Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Character sketches: Miriam and Jordan Crane

Miriam Crane was an innocent and attractive young nun, who taught at the little Catholic grade school she had attended as a child. She was successful and well liked by all. That is, until she came to the Monsignor early one morning with some rather disturbing news.

She was pregnant.

Despite her insistence that she was a virgin and that she had somehow been impregnated by God himself, she was banished from the Sisterhood. Determined, unashamed and alone, she raised her young son, Jordan, by herself in a tiny apartment. Shunned by her church, her friends and her parents, she raised young Jordan "the right way, knowing the word of his Father."

Sixteen years later, she claimed she was again visited by an angel from God, who instructed her to contact Michael Reed at the local newspaper. It was, she was told, Jordan's time.

Reed was understandably reluctant, figuring her for a nut. But a series of situations, maybe coincidence and maybe not, brought Michael Reed to her small bungalow one drunken night. He not only got to meet Jordan, but he would forge what would become the most bizarre relationships of his life.

After Jordan Crane performed what seemed to be a miracle, Michael and Reverend Dave decided to pay a call on Miriam and Jordan in an effort to figure out just what was going on. Dave wasn't convinced of anything at that point, and Michael was convinced it was all a hoax. I never once write from Jordan's point of view in the novel. The crux of the book is trying to figure out who or what Jordan Crane really is. To that end, I allow him to remain an enigma throughout The Devil You Don't Know.
The following is a segment of that meeting described above, which occurs in the opening quarter of the novel.



“I’ve always known I was different. Even as a little kid, I didn’t feel like I belonged with the other kids,” Jordan said, munching on a cookie and looking down at his feet. “Mom told me about how I was conceived just this year, after I turned fifteen. I guess she felt it was time that I knew the truth.”

“My angel had come to me and told me his time had come,” Miriam explained. “That was before he told me to call you, Mr. Reed.”

Michael ignored her and looked at Jordan. “What do you mean when you say you feel different?”

“It’s really hard to describe. I wanted to fit in, honestly I did. I wanted to play sports and goof around and stuff like that. But it was always hard for me.”

Michael had the distinct impression this was a well-orchestrated act, as though Miriam Crane was showing off her prized talking parrot or blue-ribbon calf. Something just didn’t seem right.

Dave cleared his throat and spoke up quickly.

“I think what Mr. Reed is trying to say is, your claim is quite extraordinary. Surely you must realize that?”

“Look, I’ve never claimed to be anyone other than Jordan Crane, Reverend. You guys are the ones throwing all the titles around.”

Michael thought he detected anger in the kid’s voice and felt a little thrill of victory.

Messiah my ass.

“In the third grade, his teacher called me and told me she thought he was autistic,” Miriam said to Dave. “He was always exceedingly bright, just different. I was appalled, frankly.”

She explained how her son had always gotten good grades, but never seemed to fit in with his classmates. Several times she was called in for parent-teacher conferences, and had endured several amateur diagnoses over the years—autism, attention deficit disorder, even mild retardation.

“I felt much like I had felt when I became pregnant with him. That no one could possibly understand the truth,” she said.

“Did you ever tell school officials what had happened to you?” Dave asked.

“Oh no,” she said. “That was never an option. I was afraid they would think I was crazy and take him away from me, that they would look at me like Mr. Reed is looking at me right now.”

Michael blushed and looked away. “I’m not sure crazy is the right word for it, Mrs. Crane.”

“Oh please, Mr. Reed. I could tell exactly what you thought when I first called you. I would have been shocked had you reacted any other way. But you must understand, this is not my doing. I am doing the Lord’s work, and I must endure whatever I must endure to get the job done.”

Miriam helped herself to another cookie and looked at Dave.

“As soon as Jordan began to sense his powers, things got bad at school,” she said. “He would get involved in disputes, in an attempt to help. That culminated in my getting a call from the principal one day in late October. They brought in the Department of Children and Family Services and this silly caseworker started talking about institutionalizing Jordan. Can you believe that?”

She stopped and looked away, tears filling her eyes. Dave got up and went to sit next to her, placing an arm around her shoulder.

“There, there. I understand,” he said. “It must have been extremely difficult for you both.”

Michael reached out and grabbed a cookie from the tray—chocolate with white frosting, in the shape of an angel. “Why me, Mrs. Crane? Why did your angel want you to call me?”

Miriam stopped sniffling and looked at him.

“Well, I’m not really sure, Mr. Reed. It does seem like you are ill suited for this line of work. No offense.”

Michael laughed. “None taken, believe me. And I have to agree with you. I don’t seem to have a lot going for me these days.”

“You have more going for you than you know, Michael,” Jordan said. “God can see into your heart. He must like what he sees.”

Despite the absurdity of the situation, Michael was touched. Somehow, the idea that he could be thought of as good after all he had done was comforting.

“Jordan, how did you know about my parents? I haven’t told anyone about that in more than thirty years.”

“I just knew,” Jordan said. “I have that ability sometimes. Believe me, it’s not always such a great gift.”

Michael looked at Jordan for several seconds, fingering the button in his pocket. Finally, he leaned forward and smiled. “Okay. If you have these powers, do something for me. Right now. Do something really special, kid. Anything.”

Michael waited. Jordan squirmed uncomfortably and looked at his mother.

“Michael, please,” Dave said, tightening his grip on Miriam’s shoulder. “Perhaps we should just be going now. These good folks are clearly exhausted. We can talk about this some other time. Thank you so much for your hospitality, Miriam.”

Dave stood up and motioned for Michael to do likewise.

“I thought so,” Michael said as he stood. “Something just doesn’t feel right here.”

He turned to leave when Jordan cleared his throat.

“Michael, I am not a prized talking parrot, nor am I a blue-ribbon calf.”

Michael froze, his eyes wide. He glanced at Dave, but the doughy minister only looked confused.

No way. This is not possible.

“I’ll be goddamned,” Michael said, stunned. “That was exactly what I had thought.” He turned to Jordan, who was munching on a cookie. “How did you do that?”

“Sorry,” Jordan said, shrugging. “You asked.”

IN REAL LIFE: I did very little revising today, since I'm down sick again. I haven't felt good since returning from Mexico. I'm hoping it's just a touch of the flu and not some jungle bug. Ick. Anyhow, I plan to get some work done tomorrow before going back to work for the Associated Press over the weekend covering March Madness. Next week, following my usual Sunday Musings post, I plan to get back to revising and hope to get this thing done in two weeks. I have three beta readers lined up so far, although I'm still entertaining offers. (hint, hint.)

COMING TOMORROW: Finally, we get to Main Character Michael Reed. Love him or hate him, Michael is an old-fashioned anti-hero who, rather reluctantly, finds himself scrambling to find the truth before it's too late -- for him, his family, his friends and, perhaps, the whole world.


  1. More great characters! I love how Jordan is kind of non-chalant about it, because that's the way a 16-year-old kid would be. I've said this before, but I really see this getting optioned in to a movie. For fun, what actors would you cast for the different characters, Terry (or anybody.)

  2. Yay for beta readers! I just had my review w/ mine, and it was really helpful. Good luck!