A special two-session Dear Brother, in which our heros undergo torture and brainwashing. Not for the faint of heart.
I am writing this to you while sitting over some pancakes. You should know first of all that I got out of what I am about to write, although I should not say that I got out of it fine. I am pretty beat up and very tired. Like an old tire that’s gone around about a hundred million times, I guess. But that is life on the road.
We drove into Chicago feeling like we had the world on a string. Ben was telling us about his old grandpa. Back when Ben was a kid his grandpa used to dress up like Santa Claus and bring gifts and one year he brought two gold coins and gave them to Ben. They were old ones, from that Chicago world fair they held back in 1893, which I believe was when the League of Good Roads came together. You have to think that some important things happened at that fair.
Well, the world on a string feeling did not last for long. Be careful if you ever drive past Chicago; it pulls you in. I can always feel where a map begins and ends and everything around that town ended in a big knot right in the center. It was just like I felt when I was doing my hoodoo to find those seven cities, but worse. And right in the middle of it Danny started singing some song about a scarecrow that none of us had ever heard of, not even old Blind Joe.
I managed to stop driving at a motel, so we went to sleep there, but I do not mind saying I did not sleep well. You will remember that time we snuck off to the hootchie club down in Green Hollow, and we did not know what to think and we were afraid but we couldn’t look away. Well, Chicago felt just like that except dirtier.
When we woke up we were not sure what to do, so we went to where that big fire started. Wouldn’t you know it. We met some idiot in a suit who knew Ben. He acted all worried that Ben was going to take over his grandpa’s company. I wanted to poke him in the nose on general principle, not that Ben wants that road, but who is this Lonnie Drinkwater to say Ben can’t drive it?
Anyhow he took us up to Ben’s grandpa’s office and we all said hello. The walls of the office were all covered with pictures of Ben. It reminded me of Lady Selene and her death pictures, now that I think on it. Ben and his grandpa arranged to have dinner at the Firehouse Club, without us, which was maybe not such a good idea. But Blind Joe and Angie wanted to go do a little singing. Or so Blind Joe claimed, which we found out later was a lie, but I will talk more about that then.
We got out of the office about as quick as we could. There was more than a little time to spend so we spent it doing nothing in particular. Except Ben got us some of those little cellular telephones. I still need to show one of them to Momma some day. They did not do us much good in Chicago, though.
Blind Joe and Angie went off, and I think the way I will write this is to tell you a little of what happened to Ben and a little of what happened to us. If it is too confusing, you just whisper that to the roads and I’ll realize it eventually and write you again a different way. But I think this will make the most sense.
When Ben went into the club he found it was full of Shriners. We did not see many Shriners in the prison house, but Ben had said they were something interesting in the underground way, something to do with those Templars. Well, they say the Templars took orders from a head and you cannot forget Wally Church’s head, which spoke to us. And Wally Church was a Shriner.
Ben said there were a lot of interesting things on the walls, like a painting of Teddy Roosevelt shaking hands with the Tin Man, and a man with his head in a crocodile’s jaws. Probably that Leviathan. But he did not have so much time to look before his grandpa started talking on what Ben had been doing.
He knew a lot about it, too. He knew about New Orleans and he knew about that song, Dan Siegel’s Grave. Well, he should know about that song, since his name is Dan Siegel. He said Ben had dangerous friends, meaning us, and that there were people who wanted to build this country up and people who wanted to tear it down.
I say he was right about that last, but he forgot that there is more than one way to build a country up, and his way is the wrong way.
He said that Ben should stay in Chicago, which is the other destiny we saw in that card reading, I am sure. He said that the secret Civil War was still happening. I do not know what that means at all.
Now, it is very hard to write this because I did not think Blind Joe was the sort of man who would do this sort of thing, but I guess I was wrong and I cannot put off the writing any longer. Maybe I should take some pity on him because he tried to save Angie from the trouble he put the rest of us in, but I do not think I will.
So I will just say it. He made a phone call to John Moses and let the Pinkertons know where we were and when we would be there. There, it is done, and I imagine that in the end he will share their fate. Everyone has to choose their own road. Some of them are dead ends.
Meanwhile me and Black and Danny were waiting in a bar near to where Ben was. I was worried but I thought the three of us would be able to fight through just about anything. Black has my back always and me him and Danny has turned out to be a good man in a tight place. I guess I have been wrong before and I am sure I will be wrong again, and I was wrong then, but I did not expect Blind Joe to sell us out. So I was very surprised when John Moses walked into the bar.
He had four men with him, wearing those shit-brown suits they always like to wear. He is a small man, inside I mean, and you could tell he was enjoying himself more because of the humiliation we put on him back home. He made us come out of the bar and there were two more of the men outside.
They took a beating to my car. I was not about to give them the pleasure of getting angry, and inside I was laughing a little because they do not know that for me it is not the car but the road beneath the wheels. It would have been different if it had been your car, of course, and I was not happy to lose the El Dorado but there are more cars out there.
But Moses knows how to sharpen his tongue like a knife and he went to work on me and by the time he dropped a match onto the car and lit it afire I was mad enough, and I tucked into him. Well, he was going to start the fight one way or another anyhow. And because I came at him first, and because he is too confident for his own Pinkerton good, now his face is marked like Cain down the left side by my knife, so he can just remember that the next time he faces a Beulay. Which will be the last time for him.
Back in the club, Ben’s grandpa was showing off all the things on the walls. They had the bullet that killed Lincoln and timbers from the first ferris wheel and hoodoo things like that. More things from the Wizard of Oz movie, too.
Ben showed his spirit once again when he told his grandpa that there was a third way, just like old Huey Long said. Grandpa Siegel did not take that too well at all. Good for Ben! The old man almost had another stroke, and when I say another stroke I mean to tell you that he had a stroke on October 19th in 1987, which is the day that the stock markets up in New York City had their big problems. We do not think that is any kind of a coincidence.
Well, now there was no pretense of peace between Ben and his grandpa. He said flat out, old Siegel, that if Ben walked out the door his friends (meaning us) would be dead. Ben kept standing up for himself and for what was right and he told his grandpa that his name was not Ben any more. He said it was Scarecrow. Ben is a brave man, and I will tell anyone so.
Ben walked out with his head tall and soon enough found the remains of my poor car. He went right back to the club and got in his grandpa’s face but unfortunately got no truth out of him. Old Siegel just told him that “gold flows up, and shit flows down.” Which is why a real man of America tries to find a way to get everyone out of the gutter. Every man a king.
Now I will go back to the story of what happened to me and Danny and Black. Black’s story will be a bit easier to tell because he was shipped back to Las Vegas and I do not know what happened to him there although I have my suspicions. But we will get him out. I am not as afraid of this Frank Cairo as Black is, and it will do Black good to see Mister Cairo getting kicked in the gut.
Danny and me woke up in some warehouse tied to a couple of chairs. It looked like it was a meat packing plant. They started out with the beating to show they meant business. I got a cigar in my eye, which I hope will recover, and that bastard Moses broke my knee. He broke Danny’s hand, too. Well, I am keeping track, John Moses.
I tried to get inside the heads of the men but I had not much luck. Everyone knows Pinkertons have no imagination, I guess. Moses wanted to know who told us to talk to Wally Church’s head. I am pretty sure he thought that we did the killing of Church to start out with. I saw nothing gained from lying so we told him the truth. He did not want to believe it, because he is the sort of man who does not understand people who are not working for someone.
He asked us if we were working for the Eye-biting Man. He kept talking about the Big Machine, which I think is his name for the trusts and all the things Ben’s grandpa is mixed up in. He said that — wait, I remember it almost exactly, so I will write it down like that.
He said “This country is a pyramid with the weak at the bottom.” But I threw it back to him. “The strong are at the bottom, holding this country up.” And that is the truth. Like all slugs the truth hit him like a pinch of salt.
During all this Ben was running around getting ready to do what was needed. He gave away that coin I mentioned to you earlier to some of the homeless, because he did not want anything of his grandpa’s anymore. Then he found Angie, who told him about the wrong Blind Joe had done. Joe had gone away by this time, which was the first smart thing he did in Chicago.
Angie and Ben called that Susan who the pretty little Shallony girl told Angie about back in DC, and this Sue said it was all right to come on by. I guess there is something going on with Sue and her people. Ben said that when Sue saw the Black Madonna that Danny bought in New Orleans, she was all happy and smiles. So Ben told Sue what was happening.
Sue said the Shriners were the hoodoo men of Chicago and that this woman’s shelter Sue ran was part of some other cult. I guess it is some kind of sex thing. Sue said something about a naked goddess which had something to do with the Black Madonna. Well, you can ask Ben if you want to know more and maybe he can tell you.
Ben had still the antenna from the car which the Pinkertons messed up, and he thought smart and decided to use it for a bit of divining. Sue gave him some other stuff including some drugs to help with that. You have to admire Ben because he does not stop for anything when he gets on a good road. I think I have heard of this Blue John stuff she gave him, and it is no small power.
But before I tell you about how all that went, I will tell you some more about what Danny and me were doing. Well, what they were doing to us is maybe more right. Danny was starting to hear voices, which is maybe not too unusual for Danny, but they were fierce red voices which makes me worry a little. They said he would have to kill, and I think he was listening. But they talked about Route 66, too, so maybe they are more to be trusted than I think.
Then a doctor showed up, Doctor Pete, who is the kind of doctor who is not allowed to hang out his shingle anywhere in this country. He would do better selling diet pills to fat women in Tijuana. He had all kinds of gear and wires and dials and not much to my surprise he wanted to hook it all up to us.
But then he said, “I want to tell you about the most powerful force in the universe,” and that did surprise me. You will recall that the I AM people always said that. But when he ran that electricity through us we had a kind of vision of an emerald green room and instead of any I AM person or salesman or whatnot there was Ben’s grandpa standing there.
Now I have to say I am not too sure of the things which happened. I do remember he talked our ears off about how we were all robots and there was no free will. I do not have time for any such nonsense, though. He said I had no free will and he would show me my trigger symbol —
Wait, that came later. Before all that about the trigger he said that all we had to do was kill some witch in the west. It is more Wizard of Oz nonsense. Danny worries that he got to me but I think not. There was one time in Arizona when I drove from Flagstaff to Phoenix with a blindfold on. I know my path when I set my mind on it and no two-bit con artist will get me off it.
Danny lost his hold on himself during all this, and showed why he is not to be taken lightly. He stopped the whole thing in the middle by getting free and going for Doctor Pete’s throat. Now I know when you read something like that in a magazine it is just a way of saying someone fought someone. That is not what I mean here. I am sort of glad I do not remember this so well because while I like a good fight I do not want to remember my friend Danny quite like he was there. Even if it was all John Moses’ fault.
So I will write about Ben now. He went down into the sewers underneath of Chicago to do his hoodoo. He must have chosen the right place and the right hoodoo, because he had what seems like a true vision to me.
He saw a cornfield, and a twister coming up on him, and a ferris wheel turning. There was a scream, and a bit of silvery cloth fell down off of the top of the big wheel. It is more gold against silver. Then he felt like he was drinking the blood of the city, and while I am not sure of it I would bet good money that he felt the same way I felt back when we were driving into the heart of the place.
But then the vision was stopped, probably in good time, by an old homeless guy. He said his name was Tucker, and he knew what was what. He had Ben’s gold coin that Ben had tried to give away earlier. It seems you can not just give away things that weigh as much as those coins.
Now, I did not meet Tucker so I cannot say I looked him in the eye and judged him to be true, but I will write down the things Tucker said in any case because it might be important. He had his head drilled open by the Eye-biting Man, to get away from some government thing called Monarch. Well, you can see why I want to remember that. It is yet another King. He said a man named Bill Bryan III, who is some relation to the William Bryan who talked about the cross of gold, was all tangled up with the government Monarch.
He also told Ben to cross out all the eyes on his money so that his grandpa could not watch him through it. That would explain a lot about how old Dan Seigel always knew where we were.
Most important, between the vision and Tucker I guess, Ben figured out where they were keeping us and like the man he is he made up his mind to get us out.
By the time Ben reached that warehouse, Danny had gotten us both free and it was getting a little tense in there. I did not think much of our chances, since the Pinkertons had guns and we had broken knees and such, but a Beulay does not stop just because it looks dark out. And a good thing we did not, because Ben broke in just at the right moment. We got out of the warehouse and stole a Pinkerton car long enough to pick up Angie. They drive those German cars. It just figures.
And now I am sitting in a diner writing this like I said. I guess Ben sent you a telegram and I bet you will show up soon. It looks like we have our path pretty clear and Ben is about ready to be a king. A while ago I would have said that was bad but I am thinking now maybe America needs a King to sacrifice himself for the land. Maybe Ben can be that King. Either way these Shriners and Dan Siegel and the Pinkertons need to have their hands taken away from the wheel.
Also, and I am very sorry to say this, we need to get the Book of Good Roads back from them. I kept it on me because I wanted it to be safe and I did not have it with me when we left the warehouse. So you can guess where it is as well as I can.
I will see you when you get here, and we will break down the walls.