It hadn t stopped drizzling. Beads of water fattened on the windowpane, next to which Giovanni stood, his nude body basked in shadows of raindrops streakingSep 6, 2002 1 of 11View SourceIt hadn't stopped drizzling. Beads of water fattened on the
windowpane, next to which Giovanni stood, his nude body basked in
shadows of raindrops streaking down the saturated glass. His
instincts told him, if he didn't escape through the window, they
would break into the room and push a pillow over his face while he
slept. Beyond the window was a rusted fire escape.
In the bathroom he filled the sink with hot water. The
reflection in the mirror showed the heavy, black threads sewn into
his stomach and chest where he had been slashed by a knife. Then he
submerged his hands into the water and splashed his face in an
attempt to dispel his dizziness and lethargy. The pain was
nauseating. When there was a sound from somewhere outside the
bathroom, the physical misery he felt was replaced by a jolt of
fear. His face, wet and dripping, lifted straight up from the sink.
He looked straight towards the door expecting that it would crash
down any second.
`Giovanni? Are you in there? Are you all right?'
The voice had high, lovely, feminine tone, which he
recognized. The voice belonged to Sheila, the attractive, blond
nurse who sponge bathed him this morning. Again, she
`What are you doing in there?'
`I needed to go to the rest room, that's all.'
He pulled the plug in the sink, then emerged from the
restroom and saw her standing there in her white nurses uniform.
After plunging his face into the towel, and rubbing vigorously, he
handed her the towel. He was not in the mood to hear her grievances
over his restroom habits.
`You know you're supposed to call me when you need to go to
the restroom,' she said.
`I didn't want to trouble you,' he said, and was becoming
`But that's my job.'
`I'll remember that next time.'
`You should not even be out of bed in the first place.'
`I feel fine for god sake. Leave me be,' he said, and moved
towards the bed; again conscious of the pain; sick and exhausted but
trying his best not to show it. `Are those two men still in
hallway?' he asked.
`Yes, they are. They've been there for an hour.'
`Don't be mad, Gio. I'm only doing my job.'
`I'm not mad at you. I'm mad at me. Now please, no more
talking. I need to get to bed. Do you understand?'
`Who are those men?'
`Who are those men? Are you some kind of idiot? Who do you
think they are?'
The redness of her face grew dark at his outburst. She
seemed stunned but not angry, and helped him with his nightgown to
cover his nakedness. Once his head popped through the gown, and his
arms were thrust through the sleeves, she cradled his legs and helped
him into bed. This was a woman perhaps all too accustomed to a man's
He rested the back on his head against the pillow, and stared
at the drizzle beading on the window. There was a determined look on
She was about to shut off the light.
`Don't leave Sheila.'
`What is it? she asked, her hand underneath the lamp shade.
`I'm sorry for snapping at you.'
`That's all right. You don't have to be sorry.'
`But I am. You've been very good to me, and I shouldn't have
yelled. I'm just a little nervous.'
She sat next to him in bed. The uniform conformed tightly to
her wide, child-bearing hips, giving him a shock of pleasure, an
`This has been the most agonizing week in my life, Sheila.
And. . . I. . . How shall I say?'
`Have you ever been to the Bahamas?'
`I have a place down there, and its on the ocean, and I
thought it would be nice to have your around. You're awful nice.'
He took her hand gently into the warmth of his hand and kissed her
above the wrist. `Don't answer,' he said, the limpness of her
fingers telling him that she was unalarmed. `Think about it for a
`I work the nigh shift, tomorrow. We can talk about it then.'
He nodded in response, even though he knew, by tomorrow
night, he would not be in the hospital. He would be dead or in the
Bahamas. There was no sticking around New York. The Mafia was
bearing down on him.
Before turning off the lights she said, `Sleep well,
The lights went out.
`Yes?' she answered, outlined in the doorway.
`Tell no one about the Bahamas. It's important that you
`My lips are sealed. Good night, Gio.'
`Good night, love.'
After the nurse closed the door, and the room was thrown into
darkness, he turned his head to the side; his cheek flush against the
pillow, he listened to the wind blowing the drizzle against the
window, and watched the beads of water growing fat and sliding down
the glass. There were places in the Bahamas where life went on as if
time stood still and where it would be a great pleasure to have
somebody laying next to him on the white corral beaches. In Nassau,
he had a bank account with enough money for a life time of sunsets,
two life times, one for himself and one for Sheila. He threw the
cover aside and grabbed the bed frame in order to resist the light
headedness that came from rising too quickly to his feet. With luck,
he thought, he could make it to Nassau in forty-eight hours. The
account he had set up there was under a false identity and held the
money that he had saved for his retirement, drug money which had
trickled down from a sophisticated safety deposit arrangement he had
set up within the Swiss banking system. The money was virtually un-
Across from the bed was a dresser. He grabbed a pair of
jockey undershorts, relieved at last to be taking action; the of
Sheila on his mind, whisking her away from it all. He got dressed in
a black suit, disregarding that the jacket was wrinkled and that it
was not a tie that he particularly liked. Short of informing on
Elizabeth, he would no whatever was required to stay alive, even if
that meant informing on the Serenghetti crime family and receiving
diplomatic immunity. Working with the police seemed the only
sensible option to insure a safe passage to the Bahamas.
He raised his leg over the sill and climbed through the
window. His trench coat repelled the cool, mist-infused breeze
blowing through the fire escape; beads of water pattered against his
wide-brimmed hat. After closing the window he descended the ladder
straight down for two stories; the wet, iron rails were cold against
his palms and numbed his fingers by the time he reached the bottom.
At the end of the alley the street was brightly illumined;
and in the brightness the precipitation seemed less mist-like. The
individual drops looked like molten silver flashing through the
headlights. Down the block was a phone booth. The space inside lit
up around him when he opened the door; then he dropped a dime in the
slot, pointed his finger into the rotary, and dialed the numbers that
were hand written on a slip of paper, which he held in his other
`I need to speak with Terry Hellman,' he said to whomever had
answered the phone.
`This is Giovanni Miglizzo. You left me your phone number,
and said you wanted to talk.'
`Right, right, Giovanni. I didn't know if you would call or
`I'm talking from a phone booth,' he said, and switched the
phone to his lift ear. The politeness of the man's voice un-nerved
him. Gio said: "Two fellas from the Vince Serenghetti's gang were
waiting in the hallway outside my room, so I thought I had better
`Did you talk with them?'
`No I didn't,' he answered, grimacing. It seemed an absurd
question to ask. `Considering Vince wants to grease me, I didn't
think there was much to say. The lines have been drawn.'
`Ah, they're probably just harassing you. I wouldn't worry
Giovanni could see that the politeness was a form of
patronage. Terry Hellman was the District Attorney and he was
speaking with a kind of aloof poise that suggested he was in no mood
to strike a deal.
`I think you know, Terry, I was not in possession of myself
when I informed on Vince. I was rambling and incoherent.'
`I empathize for you, truly I do. But what was said was
said. What do you want me to do about it? Why are you calling?'
`I need diplomatic immunity and I'll do whatever it takes to
`You have to earn diplomatic immunity.'
Giovanni knew that. He could blow the lid off a number of
criminal rings, one of which was in the D.A.'s own office. But Gio
would not do that. He did not need enemies. He need alliances.
`I have tangible evidence that shows Vince Serenghetti
financed terrorist activities in Italy.'
`Vince is sponsoring the Black Shirts. I can link him with
the fire bomb explosion that blew up a Red hideout in Venice.'
`You already made that clear. You rambled that off two days
ago. And I filed a report with the CIA. What else do you know?'
`I know how he came up with the money. The document I have
can trace the money back to the bank account he uses to launder drug
money. Time is something I don't have much of, unless you give me
the diplomatic immunity. I need to disappear, fast. Then I can tell
you everything you need to know.'
`You'll have to excuse me, Mr. Migliazzo, but I was not aware
that you were in any kind of position to know this information. My
question to you is, how? How is it that you know about Vince's drug
activities? Are you engaged in criminal activity?'
`In no way,' he lied.
`Then what's your connection to the Italian Mafia?'
`They lease one of my warehouses.'
`And so while they were there, at your warehouse, they lost
some incriminating evidence?'
`It's not that simple,' Gio said.
`Then how did you get the document? Did it magically appear
in your hands?'
It was Elizabeth who showed him the document. It was
Elizabeth who uncovered the political wrestling match that the Black
Shirts and the Reds fought in their struggle to achieve domination
over Italy's political infrastructure. It was Elizabeth and Father
Nicholas who met Giovanni at Saint Mark's Cathedral and showed him
intelligence documents that linked Vince Serenghetti to drug-money
being used to finance terrorist activity. But he would not snitch on
`Give me twenty-four hours. I need to go to my apartment,
make a few calls, and collect my thoughts. By this time tomorrow,
I'll have the document.'
`Then when the document is in my hands, we'll work at making
your disappear. Until then you're on your own.'
`Twenty-four hours. I'll see you then, at your office.'
`Good-by and good luck.'
Giovanni now stood outside the booth. Being among the
pedestrians and automobiles produced an inconspicuous feeling of
being lost in the anonymity of the crowds. No one appeared to be
following him. He pushed up his collar and distanced himself from
the hospital before haling a cab.
Upon returning to his apartment this evening he found that it
had been ransacked; the tables overturned, art-work smashed and lying
on the floor; the furniture ripped; and as a final humility, somebody
had defecated on his bed. He threw a sheet over the mattress, then
retreated into a walk-in closet. Underneath a shoe rack was a Smith
and Wesson and box of hallow point bullets. He thrust the gun to the
front pocked of his trench coat and left the apartment without hope
Chapter Ten, "Sirius Chronicles," copyright 2002. Mathew Morrell.
All rights reserved.
Mark and Elizabeth stayed up with Ed during his first night in the sanitarium. All night he slipped in and out of consciousness, sometimes cracking open hisSep 18, 2002 1 of 11View SourceMark and Elizabeth stayed up with Ed during his first night in the
sanitarium. All night he slipped in and out of consciousness,
sometimes cracking open his eyes, sometimes lifting his head from the
pillow and sometimes looking up at the ceiling and smiling as if
showers of red rose petals rained from the sky. With each new sign
of life he made, Elizabeth's entire countenance would change in
emotional hue, going from elation and from elation to sorrow when he
fell asleep again and slipped back into his private, inchoate,
psychological underworld. Mark sat on one side of the bed, Elizabeth
on the other, hoping he would regain consciousness, moreover
expecting he would, yet he lay there showing no signs of
intelligence; rather a mindlessness vegetal life. He had fallen into
a coma not long after drinking the Red Lion elixir, and now a sort of
dim, gray, etheric sheen hovered about his physical embodiment. This
was his aura and it was growing weaker, less crystalline and
colorless. The luminary brilliance of his Manas organization was
pulling further away from his organic self, pulling, they thought,
upward into the devachanic planes.
By dawn they were exhausted. Gently Mark spread a black,
embroidered shawl over her shoulders, tucked it neatly around her
neck, and gripped her arm so as to coerce Elizabeth from the bed
side. Ed's eyes shuttered almost imperceptively in their sockets;
but he did not awaken from the trance, and eventually Elizabeth
followed Mark outside into the cold.
A chilly dawn wind brushed over their faces. The streets
were wet from rain, the air moist, and the atmosphere at this early
hour not quit dark and yet not bright enough to trigger the street
lamps overhead. All that remained of last night's fog and the rain
were broken clouds. The clouds blew in from the coast, at first
thick and dense as they drifted overhead, but as morning drew near
the nocturnal sea-breezes pushed them onwards into the dark western
horizon. The last remaining clouds floated across the horizon, blood
red in the dazzling spectral colors tinting the horizon. On the ride
up town, in the early morning traffic, she leaned her shoulder
against the door and closed her eyes as the wind blew against her
face. Soon, her guilt subsided into the relaxation. Her breathing
became light and her thoughts moved lucidly in orbiting circles round
a central idea looming large in her conscience; and that thought was
how to save Ed.
The cab slowed gradually but turned sharply towards the curb
running adjacent to Central Park. Up the road a little was the
Metropolitan Museum of Art
`It's $7.55,' the driver said.
Mark handed him a ten over the dividing seat.
`Keep the change.'
`Thank you. Have a nice day.'
Elizabeth opened the door, and all at once the freshness of
the morning breeze swirled up and around her light, loose-fitting
sundress. Climbing out of the cab was like having crawled from a
dark cave and becoming suddenly conscious of the breadth and width of
the sky. The open breeze and blue sky brought an instantaneous
feeling of expansion, a sense of purity and calm, followed by a
realization of inner freedom; and suddenly her mind seized to be
malicious; it seized to be angry or vengeful, and all her spite
towards her grandfather vanished. She and Mark meandered off into
the park onto a pathway shaded from above by trees whose naked boughs
were still bare from winter and whose brown, spindly, bud-covered
branches cast moving shadows. The buds looked like fat, green
cocoons, whereas the oaks, the maples and the cottonwoods--all in
full bloom and exploding with leaves--shuttered in the breeze. The
Japanese Cherry trees, also in full bloom, unleashed pink flower
blossoms into the gusts of wind. A petal-filled gust blew in
swirling motions over Belvedere Lake, where a toy boat glided over
the surface of the lake across the flakes of sunlight tip toeing
towards the lemon yellow sun. Mark threw a pebble across the water
and the flakes splashed like molten gold.
A slope in the landscape rose up onto another field. On the
way up the slope, as the field came into view, Elizabeth remembered a
dream. A firecracker-light popped in her mind, colors swirled, and
the dream came unglued from her memory.
`Oh!' she said as they walked. `I had a dream last night! I
`What was it like?'
`It was great,' she said, and was about to explain the dream,
but one remembrance trailed quickly behind another, too quickly for
her to follow; and out of frustration, she picked up a long, fat
stick lying on the ground, and swung it through the air. Even though
she experienced the dream in detail, her thoughts could not reflect
the totality of the experience without fumbling her words. `Oh
darling,' she kept saying with the stick in her hand, `I can't tell
you how great it was. It was beautiful, you see. You won't
`I saw mountains and everything was so real. I saw an
angel. The angel. . . the sun. . . the sun was bright but wasn't
hot. . . Oh shoot baby. . . No, I can't tell you how great it was.
You don't understand.'
`I do understand, rabbit. It sounds beautiful. What do you
think it meant?'
All she did was shrug her shoulders and look across the
field. Her apartment building was in sight.
`Surely, it meant something,' he said.
`That's the thing. I don't think it meant anything. Jungian
psychology only goes so far, you know. To me, Sirius is a non-
symbolic location in consciousness, and it looks like an Ed MacIntosh
She threw out her walking stick in front of her strides, and
batted away a grasshopper so that her feet wouldn't crush it. It was
sitting on a tuft of grass, wet with morning dew. All the sudden it
leapt up and clung to her dress.
`Get if off me!' she cried.
Mark swept his palm across her dress and didn't release it.
He held it in his hand.
`It's just a little bug,' he said.
`I know. It startled me, that's all.'
`You're not afraid of grass hoppers, are you?'
`Usually not, no. I thought they didn't hop in the morning,
owing to the cold.'
Mark smiled. There was something to her tone of voice that
amused him. The tone did not correspond with the peasant simplicity
of her summer dress nor her long straight hair hanging down her back,
nor the old ladies shawl warming her shoulders. It was an exclusive
voice bred for debutante balls and tea parties. `In fact,' she was
saying, `I've always loved grasshoppers,' and thrust the stick
forward in front of her strides. `Even though they spit that crude,
brown, tobacco juice, which is impossible to clean in a wash,
grasshoppers fascinate me. What do you call people who study
`I'm not sure.'
He did not seemed to be listening anymore, for he was
entirely focused on the grasshopper cupped in his hand.
`Insects are just plain strange,' he said, then opened his
palms. The grasshopper sprung; its grayish wings chattered as it
flew. `They're world,' he said. `It must be one of amazing
vitality. Bugs always chattering at night, always flying and buzzing
about, eating this and that, copulating, laying eggs, making hives.'
`Bugs are really into life!'
`An insect lives so intensely, they must look down on us and
think we live in slow motion. I wonder if, indeed, they do see a
`I wonder,' said Elizabeth. `I think people who study
insects are called insectologists.'
`No. They're called Scientologists.'
`No!' Elizabeth laughed, and dropped her stick on the
ground. Central Park West was a mere three strides away and across
the street was the Bell Tower Apartment building.
Upon returning to her home, at six o'clock this morning, they
looked down at Central Park from her vine-entwined balcony on the
seventeenth floor, and sipped hot tea. They stood with their hips
leaned against the railing and gazed out over the morning mist
extending over the pathways, the lakes, the theaters, the ball parks,
all interspersed within the park's three-mile boundary.
Mark raised his mug, blew away the steam, and took a small,
cautious drink before setting it down again. Elizabeth said:
`The tea. . . it's good. . . this morning, isn't it? Is
yours too hot to drink?'
`It's a little hot.'
`Would you like some cream to cool it down?'
`I'm fine, sweet heart.'
`Just say so, and I'll get you some,' she said, the shawl
wrapped around her shoulders; and her long, nervous fingers, always
busy, pruned a dry, brown, brittle leaf from a vine. The wind
whipping at this height blew the leaf from her open palm. As the
wind swirled, and as the leaf drifted, an underlying pattern in
nature revealed itself. Her eyes dashed to and fro as the leaf rose
and fell, wavered and sunk in the circular ripples, the bulging
flows, the whirlpools and eddies swallowing the sky's continuous
identity. `There sure is something about the way the wind blows,'
she said in her dazed flowerchild voice.
`And that something is profound,' he whispered in return; for
he too had watched the leaf. They did not feel Ed was insane. They
felt he was suspended, as they leaf was, in a pocket of stillness
that only on the surface seemed lifeless and inanimate. Such was the
psychic similarity of their thoughts that they sipped their tea at
the same time, swallowed, and sighed as they gazed at the open space,
thinking the same thought, their mind's pondering this omnipotent
field dynamic. In the sky, each wind expressed its own, emphatic,
individual character, yet without diminishing the infinite quality of
`The sky is like millions of beating, pulsing, spirals
coiling and un-coiling in one big spiral,' she said, her face
squinting into the sun, its light warming her face, and the blue
expanse burning blood red around the sun's hot, molten sphere. Her
thoughts followed the freest possible orbit, flickered and fluttered
from one idea to another, yet this was no Freudian exercise in free
association. `The wind is nature's ballet,' she went on. `Based on
divine geometry. It is a self-perpetuating mathematics composed of
moving etheric shapes, spirals within spirals, flowing lines, that
enfold and un-fold into each other yet are constantly changed. One
innovation of classical ballet is that it involves the whole body,
not just the arms and legs in the flow of movement. The lines are
elevated. The ballerina is raised to her toes. All her lines and
angles, from her pointing slippers to the tips of her fingers, are
extended to their maximum degree of freedom. The difficulty is
coordinating and balancing these lines. If your center of gravity is
too low, your arms hang like Balanchine robots. If your center is
too high, your arms swing like wet strands of spaghetti. Your turn-
out must be broadcast over the entire body. Few dancers every truly
find their moving center. When they do, there's something magical
about them, something majestic that can't be touched, that's looks
weightless, ethereal and other worldly.' Elizabeth moved toward his
side of the balcony and pressed her hands against his flannel shirt
struggling to control her driving emotions. `Mark,' she said, `how
other-worldly do you think I can get?'
`You're asking me,' he said, thrilled by her analogy. `I
would say the highest heaven. If that's what you mean?'
`That's exactly what I mean.'
`Going out of body?'
`To search for Ed in conceptual hyperspace.'
Again, she tried to explain this `space', this Platonic Idea
Realm; and again managed only to fumble her words as clumsily as she
did earlier this morning when reliving her journey to Sirius. A
precise, linguistic definition of Sirius was beyond her and her
ability to describe it. Its queer spiral mathematics and its non-
linear flow of time seemed beyond all physical description. To her,
Sirius was a mental vacuum branded in the Soul of the World, and
could not be limited to Newtonian definitions. It was a soul-
spiritual dimension entrenched in the collective un-conscious, too
magnetic to be merely a dream world, too sublime to be an
abstraction, infinitely complex, yet simple enough to be beheld by
the meekest soul. Elizabeth found her pointing slippers where she
left them last night, in her duffel bag, along with her leotards, a
jacket and a pair of sneakers. She and Mark took the elevator down
to the lobby later this morning then departed with a kiss and a
promise to meet each other for lunch at the Agon Cafe.
The ABT studio was a refurbished, four story building on
W.78th Street. The top floor had been gutted-out and replaced by a
wide, un-interrupted dance floor several times larger than a normal-
sized stage; a long line of street-facing windows gushed sunshine.
Through the luminous beams sprung five, shirtless male dancers and
five ballerinas that included Elizabeth in her black leotards. Her
feet alighted on the floor, but the energy in the leap did not
evaporate; it spiraled out into a rapid series of chaine turns. The
mental stress Ed had collapsed under last night was the same inner
tension Elizabeth built up into explosion of joy. Her energy as she
danced seemed limitless. From her own inner battery of power she
tapped into the profound physical exaltation of the music being
played, Offenbach's Gaite Pariseinee. It was a piece that always
made her smile.
Rehearsals lasted all morning. The mood was serious but not
morose and there was much laughter and shouting, occasionally angry
shouts on account of the difficulty of the ballet and the frustration
of learning it. The chaine-turns after the leap seemed impossible.
Giovanni Migliazzo was a secret, un-noticed spectator observing
rehearsals from the top of the staircase; although his face was pale
and sickly, his skin yellowish, from his submerged eyes came a flash
of glee. It was a joy to see Elizabeth dance. The music was comedic
and all the little staccato rhythms seemed to bounce under her feet,
tiptoe, prance, leap, spin like a clown. Strange, new, surprising
shapes constantly unfurled from her body ---and her arms seemed to
blossom from nowhere. Giovanni took one final step from the
staircase, up onto the edge of the level floor, dressed incognito in
a black trench coat, and nearly un-recognizable in his wide-brimmed
hat, which fit low to his brow and shadowed his eyes. He was in
hiding and did not want to be detected. His reflection in the long
line of mirrors remained un-noticed by everyone save for Elizabeth,
who evidently recognized him, yet continued dancing until rehearsals
came to a close. The music stopped and the emotional pressure in her
body hissed slowly from her limbs, hissed like a balloon leaking
air. Her foot lowered onto the floor; her arms fell to her side,
deflated. Then she spun away from his reflection in the mirror and
saw him standing there looking helpless and hopeless.
By then it was the lunch hour. The dancers were exhausted
and breathing deeply. They walked off the dance floor with their
hands resting on their hips. Sweat beaded their chests and arms.
They congregated by the water cooler; but Elizabeth did not join
them. Coyly she slipped over towards the equipment closet, grabbed a
shawl, her sneakers and a towel which she slung over her shoulder
after wiping her face. Her coyness was due to Giovanni's presence.
She could not believe he was reckless enough to show himself in a
`You idiot,' she whispered when she met him at the
staircase. `What are you doing here?'
`I'm in trouble.'
`I know, I heard. Some one will see you. Let's go somewhere
where we can speak.'
Giovanni followed her down the staircase, which descended
four flights. The shawl was black in color, made from a light-weight
nylon material, and served as a skirt when she tied it around her
waist. The staircase terminated on the first floor.
`I read the paper,' she said in the hallway. `Are you mad?'
`I must have been, sweet heart, because, if I was sane at the
time, believe me, I would not have snitched on the Vince Serenghetti.'
`You seem fine now. I mean, it looks like you're recovering.'
`Just say it, I look like hell.'
`You look like hell.'
`I feel quiet well, considering. Last night I found my
apartment in ruin. The Mafia trashed the place. Somebody defecated
on my bed.'
`Man, they're doing a job on you. You should leave New York
for a while, maybe forever.'
`Which brings me to the reason I risked seeing you today. . .'
There was an empty classroom down the hallway. Elizabeth sat
on the piano bench and slipped on her shoes. Giovanni was saying:
`I spoke to the DA last night and promised him the documents
linking Vince Serenghetti to the Black Shirts. To do this, I need
you to give me the intelligence report you showed me a few weeks ago.'
`They're at Father Nicholas's apartment.'
`How about I meet you there, tonight, at eight o'clock?'
`Sure. Is that all?'
`I think so. I only hope I can escape New York in once
`Have you found out who assaulted you,' Elizabeth asked,
still tying her shoes.
`No, and I don't think that matters anymore. It could have
`It must have been terrifying.'
`It's been a nightmare. A nightmare, Elizabeth. I don't
know how you got me into all this.'
`Don't pin this one on me! I can't help that you shot off
`I know, I know. I'm sorry for saying that. I'm too sick to
argue. All I want, now, is the documents. We should not fight so
`Well take care of the documents. But what about Thomas
`Good Lord, you haven't thought about Thomas? He's the one
you should fear. His name is all over the documents. He's the one
who deposited the money for you.'
Giovanni plopped down next to her on the bench. Elizabeth
placed her hand on his shoulder to ease his strain.
`Wherever you're going,' she said, `you need to hook up with
`I'm going to a white, sandy beach in the Bahamas. I want
you to come with me.'
`Don't be a fool.' She let go of his shoulder and sat in a
stiff, upright posture, with her hands resting on her lap and her
legs drawn together so that her knee caps were touching. `Gio, you
should fade into the sun set.'
`I don't want to fade from you life. Visit me this summer,
`Why? because I'm in love. After tonight, I don't want to
see you again. It wouldn't be prudent under the circumstances.'
`Elizabeth's in love.' He chuckled sarcastically. `Our
lives have taken quiet an unexpected turn. You're in love and I have
a contract on my head. Who could have imagined?'
`Don't get sentimental on me. Stay positive. If you want, I
can take the afternoon off. We could meet Nicholas at Saint Mark's
Cathedral and have this thing cleared-up in a couple hours.
`Yes, that long. You've seen the Red Files. They're huge.'
`All I need is the document pertaining to Vince, that's all.'
`I don't know where that document is. Besides, you don't
need one document. We need many. It may take at least an hour to
sift through the evidence and decide what information to blot out and
what to save. Of course, we must blot out all information on North
Star and any official who does not stand in a direct line between
Vince and the terrorist bombing.'
`What about Thomas?'
`We'll blot his name, too. That would be a requisite. His
name is on your bank deposit slips. I have a hunch he's the one who
defecated on your bed. That's something he would do. He's a low
`It sounds like a huge task,' he said.
`It is, but with three people working at it, we could
probably get it done in two or three hours. Are you sure you don't
want to get it out of the way this afternoon?'
`No, I have business to take care of.'
They left the classroom and went outside. The temperature
had climbed into the mid-seventies and there were no clouds in the
sky. Before parting, Giovanni re-affirmed their agreement:
`I'll met you at the cathedral at six.
`I'll be there, and Mark will to.'
`Mark? No way. You're not brining Mark into this.'
`I am bring him,' she said. `I want somebody on my side.'
`Why?' Giovanni seemed insulted.
`Because, I don't trust you. You're a bully.'
`No,' he said. `I won't allow it.'
`No, you will. Because he going to be there. You're not
going to come into Nicholas's apartment and bully us around.'
`Fine, bring Mark!'
`You don't have to be mean, Gio.'
`You don't have to bring Mark.'
`Why do you have to be this way? Meet us at the cathedral,
then just go away. Nothing more is required of you.'
The two stood looking at each other, oblivious of the crowds
rushing past them. The wordless, non-reproachful manner in which
Elizabeth stood there, meek and humble, showed she was un-
intimidated. Her warmth enveloped him. He dipped his head, and then
walked away as if shamed and embarrassed. Never, in all their years
together, had he raised his voice or yelled at her; he was known for
his good humor, and too see this quality vanquished disturbed her.
It was a bad omen.
Across the street was the Agon Cafe. Inside it was packed;
the room was filled with boisterous sounds of the heavy lunch-hour
crowd. Covering the walls photographs of famous dancers: Margot
Fonteyn, Nijinksy, Allegra Kent, Martha Graham. . . Mark was sitting
at a table underneath a picture of Villella. As soon as they saw
each from across the crowded room they waved. Suddenly, Elizabeth
seized to feel frightened. She felt majestic with Mark. With Mark
she was happy. He pulled out a chair, saying: `I hope you don't
mind, but I ordered you a corn-beefed sandwich.'
She sat. `I love corned beef.'
`And a Coke. Here's your Coke. I didn't know if you liked
Coke or not.'
She sipped the Coke through the candy-cane striped straw
sticking up from the paper cup. Her cheeks puckered. Then she bit
the straw and gave him a look exuding admiration and awe.
`You're great, Mark. Thanks for buying lunch.'
`Your welcome, rabbit.' His big, workmen hands clutched a
sandwich. He was seated opposite her, and took a hungry bite that
filled his mouth. After swallowing he said: `What a morning I've
`Did you visit the sanitarium?'
`How's he doing?'
`The same. He wouldn't talk and was un-responsive. When he
did open his eyes, nothing seemed to connect, and he would close them
again.' Mark sipped his Coke. `I talked to your grandfather,
Whitney. By the way, he was there at the sanitarium.'
She seemed startled. `What was he doing there?'
`Sitting with Ed. What's wrong?'
`Nothing. I was just surprised. What did you guys discuss?'
`Ed, mostly. Whitney invited me to his home this afternoon.
Elizabeth, you didn't tell me he was clairvoyant.'
`I suppose I haven't, have I, huh?'
Mark laughed. `You're funny Elizabeth.'
She reflected on his open face and bright, engaging smile.
`I guess I've never thought of Whitney as a clairvoyant. To
me, he just grand dad.'
`He seems like an awesome personality, almost eerie. I'm
supposed to be at his estate at 1:30. I hope you don't mind if I
kick out of here early.'
`No, I don't mind.' She stared down at her paper plate. She
hadn`t taken one bite from her sandwich.
`Are you sure you're all right?' he asked. `You seem sullen.'
`No, something is definitely wrong and you're not telling
me. What's going on? You seem shaken up.'
His sympathy for her was such that she felt free to tell him:
`Oh, god, Mark. A lot's going on. Do you think you can come
back to the city after you're finished talking with my grandfather?
Please say yes.'
`I'll come back. No problem.'
`Meet me in the nave at Saint Mark's Cathedral at 6:30. The
only thing I ask is that you tell no one about the meeting, not even
my grandfather, especially my grandfather. If fact, have the
chauffer drop you off down the block from the cathedral, in front of
the sanitarium. It's important that no one see you enter the nave.'
`What's this all about? Are you in trouble?'
`No, but Giovanni Migliazzo is. It's very complicated. I'll
explain it to you, tonight.'
`I'll be there.'
He finished his lunch and stood up from the table.
`I'll see you tonight, then, okay?'
`Bye, bye, Mark.'
He skirted past a buss boy carrying a tray of dirty dishes.
Outside the deli, the air was moist and fresh-smelling after last
night's rain. He slipped on his jacket and haled cab.
Chapter Eleven of 'Sirius Chronicles,' by Mathew Morrell. Copyright
2002. All rights reserved.
Migliazzo spent several hours at the nurse s apartment and didn t return to the streets until it was late afternoon, when the traffic on the Lower East SideSep 25, 2002 1 of 11View SourceMigliazzo spent several hours at the nurse's apartment and didn't
return to the streets until it was late afternoon, when the traffic
on the Lower East Side was thickest; commuters jammed the grid; and a
thin haze of smog and exhaust mingled above the crowds pouring from
the subway terminal on Bleaker Street. In his black hat and black
trench coat he was indistinguishable in the crowd, anonymously
safeguarded by their numbers, and moving freely, without fear, past
the circular arches of the ASCAP building. Further down the block,
at a newsstand, he grabbed the late edition; the paper was fresh from
the press and felt warm; tucked away in the local news section was an
article that said he had busted from the hospital. Fortunately,
there was no photograph of him. He handed the vendor a dime. Then
with the newspaper tucked under his arm he walked to the Constantine
The time he had spent at the nurse's apartment had drained
his vitality. Sexually he was spent. Yet, mentally clear. A veil
had lifted and a realization had come. It was not the nurse he
wanted. It was not Elizabeth, nor any one woman. He un-locked the
door to his suite, thinking: It is all women. The door opened into
a darkened room, shag carpeted, smelling of fresh bed linen and air
freshener. After securing the dead bolt, he went over towards the
bed and dialed room service. On the bed was his .44 magnum; its
weight dimpled a pillow. When room service answered he struggled to
remember the false name under which he was registered.
`This is. . . Frank White, room 312. Send me up a snack of
some kind. A ham sandwich will do.'
`It comes with lettuce, mayonnaise and tomatoes.'
`That'll do. Add a half-pint of McCormick's to my order, no
a full pint. Have the concierge knock two times before leaving the
order outside my door.'
`I look dreadful and don't want anyone coming in my room.'
He hung up the phone realizing he had made a mistake with the
nurse. Pale and disheveled, he removed his trench coat wishing he
hadn't made love to her, let alone invited her to the Bahamas. In a
way he felt tricked. His attraction for her had clouded his
judgment. With the vain quirk he had, of staring at his reflection
in the mirror and seeing himself in a humorous light, he thought
aloud while un-doing his tie: `Here you've done it again, you old
goat. Isn't it time you learned? Sex only promises everlasting
Giovanni ran the tap in the bathroom. On the marble
countertop lay his toiletry supplies including a blue bottle of hair
dye, a plastic comb, a toothbrush and a razor; the content inside the
blue bottle smelled pungent and made him wince after he smelled it.
Steam rose from the sink. Giovanni did not know what he would do to
occupy himself once he arrived in the Bahamas --- snorkel, boat,
fish, no doubt, but he also dreamt of renewing his career as a
journalist. He thought: Maybe sports journalism. Maybe politics.
But then, as quickly as this thought came, he realized he was no
longer in the know; he was out-of-the loop, had spent the last decade
focused almost entirely on sex and money and heroin. Christ, I have
nothing to write about anymore. I'm a rotten nihilist. Migliazzo
thoroughly soaked his hair in the warm water and, with his finger
tips, worked the pungent-smelling dye deep into his roots; the suds
were brown and his eyes watered from the fumes.
An hour later he was nearly un-recognizable. He emerged from
the bathroom, clean shaven, his mustache gone, his hair dyed a dark
brown. As a final touch to his disguise he clothed himself in non-
descript, generic garments: tacky Bermuda shorts, a floral safari
shirt, brand new penny loafers, knee length socks, sunglasses in the
pocket. He felt ridiculous seeing his reflection in the mirror. He
looked like an American tourist; but that was the intended effect.
Scoffing at himself, he sat on the edge of the bed. The sheets were
frazzled, the room dark and the curtains rolling in the breeze
blowing through the window.
`This is Giovanni,' he said over the telephone, when ringing
the DA. `Everything is going as planned. I'm at a hotel, and I'll
have the documents on your desk before ten tonight.'
`I though you said nine.'
`No, it will have to be ten. Do you have the plane tickets?'
`I have one for you and one for Sheila Moss. They're under
your assumed identity, Frank White.'
He disliked his new name; sounded too pedestrian. He could
not picture himself, a Frank White in Bermuda short, strolling along
the beach with a nurse named Sheila. The image produced a wave of
depression. `I'll keep you updated if there's a change in plans,' he
added. `See you tonight.'
Two hard wraps came from the door, most likely room service;
in case it wasn't, however, after he hung up the phone he reached for
the .44. It felt heavy but well-balanced. Squinting through the
peephole, he kept the muzzle pointed at the floor. Nobody was in the
hallway. The convex swell to the leans magnified the tray and the
four-legged stand on which it stood. He brought the tray inside the
room, set it on the dresser, and quickly closed the door all within a
matter of moments. Underneath the lid was a sandwich ---a ham,
lettuce and tomato sandwich made from a fresh-baked roll that was
light brown on top. The sandwich was for Sheila, if or when she
arrived. He grabbed the bottle and read the label. McCormick's.
Established in 1856. Weston, Missouri. Charcoal mellow whiskey. He
paced the room, simultaneously holding the .44 and swigging from the
bottle. The effect was instantaneous. The soothing warmth in his
stomach became a sudden lightness in his head. Maybe, he thought,
the Knicks have a chance next year. Playoffs. Wonder if Sheila
likes basketball. She'd make a good wife, pretty, obedient, demure,
easy-to-please, not so bright but sensual and passionate. I'm too
critical. The girl is terrific. The door was being knocked and he
was thinking: I'm going to make her the god-damned happiest woman in
the world. I'm changing. I'm going to be happy being Frank White.
The bottle was empty. He tossed it into the trashcan then
went over towards the door and squinted through the peephole. It
was her. Through the peephole's convex swell he observed the cheap
red dress she was wearing along with the matching pair of high heal
shoes; her middle class simplicity was endearing, though a little
irritating. Through the peephole it became apparent to him that she
had been crying; her eyelashes were moist, curled above her blue
eyes, conveying an image of helplessness ---and her helplessness
ruined him. He swung open the door and swept her into his arms; and
as they kissed, lovingly, softly, fluidly, he felt he could be Frank
White forever and ever
`I'm glad as hell you made it,' he said. `I didn't know if
you would show up or not.'
`I'm afraid,' she said in his loving embrace.
`Don't be afraid, sweet. Everything will be all right. I'll
make sure of that.'
`I quit my job. Everything I have is in a suitcase,' which
she lowered onto the floor. Tears streamed down her cheek, yet she
was smiling. `You look silly, Gio.'
`It's my disguise.'
`You cut off your mustache. It's gone. I loved it. Oh, why
did you cut if off?'
`It'll grow back, sweety. That's kind of how things work
with hair. It keeps growing.'
Again she molded into his arms, and again they melted into
each other, and again he lavished in the warmth and softness he felt
through the fabric of her dress. Behind her was the open door. He
reached for it, but she was desperate and hysterical, joyful and sad,
and before he could close the door she clutched his arm.
`I feel lost and afraid,' she said as he wiped her tears.
`Don't be afraid, sweet. In twelve hours we'll be set up in
a hotel. We can buy you new cloths and pretty dresses. You're going
to be the happiest woman on earth.'
`Yesterday, I had my own life, and now, now I'm nothing.'
`You're nothing. I'm nothing. We're both nothings.
Everyone is nothing. The universe is nothingess, and me and you will
face it together, us against the Nothing.'
`But am I doing the right thing?'
`Sure you are. Trust me, sweet. Trust me.'
`You do love me, don't you?
`For certain,' he said.
`Tell me you love me.'
`I love you, I love you. Everything will be fine,' he kept
telling her. `Everything will be all right.'
`I love you Giovanni.'
`I love you to, sweet, and everything will work out like pie.'
After that her body fell away. That's what it felt like, at
least. There was a sneezing bang, at the same time an exploding
flash, a flash and a bang, and her body became heavy in his arms, too
heavy to support, and she slid through his arms. Indeed, she fell
straight down flat on her posterior. Then she rolled over on her
side ---a bullet hole plunged through the back of her head. It was
apparent by the way her eyes remained open that she was dead.
And it was Thomas Sinclair, the North Star psychic, who shot
her. He had appeared at the door's threshold bearing in his hand
a .357 pistol; extending from the barrel, the silencer had muted the
shot fired into a `sneeze' of air. Next he kicked the door closed
without lowering the piece. Nothing came out of Giovanni's mouth.
He felt paralyzed. Such was the horror of looking down the muzzle of
a .357 that everything else was an abstraction. His throat swelled.
All he managed to say was: `I didn't mean it,' his voice helpless
and desperate. `I, I, I, wasn't thinking straight when I snitched on
Vince. I wasn't thinking what snitching on Vince would do to you.
Please, just understand. Please.'
Thomas was expressionless. His long, blond hair hung
savagely over his shoulders; his face was stern, cold, devoid of
emotion; and his eye seemed lifeless, almost snake-like. When he
cocked the gun Giovanni jerked his head to the side expecting a blast
of heat and fire to explode into his face.
`Thomas! I don't have to give the DA the documents. I can
vanish, and pretend it never happened. What do you say, man?'
`Documents?' Thomas slackened his arm, so that the gun was
aimed above and not at Gio's head.
`The Red Files,' Gio added. The horror subsided into
uncontrollable shivers. `How in the hell did you get a hold
of the Red Files?'
`Through the Sinclair's.'
This time Thomas lowered the muzzle back in Giovanni's face,
adding: `Listen very carefully, now. If you have any moral scruples
about covering up for somebody, you better wake up. Understand?
I'll do it right here, right now.'
`Give me some time, please, I beg you.'
`I don't have time. Tell me where the Red Files are. Does
Elizabeth have them?'
Migliazzo bowed his head, shamefully.
`Thought so!' said Thomas. `Where is Elizabeth tonight?'
`She's. . .'
`Tell me! Where is that cunt?'
`Saint Mark's Cathedral.'
`And the Red Files?'
`They're also at the cathedral.'
`Then you can guess where we're going? We're going to walk
out that door and I am going to have a gun pointed at your back.
Don't think about doing anything stupid, I beg you. There's nothing
that would stop me from blowing a hole in your back.' Thomas's gaze,
more paralyzing than the gun itself, fixed upon him with devouring
intensity. Slowly, and while sustaining eye contact, Thomas slipped
the gun into his side pocket. Giovanni could have retaliated at that
moment, but did not. Through intimidation alone Thomas forced Gio
out the door and into the hallway. Still, Gio did not resist. For,
Thomas sustained a tight grip on the gun while it was buried inside
the pocket of his jacket, which was made from rattlesnake skin and
had two pockets deep enough to conceal the additional length of the
silencer. In the elevator, occupied by five other people, they
stood in the corner. Thomas's gaze sucked the life from him.
The door slid open. Thomas nudged Gio from behind. `Be
cool,' Thomas said as they stepped from the elevator, `or I'll grease
you. Stay cool. All right?'
Thomas tossed him a key ring. `You're driving.'
The sound of traffic became audible once they stepped
outside. Bleaker Street was gray and dreary in the thin light of
dusk. The breeze feathered Thomas's hair. He was wearing a pair of
faded blue jeans and snake skin cowboy boots that added an upward
lilt to his strides. His Jaguar was parked down the block from the
They followed the fastest and easiest route to Queens.
Thomas told Gio to avoid the traffic on Broadway by hooking over to
34th Street and taking a right into the Queens Midtown Tunnel. Then
Thomas reached between his legs and eased the seat back. Within half
an hour, they had crossed the tunnel over into Queens and were
approaching the construction zone outside the sanitarium. City
workers were repairing a broken water main. The men were wearing
hard hats, luminous in the high intensity flood lights. A jack
hammer operator was breaking up the hard, concrete shell covering the
earth and a back hoe was excavating the earth into a dump truck. The
street was muddy and the traffic reduced to two lanes. A flagger
waved them on, and the Jaguar advanced through the construction zone
and beyond the sanitarium.
Ahead was the cathedral on Parker Street. Thomas lifted the
gun off his lap.
`Where do they keep the documents?'
`In a chest in the bedroom,' Gio answered, his hands on the
`How many documents are there?'
`Several hundred thousand,' he said and parked. The parking
space was at the bottom of a small, bright-green lawn; the soysa was
well-manicured, smooth as it went up a gentle slope toward the
cathedral's elevated perspective above Parker Street. Masses of
climbing ivy covered the cathedral's rock facade. Thomas opened the
trunk where there was a bundle of rope and a roll of electrical
`You said the priest lives in the basement?' Thomas asked.
`After you tie up Elizabeth and Mark, I want you and the
priest to find the documents. Then tie up the priest. I want them
to stay tied, too. Is that clear?'
`Yes,' he nodded.
`No half-assed granny knots. No monkey business.'
Giovanni found himself nodding and giving automatic responses
having no other choice besides to comply to Thomas's every whim.
`Whatever you want, Thomas. So long as no one gets hurt.'
Thomas slammed the trunk closed. In his pocket was the roll
of tape. He no longer carried the gun out in the open; it was
bulging in his other pocket.
`If the rope is loose, and if they get their arms free, then
you're history. Is that also clear?'
`Remember, you're expendable,' Thomas said, always applying,
with expert knowledge, a dominant tension. `Don't screw up,' he went
on. `I need your complete cooperation.'
And he seemed to have it.
`I only want Elizabeth to come out of this alive.'
They climbed the stone-hewn column of stair towards the large
double doors. Giovanni grabbed the wooden handle but did not pull.
They were two, heavy oak doors, embellished with hand-forged iron
work. Above the arch were stone gargoyles. There was something
psychic about the cathedral that touched a hell-fearing nerve in his
Inside, Giovanni and Thomas obeyed the rule of silence by
treading softly through the nave. Evening Mass had not ended and the
pews were filled. The congregation sat there in sublime indifference
listening to a priest recite the Latin liturgy. At the organ sat a
dark-cloaked figure who played a triple tiered keyboard and whose
feet pumped the billows. The brass tubes were thirty feet high.
Above the alter was the crucified image of Jesus. A current of pain
seemed to permeate the pale, thin, dangling body, crowned in thorns;
blood trickled from the hands and feet. Yet the face was silent, the
eyes still and un-moved, conveying peace in the midst of physical
The soft, mystical chord penetrated the entire cathedral, and
was audible in the passageway down which Giovanni walked. His head
was throbbing; his neck hurt and the pain transferred itself to the
back of his skull.
`I can tell you're not feeling well,' Thomas remarked. `Do
you have a head ache?'
`We'll see if the priest has any aspirin in his medicine
cabinet. I don't want to see you in pain.'
The display of compassion convinced Giovanni that Thomas was
looking out for him and that nothing else bad would happened tonight
if he followed orders. Their footsteps now chattered down a wooden
staircase. They were descending into a brick-enclosed room. The
walls, steeped in moisture, added the distinctive, stony-wet smell of
a poorly ventilated basement.
`I think I should tell you, Elizabeth is armed,' Gio
said. `She packs a Beretta in her purse. It is always loaded and
she used it well.'
`I say this so no one will be harmed, un-necessarily.'
`I'll take that into consideration. How much further?'
They were directly below the nave, in the basement, able to
hear the organ while they walked single file down a narrow corridor.
Cob webs trembled in their wake. The air was cool and wet, almost
too dark to see through, and there was the smell of burning fuel. At
the end of the corridor was the boiler room. It was noticeably
warmer there, and darker; concrete beam supports rose from the floor
to the rough-milled timbers forming the ceiling; exposed metal pipes
ran the length of the ceiling; the cold water pipes were sweating,
due to the warmth. All the pipes were connected to a rumbling cast
Thomas was saying:
`This does not have to be bloody, Gio ---if you keep them
calm. But if she pulled the gun, I assure you it will be messy.'
`Elizabeth responds to reason and common sense. Violence
isn't necessary with her.'
The bare light blue glared over their heads. A white cotton
string was connected to the light bulb. Thomas pulled down on the
string. The light turned off, and the boiler room was thrown into
darkness. All that was visible was the slivers of lights shining
through the cracks of the doorway. The .357 was pressed against
Giovanni's back. Thomas was behind him, saying, in the dark: `Go
ahead, Gio, knock.' The rapping of his fist was followed by various
sounds on the other side of the door. They heard Elizabeth's
voice: `That's Gio,' and foot steps. But it was not Elizabeth who
appeared when the door was opened. The interior light inside the
apartment outlined the priest who showed himself in full frock, and
whose small, thin frame was bent over and hunchbacked. A pair of
reading glasses rested at the end of his nose.
`Giovanni?' the priest said, his voice tremulous in a way
that suggest the onset of Parkinson's disease. `Who's with you?'
`We're in somewhat of a predicament, here, Father. We need
to come in.'
`We need to come in?'
`Yes. We have some business to take care of.'
`I know you have business,' the priest said. `We've been
waiting for you. But we did not think you would bring anyone else.
It's un-called for.'
The priest did not move from the threshold. The rounded
rubber tip of his cane remained impaled into the light brown
carpeting underneath his feet. In spite of his enfeebled physical
appearance, he stood his ground and scrutinized them from over the
top of his reading glasses. Then Elizabeth appeared. She stood
behind the priest. Her face was blushed back to her ears.
`What's Thomas doing here?' she said. `Does my grandfather
know you're here? Have you broken you leash, Thomas?'
`I brought him with me,' Giovanni said. `I'm sorry
Elizabeth. I'm sorry Father. Please let us in and there won't be
`We can't do that, and you know it,' said Elizabeth. `This
is Nicholas's home. He is a priest, he is old, and nobody will barge
in on him as long as I'm around.'
`If North Star knows about us,' the priest said, `we'll have
to destroy the documents.'
`You'll do no such thing,' said Thomas, still standing behind
Giovanni. `You'll do what my boy, Gio, wants you to do.'
`Giovanni?' she said.
`I'm ill, and I'm exhausted,' said Giovanni. `Please, please
co-operate, and there won't be any problems.'
`Tell the primadonna why I'm here,' Thomas said. Giovanni
`Elizabeth, Thomas wants the Red Files. I don't think that's
too much to ask.'
`Did my grandfather put you up to this?' she asked.
`As a matter of fact, he didn't,' said Thomas. `This
afternoon he fired me and hired your new boy.'
This time Giovanni spoke. `Please understand. If I hand the
Red Files over to the DA's office, Thomas is going down with Vince.'
`That's not my problem,' Elizabeth said.
`It is now!' yelled Thomas. The priest was shaking more
noticeably now that Thomas had broken his air of reserve. And now
Mark Sonntag appeared in the doorway, bearing a hand gun. It was
then that Elizabeth realized that Thomas Rose also had a gun; she
could not see it because Thomas remained behind Giovanni, whose
shoulders were rolled back as if Thomas was grinding the muzzle into
`He's got a gun in my back,' Gio cried. `Don't shoot!'
`Put the gun down,' Thomas screamed.
Giovanni spat as he cried: `Play it cool. He's already
killed one person tonight.'
It was Elizabeth's gun that Mark aimed, a simple nickel-
plated Berretta pointed at Thomas's thin, long, pock-marked face,
which was half-exposed behind Giovanni's head. That left Mark a slim
target. He seemed to know that and didn't shoot; he merely stood
there, thinking while everyone was yelling. One twitch of my hand,
Mark thought, and the bullet could blast away Giovanni's cheek.
Thomas would recover and shoot back. Somebody would die. Thomas
would die but someone else would to, maybe rabbit. Mark Sonntag
lowered the gun after thinking it through. His arm fell to his side;
his thumb un-cocked the chamber. Then he bent his legs, knelt, and
laid the gun on the floor. Everyone was yelling except her. She
seemed on the verge of tears. Her face was sheet white. Her eyes
blood shot. Never give up your gun! she seemed to cry. Never give
Giovanni staggered into the low ceiling room beyond the
threshold, this being the living room. Directly above the ceiling
was the nave. The organ composition and its throb could be heard,
and felt, vibrating inside this small, low-ceiling apartment, which
was sparsely furnished, drab, yet clean and organized. Giovanni
pulled three rickety wooden chairs out from under a table that was
draped in a thin, white cloth that was actually a bed sheet that
served as a table cloth. On it was an open Bible and waxed covered
bottle of wine, from which rose a tapered candle stick. The dividing
wall, against which Gio pushed the chairs, separated the living room
from the tiny bedroom on the other side of the dividing wall. In
some places the wall paper was torn, revealing lath and plaster.
Hung on the wall was a religious print framed in gold-gilt molding,
and another print that was un-framed and tacked to the wall.
Elizabeth had, in her adolescent years, used the apartment as a
monastic retreat from the fast-paced frenzy of her dance career, and
spent countless hours lounging on the couch over against the wall.
The print, Botticelli's Birth of Venus, hung straight above the
chairs pushed against the dividing wall.
`Have a seat,' Gio told them.
`Why?' Mark asked.
`Just do it. Don't ask questions. Let's be cooperative.'
Mark, Elizabeth and the priest were huddled together; the
priest shivered. She wrapped her arm around him, pulled him close to
her side and comforted him with whispering words of reassurance.
Neither she nor Mark let go when Giovanni tried seizing the priest by
`He's an old man!' she cried. `Leave him be!'
`Do as they say,' Thomas told Gio. `The old man isn't
sitting down, yet. I have a special job for him. It's the two
preppies I want tied up.'
Thomas had the .357 aimed at them from the kitchen. He was
standing behind the lime green counter top that divided the kitchen
from the living room; behind him was the stove. On the counter was
`You, priest,' said Thomas, `where are the Red Files?'
`In the bedroom.'
`Are they all there? Every document?'
Giovanni, crouched on his knees, looked up. He was tying
Elizabeth's ankles to the legs of the chair.
`All the files are in the bedroom.'
`Not at her apartment?' Thomas asked. `Not at Mark's place?'
`Not that I know of,' said Gio.
`So they're all here?'
The rope formed tight knots around their wrists and ankles.
They were now completely restrained. From his side pocket Thomas
produced the gray electrical tape. He tossed it to Giovanni and
Giovanni went about taping their mouths.
`It'll be all right,' Gio said to Elizabeth.
`Why are you doing this to me?' she asked.
`No talking!' said Thomas. `That goes for you to, Gio. Tape
her mouth and be quiet.' He averted his face toward the
ceiling. `Doesn't that music ever stop!'
There was the abrupt tearing sound of Giovanni pealing away a
strip of tape. That strip was applied to Elizabeth's mouth.
Deprived of movement, taped, bound, and un-able to speak, the feeling
of claustrophobia overwhelmed her. Her finger were reddish purple
from lack of circulation. Her nostrils flared. The old man's
apartment was stiflingly hot -- her face was sweating -- and the tape
did not adhere well; it kept pealing, so Giovanni rubbed it into her
mouth. Another strip was adhered to Sonntag's face. Then Giovanni
placed the roll of tape on the lime-green counter top; although the
Berretta was within reaching distance, he did not go for it. Thomas
was keeping an eye on him.
`What about the bottle of aspirin?' Gio asked. `My head is
killing me. Do you mind if I check the medicine cabinet?'
`Go ahead,' Thomas said and followed him into the bedroom,
which was barely large enough for the twin bed, the dresser and the
wooden chest that was at the foot of the bed. On the floor stood a
kerosene heater. The filament flamed cherry red. The heat cut the
moisture but at the expense of making the apartment uncomfortable and
the bedroom miserable. Rings of moisture surrounded Thomas's arm
pits. He was observing the priest, whose arms were plunged inside
the chest. `How are you proceeding?' Thomas asked him, just then
entering the room; the priest crouched on his knees and sorted
through the papers.
`It will take time,' the priest, Nicholas, answered.
`Hurry it up, then. I don't have all night. Where do you
keep the kerosene for this heater?'
`There's a can in the boiler room.'
There was the sound of a door closing shut; it was Gio
closing himself off in the bathroom. Meanwhile, Thomas hurried
through the apartment in order to retrieve the kerosene.
In the boiler room, he found the five gallon container.
There was not enough time this evening to find the specific documents
tying himself to Vince Serenghetti and their terrorist activities.
Thomas raised the container. It was tin and felt three-quarters
full. If he burned the chest, and let the fire spread into the
apartment, there would be an additional benefit. The fire would
destroy all the evidence and all witnesses. A manic smile spread
over his face.
Thomas switched the container to his left hand and drew the
gun from his pocket. Through the lightened doorway he saw Giovanni
reaching for the Berretta lying on the lime-green countertop.
`What are you doing, Gio?' he asked when emerging from the
boiler room; Giovanni spun towards the doorway where Thomas
stood. `Were you reaching for that gun?' Thomas asked.
Giovanni flushed. `No, not at all.'
`It looked like you were.'
`Are you sure?'
`I hope you wouldn't be that stupid.'
`I was reaching for it, yes, but its not at all what you may
`Ah, I see.'
Father Nicholas came into the living room. His strides were
short and wobbly. He was holding documents.
`What do you have there?' Thomas asked.
`Evidence against Mr. Serenghetti, including a financial
report. The papers trace the money Vince Serenghetti advanced to an
off short account linked to the terrorist who bombed the Red hideout
in Venice. There's also a bank statement. Your name is listed as
the depositor. I also have addresses to active members of the Black
Shirts and the Reds. Phone company records show that calls were made
to convicted terrorists from Serenghetti.'
Thomas interrupted, saying: `Good work, priest. Why don't
you have a seat next to the preppies.'
`But I haven't finished yet.'
`Well, I say you have. I'm hot and sweaty and sick of
hearing that fucking organ. I don't know how an old man like you can
bear living in such a hole.'
The priest was staring at the kerosene. `What do you intend
to do with the files?'
`My boy, we're having a little barbecue. Say, Gio. How's
the headache doing? Did you find any aspirin?'
Giovanni nodded. He too, like the priest, noticed the
kerosene; the implication was dreadful. Thomas, evidently, intended
to burned the documents in the apartment. Gio asked: `Have we
finished our business, yet?'
`What do you mean?' Thomas asked.
`You have the documents. Can we go home?'
`Sure you can go home, just not at this precise moment.'
Not only his hand but the priest's whole body trembled. A
purple vein swelled in his forehead. He said: `If you wish to
incinerate the documents you could toss them into the boiler. It
gets very hot in there.'
`Good idea, old man. But first, Gio here is tying you up.'
`Tie me up?'
`He's old,' Gio said. `What harm could he be? We can throw
the papers in the boiler, and be done with it. Then we can forget
whatever happened tonight.'
`You'll forget, Gio, when I tell you to forget. Now, tie up
Everyone watched Thomas bend over and pick up the kerosene.
They were all going to die. They would burn to death, if they
weren't shot, and there was no way out. Elizabeth slashed her head
to the side. Mark was staring at her. Unlike the rest he did not
`If you set fire to the place, they'll die!' Gio yelled, and
slammed his fist on the counter top. He was in the kitchen. `You
said no one would be harmed, if we did what you said.'
Thomas released the kerosene and pressed his hand against the
bulge in his pocket.
`I don't like this new attitude of yours. Do as you're told.'
`I will not. Haven't you done enough?'
`For the love of God, please don't set fire my apartment,'
said the priest. His cane dropped to the carpet. He clutched
Thomas's jacket. `We'll do whatever you tell us to do. Please. I
`Sit down, priest.'
`No one will walk out of here alive, priest. Quiet yourself
and die with dignity.'
Giovanni charged towards the open doorway. Thomas raised the
gun, fired, and Giovanni collapsed somewhere behind the kitchen
countertop. `Adonai!' screamed the priest; his legs buckled, and he
fell on the carpet, wailing: `Adonai! Adonai! Adonai!', until
Thomas kicked him with his boot. The priest gasped for air. Still
yet, the organ composition, Gigout's Toccata, filtered down from the
nave. Giovanni was lying on his stomach, making feeble, crawling
movements. The slugglish, scrambling jerks of his outer extremities
crawled, however, without going anywhere. Blood issued from a deep
chestal wound and spread over the kitchen's linoleum floor. His
fingers clawed the floor again and again, and over and over the
organist played the same reiterating notes in concitato, the notes
surging, rising, falling, cresting in an endless circular rhythm,
round and round, like the circular rhythm of a merry-go-round. The
priest knelt at Elizabeth's feet and prayed. Now her eyes were
closed as well; her chin level, her back straight; as if she were
sitting in a ray of sunshine. The priest was saying: `To the Powers
vested in Heaven, I call upon thee to chariot our sister into the
womb of our Lord Father, Jesus Christ. . . .'
Giovanni Migliazzo no longer moved. Above his body, and
staring wildly down at the floor, Thomas held the pistol. The red
puddle enlarged underneath Gio's face and chest. A slaughterhouse
smell of blood filled the crime scene. Thomas slipped the gun into
his jacket, then set his cold, brown, reptilian eyes upon the priest
who finished his prayer by crossing himself and uttering Amen.
Chapter twelve, 'Sirius Chronicles,' by Mathew Morrell. Copyright
2002. All rights reserved.