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Sirius Chronicles.

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  • mmorrell1
    It was the day after the lightning storm. The sky had cleared, and the cool morning breeze, rustling the drapes, brought into Mark Sonntag s little studio
    Message 1 of 11 , Aug 2, 2002
      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?'
      `Elizabeth Sinclair.'
      `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.'
      `You guess?
      `Let me explain. After you left in the taxi last night,
      Giovanni walked up behind me and took a cheap shot. So I decked
      him. He hit the ground and I walked away. But, down the block, he
      came at me again, so I struck him again. That's all. Elizabeth, I
      didn't beat him up. That's not in my realm.'
      `If you didn't, and I can't imagine you would! than I suggest
      you call a lawyer. Has the police contacted you?
      `No. Have they talked with you?'
      `No, not yet, but I expect to.' There was a long pause
      during which Elizabeth's voice seemed unable to bring itself out.
      She sighed and cursed into the phone. `You are innocent, aren't you?'
      `I am, I am.'
      `Then how did Giovanni get battered?'
      `I don't know. I can only speculate. I floored him, and I
      think I broke his nose. His eyes were watering and blood trickled
      from his nostrils. I felt sorry for him. Once his pain subsided, he
      removed a pack of cigarettes from his pocket; he gave me one, and we
      talked. Then I said good-bye. After we parted, I walked to the buss
      stop, and was attacked.'
      `By who?'
      `Three guys. These guys were sitting on the buss I was
      riding earlier in the night. They jumped me, kicked me on the ground
      and started calling me a `rotten capitalist pig.' Maybe they knew
      who I was, or read one of my books. But I don't know. It's all very
      `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
      towards you.'
      `I know. . .'
      This time the director raised a clipboard over his head, and
      cried: `You're on!'
      Next to the director stood Elizabeth's dance partner, Pierre
      Rourke, a tall, slender, `danseur noble' having a long, pointed face,
      wide shoulders and a pair of big dancer legs that bulged the tights
      he was wearing. Elizabeth slammed the phone and ran towards the
      velvet wings. Pierre grasped her hand. At the moment of contrition,
      their bodies relaxed and explosive, they burst from the dark recesses
      of the wings and whirled onto the stage just as the music filled the
      theater, with Elizabeth doing eight pirouettes on pointe in a high
      passe. Immediately, her worries and anxieties over last night's
      assault dissolved to be replaced by the rapture of a life
      performance. Her body moved subconsciously, but her mind was fully
      aware of all that occurred around her, aware of the claps and shouts,
      of the warmth of Pierre's hand, his swift subtle movements, aware of
      his long pointed face, his attentive eyes, and of the funny habit he
      shared with Nureyev, of dancing with his lips parted. In and out of
      his arms, moving in his etheric flow of energy, she simultaneously
      absorbed herself in the music being played, Vivaldi's Spring
      Concerto; rising, falling, cresting, surging, the grinding violin
      chords flowed through her like some unknown magnetic fluid composed
      of heat, light and sound, visible to the inner eye.
      Meanwhile, a police investigator for the NYPD was making his
      presence known backstage, questioning anyone who might have spoken
      with Giovanni last night or seen him leave the theater, and if so
      with whom. There were those in the company who believed she had
      turned against Giovanni, and that a new fling of hers was responsible
      for the assault. The more people questioned the more it looked as if
      a love triangle had formed between Elizabeth, Giovanni and `a young
      scholar from Connecticut.' In all, ten cast members submitted
      witness statements.
      By then Elizabeth was in her dressing room, in a deeply
      introverted mood, un-willing to speak or associate with anyone, and
      was quietly removing the make up from her face. It didn't matter, to
      her, what anybody thought --- not now at least. The performance left
      her in a solitary mood disaffected from her usual concerns. When
      somebody knocked on the dressing room door her response was curt at
      the expense of sounding temperamental. `Go away, I'm changing,' she
      had said, and continued smearing a cotton swab over her face; the
      frills of her tu-tu concealed the legs of the stool where she sat;
      the bun at the back of her head yet to be released from the hair
      pins. The light-bulbs surrounding the mirror were bright, but the
      rest of the room dark, and her ten-foot shadow loomed on the far
      cinderblock wall.
      `It's urgent,' repeated the voice through the door. Again,
      her response was abrupt.
      `Fifteen more minutes please,' and she reached for a box of
      tissues amid the hair pains, bottles of perfume, brushes and combs
      that were scattered over the make-up table. The tissue was dipped in
      make-up remover and then used to smear the white-make-up covering her
      face. Layer by layer, the rosy glow of her cheeks emerged from the
      Not until her face was clean did she allow the man inside,
      Officer Scayhan. He was wearing a gray trench coat, a big, barrel-
      shaped man, who entered the room and closed the door behind him.
      They were alone.
      `I'm sorry to disturb you, miss, but I was wondering if I
      could ask you a few questions. I came to enquire about a man named
      Giovanni Migliazzo.'
      `What about it?' she asked, still seated at the stool, and
      speaking to his form reflecting in the mirror.
      `Do you know him?'
      `Who doesn't?'
      `Well, if you haven't heard, he was mugged last night. I
      came to ask what happened.'
      Elizabeth bent her arms behind her back, and one by one
      removed the hair pins from her bun.
      `Well?' the investigator asked.
      She kept removing the hair pins, and said nothing for some
      time, resenting the questions at a time she normally prized for its
      reflective quiet. Finally, she said: `We had a flat tire last
      night, and I took a cab home.' The long strands of hair woven into
      her bun unfurled upon her shoulders. Then she picked up her comb,
      leaned her head to the side and starting brushing in a mood that
      expressed ultra-feminine indifference.
      `Then?' the officer asked.
      `Then nothing. After I hopped inside the cab, I can't tell
      you what happened. I wasn't there.'
      `Do you know anything about this man called Mark Sonntag?'
      `Yes, I know him. He seems like a very nice guy. I can
      hardly believe he did it.'
      `How long have you known him?'
      `I met him last night for the first time. We were supposed
      to go on a date tonight.'
      `Well, we have reason to think he's responsible for the
      assault. I would stay clear of him until we know for sure. He could
      be dangerous.'
      `Thank you. I'll take that into consideration.'
      `Do,' he said, then lowered his hat on his head and gave her
      his business card. `Call me if you feel the need.'
      `Thanks. I will.'
      He left the room.
      Again, she doubted Mark's innocence. Elizabeth set about in
      a hurry, pacing the room, and carelessly un-zipped the back of her
      costume. Thin, silk, shoulder straps slid down her arms. In the
      shower, she ran a bar of soap across her skin hurriedly and didn't
      bother washing her hair. The last stream of water flowed round her
      feet into the drain.
      Minutes later, she came out of her dressing room, clothed in
      a white ivory blouse, a black knee-length skirt and high heal shoes
      that clicked heal to toe against the bare concrete floor. She could
      not imagine Mark beating somebody as bad as Giovanni had been
      beaten. It seemed impossible, and yet the evidence was stacked high
      against him. At the phone, which she used during intermission, she
      dialed Mark's number. It was irksome enough to think he may have
      stalked her last night, then tried to kill Giovanni, but the thought
      of going out with him tonight was unthinkable.
      She was standing there, holding the phone to her ear, alone
      backstage, listening to the pauses lingering in-between the rings.
      Behind her came a voice:
      `Elizabeth, are we still on for tonight?'
      Her heart lurched, she spun around, and saw Mark Sonntag. He
      was standing before the ropes that were used to manipulate the
      curtains, each rope counterbalanced by led weights. Part of her was
      afraid, part in awe. He was not an average-size man--- his hands
      were vice-grips. She hung up the phone and met his hazel eyes.
      `I'm feeling nervous about all this,' she said.
      `Don't be nervous. I would never hurt you.'
      `But Mark. The police. . . they're absolutely convinced it
      was you.'
      `It wasn't me. It'll be fine. Everything will work out.'
      `But. . .'
      `Lisa. Don't worry. You're thinking too much. Your heart
      knows the truth. Everything will fall into place.'
      `Did you say anything to the detective?'
      `Yes. I told him the truth.'
      She was relieved he said this. But her heart still pounded.
      She found it perplexing how Mark could be so relaxed.
      `You must place your faith in a higher power, Mark, to be so
      confident. Of coarse, what do I know? I don't know anything about
      `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,
      honest life.
      `Let's not talk about Gio any longer,' Mark said. He came to
      an abrupt stop and gripped her shoulders. `Is that all right?'
      Elizabeth stood there, looking up at him, feeling her heart
      thump in her chest. Her feminine sensibilities felt it coming.
      `I'm a simple man, Elizabeth. I don't live my life for
      tragedies. I've barely caused a ripple my whole life.'
      `I'm simple too,' she said, then received the kiss she sensed
      coming; pleased he finally did it. `I hate tragedies. I don't even
      prefer Shakespeare.'
      `Who likes Shakespeare?' he said and kissed her again.
      `I like Shakespeare in the park, I suppose, when I have a
      bottle of wine and a big quilt to lay upon.'
      `I take it, you're not a sentimentalist.'
      `No. Does that bother you?'
      `Not particularly. Let's go somewhere?'
      `Let's do.'
      `And lets not speak anymore of Giovanni.'
      And nor did Elizabeth want to. The thrilling solemnity of
      the kiss evaporated all the tension and pretense of a first date.
      And she wanted to go with him somewhere, just not his place, because
      she did not feel comfortable with that. She knew, whomever was in
      the Cadillac, would follow them wherever Mark went this evening. She
      knew who they were, and who they worked for. She knew everything
      about Vince Serenghetti's killers and how they killed and how they
      dare not lay a hand on Mark as long as he was with any member of the
      powerful Sinclair family. They could not follow them up to her high,
      elevated apartment, thirty stories up into the Manhattan sky line.

      Chapter Five of "The Sirius Chronicles," copyright 2002. Mathew
      Morrell. All rights reserved.
    • mmorrell1
      The Mafioso s followed them as far as her apartment building. After that, they gave up the trail. The Cadillac neared the building only to continue on and
      Message 2 of 11 , Aug 7, 2002
        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
        and Elizabeth.
        `A deli,' said the man who had recently joined the party, who
        was the driver of the Cadillac, whose purple tie matched his purple
        handkerchief. `I should have plugged him while I had the chance.'
        Thomas stopped counting the money. `Plug who?'
        `No. You leave Mark to us,' said Thomas. The caged light
        bulb above the table shined on his face. It was rugged and
        pockmarked, and expressed a mixture of disdain and cold respect. He
        added: `No one is to harm Sonntag. Vince?'
        Vince just nodded his head. He had kept silent all this
        time; his round, blubbery face showed no emotion. All he said
        was: `No harm boy,' and he went on chewing a cigar.
        `But he killed Gio!' said the purple tie.
        `Gio is not dead,' Thomas corrected him.
        `He is almost dead. That's close enough. We should almost
        kill Mark.'
        `No,' said Vince. `We listen to Tommy Rose. No kill.'
        The teenager stepped out of the forklift and then picked up a
        crowbar. His bouncy strides exuded immaturity, a desire to flaunt in
        front of his elders. After whirling the crowbar he stabbed the point
        into the final crate, which was waist-high, and had the words, Grown
        in Mexico, stamped on the side.
        Thomas Rose looked on in irritation. He hated that they
        always brought the kids along. They were always creating
        `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.
        `No, higher.'
        `This one?'
        `There, yes, now pry.' Thomas shook his head in frustration,
        and then lowered his eyes and continued bundling the money. He knew
        Vince did not appreciate having the kid talked down to, so Thomas
        kept his eyes low and humble when he said: `Keep it cool with
        Giovanni, eh? That's all I ask, Mr. Serenghetti. When Gio recovers
        he can tell us, himself, who assaulted him.'
        `If he recovers,' said the Fat Man. `The Gypsy say he die.'
        `Gypsies are not always right.'
        `A lot of people worried beside the Gypsy. People are
        calling. Requesting bullet for Mark Sonntag. Requesting death.
        Nobody comfortable. People talking.'
        `People flap their lips.'
        `I say we plug him,' said the purple tie.
        `No,' said another. `Gio is one of us. We cannot plug him.'
        `Like hell we can't,' said another. `Gio is nothing.'
        `Who could like Gio?' said yet another.
        `I like Gio.'
        `No,' said one man, who pounded his fist. `Who can respect a
        man, not married, no children? That is not Italian. He is nothing.
        He makes me sick at my stomach.'
        `Gio is a woman!' said the boy, precociously.
        The men looked over at the boy, some chuckling. But Vince
        was not. He said:
        `Quiet! No one say you speak, boy!'
        Everyone became quiet. The kid, shamed and blushed, pried on
        the seam. The nails popped, and the coffee bean contents gushed onto
        the floor. Within the beans was a three foot block covered in brown
        paper. The boy removed the paper, threw it aside and revealed a bag
        of Golden Triangle heroin processed for direct sale on the street.
        This finalized the deal.

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

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

        Chapter Six, "Sirius Chronicles," copyright 2002, by Mathew Morrell.
        All rights reserved.
      • mmorrell1
        Awakened at six-thirty in the morning by a butler who held his bathrobe, Sinclair released a long, lascivious yawn, stood up from the bed and stepped into a
        Message 3 of 11 , Aug 13, 2002
          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:
          `March McEvers!'
          The gardener in his knee high barn boots lowered the bucket
          onto the embankment. It was chilly and his breath steamed upon the
          air. His tawny voice could barely be heard in the distance.
          `Mr. Sinclair? Back already?'
          `I arrived last night! You're not going to trim my rose,
          after you finish feeding the carp, are you?'
          `No sir, in no way. I'll leave the roses to you, sir. I
          would never think myself expert enough to dash upon your roses these
          meat cleavers of mine.'
          He surveyed with pity the gardener in his brown rags and
          straw hat. The primordial simplicity of his words, and their
          directness, increased his pity. He pitied all workers. His breath
          soared from his lungs before he had a chance to judge his words: `I,
          and not you, carry the meat cleavers, March McEvers! The estate is
          blessed by your expert hand!' The two waved from afar. In his early
          years, there would have been no delay; he would have stomped outside
          right then and reprimanded the gardener for somebody trimming his
          roses while he was out of town, whether he was responsible or not;
          and afterwards taken a sweaty, vigorous jog along the beaches and
          cliffs down the road on the Long Island Sound. But his soul had
          softened with age, and now all he did was beam a white ray of love in
          the gardener's direction before shutting the window. His youthful
          love affairs for mountain climbing, big game hunting, ocean fishing,
          had been replaced in his ladders years by simple, domestic fetishes,
          fine cigars, slow-burning fires, tea cups and the thousands of
          antiquarian books that were lined up with exceptional straightness in
          his library.
          He opened a door that blended into the bedroom's dark-
          stained, walnut paneling. The library on the other side of the door
          was also paneled in walnut and emitted the smell of wood polish,
          cigar smoke and cold gray ashes lying in the fireplace. Book shelves
          spanned the walls; most of the shelves, but not all, were too high to
          reach from the floor. A twenty-foot ladder was required, which he
          climbed all the way up to the books on the upper-most shelf.
          The butler arrived, minutes later, the toast and tea on a
          silver tray.
          `The top shelf needs a good dusting,' Whitney said, now
          standing safely on the floor. `Have the skinny girl do it if you
          don't think your self fit for the climb.'
          `Thank you, sir, I will.'
          `Also. . . It's a bit too cold this morning. Would you mind
          starting a fire?'
          `Of coarse not, sir. I think a small, low-burning fire would
          do nicely this morning.'
          `It's awfully moist outside.'
          `Indeed it is.'
          The butler raised the hem of his trousers, bent his knees
          onto the hearth rug and stuffed crumpled newspapers underneath a pile
          of logs. The room in the library's cool, airy expanse was stately
          and traditional, filled with small, unexpected amenities, like the
          box of cigars on the smoking table; or a crystal saucer filled with
          tiny mints. His prized collection of walking sticks and canes were
          kept upright in a rack next to the high back chair.
          `Thank you, Jauntie.'
          The butler blew out the match. `Enjoy the fire, sir.'
          `I will, but before you leave, on the table is a folder. If
          you could, please slip the file into the filing cabinet in my office.'
          `Is it a Red File?'
          `Yes. If, as usual, you see Elizabeth breaking into the fine
          cabinet, pretend not to notice and walk away. Let the girl have her
          `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.'
          `Not entirely.'
          `How can you say that?'
          `Experience, Thomas,' he answered, and set the slice of toast
          on the saucer resting on his lap. `Is there absolutely no type of
          person who might benefit from the elixir?'
          `Type? There is no such type. Just as you can't place a
          guitar in the hands of a five year old, and expect him to play like
          Segovia, you can't give a normal, non-psychic subject the Red Lion
          and expect him to become a visionary without suffering severe, mental
          consequences. You experiment proved that.'
          Thomas stood up in aggravation, then knelt on the hearth rug
          and stoked the fire with an iron. A galaxy of amber sparks floated
          up the flew, outlining his hunched over form in a flaming, primordial
          aura. His blond hair was tied back into a pony tail.
          `This is why you asked me to come over this morning, isn't
          `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
          went insane.
          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
          double agent.'
          `Then that is a danger we must risk. Because, one day, she
          will grow up. The future of North Star depends on it.'
          `That is wishful thinking.'
          `Perhaps,' he said, and stared off reminiscently into the
          flames. `The whole reason the Church fell from its glory after the
          Middle Ages was because they rejected woman such as my grand
          daughter, and men like Mark and Ed MacIntosh, their most valuable
          commodity; the rebels outsiders, the Eckhart's, the Saint Bernard's,
          the Saint Francis's were thrown by the wayside and not allowed to
          mature within the Church. They were thinker who, in this day and
          age, would never think twice about joining the Church, because it
          would suffocate their individuality. North Star will not fall into
          the same trap.'
          It was curious to hear Mr. Sinclair, the leader of an anti-
          religious world order, compare North Star with the Church. The mere
          mention of the Church enflamed Thomas. His jittery behavior implied
          obstinacy and impatience then outright anger over Mr. Sinclair
          nonchalant, rather smug, aristocratic manners, which, to Thomas,
          conveyed a type of smugness that is satisfied maintaining the status
          quo. `I despise the Church!' Thomas said, embittered by the mere
          sound. `The Church has enslaved mankind for millenniums. I don't
          see how you, a Hermeticist, could reconcile your esoteric belief
          system with North Star's political atheism.'
          With a dry, witty, twinkle of humor Mr. Sinclair dipped his
          toast in the tea, popped it in his mouth then chewed with his lips
          pursed but his eyes smiling. There was something of an eccentric
          about him, something dominating, obsessive, theatrical, and yet
          knavish and gleeful.
          `Pleeeese,' he said while rolling his eyes. `Spare me your
          `It's true. Your personal beliefs and your professional
          conduct are irreconcilable, two faced, hypocritical. What good is
          the Church?'
          `You Thomas were born with your gifts; they have been handed
          down to you by nature. But with Elizabeth, she has woven them
          through a disciplined inner life based on self-reflection, not on
          instincts. Her gifts are hers alone. If she desires to attend
          church on Sundays, to partake in the Sacraments, what should it
          matter to you and me?'
          `Her blending of ancient religion and Catholicism had done
          nothing but fling mud in her eyes. No, I will not work with her, nor
          her boy friend. I refuse. She is a right wing feminist!'
          `Poppy cock!'
          Jealousy, and with spite, Thomas crouched on the hearth rug
          and poked the fire with stiff, quick, agitated stabs. Sparks floated
          up the chimney. For quiet some time he crouched there, mumbling to
          himself, shaking his head, unconscious of the fire though he stared
          straight at it. His mind had become introverted upon the nauseating
          thoughts drifting through his imagination, bright, luminous thoughts,
          building themselves up into violent fantasies. These imaginary
          vapors fed off his emotions, adding a powerful realism to the
          pictures forming in his head; and beyond his head, throughout his
          aura, blood red radiations flickered and strobed. His aura was a
          dull, smoky, red color surrounding his physical body in a reservoir
          of thought, energized by destructive emotional currents, essentially
          consuming him in his own, seething hatred. The strangest thing
          happened as these radiations lit up the astral realm. All the
          sudden, he lurched to his feet, the stoker flung from his grasp, and
          he released a weird waling sound of a terrified animal. Indeed, as
          if he was being scalded by hot flames, he flailed his arms and legs,
          jumped up and down, fell on the floor, cried out, under Sinclair's
          penetrating gaze.
          A half a minute expired before Thomas realized, in slow
          degrees, that is was a hallucination: that he wasn't, in fact, on
          fire. Then he became still. On his hands and knees, and breathing
          through his gaping mouth, his downcast eyes elevated slowly from the
          floor, up towards Mr. Sinclair's frightful, awe-inspiring, wicked
          presence on the high back chair. In complete silence, but for the
          clicking of the grandfather clock and the crackling of the fire,
          Thomas remained speechless. It was Mr. Sinclair who did it, mentally
          burned him by some amazing act of thought transference.
          `Never think you're more powerful than I,' Whitney said,
          regal and poised on his chair, his voice eerie and hypnotic. `I will
          bring you down.'
          Thomas stared in fear, blinking his eyes and
          hyperventilating; then, with an exceedingly swift movement, he
          grabbed his jacket off the floor, flung it over his back and stomped
          through the library. He felt as if he had been mentally raped. He
          was approaching the doorway when Elizabeth arrived, as anticipated,
          at the scheduled time. Thomas slipped on his jacket without saying
          hello. He could not hide his distaste for her. Blushed and
          sweating, he bowed slightly with his head and then followed the
          butler through the doors.
          `What's with him!' she said after he left the
          library. `Every time I see him, he runs away. Grandpa, do I have
          snakes in my hair?'
          `No you certainly do not,' he said with a smile.
          `Than what is it?'
          `It is Thomas. How are you, my love?'
          `I'm doing splendidly.'
          The ferocity he displayed earlier had transformed itself back
          into the dignified, un-ostentatious, courteous manner of a gentle,
          tasteful, prestigious aristocrat, who cherished his grand daughter
          above all else. In front of the fireplace he surrendered himself to
          an embrace that consumed Elizabeth, and they stood there hugging with
          the naturalness of two wolves nuzzling for a co-mutual scent. Their
          embrace was devoid of meekness or Puritanism. They were Sinclairs,
          descendants of the Stuarts and the Stuart Monarchy,a bloodline dating
          back to the Merovingian founders of the holy order of the Rose
          Croix. This mystical order of warrior monks was symbolized by a
          beautiful coat of arms which hung above the fireplace, bearing two
          crossing swords over a silver breastplate.
          He lowered himself onto his chair, saying:
          `I received news this morning, that you may find a breath of
          fresh air. Thomas Rose. . .'
          `What did he say? Did you guys get in a fight, again?'
          `He has informed me that Giovanni has regained consciousness.'
          `He did?
          `Yes, and he spoke to the police.'
          `What did he say?'
          `The police have dropped the case against Mark Sonntag.'
          Elizabeth showed in her posture intense happiness. `I can't
          tell you how much this has weighed on us. Somebody has been
          following us all over town, and it's been very bothersome.'
          `I'm sorry, love.'
          `Mark thinks it's the police. Grandpa, I don't like your men
          following us. I came here this morning to ask you to stop it.'
          Whitney remained silent while Elizabeth knelt down at his
          feet and laid her hands upon his lap to soothing him in the warm
          blaze. The enfeebled expression he returned in response to her soft,
          pleading eyes was one which seemed bound by a code of secrecy.
          `It will stop,' was all he said. `The case is done. Tell
          Mark he doesn't have to worry anymore about being followed. He's in
          the blue.'
          `Yes, but why were they following him in the first place. I
          don't understand. Why would North Star be interested in Mark? Why
          put under surveillance? He's such a nice boy.'
          `I'm sure he's delightful. And I would like to meet him. . .'
          The butler re-entered the room and saved Whitney from having
          to address Elizabeth's question in full. Holding a silver tray, the
          butler removed the dished from the end table and reminded Mr.
          Sinclair that the 40 Committee meets this morning. The mention of
          this committee silenced Elizabeth rebuke. It was a group chaired by
          the President's National Security Advisor.
          `I suppose you should be going now,' she said, and pulled her
          hand away and stood up. `I won't hold you back.'
          `I'm sorry sweet heart.' He labored from the chair. `I have
          business to take care of. What are your plans today?'
          `A picnic.'
          `It will be a lovely day for a picnic, and you look
          charming. I love your sun hat. It's like the one your grandmother
          used to wear.'
          The girl, in her lime-green sun dress and hat, was in vogue;
          but to Mr. Sinclair, the fashion she modeled for him by turning in
          circles never went out of style. It seemed old fashion. The very
          fact that she was such a handsome and aristocratic young woman, yet
          devoid of pretension, made her feminine peculiarities that much
          sweeter. Her hair hung with the straightness and simplicity of a
          flower child. The dress was light, flowing and natural, attached to
          her shoulders by thin spaghetti straps. At the end of her gold
          necklace was a crucifix and a nautilus shell that represented the
          occult significance of ballet's Spiral Dynamic.
          Elizabeth and the butler exited the library. Bordering both
          sides of the hallway were full suites of armor dating back to the
          Middle Ages. The butler led her down the hallway, when her quiet
          foot steps came to a stop.
          `Oh Jauntie!'
          `Yes, madam.'
          `I need to freshen up. I'll meet you outside.'
          `As you wish madam.'
          The two split in opposite directions. The space in-between
          them gradually became more distant; yet so long was the hallway, the
          further she walked the slower Jauntie seemed to move. The hallway
          went on in a straight trajectory past the battery of knights lined up
          against the walls, some of which were brandishing swords, others
          battle axes and spiked ball-and-chain weapons. Midway down the hall,
          she looked over her shoulder, then dashed into her grandfather's
          office. In the file cabinet were the Red Files. Quickly, she
          duplicated them. The florescent bulb in the Xerox made three
          passovers. The originals she slipped back into the cabinet; the warm
          copies in her purse. A minute later, she was back in the hallway.

          Chapter seven, "Sirius Chronicles," copyright 2002. Mathew Morrell.
          All rights reserved.
        • mmorrell1
          `That was a very brave thing for you to do, said the nurse. `And I m proud. Not everyone would have the courage to do what you ve done. `Me, courageous?
          Message 4 of 11 , Aug 25, 2002
            `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.
            `Huh huh.'
            The nurse was giving him a sponge bath. All he did was lie
            there, half-awake and too lethargic to move. The wash cloth felt
            warm and damp over his shoulders.
            `I don't think I'm all that brave,' he said in dim, drugged
            voice, lying flat on his stomach.
            `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 N.Y.P.D.

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

            Chapter eight, "Sirius Chronicles," copyright 2002. Mathew Morrell.
            All rights reserved.
          • mmorrell1
            By nightfall a gray, dreary haze descended over the city, accompanied by cold drizzle. Ed had forgotten his umbrella and was walking through the drizzle down
            Message 5 of 11 , Sep 3, 2002
              By nightfall a gray, dreary haze descended over the city, accompanied
              by cold drizzle. Ed had forgotten his umbrella and was walking
              through the drizzle down Central Park West with his collar pulled up
              to his ears and his hands plunged deep inside the pockets of his Army
              jacket. Cold and miserable, several times he debated taking the
              subway home and canceling his plans for tonight. He had no desire to
              spend the evening with Mark and Elizabeth and wished he hadn't
              accepted their dinner invitation. He was supposed to meet them at
              8:00. It was five `till, and he was already nearing the tall,
              ornate, apartment buildings across the street from Central Park. A
              fog swallowed the upper stories. Elizabeth's building seemed to
              dissolve the higher it rose into the rain and clouds drifting in the
              gray upper air.
              Ed came in from the cold, his hair wet and stringy from the
              rain, and his jacket soaked through down to his T-shirt. His shoddy,
              ruffled appearance formed a roguish image in contrast to the
              immaculate lobby richly decorated as in a four star hotel. The clerk
              scrutinized him from behind the desk.
              `May I help you, sir?' asked the clerk.
              `Yes, I'm here to see Elizabeth Sinclair.'
              `You name?'
              `Ed MacIntosh.'
              `Just a moment,' said the clerk, who dialed the phone.
              Ed used his sleeve to wipe his brow, un-offended by the
              clerk's scrutinizing gaze. Indeed, a shiver of happiness rose
              through him, eradicating his bad temper. The vitality he had called
              forth to bare himself against the wet, April cold had exorcised the
              cloud of depression that had plagued him all day; and now, suddenly,
              the prospect of a hot dinner, wine and friendly conversation seemed a
              welcome change of pace. After gaining clearance he followed an
              elderly couple into an elevator, still shivering a little, and pushed
              a button signifying the seventeenth floor. In the upward ascension
              that followed the initial surge the brass dial above the door crossed
              over the gold Roman numerals. Ed stood in the corner, although
              watching the dial, very conscious of his fellow passengers. They
              were talking about opera. An old woman in her furs and precious
              jewelry, and a distinguished old man having a white mustache, emitted
              an air of poise that comes from constant self-reflection on the image
              they project to others. Instantly, he was reminded him of all those
              tall, nameless Roman statues displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of
              Art, all emitting that self-possession and poise of the white-
              mustached old man, that innate self-confidence and dignity of a ripe,
              fully developed civilization standing at its cultural zenith.
              The water trapped in his shoes seeped in-between his toes,
              made squeaking sounds when he stepped off the elevator and started
              down a carpeted hallway on the seventeenth floor. I am raw, un-
              ripened, Midwest barbarian, psychic explorer, far, far from my
              spiritual zenith, and even further from contentment. My agony is
              their joy.
              Elizabeth's apartment was at the end of the hallway. Either
              she or Mark had already unlocked the door. For, once Ed turned the
              knob it gave way into an elaborate entrance hall brightened by a
              chandelier which hung by a golden chain from a vaulted ceiling. The
              bluish white crystals looked like thousands of self-luminous jewels.
              A beveled mirror reflected his form as he closed the door. Below the
              same mirror was a fresh bouquet of flowers. In the warmth of the
              apartment, as he smelled the flowers, Elizabeth's home seemed one of
              the most delightful places he had ever seen. Everything seemed a
              potential picture. All the lights in the apartment were dim, all but
              for a fascinating play of light that dramatized an extensive art
              collection. The apartment was classical Manhattan, smart,
              sophisticated, stoic, but with Elizabeth's distinctive flair for
              smooth, flowing lines and living tangibles. Plants sprung from every
              corner of the living room. Two, quit large, in-door trees rose
              nearly as high as the twenty-foot ceiling and their leaves and
              branches were outlined by the city lights that were visible through
              huge windows overlooking the skyline.
              Mark was lounging on a leather arm chair, reading. The
              limp paperback book molded to his hand like a well-read bible. He
              raised his chin, but his eyes, hesitant to follow, lingered on the
              words a bit longer before he looked up and saw Ed enter the room from
              beyond the outer fringes of a Turkish rug.
              `Good Lord, Ed. You're soaked! Get a towel from the
              `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
              of teeth.
              `Why?' Ed repeated.
              `I want your mind crisp and sharp tonight.'
              `Ah, come on!'
              Ed raised the bottle to his mouth and tilted his head back;
              bubbles blew to the top as he swallowed.
              `Really, Ed. I mean it,' and Mark took the bottle from
              him. `We have something to give you, and I don't want you slobbering
              `What something?'
              `Just a little something.'
              Mark begun preparing a meal that did not require a fork to
              eat; black olives, toasted pita bread, sliced cucumbers, walnuts,
              strips of smoked-dried salmon, finger food which he diced and
              arranged on a white, ceramic serving platter. For no other reason,
              other than it was pleasant to do so, Ed watched Mark prepare the
              meal. Copper pots and pans hung in the air above the butcher block
              where Mark stood, his head bowed as he chopped the cucumber.
              `Elizabeth`s grandfather dropped by last week,' Mark said.
              `What's he up to?'
              `Not much. He gave us something and he wanted us to give it
              to you.'
              `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
              kitchen floor.
              `It's so far up, with so many painting, like a museum in the
              air. I see that you have a piano. Do you play?'
              Elizabeth shrugged her shoulder. `I play all right, I
              `She can play brilliantly,' Mark said. `Don't listen to her.'
              The same engaging looking she gave Ed, all the sudden it
              flowered into an expression of sexual sweetness. They hadn't greeted
              each other yet.
              `Hi,' she said.
              `Hi, rabbit. Welcome home.'
              Mark set the knife on the butcher block and kissed her
              cheek. Then Elizabeth said:
              `Boy, do we have something in store for you tonight.'
              `I heard,' Ed replied. `Mark told me your grandfather
              dropped by and left something for me. What is it?'
              Mark slipped a sprig of dill in-between the salmon slices.
              `Let's eat first and then we'll open the present.'
              Elizabeth said good, because she was hungry and exhausted,
              and brushed her hand down over the light switch when leaving the
              kitchen and followed Ed and Mark into the living room instead of the
              dining room where she usually ate in seclusion. Her mind pondered
              vigorously and intently. I have as my friend Mark's pal. Ed is an
              artist. And I am an artist. And Mark is a writer, and I am a
              dancer. . . And Elizabeth wanted all of them to be very happy in
              their new lives
              Their faces were full of animation, now, as they assumed
              their places around the coffee table; the young scholar, in his tweed
              sports jacket, had placed the platter of food on the coffee table and
              then poured three glasses of wine. Elizabeth and Ed were cross
              legged on the Turkish rug, already eating.
              `The salmon's incredible,' Ed nodded.
              `Is it?' Mark asked.
              `And how!'
              `Sweet Ed, you're always there for a compliment,' Elizabeth
              said. `Ed went to the Van Gogh exhibit last week.'
              Mark patted his shoulder. `How was it?'
              `It was good. I had never seen Mademoisell in person.'
              Elizabeth raised her glass and offered a toast:
              `To Ed, Van Gogh, and the First Cause. May its creative
              silence fill our lives.'
              `I'll drink to that,' Mark said.
              `Me, too,' Ed added.
              They tapped glasses, and drank in unison. Afterwards Mark
              sat on the couch while Elizabeth and Ed remained cross-legged on the
              floor and did most of the eating of the carrot sticks and the salmon,
              but also the cucumber slices that were drenched in heavy, vinaigrette
              salad dressing, salt and peppered. Their hands were oily. Mark
              tasted the pickled mushrooms.
              `You're not hungry?' Elizabeth asked him.
              `No, I'm hungry. I was just thinking about something.'
              Ed wiped his mouth. `You see, that's your problem, Mark.
              You're always thinking. You need not do that so much. Live in the
              present. That's what I say.'
              `Man, that's some kind of advice,' was Mark's sarcastic
              reply, after which he chuckled and rolled his eyes at Elizabeth.
              This time she spoke:
              `Asking Mark to stop thinking, is like asking you, Ed, to
              stop feeling. It's not going to happen, not in this life time
              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
              appears black.'
              `Yes. I see. Outer space is not black at all!'
              `Outer space,' Mark went on, `looks black because the outward
              eye is incapable of seeing light in its purest state. The outward
              eye can only see the reflection of light. It cannot see light. Ed,
              when you drink that elixir, you will have a complete grasp of this
              anomaly. You will see light on a different level.'
              `What do you mean, `When I drink the elixir?''
              Elizabeth said: `Just that. You're going to drink that
              `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
              anything unusual.'
              Everything they had said so far about the will, and about how
              the will was connected to perception, sunk into Ed's half conscious
              thoughts. He went over and sat on the edge of couch, and stared
              through the vile at the elixir. The elixir smothered his hand in a
              radiant light. Then he raised the vile to eye level and marveled
              over the white pin point of light floating into the elixir. The cork
              had been removed; and the elixir, he found, after sniffing it, was
              odorless, almost gaseous in appearance; and when he finally drank the
              substance, he found it was also tasteless. Drinking it was similar
              to swallowing an exceptionally dry, tasteless shot of vodka. The
              liquid left no impression in his mouth; and yet he felt a certain
              smoothness quality spread over his tongue and vanish somewhere down
              his throat. Ed lowered the vile from his mouth thinking the white
              star was probably floating like a fire fly among the pulp and
              vegetable juices digesting in his stomach.
              `Nothing to it, is there?' Elizabeth asked.
              Ed shook his head slowly. `Everything appears normal.'
              `The white star is assimilating into your body as we speak,'
              Mark said.
              `If is is, I can't feel it.'
              `I told you it was easy!' Elizabeth pealed his fingers from
              the vile and place it back into the box.
              `What did you guys feel when you first took it?' Ed asked.
              `Nothing,' Mark answered. `As you said, everything appeared
              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
              longed for.'
              Not only did the tree seem to vibrate at a heigtened
              frequency; space-time and everything in it shined above the dull
              lethargy of gross matter. The room glowed like a transparent star.
              `Everything is so clear and vibrant,' he went on. `It's like
              entering a painting.'
              `I'm encouraging you to pull back, too,' Elizabeth said,
              queer, manic trembles crossing Ed's face. `Have a drink, man. Eat a
              little, smoke a cigarette. You're acting freaky.'
              `I feel great!'
              The iridescent shine, the glitter, the sparkle to the plants -
              -- the air, golden and rosy --- filled him with wonder. There was
              the sense that, if the astral light outstripped physical matter, all
              the leaves would disintegrate into black, carbon dust. The light was
              the very psychic blood giving life to matter.
              `It pales in comparison to the real world,' Ed went on, the
              room growing brighter and brighter.
              `Come on, Ed!' Elizabeth cried. `You're slipping.'
              `I'm cool.'
              `No, you're not!'
              Somewhere Ed lost touch with the vision he started out with.
              The light itself, not the forms it imbued, grew brighter and brighter
              and consequently Elizabeth's voice became more and more distant, the
              room dimmer and dimmer, the air blinding, the light piercing, the
              light outstripping all physical forms; until, nothing was
              distinguishable anymore. The room, and everything in it,
              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.
            • mmorrell1
              It hadn t stopped drizzling. Beads of water fattened on the windowpane, next to which Giovanni stood, his nude body basked in shadows of raindrops streaking
              Message 6 of 11 , Sep 6, 2002
                It hadn't stopped drizzling. Beads of water fattened on the
                windowpane, next to which Giovanni stood, his nude body basked in
                shadows of raindrops streaking down the saturated glass. His
                instincts told him, if he didn't escape through the window, they
                would break into the room and push a pillow over his face while he
                slept. Beyond the window was a rusted fire escape.
                In the bathroom he filled the sink with hot water. The
                reflection in the mirror showed the heavy, black threads sewn into
                his stomach and chest where he had been slashed by a knife. Then he
                submerged his hands into the water and splashed his face in an
                attempt to dispel his dizziness and lethargy. The pain was
                nauseating. When there was a sound from somewhere outside the
                bathroom, the physical misery he felt was replaced by a jolt of
                fear. His face, wet and dripping, lifted straight up from the sink.
                He looked straight towards the door expecting that it would crash
                down any second.
                `Giovanni? Are you in there? Are you all right?'
                The voice had high, lovely, feminine tone, which he
                recognized. The voice belonged to Sheila, the attractive, blond
                nurse who sponge bathed him this morning. Again, she
                asked: `Giovanni?'
                `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
                his face.
                She was about to shut off the light.
                `Don't leave Sheila.'
                `What is it? she asked, her hand underneath the lamp shade.
                `I'm sorry for snapping at you.'
                `That's all right. You don't have to be sorry.'
                `But I am. You've been very good to me, and I shouldn't have
                yelled. I'm just a little nervous.'
                She sat next to him in bed. The uniform conformed tightly to
                her wide, child-bearing hips, giving him a shock of pleasure, an
                instantaneous glow.
                `This has been the most agonizing week in my life, Sheila.
                And. . . I. . . How shall I say?'
                `Have you ever been to the Bahamas?'
                `No. Why?'
                `I have a place down there, and its on the ocean, and I
                thought it would be nice to have your around. You're awful nice.'
                He took her hand gently into the warmth of his hand and kissed her
                above the wrist. `Don't answer,' he said, the limpness of her
                fingers telling him that she was unalarmed. `Think about it for a
                `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
                leave immediately.'
                `Did you talk with them?'
                `No I didn't,' he answered, grimacing. It seemed an absurd
                question to ask. `Considering Vince wants to grease me, I didn't
                think there was much to say. The lines have been drawn.'
                `Ah, they're probably just harassing you. I wouldn't worry
                about it.'
                Giovanni could see that the politeness was a form of
                patronage. Terry Hellman was the District Attorney and he was
                speaking with a kind of aloof poise that suggested he was in no mood
                to strike a deal.
                `I think you know, Terry, I was not in possession of myself
                when I informed on Vince. I was rambling and incoherent.'
                `I empathize for you, truly I do. But what was said was
                said. What do you want me to do about it? Why are you calling?'
                `I need diplomatic immunity and I'll do whatever it takes to
                get it.'
                `You have to earn diplomatic immunity.'
                Giovanni knew that. He could blow the lid off a number of
                criminal rings, one of which was in the D.A.'s own office. But Gio
                would not do that. He did not need enemies. He need alliances.
                `I have tangible evidence that shows Vince Serenghetti
                financed terrorist activities in Italy.'
                `What else?'
                `Vince is sponsoring the Black Shirts. I can link him with
                the fire bomb explosion that blew up a Red hideout in Venice.'
                `You already made that clear. You rambled that off two days
                ago. And I filed a report with the CIA. What else do you know?'
                `I know how he came up with the money. The document I have
                can trace the money back to the bank account he uses to launder drug
                money. Time is something I don't have much of, unless you give me
                the diplomatic immunity. I need to disappear, fast. Then I can tell
                you everything you need to know.'
                `You'll have to excuse me, Mr. Migliazzo, but I was not aware
                that you were in any kind of position to know this information. My
                question to you is, how? How is it that you know about Vince's drug
                activities? Are you engaged in criminal activity?'
                `In no way,' he lied.
                `Then what's your connection to the Italian Mafia?'
                `They lease one of my warehouses.'
                `And so while they were there, at your warehouse, they lost
                some incriminating evidence?'
                `It's not that simple,' Gio said.
                `Then how did you get the document? Did it magically appear
                in your hands?'
                It was Elizabeth who showed him the document. It was
                Elizabeth who uncovered the political wrestling match that the Black
                Shirts and the Reds fought in their struggle to achieve domination
                over Italy's political infrastructure. It was Elizabeth and Father
                Nicholas who met Giovanni at Saint Mark's Cathedral and showed him
                intelligence documents that linked Vince Serenghetti to drug-money
                being used to finance terrorist activity. But he would not snitch on
                `Give me twenty-four hours. I need to go to my apartment,
                make a few calls, and collect my thoughts. By this time tomorrow,
                I'll have the document.'
                `Then when the document is in my hands, we'll work at making
                your disappear. Until then you're on your own.'
                `Twenty-four hours. I'll see you then, at your office.'
                `Good-by and good luck.'
                Giovanni now stood outside the booth. Being among the
                pedestrians and automobiles produced an inconspicuous feeling of
                being lost in the anonymity of the crowds. No one appeared to be
                following him. He pushed up his collar and distanced himself from
                the hospital before haling a cab.
                Upon returning to his apartment this evening he found that it
                had been ransacked; the tables overturned, art-work smashed and lying
                on the floor; the furniture ripped; and as a final humility, somebody
                had defecated on his bed. He threw a sheet over the mattress, then
                retreated into a walk-in closet. Underneath a shoe rack was a Smith
                and Wesson and box of hallow point bullets. He thrust the gun to the
                front pocked of his trench coat and left the apartment without hope
                of returning.

                Chapter Ten, "Sirius Chronicles," copyright 2002. Mathew Morrell.
                All rights reserved.
              • Mathew Morrell
                Mark and Elizabeth stayed up with Ed during his first night in the sanitarium. All night he slipped in and out of consciousness, sometimes cracking open his
                Message 7 of 11 , Sep 18, 2002
                  Mark and Elizabeth stayed up with Ed during his first night in the
                  sanitarium. All night he slipped in and out of consciousness,
                  sometimes cracking open his eyes, sometimes lifting his head from the
                  pillow and sometimes looking up at the ceiling and smiling as if
                  showers of red rose petals rained from the sky. With each new sign
                  of life he made, Elizabeth's entire countenance would change in
                  emotional hue, going from elation and from elation to sorrow when he
                  fell asleep again and slipped back into his private, inchoate,
                  psychological underworld. Mark sat on one side of the bed, Elizabeth
                  on the other, hoping he would regain consciousness, moreover
                  expecting he would, yet he lay there showing no signs of
                  intelligence; rather a mindlessness vegetal life. He had fallen into
                  a coma not long after drinking the Red Lion elixir, and now a sort of
                  dim, gray, etheric sheen hovered about his physical embodiment. This
                  was his aura and it was growing weaker, less crystalline and
                  colorless. The luminary brilliance of his Manas organization was
                  pulling further away from his organic self, pulling, they thought,
                  upward into the devachanic planes.
                  By dawn they were exhausted. Gently Mark spread a black,
                  embroidered shawl over her shoulders, tucked it neatly around her
                  neck, and gripped her arm so as to coerce Elizabeth from the bed
                  side. Ed's eyes shuttered almost imperceptively in their sockets;
                  but he did not awaken from the trance, and eventually Elizabeth
                  followed Mark outside into the cold.
                  A chilly dawn wind brushed over their faces. The streets
                  were wet from rain, the air moist, and the atmosphere at this early
                  hour not quit dark and yet not bright enough to trigger the street
                  lamps overhead. All that remained of last night's fog and the rain
                  were broken clouds. The clouds blew in from the coast, at first
                  thick and dense as they drifted overhead, but as morning drew near
                  the nocturnal sea-breezes pushed them onwards into the dark western
                  horizon. The last remaining clouds floated across the horizon, blood
                  red in the dazzling spectral colors tinting the horizon. On the ride
                  up town, in the early morning traffic, she leaned her shoulder
                  against the door and closed her eyes as the wind blew against her
                  face. Soon, her guilt subsided into the relaxation. Her breathing
                  became light and her thoughts moved lucidly in orbiting circles round
                  a central idea looming large in her conscience; and that thought was
                  how to save Ed.
                  The cab slowed gradually but turned sharply towards the curb
                  running adjacent to Central Park. Up the road a little was the
                  Metropolitan Museum of Art
                  `It's $7.55,' the driver said.
                  Mark handed him a ten over the dividing seat.
                  `Keep the change.'
                  `Thank you. Have a nice day.'
                  Elizabeth opened the door, and all at once the freshness of
                  the morning breeze swirled up and around her light, loose-fitting
                  sundress. Climbing out of the cab was like having crawled from a
                  dark cave and becoming suddenly conscious of the breadth and width of
                  the sky. The open breeze and blue sky brought an instantaneous
                  feeling of expansion, a sense of purity and calm, followed by a
                  realization of inner freedom; and suddenly her mind seized to be
                  malicious; it seized to be angry or vengeful, and all her spite
                  towards her grandfather vanished. She and Mark meandered off into
                  the park onto a pathway shaded from above by trees whose naked boughs
                  were still bare from winter and whose brown, spindly, bud-covered
                  branches cast moving shadows. The buds looked like fat, green
                  cocoons, whereas the oaks, the maples and the cottonwoods--all in
                  full bloom and exploding with leaves--shuttered in the breeze. The
                  Japanese Cherry trees, also in full bloom, unleashed pink flower
                  blossoms into the gusts of wind. A petal-filled gust blew in
                  swirling motions over Belvedere Lake, where a toy boat glided over
                  the surface of the lake across the flakes of sunlight tip toeing
                  towards the lemon yellow sun. Mark threw a pebble across the water
                  and the flakes splashed like molten gold.
                  A slope in the landscape rose up onto another field. On the
                  way up the slope, as the field came into view, Elizabeth remembered a
                  dream. A firecracker-light popped in her mind, colors swirled, and
                  the dream came unglued from her memory.
                  `Oh!' she said as they walked. `I had a dream last night! I
                  just remembered.'
                  `What was it like?'
                  `It was great,' she said, and was about to explain the dream,
                  but one remembrance trailed quickly behind another, too quickly for
                  her to follow; and out of frustration, she picked up a long, fat
                  stick lying on the ground, and swung it through the air. Even though
                  she experienced the dream in detail, her thoughts could not reflect
                  the totality of the experience without fumbling her words. `Oh
                  darling,' she kept saying with the stick in her hand, `I can't tell
                  you how great it was. It was beautiful, you see. You won't
                  `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
                  insects? Insectologists?'
                  `I'm not sure.'
                  He did not seemed to be listening anymore, for he was
                  entirely focused on the grasshopper cupped in his hand.
                  `Insects are just plain strange,' he said, then opened his
                  palms. The grasshopper sprung; its grayish wings chattered as it
                  flew. `They're world,' he said. `It must be one of amazing
                  vitality. Bugs always chattering at night, always flying and buzzing
                  about, eating this and that, copulating, laying eggs, making hives.'
                  `Bugs are really into life!'
                  `An insect lives so intensely, they must look down on us and
                  think we live in slow motion. I wonder if, indeed, they do see a
                  higher vibration.'
                  `I wonder,' said Elizabeth. `I think people who study
                  insects are called insectologists.'
                  `No. They're called Scientologists.'
                  `No!' Elizabeth laughed, and dropped her stick on the
                  ground. Central Park West was a mere three strides away and across
                  the street was the Bell Tower Apartment building.

                  Upon returning to her home, at six o'clock this morning, they
                  looked down at Central Park from her vine-entwined balcony on the
                  seventeenth floor, and sipped hot tea. They stood with their hips
                  leaned against the railing and gazed out over the morning mist
                  extending over the pathways, the lakes, the theaters, the ball parks,
                  all interspersed within the park's three-mile boundary.
                  Mark raised his mug, blew away the steam, and took a small,
                  cautious drink before setting it down again. Elizabeth said:
                  `The tea. . . it's good. . . this morning, isn't it? Is
                  yours too hot to drink?'
                  `It's a little hot.'
                  `Would you like some cream to cool it down?'
                  `I'm fine, sweet heart.'
                  `Just say so, and I'll get you some,' she said, the shawl
                  wrapped around her shoulders; and her long, nervous fingers, always
                  busy, pruned a dry, brown, brittle leaf from a vine. The wind
                  whipping at this height blew the leaf from her open palm. As the
                  wind swirled, and as the leaf drifted, an underlying pattern in
                  nature revealed itself. Her eyes dashed to and fro as the leaf rose
                  and fell, wavered and sunk in the circular ripples, the bulging
                  flows, the whirlpools and eddies swallowing the sky's continuous
                  identity. `There sure is something about the way the wind blows,'
                  she said in her dazed flowerchild voice.
                  `And that something is profound,' he whispered in return; for
                  he too had watched the leaf. They did not feel Ed was insane. They
                  felt he was suspended, as they leaf was, in a pocket of stillness
                  that only on the surface seemed lifeless and inanimate. Such was the
                  psychic similarity of their thoughts that they sipped their tea at
                  the same time, swallowed, and sighed as they gazed at the open space,
                  thinking the same thought, their mind's pondering this omnipotent
                  field dynamic. In the sky, each wind expressed its own, emphatic,
                  individual character, yet without diminishing the infinite quality of
                  the whole.
                  `The sky is like millions of beating, pulsing, spirals
                  coiling and un-coiling in one big spiral,' she said, her face
                  squinting into the sun, its light warming her face, and the blue
                  expanse burning blood red around the sun's hot, molten sphere. Her
                  thoughts followed the freest possible orbit, flickered and fluttered
                  from one idea to another, yet this was no Freudian exercise in free
                  association. `The wind is nature's ballet,' she went on. `Based on
                  divine geometry. It is a self-perpetuating mathematics composed of
                  moving etheric shapes, spirals within spirals, flowing lines, that
                  enfold and un-fold into each other yet are constantly changed. One
                  innovation of classical ballet is that it involves the whole body,
                  not just the arms and legs in the flow of movement. The lines are
                  elevated. The ballerina is raised to her toes. All her lines and
                  angles, from her pointing slippers to the tips of her fingers, are
                  extended to their maximum degree of freedom. The difficulty is
                  coordinating and balancing these lines. If your center of gravity is
                  too low, your arms hang like Balanchine robots. If your center is
                  too high, your arms swing like wet strands of spaghetti. Your turn-
                  out must be broadcast over the entire body. Few dancers every truly
                  find their moving center. When they do, there's something magical
                  about them, something majestic that can't be touched, that's looks
                  weightless, ethereal and other worldly.' Elizabeth moved toward his
                  side of the balcony and pressed her hands against his flannel shirt
                  struggling to control her driving emotions. `Mark,' she said, `how
                  other-worldly do you think I can get?'
                  `You're asking me,' he said, thrilled by her analogy. `I
                  would say the highest heaven. If that's what you mean?'
                  `That's exactly what I mean.'
                  `Going out of body?'
                  `To search for Ed in conceptual hyperspace.'
                  Again, she tried to explain this `space', this Platonic Idea
                  Realm; and again managed only to fumble her words as clumsily as she
                  did earlier this morning when reliving her journey to Sirius. A
                  precise, linguistic definition of Sirius was beyond her and her
                  ability to describe it. Its queer spiral mathematics and its non-
                  linear flow of time seemed beyond all physical description. To her,
                  Sirius was a mental vacuum branded in the Soul of the World, and
                  could not be limited to Newtonian definitions. It was a soul-
                  spiritual dimension entrenched in the collective un-conscious, too
                  magnetic to be merely a dream world, too sublime to be an
                  abstraction, infinitely complex, yet simple enough to be beheld by
                  the meekest soul. Elizabeth found her pointing slippers where she
                  left them last night, in her duffel bag, along with her leotards, a
                  jacket and a pair of sneakers. She and Mark took the elevator down
                  to the lobby later this morning then departed with a kiss and a
                  promise to meet each other for lunch at the Agon Cafe.

                  The ABT studio was a refurbished, four story building on
                  W.78th Street. The top floor had been gutted-out and replaced by a
                  wide, un-interrupted dance floor several times larger than a normal-
                  sized stage; a long line of street-facing windows gushed sunshine.
                  Through the luminous beams sprung five, shirtless male dancers and
                  five ballerinas that included Elizabeth in her black leotards. Her
                  feet alighted on the floor, but the energy in the leap did not
                  evaporate; it spiraled out into a rapid series of chaine turns. The
                  mental stress Ed had collapsed under last night was the same inner
                  tension Elizabeth built up into explosion of joy. Her energy as she
                  danced seemed limitless. From her own inner battery of power she
                  tapped into the profound physical exaltation of the music being
                  played, Offenbach's Gaite Pariseinee. It was a piece that always
                  made her smile.
                  Rehearsals lasted all morning. The mood was serious but not
                  morose and there was much laughter and shouting, occasionally angry
                  shouts on account of the difficulty of the ballet and the frustration
                  of learning it. The chaine-turns after the leap seemed impossible.
                  Giovanni Migliazzo was a secret, un-noticed spectator observing
                  rehearsals from the top of the staircase; although his face was pale
                  and sickly, his skin yellowish, from his submerged eyes came a flash
                  of glee. It was a joy to see Elizabeth dance. The music was comedic
                  and all the little staccato rhythms seemed to bounce under her feet,
                  tiptoe, prance, leap, spin like a clown. Strange, new, surprising
                  shapes constantly unfurled from her body ---and her arms seemed to
                  blossom from nowhere. Giovanni took one final step from the
                  staircase, up onto the edge of the level floor, dressed incognito in
                  a black trench coat, and nearly un-recognizable in his wide-brimmed
                  hat, which fit low to his brow and shadowed his eyes. He was in
                  hiding and did not want to be detected. His reflection in the long
                  line of mirrors remained un-noticed by everyone save for Elizabeth,
                  who evidently recognized him, yet continued dancing until rehearsals
                  came to a close. The music stopped and the emotional pressure in her
                  body hissed slowly from her limbs, hissed like a balloon leaking
                  air. Her foot lowered onto the floor; her arms fell to her side,
                  deflated. Then she spun away from his reflection in the mirror and
                  saw him standing there looking helpless and hopeless.
                  By then it was the lunch hour. The dancers were exhausted
                  and breathing deeply. They walked off the dance floor with their
                  hands resting on their hips. Sweat beaded their chests and arms.
                  They congregated by the water cooler; but Elizabeth did not join
                  them. Coyly she slipped over towards the equipment closet, grabbed a
                  shawl, her sneakers and a towel which she slung over her shoulder
                  after wiping her face. Her coyness was due to Giovanni's presence.
                  She could not believe he was reckless enough to show himself in a
                  public place.
                  `You idiot,' she whispered when she met him at the
                  staircase. `What are you doing here?'
                  `I'm in trouble.'
                  `I know, I heard. Some one will see you. Let's go somewhere
                  where we can speak.'
                  Giovanni followed her down the staircase, which descended
                  four flights. The shawl was black in color, made from a light-weight
                  nylon material, and served as a skirt when she tied it around her
                  waist. The staircase terminated on the first floor.
                  `I read the paper,' she said in the hallway. `Are you mad?'
                  `I must have been, sweet heart, because, if I was sane at the
                  time, believe me, I would not have snitched on the Vince Serenghetti.'
                  `You seem fine now. I mean, it looks like you're recovering.'
                  `Just say it, I look like hell.'
                  `You look like hell.'
                  `I feel quiet well, considering. Last night I found my
                  apartment in ruin. The Mafia trashed the place. Somebody defecated
                  on my bed.'
                  `Man, they're doing a job on you. You should leave New York
                  for a while, maybe forever.'
                  `Which brings me to the reason I risked seeing you today. . .'
                  There was an empty classroom down the hallway. Elizabeth sat
                  on the piano bench and slipped on her shoes. Giovanni was saying:
                  `I spoke to the DA last night and promised him the documents
                  linking Vince Serenghetti to the Black Shirts. To do this, I need
                  you to give me the intelligence report you showed me a few weeks ago.'
                  `They're at Father Nicholas's apartment.'
                  `How about I meet you there, tonight, at eight o'clock?'
                  `Sure. Is that all?'
                  `I think so. I only hope I can escape New York in once
                  `Have you found out who assaulted you,' Elizabeth asked,
                  still tying her shoes.
                  `No, and I don't think that matters anymore. It could have
                  been anybody.'
                  `It must have been terrifying.'
                  `It's been a nightmare. A nightmare, Elizabeth. I don't
                  know how you got me into all this.'
                  `Yes, you.'
                  `Don't pin this one on me! I can't help that you shot off
                  your mouth.'
                  `I know, I know. I'm sorry for saying that. I'm too sick to
                  argue. All I want, now, is the documents. We should not fight so
                  `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
                  a doctor.'
                  `I'm going to a white, sandy beach in the Bahamas. I want
                  you to come with me.'
                  `Don't be a fool.' She let go of his shoulder and sat in a
                  stiff, upright posture, with her hands resting on her lap and her
                  legs drawn together so that her knee caps were touching. `Gio, you
                  should fade into the sun set.'
                  `I don't want to fade from you life. Visit me this summer,
                  won't you?'
                  `No, Gio.'
                  `Why? because I'm in love. After tonight, I don't want to
                  see you again. It wouldn't be prudent under the circumstances.'
                  `Elizabeth's in love.' He chuckled sarcastically. `Our
                  lives have taken quiet an unexpected turn. You're in love and I have
                  a contract on my head. Who could have imagined?'
                  `Don't get sentimental on me. Stay positive. If you want, I
                  can take the afternoon off. We could meet Nicholas at Saint Mark's
                  Cathedral and have this thing cleared-up in a couple hours.
                  `That long?'
                  `Yes, that long. You've seen the Red Files. They're huge.'
                  `All I need is the document pertaining to Vince, that's all.'
                  `I don't know where that document is. Besides, you don't
                  need one document. We need many. It may take at least an hour to
                  sift through the evidence and decide what information to blot out and
                  what to save. Of course, we must blot out all information on North
                  Star and any official who does not stand in a direct line between
                  Vince and the terrorist bombing.'
                  `What about Thomas?'
                  `We'll blot his name, too. That would be a requisite. His
                  name is on your bank deposit slips. I have a hunch he's the one who
                  defecated on your bed. That's something he would do. He's a low
                  `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.'
                  `I'm fine.'
                  `No, something is definitely wrong and you're not telling
                  me. What's going on? You seem shaken up.'
                  His sympathy for her was such that she felt free to tell him:
                  `Oh, god, Mark. A lot's going on. Do you think you can come
                  back to the city after you're finished talking with my grandfather?
                  Please say yes.'
                  `I'll come back. No problem.'
                  `Meet me in the nave at Saint Mark's Cathedral at 6:30. The
                  only thing I ask is that you tell no one about the meeting, not even
                  my grandfather, especially my grandfather. If fact, have the
                  chauffer drop you off down the block from the cathedral, in front of
                  the sanitarium. It's important that no one see you enter the nave.'
                  `What's this all about? Are you in trouble?'
                  `No, but Giovanni Migliazzo is. It's very complicated. I'll
                  explain it to you, tonight.'
                  `I'll be there.'
                  He finished his lunch and stood up from the table.
                  `I'll see you tonight, then, okay?'
                  `Bye, bye, Mark.'
                  He skirted past a buss boy carrying a tray of dirty dishes.
                  Outside the deli, the air was moist and fresh-smelling after last
                  night's rain. He slipped on his jacket and haled cab.

                  Chapter Eleven of 'Sirius Chronicles,' by Mathew Morrell. Copyright
                  2002. All rights reserved.
                • Mathew Morrell
                  Migliazzo spent several hours at the nurse s apartment and didn t return to the streets until it was late afternoon, when the traffic on the Lower East Side
                  Message 8 of 11 , Sep 25, 2002
                    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?
                    `Do you?'
                    `For certain,' he said.
                    `Tell me you love me.'
                    `I love you, I love you. Everything will be fine,' he kept
                    telling her. `Everything will be all right.'
                    `I love you Giovanni.'
                    `I love you to, sweet, and everything will work out like pie.'
                    After that her body fell away. That's what it felt like, at
                    least. There was a sneezing bang, at the same time an exploding
                    flash, a flash and a bang, and her body became heavy in his arms, too
                    heavy to support, and she slid through his arms. Indeed, she fell
                    straight down flat on her posterior. Then she rolled over on her
                    side ---a bullet hole plunged through the back of her head. It was
                    apparent by the way her eyes remained open that she was dead.
                    And it was Thomas Sinclair, the North Star psychic, who shot
                    her. He had appeared at the door's threshold bearing in his hand
                    a .357 pistol; extending from the barrel, the silencer had muted the
                    shot fired into a `sneeze' of air. Next he kicked the door closed
                    without lowering the piece. Nothing came out of Giovanni's mouth.
                    He felt paralyzed. Such was the horror of looking down the muzzle of
                    a .357 that everything else was an abstraction. His throat swelled.
                    All he managed to say was: `I didn't mean it,' his voice helpless
                    and desperate. `I, I, I, wasn't thinking straight when I snitched on
                    Vince. I wasn't thinking what snitching on Vince would do to you.
                    Please, just understand. Please.'
                    Thomas was expressionless. His long, blond hair hung
                    savagely over his shoulders; his face was stern, cold, devoid of
                    emotion; and his eye seemed lifeless, almost snake-like. When he
                    cocked the gun Giovanni jerked his head to the side expecting a blast
                    of heat and fire to explode into his face.
                    `Thomas! I don't have to give the DA the documents. I can
                    vanish, and pretend it never happened. What do you say, man?'
                    `Documents?' Thomas slackened his arm, so that the gun was
                    aimed above and not at Gio's head.
                    `The Red Files,' Gio added. The horror subsided into
                    uncontrollable shivers. `How in the hell did you get a hold
                    of the Red Files?'
                    `Yes how?'
                    `Through the Sinclair's.'
                    This time Thomas lowered the muzzle back in Giovanni's face,
                    adding: `Listen very carefully, now. If you have any moral scruples
                    about covering up for somebody, you better wake up. Understand?
                    I'll do it right here, right now.'
                    `Give me some time, please, I beg you.'
                    `I don't have time. Tell me where the Red Files are. Does
                    Elizabeth have them?'
                    Migliazzo bowed his head, shamefully.
                    `Thought so!' said Thomas. `Where is Elizabeth tonight?'
                    `She's. . .'
                    `Tell me! Where is that cunt?'
                    `Saint Mark's Cathedral.'
                    `And the Red Files?'
                    `They're also at the cathedral.'
                    `Then you can guess where we're going? We're going to walk
                    out that door and I am going to have a gun pointed at your back.
                    Don't think about doing anything stupid, I beg you. There's nothing
                    that would stop me from blowing a hole in your back.' Thomas's gaze,
                    more paralyzing than the gun itself, fixed upon him with devouring
                    intensity. Slowly, and while sustaining eye contact, Thomas slipped
                    the gun into his side pocket. Giovanni could have retaliated at that
                    moment, but did not. Through intimidation alone Thomas forced Gio
                    out the door and into the hallway. Still, Gio did not resist. For,
                    Thomas sustained a tight grip on the gun while it was buried inside
                    the pocket of his jacket, which was made from rattlesnake skin and
                    had two pockets deep enough to conceal the additional length of the
                    silencer. In the elevator, occupied by five other people, they
                    stood in the corner. Thomas's gaze sucked the life from him.
                    The door slid open. Thomas nudged Gio from behind. `Be
                    cool,' Thomas said as they stepped from the elevator, `or I'll grease
                    you. Stay cool. All right?'
                    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 know.'
                    `I say this so no one will be harmed, un-necessarily.'
                    `I'll take that into consideration. How much further?'
                    They were directly below the nave, in the basement, able to
                    hear the organ while they walked single file down a narrow corridor.
                    Cob webs trembled in their wake. The air was cool and wet, almost
                    too dark to see through, and there was the smell of burning fuel. At
                    the end of the corridor was the boiler room. It was noticeably
                    warmer there, and darker; concrete beam supports rose from the floor
                    to the rough-milled timbers forming the ceiling; exposed metal pipes
                    ran the length of the ceiling; the cold water pipes were sweating,
                    due to the warmth. All the pipes were connected to a rumbling cast
                    iron boiler.
                    Thomas was saying:
                    `This does not have to be bloody, Gio ---if you keep them
                    calm. But if she pulled the gun, I assure you it will be messy.'
                    `Elizabeth responds to reason and common sense. Violence
                    isn't necessary with her.'
                    The bare light blue glared over their heads. A white cotton
                    string was connected to the light bulb. Thomas pulled down on the
                    string. The light turned off, and the boiler room was thrown into
                    darkness. All that was visible was the slivers of lights shining
                    through the cracks of the doorway. The .357 was pressed against
                    Giovanni's back. Thomas was behind him, saying, in the dark: `Go
                    ahead, Gio, knock.' The rapping of his fist was followed by various
                    sounds on the other side of the door. They heard Elizabeth's
                    voice: `That's Gio,' and foot steps. But it was not Elizabeth who
                    appeared when the door was opened. The interior light inside the
                    apartment outlined the priest who showed himself in full frock, and
                    whose small, thin frame was bent over and hunchbacked. A pair of
                    reading glasses rested at the end of his nose.
                    `Giovanni?' the priest said, his voice tremulous in a way
                    that suggest the onset of Parkinson's disease. `Who's with you?'
                    `We're in somewhat of a predicament, here, Father. We need
                    to come in.'
                    `We need to come in?'
                    `Yes. We have some business to take care of.'
                    `I know you have business,' the priest said. `We've been
                    waiting for you. But we did not think you would bring anyone else.
                    It's un-called for.'
                    The priest did not move from the threshold. The rounded
                    rubber tip of his cane remained impaled into the light brown
                    carpeting underneath his feet. In spite of his enfeebled physical
                    appearance, he stood his ground and scrutinized them from over the
                    top of his reading glasses. Then Elizabeth appeared. She stood
                    behind the priest. Her face was blushed back to her ears.
                    `What's Thomas doing here?' she said. `Does my grandfather
                    know you're here? Have you broken you leash, Thomas?'
                    `I brought him with me,' Giovanni said. `I'm sorry
                    Elizabeth. I'm sorry Father. Please let us in and there won't be
                    any problems.'
                    `We can't do that, and you know it,' said Elizabeth. `This
                    is Nicholas's home. He is a priest, he is old, and nobody will barge
                    in on him as long as I'm around.'
                    `If North Star knows about us,' the priest said, `we'll have
                    to destroy the documents.'
                    `You'll do no such thing,' said Thomas, still standing behind
                    Giovanni. `You'll do what my boy, Gio, wants you to do.'
                    `Giovanni?' she said.
                    `I'm ill, and I'm exhausted,' said Giovanni. `Please, please
                    co-operate, and there won't be any problems.'
                    `Tell the primadonna why I'm here,' Thomas said. Giovanni
                    obeyed, saying:
                    `Elizabeth, Thomas wants the Red Files. I don't think that's
                    too much to ask.'
                    `Did my grandfather put you up to this?' she asked.
                    `As a matter of fact, he didn't,' said Thomas. `This
                    afternoon he fired me and hired your new boy.'
                    This time Giovanni spoke. `Please understand. If I hand the
                    Red Files over to the DA's office, Thomas is going down with Vince.'
                    `That's not my problem,' Elizabeth said.
                    `It is now!' yelled Thomas. The priest was shaking more
                    noticeably now that Thomas had broken his air of reserve. And now
                    Mark Sonntag appeared in the doorway, bearing a hand gun. It was
                    then that Elizabeth realized that Thomas Rose also had a gun; she
                    could not see it because Thomas remained behind Giovanni, whose
                    shoulders were rolled back as if Thomas was grinding the muzzle into
                    his mid-back.
                    `He's got a gun in my back,' Gio cried. `Don't shoot!'
                    `Put the gun down,' Thomas screamed.
                    Giovanni spat as he cried: `Play it cool. He's already
                    killed one person tonight.'
                    It was Elizabeth's gun that Mark aimed, a simple nickel-
                    plated Berretta pointed at Thomas's thin, long, pock-marked face,
                    which was half-exposed behind Giovanni's head. That left Mark a slim
                    target. He seemed to know that and didn't shoot; he merely stood
                    there, thinking while everyone was yelling. One twitch of my hand,
                    Mark thought, and the bullet could blast away Giovanni's cheek.
                    Thomas would recover and shoot back. Somebody would die. Thomas
                    would die but someone else would to, maybe rabbit. Mark Sonntag
                    lowered the gun after thinking it through. His arm fell to his side;
                    his thumb un-cocked the chamber. Then he bent his legs, knelt, and
                    laid the gun on the floor. Everyone was yelling except her. She
                    seemed on the verge of tears. Her face was sheet white. Her eyes
                    blood shot. Never give up your gun! she seemed to cry. Never give
                    up sovereignty!
                    Giovanni staggered into the low ceiling room beyond the
                    threshold, this being the living room. Directly above the ceiling
                    was the nave. The organ composition and its throb could be heard,
                    and felt, vibrating inside this small, low-ceiling apartment, which
                    was sparsely furnished, drab, yet clean and organized. Giovanni
                    pulled three rickety wooden chairs out from under a table that was
                    draped in a thin, white cloth that was actually a bed sheet that
                    served as a table cloth. On it was an open Bible and waxed covered
                    bottle of wine, from which rose a tapered candle stick. The dividing
                    wall, against which Gio pushed the chairs, separated the living room
                    from the tiny bedroom on the other side of the dividing wall. In
                    some places the wall paper was torn, revealing lath and plaster.
                    Hung on the wall was a religious print framed in gold-gilt molding,
                    and another print that was un-framed and tacked to the wall.
                    Elizabeth had, in her adolescent years, used the apartment as a
                    monastic retreat from the fast-paced frenzy of her dance career, and
                    spent countless hours lounging on the couch over against the wall.
                    The print, Botticelli's Birth of Venus, hung straight above the
                    chairs pushed against the dividing wall.
                    `Have a seat,' Gio told them.
                    `Why?' Mark asked.
                    `Just do it. Don't ask questions. Let's be cooperative.'
                    Mark, Elizabeth and the priest were huddled together; the
                    priest shivered. She wrapped her arm around him, pulled him close to
                    her side and comforted him with whispering words of reassurance.
                    Neither she nor Mark let go when Giovanni tried seizing the priest by
                    the arm.
                    `He's an old man!' she cried. `Leave him be!'
                    `Do as they say,' Thomas told Gio. `The old man isn't
                    sitting down, yet. I have a special job for him. It's the two
                    preppies I want tied up.'
                    Thomas had the .357 aimed at them from the kitchen. He was
                    standing behind the lime green counter top that divided the kitchen
                    from the living room; behind him was the stove. On the counter was
                    the Beretta.
                    `You, priest,' said Thomas, `where are the Red Files?'
                    `In the bedroom.'
                    `Are they all there? Every document?'
                    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.'
                    `I wasn't.'
                    `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
                    the penguin.'
                    Everyone watched Thomas bend over and pick up the kerosene.
                    They were all going to die. They would burn to death, if they
                    weren't shot, and there was no way out. Elizabeth slashed her head
                    to the side. Mark was staring at her. Unlike the rest he did not
                    seem panicked.
                    `If you set fire to the place, they'll die!' Gio yelled, and
                    slammed his fist on the counter top. He was in the kitchen. `You
                    said no one would be harmed, if we did what you said.'
                    Thomas released the kerosene and pressed his hand against the
                    bulge in his pocket.
                    `I don't like this new attitude of yours. Do as you're told.'
                    `I will not. Haven't you done enough?'
                    `For the love of God, please don't set fire my apartment,'
                    said the priest. His cane dropped to the carpet. He clutched
                    Thomas's jacket. `We'll do whatever you tell us to do. Please. I
                    beg you.'
                    `Sit down, priest.'
                    `No one will walk out of here alive, priest. Quiet yourself
                    and die with dignity.'
                    Giovanni charged towards the open doorway. Thomas raised the
                    gun, fired, and Giovanni collapsed somewhere behind the kitchen
                    countertop. `Adonai!' screamed the priest; his legs buckled, and he
                    fell on the carpet, wailing: `Adonai! Adonai! Adonai!', until
                    Thomas kicked him with his boot. The priest gasped for air. Still
                    yet, the organ composition, Gigout's Toccata, filtered down from the
                    nave. Giovanni was lying on his stomach, making feeble, crawling
                    movements. The slugglish, scrambling jerks of his outer extremities
                    crawled, however, without going anywhere. Blood issued from a deep
                    chestal wound and spread over the kitchen's linoleum floor. His
                    fingers clawed the floor again and again, and over and over the
                    organist played the same reiterating notes in concitato, the notes
                    surging, rising, falling, cresting in an endless circular rhythm,
                    round and round, like the circular rhythm of a merry-go-round. The
                    priest knelt at Elizabeth's feet and prayed. Now her eyes were
                    closed as well; her chin level, her back straight; as if she were
                    sitting in a ray of sunshine. The priest was saying: `To the Powers
                    vested in Heaven, I call upon thee to chariot our sister into the
                    womb of our Lord Father, Jesus Christ. . . .'
                    Giovanni Migliazzo no longer moved. Above his body, and
                    staring wildly down at the floor, Thomas held the pistol. The red
                    puddle enlarged underneath Gio's face and chest. A slaughterhouse
                    smell of blood filled the crime scene. Thomas slipped the gun into
                    his jacket, then set his cold, brown, reptilian eyes upon the priest
                    who finished his prayer by crossing himself and uttering Amen.

                    Chapter twelve, 'Sirius Chronicles,' by Mathew Morrell. Copyright
                    2002. All rights reserved.
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