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Sirius Chronicles.

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  • 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 1 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
      closet.'
      `Where, what closet? This place is a mansion. Can you
      imagine if you two got married? All this would be yours.'
      Mark folded the book close before laboring from the couch.
      He had a warm, earth-born, academic personality that was amiable, and
      easy to like, and completely free from neurosis. After retrieving a
      towel he tossed it to Ed and went into the kitchen. Ed followed him,
      asking:
      `Is Elizabeth here?'
      `No, but she should be here any minute. I might as well fix
      dinner.' Mark removed a bottle of wine from the cupboard and
      immediately handed it to Ed. `Have a swig.'
      `Good boy, I will.'
      `But don't drink too much.'
      `How much is too much?'
      `More than a glass.'
      `What?'
      Mark just smiled. The smile was wide and bright, with a lot
      of teeth.
      `Why?' Ed repeated.
      `I want your mind crisp and sharp tonight.'
      `Ah, come on!'
      Ed raised the bottle to his mouth and tilted his head back;
      bubbles blew to the top as he swallowed.
      `Really, Ed. I mean it,' and Mark took the bottle from
      him. `We have something to give you, and I don't want you slobbering
      drunk.'
      `What something?'
      `Just a little something.'
      Mark begun preparing a meal that did not require a fork to
      eat; black olives, toasted pita bread, sliced cucumbers, walnuts,
      strips of smoked-dried salmon, finger food which he diced and
      arranged on a white, ceramic serving platter. For no other reason,
      other than it was pleasant to do so, Ed watched Mark prepare the
      meal. Copper pots and pans hung in the air above the butcher block
      where Mark stood, his head bowed as he chopped the cucumber.
      `Elizabeth`s grandfather dropped by last week,' Mark said.
      `What's he up to?'
      `Not much. He gave us something and he wanted us to give it
      to you.'
      `Me?'
      `Yes, you. That's the reason I asked you to come over
      tonight.'
      Ed blushed in embarrassment. `What is it?'
      `You'll have to see it for yourself.'
      Ed had never met Mr. Sinclair before, and gifts, in general,
      made him uncomfortable. They lowered a defensive barrier he used to
      protect himself from the endless troubles and perplexities
      surrounding human relationships. One of these perplexities was
      Elizabeth. She had returned from rehearsal in a relaxed,
      delightfully-exhausted mood that brightened the entire kitchen.
      `You have a beautiful home,' he said.
      `You like it?' Elizabeth dropped her duffel bag on the
      kitchen floor.
      `It's so far up, with so many painting, like a museum in the
      air. I see that you have a piano. Do you play?'
      Elizabeth shrugged her shoulder. `I play all right, I
      suppose.'
      `She can play brilliantly,' Mark said. `Don't listen to her.'
      The same engaging looking she gave Ed, all the sudden it
      flowered into an expression of sexual sweetness. They hadn't greeted
      each other yet.
      `Hi,' she said.
      `Hi, rabbit. Welcome home.'
      Mark set the knife on the butcher block and kissed her
      cheek. Then Elizabeth said:
      `Boy, do we have something in store for you tonight.'
      `I heard,' Ed replied. `Mark told me your grandfather
      dropped by and left something for me. What is it?'
      Mark slipped a sprig of dill in-between the salmon slices.
      `Let's eat first and then we'll open the present.'
      Elizabeth said good, because she was hungry and exhausted,
      and brushed her hand down over the light switch when leaving the
      kitchen and followed Ed and Mark into the living room instead of the
      dining room where she usually ate in seclusion. Her mind pondered
      vigorously and intently. I have as my friend Mark's pal. Ed is an
      artist. And I am an artist. And Mark is a writer, and I am a
      dancer. . . And Elizabeth wanted all of them to be very happy in
      their new lives
      Their faces were full of animation, now, as they assumed
      their places around the coffee table; the young scholar, in his tweed
      sports jacket, had placed the platter of food on the coffee table and
      then poured three glasses of wine. Elizabeth and Ed were cross
      legged on the Turkish rug, already eating.
      `The salmon's incredible,' Ed nodded.
      `Is it?' Mark asked.
      `And how!'
      `Sweet Ed, you're always there for a compliment,' Elizabeth
      said. `Ed went to the Van Gogh exhibit last week.'
      Mark patted his shoulder. `How was it?'
      `It was good. I had never seen Mademoisell in person.'
      Elizabeth raised her glass and offered a toast:
      `To Ed, Van Gogh, and the First Cause. May its creative
      silence fill our lives.'
      `I'll drink to that,' Mark said.
      `Me, too,' Ed added.
      They tapped glasses, and drank in unison. Afterwards Mark
      sat on the couch while Elizabeth and Ed remained cross-legged on the
      floor and did most of the eating of the carrot sticks and the salmon,
      but also the cucumber slices that were drenched in heavy, vinaigrette
      salad dressing, salt and peppered. Their hands were oily. Mark
      tasted the pickled mushrooms.
      `You're not hungry?' Elizabeth asked him.
      `No, I'm hungry. I was just thinking about something.'
      Ed wiped his mouth. `You see, that's your problem, Mark.
      You're always thinking. You need not do that so much. Live in the
      present. That's what I say.'
      `Man, that's some kind of advice,' was Mark's sarcastic
      reply, after which he chuckled and rolled his eyes at Elizabeth.
      This time she spoke:
      `Asking Mark to stop thinking, is like asking you, Ed, to
      stop feeling. It's not going to happen, not in this life time
      anyway.'
      The expression Ed made caused them both to laugh, but not Ed,
      who sat there chewing slowly, a blank, void look on his face; but it
      a void that could, at any second, ignite into a furry. Elizabeth
      did not know Ed MacIntosh that well, and was a little afraid of him,
      cautious, as she would be with a caged animal. But instead of being
      offended by Mark's sarcasm, all he did was smile drearily in his
      direction.
      `The two of you should get along just fine,' Ed said in his
      bland, nasal, Mid-western accent. `You two are a perfect couple.'
      Elizabeth hugged him. `You still love us, though, right?'
      `Sure,' he said.
      `Because we love you.'
      `Well I love you to,' he said, disarmed by her hug, and
      blushing back to his ears.
      He was miserable until she released him and reached for
      silver key lying on the coffee table. Also on the coffee table was
      a small box made of fragrant rosewood, trimmed in gold and lacquered
      to shiny smoothness. Ed stood on his knees. For, Elizabeth had
      inserted the key and opened the box. He had become aware of a
      shinning glass crucible inside the box's velvet interior.
      `What, in God's name, is that thing?' he asked.
      `This is it,' Mark answered. `This is what we wanted to give
      you.'
      `Let me see it.'
      Elizabeth demanded he be careful. He reached for it, but
      Elizabeth caught his wrist and didn't let go.
      `If you drop it,' she said coldly, `I'll kill you. Do you
      understand?'
      `I won't drop it.'
      `It's value is priceless. Be careful, please!'
      Ed took it from her and stared, baffled. The glowing content
      of the vile confused him, visually. He did not know how to
      acknowledge it. He had no clue whether the elixir was clear or
      black. The tiny grain of light suspended in the fluidic compound,
      piercingly bright and yet remote, shined as if from a great
      depth. `This is not at all what I expected,' Ed said without knowing
      what the substance was, but guessed it was a novelty. `The grain of
      light in the middle reminds me of a star. Tell your grandfather,
      thanks. Or, should I write him a letter?'
      `I don't think that will be necessary,' Mark said.
      `No. I want to. This is really cool. I reminds me of
      outerspace. How come I can't see through the liquid? Yet, I see the
      star in the middle? Wow. How could that be?'
      `Sunlight is everywhere in the galaxy, Ed, but if light falls
      on nothingness then light looks like nothing. That's why outer space
      appears black.'
      `Yes. I see. Outer space is not black at all!'
      `Outer space,' Mark went on, `looks black because the outward
      eye is incapable of seeing light in its purest state. The outward
      eye can only see the reflection of light. It cannot see light. Ed,
      when you drink that elixir, you will have a complete grasp of this
      anomaly. You will see light on a different level.'
      `What do you mean, `When I drink the elixir?''
      Elizabeth said: `Just that. You're going to drink that
      stuff.'
      `Come on,' Ed said. `What the elixir for? Is it a novelty?'
      `No, it's not a novelty,' Mark answered. `It's called the
      Red Lion. Mr. Sinclair spent a great deal of time and energy in its
      development.'
      Ed's fingers relaxed, and for a moment the vile almost rolled
      from his hand. Elizabeth squinted meanly. The wiccan glean of her
      cold blue eyes reminded him of the elixir's value.
      `You guys are serious, aren't you?' he said. `Is it a drug.
      If it is, you can say so. I'm open.'
      Mark shook his head, giggling boyishly. Ed conveyed a level
      of bewilderment that seemed almost metaphysically helpless.
      Elizabeth threw her arms around him and hugged him like a big sister.
      `You're so sweet, Ed. I love you so much.'
      `The Red Lion is something far more subtle than a mere drug,'
      Mark said. `And far more wonderful! Drugs stimulate the brain at
      the expense of incapacitating or depressing another region of the
      brain. Cocaine, for instance, has an inhibitory effect on the brain
      that interferes with the brain's normal destruction of a specific
      peptide causing euphoria. With the Red Lion, there's none of that.'
      Ed asked Mark: `Say it as it is, Mark. Will I see things?'
      `No. There is no high. You'll be able to exert your will.'
      `No high?' Ed asked.
      `No.'
      `Me and Mark drank it,' Elizabeth said, `and we didn't see
      anything unusual.'
      Everything they had said so far about the will, and about how
      the will was connected to perception, sunk into Ed's half conscious
      thoughts. He went over and sat on the edge of couch, and stared
      through the vile at the elixir. The elixir smothered his hand in a
      radiant light. Then he raised the vile to eye level and marveled
      over the white pin point of light floating into the elixir. The cork
      had been removed; and the elixir, he found, after sniffing it, was
      odorless, almost gaseous in appearance; and when he finally drank the
      substance, he found it was also tasteless. Drinking it was similar
      to swallowing an exceptionally dry, tasteless shot of vodka. The
      liquid left no impression in his mouth; and yet he felt a certain
      smoothness quality spread over his tongue and vanish somewhere down
      his throat. Ed lowered the vile from his mouth thinking the white
      star was probably floating like a fire fly among the pulp and
      vegetable juices digesting in his stomach.
      `Nothing to it, is there?' Elizabeth asked.
      Ed shook his head slowly. `Everything appears normal.'
      `The white star is assimilating into your body as we speak,'
      Mark said.
      `If is is, I can't feel it.'
      `I told you it was easy!' Elizabeth pealed his fingers from
      the vile and place it back into the box.
      `What did you guys feel when you first took it?' Ed asked.
      `Nothing,' Mark answered. `As you said, everything appeared
      normal.'
      Ed combed his fingers through his hair. The disorganized
      mess of food arranged on the vegetable platter produced a hyper-real
      impression of normalcy. All that was left of their meal was three
      slices of cucumber. The sprigs of dill were soggy. Scattered
      precariously over the center of the coffee table were wild flowers
      and yellow dandelions that begun to show signs of wilt; and yet their
      colors seemed deeper and rich in the death process. Elizabeth
      slipped an orange marigold behind her ear.
      `Here, let me show you something,' Mark said. `See that vase
      of flowers to the right of your Wheatfield painting?'
      `Yes.'
      `Stare at it.'
      `Stare at it? That's all?'
      `Don't just stare at it. Stare as though you're painting
      those flowers. Focus a beam of concentration as if you were throwing
      a dart at the vase. Penetrate the vase with your mind. Don't stare
      at it passively, or nothing will happen.'
      Ed straightened his back and assumed an attentive, upright
      posture, then did what Mark told him to do: stared at the flowers as
      though he intended to paint them. Yellow bearded irises, wild
      orchids, rugosa roses and three bent stalks of dried, golden, winter
      wheat, stood in the glass vase, through which he could see the crisp,
      green stalks and thorny stems. The moment his mind framed the shapes
      the result was immediate. His mind responded to the act of
      concentration as it normally did when he painted. The synapses in
      his brain seemed to light up his skull as if connecting his mind to a
      heightened power source. However, this was nothing new. The world
      appeared relatively normal.
      `I think I know what you're saying,' he told them, but his
      hesitant tone suggested otherwise. He leaned forward onto the edge
      of the couch, receptive to a certain aura of brightness surrounding
      the flowers. `I see a light, I think.'
      `You think?' Mark said.
      `Yes, I think. I'm not quit sure. I see an aura around the
      flower, but I don't see it.'
      `That's astral light!' Elizabeth said.
      `Is is? Are you sure?'
      `Of course I`m sure. You don't really see it in the outward
      sense. Astral light is the recognition that comes from understanding
      that all things possess a spark of God, that all things are alive,
      possess a soul, which dwells in the spiritual.'
      `Keep trying,' Mark told him. `You'll get it. Just take
      your time and relax.'
      Ed straightened his back against and redoubled his effort,
      although this time he rejected their suggestions, blocked them from
      his mind, and followed his own artistic instinct. He sought after
      that certain perspective that makes a painting a masterpiece, a
      certain angle through which to pour his conscious energies, a point
      of view that could be anywhere based upon how the colors, the forms,
      the light intersected in his mind. When he found this angle the
      flowers framed themselves in his mind as if Nature, in her radiance,
      offered the bouquet for his timeless enjoyment. The dried stalks of
      wheat, each dry and feeble, arched like thin gold brush strokes.
      From the effulgent mass of flowers protruded one irregular shaped
      pale-purple orchid. The gorgeous purple hue, a creamy, tropical
      purple, mingled with the red in the roses, the purple in the irises,
      until all the colors and all the flowers seemed to expand into each
      other and form a blazing picture in the center of his head. The
      astral realm came into view. And gradually, as he lowered his eyes
      towards the coffee table, every detail in his surroundings seemed to
      hold incredible importance. A walnut lying on the table seemed more
      than just a walnut; its hard, outer shell, wrinkled and light brown
      in color, was a world unto itself. It was a pleasure to explore with
      his eyes every detail coalescing, piece by piece, around him; the
      hallowness of their empty wine glasses seemed radiantly transparent;
      a glint of light reflected off a silver knife blade. His Dutch
      Protestant school of art was based on the belief that the glories of
      the great equaled the glories of the small.
      `You look beautiful,' Elizabeth told him.
      He looked up and saw, flickering across their faces, bright
      iridescent radiations beaming joy and price. Mark patted his back.
      `Welcome to the world of the visionary,' Mark said. `What do
      you feel like?'
      `I feel at peace,' he said. `But a little afraid, too.'
      `Don't worry; the floor won't drop away, I assure you. Relax
      and have faith.'
      But Ed had no intention of surrendering to fear. Instead, he
      willfully and consciously heightened his level of perception by
      focusing his mind all the stronger on the electrical-magnetic tension
      within his body, especially pronounced in the spinal column. The
      mere act of conscentrating on this inner energy increased the
      vivacity of the outer world; and when he projected his consciousness
      down towards the Turkish rug his identity seemed to merge with it,
      enlighten it, as it had enlightened the bouquette of flowers. The
      rug, too, seemed to possess its own dim, elementary form of
      consciousness. The radiant flow of energy coursing through his body
      was the same magnetic current he saw circulate through the floor,
      sparkle in the air, ultra-clear and vibrant. He saw this current
      enlighten the leather upholstry, saw it shine in the piano; saw its
      flame in the tree and the plants; and where these two horizons met ---
      the earth and heaven--- the leaves glowed like green, transparent
      crystals. Ed was ecastic. He felt as though he had discoved a
      distant galaxy, that had always been one small step away.
      `Ed, I think you should try to return to normal,' Mark
      said. `I know that may sound overly cautious, but the astral realm
      can do funny things to the mind if you linger in it too long.'
      `What do you mean return?' Ed asked. The thought seemed
      perposterous. `I have returned. This is it! This is what I've
      longed for.'
      Not only did the tree seem to vibrate at a heigtened
      frequency; space-time and everything in it shined above the dull
      lethargy of gross matter. The room glowed like a transparent star.
      `Everything is so clear and vibrant,' he went on. `It's like
      entering a painting.'
      `I'm encouraging you to pull back, too,' Elizabeth said,
      queer, manic trembles crossing Ed's face. `Have a drink, man. Eat a
      little, smoke a cigarette. You're acting freaky.'
      `I feel great!'
      The iridescent shine, the glitter, the sparkle to the plants -
      -- the air, golden and rosy --- filled him with wonder. There was
      the sense that, if the astral light outstripped physical matter, all
      the leaves would disintegrate into black, carbon dust. The light was
      the very psychic blood giving life to matter.
      `It pales in comparison to the real world,' Ed went on, the
      room growing brighter and brighter.
      `Come on, Ed!' Elizabeth cried. `You're slipping.'
      `I'm cool.'
      `No, you're not!'
      Somewhere Ed lost touch with the vision he started out with.
      The light itself, not the forms it imbued, grew brighter and brighter
      and consequently Elizabeth's voice became more and more distant, the
      room dimmer and dimmer, the air blinding, the light piercing, the
      light outstripping all physical forms; until, nothing was
      distinguishable anymore. The room, and everything in it,
      evaporated.
      MacIntosh fell face first onto the floor, and bloodied his
      nose of Elizabeth's carpet. His eyes rolled back into his skull; so
      that only the white's of his eyes were visible. The vitalism running
      wildly up and down his vertical nerve axis, up his spinal column,
      escaped his body and flooded his consciousness with a sweetness akin
      to near death. A cloud of mist vaporized from his flesh. He looked
      dead.


      Chapter nine,"Sirius Chronicles," copyright 2002. Mathew Morrell.
      All rights reserved.
    • mmorrell1
      It hadn t stopped drizzling. Beads of water fattened on the windowpane, next to which Giovanni stood, his nude body basked in shadows of raindrops streaking
      Message 2 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?'
        `Yes?'
        `What are you doing in there?'
        `I needed to go to the rest room, that's all.'
        He pulled the plug in the sink, then emerged from the
        restroom and saw her standing there in her white nurses uniform.
        After plunging his face into the towel, and rubbing vigorously, he
        handed her the towel. He was not in the mood to hear her grievances
        over his restroom habits.
        `You know you're supposed to call me when you need to go to
        the restroom,' she said.
        `I didn't want to trouble you,' he said, and was becoming
        aggravated.
        `But that's my job.'
        `I'll remember that next time.'
        `You should not even be out of bed in the first place.'
        `I feel fine for god sake. Leave me be,' he said, and moved
        towards the bed; again conscious of the pain; sick and exhausted but
        trying his best not to show it. `Are those two men still in
        hallway?' he asked.
        `Yes, they are. They've been there for an hour.'
        `Christ!'
        `Don't be mad, Gio. I'm only doing my job.'
        `I'm not mad at you. I'm mad at me. Now please, no more
        talking. I need to get to bed. Do you understand?'
        `Who are those men?'
        `Who are those men? Are you some kind of idiot? Who do you
        think they are?'
        The redness of her face grew dark at his outburst. She
        seemed stunned but not angry, and helped him with his nightgown to
        cover his nakedness. Once his head popped through the gown, and his
        arms were thrust through the sleeves, she cradled his legs and helped
        him into bed. This was a woman perhaps all too accustomed to a man's
        wrath.
        He rested the back on his head against the pillow, and stared
        at the drizzle beading on the window. There was a determined look on
        his face.
        She was about to shut off the light.
        `Don't leave Sheila.'
        `What is it? she asked, her hand underneath the lamp shade.
        `I'm sorry for snapping at you.'
        `That's all right. You don't have to be sorry.'
        `But I am. You've been very good to me, and I shouldn't have
        yelled. I'm just a little nervous.'
        She sat next to him in bed. The uniform conformed tightly to
        her wide, child-bearing hips, giving him a shock of pleasure, an
        instantaneous glow.
        `This has been the most agonizing week in my life, Sheila.
        And. . . I. . . How shall I say?'
        `Yes?'
        `Have you ever been to the Bahamas?'
        `No. Why?'
        `I have a place down there, and its on the ocean, and I
        thought it would be nice to have your around. You're awful nice.'
        He took her hand gently into the warmth of his hand and kissed her
        above the wrist. `Don't answer,' he said, the limpness of her
        fingers telling him that she was unalarmed. `Think about it for a
        while.'
        `I work the nigh shift, tomorrow. We can talk about it then.'
        He nodded in response, even though he knew, by tomorrow
        night, he would not be in the hospital. He would be dead or in the
        Bahamas. There was no sticking around New York. The Mafia was
        bearing down on him.
        Before turning off the lights she said, `Sleep well,
        Giovanni.'
        The lights went out.
        `Sheila?'
        `Yes?' she answered, outlined in the doorway.
        `Tell no one about the Bahamas. It's important that you
        don't.'
        `My lips are sealed. Good night, Gio.'
        `Good night, love.'
        After the nurse closed the door, and the room was thrown into
        darkness, he turned his head to the side; his cheek flush against the
        pillow, he listened to the wind blowing the drizzle against the
        window, and watched the beads of water growing fat and sliding down
        the glass. There were places in the Bahamas where life went on as if
        time stood still and where it would be a great pleasure to have
        somebody laying next to him on the white corral beaches. In Nassau,
        he had a bank account with enough money for a life time of sunsets,
        two life times, one for himself and one for Sheila. He threw the
        cover aside and grabbed the bed frame in order to resist the light
        headedness that came from rising too quickly to his feet. With luck,
        he thought, he could make it to Nassau in forty-eight hours. The
        account he had set up there was under a false identity and held the
        money that he had saved for his retirement, drug money which had
        trickled down from a sophisticated safety deposit arrangement he had
        set up within the Swiss banking system. The money was virtually un-
        traceable.
        Across from the bed was a dresser. He grabbed a pair of
        jockey undershorts, relieved at last to be taking action; the of
        Sheila on his mind, whisking her away from it all. He got dressed in
        a black suit, disregarding that the jacket was wrinkled and that it
        was not a tie that he particularly liked. Short of informing on
        Elizabeth, he would no whatever was required to stay alive, even if
        that meant informing on the Serenghetti crime family and receiving
        diplomatic immunity. Working with the police seemed the only
        sensible option to insure a safe passage to the Bahamas.
        He raised his leg over the sill and climbed through the
        window. His trench coat repelled the cool, mist-infused breeze
        blowing through the fire escape; beads of water pattered against his
        wide-brimmed hat. After closing the window he descended the ladder
        straight down for two stories; the wet, iron rails were cold against
        his palms and numbed his fingers by the time he reached the bottom.
        At the end of the alley the street was brightly illumined;
        and in the brightness the precipitation seemed less mist-like. The
        individual drops looked like molten silver flashing through the
        headlights. Down the block was a phone booth. The space inside lit
        up around him when he opened the door; then he dropped a dime in the
        slot, pointed his finger into the rotary, and dialed the numbers that
        were hand written on a slip of paper, which he held in his other
        hand.
        `I need to speak with Terry Hellman,' he said to whomever had
        answered the phone.
        `Speaking.'
        `This is Giovanni Miglizzo. You left me your phone number,
        and said you wanted to talk.'
        `Right, right, Giovanni. I didn't know if you would call or
        not.'
        `I'm talking from a phone booth,' he said, and switched the
        phone to his lift ear. The politeness of the man's voice un-nerved
        him. Gio said: "Two fellas from the Vince Serenghetti's gang were
        waiting in the hallway outside my room, so I thought I had better
        leave immediately.'
        `Did you talk with them?'
        `No I didn't,' he answered, grimacing. It seemed an absurd
        question to ask. `Considering Vince wants to grease me, I didn't
        think there was much to say. The lines have been drawn.'
        `Ah, they're probably just harassing you. I wouldn't worry
        about it.'
        Giovanni could see that the politeness was a form of
        patronage. Terry Hellman was the District Attorney and he was
        speaking with a kind of aloof poise that suggested he was in no mood
        to strike a deal.
        `I think you know, Terry, I was not in possession of myself
        when I informed on Vince. I was rambling and incoherent.'
        `I empathize for you, truly I do. But what was said was
        said. What do you want me to do about it? Why are you calling?'
        `I need diplomatic immunity and I'll do whatever it takes to
        get it.'
        `You have to earn diplomatic immunity.'
        Giovanni knew that. He could blow the lid off a number of
        criminal rings, one of which was in the D.A.'s own office. But Gio
        would not do that. He did not need enemies. He need alliances.
        `I have tangible evidence that shows Vince Serenghetti
        financed terrorist activities in Italy.'
        `What else?'
        `Vince is sponsoring the Black Shirts. I can link him with
        the fire bomb explosion that blew up a Red hideout in Venice.'
        `You already made that clear. You rambled that off two days
        ago. And I filed a report with the CIA. What else do you know?'
        `I know how he came up with the money. The document I have
        can trace the money back to the bank account he uses to launder drug
        money. Time is something I don't have much of, unless you give me
        the diplomatic immunity. I need to disappear, fast. Then I can tell
        you everything you need to know.'
        `You'll have to excuse me, Mr. Migliazzo, but I was not aware
        that you were in any kind of position to know this information. My
        question to you is, how? How is it that you know about Vince's drug
        activities? Are you engaged in criminal activity?'
        `In no way,' he lied.
        `Then what's your connection to the Italian Mafia?'
        `They lease one of my warehouses.'
        `And so while they were there, at your warehouse, they lost
        some incriminating evidence?'
        `It's not that simple,' Gio said.
        `Then how did you get the document? Did it magically appear
        in your hands?'
        It was Elizabeth who showed him the document. It was
        Elizabeth who uncovered the political wrestling match that the Black
        Shirts and the Reds fought in their struggle to achieve domination
        over Italy's political infrastructure. It was Elizabeth and Father
        Nicholas who met Giovanni at Saint Mark's Cathedral and showed him
        intelligence documents that linked Vince Serenghetti to drug-money
        being used to finance terrorist activity. But he would not snitch on
        her.
        `Give me twenty-four hours. I need to go to my apartment,
        make a few calls, and collect my thoughts. By this time tomorrow,
        I'll have the document.'
        `Then when the document is in my hands, we'll work at making
        your disappear. Until then you're on your own.'
        `Twenty-four hours. I'll see you then, at your office.'
        `Good-by and good luck.'
        Giovanni now stood outside the booth. Being among the
        pedestrians and automobiles produced an inconspicuous feeling of
        being lost in the anonymity of the crowds. No one appeared to be
        following him. He pushed up his collar and distanced himself from
        the hospital before haling a cab.
        Upon returning to his apartment this evening he found that it
        had been ransacked; the tables overturned, art-work smashed and lying
        on the floor; the furniture ripped; and as a final humility, somebody
        had defecated on his bed. He threw a sheet over the mattress, then
        retreated into a walk-in closet. Underneath a shoe rack was a Smith
        and Wesson and box of hallow point bullets. He thrust the gun to the
        front pocked of his trench coat and left the apartment without hope
        of returning.


        Chapter Ten, "Sirius Chronicles," copyright 2002. Mathew Morrell.
        All rights reserved.
        .
      • Mathew Morrell
        Mark and Elizabeth stayed up with Ed during his first night in the sanitarium. All night he slipped in and out of consciousness, sometimes cracking open his
        Message 3 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
          understand.'
          `Try.'
          `I saw mountains and everything was so real. I saw an
          angel. The angel. . . the sun. . . the sun was bright but wasn't
          hot. . . Oh shoot baby. . . No, I can't tell you how great it was.
          You don't understand.'
          `I do understand, rabbit. It sounds beautiful. What do you
          think it meant?'
          All she did was shrug her shoulders and look across the
          field. Her apartment building was in sight.
          `Surely, it meant something,' he said.
          `That's the thing. I don't think it meant anything. Jungian
          psychology only goes so far, you know. To me, Sirius is a non-
          symbolic location in consciousness, and it looks like an Ed MacIntosh
          painting.'
          She threw out her walking stick in front of her strides, and
          batted away a grasshopper so that her feet wouldn't crush it. It was
          sitting on a tuft of grass, wet with morning dew. All the sudden it
          leapt up and clung to her dress.
          `Get if off me!' she cried.
          Mark swept his palm across her dress and didn't release it.
          He held it in his hand.
          `It's just a little bug,' he said.
          `I know. It startled me, that's all.'
          `You're not afraid of grass hoppers, are you?'
          `Usually not, no. I thought they didn't hop in the morning,
          owing to the cold.'
          Mark smiled. There was something to her tone of voice that
          amused him. The tone did not correspond with the peasant simplicity
          of her summer dress nor her long straight hair hanging down her back,
          nor the old ladies shawl warming her shoulders. It was an exclusive
          voice bred for debutante balls and tea parties. `In fact,' she was
          saying, `I've always loved grasshoppers,' and thrust the stick
          forward in front of her strides. `Even though they spit that crude,
          brown, tobacco juice, which is impossible to clean in a wash,
          grasshoppers fascinate me. What do you call people who study
          insects? Insectologists?'
          `I'm not sure.'
          He did not seemed to be listening anymore, for he was
          entirely focused on the grasshopper cupped in his hand.
          `Insects are just plain strange,' he said, then opened his
          palms. The grasshopper sprung; its grayish wings chattered as it
          flew. `They're world,' he said. `It must be one of amazing
          vitality. Bugs always chattering at night, always flying and buzzing
          about, eating this and that, copulating, laying eggs, making hives.'
          `Bugs are really into life!'
          `An insect lives so intensely, they must look down on us and
          think we live in slow motion. I wonder if, indeed, they do see a
          higher vibration.'
          `I wonder,' said Elizabeth. `I think people who study
          insects are called insectologists.'
          `No. They're called Scientologists.'
          `No!' Elizabeth laughed, and dropped her stick on the
          ground. Central Park West was a mere three strides away and across
          the street was the Bell Tower Apartment building.

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

          The ABT studio was a refurbished, four story building on
          W.78th Street. The top floor had been gutted-out and replaced by a
          wide, un-interrupted dance floor several times larger than a normal-
          sized stage; a long line of street-facing windows gushed sunshine.
          Through the luminous beams sprung five, shirtless male dancers and
          five ballerinas that included Elizabeth in her black leotards. Her
          feet alighted on the floor, but the energy in the leap did not
          evaporate; it spiraled out into a rapid series of chaine turns. The
          mental stress Ed had collapsed under last night was the same inner
          tension Elizabeth built up into explosion of joy. Her energy as she
          danced seemed limitless. From her own inner battery of power she
          tapped into the profound physical exaltation of the music being
          played, Offenbach's Gaite Pariseinee. It was a piece that always
          made her smile.
          Rehearsals lasted all morning. The mood was serious but not
          morose and there was much laughter and shouting, occasionally angry
          shouts on account of the difficulty of the ballet and the frustration
          of learning it. The chaine-turns after the leap seemed impossible.
          Giovanni Migliazzo was a secret, un-noticed spectator observing
          rehearsals from the top of the staircase; although his face was pale
          and sickly, his skin yellowish, from his submerged eyes came a flash
          of glee. It was a joy to see Elizabeth dance. The music was comedic
          and all the little staccato rhythms seemed to bounce under her feet,
          tiptoe, prance, leap, spin like a clown. Strange, new, surprising
          shapes constantly unfurled from her body ---and her arms seemed to
          blossom from nowhere. Giovanni took one final step from the
          staircase, up onto the edge of the level floor, dressed incognito in
          a black trench coat, and nearly un-recognizable in his wide-brimmed
          hat, which fit low to his brow and shadowed his eyes. He was in
          hiding and did not want to be detected. His reflection in the long
          line of mirrors remained un-noticed by everyone save for Elizabeth,
          who evidently recognized him, yet continued dancing until rehearsals
          came to a close. The music stopped and the emotional pressure in her
          body hissed slowly from her limbs, hissed like a balloon leaking
          air. Her foot lowered onto the floor; her arms fell to her side,
          deflated. Then she spun away from his reflection in the mirror and
          saw him standing there looking helpless and hopeless.
          By then it was the lunch hour. The dancers were exhausted
          and breathing deeply. They walked off the dance floor with their
          hands resting on their hips. Sweat beaded their chests and arms.
          They congregated by the water cooler; but Elizabeth did not join
          them. Coyly she slipped over towards the equipment closet, grabbed a
          shawl, her sneakers and a towel which she slung over her shoulder
          after wiping her face. Her coyness was due to Giovanni's presence.
          She could not believe he was reckless enough to show himself in a
          public place.
          `You idiot,' she whispered when she met him at the
          staircase. `What are you doing here?'
          `I'm in trouble.'
          `I know, I heard. Some one will see you. Let's go somewhere
          where we can speak.'
          Giovanni followed her down the staircase, which descended
          four flights. The shawl was black in color, made from a light-weight
          nylon material, and served as a skirt when she tied it around her
          waist. The staircase terminated on the first floor.
          `I read the paper,' she said in the hallway. `Are you mad?'
          `I must have been, sweet heart, because, if I was sane at the
          time, believe me, I would not have snitched on the Vince Serenghetti.'
          `You seem fine now. I mean, it looks like you're recovering.'
          `Just say it, I look like hell.'
          `You look like hell.'
          `I feel quiet well, considering. Last night I found my
          apartment in ruin. The Mafia trashed the place. Somebody defecated
          on my bed.'
          `Man, they're doing a job on you. You should leave New York
          for a while, maybe forever.'
          `Which brings me to the reason I risked seeing you today. . .'
          There was an empty classroom down the hallway. Elizabeth sat
          on the piano bench and slipped on her shoes. Giovanni was saying:
          `I spoke to the DA last night and promised him the documents
          linking Vince Serenghetti to the Black Shirts. To do this, I need
          you to give me the intelligence report you showed me a few weeks ago.'
          `They're at Father Nicholas's apartment.'
          `How about I meet you there, tonight, at eight o'clock?'
          `Sure. Is that all?'
          `I think so. I only hope I can escape New York in once
          piece.'
          `Have you found out who assaulted you,' Elizabeth asked,
          still tying her shoes.
          `No, and I don't think that matters anymore. It could have
          been anybody.'
          `It must have been terrifying.'
          `It's been a nightmare. A nightmare, Elizabeth. I don't
          know how you got me into all this.'
          `Me?'
          `Yes, you.'
          `Don't pin this one on me! I can't help that you shot off
          your mouth.'
          `I know, I know. I'm sorry for saying that. I'm too sick to
          argue. All I want, now, is the documents. We should not fight so
          much.'
          `Well take care of the documents. But what about Thomas
          Rose?'
          `Thomas?'
          `Good Lord, you haven't thought about Thomas? He's the one
          you should fear. His name is all over the documents. He's the one
          who deposited the money for you.'
          Giovanni plopped down next to her on the bench. Elizabeth
          placed her hand on his shoulder to ease his strain.
          `Wherever you're going,' she said, `you need to hook up with
          a doctor.'
          `I'm going to a white, sandy beach in the Bahamas. I want
          you to come with me.'
          `Don't be a fool.' She let go of his shoulder and sat in a
          stiff, upright posture, with her hands resting on her lap and her
          legs drawn together so that her knee caps were touching. `Gio, you
          should fade into the sun set.'
          `I don't want to fade from you life. Visit me this summer,
          won't you?'
          `No, Gio.'
          `Why?
          `Why? because I'm in love. After tonight, I don't want to
          see you again. It wouldn't be prudent under the circumstances.'
          `Elizabeth's in love.' He chuckled sarcastically. `Our
          lives have taken quiet an unexpected turn. You're in love and I have
          a contract on my head. Who could have imagined?'
          `Don't get sentimental on me. Stay positive. If you want, I
          can take the afternoon off. We could meet Nicholas at Saint Mark's
          Cathedral and have this thing cleared-up in a couple hours.
          `That long?'
          `Yes, that long. You've seen the Red Files. They're huge.'
          `All I need is the document pertaining to Vince, that's all.'
          `I don't know where that document is. Besides, you don't
          need one document. We need many. It may take at least an hour to
          sift through the evidence and decide what information to blot out and
          what to save. Of course, we must blot out all information on North
          Star and any official who does not stand in a direct line between
          Vince and the terrorist bombing.'
          `What about Thomas?'
          `We'll blot his name, too. That would be a requisite. His
          name is on your bank deposit slips. I have a hunch he's the one who
          defecated on your bed. That's something he would do. He's a low
          life.'
          `It sounds like a huge task,' he said.
          `It is, but with three people working at it, we could
          probably get it done in two or three hours. Are you sure you don't
          want to get it out of the way this afternoon?'
          `No, I have business to take care of.'
          They left the classroom and went outside. The temperature
          had climbed into the mid-seventies and there were no clouds in the
          sky. Before parting, Giovanni re-affirmed their agreement:
          `I'll met you at the cathedral at six.
          `I'll be there, and Mark will to.'
          `Mark? No way. You're not brining Mark into this.'
          `I am bring him,' she said. `I want somebody on my side.'
          `Why?' Giovanni seemed insulted.
          `Because, I don't trust you. You're a bully.'
          `No,' he said. `I won't allow it.'
          `No, you will. Because he going to be there. You're not
          going to come into Nicholas's apartment and bully us around.'
          `Fine, bring Mark!'
          `You don't have to be mean, Gio.'
          `You don't have to bring Mark.'
          `Why do you have to be this way? Meet us at the cathedral,
          then just go away. Nothing more is required of you.'
          The two stood looking at each other, oblivious of the crowds
          rushing past them. The wordless, non-reproachful manner in which
          Elizabeth stood there, meek and humble, showed she was un-
          intimidated. Her warmth enveloped him. He dipped his head, and then
          walked away as if shamed and embarrassed. Never, in all their years
          together, had he raised his voice or yelled at her; he was known for
          his good humor, and too see this quality vanquished disturbed her.
          It was a bad omen.
          Across the street was the Agon Cafe. Inside it was packed;
          the room was filled with boisterous sounds of the heavy lunch-hour
          crowd. Covering the walls photographs of famous dancers: Margot
          Fonteyn, Nijinksy, Allegra Kent, Martha Graham. . . Mark was sitting
          at a table underneath a picture of Villella. As soon as they saw
          each from across the crowded room they waved. Suddenly, Elizabeth
          seized to feel frightened. She felt majestic with Mark. With Mark
          she was happy. He pulled out a chair, saying: `I hope you don't
          mind, but I ordered you a corn-beefed sandwich.'
          She sat. `I love corned beef.'
          `And a Coke. Here's your Coke. I didn't know if you liked
          Coke or not.'
          She sipped the Coke through the candy-cane striped straw
          sticking up from the paper cup. Her cheeks puckered. Then she bit
          the straw and gave him a look exuding admiration and awe.
          `You're great, Mark. Thanks for buying lunch.'
          `Your welcome, rabbit.' His big, workmen hands clutched a
          sandwich. He was seated opposite her, and took a hungry bite that
          filled his mouth. After swallowing he said: `What a morning I've
          had!'
          `Did you visit the sanitarium?'
          `Yes.'
          `How's he doing?'
          `The same. He wouldn't talk and was un-responsive. When he
          did open his eyes, nothing seemed to connect, and he would close them
          again.' Mark sipped his Coke. `I talked to your grandfather,
          Whitney. By the way, he was there at the sanitarium.'
          She seemed startled. `What was he doing there?'
          `Sitting with Ed. What's wrong?'
          `Nothing. I was just surprised. What did you guys discuss?'
          `Ed, mostly. Whitney invited me to his home this afternoon.
          Elizabeth, you didn't tell me he was clairvoyant.'
          `I suppose I haven't, have I, huh?'
          Mark laughed. `You're funny Elizabeth.'
          She reflected on his open face and bright, engaging smile.
          `I guess I've never thought of Whitney as a clairvoyant. To
          me, he just grand dad.'
          `He seems like an awesome personality, almost eerie. I'm
          supposed to be at his estate at 1:30. I hope you don't mind if I
          kick out of here early.'
          `No, I don't mind.' She stared down at her paper plate. She
          hadn`t taken one bite from her sandwich.
          `Are you sure you're all right?' he asked. `You seem sullen.'
          `I'm fine.'
          `No, something is definitely wrong and you're not telling
          me. What's going on? You seem shaken up.'
          His sympathy for her was such that she felt free to tell him:
          `Oh, god, Mark. A lot's going on. Do you think you can come
          back to the city after you're finished talking with my grandfather?
          Please say yes.'
          `I'll come back. No problem.'
          `Meet me in the nave at Saint Mark's Cathedral at 6:30. The
          only thing I ask is that you tell no one about the meeting, not even
          my grandfather, especially my grandfather. If fact, have the
          chauffer drop you off down the block from the cathedral, in front of
          the sanitarium. It's important that no one see you enter the nave.'
          `What's this all about? Are you in trouble?'
          `No, but Giovanni Migliazzo is. It's very complicated. I'll
          explain it to you, tonight.'
          `I'll be there.'
          He finished his lunch and stood up from the table.
          `I'll see you tonight, then, okay?'
          `Bye, bye, Mark.'
          He skirted past a buss boy carrying a tray of dirty dishes.
          Outside the deli, the air was moist and fresh-smelling after last
          night's rain. He slipped on his jacket and haled cab.




          Chapter Eleven of 'Sirius Chronicles,' by Mathew Morrell. Copyright
          2002. All rights reserved.
        • Mathew Morrell
          Migliazzo spent several hours at the nurse s apartment and didn t return to the streets until it was late afternoon, when the traffic on the Lower East Side
          Message 4 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
            Hotel.
            The time he had spent at the nurse's apartment had drained
            his vitality. Sexually he was spent. Yet, mentally clear. A veil
            had lifted and a realization had come. It was not the nurse he
            wanted. It was not Elizabeth, nor any one woman. He un-locked the
            door to his suite, thinking: It is all women. The door opened into
            a darkened room, shag carpeted, smelling of fresh bed linen and air
            freshener. After securing the dead bolt, he went over towards the
            bed and dialed room service. On the bed was his .44 magnum; its
            weight dimpled a pillow. When room service answered he struggled to
            remember the false name under which he was registered.
            `This is. . . Frank White, room 312. Send me up a snack of
            some kind. A ham sandwich will do.'
            `It comes with lettuce, mayonnaise and tomatoes.'
            `That'll do. Add a half-pint of McCormick's to my order, no
            a full pint. Have the concierge knock two times before leaving the
            order outside my door.'
            `Outside?'
            `I look dreadful and don't want anyone coming in my room.'
            He hung up the phone realizing he had made a mistake with the
            nurse. Pale and disheveled, he removed his trench coat wishing he
            hadn't made love to her, let alone invited her to the Bahamas. In a
            way he felt tricked. His attraction for her had clouded his
            judgment. With the vain quirk he had, of staring at his reflection
            in the mirror and seeing himself in a humorous light, he thought
            aloud while un-doing his tie: `Here you've done it again, you old
            goat. Isn't it time you learned? Sex only promises everlasting
            happiness.'
            Giovanni ran the tap in the bathroom. On the marble
            countertop lay his toiletry supplies including a blue bottle of hair
            dye, a plastic comb, a toothbrush and a razor; the content inside the
            blue bottle smelled pungent and made him wince after he smelled it.
            Steam rose from the sink. Giovanni did not know what he would do to
            occupy himself once he arrived in the Bahamas --- snorkel, boat,
            fish, no doubt, but he also dreamt of renewing his career as a
            journalist. He thought: Maybe sports journalism. Maybe politics.
            But then, as quickly as this thought came, he realized he was no
            longer in the know; he was out-of-the loop, had spent the last decade
            focused almost entirely on sex and money and heroin. Christ, I have
            nothing to write about anymore. I'm a rotten nihilist. Migliazzo
            thoroughly soaked his hair in the warm water and, with his finger
            tips, worked the pungent-smelling dye deep into his roots; the suds
            were brown and his eyes watered from the fumes.
            An hour later he was nearly un-recognizable. He emerged from
            the bathroom, clean shaven, his mustache gone, his hair dyed a dark
            brown. As a final touch to his disguise he clothed himself in non-
            descript, generic garments: tacky Bermuda shorts, a floral safari
            shirt, brand new penny loafers, knee length socks, sunglasses in the
            pocket. He felt ridiculous seeing his reflection in the mirror. He
            looked like an American tourist; but that was the intended effect.
            Scoffing at himself, he sat on the edge of the bed. The sheets were
            frazzled, the room dark and the curtains rolling in the breeze
            blowing through the window.
            `This is Giovanni,' he said over the telephone, when ringing
            the DA. `Everything is going as planned. I'm at a hotel, and I'll
            have the documents on your desk before ten tonight.'
            `I though you said nine.'
            `No, it will have to be ten. Do you have the plane tickets?'
            `I have one for you and one for Sheila Moss. They're under
            your assumed identity, Frank White.'
            He disliked his new name; sounded too pedestrian. He could
            not picture himself, a Frank White in Bermuda short, strolling along
            the beach with a nurse named Sheila. The image produced a wave of
            depression. `I'll keep you updated if there's a change in plans,' he
            added. `See you tonight.'
            Two hard wraps came from the door, most likely room service;
            in case it wasn't, however, after he hung up the phone he reached for
            the .44. It felt heavy but well-balanced. Squinting through the
            peephole, he kept the muzzle pointed at the floor. Nobody was in the
            hallway. The convex swell to the leans magnified the tray and the
            four-legged stand on which it stood. He brought the tray inside the
            room, set it on the dresser, and quickly closed the door all within a
            matter of moments. Underneath the lid was a sandwich ---a ham,
            lettuce and tomato sandwich made from a fresh-baked roll that was
            light brown on top. The sandwich was for Sheila, if or when she
            arrived. He grabbed the bottle and read the label. McCormick's.
            Established in 1856. Weston, Missouri. Charcoal mellow whiskey. He
            paced the room, simultaneously holding the .44 and swigging from the
            bottle. The effect was instantaneous. The soothing warmth in his
            stomach became a sudden lightness in his head. Maybe, he thought,
            the Knicks have a chance next year. Playoffs. Wonder if Sheila
            likes basketball. She'd make a good wife, pretty, obedient, demure,
            easy-to-please, not so bright but sensual and passionate. I'm too
            critical. The girl is terrific. The door was being knocked and he
            was thinking: I'm going to make her the god-damned happiest woman in
            the world. I'm changing. I'm going to be happy being Frank White.
            The bottle was empty. He tossed it into the trashcan then
            went over towards the door and squinted through the peephole. It
            was her. Through the peephole's convex swell he observed the cheap
            red dress she was wearing along with the matching pair of high heal
            shoes; her middle class simplicity was endearing, though a little
            irritating. Through the peephole it became apparent to him that she
            had been crying; her eyelashes were moist, curled above her blue
            eyes, conveying an image of helplessness ---and her helplessness
            ruined him. He swung open the door and swept her into his arms; and
            as they kissed, lovingly, softly, fluidly, he felt he could be Frank
            White forever and ever
            `I'm glad as hell you made it,' he said. `I didn't know if
            you would show up or not.'
            `I'm afraid,' she said in his loving embrace.
            `Don't be afraid, sweet. Everything will be all right. I'll
            make sure of that.'
            `I quit my job. Everything I have is in a suitcase,' which
            she lowered onto the floor. Tears streamed down her cheek, yet she
            was smiling. `You look silly, Gio.'
            `It's my disguise.'
            `You cut off your mustache. It's gone. I loved it. Oh, why
            did you cut if off?'
            `It'll grow back, sweety. That's kind of how things work
            with hair. It keeps growing.'
            Again she molded into his arms, and again they melted into
            each other, and again he lavished in the warmth and softness he felt
            through the fabric of her dress. Behind her was the open door. He
            reached for it, but she was desperate and hysterical, joyful and sad,
            and before he could close the door she clutched his arm.
            `I feel lost and afraid,' she said as he wiped her tears.
            `Don't be afraid, sweet. In twelve hours we'll be set up in
            a hotel. We can buy you new cloths and pretty dresses. You're going
            to be the happiest woman on earth.'
            `Yesterday, I had my own life, and now, now I'm nothing.'
            `You're nothing. I'm nothing. We're both nothings.
            Everyone is nothing. The universe is nothingess, and me and you will
            face it together, us against the Nothing.'
            `But am I doing the right thing?'
            `Sure you are. Trust me, sweet. Trust me.'
            `You do love me, don't you?
            `Yes.'
            `Do you?'
            `For certain,' he said.
            `Tell me you love me.'
            `I love you, I love you. Everything will be fine,' he kept
            telling her. `Everything will be all right.'
            `I love you Giovanni.'
            `I love you to, sweet, and everything will work out like pie.'
            After that her body fell away. That's what it felt like, at
            least. There was a sneezing bang, at the same time an exploding
            flash, a flash and a bang, and her body became heavy in his arms, too
            heavy to support, and she slid through his arms. Indeed, she fell
            straight down flat on her posterior. Then she rolled over on her
            side ---a bullet hole plunged through the back of her head. It was
            apparent by the way her eyes remained open that she was dead.
            And it was Thomas Sinclair, the North Star psychic, who shot
            her. He had appeared at the door's threshold bearing in his hand
            a .357 pistol; extending from the barrel, the silencer had muted the
            shot fired into a `sneeze' of air. Next he kicked the door closed
            without lowering the piece. Nothing came out of Giovanni's mouth.
            He felt paralyzed. Such was the horror of looking down the muzzle of
            a .357 that everything else was an abstraction. His throat swelled.
            All he managed to say was: `I didn't mean it,' his voice helpless
            and desperate. `I, I, I, wasn't thinking straight when I snitched on
            Vince. I wasn't thinking what snitching on Vince would do to you.
            Please, just understand. Please.'
            Thomas was expressionless. His long, blond hair hung
            savagely over his shoulders; his face was stern, cold, devoid of
            emotion; and his eye seemed lifeless, almost snake-like. When he
            cocked the gun Giovanni jerked his head to the side expecting a blast
            of heat and fire to explode into his face.
            `Thomas! I don't have to give the DA the documents. I can
            vanish, and pretend it never happened. What do you say, man?'
            `Documents?' Thomas slackened his arm, so that the gun was
            aimed above and not at Gio's head.
            `The Red Files,' Gio added. The horror subsided into
            uncontrollable shivers. `How in the hell did you get a hold
            of the Red Files?'
            `How?'
            `Yes how?'
            `I...I...'
            `How?'
            `Through the Sinclair's.'
            This time Thomas lowered the muzzle back in Giovanni's face,
            adding: `Listen very carefully, now. If you have any moral scruples
            about covering up for somebody, you better wake up. Understand?
            I'll do it right here, right now.'
            `Give me some time, please, I beg you.'
            `I don't have time. Tell me where the Red Files are. Does
            Elizabeth have them?'
            Migliazzo bowed his head, shamefully.
            `Thought so!' said Thomas. `Where is Elizabeth tonight?'
            `She's. . .'
            `Tell me! Where is that cunt?'
            `Saint Mark's Cathedral.'
            `And the Red Files?'
            `They're also at the cathedral.'
            `Then you can guess where we're going? We're going to walk
            out that door and I am going to have a gun pointed at your back.
            Don't think about doing anything stupid, I beg you. There's nothing
            that would stop me from blowing a hole in your back.' Thomas's gaze,
            more paralyzing than the gun itself, fixed upon him with devouring
            intensity. Slowly, and while sustaining eye contact, Thomas slipped
            the gun into his side pocket. Giovanni could have retaliated at that
            moment, but did not. Through intimidation alone Thomas forced Gio
            out the door and into the hallway. Still, Gio did not resist. For,
            Thomas sustained a tight grip on the gun while it was buried inside
            the pocket of his jacket, which was made from rattlesnake skin and
            had two pockets deep enough to conceal the additional length of the
            silencer. In the elevator, occupied by five other people, they
            stood in the corner. Thomas's gaze sucked the life from him.
            The door slid open. Thomas nudged Gio from behind. `Be
            cool,' Thomas said as they stepped from the elevator, `or I'll grease
            you. Stay cool. All right?'
            `Yes.'
            Thomas tossed him a key ring. `You're driving.'
            The sound of traffic became audible once they stepped
            outside. Bleaker Street was gray and dreary in the thin light of
            dusk. The breeze feathered Thomas's hair. He was wearing a pair of
            faded blue jeans and snake skin cowboy boots that added an upward
            lilt to his strides. His Jaguar was parked down the block from the
            hotel.
            They followed the fastest and easiest route to Queens.
            Thomas told Gio to avoid the traffic on Broadway by hooking over to
            34th Street and taking a right into the Queens Midtown Tunnel. Then
            Thomas reached between his legs and eased the seat back. Within half
            an hour, they had crossed the tunnel over into Queens and were
            approaching the construction zone outside the sanitarium. City
            workers were repairing a broken water main. The men were wearing
            hard hats, luminous in the high intensity flood lights. A jack
            hammer operator was breaking up the hard, concrete shell covering the
            earth and a back hoe was excavating the earth into a dump truck. The
            street was muddy and the traffic reduced to two lanes. A flagger
            waved them on, and the Jaguar advanced through the construction zone
            and beyond the sanitarium.
            Ahead was the cathedral on Parker Street. Thomas lifted the
            gun off his lap.
            `Where do they keep the documents?'
            `In a chest in the bedroom,' Gio answered, his hands on the
            wheel.
            `How many documents are there?'
            `Several hundred thousand,' he said and parked. The parking
            space was at the bottom of a small, bright-green lawn; the soysa was
            well-manicured, smooth as it went up a gentle slope toward the
            cathedral's elevated perspective above Parker Street. Masses of
            climbing ivy covered the cathedral's rock facade. Thomas opened the
            trunk where there was a bundle of rope and a roll of electrical
            tape.
            `You said the priest lives in the basement?' Thomas asked.
            `Yeah.'
            `After you tie up Elizabeth and Mark, I want you and the
            priest to find the documents. Then tie up the priest. I want them
            to stay tied, too. Is that clear?'
            `Yes,' he nodded.
            `No half-assed granny knots. No monkey business.'
            Giovanni found himself nodding and giving automatic responses
            having no other choice besides to comply to Thomas's every whim.
            `Whatever you want, Thomas. So long as no one gets hurt.'
            Thomas slammed the trunk closed. In his pocket was the roll
            of tape. He no longer carried the gun out in the open; it was
            bulging in his other pocket.
            `If the rope is loose, and if they get their arms free, then
            you're history. Is that also clear?'
            `Yes.'
            `Remember, you're expendable,' Thomas said, always applying,
            with expert knowledge, a dominant tension. `Don't screw up,' he went
            on. `I need your complete cooperation.'
            And he seemed to have it.
            `I only want Elizabeth to come out of this alive.'
            They climbed the stone-hewn column of stair towards the large
            double doors. Giovanni grabbed the wooden handle but did not pull.
            They were two, heavy oak doors, embellished with hand-forged iron
            work. Above the arch were stone gargoyles. There was something
            psychic about the cathedral that touched a hell-fearing nerve in his
            subconscious.
            Inside, Giovanni and Thomas obeyed the rule of silence by
            treading softly through the nave. Evening Mass had not ended and the
            pews were filled. The congregation sat there in sublime indifference
            listening to a priest recite the Latin liturgy. At the organ sat a
            dark-cloaked figure who played a triple tiered keyboard and whose
            feet pumped the billows. The brass tubes were thirty feet high.
            Above the alter was the crucified image of Jesus. A current of pain
            seemed to permeate the pale, thin, dangling body, crowned in thorns;
            blood trickled from the hands and feet. Yet the face was silent, the
            eyes still and un-moved, conveying peace in the midst of physical
            agony.
            The soft, mystical chord penetrated the entire cathedral, and
            was audible in the passageway down which Giovanni walked. His head
            was throbbing; his neck hurt and the pain transferred itself to the
            back of his skull.
            `I can tell you're not feeling well,' Thomas remarked. `Do
            you have a head ache?'
            `Yes.'
            `We'll see if the priest has any aspirin in his medicine
            cabinet. I don't want to see you in pain.'
            The display of compassion convinced Giovanni that Thomas was
            looking out for him and that nothing else bad would happened tonight
            if he followed orders. Their footsteps now chattered down a wooden
            staircase. They were descending into a brick-enclosed room. The
            walls, steeped in moisture, added the distinctive, stony-wet smell of
            a poorly ventilated basement.
            `I think I should tell you, Elizabeth is armed,' Gio
            said. `She packs a Beretta in her purse. It is always loaded and
            she used it well.'
            `I know.'
            `I say this so no one will be harmed, un-necessarily.'
            `I'll take that into consideration. How much further?'
            They were directly below the nave, in the basement, able to
            hear the organ while they walked single file down a narrow corridor.
            Cob webs trembled in their wake. The air was cool and wet, almost
            too dark to see through, and there was the smell of burning fuel. At
            the end of the corridor was the boiler room. It was noticeably
            warmer there, and darker; concrete beam supports rose from the floor
            to the rough-milled timbers forming the ceiling; exposed metal pipes
            ran the length of the ceiling; the cold water pipes were sweating,
            due to the warmth. All the pipes were connected to a rumbling cast
            iron boiler.
            Thomas was saying:
            `This does not have to be bloody, Gio ---if you keep them
            calm. But if she pulled the gun, I assure you it will be messy.'
            `Elizabeth responds to reason and common sense. Violence
            isn't necessary with her.'
            The bare light blue glared over their heads. A white cotton
            string was connected to the light bulb. Thomas pulled down on the
            string. The light turned off, and the boiler room was thrown into
            darkness. All that was visible was the slivers of lights shining
            through the cracks of the doorway. The .357 was pressed against
            Giovanni's back. Thomas was behind him, saying, in the dark: `Go
            ahead, Gio, knock.' The rapping of his fist was followed by various
            sounds on the other side of the door. They heard Elizabeth's
            voice: `That's Gio,' and foot steps. But it was not Elizabeth who
            appeared when the door was opened. The interior light inside the
            apartment outlined the priest who showed himself in full frock, and
            whose small, thin frame was bent over and hunchbacked. A pair of
            reading glasses rested at the end of his nose.
            `Giovanni?' the priest said, his voice tremulous in a way
            that suggest the onset of Parkinson's disease. `Who's with you?'
            `We're in somewhat of a predicament, here, Father. We need
            to come in.'
            `We need to come in?'
            `Yes. We have some business to take care of.'
            `I know you have business,' the priest said. `We've been
            waiting for you. But we did not think you would bring anyone else.
            It's un-called for.'
            The priest did not move from the threshold. The rounded
            rubber tip of his cane remained impaled into the light brown
            carpeting underneath his feet. In spite of his enfeebled physical
            appearance, he stood his ground and scrutinized them from over the
            top of his reading glasses. Then Elizabeth appeared. She stood
            behind the priest. Her face was blushed back to her ears.
            `What's Thomas doing here?' she said. `Does my grandfather
            know you're here? Have you broken you leash, Thomas?'
            `I brought him with me,' Giovanni said. `I'm sorry
            Elizabeth. I'm sorry Father. Please let us in and there won't be
            any problems.'
            `We can't do that, and you know it,' said Elizabeth. `This
            is Nicholas's home. He is a priest, he is old, and nobody will barge
            in on him as long as I'm around.'
            `If North Star knows about us,' the priest said, `we'll have
            to destroy the documents.'
            `You'll do no such thing,' said Thomas, still standing behind
            Giovanni. `You'll do what my boy, Gio, wants you to do.'
            `Giovanni?' she said.
            `I'm ill, and I'm exhausted,' said Giovanni. `Please, please
            co-operate, and there won't be any problems.'
            `Tell the primadonna why I'm here,' Thomas said. Giovanni
            obeyed, saying:
            `Elizabeth, Thomas wants the Red Files. I don't think that's
            too much to ask.'
            `Did my grandfather put you up to this?' she asked.
            `As a matter of fact, he didn't,' said Thomas. `This
            afternoon he fired me and hired your new boy.'
            This time Giovanni spoke. `Please understand. If I hand the
            Red Files over to the DA's office, Thomas is going down with Vince.'
            `That's not my problem,' Elizabeth said.
            `It is now!' yelled Thomas. The priest was shaking more
            noticeably now that Thomas had broken his air of reserve. And now
            Mark Sonntag appeared in the doorway, bearing a hand gun. It was
            then that Elizabeth realized that Thomas Rose also had a gun; she
            could not see it because Thomas remained behind Giovanni, whose
            shoulders were rolled back as if Thomas was grinding the muzzle into
            his mid-back.
            `He's got a gun in my back,' Gio cried. `Don't shoot!'
            `Put the gun down,' Thomas screamed.
            Giovanni spat as he cried: `Play it cool. He's already
            killed one person tonight.'
            It was Elizabeth's gun that Mark aimed, a simple nickel-
            plated Berretta pointed at Thomas's thin, long, pock-marked face,
            which was half-exposed behind Giovanni's head. That left Mark a slim
            target. He seemed to know that and didn't shoot; he merely stood
            there, thinking while everyone was yelling. One twitch of my hand,
            Mark thought, and the bullet could blast away Giovanni's cheek.
            Thomas would recover and shoot back. Somebody would die. Thomas
            would die but someone else would to, maybe rabbit. Mark Sonntag
            lowered the gun after thinking it through. His arm fell to his side;
            his thumb un-cocked the chamber. Then he bent his legs, knelt, and
            laid the gun on the floor. Everyone was yelling except her. She
            seemed on the verge of tears. Her face was sheet white. Her eyes
            blood shot. Never give up your gun! she seemed to cry. Never give
            up sovereignty!
            Giovanni staggered into the low ceiling room beyond the
            threshold, this being the living room. Directly above the ceiling
            was the nave. The organ composition and its throb could be heard,
            and felt, vibrating inside this small, low-ceiling apartment, which
            was sparsely furnished, drab, yet clean and organized. Giovanni
            pulled three rickety wooden chairs out from under a table that was
            draped in a thin, white cloth that was actually a bed sheet that
            served as a table cloth. On it was an open Bible and waxed covered
            bottle of wine, from which rose a tapered candle stick. The dividing
            wall, against which Gio pushed the chairs, separated the living room
            from the tiny bedroom on the other side of the dividing wall. In
            some places the wall paper was torn, revealing lath and plaster.
            Hung on the wall was a religious print framed in gold-gilt molding,
            and another print that was un-framed and tacked to the wall.
            Elizabeth had, in her adolescent years, used the apartment as a
            monastic retreat from the fast-paced frenzy of her dance career, and
            spent countless hours lounging on the couch over against the wall.
            The print, Botticelli's Birth of Venus, hung straight above the
            chairs pushed against the dividing wall.
            `Have a seat,' Gio told them.
            `Why?' Mark asked.
            `Just do it. Don't ask questions. Let's be cooperative.'
            Mark, Elizabeth and the priest were huddled together; the
            priest shivered. She wrapped her arm around him, pulled him close to
            her side and comforted him with whispering words of reassurance.
            Neither she nor Mark let go when Giovanni tried seizing the priest by
            the arm.
            `He's an old man!' she cried. `Leave him be!'
            `Do as they say,' Thomas told Gio. `The old man isn't
            sitting down, yet. I have a special job for him. It's the two
            preppies I want tied up.'
            Thomas had the .357 aimed at them from the kitchen. He was
            standing behind the lime green counter top that divided the kitchen
            from the living room; behind him was the stove. On the counter was
            the Beretta.
            `You, priest,' said Thomas, `where are the Red Files?'
            `In the bedroom.'
            `Are they all there? Every document?'
            `Yes.'
            Giovanni, crouched on his knees, looked up. He was tying
            Elizabeth's ankles to the legs of the chair.
            `All the files are in the bedroom.'
            `Not at her apartment?' Thomas asked. `Not at Mark's place?'
            `Not that I know of,' said Gio.
            `So they're all here?'
            `Yes.'
            The rope formed tight knots around their wrists and ankles.
            They were now completely restrained. From his side pocket Thomas
            produced the gray electrical tape. He tossed it to Giovanni and
            Giovanni went about taping their mouths.
            `It'll be all right,' Gio said to Elizabeth.
            `Why are you doing this to me?' she asked.
            `No talking!' said Thomas. `That goes for you to, Gio. Tape
            her mouth and be quiet.' He averted his face toward the
            ceiling. `Doesn't that music ever stop!'
            There was the abrupt tearing sound of Giovanni pealing away a
            strip of tape. That strip was applied to Elizabeth's mouth.
            Deprived of movement, taped, bound, and un-able to speak, the feeling
            of claustrophobia overwhelmed her. Her finger were reddish purple
            from lack of circulation. Her nostrils flared. The old man's
            apartment was stiflingly hot -- her face was sweating -- and the tape
            did not adhere well; it kept pealing, so Giovanni rubbed it into her
            mouth. Another strip was adhered to Sonntag's face. Then Giovanni
            placed the roll of tape on the lime-green counter top; although the
            Berretta was within reaching distance, he did not go for it. Thomas
            was keeping an eye on him.
            `What about the bottle of aspirin?' Gio asked. `My head is
            killing me. Do you mind if I check the medicine cabinet?'
            `Go ahead,' Thomas said and followed him into the bedroom,
            which was barely large enough for the twin bed, the dresser and the
            wooden chest that was at the foot of the bed. On the floor stood a
            kerosene heater. The filament flamed cherry red. The heat cut the
            moisture but at the expense of making the apartment uncomfortable and
            the bedroom miserable. Rings of moisture surrounded Thomas's arm
            pits. He was observing the priest, whose arms were plunged inside
            the chest. `How are you proceeding?' Thomas asked him, just then
            entering the room; the priest crouched on his knees and sorted
            through the papers.
            `It will take time,' the priest, Nicholas, answered.
            `Hurry it up, then. I don't have all night. Where do you
            keep the kerosene for this heater?'
            `There's a can in the boiler room.'
            There was the sound of a door closing shut; it was Gio
            closing himself off in the bathroom. Meanwhile, Thomas hurried
            through the apartment in order to retrieve the kerosene.
            In the boiler room, he found the five gallon container.
            There was not enough time this evening to find the specific documents
            tying himself to Vince Serenghetti and their terrorist activities.
            Thomas raised the container. It was tin and felt three-quarters
            full. If he burned the chest, and let the fire spread into the
            apartment, there would be an additional benefit. The fire would
            destroy all the evidence and all witnesses. A manic smile spread
            over his face.
            Thomas switched the container to his left hand and drew the
            gun from his pocket. Through the lightened doorway he saw Giovanni
            reaching for the Berretta lying on the lime-green countertop.
            `What are you doing, Gio?' he asked when emerging from the
            boiler room; Giovanni spun towards the doorway where Thomas
            stood. `Were you reaching for that gun?' Thomas asked.
            Giovanni flushed. `No, not at all.'
            `It looked like you were.'
            `I wasn't.'
            `Are you sure?'
            `Yes.
            `I hope you wouldn't be that stupid.'
            `I was reaching for it, yes, but its not at all what you may
            think.'
            `Ah, I see.'
            Father Nicholas came into the living room. His strides were
            short and wobbly. He was holding documents.
            `What do you have there?' Thomas asked.
            `Evidence against Mr. Serenghetti, including a financial
            report. The papers trace the money Vince Serenghetti advanced to an
            off short account linked to the terrorist who bombed the Red hideout
            in Venice. There's also a bank statement. Your name is listed as
            the depositor. I also have addresses to active members of the Black
            Shirts and the Reds. Phone company records show that calls were made
            to convicted terrorists from Serenghetti.'
            Thomas interrupted, saying: `Good work, priest. Why don't
            you have a seat next to the preppies.'
            `But I haven't finished yet.'
            `Well, I say you have. I'm hot and sweaty and sick of
            hearing that fucking organ. I don't know how an old man like you can
            bear living in such a hole.'
            The priest was staring at the kerosene. `What do you intend
            to do with the files?'
            `My boy, we're having a little barbecue. Say, Gio. How's
            the headache doing? Did you find any aspirin?'
            Giovanni nodded. He too, like the priest, noticed the
            kerosene; the implication was dreadful. Thomas, evidently, intended
            to burned the documents in the apartment. Gio asked: `Have we
            finished our business, yet?'
            `What do you mean?' Thomas asked.
            `You have the documents. Can we go home?'
            `Sure you can go home, just not at this precise moment.'
            Not only his hand but the priest's whole body trembled. A
            purple vein swelled in his forehead. He said: `If you wish to
            incinerate the documents you could toss them into the boiler. It
            gets very hot in there.'
            `Good idea, old man. But first, Gio here is tying you up.'
            `Tie me up?'
            `He's old,' Gio said. `What harm could he be? We can throw
            the papers in the boiler, and be done with it. Then we can forget
            whatever happened tonight.'
            `You'll forget, Gio, when I tell you to forget. Now, tie up
            the penguin.'
            Everyone watched Thomas bend over and pick up the kerosene.
            They were all going to die. They would burn to death, if they
            weren't shot, and there was no way out. Elizabeth slashed her head
            to the side. Mark was staring at her. Unlike the rest he did not
            seem panicked.
            `If you set fire to the place, they'll die!' Gio yelled, and
            slammed his fist on the counter top. He was in the kitchen. `You
            said no one would be harmed, if we did what you said.'
            Thomas released the kerosene and pressed his hand against the
            bulge in his pocket.
            `I don't like this new attitude of yours. Do as you're told.'
            `I will not. Haven't you done enough?'
            `For the love of God, please don't set fire my apartment,'
            said the priest. His cane dropped to the carpet. He clutched
            Thomas's jacket. `We'll do whatever you tell us to do. Please. I
            beg you.'
            `Sit down, priest.'
            `Please!'
            `No one will walk out of here alive, priest. Quiet yourself
            and die with dignity.'
            Giovanni charged towards the open doorway. Thomas raised the
            gun, fired, and Giovanni collapsed somewhere behind the kitchen
            countertop. `Adonai!' screamed the priest; his legs buckled, and he
            fell on the carpet, wailing: `Adonai! Adonai! Adonai!', until
            Thomas kicked him with his boot. The priest gasped for air. Still
            yet, the organ composition, Gigout's Toccata, filtered down from the
            nave. Giovanni was lying on his stomach, making feeble, crawling
            movements. The slugglish, scrambling jerks of his outer extremities
            crawled, however, without going anywhere. Blood issued from a deep
            chestal wound and spread over the kitchen's linoleum floor. His
            fingers clawed the floor again and again, and over and over the
            organist played the same reiterating notes in concitato, the notes
            surging, rising, falling, cresting in an endless circular rhythm,
            round and round, like the circular rhythm of a merry-go-round. The
            priest knelt at Elizabeth's feet and prayed. Now her eyes were
            closed as well; her chin level, her back straight; as if she were
            sitting in a ray of sunshine. The priest was saying: `To the Powers
            vested in Heaven, I call upon thee to chariot our sister into the
            womb of our Lord Father, Jesus Christ. . . .'
            Giovanni Migliazzo no longer moved. Above his body, and
            staring wildly down at the floor, Thomas held the pistol. The red
            puddle enlarged underneath Gio's face and chest. A slaughterhouse
            smell of blood filled the crime scene. Thomas slipped the gun into
            his jacket, then set his cold, brown, reptilian eyes upon the priest
            who finished his prayer by crossing himself and uttering Amen.




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