Can love be extorted? You'd be surprised. A vigilante uses terror to end homelessness in a coveted beach-side city. The ambitious mission focuses not on the homeless, but on those who are unsympathetic to the plight of the homeless. Carefully-targeted fear cures public apathy toward homeless citizens. The Golden Rule becomes the only way to avoid the vigilante's wrath and to live without fear.
What if a ruthless vigilante transformed one of America's most affluent, coveted beach-side cities, ending all homelessness within its borders in a matter of days? The ambitious mission isn't accomplished by any brilliant appeal to public benevolence, nor by relocating the homeless. A bizarre method uses carefully-targeted fear to cure public apathy toward homeless citizens. In Dire Means, Geoffrey Neil weaves a tale of a city under siege, forced to comply with the Golden Rule as a means of survival.
On each day of November, a new person has gone missing in Santa Monica, California. Police, FBI and seasoned profilers from every corner of the country swarm the city, only to be stymied by seemingly perfect abductions. Soon, as mysteriously as they had vanished, the bodies of the missing begin to appear -each adorned with secretly taped footage of their abuse of the homeless. When the footage is released to the media, the vigilante's modus operandi becomes clear to a terrified public. Overt kindness to the impoverished provides the only camouflage against the furious killer's righteous indignation. Within days, the city of Santa Monica is transformed as unprecedented altruism and self-preserving generosity ends homelessness. But how long can the perfect extortion of brotherly love last? Mark Denny, a computer technician, is lured and then trapped in the killer's scheme to maintain the public's fear-fueled kindness to anyone who appears to be homeless. Matching technological wits is the only way Mark can end the city's terror and save his own life.
If you have ever contemplated the end of homelessness -despite the seeming futility of such a goal, of if you simply enjoy a story that will take you on a completely engrossing, original journey, Dire Means will satisfy.
If Keith Mendalsen had known that the sausage and egg croissant would be his last meal, he would have ordered two or three more of them at the drive-thru. He would have gorged on as many calorie-laden breakfast-menu items as he could devour -and keep down.
He put his scalding coffee in the cup holder to cool, gulped down the greasy sandwich in barely chewed hunks, and tossed the paper wrapper onto the passenger seat of his Mercedes convertible. As he pulled back into traffic for the two-block ride to his office, he wiped his mouth on a napkin, missing a crumb that stuck to the corner of his lip.
In nine days, Keith would be dead. In eight days, the crumb that clung to his lip would be a feast -if it were still stuck there to be licked.
Mendalsen Investments occupied the twelfth floor of the ALCO Development Building in Santa Monica, California. If the firm's suite were a table, Keith's private inner office would be the centerpiece that decorated it. A marvel of contemporary corporate architecture, it was enclosed in floor-to-ceiling glass and lit from within like a tropical aquarium.
He enjoyed a spectacular 180-degree view of the Santa Monica beach and pier on one side, and a view of his support staff's cubicles on the other. Everything from his imported Italian credenza, to his throne-like chair -burgundy leather with gold buttons and engraved armrests -proclaimed his financial success.
This morning, a slow elevator had lit the fuse on one of his many bad moods. Then, after a heated phone call that ended with a client's threat to fire him, he slammed the phone down and hurled his paper cup of piping-hot coffee at the glass wall that framed his door. Half of the searing French Roast exited the cup during his windup and burned the back of his hand. His first scream was all pain. The ones that squeezed out from his lips as he sucked his scalded knuckles were all anger.
He heard the heavy suite door click shut out in the entryway. Carrie, the temp, had arrived late for work. He pulled his mouth from the back of his hand and screamed, "Caaaaarrie! In my office now!"
He knew she would rush to him with the self-conscious subservience that he liked. Her face would be red; she blushed for almost any reason. Complaints, compliments, or any special attention aimed her way by anyone flushed the twenty-six-year-old's cheeks, which then drained to blotch her pale neck. Keith had developed a perverse fondness for Carrie's blushing during her first stint as the temp in his office. In fact, it was a secret reason he had requested her by name from her agency this time. After only a few conversations with her, he had learned how to work his words like a lever that controlled her complexion -filling her face full of red before pausing to let it subside for another refill.
She hurried to Keith's office without putting down her handbag. What could she have done this time? She remembered how, two days ago, she had watched spit-laced words fly from Keith's lips during a tantrum over an incorrect lunch order she had delivered to his desk. She took a deep breath and tried to exhale her nervousness. When she reached his door, she saw tentacles of coffee stretching down the glass wall and a toppled paper coffee cup on the carpet beside his desk.
Keith pursed his lips and shook his head. He rocked in his big chair and pointed to a bottle of water on the corner of his desk. "What is this?" he said.
Carrie knew that an obvious answer would infuriate him. Her mind raced for a more appeasing answer.
"What is this?" Keith said louder.
She tilted her head, allowing her shoulder-length blond hair to conceal half of her blushing face -half of what Mr. Fisher, her sixth-grade teacher, had labeled her chromatic honesty.
She remembered that Keith required a new, chilled bottle of water on his desk each morning. Today, Keith had discovered yesterday's nearly empty open bottle before she had arrived.
"It's your fifth day on the job. You should know your job description by now and yet I come in this morning to be greeted by your third major f-f-mistake!" He struggled not to cuss at Carrie, a promise he had made her agency as a probationary condition of future service. He needed the temps -for the time being.
"I'm so sorry, Mr. Mendalsen. I just -" Carrie stammered.
Keith cut her off. "Well I need to ask you something, So Sorry. If I wanted warm, bottled water, why would I have shelled out eight-grand to build a kitchen with a fridge for you people?"
Carrie's face deepened a shade. Her fingers tightened around her handbag's strap for better grip on her composure.
"Answer me!" he shouted. "Why do I get to the office and find spit-temperature water on my desk? What is it with you?" He paused to let her absorb the disgust on his face. Carrie stood motionless, trying to compose another non-flammable answer.
"I'm sorry, Mr. Mendalsen. It won't happen again." She was rouge and Keith liked it.
"Damned right it won't happen again -I'm not cussing at you," he said, holding up his hands, palms out, to pardon his slip up.
"Of course not, Mr. Mendalsen," Carrie said.
Keith sucked the back of his hand again and studied her. She waited, lips parted, ready to offer her next apology. Keith had the last two assistants in tears by now, but the agency restriction on aiming profanity at their temps had removed one of his better tools.
"I do apologize, sir," Carrie said.
"I do apologize, sir," Keith mocked her reply. His face reddened and he shouted, "I don't pay you for apologies and I don't pay you to be late."
"I understand," she said. She shifted her weight to the other leg and drew her tongue across her dry lips.
"No, I don't think you do understand. You're just a no-career temp. Tell me how you could possibly understand?" He leaned toward Carrie, hoping to detect a more significant crack in her composure. Landing a verbal blow solid enough to unravel her would help him feel better. He couldn't explain his sudden, sadistic urges. He only knew that from time to time they overwhelmed him like a furious itch that needed scratching at any cost.
Carrie's eyes fluttered, but not soon enough to blink back a tear that slid down the crease of her nose. Keith enjoyed the tear. He liked that Carrie didn't immediately wipe it. She let it lag beside her nostril for a moment -perhaps hoping he might not notice. Another tear followed, merging to fatten the first and she swiped them away before they could slide to her lip -just as the other temps had. He had badgered her effectively enough to add tears to her color and it calmed him. He felt powerful, in control again. He decided to go for another tear or two from the other eye before he was sated.
"So tell me, temp," he said, examining her with a new sneer. "Were you a uhhhh, popular girl in school?"
The phone rang. Keith raised his eyebrows as if to ask if she intended to answer it. When she turned for her desk, Keith grabbed his phone handset and shouted hello.
As he talked on the call, Carrie sat down at her desk and looked at the 3 x 5 framed photo of her husband and three-year-old daughter. She had placed it on her desk for inspiration and comfort. Her husband wouldn't tolerate the abuse she received under Keith's supervision, nor would he find out. She had hidden it from him and would keep it hidden. They were in dire financial straits, which had required her to accept any available job. At Keith's office, she netted six critical dollars per hour after subtracting the cost of daycare from her agency's hourly wage.
Keith's voice echoed through his open door as he laughed with his caller about Carrie's incompetence. He ended the conversation by saying, "Alright, pal, I'll be there in a half hour."
As he passed Carrie's desk, he threw his coat over his shoulder and said, "Get someone in here to steam clean that coffee I shouldn't have had to throw. Make sure they use the odorless steam. I better not come back to an office that smells like fucking perfume."
"Yes, sir, I understand."
As Keith exited the office, he mumbled, "Unbe-fucking-lievable..." The door clicked shut behind him.
Keith left feeling better. Carrie felt horrible. In less than six minutes, their feelings would be reversed.
An Unusual Twist On A Murder Mystery With Social Implications
Here is an unusual twist on a murder mystery. We know the killers, we know how they murder, and we wonder how these murderers will be brought to justice or will they? Moreover, it is not your typical novel about the plight of the homeless. It is kind of offbeat, nonetheless, after reading Geoffrey Neil's Dire Means, you may think twice about your behavior towards the indigent in our society.
The setting is Santa Monica California, where a series of disappearances involving people of widely varying professions and residential locations has engulfed the city causing widespread havoc and terror. As we are to discover, the common denominator pertaining to these abducted individuals is that their treatment and behavior towards the homeless have not exactly been exemplary. They portray ignorance to human suffering and display cruel contempt towards these poor souls.
At the same time, as these crimes are materializing, our protagonist, twenty-eight-year-old Mark Denny, who runs a computer service business, has courageously saved the life of a homeless person, who threatened to jump off a building. Denny had to resort to some very creative persuasive tactics including agreeing to the man's request that he strip down to his underwear. It should be mentioned that Denny's heroics occurred after he had been assaulted and robbed five days earlier by someone who ran out of gas and whom he had tried to help by driving him to a nearby service station.
Denny's life takes on an unexpected shift when the person he saves turns out to be a fanatic who entangles him in something beyond his wildest imagination. He eventually finds himself entrapped within the confines of a technically sophisticated organization that resorts to vigilante executions involving victims who exhibit atrocious and deplorable behavior towards the homeless.Their leader, a man called "Pop" has devised a demoniacal plan to end homelessness and the suffering of the impoverished. His twisted logic and rationalizations concerning his behavior is a bit much for Denny to swallow. Unfortunately, Denny finds himself in an extremely difficult predicament, where the possibility of his escape from the clutches of these diabolical serial killers diminishes day-by-day as their modus operandi is exposed to him. Moreover, law enforcement officers have been fingering him as a possible suspect concerning the wave of abductions of the individuals who eventually are turning up dead.
To some, Dire Means may be a trifle far-fetched and absurd, yet it would be difficult to read this gripping work of fiction without feeling that it deals with something real, touching on a number of issues concerning the downtrodden and society's indifference. It is not only the gripping story that is important here, but also how Neil's moving novel is imbued with disturbingly potent and candid truths. He deftly weaves into his thrilling yarn moving portraits of these abandoned individuals with a good deal of emotional power, honesty and sensitivity, leaving his readers with something to ponder. Neil has made a wonderful debut as a novelist and I look forward to hearing more from him.
Geoffrey Neil graduated from California State University, San Bernardino with a bachelor's degree in Communications. He has worked at many jobs including groundskeeper, produce field worker, computer service engineer, newspaper columnist, IT consultant, and salesperson. He interacts with, and gives to the homeless people whenever possible. He and and his wife are familiar with several homeless shelters in the Los Angeles area and a portion of each sale of Dire Means will go to support these organizations.
Norm Goldman, Publisher & Editor Bookpleasures
A haunting novel
When asked about working at a shelter, Mark Denny, the main character in Geoffrey Neil's debut novel Dire Means, replied, "I'm fortunate. So I try to give back as much as I can." Mark's answer, as well as his attitude toward those less fortunate may well have saved his life. However, Mark's desire to help the homeless also swept him into the spotlight with a vigilante who planned to come to the aid of the homeless in Santa Monica, California with a bizarre plot of murder and mayhem.
Dire Means gets off to a quick start with the abduction of three Santa Monica residents, people who have shown their disdain for the homeless. The kidnappings are handled with precision and keep the reader guessing as to the motives of the kidnappers. Will the hostages be held for ransom, or is there a worse fate in store for them?
Enter Mark Denny, a computer whiz who has been stumbling along after the death of his close friend and partner, Carlos. One day, while Mark is stopped in his car at a traffic light, he catches sight of a ragged-looking man begging. The man wants money for gas for his stalled car. Every car's occupant ignores the man's pleas except for Mark who offers to get the gas, but before Mark can stop him and much to his chagrin, the man jumps into Mark's car, insisting he ride along. At the gas station, Mark is violently attacked and car-jacked by the stranger.
Because Mark has a strong dislike of the police, he refuses their aid when they arrive. The injured man stumbles along, trying to get home. With no ID, bleeding, and beaten, he is treated like the begger he tried to help just minutes before. It is a rude awakening for both Mark and the reader. But Mark is not deterred from helping others and soon he is hailed as a hero after keeping a desperate man from jumping off a building.
While Mark is busy dealing with his problems, those unfortunate souls who were kidnapped begin reappearing as corpses. The only connection between the victims is their cruelty to the homeless. In fear, residents begin aiding the homeless and downtrodden in any way possible, hoping that the vigilante killer will note their kindness and not target them. But how long will people continue their false kindness before growing weary? And can the killer be stopped?
Events for Mark take a strange turn when he gets a box with a rigged cell phone inside. Connecting to "Pop," Mark is soon offered a consulting job by the mysterious man. Just what the job entails, and who exactly Pop is, will be an eye-opener.
Dire Means grabbed me from the very first page when Keith, an obnoxious businessman, is introduced. The author doesn't want you to like him and indeed, the reader will not weep when Keith is abducted. As the two stories unfold, they slowly intertwine until Mark, the hero of the downtrodden, becomes a victim (in an unexpected twist) and he too, must fight to save his life.
On the very first page of the book is the statement, "In nine days, Keith would be dead. In eight days, the crumb that clung to his lip would be a feast - if it were still stuck there to be licked." My first reaction upon reading this was confusion. But as I delved deeper into the story, the meaning became clear - in a very unsettling way. You'll want to read every page of this book to see what happens when a powerful vigilante will stop at nothing to promote the cause of the homeless.
A fabulous book. You won't be disappointed. I guarantee it.
A Book Review by Marc D. Goldfinger:
Dire Means by Geoffrey Neil
Priorities Intact Publishing
"We will never have peace in the world until men everywhere recognize that ends are not cut off from means, because the means represent the ideal in the making, and the end in process, and ultimately you can't reach good ends through evil means, because the means represent the seed and the end represents the tree."----Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
I found this book through a friend on line; it seems that stores generally don't carry it. It is a story about one man and his organization who decides that he will end homelessness once and for all.
Now Spare Change News is a paper that deals with homeless issues so I felt duty-bound to read and report on this book which, unfortunately, has not received much press. To be honest, I wasn't looking forward to it. I thought I would be slogging through a 300+ page book but, like I said, because it dealt directly with homelessness, I felt I could not ignore it.
Was I in for a surprise!! Before I had read ten pages I was gripped with the desire to find out what happens next. Then, even after I was hooked, the intensity began to build and I found myself totally engaged with the lead character, a 28 year old computer techie named Mark Denny, and the situation into which he found himself thrust.
You know the expression, "No good deed goes unpunished." Well, it certainly begins to apply here and by page 36 Mr. Denny finds himself knee-deep in a world of shit. Little does he or the reader, know that upcoming twists and turns, will find Mark Denny a public figure, heroic in scope, his position constantly shifting.
If you have never been homeless, you must read this book because you will, through the author's skill, find yourself identifying with what it is like to be homeless. If you have been, or are homeless, you should read this book because you will find yourself saying, "Yeah, I've been there; I know what this feels like."
Well done, Geoffrey Neil, well done.
As I said earlier, I thought this book would be a chore to report on. How wrong I was! I found myself gripped by the tension and flipping from page to page. I literally couldn't put the book down.
It was a weekend and my wife, as understanding as she is, said to me, "Well, are you going to spend the weekend with the book or me?" in more ways than just verbally. But I was hooked.
From the moment that, for selfish reasons, Mark Denny decides to help two scam artists harassing drivers for "gas money" and finds himself in a predicament that would give PTSD to anyone to the moment, soon after, where he is attempting to rescue a "homeless" man from a certain suicide because he really wants to be a good guy, the story whips into the fury of a hurricane.
The story takes place in Santa Monica, California. People are disappearing at the rate of one a day. We're talking business executives, rich housewives, arrogant teen-agers, average middle-class citizens, not homeless people at all.
Then, days later, they start to reappear, dead, with camera footage from digital cams hung around their necks showing them abusing, either verbally or physically, homeless folks. Cause of death - starvation and thirst.
Santa Monica goes into panic mode. All of a sudden no one wants to abuse, through neglect or otherwise, homeless people or people who appear down on their luck.
Because of his selfless act on the roof, saving a "homeless" man from suicide, Mark Denny's hero status brings him into contact with the very people who are "disappearing" the abusers. And he finds that, somehow, someway, he is the only person who can bring the horrific means these people use to end homelessness to a halt. If he can survive.
It is amazing how quickly one can go from hero status to fugitive status. Mark Denny finds himself brought into this organization which operates with technological expertise, lethal manipulation, and is a trusted information disposal company which, by its very nature, escapes suspicion and is held in extremely high regard by the business community.
Imagine having access to financial information, medical information, family history, etc. and using this knowledge to alter society for "altruistic means." Dire Means.
Mark Denny, the hero, the computer expert, the homeless sympathizer, is brought into this organization and, little by little, the doors are closing behind him, and, before he knows it, there is no way out.
I could say more but why would I want to? This is a book that must be read. I guarantee you will be turning pages and ignoring everyone around you.
What's the difference between a homeless person and yourself? One wrong corner turned, a hurricane, a mugging or an information specialist with a Taser.