“I deserve to die. I beg to be put to death,” Murray Broudy shouts over the man assigned to defend him.
It was at his insistence that he is being tried, for crimes he knows he didn’t commit. By the completion of the proceedings, the extravaganza will turn out to be the trial of a nation. In the meantime, the young man suffering from a deeply entrenched depression wallows away in a psych hospital.
Before meeting up with an old acquaintance, Nick Ferris, son of one of the wealthiest families in the country, he was a normal college kid. But then…between a mother labeled a “nymph” by her son, and a son perceived as a “potential suicide” by his mother, he found himself ensnared in a drama he was unprepared to manage.
It’s hard to blame Murray for feeling the way he does. The poor guy rode shotgun through a trauma that few could imagine experiencing, and none would choose to witness.
THE MAKING OF A MADMAN
Dennis A Nehamen
Golden Poppy Publications Los Angeles
The Making of A Madman By Dennis A Nehamen
Copyright © 2016 Dennis A Nehamen All Rights Reserved
Published by Golden Poppy Publications™ Los Angeles, CA
No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by and information storage and retrieval system without written permission from Golden Poppy Publications or Dennis A Nehamen except for the inclusion of brief quotations in a review.
All images, logos, quotes and trademarks included in this book are subject to use according to trademark and copyright laws of the United States of America.
Library of Congress Control Number: 2016906832
Cover by Cline Cover Design
Nehamen, Dennis A Author
The Making of A Madman Dennis A Nehamen
Printed in the United States of America First Edition
“I have seen mad people, and I have known some who were quite intelligent, lucid, even clear-sighted in every concern of life, except on one point. They could speak clearly, readily, profoundly on everything; till their thoughts were caught in the breakers of their delusions and went to pieces there, were dispersed and swamped in that furious and terrible sea of fogs and squalls which is called MADNESS.” – Guy De Maupassant, The Horla
“It’s hard to guess what a lunatic will do next.”– Cassandra Clare, City of Ashes
Always, I express my gratitude to my wife, for her tolerance and patience. I might have thought I’d driven her mad a couple times during the writing of my novels, but she reminded me that being mad and being in madness are two separate states of mind. Thank you for remaining sane in spite of all my…
I deserve to die.
I beg to be put to death.
Monsters pull triggers, plant bombs, slice flesh, spit in the face of social order…and then people listen. No- body will pay attention to me.
I would never harm a soul. Still, my crime is dereliction and cowardliness, resulting in horror for many innocent people.
I ask now to be found guilty and then sentenced to the sternest and most terminal punishment.
I’m in terrible pain.
Finally, there was a prosecution for the crimes I believed I had committed. At first, as I stood alone, the proceedings were perceived as a hoax. Then as the arguments and pleadings for both sides were being presented, my countrymen showed up in ever-greater numbers to ask if they shouldn’t be defendants along with me. That’s when the trial garnered some serious attention—it was no joke and never was to me from the onset.
CHAPTER 1: CHEMISTRY 101
When I was eight years old, I inherited over a hundred thousand shares of a startup company. My mother’s sister, Aunt Bee, graduated from Harvard Business School. She and colleagues, identical twin brothers, had built a new platform they believed would revolutionize the travel industry.
The business launched and then…sputtered for a couple years before…thrusting skyward such that the venture capital investors thought they were witnessing the birth of a yellow-blazing star. Had my loving aunt lived, within four years of the takeoff of the enterprise she’d have been an exceedingly wealthy lady.
Instead, she was killed in a plane crash from Denver to Vail, Colorado on her way to a skiing vacation. She’d always had a fondness for me, and other than my mother, there were no blood relatives. That’s how I became effortlessly rich close to the time I’d barely outgrown a yardstick.
My parents rarely commented regarding my financial standing prior to my turning eighteen, just over two years ago. It was then that it was brought to my attention that the terms of her will stipulated that all of her assets would come to me. Not being a parent, and not thinking in terms of millions of dollars (when her trust was drawn up, the shares had no value and my aunt’s net worth was limited to her wardrobe and a five-year-old Prius), her will was void of most of the stipulations that are typically placed on estates when there might be young heirs. I’m informed that it’s common to take precautions so as to preclude a minor person—assumed to be ignorant of finances and too unstable to manage a large sum of money—from getting into trouble; blowing the money, their mind, or more likely, both.
Owing to my aunt’s oversight, at my disposal was enough loot to build my own moon-landing craft, if I desired. Thus, once I was informed regarding my esteemed standing, my parents hovered over me, more even than before—the point being that while it wasn’t necessary, they felt it their duty to help me keep my seat belt buckled.
When I began my freshman year at The New University, the property had just passed to my sole possession. It made little difference to my life in that I pursued my education uninterrupted. I’m not sure it fully registered on me that I was independently rich. The truth is that as I reflect back on my awareness and maturity only two years ago, a lot of what normally would be on the mind of someone my age was dormant.
I’d have to describe myself as a shy, sensitive and aimless kid. It’s not that I was unhappy or lacking friendship. Instead, it was that I plainly had no direction and didn’t even have the capacity to recognize that I was wandering sleepily through life. I was a soul who had still not awakened to the fact that I was a “self,” that I had my own unique number in the genetic phone book of mankind. The fundamental existential inquiry commonly investigated during that phase of life, who am I, never penetrated my consciousness.
It was in that state of being that my twentieth birthday snuck past me like a masked bandit. It was also during that timeframe that I was reacquainted with an old “friend” from my childhood, Nick Ferris. Our parents had been close and thus we were put in the position of spending lots of time together, including sleepovers, family vacations and holiday gatherings. The sad truth, at least from my perspective, is that I could have done without him completely. Unfortunately, I was forced to tolerate his company beginning when we were about six years old and continuing up until the time our hormones were shooting out like volcanic eruptions. Our parents eventually went their separate ways and Nick, thankfully, disappeared from my life.
What I recall most vividly about him is that he was a kid in a massive hurry about something in life but I could never figure out what drove him. Perhaps it was pure biology because he dashed out of the innocence and diminutiveness of childhood: by the time he was twelve his beard might have passed for a newly sprouted lawn and at the same time he was matter-a-fact sharing with me his exploits with the opposite sex.
Girls? To me females hadn’t even registered as creatures of mystery and intrigue. My life was about video games, after school speech club, and taking apart and trying to rebuild old computers. This kid pulled out a joint when I hadn’t even puffed my first cigarette.
It was a pathetic mismatch, he and I being together. Yet he never seemed fitful about having to spend time in my presence. I even discussed with my mother, after one of our outings, my feelings about Nick. I’ll admit that I might have been judging him through an eye of intimidation and jealousy, but my explanation for his surprising attitude of tolerance toward me was that he loved having me as a captive audience to boast up his greatness, doing so not so much to punish my confidence as to boost up his own.
He was shameless in promoting his achievements and obnoxious in forecasting a future of world-acclaim for himself. I can comfortably report that interacting with him was never as pleasant an experience as skateboarding at the park with one of my friends. My overall impression was that he was as arrogant and pompous a prick as I’d ever met.
It’s no secret that his family was exceedingly wealthy. His dad, as everyone was aware, was a big shot businessman who had made zillions in some technology enterprise and his mom proclaimed to be an actress, though I overheard my parents once discussing her performing “career” and commenting that Wanda Ferris’ claim to fame was a starring role in a “C” movie…financed by her husband.
Nick’s unappealing character had to have been influenced by the opulent lifestyle he was brought up to expect. He was a rare breed of kid, striding through life no different than if he were a celebrity, imbibing the finest of life’s jewels gold-platter delivered by the Lord above. I simply couldn’t relate to his assumptive attitude that the universe was his own private carnival…and he had no dues to pay to play in it. Once on a trip to Disneyland, upon arrival, a private tour guide greeted us. Not once did we wait for a ride; we were royalty.
I must highlight, if it even deserves special notation that his father was Caucasian and his mother was from Louisiana, as pure a Creole as a person of mixed African-American and French-European dissent can be— she was a knockout, dazzling-looking lady. Even I was aware of her beauty though at that early phase of my life I paid little attention to the appearance of women. I know now that my father did, as well as that her oozing sexiness played a role in what I remember to be a swift deletion of Mr. & Mrs. Ferris from my parents’ world.
What brought our families together in the first place, or what glued them for the years we associated, I never determined. I would have guessed that intellect explained their interest in one another since Julius Ferris was known to have a genius mind. I would have been incorrect. What bonded this foursome was the surgical adhesive my orthopedic surgeon father used to repair Nick’s dad’s lumbar spine.
Regarding Nick, I’ll have a good deal more to say about him, especially since most people could convincingly argue that this story is his. I have a different take on that point. For me this tale is about me, Murray Broudy.
It had been a good five years since I’d had any contact with Nick, and there was no reason to believe our paths would ever cross again…at least not until I arrived for my first chemistry lab and discovered that I’d been pitched a mean curve. Nick had been thrust back into my life, now as my partner. Against my will and instinct, with the aid of only a Bunsen burner, pipettes, beakers and test tubes, our acquaintanceship was reborn.
I sensed a subtle wiliness on his part in terms of how it came to be that he hooked up with me but thought little of it at the time. Instead, being in chemistry, I cleverly deduced that our “chance” meeting was due to him having a vast arsenal of loose and free-floating sulfur atoms whirling through atomic space, needing to haul in sufficient hydrogen and oxygen atoms to mix up a molecular soup. Presto, he abducted my H’s and O’s to join his S’s, with the tragic result being a sulfuric acidic concoction. This chemical brew turned out to be pungent and repulsive to the nostril, and of such potency that it could melt the skin off a living human.
That first session in lab, I observed an oddity on the part of Nick: he ignored the experiment that our professor assigned. I couldn’t figure out why he’d taken the class in the first place or for that matter why I had. Most of the students were pre-med, so mortified at the possibility of a grade less than a solid “A” that one I know for certain refused to use a sentence with any word that began with that letter. During that initial lesson I overheard this female mental giant, a girl named Catherina whom I’d known before from a French class, speaking to her partner.
“Daniel, I’m alarmed that you’re not going to attend class after next week’s assignment.”
I hated her. She was not only constantly asking question with no purpose other than to show off her great intellect, but I recalled her coming to class still sweating from whatever sport she practiced—even that day she smelled worse than the disgusting odors wafting through the room from the experiment being conducted.
“What is that you’re speaking, some sort of chemical Pig Latin?” I posed with a sneer.
“Nothing that you’ll need to worry about, Mur— ray,” she smirked to let me know that she’d intentionally mispronounced my name, “since we all know you’ll be bringing down the average with your grade,” she gaily teased. Then she breezily added, “But if you have to know, I don’t want to waste my “A’s” in this class—I’ll be needing them for medical school.”
I looked at her as if she were nuts.
Nick stared at her icily. His eyes cut across her chest, blazing a “Z” as if he were Zorro tagging her a villain. I despised her but my partner was logging her in his book of revenge, an object he’d be denied the opportunity to revisit with a hangman’s noose in the future.
I recall that first—and only—laboratory assignment we conducted together on the day we reunited. Dr. Emmett was a noted chemist but insisted he teach the introductory students, including their labs. “Use your graduated cylinder and put a little vinegar in it. Swirl it around and pour it out. Do it a couple times to condition the cylinder,” he hollered to prep us for a basic procedure to measure the volume of solutions.
Nick had other plans, proceeding as if he were in his own private home laboratory. After using the vinegar to clean the container, he took a small bottle from his pocket and poured the unknown contents into the glass cylinder.
“Fill the burette with the sodium hydroxide and then clamp it to the ring stand,” Emmett commanded his troops.
I watched as Nick added another solution to his mix, and then warm water from the tap. Quickly, he loosely covered the liquid. Almost immediately it began to react by gurgling like an infant. After it seemed to settle back from bubbling, he gave it a stir, and then poured it into a flask he’d brought with him. We watched as the rest of the students were recording titration values for the experiment Emmett was directing.
After class we walked out together. Nick patted me on the shoulder. What I interpreted as a grand, now-you’re-going-to-hear-what-an-amazing-person-I-am grin spread across his face: he’d patented the signature smugness as a youth and witnessing it again evoked a sickening memory. I should have known right then that he was as demented a kid as he’d always been, but…I was bred to be polite, give the devil his due, and so I… stayed.
Finally I broke the silence he had permitted to last all of ten seconds. “What’s in the flask?” I posed as I glanced at his six-foot two-inch lithe figure sauntering in his typically carefree manner.
His eyes glistened as he answered. He was puffed-up proud of himself. “GHB, man. Any time you need a little help with a cutie, you know whom to come to,” he offered with a friendly poke in my ribs.
“I don’t get it,” I replied.
“Never used an aid to get one of your ladies to spread her legs?” he chuckled deviously.
“To be honest, I’m not your most advanced authority on sex,” I giggled, my humble statement a shameful exaggeration. I’m a virgin, I whispered so softly that only ground bugs could have heard me.
“Look, here’s the deal,” he informed me, graduating his physical contact with me by firmly hugging me around the shoulder. “I like you so I’m going to pass along some of this passion potion free of charge.”
“But what is it?”
“You never heard of date rape drugs?” he replied with notable astonishment. “You get a little of this in your girlfriend’s drink and she’ll blow you like an athlete.”
I’m a good six inches short of Nick—charitably, I’d give myself five-foot eight—and my frame has generally been slightly flabby, but not to the degree anyone would refer to me as overweight. Still, none of the girls I’d ever met would have mistaken me for a campus sports hero. Besides, I hardly had the guts to get a date, let alone drug the girl to trick her into sex. What sort of assholes did things like that, the naïve me pondered for an instant before Nick, I assume without the power to read my mind, answered my question.
“Hell,” he continued, “there’s not a guy on the football team that’s not using this stuff. Crazy, isn’t it?” he added with a tone of repugnance. “Those jerk offs can get all
the snatch they want but they still prefer to partake in Nick’s tonic to move the opposition out of play.”
“Well, I don’t think that’s for me,” I stated flatly. “Me neither. I don’t need that shit,” he bristled. “Then why make it?” I couldn’t resist asking.
“You are a punk. Dude, I sell it—football players, basketball players, swim team members…I don’t care if they’re on the debate team or pure losers…and gays are some of my best customers. I’m the man. They know where to come when they’re begging for the courage to boost hope to action.” Then he paused, staring at me in a most eerie manner. “Me, I funkin’ hate women.” He stopped again, this time to clown at his words. It was as if he’d brushed a stroke of whiteout to erase his statement. We were on our way to the student union, Nick suggesting that we get a drink. On the way by chance we crossed paths with Sandy Sung, my closest female friend since grade school and the head of our golf team. Our connection had always been strong, though there was never a hint of romance. We were simply bonded in the manner most guys and girls yearn for as a comfortable escape from the run-and-chase of mating relations. As it happened, we had talked the day before and made plans to see each other that weekend.
Sandy was a near pro-level golfer. I’d seen her play a few times, including a recent school competition. She was ranked at the top of women’s college golf yet she was also a whiz in the classroom. As her name reveals, she is of Korean background but being third generation American her Asian heritage couldn’t be sniffed by a bloodhound. In addition to her academic and athletic prowess, I knew her to excel when it came to being intuitive about people, plus she had a shockingly keen sense of humor.
She stood about five-foot four and was as skinny as a rail…after it was split. Still, she knew how to deliver power, unloading torque when she punished a golf ball sufficient to be considered one of the long-hitters in her game. When she practically banged into me as we were turning a crowded corner, she was wearing one of her short skirts, a plain white blouse and tennis shoes with a bright multiple colored golf ball pattern. Her meticulously combed black hair, as it always did, hung straight and free down to the small of her back. She needed no makeup and I never witnessed her apply any.
When she saw me she became ecstatic, hugging me with the type of excitement that might have made it seem that she hadn’t seen me for a year. She let go of me. Then for a brief second, she stared quizzically at Nick, finally exhibiting a faint sign of recognition. On many occasions during our youth, she was present when Nick would be at my house.
“Sandy, you might not remember him but that’s Nick Ferris.”
“Right. I remember,” she said with an indifference that not only offset her enthusiasm upon seeing me but also made the point that he had not left her with a favorable impression.
Her dull response earned a sneer followed by a snub. Nick intentionally glanced the opposite direction but Sandy wasn’t finished.
“I didn’t know you went to school here.”
“I forgot to tell you,” he replied sarcastically. “I guess I should have announced it through the campus cheerleader’s association,” he scowled, adding more causticity to the exchange.
“Same kid, aren’t you? Been a few years but you never changed,” she countered.
“Men don’t change and neither do women. It’s just that most try to make it seem like they do.”
“It’s called growing up, Nick. You should try it.”
She shut down the exchange, kissing me on the cheek and then dashing off. Before she was out of sight, she called out to me. “I’ll call you later, Mooie,” the pet name she adoringly ascribed to me in early grade school.
“Nick, what happened there?”
“Typical cunt. If they can’t get a guy’s cock turned on, they run.”
“I don’t see where she was trying to come on to you.” “That’s what I mean about the girls trying to disguise who they are. Believe me, all she cared to do was stimulate my sex drive. I’m sure she gets away with it with most men,” he said scornfully.
“She’s a nice looking girl. You weren’t attracted to her?”
“No way. I know the truth about what she was up to. That little charade wouldn’t work on me. You’ll see, she’ll put me down me to you because she knows I saw through her like a window.”
“So it’s that simple if I’m hearing you correctly. Girls exist to turn on guys for sex and guys can’t help but respond?”
“You’re damn right,” he snarled.
“Sounds good to me,” I giggled. “The problem is that it doesn’t work out as easy as you’re painting it.”
“I know about all the male fears and insecurities that get in the way. That’s why the guys need the booze and drugs. Girls? They’re different. They can drink—and drug too—but they don’t need it. They know that when it comes to mating, they decide what key unlocks the safe,” he stated derisively. After a pause, he continued in a calculative tone. “It’s just a blip in time, an evolutionary quirk that needs to be corrected—but right now men are too fuckin’ weak to do what needs to be done.”
“I’m not sure what you mean.” “You will.”
That’s the problem. I did…but it was too late.
Not infrequently Nick would do as he had earlier in our initial conversation, after making a condescending remark about the opposite sex recant it. Still, in the end, Nick Ferris was fervent in his detestation of women, especially his mother. I’d often hear him express his views on the female gender, ones I’d characterize as evilly wicked. When I’d argue against his attitude, he’d snicker and tell me that eventually I’d understand.
He was correct in anticipating Sandy’s intent to put him down. She called me later that evening, one line in the lengthy conversation summarizing her experience with Nick.
“Murray, he’s a sick dick. Dump him because he’s nothing but trouble.”
Had I heeded Sandy’s admonition…had millions of Germans paid attention to the warnings that Hitler was a dangerous maniac or had Bernie Madoff not perfected the art of the Ponzi scheme…and so the history of modern man and Murray Broudy has been shaped by what could have been “if only…”
The issue of drugs would be a big one in the future both for Nick—and myself. From the onset, I was perplexed by his interest in substances since his underlying motive could not have been money. He had unlimited funds even without the proceeds from his private venture. I watched as he squandered green on every imaginable toy or device, most of which he’d never remove from the packaging. There was never a time we’d go out when he wouldn’t insist on paying, and his tastes were exquisite. He’d think nothing of stopping at Wolfgang Puck’s Cut Restaurant in Beverly Hills for lunch and ordering Kobe beef—the real stuff. If there were anyone with us, he’d pick up the entire tab; even with strangers in a bar he’d insist on paying for their drinks.
What drove Nick was his lust to mock men and menace women. Masquerading as an amateur chemist and drug dealer was his perverse way of exercising power over men, employing them to strike back at women for the crimes of manipulation, exploitation and seduction. I’ll add that his initial dabbling with inflicting suffering on other humans was a child’s early foray into the world of violence. All along he had a grand vision of what he felt compelled to accomplish, biding his time until the hunger for vengeance, building force beyond the capacity to be dammed, would be discharged in one massive upheaval.
If only I could have cut him off from the onset. I knew there could be no satisfaction from his company and I would have quickly put the kibosh on the relationship had it not been for the fact that he was far more powerful in forcing himself on me than I was in repelling him. Honestly, initially he wooed me like a darling, flattering my high character and in so doing disarming me from either disengaging from him or betraying the trust in me that he professed he couldn’t enjoy with any other human being.
It wasn’t that I didn’t try to evict him from my life at the beginning. He’d invite me to take in a movie, go out for a late night snack, attend a concert, or listen to music at his place. I dodged all of these inducements
in an attempt to distance myself from him, yet he pestered until I relented…and he never seemed offended by my obvious lack of enthusiasm. Curiously, prior to him exposing the circumstances that accounted for us meeting at college, there were no instances when one of his friends would come along on an outing. Likewise, he never mentioned another male with whom he’d hang out. Could he have no friends? I wondered, knowing that in spite of his self-assured, presumptive and laid-back persona I would not at all be surprised to find that was the case.
I learned very soon that most everything I imagined about him was incorrect. As time went on, in his own devious fashion, he’d spell out every detail of his life for me, from when I knew him first as a child right up to the culmination of our adult relationship—it blew my mind because it was so different from what I’d concluded. Like an intrepid soldier, he invited me to understand that his exterior persona of affability was a sham. It belied a seething inferno of hate that he’d brewed deep in his soul. It was a vile life philosophy founded upon a globalized disdain for mankind.
Nick and I were having a soda at the student union after our first meeting, this unexpected new friend catching me up on superficial details of his life during the several years he’d been absent from mine. Finally, I let him know I had to leave.
“We’ll be great buds again, don’t you worry, Murray,” he informed me with rhythmic delight, but at the same time an awkwardness tattling on the fact that he had no idea how to accomplish being a “bud” with a friend.
“Let me get your number in my book,” he announced as he took out his phone. “Not to be concerned. You’ll be hearing from me very soon.”
What could I do, say no?
I couldn’t at the moment and I couldn’t even after my dear friend Sandy practically begged me to use that two-letter word to terminate him. Later, I couldn’t for another reason. I was manipulated into a position from which I was victim of subtle coercion that commissioned me to Nick like a germ to a disease.
I’ll never forget Nick.
I’ve made that exact statement innumerable times to my genius psychiatrist, Dr. Kaplow, each instance earning an identical reply. “When your treatment progresses to the point that you’ve wiped him out of your mind, then your spirit to live will have been recharged.”
What a discouraging statement. I could never wash Nick from my recall, even if I used acid.
Then when I’d insist that the madness was my fault, that even under the ominous circumstance I faced I might have acted to avert the crisis, he’d deliver to me an equally infuriating response. “Forgiveness takes time. Be patient and keep taking your medication.”
What do I have to do, go to Afghanistan, shout I’m Jewish, and wait to be stoned!!? I’d hurl at him from Mighty Murray’s Mega-Missile.
I knew it would be impossible for me to forgive myself, let alone expect to be forgiven by any sane person.
No wonder I still want to end it. Even with having worn my analytic couch to threads scratching at all the issues relevant to my current condition, as far as I’m concerned my treatment team has been a bust in terms of my perceiving the slightest easing of mental torment. Sweet Molly Flynn, one of my counselors, may be the only exception. She’s encouraged me to engage in the present exercise of journalizing my trauma. I have little faith that it will to any degree pardon me. Still, I’ll blame her for my relenting to engage in this task. She cheered me on to “give it the old college try.” It’s her belief that I’ll be able to get the hurt off my chest and regain a zest to live by sharing the experience I went through so that others might learn from it. She goes so far as to propose that my crisis is far greater than what I suggest, that instead responsibility rests collectively on the whole of society. I know she’s just trying to make me feel better, so I don’t believe a word of it…and I still want to be sentenced to death.
Nick? His first chapter was my second.
CHAPTER 2: (…NICK’S CHAPTER 1)
How can an infant know that he or she is born into incalculable wealth? I surely had no idea that my father was an esteemed member of an exclusive club, all associates having a minimum of a billion dollars net worth. It would not be until I reached four or five years of age and began interacting more routinely with the world outside of my home and immediate family that subtleties began to impress on my psyche such that I perceived I was different than the other kids, special in some inexplicable manner. Should I have discerned that the attention bestowed upon me was solely owing to my being the son of a man dubbed not only a great scientific mind but also an entrepreneurial giant? While at Cal Tech he’d worked on various projects in the field of digital science and satellite technology and had stamped his name on innumerable patents. By the time he graduated, several of his inventions had been put into practice by major corporations and governmental defense agencies such that he was receiving large royalty payments.
Then he set up Ferris Wheel. He modestly selected the name, stressing his mission being that his enterprise would be the guiding force that would turn all the spokes in a digital network that would someday serve to unite global communications and data transmission into a central computing system. As you know, his corporation is as recognizable in the area of digital communications as Gillette in razor blades—all this is intended to someday become the property of yours truly.
As a young child, I might go to sleep on an airplane at night in Paris and wake up the next morning in Beijing— frequently he’d have my mother and I accompany him as he traveled the world for commerce, conferences and conventions. It might not seem an ideal life for a child but it worked. I recall no shortage of playmates. When I was four, I spent a week in London with the Prime Minister’s grandson, who was about my age.
Few people can relate to the concept of having the world at their fingertips. I can. Presto, everything I could dream was there for me, even before I could wish for it. I have no memory of ever asking for a gift or toy seen on an advertisement. I was indulged with it before it reached the shelves; and I didn’t have to do a thing.
I never had to do a damn thing and I’d never have to in the future. Why? Because I owned the world before I could shit outside a diaper.
Doesn’t that sound wonderful?
I’m asking you, Murray, you and everyone else that will eventually read this historical account—an autobiographical tale, even more, an inspection of what happens to a human soul when the teats thought to be forever there for the sucking suddenly are taken away—would you like to have lived my life?
I’m writing this in the here-and-now, my pal, the only real friend I’ve ever had. I know you scorn me. In that way, you are no different from every other person that has detested me throughout much of my life. But you’re nature is a kind one and owing to that you’ll stick with me while I engage in this momentous authoring.
Piece by piece, I’ll be sharing my life journey, every detail that I can piece together about my fascinating, captivating, glamorous…and tragic existence. You’ll be free to ask me questions, and by doing so I’ll be grateful to address any gaps I’ve neglected to fill in. I intend to hand you the chapters of this story as I finish them, my plan being that the final section will bring us to the most current moments of my life as I’m breathing them. I promise you that when you put all the material together, you’ll have a manuscript of great interest to millions of people.
Thank you, Murray, for coming back into my life, though I have to close with an admission I pray will not cause you to spurn me at a time when I need you most. The disclosure I’m compelled to make is that it was not destiny’s design that brought us together. Instead, we are again bonded due to my will and intent. I have no interest in school. I enrolled for no purpose other than to reunite with you. If you wonder why I didn’t simply call you, the answer is that I thought meeting you in an academic setting and thus seeing me as a fellow student would enhance the likelihood that you would be receptive to me—it might surprise you that I’m sadly inadequate dealing with male relationships.
When you finish each piece of this document, let me know so we can talk. Oh, and one other thing. I’d prefer you not sharing this with anyone until after you receive the final installment. The honor and integrity that I witnessed in you as children is what I never forgot, and why I’ve sought you out after all these years—it’s the reason why I know you’ll respect this simple request.
By the time Nick handed me this introduction to what would eventually be a breathtaking script—and I had completed the first reading—I’d been seeing him intermittently for just over a month. Hesitantly, I’d nibbled on the bait he used during that time hoping to lure me in. I’d spit it out. But as time passed, I swallowed; instinctively he set the mortal hook.
The first pages left my emotions stirring. As much as I was repulsed by him, I couldn’t help but gag on the realization that the unsavory taste he’d left in my mouth after so many years of interacting with him was preferable to the shame of feeling I’d terribly misjudged him, that he deserved pity rather than ridicule. More simply, there was sweetness in having bitterness toward him, yet bitterness in renouncing that same sweetness.
I must have re-read the material several times spanning a period of three or four days before I heard from him.
“I’m assuming curiosity in the end won out—you did read it but you weren’t sure what to say.” He crowed. “Am I correct?”
“It’s a bit stunning, Nick. I mean, I would have never guessed you felt—“
“There’s a lot more too. Nobody knows another person unless that person wants to be known…and most people prefer to keep their self a secret, just as much from themselves as outsiders.” He paced his next sentence, waiting to be sure he had my attention. “I want you to know me, Murray. Different from most people, I’ve worn out a mirror studying the real Nick Ferris. It doesn’t seem right to me, though, not to have one other person apprised of the truth.”
“I think you have me all wrong. Besides, I mean, it sounds like you would be better off with a therapist,” I stammered. “Nick, you remember me when I was a little kid, you know, from your perspective as a child.”
“All I’m asking is that you look over the material I’ll give to you. It’ll only be for a few months and then you’ll have everything you need—“
“Need? For what?” “You’ll see.
“Well, for what it’s worth I don’t know what you’re making such a big deal over. Most people would give anything to have had your life,” I peppered at him, infusing my words with a measure of irritation.
“That’s exactly what I’d expect you to be thinking now. We’ll see if you feel the same after you’ve read the whole story. I promise you, it is going to be very interesting.” He laughed gaily. “You can use me for your term paper in psychology class. You can title it, The Unimaginable Life of Nick Ferris,” he roared deliriously.
“How do you know I’m taking psychology?”
“You’re my friend, Murray. Why shouldn’t I know?” He rambled on without permitting me time to reply, let alone contemplate his statement. “I was about to add to the first chapter some other material but since I have you on the phone you can save me the trouble of writing this evening. Come on over. I’ll show rather than tell.”
I arrived at his home at six-thirty. At the street was a buzzer. I pressed and a few seconds later a man’s voice asked me to identify myself. The line went silent. Then about thirty seconds later, the gate opened and I heard the same man instructing me to enter. I proceeded along a driveway for at least a couple hundred yards. The path arced a three-quarters circle as it ascended a steep incline. The early evening dimness revealed moonbeams jetting through the foliage of a grove of giant Chinese Elm trees that canopied the road. It was beautiful—it was Bel Air, California, home of the very rich….and very famous.
When the grade flattened, a large rounded lawn came into view. Surrounding it were beds of flowers, none of which I could name other than roses that were blooming in an infinite number of shades. I wouldn’t have noticed them had numerous lights shining down from the trees not illuminated the area.
My car crawled another couple hundred feet before the house came into view. The family had moved, this white colossal replicating a southern mansion with five huge pillars powerfully announcing that it would take Sherman’s army to bring down the glorious structure they were guarding. Standing in front of this stately home, I noticed a short, squat man in a black suit motioning to me to pull my car under a portico that extended forward from the entrance with sufficient width to accommodate three cars. As he directed me to the precise spot he wanted me to stop, he came to the driver’s side and opened the door.
“Mr. Broudy, welcome.” He gestured with a nearly imperceptible bow. “Nick is waiting for you.” My door was opened before I could reach for the latch. “I’ll take your vehicle,” he offered politely.
I started walking toward the entrance. As I reached the top of the steps, another man wearing a matching suit met me. He escorted me through a small room off to the side. It was filled with security equipment. I noticed cameras viewing the grounds and parts of the interior of the house, as well as the outside gate and driveway I’d used to enter moments earlier. There was a doorway that I could tell had a scanner installed. As I passed through it, there was Nick, opening his arms to greet me with a robust hug. I followed him into the foyer, a space about the size of a hotel lobby. The floor was a creamy marbled color, dutifully training the eye in the direction of a matching spiral staircase leading to the second story.
“Are you hungry?” his obsequious tone hinting that he might prefer playing the role of servant.
“No, I’m good.”
“Well, then what do you say we get down to business?” he posed, quickly altering his speech to a chesty style that was more familiar to me. “Follow me.”
“What’s with the security?” I couldn’t help asking. “Two years ago somebody tried to kill my father.”
He lobbed his explanation over his shoulder without looking back as I trailed behind him. “That was at the old house, the one you know. After that, this little spot came up for sale and my parents bought it. It belonged to a Saudi sheikh that died and the family didn’t want it. Nobody is getting into this baby unless they’re invited.”
“Why did they want to kill him?”
“It wasn’t they.” He stopped to punctuate his statement by staring into my eyes. “It was a single man that had a vendetta against my father. He was supposed to be coming over to resolve a conflict but instead he arrived with a pistol. I heard them arguing. The other man’s voice was loud and threatening. You know how you have a feeling that something is not normal? Well, I know where my father keeps his weapons so,” he shrugged as if there was no other course of action to take than what he did, “I grabbed a .45 revolver and went to see what was going on. The guy pulled the gun just as I came in.” Nick looked at me in the most relaxed manner. “I shot and killed him.”
At first, I stood mute. Then as I was about to speak, he cut me off.
“I know my father is not a nice guy when it comes to business. No wealthy man is. It’s impossible to become fat in this world without being ruthless…unless you inherit it, in which case if you’re not vigilant you’ll lose it.” Nick always spoke as if he were an authority, even on subjects he couldn’t have known first-hand. Still, he had the remarkable ability to sell his line, likely because he generally stuck close to what was intuitively correct. “I never read about it in the paper or heard it on the news,” I commented, puzzled that such a major event could go unreported.
“Men like my father don’t like to be breaking news stories. Nothing illegal was done…he just made sure that it was kept very quiet. Items like that can give other people ideas,” Nick laughed before motioning with his head that we needed to move on.
The stairway was in the center of the entry. There were three sets of closed double doors, one at either side of the room and a third partially blocked from view by the staircase. I trailed behind him as he went right, opening the door and waiting for me to go first into a wood paneled study. He then led me through to the corner of the room where a single door opened to a descending stairwell.
I followed him stride-for-stride for more steps than would be required to go down a standard single story. Finally, I was standing on the floor of a subterranean basement. While commonly the lower area of a home is of lesser standing than the rest of the living space, other than lacking windows that was not the case with Nick’s private playroom. The walls were covered with an assortment of marbled and grained woods comprising shelves and cupboards. Overall, it was lavishly decorated.
The room was immense. My estimate is that it was at least a couple thousand square feet. The shorter side of the rectangle off to the left housed a sofa and chairs in front of an entertainment center. The billiard table sitting in the corner had enough room on all sides to allow a pool player to tap an outstretched queue stick on the wood frame while strolling the perimeter to survey a shot. There were innumerable exposed shelves upon which a vast array of manuals, textbooks, comic books and figurines densely protected the surfaces such that dusting would be painstakingly conducted.
Nick stood silently, permitting me time to gaze about the room and to notice that the objects just described were inconsequential to the main attraction, a series of exhibits that sprawled to fill the remaining footage.
As I made an initial cursory inspection, glancing from one display to the next, I was speechless. I remember friends growing up who were infatuated with one hobby or another. One of the boys that I hung out with in elementary school loved model trains. I was impressed with his collection of engines and rail cars, tracks splitting in varying directions, replicas of trees and parks, buildings, stations, and miniature people as part of city scenes. That was a joke compared to Nick’s addiction with G. I. Joe. I recognized some of the characters and props from my own childhood days of playing with the popular toy line. Soon Nick would deliver a history of the series, along with a lecture describing why he’d elected the brand to be a cornerstone of his life, beginning when he was a boy and continuing to the present.
“What do you think of this?” he grinned ear-to-ear as he lifted a foot-tall figure housed in a clear plastic box from the center of what appeared to be a miniaturized reproduction of a battle scene. “Ten years ago my dad came home with it. It’s the original prototype of the G. I. Joe Toy Soldier; it dates back to the beginning, 1963.”
He nodded his head sternly to emphasize his next point. “Two hundred thousand dollars my dad paid…and god knows what it’s worth today. You see this was the prototype for all the original figures.”
He reverently blew particles of dust that had settled on the top before setting it back in place. To his right was another collection of pieces, four men standing next to one another like Greek statues.
“These are the first Action Soldiers that came out in 1982.” Since they were not in protective containers, he picked one up. “They represent the four branches of the military, Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines. Ace here dropped some serious load on the Jerrys,” he explained as he held the broadly built blond male in an orange flight suit. He set it down and then reached for one of the other men, a similarly powerful-appearing redheaded soldier in Army fatigues named, Rocky. “There’s no way of telling how many original sets of these babies still exist but it can’t be too many.”
I continued exploring what amounted to a museum, one likely more comprehensive than even possessed by Hasbro, the founder of the enormously successful product line. Even at my age, I was awed by the magnificence and vastness of his treasures. My eyes roved in fascination at some of the other creations, from Big Lob to Pimp Daddy Destro to the entire Crimson Strike Team to the Starscream Sky Striker. There was nothing missing, certainly there were no characters that weren’t displayed that had been produced up to when my interest in the hobby retired some years before…except.
I remembered that the early females in the G. I. Joe lineup played primarily stereotypic gender roles like nurses but later the ladies took on full combat assignments, both with the allied forces and various enemy groups introduced over the years. Other than a couple small models that were part of a defined set of characters, I noticed that some of my favorite heroes of the opposite sex such as Scarlett, Lady Jane and Cover Girl, and even the villainous Baroness and Zarana, were missing.
“Where are the babes?” I posed playfully.
Nick squinted. Then his throat flexed as if I’d requested that he swallow a turd. He gazed at me for a moment, his demeanor deliberative. He finally invited me to follow him across the room to a large pair of cabinet doors. He swung them both open with a single movement. Inside were stuffed hundreds of figures. As far as I could tell, they were all female.
“That’s where they belong,” he explained chirpily, now reclaiming a good-natured temper. He strolled across the room, summarily dropping the topic of female characters. He glanced at the pictures and posters from G. I. Joe movies and comic books covering any wall space not claimed for built-ins. “I treasure these art pieces. They remind me of everything that’s true about the human condition, the finest specimen of male virility eager to stand up and fight for values they can’t begin to understand.”
His derision of the travesty of man’s devotion to blindly following orders to engage in war and killing was irrepressible, yet at the same time there was a resounding admiration.
“I love these guys. I’ve fought battles with them against every imaginable enemy. Look around the room. All those books compose one of the finest libraries of ancient and modern war history and tactics. I’ve read most of them and then employed the strategies with my troops.”
“But why are the girls hidden away?” I couldn’t resist pestering him.
“Oh yes, I didn’t talk about that, did I? Murray, my father is a majority owner of Hasbro stock, and has been since before I was born. He’s sat in on strategy sessions with the designers of the G. I. Joe line. Listening to him speak on the subject, I have the impression that they’d spit on the females if it weren’t for the same reason women are idiotically interviewing football players and acting as sports commentators on television.
“It’s all about money. Simply, the corporate execs came to the shrewd insight that they could double the potential market for their products by appealing to the remaining fifty-one percent of the population that’s not male—they’d be selling tampons to boys in high school if they thought they could turn a buck.” Nick laughed.
It seemed that he was inviting me to join in celebrating what he thought was a great joke. “Don’t get me wrong. I admire what my father has accomplished. He’s a fabulously rich and influential man. I do have an issue with money serving to warp the values of a culture, to the point that what we call an advanced civilization is about to be sacked.”
“Because women are successfully serving in the military?” I queried, assuming based on his treatment of the G. I. Joe females that if he had his way he’d refuse them the right to serve their country.
Nick protested my obvious objection. “We’re being indoctrinated to believe a falsehood. The truth would appall people. Women are a liability to the armed services in terms of combat. They’re only given those roles because military experts have been forced to imbibe a political correctness that makes them vomit.”
“You really have a thing with women,” I commented contemplatively, trying to grasp what was driving his strong opinions. “Didn’t you ever have a girl you were just tight with, like I am with Sandy? We’re not lovers or anything like that but she…and my mom too…are what make me love girls.”
“I have an even bigger thing with leaders spitting in the face of nature,” he replied, ignoring my question. “The men who might be in a position to stop the madness are being led around like puppies on leashes, by women that are insecure and pathetically misguided about what worth they have in the larger scheme of human evolution. It’s been brewing for a hundred years but in the last thirty the damage has been immeasurable.”
Nick’s views offended me. Still, one thing I knew about him was that he was very bright. While he never excelled in formal education, he was an avid reader and was articulate on most any subject. My parents used the term “precocious” referring to him, and not in a derogatory sense. Therefore, at the same time that I found myself repulsed by his views, I couldn’t help but want to understand the reasoning behind them—later I would be lectured on the subject but my edification was not to begin that evening.
“Look,” Nick continued, “we can come back to about 1985 another time. But FYI that’s when the real war I’ll explain to you later exploded. Since then the engagement has belched a noxious plume of smoke that’s fouling the air to this day. For now…let’s get something to eat.”
I noticed while observing him that at the same time there was passion in his voice as he expressed stern rebuke for those he disrespected, he rarely appeared to deviate from what I assessed to be a cool detachment. Typically intellect and mental acuity dominated his persona, though I could sense lurking below the surface an eerie calm, the type that itches for a bad day.
As we ascended from the underground battle command center, I heard shuffling above. When we reached ground level, standing inside the study was his mother. She was wearing a pair of cobalt-shaded tight-fit designer jeans and an orange top that cut across her half-exposed breast like a miracle. Father Time had most definitely forgotten to administer His famously cruel brushstrokes to the appearance of Wanda Ferris; she was even more stunning than I recalled her.
She approached me with her arms outstretched, greeting me with a warm embrace. Nick never glanced her way. Instead he kept walking. I paused, not certain if I should engage in conversation with her or follow my friend.
“Go with Nick,” she said, sensitive to my dilemma. I took off. In a manner seeming to be mischievous, she tossed a comment to me just as I was about to exit the room. “Hope your mom and dad are well.”
Smiling over my shoulder, I signaled that indeed they were.
Wanda Ferris might as well have been dead to Nick, precisely the state of non-being I would learn he desperately yearned for her to suffer—and would have gladly inflicted if he hadn’t concocted a still better method of surgically removing her heart from her body and leaving her holding it in her palm. Had he expressed early on how he planned to punish his mother, it might have provided me sufficient motive to bail on him…but Nick was clever not to lay out his hand until all bets were in, except his own.