The Continuing Story Of Wet Blanket Ron – Part Two by Chris Green
I can hear a phone, one of the emergency ones I keep in my office drawer. Each has an individual ring tone, but I’ve lost track of which ring tone is for which client. It seemed a good idea, at first, when there were just a few. I selected Hey Joe for hitman, Joe Luga, Can’t You Hear Me Knocking for cocaine dealer, Charlie Snow, and Ace Of Spades for card sharp, Vince Shuffler. But now there are twenty three phones in there, it doesn’t seem so clever.
What is that tune? Oh no! It’s Leonard Cohen, Bird On A Wire. That’s Ron Smoot. Wet Blanket Ron! Why the fuck is he calling?
I debate whether to leave it. Leonard Cohen’s cracked voice persists. Halfway through the second verse of the song, the one about the stillborn baby, I give in and answer it.
Ron is speaking fast. Something about being stuck in California and a plane crash. It is hard to make sense of what he is saying. I get him to slow down. He repeats what he has said.
‘What do you mean, your friends are on a flight to Chicago that is going to crash?’ I say. ‘I didn’t think you had any friends.’
Ron misses the put-down. ‘You might remember, Mr Diaz, that I got a job with a company called N Vision Inc,’ he says.
I don’t remember. I tend to choose to forget conversations with Ron. Life seems better that way.
‘And my job is to tell people in advance that bad things are destined to happen to them to give them chance to avoid them.’
What on earth is he talking about?
‘Sounds a bit far out,’ I say. ‘You haven’t been taking those mushrooms again, have you, Ron?’
‘Look! Tom and Tom are on a plane that is going to go down,’ he continues. ‘I tried to tell them, Mr Diaz, but they got on the flight anyway.’
‘I’m finding it quite difficult to follow you, Ron,’ I say, looking for an opportunity to end the conversation.
I suddenly remember that I have a client called Tom Carlevero. He is a computer technician. I had to cover up some hacking that he had been doing a while back on a Government computer system. Tom Carlevaro is gay and he has a partner called Tom Soft. Tom and Tom. Surely it couldn’t be this pair of Toms that Ron was talking about. That would be far too much of a coincidence. In these days of rainbow communities and gay marriage, there must be dozens of Tom and Toms.
‘Who are Tom and Tom?’ I say.
‘They are friends of mine,’ he says. ‘Look Mr Diaz …’
‘Their surnames, Ron. What are their surnames?’
‘Tom Carlevaro and …..’
‘I’ll get back to you,’ Ron,’ I say. I end the call and switch the phone off. He is bound to try to phone me back.
Now which is Tom Carlevaro’s phone, I wonder, looking in the drawer. I call in Shelley, my secretary. She is the one who keeps all the phones charged for me.
‘What is it Mr D?’ she says, blowing on her fingers to dry the nail varnish.
‘Tom Carlevaro,’ I say. Which phone?’
‘This one,’ she says. ‘The one with Go West ringtone.’
I do a redial. There is just a chance that Tom has ignored the cabin crew’s instructions and kept his phone switched on during the flight. I am in luck. He has. I explain to him what Ron has told me. He starts to tell me about the close shave he has had with Ron in Los Angeles.
‘No time for that now, Tom,’ I tell him. ‘Your plane is going to crash, buddy.’
I have to hand it to Tom Carlevero; he is a very resourceful man. On the basis of my phonecall which must have sounded like I was loony tunes, he somehow manages to persuade the captain of the 737 to turn back and land at Los Angeles. Can you imagine convincing a major airline to do something like that without arousing suspicion. I mean, what on earth could he have said? I do hope there’s no comeback on me. I feel I have done a good turn. I may be many things, but I am not a terrorist.
But as soon as I put the phone back on and return it to the desk drawer, Ron is back on, saying that this was not what was supposed to happen. He says the plane was supposed to come down in Kansas, with many casualties, but Tom and Tom were not supposed to be aboard when it did. Now he says he is in trouble with someone called Kojo or Mojo or something at N Vision Inc for interfering with the course of fate. Who the fuck are N Vision Inc? What is the guy on, for God’s sake?
Perhaps I should tell you a little about myself. My name is Brent Diaz and I’m what’s known as a fixer. I get people out of a hole in any way that I can, for which they pay me a lot of money. While I try to operate legally, this is not always possible. Now, one of the issues that I have here is that the last time I encountered Ron Smoot he was broke. The chance of a paycheck here is a small one.
Ron’s life has been a catalogue of misfortune. This wouldn’t be so bad if he kept it to himself but he insists on sharing it with everyone. How about this? He was attacked by a swarm of wasps on his wedding day, Friday 13th May, bitten by a shark on their belated honeymoon and mugged outside the court at their divorce hearing. He has been struck by lightning, not once but three times. After one of his many road accidents, the ambulance taking him to hospital crashed. You do have to wonder if his ill luck isn’t connected to his negativity. He isn’t just half empty, his cup is bottomless. He’s the living embodiment of a minus sign, a powerhouse of negative energy.
All is not lost on this occasion, however. Remarkably, Ron has not lost his job over the plane mix up. That must be a first. Perhaps it has become difficult to recruit people prepared to deliver bad news.
After I hang up, I ask Frankie what he knows about N Vision Inc. Frankie is my right-hand man, my facts at your fingertips man. He’s like google without broadband. He knows everything. He tells me he thinks that N Vision Inc is an affiliate of The God Corporation.
‘And they know that things are going to happen before they do?’ I say.
‘Apparently so,’ Frankie says.
‘Couldn’t we find some way to take advantage of that,’ I say.
‘Just what I was thinking,’ he says. ‘Next time you get a call from Ron, we’ll analyse the situation before recommending any action.’
‘Better still, I could keep in touch Ron. I could phone him every now and then to see what is in the pipeline,’ I say. ‘I’m sure he will be happy to have a friend.’
‘And if anything goes wrong.’
‘Which it probably will do.’
‘We can take advantage of that too.’
I leave it for a few days and then Give Ron a call.
‘How are you, Ron?’ I ask.
‘Not good,’ he says, with the air of a prisoner who has just been shown the noose. He goes on to tell me that the head gasket on his Rover blew. He had to push it about half a mile, uphill, to the nearest breakers, as they wouldn’t collect. They gave him a cheque for £50 but when he got home he realised that they hadn’t signed it, so he had to go back there on the bus and then they were closed.
‘I thought you had a Citröen Saxo,’ I say. I have been doing my homework. In my line of work, I find it pays dividends to get inside the head of your clients.
‘The Saxo was impounded at Heathrow while I was in California,’ he says.
‘Oh dear,’ I say. ‘Things still OK at N Vision Inc are they?’ I am nervous I am about to hear the word, ‘sacked’, but surprisingly things are still OK at N Vision Inc.
Later that day Ron phones me back with a surprise request. ‘Can I borrow your car, Mr Diaz?’
What a cheek, the guy has. Has my offer of friendship backfired already?
‘I think I’m probably going to be using my car, Ron,’ I say. As it happens I have two cars, a BMW, and an Audi, but I’m hardly going to let Wet Blanket Ron in on this.
‘N Vision Inc have given me this new assignment,’ he continues. ‘The rock star, Johnny Angel is playing a concert at Kingsholm stadium in Gloucester tomorrow and he’s going to be shot. I have to stop it happening.’
‘Gloucester! That’s a hundred miles away,’ I say.
‘That’s right. That’s why I need a car. I’ve bought an old Skoda Fabia, but it’s not going to be ready until the weekend.’
‘You could rent a car.’
‘I’ve just cleaned out my bank account to pay for the Skoda.’
‘Second hand Skoda’s aren’t that expensive are they? They must have stopped making the Fabia over ten years ago.’
‘It was quite cheap but there wasn’t much in my bank account, Mr Diaz. I’ve had a lot of bills lately.’
‘Now, have I got this right?’ I say. ‘N Vision Inc called to tell you that Johnny Angel is going to be shot tomorrow in Gloucester and your assignment if I’ve understood you correctly is to prevent this from happening. The only way that you can do it is get a car to get there, you can’t afford Hertz and you don’t have any friends that will lend you theirs, in fact, you don’t have any friends, so you are asking me to lend you mine without much hope of being able to pay me.’
‘That’s about it, I suppose, yes.’
‘And meanwhile, I have to swallow this mumbo jumbo about some weirdos being able to see into the future.’
‘I’m still not sure how this works, Mr Diaz,’ he says. ‘But Kojo says that most people think that time is linear, but it isn’t. Kojo showed me the day after tomorrow’s papers. It’s on the front page in all the dailies. Headlines like Angel Falls, The Day The Music Died and Gay Rocker Shocker’
‘Not very imaginative,’ I say. How about Goodbye Norma Jean?’
‘I think that was the other fellow,’ says Ron.
‘Aha, so it was,’ I say.
‘So what do you say, Mr Diaz. Can I borrow your car? I’m desperate. …….. And I’m sure Johnny Angel would thank you.’
I used to be a fan of Johnny Angel, back in the day. I remember buying some of his early albums. I loved the song about him standing by the wall and the one about the spaceman. I’d never seen him play live, though.
‘It’s a mad idea, but I haven’t been to a rock concert in years and this one sounds as if it might be to be quite theatrical,’ I say. ‘How about I take you?’
What on earth made me say that, I wonder, after I’ve said it. Was it to do with what Frankie said about being able to take advantage of precognition? Or, have I been taken over by dark forces?
During the journey, I try to get some sense out of Ron about N Vision Inc. Frankie has researched them and come across very little. Even GCHQ have a more visible web presence. Ron tells me about Amir, Kojo, and Kazumi, the team of exotic personnel who run the show and about the constantly morphing office interior with random wildlife wandering about. He says that the reason people don’t know about the offices is that the building is invisible from the street. Apparently there is some scientific explanation for this.
He goes on to tell me about his ill-fated field missions to date. He starts with the tale of not saving research scientist, Maxwell Loveless from a gas explosion.
‘You mean to say that you were given the assignment, but didn’t manage to save him,’ I say.
‘Kind of, but that was not the objective,’ says Ron. ‘My job was to let his mother, Eileen Loveless know that her son was going to die.’
‘And she didn’t think to save him?’
‘I still don’t get it,’ I say.
‘I just do what they ask me to do,’ says Ron. ‘Next, I had to warn entrepreneur, Garret Wing that he was going to be shot. But he didn’t take any notice.’
‘So, another failure really,’ I say, already having visions of Johnny Angel’s bloodstained body slumped over the piano. ‘Why exactly are we doing all this?’
‘Amir says we cannot intervene directly, we can only take measures to alert the victim that something is going to happen. If the victim takes notice for instance, then the newspaper headlines that I talked about will change, but if he doesn’t, then the page will never have existed. A different page will have replaced it. Amir says that reality isn’t a straightforward business.’
‘So I’m beginning to find out,’ I say. ‘So what about Tom Carlevero? How do you know Tom, anyway?’
‘After my breakup with Heather, I rented a room in his house,’ he says.
‘Ah yes. I remember your breakup with Heather,’ I say. ‘She ran off with your best friend while you were in hospital, didn’t she? And you called me, and like a fool, I sympathised and said I would, uh ….. help. That was how you came to be on my list wasn’t it?’
‘And then you didn’t answer any of my calls until yesterday.’
‘I’ve been out of he office a lot.’
‘Anyway, to continue my story. Tom Soft moved in with Tom Carlevero and later they went off to California to get married and asked me to look after the house while they were on honeymoon.’
‘OK. Enough of that. Let’s get down to the job in hand,’ I say. ‘How are we going to get in to the gig. You’ve got tickets I take it.’
‘Well, no I haven’t.’
‘And you also have no money.’
‘So I’m expected to pay. Is that it?’
‘If you wouldn’t mind. They’re only £50 each. Oh and another £50 for backstage access. I’ll recompense you.’
‘When you get paid by N Vision Inc I suppose. And when will that be? Have you been paid at all yet?’
‘Well, now you come to mention it, no.’
‘They didn’t think of phoning Johnny Angel’s management and doing it the sensible way, I suppose.’
‘Might that not come across as a threat, Mr D?’
‘But it would have simplified the situation.’
I can’t help noticing that there are more hold-ups on the route west than usual. Every light we come to is red. Roundabouts which are normally clear have long tailbacks. I find myself behind a succession of slow moving tractors and learner drivers. There seem to be an unusual amount of lane closures and temporary traffic lights. I’m not superstitious or anything like that but it feels like something is in the air. Meanwhile, Ron tells me about his skin complaint, his anti-depressants, and the viruses on his computer. He throws in a few stories about Heather’s infidelity for good measure. I recall seeing a television programme about magnetic force and energy where people could project their thoughts beyond the limits of the brain into the atmosphere. The programme was concerned primarily with projecting the power of positive thought. Surely Ron’s sphere of negative influence could not extend to the environment around him, could it?
We approach the last section of dual carriageway. Traffic is at a standstill. Not what we need at this stage. Time is moving on. A diversion is in place, in the distance an army of police vehicles, fire engines, and ambulances. We make our way through the slow moving traffic. Unconcerned with what may have taken place, Ron uses the time to regale me with further tales of woe. The time he lost his passport on the way to the airport, how his numbers came up the week after he stopped doing the lottery, that his home insurance lapsed the day before the house fire. The reports may have gone on indefinitely but for us finally arriving in Kingsholm.
‘How are we going to do this,’ I say. ‘Have you got a plan of action, or do you want my input?’
‘I thought we would go backstage, ask his manager if we could speak to Johnny and then just tell him that he can’t play tonight because he’s going to be shot,’ Ron says. ‘Kojo says to deliver bad news you need to be assertive. No point in beating around the bush.’
‘So after I’ve driven all this way and paid out good money, I don’t even get to see him play Crocodile Rock.’
‘That’s not one of his,’ Ron says. ‘That’s the other guy again. ……. What were you thinking would be best then, Mr Diaz?’
‘Your methods don’t seem to have had much success so far, do they?’ I say. ‘I’ll let you know when we get inside.’
As we approach the stadium we see a huge crowd has gathered outside. Surely with such a big event they should have opened the gates by now. The concert is due to start in a few minutes. As we get up close, we can see a large illuminated message board reading ‘JOHNNY ANGEL CONCERT CANCELLED’
Why is the concert cancelled? No further information is given. There is mass confusion on the street. No one seems to know what to do. These people are all psyched up. They were ready to party. You can almost smell the disappointment in the air. No, perhaps it’s skunk you can smell. And alcohol. A couple of minor scuffles break out. I manage to catch the attention of a steward with a walkie talkie.
‘What is going on,’ I ask.
‘Haven’t you heard?’ he says, as if its common knowledge. ‘Johnny Angel’s helicopter was shot down over the ring road. The helicopter burst into flames. Everyone aboard was killed instantly.’
Although he should be used to things going wrong by now, Ron is inconsolable. He has his head in his hands. Having messed up his previous missions, he probably saw this as his last chance to get a result. Now he will almost certainly lose his job. But things are set to become a whole lot worse. As I guide him slowly along Kingsholm Road back towards the car, through the open window of a white transit van we catch the end of a news bulletin on the radio. It is turned up loud.
….. Police are treating the bringing down of the rock star’s helicopter as a terrorist act. They have released the names of two men they are anxious to apprehend in connection with the incident, Ron Smoot and Brent Diaz and have launched a search for the pair. The men are believed to be heavily armed and travelling in a black BMW …..…
© Chris Green 2015: All rights reserved