The Dreams of Louis Dramsheet

      Louis Dramsheet was dreaming.  He did not dream often, and he did not dream pleasantly within the confines of his four poster-bed that kept out all the light within the confines of a room specially protected by an otherwise illegal alarm system which had received a special seal of approval from Dramsheet's good friend, the deputy minister of justice.  It was an alarm system that had to be turned on every night when Dramsheet went to bed at precisely eleven-thirty, and turned off every morning when Dramsheet woke up at precisely six-fifteen.  If anyone tried to force the doors or the windows or the never used chimney flue, an extremely loud and rather dangerous sonic alarm would go off, which could render a man completely and permanently deaf.  The only way one could get in without setting off the alarms was by very tactful and cautious manipulation with the locks of the front door.  As it happened, someone had already done that.

      Louis Dramsheet was dreaming.  To his surprise he was dreaming about his wife.  Contrary to widespread suspicion, there were only two virgins in the entire Philhellenon Club; the late Pr. Albert Hermann and the very recently deceased Dr. Oliver Corpse.  As for the others Veruca Manzoni had carried out a large number (six) of completely unfertile and unproductive love affairs, sex behind the library carrels, threatening to swallow people up in the dust and the wallpaper.  The butler's purity was not to be trusted on, though the maids who trusted the lack of trustworthiness were invariably disappointed.  Senator Naipaul, alias the Holder of the Averroes Seal, was a widower.  In the days just before independence Naipaul met on Zanzibar an attractive young woman from the family of the slaveholders that had converted his family to Islam.  They probably would have lived Catholically ever after had it not been for a specific weakness of the Tanzanian regime.  For although Tanzania liked to consider itself one of the best benevolent paternalisms on the continent (which it was, though the competition was pretty dreadful), and even though the one-party state had made spectacular progress in combating literacy (and not much else) and even though it was led by a kind man who didn't take bribes (though everyone else did) and who had translated The Merchant of Venice into Swahili, there were still some horrible blemishes on its rule.  The most relevant of these were the anti-Asian pogroms that occurred on the absorption of Zanzibar into Tangynika, and which left Senator Naipaul a widower with a lovely daughter who grew up and became an economist for the IMF.

       Dramsheet was also a widower, but unlike Naipaul, he could go on not thinking about his deceased wife for years.  Indeed for five years, three months and twenty-eight days he did not think about her at all, until an auditor from the department of internal revenue reminded him that for the past five years he had listed himself as single, while before that he had listed himself as a widower.  It had been a short marriage, only four days in fact, and its origins were to be found in Dramsheet's penultimate year in law school.  His parents had decided that their son should get married, and on his request they decided they would arrange a marriage for him.  Three weeks before the wedding, Dramsheet was introduced to his future bride, a Greek-Orthodox woman living in the Toronto community.  They had three long chaperoned meetings before their wedding, and both of them were both struck by the diligence and intelligence of the other.   Then, just at the end of school term Dramsheet learned that he had a won a special university prize of a two-month world cruise that began the very afternoon of his wedding.  He had already been interested in the concept of cruise ships and he thought that this would make the perfect honeymoon.  But since he would have two months where he would be doing absolutely nothing Dramsheet thought this would be the perfect time to start reading all the volumes of St. Thomas Aquinas.  So he brought fifty-seven books for his educated perusal on board the Aron Fellatio, along with his new bride.

      The first evening was wonderful, though Dramsheet would forget it often in later years.  His wife was not interested in a large panoply of austere and conventional wedding photos, so she convinced Louis into taking some enchantingly risqué photos of her in their bedroom.  But the next day the marriage started to fall apart.  Dramsheet clearly intended to spend the day reading The Captive Mind and was clearly annoyed when his wife suggested other ideas.  "The problem with you Melissa [the name of his wife] is that you are like everyone else.  Think of the twenty-seven million oppressed Poles who don't have a chance to go on beautiful cruise ships like the Aron Fellatio.  You must keep a sense of proportion."  His wife was not interested in a sense of proportion; instead she took The Captive Mind and chucked it out the porthole.  This started a war in which Mrs. Dramsheet threw books overboard, and Dramsheet tried to stop her.  When she tried to throw Jacques Barzun overboard Dramsheet threatened to destroy the undeveloped photos he had taken last night.  She did, so he did.  For the next three days the two of them withheld their sexual favors from each other, and Louis kept hiding the books all over the ship, and his wife kept finding them and throwing them overboard.  Finally, as the fifth afternoon of their marriage began Mrs. Dramsheet found all the volumes of St. Thomas Aquinas which had been hidden in a most cunning and secret place, lifted them all up and went to throw them overboard.  Had she succeeded in this she might have won Dramsheet to her charms forever out of sheer intellectual frustration.  She did in fact succeed in doing this, but she fell overboard in the process.  This left Dramsheet spending the next fifty-seven days sitting in his wedding tuxedo (it was the only black suit he had brought along with him), badgering the ship stewards for a copy of The Captive Mind, and forming a relationship with a luxurious parasitical ex-duchess from Lisbon that lasted just long enough for Dramsheet to learn Portuguese.  When he returned home, there was no talk of another marriage being arranged, so one never was, and he went through his final year of law school, his articling, and his being called to the bar, with no thought of ever needing another woman, and soon the only pictures he had of her were the yellowing wedding photographs in his parents' photo album which he had inherited after their deaths.

      Not surprisingly Louis Dramsheet had only a vague memory of what Melissa Seferis Dramsheet should look like.  So it was no doubt disconcerting that every night since he had learned of the death of Senator Pierre Veniot, he had started dreaming about her.  There she would appear exactly in the poses of the photographs he had never seen, and there she would appear beckoning him in the poses of lost love and callous tragic loss, with promises of squandered fertility and lost happiness.  On seeing these poses Dramsheet would wonder what the point was.  It was hardly as though the woman that he had known for less than a month would be the most interesting person in his life.  If he was going to think of a woman at all, he was more likely to think of his long-time and long-suffering secretary, unhappily married to one of Ottawa's most unscrupulous plumbers, or about the suspect in a murder case he was involved with who in fits of confusion sent everyone anonymous valentines for Good Friday at the same time the real murderer was sending threatening blood stained letters.  He had no sexual interest in these women at all, anymore than he had any interest in the women of the Wilentz family whom he occasionally met, but at least they meant more to him than his long deceased wife.  If anyone ever thought that thrusting pictures of his wife would have any emotional effect on Dramsheet, they were surely going to be disappointed and would simply have to think of something else.  And unfortunately for Dramsheet, they did.

      For tonight, as with all the other nights since the death of Senator Veniot, the dream shifted.  His wife no longer existed, and Dramsheet would forget that he had dreamed about her when he woke up in the morning, much as he would forget the rest of the dream.  Instead Dramsheet found himself in a strange world.  It was a world of broken down farms, abandoned fields, of enormous destroyed orthodox-churches with naves like bombed out subway tunnels where you could see the sky through the shattered roof.  In this strange world there was something very threatening in the air; as Dramsheet walked through the unplanted and dried up fields, as the wind blew the dust that revealed the calcified rock that was the result of callous stupid man-made erosion, as plague crows somersaulted helplessly through the air, Dramsheet could see small trails of blood scattered along the rows of the plants.  It made him feel as if he was in the wrong century, where paganism and satanism were all that people could worship, where the missionaries of the church had been butchered and eaten inside their own cathedrals by a mad nihilistic rabble.  There was a feeling of infinite unease, for the worst part of wandering through this war-devastated country was the complete and total solitude.

      But on realizing that fact, Dramsheet cheered up considerably.  It was not as if he was alone, it was the fact that he was trapped in solitude.  True, it seemed as if he was the only person left in the entire world, as if some horrible plague had carried off even the cockroaches.  But solitude was something else entirely; a rather comfortable and fashionable feeling of despair was now available to him, the sort of feeling that you could find discussed in detail in post-modernist textbooks, and in solidarity with a sea of semiotics Dramsheet could walk on and examine his world more closely.   There was something about the atmosphere, the general ambience.  It was not as if he could smell anything, and it did not occur to him to taste anything.  It was more the way everything was reflected; it was like photographs of Central Europe which were always in black and white and which never showed the sun, as if communist apparatchiks were keeping it under wraps until they could punish everyone with a two-week heat wave.  As he wandered across one broken hogs-trough after another, as he walked down the thoroughfares where he could see silent people milling about, but whose words he could not hear, no matter how hard he tried, he realized the peculiar colour of the place.  It was not as if everything was in shadow, it was that everything was coloured in a peculiar shade of brown.  It was the brown of a substantial, cheerful menace, the menace too far away from big-time movie spectacular obvious atrocities.  It was the brown of something minor and evil, and it was this brown that made Dramsheet realize that he was dreaming of wartime Croatia.

      Dramsheet was one-eighth Croatian, and one-eighth Macedonian, so he naturally considered himself a pure Greek, the pure descendant of Euripides and Aristotle.  For Dramsheet, Croatia was simply the accident that explained his Catholicism; it was of no interest to him, he had never had any desire to visit the country and anything that Croatian Catholics did or did not do, was of no interest to him.  He was not surprised as he wandered the unnamable cities, the sidewalks covered with the slow grime of too many rainfalls.  He was not surprised to see a troupe of fascist girl scouts, with swastikas pinned to their shirts right over their nipples.  That was hardly surprising at all; if you were going to have a traumatic dream filled with horrible symbolism it would make no sense to have the swastikas pinned over the navels or their elbows or even around their left ankles.  Clearly something was in the wind, and Dramsheet had no trouble guessing what it was.  The Ustashe.  The Fascist movement that under Hitler and Mussolini gave Croatia its first "independent" government.  And unlike the Dolfusses, Salazars, Horthys, Antonescus and Francos, no-one doubted the accuracy of the fascist label.  For if these devout Catholics did not show the special neuroses over sex and progress and death that marked the German variety, they butchered more than enough people to make such distinctions quite irrelevant.  Thousands of Jews, and hundreds of thousands of Serbs were murdered, raped, and slaughtered with all the brutality available to a pre-industrial people; no other collaborators served the final solution with such loyalty.  Whenever Dramsheet's father heard them mentioned he would spit with contempt, and said that if wasn't for his wife's pussy he would never have converted to such a vile church.  And clearly, as Dramsheet saw drunken Catholics whip their wives under the protection of the cult of maternity, as blood-stained accountants smeared themselves with the ink of wet copies of anti-Semitic pornography, as workers spat into the street and dirty cigarettes were thrown away, only to vanish and be replaced with the residue of something more appalling, clearly, there was going to be some way of blaming Dramsheet for all this.

      So he was not surprised to find himself in the front rows of an enormous Catholic cathedral, far larger than anything you would actually see in Croatia.  The walls were so large and so high, that they could stuff the overflowing crowds in to the holes, where they would poke their heads out like dirty termites.  Above the altar was a giant poster of Pope Pius XII, which though done with manifold respect and admiration, could only make him look like a combination of a hideous toad and a disgusting pig.  There were no bishops at the altar today, for this was a service that was being conducted entirely by the laity; leading members of the Ustashe introduced themselves to the congregation, and two twin sisters was introduced.  One was to be a sacrifice, the other was to be the executioner who tore off her flimsy white fabric so that the cabinet ministers could rape her at the altar.  While the men were doing that the Catholic sister cut off chunks of her twin's flesh, cooked them, and served them around as the Eucharist.  But all this was absurd, thought Dramsheet.  What could be more obvious symbolism? how more meretricious could atrocities become?  Obviously the two sisters represented Croatia and Serbia, who spoke the same language, who shared the same ethnicity and were only differentiated by the fact that one was Catholic and the other was Orthodox.  And the obvious, precious irony, that the Serbian-Orthodox twin could have tricked her Catholic sister into being raped and eaten by the holy Catholic church, was painfully, unsubtly apparent to Dramsheet.  And so when babies started dropping out of the scarred and bleeding womb of the sacrifice, and they started being raped and eaten and served as Eucharist as well, Louis Dramsheet, Queen's Counsel, partner of the firm Amsterdam, Bertrand, Calvino and Dramsheet, could not repress a very loud yawn of boredom.

      And apparently the Ustashe recognized that they had to have more than simple cruelty, so as the babies started dropping around, but before they were murdered, some light comedy was provided by them wandering all over the sacristy and temporarily charming the blood-stained rapist-murderers, since they were, after all, their own children.  And when the scene changed to a squad of Serbian children about to shiskebobbed to death, even the victims could not resist the opportunity for black humour and silly jokes.  And as the scene shifted from atrocity to atrocity the Ustashe had to keep the mood lighter and lighter for the taste of the good Canadian dreamer-critic, and more slapstick and silliness and happy endings kept entering so that by the time they came around to the end of the war there came an almost Laurel and Hardy mood to the whole affair.  And those atrocities which were not so light were simply analyzed away.  A scene in which Dramsheet was served his Orthodox wife for dinner for example, was simply an allegory for cunnilingus, with no real importance.

      The scene shifted once again. He was in Greece, or what should have been Greece, and he was seeing his father as he saw him when he was eight years old.  He was standing on a hill, looking out over a far-away valley in the middle of spring below a cloudless sky and a cold wind, when Dramsheet's mother appeared, and shot his father in the back.  While she let several Ustashe soldiers help herself to her charms, eight year-old Louis Dramsheet did his Catholic duty and urinated on his apostate father's corpse.  But the thought that if he were Croatian and Catholic he would betray his own father appeared to Dramsheet as simply a meaningless possibility.  After a couple of funny atrocities the scene shifted to the capital where the Ustashe cabinet were discussing the need for raping Serbian women before their execution.  Unlike all the other atrocities this was all too plainly real as good petty bourgeois and quasi-peasants offered pragmatic logical reasons why their fellow citizens should become their fellow uncitizens and become their fellow raped and butchered corpses.  It was all too real, all too clearly pragmatic, except for a statement by one minister in response to future complaints.  "It's not fair that we should be accused of raping the best of Serbian maidenhood.  We'd have raped the men as well if they only had vaginas."  But this was not what disturbed Louis Dramsheet about the dream.

       Nor was it the fact that the Catholic church in Croatia had acquiesced, had supported, had incited, had ignored these atrocities.  Nor was it the fact that the church was so clearly inferior to the conduct of the Yugoslav Communist party, and that they did not have the moral capital to protest their own imprisonment and censorship and murder.  It was not the fact that the atrocities were even so brutal and barbaric.  Instead, what disturbed Louis Dramsheet about the dream arose from the fact, but was not the fact, that the atrocities about Serbian (Croatian?) girls raped on the altar of the most consecrated Catholic churches, the atrocities about the roasted children and eaten flesh, the atrocities about shiskebobbed children, and Serbian prisoners torn apart like flies by sadistic children, were not meretricious atrocities, were not silly exaggerations, were not simplistic prose devices, but were symbolic representations of a reality that was too horrible to represent, of a reality that could not bear to be analyzed.  And what disturbed Louis Dramsheet most lay in the fact, but was not the fact, that in allowing himself his caustic and critical analyses of these dreams, he was indulging in evasion, in distortion, like those apologists whom he sincerely hated who used the weak spots in some of the weaker accounts of the Holocaust and the Gulag to pretend the whole thing had never happened.  And what disturbed Louis Dramsheet most about the dream lay in the fact, but was not the fact, that he was capable of seeing his wife's butchery as a simple attempt to manipulate him emotionally, in his wife's cannibalization as a peculiar symbol, that he was not capable of responding humanely to such a horrible crime.  And what disturbed Louis Dramsheet most about the dream lay in the fact, but was not the fact, that he had never shown any outrage over any of the atrocities, nor any shame, but only the feeling common to too many socialists the feeling that he (or she) was not guilty, that he was not responsible.  And what disturbed Louis Dramsheet most about the dream lay in the fact, but was not the fact, that he would not have loved his wife even if she had not fallen overboard with the volumes of St. Thomas Aquinas, that he would not have loved her even if she had not thrown any of her books overboard; that to his marriage, to his parents, to crimes horrible and brutal Dramsheet could not react with the necessary pain, love, empathy, or outrage, that he did not react at all.  And what disturbed Louis Dramsheet most about the dream lay in the fact, but was not the fact, that he was guilty of a horrible emotional callousness, of grotesque dishonesty and that for these crimes he had excommunicated himself from the bonds of common humanity, he had separated himself from the rest of the world, and that he had cast himself by his own actions into the pits of hell.  No, what disturbed Louis Dramsheet was the fact, and only this fact, that by doing so he had condemned himself to an eternity of torture and pain, that he deserved to rot and die in Hell, and it was that fact alone that made him sit bolt upright while he was still asleep that made him open his eyes even though he was not yet awake and it was that fact alone that caused the air from the depths of his lungs to rush through his open mouth to come out in the first horrible screams since he was eight years old the  screams screamed every night since the death of Senator Pierre Veniot.

       But when Louis Dramsheet stood bolt upright in his bed that day, and began to scream, the scream did not get beyond his lips.  For through the curtains of the four poster-bed he could see Inspector Joseph Tyrone sitting on a chair near the clothes basket reading a copy of Ulysses.  Dramsheet stared at the clock: it was six o'clock exactly, fifteen minutes before he was to wake up, just as he had woken up fifteen minutes early every other day since the death of Senator Pierre Veniot.  "Tyrone, what are you doing here in my house?"

       Tyrone did not speak, but instead took out the note that an officer had given him five hours earlier, along with the map of the city.  He gave the note to Dramsheet:  "To Inspector Tyrone:  Tragic to inform you that we found the body of Oliver Corpse, hung and poisoned with cyanide in his new apartment at Amritsar Siestas."  Tyrone then laid out the map before Dramsheet; there were already marks indicating the Castlereagh Hotel, the Neville Chamberlain Wharf, and Drogheda Apartments.  He then put a marker indicating where Amritsar Vistas was.  It was due south of the  Neville Chamberlain wharf, and the four spots formed a perfect square with the vertexes pointing due east, north, west and south.  "The Compass of Death."

       "Would you excuse me if I got showered and dressed?"  Tyrone had no objections and went outside the room with his copy of Ulysses.  At twenty minutes after six, Dramsheet rejoined him in the living room, a strange place where everything was in black and red and where all the curtains were closed.

       "Have you ever read Ulysses, Dramsheet?  The greatest novel of the century, and an Irishman wrote it!"

       Dramsheet was about to respond that he had not read it, when he was struck by something very odd.  "Tyrone!  You're talking in complete sentences!"

       "Yes, I am, and it isn't easy.  Of course my stupid assistant would come down with 'viral pneumonia' the day the man who sends the doughnuts has the day off.  It takes incredible concentration to speak this clearly, and I'm under tremendous pressure.  We have a serial killer, but no clues whatever to speak of, except for the semen spot on Veniot's eyeglasses.  I can't release this information publicly because it would destroy Veniot's reputation.  But the longer I keep this fact away from the coroner's inquest, the more people will think I'm covering it up."

       "Why were you here at my house?"

       "To protect you, along with all the other members of the Philhellenon club.  Unfortunately I couldn't find Corpse until it was too late.  The fact that I correctly predicted that a death would take place will not help my reputation at all.  If I do not make a major breakthrough in the next twenty-four hours I will be removed from the case.  But the trouble is, we have almost no clues, just a mad pattern."

       "Yes," agreed Dramsheet, who by this time was eating his breakfast cereal.  "The absence of any red herrings is a substantial annoyance.  Usually when you commit a perfect murder you involve yourself in some complicated scheme to do it, and the scheme leaves after effects.  But clearly we are dealing with a very cunning murderer, who not only does not leave any clues, who not only makes it appear that his victims have also committed suicide, but has also ensured that there are no suspects."

       "Yes.  Veniot, Manzoni, Hermann and Corpse.  The four are only connected by their membership in the Philhellenon club.  Hermann only mentions Manzoni in his notes once she's dead, she is otherwise of no importance.  Hermann was the only victim in the club hierarchy, so it can't be as if someone was trying to bump off the board of directors."

       "Perhaps it's one of those dreadfully obscure crimes where the four victims have all seen something together, but they don't know what it is, but someone else does, and has to get rid of them just to be on the safe side.  But from what I know of the four victims they barely knew each of the others.  Hermann knew Oliver, but he barely knew Veniot or Manzoni.  And why this silly compass metaphor?"

       "Perhaps the names give us some kind of clue.  VMHC.  What could that stand for?  Victoria Majestryx, House of Commons?"

       "There are a couple of paintings in the House of Commons of Queen Victoria, but that's too literal.  And too obscure.  No there must be some deeper reason.  The fact that all four victims were prominent Catholics is probably crucial.  Let's think first.  Who would want to kill our four people?"

       "I can't imagine anyone killing an elderly liberal senator, unless somebody wanted his money.  I can't imagine anyone wanting to kill a single librarian, unless it might be an ex-lover.  We have a multitude of people who might want to kill the leader of a Catholic secret society, including the secret society's own members.  But why would someone want to kill Corpse?  I mean surely the Polish Secret Service isn't bumping off émigrés anymore, if it ever did.  I thought only the Bulgarians were that crude.  There might be a disgruntled patient somewhere, but the simple fact is that none of these people have the same set of suspects."

       "Hold it, Tyrone.  I've just realized something."

       "What is it?"

       "The four victims.  French.  Italian.  German.  Polish.  Each one is from a different ethnic group."

       "But what could this mean?"

       "At this moment I'm not sure."  And with that Dramsheet got up to put his dishes in the dishwasher where they would remain until the absent-minded, middle-aged maid arrived.  She came in at noon and left at six and Dramsheet never saw her because they were never in the house at the same time.  He then went to brush his teeth while Tyrone walked around the house, until there was a knock at the front door.  Tyrone turned and saw the mail that he had specially directed to be delivered in the early morning fall through the chute.  He picked up the mail and walked over to the study, where Dramsheet was looking over some papers for a case at the Federal Court of Appeal he would be arguing this morning.

       "Mail.  I got it early for you."  Dramsheet looked at the letters, which consisted of unwanted correspondence from two fellow alumni, a postcard from a Queen's Counsel vacationing in Tahiti, the magazine of the Canadian Bar Association, and a letter addressed "Occupant" that had no return address posted on it.  "It's probably something from one of these annoying real estate entrepreneurs.  They're always badgering me about my home."  For once, Dramsheet was quite wrong, for inside the letter were two blank sheets of paper, and a third one that was almost blank except for the following words:  Croatia-hell-whore-jew-atrocity-guilt-guilt-marriage-cheat-failure-betrayal-death-hangman.

       When Dramsheet read those words his eyes glazed over, he gasped and started to faint.  Tyrone caught him and forced him back to consciousness.  "Leave me alone!  I have to destroy that letter.  I have to tear it to pieces!"

       "What are you talking about?"

       "Croatia!  Wartime atrocities!  I can't bear to think about them, can't bear to dream about them.  I have to burn the letter before it drives me mad!"

       "Dramsheet, get a grip on yourself!"  And for the first time since he was five years old Dramsheet was shaken into a semblance of consciousness.  He breathed deeply and relaxed.  "I keep having these dreams about Croatia.  But every time I wake up I forget about them.  Or I do until I receive these letters.  Whenever I do, I remember my dream very clearly and sharply, and I go mad, and the only way I can be sane again is to destroy the letter and to forget all about it."

       "But how could someone be giving you letters about dreams you don't remember?  Unless..."

       "I remember something.  I remember Veniot complaining about dreams he kept having about French atrocities in Algeria and Vietnam.  And Hermann wrote down that he had had a dream about the suppression of the Albigensians.  And I overheard Corpse saying he had nightmares about two particularly nasty episodes in Polish history, Teschen and Kielce."

       "And that burned note we found about Manzoni.  It mentioned Cyraenica and you suggested it might have something to do with Italian atrocities there."

       "There could be a connection.  If we found out who sent the letters we could well be on our way to finding the murderer."

       "But Dramsheet that leads us to two very important points.  First, how could these dreams have anything to do with the crime?  Second, if what you say about the dreams and the fact that each victim is of a different ethnic origin, that would mean that you would be the next victim."

       "Quite true.  However, let us look at this letter again for any clues.  Probably the only fingerprints on it will be mine."

       "I wonder if these anonymous letters have anything to do with the ones being sent to Vanessa Wilentz?"

       "No, Tyrone, they don't."

       "The typing looks familiar.  Yes, I remember!  It's from one of the typewriters at the Philhellenon club.  If only we had proof that the others received these letters.  And if only you hadn't destroyed all the letters you previously had, I could take them to my superior and prove there's a conspiracy.."

       "Just a minute.  I may not have."  Dramsheet got up and went over to the filing cabinets.  "My maid often receives the mail.  Usually she leaves it on my desk, but sometimes she absently-mindedly files the more unimportant letters.  So I might still have a letter in these cabinets."  Dramsheet quickly leafed through them and with a smile of triumph extracted an unopened envelope.  He quickly tore it open, tossed aside the two blank sheets of paper and then read the message in the center of the page, whereupon his expression abruptly changed for the worse.

       "Is something wrong?  Do you have any idea who wrote this?"

       "I know exactly who wrote this letter.  Just as I know who wrote the anonymous and destroyed letters to Pierre Veniot, the destroyed letters to Veruca Manzoni, the destroyed letters to Oliver Corpse, but not the destroyed letters to Albert Hermann."

       "That's great.  Who wrote the letter?"

       "I did.  I wrote this letter after receiving a nightmare at the home of a friend whose typewriter I couldn't find.  I wrote it while I was still somewhat asleep, wrote down all the main images from the dream and when I finished with it, I mailed it to myself.  The first letter that we got was typed a few days ago one morning after I had stayed at the Philhellenon club.  Once I mailed the two letters I completely forgot everything.  I would have typed a third letter with my own typewriter today, mailed it to myself, then completely forget about it until I reopened it, but your presence prevented me from doing so.  I believe the same thing happened to Veniot, to Manzoni, and to Corpse, but I have my own reasons to believe that Pr. Hermann did not receive any such letters, because he did not write them."

       "So you wrote letters to yourself in your sleep."

       "Yes, I did."

       "But that's completely mad."

       "No doubt.  And no doubt that is what somebody definitely wants us to think, and wants anyone else who studies the compass of death to think.  We are dealing with a very clever murderer."

       "And a damn annoying one.  All the evidence keeps pointing to suicide.  Just great, a wonderful new clue arises and it falls completely flat.  It's insane."

       "Yes, insanity would go some way to explain the logic behind our murders and our culprit's modus vivendi.  Unfortunately, the trouble with madness is that occasionally it's not terribly logical which means we cannot understand the logic behind it.    But more often it follows its own logical pattern, with a few crucial elements twisted out of shape.  If we could figure out what those elements were we could help find our murderer."

       "You said you didn't think that Hermann didn't write any letters.  Why do you think that?"

       "That's a bit complicated, and it would take too much time to explain right now, because in a few minutes I have to be at the Federal Court of Appeal.  We have to meet again sometime today.  I suggest that we meet at Vanessa Wilentz's around one o'clock, in order to inform her about the death of Dr. Corpse.  I will however give you two questions that are absolutely vital to cracking the case.  One, what is the origin of the semen spot on Senator Veniot's eyeglasses?  Two, where did the Chinese spice box that killed Pr. Hermann come from?"

       "But we're no closer to answering either of those questions.  We've traced every import business and every antique shop in Ottawa, and we've haven't found a trace of the box."

       "Which would imply that the box was an heirloom of some sort.  Good day, Inspector Tyrone."  And with that Louis Dramsheet took up his papers and left his house, while Inspector Tyrone returned to the police office for a brief nap, while at the same time Professor Vivian Chelmnickon was returning to his office in the university.  He had cancelled his office hours, locked the door firmly behind him so that he would not be disturbed, and began to work out the preparations for his Friday morning seminar.

       Vivian had not got much sleep last night, since he was woken at one in the morning to be told of Corpse's death.  Naturally, he assumed it was suicide and blamed himself.  He begged for forgiveness and was granted it, but he didn't know that, and he only got worse as the night went on.  The police quickly found that the noose was made from wiring taken from Corpse's house, and that the cyanide came from a solution of wasp insecticide that Corpse had bought a few days ago.  The beaker that contained it had Corpse's fingerprints on it, and there was no evidence that anyone else had recently been in the apartment.  So the police decided that they should take Corpse to the morgue.  It was not easy:  Corpse was now so large that he couldn't fit through the doorway, so the police had to use a crowbar to smash it down.  And the scent of cyanide from the body was so strong the policemen had to wear gas masks for their own safety.  And so they had to wedge him down the doorway where he often got stuck, until suddenly he would loosen and start to roll down the staircase, nearly crushing the poor police officers in front of him until he finally reached the bottom of the stairs.  A doctor injected the body with a solution to counter the cyanide, when a policeman upstairs announced that he had found the will.

       Chelmnickon had to be told about this immediately of course.  He had been appointed the executor of Corpse's estate in previous wills, and was appointed so in this one as well, which had been signed and verified only last Wednesday.  But the new will had several dramatic changes in it:  Corpse had previously requested to be buried along with his parents back in Warsaw.  But now he denounced his parents as stupid, self-pitying fools and said he would not wish to be anywhere near them.  Instead of being buried in a Catholic cemetery he requested he be buried in the far corner of the public cemetery that was just on the outset of one of Ottawa's new suburbs.  This had to be done within forty-eight hours of his death, otherwise the will would be declared invalid:  in order to facilitate this a $10,000 advance was to be given to the director of the Oakeshott Funeral Groves.  Vivian was then to collect all the money in Corpse's accounts, sell his house, his documents and anything else of value, and then take all the combined cash and set it on fire.  There were signs that Corpse was not entirely enthusiastic about this course of events:  there had been a suggestion in his will, which he had crossed out with crayon, that all his money should be spent to insuring that all the poor children in the world could have bright red Columbian butterflies.  But this lapse into generosity was atypical:  the cruelest thing about the will for Vivian was the fact that although he was expected to pay for the funeral entirely out of his own pocket, he was explicitly forbidden from attending the burial itself, or the service.   Nor were any of Oliver's other friends to attend, nor were they to hold a memorial service on Oliver's behalf.

       This was all reasonably straightforward, and after the doctor had conducted a preliminary autopsy, it was arranged for Corpse to go to Oakeshott Funeral Groves.  Corpse was now so large they had to pack him into a horse trailer to get him there.  But just as Vivian sat down to start work on his seminar, he received a rude call from the director complaining why Corpse deserved such an expensive vehicle as a horse trailer, when it was patently obvious that he could fit, with a little difficulty, into a normal large size hearse.  Vivian politely apologized for any misunderstandings, and went back to work.  But fifteen minutes later the assistant funeral director called back to ask what Corpse's height was.  "Five foot-seven."  "So it's not three feet, nine inches?"  The assistant shamefully hung up and Vivian went back to work, but fifteen minutes later the assistant called back to say that all things being equal, they seemed to have misplaced the coffin.  And Corpse.  "How could your mislay a Polish psychiatrist weighing half a ton?"  "With extreme cleverness?"  And the assistant hung up, only to call back yet another fifteen minutes later to say that they had just got the bright idea that they may have mislabeled the coffins.  "You know how silly and worthless these teenage quasi-apprentices are."  So they decided they would look through all the coffins, but by a very strange occurrence they couldn't find any coffins.  Anyway one of the apprentices would take a solid look into the matter, and everything would be solved.  Ten minutes later, the assistant called back yet again to admit that not only had they not found the coffins, much less Oliver Corpse, they had also seemed to have mislaid the apprentice, as well as the young woman who delivered flowers from Brimelow Florists.  Naturally this was not the first time that the apprentice and the delivery girl had vanished at the same time, and they were usually to be found in the storage closet where they kept the formaldehyde.  Ten minutes later the assistant called back to say not only had they not the apprentice or the delivery girl or the coffins, much less Corpse, they seemed to have mislaid the formaldehyde closet.  Even more embarrassing they had also mislaid the room where the coffins lied in state.   The assistant had just gone through the door which he had always believed would lead to the showroom, but only found himself in the filing room.  A thorough search of the premises found that half the rooms were missing.  Vivian hung up, but ten minutes later the director called again to ask when he would get the $10,000 advance, while mentioning in passing that his assistant funeral director seemed to have vanished.  Vivian was not much good at giving men money that he did not have, but fortunately the phone stopped working on the other side.  He hung up, but ten minutes later a police car called by to ask that they were looking for Oakeshott Funeral Groves but couldn't find it.  Vivian searched for the address and gave it to them:  24 Hoare Road-112th Avenue.  But a few minutes later the police car called back to say that while there was a 23 Hoare Rood and a 25 Hoare Road there was no 24 Hoare Road.  Vivian hung up to look up the address, which he had not written down wrong, when another police car rung up saying that they seemed to have mislaid the first police car and while there was a 111th avenue and a 113th avenue, there was no sign at all of a 112th avenue.  They hung up again, and Vivian tried to call the funeral home once again, but there was no answer, and so he called the operator for assistance, but they couldn't find anything.  Indeed they privately confided that since writing out a telephone book was a long and laborious piece of work it would be better off all things considered if the employees were allowed to let off a little creative steam and make up completely imaginary telephone numbers.  Why one of the operators had set up a free telephone sex line, and a particularly masochistic one had set up an "Ida Amin fan club" in order to get free insults.  Vivian wanted to hang up and try someone else, but instead he was transferred to the city pound, the municipal waterworks, the city council, the public library system, the city sanitation system, the municipal fire department, all of whom cheerfully confessed to the most startling violations of simple good government, such as impounding imaginary dogs, impounding real fish, selling rare books to the Egyptians, and making up entirely unreal addresses in order to confuse the general public.  And as Vivian was shifted from department to department, as venial sin and venial sin mounted from lust to simple bribery to embezzled paper clips and smuggled staples, as each department admitted total incompetence and could only add that there was only one person in the whole department who could solve all of Vivian's problem, except that person had vanished, disappeared, gone missing, or had been temporarily mislaid, as it seemed all of the city's municipal employees had vanished into thin air, and that the private sector businesses near the completely imaginary address of 24 Hoare Road-112 th Avenue, where presumably there was an imaginary police car, another imaginary police car, an imaginary director, an imaginary assistant director, an imaginary showroom, an imaginary formaldehyde closet, with an imaginary apprentice and an imaginary delivery girl inside, a large number of imaginary coffins, and the not at all imaginary body of Oliver Corpse, that at any rate the private sector businesses near all the imaginary things had decided they could out-compete the public sector in completely vanishing and were giving it the old college university foundation try, as number and transfers and phone calls twisted and shuffled in such a way that Vivian thought that he was trapped in an optical illusion erector set lego block rubik's cube made of cheap coffee and secretary's lipstick (female and male), he finally couldn't take it any more, just as a hundred answering machines and special buzzers started singing we can't take it any more, and he finally shouted that "In the name of all the angels, give me back Oliver Corpse's corpse!"

       And with that the line went dead.  Rather surprised, Vivian hung up the telephone, and went back to work for exactly one hundred and seventy seven seconds when the telephone rang again.

       "Professor Vivian Chelmnickon?" asked the assistant director in an unbelievably embarrassed tone of voice.

       "Yes, I am he."

       "I just have to confirm a few facts about a burial that you are responsible for.  Oliver Lelewel Corpse.  Age fifty-seven.  Height, 170 cm,  Weight, 108 kg.  Canadian citizen since 1970, Polish citizenship restored by an act of the Polish Sejm, November 29, 1989.  Marital status single, though engaged to be married three times.  Employed as a professional psychiatrist, as a university lecturer on psychoanalysis, and as an essayist and a poet.  Hair:  black; eyes:  black."

       "That's right."

       "Very well, sir.  I hopefully will not have to bother you again today.  Good bye."  And with that the assistant funeral director of Oakeshott Funeral Groves hung up the phone.  Vivian took a deep breath and could now return to preparing his seminar.  But just after he had taken out another book of essays on the thought of Karl Jaspers, something very strange happened to him.

       It was another revelation, but it was not the usual sort of revelation he had been having for the past few weeks.  For a start he was getting the strong impression that he should not stop what he was doing while he waited for the revelation to reveal itself to him.  No, he was to open the book and start reading an unread essay on "Deconstruction and Karl Jaspers".   There was no obvious link between the two subjects but a budding young scholar thought that forging one would be as good a way of getting on to the academic gravy train as any other.  As Vivian started reading an interminable paragraph that started praising the one work by Jaspers that Vivian disliked the most, as the telephone rang yet once more, a strange sort of stage, with lovely red curtains and a brocaded border of blue and yellow or green appeared.  Answer the phone, implied the voice, and Vivian did as the curtains rose and the writer made a snide crack at a female deconstructionist.  As the delivery girl from the funeral home came on the other line, defending her honor from the snide assertions of certain neurotic assistant funeral directors and of certain greedy directors, Vivian saw himself looking at a scene in the House of Commons.  As the delivery girl's complaints that the last place she would have sex would be in a funeral home grew fainter in his mind and as the essay grew harder and harder to read, Vivian could see Ignatius Wilentz, clearly uncomfortable, and Thomas Edward Harding, perfectly affable, being regaled by Mrs. Alice Concrete about the angel she had seen eleven days ago.  You Can Hang Up You Can Stop Reading, said the revelation, Pay Attention.  Vivian rather dumbly hung up the phone and saw Wilentz plainly wishing he was somewhere else and Harding kindly trying to change the subject to "How is your wonderful daughter?  I've only met her a few times, and she seems like quite an intelligent and charming young woman.  She gets along so well with my Charles and isn't it nice that we can put aside our political differences, and I know Ignatius would agree because his daughter is married to Seinkewicz's son."

       "He just woke up from his coma last night." added Ignatius, "He'll be staying a few days in hospital, naturally, but his wife has come from Alberta to take care of him."

       "Oh, his wife has arrived.  Oh that will be very good for John."  At this point Mrs. Concrete saw no need to mention that Avare Roget Seinkewicz was her step-sister half-sister real sister, born of the same blood of the same man, born of the same woman who was denounced by her middle daughter after she bled to death.  Instead, Mrs. Concrete wanted to talk about her own daughter, born while she was still a virgin.  "Naturally, she's a very attractive young lady.  I think I raised her very well."

       "But I can't help noticing how different her personality, as well as her politics, are from you." added Harding.

       "Well, that's to be expected.  These young people always have their little intellectual flings.  But when she's my age she'll think the way I do."

       "Of course.  That's what we all want to think."

       Vivian's eyes started to glaze, started to search for something else to look for in this strange canvas of a strange stage, and in the corner of his eye he noticed Adrian Verrall who had just finished a few desultory hours of study and who had masturbation on his mind and was wondering that if he went over to Lucian Rudman's she might give him a few hints on how to pick up girls.  Vivian was disgusted with his vulgarity and thought very loudly that he should do something more serious, and lo, to his surprise, Adrian suddenly had a mad compulsion to search out the copy of The Captive Mind that Giles had given him as a birthday gift and which he only used to absent-mindedly write down the telephone numbers of unsuccessful dates.  Vivian was shocked at what he had done, and with that Adrian dropped the copy and went out of his apartment to walk the eight blocks to Lucian's apartment.  Could Vivian still make Adrian follow his commands?  "Tie your shoes" and Adrian stepped down to his boots, and untied the laces so that he could tie them up again.  "Buy a paper" and Adrian made a two-block detour to find the nearest Globe and Mail, then he sat down on a bench to start reading it.  It was completely uninteresting to him and Vivian was shocked at the expanse of his power.  As Adrian was reading a few pigeons started landing on his arms and he kindly patted them on the head, as if to say how sorry he was that he didn't have any food for them, would you like to use Canada's Greatest Newspaper for your nests?  As he patted them the birds curled into Adrian's hands to protect themselves from the cold, and Vivian saw the scene shift again, back to the Parliament, though he could still see Adrian in the corner of his eye and when he thought that why didn't Adrian go to mass today, Adrian recited a Mea Culpa that frightened some of the birds away.  But now Vivian's attention was focused back to the three MPs, who were being served coffee thanks to Thomas Edward Harding, and while Wilentz was letting his grow cold, because he didn't care for caffeine, and while Mrs. Alice Concrete was lacing her coffee with the special packet of shampoo that her step-mother had sent her and which had arrived late this week, Thomas Edward Harding was talking about the need to put people first, the need to help ordinary Canadians, the need to remember all the poor and starving people in our prayers, and also the need for prayers, and the need to form a party that would be a party of the Average Man.  And as he was going on about the joys of being an Average Man Edward Thomas Harding started to change, started to transform, and although he was still immaculately dressed and coiffured and was still perfectly respectable, he had now been turned into a large bird, which Vivian recognized to be a cuckoo.  Oddly enough the change of Harding into a bird hadn't really altered his voice much, it was still cheery and chippy as it had been before and the giant beak gave it a strange sort of echo that only added to the timbre of his speech, but now in a spontaneous display of typical new democratic affection he started patting Ignatius Wilentz on the head.  And he kept patting him, even when Wilentz would have clearly wished him not to do so, and as this scene was slowly unfolding the brocade of the border started to bleed as red weeds started to grow into and over and around the scene, and in yet another corner of the stage Vivian could see Louis Dramsheet, writing a few notes after a successful appearance at the Federal court of Appeal, he saw Dramsheet receiving a message that one of the law firm's secretaries was pregnant, he saw Dramsheet spending 74 seconds on arranging maternity leave and hiring a temporary replacement, whereupon he never thought of the secretary or her baby again, and even when in the future she would babble on about how wonderful her children were (she would have twins, one of each sex) Dramsheet would completely fail to pay any attention, but instead file in it a special department where he kept sports scores, special advertising sales, the values of new sports cars, and innumerable trivia about his siblings' affairs, information that was not to be remembered or cared about, but which could be retrieved so as not to seem hopelessly ignorant about his employees', and his sisters', and his brothers', and his colleagues' trivial obsessions.  But the strangest thing that Vivian saw in this scene was the fact that as Dramsheet completely forgot about his secretary, as he considered more legal precedents on property law, as he took an article about inheritance and how it differed from province to province, he was dreaming.  Louis Dramsheet did not know he was dreaming, he did not know that his unconsciousness was still working while he was reading precedents and torts law and affidavits, he did not know that there was a dream running in his brain that was completely inaccessible to him and to everyone else, except to Vivian Chelmnickon.  But Vivian could see, he could see a dream Dramsheet running around searching for something in the dark streets of Ottawa, searching for a giant compass of death, that could be seen rolling with assured malevolence several blocks in the distance.  And as he saw the compass rolling across everywhere in the special quarantined section of Dramsheet's unconsciousness, Vivian's mind returned to Parliament yet again, where Mrs. Concrete was still drinking her coffee laced with shampoo, but where Edward Thomas Harding Cuckoo had finally stopped patting Ignatius Wilentz on the head and had now turned his attention to the two secretaries who had just entered the room.  As they came in to perform a number of unimportant tasks, Thomas Harding Cuckoo started patting them on their heads, he kept patting them, and all he did was pat them.  They were in fact very attractive secretaries and they would have tempted John Seinkewicz; in fact John had been tempted by secretaries much less attractive than them, and so had Giles as well, and even Ignatius's brother and even Peter Wilentz would have found the secretaries very desirable, and perhaps even Hector Concrete would have been moved, but for Thomas Edward Harding Cuckoo, much less Edward Thomas Harding, there was no ulterior motive in his patting, all he was interested was patting the secretaries, and then so many other people, on the head, and as he was doing so the dream Louis Dramsheet screamed himself into Vivian's attention, screamed to him about the failure to control the compass of death, but as he was doing so, as the compass started to make cameos in the life of Adrian Verrall, Alice Concrete and Thomas Edward Harding Cuckoo, the red weeds that had being growing from the brocade of the border now started to grow faster, started to cover everything started to block out the light, but Vivian could still see, could still understand, what was happening in front of him, as for the first time he could actually begin to smell the revelations, smell the colour of the wallpaper behind the library carrels, where the men who screwed and fucked Veruca Manzoni were already disgusted with her even before they had their orgasms, the smell of yellowing pages and incompetent perfume that made Veruca Manzoni the kind of women who left men more smug and more pompous after sex, the smell of something completely different, the smell of bitter almonds in the crisp cold Polish winter air, mixed with the dirty scents and the dirty smells of the slum landlord's favorite possession, Amritsar Vistas, and through the wall of weeds he could see plump Oliver Corpse falling into blackness as the compass broke another boundary and was rolling through Ankara train stations with a dream Dramsheet in frantic pursuit, and Vivian could see the self-pitying tears she always cried even before she received the first of the letters, and Vivian could see irrelevancies appearing, could see vials of black ink being thrown into the air, smashing themselves in mid-air, the black ink suddenly turning blood red, and then into blood, and then back into green ink, that started to sing, and the song of the sentient singing ink about the colour of happy rainbows, as more ink turned black, turned blood, turning into singing sentient green ink, as it mixed with the smells of sour apples and the odors of truculent grapes oranges roses chrysanthemums rioting in an orgy of frustrated equivocally poisonously granted sexuality, Vivian could see Adrian Verrall still walking to Lucian Rudman's house, but on the verge of changing his mind, Adrian Verrall with sex on his brain and a seagull on his shoulder, and Vivian though he was going to drown in a sea of passion fruit and adulterated smells, and he could see dodos, and auks, and sea cows, and Tasmanian devils following a Catholic procession for the plaintive soul of Oliver Corpse, and he could still see Edward Harding Cuckoo patting everyone in a sea of people who could only be patted, but he did not notice until much later when it was too late that there was no sign and no appearance of his wife or that such a woman and such a concept could never have existed and Vivian could see the compass, the compass of death, the compass of agony as the weeds covered everything in sight as the compass broke the bonds of the special places where Dramsheet's special dreams were hidden as it rolled over from Ireland to Thailand to Sierra Leone to Palestine to Peru to the darkness and the cold and now the dream Dramsheet was being chased as the voice told Vivian Chelmnickon it was Time to Get Up He Had to go to Class and teach the seminar that he barely prepared for while the singing sentient ink sang about Italian lovers and Venice and murdered Italians and drowned librarians and castrated callous intellectuals as more ink turned from blue to blood to green singing ink and Vivian could even see a cohort of kitchen sinks reciting a chant a canticle a love song a sermon where the passages and the hellfire turned to Wagner and choirs and which said over and over and over again Veniotmanzonihermanncorpseanddramsheet and Vivian felt himself getting up and grabbing the papers as he saw the dream Dramsheet temporarily escape from the rampaging compass while everywhere else weeds had blotted out Concrete and Verrall and Wilentz and most of the kitchen sinks and even Thomas Harding Cuckoo, and Dramsheet had fallen, the dream Dramsheet, not the real one writing notes at the Federal Court of Appeal, the dream Dramsheet had fallen just as Vivian opened the door of his office, just as he started to walk down the halls just as he ignored all the comments and the calls and the bereavements and the condolences as he made his way to a classroom even though he had forgotten the route because all he could see even through the weeds and the smell were the final moments of the dream Dramsheet as he had fallen down in the back alleys of a city far away from any compass but not for away from nemesis from guilt from betrayal and from the people who wanted him to feel only these things who could not live without the thought that Catholic Dramsheet felt the way they could not imagine not feeling and Vivian saw just as his glazed and tearing eyes saw a poster advertising the essayist on Jaspers' deconstructionism he saw women coming from the shadows coming from the imaginary mists coming all the same all the same person the same portrait of Melissa Seferis Dramsheet all carrying the nice carving knives that the Dramsheets would have received in the mail had not Melissa Seferis Dramsheet not drowned to death destroying western civilization judeo-christian civilization and all the Mrs. Dramsheets' surrounded the one and only dream Dramsheet and held up their knives and like Oliver Corpse, recently deceased, whose Polish citizenship was restored by a special act of the Sejm, they were breast men, and as the blood shot itself up Dramsheet's throat from nine fatal wounds and as he staggered away with the shoulder blades men and the cheekbones men in hot pursuit as he exhaled hot air from his punctured lungs he turned in one final last look to Vivian before the weeds finally swamped and smothered everything except the compass of death before the revelation come to an end before Vivian reached out to touch the handle of the door to the room where the seminar was being held the dream Dramsheet said something that would have made even the real Dramsheet take pause said something from the very depths of his imaginary soul said something so sincere and trustful and desperate that Chelmnickon would never forget it as he opened the door and saw the first glimpses of his students and before he cleared the door frame and could close the door behind him Vivian Chelmnickon heard Dramsheet plead to him just before the lock latched that his very life was in danger and only Vivian could save him.

       Then Vivian blinked.  The revelation was no more, and all he could see were his students.  Immediately, he realized that Vanessa Wilentz and Constantine Rudman weren't present.

next: The War of the Omelettes

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