Book 2: The Secrets of the Flannery O'Connor Brigade
The first matter on the table, however, was the anonymous note that had been sent to Vanessa Wilentz last Wednesday, and which Tyrone, Dramsheet, and Oliver Corpse had been assigned to investigate by the Honorable Ignatius Wilentz, MP. The new letter went something like this: To Citizen V.N. Wilentz: Is it permissible, logical possible, morally necessary, situationally contiguous, epistemologically valid, to make analogies between the first party being addressed in this epistle and between one of the sub-divisions between the two equinoxes, and in particular the last half of said period between the equinoxes, to wit in particular the sub-division known vernacularly, if not vulgarly, as the day, and in particular to wit the latter half of the period between the equinoxes know vernacularly, if not vulgarly, as summer? Sorry for bothering, completely unnecessary, this epistle shall finish at once, offer most profound apologies, hope you read more and more large books, have a happy Ash Wednesday, yours sincerely ANONYMOUS."
"What a strange letter." said Monagham.
"Yes, what do you make of it, Inspector?"
"V.N.W. visit Wednesday. Platitudes-Nice."
"Pardon?" asked Dramsheet.
"The Inspector says that he visited Ms. Wilentz yesterday afternoon, and told her some pleasing nothings."
"I see. Go on."
"Corpse. No evidence. No psychotic. No obsession. Verbose uncrime Personal Harmless. Possible VNW meet A.M. Recom, intricate VNW. Clues logical on A.M."
"He says that Dr. Corpse believes that there's no evidence that the writer is really dangerous, and that verbosity isn't really a crime. He personally suggests it might be a good idea if Miss Wilentz meet Anonymous, and he recommends a thorough search of Miss Wilentz's life in order to find greater clues on who anonymous is."
"I'm sorry, Inspector, but as Ignatius Wilentz's lawyer I am under specific instructions to ensure the privacy of his relatives as much as possible. What else did Corpse say about our mysterious writer?"
"A.M. not I.W. Not P.W., E.C., C.H., V.C., L.R., Not shallow sex-mate, Vocab big, Recom further T.A.T V VNW. Allusion W.Shakes (alias de V/O?). S of Gen?"
"He says that anonymous isn't her uncle, her brother, her roommate, her roommate's boyfriend, the teacher of one of her classes, or a strange woman who lives below her who dresses up as a man. It's not likely to be one of Miss Wilentz's rather shallow ex-boyfriends, the vocabulary is too big. He recommends further meeting Miss Wilentz. He does suggest that the allusion to William Shakespeare, who may be Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, may reflect a sign of genius."
"Inspector, you don't believe that idiocy about Shakespeare being someone else, do you?"
"(@) M.X. + E.P. ^!"
"The Inspector says both Malcolm X and Enoch Powell thought Shakespeare was somebody else."
"How apposite. I don't think we're going to learn anything more about who's sending the letters."
"See VNW at IW, at C of U Of C, when A and B and R invite OP to C. Philosophical V.P. Pity if VNW's POM U.relieved."
"He says that he's known Miss Wilentz for some time when he saw her at her uncle's, or when he had to visit Carleton to investigate assault or rape charges. Personally, he thinks it's a pity if her peace of Mind went unrelieved."
"Thank you Inspector. We must now turn to the death of Miss Manzoni. When was she last seen?"
"x-it P. Library 11:38 in tears. T. Taxi to NCW and 'Poof'"
"Inspector Tyrone says that Miss Manzoni left her library at..."
"Don't bother, I understand. From what we've learned, it would appear to be a suicide. Do you have any reason to believe that this might not be the case, and do you have any reason to connect this with the death of Senator Veniot?"
Inspector Tyrone's reply was admirably brief. "No."
"But she also did not leave a note. Have you investigated her house to see if there might be anything that would lead her to commit suicide?"
"Invgate f/o b. letters."
"And was there nothing to be found from these burnt letters?"
"1 frag: c(@) "
"It's not a what, Vice-Inspector, it's a
place. It's a
"What would that have to do with Manzoni?"
"Apparently nothing. On the other
"I don't know. Manzoni has no more
"In? be slow. Must know more, but delay."
"The inspector says he'll delay Manzoni's inquest and that of Senator Veniot if you think there's any reason. But speaking for myself, we just can't keep everything a secret. I know it would be embarrassing to reveal that two members of the club committed suicide, but we have to release that information unless there's another reason to believe the contrary."
"I see. I can only ask you to delay
things as long as you can." Dramsheet adjourned the meeting, and
started the private and surreptitious surveillance of other members of
Philhellenon club. The first members to be so surveyed were
and Corpse, and in fact Dramsheet had overhead the conversation about
But if Dramsheet was only mildly suspicious about the death of Veruca Manzoni, and had only a vague intuition that there was any connection between her death and that of Senator Veniot, the leading members of the Flannery O'Connor Brigade irrationally (but correctly) believed that there was one. And the following Friday morning they held a crisis meeting.
In order to understand the Flannery O'Connor
Brigade we must know more about its absolute leader, Professor Albert
who was currently living in 322 Drogheda Apartments. The Flannery
O'Connor Brigade was his creation, and it had branches in every country
world. Claiming to be the shock troops of the Lord, the brigade
all sorts of tactics for the glory of Roman Catholicism. In
And working through the power of secret Papal commissions and Special Mystical traditions, Albert Hermann was the absolute leader of the two thousand, four hundred and thirty members of the Flannery O'Connor Brigade. He was just waking up eighteen hours before the end of the last chapter when God talked to him.
"And how are you today, Albert?"
"Oh, not so well I'm afraid Lord."
"Oh dear, and why would that be?" (Actually God, or as the Voice in Pr. Hermann's head preferred to call Himself, the Holy Ghost, knew perfectly well what Pr. Hermann's problem was, but He found that occasionally feigning ignorance made Him a better conversationalist.)
"I had this rather nasty nightmare last night."
"Oh dear, how unpleasant. What was it about Albert?"
"The Albigensians I'm afraid."
"Oh yes, they've become so much more popular in atheist circles now that we've shown that the Inquisition wasn't really that bad after all. I suppose Pope Innocent III was there."
"Oh, yes, and so was the bishop who, when asked what to do when the Holy Army had to confront a town full of Albigensians and good Catholics, said 'Kill them all, God will sort them out.' Naturally, this was all very distressing."
"Are you going to be all right?"
"Oh, with Your help, there's no reason why anything should go wrong. Thank You again for everything you've done for me."
"You're welcome; I'm always happy to help. Oh, Albert, I do believe there is something I should tell you about. Two things actually."
"Oh, really Lord? What is it?"
"I can't really tell you more, with this free will and everything, but I can say that your life is in some sort of danger. I would be very careful if I were you. It's not as if someone was going to openly attack you, but you are going to confront something very dangerous in the near future."
"Well, thank You Lord for telling me even this. I shall be on my guard from this time onwards. What's the second thing?"
"There's a conspiracy going around to kill someone. It's very odd however, because the plot plans to murder this person after said person is already dead. To makes things even stranger the intended victim isn't dead yet."
"How distressing. Can You tell me anything about this victim?"
"Well, I can't tell you too much, but it is very important that you do all you can to stop this conspiracy from succeeding."
Albert considered the problem for a few seconds. "How very odd. Why would anyone want to kill someone who was already dead? Oh well, I'll just have to solve the problem myself. Thank You for Your help Lord."
During this conversation Albert had got out of bed, had showered, and gotten dressed, and was now at his desk transcribing his conversations with the holy Ghost. "By the way," asked the Holy Ghost, "how are those petitions coming along?"
"Well the one to have Father Matthew Fox excommunicated as a heretic is going rather well, actually."
"Good for you. Good riddance to bad sentimental fashionable feminist mystical rubbish. And the second one?"
"Well the one to have the political scientist Leo Strauss excommunicated and his ideas declared anathema is a little trickier."
"You mean the fact that Strauss is dead is causing a problem?"
"Also the fact that Strauss was Jewish and never a member of the church at all? No doubt that's causing problems as well."
"True, but with Your help I think we can overcome these obstacles."
"Oh well, I'll simply have to talk to a few of the relevant cardinals. By the way Albert I'm going to give you a special gift today. You can ask me any three questions that you want, and I'll give you the correct answers."
"Why that's wonderful. Thank You very much Lord! Alright. First question. Where is Genet Vovelle?"
"At this very moment? He's in
"Well that's the least he deserves. How very merciful You are, Holy Ghost."
"Oh, thank you very much. By the way you may be interested to know that the reason Madame Vovelle loudly abuses Africans in public has nothing to do with the fact that her husband has impregnated an African woman younger than her two daughters."
"I already knew that, actually. But it's nice of you to tell me so that I can be absolutely sure."
"What's your second question?"
"What's your favorite movie?"
"Where is Natasha Wilentz?"
"At this moment in time, Natasha Wilentz
"Why does she not want to see her husband?"
"I'm sorry Albert, but that's four questions."
"Oh dear, you're right. I'm terribly sorry, I just completely forgot."
"Of course, if you're really interested, I could tell you why she has separated herself from her husband..."
"Oh, no, I couldn't impose on You. Perhaps You could tell me some other time."
"Oh, all right. Well I hope you have a very nice and wonderful day, and do please be careful, Albert."
"Thank You very much, Lord. And I
hope You have a very nice and wonderful day as well, and I do hope that
careful as well." Pr. Hermann then continued to copy out this
conversation in his notebook for about an hour. When he was
took out the dagger of St. Francis of
The other members soon arrived, there being a
total of six when one included Hermann. None of the members,
and three women, ever referred to themselves by their real names, but
used the special titles that they had been given. Hermann
leader of the Brigade, was given the unique title of the Shiner of the
the Fisherman. The other five titles were the Defender of St.
The Legionmeister of the Signet of Saint Luke, instead of immediately joining the others and starting the emergency meeting off as quickly as possible, was momentarily captivated by the library of the Shiner of the Shoes. He was struck by the strange titles; Shakespeare's Alcibiades, Aristotle's book on Humor, Dickens' complete Mystery of Edwin Drood, Lavoisier's comments on the periodic table, Moliere's Happy Dancing People, Goethe's Faust Part III, and Flaubert's I can't read William Burroughs Without Bursting into Maniacal Laughter, it's so Derivative. As the Legionmeister examined the Library, the Shiner of the Shoes appeared and pointed to Alcibiades. "I have it on very good authority that the author wrote all the plays that have been attributed to him." Somewhat shamefaced, the Legionmeister returned with the others to the dining room table, just sneaking a look back at a book called Balzac, by Dr. K. Marx.
After they had all sat down the Murderess of the Order of the Stigmata spoke up and said "I would just like to make it perfectly clear to all who could be listening and say that something very unpleasant should happen to the Negroes of the world. I suggest that we should all..." and then she stopped. "What horrible yet appropriate punishment have I not suggested?"
Hermann tried to think. "Let's
see. You've suggested that we cut them into little pieces, that
them into slightly larger pieces, and that we have them all hanged with
own belts, (which means we would have to lobby for a government program
the women and children their own belts). You've also suggested
take and hide all their children and we refuse to tell them where we've
them, that we take them all to
Legionmeister interrupted. "There's talk that
Hermann nodded with little interest. "You've suggested that we subject them to mass euthanasia by forcing them to read Marshall McLuhan, that we all have them poisoned with good clean milk, and that we all have them burned at the stake. What else is there?"
The Master of the Marthas spoke up. "We haven't sautéed them."
"Yes," agreed the Holder of the Averroes seal. "We could add parsley and rosemary. And I know someone who could provide us with special vinegars."
"That sounds delicious." said the Legionmeister.
"No!" said Madame Vovelle. "That would be too good for them. We should all drop grand pianos on their heads."
"But there are millions of Negroes, and
only a handful of grand pianos on the continent." objected the Defender
St. Rose of
"All right" suggested Hermann. "We could produce a make work program employing all the Negroes at making grand pianos. The Negroes would make more money, they would be able to have firmer family structures, there would be more money for their communities, and more money for their educational infrastructure, and there would be less need for crime and drugs, and because we would be making millions of these pianos all the educational and housing and health and transport systems that fell apart because all the whites left and made sure their taxes wouldn't pay for black education, all these systems would be rebuilt because making grand pianos would be a major industry."
"Yes," enthused the Defender. "The blacks would now have the chance for real opportunities, and they could become model citizens. Or at least they would be until we dropped the pianos on their heads."
Madame Vovelle nodded. "They are an execrable race! Why the rate of drug addiction among black American youth is almost as high as that as white American youth! And their birthrate has been falling for almost three decades, which means they must be using more contraception! And when you adjust for greater poverty, the teenage pregnancy rate is an abominable 10% higher than that of whites! And their graduation rate is so low, it's slightly lower than that of whites! And their racist and sexist rap music is almost as talentless and discordant as racist and sexist heavy metal music! What are we to do with such people?"
At that point the door, which the Shiner of
the Shoes had not bothered to lock, swung open, and Aquilla Rogers
until she collapsed a few feet from the table. After quickly
door the Brigade gathered around the prostrate
"What's she doing here?" asked the Legionmeister.
"She has an incredible fever." commented the Murderess.
"She can barely move." observed the Holder.
"Se-se-se," sputtered Aquilla.
"What's she saying?" asked the Defender.
"Seduced and abandoned." croaked Aquilla.
"Is that possible?" asked the Shiner of the Shoes.
"It was almost inevitable." argued the Master.
"Give her something to drink." said someone and the cold, fever-ridden girl was brought to a couch. The Master opened a vial of holy hydrochloric acid and sprinkled a couple of drops on Aquilla. This shocked her into some sort of consciousness. "Now could you please tell us what happened to you." asked Hermann in a grandfatherly tone of voice.
"Forgive me, most respected member of the Roman Catholic laity, I have sinned."
"As have we all." said Hermann comfortingly, if not accurately.
"I have engaged in sexual intercourse."
"With what?" asked the Holder.
"With a man of course. Who else could it have been with?"
"Well you could have had intercourse with a completely inanimate object. Like a writing desk for instance."
"How could I have sex with a writing desk?"
"I wouldn't know. I'm not an expert on the topic. But in order to reach the truth one must carefully and dispassionately eliminate all possible alternatives."
"Who was the man?" asked the Master.
"I can't say... It's so hard to explain. Do you know what it's like when you face something unbearably sweet?"
"No." said Hermann, who had completely forgotten what sugar tasted like.
"I couldn't resist, it was so pleasurable. But afterwards, in my dreams, I could hear him laughing at me."
"You've never read any romantic novels." noted the Legionmeister.
"Well yes, but I vaguely recall that guilt often follows this sort of seduction. What's so special about this case?"
"Good Lord." cried the Defender. "What's she doing here at a top secret meeting of the Flannery O'Connor Brigade? This is incredibly dangerous. We should throw her out the door at once, or better yet, out the window."
"Quiet!" said Madame Vovelle. "She will not leave until she is cured" This was said in a tone of such evident authority that it completely silenced the Defender, who could only later pettily complain that she had Loyola and Tertullian on her side.
"She's very ill." noted the
Master. The Master of the Marthas had a number of aliases, such
Master and the Margarita, Have some
Aquilla protested: "No, you're wrong...No, you can't do anything, can't let you..." but then she lapsed into unconsciousness and the Master had to revive her with more drops of holy hydrochloric acid, and then spoke to her.
"Aquilla Rogers, you will leave this place at once. Charles Harding is an enemy of God, and no force on Earth can protect him. Tonight you will visit him when he arrives at his whore's apartments. When all the innocent and the uninvolved have left and when you are safely away, the Flannery O'Connor Brigade shall confront him. I myself will lead the charge and I shall bring a fellow traveler along with me. Justice shall be done."
Madame Vovelle immediately agreed to this
idea, and so did the Defender, who was anxious for
Hermann spoke. "Veruca Manzoni is dead. She is the second member of the Philhellenon club to die within eight days. I refuse to believe that this is a coincidence, and would instead argue that there is a conspiracy against the Philhellenon club. As three of us here are members of the club, this could pose a mortal threat to us. We are dealing with a very clever and very dangerous man, a man (or woman) who is capable of committing murders that look like suicide. Our enemy has however committed three mistakes. First, when he killed Senator Veniot he left a spot of semen on Veniot's spectacles which cannot be rationally explained. Second, he was not cunning enough to have his victims write suicide notes. Third, all who knew Veniot and Manzoni understood that in normal circumstances they would not conceive of killing themselves."
The other five members all offered their
agreement with Hermann's interpretation, which was wrong in several
respects. Hermann continued. "Today, I have learned from an
impeccable source that my own life is in danger. Naturally, I
immediate precautions. As the leader of the Brigade I have always
bullet-proof vest. From this day forward, the Dagger of St.
And so they discussed it for another
forty-five minutes until they quickly adjourned. Hermann put on a
recording of the Wagner opera Isaiah, which in all honesty wasn't
really one of
his better ones, because every ten minutes Wagner would interrupt the
say what wonderful people the Jews were and what a terrible rotter he
say such nasty things about them. Hermann spent the rest of the
And fifteen hours later the Master of the
Marthas and the fellow traveler were confronting Constantine, Vanessa,
The four looked at each others nervously, then the Master spoke. "Where is Vivian Chelmnickon?"
"That is not the right answer!" and the fellow traveler made threatening moves with the volumes.
"Wait!" shouted Vanessa. And
she opened the door and got the telephone book. "He's probably at
home. His address is
"Oh." said the Master. "All right. Thank you." and the two were preparing to leave when the Master noticed one of the diaries of Anais Ninny lying on the floor. "Excuse me, but we have to go back into your apartment for a moment." The two entered, followed by the four students while the fellow traveler gratefully put the twenty-six volumes down on the couch. The Master picked up the book, opened it half-way, dropped it on the floor, and summoned the fellow traveler.
"You will jump up and down on this book three times--for the trinity."
"You will now jump up and down on this book seven times--for all the sacraments.
"You will now jump up and down on this book nine times-for the orders of the angels.
"You will now jump up and down on this book two hundred and seventy times-for all the popes."
The fellow traveler looked at the Master of
the Marthas with a mixture of shock and "Bloody hell I will."
Ordinarily the Master would have forced the poor person to do it
the book was in rotten enough shape for both of them to relent.
fellow traveler picked up the book and gave it to a horrified
"Of course, we'll be giving you a completely new book." said the fellow traveler. "Not Anais Ninny, of course, but in fact something much better. How would you like one of François Mauriac's novels? Say A Generation of Vipers?"
"We can't give them Mauriac." said an outraged Master. "He's too liberal a Catholic. He probably believed in such heresies as universal salvation. Moreover, the book you're thinking of is 'The Knot of Vipers.' Besides, the woman has probably never heard of him. Out of the question. Give them something by Evelyn Waugh."
"But we can't! We gave our final copy of Brideshead Revisited to the last house we broke into."
"So we did. Alright what other books can we give them?"
"Well, since this is the Flannery O'Connor Brigade, perhaps we could give them a book by Flannery O'Connor?"
"But that would be too obvious."
"How about Czeslaw Milosz, the great
Polish poet of freedom and human dignity, winner of the 1980 Nobel
Literature, author of the classic line: 'Irony is the glory of slaves,'
has a statue in one of the libraries of the
"No, he's not ostentatiously Catholic enough. Fortunately in emergencies like this, I always carry several copies of Diary of a Country Priest by George Bernanos." The Master extracted a copy and fourteen other copies fell on the floor. The fellow traveler scrambled to gather them all up, while the Master placed the book in the space where Anais Ninny's diary used to be. Unknown to the four students, the book was bugged. The Fellow traveler picked up the twenty-six volumes of St. Thomas Aquinas, and the two of them vanished into the shadows.
Given the extremely strange nature of what had
just occurred, none of the four decided to telephone the police.
waiting for a few minutes to see if they might come back, Charles and
decided to leave. After cleaning up a little,
"Uh, no, not really, thank you."
"That's good, because I don't like coffee
and I don't know how to make it."
The next day was a Saturday and Giles Seinkewicz had decided that he would visit the Philhellenon Club. The butler informed him that very few members were in; only Louis Dramsheet, Dr. Roget, and Pr. Hermann. Giles nodded, and walked straight to the Bernini enclave. There he found Dramsheet, working as usual on his book on Cavafy. Giles stood up straight, took a deep breath and said in a loud, confident voice "I want to have sex with you."
Dramsheet did not look up at all, and simply said "Really?"
"Oh yes. Very much so."
"Just a moment." and Dramsheet made an awkward unsexual shuffling in his seat. "Now could you repeat what you just said?"
"I want you, Louis Dramsheet. I want you from the very depths of my being. I'm filled with passion for you, and I can barely control my own urges."
"Really. And at any time?"
"Any time. Any place, I'll do it. Regardless of the consequences, regardless of what anyone thinks, I don't even want you to ask me, I want us to get it on without any words at all."
"Ah." said Dramsheet. And then there was a sharp click.
"What was that?"
"It was my tape recorder being switched off."
"You had a tape recorder on? What the devil for?"
"So that you if you falsely accused me in the following months of having raped you, I could enter this as evidence in my defense, and therefore have any case against me dismissed."
"Why would I do something horrible like that? All I want to do is make love to you."
"No, you don't." He continued reading the rather long Cavafy poem for another thirty seconds and then explained. "You do not want to have sex with me. You merely wish to present an ostentatiously adulterous desire in my presence so that I would report it to your wife, with the hope that she might initiate divorce proceedings, which would involve you meeting her. Since I have not the slightest doubt that you are completely heterosexual, your offer is completely frivolous, and therefore I shall not bother to report it. You might attempt to slander me as a homosexual rapist, but it would not work, thanks to this recording which I have just conveniently taped of you."
As this was exactly Giles' plan, he could only collapse into a chair. But he struggled on. "I don't have to go on like this. I can screw any woman I want, don't think that I'll always wait for Natasha."
Dramsheet was still reading, but after a minute he responded. "That might actually be a good idea. If you were to enter a flagrantly adulterous relationship, I could report it to your wife. Were she to consent to it, neither of you could sue for divorce on grounds of adultery."
"Oh, God, she would do that, wouldn't she." Giles thought for another few minutes, then another idea came to him. "I could marry someone, and I would have to be charged with bigamy, and the only way it could be proved that I had been married before was if you produced Natasha in court. Got you there."
"No. Your certificate of marriage to Ms. Wilentz is legally acceptable proof."
"But I can get a divorce on the grounds we've been separated for more than a year."
"Actually you cannot. You need to prove intention to be separate. You have no desire to separate from her, since your constant badgerings have made your intentions on this point crystal clear. Nor does my client have any intention to be separate from you. This is clear from a host of complex transactions she has made which, however, I am not at liberty to tell you about. You need to prove intention, and there is none. It is quite irrelevant that you have not actually seen your wife since before your wedding."
"For God sakes, Dramsheet! Why can't you help me?"
"Why should I? I'm not your lawyer."
Had Giles argued for another two and a half minutes with Dramsheet, Pr. Hermann would have entered and told Giles his wife's address. But Giles thought that it was hopeless and left the Bernini enclave. Walking through the club he saw Dr. Roget sitting in a chair reading a medical text.
Roget recognized his wife's second husband and invited him over. Giles quickly explained his problem and Roget listened sympathetically. "Philippe, why did Natasha ever marry you?"
"And why wouldn't she marry me? I am a wealthy and well-respected doctor, and I am the sole heir of a wealthy family."
"That couldn't be the reason. If she only married for wealth, she wouldn't have married me."
"She undoubtedly found me rather charming."
"With all due respect, Philippe, you are one of the dullest persons I've ever met. All you've ever done in the Philhellenon Club is read medical texts."
Roget swallowed the remains of the glass of mineral water he had been drinking and placed it on the table nearby. He then placed his book at the foot of his chair. "There is another reason. There's a special trick I used to do. Watch closely." Roget then tilted his head over the glass and as he moved closer over it, Giles saw the cartilage of his ear bend and actually take hold of the glass. To his considerable surprise, he saw Roget picking up the glass and hold it at a 90 degree angle to his head for about a minute as he sat up straight again. He then let go of the glass and put it back on the table.
"I have prehensile ears, capable of picking up small objects. For most of my childhood I lived alone. My parents both died when I was very small, and from what I can tell they were rather selfish and immature people. I rarely saw my grandfather, who served as my guardian, and none of my nursemaids and governesses ever stayed long enough for me to form a real attraction. And it was my grandfather's firm policy that I should be educated in as many countries as practically possible, so I never had any real friends. All my teachers were very strict and they maintained as iron a discipline as possible in their classes. So for my own psychological survival I had to find some way of getting attention and admiration as quickly as possible from my classmates. And the key to that was magic. I can do all sorts of little tricks."
"Open your mouth as wide as you can." Giles did so, and to his amazement a frog jumped out. Roget caught it, covered it in his handkerchief and from the bundle pulled out a bread-knife, which he placed beside his empty glass of mineral water.
"That was just a simple sleight-of-hand trick. Actually, it's a rather complex sleight-of-hand trick, and it involves slight hypnosis. I won't go into the vulgar details, since it might lead you to understimate my intelligence. But it isn't actually magic...
"The part about the ears was not strictly speaking magic, either. It was just training, discipline, and a slight genetic disposition to moveable ears. I can move my ears enough so that I use them to unlock a door with a key. That was actually Natasha's favorite trick; she was actually fairly good in figuring out what I had done with my other tricks. Like her father she can't be hypnotized, or," and Roget leered discretely, "she almost can't. I don't suppose you've ever had sex under hypnosis?
"But the sight of the severe, humorless, rigid handsome young medical doctor twisting his ears out of shape in order to pick up a key, that must have been what attracted her to me. But obviously, it wasn't enough."
"Roget, where did your alimony go?"
"All went through Dramsheet, I'm afraid."
Giles smiled sadly, he had of course asked the
question many times before, and now he could only look at Roget, and at
moment there was a great surge of listlessness in his soul that he did
how to confront or combat. He decided the best thing to do was to
confront that listlessness with something tangible, and so an hour
he left the Philhellenon Club in order to find his father who would
fight that listlessness
by recommending a visit to
Roget picked up his medical text and did not bother to notice that Chelmnickon had entered the club. But when he saw Oliver Corpse he became genuinely alarmed and sincerely concerned. "Dr. Corpse, you look like you've gained eighty pounds in the past eight days."
"But that must terribly alarming."
"It's just part of a cycle, and it's undoubtedly harmless."
Roget did not believe this, but he said nothing as Corpse entered the Bernini Enclave, and sat down by Dramsheet.
"Louis, what do you think about Czechoslovak novelists?"
"Which Czech novelists in particular?"
"Well do you generally believe that they are a bunch of sniveling, fashionable, sex-obsessed, secularist slime-sucking writers who write for meretricious American audiences?"
"Is something wrong, Oliver?"
"It's these dreams that I keep having. Every night I seem to be dreaming about Teschen."
Dramsheet already knew what Teschen was, since he had overheard him the day before talking to Chelmnickon. But he pretended ignorance, and asked Corpse what a Teschen was.
"It's a part of
"An inopportune time to receive it?"
"There was no doubt that the Teschenians
wanted to belong to
"You seem quite defensive Oliver."
"I have nothing to worry about."
"Do you have any more news about Vanessa Wilentz's letter writer."
"Well, a few days ago I said that there was no evidence to believe the writer was Ignatius Wilentz."
"Well, now I'm absolutely sure that he isn't the writer. I wish I could understand what sort of person would want to write these sort of letters."
"Presumably, it would be someone who found young female college graduates erotic and/or exciting."
"Do you know anyone for whom that's the case?"
"Quite frankly, Oliver, I don't understand why anyone would even find college graduates interesting."
"I'm almost tempted to think it might be Vivian. He teaches one of Miss Wilentz's classes, you know. I mean with his wife and everything, perhaps he would like to start a little platonic affair. But I've known him for so long, I can't imagine him betraying his wife like that, even though she so definitely deserves it. It would be completely out of character."
Completely out of character indeed. For
thirty years Corpse had complained to Vivian about his wife's
rotten temper, her alcoholism, her vulgarity and bad taste, but Vivian
disagreed. She only had a taste for fashionable writers like
Barnes or Saramago, but her husband treated her views moderately.
the older Vivian got, and the worse his wife got, the more he was
defend her in front of his friends and acquaintances. Always
tactfully, of course, and his wife never appreciated him for it.
Vivian had always been polite, he had never engaged in cheep abuse,
listened respectfully to the arguments of opponents, and had never
himself in vindictiveness and self-pity. And there were
émigrés whom he had aided at considerable cost to
himself, from penniless
"Don't worry Oliver. You can rest assured that whomever it may be, the writer is not Vivian Chelmnickon."
Oliver Corpse rose, and went to see if there was any mail. As it happened, the sixth anonymous letter was in his mailbox, and when he pulled it out he accidentally knocked out the fifteenth anonymous letter to Veruca Manzoni. It fell on the floor and slid into the heating grate, to be ignored by everyone, except for Giles Seinkewicz, who briefly saw the mailroom as he was leaving to go outside.
Vivian Chelmnickon was sitting in another part of the club, and he asked the butler if he could have a cordial.
"You want a cordial sir?"
"Yes, I do. Could you please open one and bring one around here?"
"With all due respect, if your wife wants some more cordials I could always arrange a pack of twelve to be delivered to your house. If I gave you an open cordial the taste would be quite lost by the time it reached your wife."
"I want the cordial, not my wife."
"I must say I'm very surprised sir. I have often heard Dr. Corpse say that you couldn't stand cordials because they reminded you of your wife's breath in the morning."
Chelmnickon stared at the butler, who
immediately apologized. After he received the cordial he leaned
his chair and tried to relax. He rubbed his chest slightly; he
love earlier that morning and he could still feel where the Galcynski
gouged into his skin. His wife had forgotten Vanessa Wilentz for
time, but by no means did this signify the end of her jealousies.
were, after all, forty-one other female students that he was teaching
moment, not to mention the five hundred and sixty-seven other women he
taught in more thirty years as a professor. He had forgotten most
them, but his wife remembered them all in malevolent detail. But
were not the only women Mrs. Chelmnickon suspected. She suspected
the wives of the members of the Philhellenon club: one evening
and Vivian met Avare Seinkewicz for the very first time Mrs.
immediately wanted to know all about their affair. She suspected
used his prominent position to sleep with the anchorwomen on the
she had spread rumours back when they were in
As he slowly didn't drink his cordial, Vivian
wondered why he was still with his wife after more than thirty-five
marriage. Her intellectual interests were becoming more narrow
obsessive. After the encounter with the female auditor, Vivian,
trouble and at considerable expense, had a lie detector test performed
showed that he had been completely faithful ever since their
for the past fifteen years his wife had investigated every piece of
that cast doubt on the reliability of lie detectors. She was also
morbidly fascinated about the passage from the gospels that said if you
at a women in lust in your own heart you were guilty of adultery, and
was the world's expert on all the ramifications and exegesis of that
statement. After the first few years in
Many years ago Vivian swore that he would endure his wife's sexuality and her spite and her vindictiveness with all the stoicism he could muster, and for all those years he had kept that oath. He rose his glass up above his head: "Till Death do us part." and placed the full glass by the side of the table.
Just then, another one of his strange flashes
of knowledge came to him. One of his colleagues at the old
lobbying to try to get him knighted; and in his mind's eye Vivian could
note arriving eight weeks in the future from the British Prime Minister
him not only a knighthood, but a hereditary lordship as well.
Chelmnickon could become Lady Ascot-Sussex-Whitehead, and he and all
descendants (of whom there were none, that's why the lordship was made
hereditary) could spend the rest of their days in the House of
Vivian would reject the honor as preposterous, but then he saw another
flash. In the political confusion of post-communist
This was the first such insight he had received since the death of Senator Veniot and it reminded him of the death of Veruca Manzoni. His thoughts turned to how he was going to convince his wife to let him go to the funeral without her mindless suspicions. When they had been young Vivian had often given her little gifts, but she soon suspected that he was trying to hide something when he did so he just had to give it up. As he tried to figure some way of pacifying his wife he did not know that Professor Hermann was also in the building. At this moment Hermann was two floors above Chelmnickon, in a very special room. In the room was a safe, where Hermann kept some of his private objects. As Vivian Chelmnickon was remembering how his main work, The History and Limits of Hegelian Analysis, had become the leading anti-Marxist work of its time, Hermann opened the combination lock of his safe. From it he extracted a chalice, a bottle of communion wine, a bottle of holy hydrochloric acid, a strange sort of communion wafer, a pen that used blood as ink, and a special secret book; Unofficial Canonization Procedures of the Roman Catholic Church, also known as How to Canonize Individuals without the Express Authority of the College of Cardinals. Hermann read the first few pages of the book, and then closed it, put it back in the safe and closed the door. He then poured some of the wine into the chalice, and then added a few milliliters of holy hydrochloric acid. He then took the wafer in his hands: it was a strange sort of wafer, because it looked like a yin-yang symbol. Hermann picked up his pen that used blood as ink, and on the black side he wrote Vivian, and on the white side he wrote Chelmnickon. He then put the pen down, reopened the safe and placed the pen, communion wine and holy hydrochloric acid back in the safe before closing the door again. He then took the wafer, dipped it in the chalice, and ate it. Then he drank the contents of the chalice in one gulp. Hermann stared out the large open window and saw the large shimmering figure clothed in samite who hovered above the ground using its leaden wings to stay above the ground. Hermann stared at the apparition and spoke seven words to the strange figure.
"Dear God in Heaven; it has begun."
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