Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Tower - Chapter One

Earthquake weather; my butt! You know what you can do with the fantasy that there is such a thing as "Earthquake Weather?" You can stuff it in a Priority Mailing envelope along with the stories of Navy-trained killer dolphins, Y2K economic collapse, and that latest desperate plea from a Nigerian widow to help her cash her three million dollar check. Then just mail all that dreck off to Santa at The North Pole.

On that day it wasn't hot. It wasn't dry. It wasn't sultry. It wasn't early in the morning. No one felt uneasy. And the dogs weren't howling. On the contrary, it was a lovely spring afternoon on Telegraph Avenue: crisp, sunny, fresh and the kind of day that inspired Eliot to write "April is the cruelest month."

I was taking a break from my usual street vendor gig as a Tarot card reader. The sign advertising my services was turned around. The crystals, the tie-dye tablecloth and the cards were all tucked away in a basket at my feet. We had a moveable feast spread out on my antique Singer sewing machine table that I had converted into a fortune-telling parlor. Sally McLaughlin, my girlfriend, had just unwrapped her cheese steak sandwich when all hell broke loose.

The first sounds were the wail of car alarms in the distance. Then came wall of noise, a hoarse roar like a fleet of jet planes flying overhead. Suddenly, the earth kicked up all around. It was all so fast. Then brick were falling, windows were bowing in and out trees were cracking, and then the shattering rumbling crash of everything splitting apart and falling down.

Sally slid off her wheelchair and pulled it over her head for protection. Then she pointed under my table and yelled, "Af!" Ripley, her Rottweiler, dove under the table. That was a very good idea, so I followed suit.

Just in time, as a large shard of glass shattered against the tabletop. When I heard a clump of plaster bounce off the wood, I blessed my foresight in going for the stand with cast iron legs. Antiques rock! I could see feet running in all directions, blood on the sidewalk, and chunks of brick and plaster bouncing around the street. How long before the second story of the clothing store toppled over on my fragile shelter?

Then it was over. No movement, and only the sounds of car alarms and humans shrieking. I started crawling out when Sally yelled out, "Aftershock!" I dove back on top of Ripley as the next wave hit us. Ground is supposed to be solid. It's not supposed to rise and fall. A very frightened ape who lives down deep in your brain stem wants to scream and vomit when earth undulates underfoot.

This wave flipped Sally, Ripley, table and me top over teakettle. We all looked up waiting for the fatal debris that was going to brain us. Nothing. Luckily, all the loose stuff must have come down in the first shock. Just a couple of puffy white clouds in a robins-egg blue sky, and one seagull flying overhead mocking the land-locked victims.

Sally set up her chair and crawled back on. "I've got a medic kit in the back pocket. Grab it, Warren. Let's see what we can do. Ripley, los!" Her dog sprang to her side.

In front of us was a scene from Hieronymus Bosch on crack. Broken people, smashed cars, crumbling walls, some chaotic inner canto of hell on earth. Right across Haste Street from where we were the top floor of a three story building had collapsed into itself.

Sally grabbed the arm of a massive jock standing stunned in front of us, his broad shoulders sagging inside his blue and gold sweatshirt. He looked down at her, eyes vacant.

"Listen to me, sir," Sally commanded, "I need you to be my legs. My dog is a trained rescue dog. We've got to get people out of that building ASAP! This is like 9/11, my friend. Time to be a hero. I need you to carry me over to that building. Right now. Do you understand?"

He nodded, and then said, "Surprisingly enough I actually have some intelligence, lady. OK, Grab onto my shoulders, and let's go play New York Firefighter."

The three of us began weaving through the wreckage to cross the street. Ripley was right by Sally's side all the way. The front door was shoved open. Out stepped a disheveled older white guy, his arm in a home-made sling. He yelled, "This whole building is coming down. Get the hell out of here!" Then he stumbled down Haste towards the hospital.

As we made our way towards the lobby I shouted out to Sally, "What about more aftershocks?"

She said, "Duck and pray. We've got to get the injured out of there."

Our intrepid troop headed for the stairs up to the next floor. We began knocking on doors and opening them to see if there were victims inside. The guy who carried Sally up the stairs left her to bandage an elderly woman with a shattered arm, while he stewarded a mom and three kids down to the street.

The second aftershock hit just as I was walking away from a locked door. Being inside was a thousand times worse than being outside. The floor buckled, the walls wavered, and the glass in the windows actually rippled. A crack grew up the wall and unfurled across the ceiling above me like a fern unfolding. I waited for two stories of plaster, lumber and rebar to come crashing down on my head.

Not this time. I was thrown against the door I had just left, and it split in half lengthwise, dropping me into the studio apartment on the other side. I found myself laying next to a young Asian coed. She was not going to need Sally's help. There was a dirty black bullet hole in the center of her forehead.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


April 24, 2008 7:29 PM  
Anonymous maddee said...

testing again!

April 24, 2008 7:30 PM  
Anonymous Friend---Judy said...

OK, Warren pulls out his cell phone from his back pocket, and dials 911. When they answer he reports what he has found, and is promptly informed that he will have to wait as there are too many calls coming in.

Since he supposes that there is no real rush, as the person he found is already dead, he takes in the surrondings, and notices that there is a telephone on the floor not far from the body, so he picks up the phone and listens.

He hears, "Get the hell out of there before someone recognizes you", and then the phone goes dead.

Wondering what that was all about, he picks himself up from the floor and finds a couch cover to put on the body so that anyone passing the doorway won't get any ideas before the police arrives.

Warren, Do you really need much help with this book,
after all---I'm sure that you already know what is going to happen, that is what author's do----right???

Just throw in a few plot twists, a few red herings, and no reason for the girl to have been in that apartment, talking on the phone and off you go!

April 28, 2008 1:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As Warren lies stunned on the floor, he hears footsteps running away down what's left of the hallway. He has a sudden, strong hunch that the runner has just been with the Asian woman, and some emotional exchange happened between them, leaving its psychic residue hanging around. Was it her lover--or her murderer? He can't tell--too much to think about at the moment. He levers himself up, gropes for his cell phone, finds it's been damaged in the quake and is not working. He puts his head out of the door in a futile attempt to see the runner, long gone by now.

May 14, 2008 11:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK, I'm on it. Chapter two should be out by next week. Thanks for the help, let's see what's next for poor Warren! David Skibbins.

May 20, 2008 7:11 PM  
Blogger Marcia said...

There's something familiar about this girl, beside the bullet hole, Warren's seen plenty of those. She looks like a younger version of Miko, the yakuza/student, he ran into last year, but with two tone hair, black and magenta. Maybe a family member who tried to leave the family fold?

How about using the "Playland Not at the Beach" museum in El Cerrito. It's finally opening up to the public this month, and could have great memory or dream images for Warren. Laughing Sal is the stuff of nightmares! Then there's the possibilities of the old carnival rides, being caught in a turning cylinder falling and being unable to get up, etc.

May 28, 2008 10:52 PM  
Blogger coachdvd said...

Dear Readers and loyal friends:

Thanks for playing with me. Unfortunately, Warren woke me up in the middle of the night with another story he wants me to tell. The Tower will have to go on hold for a while, while I explore this latest exploit. Ah, how I wish this were a logical business, but it's not. I have to go where Warren leads me. So I will be putting this blog-novel on hold. Be well! And check out my latest, on sale in Aug. The Hanged Man David

July 23, 2008 9:48 AM  
Blogger Lea said...

Interesting card, the Tower. Among other things, it can be sudden, swift change. Chaos. Using it for magic is risky because it can bite you in the ass if you're not prepared. I see it as a "shadow card" (my term, so don't get your panties in a bunch) for the Hierophant, which is one card/number (numerology) I'd assign to Warren. It's a number for restlessness, rhythm, tradition, organized religion (or not), sarcasm or wit, among other things. But it is not the specific number I'd give to Warren: I'd make him a seven (Chariot), likely a 25/7 (hence the 5 and Tower). Sevens tend to be paranoid (that's not a bad thing, because you know as they say...) (which is very true) but also searchers, saviors, rescuers, researchers, visionaries. Plus, they tend to be good-looking. On the mundane side, they tend to be in physical situations, either aggressive or passive (usually the former physically, the latter would be through intellect) and on a creepy side, an instance for mothers would be those who have Munchausen by proxy, those who set their children up and adults who set themselves up for potential harm to be saved by others (victimization I guess you'd call it).

Long story short, the Tower should include a situation where Warren is faced with a person who is "into" chaos for the sake of chaos. Also, in line with the movement aspect of the Hierophant, perhaps the dead woman could be a fellow student of Aikido. Not in her own apartment - why was she there? That leaves a whole area of concern over the actual tenant who can't be found, who may or may not be dead as well. Perhaps a link to human trafficking etc etc etc


September 1, 2008 7:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Poor Warren! We left you lost in cyberspace. Meanwhile, what happened to the Tarot cards you left on the street? Did you find all of them except the one that fluttered down an alley to land directly in front of a hidden,much- battered door? (Charleynne, formerly Anonymous May 14, 2008, 11:45 am)

September 19, 2008 11:18 AM  
Anonymous ladytiggertoo said...

Warren doesn't want to get involved and knows calling 911 would be useless since it would be busy with earthquake calls. But something is fimaliar about the girl. Shaking his head he know he's better go get Sally. Good Grief not again.

December 8, 2008 10:41 AM  
Anonymous Diane said...

I've enjoyed the 1st 3 books--esp. the tarot card readings. I'd like to see Warren consult his cards more frequently as he did in the 1st book. I hope, & very gently suggest, that Warren & his family/friends won't be falsely accused of murder in every book. How about if Warren is consulted by the police to catch a killer who leaves various tarot cards on his victims? Or, how about he profiles a kidnapper & forecasts his next moves/victims using the tarot cards? Just a couple of suggestions.

December 31, 2008 5:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What's the latest on Skibbins? The website is woefully out of date...

August 22, 2009 7:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a Warren Ritter fan, a Tarot card reader, Jungian psychotherapist, and writer ( teaching a seminar on the Archetype of the Fool, next Fall. I want my class and myself to piggyback onto The Tower pages for the fascination of exploring. So far the pace is just right. This baby will bounce in September.

December 22, 2009 11:25 AM  

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