Forced Perspectives – Snippet 31

CHAPTER SEVEN: Two and Two is Four

During a one-minute-interval update on his iPad, Don Foster tapped back to the All Events page.

John Taitz was driving Harlowe’s Chevy Tahoe slowly north on Normandie, past more of the apartment buildings which, it seemed to him, made up most of Los Angeles.

They had just received Harlowe’s order that Vickery and Castine, as well as Ragotskie, were to be killed. Taitz briefly wished he’d had a drink or two before setting out.

“Where’s Ragotskie now?” he asked.

“As of thirty seconds ago, he was a block east of us,” said Foster, “on Mariposa. But check this out — at nine-thirty last night he was parked in the Holiday Marina lot for ten minutes! I thought he wasn’t supposed to know where the Black Sheep is berthed now, since he went rogue yesterday?”

“That’s right,” said Taitz, “he’s not.” I’ll have to tell Harlowe he has to move it again, he thought. He’ll love that.

“You think he followed the Castine woman there, with the bloody sock? How would she have found out about it?”

“I don’t think — no, he must have actually been at that weird restaurant on Seventh last night, and we just didn’t see him. He probably followed Loria to the marina. He’s obsessed with her.”

Foster settled back in the seat and tapped the iPad screen to get back to the one-minute-interval updates. “He’s only moved up half a block. I bet he’s parked.”

“Consulting the sock, probably. It’s a good sign that he’s driving around L.A. — Harlowe was afraid Castine and Vickery just ran straight east, like to Vegas.” Taitz steered the SUV to a strip of empty curb and shifted to park.

“I wonder if they’re still in that blue sedan,” said Foster. “What was that, some kind of foreign thing?”

“It looked like an old East German Trabant. Maybe Vickery drove it back from Hell last year.”

“Maybe he drove it back there again. He sure disappeared yesterday.” Foster scratched his bald scalp. “I’d still like to get a hat. And not just some tacky fishing hat bag thing.” He shifted around to look up and down this street, then said, “You think they’ll…offer resistance?”

“We’ll have no problems.” Right after getting Harlowe’s newest order, Taitz had swung through a parking lot and taken a pair of license plates from a parked car and put them on the Tahoe, and the windshield and windows were fortunately tinted against the ubiquitous street cameras.

“Ragotskie’s nothing,” Taitz went on. “He’s got that little Beretta, but he couldn’t shoot anybody. And Ingrid Castine’s just an office clerk for some transportation agency back east. Vickery — he was a driver for that Galvan woman’s ghost-evasion car service, which didn’t look like a real carriage trade operation. He’s some kind of rootless loser. I don’t anticipate any problems.”

In killing three people, he thought. What kind of apotheosis is to be found at the end of this sort of road?

“Vickery’s good at evasive driving, for sure. And he got out of that deli pretty smooth. Bam! Bam!”

“Big deal,” said Taitz, “he sucker-punched poor Pratt and ran out.”

To Taitz’s annoyance, Foster drew his Glock 40 from the shoulder holster under his shiny new six-hundred-dollar black leather jacket, and pointed it at the floor. After he worked his hand on the grip for a moment, a luminous green dot appeared on the carpeting between his sneakers.

“A three-bet before the flop!” said Foster. “And this flop’s gonna be dealt face-down, oh yeah.”

“Put it away,” said Taitz, restraining himself from adding, idiot, “and watch your iPad.”

Foster was always using poker slang, which Taitz believed he got exclusively from YouTube videos; and using it now, breezily, minutes after they had received the order to kill Vickery and Castine as well as Ragotskie, was — if nothing else — shallow.

Taitz glanced with concealed distaste at Foster, who had put the gun away and was again peering at the iPad.  And, Not just some tacky fishing hat bag thing. Oh, God forbid. And what is Foster going to contribute, Taitz wondered, to the egregore? Sophomoric self-satisfaction? I can’t blame him, though, for wanting to subsume his glib, shallow self in the godhead.

I’m counting on it too.

At fifty-five, John Taitz had been the oldest employee of ChakraSys when Harlowe had bought the company in 2016. Until Harlowe’s arrival, the chakra therapy salon had occupied a space in a strip mall in San Jose, offering counseling on diet, and “workshops,” and exercises to keep the clients’ seven “chakras” functioning smoothly. Taitz had been privately skeptical of the whole affair — deep breathing and rainbow diets and forever tightening the Kegel muscles, which he gathered basically meant a person’s rear end — but Harlowe had brought a vastly bigger and more ambitious perspective to the whole business.

The egregore, the living cauldron into which they would all dump their unattractive selves.

John Taitz wondered what his own personality could contribute to the transcendent egregore. Before getting the job at ChakraSys, he had served time in Soledad State Prison for murdering a woman he had believed — still believed — he had loved.

They had been living together in an apartment in Santa Clara, and in the midst of a drunken argument in 1986 she had grabbed her car keys and stormed out; when she drove away in her car he followed her in his, and on the 101 freeway he had caught up with her at eighty miles per hour and swerved to force her off onto the shoulder. But his right front bumper had struck her car, which had skidded sideways and then gone tumbling right over the freeway embankment, into a parking lot below. Hannah had not been wearing her seatbelt. Two other drivers had witnessed the incident and pulled over, and their eventual testimony had led to his conviction for murder.

He lived each day now in stoic confidence that he would soon be able to cease being the person who carried the intolerable memory of yanking the steering wheel to the right, and the boom of the impact, and the glimpse of her car in the first of what must have been several rolls. And he had killed two other men since, for reasons that were incomprehensible to him now. Perhaps the egregore would need a capacity for weathering guilt.

“Flop’s gonna be dealt face-down,” said Foster again, nodding and grinning.

Taitz crossed his arms and looked at him. “I thought you liked Ragotskie.”

“Like?” said Foster. “I guess I don’t like anybody.”

“God help the subtle body,” muttered Taitz. More loudly, he said, “Just watch your damn app, and let me know when he moves.”


Vickery parked the Saturn in a lot on Irolo Street, around the corner from Galvan’s yard. He rolled down the front windows to match the empty back ones, remarking that it was common practice in San Francisco to leave all windows open on parked cars, so that thieves could ransack the interior without having to break any glass. He and Castine then walked up to Eighth Street, where they paused by a couple of barbed-wire-enclosed dumpsters behind a Jon’s Market. The noon sun was bright on the downstairs shops and upstairs apartment windows across the street, and the wind from the west smelled of the distant sea.

“I wish we’d brought Omar Khayyam along,” said Castine. “If those bad guys show up, he could rescue us again.” Since their stop in Hesperia this morning she was wearing a long suede coat over a white cotton blouse and blue jeans. She had not bought a purse, and Vickery’s .38 was in her right-hand coat pocket.

“We should be okay if we keep moving around,” said Vickery. He had bought a Dodgers baseball cap and a black nylon bomber jacket, and he had followed Castine’s example and carried the flat 9-millimeter Glock in the right jacket pocket. “And this business with Galvan shouldn’t take long. She probably owes me a few favors, and it’s been eight months since she –“

“Told a bad guy where to find your Secret Garden.”

“Yeah. And she’d probably like to have me around for the occasional echo-vision job. She doesn’t need to know that it…generally doesn’t work right anymore.”

“Were there a lot of those? Echo-vision jobs?”