Disciple Mixtape: Track Two

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Madness

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« on: June 11, 2013, 12:50:10 pm »
DEAD JENNIFER

Quote from: ”DOTD, p5”
Monday

When Jonathan and Amanda Bonjour first came to my office, I assumed it would be yet one more missing kid gig, and I was right. When a couple comes in together, it generally has something to do with either a parent or a kid—usually the latter, but you would be surprised at how many grandmas go off the rails gambling, and how many grandpas climb on the rails—the snorting kind. Especially these days.

And mystery. The child Bonjour is missing. The tone is set and Disciple is rambling to the races.

I honestly think I could quote the entirety of this book; too many great one-offs. However, Disciple spends moments regaling us as to where his Private Dickery is located. Specifically, omitting the scenery:

Quote
My kingdom consists of a narrow, thousand-square-foot retail slot strategically situated between a souvlaki stand and a porn shop—so when the air doesn’t reek of charred lamb, it smells like cheap lubricants. My office lies at the back, next to the all-important copy-slash-smoking room. I have my desk positioned so that I can either pretend nobody’s home or, with a simple crane of my neck, glimpse anyone unfortunate enough to wander in. This is precisely what I did when I heard the cowbell on my entrance cough and clunk—apparently it has a crack in it—at precisely 11:48 A.M. on Monday.

Craning his neck, Disciple sees the two Bonjours by his secretary, Kimberly, waiting on the Dick himself.

Quote from: ”DOTD, p6”
Jonathan Bonjour was heavy- set. I would have thought of him as fat, but I have this mindset where I begin flattering people mentally the instant they walk in the door. The well-practised lie always comes off the best. I knew instantly that he was a lawyer simply because his suit fit. Since no two people pack on weight the same way, it’s pretty much impossible for fat guys to find suits that fit off the rack.

Disciple – a cynic, overtly, having seen it all – seems to judge thoughtlessly. He goes on to dress down Mrs. Amanda Bonjour and concludes:

Quote
Side by side, the two of them fairly shouted good genes and easy living—a testament to the American Dream.

So of course something tragic had to have happened.

Disciple highlights that he has two routines, “Remington, razor-sharp on the outside but warm and slippery within, or I play Columbo, a mob of yarn tangled about concealed razors” (p6). He opts for Remington and saunters out to introduce himself to the Bonjours and have Kimberly lead them into his office.

Quote from: ”DOTD, p7”
Once in my office, Jonathan Bonjour shook my hand with the inky ease of people who habitually press the flesh … I’ve yet to meet a lawyer who wasn’t a cynic of some description. You spend your life pretending to believe assholes and you’re bound to start seeing shit everywhere you look. Just another hazard of the trade.

I could tell that he recognized something in my eyes as well. Weird, all these little moments that pass between people. For most everybody, they slip into oblivion, but me, I catch them like flies.

Here we have the first experiential indications of Disciple’s hyperthymesia or eidetic memory: the accumulation of trivialities.

Disciple sees much more of a victim in Amanda Bonjour:

Quote
When I reached out to shake her hand, she almost flinched, as though instinctively loath to confirm what the greater part of her refused to believe. Everyone knows that touching something makes it real.

Disciple turns the failed handshake into an invitation for the Bonjours to sit and Amanda Bonjour immediately starts crying.

Quote
I hate to admit it, but that was the precise moment I decided to charge them my highest rate. Ugly, I know, but the doctor said this whole storytelling thing would be, and I quote, “little more than a self-aggrandizing exercise in futility” unless I’m brutally honest.

Disciple admits to giving something like a fuck but the meat of this is in the narrative; can we count on honesty? Will Disciple’s “honesty” dilute the supposedly exactitude of the simple recounting of memory?

Quote
“It’s our daughter, Mr. Manning. She’s missing.”

Even though I expected he would say as much, I found myself slightly winded. I really don’t know why, given that I had heard the words “She’s missing” more times than somebody like you would care to remember. It’s like the planes hitting the World Trade Center: you see it over and over and over, until it carries about as much punch as a movie trailer, and then one night you see it and wham! it steals your breath, and you sweat horror, as though part of your soul had been on that plane, and had only now remembered.

She’s missing…

“What’s her name?” I asked.

“Jennifer,” Mrs. Bonjour said, a wisp of reverence in her tone. She snuffled.

“Jenni,” her husband added. “That’s, ah … what, ah … what everyone calls her.”

Disciple goes on to describe some mild empathy with the Bonjours and missing their daughter.

Quote from: ”DOTD, p8”
The Bonjour house, I knew, was becoming a museum to “last times.”

Disciple asks for a picture and immediately begins some gaze commentary:

Quote
Long blond hair, straight enough to summon memories of Marcia Brady. Full lips. Straight teeth. Happiness almost shining in her sparkling blue eyes.

I knew instantly that she hadn’t run away—she was too attractive. Runaways are almost always plain or downright ugly, as intent to escape the damnation of photos like these as to flee the judgment of peers, parents, what have you. Beautiful people generally lack the motive required to stage their own disappearance. On the contrary, beautiful people tend to be about appearances.

I should know.

Disciple voices his opinion about Jennifer not running away and gets the low down on dear Jenni.

Quote from: ”DOTD, p9”
The story they told me sounded like something cribbed from the Biography Channel. Flattering and negativity-free. You see, people always make cases. Always. Rather than simply describe things, they pitch them this way and that. So when the Bonjours said that Jennifer was a curious girl, an overachiever, and so on, they were literally offering evidence of the adequacy of their parenting skills, while at the same time saying, “She wasn’t the kind of girl who …” They wanted me to know that whatever it was that had happened to their precious daughter had precious little to do with them. And when they mentioned her “weakness for musicians,” they were saying that, as perfectly as she had been raised, she exhibited a dispositional vulnerability to untoward influences—so to speak.

If I was surprised when they mentioned the cult, it was because I had expected drugs to be the culprit—simply because they almost always are when beautiful kids take roads not marked in their parents’ road atlas. According to Mrs. Bonjour, she had found Them online as a high school student, first becoming, without the knowledge of Mom and Dad, a “long-distance associate,” then graduating to become a “text messenger” in her first year of college. At some point she began attending weekend retreats, which cut ever more deeply into her visits home, until she dropped out of her nursing program altogether and moved into the Compound—a place just outside a Rust Belt town called Ruddick in southeastern Pennsylvania.



“They call themselves the Framers,” Amanda said.

Disciple follows with some further questions, interjecting future facts about his subsequent Web searches.

Quote from: ”DOTD, p10”
“The leader’s name,” he [Mr. Bonjour] continued, “is Xenophon Baars. He’s a former philosophy professor out of Berkeley, believe it or not …”

There is some requisite back and forth between the Mr. and Mrs. on account of disagreeing about the validity of Baars’ “extreme” claims.

Quote from: ”DOTD, p11
“Exactly. This Baars has convinced his followers that the world is more than five billion years older than it is. And that it’s about to end.”

Disciple spends some moments trying to wipe his face of the inappropriate shit-eating grin, wrestling with the absurdity of Baars’ claims.

Quote
I’ve seen more than my fair share of absurdities in my time: Christ, this job throws them at you like rotten fruit at a burlesque gone wrong. Tragedy astounds people no matter what, sure. The big things are just too heavy to be caught in human nets. But life also has a nasty habit of dishing up calamity as the punchline of a joke as well, and with a regularity that’s nothing short of perverse. We keep waiting for something Shakespearean to happen, when most of the world is just an annex to the Jerry Springer show. Squalid. Cheap. Mean-spirited.

So few people die pretty.

Disciple looks over Jennifer’s picture, sees a bill, and is struck by a “chill of sudden conviction dropped through me … The first of many such chills, as it turned out” (p12).

He decides that Jennifer is dead.

Then he goes on to press them about ongoing police investigations or dealings with The System:

Quote from: ”DOTD, p12”
I understood the kinds of limitations that cops faced: the politics, the fatigue individuals were prone to, the constraints of policy and procedure, the ways bureaucratic machinery could generate irrational outcomes.

I’ve worked in factories before. I know the score.

Some more introductory notation concerning the Dead Jennifer mystery:

Quote
The story they told was one of a local police chief who meant well but was hopelessly out of his depth when it came to this case. Caleb Nolen, his name was. Chief Caleb Nolen. From what they described, he did everything by the book, and a few things above and beyond. According to the Framers (Nolen had interviewed all twenty-seven of them), Jennifer left the Compound with another cult member named Anson Williams at around 8:30 P.M. to walk into town to a bar called Legends, where the two liked to dance. The walk was a long one, at least two and a half miles, much of it through Ruddick’s largely abandoned industrial park, but apparently the two enjoyed the air, exercise, and the opportunity to talk. They were close friends but not lovers. Witnesses placed the two of them at the bar, dancing and drinking, until approximately 11:30 P.M., when the doorman said Jennifer left muted but not otherwise distraught. According to Anson, she had been nursing a headache most of the evening and finally decided to return home to sleep. He claimed that she agreed to call a cab at his insistence, but the doorman said that she left on foot, headed in the direction of the Framer Compound.

She never arrived.

According to cellphone records, Anson called her twice, once at 12:03 A.M. and again at 12:17 A.M. She didn’t answer. He then called the Compound, asking whether anyone had seen her. When he learned from the doorman that she had walked, he struck out on foot after her, calling her name and searching the verges of the road. Evidently, he feared she had been hit by a passing car. He found nothing. At 1:33 A.M., Xenophon Baars himself called the police department, expressing his concern. At approximately 2 A.M., one of Nolen’s deputies embarked on a cursory search of the route and the surrounding brown lands— apparently the area is mazed with abandoned steel and assembly plants, a creepy place for a young woman to be walking alone, but so familiar to the locals that they thought nothing of it. When she failed to turn up the next morning, the Chief wisely said to hell with procedure and pulled out all the missing-person stops. By mid-afternoon they had some eighty-plus volunteers combing the ruined structures and surrounding ravines. There was no sign of her. None. They tried again the next day, this time with State Police dogs. Again, nothing.

The Bonjours got the call from Nolen’s office that morning, and I could see the catastrophe on their faces as they described it: the little girl they had loved, nurtured, and even suffered on occasion was missing. Gone.

They fell silent after that.

Disciple asks them about media outreach to which Amanda said that one outspoken reporter had told them the media buries stores about missing pretty white girls as “out of fashion” (p14).

This spawns another something of a tiff between the mourning couple and Disciple takes some mental notations concerning the two. They, honestly, thought their daughter lost:

Quote from: ”DOTD, p14”
I glanced at the glossy on my desk, at the dead girl’s almost smiling eyes. I could already see the crime scene photographs, the grisly before and after. Naked. The limbs bent in poses the living would find excruciating. The skin purple-grey-white. That was when I started thinking of her as “Dead Jennifer.”

Sounds horrible, I know. What can I say? I’m a freak.

I shook my head and pinched my eyes. I did what I always do when my thoughts take an errant turn: I asked a question. “How would you characterize your relationship?”

This seems to shake the lady Bonjour and through the course of another quibble reveals to Disciple that Jonathan Bonjour slapped their daughter in their last fight… that Father Bonjour blames himself. Disciple makes a tongue-in-cheek note that he “appreciates honesty” (p15).

Quote from: ”DOTD, p15”
Rates, conditions, and so on are always difficult items to discuss, so you have to be opportunistic, take what chances the ebb and flow of conversation offer. I typically use money talk to doctor breakdowns in the conversation, especially if things become emotionally overwrought.

No small amount of defensiveness and aggression walks into offices like mine. But as soon as you mention money, most of the personal shit just evaporates. I could literally see Mr. and Mrs. Bonjour’s heart rates slow as I discussed the terms. Few things are more dear to the human animal than simplicity, or the appearance of it anyway. And few things are more simple, more apparently superficial, than monetary transactions.

Open the wallet, close the heart—that’s generally the rule.

They agree to Disciple terms without a thought and our PI Dick suffers “that vague and momentary regret that accompanies lost opportunities” (p16). He’s juggling bills after all and these are the easy marks apparently.

Finally, Disciple inquires as to why Mr. Bonjour didn’t go to his firm’s in-house investigators. After some momentary shock – Mr. Bonjour hadn’t said he was a lawyer – they reveal that Amanda Bonjour is the mastermind behind hiring Disciple.

Quote from: ”DOTD, p17”
“No offence, Mr. Manning, but my opinion of your profession is rather … jaded …”

This was like a hooker saying she finds the company of strippers embarrassing. No offence, he says. Fucking lawyers.

They go on to tell Disciple that Mr. Bonjour has been down to Ruddick, Rust Belt and that the people “are more like Disciple.”

After some diminishing conversation, Disciple tells them that time is everything with missing persons and that he will start immediately.

Quote from: ”DOTD, p17”
Then I did what I always do with new clients when I take a job: I gave them a list of things to do. Search her room for anything that might help: an old diary, drug paraphernalia, computer disks, or camera SD cards. Call Nolen to tell him they had hired me, that they expected him to do everything in his power to assist me. The same with Xenophon Baars, taking care to conceal their outrage, of course. “No ego allowed,” I told them, quite oblivious to any irony. “This is not about scoring points.”

You see, the Bonjours had come to me because they were helpless. Sure, they’d contractually engaged my services, but emotionally they’d simply swapped one kind of helplessness for another. Who hasn’t suffered a pang of impotence in the presence of a mechanic, a plumber, or (worst of all) a computer technician? My clients not only leave my office with a professionally legitimated Don’t-worry-about-a-thing lie, they also take home a false feeling of empowerment.

A to-do list.

Makes them happy, and it makes my job easier—sometimes, anyway. Clients have a way of fucking things up.

Disciple makes to walk them our and Mrs. Bonjour knells to tie her shoes.

For whatever reason, after Disciple’s minor social commentary and embarrassment as he peruses his cracked ceiling and faux-rich flooring, there is this singularly haunting quote, which always sticks with me:

Quote from: ”DOTD, p18”
Then I realized that Mrs. Bonjour was crying. She had knelt on one knee to tie the shoe on the opposite foot, then switched to the other and just … hung there, her cheek pressed against her knee. Sunlight cut across her at an angle, casting arthritic shadows of her hands and wrists across the mat.

She trembled like a timid dog at the vet, keened in a baby-small voice. Her words, if there were any, were inaudible.

Fawk.

He fills out his observation with some more future fact, highlighting the experiential immediacy of his memories with what he learns later – how much of the narrative is so coloured, we don’t have the luxury of knowing.

This actually distinguishes an interesting moment. Disciple knows how this story ends yet presents it – or lives it – as revelatory, once again.

Quote from: ”DOTD, p19”
It’s strange, isn’t it, glimpsing the person behind the type. The feeling of inside-out recognition. The lining up of first-person perspectives. The twinge of ghosts moving through each other. You bat an eye and suddenly, somehow, this stranger has become a family member.



I was left with that humbling feeling of having witnessed something heroic …

Or at least something beyond my mangy capabilities.

And there’s the setup!

Detective fiction seems to innately satisfy the constituents of narrative unfolding. It marks an interesting distinction in genre because of a fairly contained and self-reflective history of hallmarks. Yet even in some amateur literature studies of detective fiction, I have a nagging suspicion that Bakker thoroughly subverted even these genre-specific norms.
« Last Edit: June 11, 2013, 12:55:45 pm by Madness »
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