Monday, November 23, 2015

FLICKER STREET Treatment # 17: Presence

A short but pivotal dispatch. Enjoy!

FLICKER STREET Treatment # 17: Presence

I. 1979 Revisited

1979 was a busy year for the various personalities that had fallen under the rubric of the Aggregate. Ben Renova came out of retirement as Wurm to stop Carnifex from looting the Renova Savings & Loan main branch. He was not able to ward off Carnifex alone, especially after Urias came and teleported the money and holdings away. Urias did not need the money; he needed to humiliate a hero and hurl the gauntlet for the next big move against the Aggregate. The Damnation Brigade were the ones to make that bid, with Damnation members new and old aligned against the Aggregate. Wurm rejoined the Aggregate. He thought it was well overdue for Carnifex and Urias to be taken down. For good.

Milo Majestyk's mob (now calling themselves 'The Machine' after Skull's nascent foray into organized crime) were buying more city officials and spreading corruption throughout Hallmark. Under the aegis of Arch-Priest Urias, the new Damnation Brigade met up with Majestyk and worked out a plan for the Brigade to take down the mutual adversaries of the two groups. The new Brigade was led by Urias, tired of being behind the scenes and eager to crush the spiritis of his foes and glory in the heady draught of victory. Beside him was his on and off partner Carnifex; Urias' familiar, the undead Pallor; Solomon Vossius the Tormenter; TSD subject Alphonse Marins, also known as the incredibly strong Mexican wrestler El Perro de Guerra (the Dog of War); Cal Thorne aka Exterminans the Death Walker, in one of his premiere missions; and Scottish telepath/ telekinetic Roland Mallory, a TSD Recombinant experimented on by Donal Rykards.

Cary believed the time had to rebuild the Aggregate HQ beneath Bradcroft Manor. This space was to be the first HQ Compound. The Compounds were originally suggested by Thomas Ledge as a way to capture the team's foes and keep them imprisoned as needed. The Compounds would also be places for Aggregate members to live so that they and their families could feel safe. All of this meant that a self-governing system had to be put into effect.

The Compounds would function as co-ops/ communes. Ledge didn't like the socialist overtones yet most of his suggestions were fed into the layout though he was rather ungrateful. Euphrates Straw laid out the entire map and schema for the Compounds. Construction was hired clandestinely; it was carried out by Serafinians, who were paid well by Bradcroft and Renova. This also chafed Ledge, but by 1980, Ledge had well worn out his welcome with Bradcroft & co, so they chafed each other daily.

Cary sought many new members for the group, the last time he would do so. Caulder Gaunt agreed to join the Aggregate, as did Brother Zodiac at long last. Cary found a pocket of ex-cons who'd been injected with TSD and were in REACT custody: Empress Moth, Necrotica, Karibou, and Arc-Welder (More specific biographical details on these four to follow in upcoming segments). These were located for the group by the White Archer, who felt it a wise idea to allow Bradcroft and company to train the “talent” and the FSO's job was to exploit that talent for its own group afterward.

II. The Way They Were: The Last Days of The Original Freedom Squad

And so we return at long last to the so-called Freedom Squad, busy on foreign missions for months and retraining after the near-fatal Deomond/ Solus affair. In reconstructing their bodies, REACT subtly manipulated their minds to pledge obedience to REACT. Only the mind of John Gauvin, aka Wrath, rejected the mental invasiveness. This was because Gauvin had been a TSD trial volunteer; his only gift received by the treatment was complete immunity from telepathic invasiveness (including surgical and genetic engineering techniques). His brain was like a steel forge and could not be penetrated. Phileas Caleb realized this and kept very close tabs on Wrath.

Freedom Squad Ops (or FSO), as it was most commonly referred to in those days, was the victim of another set-up deal between Mob enterprise and Skull tech. The result was known affectionately as the “OBIT Gang” and was unfortunately led by the long-missing Princesa Verde of the Aggregate, Cedric Lykos' former lover. Under her auspices were: Garnet and Cynosure, both rejected by Bradcroft and co.; the “Solar Princess” and hippie lightbender Sunchild; the Vietnamese shape-shifting Tran; Anaximander Zayan's daughter Atheru, aka Soulfish; and the armored Terrapin, who had gotten to be good pals with Convy Lee Sutch (Cynosure).

The Freedom Squad lineup itself had morphed with the fallout of the Deomond/ Solus incident and rejuvenation of the team. With Ursulin AWOL in space and Solus and the second Duellist dead, the group amounted to Liberty Lord, Troubleshooter, White Archer, Dr E, Flare, a recent acquisition the Dart (the first female member), and brand-new recruit, a powerful Bible-thumper calling himself Vigil.

So the rejuvenated Freedom Squad took on the OBIT Gang once in early 1980. The very outre group took FSO by surprise and scrambled their usual group dynamic. Still Freedom Squad's raw power looked to be winning out when Sunchild turned Dr E's power upon himself; fortunately there were no casualties. Soulfish had the dubious honor of snapping Dart's neck but succumbed to Dart's weaponry; she lived but in a comatose state. Garnet and Cynosure almost took out the White Archer. But it was Vigil, who stepped in with his array of Recombinant abilities (to be discussed in future accounts) and brutally dispersed OBIT. The group fled, much to Skull's chagrin.

III. The Trinity

Alec continued to feel tense around Kicia now that Brother Zodiac was at last a member of the Aggregate. Alec, his mind at peace regarding the Marchessa, felt that Kicia was his true love, hence he was somewhat awkward with her, despite what they had shared in the past. Finally Kicia made a move, and Cowan, having no respect for Brother Zodiac or for Kicia's love for BZ, succumbed once more to Ms. Blessing's considerable charms. Trevor was hardly faithful to Kicia anyway, having bedded Sunchild before her enlistment in the OBIT Gang when she was merely a fixture of the Flicker Street scene, as well as Empress Moth, one of the newbies to the Aggregate. Even Ghost Cat, who Caulder Gaunt had been professing love to for years, seemed drawn into Novembre's spell. Gaunt confronted Mei-Chan about the situation, and she graciously put aside her infatuation with Zodiac to allow Gaunt to “woo her properly” (his words).

Alec took a trip to New Orleans with Lykos to find info on the “Grey Messiah”, but the paper trail only reached back to 1955. Meanwhile, Cotton confronted Zodiac about his lifestyle and warned the bohemian lothario that his days in the Aggregate may be numbered, especially if he's quite literally been sleeping with the enemy. On a drunken night in February 1980, Alec and Lykos confronted BZ about all of this, and suggested Zodiac go join the OBIT Gang where he might be more comfortable, and where no one in the Aggregate would have any compunctions against wiping the floor with him, even though the Brother's power levels lied somewhere Dr E's and that of the Absurd Tentacle.

Zodiac rebuffed Alec and Cedric, who had become close friends of late, and taunted Alec with braggadocio regarding Kicia. Trevor obviously had not realized that Kicia and Cowan had recently been intimate. Novembre apparently did not yet know that Kicia had just discovered that she was pregnant and wasn't sure of the paternity. Alec did know that Kicia was expecting and implored her to get a blood test. Lykos, in the meantime, had developed a rather involved theory regarding Brother Zodiac. He went to Straw and Cary with his fears. He had come to believe that Vaikuntha had avatars in Hallmark and that “Trevor Novembre” was one of them. Unfotunately, only the sword and amulet of the Black Cabal could detect a Presence in one of its avatar forms, and, even then, a Presence could make itself undetectable by most forms of magick.

It would explain much, Cary and Euphrates agreed. The three men (Bradcroft, Straw, Lykos) opted to go about their business with Zodiac, hoping he didn't suspect that they suspected him. They didn't tell Alec right away for fear of a major set-to with Zodiac. Lykos pointed out that with Caulder Gaunt's past, Gaunt's true identity also came into question.

One night in March 1980 a restless Zodiac left his room and Kicia sleeping. He had just learned that he may be a father and that Alec Duarte was his true rival for Kicia and the baby. Zodiac encountered Caulder Gaunt in the Bradcroft Manor courtyard. Zodiac drew upon a fearsome wellspring of mystical energy and absorbed the protesting Gaunt into himself down to the molecular level. He then mused to himself, “Only one more and we shall be complete..” Brother Zodiac then reached out with his far mind and located the “one more”. He was scarcely surprised at the identity of the other piece of the unholy trinity. As Caulder Gaunt had emerged 25 years earlier a total amnesiac, and Zodiac had always been guarded about his past save for his claims to be Trevor Novembre of 1960s New Orleans, the third of this trinity emerged in 1954 with a whole set of false memories, memories about to be dispelled once and for all, along with the entire being that housed those memories – all subsumed by Brother Zodiac.

And so we return to Grey Parminter's desperate summoning of Vaikuntha in 1954, which at long last bore cosmic fruit. Vaikuntha had returned to this plane after a millenium but could only do this by incarnating himself into avatars – an ability he used for millenia in the past to walk among men. Vaikuntha would erase his memories or program himself with elaborate false memories in an elaborate spell that even altered the memories of those around him, to “recall” the avatar's past human interactions. Such was the power and intricacy of an avatar working that Cary and Ashton Bradcroft studied to master it just in case.... for the avatar, as we have seen, is untraceable by any magic perception on Earth. It is the ultimate way for a mage or Presence to walk among the populace of Earth, human or Exodesian alike, and work for good or ill undetected, or for some purpose its conscious mind is unaware of, but that a subconscious aim is guiding so that when the cosmics were right, the seed of the being who broke apart into avatars would “awaken”.. and seek out its other selves, encased in flesh ignorant of its making.

Brother Zodiac kidnapped Kicia's mother Acacia and taunted Cary, Straw, Duarte, and Lykos. Ghost Cat was despondent that Gaunt had apparently abandoned her after such a lengthy and ardent persuit. Kicia goes to Alec and says she chooses him over BZ. They made love, with Alec knowing any moment Acacia could be a dead woman. They are interrupted by Cotton Suede, Thomas Ledge, and Konchuman, who rendezvoused with Zodiac and tried to divine just what it was that they could do so that Zodiac would free Kicia's mother. BZ insisted on seeing only Duarte, Straw, Bradcroft, and Lykos.

But the working had yet to conclude. Even as Zodiac was physically changing, he announced that they shall all be one family, and gestured, drawing Kicia into the maelstrom emanating from the being was once was a trinity and now is one. Alec holds onto her hand until her body wilts and dissolves. Alec cried out as the woman he loved and her unborn child (which was Zodiac's, not Alec's) are consumed by the reborn Presence. And so Vaikuntha awoke, a dead ringer for the being that Gaunt and Zodiac had been dreaming of. Euphrates Straw was at a loss; he had never before encountered a Presence( few have). Vaikuntha let loose a burst of energy from his third eye, frying Straw where he stood, even as Vaikuntha himself was blasted from behind from the now cognizant Shadow Baron, flanked by Lykos. Cary was too late, however, and Euphrates Straw's remains crumpled to the ground. Vaikuntha announced his retreat and that this time around, Earth would be his to pleasure himself with however he saw fit. He disappeared, and a heartbroken Alec and his allies searched for find something to house Straw's remains.

IV. Vaikuntha Rising

The Aggregate regrouped. A ceremony was held in which the entire current team was there – Bradcroft, Cowan, Lykos, Ledge, Cotton, Konchuman, Wurm, Ghost Cat, Corona, Myrmidon, Empress Moth, Necrotica, Karibou, and Arc-Welder - to pay respects to Straw and acknowledge the other two fallen members, though this latter idea of Bradcroft's, in the interest of ceremony and magnanimity, enraged several members. They grumbled that Gaunt and Zodiac did little during their time with the team save plot and ploy against them. As Thomas Ledge put it: “Ya don't honor a man like Straw beside two pieces of shit who were planning our destruction the whole freakin' time – whether they knew it or not.” Cotton very vocally agreed, as did Alec (a rare instance where he and Thomas were in sync) and so a separate acknowledgment for the two avatars was held a week after Straw's elaborate funeral.

Straw's teammates and his retinue from outside the team, solemnly honored this most amazing of men. Straw's heirs attended: his lover Octavia Flay and her child by Euphrates, Darius Flay (b. 1975); his estranged widow Artemis Clancey (b. 1948) and her child by Euphrates, Zachariah “Zack” Straw (b. 1970); as well as the surviving members of the interconnected Clancey, Reale, Torrance, and Flay families.

This left the Aggregate with only one original member in its 16 year existence - the Shadow Baron, and he shouldered the blame for all that had occurred. He knew that the group, especially with so many young and lesser experienced members, needed as much help as they could get. Knowing they will refuse to help him, Cary dismissed approaching the Freedom Squad offhand, and concentrated on two extremely powerful potential allies: Orphee deLander, the Absurd Tentacle, and his lover Silent Indigo, Cary's niece. Bradcroft also tried to contact his own brother to no avail. Finally, he approached Javier's sect, who agreed to help.

Orphee immediately attempted to take control of the situation though Cary and Javier were far more well-versed in sorcery. After months planning by this uneasy alliance without any incident, Vaikuntha struck the Aggregate's nascent first Compound. Without warning, the mad god decided to merely destroy his primary foes all at once, making a statement to the Freedom Squad or any other gifted individuals looking to take him down.

Gathered was the same line-up present at Straw's memorial – perhaps the most formidable Aggregate yet assembled. Also present were the Absurd Tentacle, Silent Indigo, and Javier. Vaikuntha announced, “Millenia I have slept, and dreamt beyond the pale... for the day I wake and unleash the destroyer force on all mankind.” In one mighty wave Vaikuntha annhilated Silent Indigo, Karibou, and the Empress Moth, critically injuring Corona and Wurm in the process. Ghost Cat, Cary's replacement as field commander for Euphrates, attempted to use advanced martial arts on Vaikuntha while Javier and Bradcroft huredl arcane forces at him, and Thomas and Lykos attempted to knock him down with brute force. Alec and Stephen Bartholemew simply shot at him. All proved ineffectual until Orphee managed to physically wrestle the six-armed god to the ground, using all of his psychokinetic power to augment his strength. Brimming with rage over Indigo's death, he brought to bear all he had against the daemonic Presence.

But then Vaikuntha unleashed his eldritch energies and the Absurd Tentacle slowly dissipated into a small puttlylike blob before evaporating altogether. “Enough!!” screamed a muffled voice. From out of the dust strode a tall man, dressed head to toe in black and grey and wearing a mask concealing his entire face, even his eyes. A bejeweled amulet gleamed about his neck, and he wielded an ornate blade. Was this the one-man embodiment of the force that laid Vaikuntha low 1000 years ago?

The oblique gentlemen swiftly moved in on Vaikuntha, fearless. He proclaimed: “Tis time once more the Balance is struck, and the Black Cabal shall make it so. I am he you have dreaded in the dreams of a millenium sleeping in the outer planes. And now you shall sleep again. I banish the Presence who would rule all Creation; I drive it back, back – into the fetid pit from which it crawled - a slug who dared believe it was God”.

Vaikuntha raised several of his arms as if to cast a spell, whispering only “Dharma..”, but the Black Cabal struck him in the heart with his blade as his amulet glistened. An all-consuming light envelopes the destined foes, and then was abruptly snuffed out. It would be safe to say that the survivors of this skirmish with Vaikuntha all stood in a state of complete shock.

They quickly reconnoitered to garner medical attention for those who needed it and to mourn their lost comrades. The year 1980 closed on a somber note for the Aggregate, and with many more questions raised than answered by the year's events.

Welcome to Flicker Street!
Henry Covert
November 23, 2015

Thanx to all of my Facebook friends, especially those who are reading.
No thanx to Baal, no thanx to Rowan, no thanx to Wolfie.

Flicker Street, all images, characters, and story elements are Copyright (c) 2015 George Henry Smathers Jr.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Further Thoughts on FLICKER STREET (Slight Return)

Further Thoughts on FLICKER STREET (Slight Return)

I warned you I'd be back. So, here I sit, pondering the direction and shape Flicker Street is taking. Treatment #17 - "Presence" - is more than halfway done, even through fighting a nasty writer's block of sorts this past week. Extensive notes for #s 18 and 19 (Titles TBA) are starting to assume a manageable shape. Truthfully, these chapters have been the most crucial to surmount - being that they segue into a sharp tonal shift from past treatments. "Presence" is a joy to write, but also a bit of a bear. I have to keep all the arcs and tangents carefully juggled lest one fall, and rend asunder the gossamer loom on which I weave the world of Flicker Street.

I'm not sure if Flicker Street is quite ready for a debut proper. A doctor of mine asked me today, "What's this book you're writing all the time?" I answered that it was like a bible, or sourcebook, or whatever they call it nowadays, for a projected piece of serial fiction - comix, prose, or television. It lays out the characters and the world, the backstory, etc. - at least that's how I explained it to my doctor. Makes sense to me, though it may not have to her.

"Presence" will be the crucial chapter of the last few, wrapping up with some (hopefully) mind-bending surprises that will make clear the arcs from # 14 onward. Even I've been shocked at my characters' revelations - I love it when that happens. It just seems to be the way things shake out for me when I'm on a roll. 

Well, back to work, as Uncle Bill my moon brother admonishes me to do when I'm lagging behind on this project. As usual, many thanx are due:

To Sean Lee Levin, Jan Takehara, Bill White, "The Marksman", Michael T Jones, Kelley Widmeyer, Ryli Morgan, Lori Jones, S.a. Mosley, Shawn Michael Vogt, Morgan Overcash, Leslie K Maitri, and all those helping me keep moving, albeit sluggishly at times. I love you all!!

For ongoing eternal inspiration: Philip Jose Farmer, William S Burroughs, JG Ballard, Steve Gerber, Grant Morrison, Douglas Marland, James A Michener, L Frank Baum, V. Vale, Osamu Tezuka, Don McGregor, Roy Thomas, Peter Milligan, Jack Kirby, Win Scott Eckert, and many more....

PS Wait'll you meet one of the next new characters I have in store for you: Reverend Tim Bollin of the WOGG Ministries (Word Of God's Glory, of course). If you grew up in the Bible Belt as I did, he'll be a very familiar polygot of various unsavory "TV criminals"...

Henry Covert
November 17, 2015

Flicker Street, all images, characters, and story elements are Copyright (c) 2015 George Henry Smathers Jr.

Thursday, November 5, 2015


FLICKER STREET: A Brief Respite 

I wanted to share a few thoughts and wax introspective on Flicker Street, my ongoing series of treatments for a potential comix series. To those few souls reading this, many thanks! I deeply appreciate your comments, feedback, views, and shares. At times it seems I'm building this world in a proverbial vacuum; perhaps I am. This has been labor of love: 30 + years of love, and now, days and nights of labor. The labor comes in condensing a mammoth, living breathing organism into manageable chunks for the reader to digest. This has been difficult. 

Over the years there have been long, deep holes left in the overarching narrative, as I plowed ahead with what felt right - an ongoing catharsis that was being composed solely for me, not any prospective readers. I am attempting to plug those holes and streamline the narrative leading to the story I most want to tell ultimately. I've always felt that there was (dreaded word here) commercial potential for Flicker Street; that is, I've long believed that its target audience(s) would enjoy FS if they were merely exposed to it. But navigating through the dense underbrush of events that serve as the substratum for the FS saga 'proper' could be problematic to any new readers. The main story, beginning with '1987', was going to be convoluted enough; to grok the particulars and ground rules, so to speak, inherent in the demi-epic backstory, may be too much to ask of an audience.

These are matters I still grapple with as I plunge ever onward, recounting in these treatments all (or most) of the pertinent info needed to arm the reader with the sound foundation needed to enrich and hopefully enhance their experience of FS proper. Consider these treatments prequels to a story yet to unfold; snapshots of my attempt to world build. 

Now that I'm closer to the beginning than the end of the FS "prequels", I would like to share with any potential readers that with '1987' onward, there will be strong tonal shift in narrative. Certain concerns from the treatments may not be as useful in the saga proper. Superheros, mystery men, and pulp style action gives way to a more complex, character-based occult soap opera of sorts. This is not to say there won't be plenty of action, sex, violence, and other "exploitable" elements, but these facets will be woven in and out of the larger loom of intrigue, romance, paranoia, and sci-fi horror ahead. 

As further thoughts on the nature of my work strike me, I may report back here. If I don't (or if I do), I look forward to sharing Treatments #s 17 and 18, currently being constructed. I am still unsure of the final number of chapters, but it will be between 20 and 25 in all likelihood.

Thanx again for reading,
Henry Covert
November 5, 2015

Copyright (c) 2015 George Henry Smathers Jr.

Friday, October 30, 2015

FLICKER STREET Treatment # 16: Sojourn

Shorter but no less eventful. Enjoy!

FLICKER STREET Treatment # 16 – Sojourn

I. The Case of Caulder Gaunt and Ethan Byron

The peculiar case of the man called Caulder Gaunt was almost one case of spontaneous generation – he was seemingly born fullblown: an adult without parents or a past. But some force wished Gaunt to find his way; to retrace the steps of memory that had been wiped clean. Caulder awoke in Hallmark, in January 1955, wearing a costly suit and bearing a wallet with ID (which gave his birthdate as January 1, 1925) and thousands of dollars in cash. Instinctively, he sought out a bank and soon had some sense of security. One night, he decided to drown his sorrow and insecurity at the Lucifer Club.

There, he took a an immediate shine to the Indian belly dancer Acacia Blessing. He was mesmerized by her. When they were introduced by the club owner Javier, there was an immediate bond. But there another man enamored of Acacia, the businessman Ethan Byron. Ethan had a troubled marriage but his wife was about to have their first child. Ethan (b. 1920) had only been married for two years to Virginia de Ruyter (b. 1925) and the couple had suffered a miscarriage. They had high hopes for their next attempt at childbearing.

Acacia was married to Junius G. Hand at this time, though to date no one had told Junius that his son by Erszebet Singer survived and was adopted. Junius was overjoyed over Acacia's pregnancy, and did what he could to ward off the wolves at the club. Soon, however, she was showing and stopped dancing until after the child's birth. So all Ethan and Caulder could do was drink and fantasize over the lovely Acacia.

Virginia de Ruyter was the paternal granddaughter of the much-discussed Ananias de Ruyter, one of the founding fathers of Hallmark. Virginia's father, Victor de Ruyter, was something of a criminal, involved in all manner of vice and heavily entwined with the local mob. This made his daughter into something of a crusader for social causes, which was very compatible with husband Ethan's aspirations to one day become District Attorney and truly clean up Hallmark. But Ethan, unlike his bride's family, was not an heir to millions and his dreams seemed all but unattainable. That is, until he made the acquaintance of the mysterious Caulder Gaunt.

Caulder needed a job; Ethan needed a friend. And so, as fate would have it, Ethan brought Gaunt in at an entry level position at OrDeR Enterprises. Ethan had an uncanny knack for spotting sound investments and was soon rising at OrDeR. Ethan's son by Virginia, Clayton Ethan “Clay” Byron was born in early 1956, and his presence helped cool some of the friction between his parents. But in 1958, Junius and Acacia divorced but Acacia stayed at the club at Javier's urging. Ethan and Virginia had been arguing over money; Ethan soon had a drunken affair with Acacia. Caulder advised him to hide this from his wife, which he did, and definitely from the public as he had won the post of Hallmark District Attorney. Ethan and his wife were soon high on Tony Duarte's hit list.

II. The Chinese Connection

In 1963 Shun Ti the undisputed female master of Feng Qi (and originally the Omegan called Ish) was slain by Kith M'Nali, the “Black Tamerlane”. Kith was found out and he and the Black Skull Society, tolerated in Feng Qi for many years, were exiled permanently. Kith had been anticipating this for decades, and so fled to a new headquarters in Japan that he had set up in case of such an occurrence. He also had a secondary HQ in America that he had begun putting together as early as the 1850s. He had created an underground railroad for slaves in America. After they were free, many slaves indebted to him did his bidding, as did their descendants. Ironically, working for Kith M'Nali was akin to slavery itself. The man born Abasse Mathabane learned little from the struggles of his people; personal power was ultimately his sole objective.

Feng Qi was intended by Shun Ti to be ultimately inherited by Kar-Fai Liao, whose father Tsun-Lun was Shuni-Ti's son and her greatest disciple. Kong had slain Tsun-Lun as he had Tsun-Lun's father The Claimer and took his title for himself. With Kong now apparently deceased Kith was running out of allies and Shun Ti was running low on heirs. Ko Sui-Li (b. 1920), mother of Kar-Fai, took the reigns of Feng-Qi, but was constantly plotted against by her sons Li-Ang Liao and Zhey Liao. Zhey had always been loyal to Kong, and advised Li-Ang to build on the power vacuum left by Kong and Kith. Li-Ang envisioned himself an overlord in the manner of Kong, with the world's vice in his lethal grasp.

Sui-Li reorganized Feng Qi, and made her son its overlord. Under Kar-Fai's aegis, Archimedes Ko, son of Bram Vallard, was largely in charge of overseeing the temples and Solacium. Ko was young, but had been a monk almost since his birth (in 1943) and was a master of martial arts and Zen principals. His twin sister Mei-Chan Ko, the “Ghost Cat”, had also trained since birth. Kar-Fai needed the fresh blood, according to Sui-Li, as Kar-Fai spent much of his time ruminating on thoughts of vengeance against Kith for slaying his grandmother Shun Ti. Sui-Li refused to let her son turn Feng-Qi into an engine of destruction; Kith had tried and failed many times to do just that.

In 1964, Ethan and Virginia Byron were slain by Marco Allegretti. Under the advice of Bram Vallard (who that year co-founded the Aggregate), Archimedes offered to take in the eight year old Clay Byron. Kar-Fai felt he could mold Clay (pun unintended) into the instrument of vengeance he'd been yearning for. Not surprisingly, the Byrons left their fortune to Clay, but made Caulder Gaunt the trustee of the estate. Gaunt had power of attorney for the Byrons. Ethan had come to see Gaunt as a brother, and trusted him completely. Gaunt naturally agreed, but he asked one thing of Ko: that he be allowed to train alongside Clay at the monastery. Kar-Fai trusted his sincerity and felt bringing in those of different races, as Shun Ti had done, honored the original Pan-Asian creeds that Kith corrupted.

Most surprising to all was one other child who wished to train at Feng Qi: his name was Clive and his mother Jerusha Dharma brought him to the monastery she had heard so much about over the years. She was with Myrus T Fellbane, now her fiance (much to Clive's chagrin). They brought with them something Clive's father had entrusted Jerusha with – a sword and amulet that were said to be 1000 years old and once drove the vile Presence Vaikuntha from this plane of existence. Jerusha felt that Feng Qi would be the safest place on Earth to house the items, just as she felt that Exodesia would be the most unsafe place imaginable. These items were forged by a Hindu cult called the Black Cabal; legend had it that if one man was ever worthy of bearing sword and amulet, he would inherit the powers of the entire Black Cabal. Jerusha wished this for her son. Her motives were not exactly pure however; she harbored a deep resentment of Clive Dharma's father, Cary Bradcroft, for seemingly abandoning her in his quest for power in Exodesia. She felt Clive could be molded, as Kar-Fai was molding Clay Byron, into an instrument of vengeance.

Fellbane, however, had other plans. He desired the power of the Black Cabal for himself, and had schemed for nine years to be in the position to claim it. Fellbane asked Kar-Fai Liao if he could train Fellbane in some of his mystic arts. Kar-Fai was offended that such an interloper would see the training at Feng Qi as something so casual and superficial. Fellbane caused a mild uproar with his commentary following Kar-Fai's refusal to train him. Kar-Fai lost control and with one blow killed Fellbane.

Jerusha was shocked and asked to speak to Sui-Li Ko alone. Sui-Li felt Kar-Fai's action was rash and out of control, but she admonished Jerusha that Fellbane brought a potential evil with him to Feng Qi, and that was not to be tolerated. Jerusha confided that Fellbane had cast a spell nine years prior so that she and her son could not be found by Cary Bradcroft. Sui-Li was surprised, as the Shadow Baron had become well-known in mystic circles for his power and knowledge, though he'd not yet wrought the good he went on to accomplish leading the Aggregate.

Jerusha understood, but asked that Kar-Fai weave a new spell protecting her and Clive from Bradcroft. Kar-Fai did so, and added the caveat that only one who wielded the sword and amulet of the Black Cabal could banish the spell. All was made well for the time being. Jerusha was invited to stay at Feng Qi to live, and she agreed.

Thus, Clive Dharma, Clay Byron, and Caulder Gaunt trained together with Mei-Chan Ko under Archimedes for nine years. Caulder fell deeply in love with Mei-Chan but feared upsetting their dynamic at the monastery by sharing his feelings. Gaunt was a confident man, but he was troubled, as he still had no memory of his life before 1955. By 1975, Gaunt and his young fellow pupils had excelled at their training. But Clay Byron desired a slightly different path. He announced that he was leaving for training in Libania under the Marchessa. The others chose to remain in Feng Qi for a bit longer. Clay embarked, and Kar-Fai wished him well, and dubbed him “Sojourner” for his restless spirit. Clay promised Clive and Gaunt that he'd meet them again one day.

The one saddest about Clay leaving was Kar-Fai's young son, Jun-Kim Liao (or June Kim, born 1967) who saw Clay and Clive as older brothers and Gaunt as an uncle. Jun-Kim was the offspring of the marriage of Kar-Fai to Colleen Soh (b. 1940), a half-Irish, half-Korean whose father Kim Park Soh (b. 1918) had lived at Feng Qi in the 1930s and 1940s and became an agent of Bram Vallard via his connection to Feng Qi, where he had trained in the 1920s. Kim Park's other daughter, Lerby Soh, married Vallard's son Randolph Hoxworth (b.1947) and the couple settled in Hallmark and had three daughters: Betsy, Lerby, and Jill, all of whom would one day meet their cousin Jun-Kim, whose importance to this narrative will grow as we move along.

III. Lucifer Revisited

Alec Duarte first encountered Kicia Marie Blessing in 1971 when he came to Hallmark to finish off his father Tony Duarte and Tony's partner and lover Marco Allegretti. He set up his place of operation in a Hotel 6 and that evening, after staking out Tony's mansion, dropped in at the Lucifer Club for a few drinks and to see naked girls dance. He was sexually frustrated due to his time with Mariposa Marisol. Celibacy was getting old for him. Kicia was a stunning dancer at the club who caught his eye immediately. He soon learned after a table dance from Kicia that she was only 15 years old. The pimp Diggs Reale who, at that time, owned and ran the Lucifer Club had managed to persuade Kicia to start stripping at 14. He roped her in via her mother Acacia, who Javier, the founder of the club, enlisted as a dancer after he met her by chance on a trip to India in 1954. One year later, Kicia was born, the offspring of Acacia's marriage to Black Torpedo Ray, whom she had wed one week after meeting him.

Acacia knew her daughter looked much older than her age, and she knew the next stop on the illusory highway to fame and riches offered by Diggs was a life of turning tricks. In 1971, Kicia's father was in prison, framed by Diggs and Eli Singer; he and Acacia had divorced in 1958. Alec was the first man Kicia had danced for that didn't immediately attempt to score with her. She was fascinated by this 23 year old loner with pale blue eyes and a swanky moustache and soul patch. At the end of the evening, Alec bid her a fond farewell and she gave him her phone number. He said he didn't know how much longer he'd be in Hallmark; only that he would be back and look her up – and hoped she'd be in school by then.

Three years later, Duarte returned to Hallmark for phase two of the Marchessa's three mandates. He decided impulsively to make it a stealth mission, mainly to get a job in Hallmark and establish a dual ID so that he could move freely as Cowan, whose cowl he first donned on this trip (the cowl would have many configurations over the years). But above all, he stayed around to see Kicia Blessing. The job he chose was as a cab driver; he was utterly fascinated by taxi driving.

Alec began hanging out at the club for a few weeks, getting to know Kicia's father; they became fast friends. Ray approved of Alec, and Alec alone, as a match for his now 19 year old daughter. Acacia had returned to India for a time, but Ray wanted her back at the club, their differences aside. Alec made some young friends who frequented the Lucifer Club, much to their families' dismay. From Gossingham, he met Shirley Townshend Drake and her husband Shelby and son Lance. Lance was only six years old and already craved heavy metal and occult imagery; his favorite group was the infamous White Rabbit, led by the rowdy Hasty Greenhalgh, and his favorite shop was Bradcroft LTD. Lance loved Alec; Alec wasn't sure what to make of this kid but appreciated the cameraderie. Lance's uncle was preparing to open a comic book store in Hallmark called Origins, but for now, was holding mini-conventions at Northland Mall in upper Hallmark. H. Sidney Drake looked down on his relatives, especially nephew Lance's proclivities as Sidney was a devout born again Christian.

One of Alec's drinking buddies was a fellow cabbie at Zenith Cab: Renee Pointier, a French immigrant who was in her 30s and certainly an alcoholic. She and Alec had a few drunken nights of wanton sex, but he felt he was getting far off track from his fixation on Kicia, not to mention his impossible yearnings for his teacher the Marchessa. Renee dug Alec a good bit, and confronted him over Kicia. He made his feelings apparent, and Renee soon left Alec, Zenith, and Hallmark – at least for a good 10 years. Her replacement became Alec's “sidekick” for the duration of his time cruising Flicker Street for fares: a 16 year old cabbie-in-training named Hobie T Reale, Diggs' nephew. Alec taught Hobie some martial arts and Hobie referred to Alec as “teacher”. Alec said he was on a mission, Hobie could not come along, and when next he came to Hallmark, he would give Hobie a proper training. The two would often smoke ganja and ruminate on the nature of the universe, which Alec would soon be doing in a whole different venue.

In the midst of all this, Alec never wavered in using his tightness with Ray to see Kicia every chance he got. They had a sweet and tender dynamic that belied the violence and vice surrounding them. Alec practiced using his hard-won skills to hit the mob, and was only marginally successful. Finally, the time came for his mission: to infiltrate Javier's Order of Cosmic Emptiness. He managed to kill guest speaker Antioch Moldor, a powerful warlock and founder of the Aggregate analog group the Damnation Brigade. Javier let Cowan escape and was intrigued by him.

It had been two months of what was supposed to be a two week mission. Alec went to see Kicia one night when she was home alone studying (Ray got her back in school) and Ray was clubbing. They finally had “The Talk” (capital “T”, capital “T”), which was what Alec called the awkward crossroads a potential couple invariably arrived at, in order to decide to be a couple or not. Alec tried to spill his guts, and was doing okay when Kicia savagely seduced Duarte. She had wanted him for so long she was boiling over. After an hour of oftimes tender, oftimes tempestuous coupling, the two lay in bed and finished “The Talk”.

Kicia didn't think they would work unless Alec took her with him when he left and unless Alec got over his infatuation with his teacher. Neither seemed possible, and for the first time that he could remember, Alec Duarte – Cowan – cried. He said goodbye to Kicia and expressed that should their paths cross again, maybe they could be together. Kicia found this unlikely and said some soul-crushing things to Alec to disabuse him of this notion and get him to leave before she, too, lost it. And thus, Alec returned to the Marchessa for three more years, and consummated their attraction. Kicia dropped out of school and embraced the Flicker Street bohemian crowd, the hub of Hallmark's outcasts, freaks, loners, artists, and aesthetes. There she met the enigmatic Brother Zodiac and the two began a passionate affair filled with romance and music and – other, darker things to be discussed shortly.

IV. Sojourner's Solacium

Sojourner made it to the Marchessa's Solacium in Libania in 1975.He submitted himself for training, and was accepted. He met Cowan for the first time, having no idea yet that Alec avenged Clay's family's deaths. Duarte helped Sojourner adjust to the different approach of Marchessa's Solacium. Clay responded well to his new teacher. Clay was intrigued by the relationship Libania and FOPA had with Serafinia. While at the Solacium, he met Redmund Jeffrey, an African-American spy for REACT posing as a FOPA double agent. Jeffrey was there to aid in destabilizing relations ever further with Serafinia. Ironically he married a Serafinia native and had two daughters they raised in Serafinia: Laura (b. 1956) and Ophelia (b. 1958). Clay met and fell for Laura Jeffrey. With Redmund's permission they wed. Redmund despised Byron, however, and plotted to eliminate him without provoking the Marchessa.

Laura was soon pregnant, and, in her eighth month, she was killed by an explosion set at the Solacium by Redmund and meant to be blamed on the Serafinians. Laura's child, to be named Jeffrey Byron, survived however, and Redmund gave the baby to Ophelia and demanded she and her husband Charles Mourning raise the child as their own back home in the U.S. with Redmund's aging mother, the baby's great-grandmother, Cecilia Jeffrey. The child was born in June 1976 and was named Michelito Mourning. It would be many years before the truth of his parentage was outed.

Redmund's own wife Unocita Quonquonero tried to kill him for using her and playing with their family's lives. Redmund beat her badly and she confided in Clay that she contemplated suicide daily. She threatened to tell Clay the truth about why the Mournings left South America so suddenly after Laura's death. Redmund killed her, making it look like suicide. Unocita's brother Rajael cried out for Redmund's blood. Alec Duarte knew it was time for the monster Redmund Jeffrey to pay the price, and so he challenged him to a duel of hand to hand combat. Redmund was no slouch in this area, but hardly up to the training of the Marchessa. Alec snapped his neck and his threat was over. Once again, Cowan had avenged Sojourner without really knowing it; Alec was none the wiser than Clay was about Clay's son.

With Redmund's entire family gone, Clay Byron focused once more deeply on his training. When Alec left the Solacium in 1977 to fulfill his final mandate, Marchessa knew he may never return, and he did not. Clay was left behind to lose himself in honing his body and mind to their sharpest points in order to obliterate the pain of his lost wife and son. The Marchessa promised Alec that when Clay seemed ready, she would send him back to Hallmark to claim his fortune and, hopefully, his place beside Cowan in the Aggregate. Cowan did indeed find his place among the Aggregate, as recounted elsewhere, but he was pained to learn that Kicia was involved with the enigmatic Brother Zodiac.

V. Black Cabal Rising

In early 1977, Jerusha Dharma fell ill and could not be saved by anyone at Feng Qi. Clive felt it was time to conclude his training there and go to London to get his mother's affairs in order. He left behind Mei-Chen to train for one more year before she headed to Hallmark to petition for membership in the Aggregate. With the resources available to him via the Byron estate, Caulder Gaunt accompanied Clive and loaned him a large sum of money and helped to establish his credentials.

Gaunt called upon a friend and former co-worker at OrDeR Enterprises, Oswin Juan Clancey for help in Clive's ventures. Oswin flew to London from Hallmark with his associate Stephanie Ransom Avril, wife of Egon Avril of the infamous Avril clan discussed in our tenth installment. Gaunt and Clancey forged documents such as an archaeologist's degree, a tidy bank account, and any other identifying documents. These items were created for Clive under the name Randell Coventry. Clive Dharma wished the world to continue with their ignorance of his existence.

Oswin Clancey (b. 1953) is noteworthy as the son of Zachariah Clancey and Dawn Cheshire, both discussed thoroughly in earlier treatments. He was an executive in advertising at OrDeR. He and Clive bonded immediately and he used his resources to help “create” Randell Coventry. He was also looking to invest in new ventures. Stephanie was as well, and she had a degree in archaeology and shared Clive's interests. It was implicit that no one involved in this enterprise reveal the truth. Gault assured everyone that they would be rewarded richly when Clay finally took control of his fortune. Another investor, the Frenchman Aloysius Pascal, came on board in late 1977, and he and Clive became best friends. He, Clancey, Stephanie, and Gaunt set up shop in London, where Clive stayed for nearly two years, scraping together enough cash for one last grand expedition. Thus was Coventry Expeditions born. During his time in London, Clive/ Randell engaged in a short-lived and tempestuous marriage to Pascal's sister Margeurite.

Caulder worried that he had been corrupted by Clive's obsessions and that their years at Feng Qi were for naught. He missed the peace he had found there. But he found himself drawn in by the danger and clandestine nature of his activities. He wondered what kind of man he really was before his amnesia. He decided to forge ahead with Clive's plan and head to Hallmark, where he met with Cary Bradcroft and propose a merger with Bradcroft Ltd. Cary agreed to consider it, but felt he should meet with Coventry himself first.

For Gaunt's part, he decided to stay in Hallmark until the Ghost Cat arrived as planned to petition for membership in the Aggregate. He felt the time had come to tell her how much he truly loved her. But Mei-Chan rejected Caulder's advances, however. She simply did not see him in that way. Gaunt was frustrated beyond words. He began hanging out in Flicker Street, drinking heavily and filled with self-pity. He took up painting, producing abstract portraits inspired by his time at Feng Qi. The more he painted, the more bizarre the symbolism – images of vistas unimaginable filled his canvases, as visions of frightening planes and creatures filled his lucid dreaming. He dreamt almost nightly of Clive and his sword and amulet. In his dreams the Black Cabal was reborn as one man, wielding the ancient talisman against a mad god with a third eye and six arms.

As for Clive Dharma, he left Stephanie in charge of their London office and planned an expedition to Exodesia in 1979. He felt they needed a guide, a go-between to survive in Exodesia. Gaunt recommended Javier, who was grudgingly welcome in Exodesia. Javier went to London to meet with Clive, Oswin, and Aloysius, and soon the four of them were in Africa, making the expedition up the mountain where lied the city of Exodesia. They came before the priest Assias, whose attention was drawn to Clive's talisman. Assias attempted to barter with Dharma for the objects. This was in vain. Clive announced that he wished the defeat of the Shadow Baron and could assure it happening if Assias trained himself and Pascal in certain Exodesian and Piscean arts of dark alchemy. Oswin had no desire to learn and Javier was already well-versed. Assias agreed, and Dharma and Pascal trained for one year in Exodesia. During this time, Arch Priest Urias was in America working for SkullCorp and assembling a new Damnation Brigade to plague the Aggregate. This was fortunate as he coveted the secrets of the Black Cabal himself. Assias was not a member of the Obscuros; thus, Clive and Javier correctly believed that he could be trusted.

Oswin was housed in Exodesia's Azure City, a place where Exodesians of a more benign bent than the Obscuros dwelt. Assias was the prime minister of sorts of Azure City. Javier finally felt at home somewhere in Exodesia. The year at Azure City went by quickly and surprisingly well for Clive's party, especially given the dark forces at work all around them. Oswin attributed much of this to Clive's talisman, which Oswin believed gave Clive a certain aura that protected the group. Though this seemed to be mere speculation on the part of a layman, it actually was a correct assumption.

In the summer of 1980 Clive “graduated” from his studies in Exodesia. The next stop for the Dharma party was Hallmark. Pascal was sent to the London office to meet with Stephanie. He was to work there, while Gault and Oswin took care of business with Cary Bradcroft. Javier bowed out of the whole affair, but thanked all for helping him actually have a decent experience in Exodesia. Clive now assumed the identity of Randell Coventry and began traveling with Stephanie to archaeological digs to gain actual experience at the position he had faked his way into. Before he left Hallmark, however, he met with one final investor – someone he'd wanted to seek out for some time – Orphee deLander. What passed between them was to be revealed to the public late that year and will be discussed in our next installment, in which Clive steels himself to finally face Cary Bradcroft.

Welcome to Flicker Street!

Henry Covert
October 31, 2015

Flicker Street, all characters, images, and story elements are Copyright (c) 2015 George Henry Smathers Jr.

Friday, October 16, 2015

FLICKER STREET Treatment # 15 - I Luciferi

The longest installment yet. Enjoy!

FLICKER STREET Treatment #15 – I Luciferi

I. A Digression Rising...

Now it's time to take a sideways glance at a wild cluster of subjects interlaced to forge a complete portrait: a sharp slice of the Hallmark “street scene” over 30 years of mutations and permutations, at its very nexus point on Flicker Street itself. This is only one such scene but we explore it here as a respite from the labors of the Aggregate.

Explored within is the history of the infamous Lucifer Club, from 1952-1982. Through the lives of its owners and patrons we can trace the bloody fingerprints left on the world by the wounds and scars of an American city (albeit a unique one).

II. The Lucifer Club

In 1952, the man called Javier, son of Biazel Karollus, was embracing his Exodesian side and was assisting Arch-Priest Urias the Grand Necromancer as Urias made a bid to become one of the birthing SkullCorp's inner circle. Javier envisioned an exclusive club where the more decadent and, shall we say, curious denizens of Flicker Street and beyond could congregate and indulge themselves without a care. Javier did not really discriminate with the “exclusive” tag; he was not against lower classes of folk patronizing the club – as long as they paid. Urias lent Javier some capital, and a handful of Hallmark's finest chipped into invest, all with the caveat that it be repaid in one year, and Javier would become co-owner of the club, with Urias a silent partner, hence the club was yet another source of revenue for SkullCorp. Javier's plan was to eventually buy out Urias – if that was possible.

Javier opened the club on New Years Eve, 1953. From the first night, two groups that would be mainstays and lifeblood of the club congealed. The first group to hold court in the club revolved around Nels Christensen, a cohort of Javier's that worked for the Machine. He was an investor in the club. His brother, Lambert Christensen, would often visit. What Nels did not know was that the Lambert that would drop in on him from time to time was actually Bram Vallard aka the Apparition (and his split personality Royal Hoxworth aka Saturnine). The real Lambert “loaned” his ID to Vallard for long stretches while he tooled around Europe. But the real Lambert died in 1950. Vallard continued the ruse however, keeping Nel's older brother alive. Vallard was such a master of disguise and subterfuge that Nels never discovered the truth.

Nels found a motley group to drink and watch the exotic dancers with. One of his employees, Judd Fullerton, who he condescended to in the workplace, became a treasured drinking buddy, as did Judd's best friend, Henry Colter (b. 1923), who played drums in the closest thing the club had to a house band, the Ulysses Reale 6. Henry was the only white member of the band, so Nels tended not to invite Henry's bandmates over except for an occasional toast. Shiloh Mercer, the soprano sax player, often crashed their gatherings in an extremely inebriated state. Shiloh was another of the African-American branch of the Mercer clan, and was the 6th great-grandson of Ewen Cromwell. The whole group enjoyed Shiloh's company, except Nels and his friend Jonathan, an occasional member of this poor man's Rat Pack. Jonathan Sebastian III was a wealthy German-descended heir who was a major investor in the Lucifer Club. Jonathan was often referred to as the “sixth wheel” by the employees. Javier actually was himself a tight member of Nels' crew, though unlike Nels and sebastian he was fair to everyone.

There was a final key player in the “Christensen Quintet” as they became dubbed due to an off-hand remark by Ulysses Reale's bass player, a real cut-up called Ondine Jackson. Jackson's epithet was hardly appreciated by Nels, but it stuck. Nels had recently invested a great sum of money in film production and distribution, and wanted foreign films as well as cheapo American flicks on his slate. Nels befriended an Italian producer whose young nephew, Luca Stenoretti (b. 1923), was honing his craft as a cinematographer. Nels flew to Italy to see Luca's latest work on a film called The Sirens of Pallas, a period adventure film with mythological elements (this at that time had not yet coalesced into the genre we now know as peplum, or “sword and sandal” flicks). This was the first film Stenoretti directed himself (and shot as well).

Stenoretti wielded a secret which kept Javier installed as as the “fifth banana” in the Christensen Quintet. Luca's mother, Isabella Clerici, was Javier's daughter; hence Biazel's granddaughter. Luca admired his charismatic grandfather and knew he was a practitioner of “black magic” (though Javier always told him it was “grey magick”), and was amazed that Javier looked younger than he himself. Javier agreed that he and his grandson would not go public with their relations. But Luca resolved that his films as a director would always be suffused with horror or the occult, even in his lower key thrillers and westerns. Later, Luca's half-brother Blasco Clerici, would work on Luca's films and also join Biazel's order (which Luca refused to do, as did Javier).

III. “The Others”

The second group of regulars that helped define the club, and caused some controversy in the media, was all African-American and were a tight bunch. Playfully called “The Others” (referring to being seen as on a lower tier as Christensen's cohorts and also distinguishing this group from the Ulysses Reale 6), their main man was definitely Ulysses P. Reale, trumpeter - a proud, strong black man who refused to be cowed into submission by the likes of Christensen or Sebastian. His wife was Emmaretta Swope, who often sang with Reale's group or with a small orchestra. Reale himself did no drugs, though he drank, but some of his pals in and out of his group were users and/ or dealers. His alto sax player, the virtuoso James Colburne, was a heroin addict, as was Ulysses' childhood friend Paul Cutler, a quiet, kind gentleman with a roaring habit who also dealt when he could.

Reale and Cutler were joined by three other perennials: the aforementioned Ondine Jackson; Octavius Flay, a pimp who'd grown up with the rest but refused to drop out of the macking business; and young Junius G. Hand, who was on the waitstaff in the club's kitchen. Sebastian especially hated that such a menial would come and hang out in the club when his shift was over. Shiloh Mercer would gravitate to the “Others”' table regularly, unlike Colburne, who was into his own thing, and that amounted to: his alto and heroin. And he romanced both harder and more often than any woman who came his way, though he did end up getting married in the 1960s.

IV. Erszebet

Junius Hand looked up to Flay's pimping success and loved Ondine's quick wit. He imagined a life dazzling folks with his talents in both areas. He even had a name for a whole new persona to do just that: Black Torpedo Ray, after an aquatic creature he saw in one of his father's books. Junius had a serious, very forbidden crush on the club's main dancer and arguably greatest attraction: Erszebet Singer (born 1930). She was gorgeous and seemingly unattainable. She was quiet, but when she did speak, she lit up with a thick South Carolina accent that made her hard to follow in conversation. She was a burlesque star of some acclaim, and Javier had cultivated her to the delight of the club's investors, who he easily paid off within a year of opening. Then only Urias had any stake in the club besides Javier.

Erszebet was not the only popular dancer that plied her trade there. Felicia McGee, formerly the mystery woman known as Crimson Velvet, made many a guest appearance; her lifestyle, however, was ruining her good looks. Arronaxe LaRue was a popular performer. “Her claim to fame was her frame”, the saying went. She was not lithe and athletic like Erszebet; she had enormous breasts and extremely wide hips, and tantalized the crowd with both. Geneva was also a shapely and popular dancer but she was black and was forbidden from performing regularly. She was also Ulysses' sister and Ondine's wife.

Erszebet was a quarter Jewish and was quite devoted to her Bible readings. She found no shame in her work, however, but her brother, Eli, certainly did. Eli Singer was a bit of a proselytizer, which made him rather unwelcome at a place like the Lucifer Club (though the archways of the club's front door portrays a falling angel bearing the epithet: “All are welcome. Harm none”). Erszebet and Henry Colter were actually related. Henry was a half-uncle to Eli (b. 1929) and Erszebet. Thus Henry's and Erszebet's constant flirtation was somewhat incestuous, and angered Junius. Eli, however, would rather his sister be with their uncle than a black man any day. The roots of Henry's and the Singers' families (as well as those of many other noteworthy denizens of Flicker Street and beyond) lie with the Parminters of Gossingham; their family history will chronicled further along in our narratives.

V. The 1953 Affair

During the Christmas holidays in 1953, Javier held a lavish “Yule Bash”. Colburne's alto solo on “Greensleeves” was a scorching highlight of the Ulysses Reale 6's set. The music was really jumping; the alcohol was plentiful, those that needed a fix got one out back, and the girls were on full display in all their pulchritude. Arronaxe almost stole the evening when she doffed her top, but Erszebet continued to reign supreme, dancing with a Santa hat on – and not much else.

As the evening wound to a spastic close, Erszebet went missing. Eli had come to the club to disrupt her “unholy frolicking”, but she was nowhere to be found. Javier asked Eli to leave and Singer swore he'd destroy the “pagan heathen bastard” Javier before he died. While Javier was avoiding a serious problem, another arose. Nels, Henry, Judd, and Luca were extremely intoxicated and wanted a special table dance from Erszebet. They went looking in Javier's office, and found her making love with young Junius G. Hand! Javier came upon the scene.

Did you know about this?” asked Nels. Javier indicated he did. He plead with the four not to tell anyone for fear that Eli would launch a literal lynch mob against Junius. Then Erszebet confessed she was already pregnant with Junius' child. This wasn't the first time they had carried on. Javier hatched a scheme: if her pregnancy was found out, the Christensen Quintet would claim they had a mad consensual orgy with a willing Miss Singer. Erszebet thanked them, and agreed to go along, but worried it would ruin the men, especially Javier and Nels. Nels was furious, but swore to go along with the pact, even though he really thought Junius should be lynched anyway. Not only was he a Negro, thought Christensen, but he was damned annoying with his constant jokiness.

Everyone went about their business, but in a few weeks Erszebet was starting to show. The rumor mills began grinding as she stopped performing and wouldn't allow herself to be photographed. Javier leaked the story to the media himself, though no one knew this save him. As predicted, all was traced to the Yule Bash. Javier admitted to the media there'd been an orgy. The other men all said, “no comment” (as did Luca in Italy; he was actually quite taken with Miss Singer and wished it had been him).

The scandal almost did in Erszebet. “The Baby with Five Fathers” and “Heir to the Christensen Quintet” were some of the labels attached to the unborn child. The baby's complexion (even given Javier's odd skin tone) would give away that it had a black father. Geneva Reale had agreed to deliver the baby (she had studied nursing before resorting to dancing) in secret, and it would be sold to a black family. Geneva knew a couple: the Jamaican Heracles Torrance and his mixed-race wife Tamara Welsh. They could not have children, and little Dane Hand, as Erszebet called him, became their son, Dane Torrance (who we know as an adult aka The Troubleshooter from recent accounts).

The official story was that the child was stillborn. None of the five men save Javier knew what had become of the child. Part of the pact the five men swore was that they would no longer congregate at the Lucifer Club. They did agree to attend a 15 year reunion there if the club still stood in 1968. Javier soldered on through the scandal and finally bought out Urias in 1960. Junius never did learn the truth about what happened; he assumed his child was in fact stillborn. He did become a pimp, following in Octavius Flay's footsteps. He was ambitious though; now known as Black Torpedo Ray, he hoped one day to own the Lucifer Club himself.

VI. The 1968 Affair

The reunion did indeed come to pass. The Yule Bash of 1968 was something to see at the Lucifer Club, still owned by Javier but managed by Black Torpedo Ray. Times had changed. The drugs were more mind-altering, the music more wild and free, the women baring more than ever before (in other words everything). Flicker Street pulsated with the orgiastic energy that flowed in and out of Javier's “pleasure palace”. The Ulysses Real 6 reunited for an amazing set. Colburne and Mercer were solo artists by this time, and each led their bands to the utmost heights of free jazz. Ulysses was still something of a hard bopper, and some of his newer arrangements, mixing R&B and rock influences with his wife's bewitching voice, blew away the teeming throng at the club. Ondine Jackson was back on bass and cracking wise. His wife Geneva, who danced and sang back up to Emmaretta, had blessed him with a son Ondine Jr. in 1945 andOndine Jr.'s wife, Violetta Amadeus, had given birth to their son Amadeus “Amajack” Jackson mere weeks before the bash.

Henry Colter was more straight ahead bop than funk, but he could still mix it up on the drums a bit. Of his family, his wife, Mary Rudisill (b. 1920; a relative of the Palmers of Hallmark) and two sons (Radley Colter, b. 1940 and Milburne b. 1950) attended the party, though it was a bit much for Mary. Young Milburne had a great time. Of the “Others”, Octavius Flay made the party, flanked by a stable of his finest ladies of the evening. Black Torpedo Ray said, “Damn Flay! I may be a mack daddy, but you still the mackest of the macks!!” Most of Flay's offspring made it to the bash: his sons Cornelius, Moxon, and Jaffa; and his daughter Octavia, who was there with her boyfriend Euphrates Straw of the Aggregate (who was also there to keep an eye on Javier). Octavius' daughter Bethel was a devout Christian and she was in church that night. She would eventually marry her pastor, Judah Greene, and have a lovely daughter Scheherazade. All five children of Octavius were from his marriage to Ulysses' sister Rochelle Reale, making the Flays and Reales cousins.

Ondine and Ulysses have been discussed, but one beloved member of their crew from elder days was missing: Paul Cutler, the quiet, kind addict had finally succumbed, leaving behind three beautiful daughters, all of whom attended the bash: Naomi, who brought her 10 year old son Hobard Torino “Hobie T” Reale, to the party but not her estranged husband Godfrey Reale (Ulysses' son); Zandalee, who was at the time dating Hiawatha Hand but had her eye on his half-brother Black Torpedo Ray; and Pauline Cutler aka Cotton Suede, much discussed in these pages.

Black Torpedo Ray hosted the Lucifer Club Burlesque Film Festival. It began with vintage clips of Erszebet and many of her peers; and continued with three shorts specially made for this festival. These were the work of directors Matthias Creed, Cornelius Flay, and Luca Stenorettli, all honored guests at this Yule Bash. Luca and Henry were not the only members of the infamous Christensen Quintet to adorn the party. Javier was present, naturally, as were Judd and even Nels, who'd been living in Europe ever since the scandal broke.

Ray also hosted another special triple event, this one an unadvertised surprise: performances by the “big three” dancers of the fifties, opening with a still comely Geneva, and continuing with the jaw-droppingly buxom Arronaxe, and, finally, at age 38, still stunning and radiating her signature charisma, Erszebet Singer. The assembled throng was bowled over, and Ulysses and the other musicians played some swanky, evocative stripper-appropriate tuneage. Shiloh Mercer in particular soloed madly with no abandon while Miss Singer shook herself gradually into a frenzy.

Two hours later, the Christensen Quintet were plastered and Erszebet was still sailing on her first trip with LSD, as supplied her by Arronaxe. The six adjourned to Javier's office, where Erszebet immediately grabbed Henry in a passionate kiss. They made out while Javier went to confer with Ray and let him know not to disturb them. When he returned, Judd was crying in the corner, Henry was asleep with his pants off, Erszebet was naked and being fondled by Luca, Nels was cursing in the other corner, and Javier found himself curiously and intensely aroused by the whole thing. “Life imitates art!” he screamed as Luca made love with Erszebet on his fold out couch.

After Luca rolled off Erszebet, she called out to Javier, “I want you! I want you want you want you!” Javier was not the kind of man to indulge in what we now call date rape. He was not the kind of man to make love to a woman with anyone else around either. And he thought it so twisted that the story they concocted 15 years ago to save Ray's life had stirred to life, a gargantuan beast of brobdinagian lust.

So he made love with Erszebet. Afterwards he noticed Henry and Luca had dressed and were just outside the doorway. Nels and Judd were nowhere to be found. Erszebet dressed but was still tripping. Javier called for Ray and asked him to get her home; Javier would lock up and get the others out. Ray went out the back with Erszebet. Javier heard Nels call him, “Let me the hell out of here!” Javier ran downstairs, Henry and Luca behind.

Nels told Javier this was it; he was done with the group, the club, and “that slut”. Henry almost struck Nels for his remark. Judd asked if they could just leave. Javier agreed only if they made a new pact, that no one would speak of what happened. “Of course you idiot”, said Nels. “Now for chrissakes, let us out of this infernal place”. Luca lunged forward to deck Nels, but Judd held him back. Then, when Luca was calmer, Judd said, “Okay. Good night. I'm riding with Nels.” Judd was sobbing.

Nels and Judd took off. Outside, Ulysses' son Diggs Reale was pacing in the alleyway. He had been in and out of the club all night, seething mad. He was also a disciple of Octavius Flay and a rather nasty pimp and procurer in his own right but was jealous of Ray's success. He was waiting, waiting for a chance to plant certain items in Ray's car and to pay off his partner in sabotage – Eli Singer. Singer called the police after the club had closed down at 3 am. Only the Christensen Quintet, Erszebet, and Ray were inside then. By the time Nels and Judd roared away, only three of the 'Quintet' remained and they spoke for a moment about what happened, then resolved to lock up, leave, and never see each other again.

And so they each departed, just as police cars came into view. Ray was in his car out back talking to a sobbing and shaken Erszebet. Diggs had hastily split. But Eli Singer was heading back to the club to confront the Quintet. He found the front door locked and began screaming madly. The police drove up and immediately accosted him; then they spread out and covered the alleys and the back, where they found Ray and Erszebet. The cops confronted Ray and asked to check his car. They found a ton of cocaine and some semi-automatic weapons concealed in the trunk.

The police dragged Singer to the back of the club. They thought he was drunk (he was) and they were going to have some fun and rough him up. When Eli looked up, he saw Erszebet being pulled out of the car and Ray resisting arrest. “That ain't my shit you rat-soup-eatin' motherfuckers!” was one memorable curse Ray hurled at the men in blue. He used kung fu (his own peculiar technique) on the cops but their sheer number hemmed him in. Eli grabbed one of the cop's guns and shot his Erszebet, then shot at the cops. They blasted him away, and he lie cold and dead in the snow as the police pushed Black Torpedo Ray into a car and took Erszebet, shot in the arm, to an ER.

The police report was chilling: a pimp resisting arrest, a hooker shot by a wino who had to be killed in self-defense... everything was distorted, but to the racist, sexist police commissioner it was just another day. The mayor called for the club to be closed. Javier realized he needed to lower his profile or face the wrath of someone like his father or Urias. So the club closed while Black Torpedo Ray languished in prison for nearly five long years.

VII. The Prince of Flicker Street

Erszebet recovered quickly from being shot, and grieved her mad brother. She soon found out that she was pregnant again. She resolved to once again give her child up for adoption. It was a daughter, born in September 1969. She named her Celeste but her new parents changed her name. It would be years before this girl would find out her true parentage. Even Erszebet wasn't sure if it was Henry's, Luca's, or Javier's. She was actually going to tell Ray that their son Dane was alive when the cops came upon them. She swore she'd tell him one day.

Javier sold the club to Diggs Reale but soon divined that Diggs and Eli Singer were responsible for what happened that night right after Javier left. He admonished Diggs not to reopen too soon; the authorities would be all over the club all of the time. Diggs shrugged off Javier's advice and proceeded to reopen, making sure to keep all the right wheels greased, so to speak. Diggs was highly prosperous, keeping the “all are welcome” sign and attitude, though in fact, whites were rarely welcome, unless they were dealers or cops on the take.

In late 1973, Junius Gauge Hand was being offered a deal by his prison warden and the FBI
to get him out of prison to help them take down Diggs. In no time, Black Torpedo Ray was back on Flicker Street. He had scores to settle and was not to be trifled with. The first thing he did was have dinner with his daughter Kicia Blessing (b. 1955). Kicia's mother was the exotic Indian belly dancer Acacia Krishnamurti aka Acacia Blessing, who Ray wed briefly from 1954-1958. Acacia was a discovery of Javier's and was popular at the club. Kicia was hanging out in Flicker Street with the bohemian crowd. Ray was proud of her for not being a whore or a druggie. Ray next went to the Lucifer Club, where he confronted Diggs and warned him to sign the club over to him or die. Diggs laughed and accused Ray of tripping on some manner of drug. Ray beat him senseless and forced Diggs to sign the club over to him.

It had come to Javier's attention that Ray was free from prison. Javier went to Hallmark and sought out Ray, who was staying with Ulysses Reale. Javier was glad to see his friends again and together they mapped out a strategy to get the club back on its feet, so to speak, as Diggs had driven it into the proverbial ground and made of it his own personal pleasure palace of pimping and hard drugs. Their efforts were successful, though it took a few years. Ray integrated the club more, and forced the macks and dealers who hung out there to do their business on the streets, not inside the club.

The disco craze of the  late 70s inevitably hit the Lucifer Club like a tsunami, and with it came a shock wave of cocaine fever. Ray started to burn out as the decade waned, and personal troubles involving his children took a toll, so finally, in 1982, he sold the club and retired early, living like a prince, and treating all of Flicker Street as his kingdom.

VIII. Thaumaturgy Revisited...

The man who purchased The Lucifer Club was known as Prester John Grey, and he was well-known all through Flicker Streeet and the larger Hallmark music scene. Prester John was born Vance Orlison Parminter in 1949 in Exodesia, the offspring of Grey Parminter and Basil Dylan Orlison (son of “Doc Vance” and Eve Dylan, daughter of Dr. Basil Dylan, the first major physician in Hallmark), both born 1920. Basil D. Orlison had a sister, Faustine, b. 1922, an occultist who owned the first occult shoppe in the city, even before Malcolm Bradcroft's shoppe, called simply Faustine's. Faustine married the aspiring bookstore magnate TR Bessemer Jr., an African-American entrepreneur. Their children were Eve Bessemer, b. 1953, and Taurean Bessemer III, born 1955, who as an adult merged his business with the smaller Noel chain, though Bessemer-Noel in its entirety was later sold to OrDeR Enterprises.

Faustine and Malcolm Bradcroft merged their interests into one shoppe, and in tandem, willed it to Cary and Ashton (though Ashton was technically not alive to see it). Faustine passed away in 1955 in childbirth. Hence Bradcroft LTD was born. In the years between Cary taking the shoppe and his affair with Katherine Van Juss (1956-1959), he began to fancy Grey Parminter, a formidable witch, whose lover Basil, was slain by the Exodesians in 1953.

Grey Parminter's story goes something like this: Her grandmother was Exodesian High Priestess Phallasma III, who begat a daughter, Selma Cairne, a powerful witch. Selma and her husband John Petty Parminter, the great-grandson of Exodesian Lodin, wished to spearhead a 1939 expedition into Exodesia – well before the Bradcrofts. But they weren't nearly as mentally or spiritually prepared as the Bradcrofts. Their expedition included: Grey, a teen of immense magickal promise; her lover, Basil; Selma and John Petty Parminter; Selma's sisters Ainwe and Anowre and their husbands, the occult book collectors Rainer and Werner Faust, who were brothers. The party was captured and tortured by the Obscuros. Grey offered her life and that of her lover and son if the others could go. Priest Assias was not thrilled, but he capitulated. Selma blessed her child and departed; she also bonded with her mother Phallasma, who favored her granddaughter Grey.

The small family unit stayed but Basil was put to death for heresy in 1953 for studying the Presence Vaikuntha. Grey was afraid for her young son, and they fled Exodesia. Grey had been converted to Hinduism just before Basil's death. The mother and boy had also been delving into the legend of Vaikuntha, as well as his defeat 1000 years earlier by the original Black Cabal (a group that forged a seemingly indestructible sword and amulet). Grey forsook the Exodesians and sought out Vaikuntha. She invoked his worship to gain revenge, realizing Urias would have her dead. Grey took Vance to Gossingham MA, near Hallmark. Faustine, ill at this time, was divesting her share of the curio shoppe to Cary, as noted previously.

Cary Bradcroft welcomed Grey Parminter Orlison with open arms – very open, as they began an affair. However, they always distrusted each other. Young Vance had never felt anything for the emotionally distant Basil, but was drawn to benevolent Cary Bradcroft. Where they parted company was over the mad god Vaikuntha, which Grey was beginning a coven for – a coven infused with a Hindu/ neo-pagan/ scorched earth vibe. Cary's concern was enormous, especially as she had befriended Katherine Van Juss, sorceress and a lover of Cary's on occasion. Cary's daughter Sarah was Katherine Van Juss'' though she was married to the mage Janos Disraeli, which whom Katherine had a son, Griffin (later known as Rory Sabbath).

Janos confronted Grey over Vaikuntha. They fought; Grey was killed. Janos was afraid his delicate balance of power with the Shadow Baron would be ruined. He made it appear that Biazel had done the deed. The bottom line was that Janos slew Grey, for her evil intentions regarding Vaikuntha's imminent manifestation were bearing deadly fruit. As for Vance Parminter, he always believed his mother was slain by her lover Cary Bradcroft. Grey had convinced her son to become a lifelong acolyte of Vaikuntha. Young Vance Parminter ran away when his mother was killed, and the Bradcrofts were never able to locate him, or so Cary wished everyone to think. So he allowed Vance to became the homeless street urchin who began hanging out in Flicker Street in 1966. Cary kept tabs on Vance until Vance developed a 3rd eye, which grew in 1972 and blocked all psi “transmissions” Cary'd been tapping into astrally via Vance's mind.

IX. The Third Eye... Opened

Vance Parminter first emerged in the Flicker St scene in 1966 at age 17. His 3rd eye hadn't opened yet. In 1968, he met Althea Westin (whom he immediately fell for) and her fiance, Rankin Hogarth, who she was pregnant by. She had the child in 1968 and named him Franklin Westin Hogarth II after Rankin's congressman dad, who attempted to destroy his son and Althea's lives. The couple fought violently over his dad and their son, leading to Rankin fleeing with his son and forming a commune with James Diablos and others in 1969. After the couple's divorce Althea took in the couple's son, whom his dad had renamed Wesley Francis Garth, whose nickname was “Scrapper”. With Vance's role unknown to Rankin, Hogarth was soon reinvented as Desi Decadence, a 'shock rock' superstar. Rankin was pushed to the extreme in a chaotic spell that ruptured his persona. This was Vance's first real working, so perhaps his sloppiness can be forgiven. But he did it for love and, after all, made Rankin a rock star (which Vance differentiated from being a musician).

Rankin/ Desi and Vance lost touch, to Vance's relief. Vance pursued Althea and at last consummated their attraction (Vance was 23, Althea 19). They wed soon after, and had a child, Anjou Faustine Parminter (b. 1972). Vance busked, playing acoustic blues, and wrote and sang poems of a Lovecraftian bent. Althea waited tables and Wes, Anjou, and their parents eked out a meager existence. Musically, Vance was offered to jam in 1969 with Opal Masque, the German progrock band led by Glu Volker and Hercule Fogg. Volker had heard a crude demo recorded a year earlier and dug Vance's concepts. They recorded their premiere album, La-Bas (Down There) in early 1970; Parminter was 21. He then adopted his famous cowl and white mask, covering his 3rd eye, which emerged when he turned 23. Anaximander-Zayan played bass on this first album.

Vance was especially curious about his Exodesian heritage. After an ill-fated pilgrimage to Exodesia and rejection by the Obscuros, he assumed the Parminter forenames, but rejected the family name, becoming “John Grey”. As he studied the occult he added an exalted title in some would say a blasphemous context and became Prester John Grey (Presbyter Johannes being a legendary figure of early Christendom). He draped himself in occult imagery but seemingly venerated the cross and crucifixes. As noted, he was famed for wearing a large black cowl and a chalk white faux porcelain mask evocative of the Phantom of the Opera (concealing his 3rd eye), framed by extremely long dreadlocked hair. He was known for playing the guitar with small daggers and cross-shaped plectrums.

In 1971, Volker, Fogg, and Prester John recorded Weltanschauung and toured tirelessly with a lineup consisting of PJG, Anaximander, Glu, Fogg, and synth/ vox/ sax man Jorg Jungen Reinl. In 1972, they added female vox/ keys with Anke Mueller and switched bass to Brit Hasty Greenhalgh. Also in 1972, Prester John's daughter Anjou Faustine Parminter was born. The constant touring and occult obsessions were rending PJG's marriage. In 1974, Anke died (allegedly an occult sacrifice) and Reinl decamped, leaving 1975's final Opal Masque album, called Torn from Me Mother Whore, for years to feature PJG, Hasty, Glu, and Fogg.

In 1973, PJG and Althea separated, and in 1975, divorced. Grey even wrote the lyrics and music to the chilling lament of their marriage, the title track on Torn from Me Mother Whore. In 1975, PJG finally recorded his scary acoustic album In Nomine Anti-Christ. Althea raised her two children alone back in the Mt. Mosaic area.

From 1976 -1979 PJG was a key member of bassist Grady Voorman's psyche-funk project Cold Meat, also featuring Gilligan Dubecker on drums, Reinl on alto and tenor sax, and Gibson Dubecker on piano and synth. Sadly, Cold Meat coincided with the termination of the marriage between Althea and John. PJG was to spend the next decade plus working alongside Desi Decadence once more.

X. Lucifer Rises Again (1979-1982)

There was an extra-musical, clandestine reason PJG sought out the ex-Rankin Hogarth. Desi was essentially PJG's creation. Part of his persona, from his debut as Prester John Grey onwards, was as a follower of Bradcroftian occultism. He became an authority on the various orders and factions abroad in the world of ritual magick. He realized that the Bradcrofts were against Vaikuntha (who his mother was an adherent to). Grey had sworn a vow to his mother to become a vessel for Vaikuntha, and none would deter him. When Vaikuntha returned to this plane, PJG became a secret worshipper, and actively sought out Vaikuntha's avatars, beginning in 1979.

In 1982, the idea of the Lucifer Club strongly appealed to Prester John Grey, so he re-opened it as a rock club, heavy on the metal, brutal with the punk, all subtlety be damned. He cultivated a strong image in the scene and was revered by clubgoers and record mavens alike for his work with Desi, Cold Meat, Opal Masque, and solo. No one could predict in 1982 that Grey's finest years as a musician – and most devious years as an occultist – were yet to come.

Originally this article was to contain a more comprehensive genealogical look at the Parminter clan of Gossingham, but that fell just beyond the purview of this piece. Look for more info on this remarkable family in future accounts.

Welcome to Flicker Street!

Henry Covert
October 16, 2015

Flicker Street, all characters, images, and story elements are Copyright (c) 2015 George Henry Smathers Jr.