Someone or something in the Chicagoland area is wreaking havoc (like that death and destruction stuff)
on unsuspecting citizenry, and has been doing so for decades.
What could it be? What? WHAT??
Hang on... you didn't actually think we were going to spill the beans right here on the back cover, did ya?
Tag along as we uncover perhaps the worst business plan in the history of business plans.
It's exciting exploration, dangerous discovery, and ultimate other stuff, all in something that many are calling "a book".
"A riveting saga; an edge-of-your-seat, nonstop action pa... huh? What? Oh. Sorry, wrong book." Hugh Jim Bissell, critic
"They killed a tree for this?" Ray Vaughn, another critic
"(Reading this) beats doing nothing, but not by much."
Boris Tadeff, guess
|Product dimensions:||5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.56(d)|
Read an Excerpt
The Center for Cretaceous Studies
By S Beckmann
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2016 Dr. S Beckmann
All rights reserved.
You have to be from here. That's all there is to it. I grew up with 'it' because I've lived in Chicago all 24 years of my life. Everyone here knows about 'it'. Like crocodiles in New York sewers, the moon landings of the 1990's, 'it' is just there; common knowledge, y'know?
As a kid, me, my little friends, their little friends, we all knew the wives' tale. Most of us heard it because parents probably brought it up accidentally at the dinner table, or maybe like mine: during a WGN newscast covering yet another shooting in Chicago; projecting that 'hand caught in the cookie jar' look before quickly changing the topic.
"uh.. You should, um, be working on your, uh, school report upstairs, Odessa," they'd sputter, grasping for ethical straws.
As you grew, the rumor, the wives' tale, urban myth, whatever you called it, grew with you. Adult versions forgot about "boogey monsters" while upgraded horrors were doled out as barbershop fodder, pretzel logic at the corner bar, hair salon chatter, even pool hall braggadocio. Oh sure, it made for some entertaining tall tales. Even so, everyone knew 'it' was real. Yeah ... right. Wink, wink.
Over time 'it' rumors coagulated into some evil, sinister, madman named "Doctor Beckmann". He was the one responsible. He started it. Of course, no one knew a thing about this psychopath. No one had ever met him or knew if he really existed, yet everyone knew 'it' was of his doing and whatever he kept in that secret dungeon no one had ever seen. What? Oh come on, everyone knows there is going to be a secret dungeon involved with these kinds of folktales. If he truly exists, he probably has an evil laugh to complete the basic requirements of all evildoers worldwide.
This learning of the 'adult' rumors, elevating the mad scientist to legendary status, came as one matured beyond the "boogey monster" years, but most likely because your, or in this case my bff Em overheard a group of adults talking about it at length in the next room during a party at her house.
'Em' would be Emma Knight Shymalan, my bud. We are, were, and forever will be, inseparable.
"Yeah, whatever. Keep me out of this. Hey, you got a lighter?"
Sigh ... I truly believe Em had a cigarette in her hand when she popped out at the hospital. She also swears too much, something I've tried to clean up in this presentation as much as possible.
"Someone has to counter your damned 'girl-next-door' façade," she notes, fishing a lighter from an oversized bag she calls a purse while reading over my shoulder.
"Huh? Em, we both know you don't live next door, and why'd
you call me a hallway entrance?"
"That's a foyer not a fa ... oh never mind, genius," she puffs.
Meanwhile, back to 'it': Every once in a while something just didn't add up. Like, a guy knew a guy who knew a gal who knew a guy who knew someone that had suddenly vanished. Just like The Jerk.
That would be my ex.
I think 'it' ate my ex, The Jerk. Well, at least I hope it did. We'd been married for three wonderful, "Don't worry, honey, I'll get a job" months when he took off one morning never to return. Like I said, he was The Jerk. Not just a jerk; The Jerk. He left me with bills, a beat-up, rust bucket Dodge on its last legs, and no source of viable income.
Yep, something was out there, alright ... dark, sinister. Chicago police blamed the crime rate. That's also what the local news said. No way. 'It' would grab non-vegetable-eating children and POOF they were gone. And it wasn't just humans. Smashed, overturned cars, buildings damaged, lawns and flowerbeds ruined, outdoor pets gone, missing, with no explanation ... other than 'it'.
Not that anyone ever witnessed these events. The urban myth followed all international laws regulating wives' tales and urban myths to the letter. Rule #1 being: no one ever sees anything.
You went about your life. I, for example, was in the middle of my sixth year of junior college, studying journalism in hopes of becoming an investigative reporter like Jerry Springer or Maury. I put up with the cross-town commute to school from my old upstairs bedroom at my parents' house because it was cheaper than getting a place of my own. Move in with Em? Are you kidding me? I like my lungs. I didn't care much for moving back home, but thanks to The Jerk I didn't have much choice. Besides, my transportation was dependable, thank you, though she would never be the apple of any carjacker's eye. That was fine with me.
Emma, the rust bucket Dodge on its last legs, was named after my life-long friend. She may be a decade older but smokes only half as much as her namesake. Still, the dependable but getting-more-transparent-every-year (think: gaping rust holes) Ramcharger blows heat in the winter and AC-ish in the summer if you smack the dash in just the right spot with your fist three times. Em often said Emma would be the death of me. She also said The Jerk didn't deserve me. When she said things like that, I always remember that's why I put up with her cursing like a sailor and smoking like a chimney.
It was winter, the week before holiday break, when 'it' and I crossed paths. My Journalism 6515 teacher, Mr. Kent Ritewell, had informed the class we'd be submitting a term paper by the end of the semester on an event, place, or time, requiring investigative work. He recommended we use the holiday time off to determine that subject.
Naturally the two Emmas and I went out partying. We spent the entire evening, night, and a good part of the morning hopping from one college party to another. We were headed for one final appearance before calling it a night. I clearly recall 'it' crossing our path at sunrise, or 10:17 a.m. as the police report said. The conversation leading up to it kinda went like this:
"Ode! Did you see her come on to him?
"Yeah, that was distur ... oh geez. Look at this traffic."
"Dammit! We're never gonna make Mark's place if ... hey, it's
clear on my side."
"Em, your side is the sidewalk!"
"And I'm telling you it's clear. C'mon! You only need to make it down to the damned intersection. Hell, it's not even that far. Maybe 50 feet."
So, class, what did we learn today? Lesson #1: Never take transportation rerouting advice at 10:00 in the morning from someone who's been out partying nonstop since 8:00 p.m. the night before. Lesson #2: Emma, the full-size 1979 Dodge Ramcharger, does not fit between parking meters in downtown Chicago, but 'can'.
And so, with one formerly fully functional parking meter lodged into the driver's side rear wheel well and another dragging beneath, we rolled merrily on down the sidewalk.
Now, the guy who threw himself onto the hood and into Emma's windshield, listed in the police report as 'Pedestrian D' (Pedestrians A-C? Don't ask), didn't even look up. That seemed like negligence on his part if you ask me. His briefcase flew past Em (the intoxicated one on my right) exploding on impact with the wall of the brick building approximately two feet from Emma's (the Dodge on its last legs) outside mirror. The Windy City quickly lived up to its reputation by immediately scattering hundreds of pretty, white, official-looking papers to the five corners of the Earth.
As is her style to understate the obvious, a wide-eyed Em, frozen in her seat with arms outstretched, still braced for impact, screamed, "DID YOU SEE THAT?" at what I guessed was in reference to Pedestrian D splatted across Emma's caved-in windshield. An unlit cigarette resembling elbow macaroni hung from her lower lip.
"ODE! QUICK! USE THE WIPERS!"
"NO! AND ... WHY?"
"I DON'T HAVE WIPERS!"
One arm of Windshield Man looked bad, like a wild animal had ripped off a leg of lamb and flung it onto Emma's hood. It was bleeding worse than the time I used Dad's razor to shave my legs. Em got out/fell out of her side, smacking the edge of Emma's rusty door against the brick building. Wobbling toward the hood, I believe she was about to demonstrate how an inebriated CSI person would handle the situation, though I doubt any CSI person would throw up on the sidewalk.
A gaunt face reappeared, peeking over the front of the tall hood, desperately clinging to the grille to steady herself. Mouthing words I couldn't hear, she eyed Windshield Man, which is a nice way of saying Em tried to focus both eyes on the same object. She looked directly at me, tilting her head as if to drive home the point, using stabbing eyeballs and more conviction to seemingly mouth the exact, same, unheard words. Exasperated, throwing her hands in the air in disgust and never coming close to walking in a straight line, she ducked around her flung-open door, stuck her face inside and screamed, "LAY OFF THE HORN, WILL YA?!" I was astonished to see my white-knuckled fingers clamped on
Emma's horn. The glaring silence lasted only a few seconds. "God, Ode! I think he's dead!"
"No he's not! No he's not! No he snot!" I machine-gunned, hyperventilating.
"How the hell do you know?"
"Because ... if he was dead ... he wouldn't ... be twitching like that. Right?"
"Good point," admitted the boozed-up, 4th year junior college nursing student, catching her breath.
Slowly Em evaluated the situation. Or maybe she was waiting for the remaining beer to stop sloshing around in her stomach. I watched transfixed from the driver's seat as she stumbled back, then reached over the hood for Windshield Man's coat.
"Em! Don't touch him!"
"I'm just going to see if he has any ID," she called back as sirens approached.
"Holy crap," Em whispered to herself. "Dr. S Beckmann."
* * *
The next few weeks were spent in and out of the hospital. Oh, I was fine. Thanks for asking. I decided to 'babysit' Dr. Beckmann because if it just so happened that he wanted to share his deep, dark secret by blabbing it out during his drug-induced convalescence, I would be there to gladly listen, gladly care ... and gladly jot it all down.
From the business card Em pulled from his wallet – and promptly lost – we surmised he ran a seafood business. It definitely involved ocean stuff. Before the wind took it (her excuse) Em was somehow able to focus on the line "The Center for Cetacean Studies" or "The Center for Crustacean Studies" printed on his card. I immediately Googled both. Well, the next day anyway.
By now we had no idea what wives' tales or urban myths had to do with whales, porpoises, dolphins, or shrimps! How do you sneak a whale into Chicago?!? How would you get a crab or lobster to terrorize the people? Something was drastically inaccurate or someone was drastically incompetent.
The entire scenario had 'term paper with an A+' written all over it. Maybe even a smiley face drawn in red ink from ol' Ritewell. Plus I figured, or sorta hoped, familiarity wouldn't breed contempt. As in: Dr. Beckmann wouldn't press charges if I befriended him while hanging out inside his recovery room. Y'know, showing that "I really care" junk. Besides, I bought him a real pretty 'Get Well' card; glitter on it and everything.
I've never used drugs, which is saying a lot where I come from, but during these bedside weeks Dr. Beckmann's private recovery room was littered with dozens and dozens of disposed paper coffee cups, plastic soda bottles, energy drink cans, and several industrial strength NoDoz boxes. And that was just Tuesday.
In the slow unraveling of Dr. Beckmann's secret lobster business – he blabbed incoherently about crustacean studies or cetacean studies ... Well? I did say he "blabbed incoherently," right? What d'ya want? Anyway, during those times my four best friends were morphine, fentanyl, oxycodone/acetaminophen and Dr. Beckmann's private nurse, Barb Itchuit. During one of her last official visits, before vowing to never say another word to me ever again, she let it slip that "his research has nothing to do with crustaceans, you idiot."
I was on to something!
I was also told they'd take that "you idiot" part out when this thing got edited.
One morning while sitting comfortably, watching my soaps on Dr. Beckmann's private room 52" HDTV, scraping the last of the green Jello from his food tray, he began mumbling. At first I thought it was more of the unintelligible mumbling he had been doing all night, so my feet remained propped up on the bed under his blanket. Gotta keep the tootsies warm, y'know. The Empire Carpet guy, in a voice probably recorded in the 1970s, was ... wait, what?
"Frrrthgj ... arheww?
I jumped. Standing next to his bed, looking at barely-there eyeballs deep inside that full body cast, sporting my not-washed-in-two-weeks robe, fuzzy slippers, and frizzy hair, I quickly introduced myself, "I'm here, Dr. Beckmann ... and that crustacean cetacean study thing you got? I mean, during your recovery we've really talked a lot about it, remember? But umm, I was wondering, could you just sign these papers first?"
"Whgrrrvlech ..." Bloodshot eyes rolled back. Foam gurgled around the tubes stuck in his mouth.
Uhh, you can't get rabies from a windshield cut, can you?
'These papers' consisted of crudely drawn-up non-disclosures, no fault claims, approval to all access of whatever it is wherever he had it; all thrown together, well, copied by yours truly, along with one hospital parking receipt that needed validating.
"Get you a pen?"
"What? You say its ok for me to go through company records, filings, memos, documents, faxes, cable and/or utility bills, and use whatever I need to disclose your decades-old secret to the world?"
"Timmy fell down the well?"
Handing him my pen I watched as it fell through limp, heavily bandaged fingers. Grabbing a roll of tape sitting atop the heart monitor thingie next to his bed, I placed the pen back in his hand. In the course of the next few minutes I a) moved the paper under his pen for a 'signature' though the finished product looked more like his EKG printout, b) was told in garbled English about a warehouse, and c) wiped enough slobber off the paperwork to float a boat. Eww.
I was flying down the hallway texting Em before the room's door
closed silently behind me.
"M! We r gud 2 go! B thr n 5!"
I sprinted down the stairs nine at a time, out the emergency entrance clutching the paperwork, including the all-important parking validation receipt. Emma cranked up the same as usual. Translation: I needed a jump. Hey, it was either a new windshield or a new battery. Still, only three short hours later Em and I were rolling down West Walnut street at 'parade speed'. Dilapidated warehouses with fenced-in, old, chunks-missing, blacktopped lots populated this area for blocks.
"How are we supposed to find this place?" asked Em for the nth time as she lit up her nth cigarette. "It's not like some building is going to have a sign out front that says 'Center of Crustacean Studies' on it like that one."
"Just keep loo. ... WHAT?"
I slammed on the brakes. Translation: Emma rolled to her squealing/screeching stop that made scratching fingernails on a chalkboard sound tame. Throwing her into reverse and praying the driveshaft wouldn't roll out from underneath again, we backed up to a gated lot and assessed the situation.
Sixty feet inside a rusting, padlocked gate, leaning as if it had been repeatedly run into and over, stood a building that may very well have been from the last World War (Bosnia, right?). Its condition was such that it made Emma look like she just rolled out of the Chicago Auto Show. A small black and white sign on the chain link fence read, "Center for Cetacean Studies" and something about private property, no trespassing, blah, blah, blah.
"That's Crustacean Studies, you idiot," stated my co-pilot.
"Nuh uh. Read it again, Webster."
"Crustacean Studies," she incorrectly warbled out again.
Wait. What? It's not a Crustacean Studies? Not Cetacean Studies? Cretaceous? Cretaceous?? Really? Wow, Cretaceous!?! What the heck was a cretaceous? Was this a front for 'it' or was this 'it'? Perhaps the investigative team of Em and Ode would know once we were inside trespassi ... er, doing that investigating stuff.
"How you gettin' in?" asked Em, slouched in her seat, both feet on the dash, nonchalantly flicking ashes.
"You mean 'we' ... how are we getting in. Right?"
Excerpted from The Center for Cretaceous Studies by S Beckmann. Copyright © 2016 Dr. S Beckmann. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
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