Sunday, November 04, 2007

The Last European. Chapter Three.

Previous: Chapter Two, Chapter One

Ye white walls! Ye alehouse painted signs!
Coal-black is better than another hue,
In that it scorns to bear another hue;
For all the water in the ocean
Can never turn the swan's black legs to white
Although she have them hourly in the flood.
-- Shakespeare

Sean and I were both probationary employees for our first year, which meant that we could be fired without due process or an appeal. Sean was fired when he refused to deny or retract the remarks he had made to Frank Brinkerhoff.

I had the day off after Sean's firing, so I rode over to Linwood to talk with him. Mary, Mrs. Fitzgerald, and Sean were all in the living room when I arrived at the house. But after a little chit-chat, Sean suggested the two of us take a walk. We walked toward Fisherman's Point.

"What will you do now, Sean?"

"I don't know."

"Should I resign, too? You did nothing wrong and I really have no desire to work for such a rotten police department."

"Don't resign. All police departments are rotten, James. A police department can't be better than the government it serves. It's the same with the army. I never should have joined in the first place, but it's awful hard to make a living these days without feeling like you're taking a bath in manure. Maybe Bulkington could use some help out on the boat."

"I doubt it, Sean; he barely makes enough to support himself. But, hey, you could still ask him."

"Oh, well, I'll get something. You know, I've thought about what you said about Rankin being behind the Mogombis presence in Lancaster, and the more I think about it, the more I'm convinced that you're right, James. It seems like too much of a coincidence not to be planned."

"He's behind it, alright."

"But if it is Rankin's doing, then he's had his shot at me and succeeded. That means he'll be taking a crack at you or Mary next."

"Yeah, it's not a pleasant thought, is it? I'd be lying if I said I wasn't worried."

It was cold out on the rocks, and I hadn't dressed warmly enough, so I suggested we go back to the house. Mrs. Fitzgerald was in the kitchen when we returned through the front door. We yelled to announce our presence and headed up to Sean's bedroom. Mary was waiting for us there.

"Don't resign, James. You need the work."

"That's what Sean said. You know, it might not be up to me; they might fire me before my year is up. You know how it is – guilt by association. They know I’m friends with Sean, that no-good racist."

Sean and Mary both laughed.

"It's a badge of honor nowadays to be called a racist. You should be so lucky, James."

"Well, Mary, if not for the honor of the thing, I'd just as soon skip it."

"Have either of you two discussed letting Bulkington in on our little dilemma?"

"Not today, we haven't. But we did discuss it when Rankin first came to my apartment. I didn't want to drag him into it because I'd be afraid for him. I'd be afraid that Rankin would finish him this time."

"I don't want to seem mean, James. And I hope you won't take this the wrong way, but you didn't want to bring Bulkington into the picture once before, remember?"

"Yes, I remember, and I 'm not offended, Mary. But I didn't want to bring him in before because I thought it would cost me something. I don't want to bring him in now because I don't want him hurt."

"But he is used to dealing with Rankin; why should he be hurt?"

Sean echoed Mary's question: "Yes, why, James?"

"Alright, I'll tell you why. Because Bulkington is not of this century or the previous century. He is something from the past. He's fine – he's more than fine, he's magnificent – when he's dealing with giants or dragons or humanoids from the sea, but how well will he do against modern monsters? How will he do against little A.C.L.U. lawyers who will sue him the first time he touches them, or how will he do against a horde of African Zulus or Mogombis armed with the latest assault rifles? I don't think he can cope with what the new, retrained Rankin is likely to throw at him."

Mary walked across the room and looked out the window. "I can see him out in his boat. He never wears more than a sweater. It's thick, but you wouldn't think it would be enough. It gets awfully cold out there on the water." She turned back to us. "You have a good point, James. It doesn't make sense to bring Bulkington into this affair for all the reasons you mention, and for one more."

I asked her what the reason was, and her reply surprised me, but when she articulated it, I saw the logic of it.

"Bulkington is Welsh on his mother's side and Scottish on his father's side, probably Highland Scottish, which means he is pure Celt. All Celts are not Romantics or poets, not by a long shot, but when they are, they become hopelessly committed to their romantic causes and pursue them against all odds and against all commonsense. They march straight at their enemies' guns and go down to defeat, like James the IV at Flodden."

"Then you agree with me. We'll keep Bulkington out of this."

"No, James, I don't agree."

"But that makes no sense, after all you just said."

"I don't presume to know if faith and commonsense are meant to co-exist. It certainly doesn't make sense, commonsense, to bring Bulkington into this mess. He will be out of his element. But then he is Bulkington. The assumption Rankin is making, and the assumption that we are making, is that Bulkington would have to adopt modern methods in order to combat Rankin's modern methods. And by doing so, Bulkington would become de-Christianized or, at the very least, neutralized. And if, on the other hand, he refuses to adopt modern methods, then he will be defeated."

"Yes, that's it, and I can't say that I disagree with that logic, which is why I don't want him involved."

"But James, aren't we being too modern when we look at it that way? The devil is logical. But he is not infallible. He doesn't know about the human heart. Oh, I know he knows about our weaknesses and takes advantage of them. But he doesn't understand that part of the heart that touches His heart. And if we become too logical, then maybe we'll lose that connection to His heart. Bulkington's heart is the heart of old Europe. What that heart will do against the devil's logic is something we can't predict. But possibly if we put our faith in it, things will work out."

"Sean, what do you think?"

"What Mary says makes sense, at least makes sense at one level. And maybe that's the important level."

"It's a leap in the dark. You both know that, don't you?"

"What other choice is there, James? We can't fight Rankin alone."

What else could I say? In my heart of hearts I knew that Mary's last statement, "We can't fight Rankin alone," was true. Bulkington seemed a feeble hope, but he was our only hope.

"Alright, let's tell him."

We stopped by Bulkington's house the next morning. I thought he would be offended because we had not told him about Rankin's visit immediately, but he wasn't. He just laughed.

"So you thought an anachronism like me wouldn't be very effective against the new and improved Rankin. Well, I can't blame you for thinking that way. I don't feel very connected to the modern world, but maybe I can still be of some help."

"What should we do?" Sean asked.

"Live your lives. Don't sit around worrying about Rankin. Oh, I know that is easier said than done. But try not to play into Rankin's hands by wasting all your energy worrying about what Rankin is going to do. I'm sure the Mogombis are here because of Rankin and I certainly think they are going to move against us, one at a time. But we can't just go over and slaughter the whole tribe. We have to wait and see how they are going to attack us."

"I'd prefer to hit them first."

"We can't do that, Sean, because we aren't 100% positive that Rankin is using the Mogombis against us. It's a good, working hypothesis, but we're not absolutely sure."

"And we have a stricter standard regarding civilian causalities than George Bush does."

"That's right, James."

"Are there any extra precautions that you think we should take?"

"Yes, Mary, there is one extra precaution I would recommend, but I don't think you'll like it. I don't think you should go walking by yourself for awhile. I know that might be a bit of an inconvenience but…"

"It won't be a big problem; I'm unemployed now. I can accompany her."

"That's great. My little brother can take me with him when he goes out."

"I'm not your little brother; in case you never knew, we're twins."

"No, we're not; I'm 3 hours older than you."

Things didn't seem quite as bad now that Bulkington was involved. But his parting injunction was sobering.

"James, you take particular care. You'll be quite visible when you're out on patrol. The Mogombis might go for you first."

Two days later the Mogombis struck. I was working the midnight shift. At 4 a.m., I got a call about a disturbance in the rear of the A. J. Reed Appliance Store. The radio room could not tell me if it was a burglary in progress or a fight in the alley behind the store. The other officer on my shift was busy with a prisoner he had arrested for drunken driving earlier on the shift; the paperwork for a D.U.I. is incredible.

When I pulled into the alley behind the store, I saw no one. I then got out to check the locks on the doors of the store, which is standard procedure. The back and front doors were locked and there didn't appear to be anyone in the store. I was on my way back to the patrol car to report a false alarm when I was struck from behind by a blunt object. I lost consciousness.

When I came to I was in the back seat of a van with my hands tied behind my back. Two black men and a white man were in the front seat staring at me. The white man did the talking.

"Glad to see you're awake. My friends here hit you a little harder than I wanted them to. You don't have to worry about your calls. I called the radio room on your portable there and cleared you. And you didn't get any more calls in the meantime. So we have plenty of time to chat."

"What do you want?"

"Listen, I can have you killed right here if I want, so don't give me any trouble. These men are Mogombis. You insulted them by arresting their chief's son the other night."

"You mean Knana Kowanna?"

"Yes, that's the man."

"And what do you do for the Mogombis?"

"Let's just say I'm a facilitator. I work for their lawyer."

"Yeah, I've met him."

"All this is beside the point. The point is that you, Officer Duncan, have been marked for death. The Mogombis' code demands blood for an insult. But you can avoid death if you bring us the other officer, or to be more precise, the former officer."

"You mean if I set up my friend to be killed, you'll let me live?"

"Yes, in a nutshell, that's it."

"And if I refuse?"

"We will kill you right here and now, and we will kill you slowly."

I certainly had no intention of setting Sean up to be killed, but I didn't see what harm it would be to promise I would in order to gain my release.

"Sean and I are not that close. I'll set him up for you. Where shall I bring him?"

"To the park at midnight tomorrow."

"And if I don't bring him?"

"We'll find you again and it won't be pleasant for you when we do."

After our agreement, they untied me and I went back to the patrol car. It seemed a little strange to me at first that the facilitator had so readily believed that I would sell Sean out. But when I thought about it a little, it didn't seem strange at all. After all, he was making a living by selling out his fellow whites. And isn't the worship of the people of color and the hatred of the white man the one remaining credo of Europeans? So why, from his perspective, shouldn't I sell Sean out? No, when I thought about it, it certainly didn't seem strange at all.

I didn't say anything to my fellow officers about the incident. They might believe me, but I had serious doubts. They've all been thoroughly indoctrinated. My story, they would conclude, after checking with the powers that be, sounded like the paranoid ravings of an insane racist. Instead of helping me round up the Mogombis and their lawyer, I would be investigated. And while they were busy investigating me, Sean would be killed, because if I told the police the Mogombis would know I had no intention of setting Sean up for them.

There was only one man I could tell. The man I had thought it was best to leave out of the affair.

Bulkington doesn't own a phone, so I asked Sean to give him the details, after (of course) I had given Sean the details of the night's events.

It would be nice to say that I was not scared. It certainly sounds better. But I was scared. To have one individual sworn to kill you is scary, but to have a whole tribe (there is no polite way to say it) of voodoo men sworn to kill you is chilling. I slept with my revolver on my chest, hoping to hear from Bulkington before the midnight deadline.

I awoke at about 3 p.m. to the sound of a rapping at my door. It was not a raven; it was Bulkington and Sean.

"You can put the gun down, James. Sean and I are your friends."

"God, I'm glad to see you."

I had a few battered chairs and a secondhand couch in my small living room. I sat on the couch, and Bulkington straddled one of the chairs, his arms resting on the back of the chair. Sean sat on the other side of the couch.

"I know this thing might seem hopeless to you, James, but it isn't. Oh, it's serious, don't misunderstand me about that. But the situation is far from hopeless."

I felt somewhat better hearing Bulkington talk like that. But I wanted to hear something a little more concrete before I started to become optimistic about my chances of living out the biblical allotment of years.

I think Bulkington sensed that I needed more assurance. At any rate, he got up from the chair and started pacing and talking.

"There are three forces involved here. First, there is Rankin. He is the instigator. But I think he'll stay in the background as long as he thinks the Mogombis are handling things properly.

"Secondly, there are the Mogombis, an African tribe committed to a kind of voodoo that entails the sacrificial deaths of little children and ritualistic cannibalism. They are also fanatically committed to their tribal laws of vengeance. They are serious about wanting either you or Sean as a sacrificial victim.

"Thirdly, there is the A.C.L.U. lawyer. I was somewhat surprised when you told me that the facilitator said he worked for the Mogombis' lawyer. That's a rather frank admission of complicity. He really must feel sure that you have no legal recourse against him. And I must say he is probably right. No white police officer is going to be believed in the face of the contrary opinions of black Africans and a white liberal."

At this point Sean interposed, "I don't dispute what you say. But it's insane. Doesn't Brinkerhoff realize that if the Mogombis win out, that he will end up in the same missionary stew as the rest of the whites that he is selling out?"

"It's the swine in the Gospels, Sean. Over the cliff they go. Our task is to avoid going with them. And now that they have struck first and made their intentions clear, we are going to strike back. And we need to strike back in a way that will make retaliation an impossibility."

"That doesn't seem possible."

"Well, James, it might not. But just trust me on this. We have a better chance than you think. Now, both of you come with me and we'll get things started."

Bulkington did not own a car; he had come to the apartment in Sean's car. So the three of us took Sean's car to Knana Kowanna's apartment, the same apartment to which Sean and I had gone on the night of the domestic dispute.

I was not in uniform since it was my night off, but I did take my service revolver, two speed loaders, and my off-duty gun, a .32 ACP semi-automatic with me. Sean, having been discharged from the force, was not legally entitled to carry a firearm, but he was carrying one anyway, a snub-nosed .38.

When I offered Bulkington my off-duty gun, he declined. "You fellows take what makes you feel comfortable, but I'll do what I have to do without guns. Don't look that way, James. I don’t think it's a moral failing to use a gun. I'm just not familiar with them so I try to get by with dumb luck and this." This was a medium-sized hunting knife that obviously had been worked on to make it a good throwing knife. It didn't seem like much of a weapon with which to go up against a thousand Mogombis.

When we pulled up to the apartment, Bulkington got out of the car almost before it had stopped and with a few long strides was at the apartment door.

"I think we ought to discuss some kind of strategy here. Maybe Sean could go around the side while I…"

"No need."

Bulkington kicked open Prince Knana's door, knocking both door chains and the door onto the floor. Knana came running out of the bedroom with a gun in his hand, but Bulkington was on him before he could fire. He wrested the gun from Knana's hand, twisted his arm behind his back, and then clamped a full Nelson on him as he drove him face down on the floor. I couldn't help but think of the time Bulkington had driven a local bully, who had been tormenting a twelve-year old boy named James Duncan, face down into the sand of Linwood beach.

Prince Knana was a massive man, well over 300 pounds, not all hard muscle, but certainly no butterball. He struggled fiercely, but it was futile. Maybe a gorilla could have broken the hold Bulkington had on Knana, but no mortal man could.

"You've been making a lot of threats against some friends of mine. Apparently you think you can do so with impunity. The fact that you're eating the floor right now should indicate to you that you cannot threaten my friends with impunity."

"Bulkington --"

"Yes, James."

"I don’t think he understands English. At least not well enough to follow what you're saying."

"That's not true, James. He is a graduate of Stanford University. I know their academic standards are quite low, but I think they still require a certain familiarity with the English language before they award a diploma."

I was stunned.

"Where did you find that out?"

"I have a friend – I've mentioned my aunt to you before, James -- who like my aunt was, is a librarian at Linwood Library. She did some research for me. It seems Knana is the intellectual of his tribe. He went to private schools in England and got his undergraduate degree at Stanford. When the turmoil in Zena started up, his father called him home. Then two years later came exile; his side lost the civil war. Now here he is."

"On the floor," Sean interjected.

"Yes, on the floor, for now. But Prince Knana can get up if he agrees to speak English and to refrain from violence."

"Let me up. We'll talk."

Bulkington eased up off Knana's back, and Knana, after rubbing his arms and neck, slid onto a recliner. Sean had Knana's gun.

"Yes, Mr. Bulkington -- which is rather an odd name, don't you think -- I speak perfect English. But I have found it useful to conceal that fact for a time. It is easier to assess the enemies' strengths and weaknesses when they think you're a helpless, bumbling clod. But they shall learn differently, and very soon."

"Who is 'they', pal? Who are your enemies?"

He turned to Sean with contempt on his face.

"The white man is our enemy."

"Even lawyers like Brinkerhoff? He tried to help you."

"Yes, even white men like Brinkerhoff. If they are white, they are our enemies. Men like Brinkerhoff are made to be used and then discarded."

"Why," I asked, "if your enemies are the whites, was it that the whites took you into this country after black men had driven you out of theirs?"

"Those Africans are our competitors, but they are also our co-religionists. We will return to Zena someday and drive them out. All their leaders will be killed, but the others, if they submit to our rule, will be spared. But all whites must dies. And they will die. Ndoki commands it."

"Who is Ndoki?" I asked Knana the question, but Bulkington answered it before Knana could reply.

"It's the god of the Mogombis, James. He is a devil god who demands human sacrifice."

"I see no reason to deny it -- yes, he is a devil god; he is our god, a god infinitely above your weak and anemic Christian god. And I am his son, his blood son. My mother slept with Ndoki when the moon blotted out the sun, and I came forth. Chief Omo is not my real father. He is merely the mortal husband of my mother who holds the crown for me until I, the true son of Ndoki, when the time is right, will ascend to the throne."

"And when is that is supposed to take place?" Sean asked.

"One month from tonight when the moon is right."

Sean persisted. "Do you seriously believe that blather?"

"Yes, more than you believe in that fantastic legend of the weak and colorless god-man born of a virgin."

It happened so quickly that it startled me. Bulkington suddenly had Knana by the throat. Knana was struggling, but to no avail. Bulkington seemed oblivious to my shouts and Sean's shouts imploring him to let up.

Then, quite suddenly, Bulkington's blood subsided and he stopped choking Knana. Knana was badly shaken, that was apparent, but when he spoke he tried to keep his calm, so-superior way of speaking.

"That's the third time you, or your friends, have laid unholy hands on me. You shall die for it, and you shall die so painfully and slowly that you will beg us to kill you in order to end the pain."

Bulkington, fully in control of himself now, walked up to Knana and looked him in the eye. "What makes you think we won't kill you right here and now and rob you of the pleasure of seeing us die slow?"

"Because of the code. You look surprised. You didn't think a black man could know about the code, did you? But I know of it. I came to your universities to learn about my enemies."

"But you didn't learn about the code at Stanford."

"No, there I learned about the great white death wish. They have nothing in their souls. The anemic god could not sustain them. They are fascinated by blackness. They worship it. Even if the black man brings death, they still want him to come to their world. They need the black man's power and strength. But those universities like Stanford also have libraries. And I read books about the older white culture. In the old culture, the white men had a code, which came from the anemic god. And part of that code says that you cannot kill an unarmed enemy."

"I almost killed you a few moments ago."

"Yes, I got your blood up when I insulted your god. But you won't kill me in cold blood. You can't because of the code. You are a man of the past. You are a man from the shadows. And you know something – you are at least a man. I hate you, but I will admit that you are a man. You don't belong with the rest of the white sheep."

"And where do I belong?"

"In the past, possibly the medieval ages."

"No, I lost my enthusiasm for the medieval ages a long time ago. Their Christianity is too modern, too abstract for my tastes. I prefer King Arthur's pre-medieval Christianity and the Christianity of Walter Scott."

"Nevertheless, you are a man of the past, a man without a country or a people. You are a shadow man."

"I have a people, most of whom are dead I grant you, but in my world, which is the real world, the dead are alive. And besides that, there is Sean and James; they are alive, they are old Europeans, and I intend to see that they stay alive."

"No, they must die and so must you. Ndoki commands it. He wills it."

It was quite chilling to hear my own death sentence pronounced so definitely. Of course I knew that we are all under a death sentence, but I had hoped, as we all do, that it would be later rather than sooner.

At the time Prince Knana pronounced our death sentences, it was one hour before the midnight deadline. Bulkington advised Sean to handcuff Knana to the stove. He then ushered us both out into the night air so he could talk to us privately.

"It's not hopeless, fellows. In fact, things are looking up."

"They are? Maybe you could explain why. Not that I'm doubting you, but I would like to know -- and I'm sure Sean would too -- what chance, if any, we have of living past the midnight deadline."

"You've read a lot of Walter Scott, haven't you, James?"

"Yes, I have."

"Have you ever read a short novel of his called The Black Dwarf?"

"No, I haven't, and I don’t' think I'll have any spare time between now and midnight to read it."

Bulkington laughed. "You don't need to read it tonight. Let me just relate one section of the book to you.

"In the olden days, an old witch was, as witches have always been, in league with the devil. But, as Scott points out, the devil – though very 'liberal in imparting his powers of doing mischief, ungenerously leaves his allies under the necessity of performing the meanest rustic labours for subsistence.' This particular witch made her living tending geese. When she attempted to get them to market, they, instead of cooperating, plunged into a cool pool of water that was between the market and the witch's dwelling. The witch then hurled an anathema at them: 'Deevil, that neither I nor they ever stir from this spot more.' Well the old witch and the geese were immediately turned into stone right on the spot. Scott presents the tale as evidence that the devil is, was, and forever shall be, a 'strict formalist.' "

"I don’t' see where you are going with this."

"You don’t, James? How about you, Sean?"

"No, I can't say that I do."

"Well, it's like this: Scott is right; the devil is a formalist and so are those who serve him. It's a point that is often overlooked. But we, thanks to Sir Walter, are not going to overlook it. We are going to use that very formalism against the Mogombis. I'll challenge Knana, in front of his own people, to pit his god against mine."

"But you know it doesn't work that way. God doesn't defend the right."

"No, James, he doesn't. At least not always. And maybe I should say seldom. But that's not the point. The devil is a literalist. So are his followers. If the Mogombis see Ndoki formally defeated, there is a good chance that they will submit to whatever terms we dictate."

"But you'll be on your own against them."

"Not completely, Sean. There is a line where free will and God meet. I don't know where it is, but it's there. So I won't be alone."

Sean Fitzgerald, Knight, stepped forward. "And I'll be with you."

"Ditto," I said.

"I wouldn't have it any other way. You're both men now. But I'm going to be brutally honest. Neither of you have a chance to come out alive from any contest the Mogombis devise. You stand by in case there's treachery, but if the contest goes according to the agreed upon forms, you two stay out. Is that understood?"

We both nodded our assent.

Continue to Chapter Four