Henry & Biggs:
Adventure Blog of a Literary Agent and His Beagle
Chapter 10: A Plot to Hijack Democracy
Date: February 10
Time: 9:55 p.m.
“Yes,” said Biggs, finishing his beer. “It says vampire. You want another?”
Jimmy Dolan keeps flipping through the pages of the journal, squinting and straining to read the handwritten scrawl of Congressman Thomas Clifford.
He looks up. Biggs wiggles his empty bottle.
“Oh. Yeah, yeah. Thanks.”
Biggs stands and heads into the kitchen. I get up from my place against the fireplace and follow. I stand behind him as he digs around in the dark refrigerator and check on what is happening in the utility easement at the edge of the back yard. Sasquatch is still up on the pole. His enormous head is dimly illuminated in a ghostly green light glowing from some hand-held device that he is holding up to his face. He appears to be wearing headphones. As cold as it is out there, I cannot see any breath.
“Shit. That’s ketchup,” mutters Biggs. “I need a flashlight. There it is.”
He closes the fridge, turns, and steps on my foot. The yelp is involuntary, less from pain than surprise. I hate the way it sounds. Biggs drops to the floor.
“Henry! I didn’t even know you were there.” He picks me up in his arms, leaving the beer on the floor. I lick his face in apology. “Oh, I love you too, buddy.”
Now that I am five feet off the ground, I can get a full view out the window. The ConEd guy that had knocked on the door is at the base of the utility pole, face illuminated in the glow of the same greenish light. He too is wearing headphones.
“I am so sorry,” Biggs says, palpating my foot. “You okay? You’re okay, aren’t you? Tough guy.” He kisses me on the muzzle and sets me back down on the floor, retrieving the beers. “How about a Basted Lamb Crunchy?”
I wag approvingly as he digs into the box beneath the sink. I can tell from the sound that he is going for a multiple crunchy apology. I decide not to beat myself up about the yelp. I raise my right front paw off the floor. You know. Just in case it’s injured.
Biggs gives me a Basted Lamb Crunchy, puts the rest in his shirt pocket, and we head back out into the living room. Jimmy is still hunched over the journal in the firelight. I resume my position by the fireplace and get to work.
“This guy really is crazy,” says Jimmy, not looking up.
The phone rings before Biggs can sit down. He walks over to the antique roll top desk in the corner of the room and picks up the handset.
“Hello? Who? Sorry, you’ve got the wrong number. No problem.”
Biggs returns the phone and comes back to the fireplace. He hands Jimmy the Samuel Adams and then retakes his seat, propping his feet up on the hearth.
“So what the…” says Jimmy, trailing off as he hunches over his lap, turning the pages with one hand and holding his beer in the other. “I don’t understand what… I mean…”
“Okay. According to Lucia…”
“The journals of Thomas Clifford, a sitting California congressman…”
“Will provide the inspiration for a fictional memoir…”
“By a sitting United States congressman…”
“Who stumbles upon a plot to hijack democracy…”
Jimmy winces. “Yes…”
“Orchestrated by aliens who have been living among humans for centuries undetected, except insofar as they have been misunderstood as… as…”
“As vampires,” says Jimmy.
“Right. And witches.”
“That’s what she wants you to write about.”
“As a memoir.”
“Yes. A fictional memoir.”
“A fictional memoir, supposedly written by a sitting United States Congressman, but ghostwritten by you.”
Jimmy holds up the journal.
“Biggs, if Thomas Clifford actually wrote this stuff, then he’s not just a little crazy, he’s… like… certifiably insane.”
“I mean, here’s what I want to know: when he sits down after a hard day of legislating and puts pen to journal, is he… does he believe the shit he’s writing down, or is he deliberately writing a fictional journal as the basis for a fictional memoir?”
“He’s gotta know, Jimmy. I mean, call me naïve, but people that crazy do not sit in Congress. My best guess is that Congressman Clifford has a yen for occult fiction. He has this idea of a fictional memoir. So the journal is just a part of that. It’s something he works on here and there between votes to defund Planned Parenthood and allow firearms in national parks. I suspect he has tried to actually write the memoir but then concluded he did not actually have the writing ability to pull it off and so decided to purchase professional help. Which is where I come in.”
“Hey. I can write.”
“No. I mean, why the hell would he do that? He already has a reputation for being… a little, you know. Weird.”
“I don’t know.”
“A vampire memoir is not going to help things.”
“But you’d read it, wouldn’t you? You’d buy it.”
Jimmy takes a drink and leans back in his chair, thinking about the question.
“Yes. I would. If I’m your average John Q. Public subjected to an ad campaign that a sitting congressman has written a memoir about the hijacking of American democracy by alien vampires, I’d buy it. I’d take a lawn chair to Barnes and Noble in the middle of the night and get in fucking line. Well-written, this book makes money. No question.”
All Biggs can do is nod, the bottle of Samuel Adams waiting patiently in mid air for his mouth to stop moving up and down.
“And you wouldn’t get any credit for having written it?”
“Not publically. But the industry would know. The publishers would know. And I would get a piece of the action.”
“How big a piece?”
“Don’t know. They’ve been generous so far.”
“I’ll say. Two hundred large just to write it. Is Clifford going to actually promote it? That would be the end of his political career.”
“Maybe he’s through with politics and he’s using his public office to leverage himself into a writing career.”
“But Jimmy, I don’t even know if that’s really his journal. I don’t even know if he knows about any of this.”
The phone rings. Biggs stands up, tossing me another Basted Lamb Crunchy as he heads for the desk. I pluck it from the air with my teeth.
“Hello? No. There is no one here by that name. You have the wrong number. Please stop calling. That’s okay.”
Biggs hangs up, shaking his head. He comes back and sits down. No sooner does his butt hit the chair cushion than the room explodes in my eyes and light floods the air. I can hear the refrigerator humming back to life.
“Finally,” says Biggs, wincing.
“So what are you going to do?” Asks Jimmy. “What do you want me to do?”
“I honestly don’t know. You think I should back out? Return the money?”
“I think you don’t really know what is going on. I think that if this was really on the up and up, all of this would be more transparent. You don’t even know who this woman is.”
“She’s a woman who wants me to write something for two hundred thousand dollars. Maybe I don’t need to know any more than that.”
“She’s a woman who prefers meeting in the park, is reachable only by means of a burner that she has provided, and has warned you about death if you don’t keep all of this secret.”
“I think all of that is… is just a bunch of hooey to keep me intrigued.”
“Are you? Intrigued?”
“Yes. Aren’t you?”
“Yes. I suppose I am. Intrigued and wary.”
“The mob? Really?”
“I don’t know. No. Probably not the mob.”
“It’s just writing a … a fictional memoir.”
“It just doesn’t feel right. You want me to talk to her? As your lawyer? Tell her we need more information? Verification that Clifford is really involved and okay with all of this. Verification that she is authorized to speak for him. Verification that you are entitled to a percentage of the gross. I mean, you want a lawyer’s opinion: you’re the one who needs an agent. And you need a written contract. This is kind of crazy. No, this is not kind of crazy. This is crazy.”
“Jimmy, you can’t tell anyone about this.”
“Biggs. It’s privileged. Okay? I’m not the one you should be worried about. You want to make copies and give them to me for safe keeping?”
“You’re about to write a book that will in all likelihood end a political career and, potentially, set you up for the blame. I can hear it now. Honestly, your honor, the Congressman asked me to write it. He even provided his own journals as a head start. … Mr. Bigelow, did you ever have a single conversation with the congressman? … Well, no. … Do you have these so-called journals? … Uh… no. … And the supposed agent for the Congressman that supposedly assigned you this ghost-writing project is where? … Well, your honor, she kind of disappeared into thin air when the shit hit the fan. … I see, Mr. Bigelow. And the two hundred thousand dollars in stolen money the police found under your mattress was not a pay-off to help assassinate the character of…
“Jimmy. It’s not stolen money. Come on.”
“Really? You know this how?”
Biggs droops his head and starts running his fingers through his hair, tugging as he goes.
“I’m just saying that if you ever have to explain yourself, it might be nice to have a copy of these journals. I can put them in the safe in my office.” Jimmy Dolan closed the journal and turned it over in his hand. “In fact, let me take this with me tonight. I’ll make a copy, put it in the safe and return the original to your office in the morning. Just to be safe.”
Biggs shook his head.
“No. No way. My client forbade that in no uncertain terms.”
“Biggs, your client forbade this very conversation. I’m ethically bound.”
“I’ll think about it. If anything, I will make a copy at my office and deliver it to you and maybe not even that. I’m not letting the original out of my sight.”
There is a knock at the door. Biggs and I stand.
“Henry, you stay,” he says, pointing at me. “Hold on to him, will you?”
Jimmy leans down and scoops me up against my will into his lap. I turn and lay my body against his chest, draping my front paws over the back of his shoulder so I can keep an eye on the door, which Biggs opens without making any effort to first find out who is on the other side.
“What’d you find?” Biggs asks the same ConEd man who had knocked before.
“Squirrel fried himself in the transformer,” said the man, pulling on the bill of his cap. “Should be okay now.”
“Not for the squirrel,” says Biggs.
“Nope. He’s a goner. Have a good night.”
As he turns to leave I can see past the man to the white utility van in the driveway. Sasquatch is nowhere to be seen.