Black Lens: Part II

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.

Mulholland Books is proud to present the unveiling of Black Lens.

One chapter a week.

A read you’ll never forget.

With art by Jonathan Santlofer.

Fade in…

Missed Part 1? Read it first.

Wolfgang

A figment of your own imagination.

He knew that.

Sweet fuck, he’d been told often enough.

Mainly by ex-wives.

Some others too but as he wasn’t paying them alimony, did they count?

Like fuck.

Not in the Wolf’s world.

And what a world it was.

He was fifty-five now and if fifty was the new thirty, no one had told him. He was what they politely term

“Rotund.”

Fat.

Very.

He knew.

Did he ever.

Did he care?

A lot.

He had the comb-over, the last gasp of a dying Clinton, as he termed it. His hair, like the economy, was in galloping recession. His nationality? Even Wolfgang had lost track of who it was he was supposed to be.

A few shots of his favorite sour mash and he might quote Wellington:

“Because I was born in a stable doesn’t mean I’m a horse.”

A Google search would show he was born outside Brighton and he’d spat

“God, would it have killed you to land me in London?”

He’d been in no chosen order

Short-order cook.

Security guard.

Cold caller.

All paled into significance when, due to wife No. 3, he’d been working door to door hawking insurance and as an extra.

The movie biz; he’d been a movie buff all his life.

The ultimate escape.

Celluloid.

Long before Ricky Gervais immortalized that . . . “profession,” Wolf had worked on more movies than he could remember.

Until.

They say we all get a moment of epiphany, that shining Oprah wattage when we scream

“Oh Gawd, yes.”

Wolf’s accent, like his life, was littered with conflicting influences.

He’d learnt that being an extra was truly God’s way of saying

“You’re shite.”

Bottom of the barrel, end of the line, daily humiliation.

But he stayed with it, longer than any of his marriages. As it kept him close to a dream he didn’t even know he had.

He’d gotten a call for two days’ work on a movie.

He never asked anymore

The title.

The cast.

Like it mattered.

He took his fifty quid, his meals after the cast had finished, and the dosage of degradation.

It was in London.

He showed up and heard the movie was called The Occupant.

A day before he realized it was being directed by his idol, Romanski.

And the second day, the diminutive director had chosen him.

Chosen!

Said in that appealing broken-English–American accent

“I want you as the face on the second floor.”

He could have died and gone to heaven.

So OK, they did the take fifteen times.

Wolf would have stood at that window 150 times.

Romanski was directing the cameras at his window.

He glowed.

Could it be any better?

Even for the Wolves of this world, oddly, yes.

Romanski had come over afterwards, said

“Nice job, you have a future.”

The other extras had sneered

“He’s one sarcastic bastard.”

Jealous.

Oh yeah.

The fuckers, what they wouldn’t have given to be the face on the second floor.

Bone to a dog?

Whatever.

From then, Romanski was his mecca.

When the movie came out, he was behind the barricades at Leicester Square and full sure Simon would single him out.

But hey, the guy was busy, everybody wanting a piece of him.

He did turn to wave to the crowd and Wolf knew it was a salutation to him.

So, the movie got panned, no mention in the reviews of the face on the second floor.

When is genius ever recognized.

From that forth, Wolf was in the biz.

Told all and mediocre sundry, he was putting a proposal together for Roman.

He

Begged

Borrowed

Stole

Every damn shilling he could to set up Wolfgang Productions.

It didn’t quite ever get round to making any movies but he did get to conduct auditions.

Wife No. 5.

Fleeing her and his other loves, he’d spent the last of his owed cash on a cheap flight to New York.

The Brits, fook ’em, they just didn’t understand an “auteur.”

More work as an extra. Even a Woody Allen vehicle.

He was not impressed.

The guy just lacked Simon’s vision.

Living in a one-up on the Lower East Side, he was coming to the end of his trajectory.

Broke

Hooked on meth

In hock to guys who scared the be-Jaysus outta him, he was about to give up.

Even the hookers on his block mocked him.

Sucking on the last bottle of his sour mash, he was watching his portable TV, debating the cheapest and most painless way to end it, when a documentary on Ransom came on.

He was electrified.

He couldn’t quite name what was happening to him but he was flying.

An idea was uncurling in his demented brain. He  gulped down the remains of the sour mash, found a battered Lucky in a crumpled pack, and, fired up, in every sense, he watched, fascinated.

The AC was fucked but now he didn’t care.

He sat bolt upright in his wife-beater, his stomach falling out over his Goodwill pants, and he shouted

“I know.”

Finally, his life’s purpose was clear.

And heavens above, he’d waited, till the almost very last moment and VOILÁ, here it was.

Like a divine command, it was so vividly clear

. . . Kill Ransom.

Keep Reading

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.