This Present Darkness: Chapter 19

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Oh and we’re back to the Clarion offices. Apparently it is becoming super efficient again, primarily because of that awesome demon possessed girl, Carmen. I am still a little stuck on how she goes from having schizophrenic tendencies to being a dream office worker who whips things into shape. She still has the demons (we can safely assume), so does that mean that if they stop actively bothering her she’s basically awesome? Or, alternatively, does that mean that demons are capable of making you crazy efficient and awesome for a while as they prepare to carry out schemes? Neither of these theories fully seem to fit into the world that Frank Peretti has designed but I’m not sure what else to draw from this. I am going to go with what I find more amusing, which is the idea that there is a demon of efficiency.

I mean, here she is, handing Marshall fresh copy and telling him that she’s broken this article down into multiple headings, figuring they could run it in three parts. Much to Marshall’s delight because it’s wonderful she can read Tom’s handwriting. Do the Clarion staff hand all of their articles in handwritten? I know this is before the age of computers and maybe in their tiny, small town offices word processors weren’t really a thing yet (I am going to fully admit that I don’t really understand what good word processors were or how they fit into history but Google tells me that probably they should have been a thing by now) but surely the typewriter was an accepted tool. Even an expected tool for a journalist, one might think? Sigh. Whatever. Also she’s read other things and has gone through the books and balanced all the accounts and is basically awesome and seriously, see my first paragraph because I’m so confused.

Marshall goes to get coffee and is super excited about it and then realizes that it’s because he can have coffee because Carmen had found the cord to the machine. Presumably with the help of demons. He smiles at her as he goes back to his office. Apparently her only request with the job was to have her desk moved to right outside his office door, which delights him because “all he has to do is turn and holler, and she would spring into action to do his bidding.” Because Marshall is gross. But also I think it’s supposed to be like ominous she wants to be outside his door and will probably end up bad. But really isn’t it logical for the office manager to be right outside the door of her super needy paper editor?

Marshall comes back in and here are Bernice and Kevin Weed. Kevin is, as usual, looking very much the worse for wear. I think we’re just supposed to assume that he is either on a bender or coming off of one 100% of the time. Marshall is trying to figure out what he’s telling them and so far he’s figured out that Kevin used to be the… he phrases it as the “male acquaintance” of Susan, which is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard, as that it’s not at all the same as boyfriend and makes her sound a little like a call girl or something. Also that Susan was Pat’s roommate. All of which he should have already known from Bernice. So they’re making great progress. As usual, Marshall demonstrating his superior interview skills.

He wants to know why Susan was at the carnival and Kevin says he has no idea but she popped up behind him and he was totally confused because it’s always pretty weird to run into your ex and she got his phone number and now she called. She was scared and it was “wild.” They have managed to tie together that this is the “ghostly looking woman” that Bernice photographed at the carnival, which is a little… I don’t know. Like I feel like they’re doing this weird thing where they’re trying to make her sound both incredibly beautiful and also very creepy looking and it’s coming across weird.

So Bernice mentions there was an older man with her and Kevin says yes, that was Kaseph. Neither of them observe that that is a weird-ass name, which I think is weird because I feel like that is the first thing you think. At the very least I would be asking if that was a first or a last name because I don’t feel like it’s intuitive. Actually I am… not sure if it is a first name or a last name, now that I’m thinking about it.

Oh wait, they’re going to tell us! Last name, apparently. His first name is probably Alexander, it at least starts with an A. Kevin (they keep calling him Weed, but I think that is stupid and gross so I’m going to call him by his actual name) is like yeah, she dumped me for him, sad me, I have no idea what he does but he’s a “real wheeler-dealer.” Apparently he first heard about him when they were at college and he wanted to buy a bunch of property. He sort-of casually mentions that Susan said he was trying to take over the town.

Their response to that is “What town? This one?” which I feel like is maybe supposed to be them (I am honestly not sure who asked the question because it doesn’t say) being freaked out? But to me I feel like it makes more sense as like “why would anyone try to take over this very small town where the paper comes out once a week?” Follow-up question: Who the hell “takes over towns” exactly? Are we living in a feudal society? They don’t ask any of that, of course.

Bernice asks where he’s from and Kevin says he might be from New York, that he is pretty sure he’s a “big city type.” Can I just say that I feel like Susan seriously overestimated the amount of information that Kevin would have to give to these people? I mean, she made it sound like he would have some idea of what he was up to or doing, of like details about him in some capacity but instead he’s fumbling around guessing he might have been from New York and pointing out the fact that he has money, most of which I imagine they could have gathered from a basic fact check once they had his name. Marshall tells Bernice to make a note for him for him to call Al Lemley at Times because if this guy is New York he should know who he is. Why can’t you make a note, Marshall? Is the pencil too doggone heavy for your sad hands?

Finally they ask what else he knows about him and Kevin gets all uncomfortable and says he’s into “weird stuff” and in any other book, with everything they’ve already set up, I feel like this is where it segues into him explaining how he has a BDSM kingdom that he runs but of course he just starts talking about his eastern beliefs which he equates with him being a “witch doctor or a guru or some kind of far-out ooga-booga man.” He apparently got Susan into all that too. It’s like a drug, you know. Once you start meditating, it’s all downhill from there. Oh, and also he and Langstrat were super tight, obviously. They “taught some night classes together.”

The fact that Peretti does not recognize how incredibly pervy all this sounds is semi-hilarious and also baffling. Anyway, so apparently Susan was a star student. Kaseph was like a guest teacher or something, so it’s super appropriate that he took a student as his creepy sex slave but I guess that’s probably the least of his concerns. Kevin would like to express that after going to these classes, Susan became totally insane, in fact she “couldn’t have been on a higher trip with mescaline.” Also he was very upset because he couldn’t talk to her anymore and they were all keeping secrets and he wasn’t part of the super special club and Susan kept telling him he wasn’t enlightened enough. Which, to be fair, dick move, Susan. No one wants to be told they’re not enlightened enough.

Apparently Kaseph was like the big man on campus and Langstrat was his “puppy dog” so that’s probably important, I guess. I can’t imagine why it actually matters but he thinks it does. Oh yeah, Bernice, also Susan totally wanted you to know that she would love to contact you and tell you important information about your dead sister but no I have no idea what, so sorry about opening up those painful wounds for you. And she thinks your phone is bugged. Marshall and Bernice do not know how seriously to take that, which is also hilarious to me since they seem to be battling supervillains of a cartoonish variety and I feel like it would be shocking if their phone was not bugged.

Kevin struggles extremely hard to remember what Pat’s relationship with Susan was (seriously, the way they describe him is just kind-of mean and gross, “one of Weed’s most painful undertakings was trying to remember things” etc. Is he supposed to be a drug addict? Is this just what happens to people in the evil world? I don’t know but I don’t like it). Apparently they were good friends for a long time but you know, it became quite difficult to be friends with Susan once she only wanted to talk about enlightenment and how much everyone else sucked. Apparently Pat actively got in the way somehow, Susan would talk about how she was a problem. They had a huge fight once about how she was brainwashed. Poor Pat. It’s so hard not to tell a brainwashed person they’re brainwashed, even when it’s totally not helpful. And it sucks to lose your friend.

Apparently Pat actually went to see Langstrat a few times and once Kevin saw her on campus and she looked like she hadn’t slept in forever and would barely talk to him. He asked how the investigation was going and she said she’d quit all that and it didn’t matter anymore. Also that apparently she had an instructor or something who was “helping” her and she just kept not wanting to talk so he left her alone. He tells Bernice that no, she did not seem like herself, that if she hadn’t hated all of them so much he would have said she had been brainwashed too, she had the same look as the rest. Also this all happened a little bit before they found her all dead.

Oh, and also (it’s like a Pretty Little Liars episode; remember what else happened on the night of Ali’s murder??) he saw her one more time before she died and he tried to ask about Susan and she started screaming at him like he was mugging her and then she saw it was him and was looking all paranoid like she was being followed. She did say a name, a Thomas. No last name. Acted like he owned her, was following her around a threatening her. She was very schizophrenic about him, “one minute she’d be talking like he was the greatest thing that ever happened to her, and then the next minute she’d be hiding out and saying he was following her.”

I actually feel like Kevin remembers a lot of information and maybe they should not be so mean to him.

Incidentally, at this point Bernice rushes off to find a college roster or something, which is the most insane thing I’ve ever heard considering that she was unable to find the name of her sister’s roommate but she thinks maybe she’ll find a random Thomas on record? I… sure, Bernice. You do you.

Kevin is tired because all this remembering is tiring. But Marshall assures him he’s doing fine and he hesitantly says he doesn’t know if something is important but… but some of the Kaseph bunch also had instructors and no, Pat wanted nothing to do with that group but it was true. Apparently he was in school studying accounting and then Pat killed herself and he got out because he “didn’t want to be next” and his life has been “nothing but hell ever since.” He works for a logging crew. Don’t loggers need a few wits about them sometimes? Like for falling trees and stuff?

He gives Marshall his info and says if he can’t get ahold of him there he can probably find him at the tavern in Baker because that is his life.

Bernice comes in with the roster that she just magically pulled out of somewhere and tells Kevin she wants him to go through it with her in the hopes they’ll find the guy’s name. Meanwhile Marshall has an urgent call.

Hey, it’s Ted! Our favorite child molester! Ted is annoyed but because Strachan talked to him he has decided he will give one interview. Marshall has to meet him in the middle of nowhere tomorrow so that will be terrible. I can’t wait for the horrible things he’ll disclose about how he definitely did not rape children.

Bernice did not find any Thomas, first or last name (I… in the whole school? How small of a school is this and what possible odds are there that that could be true?) and also they discuss how maybe their phone is bugged and they should figure that out. They’ve checked New York phone listings and apparently Kaseph doesn’t list himself, amazingly. They need to check real estate offices for all his big purchases. Also, while they’re at it they are finally going to get to the bottom of that big mystery that has been plaguing us all – who bought Joe’s Market. Also Marshall will call his friend at the Times, which Bernice helpfully reminds him of.

And all this time Carmen sits there, working quietly and pretending to have not heard a single thing. They are the worst secret keepers ever.

*****

So still with our favorite reporters. It had been a tight morning but everything is on schedule. Marshall’s pal will look around for our favorite super-villain. Marshall is heading off for his meeting with Harmel. Bernice tried to find out about Joe’s Market (now called Ashton Mercantile) but no one will tell her anything, all the employees knew nothing and could tell her nothing and the manager wasn’t there and eventually the assistant manager told her to please stop bothering his employees, which seems legit.

The realty offices! Bernice is astonished at what people will pay for a house, which is undoubtedly hilarious but he doesn’t tell us what it is so we can’t date the book that way. Bernice asks the front desk lady if they’ve done any business with super-villains lately and the woman would totally love to help but she’s new and doesn’t know and I think it’s a little bizarre that the immediate answer would not be “we can definitely not give out the names of anyone we do business with or even whether we did business with them because that’s how business works.” Have standards gotten that much better in 30 years? Bernice asks if she can use their microfiche while the secretary goes and finds out from her boss, Rosemary. Google tells me that a microfiche is a kind of microfilm reader. But I had to look it up. Because… obviously.

She looks around and tries to find the right microfiche to put in and finally thinks she may have found the right one to look at when Rosemary comes marching down the hall and tells her that this is not a thing that she can just look at because she does not work there. No, Rosemary does not know who owns Joe’s Market now and those files have not been updated in a while so they wouldn’t know either. No, she has never heard of a super-villain who goes by the name of Kaseph and none of her people have either because she has a super brain and has memorized all of their accounts. No, they do not have a cross-reference file. Is there anything else that she might possibly need?

Bernice was tired of being nice. “Well, Rosemary, even if there was, I’m sure you would not be able or willing to supply it. I’m leaving now, so breathe easy.”

She left hurriedly, feeling very lied to.

Okay seriously, Bernice. Like… people can’t just give you records just because you show up. That’s not how things work! Maybe you could file a request with your local… courthouse or something to find out who purchased the store? Seriously, how did anyone ever get anything done before the internet? The point is that you cannot just march in and expect information to be handed to you and then be hurt because it was not. Stop being stupid.

Tomorrow – Marshall talks to a child molester! I’m sorry. Accused child molester. Sigh.

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