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Sirius Chronicles.

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  • mmorrell1
    Without a raincoat, nor an umbrella, and wearing only a simple, yellow dress, she emerged from her apartment building on Central Park West, protected from the
    Message 1 of 11 , Jul 22, 2002
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      Without a raincoat, nor an umbrella, and wearing only a simple,
      yellow dress, she emerged from her apartment building on Central Park
      West, protected from the elements by an emerald-green overhang that
      extended from the lobby to a taxi cab waiting for her on the
      curbside, the engine running. She climbed inside, and shut the door,
      smelling an odor of wet cloths and cigarette smoke.
      On the way to the Village the cabbie made a rapid lane change
      and surpassed a city buss in time to pull in front of it and still
      make the traffic light on 57th Street. `I suppose the construction
      zone on Columbus is murder about now,' said the cabby. `I'll stay
      with 8th Ave.'
      `No hurry,' she said, in an air of contentment, staring
      beyond the windshield wipers. The patter of rain against the taxi's
      steel rooftop induced a feeling of relaxation, a dreaminess that
      dispelled her anxiety over tonight's performance. Curtain call
      wasn't for another three hours --- it was now four in the afternoon,
      and she was headed to the gallery. Fifteen minutes later the cab
      turned off Ninth Avenue. The neighbored was skirted on both sides by
      old, stout, brick buildings that the Germans had constructed at the
      turn of the century, when the Village was a crowded throng of
      immigrants, not what it was now, expensive and trendy. Further down
      the block was a forest-green building divided into two separate
      businesses, one side a coffee shop and the other a fashion boutique.
      The rooftop was V-shaped and repelled the water into the alleyways.
      A fold-out sandwich sign read: The Seventh Street Gallery. With
      only a door separating the coffee shop from the boutique, logic told
      her the gallery must be on the building's upper floor.
      She shut the taxi's door --- perhaps more forcefully than
      required, anxiously anticipating the opportunity of discovering
      another Ed MacIntosh painting.
      The door opened into a vacant entrance hall dominated by a
      well-worn, wooden staircase that looked so old that it seemed to
      creak just looking at it. The sound of music became louder as she
      ascended the staircase, each wooden step squeaking under her feet.
      First, the trumpet became audible; then, on the third floor, she
      heard the slight nuances in the string section. She had performed
      Firebird before, and hearing it now triggered a wave of nostalgia.
      The horn call grew louder at the end of a hallway. This was where a
      middle aged woman welcomed her with a hospitable smile. `Feel free
      to enjoy the refreshments,' this lady said, motioning towards a
      reception table. On the table was an assortment of cookies and other
      middle class refreshments, of a type and variety, hard for Elizabeth
      to ignore since slimming down to feather weight.
      `My husband made those himself,' said the woman. `He likes
      oatmeal cookies.'
      `How sweet.' She took a demure bite from a cookie.
      `He loves ballet as well.'
      `Does he?'
      `Yes. You're Elizabeth Sinclair, aren't you? He's a great
      fan of yours. We saw the ABT perform Giselle last week and he cried
      and cried and cried.'
      `Thank you, I'm flattered. I love Giselle, as well.'
      Whenever people recognized her in public she was always
      surprised. It didn't happen that often. After dusting the cookie
      crumbs from her hands Elizabeth advanced into a warm, dry, well-lit
      room, probably once used for storage purposes but was now a
      fashionable, revamped loft having a scuffed hardwood floor and a very
      high ceiling covered in exposed metal pipes and heating ducks. The
      walls and their brick masonry were bare, without art. Instead, the
      paintings were hung on tall partitions that divided the gallery into
      a circular maze of corridors covered in every branch of art: modern,
      romantic, abstract, impressionism. Elizabeth browsed through the
      room, went from painting to painting, without feeling drawn towards
      any work in particular. Simply being here, on her own, satisfied her
      craving for solitude. While drifting towards a statuette in the
      corner, listening to the music, her fingers made graceful, un-
      conscious, trilling motions. The statuette --- solid bronze and two
      feet high --- stood on a marble pedestal, under a spot light beaming
      down from the ceiling. Three people gathered around this bronze
      figure, which solidified the wild, un-tamed force of a rushing
      stallion. The stallion's moving state of rest enthralled her. It
      was pure motion.
      In an adjacent room she found those studio browns, that she
      dearly loved. The room was empty besides for a peculiar-looking man
      of medium height clothed in a gruff sports jacket, blue jeans and
      sued tennis shoes. Apparently, he was a guest artist. She came to a
      smooth balletic stop in front of his canvases when he started
      scratching his scalp as if baffled by a mathematical equation.
      `Are you looking for anything in particular?'
      `No just browsing,' she answered, and hooked her pointing
      finger around her chin to create an aura of separation from him; it
      was her intention to take a quick peak, then drift away. However, it
      soon became obvious that this rather gruff, bewildered man behind her
      was Ed MacIntosh. His paintings were hung on the brick walls, all
      bearing his signature, and all painted with a unique impressionistic
      style similar to the style of the painting she saw last night at
      Manny's restaurant on the East Side.
      `I do mostly paintings, but I do charcoal as well,' he said.
      She straightened her arm to silence him, saying: `Wait a
      minute, could you?' Her attention was absorbed on a painting of a
      wheat field. `This is incredible.' Each stalk of wheat was angled
      upward like yellowish-green flames; the gold's so vibrant and
      intense, the field seemed to burn with Bengal fire. The successive
      layers of painting, built up into a blaze within the wheat, added a
      stunning emotional intensity. The sky was a unified polyphony of
      heat, wind and sun, surrounding a farmer harvesting the wheat with a
      sickle. Consumed in gold, the farmer seemed at one with the
      universe.
      `I think this is the most beautiful wheat field I've ever
      seen in my life,' she said with a bouncy, upward lilt to her
      voice. `How ever in the world did you get all those colors? They're
      really, really great.'
      `I mixed a little of this, a little of that.'
      `Well whatever you did it works perfectly.'
      `I'm very interested in complimentary colors.'
      `Are you?'
      `Yeah.'
      Elizabeth saw red circles blushing his cheeks. The man was
      apparently shy or simply overwhelmed by her presence or incapable of
      adjusting his mind to the quick, dashing nuances of a flirtatious
      conversation. Heightening his awkwardness was a blue, bottleneck fly
      buzzing above his head. He swatted his hand at it and then started
      scratching the back of his neck. He was not attractive physically
      but nor was he un-attractive. His thick brown hair frothed upward
      from a lean pale, face. In some respects, he reminded her of a young
      Beethoven. He had the same wildness to his eyes, the frothy, stringy
      hair, the skin and body of a recluse, and a tall, lofty forehead of
      higher thinking. If not for his evident lack of self-esteem, and his
      jittery silences, his physical features might have combined to
      stunning effects.
      Elizabeth reach inside her purse, pushed aside a comb and a
      mirror, before grasping a white, cream-colored envelope tucked away
      in a side pocket. `Here we are,' she said, her fingers opening the
      envelope. `Two tickets, orchestra level-seating. It would be a
      shame if nobody could make use of them. They're for the American
      Ballet. Do you want to go?'
      `Sorry, but I'm not sure I can make it,' he said. Elizabeth
      slipped the tickets back into the envelope, then froze. For he had
      fixed upon her that wild, bewildered looks of his.
      `You can make it. Take them,' and she extended the envelope
      as if she were hand-feeding some shy, wild beast un-accustomed to
      human kindness. More generous than the offer itself was her female
      power to destroy, from even the most reclusive souls, all traces of
      ambiguity. Finally, he took hold of the envelope.
      `What the hell,' he said, no longer stuck himself. `I'll
      go. Will you be back stage after the show?'
      `Sure. Just give me thirty minutes or so to change cloths,
      and I'll meet you in the reception hall. By then I'll have made my
      decision on which one of your fantastic paintings I would like to
      buy.'
      `Great.'
      `Then I'll see you tonight, Ed.'
      `Bye, bye.'
      He raised his hand and kept it raised after she disappeared
      into the partitions. Then his hand dropped down to his side.
      Afterwards he started pacing and rubbing his palms to dispel his
      anxiety.


      All but Ed and the lady who owned the gallery remained when the doors
      closed to customers at five o'clock this afternoon. He was standing
      by the cast iron radiator in the corner, and was thrusting his arm
      into the sleeve of his jacket. Once it was through, and the jacket
      buttoned, he grabbed an envelope resting on the radiator's silvery
      grill. In it was two tickets to the ballet. He folded the envelope
      into the side pocket of his jacket and walked through the gallery
      with the intention of leaving without saying good-by; but the floor
      creaked under his feet. The woman looked up.
      `Ed MacIntosh!'
      `See you later, Claire.'
      `No, no, wait,' she said while Ed rushed by. The woman swept
      a broken cookie into a dust pan, then stood to her feet,
      asking: `Did Elizabeth Sinclair buy one of your paintings?'
      `Not today she didn't. But she sounds very interested.'
      `Well, I think that's great!' The woman tipped the dust pan
      over the waste basket. The cookie fell. Then, she propped the broom
      in the corner and turned towards Ed, saying: `Elizabeth said she was
      impressed with your art work, young man. Are you proud of yourself?
      Imagine if you get someone like her as a client! The Sinclair's are
      among the richest families in New York. I noticed you're holding
      your Wheatfield painting. Are you taking it home to frame it? Did
      you sell anything today?'
      `Um, no. I haven't sold anything in the past month. Look, I
      need to get going Claire. I'll see you next weekend.'
      `Okay, good-by Ed and good luck with Elizabeth.'
      Ed carried the painting down three flight of stairs. Looped
      around his wrist was the strap to his umbrella. At the bottom of the
      staircase, in the entrance hall, he wrapped the painting in clear
      plastic and then opened the umbrella and walked outside into the
      rain. On his way to the subway station, he thought of Elizabeth.
      Her tall, slim form was astounding, yet perhaps too astounding for
      his taste, to the point where her beauty seized to stimulate his
      erotic imagination. If only, he thought to himself, she did not form
      such a perfect picture in my head, if only she had some foible, some
      nervous tick, a flaw, a large nose, abnormal breast-size, I would be
      more comfortable meeting her back stage tonight. In his memory she
      seemed more god than flesh.
      He entered his apartment at half past five this evening, and
      placed the Wheatfield painting with hundreds of other canvases
      propped against the wall in consecutive rows. Tubes of paint and
      brushes were scattered on the dresser where he reached for a bottle
      of gin, a pouch of loose-leaf tobacco and a corn cob pipe. His
      place --- a cold, airy loft on the third floor --- smelled of paint
      thinner, pipe tobacco, and was in a state of complete disorder. The
      bed was an oasis of cleanliness. It was there he stretched out his
      legs, twisted the cap off the bottle and dialed a friend on the
      telephone.
      `Mark, what's happening?'
      `Not much,' said man on the opposite end. `I was just about
      to leave. Make it quick.'
      He wedged the bottle in-between his thighs, resisting the
      urge to burp. `I just scored tickets for the American Ballet. Do
      you want to come?'
      `I would love to. But I may be a little late, if that's all
      right.'
      `That's all right. Where are you going?'
      `My boss asked if I could throw in an extra hour at work.
      So, I may have to come straight from the job site. Is that cool?'
      `That's fine with me,' Ed remarked.
      `I'll meet you at your apartment in a couple hours. See you
      then. . .'
      MacIntosh lingered in bed after hanging up the phone. He was
      bare chested. His back was propped against the wall while he smoked
      his pipe and drank his gin; it tasted as it smelled, like juniper
      berries. As the ballet drew closer, and the studio dimmed, he felt a
      wave of drowsiness spread over his body, enveloping his mind as he
      stared at his cat, which was profiled by the stark alley light
      streaming through the open window. He rolled over in bed, placed the
      pipe in an ash tray, and reached for an alarm clock on the bed
      stand. It read a quarter till six. Second later, he curled up in
      the fetal position, surrendering himself to the luxurious feeling of
      exhaustion. There was a sense of helplessness to the exhaustion that
      made him oddly thankful for the sheet giving back his warmth; and as
      soon as he snuggled his face into the pillow he was asleep.
      The light on the other side of consciousness, dancing and
      flickering on the Devachanic plane, transformed into a field of wild
      flowers. Elizabeth was in the middle of this dream field, drenched
      in its glamorous shine, her body exuding a glowing sense of divinity,
      peace and understanding. When he saw her he did not feel surprise,
      merely curious.
      `What are you doing here?' he asked.
      `Same as you. . . just dreaming.' The wind played with her
      hair. `I always dream before I go on stage. Everyone thinks I'm
      taking a nap, but really I'm here. My home.'
      `Am I dreaming, too.'
      `Yes, and if you don't wake up you'll miss the ballet.'
      As soon as she said this the dream faded. Distantly, in his
      sleep, he heard somebody slam the door with a closed fist. He woke
      up, gasping out loud, before his eyes opened.
      `You in there,' a voice called from behind the door.
      MacIntosh fumbled for the switch underneath the lamp shade.
      The light that it produced looked crude to him: nothing compared to
      the dream-light. It was harsh and bitter and stung his eyes. He sat
      on the edge of the mattress, flat footed, and debated whether he
      should cancel the plans for tonight. Having to be punctual, leaving
      the apartment, responsibility in general, left him depressed and
      exhausted.
      `You in there MacIntosh,' the voice called again. Whomever
      it was he pounded the door again.
      `Who is it?' Ed replied, then coughed to clear his throat.
      The lethargic feeling in his body told him that he had been sleeping
      longer than he initially thought.
      `It's Mark, you jack ass!'
      `Mark!' Ed saw the clock and bolted up from the bed.
      `Hurry! We're running late!'
      In his closet was his Marines uniform and another suit that
      his mother gave him for graduation pictures. The ladder hadn't been
      worn since then, nor cleaned, and smelled of tobacco smoke. He felt,
      as he put it on, a self-protective shrinking down of his personality,
      a wave of depression. His instincts told him: Don't even bother
      desiring Elizabeth. She'll only be a waste of energy.


      Chapter Two, "Sirius Chronicles," copyright 2002. Mathew Morrell.
      All rights reserved.
    • mmorrell1
      They arrived without a minute to spare. Blushed about the face, and winded from the sprint they made from the subway station to Lincoln Center, they panted as
      Message 2 of 11 , Jul 23, 2002
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        They arrived without a minute to spare. Blushed about the face, and
        winded from the sprint they made from the subway station to Lincoln
        Center, they panted as they shuffled sideway edging past those
        already seated in their row. Their seats were ten rows back from the
        orchestra pit where the musicians could be heard, not seen,
        practicing warm-up exercises. Violin notes dove down and up, without
        order, rhythm or harmony, as if it were an exercise in free
        association.
        `Made it by the skin of our teeth,' said Mark, who was seated
        next to Ed, his legs crossed, the theater dark and everyone staring
        straight ahead at the curtains and its light-green wall of fabric
        veiling the stage.
        `Here's your program.'
        `Thanks.'
        Ed handed it to him, and started clapping. The audience, all
        the men in their black tuxedos, and the woman in their formal gown
        and precious jewelry, applauded the conductor bowing from inside the
        orchestra pit. His bow was deep and gracious. Ed remembered seeing
        him somewhere before and imagined that he was probably a famous, well-
        respected figure. Ed had lived in New York for under two years, ever
        since he had returned from Vietnam suffering from an almost permanent
        sense of moral-physical exhaustion, thinking there had to be a better
        way of stopping Marxism than war.
        He eased back in his seat, glad they had made it on time.
        The crabbiness he displayed earlier after waking up from the nap had
        dissolved into a sense of well-being; and now, in the darkness of the
        theater, hearing the conductor tap his baton, a shiver of intense
        happiness came over him. The first melancholy bars of the symphony
        were played by the flutes and the woodwind section. The bars were
        played in pianissimo, lightly and with feeling. Then, as the prelude
        advanced, the notes gained strength and momentum; the string and the
        brass section joined in and the music launched into a spirited scene
        in the first act of Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake.
        The curtains unveiled a scene that included twelve ballerinas
        and twelve male dancers. They entered the stage holding hands in a
        line that swept across the back of the stage, looped around to the
        front, then formed a circle that came together and parted, broke
        apart and re-merged, rhythmically and triumphantly, with a spirit
        that was uniquely Russian. Additional characters entered the stage:
        prince Siegfried, the Prince's Tutor, the Queen, a man attired in a
        jester's uniform. All of them were dancing. The scene was festive
        and gallant. Towards the end of the scene the jester performed a
        solo full of silly leaps and frolicking jete's that caused a ripple
        of chuckles to spread through the audience.
        Ed as he watched the ballet slipped into a state of mind he
        usually induced when engaged in artwork, not unaware of time, but
        aware of its pulse on a different level. He was sitting there with
        an intense slack-jawed expression on his face, while the music
        descend, once more, into those dark, brooding chords that preceded
        the opening scene. His gaze fixed upon the curtains. When they re-
        opened into the famous night scene he sat straight up in his seat and
        unknowingly clutched the velvet arm rests. The space above the dance
        floor offered itself to his mind as if the diffuse, ice-blue stage
        lights beamed from no direct power source; but rather from the floor
        up, this luminous, ice-blue color seemed to hover about the
        ballerinas as it might in some Cimmerian dream forest where the sun
        shines as if through a majestic sapphire. Observing this blue color,
        he recalled the gleaming, self-luminous mind-substance that saturated
        his afternoon nap in an unearthly splendor. He remembered the dream
        and Elizabeth's glamorous, self-shining aura, and her telling him, in
        a ghostly, chiming voice: I call it Sirius. My home.
        Painted into the canvas backdrop was an enchanted forest
        rendered to make the trees and the lake seem shrouded in night, its
        subdued green and violet pigments foreshadowing the dancers. Ed
        followed with his eyes a man whose costume was all black and whose
        swift stealthy strides --- phantom-like in the ice-blue color ---
        conveyed evil implications. This character, The Evil Genius, waved
        his arms as if casting a spell over the maidens, changing them into
        mythic beings, and suddenly the ballerians moved as if hypnotized;
        they danced very slowly, elegantly and always in unison, their arms
        now rising and lower lowering, their feet now pointing, their bodies
        now spiraling in wispy, immutable revolutions of swans bathing in
        clear waters. The Evil Genius had changed them into Swans.
        Ed could see why Mark said Elizabeth Sinclair was perhaps the
        greatest ballerina in New York. She was on stage. Her every gesture
        contained an element Ed sought after in his art work. What she
        elaborated in each position was not only a sense of continuity, but
        also a kind of stillness; each gesture she made, however small,
        seemed to represent a complete reality. She elaborated each dance
        step as if each one was a time-imbued, impressionistic flicker
        suspended in an eternal Now; now lifting her foot, and now lowering
        her foot and now elevating her arms and now dashing and spinning in
        one continuous flow of movement, each step connected as if by a
        golden thread. She did not merely kick up her legs; she elevated
        them as if her feet were precious jewels. Tall, long-legged and
        limber, her light willowy body dashed and spun, jumped and hovered;
        and before the eye could predict the outcome, all the little jetes,
        all the half-turns and full turns included in her quick spiraling
        trajectory, surprised, delighted and baffled the eye.
        All the sudden Elizabeth was there, at the front edge of the
        stage, standing on the rounded tips of her pointing slippers, inches
        from the orchestra pit, the stage lights brightening her white,
        feathery tu-tu, her arms open wide, her freakish blue-eyes gazing as
        if through an immeasurable chasm in time. . . gazing perhaps into the
        empryean dream-kingdom, Sirius, where the First Cause manifests
        itself as music, where each individual thing, each tree, rock,
        mountain, stream, not only emits sound but is sound, is heightened
        etheric vibrations resonating in a gigantic symphony of matter.
        Then, with the music rebounding into the key of F# major,
        Elizabeth left the stage among awe-filled murmurs. In the frantic
        bustle she encountered backstage it was possible to see the stage
        crew assisting with the rapid change of scenery, helping with the
        costumes, manipulating the ropes and the control board that altered
        the stage lighting. The ballet moved into the final act.
        Less romantic than Ed --- and already growing wary of The
        Great Hall scene at Siegfried's Castle --- in his private box in the
        center parterre, Giovanni poured a glass of wine. Elizabeth was not
        on stage; and in her absence, his mind begun to wander. He found
        himself entertaining thoughts totally disconnected from the
        festivities of the castle scene. Small, little fantasies begun
        popping up in his mind and he begun to wonder what would happen if
        the castle in the background tipped over and fell upon the Frenchman
        playing Elizabeth's mythic lover; almost smiling, he begun to stare
        at the cod-pieces bloating the male dancers. Then he lifted his
        glass, tipped it back, and gazed above the rim at a woman who wore a
        low-cut dress revealing ample cleavage.
        His box seated ten. Two of these seats belonged to his
        colleagues who had flown in from Los Angeles for the soul purpose of
        seeing Elizabeth dance. They clapped and nodded in critical approval
        during the final act. The stage was empty, but in the far corner,
        out of the darkness, Elizabeth emerged.
        `She's phenomenal,' whispered one of the men, who sat in
        Giovanni's box, observing the swan-like, waving motions of her long,
        willow arms.
        `This is nothing,' Giovanni whispered back. `In this ballet,
        you never get to see those demon-possessed jumps that drive crowds
        wild. Swan Lake is tediously romantic. I can't stand it anymore.'
        `Will there be any of those kind of jumps in the movie, the
        demon-possessed kind?' the other man asked.
        `Leaps, my dear friend, that put the fear of God in you. The
        critics call her leaps demonic.'
        `I thought she was a good, Catholic girl.'
        `Good?' He mulled that idea over in his head, then
        added: `I don't know if good is the proper word. I've never seen a
        good Christian leap. It seems a contradiction in terms.'
        `Why?'
        `Can you imagine the pope leaping? I mean really leaping?
        There's a certain something about a balletic leap, call it pride,
        savagery, whatever, the air in a leap belongs to Lucifer.'

        Meanwhile, down the hall from the dressing rooms, the
        caterers prepared for the post show reception, and were pouring wine
        and arranging the hors d'oeuvres on silver platters. The reception
        hall was empty, except for the caterers and the five-member chamber
        orchestra arranging their chairs under marble columns. A round of
        applause, louder than the one before it, filtered through the
        entirety of the theater, creating dull murmur in the reception hall.
        The ballet was over.
        Patrons of the ABT started trickling into the reception hall
        minutes later. Their faces had a refreshed, re-vitalized look about
        them, and the room soon filled with the sound of hundreds of people
        talking all at once.
        Ed MacIntosh and Mark Sonntag stood at the bar. In his cheap
        suit --- a light-blue suite and fat tie --- Ed seemed terribly self
        conscious. Worried over a stain in his jacket, he gripped a
        handkerchief and started rubbing the collar when Elizabeth Sinclair
        entered the room; heads rippled in her direction. A photographer
        snapped her picture. Her slanted, almond-shaped eyes --- bright and
        piercingly blue in color --- beamed at the camera. A second burst of
        light flashed upon her face. Then somebody tapped the satiny white
        layer of skin, which her black, sleeveless gown exposed, between her
        bare shoulders and the smooth, upward slant of her long, regal neck.
        Elizabeth did not know who tapped her shoulder --- the camera flash
        was disorientating --- but the touch itself, being touched, at a
        place where her erotic nerve was particularly sensitive, produced a
        mild tingling of electricity up her neck. She pinched her shoulders
        together, turned and saw Ed MacIntosh. Her perpetual-moving hands
        cradled both Ed's hands and brought them level to her chin, her every
        emotion swirling over her face like transparent colors chasing
        themselves under her skin. Although her nervous temperament was the
        result of her artistic nature, her temperament was not nervous
        weakness. It was nervous strength. She held both his hands close to
        her heart, telling him how much she treasured his paintings, but
        that, if he could wait a minute longer, they could talk about the
        paintings later.
        `But wait,' she repeated. `Wait. Okay? I would like to buy
        one your paintings, but I need to finish this conversation. Then we
        can talk. Give me a few minutes.'
        Afterwards she resumed a conversation she was having with the
        dapper, middle-aged man she dined with last light. Giovanni
        Migliazzo had hard, roughly-stubbled facial features, curly black
        hair and a net, well-trimmed mustache. Not a hair was out of place.
        He wore diamond rings, and was dressed in a black suite straight off
        the cover of a fashion magazine. His vanity, however, was equaled
        only by the selfless glory he gained from seeing Elizabeth in the
        spotlight. Right now a stranger passed, it seemed, for no other
        reason than to steal a glimpse at one of the greatest ballerinas of
        their age. With this man she merely nodded before he walked away
        with a silly grin on his face.
        `Did you see him?' Giovanni asked.
        `I saw.'
        `Your fame will only increase after the film. You did
        fabulous tonight. I'm so proud.'
        The film was their pre-arranged topic of discussion. The two
        men who sat with Giovanni tonight, Ted Bunton and Bill Cox, were
        flirting with two teenage ballerinas across the room. Giovanni
        pointed them out in the crowd, saying `They loved the show.'
        Elizabeth shook her head in disapproval. Ballerinas were often
        young, poor and pretty --- easy pray for Giovanni's rich, boisterous
        colleagues.
        Then she smiled more beautifully, this time in appreciation
        of the festivities. Not only was there wine and food, there was the
        violin quartet. The stucco ceiling was painted like the sky, azure,
        adding to the illusion that the reception hall was an outdoor
        courtyard skirted with palm trees. One palm tree grew from an
        enormous bisque planter, where she and Giovanni chatted underneath
        the fan-shaped leaves.
        Elizabeth said, concerning Giovanni's colleagues:
        `Truthfully, I think they admire me more for my face than for
        my dancing. To them, I'm a wind up doll.'
        `Oh, pooh. You should not talk in such a manner sweet
        heart. It does nothing to your advantage. Now,' he added, while
        whispering in her ear, `Straighten up and fly right. Remember what I
        told you last night?'
        `I'll be a good girl.'
        `Yes, there, smile, perfect. The world is already filled to
        the brim with angry feminists, and we don't need another one.'
        `I feel like a used car salesman.'
        `No, you're selling your genius. Let it shine, so they can
        see it in person.'
        Seconds later, Elizabeth was shaking hands with Ten Bunton
        and Bill Cox. The heavier of the two, Bill Cox, asked Elizebeth if
        she wouldn't mind joining them for a drink this evening.
        `I would love to,' was her reply.
        `We'd like to hear some of your thoughts about the film
        before we proceed with the deal. You understand, I'm sure.'
        She did and nodded. Giovanni said:
        `We can leave in a few minutes, after we finish our drinks.'
        It was at this point in their conversation when Ed MacIntosh
        stepped forward and asked Elizabeth if she was `doing anything this
        evening.' Apparently, he did not hear the conversation that had just
        transpired. It then occurred to Elizabeth: I may have given Ed the
        wrong signals. He appeared flushed and embarrassed.
        `I`m sorry,' Elizabeth said, `but I have plans.'
        `I see.'
        `But, I would like to buy one of your paintings.'
        `Okay.'
        `The Wheatfield or the Cypress Tree. It's hard to decide
        which, both are so fantastic.'
        Juggling a conversation with Ed, Giovanni and his two
        colleagues --- at the same time confronted by admirers and friends ---
        gave her the sensation that she was being stretched and pulled in
        opposing directions. Yet, Elizabeth accommodated everyone. So long
        as she was the prima-ballerina of the American Ballet it was her
        responsibility to be diplomatic and courteous to the patrons.
        `Who knows what all will come of the film,' Ten Bunton
        said. `Elizabeth has never acted before. Do you think you can act?
        The question was asked at a time when Elizabeth was signing
        an autograph for a little girl with blond pig tails. Her handwriting
        was clear and graceful, with high upper loops and a steep forward
        slant. After dotting the `i' and crossing a `t' she handed the
        little girl the slip of paper and the girl walked away.
        `What did you say?' Elizabeth asked Ted Bunton.
        `Do you have any acting experience?'
        `If you call ballet acting, yes. If not, no.'
        Giovanni stepped forward and intervened. `The girl can act
        perfectly. She did Giselle to resoundingly positive review. And if
        she can do Giselle, she can perform any role. Anyway, with this
        movie, all she has to do is be herself. You can do that, can't you?'
        A crease appeared between her eyes brows as she summoned her
        contemplative powers.
        Giovanni smirked. `Well?'
        `Hmmm.'
        `Elizabeth, I'm not asking an existential question.'
        `Well,' she said, no longer inspired to make herself
        clear. `To be frank, the movie doesn't demand great acting skills.
        I read the script this morning. Truthfully, it's about me looking
        pretty in-between dance scenes.'
        Giovanni flushed angrily after she said this. It was an
        unpretentious and honest assessment of the film script, also
        capricious and absent minded.
        `I think what Elizabeth means is that the plot is subliminal
        and impressionistic, like a musical.'
        `A musical?'
        `Right,' said Gio. `The movie is visual rather than
        theatrical. So you see, she doesn't have to act per se, or go off
        into long dialogues requiring elaborate acting skills. All she has
        to do is be herself. It's about her, our lovely ballerina.'
        His tone was condescending, somewhat belittling to her as a
        woman, but Elizabeth shrugged away the feeling of betrayal.
        `Looking pretty!' he said. He clutched her by her waist,
        pulled her into his side and smacked her cheek with a kiss. `How
        could you be so daft?'
        `Well, what can I say?' she said.
        `It's an art film,' Giovanni said. `You'll understand after
        you read the treatment, Ted, Bill. She'll do fine. We'll hire the
        best cinematographer to make her look beautiful.'
        `Which shouldn't be too hard!' said Bill Cox.
        `Well thank you Bill!' Elizabeth said.
        The conversation followed such a predictable track Elizabeth
        did not feel anything, other than blindly affirming Giovanni's ideas
        on the film, was required of her. Her only demand was that the film
        should not be vulgar, or else she would refuse the role. This she
        planned to tell them tonight. Not now. Ed MacIntosh was besides
        her, looking rather pathetic, being slightly irritating, to the point
        where he was making a fool of himself. Minutes later she took Ed by
        the hand and led him across the room, so Giovanni's colleagues could
        not overhear Elizabeth `setting things straight.' The chamber
        orchestra nearby drowned her voice. Only her lips seemed to move,
        although the impact of her words was visibly apparent. Ed's posture
        became the epitome of failure and defeat. He let go of her hand, as
        if stunned and humiliated, then accidentally back peddled three steps
        into a woman.
        `You spilled my wine!' this woman said, horrified by the
        stain on her dress. `You buffoon!'
        Ed hurried past the woman, and wove through the bodies in the
        room.
        `Boy, Ed can sure cause a ruckus,' somebody chuckled.
        Wondering who said this, Elizabeth turned towards the column
        and saw a young man clothed in faded blue jeans, a broad-shoulder
        flannel shirt and work boots, a jean jacket folded over his arm. It
        looked as though he had stepped off a construction site.
        `I take it you're a friend of Ed MacIntosh,' said Elizabeth,
        now watching Ed stomp across the room, now turning towards the
        stranger, and now batting her eyes in an uncomfortable thrill of
        romantic excitement.
        `I'm Mark Sonntag.' The bright, fresh looked to his face,
        the way he said, 'Glad to meet your acquaintance,' implied he was not
        from New York. His nose was flat and masterful, his lips full, his
        chin cleft, his jaw wide and his sideburns and hair a lovely bronze
        color. He looked terribly familiar, like all men wrapped up into one
        tall, broad-shouldered, big armed, archetypal construction work.
        Seeing him rejuvenated her lagging wit like a cold splash of water.
        `I feel so bad for him,' said Elizabeth. `I didn't mean to
        hurt his feelings.'
        `He'll get over it.'
        `I guess I'm a flirt, and he's so sweet and adorable. You
        two look like guy-guys.'
        `Guy guys?'
        She gripped his arms, blushing. `Stop smiling. I hurt Ed's
        feelings.'
        `Listen, Elizabeth, I wouldn't trouble yourself. Ed's a
        grown man.'
        `That's a callous thing to say.' She let go of his arm.
        `Why?'
        `You're his friend, aren't you?'
        `Friends? Ed fascinates me. I don't know if he's a friend
        or an ongoing study.'
        Elizabeth laughed. `A study? What a thing to say. All my
        friends are studies too, a study in neurosis.'
        `I think Ed is the greatest artist in New York. Don't get me
        wrong. His art will go down in history. I'm his greatest fan. But
        I don't know if Ed has any room in his life for a friend.'
        `I agree,' Elizabeth said. `What is it about his work that
        is so magical?'
        `It's hard to say what, exactly.'
        `Then say what you think. I want to know. I'm equally
        touched by his art, and I don't know why. You know him. Tell me.'
        `Well. . .'
        `What?' she prodded.
        `Oh, I don't know. It's complex.'
        Elizabeth bowed her head and brooded on how impossible it is
        to know what American men are ever thinking, especially the type of
        American Mark seemed to be, the heard-to-read type who keep their
        inner lives entirely to themselves. Finally, he said:
        `Art isn't always just art, Elizabeth. There are artists who
        paint pictures to look aesthetically pleasing, or to show a
        photographic vision of reality, or to express an ideal. And then
        there are artists like Ed, those who somehow get way with all the
        above. He's amazing. Though he's a subjective artist, he has such a
        knack of describing and analyzing his states of subjectivity that his
        paintings are an objective, self-revelation of those things within
        him that are completely impersonal, universal to all men, yet richly
        and provocatively within our sphere of reality. He's not just
        someone letting it all hang out. He's after universal truth, but he
        arrives at truth through his feelings. Am I making my self clear?
        Do you know what I mean?'
        `Do I ever!'
        `And this is what I'm trying to tell Ed. Maybe his art
        mimics a place in consciousness that visionaries glimpse in their
        most intense moments. Maybe his art isn't just an escape from
        reality, but am attempt to behold athenticity on a deeper plane.'
        Then it all came back to her: Mark Sonntag giving an art
        lecture at NYU. It was him, except then he looked different at the
        lecture, clean-cut, shaved, clothed in a tweed sports jacket, gray
        khaki slacks and a thin black tie. Now, however, his appearance
        conveyed the nature-loving exterior of an irresponsible life-
        worshipper. His lovely bronze hair was thick and bushy, and swooped
        daringly across his forehead.
        `I know who you are,' she said with a mischievous
        nod. `You're Mark Sonntag. I went to one of your lectures on art
        and physics. You`re a professor?'
        `No, I'm not a professor, not yet at least. I'm a graduate
        student. I attend Connecticut University.'
        `So you're not a professor? You're an author?'
        `I write books and do construction work part time.'
        `The lecture circuit doesn't pay well enough?' she asked.
        `I'm not a lecturer. . . . as I said before.'
        Elizabeth touched his arm and smiled, `I know, I was only
        kidding, Mark,' then she took his empty glass and handed it to the
        caterer without losing the atonement they had achieved. It was as if
        a mental tunnel formed between them.
        `So then you're a poor college student,' she said, this time
        with a haughty tilt to her raised eye brows. `Come here to broaden
        your cultural horizons.'
        `Well yes.'
        `I suppose that you must have come straight from work,
        then.' Her eyes went from his work boots up towards the oil stain on
        his collar; and although she was swimming with girlish excitement,
        she conveyed no warmth. She felt impelled to razz him. `You didn't
        have the respect enough to change cloths before blessing us with your
        all-knowing wisdom and good looks?
        `I could have I suppose. To tell you the truth, I feel a
        little awkward being back here dressed the way I am.'
        She doubted that. In spite of her teasing remarks, he seemed
        perfectely grounded. His gaze went straight through her, as if into
        the bones and blood of her cranium, indifferent to the sparkle of
        diamonds glinting around her neck.
        `I'll see you again Elizabeth. Is that all right?'
        `Yah,' she said.
        `Good. Then we have a date. How about tomorrow night, seven
        o'clock?'
        `Yah. . . no. I can't. I have a show tomorrow.'
        `Than how about after the show?
        `Okay. 10:30. Knock on my dressing room door.
        `I imagine its the door with a star on it?
        `Yes,' she said. `The one with the star.'



        Chapter three, 'Sirius Chronicles,' copyright 2002, Mathew Morrell.
        All rights reserved.
      • mmorrell1
        Mark and Ed caught a buss outside Lincoln Center and rode it to Ed MacIntosh s neighborhood in the Bowery; save for the casual references they made about the
        Message 3 of 11 , Jul 27, 2002
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          Mark and Ed caught a buss outside Lincoln Center and rode it to Ed
          MacIntosh's neighborhood in the Bowery; save for the casual
          references they made about the storm, that had blown over the city
          while they were watching the ballet, they didn't communicate. Ed
          didn't mention the ballet nor speak of Elizabeth. In fact, he seemed
          humiliated by the entire episode; rather in a strange, withdrawn
          manner he stared out the window, making bland references about the
          weather, then mumbled something or other about `dry clouds without
          rain.' Mark thought he was a little crazy.
          They stepped down from the buss and walked towards a bar Ed
          frequented. The bar stood next to a liquor store whose barred-up
          windows reflected the swift, silent, metal-gleaning strobes of light
          flickering inside the mounting cloud racks building on the eastern
          horizon. The wind was scattering street debris over the pavement and
          blowing Ed's tie over his shoulder as they strolled down the block,
          at one point passing underneath a set of commuter rail tracks that
          were elevated above the street-level businesses on 35th Street. A
          neon sign, The Alligator Blues Bar, flashed on and off below a neon
          alligator whose neon tail skipped side to side in rhythm with the
          opening and closing mouth. They eyes stayed red.
          They ordered drinks at the bar, Ed a whiskey and a beer
          chaser, which he carried into the lounge. There was a blues band on
          stage and people were dancing. A black woman was behind the
          microphone, her face slick and glossy in the stage lights, singing
          Johnny Lee Hooker's, Sugar Mama, in a ferocious tenure of emotion:

          Reason I'm crazy about you sugar mama,
          is because you ease my worried mind.

          The lounge encircled a dance floor, where moving bodies twisted and
          turned to the grooving rythem of the bass guitar. Ed tossed back a
          tumbler of Wild Turkey, and ordered another round. By then he had
          consumed five, and was no longer coiled up inside. Every time the
          guitar corresponded to a tornadic release of energy he beat his fist
          into the air.
          `That's the way to play guitar!' he said. `The days of
          strumming, like the Beatles strum, are over with. A new dawn has
          arisen. The guitar is a lead instrument.'
          Mark looked intently at the hippie playing the guitar. He
          was sweating and thrashing his head about during the solo.
          `He's good,' Mark lied.
          `Good? The guy is out of sight.'
          Mark took a long draught. He felt that, if he disagreed, his
          analogy would be misunderstood and place him in the position of a
          critic, a know it all. Mark lowered the beer onto the table,
          swallowing. The glass was tulip-shaped, refrigerator cold, and
          sweating beads of water. The carbonated bubbles rising in the amber
          glow materialized from nothing and rose to the top. Mark said:
          `If you think this is hot, you ought to hear this new band
          Black Sabbath.'
          `Who?'
          `Black Sabbath,' Mark repeated, so he could be heard above
          the band. `They're four bullocks out of London.'
          `Black Sabbath, eh? They're a blues band?'
          `As a matter of fact, there's not a blues progression in
          their whole album, that I can think of.'
          `Then they play jazz.'
          `No. They don't play jazz.'
          `Punk?'
          `Not exactly,' Mark said. `They play a kind of rock, that
          has the feel of classical music; albeit, a very, very simple form of
          classical, but very powerful. It's real horror show, you've gotta
          hear them. Tony Illomi's guitar riffs consist in nothing more than
          variations of the two-finger power cord. The cords, played
          vertically up and down the fret board, convey no depth of tone ---
          but it is precisely this toneless, droning element to the riffs that
          give them their cold, bloodless sound.'
          Mark finished his beer.
          `You want another?' Ed asked him. `It's on me.'
          `No, I should be going.'
          `Already? We barely got here.'
          `I know.' Mark placed a bill on the table, enough to cover
          the tab and the tip for the two of them. `I've gotta catch the
          train.'
          `It's not anything I said, is it?'
          `No, not at all. Me and Terrence are working on the book
          tomorrow, and I need to get some rest.' Mark slipped on his jean
          jacket and patted Ed's shoulder. `I'll see you around, all right?'
          `See you, Mark.'
          Truth was, Sonntag had no desire to get drunk, nor watch
          one. Walking across the room, in-between the tables, he observed the
          bleary-eyed men hunched over the bar, their faces conveying non-
          personal, plant-like, soulless vitality. Ed mustn't lose hope, he
          thought. Must stay centered. Or else, he'll become them.
          Outside, the storm had become viperous. He walked straight
          into the wind, his eyes squinting, his hair pealing away from his
          forehead, while above the black supine clouds flickered and strobed.
          There was an explosion in the sky followed by blue far-reaching
          threads of electricity then thunder walloping as if from some great
          depth --- the thunder rumbling in a low, hallow basal-tone sounding
          of heat and light and atoms flinging far and wide. Down through the
          Bowery's west end, while he ran underneath the commuter rail tracks,
          flashes of light penetrated the iron lattice work, throwing his
          shadow on the asphalt. He was running to the buss stop on 56th
          Street when the buss emerged from around the corner, first with its
          front end swinging wide, followed by the back end, which cut the
          corner short, its bulky tires rolling over the curb.
          The buss stopped, and the fold-out doors opened. He gripped
          the handrail and walked up into the buss's elevated perspective above
          the street. To the driver's right was a glass toll box, half-full
          with change. Mark dropped a dime in the slot, asking the driver:
          `Doesn't this buss follow a route that passes the Grand
          Emporium?'
          `Grand Emporium, the club?
          `Right.'
          `Yeah, it does.' The driver pulled the handle and the doors
          buckled shut. `The Emporium is at the end of the route.'
          Mark looked for an empty seat. The faces in the light-
          flickering atmosphere assumed a scrupulous identity that Mark found
          uncomfortable as a stranger subject to enquiring stares of people
          bored by the long, protracted drive uptown and unable to resist the
          group consciousness that forced all but a few passengers to be
          totally aware of each other. He grabbed a steel pole and swung
          himself into a green, vinyl seat across from a man reading a
          newspaper in an aisle-facing seat. There was an obese woman on
          board, subject to numerous shy sideways glances; a man wearing a tin
          foil hat; a couple of Hispanics blaring a radio; a pregnant woman
          holding a grocery bag; but it was the three youths at the front of
          the buss who captured Mark Sonntag's interest. Their clothing
          consisted in Fred Perry shirts (one wore a white T-shirt), creased
          black Swat slacks, Levi jeans, black felt donkey jackets, red
          suspenders, steel-toed Doc Marten boots, and variations therein. The
          image they projected was seamless, their look too guaged to a set
          standard to be anything but `hard mod', aggressively working-class,
          East London punk culture, in direct rebellion against the androgynous
          flower child movement of the late 1960's. Their faces, white with
          insolence, swollen with pride, droopy with dissipation, formed
          unique, inexplicable value relationships within Mark's mind; and
          these relationships centered on a core feeling: that another new
          cult of nihilism had spread across the Atlantic, bringing with it a
          new form of music.
          On the Upper West Side, the buss came to a stop; its breaks
          hissing compressed air. Both sides of the street were bordered by
          parked cars and softwood trees that slashed in the wind. Mark's hair
          pealed back from his bronze sideburns. He had stepped down from the
          fold-out doors at the back of the buss. Simultaneously, at the front
          of the buss, the three `mods' stepped onto the curb and walked in the
          opposite direction.
          Down the block was a woman with auburn hair, the same woman
          Mark saw from inside the buss, and the woman whom he called to as he
          jogged towards her with his arm raised. The wind, whipping down the
          block, elongated the bottom hem of her black, formal gown. Her hair
          spun in stunning circles. The elements played wildly over her body.
          Then the wind switched directions. And her hair curled round a face
          with the high, wide cheekbones, the thin tapered nose and the blue
          eyes of those Celtic sea-dwellers inhabiting the stormy regions of
          England's North Shore beaches. It was Elizabeth.
          `Mark!' she said. `Whatever in the world brought you here?'
          Before Mark had the chance to respond a blast of thunder
          rattled them; and not a single blast, but waves upon waves of
          thunder, rolling one after another, eliminated Elizabeth's poise.
          With the gleam of a frightened colt she looked up at the clouds,
          which were the color of black smoke bubbling and frothing in a
          witch's kettle.
          The thunder diminished, their eyes flared, and with a bemused
          and excited expression they broke out into thrilled laughter.
          `What a night!' Mark shouted.
          `I know! Isn't it a blast?'
          They were standing besides a cab that was double-parked in
          front of a Porsche. A tow truck driver was changing the Porsche's
          back tire and was wearing blue jeans and a grease-smudged T-shirt
          that was two sizes too short. His `crack' showed above his belt
          line.
          `So what are you doing out here on a night like this?' she
          asked Mark.
          `I was on that buss that just went by. I saw you, and I
          though you may need help with your car.'
          `That was thoughtful. . . jeese.'
          Mark regarded the Porsche. `Nice car.'
          `Thanks but it's not mine. Where were you headed?'
          `Um, well. . . That's a good question. Home I suppose.'
          `I thought you lived in Connecticut.'
          He smiled shyly. `I do.'
          Their faces were full of animation now that his good-citizen
          disguise had been debunked. This neighborhood on the Upper West side
          was no where near the highways and train tracks which commuters
          usually travel when leaving the city for the green lawns and tree
          lined neighborhoods of Brandice, Connecticut. Catching him in a lie,
          Elizabeth altered her posture into one that expressed a sort of
          innocent ruthlessness.
          `It's an awful long way from here to Connecticut, isn't it,
          Mark,' she said in her logical, mocking, playful tone, a crooked
          smile on her face, and both half-shut eyes squinting critically at
          his boyish smile. `My map says Connecticut is that way,' and she
          pointed over his shoulder. `You, evidently, must follow a different
          map. Knowing you, it must chart space from a quantum perspective.'
          `Funny you should mention that,' he said, still smiling. `In
          hyperspace, the shortest distance between two points is not a
          straight line. It's a wormhole.'
          `Oh, okay. So that buss you were riding, it was searching
          Manhattan for a wormhole back to Connecticut? It was an inter-
          dimensional time-traveling machine?'
          `Gauging by the passengers, yes. The Martians have phased
          out their classical, saucer-shaped space ship in favor of city
          busses.'
          `That's a relief. For a second, I though you were stalking
          me.'
          The tow truck driver stood to his feet, pulling his pants
          up. The space between the Porsche and the taxi allowed the driver
          only a small sliver of space to navigate the jack; Mark stepped out
          of his way. Then he stood close to Elizabeth, their bodies almost
          flush. Behind her was the taxi's open door and the back seat. Mark
          said, as he wiped a grease smudge from her cheek:
          `It looks as if somebody tried to change the tire herself.'
          `I tried, but we didn't have a spare tire. So we called the
          tow truck. We've been stuck here for over an hour, smoking
          cigarettes.'
          Mark chuckled then drew his finger away and wiped it on his
          jean jacket. The grease smudge was no longer on her cheek. It was
          clean and rosy.
          `That is a picture, Elizabeth. . .'
          `Why? Do you think I'm too fragile to change a tire?'
          `By no means. It's just a little funny. It's not everyday
          you get to see Queen Swan, Odette, changing a tire with a cigarette
          dangling from her mouth.'
          Elizabeth smiled radiantly and stared up at him in a feminine
          frame of mind that delights in being pampered and teased. Nothing
          was more erotic to her than a happy man. Behind his iron clad,
          stoical demeanor she saw a soft, playful, childish soul. And she
          wanted to play with him tonight, like children, kiss and hug and be
          happy and spend all night talking non-sense.
          But she did not extend the invitation. It was not
          appropriate under the circumstance.
          At that moment Giovanni Miggliazzo had cast them a quick,
          suspicious, sideway glance. He was behind the taxi cab and was
          paying the tow truck driver. Two hearts had been drawn together for
          a reason, and no matter how detached and impersonal that reason was
          at the start --- Elizabeth and Giovanni confessed that their
          relationship was a non-committal enjoyment of the senses --- somebody
          was bound to get hurt. Giovanni stuffed his wallet into his back
          pocket and watched Elizabeth enter the taxi cab. Seeing her thighs
          draw over the seat --- knowing they were no longer his to enjoy ---
          stabbed him with jealousy and anguish. Seconds later, the taxi cab
          faded down the street amid lightning and thunder.
          Mark and Giovanni were alone.




          Chapter Four, "Sirius Chronicles," copyright 2002. Mathew Morrell.
          All rights reserved.
        • mmorrell1
          It was the day after the lightning storm. The sky had cleared, and the cool morning breeze, rustling the drapes, brought into Mark Sonntag s little studio
          Message 4 of 11 , Aug 2 12:25 AM
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            It was the day after the lightning storm. The sky had cleared, and
            the cool morning breeze, rustling the drapes, brought into Mark
            Sonntag's little studio apartment gentle, middle-class impressions
            that included the sound of a lawnmower. He was lying in bed, dimly
            aware of the smell of fresh cut grass and of a robin's voice floating
            in the breeze. If not awakened at fifteen minutes past ten, by
            somebody knocking on the door, he would have preferred to stay in bed
            all morning and linger in the precious, lighter-than-flesh feeling of
            partial consciousness. Last night he didn't get to bed till 3:00.
            On the third knock he threw the blanket aside, swung his legs over
            the edge of the mattress and released a deep, agitated sigh. The
            lawnmower sounded like a tempest in his head.
            Barefoot, and his eyes puffy from sleep, he un-locked the
            door for Terrence Netherby, a theoretical science major who had come
            over this morning to work on a book they had co-authored and sold
            last month to a publisher for 1,000 dollars.
            `Did I wake you?' the student, Terrence Netherby, asked.
            `I was dead asleep, man.' He left his flannel shirt un-
            buttoned, his jeans un-zipped, and in the bathroom relieved himself.
            Through the closed door he heard Netherby say:
            `I talked to our editor at Random House.'
            `Oh yeah. What did he say?' Mark zipped-up his pants.
            `He gave us the go-ahead on your idea, of using Ed
            MacIntosh's painting in our book.'
            Mark came out of the bathroom.
            `It would have to be in color,' he said, the toilet flushing
            in the background. `No black and white.'
            `That's fine. They're willing to swallow the extra printing
            cost. I was thinking, we could insert the MacIntosh painting in the
            place where I describe my vortex theory. If we did this, it would
            give us breathing space before moving into your other-world theory.
            The transition would be smoother. Agreed?'
            `I'm all for it.'
            Terrence removed a stack of paper from his backpack. This
            was their book in manuscript form --- 1,158 pages in length --- which
            he lowered onto a round oak table. The cover page read: Faustian
            Age Religion. His face grimacing, Mark sat himself down at the same
            table as Terrence did, and removed the shell covering his Corona
            typewriter. The source of his discomfort was not so much lack of
            sleep but the injury inflicted upon him last night outside the Grand
            Emporium. The un-buttoned flannel shirt he was wearing, as he
            scooted forward in his chair, left his torso exposed and revealed the
            purple and black bruise marks on his ribs. Somebody had kicked him,
            according what he told Terrence Netherby.
            `Do you think you can work today?' Netherby asked.
            `I think so. My ribs are just bruised up a bit, not broken.
            I wouldn't worry.'
            Netherby gave him a clerical look of compassion. `We can
            postpone the book until next weekend.'
            `No, we may as well get it out of the way today. I have too
            much work next weekend.' While remaining seated, he tacked an 8 by
            10 print of MacIntosh's, River in Vermont, flush against the wall; at
            the same time looking through the open window, he noticed that the
            sunny, Spring morning had brought-out the neighborhood children.
            Several of them were playing football across the street.
            `So you were attacked for no reason?' Terrence asked.
            `Must have been bad karma, but yes, I was attacked for no
            logical reason, that I can see. Never saw the guys before last
            night.'
            `Incredible.'
            `Tell me about it.'
            Mark wound a sheet of paper into the rubber spools, laid his
            hands over the keyboard and begun typing in the warm sunshine that
            poured through the window brightening the hairs on his forearms.
            Mark was happy. He worked, went to school, and wrote the kind of
            books that he wanted to write. His boss at the construction company
            paid him in cash at exactly the same time every Saturday, and
            whatever extra he made he stashed in the coffee can hidden under his
            bed. Hung on the plaster walls was poster art purchased at the
            university bookstore: artists included Botticelli, Ven Eyck, and one
            other Gnostic print showing Mary Magdallen. An un-framed print of
            Michelangelo's Creation of Adam spanned the width of his double
            sized bed. In front the bed was the oak table where Mark typed in
            the sunshine --- a flurry of clicking noises filled the room --- and
            beyond the window was a large oak tree. The birds sung all
            morning.
            Every now and then, throughout the day, he paused to reflect
            on the print tacked to the wall. The flaky, un-discriminating
            brushwork consisted in successive layers of paint, built up one on
            top of the other as if representing successive moments in time. The
            effect, Mark wrote, was a `. . . transcendent aura of movement which
            seems to envelope the river as though the river was an Arcadia
            existing underneath the flow of time. To become absorbed in its
            fresh, sparkling current is to transcend our normal perception of the
            world and realize that the universe we live in is in no hurry to
            become what it already is: time being omnipresent.' Mark, as he
            typed, was unaware of anything else besides the river's majestic-blue
            color shimmering in his imagination, the aqueous, silver-blue no less
            profound than the hints of atelbriun brown tinting the sky's
            atmosphere, or the ravaging green foliage growing from the
            embankment, or the white flecks of paint where the river splashed
            against the rocks. Ed McIntosh's artistic vision was not
            metaphysical nor other worldly, rather hyper-real, super-sensible,
            half-chaotic, as evidenced by the a-symmetrical, illogical brushwork
            of the cumulonimbus clouds, or the immaterial wisps of sunshine
            floating in the upper air. Nature, as Ed presented it, was dynamic
            rather than static, a spiritual luminosity penetrated by two opposing
            forces, symmetry and a-symmetry, light and darkness.

            By days end Mark had made the required changes. The sun was
            sinking low. It was early evening, and the smell of fresh-cut grass
            had returned now that the sun-warmed airs had begun to cool and
            condense over the bright green lawns of Crondelet Drive. Mark
            flipped on the light in kitchen and opened the cupboard. On the top
            shelf, above a stack of plates, was a jug of wine. He asked:
            `Would you like a glass before you go home?'
            `Yes, thank you.'
            Mark poured two glasses. Terrence asked him:
            `So who's that girl you mention earlier today?'
            `Elizabeth Sinclair.'
            `The name sounds familiar,' Terrence said, then paused to
            taste the wine. Mark reassumed his seat behind the type writer,
            saying:
            `She dances for the American Ballet. . . a fascinating girl.
            Something tells me she's clairvoyant.'
            `I heard she's a phenomenal dancer.'
            `That she is,' he replied, feeling as if Terrence's interest
            in the matter was pure formality. Terrence hadn't lifted his eyes
            from the manuscript and was frowning down at a mathematic equation,
            which he wrote with a stubby, #2 pencil. For as much as Ed lived
            through his feelings, Netherby lived through the intellect. His pair
            of black, deep-set eye were introverted upon an electronic,
            irreligious, mathematical world of numbers. There was nothing
            sensual about him. His raven-black hair, combed to the side,
            conveyed the clean cut look of a news anchor.
            Mark turned his wrist over and saw that his watch read
            fifteen minutes past eight. Thinking he would be alone with
            Elizabeth in less than ninety minutes produced a breathless pressure
            in his chest. It was a discomforting feeling, but also exciting.
            When the phone rang he lurched from his chair.
            `Hello?' he answered.
            `Mark? This is Elizabeth.'
            Mark laid on the bed, delighted to hear her voice; it had a
            soothing tone and a wide range, like the voice of singer.
            `Did you intend to kill him?' she cried.
            He sat up in bed. `What did you say?'
            `Everybody's going crazy down here.'
            `Where?'
            `Here, at the theater. Giovanni. . .'
            `What about him?' Mark asked.
            `You don't know?'
            `Know what? I have no idea what you're talking about.'
            `The doctors don't think he'll make it through the night. I
            can't believe it. You did this? You shouldn't have. Why?'
            `I didn't. I have no idea. . .' Mark stopped in mid-
            sentence. `Listen, I had nothing to do with whatever happened to
            Giovanni.'
            `People think you beat him to death.'
            `Me? We threw a few punches, but that's it.'
            `What do you mean you threw a few punches. So you fought?'
            `I guess you could call it that.'
            `You guess?
            `Let me explain. After you left in the taxi last night,
            Giovanni walked up behind me and took a cheap shot. So I decked
            him. He hit the ground and I walked away. But, down the block, he
            came at me again, so I struck him again. That's all. Elizabeth, I
            didn't beat him up. That's not in my realm.'
            `If you didn't, and I can't imagine you would! than I suggest
            you call a lawyer. Has the police contacted you?
            `No. Have they talked with you?'
            `No, not yet, but I expect to.' There was a long pause
            during which Elizabeth's voice seemed unable to bring itself out.
            She sighed and cursed into the phone. `You are innocent, aren't you?'
            `I am, I am.'
            `Then how did Giovanni get battered?'
            `I don't know. I can only speculate. I floored him, and I
            think I broke his nose. His eyes were watering and blood trickled
            from his nostrils. I felt sorry for him. Once his pain subsided, he
            removed a pack of cigarettes from his pocket; he gave me one, and we
            talked. Then I said good-bye. After we parted, I walked to the buss
            stop, and was attacked.'
            `By who?'
            `Three guys. These guys were sitting on the buss I was
            riding earlier in the night. They jumped me, kicked me on the ground
            and started calling me a `rotten capitalist pig.' Maybe they knew
            who I was, or read one of my books. But I don't know. It's all very
            bizarre.'
            `Are you hurt?'
            `Not really. Luckily, I managed to run away. Giovanni,
            evidently, wasn't so lucky. How is he?'
            `Bad, very bad.'
            The downward inflection of her voice tapered into silence;
            and in the quietness, he heard her gasp as if she wanted to add
            something else to their conversation. Mark waited. Finally,
            Elizabeth told him she was speaking from a phone backstage at Lincoln
            Center, and that there were people standing close by, near enough to
            eaves drop on their conversation. The ballet was half-over. It was
            intermission and the murmurs of the audience could be heard where
            Elizabeth talked on the phone.

            Clothed in her stage costume and pointing slippers, her hair pulled
            back into a bun, her pale legs showed beneath the frills of her white
            tu-tu. She pressed her lips against the phone, covered her left ear
            and turned towards a gray, cinder block wall. Her voice had become
            sad and hesitant.
            `Mark?' she said.
            `Yes.'
            `I have to hang up,' she said, facing the wall but well aware
            of the stage director. He was crying: `Hurry up Elizabeth! You're
            on.' Elizabeth ignored him, and spoke into the phone: `After the
            show, Mark, the police are going to question me. They're going to
            ask what happened between you and Giovanni.'
            `Good, let them ask. I have nothing to hide, and neither do
            you. Tell them the truth.'
            `You know, then, that this will only deepen their suspicion
            towards you.'
            `I know. . .'
            This time the director raised a clipboard over his head, and
            cried: `You're on!'
            Next to the director stood Elizabeth's dance partner, Pierre
            Rourke, a tall, slender, `danseur noble' having a long, pointed face,
            wide shoulders and a pair of big dancer legs that bulged the tights
            he was wearing. Elizabeth slammed the phone and ran towards the
            velvet wings. Pierre grasped her hand. At the moment of contrition,
            their bodies relaxed and explosive, they burst from the dark recesses
            of the wings and whirled onto the stage just as the music filled the
            theater, with Elizabeth doing eight pirouettes on pointe in a high
            passe. Immediately, her worries and anxieties over last night's
            assault dissolved to be replaced by the rapture of a life
            performance. Her body moved subconsciously, but her mind was fully
            aware of all that occurred around her, aware of the claps and shouts,
            of the warmth of Pierre's hand, his swift subtle movements, aware of
            his long pointed face, his attentive eyes, and of the funny habit he
            shared with Nureyev, of dancing with his lips parted. In and out of
            his arms, moving in his etheric flow of energy, she simultaneously
            absorbed herself in the music being played, Vivaldi's Spring
            Concerto; rising, falling, cresting, surging, the grinding violin
            chords flowed through her like some unknown magnetic fluid composed
            of heat, light and sound, visible to the inner eye.
            Meanwhile, a police investigator for the NYPD was making his
            presence known backstage, questioning anyone who might have spoken
            with Giovanni last night or seen him leave the theater, and if so
            with whom. There were those in the company who believed she had
            turned against Giovanni, and that a new fling of hers was responsible
            for the assault. The more people questioned the more it looked as if
            a love triangle had formed between Elizabeth, Giovanni and `a young
            scholar from Connecticut.' In all, ten cast members submitted
            witness statements.
            By then Elizabeth was in her dressing room, in a deeply
            introverted mood, un-willing to speak or associate with anyone, and
            was quietly removing the make up from her face. It didn't matter, to
            her, what anybody thought --- not now at least. The performance left
            her in a solitary mood disaffected from her usual concerns. When
            somebody knocked on the dressing room door her response was curt at
            the expense of sounding temperamental. `Go away, I'm changing,' she
            had said, and continued smearing a cotton swab over her face; the
            frills of her tu-tu concealed the legs of the stool where she sat;
            the bun at the back of her head yet to be released from the hair
            pins. The light-bulbs surrounding the mirror were bright, but the
            rest of the room dark, and her ten-foot shadow loomed on the far
            cinderblock wall.
            `It's urgent,' repeated the voice through the door. Again,
            her response was abrupt.
            `Fifteen more minutes please,' and she reached for a box of
            tissues amid the hair pains, bottles of perfume, brushes and combs
            that were scattered over the make-up table. The tissue was dipped in
            make-up remover and then used to smear the white-make-up covering her
            face. Layer by layer, the rosy glow of her cheeks emerged from the
            whiteness.
            Not until her face was clean did she allow the man inside,
            Officer Scayhan. He was wearing a gray trench coat, a big, barrel-
            shaped man, who entered the room and closed the door behind him.
            They were alone.
            `I'm sorry to disturb you, miss, but I was wondering if I
            could ask you a few questions. I came to enquire about a man named
            Giovanni Migliazzo.'
            `What about it?' she asked, still seated at the stool, and
            speaking to his form reflecting in the mirror.
            `Do you know him?'
            `Who doesn't?'
            `Well, if you haven't heard, he was mugged last night. I
            came to ask what happened.'
            Elizabeth bent her arms behind her back, and one by one
            removed the hair pins from her bun.
            `Well?' the investigator asked.
            She kept removing the hair pins, and said nothing for some
            time, resenting the questions at a time she normally prized for its
            reflective quiet. Finally, she said: `We had a flat tire last
            night, and I took a cab home.' The long strands of hair woven into
            her bun unfurled upon her shoulders. Then she picked up her comb,
            leaned her head to the side and starting brushing in a mood that
            expressed ultra-feminine indifference.
            `Then?' the officer asked.
            `Then nothing. After I hopped inside the cab, I can't tell
            you what happened. I wasn't there.'
            `Do you know anything about this man called Mark Sonntag?'
            `Yes, I know him. He seems like a very nice guy. I can
            hardly believe he did it.'
            `How long have you known him?'
            `I met him last night for the first time. We were supposed
            to go on a date tonight.'
            `Well, we have reason to think he's responsible for the
            assault. I would stay clear of him until we know for sure. He could
            be dangerous.'
            `Thank you. I'll take that into consideration.'
            `Do,' he said, then lowered his hat on his head and gave her
            his business card. `Call me if you feel the need.'
            `Thanks. I will.'
            He left the room.
            Again, she doubted Mark's innocence. Elizabeth set about in
            a hurry, pacing the room, and carelessly un-zipped the back of her
            costume. Thin, silk, shoulder straps slid down her arms. In the
            shower, she ran a bar of soap across her skin hurriedly and didn't
            bother washing her hair. The last stream of water flowed round her
            feet into the drain.
            Minutes later, she came out of her dressing room, clothed in
            a white ivory blouse, a black knee-length skirt and high heal shoes
            that clicked heal to toe against the bare concrete floor. She could
            not imagine Mark beating somebody as bad as Giovanni had been
            beaten. It seemed impossible, and yet the evidence was stacked high
            against him. At the phone, which she used during intermission, she
            dialed Mark's number. It was irksome enough to think he may have
            stalked her last night, then tried to kill Giovanni, but the thought
            of going out with him tonight was unthinkable.
            She was standing there, holding the phone to her ear, alone
            backstage, listening to the pauses lingering in-between the rings.
            Behind her came a voice:
            `Elizabeth, are we still on for tonight?'
            Her heart lurched, she spun around, and saw Mark Sonntag. He
            was standing before the ropes that were used to manipulate the
            curtains, each rope counterbalanced by led weights. Part of her was
            afraid, part in awe. He was not an average-size man--- his hands
            were vice-grips. She hung up the phone and met his hazel eyes.
            `I'm feeling nervous about all this,' she said.
            `Don't be nervous. I would never hurt you.'
            `But Mark. The police. . . they're absolutely convinced it
            was you.'
            `It wasn't me. It'll be fine. Everything will work out.'
            `But. . .'
            `Lisa. Don't worry. You're thinking too much. Your heart
            knows the truth. Everything will fall into place.'
            `Did you say anything to the detective?'
            `Yes. I told him the truth.'
            She was relieved he said this. But her heart still pounded.
            She found it perplexing how Mark could be so relaxed.
            `You must place your faith in a higher power, Mark, to be so
            confident. Of coarse, what do I know? I don't know anything about
            you.'
            `That's the one thing I can cure.'
            `You have an accent and you say words like ruckus and hornets
            nest. Your nose suggests you're from the South. Mississippi,
            perhaps?'
            Mark twitched his nose with his finger. `No, I'm from the
            Northwest.'
            `The Northwest? What else?'
            `Well, what do you say we go to the Carnegie Deli, have a
            slice of apple pie, a cup of coffee, and we can talk. I think that's
            fair. If you still think I'm a lunatic, then I'll understand.'
            `Deal.'
            By this time of night, the theater was empty. They
            encountered no one except for Union men in the production crew and
            the janitorial staff, each of whom greeted Elizabeth in passing but
            critically scrutinized Mark Sonntag. Everyone, by now, knew who he
            was.
            The famous, glass-faced entrance hall overlooked Broadway.
            Elizabeth nodded pleasantly, if not a little shyly, when the young
            scholar opened a glass door for her.
            A warm breeze saturated in moisture blew through the
            courtyard expanding out in front of Lincoln Center. At the curbside,
            Mark raised his arm. A cab appeared almost immediately. They
            climbed inside; he shut the door. And afterwards, the cab gained
            speed, accelerated fast enough to equal the pace of traffic. Going
            North up Broadway the cab was one in a barrage of vehicles, some
            bearing straight ahead, others changing lanes, although the unified
            character of the whole remained constant. Five cars behind the taxi
            cab was a black Cadillac nearing the intersection of Broadway and
            Amsterdam.

            The Cadillac accelerated through a red light, its engine
            groaning under the hood, and it plush suspension system absorbing the
            hump in the middle of the intersection. Gliding smoothly in traffic,
            it had New Jersey plates and dark tinted windows, while the two
            occupants inside gave the un-mistakable impression of belonging to
            the Mafia. Armed with .22 revolvers, and clothed in black suits and
            black felt hats, more specifically they belonged to the Italian
            Mafia, and took Giovanni's assault as a personal offence. The
            driver, whose purple tie matched the silk handkerchief blooming from
            his breast pocket, took a parking space lit up overhead by an
            overhanging street lamp.
            Across the street was the deli; its sign extended above a
            long line of windows, through which the costumers could be seen,
            several shades brighter than the grayness of 77th Street. A buss boy
            was mopping the floor behind a booth where Elizabeth and Mark sat
            down in plane view of the two Mafioso's waiting in the Cadillac.
            The driver removed the keys from the ignition, saying:
            `Cigarette?'
            `Sure.'
            He removed a pack from his suit jacket, handed him one, and
            waited in the car with the intention of following Mark Sonntag
            wherever else he might go this evening. In the meantime, the driver
            and the passenger discussed the assault.
            `Gio's wallet wasn't stolen,' said the passenger. `His rings
            were still on his fingers. If thievery was the motive, Mark would
            have taken the wallet and stole the rings. This was no mugging. It
            was a hit.'
            The driver glared at Mark's image profiled in the window. In
            the cold, electric light he and Elizabeth seemed less lovers than co-
            conspirators. There was disgust in the driver's voice.
            `Mark Sonntag beats, stabs, almost murders Gio, and now he's
            having matzo ball soup with his girl! And is she mourning?'
            `Hell no she's not.'
            `Then Vince is right. It was a hit.'
            One hour later, at closing time, the deli's sign flickered
            before assimilating itself into the grayness of night. The deli
            dimmed to a half glow. It was going on one o'clock, and a waitress
            inside the restaurant reversed an open sign dangling by a string over
            the front door. Elizabeth and Mark walked into the grayness outside.

            Neither of them seemed to be in a hurry; once on the
            sidewalk, they did not hale a cab as expected. Their slow, leisure
            strides along the wide boardwalk seemed to drift without any purpose
            other than to enjoy the night for its own sake.
            `Why didn't you tell the police to blow off?' she asked as
            they were passing the clubs and restaurants on 77th Street and were
            recalling the events that had transpired backstage after the ballet.
            Mark was strolling besides her. He removed his hands from deep
            inside the pockets of his gray, khaki slacks.
            `I'll tell you why, Elizabeth. It's because I can't,' he
            said, gesturing with his hands. `When it comes to the police, or
            anyone of authority, priests, my boss, landlords, whoever, I can
            never lie. I always surrender to cowardice. I looked Officer
            Scayhan in the eye and told him it was I who broke Giovanni's nose.
            `You can't lie?'
            `No. No. I couldn't.'
            `That is peculiar. You know, a lie would have worked to your
            advantage. If you would have told the police that you never
            encountered Giovanni, never saw him, then how would they know any
            different? Nobody saw you two fighting.'
            `See what a coward I am?'
            But this element of his personality did not trouble her in
            the least. In fact, she seemed charmed. `That's not cowardice!' she
            said with a smile. `That's called honesty.'
            `Albeit, a peculiar, mad form of honesty.'
            `It's chivalry and I love it.'
            They turned their heads only long enough to catch a shy,
            fleeting glimpse of each other. Their fingers made contact, almost
            by accident, then they held hands in a glow of relaxation. For the
            first time, in as long as she could remember, she felt like a normal
            girl going on a normal date, with a normal man, who lived a normal,
            honest life.
            `Let's not talk about Gio any longer,' Mark said. He came to
            an abrupt stop and gripped her shoulders. `Is that all right?'
            Elizabeth stood there, looking up at him, feeling her heart
            thump in her chest. Her feminine sensibilities felt it coming.
            `I'm a simple man, Elizabeth. I don't live my life for
            tragedies. I've barely caused a ripple my whole life.'
            `I'm simple too,' she said, then received the kiss she sensed
            coming; pleased he finally did it. `I hate tragedies. I don't even
            prefer Shakespeare.'
            `Who likes Shakespeare?' he said and kissed her again.
            `I like Shakespeare in the park, I suppose, when I have a
            bottle of wine and a big quilt to lay upon.'
            `I take it, you're not a sentimentalist.'
            `No. Does that bother you?'
            `Not particularly. Let's go somewhere?'
            `Let's do.'
            `And lets not speak anymore of Giovanni.'
            And nor did Elizabeth want to. The thrilling solemnity of
            the kiss evaporated all the tension and pretense of a first date.
            And she wanted to go with him somewhere, just not his place, because
            she did not feel comfortable with that. She knew, whomever was in
            the Cadillac, would follow them wherever Mark went this evening. She
            knew who they were, and who they worked for. She knew everything
            about Vince Serenghetti's killers and how they killed and how they
            dare not lay a hand on Mark as long as he was with any member of the
            powerful Sinclair family. They could not follow them up to her high,
            elevated apartment, thirty stories up into the Manhattan sky line.

            Chapter Five of "The Sirius Chronicles," copyright 2002. Mathew
            Morrell. All rights reserved.
          • mmorrell1
            The Mafioso s followed them as far as her apartment building. After that, they gave up the trail. The Cadillac neared the building only to continue on and
            Message 5 of 11 , Aug 7 10:48 PM
            • 0 Attachment
              The Mafioso's followed them as far as her apartment building. After
              that, they gave up the trail. The Cadillac neared the building only
              to continue on and eventually disappear into the heavy Manhattan
              traffic. Forcing their way into her apartment would have been a in
              their Mafia code of ethics, moreover invoked the wrath of the
              Sinclair Family, whom the Mafia feared and respected above all
              else.
              Later the same night, the Mafioso's crossed the river into
              Hoboken, New Jersey. This was where the Serenghetti crime family
              owned a warehouse on the outskirts of an industrial park not far from
              Hudson Bay. In fact, it was close enough to hear the tug boats and
              river barges moaning in the distance. The fog horns wallowed from
              somewhere in the gray, soupy mist.
              The head of the Serenghetti crime family, Vince Serenghetti,
              was inside the warehouse when the Cadillac arrived. He, along with
              eight other `family' members, were huddled around a fold-out table,
              smoking cigars as large quantities of money were being counted.
              Their cold, knowing eyes seemed intently aware of nothing else. They
              sat there, watching Thomas Rose bundle the cash into a metal
              briefcase. All of it was in one hundred dollar bills. $10,000 per
              bundle multiplied by 100, equaled $100,000. That was the first
              briefcase. There were two others.
              Off to the side, a thin, gangly boy in his late teens swept a
              section of he warehouse where cigarette butts were scattered on the
              floor near the loading dock. Giovanni Migliazzo owned the warehouse,
              and leased it to the Serenghetti's, the two parties acting as
              partners in a lucrative crime smuggling ring. At midnight, there was
              a honk signaling the arrival of a semi-truck. Immediately, the boy
              propped his broom in the corner and pulled on a sliding, garage-style
              door; once the door was all the way up it revealed a parking lot
              behind the warehouse and an eighteen wheel tractor trailer reversing
              straight back towards the rubber cushions padding the loading dock.
              The cargo included a diverse spectrum of trademark Mexican goods,
              electronic equipment, color TV's, small engine parts, picture frames,
              then one crate, at the back of the trailer, filled with Mexican
              coffee beans. The boy un-loaded the cargo with a propane-powered
              forklift.
              The man counting the money, Thomas Rose, kept an eye on the
              boy, also on the man named Vince whose massive three-hundred pound
              frame consumed a dainty fold-out chair. Two bodyguards stood behind
              the `Fat Man,' their pistols in plain site, and scrutinized Thomas
              Rose. Thomas Rose was not Mafia. He was an outsider representing
              Migliazzo's side of the transaction, whose long, gorgeous blond hair
              hung midway down the back of his leather jacket. He was in blue
              jeans and wearing cowboy boots, and was taking an occasional drag
              from an un-filtered Lucky Strike cigarette.
              `Where did they go tonight?' he asked in reference to Mark
              and Elizabeth.
              `A deli,' said the man who had recently joined the party, who
              was the driver of the Cadillac, whose purple tie matched his purple
              handkerchief. `I should have plugged him while I had the chance.'
              Thomas stopped counting the money. `Plug who?'
              `Mark.'
              `No. You leave Mark to us,' said Thomas. The caged light
              bulb above the table shined on his face. It was rugged and
              pockmarked, and expressed a mixture of disdain and cold respect. He
              added: `No one is to harm Sonntag. Vince?'
              Vince just nodded his head. He had kept silent all this
              time; his round, blubbery face showed no emotion. All he said
              was: `No harm boy,' and he went on chewing a cigar.
              `But he killed Gio!' said the purple tie.
              `Gio is not dead,' Thomas corrected him.
              `He is almost dead. That's close enough. We should almost
              kill Mark.'
              `No,' said Vince. `We listen to Tommy Rose. No kill.'
              The teenager stepped out of the forklift and then picked up a
              crowbar. His bouncy strides exuded immaturity, a desire to flaunt in
              front of his elders. After whirling the crowbar he stabbed the point
              into the final crate, which was waist-high, and had the words, Grown
              in Mexico, stamped on the side.
              Thomas Rose looked on in irritation. He hated that they
              always brought the kids along. They were always creating
              distractions.
              `Hey kid!' Thomas yelled.
              `What?'
              Thomas removed the cigarette from his mouth. `You'll never
              open it that way. Try the seam on the side.'
              `This one?' asked the kid.
              `No, higher.'
              `This one?'
              `There, yes, now pry.' Thomas shook his head in frustration,
              and then lowered his eyes and continued bundling the money. He knew
              Vince did not appreciate having the kid talked down to, so Thomas
              kept his eyes low and humble when he said: `Keep it cool with
              Giovanni, eh? That's all I ask, Mr. Serenghetti. When Gio recovers
              he can tell us, himself, who assaulted him.'
              `If he recovers,' said the Fat Man. `The Gypsy say he die.'
              `Gypsies are not always right.'
              `A lot of people worried beside the Gypsy. People are
              calling. Requesting bullet for Mark Sonntag. Requesting death.
              Nobody comfortable. People talking.'
              `People flap their lips.'
              `I say we plug him,' said the purple tie.
              `No,' said another. `Gio is one of us. We cannot plug him.'
              `Like hell we can't,' said another. `Gio is nothing.'
              `Who could like Gio?' said yet another.
              `I like Gio.'
              `No,' said one man, who pounded his fist. `Who can respect a
              man, not married, no children? That is not Italian. He is nothing.
              He makes me sick at my stomach.'
              `Gio is a woman!' said the boy, precociously.
              The men looked over at the boy, some chuckling. But Vince
              was not. He said:
              `Quiet! No one say you speak, boy!'
              Everyone became quiet. The kid, shamed and blushed, pried on
              the seam. The nails popped, and the coffee bean contents gushed onto
              the floor. Within the beans was a three foot block covered in brown
              paper. The boy removed the paper, threw it aside and revealed a bag
              of Golden Triangle heroin processed for direct sale on the street.
              This finalized the deal.

              Thomas placed the briefcases in the trunk of his car, a black
              Jaguar XJ12, which had a secret storage compartment spacious enough
              to conceal the three briefcases under a pseudo floor board. Still,
              that did little to ease his strain. Knowing he was transporting
              300,000 dollars in drug money made him anxious; and he kept his .44
              magnum in close reach, under the seat, when driving the industrial
              back-roads of Hoboken. It was his job to deposit the money into
              Giovanni's bank account. Where it went after that, he could only
              surmise. The money would probably switch accounts as many as ten
              times before night's end, go from Giovanni's account into a network
              of front company accounts, becoming more and more un-traceable the
              more hands it touched. Millions flowed into this slush fund,
              followed a financial web interconnected to Vietnam, Migliazzo
              Enterprises, and the North Star Corporation, which was a military
              contractor owned and operated by Elizabeth Sinclair's grandfather,
              Whitney Sinclair.
              After depositing the money Thomas performed another job for
              North Star. Mr. Sinclair asked if he could investigate what his
              grand daughter, Giovanni and Mark Sonntag were doing on the night of
              the electrical storm, and if Sonntag was, possibly, a KGB agent. The
              police thought the motive behind the assault was petty jealousy; the
              Mafia thought it was a territorial dispute; but Mr. Sinclair believed
              the assault may be politically motivated, a coupe de taut, aimed at
              destroying the financial apparatus that armed and funded anti-Soviet
              troops in the Golden Triangle. For this reason, Thomas was further
              instructed to search Mark Sonntag's apartment, place a tap on his
              phone, scour his bookshelf for C.P.S.U. propaganda, and see if his
              phonebook didn't have any numbers to known Soviet agents. Above all,
              Mr. Sinclair demanded a fast but thorough investigation. Then, he
              said, he would determine an appropriate course of action, one based
              on factual information, not hearsay, and one that may or may not
              involve the Serenghetti crime family. Such was the depth and
              fierceness of Mr. Sinclair's familial instinct, he would not hesitate
              calling Vince Serenghetti's `hit men', if it meant protecting his
              grandchild from danger. Assassination was always the last resort.
              Whitney Sinclair was in his seventies, a very distinguished, silver-
              haired gentleman, well over six foot tall, thin, dauntingly handsome
              in his three piece suit, and spoke using an ivory-handled cane to
              elaborate his message: that the investigation should proceed
              according to North Star policy.
              At dawn the next morning Whitney Sinclair boarded a private
              jet at La Guardia Airport, accompanied by top ranking officials in
              the military and covert establishment, a member of the Intelligence
              Advisory Committee, as well as a colonel who taught combat readiness
              at the US Army's War College in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
              The jet was light and quick, and hardly a moment passed
              before the wings grabbed air. The ground seemed to drop as the jet
              rose at a sharp angle over the airfield bordering Flushing Bay, above
              the coves and inlets carved into the broken shoreline. Beyond Long
              Island Sound was the Atlantic and its encroaching expanse, over which
              they flew, the nose tilted towards the sun's blinding orb of light.
              Below was the ocean's silver-blue, cerulean waters, flecked with
              white. Into the dawn they went.
              Minutes later no land was visible. Of the things they
              discussed during the long hours over the Atlantic, were lethal and
              non-lethal technologies that North Star was developing at its
              military-commissioned testing and development center located in
              Helsinki, Finland: acoustic fields, electromagnetic fields, optical
              fields, that could temporarily blind, stun, paralyze, but not kill,
              entire legions on the battlefield. Also traditional `bullet-and-
              bomb' technologies were discussed. Mr. Sinclair and his guests
              belonged to an international military alliance that could rise up and
              within hours, even minutes, deploy to all ends of the earth an army
              capable of destroying with quick, decisive force any oppressive
              regime that is based on race consciousness, or religious bigotry, or
              any tyrannical nation-cult that resorts to terrorism. North Star's
              testing facility was a windowless, concrete building, three stories
              tall, not far from where jet fighters took off and landed over an
              airstrip. The military installation was completely surrounded by a
              tall, razor-wire fence and guarded around the clock by Finnish
              military.
              Mr. Sinclair's guests were given `limited access passes,'
              effectively barring them from most every zone in Building B save for
              the conference room; and even then they were subject to a strict
              security check after their plane landed; their identification numbers
              were verified by computer; they were sent through a metal detector;
              then forced to endure a short but polite interrogation session. The
              above two floors remained off limits.
              Mr. Sinclair took an elevator while his guests submitted
              themselves to the interrogation. He could not take them where he was
              going, to a wing of Building B, where North Star conducted Top Secret
              psychological research studies. Clipped to his left breast pocket was
              a laminated ID badge; it had his picture on it, showing his wolfish
              face with its deep, hooded eyes, bushy eyebrows and Roman nose. The
              red letters around the edges of the badge specified his rank and gave
              him access to a research room on the third floor. This was where
              North Star conducted the MK-Ultra program.
              He stood before a two-way mirror. The gentleman he sought
              after was on the other side of the mirror. Sinclair didn't know who
              the woman was who was with the man. Most likely she was an un-
              witting subject in the MK-Ultra program, somebody North Star had
              chosen from the streets, probably a prostitute, a drug addict or a
              homeless vagrant. Experimental subjects who belonged to the
              underworld were preferred because they were easy to bribe and less
              likely to be believed if they were to ever report what happened to
              them. Her evaluation sheet said she was twenty-eight, but her bony
              face and sallow complexion added a look of wariness and defeat that
              made her look ten years beyond her age.
              Slouched over, with her elbows resting on the table, she
              combed her fingers through her hair. She seemed depressed and
              aggravated.
              `Don't you have something better to play than Beethoven?'
              `Do you not like Beethoven?' the doctor asked, who was in the
              room with her, speaking in a heavy Germanic accent. His head was
              bald and his skin pink and hairless-looking.
              `I told you guys I like the Beatles when I get stoned, not
              some dried up old corpse like Beethoven. Classical is so
              imperialistic.'
              `I'm sorry, but our record collection is limited. Would you
              prefer silence?'
              The woman shrugged. `Whatever turns you on.'
              Draped in a long, white overcoat, the doctor lowered the
              record album onto the turntable. There was also a table in the room,
              artwork on the walls, plants in the corner, a throw rug, all adding
              up to a rich comfortable environment the size of a college dormitory
              room. Dr. Zimmerman was one of 600 rehabilitated Nazi scientists
              that the CIA had hired after World War II, and now worked behind the
              scenes at North Star. He reached for a clear, plastic bag, then
              pulled something out of it so minute it could not be seen as he
              pinched it in-between his finger and thumb. The paper thin tab--red
              and half the size of the finger nail--was placed on her open palm.
              `Only one hit?' the woman asked, staring at her palm. `I
              expected two, maybe three at the least.'
              `I think one gram should be ample. Put it under your tongue,
              and don't swallow it. It needs to be absorbed, orally.'
              `I think I know how to drop acid, man.' She looked up at him
              through two wary eyes. `This isn't another one of those twisted sex
              experiments, is it?'
              `No sex is involved.'
              `Then is there somebody on the other side of the mirror,
              watching us?'
              `There could be. The room is fixed with hidden microphones
              and this two way mirror. Somebody might drop by to survey your
              progress at any time. This won't bother you, will it?'
              `Nah,' she said, then slackened her jaw, jutted her mouth
              open, and, with her pointing finger, placed the tab on the tip of her
              tongue. `You guys are creepy. But you pay good.'
              `Please refrain from talking until the tab dissolves.'
              `Whatever you say, trooper.'
              `I would appreciate it. Thank you.'
              Some time would expire before the drug took effect ---usually
              thirty minutes. In that time the subject selected a book from the
              shelf, Doors of Perception, and read it on the couch. Her
              personality profile said she was an Internalizer -- a person who his
              inner directed, adept at withdrawing into themselves and solving
              mental problems -- ideal traits for subjects paid to analyze their
              feeling during altered states. North Star was very interested in
              drug research, especially but not exclusively the effects of
              hallucinogens such as LSD, mescaline, quinuclididinyle, and a
              psilocybin chemical extracted from Mexican peyote mushrooms. North
              Star had conducted over fifty classified studies on hallucinogens and
              how they could be used in their government-commissioned mind control
              program MK-Ultra, first launched in 1953. Dr. Zimmerman charted the
              subject's gradual devolvement from a normal waking state into an
              altered state, and was taking notes on her behavior. The
              hallucinogen quinuclididinyle, or BZ, gradually dissolved into the
              clusters of small cavities and ducts under her tongue.
              The first `step scales' in Beethoven Ninth Symphony issued
              from the stereo system, huge momentous scales that ascended like some
              gigantic staircase hewn from a mountainside. Unlike before, the
              subject seemed intensely happy. She started swaying from side to
              side and humming with the music. Her eyes became wide and dilated.
              Prismatic color patterns issued from the speakers and everything
              seemed somehow more real and more vibrant, as if the objects in the
              room contrasted more distinctly against their background.
              `I can see the music,' she smiled drearily but happily.
              `You see music?'
              `It's streaming from the speakers. Everywhere.' She spoke
              as if in a cloud, saying: `Wow, man, wow.'
              `What is it like?' asked Zimmerman.
              `It's like a slow dance of golden light. Hey, this Beethoven
              isn't so bad, after all. He's all right, man, all right.'
              Zimmerman wrote on his notepad: `Although the drug's
              inhibitory effect on the frontal cortex has weakened her
              internalizing capacity, it has strengthened incoming stimuli and
              intensified her sense of feeling. She sees music.' Then he looked
              up, and saw that the woman was sitting cross legged on the floor,
              still swaying rhythmically to the beat. He said:
              `Earlier, you said classical music represented imperialism.
              I found that interesting. Do you still hold this belief?'
              `Music is music. It's universal.'
              `Would you prefer something else?'
              `Whatever, man, whatever. Music is all the same, man. It
              all comes from the same source. Beethoven. Paul. John. Hendrix.
              They're all geniuses. They're all connected. It's all in the
              moment, man. All is all'
              `If everything is relative, then there is no good or bad.
              Correct?'
              `No good or bad?' she repeated in slow, drugged
              voice. `Heavy thought. Yeah, maybe so. No good or bad.'
              `Or right and wrong?'
              `Maybe, man. Maybe.' Her eyes fell half-shut, as she
              repeated: `No past or future. All is all. No good or bad.'
              `Then what about imperialism?'
              Her eyes burst open. `If that's your thing!' she laughed,
              her eyes showering him in a look of innocence. `You're an
              imperialist. I'm a free thinker. But we're all brothers and
              sisters, man. We're all one. You get what I'm saying? I'm open to
              the brotherhood idea. You do your thing. I'll do mine.'
              `I see.'
              `If everyone did this kind of thing, took mescaline, LSD, got
              stoned, there would be no wars. There would be no imperialism. No
              war pigs. We'd all be one happy family.'
              `Yet there also wouldn't be civilization.'
              `Huh?'
              `If everyone was stoned all the time, there would be no
              civilization.'
              `What do you mean?' The thought seemed to irritate her, and
              she stopped swaying.
              `If everyone was consumed in universal love, feeling no
              desire to do anything except `be', then there would be a societal
              collapse. There would be a reversion into primordial culture based
              on moral relativism.'
              `Happiness is good, dude! What are you saying? I don't like
              your vibes, anymore. Get away from me. You can never be too happy.
              All you need is love, man. Love! Love! Love! Aren't you getting
              it?'
              `And hate?'
              `Fuck your hate!' she screamed. An expression had assumed
              itself upon her face, whose wide screaming mouth, bulging eyes and
              creased forehead, showed them that the BZ had taken full effect.
              `I can tell you're getting angry, Ms. Kurtz.' He closed his
              notepad, as if reprimanding her.
              `Well, what's all this talk about civilization? Who need
              it? Why borders? Why governments? Why religions? All they do is
              divide, man, tear apart,' she said, her face reddening and her eyes
              bulging. `I hate all you fuckers! and your bombs and your guns, and
              your napalm, and your borders, destroying nature. . .'
              In her highly subjective state her mind was primed for the
              next step. The doctor placed his notepad in his pocket and then left
              her sitting there until she `cooled down' a little bit. They did not
              want her becoming so emotional that she reverted into insane ravings;
              rather a blank, `cleared' state of mind was preferred before
              subjecting her to the next step which was brainwashing.
              In the observation room was Mr. Sinclair. He had not moved
              from the mirror.
              `Who is this new subject of our?' he asked, in regard to the
              woman, whom he gazed upon in concentrated thought.
              `Our agents found her at a methadone clinic on Nordinrich
              Street. She's proving to be an excellent subject.'
              `Does she have family, children. . .?'
              `No.'
              `Has she taken LSD before?'
              `Yes, but only in clinical doses, as treatment therapy
              against neurosis.'
              `Has it helped?'
              `I think so. She claimed that LSD helped cure her periodic
              bouts of depression. In Los Angeles she was a stage actress. After
              years of failure, she became involved with a Left Wing terrorist
              group. For the last five years she's lived precariously in Geneva,
              probably as a prostitute, apparently unable to adapt to society.'
              The woman `cooled down' after a few minutes of being alone in
              the room with the music. Her drooping eyes, fixed upon the mirror,
              regained their look of cosmic benevolence. `He you guys,' she was
              saying as she waved at them, her high, girlish voice coming through
              the amplification system. `I know you're in there, hiding. Are you
              talking about me? Huh? Are you analyzing me? tearing apart who I
              am?' Then in another abrupt change of mood, verging on manic, she
              un-folded her legs, lurched to her feet and now assumed a benign and
              triumphant pose. She tilted her head back and threw her arms out
              into the Jesus Christ pose. `Me, you can never tear apart! I am!'
              This exaltation of her higher will touched Mr. Sinclair at a
              deep place in his consciousness. Throwing out her arms and
              declaring `I am' was something his grand daughter might do in her
              Christ-like moments of life-affirmation. He cherished Elizabeth, and
              therefore the thought of subjecting her to such brain-wasting drugs
              as BZ was unthinkable. Mr. Sinclair fiercely opposed drug usage and
              forbade it among the children in his family. He insisted they could
              will inner freedom through art, prayer and meditation. All the
              children in the Sinclair family were encouraged to practice some form
              of musical discipline; it was a family tradition. Mr. Sinclair
              believed anything which could aid his children's mental development
              would be beneficial in preserving the prosperity and power that the
              Sinclair family had created for centuries; and he was confident that
              their strong family traditions, enriched by music and Catholicism,
              would continued to thrive into the next generation. Their financial
              roots in banking, mining and heavy industrial sectors, reaped huge
              profits, and Elizabeth's father, Eric Sinclair, had doubled his
              fortunes. Elizabeth's aunts and uncles were well-educated, shrewd
              business people, known for their pious, religious devotion to the
              Church; they, too, passed down to their children a love of music,
              God, and a Machiavellian approach towards business. What Mr.
              Sinclair did not have, however, was what he needed most. Out of his
              seven sons and daughters, and twenty-three grandchildren, nobody in
              the family possessed the capacities Mr. Sinclair sought after in a
              leader capable of guiding the family the way he had. All he had was
              Elizabeth, his one great ray of hope.

              While he was in Helsinki --- three thousands miles to the West, in
              New York, at the ABT's studio on West 48th --- Elizabeth was
              rehearing the kind of ballet she excelled in, the non-sentimental,
              vitalistic kind filled with athletic leaps and jumps. Round her
              glowing orb darted little phosphorescent radiations and bursts of
              light that flickered in the etheric realm. Her energy as she danced
              followed an ephemeral stream of movement that whirled past the
              choreographer like a metaphysical abstraction, her arms, legs, hands
              and feet whirling past him in an aura of effortlessness consuming her
              whole body in ballet's spiral dynamic.
              `That's it!' said the choreographer.
              `You like?' Elizabeth asked as she danced.
              `Yes, I like!'
              The pianist was playing a colorful, musical composition, full
              of quick, bursting Dionysian rhythms. There was a formality to
              ballet Elizabeth could only laugh at now; a formality which drained
              energy by placing emphasis on technique over drama and artistry.
              That extra energy Elizabeth drew from the creative silence of the
              First Cause. It was as if invisible threads guided her every motion,
              the thread now opening wide her arms, now elevating to them to a
              point above her head, and now letting them fall gently to her side.
              `The lighter than air feel,' said the choreographer. `That
              is what I want.'
              `This?' she said, leaping and hovering.
              `Nijinksy would be proud.'
              `Well, what would Nijinsky say about this then?' as she
              bolted into another leap; but before leaping she crouched slightly,
              then sprung, giving the illusion that her jump reached an impossible
              height. In mid air, she lilted her wrists so that they were limp and
              passive and trailing behind the leap in a fleeting and mysterious
              manner. At this point in her career, young, full of life and energy,
              responsive to the mobility of her psychic fluids, Elizabeth did not
              have to think to produce the desire results. Dance came
              spontaneously. The thinking process occurred at a deeper level of
              her personality, in the heights of her spirit, where action and
              response, mind and body acted in harmony with ballet's esoteric laws
              of motion. If she could think it, she could do it.
              To her he would give the Red Lion. In her he intuited the
              raw, psychological material he needed to mold a burgeoning girl into
              a matriarch capable of guiding the family according to Hermetic,
              Machiavellian principles. The Red Lion was a dangerous mind altering
              alchemical compound, lethal if the person taking it was not
              accustomed to altered states, dangerous if one is not attuned to the
              dynamic, all-pervading forces that govern the universe through its
              own immutable, cosmic laws.





              Chapter Six, "Sirius Chronicles," copyright 2002, by Mathew Morrell.
              All rights reserved.
            • mmorrell1
              Awakened at six-thirty in the morning by a butler who held his bathrobe, Sinclair released a long, lascivious yawn, stood up from the bed and stepped into a
              Message 6 of 11 , Aug 13 1:43 AM
              • 0 Attachment
                Awakened at six-thirty in the morning by a butler who held his
                bathrobe, Sinclair released a long, lascivious yawn, stood up from
                the bed and stepped into a pair of wool-lined slippers. The butler
                helped him with the robe, saying:
                `Let me remind you, sir, your grand daughter is due to arrive
                at nine this morning.'
                Whitney nodded and rubbed his eyes. He disliked being spoken
                to this early in the morning.
                `I'll take my breakfast in the library.'
                `Would you like poached eggs, sir?'
                The phone rang.
                `I would like buttered toast and tea, thank you. That will
                be all, Jauntie.'
                The butler made a slight bow before leaving the bedroom. On
                the third ring, Whitney cleared his throat, coughed, then lifted the
                receiver. It was the psychic, Thomas Rose.
                `Sorry, if I awoke you, Mr. Sinclair.'
                `What is it?'
                `I called to say Giovanni Migliazzo has recovered.'
                `Is he talking to the police?'
                `Yes, and he verified Mark Sonntag's alibi. It was three
                thugs who attacked him in the alley, not Sonntag.'
                Whitney pondered for a moment. `Could you come over this
                morning?'
                `This morning? I suppose so, but. . .'
                Abruptly, and without waiting for Thomas to finish, Mr.
                Sinclair hung up the phone. He was in no mood for excuses and seemed
                rather cranky crossing the room, mumbling to himself, and stroking
                his morning-stubbled face; the whiteness of his knee caps poked
                through his bathrobe. At the bedroom window, where he tightened the
                silk cord around his waist, he looked across his sprawling five acre
                estate. The sun had not yet risen above the oak trees, only its
                dense, filmy residue, which expanded through the trees like luminous
                wisps of smoke brightening the rose gardens, statues, water
                fountains, and the dew-saturated lawn. Underneath a weeping willow
                tree was a spring fed pond. This was where the resident gardener
                could be seen standing in the slow, dim expansion of morning light,
                and was evidently feeding the carp. In his hand was a five-gallon
                bucket filled with pellets.
                Whitney, as he watched the gardener, felt finicky with age.
                He swung open the window pane, stuck his face outside, and yellowed
                from three stories up:
                `March McEvers!'
                The gardener in his knee high barn boots lowered the bucket
                onto the embankment. It was chilly and his breath steamed upon the
                air. His tawny voice could barely be heard in the distance.
                `Mr. Sinclair? Back already?'
                `I arrived last night! You're not going to trim my rose,
                after you finish feeding the carp, are you?'
                `No sir, in no way. I'll leave the roses to you, sir. I
                would never think myself expert enough to dash upon your roses these
                meat cleavers of mine.'
                He surveyed with pity the gardener in his brown rags and
                straw hat. The primordial simplicity of his words, and their
                directness, increased his pity. He pitied all workers. His breath
                soared from his lungs before he had a chance to judge his words: `I,
                and not you, carry the meat cleavers, March McEvers! The estate is
                blessed by your expert hand!' The two waved from afar. In his early
                years, there would have been no delay; he would have stomped outside
                right then and reprimanded the gardener for somebody trimming his
                roses while he was out of town, whether he was responsible or not;
                and afterwards taken a sweaty, vigorous jog along the beaches and
                cliffs down the road on the Long Island Sound. But his soul had
                softened with age, and now all he did was beam a white ray of love in
                the gardener's direction before shutting the window. His youthful
                love affairs for mountain climbing, big game hunting, ocean fishing,
                had been replaced in his ladders years by simple, domestic fetishes,
                fine cigars, slow-burning fires, tea cups and the thousands of
                antiquarian books that were lined up with exceptional straightness in
                his library.
                He opened a door that blended into the bedroom's dark-
                stained, walnut paneling. The library on the other side of the door
                was also paneled in walnut and emitted the smell of wood polish,
                cigar smoke and cold gray ashes lying in the fireplace. Book shelves
                spanned the walls; most of the shelves, but not all, were too high to
                reach from the floor. A twenty-foot ladder was required, which he
                climbed all the way up to the books on the upper-most shelf.
                The butler arrived, minutes later, the toast and tea on a
                silver tray.
                `The top shelf needs a good dusting,' Whitney said, now
                standing safely on the floor. `Have the skinny girl do it if you
                don't think your self fit for the climb.'
                `Thank you, sir, I will.'
                `Also. . . It's a bit too cold this morning. Would you mind
                starting a fire?'
                `Of coarse not, sir. I think a small, low-burning fire would
                do nicely this morning.'
                `It's awfully moist outside.'
                `Indeed it is.'
                The butler raised the hem of his trousers, bent his knees
                onto the hearth rug and stuffed crumpled newspapers underneath a pile
                of logs. The room in the library's cool, airy expanse was stately
                and traditional, filled with small, unexpected amenities, like the
                box of cigars on the smoking table; or a crystal saucer filled with
                tiny mints. His prized collection of walking sticks and canes were
                kept upright in a rack next to the high back chair.
                `Thank you, Jauntie.'
                The butler blew out the match. `Enjoy the fire, sir.'
                `I will, but before you leave, on the table is a folder. If
                you could, please slip the file into the filing cabinet in my office.'
                `Is it a Red File?'
                `Yes. If, as usual, you see Elizabeth breaking into the fine
                cabinet, pretend not to notice and walk away. Let the girl have her
                fun.'
                `I always pretend not to see, sir.'
                `Good boy, Jauntie.'
                `Shall I lock the file cabinet?'
                `No, she finally procured a secret key. You can start
                locking it from now on.'
                The two men chuckled deeply and in unison, charmed by all of
                Elizabeth's little escapades. She had been smuggling North Star
                intelligence documents since she was thirteen years old straight from
                the filing cabinet, and neither the butler nor Mr. Sinclair had
                stopped her, or pretended to notice, moreover left the filing cabinet
                un-locked so the girl could not resist the temptation. Consequently,
                a twenty year old girl had access to the world's most vital, Top
                Secret, intelligence information through her access to the Red
                Files. Mr. Sinclair wanted her to become a well-read, well-informed,
                well-educated adult who understood global politics, not from the
                perspective of the news media, but from the behind-the-scenes, in the
                trenches, vantage point of the intelligence community. After the
                butler left the room, still smiling, Mr. Sinclair took a seat on the
                high back chair near the fireplace. Sprawled over his lap once he
                settled down into the chair and crossed his legs was the Atlas-size
                book he had pulled from the upper shelf, and now opened in the fire's
                flickering orange aura. As with the majority of the books in the
                library, he had read it before and now thumbed through the pages
                merely for the pleasure of strolling over familiar mental ground.
                The book was an atlas of Western folklore. Amid the historical
                references to Wicca was a section devoted to alchemy, a subject that
                obsessed him his entire life. An archaic, black-and-white engraving
                showed spirits, devils and goblins flying in spinning circles around
                an engraving of an alchemists oven. The caption underneath the
                illustration said that the oven was used by an alchemist to transmute
                a base metal into gold by following a heating and cooling process.
                Another reference to alchemy said it was a crude form of psychology,
                that initiates used to veil the science of inner transformation. He
                judged both views correct. His Red Lion elixir was a liquid
                frequency manufactured by following a strict chemical process that
                required scientific and arcane spiritual knowledge.
                Later this morning, the grandfather clock produced a warm
                brass tone. Thomas Rose, the North Star psychic, entered the library
                on the sixth ring. The first thing he said, in reference to the Red
                Lion, was: `It's too bad whomever takes the Red Lion dies.' He
                followed up this comment, in the same flagrant tone, by saying the
                objective of the experiment defeated its own purpose. Thomas plopped
                down on a leather arm chair, lit a cigar, and added by saying that
                the Red Lion experiment should be shelved lock, stock and barrel.
                Whitney did not respond right away. He dropped an
                overflowing spoonful of red, strawberry jam over his slice of
                buttered toast, then spread the jam with the rounded bottom of the
                spoon.
                `Look at it this way,' Thomas said. `The elixir would be
                useful if it could turn a person with normal psychic abilities into a
                full fledged psychic; but since it can't, it's wasted dollars and
                wasted personnel. It destroys the mind of a normal man, but does
                nothing to a visionary. Therefore, it serves no purpose.'
                Whitney nodded politely.
                `You nod,' Thomas said, `but you don't agree.'
                `Not entirely.'
                `How can you say that?'
                `Experience, Thomas,' he answered, and set the slice of toast
                on the saucer resting on his lap. `Is there absolutely no type of
                person who might benefit from the elixir?'
                `Type? There is no such type. Just as you can't place a
                guitar in the hands of a five year old, and expect him to play like
                Segovia, you can't give a normal, non-psychic subject the Red Lion
                and expect him to become a visionary without suffering severe, mental
                consequences. You experiment proved that.'
                Thomas stood up in aggravation, then knelt on the hearth rug
                and stoked the fire with an iron. A galaxy of amber sparks floated
                up the flew, outlining his hunched over form in a flaming, primordial
                aura. His blond hair was tied back into a pony tail.
                `This is why you asked me to come over this morning, isn't
                it?'
                `I'm eager for results, Thomas. I have decided to give
                Elizabeth the Red Lion.'
                `Elizabeth?'
                `Possibly Mark Sonntag and Ed MacIntosh, as well.'
                Thomas hung the stoker on the rack. `Ed MacIntosh, the
                artist?'
                `Yes.'
                `I suppose they're the type you're after?'
                `I think they're intelligent men. The surveillance report
                Bud gave me said they have what I would consider mystical traits.
                Mark and Elizabeth would be perfect candidates. Having read Mark's
                book, Faustian Age Religion, I suspect he may already be a visionary
                to a limited extent. I know Elizabeth is.'
                `Astral travel is one thing, being an `initiate' is another.
                An initiate alone can withstand the Red Lion.'
                Schizophrenic break-up was a possibility he was willing to
                gamble with, when it came to MacIntosh and Sonntag; but the thought
                of something going wrong with his grandchild chilled him. All twenty
                subjects in the Red Lion Experiment suffered violent consequences
                within hours of ingesting the elixir. Their bodies absorbed the
                chemical through the stomach lining and millions upon millions of
                self-shinning molecules, oscillating on the microscope level,
                filtered into their blood stream. The molecules, shaped like tiny
                helices, latched onto the cells of the flesh like a buzzing swarm of
                microscopic keys unlocking the body's cellular intelligence. In
                effect, they became living, thaumaturgic lightening rods hyper-
                receptive to the layers upon layers of non-physical energy
                surrounding and penetrating human reality on the Etheric Plane. They
                went insane.
                Thomas flicked the cigar stub into the flames, obviously
                intimidated by the possible new recruits about to join his league of
                psychics.
                `Are you willing to waste the Red Lion on two men you barely
                know?'
                `I have a feeling for these men. I'm counting on them
                joining us. They have the material to become psychics in your crime
                division.'
                `How do you know they'll join us?'
                `It's a hunch. Once they take a look at our organization,
                when they see the benefit we have on society, they'll jump at the
                opportunity. They'll want to belong.'
                `And if they don't?'
                `That's all right, too. We cannot force them to join. God
                knows, I learned that lesson with Elizabeth,' he said, then lifted
                the tea pot and emptied it into his cup. Sighing in his modest,
                unassertive, pre-dawn manner, he added: `Elizabeth will to come to
                us in her own time, through her own natural maturation process.'
                `I don't know how you can be so blind. She hates North
                Star!'
                `She's only twenty, Thomas. I think you forget that. How
                could she not hate us? At twenty, kids are always throwing
                themselves into well-intentioned, idealistic philosophies only to
                find that they don't wash in the real world. her mind is jelling,
                like plaster, into the mold it was designed for in later life.'
                `She is a danger to internal security. She'll become a
                double agent.'
                `Then that is a danger we must risk. Because, one day, she
                will grow up. The future of North Star depends on it.'
                `That is wishful thinking.'
                `Perhaps,' he said, and stared off reminiscently into the
                flames. `The whole reason the Church fell from its glory after the
                Middle Ages was because they rejected woman such as my grand
                daughter, and men like Mark and Ed MacIntosh, their most valuable
                commodity; the rebels outsiders, the Eckhart's, the Saint Bernard's,
                the Saint Francis's were thrown by the wayside and not allowed to
                mature within the Church. They were thinker who, in this day and
                age, would never think twice about joining the Church, because it
                would suffocate their individuality. North Star will not fall into
                the same trap.'
                It was curious to hear Mr. Sinclair, the leader of an anti-
                religious world order, compare North Star with the Church. The mere
                mention of the Church enflamed Thomas. His jittery behavior implied
                obstinacy and impatience then outright anger over Mr. Sinclair
                nonchalant, rather smug, aristocratic manners, which, to Thomas,
                conveyed a type of smugness that is satisfied maintaining the status
                quo. `I despise the Church!' Thomas said, embittered by the mere
                sound. `The Church has enslaved mankind for millenniums. I don't
                see how you, a Hermeticist, could reconcile your esoteric belief
                system with North Star's political atheism.'
                With a dry, witty, twinkle of humor Mr. Sinclair dipped his
                toast in the tea, popped it in his mouth then chewed with his lips
                pursed but his eyes smiling. There was something of an eccentric
                about him, something dominating, obsessive, theatrical, and yet
                knavish and gleeful.
                `Pleeeese,' he said while rolling his eyes. `Spare me your
                emotionalism.'
                `It's true. Your personal beliefs and your professional
                conduct are irreconcilable, two faced, hypocritical. What good is
                the Church?'
                `You Thomas were born with your gifts; they have been handed
                down to you by nature. But with Elizabeth, she has woven them
                through a disciplined inner life based on self-reflection, not on
                instincts. Her gifts are hers alone. If she desires to attend
                church on Sundays, to partake in the Sacraments, what should it
                matter to you and me?'
                `Her blending of ancient religion and Catholicism had done
                nothing but fling mud in her eyes. No, I will not work with her, nor
                her boy friend. I refuse. She is a right wing feminist!'
                `Poppy cock!'
                Jealousy, and with spite, Thomas crouched on the hearth rug
                and poked the fire with stiff, quick, agitated stabs. Sparks floated
                up the chimney. For quiet some time he crouched there, mumbling to
                himself, shaking his head, unconscious of the fire though he stared
                straight at it. His mind had become introverted upon the nauseating
                thoughts drifting through his imagination, bright, luminous thoughts,
                building themselves up into violent fantasies. These imaginary
                vapors fed off his emotions, adding a powerful realism to the
                pictures forming in his head; and beyond his head, throughout his
                aura, blood red radiations flickered and strobed. His aura was a
                dull, smoky, red color surrounding his physical body in a reservoir
                of thought, energized by destructive emotional currents, essentially
                consuming him in his own, seething hatred. The strangest thing
                happened as these radiations lit up the astral realm. All the
                sudden, he lurched to his feet, the stoker flung from his grasp, and
                he released a weird waling sound of a terrified animal. Indeed, as
                if he was being scalded by hot flames, he flailed his arms and legs,
                jumped up and down, fell on the floor, cried out, under Sinclair's
                penetrating gaze.
                A half a minute expired before Thomas realized, in slow
                degrees, that is was a hallucination: that he wasn't, in fact, on
                fire. Then he became still. On his hands and knees, and breathing
                through his gaping mouth, his downcast eyes elevated slowly from the
                floor, up towards Mr. Sinclair's frightful, awe-inspiring, wicked
                presence on the high back chair. In complete silence, but for the
                clicking of the grandfather clock and the crackling of the fire,
                Thomas remained speechless. It was Mr. Sinclair who did it, mentally
                burned him by some amazing act of thought transference.
                `Never think you're more powerful than I,' Whitney said,
                regal and poised on his chair, his voice eerie and hypnotic. `I will
                bring you down.'
                Thomas stared in fear, blinking his eyes and
                hyperventilating; then, with an exceedingly swift movement, he
                grabbed his jacket off the floor, flung it over his back and stomped
                through the library. He felt as if he had been mentally raped. He
                was approaching the doorway when Elizabeth arrived, as anticipated,
                at the scheduled time. Thomas slipped on his jacket without saying
                hello. He could not hide his distaste for her. Blushed and
                sweating, he bowed slightly with his head and then followed the
                butler through the doors.
                `What's with him!' she said after he left the
                library. `Every time I see him, he runs away. Grandpa, do I have
                snakes in my hair?'
                `No you certainly do not,' he said with a smile.
                `Than what is it?'
                `It is Thomas. How are you, my love?'
                `I'm doing splendidly.'
                The ferocity he displayed earlier had transformed itself back
                into the dignified, un-ostentatious, courteous manner of a gentle,
                tasteful, prestigious aristocrat, who cherished his grand daughter
                above all else. In front of the fireplace he surrendered himself to
                an embrace that consumed Elizabeth, and they stood there hugging with
                the naturalness of two wolves nuzzling for a co-mutual scent. Their
                embrace was devoid of meekness or Puritanism. They were Sinclairs,
                descendants of the Stuarts and the Stuart Monarchy,a bloodline dating
                back to the Merovingian founders of the holy order of the Rose
                Croix. This mystical order of warrior monks was symbolized by a
                beautiful coat of arms which hung above the fireplace, bearing two
                crossing swords over a silver breastplate.
                He lowered himself onto his chair, saying:
                `I received news this morning, that you may find a breath of
                fresh air. Thomas Rose. . .'
                `What did he say? Did you guys get in a fight, again?'
                `He has informed me that Giovanni has regained consciousness.'
                `He did?
                `Yes, and he spoke to the police.'
                `What did he say?'
                `The police have dropped the case against Mark Sonntag.'
                Elizabeth showed in her posture intense happiness. `I can't
                tell you how much this has weighed on us. Somebody has been
                following us all over town, and it's been very bothersome.'
                `I'm sorry, love.'
                `Mark thinks it's the police. Grandpa, I don't like your men
                following us. I came here this morning to ask you to stop it.'
                Whitney remained silent while Elizabeth knelt down at his
                feet and laid her hands upon his lap to soothing him in the warm
                blaze. The enfeebled expression he returned in response to her soft,
                pleading eyes was one which seemed bound by a code of secrecy.
                `It will stop,' was all he said. `The case is done. Tell
                Mark he doesn't have to worry anymore about being followed. He's in
                the blue.'
                `Yes, but why were they following him in the first place. I
                don't understand. Why would North Star be interested in Mark? Why
                put under surveillance? He's such a nice boy.'
                `I'm sure he's delightful. And I would like to meet him. . .'
                The butler re-entered the room and saved Whitney from having
                to address Elizabeth's question in full. Holding a silver tray, the
                butler removed the dished from the end table and reminded Mr.
                Sinclair that the 40 Committee meets this morning. The mention of
                this committee silenced Elizabeth rebuke. It was a group chaired by
                the President's National Security Advisor.
                `I suppose you should be going now,' she said, and pulled her
                hand away and stood up. `I won't hold you back.'
                `I'm sorry sweet heart.' He labored from the chair. `I have
                business to take care of. What are your plans today?'
                `A picnic.'
                `It will be a lovely day for a picnic, and you look
                charming. I love your sun hat. It's like the one your grandmother
                used to wear.'
                The girl, in her lime-green sun dress and hat, was in vogue;
                but to Mr. Sinclair, the fashion she modeled for him by turning in
                circles never went out of style. It seemed old fashion. The very
                fact that she was such a handsome and aristocratic young woman, yet
                devoid of pretension, made her feminine peculiarities that much
                sweeter. Her hair hung with the straightness and simplicity of a
                flower child. The dress was light, flowing and natural, attached to
                her shoulders by thin spaghetti straps. At the end of her gold
                necklace was a crucifix and a nautilus shell that represented the
                occult significance of ballet's Spiral Dynamic.
                Elizabeth and the butler exited the library. Bordering both
                sides of the hallway were full suites of armor dating back to the
                Middle Ages. The butler led her down the hallway, when her quiet
                foot steps came to a stop.
                `Oh Jauntie!'
                `Yes, madam.'
                `I need to freshen up. I'll meet you outside.'
                `As you wish madam.'
                The two split in opposite directions. The space in-between
                them gradually became more distant; yet so long was the hallway, the
                further she walked the slower Jauntie seemed to move. The hallway
                went on in a straight trajectory past the battery of knights lined up
                against the walls, some of which were brandishing swords, others
                battle axes and spiked ball-and-chain weapons. Midway down the hall,
                she looked over her shoulder, then dashed into her grandfather's
                office. In the file cabinet were the Red Files. Quickly, she
                duplicated them. The florescent bulb in the Xerox made three
                passovers. The originals she slipped back into the cabinet; the warm
                copies in her purse. A minute later, she was back in the hallway.




                Chapter seven, "Sirius Chronicles," copyright 2002. Mathew Morrell.
                All rights reserved.
              • mmorrell1
                `That was a very brave thing for you to do, said the nurse. `And I m proud. Not everyone would have the courage to do what you ve done. `Me, courageous?
                Message 7 of 11 , Aug 25 6:13 PM
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                  `That was a very brave thing for you to do,' said the nurse. `And
                  I'm proud. Not everyone would have the courage to do what you've
                  done.'
                  `Me, courageous?' Gio asked.
                  `Huh huh.'
                  The nurse was giving him a sponge bath. All he did was lie
                  there, half-awake and too lethargic to move. The wash cloth felt
                  warm and damp over his shoulders.
                  `I don't think I'm all that brave,' he said in dim, drugged
                  voice, lying flat on his stomach.
                  `Hmm?'
                  `I said I'm not brave.'
                  To his colleagues in the New York Mafia he was a player well-
                  respected for his business savvy; but he did not think being
                  a `player' made him brave. His dalliances with the government
                  infrastructure, and the corrupt politicians therein, made him a
                  useful go-between in their drug smuggling activities; but he didn't
                  think being a `go-between' was brave, either. He had never once met
                  with a drug trafficker in a dark room, never touched drugs, never
                  directly dealt it or sold it, and indeed stayed as far away as
                  possible from Vince Serenghetti's drug underworld. Heroin was, to
                  him, a means to an end, not a life-style.
                  He thought of Elizabeth, the crown jewel of the Sinclair
                  family, tip-toeing through life like some ethereal gamine, siphoning
                  crucial, Top Secret information from her grandfather's filing cabinet.
                  `That girl's firecracker!'
                  `What was that?'
                  `But she's wrong. There is no CIA drug conspiracy to silence
                  the inner city masses.'
                  `You're talking in your sleep, Giovanni.'
                  `Am I?' he mumbled, unaware that he was.
                  Tides and tides of beingness washed over the length of body,
                  drawing him irresistibly into the liquid-floating sensation of a
                  shallow, half-conscious sleep; and it was a sleep filled with
                  dreams. Mental images appeared and disappeared around him, ebbed and
                  flowed through his mind, hovered like floating spectres moving
                  through some dark, semi-transparent mind-substance composed from
                  thought. He dreamt of the alley behind the Grand Emporium, of the
                  thunder and lightning, and of men kicking him and stabbing him in the
                  alley, and of himself lying there, above pain and suffering. There
                  was only divine silence, a feeling of release. Lightning knitted the
                  clouds without sound. He was dying in the alley that night. And
                  dying, he found, was the easiest, most natural, more cowardly thing
                  he had ever done. It was fighting death that was hell.
                  The nurse rung the washcloth over a dish of hot water. He
                  knew the water was hot because he had awoken and saw white tufts of
                  steam rising from the dish and from the washcloth which she twisted
                  in her hands. They were beautiful hands. She had shoulder-length
                  blond hair, wide child bearing hips and a sensual Rubenesque body
                  type that had a terrific way of re-establishing his contact with
                  reality.
                  Her beautiful hands turned his limp, wet, helpless body.
                  Now, he was lying face-up on the mattress.
                  `These drugs are something else,' he said.
                  `Are you queasy?'
                  `Oh yeah.' He yawned and smiled dazedly, rather embarrassed
                  by his nudity. The feeling of defenseless humbled him. Shyly, he
                  reached for a newspaper lying on the bed stand.
                  The nurse gave him the agitated look of a school mistress.
                  `What are you doing, Giovanni?'
                  `I'm checking out the news, sweet heart.'
                  `You can read the paper when you're well. Put it down.'
                  Smothered across the top of the newspaper, in the local news
                  section, was the headline: Giovanni Migliazzo Turns Snitch, Informs
                  on the Mafia. That was all Giovanni read before the nurse snatched
                  the paper from his hands. He did not say anything at first. He
                  lowered his arms, dismayed. A feeling of dread came over him.
                  `When did I inform on the Mafia?'
                  `There'll be time enough to deal with those matters,' she
                  said, and placed the newspaper on her nursing cart. `You need to get
                  some rest. Doctors orders.'
                  `Sheila!' he grabbed her arm in desperation. `When did I
                  inform on the Mafia? Tell me.'
                  `Yesterday. You don't remember?'
                  `No, God no. Sheila, what does the article say?'
                  `I don't know. I haven't read it, yet.'
                  `How did the paper get here?'
                  `The District Attorney must have left it here, when he
                  visited you an hour ago. You were asleep.'
                  Giovanni grabbed the paper from the cart. The article read:

                  A respected member of the business community, Giovanni
                  Migliazzo, shocked the Prosecutors Office yesterday, when he claimed
                  that Vince Serenghetti (long suspected the Godfather of the
                  Serenghetti crime family) also has ties to the Muscatatas, a Black
                  Shirt group suspected of a recent fire-bomb explosion killing three
                  left wing extremists.
                  The Red Confidantes hide out, located in Venice, was
                  destroyed in the February blast. The Reds, as they are called, are
                  an arising communist movement encouraging radical trade union
                  reforms, public transportation strikes, class struggles, and other
                  social reforms publicly denounced by the Church.
                  The General Hospital reports that Mr. Migliazzo is
                  recovering "nicely" after life-threatening injuries inflicted upon
                  him April 3, in an alley behind the Grand Emporium restaurant. No
                  suspects have manifested in the assault case.
                  "All efforts are being made to protect Giovanni Migliazzo
                  from possible retribution from the New York Mafia," said Sgt. Moro of
                  the N.Y.P.D.


                  The last sentence enraged him, and in a tirade he bunched up the
                  newspaper and threw it against the wall. There was nothing the
                  police could do to protect him. The Mafia, he thought, will track me
                  down. They'll kill me, and I'll be there all over again. He would
                  return to that place he visited in the alley, the place he visited in
                  his brush with death: a sheer black nothing, vast and un-ending.
                  That he had once fought-off and conquered the Nothing no longer made
                  him feel so brave.




                  Chapter eight, "Sirius Chronicles," copyright 2002. Mathew Morrell.
                  All rights reserved.
                • mmorrell1
                  By nightfall a gray, dreary haze descended over the city, accompanied by cold drizzle. Ed had forgotten his umbrella and was walking through the drizzle down
                  Message 8 of 11 , Sep 3, 2002
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                    By nightfall a gray, dreary haze descended over the city, accompanied
                    by cold drizzle. Ed had forgotten his umbrella and was walking
                    through the drizzle down Central Park West with his collar pulled up
                    to his ears and his hands plunged deep inside the pockets of his Army
                    jacket. Cold and miserable, several times he debated taking the
                    subway home and canceling his plans for tonight. He had no desire to
                    spend the evening with Mark and Elizabeth and wished he hadn't
                    accepted their dinner invitation. He was supposed to meet them at
                    8:00. It was five `till, and he was already nearing the tall,
                    ornate, apartment buildings across the street from Central Park. A
                    fog swallowed the upper stories. Elizabeth's building seemed to
                    dissolve the higher it rose into the rain and clouds drifting in the
                    gray upper air.
                    Ed came in from the cold, his hair wet and stringy from the
                    rain, and his jacket soaked through down to his T-shirt. His shoddy,
                    ruffled appearance formed a roguish image in contrast to the
                    immaculate lobby richly decorated as in a four star hotel. The clerk
                    scrutinized him from behind the desk.
                    `May I help you, sir?' asked the clerk.
                    `Yes, I'm here to see Elizabeth Sinclair.'
                    `You name?'
                    `Ed MacIntosh.'
                    `Just a moment,' said the clerk, who dialed the phone.
                    Ed used his sleeve to wipe his brow, un-offended by the
                    clerk's scrutinizing gaze. Indeed, a shiver of happiness rose
                    through him, eradicating his bad temper. The vitality he had called
                    forth to bare himself against the wet, April cold had exorcised the
                    cloud of depression that had plagued him all day; and now, suddenly,
                    the prospect of a hot dinner, wine and friendly conversation seemed a
                    welcome change of pace. After gaining clearance he followed an
                    elderly couple into an elevator, still shivering a little, and pushed
                    a button signifying the seventeenth floor. In the upward ascension
                    that followed the initial surge the brass dial above the door crossed
                    over the gold Roman numerals. Ed stood in the corner, although
                    watching the dial, very conscious of his fellow passengers. They
                    were talking about opera. An old woman in her furs and precious
                    jewelry, and a distinguished old man having a white mustache, emitted
                    an air of poise that comes from constant self-reflection on the image
                    they project to others. Instantly, he was reminded him of all those
                    tall, nameless Roman statues displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of
                    Art, all emitting that self-possession and poise of the white-
                    mustached old man, that innate self-confidence and dignity of a ripe,
                    fully developed civilization standing at its cultural zenith.
                    The water trapped in his shoes seeped in-between his toes,
                    made squeaking sounds when he stepped off the elevator and started
                    down a carpeted hallway on the seventeenth floor. I am raw, un-
                    ripened, Midwest barbarian, psychic explorer, far, far from my
                    spiritual zenith, and even further from contentment. My agony is
                    their joy.
                    Elizabeth's apartment was at the end of the hallway. Either
                    she or Mark had already unlocked the door. For, once Ed turned the
                    knob it gave way into an elaborate entrance hall brightened by a
                    chandelier which hung by a golden chain from a vaulted ceiling. The
                    bluish white crystals looked like thousands of self-luminous jewels.
                    A beveled mirror reflected his form as he closed the door. Below the
                    same mirror was a fresh bouquet of flowers. In the warmth of the
                    apartment, as he smelled the flowers, Elizabeth's home seemed one of
                    the most delightful places he had ever seen. Everything seemed a
                    potential picture. All the lights in the apartment were dim, all but
                    for a fascinating play of light that dramatized an extensive art
                    collection. The apartment was classical Manhattan, smart,
                    sophisticated, stoic, but with Elizabeth's distinctive flair for
                    smooth, flowing lines and living tangibles. Plants sprung from every
                    corner of the living room. Two, quit large, in-door trees rose
                    nearly as high as the twenty-foot ceiling and their leaves and
                    branches were outlined by the city lights that were visible through
                    huge windows overlooking the skyline.
                    Mark was lounging on a leather arm chair, reading. The
                    limp paperback book molded to his hand like a well-read bible. He
                    raised his chin, but his eyes, hesitant to follow, lingered on the
                    words a bit longer before he looked up and saw Ed enter the room from
                    beyond the outer fringes of a Turkish rug.
                    `Good Lord, Ed. You're soaked! Get a towel from the
                    closet.'
                    `Where, what closet? This place is a mansion. Can you
                    imagine if you two got married? All this would be yours.'
                    Mark folded the book close before laboring from the couch.
                    He had a warm, earth-born, academic personality that was amiable, and
                    easy to like, and completely free from neurosis. After retrieving a
                    towel he tossed it to Ed and went into the kitchen. Ed followed him,
                    asking:
                    `Is Elizabeth here?'
                    `No, but she should be here any minute. I might as well fix
                    dinner.' Mark removed a bottle of wine from the cupboard and
                    immediately handed it to Ed. `Have a swig.'
                    `Good boy, I will.'
                    `But don't drink too much.'
                    `How much is too much?'
                    `More than a glass.'
                    `What?'
                    Mark just smiled. The smile was wide and bright, with a lot
                    of teeth.
                    `Why?' Ed repeated.
                    `I want your mind crisp and sharp tonight.'
                    `Ah, come on!'
                    Ed raised the bottle to his mouth and tilted his head back;
                    bubbles blew to the top as he swallowed.
                    `Really, Ed. I mean it,' and Mark took the bottle from
                    him. `We have something to give you, and I don't want you slobbering
                    drunk.'
                    `What something?'
                    `Just a little something.'
                    Mark begun preparing a meal that did not require a fork to
                    eat; black olives, toasted pita bread, sliced cucumbers, walnuts,
                    strips of smoked-dried salmon, finger food which he diced and
                    arranged on a white, ceramic serving platter. For no other reason,
                    other than it was pleasant to do so, Ed watched Mark prepare the
                    meal. Copper pots and pans hung in the air above the butcher block
                    where Mark stood, his head bowed as he chopped the cucumber.
                    `Elizabeth`s grandfather dropped by last week,' Mark said.
                    `What's he up to?'
                    `Not much. He gave us something and he wanted us to give it
                    to you.'
                    `Me?'
                    `Yes, you. That's the reason I asked you to come over
                    tonight.'
                    Ed blushed in embarrassment. `What is it?'
                    `You'll have to see it for yourself.'
                    Ed had never met Mr. Sinclair before, and gifts, in general,
                    made him uncomfortable. They lowered a defensive barrier he used to
                    protect himself from the endless troubles and perplexities
                    surrounding human relationships. One of these perplexities was
                    Elizabeth. She had returned from rehearsal in a relaxed,
                    delightfully-exhausted mood that brightened the entire kitchen.
                    `You have a beautiful home,' he said.
                    `You like it?' Elizabeth dropped her duffel bag on the
                    kitchen floor.
                    `It's so far up, with so many painting, like a museum in the
                    air. I see that you have a piano. Do you play?'
                    Elizabeth shrugged her shoulder. `I play all right, I
                    suppose.'
                    `She can play brilliantly,' Mark said. `Don't listen to her.'
                    The same engaging looking she gave Ed, all the sudden it
                    flowered into an expression of sexual sweetness. They hadn't greeted
                    each other yet.
                    `Hi,' she said.
                    `Hi, rabbit. Welcome home.'
                    Mark set the knife on the butcher block and kissed her
                    cheek. Then Elizabeth said:
                    `Boy, do we have something in store for you tonight.'
                    `I heard,' Ed replied. `Mark told me your grandfather
                    dropped by and left something for me. What is it?'
                    Mark slipped a sprig of dill in-between the salmon slices.
                    `Let's eat first and then we'll open the present.'
                    Elizabeth said good, because she was hungry and exhausted,
                    and brushed her hand down over the light switch when leaving the
                    kitchen and followed Ed and Mark into the living room instead of the
                    dining room where she usually ate in seclusion. Her mind pondered
                    vigorously and intently. I have as my friend Mark's pal. Ed is an
                    artist. And I am an artist. And Mark is a writer, and I am a
                    dancer. . . And Elizabeth wanted all of them to be very happy in
                    their new lives
                    Their faces were full of animation, now, as they assumed
                    their places around the coffee table; the young scholar, in his tweed
                    sports jacket, had placed the platter of food on the coffee table and
                    then poured three glasses of wine. Elizabeth and Ed were cross
                    legged on the Turkish rug, already eating.
                    `The salmon's incredible,' Ed nodded.
                    `Is it?' Mark asked.
                    `And how!'
                    `Sweet Ed, you're always there for a compliment,' Elizabeth
                    said. `Ed went to the Van Gogh exhibit last week.'
                    Mark patted his shoulder. `How was it?'
                    `It was good. I had never seen Mademoisell in person.'
                    Elizabeth raised her glass and offered a toast:
                    `To Ed, Van Gogh, and the First Cause. May its creative
                    silence fill our lives.'
                    `I'll drink to that,' Mark said.
                    `Me, too,' Ed added.
                    They tapped glasses, and drank in unison. Afterwards Mark
                    sat on the couch while Elizabeth and Ed remained cross-legged on the
                    floor and did most of the eating of the carrot sticks and the salmon,
                    but also the cucumber slices that were drenched in heavy, vinaigrette
                    salad dressing, salt and peppered. Their hands were oily. Mark
                    tasted the pickled mushrooms.
                    `You're not hungry?' Elizabeth asked him.
                    `No, I'm hungry. I was just thinking about something.'
                    Ed wiped his mouth. `You see, that's your problem, Mark.
                    You're always thinking. You need not do that so much. Live in the
                    present. That's what I say.'
                    `Man, that's some kind of advice,' was Mark's sarcastic
                    reply, after which he chuckled and rolled his eyes at Elizabeth.
                    This time she spoke:
                    `Asking Mark to stop thinking, is like asking you, Ed, to
                    stop feeling. It's not going to happen, not in this life time
                    anyway.'
                    The expression Ed made caused them both to laugh, but not Ed,
                    who sat there chewing slowly, a blank, void look on his face; but it
                    a void that could, at any second, ignite into a furry. Elizabeth
                    did not know Ed MacIntosh that well, and was a little afraid of him,
                    cautious, as she would be with a caged animal. But instead of being
                    offended by Mark's sarcasm, all he did was smile drearily in his
                    direction.
                    `The two of you should get along just fine,' Ed said in his
                    bland, nasal, Mid-western accent. `You two are a perfect couple.'
                    Elizabeth hugged him. `You still love us, though, right?'
                    `Sure,' he said.
                    `Because we love you.'
                    `Well I love you to,' he said, disarmed by her hug, and
                    blushing back to his ears.
                    He was miserable until she released him and reached for
                    silver key lying on the coffee table. Also on the coffee table was
                    a small box made of fragrant rosewood, trimmed in gold and lacquered
                    to shiny smoothness. Ed stood on his knees. For, Elizabeth had
                    inserted the key and opened the box. He had become aware of a
                    shinning glass crucible inside the box's velvet interior.
                    `What, in God's name, is that thing?' he asked.
                    `This is it,' Mark answered. `This is what we wanted to give
                    you.'
                    `Let me see it.'
                    Elizabeth demanded he be careful. He reached for it, but
                    Elizabeth caught his wrist and didn't let go.
                    `If you drop it,' she said coldly, `I'll kill you. Do you
                    understand?'
                    `I won't drop it.'
                    `It's value is priceless. Be careful, please!'
                    Ed took it from her and stared, baffled. The glowing content
                    of the vile confused him, visually. He did not know how to
                    acknowledge it. He had no clue whether the elixir was clear or
                    black. The tiny grain of light suspended in the fluidic compound,
                    piercingly bright and yet remote, shined as if from a great
                    depth. `This is not at all what I expected,' Ed said without knowing
                    what the substance was, but guessed it was a novelty. `The grain of
                    light in the middle reminds me of a star. Tell your grandfather,
                    thanks. Or, should I write him a letter?'
                    `I don't think that will be necessary,' Mark said.
                    `No. I want to. This is really cool. I reminds me of
                    outerspace. How come I can't see through the liquid? Yet, I see the
                    star in the middle? Wow. How could that be?'
                    `Sunlight is everywhere in the galaxy, Ed, but if light falls
                    on nothingness then light looks like nothing. That's why outer space
                    appears black.'
                    `Yes. I see. Outer space is not black at all!'
                    `Outer space,' Mark went on, `looks black because the outward
                    eye is incapable of seeing light in its purest state. The outward
                    eye can only see the reflection of light. It cannot see light. Ed,
                    when you drink that elixir, you will have a complete grasp of this
                    anomaly. You will see light on a different level.'
                    `What do you mean, `When I drink the elixir?''
                    Elizabeth said: `Just that. You're going to drink that
                    stuff.'
                    `Come on,' Ed said. `What the elixir for? Is it a novelty?'
                    `No, it's not a novelty,' Mark answered. `It's called the
                    Red Lion. Mr. Sinclair spent a great deal of time and energy in its
                    development.'
                    Ed's fingers relaxed, and for a moment the vile almost rolled
                    from his hand. Elizabeth squinted meanly. The wiccan glean of her
                    cold blue eyes reminded him of the elixir's value.
                    `You guys are serious, aren't you?' he said. `Is it a drug.
                    If it is, you can say so. I'm open.'
                    Mark shook his head, giggling boyishly. Ed conveyed a level
                    of bewilderment that seemed almost metaphysically helpless.
                    Elizabeth threw her arms around him and hugged him like a big sister.
                    `You're so sweet, Ed. I love you so much.'
                    `The Red Lion is something far more subtle than a mere drug,'
                    Mark said. `And far more wonderful! Drugs stimulate the brain at
                    the expense of incapacitating or depressing another region of the
                    brain. Cocaine, for instance, has an inhibitory effect on the brain
                    that interferes with the brain's normal destruction of a specific
                    peptide causing euphoria. With the Red Lion, there's none of that.'
                    Ed asked Mark: `Say it as it is, Mark. Will I see things?'
                    `No. There is no high. You'll be able to exert your will.'
                    `No high?' Ed asked.
                    `No.'
                    `Me and Mark drank it,' Elizabeth said, `and we didn't see
                    anything unusual.'
                    Everything they had said so far about the will, and about how
                    the will was connected to perception, sunk into Ed's half conscious
                    thoughts. He went over and sat on the edge of couch, and stared
                    through the vile at the elixir. The elixir smothered his hand in a
                    radiant light. Then he raised the vile to eye level and marveled
                    over the white pin point of light floating into the elixir. The cork
                    had been removed; and the elixir, he found, after sniffing it, was
                    odorless, almost gaseous in appearance; and when he finally drank the
                    substance, he found it was also tasteless. Drinking it was similar
                    to swallowing an exceptionally dry, tasteless shot of vodka. The
                    liquid left no impression in his mouth; and yet he felt a certain
                    smoothness quality spread over his tongue and vanish somewhere down
                    his throat. Ed lowered the vile from his mouth thinking the white
                    star was probably floating like a fire fly among the pulp and
                    vegetable juices digesting in his stomach.
                    `Nothing to it, is there?' Elizabeth asked.
                    Ed shook his head slowly. `Everything appears normal.'
                    `The white star is assimilating into your body as we speak,'
                    Mark said.
                    `If is is, I can't feel it.'
                    `I told you it was easy!' Elizabeth pealed his fingers from
                    the vile and place it back into the box.
                    `What did you guys feel when you first took it?' Ed asked.
                    `Nothing,' Mark answered. `As you said, everything appeared
                    normal.'
                    Ed combed his fingers through his hair. The disorganized
                    mess of food arranged on the vegetable platter produced a hyper-real
                    impression of normalcy. All that was left of their meal was three
                    slices of cucumber. The sprigs of dill were soggy. Scattered
                    precariously over the center of the coffee table were wild flowers
                    and yellow dandelions that begun to show signs of wilt; and yet their
                    colors seemed deeper and rich in the death process. Elizabeth
                    slipped an orange marigold behind her ear.
                    `Here, let me show you something,' Mark said. `See that vase
                    of flowers to the right of your Wheatfield painting?'
                    `Yes.'
                    `Stare at it.'
                    `Stare at it? That's all?'
                    `Don't just stare at it. Stare as though you're painting
                    those flowers. Focus a beam of concentration as if you were throwing
                    a dart at the vase. Penetrate the vase with your mind. Don't stare
                    at it passively, or nothing will happen.'
                    Ed straightened his back and assumed an attentive, upright
                    posture, then did what Mark told him to do: stared at the flowers as
                    though he intended to paint them. Yellow bearded irises, wild
                    orchids, rugosa roses and three bent stalks of dried, golden, winter
                    wheat, stood in the glass vase, through which he could see the crisp,
                    green stalks and thorny stems. The moment his mind framed the shapes
                    the result was immediate. His mind responded to the act of
                    concentration as it normally did when he painted. The synapses in
                    his brain seemed to light up his skull as if connecting his mind to a
                    heightened power source. However, this was nothing new. The world
                    appeared relatively normal.
                    `I think I know what you're saying,' he told them, but his
                    hesitant tone suggested otherwise. He leaned forward onto the edge
                    of the couch, receptive to a certain aura of brightness surrounding
                    the flowers. `I see a light, I think.'
                    `You think?' Mark said.
                    `Yes, I think. I'm not quit sure. I see an aura around the
                    flower, but I don't see it.'
                    `That's astral light!' Elizabeth said.
                    `Is is? Are you sure?'
                    `Of course I`m sure. You don't really see it in the outward
                    sense. Astral light is the recognition that comes from understanding
                    that all things possess a spark of God, that all things are alive,
                    possess a soul, which dwells in the spiritual.'
                    `Keep trying,' Mark told him. `You'll get it. Just take
                    your time and relax.'
                    Ed straightened his back against and redoubled his effort,
                    although this time he rejected their suggestions, blocked them from
                    his mind, and followed his own artistic instinct. He sought after
                    that certain perspective that makes a painting a masterpiece, a
                    certain angle through which to pour his conscious energies, a point
                    of view that could be anywhere based upon how the colors, the forms,
                    the light intersected in his mind. When he found this angle the
                    flowers framed themselves in his mind as if Nature, in her radiance,
                    offered the bouquet for his timeless enjoyment. The dried stalks of
                    wheat, each dry and feeble, arched like thin gold brush strokes.
                    From the effulgent mass of flowers protruded one irregular shaped
                    pale-purple orchid. The gorgeous purple hue, a creamy, tropical
                    purple, mingled with the red in the roses, the purple in the irises,
                    until all the colors and all the flowers seemed to expand into each
                    other and form a blazing picture in the center of his head. The
                    astral realm came into view. And gradually, as he lowered his eyes
                    towards the coffee table, every detail in his surroundings seemed to
                    hold incredible importance. A walnut lying on the table seemed more
                    than just a walnut; its hard, outer shell, wrinkled and light brown
                    in color, was a world unto itself. It was a pleasure to explore with
                    his eyes every detail coalescing, piece by piece, around him; the
                    hallowness of their empty wine glasses seemed radiantly transparent;
                    a glint of light reflected off a silver knife blade. His Dutch
                    Protestant school of art was based on the belief that the glories of
                    the great equaled the glories of the small.
                    `You look beautiful,' Elizabeth told him.
                    He looked up and saw, flickering across their faces, bright
                    iridescent radiations beaming joy and price. Mark patted his back.
                    `Welcome to the world of the visionary,' Mark said. `What do
                    you feel like?'
                    `I feel at peace,' he said. `But a little afraid, too.'
                    `Don't worry; the floor won't drop away, I assure you. Relax
                    and have faith.'
                    But Ed had no intention of surrendering to fear. Instead, he
                    willfully and consciously heightened his level of perception by
                    focusing his mind all the stronger on the electrical-magnetic tension
                    within his body, especially pronounced in the spinal column. The
                    mere act of conscentrating on this inner energy increased the
                    vivacity of the outer world; and when he projected his consciousness
                    down towards the Turkish rug his identity seemed to merge with it,
                    enlighten it, as it had enlightened the bouquette of flowers. The
                    rug, too, seemed to possess its own dim, elementary form of
                    consciousness. The radiant flow of energy coursing through his body
                    was the same magnetic current he saw circulate through the floor,
                    sparkle in the air, ultra-clear and vibrant. He saw this current
                    enlighten the leather upholstry, saw it shine in the piano; saw its
                    flame in the tree and the plants; and where these two horizons met ---
                    the earth and heaven--- the leaves glowed like green, transparent
                    crystals. Ed was ecastic. He felt as though he had discoved a
                    distant galaxy, that had always been one small step away.
                    `Ed, I think you should try to return to normal,' Mark
                    said. `I know that may sound overly cautious, but the astral realm
                    can do funny things to the mind if you linger in it too long.'
                    `What do you mean return?' Ed asked. The thought seemed
                    perposterous. `I have returned. This is it! This is what I've
                    longed for.'
                    Not only did the tree seem to vibrate at a heigtened
                    frequency; space-time and everything in it shined above the dull
                    lethargy of gross matter. The room glowed like a transparent star.
                    `Everything is so clear and vibrant,' he went on. `It's like
                    entering a painting.'
                    `I'm encouraging you to pull back, too,' Elizabeth said,
                    queer, manic trembles crossing Ed's face. `Have a drink, man. Eat a
                    little, smoke a cigarette. You're acting freaky.'
                    `I feel great!'
                    The iridescent shine, the glitter, the sparkle to the plants -
                    -- the air, golden and rosy --- filled him with wonder. There was
                    the sense that, if the astral light outstripped physical matter, all
                    the leaves would disintegrate into black, carbon dust. The light was
                    the very psychic blood giving life to matter.
                    `It pales in comparison to the real world,' Ed went on, the
                    room growing brighter and brighter.
                    `Come on, Ed!' Elizabeth cried. `You're slipping.'
                    `I'm cool.'
                    `No, you're not!'
                    Somewhere Ed lost touch with the vision he started out with.
                    The light itself, not the forms it imbued, grew brighter and brighter
                    and consequently Elizabeth's voice became more and more distant, the
                    room dimmer and dimmer, the air blinding, the light piercing, the
                    light outstripping all physical forms; until, nothing was
                    distinguishable anymore. The room, and everything in it,
                    evaporated.
                    MacIntosh fell face first onto the floor, and bloodied his
                    nose of Elizabeth's carpet. His eyes rolled back into his skull; so
                    that only the white's of his eyes were visible. The vitalism running
                    wildly up and down his vertical nerve axis, up his spinal column,
                    escaped his body and flooded his consciousness with a sweetness akin
                    to near death. A cloud of mist vaporized from his flesh. He looked
                    dead.


                    Chapter nine,"Sirius Chronicles," copyright 2002. Mathew Morrell.
                    All rights reserved.
                  • mmorrell1
                    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 streaking
                    Message 9 of 11 , Sep 6, 2002
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                      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 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
                      asked: `Giovanni?'
                      `Yes?'
                      `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
                      aggravated.
                      `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.'
                      `Christ!'
                      `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
                      wrath.
                      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
                      his face.
                      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
                      instantaneous glow.
                      `This has been the most agonizing week in my life, Sheila.
                      And. . . I. . . How shall I say?'
                      `Yes?'
                      `Have you ever been to the Bahamas?'
                      `No. Why?'
                      `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
                      while.'
                      `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,
                      Giovanni.'
                      The lights went out.
                      `Sheila?'
                      `Yes?' she answered, outlined in the doorway.
                      `Tell no one about the Bahamas. It's important that you
                      don't.'
                      `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-
                      traceable.
                      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
                      hand.
                      `I need to speak with Terry Hellman,' he said to whomever had
                      answered the phone.
                      `Speaking.'
                      `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
                      not.'
                      `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
                      leave immediately.'
                      `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
                      about it.'
                      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
                      get it.'
                      `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.'
                      `What else?'
                      `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
                      her.
                      `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
                      of returning.


                      Chapter Ten, "Sirius Chronicles," copyright 2002. Mathew Morrell.
                      All rights reserved.
                      .
                    • Mathew Morrell
                      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 his
                      Message 10 of 11 , Sep 18, 2002
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                        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 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
                        just remembered.'
                        `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
                        understand.'
                        `Try.'
                        `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
                        painting.'
                        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
                        insects? Insectologists?'
                        `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
                        higher vibration.'
                        `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 whole.
                        `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
                        public place.
                        `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
                        piece.'
                        `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
                        been anybody.'
                        `It must have been terrifying.'
                        `It's been a nightmare. A nightmare, Elizabeth. I don't
                        know how you got me into all this.'
                        `Me?'
                        `Yes, you.'
                        `Don't pin this one on me! I can't help that you shot off
                        your mouth.'
                        `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
                        much.'
                        `Well take care of the documents. But what about Thomas
                        Rose?'
                        `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
                        a doctor.'
                        `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,
                        won't you?'
                        `No, Gio.'
                        `Why?
                        `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.
                        `That long?'
                        `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
                        life.'
                        `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
                        had!'
                        `Did you visit the sanitarium?'
                        `Yes.'
                        `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.'
                        `I'm fine.'
                        `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.
                      • Mathew Morrell
                        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
                        Message 11 of 11 , 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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