TALE ONE
How We Met

I know that you kind readers haven't heard of Professor Aarron Graves, I'm a writer I know these things. This is mainly due to the fact that most of his exploits can only be found in scientific journals like The Universal Journal of Unusual and Icky Things, The Annual Compilation of Extremely Weird Phenomena, and Mentzer's Catalog of Events That Were Once Unexplained But Are Now Clear. If you have read these items, then you can save yourself some money by not buying this book. But for those of you that haven't, this book is a compilation of the adventures that I have had with Graves.

The story of Graves would be a sociologist's thesis paper dream come true, or a bad Sylvester Stallone flick directed by John Carpenter on a 16 cent budget. It was my contemplation of life one night after smoking exotic incense in Tangier that I discovered that Graves' thinking sums up what life is all about. He and his associates, following of the twisted Red Wheel school of thought have mutated it with a dozen other forms of pseudophilosophical theories. The Professor then uses the results to rationalize what Graves believes. Of course you may be saying, "Many people have found the meaning of life while experimenting with mind altering drugs, so what." That is exactly what I would say, and that is why I am attempting to tell it to you in the form of stories.

My name is Craig Benson, though some people call me Shipwreck for reasons that I will not get into in this book. I work like a slave for the San Diego Times-Union-Star-Herald-Press, with little gratitude in return. Did my work even get looked at for a Pulitzer Prize? No, but they gave one to Geraldo Rivera. Anyway, five years ago, before I met Graves and his associates, I worked in the lifestyles section of this great metropolitan newspaper where my journalistic efforts were limited to stories about dinosaur exhibits at the museum and women reaching age 100 who couldn't make Willard Scott's weather broadcasts. But it was on a warm July day in 1987 that my life would change forever.

It had been a bad year for football and Jai Alai, plus it was hot (and I had no AC, damn the luck). My boss came into my office, chewing on the ragged cigar he always had and tossed a folder onto my desk. He said, "Benson, some bookworm from U.C.S.D just returned from an expedition in the Yucatan and I want you to do a story on it."

Okay, suffice it to say that I hated jobs like this where I had to go to some college and talk to some fossil of a teacher who smells like mothballs and ask him a bunch of questions that are usually answered in that foreign tongue they call "Professor Talk." So I said I'd get right on it and tossed it into my "Do Now" basket which meant that I would get to it sometime before 1997.

Since I hated jobs like this I gaffed it off for a week until my boss, showing unusual energy and agility (most likely caused by an intravenous infusion of nuclear strong caffeine) stormed into my office giving me that "We got scooped by the Sun" look. I of course gave him my "Big deal, nobody reads the lifestyles section anyway" look, and told him that I would get the real story on this guy (I took journalism in college you know). This eased his temper somewhat so that he merely threw my desk out the fourth floor window, not me.

You may ask yourself what I meant by "the real story". Well it is actually quite simple. I had read the story that the Sun had printed and found it read like a press release. Now in all of my years as a member of the human race I have never known of a college professor to give up a chance to grab some free press about something that they've done. This guy Graves was an antithesis to all facts. I also found out that U.C.S.D and The Irony Foundation was holding a dinner party in honor of the Professor that evening and I had hooked myself up with an invitation.

Of course I had to get to know this man better so I went on an exhaustive search for information on him. Doing some digging in the paper's back files I discovered very few facts about Professor Aarron Graves, Ph.D.: other than the dozen or so expeditions he had gone on for the college. All of these stories were in the press release style but he had apparently found some important stuff. The Crimson Cape of Chi Titzal Ramal, and the Holy Mace of Antioch were a couple examples. Now I must say that even though I had never heard of these artifacts they would obviously get some serious press (at least something on Entertainment Tonight about the IRS impounding them), but they hadn't.

I called a bud of mine in Washington DC and he did some looking around. What he came up with was that this guy had served in the Navy as an officer doing spooky stuff in Vietnam flagged classified. Now speaking from my vast nautical experience in the Navy, when you heard the word "classified" you learned to stay away from it. Another thing he came up with was that Graves and the IRS had butted heads over something, but he says there are no records on what may have happened.

His record of education was cake to find after I made a simple phone call to a chick I knew who worked at U.C.S.D. The Professor studied under a man named Professor Harlan Diggs (who, by the way, is now dead). This Diggs guy had also taught a man named Bender Devlin and a woman named Natasha Petrovich who is the curator of the Moscow Museum of Unnatural History.

When I called a friend on Wall Street, all he could tell me was that Graves was worth billions. He said that he was CEO of over a dozen companies and sat on boards of a dozen more. Money in large quantities gave me an itchy feeling.

The final bit of information I gathered was what bothered me the most. When I talked to some of my cop friends they warned me to stay away from him. In fact they told me that he was nothing but trouble. This made me run immediately to the scummier side of town and talk to some of my biker friends. It seemed that Mister Graves was well known in criminal circles as well, out of fear rather than admiration. They also mentioned that Graves had a pretty good garage band called The Carbon Fourteens, which played locally.

The summary of all the information I had gathered was that I had learned that Graves was a really rich, strange and mysterious person. Now my interest was piqued. I was looking forward to this dinner party tonight . . . if I could only find my gun.

Later that night I was at the Art Graystone Plaza where the party was being held. It was apparent that no corners had been cut for this event. When I pulled up in my primer scarred Chevy Nova I felt a little out of place. The valets were parking really expensive cars and the people getting out of them were really loaded. There were famous movie type people, plenty of buffed babes, and lots of rich dudes. There were also a few former presidential candidates, influential businessmen and dozens of Nobel Prize winners.

I was let in because of my press pass but it was apparent from the start that these people didn't care if the press was here. I was seated next to the kitchen with the gossip columnist chick from the Sun and a goofy looking TV anchor type from XETV Actionville News at 6:42.

The ceremonies began and I was already bored. The Professor droned on about what he had gone through to find the ancient Aztec Coin of the Sun and of its rumored ability to focus light and disintegrate any material known to man. He then talked about the current state of education in America and told some anecdotes about lab assistants that everyone except myself found funny. I really wasn't paying much attention to all of this because I was trying to figure out who the people flanking him were.

I had snapped a few pictures of these people around Graves and quite the unique cast of characters they made. On his left there was a totally buffed babe in a sexy but business-like dress who kept eyeing Graves; his girl. Next to her was this guy with overly moused up hair and a very strange look in his eyes; unstable assistant. Next to that guy was an Asian guy who kept disassembling his pen and studying it intently; compulsive scientist. On the Professor's right side was a big dude who looked brain dead. The noticeable bulge by his armpit told me he was armed; mindless bodyguard (or cop). Next to that guy was your typical nutty scientist type who sampled his drink as if it might be poisoned; government grant recipient. Finishing off the group was a Hispanic man wearing a fancy sombrero; token minority.

Mister Graves keeps unusual company to say the least.

As well as the strangeness of his associates I became aware of the overall strangeness of the room itself. A huge banner was hanging behind Graves and on it was a pyramid with an eye at its peak. This piqued my interest for two reasons. [1] Because it was the same symbol that was on the back of the one dollar bill and [2] this symbol was the basis of a series of books about a fictional organization known as the Illuminati. Of course, knowing such influential people as Richard Nixon, Hugh Hefner, Louis Farakhan, and John Gotti would never read such a conspiracy work I threw out the Shea/Wilson theory.

This left me with cash, dinero, dead presidents as the reason. It was a sound theory seeing that all of the people at the banquet had big bucks. Of course sound theories often fail to answer many questions. Why would such big ticket names care about Graves or his adventures? I would think a person of the Professor's mystery would be avoided like herpes by these people (Mister Nixon excluded).

This quandary of reason leads me to observation number two. Scattered about the hall were various types of unsavory viewers. There were some snapping pictures with tiny cameras disguised as beer bottles: FBI/CIA cogs. A few people madly punching away at calculators designed to look like a plate of hors de' overs; lackeys of the IRS. As well as one person dressed like a lamp; Geraldo Rivera. The characters seemed interested, not just in Graves, but everyone.

These questions were practically scalding my Cerebral Cortex. Oh, I also noticed a dozen angry Mexican Indians in ponchos and sandals rushing toward the podium with big knifes.

These dudes were screaming something in Spanish but I got the drift that they wanted to kill Graves. This dinner party was finally starting to get interesting. The only problem was that I had never been able to find my gun in the disaster area I call home.

"Defiler of the Aztec lands, you must die!"

Graves didn't react too much to this, but the bodyguard and the chick did. They drew their weapons and opened fire on these angry people as if it was no big deal.

Mark this day on your life calendar; July 15, 1987. I tell you to do this because just like Hannibal against the Romans at Cannae, these dudes were decimated. In fact, they were dead long before they reached the Professor. You may be saying "big deal, so you stayed awake in history class." Yes, it may seem like a trivial piece of data but as you read on you will learn two things about history in relation to Graves. Number one is that no piece of history is trivial. Number two is that if there is a catastrophe, act of barbarity or deed of mayhem that chronologically seems coincidental in relation to Graves . . . prepare for the worst.

The audience was quite shocked, though not by the carnage but rather that someone would try to kill Graves. It was so quick that I had no time to really panic or overreact to what had happened, but in time I did.

"You just killed those guys!"

The Professor gave me a cold stare that could have frozen molten steel after I had finished speaking my peace.

"Who are you?"

"Craig Benson San Diego Times-Union-Star-Herald-Press."

"A reporter!"

"Yes."

"I hate reporters, especially those who work for newspapers with more hyphenated names than a feminist!"

The man with the mousse impregnated hair was yelling at Graves in an irrational manner. "I told you that those Aztec dudes would come after us, but do you ever listen to me?"

"Hozehead, are you retarded or have you had too much to drink? The Aztec culture died out hundreds of years ago. These people were merely impostors trying to instill fear in me. Nice attempt but it didn't work."

Suddenly Graves whirled around to return his gaze to me. "You are still here Mister Benson! Leave these premises before I add you to the body count."

There are certain things that I don't have to be told twice, and that was one of them. I left the ballroom immediately continually looking over my shoulder. It didn't really matter whether or not Graves wanted to talk to me. I had photos of the attempted killing of Graves and the killing of the would-be killers. I was going to get front page publishing for sure. I knew there was a story behind this guy and I was starting to crack it. I will be seeing you again Mister Graves.

As soon as I could find my car.

I was right I did get front page billing . . . on the lifestyles page. The whole incident was attributed to a silly gag staged by Graves to hype his return from Mexico. They hacked my material into little shreds and I was pissed. It was obvious that someone had spoken to the editor and he had knuckled under. This Graves was a very strange character and I was intrigued. Worse than that was that I was determined to follow up on it and that hadn't happened since the seventh grade. I may be known for my hack literary work but I took my job as a journalist seriously. Nobody had the right to determine what people should or should not know.

I went to my editor and proceeded to go off, "What the hell is going on Ed! This guy was responsible for the deaths of eleven dudes and I had pictures. Publicity stunt my butt, he is covering up something I'm certain of it. He's a college Professor Ed but he has gun-toting lackeys at his side to protect him. You should have seen the size of the gun that woman had, I've seen smaller guns on a battleship."

"For your own sake Benson just drop the whole thing and go review a movie. The story has ended, understand me on this one Benson." He began writing me a check for expenses.

"Come on Ed, who got the boss to clam up?"

"You want the truth Benson, okay you'll get it. Graves sent his lawyer over here this morning just before press time and laid down an ultimatum. We were told to either drop the story or Graves would buy the paper then close it down forever. The boss had to weigh the options and this one story just wasn't enough to jeopardize the paper over. Please Benson, just drop the whole thing. Here's a check for 100 bucks Benson go find a bar and forget about all of this . . . otherwise you're fired."

I wasn't going to argue with him so I took the check but I had other plans in mind. I gathered my tape recorder and a pack of cigarettes and headed for the University of California, San Diego.

I never really liked college when I was there. Not only did I have to pay to be there, I saw that there were too many people in college with immense dreams of being rich and famous after they left and found work. I, on the other hand, was in college because I had just finished four years of Naval service and was burning off my G.I. Bill until I could find a real job.

Upon meeting with the stuffy Dean of the college, I was told that Graves hated reporters (in fact, he had seriously maimed a few), but I pressed on and was given his room number. I was told that he was presently on his lunch break and that I really shouldn't bother him. I went anyway (I have this subconscious urge to take my life into my own hands).

I reached the room and plastered on the door was a poster of a mummy saying "I dig archeology." Cute students.

I pressed my ear onto the door hoping to overhear something, and I did.

One voice said, "Who were the Hittites?" and the other voice said, "No way it was the Sumerians." Obviously this was a case of two aging teachers arguing over some microscopically trivial historical fact (the kind that you see on Jeopardy); so where was Graves? That's when I opened the door.

"Who were the Sumerians, Alex?"

"Correct Marsha. Choose again."

"I'll take Microscopically Trivial History for $300, Alex."

That's right, these two were watching Jeopardy. Actually they had been watching Jeopardy, but they were now arguing over the last question. The one with the spiked hair whom Graves had addressed as Hozler and I'd affectionately nicknamed Mister Mousse said, "Hah! I told you it was the Sumerians!" Graves, who now at a closer glance, kind of looked like Thomas Dolby in that Blinded me with Science video replied, "What do I look like, a history major?" and the spiked guy replied, "Yes!"

It was then that the two noticed me and the room became abnormally quiet.

Okay, I'll have to admit, normally I don't feel guilty when I barge in on some conversation that doesn't involve me, but this time I felt as if I was a black dude who had just stepped in on a Ku Klux Klan convention. Graves casually rested his hand on a large book that was sitting on his desk.

I reintroduced myself to the two but it was apparent that they didn't give a crap who I was. Graves stood up and spoke to me in a unnervingly calm tone. "You're the reporter from last night aren't you? I told you that I really hate reporters."

Now as I have since come to know Graves, he really does hate reporters. In fact he has a list of the "Ten Most Irritating Reporters That I Would Really Like To Kill When They Make It Legal" (fortunately I am not on it . . . yet . . . But at that moment I could have been).

Gathering my courage I spoke to Graves. "I'm here to do a story on you and your adventures Mister Graves. To do a story about what you have tried so desperately to keep from the public eye. I am here to ensure the right of the public to know what happens."

It seemed to me at the time that the man with the spiked hair's eye began to twitch and static electricity was discharged from his hair. It also seemed to me that I had possibly made the third hugest mistake in my entire life.

"Mister Benson, the Encyclopedia Britannica Volume 16 Sa through Sh weighs approximately 15 pounds. It has been known to scar and maim opponents when wielded by a trained professional. I'm a black belt in the ancient Oriental art of book slaughter. Also, that is Professor Graves."

I'll have to admit that I was quite scared. I had been traumatized by an enraged fifth grade girl wielding an Encyclopedia Britannica Volume 17 Si through Sz (which weighs 12 pounds) just because I had shaved her head without her permission. I still have a few scars and often really nasty nightmares. But I also have to say that I was a reporter, and sometimes you have to lay your life on the line to get the real story.

I made it clear to him that I was here to get the real story on what he was all about . . . not the press releases that he used to quiet the others. I also said that I would do it no matter what he said or did. Graves looked at me in a way that I have only seen him do twice since then (And once was because he had a carnivorous Death Fly from Hell perched on his nose preparing to sting him). He said, "What do you mean the real story? The release I gave to the Herald stated exactly what happened in the Yucatan."

Now I'm not egotistical, but facing all of the facts the Sun sucked. I was a much better reporter than anyone else in the universe. With this burst of new-found energy I pressed Graves. "Come on Professor Graves, five guides were killed and your only explanation was a vague allusion to Lava Pit sacrifices. Then there was last night. A dozen dudes tried to kill you and in the process got wasted themselves. This is highly abnormal for a scientist but you treat it like another day at the office. Scientists would die to get some press but you try to cover it up to avoid it. You're not a scientist Professor Graves but you certainly are an enigma."

With that, Graves set the book back down on his desk and said, "Precisely Mister Benson! I am not a scientist. I reject science and everything scientific. There are things in this world that cannot be explained by science. Since science cannot explain everything it's not exact, and since it's not exact what it does explain can't be right. As for being an enigma I'd rather like to call myself a corsair. A person who defies the norm for the eventual greater good of humanity."

The Professor paused to take off his glasses and clean them with a tissue. "Mister Benson, the reason I have tried to keep my actions covered up is simple. I don't seek publicity for my actions because the press and their likes have the uncanny tendency to manipulate plain facts into a different form. People like Geraldo Rivera would take a simple thing like discovering the reasoning behind Stonehenge and make it haunted by Elvis. In my field I do not need a thousand people muddying up the trail."

"I am quite content to keep my journeys off of CNN so the government stays oblivious to everything. It keeps them from trying to cover it up, steal it, or destroy it. Not a day goes by that my actions and discoveries keep the world from the brink of war. My findings are published in scientific journals where those of my peer group know how to use the data with a neutral eye."

I jumped on the opening Graves had left me. "Professor Graves I can make a difference. I could write about your journeys without fear of their manipulation. The way I write nobody would believe what was written was true, in fact it would probably throw many of the hounds off the scent."

"What do dogs have to do with this Mister Benson?"

"I uh . . ."

"That was a rhetorical question. Who was Armand Amalghia?"

I thought that he was talking to me again then thought it was another damn trick rhetorical question. I found out that I was wrong when Jeopardy blared back into reality.

"Who was Armand Amalghia, Alex?"

"Correct Marsha, choose again."

Remember a little bit ago where I analyzed Graves as looking like Thomas Dolby, well if you have seen that video you will realize that at the end Dolby made the very same quote about science that Graves had and only now did I catch on. I just wanted to make sure that you understood why I had used that analogy and wasn't insane.

Graves looked at the other man and said, "Hozler! Chalk!"

Mister Mousse said, "I am not your slave Aarron, and may I add, get your own chalk." He then passed a stick of chalk to Graves.

Graves stood up and went to the board where Hozler had just picked up the chalk from. "Mister Benson, I have done this for only one other reporter in recorded history and may I add that he is dead now." As a creepy tickle ran down my spine, the Professor turned away and wrote on the board:

STUDENT + MENTOR = LIFE STUDENT - MENTOR = LIFE

"Mister Benson, what does that statement mean to you?" Hozler was madly shaking his head saying, "Don't answer it man, you'll be trapped forever in a loop of eternal suffering and may I add the likely possibility of an early death!"

I ignored Hozler figuring that he was merely rambling (which he was). I thought intently about the statement, trying to understand what it meant. Now I will say flatly that word problems always gave me trouble in school so this question was hard. But I had to face the fact that this might have been the key to getting a real interview with Graves. Either that or a teachers twisted way of torturing people who had trouble with word problems.

Big Problem. Big Problem. You can't have one without the other. Then it hit me when a strange shard of memory came to mind. It was something I had forgotten the day they taught it to me because I was to busy trying to get a date with Martha Solario. Something about sooner or later there will be a separation between the student and the mentor.

Actually I blurted out, "Sooner or later there will be a separation between the student and the mentor."

Professor Graves raised an eyebrow and said, "Very good Mister Benson." Then he wrote on the board:

LIFE = RIGHT + WRONG
LIFE = AGREEMENT + CONFLICT
LIFE = TEACHING + LEARNING
LIFE + LIFE + LIFE = NOBODY'S PERFECT
IN THE END IT WON'T MATTER BECAUSE WE'LL BE DEAD ANYWAY

Things were starting to get deep at this point. I mean I could believe that the first thing he had written might have been some mathematical mistake, but he was starting to get into warped algebraic psychology. Regardless I took a stab in the dark anyway seeing that it couldn't hurt to try (actually it might have). "They all equal student and mentor."

Graves placed the chalk in the gutter and turned to me. Now he didn't look surprised mind you, I have learned that Graves is never surprised. He looked more like a man who had just eaten the best meal he had ever had and then burped it up discovering that it tasted better than when it went down. "Mister Benson, my name is Professor Aarron Graves, Ph.D., M.S.H. This is Professor Vince Hozler, M.S.A. Be back here tomorrow at 9:00 a.m. and I assure you that you will find out more than you could ever dream of . . . Oh, and I advise you to bring your passport and a gun if you have one, I'm sure something will come up. About last night, things like that are just another day at the office. They are an every day part of being associated with me. Keep these things in mind Mister Benson before you make a final decision for it may be the most important one in your life. I will understand if you do not show up tomorrow, but if you don't arrive never again bother me for a story . . . your death might be a possible response."

I was a little worried as I left the GDI building. I knew that I would be there in the morning even after the warnings/threats Graves gave me. I was looking forward to interviewing Graves, but little did I know that it would not be your conventional type interview because tomorrow was the . . . .



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