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