Ironically, his speech was repeatedly interrupted by low-flying helicopters. Beatts finally acknowledged the distraction with a joke: "I guess they're like sparrows, and they think I'm their St. Francis."
The dinner was estimated to have raised over $120,000 for Beatts' "research foundation," which, legally, he can roll over into a campaign fund if he notifies the proper authorities within twelve months.
Retired General David Beatts grabbed headlines in the presidential primaries two years ago by rappelling down from a helicopter to a scheduled debate.
"We weren't expecting an entrance that dramatic," local party chairperson Horace Bolivar said, "but we're honored and thrilled to have the General visit."
General Beatts arrived in a hybrid-motor sedan.
The $600-a-plate dinner was widely interpreted as a signal that Beatts will run again. Beatts, in his after-dinner speech, hit on his old themes of "security with sanity," and "creative alliances."
He also introduced a new one, possibly as a trial balloon: "Total security: Health, job, and borders."
I drink to relax. I enjoy the company, Wally and the regulars.
The Redpill types, who have started to visit Wally's bar in increasing numbers, I've come to accept. I'll never be comfortable with their hush-hush religion (nobody seems able to explain it to me without sad shakes of the head at my reasonable skepticism). But they're okay.
But their violence scares me. Even if it's all in their heads.
They're always talking about dueling and fights and "I killed him" and "I died."
I mean, if it was real, we'd be stepping over corpses all over the city.
Still, thoughts lead to actions, and a street-fighting culture like that has to lead to putting actions behind the big talk.
And I wonder if it has, already.
A knot of Redpills was trading boasts at a table, several of them standing around (they love to stand, have you noticed?) the sitters. Something about "taking him down" and "doing heavy damage" and (I kid you not) using the "sprayers" and "flit guns."
God knows what kind of weaponry they were actually referring to.
Finally, when one of them was excitedly describing a scene in Azimuth Park of whoever they were talking about surrounded by a circle of a dead bodies (anybody hear about a mass murder in Azimuth Park? Me neither.), daring others to come within range, I had to go over and ask what the hell they were talking about.
The table fell silent. Somebody giggled.
I introduced myself. That got some looks.
Then I learned that even la-la-land dwelling Redpills read me.
"The guy who's been killing garbage men. Including your friend. We took him down."
The man in the mask? Yes, that was whom they meant. They said he was called the Assassin, and he was a powerful, ruthless killer, but they finally executed him. It took a lot, they hinted.
But of course, these are Redpills. I couldn't get where ("Depends on which aspect you mean," somebody said before others shushed her), when, how, or who he really was. "We've said too much already. But will we get in the paper?" Then they started telling me their street handles, which seemed to be half spelled with numbers (they spelled them for me) and appropriate for, say, a roster of rap artists for a record label or the sterns of a very quirky marina full of vessels owned by Goth pleasure boaters.
I said, sure, if they'd go on the record and answer a few questions, straight. Silence.
Well, kiddies, you don't get your names in the paper. And I don't know what to make of your story.
I worked the phones. Law enforcement officials say sightings of porcelain-face have fallen to nothing. My trash hauling contacts say the same thing. Maybe we have a woo-woo nothing-is-real cult to thank for ridding the city of a serial killer. Or maybe they just dreamed it.
Now if they could just do something about these helicopters.
In coming weeks, at various points around the city, passersby will be seeing some unusual structures. They're to facilitate an "Amazement," which will continue for over a month, that's the brainchild of famous magician/performance artist Cryptos.
Jamaican-born Cryptos was coy about his plans. "We have the permits, the items are being constructed, and soon they will be placed. I will say nothing more except that the lives of every person in the city will be changed forever."
Cryptos eschews understatement.
Two years ago, he made headlines when a stunt seemed to go terribly wrong…a 12-day flagpole-stand ended with Cryptos seemingly falling to his death, impaled on an iron-picket fence.
On examination, the body turned out to be a dummy. How Cryptos made the switch has never been explained.
Born on the streets of Kingston to a teenaged mother and a father he never knew, Cryptos claims he killed his first man at 11, overdosed on drugs at 13, and found sobriety and salvation at 18. "I should be dead. I should've died seven times. But the angels watched over me, and it must've been for a reason. I remind myself of that every day."
Perhaps it explains why he works so hard at his illusions ("Amazements," he calls them), and at tireless self-promotion. He's on a mission from…"Don't say it, mon. It's not the cliché they lampoon in the movies. It's my destiny."
But is he a magician, or a preacher? Cryptos is known for his exhortations, although his rhetoric is often opaque. For example: "I knew the giver of sleep. He kept his eye on his dream, and achieved it, in a way. But now I wonder if he would approve of this strange amorphous state. I think he would join us. I think he would throw his reds in the river and sing the blues with us. We can never know, may he rest in peace, but this is what I believe."
His cult may understand more than the general public.
And they are legion. There's a whole Cryptos circuit, reminiscent of the Grateful Dead tours of years past, where followers and fans ("Dredheads," after Cryptos's famous hair) follow their showman shaman and share the love.
City officials say that a small grant from the City's tourism promotion fund was paid to Cryptos, whose presence is expected to produce record tourist crowds this season.
Were you that cute window cleaner at Bishop Imports? I think you dropped something. Send me a message. Box 185
Reward Offered: For any information pertaining to the recent vandalism of the City Courthouse. Send any information to Box 885. Your cooperation is appreciated.
RD: Meet me at the lion. You won't be disappointed. -AF
Lonely? Wonder what it all means? So do I. When you're done masquerading, maybe we can talk.
City officials and representatives of a consortium of City businesses announced a multi-day Halloween celebration, featuring music and masks all weekend, with extended business hours and extra law enforcement patrols. The City hopes to attract tourists with what will be an annual Mardi Gras-style street celebration. "If you have ever had the urge to dress up and be anonymous, or a created character, this is your chance," a consortium spokesman said. "However, we discourage the wearing of blank, porcelain masks, for reasons of taste related to recent events."