The Truth Behind the Compass   

     With everyone else's attention distracted Vanessa Wilentz now decided that this would be the perfect time to rescue Constantine.  She walked up to the pillar and started to undo the bonds.   She spat on her hands and rolled her eyes heavenward.  "Really, Constantine.  Why do I have to do everything for you?"

      "Couldn't you hurry it up?"

      "How?  This is piano wire.  It doesn't untie itself easily."

      "Couldn't you cut it with something?"

      "With what?"

      "I don't know.  Perhaps you've got something in your purse.  Like a nail clipper for instance."

      "You can't use a nail clipper to cut piano wire.  Besides, I don't have one."

      "How do you cut your nails then?"

      "The same way you do, I bite them off when I get too nervous."  Just at that moment Aquilla appeared, who had been spending the entire service helping cook the dinner for Constantine in the back.  "Aquilla," hissed Vanessa, "get over here."

      "Gee what are you doing?" asked Aquilla in a voice loud enough for everyone to hear.

      "Be quiet!  Help me untie Constantine."

      "Gee, that could be dangerous." she responded in the same loud voice.

      "Please hurry it up.  And be quiet."

      "I couldn't hear you.  Could you please speak up?"

      "For God's sake Aquilla, get over here and don't talk so much.  Can't you see we're trying to escape?"

      "Do you think I'm talking too loud?  Gee, I'm really sorry.  Perhaps I should ask my mother for advice." and the Murderess of the Order of the Stigmata approached the pillar.

      "Hi." said Vanessa as the four remaining Brigade members cramped around her.  They grabbed her and forced her to rejoin her parents.  Madame Vovelle then made a mental check.  "The only people missing are your sister and Adrian Verrall."

      Just then the Andorran and Finnish embassy officials came racing in, about to prepare fulsome apologies for their incompetence, but before they could do even that there was a sudden rush of wind, and Natasha Wilentz herself appeared, followed by Adrian and Lucian.  "It's incredible," said Lucian.  "Natasha's a witch!"

      "I must object." said Ignatius.  "There are a number of definitions of the word witch, none of which adequately describe my daughter.  Some unscrupulous early modern doctors, less than have been popularly assumed, have defined witches as unlicensed doctors with a passable knowledge of local herbs in pre-industrial societies.  Another definition is of a person who is a victim of pre-industrial mass hysteria.  Yet another definition argues that a witch is a member of the European anti-Christian conspiracy that is purported to have existed for a millennium and a half after the fall of Julian the Apostate.  Yet another definition is of a master of the black arts possessing knowledge of powers behind the scope of rational examination.  My daughter is not a mediocre herbalist, nor a victim of mass hysteria, nor a member of a pre-industrial society.  As no anti-Christian conspiracy existed for a millennium and a half after the fall of Julian the Apostate, my daughter could not be a member of it.  And it is not logically possible to possess knowledge beyond the scope of rational examination.  My daughter is not a magician, she belongs to no anti-human cults, she does not sell useless herbs, she does not incorrectly predict the future and she does not deal with palms, quartzes, tarots, or aphrodisiacs.  My daughter is a literate woman who has received the best education the Western world can offer, and she has a profound and deep understanding of art, literature, history, and religion.  My daughter is not a witch, she is a perfectly devout Jew, and a master kabbalist."

      "But I thought Kabbalists were all men."

      "Quite.  But when I found several masters of the art, some of the most conservative and traditionalist Jews alive, and hired them to help my with daughter's Judaic studies, they found her so charming they told her everything they knew.  Which goes to show that a good misogynist is hard to find."

      Giles heard none of this, and instead was so grateful that when he rushed to Natasha's side, he almost didn't notice the slap that she gave him.  "You bastard!"


      "For the past three years I have been married to a man who has not written to me, has not spoken to me, and has not done anything to me that a wife could reasonably expect her husband to do to her.  I have every right to be angry."

      "I haven't spoken to you?  You're the one who's been in Europe for the past three years.  You're the one who refuses to send me any letters or any clues as to where I could find you.  You didn't give me the slightest clue of your existence."

      "But of course I did, Giles.  Don't you understand that I faced an enormous threat, so dangerous that I had to leave Canada at once, that I couldn't even stop and tell you where I was going and why I was doing it.  But I did go to considerable trouble to arrange a spell that could overcome those difficulties.  It was dangerous, if I did anything wrong powerful forces would have thwarted my plans with evil consequences for humanity.  But I did do something that gave you no excuse not to be my husband."

      "Really.  And just what did you do?"

      "I created a big blue bouncing ball that was supposed to follow you around everywhere.  The ball would be nice and cheery and it would be so charming that you would eventually kiss it, and you would probably kiss it on your wedding night, and then poof, I would appear.  I would only appear for an hour, and I would only appear for once a week, and I would only be there long enough for me to get pregnant, but I would be there, and every week for the past 176 weeks I have waited for you, and nothing happened.  And don't say you didn't notice the blue ball, because I give you a very expensive cologne right for your wedding day, and once you put it on it was supposed to attract the ball, and don't say you didn't notice the cologne, because I could feel the seal broken and the cologne applied all across the Atlantic Ocean, over the Alps and in Milan."

      "But I didn't receive any cologne at all."

      Just then Adrian interrupted.  "That wouldn't be the cologne that I saw when I came into Giles' room just before the wedding.  You see, I needed some cologne, and I saw this very handy bottle right there, and since nobody was going to miss a little, I opened it.  But it all spilled out, so I threw the bottle away.  That wouldn't have anything to do with the fact that the bouncing blue ball appeared in front of my bed for the first time on your wedding night."

      "Adrian, you idiot."

      "Oops." said Natasha.

      Her father broke in.  "Why does no-one ever listen to me?  I have said it before and I will say it again; if magic had any sort of reliability it would have been patented by now.  Anyway, you can all see why Cabbalism is the least respected of the Jewish sciences."  Peter hadn't said anything at all, but now he approached his cousin.  "Hello Natasha.  I'd like to give you a gift."  And he gave her his eight remaining bars of soap.

      "Well that's very sweet of you, Peter." and she kissed him on the cheek, which almost made him faint, before she walked over to Roget.  She kissed her former husband, the lecherous doctor with prehensile ears who enjoyed hypnotising her too many times too much, and who couldn't even be a good Catholic fanatic and she conjured from under her clothes the favorite sash that he given to her on their first anniversary and presented it to her quasi lord and master.

      "But what about this threat that made you leave Canada in the first place?" asked Vanessa.

      "Good question.  You see, I had a premonition of a terrible conspiracy.  There were in fact a number of conspiracies.  There were two minor ones and one major one.  The first minor one was called 'the compass of death.'"

      "But there can't be a compass of death." interrupted Monagham.  "Tyrone thought there was, but all the deaths he was investigating were really suicides."

      "They only appear to be suicides.  The second conspiracy was something called 'Bloodpurge,' which hasn't taken place yet.  Though it will be very horrible to endure, it is not as half as dangerous as the real conspiracy, the conspiracy to kill someone who is already dead."

      "Yes, we do keep bumping into this strange plan." noted Constantine back from the pillar.  "But what does it mean?  Why would you someone kill someone who is already dead?  Come to think of it, how would you 'kill' someone who is already dead?  Are we going to be attacked by zombies?"

      "No.  It has nothing to do with zombies.  It has nothing to do with ghouls or ghosts or vampires.  It has nothing to do with the strangely growing cadaver of Oliver Corpse, which I have just reburied.  It is something else, and although I have not made any progress in finding exactly what else it is, I have definitely concluded that the conspiracy will commit its murder tonight, and that the conspirators are right here in this very cathedral."

      Six embassy officials, five members of the Flannery O'Connor Brigade, four Seinkewiczs, three elderly Wilentzes, two Rudmans, one would be saint, two M.P.s, three attractive young women, and four upstanding members of the bourgeoisie all looked at each other blankly.  "And the most peculiar thing about the conspiracy is that although one of you is the would be murderer, none of you have the slightest idea what I'm talking about."

      Mrs. Concrete was still very confused.  "You know that it's times like this when you really wish you had more shampoo, and that your mother was here to comfort you."

      "Yes, unfortunately mother's dead." said Avare.

      "What do you mean she's dead?  She's living in perfect health back in Alberta.  I wonder what she would say about Elizabeth marrying.  It's such a pity her husband died, mother would have liked to see some great grandchildren.  But why do you keep talking as if mother were dead?"

      "Because she is dead.  She died when you were four years old.  She was lowered into the ground, and our sister said it was a good thing that she had suffered horribly before she died."

      "What sister?  And who are you talking about?  Oh, I remember you're talking about that unfortunate French Catholic woman whom my father married before my real mother."

      "Marie Abelard Roget Raymond was your mother, not that cow-faced Presbyterian who keeps stuffing you with shampoo!"

      "But that's not fair.  Granted I suppose that since she was my father's wife when I was born, she probably would be my mother.  But in all the important times of my life, such as the first day I went to school, when I graduated, when I got married, when I had Elizabeth, when I was elected to parliament, mother was always there, and this person who gave birth to me wasn't.  Now you have to admit that if she was really my mother, it was alarmingly derelict of her not to be there all those times."

      "Alice, for God's sake, this is your mother we're talking about it.  I'm your sister, try and listen to me."

      "But how can you be my sister?  You're only my stepsister, no half-sister, I suppose."

      "No, Alice.  I am not your stepsister.  I am not your half-sister.  I am not your three-quarters, one-eights, two thirds, or five-sixteenths sister.  I am not your sister by marriage, or by contractual right or by a number of other weird and wonderful anthropological arrangements.  I am your sister.  We share the same mother, we share the same father, and we share the same sister."

      "But that's impossible.  Your father was this rather dissolute French fisherman, and my father was a perfectly respectable Alberta accountant.  And what's this about a sister?"

      "Your sister is that woman over there, who is in charge of the service.  Your sister calls herself the Murderess of the Order of the Stigmata, your sister reads books from the Library of Heaven, your sister helps fund brothels of chastity around the world, your sister has a daughter who goes by the name of her maternal grandfather and was seduced by your son-in law, your sister has another daughter who shot a MP who was a murderer with a pregnant wife and who plants marigolds in her carpet in order to destroy sexuality as we know it, your sister tells stories about wives who break their husband's necks so that they'll go to heaven, your sister goes around shouting anti-black slogans so that no-one will think that Senator Nyere Naipaul of Tanzania is the Holder of the Averroes seal, your sister is trying to destroy the city's egg supply, your sister is a woman who didn't care for children or husband, but she conceived two children anyway, while I, who really wanted children, could only get one, your sister is a woman who drove her husband to Senegal, and your sister is that woman right over there!"

      "But she has nothing in common in me.  And besides, she's French and Catholic."

      "Look at your damn birth certificate.  Your name is Atala Amara Raymond, a perfectly normal French name, except that your father isn't Daniel Raymond, it's Henri Roget.  You were conceived with mermaid soap while your father was trapped in an oyster shell at the bottom of the sea, and if he had known that you were his daughter, and if mother had known that, and if Daniel Raymond, that smug two-faced opportunistic Protestant accountant had known that, no force on heaven on earth would have kept our parents apart.  We could have all lived together."

      "But I don't understand.  Daniel Raymond is my father, and this father you say is really my father sounds like a very unpleasant person, and I don't see why I should care about him at all, and I think I prefer my own parents."

      "But they're not your parents!  Your parents are dead!  Why does nobody care?  I know my parents weren't the best people in the world, I know that my father beat my mother, I know that they often didn't love each other, I know that my mother married too quickly after my father didn't die, I know that my father drowned himself in cheap bathos and self-pity, I know they didn't accomplish anything important, that they were virtually illiterate, I know they never showed any courage or wisdom or decency or chastity or hope or temperance or anything else that balanced their lives, but for God's sake they were my parents, and I loved them and they loved each other and whatever they may have done my mother did not deserve to be cursed by her own daughter as they lowered her into the grave, she didn't deserve to die of abdominal bleeding after spending four years with a man she didn't love, and my father didn't deserve to be completely forgotten by his youngest child.  What did they do to deserve this, did they deserve this rank ingratitude?"

      Madame Vovelle stopped her work to turn around and look at her sister.   "I'm not being ungrateful.  I'm simply being objective.  The difference between divine love and human love is that the former is completely objective and completely infinite."

      "And if that wasn't enough when I moved to Alberta I lost all touch of my language, my history, my family, my friends, I only had my sister and her neurotic daughter, and all my cousins lived in Quebec and they were all bastards and they ripped themselves to pieces for no good reason.  And all I ever wanted to be, all I ever thought I ever needed to be, was to be a mother, and the only man I ever slept with couldn't even give me that.  I was faithful to him, I slept with him even before we were married, though it meant Professor Hermann's study group would write hate letters telling me what a whore I was, it would mean my sister would set fire to my dresses and claim the cat tore them to pieces, it would mean that my sister would break my lipsticks and throw the mascara down the toilet, and it would mean that my smug heartless Catholic English professor would  sneer at me during each and every entire class, and it would mean that my sister would write so many letters to our uncle, she had me disinherited, and it would mean that I would have to do nothing for five minutes and listen to your incompetent clumsy moves and your stupid clichés, because quite frankly, John, you're an piss-poor lover, and a stupid one at that, but I did it anyway, because you asked, you whined for it, you pleaded for it, and I did it, and I did it only for you, not like the way you did it only for me, because you had to have those Prairie whores who infected you and then me with Chlamydia, just as you had to have the occasional secretary and the occasional research assistant, and you would always apologize and beg for forgiveness, and I, like a stupid sluttish sentimental whore would always forgive you, because I, being the stupid bitch that I am, thought that I couldn't live without you, and of course I couldn't because you had burned down all my bridges well beforehand, and because I thanked you for giving me a son, a stupid, pompous, nitwit of a son who couldn't even get married and who can't even say the lord's prayer right because he suffers from chronic dyslexia, or something like that, a stupid crybaby weakling of a son, just like his idiotic, simpering bully of a father, and his..."

      "Excuse me," interrupted Peter, "but do we have to listen to her whine all night?"

      Avare Roget Seinkewicz stopped entirely and looked at Peter with the glare of goaded panther, a glare that struck fear or caution into everyone except Peter, who continued.  "I mean really it's bad enough being kidnapped, but do I have to listen to some silly woman complain about not having enough children.  I mean I get that enough from my mother, and for that matter I get enough of that from my father."

      "You.  Dare.  Talk.  To me like that?"

      "And why shouldn't I?  Here we have a perfectly pathetic woman with no ambition who keeps complaining about her miserable and lazy parents.  You don't see me always complaining about the fact that all four of my grandparents were gassed to death with cyanide and their bodies were burned into ashes."

      "Actually, sir," interjected Montserrat, "you complain every time you are on the losing side of an argument."

      "And they were upstanding members of the community, well at least the men were, and they worked hard all their lives, and they were all educated and responsible and respectable and they were generous to charity, at least the men were, and all their deaths were real losses to humanity and they didn't need this petty bourgeois sentimentality by which this screechy women with the fashionable ethnicity keeps whining about.  My grandparents and almost all of my other relatives, including a distant cousin whom the Poles butchered, were all hideously murdered by an evil totalitarian power of chiliastic transcendence, while this stupid fisherman caused his own suffering, so I don't see why I should show the slightest interest, the slightest feeling, the slightest sympathy for these people.  The simple fact is that you and your husband and all these Latin and Catholic people have really failed to confront the challenge of the Industrial revolution.  You're almost as bad as the Arabs, you're all members of irrational and inefficient ethnicities, and that's why you are on the bottom or the middle of the totem pole, and people like me and my uncle are at the top.  This is backed by the best scholarly evidence:  there's Glazer and Moynihan and Sowell and the Thernstorms and Handlin, and in Canada Creighton and Ouellet.   Why the superiority of Americans, and especially Jews, is the whole point of 'Democracy in America.'  Yes, there are scholars who disagree, but they're politically correct hacks so we don't have to pay any attention to them.   And why do all these women keep complaining about not having enough children?  It's really just cheap sentimentality, especially since everyone knows that Francophone women in this country, far from wanting children, are having so few children it is becoming a major demographic problem for all Canadians.  But regardless, I've never had to go around carrying a five kilogram weight around my waist that causes periodic vomiting for nine months and I don't feel worse for the non-experience.  And the worst thing is that it's not even the women who care, my father was equally desperate for children, though why anyway would want another sixteen Vanessas I can't imagine, and knowing how these pathetic Alberta farming families work I'm sure that it was this Polish nitwit who really wanted the children and would have bullied you into conceiving more than anyone would really want, except when the same Alberta farmers don't want children at all and instead just selfishly get a hot tub.  So it's patently obvious to everyone in this cathedral how seminally stupid you are."

      Avare had not moved a muscle during this peroration, though everyone had moved a step back except Peter and (obviously) Constantine.  "You dare to say this to me?"

      Ignatius spoke: "Perhaps Peter, it would be wise not to go on about things you really don't know anything about."

      "You dare to say such things to me?  Do you have any idea what I have lost?"

      "Of course, I do, you stupid woman, you've only been complaining about it in a very loud and obnoxious voice.  So you got Chlamydia from your husband:  that a was a very stupid and silly thing to do.  I certainly wouldn't have done something that stupid.  Clearly you shouldn't have bothered with the man.  Come to think of it, clearly you shouldn't have bothered with most of the people in your, rather silly life."

      Peter was about to add that Mrs. Seinkewicz probably wasn't being fair to Mrs. Concrete's adaptive mother, who did indeed love Atala Raymond very much, but then it occurred to him that he knew nothing about her.  So he spoke no more, and with that Peter turned his back on Mrs. Seinkewicz, and he did not even notice that she had grabbed the walking stick the angels had given him until she brought it crashing down on his head.  The first blow made him unconsciousness, but because she was a member of an irrational and inefficient ethnicity she gave him another five or six blows.  It took three men (the Siamese official, Giles and Adrian) to wrench the broken stick from her hand, and it took another three men (Montserrat, Naipaul, and Franz Wilentz) to control the rest of her limbs, until Pandora could take out from yet another one of her pockets a fresh roll of virgin black duct tape.  It was not easy binding her down, because Avare was now foaming at the mouth, and the saliva made the tape slip off.  She was even strong enough to resist the first dose of chloroform, and as the maid and both her nieces bound her with the entire roll, she shouted obscenities at her husband in French, Polish and English.  Finally Pandora placed her aunt in a bag, and cut a hole for her to breathe through.

      Peter was in the arms of his parents, with Vanessa and Montserrat looking around anxiously.  Natasha could conjure up some bandages, but the Cabbala was not designed for on the spot cures.  "He'll live, but he has a very nasty concussion."  Vivian stared at Peter; his head was as bloody as John's two and a half days ago.  Instinctively he wished for Peter to get better, for Avare's sanity to be returned, and to give her and Mrs. Wilentz all the children they wanted, but nothing happened, and all Vivian could do was pray for them.

      Dramsheet raised his arm.  "If what my client said about the bloodpurge is true, then I think this may be a premonition of it.  If that is the case, I think it would be wise, now that everyone is here, for me to explain the truth behind the compass of death."  Three MPs gathered around him, with Monagham and Chelmnickon a short distance away and the others scattered around the cathedral, while Mrs. Concrete worried about her daughter.

      "I think most people are aware of some of the basic facts of the six recent deaths that have occurred in the past three weeks.  But they do not know everything and it would be wise to recapitulate the relevant details.  Three weeks ago from last Thursday Senator Pierre Veniot entered the Castlereagh Hotel, and was found the next morning, having fallen down the elevator shaft.  All the evidence pointed to the premise that he had jumped to his own death, except for a spot of someone else's semen on his eyeglasses.  The police officials in charge of the case therefore suspected foul play.

      "The next Thursday a librarian named Veruca Manzoni was found drowned at Neville Chamberlain Wharf.  The last people who had seen her alive testified to her extremely agitated condition.  It would have appeared to everyone that she had committed suicide, and were it not for the fact that both she and Veniot were members of the Philhellenon club, no-one would have paid any attention to her death.  But the police did pay attention, and they suspected homicide.

      "Their suspicions were increased the next Thursday, or more precisely the next Friday, when the body of Pr. Albert Hermann was found at his home in Drogheda apartments.  The cause of death was simple; near the body was a Chinese spice box.  The box had a special cover that you opened by manipulating a series of moving blocks at the top of the box.  The combination that would open the box was a very complex one, and when it was opened a lethal strychnine compound was released into the air.  The box could not be traced, and because of the difficulty of the combination, the most logical explanation was that Hermann had planted the strychnine and opened the box himself.  But that is not what the police concluded.

      "The next Thursday, i.e., two days ago, another body was found, that of Dr. Oliver Corpse at his new apartment at Amritsar Vistas.  And again it looked very much like a suicide; Corpse's palmprints were found on the noose and on the beaker that contained the cyanide found in his body.  But the police did not consider this crime a suicide either, because all four deaths together formed a perfect square, with each death occurring at one of the cardinal points of the compass.  And all four members were members of the Catholic Philhellenon club.

     "Another interesting fact.  There is evidence that each of the four deceased people were receiving anonymous letters, (except Pr. Hermann) and that each of the four people were receiving traumatic nightmares.  Each nightmare dealt with a particular shameful secret in the history of the victim's country of origin, and it is noteworthy that all four victims came from different ethnic groups.  Now the intriguing thing is that I have been experiencing similar nightmares, and I have been receiving similar letters.  Even more intriguing is that I am supposed to be at the Cecil Rhodes Art Center this upcoming Thursday.  The Centre is at the centre of the compass.  My ethnicity is different from the previous four victims.  I too, am a member of the Philhellenon club.  Everything would lead me to conclude that I was to be the fifth victim.

      "Of course, I did not understand this, until the real identity of the fifth--and the sixth--victim was revealed.  It was only when Inspector Tyrone, the leading advocate of the theory that the four victims had been murdered, was found shot through the head at the art center, with the murder weapon in his own hand, that I learned about my own potential destiny.

      "And to make things even more confusing there was a sixth victim, Charles Harding, who had died within minutes of Tyrone.  Now his death could not be fitted into the compass at all, it made no sense.  Moreover it was most likely that he had been murdered, because although he had been stabbed in the front, the knife that had done it had vanished, ergo it must have been taken away by someone else.  Nor is his death unconnected to the others.  While the connections between Veniot and Manzoni, or Manzoni and Corpse were vague, I learned from his notebooks that Harding was very interested in the compass of death, that he was fascinated by the activities of the Flannery O'Connor Brigade, and indeed he was aware of all the strange and peculiar things that had taken place in the past three weeks.  So I had to face a number of theories as to his death.  It was soon revealed that he had been stabbed with the dagger of St. Francis of Assisi.  A number of possibilities suggested themselves as to the culprit.  Adrian Verrall and Giles Seinkewicz both claimed they saw a woman dressed as Lucian Rudman enter Harding's apartment.  We since learned that Ms. Van De P--- had brought her maid the previous night dressed as Lucian Rudman, and she told us herself that she had visited the apartment.  Was she the murderer?  Possibly.  Was the murderer Elizabeth Concrete, who has since vanished?  Possible, but her friend gave an unequivocal alibi, and besides how could she have entered Ms. Van P---'s locked apartment and get the dagger?  Was the murderer a third person, a person who was intimately involved with the compass of death?

      "To understand what I did next, I first have to explain my appalling stupidity.  You see, at the beginning of the case, an anomaly appeared for no reason at all, confusing crucial elements of the case.  That was the semen spot on Veniot's eyeglasses.  In the absence of any evidence of homosexuality on Veniot's part, it was clear evidence of the presence of a second man at the time of Veniot's death.  What I logically, but incorrectly, concluded was that someone had gone to considerable lengths to make it appear that Veniot had committed suicide, but had actually murdered him anyway.  The semen was left as a rather vulgar calling card.  Now this caused all sorts of problems.  I was looking for a man who wanted to murder four people, and had gone to considerable trouble to make their deaths look like suicides.  This meant that I was looking for a man who was strong enough to humiliate Veniot long enough to ejaculate on his spectacles, then push him down an elevator shaft without leaving any signs.  This meant I was looking for a man close enough to Manzoni to waylay her in her hysterical state and then drown her.  This meant I was looking for a man who could enter Pr. Hermann's apartment and then get close enough to him and murder him with a rather awkward spice box, and then find a way of getting through a door locked on the inside.  This meant I was looking for a man who somehow knew where Oliver Corpse lived, though the police didn't, despite looking very hard for him, knew that he had just bought a package of cyanide, and could somehow hang a man weighing half a ton in a noose.  And this meant I was looking for someone who was would want to kill me as well.  Who could possibly fit all these categories?  A steady rumination revealed that no-one at all could have fit them, and the case appeared insoluble.

      "But when it was revealed that Franz and Rebekah Wilentz had engaged in intercourse in one of the elevators of the Castlereagh Hotel just minutes after Senator Veniot's death, and that it was his semen that had accidentally dripped on the spectacles, a crucial assumption was undermined.   What evidence was there that Veniot had been murdered?  Only the semen spot.  If it could be explained away then the most logical explanation was that he had killed himself, and that was the logical explanation the inquest this morning gave to the deaths of Veniot, Manzoni, Hermann and Corpse, and it is undoubtedly the verdict they will give to the death of Inspector Tyrone.  But they would be wrong to do so."

      "Why?" asked Monagham.

      "Because they have misunderstood the whole genius of our criminal.  It is understandable, because although reason will reveal our murderer beyond any doubt, how he (or she) committed his actions are beyond the boundaries of simple reality.  You see there is a systematic pattern in all these deaths, and this pattern cannot exist outside the direction of a controlling intelligence.  And the controlling intelligence is our murderer, who commits his (or her) murders in a very clever way.  Murder by suicide is the technique of our friend.  Murder by suicide, with one exception.

      "But before I can explain just exactly how our murders were committed, I must make a crucial diversion.  I must talk about the love life of Charles Harding.  Here is a man to whom all his friends attribute charm and overpowering sexual virility.  From his own notes and that of Ms. Van P---'s in the past four weeks he has made a strong impression on four very different women; Aquilla Rogers, Vanessa Wilentz, Elizabeth Concrete, and Lucian Rudman.  Now the strange thing about these amours is the almost mystical nature of the impression.  According to Ms. Van P---, Aquilla kept receiving wonderfully pastoral images, while the day before Senator Veniot's death Vanessa kicked Charles very strongly in the shins just after she had been dreaming about what a wonderful place Prince Edward Island was.  According to the transcripts that Ms. Van P--- recorded from her bug, Elizabeth described the hours before Charles married her as "ecstatic."  I do not think this is simple sexual exaggeration, just as I do not think Lucian Rudman would ordinarily have become extraordinarily infatuated with Charles.  And even more importantly Ms. Van P--- wrote in her diary how both she and the maid had experienced peculiar hallucinations when they approached Charles' apartment the night of Oliver Corpse's death.

      "How was this done?  How did Charles manage to make such an impression?  To understand just how we would have to go back to the Monday before Pr. Hermann's death.  Although none of you noticed I was watching you carefully, and I learned some interesting things.  Most important of which was that I followed you, John Seinkewicz, and I heard you talking to yourself.  I heard you talk about idiotic conservative conferences, about John Locke dancing in drag, and about a box of dreams.  In your mumblings you mentioned that you saw a similar box in the possession of you, Thomas Edward Harding."

      "Me?" said Harding surprised.  "But that's just an old family heirloom.  I don't understand."

      "When I read Ms. Van P---'s notes, I learned that Constantine had seen a strange shimmering box in Charles's possession the night after Manzoni's drowning.  Charles said that he was going to use it as a special gift for Elizabeth, and interestingly enough twenty-four hours later they were husband and wife.  Moreover, these were not among Charles' possessions when the police looked into his home.

      "I then put all the pieces together, along with a few others.  All the victims of the compass of death have experienced peculiar nightmares.  Four women claim to have felt peculiar hallucinations in Charles' presence, and so possibly have two more.  Lucian Rudman, when you first felt your strong desire for Charles, had you felt something very peculiar in your mind?"

      "Why yes, come to think of it.  I..."

      "Thank you.  That merely provides more confirmation.  The box of dreams was the murder weapon.  This is how four people were driven to commit suicide."

      "But that's absurd." said Monagham.  "You have no proof that Charles even owned a box that could even be confused for a box of dreams, much less that such a thing is possible.  And the box doesn't exist; nobody can find it."

      "Of course nobody can find it.  The woman who murdered Charles Harding took it away with her when she left."

      "What woman?"

      "Ah.  I must explain further.  Giles Seinkewicz and Adrian Verrall did not see one person dressed as Lucian Rudman enter Charles' apartment building.  They saw two people, within minutes of each other.  No doubt Ms. Van P--- came to the apartment in disguise, but she would hardly use a dagger as fine as the dagger of St. Francis of Assisi to murder Charles.  So someone else did.  That someone could only be Elizabeth Concrete.  She had a motive; her husband had just beaten her.  All she had to do was get a suit and a murder weapon."

      "Which she couldn't do, because Ms. Van P---'s room was locked.  So she couldn't have gotten anything."

      "On the contrary.  You see when I visited Ms. Wilentz's apartment today I recognized something.  I recognized a skeleton key from a case I had solved and which I had given to Giles as a souvenir.  I learned that he too had played a part in Charles' machinations against the Flannery O'Connor Brigade, and that he had given the key to Vanessa Wilentz.  Having seen Ms. Van P--- as Lucian Rudman the night before, Elizabeth Concrete was able to guess her plans, so she used the key to open the door to Ms. Van P---'s apartment, and then stole the dagger and a suit of clothes.  Using this disguise she went back to her apartment, and stabbed her husband to death.  She must have realized that it would have been idiotic for Ms. Van P--- to leave the dagger there, so she took it back with her, and hid it in Vanessa's cutlery drawer.  She guessed that Vanessa would lie to protect her, and she was right, as Vanessa not only lied but also hid the dagger in Thomas Harding's briefcase in a feeble attempt to get rid of it, thereby making her an accessory to murder."

      Ignatius was moderately indignant.  "Dramsheet, if you charge my niece with being an accessory, you'll never work for me again."

      "So," said Seinkewicz, "Charles used the box to drive members of the Philhellenon club mad, and then he was murdered by his own wife."

      "No.  Not quite."

      "So who is the force behind the Compass of death?"


      It took a few seconds for people to realize that Dramsheet had directed his comments to Thomas Edward Harding.  "Me?"

      "Yes.  You.  You used the box of dreams to force Veniot to jump to his death down an elevator shaft.  You used the box to make Manzoni drown herself, you used the box to make Corpse hang himself, and you used the box to make Tyrone shoot himself.  But you did not use the box to make Hermann poison himself."

      "But that's silly."

      "Please bear with me.  There is no evidence that Charles used the box for any other reason than to get women to sleep with him.  That being the case the only other person who could have used the box was someone who had access to it.  And that person, logically, is you.  You are the murderer."

      "But it's so silly.  I have no motive.  You have no evidence."

      "I have circumstantial evidence.  Just before Tyrone shot himself he received a telephone call at the Cecil Rhodes Arts Centre.  Before he killed himself, he used call trace to find who was calling him.  That call trace revealed a call from a telephone right outside the New Democratic Caucus room, where you were meeting last night."

      "But you don't even have evidence that I made the call, or even know what the call was about."

      "True, but since Tyrone was not a suicidal person, whatever was said on the phone must have been quite traumatic.  Even more important is the death of Albert Hermann.  Here is the one death that did not fall into the pattern.  Even when I believed that Senator Veniot had been murdered, I still thought that suicide was the most logical explanation for the deaths, with one exception:  Pr. Hermann.  Considering his unblemished reputation and the success of his conspiracy, it is completely illogical for him to have killed himself.  He must have been murdered, but how was that possible?   He had died in a locked room, having clearly opened a Chinese spice box with a complex lock which released, as I have said before, a dangerous strychnine compound.  He must have opened the box himself, but that would require knowing the lock, which would presumably involve enough knowledge of the box to know that it was full of strychnine, unless someone had sneaked strychnine into the box.  Yet we have no evidence that Pr. Hermann owned the box, except for the fact that it was found in the apartment on his death.  True, we have no evidence that anyone else owned the box, but Ms. van P--- wrote in her diary that neither she nor any of the other members of the Brigade had seen the box when they visited the apartment.  With only these facts a solution would seem incomprehensible.

      "But on the Friday after Hermann's death, the police contacted you, Ignatius Wilentz, and you freely admitted that you had had a conversation with him the previous Monday, in the presence of Thomas Edward Harding, and that you ended it by hypnotising him, so that he would go away.  You even said that Harding could show the mesmerized professor the way out.  At soon as I remembered this with all the other evidence a solution immediately presented itself.  Hermann would not commit suicide, and he would not naturally open a complex lock.  Nor could he be hypnotised into taking his own life.  But he could be given a post-hypnotic command to open a Chinese spice box, and once open, to breath deeply the entire contents.  And that, Harding, is exactly what you did."

      "But you have no evidence." protested Harding.  "And again you have no motive."

      "Almost correct.  No court in Canada would ever admit to the existence of anything like a box of dreams from the Parliament of Gryphons.  But that is irrelevant:  I need only show your responsibility in one case to obtain a conviction.  And for one case, there is enough circumstantial evidence.  Neither the strychnine nor the box can be traced.  I don't think I ever shall find the strychnine, but the box must have been a family heirloom.  That is why it will not be traced, and it is the only way you could have found a device on short notice.  I need only subpoena your surviving relatives to examine the box in a line-up.  If they recognize the box, you will be convicted."

      "They shan't recognize it.  You are bluffing to suggest otherwise."

      "Perhaps.  But there is another piece of evidence.  Shortly before Hermann's death, Vanessa Wilentz saw you mailing a Christmas gift.  Ms. Wilentz, is that generally correct?"

      "Basically, yes."

      "This fact was recorded by Ms. van P--- who thought it slightly strange that a man would be sending off Christmas gifts before the end of November.  Naturally everyone knows you are a very conscientious MP, but that is going a little too far.  And you were mailing it, not in your own constituency, not in a post office box near parliament building, but in a rather far and away place in the city.  Was it because you didn't want the postage traced to an outlet that you regularly frequent?  A minor question of course, because Hermann had the annoying habit of systematically disposing of all his litter as quickly as possible.  But it does not change the essential fact that you were seen mailing a package roughly the size of a small Chinese spice box at a time when there was no need for it."

      "But Mr. Dramsheet, there's a perfectly logical explanation for it.  I was just sending a gift to a close friend who lives overseas.  I can't see how this makes me a murderer."

      "Undoubtedly.  But your claim can be easily refuted.  Since it isn't Christmas yet, the gift will still be unopened, and your friend can be contacted to hand the mailed gift to the nearest policeman.  It can be checked to see which post office outlet it was processed through, as well as the date it was processed.  I do not think such an examination will vindicate your innocence."

      And for the first time in living memory the geniality and pleasantness on Harding's face did not fall completely off, because it never fell off, Harding had an adamantine geniality.  But he was quite disconcerted at being caught and John Seinkewicz immediately realized that he was the murderer.  "Harding, I've know you for years.  How could you do such a thing?"

      Harding turned to Seinkewicz and where one might have expected a new harsh tone to his voice, an expression of disdain in his appearance, there was only a certain, rapidly dissipating, impatience.  "I have done no such thing at all.  But let us suppose for a minute, entirely as a joke, that I did do such a thing.  Let us suppose for instance that I did telephone Inspector Joseph Tyrone minutes before he killed himself."

      "What did you say to him?" asked Monagham.

      "Oh nothing important.  I had a perfectly nice and decent conversation with the man and we talked about Ireland.  There is a large body of recent historiography coming from the right, centre, and the left, even from many Marxists, that is extremely critical of Irish nationalism.  There is surprisingly little support for any of the tenets of Irish nationalism, from Cromwell to the famine to the recent troubles.  There is also much recent criticism of the many repressive features of post-independence Ireland:  the censorship, the philistinism, the sectarianism, and the misogyny."


       "Yes, I actually went on some detail on this issue.  You see the Irish church does not have a healthy attitude about sexuality.  It is quite reactionary when you think about it."

       Dramsheet nodded.  "And you used the box of dreams."

       "It provides examples.  All it provides are examples.  It's up to the recipients to decide how to take it.  Inspector Tyrone was stalking Ms. Wilentz.  He claims he was doing so in good faith.  But after I showed him some examples he apparently reconsidered."

       "You said that Ireland was a sick and psychotic society..." murmured Seinkewicz.

       "I would never say something like that.  That is a gross overgeneralization and the worst sort of ethnocentrism.  I have spent my whole adult life fighting ethnocentrism."

      "You said that it was just a geographical expression, filled with paranoid, bigoted catholic louts who destroyed everything that could ever be beautiful and who were full of self-pity and self-hate, and that as part of this Irish sexuality was utterly warped, and that all Irish men not only wanted to cruelly and selfishly possess every women they ever saw, and not only did they want to abuse them sexually, but even more they wanted to weigh them down with drunken abuse, vicious beating, mindless philistinism, and petty terrorism until they were just as warped and evil as they were."

       "Now you're just putting words in my mouth.  And you should really avoid run-on sentences Seinkewicz.  That's the problem with 'Ulysses' and 'The Death of Virgil':  they have too many run-on sentences.  Good prose should be like a window-pane."

       "And you told Tyrone this is exactly what he wanted to do with Vanessa Wilentz, and he obviously agreed, because as soon as he hung up the phone, he took out his handgun blew his brains out.  Harding, you have murdered five innocent people.  Harding, you killed Oliver.  For God's sake, how could you?"

      "In response, I did not murder five innocent people.  Suppose I caused the end of Albert Hermann's life.  I do not suppose so, in fact I strenuously deny it.  That does not alter the fact that Hermann was a sick and twisted individual.  He had almost infinite influence, and the most insane ideas.  He wished to wipe out human sexuality as we know it, and his brigade was and is host to a whole sea of dangerous ideas.  In the name of Canadian democracy and in human liberty he had to be stopped, and my only regret is that I did not succeed in destroying the Brigade.   Which since I was not responsible for his death is hardly surprising.  As for the others, I have no regrets.  Whatever dreams I may have sent them, they all had a free choice and they all had the capacity to choose whether to live and die.   You see I admire George Orwell..."

       "What the fuck does that have to do with anything?"

       "There's no need to swear, Seinkewicz.  There really is too much swearing nowadays.  As was I about to say, Orwell placed a special value on the power of facing facts.  Take me for example.  I believe in fiscal restraint.  Many people in my party refuse to admit there is a problem, but I am not one of them and I believe in fiscal restraint.  I believe in NATO.  Many people in my party prefer neutrality, but everyone with any influence in the party agrees we will have to stay in NATO and I believe we should stay in NATO.  I oppose Marxism.  There are some people in the party who read Marx, but I have always opposed Marxism.  I have a power of facing facts.  And if Veniot, Manzoni, Hermann, Corpse and Tyrone had the same power they would still be alive today."

       Lucian spoke up.  "That they all chose to die is a sign of their weakness and I need not concern myself with them.  And besides, what have we lost in their deaths?  Veniot was just a liberal hack, not even respected by his own constituents, which is why he was appointed to the senate.  And Corpse was a fat self-pitying weakling, impotent and stupid, and Tyrone was just a sex-obsessed neurotic preying on innocent women.  Quite proper for them to die.  And as for Manzoni, a pathetic librarian, stalking around her own libraries looking for sex, even her lovers couldn't hide their contempt, they spat on her while they were still inside her.  The sort of woman who would gouge her own skin so that she use the blood as lipstick, that the sort of self-advertising self-inflicted agony I can't bear to watch."

       Vanessa stared at her.  "Lucian, you never met Manzoni.  What the hell is wrong with you?"

       Harding resumed.  "I believe in tolerance.  Tolerance is the highest value.  And many Catholics are not tolerant.  I am continually shocked by the fact that Boston Catholics are more racist than Boston Episcopolians.  That is a fact.  I have a power of facing facts."

       Lucian agreed, with a strange elation on her face. "Of course, it makes perfect sense.  Harding is as just as fond of everyone else of having Canada appear as a wonderful mosaic.  He's all for seeing all these interesting groups sing and dance at set-aside days and eating peculiar foods with lots of pepper in them, and he doesn't even mind writing Christmas cards to them saying how much he appreciates their wonderful contributions and he doesn't even mind being nagged by these people to going into air conditioned community clubs and seeing the occasional exhibition of eccentric looking objects.  But a woman like Manzoni, well that can't be allowed.  It's one thing having all these nice little native and black groups running around, because they tend to vote for Harding anyway, but these Catholics are too much.  Here is Harding, perfectly willing to go around patting people on the head, and they think they have some sort of right to be interested in their country and its history.  And they're not even going to congratulate Harding on how much trouble he took to read all their uninteresting novels and read over all their pathetic history; no they think he should read it and I should read it because as a human being and Canadian he should read it and I should read it, that he shouldn't be and I shouldn't be satisfied with the minor literature our country had produced, and actually care about the great cultural traditions of my fellow Canadians.  They think I should actually read French literature, listen to French music, see French paintings, that it isn't enough to have a bicultural state, you have to have bicultural citizens.  And now that's absurd.  Canada is a vibrant country, full of optimism and pleasantness, full of our own pretty symphonies and nice little painters, and the best novelists in the world--stirring authors like Davies, Atwood, Gallant and Laurence, what other countries can match our novelists?  They're the best novelists in the world, and they're so nice, they don't ask me to stop playing my video games and read them, because I can take their quality on faith.  And we are being asked to read Racine--how does Racine help Harding pat people on the head better? how does Racine help Charles find out who killed John F. Kennedy?  People like Racine, Moliere, Flaubert, Baudelaire, Celine, Valery, these people have no meaning to my country's existence.  And being a good Canadian means keeping it that way.  Why should Quebeckers care about French culture after 1763 when they can endlessly compliment their own?  And why should I care about these whining Catholics, these countries full of greedy dictators and surly peasants and stupid priests and murdered daughters and sewed-up virgins and annoying technocrats and great architects and vain intellectuals and cults of shame and honour and death and masculinity and progress and technology and army?  So what if a quarter or a third or two fifths of my country come from these five countries?  It isn't important, what they have to say isn't as half as interesting as the next Isaac Asimov novel.  We have none of these horrid Catholic things in Canada, we treat our people so much better, we have only the necessary minimum of barbaric cruelty.  Here is Harding going around patting people on the head, and then Corpse comes up to him, and complains about his country crucified by the partitions of Poland, about how one fifth of the population was murdered by the Nazis, and about Communist censorship and anti-Semitism and about how it raises all these questions about life, death, atrocity, and the viability of such concepts as human decency, Christianity, justice, liberty and honor, and here I'm saying, why should I care?  Is it any of my business that six millions Poles didn't know how to prevent themselves from being murdered?  I'm not my brother's keeper, I'm my brother's patter on the head, and it's very rude for the people I'm patting to go on complaining about their miserable lives.  Here I am trying to put bandages on all the world's problems, and these stupid Catholics keep bringing me amputated limbs, blood dripping over my nice Canadian flags.  That's completely counter-productive and I won't stand for it!"

        "What is happening to her?" asked Vanessa.

        "Yes, she does seem to be talking excessively,"  noted Harding.  "That seems to be very widespread this evening.  Much of her dialogue is somewhat crude, but it would be simple-minded to reject it out of hand.  About Poland, I'm sure we did the best we could."

      "You're mad." said Seinkewicz.

      "Obviously." agreed Ignatius.  "The box of dreams was not designed for human beings."

      "You are completely bonkers.  You should be locked up in a rubber room for the rest of your life.  You are sick, you are warped, Harding, and it's only the fact that you are irredeemably mad that I don't try to knock some sense into you."

      Dramsheet interceded.  "It might not be wise to attack him.  He still has the box of dreams.  And he's still using it."

      "What?" and then Seinkewicz turned around to see Lucian faint while his wife in the sack had slobbered so much that the tape was almost off.  Natasha was begging her mother-in-law to calm down, and Pandora was arguing that she should conjure up some cement in order to seal up her mouth.  "Harding, what have you done to my wife?"

      "Pardon me, but you just called me irredeemably mad.  That was very rude of you.  And I have been much more concise and direct that many people in the Cathedral this evening, so it was quite illogical of you to call me mad."

      "Harding, please tell me!"

      "Oh alright.  The box of dreams is showing what a miserable life she's had, and how stupid she was not to have noticed it before.  She'll probably kill herself."

      "Harding, please, my wife has done nothing to harm you.  You can't do this to her."

      "I'm not doing it at all.  And anyway, you assume that she is innocent.  But consider this.  What did she ever do to help Jewish refugees enter Canada during the Second World War?"

       "But she was only a child in 1945!"

       "But that's no excuse.  Surely you've heard Francois Furet?"


       "Well surely you know that many historians of the French Revolution were Marxists, but now thanks to Furet very few are?"

       "Not really, but I'll take your word for it."

       "Really Furet has done an invaluable service for the French left by purging it of its Stalinist and Marxist illusions.  Anyway, Furet showed that the whole reason the French Revolution turned out as badly as it did was because none of the revolutionaries took the advice of Alexis De Tocqueville.  Now everyone, whether they are French, British or American, agrees that this was quite remiss of the revolutionaries.  And it does not matter at all that the revoution began in 1789 and De Tocqueville was born in 1805.  So it logically follows that your wife, being fully conscious in 1945 is even more culpable.  In the same way Hermann was culpable for Catholic atrocities and Manzoni was culpable for what the Italians did in Ethiopia, and Corpse was culpable for Polish anti-Semitism, and Veniot was culpable for what the French did in Algeria, notwithstanding that his family had lived in Canada for centuries."

       "Harding, my wife isn't guilty!"

       "Well of course she is guilty.  She just wantonly assaulted a Jew.  Clearly, that is not a coincidence."

       Of course, after she dies, you will act in a very predictable manner.   Constantine blinked.  You'll probably drink yourself to death, that's the sort of wretched way your tradition venerates.  Of course you could hang yourself, like Corpse.  Who was talking?  Constantine stared at his sister, who was now awake and picking herself off the floor.  Imagine the funeral, with the fake eulogies and the vultures waiting for the will to be read, and your inheritors would probably all get drunk in the wake, and when they urinated they would miss the toilet, or ignore it completely.  That is the way you will die.  And it will be hilarious and before his horrified eyes Constantine imagined that Harding was turning into a cuckoo, and for a few seconds somebody else's laughter, probably some Albertans,  turned into outright cackling before it faded away and Harding beamed benignly.  And Constantine was sickened, the laughter he saw waiting for Seinkewicz's death was the Reader's Digest laughter, the laughter of pleasant bingos, as he saw Thomas Edward Harding Cuckoo crown Rainer Maria Rilke's head to pieces with a crown of lead, as mediocre prime ministers looked around, filled with the odor of sexless love letters as the gore of Rilke's head turned into a more benevolent shade, as he began to turn into marshmallow soufflé, and his murder turned into the most innocuous atrocity Constantine would ever see, while Vanessa looked at the man behind the compass of death and she could see in his rather tasteful brown suit and the peculiar shade of purple that was the colour of his NDP button which she had never noticed before she noticed that the suit and the button was the exact shade of the bloodstained thorns and she could see in him the emptiness that made her a perjurer and an accomplice and wondered how come she was always so guilty and in his clean hands of benevolence she could see a smiling man who could happily turn children back into lead.

      "Isn't there anything we can do to stop him?" asked Giles.

      Ignatius shook his head.  "I'm afraid he is suffering from a common form of madness.   It is a particular anomaly that once these people are restored to a normal moral condition, they believe that they are so virtuous, that they can kill with complete impunity."

      "I've never heard of such a madness." said Dramsheet.

      "That's largely because the insane never suffer from it."

      "Let go of my wife, or I'll kill you!"

      "You have no right to criticize me, you adulterer."  And Harding did not take a deep stare at nothing in particular and the next instant John Seinkewicz was racked with pain, and it was so intense he could only fall on the floor writhing in agony, not unlike the Rumanian official had an hour earlier.  "Use this time to consider your wretched life.  One of the problems with Polish culture is that it doesn't properly encourage self-esteem."

      Ignatius interrupted.  "Harding, stop this at once."

      "I am not responsible for this, so I no reason why I should stop it.  That is a fact.  I have a power of facing facts.  Why do you care?  Everyone knows that Poles are all anti- Semites."

      "Yes, but they're my country's anti-Semites, and I shan't see them tortured like this."

      "That's the trouble with you.  You're too open minded and considerate and forgiving.  There are probably too many Jews like you."

      "You exaggerate.  Surely there are enough chauvinists and bigots in Likud and Commentary to satisfy everyone."

      Then Monagham spoke up.  "But there aren't enough of them!  They are too many Jews who think that Zionism is so unfair they all should give all of Israel back to the Palestinians.  How many other countries would do that?   How many other countries would even try?  A Jew is someone who when asked to choose between Justice and his mother will choose Justice.  Who was it that discovered Nietzsche?  Who was it that made this obscure Swiss professor and ex-Wagner hanger-on a European name?  Who ensured that the discovery of slave morality would become a fixture of western civilization?   Not his proto-Nazi sister, not his proto-nazi brother-in-law, not any past present or future Wagner hangerons.  No, it was a Danish Jew, George Brandes.  And you tried to give Celine a free riding once, Celine author of 'Trifles for a Massacre,' Celine who called for a massacre of the Jews, and six years later found that the Nazis had carried out his wishes.  And who were the critics who argued for his place in world literature?  Trotsky, Howe, Kazin, and Bloom.  All Jews, even Allan Bloom, smug Allan Bloom, author of 'The Closing of the American Mind.'  My God, if this is how the chauvinist Jews treat their enemies, can you imagine how the cosmopolitan ones do?  My God, we've forced people into plantations and prison camps and concentration camps, and we've murdered languages and burned farms, and wiped out huts, and tolerated religions, and massacred civilians from the air in order to save lives and starved people to death in the name of political economy!  And when I say 'we' you would think I mean the English, and the Scots, but it was probably all the fault of the Irish anyway, just using Oxford as a decoy!  If this is how we treat innocent people who have never done us the slightest bit of harm, can you imagine how we would treat the guilty!  If we Canadians were Jews we would take Celine's corpse and Wagner's corpse as well, and we would search every for tribe on earth until we could find cannibals who would eat their corpse and eat all their descendants.  If Italy had massacred us, we would strike back, we would annihilate Italy with atomic bombs, and plow their cities under seas of salt, we'd destroy the Latin alphabet and replace it with Arabic, we'd take only the best metaphors from the Aeneid and attribute them to the Norwegians, we'd carve the country up and then dynamite it into the sea, so there would never be a single trace, so that there would never be a word of Italian and Latin left in the world, no Italian eyes, no Italian hair, the annihilators would be completely annihilated!  Whatever happened to the commandment to wipe out the name of the Amalekites?  There are some atrocities in the bible, but they're strictly pro forma, the only reason you exterminated the Amalekites was that it was the only way to prevent them coming around to dinner!  What about your prophets?  They marry prostitutes and still love them after they leave them, they save their greatest enemies from well deserved annihilation, they even say their own country deserves to be destroyed by their enemies just because it isn't just.  And those are only the prophets, what about the martyrs!  Not like our martyrs, we only have a book of martyrs you could fill encyclopedias with yours, and yours aren't like mine, no we just have a few bishops who end up on the wrong side of a dynastic squabble and get to the block with a minimum of basic decency.   You're not like Christian martyrs who can expect miracles and who have known how to live without food or sex or love or selfishness, when you go to the block or the ovens or the pyre or the scaffold you've got a whole host of children left behind, and a whole host of other things from a productive if not very long life.  But you go there anyway!  Do you have any idea how annoying such purity is?"

      Ignatius was about to correct him, but Monagham would not have it.  "No, it's not that I have anything against the Jews, we have to purge this country of these messy Latin emotions to protect the Jews.  Or Gaelic emotions, it's a fact that the only people who want to preserve Gaelic are fascists, they don't have the balls to be real Nazis, but you're too considerate for anyone's good.  It's not right that the innocent should make the most honest confessions, it's perverse and it has to be stopped."

      Harding stared at her.  "I didn't know she was so literate and well-informed.  Though she does seem to use a lot of run-on sentences.  She forgets that good prose should be like a window-pane."

      Ignatius sighed.  "Harding, the box of dreams is expressing your unconscious thoughts and it is projecting them through Monagham, just as it did earlier with Rudman and Seinkewicz, and possibly with Peter."

      Harding pondered that for a moment.  "No, that can't be right.  It sounds vaguely Freudian.  The New York Review of Books has said there is no validity in Freud's work.  And if they say so, logically everyone should agree with them."

      Seinkewicz was recovering on the floor, while Dramsheet and Adrian were considering moving him away from the imminent anger of his wife, who had almost gotten through the sack.  Taking a little stroll, Harding took out a small globe from his waistcoat pocket.  It was the globe that the gryphons had given to John Seinkewicz.  "That doesn't belong to you." said Giles.  "It belongs to my parents; give it back to me."

      Harding ignored him.  "What a silly thing this is."

      "How did you get it?" asked Ignatius.

      "Oh the box found it for me, not that it matters.  Apparently this reminds Seinkewicz very much of his wife.  It seems to be filling with something.  A reddish liquid."

      "Blood.  Menstrual blood." said Giles.

      "Oh yes.  So it is.  Probably has something to do with his difficulty in conceiving you.  Rather puerile really.  Peter Wilentz was quite right to say that menstruation was unusually popular in Canada, though his anti-feminism is simply reactionary and quite insensitive.  Rather cheap when you think of it, it's the sort of thing a third rate mystic would do."

      And he tossed it into the air, and caught it, and he tossed it into the air again, and it half-accidentally, half-deliberately missed his hand and fell to the floor, shattering glass and blood in front of his feet.  At the same time something started to drip on Constantine's head.  As it ran down his forehead, down his eyelids, by his nose, and as he tasted it with his tongue, he recognized the taste of blood.

      The Angel appeared by Vivian's side.  "It has begun.  Thomas Edward Harding, you have let loose the bloodpurge."

next: Bloodpurge

previous: The Secret of Natasha Wilentz

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