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Sirius Chronicles, continued.

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  • mmorrell1
    All that remained on the table was a crystal vase from which sprung the long-stemmed rose; the tapered candle stick had been extinguished, and was issuing a
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 20, 2002
      All that remained on the table was a crystal vase from which sprung
      the long-stemmed rose; the tapered candle stick had been
      extinguished, and was issuing a thin line of smoke. It was thirty
      minutes past eleven. The restaurant, by this time of night, was
      empty, save for a young couple sipping coffee at a corner table, and
      a buss boy sweeping the floor. Elizabeth remained inside the
      restaurant for some time, still obsessed by the Ed MacIntosh
      painting. The sublime brown hues touched her deeply. To her, they
      conveyed an emotion which she could only attribute to an inner
      quality: Faith. After visiting the lady's room, she approached the
      hostess who was standing behind a podium at the threshold dividing
      the waiting room from the dining room.
      `Is Manny working tonight?' she asked the hostess.
      `He is, in fact. Would you like to see him?'
      `If it wouldn't be too much trouble.'
      `No trouble, Elizabeth. I'll get him for you.'
      The coat room attendant helped Elizabeth slip on a jacket
      that matched the color of her black, formal dress. The restaurant
      was near empty, but it was not quiet. Most everyone had moved to the
      lounge; and their low murmurs could be heard above the un-meticulous,
      free-flowing notes of an improvisational jazz piano. The executive
      chef emerged from the kitchen minutes later, and walked up to her
      with a smooth, effeminate grace. His voice was drawling and exuded
      an obsequious desire to please.
      `How was your meal, darling?' he asked after kissing her
      cheek. `Was it good?'
      `Exceptional, as always, Manny. You are the best chef in
      town.'
      `You're too sweet. Where's Giovanni?'
      `He's pulling the car around.'
      `Was the chicken to his taste?' the man asked. `Did he enjoy
      the Merlot?'
      `He loved it all. Every last bit. I hope he isn't a burden
      on your waiters. He can be a bully sometimes.'
      `That is true.' But the flippant gesture of his limp wrist,
      occasioned by the rolling of his eyes, showed her that he found it
      all rather amusing. `Gio demands good service,' he said with a sassy
      smirk. `He has all the red-blooded manner of a bull. Eats like one,
      too.'
      `I'm afraid we both have a little Taurus in us.'
      `Hah! Two Tauruses. No, that will never do. That's why the
      two you are always butting horns. You see, what you need is a
      hungry, deft-of-foot Capricorn. They're not so argumentative.'
      `Maybe so, Manny. . . Say, I was admiring a painting of
      yours.'
      `Which one darling? Point it out.'
      `The one hanging over our table.'
      `Oh! Dreamer. I bought it last week. Marvelous, isn't it?'
      `I'm crazy about it, Manny.'
      `Well, if you should know, the artist goes by the name Ed
      MacIntosh.'
      `That much I know. He signs his name like an egotist.'
      `I was told he's a local artist, a Vietnam Vet., and a bit of
      a recluse. I bought his painting at the Seventh Street Gallery.'
      `Where is that?' She removed a slip of paper from her
      purse. `Is that in the Village?'
      `Yes. Here. I'll doodle down the address for you, sweet
      heart. You look lovely tonight by the way.'
      He laid the slip of paper on the guest list lying on the
      hostess' podium. His pen moved quickly and erratically; and hardly a
      moment passed before he handed back the slip of paper. To her
      surprise the handwriting was clear and legible.
      `Thanks Manny.'
      `You welcome.'
      `I'll probably see you next week some time. Have a nice
      evening.'
      `You too darling. Send your grandfather my best wishes.'
      Elizabeth wove through the crowd of people who occupied the
      lounge. A negro musician was performing Maple Leaf Rag on a baby
      grand piano and was swaying side to side in the rhythm with the
      beat. Elizabeth made a waving gesture in passing, after which his
      smile revealed a white row of upper teeth; then she pushed the door
      open and walked outside into the cool, Spring air.
      The night was windless and damp, rather lonely; the soft
      piano melodies drifted out onto the streets, merging with the sound
      of traffic and the slosh of tires through puddles. Underneath the
      overhang she watched the cars go by. East 89th was wet and
      glistening; and the puddles on the sidewalk reflected the hazy street
      lamps overhead and the vague glimmer of the moon appearing and
      disappearing from behind a banner of broken clouds. Intermixed with
      the stone smell, which the city emitted in the rain, there was the
      salty, sea-smelling air blowing in from the Atlantic.
      The traffic passed for less than a minute before a
      firecracker-red Porsche double parked in front of the restaurant's
      overhang. She climbed inside and settled into the low bucket seat
      next to Giovanni. On the floorboard, next to her feet, there was a
      metal briefcase that she lifted onto her lap.
      Giovanni slipped the motor into gear and eased upon the
      clutch.
      `Did Manny set you up all right?' he asked, with one hand
      shifting gears.
      `Manny was very accommodating,' she answered, feeling the
      aspersion being cast. `He helped me get in touch with the artist.'
      `Good for you.'
      When the tires hydroplaned over a puddle Elizabeth felt the
      burst of water splash against the floorboards. In the briefcase were
      classified documents obtained from a political sub-group linked with
      the world intelligence community. But that did not concern her now.
      All this time she was wondering how she could tell him, with as much
      tact as possible, her continued unwillingness to commit to a long
      term relationship.
      `I hope you're not getting jealous.'
      `Don't be silly,' he said, smirking.
      `You seem jealous.'
      `Maybe a little. But that's all. Who wouldn't be?'
      Elizabeth contemplated his chiseled profile, over which
      shadows moved, the shadows crawling through the car and over their
      faces as they made their way through dense mid-town traffic.
      Although he was speeding, his facial expression remained relaxed,
      stern and un-moved by excessive degree of hurt and jealousy. This
      made her feel better. His control over his emotions meant that they
      could enjoy the night for what it was.
      `Do you still want to go with me to Father Nicholas's place?'
      she asked.
      `Of course. That's where we're going, aren't we?'
      `Yeah. If you want to leave early I can take a cab home. I
      know we bore you with our discussions.'
      `I don't think that will be necessary.'
      They were now on the Lower East Side completing a half-turn
      past the VA Medical Center, where a small gathering of protestors
      were amassed on the sidewalk bordering Roosevelt Drive. The
      protestors were wet from the rain, lifting soggy, cardboard peace
      signs in the air, and chanting: We shall overcome. Gio accelerated
      out of the turn only to be slowed down by a Roosevelt Drive bogged by
      heavy traffic; moving vehicles surrounded them, the latest of which
      was a new 1969 Ford Mustang; twice they encountered construction
      zones between 13th Street and the Queensboro Bridge, whose black iron
      frame stood out in relief against the sky's dark receding depth.
      After they crossed the bridge, and drove a mile into Queens,
      a road led them through a deserted, industrial neighborhood lined
      with numerous old warehouses, among them several barricaded buildings
      marred by graffiti, a bar and an auto parts shop that was closed for
      the night; its barred-up windows brightened in the Porsche's
      headlights. Elizabeth sat in the passengers seat, keeping an eye on
      the side view mirrors, looking for any sign that may suggest they had
      been followed. Even though the street was empty, she remained
      attentive if not a little paranoid. There was always the chance that
      somebody knew what was contained within the briefcase and had placed
      a trail on them.
      Across the street from where they parked was Saint Mark's
      Cathedral. In the silence of the car, but for the clicking of the
      cooling motor, they stared at each other. A tooth pick protruded
      from his mouth. He asked:
      `I imagine you brought the Red Files?'
      `Yes, and they may interest you intensely. They mention
      Vince Serenghetti.'
      He looked surprised. `Vince, the Mafioso?'
      `The same,' she answered and un-buckled her seat belt.
      `Why didn't you say so earlier?'
      `You know I don't like talking about these kind of matters in
      public places.'
      `What? Are you scared of being bugged?'
      Elizabeth blushed. `A little, I guess.'
      Giovanni laughed. `You would make an excellent boy! Look at
      you. I feel as if we should be carrying walkie-talkie's and speaking
      in secret codes. What do the files say?'
      `Let's just say, they prove Vince is a little more than a
      crime boss. He's doing some extracarricular work on the side. These
      documents show he's involved in a Black Shirt terrorist group out of
      Italy. He's a fascist thug.'
      `Are you sure?'
      Elizabeth cracked open her door. `Positive. Now let's go.
      Nicholas is waiting.'
      With the briefcase in hand, they walked towards the
      cathedral; its small, well-kept front lawn glistened in the rain,
      from which came the chirp of a solitary cricket. The cathedral
      looked Gothic at night, with its eerie stone fascade, its embellished
      curves, the gargoyles and devils; a decorative iron gate surrounded
      the church yard; moon light
      illumined the stained glass windows; its spired bell tower rung
      overhead; while below a weathered stone statue of Mary stood on its
      elevated pedestal overlooking Baker Street. They did not enter by
      the front door. They surpassed the lawn and turned into an alley
      running lengthwise between the cathedral and the neighboring
      building. In the darkness of the alley, the cathedral's jagged rock
      facade emitted the sweet, stone smell of saturated granite.
      `This is a shock,' Gio was saying as they went down the
      alley. 'I had no idea Vince was a terrorist.'
      `It's all right here,' she said, thumping the
      briefcase. `Vince funded a terrorist attack on a Red hideout in
      Venice. Can you believe that? Fifteen college students died. I
      don't know how you can bear to associate with the likes of him.'
      `I don't bother him and he doesn't bother me. Rest assured,
      I despise Vince, and the Mafia, as much as you do.'
      They walked in silence, and the dripping water, the
      moonlight, and their footsteps made it seem ever more quiet.
      Elizabeth heard him gasp, as if he wanted to add something.
      `What are you thinking of?' she asked.
      `Oh, I don't know. You used to think my life was risky and
      exciting, not immoral. You used to be such a terribly immoral girl.
      Now you're a Catholic. What a shame.'
      `Sorry to disappoint you but I was sixteen when we first
      met. That was a long time ago.'
      `How you've changed since then,' he said. `Does my
      relationship with Vince bother you?'
      `Sort of.'
      `You know our relationship is strictly business.'
      `I know.'
      `Do you?'
      `Yes, I do.'
      `Then tell me. Because I don't think you see the higher
      ideal. It's not about the money.'
      `I know it isn't. It's about stopping Communism. In the
      jungles of Vietnam there is no industry, and without industry there
      are no equitable resources besides poppy to buy the required weapons
      the Vietnam government needs to arm their guerilla troops. All they
      have is heroin. You channel it. Vince puts it on the street. And
      the sale of drugs-for-arms is stopping the spread of Communism in the
      jungles of Southeast Asia.'
      They descended the concrete stairwell. At the bottom was a
      black, steel-plated fire door. Elizabeth pushed it open and led the
      way into the cathedral's dark, subterranean basement.
      It was the height of the Vietnam War, April 3, 1969.

      To be continued. . .


      Chapter one of "The Sirius Chronicles," copyright 2002. Mathew
      Morrell.
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