I had tried reaching out to another known Coloraturian, SF/F blogger and podcaster, Patrick "One of a Kind" Hester to see if he knew about Nelson's double life. After all, we did both wear hats of the wide-brimmed fedora kind. And he was a known entity in the Circles. But those prior attempts hadn't yet worked and there were bubbling rumors of another restraining order.
Damnable laws, how they mock me.
Someone on Twitter had mentioned using breakfast burritos as incentive, but I needed to check that information further.
True. I could reach out to another known blogger. But Tammy Farmer was a Phoenician and she was 800-some miles and 14-plus hours southwest of Denver, where Nelson held court. She was also a fiend who despised me because of a review I'd written about a Jim Butcher novel a few months earlier.
That wouldn't do.
I could try Skinner, but last I'd heard he was headed into the middle of the Hundred-Mile Wilderness for covert purposes relating to nun's habits made of leather and yaks.
That left Cordwainer Duke. Except Duke was scoping out the Anaheim Convention Center ahead of WonderCon.
Yes, WonderCon was just around the corner again. This time in Southern California due to rumored eldritch happenings at San Francisco's Moscone Center. The general public had been told there was renovation underway which necessitated the move by WonderCon to its SoCal location. But that was, in fact, a cover story. Gray-cloaked cultists had been spotted in the vicinity during the last week of February, no mean feat given the vast population of adult street urchins in the SOMA neighborhood in and around the Moscone Center who were sometimes similarly garbed. With the pending Fey Invasion and the recent Miskatonic Country strangeness, Omega-13 was on heightened alert.
"We're on Code Vermillion right now," Azerov had told me a week ago via Internet Messaging. "Down from Raw Umber. If it gets worse, we'll have to go to Neon Puce. Not a good sign."
"Neither is red biohazard," I'd replied, also via Internet Messaging.
It would have to be Duke then. I was running out of time and I was pretty certain he'd answer. Provided there weren't cultists at the Convention Center and he was in hot pursuit. Those got scratchy and uncomfortable after too long.
He was SFWA-affiliated, after all. He'd at least point me in the right direction.
I was digging my phone from the top pocket of my safari jacket when Alabaster McMurdo slid into booth seat across from me, out of breath. He was dressed in his usual thick red-and-black flannel shirt, nayv blue watch cap, and faded blue jeans.
"Jericho," he said, then grabbed three two-ounce packets of liquid Half-and-Half from the ceramic holder on the table, ripped off the covers, and upended all three into his mouth then wiped his lips with his shirt sleeve.
"Al!" I said. "What's the matter?"
"Quick fuel," he said, nodding to the Half-and-Half. "I'll have to continue moving. The bozos are back and I need to prepare."
"The bozos. The clowns."
"Are you talking about real clowns? White face paint? Big red nose?"
Al growled, showing teeth. "Those are the whitefaces. The pack leaders. But yeah, those clowns. They're coming back."
"They are? I didn't know they were gone."
"I can smell them on the wind," said Al. "They'll be here soon. I can can feel them, too. My left elbow gives me a slight twinge when the time is right and the time, it is right. They come around once every twenty-five years. Cause all kinds of hell and havoc."
"Like in It? Pennywise the clown? Or Jeepers Creepers?"
"All borrowed from the real story," said Al. "Know what happened the last time they were here?"
"Twenty-five years ago would be '87," I said. "I was in high school. I don't remember any clowns rampaging through the city?"
"Do you remember the Horowitz incident?"
"Not Adrien Brody. David Horowitz the consumer advocate."
"The 'Fight Back!' Guy," I said, recalling the TV show.
"Yeah, him. In August of '87, this guy went into the KNBC studio in Burbank during a live afternoon news broadcast, held a gun to Horowitz's back and told him to read a prepared statement. But the studio cut the broadcast before the statement got read. Know what it said?"
" 'The man who has appeared on KNBC for the last three years is not my biological father. He is a clone, a double created by the Central Intelligence Agency and alien forces.' "
"Okay, but what's that got to do with clowns--"
And suddenly it hit me.
"That movie," I said with a gasp, feeling my guts twist like a pair of knickers.
Al's eyes lit up. "Yeah. Killer Klowns From Outer Space. Came out the year after, in '88. Late, but still timely."
"So you're saying it was a message."
"Couched in Hollywood-ese. But yeah. A message. A warning. Just like all these zombie movies and books and the TV show. It's all preparation."
Sweet Mother of Dingos! Duke had said the same about the recent upsurge of urban fantasy novels and series. They were preparing us for what was to come.
I said to Al: "So these clowns. They're aliens? And we can't see them? And they're raining death and destruction on us every twenty-five years?"
"Aliens," Al said, nodding. "And you can see them. You just have to know what you're looking for. And..." He looked around, eyes slitted. "There's too many folks here. I'll call you in one hour with a new meeting place. I have Powerpoint slides. You'll want to see this."
Before I could say anything more, Al leaped from the booth seat into a low crouch then bolted out of the place.
I pulled out my phone and checked the time.
One hour. And 1,000 words left.
I could do it. I was a Professional, after all.
As I turned back toward Mike the Laptop, a hushed stillness descended over the bar, like the calm before the storm.
And beneath that quiet, I heard a faint chittering. Gnashing, really. Of tiny, pointed, needle-sharp teeth. Accompanied by the jabbering. Which could only mean one thing.
Rabid mutant lawn gnomes.
They were his Deadline Messengers.
So: One hour. 1,000 words. Threat of death by rabid mutant lawn gnomes.
And then a thought struck with all the impact of a sledgehammer hit to my balls.
Lawn gnomes wore pointed hats.
Just like clowns.
I steeled myself.
I'd be ready.
Come back next week for another entry of The Jericho Files!
Read previous Jericho Files entries here.
Read previous Jericho Files entries here.