Here’s the villain in “A GAME CALLED DEAD,” the second Frank Nagler mystery. He calls himself #ARMAGEDDON and taunts the police online.
Yes, it is me. #ARMAGEDDON. How have you been?
Oh, congratulations to the state police for busting those two Ironton College kids for playing a role in the community center fire. What has our youth come to?
Ping, ping, ping. Tracked them right down by following their cell phones. How cool.
But you’re gonna find they had been hacked.
By me. Hello.
I had no grudge against those kids, they were just convenient foils.
I’m here in cyberspace leading you all over the city chasing incidents or false leads, and you can barely operate your cell phone.
What is it going to take for you to realize how this game called dead is played? I am trying to teach you. And the longer it takes, more people will die.
Each death is a lesson and a clue.
And at some point they will blame you.
Is that my goal? To discredit you, to leave you shamed and wounded?
It is one of them. You’ll soon understand the others.
So let’s talk about the game, just so we all understand.
You have come to believe that Ironton College students somehow changed the format from a real-world game to a virtual game and back again. Some of that is true, but it is quite amazing what you can get people to believe once you’ve altered the information they are presented.
The manhunts, the death-stalkers in masks and uniforms? My creations. In truth the game was played by about thirty students and was dying out, so I changed things. I created a roster of players, determined their fates and watched.
Oh, and yes, Doris Macomber and Arlene Katz were players, as was Sheila Okinowski. They were nice girls in the real world. In the game world, I had made them into monsters.
And a word to Ironton College officials: Spend a little less on your football team and more on cyber security. There are so many unguarded access points it almost took the fun out of it.
So we need context.
We live in a confusing world. The truths we once thought were self-evident have been turned on their head, distorted by those with self-agendas, the power of money, greed and ideology, or by altering a simple computer program. We believe in nothing because everything is just a theory. We want concrete proof and believe our god will provide it.
Ah, god. Snapped his fingers one day and created all this, and if you are a follower, you understand that one day he will snap them again and all this will disappear. But you’ll be on the boat, so it will be okay.
Yes, god, whose followers have sent armies to plunder nations, to destroy people who believe in another god. Or that one over there. Or that one.
That is too large a context.
The context I seek is fear and confusion, within which lies the motive for revenge. I revel in the anarchy. I would have been a Viking raider, raping and pillaging Europe, or a spy riding through the dark Massachusetts night with a coded message, the rebel with a bomb, a patriot at the Dublin Post Office; destroyer to some, liberator to others.
At its heart, that is what the Game Called Dead should be about. Chaos, disorder, all the grand illusions with all the grand ideals. I am not a great thinker, alas.
It is more like one giant game of king of the hill.
And I will be the one left standing.
I would like it to be about something more majestic, but it is not.
The Hunter wants everyone to believe that he is the pure man, the stalwart figure, the leader, the knight in shining armor. In truth The Hunter is a man with a heart filled with pain and loss.
That is the unguarded access point, easier to penetrate than any cyber security network.
The access point is love. And I feel love for nothing. For which I in part blame you.
So I will return the favor. When I take way the objects The Hunter loves and he is nothing, then he will fall.
And I will rise The Hunter ascendant, cold-hearted, logical, unbeatable.
O-kay, wow, got a little carried away.
More to the point: Someone should ask why Charlie Adams said in court that Victim Z loved lavender. What an odd thing for him to say.
But look, I need to go, because the state police techies will be just a few electrons behind me about now. They have been chasing me across the electronic netherworld for several minutes and are just about to get to the last point I was at right about – take a breath – now. Bye.”
The Frank Nagler mysteries – “The Swamps of Jersey’’ and “A Game Called Dead” are now available at the following New Jersey book stores:
Bobby’s News and Gifts, 618 Main Street, Boonton.
The Clinton Book Shop, 12 E. Main Street, Clinton. http://www.clintonbookshop.com/
Sparta Books, 29 Theatre Center, Sparta. http://www.spartabooks.com/
For information on independent book sellers visit, http://www.indiebound.org/
The books are also available at the at the following libraries: Bernardsville Public Library; The Hunterdon County Public Library; Mount Olive Public Library; Phillipsburg; Warren County, Franklin branch; Mount Arlington; Wharton; Dover; Hackettsown; Clark; Morris County Library; Somerset County Public Library System, and the Ramsey library, as part of the Bergen County Cooperative Library System.