3: Venus and Wagner
Tyrone correctly guessed that Hermann had been dead for about twelve hours. The cause of death was not open to question: clearly some strychnine compound had been placed in the center of the spice-box. When the box was opened the strychnine was released. Indeed, tests showed that the strychnine was released so quickly that Hermann would have had no warning at all, if a warning was what he had been looking for. The room was finger-printed, to no good end. Hermann had dusted his apartment thoroughly Wednesday evening after Roget's visit, and the only prints to be found were his own. The poison had long since dissipated, but six fumigators wandered around the room anyway.
searched the body
while Tyrone examined the spice-box. In Hermann's breast pocket
a shimmering white stiletto and a sheet of paper. "Dramsheet, did
you know that Pr. Hermann carried a weapon?" Dramsheet didn't,
she nonchalantly placed it on a table. Then she heard a strange
clank. The dagger of St. Francis of
But it was the spice-box that was more important. It had a strange complex series of locks and doors, which made it most unlikely that the combination could be found by simple chance. This strongly implied that the only way Hermann could have opened the box was if he had known the combination beforehand. Now if the box had been recently sent to him, there should be some wrapping paper nearby, but a search of the apartment found nothing. And if someone had given directions to Hermann on how to open the box, they should still be nearby as well, since Hermann obviously could not have disposed of the directions once he had opened the lock. Now as Hermann's room was locked from the inside and there was no evidence of anyone else in the room, he could not have been simply murdered. Tyrone concluded that there were two possible solutions to the mystery; either Hermann had put the poison in the box beforehand, and then opened it on Thursday night. Or a second person had access to the box, knew the combination as well as Hermann, and had stuffed the poison in there. Frankly, the first hypothesis was much more logical; it did not seem likely that Hermann had any acquaintances so close for him to reveal such a combination. Of course, neither hypothesis explained why a booby-trapped spice-box would be the means of death.
Unknown to either Tyrone, Monagham, Dramsheet or the half a dozen fumigators who were running in and out of the flat, Dr. Roget had come to visit Hermann that morning and had overheard everything. He had never seen anything like a chinese spice-box on his previous visits here and he could not believe that Hermann would have killed himself that way. But then, on second thought, it seemed all too likely. Quietly, the Legionmeister of the Signet of Saint Luke went off to warn his comrades.
Dramsheet soon found the initials "F.C.B" "T.F.o.C.B" and "F.C. Brigade" on Hermann's notepads. He quickly found a false bottom in one of the desk drawers and soon revealed the existence of the Flannery O'Connor Brigade. Meanwhile Monagham was calling the houses of Commons.
"Yes, this is Ignatius Wilentz. What may I do for you?"
"Mr. Wilentz, my name is Vice-Inspector Cheryl Monagham. Have you heard of Professor Albert Hermann?"
"Yes I have. I saw him last Monday, in fact."
"Mr. Wilentz, Pr. Hermann has just been found dead from asphyxiation. We do not know yet if it was murder or suicide, but we have found a note in his breast pocket saying that you hypnotized him on Monday. May I ask you why you did that?"
"Certainly. I have nothing to hide. I was leaving parliament in the presence of Thomas Edward Harding M.P. late Monday afternoon, when I was accosted by Pr. Hermann. He told me straight out that his life was in danger and that I might be the one endangering it."
Monagham was taken aback by this frankness. "Did he have any reason to believe this? Had you ever threatened him?"
"Absolutely not. He told me that God said that his life was in danger, and that there was a conspiracy to kill someone who was already dead."
"And did he have any reason at all to believe that you were trying to kill him?"
"There was one very weak reason. I have only one child, a daughter, and for the past three years she has been married to the son of one of my parliamentary colleagues. Apparently they are on very poor terms for her husband hasn't seen her for months. My only relations with her are the messages she sends by a second party to my lawyer, Louis Dramsheet, who gives them to me and her husband."
if this was true, and he confirmed it. "At any rate Hermann said
that he had been told by God that my daughter was in
At this point Dramsheet had found enough of Hermann's correspondence to find the five code-names. He read them to Wilentz, who confirmed them. "Hermann had a very strong will, and I learned very little from him, so the only way I could get him to recognize what I had done to him was to make him write a note saying that he had been hypnotized and to write a note about flowers. What did he end up saying?"
"Ummm. 'Dandelions are nice innocuous flowers, much better than all those nasty roses.'" Tyrone then told Monagham to ask if Wilentz could have ordered Hermann to commit suicide.
"Absolutely not. I couldn't even get him to do anything silly. I most certainly could not order a leading Catholic professor to kill himself, unless that Catholic professor already had suicidal desires. You see hypnotism can't force a person to do things against his will. Besides, Harding was beside me all the time. He'll easily verify that I gave no other orders until the time that I let him wander away in his trance. One more thing; Hermann said that he had come to Parliament for a meeting of some sort. It was an assignation, or more precisely, a visitation. I don't know what he meant by that."
Monagham thanked him for his time, and then called Harding who was quite shocked to learn that Hermann was dead. "He was such a fine pillar of the community." he said, before verifying Wilentz's account in all important details. Tyrone, meanwhile, suddenly had a thought, and ordered one of the fumigators to get some pencils, his address book, a protractor and a map of the city. Monagham was looking around the apartment trying to find more information, while Dramsheet looked over Hermann's notes. Monagham opened a bureau drawer and found nothing there but tape decks. She was about to close it again when she noticed something very odd.
"Mr. Dramsheet, how many symphonies did Beethoven compose?"
"Of course not. Why do you ask such a silly question?"
"Well if you could just look over here..." but before she could say anything Tyrone came back into the room, and placed map, pencil, protractor, on the table.
"? E.Thdy, M, P.C. Die suicide. S.P.V, V.M., A.H., die. ?"
"Good question." asked Dramsheet. "Why do all these three suspicious deaths happen on Thursday evening?"
"Because it's the day before Friday, and the murderers want to get it done before the weekend?"
Dramsheet and Tyrone scowled at her, clearly indicating that they did not think this was the right answer. Dramsheet spoke up. "If we knew more about the Flannery O'Connor Brigade perhaps it might be possible that Hermann put poison in the box for some conspiratorial purpose, then forget about it and accidentally re-opened it."
"Do you really think so?"
"No, I don't. It just seems the most logical way of explaining why a Catholic professor would cause his own death. Unless there's something here we don't know."
"Ah." said Tyrone. "But there is."
He spread out the map and marked off where the Castlereagh Hotel was. He then checked off the Neville Chamberlain wharf and Drogheda Apartments, then connected the three points with lines. "What do you see?"
"It's a triangle," shrugged Monagham.
"But not an ordinary triangle." noted Dramsheet. "Could I have the protractor please?" Tyrone was happy to give it to him and Dramsheet measured the three angles. "This is a right angle- isosceles triangle. The angle with its point at the Neville Chamberlain wharf is ninety degrees, the other two are forty-five degrees. Even more strange is the fact that the triangle is pointing due north, and concomitantly, the base is pointing due east-west. Considering Hermann's fears about his death, it would be hard to say that this was a simple coincidence."
Tyrone agreed. Clearly this was more than three unrelated suicides, or one murder and two unrelated suicides. "But there's something very strange." added Monagham. "I was just looking around and I found something very odd in Hermann's desk drawer." She got up and pointed out the six extra symphonies by Ludwig von Beethoven. "That's not right, is it?"
Tyrone picked up some tweezers and carefully opened the cassette of the twelfth symphony without touching it, then placed it in Hermann's tape recorder. A very impressive piece of music started, one that he had never heard before. "H. very pclr. L.D do U Kn A.Thing a. this?"
"I don't think I can recognize this music and while my experience is not extensive, this would be much more likely to have been composed by Beethoven, than it would be say, a forgotten symphony by Mozart that was discovered and fobbed off to a credulous Hermann. What does it say on the cover?"
Monagham peered down to look. "Nothing. Just 'Beethoven's twelfth symphony' on a piece of red construction paper."
Dramsheet nodded. "Considering that Beethoven only wrote nine symphonies, it is hard to believe that a German would be so credulous to believe that there were six undiscovered ones."
"P.haps they're ?#@$c of some sort?"
"Or perhaps he got them from a very reliable source." Dramsheet moved over to the Bookcase and pulled out Balzac by Karl Marx, and started reading the preface out loud.
preface of my
1859 book Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy I stated
general primacy of a society's economic structure over all other
individual, cultural and ideological. Since that time, as my
received greater and greater notice, there has been increased
this insight. For example bourgeois scholars have noted how
the ideas of the Protestant reformation fit in with the needs of a
capitalist economy." Dramsheet paused, as there was a long
that discussed with surprising concision the problems of early
century Reformation historiography. He continued: "In
finished the first
paragraph, Dramsheet turned to the end of the preface and read the
"Not really, I wasn't paying attention." said Monagham.
Tyrone thought that the tone was rather humble for Marx, though he had read too little of his work to have an opinion. "?wn did he write B?"
"That's the most curious thing actually. Marx once said to his son-in law that like to write a book about Balzac (his favorite novelist) as soon as he had finished the four volumes of Das Kapital."
"So when did he write it?" asked Monagham.
"He didn't. He only got as far as the first volume when he died in 1883."
"Just a second. Didn't you say that the preface was dated 1904?"
"Yes, I did."
"Then Marx obviously couldn't have written it. So who did write it and what's it doing here?"
"It here s. rea as !" as Tyrone pulled out Shakespeare's Alcibiades. "That's not possible!" said Dramsheet as he saw and reached for another book. "That's simply not possible."
"What is it?"
"It's a book supposedly by Constantine Cavafy."
"Who's Constantine Cavafy?"
"A Greek poet, and in my view an overrated one. I've spent the last seven years trying to write a book that would show how mediocre he was. He was a homosexual and a pagan and this book that he supposedly wrote is 'a cry of anguish' about Hitler's massacres of homosexuals."
"? 2 U say `supposedly?'"
"Well for a start, Cavafy died long before the second world war began. Let's look at the publishing date. Now this is very odd. The book has a date of publication, a library of Congress number, several other international reference numbers, and the name of the publishing house. 'Celestial Publications, Incorporated.'" Dramsheet reopened Balzac, then looked at Alcibiades. "Yes, it's the same publishing company, 'Celestial Publications, Incorporated.' There's just one thing missing."
"The place. Apparently 'Celestial Publications' doesn't have an address. Which is a very odd thing for a book not to have. So where does it come from?"
"I have an idea," suggested Monagham. "We occasionally find illegal pornography, and often they don't have full addresses."
"That's completely preposterous!" shouted Tyrone.
"Sir, you spoke a complete sentence!"
"O.C. I did. 2 E think that Pr. A.H. of V.C.E. would B a porno. I refse b.le it!"
"Well, perhaps these books just have a scholarly covering but actually have pornography written inside them." Dramsheet handed her Balzac, and she began to read. "It is easy to say that the Athenian play reflected the matchless aristocratic nature of the slave state in which it was found, while the contemporary novel reflects the intensely worldly and individualist, indeed alienated, nature of capitalist society. Anyone can see the focus on nervous bargaining and obsessive individualism in such obvious examples as Defoe and Richardson. But in point in fact the relationship between the novel and the surrounding society is far more complex and subtle, and often most so when it appears most obvious..."
Tyrone was still coherent enough to sneer. "Well that's the raciest thing I've read in months. I'm vaguely tingling all over." Monagham blushed and turned to the center of the book. "In my earlier book, The Holy Family, which, to no great loss, is out of print, I discussed the hero-worship in the fashionable novels of Eugene Sue. Before I begin my examination of the role of the individual in Balzac's novels, I would like to reiterate what I said there." Monagham winced, and tried one more passage. "The problem, of course, is evading the Scylla of a philistine positivism and the Charybdis of a sentimental humanism. In many ways Flaubert is a bourgeois writer. But we have to go farther than that, in examining his realism. For here is a style that only superficially emulates the bourgeois way of picturing and recording the world, while at the same time possessing certain intellectual traits that lead to its inevitable supercession..." Monagham shut the book and admitted defeat. Tyrone smirked, then asked, "but why is Alcibiades written in Gaelic?"
"My Marx is in English."
"But my Cavafy is in demotic Greek."
The three stared at each other. "I think we've got this all wrong." said Dramsheet. "Since we can all assume that Albert Hermann was an intelligent and scholarly man, we can pretty much set aside the possibility that he was tricked into buying all these fake books. There are two possibilities of why these books are here. First, for some unknown reason Hermann decided that he would imitate the style of the several hundred writers which are included in these bookcases, as well as that of the composers who are in the tape deck, and managed to get some Vanity Press and Recording studio to publish and record them at great expense, even though he had not nearly enough money to do so, and even less time as a busy professor to do so. Or, second, he believed these books were genuine after all, and had their authenticity verified by a very good source."
"It wld av 2 B !good!"
"It would be indeed. Here we have books that are written in different languages, none of which are German. Here we have books that patently could not have been written while the authors were alive. It stands to reason that they must have been written after they were dead, in the afterlife. What we see in these bookcases is the first human glimpse of the library of heaven."
"Or hell." noted Tyrone.
"But that's absurd. What you're saying is impossible." said Monagham. "How did all these books come here?"
"Well," replied Dramsheet, "looking at the first pages, they appear to be Christmas presents."
"I don't quite think we can put that in our report."
can't. But just look at these books, it is by far the simplest
explanation." Dramsheet pulled out a volume,
Lovey-Wovey-Dovey. "Apparently this was written by
"Good." said Tyrone. "But I >!" There were indeed many more strange books: The Lusty Life of Alexander the Great, by Aristophanes, twenty completely genuine plays by Aeschylus and Sophocles which had been lost for centuries, the Death of Roxana, by Euripides, Terence's comic version of the Aeneid, Marcus Aurelius's meditations on political economy, three completely new volumes of the Talmud, and much, much, more. What was even more interesting was that though the bookcases had only space for a few hundred books it seemed that every author in the world was represented here. Dramsheet had only to think of a name and there would be a book there: Orwell's Love after the Lamps went out, Frank L. Baum's Dorothy grows up, Jacqueline Susan's Once is Probably Too Many Times After All, James Gould Cozzens' Please Read Some Other Novelist.
several books by Mikhali Sholokhov. The first one is called A
the last one is called The Church of God's Grace. Apparently it's
caustic portrait of early eighties Southern Protestantism. The
deals with the story of the Snow Queen, only with one of the daughters
Nicholas and Alexandra as the evil Queen, living in an
"How can you tell?" asked Monagham.
"Well the title is 'The Snow Queen.' The Reviews on the back suggest the book is very impressive. George Steiner compares it favorably to Gunter Grass. Yuli Daniel says that this was one of the best things about 1980, that and London Calling. Elias Canetti compares it to himself, but it has more wit and feeling."
"I thought Sholokhov wrote rather drab unimaginative realistic novels that did not honestly deal with the Soviet experience. He was, in fact, a model of sycophancy and moral cowardice."
"Really Vice-Inspector? I didn't know you knew who Sholokhov was."
"I don't. I have no idea where that came from."
"Well, it's a very common opinion. Perhaps it's Jungian racial memory."
"What about Celine?" asked Tyrone.
"There's a novel on the top shelf, called God, what WAS I thinking. And it appears that everyone here is represented."
"Hitler isn't," noted Monagham accurately. "Neither is Goebbels, nor Spenser."
"Neither is Samuel Richardson," says Dramsheet. "But perhaps that's simply good taste on Hermann's part. At least we don't have to worry about doctrines of universal salvation."
U note pb
dust on B?" asked Tyrone, and it was true, on all the books there
were thin grains of leaden dust. "Curiouser and
Curiouser." asked Dramsheet. Monagham was too busy reading
first few pages of the really great novel D.H. Lawrence had managed to
off. Tyrone ordered the diaries to be wrapped and bagged.
problems arose with the dagger of Saint Francis of
"From weight, colour, and texture I would guess that the blade was made out of solid silver. But you can't manipulate silver to be that sharp. Inspector do you have a bully club that you're not using right now?" Monagham obtained one, and Dramsheet directed her to hold it outwards from her hand. Then, with a casual turn of his wrist, he cut it in half.
"Good grief. That cut like a hot knife through butter. Or is a knife through hot butter? Regardless, it's amazing."
"Quite. This is no ordinary knife, just as those books are no ordinary books. Pr. Hermann was clearly involved in some sort of very strange conspiracy, whose purposes, practices, and scope of operations are completely unknown to us."
Tyrone had been reading the diaries during Dramsheet's demonstration. "S.T. Ear about V. Chlnkon."
"You don't mean Vivian Chelmnickon?" asked Dramsheet. Tyrone nodded that he did indeed mean him. "But what would they have to do with Vivian?"
As it happened the object of the Flannery O'Connor Brigade's attention was in the main office of the philosophy department of Carleton university. He had just finished his Friday seminar when he received a call from John Seinkewicz. Apparently playing tennis, Seinkewicz told him of Hermann's death and the suspicious circumstances that surrounded it. Chelmnickon was so shocked to hear the news that he interrupted John only once.
"John, what are you doing?"
"Hitting tomatoes against the walls of my office."
"Because otherwise they would hit me in the head. Ah, it seems to have stopped for today." After John hung up Vivian picked up his papers and returned to his office.
But as he
walked to his
office Vivian was filled with a strange feeling. He suddenly
that he wasn't a father. That was fairly obvious, but Vivian
that he had never been a godfather either. When he was a member
party no-one had ever asked him to be one, although it was not an
practice. And the strange thing was that although he had spent
adult life as a teacher, he had no real connections with small
There was one incident however, that he suddenly remembered. He
spending one relatively lovely Sunday afternoon in a
Chelmnickon shook his head, and went up to his office. He noticed the upcoming events and wondered about Christmas presents, the upcoming exams, and next year's taxes. But as he entered his room and closed the door behind him, he noticed someone had already entered the locked room before him. To his surprise he realized that there was an angel standing in his room. And there was one particular fact about the angel that was so surprising that it silenced Vivian completely.
The apparition had silenced Vivian in exactly the same way that the death of Albert Hermann had not silenced the members of the Flannery O'Connor Brigade, who had met for an emergency meeting at Madame Vovelle's place. Madame Vovelle had acquired a reputation as a laywoman in the Catholic church and whenever she entered a city, she always had someone who would put up a bedroom for her. She was a charming house guest, for though she had been in this particular house for more than two weeks, she always bought her own food, paid all the water and telephone bills, and did her laundry at public laundries in order to save on power. Today she was living in the house of the parish treasurer, his rather silly but very charming wife, and their seven children, two of whom were being baby-sat by the Flannery O'Connor Brigade while their mother was out doing some errands. The Flannery O'Connor Brigade style of baby-sitting was a very simple and effective one. All you needed was someone with undoubted authority and moral fibre (for instance The Master of the Marthas), who was willing to give firm orders and to see to their implementation. Today the Master of the Marthas (alias Ms. Roda Ellen Van P---) had ordered the two children to hop up and down in their sandbox and not to disturb the adults. And indeed, when the meeting was over and their mother returned, the children rushed out to greet her in tears, not because the brigade had done anything bad to them, but because they were suddenly filled with a violent urge to confess all their sins.
told them all
about the chinese spice-box (an object none of them had ever seen
Tyrone suspected suicide, and how they had already discovered the
dagger of St.
What was a more important problem was the fact that Hermann kept the most crucial documents in the safe in the Philhellenon club. None of the five members knew the combination. "If we had the dagger we could cut it open." said Ms. Van P---
"But the safe has an alarm system that would go off if we did that." said Roget. "Only by figuring out the combination could we open it."
hire a locksmith to open it once we inherit the safe." suggested the
Defender of St. Rose of
"That also wouldn't work. First, it would take months to probate the will, and we have less than two weeks to complete our plans. Second, the Flannery O'connor Brigade probably isn't mentioned in Hermann's will. Third, he probably gave everything to charity, so we could lose absolutely everything. There must be some other way."
The Holder of the Averroes Seal spoke up. "Who takes over the leadership of the Brigade now that the Shiner of the Shoes of the Fisherman is dead?"
answered: "The absolute leader of the Flannery O'Connor Brigade
now devolved onto Pr. Aloysius Durkheim-Valery, an eighty-five year old
professor of Latin theology in the
The Defender was shocked to hear this. "But what we are doing now is absolutely crucial. It needs the full support of the Brigade's leadership."
Madame Vovelle raised her hand. "All leadership of our project has fallen on my shoulders. We must consider this a test. Our leader has been foully murdered, but we can take over in his place. And we shall achieve our goals."
The Holder spoke up. "Perhaps the messenger can help us?"
"No doubt it is a good thing that our heavenly helper has come to us at this moment. But the Lord helps those who help themselves, and I believe we will not be helped until we find a way of opening the safe and finding the guidebook for the process of unofficial canonization. How much time do we have?"
days. They had until Monday evening to find the handbook.
meantime there was much to do; collate the reports of the confessors
computer, help sanctify the debating place, continue secret observation
Vivian Chelmnickon, cast lots in order to find the devil's advocate,
incense, auto de-fe costumes, and communion wine, break into the
Madame Vovelle spoke up. "How much evidence is there for the proposition that black cocaine-addicted unwed mothers committed the foul deed?"
"That's very annoying. Legionmeister, do you have something to say?"
The words were spoken with a great deal of suspicion, for Dr. Roget was clearly not fond of his cousin once removed, and was not pleased that she had assumed the leadership. More importantly, he was disturbed by the death of Albert Hermann. It was Hermann who had found him after his divorce from Natasha Wilentz, when Roget had tried to hide his grief in bad alcohol and plain secretaries. He had complimented Philippe on his wit and cleverness, and as a gift gave him a tape of a previously unknown symphony by Mozart. It was so staggeringly beautiful that he could not help but respect Hermann and the more Hermann told him of the aims of the Flannery O'Connor Brigade, and in particular of its special project, the more and more he was convinced of its justice and humanity. He quickly became a fellow traveler, and when the old Legionmeister of the Signet of Saint Luke died Roget took his place. He had served his position with an alacrity and ardor that he had never known before, which from time to time completely surprised him as he vaguely wondered what he was getting into.
"Should we not consider the possibility of suicide?"
"Preposterous!" shouted Madame Vovelle. "You heard Hermann himself tell us that the Lord our Holy God had said that Hermann's life was in danger, and that he was taking precautions. And note that he was murdered on the same day of the week as the senator and the librarian. Do you think his talk to us was simply a ruse?"
"Possibly." said Roget limply.
The other members of the Brigade dismissed the idea with contempt, and quickly reviewed what precautions they should make. Since so far only members of the Philhellenon club had been murdered, it was thought that considering the crucial importance of their current project, only Roget and the Holder of the Averroes Seal should take special precautions to protect themselves. But if they discovered anything suspicious, they should report it to the Brigade immediately. The Holder of the Averroes Seal promised that a fellow traveler would serve as a bodyguard next Thursday evening, and Roget reluctantly agreed to one as well. There was, they all agreed, no time to look for the actual murderer.
There was some other business, and with that the meeting was adjourned. Ms. Van P--- sharply glanced at the two children still hopping up and down in their sandboxes as she walked to the street curb where her Siamese maid was waiting. Since they didn't own a car, the maid personally thought it was odd to have to chauffeur her around the city, but she kept her thoughts to herself as Ms. Van P--- discussed three crucial problems.
"Our first problem is that our deceased leader kept vitally important documents in a safe in the Philhellenon club, and we have to get them out. How's your Lothario in picking locks?"
"Oh, he's very good, mistress. He's very clever at it." "He's almost picked mine." she said under her breath.
Ms. Van P--- boxed her ears. "Well it wouldn't work anyway, non-catholics aren't allowed into the building. Fortunately, though I have a plan. Our second problem is the Aquilla Rogers affair. You do remember Aquilla Rogers, don't you?"
"Of course I do. She's the one who keeps sending petitions demanding our expulsion from Chattenden Passey."
"Quite, and as you know she had been grievously wronged by a young man named Charles Harding."
"Good, better her than me. With every complaint she sends I'm one step closer to having to sleep with the landlord."
Ms. Van P--- boxed her ears again. "Don't be coarse."
"Well it's true!"
"You will never have to sleep with anyone as long as you are in my employment. But for now justice must be done to Ms. Rogers. What have we recently learned from the bug we placed in Elizabeth Concrete's apartment?"
"That Charles Harding's father likes to send off his Christmas presents at the end of November?"
"More importantly, we learned that Ms. Concrete is now married. When we get home I will dictate an anonymous note for the new Mrs. Harding discussing her husband's relations with Ms. Rogers. But it is now time for the third problem."
Half an hour later the two of them were outside Drogheda Apartments. Tyrone, Dramsheet and Monagham had long since left, but there were still police agents investigating Hermann's room, and not all the exhibits had been moved. One of the agents was just taking a lunch break when he was approached by a strange oriental woman of unique beauty wearing nothing but a diaphanous transparent gown topped off with a host of light shawls. She embraced the man. "What sort of man are you?" she said.
"I think I'm man enough for the job." he said roguishly.
"Which is what exactly? What is your exact profession?"
"Umm. I work for the police force and help keep track of the accounts."
"Oh, well forget it." and she left the police accountant quite befuddled. The maid then attempted to seduce a professional fumigator, a fat forensics expert, and one of the cleaning maids, before she encountered the right man. They laughed, they teased, but before he could embrace her, he found that his hands had been tied together with one shawl while one of his legs had been tied to a water pipe with another. He tried to move, but with one sensual move, she put a shawl in his mouth and then wrapped it shut. She had never looked so beautiful as she continued tying his arms together, tying two more ribbons around his legs, and tying a beautiful blue ribbon around his elbow just for decoration.
appeared. "You silly girl, why have you tied his mouth
How is he going to tell us where the dagger of St. Francis of
"I couldn't resist, mistress. I mean I've never had so many ribbons to play with before. After all, everything that's supplied, must be splurged. But I do hope I can get out of this wretched costume soon. It's very cold."
"A Good woman is so hard to find." sighed Ms. Van P--- and she temporarily undid the gag. "Now where's the dagger?"
"You mean that knife that's so sharp it cuts through anything that we try to keep it in? It's in the box over there." Ms. Van P--- gagged him again and saw a blue metal box that was sitting near the wall. She opened it and found the dagger, covered in steel wool. She extracted it, put it in her own special container, and placed it one of her pockets. Then she extracted a handkerchief and a bottle of chloroform. After generously dousing it, she moved up to the officer.
"You are well aware that chloroform is often used as an anesthetic. What you way not know is that even small doses of it can be fatal. In between there are doses that can cause short-term memory loss. I am going to chloroform you with that second purpose strongly in mind. But it is possible I may have miscalculated and the dose will kill you. Your life is in the hands of fate, and therefore in the hands of God, and He would be much more merciful if you showed contrition for your lusts. Clearly you should know that women only offer sexual bribes when they have nothing better to offer, and you should also know that such an offer is not a voluntary one. If you did not know this before, you will find out Now!"
chloroformed him. Fortunately the dose was not fatal, and the two
The Angel in Vivian Chelmnickon's office was a woman.
"I can't believe it. You're an angel, and you're a woman." And indeed she was. Her hair were long tresses of auburn-brownish-blondish hair, just like medieval or pre-Raphealite pictures. Except for her head and hands, she was clothed in a long white gown that had an ever-present, unostentatious glow about it. Her wings were large, about two-thirds of her height, which Vivian realized was fairly tall, though oddly enough not intimidatingly so. And although she was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen, although she was the most beautiful woman he had ever conceived of, he was struck by the fact that there was nothing sexual about her.
"I can't believe it. You're an angel, and you're a woman."
"Do you find my presence difficult to accept?"
"Well, not exactly. You are an angel, and though I've never met one before in my entire life, everything tells me that you are one. But I thought, everything I've read, that is, how can angels be women?"
"An odd statement, coming from a citizen of the only republic ruled by a queen."
Chelmnickon considered that. "Touch? But I don't understand. There are no female angels in the Bible."
"Only two angels are named in the Bible at all. But you have read The Screwtape Letters and the stories of Isaac Bashevis Singer. You see that there are female demons there. If demons are angels, male and female, who have fallen from heaven, is it not logical that heavenly angels are both male and female?"
Vivian considered this thought. "Actually, some of my Marxist ex-friends would probably say that the reason there are female demons and no female angels is because of the rampant misogyny in western culture."
"Do you believe them?" she asked gently.
"I don't know actually. I've always thought that those sort of arguments generally missed the whole point. But I've just always assumed that angels had to be men. How can there be two sexes in heaven?"
"God has made man for a time a little lower than the angels. We are His messengers to aid and help mankind. Could we do that, could we claim any sort of superiority, could we be in any way better if we replaced free will with blind virtue, traded our fertility for immortality?"
"No, that's quite logical. But what are you doing here?"
"I have been traveling around this city for several weeks now. I was there when Constantine Rudman was struck down with guilt. I was there when Vanessa Wilentz went to one of your classes. I flew outside the windows of the Philhellenon club and saw Veruca Manzoni receive strange letters and I was seen by Lucian Rudman as she was going to a party. Albert Hermann paid tribute to me, and Alice Concrete saw me from her office in the House of Commons. And I am here for a purpose. You are aware of the Flannery O'Connor Brigade?"
"It would appear that you aren't. They have been following you for the past few months and in particular the past week or so. They were led by the unfortunately deceased Professor Hermann, and you are a crucial part of their plans. Have they not contacted you yet?"
"No, not at all."
"It is hardly surprising actually. What they are planning is a matter of considerable delicacy and some tact. What they are planning to do, with the permission of the Lord Himself, is to have you made a saint."
"What? But that's horrible!"
"Why do you say that?"
"Well I'm not dead yet, and I'd prefer not to die in the immediate future."
"They don't want to kill you. They want to canonize you while you're still alive."
"But that's not possible."
"To God, all things are possible."
"But I'm not worthy. I've done nothing that could make me a saint. I mean there's all sorts of complications. I'm still married, for a start."
"Yes, you are, and you have worked very hard to be a good husband to a very demanding woman. But being married has nothing to do with the matter. After all, was not Saint Peter married?"
"Well yes, but I could hardly be a saint."
"You are a humble man, and the Lord appreciates that."
"But I've spent all my life studying secular philosophy."
"And the Lord wishes to show his gratitude for your good work. Not every scholar can be an apologist, and the Lord loves more those who come to the truth by honest doubt than those who have never strayed away. In an age like this, people like you have a special role to play."
"But this is absurd. I can't believe it."
"But your sins have all been forgiven. But I understand. I am not an easy sight in this world. Perhaps we should talk about something else for a few minutes."
Vivian took a closer look at the Angel's wings. "They're coated with something, some sort of red-pinkish dust. Your wings, they're coated with lead."
The Angel nodded sadly, as she moved her right wing under her arm so that Vivian could see it more closely. She rubbed some of the dust off, and brushed the feathers so that Vivian could see the pure white underneath. As she rubbed them so gracefully and so purely, Vivian was reminded of the first time he had rubbed his wife's naked shoulder, which was not quite naked, because of the presence of the chain of the Galcynski cross which he was never able to remove, even though... Vivian brushed the thoughts out of his mind as the angel spoke. "These wings were made in heaven out of the purest and finest materials. They were made to glorify God, not crafted for some dull utilitarian presence; they were not meant for a world such as this, and all the noxious things of this world likes to attach itself to my wings. In the past there was not so much, but today... From the heights of heaven to this little globe, there is always an apparent corruption. Consider Pr. Hermann's library. He received the greatest books written by the greatest men after they died and entered heaven. But there is the same leaden dust on all the volumes. This corruption cannot be prevented in this world by either man or angel. But it can be forgiven, and eventually transcended, by the power of God."
"Tell me about Professor Hermann. How did he die?"
"He was murdered as part of a cunning plan, by a subtle and dangerous adversary. It is not my role to confront this person, that is the role of your police. But I can warn you that as the days move closer to your canonization the lives of your friends and loved ones will be in great danger. Only by following in the steps of the Lord can you prevent the worst from happening. Now do you accept this honour that we Angels seek to grant you?"
"I can't say. This is all so sudden. It's unbelievable."
"I can understand your hesitations; such an honour should not be accepted lightly, or with too much eagerness. In the days to come the Flannery O'Connor Brigade will be busy making the necessary preparations. They are temporarily confused because of the death of their leader, and that is why I felt I had to make this appearance before you. Use this time well, Vivian Chelmnickon, consider hard the obligations that you will take on. Be careful also about your friends, for I repeat, they are in great danger. I will return to guide you through this time of trouble." Then the Angel vanished.
And at just the same time, there was a knock on the door. Vivian got up and found his wife there, looking more beautiful than she had in years. "You look more beautiful than you have in years." he said.
She ignored this compliment. "Who was that woman you were just talking too, before I came in?"
Vivian tried to think up a plausible explanation, but then there appeared a sudden desire for him to tell the truth. "I was talking to an Angel of the Lord."
Mrs. Chelmnickon looked at him very strangely, and then looked under his desk to see if some whore was hiding there. Not finding any, she looked back at her husband and said "You must be getting senile."
returned to the offices of
"Oh really? In what way?"
"You can't keep my wife away from me any longer, I've finally found a way of revealing where she lives!"
"I am not keeping the two of you apart. It is your wife's explicit instructions not to reveal any of my correspondence with her. As for the rest of her relationship with you, I have no control over it whatsoever."
"Louis, shut up! I've finally got you."
"I don't really understand, but pray tell me, what is your new ingenious scheme?"
yes. I had
to take out a loan against my mortgage, and it will cost me thirty
dollars, but I've bribed a auditor from Canada Revenue to go through my
finances. Swiss bank accounts, of course, you'll never prove a
I may have to ransack every consulate in
"But you can't. And you shan't."
"Really? And just how are you going to do that Dramsheet?" "I am not going to do it at all. The Ministry will automatically do it for my client. You see, your wife was audited last year, so she can't be audited this year."
"What? And you didn't bother to tell me?"
"Why should I? Your wife's finances are in excellent shape, and I was acting out of simple charity in not worrying you about it. Of course, your wife's tax returns are protected from the gaze of the vulgar. But if you want I can show the correspondence." And he turned around and took out a single letter from the minister herself informing Dramsheet of the conclusion of the audit.
Giles grimaced. "Give me the address of my wife's accountant."
"Your wife does not have an accountant. For the past five years she has completed her tax return on her own initiative."
Giles stamped his feet, tore at his hair, and tried to stare down Dramsheet who paid no attention. Giles stood there, boiled, then turned around and rushed out of the office.
Vice-Inspector Monagham was anxiously counting down the minutes she had left until she could finish her workweek and meet the handsome young man who brought donuts to the police station. She had spent the last three hours directing the cataloguing and collecting of Hermann's library, while at the same time trying to dictate Tyrone's orders into logical English. She shivered at the thought that a clever anti-Catholic might be murdering people across the city, but she consoled herself with the non sequitur that perhaps her boyfriend could warm her up.
left until her work-day was up and the sun had already set. The
library had now been placed in boxes which were sitting outside
The Chinese Spice Box