From The Files of Purdyville’s
(Investigator at Large)
The Case of Writer Rundy
Every man needs a rest from his labors, and I was planning mine.
The episode with Crazy Ivan was one I wished I could soon forget. The hairy mass of Ape-Man Teman still haunts my nightmares. In a few words–I needed a break. I was spent. Shell-shocked. I was planning a few very long weeks in the Florida Keys, a place where all people are beautiful, where sanity is assumed, and where normalcy is . . . well, normal.
Then Boss-man’s secretary came into my office. "The Chief wants to see you," she drawled. When I made like I was going to run to Florida rather than face another episode of being hog-tied by the natives of Purdyville she let slip that this job looked good. "Could be a jewel in the crown of someone’s investigatory career," she said, and then disappeared.
Well. That put me in a fine spot. It was my job to be curious, and if I left on my vacation right then a huge cloud of curiosity would have hung over my entire vacation. There is nothing like a cloud of ever present curiousity to ruin a good vacation. And I’m always looking for another jewel for my crown of achievements. Actually, I’m still looking for my first jewel. The best I’ve done so far is a few pieces of glass embedded in my scalp when a thug down in the Capitol tossed me through a storefront window.
So of course I went to see the Boss-man. When I stepped into his office he was rubbing his fat hands together and looking quite gleeful. At the time I wasn’t sure if that was a good sign or not. In retrospect, I think anything Boss-man does is a bad sign.
"What kind of job do you have?" I said.
"Muck-raking." Boss-man showed a smile of many teeth. "An exposÃ©. A celebrity story."
"Really?" Against my better judgement I edged closer to the desk. I thought I had left my muckraking days behind me when I left D.C. I don’t remember with fondness the long hours spent stalking Senators and governmental aides in search of a killer story. But this sounded a little different. It had the hints of a star hunt, a chance to go to Hollywood or NYC. It sounded like the chance to mix with glamorous people. A chance to get my face on every tabloid when I turned in the next big story, earn millions for the trash, and then retire to warmer climes.
So I licked my lips and said, "You have a plane ticket booked to take me to NYC?"
"You’re not going there," Boss-man said. "I’m sending you in the direction of Purdyville. My sources tell me Writer Rundy is hiding out in that area."
"What am I looking for, the next Doctor Seuss?" At the mention of Purdyville my heart had dropped to the bottom of my very worn shoes.
"No," Boss-man said, missing my great literary allusion. "I’ve a tip-off that this fellow is working on the next great American novel. I want you to break this story. Go in and get the scoop on Writer Rundy. Find out what he is doing, and what he is about."
I thought about asking Boss-man what his great sources were, but he is touchy about that, so I said nothing. I tried to comfort myself with the thought that if Hemingway could live in Cuba, the next great American writer could live in Purdyville. Armed with that strange and not altogether comforting thought, I started on my way.
During the long journey out to the further fringes of humanity and civilization, I had plenty of time to think about the task ahead of me. The most dreadful images kept popping into my mind as I walked amongst the overhanging trees. The only way I managed to continue on was by convincing myself that a writer couldn’t be half as bad as an Ape-Man and that if this Writer Rundy lived so far from civilization, he was probably a timid and very mild man.
The natives were very excited to see me. Apparently they seemed to think my appearance always heralded much excitement. However, when I showed them the papers Boss-man had given me, I realized my task would be more difficult than I had anticipated. The natives were a curious bunch, but in the end quite savage, and equally illiterate.
To communicate my mission I was reduced to syllabic grunting and wild gestures. Though awkward at first, I managed to convey what I was searching for. The natives seemed surprised to learn that I was searching for Writer Rundy, but, after holding a whispered consultation, they agreed to take me to the Writer’s lair.
Little did I realize how literally they meant the description. We took a short walk to the bottom of a steep hill. At the top there was a forbiddingly dark cave toward which the natives pointed.
They explained that Writer Rundy didn’t much care for strangers and kept himself secluded away for long hours. They said he was very strange but generally harmless, so long as I brought no writing for him to critique.
I was not comforted by their description of Writer Rundy as strange. I was even more concerned when the natives declined to come along.
With great trepidation I began my ascent. The eyes of the natives followed me up the uneven trail. The signs along the way made my throat dry with fear. Grim warnings marked the way, and strange and disturbing sounds came from the dark entrance of the cave.
When it came time for me to enter the black abyss, I was beginning to think the pay of an investigator at large was nowhere near enough for the risking of life and limb. The sounds which drifted up through the darkness chilled me to the bone. What giggling, mumbling, insane creature waited
for me below?
Alas, but the only thing worse than a terrible fright ahead in the darkness is the inability to rest before knowing the full extent of the awaiting horror. Trembling, and regretting my curiosity, I advanced ever downward. I already regretted not taking my vacation when I had a chance.
When I saw a dim light ahead I switched off my flashlight and continued on with caution. It was dark, dank, and chill. What did I see, when I peered around the final corner? The writer at work in his den.
Before I could fully comprehend what my eyes beheld, a strange and frightening fit took hold of my subject. There was much jumping, shouting, arm waving, and dancing about. I didn’t stay around for any more.
With horrible shouts and screams following behind me I raced for safety, and the open world. I was sure I would be overtaken and killed, but then I burst free into the light of day.
Plunging from the cave, I tumbled down the hill and landed in a heap at the feet of the surprised natives. When I told them of the horror of my meeting, they laughed and said that Rundy simply talked to himself, and I should pay it all no mind. What I had beheld was a little more than talking. When I expressed skepticism they said I could bring fresh bread to the writer as an appeasement, since he had a particular weakness for the food.
This idea suited my fancy much more. From my days of working in Washington D.C. I knew how effective bribes were. Armed with my offering, I returned to the den.
The second meeting went much better than the first. The writer gladly accepted my bread and allowed me to sit at his stone table and ask him a few questions. At this point it became immediately clear that Writer Rundy was indeed strange. The conversation started out with Rundy picking his nose and telling me about all the past foods he had eaten, and what they tasted like. Even stranger, every meal seemed to consist of flavor variations on the primary colors.
Afterward we moved on to questions about the writer’s great work. This turned out to be a calamitous mistake. Writer Rundy certainly thinks his work is the next great American novel of violence and gravity. In his hairy head the writing is an unmatched gem, but as he talked on and on about the theory and practice of pen marks I felt my eye-lids grow heavy.
I was rescued from my stupor when he reluctantly agreed to show me some of his great epic. I had to admit that his work was very long, but beyond that I was rather speechless. His English might have been pig English. And it might not have been English at all. I couldn’t discern if Writer Rundy followed any standards of spelling or grammar, much less anything else. In the end, I couldn’t even determine which end of the paper was up. However, I nodded gravely, and took what notes I could.
It took a second loaf of fresh bread to keep Writer Rundy from continuing to talk about his writing. At that point my mission was nearly completed, so I used my hidden camera to take a secret picture of the reclusive writer.
Then I was on my way, glad to still have my sanity. I fear that the images of blood and slaughter, mixed with food that tasted blue, will now haunt me to my grave. But, at least, I have a true appreciation for what writing horrors the public has been spared.
But now the case has come to its end. What a poor end it was. I didn’t have the next great American writer on my hands. I didn’t have a Tom Clancy or even a Steven King. All I had was a fellow who looked like Conan the Barbarian and who wrote even worse.
If you see him, you know what to do.