Anthropophobia

Anthropophobia

(A fear of the company of people)

Jeremiah Ellsmore Ford, or Jef as he was called by friends and family, was a very shy man. He was 5’9”, had mousey brown hair, gray eyes, and, instead of thick glasses, wore contact lenses most of the time. At the age of twenty-one, he had decided that he would work only in a position where he did not have to deal with people face to face. He had made this decision after having undergone a very embarrassing situation in his senior year in college. One of his dorm mates had discovered that Jeremiah was still a virgin and the insensitive boor had posted this fact on his Facebook page. The day after the notice had been posted, Jeremiah found himself being gawked at everywhere he went. He found out about the posting when he was in Biology class and a fellow student had slipped a copy of it on his seat. Jeremiah took one look at the posting, turned a bright red, and gathered up his books and backpack and fled from the auditorium. Unfortunately, Jeremiah liked to sit in the front row, and so when he ran from the auditorium, his embarrassed expression was there for all to see. As he clumsily ran through the auditorium doors, and nearly knocking over the TA, he heard the roar of laughter from the other students. Later in the day, Jeremiah had gone to his professors and asked them to allow him to complete his courses through his computer. Most of the professors were understanding of Jeremiah’s situation, but one was not. This was Mr. Blackmore, Jeremiah’s psychology professor. He told Jeremiah that he shouldn’t be ashamed of his “condition” and that it would be better for him to face his tormentors instead of allowing them to see that they had won. Jeremiah reluctantly agreed and once he confronted his dorm mate about the posting, the posting disappeared. Jeremiah graduated and then applied for a job at a Tech firm. Since his grades were so impressive, he was allowed to work from his one bedroom apartment. He only had to make occasional appearances at the company, but when he did, he was not required to be there for very long and any face to face meetings were kept to a minimum. With this solution in place, Jeremiah may have known quite a few people but he did not have to physically interact with them.

One day, Jeremiah received an e-mail. This, of course, was not unusual since Jeremiah spent most of his day on his computer, but this message was listed under Spam. Jeremiah, like most people who received spam, usually just deleted it without bothering to read it, but for some reason unknown to Jeremiah, he actually opened it. Maybe because the head line seemed to speak to something within his soul, Jeremiah opened the message. The head line had read: Meet the girl of your dreams! Now, Jeremiah usually saw a head line for these mating services as a waste of time, but on this day, Jeremiah’s usually reserved sense of curiosity got the better of him. He clicked on the message and was amazed when a rainbow swirl of colors lit up his screen and was almost immediately replaced by graphics showing a wide range of pictures of smiling women. Suddenly, words popped up in large print: ARE YOU LONELY? CAN’T SEEM TO FIND YOUR SOULMATE? WELCOME TO CUPID’S HAVEN, WHERE WE GUARANTEE YOU THE MATE OF YOUR DREAMS! TO CONTINUE, CLICK ANY KEY. Jeremiah clicked a key and after the lettering faded away, a questionnaire came up on screen. The introduction on the questionnaire said: This service offers you a chance to meet the person of your dreams. Answer all of the questions as truthfully as possible. None of your personal information will be shared with any other businesses or corporations. Once you have sent in your questionnaire, your information will be entered into our database. Photographs of three possible candidates will be sent to you, and you may choose one. If the first choice does not work out, you will be able to make a second choice from the remaining choices. The cost for this service will be $100 (one hundred dollars US). In the unlikely event that you are not satisfied with any of your selections, your money will be refunded to you. If you agree to these conditions, then click AGREE. Jeremiah thought about this for a moment and then thought “What the heck!” and clicked AGREE. He was then prompted to the first question. By the time that he finished answering the questionnaire, and at the end entered his Visa information, Jeremiah felt like he had just run a mental marathon. He clicked Enter and waited to see if he would receive any results. Just as he was getting ready to sign out, a ring emitted from his computer and pictures and brief biographies of three women appeared on his screen. Surprised that he had received three candidates so quickly, Jeremiah slowly studied each picture and then read their brief biographies.

The first candidate was a fairly nice looking brunette named Alicia Goldman. She was 27 years old, had a PHD in Molecular Physics, graduated from MIT, and worked at the University of Rhode Island. Jeremiah thought that she looked a bit stern from her picture and so he checked the stats for the second candidate. Her name was Althea Williams, had blond hair, was 26 years old, and had her PHD in Chemistry. Jeremiah was impressed with her looks and her brains, but, before making his final selection, he checked out the final candidate. Her name was Miranda Chu. She had long dark hair, was also 26 years old, and had her PHD in Veterinary Medicine. Jeremiah did find her attractive but, since he had an allergy to cats, he decided that she would not make a very good prospect. He imagined that no matter how well-dressed Dr. Chu would be on their date, he was also afraid that she would have a pet which would aggravate his allergies. With all things taken into consideration, Jeremiah decided to choose Althea Williams as his first choice. He clicked on her picture and a small screen popped up which had Althea’s phone number, e-mail address, and best hours to phone. Jeremiah wrote down the information, logged off of his computer, and sat back in his chair. He wanted to plan out how he would approach Ms. Williams: would it be more personal to phone her verses e-mailing her? What would he say to her and where would they go on their date? Since Jeremiah was a shy person and also a very meticulous person, he wanted to make sure that when he finally did contact Althea Williams, he wanted to make sure that nothing would go wrong. After thinking about it overnight, Jeremiah finally composed an e-mail to Althea which he felt comfortable with. After waiting a few minutes in anticipation for a quick response, but not receiving one, he went back to his work site. Three hours later, he was finished working on his project for the day and checked his e-mail one last time. He was reasonably happy to see that Althea had responded to his message. She agreed to meet him for dinner the next night at the restaurant that he had suggested. Just for his own satisfaction, and to make sure that he was not dreaming, Jeremiah copied the e-mail, taped it to his screen, and logged off. Once he was logged off, he got out his cellphone and called the restaurant to make the reservation.

The next morning, which was a Friday, Jeremiah checked his messages to see if he was needed at work, and seeing that there were no important messages, he grabbed his car keys and went out to get some flowers for his date. While he was out, he also decided that he would look into getting a suit for that night. Most of the clothes in Jeremiah’s closet were either too leisurely or too out of date. Jeremiah, being such a low-key sort of guy, actually gave a full smile when he saw himself in the full length mirror at the store where he found a suit that made him look presentable. He also decided that he should get a haircut since it had been a month and he felt that he was looking a bit shaggy. After getting everything done that he needed to get done for his date, he went home and took a shower. When he had gotten home, and before taking his shower, he laid the suit out on the bed, admired it for a minute, and checked his computer, fearing that Althea might have changed her mind. There was a message for him from Althea, but all that it said was: “Shall we take my car or yours?” Jeremiah replied that he would pick her up in his car and that he had already checked MapQuest for directions to her apartment.

At 6:45 that evening, Jeremiah parked his car outside of Althea’s apartment complex. He checked himself in the mirror, grabbed the bouquet of flowers that he had bought earlier, and walked up to the entrance gate. He found Althea’s apartment number and pushed the buzzer. Despite the distortion of the speaker, when Althea answered the buzzer and rang him in, Jeremiah filtered out the noise and fell in love with what he perceived would be her real voice. Althea opened the door and told Jeremiah that she would be ready to leave in one minute, and exactly sixty seconds later, she told him that she was all set. Jeremiah appreciated a woman, or any person for that matter, who was exact.

“May I ask which restaurant are we going to be dining?” Althea asked Jeremiah as she locked her apartment door.

“Ah, yes, er, I thought that we would go to one of my favorite spots. It’s called Sadko’s; it’s a Russian restaurant and it has a roaming balalaika group. I hope that you like Russian food and music.”

“Oh, that does sound interesting. I can’t eat borshch because I’m allergic to beets, but I’m sure that they will have something else for the first course.”

“Yes, they do. They make a very good shchi, which is a cabbage vegetable soup. Would you be able to eat that…that is, if you want it.”

“No, that sounds fine to me.”

Fifteen minutes later, Jeremiah was parking his car in the parking lot. He quickly got out of the car and ran around it so that he could open the car door for Althea. She thanked him and, in what was a major deal as far as Jeremiah was concerned, she put her arm through his arm as they walked up to the valet station, gave the valet the key, and walked into the restaurant. The maitre d’ recognized Jeremiah, picked up two menus and escorted the couple to their table. The maitre d’ told Jeremiah that their waiter would be with them shortly and wished them a good evening.

“Good evening, gospozha, my name is Alexandr and I will be your waiter tonight. Would you care for anything to drink?”

“Da, pozhalista, butilka mineralnye vody.”

“Khorosho.”

“You speak Russian? I’m very impressed.”

“Yes, well, some of my company’s clients are Russian and I decided to learn the language. I ordered a bottle of mineral water if that is alright with you. I don’t drink alcohol.”

“No, mineral water is fine with me. I only drink wine and that is only for special occasions.”

“Have you decided what you would like? If I may, we could order a plate of mixed pirozhkis for our appetizer.”

“That sounds very good. I have tried potato pirozhki at a colleague’s birthday party and they were very good.”

The waiter arrived with the bottle of mineral water, poured it into their glasses and set the bottle on the table. He then took their order and left. Jeremiah slowly lost his shyness and by the time that their entrees had arrived, he and Althea were speaking to each other like old friends, not that that was the purpose of the date, but it helped. Soon, the small balalaika orchestra came to their table and started to play “Dark Eyes”. Althea said that she recognized the music and asked Jeremiah what the words meant. He told her that it was about a man who falls in love with a girl with dark eyes, which is considered a sign of great beauty in Russia. Althea smiled and Jeremiah felt, for the first time, that he might be falling in love. By the time that the meal was over and they were getting ready to leave, Jeremiah felt sure that he would be seeing Althea more often.

Jeremiah gave the valet a nice tip when he brought the car up for them. When they were inside the car, Althea looked over at Jeremiah and thanked him for an enjoyable evening. He said that it was his pleasure, but didn’t say anything else because he felt that it might be presumptuous on his part. They finally arrived back at Althea’s complex, but, just as she was getting her keys out of her purse, they heard a threatening voice.

“Give me your money, both of you, or the bitch gets it!” Jeremiah saw a man about 6’1”, dressed in black, wearing a ski mask, holding a gun to Althea’s head. Jeremiah did nothing since he had never been in this sort of situation before. When the shock finally wore off, he tried to bargain with the man. In the meantime, Althea, who was a foot shorter than the man, struggled to get out of his grip. This only made the robber more angry, and Jeremiah quickly took out his wallet to give the man what he wanted. He grabbed the money from Jeremiah, loosened his hold on Althea only so that he could grab her purse. However, Althea, who know some defensive moves, tried to back jab the robber in the face with her elbow. Unfortunately, her jab was ineffective and angered the robber. He raised the gun and shot Althea. He then turned around and ran down the street. Jeremiah bent down to Althea’s body, and realizing that she was most likely dead, fell on his butt to the sidewalk. A neighbor who lived in the complex ran through the gate and saw the tableaux. She got her cellphone out of her robe pocket and dialed 911. The police and an ambulance were at the scene within twenty minutes. While waiting for the police to arrive, the woman went back to her apartment and brought out a blanket for Jeremiah. She was a nurse and her instincts kicked in; she knew Jeremiah must be in shock and that a blanket would be a comfort.

When the police arrived, it took a while for Jeremiah to come back to reality in order to answer the officer’s questions. Since Jeremiah’s car was parked in a secure area, one of the officers gave him a ride home. Jeremiah got out of the officer’s car, walked up to his front door and let himself in. When he got inside, he slowly stumbled over to his couch and laid down. The next thing that he knew was that it was morning. He got up from the couch, and like one of the undead, walked into the bathroom, got undressed, and stood in the shower for a moment before slumping down in the shower and crying.

It was one year after Althea had been murdered, and in all of that time, Jeremiah shut himself off more and more. Her killer had not been captured in that time and so Jeremiah felt less safe on the rare occasions when he did go out. He had also taken his name off of the list as a client for Cupid’s Haven. He began to lose weight because he would immerse himself in his work and forget to go out for groceries. In fact, it got to the point where when he did notice that he needed groceries, he would order them from a local store and have them delivered. One time his boss came by to see why he had missed an appointment to come into the office and was appalled to see the way that Jeremiah was living. He found empty food cartons and soda cans lying everywhere and Jeremiah looked like he had not shaved in a month. Jeremiah gave him some lame excuses for missing the appointment, and since his boss knew about the murder, he told Jeremiah that he would set things up so that if Jeremiah was required, he could just do a teleconference instead of trying to make an effort to come in. His boss also managed to get a promise from Jeremiah that he would clean up his apartment. He said that he didn’t want to see Jeremiah become a hoarder or read in the newspapers about Jeremiah being found dead under a pile of trash. Jeremiah promised that he would clean himself and his apartment and with that reassurance, Jeremiah’s boss went back to his office.

That night, with a heavy rain storm howling outside, Jeremiah had a dream. In his dream, Jeremiah found himself all alone on a small island, with only his desk, chair, and lap top computer. He wandered around the island for a while, gathering some fruit and berries that he found in the jungle which rose up about a half mile from the shore. With his arms loaded up with some bananas, a fallen coconut, and some berries which he “sensed” were not lethal, he walked back down to the beach, ate a banana and turned on his computer. He logged in and began to work on a contract, when he noticed a blinking red light on the bottom right hand line. He had never seen such a thing before and, at first, was not sure what it signified and what he should do about it. He decided to pull his cursor down to it and hit enter. When he did this, his screen disappeared and he found himself on a video conference with his boss.

“Jeremiah,” his boss said, “we have a surprise for you.”

“Wha, what is it?” Jeremiah said in a quiet and surprised tone.

“You’ll have to come in and see.”

“But I’m on an island. How can I get there? I’m not even sure where I am.”

“Just touch the screen.”

This made no sense to Jeremiah and he was reluctant to do it. As he was getting ready to turn off his computer, in the background he saw Althea. He was shocked to see her, but it was too good to be true and so he touched the screen. The next thing that he knew was that he was standing in his boss’s office. He looked through the door and saw Althea starting to turn towards him. She had been looking out of a window, which Jeremiah saw was dark and had occasional flashes of lightening. He started to run towards her, but when she turned to face him, he saw her clothes had gun shots in them. He suddenly stopped and, from the left, a shadowy figure stepped out, raised a hand holding a gun and fired at Althea. At that moment, hundreds of people suddenly appeared and went to surround Jeremiah and they were all yelling “Surprise!”. Jeremiah began to panic as the people crowded in closer to him. He also noticed that each person was holding a gun in their hands. Total fear gripped Jeremiah and he suddenly found the strength to push through the crowd and make his way back to his boss’s office. The computer was still on and he could see the waves breaking on the shore of the island. The moment that he got up to the computer, he touched the screen and found himself back on the beach. Unfortunately, the people in the crowd, led by his boss, also touched the screen and appeared on the island. After his boss appeared, the mysterious gunman appeared. Jeremiah found himself surrounded by hundreds of people and they were all pointing their guns at him. Jeremiah flailed his arms around and managed to clear a path towards the ocean. He had splashed out to where the water was coming up to his thighs when he found his feet stuck in the sand. He was slowly sinking and the crowd was following him into the water. He tugged at his feet as hard as he could, but he lost his balance and fell into the water face first. Jeremiah struggled and tried to put his hands on the sand in an attempt to keep himself from drowning. During his struggle, he felt the whiz of bullets speeding by him.

Suddenly, Jeremiah sat up in his bed with sweat pouring from his body. A bolt of lightening lit up the room and the boom of the thunder shook the glass in his windows. Jeremiah got out of his bed and walked into his bathroom, turned on the light, and stared at his face in the mirror. He got undressed and took a shower in an effort to calm his nerves. After drying off, he did not put his pyjamas back on, but put on a sweatsuit and went to his living room. He debated with himself, but he finally decided to turn on his computer. It was four o’clock in the morning and Jeremiah, as he always did when he first logged on, checked his e-mail. There was nothing of major interest so he logged in to his work station. An hour later, he was starting to feel tired and, not wanting to go back to sleep, he went to the kitchen and made himself a pot of coffee and made two pieces of toast. He finished eating the toast, poured himself a cup of coffee and went back to his computer. For the next few weeks, Jeremiah did not have any more nightmares, but it took him a while before he could fall asleep.

A month later, Jeremiah had just logged on to his computer when he almost fell out of his chair. On the bottom right hand line, a red light was blinking! He slowly moved the cursor over to the light and waited for a message line to come on to let him know what its function was. When the message came on, it said “office line”. Before clicking onto the light, Jeremiah took a slow breath in and let it out. He clicked it on and a video screen came on and Jeremiah saw his boss’s face. When his boss saw Jeremiah’s face on screen, he yelled “Surprise!”. Jeremiah’s face turned white, he fell out of his chair, and started screaming. His boss was shocked by Jeremiah’s reaction and tried to calm him down, but then suddenly, people that he worked with, in spirit, came through his door yelling “Surprise!” and “Happy Birthday!”. This was too much for Jeremiah.

Jeremiah is semi-happy now. The interns and doctors treat him very well, but they never leave him alone in crowds or let him use a computer.

Androphobia (Fear of Men)

Androphobia

(Fear of men)

There isn’t much to do at night in the city when the rain is so heavy that you can barely see your hand in front of your face. The only people out on nights like this are either trying to get home late from work or working the streets, hidden in doorways. This was that kind of night. In the doorway of an old abandoned dry cleaners was a young man who, if he kept track of such things, was just past his 17th birthday. He stood in the doorway smoking a cigarette and debating whether it was worth his time to see if he could lure someone into “taking him home”. This could be the potential client’s home, if he was single, or at a nearby run down motel, if he wasn’t. Either way, the boy figured that anything would be better than standing out in the rain, relying on a cigarette to keep him warm. The boy had just finished his cigarette and had decided to call this night a waste and go back to his motel room, when a man, looking to be around 35 years old and not too much of a troll, pulled up to the sidewalk in his decent-looking car, and asked the boy if he needed a lift. “Yeah, whatever you want to call it. First, I haveta ask, are you a cop?”

“No, I’m not a cop.” Having gone through the preliminaries of his profession, the boy pulled the door open and got in.

“So, where are you going?”

“Where ever you want to go. It’s your choice, but I do ask to be paid first.”

“Understood. We’ll go to your place, shall we?”

The rain had cleared the air, but had caused a bit of havoc among the trash left along the side of the street. Some of the drains were still overflowing, but the city’s sewage patrols were hard at work trying to clear the streets quickly. At the Starlite Motel, there were two police cars parked near the motel office. At a room, about four doors down and on the first floor, a policewoman was decorating a door with “Caution…Crime Scene” tape. Her partner and she had just finished taking pictures of the body of the young man who was found on the bed with his throat slit and his genitals cut off and jammed into the bloody slit throat. Alexandra Stillwater, the 12 year veteran of the department, along with her partner, Eric Piper, a ten year veteran, had just finished scouring the bedroom and bathroom for clues. The other police officers were busy speaking with the motel’s manager, trying to get information about the victim. The manager was of very little help, telling the officers that he only knew the boy by the name that had been given to him when he rented the room and pretended not to know what occupation the boy maintained in order to pay for his room. The manager’s policy was to not stick his nose where it didn’t belong, unless the rent was not paid on time.

“So, Ally, what do you think our chances are of finding out who killed this kid?”

“It all depends on any information that the manager might have or if we manage to get lucky and find a witness who will be willing to talk to us. As you know, trying to get any of these sorts of people to talk is almost impossible and most of the time, they’ll lie to you.”

“Yeah, I know. Well, let’s go see what the manager has to say.”

The partners ducked under the yellow tape and walked the few hundred feet to the manager’s office. Before they got the door open, however, two other officers walked out.

“So, what did the manager tell you guys?”

“Not much. Unfortunately, they don’t have a thorough security system set up. There’s only one camera hooked up and that just focuses on the front desk. We checked the footage that they did have, but, apparently, the kid was paying a weekly rate and had his key with him.”

“Shit,” Piper said and then looked at Stillwater and said,

“So, should we just write up a report and put it on the Captain’s desk and say that there were no witnesses?” Just as Piper finished speaking, Stillwater noticed a head peek out of a window from a room which was across from the victim’s room.

“Not just yet; I think I might have found a possible witness. C’mon.”

The two officers casually walked over to the room that Ally had seen the person looking out of the window. She knocked loudly enough on the door so that the person could hear her, but not loudly enough to sound threatening. Piper was just about ready to go to the back of the building in case the person tried to slip away, but it wasn’t necessary when the door opened and the officers saw a light-skinned Hispanic kid who looked like he should be in school instead of a second-rate motel.

“Good morning, I’m Officer Stillwater and this is my partner, Officer Piper. Could we ask you a few questions about the young man who lived in room 8?”

The boy’s dark eyes looked a bit red, as if he had been crying, but he opened the door wider so that the two police officers could enter. The boy went and sat in a chair which was by a desk and waited for the first question.

“What is your name please?”

“I’m Julio. What happened to Tony?”

“He’s been murdered and we are trying to see if anyone can help us find out who may have killed him. Did you know Tony very well?”

“I’ve known him for about a year. I met him at the bus station; he had just gotten here from Arlington, Virginia after his parents kicked him out for being gay. He didn’t have much money on him, so I told him how he could supplement his income. He was nervous, at first, but he eventually got the hang of it.”

“Was Tony his real name and, if it was, what was his last name?”

“Yeah, I assumed that Tony was his real first name cause that’s what he called himself when I met him. He didn’t say what his last name was, though.”

“Did you guys ever…you know, sleep together?”

“Not like you mean, officer. He had been here about a month when he picked up some guy who ended up beating and robbing him. He came to my room for some medical attention and stayed the night with me, but we didn’t fuck around. I, for one, would not take advantage of someone in that condition.”

“Alright, then did you happen to see anything last night? Who might have brought him here; what kind of vehicle did they come in? Anything?”

“Well, I happened to look out my window when I saw the car lights come by, cause I was waiting for a regular to stop by, and I thought that it might be him, but the car parked in front of Tony’s room. The rain was pretty heavy at that time, so it was kinda hard to make out anything clearly. I know that it was an older car and a dark color. Tony and the driver got out, but the only thing that I could see of the trick was that he was wearing a long coat and a hat.”

“Do you remember what time that was?”

“Yeah, like I said, I was expecting someone and I had checked my watch when the car pulled in. It was around a quarter to ten.”

“Did you hear any screams from his room?”

“No, I wouldn’t have heard anything with the sound of the rain and thunder.”

“Do you know what time the person left?”

“All that I can tell you is that when my “friend” left it was after one o’clock and I noticed that the car was gone.”

“Well, if you happen to remember anything else, here’s my card. Give me a call.” Ally said and she then motioned for her partner that it was time to leave. After they left Julio’s room, Ally walked back over to Tony’s area and looked down at the ground. She was looking to see if there were any tire tracks left from the murderer’s car, but it was hard to tell since the area was just loose gravel.

“OK,” said Eric, “it looks like we’ll have to rely on more witnesses to come forward, but you and I both know that the murder of one male prostitute isn’t going to be a major priority. Now, if seven or eight get killed, then we can start looking for a serial killer, but until then…” He let the sentence trail off and walked back to the patrol car. “Or if one of the victims happens to be from a well-to-do family.” Ally finished for him.

The loud music of the club was almost as bad as the sound of a jet taking off over one’s head. That and the flashing lights and the dancing bodies. It was almost like being in a disco from Hell, but then, for some people that was fine. Gerald Taylor was not much of a dancer; he was more of a drinker. Unfortunately for him, this club was close to his hotel and he didn’t like to take taxis, so he put up with what he could get. He had only been in the city for two hours. He was here on a business trip for his company in Dallas and, after grabbing a quick bite from the hotel’s restaurant, he decided that since he didn’t have to be up for the next day’s meeting until nine AM, that he would go have a few drinks before heading to bed. He had been in the club for an hour and had been debating whether to stay an hour longer or not, when a beautiful woman with long blond hair walked up to the bar beside him and ordered a drink. Through the comfortable haze in his head, and after getting a whiff of the light-scented perfume coming from the woman, Gerald Taylor felt confident enough to offer to pay for the woman’s drink. She gave him a warm smile, a slight nod of her head to the bartender, and thanked him for his kindness.

“Hello, my named is Linda. And you are?”

“Gerald, Gerald Taylor.”

“Well, Gerald Gerald Taylor, I’d like to thank you for your kindness.”

“No, it’s just one Gerald…my name, that is, and it’s no problem. A gentleman should always treat a beautiful woman.”

“Well, aren’t you a sweetheart. I can tell from your accent that you’re not from here, Gerald. Is that right?”

“You are quite correct, ma’am. I’m here on business from Dallas.”

“Oh, and what sort of business are you in Mr. Taylor?”

“I’m a vice president of sales for Lone Star Bank.”

“Oh, that sounds interesting.” And so Gerald’s decision had been made for him. He spent the next half hour getting to know Linda, and he was slightly surprised when she asked him where he was staying. Now if he had not been drinking so much, Gerald Taylor may have thought that he had been speaking to a very sly whore but, by the time that she had asked the question, Gerald was not worrying about such things. He had been married to his high school sweetheart for ten years before she left him for his best friend and any attention from a beautiful woman was a boost to his ego. Gerald left a tip for the bartender and escorted Linda through the dancing bodies out of the club. Gerald had told Linda that the hotel was close and that since it was such a lovely night out that a walk in the fresh air would help clear their heads. Linda told him that she did not mind the walk and she agreed with him that the night was beautiful. By the time that they got to the hotel, Gerald’s head was clear enough to know what he was getting himself into, but he didn’t care. Linda sat in an upholstered chair in the lobby while Gerald went up to the front desk to check for any messages and to pick up his room key. The clerk at the front desk told him that there were no messages for him and gave Gerald his key. He had noticed the woman who had come in the hotel with him, but since she did not look like a whore, he didn’t think any more about it or say anything to Gerald about his “guest”.

The police car had been parked in front of the hotel for fifteen minutes, but it did draw attention from pedestrians and hotel guests alike. Eric Piper was speaking to the hotel manager while his partner, Officer Stillwater was up on the fifth floor questioning the maid who had discovered the mutilated body in room 519. The body, of course, was that of Gerald Taylor late of Dallas, Texas.

“Ms. Juneau, what time did you discover the body?”

“It was an hour ago. Since there was no ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on the doorknob, I knocked, waited a minute, and then got out my keys, but it turns out that I did not need it since the door was unlocked. I called out to see if the person might have been in the bathroom, but I didn’t hear anyone. I then went to the bed but saw the body laying there and I screamed. I then ran out to the hallway, got out my cellphone and called the front desk to report what I saw.”

“Did you touch anything in the room?”

“I had only put fresh towels in the bathroom when I came out and saw the body. I wouldn’t dare touch anything in that room; I’ve watched “CSI”, I know better.”

Alexandra Stillwater smiled at the CSI comment and then told the woman that she had done the right thing. After getting Ms. Juneau’s personal information and giving her one of her cards, Alexandra dismissed the woman and entered the room to see if the coroner was finished with his examination.

“Well,” she said, “have you found anything that could help in my investigation?”

The coroner, a short, white-haired man who was a few years away from retiring and named Dr. Joseph Fielding said,

“Other than the fact that the killer used a very sharp weapon and did a very thorough job, no, I haven’t found much of anything, Officer Stillwater, but you can be sure that I shall inform you as soon as I discover anything; you’ll be the first person I call.”

“Well, you don’t have to be such a prick about it, Joe. What’s bothering you this morning?”

“Oh, nothing Ally, I’m just feeling my age, I guess. I didn’t mean to snap at you like that.”

Alexandra had always felt like a daughter to the grouchy old doctor and she didn’t hold it against him when he snapped at her. In fact, he was the only person who could get away with that. If anyone else had spoken to her like that, they had better be able to run very quickly or face Alexandra’s wrath.

“That’s alright, Joe. If you want to talk about it, you know that I’m there for you.”

“Yes, I know, Ally, and no, it’s nothing worth talking about.”

At that moment, the paramedics arrived with a stretcher and placed the body on it and left with Doctor Fielding in tow. Alexandra then put on a pair of latex gloves and searched the room for any evidence. The only things that she found was the late Mr. Taylor’s laptop, wallet and suitcase. There were a few items of clothing in the dresser and closet, so she took them out, examined them, and then put them in the suitcase. She then walked out of the room with the remains and closed the door. She was waiting at the elevator, when the door opened and she saw her partner standing there.

“I was just coming up to let you know what I found out. The manager gave me a list of the employees who were working last night and he said that he would call them and have them report to the station to be interviewed. We did go over some of the video that they have in the lobby, and the only thing that I would say was relevant was that Mr. Taylor picked up his key at 10:38 last night.”

“Fine. I suppose that we’ll have to wait for the employees to contact us.”

“Yes, well, Mr. Thibodaux, the manager, said that the desk clerk from last night will be in today at 4:00 if we want to interview him.”

“Hmmm, no, I think that we can wait, unless you want to come here after work to interview him.”

“No, you’re right. It can wait. Maybe he’ll come down to the station before he starts his shift.”

“We’ll see.”

Around 1:30, an officer walked over to Alexandra’s desk to let her know that there was someone from the Excelsia Hotel to see her. She told the officer to bring him over and, while she was waiting, got on the phone to let Piper know about the visitor. Piper said that he would be right over. When the officer escorted the young man over, Alexandra noticed that he was dressed ready for work. He was around 5’10, 180 lbs, had brown hair and green eyes. She estimated that he must be around 23 or 24 years old. As Alexandra rose from her seat, the young man stepped forward with a smile on his face and his hand out anticipating Alexandra’s actions.

“Good afternoon, Officer Stillwater, I am David Morrison. Mr. Thibodaux called and told me than you wished to speak to me about poor Mr. Taylor?”

“Yes, thank you Mr. Morrison for coming in so soon. Please, have a seat. My partner, Officer Piper, will be joining us soon.”

A minute later, Eric Piper walked over to Alexandra’s desk, looked around and pulled over a vacant chair from another officer’s desk. Before taking his seat, he introduced himself to the young desk clerk and waited for Alexandra to take the lead in the questioning.

“Now, Mr. Morrison, I understand that you work the shift from 1600 hrs until midnight, is that correct?”

“Yes, it is ma’am.”

“Were you working at the time that Mr. Taylor checked into the hotel?”

“Yes, I was. He had just gotten in from the airport at 5:00 PM, checked in, got his key, and told me that he did not want to be disturbed since he planned to take a nap in order to fight his jet lag.”

“How many pieces of luggage did he arrive with?”

“He had a medium-sized dark blue suitcase and a laptop.”

“How many days had he been at the hotel before his untimely death?”

“He had only been with us for two days.”

“Did you see him when he left the hotel that night? And was he with anyone?”

“No, I’m afraid that I did not see him when he left last night. I was on a break around 7:30, so he may have left during that time, or it’s even possible that he left the hotel before I began my shift.”

“But you did see him when he returned, correct?”

“Yes, ma’am. I told him that there were no messages for him and I gave him his key.”

“When he returned to the hotel, what sort of mood was he in and was he by himself when he returned?”

“Well,…I could tell that he had been out drinking, but he wasn’t what I would call “fall-down drunk” and there was a woman with him, or I should say, I noticed a woman come in with him but she did not come up to the desk with him. She stood over by the reading area looking out the window.”

“Could you describe her for us? What sort of clothes she was wearing? Age?”

“Well, the reading area, as you may have noticed from your visit earlier today, is about 100 feet away from the front desk. I noticed that she was blonde, about shoulder-length. She was very nicely dressed in a royal blue sparkly mid-length dress, and as she and Mr. Taylor were heading towards the elevator, I noticed that the top of her head came up to Mr. Taylor’s shoulders, so I guess she was about 5’6”, 5’7” tall. I’m afraid that that is all that I can tell you about her, Office Stillwater.”

“Did you notice the time when she left?”

“I never saw her when she left, so she probably left after I was off my shift.”

“Well, thank you very much for coming in and helping us with our investigation, and if you remember anything else, be sure to give us a call.”

“I will, thank you ma’am, sir.”

“Well, what do you think, Eric?”

“I don’t think that this mystery woman was…how should I put it?…an escort or a prostitute, but she could be our predator.”

“Unfortunately, we don’t have much to go on. The killer of that boy at the Starlite could have been a woman dressed in men’s clothing, but our witness couldn’t tell us much because of the weather. If the killer is a woman, what is her motive?”

“I think that I’ll go check out the bars near the hotel and see if any doormen or bartenders can give me any more information.”

“Yeah, you do that and I’ll stay here in case any more of the hotel employees come in.”

Eric walked into the Z-Klub after determining that it was open. During the daylight hours, it served only as a bar but the place got packed after 8:00 when the deejay came on. Eric took a moment for his eyes to get used to the dim lighting before stepping up to the bar. Since he was not in uniform, he showed the bartender his badge when the man walked up to him and asked for his order.

“For now, I’ll just take a mineral water. I’m working on a murder case and I’d like to know if either of these people look familiar.” Having said that, he sat a pair of photographs on the bar. One was of Gerald Taylor, which was from his driver’s licence, and the other was of the woman that he had brought to the hotel with him. The picture of the woman was not very clear since it had been taken from a distance and was from the security camera. The bartender set down the bottle of water and told Eric that it was on the house. The man picked up Gerald’s picture first but did not look at it for long. He then looked at the other picture, but because of it’s lack of clarity, put it back down and told Eric that neither one of the people in the pictures looked familiar. Eric picked up the photos, put them in his jacket pocket and asked the bartender for the names of the deejay and the night bartender. When he received the information, he gave the man his card and told him to let the two men know that they could either come down to the station before work or on their day off. The bartender said that he would relay the information, but he had to correct Piper about one thing: the deejay, Tee Tonez, was a woman, her real name was Tina Tunetti. Eric thanked him for the correction and walked out of the club. One down, four more to go.

In the meantime, Alexandra sat at her desk and was going over some paperwork when her phone rang. When she answered it and heard who was on line, she sat up in her chair.

“Hey, Joe, how’s it going?”

“Well, Allie, I am about to send you my report on Mr. Taylor, but I thought that I would let you know that I did find one unusual thing about the body…or I should say, found on the body.”

“What did you find Joe?”

“I almost missed it at first, but then the light hit it just right. I found a strand of hair which did not belong to the victim. After running some tests, I determined that the hair was not natural; it came from a wig.”

“A wig!?! But how could a strand of hair from a wig come off? The only thing that comes to mind is if the victim managed to get his hand on the murderer’s head and pulled hard enough to tear off a strand of hair. For that to happen, they must have been…”

“Getting it on? Yes, that was what I was thinking. I’m just letting you know that the murderer wasn’t a true blond.”

“Well, I appreciate that Joe. I’ll let Eric know when he gets back.”

By the time that Eric had finished questioning the managers and employees of the remaining clubs on his list, it was past his regular lunchtime, so he stopped at a sandwich shop to get something to eat. After paying for his food and finding a table to sit at, his cell phone rang. Alexandra was calling to get an update on his part of the investigation and to let him know that she had just received the coroner’s report concerning Gerald Taylor’s murder.

“So, anything interesting?”

“Yes, he found a strand of blond hair on the victim.”

“Well, we already knew that. Just have forensics look into it and see if we can get any DNA from it.”

“That won’t be possible. The killer was wearing a wig.”

“Oh, that’s just great. Maybe we can determine who made the wig and check their records for the buyer.”

“Good idea. I’ll look into that.”

“Hold on, Allie, I’ve got another call coming in….Officer Eric Piper, how may I help you?”

“Yes, my name is Tina Tunetti. My boss told me that you wanted to talk to me about a murder.”

“Oh, yes, Ms. Tunetti, I do. Are you at the club now?”

“No, I just woke up and saw a message on my phone. I’m at home right now.”

“Where do you live? I can come over after I have my lunch.”

“That’s alright, if you’re in the area of the club, I can come see you. I have to stop by there to pick up my check. I’ll be there in about thirty minutes, if that’s alright with you.”

“Great, I’ll see you then.”

Piper hung up the call and told Alexandra that he would be speaking to the deejay at Z-Klub in half-an-hour and that when he was done with that, he would report back to her about how it had gone. Alexandra told him that she would wait for him at the station, even if it ran into overtime. Having finished with his call, Piper dug into his sandwich with a sigh.

By three o’clock, Piper walked through the door of Z-Klub and spotted a woman sitting at the end of the bar. She stood up when she saw him and Piper figured that she was around 5’6”, late twenties, and had brown hair with a red stripe along her bangs.

“Ms. Tunetti, I assume?”

“Yes, I am Officer Piper, and you can call me Tina. Shall we sit at the bar or would you prefer a table? Can I have them get you something from the bar?”

“No, thank you Tina, I’m good. A table will be fine.”

Piper took out the photographs that he had been showing around and handed them to Tina. She looked at them, then said,

“I did notice him, mainly because he was seated near the booth. He looked like a guy who came in to drink and not to dance. The woman came up beside him to order a drink, but, apparently, he said something to her and he paid for her drink. They sat there for about an hour or two. I did get a closer view of her when I went on break. We both ended up in the ladies room at the same time. We didn’t say anything to each other, but from what I could see of her, I’d have to say that she was about 35 years old, and an inch or two taller than me. She was wearing a pair of ruby earrings, nothing too flashy, but I did tell her that they looked real nice. I tend to like red, as you may have noticed.”

“Yes, I have. What did she say when you complimented her on her earrings?”

“She said that they were a Christmas gift from her ex-husband.”

“Did she say anything else to you?”

“No, she just dried her hands and left.”

“Did you see them when they left the club?”

“No, but after I got back from my break, they were gone.”

“Thank you for your time, Tina. If you think of anything else, be sure to give me a call.”

After completing his interview for the day, Eric Piper returned to the station to see if Alexandra had any more information. Alexandra was not at her desk, so he thought that she might be somewhere else in the station. Just as he was about to call her, he noticed a note on her desk. It had an address and a time on it, so he called Alexandra to find out what it was about. After Alexandra’s phone rang for a couple minutes without her answering it, Piper got worried. The time on the note said 7:00 PM at 6335 Western Avenue. Piper thought about the address, trying to recall what the area was like. Since it was already 6:00 PM, Piper decided that he would go meet Alexandra at the address as her backup. While he was on his way to the address, Piper recalled that that area was not in the best of neighborhoods. In fact, it was a rather run-down area which the city had not really bothered to make any effort to clean up. As he was driving up the 60th block of Western Avenue, the weather started to change. At first, it was a light drizzle, but one look at the approaching clouds told Piper that it would be a miserable night to be out looking for murderers. At the intersection of 62nd and Prospect, while Piper was waiting for the light to turn green, he tried to call Alexandra again. Still, no reply. From the intersection, Piper could see that the address that he was looking for was in the area of an abandoned warehouse. He drove up to the old building and parked behind Alexandra’s car which he saw when he pulled up to the warehouse. He checked his gun and pepper spray to make sure that he was prepared for any situation which might occur. He got out of his car, locked the door, and walked up to the warehouse door. It was slightly open, so he slowly pulled on the door, hoping that the door was not rusted enough to make any noise. Once he was inside, he looked around for any evidence of which way Alexandra may have gone. Since he was unaware of why Alexandra would come to this place alone and not let him know about it, he cautiously took his gun out of his holster, and walked slowly forward, keeping alert for any voices or sounds. Suddenly, he heard a sound coming from the right of him. He quickened his pace, and just as he got to an open area, he saw the bloody corpse. As he approached it, he kept looking around in case the killer was still in the area. Holding his gun out to his side, he started to kneel down by the corpse to see if he could identify the body. From the clothing, it looked like the man had been a security guard who had been in the wrong place at the wrong time. Piper was just rising from the floor, when:

SLAM!!!

The lights, as they say, went out in Piper’s head.

When Piper came to, he saw, through his blurry eyes, a figure standing by his head. It was a woman with blond hair, a black trench coat, which had splatters of blood on it, and who stood in the shadows. Piper started to shake his head in order to clear his vision, but the pain was excruciating. The woman raised her hand, which Piper noticed had a cleaver. He also noticed that his arms and legs were tied up and that he had been disarmed.

“Who are you? Why are you doing this?” The woman, at first, did not say anything, but soon, Piper heard the sound of low laughter.

“Men! You always think that you’re so smart! Well, let me tell you, you are not! You seek to control women and use them for your filthy, filthy purposes! Well, now I will be the avenger of all women who can’t fight for themselves!” Having said that, the woman stepped out of the shadows and Piper’s eyes widened in shock. He wasn’t in shock for long, and said,

“Alexandra? What are you doing?”

The woman stopped and looked down at Piper with anger in her eyes.

“I am NOT Alexandra. I AM LINDA! Alexandra is a slave to men! She didn’t say anything when those men did what they did to her! She does not deserve to exist! I, Linda, will now control her! And you, little man, will be erased from her memories!” Saying that, “Linda” raised the cleaver and was about to start her business, when Piper heard what sounded like two shots of heavily exhaled breathes. Linda’s head jerked up and then she fell limply across Piper’s body. Piper heard footsteps and then, rising like a ghost from the ground, the face of Doctor Joseph Fielding appeared. His face had a sad expression on it and, in his right hand, he held what looked like, to Piper, a tranquilizer gun.

“Doc, what’s going on here? And why are you here anyway?”

Before answering Piper’s questions, the doctor laid the gun down and pulled the woman’s body off of him. When Piper sat up, he saw two tranquilizer darts, one sticking out of the woman’s neck and the other in her back.

“I was afraid that this would happen when I saw the first body, but I didn’t want to believe it.”

“Believe what? What are you talking about?”

“It’s a long story, Officer Piper, and I think that we should tie her up before the sedatives wear off.”

As Piper and the doctor carried Alexandra’s limp body out of the warehouse and put her in the backseat of Piper’s car, the doctor started to explain. Doctor Fielding had known Alexandra Stillwater for over twenty years. He was a friend of her parents. When Alexandra was eleven years old, she had been abducted by three men who had broken out of prison. She had been walking home from school along a lonely dirt road. Doctor Fielding told Piper that he and Alexandra’s family lived in a different state at that time. Anyway, he said, these men grabbed her and took her into a nearby barn and took turns raping and beating her. This had gone on for two hours, and while the men were deciding whether to kill her or not, the man who owned the barn had seen what was going on and called the police. The men were about ready to kill Alexandra, except they didn’t have a weapon to do it; the police rushed into the barn before they could find anything. Alexandra was in a total state of shock and was taken to the local hospital. Doctor Fielding was on duty when Alexandra was brought in and it was his job to notify the girl’s parents. Alexandra was in the hospital for two weeks and the doctor made it his duty to look in on her as much as possible when her parents couldn’t be at the hospital.

“By the time that she was discharged, her father and I were the only men who she could stand to have around her. Unfortunately, not all medicine can cure all hurts. A year later, Alexandra and her parents were visiting some relatives. She was playing with a cousin who was two years older than her and when no one was around, he tried to get her to have sex with him. I think that that was the first time that “Linda” appeared. The next thing that anyone knew was that cousin came screaming back to the house, saying that Alexandra had threatened to cut off his dick. Well, that was the end of that visit. Alexandra’s parents brought her back to me and told me what had happened. Now, at that time, I had seen that movie Sybil, so I had an idea. I knew a psychiatrist, who was a woman and a friend, and I suggested to Alexandra’s parents that they let this woman hypnotize Alexandra so that we could decide how to deal with this situation. They agreed and I took her to meet my friend. Long story, short…Alexandra had, at that time, fragmented into six different personalities and Linda was the worst of the lot. Instead of having Alexandra placed in an institution, it was decided that Alex would continue treatment with my friend. After two years of sessions, everything seemed to be fine. Alexandra graduated from high school and went to college, then she went to the Academy without any relapses. Then, a month ago, she was coming out of the grocery store late at night and two guys jumped her. They forced her into her car and when one of the men was being lookout, the other was about to rape her when it happened…Linda was back and she was pissed! Because there wasn’t much space in the back seat of the car for Linda to really let loose, she, apparently, was ferocious enough for the guy to yell and get out of the car. They must have run like the Devil was after them. Anyway, I stopped by Alex’s home the next day, not knowing what had happened. However, when Alex was out of the room for a few minutes, I noticed two boxes sitting in a corner. I looked into them and saw that one had a trench coat in it and the other had a blond wig. I didn’t think much about it at the time, but when Alex came back into the living room, she was behaving a bit disjointed. She insisted that it was just from not getting enough sleep, but I began to get worried the more that she came to work tired, so I decided to keep an eye on her. Unfortunately, when that boy was killed, she had fooled me by disguising herself as a man, but when I found the strand of false hair from the second body, I decided that she had to be stopped, so I had my assistant, who she has never met, call and say that he had information about the serial killer. I had him give her the time and address and I drove to the warehouse as fast as was safely possible.”

“YOU called her? Why didn’t you call me to let me know what was going on?”

“Because of our history. I wanted to handle this since she trusts me. Unfortunately, traffic held me up so that by the time I got there it was almost too late. She must have heard you and thought that you were the informant.”

Piper glanced in the mirror to see if Alexandra had come to yet, and seeing that she hadn’t, *asked the doctor,

“What do you suggest we do about her? After all, she will have to stand trial for murder, and I don’t think that prison would help her to get better, do you?”

“No. We had better take her back to the station and have her put away until then.”

“What do you think will happen to her?”

“I will testify about her condition and considering that she has been stable for the last fifteen years, I think that she will be able to be admitted to the mental institution. Maybe, they’ll even let me consult with the doctors there.”

The rain that had been threatening to be a torrential downpour failed to materialize. Piper and Fielding spent the rest of the ride in silence, thinking their own private thoughts of what might have been if Alexandra had lived a better life.

Theme

The theme of my novel, The Corporate Whore of Babylon, is the misuse of power and how it causes people to be led into doing things which they might not normally do.  It also centers on how people are easily manipulated by fear.  The main character, Detective James Gladd, is a man who has overcome some of his own demons and now, due to his involvement in solving a tycoon’s mysterious murder, must face different demons, both figuratively and in reality.  He is aided in this venture by a detective who, due to her own case which is linked to Gladd’s, joins in his hunt, and a wealthy techno-nerd who has a fondness for disguises.

 

The four sons of the murdered tycoon, William Babble, are forced to decide whether power is more important in their lives or whether they will do anything to help Detective Gladd and his friends.  When one of the four brothers decides to side with Goodness, he uses his power to help Gladd.  His older brothers, however, are sucked into a cult whose main purpose is to take over the world.

 

There are several references to sites which are dominant in a lot of today’s conspiracy theories, i.e. the Georgia Guidestones.  At the beginning of the book, there is a reference to the Mayan Prophecy about the end of the world which was a big news “item” in 2012.  Summer’s Place in Idaho, which is where the cult meets to draft their plans for world domination, is based on a slightly similar group in Northern California which was the focus of a television series.  So, one could say that this book is another standard story of good vs. evil, but then isn’t all of Life this same struggle?

 

English: Georgia Guidestones

English: Georgia Guidestones (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

The Corporate Whore of Babylon: Excerpt

Chapter Three

The annoying alarm clock went off besides the head of the sleeping detective. As he made his way up from the sands of sleep, he opened one eye and saw that it was noon. Normally he would have been at work by now but, due to the inconvenient death of Mr. William Babble, he had to return home to try to capture the hours that he had lost. So, he got out of bed, took a shower, checked his face to see if he needed a shave (he decided that he didn’t), and left his apartment. When he arrived at the station, he headed to his desk and found a note there. Captain Janus requested his presence, so he went to his boss’ office. As he went up to the half-opened door, he heard Janus just putting down his phone’s receiver. He knocked.

“Come in,” said Janus.Untitled

“You wanted to see me Captain?”

“Yes. I received a call from Doctor Chang concerning the Babble case. It looks like it was murder. He said that he found a small puncture mark in Mr. Babble’s back hairline. I told him that I would send you over to the labs when you got in.”

“You got it Captain.”

“Be sure to report back to me when, or if, you get any more details. If looks like you’re going to be a bit busy for awhile because I’m putting you on this case”.

“Gee, thanks, boss”.

“No problem”, he said with a small smirk on his face.

“So, Doc, what specifically have you found”?

“Well, the puncture mark that I found in the victim’s hairline is definitely from a syringe. I’ve drawn some blood and am expecting an analysis soon to confirm my suspicions.”

“Well, what are your suspicions”?

“From what I’ve observed, it looks like death occurred by heart attack induced through the introduction of a large dose of potassium chloride”.