Forced Perspectives – Snippet 42
The text began now to deal with a person, evidently a man, identified only as “the guru.” The guru was a rock guitarist who, according to the printed pages, “was one of the Laurel Canyon hangers-on in 1965, and had the dubious distinction of being banned from Cass Elliot’s house on Woodrow Wilson Drive, apparently for having stolen some cash from her. the guru was already aware of the sigil that was in the possession of the biker club, and was making plans to steal it from their Topanga Canyon clubhouse. They were using it only to sustain the group identity of their club, including members who (with some frequency) died in highway accidents or clashes with the other violent, occult-inclined motorcycle clubs of the time from Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties. the guru had grander, in fact world-spanning plans. He stole the sigil from the biker club’s clubhouse, and soon printed the sigil in his coloring books, copies of which I was able to acquire in 2016…”
Vickery looked around, and lowered his voice. “Okay, the sigil is that complicated figure in the coloring books.”
Castine nodded. “Obviously. And obviously this guy who the Elliot person didn’t like is the hippie rock musician Ragotskie mentioned, who tried to start an egregore in the ’60s.”
“Obviously,” echoed Vickery. He looked across at her. “Cass Elliot was in the Mamas and Papas.” When she gave him a blank look, he added, “Jeez, Ingrid — California dreamin’, on such a winter’s day –“
“Whatever.” She touched two words on the page. “That’s twice he forgot to capitalize ‘the’ at the beginning of a sentence.”
“Guy’s careless,” observed Vickery, pausing to take a sip of his remaining beer before leaning over they page again.
“The biker club, the printout went on, fully the eponymous swine, attacked the guru’s group when they were in the midst of consummating the birth of the guru’s egregore, further down the canyon. Several people, including the guru’s wife/woman/girlfriend, were apparently killed. The biker club suffered casualties as well, and subsequently disappears from the roster of Los Angeles cult groups.”
Vickery felt Castine shiver beside him. “That’s how you kill an emerging egregore?” she said. “Kill the members? I don’t see us doing that.”
“There’ll be another way. Omar Sharif didn’t look like he’d do that. What do you bet,” he added, flipping to the next page, “that we know the place where this attack happened?”
“What, that old house? Ugh — I do not want to see the rest of that day.”
The next few pages of the printout dealt with Harlowe’s acquisition of the CharkraSys business and the organization of his egregore-to-be, which he referred to as: “the Singularity project — e pluribus unum. It was synthe guruity that I found ChakraSys just as I was ready to initiate the Singularity.”
Castine frowned. “Synthe guruity? What’s that mean, synthetic guruhood?”
“I guess so,” said Vickery. “So what’s he trying to say, that it was through being a fake guru that he found ChakraSys?”
Castine was silent, and when Vickery started to speak, she quickly raised her hand to stop him. He sat back and let his right hand slide into his jacket pocket, wondering if she had seen some sign of surveillance or imminent attack. He looked down at one of his beer glasses, trying to scrutinize the bar peripherally.
“Sorry,” said Castine. “I think I — look.” She tapped the page in front of them. “The word he wanted there was pretty clearly synchronicity. It was synchronicity that he found ChakraSys just when he had a use for it, right? Not…synthetic guruity. And on the other pages, the T isn’t capitalized when ‘the guru’ is the beginning of a sentence.”
“Okay,” said Vickery, relaxing and looking at the words she was pointing at.
“So after his first draft of this file, before he printed it out, he did a quick find-and-replace on the whole file, see? In the first draft he must have used the actual name of this rock guitarist, but afterward he replaced the name with ‘the guru.’ And in the places where the guy’s name was at the beginning of a sentence, find-and-replace substituted the replacement words — ‘the guru’ — which of course started with a lower-case T!”
Vickery leaned forward excitedly. “So if the word should have been synchronicity but got changed to synthe guruity, then the replaced word was –“
“Chronic,” said Castine.
“What kind of name is Chronic?”
She shrugged. “It was the ’60s.”
Vickery picked up his second glass of beer and took a gulp. “He did it before, too — ” Putting the glass down, he pulled out a few of the pages they’d already read, and riffled through them. “Look. He says, ‘The biker club, fully the eponymous swine, attacked the guru’s group.’ According to Supergirl’s friend, the club’s name was the Gardena Legion. But what’s swinish about Gardena? Her friend remembered it close, but wrong.”
“Well, I’ve never been to Gardena.”
“What does the name ‘Legion’ suggest? Along with ‘swine’?”
Castine picked up her glass, noticed once again that it was empty, and put it down. She cocked her head. “Of course. ‘My name is Legion, for we are many.’ That’s what the demons in the possessed guy told Jesus, in the gospels. And when Jesus cast the demons out of the guy, they went into a herd of pigs — swine — and they all ran off a cliff. The famous Gadarene Swine. Poor old pigs.” She tapped the page. “Yes, Harlowe did another find-and-replace here, didn’t he? The name of the biker club must have been the Gadarene Legion.”
“Sure. Supergirl’s friend apparently never heard the gospel story, and remembered it as Gardena. Like I said, close.”
On the last page of the printout was what appeared to be a poem, but Vickery pointed out that it was the lyrics of the Fogwillow song, “Elegy in a Seaside Meadow.”
“What the Dumpster man was singing,” said Castine. “We should have talked to him.”
Vickery remembered falling down in surprise when the old man had appeared in the Dumpster, and then scurrying away backward. “Oh well,” he said shortly. He finished his second beer. “You sure you don’t want a drink?”
“I’m fine. What’s next?”
He slid the papers and booklets back into the envelope. “We should look up a bunch of this stuff on a computer in the library,” he said. “I’ve got a San Bernardino County library card, but it won’t work here. Without a card, you only get fifteen minutes on the computers, so let’s –“
Castine slid out of the booth. “I’ve got an L.A. County one that’s still valid,” she said; “well, not on me, but I remember my card number and PIN number. I’m sure I can get us on for a full hour.” She waited till he had stood up, then said, “Are we going back to Barstow tonight, after we meet with Ragotskie?”
“And pours the waters of the Nile,” said Vickery flatly, “on every golden scale.” Then he gave her a look that must have expressed his sudden alarm, for she took a step back and her eyes were wide.
“You didn’t mean to say that,” she whispered, “did you?”
He shook his head, then cleared his throat and hummed briefly, confirming control of his own voice; just as, he recalled with a chill, Castine had done a few minutes earlier. “Was that,” he said carefully, “from the Alice books too?” When she nodded, still wide-eyed, he went on, “Yes, Barstow tonight.”
Castine took his black-nylon-clad elbow, careful not to touch his hand with hers, as they hurried toward the door.