GW–Recaps: The Hanged Man Chapters Nineteen, Twenty, Twenty-One
Previous: Chapters 16, 17, 18
Next: Chapters 22, 23, 24
Chapter Nineteen The Seven of Pentacles
Nelson is outraged by Gabriel and Alex being in Eleanor’s home. He orders them out, but Gabriel challenges him by asking Eleanor what she wants. Nelson storms out, and Gabriel calls Dr. Cole and begins talking to Eleanor. She is able to tell him that she heard Nelson talking to another board member about a Nazi. She braced Nelson about the conversation and he gave her a story about something to do with art importation. He also vaguely threatened her. She remembers the name as Schleiden, an assistant to Adolf Eichmann. The board member is William Christensen.
Then a doctor who claims to be Eleanor’s shows up, and some police arrive. The doctor has more credibility with the cops than Gabriel and Alex, but at least Cole also shows up and Eleanor is taken to a hospital.
Alex accompanies Gabriel to the library where Gabriel researches Richard Schleiden and his history in Nazi Germany. Later Gabriel and Alex return to Alex’s neighborhood. While they are talking in Gabriel’s car, someone shoots at them. They are unhurt, but Alex is unnerved. Gabriel stays over with him. When Alex leaves for work the next day, Gabriel does some chores and prepares to see William Christensen, who lives in the tony town of Alpine, NJ.
Alex asks to meet with Gabriel at a bar. He says he has problems–his editor and publisher have both given him a hard time over his connection to the case and have suggested that his career is in jeopardy if he continues. Gabriel is sorry about that, and tells him he doesn’t have to be involved. Gabriel is continuing the investigation, though. Alex tries to talk him out of it. He tells Gabriel he thinks Gabriel can do better in a career than investigation. Gabriel finds Alex’s attitude insulting and walks out. Angry as hell, he calls Joel. Joel is a smartass about it, but asks if Gabriel wants to talk. He does.
Chapter Twenty The Fool
Gabriel picks up Joel from Joel’s building in Chelsea. Joel has no hard feelings and is eager to help Gabriel out with going to Alpine. Gabriel is regretful over his fight with Joel and Veronica. Joel gives him a hard time over why he’s attracted to Alex and insists that Alex’s class issues will not fit in with Gabriel’s mission to save the world. His needling gets to Gabriel. But Joel also apologizes for having disappeared, and for what happened between them when they broke up. This gives Gabriel a mental boost.
They arrive at Christensen’s house. The supercilious house servant takes them to meet the old man. Although Joel is impertinent and Gabriel abrasive, Christensen seems oddly complacent with their arrival. Gabriel tries to interrogate him and the old man pleads ignorance. A mysterious package arrives, and Joel tells Gabriel someone had hand-delivered it to the butler. Christensen fusses with the package, which Gabriel realizes is a bomb. He pulls Joel in the hallway as it blows up, killing Christensen and his butler.
Gabriel hustles them outside, to find that a sniper is hiding in the woods on the estate. Gabriel exchanges fire with the guy, and being an excellent shot manages to hit him in the legs. After that, he has Joel drive far enough away until he feels comfortable stopping behind a mall grocery store closed for the evening.
Gabriel is distraught as he cleans the car. Joel is less so, feeling Christensen got what he deserved. Nonetheless, Gabriel feels overwhelmed from the experience. Joel embraces him to comfort him, which turns erotic in seconds. Gabriel is swept away by the feelings until he’s abruptly reminded of Joel’s actions that led to their break up. He ends the encounter before it can go further.
They go back to Gabriel’s apartment and Joel insists that Gabriel sleep while Joel watches over him. Feeling safe, Gabriel does so.
Chapter Twenty-One The Two of Wands
The day after the incident at Alpine, Joel is hanging out with Gabriel, who’s deciding on the next move. He wants to break and enter Nelson’s apartment. With Joel’s help, a subterfuge is arranged. Gabriel gets inside and finds the apartment a strange expression of Nelson’s personality. He also finds a hidden box, and takes pictures of the items inside.
Nelson suddenly comes back, trapping Gabriel under the bed. Joel tricks Nelson to come outside and Gabriel escapes. Gabriel now feels that visiting Kent is the next thing to do–to review Kent’s notes. He can’t scare up Cheng to pay for it, so Joel fronts him the money. Before he can leave, Toni is at his door wanting to know what he’s been doing, and to demand money from him. Toni is infuriated and tells him off before leaving. Gabriel asks Joel to keep an eye on her.
Thoughts on 19, 20, 21
In my last post on THM, I mentioned I was on hiatus. I’m moving forward now with Hard Core, the next in the series. And damned if Gabriel seems a million miles away from how he is in THM, and yet still the same person in another way. Of course, living with Gabriel since long before 2012, when I published THM, he is very real to me as is Joel and Veronica. The events in this book set Gabriel on a path that gets more intense with each story.
These chapters are an example of that. Gabriel is starting to feel like it’s an everyday thing for someone to be after him, but the bomb throws him off with the gravity of the situation–people trying to kill him and Joel and Alex, and people being killed. This is going to be like dominoes. He knows what voice he wants to hear while this is going on–someone telling him that he’s doing the right thing. He needs that, because look what’s happening. People and places are being destroyed. If he’s not supposed to be doing this, he could take the blame for these people’s fates.
But he has that voice. Joel doesn’t feel an ounce of pity for the man in Alpine or his butler. Play with Nazis, get blown up. Joel feels they are on the side of the angels, as they walk away without the proverbial scratch. From the bomb, the sniper, and from being in Nelson’s place.
What’s harder to walk away from is the feelings between them. Now, I have what I call showcase pieces or scenes in each story. In THM, finding Raymond’s body and Gabriel getting the beatdown are two such scenes. The encounter between Joel and Gabriel is another. It’s a take on the MASH event. I was a fan of MASH from childhood and distinctly remember the episode where Hawkeye and Margaret are caught in a shack while shelling is going on. Angry and scared, they end up being intimate. Feelings from the desperation of the circumstances. Perhaps a scene like the one with Ray and Bezzerides in the penultimate episode of True Detectives Season 2 is like that, just not done well enough. But I could understand why it happened. The shake up from being so close to death and no way out takes away much of the pretense and facades they carry around. Sex is always a way of defying death.
Gabriel is so much in self-control (and he calls Christensen a control freak) that he refuses to allow the intimacy to progress. Joel takes this remarkably well, but from Joel’s experience sex or lack thereof is not something to get angry about. He knows emotional intimacy is far more valuable, and he plays this with the trust Gabriel has in him to pull off the break-in with Nelson’s apartment and its dank, ugly art.
Nelson’s place, with its Bosch-like paintings, is not somewhere a person can just drop by and chill. One can imagine Nelson pointing out to a visitor, “Now here you can see where Judas and Brutus are chewed on eternally in agony while just above, we have some disgraced church fathers burning in pitch…would you like some hors d’oeuvres?”
Playlist: The scene between Gabriel and Joel is easy. Howie Day, Collide. The official Vevo Channel video.
Out of the doubt that fills my mind
I somehow find
You and I collide
I’m tempted to add Zack Hempsey’s Redemption, but it’s a little too heavy, better suited for bigger scenes. The spider walk in Nelson’s apartment, and the play in Christensen’s house need more of a sparse offbeat piece, something with a dark tone. I’m going for Amy Winehouse. I was not familiar with her work, but a teacher I had this semester was a fan, and I’m giving her a listen–Back to Black.
And I tread a troubled track
My odds are stacked
I’ll go back to black
Copyright 2016 Alex Fiano
Page updated 12/29/2016