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Black Lens: Part XXII

Story by Ken Bruen and Russell Ackerman

Ken Bruen is one of the most celebrated crime novelists of our time.

Black Lens is his most secret project.

Read on as the unveiling continues.

Every Wednesday on Mulholland Books.

With art by Jonathan Santlofer.

Fade in…

Read Part 1, Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6Part 7Part 8Part 9Part 10Part 11,Part 12, Part 13Part 14, Part 15, Part 16, Part 17, Part 18, Part 19 Part 20 and Part 21.


On the grisly murder of his wife and friends, Romanski commented to an interviewer

……could be some kind of witchcraft, I wouldn’t be surprised if I were the target, the police like to jump too hastily on the drug thing.’



Cromwell was currently holed up in an exclusive area of Athens, Kolonaki,

a small neighborhood where ostentatious displays of wealth had yet to be outlawed.

The boutique hotel, Kronos, known to but a handful of seriously rich fucks.

Not a drachma away from The British Council, and close to the best Kavala shop in Europe.

And of course, Cromwell had the best apartment, with a roof garden, looking out over the most polluted city in Europe, a solid grey/blue cloud of smog hanging over the doomed Acropolis.

Cromwell, on the roof garden, was waiting on Benedict and the cluster fuck report of the actor being held in London. Sipping a well watered Ouzo, he sighed.

5 years tops.

Yeah, the length of leadership of The cabal. Then you retired, voluntarily for a smug position with The World Bank.

Six years, he’d hung on and knew, he was way past his sell by date. The gig was, as it had been since the time of The Crusader’s, when The Cabal first got organized, lead for five, step down.

And already in the wings, was his successor, plus,




A mole.


Sure, it had happened before but was always



Dealt with.

But this one, got under the radar, i.e. under HIS, RADAR and was wreaking all kinds of subterfuge.

Should he have taken care of it


Had he taken care of it


Compassion was never on their agenda but voila, due to the circumstances of his daughter, they bent the rules, a bit. But, hey, time up fellah.

The Sister Marinetti case.


Year, 2000, three girls killed a  nun, as above.

Amara, the most vocal and his beloved daughter, said, on her arrest

‘Marilyn Manson rules.’

Fucked him good.

Barred from Italy. The case was a sensation and not all the reach of The Cabal could make the damn thing go away.

Those damn brimstone, stone age Wop Catholics, even brought in an Exorcist.

You want to get pious Papists on heat, bring on the Hollywood glitz, the exorcist.

See the mags, the papers go rancid, on a feeding frenzy, then rock n roll, here be

Fr. Gabriele Amorite, devil chaser extraordinaire, with the showbiz title, of we kid thee fucking not

‘Italy’s chief exorcist.’

Who in a statement, put Metal back on the map, got a shout in for Ransom, said

‘We are not, worried about the Satanism of Simon Ransom, but his musical spokesman, Marilyn Manson


This is the best bit, the coup de tat of spin

‘We fear not black masses ( how’d they get in there?) but




Causing a rapid forming of every disenchanted kid in Europe to be a demonic Cobian with the tag

…………….Death Metal.


From the B feature movie, Outpost

With dead Nazi’s and other schlock

The line

They’re playing with

Some black dice now.


Cromwell sighed, then spat

‘Fucking La Vey.’

The one time rock musician and actor/consultant on Romanski’s  dark, ‘ Pamela’s Child.’

The jerk had been fascinated by Hubbard’s dictum

‘Wanna make a million


‘Found a church.’

La vey, sly fuck, inverted it, went the opposite way, founded the Church of Satan, membership currently at Five point two million. Some serious black bucks there.

La Vey, knowing a good con, wrote Satan’s Bible. In there was a chapter

‘On the choice of a Human Sacrifice.’

Ransom came down the pike, quickly stole the concept of homage.

Homage here, meaning

‘Do the fuck what I say.’

And he saith

‘Go to Cicelo Drive.’

Cromwell nearly smiled, Le Vay, who numbered stars like Sammy David Jr and a host of second grade celebrities among his followers.

But what a damn hypocrite, oh his miserable deathbed, he converted to Catholicism.

Talk about hedging your demonic bets. It is rumored that his torso carried a small pentagram (The mystical symbol, five pointed star, under writ with a tiny swastika.

Coincidence?……Richard Ramirez, The infamous Night Stalker, carried the same pentagram on his , tellingly enough,

Left, palm.

He stood, weariness becoming habitual now.

A coup d’état was eminent, he knew that.

Culling was a vital part of all the Cabal represented.

But he wanted the Romanski /Ransom gig accomplished before the knives came down.

Benedict, his literal right hand, might be the next leader, and that meant


He’d be the one to take Cromwell out.


But that scheme needed a polish and maybe, just fucking maybe, he could set a record, remain, at the helm for another year.

The phone shrilled, he picked up, went

‘Mais oui?’

Benedict was in the lobby and he said

‘Bien sur.’

He knew, raw intuition, the London event hadn’t gone as planned. But then, he’d improvised for that too. The edginess nagging at the rim of his mind was Trudy.

Best secretary he ever had and too, dynamite in the sack but who could have foreseen, she’d run.

Women, who knew?






Benedict was dressed in a light Mac, it’s sheer lack of weight, testimony to a man who carried weight like a breeze. Cromwell offered

‘Some Ouzo perhaps?’


Down to biz.

Benedict said

‘The actor was arrested by an air Marshall, then on landing, held in Wormwood Scrubs, as they try to determine who the hell he is.’

‘Will his documentation hold?’

Benedict allowed himself a tiny smile, leaked over his lips like a drowsy cobra, said

‘For as long as you wish.

Cromwell considered

‘Ok, when he is finally released, you know what to do, return his real identity and do a Heath Ledger number, and we have how much life assurance on him?’

A mother load.

Cromwell was vaguely pleased, said

RI negotiate the rights to his movies, DVD’s, posters, and do the whole King of Pop gig. That little event is still paying mega dividends.’

Then asked:

‘And  the cop, Scott?’

Benedict dead panned

‘Seems to have been a lover’s tiff, and the cop is holed up in a rather expensive hotel, do we punch his ticket?’

‘No, not yet, we need him in place for the Wolf, the TV special on Ransom.

Benedict asked a question, a rare event as it was frowned upon, he asked

‘I’m not entirely sure why Scott is part of the broad scheme?’

Cromwell gave him the enigmatic look, said

‘Why you are a follower, leave the planning to the big boys.’

Did Benedict resent this.

Take a wild fucking guess.

The point of the exercise.


Pope Boniface V111, was dubbed by Dante

…………………………The Black Beast.


Outside, in the dying late Athenian heat, Benedict flipped his cell, waited, listened

‘He’s losing it.’

Made re-assurances, added

‘’He’s raving about some jerk-off Irish dude.’

Listened another minute, clicked the cell closed.

Kolanaki Square was full of the sound of children,

a better class of street vendor than elsewhere in the city, the aroma of roasting chestnuts and the usual cacophony of klaxons, shouts, curses and greetings.

He turned up the collar of his mac, headed towards Plaka, a different kind of crazy, Retsina and maybe,

a broad.

Ken Bruen has been a finalist for the Edgar and Anthony Awards, and has won a Macavity Award, a Barry Award, and two Shamus Awards for the Jack Taylor series. He lives in Galway, Ireland. Learn more at KenBruen.com.

Russell Ackerman is Guillermo del Toro’s Development Executive. He is currently working on the film MAMA to be directed by Andy Muschietti, DROOD based on Dan Simmons’ novel of the same name, adapted by Brian Helgeland, and MIDNIGHT DELIVERY written by Neil Cross, all set up at Universal Pictures. He lives in Los Angeles.