Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Middle of a Pulp Detectve Story

But all of that had brought him here, underground in the sub-basement of Dr. Monk’s library. The stairway behind the bookcase was dark, the steps were deep and the tail of his trench coat dragged as he walked. The trigger book had a bright red cover, Diseases of the Lower Intestine. A little obvious but Monk wasn’t subtle. Killed half a dozen people and left them in the train yard. All in a heap in a freight car, broken and swollen.

The sub-basement was dug personally, maybe by hand, it connected down into the old subway tunnels. There was an annex that was supposed to run through here, connect the blue and red lines. It lost funding and was sealed off; Monk broke through, quadrupled the size of his home and built his immense, arcane laboratory. It was all spider webs and test tubes, an old centrifuge, high ceilings barely filled with sickly yellow light from a solitary lamp at the bottom of the stairwell.

Hasher would kill him if he found him here, at the scene. But Hasher wouldn’t, he didn’t know about Monk’s bookcase yet. He wouldn’t for a few more hours. Not until they deciphered Monk’s cipher from the newspaper. It’d only taken the detective a few hours to solve it, Hasher would need more time, more men, the computers. He wouldn’t see the key to it, the train yard. The sequence of call letters starting with the R 17, the subway here, now, his lair. The Annex. Under the intersection of 18th and Vine. The cipher wasn’t a message, it was a map. It all led here. Into the bowels. Even the book had the library code: S18 1977. It all fit.

But Hasher wasn’t meant to be here. Not yet. The detective was. Monk and the detective were dancing around each other, dropping little love notes. This time it was in the newspaper, the last time was in the train yard, the time before that it was the detectives turn, he’d cleaved his way through Lucy’s bar, the docks, and the old observatory. He’d left messages with Monk’s men. He’d left his footprint. Let Monk know he was coming. And here he was. And Monk was gone. Leaving behind more papers, more clues. The detective stood in The Annex, the air was acrid with the smell of alcohol. He’d bothered to disinfect his patients. Their blood was still in the traps of the operating table, dark stains festering. With it, “Too Late Detective” was scrawled on the opposing wall, above the tracks that ran through the far half of the room.


He didn’t want to, but it was time to go to The Rat. He didn’t like it. He didn’t like The Rat’s game. He hated back scratching, but The Rat would know more about The Monk than The Detective would, and though he couldn’t squeeze The Rat for information, he could offer it in other ways. One of The Rat’s boys was in the clink and it wouldn’t take much to get him loose. He’d have to call Darla. Goddamn if it doesn’t always come back to Darla. Goddamn if he didn't need a drink.

Friday, February 08, 2008

A Tiny, Easy Mystery

A Tiny, Easy Mystery

He’d swear it never stops raining. Every night just before he locks up it gets cloudy. Every night just as he locks the door it starts raining. Every night he turns around and there’s a man with his collar pulled up, running by. Always. The streets hiss at him. Every night.

James sweeps up at the gym. It’s a place for boxers. It’s hidden, there’s no sign, the trainers are crooks and the boxers too. He’s been told that it’s famous, that famous fighters have trained here, went on to fight celebrities, and won big money just for losing. He’s been working there long enough to know that’s not true. He doesn’t get paid much. It’s a filthy job full of sweaty, dirty things.

Two weeks ago someone shot Morris McCarthy out front, then drug the poor kid into the ring and let him die there. Nobody knows who did it, but nobody really cares. The gym is carefully stowed in a back alley, everyone at the gym is from a smaller alley, small enough to think this is the big time. Whoever shot Morris was from an alley even smaller. Somewhere like where James lives, where all the fire escapes are rust red and shaky, where the windows have bars all the way to the roof and all the way down into the basement where all the rain runs down into the windows and finds the cracks in the door and warps James’ floor and runs into the crate where he keeps his long-ruined records.

Morris lived in the building next door. Giant and rotting. He was an out of shape loudmouth, a born talent gone lousy with drugs. But strong, always strong. He put the wallop on Sly Tate pretty good. Just got a good one in and Sly almost went through the ropes. Everyone thought Morris was going to the show real quick after that. Everyone.

But strong, always strong. Pulled all the wrong people to him, into the club and filled the place with terrible people. James saw Morris hit a lady one time, at the diner by the docks, late at night. Morris didn’t know James was there, he was with his entourage, hangers on. This was after he bought the gym but before he lost the rematch to Tate. A local celebrity goon. A story that got shorter and shorter, third round, second round, first round, knock out. He reached up and slapped a lady waitress, right as she was bringing him the check. Said he didn’t pay in this town. Told her he was Morris McCarthy.

James shot Morris McCarthy. And his old arms pulled him out of the rain and into the gym, across the tile and pushed him into the ring and then he shot him again. It took two hours and nobody cares enough to figure it out. The bullet was fired from the old revolver of an old man at a known nuisance. He found the revolver behind his house in some tall grass, back when there was tall grass. Back when James was fighting, back when he almost took down the champ. Duster. Duster Figg. Everyone called him Duster. A German kid. Was it German? Big as a house. It was in all the papers for weeks. Broke his goddamned nose right at the end. A quick snap and his nose opened like a goddamned faucet, sure as I’m sitting here.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

More or Less What I heard At The Annual Company Update Presentation


Hello everyone. Thanks for being patient while we got the projector working; I'm all thumbs when it comes to that sort of thing. Last week my wife and I spent about an hour trying to send pictures to our niece out at Notre Dame. I know, I know. I kept saying it would get there faster if we just mailed them to her! Oh by the way, thanks for this lovely weather in "Sunny" California. I really think it was warmer in Chicago when I left. I'm serious. Look at Alex shaking his head "I don't think so, boss!" Alright, alright, enough of that.

It's nice to see everyone again, for the new faces, I'm Mike Schulman I'm sure I've e-mailed with many of you. If this is your first January here with iVation, I welcome you. Our goal today is to go over the past fiscal year: Challenges met, challenges conquered, improvement areas, acquisitions and new products. I'm going to talk about strengths and weaknesses, I'm going to talk about goals and motivation, and then I'm going to bring up Dave from accounting to go over some of the finer points of our bottom line, and then, finally, I'm going to open the floor to questions. I will do my best to answer your questions and promise that if I do not have the answer in front of me, I'll get you a satisfactory answer before the end of the day.


In 2007 I stood in this very spot and talked about our short-term goals. We were just coming off our best year in our company's history. We had a twenty percent growth in 2006 and we looked to continue that pattern going into 2007. We did, however, realize there were some serious obstacles, some one-time event occurrences, like the sale of our company to our parent company Aceleron, which would not allow us to grow that strong in the following year. We set our goal at roughly eight percent growth. We didn't have a bad year, far from a terrible year, but we all know we could have done better. Our final numbers put us at just over 5 percent growth in 2007. This, in my mind, is an average year, an OK year, a so - so year. Some of you thought the original goal was set too high at 8 percent or northwards, but, we here at iVation set out to set high water marks. We want to be the industry leader that we know we can be.

One of our biggest goals in 2007 was the iVation Internet Initiative. We started out to assemble a comprehensive website that would offer our product to the masses. How many people who had never heard of iVation before.? How many people are new to computers? How many people can the power of iVation help? These were important questions in 2006. I’m happy to say we had the right answers in 2007. We have been aggressively tracking our branding output over the last twelve months. Last year, in this very room I told you that we would have an 87 percent saturation rate or I would consider our year a failure. We have spent the last month polling through the independent, non-partisan, polling company QuesTion that has put together a comprehensive report verifying that our saturation rate has successfully crossed the 90 percent rate. Absolutely. A round of applause is in order. Absolutely.

The iVation Internet Initiative has been a success across the board. Traffic is up across the board. Sales are up across the board. Production is up across the board. Shipping, up across the board. All of these numbers point to a massive 2008 at iVation. Our projections are impressive to say the least.


I'd say this chart is motivating! Take a look at this chart! This is the overall influx of orders has gone up exponentially throughout the year. Remember that 8 percent growth I was talking about? That was all achieved in the fourth quarter. iVation Internet Initiative is changing the face of this company. iVation Internet Initiative along with Frankenstein are changing the future of this company, my future, your future, our future. And what if Frankenstein walked in right now? That would be motivating. Do you simply run out the door and hope that he doesn't catch you?


Hopefully everyone received my email the other day regarding Frankenstein policy. I know Mr. Sanders in the Handsome Department has. Incidentally, let's have a round of applause for Senator Sanders and his fine work in the Handsome Department. Since his hiring just three months ago, Handsome has been up across the board, crowbars have been pretzeled, damsels rescued, lions tamed and rings of fire jumped through. But, that being said, all the handsome in the world isn't going to save you from Frankenstein if he walked in this door that I've bolted shut behind me. I stood on this very spot last year and reminded you to install the comprehensive Frankenstein Preparedness kit that Mr. Sanders famously implemented at Candyland only last year. And I stood on this very spot and recommended that there be at least one trap door installed behind each door. And what do we have to show for it?


There have been three separate Frankenstein attacks in 2007. Now, I don't know what we've done to irritate Mr. Frankenstein the way we have, but with our comprehensive iVation Immobilization and Immolation package, I feel that 2008 might be our best year for quelling Frankenstein. While sales are up across the board, and while I attribute much of this to Frankenstein, let's face facts, the Albert family, the Quinn family and Victor's family would be much happier if sales were down along with Frankenstein related accidents. As we know Rene Albert and Jason Quinn used to work in our Data Entry department, but were torn limb from limb in their desks. I'm sure you've all seen the Certificate of Recognition we hung over the Frankenstein-shaped hole in the North wall by the Lobby. Victor, who due to his recent trauma did not feel up to attending our meeting here today, Victor is physically unharmed, and heroically tried to trip tackle Frankenstein as he was de-arming the cleaning lady, whose name escapes me, but Frankenstein somehow figured out where Victor lived and when Victor got home that night, his wife had her arms and legs removed by a vengeful Frankenstein.

iVation Immobilization and Immolation Plan

Unfortunately, last year, Frankenstein hacked into our intranet and studied our comprehensive Anti-Frankenstein measures and was ready to destroy them as we installed them. Needless to say this was unexpected. I remember everyone was particularly upset when he threw the Contractor's daughter into the depths of the Pacific Ocean. That couldn't be helped and, as the courts will show, was not our fault. We’ve all signed Doug’s petition to suspend Bring Your Daughter to Work Day, and some people just don’t listen. But, again, these are all learning experiences. I’m happy to report that our Frankenstein knowledge is at an all time high, across the board.

Back to Basics

Several members of the board and I have reviewed our old plan and found it deeply flawed. We estimate that nearly 70 percent of our proposed anti-Frankenstein measures would not have worked to the desired ends, namely, killing Frankenstein. As recent studies show, Frankenstein is in-fact unstoppable and after the question "How do you kill that which does not live" was posited and reposited over and over by Hassan our Summer Abroad Student on loan from Transylvania, we really started rethinking our strategy on a very deep level. We went down to probably nine or ten levels of deep analysis, we’ve crunched the numbers, attacked this thing from all angles, and felt like the smartest thing was to meet in a cave in Alameda, wearing cloaks and review plans under torchlight. And here's what we've come up with:

Fire Bad

Fire Bad. Fire. Bad. We feel that the best way to deal with the Frankenstein monster is not with very elaborate weaponry, as we did in Phase One in Q2 of 05, 05 was marred by listening to the Military Industrial Complex. Here's a handy chart of Bullets Fired vs. Frankenstein Death Toll. We lost about half the office on this one. The bullets seemed to mildly irritate Frankenstein. Of course that's Mildly Irritate on the Frankenstein Anger Scale where Mildly Irritate ranking about a six out of a ten, each increment of course has a death factor of ten, so we were down about sixty staff members; it's represented on this chart as a blue line. The larger red line on the graph is of course property damage, productivity lost, and the overall stock price drop between the incident and when the incident was fully recovered from. That's a lot of red.

Now, when you factor in the ancillary death toll, that of the bullets that unfortunately bounced off Frankenstein's steely hide and maimed bystanders trying to remove themselves from his unbreakable grip that blue line goes much higher, but fortunately the red line doesn't climb too high. This was one of the few benefits of our poorly conceived machine gun turret “defense-as-offense” strategy, bullets leave relatively small holes and spackle is inexpensive.

We are now looking at providing each member of the staff with a large wooden club, a box of rags and a squirt-bottle full of a fuel to be decided. We're shopping around for the fuel and with the price of gas being what it is; it might take a while to choose. We're looking at a silicon valley start up that uses a simple light bulb and a series of intensifying lenses and could be used over and over to light the rags right at your desk. No more fumbling with matches or lighters and dropping them at the last second. That's what happened to Bill Watersmith. Remember? Remember. Fire Bad.

Remember that we're all in this together. Remember to bolt the doors, remember that if he breaks through the wall, ceiling or floor, if he flies in through the window, grab your club light it with the fuel to be decided and try to direct him towards the pit. If the pit is inaccessible, try to use one of the wall mounted baby-dolls. This measure has proven fairly ineffective in the past, but might buy you a few moments while he decides whether or not he can rip the arms and legs off the doll, or perhaps drown the doll. Be aware, however, that if you remember this chart, the baby-doll will buy you roughly two seconds of added escape time, but will increase Frankenstein's Rage exponentially.

We want to get him into the pit, and immediately set him on fire. Fire Bad. If one of you goes the extra mile and is willing to be bait for Frankenstein, it will definitely be a favorable mark on your file. Maybe bring in a kitten, try to lure the monster towards the pit. Remember Jason Farthow? He used to work in Data and now he's Project Manager for the whole Eastern Sea Board, he has his own parking spot and -- well he'd have that anyway I suppose, but the point is he took one for the team and he still gets out of bed and rolls into the office with a smile on his face.

I’d like to thank all of you for coming and considering all of this information. With your help we can make 2008 a record year for this company. It’s going to take hard work, it’s going to take determination, it’s going to take aggressive marketing and torch wielding, it’s going to take self sacrifice by the flaming pit to make this company what I’ve always imagined it being. I’d like to thank you for your patience, I’m going to have Dave come up now and go over our profits for the year, for Dave’s sake I ask those of you wearing crucifixes to politely tuck them inside your shirt. Thanks very much. Here's Dave Van Szekely, everyone.