Perils of Martyrdom
Premiered 9/9/9 (9 September 2009)
The continuation of The Myth and Legend of D'PTah, an original novel by Dan Sewell Ward.
Perils of Martyrdom
Gil was probably more surprised than Duenki was. Anna had not only given her blessing on the reports, but had made no suggestions at all in terms of changes. She liked it precisely the way it was. She encouraged its publications; she even supported our efforts.
In many respects, it seemed as if Gil was angry for the woman not living up to his worst expectations. It is always unnerving when you think you've got some woman figured out and they fool you completely... and such things happen about 8,300 times a second worldwide. This was, however, not a wholly fabricated statistic that was likely to comfort Gil, and thus he was forced to fall back on the old tried and true method of, “Okay, the Great Shamhat went along with us on this particular case, but let's wait for the really controversial portion of this segment in the narrative. Let's see how Dr. Shamhat deals with Causality and the consequences of the 'trial'. This is precisely the kind of material that will drive the Peer Reviewers up the wall. If the redoubtable Shamhat lets this part go though, then I'll have to believe that my dogma has indeed been run over by my karma and she can safely be admitted into our inner sanctum. On the other hand... no way in hell! Ms. Anna Shamhat's real test comes with her reaction to this material.”
Duenki had a bewildered look on his face... what was all this “Shamhat” stuff? What the hell did... Anna... do to Gil to deserve such... respect-in-the-guise-of-disgust? Duenki began searching for a smile to lighten the mood. But the store seemed fresh out of stock. Then he thought of another possibility: There had to be a story on the Gil and Anna thing, one sufficiently intimate so as to account for this level of emotion. In fact, the story must have been a real barn burner... if only because Gil had clearly been burned.
Meanwhile, Duenki had to avoid gloating about his opinions of Anna being at least temporarily vindicated. Obviously, Gil was in no mood for such pointed remarks, no matter how subtle, diplomatic, or coughed in analogy and metaphor. Worse yet, Duenki was himself in no mood to even bother to try.
If the truth be known, Duenki was in something of another world. Having so readily and completely identified with D'PTah from the long distant past, Duenki was finding himself disappointed and dismayed by the actions of the ancients. His reaction had been similar to the Regent's – wondering if any of the many attempts to truly accomplish something was worth the time and effort. Duenki of course had the decided advantage over D'PTah of knowing the final end result of how whatever happened then was still going to result in the world Duenki knew now. It was the classic time traveler's dilemma: In the far distant future, nothing in the past really makes any difference at all. H. G. Wells knew this long before Duenki.
Still... subdued and discouraged by the messages from the Regency's era, Duenki was ready to admit Gil might have a good point in their current dilemmas. This next segment could be the telling tale for Anna. Would she allow what would be anathema to most of the PRO, or would she act true to Gil's version of her form and begin suggesting “minor” changes? Maybe the cowardice angle would hit close enough to home either to force her – and Duenki for that matter – to rise to the level of heroine/hero... or not. And then despite it all, not make a difference. It was the latter that was so emotionally depressing. Why even bother, when in the end, it's all... history.
When Anna arrived in his tent, Duenki was still in his unusually somber mood. Anna noted it immediately, but as Duenki rose to allow her access to the latest, fateful segment, she pretended not to notice his decided lack of lustful intentions and proceeded instead to act totally professional. For the moment, he would be Doctor Duenki. Arthanius would be in the next room, distracted by other things.
As Shamhat read the entire document, taking care and using her best analytical discrimination on every twist and turn of the narrative, Duenki looked on with an almost detached presence. He was still living vicariously through what he had written. When she was done, she did the totally unexpected: She gently and with utmost care led Duenki to his cot where she shared it with him for well unto two hours – not only an endurance record by far for Duenki, but with the added fringe benefit of the entire episode being more astounding than he had ever encountered, imagined in his day dreams, or conceived of as possible.
The good news from the Duenki perspective was that this was not a unique event for Anna, her having acted in a similar manner more than once in the past... in fact, whenever the moments of long ago had required it. Accordingly, return engagements seemed more than appropriate... or so Duenki hoped.
Meanwhile, what led to such compassionate passion (or vice versa)? Maybe you should read what they had shared before the cot was stretched to the breaking point. You can then decide wherein lay the possibly diverse motivations for each of them. Just keep in mind that the music in the background was Defying Gravity  what in retrospect seemed more than entirely appropriate.
Unbelievable. Where can all of this end but in disaster? What motivates lemmings to rush to the sea or humans to go to the extremes they do in maintaining and defending their fanatical beliefs in what must clearly be delusional fantasies? What after all is the distinction between lemmings and religious fanatics? One can only marvel and lament at the astounding ignorance and duplicity communicated amongst the many sects of humanity. The idea that these are my distance ancestors does not encourage me, but instead fills me with dismay.
Surely it is obvious that the evils of a society are most easily perpetrated by appeals to dogma – scientific, historical, or worst yet, religious beliefs. All such beliefs are derived from authorities who cannot be questioned (as if this would be questioning the never erring experts, the invariable past, the infallibility of supreme leaders, and/or the “gods” themselves). Such beliefs make no allowance for compromise, compassion, empathy, or tolerance. The ignorant, the uneducated, the willfully disenfranchised, those who fail to learn from history, the infidels, the heretics, the pagans, the freethinkers, the heathen, the sinners, or whatever you care to name any and all of them, can now be ignored, dismissed, cursed, maimed, killed, and/or stolen from – all in the name of the covenants of a science, tradition or religion. And in the midst of doing so, the tenets of such beliefs will be claimed as justification for the right to forcibly impose such allegedly rational or irrational beliefs on others.
I have always prided myself on my willingness to challenge any philosophical mind set that would impose limitations, the kind of limitations that have accounted for so much of the misery foisted upon this planet. Returning to our heritage and seeing the level of degradation and rot in our roots is truly distressing. Such tales sound at first as if they were merely the childishness and inexperience of ancient myths. But then it becomes obvious that the same fantasies survive in the very fabric of our modern culture. It feels like some vicious cycle or wheel of life, whereby stability and novelty constantly strive for the upper hand, and we find ourselves again the victims of extreme change-avoidance.
It has been said that, “Religious fanaticism is even more terrible and unbending than the fanaticism of civil power.”  One can find little in this statement with which to argue.
This same sage has noted as well that,
The following fragments may serve to demonstrate such examples in those ancient times.
“Clearly... an assassination, following upon the heels of the interview-turned-trial could be an acute embarrassment.” Sefati was almost glowing with a broad smile, as if assassinations were simply a matter of public policy – the kind taken to such logical extremes, long ago in the days of Caesar.
“Amin is of course correct.” Rosario had a devilish smile – if only for his smile to be different from Sefati, and at the same time, the kind to tempt most anyone. “There is indeed great profit to be made here. We will aggressively continue the process of claiming the interview was but a a trial in disguise and that furthermore Johnny Ceal was blindsided and left without the opportunity to defend himself. We can prove without question that the Regency had conspired to waylay this innocent, to deny due process to this near-saintly defender of the faith. The question to be asked over and over again is, 'Where was Ceal's adversarial counsel?'”
“Can do,” was the Fox reporter's reply. “My editors will love this angle – just need a few direct quotes, so we don't have to take any responsibility ourselves.” [Such is the tradition in Journalism – anything can be said if attributed to someone else.]
“I'll see that you have them from authoritative sources who can be thus used in the traditional fashion of cannon fodder.”
“I appreciate, Brutus, your careful planning,” Goldman interjected, “but a verdict resulting in protective custody is hardly ammunition for our purposes, not quite the weapon of mass destruction for which we might have hoped.”
“Proving only that we must push forward with our plans,” Amin quickly interjected as he leaned back, the future clear in his mind. He did not quite say, “Death to the infidels” -- such a decree would not have been politic in the current company. Nor was he interested in going even further back to the Sumerian heritage, where he might remind everyone that the only humans were the “civilized” ones, the true believers with the ability and willingness to build a Ziggurat. Woe be to the others, the tribes surrounding civilization where the look alike humanoids had no comparable human value. It was the first example of demonizing those who were different. Such thoughts, fleeting though his mind, would, however, not be voiced. For Amin's purposes, the decisions being reached were rather precisely what he wanted. No sense in rocking the boat; if it works... don't fix it.
Rosario pursed his lips for a moment, smiling and acknowledging the understanding between Amin and himself. “Not to worry: The believers are already in place. They are well trained, and prepared to move on a moment's notice.”
Pragmatic Goldman asked, “Then why not give them the go-ahead?”
“Because we don't yet know where the target is.” When the others looked surprised. “Instead of his being taken to any number of obvious locations where he might have been incarcerated -- and where we could gain quick and ready access (we do, after all, have believers everywhere) -- he has been moved elsewhere. And we as yet don't know where. The Regent is apparently intent upon protecting Johnny Ceal, even if he's a royal pain in their side.”
“Which will delay us... but for how long?”
“Until we gather the appropriate intelligence.”
“And such intelligence,” Amin asked, “will be forwarded quickly?”
Rosario smiled. “This lovely Potsdam chapeau is not exactly the ends of the earth. We have in fact exceptional communications at our fingertips here. We have the means to accumulate intelligence from a wide range of sources and very quickly. We must simply be patient.”
For a moment, no one said anything. They were each deciding instead the limits of patience.
“I must admit,” Goldman finally mused, “to finding all of this to be quite fascinating. We have here an itinerant preacher, a wandering philosopher if you will, who with bold speeches and total confidence in his convictions, can attract and interest so many people, particularly those with weak, inexperienced minds. It's really quite astounding.”
"I've heard of such men before," Amin added with a broad grin. He was almost jovial, as if having been released from further restraint and thereby to begin taking actions to slander, maim, and murder. Amin had always enjoyed seeing the fruits of his labor manifested in radical actions.
"So have I," Goldman interjected, with a grimace. "And undoubtedly, the Jews will be blamed... again." Goldman looked just a bit defeated, thinking perhaps to hesitate, that there might have been another way.
Rosario laughed with a slight bemusement. “There has always been among the masses: a fascination with any man free from the internal taboos and limitations that so often weigh heavily upon the rest of us. Any martyr, with such a limited view of life, thereby becomes fearless, and can thus easily capture the imagination of many. It's as if the lack of fear of death is convincing evidence of the rightness of his convictions, when in fact of course it's more likely evidence of his insanity. Most martyrdom is due to a dysfunctional psychosis. Seldom did our blessed martyrs prefer life to death.”
“And can we,” Rabbi Goldman asked, turning to Rosario, “Can we not persuade you 'to have mercy on this hapless dreamer'?”
A slight, wry smile crossed his lips, as Rosario took the Rabbi's measure. “We are simply instruments accomplishing his, or His, earnest desire. We are defending the faith. As the man himself has decreed, there is no guilt whatsoever in such an activity.”
“Meantime, we lie in wait...”
The man designated as “One” (given names not being used in accordance with the standard protocol of such matters) looked up at the other two. Each of them had spread out on the table a terse but extensive array of weapons and instruments intended to result in the quick and certain death of any intended target. When the others felt his gaze on them, they looked up as well.
“Time to suit up,” One ordered.
“We've been given the green light?” Two was surprised at the order, and suspected it was premature. Three frowned as well, thinking that once everyone was prepped and ready for immediate action, the waiting and inactivity for an unknown stretch of time was going to be a real pain in the ass.
“No. But we're going to be ready to move on a moment's notice.”
“Shit! We don't even know where, and you want us to suit up?”
One looked at Three with the malice that all three men were intimately acquainted with. Then both Two and Three looked away, and began to suit up.
Norman watched the man carefully, resorting to his usual habit of gauging the other person's possible value to any of Norman's covert agendas. As if in response to Norman's look, the man made his position perfectly clear. “We're professionals. We move quickly and with deadly precision. That's all you really have to know. We guarantee plausible deniability."
“No doubt. And as a professional, you can assure me that your plan is completely formulated?”
“We're waiting on intelligence. But with four planned scenarios, we can respond to any possible location.”
“And it will look like an official, yet... compassionate execution?”
“Lethal injection with the latest, least painful concoction that's become available in recent years.”
“Should make our liberal freeloaders feel all warm and fuzzy.”
“Funny you should mention it; the injection supposedly does make one feel precisely that.”
“But of course you don't know for certain.”
“Admittedly it's all hearsay evidence, but the look of surprise on their faces does support the idea.”
“You will be providing the termination report in the usual fashion.”
“Of course. Should not be long at all before we execute the plan.”
“I grieve that this man, who has dedicated, even given his life to a cause of righteousness, must encounter such opposition. I wish him long life and prosperity in all things, but I fear that those who are true believers, those who seek the Lord's blessings upon their souls, will see that Johnny's work will be enhanced – and his faith realized – more by his death than by his life incarcerated.”
The four men listening attentively to Jerry Friendly seemed to understand their obliquely stated marching orders. They each exchanged knowing smiles with their comrades -- each of them in their own devious manner -- all the while congratulating themselves on being the chosen instruments. They were also feeling good about being clever enough to call themselves by something other than their given names of Regg, Hugh, Bill and Dick . Instead they had decided on the code names of: Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta. [Actually, while Alpha One sounded pretty good, and Beta Two a bit like a software test program, Gamma Three failed utterly to convey any mystery at all. The good news was that Delta Four at least could be misrepresented as Delta Force. In fact Gamma Three was eventually sufficiently disenchanted with his code name that he dropped out before the fact, citing the necessity of a family emergency... the latter when his son refused to cut his Mohawk for his upcoming Bar Mitzvah.]
“It is beyond sadness,” Jerry continued, “that some must die – and receive their heavenly rewards prior to their appointed time – purely in order that the greater good may be served. And for those who take on such a heavy responsibility, there will, undoubtedly, be great reward. But for Johnny Ceal... he I will pray for with all my heart that God intervenes to protect and guide him. And to receive him in glory at the appointed time. Which hopefully will be soon. There is no merit in prolonging his anxiety. His life deserves far more.
The four men did not really hear the last sentence; the gist of Friendly's message had already been absorbed. These men were not discriminating individuals, did not bear the burden of discernment or introspection, and more than likely had never heard of Henry II's plans for Becket. They were also totally ignorant of the theory of reincarnation.
“But where is he?” Hosea was indignant.
“Surely within one of four locations. Why not send a member of the faithful to each one?”
“Martyrs are not quite so plentiful as one might think.”
“It is a matter of priority. Do we wish to risk being bystanders, letting others usurp our divine right to avenge this mortal insult to our honor? Let us act now; analyze later.”
“Mauri speaks wisdom. Can you not hear it?”
“And these four locations? What do we know of them? We can not appear to be fools lashing out and attempting to bring down walls without injury to our target. We are not exactly in a position to conduct some form of magic carpet bombing.”
“Three of the locations we have already cased. The fourth is being investigated now.”
“Possibly,” Hosea seemed to consider.
“And where are our heroes?”
“They should already have arrived.”
“Hopefully, they were able to pass through customs easily.”
“Do not assume that the relaxation of border controls so publicly presented is in fact true. We are still stereotyped. There may still be obstacles with which we have not prepared.”
“And the devices? Are they ready?”
“Of course,” Hosea said with just a trace of indignation. “If our brothers can not reach us in time, perhaps one or both of you might like to accept their glorious mission.”
The sudden chill in the room seemed to cause a frost on each of their breathing – once the intake of the breath was allowed to finally exit.
Then Sadr, swallowing slightly, looked Hosea in the eye. “Perhaps...”
I must admit to oral sex being one of my jollies, although I much prefer some supplicant stud giving it to me than my having to bother to help some loser cum. Having the guy who should be able to command legions doing my bidding, worshiping at my bush, really sparks my tinder box. It's just one of life's many extra excruciating joys. It's one of those things that always comes to my mind whenever I hear the music, Holding Out for a Hero . My kind of hero!
Mutual oral sex, the classic “69” approach, is also cool, in that more often than not there is a mutual reinforcement and building to orgasm. The inevitable gasps of pleasure along the way serve more to extend the session, with occasional light interruptions of progress. By the time, one or both of us finally cascade into ecstasy, we're both so turned on enough that we could light up Cincinnati.
Doing everything exclusively for the guy, however, has considerably less appeal for me. I can still enjoy it, particularly in a bath tub where I can keep my ass warm, and where the whole act seems... well... somehow clean. The only problem is that a hot bath does not always bode well for his hardness. Still... the principal desirability of bothering in any locale is that most men will do just about anything to get a blow job. This is strange since they never seem to consider what a vengeful woman – and we all are one at one time or another – could do with a serious clamp down with her teeth. The idea just never dawns on them, although I probably think about it every time I give fellatio to the enjoyment of my mark.
The fact is that for the most part a blow job is the primary means of getting them hard and finished, clearing up the evening in something resembling what might be called an acceptable performance... and of course without my having to listen to their woeful song and dance of “this has never happened to me before”. In many of these cases, I just want to get it over and done with – and without the bewilderment scene -- particularly when I'm screwing for purposes other than my own needs, worshiping at the guys phallus while he does nothing but enjoy, just so that I can accomplish my mission. Such attention to detail can loosen the tongues of the most top secret conscious dude on the planet, but I certainly don't want to dwell on making it last in such situations.
Case in point: This guy, some clueless jerk in a position way over his head – the classic mark for a woman of my talents, abilities, and motivations. It took like a second meeting before I was feigning my lust for him. The third, romantic, clandestine meeting was in a hotel room. It was embarrassingly easy – I didn't get to trot out half my tricks. But then we're doing our thing, him feeling all warm and fuzzy, and me smiling all the way to the sperm bank.
The only real surprise, was that the guy was not all that bad, sexually. Still, for me, a man in power, but who has no clue what to do with it, is, quite frankly, something of a turn off. It's like I see the potential in the previews, but then I end up being disappointed in the main feature. The good news is that I can fake it – I've had a LOT of practice -- and he's just gullible enough never to figure it out.
As evidence for the prosecution, I would submit the following:
“God, you're good!”
“Why thank you sweetie. Of course... you were pretty hard yourself. You must be feeling your manhood a bit more than normal.”
“Perhaps,” the man answered, as he laid prone, still breathing with heavy sighs.
Leaning over his prost(r)ate figure, the woman -- her face and body covered with a light spray of perspiration and afterglow, her breasts still heaving and brushing against his hairy chest -- asked in her most seductive voice, “So what is the secret of your sudden lust and well... at the risk of appearing overly forward... the apparent enlargement of your cock?”
For a moment he looked at her. She was unbelievably tantalizing. And the way she made him feel: like truly the cock of the walk. She was the best thing in bed he might have ever imagined. This was something he didn't ever want to lose. But he was also cunning (or so he thought). He began with just a teaser. “You know about my taking the reins on... his case.”
“Oh yes,” she answered. “It's about time they recognized your contributions for what they are.”
“They will once they find out about my... well... let's just call it my additional planning efforts.”
The woman almost bit her lip, thinking that the man must simply be allowed to carry on without any interruption from her. She must let the silence prod him into more and more detail. She limited her response to one of intensely waiting on his every word as he were a pontificating god.
The man smiled, as he mentally congratulated himself on his own personal brilliance. Then he looked directly at the woman hanging on his mini drama. “Instead of your typical location, some place of incarceration which everyone would already know about, I installed him somewhere no one would ever think of.” When the suspense seemed to drive her to distraction, he added. “In a penthouse.”
The woman was genuinely surprised. “You're kidding?”
The man smiled even broader. “Not at all.”
“More ammunition for us.” When she could only look (genuinely) bewildered, he added, “This is a luxury penthouse: two fireplaces, a chef kitchen, a bedroom with silk sheets and a playing field bed the size of a baseball diamond, extensive roof gardens, and wall to wall gold surroundings.” When the woman still looked perplexed at the mind of this man, he continued. “My plan is to seduce this wandering minstrel with all of the luxuries of our modern world. And... while documenting it with hidden cameras. We're going to catch him living like a king, and thereby nullify his message.”
“Fascinating,” the woman said aloud. “What a...” she wasn't sure what it was.
“There's no live monitoring so that I will be the only person alive who knows about the hidden cameras... except you of course. Meanwhile the security is perfect. No one would ever expect the Regency to put him up in a penthouse. The idea is beyond anyone else's comprehension.”
The woman kept thinking to herself that yes, it was pretty much beyond comprehension. But there was also probably more. “Is there any danger that the guy might jump off the penthouse terrace?”
For a moment, the tactical genius was taken aback. Obviously it was not a question he had previously considered. At the same time, he was not about to admit to any flaw in his plans. “It is on the 13th floor, and any fall would definitely kill him... But I can't see that. He's not suicidal. Not without a televised martyrdom. Nah. No way.”
“You're right, of course,” Melissa quickly interjected. “There's no chance of his taking the leap.” 'Not without some encouragement,' she silently added. Melissa had already calculated the number of penthouses on the 13th floor, complete with roof gardens and available for immediate occupancy. She knew enough. It was now time to complete the con.
With her hand again stroking his groin area, obtaining the obvious response, and his beginning to groan (it's amazing what modern medicine can do for a man's stamina), she said, her voice bathed in lust and passion, “God, you're incredible. Show me again, how much.” Then she laughed slightly, “Unless you'd like your eager Bathsheba to worship at the altar.”
His grin followed by an ecstatic groan of delight pretty much answered that question.
Rob Carlson was accustomed to role playing, deceit and all the traits of those willing to do anything to accomplish their goals. But even as a professional in such matters, he would now have to excel at the most challenging performance he had ever contemplated playing. Army Special Forces Captain MacElvain standing rock hard in front of him was as formidable an adversary as he was likely to encounter. This was going to be tough sell. It was also very exciting. One heck of an adrenalin rush!
“Surely,” Rob began, pulling one ace after another from his sleeve, “the fact I know of his location demonstrates my authenticity.”
“It's my understanding... Sir... that you are no longer the man's personal physician.”
“Of course, I am. I never left his side. Such is the stuff of unfounded rumors. There has been a concerted effort to discredit both him and every one of his... most trusted associates.”
“You are still his personal physician?”
“Then you won't mind if I get authorization, will you?”
“Of course not. But please realize that time is of the essence. Surely, you would not want to risk contravening the Regent's orders to keep the man healthy. Epilepsy is a very serious condition. In his case, it comes without warning. Without his medicine to maintain his equilibrium, it is not beyond the possibility that he might suddenly encounter a fit and in the process injure himself.”
“You're telling me the man is epileptic?”
“Yes.” When that seemed inadequate to the task at hand, Rob added, “How else do you think he would be able to preach the gospel with such passion and ecstatic movement? But without his medicine being administered on a routine basis, such passion can quickly revert to uncontrolled madness.”
“I'm calling for authorization. Stay here.” By reflex, as if the Captain's orders carried a double meaning, two of the guards unobtrusively lowered their carbines to point directly at Carlson's mid-drift. And despite the subtle manner, Rob definitely noticed the action. He was really 'under the gun' on this one.
Still... Carlson acknowledged the ultimatum with apparent ease... on the outside. On other hand, inside he was seething, thinking that this was not going nearly as easily as he had imagined. Glancing around he saw a dozen or more well armed and apparently well disciplined guards. Rob knew that this small contingent did not even consider the firepower which was available throughout this new, recently finished building. Rob's only comfort was in the realization that the frontal assault which had been considered would have been foolhardy, and his decision to revert to the covert approach was clearly the right one.
As the Captain returned, still talking on the telephone, he asked, “Did Mr. Ceal dismiss you from his service?” And with that he extended the cell phone in Carlson's direction.
Rob took a deep breath and answered forcibly, “I was not dismissed from his service. You have seen my credentials, showing that I am his personal physician. I have an oath to uphold.”
The Captain returned to the telephone. “No, sir. I was not informed of his medical condition, or that he would be needing routine medical monitoring. It was obviously a well kept secret.” After a momentary pause, “Yes, sir. Quite surprising.” Then raising himself up to an even more rapt attention, he concluded, “Yes, sir. I will take care of it immediately. Good night, sir. Sorry to trouble you.”
When he realized that his ruse had been bought, Carlson resisted the temptation to smile. With sudden military dispatch, he was escorted to the private elevator, complete with a complement of four armed men. As the elevator ascended, Rob begin to resort to the well planned demeanor which he would use in confronting the man who had in fact recently asked for and obtained his resignation.
With the elevator opening, Rob was in for another surprise. There were six additional guards in the entry foyer of the penthouse, and all of the men appeared to be quite prepared to hang around the door for the foreseeable future. Then Carlson saw the inner double doors to the main rooms, neatly closed and... heavy. Perhaps, he would have a degree of privacy after all. The latter was going to be essential.
Thoughtfully, one of the guards opened the left door, and Rob walked into the Lions' Den.
Then, as the door closed behind him, he let out a heavy, thankful sigh. The place was empty. He would be allowed to make his case unimpeded by Ceal's guardians. Better yet, piped in music... appropriately some thing entitled Point of Origin  by Yanni.... would serve to cover minor noises. In a rare moment of precognition, this would be followed by Stravinsky's Firebird Finale .
Not being similarly precognitive (or for that matter being a classical music fan), Rob very carefully turned the dead bolt on the door, gaining at the very least a small delay to any interruptions to their privacy.
Now... where the hell was Johnny?
In the evening peace of the terrace, surrounded by exotic flowers and well manicured shrubbery, Johnny sat meditating... just as anyone of his caliber and situation might have been expected to do. There are always certain expectations, certain accessions to traditions which must be honored by those determined to make their mark on the world. Fulfilling prophecy was one of those traditions and could be guaranteed to always heighten one's stature. Johnny did momentarily wonder who had started such traditions, but such things probably went back well into prehistory. Still... a good gig is always worth repeating.
Unfortunately, a more accurate description of the situation was that Johnny was only trying to meditate. Any alleged wilderness experience (among the flowers and bushes) that he might have imagined for himself was contradicted by the expensive surroundings of a world-class penthouse. At the same time, Johnny knew instinctively that he was being set up, and while he had not yet succumbed to the temptations of the flesh, he couldn't get his mind to release the unease he felt in not being confident of his powers to resist temptation in the immediate future. At some very deep level, he knew his father had forsaken him, and rather spectacularly at that. Just how far did genetics determine his future?
His problem was that here in the penthouse, everything was entirely too pleasant, too agonizingly savory. Johnny's ego longed for a new style of comfort he had seldom succumbed to. With the rapid disintegration of his closest friends, many leaving without a word, Johnny had found himself horribly alone and with no one he could trust. And now there was no doubt but that his enemies were trying to record his fall from grace in order to discredit him. Fortunately the greenery of the terrace was at least natural. They could not fault him for trying to meditate and pray in such a... naturally beautiful place.
A noise from the interior served to attract his attention. Turning slightly, his eyes opening with as little fanfare as possible, Johnny looked up to see his former aide, Rob Carlson. Johnny's heart suddenly took an extra beat, his fight-or-flight response abruptly brought to the fore. This was not a happy occasion. Obviously the prison warden had no scruples; they would try anything to break him.
“Hello, Johnny,” Rob began, using his most ingratiating smile.
“Did you enjoy your conversation with the Regent?” Johnny returned Rob's false smile with a knowing smirk. It was important to appear all knowing... for the cameras.
“What are you talking about, Johnny? I've never even met the guy.”
“And he did not send you? Perhaps to tempt me toward other matters?” When Rob could only shake his head, Johnny added, “You are not welcome here. Please leave."
“I can't do that,” Rob replied. “You need me, and as you are well aware, I always stand by my friends. I have always been your messenger, your... your Matthew.”
“Too many have unlearned and confused everything I've said – a confusion I fear will last a long time. And all because of you, and your untruthfully writing down what I've said. I have never said a word of what you have written.” 
“But Johnny, it was verbatim... except of course correcting for grammatical errors.”
“I have already forgiven you. But do not presume my praying for you indicates a preference on my part to be in your company. I will say again, please leave.”
“I'm sorry, Johnny, I simply can't. I know what you're going through, and you need to know that there are millions of people out there who are on your side. I'm your only hope when it comes to assuring you that this incarceration is rallying the soldiers in a holy crusade to free you.”
Johnny took a moment to think about Rob's statement, and how it could be answered. Finally, “None of that matters. I wish to inspire no holy crusade, no war, no response from any other person. This is my personal confrontation with Satan. I must be alone, even in the wilderness of this... this place. As for you, I neither need nor desire your presence. Leave!”
“I can't do that,” Rob replied, his jaw set. For a moment Johnny glowered at him. It was then Rob saw, perhaps for the first time, the hard, determined expression on Johnny's face. This was a new feature for Johnny. Abruptly Rob realized that a new tactic was required. Stepping forward in a passionate rush, Rob dropped down on his knees before Johnny, throwing himself at the man's mercy.
Unfortunately, the jolt on his left knee as it hit the rock terrace floor sent intense pains up his leg, torso and spine. In something of a knee jerk reaction, Rob was seriously jarred and would have cried out had the shock not momentarily taken his breath away. By extraordinary luck the pain coursing through his body had managed to yield tears in his eyes – which Rob abruptly realized might be worked to his advantage. Rob, desperately trying to ignore the pain in his knee, quickly grabbed Johnny's hand and kissed it. Any member of the Catholic hierarchy might have welcomed such a groveling, but Johnny was wholly unaccustomed to such physical expression – was indeed pretty much unaccustomed to any physical contact... all of which explained a lot of things about Johnny.
Johnny immediately began struggling to his knees, trying to shed Rob's fawning and grasping. “Enough!” he yelled, as he broke free and quickly walked back into the interior of the penthouse.
“Johnny, you don't understand. You're under stress! You need my help.”
“I need nothing from you! I need nothing from anyone.”
“You must calm down. You can't go on like this. I've brought something for you.”
“Another of your soul-altering drugs? I think I've had quite enough of that. I will no longer submit to your... so called medical authority.” Suddenly, Johnny saw Carlson's medical bag and paraphernalia laying on a decorative, obviously expensive round table. With an abrupt move Johnny used his left arm to sweep everything from the table in a grand gesture, simultaneously flinging it across the room. “Enough of your medical conversion technology! It is blasphemous in this place!”
Rob was momentarily stymied at the strange metaphors that must be going on in Johnny's mind. But not stymied enough to cease his charge. Ready with the syringe in his pocket, he tackled Johnny about the waist, causing the two of them to crash against a wall-mounted, gold encrusted mirror. Johnny was toppled forward and shoved head first into the mirror, causing it to shatter, glass shards erupting from the impact.
Johnny dropped to his knees and would have fallen forward on his face had not Rob caught him and held him upright. Johnny was still conscious, but dazed. Carlson took advantage of the situation, and rushed to inoculate Johnny, yanking out the syringe and oblivious to any sterile conditions. Somehow his victim sensed the threat and abruptly waved his arm to ward him off, causing Rob in his haste to shove the needle directly into Johnny's side, missing the arm entirely. It mattered little. It was still lethal, and would ultimately – if given enough uninterrupted time -- ensure Johnny's death. Cue: the Firebird  music.
As Rob pulled back, Johnny was now still on his knees, his eyes unfocused, his head bleeding from the multiple scratches from the shattered mirror, tiny blood streamlets streaking his face. It was then that the noise outside garnered Rob's attention. The guards had heard the noise of breaking glass and were demanding to know what was going on.
Then they tried the door, and Rob blessed his own foresight. On the one hand, the door was substantial and designed to inhibit a forced entry. On the other hand, there were eight or more men of the persuasion that kicking down a door was infinitely preferable to using a door knob. After all, they knew from their toilet training that one could never tell what germs might be lurking on a door knob. Kicking a door was accordingly much safer from a sanitary viewpoint... or such was their military logic.
It was time for Carlson to jump ship. “No problem,” he yelled. “Just a bit of ...spilt milk.”
“Open the door!” The demand was clearly an ultimatum and a very brief respite.
“Of course,” Rob yelled. “Just a moment.”
With that he grabbed his bag from the floor where Johnny's cleansing act had hurled it, grabbed from the bag a twenty foot long coil of rope, complete with a hook for the terrace wrought iron railing and long enough to allow Rob to make his way to the floor below, where additional preparations and plans had been laid. Throwing the looped nylon rope over his right shoulder, he then reached further into the bag and pulled out a signal device and punched the appropriate button. Theoretically help would now be on the way, but just in case, there was always the rope and Plan B.
Rob turned back to Johnny who was again about to fall forward; any life or consciousness still left in his body no longer concerned about such trivial matters as falling on his face. Rob grabbed him and managed to get Johnny on to his left shoulder. Struggling with the nearly dead weight and dropping his signal device, the rope on his shoulder slipping off, Rob could only think, 'Crap!' He strained to quickly gather everything and forced the dying body onto his shoulder. He immediately grunted, even though Johnny was not a big man. It's just that Rob was not exactly in shape for this kind of work. He had always depended upon his mind, and not his body for his skulduggery.
“Open now!” The orders from the other side of the door were extremely clear.
“Just a moment, please. I'm coming right now.” With that Rob turned with his load and headed for the terrace, wondering if they had noticed his sudden lack of breath with his latest denial. Considering that they were now testing the door for ramming, quite obviously they had noticed.
Once on the terrace, Rob unceremoniously heaved Johnny's body over the terrace railing where it immediately went into a free fall toward the street. Then Carlson did a quick scan of the skies, saw no retrieval helicopter, was not particularly surprised, and began untangling the robe from his other shoulder for his Plan B exit. And those clowns thought they could fool Rob V. Carlson?
As the front doors came crashing open and a phalanx of very energized guards came pouring through, it might have occurred to Rob that a helicopter could not possibly have made it in time in any case... particularly considering the way the plans had already gone awry. But it didn't occur to him. He was far too busy getting the robe fastened to the terrace railing, and simultaneously hooking the mountain climbing carabineers on it to his hereto before hidden hook on his belt. Rob had once been into spelunking and this was going to be old hat to him. He could, and had, often done it in the darkness of a cave.
However, in the current circumstances there was no momentary pause to ensure everything was properly prepared. The soldiers, save for two who were scanning the interior for any sign of Johnny, were charging across the room toward Rob, malice in their expression and beginning to level weapons if only as a matter of principle. Throwing caution to the winds... literally... Rob leaped over the railing, the portion of the rope in his right hand which would allow him to control his descent. There was no time to gently lower himself to the next floor. Instead he went into almost free fall, waiting for the line to carry him to the next lower floor.
That was when the throwing-caution-to-the-wind bit came back to bite him in the neck... so to speak. The robe had inexplicably managed a single loop about his neck, and when he reached the end of this particular portion of the rope, his neck was suddenly and very, very effectively broken. Snapped. He had been hung, and/or hoisted by his own petard and left dangling in the wind. He had abruptly reached the end of his rope... so to speak. He even reached the end to having to listen to such cliques.
By the time the soldiers reached the railing where the robe was securely fastened, they had nothing left but a corpse dangling from the 13th floor. They also had a bird's eye view of another corpse splattered across a BMW's rooftop. In fact, square on the rooftop. It is one of the rules of life that anyone falling from a high building inevitably hits the top of an automobile dead center [pardon the pun] and never under any circumstances the unyielding and physically uninteresting surface of a metropolitan street. The fact that it was a BMW was merely a confirmation concerning the budget of the production.
For a moment, one of the soldiers looked around to see if there was a third corpse. Contrary to expectations there was none. Obviously a planning failure on Johnny's part.
The above fragments make it clear that the fate of the Regency was no longer an assumed fact. The ramifications and implications of that fateful night was clearly going to reverberate throughout the ancient world.
May the Truth in All of its Glory Continue to be Pursued
M. A. Duenki
 V. Lakshin, "M. Bulgakov's Novel, The Master and Margarita," The Master & Margarita; A Critical Companion, edited by Laura D. Weeks, Northwestern University Press, 1996, page 79.
 ibid, page 80.
 Later identified as: Reginald Fitzurse, Hugh de Moreville, William de Tracy, and Richard de Breton.
 Paraphrased from: Mikhail Afanasyevich Bulgakov, The Master and Margarita, translated by Michael Glenny, Everyman's Library, Alfred Knopf, New York, 1967, page 19.
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