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1224Sirius Chronicles.

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  • Mathew Morrell
    Sep 25, 2002
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      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 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
      Hotel.
      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.'
      `Outside?'
      `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
      happiness.'
      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?
      `Yes.'
      `Do 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?'
      `How?'
      `Yes how?'
      `I...I...'
      `How?'
      `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?'
      `Yes.'
      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
      hotel.
      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
      wheel.
      `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
      tape.
      `You said the priest lives in the basement?' Thomas asked.
      `Yeah.'
      `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?'
      `Yes.'
      `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
      subconscious.
      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
      agony.
      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?'
      `Yes.'
      `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 know.'
      `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
      iron boiler.
      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
      any problems.'
      `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
      obeyed, saying:
      `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
      his mid-back.
      `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
      up sovereignty!
      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
      the arm.
      `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
      the Beretta.
      `You, priest,' said Thomas, `where are the Red Files?'
      `In the bedroom.'
      `Are they all there? Every document?'
      `Yes.'
      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?'
      `Yes.'
      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.'
      `I wasn't.'
      `Are you sure?'
      `Yes.
      `I hope you wouldn't be that stupid.'
      `I was reaching for it, yes, but its not at all what you may
      think.'
      `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
      the penguin.'
      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
      seem panicked.
      `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
      beg you.'
      `Sit down, priest.'
      `Please!'
      `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.
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