Henry & Biggs:
Adventure Blog of a Literary Agent and His Beagle
Chapter 7: Allegations of Dementia
Date: February 9
Time: 10:25 p.m.
Biggs looks at Lucia Samuel a full thirty seconds without speaking; waiting, I think, for her to give him a wink or a chuckle, anything to telegraph that she fully understands how crazy she sounds or, even better, that she is deliberately provoking him with nonsense.
But she neither winks nor chuckles nor telegraphs. Her face is like a photograph: a verisimilitude of the living. She does not blink. She does not twitch.
I lay back down, thinking of the giant hairless Sasquatch that had been outside Biggs’ window only twenty minutes ago, catapulting me up into the snowy night. I cannot help but wonder if Lucia Samuel had sent him to reconnoiter before she made her move. Although I still have no idea what the move was or is. And I can tell that Biggs doesn’t either.
“Let me get this straight. You want me… to write a fictional memoir… of Congressman Thomas Clifford.”
“That’s not what I do.”
“I mean, if you had something you could put into my hands that I could touch so that I could turn around and try to sell it to a publisher… I mean, that’s what I do.”
“I do have something I can put into your hands to touch, Mr. Bigelow.”
My eyebrows go up at this because she makes it sound just a little dirty. There should have been a filthy sneer on her face. A prelude to the naked-monkey couch Olympics. So help me, if Biggs gets lucky with the odorless woman from the park, Tink will kill herself for missing it. And then I will kill Biggs for having sex with the devil.
But no. Lucia’s face is as expressionless as ever.
“Such as?” Biggs asks.
“Such as the congressman’s journals.”
“What? You mean… he knows about this? He’s a part of this?”
“You have his permission. I mean…?”
“Do you think I have stolen Representative Clifford’s journals?”
“I don’t know what to think. How do I know you’re not making all of this up?”
“Okay… That’s not especially reassuring.”
“I owe you the courtesy of the truth, Mr. Bigelow. There is no way you could know whether I am making all of this up as you put it.”
“But you’re not. Right?”
Biggs fidgets with the leash in his hand, obviously pondering. Lucia waits patiently, like she has all the time in the word. She casts her steel gray eyes down to me and I look back up at her, trying in vain to take her measure. Her expression is not blank, simply unreachable. Undecipherable. Her gaze slices back up to Biggs, leaving me with nothing.
“How do you know him?” asks Biggs. “The Congressman.”
“That is not important.”
“You mean you won’t tell me?”
“Then maybe I’ll just tell you I’m not interested.”
“That is certainly your right.”
“Why is he interested?”
“Like I said, his is a story that needs telling.”
“But it’s… fiction, right? It’s a fictional memoir.”
“Then why would you be giving me his personal journals?”
“You will need them to write the memoir. You can’t just make it all up.”
“You just said you want a fictional memoir. That’s the whole point of fiction, Ms. Samuel. To make things up.”
“True enough. But the journals may help to… inspire you.”
“Well…” Biggs pauses, falling back into a momentary silence as if to reorder his thoughts. He closes his eyes and sighs, burying his fingers into his dark locks, tugging absently like he always does when he is trying to think through a puzzle that will not reveal itself. It is, at least from my perspective, an embarrassingly common mannerism. Finally, he opens his eyes and cautiously wades back in.
“And… so… he’s not just the least bit concerned that the journals of a sitting Congressman will be in the hands of someone he doesn’t even know? What if I just turn them all over to the press?”
“That’s precisely what we want you to do, Mr. Bigelow, although not in their raw form. We hope very much that you will use your talent as a writer to create a memoir from these journals and then that you will use your talent as an agent to get that memoir published. The more people that read it the better.”
“I… I’m sorry. Lucia. I just don’t understand. Is this fiction or not?”
“It is our wish that you write and sell a fictional memoir of Congressman Clifford.”
“And to write this fictional memoir… this fictional memoir… this work of fiction… Congressman Clifford is going to give me his personal journals. Of which you have possession.”
“And he is not worried about a complete stranger having these journals.”
“He is not worried about you having these journals, Mr. Bigelow. Clearly, if the journals fell into the wrong hands, it would be… well, it would be devastating. And make no mistake, Congressman Clifford has his enemies. They would go to great lengths to destroy those journals. Fortunately, no one knows about the journals except the Congressman and me.” She smiles, actually smiles, an act of which I had concluded she was barely capable, and a chill goes down my spine. “And now you.”
Another long silence passes between them; Biggs trying to get his bearings and Lucia waiting patiently for him to resurface.
“I read a thing… where was it? Huffington Post I think… about increasing concerns over Mr. Clifford’s mental health. Allegations of dementia. You’re aware of all of that?”
“Is that what this is about?”
“We’re not asking you to assess his mental health, if that is what you are asking.”
“No… I mean… I don’t know what I mean.”
“What you mean to ask, Mr. Bigelow, is am I here doing the bidding of a lunatic.”
“Nicely put. I guess that is what I mean.”
“The answer is no. Congressman Clifford is as every bit as sane as you are.”
Biggs leans back in his chair and stares up at the ceiling, probably assessing his own sanity for having to solve the riddle of the congressman’s sanity.
“Why me?” he asks at last. “Why would he trust me?”
“For no reason other than that I selected you. He trusts me and I trust you.”
“Why do you trust me?”
“Because I’m an exceptionally good judge of character.”
“You don’t even know me.”
“I know you better than you think.”
Biggs leans down and scratches me between the ears. His eyes are fixed. He’s thinking. He comes back to the present and we connect for the first time since he scooped me up in my last dash for Baldy Sasquatch. I do all that I can to push my warning out of my head and in through his eyes. He blinks. Looks up at Lucia.
“In the park, when I saw you the first time… you mentioned… you mentioned…”
“I mentioned that your enthusiasm for this little project would be the only thing to ever convince you to tolerate the risk.”
“Yes, at its most extreme.”
“Kind if a show-stopper there, Lucia.”
“What risk did you mean? The journals?”
“Like I said, the congressman has his enemies. Or, at least, he will have if certain others were to learn about the journals. He has no enemies to speak of now. But he will.”
“These are not things I am at liberty to discuss.”
“But. I mean… they’d, like, actually kill people, whoever they are? I find all of this kind of hard to believe.”
“The truth is often hard to believe. Fiction is much easier to swallow.”
“I hate to disappoint you, but I can’t say that I am especially enthusiastic about any of this, least of all the possibility of… of death at the hands of the congressman’s enemies, all for journals that I shouldn’t be reading and that I shouldn’t even need in the first place in order to write a work of fiction.”
“Oh, enthusiasm at this point would be entirely premature, Mr. Bigelow. I wouldn’t trust the slightest signs of enthusiasm from you so early. You have not even asked what the memoir is about.”
Biggs laughs in spite of himself. She was right.
“Okay. I’ll bite. What’s it about?”
Lucia glances down at her large white hands, methodically brushing the flat of one palm against the other, choosing her words carefully.
“It’s about the hi-jacking of democracy in the halls of Congress.”
“Okay. By whom?”
“By… beings… that have lived among us for centuries.”
“Ahh. Okay,” says Biggs. He sits up a little straighter in his chair, which I take as an indication that he is now rapidly making up his mind. “Beings… so…”
“Yeah, you know, I really don’t do science fiction. That’s kind of a specialty niche in the publishing world and I’ve never really had much luck selling that kind of thing, let alone writing it. I think you’ve got the wrong guy, Lucia. I’m sorry.”
Atta boy, Biggs, I think, looking around at him. Let’s shut this freak show down.
They stare at each other for several quiet seconds. I can hear the wind outside howling to get in. Then Lucia shrugs, pressing her pale lips together into a polite smile, and reaches for her coat.
“It was certainly worth a try,” she says. “I do appreciate your time, Mr. Bigelow.”
She stands, rising to her full height from the couch in one smooth movement. Biggs and I stand and follow her to the door and out into the hall.
“So these… alien saboteurs of the order,” says Biggs, now clear-headed with the certainty of his decision. “They’ve always been with us?”
“No. Not always. But for a very long time.”
“And we’ve never known they’re here until they make a play to subvert democracy? Is that kind of the premise?”
“No, we have always known they are here. We have just… mistaken them.”
“Mistaken them for what?”
Lucia stops at the door and puts on her coat. She pulls the black hood over the back of her head and looks down at Biggs with her perfect eyes.
“For monsters. For demons.” Her eyes glint in the light of the hall. “For vampire.”
Every hair on my body is suddenly up and quivering, as if terrified of the air around us. My heart races and I can feel the skin on the bridge of my muzzle begin to wrinkle, pulling my lip up slightly above my tooth line. Biggs pauses. I can sense him falter. But he shakes it off.
“Okay,” he says. “A bit of free advice for you to pass along to Congressman Clifford? The vampire market is really kind of… well, saturated. There are several very successful franchises out there that are soaking up all of the interest and crowding out everything else. Ann Rice is the last person who really knew how to write about vampires as far as I’m concerned. Now every other character on the market seems to be a vampire. It’s like an invasive species. Jane Austin isn’t safe. Abraham Lincoln isn’t safe. They’re everywhere now and consequently they’ve been devalued as a literary asset. I’ve got a client with a vampire novel I’ve been trying to sell for months with no luck. You’d have to pay me an awful lot to saddle me with another vampire story.”
Lucia opens the door to the blast of winter air and turns again to face us. Biggs instinctively jerks at my leash, afraid that I will reprise my earlier disobedience. Snow is falling in heavy curtains behind her.
“I am very grateful for the advice, Mr. Bigelow. We had been prepared to pay one hundred thousand up front and an equal amount upon completion, but perhaps we underestimated the market forces at work. I will be mindful in my discussions with other agents. Thank you for your time.”
Lucia turns and steps out into the dark wind, closing the door behind her. My entire body floods with relief that she is gone. My heart slows to a jog. I can feel the threat that has hung over this office all evening, like a poisonous black cloud, finally receding.
I look up at Biggs. He is in a stuporous trance, staring up at the door where Lucia’s head used to be. He does not blink. By the time I stop thinking about the possibility of micro-seizures and realize what is happening, I am too late. Biggs lunges for the knob and flings the door open.
Irony abounds. Now Biggs is chasing an odorless beast out into the night and I, fearful for his life, am doing everything I can to stop him. I am on top of him before he clears the doorway. My teeth puncture his pant leg and I pull with every ounce of muscle that my twenty-five pounds of purebred determination will allow.
“Henry, what the… Lucia! Wait!”