Friday, June 29, 2007

What Makes Anne Coulter So Damned Funny

What Ann Coulter’s detractors do not seem to get about her humor is it is funny precisely because of their reactions to it.

Those reactions range from bizarre, to typically predictable, to childishly whiny, to angry, and finally to something I can only describe as similar to the same kind of ‘roid rage that drives professional wrestlers to murder their families and then commit suicide.

That is exactly what makes Anne Coulter funny, but it seems to go straight over their heads, these people that for half a century now have been belittling the majority of their politically conservative opponents as being morons, retards, ignorant, and stupid.

In the meantime, these proponents of sticking to the issues and staying away from hateful speech on the grounds that it “poisons the political discourse” go on to insinuate that those who disagree with most if not all of their positions are, again, ignorant, redneck, xenophobic, anti-feminist, homophobic, bigoted and racist “wingnuts”.

Well, actually I went a little too far there. It is only the oft-cited “far left” base that uses that language. The Democratic, Liberal politicians do not actually use the word “wingnut”. (at least not publicly).

So when Elizabeth Edwards called in to Chris Matthews “Hardball” to confront Ann Coulter (John no doubt hunched safely behind her size 24+ slacks), here seems to have been the point-Coulter should refrain from attacking her husband, the man who is at the forefront of pointing out the inequities inherent within the “two Americas”. As he does so, naturally, he must explain-in a “positive” way, of course- how those who profit from that system are racist bigots. Therefore, by extension, so are all those who support them, for whatever reason. That and/or they are just ignorant.

Everybody is lined up on his or her pre-determined side. Those who like and support Coulter (me and about half the rest of the country), take her side. Those who support the Edwards position are on their side. Each side of course insists that their side “won”.

Nobody really “won” of course. Well, I did. I did because I see Coulters schpiel for what it is, and I think she is at her funniest, oddly enough, when she derogatorily categorizes and insults those who take the positions that I myself take. Because I am a moderate supporter of environmental concerns, and labor unions, and pro-choice positions, I find her skewering of those advocacy positions outright hilarious. When she takes on positions where I take an outright liberal view-in support of gay marriage, for example-I think she is even funnier.

I can laugh at her, and then pat myself on the back for being grown up enough to be able to laugh at myself, which most liberals can’t do (to be fair, neither can most conservatives).

Then, I ask myself, why in the hell should I support leaders and advocates of positions that take themselves so fucking seriously?

Here is the real skinny of the completely stupid affair. In an earlier appearance, she stated that she would have had something to say about the other candidate for the Democratic nomination-John Edwards-but it turns out that if you use the word “faggot” you might be sent into rehab, so she would just end her presentation and take questions from the crowd. This was at an appearance where she was giving her view of the Democratic candidates for the Presidential nomination for that party.

This, of course, was hyped up and blown out of all proportion. In a recent appearance on Good Morning America, she stated that she would never insult gays by seriously comparing them to Edwards (whom she actually seems to despise). She went on to comment about a recent statement by Bill Maher to the effect that if Vice-President Dick Cheney had died in a terrorist attack, so many people would not now be dead because of the Iraq War. She went on to note that this was met with little if any criticism, nor was it even widely noted. She concluded that if she had anything further to say about John Edwards, she would simply wish he had been killed in a terrorist attack.

Naturally, the left has been howling like banshees ever since the statement was made. Enter Elizabeth Edwards on the aforementioned Hardball segment. I like to think of her as “The Bitch Mother of Lies and the Lying Liars Who Bark Them”.

Coulter’s comments have been repeatedly misrepresented and taken totally out of context. Nor does it do any good to attempt to put them into context. Take for example the blog Oliver Willis, which I link to on “Pantheon Of Blogs”.

Here seems to be the Left’s rapid response team to the evil dangers of reason and logic.

When a commenter presented the entire context of Coulter’s remarks (not me. I am staying out of this one-why waste my energy)-you get this:

1. Maher’s earlier statement was not serious. If Coulter’s statement was derived from that, she took it entirely out of context.
2. You could make the point that it was a humorous take-off on Maher’s comments, only you can’t really do that, because Coulter has done this sort of thing before.

All of which tells me, (a), you can’t take a liberal commentator seriously when he says such things, or you are purposely taking him out of context. However, if a conservative commentator does the exact same thing, it absolutely must be taken literally, and deadly serious. Moreover, perhaps more tellingly (b) it’s not so bad to make such a joke once, but more than once is inappropriate.

Judging by this criterion, if you ever called Dan Quayle a moron, that was funny and legitimate, but you have to stop it there. Why do I seem to think that would not be considered a legitimate point?

Someone should have explained this rationale to insult comic Don Rickles, he might have gotten more laughs if he had stopped after the first put-down.

You can follow the beginning of the Coulter/Edwards feud by linking to the Jewish World Review article by Coulter that may have got the ball rolling. You might then ask yourself, if John and Elizabeth Edwards are so incensed at Anne Coulter’s “hate speach" that they make it an issue in a drive for political donations on their website, why did they ever hire the two “hate-speaking” bloggers referred to in this article?

In defense of said bloggers, I think they actually made some pretty good points, in some regards, and, just like Anne Coulter, many of their statements were funny, albeit somewhat “over-the-top”. So I guess the Edwards weren’t being hypocrites after all, since they did fire them. I’m sure they were legitimately outraged once their statements come to light, it surely wasn’t base political calculation that caused them to change their minds.

Of cooouuuurrrrrrse not. Just like Elizabeth Edwards really doesn’t hate that neighbor of theirs, the Republican who ran off two people from his property at gunpoint, people who were trying to establish a right-of-way through his property (allegedly for the benefit of the Edwards, by the way). She was just upset that the bad-tempered fellow was so hateful and negative.

She is allowed, of course, to be strident in her criticisms of the hateful, the ignorant, and the racist folks who disagree with her and John. We can surely excuse her if/when she crosses the line. After all, she is dying of breast cancer, the poor dear.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Death Of A Hero

The murder-suicide of WWE Professional wrestler Chris Benoit, his wife Nancy, and their seven year old son Daniel in their home in Fayettville Georgia, is shrouded in mystery. Yet, the mystery might be slowly being pieced together.

One interesting piece of the tragic puzzle is the recent revelation that Benoit's son Daniel might have been suffering from a condition somewhat like autism, known as "Fragile X", which causes a very profound learning and growing disability. Sufferers such as Daniel are said to be unable to relate to people, and in Daniel's case, Benoits father is alleged to have confided that his son was afraid of other children. In the above linked article on the WWE web-site, it is wondered whether the stress of dealing with this problem might have taken it's toll on Benoit.

World Wrestling Entertainment has denied reports of Benoit's steroid use, and has advised caution in reading reports of the story. To this end they have released a timeline of their last contacts with the wrestling champion and star. It is all very bizarre.

WWE deserves some credit in being upfront in dealing with this tragedy, in the face of their monumental misstep in cancelling a scheduled event in order to televise a tribute to the wrestler and his lengthy career. Owner Vince Macmahon has since apologized profusely for this error in judgment, once the facts of the case began to come to light.

To wit, Benoit, having cancelled a scheduled event due to a family emergency-he stated that he believed his wife and son had suffered from food poisoning-sometime on Saturday murdered his wife. The following day, on Sunday, he similarly murdered his son. It is said that he suffocated them in what might have been a wrestling hold. Late Sunday night or early in the morning on Monday, he hung himself with a piece of cord that was a part of a weight training device.

It's interesting that Benoit's wife had some years previously, in 2003, separated from Benoit, and filed a restraining order on him, on grounds of cruelty. However, she later had the order rescinded and made amends with her husband. They had been together for some eight years.

How they got together is itself an interesting story. As part of a wrestling story-line, Benoit and his soon-to-be wife were said to be engaging in an affair, while she was married to a rival wrestler. In order to make it look real, they would be seen in public holding hands, and even took it to the extent that they rented rooms in which they spent some time together.

One thing led to another and the pair soon married.

Though the WWE explicitly denies the use of steroids by Benoit, this certainly should be taken into consideration. Even if Benoit was in fact no longer taking steroids, it's negative effects can last for a year or more after a user has ceased taking them. In some cases, their effects can be permanent. Depending on the length and degree of their use, they can cause schizophrenia and depression, and have in fact been known to lead to suicide, in addition to what has commonly been referred to as "'roid rage".

Moreover, if Benoit and his wife, also involved to an extent in the business, had been taking them at the time of their son's conception, is it likely this might have contributed to their son's onset of the so-called Fragile X? This, by the way, has not as yet been confirmed.

Steroids have been a big problem in the realm of professional sports, as well as in the world of Professional Wrestling entertainment (which, while certainly entertaining-I used to be a fan-certainly doesn't deserve to be dignified with designation as a sport).

Major League baseball has taken tentative steps toward dealing with the problem, the NFL has as well, while the International Olympic Committee seems to want to swat flies with jackhammers.

Still, though the problem is being addressed, it is still unsettling to think that the all-time professional baseball home run record might be called into question. That of course is an incidental bit of unpleasantness when compared to the overall societal effect. For a while, and perhaps still yet, the competitive drive for schools to produce winning sports teams-or for parents to produce multi-million dollar sports stars-seemed to dictate that parents and school officials might well look the other way, if not privately encourage it. In order to stay competitive, they had to keep up with the cutting edge of technology. In this day and age, that just happens to be steroids.

Unfortunately, given a little time, it might yet return to that. Just give it enough time to go away, for the controversy to die down. Everybody is doing it, just don't ask, don't tell-if you want to be a winner.

It would be unfortunate if it turns out that it took a tragedy like this to keep the issue front and center, but unfortunately, that's the way of the world.

You can read about the real dangers of steroid use at the White House site here, which contains links to other information about the dangers of this potential societal scourge.

As for those who now are intent on making this the conspiracy theory story of the month, I strongly urge you to read the aforementioned time line, established by the WWE, that I linked earlier. In fact, it is so profound in it's abundance of evidence as to Benoit's state of mind, I think it might well be appropriate to repeat the link. I encourage you to read the whole incredibly strange story here.

Life is very seldom like an Agatha Christie novel. In the vast majority of cases, what seems to be the truth on the surface, actually is the whole truth. Conspiracy theories might be more fun, and exciting to ponder and discuss, at least for some people. However, far more often than not, the more mundane explanations are in fact the legitimate ones. It's just that simple.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Antioch-The College

Antioch College, after more than one hundred fifty years of more or less uninterrupted liberal indoctrination disguised as “teaching”, is soon to close its door, as of June 1st, 2008. Plans are already in the works to revamp the Antioch University flagship college for a possible, yet very tentative, re-opening set for 2012. When it does close, it will be for the third time, and very possibly for good.

The Antioch College alumni, trustees, and other personnel should be ashamed of themselves. The school, located in Yellow Springs, Ohio, is going to its grave without having accomplished much of anything worthwhile.

I took the liberty of pursuing a list of its most notable graduate luminaries, a sure general sign of the overall value to society of any college or university. Among such luminaries was Coretta Scott King. Once you get past her-and actor Montgomery Cliff-the small Ohio campus has not produced much in the way of living up to founding President Horace Mann’s admonition which is the mission statement of the college-

“Be ashamed to die until you have accomplished something great for mankind”.

There was one scientist. There was one anthropologist. I noted with some interest that there was one notable person who is known as a “nautical explorer”. Try as I might, I cannot banish from my mind the image of a bearded beach bum sailing the mid-Atlantic coast in a skiff, spending his hours looking for sand dollars off the South Carolina coast.

There were a few attorneys, as one might expect. Other than these, the majority of them were sociologists, politicians, authors, and actors. Here’s hoping the authors learned enough to be considered legitimate experts in their chosen fields. Probably they were. Those who were not were probably among those who went on to become successfully tenured professors at the college.

So what happened to Antioch? Wel, I guess that depends on who you ask. Here's their own statement. Here, on the other hand, seems to be the straight scoop from the Dayton Dailey News.

In the beginning, it was a Christian college that aimed to produce generations of public minded graduates who would contribute great things to society. They championed the cause as early as in the 18oo’s of civil rights for blacks and for women. Yet, due to opposition from the small Ohio communities that surrounded them, they turned out few if any black graduates prior to the 1940’s. They had two black students in the 1930’s, neither of whom went on to graduate.

By the time of the late forties, something happened. Their mission evolved, you might say, to a communist-or let us be kind and say “progressive left”-orientation. The House Un-American Committee criticized them, but they persevered. By the time the sixties came around, they were at the forefront of civil rights marches, anti-war protests, and other liberal advocacy positions, some of which were of perhaps, let us say, dubious value at best.

In the earliest days of its existence, Antioch sent students out to gain experience in the various crafts and trades, as interns to the different professionals in the area. By the pertinent time in question, they went out not to learn such skills as previously had been encouraged.

Now, they were sent out to demonstrate in marches, conduct sit-ins, and burn draft cards. Why not, hell, you got extra class credit for this, you see.

By well into the seventies and eighties, Antioch College was a well-known bastion of leftist ideology and indoctrination, right up there with Berkley and Kent State. Though it was classified as a liberal arts institution, this was not to be construed to mean that Antioch was a place you could go to get exposure to different ideas and philosophies. Antioch was the place to go to get reinforcement for the preconceived leftist philosophies of you, and the parents who might have paved the way to instilling them into your young, innocent mind. It was a place for reassurance, not for learning, nor for any kind of thought that might be considered challenging.

Perhaps it was fortunate that, somewhere along the way, Antioch forgot what its main purpose was. It had long ago ceased to be an institution where young people might learn those skills necessary to be successful in today’s ever more competitive world. Did I mention its second most notable luminary might be Montgomery Cliff?

Whatever the case, it is easy to see why a college that is classified as a “third tier” liberal arts college, might come to be considered third rate at best, and well advised to revamp its program toward the achievement of material success. However, the alumni of Antioch would disagree with that, naturally. To them, their purpose in life is to lead student protests-at the Dayton Court House-of Appellate Court or Supreme Court decisions that have nothing to do with the court being demonstrated against. One such example would be a recent decision curtailing or limiting the placement of minority quotas in school admissions. Antioch college students and professors went bonkers over this, and staged what they called a “people of color takeover.”

Or, perhaps one might point to the time they lead the way in producing what is perhaps the most bizarre sex-abuse statement ever written as a matter of school policy. I reproduce two portions of it, courtesy of The American Thinker, as follows:

"This spirit is about a fully affirmative YES. Not an ambiguous yes, or a ‘well-not-really-but-OK-I guess, yes,' certainly not a ‘silent-no,' ‘yes,' or an ‘ouch' or ‘yuck-but-I'm-afraid-to-hurt-your-feelings-yes.' This is about YES, UM HUM, ABSOLUTELY, YIPPEE YAHOO YES!"

Later on, the statement gets a bit more serious-I guess-with:

"-All sexual contact and conduct between any two (or more!) people must be consensual;"

"-- Consent must be obtained verbally before there is any sexual contact or conduct;

"-- If the level of sexual intimacy increases during an interaction (i.e. if two people move from kissing while fully clothed, which is one level, to undressing for direct physical contact, which is another level), the people involved need to express their clear verbal consent before moving to that new level;"

By now, you might be starting to wonder, as I am, how this institution lasted as long as it did.

Possibly, they are even proud to be known as one of the top ten anti-male establishments of higher learning in the nation.

However, to be fair, I have to jump to the defense of Antioch. I do not think it is accurate to say they are anti-male, so much as to say that they are anti-man. Especially, anti white upper-class man and anti white upper middle-class man.

At any rate, Antioch would probably have closed its doors ten years ago, but they have been kept floating above water by the other colleges in the Antioch University system. One can only assume these other schools have either adopted a program that is more conducive to attracting students geared toward achieving success, or that they are in parts of the country where the Antioch philosophy is a better fit. Those places would be Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, and Seattle. Yeppers, methinks that might have more than a little to do with it.

In Southern Ohio, it is not a fit. Few in-state families would be willing to shell out 23,000 dollars for a school that does not teach shit any more vital or competitive than Rabble Rousing 101. Nor would many out-of-state families opt to send their kids to such a school at even higher rates.

In the long run, many of Antioch’s most cherished causes might have contributed to the schools downfall. Take for example the atrocious Title Nine laws whereby so much money has to be set aside for female sports teams, whether they are profitable or not. A major university such as Notre Dame can absorb the shock of such a blow, perhaps, and even help it in a few cases become profitable over time.

A campus such as Antioch is dead in the water right from the start, as they are doubtless unable to fund more than a mediocre soccer team at best, though I doubt seriously that a sports program would be welcome at such a place under any conditions. Fair enough, but then again, such denial of reality is just another nail in the coffin of such schools. No sports team in a good many cases equals no interest whatsoever for a lot of potential students and their families. Moreover, that equals of course less money. A lot less money. A hell of a lot less money.

Perhaps the current Administration will be successful at reviving Antioch’s fortunes, and making it successful, but this would require adopting a curriculum which would attract competitive students who want to actually-well, accomplish something with their lives. Unfortunately, the pot hazed sixties era hippies who doubtless make up the majority of Antioch’s alumni and contributors will probably balk at this. Who cares about teaching impressionable young children about the value of making money when they should be taught VALUES, by God?

Why have programs to teach business, sciences and math, in addition to Law, Languages, and Literature, etc., that is the schools hallmarks of distinction. That is just the problem with Antioch. It was never a school that put a lot of value on worldly success, or material gain, and over time it only got more doctrinaire in its guiding philosophy. Now, it is paying the price.

Nevertheless, those old alumni might persevere after all, and return with a vengeance. They might show those more “realistic” thinking school deans and administrators what is what. How dare they change their beloved Antioch, and try to re-open it as an ordinary damned old college in 2012?

I look any minute now for the old guard to issue a statement criticizing this lack of cultural sensitivity to the Maya, to whom 2012 is a sacred year.

Every picture tells a story, don't it? Put them together, and you have an epic tale of despair, at the thought that-my God, what do you mean the sixties are over? They ain't over till they're over-by God

Without further ado, and thanks to the Dayton Daily News, I hereby present-


The alumni, students, and community of Yellow Springs attend the meeting where the decision is announced to close the school in June 2008. They are not happy campers

The Deans and Alumni Board of Trustees with President Sanders at the meeting, making the announcement. Feeling the heat. Note President Sanders, second from the right. Wonder what he's really feeling?

("Maybe I can find an opening in a nice Day Care Center")

Saturday, June 23, 2007


Well, since this is, by the way, Post Number 666-

(Pictured above is Lucius Domitius Ahenobar, adopted son and heir of Roman Emperor Claudius, who gave him the adoptive name by which we have come to know him-Nero)

Who is he, this "Great Beast" represented by the number 666? Or, who will he be? Will he be the ruler of a one-world empire, as the Bible intimates? Will he have what is known as a “False Prophet” who is himself quite formidable, and who will be instrumental in rallying the world behind the worship of this “Antichrist”?

Is he even, as some have suggested, the “Son of Satan” himself?

Some have suggested that the Antichrist or “Great Beast” will be a counterfeit Christ, and will “deceive the very elect” by reason of those miracles which he will have power to perform in the sight of men. Utilizing this ancient prophecy, the late Jerry Falwell claimed that the Antichrist will probably be a Jew, as Christ himself was a Jew.

As ruler of a world empire, prophecies concerning him in this regard are based on the observation that, over the centuries, one empire would arise and in time would fall, only to be swallowed up and absorbed by a successive empire, which would be bigger than the one that preceded it.

It seemed a logical assumption that were this trend to continue, eventually the entire world would be swallowed up by one vast, overriding empire, which would then of course be all-powerful in a secular sense.

The Book of Revelations, the last book of the Bible, and which is revolved chiefly around events leading up to and including the end of time, was composed during the reign of the Emperor Domitian. He was a vicious persecutor of Christians and the Christian faith, and was himself seen to be a satanically inspired “rebirth” in a sense of the first great ant-Christian despot, the Emperor Nero. Prior to him, and between him and Domitian, the Christians were also persecuted, but not to the degree perpetrated by these two.

(Pictured above is Domitian, Emperor of Rome at the time of the writing of the Book Of Revelations)

The New Testament author observed that Domitian as well would eventually fall, but others would nevertheless replace him, just as he himself had replaced Nero, under that time of the aforementioned world empire, in which the devil by this time would have the entire world within his grasp.

So when is this going to come about? Perhaps the clue to this can be found in the symbol for which he is most well known-the number 666. According to the Bible, this is “the number of a man”. As such, we are advised to count this number.

Could this possibly mean not so much that the number is that of a man, but of instead the generation of men that will produce him?

If this is the case, then let us consider the Biblical assertion that the world is 6000 years old, including the creation of Adam, who was created on the “sixth day”. Then consider the meaning of the term “generation”. Let us agree that a new generation arises once every twenty years, more or less. Let’s just use that as an average.

If that were the case, then this would mean that the Beast would arise sometime during the predominance of the 666th generation of men.

In other words, you can start to breathe a little easier. The Antichrist will not arise until sometime after the year 9300 AD. (CE).

Even if you use a more liberal assessment for the counting of generations, it is quite a ways off. Say for example that you use every thirteenth year for each successive generation, thirteen being the general age at which a young Jewish boy celebrates his Bar Mitzvah. Going by this criterion, you still have quite a few centuries before the onset of the Antichrist, whoever he turns out to be. We will all be long dead and gone by then, whatever the case-assuming it’s real to begin with.

Which it could well be. Fundamentalist Christians might well want to consider shutting up about this. Every time they give an opinion on the matter, it’s almost like somebody somewhere says, “hey, you know, that’s not a bad idea”. It’s almost like that old idea of the self-fulfilling prophecy, only in this context on a massively grand world scale.

They also point to the revival of the State of Israel as a fulfillment of conditions leading up to the advent of the Antichrist as being within this present generation. Unfortunately, what they do not seem to realize is that the State of “Israel” is a massive fraud in the sense of the Biblical identity of that name. The people who currently claim that identity are actually descendants of the ancient nation of Judea, or Judah. The original State of Israel, which split off from Judea following the reign of Solomon, has long since vanished. Their descendants, whoever they might be, are unknown to us. True, the Judeans are a portion of that ancient heritage, but only a very small portion of it. The prophecy relating to the revived state of Israel by its nature must of necessity include the descendants of ALL TWELVE STATES, WHICH THE PRESENT STATE DOES NOT EVEN COME CLOSE TO DOING.

On the other hand, the current proponents of the present age being the pivotal one in question have other aspects that they point to as signs that our modern times are the “end of days”.

Social Security, Medicaire, computers, computer tracking chips, bar code scanners, and health records database- again on computer chips. Every one of these things has been given as examples of things or ideas that are either foreshadowings of the “number of the beast”, or are those things themselves. Constantly they are retooled and perfected, until they can be implanted in our brains, sapping our wills, and turning us all into willing, expedient, and dispensable brain dead sheep.

Hey, wait a minute! Most people are already like that anyway! It’s already happening!


Whatever the case, it is interesting to note that most fundamentalist Christians consider the present age to be the final one and that the Antichrist will be a person who will pass himself off as a kind of Christ like figure. Perhaps they are right. Maybe the Antichrist will not be so bold as to actually claim outright to be Christ. At least, not right in the beginning. Yet, perhaps he will be some person who has, shall we say, messianic tendencies. Perhaps deep down he is a person who will subconsciously-or consciously for that matter-try to manipulate Christian sentiments and concerns over these end times beliefs to his own best advantage. Perhaps he will in this manner portray himself as a kind of “Second Coming of Christ”

If I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times-be careful what you wish for.

Thursday, June 21, 2007


I recently learned an interesting “fact” in an effort to research the religion of Stregheria. What I learned was that, in a sense, if I were to proceed in an earlier stated desire to use the goddess Aradia in some form of artistic format, I may not be the first to have ever done so. In fact, I may have been beaten by more than a century by a gentleman by the name of Oscar Wilde, who might well have used the goddess in a play. Others later followed suit, as she may have, albeit unknowingly, been the subject of at least two operas, one by the great Richard Strauss.

So, who is the goddess Aradia? Well, according to the established and for the most part largely hereditary triads, or covens, of followers of Stregheria, she was the daughter of the Roman goddess Diana, and the sun god Lucifer. Diana had become infatuated with her handsome yet standoffish brother, and seduced him by changing herself into the likeness of the gods favorite pet cat, then climbing into his bed as he was falling asleep. The union was consummated, and Aradia was the resultant offspring.

Diana later sent Aradia to the poor peasant women of Italy, who were being oppressed by the aristocratic landowners of the time, which was said to be sometime in the fourteenth century. She taught them witchcraft. Specifically, she taught them the arts of poisoning. She taught them other magical arts as well, including the ability to fly, which may have been a reference to a kind of astral projection.

Some hold that there was actually a woman named Aradia, who lived in the fourteenth century, and who actually started such a movement, though it was relatively small and unknown. As the decades advanced, however, though rumors of it's existence became more widely spread, even beyond Italy, it remained no less mysterious.

Most people held that it actually did not exist, that it was in fact a hysterical delusion. The proponents of this latter view were the Roman Catholic Church, which is very interesting. This suggests to me that this obscure little cult actually did exist, though it was unknown as to how widespread it was, or who were the participants. It is easy to infer from this that the Church wished to portray them as a delusion precisely to restrain interest in and affiliation with them.

Then came another development. It turns out that Aradia may not have been a thirteenth century woman at all, but a deified version of a far earlier historical female, in fact a somewhat very well known one.

Before long, the goddess Aradia became equated, at least at first glance, with the New Testament villainess Herodias. Indeed, the two names are entymologically identical. Herodias of course was the wife of Herod Antipas, the tetrarch of Galillee during the time of Christ. The tetrarchs wife had instigated the execution of John The Baptist by convincing her daughter, Salome, to ask for the head of the Baptist as a reward for pleasing the tetrarch with the performance of a dance at his birthday banquet.

Only it seems that during the Middle Ages, Salome was mistakenly believed to also be named Herodias, due to her lack of being named in the New Testament. Because of this, it was merely assumed the girl, all of thirteen at the time of the incident, had the same name as her mother.

It later became more widely known, through the writings of the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, that the girls name was actually Salome. She went on to have an interesting history. She became married to a number of cousins and uncles, notably to Philip the Tetrarch, long mistakenly believed to have been the first husband of Herodias, thus Salome’s own father. Her true father, as it turns out, was named Herod, and he was a grandson of a former High Priest.

She later married a certain Herod, King of Chalcis, and then finally, as the wife of Tigranes IV, she became the Queen of Lesser Armenia. The reign of she and her husband in this oft disputed territory, a frequent bone of contention between the Roman and Parthian Empires, culminated after a mere six months in the execution of both of them. Following a rebellion and their consequent overthrow, they were, ironically enough in her case, executed by way of beheading.

As a side note, it is interesting that the New Testament puts the blame for the Baptists execution squarely on her and her mother, while Herod, though portrayed as a corrupt weakling, is nevertheless seen as having regret over the incident. His reluctance is portrayed as the reason for the artifice of mother and daughter to begin with. As the Gospel account was written right along the time of her execution in Lesser Armenia, this could possibly have been an intentional morality tale on the part of the New Testament writers.

Josephus for his part seems to cast the blame squarely on the shoulders of Antipas, who according to him wanted to kill the prophet, but just needed a legitimate pretext for doing so.

Whatever the case, according to this theory, Salome (not her mother) was actually worshipped by the earliest of the Stregha as an incarnation of the goddess Diana.

Nevertheless, there are serious academic doubts as to how old Stregheria actually is. When Charles Godfrey Leland wrote “The Gospel of Aradia” around the turn of the twentieth century, he remarked that a hereditary descendant of one of the old triads had given the volume to him. This has been very much in dispute, and more than likely his claims are wild exaggerations. The truth of the matter seems to be somewhere between-

A. He based his writings on old oral traditions related him by a triad member.
B. He made the shit up out of whole cloth.

I tend to lean my beliefs somewhere closer toward choice A, though I certainly accede it not only to be possible, but indeed likely that a good lot of it was his own interjections, interpretations, and even some of his own whimsy.

At the same time, the reluctance of the Catholic Church to lend any credence to the veracity of the cult’s existence gives me good reason to conclude-something was going on during this period of time that gave them some cause for alarm. After all, this was a period of time when the Church looked for any excuse to harass, torture, imprison, or execute any sect or religious group or philosophy that had even the slightest inclinations that could be portrayed as heretical.

There was almost definitely a “there” there. The Church feared its existence but since they had no way of knowing who they were, what they were, or even where they were, they fought them the best way they could. They insisted even the belief in their existence amounted to mass hysteria and delusion.

This might have been the reason for the identification of the goddess Aradia with the mortal teenage girl Salome. This might have been a way of portraying the cult as an evil one. The fact that they worshiped Lucifer-actually an ancient Greek god, the son of Zeus and Eos (goddess of the dawn) did not hurt them in their efforts to at the same time insinuate them to be a potentially malignant force.

In fact, a perusal of the Gospel of Aradia seems to indicate that the Stregha worshiped Lucifer as, in fact, the fallen god from the heavens, and while doing so they seem to equate Zeus,or Jupiter, with the New Testament Yahweh, in a sense.

Nevertheless, it is easy to see how this too could have come about. It is very likely that the word Lucifer became synonymous with the Christian Satan due to the artifice of translation of the scriptures from the original Hebrew to Greek. The Lucifer mentioned in the Old Testament might actually have been not in reference to a devil or a pagan god, but to some fallen mortal, perhaps the Hebrew King Saul, or some similar personage who “fell” or was “cast out” of God’s favor due to overweening pride.

The original Greek Lucifer, in fact, seems to have been a very minor god at best whose worship was extremely limited. He may have been actually all but unknown outside of a very small region.

Whatever the case, the period of time when the Stregha started, assuming the traditions are correct, would have been prior to the time of the Renaissance, and the followers would have been a very small group of peasant women, and a few men, and their families. They could not be expected to understand the nuance that existed in the different meanings of the word Lucifer, to say nothing of the difference between a very obscure and all but forgotten pagan god, and the being that we have come to know as the purest manifestation of evil and sin.

For the most part, it must be stressed, the vast majority of the gods and goddesses worshiped by the Stregha are the same gods to be found in both the ancient Roman and Etruscan pantheons.

On the other hand, Cain, the ancient murderer, plays a role in their cult as well, though I am not sure how. Nevertheless, remember-perhaps the most important art taught the oppressed peasant women of Italy by the goddess Aradia was the art of poisoning.

Well, I do not intend to go out and poison anybody tonight, nor do I intend to chop off any heads. But seeing as how as I write these words we are two and a half hours into the Summer Solstice,I might just visualize the goddess Aradia.

And I might well put on some music and dance.

Monday, June 11, 2007

RADU (A Novel by Patrick Kelley)-Chapter XI

RADU-Chapter XI Kelley, Patrick
(pages: 25 – word count: 19,964)

(The link to the first installment, or Part One, which includes the Prologue and Chapters I-X, can be accessed by clicking on the title of this post).

Marlowe had always seemed strange to his uncle, Bradley David Marlowe. Over the course of the next several weeks, however, he started to view his nephew as more than just a bit eccentric. He was stark raving mad.

He had no interest in the death metal that passed for music any longer, or for any other. He also stayed off his computer, his MySpace and FaceBook accounts seemingly all but forgotten. Brad knew this, because out of curiosity he checked his sites. Marlowe seemingly had not updated any of them for quite some time. His MySpace page in particular, now contained dozens of messages that were for the most part spam. They included advertisements for ring tones, ipods, and invitations to cam girl porno sites. Ordinarily Marlowe would have summarily deleted such things without a second thought.

These days, Marlowe mainly listened incessantly to talk radio. A couple of times Brad could have swore he heard his nephew conversing with the voices over the airwaves. Quietly, to be sure, but it was more than a matter of throwaway utterances. They seemed to be in the form of complete sentences, the sort that invite a response.

When he ate, it amounted to little more than peanut butter sandwiches, or maybe crackers and a little soup. He seemed to care to drink nothing but water, with the sometime exception of a beer, which he sipped, more often than not leaving well over half the bottle unfinished.

He spoke very little. He avoided sunlight. In fact, exposure to it seemed to make him cringe in discomfort. He was growing thin, pale, and sullen. The only time Marlowe ever smiled anymore was when he looked at himself in the mirror, which he did incessantly. He seemed to be well pleased with himself.

He also began watching a great deal more television than usual. It did not seem to matter what it was- comedy, drama, reality, or news show- he just sat and watched, stared, with little expression. One night, Brad awakened to the sounds of cackling laughter. Sneaking downstairs, he peeped around the corner of the banister from upstairs, and there was Marlowe, sitting on the living room sofa, staring at the television set. It was three thirty in the morning, and Marlowe was awake, engrossed in the snowy, noisy static of the television set tuned to a local channel that had signed off sometime during the early morning hours.

He was getting worried. Marlowe seemed unresponsive to his entreaties to see a doctor. He almost seemed to be in an entirely different world of reality. The most animated response he had gotten from him thus far had been when he brought up the subject of Spiral Lamont.

Brad had been concerned that, were her body discovered buried on their property, it would easily be interpreted as evidence that Marlowe and perhaps he had murdered her. He had also been concerned about further mischief from the outlaw crew who had actually committed the crime. They obviously had it in for Marlowe and might well be intent on more malicious activity.

Brad had all of these thoughts running through his head one night as Marlowe sat engrossed with the television. He was watching a program that was in fact one of the very few he normally did watch with any kind of regularity. A man who worked as a government agent of some sort was going about the business of extracting information from another man, and was utilizing torture to do so against the unfortunate individual, who in fact turned out to be his own brother. Marlowe smiled in what seemed to be a deep sense of satisfaction. That the man died in the course of it seemed not to elicit much of a response from Marlowe, though he seemed to take the agents regrets at this occurrence with some degree of curiosity. After the show was over, Brad tried to turn Marlowe’s attention back to the prospect of seeing a doctor.

Marlowe’s ultimate response at the suggestion was adamant, and final. He did not trust doctors, and in fact despised them. They were charlatans. They had failed him, had betrayed him. If they had as much to gain or more by killing you while pretending to heal you, they would do so without a second thought. In the case of most illnesses, they were in fact powerless to do more than make you more comfortable, perhaps-if they were truly good, and well paid. They were also thieves.

Brad noticed that as he said this, his breathing seemed labored and his voice erratic, his eyes darted nervously around, and he seemed to grow more irritable by the second. For the first time, as well, Brad caught sight of a noticeable tremor in his right hand. Obviously, his nephew was far from healed from the attempted poisoning.

Marlowe seemed, to all intents and purposes, all but disabled. He had no intention of resuming work or reopening the mortuary. If Brad wanted to do so, perhaps he would allow it in time. However, he wished to avoid this for the time being. When he did resume operations, Brad would have to be content to run it himself. Marlowe wanted nothing more to do with it, not for a good time to come, at any rate.

“Marlowe, we can’t stay closed forever.” Brad told him. “Sooner or later, we have to reopen. We have to make a living, and the longer we wait, the harder it will be to reestablish ourselves.”

To his chagrin, Marlowe merely laughed that foolish, cackling laugh he had recently affected.

“You are a funny, funny man.,” he told him.

For the most part, though, Marlowe avoided his uncle, spoke to him as little as possible when he was around him. Anything he said that amounted to a complete sentence amounted to a complaint, either about the lighting-there was too much of it-or the food-it was too spicy, or too bland, or too oily, or in some other way “inedible”.

One night, Brad sent out for pizza, and Marlowe looked at it in amazement.

“What is that for, rats?” he demanded. He refused to touch it. The only thing he cared for was peanut butter, with which he seemed to have become engrossed. He seemed to be fascinated with ice. He looked on in amazement every time Brad extracted ice from the refrigerators’ automatic dispenser.

The more Marlowe seemed to gain in strength, the more confused he seemed to become, and then he would ultimately withdraw yet again, indulging in his insane and nearly inaudible babblings into the mirror, to no one but himself. It was almost as though he had reverted to a childlike state of mind, was relearning the simplest things, and didn’t quite know what to make of them. Still, he expressed definite opinions on matters that, although they bordered on the paranoid and even psychotic, yet revealed a depth of knowledge and command of language that belied any assumption that his mind had totally reverted to childhood.

He was wasting away before Brad’s eyes, yet adamantly refused to eat anything from a can or box. When Brad reminded him that the vegetables from the can were already cooked, they merely needed to be heated, Marlowe informed him “you can eat that shit yourself then.”

He refused to step out of the house, and when he heard automobiles driving by, his eyes would widen as though he was in mortal terror. One morning as Brad left the house to pick up some household cleaning supplies and personal items, he felt strangely uneasy. He turned almost unconsciously in the direction of the house just in time to catch Marlowe staring out the window at him in wonder. He got into his Ford, and started it up, after which he backed out of the driveway. Marlowe watched him the whole time as though he was thoroughly astonished at this trivial, mundane sight.

He knew he had to do something, and so he made an appointment to see Marlowe’s doctor, explaining that it was an emergency, and that due to his perception as to his nephews’ state of mind, privacy was of the utmost importance. When Doctor Chou heard what Brad had to say, he was more than a little alarmed, and very concerned. There was no reason whatsoever for such symptoms to arise and persist. There had been no indications while Marlowe was in the hospital that he had any allergic tendencies in regards to his medication or other treatments, and he seemed to improve quickly and steadily. Even his appetite quickly returned. He exhibited no bizarre behaviors, given the circumstances, nor did he seem overly concerned one way or another as to the length of his stay in hospital.

True, he had left unexpectedly and was not officially released, but Marlowe explained this when he returned four days later for his follow up examination. Doctor Chou did consider this odd, but at the same time had not been overly concerned. He had planned to release Marlowe the following day regardless.

By the time Brad left Chou’s office, the family physician seemed deeply shaken by what he had heard. He had agreed that Marlowe should be committed, that he might well be a danger to himself and to his uncle, and perhaps to others as well. He understood Brads’ reluctance, but encouraged him strongly to sign the proper papers, to have everything in order ahead of time. If Marlowe’s condition appeared to worsen, or for that matter if there was no noticeable improvement within a short number of days, it was actually his uncles’ responsibility as his sole surviving relative to insure he received the treatment he needed.

Brad left not wholly convinced. The papers legitimizing Marlowe’s commitment were in order. They could be acted upon with one simple phone call, but he dreaded the prospect. What would his reaction be? Would he ever forgive him for such a betrayal? At the same time, Brad worried now for his own safety, living as he was obliged to do in the same house with a man who had obviously become a maniac.

Three days later, Brad noted that Marlowe had seemed to be no worse, though he couldn’t see any improvement either. Later on that night, Brad was surprised by a movement down the steps. By the time he got out of bed and dressed himself, he made it out his bedroom just in time to see Marlowe, now fully dressed, leaving the house at two thirty in the morning. Before he could say anything Marlowe was gone. By the time he made it to the door and opened it, he was nowhere in sight. He stepped out onto the porch, and into the yard, and shouted for him. He heard no response.

He did not know what to think. To his knowledge, Marlowe had not left the house since the night he had dug up the long forgotten grave of the old gypsy woman named Magda. It wasn’t the old woman’s bones that had proved so troubling, however, but what was buried with them, an old trunk that contained yet more human remains, from an unknown time and place. Marlowe kept the trunk inside his room, but he had insisted the bones be interred in the family mausoleum under the name on the trunk, Radu. Marlowe had insisted on this, and performed the task with, for him, an unusual appearance of devotion. Marlowe had explained that, no, he did not truly know his identity, but whoever he was, he deserved a more fitting resting place than an old iron trunk in the ground. Brad watched as Marlowe painstakingly carved the marker to the newly inhabited crypt.

No surname accompanied the sole given name of Radu, nor were dates of birth or death provided.

With some anguish, Brad opened the crypt and looked inside the perfectly wasted mahogany coffin, which Marlowe insisted upon granting the remains. He opened the coffin, and there they were, perfectly ghastly. In all this time as a mortician, Brad rarely saw a sight such as this. There had been a time years past, as a young boy, when his beloved mother had been exhumed. His grandmother had always suspected foul play on the part of Brad’s father, and through years of persistence finally succeeded in having the remains tested for poisoning, or any other kind of foul play that would explain the sudden death of such a young, vital, happy, and apparently healthy woman in her early thirties. Brad had been a mere boy of eight when she died, and his father immediately commenced an affair with a younger woman, who in under a year became Brads’ and his siblings’ stepmother.

Brad always fantasized that his mother would return to set things right, that she still yet lived, had run off, desperate to free herself from the brutal tyranny of his alcoholic father. Brad was determined to be there when the body was exhumed, skipping his classes after lunch in order to do so. He made it to the cemetery in time to note the procession of the operator of the digging equipment, along with the coroner and the deputies from the sheriff’s department. Concealing himself behind an old oak tree, and further obscured by shrubbery, he remained hidden from view the entire time, until finally the workers extracted the coffin.

It seemed to take some time, and he grew restless as he worried they might not open it there, but proceed to some other secluded spot that Brad would not have access to. His concern turned out to be unfounded. After what seemed to be an interminably long number of minutes, they proceeded to open the coffin. Brad hurriedly made his way to where they were and looked into the open coffin, and stared into the now mummified remains of his mother, her face now a dried leathery mask, the eyes and lips completely gone. Yet, there she laid, her luxurious blonde, wavy hair having grown to a greater length than Brad remembered it. She lay there in her favorite dress, the one she wore once a month to church and at Easter, and other special occasions. There was her locket, given her years before by her own grandmother, which she had always cherished.

It was the first time he had seen her since before she died. The last time she had been smiling, and happy, seemingly content with her not very admirable lot in life married to the town drunk whose main claim to fame was that he somehow kept his family clothed and fed while still managing to fill his own considerable demands for liquor. He had come home from school one day to hear of her sudden death, from a heart attack. He had never laid eyes upon her since then, nor would he. His mother had insisted on a closed casket. She wanted her children, and everyone else, to remember her the way she was in life.

Now, thanks to his stubbornness, his insatiable curiosity, he had seen far more than he had bargained for. It was a memory that remained with him throughout his life, was so permanently encased in his brain he could never recall the shocked and shouted objections of the men at the cemetery to his presence, or even which one it was that roughly hauled him away from the spot. He could not even recall the initial words to him of his father. He had been called from his job at the sewage treatment plant and informed of the incident, and of course had later chewed Brad out harshly. Brad remembered hoping it would turn out that his mother was murdered, and his father proven responsible. Unfortunately, it did not turn out that way, and when his father died of cirrhosis, years later, he was aghast at the memory of his cruel and thoughtless wishes against this man whose only true crime was addiction, and of loving a woman he truly couldn’t hope to measure up to by his own internal reckoning.

All of these painful memories now flooded back into Bradley Marlowe’s memories. He had long shared them with no one but his beloved sister, who had told him about their mothers’ desperate pain, her determination to raise her children, and how their father had cried himself to sleep at nights after she died, when he thought no one could see or hear it.

She had married a wealthy mortician’s son who was following in his own father’s footsteps. At her urgings, her father-in-law offered to put him through morticians’ school, and strangely enough, Bradley, who had previously wanted to be a police officer, decided to take him up on the offer.

Now everything in his life had changed, and everyone he had ever cared about was gone, except for Marlowe, who was rapidly descending into an internal kind of hell that was ripping him apart. Brad Marlowe looked now upon the visage of the centuries long dead personage. He seemed to laugh mockingly at him.

“Who the hell are you?” he asked.

Brad hurriedly returned the remains to their final resting place, taking special pains to reseal the opening so that Marlowe might not ever realize what he had done here this night. It would be difficult to explain such actions, though Brad realized that Marlowe seemed to be so out of it, he wondered if he could ever possibly notice.

By the time of the approaching dawn, however, Brads’ worries had shifted considerable, to where exactly his nephew was. He had been out all night. Where could he have gone? He sat upon the sofa and stared idly at the banal sermon of some local televised religious service, though not really listening, as he grew wearier by the minute. Yet, he did not feel comfortable going up to his bedroom and sleeping there. He wanted to be sure he knew when and if Marlowe returned, as he worriedly considered reporting him as missing. Marlowe, however, was a 22-year-old man, his 23rd birthday in fact due within three months. A missing persons report filed on behalf of a man of that age, not yet gone an entire day, would doubtless be met with skepticism, which was all the more reason, Brad realized, he should have his nephew committed, before it was too late.

Brad rose from the sofa and prepared himself a bowl of cereal and some toast. After he ate, he took a shower. By the time he was finished, he was even more exhausted. He dreaded the prospect of sleep, but feared making any phone calls in his tired state of mind. He wanted to make sure he was refreshed before making any reports concerning Marlowe. He still worried about the pictures. If Marlowe told the authorities about them, how would he respond? How could he possibly explain all those pictures of so many dead women, and girls? Pictures Brad had taken of them unclothed, at that. What would be the consequences? Of course, this would not constitute proof of anything outside of a perverse type of voyeurism, but was that in itself illegal to the extent it might warrant a charge of indecency? Could this result in his license being suspended, possibly revoked? Could it even result in a jail sentence?

As Brad pondered the prospect of ending up in the same mental institution where he might send Marlowe, he found himself faced with yet another conundrum. What had Marlowe done with the pictures? They were gone, had disappeared, vanished from his locked bureau, taken by Marlowe, obviously, who had found the key. Upon Brad’s discovering them to be missing, unfortunately, Marlowe began his rapid descent into seeming insanity, and rarely engaged in what amounted to anything like a sensible conversation.

Brad drunk another cup of coffee, and then another, and then another. Soon, he rose and went warily into Marlowe’s room. At least while he was gone, he might have the opportunity to find not only the pictures, but some other clue as to what had turned his nephew into a fucking lunatic.

Marlowe’s room was disheveled and musty smelling, another sure sign that all was not well. Ordinarily Marlowe had been fastidious as to how he maintained his own personal appearance, as well as his surroundings. Lately, both had gone straight to hell. He looked in first one place and another, in the drawers, in the footlocker he kept in the bottom of his closet, on the ledge at the top of the closet, under the bed, the mattress, and even inside the old iron trunk which had previously held the grisly remains of Radu.

Suddenly, Brad caught a glimmer of the edge of a paper-like object protruding from under Marlowe’s television. Carefully hoisting it up, he could plainly see it was a large manila envelope. Hopefully extracting it, he opened it, and saw, sure enough, the pictures were there, pretty much the vast majority of them, if not all of them. He quickly went through them all, and noticed only four were missing-the two each he had taken of, respectively, Linda Belamy and Raven Hampton. He would forget them for the time being.

What he could not ignore, however, was the printout sheet of e-mail addresses, many of which were accompanied by phone numbers and/or home addresses. He looked suspiciously upon the name of Joseph Karinsky, a name Brad recognized as belonging to Marlowe’s hated enemy. All of his confederates were listed there as well, with the notable exception of the unfortunate Spiral Lamont. Brad glanced up at the timestamp on the printout, and saw that it had been printed a mere two days ago. So, Marlowe had been on the computer after all, Brad realized. Still, why these? What was he up to? He noticed as well, there were other names. One girl had a check mark by her name. It was somebody by the name of April Sandusky. Her age was listed as 18, along with her address and e-mail account. There was a phone number as well.

He remembered then his sister had one time had Marlowe’s account hacked, and gained access to his private passwords. She had a list of them somewhere, but where? Obviously, they would be in her personal effects, and it was unlikely Marlowe would have gone through them at this point. As far as he knew, Marlowe had never discovered his mothers’ underhandedness. She had kept it quiet, as she wanted to keep up with what he was doing, with who he was in contact. His sister was obsessively secretive herself, and insanely suspicious of everyone else’s secrets.

Brad made his way to her room, and went through her personal papers, finding what he needed in just under twenty minutes. He felt as though he had hit the jackpot. The list contained not only his computer password, but also the passwords to his MySpace account, his Yahoo Mail account, and other url’s as well, including one to a site called Sanguinarius.

Marlowe quickly got onto Marlowe’s account by way of his password, first onto Yahoo, and was amazed at the amount of spam that had filtered through the site’s anti-spam program. More than 200 e-mails were in Marlowe’s in-box, and Brad was weary of opening them, as Marlowe himself had seemingly ignored all of them.

Instead, he went to the top of the Firefox homepage and accessed Marlowe’s bookmarks, where he quickly found the url for the site Sanguinarius. Unfortunately, his sister had neglected to write down Marlowe’s screen name, which of course rendered the password for the site useless. Therefore, he elected to type the name of the site into the Google search engine, which quickly brought it up. Accessing the site, he was not in the least surprised to see it was evidently a web-site for adherents of the Goth lifestyle, in particular for those who thought of themselves as practicing vampires.

He read the site in amazement, and eventually thought to type his nephews name into the on-site search engine, but got no response. Then he typed Baltimore Maryland, which netted one whole page and another partial page of responses. Rather than hurriedly go through them all, he typed “mortician”, “mortuary”, and “funeral home”, which netted him seven results. He then refined his search further to listings that included both “Baltimore”, and “mortician”, and the other variants.

This netted him two results, and so he hurriedly clicked on the supplied on-site links. He discovered that Marlowe had started a new account, under the name “Radu”, and he immediately wanted to kick himself for not thinking to try that. This had to be Marlowe, he reasoned.

Unfortunately, the site profile that Marlowe had composed revealed little in the way of enlightenment. There were no avatars, and the only identifying information offered was that Marlowe was 99 years old, lived in Baltimore, and was a mortician. That was it.

The only over thing was a rather bland introduction to the forum that revealed nothing more than he had only recently joined. There were several replies welcoming him to the forums, which in themselves elicited not a single response from “Radu”.

He later thought about seeing as to what other members of the forum listed Baltimore as an address, but by then he had already signed off and was weary, having slept but very little the preceding night. He might check it later, but first he was curious as to what mysteries awaited discovery in Marlowe’s yahoo mail in-box.

One of the last of the more than two hundred e-mails came from an account listed as OrieoleBabe, which he presumed was from someone in the Baltimore area. He opened it, only to discover that it seemed to be from someone offering Marlowe a discount for two tickets to the Orioles opening day. As Marlowe despised baseball and sports in general, he wondered how this person ever got Marlowe’s e-mail addy, as his Yahoo profile was set to private.

Another account marked URGENT BUSINESS turned out to be from a Nigerian spammer trying to sucker Marlowe into releasing his banking account information in return for, he claimed, access to twenty-seven million dollars the spammer supposedly needed help in moving out of his country. So much for private accounts.

The only other thing that stood out was an ad from a Christian dating site, which Brad would ordinarily have considered likely to be spam as well, had he not noticed that Marlowe had this site listed in his folders. Brad opened the site, and accessed it, as Marlowe’s Firefox browser luckily filled in the appropriate forms for him, including the site password.

Bingo! Brad soon discovered Marlowe had been engaging in conversation with a young woman over the last couple of weeks, one who described herself as a born again Christian who was a virgin, and determined to wait until marriage before having sex.

Marlowe had actually paid for this sites service, Brad realized. There seemed to be no e-mails from the girl, none that he could readily identify at any rate, and so he decided to access Marlowe’s im archives. This would be easy enough, as generally people used the same ids and passwords for their im account as their e-mail account. Marlowe proved no different in this regard, nor had he bothered to change his e-mail addy from

The archives indeed revealed that Marlowe had been engaged in instant messaging with the girl on the Christian site, a girl with the last name of Khoska, according to her profile. Then, Brad made another discovery. The e-mail he had just read from OreoleBabe was not from a spammer after all, but someone Marlowe evidently had communicated with on a somewhat regular basis, and had apparently met as well on the Christian dating site.

The surprises just kept coming. OreoleBabe was not only a devout Christian-she was black. In the archives, Marlowe repeatedly expressed an interest in dating a good Christian girl and settling down. Race was not an issue with him, and hoped it would not be for her.

Brad had to read over this again to make sure he was reading it right. In all the time he had known Marlowe, his nephew loathed blacks. Under the best of circumstances, he distrusted them. Yet, a good many of their customers were black, though Marlowe had often expressed the desire to turn the family mortuary into a white’s only business. He did not seem concerned that such a thing would not only be illegal, but in a city with such a large black population as Baltimore, impractical.

Brad thought that he had got over his initial dislike to some extent, but this was just entirely inexplicable. When the girl graciously thanked him for his interest and wished him well, then went on to inform Marlowe with regret that she preferred to marry a man of her own race, Marlowe actually expressed disappointment.

It was as though he had become an entirely different person, or was becoming one. Brad by now had made up his mind that Marlowe was in desperate need of help. Yet, what was he to do? How would he go about this? He definitely had to do something.

He logged out of Marlowe’s account and turned off the computer. He decided to take yet another shower-this time a cold one. He needed to sleep, yet he knew he had to stay awake. He grew more exhausted by the minute, but he dreaded the prospect of lying down, of closing his eyes. After a cold shower that at least temporarily roused him to a semblance of wakefulness, he went downstairs. He turned on the television, hoping the noise would keep him awake.

After eating a bologna sandwich and drinking a beer, he realized that was the worse thing he could have done. Now he was definitely tired, and just had to lie down and close his eyes. He decided he would lock the doors and lay down upon the sofa. That way, if Marlowe came home while he was asleep, surely he would quickly awaken. He was starting to fear his nephew.

He slept on the sofa for a good four hours, and by the time he woke up night had fallen. He looked toward the clock and it was approaching 10:30. He was in desperate need to go to the bathroom, and attempted with great difficulty to piss along the inner dry rim of the toilet bowl, to lessen the noise of the splashing water. Still, it was noisy, and he feared still not being able to hear Marlowe when he returned, if he did. Worse, it seemed to last forever.

He looked up into the mirror off to the side and over the sink. God, he looked awful, like he hadn’t slept in four days. He wondered absently when the mirror had been moved. It used to be behind him, the sink as well. His sister must have had it changed. It would be about like her, not wanting to have to sit there and look at herself pissing or shitting.

When was he going to be through, he wondered. He looked at the clock, the big cuckoo clock in front of the bathtub, and facing him, and saw plainly that the hands were moving backwards. The bird suddenly presented itself and offered Brad a roll of toilet paper. Its eyes were moving around like a real bird, though of course it was not.

Then Brad looked down and saw the toilet filling with blood, blood that he himself was pissing. It threatened to overflow the commode, and suddenly Brad knew he could not stop pissing. It wasn’t just blood. It was rotted and stinking. Soon, he heard the sound of cackling laughter as the commode overflowed with the blood, covering the floor and splashing up onto his pant legs.

He woke up then on the couch, drenched in sweat. He felt as though he would piss all over himself, but he made it to the bathroom on time. It seemed as though it would take forever, but he tried to aim for the inner rim of the toilet. He still feared Marlowe returning, and wanted to hear him if he did.

He finished, after what seemed to be forever, and then he flushed the toilet. He turned and looked at the mirror above the sink. He looked like he had not slept in days. What a nightmare, he said to himself. He washed his hands thoroughly and returned uneasily to the living room, to the relative comfort of the sofa. He had only slept for some four hours, and noticed that it was only about seven o’clock.

Well, at least he was somewhat awake now, he noted, such as it was. He was hungry too, but he knew better than to eat a lot, that would put him right back to sleep. He absolutely had to stay awake. Therefore, Brad Marlowe drunk two more cups of coffee, ate a few crackers with some bologna and mustard, and tried to watch 60 Minutes. It just was not anything like it used to be. Ever since Ed Bradley had died, he mused, the show had even further accelerated its swift descent to the bottom of the trash heap.

Deciding he was not in the mood for any more of what passed for investigative journalism from the Iraq war front, Brad pulled himself together, found his courage, and returned to Marlowe’s computer. He realized quickly it was a good thing he did. He had forgotten to turn the damn thing off, which even in his present state of mind Marlowe would have noticed.

So he logged onto Marlowe’s account once more, only to see that no further e-mails had arrived. He decided then to check Marlowe’s recent sent messages. Perhaps that would give him some clue as to what Marlowe was up to, maybe even where he had mysteriously gone to this night.

What he discovered almost paralyzed him with dread and uncertainty. Over the course of the last roughly three and a half weeks that Marlowe had been home from the hospital, he had sent only one e-mail, to somebody with an AOL account, with the e-mail name of GrimWeaper. What it said was ominous.

“Joseph, if you ever threaten me or even so much as e-mail me again, you are only going to make it worse on yourself. You and your friends are going to have it bad enough as it is.”

It was obviously a reply to an e-mail previously sent to Marlowe from Joseph Karinsky. Brad noted that Marlowe now seemed to take this person perhaps a little more lightly than was wise. Karinskys’ e-mail had been brief and to the point, and seemed to suggest that Marlowe had invited the communication.

“I’m only going to tell you one time, freak-ass, leave Spanky alone. Stay the hell away from her. This is your first and last warning.”

So who was Spanky, Brad wondered, and what did Marlowe have to do with her? Could it be the Khoska girl, the record of whose communications with Marlowe’s he had earlier seen? Warily, he went back into the im archives, only to discern this to be unlikely. She was from New Jersey, and would soon be moving to Baltimore, where she knew no one but her grandfather, a priest. Someone like her would be unlikely to have any kind of relationship with a person of the caliber of Joseph Karinsky, in any locale.

This gave Brad the impetus to re-access the Sanguinarius site. Sure enough, there was a person there listed as living in the Baltimore area whose site name was Spanky. Probably her usual internet handle, Brad mused, and looked up her profile on the site. There she was, with listings of the usual bullshit one would see from a habitué of these kinds of sites, but at the same time, considerably more. She was, she said, sexually aroused by the taste of blood, but especially yearned for the taste of the blood of the innocent.

Where do these kinds of people come from, Brad wondered. More to the point, what was Marlowe’s sudden attraction to them? True, Marlowe was a Goth by sentiment and appearance, but he had always been a loner, aside from his brief romance with that one girl, Raven Hampton. It was totally out of character for him to have any kind of social interest in almost anybody, Goth or otherwise. He understood that such a recent brush with death and the experience of losing both parents at once under such tragic and unseemly consequences could certainly change a person in profound ways. Still, this was almost wholly inexplicable even going by this criterion.

Brad now left, remembering this time to log off, and then turn off, the computer. He returned to the living room downstairs. He was now nervous and anxious, as much from the coffee as from wondering, what Marlowe was doing and where he was. The lack of food and irregular spurts of sleep didn’t make it any easier. So, he drank a beer. He didn’t see how he could possibly fall asleep. He was just way too keyed up for that.

He listened to Andy Rooney banter on about gifts he had received from viewers, and how he almost never used them, in fact had no use for them, and absently found himself asking, “Why do you keep the shit then, you old fart?”

Shit, I’m getting as bad as Marlowe, he said to himself.

He decided he would try to keep his sanity and wits about him and try to carry on with his usual routine. That meant, in the case of this night and time, that he would watch the latest episode of Cold Case. Now Lilly Rush, the show’s main female lead, was a woman he would love to fuck, Brad thought to himself as the shows’ opening credits started to roll. Not that he would ever have a snowball’s chance in hell of getting a woman like that. Well, not living, anyway. Not that he would want her alive, of course. She would definitely be too much for him. An ace detective like her would figure out pretty quick that Brad would want to fuck her-well, dead.

Brad had his moments when he believed in God, but was sure he was the ultimate cruel trickster. Brad wanted a woman who had the embodiments of life and death in all the most positive aspects of each, even though he knew that was impossible. Still, God had designed him to be as he was, or at least had allowed the circumstances of his life to coalesce to the point that he became what he was. Yes, God was quite a card. He was not just a trickster, he was a bully, and dwelt always in the corner of Brad’s mind, chiding him, threatening him with hell, and laughing at him all at the same time.

Still, Brad prayed regularly for salvation, though he was not truly religious. Tonight, though, he found himself praying for Marlowe. His poor nephew had gone through so much and had suffered such a great loss. It just was not fair that he should have to endure more than he had. If Brad could forgive him, for obviously planning to hold his secrets over his head, then surely God, in his infinite mercy, wisdom, and sense of justice, could do no less.

Maybe God was like Lilly Rush, Brad reasoned. An obviously loving and caring person, and dedicated to the pursuit of truth and justice, and yet by necessity cold and calculating, piercing the veil of years of deception with laser-like intensity. Sometimes the truth required objectivity. The truth was subjective only to those who wanted to bend it to their wills. Then, they became a slave to the facade of a false truth. Lilly Rush, and God, could always see through the facade. It seemed cruel, it seemed harsh, but how could they be otherwise?

Suddenly Brad remembered something. He went into the kitchen and retrieved the days Sunday paper. Turning to the Lifestyle section, he extracted it and turned there on the front page of the section to an article he had noticed earlier, though at the time it had barely registered. Now, it caused him some degree of alarm. The name of the article was “Vampires Walk Among Us”. More important than the article was the by-line of the reporter-Grace Rodescu. Brad would never forget that name. He would never forget the horrendously awkward and unpleasant brief few minutes that passed for a sexual encounter with the woman he thought was nothing more than a prostitute, albeit a ridiculously expensive one.

Sure enough, there was her picture, above the article with her by-line. Yes, it was definitely her. So what was she up to? There was no doubt she was badly beaten the night he met her in the emergency waiting room. Now it was easy to assume it happened in the pursuit of a story. Nevertheless, why had she so readily agreed to engage in an act of prostitution? Brad understood that just about any woman had her price, but this was a little extreme. Even the prospect of making a thousand dollars for one sexual exchange should not have made a professional woman that easily amenable to unprotected sex with somebody she had just met, in a setting frequented by prostitutes, johns, and pimps.

What was really upsetting though was that Brad understood that she knew all about him and his unusual sexual proclivities. Therefore, now he had something else to worry about in addition to his nephews’ awareness, making it even more fortunate Brad had been able to secure his much-prized batch of photos. Now he faced the problem of just what was he to do with them?

He almost absently began reading the article, which was about the many various habitués of a town venue known as The Crypt, a nightclub that catered almost exclusively to members of the Goth lifestyle. Were Marlowe not so much of a loner, he would fit right in at the place, Brad realized. Marlowe, of course, considered most of such people to be phonies, mere hangers-on looking for a crowd with which to fit in, to belong. Marlowe had no use for them, or for that matter with most of the truly authentic Goths. Even they, he had said, only had a vague idea of what it was. If there were no such thing as a Goth lifestyle, Marlowe had once bragged, he would have invented it. The rest of them would be accountants and mechanics, preppies and churchgoers. Their main exposure to either culture, or counter culture, would be watching American Idol, he once said derisively.

Of course, this was all after he had engaged in a brief romance with the girl named Raven Hampton. That was the one thing Brad felt bad about. His sister Mabel and he had a falling out over that one. Still, Brad could not help it. Raven was a strikingly beautiful girl, even exotic. Her natural state was as near to perfect as Brad had ever beheld. It had been a long time, way too long, since he had anyone suitable with whom to engage his passions. Despite Mabel’s protests, she did take the pictures, as always. Mabel loved to take pictures. She then criticized Brad, but he knew full well she did this because she had picked up on his feelings of anxiety over Marlowe. She egged him on, as she had always done.

“Are you going to fuck me when I die, Brad?” She asked him this on several occasions. He would of course answer her in the negative. She was after all his own sister, for Christ’s sake. Yet, she would taunt him nevertheless. After all she had done for him, brought him into a financially well-off and stable family, helped secure his own career, looked out for him in so many ways. She had saved him from the grasp of an alcoholic father and abusive, hateful stepmother. Brad owed everything to her, yet he did not have enough gratitude to try to fulfill her sexual yearnings, something her husband had never been able to do.

At times, she threatened blackmail. When that tactic did not work, she belittled him, scornfully suggesting that Brad was not man enough to make love to a live woman, he had to have one who would be unaware of his pathetic, bumbling attempts at passion.

That was a lie, but it was useless to argue the point with her. She even went so far as to threaten to put it in her will that should Brad survive her, he was not to have any contact whatsoever with her remains, except in the context of funeral attendance, and under no circumstances was he to be allowed to be alone with her body for even the slightest amount of time.

“If you can’t do anything for me while I am alive”, she insisted, “you damn sure don’t get to fulfill your perverted fantasies after I am gone. Not over my dead body.”

Nevertheless, there she was as usual, photographing him having sex with Raven Hampton. She witnessed his passions and was so deeply aroused she was almost insane with lust. For the first time ever, she tried to force herself physically on her brother, but he rebuffed her advances in a fury.

“God, you are disgusting”, he hissed. “What are you, some kind of whore?

“Yeah, you can fuck your nephew’s dead girlfriend, but not his mother, huh?” she screamed. “I wonder how Marlowe would feel about that?”

“Gee, I don’t know”, Brad screamed. “Why the hell don’t you ask him?”

When they had these types of arguments, they usually ended this way, but this time, the rupture was permanent. For a time, Brad wondered if indeed his sister actually had committed suicide. She was very distraught, and now, at the age of 47 as of the time of her death, she was at that age where every perceived slight, any and every rejection of her, was magnified out of all proportion to reality.

She loved and respected her husband, and was certainly devoted to Marlowe in her own way, but was always unsatisfied with her life, at least on a sexual level. At the same time, she could never be unfaithful to her family. Brad provided an outlet, but he could only take it so far. If he had known what his sister had in mind when she introduced him to the Krovell family, when she brought him into their inner circle, he would never have acquiesced to it.

But Mabel knew him far too well, had quickly noticed his attraction to the prettier women who were the objects of his work, and subtly encouraged him, over time in more and more obvious ways, until finally she came right out and suggested he actually engage in sex with one. It was a woman of about her age at the time, twenty-five years old. Her jealous husband had murdered her, strangled her.

Mabel had just given birth to Marlowe the previous year, and was in a constant state of agitation. She would say these things in joking ways at first, but Brad knew full well she had been all too serious. Still, he ignored her subtle suggestions. At least, he tried to do so. At the same time, Mabel was prone to fits of anger, depression, wild mood swings, and at times struck Brad as possibly being dangerous. Her poor husband was of course the main recipient of these fits of rage, moderated mainly by the presence of old man Krovell. However, the old man soon left, retired, and moved to a second home in Florida, from which he would return only during the hottest months of summer and height of the hurricane season. During his absence, she became even more moody.

She confided to him on several occasions that her husband just did not satisfy her. She needed something else. She was bored, and needed some excitement. Still, she did not want to cheat on her husband, mainly because she did not know anyone she could completely trust.

Brad did not like the direction this seemed to be heading, but she persisted, until it got to the point he expected her at any moment to just come out and tell him “either fuck me or get out.”

This was a conundrum, and Brad wracked his brains trying to figure a way out of the approaching dilemma. Therefore, he surprised himself when he blurted out the suggestion that would change both of their lives forever.

“Why don’t you suck Marlow’s dick?” he asked her. “Hell, he’s only a year old, but I bet he’d like it. If you do it enough, eventually he’ll grow up to where you can get him to do anything to you that you want him to do.”

To his surprise, she giggled like a silly schoolgirl sharing a dirty secret with her best friends, some inappropriate remark uttered in private about what the school jocks or teachers might be like in bed.

“He couldn’t tell anybody, could he?” she said.

“No, and he wouldn’t want to if he could”, he replied.

It was not until a week or so later that she came to him, asking him to go with her to Marlowe’s room. Marlowe was crying, as always, his constant need for attention heightened by the fact that lately, Mabel could not stand to be around him.

“I’m going to do it”, she said. “Maybe it will calm him down. I want you to watch out for me and make sure Richard doesn’t come up here. He is in the office right now talking to clients and working on contracts, but I need you to watch out for me just in case. If he comes up here just let me know.”

At first, Brad had forgotten all about their previous conversation. It had actually been a remark made not in seriousness, but as a casual throwaway suggestion meant to divert Mabel from her constant pestering flirtations. For a few minutes, he still did not understand to what she was alluding. But as he stood in the doorway, his curiosity was soon deflated when, after undressing Marlowe in what he took as the beginning stages of yet another hated diaper change, Mabel picked him up and set him completely naked on the folding table. She changed him, cleaned him thoroughly, and then, suddenly, she bent down and started performing fellatio on her infant son, who just this day had turned one.

Brad had been right about one thing. Marlowe had stopped crying, had calmed down considerably. Whether this was due to pleasure or shock, however, Brad did not know, nor did he care to.

“Mabel, you are one sick bitch”, he said.

“Fuck you, it was your idea”, she hissed. “He liked it too, I can tell.

She then started talking baby talk to Marlowe, who just stared at her as though unsure of what he was supposed to do. Brad just looked at her in disgust.

“Oh, don’t give me that look”, she said. “I would do the same for you. I know you want to fuck some of the women you work on, I can tell. I would watch out for you, so you can do the same for me.”

“Yeah, we’ll see about that”, Brad said, still unsure.

Mabel kept her word. Brad was unaware the first time he did it that Mabel was taking pictures, until he was finished with a particularly attractive client, and stood to see her standing there with a camera.

“I know you love photography”, she had said. “What better thing to put in your photo album?”

Mabel became his regular helper afterwards, his facilitator, guardian, and partner in crime. However, she also became his judge and one-woman jury, deriding his manhood while bemoaning her own lack of satisfaction.

Brad never knew if Mabel had ever repeated her actions with Marlowe again, or how often, or how long it lasted. Brad knew that Marlowe truly disliked both of his parents, and suspected this might have been the reason, as well as being at least in part responsible for many of his other problems, his overall strangeness. Brad knew that Marlowe was closer to him than he would ever be to either his mother or father, yet even with Brad, he could be strangely aloof.

Brad had always wondered whether this was just a method Mabel had utilized to enable Brad to trust her enough to engage in his own passions, which coincided to a point with her own. Unfortunately, Mabel wanted more. She wanted a connection that Brad was incapable of providing her. She craved physical satisfaction. So did he, but without the static. Without the warmth. Without the sweat, and the rancid, unpleasant odors that came with it.

Now, Mabel was gone, and he had performed the embalming on the bodies. He felt more awkward performing this on Richard, who was his friend, than he had Mabel. Mabel was indeed a strikingly beautiful woman, and Brad forced himself to admit that if she were not his sister, he indeed would have sex with her corpse. He found himself disturbingly tempted, all the same, yet he resisted the urge. Somewhere, wherever she was, Mabel would be expecting him to do her. She would be sorely disappointed, Brad decided.

Before the funeral, he found all the photos of his sexual encounters, along with all the negatives, and destroyed them. He would keep his own photos, a before and after of each one. He could not bear to part with these. At nights sometimes, he would look at them, and note the lack of change in expressions. They were all beautiful, in their own way. He had not despoiled their beauty. He had in fact paid them an act of homage.

Mabel never understood that. She had no respect or appreciation for anything, really. To her, the world, life, and everything therein was for the benefit of Mabel Marlowe. Brad had certainly loved his elder sister, and appreciated all she had done for him. At the same time, he was well aware of all she had done to him.

He paid his final respects to her that day, as well as to Richard. He cried. He buried them both, and he cried.

There was no service for the public, nor were there any surviving relatives in attendance. Richards’s father now lived permanently in Florida, his advanced age and deteriorated health having rendered him too feeble to travel. He sent a large bouquet of flowers, just in time for the funeral attended by none but Brad and a handful of Richards’ business associates and fellow country club members.

Richards’ mother as well elected not to attend. She believed the evidence that pointed to murder suicide, despite Brads’ protestations, and her few minutes on the phone with him were icy ones. He knew she never intended to cast blame on Brad for his sister’s alleged actions, but how could she help but do so?

If there were any other surviving relatives, they were distant ones, and Brad knew nothing of them. Richard had merely one sibling, an older brother who had died in the eighties under mysterious circumstances that were never clear. He himself had died childless. Richard would be placed next to him, and Mabel next to Richard, while Marlowe insisted he should be entombed somewhere as far from the both of them as possible.

Brad looked around at the different crypts and noted, “Well, we’re running out of space here”.

“There will be no need for more”, Marlowe had replied. He was determined he would never father a child. The idea of producing yet more life he declared was an idea with which he wanted nothing to do. As he said so, he looked upon the crypt of his uncle, George Krovell, who had died when Marlowe was a mere three years old.

“No matter how happy they are in life, when the end comes it will come to them as well as to him”, he said. “No better, no worse, just kind words and invented memories.”

Marlowe of course was too young to remember his Uncle George, in fact had only seen him once, as a toddler. Brad himself knew but very little of him, this revolving around a time when the ne’er-do-well brother had returned home and stayed a little over a week, and then left after borrowing something like five hundred dollars from Richard. Within a year, his dead body was discovered in an abandoned warehouse on the docks, half eaten by rats. The cause of death was listed as natural causes and Richard had been eat up with guilt. He determined to bury him within the family mausoleum, but otherwise said little about him, their childhood together, or anything as to his spendthrift, addicted, wasted life. Their father had objected strenuously, as he had to his younger son’s very presence during the period of time he was there.

“Just like his goddam Uncle Ray”, he overheard him say once right before the funeral. “I guess we’re all going to end up dying on the docks. Maybe we should just make plans to be buried at sea.”

Old man Martins’ brother Ray was indeed also entombed in the family mausoleum, but Brad knew nothing about him. Other than this one statement, he never heard him mentioned afterward, nor for that matter was George ever a topic of conversation. It was as though vast segments of the family and its history, once buried, should never be mentioned.

Over the course of the last few weeks, however, Brad had determined to learn as much about them as he could. He availed himself of the countless numbers of photos, letters, and in one case a newspaper article, which had been stored in some cases for decades in the attic of the house, locked away in old trunks and cabinets, old and musty, and long forgotten.

They were a strange lot, to be sure. Brad often considered the family photos of the first American born generation. There had been initially three boys and two girls. Both of the girls had died young, one in the fire of 1904, along with the youngest brother. In fact, they were the two youngest children at the time. The older girl had died from malaria the previous year.

The sixth child, named Burt, and who was Marlowe’s great grandfather, was born in 1904, after the last of the family photos was taken. Not long before his birth, the oldest child, and oldest son, had committed suicide. His mother had been so distraught over so many of the deaths of her children she had refused to care for the poor Burt, who grew up neglected as a result. She refused to be attached to yet another cursed Krovelescu. Neither was the old man the most attentive of fathers.

The young child had two friends. His one surviving brother, who had been the third of the children, ended up killed in the war-in Romania, as it happened. The only other person he had was the old gypsy woman, Magda. She had taught him love spells, prosperity rituals, curses on enemies, and all the wonderful joys that any young child would delight in from the attentions of a devoted, doting grandmother who just happened to be a full-blooded Romany gypsy..

Brad surveyed once more the varied Krovells entombed within this mausoleum, and wondered at the long buried secrets. After the old gypsy woman died in 1938, her grandson, Burt, went into a depression from which he never recovered. He accused his wife of constantly conspiring to kill him and run off with his money, along with some probably non-existent lover of whom he insisted she constantly fantasized. She finally left one day, and never returned, nor ever called.

Embittered, the old man continued the family tradition and tried to raise both of his sons to do the same, but Raymond, having other ideas, joined the navy. The old man cut him out of his will and declared he would one day return. He did so when he was killed years later in a drunken fight on the docks, where he had taken a job after being medically discharged from the navy. He had carried on one family tradition, that of brutalizing a wife, only in his case to the extent he actually beat her to death after coming home unexpectedly and catching her in bed with a fellow dock worker. As for the man, he shot him in the head practically as soon as he walked inside the door.

Back in those days, many juries would not be easily convinced to convict a man of such a crime of passion, and so his lawyer had secured Raymond’s release on bond easily enough. The brother of his wife’s illicit lover was said to have been responsible for the later assault that claimed his life. Some said the family of his wife had been responsible. No proof was ever determined in either case, and in fact, no one was ever charged with the crime.

The old man decided he would bury his errant son in the family mausoleum as well. He himself would die from a heart attack at the age of 74. No one had ever heard from his former wife, even after the death of her younger son. He would never permit any mention of the subject. By now, he had one priority, the care of his aging, invalid mother, who would survive him, but who was increasingly senile as the days went on. By the time Richard had taken over the family business, she talked little, and when she did seemed to think Richard was her own late husband, by then dead for a little over forty years. Soon, she talked to no one, and seemed completely unresponsive. When he eventually married Mabel, Richard decided he could no longer care for her adequately, and so hired a private nurse. Old man Martin of course objected, insisting she would be better off in a nursing home, but Richard found this idea loathsome. As he by now had come to run the day-to-day operations of the business and was the defacto boss, he won out in the end.

Brad considered the irony of a woman who refused to give any feeling or thought toward her remaining son, distancing herself from him emotionally, and yet being cared for by him in her later years, and then by her great-grandson, and being totally unaware of it all. Mabel had loathed the old woman almost as much as Martin had seemed to, but said nothing, putting on her typically calculating and convincing face of family loyalty. It surprised her and almost angered her when Richard had expressed relief when the ancient old hag, as she had called her, finally did die. She was better off, he said.

At 114 years old, Mabel said, it was about time. Of course, this was not her true age-it was off by seven years. Her husband had married her by arrangement with her gypsy father, on the condition that upon his own approaching death, he would take his daughter and wife from the land of the accursed Phenariots, and never return. At the time Vlad Krovelescu, soon to rename himself Lawrence Krovell, moved to America with his brand new bride, she was all of thirteen years old.

What a strange, strange family, Brad mused, noting that all of the old couple’s children were buried in the mausoleum, including the son killed in World War I. Old man Vlad-now Lawrence-had paid a large sum of money to have his remains transported back to America.

Had all of this strange, tragic history culminated in Marlowe being the kind of man he had become, or was there more to it than that? Brad looked once more upon the mysterious crypt made by Marlowe for the strange, skeletal, and presumably very ancient remains of a man who as far as anyone knew might not have even been a Krovelescu. Something very profound had happened to Marlowe ever since he uncovered those remains. Brad recalled the appalling stench that permeated the house that night. It took two days for it to somewhat dissipate, and another day for it to be completely gone. Whoever it was and whatever the reason for its unknown number of years of confinement within an old iron trunk, Brad wondered whether its effect on Marlowe might have been the very thing to send him over the edge.

Unfortunately, Brad was unable to find any records or any kind of indication as to the identity of the remains, or the history behind them. Yet, this was to be expected. They were actually the possession not of the Krovells but of the old gypsy woman Magda. It would not be very likely that any written history of that family, what might remain of them in Romania, would provide an answer, nor would they be likely to relate it if such a thing existed. Any such history would likely be an oral one, one possibly long since forgotten.

It was probably nothing anyway. Marlowe was finally coming sufficiently unhinged that the unexpected discovery of these remains might have provided just the shock to send him over the edge. It was probably nothing more profound than that, and any idea to the contrary smacked of the worse kind of superstitious nonsense. Of course, Brad could not discount the possibility of some disease inadvertently released, which might have infected Marlowe in such a profound way that his perceived mental instability might now be firmly rooted in a physical cause, originating from the remains in the trunk. He wondered what the effect might have been on him if he had actually been the one to unearth the remains.

All of these concerns gave Brad that much more impetus to have Marlowe committed. While thus restrained, there would of course be a through round of medical testing which might provide the answer. There would possibly be no reason to mention the strange mummified skeleton. It was probably a waste of time anyway. Brad had considered taking the old ancient book for testing. Perhaps the proper forensics might reveal at least the title that had long since faded from the leather cover, and thus provide a clue as to the man’s identity. It was unlikely, however, that any former text of the inner pages, long turned to dust, could be salvaged.

For the time being, Brad had more immediate present day problems to deal with. He had found the name of an old Priest of the Romanian Orthodox Church, by the name of Khoska, who lived in Baltimore County, and had a church there, the Church Of The Blessed Sacrament. Whoever he was, he needed to be aware of his granddaughter’s propensity for foolishly wanting to meet men over the internet.

She as well had expressed the ideal that she would remain virginal until she was married. That and she loved music, movies, and animals. She hoped to one day become a veterinarian, in fact. Marlowe offered at one point to show her around Baltimore after she moved and settled in. After they became better acquainted, of course. She had as of yet not replied.

Brad had ulterior motives of course in contacting the priest. He was not sure himself though what they were. Perhaps he hoped for some degree of eventual absolution. Brad was not a religious person in the sense of regular church attendance, but his late mother’s spiritual nature, up until her death when Brad was all of eight, had certainly afforded a small yet lasting influence. She herself had been very devout, for all the good it had done her.

Brad finished the letter, then sealed the envelope and addressed it. By now he was determined that were Marlowe not home by the morning he would make the phone call that would either save his life or utterly destroy him, depending on his condition and activities when he was found, hopefully alive. He absently returned his attention to Grace Rodescu’s article, with her description of the frequenters of The Crypt, along with some accompanying quotes from those same patrons, as well as the manager, a bartender, and various assorted other freaks. There was a tattoo artist, a musician in a death metal band called “Living Death”, and a tarot card reader.

There were pictures, and Brad scanned them thoroughly for any sign of the one girl he knew, Sierra Lawson. However, there was no mention of her, or of Joseph, or of anybody with the nickname Spanky. Of course, this was understandable, as the article seemed for the most part to be an objective piece, which while stressing the strangeness of this unique counter-culture, tried to convey the sense of the more creative, positive aspects. Someone like Joseph Karinsky and his crowd would torpedo that image the minute they appeared on the scene.

The article promised to be the first in a series, with more in-depth interviews and photos. Brad could certainly tell her a mouthful. Perhaps he would. She needed to know that all was not cherry tart sweetness wrapped in a chocolate flavored darkness. There was an undercurrent within this crowd of the exact nature as portrayed openly and yet coyly, playfully. More to the point, perhaps she might uncover something about Karinsky and his associates that might provide him some degree of relief from his ever-growing fears that soon, too soon, something terrible was going to happen, something bloody and violent.

He was growing more fearful by the day, but did not know what to do or to whom to turn. Perhaps the priest was the wrong person. For some reason, Marlowe’s great-great-grandfather either voluntarily left the church, or was ex-communicated. It might have been nothing more profound than a simple desire to cut all ties to Romania. It might have been something considerably more sinister than this. Whatever the case, surely this old priest would not hold the present generation accountable. There might be records that could provide some answers from within the church or parish archives. If so, it was unlikely to be a hugely daunting task to find them. The question was, would the church hierarchy consider it appropriate or not to do so.

The Rodescu woman, with her reporting skills, might help here. Brad could pay her, as Richard and Mabel had both been generous in their bequests to him, enough so that he could afford to pay her handsomely. With her Romanian connections, and her evident abilities, she might find out things he needed to know. Unfortunately, she might find out things he did not want her to know as well, as she had indeed already demonstrated her abilities in that particular regard.

He wracked his brain weighing the potential consequences, and at first paid no attention to the report of the murder that had been committed in an alley near the recently renovated docks of the city, of a young woman said to be a possible victim of gang related violence. There was mention of the name “The Seventeenth Pulse”, which evidently referred to a gang who allegedly controlled the drug traffic and other criminal enterprises along the Seventeen Hundredth block of Western Baltimore, though they had long branched out from there to other, ever widening areas.

The girl had been a model student. The station showed a portion of a video of her singing a solo, a very beautiful and soulfully done number, Brad noted, in her local church. She had been active in a local anti-gang group, as well as other causes. She had been a regular member of her choir, and donated generously of her time to other church activities as well.

Someone found her body early in the morning, and it was quickly determined she had been murdered. The method was not yet made clear. Nevertheless, the police were determined to track down the perpetrators and bring them to justice.

The denizens of that area of Baltimore were understandably enraged, and demanded action. The streets filled with potential vigilantes who would of course take their justice served piping hot and with a healthy topping of fresh blood were the opportunity presented.

The Seventeenth Pulse might have finally stepped over the line. They were not so much feared as tolerated, but they had achieved a large degree of respect in the area. They had not particularly been known for violent activity, although there had been some gang related shootings involving them-allegedly-that were never proven. They provided a degree of protection to the elderly citizens on their streets, tried to moderate the appearance of their main areas of influence to where it was kept clean and free of litter and debris. Still, no one was under any illusions as to their capacity for violence. They were criminals, they flooded their neighborhoods with crack cocaine, meth, marijuana, and heroin, and they let it be known to all that any snitching to the cops or reporters would not be tolerated. Eight unsolved murders over the course of the previous three years were linked to them.

They were pretty much left alone, even ignored. Not tonight, however. Tonight, they were in a great deal of trouble and the subject of a large degree of speculation. Had they targeted the unfortunate victim to send a message, a warning to others that opposed their influence? It did not seem likely, as the amount of direct opposition to them as a specific group was negligible at best. At the same time, the police seemed to have purposely leaked the identification of the group as potentially complicit in the crime for some reason that was not at all clear.

The report had taken about five minutes. Brad was perturbed by the lack of information about this latest atrocity to be committed in crime ridden Baltimore. For one thing, he still had no idea where Marlowe was at, while the streets were alive now with demonstrators and civil rights advocates, with all the potential for mischief, vandalism, looting, and even random violence this might entail. His nephew was in no condition to protect himself were he confronted by a gang of thugs bent on using the tragedy of this night as an excuse to conduct mayhem.

He turned over in search of a 24-hour news channel, and settled on CNN, where he watched with a degree of anxiety as the sea of smoldering and angry black faces engaged in singing, shouting, and threats, along with simultaneous entreaties for control and demands for justice by way of the law. The pastor of the girls’ church had expressed the desire for calm and peace, but Brad knew it was a useless effort on his part, and wondered if he seriously even meant it.

Brad had not yet heard the victim’s name, as he watched Anderson Cooper engaging in a special report. It was to include interviews with neighborhood activists, many of whom were former gang members, both rivals and allies of the Seventeenth Street Pulse.

There was also a former teacher of the slain girl, and Brad almost had a heart attack when he heard the name April Sandusky given as the name of the murder victim. Marlowe had included that name amongst his list of names with addresses and phone numbers. Holy fucking shit, he thought. There was no way this was a coincidence.

He hopped up and almost bounded up the stairs and back into Marlowe’s room, where he retrieved the list. There it was, April Sandusky, age 18, address, 1742 East Carter Drive, in the very heart of Pulse territory. There was a phone number as well. For the first time, Marlowe noted the e-mail address as being

He then noted one of the names further down the list was Debbie Leighton, followed in parenthesis by the nickname Spanky. He folded the paper and put it in his right trouser pocket. Marlowe had a lot of explaining to do. A hell of a lot. He only hoped he made it home in one piece to explain them all.

He returned to the living room as the former teacher related how April had been meant to accomplish great things, how she had recently earned a scholarship to the University of Maryland. The older woman now had tears in her eyes and seemed on the verge of breaking up. Cooper soon thanked her for her time, and the old woman said nothing as the satellite hook-up from the scene of the neighborhood meeting panned out over the crowd.

Brad noted the appearance of the Rev. Harvey Caldwell, a fire and brimstone civil rights activist minister, known as a flamethrower and, according to his critics, a race baiter. He had taken the stage, and now engaged in a harangue against the local law-enforcement, or the lack thereof, a lack that he was himself to a great degree instrumental in bringing about. He was constantly engaging in threats of lawsuits for police harassment over every conceivable injustice, both real and imagined. The Baltimore police presence in this area had even been compared to an impotent man in a brothel. When they were around they were useless, but at least they never caught anything.

Caldwell was now demanding accountability and justice, but when the police did their jobs, he would be the first one criticizing every move the police made and insisting the perpetrators rights were being violated, whether this was or was not the case. Sure enough, he soon made an inflammatory remark to the effect that the police were all too quick to attach the blame for this crime on an “alleged gang” with a predominantly black membership.

Right about then Brad heard the back door slam, but heard nothing else. He froze, the fear for an instant paralyzing him, until he summoned the strength to walk quickly yet quietly to the end table by the sofa. Opening the top drawer, he retrieved the Glock handgun he had earlier decided he would keep near him in the event of trouble. He hoped he would not have to shoot more than once, if that, as he had never shot a person before. Even the thought of shooting another person in self-defense was an intimidating one.

“Who’s out there?” he demanded. He received no answer, and so cautiously approached the doorway to the dining room and from there on into the kitchen. Finally, he made his way to the utility room. He almost prayed that it was Marlowe, but at the same time, he was now worried about him almost as much as he would have been worried about most other intruders. It was finally starting to sink in to him that Marlowe was not only crazy, but, in all likelihood, dangerously so.

His right hand shook as he gripped the gun without his finger on the trigger, fearing as he did the prospect of nervously discharging the firearm, possibly into the water heater. Then, as he stepped inside the utility room, he almost collapsed at the sight that greeted him with a low, guttural moan.

It was Marlowe, covered in blood, hunched against the corner of the room, breathing erratically, dirty and sweating, and gasping for breath. He was pale, and swollen, his face seemingly infected with boils, one from which a yellowish puss drained.

“Marlowe, for Gods’ sake, what happened to you? Who did this?”

As he asked this, he lowered his weapon and rushed to his nephew’s side. Marlowe had blood all over his face, as well as his shirt and jeans.

“Did somebody shoot you, stab you?” he continued. All kinds of scenarios rushed through his mind, ranging from Joseph to the police to roving gangs of black vigilantes out for revenge against the perpetrators of the murder of the unfortunate April Sandusky.

“Marlowe, talk to me, where are you hurt?” he continued. “I can’t help you if you don’t let me know. You look like you lost a lot of blood.”

Marlowe was now staring outwardly, as though aware of Brad’s presence and his questioning, but unsure of how to answer. He looked outward as though searching for an answer his inner turmoil could not provide. Brad looked around, still worried about the possibility of other intruders who might have followed Marlowe home.

“It’s not my blood”, Marlowe finally said as he started to break out in tears. “It was all a pack of lies. Filthy damn lies!”

“Marlowe, there’s been a murder, a black girl named April Sandusky. Do you know anything about it?”

Marlowe finally looked at him with an intense though sickened gaze.

“Help me to the bathroom”, he said.

Brad helped him rise and Marlowe, extremely weak, leaned on him, barely able to keep from collapsing as they slowly made their way toward the downstairs bathroom normally reserved for patrons. When he saw the direction in which Brad was leading him, he stopped suddenly, the sudden effort almost causing him to topple over but for Brad’s firm grasp under his left arm.

“Not here”, Marlowe said. “I need a bath. I need to clean up.”

Brad maintained his hold on Marlowe as they began their long, torturous journey up the flight of steps to the top floor of the house. What would ordinarily have been a brief walk turned into a seemingly eternal five minutes, but they finally made it to the bathroom that set just off the top of the stairs.

“That black girl, Marlowe”, Brad said after they finally completed the walk. “If you had anything to do with that, or know anything about it, you’d better-“

Brad saw then, though, that Marlowe now looked amused. Obviously sick, yet amused.

“Oh, what is wrong now”, Marlowe said in a condescending tone. “You act as though you have never had any dealings with the dead.

He started cackling.

“Marlowe, shut up”, Brad said sternly. “This is some serious shit. I know you know that girl. OreoleBabe? There is going to be some serious trouble over that, so if you know anything, you had better tell me now so we can think of something in case somebody saw you. Were you seen?”

Marlowe still said nothing.

“Spit it out, Marlowe!” Brad demanded.

Marlowe suddenly jerked as he turned his head away from Brad, and his face widened in anxiety. He turned toward the commode, and began vomiting. It was not vomit, however, which he ejected from his mouth and nostrils in a torrent, but blood, dark steaming crimson blood. There looked to be gallons of it, and within a mater of seconds it looked as though it might actually overflow the toilet.

Brad watched in terror as Marlowe continually retched up the bilious masses, partially coagulated, until he finally stopped and yet continued in as violent an onset of dry heaves as Brad had ever witnessed. Finally, Marlowe turned and looked once more upon the face of his uncle Bradley Marlowe, who noted that his nephews’ eyes seemed suddenly clear, his countenance now more calm, and yet confused.

“Uncle Brad, what the hell is going on?” he asked. “Where did all this blood come from?”

His voice seemed to be more normal now, though pitifully weak. Brad looked around him. He felt as though perhaps he might have finally made some sort of breakthrough. The swelling in his face had gone down considerably, along with the boils, but Marlowe was drenched in sweat.

“Marlowe, do you remember anything at all?”

“About what?” he asked. “The last thing I remember was being in the hospital. Mom and dad died. Brad, did mom really commit suicide and murder dad? And try to murder me?”

Brad sighed in relief and anxiety. He did not know how to answer.

“No, Marlowe, it was a lie”, he said. “Those people you met through your ex-girlfriend, they had it in for you. They did it, that Joseph Karinsky and his friends. One of the women he hangs out with is a forger, and they must have found a sample of your moms writing somewhere. That’s what it looks like anyway. But don’t worry about that now. Are you better?”

“No, I feel like hell”, Marlowe said. “Then, it’s all my fault. They did what they did to get at me.”

“No, Marlowe, it wasn’t your fault”, Brad said as reassuringly as he could. “You trusted the Lamont girl when she came after I left, she was the one that poisoned the food, and she was probably the one who forged the note. You can’t blame yourself. Hell, if I had a dollar for every time I trusted the wrong person that fed me a line of shit-“

“What are you talking about?” Marlowe said as he started to finally rise. “Spiral Lamont? She was never at the house, not since the one time I sneaked her up to my room, and that was almost two years ago.”

Marlowe looked more perturbed now, and angry, but still confused. Brad had only repeated the story Marlowe himself had told the cops. Now, Marlowe acted as though the entire event had never transpired. Nevertheless, if he had made it up, had lied, why would he admit the truth now?

“Marlowe, we’ll sort this all out later”, Brad said. “Right now, why don’t you take a hot bath, it will make you feel better. Provided you feel strong enough, I mean.”

“You never told me where all this blood came from”, Marlowe said. “I’m weak, but I know I couldn’t have lost this much blood. I don’t even feel injured in any way. What’s going on?”

“Do you know a girl named April Sandusky?” Brad asked as he began running the bath water.

“Is that another one of Joseph’s goons?” Marlowe inquired. “If so I don’t want to know her.

“No, she’s a black girl, goes by the e-mail name of OreoleBabe”.

“That would be a step up from Joseph and his bunch, but no, I don’t know her. I don’t associate with blacks.”

“Well, I didn’t think so”, Brad said with a shrug. “But so far as I know, she doesn’t have anything to do with any of that crowd. Joseph does have a new friend though, some girl named Spanky.”

“What? That’s a laugh. She’s a fucking kid, a teenager. Always going on about how bad her parents are and how she’s oh so hot and badass. She’s not even allowed in The Crypt, but she still stands outside pestering people that go in and out. Not being allowed inside The Crypt is about as fucking pathetic as you can get.”

“Yeah”, Brad agreed. “I’m going to take those clothes and do something with them”, he explained. “I’ll bring you something else to put on.”

Marlowe just nodded in agreement. He was still noticeably weak and shaky, but seemed more composed and in his right mind than Brad had seen him in weeks. The swelling in his face was gone. Even the boils had almost completely disappeared, and no longer drained puss.

Brad gathered up the blood soaked clothes and carried them out in a bundle, careful to avoid any further seepage onto the carpet. He carried them back down toward the utility room, as he noted that very little had dropped onto the carpet, though there were a few drops here and there, particularly on the steps and banister, and in one or two spots on the kitchen floor. Brad counted about twenty drops in all until he got to the area in the utility room where he had found Marlowe, where awaited a large splotch of blood he had carried in with him from God knew where.

He would have to clean it all up and hope no one ever connected Marlowe to the death of the Sandusky girl. Brad had seen enough CSI and Court TV to know that modern forensics would inevitably reveal evidence of blood, regardless of how well a perpetrator tried to clean it up.

For now, Brad extracted some clean clothes from Marlowe’s room, and took them into the bathroom. He noticed that Marlowe just sat in the tub, barely moving, just soaking there as though he were lounging at an upscale resort, but for the obvious weakness and yet labored breathing.

“Marlowe, do you remember anything about somebody named Radu?” Brad asked as casually as he could.

Marlowe slightly rose at this question and turned to face his uncle. He did not look so much afraid as concerned, and mystified.

“Yeah, who the hell is that guy anyway?” he asked. “He was in my hospital room every damn day I was there. Said he was a friend of the family and was there to look out for me. Shit, I forgot all about him. Has he been coming around here?”

Brad just looked away as he stammered out some attempt at a spontaneous sounding answer, but truthfully, Brad was totally unprepared for this latest pronouncement. He simply informed Marlowe that he might have been a distant relative but did not really know anything about him. The doctors had mentioned him being there. He then asked Marlowe what he looked like, as he never bothered to come to the funeral.

Marlowe looked as though he was surprised to hear this.

“He’s got real long, thick and wavy blonde hair”, Marlowe said. “He looked to be about forty. He’s kind of tall, and big, but muscular, very well built. He had a thick mustache, but not a beard. Oh, and he had green eyes. Almost exactly like mine. And he talked with this very deep, foreign accent, almost like Russian or something. He was very strange. He just seemed so damned intense. He seemed out of place, almost like he doesn’t really belong around here. His clothes were even strange. They looked so old.

“He kept saying he was concerned about me, that he wanted to look out for me, but I never believed him”, Marlowe continued. “It was like he wanted something, and was really determined to get it. I don’t trust him. Brad, if he does come around here anymore, I don’t want to see him. Don’t let him in.”

“Yeah-okay, Marlowe”, Brad said, now more concerned than ever. “Go ahead and take your bath. I’ll be downstairs here, so if you need anything, just shout.”

Brad left him alone in the bathroom, and Marlowe sunk down inside the tub. He was not as sick now, and felt stronger, but he was still considerably weak. He lowered his head down in the water and wet his hair. It was caked with sweat and some blood as well, and was matted together. He began shampooing thoroughly, rubbing his fingers through his hair and massaging his scalp. He then lowered himself down into the tub to remove the shampoo. He then began soaping himself. He felt so filthy, but now was starting to feel better. He was almost starting to feel like a human being again.

Suddenly, the light went out. That did not bother Marlowe, as he preferred the dark anyway. He usually preferred taking baths at night by candle light, and so he removed himself from the tub, and fumbling around in the darkness, he found the scented lavender candle that sat in the heatproof glass jar on the sink. He then opened the top left drawer and found the long candle lighter, taking care to dry his hands on the small hand towel that hung from the rack. He then lit the candle, and then slowly, carefully climbed back into the tub. He wanted to soak, to relax.

He began soaping himself thoroughly. He decided he should rinse himself off in the shower. The bath water he sat in was by now filthy, with even slight traces of blood. Where had it come from? He lurched forward to release the water, but something happened. He felt something down under him. Something was in the tub with him, rising slowly to the surface. A pair of legs wrapped themselves around Marlowe’s waist, and drew closer to his groin. Soon, he felt something pressed up against his penis, his testicles. Something hairy, yet something feminine. Marlowe was gripped in an abject sense of shame and terror. It was happening again, he realized, only this time it took him totally by surprise. How had she gotten in the bathtub with him without him knowing about it?

Suddenly, Mabel raised her head from out of the water with a shrewd smile, as Marlowe caught his breath, the terror overwhelming him.

“Hello, Marlowe”, his mother said with a sadistic grin. “Did you miss me? Come on now, you can do better than that. You were always able to get your peter hard for mommy before.”

Marlowe, filled with terror, tried to back up but was helpless to move more than two or three inches. He felt his mother’s vagina opening to accept his manhood, which was now growing harder, despite himself. Mabel just looked at him and groaned in mock ecstasy.

“What a big, big boy you are”, she said and then laughed a low, guttural and derisive tone. Soon, he was inside her, as she rose and rocked on top of him in short, violent forward motions. Suddenly, the door burst open, and Marlowe looked just in time to see his father, Richard Krovell.

“What in the hell is going on here?” he demanded. “So, the truth comes out at last. Just like I’ve always suspected. What do you have to say for yourself, Marlowe? Your own mother!”

It was just like before. Of course, he had known. He was in on the game. That is exactly what it was, a game, one meant to belittle him, to keep him under control, keep him in line. His father now smiled sadistically.

“What would people say, Marlowe, if I I told them what has been going on all these years? What would they all think of you if they found out you’ve been fucking your own mother every week for the last fourteen years?”

As he said these words, he seemed to flicker on and off in fast motion, as though he were a wraith portrayed on an old and dilapidated film. His words reverberated as well, loudly and yet as though from an unfathomable distance, as Mabel’s eyes glared with a hideous, predatory gleam. She continued her rocking, rhythmic motions, and laughed.

“Marlowe loves to fuck his mommy, don’t you Marlowe?” she asked in a gravelly voice of exaggerated passion.

Despite himself, Marlowe gripped her and began returning the thrusts, soon coming inside of her. His father looked at them judgmentally. He wanted to sink inside the tub, to hide from his father’s alternatively shocked, angered, saddened, but ultimately derisive gaze, yet he looked at Mabel as she sank into the tub, disappearing beneath the water. His father then vanished as well. In their place, he now heard a gurgling from inside the commode. It was running, and overflowing.

No, not overflowing, he realized. Something was climbing out of it. A girl. A woman. A black woman, covered in blood. Marlowe knew her somehow. Her name was April.

“Why?” she demanded. “Why did you do it? What did I do to deserve what you did to me?”

She pulled herself out of the commode, and started lurching towards him. He could feel the presence once more of the spirits, dozens of them, surrounding him there in that nine foot by twelve foot bathroom. He could hear their voices, murmuring, whispering, but could not make out what they were saying. The black girl was now completely out of the toilet, and stood by the edge of his tub. He wanted to scream, tried to desperately, but no sound emanated, despite his efforts. An eternally vengeful rage seemed to emanate from deep within her now lifeless eyes, as she slowly lurched towards him, stretching out her arms, her mouth open in a perpetually anguished groan.

He hid his head in his hands and sank down, desperate to escape, but too weak to move. Suddenly, there was a great whooshing of air that did not seem to affect the flame of the candle. The girl was gone, however, and so were the voices, the countless spirits, now once again departed.

There was now only the man in the robe, the dark gray robe that seemed to be made of some kind of burlap. He just stood there, facing Marlowe, who now sobbed in pitiful anguish.

“Please-help me”, he begged.

“All will be well, Marlowe”, the man said. “You just need to sleep. You are tired. Just sleep.”

“No”, Marlowe protested. “I can’t sleep. I’m too afraid.”

“Marlowe, look at me”, the man said. “Go ahead, look at me.”

Marlowe could not resist the commanding tones that emanated from the man. He looked, and saw now the visage of the man without a face, the man who stood there staring through solid blood red eyes, from a face scalped of all flesh.

“Do you know who I am, Marlowe?” Marlowe affirmed that he did.

“Life is just a nightmare, Marlowe. Bad things always happen in nightmares. You have to put the nightmares away, Marlowe. You have to move on. Sleep and you will be at peace. That is all you have to do. Sleep.”

Marlowe’s eyes went back inside his head, as he succumbed to the exhaustion. He went limp and he fell back into the bathwater, sinking beneath the surface. Soon, he seemed to feel as though he was being carried by the waves, out into the depths of some bottomless ocean. He no longer cared. He just wanted to sleep, forever. He could hear a deep though distant bass, the strings plucked violently and rhythmically, then slowly fading into the distance. Soon, the notes all merged into one lasting, final tone that itself soon faded into nothingness.

After a number of minutes, Marlowe’s body began stirring, his muscles tensed up, and he rose quickly from beneath the surface of the water. He opened his eyes, surveyed the surroundings and darkness. With a sudden jerk, he spat out the dirty bathwater from his stomach, and from his lungs. He then breathed deep, quick breaths, until his breathing finally was normal.

After less than a minute, he rose from the tub. He grabbed a towel and dried off. He then found the clothes laid out for him, and he dressed.

He looked into the mirror, into the visage of the bearded blonde man, but he knew this was no longer him. He had to see things the way they truly were now. He had to see himself the way he really was now. He knew now what he never understood before. Life was painfully short under the best of circumstances, and he now had yet another chance at life.

He wanted to live for as long as possible, and he would secure the necessary means to do so. That meant many people had to die, for his appetite was voluminous. From here on out, though, he would be more cautious. Never again would he be so easily deceived.

With every second, he grew stronger, and his mind became more focused. The visage in the mirror gradually melted and was replaced by the reality he was now granted. He almost threw it away. What a shame that would have been. He had much to learn, but he was a quick learner. He needed a guide, but he understood now that the man downstairs, the man who imagined himself to be his uncle, was not appropriate for the role. He needed someone else, someone not familiar with the old life that now slept eternally in a sea of unconsciousness, the life now hopefully at peace throughout eternity.

The only thing he could do was slay the man. The man knew too much. He would be a great hindrance to him. He knew about the girl, the girl named April, and very laudably wished still to protect his nephew. His nephew was gone, however, and if he ever suspected that fact, he would turn on him. He could not allow that.

Marlowe-the new Marlowe-silently walked out of the bathroom, and down toward the room that previously was the sleeping quarters of the parents of the man whose frame he now inhabited, the man whose brain, whose stored memories, reminded him of the old supposedly antique letter opener, an implement that was actually not anywhere near his own true age.

He concealed the sharp thin blade behind his back as he walked cautiously down the stairs. His strength was not yet what it should be, but he had gained sufficiently enough to do what he needed to accomplish. He would walk slowly and unsteadily down the steps, and then call for help. Once Brad then attempted to aid him, he could suddenly slash him. If Marlowe was quick enough he could do so three times, perhaps more, before his prey could think to react. By then, it would be too late.

As he made his way down the steps, he could tell that Brad had turned off the amazing thing from which images and sounds emanated, and even better, had turned off a good many of the fireless lamps that produced far too much light. Everything was coming together for him, he realized. Perhaps Mircea had manipulated this sequence of events on his behalf. Well and good, as the television was a source of confusion to him. The lights hurt his eyes and his head, almost as badly as the sunlight, which was now and forever a curse upon him, in whatever body he inhabited.

He marveled at how well the two of them complimented each other, though in so many ways they were complete opposites. He desired life, while Mircea wished for nothing but an abundance of slaughter. It just so turned out that in order for him to live, an abundance of slaughter just happened to be an unavoidable requirement.

He was halfway down the steps now, still moving slowly as he clung to the banister with his right arm, his left behind his back with the letter opener. Brad saw him and moved slowly toward him, regarding him with an obvious look of concern.

“Do you need help, Marlowe?” he asked.

“No, I am fine”, Marlowe replied in an attempt to make his deception seem not too obvious. Then, he pretended to slip. “Well, I guess I am still a little weak. Maybe you could help me a little, I still feel a little dizzy.”

Marlowe had closed his eyes as he heard the footsteps bounding up the stairs, very quickly for even a just slightly overweight man as Bradley Marlowe. His hands took hold of Marlowe’s right arms, and his shoulders, as he maintained a firm grip on him, then attempting to ease him down the steps one at a time. At such an angle, Marlowe could not manage a strike at a vital area, and so he plunged the blade into the man’s right buttock, as quickly and savagely as he could, twisting the blade as he withdrew it and then, as the man screamed in pain and shock, he drug the blade up his back. He then withdrew it and stabbed him viciously in the back of the neck. The man had now jerked himself away from Marlowe, but Marlowe plunged the blade deeply into his back, and then sent him sprawling down the stairs. He then jumped upon him savagely, turning him to where he could at last deliver the final deathblow.

When he turned him, however, he saw it was not Brad Marlowe who cursed and moaned in pain, but some person he had never seen before. His first instinct was to attempt to draw on the memories of the brain whose thoughts he had not yet completely mastered, in an attempt to make identification. The only such that he could make, however, was that the strange white clothing that the man wore seemed in some way connected to some form of enterprise that cared for the sick and the dying.

He finally heard the excited shouts of Brad Marlowe, who had stood watching in horror as Marlowe had assaulted this strange man, of whose presence in this place he had been unaware. Suddenly, other men appeared, men dressed in the same kind of clothing, and Marlowe understood there were too many of them. He quickly bounded out toward the utility room, the men at first reluctant to pursue him, until Brad shouted at them to not let him get away.

He made it out the door just in time, but a large wooden fence, which he was yet too weak to make it over, surrounded the entire yard. Therefore, he desperately began climbing the large oak tree. A good many of its branches overlapped the neighboring property, which would afford him an escape. He quickly made it up the tree about half of the way.

Something then happened that he had not expected. The entire area, including the surrounding properties, were illuminated by as blinding and piercing a light as he had ever seen, but it was an unnatural light, one that made him extremely ill. He became that much weaker, and had to hold on desperately to keep himself from falling out of the tree. He could not move. Now what would he do? In essence, he was trapped.

“Marlowe, damn it, you’ve really done it now”, Brad was shouting to him as the other men, about four of them, gathered around. “We had to call an ambulance, and that means the police will be here. So get your ass down from there now.”

Suddenly, one of the other men said something to Brad that Marlowe could not hear, and then he stepped forward.

“Marlowe, my name is Dr. Tariq”, he said. “You do not have to be afraid. I swear, we merely wish to help you, to make you well. That is all. The man was not badly injured, he will be all right, so you will not be punished for that, as it was a misunderstanding. We know you are confused.”

Marlowe considered the words of Tariq, who now resumed his silent conversation with Brad.

“You are Turkish”, Marlowe said in what seemed to be an accusatory tone.

No, I am Jordanian”, Tariq said. “I am Muslim, though. This does not disturb you, does it? Do you think I am a terrorist, Marlowe? I promise you, I am not, nor do I mean you any ill will.”

Tariq had given this reassurance in, though a firm tone, a soft and mild mannered one at the same time. It was difficult, in that he had to speak quite loudly in order to insure that Marlowe heard him clearly. Yet, he surmised that Marlowe would not be amenable to harshly spoken words, and so he spoke slowly, drawing out his syllables in such a way as to suggest that he was calm, and not agitated, while speaking an octave higher than he normally did. He hoped he did not come across as calculating, but he understood that patients in an unstable frame of mind, as this one seemed to be, were not easily reassured.

“Please, Marlowe”, he continued, trying to sound as calm, as rational, and as kindly, while yet at the same time as firmly, as he could manage to do under the circumstances. “Come down from your tree. You cannot stay up there forever. You have to come down eventually. We just want to try to help you. I know you might not understand this, Marlowe, but your uncle cares very much for you. That is why I am here. I am not your enemy, Marlowe. I want to help you, in a way that will not hurt you, but will heal you, will make you better.

Throughout all of this, Marlowe focused on the man who now addressed him, regarding him with an obvious attitude of skepticism, and a hint of dread.

“Are you a homosexual?” Marlowe asked warily. “Because I am not going to put up with that.”

“Of course I am not a homosexual”, Tariq said in a voice that could barely hide his exasperation. “Marlowe, I am your doctor, that is all, I swear, you have been referred to me by Doctor Chou. I am a psychiatrist. I just want to help you, as does your uncle.”

Brad was now once again furtively whispering something to Doctor Tariq, but as Marlowe watched them curiously, an approaching wailing and shrieking drew ever closer, as Marlowe noticed the numerous red lights that seemed to grow ever brighter as they flashed in a circular pattern. Soon, a number of men, and a couple of women, approached wearing two different kinds of uniforms, those typically worn by the police forces, and still others dressed more similarly in nature to that appropriated by the Muslim doctor who insisted he was not a homosexual, nor even a Turk.

“It’s either jail or the hospital, Marlowe, what’s it going to be?” Brad now said in a tone of voice that sought to convey the desperation inherent of the situation.

“I’m coming down”, Marlowe finally said. He was growing weaker by the minute, and was growing so dizzy he feared he could not much longer maintain his hold upon the tree branches to which he clung tenuously. As he made his way down, he could see that several of Tariq's white-garbed attendants were waiting for him, and as soon as he got within arms reach, they grabbed hold of first one leg and then another. Marlowe relinquished his hold on the lower branch, whereupon he fell backwards into their waiting arms.

Others among the newly arrived ambulance personnel were now attending the injured man, while a policeman took a statement from him. He declined to press charges, and seeing as to the nature of this particular situation, the captain of the attending squad seemed content to relinquish control to Doctor Tariq, though he stood by to forestall any other unexpected developments. Marlowe noted that a couple of the police were engaging in idle chatter, and seemed quite amused about something. He became enraged at this, as he felt they were making sport of him and his situation.

“While I seem on my way to hospital”, Marlowe said, “and since there are police here, there is no need to let their presence go to waste. My uncle here is the one that needs to be incarcerated. He fornicates with the bodies of the dead. I have proof of it.”

The police looked curiously at Brad Marlowe, who could not immediately return their gaze. However, soon Marlowe shrieked as one of the attendants to Doctor Tariq unexpectedly injected him with some form of tranquilizer. Marlowe bolted and strained in a hopeless attempt to escape their grasp, but as he shrieked angrily, they began carrying him toward a waiting ambulance. Soon, he felt himself going numb.

“I have proof!” he shouted yet again in the direction of his uncle, and of the police. “I have photos taken of him having intercourse with dozens of dead women, and even dead young girls. They are also on disc.”

When Marlowe said this, Brad felt his heart almost give out on him. Disc? Had Mabel downloaded all these photos onto discs, or had Marlowe just recently done this? If the police took this seriously, what was he going to do?

He watched as they carried Marlowe toward the waiting ambulance by which Doctor Tariq and his associates had arrived. It seemed as though the tranquilizers would not take effect. Marlowe shouted at them in a voice of savage, enraged hatred.

“You are all going to pay for this! Do you know who the fuck I am?”

He kicked outward and flailed helplessly as four men seemed necessary to keep him restrained. He struggled almost all the way to the ambulance, but then finally he seemed to go limp. Brad followed closely behind, and noted that Marlowe’s eyes seemed now to become hazy, and though he still tried to resist, he no longer seemed to have any control over his physical movements. Suddenly, Brad could have swore he heard Marlowe actually growl, before he one last time called out his name.

After they secured him on a stretcher with restraints, Doctor Tariq reappeared. He regarded Brad with a degree of uncomfortable curiosity, as was the case with a couple of the police who conversed with each other out of earshot of Brad, on whom they had their eyes peeled. If there was such a disc, he had to find it fast, he realized, but for now, he had to stay calm and act as natural as possible under the circumstances.

“He is unconscious”, Tariq told him, “but he will be fine. We will run some tests on him over the course of the next few weeks, and more than likely we won’t have to keep him longer than three or four months at the very most.”

“Are you sure?” Brad asked, somewhat amazed at such a stunningly certain prognosis.

“I can’t promise it, of course”, Tariq replied. “But in the vast majority of cases, these things are not nearly as profound as they appear on the surface to be. Probably it is nothing more serious than an emotional breakdown, due mainly to the shock of the previous months traumas. He just had more than he could allow himself to process at one time, and it took its toll on his mental stability. I can almost promise you he will be fine. Of course, in the event that I am correct and he is released, it would still be wise to continue follow-up therapies for some time. These things just don’t vanish without leaving some form of scarring, as in any other type illnesses or injuries.”

Brad thanked him and began to leave inside the ambulance, but Tariq advised him that he would be better off waiting a few days, perhaps a week. Brad then remembered the other attendant who Marlowe stabbed. He felt obligated to say something, but Doctor Tariq informed him that there was nothing to be concerned about, the hospitals insurance would see quite nicely to the man’s expenses, and he would be afforded a great deal of time off with pay as well. That kind of thing is to be expected, and actually, the man had been a bit careless.

Which may have been true, but Brad realized the implications of what had happened this night. His nephew had intended him to be the target of that assault. Marlowe wanted to kill him. He was reluctant to point this out to Tariq, and wondered if he had actually realized the import of the occurrence. As for the police, did they know about it fully? Most of them had left, but the two cops who had seemed to be engaged in conversation about him yet remained, though the woman seemed to be in the process of leaving. Unfortunately, her male partner now seemed prepared to take some kind of statement from Brad, and walked up to him and introduced himself.

He explained that he just wanted to verify the story as given him by the assaulted attendant. Great, Brad thought. He is going to take it that Marlowe was out to get him and then no doubt he will draw a connection between Marlowe’s actions and his rants about the photographic evidence of necrophilia now allegedly stored on disc.

Brad explained yet again the trauma of Marlowe’s last few months, and the death of his parents. Then, the cop asked him something curious.

“Was your nephew out of the house anytime during the last couple of nights?”

“Not that I know of”, Brad replied. “If he was it sure wasn’t for very long.” He could not believe he was telling this bald-faced lie.

“I guess he’s been pretty messed up, huh”?

“Yeah, he’s been real weak”, Brad said. “He’s been getting these dizzy spells, you know.”

“He didn’t seem too dizzy when he climbed that tree”, the cop observed. “Do you know anything about any drug use he might have done.”

“Not since a little pot in high school as far as I know”, Brad replied. “Not much of that, because Marlowe never really had any friends to speak of. He always kept to himself and concentrated on his school and work.”

“Yeah, ok”, the cop said but just stared at Brad with a quizzical expression, as if he wanted to ask him something but could not quite put it into words.

“So I guess you won’t be pressing charges,” he finally said.

“Pressing charges?” Brad inquired.

“Yeah, I mean, didn’t he threaten you, assault you, or try to?” The female cop had now joined her partners’ side and actually smiled openly. The male cop just stood there with his mouth open.

“Let’s get some coffee, it’s late”, the woman said with a hint of exasperation, as though saying, ‘of course he’s not going to press charges, dumbass, he’s got a photo disc of necrophiliac porn he has to tear the place apart to try to find’.

“I don’t think he was meaning to assault me, but even if he was, he didn’t know what he was doing”, Brad said.

“I like that almond mocha creamer they have some of the time, before they run out of it, usually pretty fast”, the woman was playfully hinting at his partner as she then turned and walked towards the cruiser.

“All right, then, I guess that will do it”, the male cop said. “Hope things work out for you, Mr. Marlowe. Yeah, I guess your nephew was named after you, huh? I guess the two of you must be pretty close”

The woman was now in the drivers’ seat, and turned on the headlights.

“Yeah, we’ve always been pretty close”, Brad said. “I guess I’m all he’s got now that his parents are gone. He was really just given that name after our family, though, not just for me. But thank you for your time and trouble, officer.”

The cop did not respond, and soon enough the two of them were gone, the woman laughing outwardly as she drove. They were obviously suspicious. All the same, did they really give a damn? He decided he could not afford to take that chance. If there was a disc, he would find it. He had to.

Not only would he have to destroy the disc, he would have to take steps to delete any records from Marlowe’s hard drive. It would not be easy to do. It would in fact be impossible to do so with any assurance of complete freedom from eventual discovery. On the other hand, Brad realized that evidence, like a dead body, should be buried, entombed, or cremated. Otherwise, it might eventually stink to high heaven.