Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Slaves of Sleep - Chapter 11 - How Not to Help Your Case

So last chapter, Palmer - or mainly Tiger - Seal of Sulayman'd his way through a variety of obstacles to rescue a dancing girl from the most sacred of jinn holy sites, tearing the heart out of their religion in the process, then decided to flee in the direction of the climactic final battle scheduled for Chapter 12.  A pretty full day, all things considered.  But since Tiger needs some shuteye, it's time to check how Palmer's doing in Seattle.

He wakes up with "the uneasy realization that elsewhere he was asleep with a cocked pistol pointing at him" and hopes that Tiger's slumbering body doesn't do anything to antagonize the guard.  Hold in that late-night fart, Tiger.  Palmer is of course back in his cell at the police station, and has been rejoined by a still-sleeping Diver Mullins.  Specifically, Palmer is back in his nerd body rather than his Hubbard Action Hero body, so he has an introspective and pessimistic moment.  He wonders where Mullins and the other prisoners have gone while they sleep in this world, reflects upon how he's doomed himself not just by kidnapping a temple dancer but also by getting himself - that is to say, Tiger - stuck on a ship that will soon be fighting a hopeless battle, and concludes that since his alter ego in the World of Sleep is screwed, he'll "sleep himself into death" before the next morning.

Nothing about his continuing troubles in this world, however, Palmer doesn't stare hollowly at the wall while wondering how he's going to get out of his legal trouble.  An interesting omission.  Has Palmer become enamored with Tiger's adventurous, vivacious lifestyle in the Land of Sleep, and views his time spent as himself in Seattle as an unwanted interruption?  Has he concluded that Jan Palmer will spend the rest of his life in a jail for a crime he didn't commit, and thus won't spare a thought for his hopeless existence in this world?  Is he naively convinced that if he just tells the truth about all of his trouble being a genie's fault, he'll go free without any problems?

A better author might do something with this, use what isn't said to say something about a character, but I think Hubbard just forgot to have Palmer respond to the situation.  So our hero just lies on his cot, trying and failing to rest until it's properly morning and the rest of the jail wakes up, then Palmer paces until eleven o'clock rolls around and Shannon the lawyer comes to take him to a hearing.  No 'I saw you in the other world and you were a slimeball there too' reaction, either.  Huh.

Outside the judge's office they meet Doc Harrington, a "thin, skeleton-faced" man with pince-nez spectacles, a beard, and little hair on his head.  He is, dramatic pause, a psychiatrist.  He has "certain questions" for Palmer which aren't elaborated upon, and then does some word association which again we aren't told the details of.  Harrington doesn't even mention Freud at any point.  This is a surprisingly restrained psychologist for an L. Ron Hubbard story.

But although he doesn't immediately diagnose Palmer with an Oedipus Complex, he does arch his eyebrows very high after reviewing our hero's answers.  Then Palmer is led before the judge himself, and also finds Aunt Ethel dabbing at nonexistent tears, Miss Hall ready to take notes, Thompson the butler gnawing on a hat... okay, and Green the absolutely honest businessman is pacing and complaining about the delay.  If we brought in Diver Mullins for no reason, we'd have the entire named cast of this world assembled in one room.

Anyway, let's get the hearing started.  Judge... dammit Hubbard, just flip open a phone book and pick the first name you see!  Right, his name is Todd now.  Judge Todd asks Palmer to give his account of the circumstances of Professor Frobish's untimely near-bisection, and adds that "We're all your friends here so you need have no fear."  Palmer has to resist the urge to laugh at this.

Now, it's not explicitly spelled out for us - which is unusual coming from an author who usually pronounces 'subtlety' through a megaphone - but some of Tiger might have rubbed off on Palmer.  He bluntly suggests that they just call him crazy and skip this farce, and when he says "I'd rather be in a hyena's den" then among these "friends," they're all amazed at his tone.  Alternatively, I suppose Palmer might have given up on this life and feels he has nothing to lose.  Isn't this novel, though?  We get to choose our own interpretation for a character and their motivations, instead of arguing with the author's insistence that someone is heroic or villainous or whatever.

Since Palmer decides there's nothing to lose, or gain, he decides to tell them the truth, i.e. that this is all a genie's fault.  We're spared a plot recap, so I don't have to recap the recap.  When Palmer is done, Judge Todd reads the paper Doc Harrington slips him, sits and thinks for a good long while, and then has his clerk fetch a form.  When the judge says that it'll need some signatures, Aunt Ethel and Thompson get to race to be the next to sign after Green.

And it would seem that's how Hubbard thinks it all works - if you're suspected of murder, you argue your case before a judge, he reads a psychiatric evaluation, and that and three signatures are all it takes to get you committed to an asylum.  None of that 'trial by jury' nonsense, just your word against a psychologist's.  Maybe that's how things were in the dark days of 1939.

Just before Judge Todd can hit the buzzer to get Palmer carted away, our hero finally objects to these proceedings and how eager everyone was to chuck him in the loony bin.  He also says that if Judge Todd has any interest in justice, he needs to bring out "Exhibit A," the copper jar at the heart of this case.  The judge is surprised that there really is a copper jar.  I'm starting to wonder whether anyone actually examined the crime scene and if Todd read a police report or anything like that.  But the papers are all signed, it's almost lunchtime, and when Green reminds Judge Todd how violent Palmer can get, it looks like our hero is screwed.

But then Miss Hall has her moment, and rises from her chair to announce that "the papers would like to print a story to the effect that you might have received money to put a millionaire in jail."  The judge is dismayed at what the narration calls a "wholly unjust charge" - I can't tell if that's sarcasm or not - and wonders if Hall has gone crazy too.

"Not at all," said Alice.  "And I wonder if he is, either.  His mistake lies in having been meek to a crowd of wolves.  The papers, I think, would enjoy such a story, true or not.  If it is even whispered about that Jan Palmer, heir to the Palmer interests, was railroaded to an insane asylum to cover the thefts of his manager, Nathaniel Green..."

"What's this?" shouted Green.  "Young lady, you are fired!  Leave this office instantly."

But Miss Hall refuses to leave - Green isn't her boss anymore, heh - and suggests that it would be wise to bring in that copper jar Palmer is talking about.  You know, that important piece of evidence critical to the defendant's testimony.  That little old thing.  An hour later and O'Hoolihan the vintage Irish Bailiff brings in the artifact before a hungry judge and pacing Green.  Judge Todd asks Palmer if this is indeed the jar that the ifrit sprang out of, and how tall the genie was, and has trouble conceiving how a fifteen-foot monster popped out of a four-foot container.  After the psychologist titters, Judge Todd concludes that this just proves how crazy Palmer is.  Case closed.

Miss Hall's efforts aren't all for naught, however.  Palmer, "in a very quiet voice," suggests that the judge should "think twice before I call proof disproof"  ...yeah, I don't think I'm being cynical by suspecting that the presence of a ruptured container doesn't necessarily prove that it once held a much larger magical being inside of it.  Might want to put more effort into producing the genie that came out of the bottle than the bottle itself.

Anyway, Palmer says it might be "dangerous" to dismiss his testimony, Judge Todd is alarmed that Palmer is threatening him, an Palmer agrees that he is, adding that "There is one phase of this story which I have yet to mention," the one that concerns what happens to a slumbering soul.  And so, with a dramatic flourish, he grabs the jar's lead plug, inscribed with a certain magical emblem, and shouts "By the Seal of Sulayman and by the token of all the deeds already done by its mighty power, I invoke upon all of you, the sentence of Eternal Wakefulness!"

And nothing seems to happen.
Welp, you tried, Palmer.  But really, why would a copy of a magical sigil have the same power as the original?  If that was the case there'd be no point in holding the actual Seal of Solomon, and any third-rate occultist could whip up their own.  Palmer could've drawn a Star of David on his breakfast napkin and gotten the same effect.  Oh, sure, Zongri was able to lay down the Curse of Eternal Wakefulness a few nights ago, but he didn't invoke the Seal of Sulayman to do so, he was presumably using his innate jinni powers, something Palmer noticeably lacks.

So Palmer is escorted to a waiting ambulance by O'Hoolihan, who doesn't have any lines, thus saving us the trouble of trying to read Hubbard's attempt to write an Irish accent.

Jan stopped beside Alice. "Don't worry. Things may yet turn out well." He did not miss the moistness in her eyes and he knew then that even though he might be mad, she loved him.

Good grief, lady, why?  The guy's been nothing but a cringing weenie since you met him, but you inexplicably believed his story about a genie murdering that man last seen in his room?  And then you threw away your job to try to help him even though he insists on sticking to his crazy story?  And now he's literally being taken off to the loonie bin after trying to cast a spell in the judge's chambers?

She's dedicated, if nothing else.  Just not someone who knows when to stop throwing good money after bad.  Anyway, tune in next time for the drama... for the conclusion to Slaves of Sleep.

Back to Chapter Ten, part two

No comments:

Post a Comment