The Philhellenon Club

      To confuse a capital with its country is one of the most pernicious mistakes a journalist can make.  Who would now dare to write a history of the French revolution assuming Paris as a substitute for the rest of the country? who would assume that a visit to Washington, with a couple of hops to campuses in New York and Chicago, allowed you to see the real America? what fool would assume that all there is to the Ivory Coast or some other third world "miracle" is the glitzy Potemkinized surface of its capital?  In Canada this rule holds even more true, for the city of Ottawa is held in contempt by all the country's citizens.  Not hate of course, for hate is too pure and exhausting an emotion; instead an endless series of cheap shots is the birthright of every Canadian, and is indulged in by every humorist.  Ottawa was chosen only for pragmatic reasons, as larger, perhaps nobler, cities squabbled on grounds of race and language for the honor.  It can not even claim to be the most malignant of the artificial capitals, bypassed as it is by the nova Roma of Brasilla, the signal and signpost of an endless Portuguese corruption.  An offensively nice city, sterile and cold.  I shall therefore give my country exactly what it deserves, and make Ottawa, with a brief exception, the synecdoche of this nation.

      Two and a half blocks from the offices of the Ministry of Justice lies a large grand building, on land given in perpetuity to the Roman Catholic Church.  In recent years the Church gave it to an association of Lay Catholics to form the Philhellenon Club.  On this cold, early Friday afternoon in November, the day after the anniversary of Franz and Rebekah Wilentz, an exhausted Vivian Chelmnickon entered the premises.  Since the building had existed since Confederation, the inside was like a classic gentleman's clubs of the previous century; with tasteful and tactful scatterings of mahogany and calico, real vermillion toilet paper, many full and finely decorated bookcases, a real Ming vase (as well as several fake ones), diaphanous, translucent curtains, and fine redundant Arabian carpets.   It had a real valet, who had exchanged his native Irish accent for a perfect English one, who was well stocked with Woodhouse as well as Amis for the less rowdy members, and who promptly picked up Chelmnickon's coat.  It had one of the best smoking rooms in the city, (which was completely wasted because none of the members smoked,) the finest collect of ports, brandies and bourbons in the country, (which was almost as badly wasted because no-one drank them except Mrs. Chelmnickon), two meter tall mirrors with hand-crafted borders made of the finest gold (or was it lead?), with ruby settings, and finally a whole series of paintings by mediocre English 19th century portraitists that were placed around the club with mathematical precision.  The library, the pride and joy of the club, was a rather recent addition, having been donated by a member of the Papal delegation, one Albert Hermann.  His guide of selection was almost as strict as the first rule of the club, which he had drawn up himself, to wit, that no non-Catholic could enter the building.  The vast library that Hermann gave was slightly more generous; converts, agnostics, atheists and apostate Catholics could still be included, though there was a rule that no member could keep non-Catholic books overnight, a rule quite inconvenient for Doctor Roget and his medical texts, and the lawyer Louis Dramsheet, with his volumes of Cavafy.  It was also Dr. Hermann (for he was a doctor, having received them from seventeen countries, beating Chelmnickon's twelve), who had contributed the club's music selection; at the moment the members were listening to a pricelessly rare recording of Wagner conducting The Four Seasons.

      As he entered the first reading room Chelmnickon saw Oliver Corpse and Dr. Philippe Roget.  Vivian told Corpse about how he hadn't slept the night before, about the nasty experience of having known about Senator Veniot's death before he could have learned it, about the rather difficult class that had just ended, and about the strange woman who had followed him off the campus yelling racist curses into his ears.  He did not notice Roget mentioning to himself the names of Vanessa Wilentz, Adrian Verrall and Vivian Chelmnickon.  Corpse told Chelmnickon that one of the policemen assigned to the case was going to make a private visit to the club and meet him, Louis Dramsheet Q.C., and John Seinkewicz, M.P., in the Bernini Enclave.  Chelmnickon thanked him and left to enter the enclave.

      Corpse stayed in his rather large and comfortable chair, where he read a book of essays on Polish literature, as well as a strange anonymous letter he had just received today.  For Corpse, the club was a life-saver, providing him food, cordials, and a ready bed for a man who was so incapable of domestic chores, that when the Chelmnickons had met him again in London they were stunned to find that he was still mailing his laundry back to his mother in Warsaw.  This was the first reason why Corpse, in almost every way a pleasant and kind fellow, (in every case except where Mrs. Vivian Chelmnickon was concerned), had been utterly incapable of getting a wife.  Many women are inclined to take an indulgent view of male incompetence in household chores, but when Corpse tried to make a bed and ended up tying himself in knots, it was enough to discourage the most patient of the sex.  But more discouraging than the way he confused his psychiatric files with old newspapers, so the former ended up in the garbage and the latter in his cabinet, more disconcerting than his pronounced talent of hanging his suits upside down, and even more unnerving than his failure to turn off the bath water for up to weeks at a time was a second, more dangerous and far graver problem.  As a special set of nutritionists had told him in London, Corpse was the victim of an extremely rare disease;  the only other person who possessed it was an old Chinese noblewoman in the Maldives.  The disease was called M-26 Q37 Acetate Thymine R-37846 Potassium Inflammation H-99902 Psychcoscloseris, or more colloquially, Alfred Rosenberg Syndrome, and its crucial trait was the proclivity to gain and lose weight with astonishing speed.  When Corpse had been briefly detained for about four months back in Poland at the height of the Beirut regime, not only did he have to suffer the obvious privations, but he also had to suffer the embarrassment of having gained seventy pounds in prison (it would have been a hundred, but the jailers tried to reduce his weight).  And after he got out again, and had been severely beaten by a brother-in-law who thought Corpse must have made a deal with the police, he soon gained another hundred pounds.  When he was gaining weight, no diet would do any good, he seemed to fatten on the air itself.  And yet the oddest forms of exercise would suddenly reduce his weight:  Oliver's favorite was to go running around the shops of Warsaw handing out free lollipops to small children.  But when he was losing weight, nothing could increase it:  when he had emigrated from Poland, he was invited by the Hoover Institution to be a visiting scholar for a few months, and it did not take long for the directors to notice how much thinner he was than the plump figure photographed on the first day of exile, so they tactfully invited him to potluck breakfasts, lunches, special buffets, cocktail parties, special benefits, tried to introduce him to the joys of jelly beans, Trident chewing gum, potato chips, hot dogs, hamburgers, fried chicken, fried fish, ice cream, popcorn, taco chips, soda pop, chinese food delivered fresh to your doorstep, spare-ribs, pork-ribs, caesar's salads, pizzas (always with anchovies), hamburgers again, cheeseburgers, french fries, the glories of ketchup and mustard and relish, chocolate bars, cream puffs, bacon fritters and the bold new concept of "All You can Eat for Five dollars."  For three months the offices of the director of the Hoover Institution was so scattered with wrappers and boxes and bottles and twisters and plastic bags, that it made the apartment of the dirtiest hippy look like the inside of the Vatican just before Easter morning mass.  So naturally the Hoover Institution all chipped in and presented Corpse with an enormous seven-layer cake shaped just like St. Peter's Basilica.  All to no avail.  So finally one Wednesday afternoon the director of the Hoover Institution cunningly invited Corpse to the most prestigious restaurant in the city.  There, the director and three of his assistants tied him to a chair, and force-fed him for nine hours stuffing all the bacon, milk, champagne, soups, sauces, spaghettis they could conceivably find, as the finest venison in the United States was shredded in blenders and mixed with a creamed milk-orange juice pate, and everything topped off with the most fattening spices and huge gobs of bacon grease, until finally the floor was thick with 265 cartons of creamiest milk, and they decided that they had succeeded in their task.  But when the director found out two days later that Corpse had still lost ten pounds since the previous Friday he cancelled Corpse's grant and physically kicked him off the campus.  And when he learned afterwards that Corpse had since gained sixty pounds he was in hysterics for a month.  "Why I've just gained ten pounds this week" said Corpse to a most uninterested Roget a few minutes before Chelmnickon entered the club.

       Corpse had since then worked in London and increasingly in Canada until he finally moved to Ottawa ten years ago.  He had made his fortune, just in time to pay his enormous laundry bills, with a book on Psychiatric abuse in Eastern European countries.  Another book on the corruptions of Poland ensured his fame and he was often asked to the foundation dinner, the international symposium on cold war issues, the leading seminar in new anti-communist journals, and the special column in The Times and Encounter.  He had managed to write another few books from all this, all heavily praised, and had managed to cut back his clinical duties to the minimum.  But one problem continually nagged at him all this time.  It was that in all his work against the Communist regime he had never said anything against it as pungent as that cheating, adulterous, dishonest skunk Bertolt Brecht with his comment on the 1953 Berlin riots that the government should disband the people and elect a new one.  So he wrote a "Reply to Brecht," in trochaic heptameter, of which the climatic line was "Better that the people should elect a new government!"  He then happily showed his new work to Chelmnickon and was most surprised when Vivian said about the final line "Umm, Oliver, that sort of goes without saying."  But notwithstanding Vivian's doubts the "Reply" was published in TLS, and received very good reviews.

        Dr. Philippe Roget never paid any attention to Corpse, and instead focused on his medical texts.  He was a handsome man with prehensile ears, in his mid-thirties, who long had a reputation for being over serious about everything; the product of ten years in the dullest Catholic medical universities money could buy.  It had always been a mystery to his professional colleagues why the singularly charming and slightly younger Natasha Wilentz should marry him.  Had they known about all the affairs he had had with his secretaries (the more feminist the better) they would only be slightly less surprised.  But Natasha had married him, and for four years Roget, at least, had been very happy.  But for reasons he could not understand Natasha had asked him for a divorce, and after she had received his consent she had completely vanished from his life.  He had since heard that she had remarried, but though he had made a number of attempts to contact her, he could not find her.  He had therefore created his own private philosophy, which was this:  you should only love everything just a little bit without looking at it very closely, because things do not bear looking at very much, because if you look at them very hard you won't have enough love left over for the things that do bear looking at and don't tend to get lost under the refrigerator, along with your scissors and your christmas gift markers.  But then Roget had a meeting with Pr. Hermann which would change his life entirely.  And since then, Roget had therefore turned his attention to objects not of the flesh and spent his spare time reading medical texts in the comfort of the Philhellenon Club.

       When Chelmnickon reached the Bernini enclave John Seinkewicz M.P. was not inside but was reading a newspaper near the entrance.  Seinkewicz was a dark man, his skin having an unpleasant rugged look that was due more to childhood diseases than to the hard work that he was supposedly doing on the family farm.  He had represented the North-East Alberta riding of Chelmnitsky-Crowfoot for the Progressive Conservatives for eighteen years, and for that time he had found it politic to pretend that ownership of the family homestead was in his hands and not those of his rather dull and obnoxious brother-in-law Sampson Verrall.  He was a proud man, who could trace his lineage back to the Black Plague, to two young novices, one for the priesthood, the other for a nunnery.  When they found they had the plague they locked themselves in a dingy apartment and abandoned themselves to their lust.  When they stopped after three weeks the would-be nun realized that she was both cured and pregnant.  The two had no choice but to leave the priesthood in disgrace, marry, become very wealthy by hard work, and enter the rather porous Polish aristocracy.   Seinkewicz spent most of the time he spent in his riding at the town nearby the farm, with his wife Avare, and he spent his many evenings in Ottawa at a special room provided him by the Philhellenon Club.  When he first became an M.P he had commuted back and forth to Edmonton every week, despite suffering a very severe fear of flying, but recently his doctors advised him that too many commutings was bad for his health, so he had not seen his wife or his riding since Thanksgiving.

       His Polish was perfect, his French good enough to get in a few drinking parties with his Quebec tory comrades, and nothing annoyed him more than having to toady to the large Ukrainian community in his riding.  As he spoke a few phrasebook sayings to their meetings, obscene anagrams and acronyms based on those same phrases raced through his mind as he remembered how, as a small Polish child growing up in the small Polish-Albertan community, he would be bullied by the much larger right-wing Ukrainian boys.   He also remembered all the futile arguments he had with pro-Communist ones, and he also remembered how all of the anti-semitic comments that he personally cared to remember were spoken by Ukrainians.  Seinkewicz, who kept a portrait of Copernicus behind his desk in his constituency office and who made sure that a heavy dosage of salt would end up in the coffee of anyone stupid enough to tell a Polish joke in his presence, once told his closest friends that the Ukraine was a country the size of France with the cultural importance of Andorra.  When Ukraine gained her independence for the first time (when the external affairs minister said "regained" Seinkewicz positively winced) and Seinkewicz was trapped giving speeches to local Ukrainians about their liberation he thought to himself how unfortunate it was that the Ukraine was landlocked, because otherwise he could hope that it might sink into the sea.

       At the community hall, with the cenotaph dedicated to the dead of three wars, there was a special room dedicated to one of the two men that gave Seinkewicz's riding its name.  There, near the back wall was a portrait, plaque, and a few Ukrainian pamphlets dedicated to the great man who had been "the Founder of the First Independent Ukrainian state," the man who was nothing but a dirty illiterate seventeenth-century Cossack, the man who had been so cruel and barbaric that before the rise of Hitler he was the epitome of evil to the Jews, the man who thought of selling his Cossacks in slavery to the Tartars in return for power, the man Chelmnitsky.

        He had also murdered a large number of Poles, noted Seinkewicz, one cold Saturday afternoon eight years ago as he strode into the empty community hall and into the empty room.  Seinkewicz, who had never won an election with less than 60% of the vote, and who had just won the past election with 75%, looked around carefully in fear that he might be seen as he walked up to the idealized portrait in idealized military uniform.  He looked straight at the picture, and then spat on it.  Seinkewicz smiled, the spit would have surely evaporated by the time anyone came by on Monday, and he was walking smugly out of the room when his head was hit by something soft, damp and red.  It was there that Seinkewicz first learned the great truth that if you stare into the abyss, the abyss throws rotten tomatoes back at you.

       These rotten tomatoes were becoming more frequent, thought Seinkewicz as he read his paper, and idly pondered whether this might have something to do with the failure of his son's marriage to the mysterious and elusive Natasha Wilentz.  It was just at this point that Chelmnickon entered; Seinkewicz warmly greeted him.  After all he had read all of his books, and his home had the best collection of Polish literature in Alberta.  He had even convinced the college in his riding to give Czeslaw Milosz an honorary degree, which they did, in animal husbandry.  After he greeted Chelmnickon Seinkewicz turned his head and saw the third member of the meeting, Louis Dramsheet, already writing notes in the Bernini Enclave.

       Louis Dramsheet was a Queen's Counsel, of the firm Amsterdam, Bertrand, Calvino and Dramsheet.  He was of Greek extraction, whose paternal grandmother was half-Macedonian, and whose maternal grandmother was half-Croat.  Both grandmothers had badgered their children into following the Catholic faith, and with evident reluctance Dramsheet's father converted to Catholicism just on the outbreak of the Greek Civil War.  Since Catholicism was not much admired by the royalists, and positively disliked by the Communists, and not even much liked by the few people of independent mind in between, since the Croatian Ustashe had given Catholicism a bad taste in the whole Balkan peninsula, Dramsheet's father decided he would emigrate to Canada.  Since the possibility of emigrating to Canada in 1945 from Greece without knowing any English was quite impossible, Dramsheet's father gathered the little money he had, stole the passport of a Canadian tourist, offered his wife as a bribe to a steward on a ship bound to Montreal, denounced the steward as a rapist, and managed to bluff his way into a first class cabin.  Dramsheet was born twelve months later, having been conceived on the last day before entry to Canada (the ship had gone from Athens to Montreal via the Suez and Panama canals), and this stolid and most phlegmatic of men soon became a Force To Be Reckoned With in the Canadian Legal Community.  The first reason was because he was one of the most calm and intelligent men ever to be called before the bar.  The second, and far more important reason, was deadly serious and will be revealed in the next chapter.

       Aside from reading Catholic novels, working diligently on his legal briefs, and undergoing a strange compulsion that he never understood to go traveling on cruise ships, Louis Dramsheet's favorite hobby was the preparation of a book.  With evident relish he had read all the volumes of the Greek poet Constantine Cavafy and had come to the conclusion that this poet, who by a surprising coincidence was both not a Christian and definitely a homosexual, was not one of the century's greatest poets, but was in fact a minor, meretricious scribbler who was destined only for obscurity.  Dramsheet's work would surely have shattered Cavafy's reputation, but he faced one problem in trying to get it published.  No-one in Canada had ever heard of him:  so trying to get either The Idler, or The Canadian Forum or Fuse or Queen's Quarterly or This Magazine to run excerpts of his upcoming work in progress was one of the most futile things he had ever done.  Ever since then he was rereading all of Cavafy's work, looking for ways to improve his manuscript.

       There were a few other members of the club in attendance that day.  One was sitting fairly close by in the Velázquez Room, a black man, sitting at a desk, reading Leibniz, and writing notes for the first calculus textbook in Swahili.  This was "Senator" Nyere Naipaul from Tanzania; the "senator" label was a misnomer, since Tanzania had no upper house of parliament.  The title had instead been granted to him for his distinguished and hard working role as a legislator in the first fifteen years of independence.  He was a quiet, careful, cautious man, and had worn a number of essentially similar pale grey suits every day since his graduation from Cambridge.  His family was descended from slaves on Zanzibar, who had taken their patronym as a sure sign of civilization from one of the Indian Moslem stewards of one of the Arab Moslem princes.  Indeed Naipaul's whole family was Moslem, and his brother, with degrees from Cairo and Mecca Shariff, was Tanzania's leading expert in Islamic law and one of the highest ranking members of the Tanzanian Justice Ministry.  But Naipaul's mother was a devout Catholic and he had been brought up under her faith to become one of the Tanzanian church's leading lay members.  As a leading Christian in the one-party state Naipaul had been allowed several diplomatic positions on his retirement from parliament and he had spent the past few years as an advisor to the embassy in Canada, searching for technical advice to help build up Tanzania's infrastructure.  As a widowed Catholic Naipaul had a somewhat low opinion of Canada's black citizens.  He had told Corpse, who listened with perhaps excessive alacrity, that he had met a number of Black Muslims and none of them could tell him anything about Averroes.  Naipaul, in fact, was not terribly popular in the club; Chelmnickon was instantly distrustful of this defender of one-party rule, and the only other member of the club who noticed him at all was Roget.  Today, there were three rings on the left hand that wrote his Swahili translations of Leibniz.  One was a special Papal ring, given to Naipaul in honour of being a knight of the Vatican, the second was his old Cambridge ring and the third was a very strange one with an oddly patterned mark that Dramsheet noticed immediately but was too polite and too uninterested to inquire about.

       The club had no rule barring women, but Seinkewicz was privately relieved that the only female member of the club in attendance that day was a librarian named Manzoni.  She was a nervous, short, rather young and attractive young woman, though none of her boyfriends ever thought so.  As luck would have it, she was sitting in a small corner just opposite the Bernini enclave.  There she pawed a strange anonymous letter, the twelfth she had received in the past few months.  Oliver Corpse had just received a third of these sinister, disturbing letters that had nothing to do with the ones being sent to Vanessa Wilentz.  She was also pawing a letter sent to Naipaul by his brother in the Tanzanian Justice Ministry.  Naipaul had told her about it, and had given it to her to read.

       It went as follows:  "Her hair was long and fair and blonde, her breasts were full, her legs were long and graceful, and her lips were thin, like a chimpanzee's.  So naturally when she entered the country on a false passport I considered it my immediate responsibility to have her present whereabouts thoroughly examined.  I immediately learned that she had been conceived on some beach in Kenya, and her parents had each had a bastard after that.  Two officials were to keep watch on her at all times and to take a special interest in all her sexual activities.  And they did, watching her as she conducted herself around the city like some vermin infested prostitute, with typical western permissiveness.  But there were problems, for as they watched her masturbate in her hotel room my observers were clearly getting aroused.  So naturally they were detained, and because of the severity of the offense I ordered them to be whipped.  The whole punishment was put on videotape and copies of it were sent immediately to the relevant authorities.  My investigation of the young woman entered a new stage, as she realized she was being watched.  She took time off from her debaucheries to ask some people what was happening to her.  She did not know, of course, that all her informants were secretly giving me information.  She also did not know that her lovers were working for me as well.  They all gave her conflicting advice, hopeless applications, silly lies and the truth.  Finally, one of them told her to visit the brand new cathedral.  It was a wretched Wednesday evening when she entered the building.  Suddenly, my team appeared out of nowhere and arrested her.  She was, of course, horribly indignant and started screaming.  "How dare you treat me like a thug!  All you government bastards are just perverts!"  We all laughed at her naivety.  "We don't serve the ministry.  We are special policeman.  We're from Prague.  Exeunt Omnes.  Goodbye."

        Manzoni could not read Swahili so she could not understand the note in the Senator's handwriting to his brother:  "I do not believe you present either an adequate or humane solution to the problem.  There must be some other way."

        There was a strange creaking sound from outside the building, around the third floor, and Seinkewicz was oddly reminded of a strange bouncing sound he remembered when he had visited his nephew Adrian Verrall, as he and Chelmnickon joined Dramsheet in the Bernini enclave.  Dramsheet collected his notes on Cavafy and placed them and the volumes in his briefcase as they waited for the detective to arrive.  They did not have long to wait.

        Five minutes later and Inspector Joseph Tyrone entered the building.   Known as the most laconic man on the force he had once written a memorandum suggesting that the official language of the police should be changed to Spanish or Italian because that way one could avoid Subject Pronouns entirely.  Today he was carrying a few flash cards so that he would remember not to use his abbreviated style with civilians.  A strong, tall lanky man, with only a hint of a bald spot, Tyrone had served the force with distinction for fifteen years, and like Corpse, Naipaul, Dramsheet, and indeed like Constantine Rudman, Peter Wilentz, and Adrian Verrall, indeed like even Vanessa Wilentz, Aquilla Rogers, Elizabeth Concrete, Lucian Rudman, Ms. Manzoni, Miss Roda Ellen Van P----, and the person writing notes to Vanessa Wilentz, he was unmarried.  He always kept his hat on, even at Remembrance Day Services and in the shower, and he quickly sat himself down at the table in the Bernini Enclave.

       "Happy Christm--, Good Afternoon, gentlemen."  (The salutation was a new concept for Tyrone.)  "I am not here as a policeman, but as a private individual giving information to certain people.  I believe the Philhellenon Club should be aware of details in the case of Senator Veniot."

       "I heard the news this morning," said Seinkewicz.  "They found his body at the bottom of the elevator shaft at the Castlereagh Hotel.  When did he die?"

       "Here are the facts.  At four o'clock this morning one of the three elevator cars of the Castlereagh Hotel was brought down to the first floor and taken out of commission for half an hour to be cleaned.  After sweeping, washing, dusting, and shampooing the insides [with MARVALLEX carpet shampoo!   No shampoo gets your carpets cleaner, unless you have a divinity helping you!] one of the custodians went down to the basement to do maintenance on the bottom of the elevator car.  There he found Veniot's body.  A preliminary examination showed that the cause of death to be a great fall at around one to two this morning.  This fits with the evidence of a bellhop and a desk clerk who recognized Veniot coming into the Hotel at around twelve-thirty to quarter to one.  Veniot was a member of the board of directors of Castlereagh Hotel, and had a full set of keys to its various rooms.  Among these rooms was one that allowed access to the elevator shaft on the seventh floor.  There we found a dusty corridor leading to the shaft, and a number of footprints which matched the shoes that Veniot was wearing, including a scar in the sole below his left middle toe.

       The others stared at Tyrone strangely, since the preceding paragraph had actually been taped beforehand with the help of Tyrone's assistant in order to make it easier for them to understand, and Tyrone himself had spent the past two minutes lip-synching his own voice.  "Yes," said Seinkewicz.  "He had stepped on some gum in the Senate chambers one day, and I saw him using a cafeteria kitchen knife to scrape it off."

       "Were there any other footprints in the corridor?" asked Chelmnickon.

       "No.  And the footprints stop at a clear distance from the edge of the shaft.  Since there are no return prints the logical conclusion in that the man who wore the shoes jumped into the shaft, as opposed to accidentally falling."

       "So the evidence would appear to point very solidly to suicide." said Dramsheet.  "Did you check the footprints to see if there were any abnormalities in the indentation?"

       "To see if someone had made the steps backwards?  I already thought of that possibility and have refuted it."

       "And I suppose that after Veniot's fall, the shoes he was wearing were not in a condition to lend themselves to assist a forgery?"

       "Correct.  There is nothing about the corpse, the seventh floor or anything else that would cause one to view the case as anything other than suicide."

       "But you obviously have your suspicions..."

       Tyrone nodded, and Chelmnickon turned rather pale.  "There are no abnormalities, but there is..." Tyrone stopped and tried to decipher the illegible notes on the cards that his secretary had written for him.  " idiosyncrasy.  Something is there that should not be."

       "A stain on his spectacles."  said Chelmnickon.

       Tyrone was genuinely surprised.  "Yes.  How could you know...  When we examined the body, I noticed fluid on his glasses, which had fallen off in the descent.  Our forensic expert found it to be semen, but not the Senator's."

       Seinkewicz was stunned.  "But that would mean that the Senator was homosexual."

       Tyrone nodded again.  "That would be the simplest explanation.  I know that Veniot's unhappy marriage had ended ten years ago when he became a widower.  I have talked to one of the Senator's liberal colleagues, an Ignatius Wilentz, M.P., P.C., who claims to know nothing about his sexual tastes.  I ask you whether Veniot was a homosexual, and if so whether he had an affair with the many unmarried men in the club."

       "Absolutely no to both questions.  Veniot was not a homosexual, I've known him well ever since he entered the Senate.  And I give you my word of honour that no other member of the Philhellenon club is a homosexual."

      "Thank you, Mr. Seinkewicz.  I have requested a warrant to search Veniot's home.  Already something interesting has been found."


      "Ashes.  Apparently Senator Veniot burned something two days ago and swept the ashes into a wastepaper basket.  At the moment we have nothing more, but..."

      Dramsheet interrupted  "But something is more important than the deceased Senator's sexuality."

       "Correct.  We have one clear fact from Veniot's medical file; he was extremely nearsighted.  Because semen evaporates relatively quickly, because it would have frozen in the cold temperature of yesterday midnight, because there are no signs of freezing, and because semen would have hampered his eyesight, so that he would have wiped it away, we believe that the semen went on his eyeglasses after he entered the hotel."

       "Did you see any suspicious looking people?" asked Chelmnickon.

       "The desk clerk noticed two strange men in their mid- sixties, one taller than the other, both wearing Groucho Marx eyeglasses.  They entered the Hotel after one o'clock.  The entered the elevator whose shaft Veniot had fallen down and apparently rode up and down it.  Twenty minutes later they left.  While they were in the elevator the desk clerk heard a moaning sound from the elevator itself.  Because the shaft is soundproofed it could have been Veniot's screams as he fell.  Unfortunately the desk clerk has such a bad memory he cannot provide us with a description beyond what I've already given you.  But a number of explanations are possible.  First, Senator Veniot had a meeting with a homosexual partner, and afterwards killed himself, there being no connection between the two events.  Second, Senator Veniot had a meeting with the partner, and killed himself because of something that happened in this meeting.  Third, Senator Veniot had a meeting with a certain party, had sex with him, and was murdered by him.   Fourth, Senator Veniot had a meeting with a certain party, was forced to have sex with him, or otherwise subjected to sexual abuse and then murdered.   If it is any consolation to the Philhellenon club the fourth possibility is in my view the most probable one."

       "Why do you say that?" asked Seinkewicz.

       "The only evidence...the only evidence..."  Tyrone was having trouble reading his secretary's notes again.  "for any sexual contact by Senator Veniot is the semen on his glasses.  Naturally this implies that the Senator was receiving fellatio, which further implies that there was semen in his mouth.  We have found none there, even though there would be some if he had, say rinsed his mouth out afterwards.  Nor for that matter did we find anything else on the rest of his face."

       "Of course if he had taken the trouble to rinse his mouth out, he should have cleaned his glasses as well." noted Dramsheet.

       "Correct.  A continuing examination has found no semen around his anus.  Around his genitals there are no signs of any venereal diseases, though we are still waiting for a medical history to arrive from Winnipeg.  Naturally violent death can cause sudden ejaculations and loosening of the bowels.  There is some ejaculate around his genitals, but no evidence of intercourse.  You may be relieved to learn that we tested the deceased for AIDS, and found nothing."

       "I stand relieved." muttered Seinkewicz.

       "The most logical solution is that Veniot went to the hotel for a meeting and was accosted by more than one person.  Quite possibly it was the two people the desk-clerk noticed.  For reasons that are as yet unknown they decided to kill him, but before doing that one decided to humiliate him.  One of the men ejaculated over him, with the other person kept Veniot down.  They removed Veniot's keys, opened the entrance to the elevator shaft, put them back in his pocket and forced Veniot at gunpoint to walk down the corridor and down into the shaft.  His hands were kept above his head, so that he couldn't wipe his glasses."

       "But who could have wanted to kill him?" pleaded Chelmnickon.

       "A very good question.  There seems no reason to believe this is a 'mob' killing.  First, because Veniot had no connections with the Mob.  Second, the Mob has never killed a Canadian Senator.  Third, spurting semen on a potential victim is a very reckless way of committing a murder.  This is not a robbery, first, because it is odd for robbers to lurk around the seventh floor of hotels, second, nothing was stolen from his wallet, there being a hundred dollars in cash when we found it.  Since the murderers knew that Veniot had the keys to the elevator shafts, they must have known him fairly well.   We can therefore exclude this as a random serial killing, leaving aside the fact that serial killers rarely work in pairs.  And since I can't imagine why anyone would want to murder for political reasons an obscure ex-cabinet minister and a senator only a few years from retirement, I can only think of personal reasons.  From what M.P. Wilentz told me, the few friends that he had in Ottawa who were not his fellow parliamentarians were all members of the Philhellenon club.  Logically therefore a member of those two groups must have killed him."

       Seinkewicz was stunned.  "For what imaginable reason could anyone here have wanted to murder him?"

       "I am not employed to imagine.  I am paid to investigate."

       "You did say," said Dramsheet "that Veniot's glasses weren't actually on him when you discovered the body?"


       "I see.  That's very interesting."

       "The inquest is being delayed for a few weeks.  Since the only evidence for foul play is the semen stain, I shall not embarrass Veniot's memory and will keep this crucial piece of evidence out of the public until we can find a murderer.  Would it be too much to ask you to provide samples of your own semen."

       "Quite correct." said Chelmnickon coldly.

       "I see.  But could you tell me where you all were when  Veniot died?"   They all complied, Chelmnickon saying that he had been at the university all night, while Seinkewicz said that he was in bed at the Philhellenon club, and offered the butler as an alibi.   Dramsheet stated that he was at home sleeping and asked.  "Where was Veniot earlier that evening?  Perhaps some of the people he was with could tell he us where he was going and how he felt."

       "Veniot was at an evening session of the Senate.  He did not talk.  The last person to speak to him was Edward Thomas Harding.  He saw him as he entered a three and a half-hour NDP strategy session which didn't end until three o'clock this morning.  Harding said that he talked to Veniot for five minutes on a colleague's bill.  He did not notice anything unusual about Veniot.  That could be another point against the idea that Veniot committed suicide."

       Seinkewicz spoke up.  "But this is absurd.  No-one had the slightest reason to want to harm Veniot."

       "Why?  Had he only friends?"

       "Well not all three hundred and ninety eight of his parliamentary colleagues were on the closest of terms with him.  And I'm sure there were some of them who were not bursting with enthusiasm about a former Liberal cabinet minister.  But everyone who knew him had no real reason to dislike him."

       "An intriguing tribute, from a man of the opposing party."  Tyrone stirred slightly, departing from his script.  "If there were no real reasons to dislike him, what would be some of the imaginary ones?"

       "Well, he did tell some crude jokes about Professor Chelmnickon's wife with Dr. Corpse.  Ummm, sometimes he took sections of the newspaper while you were reading it.  Ummm, he wasn't terribly literate, he was one of the less clever members of the club, though Dramsheet didn't get nearly as angry at him than he did at Harding when both of them said they hadn't heard of Constantine Cavafy."

       Seinkewicz paused for Tyrone to ask the obvious question, and Dramsheet politely and privately seethed.  But Tyrone said nothing and Seinkewicz continued.  "Occasionally he wouldn't bring his fair share of the food to some of the parties the two of us were at.  Nothing important really."

       "A death with no obvious motive."

       "Have you checked the parliamentary debates to see if any MP had any strong animus against him?" asked Dramsheet.

       "Yes, I have.  There's nothing there.  Did any of you notice Veniot being worried by anything in the past few weeks?  Was he tense, or scared?"

       "Yes."  said Dramsheet.  "Three weeks ago he said that he had trouble sleeping the night before.  And there were a couple of times when he was reading something that he became evasive and furtive when I asked him how he was.  But Veniot was not one of my closest friends and I saw nothing unusual in his behavior.  I might add here that the three of us had no professional relationships with Veniot.  Veniot was not one of my clients, he and Seinkewicz were not working at cross-purposes at anything in Parliament and in the past month Chelmnickon would only have seen him a couple of times when he was at the club."

       "Did he have closer friends who could give more information?"

       "He had some cronies in Winnipeg.  But no close relations."

       "He appears to be a man of shallow friendships."

       "That is quite possible."

       "Is there any mail at the club for Veniot that I could look at?"

       "No.  Mail may be sent here, but because of the rules of the club, no non-Catholic material can remain here overnight.  In order to preserve the privacy of the member's correspondence there is a rule that no mail can remain here overnight as well."

       At this point the butler entered the Enclave, telling Chelmnickon and Seinkewicz that they had visitors in the main hall.  "I think this interview is over and done what." said Tyrone, misreading his final cue card.  They arose from their chairs and moved to the main hall where Chelmnickon instantly flinched on seeing his wife there.

       She had just removed her black coat, though she was still wearing the pillbox hat with the flagrantly long veil.  With a skirt that was far too short for a women of her age, a small brown vest and a very thin white T-shirt she moved over to Chelmnickon on tacky black stiletto high heels.  Chelmnickon could see the outline of the Galczynski Cross under her shirt and noticed the contempt in Corpse's eyes at its presence.   He did not notice the strange interest that Roget had in the cross.

       Then she started to argue: about how Chelmnickon couldn't have spent all night at the university, about how he was trying to avoid her, about how she called the Philhellenon club and found that Chelmnickon was staying the night here (the butler was not trained in the art of tactful deception), about how he must be sleeping with some of his students and produced a picture ("That's Vanessa Wilentz," said Dramsheet, "She's the niece of one of my clients."), about how it was obscene for him for to be chasing after a girl young enough to be his granddaughter ("He's actually younger than her father" said Tyrone), then she called him a shitty bastard for his denials, cursed the other members of the club for their interruptions, slapped the butler for suggesting she should leave, yelled "where do you think you're going" when Seinkewicz tried to sneak away, asked and whined why Vivian preferred to sleep at the Philhellenon Club when he could share a nice warm bed with her, made a feeble obscene joke about Corpse ("a first class prick with a fifth class dick"), demanded the Butler to get her some of the club's port, refused to give the butler a tip, but did insult him when he arrived with the port with admirable promptness, then she drank all the port in one gulp and yelled at the butler who was now serving Ms. Manzoni to get her some more, muttered very loudly the completely false statement that Vivian was impotent, blamed him for the fact that they didn't have any children, shouted that so everyone in the club could hear that she'd rather have Jaruzelski's bastards than one of Chelmnickon's ungrateful snotty brats, claimed that Chelmnickon never gave her any of the money he got from his books, awards and foundations (a lie), screamed that he was letting her starve to death (another lie), spat on him saying that she was virtually naked because he never gave her any money for clothes (yet another lie), yelled out for more port, and some brandy as well, while Seinkewicz slipped out with his guest into the Tintoretto room.

       Seinkewicz's guest was his son, Giles Seinkewicz, who was a few years older than his cousin and closest friend, Adrian Verrall, and was about eight years younger than the first husband of his wife, Natasha Wilentz.  Everyone agreed that Giles was a decent young man, who suffered only mildly from dyslexia.  Giles loved his father more sincerely of all the son-father pairs that are important in this novel (three).  He did not mind his father's angry opposition to George Woodcock and other Makhinist apologists, and still respected him notwithstanding his father's fervent, uncompromising, ostentatious and only mildly hypocritical opposition to contraception.  Everyone considered Giles charming, quiet, cautious, and when Giles had returned from his extraordinarily strange honeymoon his father got him a well-paying and obscure job not at all suited to Giles' talents, but perfectly consistent with his abilities.  So when Giles entered the Philhellenon club and entreated his father with Hello, and I'm just dropping in, and How are you Father, and Do you Know What Adrian is Doing, and It's a Nice Day, and Sorry, Of Course it Isn't a Nice Day, it's Thirteen Below Outside, and What are You Doing in Parliament Father, and How's Mother, it brightened John Seinkewicz to no end.

       But then Giles had to start talking about the real reason he had come here.  "Father, we have to do something about Dramsheet."

       "I've talked to him for years and he says he knows nothing."

       "I don't believe it.  He has to know something.  I can't go on like this anymore.  We've got to do something drastic."

       "Drastic?  Like what?"


       "Giles, that's completely absurd, not to mention utterly immoral.  How can you say something like this?"

       "Father, you know what I've been going through for the past three years, and it's intol..."  "You greedy pig!  After all I've done for you!" shrieked Mrs. Chelmnickon from the main hall.  Fortunately her voice fell down quickly and Giles could continue. "'s intolerable.  After what I've gone through I have a right to know, and if he knows and refuses to tell me, he deserves what's coming to him."

       "Out of question, Giles.  Besides, there's nothing in his record to embarrass him."

       "Are you sure?  We all know he's a life-long bachelor."

       "So what?  So are most of the cardinals I know."

       "Father, he's obviously homosexual."

       "No, he isn't, I just told the inspector that just came in.  And any member of the club could confirm it."

       "If only we could hypnotize him."

       "Giles, you know perfectly well that he can't be hypnotized.  That's why your father-in-law chose him as his lawyer."

       "Father, please!  There has to be something we can use against Dramsheet.  He's my only hope."  Giles collapsed into a chair.  "That dreadful book on Cavafy."

       "What about it?"

       "We could find an editor, or hell, we could just bribe one, and make him promise to publish the book, but only on the grounds that Dramsheet tells us all he knows."

       "Bribe someone?  What kind of money are we talking about?"

       "There should be one editor who would take $150,000."

       "Where are we going to find that sort of money?"

       "Father, surely you've saved that much from all your years in parliament."

       "Well yes, but I can't just give it away."

       "Father, I'm going to inherit the money anyway.  The only difference this way is that I get it twenty-five years earlier, and you get to see a grandchild before you die."

       "I can't Giles.  It's too extreme, it would be a gross abuse of my position, the whole family name would be ruined.  I mean, haven't you thought of some form of, well, not to put it too crudely, legal abandonment."

       "I tried that a few months ago.  But I can't initiate proceedings without some sort of acknowledgement from her that they're taking place.  I tried to get Dramsheet to send letters, but he considers that to be `threatening' and he refuses to send them.  Hell, I even tried getting a private investigator to follow Dramsheet and see if he could find anything."

       "Oh really?  And what happened?"

       "Absolutely nothing.  It was the most useless five thousand dollars I ever spent.  That's why I thought you might know something more."

       "Look Giles, I know something of what you're going through."

       "Actually father, you don't.  You simply had to be celibate for the first five years of your marriage.  This is something far worse."

       "Regardless, I can't try to manipulate Dramsheet in this way or in any another.  It would be dishonorable."

       Giles sighed, got up, thanked his father for the time and left the building by the side entrance.  Seinkewicz left the Tintoretto room and found that the Chelmnickons were in the process of leaving.  But Mrs. Chelmnickon had not finished her final argument:  "Why don't you say something back, you spineless bastard.  I've accused you of being a liar, and a skinflint and an adulterer and you just stand there and you always keep your calm.  I know everyone in the club hates me, even that worthless valet, may he shit in his pants for Christ's sake, but you just sit there and take everything so fucking calmly!  It's as if I'm just some toy, you put me up to this, so you can show off your decency and tolerance and forgiving nature and wonderful humanity while I make a goddamned fool of myself.  Your worthless bastard! You swine! You rotting earth!  I wish that maggots would just rise up and.... eat your pancreas right now!!"

       And then she started crying while her husband calmed her down.  Seinkewicz saw that Corpse and Roget were now slowly returning, having moved away during Mrs. Chelmnickon's outburst.  He did not see Manzoni take a lighter out of her purse and burn the letter she was reading, dropping the burning papers into the wastepaper basket and dousing the ashes with her cup of Arabian coffee.  Turning away from the entrance with evident relief Seinkewicz did not hear Mrs. Chelmnickon talking to her husband.  She had recovered her composure, and her foul mouth.  "So Fatso's gaining weight again?  I'm not surprised.  Of course that slug couldn't get it up.  If he got fucks on a regular basis he'd sink to the size of a goldfish."  Chelmnickon winced at her ingratitude, and as he opened the club door (Dramsheet had called the butler away to get some writing paper), and letting out, if only for a few brief seconds, the celestial sounds of Wagner conducting Vivaldi, he did not realize that what his wife had just said was perhaps the most profound, most honest, and most truthful thing said in the Philhellenon Club that afternoon.

Next: How M.Savoir Committed Suicide

previous: Three Monologues
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