November 27, 1973 – A Duke by any other name something something revenge

I’m working on a new song.  I wish I could find a guitar so I could really get into the nitty-gritty of it, but I’ve got some good ideas in my head at least.  It’s a song about who we are on the inside.  About how, for a bunch of reasons, we’re perceived very differently from who we are.  Some people try really hard to make people think that, but even the people that don’t are thought to be something they’re not.  It’s not a new or revolutionary idea but that’s why music is the truest and greatest form of art.  

Want proof?  There are a million songs about getting your heart broken, and there needs to be a million songs about getting your heart broken because each one speaks to people in different ways.  With music, the same basic message in a different package really is something different because it hits people in a different way.  You can’t achieve that with any other medium.  

If you’re into mountain climbing, you may read a bunch of books about climbing Everest but one is all you need to get the message.  The other ones are just entertainment.  With literature, the same story is the same story.  Maybe one writer is better than the other or there’s one perspective that you identify with more, but you don’t need more books about the same thing like you do with songs.  

Paintings and sculptures and drawings and things like that can evoke feelings and ideas but it’s open to interpretation.  Maybe the artist intended those three red lines to signify the sunrise but you see what you see.  When I look at ‘The Poetess’ by Joan Miro, I have a strong reaction, but it’s one that I can’t really explain.  When I hear Etta James singing about how she’d rather go blind than see her man walking away from her, I know exactly what she’s talking about.  

The point is while that song speaks to me, maybe someone else really feels it when Janis Joplin is telling them about someone taking a piece of her heart.  And maybe another body feels it when Otis Rush is telling them.  They’re all singing about the same thing, getting hurt by love, but we need all those different ways to say it because everyone is different.  Music speaks to the soul in a way that other art doesn’t.  Sorry other kinds artist, but as a singer I’m better than you.   At least you’re still better than horrible non-creative types.

Fred (editor’s note, she means Frank) told me that Duke Eaglevane is in a prison in German East Africa.  When I suggested that the world’s most wanted man being captured and put in jail was something that would have been in the papers, he said that they don’t know that’s who they have.  According to Fred, a few months ago the Pecos military launched a missile attack at a guerilla camp in southern Mexico under the impression that in residence at the time was an international criminal by the name of Miro Viga, wanted in connection with several violent uprisings in South America.  Miro, who either wasn’t there or survived the attack, in retaliation, tried to enter the Pecos Republic intent on blowing up several government buildings.  There was a battle at the border in which six men were killed and thirty more wounded before Miro was taken into custody by one of the only PR NBH operatives, Justice Ranger – which is a terrible name.

Fred claims that Miro Viga is none other than Duke Eaglevane.  As Fred tells it, the good Duke has many different personas that have been constructed and maintained with such detail as to be practically different people – hence why the Pecos authorities don’t know who they really have.  He said that this is at least the third time the Duke has been captured without the authorities knowing who they really have.  Seems pretty far-fetched to me.  I asked Fred if this was so super-duper secret how did he know about it, and he said that he was part of an “op” that broke the Miro Viga identity back when he was still in the good graces of the US spymasters.  

“If this is true, why didn’t your government tell the Texans who they had?”

He half-shrugged “I don’t know, I’m not in the loop anymore.  Maybe they did and the Pecos authorities didn’t believe it.  Or maybe they like having one of the Dukes identities that no one else knows about.  There are a lot of angles they could be playing.”

I glanced at Martialla “So all we need to do is get to German Africa once we wrap up this other thing.”

Fred looked somber “Get there quickly is my advice. As I said, this has happened before – the Duke’s minions always break him out in a couple of months.  That’s the whole point of these supplementary personas, if they knew who they had, Duke Eaglevane would be in some black site where you’d never find him.  Actually, he’d never be taken into custody in the first place, if they had him in their sights they’d kill him.  But Miro is just an ordinary terrorist wanted by fifteen world governments, so he’s merely in a normal maximum security facility.   If you want to kill him, this is the best chance you’re going to get.”

“Do you know any of his other identities?”

“I did, but it doesn’t matter, the Duke knows those ones are burned.  Miro Viga is the only one that’s still active that I know about.”

While I was thinking, Martialla gave me a look “I think you’re overlooking an obvious course of action, Ela.  Half the world wants the Duke dead.  The safe bet is to give this information to someone who has the juice to make sure he goes down.”

I shook my head slowly “No.  It has to be me.  He has to know I’m the one that got him.”  

Martialla frowned “But he doesn’t even know who you are.”

“He will.  For a few seconds.”

October 22, 1973 – Eat, Prey, Blood

We were presented with no bill at Le Petit Point d’Arret Parlant.  I don’t know if that’s because we’re ostensibly friends of Elvis or they thought we were robbing the place or what.  If it’s the first thing, they definitely took a loss on that transaction because I ate and drank the equivalent of roughly seventy to a hundred hours of dishwashing.   

I’ll give Elvis this, for a man under a death sentence from a violent mystical crime syndicate, he knows how to have a good time.  After he got off work we headed to a bar on the beach – not a shitty beach near the docks but not a crowded beach in touristville either.  It was nice and secluded, probably because it was one of those clothing optional deals.  I say this, Madripoor may be one of the ugliest places on earth but there are some beautiful people here.  I’m starting to get too pale.  I should be sure to find some time to lay out in-between being attacked by psychotic assassins and robbing casinos – keep a good base tan going.  You never know when you’ll be called upon to disrobe, best to stay in fighting shape.

That wasn’t Elvis’s surprise though.  We drank something that tasted like rum punch (but it’s probably something weird made out of tree sap and octopus ink) for maybe an hour at the beach and then we headed back into town.  Elvis took us to a place right outside of touristville tucked away in a Vietnamese neighborhood where they had this contraption that was something like an 8-track playback deck that people were singing along with.  I had a vocal coach once who had something like that, but this was more intricate.  You put a coin in the machine and selected one of the songs and then music would play for you to sing over.

There was also a band there that would play songs live as accompaniment instead if you preferred.  All it cost was one of the bills with a crab on it – or maybe a sailboat, abstract art you know.  As a professional singer, usually it grates on me when people try to sing that can’t, but everyone was hammered which made it much more tolerable.  Without the shame of sober inhibitions, at least people go for it you know, even if they can’t sing a lick – which most of them can’t.   

Show Me the Way to Go Home isn’t the kind of song I would normally sing, but they had a limited selection of western songs.  Curiously the band knew the entire soundtrack to Superfly, which rocked.  For the first time in a long time, since I got here probably, all my cares melted away.  I love singing.  And I’m very good at it.  For a few minutes at a time, I felt totally free.  Sure, my voice sounded like crap because I’ve been smoking too much and not taking care of myself like I did back home, but it was still great.  There were maybe forty people in there but I felt like I was performing at a stadium show in front of thousands in attendance and millions watching around the world.  It was wonderful. 

Martialla, Blue, and LBK are all actually decent singers.  Maybe that can be our gimmick as a super team. 

But that wasn’t the surprise either!  After singing our little hearts out (and more drinking), we walked a long way uphill (enough that I started to get crabby about it, I don’t get tired but my calves still get sore) to one of the second story house/apartment things they have around here, where I was greeted by the scent of something wonderful.  We walked up to an open kitchen (it was some kind of diner/food stand) where a woman who looked more like a Russian tsarina than a chef was cooking up a storm.  I saw she had just taken something out to cool – a pizza! 

I mean sure, if you want to be a jerk it was more of a flatbread than a real pizza – the sauce was on top of the cheese for instance – but I didn’t care, it was fucking pizza!  The sauce wasn’t quite right, it was more of an olive oil and diced tomato slurry, but again, I didn’t care.  It was fantastic.  I was drooling like a dog while I was eating it.  I managed to keep it together, but honestly the moment it hit my mouth, I was flooded with memories of home.  Artista Pizza Kitchen in New Orleans, hanging at The Piccadilly at Manhattan after a show, getting shitty carry-out pizza that tastes like cardboard on the road, it all came roaring into my mind.  Home.  I didn’t cry though.   

Afanasiya Andzhighatova, the cook, said that she wasn’t Russian but she and Martialla were chatting in what sure sounded like Russian to me.  Her take on pizza may have been deliciously off the mark, but she was spot-on with her bibollita, polenta, and ossobuco alla milanese.  When I asked her about it, she said that “one of” her husbands had been half Italian and he taught her a few things.  She had never heard of pizza before though.  Is that not really from Italy?  Have I been misled again? 

The wine she was serving was garbage but you can’t have everything.  I tried not to make a pig of myself, not sure I succeeded, but it was clear based on the seemingly endless food coming out that Elvis had given her the heads up about my “condition”.  Or he told her that she was catering an event for forty people.  That Elvis is a crafty jackrabbit, he wasn’t even expecting to see me that day so how did he get this set-up so quickly?  Truly Elvis works in mysterious ways. 

“Ela, didn’t you just eat approximately eight pounds of spicy noodles six hours before?” 

Shut up.  I have the paperwork (well I did but I lost it) from those science nerds saying that I need two hundred thousand calories a day to function properly.  So go take a leap.  For the first time in months I felt FULL.  It was like I could feel my body coming back to life – energy pouring into my limbs.  I felt like I could tear the peak off a mountain.  I felt like I could take on the whole world all by myself.   

I thanked Elvis profusely, it was easily the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me.  I mean ever.  In my whole life.  He did his best to deflect everything I was throwing his way – the attention made him slightly embarrassed.  I think he’s just a good cat, you know?  In Madripoor!  Who knew?  Martialla made an “under the breath but really I want you to hear” comment about how “princess” gets homesick and everyone drops everything to wait on me hand and foot, but even that didn’t dampen my enthusiasm.  I’ll get her a bucket of fish-heads to chew on later if she’s still feeling sore about it. 

I was feeling so good, I was starting to think that the whole thing about Elvis being killed had been a scam, which is of course when they came for him.