David Swartz "RELIGION WITH AN EDGE"
biblicalfictions.com
Poetry for the Curious across the Religious Spectrum
Snappers

a novel

 

In Dr. Rance Fervod, Jr.'s palatial living room was a glossy 2 by 3 foot blow-up of the original founder of the Pet Rock, Lucian B. Carter.  The photograph was situated over the large marble fireplace now converted into a shrine complete with large incense burners and a massive candelabrum.  At the base of the shrine was a small prayer carpet.  Dr. Rance Fervod, Jr. was at this present moment prostrate on the carpet.  He had been praying for several hours.  He was covered with sweat.

     A small tinkling chime intoned from the distant alcove.  Fervod quivered noticeably and snapped erect.  He stood with moist eyes and examined the founder gratefully.  He pivoted.  A little hunched man was standing at the entrance to the alcove with an aluminum tray.  On the tray was a frosted pitcher of tonic water and a squat decanter of Gilbey's gin.  Fervod took a seat by the large bay window and clapped his hands sharply.  The little hunched man scuttled over the rug and set the tray on the coffee table.  Dr. Rance Fervod, Jr. had his first gin and tonic of the morning.

     What quirk of destiny had placed Dr. Fervod on that ottoman with a tumbler of fruity beverage at 8:23 AM on a Saturday morning in the month of June 1979?  What forces at play in the universe had led him to this retreat on Porky Mountain to labor at the large microwave antenna on the south slope?  Even within the stout walls of Fervod's domicile could be heard the abrasive bulldozers of the housing project at the base of Porky Mountain north chewing into the once verdant landscape.  What machinations in the malign brain of distorted cognizance had nudged Dr. Rance Fervod, Jr. on this heady and precipitate road to destiny?  Perhaps no one, not even Fervod himself, could answer these questions.

     Rance Fervod ascended the aluminum rigging to the scanning apparatus erected upon the roof of his mountain retreat.  He was wearing an Aztec pattern bathrobe and small frilly slippers adorned with velveteen tassels.  He climbed into the control booth and began pressing small tabs.  Above the muted roar of the bulldozers was the whirr of the smaller disk.  Dr. Rance Fervod trained it on the distant lake at the base of Porky Mountain.  He chattered with maniacal glee.  He went down for his second gin and tonic of the morning.

 

 

On Lake Broadamarahara a lean glistening man, "utterly brown and golden like the sun," snaked his graceful way on water skis across the wake of a powerful Criss Craft inboard.  He pivoted and snaked back across the sparkling churning water, a viscous slap under the mighty thrum of the inboard motor.  He laughed and flashed his perfect teeth, wriggled his tight buttocks in the bright brief suit.  Over the lean pectorals of his lithe taut chest was the standard flotation vest monogrammed R. B. as token of the mighty resort so white and prominent on the water's edge—the Royal Broadamore—with its flotilla of pleasure craft and its broad fine beach of utterly white, utterly impeccable sand.

     On the Criss Craft were supple youths in brief colorful costumes smoking 120 millimeter cigarettes and giggling tight small spasms of delight in the crisp morning air.  They watched him take the ramp and spin about to slap the water in a reverse twist which displayed his lean back and buttocks glistening in the brevity of his suit as he proceeded nimbly to snake left toward calm water under the inboard's thrum.

     Suddenly the stalwart skier lost his balance and plunged awkwardly into the emerald surf.  Giggles erupted aboard the Criss Craft, shrill yelps of utter glee and titillation.  The inboard slacked its pace in a wide arc, an approximate parabola, indolent and calm out over the placid lake.

     When they got back there were only a shredded floatation jacket and a mulched and minced cadaver.

 

 

In a working class bar in the seamier side of town, Burt Spew, detective of the local Broadamarahara force, was picking his nose and rubbing his finger off on the base of his stool.  He was drinking a 25 cent draft of Schaeffer's beer, his 10th of the morning.  It wasn't as good as the first 9, no matter what they said.

     Burt Spew was a big man, a burly giant of a man, perhaps 6 5 in the cheap platforms split to accommodate the girth of his feet.  He was 43 as of this very morning and celebrating a weekend off.  He was talking to Wilbert Nagey, also 43, also a detective of the Broadamarahara force.  He was saying:

     "Cheap bastards wouldn't come across with the last 35 miles of the gas allowance last week.  Maybe you got 20 bucks you could lend me till Friday."

     Wilbert Nagey remained obstinately silent.  He was viewing a small clot of phlegm on Detective Spew's finger.  Spew said:

    "What the deuce are you doing here anyways?  It's not your day off.  Maybe you got a message.  Right?"

     "That's right, Burt.  They want you down at the station.  Seems there's some trouble at the Broadamore.  Some guy on skis got chewed up by some muskies.  There's going to be hell to pay."

 

 

 

Burt Spew stood at a large magnesium chest in the city morgue and reached down to the lid.  He grasped it in his able blunt fingers.  He lifted.  He wheeled dizzily and vomited with infinite loathing in a small squat sink.  He leaned down and held his head under the faucet.  He rinsed out his mouth.  He rinsed out his partial plate.  Burt Spew raised up to his full height and grinned horribly.  He said:

     "Well chief.  You got a real prize in there."

     Chief Starbuck nudged the side of his nose and smiled malevolently.  He hitched his trousers and glanced over at Nagey.  He said:

     "Well I'm going to throw it to you and Nagey.  We're getting a lab man in here from North Point later this afternoon to go over the remains.  I'll let you know his findings."

     Burt Spew wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.  There was a small clot of vomit on the penultimate knuckle of his index finger.  He wiped it off on his trousers.  He said:

     "Maybe you could tell me a little about the guy in that box.  What's left of him."

     "Lance Sterling, Jr.  He was staying at the Broadamore.  Connected with the Bridgemont Sterlings that own the Bridgemont Herald.  Seems he was headed for big things.  Listen, Spew.  Something made those muskies go wild out there, and we're going to get to the bottom of this, or Broadamarahara's going to be a ghost town in a matter of weeks.  You check it out and keep in touch.  And stay off the booze."

     Burt Spew coughed violently and swallowed.  The sound of his swallowing was massive and particular.  It conveyed great emotional intensity.  Chief Starbuck left the room.

 

 

When Burt Spew knocked on 713 A at the Broadamore, he was not prepared for the willowy blonde that presented herself in a filmy negligee with smart apple breasts so pert through the diaphanous undulations.  Nor was Burt Spew prepared to be led immediately into a darkened room to partake of the sweet mystery and verve of that nubile lady.

     In fact afterwards as he wiped himself thoroughly with that same negligee, he was unprepared for the little Colt Cobra revolver she trained on him, babbling in hysteric fury.  The nubile willowy blonde said the following:

     "You're a pig.  I ought to blow a little hole in you.  I've never been so humiliated."

     Spew hawked up a good one and spit it on the floor.  He entered the remainder of his garments and walked imperiously from the room.  He poured himself a generous dollop of whiskey neat in a clear tumbler and drained it.  He took a seat on a lush ottoman and fired up a Senior Service non-filter cigarette and said:

     "Put that little toy away, missy.  I need some information."

     The blonde collapsed into a large monogrammed bean-bag chair and tossed the revolver a clatter across the glossy hardwood.  She proceeded to render a full account of the tragedy on Lake Broadamarahara.  Spew listened coldly.  He nudged back on the ottoman and examined the soles of his platforms for tacky nuisances, which he peeled off to litter the industrial carpet, a voluptuous orange pile.  He coughed.  He said at last:

     "This Sterling.  He wasn't on drugs, was he?"

     "Of course not.  What a terrible thing to suggest."

     "And the rest of them in the boat.  Did you see anybody slip foreign substances into the water, pills or herbs of any conceivable nature, potent liquids or chemicals?"

     "No sir."

     "Well I guess that's it.  You just report to the station before you leave town and give them a forwarding address.  And get some clothes on, you'll feel better.  And forget about this whole thing.  Get some rest.  Take a vitamin supplement and a sedative, and maybe you'll have a whole new perspective.  Nice knowing you, missy.  I've got to make tracks."

     Burt Spew entered the corridor massively.  A little hunched man scuttled past with a tray of gin and tonics.

 

 

Burt Spew stood at the edge of the pier with a chunk of raw meat on a piece of binder twine.  He lowered it into the water.  He held it there for a minute and pulled it out.  He had a good look and tossed it back into the water along with the twine.  He pulled an empty Budweiser bottle out of his pocket and lay flat down on the planks and reached down and filled the bottle with water.  He screwed down the cap and gathered up.  He dug at the crack of his buttocks and smelled his fingers surreptitiously.  He shoved the bottle back in his pocket and walked in toward shore.

     There was an old man sitting in the stern of a big launch.  Burt Spew sat down on the pier and swung his legs over the side.  The old man was gumming at a pastrami sandwich.  His hands shook horribly, and he had great difficulty swallowing.  There was saliva on his chin.  The old man said:

     "How's it going, Burt?  How they hanging?"

     "Bout the same, Wayne.  See you still got the shakes.  No, I was going to sit tight over in Sparky's taproom, but they had some trouble out here, and aside from a hot piece about an hour back it's been a pretty dismal time all around.  Lose your teeth again?"

     "Yeah.  That's right, Burt.  Ain't saying how.  Pretty embarrassing.  I was on the scene when they brought in the deceased.  Pretty repulsive sight.  Almost lost it, Burt."

     "Yeah well maybe you could tell me about the others.  That's their boat down there, ain't it?  The white one with the stripes."

     "That's right, Burt.  Nice boat."

     "What'd they look like?  The youngsters on board."

     "Pretty green, Burt.  You see I had to hose off the Criss Craft.  Took me about an hour.  There was a couple hunks wedged into the slats on the bottom, and then I had to get it all into one of them big green garbage bags before your boys showed up, and there was a lot of puke just about everywheres.  Burt, you don't look so good."

     Burt Spew gagged horribly.  He swayed unsteadily and gripped the edge of the pier.  He blinked rapidly like a rabid owl and wiped his nose with the back of his hand.  He said:

     "You didn't maybe see nothing out of order, Wayne?  Anything suspicious."

     Wayne Shorter grinned horribly, a toothless imbecilic gap over the saliva-coated chin.  He hawked up a good one and spit it into a pail of steaming water between his massive feet.  He said:

     "Well Burt.  There was a big pinscher on board.  One of them Dobermans.  And they had to chain him up tight to keep him off the cadaver, and I ain't so sure they got to him on time cause his belly was all swoll up pretty fierce, Burt, and I guess that was the worst part of the whole damned episode."

     Detective Spew went sick over the front of his shirt.

 

 

Burt Spew pulled up behind the mobile laboratory in his 1967 Volvo, trailing smoke.  Inside was a slender little man in a stained white smock.  The slender little man was smoking a Silva Thin delicately with his legs crossed all the way over.  His little patent leather pump stabbed the air with little glossy pokes under a stretch of ribbed polyester day glo socks and a wink of hairless pink flesh.  The little man's name was Dr. Stacey Benson.  The little man said:

     "You must be Spew.  Here.  Have a seat next to me in this little canvas chair.  We can discuss the biopsy if you'd like or just chat a bit, pass the time, so to speak."

     "Listen here.  I'm a big man in a big hurry, and I don't chat.  I might chew the fat, gab, shoot the shit, or mull things over, but I don't chat."

     Detective Spew hauled the empty out filled with lake water and set it up on the stainless cabinet by Dr. Benson.  He fired up a Senior Service and squatted in the corner, flicking a spent match on the immaculate floor and cutting a soft moist sneaker that dampened his Jockey briefs and billowed out into the room horribly, misting Benson's wire-rims.

     "It's a little early in the day for me, Mr. Spew."

     "Naw, that's lake water.  I want you to run it through an analysis.  What did you get from the corpse?"

     "Nothing out of the order.  I must shut off that fan.  I believe we've got a bad connection.  Don't you smell something?'

     Dr. Stacey Benson reached a manila folder down from the cabinet.  Spew grinned horribly and sucked in fumes from the cigarette.  He cut another sneaker and dug in his buttocks.  He bounced on the balls of his feet and took the folder from Benson.  He gave it a quick read and cleared his throat abrasively.  He hawked one into the palm of his hand and snuffed out the roach of his cigarette in the viscous wad.  He wiped his hands off on his trousers and passed the folder back to Benson.

     "As you see, there was nothing particularly unusual in the remaining tissues.  No deposits, nothing to indicate that this Sterling chap was set up, nothing to explain the unusual behavior of the muskellunge themselves.  We've got one of our people trawling right now for a specimen.  I'll keep you posted."

     Benson talking had placed a limp soft hand on Burt Spew's muscular thigh, emphasizing his remarks perhaps with little tugs of pulsing emotion, little squeezes of the delicate fingers.  Spew looked down at the little hand with infinite loathing.  He reached down and covered it with his own massive paw as if tenderly, feelingly, with infinite empathy and warmth.  He squeezed.  There were little short burps of mashed bone and a hideous scream that carried all the way 2 blocks  to the inner recesses of the station house where Phil Starbuck, the chief, said:

     "There it goes.  I knew he'd make a play for him."

 

 

Burt Spew was into his 3rd bowl of chilli at the Broadamarahara Diner on 17th Street when Wilbert Nagey walked in, dragging his left foot, as he was accustomed to do at that time of the evening.  Nagey slid into the booth across from Spew, had a look at the fly-specked menu, and ordered a cup of coffee.  They sat there in silence punctuated by Spew's digestive apparatus eliminating a bit of gas into the already fetid atmosphere.  Spew said:

     "Well Wil, turn up anything?"

     "Can't say, Burt.  I talked to some of the young crowd.  Heard you left your trail.  That Benson's pretty pissed about his hand.  Thought I'd drop over to the community college at 8:30 to interview one of the profs there.  Seems they got a pretty big name in the biology department."

     "What's that, Wil?  Another fruit?"

     "Don't really know.  Name's Fervod.  Keeps pretty much to himself.  What he's doing here no one seems to know.  Has that big house up there on Porky Mountain.  Independently wealthy from what I hear.  Building a big antenna on the south slope.  Supposed to have something to do with his specialty.  Looks weird, talks weird, has an assistant name of Boris, and both of them are alkies, heavy into the sauce."

     "Well see what you can turn up.  I'm going to head over to Sparky's and cool off.  It's been a real pisser of a day, Wil.  Little lady over at the Broadamore nearly blew a hole in me cause I used her negligee for ass wipe.  Then I go into that big van for a little information and run into a homo.  You need me, check Sparky's.  Maybe you got that twenty, huh?"

     Wilbert Nagey grimaced and slipped a green bill over the encrusted vinyl.  Detective Spew reached a big slice of Wonder Bread out of a green mesh basket at his elbow and wiped up a puddle of chilli from the table and shoved it in his mouth.  He chewed savagely and broke wind.  Wilbert Nagey tossed a dime on his saucer and slid out.  There was a lot of grease on the window, but they could tell it was turning dark.

 

 

Dr. Rance Fervod, Jr. sat on the large ottoman sipping his 27th gin and tonic of the day.  Boris, assistant, technical advisor, servant, confidant, chauffeur, hovered about with a pair of natty Stetsons, a large black vinyl cloak, a walking stick.  He knelt feverishly to the thick shag carpet and fitted on the footwear, stood as Fervod entered the cloak, scraped and bowed obsequiously in a flutter of nerves and agitation.  Boris was wearing a jaunty uniform with wide lapels, a pair of spit-shined boots, a small brimmed officer's cap.

     "The briefcase, Boris.  Quickly.  My papers."

     Boris scuttled toward the study and returned with small blurred bursts of rapid clumsy steps.

     Outside was the coffin-like metallic gray Continental.  Boris held the door for his aged master and slipped in behind the wheel.  He turned with immense turbulence and fluttered his eyelids.  He held out a gnarled hand.

     "Here is 5 dollars.  That should keep you within the limits of moderation while I'm in the classroom."

     "Thank you.  Oh thank you.  I won't fail you, Dr. Fervod.  I won't soil your good name."

     "Just make absolutely certain that you're outside in the parking lot at 10:15, or I'll personally thrash you.  You know what happened the last time."

     "Please, sir.  Please.  I'll be a good boy.  I'll prove myself.  Oh my.  I'm choking.  Now it's all right.  There."

     The Continental erupted into a mighty thrum, and they nudged down the long road toward serpentine darkness.  Dr. Fervod sat back sinister, smoking a reedy black cigar and munching a granola bar.  He popped a small white mint into his gaping mouth and moistened his lips.  Trees flashed past like withered arms.  It was utterly quiet in the back seat, just the muted thrum of the sleek sedan toward an appointment with destiny, a flock of bloodsuckers awaiting his brilliance.  Fervod pulled on the cigar and closed his eyes to uterine rhythm and the moist blab and scud of radial tires on the uneven asphalt.

 

 

Wilbert Nagey, trailing his left foot, slid into a desk at the rear of 113 D of Hanley South, a bleak pile of blond brick on the Broadamarahara Community College campus.  It was toward the end of the period, and Fervod, enamored of his train of thought, barely noticed the intrusion.  He was wielding his walking stick toward a large blow-up of humanoid teeth, quivering in hypnotic delirium, his voice stabbing shrilly over his rapt audience, beyond the reach of mortal comprehension, lost in a sea of dark fantasy, a personal vision so hideous and terrifying as to overwhelm the rudimentary intellects scattered across the room in a glitter of summer costumes.  Fervod said:

     "Teeth.  Yes teeth.  Teeth are the core of the evolutionary process, the focal point of the biosphere.  All organic life ingests, subsumes, consumes, its neighbor.  The great food chain.  To live is to exist as carnivore, predator.  The evolutionary surge is in effect a nightmare.  Throughout this planet are billions upon billions of hungry mouths, organisms pulsing their fitful lives out in consumption of organic life, and toward what end, may I ask you?  To eat.  Teeth.  To suck, ingest, chew, masticate, feast, feed, devour, consume, gluttonize their way eternally, a massive embolism of writhing greed so hideous as to wring tears from absolute and unqualified malign intellect, to bring a legion of devils to their knees in awed reverence and everlasting pain at the phantasm, the hideous dream, of deranged biological necessity perpetuated by the first protozoan, the first paramecium, the first singular and rudimentary trilobite, the first pterodactyl, and gaining, ever upward through this monstrous unyielding miasma entitled evolution, a nightmare of total and everlasting outrage, students, and the word is teeth.  Teeth.  Teeth.  Let's hear it.  Teeth."

     Wilbert Nagey found himself shouting with the others despite himself as Fervod swatted the blow-up mightily with the walking stick and pointed to his own mouth, a repulsive malevolent grin yellow and sharp; until finally Fervod pulled the blow-up off the wall and stomped on it and turned and walked out imperiously to stunned silence and suddenly vociferous cheers, mighty huzzahs, a great cacophonous din that nearly claimed their sanity, Nagey's sanity, as he lurched out in hot pursuit.

 

 

"Dr. Fervod.  Dr. Fervod."

     The face that turned back was cadaverous, a skeletal grin, a flicker of emotion over the ligaments, the tendons, the dried jellies of the drawn flesh like tremors of electricity under a rotten hide that promised to shudder into tiny cracks over a great oozing chancre.  The voice that came with it was dead, spent, metallic, even, cold, like Shakespeare on a cheap transistor radio, like Mantovani on a crystal set, barely audible, bare of intonation, a harsh thin rasp like a scalpel into a suppuration, hideous, flat, malevolent and brooding, like the last rattle of emphysema or small dry insects ticking in a black gourd.  Fervod said:

     "I haven't had the pleasure."

     Nagey's voice came hoarse and strident in small gaps of absence filled with the malign presence of Fervod himself, digging into his vest for a Silva Thin.

     "I'd like to talk to you.  I'm Wilbert Nagey of the local force."

     "Local force?  Are there forces at work?  I'm not sure I read you, young man.  Are you an agent?  What are you after?"

     "The Boadamarahara P. D.  Police Department.  I just want a little information.  I suppose you've heard about this morning's tragedy.  What I want to know is you have any idea what made those muskies latch onto that young man."

     Fervod beckoned with a long clawed sinister finger.  Nagey crept closer and smelled the gin fumes.  Dr. Rance Fervod, Jr. clasped his shoulders and stared malevolently into Wilbert Nagey's eyeballs.  He cackled a hideous rasp and pitter and cleared his throat.  He said:

     "Appetite, sir.  Naked unclothed appetite.  Those muskies were hungry."

     Nagey backed off from the old man's reeking breath.  Fervod fired up his Silva Thin with short spastic gestures and fumed a long bifurcated column down over his black vinyl cloak.  Nagey said:

     "But I don't understand.  Why would they chew up a man like that?  Why it's horrible."

     Fervod fluttered his eyes like a moribund myopic pigeon and inserted one long fingernail into the black gap of his left nostril.  He dislodged a clot of phlegm and held it to the light as if examining it for possible flaws.  He popped it into his mouth and lolled it carefully over his tongue and swallowed abrasively.

     "Mr. Nagey, I have a whole briefcase of term papers to go over.  I have 3 appointments with some of the more conscientious of that dismal flock of illiterates in there.  I'm leaving at 10:15.  Maybe you could stop by my office in about an hour, and we could talk this over.  That's 213 D."

     Wilbert Nagey nodded mutely, and the old man turned abruptly and scuttled down the corridor.  Nagey checked his watch.  It was exactly 8:50 PM.

 

 

Detective Burt Spew was solidly into his 17th shot and draw of the evening when a little hunched man in a uniform slid into a stool beside him as if from another planet and asked timidly for a sloe gin fizz.  Detective Burt Spew was solidly into his 18th shot and draw of the evening when the little man into his 2nd sloe gin fizz started giggling horribly and oinking in imitation of a pregnant sow being jabbed by electric cow prodders.  Detective Spew was solidly into his 19th shot and draw of the evening when the little hunched man into his 3rd sloe gin fizz began barking like a rabid dog and fluttering his elbows as if attempting to take flight.  Spew was pissed.  Thus far it had been a quiet evening.

     Detective Burt Spew was solidly into his 20th shot and draw of the evening when the little hunched man into his 4th sloe gin fizz began groping about the floor like a spavined crab, pincing about at the bar stools and snapping at small encrustations on the slimy vinyl.  Spew couldn't take it any longer.  He reached down and collared the uniformed hunchback and slapped him up against the take-out cooler and gave him 3 quick jabs with his massive left fist that rocked the head back ugly and smeared, and made the body go limp and dangle like manicotti, until he let go and there was just a wad left on the floor which he stepped on and over to reach his 21st shot and draw of the evening.

     The bartender, whose name was Albert, who leaned over and grinned insidiously, said:

     "This one's on the house."

     Albert, the bartender, and Detective Spew eyed each other over the hardwood for about 12 minutes in obstinate and total silence.  They could hear the little man begin to stir.  They could hear him gain his feet and head for the toilet in short rapid bursts.  They said:

     "Wonder what would make a man take on like that?"

     Spew said:

     "Tell the truth, Albert.  I weren't in the mood to sit still much longer to find out."

     Spew and the bartender laughed massively for an extended period.  During all this time no one had looked up from his drink.

 

 

What quirk of destiny had brought Boris Nijinski to Sparky's taproom at 8:35 PM of a June evening to partake of sloe gin fizzes, to behave so oddly, so bizarrely and foreignly, to be pummeled mercilessly at the hands of Burt Spew and be now at this present moment staring into his reflection in the toilet bowl?  No one, not even Boris himself, could provide a satisfactory answer to that question.  Boris in a matted uniform was at last sick into the bowl, spraying his sloe gin and fizz into the once pure and unsullied water as Burt Spew's coarse laughter reached him from the outer room.

 

 

Wilbert Nagey rapped lightly on 213 D.  There was a long pause.  A red-faced male student entered the hallway with a suspicious bulge in his trousers.  Nagey entered.  Dr. Rance Fervod, Jr. was sitting behind a steel desk, drumming on the vinyl top with his cadaverous arthritic fingers.  There was a peculiar smugness to his grin as if he had been caught goosing a statue at a museum.  Fervod said:

     "Take a seat, young man.  Just pull up a chair and fire away.  You can ask me absolutely anything provided it doesn't touch on the prurient provokers of my fantasy."

     Nagey grimaced and waded into a chair.  He took out a little pad and a blunt pencil stub, which he proceeded to sharpen ineffectually with his clenched incisors.  At last he was ready.  He said:

     "You were going to explain why a school of muskies would chew up a man like they did to this Sterling at the Broadamore.  Try to put it in the kind of language they'd pick up on down at the department.  Between you and me, Chief Starbuck never was too strong on brain power."

     "Yes, I see.  While of course Detective Nagey is quite acute.  Well now.  Let's see.  Appetite.  Unclothed appetite.  The muskies were hungry."

     "But ain't they always hungry, Dr. Fervod?"

     "Detective, have you ever heard of the unit of carnivorous energy called carnivores?  I am not referring to carnivorous animals.  I'm referring to units of appetite, Mr. Nagey."

     Nagey wrote furiously and glanced up.  He said:

     "Can't say as I have.  You see I'm really a specialist in political science.  I picked up my associate degree in the 2 year program out at North Point going nights for 12 months.  No sir, I haven't."

     "Well let us put it as simply as possible.  There is a specific energy of appetite, sir, and it's increasing throughout this planet.  Sooner or later things like this just may turn up anywhere."

     "Anywheres?"

     "That's right, sir."

     Nagey hawked up a good one into a rather encrusted handkerchief and wiped his lips.  He looked about anxiously and leaned forward.  He said:

     "Does the government know about this?"

     Fervod grinned malevolently and inserted a long dark fingernail into the dark gap of his left nostril.  He dislodged a dark green sinister clot of phlegm and held it to the light.  He inspected it carefully and popped it in his mouth with a display of connoisseurship unparalleled in Nagey's rude experience.  Fervod chewed and swallowed.  He said:

     "Mr. Nagey, as far as I know, you and my little Boris are the only people on this planet privy to my little secret.  I plan to submit my findings, however, in due time."

     "Then there might be more of the same thing."

     "Assuredly."

     "But what the deuce can we do about it?"

     Dr. Rance Fervod leaned forward and grasped Wilbert Nagey by the collar.  He dug his long brittle nails deep into Nagey's neck.  He pulled Wilbert Nagey forward and whispered the following astonishing response, striking Detective Nagey dumb with mortal terror.  Rance Fervod said:

     "Mr. Nagey, I suggest a vitamin supplement, plenty of sleep, a lot of resignation and PRAYER.  Prayer sir, because there isn't a damned thing we can do about it."

 

 

Boris Nijinski stared into the frothy pink contents of an encrusted toilet bowl for some time.  At last he raised up about to flush and spotted the porcelain cover over the water tank.  He made his way carefully to his feet and washed his mouth out in the sink.  He grasped the porcelain tank cover and secreted himself behind the men's room door and observed the graffiti.  There was a large drawing of a vulva and an embedded male member and the inscription SINKING IT HOME TO GLORY.  Boris paused a bit to clear his head and began a din of hideous plaintive yelping, oinks and grunts, rabid barks, cackles and wheezes, a cacophony of barnyard ebullience.

     Detective Spew in the outer room paused from his 25th shot and draw of the evening, stabbed a look at Albert, the bartender, fished a 38 service revolver out of his shoulder holster, and made his way unsteadily across the oily floor to the men's room.  He burst in with a heave of his left shoulder, splintering the yellowed frame door.  He caught the porcelain tank cover behind his left ear in an explosion of pain and light and sank to his knees, dropping the revolver, reaching up to ward off another blow, turning to snare Boris Nijinski by a trouser cuff as the latter pivoted in hasty retreat.

     Detective Spew got a good grip on the little hunched man and said:

     "Well the little man still has some fight left in him.  Well how do you like this?"

     Spew raised up to his full height and lifted the little man like a feather and dunked him full length head first into the toilet bowl, raised him spluttering and dunked him three times in rapid succession and tossed him in the corner like a bag of sticks.  He retrieved his revolver and shoved it back under his left armpit and grabbed the doorknob.  He looked down at the little man and the pink frothy face and the pink frothy hair and said the following:

     "Tell you what.  You clean up a bit and come on out, and I'll buy you a drink."

 

 

Dr. Rance Fervod, Jr. was standing out in the Hanley South faculty parking lot with Wilbert Nagey at 10:35 PM in a seething rage.  He raised his walking stick with a quiver of fury as if to berate the slate vault itself and its winking indifference.  He said:

     "I'm simply going to thrash him.  I just knew he'd be late.  This is execrable, hideous, and profane, an insult to a man of my accomplishments."

     Nagey fired up a Camel and said:

     "This Boris.  Where do you think he is?"

     "Probably over in the south quarter in one of those wretched taprooms.  I'll throttle him, Mr. Nagey.  This is utterly offensive and inappropriate."

     Nagey and Fervod stepped into an unmarked car.  They pulled out and cruised the streets toward Sparky's, past a number of seamy bars, looking for the Continental.

     At 11:15 PM they spotted it double-parked on Finley Street about a block from the taproom.  Fervod was beside himself with fury.  He heaved spastically for the door and lurched out on the asphalt and tore up the ticket and tossed it a flutter into the grimy air.  At last he spotted them.  Detective Burt Spew of the Broadamarahara force and Boris Nijinski, chauffeur and technical assistant to Rance Fervod, Jr., were standing at the curb in front of Sparky's with their arms around each other, weaving drunkenly and urinating into the street.  They were singing a perverse and obscene song about Lulu, a woman of questionable virtue.  Fervod lunged forward in maddened fury, closing a gap of 35 yards with the walking stick flailing, scuttled and scrabbled his way onward in a pitch of unmitigated hysteria, and set on the hapless hunchback with a tempest of smart biting licks of the knotted stick that raised big ugly welts and abrasions on the little man's face and resounded across the street to a group of sallow teenagers in an alleyway with a couple of illicit quarts and a pint of blended whiskey.  The teenagers hollered lustily, egging the good professor on, hooted and mouthed obscenities, danced about with sullen euphoria, and slugged down more of the aldehydes.  Boris was drawn sniveling toward the big coffin-like Continental among goat cries of derision that shattered the night and nudged lights on in grimy flats, beaten withered faces out of windows, a general confusion and excited curiosity which resounded down the block like pulsing beads on a mucid string.  Burt Spew and Wilbert Nagey erupted into laughter as the big sedan pulled out with a shriek of tires and a last flash of the old man in the driver's seat like a nodule or sac of pus over the vinyl cloak, churning and lolling in utter delirium toward that big house on Porky Mountain.

 

 

In the early morning water of a Sunday morning pristine bright and beautiful darling day, an incredibly heavy blonde waded in a brief bikini.  She had just returned from a sunrise service at Saint Mark's Episcopal Drive-in Chapel.  The incredibly heavy blonde in a bright and utterly brief bikini seemed to block out the low slant of sun over utterly emerald, utterly serene and quiet water.  Her paramour, Philby Swartz, reclined on a terrycloth bath blanket, smoking a Silva Thin and sipping on a tall and fruity Tom Collin's.  He eyed his navel.  He looked up.  There was an incredible scream as Judy Gurging, his beloved, a great pulsing mass of blond soft flesh, was sucked under and chewed mercilessly by a hoard of voracious muskies.

     Philby Swartz, tri-state representative for Zonk Enterprises, a bisexual and invert, a very capable young man, a lithe tanned virile specimen of bounteous manhood, ran shrieking toward the bathing cabanas.  On the crest of Porky Mountain, Dr. Rance Fervod, Jr. imbibed his second gin and tonic of the morning.  A disk above the Fervod housetop whirred sinisterly, feeding carnivores into Lake Broadamarahara, units of carnivorous energy.

 

 

Detective Burt Spew woke up with his 38 service revolver under his pillow and a half-eaten tuna fish salad sandwich in his hand and a horrible headache and his mouth cemented shut so that he could only holler mutely at the knocking on the outer door of his efficiency apartment.  He rolled over and gained his feet and walked naked in the dim light from the one window, a hairy mass of repugnant yellow flesh.  He opened wide to Wilbert Nagey, and Nagey walked in on good legs, and Spew hit the light and went on back to the bathroom and pried his jaw open with a wooden dowel he kept for such emergencies and reached in his big fingers like larvae and pried loose the chunk of dried tuna fish that had cemented his jaws.  He washed his mouth out and reached up for some Excedrin and wrapped a big greasy towel around his waist and stepped back into the bedroom living room kitchenette, about 10 by 10 with a low ceiling and a brass multiple bulb fixture overhead dangling from a frayed electric cord, highly ornate and probably a leftover from the days when the little efficiency was just another room, perhaps a study, in the big Victorian house they chopped to lure in people like Spew with a modest budget.  There was a long pause, and Nagey said:

     "Well Burt.  How do you feel?"

     "It ain't how I feel.  It's your ugly face."

     Spew poured himself a big glass of V-8 from a sprung refrigerator and threw in some vodka and tossed that down and bent over for some instant breakfast, losing the towel and affording Nagey a glimpse of a dark orifice between two big hairy slabs of meat creased from the rumpled sheets.  There was a quarter pound of pastrami in a yellow bag, and Spew had that with the Gorilla Milk and another round of V-8 with the end of the vodka and negotiated a stretch of littered floor to a shallow closet and a big terrycloth bathrobe with stains down over the front and a shredded pocket with a pack of Senior Service non-filters, which he fished out with a disposable lighter, making the couch to fire up and snort some gray into the naked light from the one bulb working in the fixture, to scratch and cut his first gas of the morning.  Spew said:

     "Well Wil, let's have it.  I know you don't come busting in here unless it was special."

     "Well Burt.  Here it is.  Some big blonde in a bikini just got chewed up by a set of muskies out on Lake Broadamarahara, just a couple yards out from the beach."

     Burt Spew launched a rope of phlegm and a hoarse cloud of vapor over his massive chest.  He hacked and choked for about 3 minutes with his face going white and his eyes small ugly beads of fever.  He said:

     "Shit you say."

     "It's the God's own truth, Burt.  And they say she's going to live.  That's the worst part about it."

 

 

Spew and Nagey took the latter's car toward Saint Vincent's on Perigrew Drive.  With the window down they could hear the thrum of traffic, the abrasive blab of tires and transmissions straining as a summer crowd headed for the public beach out along Purdy's Cove a mile north of the hospital.  With the windows down, Wilbert Nagey couldn't smell the flatulence from Spew's most recent binder, punctuating his rendition of old gospels in a haze of vodka V-8's and Gorilla Milk.  Spew said:

     "Get anything useful out of Fervod?"

     "Hell, I don't know, Burt.  Lot of stuff about the whole world getting hungrier with some kind of radiation caused those muskies to turn vicious.  Most of it over my head."

     Spew coughed horribly and fired up a Senior Service, craning his neck at a voluptuous blonde in a skimpy halter hauling it all down Finlay Boulevard in a yellow convertible.  Spew reached up and adjusted the rear-view mirror to catch the back view fading when Nagy hit the brakes at an old Dodge nosing out from the curb with a lot of old men leaning out of the windows gap-toothed and deliriously happy.  Spew said:

     "You never can tell, Wil.  It sounds like a pile of shit, but we've had one death already and a close call with this blonde you filled me in on back at the flat."

     "Well I'm keeping it under my hat just the same.  It's not the sort of lead old Starbuck'd wet his drawers over."

     Spew craned his neck over a lot of meat in a tank top and settled back with his Senior Service and eyed the ceiling.  He raised his legs aloft and pawed the vinyl until he had his rear end up high with his head down tight on the seat, and he reached in his pocket and lit up a whole pack of matches and held it to his ass and cut a big one that went whoosh through his trousers and sent Nagey into paroxysms of merriment, staring down at the scorched double knits as they waited for the light to change.

 

 

Spew leaned over and looked through the little rectangle of glass.  There was a big wad of gauze wound up mummy fashion in a surgical cot with attendants hovering and an artificial respirator and tubes dangling from bottles of plasma working on the wad.  Spew turned back and entered a waiting room at the end of the corridor where a little old lady sat wringing her hands and smoking a cheroot.  Spew slid in beside her and went for his cigarettes, poked one into his sickly face under the wild eyes in the otherwise empty room.  He said:

     "That your daughter in there?"

     "That's my little Judith.  Oh, it's horrible."

     "How about her boyfriend?  He around?"

     "They sent him back to the Broadamore with a sedative.  Oh, my little girl.  How horrible."

     "Well I'd like to ask you a few questions.  Maybe we could clear this up."

     "Anything.  Simply anything.  My little girl."

     Spew fired up and snorted fumes over his big hands.  He hauled a small writing pad out of his jacket and a blunt pencil.  He pried off bits of wood with a thick fingernail for a point and rubbed his nose off on his sleeve and said:

     "Your daughter.  She on good terms with this friend of hers?  I guess it was intimate."

     "They were engaged, sir."

     "How about drugs?  Was she on drugs?"

     "No sir.  Just some diet pills.  She always had a weight problem."

     "Any enemies?"

     "Not a one.  Everybody loved her.  She was so vibrant."

     "Vibrant?"

     "Full of the joy of living."

     "Full of the joy of living?"

     "Gay, carefree.  She loved life, sir."

     "Swinger?"

     "Swinger?"

     "Free.  I hate to put it to you this way, but was she putting out regular for anyone besides this boyfriend?  Were there parties?  Was there sex?  I understand she weren't much to look at."

     "Listen, you son of a bitch.  Judy was a good girl."

     Spew backed off to another chair and kept a wary eye on the cheroot now down to a roach in the old lady's pinced lips.  She was wearing an embroidered shawl and high button boots, but there was fire in her, and Spew wasn't about ready to cold-cock somebody's mother.  The old lady burst into tears and spit the roach out on the floor.  A colored porter with a rag in his pocket appeared from nowhere and swept the roach into a big dustpan that tilted back up against the attached pole and clattered a bit as he moved off for further finds.  The old lady said:

     "I want to die.  I just want to die."

     Spew nudged out slow and careful with the hangover and entered an elevator.  The lights flickered down the panel like lasers stabbing his tortured nerves, big wads of pain blinking on and off 5—4—3—2—1.  He cut about 3 thumpers before the doors slid back and stepped off in a billow of fumes.  A little dark man in the corner hadn't said a word.  His eyes were watering, and it wasn't from grief.

 

 

Burt Spew left Nagey in the Broadamore lobby and ascended to 621 F and battered the door with a big fist.  Philby Swartz answered in a day glo bathrobe, sniveling horribly, and went back in and took the couch and drew a monogrammed sheet over his head, shuddering small taut spasms of utter agony, pitiful little yelps of anguish.  Spew helped himself to a bottle of Teacher's from a portable bar and squatted in the corner.  He eyed the tasseled slippers quivering out over the leather armrest and a reedy elbow poking thinly under the sheet.  He uncapped and forked down about a 3rd of the bottle and poured some on his hands and set the bottle down and slapped his face with the wet hands as if sampling cologne at a toiletries counter.  The man under the sheet didn't seem to be in much shape for conversation, and Spew never could handle that kind of weakness.  He fired up a Senior Service and hawked a good one into the empty pack and crumpled up the pack and tossed it for a while to kill time until he got bored with that.

     "All right, buddy.  I know it's hard, but I'd like to have the whole story.  Heh?"

     Spew hollered the last, massively dislodging Norman Rockwell's portrait of Colonel Sanders from its prominence over the mock fireplace.  Filby Swartz bolted upright tangled in the sheet, his eyes winking like insect cadavers.

     "How'd it happen?"

     "She was wading in the surf.  My beloved was wading in the surf, and I looked down at my belly button, and when I looked up she was hamburger.  Oh God, I want to die."

     "Her mother said she was on pills.  Know anything about that?"

     "On pills?"

     "Diet pills.  What'd she smell like?"

     "What'd she smell like?"

     "That's right."

     "I don't understand."

     "What'd she smell like?  Come on, buddy, I can't waste time being fancy.  It wasn't her time of the month or none of that?  The pills.  Maybe they gave off an odor."

     "Listen, I don't know what your name is, but I assume you're a little drunk, and I can excuse that, but you'd better watch your mouth.  I'm a black belt in karate.  My hands are registered."

     "You threatening me, sonny?"

     Burt Spew gathered up slowly, unendingly, toward the ceiling until he reached his full six five, going about 270 in his Jockey briefs.  He rubbed his hands together and pinced his left nostril with one thumb and leaned over and snorted a stream of phlegm toward the carpet.   He wiped his nose with the back of his hand and waded forward massively and raised one platform and lashed out, a sodden thwonk against skull, driving Filby Swartz back through the cushions, shredding the leather and wedging his head between a lot of stuffing and some springs.  A thin line of blood trickled from the left eye, and there was a heel mark precisely defined on the forehead.  Spew grinned horribly and grabbed his genitals.  He said:

     "I got your black belt right here."

 

 

When Detective Burt Spew entered the corridor, he was nearly bowled over by a little hunched man scuttling past feverishly with a tray of gin and tonic.  Spew leaned back against the wall and followed the little man's progress for a moment in disbelief, hollering HEY BORIS at last as the hunchback faded left out of sight.

     Spew righted himself and lumbered down the corridor hollering, but when he reached the corner where he had last seen him the little man was gone.  Burt Spew entered an elevator and asked the operator if he knew the small hunched man with the tray.

     "Hell yes.  That's Beamo.  You ask Mr. Silverstein about him.  He's a real troublemaker."

     "Where can I find this Silverstein?"

     "Hell, I'll take you up there.  726 D.  Silverstein's probably up there now.  He's under Mr. Brady, but I guess he knows the help better than anyone."

     Spew stepped out on the 7th floor and made it to 723 and then 726 with his head like a piece of raw flesh skewered with hot barbed prongs.  He stood quiet for a bit to let it ease off and let a meaty fist go on the veneer.  A very small fat man with thick lenses thrust his head out, blinking rapidly.  The man grinned nervously and bent over to a cooler of Great Bear spring water for a little paper cup full, which he threw down with some aspirin.  Spew flashed his badge and squatted in the corner.

     "I thought you were somebody else.  We have an opening here in linen.  Sorry about that."

     Spew bounced on the balls of his feet and cut one and reached up and scratched his head and inspected his fingernails and pared out some dandruff and wiped it on his shirt.  He said:

     "You got a man here hunched up name of Beamo?  He's the dead ringer for somebody I ran into last night on Wilker Street."

     Silverstein reached into a file cabinet and pulled out a manila folder and shoved it under Spew's face, and Spew had a read.

     "Name's Beamo Nijinski.  As you see, he's on probation.  We had him working the elevator, and he didn't pan out.  Had a problem with flatulence."

     "Flatulence?"

     "Expelling gas."

     "Expelling gas?"

     "Breaking wind."

     "Breaking wind?"

     "Farting."

     Burt Spew flushed horribly and grinned.  He said:

     "Anything else?  Guy back the hall said he was a real troublemaker."

     "Yes indeed.  Last week he was hanging around the kitchen telling Farley Furger, our manager there, he could make the Broadamore 10 million a year with some kind of gadget.  Said it would make everyone that walked through the door hungry enough to eat a Shetland pony covered with maggots."

 

 

When Burt Spew entered the lobby, Wilbert Nagey was reading a SPORT'S ILLUSTRATED beside an artificial palm and 3 stuffed monkeys.  There was a Styrofoam backed portrait of Clark Gable in a safari hat and a big blonde in the flesh leaning over a golf cart with most of the mammae showing, a bit of acne and worse for the wear, and Spew had a hard time reaching Nagey with his head craned until the blonde raised up and he could see maybe 58 years of hard living in the face and too much blusher and the lashes batting like push brooms with a come on like leucorrhea.  Spew slid in beside Nagey half dazed but going into focus.  He managed:

     "I got a question for you, Wil.  Put down the magazine."

     Wil Nagey took one last longing stab at some meat in a bikini and flipped it over on the table, forgotten.  He dug in his pocket for a Camel and fired up and looked directly at Burt Spew, who was cold and nasty in his Robert Hall suit.

     "I know I was into my liquor last night, but correct me when I'm wrong.  There was a little man name of Boris, and we were pissing in the street real friendly when you drove up and something ugly poured out of that car like dead and under water for 3 years, and I take it was Fervod, and he was after the little man name of Boris, and the little man is tied in with him, some kind of flunky or assistant.  Right?"

     "That's right, Burt."

     "Well he's either got a double or he's working in this hotel under name of Beamo Nijinski, and he's got some funny ideas, Wil, that kind of tie into this case."

     Wilbert Nagey drew about a half inch of Camel into his lungs and butted the rest on the palm tree.  He leaned back and looked at the ceiling and adjusted his genitals.  He smelled his fingers.  He said:

     "You don't think old Fervod's behind all this?"

     "I ain't about to say just yet, Wil, but I want to tail this guy Beamo when he leaves at 3:30.  I want you to stick with him until something turns up.  And keep the whole thing under your hat.  I don't want old Starbuck getting any credit for this.  It's our show."

 

 

Wayne Shorter was doubled down tight in the stern of a big sailing yacht, scrubbing away spastic with the saliva showing, when he had a look at Spew on the pier.  He put down the brush and fished a warm Budweiser out of a paper sack and sat back, splayed on the deck, working with the pull-tab.  Spew nudged down, squatting, and looked out over Lake Broadamarahara.  The far shore was a thin ripple of gray in the bright sun with the water broken white gaps further in where they were trawling, some ruddy types on water skies, a lot of money out there enjoying their Sunday.  Shorter had some luck with the tab, caught some of it in the eyes, and sat there happy, slugging the rest down, a little scant on finesse but not trying for it.

     "What's happening, Burt?"

     Spew sat silent looking down at the old man with the Budweiser and the teeth gone and the tremors and saliva squinting up like a bad dream.  He pulled out a fresh deck of cigarettes and peeled the cellophane and the rest and got one in his mouth and fired up and sat there quiet looking at the only thing on that lake as ugly as he felt.  At last he said:

     "Old Wayne Shorter sitting there looking like the last shit I just took."

     "Ain't so pretty yourself."

     Detective Spew let go with a big ugly laugh that seemed to go way down to his toes and bring everything back up with it.  He had a look up and down the pier and kneeled down and urinated in the water, shielding his genitals with the back of his hand, all but a 3rd that had Shorter losing it over the side with HAH HAAH HAH and coming up for air about as sick as Spew felt, stuffing it all back in.

     "Maybe you know a little guy Beamo?"

     "Nijinski?"

     "That's him.  Hunchback works in the hotel."

     "I know him.  Sticks pretty tight to himself, that one.  Keeps a bottle out here on the pier under one of the boards.  Comes out and has a few and goes back in.  One time I pissed in it for a couple laughs.  Just slugged it down like usual and went back inside."

     Spew grinned horribly and grabbed his genitals for a good squeeze and lifted up and cut one and settled down to his Senior Service and finished it with great relish as if he'd have to put off the next one for 25 years.  He dropped the roach in the water and rubbed his hands and said:

     "Where's he keep it, Wayne?"

     "What's that?"

     "The bottle."

 

     Spew had the bottle wrapped in a rather scabrous handkerchief, had it heavy in his jacket, when he remembered something terribly vital and turned back.  Old Shorter was on his way down a ladder, shuddering like electroshock therapy, when he heard Spew heavy on the planks.  He looked up like an evacuation.  He said:

     "How much is it this time?"

     "Just 20.  Till Friday, Wayne, I promise."

     Shorter fished out some green paper and reached it up in shudders, and Spew's face lit up like a pinball machine, and Shorter labored the rest of the way down the ladder and found his little book and had the new total down in about another 20 minutes with the hands short on steady.  There was another Budweiser in the sack.  There wouldn't be many more.

 

 

When Detective Burt Spew entered the mobile laboratory, Dr. Stacey Benson was standing at a large illuminated microscope with a specimen of minced Lance Sterling in his good hand.  He simpered dreadfully and went back to the slide, had a look and drew up a folding chair and crossed his legs pertly.  He removed a pack of Silva Thins from his smock and tapped one out and managed a light with a butane disposable and grinned lasciviously and French inhaled and licked his upper lip and said:

     "The brutal Mr. Spew.  Is this official business?"

     "No.  I came over to have a good puke."

     "Well if it's official our findings are negative.  No peculiarities in cellular structure, no foreign bodies, chemicals, deposits.  The late Mr. Sterling was a healthy creature.  The water is reasonably pure.  I've dissected 3 muskellunge cadavers and pronounce them biologically sound.  On the other hand."

     "On the other had what?"

     "On the other hand if it's unofficial, slap me, I'll love it."

     Dr. Stacey Benson's eyes were large and moist under the long lashes.  They fluttered wide and soft, calf-like infatuation over a full moon.  Burt Spew poured across that big van and gripped him by the throat and let go with a back-hand that jerked Benson back like Silly Putty, quivering and bobbing on the rubber neck.  It was getting even harder for Spew to restrain himself, but he let it go at that.  Something was still pushing a block from the station when he had more of it under control.  Maybe he needed some of Beamo's whiskey.  Naah.  There was a demonstration at the chamber of commerce and a lot of people he didn't understand.  Chief Starbuck in plain clothes stepped out of an unmarked car.

 

 

"Well chief, how they hanging?"

     Starbuck turned very annoyed and headed inside, where Spew caught up down a corridor toward the mayor's office.  The big man turned back toward the bigger and said:

     "Maybe I should ask you.  Tell you one thing.  Lay off Benson.  We need him, first of all.  Second, they weren't too happy up in North Point about the way his hand looked yesterday when we drove him over for supplies."

     Spew grinned horribly and snickered like a large greasy adder.  He held a large hand up in front of Starbuck's face to display a nice set of tooth marks over the knuckles, and Starbuck looked away.

     "Another play for you then."

     "When you get him policed up off the bed just give him this bottle to analyze, and have the boys dust it for fingerprints and mail them into Chicago to see if we can get a profile."

     Starbuck looked down at the big quart bottle of Seagram's in the filthy handkerchief.  He pulled a monogrammed handkerchief of his own out of his breast pocket and hefted the bottle for a look and shoved it in his jacket.

     "Maybe you got a name, even an alias."

     "Beamo Nijinski."

     Starbuck pulled out a pad and a blunt pencil and sharpened the pencil with his fingernail, prying off some splinters.  He wrote the name down carefully and shoved the pad back into his jacket and stuck the pencil in his mouth and sucked on it far too long and then shoved the pencil in his jacket and turned to leave.  Spew said:

     "What's going on outside?"

     "I thought you knew.  There was some bathers chewed up on Purdy Cove.  The mayor's having a fit."

 

 

When Burt Spew entered Sparky's at 1:35 the natives were still tight down into their drinks as if soaked in a big bottle of ether, specimens of tissue under Benson's microscope.  He slid into a stool, a massive splay over the vinyl padding and the clotted chrome, and ordered a shot and draw.  The man beyond the counter had a seedy pastel face and sideburns under the butch haircut and eyes that winked beads of atrophy in a lot of flesh and furrowed brow.  Spew dropped the 20 on the bar and fished out a cigarette.  The bartender gave him a light from a greasy pack of matches and accepted a Senior Service and fired up and leaned down heavy with his doughy elbows, snorting gray from some pretty nasty nostrils like two very dark holes leading to the bigger one in his skull.  He said:

     "How they hanging, Burt?"

     "I don't know, Strunk.  Things a little tight."

     "I seen you in here last night with the dwarf.  Leastwise I think I did.  I passed out about 10:30, and they left me on the floor, and somebody got funny and pissed on my leg past midnight, and I woke up toward morning with arthritis in my knee, not knowing how I got home.  Been limping all day.  Know anything that might clear it up for me?  Shit Burt, I feel awful."

     "Maybe you could take a little skinny dip in the Broadamaraharaharaharaharahara.  HAH HAAH. HAAAH. Hah hah."

     "Yeah, I heard about that.  People aroused.  We even had a discussion going on in here for about a minute or so.  First time I seen them look up since before the TV got busted, and there was something leastwise to stare at."

     "Yeah.  It's a cruel thing."

     Spew pointed to his glass, and the pastel man faded and lurched back into view with some Barclay's and a fresh draw.

     "Better make it one of them Kielbasas, Strunk, and a couple pickled eggs off the bottom where they're fresh.  Maybe you could heat up a sandwich.  What do you got that's still fit to eat?"

     "Got some pastrami come in Friday probably all right.  I'll heat it up good and crisp and get out some fresh mustard.  You know how old Albert licks the spoon."

     Spew grinned horribly and pried some phlegm out of his nose and rubbed it off on the bottom of his stool.  There was a lot more dried off under there, and he wiped his finger off on his jacket just to play safe.  After a while he had his sandwich, and he called over Strunk Caulfield and slipped him a quarter and pocketed the rest and motioned toward a back booth.

     "I'll be back there in the corner flaked out and nasty if you run into any trouble.  I'll take calls from Wil Nagey.  Otherwise you ain't seen me."

     The bartender grinned with part of a bridge and winked aggressively, fading back into a pastel death mask glittering at the eyes, sunk back in deep and menacing.

     "I guess you don't got anything for Starbuck."

     "Not yet.  Just a bottle of Seagram's and some pubic hairs I stuck in to give the lab man something to think about."

     Both men snorted like a malignancy and rounded the bar.  A couple of heads lifted and settled down like sewer lids.  The last thing Detective Burt Spew ever saw of Strunk Caulfield was an ugly yellow uvula and some acne on the upper lip.

 

 

Nagey witnessed the little man step into a beat Morris Minor at a quarter of 3 and hauled heavy for his own car, and pretty soon they were out on the Boulevard, and the Morris Minor was trailing haze and easy to follow at half a block away with the traffic, and the little man nosed into Brimson and north on Main and juked left into Carter and followed it to where the houses thinned until he pulled up at Mom Stacey's boarding home.

     Gilbert Nagey pulled into the curb at a small grocery where he could still see the little man's car and walked in and ordered a meatball sandwich and a pint of chocolate milk and a couple of doughnuts and had it all in a paper bag for under 3 dollars and was outside in the sunlight at 3:20, where some kids were chasing a rubber tire and grinning nasty, and old beyond Nagey himself with the paper bag and his eyes on the little man's car.

     Wilbert Nagy stepped into an alley with the bag and edged up to a stucco wall and relieved himself, eating the sandwich, and shook it a couple of times to see if it was still there, and when he stepped into the street there was a big gray Continental in front of the boarding house, and a little man climbed out, and another little man on the porch, and maybe they were twins.

 

 

Detective Spew opened his eyes in a pool of saliva at 6:43, staring at a slit in the vinyl and a clot of stuffing and the seams dangling thread like sutures.  There was a hand on his shoulder, and he checked the impulse to go for his revolver and rolled over with the wet on the back of his head and looked up at ugly Albert's yellow grin and eyes like abscess in the harsh light from an encrusted fixture framing his head from above like a bad memory.

     "Wil Nagey called about an hour back."

     Spew jolted upward and rubbed his stubble and cut one that hung there in the booth like nerve gas and jerked up Albert taut with a greenish pallor.

     "He told me to let you sleep.  Said there was 2 of them inside of a rooming house on Carter.  Said he'd keep you posted.  Said you'd understand."

     Spew waded out of the booth and made the toilet, nasty and belligerent, with his equipment firing into a big yellow urinal that smelled like he felt, getting some of it on his foot.

     He stuck his head under the cold faucet with the dark stains and some vomit clogging the drain and soaked his head good and came up dripping for the towel rack, pulling it down and around until there was a clean spot to dry his mouth.  He stepped back out and waded for the bar, and Albert nodded and set up a shot glass brimming over onto the hardwood and a glass of Schaeffer's, and Spew slid in and threw down the Barclay's and chased it and leaned left and pinched a nostril and snorted a rope of phlegm toward the littered floor and stabbed a look at Albert, blood-shot, sucking on a Kielbasa.

     "He didn't say nothing else?"

     "Yeah, wait a minute.  He said there was a big package they pulled out of a Continental and carried inside."

     "Did he leave a phone number?"

     "Said he'd call back."

     Spew reached down and grabbed his genitals and worked them into place and reached up and drained the beer and threw a dollar on the counter and waited for his change, an encrusted dime which he inspected carefully and dropped in his shirt pocket.  He combed his hair with his fingers and adjusted the Robert Hall suit and gathered up and leaned over toward the bartender.

     "First thing he calls tell him I'm headed back to the flat.  Tell him to keep the whole thing under his hat and sit on it till morning when Beamo heads for work.  Tell him to call me if it's urgent.  Tell him I want that package.  Tell him to sit tight and careful and call me first thing turns up.  Tell him if he blows this one it could be lights out and an organ playing and formaldehyde.  Tell him whatever you want but tell him slow and direct like you know old Burt would put it.  And say a little prayer, Albert, and stop sucking on that Kielbasa.  I'm getting the wrong idea."

     Big Albert took a big bite that spurted juice up and down his face.  Nobody was laughing.  Spew headed massive toward the door.

 

 

Detective Burt Spew entered his efficiency and fished around in a cabinet over the sink and pulled out a bottle of Barclay's and killed the light and found the bed, crawling in under the blanket in his suit and shoes, a big pile of misery nursing the bottle.  He lay there smoking a Senior Service and groped for the end table and butted it and lay back digging in his buttocks and smelling his fingers and pulling on the bottle.  Every once in a while the refrigerator would kick on, loose on its mounts, and rattle the dishes in the cupboard, and Spew lay there through it, trying to sleep, until he finally drifted off.  About 3 AM the telephone rang, and it was Nagey.

     "What say, Burt?  Getting any rest?"

     "What's going on out there?"

     "There's 2 of them, Burt, and it looks like they're twins.  The one pulled out about an hour back in the Continental."

     "Albert said they carried something into the house."

     "Yeah.  Something wrapped up and heavy.  Far as I can see it's still in there.  I'm over on Carter Street, Burt, just down from Mom Stacey's boarding house, where that guy torched himself 2 years back.  The one of them's got a room on the 3rd floor.  I stopped a cleaning lady, and she thinks the 2 of them are brothers.  Both quiet mostly, but sometimes they're into the booze.  Says it sounds like a barnyard."

     Spew sat up and groped for the bottle and had a good slug and rinsed his mouth out and spit it on the floor.

     "All right.  Get yourself something to eat if there's any close and sit tight till the one behind leaves for work in the morning.  I want you to break in quiet and check things out.  Call me as soon as you're inside.  That's unless Beamo or Boris or whatever he goes by don't take off with whatever they carried in there.  In that case trail him.  Got that straight?"

     "Got it, Burt.  Onto him tight like dingle berries if he carries anything out.  Otherwise I bust in and call you."

     Burt Spew hung up and groped his way in pitch dark to raid the refrigerator for a pound of processed cheese and a quart of Gorilla Milk and threw that down with the light over his knees.  With the door shut it was all dark again, and he made it to the television, pulling on the Barclay's and sat there for about an hour, watching a test pattern, and went back to bed.  This time he fell asleep like a suicide from a big building, down ever down toward morning.

 

 

Wilbert Nagey squatted in an alley and relieved himself and wiped with the bottom half of a dust mop he found in a garbage pail.  He went back to the car.  He fired up a Camel and watched the sunlight over Petro's Chemical Supply and some ugly kids in the street and some meat in a lace blouse; and then the hunchback descended from Mom Stacey's.  Nagey sank down with the Camel and peered over the dashboard, reaching down to free his left gonad from a bind in his gabardines.

     The hunchback pulled out, trailing smoke, lost in a haze of traffic.  Nagey waded out of the car and made it to the boarding house, favoring his left leg, and into a dark corridor and up 3 flights with a blinding headache into a dark corridor and a lot of litter under his penny loafers and the scent of stale excrement and a baby crying abrasively in a distant room and a transistor radio tuned to country and another tuned to top 40 and somebody screaming GODDAMN IT, I'M GOING TO KILL MYSELF over and over like a nail pounding deep by increments into Wilbert Nagey's skull.

     He picked the lock and stepped into motes of dust from a slit under a battered shade and some scabrous underwear and half a pizza basted into the floor and some empties and some rotten watermelon in the corner and porno on the wall, assorted crotches in the muted light with some suspicious stains; and he found the phone and dialed Spew and got an answer on the first ring.

     "That Wil?"

     "Right.  Finally found someone nastier than Detective Burt Spew.  Hell Burt, this place is worse than a public toilet."

     "See if you can find anything in there might be some kind of machine like you could turn on X-rays or something."

     "Hold on."

     Nagey got some feeble light from a solitary bulb in the ceiling, fuzzy with grease and insect cadavers.  He jumped about 3 feet and settled down.  There was a lot of dog in the corner, fat and mangy and missing hair.  The dog grunted terribly and went back to sleep.

     "Burt.  There's a big dog in here.  On the other side's a closet, maybe a john.  It could be in there."

     "Open it up and find out."

     "Hell Burt, that's a big fucking dog."

     "Open it up and find out.  We ain't got time."

     Wilbert Nagey put down the receiver and steeled himself.  He edged toward the dog.  The dog just lay there like a ball of grease.  Nagey edged closer.  He had the door open, sliding the carcass, and the dog just lay there sliding with the door, maybe grunting a couple of times, maybe breaking wind.  It was hard to tell with all the other odors hanging in the air like steam from a rotting cadaver.

     "Burt.  I think we got it.  Big thing looks like a pie plate with some tubes and stuff and a toggle switch."

     "All right.  Listen close.  Plug it into the wall socket and point it toward the mutt.  Call me back in a half hour."

 

 

Wilbert Nagey was sitting tight in front of 85 pounds of mongrel and a machine he didn't understand, waiting for all hell to break loose, and the mutt just lay there inert, a ball of grease, a lazy hunk of mangy fur and cartilage dead to anything that ever counted, grunting lightly, worming periodically into a nasty throw rug like a slug in search of ultimate creature comfort in primordial slime, the hunchback's rented room.  He hit the toggle.

     All of a sudden there was a pinwheel of feverish yelping snarling energy that came on like a flock of hallucinations out of crazed fantasy toward psychosis, Wilbert Nagey's hideous choking fear, bowled over and grappling with a swarm of putridity and teeth teeth teeth, mincing, mulching, reaching for anything it could ingest, a ragged suit, some jockey briefs, and here and there hunks of flesh, until Nagey had his Colt out and firing, into the lard of the belly a muffled bark that juked the carcass dead and limp over him, trailing blood out of a neat little hole in a patch of bare like a second umbilicus there sickly sweet and draining; and the kaleidoscope careened another increment, and Nagey gathered up looking like hemorrhoids and made the phone.

     "That you, Wil?"

     "Shit Burt, 10 seconds longer I'd been hamburger.  What got into that dog?"

     "Don't worry about it.  Just pick up the machine and get it into a safe place.  Take it up to your flat and sit on it.  Don't let nobody in.  I'll be up in about a half hour.  We'll break this to Starbuck when the time's right.  Just sit tight on it and get some sleep and wait for me.  Got that?"

     "Right, Burt.  I take it to the flat and wait till you show."

     Wilbert Nagey hung up and bent to the toggle switch and yanked out the cord.  A door behind him opened a small taut creak.  Nagey whirled too late.  There was a mute metallic thump.  There was a little hole between Wilber Nagey's eyebrows and a big wide wad of gray matter and blood and hair far back on the wall.  Dr. Rance Fervod, Jr. stood grinning with a Walther P-38 and 10 inches of silencer.

 

 

Detective Spew was lounging in a greasy tub of lukewarm water when the telephone rang.  He swore horribly at great length.  He gained the vertical, a glossy expanse of pitted coarse flesh, and waded for the receiver and lifted it, and it was Starbuck.

     "Spew?"

     "Right.  Old Spew in the flesh."

     "Get your ass up to the housing project.  There's been some trouble, and it's pretty gruesome.  Get your ass on up there and check it out.  Are you sober?"

     "Like a fresh baby, chief.  Ain't touched a drop in weeks.  You know me."

     "Yeah well that's the problem.  Well sober or shitty-faced, get up there on the double and check it out."

     "Anything on the fingerprints?"

     "We should know sometime this morning."

     Spew hung up and looked down at the telephone.  There was a lot of pizza stuck in the dial, and it was draining water, but it was the only telephone he had.  He ripped a blanket off the bed and toweled off and went on into the bathroom and looked in the mirror.  He didn't show quite as bad as he felt, and he tried a grin, and it wasn't completely ugly, but he couldn't find the toothbrush, so he put some paste on his finger and ran that around inside and checked out the grin again and reached up and felt his face and decided not to shave.

     There was a big pile of dirty clothes beside the bathtub, and he fished around in that for some underwear, rejecting some and coming up with a set that smelled passable, and he threw those on with the suit and stepped outside.

     There was an old man on the porch sucking on a bottle of port wine, a big wad of yellow slime piled up on the rocker; and the old man turned and grinned with the teeth gone and the hands spavined and trembling; and he set down the bottle where he could keep an eye on it and asked Spew for 5 dollars, and Spew stepped back and kicked the old man in the Adam's apple, and the old man went flipping way back like a sturgeon slapping the porch and juking there in spastic quivers, voiceless in his pain, and Spew picked up the bottle of wine and drained it and made the steps and entered his Volvo, laughing horribly the whole way with a little less than mirth and a lot more desperation, wincing at the sunlight.

 

 

Burt Spew pulled in behind an ambulance and stepped out and puked.  It wasn't too pretty.  There was a squad car and somebody taking pictures of about 16 construction workers on the ground with swollen bellies and bloody faces, lying there jerking and quivering in agony, and wads of flesh on the ground and vomit and blood and hair and a cadaver nearly picked clean, a clot of minced flesh with the head grinning through eaten lips and the eyeballs gone and mostly hair remaining and bones, and Spew walked up to one of the cops and asked him straight.

     "Stanley.  What's going on here?"

     "Most I can get out of them is that they was working peaceable, and all of a sudden they jumped on the smallest one in the group.  Name was Walter Whitman.  Just jumped on him and ripped him apart."

     "I don't understand."

     "They ate him, Burt.  That's the craziest thing about it."

     Spew let go another load of Gorilla Milk and port wine and stepped over to one of the cannibals and knelt down and felt the belly far out past the belt and looked at the hands with the skin and hair on the fingernails and the blood, and he stood and looked up toward the crest of Porky Mountain.

     "When did it happen?"

     "Short past 9 AM."

     "Well why the hell would they make a meal out of one of their buddies?"

     "Said they was hungry, Burt.  Said they was never so hungry in their lives.  Said they went for their lunchboxes and went through that and then at a couple of shrubs.  See them over there?  And then they started on the little guy until they couldn't eat any more, and then it was over and they just laid around puking until Harvey Peters showed up with a load of concrete and found them there."

     "Where's Peters?"

     "In the ambulance.  Can't get anything out of him just yet, Burt.  He's under a sedative.  Doc said it's a bad case of shock."

     "Got a phone?"

     "Over there in the van."

     "Get Starbuck on the short wave.  I'll be right back."

     Spew dialed Nagey and got no answer.  It rang for 15 minutes.

 

 

"Starbuck here.  What took you so long?"

     "Trying to reach Nagey.  You haven't seen him?"

     "No.  Listen, Burt.  We got another death on our hands, and it's pretty strange.  Word just reached us about a half hour back on this Nijinski, and he's been sent up for pouring insecticide in the Sioux City reservoir.  Then we get a call from the Broadamore, and somebody put a bullet  right through his eyebrows.  He's dead, Burt."

     "You ain't heard from Nagey?"

     "Nothing.  What's going on out there, Burt?  I hope it ain't more of the same."

     "Some guy got ate up by some buddies."

     "I don't understand."

     "Guys turned cannibal, and now they're laying around puking it out.  Listen, is there anything more on Nijinski?"

     "Yeah.  Got a brother Boris with a Ph.D. From Yale.  Sent up on the same rap.  Both of them were at Norris Petroleum, and they stole a lot of insecticide and poured it in the reservoir, enough to kill off the whole population, and somebody tipped off the cops, and they got 5 years, out on good behavior.  What's it all about, Burt?  What the deuce are you onto?"

     "Look.  Send a car over to Wil Nagey's.  Sit tight for about 3 hours.  If you ain't heard from me by say 1:30, send whatever you got that's nasty up to the big house on Porky Mountain.  I'll explain when you get there."

     "Damn it, Spew.  What you onto?"

     "A big basket full of uglies, chief, and it could be just the start.  Do like I say now, or we just might lose it."

     Spew slid out of the squad car and hitched his double knits.  He reached for his service revolver and checked the load, 6 rounds of death and retribution.  He moved off quiet and started climbing, bare and dead brush and trees, toward the summit of Porky Mountain.

 

 

 

What thrust in the evolutionary phantasm had propelled Detective Spew upon this precipitous course, this hasty and dogged ascent toward destiny, toward an appointment with Dr. Rance Fervod, Jr. at this very moment scanning the north slope of Porky Mountain with a powerful telescope?  Fervod imbibing his 4th gin and tonic of the morning, observing the results of his last experiment with the powerful device so carefully, so maliciously, so coldly constructed upon the roof of his domicile, his laboratory, spotting his adversary plodding beneath through dense brush, a ragged blur of burrs and weed, climbing steadily with the readied revolver; Fervod reaching indolently for the controls of the great disk, training its focused energy by the mere adjustment of several dials, following Spew's approach; Fervod yawning and inspecting a clot of phlegm on his index finger and popping it into his mouth—ecstasy.

     Then as Spew neared, Dr. Rance Fervod, Jr. pressed a small tab, and the great disk whirred, and suddenly Spew plunged forward in an agony of appetite and began tearing at moss, bark, weed, lichens, devouring whatever organic lay in reach to include his own clothing, with the whirr of the disk, yelping, whining, bleating, grunting, ravishing the slope about him, devouring frantically until at last he shrieked:

      "I give up.  Mercy.  Have mercy."

     And Rance Fervod thumbed a tab, and Spew twitched massively in nausea, vomiting, drooling, spitting, voiding himself of a mountainside in agony, convulsions of utter defeat and disgust, a pitiful spectacle for the delectation of total maggot, of Fervod himself standing there above Spew's quivering flesh with the Walther P-38 and grinning hideously, abrasively, a clot of avarice, a slash of greed, a laceration of cruelty, a smear of maddened voracity so cold, so utterly hostile and vindictive, so chilling in its maniacal intensity, that Burt Spew froze in his agony with the greater agony of fear, mortal terror for his life in the face of that other aperture, 10 inches of vicious abstracted steel waiting to propel him instantly, horribly toward the absence of himself, toward 10 thousand rounds at Sparky's null and void, toward everything he had ever known simply null and void, and Spew said:

     "What did you do to Nagey?"

     Rance Fervod reached up to dislodge a clot of phlegm from his left nostril and held it to the light.  He inspected it.  He popped it in his mouth to savor slowly.  He said:

     "Mr. Nagey's simply food now.  Don't worry about Wilbert Nagey.  He's missed out on the worst.  Everything will be food, you know.  In a matter of hours.  Food and teeth.  I'm going to let you in on a big secret."

 

 

"First of all, Mr. Spew.  I want to acquaint you with my little shrine."

     Fervod gestured to the marble fireplace, the candelabrum and incense burners, the glossy 2 by 3 foot blow-up.  His voice quivered with emotion.  He seemed on the verge of tears.  Burt Spew kept a close eye on the Walther juking spastically in the ugly claws.

     "This is Lucian B. Carter, the greatest genius of Western civilization, the seer and prophet who brought us from the pit of hell to a beatific vision.  This is the original founder of the Pet Rock."

     Spew looked up at the photograph and over at Fervod's moist eyes.

     "Shit.  You mean the guy that started that pet rock craze a couple years back?  My sister had 3 of them.  She used to carry on like they were hamsters or something.  Made me half puke."

     "Mr. Spew, YOU are an imbecile.  Carter.  Lucian B. Carter.  A genius.  Yes, Mr. Spew, Carter alone intuited what has taken 10 billion years to unfold, the notion that the mineral alone is pure and unsullied, holy and at one with the divine ether."

     "Break that down a little."

     "Evolution, cretin, was the fall from grace.  Organic life is a nightmare.  Consider a lamb.  Perhaps innocent.  But no.  The lamb ingests.  The lamb feeds.  The lamb has teeth.  The lamb to simply maintain itself must devour thousands, millions, of hapless organisms.  Yes, Mr. Spew, even the simple lamb is not freed of the ultimate blasphemy—ingestion.  To eat, Mr. Spew, is the nightmare of our universe, the phantasm of this globe, the core and center, the primary function of all organic life, the thrust of evolution.  The food chain, Mr. Spew.  Since the very first spore there has been ugliness, wickedness, insanity, a pulsing wad of appetite all over this miserable globe.  And it goes on and would go on had not Lucian B. Carter existed to provide me with the inspiration which prompted my search for the perfect machine to end machines, more powerful than a nuclear device, more effective than germ warfare—the CARNIVOORG.  Yes, I alone will save the lovely rocks, the sand, the silt, the gravel, the lignite, alabaster, jade, marble, granite, all of it, yes, all of it from the holocaust.  We terminate, sir."

     Spew hawked up one and swallowed abrasively.  He dug into his buttocks.  He smelled his fingers.

     "Look here once.  I don't understand a damn word of it.  Unless you're saying that you're going to put an end to it.  I mean people, trees, birds, snakes, grass, old ladies, kids.  I mean everything.  Come on.  I seen people I mean low down full of crap, but you're worse than a Christmas turkey."

     "Mr. Spew, let's go down and have a look at my little Boris."

 

 

Spew and Fervod entered the basement past a maze of electrical equipment.  At the far side was a steel lined cell.  Boris Nijinski was peering pitifully from behind locked bars.  He was totally naked.  There was a small horse cadaver in the corner of the cell.  It was covered with maggots.

     "You see, Mr. Spew, my faithful servant, privy to my budding genius, my companion and follower through 7 difficult years of research.  You see him a sniveling wretch.  Boris, it seems, had an idea of his own, a fixed idea.  He would steal the smaller prototype and sell it through his wretched brother Beamo to the first restaurant with a convincing offer.  He would reap a comfortable life.  He would betray me.  All for blind profit, Mr. Spew, all for greed.  He would betray the greatest master plan of all creation, a work of inconceivable magnitude, to return this sullied earth to the pristine beauty of original existence.  All for a pittance, Mr. Spew.  You will observe his punishment."

     Rance Fervod snapped a toggle switch in the small carnivoorg and trained it on the hapless Nijinski.  Fervod poured himself a gin and tonic from a frosty pitcher at the side of the apparatus.  He reached for a Silva Thin and motioned Spew into a comfortable chair.  They sat there like old friends watching television.

     Within moments Boris was cringing.  He began jerking spastically.  He crouched in the corner.  Fervod fired up his Silva Thin and settled back.  Spew said:

     "What do you got in there?  Jesus, this is awful."

     "A Shetland pony cadaver encrusted with maggots.  I found it by the side of Route 13 on my way back from a conference.  I let it ripen."    

     Suddenly Boris raised up and came lurching forward, his eyes fixed on the cadaver.  He was whimpering horribly.  Saliva pooled in his neck.  He began barking, howling, yelping, whining, snorting, babbling, trilling, hideously and at last sprang on the carcass and began devouring it with great gusto and verve.  The sounds of his ravished hunger were pitiful, alarming.  Spew found himself utterly sick and overcome but couldn't help watching.  The hunchback tore into that encrusted filth like a madman out of hell, ripping off shreds and stuffing them far back in, his belly swelling horribly out toward the room.  Suddenly there was an alarming shred of inner tissue like cloth being torn under water, terrible, ghastly, and Boris Nijinski sank to his knees, gorged unto his own death, blood pouring from his lips, his eyes, from every opening of his body.  He twitched for a bit and went silent.  The feast was over.

 

 

Fervod and Spew stepped out on the terrace and looked down the south slope.  There was about an acre of bright metal down there, an acre of steel and glass which resembled a massive radio antenna perhaps, which glittered sinister in the sunlight, a maze of electronic wizardry that blotted out the contour of the slope and lay there cold and unforgiving, hostile and vindictive, like the creation of ultimate deranged fantasy, the brainchild of malevolent intellect brooding somewhere deep in sidereal space.  Fervod said:

     "Feast your eyes, Mr. Spew.  You have seen the prototype.  THIS is the ultimate machine.  This is the CARNIVOORG."

     Spew reached for a Senior Service and trembled it into his mouth and had some trouble with the matches until he was pulling on it spastically as if searching for renewing balm and sustenance from the mulched tobacco.

     "You mean to say you been building this thing all this time?  How much did you lay out?"

     "Ten million, Mr. Spew, but it was worth it.  You see it's finished now.  I won't need little Boris any longer."

     "Well what the hell are you up to?"

     "Extinction, Mr. Spew.  Extinction of all organic life.  The return to primordial purity.  The obliteration of evolution, the annihilation of every living creature on this globe, every cell, every spore, every spirochete, ameba, protozoan, giraffe, lizard, the whole stinking mess, Mr. Spew, and within hours."

     "But how the hell are you going to pull it off?"

     "Mr. Spew, that device below is capable of radiating 10 billion carnivores a microsecond.  It is trained on outer space.  Perhaps a third of it will be deflected from the earth's atmosphere to permeate the globe.  The rest will be lost forever.  The globe will be lost in its own appetite, its own greed.  It will eat itself to death.  Yes, even the smallest microorganism will feast on its surroundings until, eaten itself, nothing will survive.  The world will be holy, pure and unsullied.  Once again divine innocence will prevail over the expanse of mother earth."

     "Sounds like a lot of shit to me.  How do you know it's going to work?"

     Rance Fervod nudged a nostril with the silencer and inspected the latter for possible tasty accumulations.  He trained it on Spew and grinned.  His teeth were sharp and precise, utterly carnivorous, utterly suggestive of the impending Armageddon.  He said:

     "We can only proceed on theory, Mr. Spew.  And yet we must know that such beauty as I have entrusted you with in these final moments is divine inspiration, eternal messianic destiny, the last movement in God's omniscience, his pity, his tenderness, for having willed a final solution to evil, to the forces of sin and death.  Satan is vanquished, Mr. Spew.  Back up.  Enter the house.  We descend to the lead lined chamber."

 

 

Fervod pulled back a carpet on the basement floor and gestured with the automatic.  Spew knelt to a recessed handle and lifted a small trapdoor.  There was light beneath, a ladder he descended slowly with the Walther focused on the crest of his skull, as Fervod followed him down.  There was the sudden impulse to lunge from view, anywhere, but the room below was quite small and lined in lead, and there seemed nowhere to turn.  Fervod was grinning horribly there at the base of the ladder, reaching to a lever in a great panel of dials and instrumentation, gesturing to the trapdoor clamped down tight from above.

     "We're secure here, Mr. Spew.  Through the panel behind you is enough food for both of us if we lived another century, food and water, gin and tonic, the best German beer, imported cheeses, the amenities of life as we know it, all hoarded there for our delectation."

     "But how about the machine?  The carnivoorg?"

     "The lead sheath, cretin.  Lead is the solitary substance my little carnivores can't penetrate."

     "Listen, sweet chips.  I ain't going to sit tight down here in this cell for a lifetime.  Not a lifetime of your ugly mug.  I think you better give it up.  Call the whole thing off."

     Fervod grinned horribly.  He inserted a long fingernail into his left nostril and dislodged a wad of phlegm.  He popped it in his mouth and lolled it on his tongue.  He savored it with all the supreme gusto and relish of a fine gourmet.  He motioned toward a large ottoman.  Spew declined and squatted in the corner, gripping his genitals, adjusting them absently, his free hand dangling simian to the metal floor.

     Fervod turned to the controls and lowered a massive steel lever down calibrations in the facing panel.  He giggled horribly.  He executed a jig.  He pranced about with utter verve and glee, a cacophony of grunts and scuffles on the floor, a mincing minuet of tasseled slippers, hearty cackles and goat cries of supreme exhilaration which turned Burt Spew to stone.

     "It's over now, Mr. Spew.  Within several hours we will be the only living organisms on this planet."

     "What then?  You going to stick down here for the next 30 years?  Shit man, that's not a party."

     "My dear sir.  I merely turn off the carnivoorg.  We wait until morning, and it's safe above.  We view a transformed earth.  We frolic among the devastation.  We utter praise to the supreme being.  We cackle with glee."

     Spew looked down at his groin.  He bounced on the balls of his feet and cut a slow sneaker.  He cut another.  Suddenly he had a plan.

 

 

At 1:35 PM Frank Starbuck and about 35 troopers swung in fast and furious at Fervod's mountain retreat.  They fanned out slow with riot guns and gas grenades and closed from shrub to shrub up to the great front door.  Starbuck in the rear lifted a megaphone and hollered an abrasive metallic chatter over the mountain stillness.

     "You in there, Spew?  Let's hear it."

     There was no response.  Two meaty flushed men poised at the entrance and smashed through, spraying Thompsons in the muted light, a boom and shudder, a flicker and stab of flame into sidereal quiet.  It was utterly still on Porky Mountain.  Starbuck:

     "You in here, Burt?  Let's hear it, boy."

     There was no answer.  The troopers spread out to every nook and cranny, smashing doors and spraying Thompsons.  They descended at last to the basement, wary of the laboratory stench and maze, the glitter of tubes, the banks of bright circuitry.  There somebody puked, and they all turned, and there was Boris, bloated, draining blood, a pitiful ugly sight alongside the minced Shetland, a swarm of viscous maggots.

     "Jesus.  Get Starbuck down here."

     About a minute later somebody yelled:

     "There's a trapdoor down here.  Get Starbuck."

     And Starbuck entered the basement with the megaphone and knelt at the steel door set into the concrete floor and hollered with the megaphone, and Spew juked tight below with the muted words just barely audible, just barely conveying a desperation he felt himself like malignancy, slugging down his 5th Dortmunder to work up a healthy fart.

 

 

"There's no use yelling, Mr. Spew.  They won't hear you."

     "Hell, that's the chief.  Hell man, you can't go through with this."

     "Minutes, Mr. Spew.  That's all that's left for them, and the door is bolted.  Don't try anything.  I'm an excellent marksman."

     "But it's horrible.  It's gruesome.  Hell they never had a chance to say their prayers."

     "It's too late for that.  Settle back and enjoy your beer.  Savor every delectable drop.  This is paradise."

     Detective Burt Spew slugged down his Dortmunder, chasing all the cheese he had stuffed in over the last hour, and went for another and slugged that down and squatted with another half pound of the cheese and some pastrami and some pickled eggs and another Dortmunder and worked feverishly squatting there, flexing on the balls of his feet, trying to save mankind, trying desperately in their hour of need, in his own need and desperation, and he heard Starbuck again with the megaphone:

     "Burt.  You down there?  Give a yell, hear?  Don't let us down, boy."

     And Burt Spew, straining, cut an enormous blast that shuddered the chamber walls heroically, and Fervod's eyes went toward water, and he reeled back choking, and Spew sprang from his squat with his Jockeys soiled and his double knits mucid and grabbed the Walther and went for the big lever on the panel with Fervod barking horribly, cackling maniacally, a trilling warbling hooting cacophony that went like this:

     "Too late, Mr. Spew.  It's too damned late."

     And above the lead container 35 troopers were chewing each other in a big viscous pile, and the light was going, and the Shetland pony crumbling inward a big rotting heap of dissolving matter, and Fervod cackled onward, and it came across as:

     "If you go out there, you'll die, Mr. Spew.  The carnivores have saturated our planet.  It's just a question of time.  It's too late, I tell you."

     And Fervod leaped up, dancing wildly, a frenzied jig, a maniacal tango over the glossy floor, wheezing and tittering, prancing, leaping to click his heels, and Burt Spew opened up with the Walther 8 rounds cold and quiet, and there was nothing left of Fervod but riddled cheese, a heap of ugly little holes limp and draining, utterly dead and silent on the lead lined floor.

 

 

Burt Spew awoke in a fetal position at 7:35 AM on the morning of the following day.  He lay there with a clot of cheese in his mouth, his jaw wedged tight, and he worked it loose and reached for a Dortmunder just out at arm's length and notched it and lay back ugly and miserable, slugging it down.  Across the floor Fervod was a matted heap.  The blood had coagulated thickly on the floor, and there was the sweet scent of it and the scent of decay.  Spew suddenly started.  He gained his feet and reached for the lever controlling the trapdoor aloft and released the door and climbed the ladder unsteady, slugging down a second can.

     He lifted the door and reeled back, choking.  A great cloud of silt drifted down from the basement above.  He could see the sky, suddenly pawing to clear his vision, and the sky was the shade of gangrene.  Spew climbed on out and found himself in a small crater of silt.  Portions of walls were visible, girders.  The house was otherwise gone.  Spew ascended from the crater slowly and slugged down the rest of the beer and tossed it, a dull thud on the silt.  He was at the apex of Porky Mountain.  He was the only man alive.  He was the only living organism on the planet, and he stepped out over Porky Mountain, and as far as he could see was silt.  The lake was a yellow sludge in the distance, so vast and irreconcilable with his own small lonely pain as to dwarf him utterly, pitifully, pathetically, a hideous fleck against it.

     He saw the sun.  It raised up an ugly metallic gray on the distant horizon, a sheen of hideous light like the look of death above the darker gray of the land and the yellow of the distant lake.  He was the only man alive.  He hollered:

     "Anybody there?  Anybody there?"

     And his voice came back feeble and metallic, an abrasive clot of phlegm in a dead man's throat.  There was no answer.  His voice came again as if to himself:

     "I'll be a son of a bitch.  I'll be a sorry misbegotten son of a fucking bitch."

     Burt Spew nipped one nostril and leaned over and snorted phlegm into the gray silt at his feet.  It darkened the silt in patters.  He dug in his buttocks and smelled his fingers.

 

 

 

 

                                                                   THE END