SENT

Part I: Vestiges of Miriam


{Continuing the tale begun in

As Kingfishers Catch Fire}


For my Mother


Joan McCracken

                                                       "Fate and temperament are two words for one and the same concept."
                                                            "We are near awakening when we dream that we dream."

                                                                                                                                                           Novalis

     She was indestructible in Berlin. She had the protean force of saints. When she walked, it was as though she was summoned. But to what? By whom? If queried, she would have said, "God knows."

      Jack spotted her before she sat down. So he measured her in this small place, as he was fifty paces behind. The woman's stature, and then her quick turn as if in evidence her humanity opposing her almost devout stride. Perhaps she should have continued on, instead of sitting down at the cafe, for her stance was as large as the Brandenburger Tor.

      Jack crossed the cold paving stones to her table as she crossed her legs. He did this before understanding that he had. He stood a metre from where she had been standing and asked if he could join her. The other outdoor tables were nearly full – the one vacant was next to hers. She had noticed this. Hers was closest to the doors of the café, so blasts of warmed air hit this spot first. Consenting, she smiled, even gesturing towards the chair Jack was about to place his hand upon.

      That's when lightning struck him on the right ear. Jack Thomas lurched forward, hit the metal chair which hit the metal table, shocking Miriam as well, as her forearm rested on it. Just a jolt, the electricity was sucked back up into the dark slate-blue clouds passing before the full moon. Patrons within and outside the café in face-frozen surprise, having witnessed the white current, held their breath, waiting to see if the man and the woman would fall down dead.

      They did not. Jack thought he saw the bones in her hand and arm; Miriam was certain she had seen his jaw and skull. Their hearts had stopped, and then began beating again at the same instant. The head-waiter was at his side saying something. The manager was picking up the phone receiver to ring for an ambulance. But Jack raised his palm; shook his head. His ear seemed to still glow. Finally, he pulled the chair out and sat; his eyes wide as hers. A bottle of brandy and a carafe of water were gingerly placed on the table, the covering-cloth's threads stood up imperceptibly. The waiter was careful not to touch any metal. Glasses were brought, four.

      Miriam spoke first. "You needn't impress me anymore."

      "Thank goodness. I don't believe I could ever be a lightning rod again." He smiled. The voltage was replaced by minor shock and greater fascination.

      She held out her hand, firmly grasping and shaking his, after another very real spark coursed between them. "Miriam."

      "Jack. Thomas." Concerned that he was still shaking –she had felt it in his grip- she poured brandy and water for both of them. The quiet about them wore off. Staff and customers began to speak excitedly about the event and the pair. Miriam handed him the brandy, and taking up her own glass, saluted their futures. Later, Jack would recall that they had received the brandy gratis. Struck by lightning on an early March night in Berlin.

      For both had wanted this very mark, to at least watch the bow strung; this twilight was the fulfilment of all time funnelled into the electrical charge. Miriam bowed down in the blood to come. And Jack succumbed to his rain book of trade.

      She had noted the buds already set on some of the trees as she walked to the café. 'The hardest hue to hold', she thought. Conjuring up this night she ran her finger along a maple leaf curled tightly into a spade-shaped tip. The sun had run in and out of the quickening sky, and the unpurchased warmth of a too early spring reminded her of her own predestined span. Miriam hurried on. It was to be this man.

      "Jack. Thomas. What do you do?" Her courage was planted as the sower's in the parable.

      His remembrance gave him an unshakeable conscience. He did not want her, least of all another stranger.  She was an insertion, an unwelcome addition to his common romanticism, common that is, not to the golden mean, a just mean in a grandiose scheme intact. Nevertheless she became the insert, the addition, the enslavement, and he became glad of it –the crack in the rock.-

      "I'm an architect." The brandy was effective. Jack had eaten some breakfast; but nothing else today. "And what of yourself?"

      "Account executive. For Fortrams. Do you know it?"

      "Office suppliers from the US. Yes of course. You do have an accent."

      "I'm from the southern part of America, a small town in Virginia. Have you been to the States? No? I was thinking as I walked here that Berlin feels less political than it is; yet we're encircled by it. Odd, isn't it?"

      "Yes, yes; that is true," Jack said quietly to her and the engulfing twilight. Then they peered into their brandy, as though the liquid was a prognosticating tool. Absinthe would have been a better choice.

      "I always try to come to this place when I'm in Berlin. It's the first café I found on my own. "'Café Novalis'." She slipped in and out of her thoughts, wondering at him – why him. A reasonable ironic reason would account for it.

      He reached into the inner pocket of his brushed camel's hair coat to find his cigarette case. "Your café even has the blue flower," indicating the small vase with a single flower.  Jack offered her a cigarette; she declined. As he struck a match, she noticed his wedding band. She felt he was not attempting to 'pick her up' though. When he stepped through the twilight towards her his jaws were grinding and his melancholia paced fast ahead of him, providing him with a trail to follow. Thus he spied the warm lights and the gay sign, then her, his countenance reclaimed most of its own light, and she was glad for it. Miriam could smell someone's cologne in the changing air, by the Wall.

     Jack leaned on the arm of the chair, suddenly disconcerted by the square electrical burn mark of his cuff-link upon it and thought he had an identical mark on his wrist. Then his thoughts ran to the ghosts of the burned, who were scattered everywhere: in between the no-man's land of splinty barbed wire, synagogues of Kristalnächt buried beneath the new streets together with the persecuted Jews and ordinary German children who had only died months after the war ended. And now he had left his own insignificant mark. 'What did she leave? Perhaps the sign of the claddagh ring, crown up, on the tablecloth (her hands were folded over it), or seared into the wooden 'O' of the tabletop.' Miriam, for an unblinking, half-mocking moment, felt a bit petulant at his silence, so she uncrossed, then re-crossed her legs, bouncing her left foot. Jack felt the vibration. He awoke from his half-dreamt idea, his easy charm flowing to her.

      Meticulously moving and chess-setting the glasses so that he could place his folded arms like hers on the table, he leaned in slightly, and said, "I've just recalled I'm to sit in on a meeting of the upper shopkeepers to select appropriate office furniture for their back rooms Tuesday next."

      Miriam grinned. "Of course! You're the famous architect who helped a soldier defect. It was all over the news. And you 'declined to be interviewed!' By the way, your design is marvellous. But why ever a cruciform? I just saw the rose window up close. What a master-stroke! Vitruvius Man! My father used to say 'serendipity is the stuff and surprise of life'.  Oh, I'm sorry, have I made you uncomfortable?"

      Jack was called to his individuality; his creativity made it so. The act of leading the soldier Valentine into his creation verified this; but only this. He was a man used to concealing his knotted inner life, had been unbalanced by Miriam's enthusiasms and her charm, so much like his own. They were the people, so it appeared to others, who emerged to take control of conversations, situations, to rekindle bungled, awkward gatherings. In short, Jack and Miriam were the type of people one invited. Like does attract like: the sunken shyness coated by the bourgeois, wheeling charm; moreover, neither Miriam nor Jack could have survived to adulthood without it. How would each have known this about the other though? Scent or coincidence? They had found each other –bruises hardened- and that was what mattered.

      Especially to Jack's tablemate. When she was cast back against the Wall in shadow, her tall form was seen by Jack. Shredding herself from her restored self, Miriam McCann was yet almost 13, about to reach her 23rd birthday and prevailed upon to accomplish much. It was vital to her to now meet her doppelgänger in this strange place.

      "Ah, the window! What else did you notice about it?" His eyebrows fairly jumped when he queried her. "The man?"

      "Well he's you." The waiter returned with a small pad and pencil that barely covered the palm of his hand. "I'm hungry! Steak, baked potato, a small salad." Jack nodded and held up his fingers, two. "Wine? A house wine, red." Again, he assented.

      A table was set, food and drink brought and consumed. The night grew colder with the buds fading from memory, replaced by recollections of lumpy snow. Yet there were hints in smell, in rising humidity that could not be denied.

     To be the person who genuinely affects others – the outsider, seen strange, grotesque, and glorious in mounting - just those qualities, the features grow familiar, yes, the outsider who becomes the hero. Woe to them if or when fall; dashed upon splinty human perception and then! failure is justified and glorified, my rogue prince and princess. But they know they're not fully human (in the novel sense of the world), yet their radiance will fall down on all of human existence –the radiant will be drunk with the supplication of the moon and that is their due.

      The tables were changed many times during their stay at Café Novalis. Most of the staff and patrons who had witnessed the curious strike were gone. The pair sat oblivious to the March twilight that contained them like a glass jar – their waiter was unable to simply slip the cheque on the table. The cold drew them together, balanced on their crossed arms, speaking of art, the baroque. Each afraid of himself, herself, of his, her mission – the temptation was fearful.

      Jack, prolonging their time together, walked Miriam back to the Art'otel on Wallstrade under the first arch of the hotel. She suddenly faced him. Miriam seemed to concentrate on an invisible place on his face, her eyes darker and darker blue, until she sprang forward and kissed him on the cheek. With the same sudden determination, she left him. He stared after her for nearly five minutes, then walked back to his own bed, in the Tiergarten. He listened to the trams. Individually and collectively, they lay down: awake under their eyelids, each had a resolve better than before.

     Miriam, after her revelation, began the process of divesting herself of all not directly related to her instruction.

     Jack had wanted to do this also; however, his wife and child had deterred him from total commitment – hence the building with its cruciform shape and stained glass windows, albeit not apprehending its significance at the time.

      And so, radiant in disaster, they slept in their respective cells. Thomas had his recurrent dream: a single piece of cloth flapping in a cross breeze which covered a sign. Sometimes the cloth was a clean white, sometimes dirty, but his perspective was always the same. He was gazing upwards. The cumulus clouds were built up like Jacob's ladder above him, making his sight and desire climb. This nocturnal deliverance replaced his nightmare about ravens. This in its turn had been relieved by a dream of wings.

     Miriam and Jack's night in Berlin bled on with large spring snow-flakes. They curled up in circles of wind, which let go of them at the end/beginning of the circle, making it reappear like an eye, and appear that the snow itself was weeping. My beloved stains the wind, water, and earth. 'Thank goodness it isn't the razor-sleet of late January', thought Jack as he opened the drapes the next morning. He heard someone in the hall trundling down the steps for breakfast saying "Wo weilist du?" It conjured sails and love potions, tack and treasure. This innocent reference to Tristan und Isolde made Jack smile as he shaved.

     For Miriam, her series of events culminated while still home, entangled in the past and thinking to herself 'Would that I could keep salt from my wounds'; something so surprising she ceased to suck breath: light from the back of her brain shaped her into an envelopment of white-yellow glare as she stood in queue at a coffee shop to get a large chicory coffee before going to her job in Richmond. Her posture did not change; the inside of her arms rotated outwards; however as though to receive hypodermic needles. Light had already stolen her into a trance – she was in no need of a further spike. Voices wept, sighed in her inner ear. Under sawing wings, fast alternating in arched or closed position, a translucent figure balled its fists to its chest, then flung the hands back out at her as Miriam continued in her hypnagogic state. Her mind repeated 'Body of Christ, save me!' The light disintegrated as did the figure and voices, and she faced the brown eyes across the counter regarding her patiently; heard distinct words that belonged to the eyes say, "Will you have your usual, Miss? We have crullers today." Miriam nodded, automatically took out her wallet, then money, collected her purchases and left the shop. The clerk dumped the large tip remaining from the cash into a jar, happily.

     Hypnogogia cast its line for Miriam again, reeling in her last moments of sleep. She could see herself, could hear herself thinking. 'He summoned me and I could actually hear him swallow, I was that close. It was the blood in his throat, washed down by rosewater. And I awakened in a lake of light, an entire constellation over my sternum.' Police sirens called her to things of this world. Constant bleating formed into cars ringing the Victory Column, rushing and swinging and stopping before the Brandenburg Gate. 'Checkpoint? Escape? Was it successful?'

      Monday's snow melted quickly under foot and sunshine. In the hotel dining-room Miriam breakfasted on a pot of chocolate and a plate-sized waffle. She was still harnessed to the vision; nevertheless knew of the veins that bulged out of her wrists and hands, felt morning sun's warmth as she steadily studied the passers-by through the glass, imagined another free man surrounded by police and citizens, the Capitalist cathedral opened, Jack in stained glass. Did she anticipate what was to happen? Was she prepared? After sitting for an unusually long period of time, Miriam caught herself as the crowds dissipated and the room emptied itself of guests. She tried, in vain, to dab the chocolate moustache away again. Returning to her room to do the job properly, she then filled her case with catalogues, facts, and figures, and hurried to her appointment with Herr Dunkel, purveyor of fine carpets, who required desks and chairs with which to conduct transactions.

      The saints crowded her heart – though not last evening- when she was on her business. Sebastian- "My mortality runs deep," he seemed to be saying, though he was heavy and full of arrows. Or was it the Maid of Orléans who survived a single bolt through the breast? They survived to die. Miriam had seen them in books and glass, their telling martyrdom a sober reminder stamped upon her memory and perception. She combed her hair through her fingers, as she had done since she was a teenager while meditating on a consuming thought or project, and then filed out onto the streets of a bright Berlin morning. "Love calls us to things of this world", while duty partitions our lives. How intricate the balance! Today, Miriam strode towards her duty; portfolio arranged for maximum delivery, a man, not God, as its inspiration albeit she dared not admit Jack on a conscious level. 'Could he be a part?'  She wanted it so. Henceforth, she was set forth out of ordinary time, her grief no longer replenished over and again as a match struck; she had stepped out of the linear. God and a man at once left her to enjoy this work.

      Jack stood inside the nave/arcade of the Capitalist cathedral, hands thrust inside his coat pockets. He looked down to the end of the building where an altar would have been and sighed audibly. He then ran his left hand over his face, producing a drawing pencil with his right from inside his inner pocket. Gazing down, one would have thought he was about to conduct some unseen orchestra, as he raised pencil to shoulder level, stretching his arm all the way out. As he performed this action, he heard their boots on the marble floor, knew they wondered about him. Perhaps an eccentric genius? Or someone clinging to the root of sanity?  (They should have known something of him, having worked with him already.) In that case, they should grab him before his mind gutted itself.

      "Herr Thomas?" a plaintive baritone asked in the echoes.

      Lowering his pencil, he turned to greet the last of the construction workers who were completing various interiors jobs, specialized, actual craftsman. Jack grinned at them, a rare sight. They stopped walking towards him en masse, not sure of what was about to happen. "Herr Keith! Guten Morgen! I've been looking around. Those doors on the left apse, marvellous! I can imagine priests and monks coming in for Matins. The iron-work with the arrows, such detail!"

      "Herr Thomas, I must protest. You designed it." Keith said, though not vehemently.

      "Ah, yes, but your man executed the work! Send him my compliments and regards. Wait, is he here?"

      Keith motioned for a man at the rearguard and spoke quietly to his comrade, who in turn signed to the ex-blacksmith. "Herr Thomas, Wilhelm is deaf from a bomb that exploded near his house, so it is his son who tells him of your compliments." Wilhelm stepped forward when Jack extended his hand and they shook. Wilhelm smiled, as did his son.

      "Of course, you did the ironwork for the window." Keith repeated this in German as Thomas had forgot to, then apologized. "Danke." The son was lean and blond; the father heavier and grey blended with his blond hair. Thomas thought that they were rural folk, with horses mingling with autos, where one night the bombs dropped, only the one night.

      They fell to business – estimates of how much longer, Jack sketching some additional details. The landscapers would come soon, the outside front and right apse spaces still needed to be cleared. Joyful Jack in the bright air of the chilly cathedral, speaking in new buoyant tones. Keith and his crew were bemused by this side of Jack, the driven Englishman still intense, but something akin to Spring fever had taken hold of him.

      His dream had been replaced: the wings were jumbled in his mind with Valentine and Miriam. The sun grew steadily in the sky, melting the morning snow and further enlivening his spirit.

     Stricken as Jack had been before because his boyhood was impugned by a dog-collared indiscretion that narrowed his relationships; his field of vision today beheld body and soul, work and worker, heaven and earth. How the priestly father would have marvelled at the boy who drew churches and found himself reflecting his own shadow, plus the fiery birth of stars. "Is this not glory?" the orphan's father would have asked.

***

     Recusant families of England were still worthy of suspicion, 300 years after the Virgin Queen. Roman Catholic John Springfield was in his element though at Christ Church, Oxford. The Oxford Movement was 50 years past but still as present as when Henry the VIII seized the Island Church and all its worldly goods. At the onslaught of the Great War, John with Firsts in all courses and himself a newly minted graduate was sketching in Brussels. He had to dash for England, just making it across the Channel. He joined up as an officer and was sent to the storied poppy fields, only to watch the flowers desiccated, the fields obliterated by shell fire in three days.

     Springfield told his parish priest that's when he received his call. "'Three days'" he kept repeating, then added: "My temple was rebuilt. Naturally, I had to stay with my men, duty and honour. Leaving them would have been a sin."

     The priest agreed, writing a spiritually artful letter recommending John Springfield for Holy Orders. That was what he wanted, or so thought, for many years. Who could blame him? Four years of unmitigated agony, Captain Springfield clung to the peace of a noiseless clean church, intact beautiful windows, holding high the Host, justified in bestowing life eternal upon each soul. Saving instead of killing.

     But at the end, he couldn't digest his lonely sin – the abandonment of his child.

     His 'call' was a plea to be relieved of the death and misery around him; he was exactly like all the men in all the trenches and battlefields.  "Just get me through this one night," he prayed to himself, an oath to serve the Lord. Then Springfield uttered it aloud, his voice voided by the war machines. At two in the morning he shouted the same. A smoky dawn arrived with two-thirds of his regiment dead. The Captain did not receive one scrape. So he kept his promise to God to become a priest. When the Second World War blew in, he had kept his vows, tended his flock. And then a new front, the home-front, all of Britain in peril. Selflessness gave way to selfishness; Father Springfield took the news personally. Had he not kept his part of the bargain? What was God up to? Were the Germans meant to win after all in the First Clash? Was this the punishment of the arrogant Allies? Was everyone to suffer - women, children, and old men - because of some? Where was the God of Covenant? Yes, he was alive but only half a man, he secretly seethed.

     It didn't fall away at once. The subtle shift processing into his heart and mind came on gradually. Finally, Springfield thought, "What's the use? I can still comfort but I want what I've missed." His lover was an English rose; her family barely making ends meet with two brothers fighting where he had been once. So he offered to help bring in the harvest, though he had never worked in the fields a day in his life. (How his family would have laughed!) Springfield could be known for his words as well as his deeds. John was in love with her already as he strode through the tall grass, dew soaking his pant legs, making his way to the barn with neighbours. Father and daughter waited, the lamplight was behind her head, giving her an artificial halo, though Springfield pretended for part of the morning it was another sign from God.

     Lunch was brought by older mothers – pails of hearty food and home-brewed ale. Rosemary's mum was one of them, a frail pretty woman, given to migraines and fainting. Other women worked side by side with their men-folk who were either too old or too young to fight. Small children brought cool water in the afternoon. He was invigorated by his love, so unable to sense how tired he was, unused to this work. But this was what he dreamt of now; instead of the silent and erudite books in the church anteroom, he conjured home, neighbours, wife, children, and a family of his own. He returned home heartsick but came again eagerly (muscles stiff) the next day, a rural hymn to be sung. 

     Sweet the sin that pulls you in! The sun rising was golden and orange behind a cloud as Father Springfield briskly walked the 5 kilometres to the farm, praying earnestly as he did so. He was first there of the makeshift crew, arriving before his meditations had ended, fraught with praise and thanksgiving. And she was there, lovelier than ever before, the streak of violently dark skies revolving towards the blue and yellow of morning, binding her to a chiaroscuro catharsis – only for him.

     The harvest season saw the sun play mightily, then sink down like a child, tired with its cheery labours. Rosemary, her parents, Springfield, and the small community all helped, and in turn, the other farmers brought in their crops. There was usually a Harvest Dance, but not these past four years since Buckshire was scant of male family faces. Albeit Mercy had spared many so far, the mood was one of relief, not buoyancy. Rosemary waited only for her brothers – no sweetheart.

     She knew even in her relative innocence that lovesick look Springfield tried to hide. Her protective brothers had taught her – when their own friends lurked about too long, pestering her with queer looks and silly questions, the pair would walk the transgressor out behind an old outdoor privy and took turns beating him. Rosemary deserved much better than the lot Buckshire had to offer, they told her when she discovered their ways with offenders. When they joined the Army, they each wrote to her of prospective husbands they had met and approved of, but nothing about the body parts that some men became.

     On All Souls' Day, a clean-shaven Father Springfield claimed his reward. In his mind, Rosemary would be his forever. This was not to be. The revelation of her pregnancy on New Year's Eve, after a solemn Mass, found the two sober brothers walking the surprised man out to their farm. A child would be given up to the Catholic orphanage in the next village. The moon was full and close to the earth, close to the ground upon which Springfield now lay, not comprehending, not sensing he should pray for mercy or to Mercy – the blows had ceased to hurt though they continued. His neck about to be snapped, he realized he would never have his dream, never see his child. This, he reasoned, was his sin. His new razor fell out of his knapsack, which contained his galoshes, presents of an illuminated Psalter plus a string of holiday crackers for Rosemary.

***

     The bright morning curved along for Miriam. Long past were the hours of despair when she actually yearned for her childhood captor's mad touch or felt grateful as a woman for his non-stinting attention. Notwithstanding, it sickened her unto her very soul to realize her confidence had grown due to his perforced adventure, yet this had seasoned her for overbearing men with their exhibitions of machismo. But Jack was different.

     That this was sacramental work –confessional or not- was of little concern. Her soft leather case swung out widely as she hastened along. She felt herself to be literally on two planes – the slushy sidewalk plus a moving intellect to complete the task at hand. Miriam entered the Capitalist cathedral as one of Jack's crews stepped out to fetch a smaller chisel for a more detailed piece of work. Thomas was on the far side of the apse, crouching over a plan with Wilhelm and his son Jürgen. She spied them, for even in the shadow his hands were huge, his fingers spread as if to enhance the slivers of sun shooting out between them. Herr Dunkel's footsteps tapped loudly on one of the ironwork staircases, many steps above the atrium; one of the four that could have easily ascended to an organ, choir loft or belfry.

     "Fräulein McCann? I was sure it was you!" His enthusiasm brought a broad smile to her face. Her second plane remained high above her, loitering near Jack's Vitruvius Man, a heart pressing to escape a bony enclosure, a soul terrifically roomed with an uncharacteristic singular clarity within. She circled the staircase after the modern burgher. Facing the north transept, she beheld the disc-shaped window, the twin of the south window. It was transparent with a simple wrought-iron frame divided into a pie-cut.

     The morning sun still spoke in mirrors as it touched the floor, illuminating the marble, glinting upwards to reflect the men working below, bouncing off their chins onto their tools shiny with light. Herr Dunkel opened the door to his shop with a linen napkin, careful not to smudge the golden handle. She saw inside mounds of carpets and fixtures with which to display them, and a card table with a couple of folding chairs. Miriam opened her case immediately, moved a chair close to him, and began helping him choose proper show-room furniture.

     Occasionally, she peeked downstairs, seeing Jack criss-cross the marble floor. She thought, almost said out loud, 'the ritual glorifies the romance; the romance glorifies the ritual.' Whilst working, she could communicate to her messenger. She caught sight of Jack's window, the still-born god. Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus.      Stung again by this quarter of Jack! Miriam turned again; the Vitruvius Man animate below, with the stillness was in the middle distance. Perhaps the god wasn't stillborn, for the only sense either of them could feel fleetingly was the veined beauty of their revived hearts. She quieted, letting the buyer rattle on.

***

     Jack had felt this only once before, his breath freed. His first thought was his madness descending again, an ocean in one ear to blot out human love and on the same side of his face, a black calm theatre – all around him his fellows perceiving and responding to the riveting being he had become through the years. A handsome visage as fleeting as last year's disaster. The pride in his work, especially the rose window of himself, setting himself as a vision of himself before Creation - even in desperation it was an immense vanity. And he knew it.

     A different stillness for him now, one that he had seen in a cleaner reality than he could conceive of, from a blessing wrestled. In a bitter snowstorm he landed at Heathrow Airport and took the tube into London. Jack was on his way to the taxi stand outside Paddington Station Christmas morning when he was hit by a cab that had spun round on a patch of ice and up onto the kerb as he queued up. The bumper hit his right knee, its force launching him atop the bonnet. He thought 'if it doesn't stop, I'll be pulled under the wheels'. Then immediately it happened, he saw the stretch of white before him. Beyond the concrete, beyond the faces, just under the tunnel exit, a milky whiteness hovered, which eased his fear completely. And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved. When next alive to the London world, he was instinctively crawling to the opposite kerb, to get out of traffic. Somewhere in the back of his mind, there was an ironic laugh for and from the man who day-dreamed about killing himself.

     He sat up, in the way babies attempt to, in imitation of their parents to right themselves. Making sure his body worked, with a distant pain soon to overtake him, for he was in shock, Jack moved his hands and fingers. Red drops fell weeping on his black coat and the white snow. Someone ordered him to tilt his head back, pressing a cold, snowy cloth against it, and rather painfully at that. A horrified young man was trembling and running his hand over his face and head. Jack asked him if he was hurt, fearing another injury. The answer came from far away, "No mate, he's the one that hit you." He heard himself say, "Oh."

     The ambulance and police arrived. Jack, with his family summoned, spent half the day in hospital. He scolded himself silently for ruining the holiday for them. But they were grateful and happy to have him back.

     Never would he recant what he had seen that morning: that measure of peace. It had spread before him; Jack could see it. In between the curling up street, touches of green, slashes of buildings. For it seemed much longer than the two or three second count he had been splayed on top of the taxi's cold metal. Indeed, he could reconnoitre in his mind the breadth of the area; the scene was burned into the back of his retinas.

     On New Year's Eve, 33 years exactly after the murder of his father, he succumbed to the rain book of trade. The trade should have been his father's vocation, indeed, his very life. The rain of that cold evening in Berlin would green the king and the land; the experience of the demanding vision could fill a book. The Year rang in and Jack kissed his wife Angel as he hadn't in a good long while. The air was full of strangers rejoicing, and, for some, as they jostled past him, Jack heard their thought processes, or so he believed. Foreheads popped occasionally with the despair he had known well, and he grieved for them, holding his wife tightly about the waist.

     High above the dense alcohol smell, perfume, and human sweat, was the delectable odour of snow, sweet as though slightly sugared. Angel was aware of it too as she lifted her face skywards, breathing in an upper atmosphere. The Thomases, arms about each other's waists located the cabbie stand outside Barbican and rode home to St John's Wood in smiling silence. Through the front glass of the bay window, they saw Angel's mother and their son asleep on the sofa, wearing crumpled party hats with two glasses of sparkling apple cider untouched on their coffee table, strewn with noise-makers and streamers. It was as though there were magic in the window itself.    

     Two months later, Thomas was back in the divided capital.

***

     'I fear it is my own; I despair it is yours too, entrenched, entranced and instilled.' Jack had thought this the evening before, his prickly heart and mind confessed all before sleep came. He continued, analyzing his life. 'Perhaps I am closing in on my own demise, that is, that my mind will eat itself. How long I have trembled before this state! That is why I doubt –my dreams, my senses, my abilities. Yet they seem so real; no they are genuine, at the very least for the affect produced in me. Please Miriam, don't be just another engaging lunatic like me!' Out of his briefcase, in and under a flap that snapped shut at the bottom, he pulled out his journal, a document meant for occasions like the one last experienced in Berlin, accompanied by the self-portrait of his suicide. He wrote first: How I crawled in those days with his narcissism, a dog on its belly, whimpering my sadness for small sin, something or somehow I had no idea how I had wronged or who I had wronged. Nights walking around the wet, running trees in their black trunks held portents. My despair came to the top like separated cream that curdled itself after the first velvety glow.  I was Thomas, the melancholy, the dangerous. My habits were conducive to my weighted soul. Only wind can dry the soaked trees, restore their native colour of dovecote grey or reddish brown; only wind can wrest the promised blessing to the dream-drenched servant. Take him out of night into morning. The crack of Light was given to me in offering, exchange for imperfections. This expunged my egregious self-pity. Having read and reread this to make sure it said all honestly, his eyes blinked at the horror of the stiff words that were the Viking torture of spread-eagle to him. All of the anxious and invidious moments of that first time joined hands to besiege the calm temples and migrate to his forehead.

     It began when I was eighteen in the fall of my gap year. I was a clerk for Edward Richardson and Company, Architects, located on Great Russell Street in the chest of London. My job was to run errands, in the offices and out. Lunch breaks were for drawing in Russell Square. With sketch book and various thicknesses of leads I fled to this open space and drew whatever I fancied: people, clusters of leaves, windows of buildings, imaginary sculpture. I once scooped up a handful of dirt and insects, quickly rendering the scrambling ants and their packs of treasures. In the palm of my hand I could foresee the end of my halcyon days. It took my breath away. Dread chased me that afternoon, dissipating with the clerical work I finished at my position. I was easy in mind once more, returning to habit and my spare moments of creativity. One habit was guessing the identity of my biological father. A man would pass me in the park and I would think, 'Is it you". Was he still with my mother? Stupid and pointless this exercise, I knew. I was still curious. I have no complaints about my adoptive parents, John and Anne Thomas. They were kind to the point of overly solicitous. My mum was already bed-ridden, having been that way since I was teen-ager. The last time she left our home was for my graduation from Stonyhurst. Her chronic lung ailments left her exhausted from living. My da was a banker. His father left him a tidy sum of money. In consequence, his hours at the bank grew shorter as my mum's needs grew larger. Evenings at home weren't quite toil for us; we divided chores like cooking and cleaning. Meals were strictly from her recipes as we had no experience. We urged nourishment down her gullet whilst reading Tennyson and the Brownings. I held her thinning hands each night. When she finally drifted towards fitful slumber after a long day of coughing, I'd pull her shawl tighter around her bones; rearrange the woollen blankets so to be just under chin. One night, my da stood in the half open door way, two whiskies in his hand. He crooked his finger towards me. I got up and kissed my mum lightly and stealthily walked over to him in my stockinged feet. We moved out of the bedroom into the hall. I believe he meant to give me a whiskey; instead, he flung himself around me, noiselessly weeping. I held him, thinking 'this is too little'.

     After examining these events, trying as they were, I have concluded that they did not precipitate my mental break. Something organic, some person related to me passed this on, something carefully concealed from myself before my adoptive parents rescued me from the orphanage. What then? What of my childhood unremembered? What of my child? God curse me if I pass this on to him!

     Despite how one might romanticize true madness, there is not one romantic aspect to it. One moment, you are working, laughing, talking, thinking, and organizing your thoughts. The next moment, you feel that you have been electrocuted: your mind doesn't work properly -thoughts begin and get stuck in a horror film merry-go-round, your bodily nerves jump so often you feel singed. Everything hurts you. The crunch of leaves underfoot, naked switched-on bulbs, conversations within your head, conversations of others. The most awful part is somewhere inside you, you know it's you. I know. I could observe the insane man I had become. I simply broke one day. The precious toy didn't function any longer. It was broken; I was broken. And I couldn't tell anyone. My mum slipped away, unaware of what had become of me. I was grateful for that. Nevertheless, I shut the whole matter out the weekend we buried her. A respite of a few days occurred and I was Jack again, doing what needed to be done. I was left to grieve in peace. Then it came back in full force. My impotent anger warped into despair on top of grief. During this time, my da screwed up inside himself. When we spoke he assumed it was my grief that prevented his naturally garrulous son from being himself. So did my friends, as did those I worked for, I was mechanically operated by the tiny portion of me still functioning. I was prevented again from lamenting for the woman who so graciously took me in and raised me.

     I morphed into the over-compensating imposter of Jack Thomas. Those very few who suspected anything else was amiss spoke so gingerly about it to me I wanted to grin from my small untouched inner mind, wink at them, some sign to let them know I was a captive kept alive by fear of myself. The old adage 'it's darkest just before the dawn' is true! I vouch for it. During two dire winter months I felt compelled by some voice (maybe the inner voice of my true self or the lunatic Jack) to top myself. Finally, I sought psychiatric help. I saw him during my lunch breaks. He wasn't convinced of my collapse; he saw what everyone else saw. That was the man I invented, Jack of the uncorrupted skin. Perhaps it wasn't his fault in that case. No medication was prescribed. The treatment consisted of questioning why I didn't masturbate more. That I was thrown free of the mooring of my mother and therefore, understandably anxious, as an orphan especially. I retorted several times to both lines. Mum could have lived several more years or died last year. I had been prepared (as much as one could be) for this. As for sex, I would have preferred its other masque, death. My honesty compels me to state without prevarication that I kept an old fashioned straight razor well-stropped for just such a purpose. (The razor was the only possession that accompanied me to the orphanage. It was in an envelope with a note that had some scribbling on it.) The power of that simple instrument awed me. I could, at any time, end the fiendish take-over of my mind; conversely, it might be the key to the unrecollected, at least the scribbling on the envelope it was placed in might be some clue. To this day, I carry it with me, using it daily to shave off that Jack.

     As the spring slowly set in, my mind also thawed. I was riding a bus home. It was crowded so I stood. The familiar cityscape sharpened and suddenly I was thinking clearly again! Over the next three weeks, the madness ceased. Why it happened in the first place or why I began healing at that moment I cannot fathom. I only knew I was; I had wrestled some malefactor and had won! I would love to say it never came back; however, that would be categorically false. Its spectre would break in periodically and I would beat it back with all my will. This madness, or threat of it, has driven me to this day. In Berlin after the East German soldier Valentine heroically crossed the border into the West and I led him into my creation, my building, the grip of it loosened to a degree I had never felt. And the accident! My fear was literally knocked out of me. And all my dreams and notions made sense.

     The sense became the prayer; the prayer was simple. 'God, let me see my fellow man as You do.' Not in my limited, egotistical fashions (me, the ever-judging Jack) always focused on my tiny turmoil; but see and feel others in all their nuances, gestures, worries, love, and triumphs. If I can experience this, I can carry empathy always. How You must suffer seeing us do or be complicit in evil; how we shy away from the hurt others bear or ignore the sacrifice made for us, envy what we lack, covet what we do not possess. So it happened, in the midst of their circular pain, I actually saw fear and distress in my family that Christmas Day I was hit by the taxi. My physical pain was outside of me and I knew it was there;  nevertheless, it was agony to watch my young son continually run his hand over his face in imitation of me and to feel the grip and kiss of my Angel upon my hand. My God is love. I will attempt this too. Not in His way, I would die of grief! These glimpses, few but powerful enough, squeeze my soul.'

***

     Nine months before Miriam McCann went back to Berlin, she accompanied her supervisor, Joseph Scanlan, to his apartment overlooking Central Park following a meeting with several of Fortram's Account Executives. He had promised relaxation after the seemingly endless landslide of talks, sales figures, and intensive pep-talks.  Now Scanlan unwound, much to his guest's astonishment. That his speech was languid was not a surprise.

     "And what is the memory of a man's soul? Is it a crossing? Can it be contained in between the time and space before the addict hits the vein and when he keels over in an artificial ecstasy?" asked Scanlan, after releasing his belt from his arm. Miriam forced a smile and thought 'Why did I agree to come here? I hate it. These are the craziest people I've ever met.'

     Scanlan was whispering now. 'This must be the interval,' she replied in her mind. She watched him hit the arm of his sofa, simultaneously speaking words as though rehearsed and learnt by heart for this very act, just for her, "A soul, yes. Ready to be exploded. And experienced, like all people want." Miriam stayed focused on his body. He slipped down the side of his furniture, his head bumped on the floor, his body akimbo. A thunderstorm started as if heroin and rain were the same substance. "Not artificial; real, like you and me."

     Miriam regarded him quizzically, then responded, "Not like me. At all."

     His smile took shape as his words, quietly noble, slid onto the floor with the rest of him, Joseph Scanlan, chief operations manager for Fortram's Office Furniture. His shirt collar flipped up on one side of his cheek. His tie, running silk, inched out of his breast pocket as if to attempt a daring escape. There were more things to say to this lovely, lonely woman. Scanlan always remembered the first glimmer before the first rush:  I wish for revelation in the contraction of the universe… growth will become the pupils of my eyes; the dark light refractions of my two nailed holes, the grey, green, yellow tongue flicked by stick figures in a convex of hazel blue. But Scanlan sagged, his short, burnt-out life fell away from his body, leaving a fully dressed mannequin in its stead. All trouble snatched away and this tall woman stood over him like God Almighty, with an apocalyptic gaze.

     "So what am I to do now?" she said aloud, annoyed. "Do I really have to watch this?"

     This came at him from a distance. He wanted to say, "Stay. Stay with me."

     "If I am not [(in the state of grace)], may God put me there; and if I am, may God so keep me." Heavier the rains poured. Thunder made the building seem lopsided as she peered at her sales mentor sprawled on the floor. She had no umbrella, for the summer morning had been glorious and cool for the time of year. She had simply caught a taxi to go to Fortram's headquarters earlier that day. Who knew it would wind up in the apartment of a junkie in the late afternoon rain? On the living-room table was a bowl of pears. She picked one out, took it to the kitchen sink and washed it. Miriam surveyed the place after she had taken a bite. Excepting the heroin accoutrements and Scanlan lying on the floor, it was actually, well, nice. 'Shouldn't he be living in squalor?' "'The curse is come upon me cried the lady of...'" 

     With her suppressed cry, Scanlan's eyes opened as a newborn's would. "Want some?"

     "Lord, no!" She thought 'How impermanent the world!' She followed his eyes up to the plaster mouldings of the ceiling. One small cobweb shook in time to the falling rain as the storm slackened, then rang out full again.

     "Just wanted you to know we're hospitable, like Southerners."

     "Guess I was expecting, oh, something like seeing the sights, dinner, a show."

     "Really? But this is so much more. Original." Scanlan sank back. Miriam returned to gazing at his ceiling, where his eyes rested, unblinking as though there was to be treasure had if only one concentrated. A spider scrambled to the cobweb, where it's now dusty secreted silk could be repaired. 'Should I stay to make sure he doesn't die?' She cocked her head at him, and he finally blinked. Curiously, she didn't feel cheated by her host. Finishing her pear, she tossed the core in the trash and washed her hands. She retrieved her purse and then walked over to the man and knelt down over him. He was living, somewhere. She made for the door, noting its many locks. None were turned or bolted; this was worrisome to her. She didn't want to leave Scanlan unprotected. They didn't lock doors where she was from, which was why she hadn't paid attention before.

     It then occurred to her why she shouldn't leave. Scanlan could support her in her bid to return to Berlin. She hadn't discerned why she had been sent before. A more experienced person should have done the job. She understood she had been there to get "the lay of the land.' There had been a discussion of returning only this morning. Scanlan was tapped to go back. Miriam would go in his place, but with his knowledge and full support.

     A new client! The brilliant English architect whose joint venture utilizing Germany and her workers and craftsmen, American-style furnishings, and an imposing German Gothic building, replete with French rose window readied itself to be born. The massive structure would stare down the Berlin Wall and its Godless keepers. This was but part of the whole lie Miriam mused. In Berlin, the Wall epitomized one type of rationalization. Its equal and opposite was a sunless sprint away, where God was kept in small houses and deep pockets.

     Suddenly, to her right side, a shape of gold consumed half of her eye; its flecks moved over her entire field of vision. It darkened and melted. Miriam was still standing at the door when the vision passed and she was aware of the thunder and rain moving off. An unsought grace collided with her predicament.

     Behind her, Joseph Scanlan stirred. His limbs were brick and mortar to be moved out of his way he reasoned, yet he was able to prop himself up against the sofa. As a child he asked, "Are you leaving?"            

     "I was, but I've changed my mind." She smiled as she turned; placing her purse on the coffee table Scanlan had narrowly missed when he sank down. There were art and design books neatly arranged upon it (obviously read), and the latest Fortram's corporate newsletter was given pride of prominence. Except for his eyes and his trousers askew, Scanlan maintained a lucid, calm demeanour. Traffic outside sped up after the storm. The windows facing the sun gleaned with rain drops.

     "You missed the storm," she said, debating whether to sit on the sofa or a chair further away from him. He continued his upward climb.

     "No, I didn't. It sounded fantastic. A thousand percussionists."

     Miriam was flooded with tenderness for him when she heard this, an individual reaching for another place, albeit provided his material means. She sat on his sofa and imagined herself stroking his hair to comfort him. Scanlan was beyond her comfort. 'Wounded, you plead with man; healed, you live with God.' "Where are you from, Joseph?"

     Her query caught him off-guard. "Um, small town, in Ohio." His eyes hardened inwardly, thinking of that plot and time, his family. "I couldn't wait to get out. As soon as I could. Went to college after 'Nam. My school is a few blocks from here; got a job at Fortram's and stayed. I never went back, never looked back, maybe in anger."

     "What about your family?"

     "You're spoiling it. Let's talk about something else." And with a gigantic heave, Scanlan hoisted himself up on his sofa, sitting on a tiny drop of blood from his vein. Miriam noted the needle-marks previously, but saw his wrist had been cut, and a whitish scar blanched and braided his forearm running almost to his hand. His own quarter century burned behind him. What could she do for him? He was within himself once more.

     On the table was also a new volume, something produced by the company. Ad copy, photographs of new and refurbished buildings, the appropriate Fortram's furniture to match the interiors, and a page book-marked. She thumbed through to this indication, coming to the last completed structure of Jack Thomas: a Greco-Roman building with a large portico, like a temple. There was a frieze near the top, with smaller photos of some of the details –exquisite profiles of men and women in masks facing the centre, larger mask, which was a full portrait looking out of an abbreviated face, the pupils carved out, the neck and shoulders visible. Who was it? Which god? Why masks? As she puzzled over it, Joseph came to her again, waking her out of her concentration. He swivelled his head, laying a finger on the photograph. "That's the new client."

     Startled, Miriam placed her hand next to his finger. Did he mean the actual head relief or the building personified? Scanlan's was a conspiratorial grin. "It's both." As if he could read her mind! "I met him, Thomas, he's crazy intense. They say in every building there's a self-portrait lurking somewhere. And that my dear, is front and centre. Art and life, art and life."

     She responded coolly after a moment, "I'd like to meet him. Can I go back to Berlin?"

     "Sure. You can come with me."

     She thought, 'Not a chance. I feel sorry for you, but I need to go alone. I can't conceive of you in our plan. And I'll bet you're surprised that I'm not attracted to you even though you're handsome. But your habits clearly make you the crazier candidate between you and this architect.'

     He regarded her uneasily; her manner; he couldn't fit this Miriam into his opiated blood brain. As he tried, he nodded off, leaning towards her. Catching him first with her left hand and shoulder, she put the book back on the table, and addressed the falling body of Scanlan, who was apparently slipping towards the floor again.  As she rose, she cradled his torso, pulling his legs up with her other hand. His head lolled. He directly resembled a man sleeping on his sofa when she was finished.

     Not knowing how long he would be in this blissful state -Miriam assumed it was blissful from his expression – she picked up the volume, taking it to the living-room table to study this particular content. Actually Miriam wanted to scrutinize the pictures and copy of the creation and the architect. 'Was it him?' She had had intimations that she, Miriam McCann, was indeed His instrument. However, she couldn't manage all facets necessary to carry forward. Her hopes were sky high. Plus she was troubled and fascinated by the images she beheld.

     What of these masks? Was there really a self-portrait of this architect in every building? Was it pride or covetousness that would drive someone to such extremes? The centre bas relief sculpture, even partially hidden, was beautiful. (It is the heartbreak of every sentient being that has dedicated itself to something higher than itself that it is often tempted or bewildered by others. It is part of the process; one deals with it as best one can. But who cannot be the least tempted by beauty? Is not beauty part of the good? Whilst evil engages in pleasing forms and robs us of our sense, is there not some level we can attain to that we may tell good from its evil counterpart? Call it gut-level. To whit, if we cannot tell them apart, it is because we have chosen to ignore our deepest sense of selfhood, i.e., the 'felt sense, the one we have relied on since infancy.) Miriam's thoughts and scruples carried her far. It remained an unsettled issue for her as she continued to look with her bodily eyes.

     Yet the radiance of the art was inescapable and excoriating. "Pulchra enim dicuntur quae visa placent." The Will, her will bound to God, said yes. She could begin to construct the plan to propel her to her mission.

     As she explored the book, Miriam continually turned back to the short section on Jack Thomas. The temple/building was located in Dublin, near Trinity College. The Greek motif of Poseidon's waves became designs from the Book of Kells on the right side of the building to reflect where the volume was kept. The designs looped around in circles squared until they rested at the front of the building with the intricate frieze of masked heads. Inside, it was a bank with burgundy chairs, black cherry desks and teller fronts appointed with brass fittings and Kelly green lamps. The long windows on three sides made perfect use of daylight. She imagined the vault door with the head of Apollo. It was not the didactic, but the side where the soul tends, the nascent.  Every so often Scanlan stirred, as the thick, slick paper folded over in between her fingertips. He was mystified by her. He thought he understood her. He was mistaken. So Scanlan wandered back to his euphoria, unabashed.

     Preparing to enjoy the Zeitgeist of Berlin again would be an easy task for Miriam McCann. She would glean the married fields of East and West Germany as Ruth for hunger and love. Another storm was in the offing. Adorned with the prickly gold that she so welcomed, her psyche rose to greet her new Master readily, wherever she was, no matter what she occupied with, the garnered angel brought news.

     When she was almost thirteen, her instinct was proven, for she encountered an inward stigma, the disavowal of her surroundings at large, the appetite for the sublime and sorrow: acting. There was more: besides piercing her conscious, Miriam beheld a course to move in the unroyal realm of society. She suffered sweetly the haze of calling. Something had attempted to catch her down in its faith banquet immediately following Headmaster Ken Calgary's death. But her whole being shut out heaven and earth. Miriam dutifully continued her excellent schoolwork. Her parents attended "Antony and Cleopatra" and she shone as Iras. Her mother seemed not to notice Calgary's absence. Perhaps she was concentrating on her daughter's new-found gift; or, perhaps her vanity prevented her from noticing anything not directly connected to her at the moment.

     Arriving home in Virginia from her hated Northern prep school, Miriam wanted to see her friends as quickly as possible. She assumed that she would find normality and peace once more and she had missed them terribly. Yet something incessantly knocked in her ears as she unpacked in her seemingly large and over-decorated room. The next afternoon she went to visit Pierce Clark, who had grown taller than her in the intervening months. Things were not quite the same. He was comfortable to be with, yes; but they were both growing up, and Miriam was stunned at how boyish he was still. They walked out of his backdoor across a fallow field and turned onto a reddish-brown path that led to the large pond, as lambs across fields to the still water. Oh my Deathless Rider you spoke to Him and He restoreth my soul. And now I will fear no evil. As young teenagers, they leaned in towards one another, voices in low tones, grappling with understanding – though not events, trials endured while walking into heat and through the flames. Their seriousness of nature still bound them together. Today it deepened, for in the afternoon each would begin to discern a vocation. They were not culpable; they were the sacrifice: she the victim, he the slaughter-stone.  Pierce left her in a haze of sun-shadows. Her heart quieted in the ripples of the pond where he had tossed a rock. The steadfast yearning, undefined, indefinable where the soul tends toward the Divine and winds its way up Jacob's ladder, yet weightless and papery and prepared for the Enchantment of the Heart. Summon if you will, those genuine moments of enchantment – when you stood as if in a tableau of lovers. But you are to one side, yet can gaze upon all that a human can, and you can, if quiet, hear all their mouths to others, to all, to every part of their veined souls. So it came, a blissful voice, discovering Miriam with her knees drawn up and her arms wrapped about them. She immediately became as alert as any human can. She heard her name called. It was as if the voice was but ten feet behind her. She said nothing as her breath caught. It called again; she looked around. There was nothing or no one in the willow leaves, simply the cast up light from the pond and the sun bouncing to and fro in the leaves and branches. Miriam wanted to say 'Here I am' and wanted to run. Her breathing was shallow and quick; her heart connived at ripping through her chest cavity, stopping at her thigh muscles. Someone gently laid a hand on her right shoulder. She felt its slight pressure. The Voice was the Light and the invisible body. Miriam calmed; her tears flowed. She thought 'Thank you, thank you'. Her acting dissolved into a child's peace. 'Dominie non sum dignus.' The Voice assured her she was, more. She wept again. Next she was alone, crying harder. Miriam's arms let go of her knees. Her legs slid out in front of her. Her upper arms and hands were sore. Waiting some minutes, she stood up carefully, and began the walk back to the path. The willow leaves sang in the early summer breeze off the water. She slowly wandered back to the house of her parents.

     All through the summer, Pierce observed her decidedly trod past his home, out of sight and kin. He followed her thrice to the pond, spying on her. Miriam would sit quietly by the pond in the shade of the willow. She was still, as if meditating on a great mystery; her face enkindled, responsive, and she did not see him. Then she would cry longingly. He was upset for her. He attempted to wheedle out the matter when he caught her coming back from the pond the third time. Miriam smiled at his concern, telling him not to be.

     Peirce confessed his spying to her. "Miriam, we're friends, right? When I see you cryin' it gets me tore up inside. Did something happen at school? I can help."

      She blushed; held out her hand to him. "Yes, something has happened. I need time, Pierce. I know you'll always look out for me. That's a comfort in this world." She squeezed his hand. They stayed this way for several minutes. Though he still didn't understand, he let her go.

     Jim McCann thought she has a boyfriend. Nathalie McCann told her not to get into any trouble. They were amazed at how rapidly her self-confidence grew. "No, no boyfriend," she said finally when asked, "My friends are giving me advice for my future." For the Voice had tripled, and charged her with certain tasks. She would need to control herself to inspire others.

     The next school year descended rapidly with Miriam becoming studiously piquant, for she was informed she needed this trick to survive. She did as she was commanded and began to dominate the most popular clique, despite her being the junior member. Miriam moved effortlessly and mysteriously through the pack as though she was the one who held the leashes. She successfully acted the part thoroughly in every respect at the school; people and events revolved around her. And the stain of her rape was removed from her by her obedience to her Voices; the girl was made whole, as when she was a child.

     When she graduated from prep, she was more beautiful than even Calgary could have foretold. She was energetic yet calm, whispers from Beyond came through her. Her parents plotted the next time-slot of their daughter's life; moreover her mother was choosing her husband. None of that, heavenly words caressed her inner ears and brought her an easeful pain (for Miriam had not been told what was yet to come) in the night, during the day she mustered all her charms. "My soul doth magnify the Lord," was her as a pattern, reading and re-reading the Gospel, rifling down the words to her soul so as to be at the ready.

     This continued through her college years, from which she graduated early, as she was becoming frantic at being in one place too long. 'What is it, Lord? What time shall it be?' With her restlessness came a spiritual dryness. For months Miriam thought she was forsaken. She began to imagine she had imagined it all, a reflex, a shield against her rape, her daily dose of pain. She vacillated between thinking this way and believing her own impetuousness had brought on the acute absence of her Company.

     Miriam recorded her twisting emotions only once; perhaps believing to write them out as a play she would act in. But it was no bit of theatre. 'Shadows, shadows I say, are the entertainment and cause of our short pretty play. I endured a trial by an evil man who languishes and babbles silently within. That's what I was; that's all I was! A head full of notions and the outward manifestation of Venus! I strangled the child Miriam's torment; nonetheless I am her, handcuffed to the shaming, defined days of my girlhood. When I replay the events my diaphragm tightens; I can't get any air. I flail in mind so must desist before it shows.  I have tried, God in heaven, to resign myself to what has happened. I live and hope! My college days were festooned with boyfriends at bay, lusty pals, and theatre, and of course, hard studying with the ever-deepening resolve to wait and be patient.  I continued to attend Mass regularly but often my prayer choked my mouth and lay lifeless in my hands.

     No man touched me intimately again. I know what they thought: frigid, aloof. My solace waxed into my job. I majored in marketing and minored in literature. I was so shiny out of college; I reflected back to potential employers exactly what they wanted to see. I came in at Fortram's Office Suppliers as a Junior Marketing person, working accounts and people like dough. After a year, I was promoted and left for my first overseas trip. Fortram's was as proud of me as if they had birthed me themselves. I contented myself with this. When I returned from West Germany where I had visited Pierce at his Army posting there, I went to see his parents to give them news of him. They thanked me. Leaving, I gazed over down the path, ambling down as when as I was a girl. The pond was strewn with October leaves and that is the entire natural world that I recollect. My Voices called, and this time I obeyed and waited for Them to direct me.'

     Where once there was a trick of humanity, there became the smell of the Saints. They were longed for, but unbidden and she ran through the woods to the smell of roses and water, unaware at first that she was crying. The odour and the proof not for mathematicians or the faint of heart but for those who wear the blue and golden crown. How heavy the march shall be; how calmly she assented, she was dying for the dispensing of the His Blood.

     Miriam was once more rendered in the pain and glory of her inner life. She knew she was called to act, yet did not know what she was to do. Her taught patience won the day; she would be informed. So back and forth to her job she went and waited, until the Warrior Angel summoned her in the coffee shop next to Fortram's in Richmond where the land slopes to the river bottom and the remnants of old battles: arrowheads, musket balls, and bullets could still found in between the rocks and bricks. The smell of the Saints again and she was lost; fortune at its best.

     Joseph Scanlan was a marred soldier, someone who had wandered back from the War with more psychic wounds than when he left. This of itself was not surprising; it was the retreat from life before and after that stamped him. The mark was heroin addiction. This human being would succumb to his pronounced fate. Miriam reached out and her hand hovered over his face, wanting to wake him, trip time up, and with this came the instantaneous fore-knowledge that his self-immolation was her ticket to Berlin, and her message. "Deliver it back to God."

***

     'Desire; what shapes it creates! It is truth behind every fact and every lie. It is beauty and lust for what is beautiful. It is how one waits upon the pleasure of God; it is how He waits upon our pleasure in Love. This is in turn both Him and His Creation. It is a multitude of passions that fold in upon each other, thence to spring up as Desire once more. Such is creation for humanity: from our first glimpse of the Divine, right up until our attempts to turn away from it to form our own feeble worlds. When we return, it is out of our hunger for Desire.'

     This artist Jack Thomas philosophized in his journal whilst being transfixed by his rose window. Quite like the blood to drain into his shoes when he recalled his last visit, when he was the genius of despair. 'I thought I was a lone cipher, up above in my window, drying in sunlight. Today, I can walk away from that Thomas, peer over my shoulder at his husk. Before me is my stained glass, a newly created new body and soul.'

     And Jack Thomas turned away from the window. With designs in hand for the metal work, a desire for God, and a desire for Miriam to stop by and see his work, he waited. As the afternoon wore on, he realized she had already gone. The workers were tired and dusk was upon the city. Bidding each other Auf Wiedersehen, they filed out, Jack leaving last. Next, with august deliberation and speed, he was drawing on the cocktail napkins at his Stammlokal, drinking a whiskey. With her mercurial poise, Miriam stood several paces away, watching him. Her heels clicked on the floor, but he did not hear her. This quiet pub was a favourite amongst the older men; it had survived the Nazis, the Soviets, and the push of the younger Germans - all the Faustian promises of fortune had missed their target. Jack could stay here for hours, drawing and thinking.

     "Hello. What are you drawing?" Miriam asked in a pleasant, low voice. She was once again framed in light, this time from a street-lamp outside, with the shadow of another soul homeward bound.

     He was startled; he had been awakened from his draughtsman's dream. "Scrollwork." He was at a bow in the bar. She motioned and ordered, "Wein, Riesling. Bitte." She stood over him. "May I see? What's it…oh, it's railings."

     The barkeep sat the glass in front of her. No emotion registered on his face; nevertheless, Jack knew the unspoken rules of such an establishment. "Let's move to the back booth," he said very quietly, gathering his napkin drawings. Miriam was unfazed by the stares, all the same she understood. She had invaded male domain. As she was still dressed in her business attire, Jack hoped they viewed her as someone he worked with, meaning she would leave soon. The booth was high-backed with a small lamp of its own. Miriam gave him her napkin, suppressing a smile.

     "I pray I haven't gotten you into any trouble. From the looks of things, there hasn't been a female presence in here for, oh, fifty years," she said, leaning over the table-top.

     "Ah! You are wrong, Fräulein! I saw the owner's wife, at least I think it was his wife, behind the bar taking money from the cash till a few months ago."

     "I'll bet the men collectively sighed relief when she left, in sympathy of course."

     "How ever did you guess?"

     "I don't guess. I know." For a moment Jack believed she did really know. "Can I see the entire drawing?" She spoke softly yet forcefully.

     Thomas assembled the napkins end to end, facing her side of the table. She was visibly delighted. Inside each section of railing was the scrollwork which contained an object motif: an apple, a tree, an apple again, and a sapling in each recurrent section. Miriam joined her hands together, pressing her mouth to them, then spoke, "This is marvellous! You could have been, well, you are a great artist. An artist, an architect, and an engineer, like da Vinci."

     For a second, there was a crack in his mind, recalling the drawing of himself as a suicide. He collected himself, for he knew she had seen it; so few did see his palpable pain, or cared to. "What have I said Jack?" She reached across the table and rested her hand on his arm.

     "I had to choose. I like order, lines, and angles. Easily measured. I didn't have rich patrons. So I chose architecture and it pays well. Besides, I still draw, as you can see." His jaw relaxed, satisfied at his answer. "Let's… hmm." He leaned out of the booth to look.

     "Let's take a walk," she offered, taking up the napkins for him. "Here you go."

     Thomas tucked it away in his large leather notebook, zipping it shut. He had forgotten what day it was; he realized he needed to call home. "Miriam, can we meet later tonight for dinner? I must ring my family."

     "Certainly. Where and when?"

     "There's a lovely French café near my hotel in the Tiergarten called 'Cecile'. They serve Breton dishes. At half eight? Would that be all right? Fine, here's the address." He wrote it with his mechanical pencil on another napkin at the end of the bar. Miriam still had her wine; she took a sip holding it gently by its stem and moved it back to the barkeep.  "Until then." Checking his watch, he slipped by her, moving rapidly through the crowd.

     Miriam McCann was touched and amused. The traffic light turned, and she crossed the street, humming back to her suite. 'How to begin' she wondered. She shook her head. Her Voices would tell her, so she was easeful in her mind. They had told her it was to be him. She dropped her portfolio in a chair, and changed her shoes to a pair of lower heels. Miriam walked back to the Capitalist cathedral. The Brandenburg Gate drew her close. A large sign proclaimed: 'Achtung Sie ver lassen jetzt West – Berlin'. ("Attention: You are leaving West Berlin".) She walked the half-circle of Ebertstraβe.

     The Brandenburger Tor is a neoclassical complex modelled on the gate to the Acropolis, and Miriam admired it afresh, knowing an architect. She had toured Berlin on the last trip with her long-time friend now an army officer, Lieutenant Pierce Clark, and read about it before seeing it. Recalling the description, she strained to see the Quadriga, a large sculpture atop the Gate, of a woman charioteer pulled by four horses. The first debut of the Quadriga was as Peace; shortly thereafter as Victoria (after routing the French) with the addition of the Prussian eagle and iron cross. The unfortunate third incarnation was to be the start of Nazi parades marching east down Straβe unter der Linden. Pierce had told her this, along with its reclaiming as the symbol it had originally been before he Second World War. President Kennedy made his famous "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech  in front of the Tor, with the Soviets hanging great curtains on the East side to prevent 'spying' by that half of the citizens of Berlin and the West in general into the lopped off section of the city as their Wall continued to be built up. What struck Miriam now as she stood before the ugly warning sign, underneath the mini-sun arc lamps designed to catch the fleeing and provide unflattering lighting, was that she was peering up at the back of the Quadriga with its stone wings visible only, the bulk of the piece driving off into the totalitarian side of night. 'I see the back of the wings, like an especially angled angel, like Jack! Is it Peace or Victory that drives the chariot?' She turned away; immediately she sensed time and distance flowing back from her and the din of traffic muffled, as though she had conch shells clapped to either ear. "Here," said her known pair of wings. Assenting, she managed the few paces to a taxi she hailed to the restaurant Cecile.

     So upon arriving at the appointed time of their second dinner together, Miriam noted that the place was located just on the border between the English section where Jack stayed and the French section named Wedding. Jack stepped smartly behind her, appearing happy and relaxed.  They were seated at a table near a small bar. Upon ordering wine and stuffed potatoes, Jack began to speak of his family. He seemed so content; it was difficult to reconcile this man with the high-strung architect Herr Dunkel and Scanlan had spoken of, and yet she saw both men in one. What engaged her interest were both men Jack appeared to be. After the first glass of wine, Thomas talked freely of the car accident. Indeed, he confessed, he hadn't told anyone about what he had experienced. She quietly listened to every detail, tears stood in her eyes, eventually falling. Jack stopped talking, ashamed of his candour, and of making her cry.

     "God, I'm sorry. I'm OK; fine actually. It was a great moment in my life. Please do believe me!"

     "Yes, yes! I'm moved; sometimes I'm very emotional." The dinner was cleared away, and once again, they drank brandy together.

     "Jesus still gives thanks to His Father. Did you know that Jack?" Her posture was straight; her hands were folded, resting on the table-cloth. "I have been sent here by the King of Heaven. I am here to deliver His message; I have been instructed to do so soon." She slid her brandy over to him, as he had finished his own.

     "By whom again?' His spine, where his cranium attached at the back of his neck, tingled unpleasantly. 'Please, please, don't be crazy! It makes me feel crazy.'

     This time it was Miriam who spoke candidly and liberally. Miriam remained in the same position throughout her soliloquy. She never faltered; her calm at her tale never lowered or lifted her voice. She relayed to him her past, and how, a mere half hour ago she was instructed where her mission was to take place. She finished and her eyes welled with more tears, but this time stopped quickly.  "The Voices and the Light are the same. And to answer your question, it is God, speaking through his saints and Angel."

     Thomas came to himself thinking about a short note he had written in his journal, about what he had been and done, what he would do if confronted again.

     -A Treatise on the Disordered Life. You Jack Thomas with your interior mysterious knowledge: angles and angles, the right and Euclidian dotted lines with one pointing towards the horizon and one up to the Staircase! This blank horizon made of milk seen by you was one of the infinitesimal faces of God. Your white stretch is Our White made of all colours, be it rapture of flower or rupture of snow, the brightest star in God's shoulder in His gentle, serene black space. It was your charm that decimated you: the inspired rendering, to envision things that have not been before. Your affections became disordered: professio super vita. What will you do for Him, now that you have seen Peniel and met His messenger? What will you render right here? Or will you continue to work only for Jack? Worry about your heart instead of your mind.-

     "My skin, my bones, my mortal body are in the service of His Body, which I consume as my Bread, and therefore, my life," remarked the vision-soaked messenger, here in the night, with a course as plain as day, contemplation into action.

     They walked out into the street bustling with traffic, which the waxing crescent moon made swift shades of, concentrating the murky elements into sudden streaks of light. Jack apprehended that she was resigned to her fate. She loved and lived in God, recalling, "His ways are not our ways."  She was as a child as she spoke this.

     They parted with his promise of help. As she strode off, Jack knew she would be hard to miss; it was not as though she could simply wander across as she wanted to do (it occurred to him that that was probably the point). Miriam was big and bold. Nearly six feet tall and well-proportioned plus thick, long chestnut hair and slate stained eyes under a high forehead, perfectly set over prominent cheekbones, a slightly aquiline nose, with a mouth that needed no artificial colour, with her jaw alive when not neatly squared, much as his own. He smiled to himself for he recognized this same aspect in himself: he was her blond opposite.

     Thomas walked home. His blond hair fell in disarray over his equally light eyebrows and grey eyes. His skin, normally pale, was a faded gold colour from his sunny Baltic holiday a time ago. The aquiline nose seemed to violently pull away from the face and thence down. The mouth was bow shaped, in contrast with the square chin. His cheekbones and jaw muscles were what made his face so extra-ordinary. They possessed a life of their own; animated, flexing and readjusting themselves, independent of the speaker. March snow began to dust his great coat, and he wondered vaguely if she had beckoned him that night in Café Novalis because of this doppelgänger effect. No, it was something else. The girl/woman knew all about his adventure, his architecture, yet had never seen a photograph of him….but, the self-portraits in his buildings! This wasn't it either; the only one visible was the masked relief on the Dublin bank. Jack Thomas was hidden to the known world.

     "We thought we were alone."

     The architect's detailed drawing would provide Miriam with a plan, a route to take. "Et venio in campos et lata praetorian memoriae." His soul-house was yet laden with past grief; he could easily cave in. He descended and ascended daily, nay keeping the liturgical hours. 'Who calls her?  Domine non sum dingus! ' This steadfast yearning, undefined, indefinable; the soul tending towards God. Then Jack thought: 'My plans might as well be paper airplanes for all the good they will do her.'

***

     Richard Krenckel washed his hands. He pulled several sheets of rough hand-towels out of the shiny box to dry them. He wiped his mouth with the wettest one, then began to button the remaining three on his shirt. His uniform jacket proclaimed his rank of Captain in the National People's Army, although he was also in the Staatssicherheit, State Security. He wasn't sure why he had been transferred to the new core unit of the division guarding the Wall, although he had certainly heard the rumours of one of their own defecting. The humiliation lay with the CO who had chosen such poor men for this important task. But Captain Krenckel was up to the task of replacing the criminally indolent and discovering Western sympathizers. He shot the prostitute, who was an older woman, a stern glance still leisurely getting dressed in the mirror. She sped up while he finished adjusting his belt and holster, and set his cap at a slightly rakish angle. When he turned round, she too was finished. He gave her a kiss on the cheek. "Fräulein," he said slyly, cruelly to assure her of just where she ranked in his world. Krenckel did not hear her flop back down of the bed. 'So much for lunch. They'll have food at the briefing.'

     Captain Krenckel was shiny and swift, the rising star of the Stasi. He walked everywhere he could, especially in his Berlin. Yes, it kept him fit. Each street and building not flattened made him proud. Hilda, his mother, was giving birth to him when the Soviets ran up the steps of his home, searching for snipers. His father was caught red-handed catching his son in his own undershirt. The soldiers screamed at Georg Krenckel, pointed their rifles at his head. He calmly ignored them, exhorting his wife to give one last push. She did, and Richard was born. Georg showed off his son, still seated on the floor. His left leg had been blown off above the knee by the Resistance a year ago, and his wife's kerchief covered the socket where his eye had been.

     They lowered their weapons upon a command from their Sergeant. "Sick of death," he said in broken German. He sang out for something behind and away from him. His mottled face softened as he beheld Georg scoot along the floor with his child to his wife. Richard was tenderly laid on his mother's breast. The couple looked up surprised. A medic and the Sergeant motioned for the baby. He was cleaned up, so was Hilda, then she was stitched. The company of men, including Georg, drank some vodka and took turns puffing on the stub of a cigar. Georg finally understood. The Sergeant took a grimy letter out of his great coat breast pocket, explained that he too, had a new son. Then they left, leaving behind a woollen blanket. The Krenckel home was restored after the War and the Soviets came to power, thanks to their neighbours. Richard's parents were just as proud of him as the day he was born. In fact he lived in the room where his birth had taken place. He was expected to live there, with his spouse.

     The neighbours' house also was restored when the original owners reclaimed it. Their baby girl named Ute was born under an Austrian railroad bridge, high up under the embankment where the damaged supports yet held high the span across the mountains. The girl's father, Matthias von Schumann, also assisted in the birth, in much the same manner as Georg Krenckel. The von Schumanns had been hiding there since their miraculous escape from Auschwitz in 1943. The tattooed numbers on their bodies were the least humiliation they suffered. They were Communists, and Ruth's grandmother was Jewish. She vehemently disavowed her parents and family when they refuted her beliefs. She never saw any of them again. Ruth and Matthias evaded capture; the Soviets liberated parts of Germany and Berlin, and they wept and went home. The von Schumanns had been professors and propaganda writers in the Weimar Republic and the Third Reich; they were restored to their former positions in the new German Democratic Republic as exemplary citizens. Later, not even Captain Krenckel would know they were under constant surveillance.

     The parents of each child had been friendly for years. Georg was a mechanic and Hilda a hausfräu. They loved reading and music and occasionally, attended concerts with their neighbours. The Krenckels studiously avoided politics so were never in conflict with the von Schumanns and never swept up in Hitler's fury.  However, in due time, the von Schumanns were shoved out of their front door early one morning as George was adjusting his suspenders. He didn't tell Hilda until after the SS had questioned them about those disloyal to the Reich. Ruth had mentioned once her Jewish roots. Hilda cried when she learned of the von Schumanns fate. Georg joined the army that day, knowing of his and his wife's fate if he didn't. So when the von Schumanns came back the Krenckels were happy to see them again. They shared what little they had, rejoiced over their infants, and in return, Matthias parted the miasma to get Georg an artificial limb plus proper treatment for his festering socket wound. This prompted Hilda to baby-sit Ute for Ruth when she got a job. Ute and Richard grew up together. They were inseparable. Life was good never speaking of the past.

     As the children grew up, their curiosity about things not spoken about bubbled up. Hilda, exasperated by questions, got the other three together. They radically decided to talk to the children, but in a personal manner. They showed off some their wounds. Georg took off his prosthetic leg and Ute gingerly touched the stump. 'Did it hurt?' Richard saw the bayonet wound in Matthias's side, then the tattooed numbers on he and Ruth.  He was impressed. But it was a sanitized version. For Richard and Ute, their parents were heroes, struggling against Hitler and the West. Such bravery!

     As young teenagers, Ute and Richard began to hold hands, aware of each other's inner and outer beauty. It was only natural that they should as they did towards one another. After, school and homework, they walked through the city, observed the city blocks of rubble cleared away for new buildings. These did not shoot up as rapidly as the two young people. Late on Sunday afternoon, absorbed in each other, they failed to notice two shabby men following them. They were returning home, passing a new building site.

     "Juden, Juden!" The men shouted. The pair quizzically turned around, craning their necks and bodies. They sneered and pointed at Ute. Their lungs and throats couldn't expel their ugliness fast enough. "Juden, Juden!"

     Richard held her hand tightly and yanked her. They ran through back through the building site, for this was a short cut home. But positioned inside a dump truck was the leader, a former guard from Auschwitz. He had recognized Matthias and Ruth on a streetcar weeks ago. He trailed them back to their home, to their places of work, peered through their windows, then had seen the dark-haired daughter undressing through slightly parted curtains in the suburban home. He lived in a concrete apartment building, sharing it with young socialist workmen. That was it. Since no one else seemed to know about the mother, a prominent party member, the guard would take her daughter. A random rape and killing in the perfect proletariat state. Hatred of how the subhuman Ruskies ruled him from afar when he was a specimen of the master race. His revenge on the girl would not expose him or his secret meetings of former low level Nazis. The guard and his minions, from the Hitler youth, would inspire his fellows.

     The guard swung the door of the dump truck open, hitting Richard's sternum violently. His face was stuck on the rubber of the open window frame momentarily, then the guard kicked it, and Krenckel fell backwards on some crushed rock and concrete. He was unconscious for several minutes. He awoke to sounds: crushing, screaming, cackling. "Take that Jew, better your mama should have died in the camp, eh?" With the last human sound, Richard was on his feet, sledgehammer in his hands. He would always remember the blood and brains spread over the concrete, truck, and clothes, and the pure white of the bones clawing their way out of the flesh of the men; not much else. Soldiers patrolling the building sites where at the next one, heading towards where Richard and Ute ran partially through. They heard screams. Both men ran and saw the rape occurring. The private radioed for his comrades patrolling in their Jeep. The corporal rested his rifle on a lone slab of a retaining wall and sited a man standing up, buttoning his trousers. Richard saw the bullet pass cleanly through the guard's head. When he fell, Richard swung down on his genitals, then let the hammer drop. When the soldiers arrived, they found Richard cradling Ute. He rode in the ambulance, speaking to her quietly. She nodded once and seemed to be at peace; she died an hour later.

     Within a year, the von Schumanns left Germany for Israel. Richard Krenckel and the two soldiers were hailed as heroes for uncovering a small cell of Nazis -just the three men; the others were caught and executed but never mentioned in the news- and punishing them justly. The rape of Ute was proof once again of the decadent West. After the small ceremony, the young man and his parents rode home in a beautiful new car, owned by the GDR, for the people. He went up to his room and didn't leave it for a week. Hilda left food and drinks for him, and found only the water gone. When he came downstairs at last, his bearing was straight. His face was as taut as a stretched animal skin his as apprehension grew. Society turned over and its onion skin was peeled away. Lies were what were worshipped in his world. Only a clean shot was the genuine article.

     His personality became bland and dulled to most other beings as an adult. If he had a conscience now it certainly did not appear to prick him – even as he considered himself superior to officers who out-ranked him. Why he had been chosen for a new assignment was simply a matter of confidence in himself. So he stepped into the nondescript headquarters to be filled-in on his job, his boots smartly echoing in the corridors down to where the lift was, down to the basement. At the end of yet another tunnelled maze was Colonel Lubek's office. This seemed fitting to Krenckel, as the man looked like a mole: desperately small eyes with thick spectacles, a snout instead of a nose, weak chin. How Lubek even got into the army was the speculation of all those who knew him. Krenckel knocked, greeted from behind the door and crossed the threshold. The Captain saluted Lubek, towering over him like a crane placing blocks. He sat where indicated, and was offered coffee and sandwiches by Lubek's pretty assistant, as he expected. What he did not anticipate was the magnitude of his assignment.

     "You've heard of the English architect Thomas, the one who blatantly tempted, no encouraged a good soldier to desert his post and defect? Lubek asked, biting every word with his squeaky voice.

     "I didn't know his name, sir," Krenckel answered, wiping the corners of his mouth with a tiny square of napkin.

     "No reason you should have." He gave him a dossier on Thomas, newly typed. "Ivana, close the door as you leave and take care that I'm not to be disturbed." Krenckel discretely eyed her as she left. His hands placed on his knees, his back straight, he waited patiently for Lubek to direct him. "Read this tonight. Come back here at o-nine hundred hours tomorrow, giving me a detailed plan on how you will be ridding us of this man. I understand you're an excellent marksman. Captain, you are dismissed."

     A kill! Krenckel was ecstatic.

***

     How is it with the life of a saint?

                                                       "Ah women, women! Come; we have no friend
                                                            But resolution, and the briefest end."

     Just after dawn the next morning, the conversation and promise of Thomas dangling in her mind, Miriam sat in the back of a church, still pock-marked from the Second War, long behind when others departed, save one woman at Adoration. She waited always in case of further instruction or reflection. About to leave, she was halted by His light touch on her shoulder. A chorus of voices floated above her, and she heard one say distinctly 'searching' then became murmurs. 'For what?' She remained in this stalwart position until the reverie left her, seeming to rise to the vaulted ceiling. Miriam stood up, swaying slightly. It was now 10 am. Miriam hurried on to an appointment with another customer in the Capitalist cathedral, as her own fashion dictated, early to every event, aroused by time itself and the shadow of the sun.

     As Miriam stepped lively to her appointment, Krenckel was leaving Lubek's office. He walked outside, allowing a full Cheshire-cat grin to spread over his handsome face.

     Jack was finishing his drawing for Miriam. Actually, it was the third "finished" drawing. He could see more details of the space with each rendering. The determined quest was to provide her with some measure of safety, not merely a "paper airplane," as he had thought hours before. 'This isn't a treasure map, after all.'   When he thought this, a tingle began at the back of his neck, becoming terror in moments, travelling train-like up and down his spine. His felt that his brain was presenting her as cannon-fodder; he was giving her a map of no-man's land, and that was her certain sacrifice. Did she not know immolation was so sure, perhaps so sure she had not, and yet?. 'Ipse dixit.' Black and white, then red. This plan was a pale shield for Miriam McCann.

     What task is this? Three lives advancing as if they are the movements of a symphony; they dive in and out of refrains and keys and joints, to declare they are aware, without even playing all the music. Sent really or bent towards mental and emotional instability in curious or cruel circumstance? Only one knew, and he wasn't talking.

     Captain Krenckel stopped at Checkpoint Charlie in an old Mercedes Benz the following day.  Unbeknownst to him, there was someone much more dangerous than Thomas; for so long a contemplative, now all processes churning with force. There were many spaces to secret items he needed hidden for his task. Despite his concentration, as an American soldier checked his papers, he couldn't help gaping at Thomas's creation. He craned his neck up, hands stuck on the steering wheel.

     "Sir? Herr?"

     "Ja?" He answered automatically, curiously held by the building.

     "You may proceed." The gate opened and the Captain returned to his earthly destination. His lodgings were booked in the same place as Jack's and his room was catty-corner from the architect's. After signing in, he stuck the key in his breast pocket and, with a suitcase in either hand, took the steps two at a time to his floor. Krenckel kept his weapons case in one hand, digging for the key with the other. A door suddenly swung open, startling him. The key fell out, on to the floor. Jack scooped it up, facing Richard Krenckel fully. The metal and ring plopped into the other man's hand. An appreciative nod and his quarry vanished like a grin. The hunter was betrayed by his own ill-timed readiness.

     The Captain pretended to be his imperious, purposeful self, even in the luxury of his room. But he wasn't, indeed, if he was to be honest with himself, he felt unmanned. He had stared into the eyes of his enemy, and had done nothing. Now he sat on his bed, suitcases on either side of his legs still holding his door-key, only he was using it to trace lines into the palm of his hand. "Idiot!" he spoke aloud, squaring his shoulders to the mirror opposite. Krenckel had peered into state enemy eyes before. Each was a block in his way; no mystery before. The singular suspense was the execution of his orders. 'What was the word for this enemy?' He was putting away his toiletries after his interlude of shock. He hung his clothes in the armoire. 'Charisma!' He triumphed. That's what Thomas had; that's what hit him; he could see why some weak soldier had fallen so easily. So it would be a new challenge to kill someone who wasn't as empty as the others. Schooled in the inequality of the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, the Stasi hit-man nevertheless instantly recognized the talents that imbued certain individuals and made them leaders. Zipping up his jacket, the Captain marched to Thomas's building.

     Striding briskly, he was astonished to see Jack outside on the pavement; handing a rolled-up paper to the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. She was as tall as himself and the architect. They were not shy of the cold sun and the people streaming around them. When the woman took the paper, her head nodded, and then remained close to her breast. She seemed pleased and shy; her hand lingering for a moment on his fingers, then reluctantly withdrew the paper to herself. Jack in his shirtsleeves was equally slow to leave her. He blew out the freezing air and took his leave of her. Her eyes travelled upward from him to the large window above which was suddenly buffeted by the gusts and seemed to want to take flight of its own accord. A deluge of freedom surpassing everything and everyone was coming, yet no one heeded it except her.

     Miriam said, "My heart's grounded in wind." Krenckel saw her mouth the words. He had slowed to study his quarry. Now he was a metre away from her. Stepping forward, he said, "Fräulein?" A pirouette, she gazed from inside her wakeful blue eyes.

     "Yes? Um, Ja?" She corrected herself, fingers touching her forehead.

     "I speak English. Are you intimate with the man who went," and he broke off, for she looked alarmed. "No, that is not correct. Do you know the architect Thomas?'

     "Yes. Why?" She betrayed none of the wariness in her heart.

     "I was hoping you might introduce us, Fräulein. I am an admirer of his work." The lie fell from his tongue as an over-ripe fruit even as he gestured to the window. Vitruvius Man deliberately ignored him.

     "Do you know Café Novalis?" She smiled as she took him by the arm, leading him away. Krenckel looked back, then at her face in profile. She continued, "It was the first café I found on my own in Berlin." Miriam was not above a simple subterfuge herself. Instinct told her to protect Jack. This queer man raised the hair on the nape of her neck. 'Why did he not introduce himself?'Then the idea occurred to her. 'Spy.'

     "But Fräulein…"

     "Oh, it's just a few blocks away. I'll tell you all about Jack Thomas. My name is Miriam McCann." She unlocked his arm and held out her hand. "What is your name?"

     "Johann von Kissler. I am a salesman." 'What luck! A conversation about the target and sex with her; how fortunate! Naturally, I must kill her too. She looks like Ute, grown up...'

     "So am I! I hope we're not in competition." She noted his backward glances. "How well do you know this section of Berlin?"

     "Not so very good. I sell text books, usually in Hamburg, in the north. Not exciting, Hamburg."

     "Really? Still, it's a job. What kind of text books?" Miriam continued to steer him out of sight of Jack, as Krenckel locked step with her.

     "University books. My company is Rhineland; sells just these." He recited his script so well he envisioned stacks of slick, heavy books. An idea came to him. "Engineering, building."

     "That certainly explains your interest in Jack Thomas.  Nothing like the real thing, eh? Look, there's the café. Have you read Novalis?" The waited at a crosswalk. He shook his head. "No? I thought that would have been standard-course work. Maybe not. But on your own?"

     "No. I do not read poetry or novels." He was sure this was the appropriate answer. She smiled, not bothering to correct him. "You like this, then? Western novels?"  They went inside; Krenckel unaware he had been unmasked. His pronouncement stuck on his lips. 'Spot what I am.'

     As they were seated, Miriam cocked her head and beheld herself in the glass-front windows: the child by the pond and the willow, knees drawn up, tears flowing. So soon, so very soon she was informed by her Voices in the Light. An unheeded sigh vanished. She would disobey them just this once, to allow Vitruvius Man and the building completion. She would leave on her mission to conquer the Communists with Christ tomorrow, or order them to leave in the name of God. "What do you believe we could see,' she started and paused as the child left, "if we could step out of ourselves, just for moment?"

     Krenckel gave a thin smile, pretending to understand. Saved by the man in white. "Tsvie Kaffee." As an afterthought, he tugged the escaping waiter's jacket, who questioned, "Soust nach etwas?" "Bitte, Tsvie Apfelschapps." When Krenckel turned back to Miriam, she was still staring out the windows. Actually, she was staring in the window. "Miriam, is this OK?"

     "Oh, yes. Forgive me, I saw someone I know…pass by. Ah, you want to hear about Jack Thomas. Where you here when the soldier Valentine crossed the border? I was."

     "No!" The Captain was intrigued.

     "Yes. I'll tell you something else. He was in love with me."

     "Herr Thomas?"

     "No, certainly not. He's married and in love with his wife. But that soldier, Peter Valentine. Mind you, I did not encourage him."

     Captain Krenckel was crestfallen. Not the English capitalist? He had seen the tape of Thomas frantically waving his arms, of Valentine being led into the building. He wanted to kill Valentine right now with his bare hands, snap his neck. But he was undoubtedly in the arms of the Authorities. A soldier forsaking his duty, his country in a time of war, and was there a family also? It did not matter; Corporal Valentine left his post for this woman. When the drinks arrived, Krenckel drank his schnapps off and ordered another round.

     "Johann? Johann? Herr von Kissler? You seem upset. Would you like my schnapps?" She pushed it to him. He spontaneously reached over to grab her wrist, and then seized himself, brushing her fingertips at the stem of the glass.

     "Have you been allowed to see your soldier yet?" Recovered, reserved, he sipped the second drink whilst she stirred her coffee.

     "Why no. And he's certainly not my soldier. He's with, oh I don't know."

     "Do you not find him attractive?"

     "I thought you wanted to talk about Jack Thomas," she smiled pleasantly, verve taking over. "As I said, I'm in sales and that's how we met. I was contacting potential shop owners when Peter took a fancy to me. I would pass him every morning on my way. He kept waving to me. I finally waved back. It was innocent on my part. He looked so bored." Miriam mimed Krenckel as he sipped his drink, she her coffee. She looked off deliberately; settling back on Krenckel's spent face. "Thomas is of course the architect of the century. Would you not agree?"

     It was a woman, not a Western conspiracy. Just like his superiors to get it wrong. Had they not watched all the tapes before Valentine defected? They would have seen her; she was hard to miss. Thomas was as he seemed to be: an architect. 'I read the file; no political affiliations. He's probably another English homosexual, hiding behind his phallic buildings and the skirts of women. He did let this woman go after all.' As Krenckel reasoned, he relaxed, only to become aware that she had been talking about angels. 'No, angles.' "Herr Thomas is a great builder," he finally replied. 'She looks so much like Ute!'

     Miriam finished her drink and said, "Thank you for the coffee and schnapps. I really must be going for I need to telephone my company in America. So, how about you? Have I answered your questions about Jack's marvel?"

     "Yes, yes. May we meet for dinner later? I leave tomorrow afternoon."

     "No, I'm sorry. I have work to attend to this evening. Maybe I'll see you at Jack's building in the morning. I must be there early."

     "Maybe. Thank you for your conversation. Auf Wiedersehen."

***

     The dawn light struck at the crosses; the crosses inside the Capitalist cathedral, some hidden, some not. Light came from the spider web of coloured panes; light struck the spider web of wires outside. A riot of concrete, razor wire, and blaring horns greeted Miriam. Krenckel was moored in his sniper's position. Jack was mired in his disbelief of Miriam's actions, though he had given her a map of Checkpoint Charlie. He thought he could talk her out of her plan today; it seemed so sketchy, so dreamy. The actual was happening as he sprinted out of his creation into her reality. She was crossing No Man's Land. Miriam was celebrating, imitating, indicating that her golden grief of the rape ten years ago was cured by her faith. Etched in their minds, she rushed to her awakening fate.

"O sun,
  Burn the great sphere thou movest in!"

     Hunting for God and mortality, what life! Jack called to her in a constricted voice, "Miriam, Miriam! Are you going to die for all of us?" Her holocaust horrified and shamed him. Jack had been captured by her singular state. Now he curled inward; unable to break free of his own spell, set to behold her bravery and blood. In attempting to assist her; Jack thought he had quietly betrayed her when his voice sank. He acquiesced to her; she was beyond the American soldiers. All that remained was her conviction and the silence soon to surround her.

     Krenckel did not lower his rifle when the guards began to shoot, there was no need. He observed and waited for his shot. His job was to eradicate the person who was tempting his people to defect.

     Miriam walked on beneath the still visible vernal equinox morning moon, confidant. The Captain fired a single shot, slipping back behind the doorway. Her vision pivoted inwards as the outside world fled away. She could partially see out, a thick grey mist curtained her goal. Someone was yelling as a choke of blood invaded her mouth. 'To whom shall I confess? My advocate? My killer? The spring buds? Perhaps my Lord will know.' Her shadow had made it through the wire. More weapons fired on it; blasts of fire like in a hot air balloon singed it. It stood framed on the back of the building. Miriam thought she saw it bow, then kneel. 'Jesus remember me when you come into your Kingdom.'  eHhhhhh


Part II: The House That Jack Built


                                                                                "Once you label me you negate me." Søren Kierkegaard
                                                                                     "We defy augury." William Shakespeare

      She was dying for the Blood and her wounds were made golden by this.

      Miriam was sitting huddled next to the wall, listening to the soldiers playing some card game. The cigarette smoke was dense, some of the stench and fumes escaped and fled into her cell from next door through the food slit. Her German language skills had improved three-fold, the basic level had sprung up to an understanding she dared not let onto. The officers almost to a man spoke English well. They seemed to enjoy showing off their skills to one another. As for Miriam, the routine of trial and torture was sickeningly broken up by the officers in her 24 hour confinement by her new German skills – she understood them. Captain Krenckel interviewed her after his breakfast -always the odour of strong coffee which she inhaled as he leaned into her face- and Miriam had once glimpsed his wristwatch: 10 am. (She marked her time by him afterwards.) This was when he drew his hand up to scratch his chin in disbelief. He muttered, "Lubek an Drei," to another officer who was also scratching his chin. Krenckel never touched her. No questions, no amount of beatings moved her to talk other than to say, "I was sent by God to bring all of you back to Him." They were stymied.

      In the corner of her cell, she was not idle or passive. Intent on listening to what the men were talking about, she could discern updates in her captivity. Her wound from Krenckel's rifle had healed in the prison hospital, but with the frequent beatings, it opened and seeped and ached. Mostly, she was listening for her sender. Yet man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward. Miriam was the vicar of stone, first the Wall itself, breached though not in the manner she had envisioned, and here, wherever "here" was; but she remained clenched-sure of what would happen. In this captivity, she could and did transport herself to a desert hermit cell of centuries before in a meditative state.  Despite the confinement Miriam knew that the early spring had subsided permanently, replaced with a hard winter again, then starting from zero, a fresh wind from the uppermost portion of the tiny room spelt itself inside the tinier barred broken glass window and intoxicated her heaven in mind.

      Waking to her predicament once more for the thousandth time, she stretched her legs out straight in front of her and tried to bend double to touch her toes with fingers and hands. 'How tired I am. Anima Christi, santifica me. Corpus Christi, salva me, Sanguis Christi, inenbria me. It was her litany with the 'Hail Mary'. She jerked up as she heard them coming saying silently. 'Intra tua vulnera absconde me!' The key clicked into place and she finished the prayer. 'Amen.' Miriam stood to her full height and said, "The bruised reed he shall not break, and smoking flax he shall not quench, he shall bring forth judgement unto truth." She held out her hands and wrists to be cuffed.

      "Isaiah." Another grand inquisitor stepped forward, a different one, no, she had perhaps seen him? "You are as clever as you are beautiful. Miriam. Sister of Moses, the woman who stayed behind to give the Israelites courage when they crossed the Red Sea. Please, put down your arms. I do not think you will be attempting an escape, will you?" They looked curiously and hard at each other, both trying to conceal this fact. Verbum sapienti satis est!

      "Come." He smiled. And she stepped forth out of her cell, turning right, for that was the path always taken by her captors to her "interview". "No Fräulein, this way." He gestured in the opposite direction. The guards moved against the walls and the pair strode down the hall side by side. His open, upturned palm motioned towards the barred metal door, which another set of guards opened, upon spying the man. Behind this lay the heavy door of the prison infirmary. Right before knocking, the man said in a calm voice, "I am Herr König." He bowed slightly to her and then rapped twice. Immediately, the door opened. The staff had obviously been alerted.

      "Miriam, these people will care for you for the next week. I will return to visit you. Until then, dearest Miriam." So she accepted this twist, not without a modicum of gratitude, wounded and dirty as she was yet apprehending his vituperous nature, the proverbial snake in the grass. The others had their invidious screams and threats and torments. He had manners and polish and she sensed, a soul filled with nails.

      A female nurse-attendant walked her to the large infirmary shower with its plastic chair, and she sat.  The hot water ran over her still clad in the prison uniform, already in tatters; drenched and wadded, it fell off, her clotted blood turned liquid again, ran down the drain. She shrugged out of the rest of it. A hotter, larger scent of what was to come filled the shower stall.

     Miriam said, "I am here; I held onto you." Her first delivery was the Voices like could be held in her hands. From the rocket of words, the woman had had silence these past forty days, and the matron on the hospital ward heard sobbing.

***

      "Who rides there so late through the night dark and drear?" Herr König rode capitals to small stations on shiny trains, dull trains, and battered trains; he had been riding for what seemed like decades, and indeed had been since 1935, doing his duty. He was a career military man, East Prussian by birth. All his male forbears were military men descended from the Teutonic Knights, a noble family, with landowning still in trace. König joined the National Socialist Party at the age of 15 whilst enrolled at a military academy outside the medieval fortressed Königsberg (masquerading as a boarding school since the terms of the Armistice frowned upon such establishments) to the bemusement of his superiors and some classmates. What did he know of politics? Well, he knew a winner when he walked the 20 kilometres to hear Adolf Hitler speak. It was no speech; it was a battle-cry wrapped up in a rally. Naturally, the man was mesmerizing particularly to the demoralized crowd. Young Kurt König was intelligent enough to recognize a would-be tyrant when he saw one, and he analyzed the words and content of the speech/spectacle as he hiked by to school.  Hitler did win many peoples' mood and with the backing of ex-military men swung to power so quickly, he dazzled many more. In due time, he met Hitler, and when the Nazis infiltrated the Reichstag, he steadily rose with the Führer. Thus following, Lieutenant König quietly assassinated one fourth of the men and boys from the academy in the Night of the Long Knives.  Nevertheless, he was no Nazi, nor was he a Communist later on; he was a military man embracing with a holy fervour all that came with the career. This was why König was finally called in for this very special prisoner. In actuality, he had been in charge all along. First there was the beautiful Jack Thomas; now the woman caught. She could have been his lover's twin brother had she been male.

      Coronel König had met a young Soviet soldier whilst others threw up their hands to Marshal Rokossovskiy when Königsberg fell. After the Reinhardt debacle, an idiot replaced him and was told to fight to the last man, and promptly led the capital of Ostpreussen into an untenable position. It went so quickly it was hardly worth the effort to man the guns. Reinhardt had said it best, "There is nothing more to say." He would have at least had surrendered with honour. The Soviets swarmed in and the officers were captured.

     Why did König switch sides? The Coronel was now a loser and he could not abide this. He was a disgrace to his uniform outside, and guilty of being led up the garden path by a deranged man. In the end, he had been charmed like the rest. He hated himself for it and recognized the tenacity of these Russians. So easy then to become the charmer, to woo the young soldier guarding him; Kurt seduced him one evening. The young comrade calmly walked König to Rokossovskiy, telling him König had joined the Communist party as a youth. He had been collecting information, waiting for the Communist take-over of his beloved Germany.  The Marshal was no fool and exacted all he could from one of Hitler's trusted circle, of most importance, where the Wolf's Lair was and the location of the bunker. They could roll right into Berlin for only citizens, Hitler youth, and some remnant of the army were defending the city. König was proved right in all he said, and became an officer in the Red Army. The young soldier he seduced was killed in the battle for Berlin. And now Marshal König had a new job, after many years and many posts, as grand inquisitor for the Ministerium für Staatsicherheit

***

     'Miriam and I both sampled the contents of the envelope, in and over the sun. The sun became lord of all motion in the Christmas Eve cathedral ready to split and splay in word and stone. We had paper birds pinned opposite the heart, and after the Night born, the birds were loosed like kites on fire. We started home on a dark grey path. One bird was left, mine. And I gave it to the Fisher-king who was trudging up the bank of a rapid-laced river next to us. He took the small, springing paper bird. Releasing it, it burst into flame and spread its ashen dust foundling wings over and upon the cobalt and flowing river and flinty greens of the forest. And the shouting died away from the suddenly oddly quiet armies in the King's renewed vigour. I looked, and I was the Fisher-king.'

     Jack awoke sweating again, smelling himself. Wonder, joy, grief. Exhaustion. What he did not know was the sun had stood still for Miriam. 'Seek, scratch open the dream.'

     During the following days of Miriam's shooting, Jack was frantic, dumb honour alive. He knew she was alive after having seen her dragged across the border. The Soviets wouldn't have bothered to pick her so quickly. It made all the news for a month. The American Government proclaimed a citizen had been shot and framed as a spy. He presented himself as someone who knew her and was interviewed repeatedly by these government officials. He was under suspicion himself, until vehemently cleared by British Intelligence. A quiet shrouded the disappearance. Thomas came to the American Consulate day after day. What was happening? What was being done? He was told by British Intelligence to stay away finally. He was a contractor. Finish his job and leave it to the involved governments.

     'April really is the cruellest month.' His fresh intellect was wired when someone named Scanlan from Miriam's firm, Fortrams, rang from Bahnhof Berlin Zoologischer Garten, Bahnhof Zoo, to everyone now. A rather infamous rail and underground station to be heard from, 99 % of the people passed through as quickly as possible. Scanlan sounded as part of the station, thin and starry. He said with pomposity, "If you think you know the answer and the measurements then you probably don't." Jack picked him up anyway; a shivery foretaste of the future on his tongue.

     "I've already got a place to stay. God, I'm hungry. Let's get something to eat.  Where did you and Miriam used to go? I'm sorry; that's a bit too much, even for an American, hey, even for me." Whilst wincing nakedly inside, Jack noted how Joseph Scanlan kept a small case locked in his armpit. This Jack of all trades was not a dull boy. Scanlan's eyes were dull and his pupils dilated.

     "How long were you in Zoo Station? I hope not too long; the place is as disagreeable as it is disreputable, Mr Scanlan." Jack processed Scanlan's look – that of a desperate man who needed pumping up every few hours. He had seen it so often last year before...before he went home. It captured his glint sometimes, although his drink never escalated beyond more than three scotches a night for over a month. Yet it was so very unmistakeable. 'That's why he was in Zoo Station; that small case with him! Idiot. If he's arrested, I could be to, and that's all the excuse the authorities need to send me home. He didn't come for Miriam; he doesn't care about Miriam.'

     Scanlan assumed he had his addiction under control quite well. He had kicked heroin when Miriam was promoted to the overseas assignment. But he loved Berlin for its Zoo Stations, past and present histories, a law enforcement which would never touch him. He actually felt safest here. And now he was home and high, like he should be always. How swiftly he met the famous (and to him, infamous) Jack Thomas in his environment!

     Questions irrelevant to Scanlan he did not answer or approach. "We are dining at a private, small restaurant near the Tor. And Miss McCann and I did have a drink here once, after our respective days were done." Thomas turned profile to Scanlan to discourage more asinine comments. And Scanlan thought somewhere he had wormed information out of Thomas.

     At the bar/eatery, the owner nodded and brought him his scotch. "What will you have to drink, Mr Scanlan?" Thomas queried when nary a word came from the slightly parted lips and deserted face. "May I order for you? Do you speak German?"

     Scanlan wanted to cry foul at this but couldn't bring his sentences to bear for a moment. "Schnapps, bitte," he spoke triumphantly.

     As Scanlan swung back on his barstool, Thomas was inwardly angry. Scanlan cleared his dry throat and asked, "Say, could I get a personal tour of your architectural marvel?"

     "Are you not the least bit concerned about your colleague's fate?"

     "Oh yeah. I'm sure our government will secure her release very soon." 'Just like four guys in my unit and the others left behind in 'Nam.' This bubbled up from Scanlan's unconscious so he gulped down the drink to keep it down.

     "It's near middle of April, Mr Scanlan. I imagined the US would have been quicker. After all, her venture into East Berlin was to spread the Gospel. Spies don't usually cross the border in full view of everyone. Besides, she was shot through the back and by some miracle she survived." This had been confided to Jack by someone at his Consulate, though plain to see by anyone watching the scene.

     "Was that it?" He ordered and drank another Schnapps, tipping the glass back onto his face. "Maybe she decided to defect."

     "Come, come! Don't you keep up with the news at least? She's being held prisoner."

     "Well, you're right. Hey what did you say about the rifle shot in the back? I didn't read that.  Maybe they were watching her though why I don't know. She was a harmless kid. Maybe you know. But she wasn't defecting. And I am concerned about Miriam. She's my co-worker and a great looking girl. Right? And I need to conclude Fortram's transactions. A personal tour of your building could help me do that, Jack."

     'Anything to get rid of you,' he thought. Now Thomas was alarmed; why did he mention this crucial detail to Scanlan? Maybe he won't remember; he's so high. The rifle shot did come from this side, but it was near the Tor, near his building! Why didn't I notice this? Was someone in my building?' "Why don't we order something to eat and discuss it?"

     Scanlan looked about him. He had forgotten where he was, and then he fell back into his own mind. Somewhere, his voice spoke. "Uh...I'm more tired than I thought. Could you take me to my hotel? Here, I wrote down the address on this slip of paper." Jack gladly hailed a taxi outside and gave the driver the address. Scanlan got in, expecting Jack to as well. He mouthed indecipherable words through the window as Jack waved him off.

     Jack walked back to the B&B. He asked the landlady for a torch, then proceeded back to the capitalist cathedral. Soured by his ignorance, he scoured his memory for anything. There was a man who spoke to Miriam after he gave her the map. He had contemplated the stranger as Miriam took his arm, admitted his jealousy, twinging, thinking in the end, 'She probably knows him from her work here.' Jack had not spied the man in the building though.

     Here up on the small walkway where the stained glass was, he trod carefully, flashing the torch. And there it was- tools neatly set aside, dust disturbed, and yes, a very small coloured pane lay next to the tools. The tools were actually Jack's; he had substituted this very pane to one coloured vermillion. 'God help me, from my own creation! Because of my own creation? Valentine said it spurred him on; could Miriam have been inspired too? Is she my creation? But only I gave her the device.' Nothing in his soul socket could ameliorate the consequences of Miriam's movements and her captivity. No pardon, no peace. He felt his heartbeat was damaged by his inane token to speed her along. 'More than this please... The tour for Scanlan will be a tour of the crenelations.'

***

     Pierce Clark was known as the Palomino Man of 2nd Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment, Berlin Brigade for two reasons. The first was obvious; he was of mixed race. His mother was white whilst his father was Cherokee Indian and black. The second reason was obvious only after one had met and spoke with him for an hour. He was quick, proud, army-trained, and yet untamed. Oh, he followed orders easily, was punctilious about rules, gave commands, and was every stripe the officer. Coming fresh out of college and the Army ROTC program to Berlin, Clark instantly won over his new band of brothers and the upper echelon with these qualities and an amazing skill. Promoted from second Lieutenant to first in double-time, Clark's marksmanship handed him the proverbial razor's edge.  He had honed his skill about the woods of his family's farm in Virginia, shooting squirrel and rabbit for Brunswick Stew, wild turkey for the Thanksgiving table, then deer. The other Battalions and Units at the McNair Barracks forfeited trophies and medals to Palomino Pierce.

     Clark's thoughts kited over the base, flew over the Wall, unspooling to Miriam. Her first day in Berlin, he took an afternoon's leave to meet her plane. They lunched after depositing her luggage at the hotel, then strolled about a city garden, hands and bodies nearly touching, as usual. She called him the next day and told him about meeting an important architect; she was so excited. Miriam had grown from the shy, wounded girl of their childhood and early teen years to a seemingly confidant, self-possessed woman. Pierce in turn had matured from an overly-sensitive, watchful youngster into an officer, an academically-feted college student, plus he had always been a gentleman, or gentle boy. But it was Miriam who could still spin him into the sensitive young man who pressed her into confessing what had happened to her that school term, her rape. The yellow brown eyes stared at hers, then off, skimming the pond, and ricocheting back into his brain. He hugged her and they clung together as rivulets. He couldn't comprehend how it was possible for one human to hurt another, especially her. 'If her folks hadn't sent her away, I could have looked after her, protected her from evil.' In ROTC training and Boot Camp, every target was Miriam's attacker. For her he had joined the Army, not his parents thinking of his advancement in the world. For her.

     Rocking back and forth on his heels on the floor of the deserted Junior Officers' barracks, he reached and stretched every thought and sinew to her, in her captivity. The army faded. By the willow-leaved-choked pond, a first kiss. 'How to get her; how to rescue her? It can't happen to her again!' There was no subtraction of Miriam from their intertwined selves. Some bolt! 'What was that guy's name? John, Jack something, Jack Thomas.' When Pierce stood up, he noted his immaculate trousers were wrinkled. How long was he on the floor, he may have wondered. He scrutinized what had happened, discarded the immaterial and innuendo, made a short list of the data. The architect was his bright lead. Pierce did then bolt for the door in one smooth motion. The leave he had accrued for Miriam's visit he would ask for immediately.

***

     Finally driven awake by the pain in her side, Miriam attempted to cope with the mechanisms of sitting up, albeit groggy from the anaesthetic. She had been fairly dosed from the second surgery to repair the tears from interrogations. It seemed as though a gyroscope was whirring in her ears. Her painful effort paid off, the hospital matron saw her and rushed over. "Herr König would not want you to injure yourself! Lie back. What do you wish? I will get it for you. Ah, your medication! How remiss of me! Let me get it now. Then some tea? I think toast as well."

     'Something is wrong. Of course; she's English.' The matron returned quickly, giving her pills and ice chips to suck on. Then she brought tea and dry toast. As twilight ate the sky, the clouds became cameo portraits to Miriam. She watched until she sank back into slumber.

     "It was not like this in the Weimar," König offered the next day, after patiently peering into her face. "The Republic is efficient, clockwork." He took her hand whilst her wound was being dressed.  He glanced at her near naked body; she was trying to cover herself as he spoke. "May I ask you a few questions? You may leave us now, Matron Miller. A good English woman. Her husband spied for us from the British Consulate for three years. But she was an army nurse by training; she stayed on in Berlin when she met Miller, an exemplarily communist."

     "Here it is," was her reply. Miriam finished her porridge and tea. "Go ahead."

     K: So you came to reinstate Christianity?

     M: Yes.

     K: The Republic provides for all the needs of its people. Religion is an empty promise. Faith in a deity does not put food on the table or give people jobs.

     M: No, it is not an empty promise; unlike you and the State. Love is not empty; "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God."

     K: Do not quote the bible to me, young lady. I was brought up in a Lutheran home, and the so-called word was beaten into me. You quoted Deuteronomy, Matthew and Luke and when I did not quote scripture correctly, love was administered with a strap.

     M: I am sorry for you, Herr König. God is Love; not a cruel tool for unloving parents.

     K: Do not be sorry. It gave me a good understanding of the falseness that lay behind the "Good Book." All Communists understand this now. We have our own evangelist program: rid the world of religion! You are an unopened letter, Miriam.

     König got up from his chair, burning. Something had slipped. She made him reveal to her memories. Who rides there so late through the night dark and drear? The father it is, with his infant so dear; He holdeth the boy tightly clasp'd in his arm, He holdeth him safely, he keepeth him warm. He had answered her, and felt the psychic drama again. He felt her sway, and the father he had cloistered away zoomed to the very back of his eyes! The military man who recited Goethe, Schiller, Shakespeare; who attended concerts and recitals, especially if Mozart was on the program; who read the Bible gently to Kurt, ruffled his hair, and took long walks with him after church. His mother and her brother had drilled him. Even though his father wanted him to become a pastor, not a military man, Kurt went to same academy his father went to, promising him to go to divinity school afterwards. His father died his second year at the academy; his mother told him a heart attack. He never left for vacation to go home again; Kurt knew what awaited him. But when he graduated, he came home. That evening, he took off his uniform, and put on his father's work clothes. He stole into his uncle's bedroom, for the shiftless man had blithely moved in when his mother asked -right after her husband's death- and strangled him. The mother watched as Kurt dragged his body downstairs, heaved it over his shoulder, and buried it in the orchard. She waited on him as a servant until her own death. The father who felt love, pity, and gentleness chastised him for the first time at that moment; walking down the prison hall, König had his heart stir twice, once for love, twice for Miriam. 'She wants to suffer as Christ; I'll oblige her.' He was dead now.

     K: Did you know that Bible in your hand saved you, Miriam?

     M: No.

     K: Oh, I should tell you the reason. It wasn't the Gospel. An old soldier recognized the title. You see, he spoke some English and thought you were a simpleton. So he didn't finish you off. I'm glad too; now we have time together.

     M: May I ask you a question? Where did the shot come from then?

     K: A man you have already met; but you do not know his name. It is a Captain Krenckel. He shot from your friend's building.

     M: Why? Why was he watching me?

     K: He was there to assassinate Jack Thomas.

     M: Mother of Mercy! Why?

     K: He tempted a good soldier away. He could do it to more citizens. I've already heard the soldier wants to come back here.

     M: That's a lie.

     K: Is it? But enough. Do you want the crown of thorns?

     M: What? No. That is part of our Lord's Passion.

     K: You must confess to your crimes against the Republic or you will have your passion. Confess, Miriam. Has god saved you? You will remain in your prison cell until the day you die, or worse. This comfortable bed, the nice food, the treatment for your wound, the medication, will all go away. First Thomas and his cathedral, now you come here. You are a spy.

     M: That's ridiculous! I told you, I came to spread the Word.

     K: The word of deceit. How well do you know Jack Thomas? Are you his lover?

     M: No!

     K: "Me thinks the lady doth protest too much." Are you his lover?

     M: No, of course not. He's a married man.

     K: So? I think you are in love with him; maybe you are having an affair. And he is to blame for your predicament because he sent you on like Don Quixote? Is that it?

     M: No, no, not at all. I, I like him. A great deal.

     K: I thought that was the case. You are a good girl, are you not?

     M: Yes.

     K: You look tired. Matron, bring her some medicine.

     'They are just keeping me doped up.' The thought came too late. Krenckel smiled at her, then she was pulled down by the medication, a deep sleep.

***

     Lingering over his vodka four hours later, Krenckel bristled at the toad-faced man he would see later that night. Once a week was a lifetime. He lit a cigarette, and made a face. He did not smoke, except for this, before and after his task. He bade Miriam's face to light this enclosing darkness. If only he had quickly and cleanly killed her. But he couldn't. When he saw her profile that day, her almost childish grin when whispering to Thomas, his Ute lived. 'I am on the belly side of living. I have obliterated Richard and Ute. My parents loved, her parents loved, we loved. How I remember her! Ute's satin blue eyes in the construction site, in the ambulance. I asked her to marry me, and she sighed yes, like that was all she had been waiting for; how I loved then! My desperate joy! What have I done? I have molested my own mind to hinder any tenderness. I wanted Miriam not just for sex like I told myself; I never wanted to harm her! I wanted her.'

     Thoughts of killing her and himself cradled in his mind, listing after him as a small child since her incarceration. Why didn't the stupid border guards shoot her dead as commanded? Why hadn't he; that was the real question! How much misery he could have spared her. When Krenckel invaded her rooms as she went to Mass, he discovered her Fortram's business portfolio and cards, and then her true business. A short note addressed to Jack Thomas, thanking him for not doubting her errand spelled out from God by His saints, her sincerity, her love of humanity, of life. This was his rough translation upon taking the note, after he quietly sat in his room. He picked up his suitcases and left. Krenckel set up his highly modified sniper rifle (in its first life, an AK-47) in the highest point above the checkpoint, looking at the Quadriga's winged back.  He waited in the dark and cold. The building was quiet; the noise outside and in his head dreadful. Even the broken snow was loud. His torch found a small self-portrait whilst carefully moving tools and unleading the stained glass for his rifle. It was of Jack Thomas and it bore the inscription "For this I came into the world." The validity of the statement meant nothing to Krenckel. But later, the morning sky mining for some sun quickly made the walkway a kaleidoscope.  The glass gave him some comfort. So he popped open the scope lens-cap again. He saw Ute, and he shot Miriam in the left side of her back; he was unable to kill her. He closed the small doorway he used on either side of the large window. He packed up, eyes blurred and seared with tears.

     Miriam he was sure, had seen him smile at her. She would be transferred soon back to another cell, only this would be solitary confinement. One interrogation left in the infirmary. König was a methodical inquisitor; she didn't understand want he wanted. A simple excuse to kidnap the architect and he, Krenckel, would be free. Miriam would be executed. A volt of pure, free thought zinged through him. How simple to engage König in conversation after the sex (all handsome, dark-haired, blue-eyed tall men were impressed into servicing toad-face for a promotion or personal favour until he grew tired of them yet Thomas was so different; Krenckel did not dwell on it), lots of alcohol to loosen his tongue, leave quietly, the man lolling on the bed as usual, so nauseating with his bloated belly and spit bubbles.

***

     'Now my day begins again with digesting my trespasses and stupidity. I must make this right. God, how?' Thomas sat in the small bar again after his discoveries in his building, another scotch in front of him. This one he left untouched, always leaving, leaving. In less than a week his project would be complete. His wife was joining him for the grand opening. Early the next morning, he rang her. "Angel." They spoke quietly and completely.

     Yet Jack apprehended disease descending upon him once more; he felt the freezing foretaste of his particular brand of madness. It didn't matter; he had to fully complete his masterpiece, which had done good and bad. So he stepped a few paces out of the B&B after his conversation with his wife and son that morning to find a tall soldier walking up to him.

     "Mr Thomas? You are Jack Thomas, aren't you? Let me introduce myself. I'm Lt. Pierce Clark, of the 6th Infantry, Berlin Brigade. Miriam McCann is my friend; we have been friends since our childhood in Clarksville, Virginia. May we talk?" When Jack assented, Pierce waited for him, then motioned to the Jeep parked in front of the stone walkway. They sized each other up very quickly; both decided separately to trust the other man.

     "I must confess sir that I asked about you in the building you designed. What are they calling it, the capitalist cathedral? You were pointed out to me by one of the German ironworkers. It's a beautiful structure. I can see why Miriam was so taken with it. She was excited that she got to meet you. She told me when she called a couple of days after she came. That was the last I heard from her."

     Thomas had been rescued from his disease from the all-business brashness of the soldier. Also, he didn't have to catch the bus; he usually walked but was running late today. Lt. Clark drove him straight up the Strausse der 17 Juni, turning into the parking garage next to the structure. Thomas pointed to a spot, reserved for the designers, master craftsmen, and shop keepers. "This is the first time I've used my spot," he said, hugging his portfolio to his chest. 'Not just drawings and designs and calculations, my fingerprints, hidden, no, embedded in each piece of paper. That's it!'

     Pierce saw what he could only later identify as a second of rapture in the man's eyes as they got out of the Jeep. Playfulness sprang into his face. "Let me show you something, Lieutenant. Follow me." They briskly entered the building, hearing the cursing and prayerful utterances of many, readying their shops for the grand finale. From a corner office, Jack even heard a spare and sober Scanlan admiring the appointments of a designer. He ignored Scanlan's call of hello. He led the way up the back narrow staircase to the tricky walkways of the windows. No one had been up here since his horror. Glad of Pierce's introduction and military training, Jack showed him the excoriation. Pierce dropped to his knees, balanced on one, and mimed the assassin's position. Presently Pierce stood, almost snapping to attention.

     "It was meant for you I think, the bullet. When Miriam tried to cross into East Berlin, and I think I know why, she was shot. Fortunately, he was not their best man. Could you go outside and stand where the railings are? Oh, I've heard that you design almost everything. Is that true? I thought so. Please sir, would you stand next to the railings on this side? Walk to the end and back. Next, walk past this entire place, about 50 yards, then 100, then close to the Checkpoint. I'll meet you there."

     Sun-shadows serrated the landscape. Jack moved through it; in the auto he instantly knew. Perhaps it was the timing of the Lieutenant who arrested his descent; joy rinsed through his veins cleansing his blood. He stopped at the edge of the railings; saw a human hand wave through the coloured panes, continued to the designated spot. He stopped again, feeling something painful and sticky in his palm. Tucking the portfolio under his arm, Jack found the cause. He bound it with his handkerchief. Pierce met him close to Checkpoint Charlie, nodding his head. He went over to the Guardhouse. They talked and gestured. Thomas tarried, prodding at his palm. When Pierce returned, Jack said assuredly, "We shall wait to act on Miriam's behalf. It will occur on the official Opening Day of all this," gesturing towards the capitalist cathedral. "You know the Communists will act then too. I think they will do something, an exchange under the cover of all the happenings here. Lieutenant, I do know what Miriam was doing also. Let us talk about a little later, shall we?"

     "Yes, of course." Pierce was surprised. "I think you are right about the opening.  I'll tell you this. I'm going to cover this area; I'm a marksman. The guys in the Guardhouse are in the barracks next to mine. I'm going to make sure nothing goes wrong. May I use your building sir? Right. Now you tell me your plan."

***

     Captain Krenckel scrubbed his body with his own brush and soap. He did not want to use anything belonging to König. He was half dressed when he was summoned out. Tonight he took his time. He was no longer a prostitute.  Whilst cleaning the steamed-up mirror to comb his hair, König called out again. "Richard! What are you doing? Preening yourself for another?" His words slurred and were washed away in the vodka. Krenckel heard him thump back down on the bed. He finished buttoning his shirt, toeing open the bathroom-door enough for him to spy on the drunken man. Krenckel grinned brightly, just as he had rehearsed it.

     "Kurt? Kurt? Are you still among the living? Sit up. Here, let me help you." Krenckel shoved pillows behind the older man's back and head, leaning him against the headboard. "Do you want a cigar? The smoke will help clear your head." He chuckled at the ridiculousness of his own statement. "How is the interrogation going?" Proud of his work and gossipy with his lovers, König finally sat up.

     Blinking sluggishly, he drew on the cigar. "Well Richard, she is cracking little by little. When she falls, it will be spectacular! I can wind her up to say anything. I say we pass her off to the Soviets and let them put her in Siberia. I tire of her. I have an idea. You come tomorrow and watch the master at work. I'll crack her right in front of your eyes! Besides I'd rather do it in the infirmary when she's still on pain-killers. And I hate the cells." He reached out to stroke Richard's face, but Krenckel was alerted to all his pat moves. He was off to König's side and took up the bottle, resisting the temptation to smash it down on the tormenter's head. He poured him another large glass. König made a face. "I wish you had brought me Schnapps."

     "Next time. I hear talk of the giant curtains being strung up again. For the opening of the Thomas building."

     "What?" König sobered.

     "I said I heard about the curtains." He looked green and dumb.

     "That I heard, idiot! What about Thomas? When is the opening?"

     Richard was still the innocent; he tried to look hurt; but König paid no notice. "In one or two days. I'm surprised you weren't notified. Sir."

     "I will snap her in two then. I have other things to attend to. Dismissed."

     'That went better than I expected.' Krenckel laughed when he was out the door.

***

     A nascent Jack Thomas recorded his visible language on the German landscape. He fostered this amidst the circular narrative of family, strangers, enemies, and his new task. He informed his eyes, hands, and soul to trace and simultaneously sense and inhale creation. What reverberations at this moment! He sat on the second landing of the iron staircase in the capitalist cathedral with one final drawing in his portfolio, watching women and men hurrying to finish - the same expressions on their faces he knew so well. Occasional instances of torments; then there was the malady of Joseph Scanlan, ascending to him with his own smaller portfolio.  He was eager; Jack awaited him calmly. "What have you for me, Mr Scanlan?"

     "Drawings, Jack! I'm an artist too. And I do some building design." Scanlan delicately placed his work on Jack's knees, atop the bulging Thomas portfolio. So Jack unzipped it, peering intently at the first piece.

     "This is very good; the shading on the shell is elegant. With due respect to Ruskin, I believe nature contains all the arts. Don't you agree?" Scanlan appeared not to hear this, or to take in the comment about Ruskin. He was entranced that his hero was finally here and taking his work seriously.  Jack flipped to the double pages. One was the jungle; the other a sketch of the radio man in his unit. He took his time; duly recognizing Scanlan's talent. "You were in Vietnam. But why are you working at Fortram's? You should be showing your portfolio around." His question was answered with the next pages. The drawings were Scanlan's testament to his tours of duty. Pen and ink balled-up abominations: an airstrip lined with body bags, a Viet Cong soldier being tortured and smeared with paint, detailed anatomical hands with digits missing, then the obvious heroin-inspired hell visions. Jack bowed his head. He carefully zipped the container and handed back to Joseph Scanlan. "Mr Scanlan, I can see you are talented. Also, that you are an addict, and not without reason. You were privy to things no one should see or experience. And I am sorry for you. I suppose I should tell you to harness this pain and go be an artist. In good conscience, I cannot. I can only recommend that you kick your habit, seek counselling; continue to work at your art. Perhaps Mr Scanlan you can begin anew to be the artist or a designer you are meant to be, but filtered of those demons. Let them inform your work, not rule it. Make no mistake though, you are good."

     "Fine! I'll do as the great Jack Thomas advises! All my life, advice and orders! You're just another in a long line of jerk-offs that I thought was cool, different. You're no different; you just had all the breaks. God, I was taken in by the "mysterious" Jack Thomas. You're plain as day, pal." Scanlan trundled down the stairs, nearing tripping on the last three steps. He looked back once.

     Jack intuited the loss at once. He put his hands together and opened his smarting palms. The fashioning of the selves had been already wrought.

***

     Herr König and Captain Krenckel marched into the prison infirmary two days later, mid-morning, dismissing the ward matron. Miriam was ready. She had pretended to take the last two doses of morphine tablets. She was shaky but her mind was clearing. She did remember Krenckel's smile; she could not interpret it. What was he up to; was this a trick? Slinky König certainly, even in her depilated state it was apparent. She would find out soon; her time was limited here. It began as always. He would take her hand and stroke it, inquiring after her health, asking her if she had learned anything since last talking with him. Then he would charge in.

     K: Germany, under the Nazis, committed a terrible holocaust against the Jews. So have other nations throughout history.  Perhaps it is because at the deepest level, they know no god or judgement or salvation exists.

     M: No. Religion exists worldwide, in many forms, like Hinduism. This is because God is everywhere and in everyone. You for example, and your friend.

     K: Me?  The Captain? You are fooling yourself. Lies.

     M: Are you sure? I think the "dictatorship of the proletariat" is a lie. It is a dictatorship; it is tyranny of the proletariat. Your leaders replace God with themselves.

     K: And what do your leaders do? Capitalism is corrupt.

     M: So you keep telling me.

     König turned from Miriam and got up. It wasn't quite the show he hoped to play before his audience. He kept his temper in check. Miriam and Richard both knew he was angry. He intended to end this now; so he sat back down.

     K: Are you Jewish?

     M: No, at least not that I know of. Besides, I came here with the Gospel. And what does that have to do with anything?

     K: You have a Jewish first name. You could be.

     M: Yes, it is possible. What difference does it make? Jesus was a Jew. His mother was a Jew. His disciples were Jews.  His followers also.

     K: As I said, the Nazis committed a...

     At this, Richard grabbed König from behind in a strangulation manoeuvre. He pulled him backwards away from Miriam. The older man kicked and saliva spewed out. He held him long enough to make sure he blacked out. "Are you hurt Miriam? Can you dress yourself?" He asked quietly and then glanced at König. "This man is a pig. He is an old Nazi."

     "What's going on? Why are you helping me?"  She threw the bed covers off, intuitively trusting him.

     "You must hurry. The matron will be back." Richard saw the pills on the small table next to the bed. "Are these yours?" She nodded, getting up. "Good." He yanked open König's mouth and shoved them in, splashing some water afterwards. Miriam reached into her hospital gown pocket and gave him more. "Thank you," he said in single calm moment. He nodded to her and they both beamed. He was pulling up König as she went to the matron's closet to find a hospital uniform. "Can you help me with König? We are to play a trick on the guards and he is our ticket. I have a car just outside. If this is to work; you will help me with him?"

     "Yes! I assume you have a great plan. Am I leaving East..." She dressed and found shoes.

     "No time to talk. I will tell everything to you. I promise. Take his arm, Miriam."

***

     Angel and Jack alighted from the taxi early that morning. The earth had shaken off the light mist; now a curiously dark, then sunny day touched the couple who seemed to folks they met to be a younger pair in love. He opened the door to the B&B he was staying in for her. His rooms had been changed to the larger suite on the ground floor facing a small lawn with spring flowers in the back of the house. Angel was pleased; she adored flowers and could hear music from a wonderful practicing cellist nearby. "If only there was a piano, I could accompany whoever is playing."

     "You can think about that later." He put his arms around her. They made love on the springy bed. Jack tried to lie on his back later noiselessly and this made them both giggle. Angel asked about the bloody sticking plaster on his hand.  "Damn, I changed this after I showered, right before I met you at the airport."

     She sat up and gazed down as a palm reader. She peeled the edges away from the wound carefully. "Are you ready?" He said yes, and with that, she ripped it off. "What have you done to yourself? Jack, this is nasty! You should have gone to a surgery."

     Sheepishly he replied, "I don't even recall when I did it. Honestly. Suddenly, it was there. Oh, I know! I was out looking at the railings around the building, and running my hand along the tops, which come to spade-like point. The ironwork is marvellous; wait till you see it."

     "Jack, you can show me that today. Let's go and wash and dress this properly. You don't want an infection. Goodness gracious, we need to hurry. Look at the time! That's the last time I let you have your way with me, Mr Thomas." Five minutes later, as she opened her suitcase, she inquired after the American. "She hasn't been released yet. What is taking so long Jack?  I've not seen it on in the news for a week or so. I feel so sorry for her. And what about her parents? They must be frantic."

     Jack wondered then too. Lt. Clark would know; maybe they were deceased. He prayed to himself. 'Lord, release her! I hope all goes smoothly today. Bless and keep us all.' Angel opened their door, waiting for Jack. When he saw her, she still had the power to stop him. "You look lovely dear." He tucked his short speech in the inner pocket of his raincoat. "Oh, hang on." He pulled the last sketch out of the portfolio.  Vitruvius man was to be altered slightly. It would take only a couple of hours but today was Good Friday. Jack and a few others had complained about the Opening on a Holy Day to the investors. They weren't interested. The capitalist cathedral was open for business.

***

     "Open the doors! It is Captain Krenckel speaking! Herr König must see his private physician! Damn you, faster! I need a man, now!" A prison sergeant of the guards came swinging out of his tiny office. He immediately shored up König, as Miriam pulled an infirmary nurse's cloak around herself, with the hood up over her head. She let the man take over. The sergeant shouted an order and two more guards snatched König away from the escapees. Outside, the Captain jumped into Herr König's personal auto and drove it around to the private entrance/exit. He motioned for the grand inquisitor first, who was packed in by the obedient men, and Miriam sat next to him.  Krenckel picked up the radio inside and pretended to alert the doctor. They sped toward the prison gates, which were opened with blares and eyes looking on. Then they left, driving slightly faster than the speed limit.

     Clouds like last month's snow on dirty streets parted to unveil splatters of sun. Miriam couldn't help gaping out the window. Outdoor light tugged on her. Next she felt König's hand. He mouthed 'how are you' to her and she in turn whispered in his ear. He looked puzzled.

     "Der Erlkönig. Do you know this, Miriam?" Richard asked, driving carefully to their destination. "Uh, evil creature in German tales. He haunts the woods. Goethe, do you know Goethe?" She shook her head affirmatively, still drinking in her freedom. "The poet writes about him. This is him in the flesh." He elbowed König sharply. "Time to execute the excuse of the Erlkönig."

     "I am the Erlkönig!"  Kurt shouted, slumping in the seat again.

     "Yes, you are. And don't touch me again." She grabbed his hand and put it in between his splayed legs. She said across the drugged Kurt to Richard, "May I ask your real name? You aren't Johann. I can't remember the last name. And why you have done this? For me, or for both of us?"

     He chewed his lip. "Both of us. I am Richard." He wanted to tell her that he had shot her; but maybe she would dive out of the auto. Best to get her to safety first. "Please, we must not have suspicion. Top Stasi men will have been notified by now. We need to get to the Tor."

     Miriam reached behind the fading Erlkönig and brushed Richard's shoulder. "Thank you."

     His bearing was straight and he did not shift. "You are welcome." 'Can I be with you now that I am Richard again?' "We will be at the Tor after the Opening. Thank me again when we arrive."

     "The Opening" meant nothing to her. It hadn't yet dawned on her that with her escape, she was recanting. Miriam had a penchant for life. She sped on, deeply alive, her Passion postponed.

***

     Lt. Clark, the palomino man in camouflage, was already in position. The Berlin Brigade was on alert, for the building was so close to the Checkpoint. The National People's Army too; their checkpoint was now manned by a new squad, with a marksman today in the guardhouse. On either side were marksmen on rooftops, undercover Stasi and West Germans, English, and American military police. Lt. Clark was a natural for this assignment; his perch chosen in advance by his surveillance and say-so. Pierce examined the small self-portrait of Jack; he was amused until he read the inscription "For this I came." He wondered what it had to with the portrait. Was it simply a part of the whole structure?  Shopkeepers rattled their wares below him; offices already opened for business would simply shut their doors when the gathering crowds would come pushing in. 'The readiness is all,' he thought, checking his watch.

     Angel stood in the exact centre of the building, duly marked by a compass on the marble floor, looking up at Vitruvius Man. 'Jack has done da Vinci proud.' She lifted her camera, adjusted the F stops, and took a photograph. She was always proud of him, and he of her. "When we get home, you must play me the Emperor Suite." He had proclaimed; she protested. "You always put it off. I know you're ready for the stage again. Besides, doesn't your husband get the command performance?" She continued documenting his work with photographs. She had been vetted to the anxious investors, shop-owners, and office dwellers first. She alone was allowed inside. A large clock on a pillar to the north tolled a quarter till one.

     Jack was outside in the back with the last group of workers. He again thanked them for their work. He pointedly spoke of sections they as few men or individually had wrought. To the glass workers, he selected from the volunteers a couple to complete once more his ode to da Vinci. Then he started back inside. A secreted wheel drove him to Miriam. Fascinated by her, he wanted her to be here also. He mentally shook her out. 'All is vanity, Jack. Be glad nothing collapsed.'

     Angel met him near the back door and took his arm. The investors, city dignitaries, and a bevy of select businessmen waited for him at the front double doors. He breathed in and out slowly. She said in his ear, "I haven't found your signature yet." He grinned and pointed to the front east windows. Remembering the Lieutenant, he reined in, looking straight ahead. Somewhere in the front, a reporter stepped forward from the crowd and snapped a picture of the couple. Everyone was surprised. Sets of hands took hold and yanked him back. Anger, then apologies, then the excitement returned. At one o'clock, the doors were pulled opened.

     Such noise and cheering! A large ribbon had been strung across the iron gates, which were held back in place by great latches to inner poles. On the other side, someone handed the ceremonial large pair of scissors to Jack, who almost passed them to his wife. She took a pace back and everyone laughed. He recited his speech in German and cut the ribbon, quickly dancing out of the way.  He sighed. The people flooded inside. When it was safe, he took Angel around the whole of the structure clockwise. They ended up at the last turn of the railings.

     "You have just proved to me once more how creatively brilliant you are Jack." His grin returned; they kissed. She felt his hand. "Jack, you're bleeding again!" They both wondered at it momentarily. "Forget the surgery; this is serious. Hospital!" Then the earth spun, sending Jack almost to his knees. He reached out to the railings with the other hand to catch himself in time; he managed to sit on the new lawn, one leg out in front, one pulled up to his chest. "Right again my love," Jack sputtered out. Scanning upwards, he beheld the stone wings of the Quadriga, and his eyes moved higher. The clifted clouds of all weathers hastened into view.

     For Richard and Miriam, the Quadriga bulged upwards. "I've never seen it from this angle. The statue, Richard. God in heaven!" König was snoring.

     "Miriam, now please quiet." He slowed; there were no one ahead of him. New guards stood at the arm of the gatehouse. "Can you prop him up? We must look O.K." Richard breathed out, relieved. 'There is my comrade Hanson.' He down-shifted, next pulling up the parking break. Rolling down the window, he shouted "Hanson, you mutt!"

     The marksman stepped out and greeted him. "Hail Comrade, I mean Emperor Krenckel! This man is the best shot in Germany, in the world!" The guards came closer to inspect the Captain as Hanson leaned in his window. Krenckel motioned for him to step back, opened the door and got out.  'Apparently he doesn't know about my one miss.' He dared not glance at Miriam. 

     "What is happening? Who is your shy pretty nurse? Who's the lump?" The men laughed. A telephone rang in the Guardhouse. After several rings, one man ran inside to answer it.

     "The lump is one of our glorious leaders needing Western medical attention. This is his private nurse. Don't worry; she is not fond of him. What is happening over there? Stupid capitalists standing around. Don't they work enough? And all these troops; looks like another showdown between us and them."

     "I thought you were always in the know Krenckel. Been on leave?" A private glared at a corporal, who was admiring the automobile. He cleared his throat loudly. Hanson ignored him.

     "Yes. I went to the Caspian Sea again with my parents. Why don't we meet up at the Berlin Red Club tonight, at around eight? Let us drink like in the old days. But I need to drop off my package. Can I get through here or on the other side for that matter?"

     "Here, sure." As Hanson moved away from the automobile door, Krenckel could see the guards circling. A barrage of horns went off. He knew it was now. The Captain pretended to look for something inside; instead he slipped his arm around König, and moved him over to the driver's side. Miriam gazed at Richard. He winked at her, motioning her to the floor. Only she saw him put down the parking break. The auto lurched forward. Richard stepped back, squeezing König's knee sharply. Evil began to rouse itself. The guards were yelling to Hanson.

     "I am the Erlkönig!" He shouted again. Flopping sideways, he seemed to grab for Krenckel's sidearm. Krenckel sprang towards Hanson who was cocking his rifle. Krenckel fired first, at König. He shot him again in the head. The body slide out. The automobile kept rolling at a slow pace.

     "Out of the way Hanson! I must call the Command! I've been watching him; he's been trying to defect to the West for months!" Krenckel ran into the Guardhouse; Hanson signalled the men closer in to the Checkpoint to stand down. On the telephone now, he waited for Lubek. "Sorry Hanson; this was my chance to catch him in the act."

     "You'll be a hero again, Comrade. I am proud to know you." Meanwhile, the auto drifted forward to the Western Gate, with Miriam curled down, forgotten in the rush.

     Inside the capitalist cathedral, Joseph Scanlan was shooting up for the last time. The dope from Zoo Station had been cut with strychnine. Whilst living, he had delusions of exposing Jack as another fraudulent impresario; the truth, like the drug, killed him.

     Frantically zigzagging through the crowds, Angel located two police who found Jack inching his body up the railing, sliding back a bit with the blood. They looked at him, recognizing him as the architect. One radioed for an ambulance. The other man tried to explain that it might take longer to get here due to the traffic. He gently lowered Jack into a sitting position and Angel laid his hand across his breast, higher than his heart. "Darling, the ambulance is on its way." She stripped his sleeve back to be sure no infection was crawling up his veins. His forehead was hot.

     "I am not shriven; fetch the priest," Thomas said softly. Angel peered into his blue eyes, small strips of ashen white marched their way into his pupils.

     "Jack, listen to me. You're ill because of this wound. You are not dying." She was frightened; blackened blood creased his coat, soaking through to his shirt, fresh blood dripped from the iron.

     Lieutenant Clark kept the watch. A slow moving vehicle was rolling across the concrete to Checkpoint Charlie. Miriam kept peeping up to direct the car, one hand on the bottom of the steering wheel, unaware of Pierce's protection. The reporter he had seen inside was walking around outside in the crowd, an occasional flash of his camera popped, though it was definitely not being pointed at anything in particular. At that instance, they both were reconnoitring the vehicle. They both had seen Jack sitting down with his wife and the police. They both were concerned for different reasons. They both were trained marksman. The Stasi man was the Erlkönig's handpicked assassin. König knew something was wrong when Krenckel didn't hit his mark. This man would kill Thomas.

     On the Eastern side, Hanson said, "What about that nurse?" Krenckel was hanging up the receiver. The private was inside the house with him. They both exited at the same moment, with Krenckel tripping him so he fell right into Hanson, knocking them down as dominoes. When he rolled over after a minute, Krenckel scooped up his rifle, taking his time with the aim. The master was about to work.

     Time crawled with the car. Pierce watched it with his binoculars, bouncing back between it and Jack. 'Get up Thomas, this could be our exchange! Is there anyone actually in the car though?' Winding its way up the street was an ambulance, sirens and lights. The Berlin Brigade was tense, having witnessed a shooting on the East side. Was this just the loosen vehicle coming their way? The two men were out; one dead. The Lieutenant's own top commander was about to issue orders to stop it when a door swung open on the passenger side. Hands flew up from above the window.  It was Miriam.

     "Don't shoot! I'm an American! Help me!" The guards at Checkpoint Charlie yelled back repeatedly, "Get down! We'll cover you!" Troops and police moved up.

     Pierce saw the reporter throw down his camera and pull out a handgun. Miriam was crawling on her belly like a dog, not knowing if she was close enough or not. With the small window opened up, Pierce spied her on her way to safety. Kneeling, he picked out the man's revolver, then the man's head. The clean shot was the genuine article. Pierce circled down the spiral staircase to the next landing, catapulting himself until he reached the bottom, taking a small side-door outside.  When he reached the body, other troops were already there. So he ran on. "Jack!  Damn you Thomas, get up!"

     Blue rushed back into Jack's eyes. The scar of white he had sought vanished. He sat up, then got to his feet. Angel was already up for she had heard the ambulance. She was shocked to see her husband standing beside her. "I'm better," was all he said.

     "Thank God Thomas. You know you weren't long for this world, right?" Pierce said, directing his attention to the body 50 feet away. American troops ran over to the Lieutenant. They were about to cheer him but he gave them a stern look. "You were right! Miriam's coming."

     "I know." Jack took his wife's arm. "Please stay with these men." Of the pardon, he knew nothing. He had to get to the Checkpoint. He mined his body for strength, yet was behind Pierce.

     The arabesques of gunfire were like Roman Candles: white-yellow daffodils, red poppies, green stems. It pricked her as she grieved for God. But Miriam staggered to her feet after crawling. She saw the Gate opening, saw Pierce, saw Jack. She dashed to them. Pierce caught her in his arms.

     Only Jack observed Richard Krenckel sighting the rifle fastidiously. The Captain's transformation was not to change too much. The bullet entered Jack's chest, and he fell flat on his back. An ethereal spring rain began to fall then; asudden, lightning split Vitruvius Man's side, where the metal rifle stand was still set up, continuing on to the self-portrait, cracking it to pieces. Splintering glass crashed inside and out; shards of glass darted. Insular breath was trimmed.

     Jack felt his wife lift him. 'I am a drawn Jack.' He said softly, "Angel, hold me sway." His palm was dry.

     "I am."





Joan McCracken's "Almost 13" appears in FlashPøint #6.