Lights flashed on suddenly. The screen rolled up into its receptacle with a snap. Blinded, Joe rubbed his eyes. He had a ferocious headache. He also had a ferocious need to urinate at once, before his bladder exploded. He'd had an awful lot of drinks at the plastic martini party, then made love to that Chinese girl in the cab, then sat down to watch this movie without once taking time out to go to the bathroom. The pain in his groin was excruciating. He imagined it felt something like what Evoe, that fellow in the movie, had experienced after he castrated himself.
"Where the hell is the John?" said Joe loudly. There was no one in the room. While he was absorbed in the movie, they, doubtless having seen it before, had crept away softly, leaving him alone to watch the death of Atlantis.
"Christ's sake," he muttered. "Gotta take a leak. If I don't find the bathroom right away I'll pee in my pants." Then he noticed a wastepaper can tinder the table. It was walnut with a metal lining. He bent over and picked it up, sending new tremors of anguish through a body on the verge of bursting. He decided to use it as a receptacle, set it down again, unzipped his fly, took out his dick and let go into the can. What if they all came trooping back into the room now, he thought. Well, he would be embarrassed, but what the hell. It was their fault for springing this movie on him without giving him a chance to make himself comfortable. Joe looked somberly down into the foam.
"Piss on Atlantis," he muttered. Who the hell were those people he'd seen tonight? Simon and Padre and Big John had never told him about a group like this. Nor had they ever said anything about Atlantis. But there was the clear implication, if this movie was to be believed, that the Ancient Illuminated Seers of Bavaria might better be called the Ancient Illuminated Seers of Atlantis. And that the word "Ancient" meant a lot older than 1776.
It was clearly time to leave this place. He could try searching the offices, but he doubted whether he'd find anything, and, anyway, he was much too tired and hung over- not only from the alcohol he'd drunk, but also from the strange drug the Oriental girl had given him before the movie. Still, it had been a very nice drug. It had been Joe's habit since 1969, when he wasn't too busy and didn't have to get up early in the morning, to get stoned and watch late movies on television. He found this so enjoyable a pastime that he'd lost two girlfriends to it; they'd both wanted to go to bed when he was just settling down in front of the tube, laughing himself silly at the incredibly clever witticisms, marveling at the profundity of the philosophical aphorisms tossed off by the characters (such as Johnny's line in Bitter Rice: "I work all week and then on Sundays I watch other people ride the merry-go-round"-what a world of pathos had been expressed in that simple summation of a man's life) or appreciating, as one wordsmith does another, the complex subtlety of the commercials and the secret links between them and the movies into which they were inserted (like the slogan: "You can take the Salem out of the country but you can't take the country out of Salem," in the middle of The Wolf Man). All of this capacity for appreciating movies had been raised to a new high with the drug Mao Tsu-hsi had given him, and added to this it was a full-color movie on a large screen uninterrupted by commercials or, come to think of it, by fnords- and commercials no matter how trickily interwoven with the plot of the movie did tend to seem like interruptions, even to one who was stoned enough to know better. It had been a great movie. The best movie of his life. He would never forget it. Joe tried the knob of the boardroom door and it opened at once. He stopped, considering whether he should take out his pocket knife and carve "Malik was here" or some obscenity into the beautiful wood of the table. That would, he felt in an obscure way, let them know that he knew where they were at. But it would be a shame to spoil the wood, and besides, he was dreadfully tired. He walked through darkened outer corridors, staggered down the stairs and let himself out into the street. Looking toward the East River, he thought he could see light in the sky over Queens. Was the sun coming up? Had he been there that long?
A cab cruised by with its light on. Joe hailed it. Sinking into the back seat as he gave the driver his home address, he noticed that the man's name on his hack license was Albert Feather.
Well, here's that ladder now, Come on, let's climb. The first rung is yours, The rest are mine.
Funny, thought Lieutenant Otto Waterhouse of the State's Attorney's Police. Every time things get hairy, that damn song starts going through my head. I must be an obsessive-compulsive neurotic. He'd first heard the song, "To Be a Man" by Len Chandler, at the home of a chick he was balling back in '65. It expressed pretty well for him his condition as a member of the tribe. The tribe, that was how he thought of black people; he'd heard a Jew refer to the Jews that way, and he liked it better than that soul brother shit. Deep down, he hated other blacks and he hated being black. You had to climb, that was the thing. You had to climb, each man alone.
When Otto Waterhouse was eight years old, a gang of black kids on the South Side had beaten him, knifed him and thrown him into Lake Michigan to drown. Otto didn't know how to swim, but somehow he'd pulled himself along the concrete pilings, clinging to rusty steel where there was nothing to cling to, his blood seeping out into the water, and he'd stayed there, hidden, till the gang went away. Then he pulled himself along to a ladder, climbed up and dragged himself onto the concrete pier. He lay there, almost dead, wondering if the gang would come back and finish him.
Someone did come along. A cop. The cop nudged Otto's body with his toe, rolled it over and looked down. Otto looked up at the Irish face, round, pig-nosed and blue-eyed.
"Oh, shit," said the cop, and walked on.
Somehow Otto lived till morning, when a woman came along and found him and called an ambulance. Years later, it seemed logical enough to him to join the police force. He knew the members of the gang that nearly killed him. He didn't bother with them until after he got on the force. Then he found cause to kill each of the gang members- several of whom had by then become respectable citizens- one by one. Most of them didn't know who he was or why he was killing them. The number he killed made his reputation in the Chicago Police Department. He was a nigger cop who could be trusted to deal with niggers.
Otto never did know who the cop was who'd left him to die- he remembered the face, more or less, but they all looked alike to him.
He had another oddly vivid memory, of a fall day in 1970 when he'd been walking through Pioneer Court and had hassled a dude who was giving out free samples of- of all things- tomato juice. Otto took a ten from the dude and drank some tomato juice. The guy had a crew haircut and wore horn-rimmed glasses. He didn't seem to mind having to pay a bribe, and he looked at Otto with an odd gleam in his eye as the tomato juice went down. For a moment, Otto thought the tomato juice might be poisoned. There were cop haters everywhere; many people seemed to have sworn to kill the "pigs" as they called them. But dozens of people had already drunk the juice and gone away happy. Otto shrugged and walked off.
Thinking back over the strange changes that had come over him, Otto always traced them back to that moment. There had been something in the juice.
It wasn't till Stella Maris told him about AUM that he realized how he'd been had. And by then it was too late. He was a three-way loser, working for the Syndicate, the Illuminati and Discordian Movement. The only way out was down- down into the chaos with Stella pointing the way.
"Just tell me one thing, baby," he said to her one afternoon as they lay naked together in his apartment in Hyde Park. "Why did they pick you to contact me?"
"Because you hate niggers," said Stella calmly, running her finger down his dick. "You hate niggers worse than any white man does. That's why the way to freedom for you lies through me."
"And what about you?" he said angrily, pulling away from her and sitting up in bed. "I suppose you can't tell the difference between black and white. Black meat and white meat, it's all the same to you, ain't it, you goddamned whore!"
"You'd like to think so," said Stella. "You'd like to think only a nigger whore would lay you, a whore who'd lay anybody regardless of race. But you know you are wrong. You know that Otto Waterhouse, the black man who is better than all black men because he hates all black men, is a lie. It's you who can't tell the difference between black and white and thinks the black man should be where the white man is and hates the black man because he isn't white. No, I see color. But I see everything else about a person, too, baby. And I know that nobody is where they should be and everybody should be where they are."
"Oh, fuck your goddam philosophy," said Water-house. "Come here."
But he learned. He thought he'd learned everything Stella and Hagbard and the rest of them had to teach him. And that was a lot, piled on top of all that Illuminati garbage. But now they'd thrown him a total curve.
He was to kill.
The message came, as all the messages did, from Stella.
"Hagbard said to do this?"
"And I suppose, if I go along with this, I''ll be told why later on, or I'll figure it out for myself? Goddam, Stella, this is asking a lot, you know."
"I know. Hagbard told me you have to do this for two reasons. First, for the honor of the Discordians, so that they will have respect."
"He sounds like a wop for once. But he's right. I understand that."
"Second. He said because Otto Waterhouse must kill a white man."
"What?" Otto started to tremble in the phone booth. He picked nervously, without reading it, at a sticker that said, THIS PHONE BOOTH RESERVED FOR CLARK KENT.
"Otto Waterhouse must kill a white man. He said you'd know what that meant."
Otto's hand was still shaking when he hung up. "Oh, damn," he said. He was almost crying.
So now on April 28 he stood at a green metal door marked "1723." It was the service entrance to a condominium apartment at 2323 Lake Shore Drive. Behind him stood a dozen State's Attorney's police. All of them, like himself, were wearing body armor and baby-blue helmets with transparent plastic visors. Two were carrying submachine guns.
"All right," said Waterhouse, glancing at his watch. It had amused Flanagan to set the time for the raid at 5:23 A.M. It was 5:22:30. "Remember- shoot everything that moves." He kept his back to the men so they would not see the damned tears that Insisted on welling up in his eyes.
"Right on, lieutenant," said Sergeant O'Banion satirically. Sergeant O'Banion hated blacks, but worse than that he hated filthy, lice-ridden, long-haired, homosexual, Communist-inspired Morituri bomb manufacturers. He believed that there was a whole disgusting nest of them, sleeping together, dirty naked bodies entwined, like a can full of worms, just on the other side of that green metal door. He could see them. He licked his lips. He was going to clean them out. He hefted the machine gun.
"Okay," said Waterhouse. It was 5:23. Shielding himself with one gloved hand, he pointed his.45 at the lock on the door. The instructions given orally by Flanagan at the briefing were that they would not show a warrant or even knock before entering. The apartment was said to be full of enough dynamite to wipe out the entire block of luxury high-rise apartment houses. Presumably the kids, if they knew they were caught, would set them off. That way they could take a bunch of pigs with them, preserve their reputation for suicidal bravery, protect themselves from giving away any information, use the explosives and avoid having to live with the shaming knowledge that they'd been dumb enough to get caught.
O'Banion was imagining finding a white girl in the arms of a black boy and finishing them off with one burst from his machine gun. His cock swelled in his pants.
In the next instant he threw his weight against the door and smashed it open. He was in a hallway next to the kitchen. He walked into the apartment. His shoes rang on a bare tile floor. Tears ran down his cheeks.
"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" he sobbed.
"Who's that?" a voice called. Waterhouse, whose eyes had adjusted to the darkness, looked across the empty living room into the foyer, where Milo A. Flanagan stood silhouetted in the light from the exterior hall.
Waterhouse raised the heavy automatic in his hand to arm's length, sighted carefully, took a deep breath and held it and squeezed the trigger. The pistol blasted and kicked his hand and the black figure went toppling backwards into the startled arms of the men behind him.
A bat which had been sitting on a windowsill flew out the open window toward the lake. Only Waterhouse saw it.
O'Banion came clumping into the room. He took a bent-kneed stance and fired a burst of six rounds in the direction of the front door.
"Hold it!" Waterhouse snapped. "Hold your fire. Something's wrong." Something would really be wrong if the guys at the front door came through again, shooting. "Turn on the lights, O'Banion," Waterhouse said.
"There's somebody in here shooting."
"We're standing here talking, O'Banion. No one is shooting at us. Find a light switch."
"They're gonna set off the bombs!" O'Banion's voice was shrill with fear.
"With the lights on, O'Banion, we'll see them doing it. Maybe we'll even be able to stop them."
O'Banion ran to the wall and began slapping it with the palm of one hand while he kept his machine gun cradled in the free arm. One of the other men who had followed O'Banion through the service entrance found the light switch.
The apartment was bare. There was no furniture. There were no rugs on the floor, no curtains on the windows. Whoever had been living here had vanished.
The front door opened a crack. Before they could start shooting Waterhouse yelled, "It's all right. It's Waterhouse in here. There's nobody here." He wasn't crying anymore. It was done. He had killed his first white man.
The door swung all the way open. "Nobody there?" said the helmeted policeman. "Who the hell shot Flanagan?"
"Flanagan?" said Waterhouse.
"Flanagan's dead. They got him."
"There isn't anybody here," said O'Banion, who had been looking through side rooms. "What the hell went wrong? Flanagan set this up personally."
Now that the light was on, Waterhouse could see that someone had drawn a pentagram in chalk on the floor. In the center of the pentagram was a gray envelope. Otto picked it up. There was a circular green seal on the back with the word ERIS embossed on it Otto opened it and read:
Good going, Otto. Now proceed at once to Ingolstadt, Bavaria. The bastards are trying to immanentize the Eschaton.