Thursday, January 31, 2013

Part Forty-Six, Chapter Two - Pro-Life in a Very Specific Sense

Last chapter ended with a reminder of some of the inconveniences of the book's narration style, with Gris having to assume that Heller concluded that Harvey Lee stole his car back while he was talking to Stonewall Biggs, and Gris guessing that when Heller looked back in the direction of the used car lot he was thinking about revenge.  This chapter's start is more muddled, with Gris turning on Krak's viewer and finding her staring down a hallway.  So we get an inconvenience when Gris runs a high-speed replay of Krak's activities before that point - arriving at the hospital, having Bang-Bang play sick and cause a distraction so she can slip in - but when he catches up to "now," he's just in time to watch her receive another infodump.

So there's the nod to reality when he initially tunes in and finds nothing of note, followed by a lucky coincidence where he's able to catch the next plot development live.  Rather than having to rewind to get everything, not just Krak's insertion.  And it again begs the question - why is this better than a conventional, third-person omniscient narrator?

I'm getting bogged down in the opening half-page because there's not much else to the chapter besides talking.  Krak slips past some nurses and into the room of one Dr. Tremor Graves.

"Do I know you?" said Dr. Graves.

"I am the new therapist," said the Countess Krak.

She reached into her shopping bag. She pulled out a helmet. She slid a recording strip into the slot and pushed a button that said Record. She plonked the helmet onto his head, threw the switch, plugged in the microphone and sat down.

I was gonna say something sarcastic like "and he just let her do this to him?"  But a line shortly after that says Graves was "thrashing about" until the helmet is turned on and he goes still.  So let's enjoy the mental image of one of the book's good guys slamming a mind-control helm onto a struggling, bedridden hospital patient and heroically bending his brain to her will.

Krak forces Graves to talk, promising that his arthritis pains will go away if he tells her what she wants to know.  Four pages of backstory follow.

Dr. Tremor Graves, M.D. owned a practice of his own before falling victim to "my own drink and drugs and folly."  Aaaand that's all we need to know about his past, apparently.   Dr. Graves has more to say about Delbert John Rockecenter's youth, and knows that at twenty-five he met a local farmgirl-turned-chorus girl named Mary Styles at a "pot party."  The two got a quickie marriage while tripping, and though Graves knows that Rockecenter considered the marriage a joke, he also knows that for Mary "it was her whole life."  Rockecenter kept it secret from his Aunt Timantha and the rest of his family because they'd be upset he'd married someone so poor, but then Mary got pregnant and refused to get an abortion, the selfish thing.

Rockecenter sent his wife back to her parents in Fair Oakes, and the next day Dr. Agnes P. Morelay, "a newly graduated acid thing," showed up with some thugs to grab Mary, then demanded that Dr. Graves kill her and call it a suicide.  Graves refused, not so much because he doesn't want to murder the girl, but "because I was afraid they would be able to blackmail me, then, for murder."  Except he refused to perform an abortion either, because that would be murder.  Graves did promise, for a bribe, to keep Mary in a padded cell (psychology!) and, for more money, he promised to kill her and the child after she delivered.  So he draws the line at murdering a fetus while it's still in the mother, but once the two are separate it's alright? 

Also, there is no indication as to why Graves would be following Agnes' orders.  He doesn't mention any sort of existing blackmail or other control over him, and Agnes didn't elaborate either when Krak grilled her several chapters ago.  I guess if a psychologist walks into your office and orders you to murder someone, you have to come up with a good reason to say no.

Well, as Mary was about to have the baby, word came that her parents had died in a car accident, and while it was a terrible shock the news didn't kill her, the breech birth did.  But Graves didn't kill the child, again because "I didn't want to be blackmailed by the psychiatrist."  He just told Agnes that he did it, and she never checked or anything.  And since Agnes was willing and able to get a car bomb to kill Mary's parents, we the hell didn't she take care of Mary and the unborn child the same way?  Why did she feel the need to outsource those murders but not the others? 

But there you have it: there is a Rockecenter baby boy.  Graves tattooed a dollar sign onto the sole of his left foot and stuck him in "the county poor farm" under the name Richard Roe, and didn't mention the fate of the child on Mary's death certificate.  Miss Agnes of course did not look to closely to see if her orders were followed, orders given to a man clearly reluctant to kill anyone just because she told him to.  Graves planned to threaten Agnes with the existence of Rockecenter Jr. if she tried to move against him, and admits that while he's done many (undescribed) evil things in his life, "I did not kill the two of them!"

All Krak has to say to this is "That has been heard."  Cool story bro.  She then modifies Graves' memory so that Mary actually gave birth to twins, and the firstborn got the dollar mark tattoo, was shipped to Georgia, and grew up under the name Jerome Terrance Wister, or in other words Heller's current alias.  She programs the man to write up a full confession to this effect, and once that's done he'll "feel no more pain."  His bones will still be grinding together, but he'll be comfortably numb the whole time.

We get a mild cliffhanger ending when Krak finishes up and removes the helmet, just as Bang-Bang enters the hospital room "making motions."  Since the author doesn't go into any detail, feel free to imagine what sort of goofy movements the mob bomber's making.  

Back to Chapter One 

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