I get asked on a regular basis, “where do you come up with these characters, and their names?” I’ll answer that question with Chapter 4 from Fishing for Light, which I have pasted below, or you can read it off Amazon.com in the ‘look inside’ option. It is a short chapter, but it might be more interesting if you know the background influences.
I create my character names, based on what the character represents. As in Bertrand Screwtop. In Fishing for Light, Bertrand is a commercial litigation attorney with the firm, Lewis, Milton, Wormwood & Screwtop. And his new client is, Ms. Prosperina.
If you have read, The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis, and you were trapped in high school English class and had to read, Paradise Lost by John Milton, I think you’ll get a chuckle from the dialogue between Bertrand and Ms. Prosperina. I have read about every book by C.S. Lewis. And it is not lost on me the continuous push-pull in my life between good and evil. From these two classics I developed some of Ms. Proserpina’s more, evil gifts. She is a seriously nasty character that I hope never to meet.
Hidden within the frothy early morning haze of Nashville’s downtown skyline, as Eddie drove toward work within the commuter traffic, Bertrand Screwtop closed his six-panel oak office door. He stood on the thirteenth floor of the Batman shaped building, at the high-powered commercial litigation firm of Lewis, Milton, Wormwood & Screwtop. He combed his smooth fingertips through his thinning, curly light brown hair. He slid behind his desk onto his button backed, brown leather chair. He sipped coffee from his favorite Kentucky Derby mug. Then he dialed a secret transatlantic telephone number.
“Mr. Screwtape, I presume your demonic self has good news,” Ms. Prosperina said, English was not her primary language.
As he clicked through his computer screen, he opened the cyber client folder. He clicked on her picture. She was a diminutive middle-aged woman with blonde hair; she had hardly a wrinkle across her blank face digitally staring back at him.
“Well, I’m not exactly sure,” Bertrand said. His southern accent was subtle, as he had refined it from years of practice so his Yankee clients did not think him daft. “But, I have good information, the people you seek have emerged.”
“I trust you will not give me false expectations, like Dr. Yin,” Ms. Prosperina said. Bertrand could hear her puff on a cigarette, and a drag that sounded like fizzing antacid tablets.
“Understood, my contacts believe it’s them.” Bertrand coughed to clear his throat. “It appears someone paid an exorbitant amount for some, ah, shall I say, rather personal sporting goods equipment, athletic supporters worn by a star running back.”
“Star?” Ms. Prosperina said.
“Sorry, American football,” Bertrand said. He fingered with the sharp cress of his suit pants. “All American football star, ah, similar to a famous soccer player.”
“Oh, a man-bra, didn’t want to lose his paradise,” Ms. Prosperina said. She cryptically laughed. “So, the old man just cannot give up on his quest to protect the world from little old me, not much of a multiplier effect, one baby at a time.”
“Ah, I suppose, you’ve retained me to provide information about internet commerce, but I’m not a private detective,” Bertrand said. “And Dr. Yin seems like a typical scientist.”
“Oh, now, now, I had my associate Mr. Oppenheimer thoroughly research you,” Ms. Prosperina said. “Mr. Screwtape, you are a sneaky fellow, and he tells me you’re quite the playboy.”
Bertrand twisted to stare out the expansive office windows across western Tennessee and down at the dense interstate system cycling through the heart of Nashville, where Eddie and Captain Lovins sat within the clogged traffic idling in their fossil-fueled machines pointed in opposite directions.
“It’s, Screwtop, not Screwtape, never had a reason to marry.”
“Irrelevant, I can be many different people all at the same time, my father was quite creative,” Ms. Prosperina said. “I need to find him.”
“Not sure how to respond,” Bertrand said. He studied Ms. Proserpina’s dossier, as he clicked his computer mouse, it was painfully thin of information, aside from the menacing photo. “Not sure I totally understand my role, but I do understand your business is agriculture?”
“I am amazed, I can be entangled with so many, in vastly differently locations with a minimal investment,” Ms. Prosperina said. She purred. “Perhaps you should do more research about me, better than that client folder you’ve been studying, do you like my photo? On your computer screen I don’t think it quite captures me.”
“Well, I suppose,” Bertrand said. He gulped. He sipped some more coffee from his mug. “You always wear black sunglasses?”
“No, but I don’t think you’d want to see my eyes, besides, it will pay you financial dividends to be in my world,” Ms. Prosperina said. She paused. “I have sensitive eyes. One of my investments is in bioengineering, to find replacements for people, like me. I’m quite the philanthropist, and I hope to feed the world, help my future generations.”
“I suppose,” Bertrand said. He loosened his tie.
“I need you to continue to focus Dr. Yin,” Ms. Prosperina said. “I’ve quietly funded his research, he’s not totally aware of me. He thinks his research is an off the books government program to grow synthetic diamonds, to figure out Professor Quan’s secret formulas.”
“To continue, this will take some more time, I’ll need a substantial retainer, ah, our managing partner, Mr. Lewis,” Bertrand said. “He will ask about the purpose of our relationship, he’s annoyingly honest.”
“Name your price, perhaps I’ll send Mr. Oppenheimer to pay you a visit, he assists me,” Ms. Prosperina said. “Tell him I am purchasing a utility, land, so forth. Good day, Mr. Screwtop, and remember, always drink your coffee black, you do know what’s in it, right?”
The cell phone line clicked silent.
Bertrand quickly pushed his steaming coffee mug back across his leather inlay desktop. He stared at it as if it were leaking nuclear radiation. Then he studied her photograph, he quickly clicked the mouse to close the client file. Then he opened his internet browser and continued to research his client. Ms. Prosperina had a vast empire of privately held companies, they were all focused on utilities, agriculture and related businesses. He had not found any evidence she was involved in the bioengineering niche. However, he did note she had a relationship with a space technology company. But she held neither positions on boards of directors, or philanthropic organizations, nor could she be found in any form of social media. It was as if she preferred to live in the shadows, building a vast fortune. Bertrand sat back and stared over at his steaming coffee mug. He decided it best to not to contact Dr. Yin again. He would get agitated and more nervous having someone outside of government asking questions. But he wondered who this Ms. Prosperina was, and where she came from. He knew he better find out because his partner Simon Lewis would pelt him with pesky ethical questions.