I haven’t been getting as far ahead on my blog-based writing as I’d hoped the past couple days. The reason? I was invited to contribute to a radio show for Democracy Burlesque, a stage show that I used to be a part of and one of the few theater projects I’ve ever departed on good terms from.
So I wrote some quickie song parodies (which I’m not normally a fan of doing, and I’ll probably discuss why at some point, but that was the commission and I think it works here). I’m recording today and the show plays December 19 on WCPT.
But enough of that… onto today’s story. This is unusual in that it’s a much more substantial part of Clean Hippie Murders than I anticipated writing. The whole thing started with a bit at the end (of part II), and I built forward because that didn’t seem enough. I’m not sure if all of the characterization will stay as is, but it seemed right at the time.
Talinsky shambled out of the office. Jonas watched silently, out of respect for the dead man, or for the Talinsky’s soon-to-be-deceased self-confidence, or because he knew that he could say nothing that it would be wise to have heard. Definitely the last, actually. Heather opened her mouth to say something, but he waved her down with an urgent finger, and she knew that this wasn’t a circumstance for debate.
When the door latched shut, Jonas said simply “We should pay our respects.”
“What aren’t you telling me?”
“Nothing you can’t figure out on your own,” Jonas replied, and he flashed a smile, before putting on a suitably somber face.
Night had fallen, full darkness rather than just twilight. The dry heat of the day hadn’t left with the sun. Heather thought it was wrong. Could, wet air mourned. Hot air means someone is just sleeping.
They were in Jonas’s truck somehow. He was driving. How do you drive at a time like this?
“Someone actually died,” she said. “I don’t think anyone dies around here.”
“’Course people die. There’s a funeral home, isn’t there?”
Heather felt like she should be screaming at him for not caring. She could only sputter.
“It’s okay,” he said, and he offered a different smile, a reassuring one, which he was very good at. “I forget that you’re young, sometimes. But it’s alright. We’re going to offer a little bit of comfort, and that’s the best thing we can do right now.”
Put that way, Heather felt better about the whole trip. Except—
In politics, all things must have purpose, for altruism will destroy you.
“You’re not driving all the way out to the commune this late just to offer sympathy, Jonas. I know you.”
“This is why I forget you’re so young,” he replied, which was as close to an admission as he would give.
“So why are you going if Mr. Talinsky just got… oh.”
“Right in one. Or, three-fourths. Talinsky’ll probably pack and leave before sunrise. Or, maybe, he’ll just leave and forget to pack.”
“That’s not funny, Jonas. Mr. Talinsky is nice.”
Jonas bowed his head slightly, as much as he could while driving. “I’m sorry. I like him too. He can’t handle a murder, though. You know that and I know that, and he knows that most of all. The only reason he can survive as a policeman here is that there’s no crime more serious than parking tickets and the occasional traditional character building code violation.”
“So what’s he going to do?”
Jonas opened his mouth for a quick response, but found he had none. He admitted as much.
“I didn’t think so,” Heather said, with the hint of an accusatory edge. Jonas caught the meaning.
“If you can think of anything, I’ll support you all the way.”
“I will,” she promised. She fell silent to ponder, but the journey ran out before she reached a conclusion.
Once Jonas turned off his engine, the air seemed unnaturally quiet to Heather. Sure, the wilderness was like that, but it was stronger than normal. The commune was a place where spirits exert their will on the human world, the legends say with more or less seriousness. On a night like this, Heather could see where the legends came from. There was sound—the crunch of packed limestone dirt underfoot, the chirp of crickets, and the crackle of fire—but they were separate from the quiet, above it and therefore less than it.
Jonas led the way to the bonfire, but stopped at least a hundred feet short of it. There were six or so silhouettes, and an equal number half-lit by the fire, but none appeared to notice. Their attentions were all directed towards the fire, or more accurately, towards a figure on the other side of it gyrating arrythmically. She would probably call it “dancing.” She would also probably claim to be “dressed in nature,” when in fact she was completely nude.
“You might as well come on in,” the dancer called with no great enthusiasm for her words but an increased enthusiasm for her movement.