Logline: A 3500 year old feud, begun in ancient Greece and cemented in Ireland, compromises the lives of people that knew Eyes on Everyone’s producer Perdea Brentain. Charred remains in her garage indicate she’s dead. Daughter Langley and Detective Eam Able suspect she isn’t. Ex’s and lovers are scrutinized; one’s on the run; he’s not sure from whom. While dodging bullets and bad guys, his estranged wife Meredyth goes to the top of his list.
Dea’s fate is inextricably linked to the dynasty of powerful, ruthless people she was born into. Is her willful determination to be free of them and anyone that tries to prevent her from achieving her ultimate goal enough? She’s not alone; unexpected allies assist, and those she trusted, like bestie Vivian and a close family member, reveal hidden agendas. The truth remains to be seen. Let er rip…
She knew revealing the intimate lives of others came at a high cost, extracting a payment not unlike what was paid to Charon the Ferryman. She knew powerful stories create meaning from a cacophony of information, emotions, events, and dreams. She knew tales possess a terrible power; people lie and kill to ensure their messages are repeated. Myth becomes truth—the gospel of a culture and race; one questions words at great peril. Sometimes, someone listens carefully, questions tiny inconsistencies; sometimes that person is ignored, or worse, declared mad. Rarely, what was questioned is pondered by others that see holes in recorded truths. Perhaps that’s why Perdea produced a TV show that exposed alleged truths—in as large a dose as people could tolerate. She could have been equally successful writing fiction or selling rejuvenating cream, but that would have been akin to telling lies.
In the days leading up to the fire, she readied herself. As those before her had done, she didn’t immediately snuff out the light. She left clues, crafted in the green language, the argot outsiders left as esoteric bread crumbs, the language known before the babbling towers fell. She left one person she had loved Deianera’s words so that person might connect the arcane lore, and reveal what she’d learned—the ability to transform. Pour a wee dram and sit as enchanted creatures do, dangling limbs in the branches of this story. Listen carefully for ‘It takes a thousand voices to tell a single story.’
“You see,” Perdea said to her oldest friend Vivienne a few weeks before the fire, “everyone thought it was about the lineage, the pedigree, their rumored immortal flesh, despite the corruption and dilutions occurring over these many millennia. That’s all that mattered, no price or sacrifice was too great. But Viv, that wasn’t it at all. It was much simpler. The answer was hiding in plain sight. Once I had Hekate’s Clavis, I knew what to do. They got it so wrong Viv. This will change everything.”
“What can you possibly tell me I don’t already know Cheri? Hekate’s key, pishoosh! Who understands you better than I do? We comprehend more about ancient bloodlines and royals than most, except for your grandee, and she . . . “
Perdea waved her hand excitedly; Viv stopped talking, “My discovery has nothing to do with grandee, or grails, dragons, conspiracies, royal bloodlines, or churchy Brigida theories. No,” Perdea said, banging a fist on the table, causing a tiny silver spoon to leap up and make a curious tinkling sound as it landed upside down atop a plate of iced cakes. “Not another word or hint. Everyone got it so wrong—you’ll all be stunned. . .”
London, England—March 1998 Garner hadn’t visited America in years—his business interests were centered in England and France now and—that was where she was. When the package arrived at Wynn-Lennox headquarters, he immediately recognized the handwriting. His face suffused with heat; the intensity startled him. It was another reminder of her effect on him, despite the passage of 25 years. Garner snatched the bulky package from his assistant’s desk and hurried into his private office. The door slammed shut. His fingers traced the backward slanted letters, and smoothed the brown paper, twine, and thick cellophane wound round the box multiple times.
He stared at letters that formed his name and warned others—CONFIDENTIAL—Eyes Only: Garner Northford. Deep furrows radiated from his eyes and created a webbed map that traced to an interior few ever penetrated. His face was seasoned by weather, time, obligation, and—something less definable—deep sadness or dolor. Garner massaged his temples, willed his hand to be steady, and reached for a heavy pair of stainless steel shears. Could he do it? How could he not?
Why now? It had been seven years since their last encounter, and twenty five years since their first meeting? The question stirred a memory from a poem written by one of Britain’s finest poets, Cecil Day Lewis, “how selfhood begins with a walking away, and love is proved in the letting go . . .” Hadn’t he proved his love? Hadn’t she let go? That last night, he stood immobile, watching her shadow arc and dwindle until it merged with the darkness, until the glow of a rising moon filled the space where she’d been. The sound he made alarmed him, it was the cry of a wounded animal.
His desire had never diminished. It was the one constant in his life. He knew what to do. He even knew what he’d tell Meredyth—in exiting a marriage he’d been feigning for decades. Why had she waited so long to contact him? It didn’t matter. He buzzed his assistant, Donna, and gave uncharacteristically curt instructions he wasn’t to be disturbed, no exceptions. Garner turned back to the package. Sturdy shears and powerful hands ripped through brown paper, tore through sloppily applied layers of tape that protected the battered cardboard box. He lifted the lid of the box, and the world he knew, had paid for in full measure—exploded before him.
“If the story is not about the hearer, he will not listen.” John Steinbeck
Part 1, Get Yourself Gone
Chapter 1: “A Drink Comes Before a Story” (Irish saying)
Langley. Loudoun County, Virginia. “Mother said her bedroom was the dead skin capital— the place most touched. The remaining rooms are its counties. The garage I’m now dubbing the county of “Kill-dare—it’s full of someone’s greasy ashes and …” Langley’s voice cracked. She spun round and stared at the detective climbing the stairs. He tilted his head slightly, waiting for her to continue.
“This is where mother exhaled the most. She said the house had lungs, and its rooms breathed like bellows. The house’s state bird is the raven, insatiable patron and harbinger of all things dead. Mother kept one stuffed in the library.” Langley thrust a finger over the railing, pointing towards the library’s double doors, with its ornate stained glass art deco panel inserts. The live birds in the back yard are stuffed as well—with her exotic birdseed.” She paused; perhaps the detective didn’t appreciate her wry humor. “What nasty, greedy creatures—always cawing and complaining. The house’s motto, detective, is Beauty’s only skin deep; its theme song: I’ve Got You Under My Skin. This house doesn’t make much sense, does it? All these rooms—her homage to the weird. Mother calls her manor Aisling Gheár; I think that translates to terrible beauty.”
“Cripes, am I losing it Detective?” Langley asked. “Never mind—I don’t care.” She placed a fist against her forehead. “Can you guess what the theme poem of this damn house is?” Outside the door of her mother’s bedroom, she paused before the man who’d asked her to confirm the incinerated body in the garage was Perdea Brentain, her mother.
“Nevermore, that’s the house’s poem—isn’t that priceless?” Her voice quivered as she fought for control. She waved a finger inches from the detective’s chest. “And here’s a final, fascinating fact. Mother said that daily we shed enough skin to fill a duck’s egg. Is this what you wanted to see—her dead skin sanctuary?”
With lips pressed together tightly, Langley swallowed and turned the brass knob of the oversized oak door. Below her, men barked orders and went about the business of investigating a crime scene.
The detective hesitated, murmured a quick apology, and leaned over the balcony. He yelled for someone downstairs to find his partner Theo and send him up. He cautioned Langley about touching anything in the room.
Langley circled the room, and wondered if more of her mother really was captured here . . . No, that can’t be . . . Of course, there are parts of Mickey here and Terroir, and probably Perry, last season’s love de’jour. I cheered when you booted his ass mother. I’m here too, and as usual, mixed up with everyone else. The skin tally will soon include cops, firemen, a medical examiner and a nosy, hot, dark skinned detective. I don’t see any dusky dust. Perhaps, under our skin, we’re all clear of any color.
She addressed the detective again. “Mother said the Irish were more “people of color” than Indians or Africans—we’re pink at birth; red in the face when mad or in our cups; yellow or green in the gills when sick; tan or orange after a day in the sun; and black and rotting when we die—whereas, darker skin folks remain more even toned. Cripes, why am I thinking about that now? Everything that’s dead is grey, like dryer lint. Did you ever notice no matter what colors you throw in the wash, lint is always grey—like my frigging life today.” She spun in a circle. “Your shade of skin, mother, is selfish. What color is selfish detective?”
“You self-centered bitch; mother, what did you do now?”Langley blurted out, and flung herself onto the unmade bed. She plucked at the raised red silk rosettes on the dark burgundy comforter, then pulled the cool material over her.
The detective observed her outburst from the doorway and frowned. Clearly, she was in pain—and lost in memories. He was about to remind her this room was a potential crime scene when she jumped up and circled the room again.
She walked past the loudly painted furniture, and rearranged a collection of cut glass perfume vials when the detective wasn’t looking. Despite aromas of lemon wax and sweet incense, Langley smelled her mother’s perfume, the same heady scent she‘s worn forever. “She’s left the room as if she was just here a moment ago, tossing her lacy undergarments in the air, whirling like a dervish, aiming vaguely for the wicker hamper.” Langley stood next to the detective. “Mother likes to—she’s fond of lighting candles and incense. Do you smell hyssop and sandlewood incense? She’d drape that nude sculpture with scarves, and whatever long, dangling necklaces and talismans she was wearing that day. Isadora Duncan, I suspect, would have killed for a few of mother’s scarves.”
“Ms. Brentain, when was the last time you saw your mother?”
“Mother, what a bitch.” Langley spit the words, indifferent to how it sounded. She hugged one of the scarves, and looked directly at the detective. “My mother lost her mother when she was still a child. No warning—mother didn’t warn me either. So is she really dead? Our family possesses uncanny gifts, heavy fey skills that help everyone else, but not us. Damn you mother. So, to answer your question Detective, I haven’t seen mother in months, not since New Year’s. We were planning to have dinner next week to celebrate her frigging birthday.”
She couldn’t hold back the waterworks. The scarf sparkled with her tears. The detective scanned the room, searching for a box of Kleenex.
“At least she waited until I was grown. Am I grown? Damn you to Hades, damn you to a place worse than the one you made for me.”
As she reached for something to throw, the detective grabbed her arms. “I’m sorry for your loss, Ms. Brentain—Langley, but this is a crime scene. Nothing is to be touched. I’d be happy to call your family.”
She sank to the floor. More glistening gobs cascaded down. She dug her fingers into the deep pile of the detailed hook rug her grandmother Aubra had made over 40 years ago. A fierce looking dog, which Perdea had named Terroir, poked its massive head into the room and timidly scurried to where Langley had collapsed. Gently, it nudged her shoulder with its wet nose. The dog’s rough tongue licked her tear streaked face. Through sobs she mumbled, “go away oaf,” and weakly pushed the dog backwards. It didn’t obey. Terroir made a rather human exhale sound and lay down next to her, flopping on a pile of clothes. The dog waited—for the crying to stop, for his master to return, for someone to feed this hungry, groggy 80-pound animal.
Langley wanted to ask the detective if his mother had loved him, but he’d left the room. “You know I’m allergic d-o-g. Go away.” Her pushes turned into kneading, then stroking of his glossy coat. Finally, she pulled the animal to her, and held on tightly.
From the doorway, Detective Eam Able observed Langley attempt to contain her distress. He inhaled the signature fragrance of the room’s owner. It lingered like a hymn to flowers, heat, and passion. This room was full of eye candy, loud colors, sleek textures and shapes. And yet—the overall impression was harmony, vitality, and an embracing of all things strange and wonderful. Langley’s light brown hair was streaked with honey hued strands. It framed an oval, perfectly symmetrical face. Odd, he mused; her face seemed as familiar as his own, though softer, far more delicate.
He cleared his throat. “Ms. Brentain, please come downstairs. They’re removing the body, and we need to ask a few more questions . . . Your mother’s dog needs to be checked by a vet. It’s curious; I had put the dog in my van; it seems someone let it out. Did I mention my mother owns a veterinarian clinic? I can transport him to her. She’ll take good care of your dog.”
Langley sat up stiffly. She smoothed her clothes, and tucked loose hair behind her ears. Looking directly at Detective Able, with glistening, pale blue eyes, she said in a monotone. “He’s not my d-o-g.” Terroir tried to lick Langley’s hand and made what seemed like cooing sounds. “You’re thirsty, I’m sure. Come on then oaf, let’s see what Mother left you. Lead the way Detective.” The trio exited the bedroom and Langley paused to pull the door shut. “It’s Langley, just call me Langley. I don’t want these goons messing with mother’s things any more than necessary. Pass the word.”
“Langley, this is a crime scene—at least until it’s determined it’s not. I’ll tell everyone to be careful.”
“The frigging crime scene’s in the garage. What’s your game? First you say she committed suicide, now it’s a crime scene. Death isn’t a crime─but I suppose murder is. You think you’ve single handedly solved the mystery by declaring she’s dead—a suicide no less—but you haven’t. How typically chauvinistic…and arrogant.”
Langley rubbed her temples; at the top of the stairs, she spun round. “I’m sorry; that was rude. But detective, if those are mother’s remains, she was murdered. If you knew her, you’d know she could never kill herself. No one loved life more. Life—more than the horde of men she bedded—was her frigging lover. We need to find the fucker who . . . apologies.”
Langley grabbed the banister, and pivoted on the steps. “She’ll turn up detective—and explain what happened. It will be a doozy of an explanation. So do what you have to do.”
Downstairs, she sank into the familiar, lipstick red couch that took up one third of the space in an area adjacent to the kitchen. She stared at nothing, vigorously rubbing the fleshy pad of skin between her thumb and index finger. It was a technique she’d been taught to ward off headaches; it was more effective than a couple of pills. Today, Langley feared nothing could prevent the pain still to come.
I should call Grandee and Grand Sebastian, but it’s going to get so complex once they enter the picture. I need to think. I’ll call Viv—I can absolutely trust her.
Her mind drifted to what she’d been doing before the nightmare call transported her to Perdea’s world. She’d been home debugging a web site her team designed for a virtual real estate company. It incorporated a sophisticated database that matched the needs and wants of potential clients. How perfect—mother had an endless array of wants. Will I need to solve a mystery—who killed mother and why, or did she kill herself or someone else she substituted in the driver’s seat? If only I hadn’t answered the phone.
The caller, after establishing she was Langley Brentain, said he was informing her of a serious incident that occurred at her mother’s house. The caller was sending a car to pick her up after verifying the address Mrs. Lorry had given the police was correct.
Langley murmured an “um-hum” and repeated Mrs. Lorry’s name several times before processing her initial shock. “She’s really done it this time, hasn’t she? Who did she off─Mickey—or did she threaten the neighbors? What did you say your name was?”
“Eam Able, Ms Brentain, Detective Eam Able. It’s your mother whom we think─ah, I’ll fill you in once you’re here. You may want other family members join you—someone close to you. Is there a loved one I can call?”
“Loved one! Damn her! I’m not married. Mother did the marrying, and all that implies, Detective Able. Most people have a ‘to do’ list. Mother had a ‘men to do to’ list. I can deal with anything she throws my way. Send your car; I’ll be in the lobby.”
Langley immediately phoned her mother’s house and was greeted by Perdea’s latest pre-recorded message: “Halloo, you didn’t catch me; few do. At the tone—let go. ” So vulgar Mother, so typical.
to be continued…
Earn Able is a cool detective name. Hope you’re not offended Jo, but this reminded me of some of the Norman Mailer books I read many years ago. Themes of Irishness; murder; souls sold; sex traded; and dark, deep magic.
Thanks, and not at all miffed by ref to Mailer; have read his books, but decades ago. There are many sagas I loved reading, like Captains and Kings, Godfather; works of Jeffrey Archer and Sidney Shelton. I hope this one captures what I intend it too; more than a few real life scenes in this epic I’ve been working on for a decade. Other suggestion? I appreciate your opinion and quality of your writing.
Oh, man (or woman), how many plates can I spin at once!? Back later in the week with my other hat on….