Henry & Biggs:
Adventure Blog of a Literary Agent and His Beagle
Chapter 9: Does This Say… Vampire?
Date: February 10
Time: 9:35 p.m.
Jimmy Dolan takes a long pull on his Samuel Adams and leans back in his chair as Biggs throws another fake log on the fire. He pokes at it with the little fireplace shovel like you’re not supposed to do. It begins hissing its objection, as though inside the paper wrapper is not chemical-soaked pressboard shaped like a log, but a nest of sleeping asps. The snakes burn bright orange and our dark living room glows an unstable, dancing amber, making it look warmer than it is. They’re both still wearing their coats.
“So what’s the point of it?” asks Jimmy, whose real first name is Frank but, for some strange reason rooted in their days at Yale, he allows Biggs to call him Jimmy.
I am draped contentedly over Jimmy’s shoes, taking in the luxurious scent of Cigar and Brandy. Brandy is Jimmy’s Lhasa Apso. Cigar is his Dachshund. Jimmy is single and rarely does laundry, which means that there are layers upon layers of Brandy and Cigar on his pant legs. As wonderfully rich as the scent is, my purpose is mostly to send a message back to Cigar and Brandy that I have been all over their master’s leg, drying my little beagle which is slowly unsheathing itself in the warmth of the fire. They won’t like it, but there is precious little they can do about it.
“I mean, it can’t be money,” he continues. “It really doesn’t sound like he needs the money. Not if he paid you that kind of change up front.”
“I dunno,” says Biggs, “if the memoir does well…” He doesn’t finish because he doesn’t need to finish. Jimmy nods.
“Guess it could be big, couldn’t it?”
There is a knock at the door and I am instantly on my feet, sounding off. Biggs calls me down, telling me that it’s just ConEd about the power and suggesting in his tone that I relax. I am certain that it is not ConEd on the other side of the door but, rather, Death itself paying us a visit in some form or another because Biggs has decided to blab about Senator Clifford’s crazy memoir. Just like he was specifically warned not to do. Now Death has gotten word and has swung by for a visit on his way home from work.
Biggs opens the door. It’s ConEd, or at least a weaselly-lookin’ guy wearing a ConEd coat and hat and a struggling soul patch.
“Hey,” says Biggs.
“No power,” says the man unnecessarily.
“I don’t know. It was off when I got home about three hours ago. It’s freezing in here, so longer than that.”
“Okay. We’ll get up on the pole and take a look.”
Through the partly open door, I can see the large, white ConEd van idling in the driveway. In the passenger seat, looking like a mountain of malevolence, is the hairless Sasquatch. I explode into warning and make a move for the door.
“Okaythanksgottagobye,” says Biggs, closing the door in the man’s face before I get there. “Henry,” he says with weary exasperation, “what is it with you recently? Huh? Lately he’s been freaking out at every little thing. He’s driving me nuts.” He says this last part to Jimmy, who shrugs and laughs.
“Cigar has become convinced that my garbage disposal is demonic. Cleaning up after dinner is a major ordeal. I’ve started putting him outside until I’m done.”
Biggs starts in about how I never used to bark and how now I bark at dust motes and shadows, but I’m much too distracted to care. Apparently, the hairless, odorless Sasquatch works for ConEd. Who knew? And he’s sitting in my driveway. I slip out of the firelight into the kitchen. The kitchen has a window above the sink that looks out over a small backyard. I sit in the middle of the kitchen and look up at the window. From my disadvantaged perspective, all I can see is the snowy roofline of our neighbor’s house against a black sky. That, and the utility pole holding the leash of telephone and electrical wires leading to the house.
I wait, listening to Biggs and Jimmy in the living room bitching about me and Cigar and Brandy. Idiots. You want a quiet, docile ball of fur? Then go out and get a useless cat. You want security? You want the peace of mind that comes from twenty-four hour surveillance…
The capped, bald, head of Sasquatch appears in the distance through the window. He is in the back of the yard climbing the utility pole. A narrow beam of light, which I can only assume comes from a flashlight held by the man who was at the front door, illuminates his slow but steady progress. I am watching a slightly smaller version of King Kong scaling the Empire State Building. Or maybe the ugliest, baldest, least talented pole dancer in the history of pole dancing.
He stops, mid-pole, and looks at the house. I don’t know if he can see me, but it sure feels like he can see me.
I bolt to the sink beneath the window, prop myself on my hind legs and let fly.
“Henry!” Biggs is angry. “Stop it! Come in here and sit down.”
I stop and listen, cocking one ear towards the living room and the other towards the window. All is quiet in both directions. Then I hear a voice out in the cold. Then I hear the side of a boot knocking against the utility pole. I go at it again because, damn it, I have standards and because it would be tantamount to canine malpractice to just sit silently by letting a hairless Sasquatch climb a utility pole in the back yard. Why not just invite him in for tea and cookies? This is so much worse than the raccoon at the dump.
Standards or no, I know better than to push my luck with Biggs. Obedience is its own standard and I do have my pride. If I am Biggs’ faithful guardian, then among the treasures I guard is Biggs’ own reputation. I wouldn’t want Jimmy to think Biggs cannot control me or that he is simply indifferent to my behavior. I push off from the sink and head back through the dark, cold house to the living room.
“Now why don’t you just sit the hell down and shut up already?”
His tone is already softening. I’ve never known Biggs to stay mad for more than five minutes. But I can tell he is trying to put on a show for Jimmy so I droop my head a little and tuck in my tail. I lay down with my back against the stone fireplace and sigh like he has just said the word vet or airport or bath. Jimmy leans in and gives me a reassuring scratch on the back of the head.
“Anyway,” says Biggs, “the deal is that I only get to have possession of one journal at a time. I can spend as much time as I need with each journal, and when I am done with one I turn it in and she gives me another.”
“What, you just call her and she comes running?”
“Running isn’t really the word. Lucia kind of … appears. She moves slowly. I mean this woman is… I don’t know. Odd. We meet out in the park. She gave me a cell phone to make the calls.”
“She gave you a phone to use?”
“You can’t just…use your own phone?”
Biggs shakes his head.
“This is kinda creepy, Biggs. A hundred grand and a disposable cell phone? You’re working for the fuckin’ mob, man. You’re a literary agent for the mob.”
“A literary…” Biggs laughs a little and takes a drink. “Why does the mob need a literary agent?”
“I don’t know. All I know is that something seriously fishy is going on.”
“No shit. Why do you think I called you?”
“Why did you call me?”
“Because I have to talk to someone and if I talk to you we can make it a privileged conversation. If I get sued or arrested or whatever, or you get subpoenaed, you can’t say anything.”
“You realize that you can’t use the attorney-client privilege to prevent disclosure of a future crime.”
“What crime? I’m not committing any crime.”
“You sure about that?”
“Yes. No. I don’t know. That’s why I called you. I mean… what if… what if this is all an elaborate plan to skewer Thomas Clifford? They steal his journals that are full of his paranoid, conspiracy craziness, or they just make up their own phony journals, and get me to write something and get it published. I don’t want to get sued by a sitting congressman. I don’t want to get sued by anybody. ”
“So give back the money and say no.”
Biggs falls silent and takes another drink of his beer. Jimmy points at him with the neck of his bottle.
“I certainly wouldn’t do anything without reliable verification from Congressman Clifford that the journals are his and that he wants you to do this. I mean, do you really have any idea who Lucia Samuel is or who she works for?”
“No. I…” Biggs shakes his head. “No.”
“Well… shit man. What the hell are you doing?”
“I don’t know what I’m doing. I mean… if this journal is authentic, then… then Thomas Clifford is crazy. And I don’t mean just a little bit.”
“Can I read it?”
“No. No. I promised I would not show the journals to anyone.”
“You also promised that you wouldn’t talk about it, and yet here we are freezing to death in your living room drinking cold alcohol just to speed up the hypothermia.”
Biggs sighs, looking over at me as he thinks. I can tell he is seeing the face of Lucia Samuel in his head and hearing her warning. We both are. I sit up at attention and arrange my face into an expression that says, more or less, Listen, you dumb ass sonofabitch, if you give him that journal I will bite the next girl you bring over to this house. I will poop on your bed. I will…
“You’re right,” says Biggs. He stands up and heads for the satchel hanging from the hook on the back of the front door. I make my displeasure known.
“Henry, I swear to God. If you bark one more time, your going in the garage.”
I lay back down and watch, dumbfounded, as Biggs returns to the fireplace and hands the leather journal to Jimmy. Jimmy takes it in hand and begins leafing through the pages, spot-reading here and there.
“The penmanship alone will give you a headache. How do you even…”
“It was bad at first, but I’ve kind of gotten used to it.”
Jimmy squints, angling the journal towards the firelight.
“Does this say…vampire? ”