Becoming the Legend: (A Short Story)
Lemley Lucent was so smart, it was scary. All his teachers had always said so. All his friends. All his relatives. Anybody and everybody who had come into contact with him for more than five minutes.
This was even true given the extraordinary nuclear family of his origin. Headed by Dr. Edison Lucent, a particle physicist. Dr. Fantasia Brightbrain Lucent, a mathematician at NASA, an almost literal, comically paradigmatic rocket scientist. (I should tell you that the original family name had been Brigthbain; but Fantasia's vanity had been such that she legally changed it, inserting the 'r').
Their children had been given names, meant, without any ambiguity, to indicate what was expected of them. Julius (as in Caesar). Marie (As in Curie). Niels (as in Bohr). Sigmund (as in Freud). Margaret (as in Thatcher). And Lemley (as in LEGEND).
Even in the pressure cooker of such a gifted family, Lemley stood out for the sheer range and depth of his mental grasp.
He turned to---no, gravitated toward a life of crime. Not because he was stupid, obviously. Not because he had had no other options, certainly. Not because he came from a bad family---utterly laughable. Not because he had been neglected or unloved. Not because he had been physically, sexually, or emotionally abused---preposterous.
It was precisely his rapidly evolving powers of intellect and brain-encircling growth rings of maturity, that caused him to so quickly outgrow totalities. This meant that he could only sate his ravenous cognition and ego by committing bigger and bigger crimes, leading bigger and bigger criminal organizations that committed them.
Lemley Lucent craved the overwhelming power of domination. Long ago he had known that if he would rule, if he would be king, he needed a queen.
Time and time again he had been certain that he found her. Only to be disappointed, frustrated, and even thwarted by one and all recalcitrant, teasing tart whore. Who had failed to realize destiny and fate. Who had failed to realize that they completed each other. Who had not grasped the fact that the universe had put them together; that they were two halves of the same coin; that they would never, ever, ever be whole without one another (albeit with himself as the acknowledged better, stronger, more intelligent half whose duty it was to raise the SHE to something like his level).
If it had not been destiny, how could he have heard her spirit calling to his? Sitting there in front of the camera? Reading the news with that perfectly rouged mouth? On one level reading what the cue cards say? But on another, making solicitations to him, invitations, offers, promises to him and HIM alone, of ecstasy to come?
Or what about the time he had broken his leg? Laid up in the hospital for two weeks, the nurse had come-hithered him with otherwise uncalled for tenderness. Surely, she had been his missing other half, the Eve to his Adam.
Or the woman who drew caricatures at the carnival? She had drawn him up to look like a god. Its as if she had set up to sketch a jalopy(which was her duty of amusement) but had, quite against her will, drawn an elegant, cream-colored Cadillac. The gods had grabbed her hand, restraining it from the farce it had attempted and made her honor her One, her Love, her awaited, devoted, Lord and Master. When she had finished, she the artist, had looked up at Lemley as if she were in the presence of Buddha, Confucius, Jesus, Superman and Elvis!
Or the woman jogger he watched every morning? She had not known Lemley. Had never seen him before. But... how could he possibly have been wrong about something that felt so right?
But like a body that rejects a transplanted organ, She, too, had tried to slough him off.
How could She so consistently fail to realize that She was nothing without him? Her soul-corporeal kin? Her center?
Didn't She see it, feel it? Hopping around with one arm and one leg and one functioning side of her body? Missing her right leg, right arm, and right side of her body?
Well, as the body rejected the gift, so too did the gift reject the necessitous half-body.
Quite violently, it is regrettable to say...
Finally, when Lemley Lucent had reached a suitably imposing level of power and eminence, he had been able to pay for and procure professional assistance. Expert assistance. Of the rogue scientist, fallen CIA variety.
It is not clear how Lemley had become aware of her. But this time---and the last time as it turned out---he found his Soul Mate in a cult, headed by a Ms. Ambrosia Ecstasy. That is what she legally called herself. Eliza was the girl's name: a thin girl, seemingly wasting away, with a shaved head. Sometimes she was with one, two, or three other girls banging a tambourine and singing, after a fashion, in public for token.
Other times she worked alone or with one or two other selling medicinal crystals, organic herbs, and special, spirit-infused vitamins and minerals. She went door-to-door, more often than not, getting it slammed in her face. Sometimes she peddled "homemade" cookies, cakes, and pies with "special, secret, spirit-healing" ingredients.
Other times, alone or with her partners, she stood at street corners, actually proselytizing, trying to push "educational" literature on passersby.
One day Lemley had been one of those passersby. Immediately smitten, took her literature and listened politely to the line programmed into her by Ambrosia Ecstasy's cult. He resolved to take her away from all this and make her his queen.
At first, representatives of the cult---strangely lucid ones, lawyers---came to take her back. They made demands, threats of criminal prosecution for kidnapping, assault, and anything else they could convince the district attorney of. Who did he think he was? they demanded of Lemley Lucent.
Did he know who he was messing with? they asked.
No, Lemley did not. Would they please enlighten him?
At that, they got their backs up, huffed and puffed, and threatened to blow his house down. Did they realize what they could do to him?
They hadn't quite answered the question of "Who" they were to Lemley's satisfaction. Lemley had an interest in the girl. He explained that to them.
What "interest" would that be?
He politely told them that it was not really their concern. He merely reiterated that he had an interest in the girl, and that that interest required that she remain with him indefinitely.
Did he think he could go around, doing whatever he wanted, snatching away people at will? They were genuinely incredulous.
Lemley had taken this with the hilarity that was required. Turning the question around on them, he asked if they, themselves, thought they could do what they wanted, snatching people away at will? Because surely, that is precisely what they had done. He added the old pot calling the kettle black saying.
They left in a huff, promising that he hadn't "heard the last of this."
The butler showed them out with Lemley's cheerful thanks for their visit.
Another day they returned with Ambrosia Ecstasy, herself, in tow. She was a formidable sight: a tall woman, thick and rounded everywhere but hard-packed. She wore her hair up, held there with a turbin.
Basically, the conversation from the previous day was repeated. Ms. Ecstasy's presence apparently had the purpose of lending weight to the sense of urgency of the situation. She gave him the evil eye and spoke in a mighty, thunderous voice of a prophetess of the Lord.
This meeting ended with Lemley asking them if they all knew just exactly who he was. He suggested they go back and do their research; they could come back, he said, when they were ready to discuss this situation reasonably.
A couple of months passed by and he hadn't heard from them. Lemley sent some of his people out to collect Ambrosia Ecstasy, who, as it turned out, had gone into hiding. His people located her with ease in spite of her cowering gopher-burrowing.
She had wet herself when Lemley's people had shown up with a car. "Our employer would like a word with you, Ms. Ecstasy," one of them said.
Lemley negotiated a settlement with Ms. Ecstasy. The settlement was money instead of a bullet, for which the cult leader was profoundly grateful.
Why put up a fuss? The cult had already drained the girl's trust fund. Which meant that when you got right down to it, Eliza had long ago, actually turned into a charity case!
It was no matter. Lemley Lucent's new queen would want for nothing.
The necessary first step had been to de-program the poor girl. At the same time, though, Lemley didn't want her to remember her old life. What had there been worth remembering, anyway? Her unfeeling family had washed their hands of her long ago.
With the powerful hallucinatory narcotics and deep hypnosis, Lemley and his people had fashioned new memories for Eliza. A new background. A new past. A new childhood. One undoubtedly happier than the cold and lonely one she had endured, in spite of her family's relative wealth.
The sleeping pills she was given with her dinner made her sleep without disturbance, while maintaining her in a state of suggestion. He would go to her at night, and as she slept, stroking her face, he would continue the work of rewiring of her sense of self.
"Eliza, my dear," he would whisper. He would say things like, "Eliza, my love. You and I have known each other from the time the Earth began. Our love has transcended ages. We have crossed oceans of time, souls intertwined.... When I was Akhenaton, you were Nefertiti. When I was Antony, you were Cleopatra. When I was George Washington, you were Martha. When I was Napoleon, you were Josephine. When I was Richard Burton, you were Elizabeth Taylor. When I was Brad Pitt, you were Angelina Jolie..."
Other times he went there to construct more mundane details of her supposed past life. "You are the only child of Fred and Ethel Jameson. Ethel, your mother was a school teacher and part-time beautician. Fred, your father, owned a string of dry cleaning establishments. They were good, hardworking, God-fearing people, who gave you a comfortable, solidly middle class lifestyle. The American Dream. You were what they lived for. Their life.
"They had you late in their lives, and afterwards, Ethel, your mother, couldn't have anymore children. They gave you everything: horseback riding lessons, tennis, dance lessons. They sent you to elite public schools. You were always a lady. You worked hard and made them proud. You graduated with honors from Vassar, which is where we met, my love...."
By the time her hair had grown back---a red hue the color of crackling flame---and she had recovered from the malnutrition of the starvation diet the cult and imposed upon her, her figure returning to its former voluptuousness, she was completely his.
WIth all that out of the way, his true queen by his side, Lemley Lucent now hand everything he ever wanted. You see, given his extreme brilliance and cojones like those of a bull elephant, Lemley's criminal endeavors had progressed from strength to strength. Not wanting to flame out like poor old Al Capone in Chicago,---who had foolishly refused to hide his money, pay the piper, at least to a point, or even explain what it was that he did for a living and who, as a result of all this had been condemned to squalorize the rest of his days in a prison cell, convicted of tax evasion---Lemley had taken a different path.
Indeed, he behaved much like any self-respecting robber baron of the early twentieth century, in that respect. He had gone from boosting cars to buying luxury automobiles by the fleet. From pickpocketing on the street to running boiler rooms of hackers specializing in electronic identity theft. From burgularizing homes of the affluent to mogulship in real estate development, eventually bringing into personal possession, domeciles (both houses and apartments) on every continent and filling them with precious antiques.
From the highway robbery of trucks to controlling various transport companies---air, sea, and land. From robbing banks and counterfeiting to owning them, which, in a way, gave him a virtual "license to print the stuff." He gave lavishly to charity. He endowed hospital wings, university chairs of philosophy, donated to cancer research, and patronized the arts.
His name was on a presidential short-list for a prized ambassordorship to Switzerland. On paper, he would be a safe appointment. He had no criminal record. His resume was free of so much as a parking ticket.
Ah, Switzerland! Lemley reflected. Some people may have given up on you, but you're still my number one tax haven of choice!
At this moment we find Lemley, by himself, in Amsterdam, in the early evening, at a quaint outdoor cafe, enjoying brandy and expresso and some caramel-orange sponge cake. He was there on business. No, not criminal gangster 'business.' Banking business. An Azerbajanian consortium (with reputed Muslim affiliations) wants to buy out his European holdings.
The deal will mean a torrent of billions flooding his portfolio. War on Terror be damned! Then it happened. An enemy from the old days, Lemley's time on the streets caught up with him. He and the two thugs accompanying him--Lemley's enemy from the old days---took out their Mac-10s, and without hesitation, opened fire at him. The setting had made no difference to them. They reckoned up human life as quite cheap indeed.
The details of what all came next are banal. But the impact of this event was not. Needless to say, they filled Lemley full of holes.
What about dying at a ripe old age? In his sleep? Surrounded by his large extended family? Grandchildren?
Bugger to all that, he thought in this moment of clarity. Better to go out like this, while he was still on top and in his prime. Falling under a hail of bullets like the street gangster he had always been in his heart, in spite of his impeccable breeding.
He was down on the ground, flat on his back, motionless. No more.
Someone extended a hand and helped him to his feet.
Recognizing the man, Lemley said, "Billy the Kid?"
The Kid touched his hat. "You did it, partner."
"Did what?" Lemley said.
"Am I dead?"
"Nah, partner. Legends never die."
Lemley looked down at his Swiss cheesed-up body. "Sure looks like I'm dead."
The Kid laughed. Putting two fingers in his mouth he whistled. Two horses came rumbling up to them.
"Let's ride, partner," The Kid said.
"Off into the sunset, partner. Off into the sunset."
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