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Sirius Chronicles.

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  • 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 1 of 11 , Sep 18, 2002
      Mark and Elizabeth stayed up with Ed during his first night in the
      sanitarium. All night he slipped in and out of consciousness,
      sometimes cracking open his eyes, sometimes lifting his head from the
      pillow and sometimes looking up at the ceiling and smiling as if
      showers of red rose petals rained from the sky. With each new sign
      of life he made, Elizabeth's entire countenance would change in
      emotional hue, going from elation and from elation to sorrow when he
      fell asleep again and slipped back into his private, inchoate,
      psychological underworld. Mark sat on one side of the bed, Elizabeth
      on the other, hoping he would regain consciousness, moreover
      expecting he would, yet he lay there showing no signs of
      intelligence; rather a mindlessness vegetal life. He had fallen into
      a coma not long after drinking the Red Lion elixir, and now a sort of
      dim, gray, etheric sheen hovered about his physical embodiment. This
      was his aura and it was growing weaker, less crystalline and
      colorless. The luminary brilliance of his Manas organization was
      pulling further away from his organic self, pulling, they thought,
      upward into the devachanic planes.
      By dawn they were exhausted. Gently Mark spread a black,
      embroidered shawl over her shoulders, tucked it neatly around her
      neck, and gripped her arm so as to coerce Elizabeth from the bed
      side. Ed's eyes shuttered almost imperceptively in their sockets;
      but he did not awaken from the trance, and eventually Elizabeth
      followed Mark outside into the cold.
      A chilly dawn wind brushed over their faces. The streets
      were wet from rain, the air moist, and the atmosphere at this early
      hour not quit dark and yet not bright enough to trigger the street
      lamps overhead. All that remained of last night's fog and the rain
      were broken clouds. The clouds blew in from the coast, at first
      thick and dense as they drifted overhead, but as morning drew near
      the nocturnal sea-breezes pushed them onwards into the dark western
      horizon. The last remaining clouds floated across the horizon, blood
      red in the dazzling spectral colors tinting the horizon. On the ride
      up town, in the early morning traffic, she leaned her shoulder
      against the door and closed her eyes as the wind blew against her
      face. Soon, her guilt subsided into the relaxation. Her breathing
      became light and her thoughts moved lucidly in orbiting circles round
      a central idea looming large in her conscience; and that thought was
      how to save Ed.
      The cab slowed gradually but turned sharply towards the curb
      running adjacent to Central Park. Up the road a little was the
      Metropolitan Museum of Art
      `It's $7.55,' the driver said.
      Mark handed him a ten over the dividing seat.
      `Keep the change.'
      `Thank you. Have a nice day.'
      Elizabeth opened the door, and all at once the freshness of
      the morning breeze swirled up and around her light, loose-fitting
      sundress. Climbing out of the cab was like having crawled from a
      dark cave and becoming suddenly conscious of the breadth and width of
      the sky. The open breeze and blue sky brought an instantaneous
      feeling of expansion, a sense of purity and calm, followed by a
      realization of inner freedom; and suddenly her mind seized to be
      malicious; it seized to be angry or vengeful, and all her spite
      towards her grandfather vanished. She and Mark meandered off into
      the park onto a pathway shaded from above by trees whose naked boughs
      were still bare from winter and whose brown, spindly, bud-covered
      branches cast moving shadows. The buds looked like fat, green
      cocoons, whereas the oaks, the maples and the cottonwoods--all in
      full bloom and exploding with leaves--shuttered in the breeze. The
      Japanese Cherry trees, also in full bloom, unleashed pink flower
      blossoms into the gusts of wind. A petal-filled gust blew in
      swirling motions over Belvedere Lake, where a toy boat glided over
      the surface of the lake across the flakes of sunlight tip toeing
      towards the lemon yellow sun. Mark threw a pebble across the water
      and the flakes splashed like molten gold.
      A slope in the landscape rose up onto another field. On the
      way up the slope, as the field came into view, Elizabeth remembered a
      dream. A firecracker-light popped in her mind, colors swirled, and
      the dream came unglued from her memory.
      `Oh!' she said as they walked. `I had a dream last night! I
      just remembered.'
      `What was it like?'
      `It was great,' she said, and was about to explain the dream,
      but one remembrance trailed quickly behind another, too quickly for
      her to follow; and out of frustration, she picked up a long, fat
      stick lying on the ground, and swung it through the air. Even though
      she experienced the dream in detail, her thoughts could not reflect
      the totality of the experience without fumbling her words. `Oh
      darling,' she kept saying with the stick in her hand, `I can't tell
      you how great it was. It was beautiful, you see. You won't
      `I saw mountains and everything was so real. I saw an
      angel. The angel. . . the sun. . . the sun was bright but wasn't
      hot. . . Oh shoot baby. . . No, I can't tell you how great it was.
      You don't understand.'
      `I do understand, rabbit. It sounds beautiful. What do you
      think it meant?'
      All she did was shrug her shoulders and look across the
      field. Her apartment building was in sight.
      `Surely, it meant something,' he said.
      `That's the thing. I don't think it meant anything. Jungian
      psychology only goes so far, you know. To me, Sirius is a non-
      symbolic location in consciousness, and it looks like an Ed MacIntosh
      She threw out her walking stick in front of her strides, and
      batted away a grasshopper so that her feet wouldn't crush it. It was
      sitting on a tuft of grass, wet with morning dew. All the sudden it
      leapt up and clung to her dress.
      `Get if off me!' she cried.
      Mark swept his palm across her dress and didn't release it.
      He held it in his hand.
      `It's just a little bug,' he said.
      `I know. It startled me, that's all.'
      `You're not afraid of grass hoppers, are you?'
      `Usually not, no. I thought they didn't hop in the morning,
      owing to the cold.'
      Mark smiled. There was something to her tone of voice that
      amused him. The tone did not correspond with the peasant simplicity
      of her summer dress nor her long straight hair hanging down her back,
      nor the old ladies shawl warming her shoulders. It was an exclusive
      voice bred for debutante balls and tea parties. `In fact,' she was
      saying, `I've always loved grasshoppers,' and thrust the stick
      forward in front of her strides. `Even though they spit that crude,
      brown, tobacco juice, which is impossible to clean in a wash,
      grasshoppers fascinate me. What do you call people who study
      insects? Insectologists?'
      `I'm not sure.'
      He did not seemed to be listening anymore, for he was
      entirely focused on the grasshopper cupped in his hand.
      `Insects are just plain strange,' he said, then opened his
      palms. The grasshopper sprung; its grayish wings chattered as it
      flew. `They're world,' he said. `It must be one of amazing
      vitality. Bugs always chattering at night, always flying and buzzing
      about, eating this and that, copulating, laying eggs, making hives.'
      `Bugs are really into life!'
      `An insect lives so intensely, they must look down on us and
      think we live in slow motion. I wonder if, indeed, they do see a
      higher vibration.'
      `I wonder,' said Elizabeth. `I think people who study
      insects are called insectologists.'
      `No. They're called Scientologists.'
      `No!' Elizabeth laughed, and dropped her stick on the
      ground. Central Park West was a mere three strides away and across
      the street was the Bell Tower Apartment building.

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

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

      Chapter Eleven of 'Sirius Chronicles,' by Mathew Morrell. Copyright
      2002. All rights reserved.
    • Mathew Morrell
      Migliazzo spent several hours at the nurse s apartment and didn t return to the streets until it was late afternoon, when the traffic on the Lower East Side
      Message 2 of 11 , Sep 25, 2002
        Migliazzo spent several hours at the nurse's apartment and didn't
        return to the streets until it was late afternoon, when the traffic
        on the Lower East Side was thickest; commuters jammed the grid; and a
        thin haze of smog and exhaust mingled above the crowds pouring from
        the subway terminal on Bleaker Street. In his black hat and black
        trench coat he was indistinguishable in the crowd, anonymously
        safeguarded by their numbers, and moving freely, without fear, past
        the circular arches of the ASCAP building. Further down the block,
        at a newsstand, he grabbed the late edition; the paper was fresh from
        the press and felt warm; tucked away in the local news section was an
        article that said he had busted from the hospital. Fortunately,
        there was no photograph of him. He handed the vendor a dime. Then
        with the newspaper tucked under his arm he walked to the Constantine
        The time he had spent at the nurse's apartment had drained
        his vitality. Sexually he was spent. Yet, mentally clear. A veil
        had lifted and a realization had come. It was not the nurse he
        wanted. It was not Elizabeth, nor any one woman. He un-locked the
        door to his suite, thinking: It is all women. The door opened into
        a darkened room, shag carpeted, smelling of fresh bed linen and air
        freshener. After securing the dead bolt, he went over towards the
        bed and dialed room service. On the bed was his .44 magnum; its
        weight dimpled a pillow. When room service answered he struggled to
        remember the false name under which he was registered.
        `This is. . . Frank White, room 312. Send me up a snack of
        some kind. A ham sandwich will do.'
        `It comes with lettuce, mayonnaise and tomatoes.'
        `That'll do. Add a half-pint of McCormick's to my order, no
        a full pint. Have the concierge knock two times before leaving the
        order outside my door.'
        `I look dreadful and don't want anyone coming in my room.'
        He hung up the phone realizing he had made a mistake with the
        nurse. Pale and disheveled, he removed his trench coat wishing he
        hadn't made love to her, let alone invited her to the Bahamas. In a
        way he felt tricked. His attraction for her had clouded his
        judgment. With the vain quirk he had, of staring at his reflection
        in the mirror and seeing himself in a humorous light, he thought
        aloud while un-doing his tie: `Here you've done it again, you old
        goat. Isn't it time you learned? Sex only promises everlasting
        Giovanni ran the tap in the bathroom. On the marble
        countertop lay his toiletry supplies including a blue bottle of hair
        dye, a plastic comb, a toothbrush and a razor; the content inside the
        blue bottle smelled pungent and made him wince after he smelled it.
        Steam rose from the sink. Giovanni did not know what he would do to
        occupy himself once he arrived in the Bahamas --- snorkel, boat,
        fish, no doubt, but he also dreamt of renewing his career as a
        journalist. He thought: Maybe sports journalism. Maybe politics.
        But then, as quickly as this thought came, he realized he was no
        longer in the know; he was out-of-the loop, had spent the last decade
        focused almost entirely on sex and money and heroin. Christ, I have
        nothing to write about anymore. I'm a rotten nihilist. Migliazzo
        thoroughly soaked his hair in the warm water and, with his finger
        tips, worked the pungent-smelling dye deep into his roots; the suds
        were brown and his eyes watered from the fumes.
        An hour later he was nearly un-recognizable. He emerged from
        the bathroom, clean shaven, his mustache gone, his hair dyed a dark
        brown. As a final touch to his disguise he clothed himself in non-
        descript, generic garments: tacky Bermuda shorts, a floral safari
        shirt, brand new penny loafers, knee length socks, sunglasses in the
        pocket. He felt ridiculous seeing his reflection in the mirror. He
        looked like an American tourist; but that was the intended effect.
        Scoffing at himself, he sat on the edge of the bed. The sheets were
        frazzled, the room dark and the curtains rolling in the breeze
        blowing through the window.
        `This is Giovanni,' he said over the telephone, when ringing
        the DA. `Everything is going as planned. I'm at a hotel, and I'll
        have the documents on your desk before ten tonight.'
        `I though you said nine.'
        `No, it will have to be ten. Do you have the plane tickets?'
        `I have one for you and one for Sheila Moss. They're under
        your assumed identity, Frank White.'
        He disliked his new name; sounded too pedestrian. He could
        not picture himself, a Frank White in Bermuda short, strolling along
        the beach with a nurse named Sheila. The image produced a wave of
        depression. `I'll keep you updated if there's a change in plans,' he
        added. `See you tonight.'
        Two hard wraps came from the door, most likely room service;
        in case it wasn't, however, after he hung up the phone he reached for
        the .44. It felt heavy but well-balanced. Squinting through the
        peephole, he kept the muzzle pointed at the floor. Nobody was in the
        hallway. The convex swell to the leans magnified the tray and the
        four-legged stand on which it stood. He brought the tray inside the
        room, set it on the dresser, and quickly closed the door all within a
        matter of moments. Underneath the lid was a sandwich ---a ham,
        lettuce and tomato sandwich made from a fresh-baked roll that was
        light brown on top. The sandwich was for Sheila, if or when she
        arrived. He grabbed the bottle and read the label. McCormick's.
        Established in 1856. Weston, Missouri. Charcoal mellow whiskey. He
        paced the room, simultaneously holding the .44 and swigging from the
        bottle. The effect was instantaneous. The soothing warmth in his
        stomach became a sudden lightness in his head. Maybe, he thought,
        the Knicks have a chance next year. Playoffs. Wonder if Sheila
        likes basketball. She'd make a good wife, pretty, obedient, demure,
        easy-to-please, not so bright but sensual and passionate. I'm too
        critical. The girl is terrific. The door was being knocked and he
        was thinking: I'm going to make her the god-damned happiest woman in
        the world. I'm changing. I'm going to be happy being Frank White.
        The bottle was empty. He tossed it into the trashcan then
        went over towards the door and squinted through the peephole. It
        was her. Through the peephole's convex swell he observed the cheap
        red dress she was wearing along with the matching pair of high heal
        shoes; her middle class simplicity was endearing, though a little
        irritating. Through the peephole it became apparent to him that she
        had been crying; her eyelashes were moist, curled above her blue
        eyes, conveying an image of helplessness ---and her helplessness
        ruined him. He swung open the door and swept her into his arms; and
        as they kissed, lovingly, softly, fluidly, he felt he could be Frank
        White forever and ever
        `I'm glad as hell you made it,' he said. `I didn't know if
        you would show up or not.'
        `I'm afraid,' she said in his loving embrace.
        `Don't be afraid, sweet. Everything will be all right. I'll
        make sure of that.'
        `I quit my job. Everything I have is in a suitcase,' which
        she lowered onto the floor. Tears streamed down her cheek, yet she
        was smiling. `You look silly, Gio.'
        `It's my disguise.'
        `You cut off your mustache. It's gone. I loved it. Oh, why
        did you cut if off?'
        `It'll grow back, sweety. That's kind of how things work
        with hair. It keeps growing.'
        Again she molded into his arms, and again they melted into
        each other, and again he lavished in the warmth and softness he felt
        through the fabric of her dress. Behind her was the open door. He
        reached for it, but she was desperate and hysterical, joyful and sad,
        and before he could close the door she clutched his arm.
        `I feel lost and afraid,' she said as he wiped her tears.
        `Don't be afraid, sweet. In twelve hours we'll be set up in
        a hotel. We can buy you new cloths and pretty dresses. You're going
        to be the happiest woman on earth.'
        `Yesterday, I had my own life, and now, now I'm nothing.'
        `You're nothing. I'm nothing. We're both nothings.
        Everyone is nothing. The universe is nothingess, and me and you will
        face it together, us against the Nothing.'
        `But am I doing the right thing?'
        `Sure you are. Trust me, sweet. Trust me.'
        `You do love me, don't you?
        `Do you?'
        `For certain,' he said.
        `Tell me you love me.'
        `I love you, I love you. Everything will be fine,' he kept
        telling her. `Everything will be all right.'
        `I love you Giovanni.'
        `I love you to, sweet, and everything will work out like pie.'
        After that her body fell away. That's what it felt like, at
        least. There was a sneezing bang, at the same time an exploding
        flash, a flash and a bang, and her body became heavy in his arms, too
        heavy to support, and she slid through his arms. Indeed, she fell
        straight down flat on her posterior. Then she rolled over on her
        side ---a bullet hole plunged through the back of her head. It was
        apparent by the way her eyes remained open that she was dead.
        And it was Thomas Sinclair, the North Star psychic, who shot
        her. He had appeared at the door's threshold bearing in his hand
        a .357 pistol; extending from the barrel, the silencer had muted the
        shot fired into a `sneeze' of air. Next he kicked the door closed
        without lowering the piece. Nothing came out of Giovanni's mouth.
        He felt paralyzed. Such was the horror of looking down the muzzle of
        a .357 that everything else was an abstraction. His throat swelled.
        All he managed to say was: `I didn't mean it,' his voice helpless
        and desperate. `I, I, I, wasn't thinking straight when I snitched on
        Vince. I wasn't thinking what snitching on Vince would do to you.
        Please, just understand. Please.'
        Thomas was expressionless. His long, blond hair hung
        savagely over his shoulders; his face was stern, cold, devoid of
        emotion; and his eye seemed lifeless, almost snake-like. When he
        cocked the gun Giovanni jerked his head to the side expecting a blast
        of heat and fire to explode into his face.
        `Thomas! I don't have to give the DA the documents. I can
        vanish, and pretend it never happened. What do you say, man?'
        `Documents?' Thomas slackened his arm, so that the gun was
        aimed above and not at Gio's head.
        `The Red Files,' Gio added. The horror subsided into
        uncontrollable shivers. `How in the hell did you get a hold
        of the Red Files?'
        `Yes how?'
        `Through the Sinclair's.'
        This time Thomas lowered the muzzle back in Giovanni's face,
        adding: `Listen very carefully, now. If you have any moral scruples
        about covering up for somebody, you better wake up. Understand?
        I'll do it right here, right now.'
        `Give me some time, please, I beg you.'
        `I don't have time. Tell me where the Red Files are. Does
        Elizabeth have them?'
        Migliazzo bowed his head, shamefully.
        `Thought so!' said Thomas. `Where is Elizabeth tonight?'
        `She's. . .'
        `Tell me! Where is that cunt?'
        `Saint Mark's Cathedral.'
        `And the Red Files?'
        `They're also at the cathedral.'
        `Then you can guess where we're going? We're going to walk
        out that door and I am going to have a gun pointed at your back.
        Don't think about doing anything stupid, I beg you. There's nothing
        that would stop me from blowing a hole in your back.' Thomas's gaze,
        more paralyzing than the gun itself, fixed upon him with devouring
        intensity. Slowly, and while sustaining eye contact, Thomas slipped
        the gun into his side pocket. Giovanni could have retaliated at that
        moment, but did not. Through intimidation alone Thomas forced Gio
        out the door and into the hallway. Still, Gio did not resist. For,
        Thomas sustained a tight grip on the gun while it was buried inside
        the pocket of his jacket, which was made from rattlesnake skin and
        had two pockets deep enough to conceal the additional length of the
        silencer. In the elevator, occupied by five other people, they
        stood in the corner. Thomas's gaze sucked the life from him.
        The door slid open. Thomas nudged Gio from behind. `Be
        cool,' Thomas said as they stepped from the elevator, `or I'll grease
        you. Stay cool. All right?'
        Thomas tossed him a key ring. `You're driving.'
        The sound of traffic became audible once they stepped
        outside. Bleaker Street was gray and dreary in the thin light of
        dusk. The breeze feathered Thomas's hair. He was wearing a pair of
        faded blue jeans and snake skin cowboy boots that added an upward
        lilt to his strides. His Jaguar was parked down the block from the
        They followed the fastest and easiest route to Queens.
        Thomas told Gio to avoid the traffic on Broadway by hooking over to
        34th Street and taking a right into the Queens Midtown Tunnel. Then
        Thomas reached between his legs and eased the seat back. Within half
        an hour, they had crossed the tunnel over into Queens and were
        approaching the construction zone outside the sanitarium. City
        workers were repairing a broken water main. The men were wearing
        hard hats, luminous in the high intensity flood lights. A jack
        hammer operator was breaking up the hard, concrete shell covering the
        earth and a back hoe was excavating the earth into a dump truck. The
        street was muddy and the traffic reduced to two lanes. A flagger
        waved them on, and the Jaguar advanced through the construction zone
        and beyond the sanitarium.
        Ahead was the cathedral on Parker Street. Thomas lifted the
        gun off his lap.
        `Where do they keep the documents?'
        `In a chest in the bedroom,' Gio answered, his hands on the
        `How many documents are there?'
        `Several hundred thousand,' he said and parked. The parking
        space was at the bottom of a small, bright-green lawn; the soysa was
        well-manicured, smooth as it went up a gentle slope toward the
        cathedral's elevated perspective above Parker Street. Masses of
        climbing ivy covered the cathedral's rock facade. Thomas opened the
        trunk where there was a bundle of rope and a roll of electrical
        `You said the priest lives in the basement?' Thomas asked.
        `After you tie up Elizabeth and Mark, I want you and the
        priest to find the documents. Then tie up the priest. I want them
        to stay tied, too. Is that clear?'
        `Yes,' he nodded.
        `No half-assed granny knots. No monkey business.'
        Giovanni found himself nodding and giving automatic responses
        having no other choice besides to comply to Thomas's every whim.
        `Whatever you want, Thomas. So long as no one gets hurt.'
        Thomas slammed the trunk closed. In his pocket was the roll
        of tape. He no longer carried the gun out in the open; it was
        bulging in his other pocket.
        `If the rope is loose, and if they get their arms free, then
        you're history. Is that also clear?'
        `Remember, you're expendable,' Thomas said, always applying,
        with expert knowledge, a dominant tension. `Don't screw up,' he went
        on. `I need your complete cooperation.'
        And he seemed to have it.
        `I only want Elizabeth to come out of this alive.'
        They climbed the stone-hewn column of stair towards the large
        double doors. Giovanni grabbed the wooden handle but did not pull.
        They were two, heavy oak doors, embellished with hand-forged iron
        work. Above the arch were stone gargoyles. There was something
        psychic about the cathedral that touched a hell-fearing nerve in his
        Inside, Giovanni and Thomas obeyed the rule of silence by
        treading softly through the nave. Evening Mass had not ended and the
        pews were filled. The congregation sat there in sublime indifference
        listening to a priest recite the Latin liturgy. At the organ sat a
        dark-cloaked figure who played a triple tiered keyboard and whose
        feet pumped the billows. The brass tubes were thirty feet high.
        Above the alter was the crucified image of Jesus. A current of pain
        seemed to permeate the pale, thin, dangling body, crowned in thorns;
        blood trickled from the hands and feet. Yet the face was silent, the
        eyes still and un-moved, conveying peace in the midst of physical
        The soft, mystical chord penetrated the entire cathedral, and
        was audible in the passageway down which Giovanni walked. His head
        was throbbing; his neck hurt and the pain transferred itself to the
        back of his skull.
        `I can tell you're not feeling well,' Thomas remarked. `Do
        you have a head ache?'
        `We'll see if the priest has any aspirin in his medicine
        cabinet. I don't want to see you in pain.'
        The display of compassion convinced Giovanni that Thomas was
        looking out for him and that nothing else bad would happened tonight
        if he followed orders. Their footsteps now chattered down a wooden
        staircase. They were descending into a brick-enclosed room. The
        walls, steeped in moisture, added the distinctive, stony-wet smell of
        a poorly ventilated basement.
        `I think I should tell you, Elizabeth is armed,' Gio
        said. `She packs a Beretta in her purse. It is always loaded and
        she used it well.'
        `I know.'
        `I say this so no one will be harmed, un-necessarily.'
        `I'll take that into consideration. How much further?'
        They were directly below the nave, in the basement, able to
        hear the organ while they walked single file down a narrow corridor.
        Cob webs trembled in their wake. The air was cool and wet, almost
        too dark to see through, and there was the smell of burning fuel. At
        the end of the corridor was the boiler room. It was noticeably
        warmer there, and darker; concrete beam supports rose from the floor
        to the rough-milled timbers forming the ceiling; exposed metal pipes
        ran the length of the ceiling; the cold water pipes were sweating,
        due to the warmth. All the pipes were connected to a rumbling cast
        iron boiler.
        Thomas was saying:
        `This does not have to be bloody, Gio ---if you keep them
        calm. But if she pulled the gun, I assure you it will be messy.'
        `Elizabeth responds to reason and common sense. Violence
        isn't necessary with her.'
        The bare light blue glared over their heads. A white cotton
        string was connected to the light bulb. Thomas pulled down on the
        string. The light turned off, and the boiler room was thrown into
        darkness. All that was visible was the slivers of lights shining
        through the cracks of the doorway. The .357 was pressed against
        Giovanni's back. Thomas was behind him, saying, in the dark: `Go
        ahead, Gio, knock.' The rapping of his fist was followed by various
        sounds on the other side of the door. They heard Elizabeth's
        voice: `That's Gio,' and foot steps. But it was not Elizabeth who
        appeared when the door was opened. The interior light inside the
        apartment outlined the priest who showed himself in full frock, and
        whose small, thin frame was bent over and hunchbacked. A pair of
        reading glasses rested at the end of his nose.
        `Giovanni?' the priest said, his voice tremulous in a way
        that suggest the onset of Parkinson's disease. `Who's with you?'
        `We're in somewhat of a predicament, here, Father. We need
        to come in.'
        `We need to come in?'
        `Yes. We have some business to take care of.'
        `I know you have business,' the priest said. `We've been
        waiting for you. But we did not think you would bring anyone else.
        It's un-called for.'
        The priest did not move from the threshold. The rounded
        rubber tip of his cane remained impaled into the light brown
        carpeting underneath his feet. In spite of his enfeebled physical
        appearance, he stood his ground and scrutinized them from over the
        top of his reading glasses. Then Elizabeth appeared. She stood
        behind the priest. Her face was blushed back to her ears.
        `What's Thomas doing here?' she said. `Does my grandfather
        know you're here? Have you broken you leash, Thomas?'
        `I brought him with me,' Giovanni said. `I'm sorry
        Elizabeth. I'm sorry Father. Please let us in and there won't be
        any problems.'
        `We can't do that, and you know it,' said Elizabeth. `This
        is Nicholas's home. He is a priest, he is old, and nobody will barge
        in on him as long as I'm around.'
        `If North Star knows about us,' the priest said, `we'll have
        to destroy the documents.'
        `You'll do no such thing,' said Thomas, still standing behind
        Giovanni. `You'll do what my boy, Gio, wants you to do.'
        `Giovanni?' she said.
        `I'm ill, and I'm exhausted,' said Giovanni. `Please, please
        co-operate, and there won't be any problems.'
        `Tell the primadonna why I'm here,' Thomas said. Giovanni
        obeyed, saying:
        `Elizabeth, Thomas wants the Red Files. I don't think that's
        too much to ask.'
        `Did my grandfather put you up to this?' she asked.
        `As a matter of fact, he didn't,' said Thomas. `This
        afternoon he fired me and hired your new boy.'
        This time Giovanni spoke. `Please understand. If I hand the
        Red Files over to the DA's office, Thomas is going down with Vince.'
        `That's not my problem,' Elizabeth said.
        `It is now!' yelled Thomas. The priest was shaking more
        noticeably now that Thomas had broken his air of reserve. And now
        Mark Sonntag appeared in the doorway, bearing a hand gun. It was
        then that Elizabeth realized that Thomas Rose also had a gun; she
        could not see it because Thomas remained behind Giovanni, whose
        shoulders were rolled back as if Thomas was grinding the muzzle into
        his mid-back.
        `He's got a gun in my back,' Gio cried. `Don't shoot!'
        `Put the gun down,' Thomas screamed.
        Giovanni spat as he cried: `Play it cool. He's already
        killed one person tonight.'
        It was Elizabeth's gun that Mark aimed, a simple nickel-
        plated Berretta pointed at Thomas's thin, long, pock-marked face,
        which was half-exposed behind Giovanni's head. That left Mark a slim
        target. He seemed to know that and didn't shoot; he merely stood
        there, thinking while everyone was yelling. One twitch of my hand,
        Mark thought, and the bullet could blast away Giovanni's cheek.
        Thomas would recover and shoot back. Somebody would die. Thomas
        would die but someone else would to, maybe rabbit. Mark Sonntag
        lowered the gun after thinking it through. His arm fell to his side;
        his thumb un-cocked the chamber. Then he bent his legs, knelt, and
        laid the gun on the floor. Everyone was yelling except her. She
        seemed on the verge of tears. Her face was sheet white. Her eyes
        blood shot. Never give up your gun! she seemed to cry. Never give
        up sovereignty!
        Giovanni staggered into the low ceiling room beyond the
        threshold, this being the living room. Directly above the ceiling
        was the nave. The organ composition and its throb could be heard,
        and felt, vibrating inside this small, low-ceiling apartment, which
        was sparsely furnished, drab, yet clean and organized. Giovanni
        pulled three rickety wooden chairs out from under a table that was
        draped in a thin, white cloth that was actually a bed sheet that
        served as a table cloth. On it was an open Bible and waxed covered
        bottle of wine, from which rose a tapered candle stick. The dividing
        wall, against which Gio pushed the chairs, separated the living room
        from the tiny bedroom on the other side of the dividing wall. In
        some places the wall paper was torn, revealing lath and plaster.
        Hung on the wall was a religious print framed in gold-gilt molding,
        and another print that was un-framed and tacked to the wall.
        Elizabeth had, in her adolescent years, used the apartment as a
        monastic retreat from the fast-paced frenzy of her dance career, and
        spent countless hours lounging on the couch over against the wall.
        The print, Botticelli's Birth of Venus, hung straight above the
        chairs pushed against the dividing wall.
        `Have a seat,' Gio told them.
        `Why?' Mark asked.
        `Just do it. Don't ask questions. Let's be cooperative.'
        Mark, Elizabeth and the priest were huddled together; the
        priest shivered. She wrapped her arm around him, pulled him close to
        her side and comforted him with whispering words of reassurance.
        Neither she nor Mark let go when Giovanni tried seizing the priest by
        the arm.
        `He's an old man!' she cried. `Leave him be!'
        `Do as they say,' Thomas told Gio. `The old man isn't
        sitting down, yet. I have a special job for him. It's the two
        preppies I want tied up.'
        Thomas had the .357 aimed at them from the kitchen. He was
        standing behind the lime green counter top that divided the kitchen
        from the living room; behind him was the stove. On the counter was
        the Beretta.
        `You, priest,' said Thomas, `where are the Red Files?'
        `In the bedroom.'
        `Are they all there? Every document?'
        Giovanni, crouched on his knees, looked up. He was tying
        Elizabeth's ankles to the legs of the chair.
        `All the files are in the bedroom.'
        `Not at her apartment?' Thomas asked. `Not at Mark's place?'
        `Not that I know of,' said Gio.
        `So they're all here?'
        The rope formed tight knots around their wrists and ankles.
        They were now completely restrained. From his side pocket Thomas
        produced the gray electrical tape. He tossed it to Giovanni and
        Giovanni went about taping their mouths.
        `It'll be all right,' Gio said to Elizabeth.
        `Why are you doing this to me?' she asked.
        `No talking!' said Thomas. `That goes for you to, Gio. Tape
        her mouth and be quiet.' He averted his face toward the
        ceiling. `Doesn't that music ever stop!'
        There was the abrupt tearing sound of Giovanni pealing away a
        strip of tape. That strip was applied to Elizabeth's mouth.
        Deprived of movement, taped, bound, and un-able to speak, the feeling
        of claustrophobia overwhelmed her. Her finger were reddish purple
        from lack of circulation. Her nostrils flared. The old man's
        apartment was stiflingly hot -- her face was sweating -- and the tape
        did not adhere well; it kept pealing, so Giovanni rubbed it into her
        mouth. Another strip was adhered to Sonntag's face. Then Giovanni
        placed the roll of tape on the lime-green counter top; although the
        Berretta was within reaching distance, he did not go for it. Thomas
        was keeping an eye on him.
        `What about the bottle of aspirin?' Gio asked. `My head is
        killing me. Do you mind if I check the medicine cabinet?'
        `Go ahead,' Thomas said and followed him into the bedroom,
        which was barely large enough for the twin bed, the dresser and the
        wooden chest that was at the foot of the bed. On the floor stood a
        kerosene heater. The filament flamed cherry red. The heat cut the
        moisture but at the expense of making the apartment uncomfortable and
        the bedroom miserable. Rings of moisture surrounded Thomas's arm
        pits. He was observing the priest, whose arms were plunged inside
        the chest. `How are you proceeding?' Thomas asked him, just then
        entering the room; the priest crouched on his knees and sorted
        through the papers.
        `It will take time,' the priest, Nicholas, answered.
        `Hurry it up, then. I don't have all night. Where do you
        keep the kerosene for this heater?'
        `There's a can in the boiler room.'
        There was the sound of a door closing shut; it was Gio
        closing himself off in the bathroom. Meanwhile, Thomas hurried
        through the apartment in order to retrieve the kerosene.
        In the boiler room, he found the five gallon container.
        There was not enough time this evening to find the specific documents
        tying himself to Vince Serenghetti and their terrorist activities.
        Thomas raised the container. It was tin and felt three-quarters
        full. If he burned the chest, and let the fire spread into the
        apartment, there would be an additional benefit. The fire would
        destroy all the evidence and all witnesses. A manic smile spread
        over his face.
        Thomas switched the container to his left hand and drew the
        gun from his pocket. Through the lightened doorway he saw Giovanni
        reaching for the Berretta lying on the lime-green countertop.
        `What are you doing, Gio?' he asked when emerging from the
        boiler room; Giovanni spun towards the doorway where Thomas
        stood. `Were you reaching for that gun?' Thomas asked.
        Giovanni flushed. `No, not at all.'
        `It looked like you were.'
        `I wasn't.'
        `Are you sure?'
        `I hope you wouldn't be that stupid.'
        `I was reaching for it, yes, but its not at all what you may
        `Ah, I see.'
        Father Nicholas came into the living room. His strides were
        short and wobbly. He was holding documents.
        `What do you have there?' Thomas asked.
        `Evidence against Mr. Serenghetti, including a financial
        report. The papers trace the money Vince Serenghetti advanced to an
        off short account linked to the terrorist who bombed the Red hideout
        in Venice. There's also a bank statement. Your name is listed as
        the depositor. I also have addresses to active members of the Black
        Shirts and the Reds. Phone company records show that calls were made
        to convicted terrorists from Serenghetti.'
        Thomas interrupted, saying: `Good work, priest. Why don't
        you have a seat next to the preppies.'
        `But I haven't finished yet.'
        `Well, I say you have. I'm hot and sweaty and sick of
        hearing that fucking organ. I don't know how an old man like you can
        bear living in such a hole.'
        The priest was staring at the kerosene. `What do you intend
        to do with the files?'
        `My boy, we're having a little barbecue. Say, Gio. How's
        the headache doing? Did you find any aspirin?'
        Giovanni nodded. He too, like the priest, noticed the
        kerosene; the implication was dreadful. Thomas, evidently, intended
        to burned the documents in the apartment. Gio asked: `Have we
        finished our business, yet?'
        `What do you mean?' Thomas asked.
        `You have the documents. Can we go home?'
        `Sure you can go home, just not at this precise moment.'
        Not only his hand but the priest's whole body trembled. A
        purple vein swelled in his forehead. He said: `If you wish to
        incinerate the documents you could toss them into the boiler. It
        gets very hot in there.'
        `Good idea, old man. But first, Gio here is tying you up.'
        `Tie me up?'
        `He's old,' Gio said. `What harm could he be? We can throw
        the papers in the boiler, and be done with it. Then we can forget
        whatever happened tonight.'
        `You'll forget, Gio, when I tell you to forget. Now, tie up
        the penguin.'
        Everyone watched Thomas bend over and pick up the kerosene.
        They were all going to die. They would burn to death, if they
        weren't shot, and there was no way out. Elizabeth slashed her head
        to the side. Mark was staring at her. Unlike the rest he did not
        seem panicked.
        `If you set fire to the place, they'll die!' Gio yelled, and
        slammed his fist on the counter top. He was in the kitchen. `You
        said no one would be harmed, if we did what you said.'
        Thomas released the kerosene and pressed his hand against the
        bulge in his pocket.
        `I don't like this new attitude of yours. Do as you're told.'
        `I will not. Haven't you done enough?'
        `For the love of God, please don't set fire my apartment,'
        said the priest. His cane dropped to the carpet. He clutched
        Thomas's jacket. `We'll do whatever you tell us to do. Please. I
        beg you.'
        `Sit down, priest.'
        `No one will walk out of here alive, priest. Quiet yourself
        and die with dignity.'
        Giovanni charged towards the open doorway. Thomas raised the
        gun, fired, and Giovanni collapsed somewhere behind the kitchen
        countertop. `Adonai!' screamed the priest; his legs buckled, and he
        fell on the carpet, wailing: `Adonai! Adonai! Adonai!', until
        Thomas kicked him with his boot. The priest gasped for air. Still
        yet, the organ composition, Gigout's Toccata, filtered down from the
        nave. Giovanni was lying on his stomach, making feeble, crawling
        movements. The slugglish, scrambling jerks of his outer extremities
        crawled, however, without going anywhere. Blood issued from a deep
        chestal wound and spread over the kitchen's linoleum floor. His
        fingers clawed the floor again and again, and over and over the
        organist played the same reiterating notes in concitato, the notes
        surging, rising, falling, cresting in an endless circular rhythm,
        round and round, like the circular rhythm of a merry-go-round. The
        priest knelt at Elizabeth's feet and prayed. Now her eyes were
        closed as well; her chin level, her back straight; as if she were
        sitting in a ray of sunshine. The priest was saying: `To the Powers
        vested in Heaven, I call upon thee to chariot our sister into the
        womb of our Lord Father, Jesus Christ. . . .'
        Giovanni Migliazzo no longer moved. Above his body, and
        staring wildly down at the floor, Thomas held the pistol. The red
        puddle enlarged underneath Gio's face and chest. A slaughterhouse
        smell of blood filled the crime scene. Thomas slipped the gun into
        his jacket, then set his cold, brown, reptilian eyes upon the priest
        who finished his prayer by crossing himself and uttering Amen.

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