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Revolution No. 9
Take this, brother, may it sere you well....
As he lies, bound and hidden, on the floor of his abductors' SUV, Carroll Monks is only dimly aware of the bizarre series of high-profile murders sweeping across the nation. What he thinks about instead, a they travel for hours deep into the Northern California wilderness, is that the face of one of his abductors belongs to his own son, Glenn--long estranged and living (the last Monks knew) on the streets of Seattle.
The vehicle finally stops. when Monks is untied and stpes out, he sees he's been brought to a remote off-the-grid community where paramilitary training and methamphetamine makes for combustible, uneasy bedfellows--and that Glen has fallen under the spell of a disenfranchised counter-cultural sociopath known simply as Freeboot, who claims that a revolution "of the people" is already under way. Monks is appalled by Freeboot's violent histrionics and Manson-like affinity for the hidden messages buried within Lennon and McCartney lyrics, yet acknowledges that he hears echoes of his won feelings when Freeboot speaks about the disintegration of workers' rights, the escalating differential between the haves and the have-nots, and the slap-on-the-wrist "justice" doled out in cases of billion-dollar corporate malfeasance. Could this well-armed madman actually have his finger on teh pulse of the underclass?
The reason Monks has been abducted, he soon discovers, is Freeboot's own son, a four-year-old boy who is deathly ill--a conundrum for Freeboot, who's distrust of institutional America (hospitals included) borders on the psychotic. Monks, and ER physician, has been brought in to care for the boy, but he can see immediately that the boy's condition is acute and that only immediate hospitalization will save him. When Monk's pleas fall on deaf ears, he fashions a daring escape during a snowstorm, with the young boy slung across his back--and brings the wrath of a madman down on himself and his family, culminating in a diabolically crafted "revolution"--a re-creation of Hitchcock's The Birds, but with human predators, unleashed on the town of Bodega Bay, California.
Carroll Monks was planning a trip to Ireland. His grandfather
had grown up near Kilrush, on the west coast, before emigrating
to the States. Monks had seen a photo of the place -- a stone
hovel in a barren field, miles from the nearest tiny village.
But Monks himself had never set foot on Irish soil. Why that was
so was a puzzle even to him. The only answer he could give was that
his life for the past thirty-odd years seemed to have been one long
struggle to stay on top of whatever he was doing, while stumbling toward
the next goal -- college, medical school, five years in the navy,
getting established in practice. Then marriage, children, divorce, and
the thousands of vicissitudes that went with all that. Most of the traveling
he had done had either been out of necessity, or vacations that
were aimed at pleasing his children.
But the lapse was still inexcusable, and he was going to rectify it,
come next March. He was not in search of his roots -- he intended to
make that clear to everybody he met. Mainly, he hoped to drink in
some good pubs, walk on deserted beaches, and listen to a lot of rain,
while he was warm and dry inside.
He was warm and dry right now, inside his own living room. It
was early December, getting toward dusk, and the northern California winter was starting to settle in. A fire crackled in his woodstove,
with cats sleeping in front of it, waiting for him to break out the slab
of fresh salmon that they knew was in the refrigerator, ready to broil
on a charcoal grill. Meanwhile, to get himself in shape for the journey,
Monks had put aside the vodka that was his usual preference and
taken up an apprenticeship with John Power whiskey, a working-class
Irish malt with a good rough edge. He liked to sip it neat, slowly,
sampling various stouts as chasers. The effect was like nectar and ambrosia
He had been reading up on Irish history and had a pile of maps and
guidebooks that he consulted while plotting his course. His main focus
was a leisurely trip up the west coast, through Galway to Donegal,
staying as close as he could to the ocean. He had no fixed schedule. In
early spring, lodging should be easy to find. He would be traveling
alone. Ideally, he would have a female companion along, but there was
no one on the radar just now. He was starting to wonder if there ever
would be again.
Monks decided to pour one more short splash of whiskey before
starting the charcoal for the salmon. He was getting to his feet when
a knock came at the front door.
This surprised him. His house was a good hundred yards off a little-
traveled county road, surrounded by redwoods, all but hidden
from view. He would have heard a car coming up his gravel drive. So
the caller was on foot -- but there were no near neighbors, and no one
in the habit of dropping by.
He stepped to a window that gave a view of the deck outside the
front door. His surprise deepened. A young woman was standing there.
The evening darkness was closing in, but he was quite sure she wasn't
anyone he knew. She was looking around, in a way that suggested she
might be nervous at approaching a stranger's house at dusk.
Monks walked to the door and opened it.
She was in her early twenties, tall and full-figured; not really
pretty but attractive, with olive skin and strong Mediterranean features.
Her black hair was pinned with a clasp and worn long down her back. She was dressed as if for business, in tailored slacks and a
silk blouse. She smiled but that looked nervous, too.
"I saw your lights," she said, with a slight stammer. "I got a flat
tire, down on the road."
Monks's heart sank a little. Changing a tire, in the dark, on a vehicle
he didn't know anything about, was not an enjoyable prospect.
"I'll come take a look," he said.
She murmured thanks.
He was wearing jeans, a flannel shirt, and well-worn Red Wing
work boots -- clothes that would do. He got a powerful Mag flashlight
out of the front closet and put on a wool-lined Carhartt jacket. Then,
seeing that she had crossed her forearms and was rubbing her upper
arms with her palms, he said, "You're welcome to stay here and warm
up while I go check it out."
She shook her head. "That's okay."
"You want a coat?"
"That's okay," she said again. "I've got one down there. I didn't
think it was this cold."
Monks switched on the flashlight, illuminating their path down
the gravel drive toward the county road. The woods were still. A few
brave tree frogs emitted hopeful croaks in the chilly damp air, trying
to strike up the usual evening chorus, but apparently most of their
comrades were bedded down in amphibean comfort, exercising selective
"I can't promise I can do this," Monks warned. "Is there somebody
around here who could come pick you up?"
She didn't live nearby, then, and wasn't visiting someone who did.
He wondered what she was doing on a narrow, out-of-the-way road
that ran from noplace to noplace else. Probably she was just lost.
"Do you know where the jack and spare are?" he asked.
"Do you have an owner's manual?"
"I'm not sure."
His lips twisted wryly. There was nothing like traveling prepared.
But he reminded himself that at her age he had been pretty feckless,
"We might have to call a tow truck," he said.
She nodded, still clasping herself.
Monks thought about trying to keep up small talk, but it seemed
clear that she wanted to get this done and get out of here ...