coincidence? I don’t think so.”
Ethan Nelson was part of the Tertullian Society, a sinister secret organization that does what everyone thinks the Illuminati does, or maybe the Bilderbergers, or Spectre. I know the Tertullians exist as they killed two of my clients and tried to kill me and Joel last summer. You might say I got too involved in the case, investigating a link between the Foundation, which is a Society cover operation, and a former Nazi.
My friends and I were threatened with horrible things because of this. I had to pretend that I was off the case. But I’m not.
While Veronica continues documenting Darrell’s actions, I get up to find the Institute’s director, Mischa Frazier. I give her the database number for the foundation plans. “Can we see if these plans are still here?”
Misha leads me to the climate-controlled document room and checks a drawer. “Yes, still here. That’s good.”
I examine the plans while she has the drawer open. “Do you recall Ethan Nelson looking at these? He was the man who killed Raymond Booth last year.”
“Ah, yes. That was your case too, wasn’t it? I don’t have too detailed a memory, but I recall that he was remarkably arrogant but he thought he was charming. He said he had just begun his job running the Foundation and wanted to know the building top to bottom.”
I’ve had some experience reading building plans. I scan these, looking for anything that would suggest why Nelson would really want to check them out. “Is the building unusual in any way?”
Misha examines the plans. “Well, this is unusual. You see here that the basement is built over a previously-existing set of underground passages. It looks like an attempt was made to connect the passages to the basement. The plans say the passages are ‘closed.’ Probably the passages were walled off.”
“That’s interesting. Some philosophers have suggested that underground passageways are a Freudian metaphor for the unconscious.”
Misha smiles politely at this information. I can’t help but wonder what interest Nelson had in the walled-off underground. Misha gives me permission to take a few photos.
Then Veronica calls me. “Darrell is here. He came in and asked what I was doing. I wouldn’t tell him, and he left like he was searching for someone.”
I leave with Misha following, and go back to where Veronica is in the reading room.
“He hasn’t come back,” she tells us. “He just kept trying to get me to tell him what’s going on here, and then he ran out.”
“How did he know we were here?” I look at Misha.
She blushes. “Not through me. Other people here know you’re working on this, though.”
This is why we tell business clients not to discuss our work, although we can’t control them from doing so. Someone can always be an inside man, a snitch. Probably that someone tipped Darrell off.
Suddenly Darrell comes back to the room. He is a medium-sized man in his forties, white, longish graying hair, glasses, sort of dusky skin tone.
“Ms. Frazier, I was–”
He stops and stares at me. Gapes. Like I’m his worst nightmare.
“You,” he says, with a tone that matches his expression. “You’re here.”
His stare unnerves me. “I am. You have some questions or something?”
“I know–I know who you are. Did they send you?”
“Who is ‘they’?” I ask in a neutral tone of voice.
He doesn’t answer, but looks at the sign-in books on the table.
I don’t like the vibe he has, what’s crossing his face and his body. I move close to him. “You’re going to have to leave.”
Before I can get close enough to touch, he turns and shakes his head at me. “You aren’t taking me.” He digs in his jacket and pulls out a .32 pistol.
I have a sense of danger and because of that, I almost anticipated him having a gun before he reveals it. I grab his wrist and hold it down. “Don’t make this worse, man. This isn’t something to kill over.”
“You don’t know,” he whispers, with real fear in his voice. He struggles against me. I’m stronger than he is, but his terror makes him a challenge. Behind me, Veronica ushers Misha out the room for protection.
I manage to leverage Darrell onto his knees and even down on the floor on his back, practically laying on top of him. He won’t let go of the gun. His body writhes and he grunts from my forcing him to stay prone with one hand, and twisting his wrist with another. I might have to break it.
“Come on,” I tell him. “Let it go. Let it go. This is not worth it. Let me have it. Let me take care of it.”
“You…” His eyes are wide and bloodshot. I have to wonder what he sees from how he’s looking at me.
Because I have to hold him down, getting him to let go is not easy. Something in him, in his mind, breaks. He closes his eyes. In that instant, I have the gun.
I watch him carefully as I get up, in case he’s faking. Veronica has come back in and I had her the gun. I search Darrell quickly for any more weapons. He doesn’t resist, keeping his eyes closed.
I move out the room, and shut the door. Misha is waving to a security guard, who is hustling over. “I called the police,” she tells us.
I inform the guard, “The room needs to be secure until the cops get here.”
“What is he trying to do?” Misha says, shaken.
Veronica and I glance at each other. “He said he didn’t want to be taken in,” I answer, but it doesn’t seem good enough.
“What is he doing now,” the security guard asks. “Praying.”
Darrell is on his knees, his back to us. He’s hunched over. A pill bottle falls from his hand.
I yank open the door and snatch it up. It’s empty and it has no label. “What is this?”
He mutters, “You. You aren’t taking me.” His eyes roll back and he collapses.
I yell over my shoulder, “We need an ambulance…”
“Overdose.” I check Darrell’s breathing. He gasps, his body heaves. I find he has no heartbeat. I know CPR–chest compression is the main thing to get the blood to the brain. But even so, the chances of survival are iffy. But I do it anyway. When I was certified, the trainer said to compress to the beat of Stayin’ Alive or Another One Bites The Dust, to get to 100-200 beats a minute.
It feels like forever until the EMTs arrive and take over. Darrell is at least still alive.
After this dramatic conclusion we need to go over details of the incident with the police, who arrive with the EMTs. The weirdness of Darrell having a connection to Ethan Nelson, and Darrell’s strange fear of me, goes on the back burner for now.
Saturday, August 13
Canal Street, New York City, 3:00 pm
I’m in Joel’s apartment in Chinatown with Veronica and our friend Jason Evans, talking music. Jason owns a used bookstore in the West Village and has a bar band on the side, called No Drama. He’s recruited me to play more and more. Veronica is big into magic, both stage and hermetic, and sometimes accompanies our gigs doing magic tricks between sets.
Joel is not part of our discussion on what songs to cover, although he wanted us over for company. He is fussing with other things–putting up a collection of original comics under acrylic cover, and a few posters of classic comic covers–mostly Batman.
My personal cell phone buzzes in the middle of our conversation. It’s Nic (short of Nicolette) Ronson, who is an editor for an online alternative media, NYCultcha. I’ve been writing articles for them for a few years. I started writing there when they were still struggling to find a presence and a profitable business plan, so I was given free rein to write about civil rights, conspiracies, Buddhism and ethics, and so on. I’ve managed to keep a following that justifies them keeping me on. The following has now grown in part due to the celebrity I’ve obtained through my cases over the past year.
Nic says, “You haven’t answered my texts, Gabriel. We want you find out who Tom Paine is.” Paine is the mysterious YouTube personality who has been uploading videos with scandalous information–facts and documents and connections relating to extremely controversial political stories over a few past decades. The stories, featuring allegations that can and have been substantiated, have gone viral over the last few months.
She continues, “You can do that. We’d totally scoop Gawker.”
I wince inside. “Nic, deconstructing that person’s identity is not my area of expertise, really.”
“Sure it is,” Nic says cheerfully. “You told me you could analyze a great deal by how and what people communicate. Semiotics, you said.”
That’s what I get for randomly talking about obscure topics. “I suppose I could analyze the videos…”
“I’m surprised you haven’t already, since you like this stuff! But do more than that–reach out directly to Paine. I bet he’s read about you. You’re into the same topics. See if he’ll talk to you. Even if he just acknowledges your contact, it would be a scoop.”
“I don’t know…”
“We have tons more traffic on our site now because of you. This is an opportunity to be the Tom Paine authority–the Matt Taibbi or Glenn Greenwald of Tom Paine. What if someone else gets contact with him? Or worse, just says he or she has contact? No one would know for sure, but there’s people out there who say they are sure they know who Paine really is. Some international politicians are saying they want to hunt Paine down for encouraging people to expose more information. Governments are annoyed, major financial institutions are annoyed–why aren’t you more excited about this?”
“I am, I just have some other things on my mind. I’ll see what I can do.”
“ASAP, right? While it’s hot. Remember, this is getting the stories out I know are important to you, not just rehashing the latest drug-fueled celebrity outrage. How often does that happen by chance?”
I have to agree with her there. She keeps on hammering her point until she has a definitive promise from me to start working on Tom Paine. I sigh to myself, putting my phone away. Now what, Gabriel?
“What was that about,” Joel asks, fiddling with one of the covers.
“Uh, Nic wants me to write more stories on Tom Paine. She actually wants me to see if Paine will talk to me, or if I can find out who he is.”
Joel glances over his shoulder at me, his expression wary. “That can be trouble.”
I agree with him, as we both know I’m actually Tom Paine.
I go back to our discussion of music. Every so often he glances at me. He wants to be with me, involved in my insane life. And for that, I add Icehouse’s Crazy to the set list. You gotta be crazy, baby, to want a guy like me.
Eventually the party breaks up. Since I’m going back to my apartment to feed my cat, I offer to drop off Jason and Veronica. Jason is going back to his bookstore in the West Village, and Veronica to the apartment in Chelsea she shares with our friend Geneva Lennon.
When we get to my black 2007 Camry parked a few blocks away, I unlock it and open the doors…and pause. I pick up a trace of a strange scent.
“Hold on, just a minute,” I tell Jason and Veronica.
I look around carefully in the car. The Camry is pretty clean. The few items inside don’t look like they did when I parked. An empty coffee cup in the wrong side of the holder. A folder on the back seat, with a few papers poking out. I know I had them tucked in when I left, paranoid about someone looking in and reading them. Even the mats seem a little off–I keep them even and they now look a little crooked.
I state my thoughts aloud: “What the fresh hell is this?”
Jason asks, “Do you think someone’s been in the car?”
“Yeah. Things were moved. And something acrid…maybe some kind of chemical was used to test the insider.”
I get in and start the car up, because I don’t know what else to do, and we have to go on. I tell Veronica and Jason about my experience coming back from Jersey. I keep watching for tails, and I think about sweeping the car for bugs.
I drop off Jason first. At Veronica’s building in Chelsea, she doesn’t get out but asks, “Why might this be happening?”
The only offbeat thing I can think of is what happened last year. Veronica and I are close friends, and business partners. She’s never judged me. But I never told anyone outside of Joel about the Tertullians because I didn’t want them in danger. The Tertullians are the reason I do the Tom Paine videos. I had consulted a former journalist in DC, Kent Varney. He entrusted me with a thick stack of notes on conspiracies the Tertullians had been involved in over the past several decades. Then they murdered him too.
“There’s something I should tell you about.” I pause, wanting a cigarette by reflex. “You may not believe it.”
“I will. We all have stories that have something deeper about ourselves–our own Deep Web.”
I laugh. “A good metaphor.”
“So come in and have coffee. Tell me a story.”
DXCnQMsc2t 5Ct2e2S2ml Ghm69jhbaV 0pRfglaJxp
[Unscramble] ENIGMA Project/Eyes Only
From MORTEM and REAPER, to KISMET
MAGICIAN now publically acknowledging contact with “TOM PAINE” [presumed pseudonym]. MAGICIAN described this contact in his online articles, and TOM PAINE confirmed it his YouTube channel. Channel being monitored as published. MAGICIAN’s personal communications online are PGP, unable for agency to access.
Regarding MAGICIAN’s finances, ETERNITY’s information confirmed. MAGICIAN has been working class most of his life. He has a GED and Bachelor’s degree from CUNY Midtown in Psychology and History. He’s been a private investigator for 15 years. This is from the information that’s available on his own site, in the news articles about him, and what we have in our databases as well as information ETERNITY collected.
He was solvent for the first five years of his own business, started in 2004, until the economic downturn. Severe struggles from 2009 to late 2010, when good press from the ETHAN NELSON and DONALD MATHERS cases brought him more business. In last quarter of 2010, MAGICIAN set up partnership with VERONICA GIANNI, a private investigator and friend he has known for 10 years. MAGICIAN and GIANNI have an office on Horatio Street in Manhattan. From documents we’ve obtained, a private company SMOKING DHARMA invested in their agency GOTHAM INVESTIGATIONS. The company is owned by MAGICIAN’s boyfriend JOEL MCFADDEN.
MAGICIAN has had a previous relationship with MCFADDEN from 2006 to 2008, and resumed in 2010. MAGICIAN was, as you’re aware, previously involved with ALEX BARCLAY, reporter and editor at the NEW YORK HERALD-STANDARD. That relationship apparently began in summer 2010 during the ETHAN NELSON case, and ended later that year on bad terms. MAGICIAN has several favorable media contacts: CLARK AHN, crime reporter for the HERALD-STANDARD, CARL MANKIEWITZ, columnist for the NEW YORK SCENE, and WALTER CLEVELAND, celebrity writer. CLEVELAND brought attention to MAGICIAN being wrongfully in jail and abused during the STEPHEN CODY matter. MAGICIAN and CLEVELAND appear to be collaborating on a book about DONALD MATHERS.
Saturday, August 27
Midtown Manhattan, 9:30 am
“You guys, this is a great story. The Standard is starting a video feature for the online version of the stories, and I can probably get something in on this. What do you think?”
Clark Ahn, a 30 year-old reporter at the Herald-Standard, is typing up some notes on the Darrell case. Darrell has a court appearance today. He had been in Bellevue under observation, but was making an application to be released on bail. Clark wanted some comments from us, so we dropped by.
“Play it up, Clark. It’s all about face time.”
Veronica and I are in the media more often, due to some of our cases being newsworthy, as well as my recent situation of being arrested for a murder that I didn’t commit. The repercussions of that case–from a former hitman now on the run to a lawsuit against four long-time pedophiles–have the public’s interest.
“And so that day, Darrell came over and threatened you?”
We save a few details of our stories for Clark, who is a decent guy and reports positively on us.
“Not quite,” Veronica tells him. “It seemed that way, but more that he was suicidal. While we were waiting for the police, Darrell started going into arrest because he had OD’d on some kind of medication. That’s why he’s in the hospital right now. Gabriel had to give him resuscitation.”
“That’s so Gabriel,” Walter Cleveland comments.
Walter, my would-be biographer and new BFF is a well-known, best-selling true crime writer–the classy kind. For some reason, he’s entranced with me and my work. He helped me a good deal when I was in jail, ensuring I had enough publicity to avoid being ‘suicided’ while in custody, so I have to give him props for that. Walter can be a little pushy, but he genuinely wants to help.
Career-wise, it doesn’t hurt. Walter talks to bigtime media, and Veronica and I talk to the local, but my name being connected to his gives us a little of his gravitas on true crime topics. He has written about us in New York Magazine and the Huff Post.
Walter is a small man, white-haired and dark-eyed like Derek Jacobi. He follows me around town when possible. He and I are going to discuss our project after talking to Clark. Walter and I are documenting the Don Mathers trial; Mathers is a serial killer I took down last year. Since trials move slowly, our work right now is describing the background of the women Mathers slaughtered. It’s one of two books I’m helping with. The other is Bertrand Herrmann’s work in hunting escaped Nazi war criminals. Thinking of these books reminds me of the Tom Paine situation.
As if he hears my thoughts, Clark says, “I saw your article online, Gabriel. The Standard doesn’t think Tom Paine is a good topic to cover. They’re afraid to be caught in some kind of hoax. I’m trying to convince them otherwise. Who do you think he is?”
I smile. “Another Deep Throat, I guess.” I suggested the same in my article. Joel was furious about that, saying I was tempting fate. When I told Veronica what was going on last week, she disagreed with Joel’s evaluation–but that didn’t change his mind.
Having inherited Kent’s notes after he was killed last year, I wanted to get the information out somehow. I decided on pseudonymous YouTube videos. Joel knows how to cover IP addresses. I know how to use political symbolism. I disguise my voice and provide as many links as possible in order to get others to copy, investigate, and forward.
To say there’s a lot of questionable conspiracy-related material on YouTube is to suggest the Pope is connected to the Catholic Church. But my material has support from Kent’s notes, my own downlow research, and Herrmann’s investigation as well. Herrmann was a former Nazi hunter, who helped me in both the Booth and Mathers cases.
Tom Paine’s fame is due to the videos’ topics and quality presentations, and the mysteriousness in Paine’s refusal to talk to anyone who tries to contact him. The fact the stuff is credible has caused the videos to go viral. The mainstream media is even being forced to acknowledge the videos in some way–though not in a positive one. The media as a whole hates anything conspiracy-related, viable or not. Smug journalists and commentators insist everything in the videos is bullshit.
Nic is right about one thing. Even though Paine is not responding to anyone, that won’t stop people from assuming his motives and background, and even falsely claiming to be insiders who’ve contacted Paine. The media is in a state where the public cannot always tell what’s true, what’s made up, what’s plagiarized, and what’s deliberately misconstrued. The number of mainstream journalists I trust has dwindled down almost as much as the number of mainstream politicians I believe.
I do not mention the Society by name, but I’m hoping others will make that connection. Clark begins speculating with Walter over whether Paine is in government, and possibly intelligence work. I should, as part of my cover, act like I have more interest in this. If I wasn’t Paine I’d be just as freely speculating.
Veronica catches my eye; closer than a sibling to me, she is free to needle me mercilessly.
“There has to be more to the story,” she says deadpan.
I try to play off her humor. “If I told you more I’d have to uh, kill you.” My words trip me up. “Well at least I can’t say anymore here. Too many ears.”
At least one too many. Although I thought Alex was off on Saturdays he suddenly appears, as if reading my thoughts. Maybe I better stop thinking so loud.
I hadn’t heard anything from Alex Barclay since I chased him from Bob’s condo back in June. I broke off my relationship with him in the middle of the Mathers case last year, and got back together with Joel. Alex seemed to interpret that as only a temporary situation, driving me to say terrible things to him to make my feelings clear.
Clark writes crime stories, Alex is editor for political affairs. But Alex is Clark’s mentor. I think Clark has figured out the tension between Alex and I. Especially as the last time we were all in the same place I came within seconds of punching Alex in the face. So he’s wary as I am when we see Alex walking over.
Alex smiles and sits on Clark’s desk. He’s wearing a white silk shirt and cashmere sweater vest. Alex is a little older than I, six foot, British and Indian. Longish black wavy hair pulled behind his neck, and a neat beard. He greets everyone with a nod and then focuses on me.
“Gabriel, I’m glad you’re here. I have something to talk about with you.”
“Looks like I picked the wrong day to stop smoking,” I respond, quoting Airplane.
My words don’t bother him. “And Veronica too, as you’re partners. I’ve been talking with Andy. He wants to have some good press on how he handles the infrastructure of the paper. So he wants to hire you and Veronica to review security.”
The new owner of the Standard is Andy Davidson, a billionaire media man, also British. “You two mates, or something?”
Alex doesn’t like me using British slang. He raises an eyebrow, letting me know this, and says, “Yes. He knows my dad from BBC days. I talked you up. He already knows about you, from all the press regarding your do-gooding about town these days…we can borrow some of your integrity, yes? Can I talk to you about it more?”
“He’s welcome to call anytime in the near future,” I tell Alex, in a tone indicating the conversation is over for me.
It doesn’t do any good; he ignores my hint. “Andy is in today. He heard you were in the building. Let me take you both by now. Clark, I’d like you to meet him as well; you haven’t had a chance.”
Clark is game to have face-time with the celebrated owner. And Veronica and I can’t turn down the opportunity regardless of Alex’s presence.
Davidson ends up discussing stuff with us for a couple hours; Walter has tagged along, and Davidson is impressed by Walter’s fandom of me. Davidson is pretty sharp and asks several pointed questions about investigative work and what we can do for security. He also quizzes me about my past cases. I believe he’s already decided he wants to hire us, but is getting a sense of the publicity he can spin.
The meeting wraps up with Davidson saying we’ll be sent an offer letter for a broad range of activities and for a fairly lucrative fee. We excuse ourselves afterward, leaving Davidson with Clark and Alex.
Veronica and I are pretty stoked about this, giggling like teenagers in the executive suite hallway. Walter smiles at our antics.
“We can hire Halo as an intern now,” Veronica says. This is true. Halo, my other best friend Danny’s cousin, is a FTM transgender 17 year-old, attending classes in Boricua College and torn between following Joel in being an artist, or following me in being a private eye. He’s begged us to let him work on some cases.
“And maybe Geneva will go to full time.” Geneva Lennon is transgender former Army specialist. She now divides efforts between being a part-time op and handling her bookbinding/poster restoration business.
“Davidson really likes pushing the rivalry with the Times thing. He’s going to change the nature of the paper as a whole, I bet. I hate to say he wants us for the pure celebrity culture factor, but I think so.”
Veronica shrugs. “If he does, so what? Yeah, this is no way a typical security job. But the world isn’t the same it was ten years ago, five years ago. We’re adapting. Take it for the ride and see how we can parlay it. Davidson can afford to have us as window dressing. Are you okay with Alex being involved?”
I roll my eyes. The one drawback to this whole deal is that Davidson insists on his golden boy to be our point of contact for our work. Alex is pleased about this. Me, less than pleased.
“This was too good to turn down, although it will take some diplomacy. But he seemed pretty nonchalant. All that shit between us has to be over, right?” I run my hands through my hair, looking at her for confirmation.
“It should be. I’ll handle talking to him as much as possible. It is too good to turn down.” Even with favorable publicity a business like our agency, Gotham Investigations, has to hustle for clients in competition with every other PI in the city. The economy remains difficult. The only job creation is for investment banks blackmailing the government for bailouts. I can’t put the kibosh on a high-profile deal because of some squeamishness about an ex-boyfriend.
“I’ll have to talk to Joel…”
“He’ll be all right about it. Just don’t tell him if he saw his mom today. You know he Hulks out on those visits.”
“Do tell,” Walter says. “Gabriel, you have a history with Mr. Barclay?”
“You like gossip too much, Walter. The point is, it’s history.”
“Hmm. I noticed how studiously you weren’t looking at him in that meeting. He was watching you pretty hard, though.”
“I handled Don Mathers and Stephen Cody; I should be able to handle him.”
Veronica adds, “Geneva and I will run interference every chance.”
We stop talking as Davidson’s door opens and Alex walks out with Clark.
Clark says, “Oh, I’m glad you’re still here. I had a couple more questions about your case.”
Alex casually interjects, “Veronica, love, would you handle it? I wanted to speak with Gabriel a minute.”
Out of his line of sight, Veronica makes a face at me. She has little use for Alex and his casually patronizing tone. I nod to her that I’m okay with this.
Once they are out of earshot Alex plays with his ponytail and smiles, slightly awkwardly. “Would you like to see our library?”
I’m a sucker for a library. Always have been. When my mom and I moved to a new town, the first thing we did was join the library. Even before I attended CUNY Midtown, where my uncle Dominic taught, he used to take me to the school’s library to hang out.
I like exclusive libraries even more, and I like checking out people’s book shelves. Walter got me to visit his home at the Hamptons by mentioning his book collection.
The Standard has a reputed extensive private research library. As Alex has a Masters in Library Science he’s gotten involved in the maintenance of the collection.
“All right,” I say casually.
I see from his expression he knows I’m inwardly craving to go there. Acknowledging this victory, if that’s what it is, I walk with him to the elevator bank and down a few floors. We step out into a half-circle reception area. A long curved Art Deco-style desk stands imposingly in front of couple of frosted glass doors.
A young black man with glasses and braids comes out of the doors. “Hey, Alex.”
“Hi, Leo. I’m showing around a colleague of mine.”
Leo nods. “Let me know if you need any help.”
Alex holds up his ID to a scanner and gains us entrance through the doors. We’re now in a carpeted room with a couple of regular desks, computers, shelves with binders, fax and scanner, and some original art on the walls. Three other doors fan out along the back. “It’s temperature controlled, of course. Besides copies of every issue of the Standard, we have some very rare books. You’d be surprised how many scholars have asked to visit or borrow. It’s a careful application process. We won’t have what happened at the Archival Institute. And with you here, even less so, right? Now you have the books to protect too.”
He glances at me, knowing I take book protection seriously. I nod gravely. “Yeah, of course.”
“You’d have regular access, as I imagine you will all over the building. You and Veronica and any associates you vet–Geneva, is it?”
“Yes. We might be taking on Danny’s cousin as an intern, but I’ll be watching him.”
“I trust you. Andy trusts you. He has to, if he’s going to let you prowl our halls.”
In my mind I’m starting lists of tasks to plan for this giant-ass security job, but I’m interrupted by Alex leading me through the door on the far right.
“Holy shit,” I say, unable to help myself.
Alex is pleased at the effect. The room has a soft yellow glow and extends for what seems the length of the building. It’s high-ceilinged as well. There’s at least a dozen rows of tall glass cases and shelves with antique books. I can almost smell them. The shelves are interspersed with reading tables that remind me of the workstations medieval monks would have to illustrate manuscripts. Prominently displayed is an actual illustrated medieval manuscript. I’m over there to examine it without even thinking.
It’s a Bible in Latin, about 15 inches long. The display has it open to the Book of Revelations. The page features an image of a skeleton on a horse.
Alex produces a small key and opens the case. He slips on a glove from a pair inside the case to turn the page. Across the span of the delicate paper is a gloriously evil-looking devil with a dragon’s body. I lean over it, staring, afraid to breathe.
“Fantastic, isn’t it? Just to feel this history and work off the pages…”
“Yeah, it is.” I step back, afraid my presence will cause the book to crumble. Alex locks it up and casually shows me a few more exhibits.
Then we go to the room on the left. This is the news archive. It has copies of every issue since the paper was founded in 1915. The issues are being digitally archived, and a few persons are working on that in the room. The shelves here are gray, but the room has elegant decoration of blown-up front pages over the decades turned into posters. World War II, Kennedy, Nixon, moon landing, 9/11.
The middle room is almost a regular library. Thousands of books–regular books, research volumes, literary works. It’s bigger than the others and like the archive, actually two floors. Alex hangs back as I hunt through the stacks, getting a sense of how the works are arranged. There’s an intranet catalog but I like finding things on my own.
Eventually I come across an area I could spend a few days in–books on magic and the occult. At Geneva’s urging, I’ve started formally working on a Masters, and have a thesis underway that involves magic. I pull out a book on magic and the art of memory and become lost in it. Books have a way of drawing you in, keeping you in another realm. Library stacks make me feel like I’m in a world of mystical knowledge.
Since I was inspired to use magic from Veronica’s love of it, I’m planning to take her here as soon as we have IDs and to make friends with Leo. My inner thoughts are interrupted by a voice in my ear. “Ah, here you are.”
I almost jump. Alex has come up right next to me. He tips my book up to look at the title. “Typical you.”
I shut the book and put it back. “I’m studying this stuff.”
“Uh, yeah.” I talk too much, out of nervousness. “I’ve approached CUNY Midtown about collecting my random graduate courses into some kind of master’s degree. My courses have been in art history, cinema, religion, philosophy and linguistics. I managed to get an interdisciplinary approval to get a degree in philosophy based upon a Master’s thesis and two semesters’ work on semiotics and religion in various forms of art.”
“Brilliant, Gabriel. I’m glad you’re pursuing that.”
He sounds sincere. He had pushed me to go back to school, but a more upscale school than CUNY. I had been angry about that. But here I am, doing things my way. And Joel has followed a bit. He wants to take a few college courses, but since he never graduated high school he has to finish his GED first. He feels a little awkward about it, but lets me help him go over the nuances of standardized tests, as my uncle Dom had helped me and Danny do the same when we dropped out of high school at 16.
Alex continues, “I admire your research, actually. It reminds me of some old tales. You’ve heard of the Akasha?”
“The ethereal cosmos and essence of the material world in Vedantic Hinduism. That what you wanted to talk to me about?”
Alex smiles. “No, not today. Another time. What I wanted to say is I’m glad you are taking the offer, and that you don’t have a problem dealing with me. I’m trying to rectify my own karma with you.”
“We’re professionals here.”
“I know, but I just want you to feel comfortable.”
“Well…uh, thank you for the recommendation. That was good of you.”
Alex looks as if he wants to say more, and stares into space long enough that I start to feel awkward. Then he looks at the book on magic. “I’ll ask Leo to hold that one for you.”
He still looks like he’s struggling with saying something. The air between us has a sense of expectation for me to step in and ask what’s going on. A line from a Fleetwood Mac song comes to mind. Baby, I don’t wanna know. I don’t. Asking is trouble. It’s why he wants me to ask. I would hope it’s not any suggestion about still having romantic feelings.
I make my voice neutral but not unfriendly. “Thank you. It’s a book I haven’t seen in other libraries.”
He scratches his head. “I’d like to talk about this more. But time to let you get back to your partner and your scribe.”
A hint of disappointment. But something else I hear in his voice that stays with me. That he’s making his mind up about something.
I decide I’m not going to let that bother me. We leave the library, and he walks me back down to Clark’s desk. Veronica and Walter are there, and Veronica comes up to meet me. She looks shocked, and it alarms me. She says, “One of Clark’s court sources called. Something bad happened with Darrell.”
Clark is on his phone and frantically typing on his desktop; Walter is reading over his shoulder. Veronica and I return to his desk.
Clark ends his call and swivels his chair to face us. “Darrell’s attorney left him alone in an interview room for half a minute. Somehow he got out and slipped past the court officers and made his way to one of the upper floors. He found an open window and jumped.”
“Jesus.” I wince inside, picturing it. “I guess…”
“Yeah, he’s DOA. God, I know this seems really crass, but–”
“No, I know a comment would help. Just give me half a minute…” The half a minute that Darrell took. I shake that off. Clearly, whatever that man was going through was too much for him to handle. Still, I can’t help but feel there’s is something really, really strange about it.
Copyright 2016 Alex Fiano
Page updated 2/27/2016