Book 2: The Secrets of the Flannery O'Connor Brigade

The Drowned Librarian

Elizabeth, Vanessa, Constantine and Charles stepped back from the two figures.  This was a wise move, because although the sticks of dynamites that were ostentatiously wrapped around the twenty-six volumes of St. Thomas Aquinas were complete fakes and utterly useless, there was enough nitroglycerin in the secret vials stashed away in the binding to blow all of Chattenden Passey to Kingdom come.  To understand why two members of the Flannery O'Connor Brigade had just appeared in front of Elizabeth Concrete's apartment one would have to go back almost thirty hours earlier to the late Thursday afternoon when the body of Veruca Manzoni was being retrieved from the icy waters off Neville Chamberlain Wharf.  She had been dead for several hours, and by the time that Inspector Tyrone and Vice-Inspector Monagham had arrived it was obvious that she had drowned.  A few hours later, after Tyrone and Monagham had made a preliminary investigation of Manzoni's home, the two of them arrived at the Philhellenon club to discuss the death with Louis Dramsheet.

    The first matter on the table, however, was the anonymous note that had been sent to Vanessa Wilentz last Wednesday, and which Tyrone, Dramsheet, and Oliver Corpse had been assigned to investigate by the Honorable Ignatius Wilentz, MP.  The new letter went something like this:  To Citizen V.N. Wilentz:  Is it permissible, logical possible, morally necessary, situationally contiguous, epistemologically valid, to make analogies between the first party being addressed in this epistle and between one of the sub-divisions between the two equinoxes, and in particular the last half of said period between the equinoxes, to wit in particular the sub-division known vernacularly, if not vulgarly, as the day, and in particular to wit the latter half of the period between the equinoxes know vernacularly, if not vulgarly, as summer?  Sorry for bothering, completely unnecessary, this epistle shall finish at once, offer most profound apologies, hope you read more and more large books, have a happy Ash Wednesday, yours sincerely ANONYMOUS."

    "What a strange letter." said Monagham.

    "Yes, what do you make of it, Inspector?"

    "V.N.W. visit 12:15 Wednesday.  Platitudes-Nice."

    "Pardon?" asked Dramsheet.

    "The Inspector says that he visited Ms. Wilentz 12:15 yesterday afternoon, and told her some pleasing nothings."

    "I see.  Go on."

    "Corpse.  No evidence.  No psychotic.  No obsession. Verbose uncrime Personal Harmless.  Possible VNW meet A.M.  Recom, intricate VNW.  Clues logical on A.M."

    "He says that Dr. Corpse believes that there's no evidence that the writer is really dangerous, and that verbosity isn't really a crime.  He personally suggests it might be a good idea if Miss Wilentz meet Anonymous, and he recommends a thorough search of Miss Wilentz's life in order to find greater clues on who anonymous is."

    "I'm sorry, Inspector, but as Ignatius Wilentz's lawyer I am under specific instructions to ensure the privacy of his relatives as much as possible.  What else did Corpse say about our mysterious writer?"

    "A.M. not I.W.  Not P.W., E.C., C.H., V.C., L.R., Not shallow sex-mate, Vocab big, Recom further T.A.T V VNW.  Allusion W.Shakes (alias de V/O?).  S of Gen?"

    "He says that anonymous isn't her uncle, her brother, her roommate, her roommate's boyfriend, the teacher of one of her classes, or a strange woman who lives below her who dresses up as a man.  It's not likely to be one of Miss Wilentz's rather shallow ex-boyfriends, the vocabulary is too big.  He recommends further meeting Miss Wilentz.  He does suggest that the allusion to William Shakespeare, who may be Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, may reflect a sign of genius."

    "Inspector, you don't believe that idiocy about Shakespeare being someone else, do you?"

    "(@) M.X. + E.P. ^!"

    "The Inspector says both Malcolm X and Enoch Powell thought Shakespeare was somebody else."

    "How apposite.  I don't think we're going to learn anything more about who's sending the letters."

    "See VNW at IW, at C of U Of C, when A and B and R invite OP to C.  Philosophical V.P.  Pity if VNW's POM U.relieved."

    "He says that he's known Miss Wilentz for some time when he saw her at her uncle's, or when he had to visit Carleton to investigate assault or rape charges.  Personally, he thinks it's a pity if her peace of Mind went unrelieved."

    "Thank you Inspector.  We must now turn to the death of Miss Manzoni.  When was she last seen?"

    "x-it P. Library 11:38 in tears. T. Taxi to NCW and 'Poof'"

    "Inspector Tyrone says that Miss Manzoni left her library at..."

    "Don't bother, I understand.  From what we've learned, it would appear to be a suicide.  Do you have any reason to believe that this might not be the case, and do you have any reason to connect this with the death of Senator Veniot?"

    Inspector Tyrone's reply was admirably brief.  "No."

    "But she also did not leave a note.  Have you investigated her house to see if there might be anything that would lead her to commit suicide?"

    "Invgate f/o b. letters."

    "And was there nothing to be found from these burnt letters?"

    "1 frag: c(@) "Cyrenaica"

    "What's a Cyrenaica?" asked Vice-Inspector Monagham.

    "It's not a what, Vice-Inspector, it's a place.  It's a province of Libya."

    "What would that have to do with Manzoni?"

    "Apparently nothing.  On the other hand before Libya's independence Cyrenaica was the base of Omar Mukhtar, who bravely resisted Mussolini's attempts to conquer the country.  It took the Italians twenty years to succeed in capturing and executing him, and in doing so they murdered some ludicrously large proportion of Cyrenaica's population, something like a third to a half."

    "Query? Relevant?"

    "I don't know.  Manzoni has no more connection to Libya than any other Italian-Canadian."

    "In? be slow.  Must know more, but delay."

    "The inspector says he'll delay Manzoni's inquest and that of Senator Veniot if you think there's any reason.  But speaking for myself, we just can't keep everything a secret.  I know it would be embarrassing to reveal that two members of the club committed suicide, but we have to release that information unless there's another reason to believe the contrary."

    "I see.  I can only ask you to delay things as long as you can."  Dramsheet adjourned the meeting, and now started the private and surreptitious surveillance of other members of the Philhellenon club.  The first members to be so surveyed were Chelmnickon and Corpse, and in fact Dramsheet had overhead the conversation about Israel the next morning that Constantine Rudman had failed to interrupt.

     But if Dramsheet was only mildly suspicious about the death of Veruca Manzoni, and had only a vague intuition that there was any connection between her death and that of Senator Veniot, the leading members of the Flannery O'Connor Brigade irrationally (but correctly) believed that there was one.  And the following Friday morning they held a crisis meeting.

    In order to understand the Flannery O'Connor Brigade we must know more about its absolute leader, Professor Albert Hermann, who was currently living in 322 Drogheda Apartments.  The Flannery O'Connor Brigade was his creation, and it had branches in every country of the world.  Claiming to be the shock troops of the Lord, the brigade conceived all sorts of tactics for the glory of Roman Catholicism.  In Denmark it stalked X-rated movie theaters and cleverly smuggled in entire Ash-Wednesday services that would spring out at the most erotic moments.  In the old days of Communist Poland it would replace boring May Day speeches with the complete works of Orwell.  In South Korea it would burst, armed to the teeth, into cabinet meetings, shake everyone's hands, give out pamphlets defending papal infallibility, and then leave.  In Guatemala the special virgin brigade would crash high level parties and pierce their own wrists so they could cover the Supreme President and the American Ambassador with their own blood.  In Brazil it would adulterate all the condoms with piranhas, and in Sierra Leone they would set fires outside the homes of known (and unknown) adulterers.

     And working through the power of secret Papal commissions and Special Mystical traditions, Albert Hermann was the absolute leader of the two thousand, four hundred and thirty members of the Flannery O'Connor Brigade.  He was just waking up eighteen hours before the end of the last chapter when God talked to him.

    "And how are you today, Albert?"

    "Oh, not so well I'm afraid Lord."

    "Oh dear, and why would that be?" (Actually God, or as the Voice in Pr. Hermann's head preferred to call Himself, the Holy Ghost, knew perfectly well what Pr. Hermann's problem was, but He found that occasionally feigning ignorance made Him a better conversationalist.)

    "I had this rather nasty nightmare last night."

    "Oh dear, how unpleasant.  What was it about Albert?"

    "The Albigensians I'm afraid."

    "Oh yes, they've become so much more popular in atheist circles now that we've shown that the Inquisition wasn't really that bad after all.  I suppose Pope Innocent III was there."

    "Oh, yes, and so was the bishop who, when asked what to do when the Holy Army had to confront a town full of Albigensians and good Catholics, said 'Kill them all, God will sort them out.'  Naturally, this was all very distressing."

    "Are you going to be all right?"

    "Oh, with Your help, there's no reason why anything should go wrong.  Thank You again for everything you've done for me."

    "You're welcome; I'm always happy to help.  Oh, Albert, I do believe there is something I should tell you about.  Two things actually."

    "Oh, really Lord?  What is it?"

    "I can't really tell you more, with this free will and everything, but I can say that your life is in some sort of danger.  I would be very careful if I were you.  It's not as if someone was going to openly attack you, but you are going to confront something very dangerous in the near future."

    "Well, thank You Lord for telling me even this.  I shall be on my guard from this time onwards.  What's the second thing?"

    "There's a conspiracy going around to kill someone.  It's very odd however, because the plot plans to murder this person after said person is already dead.  To makes things even stranger the intended victim isn't dead yet."

    "How distressing.  Can You tell me anything about this victim?"

    "Well, I can't tell you too much, but it is very important that you do all you can to stop this conspiracy from succeeding."

    Albert considered the problem for a few seconds.  "How very odd.  Why would anyone want to kill someone who was already dead?  Oh well, I'll just have to solve the problem myself.  Thank You for Your help Lord."

    During this conversation Albert had got out of bed, had showered, and gotten dressed, and was now at his desk transcribing his conversations with the holy Ghost.  "By the way," asked the Holy Ghost, "how are those petitions coming along?"

    "Well the one to have Father Matthew Fox excommunicated as a heretic is going rather well, actually."

    "Good for you.  Good riddance to bad sentimental fashionable feminist mystical rubbish.  And the second one?"

    "Well the one to have the political scientist Leo Strauss excommunicated and his ideas declared anathema is a little trickier."

    "You mean the fact that Strauss is dead is causing a problem?"


    "Also the fact that Strauss was Jewish and never a member of the church at all?  No doubt that's causing problems as well."

    "True, but with Your help I think we can overcome these obstacles."

    "Oh well, I'll simply have to talk to a few of the relevant cardinals.  By the way Albert I'm going to give you a special gift today.  You can ask me any three questions that you want, and I'll give you the correct answers."

    "Why that's wonderful.  Thank You very much Lord!  Alright.  First question.  Where is Genet Vovelle?"

    "At this very moment?  He's in Senegal, I believe, selling toothpaste.  Making considerable progress in promoting oral hygiene, with the full backing of the Senegalese government.  Senegal had one of the more benevolent one-party states, not at all like Burundi, which is ruled by an ethnic hierarchy which has murdered tens of thousands of people.  Very nasty.  Oddly enough that brings to mind Rwanda which by contrast seems a much more sensible country, except in a few months from now that's not going to be the case.  Once you thwart this conspiracy to kill someone who is already dead, you should probably do something about Rwanda.  Regardless, Vovelle has already sired an illegitimate child, very naughty of him, considering that his wife is still alive and perfectly virtuous back in Canada.  Just to punish him, I've given him the measles this week."

    "Well that's the least he deserves.  How very merciful You are, Holy Ghost."

    "Oh, thank you very much.  By the way you may be interested to know that the reason Madame Vovelle loudly abuses Africans in public has nothing to do with the fact that her husband has impregnated an African woman younger than her two daughters."

    "I already knew that, actually.  But it's nice of you to tell me so that I can be absolutely sure."

    "What's your second question?"

    "What's your favorite movie?"

    "Oh, Casablanca.  I find it quite charming, actually.  And your third question?"

    "Where is Natasha Wilentz?"

    "At this moment in time, Natasha Wilentz is in Copenhagen.  She lives at 316 Steno Apartments and is currently reading complex modernist novels.  But this is rather strange.  For some reason, there's this part of her floating around Ottawa."

    "Why does she not want to see her husband?"

    "I'm sorry Albert, but that's four questions."

    "Oh dear, you're right.  I'm terribly sorry, I just completely forgot."

    "Of course, if you're really interested, I could tell you why she has separated herself from her husband..."

    "Oh, no, I couldn't impose on You.  Perhaps You could tell me some other time."

    "Oh, all right.  Well I hope you have a very nice and wonderful day, and do please be careful, Albert."

    "Thank You very much, Lord.  And I hope You have a very nice and wonderful day as well, and I do hope that You're careful as well."  Pr. Hermann then continued to copy out this conversation in his notebook for about an hour.  When he was finished he took out the dagger of St. Francis of Assisi from the special compartment he had built into his bed, and placed it somewhere on his person.  He then put on a recording of Beethoven's twelfth symphony as he prepared himself for a meeting of the Canadian members of the Flannery O'Connor Brigade.  Already the first one had arrived; for there was a knock on his window and the Defender of St. Rose of Lima was outside, having cleverly snuck itself through the drainage pipe.

    The other members soon arrived, there being a total of six when one included Hermann.  None of the members, three men and three women, ever referred to themselves by their real names, but instead used the special titles that they had been given.  Hermann himself, as leader of the Brigade, was given the unique title of the Shiner of the Shoes of the Fisherman.  The other five titles were the Defender of St. Rose of Lima, the Holder of the Averroes Seal, the Master of the Marthas, the Legionmeister of the Signet of Saint Luke, and the Murderess of the Order of the Stigmata.  The last named position was held by none other than Madame Catherine Jeannette Roget Vovelle.  These six members were the full members of the Brigade in Canada, though there were about thirty fellow travelers across the country who would obey the Brigade's orders.  Only one of these fellow travelers has been encountered so far.

    The Legionmeister of the Signet of Saint Luke, instead of immediately joining the others and starting the emergency meeting off as quickly as possible, was momentarily captivated by the library of the Shiner of the Shoes.  He was struck by the strange titles; Shakespeare's Alcibiades, Aristotle's book on Humor, Dickens' complete Mystery of Edwin Drood, Lavoisier's comments on the periodic table, Moliere's Happy Dancing People, Goethe's Faust Part III, and Flaubert's I can't read William Burroughs Without Bursting into Maniacal Laughter, it's so Derivative.  As the Legionmeister examined the Library, the Shiner of the Shoes appeared and pointed to Alcibiades.  "I have it on very good authority that the author wrote all the plays that have been attributed to him." Somewhat shamefaced, the Legionmeister returned with the others to the dining room table, just sneaking a look back at a book called Balzac, by Dr. K. Marx.

    After they had all sat down the Murderess of the Order of the Stigmata spoke up and said "I would just like to make it perfectly clear to all who could be listening and say that something very unpleasant should happen to the Negroes of the world.  I suggest that we should all..." and then she stopped.  "What horrible yet appropriate punishment have I not suggested?"

    Hermann tried to think.  "Let's see.  You've suggested that we cut them into little pieces, that we cut them into slightly larger pieces, and that we have them all hanged with their own belts, (which means we would have to lobby for a government program to give the women and children their own belts).  You've also suggested that we take and hide all their children and we refuse to tell them where we've hid them, that we take them all to Czechoslovakia and show how petty their problems are compared to those who have lived under five decades of totalitarianism.  Then after that we then throw them all into the sea, which would be tricky because Czechoslovakia is landlocked."

     The Legionmeister interrupted.  "There's talk that Czechoslovakia will be partioned shortly.  Slovakia will be a poor rural country with very little to say for it, but the Czech Republic will be so morally cool it will deserve access to the sea."

      Hermann nodded with little interest.  "You've suggested that we subject them to mass euthanasia by forcing them to read Marshall McLuhan, that we all have them poisoned with good clean milk, and that we all have them burned at the stake.  What else is there?"

    The Master of the Marthas spoke up.  "We haven't sautéed them."

    "Yes," agreed the Holder of the Averroes seal.  "We could add parsley and rosemary.  And I know someone who could provide us with special vinegars."

    "That sounds delicious." said the Legionmeister.

    "No!" said Madame Vovelle.  "That would be too good for them.  We should all drop grand pianos on their heads."

    "But there are millions of Negroes, and only a handful of grand pianos on the continent." objected the Defender of St. Rose of Lima.

    "All right" suggested Hermann.  "We could produce a make work program employing all the Negroes at making grand pianos.  The Negroes would make more money, they would be able to have firmer family structures, there would be more money for their communities, and more money for their educational infrastructure, and there would be less need for crime and drugs, and because we would be making millions of these pianos all the educational and housing and health and transport systems that fell apart because all the whites left and made sure their taxes wouldn't pay for black education, all these systems would be rebuilt because making grand pianos would be a major industry."

    "Yes," enthused the Defender. "The blacks would now have the chance for real opportunities, and they could become model citizens.  Or at least they would be until we dropped the pianos on their heads."

     Madame Vovelle nodded.  "They are an execrable race!  Why the rate of drug addiction among black American youth is almost as high as that as white American youth!  And their birthrate has been falling for almost three decades, which means they must be using more contraception!  And when you adjust for greater poverty, the teenage pregnancy rate is an abominable 10% higher than that of whites!  And their graduation rate is so low, it's slightly lower than that of whites!  And their racist and sexist rap music is almost as talentless and discordant as racist and sexist heavy metal music!  What are we to do with such people?"

    At that point the door, which the Shiner of the Shoes had not bothered to lock, swung open, and Aquilla Rogers staggered in until she collapsed a few feet from the table.  After quickly locking the door the Brigade gathered around the prostrate Rogers and examined her.

    "What's she doing here?" asked the Legionmeister.

    "She has an incredible fever." commented the Murderess.

    "She can barely move." observed the Holder.

    "Se-se-se," sputtered Aquilla.

    "What's she saying?" asked the Defender.

    "Seduced and abandoned." croaked Aquilla.

    "Is that possible?" asked the Shiner of the Shoes.

    "It was almost inevitable." argued the Master.

    "Give her something to drink." said someone and the cold, fever-ridden girl was brought to a couch.  The Master opened a vial of holy hydrochloric acid and sprinkled a couple of drops on Aquilla.  This shocked her into some sort of consciousness.  "Now could you please tell us what happened to you." asked Hermann in a grandfatherly tone of voice.

    "Forgive me, most respected member of the Roman Catholic laity, I have sinned."

    "As have we all." said Hermann comfortingly, if not accurately.

    "I have engaged in sexual intercourse."

    "With what?" asked the Holder.

    "With a man of course.  Who else could it have been with?"

    "Well you could have had intercourse with a completely inanimate object.  Like a writing desk for instance."

    "How could I have sex with a writing desk?"

    "I wouldn't know.  I'm not an expert on the topic.  But in order to reach the truth one must carefully and dispassionately eliminate all possible alternatives."

    "Who was the man?" asked the Master.

    "I can't say...  It's so hard to explain.  Do you know what it's like when you face something unbearably sweet?"

    "No." said Hermann, who had completely forgotten what sugar tasted like.

    "I couldn't resist, it was so pleasurable.  But afterwards, in my dreams, I could hear him laughing at me."

    "Pardon me." interrupted Hermann, "I don't read many romantic novels..."

    "You've never read any romantic novels." noted the Legionmeister.

    "Well yes, but I vaguely recall that guilt often follows this sort of seduction.  What's so special about this case?"

    "Good Lord." cried the Defender.  "What's she doing here at a top secret meeting of the Flannery O'Connor Brigade?  This is incredibly dangerous.  We should throw her out the door at once, or better yet, out the window."

    "Quiet!" said Madame Vovelle.  "She will not leave until she is cured"  This was said in a tone of such evident authority that it completely silenced the Defender, who could only later pettily complain that she had Loyola and Tertullian on her side.

    "She's very ill." noted the Master.  The Master of the Marthas had a number of aliases, such as the Master and the Margarita, Have some Madeira my dear, and Martha and the Muffins.  "I see no signs of drugs or any other kind of chemical.  Something must have happened to her.  And I suspect I know what it is."  The Master pulled out a photograph of Charles Harding.  "Behold the man!"

    Aquilla protested:  "No, you're wrong...No, you can't do anything, can't let you..." but then she lapsed into unconsciousness and the Master had to revive her with more drops of holy hydrochloric acid, and then spoke to her.

    "Aquilla Rogers, you will leave this place at once.  Charles Harding is an enemy of God, and no force on Earth can protect him.  Tonight you will visit him when he arrives at his whore's apartments.  When all the innocent and the uninvolved have left and when you are safely away, the Flannery O'Connor Brigade shall confront him.  I myself will lead the charge and I shall bring a fellow traveler along with me.  Justice shall be done."

    Madame Vovelle immediately agreed to this idea, and so did the Defender, who was anxious for Rogers to leave.  That insured three out of the six members agreed, and Hermann always joined any consensus, while the Holder had no strong opinions one way or the other.  Rogers was quickly bundled out of the room, and the Brigade returned to the two most important matters at hand.

    Hermann spoke.  "Veruca Manzoni is dead.  She is the second member of the Philhellenon club to die within eight days.  I refuse to believe that this is a coincidence, and would instead argue that there is a conspiracy against the Philhellenon club.  As three of us here are members of the club, this could pose a mortal threat to us.  We are dealing with a very clever and very dangerous man, a man (or woman) who is capable of committing murders that look like suicide.  Our enemy has however committed three mistakes.  First, when he killed Senator Veniot he left a spot of semen on Veniot's spectacles which cannot be rationally explained.  Second, he was not cunning enough to have his victims write suicide notes.  Third, all who knew Veniot and Manzoni understood that in normal circumstances they would not conceive of killing themselves."

    The other five members all offered their agreement with Hermann's interpretation, which was wrong in several crucial respects.  Hermann continued.  "Today, I have learned from an impeccable source that my own life is in danger.  Naturally, I have taken immediate precautions.  As the leader of the Brigade I have always worn a bullet-proof vest.  From this day forward, the Dagger of St. Francis of Assisi shall always be on my person.  And I am proud to say that the woman who has granted us mermaid soap and the opportunity for the rest of humanity to purge themselves of lust, has also provided a detergent that will clean you while you are wearing all your clothes."  Madame Vovelle smiled as she remembered the invention she had absent-mindedly made in her spare time.  "I believe that the threat against my own life is connected to the deaths of Veniot and Manzoni, but it is not enough to simply take defensive measures.  We must take the offensive and I have every reason to believe that if we work now we can achieve our dearest goal.  For the past few weeks, we have been making subtle preparations, clever schemes, secret plans, and now we have reason to believe that heaven itself will be giving special assistance to further our endeavors.  It is now time for us to begin the grand plan."

    And so they discussed it for another forty-five minutes until they quickly adjourned.  Hermann put on a recording of the Wagner opera Isaiah, which in all honesty wasn't really one of his better ones, because every ten minutes Wagner would interrupt the opera to say what wonderful people the Jews were and what a terrible rotter he was to say such nasty things about them.  Hermann spent the rest of the morning attending to Vatican embassy business, saying his prayers and looking at his correspondence (which he always opened very carefully, and always put the wrappings down the garbage chute quickly so there wouldn't ever be a mess).

    And fifteen hours later the Master of the Marthas and the fellow traveler were confronting Constantine, Vanessa, Charles and Elizabeth right outside the apartment.  "Now," said the advancing Master, with the fellow traveler following right behind carrying 26 volumes of St. Thomas Aquinas loaded with fake dynamite "I will ask you one question, and only one question.  You will answer it as fully as possible, and if you do not answer it to my satisfaction, my assistant will... well I'm sure you are all reasonably imaginative people."

    The four looked at each others nervously, then the Master spoke.  "Where is Vivian Chelmnickon?"

    "What?" asked Elizabeth.

    "That is not the right answer!" and the fellow traveler made threatening moves with the volumes.

    "Wait!" shouted Vanessa.  And she opened the door and got the telephone book.  "He's probably at home.  His address is 152 Laurier Drive."

    "Oh." said the Master.  "All right.  Thank you." and the two were preparing to leave when the Master noticed one of the diaries of Anais Ninny lying on the floor.  "Excuse me, but we have to go back into your apartment for a moment."  The two entered, followed by the four students while the fellow traveler gratefully put the twenty-six volumes down on the couch.  The Master picked up the book, opened it half-way, dropped it on the floor, and summoned the fellow traveler.

    "You will jump up and down on this book three times--for the trinity."


    "You will now jump up and down on this book seven times--for all the sacraments.


    "You will now jump up and down on this book nine times-for the orders of the angels.

    Stamp-stamp-attchoo-stamp-stamp-stamp-attchoo-stamp-stamp- attchoo-stamp-attchoo-attchoo-stamp.

    "You will now jump up and down on this book two hundred and seventy times-for all the popes."

    The fellow traveler looked at the Master of the Marthas with a mixture of shock and "Bloody hell I will."  Ordinarily the Master would have forced the poor person to do it anyway, but the book was in rotten enough shape for both of them to relent.  The fellow traveler picked up the book and gave it to a horrified Elizabeth.

    "Of course, we'll be giving you a completely new book." said the fellow traveler.  "Not Anais Ninny, of course, but in fact something much better.  How would you like one of François Mauriac's novels?  Say A Generation of Vipers?"

    "We can't give them Mauriac." said an outraged Master.  "He's too liberal a Catholic.  He probably believed in such heresies as universal salvation.  Moreover, the book you're thinking of is 'The Knot of Vipers.'  Besides, the woman has probably never heard of him.  Out of the question.  Give them something by Evelyn Waugh."

    "But we can't!  We gave our final copy of Brideshead Revisited to the last house we broke into."

    "So we did.  Alright what other books can we give them?"

    "Well, since this is the Flannery O'Connor Brigade, perhaps we could give them a book by Flannery O'Connor?"

    "But that would be too obvious."

    "How about Czeslaw Milosz, the great Polish poet of freedom and human dignity, winner of the 1980 Nobel Prize for Literature, author of the classic line: 'Irony is the glory of slaves,' and who has a statue in one of the libraries of the University of Alberta?  We could give them The Captive Mind."

    "No, he's not ostentatiously Catholic enough.  Fortunately in emergencies like this, I always carry several copies of Diary of a Country Priest by George Bernanos."  The Master extracted a copy and fourteen other copies fell on the floor.  The fellow traveler scrambled to gather them all up, while the Master placed the book in the space where Anais Ninny's diary used to be.  Unknown to the four students, the book was bugged.  The Fellow traveler picked up the twenty-six volumes of St. Thomas Aquinas, and the two of them vanished into the shadows.

    Given the extremely strange nature of what had just occurred, none of the four decided to telephone the police.  After waiting for a few minutes to see if they might come back, Charles and Elizabeth decided to leave.  After cleaning up a little, Elizabeth took with her a change of clothes and Charles picked up his strange metal box, and the two of them left, with Elizabeth kissing Vanessa and giggling a little in a way that made Constantine very uncomfortable.  That left Vanessa and Constantine.  "Do you want some coffee?" she asked.

    "Uh, no, not really, thank you."

    "That's good, because I don't like coffee and I don't know how to make it."  Constantine felt there was little left for him to do but leave, so he did, with thoughts of thorns in his heads.  Vanessa remained alone in her apartment and worried about her English essay.

    The next day was a Saturday and Giles Seinkewicz had decided that he would visit the Philhellenon Club.  The butler informed him that very few members were in; only Louis Dramsheet, Dr. Roget, and Pr. Hermann.  Giles nodded, and walked straight to the Bernini enclave.  There he found Dramsheet, working as usual on his book on Cavafy.  Giles stood up straight, took a deep breath and said in a loud, confident voice "I want to have sex with you."

    Dramsheet did not look up at all, and simply said "Really?"

    "Oh yes.  Very much so."

    "Just a moment." and Dramsheet made an awkward unsexual shuffling in his seat.  "Now could you repeat what you just said?"

    "I want you, Louis Dramsheet.  I want you from the very depths of my being.  I'm filled with passion for you, and I can barely control my own urges."

    "Really.  And at any time?"

    "Any time.  Any place, I'll do it.  Regardless of the consequences, regardless of what anyone thinks, I don't even want you to ask me, I want us to get it on without any words at all."

    "Ah." said Dramsheet.  And then there was a sharp click.

    "What was that?"

    "It was my tape recorder being switched off."

    "You had a tape recorder on?  What the devil for?"

    "So that you if you falsely accused me in the following months of having raped you, I could enter this as evidence in my defense, and therefore have any case against me dismissed."

    "Why would I do something horrible like that?  All I want to do is make love to you."

    "No, you don't."  He continued reading the rather long Cavafy poem for another thirty seconds and then explained.  "You do not want to have sex with me.  You merely wish to present an ostentatiously adulterous desire in my presence so that I would report it to your wife, with the hope that she might initiate divorce proceedings, which would involve you meeting her.  Since I have not the slightest doubt that you are completely heterosexual, your offer is completely frivolous, and therefore I shall not bother to report it.  You might attempt to slander me as a homosexual rapist, but it would not work, thanks to this recording which I have just conveniently taped of you."

    As this was exactly Giles' plan, he could only collapse into a chair.  But he struggled on.  "I don't have to go on like this.  I can screw any woman I want, don't think that I'll always wait for Natasha."

    Dramsheet was still reading, but after a minute he responded.  "That might actually be a good idea.  If you were to enter a flagrantly adulterous relationship, I could report it to your wife.  Were she to consent to it, neither of you could sue for divorce on grounds of adultery."

    "Oh, God, she would do that, wouldn't she."  Giles thought for another few minutes, then another idea came to him.  "I could marry someone, and I would have to be charged with bigamy, and the only way it could be proved that I had been married before was if you produced Natasha in court.  Got you there."

    "No.  Your certificate of marriage to Ms. Wilentz is legally acceptable proof."

    "But I can get a divorce on the grounds we've been separated for more than a year."

    "Actually you cannot.  You need to prove intention to be separate.  You have no desire to separate from her, since your constant badgerings have made your intentions on this point crystal clear.  Nor does my client have any intention to be separate from you.  This is clear from a host of complex transactions she has made which, however, I am not at liberty to tell you about.  You need to prove intention, and there is none.  It is quite irrelevant that you have not actually seen your wife since before your wedding."

    "For God sakes, Dramsheet!  Why can't you help me?"

    "Why should I?  I'm not your lawyer."

    Had Giles argued for another two and a half minutes with Dramsheet, Pr. Hermann would have entered and told Giles his wife's address.  But Giles thought that it was hopeless and left the Bernini enclave.  Walking through the club he saw Dr. Roget sitting in a chair reading a medical text.

    Roget recognized his wife's second husband and invited him over.  Giles quickly explained his problem and Roget listened sympathetically.  "Philippe, why did Natasha ever marry you?"

    "And why wouldn't she marry me?  I am a wealthy and well-respected doctor, and I am the sole heir of a wealthy family."

    "That couldn't be the reason.  If she only married for wealth, she wouldn't have married me."

    "She undoubtedly found me rather charming."

    "With all due respect, Philippe, you are one of the dullest persons I've ever met.  All you've ever done in the Philhellenon Club is read medical texts."

    Roget swallowed the remains of the glass of mineral water he had been drinking and placed it on the table nearby.  He then placed his book at the foot of his chair.  "There is another reason.  There's a special trick I used to do.  Watch closely."  Roget then tilted his head over the glass and as he moved closer over it, Giles saw the cartilage of his ear bend and actually take hold of the glass.  To his considerable surprise, he saw Roget picking up the glass and hold it at a 90 degree angle to his head for about a minute as he sat up straight again.  He then let go of the glass and put it back on the table.

    "I have prehensile ears, capable of picking up small objects.  For most of my childhood I lived alone.  My parents both died when I was very small, and from what I can tell they were rather selfish and immature people.  I rarely saw my grandfather, who served as my guardian, and none of my nursemaids and governesses ever stayed long enough for me to form a real attraction.  And it was my grandfather's firm policy that I should be educated in as many countries as practically possible, so I never had any real friends.  All my teachers were very strict and they maintained as iron a discipline as possible in their classes.  So for my own psychological survival I had to find some way of getting attention and admiration as quickly as possible from my classmates.  And the key to that was magic.  I can do all sorts of little tricks."

    "Like what?"

    "Open your mouth as wide as you can."  Giles did so, and to his amazement a frog jumped out.  Roget caught it, covered it in his handkerchief and from the bundle pulled out a bread-knife, which he placed beside his empty glass of mineral water.

    "That was just a simple sleight-of-hand trick.  Actually, it's a rather complex sleight-of-hand trick, and it involves slight hypnosis.  I won't go into the vulgar details, since it might lead you to understimate my intelligence.  But it isn't actually magic...

    "The part about the ears was not strictly speaking magic, either.  It was just training, discipline, and a slight genetic disposition to moveable ears.  I can move my ears enough so that I use them to unlock a door with a key.  That was actually Natasha's favorite trick; she was actually fairly good in figuring out what I had done with my other tricks.  Like her father she can't be hypnotized, or," and Roget leered discretely, "she almost can't.  I don't suppose you've ever had sex under hypnosis?

    "But the sight of the severe, humorless, rigid handsome young medical doctor twisting his ears out of shape in order to pick up a key, that must have been what attracted her to me.  But obviously, it wasn't enough."

    "Roget, where did your alimony go?"

    "All went through Dramsheet, I'm afraid."

    Giles smiled sadly, he had of course asked the question many times before, and now he could only look at Roget, and at that moment there was a great surge of listlessness in his soul that he did not know how to confront or combat.  He decided the best thing to do was to confront that listlessness with something tangible, and so an hour afterwards he left the Philhellenon Club in order to find his father who would fight that listlessness by recommending a visit to Medicine Hat.

    Roget picked up his medical text and did not bother to notice that Chelmnickon had entered the club.  But when he saw Oliver Corpse he became genuinely alarmed and sincerely concerned.  "Dr. Corpse, you look like you've gained eighty pounds in the past eight days."

    "Ninety, actually."

    "But that must terribly alarming."

    "It's just part of a cycle, and it's undoubtedly harmless."

    Roget did not believe this, but he said nothing as Corpse entered the Bernini Enclave, and sat down by Dramsheet.

    "Louis, what do you think about Czechoslovak novelists?"

    "Which Czech novelists in particular?"

    "Well do you generally believe that they are a bunch of sniveling, fashionable, sex-obsessed, secularist slime-sucking writers who write for meretricious American audiences?"

    "Is something wrong, Oliver?"

    "It's these dreams that I keep having.  Every night I seem to be dreaming about Teschen."

    Dramsheet already knew what Teschen was, since he had overheard him the day before talking to Chelmnickon.  But he pretended ignorance, and asked Corpse what a Teschen was.

    "It's a part of Czechoslovakia, with a large Polish majority.  Poland briefly acquired it after the Munich crisis."

    "An inopportune time to receive it?"

    "There was no doubt that the Teschenians wanted to belong to Poland.  That's the unanimous opinion of all properly patriotic Polish historians, and they all have unimpeachable anti-Communist credentials.  But some Czechs were very angry about it, saying we had taken advantage of her at the weakest time.  Actually, it's not the Czechs who complain about it, really, so I don't know why I would be angry at them.  The people who really complain are Communists and their fellow travelers, who are always looking for dirt to throw against the second republic.  They're always looking for shit, trying to blacken Poland's good name, trying to libel us, but we have nothing to apologize for."

    "You seem quite defensive Oliver."

    "I have nothing to worry about."

    "Do you have any more news about Vanessa Wilentz's letter writer."

    "Well, a few days ago I said that there was no evidence to believe the writer was Ignatius Wilentz."


    "Well, now I'm absolutely sure that he isn't the writer.  I wish I could understand what sort of person would want to write these sort of letters."

    "Presumably, it would be someone who found young female college graduates erotic and/or exciting."

    "Do you know anyone for whom that's the case?"

    "Quite frankly, Oliver, I don't understand why anyone would even find college graduates interesting."

    "I'm almost tempted to think it might be Vivian.  He teaches one of Miss Wilentz's classes, you know.  I mean with his wife and everything, perhaps he would like to start a little platonic affair.  But I've known him for so long, I can't imagine him betraying his wife like that, even though she so definitely deserves it.  It would be completely out of character."

    Completely out of character indeed.  For thirty years Corpse had complained to Vivian about his wife's sluttishness, her rotten temper, her alcoholism, her vulgarity and bad taste, but Vivian always disagreed.  She only had a taste for fashionable writers like Atwood or Barnes or Saramago, but her husband treated her views moderately.  Indeed, the older Vivian got, and the worse his wife got, the more he was willing to defend her in front of his friends and acquaintances.  Always politely and tactfully, of course, and his wife never appreciated him for it.  But then Vivian had always been polite, he had never engaged in cheep abuse, always listened respectfully to the arguments of opponents, and had never indulged himself in vindictiveness and self-pity.   And there were dozens of émigrés whom he had aided at considerable cost to himself, from penniless Lodz wretches whom Vivian helped to get started in England, to drunken artistes whom Vivian gave money, and helpful, non-didactic advice, to fellow intellectuals whom Vivian recommended to American universities.  He did not keep grudges, (unlike himself, thought Oliver sadly,) and he never complained about the ingratitude of his opponents, his fellow émigrés and his wife.  Such a man deserved so much more...

    "Don't worry Oliver.  You can rest assured that whomever it may be, the writer is not Vivian Chelmnickon."

    Oliver Corpse rose, and went to see if there was any mail.  As it happened, the sixth anonymous letter was in his mailbox, and when he pulled it out he accidentally knocked out the fifteenth anonymous letter to Veruca Manzoni.  It fell on the floor and slid into the heating grate, to be ignored by everyone, except for Giles Seinkewicz, who briefly saw the mailroom as he was leaving to go outside.

    Vivian Chelmnickon was sitting in another part of the club, and he asked the butler if he could have a cordial.

    "You want a cordial sir?"

    "Yes, I do.  Could you please open one and bring one around here?"

    "With all due respect, if your wife wants some more cordials I could always arrange a pack of twelve to be delivered to your house.  If I gave you an open cordial the taste would be quite lost by the time it reached your wife."

    "I want the cordial, not my wife."

    "I must say I'm very surprised sir.  I have often heard Dr. Corpse say that you couldn't stand cordials because they reminded you of your wife's breath in the morning."

    Chelmnickon stared at the butler, who immediately apologized.  After he received the cordial he leaned back in his chair and tried to relax.  He rubbed his chest slightly; he had made love earlier that morning and he could still feel where the Galcynski cross had gouged into his skin.  His wife had forgotten Vanessa Wilentz for some time, but by no means did this signify the end of her jealousies.  There were, after all, forty-one other female students that he was teaching at this moment, not to mention the five hundred and sixty-seven other women he had taught in more thirty years as a professor.  He had forgotten most of them, but his wife remembered them all in malevolent detail.  But these were not the only women Mrs. Chelmnickon suspected.  She suspected all of the wives of the members of the Philhellenon club:  one evening when she and Vivian met Avare Seinkewicz for the very first time Mrs. Chelmnickon immediately wanted to know all about their affair.  She suspected that he used his prominent position to sleep with the anchorwomen on the national news, she had spread rumours back when they were in Poland that he was sleeping with the wife of none other than the president of the republic, she thought that he was having regular rendezvous with the daughter of the childless editor of the Times Literary Supplement.  When she once heard Vivian say that perhaps the church should allow women priests she immediately believed that Vivian wanted to carry on his affairs in the confessional itself.  She was suspicious whenever female plumbers, mailmen, bakers, caulkers, sealers, carpenters, window-washers or painters ever came to the house.  She once commented in Corpse's hearing that Corpse might be having a homosexual affair with her husband; but her favorite piece of paranoia was the belief that Chelmnickon was having an affair with the female auditor from British Inland Revenue who sixteen years ago failed to evisecerate Vivian's tax records.

    As he slowly didn't drink his cordial, Vivian wondered why he was still with his wife after more than thirty-five years of marriage.  Her intellectual interests were becoming more narrow and more obsessive.  After the encounter with the female auditor, Vivian, at some trouble and at considerable expense, had a lie detector test performed which showed that he had been completely faithful ever since their marriage.  So for the past fifteen years his wife had investigated every piece of literature that cast doubt on the reliability of lie detectors.  She was also morbidly fascinated about the passage from the gospels that said if you looked at a women in lust in your own heart you were guilty of adultery, and indeed was the world's expert on all the ramifications and exegesis of that statement.  After the first few years in London she blamed him for taking her away from everything she had known and loved in Poland, and she accused him of accusing her brothers of being toadies to the regime.  She said that the real reason he came to London was that Oliver Corpse could always be counted to flatter him and spite her, and that Vivian was too envious and insecure to be around with her friends.  She spent much of her time watching American sitcoms and her attitude to its sexual innuendos was either one of sanctimonious smugness or of unbearably coyness.  Age had not dimmed her sexual desire, while thirty-five years of her husband's patience had not lessened her belief that Vivian would denounce her to the world.

    Many years ago Vivian swore that he would endure his wife's sexuality and her spite and her vindictiveness with all the stoicism he could muster, and for all those years he had kept that oath.  He rose his glass up above his head:  "Till Death do us part." and placed the full glass by the side of the table.

    Just then, another one of his strange flashes of knowledge came to him.   One of his colleagues at the old Encounter was lobbying to try to get him knighted; and in his mind's eye Vivian could see a note arriving eight weeks in the future from the British Prime Minister offering him not only a knighthood, but a hereditary lordship as well.  Mrs. Chelmnickon could become Lady Ascot-Sussex-Whitehead, and he and all his descendants (of whom there were none, that's why the lordship was made hereditary) could spend the rest of their days in the House of Lords.  Vivian would reject the honor as preposterous, but then he saw another strange flash.  In the political confusion of post-communist Poland he saw a non-party government of experts being formed and an all-party delegation coming to Ottawa four months from now and offering him the position of Prime Minister.  He would reject the offer, of course, and go back to his work.

    This was the first such insight he had received since the death of Senator Veniot and it reminded him of the death of Veruca Manzoni.  His thoughts turned to how he was going to convince his wife to let him go to the funeral without her mindless suspicions.  When they had been young Vivian had often given her little gifts, but she soon suspected that he was trying to hide something when he did so he just had to give it up.  As he tried to figure some way of pacifying his wife he did not know that Professor Hermann was also in the building.  At this moment Hermann was two floors above Chelmnickon, in a very special room.  In the room was a safe, where Hermann kept some of his private objects.  As Vivian Chelmnickon was remembering how his main work, The History and Limits of Hegelian Analysis, had become the leading anti-Marxist work of its time, Hermann opened the combination lock of his safe.  From it he extracted a chalice, a bottle of communion wine, a bottle of holy hydrochloric acid, a strange sort of communion wafer, a pen that used blood as ink, and a special secret book; Unofficial Canonization Procedures of the Roman Catholic Church, also known as How to Canonize Individuals without the Express Authority of the College of Cardinals.  Hermann read the first few pages of the book, and then closed it, put it back in the safe and closed the door.  He then poured some of the wine into the chalice, and then added a few milliliters of holy hydrochloric acid.  He then took the wafer in his hands: it was a strange sort of wafer, because it looked like a yin-yang symbol.  Hermann picked up his pen that used blood as ink, and on the black side he wrote Vivian, and on the white side he wrote Chelmnickon.  He then put the pen down, reopened the safe and placed the pen, communion wine and holy hydrochloric acid back in the safe before closing the door again.  He then took the wafer, dipped it in the chalice, and ate it.  Then he drank the contents of the chalice in one gulp.   Hermann stared out the large open window and saw the large shimmering figure clothed in samite who hovered above the ground using its leaden wings to stay above the ground.  Hermann stared at the apparition and spoke seven words to the strange figure.

    "Dear God in Heaven; it has begun."

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