Gabriel Ross Series: Dead For Now Chapters Prelude, 1, 2

Dead For Now turned on an idea I had years ago–what if Gabriel disappeared? He seeks missing people, what if he became one himself? However, the idea evolved into something deeper, and became meshed with conspiracy theories (as I’ll always add, the good ones) and the need for a definitive story on the Tertullian Society. I love Nero Wolfe stories, and the stories had a recurring villain, Arnold Zeck. However, Wolfe knew at some point he could not continue running into Zeck and getting away with it. 

Part One of the book is called Yoni. One of the recurring themes in the story is of death and the afterworld. Yomi is the land of the dead in Shinto mythology. It also relates to rebirth. The creators of the world, Izanagi and Izanami went to Yomi, and from there, Izanagi created the great sun goddess Amaterasu and other gods from the process of cleansing himself.

Introduction: The Unknown Knowns–A fascination of mine after reading the intricate words of Slavoj Žižek. The article is here. It will pop up to read. I read it originally here,  but at the moment the page is undergoing construction. On a side note, Žižek has an interesting interview in Index Magazine with Wolfgang Tillman, who is a fine art photographer and documentary maker of gay and gender identity social themes. The more you know….

Let’s continue the Gabriel’s World Journey with Dead for Now.

Prelude–Unknown Known: Alexander Litvinenko 

Note: I like the Guardian as a source of news, and they have a collection of articles on Litveneko. Law and Order Criminal Intent fans know that the episode “30” was based on the Litveneko case. The episode featured the marvelous character actor Lee Tergesen (The Americans, Oz, The Blacklist).


Joel is watching Gabriel and his friend Bob play one on one in Warinaco Park, outside Elizabeth NJ. He’s talking via FaceTime to Travis Churchill (introduced in The Book of Joel). Churchill has developed into an enthusiastic patron for Joel, and has hired him to create a mural in the lobby of Churchill’s software company, Spartan.

Joel verbally spars with Gabriel, and reluctantly leaves to pick up his contract from Churchill. Meanwhile, Gabriel feels like he’s being watched. Not just by park passerby, something more serious. After the happenings in the three previous books, Gabriel’s instincts are pretty sound. He and Bob create a little set-up to determine who is watching them–mysterious people in a darkened SUV.

On the PATH train back to NYC, Gabriel picks out the person following him on board, and has fun at his expense. Upon reaching the city, Gabriel has to be amused at his own paranoia, considering that he’s probably reading into things not there.

But…then we have a message from some intelligence personnel that suggest otherwise.

Chapter One–Unknown Known: Danny Casolaro.
Note: I was haunted by Danny Casolaro’s story since reading it in the Village Voice (co-authored by James Ridgeway, an excellent writer) and Spy. Writer Jim Keith , an aficionado of unusual topics like black helicopters, mind control, and the men in black, authored a book on Casolaro with Kenn Thomas. Jim Keith himself later died under “mysterious circumstances,” due to complications after breaking his knee during a Burning Man Festival in 1999. More on Casolaro from Project Censored. Gabriel’s contact in The Hanged Man, Kent Varney, has a Danny Casolaro feel.


Gabriel and his working partner/BFF Veronica are working a case involving stolen archival documents. They have found out who has been stealing documents from the New York Archival Institute, one Wes Darrell, a city employee. Darrell is smuggling the documents out the Institute and selling them online.

Gabriel and Veronica and documenting evidence inside the Institute, when Gabriel runs across an entry showing Ethan Nelson (his antagonist in The Hanged Man) had visited the Institute to review plans of the New York Foundation of Art and Culture (where Nelson was director, and where Gabriel’s client Raymond Booth was a board member).

Gabriel asks to take a look at those plans, and photographs them. But then Darrell arrives at the Institute and begins harassing Veronica. Gabriel stops him, and Darrell appears to lose it–appearing fearful of Gabriel, drawing a gun, and taking an overdose on the spot. Gabriel manages to keep him from killing himself.

Later on, Gabriel is in Joel’s apartment with Veronica, and their bookseller friend Jason Evans. They are planning for an upcoming show–Gabriel now plays part time in Jason’s band. Gabriel receives a call from Nic Ronson. Nic is an editor for the online magazine Gabriel occasionally writes for. She wants him to write about Tom Paine. Paine is a mysterious YouTube personality who has been releasing videos with evidence on various conspiracies. Except…Gabriel is actually Tom Paine. He has followed up on the plans he laid out in Two-Faced Woman to keep exposing the Tertullian Society. But he’s doing this undercover in order to avoid the Tertullian Society finding out he has Kent Varney’s notes. Now he has to figure out how to handle this. When dropping off Jason and Veronica, Gabriel thinks that someone’s been in his car. This leads to him confiding in Veronica exactly what happened the previous year in the Booth case.

Another intelligence message regarding Gabriel’s life.

Some days later, Gabriel and Veronica are in the Herald-Standard offices, talking to crime reporter Clark Ahn. They are accompanied by Walter Cleveland. Gabriel is still working closely with Walter (from Walter’s proposal in The Book of Joel). They are discussing the Wes Darrell case.

Alex, Gabriel’s ex, happens by and tells them that the paper’s new owner is interested in hiring Gabriel and Veronica as security consultants. Although Gabriel’s less than thrilled about dealing with Alex, they speak to the owner and set the deal. Alex then takes Gabriel aside and shows him the impressive library the paper has in the building. Gabriel is indeed impressed and mentions how he’s working on completing a Master’s. Alex also says he wants to be able to work with Gabriel. Gabriel is okay with that, but feels that Alex is holding something back.

When Gabriel returns to Veronica, Clark, and Walter, Clark has news: Wes Darrell has apparently committed suicide–jumping out a courthouse window. Gabriel is shaken over this news.

Chapter Two—Unknown Known: 
Gary Webb
Note: More weirdness as I was writing the book–last year a movie was released about Gary Webb, Kill the Messenger. Here’s a Telegraph (UK) article on Webb and the movie. And this from The Intercept. I’d followed Webb’s story for years, and recommend his book Dark Alliance.


Gabriel returns home; Joel is there. Veronica has already told Joel about the new deal with the H/S. Gabriel is worried about Joel’s reaction, but Joel is determined to be adult about Alex’s involvement.

Then Gabriel is in the new offices for Gotham Investigations, on Horatio Street in the West Village. It’s late at night. Veronica and Joel are both getting ready to leave. Joel is going to a party with his friend Iz and Veronica home (she just recently broke up with Michaela, their friend).

On his own, Gabriel goes out to buy a pack of Camels. He’s always struggling with quitting. But when he looks at the building from the outside, he sees someone in their offices. He calls and the mysterious person picks up–but doesn’t say anything. Gabriel goes inside while no one is in the office, the stranger is in the hallway with a gun. But disappears when Gabriel backs down. Gabriel is disturbed by the stranger trying to provoke him.

The next day, Gabriel and his father practice shooting at a range in Westchester County. Jeffrey Ross talks to Gabriel about how he feels. They are still repairing their relationship, as started in The Book of Joel. Jeffrey asks if Aaron Comstock, AKA Damon Clement, may be involved. Gabriel isn’t sure. But he is interested in how Jeffrey had handled his difficult experiences on missions for the Army, which are implied to involve intelligence ops and torture. What happens when someone evil tries to interrogate you?

Jeffrey says you need to create another person and let them take over, to let that person handle the torture.

Meanwhile, in another part of Westchester, Mr. Zest is in a remote area, contemplating his life. He has to decide if he’s in or out of the Tertullian Society, and that means if he’s out.

And then Damon Clement contacts him to ask what he knows about Gabriel.

Between the Pages:

  • A little bit on Man at the Crossroads, the mural by Diego Rivera that Joel and Travis discuss.
  • Joel doesn’t like Jeff Koons; I find him amusing and interesting for his fair use legal issues.  
  • Gabriel’s code name in with the intelligence people is “Magician.” This is a call-back to The Hanged Man and tarot. For me, Gabriel’s tarot card is always The Magician.

Beyond the Pages:

  • However, as Ioan Culianu and Umberto Eco have suggested, a misinterpretation can create a reality greater than the truth. Perhaps Orwell would be pleased to own the quote that didn’t happen. Ioan Culianu died around 30 years ago, and Eco in 2016. When I started reading Culianu last year, I was delighted he knew and worked with Eco. One of Gabriel’s favorite books is Foucault’s Pendulum. Eco appeared to intend the book as a sly fable on occult conspiracies and paranoia. Of course, some have read too much into it because it’s that great a book. It’s why I include the bit about misinterpretation here. The antagonists in Foucault’s Pendulum misinterpret what the three editors are doing as a lark and create a different reality (Eco also wrote about hyperrealities). People have misinterpreted Eco. Gabriel’s trying to interpret what’s going on here, as his watchers are interpreting him.
  • In The Doorbell Rang, Wolfe helps a client being harassed by the FBI for distributing a (real) book, The FBI Nobody Knows. Stout himself was investigated by the FBI.
  • A real stolen documents case like the one in the chapter.

Questions for Readers:

At one point, Gabriel looks into the eyes of Wes Darrell, and realizes that Darrell sees someone far different from how Gabriel perceives himself. Have you ever had that occurrence? Have you ever imagined how you are perceived by others?


Golden Earring, Twilight Zone. A perfect song about paranoia that is justified. The protagonist is in intelligence work, and being hunted. A huge favorite of mine in the Eighties.

Help, I’m steppin’ into the twilight zone
This is a madhouse, feels like being home
My beacon’s been moved under moon and star
Where am I to go now that I’ve gone too far?

Def Leppard, Animal. This is is mainly because the melody is perfect to open a potential episode, and the rhythm.

Cry wolf, given mouth-to-mouth
Like a movin’ heartbeat in the witching hour
I’m runnin’ with the wind, a shadow in the dust
And like the drivin’ rain, yeah, like the restless rust
I never sleep