The Holder of the Averroes Seal

      Late Sunday afternoon Constantine received a phone call from Vanessa asking him to come by that evening.  It was actually very urgent, and he should make sure that Lucian came as well.  Nonplussed by this Constantine promptly arrived at six-thirty to find only Aquilla Rogers and Giles Seinkewicz there.

      Giles was ruminating out loud.  "I can't talk to Natasha, can't write letters to Natasha, and can't telephone Natasha, because Dramsheet refuses to tell me where she lives, I can't get a divorce because Natasha won't acknowledge my existence and has no intention to be separate from me, notwithstanding the fact that I haven't seen her since well before my marriage, I can't commit adultery because Natasha could accept and prevent me from suing for divorce, I can't commit bigamy because of Dramsheet's precautions, I can't audit Natasha because of Dramsheet's precautions, I can't declare Natasha legally dead because she keeps sending me statements telling me she's alive, I can't bribe Dramsheet because he can't be bribed, I can't blackmail Dramsheet because he can't be blackmailed, I can't hypnotise Dramsheet because he can't be hypnotised, I can't threaten Dramsheet because he can't be threatened, I can't booze Dramsheet up, because he doesn't drink, I can't force Dramsheet to take amphetamines, truth serums, tranquilizers, because it simply wouldn't work, I can't cause a scandal that would raise Natasha's attention because it would ruin my father in the next election, I can't run advertisements in the European papers because I'm mildly dyslexic, it costs a fortune, and besides I already tried it two years ago and had no luck, I can't threaten her with a suicide note because Dramsheet would refuse to send it, I can't threaten Dramsheet with suicide because when I took out a steak knife and said I'd slash my wrists he said could you do it outside, please, we just had the carpet cleaned,  I can't send a private investigator to find Natasha, because I already did, and I just wasted my money,  I can't sue for desertion because she was never with me, not even at our wedding, I can't pray to my patron saint, or my father's or Adrian's or anyone else's to bring my wife back, because she's Jewish, I can't get an annulment because I married in good faith, and I can't show Natasha married in bad faith, I can't publish any appeal in the paper, because Dramsheet said the whole matter was too intricate for any editor to understand and he was right, I can't even get Dramsheet to tell me the name of the go-between who gets Natasha's correspondence and takes it to Dramsheet and gets Dramsheet's correspondence and takes it to Natasha, because Dramsheet told me the original person died and was replaced with someone completely different who never puts his (or her) return address on the envelope, but he knows the exact name and address anyway and would tell it to me were it not for the fact that the only slip of paper which possesses the exact name and address got lost when you burgled my apartment looking for information and wasn't it nice of me not to press charges on you, Giles Seinkewicz, and worst of all, worse than all the lost papers, the useless drugs, the impossible divorces, the heedless prayers, the incompetent investigators, worse than all that and so much more is that I can't betray Natasha, because whenever I see her picture I can't help but love her and she's the only person I love, except my friends and family, and I can't live without her, and it's insane and it's clichéd and it's unbelievable, and unfortunately its true, God help me!"

      Constantine sat beside him.  "Oh hello, Constantine, I was just thinking out loud.  Did you hear the news last night?"  Constantine hadn't, it was one of his many vices not to pay attention to local affairs.  "What do you think of this Hermann case?"

      "Hermann who?"

      "Professor Albert Hermann, the secretary at the Vatican Embassy who was found dead in his apartment Friday morning.  It's quite a shock, because it looks like foul play.  You see, he's one of the leading benefactors of a club I belong to..."

      "Oh really?" said Constantine, suddenly uninterested.

      "...the Philhellenon club.  It's a Catholic club and Hermann contributed quite a lot to it.  I only met him a few times, but I was struck at what a kind and thoughtful person he was.  He was a nice old man, I mean it's really horrible to murder a man once he's in his late sixties.  And then there's all this strange talk that he was a leader of a group of strange people known as the Flannery O'Connor Brigade..."

      "What did you just say?"  but before Giles could respond, Vanessa appeared.  When Charles arranged for the meeting to be held, Elizabeth suggested that Vanessa go out and get some snacks.  This she did, though not with good grace, and she had now returned. After putting the snacks down, she moved over to where the two men were sitting.

      "Hello, Constantine.  How are you doing today?"

      "I'm fine.  But what's this about the Flannery O'Connor Brigade that Giles is talking about?"

      "Yes, yes, that's what the meeting is for.  But I'd like to talk to you for a few minutes before we begin."  Constantine got up and followed her into her bedroom, leaving behind Giles, who was rather annoyed until Adrian appeared.  Vanessa lolled about on her bed, while Constantine sat on a nearby chair.  "How's your story coming along?"

      As it happened Constantine had not managed to write a sentence in the past nine days.  But he was too embarrassed to say that to Vanessa and he decided to think up a paragraph right there and then.  "I haven't done much, only a paragraph.  I've been very busy, what with the end of term and everything.  It sort of goes something like this:

      "Within a few year the grove of thorns had renewed itself to its full size and potency, and as it grew larger and larger the hopes of the villagers grew less and less.  There were some attempts to simply dig the grove away, but these were futile and half-hearted; even the diggers had no illusions about their success as they broke their metal shovels against the unyielding roots.  Some clever persons proposed digging a trench, which would drain off much of the grove's water supply, and make the thorns more vulnerable.  And so the whole town set out one intolerably warm morning to break their backs digging out a grand trench.  But the thorns had ways of getting their water and they made sure the villagers had to drink leached limestone.  With each failure hope dimmed and more fantastic plans were tried with less and less confidence.  A horde of rabbits was brought in to nibble the thorns.  They caused innumerable damage to the rest of the village and when they were directed to the grove, the thorns would gouge them to death.  Eventually they all had to be exterminated.  Prayer services were held near the thorns, but the worshippers got more brambles than assistance.  Some people thought that you could clip all the thorns away, but the thorns had magical powers, they would regrow faster after each cut.  And soon they tired even of that, and the fools who attacked the thorns with its clippers soon returned with no branches and with bloody hands.  And so the town council came to the conclusion that nothing could be done, that nothing should be done, and that the grove of thorns was a unalterable fact of life.  Was it not wicked to try to change the course of life?  And had not every attack on the grove make it stronger than before?  And was the grove really all that dangerous?  It was far away, and only mildly annoying, but with time it could be adapted to, and that was the way that it should be.  And this conclusion about the benevolence of the grove, or the benevolence of its lack of malevolence, soon spread throughout the townspeople, until all believed it, until all had to believe it, because it was the only way to deal with the slowly growing thorns, whose roots had dug deep into the land underneath the village, which were slowly growing wider and stronger, until one day it promised to have the whole town within its grasp, and on that day would smash it to pieces."

      Constantine stopped, and took a deep breath.  "Rather long for a paragraph." said Vanessa.

      "Of course now that everyone has surrendered to the grove I'm at a loss at what to do next.  I'm not even clear if the grove is really all that evil, and perhaps it should even reward the villagers for not trying to destroy it."

      "That sounds like a bad idea, the grove doesn't deserve to be flattered.  At best you're going to make it look like a benign despot.  You're not just being kind to it because it's the ecologically correct thing to do?"

      "I will have to think about it."

      "Seriously, Constantine, I think this could be a very good story and I'd really like to know how it ends.  Why don't we keep in touch, we don't see enough of each other."

      "That's what all my friends say.  But Mathematics can be so time-consuming.  Why I haven't even seen Charles since Friday."

      "You work too much."

      "All my friends also say that."

      "You know I sometimes write stories myself.  Perhaps you should come over to see them.  I wrote one story last Thursday for this rather silly paper I'm working on, and while I couldn't actually put it in the essay I..."  But just then there was a loud booming voice, followed by the sound of Adrian falling into a pillow.  It was clear that Lucian Rudman had arrived and that she was looking for her brother.  Constantine got up, just in time to see Charles and Elizabeth enter the apartment.

      Charles quickly called the meeting to order and had the eight of them sit around a table while he had Vanessa hand out pencils and writing paper, while Elizabeth put the snacks on the table and mildly criticized Vanessa for not doing it herself.  Charles stood at the head of the table, with Elizabeth at his side, Constantine being among the exact half of the people present who did not notice the couple's wedding rings.  Charles began to speak with an appropriate air of gravity.

      "Ladies and gentlemen, I have called you here because you are the closest friends that I have, and all of us together face a very strange and peculiar threat.  You may have heard about the strange death of the leading Catholic scholar Albert Hermann.  You may have also heard strange rumours inadequately reported to the press about the existence of a strange organization of militant Catholics known as the Flannery O'Connor Brigade.  Half of the people here present have no idea who Flannery O'Connor is, what the Brigade is, and what its plans are.  What I am going to tell you is that the Flannery O'Connor Brigade is a dangerous organization dedicated to goals that are as yet unknown.  The goal of this meeting is to find out what the Brigade's plans are, and if necessary, how to counter them.

      "Some of you knew Professor Hermann as a kindly old man, and are no doubt surprised at the idea that he could ever be dangerous."  (Giles and Adrian were indeed surprised.)  "I must therefore tell of you of two incidents that will underline my concern.  All of you were at the party held here a week ago last Friday, and you may remember that the two of us, along with Constantine and Vanessa, were the last ones here.  As we were returning to our apartment two strange figures appeared and threatened us.  They announced that they were members of the so-called Brigade and were carrying volumes of St. Thomas Aquinas with sticks of dynamite wrapped around them.  Only late last Thursday, when I had the opportunity to investigate this incident more closely, did I realize that the sticks were actually fakes.  But I do remember seeing vials in the volumes that looked suspiciously like nitroglycerin capsules.  Anyway, they confronted the four of us, but they only did two things.  The first thing was to ask for Pr. Vivian Chelmnickon's address."

      "That doesn't make any sense." interrupted Giles.  "Hermann knew perfectly well where Pr. Chelmnickon lives."

      Charles, who did not like being interrupted, cut off Giles.  "The second thing they did was to take a book out of Elizabeth's bookcase, stomp on it several times, and replace it with a completely different one.  Then they left.  Now you can't exactly go to the police with this sort of thing, so we didn't."

      "What book did they take?" asked Giles.

      "I don't remember actually.  I didn't pay too much attention to it."

      Vanessa did remember however, and she reached into the bookcase to extract Diary of a Country Priest and handed it to Giles.  "Well, the Brigade certainly has good literary taste.  My father forced me to read this book years ago."  He flipped through the book, and as he did so, the bug fell out.  He picked it up as everyone moved closer to see it.

      "It would appear that the Brigade wasn't interested in Chelmnickon's address.   I think this solves one mystery."

      "No it doesn't." Lucian objected.  "Why would a group of Catholic fanatics want to bug this apartment?"

      Charles picked up the bug, and then with one sure movement, smashed it with one of the snack bowls.  "Do you think they heard anything important in the past few days?"

      "Not likely." said Vanessa.  "Elizabeth wasn't here for most of the past week, so there wouldn't be much talking.  There is one thing they would have found out."

      "She means our little secret." whispered Elizabeth.

      "Thank you, Vanessa." said Charles, who then resumed his presentation.   "I think the second incident will help clarify a few questions."  And so he explained about how Hermann had confronted Charles' father and Ignatius Wilentz, how he claimed that his life was in danger, how he thought that two members of the Philhellenon club, Senator Pierre Veniot and Librarian Veruca Manzoni, had been murdered, how he gave the titles of his five fellow members, how he said he had some sort of appointment, and how Ignatius passed this information to Oliver Corpse.  "Intriguing, isn't it?"

      Constantine then spoke up.  "Last Tuesday Lucian, Adrian and Giles confronted a group of insurance agents who were trying to take over the Alberta city of Medicine Hat.  I mean if they hadn't faced that, then I wouldn't even think of mentioning what I saw on Thursday evening."

      "Why, what did you see?" asked Vanessa.

      "You'll never believe this, but two dead Italian Fascist intellectuals materialized in my apartment.  They briefly throttled me with a noose, and then they mentioned that there was a conspiracy to murder someone who was already dead, or would be dead before they conspired to kill him.  They also said something about a plague of butterflies that infected this man Corpse's office, and something about a revival meeting for Wagner."

      "Did you say a plague of butterflies?"  Constantine nodded and Vanessa then related how Oliver Corpse received a letter filled with twenty Columbian butterflies, and how in a fit of shock he went around crushing them all to death, and smearing his hands with their blood.

      "Butterflies don't have blood." corrected Lucian.

      "Well these ones certainly did.  And Corpse was absolutely horrified when he saw them.  He started raving about women and sex and that this was some sort of divine punishment.  But what's this about Veruca Manzoni being murdered?  I was just at her funeral six days ago.  Everyone was extremely tactful about the cause of death, so I basically assumed it was suicide."

      "You assumed wrong, Vanessa." said Charles.  "I had Elizabeth call Cheryl Monagham, she's involved with the investigation.  Eventually, Elizabeth managed to wheedle two crucial facts from her.  First, when you connect the three deaths together, you form a triangle."

      "Well of course you would." said Adrian.

      "A right-angled isosceles triangle facing due north?"

      "Well, I suppose not."

      "No, I didn't think so either.  The second fact was about Senator Veniot's death.  All the evidence points to suicide, except for one crucial fact.  There is a spot of semen on his glasses (not his own) which shouldn't be there."

      Constantine sighed.  "So what we have is a serial murderer who makes his murders look like suicides, a secret society with unknown aims, insurance agents and italian fascists materializing in the oddest of places, and a whole host of other strange and peculiar phenomenon."

      "Where do we even begin?" asked Vanessa.

      "What we should do," said Charles, "is to write down on the paper we have before us all the questions we can think about the strange events that we have seen recently.  We'll then try to answer each question in turn."  The others agreed, and soon they had a list of twenty-three questions.

      1.  What is the Flannery O'Connor Brigade?

      2.  Who is The Murderess of the Order of the Stigmata?

      3.  Who is The Defender of St. Rose of Lima?

      4.  Who is The Legionmeister of the Signet of Saint Luke?

      5.  Who is The Master of the Marthas?

      6.  Who is The Holder of the Averroes Seal?

      7.  Since Hermann's death, who leads the Brigade?

      8.  Why did they bug this apartment?

      9.  Why did they ask for Vivian Chelmnickon's address?

      10.  Were the deaths of Senator Veniot, Professor Hermann, and Veruca Manzoni part of a murderous conspiracy?

      11.  If so, who is the murderer?

      12.  Why is there a spot of semen on the glasses of Senator Veniot?

      13.  Where did the Chinese spice-box that killed Hermann come from?

      14.  How did Veruca Manzoni die?

      15.  If this is the sign of a serial killer, is it possible that he (or she) will strike again?  And if so, who is to be the victim?

      16.  Who is writing anonymous letters to Vanessa?

      Vanessa then supplied Question 17:  Why have there been no more letters since I talked about the matter with my uncle?

      18.  Mrs. Concrete (Elizabeth's mother) claims she saw an angel last Monday.  Is there really an angel hanging around Ottawa?

      19.  Why did a group of insurance agents invade Medicine Hat, a group of Columbian butterflies invade Oliver Corpse's apartment, and two long-dead Fascist intellectuals invade Constantine's apartment?

      20.  Where in the world is Natasha Wilentz?

      21.  Why does Ms. Roda Ellen Van P--- plant marigolds in the carpet in the apartment above us?

      22.  Why is there a strange French-speaking lady running around Ottawa talking to total strangers about how nasty black people are?

      23.  What is behind the conspiracy to kill someone who is already dead?

      "Personally," said Charles, "I don't know if we can get all the answers to these questions.  It's more likely we're looking at the pieces of several different puzzles, than one giant puzzle together.  But we'll have to assume the contrary for the time being.  What we need now is some informed speculation."

      Giles spoke up.  "What about this Francophone?"

      "Giles, I don't wish to be blunt, but we'd make far more progress if we answered the first question first, and the penultimate question penultimately.  Not the other way around."

      "No, I'm serious.  You claim you saw a strange woman haranguing Vanessa, Adrian and Pr. Chelmnickon?"

      "Yes.  This woman talked to Vanessa and Adrian the day before Senator Veniot died."

      "She wouldn't happen to have been a middle-aged, conservatively dressed, rather serious woman, would she?"

      "She would.  Why did you ask?"

      "You wouldn't happen to be talking about my aunt?"

      "Your aunt?"

      "Yes.  My father had five siblings, three of whom were girls, one of whom happens to be Adrian's mother.  But although they are reasonably charming people and have fairly attractive young daughters whom I might have married had I not met, or had I not not met Natasha, none of them can speak French.  So the woman you are likely talking about is my mother's younger sister, Catherine Jeannette Vovelle.  She's a very strange woman, she's a devout Catholic but she's been estranged from her husband for at least two decades.  My mother was always a little afraid of her, it had something to do with croquet mallets.  Mother was also a little envious because my aunt was apparently able to have children with no problem at all.  My mother always wanted to have more than just one child, actually and...."

      "Get on with it!" interrupted Elizabeth.

      "Anyway, Aunt Catherine had two children, both girls.  The younger was a rather normal girl; the only strange thing about her was that she was always very good at trigonometry.  The older one was very strange indeed.  She was named Pandora Vovelle and she was a few years older than me, and the thing that I remember about her most was that she would sometimes say that she mistook me for the Christ child.  Actually she said she wanted to mistake me for the Christ child..."

      "Yeah," said Lucian, "because you turn water into wine all the time."

      "You're wandering again." Elizabeth sniped.

      "Yes, you're right.  At any rate, the crucial thing is that my aunt has known Professor Hermann for years, she even knew him back when she and my mother were in college in Nova Scotia.  If she were here in Ottawa she would be the person most likely to be a member of the Flannery O'Connor Brigade."

      "But we don't even know if she is here."

      Giles took out his wallet, inside of which contained pictures of his parents, Adrian, some of his cousins, and Natasha but no portrait of his maternal aunt.  So he took some paper and drew a picture of a stern grave woman and passed it to Vanessa.

      "That's her, all right.  Now all we've got to do is find her.  Does she have any relatives in the city?"

      "Well my father is her brother-in-law, but I haven't heard anything from him about her visiting us.  No, you see my aunt often goes around the country talking to various parishes, and usually they put her up at one of the houses of the parish officials.  So if we called each of the parishes up, we might be able to find her."

      "Giles, there must be several dozen Catholic churches in this city." said Elizabeth.  "There has to be a short-cut.  Can you contact her daughters and see if they might know?"

      "No.  I haven't heard from Pandora Vovelle in years.  The last thing I heard about her was that she had gone to Ulster several years ago, but after that, nothing.  And as for her sister, I presume she's in some sort of university, but I wouldn't know where.  As far as I know they could be on another planet or just next door.  I don't know how to find them."

      Charles spoke up.  "Giles, you seem to have a positive gift for mislaying your relatives.  Well, one of the members must be a woman, because otherwise there wouldn't be a position called the Murderess of the Order of the Stigmata.  But we can't make rash conclusions.  If we only knew who some of Hermann's associates were, we could fill some of the positions."

      Constantine spoke up.  "All three people who have died were members of the Philhellenon club.  If we could go over there and tactfully ask them some questions..."

      "Which you can't" said Giles, "because only Catholics can enter the building."

      "That's a strange rule.  Surely there must be exceptions."

      "No, there isn't.  The Philhellenon club has special arrangements with the police, the fire department, the city government, the plumbers' union, the carpenters' union, and the painters' unions, so that only Catholic representatives could enter the building.  No exceptions, whatsoever."

      Vanessa spoke up.  "Well surely if there was a beaten woman on the entrance's steps and she was pleading for protection from rapists or criminals they would let her into the building?"

      "There's a very ugly brass statue of Sir John Thompson, Canada's first Catholic prime minister, right beside the front door.  It weighs fifteen kilograms and has a can of mace in the center, and it's used especially for circumstances like this."

      "He's right you know," said Adrian.  "Hermann made sure that only Catholic prostitutes could enter the building."

      "Why would they be inside in the first place?" asked Lucian.

      "He thought that if you couldn't abolish prostitution you could try rechristian it.  So all the members of the club are allowed to order a free prostitute once a month, the cost to be paid out of a special fund from the Vatican embassy.  I actually tried one of them; Giles let me use his for the month."

      "Oh really?  And what was she like?"

      "Utterly awful.  She stripped off all my clothes, tied me naked to one of the bedposts, and then lectured about Racine for an hour and a half."

      "Sounds nasty."

      "I know, and the worst thing about it was that she had never heard of Lucien Goldmann."

      "I take it this is typical of prostitution in the club?"

      "Yes, that would be the case."

      "And am I correct in assuming that the special Vatican fund has a large surplus at the end of every month?"

      "Come to think of it, yes.  I didn't really notice that before." said Giles.  "But the simple fact is that only Catholics are allowed into the Philhellenon club."

      "Do you know any members of the Club?" asked Constantine.

      "I certainly do.  I'm one myself."

      "Well couldn't you bring one of us along, and claim that you're having us considered for membership."

      "I'm sorry, but the butler is very thorough about checks.  He'd ask for some sort of proof that you were a Catholic, and it's no good trying to forge something, because Hermann wrote a book on how to check forged identification."

      "Wonderful, how ridiculously thorough." said Charles.  "How could we have eight people meeting in Ottawa and have only two Catholics among them?  That means that only you and Adrian can get into the building."

      "Is that really wise?" interrupted Aquilla Rogers for the very first time.  "If the members of the Flannery O'Connor Brigade belong to the Philhellenon Club, how do we know that Giles isn't a member as well?  And didn't he leave the Friday night party long before everyone else?"

      "That's complete crap!" shouted Giles.

      "And what about Adrian?  Can we trust him as well?"

      "Of course we can trust him." said Lucian.  "It's ludicrous to believe that he would be part of any conspiracy."

      "Thank you, Lucy." said Adrian.

      Lucian abruptly boxed Adrian's ears.  "Adrian couldn't get laid in a brothel if he was stuck in a closet with five naked hookers and the Hope diamond.  Obviously, the Brigade isn't going to employ somebody that incompetent.  Besides, I helped take him home from the party so he couldn't have gone back there."

      "Perhaps." said Charles.  "But maybe Aquilla has a point.  Perhaps it would be wise if there was someone we could depend on in the Philhellenon Club aside from the two of you."

      "Yes," agreed Constantine.  "It would be nice if we had some real grown-ups on our side.  I have the unpleasantly nervous and all too familiar feeling that the eight of us are completely out of our depth.  So, who belongs to the club?"

      Giles thought for a moment.  "Well my father does.  And Pr. Chelmnickon and Pr. Corpse belong as well.  And my wife's first husband, Dr. Roget, is there as well.  There's an official from Tanzania, named Naipaul, and there's my wife's lawyer, Louis Dramsheet.  Quite frankly, I think he's the one most likely to belong to the Brigade.  He's deliberately cut off all access between me and my wife, he's very serious, and as far as I know he's celibate.  There are some others, but they don't come as often, and they would have little contact with Hermann."

      "What are we supposed to tell these people anyway once we've found them?"  asked Adrian.  "It's not as if we knew a heck of a lot about the Brigade, and perhaps they'll think either we're mad, or that the Brigade's harmless.  We need some more information."

      "Hermann kept a safe within the Philhellenon Club, and he might have kept the most important stuff there."

      "But surely the Brigade would have opened it by now?"

      "Yes, you're right.  But suppose if they hadn't.  Or perhaps if they did, they didn't remove everything.  There might be something we could use."

      Aquilla's eyes opened wide.  "That means that Adrian could open the safe!  We could get what we wanted."

      Giles remembered his cousin's strange ability with locks.  "Yes, that would work.  Of course, the safe is kept in a special room that only club members can open.  And not all club members have the key to the door, which if you tried to pick would set off an alarm.  I don't for a start.  We'd still need someone's help to get inside the room."

      Adrian boldly stood up.  "Don't worry about a thing team!  I'll go over to the Philhellenon club first thing tomorrow and pick the safe open.  It'll be no problem at all."

      None of the others shared his confidence, but Charles agreed to go along with it.  If worse came to worse, and it probably would, Adrian could count on Giles and his uncle to avoid any actual prosecution.  It was now time to deal with more practical matters.  "Whatever is in the safe can help us only so much.   Let's go back to the questions, and try answering them in order.  Questions one to nine deal with the Flannery O'Connor Brigade.  Why would a group of Canadians name themselves after a female writer from the Southern United States?  Possibly because they found her to be especially inspiring.  But I think, considering Hermann's travel schedule and the number of degrees he has from different countries, that the Brigade is an international organization.  If that's the case, there may be some mention of it in the international press.  Constantine, I want you to look up all the periodical files you can find, and search for any information about the Brigade, Professor Hermann, and Mrs. Vovelle.  Giles, I want you to call all the churches in the city and try to find where your aunt is.  In fact, you should start right now.  Try the areas either near the university or near Drogheda apartments."  Giles got up and went to the telephone.  "Now what about those positions?"

      "Four of the titles have a name in them." noticed Lucian.

      "Perhaps this could be a clue.  Let's start with the Defender.  Does anyone know anything about St. Rose of Lima?"

      There was silence all around the table.  Adrian broke the silence.  "Lima's in Peru, isn't it?"

      "Does anyone have anything better to add?"

      "St. Rose of Lima could refer to a Latin American.  Perhaps a Chilean or a Nicaraguan."  said Vanessa.

      "Giles, are there any Latin Americans in your club?"  Giles, who was trying to talk to the Croatian janitor of the Croatian Catholic church, shook his head.

      Adrian thought hard again.  "I vaguely recall reading something about the fact that St. Rose was married."


      "That's it.  I know nothing else."

      "Thank you, AdrianConstantine, while you're hanging around in the library, find out all can about St. Rose.  O.K., what's this about Saint Luke?"

      Adrian spoke up yet again.  "Saint Luke wrote the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles."

      "Thank you once again, Adrian, but I knew that much before."

      "Actually," interrupted Lucian "It's very unlikely that the biblical figure we know as Luke wrote either of the two books."

      "Well what about the passages of Acts, which refer to himself in first person?" queried Adrian.

      "Well, there are some very interesting explanations for this.  You see, when we look closer at the passage..."

      "Fascinating, I'm sure," reinterrupted Charles.  "But what we're really interested is in who the Legionmeister is.  What sort of clue is this?"

      "It's times like this, I wish I went to more Knights of Columbus meetings." mused Adrian.

      "There are actually a number of ways we can decode what St. Luke means.  We could take the passages in Acts where Luke is referred to in the first person, and compare that to the similar chapters in Luke, or the other gospels, or all the other books of the bible, or the apocrypha and pseudepigraphia.  Perhaps there's a name there that's important.  We can use a number of methods to decode it.  We can use the anagrammatical method to search for our man.  Or perhaps the whole sentence is an anagram, and should be decoded as such.  Or perhaps we could use 49 simple ciphers on all the possible names.  Or perhaps we could go running around calling for the Legionmeister of Saint Luke to appear and the first one who pays attention is the man.  Or..."

      "Thank you for this introductory lesson in cryptography, Lucian." said Charles.  "But we need something a little more practical.  Now the way I see it, St. Luke was a doctor.  Now, how many doctors are there in the Philhellenon Club?"

      "That's hard to say." said Adrian.  "Does it mean a doctorate or a doctor?  Chelmnickon and Corpse have the former.  Does Dramsheet have one?  I'm not sure.  And then there's Dr. Roget.  He was actually rather close to Hermann, or that's what Giles said."  At just this moment, Giles hit the jackpot.

      "It's fantastic!  Aunt Catherine is currently residing in a church in a French neighborhood near Hull.  She's staying at the home of the parish's accountant or something.  And get this.  The accountant's wife remembers that my aunt held a meeting with four other people on Friday morning.  Two of the people left before she could see them, but she can describe what the other two looked like."

      Charles smiled.  "Five positions--five people.  Giles, give them Dr. Roget's description."  Giles did so, and was astonished to find that his wife's first husband had very clearly attended the meeting.  "As for the other woman she seems to be a rather plain person, in her early thirties I would think.  The wife can't remember her very well, except that she when she saw her earlier, she was accompanied by some servant, an Oriental woman."

      "An Oriental woman.  Was this servant a rather young woman, with long hair?"

      "Yes, that would describe the woman she saw."

      "Ms. Roda Ellen Van P---."

      "She must have been the one who had the bug installed." said Elizabeth.  "Giles, is your aunt at home right now?"

      "At the moment, no.  She went out to do her laundry, but she'll be back in a few minutes."

      "Giles, I want you to tell the accountant's wife that you are going to come around for a visit, and to make sure that your aunt doesn't leave."  Giles quickly terminated the conversation, and the was about to go out when Aquilla stopped him with a single question.  "Won't your aunt recognize your car?"

      Giles considered the problem.  "I suppose it's possible.  But she shouldn't suspect anything at all."

      "Well obviously she suspects something because she had this apartment bugged a couple of hours after you left it one night.  I propose that it would be wiser if I drove Giles there, just to keep an eye on him.  And there are all sorts of other connections between you and the Brigade."

      "That makes the most sense." agreed Charles.  "All right, Aquilla, take your car and drive it over there.  Giles, perhaps you should keep your head down, so that no-one sees you.  We don't know what the Brigade is like or what it wants, but we should be very careful just in case."  The two agreed (Giles very reluctantly) and they were about to set off, but their absence was delayed for a few minutes as Aquilla had lost her car keys.

      "Well, I think it's most logical to think that the Legionmeister is Dr. Roget.  And given the little we know about Hermann's relationships I think it would be most likely for Madame Vovelle to take over the Brigade after his death.  What can we find about a person named the Master of the Marthas?"

      Constantine spoke up.  "Martha is the name of the older sister of Mary, or is it Mary Magdalene, I can never remember whether the two Marys are separate individuals.  Anyway there's a place where she rebukes Jesus for spending too much time about Mary.  And I think there's some suggestion that Mary, or Mary Magdalene, was a prostitute of some sort."

      Vanessa chimed in.  "Ms. Van P---'s maid was going to be a prostitute before Ms. Van P--- found her.  And she goes through these elaborate negotiations with the building's landlord to make sure that he doesn't take sexual advantage of her."

      "So it would make the most sense for her to be the Master of the Marthas."  Charles was satisfied at having solved one more question.  "But who is the Holder of the Averroes seal?"

      "Averroes was a Muslim philosopher of the eleventh and twelfth centuries.  He was crucial in the revival of Aristotle's thought that preceded the development of scholasticism."

      "Constantine, while you're at it, you should find out more about this Averroes person.  Now what about these murders?  Do these three Catholics have anything in common aside from their religion?  Particularly, does anyone know anything about this Veruca Manzoni?"  Just then Giles stepped in.  Aquilla had finally found the keys and they were about to leave.

      "I actually have something very useful about Manzoni's death.  You see a few days after she died I went to the Philhellenon club and I noticed that a letter that had been sent to her had somehow been stuck under the door.  Now obviously I shouldn't have opened it, but since it would have been lost anyway and as there was no return address, and since the person who it was being addressed to was dead, I opened it anyway.  As it happens I have it right here."  He took it out and showed to everyone.  The typewritten letter went as follows:  "Fifteen-Cyraenica-Massacre-Fool Self-Pity,  Meretricious-Guilty-Wasted-Italian  You-whore."

      "What's a Cyraenica?"

      "I already checked that out.  It's a Libyan province."

      "I wonder if we could trace the typewriter."

      Giles shrugged his shoulders, while Aquilla started honking the horn of her car and they had to leave.

      Vanessa brooded.  "Well the only thing we found out from this letter is that somebody completely different is writing letters to me.  It's in a completely different style."

      "What about Senator Veniot's glasses?" asked Elizabeth.

      "Well, it's evidence that he encountered a man sometime just before he died.  But aside from that we can't find anything about him.  I wonder if we could trace the chinese spice box."

      "It would be tricky." said Charles.  "The box could come from a specialty shop, from a jeweler's store, or from a novelties store.  There could be a dozen tobacco shops that might sell something that intriguing, and it could be sold in used bookstores, in antique shops, at church thrift shops or at garage sales.  It would be almost impossible to find, and besides, we don't even have a picture of what the spice-box looks like.  I think it would be best to presume that the police are doing their best to look for it, and to move on to other matters.   Now what about the angel that Mrs. Concrete said she saw?"

      "My mother probably mistook her for the stork.  She sees that all the time.  I wouldn't take this too seriously."

      "But perhaps we should Elizabeth.  We should not be so hasty.  After all, your mother did see her at the same time that Professor Hermann said he was going to have a meeting, or a visitation from someone.  It would really help if someone else had seen an angel floating around in the sky?"

      "Lucian saw one." said Adrian.  "She saw it just as we were going to the party, right after she pushed me and Constantine into a snow bank.  Of course she said it was a joke."

      "Lucian, did you really see an angel?"

      Lucian was not wild about admitting it, but yes, she had seen one.  "But it must be a trick or a fluke of some sort.  I mean people don't really see angels nowadays."

      "The way you don't see a rampant horde of insurance agents reciting Wallace Stevens running down the streets of Medicine Hat?  I think we have two sightings here, and I think that Lucian Rudman and Mrs. Concrete have too little in common to hallucinate the same thing within three days of each other."

      "You don't literally believe there's an angel in Ottawa." said Vanessa incredulously.  "There must be a more rational explanation.  Perhaps someone had invented a flying device and was practicing it out.  Or perhaps it was a strange sort of balloon.  Or perhaps Lucian mistook it for some sort of giant flying swan.  This sort of thing makes no sense at all."

      Charles gently chided her.  "One should not have too firm a belief in the power of reason.  There are more things in heaven and earth, etc, etc, etc.  We should take a very careful look at the many strange things we see in the world today.  Now supposing that we are seeing an angel, or something like it, what is it here for?  Might it have something to do with the Flannery O'Connor Brigade?   Suggestions anyone?"  The other five thought about the matter, and came to the conclusion that if there really was an angel, and it really was involved with the Brigade, then there was probably some very important reason for it, but they couldn't figure out what it was, and could only hope that Adrian's burgling could provide an answer.

      None of them could think of any reason about the invasion of Medicine Hat or the butterflies, so that left them with only three questions; where Natasha Wilentz was, why marigolds were being planted in the carpet above them, and how could there be a conspiracy to kill someone who was already dead.  For the first question they decided they would wait until Giles returned.

      "I don't suppose she plants marigolds, because her carpet is so wonderfully fertile?" asked Lucian.

      Elizabeth brushed her aside.  "If the Flannery O'Connor Brigade is planting marigolds it must be because the Brigade needs them for something.  Either it needs a lot of flowers for something, or because she's doing something with the marigolds that can only be done under special supervision."

      "That's rather clever of you, Elizabeth."  said Constantine, who was ashamed of not having said anything useful for the past several minutes.  "Unless they are trying to make poison marigolds, it's more likely they are looking for a special ingredient.  And that ingredient--I haven't the slightest idea what it could be."

      "Then you should look up marigolds in the encyclopedia, among all the other things you have to do." laughed Charles.

      "You've got quite a lot to do Constantine." laughed Elizabeth as well.   "Hope it's not too much."

      "Perhaps they're trying to create an anti-aphrodisiac of some sort." suggested Adrian.

      "I don't see why they'd bother," complained Vanessa, "since real aphrodisiacs don't exist.  I should know, I spent three weeks in hospital when a 'boyfriend' put them in my soup.  Perhaps they're making some hideously innocuous poison."

      "We're not going to find anything more about the marigolds." said Charles.  "But what's this about a conspiracy to murder someone who is already dead?  The really weird thing about this is that when Elizabeth called Cheryl, the good vice-inspector also mentioned this conspiracy; apparently Hermann had been warned about its existence and he mentioned it in his notes.  Now that would imply that the Flannery O'Connor Brigade is not the conspiracy, because they were afraid of it as well."

      Constantine spoke up.  "Well the only other conspiracy going around is the eight of us.  And we're not planning to kill anyone.  So that would mean that there was a third conspiracy.  Personally, I think this is getting excessive."

      "Perhaps it has something to do with our Thursday-night murderer?" said Elizabeth.  "I certainly hope so, otherwise this would be far too complicated, because there would now be four conspiracies.  Of course, if the Thursday-night murders are a conspiracy, that would mean there would be two people bumping off prominent Catholics."

      "What we're really missing," reasserted Charles, "is why a conspiracy would want to murder someone who is already dead."

      "Perhaps it's a metaphor?" suggested Vanessa.  "This conspiracy is going to commit some act that will make such and such a person turn over in his or her grave."

      "I don't think so." said Constantine.  "From what I heard, they were talking about something much more literal."

      "Well I'm stumped." said Lucian, who took out her cigarette-holder and a whiskey flask filled with charcoal and milk of magnesia.

      "Yes, I think we've done all we can for tonight." said Charles.  "Well I'd like to thank you all for coming here.  I think it was a really good idea answering all the questions we've put towards us.  Now we all have our special duties, so I propose that we meet over at my apartment, which won't be bugged, on Friday evening.  You should all know where it is, so there's no need for me to repeat it, so that Ms. Roda Ellen Van P--- can find out.  In the meantime, you can have some of these snacks that Elizabeth got for you."

      Adrian thought of something.  "If there are all these holes in the carpet couldn't Ms. Van P--- have heard everything we said?  Won't she be able to track us to our next meeting?"

      Charles smiled.  "I certainly hope so.  We could use the company."  And the meeting adjourned.

      Charles tapped Constantine on the shoulder.  "Could  you come into the bathroom with me for a few minutes?"  The two went inside, and Charles carefully locked the door.  "Constantine, we've known each other since we were in kindergarten.  I have something very important to tell you.  I should have told you earlier, but it was such a spur-of-the moment thing...  What I'm trying to say is that me and Elizabeth, the two of us, we got married a week ago Saturday."

      Constantine was quite surprised, then immediately envious, which he tried to cover up with practical objections.  "Isn't that a little rash?  I mean, congratulations, yes, but aren't you a little too young to get married?"

      "I don't think so.  I am finishing my degree this year, and I have several job offers lined up.  But what I really wanted to ask you was about something different.  You see, none of our parents know that we're married.  I plan to tell them by Christmas, and they'll probably arrange some kind of more public ceremony, like a confirmation of our vows.  When that happens I want you to be my best man."

      Constantine was so stunned at this honor that all he could do was gush various compliments at Charles.  Charles shook his hand, and got ready to leave.  "Now remember, not a word of this to anyone.  Only you and Vanessa know that we're married, and I'd like to keep it that way.  I'd like to talk to your sister for a few seconds.  I have something to give her."

      Constantine left the bathroom and told Lucian that Charles wanted to talk to her.  Adrian, Vanessa and Elizabeth were all around having snacks and Elizabeth had put on a tape that was playing some dance music that Constantine did not like.  Ordinarily in situations like this Constantine would have had something to eat and would have tried to strike a conversation with Adrian.  But for some strange reason he had completely lost his appetite.  It was as if the normal feelings for hunger had been somehow turned inside out and were signifying something else.  He felt vaguely nervous, and unsatisfied.  The revelation of Charles' marriage was intensely depressing; it reminded him of all the romantic feelings that he knew he couldn't express.  There was the unnerving thought that he admired literary characters more than people; he was reminded of stories he had read where a perfectly happy marriage had come to complete collapse, and he was reminded of all the novels he had read where he reacted more to some person's death more than he had to the deaths of his own parents.  At times like this he would ring his hands in impotent solitude and wonder when it would be a good time to go home and start working on his fourth-order equations lectures.  It was at these times he wished he shouldn't be thinking these thoughts, that far from being painful they were just a subtle evasion, that they were the results of sentimental weakness, of cheap self-pity, and that he was too rich and educated to whine about his very minor sufferings.  Husbands are like vampires, feeding off their woman's menstrual blood.  Constantine wished he was drunk so he would have an alibi for such shoddy metaphors.  It was times like this that he wished he could be completely serious and leave such ephemera behind him, at times like this he wished he could gorge himself with lead, becoming a grey statue going about his business.  He remembered a dream he had the other night; it consisted of Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud doing a vaudeville dancing act.  "We'll never be that lucky." he muttered.  Just then Giles and Aquilla returned.

      "Did you find your aunt?" asked Charles, who was just leaving the bathroom with Lucian.

      "No, it was a complete disaster." said an angry Giles, who went over to the table and began to gorge himself on raw potato-chips.  "Aquilla, you have to be one of the most stupid drivers in existence.  Ottawa isn't that big a city, it's not that difficult to get from one place to another.  But she managed to get lost three times, and just when we were about to get there, Aquilla had to get a ticket for speeding.  I mean how many speed traps can there be at eight-thirty at night?"

      "So where's your aunt?"

      "After we finally got there, it turned out that my aunt had just left ten minutes earlier.  It appeared that after having stayed there for three weeks she was cruelly abusing their hospitality and just had to take her leave.  She could be with one of the other members of the Brigade, she could be at another parish, or she could be at some hotel under an assumed name.  This was our best chance to find her, and we blew it."

      Giles sat himself down on the couch besides Constantine.  "You shouldn't blame yourself, Giles." said Elizabeth.

      "I'm not.  I'm blaming Aquilla." who petulantly sneered in return.  Charles sat down beside Giles, forcing Constantine to get up.  "Giles, after you left we talked about Ms. Van P---'s marigolds.  Do you know any reason for their mass production?"

      "No, but I know of a way you can get into the apartment and find out."   And he took out the skeleton key that had been used in the case of M. Savoir.  "This is a skeleton key, an old souvenir from one of Dramsheet's cases.  I carry it around in case I lose my real keys.  It can unlock doors that are locked on the same side, which means you're going to be most successful in opening the door when there's nobody home.  Use it in good health." and he tossed it to Vanessa.

      "Giles, there's one other question we had to discuss, and we had to wait until you got back.  That's the question of where your wife is.  I didn't tell you this before, but apparently when Hermann confronted my father and Vanessa's uncle he said he knew where she was."

      "What!  Where did he say she was?"

      "Apparently she's in Amsterdam, at the grave of Baruch Spinoza."  With that news Giles leaped up, scattered the chips everywhere, and dashed over to the telephone, spilling several more plates and knocking the tape player off the table.  He was too nervous to hold the telephone book and kept dropping it, and soon began to panic, asking someone to punch in the area code for the Netherlands, and he was only stopped when Elizabeth firmly took the receiver out of his hand and hung it up.

      "Why did you do that?  I've got to reach Natasha, I've got to speak to her!  For God's sake, give me back the receiver!"

      "I have three good reasons why you shouldn't call the Netherlands at this time."

      "Name them!"

      "Well for a start, it's rude to make long distance calls on somebody else's telephone."  That was true, and it was enough to cow Giles into listening into the next two reasons.

      "Second, you don't even know which cemetery Spinoza is buried in, so how are you going to find her?  And third, it's the middle of the night in Holland, so you're not going to contact anyone at any of these cemeteries."

      "What about the graveyard shift?"

      "Be serious." said Constantine.  "You're just going to have to wait until morning."

      "I don't think I'll be able to sleep." and he left, and soon afterwards so did the others.  Early next morning, Giles drove Adrian to the front of the Philhellenon club.  It was true, he hadn't slept at all, or had slept only very uncomfortably, and by the time he made the call there was no sign of his wife.  Somehow he had expected this the moment Elizabeth had talked sense to him.  Giles introduced Adrian to the butler, and after showing him where Hermann's safe was he began to leave.

      "What are you doing?" asked Adrian.

      "Leaving.  I'm not a student like you.  I live in the real world and because of that I have to work.  Ciao."

      Adrian was left alone and wondered what he could do.  There were few people in the club this Monday morning.  Near the windows facing the Justice Ministry, there was an accountant reading a Hungarian Language newspaper.  A female member of the separate school boards was playing a bored game of solitaire.  But there were none of the members that Adrian had seen on his earlier visits before.  He put his hands in his pockets and he felt the bug that Charles had given him, as well as the photograph of him with his uncle.   He could sit down and ask for a drink and wait for someone more important to come along, but that made him nervous.  What if Dr. Roget appeared?  What if Madame Vovelle guessed that she was being followed, and suspected both Giles and Adrian?  What if another member of the Brigade appeared, and Adrian didn't know who he was?  But he couldn't go out handing his bonafides to complete strangers.

      And just then, he saw the solution.  Senator Nyere Naipaul was sitting in the Bernini Enclave, still working on his Swahili Calculus textbook.  The butler entered the room and Naipaul motioned him to come over.

      "I'd like some tequila, please."

      "I don't think we have any tequila in the club, sir."

      "Of course we do.  It's that badly brewed, yet unexpectedly charming Irish coffee that Pr. Hermann dubbed tequila for the benefit of club members."

      "Oh yes sir, I've forgotten so many of Pr. Hermann's little dysephisms.  Like the way he called rubber balls condoms, or the way that aspirin pills were called birth-control pills."

      "You seem surprised.  Surely a men's club, with a few token women as well, must have everything for its members."

      "I suppose you're right, sir, but I don't really consider anal sex to be a very large cheese omelet."

      "That will be all, thank you."

      Adrian entered as soon as the butler left, and quickly introduced himself.  Fortunately Naipaul knew his uncle fairly well and had a vague idea of whom Adrian was.  With surprising concision, Adrian explained the existence of the Flannery O'Connor Brigade, how Madame Vovelle was a member, how she was a thorough-going racist, and how the only way to find out what the Brigade was up to was to open the safe Hermann had in the club.

      "This is very serious.  Fortunately for us all, I happen to have a key to the room."  And the two went upstairs.  Naipaul insured Adrian's entry and the latter set to work on the combination, while the former kept watch.

      "How is your progress?" asked Naipaul.

      "Very well, actually." and indeed Adrian's skills had not let him down.  He quickly got through the tumblers and was very near the solution.  "Tell me when you have the safe opened."

      "Too late, its done."  And so Adrian was.  He looked inside and found a large number of papers and a few tomes.  Adrian grabbed the one on the top and read out the title:  Unofficial Canonization Procedures of the Catholic church.

      "Now give me all the books, without reading them."

      "No, this is terrific, we'll find everything we want to know." but then he heard the click of a revolver.  Adrian turned around and immediately realized one great fact, the great fact that Madame Vovelle was not a racist, chauvinist or any other sort of unpleasant nationalist, that she would willingly cut of one of her own hands if it would insure the end of suffering of any innocent human being of whatever color or race, and that the only reason she ran around the streets of Ottawa yelling the silliest racist absurdities that she could think of, was so that Adrian Verrall and every other human being would not realize that Senator Nyere Naipaul of the Tanzanian parliament was none other than the Holder of the Averroes Seal.

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