The Charlotte News

Tuesday, July 1, 1941

FOUR EDITORIALS

Site Ed. Note: Today, the last day of Cash's life, would appear on the page, interestingly enough, a cogent article by Cash's friend from the Baltimore Evening Sun, Gerald Johnson. In it, he attempts to get his readership to understand the Nazi threat, far worse than that posed by Communism under Stalin, even if Stalin was as much a creature of the night as Hitler. He suggests waiting until after the war is won against Hitler to deal with Stalin's Russia. If a policeman shoots a rabid dog biting a Communist, he asks, would you accuse the policeman of being a Communist-sympathizer?

In installment 26 of Out of the Night, Jan relates the beginnings of the Nazi reign in the streets of Berlin and Hamburg, the purges by storm troopers of all Communists, the burning of all Communist propaganda, the banning of Communist demonstrations--as he and his comrades spirit away all manner of Communist material salvageable to Denmark for safe-keeping. Hitler uses the call for mass strike by the Communists as an excuse to impose martial law and put down all forms of free speech. Jan stands non-plussed at the apathy of the majority of Germans in the face of the Nazi take-over of society. The attitude, he says, is one of "wait and see". Hitler and his Storm Troopers and "Squads for Special Purposes", slowly take charge of every aspect of society. Jan spends two strangely quiet days aboard the derelict Bochum. Suddenly, Jan gets word to go into hiding: the Reichstag is burning; the blame will be placed on the Bolshies; the night of the long knives has arrived.

Jesse plays it coy on the phone with Easy. Boots and her Buddies find the right farmhouse at last--at least we assume. Mrs. Jones plays Coleridge for Popeye's loose button lesson as Lamb wonders about her lost little six-year old in the locker. Bing, trying to swing it like Frank, saves the ladies on the beach by providing plenty of sizzling, fizzling Royal Crown Cola for all to drink on a hot, sweltering day full of sand and mystery. Take Five, ladies...

And, Sally in the Garden, the lady in the polychromatic Polka-Dot dress, the objet d'art et de vertu of Tops's periodic harassment, may in fact not be a lady at all--rather a fella, a fella named Lola, maybe a fella named Sue, a fella with a gun, probably a Baretta gun, trying to take the Kew--part of the Mod-squad, with guns.

Red Ryder and Little Beaver have a job to do still in Frisco, after their rescue from the Wave of the New World Order.

The front page greeted the beginning of the second draft call-up by the Administration. All news is local.

And the tintinnabulation of the Bells hitting the Wheelers but good from the rear on the privileges granted to Nazis in the mails strikes the chords.

Meanwhile, as results continued to roll in out in Texas from the graveyard shifts, making things look bleak after all for Lyndon Johnson after an early lead over "Pass the Biscuits" Pappy O'Daniel and his hillbilly band, in Tokio this date, July 2 on the other side of the line, against the advice of Admiral Nomura who counseled peace with America, the Japanese military high command were in decisive conference with the Emperor. The move south, into "Southern Regions", the Philippines and Malaysia and the Dutch East Indies, to further the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, to win the war in China, was approved--despite the warning of Nomura that it would assure war with both Great Britain and the United States. The first step toward this end was to consolidate positions in Indo-China. A contingency plan was also approved to attack Russia from the east if the Nazi victory there appeared assured. And things were going well on that front, especially in Minsk.

Thus, the way was prepared for the attack on Pearl Harbor as a necessary adjunct to the plan, to rid the threat of the United States Fleet interfering with the southward movement.

In Mexico City, the chieftains of the Nazi spy operations in Mexico were busy shutting down shop after learning of the spy arrests in New York. Thinking they were next to be arrested, they were becoming increasingly desperate to find a way back to Germany and out of Mexico. Hamburg was of little help other than to order destruction of all evidence.

The team which beat the Hornets the previous night, incidentally, despite their giving up nine hits, were the Bulls from Durham.

But never for long too much mess with a Bee.

The full-form reality, yet, however, was a few minutes from its

recalescense within the smelter in which he was now posited without exit,

unless to be released by the slow cooling of the emotional fires now

haunting his every pace and every peso expended for his attempt, within the

vehicle of greater appeal to the wider body of his society, to administer

the figurative pathometer to history and its raconteurs, to try by that bit

of better-than-strictly empirically based polygraphy, to reach a higher

coalescence with accuracy and, in the end, evoke pathos without remorse or

repining over the final passage into the mistied, hidden pages of truth.

"Go Ahead, Clear the Atlantic!" Best damned advice I've heard lately.

If it could be started, he would surely help, and by the attempt,

itself, he now felt, temper his own mettle for the good fight which surely

lay ahead for all as a community of mankind.

Somehow, somehow, he must still find the way to do it--to write

that thing--without becoming Tartuffe, despite their Walpurgis-Tartar'an

traps.

Despite the pressure of the moment, he could still delight in

abstracting these fathoms-deep, shallow demonic dips.

"W.C. Handy, The Father of the Blues", in the gabardine suit, author of

"Beale Street," "Yellow Dog," and "St. Louis Blues," among others. I should

pick it up. Sounds interesting. His life sounds as if it has been as upside

down as mine.

"Action Now!" That sounds about right.

He whispered to himself, "I will succeed. I must..."

Then, he hit the brick trip and stumbled in its shine...

It came from his feckly inattentive, still preoccupied, perusal of

the Times. He would never look at a newspaper again.

His mind foundered in disbelief at what his eyes caught as his hands

fumbled around the crease to flip over the front page.

There was an article on the left side detailing the arrest on Saturday

and Sunday of 32 spies in New York City. It had come as the result of an

F.B.I. undercover operation which had gone on for two years and had

penetrated the very inner circle of spies, itself. J. Edgar Hoover had

issued a statement after withholding the news of the initial arrests until

the previous day.

Hoover was now quoted as saying that it was "the greatest spy roundup

in U.S. history... This is one of the most active and vicious gangs we have

ever had to deal with." The spies had been "snitching important national

defense secrets and transmitting them to a foreign power." The article did

not identify the foreign power. But as it said, "There is no doubt as to

which Government these agents were serving." Twenty-five were German.

What was that about "self-constituted spy hunters" being "almost as

intolerable" as the Gestapo? It does not matter. No time.

He read quickly, haltingly, unable fully to focus his mind or eyes.

He turned to the inside portion of the article, right beside the ad for

"The Coward Shoe". He read the list of names of those arrested. He pulled

out a pencil and piece of paper, jotted them down along with their

printed residence addresses. Maybe, he could figure out some fit later.

Then, the final precipice, from which the momentum of his carriage

would not and could not allow retreat, came fast into view. As he read in

greater detail, his eyes skimmed over a name. It struck a chord--"O Fortuna"

came to mind. So, too, did Berlioz's "La Damnation de Faust".

"What was that? I've seen it before." He uttered the words softly,

but aloud. He caught himself. He looked up. No one in the room seemed to

take any notice.

His uncontrolled verbalization had come as a result of reading that

the spies had been meeting for years at a restaurant, the Little Casino

Bar and Grill at 206 East 85th Street.

Could this now be just another coincidence? He was maddened with

anxiety. He pulled the note from his wallet again and revisited its unseen

foretelling of danger. He wished to check his senses to make sure that he

was not again simply awaiting Mary's gentle shaking to awake from the

steady stream of sorrow-struck images.

He could not be truly and fully sure but believed this to be really

happening. The note betrayed the end of what could have been before but

wildly random coincidence coupled with deliberate attempts by the loosely

connected oak tree discards to muddle his awareness of things. This,

however, was more than coincidence would allow. The names were the

same.

These purveyors of the Tiger's stealth, from whatever source they

emanated, were indeed in league to net the souls they sought to trap and he

was now, at least, for some small number of them, but enough to snip his

life-flowing cords, whether directly or by harming someone close to him, the

heir apparent to be their vaunted quintain, to be made into a

quisling-quarry by indirection to the Pearly gate.

Yet, for now, the objective reality granted provision for some slight

degree of opportunity to obtain quitclaim by virtue of the relative

sanctuary offered by where he was. Perhaps, he should not leave under any

circumstances.

He could somehow get a message to Mary and they could catch the first

plane home. Damn the expenses or be damned. It was time to leave.

But on immediate rejoinder with himself, he dismissed the idea,

realizing that whatever the identity of these propositi of the

Harrowing-of-Hell, they knew where his mother and father and sister

lived. He was in their vise and the screw was turning tight the jaw.

There was nothing to do now but somehow figure a way to become

the funambulist, lest his own neck might become the steady for the rope.

He realized fully, for the first time, that none of this was a joke or

harmless riddle. It was not a product of the imagination. He had never

dismissed it completely, but self-delusion is the artful dodger which besets

all when stress overtakes reason.

If the F.B.I. was concerned enough about these characters to arrest

them, he was up to it and in it and there was not going to be an easy way

out of it. He had nothing. They had deliberately used coded messages.

Why had he been so naive? What was that perversely prescient line of Dixon?

"We always underestimate the men we despise."

There had to be an invention available to stop them. But Daniels,

for sure, for all his good intentions, was not going to provide it. Wilbur

intuitively knew it. Why had he even wasted time this morning waiting

for him? Daniels was an elderly man and ready to retire, genial to a fault.

He would not be wishing any controversy in his latter time as Ambassador.

He had been walking on eggshells for eight years and had successfully

done so without cracking any.

Forget the waiting. Nothing could be done here.

2.

He walked into the swelter of the mid-morning sun now causing those

who could afford the luxury of a dress jacket to remove it and toss it

shoulder-slung. Wilbur didn't take the time. He walked in quickstep,

trying again to rub the blister on his right heel.

He had gotten no further than two blocks from the Embassy when a

short, young Hispanic male stepped up even with his pace and began walking

abreast. Wilbur tried, serio-comically, to ignore him for a half

block. The man finally spoke.

"Señor, why you walk so fast? I have a message only from your

amigo--friend. Please, please, you will wear my poor legs out."

Wilbur now paused and looked about anxiously, squinted his eyes at

the man and grinned slightly to try feebly to hide his fear. He said

nothing.

"Thank you, Señor. Mi amigo, you are like Zapata, himself, fiercely

moving forward to the fight. I like a mano who has pace of lion rather

than, how you say, tortuga. I have message from the mano who says you

will know him by his words. He say, ímechachis! I have it...

"He say, 'Do not retreat from the court of Venice or be as Hamlet,

lost in thought, else maybe thou shalt become as Shylock might, had he not

joined the perfect flock. Best read of the man on the dappled ass before you

become one--chapters 32 to 35. See me by 5:00 or else have the heirship finished.'

"He say to say that word right and spell it for you. It is h-e-i-r. Okay?

There, that is what it say, Señor. You will forgive me. I must destroy. See?

You tell friend that I deliver message and burn it in presence. Make sure

you tell him. I wish no trouble over my orders. Good luck, Señor. Whatever

it is you are, I wish you well. I have no interest anything but to see my

country prosper. Buenas dias, Señor."

With that, the internuncio walked away. Wilbur stood for a few moments

trying to take in the message. He nervously lit a cigarette. Not able even

to find Chesterfields, he had bought a pack of Pall Malls.

He wrote down the chapter references and hurried back to the apartment.

It was obvious what the cryptic reference regarding "the man on the ass"

meant.

When he arrived at the tabernacle, he went immediately to Mary's

copy of Don Quixote. The message had neglected to specify the part of

the book to which the chapters designated belonged. Both the first and

second parts are possessed of chapters 32 to 35.

The first part's chapters coincided with the sub-novel, "The

Ill-advised Curiosity." He began rekindling his memory of it at chapter

32, "Which treats of what befell all Don Quixote's party at the inn." By

the time he had scanned through chapter 35, he was irritated. So what?

A love triangle between Anselmo, his good friend Lothario, and

Anselmo's wife, Camilla.

Shortly after Anselmo marries Camilla, he becomes curious as to whether

she is faithful. He employs the aid of Lothario deliberately to attempt to

beseech Camilla to test her fidelity. Lothario reluctantly agrees.

Initially, Lothario does nothing and reports to Anselmo that Camilla is

completely faithful. Not satisfied, Anselmo insists that Lothario continue

his advances while Anselmo departs the village for eight days. Again,

Lothario reluctantly agrees. During the days of Anselmo's absence, Lothario

succumbs to his own secret desires for the beautiful Camilla. They begin an

affair. Lothario continues to report the enduring fidelity of Camilla.

Anselmo's unconquerable curiosity continues, however, unabated. He finally

convinces Lothario to attempt to seduce Camilla while Anselmo secretly

observes. Lothario and Camilla co-opt the scene such that Anselmo will see

Camilla stubbornly resisting Lothario. So much does Camilla play out her

role that she grabs a dagger and wounds herself on her shoulder, saying that

she is humiliated by even the suggestion by Lothario that she would be

unfaithful, that she wishes to die and kill Lothario. She swoons. Leonilla,

Camilla's handmaid who is aware of the art, pretends to attend her wound.

After insuring that the wound is minor, Anselmo rushes to Lothario and

thanks him profusely for finally convincing him that Camilla is as Calpurnia

in her undying faithfulness. The ruse is continued for some time as the

affair rages. Eventually, Anselmo finds out of the affair through a quirk of

circumstance involving Leonilla. Anselmo dies of heartbreak, leaving an

unfinished note.

This cannot be the right section. There was another reference to

pearl. But to what end? What was it?

In chapter 34, after seeing the feigned scene between Lothario and

Camilla, Anselmo "longed for night and an opportunity of escaping from

the house to go and see his good friend Lothario, and with him give vent

to his joy over the precious pearl he had gained in having established

his wife's purity."

He did not suspect Mary of unfaithfulness. What did that have to do

with anything?

What does part two's chapters say? Is this some red herring to waste

time? Where is Mary?

It won't take but a minute. Continue reading.

Okay, these chapters describe a joke being played by a duke and duchess

on Don Quixote and Sancho Panza to send them on some other idle adventure.

They deliberately seek to confuse Panza to cause him to believe

that he must "disenchant" Dulcinea, the fair lady enchanted to appear as a

peasant girl. They convince him to accept voluntarily at the time

of his own choosing 3,300 self-inflicted lashes of the whip. By that,

Dulcinea will be disenchanted.

Okay. So what? There was that line in chapter 32. What was

it, again? Don Quixote, speaking to the duchess, says, "But as I

delivered myself from that [cage], I am inclined to believe that there

is no other that can hurt me; and so, these enchanters, seeing that they

can not exert their vile craft against my person, revenge themselves on

what I love most, and seek to rob me of life by maltreating that of Dulcinea

in whom I live; and therefore I am convinced that when my squire carried my

message to her, thy changed her into a common peasant girl, engaged in such

a mean occupation as sifting wheat; I have already said, however, that that

wheat was not red wheat, nor wheat at all, but grains of orient pearl."

And there, right ahead of it, also lies the connection to...

It cannot be. How? The Joker said nothing of that. But it has to be. It

defies reductionism and probabilities otherwise. They were there

and heard. "Damn their souls!"

For the second day in a row, Wilbur was cursing now these Nazis

for abstracting from and perverting so profoundly the literature he had so

long prized as only such. He was thoroughly disenchanted, himself, with this

drivel.

He pulled out the list of arrestees he had scribbled from the newspaper

article. He plundered his wallet for the list which he had found after the

blonde man departed the Embassy a week earlier. He started comparing the

phrases to the names of the arrestees. They were all there. Every coded

phrase had a counterpart on the list. "'Greet thy friends'... Like hell!"

Where was Mary? No time to wait longer. He grabbed up the items of

worth, grabbed the passports, paused for a few minutes to scribble

hurriedly another couple of pages worth of jumbled, larger-than-Great

Primer print impressions from the morning and the prospects for the

afternoon, "for the record," as he prefaced it:

"List of phrases, June 23, matches article, Times July 1,

arrest. Don Quixote, speech, Orlando, wheat, sound and sea,

Mama, Doreme, Nazi hit, bay, Japan, coastal cities, later--don't

know--now? When? Where? Joker has cards. Will play bridge.

Don't know. Do best. Curiosity. Dishonor. Why?"

He checked it a moment to insure it said enough if the Embassy found it

without revealing too much in case it fell into the wrong hands--the Mexican

police, maybe.

He then set about to the Banco de Nacional and there rented a safety

deposit box for securing of the potential objects of theft. He enclosed

the list of phrases from June 23 and the note found May 29 in Shelby inside

his passport wallet, underneath the document.

He wrote a note, enclosed it in the tablet, that he did not know

why he was doing this latter particular act, because Daniels, he knew,

would vouch for them if their means of proper identification were somehow

stolen or questioned.

As he wrote this thought, he began to answer his own central query:

What if the whole planet was about to explode in anarchy as the Germans

moved further toward Moscow? What if there were some

sort of Nazi infiltration planned for a military coup right there in Mexico

in order to procure, without further payment for the bounty, the rich oil

reserves already used before the blockade of '39 and were perhaps still

being somehow secretly employed? And that was not to mention the obvious

possibility of gaining the ultimate strategic proximity to the United

States, short of actual invasion. What if Daniels were killed? Then what?

How would they get out? Would they be interned? Would the Embassy be

overrun as in many of the invaded countries of Europe?

There was no United States military presence in Mexico. There was

only tired, old Daniels, a few attachés, and a hardly

noticeable F.B.I. field office. Hardly a sufficient force to thwart a quick

military coup after a force of Nazis had infiltrated the Mexican government

and military. And were they not well on their way to just such a fait

accompli already?

The fact of having seriously to ask himself such questions offered

his only explanation for his actions now. He must take some precaution,

if only the paucity of belated precautions now left available to him for

immediate pursuit.

3.

After going to the bank, he returned to the apartment to find Mary

there. She had gone to the doctor. Wilbur began importuning her again to

believe that they were both in serious danger. He told her that he had

stored their belongings and stressed that they should change their residence.

Mary sought to placate, reminding that he had promised that

morning to seek medical attention. She indicated that if he would go to the

doctor first, then she would be glad to move to another place that

afternoon. He agreed.

"Ah, Señor Kay, I have been expecting you since your wife called.

Bueno, I am Dr. Fanques. Come in..."

"The name is Cash." Wilbur caught the sound of his voice in nervous

abruptness and faintly smiled to soften it. He thought to himself: "'K'--what

an insult."

"My apologies, Señor Cash. Wait right here. My attendant will be in

momentarily and then I will be back."

Wilbur dropped his head and secretively whispered, "Mary, why did

he call me 'Mr. K'?"

"I'm sorry, I forgot to mention it. I thought it would save you some

embarrassment and anxiety about coming here. I gave him a false name over

the phone, just in case you had reservations about it."

"Fine, but don't do that without telling me. Things are strange enough."

Mary breathed an exasperated sigh. "Alright, well, I could have

said we were the Cloudcuckooburys if that would have appealed to you

more."

"I'm sorry, Mary. I know you meant well. But please..."

"Señor Cash?" A young man, a cap pulled down over his left eye

and wearing a gray smock with inkstains on the sleeves, opened the door

from the outer waiting area to an inner room. Wilbur went in, doing a

thorough visual examination of the young fellow. There was nothing

distinctive about him. Nevertheless, his appearance struck

Wilbur oddly, darkly for some reason. He could not figure it.

Mary followed them into the examination area.

"Señora, you may wait out here."

"No, please, I would like her to come in, too."

"As you wish, Señor."

After the customary preliminaries, the doctor entered again. Following

some discussion of his symptoms and prior treatment for hyperthyroidism, the

doctor sought to administer an injection of vitamin B1 without telling

either Wilbur or Mary what he was about to do.

As the doctor approached from behind Wilbur's position on the edge

of the table, he squirted the syringe to clear the air. Wilbur felt a

drop of the cold liquid hit his arm. He looked around to see the

sharp needle heading for his flesh. Not expecting it, he instinctively

bristled and pulled away, saying nothing. His eyes had become as big as

saucers.

Mary now adopted a soothing, maternal voice. "It'll be alright,

honey. Let him give it to you. It won't hurt."

"Señor, your Señora is correct. This is only B-1. Please, you have

had it before. I am sorry to have startled you."

Beginning to turn red, Wilbur gave up his right arm to the doctor.

As they walked from the office and took a taxi back to the apartment,

Wilbur, at first quiet, suddenly turned to Mary and simply muttered: "I've

been poisoned."

Mary did not respond. The statement struck her to mean that he thought

he had been poisoned by the doctor giving him the shot.

Wilbur had something else in mind.

Once back at the apartment, Wilbur insisted that Mary abide by her part

of the bargain for their mutual safety. She agreed. They packed their

belongings into the steamer trunk, summoned a cab and went to four different

hotels before finally settling on the Geneve. At each of the first three,

Wilbur had perceived, if only in hidden parts, strangeness in the manner in

which some few of the people leered, lurked and milled about in front of

the entrance or, in one case, within the lobby, indicated he did not

wish to take chances that they might be other internuncios within the

reticulation.

The Geneve, while not perfect, at least held appeal for respite

from the flow of warmongering images. Still, he wanted to drive around

to a few more potential choices to throw anyone off the trail who might

be in tow.

"Mary, take that hat off. It'll make a target for them."

"Oh, my goodness, I've got it pinned up."

"Mary, I mean it. They'll see it and be able to follow on it. It's

like the bull with the cape, all stuck up there red like that."

"Alright, alright, I'm about it." Mary was carefully removing the

pins holding the bright hat in place. "There, satisfied? Now my hair's

probably a mess." She reached in her purse and pulled out her compact and

began primping.

"Mary, how can you...?" Wilbur stopped short, shook his head and lapsed

into silence as he stared out the window, periodically looking to the rear

of the cab.

Mainly, he simply wanted a place of private refuge away from the forces

of darkness trying, as it appeared, very hard to press him into the abyss of

history's disgraced Arnolds. He wanted time to plan his next actions.

To provide momentary respite from the otherwise unremitting rasp of

tension besetting his thoughts, his mind fastened on the fact that, against the

backdrop of this icon-beset, raked, red-and-black, striped Desoto taxi

hurtling him and his new wife through the traffic of the bustling city, they

were really just two travelers in time through an age-old telling of a

quixotic tale set in modernesque dress and utilizing motor vehicles rather

than horses and mules, a mightier pen instead of a sword.

And the windmill? It appealed to his romantic sensibilities.

But he felt he was not a mere jouster of twirling wooden sails. He had

already and was yet to parry now more directly with the true forces of

evil in cavalier fashion, divorced of the fantasy creep. He would be

circumspect and perspicacious in aspect during his match.

Mary broke his concentration momentarily as she asked in a faraway

softness: "Why do you think they want you? You're making yourself into

a martyr by all of this behavior." She continued to primp nonchalantly,

now patting rouge on her cheeks, in an effort to calm Wilbur in the mundane.

He took little notice and said nothing in response.

Being a devotee of Voltaire, he believed firmly in another of the

philosopher's expressions: "I believe in truth, but not in martyrdom."

He did not fancy himself as a bearer of the cross to Calvary under the

lash of the Roman whiphand which would inevitably nail short his life.

God, he had only begun to live it! There was no need for more sacrificial

carrion flesh to be added to the pyres of history.

This day would not be without night. Yet, he would rescue Andrew Bates

and his family. He would muster the courage of a Dr. Valkonen. And in so doing

he would not play Olympian Zeus on Monument Avenue. He would

fight. He would line his sights and he would fire. He would not be Pyramus.

He would find the mulberry bush. He would take a leaf from Hamlet and

yet learn the lesson and not repeat it. He would stand fast, pretend to drink the

strychnine so that none of his relatives would naively do it in his stead.

And yet only contumaciously costume the consumption while allowing the venom

to trickle down the exterior of his throat and beneath his cloak. And,

to avoid recurrence, he would never again be so irresolute, despite the

complacent and mercurial voices around him cajoling to the contrary--no

matter how close and sensitive their sound. If that was a form of martyrdom,

then so be it.

"Not going to talk to me about it, huh Jack?" Mary was now looking

at Wilbur with restrained sadness.

"Mary, have you seen that car before? I thought I saw it a few blocks

ago." Wilbur was pointing to a black roadster which pulled from a parking

space astride their position. Mary now remained silent as Wilbur continued

craning his neck hurriedly in multiple directions.

The cab driver spoke no English. Languishing in a roll, beneath the

rearview mirror's load of rocking blocks of die pairs flicking back and

forth on the suspension strain, he appeared quite oblivious to Wilbur's

trepidant impatience with the passing scenes.

After a moment, Mary spoke again in a somber, but imitated

beer-slurred, tone. "Alright, why don't you tell me more about Delilah."

Wilbur looked at her with surprise for a moment and then resumed

his vigilance without speaking.

She was still not overly concerned with Wilbur's suspicions and was

merely being solicitous to attempt to get him to talk. She had opportunities

all morning to summon the police or anyone else and was not enough

discomfited to do so at this point. Indeed, she had said nothing to the

doctor regarding Wilbur's conduct other than to indicate that he had been

physically ill and had an unusually strong preoccupation with the idea that

he was being followed by someone.

On the other hand, she was not convinced that the whole of Wilbur's

perception was so distracted that it lacked all substance. As the behavior

was completely anomalous for him, she felt it premature to simply write it

off in derision as some paranoid delusion.

She remained highly skeptical, however, and became more convinced

that there was need for her at least to have witnesses to some of Wilbur's

statements regarding the vilipended images of Nazis-about-to-burst so that

she would not feel so alone with his claims.

There might be, after all, a repand portion of the cat's tale which

she refused to chase or even study too closely, something hidden away

from view that he was in fact viewing in the shadowbox. Something had

told her not to follow Wilbur through that ink-bleeding lens into the

space where he had now apparently fully entered. Wilbur, himself, had

told her to remain outside while he prepared something--some secret recipe,

like her bony-edged chicken soup. She did not desire to be the Rennenkampf

of the affair.

She looked out the closed window to the hills surrounding. She must

find inspiration from the reeds of the fipple flutes whistling through

the air along the edges of the City, transporting her mind to

the steady, sturdy Jonahs of the Finnish and the good fight against the

Leviathan finback threatening to gobble all their bones in the

Atlantic.

A thought of something she had read came to her.

"I. A Fast-Fish Belongs to the party fast to it.

II. A Loose-Fish is fair game for anybody who can

soonest catch it.

What are the Rights of Man and the Liberties of the

World but Loose-Fish?"

She felt sudden anger that their year of Victory was so suddenly

overborne with faster ladled portions of hate and fear. Men of madness!

Why had they not learned--or, perhaps, learned from their paternal masters

only too well through the centuries? In the middle of the last, it had been

said, of that thing both dying and being reborn now in the bull-times of

the present.

Melville had said it in his chapter 88, "Schools and

Schoolmasters", as well as by that rudimentary pair of laws of fishermen

laid down in the one after: "What all men's minds and opinions but Loose-Fish?"

If Wilbur was to posit himself as Mordecai, she would surely be his

Esther and honorably so. She would comfort as surely as Morpheus in the

night.

"What is the principle of religious belief in them

but a Loose-Fish?"

Perhaps, in truth, his subtlety to send cryptic ciphers to her derived

only from a simple desire to test the pact of their early marriage--like

Anselmo. Maybe he was angry with her or trying to elicit her sympathy or had

become distrustful of her being gone for periods on shopping forays on

occasion. Maybe he thought her unfaithful or frivolous in some way. He could

be simply testing her true loyalty and affection. She knew that he had been

hurt before. If any of these possibilities explained the behavior

manifested, she did not wish to fail the test or do anything which might

provoke him to believe she was somehow not trusting.

"What to the ostentatious smuggling verbalists are

the thoughts of thinkers but Loose-Fish?"

She had heard of the Nazi agents supposedly in Mexico. But what

would they want with a Southern journalist who had worked for a small

newspaper and was writing a novel? Sure, he had written a book which

offered heavy and biting criticism of the Nazis and the Red Man's view

of the nursing viper in Woodbridge--the K-link to the locals which many

had sensed but of which few had been so bold to speak.

And perhaps, one part of that chain existed back home, but what of

it? That part was old, decrepit of mind, breaking down and full of rust

spots of the leopards subliminally placed in tricycled high speed hospital

beds rushing through the deserts of the Bozart with the six hundred purple

Porphyrion rails standing guard as calumnious suitors.

"What is the great globe itself but a Loose-Fish!"

But Wilbur's tenacious fixation on this Third loose-bird subject

these last few days and, now, must be weeks, haunted. Despite the tearing of

the old flag, everyone knew it still flew in the nest. Indeed, for at least

two centuries, the nutwork had been enabling itself by the cute trick of

dizzy, prestidigital showmanship, like a sunlit strobe flashing through two

inverted calliopes, spinning gyroscopically, one inside the other, in

opposite directions, barely a hair apart, to sit fully armed and

waiting--waiting on that ever shrinking hodge-lodgepole until that hair

splitting light would become constant in Oneness, Sameness,

Insaneness--ready to spin off its inner, smoke-screened axis and scrape

Franklin's universal Columbia in helpless friction's heat to the mass.

"And what are you, reader, but a Loose-Fish and

a Fast-Fish, too?"

Mary caught herself thinking like the novel lines Wilbur had been

reading to her a week earlier. The stress of the moment was leading her to

think in novel lines anyway.

"Well, are you going to talk about it or not? Delilah, I mean..."

"Mary, I will later. Forget it for now. There's no time for that.

"There's the hotel again. I think we're okay. No one's behind. Let's pull

over. The league isn't the best but maybe it'll be a shallow. Maybe Miss Barton

is in there." Wilbur faintly smiled at Mary for an instant and then tapped the

driver on the shoulder and pointed to the curb up ahead by the Geneve.

Mary was startled back to the moment by the confluence with her own

thoughts. She gave up on further inquiry. Maybe, now that they were out of

the cubbyhole apartment, he could work and relax and forget this dreadful

twenty-four hours. Maybe the B-1 shot would help. Time would tell.

That splitter of hairs could not keep secrets in the hold of the mind forever:

he would eventually tell her explicitly what the problem was and it would dissolve

then. She must remain patient.

The driver pulled to the curb bringing them and their little pile of

unstored belongings to rest. They quickly entered and went to the desk.

Wilbur anxiously reconnoitered the lobby as Mary signed the register.

She turned to see him walking in a circular pacing pattern, distractedly

tracing an Aztec symbol woven through the carpet. The cargador picked up the

bags. Mary moved toward Wilbur, took his arm and moved him from his

momentary trance.

"Come on, my circumnavigator, let's go take a siesta." She smiled

broadly, trying hard to mask her anxiety of the moment.

As soon as they reached the room and Mary had tipped the helper,

Wilbur began acting out his fear again. He rubbed his forehead furiously.

"Mary, I need to be alone awhile to rest and think." He was standing by

the window, looking up and down the broad avenue below.

"Let me call that reporter, Quentin Mayer--you know, the one

you met last week at the A. P."

Wilbur glared at Mary, gnawing his lower lip in

agitation: "No, absolutely not. The Nazis might be listening to everything

on the phones in these hotels. They might be there at A.P., pick up the

phone, pretend to be him. No. We are not safe, goddamnit. How many times,

Mary, have I got to tell you that? No slips. No phone calls. I need to

think, here, now."

The more she heard, the stranger his ideation appeared to become. She

decided that she would summon the reporter in person. No sooner than she had

informed him of this decision, he dropped down to the edge of the bed,

appearing to cower from some unseen danger.

"No, please, don't do that, Mary. Please. You will bring them to us."

"Wilbur, you are being ridiculous. Now, come on, I am going to get

Mayer. I'll be back with him in a short bit. Now, lock the door here to

the room and do not let anyone in until you hear my voice, okay?"

She had adopted a motherly tone which grated on Wilbur's strained

nerves. He did not initially respond, but smirked and finally, after a

moment, stood up again, resignedly mumbled: "Do what you want."

She continued in the maternal manner. "Now, should things become

upsetting in some way or if you become anxious over something, call the

A.P. offices and try to reach me or Mayer. If you can't reach one of us,

you should call the Embassy. Alright?"

Wilbur again mumbled. "Hmmm-mmmm."

Mary left.

4.

It was approximately 3:00. Wilbur knew that he had only two hours until

the deadline set by the message from hell. He did not know what to do.

Within five minutes after Mary's departure, thoughts began rushing

in whirlpooling centrifugation: Should he wait for Mary's return? What

if they kidnap her and hold her for ransom lest he submit to their demands?

Why had he been so foolish to let her leave? But what else could he do? He

knew she was anxious over his behavior. Why shouldn't she be? He was anxious

over his behavior. He knew very well that he might be interpreted as

somebody who had fallen off a tree and split on the pavement.

He was torn between trying to show Mary the urgent need for action and

trying to stiff it out until he could figure a calm solution.

But this was not some movie. He was not Rhett rescuing Scarlett

from the burning Atlanta. Nor did he fancy it to be "They Died With Their Boots On".

They had seen Hitchcock's "Suspicion" earlier in the year. He knew

that Mary had some tendency at times to race to facile conclusions on the basis

of fears heightened by fantasy representations. Maybe she was having trouble

distinguishing between reality and the fantasy frame containing

the newlywed characters in the film.

Maybe he was going to be set up. She would be harmed or murdered by

them and he would be left to take the blame somehow. Who would vouch for

him now? He might wind up at the tarred end of too many stories like

that Nebraska newspaper publisher he had read about in the Times. Maybe

that fellow did not fail the polygraph after all. Regardless, he would

fit the bill perfectly. "There was his mentor in New York City," they

would say. He just copied him. Out the window to the pavement. No pushers.

Just another cracked suicide.

Regardless of cause or frame, he had to allay Mary's fears when she

returned to lessen the possibilities of their breaking them apart or

leading them to wit's confusion. He had gone too far in trying to subsume

subtle verity as the subtonic to his increasing list of indicia of the

overriding threat to their safety. He must relent and only gradually entrust

her as a confrere on these matters.

The little sheaf of papers in the typing box, to which he now again

resorted, would remain his sole confidante.

And now at the brink, he must accept that his only accompaniment

would be his increasingly voluble inner cacophony of mixed signals and

symbols overscored within his mind by a more sonorous, but increasingly

volante, Scottish coronach--perhaps something to soothe the troubled soul

devised from ancient ancestors, innately holding that sound to drown the

harsh reproach from the crown's tyranny.

As he paused to abate the steady unwinder, he caught himself staring

fixedly at the work of a familiar artist. The room was possessed of

Bruegel's "The Fall of Icarus". The parable brought his mind rushing

back to the moment. He must get on with it and bring himself down to

earth before unraveling events did it for him. The self-inquisition

continued.

Why had Mary gone to get Mayer? She was clearly alarmed to the point

where she was now bringing in outside parties and people they hardly knew.

He had met Mayer one brief time for thirty minutes on a survey of the A.P.

offices. He had merely remarked to Mary that he was a really decent fellow

and hoped to strike up a friendship.

Now, she appeared to be grasping at straws. Every time he so much as

mentioned the very real threat to them, she evidenced more and more concern

for his rationality and sought to take action which could further endanger

them and any third parties she sought to involve.

Indeed, he knew from his experience with Kite-fliers in the community

over the years that these people are ruthless. They threaten and cajole and

intimidate and placate. That is how they suck people into their terror

maelstroms. He had always before had the necessary grounding to avoid their

glossal-flapping, slandering snares and nets. He was now beginning to doubt

his confidence in this regard.

They were adept at the Big Lie. They could relate to Daniels, no

doubt, through some operatives close to the Embassy, that the poor fellow was

having a nervous breakdown--fearing Nazis chasing him and salivating at

the mouth like a rabid basset hound. Yes, that's it, a bASSett.

He was becoming dangerous--at least to himself, if not others. That

was the line they loved to use. It gave a subtle sense of empathy to

their defamatory assertions. They could now even say with some apparent

probity that his own wife was scared to death of him, having to bring in

strangers to protect herself. Daniels might believe all or part of this

slip-pit fill.

There was nothing within his immediate reach to prove the reverse.

How does one prove one's sanity when challenged? It is done in the usual

course by the normal flow of sociability within the community of family

and friends. But neither he nor Mary had established any such community

thus far in Mexico. They were 2,400 miles from such resources of patterned,

vouchered stability.

He now could fully empathize with the character of Elvira when,

being accused by Don Giovanni of madness, she embarked on a quest to

disprove the charge. But, as a result of the sheer exhaustion of the campaign,

she finally succumbed to being its convict. Lest he become likewise, he must

be afoot and more fleet than his enemy.

But what if the summoned Mayer decided the crazy Guggenheim Fellow

would now be more useful as bait for a juicy yellow news story than as a

friend? Who wants to pal around with someone "unstable"? He might write a

story that poor Cash, in struggling to live up to his former press praise,

had suffered a crazed crack.

Or maybe Mayer would simply latch onto the Nazi angle and broadcast

the whole thing. Maybe that would be good. Perhaps, it could gain them

passage from positioning as the regal enprise of the check, from the

quintain at the center of the quincunx, from the mare's nest, through

the egress-closed corridors of the corrida--out of Mexico.

No...no...no! What was he thinking about? There was Bertie and Charles

and his parents and probably even his brothers and their families. He

had a small niece and nephew. They could be kidnapped like the Lindbergh

child. What could he do to stop it? He could not talk to Mayer about any of

these matters.

But if confronted with questioning by Mayer in front of Mary or if Mary

came back and deliberately staged an inquisition of him, how was he to avoid

the answers? Was he now to make his own wife astir with even greater anxiety

by denying in front of others his beliefs that he was being followed and

that their lives were in danger? How would he get around the inquiry without

response? Should he just say, "Oh, to hell with it. The Nazis are really

good ol' boys. They never meant nobody no harm no how. Forget 'em. Let's go

play some tennis, have a Guinness, read some eugenics"?

And would Mary not leave him, maybe? Would she now return to North

Carolina and tell everyone he was slipping under mental quicksand? Then

what? Would Papa then try to come down to calm him? Would he bring Henry or

Allen or Charles? Would they all be killed? Short of that, would these

lubricious representatives of Lucifer, posing in their most lugubrious

earnest, convince them to commit him to Dix Hill?

The whole thing was falling apart. He could not trust his own wife.

They had driven a wedge between them and then built a fire around the

spike itself to enshroud it in smoke.

Not even a bright individual could see the truth. That is the way

these insidious beings work. It is the way they had entrapped the German

populace. He had seen it plainly in '27. He had seen it all of his life

around Boiling Springs, Shelby and Charlotte. He had read about its

occurrence both within the German culture and in his native milieu. He

had written about it, for God's sake.

What the hell was he going to do now? He had no friendly newspaper

editorial page to which to turn for safety, satiety of anger and

anxiety-venting solace.

Had that been the plan--to get him away from his grounding? Was the

Guggenheim Foundation itself infiltrated by Nazi spies? Had this all been a

bad dream? The whole time, he had been just a dupe, a set up. He never could

write worth a damn. The original rejections of his writing in the

mid-twenties were the honest, accurate reactions. The rest had been a

collage of deliberately hyperbolized experience, all orchestrated by some

government, pseudo-government, Nazi, Kite, isolationist, Agrarian jumbled

hurly-burly attempt to cuittle him to their own devise.

After an hour of cumbersome anguish over this complex of thoughts,

fretted one way and then the other and back again, he came to a

final decision. He calmed himself, took a few deep breaths and again

resolved to face the music, head on. He would find out as much as he could

from these outrageous purveyors of double-speak and grip-drip drainage. He

would bite his tongue and act it out in his best Bogart.

"Hey, you jackass, slip me a shiv and see what I do. Maybe you think

this is Shrove Tuesday and I'm the chief Linthead of all time or maybe the

Easter Bunny, huh? Give it your best shot and I'll tell you how it feels.

Oh...and a...by the way, you got any more Shinola around here? Someone told

me you eat it or was it that you have it for brains? Oh...maybe you bathe in

it? I forget. You sure don't use it on your shoes. They appear to be full of

something else."

He again caught himself trying to ease his own tensions and finding it

awkward. He hated the whole concept of role playing. That was why he was a

writer; not an actor, a businessman, lawyer or politician. But he would

grumble his way through it somehow. He could not get carried away and become

flip. He knew that. He was just releasing some tension right now. Calm

down... He would have to swallow pride and anxiety to get himself and Mary

out of this mess.

He knew the Guggenheim was on the level. Further reflection on all

of that suggested the absurdity of his even thinking it otherwise. The

timing matched nothing but the publication of the book and the fine critical

reception. They could not have set up all of those good reviews. And if they

had, why would the Agrarians have given it bad press? Wouldn't they have

simply remained mum until they could find out whether he would go along with

the game plan? But that implicitly assumes the Agrarians had something to do

with these people. Maybe they didn't. Maybe the Agrarians, from their

rightist realm, were truly as vehemently opposed to fascist

authoritarianism as he was from the opposite side.

But what if the Agrarians were playing psychological games, trying

openly to criticize to take the suspicion off themselves should anything

happen to him?

He was going in circles again. There was nothing left but to stop the

circuitous convolutions which were deducing no firm conclusions and now

simply wasting valuable time and mental energy. He had gotten himself into

this morass and permitted the victimization, wooed and nurtured by his own

insatiable curiosity.

If he ever could just get out of it, he would always heed Mama's

admonitions about that in the future. He would have to do his best and take

his lumps. If he lost the Guggenheim, so be it. If he lost his reputation, so

be it. If he were to lose his life, so be it. Better to die and die

ignominiously as a pauper and reprobate than to be a traitor to his country

and to all on which he had been raised and for which he had come to stand in

his writing.

He had just told hundreds of young college seniors at the University of

Texas four weeks earlier that the South must face itself and no longer dodge

reality. How would it look? What would it portend for the future generation

if he were to be branded the ultimate dodger, the hypocrite K2-man, the

traitor of all traitors--worse than Arnold, himself?

Even he, before his treason, had won impressive victories for the

colonies, including one against Tryon of the noblesse. What had Cash,

formerly of Tryon Street, accomplished?

He could not run from them for if he did so, he silently betrayed his

family. He could warn his family, but they would no more listen than Mary. He

knew how they were. He could not blame them. They would just tell him to calm

down, rest and have faith. All would be well.

The whole world was recoiling into downy security in the face of this

threat. No one, not even the government, was seeing it for what it was. No

one wished to believe that it was so far reaching and its harbingers so

sedulously ruthless and intractably persistent in their recruitment of needed

personnel to carry out the intriguants' acts of archanthropines' arcanery

that they would dare invade the hallowed halls of journalism or staid straits

of letters or, if defied after too much intuitive interception by the seer of

the secrets, that they might make of their would-be mark the recipient of the

strappado-bow or worse.

And even though Southerners, of all people, should realize that

visceral, reviling hatred coupled with ripened, seemingly

rationally-accepted, mass acquiescence, provides the perfect recipe, along

with widespread depression and poverty, for just such a collective mental

dissociation from reality to accrue, Southerners, for the most part, were so

victimized by it, brainwashed by it, forced to acquiesce against their truest

will and conscience in order to make a living from it, so close to it,

without the time or mental energy to look at it with any practical

discernment, that he could not blame them for not seeing.

He, after all, had been granted the good grace and fortune, by virtue of

his parentage, to have the time to observe and connect and associate the

obvious of the present closely with the probabilities of the past,

abstracting from the present only that which existed in the past and thus

enabling a truer picture of the past to be structured within his mind. Having

received the gift, he now had the practical obligation arising from it.

He must, therefore, as he had written his book and his socially critical

articles, now do this task on his own. He must rely on his best devices, his

best instincts, his best and most heightened acumen and intuitions.

This afternoon would be the greatest acting performance he had ever

attempted. And he was not a good liar. He had been taught from as early as he

could recall that it was the height of irresponsibility and evil to dissemble

in the slightest taradiddle from the truest approximation of an event

possible to articulate.

Indeed, there was more to honesty than merely verbalizing the truth. One

must not misrepresent oneself in the least to others by implication or

omission to speak of one's weakest points. Neither may one paste slander or

libel even on the Mercury wings of literary device and metaphor.

Nor may one be the purveyor of such untruth even when officially

sanctioned. If a court ruling or some legislative fiat or some executive

edict from on high appeared unjust or unfair, it must be editorially

questioned and shown for what it was or was not. Whether, per se, it related

to one sole human being or thousands was irrelevant. Injustice to one

resulted in injustice to all.

One had to describe at greatest length to reach the inner recesses of

the truth and penetrate, or abandon the task altogether and admit complete

ignorance of even the premise as well as the conclusion. And to fail in it,

to but a slight degree, brought quavering trembles from within his vocal

chords which gave pause to even his closest friends on occasion to wonder

whether he was equivocating or whether he was simply anxiety-prone when the

need for verbal accuracy arose.

Some might not feel that what he was about to do amounted to a lie, but

it really was and it pained him to have to void his principles even for a

moment in time, and especially at the behest of this reticulation of

scoundrels and murderers and thieves--maleficent, misanthropic asses of all

asses.

"Go, soul, the body's guest,

Upon a thankless arrant;

Fear not to touch the best;

The truth shall be thy warrant.

Go, since I needs must die,

And give the world the lie."

Mary could joke with him about being Attila the Hun. That was cute. But

if she only knew what truly he was facing, she would see how utterly

insensitive such humor really was right now. He knew she was just trying to

calm him. But calm him for what? To have them both lulled to the splintered

gangway of the god-forsaken Ganges; to the endless expanse down the salty,

slipping, sandy slope from the assassin's rope, whether reeved to kill

character or body; even to the depths? Or short of it, shall they wait longer

whilst the corrosive influences around them slowly deteriorate the

shore-shank bit of tread remaining and him with it?

"Say to the court, it glows

And shines like rotten wood;

Say to the church, it shows

What's good and doth no good:

If church and court reply,

Then give them both the lie."

Stop... Cannot blame anyone else... He and only he was the root cause

for not stopping the whole thing in September, '39 when Key-enough first came

to him. Why did he not check him out with Knopf?

After further reflection, he doubted seriously that the man ever knew or

had met Knopf. There was no evidence of it. And in February when Knopf had

come to Charlotte for the release of the book, he had said nothing which

would indicate such foreknowledge of the matters. In an attempt to gauge

Knopf's reactions, Wilbur had even asked whether he had "typed enough" for

him. There was nothing, not even a raised eyebrow of recognition.

"Tell arts they have no soundness,

But vary by esteeming;

Tell schools they want profoundness,

And stand too much on seeming:

If arts and schools reply,

Give arts and schools the lie."

It was his own cause and it would be his and his alone to suffer. The

slings of retribution would be fielded for having allowed the thing to fling

itself with such unbridled stealth into his life and, consequently, into the

lives of those around him.

"So when thou hast, as I

Command thee, done blabbing,

Although to give the lie

Deserves no less than stabbing,

Stab at thee he that will,

No stab thy soul can kill."

He was now in their howff. He had come to it knowingly, consciously

denying all the while the wrath of Vulcan and the powerful forges of Cyclopes

freed from Tartarus to assist in the tooling. Denial was no more an excuse as

it was for his forebears of the Old South or the German peoples or, indeed,

the rest of the industrialized world. Freud would not let anyone off the

hook so easily.

He had known, he had rationalized, he had subliminalized, denied the

very world that his sleeping mind had created for him to seed the waking one.

And he had talked to Mary of Lincoln, so captivated by the magistery of his

own words. What a damned fool!

He had failed in his own scholarship. He had seen the Roland reference

when? Early February, March?--early enough. He knew it. He had read all of

that stuff or enough as a boy. But he passed it superficially without the

thought which a literary critic, of all people, should have had. He was above

relearning such childish imagery, after all. He knew it all well enough

already. It had stuck. But he had ignored it. It was not so simple really as

merely Roland against the odds of Santa Anna or Hector or Hitler.

The myth of Roland begins, after all, well before Roncesvalles. The

fearless peer had largely made his reputation earlier by slaying the fearsome

Ferragus--Ferragus with his thick-sick skin, impervious to the stick of

Toledo steel. And he was so strong that he would lift his victims in his arms

and carry them off. But Roland came anyway to the good fight upon the

menacing Farraguts--as any Dixonite child would have surely called him--and

fought him to a standoff, to as great chagrin of Him as He surely felt,

Head-bowed, earlier on the Mississippi in those hot-spell days of '62 and

'63. But after this unsettling drawn picture, old V-spoiler became so tired

that he laid down to sleep for awhile. Ferragus had no worry of Roland

attacking in sleep for that was against all laws of chivalry. Indeed... Mr.

O felt sorry for Mr. F sleeping on the ground with blood surely rushing to

his capital and so, under his head as a pillow, he slipped a stone, smoothed

by the waters rolling over various discontented ages, all laid to rest

within its colorations. Now, was that not nice? And when Mr. F awoke, he

was so taken by the generosity of Roll-on Orlando that he began to jammer

away eventually telling O-R that there was no need to attempt a kill by means

of that swashbuckler's wife at his side. But then Ferragus made his fatal

faux pas as surely as some others more recently. In his headiness, he

revealed in confidence to the affable Roland that he could be fatally wounded

in only one way, that by thrusting the stick through the solar plexus or

roughly thereabouts, plainly pointing to the exact spot in boastful defiance

of Rolando's considerable powers. And obliging, when the fight first started

again, Roland simply took the Forrested device of old chivalrous strikes and

stuck it right where it did the most--just fairly above the guts of old

Ferragus, that overly sociable sleeping giant, translated by the often-caged

European bull species of the family Fringillidae, who had told his enemy

precisely where he could tear at once vulnerable flesh to inflict the mortal

wound.

And, of course, later, Orlando obtained the stronger, fatally

indestructible sticker of, perhaps, even Pluto, Durindana, having belonged to

Hector of Troy. Durindana could pierce all armor, except, of course, maybe

that of Ajax.

It was all there for these military wonders of the world to find fancy

of themselves as splendid paladins of their Charlemagne. And if they got

their way they would give it all to Pluto's pets to rule after the castration

of heaven itself--Uranus pouring his blood over all of Earth and producing

the three goddesses of revenge and Aphrodite triumphant, born of the

discarded flesh and sea foam.

And those three Erinyes would not be so benignly complacent with the

mass as those to which the loose one had ascribed the lore--three principal

isolationist publishers. Publishers freely expressing their words, openly,

without guile, no matter how short-sighted the opinion, were hardly to be

described among the Three Furies, the Three Sisters of Scotland-on-Avon or

the Three Sisters of Greece. That all longed for a new version of myth, set

from the present for the ages to come. And those myths would be written only

with sticks and flint if well-meant action was now false--rashly determined

and executed.

Maybe, it was all over. The world was in inescapable madness, tuned more

to its new radio and cinematic romantic Greek and Roman images of itself than

to reality. Ah, why not? All the wolves and all variety of woodpeckers could

pack it off with Mars to the red planet--here, now. Why should he risk

everything against this horde? He would go to the howff of Hohenstaufen and

Hohenzollern and live it up. He might as well. It was over. They had won.

They would plow through Russia shortly. We were not moving one inch. That was

obvious.

"Give me my scallop-shell of quiet,

My staff of faith to walk upon,

My scrip of joy, immortal diet,

My bottle of salvation,

My gown of glory, hope's true gage,

And thus I'll take my pilgrimage."

Lindbergh and the Fishes had won, here. All the apomicts on the Potomac

had made their lasting mark as surely as Langley had just before the winded

lift of the double-edged brother bicyclers of Dayton-to-Nagshead.

They all had made their points, alright. The Captain of Delilah had,

too. What the hell? He would go do his part, now. He would simply go to

Hawaii. He had never been, after all. He could do obeisance to Pele and visit

Kaneohe. He would see to it that he got what they needed, wanted, and then

return and write his book. Why not? That was the simple, less stressful way.

That's what everyone else seemed to want to do. Why should he be so

recalcitrant to the commonweal? After all, he would rest right up there in

the Shelby hell-bent, all of fame, after the Olympians overthrew the Titans

or vice versa--no matter. Why not? His novel would become a

Goliath movie, maybe. Yes. He would. He would. He had decided.

No need to feel anxiety, today. He would simply do exactly what they wanted.

He was caught. He had put himself there. There was no need now to put

everyone else around him in danger.

"Blood must be my body's balmer,

No other balm will there be given,

Whilst my soul like a white palmer

Travels to the land of heaven,

Over the silver mountains,

Where spring the nectar fountains;

And there I'll kiss

The bowl of bliss,

And drink my eternal fill

On every milken hill.

My soul will be a-dry before,

But after it will ne'er thirst more."

He picked up his Bible from Nannie and J.W. and quickly put it down. He

felt ridiculous, suddenly. There he was, all at once cynical, romantic,

ideal, hypocritical--repulsive. The Tower of Constance was broken.

Did those lost souls not know what had been done to them in those prayer

tents around Kannapolis? Could they not think at all for themselves?

He had heard one night on the radio--one night back in the fall of '39, maybe--one

of them giving his testimonial. He was an educated man, a doctor. And he

claimed to have died and ascended into heaven and been ushered to a brightly

lit place, inarticulable in expanse, timeless, boundless, full of

people, billions maybe, where he was being beckoned and welcomed, like no

other place. Sounded more like a cat-house than heaven. But then, the man said,

he was suddenly transported by a beam of light--maybe like one

of those searchlights around the Loew's in December, '39--to a place on

Calvary. And there before him was Christ on the cross being crucified--right

there in front of him. And he was told by Christ's sub-verbalized thoughts to

go back and so the doctor returned to his body.

If he were that poor doctor, he would definitely mind his ways for he

perhaps had been given some sort of warning that either he mend them while

his time was spared or else spend the rest of eternity there on Calvary doing

what these slippers like to do best--destroying the religion in which they

not only profess to believe but to which they also apparently claim to own

the keys--all with their acornly awkward, damnably literal interpretation of

the parables and myths.

If the doctor was to be believed and there, after all, is no reason to

doubt him, why he got the wish of his apparent practice quite fulfilled, that

being to spend the ages watching the death of Christ.

Is that truly a representation of heaven? Christ, why will they not learn?

It is the same thing Hitler does with his self-fulfilling prophecies.

And then there was the slipperiest of them all, the right reverend

what's-his-name, some pat name which Wilbur could not remember right

off-hand. Why this temerarious outrage of the airwaves had been so audacious

in August, '40, after the Democratic convention, to claim that "the wrath of

God" would soon be upon Roosevelt for his adding to the prophecies in some

manner. Wilbur had forgotten the precise point in which the preacher found

blasphemy. Whatever the specific, he was probably rehashing his anger

for Roosevelt's having coined the phrase "New Deal" or some such and asking

for the Lord's guidance in the troubled times ahead.

They loved to talk about the "deal". Oh yeah... The Deil.

Can't the McNinch exert some authority over such robber reverends? Is

that not the limit of which Holmes spoke? Would it not encourage some riled

up Heaven-tomorrow-for-the-cause Booth-sitter to try to please his loose

parson?

He instantly reproached himself. It was not his right to judge them. If

a person seeks good for his fellow man and accomplishes a thoughtful act,

then what matter the cause, whether it agrees with his motivational complex

or not. But such men of the microphone were simply too loose in judging

everyone else and going about urging "God's judgment" as being synonymous

with their own and thus stimulating their parishioners to do likewise, theirs

for his and His for theirs, and on and on and on, until bang--Big Bing-Bang;

all as the adder from out the heath-bush biting the knight and exciting

battle on the drawn sword to slay it.

And such little distractions to excite and then be vanquished in an

instant by the Elect Ruler is that which precisely, so quickly, arithmetically

advanced the perception of the Authority of Southdown-Goosedown Olympian

Whipping Hate-Astolat Madman Modred, the one fancying himself as Omega's

Zeus-Alpha Phallus, the same poet-aster seeking There; Excalibur; There,

there where "Ruder sounds shall none be near,/Guards nor warders challenge

here,/Here's no war-steed's neigh and champing,/Shouting clans, or squadrons

stamping."--There; the Deil, the Big Deil.

Something came to mind to stop the spiral. It was not, after all, any

thundering Zeus horde which brought down that ancient Doric knight, the

naturally walled off Spartiate-peliťci-helot culture, but rather, as with

Atlantis, Nature, itself. Mary had said it in front of the Veda-to-Volks

law-givers' reich memorial, there near Atlanta, in the month of Mars.

Each of the real volks--those standing above and apart from those buying

the megalomaniacal pyrotechnic merchandise offered so bravely from those

hiding behind their sallet, pauldrons and greaves--those who stood strong,

could create his or her own role from within the Tower, allowing Nature

adequate opportunity to work its Will in good time for the rest.

The sign on the field now suddenly made sense--insomuch as it could from

a dream.

He picked up the Bible again and opened it randomly. His eyes first fell

on Matthew 27, then Luke 23, then John 19, in that descending, ascendant

order.

As he read, he thought of that day in mid-March, the day Bertie had her

surgery, the words of Charles in the park, the exchange of one to the other

of simplicities, "simple gifts", as the Quakers suggested. There had been no

open prayer, no gnashing, no overt confession of sins, no proselytizing--just

simple friendship.

Haydn came floating into his ears from the other side. So, too, did the

organ chorale prelude of Dubois. He then thought again of the anonymous poem

in Middle English and its conclusion. He glanced again at "The Passionate

Man's Pilgrimage", but for different import than the week end's allusion.

He also read "The Lie" of Raleigh. He laughed to himself of the Tiger's

folly. The thought of the finely filed German "Wanderer" arose in contrast

to that Homeric ode and the latter version of Tennyson. How shallow the

bomb-blast of the coder-decoders; but there was now no liberty for his fonder

excursion. He thought of the married ladyship, novelized Chauncey, and her

rusting stern chaser in mate with the Lusi-Titanic denizens. And recurring

came that image of the hunter-woodsman, the man in gray of the half-seen

venison. He wished he could go now and run with Pan, maybe back in southern

Louisian'. But the sum of the thing was that he had met life--however

incognito its presentation. He must turn and face it. He was still on this

side of the stream. Like the Old Irish Blessing, e'er go your way.

Big Ben said 4:30. Best be about it. Nothing firm would happen today. No

decisions had to be made now. He would act. To the howff. It was time for Mr.

Kite to meet Mr. "K".

5.

He left the Geneve and headed for the Reforma. To conquer the tension,

he began smiling as he walked. He felt ready for the meeting. He stopped at a

fruit stand for a cold lemonade. He knew it would aggravate his stomach but he

preferred that for the momentary quenching now rather than endure the

unremitting harshness of the heat. He stopped and sipped. Musing, and needing

some positive human re-enforcement at this point, he smiled at a few of the

passersby. One woman, carrying a bowl of fruit on her head, wearing a rebozo

bearing the letters "B.B.", and muttering to herself as she passed,

apparently interpreted his grin as mocking and began vituperating, "Tu

bastardo! El hijo de la zorra!"

Reminded of his silliness a few days earlier, he thought to himself what

he might say in return. "Buenas tardes, puta... Como esta? Como se llama?

Pequeno Puta?" He quickly snapped himself out of this thought train with the

cross-cultural reminder that this woman, judging by outward appearances--and

such seemingly did not belie much in Mexico as subtlety and intentional

Bohemianism, if extant at all, were at a premium--had most probably

maintained a subsistence life for most of it; at first, perhaps, as the

basilica attendees on Sunday, in gracious, patient acceptance of the

hereafter, but now, only grudgingly, having been heart-worn to the surface

and haunted daily by her loads of produce to sell for a few pesos, perhaps

needed to afford the cost of silk thread to sew the rents in her tattered

garments or to buy a used pair of flip-flops to replace the barely

discernible hunks of leather interfacing between her soles and the scorched

July pavement--that same sort of pavement, what little there then was, which

used to burn Wilbur's soles in the poverty surrounds of Gaffney 30 years

earlier, 30 years primarily of war and depression and strife, 30 years, 30

years gone. Thirty-thirty.

This ancestrally questioning woman in front of him had likely been

mocked or pointed at and stared upon by many bourgeois Gringos through those

same thirty years. She did not appreciate the familiarity and could no longer

distinguish the simple needs of others, the need for affirmation by the

lonely Gringo embarking on a life-threatening challenge reaching the

base fibers of his character, for instance, from that of the merely insulting

insecurity or unthinking, unconscionably dehumanizing curiosity of the

average tourist.

The woman hurled more indiscernible anathema at him in rapid

succession. She walked away still declaiming as if demonically possessed.

As he stood now with his right foot cocked behind him against a white

stucco wall, a block from La Reforma, he questioned whether this peasant

tirade was his Dies Irae. Was he now playing the male counterpart of Dido

with Aeneas being his writing muse? Or was he truly more like Aeneas,

himself?

He finished the ice-less lemonade and went to the hotel.

He entered the bar, called La Puerta de Obispo, and sat down. It was

4:55. He ordered a double Scotch. Again, he knew it would likely make him

sick as a dog but he thought that perhaps he could vomit on cue at just the

right moment--right onto the shiny shoe leather of Joe K., as he spouted his

cool rhetoric about The Merchant of Venice and how it was time to make the

loan at a reasonable interest rate and all of that garbage.

Wilbur let the Scotch sit, except for pouring two-thirds of it

into a planter next to the booth, while deliberately letting some dribble

onto the table.

The strange procession of Bruegels continued. On the wall, opposite

the table where he sat, was "The Fall of the Rebel Angels". Wilbur

soberly focused his attention on the underwater imagery

possessed of a hooded head in the right area of the frame. He had never

noticed it or its connotations until that moment. That face was the only one

staring from the picture directly at the viewer. It was the face

unmistakably full of ineffable fear, futilely seeking the appearance of

offensive strength through the feeble pretension of an awkwardly held, forked

spear as the angels from heaven descended to beat back the rebel retributive

march from the fallen angels, more lately of hell.

It reminded of the half-seen, behind the picket fence corral of some

god's den in Boiling Springs' steam, dreaming of loping on some Empire dream

on the grassy savannas, trapping an impala or two or maybe a steenbok, just

as they had become the trapped cheviots, producing their belles to bury the

cantor and exalt canter, as surely as the Henrys did at the Cathedral, the

while listening in between high-pitched interference zips to the mocking

voices of Gosden and Correll as signs hawking the twentieth century limited

went wafting by--"The taste that charms but never cloys," "Two-way proof of

two-way safety," and "My business is not as usual," among them.

A familiar noise issued forth from behind, making Wilbur start. He

turned and saw on the rear wall of the bar the familiar redundant exit of the

chirping little bird announcing the hour. He thought of leaving, but somehow

the triumph of good, depicted in the old hickory frame behind the bar, held

him in the grip of the small, creaking wooden booth.

There was something of the familiar here. Even the rough cabinetry

behind the bar reminded him of Nannie's country kitchen cabinets when they

lived in Boiling Springs. The replacements in Shelby, of the same hardwood

stock, were more smoothly hewn and sanded, with a nouveau finish.

He waited in the rough amid these calming waves and readied his nous for

the duel of wits.

An anonymous thirteenth century trifle, on which he had glanced one fine

spring exam morning in college, came floating along on a reeded raft of

branches tied by sinewy cables. There was a note tied to the raft. From the

other side, it said: "Merry sing, cuckoo! Cuckoo, Cuckoo!/ Well sing'st thou, cuckoo:/ Ne

swike thou never now!/ Sing cuckoo, now! Sing, cuckoo!/ Sing cuckoo! Sing,

cuckoo, now!"

Joe K. and two other men entered the bar at a few moments after 5:00.

The two men accompanying him both appeared to be Mexican. One was short and

stout. The other, tall and pudgy. The latter had a clipped moustache, resembling his

Fuehrer.

Wilbur was tempted to ask whether they were the Mexican versions of

Laurel and Hardy. He resisted.

They sat down and ordered a round of drinks.

Joe K. began. "Okay, Cash, the hour of reckoning has arrived. The little

business over the weekend which I am sure you have read about in the papers

causes things to be a little different now. We no longer feel any generosity

of spirit. You no doubt have been useful to the government in this regard.

Now, we wish our payment. You have been a hero at our expense. Pay us back,

Cash. I wish an answer, now. What shall it be? Are you going to be a pearl

merchant or a pearl fancier?"

Wilbur slowly slurred his response.

"Spell it out, clown. I am tired of your stupid, sciolistic illiteracy

and veiled threats. What do you think this is? You walk in here with your

Nazi armbands practically showing beneath your coats and you have your loony

goons with you and you want me to do your bidding. You are not a riiider. You

are a horse's ass if there ever was one... Do you hear me, Joker, or whatever

the hell your name is? You probably haven't got a name. I think therefore

that I shall henceforth dub you 'Horse's-ass.' It suits you."

There was utter silence in the bar, otherwise empty of patrons. The

adrenaline of the moment had led Wilbur to return to familiar

ground, the barroom vituperation and badinage which he had perfected and

elevated to practical art form with and around the barrooms' shadowy figures

within Shelby and Charlotte in the thirties, this time without drink.

Wilbur realized he had stepped headlong into the parade. He could not

now effect an exit. There was nothing left now but simply to roll with it and

enjoy the exuberant release of anxiety, all the while reaffirming his

self-confidence to stand his ground in the face of the worst and most

threatening adversity of his days.

Joe K. was red-faced, obviously not expecting such a response. The two

goons sat placidly mute, apparently understanding nothing. Addressing in low

voice one as Enrique and the other as "Caballo Suelto", Joe K. spoke

something to them in Spanish which Wilbur did not understand. They did not

change their expressionless gravy faces.

"Brave man, Cash. And you are right. I am not a 'wriiiiter', as you say.

You're that. You come from, how did Hamlet say it, the 'brave o'er hanging

firmament', yes? Poor man. Stupid, dumb. You write a single book and somehow

you think that will protect you so that you can go about and say and do

anything you wish, apparently. I am reminded of good Gratiano in The

Merchant of Venice: 'O, be thou damn'd, inexcreble dog! And for thy life let

justice be accused. Thou almost makest me waver in my faith to hold opinion

with Pythagoras, that souls of animals infuse themselves into the trunks of

men: thy currish spirit govern'd a wolf, who, hang'd for human slaughter,

even from the gallows did his fell soul fleet, and whilst thou lay'st in thy

unhallow'd dam, infus'd itself in thee; for thy desires are wolfish, bloody,

starved and ravenous.'"

Joe K. accentuated each syllable perfectly, albeit with German accent.

He recalled the words with verbatim accuracy, stating them with an actor's

panache as if he, himself, had once performed them on stage.

"You will have time to contemplate long, Cash. You liked your ashy

friend, Thomas Wolfe, yes? Methinks you are about to join him. You are but a

sty to my eye, Cash. I shall now pluck it. For I am from the Wolves' Lair."

"Oh, bravo! Brilliant soliloquy. Bravo!

"Bartender, I order for this cur another wretched drink of dram.

Bring it hither, I say! Bravo, indeed. The Elizabethan lives. It is John

Wilkes Willie Shaking Ass-Horse, then, yes?" Wilbur's mocking spirit

was stated in as feigned disguise of his Southern heritage as he could

muster. He mustered a Scotch-Irish accent mixed with his phonetically

similar Southern country sound. He had now resorted to it in his best miming muse.

The bartender immediately arrived at the table at the sneering snap of

Wilbur's fingers in deliberate overplay of the scene.

"Como, Señor?"

"Bring my friends a round each of brandy. Let them drink to satiety and

be done with their toil. E'er be it so. Betimes, methinks this callous curio

of ancient times has ere now come again. Quick, quick, to the point! Quick,

quick, I say, that he be nourished nigh or be vanquished hither in his own

dry tongue from issuing forth further of this most excellent and original

flourish of words from that most high priest of English rhetoric and dramatic

device."

Playing the fool, the bartender looked puzzled, pretending not to

understand but the word 'brandy'. He scuttled off and returned shortly with

three drinks.

No one spoke for awhile. No one drank anything. The

bartender went to the phonograph and selected some Josh White, the black

American folk musician. The songs started playing. There was first "Bon Bon."

Wilbur began wistfully and unself-consciously chiming in after a bit. It

signaled the increasing synchronicity between the rhythm of the music and his

decreasing inhibitions in the face of the upending, rushing gait of the

certain doom he now faced. It was an onrushing retreat from his captors' attempts to arrest his

spirit.

"I've roamed this wide world over as a G.I. diplomat

It's funny I hear the same old cry no matter where I'm at

I got myself acquainted with the people and their ways

No matter what the language was, they understood this:

Bon bons, chocolate and chewing gum

Bon bons, chocolate and chewing gum

Bon bons, chocolate and chewing gum"

Finally, recapitulating his thinking from that morning regarding, among

other dramatic vignettes, the previous year's theatrical hit, The Time of

Your Life, Wilbur leaned way over the table, looked one of the goons dead

center in the eyes and said, "Hey, how about buying me some Juicy Fruit,

Wilmer?"

The short goon by now had ineluctably been caught up in the bright mood

of the music and buoyancy displayed by Wilbur and readily responded, "Si

Señor, Juicy Fruit, si." He began to stand.

Joe K. looked dourly and incredulously at his apparently dullard,

sycophantic associate and smirked: "Sit down, you Falstaff's fool."

"Falstaff, now I'm Falstaff. Capital, my good man. Wilkes-Willie

Shakingsphere has staff befallen on the North Carolina Falstaffian frolic

for a bit of Juicy Fruit. How insecure you have become, Willie Joke. Why

indeed employ such a knave as this if he cannot be controlled beyond the

entreaty of my own simple, most humble devices of importunate, rhetorical

query? After all, I am but a parvenu, a mere soi-disant fainéant, given to

beau geste and jeu d'esprit and increscent circumlocution. And you, you, of

course, are the ultimate précieux, preexilian preeminence of prescinding

malice prepense. Exile all us Shylock-Falstaff fools to Babylon to do

penance under Nebuchadnezzar. Sobersides, yes, Sobersides, it is! To you..."

As Wilbur raised his glass in mock toast, Joe K. sat with a bemused

look, continuing his sickening, sigmoidal sangfroid. After a few quiet

moments, he crossed his arms appearing prideful as if betraying some expected

militaristic gratification for the thought about to be uttered. He smiled and

carefully syllabicated each word as he spoke them with an r-motor beneath his

accent.

"'An affable Irregular,/ A heavily-built Falstaffian man,/ Comes

cracking jokes of civil war/ As though to die by gunshot were/ The finest

play under the sun.'"

"Ohhhh, now you've become transmogrified from old Willie S. to Willie

But. Y. Let's see, I think I know the next verse off-hand. It goes, why yes,

it goes: 'A brown Lieutenant and his men,/ Half dressed in national uniform,/

Stand at my door, and I complain/ Of the foul weather, hail and rain,/ A

pear-tree broken by the storm.'

"Well, no need for me to play show-off, Willie, is there now, huh, boy?

Why don't you finish it for me? Or maybe you could recite, say, 'Wolfram's

Dirge' by Beddoes, for me, huh? Why, we could sit here half the night and

have us a real down-home, hoe-down poetry readin', couldn't we now? That'd

be fun, wouldn't it boys?"

Laurel and Hardy began irresistibly to smile and nod affirmatively again

but quickly caught themselves in Joe K's sour stare.

Obviously irritated by the continuing rejoinder, Joe K. still

maintained a semblance of calm, but became more sternly tense and dogmatic in

his delivery. "Cash, an old German proverb says, 'No plough stops because of

the death of one man.' I think it well that you remember it."

The record had reached a song called "Go Away from My Window", regarding

a spurned lover and the sorrow of parting. A sense of sadness interfused the

air. The lyrics brought a pause to Wilbur's thoughts of the moment and he

drifted back to his family.

"I'll tell all my brothers,

And I'll tell my sister, too.

The reason that my heart is broke

Is all account of you,

Is all account of you."

There was silence for awhile. Wilbur remained quietly contemplative as

the song played out.

"But I'll remember you, my love,

As long as songbirds sing,

As long as songbirds sing.

Go on your way, be happy.

Go on your way and rest.

But remember, darlin',

You're the one I did love best

You're the one I did love best."

Joe K. interrupted the silence in plaintive tone. "What is it going

to be, Cash? We need help at Barber's Point. We cannot get in now. You have a

choice, actually. Go there or to the peak of Mt. Tantalus for the high view

of the water beneath the fruit trees. You have no other choice. You and your

relatives will not wish to be judged by sixteen judges. Do what is best,

now."

Wilbur, his eyes starting to droop, mumbled slowly, in a high-pitched,

squeaky, weak voice: "You... 'They piled Pelion on Ossa and Ossa on Olympus,

and then struggled up those rocky and bleeding slopes, panting and

whooping.'"

"What? Come on Cash, that is enough."

The brandy downed, Joe K. told Wilbur to get up and go to the desk and

take a room. Joe K. would then meet him upstairs and discuss matters more

fully later in private after Wilbur returned to full sobriety. Wilbur was

renitent.

"What do you want, Joker? Want some cutchie, cutchie coo, from me while

your boyfriends watch? Oh... Almost forgot..." Wilbur cleared his throat of a

flourish of phlegm. "I was reading about your Chiclets bombs. Some gimmick.

Here, I bought some for you. Have one."

"Bury Me High" played--its subject reconciling his impending death and

requesting only that the casket be kept high and dry.

"On parts of earth where the swamp is boss,

There's nothin' you can do to change its course,

But try and beat him to the rise

'Cause he's nothin' but the devil in disguise.

There's nothin' to keep me from passin' on

So thank you friends for gettin' here before

Mr. Devil Swamp got me through my door.

Bury me high where the water can't get me,

High close to the sky,

'Cause I'll never get to heaven unless I'm dry.

Bury me high where the water can't reach me,

Where the water can't reach me..."

Wilbur popped out a Chiclets box and spilled a couple onto the table.

The tall goon bristled in fear as the gum fell.

"Hmmm, didn't explode. Guess I'll have to chew one."

Wilbur reached for one of the Chiclets and the tall man clamped his hand

tightly around Wilbur's arm and moved it away from the Chiclets box.

"No Juicy Fruit, no Chiclets... How about some Tutti-Frutti?"

"Cash, do not humiliate yourself. Do not fancy yourself Daniel. You

would fair rather poorly in the den at the moment. Faith is for fools. You

are drunk." Joe K. paused a moment and smiled venomously. "It is, is it not,

to quote something you have already seen, 'Jonah, nat Daniels'."

Wilbur's mind began to race at the mention. He began rubbing his face

hard, forgetting for the moment all of his previous charade of carefree

rebellion. Somehow, it rang bells. What he was saying led back to New Orleans

and that led to the book. But what the hell did it mean?

Jap Endowed...

Joe K., poised for a moment with his right hand covering his mouth,

spoke slowly with calm monotony from dead, staring, shark eyes. "My patience

has run. Either take the room or I shall proceed to the plans I have

previously detailed. North Carolina is but a short distance from Mexico, really.

In twelve hours, by air, we three can be there. Before sunrise tomorrow, yes?

Or, we can simply give the word from here--no muss. What can you do, Cash?"

Sobered to a recognition that he had no further choice but to take the

matter as far as he could to delay and hope somehow to reach some resolution,

Wilbur got up from the table without saying anything further.

As he walked from the bar, strains of the jaunty spiritual "So Soon"

played from the wood-encased speaker.

"So soon in the morning when the clouds roll away,

So soon in the morning, I'll never go astray.

I'll hope and I'll trust and I'll trust and I'll hope

I'll watch through the night

And I'll watch through the day.

I'm standing at the station

With my ticket in my hand.

I'm standing at the station

Tryin' to make the Promised Land.

So soon in the mornin'

When the clouds, clouds, clouds roll away.

So soon in the morning,

I'll never go astray..."

Wilbur went to the desk and obtained a room. No one appeared at the desk

with him. The clerk informed him that some man had just called the Hotel an

hour or so earlier looking for him. Wilbur appeared nonplussed. He smirked at

the clerk and slurred simply, "Looks as though I'm a wanted man, huh?"

The clerk simply smiled and remained silent.

Wilbur went to the elevator and rode to the third floor. He walked down

the hall, to the fourth room on the left, No. 344. He thought to himself that

it was an appropriate designation, fitting his Liberal Fourth Estate,

lifelong residence. He tipped his hat to a maid, an Indian, who was finishing

up her afternoon rounds. She smiled at the unusual pleasantry. He walked into

the room alone and shut the door.

6.

The maid went into and out of her last two rooms of the day, hustling

between the cleaning cart and the interior of each cubicle.

Wilbur had checked into a room with one double bed. There was a black

and white diamond mosaic tile floor in the bathroom. There were wooden

jalousies on each of two windows overlooking Paseo de la Reforma below. There

were dark green curtains hanging on either side of the windows. The sun was

shining in from the west, streaming piercing rays onto a deep blue carpet.

The bedspread was white cotton. The walls were soft gray. The trim and

wainscoting were red. There was a Spanish-style, hanging fixture of multiple

lights at the center of the room. A simple Honduras mahogany writing desk and

an elegant leather chair sat next to the entrance door. Inside the desk

drawer, there were several sheets of unused hotel stationery and a pen. The

bathroom was to the side opposite the door to the hallway and to its left.

The door to the bathroom opened inside. It was of a normal dimension, about

eighty inches in height. On the inner sanctum side of the door, was listed

the checkout time. There was a window adjacent to the door, both outside and

inside the entry way. An end table sat beside the bed. On top of it was a

lamp with a parchment shade. There was also a telephone and the ubiquitous

Gideon's Bibles, one in English, one in Spanish. There were seven small

pictures on the walls, framed in handsome teak and mahogany frames. One was

of El Greco's "View of Toledo", two others of Rembrandt's "Soldier in the

Golden Helmet" and "Nightwatch", three by Bruegel, "The Suicide of Saul",

"The Magpie on the Gallows" and "The Numbering at Bethlehem" and another of

unknown origin and title, showing a surreal image of a crowd of young men

fleeing in a cloud of dust from a rushing line of bulls. One man in the group

had been pinned and was being gored against the wall of a building while male

and female onlookers cheered in apparent hearty approbation at the colorful,

bloody spectacle.

As the maid came back to the cleaning cart, probably fifteen minutes

after Wilbur had entered, she saw two men, one short and one tall, go to the

door to the room and knock. Without a sound from within or from the two men,

she could see the door opened by someone out of her line of view. The men

entered.

The maid went about her business, going back to her cleaning. She

neither heard nor saw anything out of the ordinary. Twenty minutes or so

after the two men had entered, she heard a door slam hard. She went to see

what it was. As she entered the hallway, she saw the short and tall man, whom

she had seen enter the room previously, walking down the hallway. A third

man, with blonde hair, was ahead of them, already waiting at the elevator

door, appearing not to be associated with the other two. She saw them all

only from behind.

It being about 6:00 on a summer Tuesday evening, foot traffic in the

hallways was still siesta-sparse and there was no one else at this moment

around.

The three got on the elevator, the doors closed and they disappeared

into the rattling cage of history.

It was getting close now to her quitting time. She tidied up the last of

the room on which she was then working. That was the end of her chores. She

took her cleaning cart down to the basement, locked it in the storage room

and went home.

Framed Edition
[Return to Links-Page by Subject] [Return to Links-Page by Date] [Return to News<i>--</i>Framed Edition]
Links-Date -- Links-Subj.