The Inner Eye

  • Round: Books: 5 Page Challenge

  • Genre:
    Fiction: Mystery, Crime
  • Submitted: April 11, 2011

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5 Page Challenge

Pages 1-5


Summary

It's 1947. Detective Sam Brill tracks down a Senator's missing daughter in Boston's sordid Scollay Square and uncovers murder, mind control, the militant Watch & Ward Society and a political conspiracy that leads from Beacon Hill to a shadowy new government agency called the C.I.A.

Pages 1 - _

In 1942 I gave up my berth as house detective at the Tourraine for a tour of eastern Europe and came back dissatisfied with my lot. I saw things in Vienna and rousting streetgirls or counting ashtrays no longer appealed to me. I'd been in analysis since my father died and my friend, Doctor Pichel, urged me to unify body and mind, so I took up night courses at the Boston Psychocriminalytic Institute and set out my shingle as an Inner Eye. It was two years after the war when the Senator came to see me.

He was on foot, the rain was steady all morning, and my office sat three blocks down from the State House on Joy Street. It's possible he merely intended to dry off. I was used to such a random occurrence; Jung called it synchronicity.

The rain reminded me of Vienna. I hadn't seen Doctor Pichel in weeks and when I fell into a mood I wasn't above a little narcotherapy. Detective, heal thyself.

My dosage of 2 cc. was odorless and tasteless except for the rye. I wiped the Schenley from my lips and set the glass down. Whiskey was one of the things the war made obsolete; it was all rum and cola now. We liked it sweet after our bitter victory. I checked my Benrus, another pre-war relic. Its luminous dial stared back at me and within minutes the smallest of details took on the reality-orphaned clarity of a waking dream.

My door opened.

The Senator's wet homburg dripped at the edge of my desk like a small dog pissing on a curb. His umbrella darkened the madder pile of my oriental. There was a bit of terrier to him—unruly brows and a threat of barking—that made me expect him to shake dry. Instead, he plucked a monogrammed handkerchief from his breast pocket to dab his misted face. The face was almost patrician, wind-blown and weathered from the moral heights of Beacon Hill, but his dull eyes and a thick, oafish chin spoiled the effect. He sank into the Morris chair across from me and my office filled with his clubby fragrance of sandalwood and wild baby’s breath. 

I took one look at his puritan mug and couldn't resist provoking him.

"We know the brain is a sexual organ," I started in. I tapped the burl of my pipe against my palm and brushed away its ash; the sharp note of tobacco helped to dissipate his presence.

I went on, "—that we are preoccupied by thoughts of a dark, bestial nature."

My visitor grunted a denial. 

I prodded him again. “We hold back. Until our urges overwhelm us.”

I slapped my palm on the desk and a Rorschach scattered to the floor by his patent oxfords. His eyes followed it down and I wondered which image he found in its ragged stain: the butterfly or the genitals. His clenched face gave no clue.

“We drown, Senator Talbot.”

My well-heeled client stood up. Despite his lifts, I took him to be on the short side of five feet and the far side of fifty, with a close crop of dark hair shining unnaturally in the dim light that filtered through the blinds. His suit was as expensive as the overcoat folded neatly on the chair beside him: dark gray twill, ferociously starched shirt and a tie that belonged at Harvard. His body had begun the slow decline and he wore his wallet to cover up.

“I didn’t come to hear your theories on deviancy, Brill. I have a train to catch.”

“Why did you come?”

He looked around my office at the cabinets of rubber sex novelties, the glistening glass syringes, the unmarked phials of cloudy liquids, the leather fainting couch. A gray afternoon drizzle brought tears to the three-foot eye painted on my bay window:

Samuel Brill, Inner Eye

Reasonable Rates

"I was told you were a detective," he said. "I may have been mistaken."

His fingers drummed the brim of his hat, threatening to put it on. I should have let him, but the International Society rejected my latest paper and I needed a new case to submit.

“You’ve already given me the film,” I tapped the canister on my desk. It gave a dull tinny sound that unnerved him. A subtle collapse of his shoulders made him smaller; he seemed to be leaking his vital fluid, deflating slowly into the chair.

I dragged the Ampro Stylist from my closet, hefted its sixty pounds to my desk and plugged it in. The Senator’s barking fit must have exhausted his temper—he didn’t stop me. I clamped his reel to the feed arm and threaded the 16mm ribbon through the pressure gate. “Do you want to tell me what we’re looking at?”

“The end,” he said. I heard the air pushing through his lungs. He turned his back and confronted a murky representation of thought forms above my bookcase. The snarling washes of paint were as submarine as his mood.

“A Boston artist,” I told him. “Larry Kupferman.”

He repeated the name. “A jew.”

“So am I,” I said.

His terrier jaw tightened. I took down the unframed oil and removed a pair of carved phallic totems to clear a makeshift screen.

My office became unreal. Shapes and colors dissolved in gray light and the Senator’s hollow breath was lost to the hypnotic whir of the projector. I recognized the stage at The Old Howard through the hats and bald heads jostling into frame.

A woman danced in silence, her talents veiled behind a gauzy wrap. She played peek-a-boo, but needn’t have bothered. Talents like hers couldn’t be hidden. When at last the flimsy fabric fluttered to the stage, there was nothing left her mother hadn’t seen before.

I whistled over the noise of the motor. “Nice ankles. The Watch and Ward Society would give their right hand to get their left hand on this.”

The Senator ignored me. He stood. Gray shapes flickered across his back. I let the gestalt emerge and made out a chorus of dancing girls with no distraction to their long pale washes of skin. The long-legged shape in the middle formed suggestive rhythms, a darker shape of her hair swaying with her hips.

“There,” he said. “Stop the film.”

I paused the motor. The women stuttered to a halt, their lurid poses frozen in mid-gyration. It made quite a postcard. The Senator moved closer and jabbed his finger into the light as if he could prod the ghostly image of the dark-haired girl in front.

“That’s my daughter.”

He tried to whisper, but the muscles in his throat clenched shut and made him sound surprised at his own voice.

“You’re sure?”

“I know my own daughter when I see her.”

Not like that, I was thinking. The Senator stepped back and revealed the girl completely, her skin as gray and exposed as the moon. She might have been as distant. Despite her intimate dance she was on a far orbit, her face blank and remote.

“You could be mistaken. It’s dark. This girl happens to look like your daughter.”

“No.”

“Any other children?”

“No.”

I pictured a daughter raised as a son, pulling an Oedipus on the old king. “Have you fought? Would she want to get back at you?”

“No.”

“You’re not a lot of help, Senator. Did you ask your daughter—”

The odor of charred acetate reminded me of vinegar. Bitter, heavy. The image on the wall burst into color; a fiery stain spreading from its edges like a morbid disease. The girl twisted and burned. An empty whiteness took her place. I rushed to the projector and killed the hot lamp. Its light blinded me, but I located the Senator’s grim voice over the chirr of the cooling fan:

“She’s missing, Brill. She’s gone.”


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