At trial, the conman 'Clark Rockefeller' wouldn't say even 'boo' about that California couple missing since 1986. The same from whom he'd rented a room, in suburban San Marino; that Cris and Linda-Chris {them Blancos}.

 

From the start, he'd found their persistent, bold bent—their earnest-naif claims of being totally 'open' and 'available' when it came to group sex—to be both deeply thrilling and 'what a revoltin' development is this!' These liberal-minded newlyweds who threw their swelled weight around like it was a dare or bet—like, for them and their sexual venture, it was always full-speed ahead on some swinging anchors and dicks…


If, then how else could they expect it to end? About three months after they'd let him the bedroom above their very heads? Could they have been much surprised or taken aback when, catching them in the hall outside their kitchen's breakfast nook, he meekly suggested:

 

That the three of them {and asap} 'swing'?

 

And further, when their reaction came so vehemently—their very bodies seizing up and shrinking from his, balking and bald-faced before he could even get the offer out—what did they expect would happen to them next? Didn't it make sense for them to be disappeared from their subdivision within the week {'R.' fleeing from the scene in Cris' rust-bucket Jeep}?

 

In the run up to his trial, 'Rockefeller's' claims never changed about this period in his life: That his memory had failed him adamantly on anything prior to 1993. That perhaps it'd been him staying in the bedroom above their heads for six months that year, brushing up against these soon-to-be doomed, twentysomething kids; but also perhaps not. Perhaps just someone claiming—allegedly, allegedly—to be him…

What the younger Blancos didn’t know about their drunk mother’s prefabbed, postwar house had been shortly stumbled upon by their renting guest:


That a significant portion of the house’s inside walls remained, from a last remodel initiated around 1978, unfinished. That an indeed criminally actionable portion of these walls—shared, upstairs and down, by their bedroom and his—were, on the inside, mostly hollow and without guts. Lacking anything requisite or remotely up to code; not properly ducted, insulated, or shellacked. This meant, ‘Rockefeller’ discovered after taking up some loose boards in his back bedroom closet {nosing around his room to find a hiding place for his peculiar ‘things’}, that a not-overly-endowed individual could shimmy, lower, shake himself like dust down and in between those walls. That he could traverse their emptied-out passages as he pleased, planting himself invisibly throughout the house as a voyeur to peep. {Surely, he told himself, his discovery of this fact could be no mere coincidence.}


Nevertheless, he waited for days to act on this secret knowledge, allowing himself to steep in its possibility, in the fantasy-based role-playing he could spin like wisps too-sugary yet to ingest, like the pink particulate insulation missing from the walls except reclaimed now as cotton candy and at his command. He would sit naked on his bed, scooching his underside scruff back and forth {and back again}, the starched, bleach-smelling sheets a real 24-grit-times-ten. The degree to which he could get his scrotum and sphincter engaged {the precise angle and pressure that fermented endless, engulfing scenarios across his bed} sent him nightly into a reverie for near-on two weeks.  


When he did finally screw himself up to act {FBI records pointed to the end of August} he restricted himself at first to only 10- or 15-minute trips. For as long as it took him to discover the most satisfying spot from which to watch the Blancos’ bed. {Plus he found the insides of those walls, somehow despite their shoddy workmanship, oppressively warm; warm and ‘close.’ When he tried to stay for any length of time he found himself constantly bothered; the humidity condensing on his big, geek glasses; or sweat stinging the corners of his perpetually chapped lips. Material circumstances keeping him misdirected, distracted, and overall off track—keeping him unable to enjoy the deep thrill of ‘being there’ in the first place, of having the opportunity to catch his intricately (err) appendaged landlords in the midst of some turn-on tryst.}


And what further frustrated him, when he was able to stick it out long enough to catch them in bed, was the fact that he usually found them busy with the most mundane of things {not, as he oft imagined, that slow, approaching shot at the start of Psycho, where the camera came in for a landing from outer cityscape, through a seamy hotel window frame, finding a philandering Janet, still blouseless, still ‘rocket’ and bra-ed, mere seconds after the finished act—not something like this at all but}:

 

One or the other of the couple {unwashed unbrushed unshaved} changing hurriedly and late for work;

 

Or Cris being awakened out of eye-fluttering sleep by the gurgling cries of his sloshed mom {sighs escaping her like a gas line badly tapped};

 

Or Linda-Chris—built like a linebacker but also, all the more, in charge of her sex—spread across the bed; massively bored; absently plucking out hairs while awaiting her next ‘underthings’ shoot.

 

Five fortnights passed like this {actually August the 6th} before events transpired that required ‘R.,’ no matter how much he’d have preferred not to, to ‘do them in.’ Even if he wouldn’t admit it after his arrest, the memory of what he saw that night’d lodged hard in his head, a confused condensate, a confounding {all he could find to call it afterwards} event. Something that had passed, from Linda unrelentingly to Cris. Something that—though done in real time and right before his eyes in the door-shut sanctum of their nuptialed bed—he was still hard-pressed to say: Exactly what it had been. {And yet, he couldn’t help but admit, incarcerated after all these years: That that night’d made him about the most ‘hot’ he’d ever been.}


It began with him on his rented bed half-asleep; had begun as a persistent, far-away puttering, chasing him {before waking him} out of his own dense dreams. He woke with his pillow half-stuffed in his mouth like a gag, slobbering, sans his immediate bearings {sans also his pants}. Lying on his back, he tried to imagine what the sound could be {an outboard engine?}. When he swung his feet onto the floor he could hear it more clearly, the sound like sonar drawing a picture increasingly in his head: Though it made no sense {he was sure} he was hearing one of those old-time aerator’s used to let down lines to deepsea-diving men. {The same rigging that ‘Rockefeller’d’ first encountered while watching the black-and-white horror production: Creature from the Black Lagoon. In the film, the onboard aerator putters away while sending oxygen—via a seemingly endless and unkinkable line—down to the film’s two male leads (each equally muscled; well-pecked; Brylcreemed). Repeatedly they are forced to dive (always without shirt or pants, he’d mused at 10), to chase after their shared, single love interest: A knockout version of his Vera Miles. Here her hair had been dyed and in a dark shock, her shocked at always being the one absconded away with by the movie’s title creep (wearing his exoskeleton like a louvered, hard-shelled suit). In the long underwater scenes—Vera’s plumped, muscular legs scissoring beneath the surface, oblivious to the monster’s swatting claws mere inches from them—a kiddy ‘R.’ could hardly uncouple his eyes from her white, restricting one-piece. The same bathing suit that did give him, once it was good and damp up there on screen, his first notion of both darkened, female nipples and the differentiable folds that did, between thighs, exist.}


Back in his rented room, he padded over to the back of the closet and tried to listen, first hard-pressing his ear along the floor’s cool boards, and then taking them up one by one, sure now where the noise must be coming from. And it was always the same at first, that cavity in the floor coming up to meet him a dizzying, black byss, stopping his breath short for a minute, making him want to crawl back to bed and forget about any actions that had to do with ‘easing himself in.’

 

But this passed.


With his eyes closed and head back, he found his footing as he dropped, cupping the soles of his bare feet around spotty copper pipes and unfinished 2 x 4s. He allowed his legs to fan out as his waist cleared the rim, extending them out in a stiff ‘V’ until he’d found his spot {like a dowsing stick’s wavering head}. He could only imagine how he looked, fully descended, balanced on his back as he was like from some reverse halter or truss; all his appendages tensed. 

 

Through the peephole {he’d punched holes with paperclips to make in the drywall a kind of mesh screen} there emanated a low, uneven light. He felt his eyes adjusting, the Blancos’ bedroom interiors slowly materializing into view, the source of the mystery sound presenting itself as a shock—that the puttering he’d followed came not from a propellered, mechanical thing but from the man himself: From Cris there, on the bed.


He sat on its edge, bouncing in time and fully outfitted, wearing what ‘Rockefeller’ recognized as his own SCUBA suit. That is, though clearly on land—though clearly quite dry—Cris had adorned himself in diving-grade rubber; outsized goggles; flippered fins. {Two weeks previous, ‘Rockefeller’ had watched while Cris carefully packed this getup, complete with clanging oxygen tanks, into the back of the Jeep. He and Linda had left (without asking ‘R.’) on a daytrip to the local marina.}


Cris’ hard-plastic goggles appeared fully fogged. The rubber hose sucked up to his mouth descended in loops below his chin, describing in the air dark, cylindrical rills. Rills that collected in his lap like they were the water itself—like the V-shaped space between his pelvic handles and lap formed a pool built especially for that.


His shoulders, ‘R.’ could see, were dusted in a fine layer of what looked like baby powder; as if it’d been administered from above in the hopes of avoiding some anticipated chafe {but from what?}. Also the occasional glint of some O-rings in the room’s now-flickering, like-projected movie light. {It distressed ‘R.’ slightly that, from where he was suspended, he could see no lower than Cris’ lap. He felt this might prove to be of paramount importance before the end. He felt himself begin to sweat.}

 

And though Cris’ face was completely encased by its equipment, the human reader ‘Rockefeller’ could still plainly see. What emanated off him like hot-hot concrete:

 

Happy.

 

Happy happy.


Here was an extravagantly happy man.

 

As he bounced {bubbling, bubbling}, there seemed a steam simultaneously condensing and rising on him. This wetsuit starting a water cycle that kept him both evaporated and rained. A deep, flush state set on both ‘content’ and ‘always coming.’ Migrated desire incompletely migrating him.


Across from Cris, in the corner of the room that couldn’t be seen, ‘R.’ heard a door open and shut. He watched Cris fail to react as muffled footsteps began their approach, as two legs materialized into view:


Bare up past their calves, they waded through the room like barometric pressure, sopping-wet water vapor splashing against them like reefs. And higher. ‘R.’s’ eye following the soaring leg flesh as it became more and expandingly stacked, accumulating into well-muscled {but not unpleasing} thighs. {In his limited window on the scene, the legs for a moment seemed independent things—sang-froid and strident and aplomb—advancing across the carpet like a university rowing team. Like scissors sheathed in their tight, pencil skirt pleats, threatening to cut a path from the fabric starting at just above the knee. (A garment, ‘R.’ instantly knew, leftover from one of Linda’s special-interest shoots.) Such a skirt whose tension was being relieved only in the back-and-forth slap of its dizzying slit (making a noise like a wind-whipped flag, tight on its length)}.


And perhaps it was a trick of his sight line, but to ‘Rockefeller’ the skirt’s back slit never seemed to end. Continuing instead into a fold, the fold into a dart—the dart into a seam that appeared to endlessly unravel around her burgeoning upper-thighs cum plump—her well-stood up {and quite naked} rump. The leftover impression of pantie elastic marking off the bottom cleavage of her cheeks like tracks. Here was Linda-Chris on her ‘home stretch.’


As she spoke, she struck a pose:


‘So what do you want? I mean, what exactly is all this?’

           
Beneath his mask, Cris only puttered on at a greater clip, emitting long-sustained,  {terribly uneven} trills.


‘What’s that? You practice? In your wetsuit you practice what?’


More excited bumping; more refusing to peter out.

 

‘You don’t know? What could you possibly mean you don’t know?’


His trilling increasing, reverberating off ‘Rockefeller’ in the walls a hard-to-take pitch. He wondered suddenly {also for some reason fearfully} if what he was watching was some sort of worked-out, bedroom shtick. Complicated foreplay. A rejected vaudeville routine.


As if in response he heard something on Linda determinedly zip.


‘Well then, Mister—’ as if adjusting ‘—well then. Why don’t we practice this.’


Linda’s top half plummeted out of sight. ‘R.’ quickly tried to shift, to see what exactly she was doing {and doing it from the floor?}, but instead could only see—erupting back into his view like cutting teeth—Cris’ face and upper half. Him still on the bed, still fatty-rolled and extrudant, still additional sections oozing out his seal-gray edge. His head seemed to be incrementally growing also, it the thing in the room now traveling up and down its length. Its vibrations dislodging his goggles and hoses and the piece at his mouth. {‘R.’ thought of a fat, female porpoise shaking off slimed seawater as she blubbered onto ice.} As a result, for the first time that  night, ‘Rockefeller’ could see his bare face. It was how ‘R.’ imagined his must also be appearing by now {though probably to a lesser extent}; that is, near gelatinous; a rolling boil beginning to, sweat lodge-like, pick up steam.


‘Clark’ felt a great pressure to accurately, and in short order, decode where Cris was heading. Like a storm system betraying its size shape and rate across doppler only he was equipped to read. Was it not his very vocation? His very bread-and-butter graft? The ability to exploit—on the fly and on his feet—the intimate, actual things a person’s body would unconsciously emit? {‘R.’ wondered for a moment if it were possible that Cris knew he was being watched, that this kinked-out, overexcited husband was telegraphing his expressions in such a way—blinking neon even—to broadcast this secret knowing back to the man in the wall. That he was in a way apologizing, trying to explain it was his wife who’d rejected ‘Rockefeller’ so outright, not ever, ever him. That, between two men (fake-chums if nothing else) he wanted there to be assurances of this. But ‘R.’ was drawing from his body blanks—realizing in this moment he’d learned nothing substantive about Cris since they’d first met. Nausea (no doubt stoked by the walls’ increasing wet heat) whiffed its way through his body. What a failure (he could hear someone harping) what a sad twit twat sack.


{Maybe if instead he could guess what Linda was doing at her invisible depth?}

 

There were obvious assumptions to be made {‘R.’ was no dummy, after all, when it came to kinds of sex}, but it still seemed improbable—after all, Cris’ lap he could see—nearly impossible for her to be doing that. Instead all he could hear were inconclusive gasps. Sometimes an uneven crunch-crunch-crunch, like a deepsea creature’s serrating teeth—like largely unglimpsed entities chewing through their dinner in some Marianas Trench.


Maybe also gurgling.


Intermittent slaps.


{What couples, even in California he wondered, practiced such as this? Where had he read, he couldn’t remember now, how ‘the hearts of these people are waxed gross—are given over to doing so and so and such’?}

 

‘Rockefeller’ wanted to wipe the sweat from his glasses, from the effeminate dip where it pooled in his chest. He felt himself full of a phantom need, even though he was not moving, to pant; he feared he might pass out before he got to see how this would end.


Cris’ head, he saw now, had definitely grown, gotten bigger than was appropriate in human relation to the rest of him. While ‘Rockefeller’d’ been distracted, Cris’ head had been freely shedding its classical proportions and range—dislocating itself out of a realm of recognizably healthy homo sapien to appear instead bewilderingly ‘cracked,’ some cross between silent-film-star mugging and depressurized skin {superimposed on Cris in a sudden blip, ‘Rockefeller’ could see the training video he’d produced while passing himself off as an airforce contractor in the eighties. The one in which men were willingly strapped into centrifugal chairs to see how many Gs they could take before deflating into the sieve located at their flightsuits’ stump base. These endlessly looped videos of men being whirred around the room a lopsided weight. Their faces’ awful yaw and pitch. Oscillating x’s, y’s, and z’s expressing  tectonic drift. Co-contemporaneously laid over Cris’ head this wavering, tight shot of each pilot’s face: Their features being sheared, sinewaved off; their underlying 70%-water being put to severe lat- and longitudinal tests. Elaborate algorithms being expressed as reversed muscle groups, too-big eyes, globbed heft. The apparatus’s wrong pressure refreshing them like screens, except chunked and incomplete, time/space dropping frames} back to Cris. ‘Rockefeller’ watched as his head’s very undergirding went soft, bones resetting and depressing, like a newborn’s skull able to be slid over itself in spots. The room seemed to be passing him like through too-small and -chambered a chute—its connective constitutive tissue {made up right then of San Marino circa 1:46} mixing with him to form an inexplicably localized atmospheric event. {‘Rockefeller’ knew, even in the moment, that this made no sense.} Cris’ head being passed through the room like some terribly variable pelvic girdle or grip. His features, formerly recognizable, being braided and upbraided again.


‘Rockefeller’ was now on the brink {he recognized later} of blacking out. Seeing abruptly in the scene a series of frantic hands tweaking Cris’ protrudent skins {unbearably midwifed, twanged and stiff} again sharp sounds going slap-slap-slap like sagged sea-lion breasts. And his head, already a swollen, inexorable tongue—an engorged underwater sponge—approaches its final dismount. In the wall ‘R.’ is being shot by dust and debris in the face like exhaust; increasingly jets. Their sound coming out of him—no longer scared found out—indeed wishing he be—shut eyes emitting:

 

Ummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

mmmmmmmmmmmmm.Ummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.Ummmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.


In his cell toward the end it’s his most-recurring dream: He sees his just-met, still-submerged friend rising out of the above-ground pool in that ridiculous suit. Hefting heavy in his hands what at first seems to be a stout, smote canister stained black. Impossibly sand-blasted and fine. Laid across his forearms and expanded hands as an awful, unwieldy weight. Though self-aware each time in the dream, ‘Rockefeller’ finds himself childishly thinking: ‘Treasure! A gift for me—a gift from the deep!’ It doesn’t help that Cris seems both classically foreshortened and mere inches from him. With the viscous liquid of the pool stringing off him in dark bits. Wearing a cartoon smile (some parlance for his missing face), Cris presents it to Rockefeller. The canister. The manmade clam. Invites him to find its invisible, inline fissures. To caress hidden louvers. (Sought-after hinge.) Invites him to finger and open and asap so there’s no question what’s residing there inside, lolling at him:


Indeed his very sex.