Boston Jonson in Murder by Burger by Biff Mitchell

EXTRACT FOR
Boston Jonson in Murder by Burger

(Biff Mitchell)


Introduction

What takes place in this novel in the future is true. What takes place in the present is lies-as the future will tell.
"No great product was ever greater than its marketing."
- Gansheng Barto


Chapter 1 - Eat It

It was the kind of place of which question marks are made. The ceiling disappeared into shadows high above several hundred square feet of buffed oak floor that formed a giant circular checkerboard. A leather chair in the center of the room faced a wall of tall windows with thick fog curling outside the panes. Each of the other walls had dark wooden doors framed by stone arches with vague coats of arms in their centers. Dozens of eight-pronged chandeliers dropped from the ceiling and hung a dozen feet from the floor like big bronze spiders with electric butts. Fifteen feet above the floor, and surrounding the entire inside of the room, a balcony that appeared to be carved from a solid chunk of mahogany posed its own little mystery. There were no stairs to the balcony, and no doors.
It was one hell of an ornament.
White marble statues of what looked like ancient Greek and Roman gods were pushed up against the walls. Most were naked. Some wore robes. They all smiled and winked. A four-legged creature with bat-like wings and an ugly half-dog-half-pig face bit into a marble cigar.
A man lay on the floor, his back propped against the wall. Beside him a marble breasted woman winked at nothing and nobody in particular. Around the man the air trembled with the smell of fear and food. His eyes protruded under horn-rimmed glasses as he watched his hand slide across his bare belly where his shirt was torn open. Bits of foodstuff spattered his navy blue dress jacket. More of the stuff, mixed with saliva, splotched his white beard. His face glistened with sweat as his hand moved slowly across his chest. He whimpered as it pushed what looked like the most perfect hamburger in the world against his lips. His jaw shook and his mouth quivered and his face twisted, but his lips parted and his hand pushed the burger in. He chewed and he swallowed, chewed and swallowed and whimpered and chewed some more until his hand was empty.
Then his hand fell to his side and grabbed another cold but perfect burger from the packing box and slid it over his stomach. As he watched the hand, a scream pushed through the masticated burger oozing down his throat and broke from his lips like a muffled belch. Blood spurted from his bloated stomach, sprinkling red spots on his hand, marring the golden perfection of the burger bun. Blood poured over his stomach and into the fabric of his white shirt. Blood gurgled out as the rip in his stomach lengthened painfully, and still his hand moved toward his mouth with the bloody burger.

***

Somewhere else, someone was thinking: A promise is a promise.


Chapter 2 - The Spit

Tangerine hair flowed over Boston Jonson's shoulders. He couldn't remember it being less than shoulder length and it never grew longer, as though each hair reached his shoulder and said, "Time to stop." and stopped growing. It was something he tried not to think about. He paid the driver and the MagCab floated noiselessly away on a layer of furious electron activity between the magnetic bottom of the cab and the strip of metal buried under the road. He turned and faced the building.
It was a giant twisted thing in stone, rising out of the never-ending fog in what used to be the downtown harbor area. Blue, yellow and red flood lamps spotlighted flying buttresses, abutments, gabled doors and pyramid-shaped pinnacles in the sprawling mist.
Barto Burger headquarters soared seven hundred feet into the fog and occupied all of what used to be the downtown core of Saint John, one of North America's oldest cities. The Barto Burger building was the largest Gothic cathedral in the world. In fact, it was bigger than the real ones, the ones with priests and nuns and God, and what better place for it than a city shrouded in unrelenting fog for three decades, a wet little footnote to the global warming story. Because of the fog no one had ever seen the entire building, but what could be seen was impressive with its intricate mazes of buttresses and ornate towers and thousands of gargoyles with a steady stream of condensed fog dripping from their fanged mouths.
In fact, it was the dripping mouths that inspired the locals to name it The Spit Church, and later just The Spit. Dozens of those locals stood solemnly in front the main entrance about fifty feet away from Boston holding signs with scrawled messages:
DIE AND GO TO HELL, BARTO!
GET OUT BARTO BURGER! GET OUT!
EAT-COLI!
They spit right back at the gargoyles.
They were the Spitters, and they'd been spitting and protesting for over two decades. They'd protested the demolition of historic buildings in the downtown core when the building was no more than a rough sketch. They'd protested all through the zoning laws, permits procedures, surveying, environmental impact studies, demolition phases, digging and landfill phases, and the actual construction. They'd been there every day, every night, week-after-week, year-after-year, taking turns, enlisting their children from tyke to teen to adult, keeping the signs waving, the spit spewing, and the hatred growing.
Fortunately, Boston didn't have to wade through that dew-crazed crowd. He looked up at the Gothic building. His eyes were slanted, almost sad-like, or maybe querying, or perhaps tired. There was something of temples and old men in orange robes in his aqua eyes. Or maybe a favorite blues tune. His mouth was square, strong, like his jaw. He wore black pants and a blatantly unapologetic Hawaiian shirt.
He walked like memory passing through time, like his body slid around molecules in the air so as not to disturb anything but people in his passing.
He stopped. He looked up. He looked down. He closed his eyes. He breathed deeply and slowly. He tuned his ears to his surroundings. He relaxed his shoulders and neck. He breathed slower, deeply, rhythmically, like a slow-moving pendulum. He soothed his mind to sleep and nudged his soul awake and allowed himself to become a conduit into sheer left-brain knowingness. Boston had a theory about vibrations. They were everywhere and they were everything. They were pure energy and they were timeless. They were the stuff of events and the fairy-dust memories of all that had passed. Boston knew instinctively that all he had to do was stand perfectly still and listen with the ears of his soul and he would feel the sound and texture of those vibrations. They would tell him what had passed. They would recreate events and make known that which was mystery. He stood. He listened. He breathed.
And, as always, nothing happened.
He walked across misty pavement to an ornate stone arch framing a small wooden door that looked like historical flotsam from something squeezed out of the grandeur of Louis XIV's court. As he looked for a knob or a handle or a buzzer, the door opened.
In keeping with the décor, it creaked.
A tall man in a dark brown robe with matching hood stared at Boston. A mouth, supposedly attached to a face somewhere in the shadows of the hood, said, "Mr. Jonson. They're expecting you."
Of course they were. They'd asked for him to be assigned to this.
Boston stepped into a stone corridor that smelled of ancient times. The builders had even grooved the stone floor and smoothed it over to give the impression of thousands of travelers' feet wearing it down through eons of use-in just under twenty years. Small electric lamps in the ceiling spread light grudgingly through the narrow space.
The robed man lifted his arm like a cotton wing and pointed toward an open elevator door. Its warm fluorescent light appeared otherworldly, as though it might be a magical time machine. Boston walked into the light and the doors slid quietly shut, locking him inside.
Somewhere in this gargantuan throwback to feudal times, a man was dead, and Boston Jonson, tangerine hair, Hawaiian shirt and all, was needed.


Chapter 3 - Boston Jonson, CI

In a world ruled by crime and crazy people, police forces around the world fought an uphill battle with barely enough cops to go around and not nearly enough funds to compete with the bad guys. Police recruitment was a joke. Nobody wanted to be a cop in a world where crime and craziness were easier to get into and the payoff was a hell of a lot more attractive. Law and order were losing ground in a desperate swim up the pipes of a toilet that never stopped flushing.
In response to the crisis, a retired cop named William Bailey determined that the single biggest problem facing police forces was having their time wasted on things that weren't really crime-related, things like suicide and domestic disputes that didn't involve one human being bashing the brains out of another human being. What was needed, said Bailey "was a filter to screen out the crap from the crime."
That filter was Consultative and Referral-based Investigative Criminal Channeling, or CRICC.
CRICC treated crime like a disease, and it trained people to take its pulse and decide what to do. Its "doctors" were called Consultative Investigators, or CIs. When a suspected crime was reported, a CI was sent to the scene to assess the situation and make a recommendation like a doctor's prescription or referral. The recommendation could range from "no further action required" to "refer to following agency, organization, specialist" which could include police departments, private investigators, criminologists, holistic investigators, social workers, shamans, the media, next of kin, or any one of, or combination of, several thousand other possibilities, including "other." The recommendation could also state, "further assessment required." But this was rare.
Boston Jonson was the Cream de Menthe of the CI crop. His specialty was events involving human death. The event involving human death that he was on his way to assess at the moment would prove to be different from anything he'd assessed before, though he had no idea how he knew this. Perhaps the vibes?


Chapter 4 - A Giant Hollow Caramel Square with Chandeliers

There was only one way to describe it: a giant hollow caramel square pulled by giant hands to make the inside form a long golden hall with chandeliers and teak panels with shiny brass lamps. Boston stepped from the elevator into a hall of such mellow luxury you could almost eat it.
Another robed figure pointed, this time toward the far end of the hall. Boston nodded to the faceless hood and plied into a river of carpet. He detected a hint of cherries and mint in the air. In spite of the line of crystal chandeliers and brass lamps, the light was soft. The air was warm and womb-like.
Boston breathed as he walked, breathed deep with his eyes narrowed just enough to keep himself on course but still block out most of the visual stimuli. He relaxed, breathing deeper and slower, feeling the pendulum of his soul slicing through the passage of time. He opened himself to the hall. He became the hall. He welcomed the vibrations of the hall into his body and mind. He willed himself to yield to the vibrations, to feel the vibrations, to learn from the vibrations and to become one with the meaning and reality of the vibrations.
He tripped and nearly tore a brass lamp out of the wall to stop diving face-first into the carpet. He looked back, smiling shyly, but the hooded man was gone. At the end of the hall he walked through a somber mahogany doorway and into what looked like a huge round checkerboard with a leather chair in the center. Another hooded man pointed toward a far wall where a man lay on the floor, propped against the wall, mash dripping from his mouth, eyes wide and dead. A white cardboard box lay open beside him, and all around him the floor was littered with paper wrappings. Figures in dark brown robes fussed around the body. Boston said, "Don't touch anything."
The figures stopped. Hoods turned toward Boston and then toward a man in a white robe standing a dozen feet away from the body. His hood was down around his shoulders, revealing a massive red-cheeked head. He nodded and the robed figures backed away from the body. Boston walked up to him and extended his hand, "Mr. Beaton?"
"Yes, I am Mr. Beaton." He spoke slowly, as though he were checking each word for accuracy and correctness. Boston had to crane his head up. Beaton was easily six and a half feet tall, and big-not fat-big. His short dark hair looked like something pasted to the top of his head. Even his small face looked pasted onto the front of his head as an afterthought. His mouth was open and quivering like something grafted from a fish. He stared right into Boston's eyes. Not looked, stared. Boston met his eyes dead on.
"Hello, Mr. Beaton. Boston Jonson, CI."
"Yes, of course. We sent for you." He pointed toward the body on the floor, still staring at Boston, and said. "We expect this will be handled with the utmost discretion, Mr. Jonson. The gentleman on the floor is Gansheng Barto. Himself."
Gansheng Barto! thought Boston. This limp messy thing on the floor is the great Gansheng Barto. Himself.

Boston Jonson in Murder by Burger by Biff Mitchell

EXTRACT FOR
Boston Jonson in Murder by Burger

(Biff Mitchell)


Introduction

What takes place in this novel in the future is true. What takes place in the present is lies-as the future will tell.
"No great product was ever greater than its marketing."
- Gansheng Barto


Chapter 1 - Eat It

It was the kind of place of which question marks are made. The ceiling disappeared into shadows high above several hundred square feet of buffed oak floor that formed a giant circular checkerboard. A leather chair in the center of the room faced a wall of tall windows with thick fog curling outside the panes. Each of the other walls had dark wooden doors framed by stone arches with vague coats of arms in their centers. Dozens of eight-pronged chandeliers dropped from the ceiling and hung a dozen feet from the floor like big bronze spiders with electric butts. Fifteen feet above the floor, and surrounding the entire inside of the room, a balcony that appeared to be carved from a solid chunk of mahogany posed its own little mystery. There were no stairs to the balcony, and no doors.
It was one hell of an ornament.
White marble statues of what looked like ancient Greek and Roman gods were pushed up against the walls. Most were naked. Some wore robes. They all smiled and winked. A four-legged creature with bat-like wings and an ugly half-dog-half-pig face bit into a marble cigar.
A man lay on the floor, his back propped against the wall. Beside him a marble breasted woman winked at nothing and nobody in particular. Around the man the air trembled with the smell of fear and food. His eyes protruded under horn-rimmed glasses as he watched his hand slide across his bare belly where his shirt was torn open. Bits of foodstuff spattered his navy blue dress jacket. More of the stuff, mixed with saliva, splotched his white beard. His face glistened with sweat as his hand moved slowly across his chest. He whimpered as it pushed what looked like the most perfect hamburger in the world against his lips. His jaw shook and his mouth quivered and his face twisted, but his lips parted and his hand pushed the burger in. He chewed and he swallowed, chewed and swallowed and whimpered and chewed some more until his hand was empty.
Then his hand fell to his side and grabbed another cold but perfect burger from the packing box and slid it over his stomach. As he watched the hand, a scream pushed through the masticated burger oozing down his throat and broke from his lips like a muffled belch. Blood spurted from his bloated stomach, sprinkling red spots on his hand, marring the golden perfection of the burger bun. Blood poured over his stomach and into the fabric of his white shirt. Blood gurgled out as the rip in his stomach lengthened painfully, and still his hand moved toward his mouth with the bloody burger.

***

Somewhere else, someone was thinking: A promise is a promise.


Chapter 2 - The Spit

Tangerine hair flowed over Boston Jonson's shoulders. He couldn't remember it being less than shoulder length and it never grew longer, as though each hair reached his shoulder and said, "Time to stop." and stopped growing. It was something he tried not to think about. He paid the driver and the MagCab floated noiselessly away on a layer of furious electron activity between the magnetic bottom of the cab and the strip of metal buried under the road. He turned and faced the building.
It was a giant twisted thing in stone, rising out of the never-ending fog in what used to be the downtown harbor area. Blue, yellow and red flood lamps spotlighted flying buttresses, abutments, gabled doors and pyramid-shaped pinnacles in the sprawling mist.
Barto Burger headquarters soared seven hundred feet into the fog and occupied all of what used to be the downtown core of Saint John, one of North America's oldest cities. The Barto Burger building was the largest Gothic cathedral in the world. In fact, it was bigger than the real ones, the ones with priests and nuns and God, and what better place for it than a city shrouded in unrelenting fog for three decades, a wet little footnote to the global warming story. Because of the fog no one had ever seen the entire building, but what could be seen was impressive with its intricate mazes of buttresses and ornate towers and thousands of gargoyles with a steady stream of condensed fog dripping from their fanged mouths.
In fact, it was the dripping mouths that inspired the locals to name it The Spit Church, and later just The Spit. Dozens of those locals stood solemnly in front the main entrance about fifty feet away from Boston holding signs with scrawled messages:
DIE AND GO TO HELL, BARTO!
GET OUT BARTO BURGER! GET OUT!
EAT-COLI!
They spit right back at the gargoyles.
They were the Spitters, and they'd been spitting and protesting for over two decades. They'd protested the demolition of historic buildings in the downtown core when the building was no more than a rough sketch. They'd protested all through the zoning laws, permits procedures, surveying, environmental impact studies, demolition phases, digging and landfill phases, and the actual construction. They'd been there every day, every night, week-after-week, year-after-year, taking turns, enlisting their children from tyke to teen to adult, keeping the signs waving, the spit spewing, and the hatred growing.
Fortunately, Boston didn't have to wade through that dew-crazed crowd. He looked up at the Gothic building. His eyes were slanted, almost sad-like, or maybe querying, or perhaps tired. There was something of temples and old men in orange robes in his aqua eyes. Or maybe a favorite blues tune. His mouth was square, strong, like his jaw. He wore black pants and a blatantly unapologetic Hawaiian shirt.
He walked like memory passing through time, like his body slid around molecules in the air so as not to disturb anything but people in his passing.
He stopped. He looked up. He looked down. He closed his eyes. He breathed deeply and slowly. He tuned his ears to his surroundings. He relaxed his shoulders and neck. He breathed slower, deeply, rhythmically, like a slow-moving pendulum. He soothed his mind to sleep and nudged his soul awake and allowed himself to become a conduit into sheer left-brain knowingness. Boston had a theory about vibrations. They were everywhere and they were everything. They were pure energy and they were timeless. They were the stuff of events and the fairy-dust memories of all that had passed. Boston knew instinctively that all he had to do was stand perfectly still and listen with the ears of his soul and he would feel the sound and texture of those vibrations. They would tell him what had passed. They would recreate events and make known that which was mystery. He stood. He listened. He breathed.
And, as always, nothing happened.
He walked across misty pavement to an ornate stone arch framing a small wooden door that looked like historical flotsam from something squeezed out of the grandeur of Louis XIV's court. As he looked for a knob or a handle or a buzzer, the door opened.
In keeping with the décor, it creaked.
A tall man in a dark brown robe with matching hood stared at Boston. A mouth, supposedly attached to a face somewhere in the shadows of the hood, said, "Mr. Jonson. They're expecting you."
Of course they were. They'd asked for him to be assigned to this.
Boston stepped into a stone corridor that smelled of ancient times. The builders had even grooved the stone floor and smoothed it over to give the impression of thousands of travelers' feet wearing it down through eons of use-in just under twenty years. Small electric lamps in the ceiling spread light grudgingly through the narrow space.
The robed man lifted his arm like a cotton wing and pointed toward an open elevator door. Its warm fluorescent light appeared otherworldly, as though it might be a magical time machine. Boston walked into the light and the doors slid quietly shut, locking him inside.
Somewhere in this gargantuan throwback to feudal times, a man was dead, and Boston Jonson, tangerine hair, Hawaiian shirt and all, was needed.


Chapter 3 - Boston Jonson, CI

In a world ruled by crime and crazy people, police forces around the world fought an uphill battle with barely enough cops to go around and not nearly enough funds to compete with the bad guys. Police recruitment was a joke. Nobody wanted to be a cop in a world where crime and craziness were easier to get into and the payoff was a hell of a lot more attractive. Law and order were losing ground in a desperate swim up the pipes of a toilet that never stopped flushing.
In response to the crisis, a retired cop named William Bailey determined that the single biggest problem facing police forces was having their time wasted on things that weren't really crime-related, things like suicide and domestic disputes that didn't involve one human being bashing the brains out of another human being. What was needed, said Bailey "was a filter to screen out the crap from the crime."
That filter was Consultative and Referral-based Investigative Criminal Channeling, or CRICC.
CRICC treated crime like a disease, and it trained people to take its pulse and decide what to do. Its "doctors" were called Consultative Investigators, or CIs. When a suspected crime was reported, a CI was sent to the scene to assess the situation and make a recommendation like a doctor's prescription or referral. The recommendation could range from "no further action required" to "refer to following agency, organization, specialist" which could include police departments, private investigators, criminologists, holistic investigators, social workers, shamans, the media, next of kin, or any one of, or combination of, several thousand other possibilities, including "other." The recommendation could also state, "further assessment required." But this was rare.
Boston Jonson was the Cream de Menthe of the CI crop. His specialty was events involving human death. The event involving human death that he was on his way to assess at the moment would prove to be different from anything he'd assessed before, though he had no idea how he knew this. Perhaps the vibes?


Chapter 4 - A Giant Hollow Caramel Square with Chandeliers

There was only one way to describe it: a giant hollow caramel square pulled by giant hands to make the inside form a long golden hall with chandeliers and teak panels with shiny brass lamps. Boston stepped from the elevator into a hall of such mellow luxury you could almost eat it.
Another robed figure pointed, this time toward the far end of the hall. Boston nodded to the faceless hood and plied into a river of carpet. He detected a hint of cherries and mint in the air. In spite of the line of crystal chandeliers and brass lamps, the light was soft. The air was warm and womb-like.
Boston breathed as he walked, breathed deep with his eyes narrowed just enough to keep himself on course but still block out most of the visual stimuli. He relaxed, breathing deeper and slower, feeling the pendulum of his soul slicing through the passage of time. He opened himself to the hall. He became the hall. He welcomed the vibrations of the hall into his body and mind. He willed himself to yield to the vibrations, to feel the vibrations, to learn from the vibrations and to become one with the meaning and reality of the vibrations.
He tripped and nearly tore a brass lamp out of the wall to stop diving face-first into the carpet. He looked back, smiling shyly, but the hooded man was gone. At the end of the hall he walked through a somber mahogany doorway and into what looked like a huge round checkerboard with a leather chair in the center. Another hooded man pointed toward a far wall where a man lay on the floor, propped against the wall, mash dripping from his mouth, eyes wide and dead. A white cardboard box lay open beside him, and all around him the floor was littered with paper wrappings. Figures in dark brown robes fussed around the body. Boston said, "Don't touch anything."
The figures stopped. Hoods turned toward Boston and then toward a man in a white robe standing a dozen feet away from the body. His hood was down around his shoulders, revealing a massive red-cheeked head. He nodded and the robed figures backed away from the body. Boston walked up to him and extended his hand, "Mr. Beaton?"
"Yes, I am Mr. Beaton." He spoke slowly, as though he were checking each word for accuracy and correctness. Boston had to crane his head up. Beaton was easily six and a half feet tall, and big-not fat-big. His short dark hair looked like something pasted to the top of his head. Even his small face looked pasted onto the front of his head as an afterthought. His mouth was open and quivering like something grafted from a fish. He stared right into Boston's eyes. Not looked, stared. Boston met his eyes dead on.
"Hello, Mr. Beaton. Boston Jonson, CI."
"Yes, of course. We sent for you." He pointed toward the body on the floor, still staring at Boston, and said. "We expect this will be handled with the utmost discretion, Mr. Jonson. The gentleman on the floor is Gansheng Barto. Himself."
Gansheng Barto! thought Boston. This limp messy thing on the floor is the great Gansheng Barto. Himself.

EXTRACT FOR
Boston Jonson in Murder by Burger

(Biff Mitchell)


Introduction

What takes place in this novel in the future is true. What takes place in the present is lies-as the future will tell.
"No great product was ever greater than its marketing."
- Gansheng Barto


Chapter 1 - Eat It

It was the kind of place of which question marks are made. The ceiling disappeared into shadows high above several hundred square feet of buffed oak floor that formed a giant circular checkerboard. A leather chair in the center of the room faced a wall of tall windows with thick fog curling outside the panes. Each of the other walls had dark wooden doors framed by stone arches with vague coats of arms in their centers. Dozens of eight-pronged chandeliers dropped from the ceiling and hung a dozen feet from the floor like big bronze spiders with electric butts. Fifteen feet above the floor, and surrounding the entire inside of the room, a balcony that appeared to be carved from a solid chunk of mahogany posed its own little mystery. There were no stairs to the balcony, and no doors.
It was one hell of an ornament.
White marble statues of what looked like ancient Greek and Roman gods were pushed up against the walls. Most were naked. Some wore robes. They all smiled and winked. A four-legged creature with bat-like wings and an ugly half-dog-half-pig face bit into a marble cigar.
A man lay on the floor, his back propped against the wall. Beside him a marble breasted woman winked at nothing and nobody in particular. Around the man the air trembled with the smell of fear and food. His eyes protruded under horn-rimmed glasses as he watched his hand slide across his bare belly where his shirt was torn open. Bits of foodstuff spattered his navy blue dress jacket. More of the stuff, mixed with saliva, splotched his white beard. His face glistened with sweat as his hand moved slowly across his chest. He whimpered as it pushed what looked like the most perfect hamburger in the world against his lips. His jaw shook and his mouth quivered and his face twisted, but his lips parted and his hand pushed the burger in. He chewed and he swallowed, chewed and swallowed and whimpered and chewed some more until his hand was empty.
Then his hand fell to his side and grabbed another cold but perfect burger from the packing box and slid it over his stomach. As he watched the hand, a scream pushed through the masticated burger oozing down his throat and broke from his lips like a muffled belch. Blood spurted from his bloated stomach, sprinkling red spots on his hand, marring the golden perfection of the burger bun. Blood poured over his stomach and into the fabric of his white shirt. Blood gurgled out as the rip in his stomach lengthened painfully, and still his hand moved toward his mouth with the bloody burger.

***

Somewhere else, someone was thinking: A promise is a promise.


Chapter 2 - The Spit

Tangerine hair flowed over Boston Jonson's shoulders. He couldn't remember it being less than shoulder length and it never grew longer, as though each hair reached his shoulder and said, "Time to stop." and stopped growing. It was something he tried not to think about. He paid the driver and the MagCab floated noiselessly away on a layer of furious electron activity between the magnetic bottom of the cab and the strip of metal buried under the road. He turned and faced the building.
It was a giant twisted thing in stone, rising out of the never-ending fog in what used to be the downtown harbor area. Blue, yellow and red flood lamps spotlighted flying buttresses, abutments, gabled doors and pyramid-shaped pinnacles in the sprawling mist.
Barto Burger headquarters soared seven hundred feet into the fog and occupied all of what used to be the downtown core of Saint John, one of North America's oldest cities. The Barto Burger building was the largest Gothic cathedral in the world. In fact, it was bigger than the real ones, the ones with priests and nuns and God, and what better place for it than a city shrouded in unrelenting fog for three decades, a wet little footnote to the global warming story. Because of the fog no one had ever seen the entire building, but what could be seen was impressive with its intricate mazes of buttresses and ornate towers and thousands of gargoyles with a steady stream of condensed fog dripping from their fanged mouths.
In fact, it was the dripping mouths that inspired the locals to name it The Spit Church, and later just The Spit. Dozens of those locals stood solemnly in front the main entrance about fifty feet away from Boston holding signs with scrawled messages:
DIE AND GO TO HELL, BARTO!
GET OUT BARTO BURGER! GET OUT!
EAT-COLI!
They spit right back at the gargoyles.
They were the Spitters, and they'd been spitting and protesting for over two decades. They'd protested the demolition of historic buildings in the downtown core when the building was no more than a rough sketch. They'd protested all through the zoning laws, permits procedures, surveying, environmental impact studies, demolition phases, digging and landfill phases, and the actual construction. They'd been there every day, every night, week-after-week, year-after-year, taking turns, enlisting their children from tyke to teen to adult, keeping the signs waving, the spit spewing, and the hatred growing.
Fortunately, Boston didn't have to wade through that dew-crazed crowd. He looked up at the Gothic building. His eyes were slanted, almost sad-like, or maybe querying, or perhaps tired. There was something of temples and old men in orange robes in his aqua eyes. Or maybe a favorite blues tune. His mouth was square, strong, like his jaw. He wore black pants and a blatantly unapologetic Hawaiian shirt.
He walked like memory passing through time, like his body slid around molecules in the air so as not to disturb anything but people in his passing.
He stopped. He looked up. He looked down. He closed his eyes. He breathed deeply and slowly. He tuned his ears to his surroundings. He relaxed his shoulders and neck. He breathed slower, deeply, rhythmically, like a slow-moving pendulum. He soothed his mind to sleep and nudged his soul awake and allowed himself to become a conduit into sheer left-brain knowingness. Boston had a theory about vibrations. They were everywhere and they were everything. They were pure energy and they were timeless. They were the stuff of events and the fairy-dust memories of all that had passed. Boston knew instinctively that all he had to do was stand perfectly still and listen with the ears of his soul and he would feel the sound and texture of those vibrations. They would tell him what had passed. They would recreate events and make known that which was mystery. He stood. He listened. He breathed.
And, as always, nothing happened.
He walked across misty pavement to an ornate stone arch framing a small wooden door that looked like historical flotsam from something squeezed out of the grandeur of Louis XIV's court. As he looked for a knob or a handle or a buzzer, the door opened.
In keeping with the décor, it creaked.
A tall man in a dark brown robe with matching hood stared at Boston. A mouth, supposedly attached to a face somewhere in the shadows of the hood, said, "Mr. Jonson. They're expecting you."
Of course they were. They'd asked for him to be assigned to this.
Boston stepped into a stone corridor that smelled of ancient times. The builders had even grooved the stone floor and smoothed it over to give the impression of thousands of travelers' feet wearing it down through eons of use-in just under twenty years. Small electric lamps in the ceiling spread light grudgingly through the narrow space.
The robed man lifted his arm like a cotton wing and pointed toward an open elevator door. Its warm fluorescent light appeared otherworldly, as though it might be a magical time machine. Boston walked into the light and the doors slid quietly shut, locking him inside.
Somewhere in this gargantuan throwback to feudal times, a man was dead, and Boston Jonson, tangerine hair, Hawaiian shirt and all, was needed.


Chapter 3 - Boston Jonson, CI

In a world ruled by crime and crazy people, police forces around the world fought an uphill battle with barely enough cops to go around and not nearly enough funds to compete with the bad guys. Police recruitment was a joke. Nobody wanted to be a cop in a world where crime and craziness were easier to get into and the payoff was a hell of a lot more attractive. Law and order were losing ground in a desperate swim up the pipes of a toilet that never stopped flushing.
In response to the crisis, a retired cop named William Bailey determined that the single biggest problem facing police forces was having their time wasted on things that weren't really crime-related, things like suicide and domestic disputes that didn't involve one human being bashing the brains out of another human being. What was needed, said Bailey "was a filter to screen out the crap from the crime."
That filter was Consultative and Referral-based Investigative Criminal Channeling, or CRICC.
CRICC treated crime like a disease, and it trained people to take its pulse and decide what to do. Its "doctors" were called Consultative Investigators, or CIs. When a suspected crime was reported, a CI was sent to the scene to assess the situation and make a recommendation like a doctor's prescription or referral. The recommendation could range from "no further action required" to "refer to following agency, organization, specialist" which could include police departments, private investigators, criminologists, holistic investigators, social workers, shamans, the media, next of kin, or any one of, or combination of, several thousand other possibilities, including "other." The recommendation could also state, "further assessment required." But this was rare.
Boston Jonson was the Cream de Menthe of the CI crop. His specialty was events involving human death. The event involving human death that he was on his way to assess at the moment would prove to be different from anything he'd assessed before, though he had no idea how he knew this. Perhaps the vibes?


Chapter 4 - A Giant Hollow Caramel Square with Chandeliers

There was only one way to describe it: a giant hollow caramel square pulled by giant hands to make the inside form a long golden hall with chandeliers and teak panels with shiny brass lamps. Boston stepped from the elevator into a hall of such mellow luxury you could almost eat it.
Another robed figure pointed, this time toward the far end of the hall. Boston nodded to the faceless hood and plied into a river of carpet. He detected a hint of cherries and mint in the air. In spite of the line of crystal chandeliers and brass lamps, the light was soft. The air was warm and womb-like.
Boston breathed as he walked, breathed deep with his eyes narrowed just enough to keep himself on course but still block out most of the visual stimuli. He relaxed, breathing deeper and slower, feeling the pendulum of his soul slicing through the passage of time. He opened himself to the hall. He became the hall. He welcomed the vibrations of the hall into his body and mind. He willed himself to yield to the vibrations, to feel the vibrations, to learn from the vibrations and to become one with the meaning and reality of the vibrations.
He tripped and nearly tore a brass lamp out of the wall to stop diving face-first into the carpet. He looked back, smiling shyly, but the hooded man was gone. At the end of the hall he walked through a somber mahogany doorway and into what looked like a huge round checkerboard with a leather chair in the center. Another hooded man pointed toward a far wall where a man lay on the floor, propped against the wall, mash dripping from his mouth, eyes wide and dead. A white cardboard box lay open beside him, and all around him the floor was littered with paper wrappings. Figures in dark brown robes fussed around the body. Boston said, "Don't touch anything."
The figures stopped. Hoods turned toward Boston and then toward a man in a white robe standing a dozen feet away from the body. His hood was down around his shoulders, revealing a massive red-cheeked head. He nodded and the robed figures backed away from the body. Boston walked up to him and extended his hand, "Mr. Beaton?"
"Yes, I am Mr. Beaton." He spoke slowly, as though he were checking each word for accuracy and correctness. Boston had to crane his head up. Beaton was easily six and a half feet tall, and big-not fat-big. His short dark hair looked like something pasted to the top of his head. Even his small face looked pasted onto the front of his head as an afterthought. His mouth was open and quivering like something grafted from a fish. He stared right into Boston's eyes. Not looked, stared. Boston met his eyes dead on.
"Hello, Mr. Beaton. Boston Jonson, CI."
"Yes, of course. We sent for you." He pointed toward the body on the floor, still staring at Boston, and said. "We expect this will be handled with the utmost discretion, Mr. Jonson. The gentleman on the floor is Gansheng Barto. Himself."
Gansheng Barto! thought Boston. This limp messy thing on the floor is the great Gansheng Barto. Himself.