Under a Killing Moon
Revision as of 10:36, 6 June 2012 by Trier
Under a Killing Moon is the novelization of the video game of the same name, written by Aaron Conners in 1996
We are introduced to the world of Tex Murphy, a private detective character created for the games Mean Streets, Martian Memorandum and Under a Kiling Moon. The world has been through a Third World War and a radioactive disaster. A percentage of humanity has mutated.
Tex Murphy lives in the former Ritz Hotel, in Old San Francisco where the mutants have gathered. It’s December 2042, about 20 days before Christmas and Tex is under a bad period of his life, divorced and without a case.
Tex is flying in his speeder, a futuristic airborne personal vehicle, lamenting on his lack of Lucky Strikes, as he can't find a single pack in Mexico City. He finds a forgotten Malrboro Rojo cigarillos in the passenger seat, and although he doesn't like it (he compares them to Sauron's creations in the foul-stench bowels of Barad-Dur, he satisfies his addiction.
He passes near a building called Torre Latino Americana and lands his speeder somewhere near the Dulce Vida building. He seems a bit out of place as flying vehicles are out of the norm in Mexico City. He notices a gang of juvenile delinquents who were interested in his speeder. An hour passes as he stalks the appartments near that of Eddie Chang, before the neighbours' lights go out.
Tex exits his speeder and takes a number of wrapped packages, pretending to carry presents, his plan for entering the building without having the magnetic card the tenants have. He goes to the entrance at the east side of the building waiting for someone to show up. An old lady approaches and opens the entrance, and seeing him carrying the packages, she "helps" him by holding the door for him to enter. The two people enter the elevator, and as the lady exits at the third floor, Tex ascends to the eighteenth floor, where Eddie Ching's appartment is.
The chapter goes back two days ago when Tex invetigated the building. Pretending to be a buyer, he approached Alfonso, a manager, who showed him an empty appartment and briefed him about the security facilities of the builging. The next day Tex had stalked the building but had no luck as Eddie's nighbour did not leave.
Now back to the present, Tex enters the empty apartment and unpacks his equipment. Making sure his windows have no alarms, he exits and walks on te ledge. He passes after 3 apartment windows and reaches Chang's. With his particle-beam-detection goggles, to find that the windows are made of LCD alarm glass and the floor is protected by a laser net.
With a laser-blade, after memorizing the cycling grid pattern of the sensitive blue lines, Tex opens a hole on the glass and reaches the switch to shut it off. Being unable to find a way to disable the laser net, breaks into the adjacent apartment, and again, with his laser-blade cuts through the plasterboard wall behind a sofa, to Ching's apartment. He finds himself in a den room, full of aquariums and terrariums of lethal serpents. He searches a desk where he notices the name of "Lowell Percival" (a billionaire industrialist who had been his client) in a name list of people interested in buying rare artifacts.
After examining the living room, full of mirrors, a bookcase stuffed with books and a cabinet with exotic antiquities, he discovered a safe behind a painting but he could not open it. He became disappointed but then realised that the wall behind the case was a rectangle of space about 15 feet. Unable to move the case, he went to the batroom and cut through the wall with the laser-blade, and found himself in a treasure room complete with statues and paintings (having destroyed a genuine Rebrandt). There also was a crystal bird statuette 16 inches tall on a marble pedestal, the artifact that Countess Renier sent him to fetch.
As he takes the artifact, the alarm goes off. Hurriedly, he returns to the den as he hears steps and voices coming. He opens the terrariums and sets the reptiles free. He exits through the hole and covers it with a stereo speaker, and then covers the other side with the sofa. He exits the window as men knock the door of the empty apartment, and returns to the unoccupied apartment. Looking through the peephole, he sees the open elevator with Alfonso leading some men to Ching's room; Tex quickly opens the door and rushes to the open elevator, only to get noticed by the people.
Tex stops the elevator at the second floor and breaks into an apartment, startling an old man, and throws himself out of the window, falling 20 feet below onto a flower garden. Under gunshots, he ran to his speeder, successfully ignites the engines and takes off. The geo-grid guides him to Brownsville, Texas.
Tex is found at the Post-Nuclear café, a Brownsville dinner popular among truckers and migrant workers and finally enjoys his first Lucky Strike. His rapture is interrupted by an impatient LaDonna, the orange-headed waitress of the dinner. Tex orders a white grilled cheddar sandwich (seeming the safest choice) and a gallon of extra thick coffee and then admires her as she approaches the kitchen.
Tex doesn't enjoys his smoke and coffee, thinking of his friend's Louie Lamintz's Armageddon blend.
He then notices a man who fell onto the bar, which reminded of his own recent situation, which wasn't embarassing for Tex only because he had not the money to drink in public: he'd spent most of the previous month locked in his office with a bottle of alcohol listening to Edith Piaf Cds, wishing for Sylvia's return, his divorced wife.
He ponders about his recent emotional hell, when he is again interrupted by the arrival of his meal. Amazed by LaDonna's professionalism and accurate movements, he compliments her only to get the reply that she is too much for him.
As Tex tastes his sandwich, he remebers he past career, how it all started while he watched The Maltese Falcon. Although he did not understand the plot, figures of fedoras, trench-coats and PIs captivated him for the rest of his life. He then lights a second cigarette looking forward to deliver the statuette to the Countess and receive the remainder of his fee. He considered spending some to at Lamintz's place; Louie was kind enough to keep Tex a tab while he had no money, and Tex also suspected him for paying his vid-phone bill, allowing him therefore to be contacted by the Colonel for his new job.
As Tex returned to sobriety, he discovered that his money amounted below $99. He owed two months’ rent, alimony to Sylvia, tab to Louie, even to Digby his bookie. He needed money desperately.
He remembers as he visited Filmore to see Countess Renier in her mansion. The old woman was after an invaluable rare family heirloom which was stolen from her. She paid other investgators and Tex was a last resort. Tex was given $1000 dollars as a retainer and promised $29000 when the job was done. The Countess gave him no leads other than a bad picture, but his underworld contacts, namely the gangster Franco Franco, gave him the name of Eddie Ching.
Now, after some days he has the statuette in his backpack ready to collect his reward. He finishes his coffee, pays LaDonna and finds his way to his speeder. As he pulls up the door, a white flash blinds him as something hits the back of his head.
Tex is suddenly found in his office, returning from an alcoholic slumber. In front of his desk he sees Colonel Roy O'Brien, his former mentor who pays him a visit. They talk about their strained past; 15 years ago Tex made a mistake which humiliated the Colonel in front of his peers. As a result Tex was kicked out of the detective agency and they avoided each other ever since. Now O'Brien is in his office for an unspecified reason.
Then Tex wakes up from that flashback to find himself lying down on the street, feeling the hit behind his skull. There is an awful smell and he is unable to move or respond. Around him he hears a woman scolding her boyfriend for sleeping with her sister and grandmother. A woman asks him if he is thirsty and throws some water for him, but he coughs it out.
2 days later he opens his eyes to see that he is in the Brownsville Regional Hospital; Dr. Berry and Nurse Chase are tending him. He is told that no backpack was found near him; this only panics Tex and asks to leave the hospital. He is denied as his medication could have antisocial effects; Tex threatened that this could result in violent seizures, but this resulted only in a hypodermic shot to hold him at bay.
Having nothing else to do, he watched the news. He hears about a bombing in Los Angeles which obliterated the headquarters of CAPRICORN, a left-wing group which sided with the Mutant League. The Crusade for Genetic Purity were deemed as the suspects.
Then it was time for Tex to leave the hospital. Tex noticed that his wallet was intact and he was sure: it was not a robbery; the assault aimed at the statuette. The police drove him back to his speeder outside the Cafe. Nobody, nor the police, nor anyone in the vicinity knew or saw anything.
Tex drove back to his apartment in New San Francisco and pondered what to do. He considered visiting the Countess and ask for some support or compensation. He then drove to her mansion but things were not as expected. Everything is dark and quiet, the mansion is abandoned with a Century 22 for sale sign. All entrances are locked and Tex breaks a window to enter the dark building. Only boxes and potted plants. Even the fireplace was cold. Then he realised that the case was a set up.
12 hours later, Tex is in his office drying after a shower, recounting his last adventure and his collection of injuries. He collects his mail and sits at his desk. As usual, it's bills and junk mail.
He skimms through a threatening mail from his landlord Nilo, a note from Zebra Speeder Finance Corporation, a bill from West Coast Bell charged with an unreasonable amount, an application for a Master Express credit card, an ad for a dating service, a donation form to the Humane Society, a discount coupon booklet for dry cleaning and Et Tu Brute pizza, another credit card application for the Radioactive Shack; and finally, an envelope without return address, containing a blue card with BXK+A261184 written on its side.
He stands up and stares outside at the Chandler Avenue. His crush, Chelsee Bando, is talking with a NSPD cop before he takes 2 styrofoam cups to his police speeder. Tex wonders whether they are staking out for him.
As for now, Tex decides to investigate who set him up. He vid-phones the estate agency. Mrs. Kaitlyn Abbot tells him that the Countess' mansion was owned by some Mrs. Greenburg and hadn't been occupied for the last 6 months.
Tex in his speeder flies under an acid rain and returns to the mansion. He enters from the back. All he finds in the living room was a full asthray with butts of a brand he'd never seen before. Returning to his speeder he flies to a convenience store and accesses a list for tobacconist shops on a pay phone, where he thought get a lead from the strange cigarettes. He locates one called Cigar Bar. Before leaving, he contacted his acquaintance in the SFPD, Lieutenant Mac Malden from the downtown precinct and left him a message to call him back at his office. Perhaps his men will investigate the house and find more leads.
He arrives at the Cigar Bar near the Wharf. He approaches the landlord called Gabby, who seems to fancy Tex's retro style and comments on his Luckies, the Fedora and his wing tips, and begins a chatter on noir figures. Tex then produces the butts to him. The cigarettes are Gitanes Specials, found only in France. The person who smokes them has been to France.
Tex thanks him and leaves. His only other lead is Lowell Percival.
Tex arrives at the strange Lowell Percival Enterprises building, an irregular structure belonging to the new neo-anarchic form of architecture. Tex passed a militarized zone (whose checks were so exhaustive and violating that would’ve made a proctologist proud) to the vast foyer. He enters one of the 4 elevator among executive types and arrives to the 51st floor receptionist's station.
The receptionist is a beautiful woman who won't allow Tex in. When she asks his name, she remembers him: she is none other than little Ally Moore, the braces-wearing teenage sister of Debbie. Alayna is excited to see Tex again and does not hesitate to say that she had a crush on him while he was dating her sister. Debbie now has been married and living in Seattle and little Ally has removed the braces and became a charming woman in her mid-20s,
Alayna is so eager to go out with Tex that she asks him out for a drink; she will buy it for him.
Less than a half-hour later, they are walked into Lindsay's, a piano bar on the top floor of the downtown Hilton. A holographic projection of Nat King Cole plays at the piano.
The pair sit on the table enjoying the view and the sunset. Ally's provocative behavior makes it not easy for Tex as they are discussing their news and wondering over the French dishes in the catalogue. Tex says that he is now a PI, married and divorced with no kids. Ally is working for the richest man in the world, summing some money for a doctorate and become a teacher. Tex has a hard time ignoring the part of himself that brings him into trouble with women.
The charming atmosphere is cut short when a couple of Mutants enter the bar. Ally looks at the "goyles" with disgust, wondering who allowed them in. This makes Tex look at Ally differently as most of his friends are Mutants. He coldly says that he has to go, stands up, and hurries outside. Looking forward for some junk food that he can pronounce.
Driving back at the Chandler Avenue, the unmarked police speeder is still there, so Tex drives around to the Brew & Stew. Outside the diner, before entering, he feels bad for having his friend Louie hold his tabs for one more time, but he notices a lucky penny next to his shoe, which he collects.
Inside, he approaches Louie and orders chili with meat and cold beer. Chelsee is also in the diner reading The Complete Works of O. Henry. They chat about work, money, and the crusade, whose fanatics have attacked the diner and Rook's pawnshop. The mutants established neighborhood nightwatch to protect themselves from the vandals. Louie brings up the matter of Chelsee who would not accept to go out with Tex. At that instant, she visits the bar ordering vodka tonic, and greets Tex. Talking about job, Tex mentions the mysterious blue card with the code. They rule out the possibility to be a license plate, a VIN or a phone number.
When Tex is ready to leave, a vid-phone call rings for him. It is Mac Malden who warns Tex that the cops are out for him. Colonel Roy O'Brien has been missing for about a week and Tex is the only suspect, but Mac knows that Commissioner Drysdale is after the wrong person.
Tex thanks Louie for the dinner and decides to investigate the Colonel's murder himself. He visits his office in Sausalito, which is, as expected, guarded by cops. He lands his speeder near a mom-and-pop convenience store called the Market Basket. He notices a metal grate covering the façade, and a Rockwell Alarm System sticker. Cautiously, he throws a piece of asphalt triggering the alarm, diverting the cops towards his place. That way he manages to approach the office.
There aren't many clues for Tex, only a cigarette which seemed strange as the Colonel last told him that he quit smoking; another strange thing was that it had the Gitanes logo. There was also a pack of blue index cards like the one he received, and the book Perry Mason and the Case of the Sleeping Wife by Erle Stanley Gardner, which he promptly takes with him.
Time was running out and the cops would return. But as Tex is ready to leave, he notices that the office has two thermostat control boxes instead of one. He examines both and realises that one of them is actually a camera lens. He starts looking for the camera containing the videodisc. He is led into the coat closet and discovers a secret compartment leading to a small area. He collects the videodisc but hears voices outside.
After discerning that the cops are not going to enter the room, he finds his way out, and collects a Gordon Lightfoot CD case in order to protect the videodisc. However, at the moment that he is ready to open the window and jump down, he is stopped by a cop aiming at him.
It is 9:30 and Tex is found in prison along with hookers, drunk bums, and other figures. He is approached by a wino named Rusty who starts chatting with him. Tex fends him off by saying that he killed his grandparents by cutting them to pieces with a shovel.
Thirty minutes later, guard Blake summons for him, and takes him to Commissioner Drysdale's office. He explained to Tex that O'Brien was his friend, and was missing since 6 days ago, and Tex was now in dire position as his name was found in O'Brien's appointment book. Tex had no option but to tell him that he snatched a videodisc from his apartment, which a guard brings from the files.
Watching the disk, they see that on December 1 O'Brien was paid a visit by a dark-skinned man wearing a long overcoat, golden spectacles and a large moustache. The man then hit the Colonel on the back of the head, wore him handcuffs and sat him on a chair. He lit a cigarette and brought him back with smelling salts and started interrogating and slapping him. It was apparent that the man was from the crusade and responsible for blowing CAPRICORN, and was after the "Winter Chip" about chich the Colonel claimed no knowledge. Eventually he inserted a hypodermic needle into the Colonel's neck and he fell motionless. He returned with another man and together they carried the Colonel outside.
Tex now was free and was at the clerk having his belonging's returned. It is now that he notices a picture from Halloween, the Colonel being dressed as a pirate with a beautiful young woman identified as Melahn. Tex then visits Mac Malden in his office. After finishing a vid-phone call from his wife Joanna, he helps Tex identify the woman: Melahn Tode, on probation for soliciting and possession.
Seeing that Mac is leading a boring life with dull cases with Norms against Mutants, he tells him about his case: the Countess' mansion and the case which was a set up. Mac promises to investigate.
The city sparkles with Christmas lights, and speeders filling the air space. Tex thinks how he hates this period of the year.
Having passed by a liquor store, supplied with a bottle of Jack Daniel's, he returns to the office. It is 23:11 and Tex ponders about his life. Miles Davis and John Coltrane's saxophone echo in the room.
He unpacks the bottle and lights himself a cigarette. He watches a vidphone message from Alaynah, who gives her number asking him to call her back, before promptly deleting it.
He looks at an old picture with himself, the Colonel and Xavier Jones, wondering the purpose of his visit some days before he died. He also wonders why he still has Sylvia's picture on his desk. He then spends the next hours smoking one cigarette after another and attempting to solve the code on the blue card.
It is 4 AM and Tex quits thinking. He lits another cigarette and fills one last glass.
It is 6:54 with the first rays of sunlight. Tex observes the empty Chandler Ave and Chelsee coming with a cup of coffee from Brew & Stew setting up her bundles of newspapers on her counter. He goes to the bathroom and refreshes himself. He goes down and politely buys a newspaper from Chelsee. He notices her surprise as he is not flirting her.
He enters Louie's cafe full of breakfast patrons. The tv is set on a silly monring show. Tex finishes his newspaper and the 9th cup of Armageddon brew a little after 8:00.
Ten minutes later, he flies over a run-down area full of rubbles and disintegrating material near Oakland. He lands near the Knickerbocker building, a 19th century residence decorated with dirty columns. He ascends 3 stories and locates Melahn Tode in apartment 11. A blond beauty with long legs and light blue eyes answers the door. Tex produces his fake police ID and requests information on the Colonel. Melahn is devastated to hear that the Colonel is suspected dead.
Inside her apartment, Melahn says that the Colonel never mentioned anything about his job. They met some months ago and were planning to retire and leave together near the end of the year. She also noted that Tex is not a cop. He admitted he is a PI and former friend of the Colonel. He gave his name and number. Tex felt that Melahn was not a common hooker but had qualities that not many can see. The Colonel did.
Before leaving, Melahn allowed Tex to examine some of the Colonel's belongings in the bedroom. He browsed through a hardback novel, reading glasses, a tartan vest, two shirts, a pair of khaki trousers, and boxer shorts. The watch pocket of the vest hid a notebook which he took with him.
Leaving the apartment, Tex noticed that the notebook had a newspaper clipping, a photograph of the statuette.
It is just after 9am and Tex enters the Gaslight Lounge willing to spend the last $40 in his wallet. He orders Old Grand-Dad with a sidecar from Denny the bartender and goes to a circular booth in the corner in order to study the Colonel's belongings. He reads from the newspaper clipping that the statuette was unearthd while renovating an old section of Berlin, and then was stolen from the museum. This was not enough to discern where the Colonel, the Countess and Eddie Ching fit in all this.
At the end of the Colonel's notebook he finds a series of letters and numbers: BCM1206428X8. After some study and looking at an old woman nearby reading the Bay City Mirror, he understands the code as a date: Bay City Mirror 12/06/42 8X8.
He then tips Denny and asks from him another Daddy and a copy of the newspaper 2 days ago, which he brings.
Unable to understand the reference 8X8, he scans the whole newspaper, especially the classifieds. In the "Men Seeking Men" section he finds an especially odd ad: "I gave the extra one to David. He seems elated. Counting exact as per policy norm."
He notices that the meaningless phrase is composed of 64 letters, which he puts in a 8x8 table. Diagonally he would read two things "Land Mine" (a dance club in the new city) and IXDECXPM which he understands as "9 December, 10PM". It is a planned meeting, where Tex will go.
It is 9:30am and it is a good day. After the clouds and rain of the past several days, the sun is out for the first time in weeks. Tex feels renewed. He is showered and groomed, wears clean and god clothes and a burgundy tie with a chess-piece motif. He took his wallet with his last 22 dollars, and exited the office.
He feels good because of the progress he made in figuring something concerning the Colonel, a proof that his mind still worked. It didn't mind that he is not paid for the investigation but he still feels excited. He approaches Chelsee's newsstand prepared to repeat his advances towards her, but his psychological change fails; she promptly rejects him again saying that she doesn't drink with customers.
He then goes to Louie's joint. He reads in a newspaper about Interpol's investigations for the CAPRICORN bombing, and the growing unrest between Mutants and Norms. As he reads, Louie brings him a mug of coffee, omelette with chili verde filling and chunks of chicken, fried potatoes, slices of wheat toast and orange juice. As usually Louie watches him eating, waiting for Tex' approving reaction. He is also happy to hear Tex' progress the previous day.
Tex returns to the newspaper, reading an article about Lowell Percival, and recalls that he must see him. Out of curiosity he searches the personal ads for any mysterious message, but Rook showes up as he was reading the Men Seeking Men section. Rook mocks him saying that stooping to the use of personal advertising was despicable. Tex thanks Louie and leaves, under Rook's sarcastic comments.
Back in his office, Tex reads that a theater, the Bijou, has two classic movies, The Big Sleep and The Maltese Falcon. He enjoys the films in the nearly empty movie house while longing for simpler times. He thinks that technology can't surpass the old-fashioned movies and fashions who gave way to pay-per-view and interactive movies and Hollywood met its demise. Art tried to imitate film noir but nothing was the same without Bogart. Tex thinks how most poeple he grew up with entered the PC or online business, but Tex followed a different career. Gumshoes were replaced by the Web PI but a PC could not replace social engineering and stakeouts.
It is 16:35 and Tex has only $10. He drives to the LPE building. Alaynah is happy to see him and repeats her invitations to Tex, but his uninterested reaction makes Ally to back-off. She arranges a meeting for him with Percival for tomorrow at 15:00.
Tex returns to his office and receives a call from Malden telling him that investigation in the mansion returned zero; and that the Interpol now investigates the Colonel's disappearance, meaning that it is something big. Tex then prepares another pot of coffee to be ready at the Land Mine.
Tex is in the Land Mine 2 hours later, in the nearly empty nightclub. He orders ice water from a bored waitress and starts noting the 20-30 patrons, looking for the Colonel's contact. He notes two young women, one tall and one round, a Don Johnson wanna-be with midlife crisis, a couple of punk lesbians, a glassed young man and another blond one looking nervous. Other seats were occupied by larger groups of all shapes, sizes and ages.
It is 10:05 and the waitress brings him water. He sits on a corner table and he sips for 15 minutes. As he orders more water, he sees in the mirror the young man being more nervous than before.