Wednesday, April 25, 2007

C is for C.R.O.A.T.O.A.N

The Inquisitor AI hovered before him, jetting him in the face with water. Frank awoke, sputtering, gasping for breath, thinking he was drowning. The effects of the dream juice still lay like gauze on his mind. In a flash he remembered the alley, the beautiful woman with the needle gun. He shook his head.

"I do not like to repeat myself," the Inquisitor said. "What did you do for your

"I don’t remember," said Frank for the hundredth time. It must have been that many
times. He didn’t know how long he had been chained to the wall in these dank catacombs, but he knew it had been a long time. Since the alley. Since the woman.

"Then tell me this," the Inquisitor said, turning and hovering away from him. "What does C.R.O.A.T.O.A.N stand for? Your company name. What does it mean?"

"I don’t–."

"Is it Creating Robots and Other Automatons To Oppress and Annihilate Nations?"


"Then what? What was your business?"

Frank thought, going down deep in his mind. His first clear memory was of the alley, and the realization that he had been fired. The rest was foggy, unclear. He reached in deep, knowing the answers were still in there somewhere. He pulled out a name from the murky depths of his mind. C.R.O.A.T.O.A.N. For some reason, Frank saw the name as if it was carved into the trunk of a tree.

"What was your business?" the Inquisitor repeated.

Frank smiled. "Mystery was my business."

It came flooding back in waves now. Frank Bonaventure, a cataloguer of mysteries for a corporation that had been around since man first learned to wonder. Fired and mind-wiped when he couldn’t be trusted with those secrets anymore. Frank Bonaventure, who knew where Jimmy Hoffa lies buried, and who shot JFK and George "Superman" Reeves. Frank Bonaventure, who could tell you what really happened in Roswell, New Mexico in the summer of 1947, who knew whether or not there is a bigfoot, an abominable snowman, a Loch Ness monster. Frank had been
a keeper of secrets as old as time. Now they were all gone. He couldn’t remember the answers to these riddles, only that he once knew them. He had screwed up, gotten the Inquisitors on his tail, and had been erased and let go.

"What do you mean, mystery?" the Inquisitor AI asked.

And Frank told it everything he could remember, which wasn’t much. It would be up to
the Inquisitors and Investigators to find out the rest. But the jig was up. C.R.O.A.T.O.A.N would have to spill its secrets, now that its existence had been discovered. Now that no secret was safe.

"But what does it mean?" the Inquisitor AI asked again, apparently thinking that all its questions would be answered if it could simply deduce the meaning of the acronym.

Frank shook his head. "I don’t know. Maybe I never did."

Apparently satisfied, the AI floated backward, turned, and hovered up the dark


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