In this Dear Brother letter, we find out why Ben was hung on a ferris wheel and how Black got laid in Las Vegas. It’s always the other PCs getting lucky…
Well, after all that down in Clarksdale I guess we went on a bit of a spree. I seem to recall visiting Mexico for some good reason but I do not remember much of what we did there. I am a little surprised because I would not have thought that we would give Blind Joe a real family sendoff after everything he did but there it is. I can think of no other explanation for the big hole where I usually remember things.
Also we dropped Danny off somewhere and I cannot recall where. But he will find us if he goes looking, or if we do, so I am not so concerned about that.
Anyhow, after we got back to good old America, we decided it was time to go see the middle of the country. It was awful strange driving into Kansas. You said your LS6 did not feel like it did elsewhere and I could not feel the roads so well myself. I have heard in some parts that after 1938, Kansas lost all the hoodoo and mojo. I believe that is when Ben’s grandpa did the hobos wrong, and maybe it is connected.
After a bit of uncomfortable driving we got to the piece of brass that says it is the center of the country. But it was wrong. I took a look at all my maps and it was clear as day that the center was down near Route 66, where Coronado came to one day back when it was only Indians here. And the monument said it was laid down in 1938, so there is that date again.
Angie raised a bit of a fuss but everyone else knew we had to move the thing down to the real center. It would be a way to tell the Goldbugs and all of them that we were in town now. Ben, being clever as always, said it would be a good idea to show what we were doing on his Internet. I guess the Internet is like movies too.
So we pulled the thing out of the mound of rocks it was in and headed down south. When we got there it was pretty clear we had found the right place, even though I did not have the Book of Good Roads to work from. Damn those Pinkertons.
But we saw all the signs there in that cornfield. When we were walking from the road into the field there was a big water tower, and on it was painted “Kansas.” Except some of the letters were gone, so it just said”Ka,” which Waylan says is the gasoline of hoodoo.
Then when we got to the exact spot, there was a skull right there, like a marker. Now, I know you are thinking that it is not so strange to see a skull in a cornfield. Well, I think you have never seen a buffalo skull that is five feet long, in a cornfield or otherwise. It is some beast that wandered these prairies a long long time ago.
Ben went to talk to it somehow. I am not so sure he knew what he was doing but he knows the trick of getting by anyhow, which is to pretend like you have a plan all along. That works more often than you might think. While he squeezed his eyes together and touched the skull, a raven flew across the harvest moon and landed on the skull in front of him, cawing at us. Ben opened his eyes like there was an electric shock and the raven up and flew west, cawing.
I guess even if the buffalo did not bless our doings we gave him fair warning. I am a mountain man and I am not the man to be telling stories about Kansas fields, but if I had to guess I would say we did fair well in preparation. And I know we did the deed itself right.
Ben let some of his blood flow into some concrete as we mixed it, and I drew some highways in it, and Waylan said some words about fire and water and earth and air. Then Ben said E Pluribus Unum and slammed the piece of brass into its true place and we could feel the hoodoo like water flowing all around us.
Later on Black told us he felt it when we did that, and damn! I have realized I have forgotten all about Black, who was not having so bad a time of it in Las Vegas after all if you ask me. Well, before I write about how we hung Ben on the ferris wheel, I will tell what Black told us when we saw him again. I cannot tell it as pretty as he can but I will write down the bones and if you ever meet him you can ask him for the rest.
After the bastard Pinkertons took us and crated Black up he did not wake up for a long time. But when he did he was not in any slaughterhouse. He was in a bed in a Las Vegas hotel penthouse with all the trimmings, and the bed was full of hundred dollar bills, and right there beside him was that Annabelle Cairo he was so upset with. She was wearing clothing but he was not. Oh, and her clothing was like Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz movie. You can guess what had been happening, I bet.
Well, Black got about as upset as a raccoon in a bathtub. He wanted to shoot her there and then, and there was even a gun right beside the bed. Now, I am not too sure of how this happened and you can bet that if it had been me and Annabelle had been someone I was so angry at, I would have used that gun. But she talked him out of it. I do not find it in my heart to think of this Annabelle as a bad woman, though, even if Black is convinced she is darker than sin. So I am glad she was quick with the words.
I guess I have to admit she got Black into a lot of trouble just by talking to him, though. She told him that Frank Cairo, Jr. was the one who got him sent to prison. The older Frank Cairo had no particular feud with Black, but little Frank poisoned his father’s mind against my friend. Then she said that Junior was weak against Black, because of the betrayal. Then she said that Black should kill Junior, which occasioned a great deal more argument.
She also said him some things in the course of talking which may or may not be so but I will write them down anyhow in case they are. She said that she had ties to the La Llorona gangs in Los Angeles, which is not that much unlike the things that Sue in Chicago is mixed up with. Also it reminds me of that statue Danny bought down in New Orleans.
She said too that she did not kill Wally Church back in Florida, and when Black told her what happened she said someone was pushing us around where we could not see. You can tell why I think she may have been lying but we will watch out anyhow just in case. And I think I believe that she did not kill Wally, because it would make sense if there was one more person hiding somewhere in this matter.
In the end, and Black is none too clear on how she got him to decide to do this thing, the both of them went to see a man named the Kingkiller up in Caesars Palace. Black says he looked just like Elvis, except reversed with a black jumpsuit. Well, it takes all kinds. He gave Black a gun named Sic Semper Tyrannis, which is a gun made for killing kings. Black still had it when he got back to us and Ben keeps looking at it sideways.
It is a pretty thing. The grip is made of ebony and gold and silver, and I would not mind owning something so pretty myself. I am glad we still have it because I suspect it will come in useful later on.
Anyhow, Black got the gun and one bullet. Now, some men might lay a careful plan but I guess that is not Black’s way, and his way has been a good road for him so far. He just went down to the blackjack table and used his mojo to win all the money he could. It was like setting off a fire alarm and he knew that the Cairos would come to see who was hoodooing away all their money and they did.
Black shot two guards right there and then ran into the bowels of the casino. He says now it was like being herded, and we know the Cairos had their own magic so I suppose it was exactly like that. Eventually he bumped right into Frank Cairo but he did not stop to talk. But no matter, because there were only so many places to go down there and before much longer he was in the tightest corner he had ever seen.
The guards were bound and determined not to let him go any further. There was a vault there with something inside, not just money but something a good deal older than that. You could tell, says Black, that they would all sooner die than let anyone get any closer to the vault. Especially Black. And Frank Cairo arrived again about then and it was clear as day that Black’s time had about come to an end.
Then his luck turned again and Frank Cairo Jr. showed up next to his father. Black went down on his knees and pleaded for his life, and if little Frank had ever been a true friend he would have known better because Black is not the kind of man who pleads craven. Black looked up to let Junior see his eyes and then stood up and shot Junior dead, right there in front of all of the guards and his father.
I guess there was a little noise after that, but when the people saw that Black was wearing a jacket of dynamite underneath his tailored suit things quieted down right quick. Dynamite has that effect except when it is making things noisier. It is always one or the other.
Black is not always the best talker in the world but maybe you do not need to be the best when you have the biggest gun. He got them to open up the vault, which I guess was better than having the dynamite go off. Now, I do not pretend to understand exactly what happened next but I guess shooting the heir to the King of Las Vegas in front of his father built up some powerful mojo for Black. He went into the vault and took off his jacket of dynamite and dropped it on the floor and told himself he was in Kansas.
And then he was.
Now I will go back to what we did next, because Black did not arrive until some time after we had moved the center of America. I think I mentioned the water tower of Ka. Well, from the center we could see two other things on the horizon. One of them was an old windmill, and when we went to look at it we found that the windmill had “Gale” carved into one blade. There was an old caved in barn next to it, and inside the cellar we found a little bit of silver cloth. Ben said it was more of that Wizard of Oz story.
Then we went over to the third thing, which was an old ferris wheel with 21 spokes. That is the number of cards in the Tarot, Ben said, which was a sign if ever there was one. We thought about it a little bit and had a little more of an argument, mostly on Angie’s part. But we knew it would come to the ordeal in the end for Ben, and this was pretty clear the right place.
Ben took hold of the silver cloth and those gold coins he had from his grandfather and we took a few lengths of that computer cabling he carries around. He took a deep breath, and we told him we were proud of him, and then we tied him to the middle of the ferris wheel and settled back to wait a while. Waylan told the story of the Viking god who hung on the tree to pass the time.
Now, if I were to write just what happened to me there would not be much. Except that I would have to admit that I laid hands on Miss Angie when she tried to cut Ben down, and if she ever reads this I hope she believes me when I say that I am true sorry. Also some boy showed up in a pickup truck because he saw Ben’s movie of what was happening on the Internet. I was hoping for more folks to come see but you take what you can.
But Ben saw a good number of things. He does not speak of many of them, though. He did say he saw us all standing down at the base of the wheel telling him that it was time to come down but he did not believe us. He is a good boy and wise for his years. He also saw Grandpa Dan, who said that he meant only well for Ben. Grandpa Dan talked about old Ben Franklin, and said it was all about the Benjamins. And now I just realized that hundred dollar bills are Benjamins, like the ones Black and Annabelle were laying on. Ha!
Anyhow, the old man said some more things, mostly nonsense, like that he saw what General Jake did to that girl. Ben kept on not listening like the man he is becoming.
Then Ben saw a vision, which I think is maybe true but I cannot make sense of it. He saw the cabin with the windmill he visited, but it was new. There was an old woman throwing a young woman out of her house. The girl called the woman Auntie Em, and said that someone made her do what she did, but the old woman just called her a harlot and would not relent.
His next vision was Coronado crucifying the man who lied to him about the cities of Cibola. They called that man the Turk. Coronado stuffed the Turk’s mouth full of coins, gold and silver alike.
Then there was the buffalo from before. Ben said the buffalo smelled like the Leviathan in Florida to him. Waylan thinks maybe they are the Selenim, but I am not sure. I thought the Selenim were one of the problems with America and the buffalo did not seem fierce.
Finally something happened which was no vision at all. A tornado blew up out of nowhere, which I suppose was right since we were so near the Wizard of Oz house. Ben said later that he saw silvery creatures in the tornado and they started to bite at him. He said they were like dead babies. Well, that is silver for you, like Miss Selene and her pictures.
I had to climb up after Angie then, because that was when she got upset about Ben. I apologized already about laying hands on her but I will do it again here. Anyhow, I got her down from the wheel just when the tornado hit and I got blown off. Waylan and Angie found me quick enough, but Ben was nowhere to be seen.
That is when Black came strolling out of nowhere like he had never been gone. I cannot say how glad I was to see him. It was feeling a little thin without Danny and Ben missing and I even felt a little regret for no Blind Joe. But Black is an old friend, so that was good.
And not long after that, Ben came — damn it. Well, I have been avoiding this because it will sound as though I have a feeble mind, but my fingers do not want to write down “Ben” anymore. It is like he has no name, especially that one. But whoever he is now he came through the cornfield looking different, and I saw that he had tattoos of the hobo sign all over his skin.
We collected ourselves up and got back in the car and started back to Chicago conversing all the way. I guess I will call him college boy until he decides what he wants himself called. He had the sight with him, and he told Black just what had happened in Las Vegas, which is why I know so much of it. I do not think Black would have admitted all that about Annabelle on his own. He also said we needed to go talk to Sue before we did justice to the Pinkertons.
Well, I think there will be arguing about that. Waylan has the look in his eye which means no peace for a while, but college boy has the true sight of a hoodoo man, which means the argument will be a long one. So I will finish writing this down over pancakes and the arguing which is about to come will be in the next letter. Right now I feel too good for more arguing. College boy has been through the fire and the rest of us are ready and America knows that we are coming. We will help America find its way home.