Story: End’s Rebirth

By: Pete Cotsalas

1Winter storm Jonas relinquished his assault on Maryland. Snowplows sweeping mounds on his street awoke Mateo Gonzalez. He decided to get up and shower, gently pushing Snarky the cat off the bed. Francesca was in the kitchen in her beige shirt, and khakis. Blend of her uniform, and Mat in his white shirt and black tie was humorous. A zookeeper in Washington DC, Francesca had to return after working overtime that weekend, ensuring the animals were secured within internal habitats to shield them from the snow. Mat admired her affinity for animals. Five years of marriage taught him to look past the odor of mammal feces. She squeezed his hand tenderly as she zipped her lunch-bag. Mat glanced at the Xeroxed article atop her paperwork. “Old World Primate Mating Rituals?” he read. “This sounds kinky, sweetheart.” He squeezed her brown hair-bun playfully.
Francesca giggled, slapping his shoulder amiably. “Directors want us to breed our macaques, Vishnu and Karma,” she explained, bending to tie her boots “We’re having trouble. I did some research. Before I forget, could you send this from the office?” She handed him a white box off the counter. She said it was a bracelet she bought at a DC bodega, for their niece.
“Pretty,” Mat commented, pulling out the sapphire jewelry. “What’re these letters? They look Mandarin.”
“Beats me,” Francesca said, continuing to assemble her lunch. “She loves Asian culture, like her uncle Mateo.” Mat appreciated eastern mythology. For that reason, she allowed his input naming certain animals at the zoo like the pandas Hun and Po.
Instinctively, Mat reached toward the coffeemaker, before realizing it was unplugged. Francesca smiled, handing him a Smithsonian National Zoo mug of tea. “Fighting the habit?”
Mat chuckled, stirring the teabag. “They die hard.” Doctor said Mat’s jittery paranoia likely spawned from drinking eight cups daily. Checking the time on the stove, Mat urgently poured tea into his Moore-Ellis thermos. “Am I taking Q-man to Audrey’s?”
Practically queued, soft grunting transmitted over the baby-monitor beside the toaster. “Speak of the devil,” Francesca sighed. They recently enrolled their infant son Quentin in daycare. “I’ll take him.” She kissed him again as he gathered his things. “Have a good day. I’ll call lunchtime.”
Mat commenced commute to Moore-Ellis Inc., in Bethesda in his Murano. Sun dispensed of the snow accumulation. Slushy clumps of snow plummet from trees, like Olympic divers. A chunk of ice hit his windshield softly, melted by the truck’s defroster. Mat arrived at work early to prepare for his morning interview. It was hiring season. Entering, he embarked upstairs to the door with nameplate: Mateo J. Gonzalez, General Manager. “Morning Sherry, Nora,” he greeted the women occupying cubicles outside his office.
Mat’s office was arranged to be a welcoming, homey handshake. As general manager, he conducted interviews, and wished to make potential employees feel welcome, not unnerved. Inspirational posters, with uplifting colors dominated the wall. Everything in the GM’s office, from the potted bamboo atop the mini-fridge, to the grass-pattern drapes was meant to ease his applicants. Mat replaced the fresh-linen-scented Glade plug-in. Sadly policy disallowed burning of incense. That would be tops. Incense comforted bodily, and spiritually. Coincidentally, Mat looked up the two letters on the bracelet online, discovering they meant body and spirit. He placed the packaged bracelet in the outgoing mail organizer.
Moving aside the blue paperweight in shape of a bird’s head, he consulted the confusing background-check report. An intern, Endicott Crane applied for an entry-level sales position. Crane was a recent college-grad, with a business degree, who had worked at Moore-Ellis for a year. Moore-Ellis dealt extensively with government agencies, manufacturing metals and plastics, used in microchips. Thorough background-checks and drug-screenings were essential. They hit a wall during Crane’s, raising questions. Results of Crane’s mandatory urine-test were odd. Toxicology report under the paperweight revealed traces of different antibiotics in varying milligrams. Nothing condemning that would cost Endicott the job, but inquisitive.
Nora Breegh, an intern entered with a bundle of papers. She was a friendly, petite twenty-something with ponytailed blonde hair. “Here’re some receipts Mr. Gonzalez. Endicott Crane’s in the waiting room.” She set two coffees on the desk, with her everlasting smile. “He likes a lot of sweetener.”
Mateo nodded, putting the receipts aside. “Send him in, thanks Nora.” He did not touch the coffee. “Oh Nora, could you send this to the mailroom, please?” He held up the bracelet envelope.
Nora opened the door, handing Crane his coffee. Endicott thanked her, asking for more sugar-packets. Dressed appropriately, Crane wore quintessential dress-shirt, tie, khakis. Mat was distracted by his hands and face. Endicott’s right hand appeared inflated, disproportionate. Fingers on his left hand appeared normal. On his right, they looked as thick as Twinkies. Mat recalled the cliché “stick out like a sore thumb”. A reddish-blue scar on Crane’s face extended from right cheekbone toward the earlobe. When Mateo shook the hand, he noted soft fleshy feeling, peculiar for a scrawny man.
“Morning Endicott, it’s very nice to meet you in person.”
“Call me End,” Endicott said, in his Southern accent, implying Georgia, or Carolina origin.
“Right,” Mat said. They sat down. “Mr. Schultz and your academic advisor speak highly of you. I was reevaluating your resume. Honestly I’ve never seen so much prior employment from anyone your age. Fourteen jobs you’ve had over ten years, in different states, from fast-food to construction. During your background-check, we saw you’re on a watch-list. A lot of people are nowadays.”
“I’m on a couple lists,” End said, nodding. “NSA watch is security.”
Mateo was curious, but asked no follow-up question. “There’s nothing incriminating in your check. Actually, we didn’t find anything on you preceding 2008. At the risk of being persnickety, my curiosity’s piqued.”
End sighed, oozing reluctance. “I legally changed my name.” He reached into his bag and extracted a paper. “Here’s scan of my birth certificate from SS. My birth-name was Louis Fickle.” He slid the document over. As Mat paper-clipped this to his paperwork, End continued. “Mr. Gonzalez, you’ll find this in the background-check. I’ll tell you. My father’s Sheldon Frederick Fickle. That’s why I’m on the watch-list.”
Mateo raised his brow. “S.F. Fickle, from that North Carolina killing spree?”
The eight-year-old incident of racial rampaging mass-murder had given Mat a fret. Beginning in Greensboro North Carolina, a prominent left-wing African-American television preacher, Reverend Leonard Dracut was gunned down. Witnesses saw the culprit flee in a car. Two state troopers were shot when they pulled over a car matching the description. The black officer was killed, his white partner wounded. The car was found abandoned in rural North Carolina, registered to Sheldon Fickle from Florida. Less than an hour later, a stretch of farmland six miles from where the car was left, endured lead irrigation. A high-powered hunting rifle was fired innumerable times from a water-tower into a field, cultivated by Mexican migrant farmhands. Four were killed, ten were wounded. Fickle fled, stealing a pickup truck. The reign ended in a chase. S.F. Fickle ended his life, driving into a reservoir.
Before Mat assured him this would not sway his opinion, End spoke. “By time that happened, I hadn’t spoken to my father in over a year. I think he did that to prove himself. My dad was a member of an underground group called The Lexicon. Until eighteen, I was too. It was exclusive, supposedly comprised of people of the Wahr Geboren lineage, German for “true-born.””
“I’ve never heard of them,” Mateo said, curiously, putting his pen down.
End nodded. “That’s what they wanted. I’d like to show you something. But I’ll need to take off my shirt. It’s on my lower-back.” End stood, loosening his black belt, binding dry-cleaned pants. He exposed mark on his lower-back, purpling with age. Scar-tissue and partial-healing obscured content. It looked like a symbol depicting a crossed WG was charred into his flesh.
Upsetting combination of fascination and nausea gripped Mat. “Is that a brand…?”
Redoing his belt, End nodded. “Everyone raised at that damn compound was branded at ten.” He slumped into the chair.
“Where was that?”
“Florida panhandle, in the woods, off a coastal road near Highway-331,” End stated. “Front was a trailer park called Redman Bayou. We were all members. There’re chapters in four other states.” End pointed to a platinum-framed photo on Mat’s desk. “That your family?” he asked.
Confused at the question, Mat nodded saying “My wife and son last Christmas.”
End sighed. “I wanna illustrate what my life consisted of. Mr. Gonzalez, you’re Latino, professionally prosperous, married to a white woman. Ten years ago I had to deplore you. I’d have been chastised otherwise. Lexicon was founded by former-Klansmen; felt KKK started pussyfooting around. Guys like The Order, Joseph Paul Franklin, Tim McVeigh were martyrs to our family. We didn’t affiliate with Klansmen, or Neo-Nazis. We supported them, were our own outfit. Elders were called The Patriarchs. Their word was scripture. Us raised at Redman were groomed from birth. We protested Cuban refugee camps. When I was like seven, I was made to help hand out leaflets. One of the brochures was Black Man’s Wishes. It claimed black men wanted to rape white women. I didn’t know what rape meant.”
“You were born into this?” Mat noticed the indifferent solemnity in End’s voice, and suppressed anger. Begrudging acceptance of indelible upbringing displayed.
End drank coffee. “Mom died in childbirth. She was removed from the Lineage: this huge family-tree map. She “failed to fulfill duties.” I started questioning things early. All my life I heard Patriarchs, and everyone at Redman saying WG acted on God’s will. We read the Bible extensively. I asked dad why, if we detested Jews, we were acknowledging God described in the Old Testament. He beat me for blasphemy, reminded me if I said that to Patriarchs, I’d get worse. When Hurricane Katrina destroyed half Redman Bayou, I wondered if somebody was speaking through that. My dad was an “Archer,” rank below Patriarch. Before that North Carolina debacle he had a slew of murders under his belt. When I was ten, he and I were in Pensacola. He sent me to an arcade. He walked to a convenience store, hung around a car. Then he made a call from a payphone. Next morning it was on the news: a cop shot a Taiwanese guy as he closed his store. Behind the reporter I saw the same arcade I’d been in. This cop’s daughter went missing two days before. Said he got an anonymous call that his daughter was kidnapped by the Tai man who ran that convenience store. He drove to the store; saw his daughter’s pink backpack in the car outside. That’s what dad went to Pensacola for: plant it in that guy’s car, and make the call. That’s when I realized my father was a killer. They all were.”
“How’d he get the backpack?” asked Mat
“Briggs gave it to him, our Supreme Patriarch. He found it along 331, got the idea.”
“Sounds like you had a lot of questions. When’d you find answers?”
End added another sugar to his coffee. “Kids over sixteen were sent on errands. Bunch of us went on a supply-run in Pensacola one day. One store was across from Pensacola Library. Bibles WGs carried were identical, supplied by Patriarchs, no binding or spine. I found the real Bible in that library. I sat there hours, comparing that Bible to mine. I discovered fabrication. Redman Bayou had its own church onsite. During deliberations, Patriarchs quoted from verses, including 18th Romans.”
Mateo cleared his throat, awkwardly. He guessed from End’s indignation that there was something he was meant to glean. Mat was raised Mexican-Catholic, but seldom paid attention during church. “I don’t…”
“In the true Bible, Romans stops at 16… There is no 18. Lexicon revised the Bible, suiting their motives. I got my second brand after confronting them, and asking treasonous questions.”As End told his story, Mat barely retained the words. It transpired in his mind’s eye.
Supreme Patriarch Briggs addressed the Lexicon in his ceremonial purple robe. Upon the platform in the middle of Redman Bayou, he listed accusations against Louis Fickle. The teenager was prepared for ostracizing. Louis was held against the stool, facing away from the crackling fire-grate. He felt the Colts restraining him force his pants down. An ember landed on his right buttock, gritting his teeth. This pain was a precursor. Louis could not see the brand being moved ever-closer behind him. But he had seen it in the storage barn. This punishment brand was melded in the form of backwards BI, abbreviating “Beware Inquiry,” reserved for slanderers.
The white-hot brand pressed against his rear. Louis heard sizzling before feeling agony. Stench came. He screamed into the handkerchief gagging him and moistened the dirt below with tears. He could not recall his first branding well, but could not imagine it was this painful. Orange-glowing, heated metal was pressed against his ass for an hour it seemed, charring skin, scorching his pubic hair.
Relieved as the iron was removed, he gasped deep gulps of air, laced with reek of his burnt skin. “G… Goddamn it!” he shouted. “Christ, you’re sadistic… fucking sadist!”
Briggs scoffed. “Blasphemous ingrate,” he said. “Noble Colts, discipline the boy for using the redeemer’s name in vain.”
Voiceless henchmen beat Louis, breaking his nose and cracking a rib. He was dragged to the infirmary and dropped carelessly on a bed, like a bag of laundry. The compound’s infirmary was a small shack, overlooking the swamp. It was maintained by The Doc, who was not a licensed doctor. Doc, prior to joining the Lexicon was an EMT, fired for racial neglect. The Doc tended to Louis, but was forbidden to medicate the brand.
“What’s a Colt?” Mat asked. Wisps of steam from his untouched coffee wafted across End’s face.
End said “Lackeys, low-ranking GW for menial work. When we turned eighteen, our Consecration of Worth began. Ritual, we proved ourselves to the Lexicon. On our birthday Patriarchs gave a task, called “Kismet,” and timeframe. Once, a kid made a statement at a local Mosque: set cars on fire in the parking lot. Once we fulfilled Kismet, we were inducted into Wahr Geboren’s ranks. If we were reprimanded, we were disowned. Evidence that we were at Redman was destroyed. If while we were imprisoned we breathed a word indicting the Lexicon or WG, we’d be killed. Patriarchs said they had underground connections with members of Aryan Brotherhoods in every state and federal prison. They were probably bluffing. One girl, Amelia Bartlett, failed her task. I kinda had a crush on her. She was told to break into the house of some South Carolina DA. He was black, wife was white. She was supposed to induce a divorce, planting her clothes in the guy’s bed, so his wife would think he was having an affair. They always gave the non-violent tasks to the girls. Maid caught her breaking in. After her arrest, Patriarchs burned her belongings at the compound. We were forbidden to speak about her.”
Mat instinctively grabbed his coffee, but put it back down. “What was your Kismet?”
Smacking his lips, sipping sugared coffee, End stared blankly. “I was sent to a Seminole-run casino near Georgia. I was supposed to do something similar to what that guy did at the Mosque.”
“This was all to insight some epic race-war?”
“War for rightful humanity ranking,” End nodded. “Prophesized in the fictional Bible: The Rectification. By time I got my Kismet, I’d been self-educated. After dad got that storeowner killed, I volunteered to do supply-runs solo. I always stopped by the library, researched Buddhism, Hinduism, karma, reincarnation. Anybody at Redman knew I read that heresy I would’ve gotten worse than a brand. I drove to that casino, and kept driving. I fled.” He took a bag of Skittles from his backpack. “I ditched the car in Alabama. They found me. I’d rented an apartment in Mississippi. I heard a car pulling up, a Jeep. Colts were staking out. I snuck off that night, bounced between jobs and states. Then I found out I was sick.” He indicated his abnormally large hand. “Case you’re wondering: this is edema. I had sepsis. It was in adolescence when a doctor at a Roanoke clinic caught it. Said I probably got it from improper burn treatment. It would’ve progressed, become fatal. Tried enlisting in the service, I flunked the physical. Edema and lasting effects from sepsis put me at high-risk. Prognosis still exists.”
Mat watched End massacre the bag of candy. Something occurred to Mat, recalling copious amounts of sweetener in End’s coffee. “You hyperglycemic?” he asked.
Shuffling the Skittles bag indicatively, End nodded. “How’d you guess, I’m treating sugar like water? Those meds in my piss-test are antibiotic prescriptions I bought on the street to repel the infection.” He stared at his hand. “Eventually they found me again. Amelia Bartlett found me working as a farmhand in Iowa. She’d been released after serving time, tracked me down. Amelia said Lexicon rejected her when she tried returning, and she found me. Said in prison she met a woman whose family owned a cabin on Big Spirit Lake, good hideout. It was a ruse.”
Louis put the Toyota Celica in park. Driving up narrow dirt roads was barely manageable for his leased car. Louis was confused. There was nothing in view but trees, autumn foliage, and lakeshores, no cabin. He could not see a dent in the trees to implicating a driveway. A sharp jab of pain struck his torso. Muscles on his right side seized. He yelled. Amelia was holding a taser, smirking. “Get out. Walk toward the lake,” she instructed, brandishing the gun Louis kept in the glove-box in her other hand.
Amelia spoke civilly as they approached the lakeside, keeping the weapons aimed at his back. “Nothing personal Louis; I begged the Patriarchs’ forgiveness. They gave me this task to redeem Kismet.” Ordering to lie on his back, she crouched, pressing her knee into his ribcage. She reached downward with a blade from her back-pocket. Louis knew what Amelia was planning. He saw it at Redman to those deemed traitorous. She would cut a “T” along his face. Once he was marked, he would not live long. She laid the taser on the ground to administer the mark two-handed. Louis reacted. He knocked her gun-arm, upper-cut her. Amelia grunted, falling backward. Louis tried to clamber to his feet. She struck him with her fist, pointing the pistol at him. She pulled the trigger. A click emitted. The gun was a realistic-looking toy. Louis carried it for show.
Louis grabbed the taser. Amelia held the knife, stepping into the lake. “When word gets back, they’ll come for you Louis!” She slit her own throat and fell into the water. As it reddened, Louis stood beside Big Spirit Lake in awe, watching her limp corpse floating in wind-wading water. There was a tapping sound. The blade brought back toward shore by a wave. The lake attempted to regurgitate the weapon. Recomposing, he fled in the Celica.
Anecdotal End indicated his facial scar. “Left Iowa after reading a Jane Doe was found by kayakers. They ruled it suicide. I changed my name, moved as many states away as I could. Endicott’s my mother’s maiden name. Crane’s a symbol in Chinese mythos, synonymous with-.”
“Immortality,” Mateo said, pointing to the bird-shaped paperweight. “I’m aware, hence the décor.”
End nodded. “Someone like me isn’t gonna live forever, least not corporeally. I move whenever I see news meaning GWs were around. After dad went on that rampage, Feds located me. They found evidence about Lexicon and my alienation.”
Upon End’s directions, the taskforce descended on the secluded park, hands on their holsters, wearing bulletproof vests. End stayed near the rear. Agent Paul Lazarrinni directed. Immediately End sensed something wrong. Nearing the trailer park, no voices were heard, or cars seen. As they passed RB’s stockyard, he heard no chickens clucking or goats bleating. Everyone relaxed past RB’s gates. It was deserted. Only living occupants were a flock of seagulls, fleeing into the air like explosion debris. Investigators did their jobs. End stood in the center of Redman. Rubbing his rear, he gazed at the platform in the middle of the clustered homes, overgrown with vegetation.
Lazarrinni addressed End. “They fled long ago. Commissary food’s spoiled. Have any ideas?”
End shrugged. “Nearest brother Lexicon chapter is somewhere in Louisiana, Agent. I haven’t been here in two years.” Embarrassed, he escorted the Bureau to a drought watering-hole.
Another Agent approached, lowering his visor. “Swept the compound, nobody’s here. Weapons and ammo were in a trunk: machineguns, semi-automatics, shotguns, pistols. Serial numbers removed.”
“Doesn’t mean untraceable,” Lazarrinni articulated. “Contact BATF.” He looked at End. “Thanks for the first step.”
End drained his coffee, dropping the Skittles bag in the decorative trashcan. “Lazarrinni updated me. Guns were stolen. One they linked to a victimless shootout. That’s last I heard about Lexicon.”
Mat stared at his full cup of coffee. Steam depleted. Mateo cleared his throat. “This is challenging. When we conduct background-checks we search outstanding warrants, felony convictions, things like that. Sixteen years here, I’ve never encountered such a dilemma-presenting check.”
“I’m not hired?” sighed End, pulling his bag up. Saddened acceptance overtook his face.
“I didn’t say that.” Mat glanced at his paperweight, beside the steamed-out coffee. The crane’s sculpted, upturned beak pointed toward End.
“I understand,” said End, as he stood. “I’ll come Thursday for my last check.”
“You’re hired,” Mat blurted.
“I am…?” Strap of End’s bag slid down his shoulder.
Mat nodded. “I’m submitting this today.” He filed the paperwork into the appropriate pile. “I’ll talk to Employee Benefits. Get you on the health plan. Get proper treatment for that enema.”
“Edema,” End corrected, politely.
“Right, sorry,” Mateo said, embarrassed. “Starting Monday, you’re on payroll fulltime. I’ll talk to HR about bypassing the starting pay due to your performance. It’ll get you a raise. Sound good?”
“Yes, Mr. Gonzalez.” They shook hands. “Thank you, but… why?” End gave Mat a look, conveying Endicott would not have given himself the job.
Mateo shrugged and pointed to a poster. “See that Hindu proverb? Maybe you’ll appreciate it as a man who’s researched Hinduism. It’s a hologram; might have to shift to see the English translation.”
End turned to look. “It takes a thorn, to remove a thorn,” End read aloud, smiling. “That’s amazing.” He picked up his bag, indicating a button pinned to the strap, depicting the same phrase. “Thanks Mr. Gonzalez, I appreciate it.”
“Call me Mat, End.”
Leaving, bag shouldered, End chuckled. “I’m imagining the Lexicon’s reaction. I got a government-dealing job, from a Latino man, encouraged by a Hindu saying. I’d be executed.”
After Mat sent the confirmation email, he looked through receipts. Tax season loomed. The first receipt confused him: dated earlier that week, from Columbia Industrial Sanitation. That was not a commission of theirs. It confirmed delivery of a powdered metal phosphide Rodenticide: rat-poison. Mat was unaware Moore-Ellis had rats. Reaching for his desk phone to call the maintenance supervisor, he realized the delivery was signed for by Nora Breegh.
Nora was not at her station when Mat walked out, inquisitively. A drawer was ajar. Inside was a bag of rat-poison, sugar packets, and a teaspoon. On the computer, a screensaver appeared. It read in large print LONG LIVE WAHR GEBOREN! A sticking-tongue-out emoji followed. In disbelief, Mat returned to his office. He found the sweetener packet Nora discarded in the trash, sniffing it. Garlic scent flared his nostrils. Rat poison often smelled garlicky.
“Where’s Nora?” he demanded of Sherry.
“She stepped out,” Sherry replied. “Said you needed her to run an errand?”
Mat sprinted out the door and downstairs. He caught up with End in the lot, nearly knocking over a truck-driver approaching the receiving office. Mat’s shoes splattered through slush on the pavement. “End, wait! I think you’re poisoned.” Affects had begun to take. End was trembling beside his car. When he turned, he bled profusely from his nostrils. End collapsed, convulsing. Mat crouched, holding End’s head up. “Call 911!” he shouted at the baffled trucker. Nora must have been slipping him rat-poison in coffee for days. Rodenticide took a day or two for rats, humans would be longer. End’s button from his bag with the proverb lay in slush beside the tire.
Paramedics loaded septic shocked End in the ambulance hastily. For forty-five minutes, Moore-Ellis was embarrassed before the Bethesda-PD. It was discovered that Nora’s paychecks were sent to a PO Box. Address she listed as her residence was nonexistent. CSIs and lawmen descended like buzzards.
Mat’s desktop items sealed into evidence-bags, the paperweight’s eyes seemed to standoff. Sherry returned. “The Johns Hopkins professor whose signature’s on Nora’s LOR has never heard of Nora Breegh.” Sherry carried a copy of Nora’s application. “I noticed something. She only wrote her middle initial: W.” Sherry answered her phone. “FBI’s here: Agent Lazerrinni.”
Authorities examined records and data, while Mat sat at his desk, violated. He wrote out Wahr Geboren onto a post-it. He marked the post-it with arrows. When Sherry stuck her head in, informing him that Agent Lazzerinni found something, Mat pushed the notepad aside. “Nora W Breegh” was an anagram for “Wahr Geboren”.
The agent entered. “Mr. Gonzalez, we ran Breegh’s photo through facial-recognition-software. There’s a match.” He brandished a file. “Ivy Jacobs: wanted for everything from tax-fraud to attempted murder. Pittsburgh last year, she attacked an African-American man, soliciting white prostitutes. Jacobs attempted to stab him, yelling racial epithets. She’s listed with nationwide suspected Lexicon.”
Mat stammered. “Endicott mentioned another name, Briggs…”
“Theodore Briggs,” Lazzerinni nodded. “He’s dead, stroke in 2010. He was under surveillance in Louisiana. APB’s out. That full coffee on your desk tested positive for Rodenticide. Lucky you didn’t touch it.”
Mat examined the mug-shot clipped to the folder. Racist lady wanted to eliminate her Latino boss as bonus. He disbelieved this was the same pretty woman who processed paperwork. Nora was only an intern. Full background-check was not conducted. As an office aid, she would know when End’s drug-test was scheduled. She must have administered the poison afterwards so the drug-test would not disclose it prematurely. A background-check could only ascertain a certain depth. Truly determination of people required data inaccessible to computers. Sophisticated software could not unlock minds, souls, or bodies.
A cop approached Mat and Lazzerinni. “Agent, we’ve located Jacobs, dead. There was a three-car pile-up on I-270. Truck-driver had a load of ice on his roof. Big-ass chunk of snow shrapnel flew off, hit Jacobs’s car behind him. Driver went flying through the guardrail. Ivy was the only fatality.”
Mat returned to his office, ignoring its joviality. He answered his ringing phone “Hello, Mat.”
“Hey Sweetie,” Francesca’s voice said, enthusiastically. “How’s lunch?”
Mat’s initially though “What’s lunch?” With the pandemonium he had not noticed it was 12:30. “Oh uh, eventful,” he said. He did not tell her what had happened yet. He hoped to hear something positive from his peppy wife to counteract the devastation. “How’s the zoo today?”
“Karma gave birth!” she said, excitedly.
“You can say that again,” Mat said, shaking his head, looking at Ivy’s mug-shot. “Sorry, I’m distracted. You mean the monkey, Karma?”
“She and Vishnu must’ve mated. We just need a name for the child. It’s male, any ideas?”
Sherry poked her head in, solemnly whispering. “Thought you’d want to know, Endicott Crane didn’t make it.”
Mat gripped his phone tightly. He could not bring his new hire back to life in body. Besides, that would potentially make him a Jiangshi. Perhaps End could be revitalized in a body other than his abused, burned, scarred, infected body fate had granted him originally. Mat looked at the poster of the Hindu proverb. Macaques were Indian. “Name him Endicott,” he told Francesca.

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