11/28/07

The Diplomatic Cocktail



Once a year, every diplomatic mission puts on a national day reception to celebrate their big important “look we’re a country now!” day in which they beat some enemy, gained independence (usually from that same enemy), and acquired a new flag with pretty colors that represent precious ideals. I recently attended one at the Turkish Embassy in Mexico City where ceremonious diplomats, sparkling celebrities, opportunistic social climbers and local nabobs were in full attendance, eager to be photographed and published in local high-society columns while ingurgitating masses of free food on the side.

Generally each national day event bears certain regional idiosyncracies. For example, whereas miserly European diplomatic missions count every penny that goes into every ounce of fun that their ministry has apportioned as part of their entertainment budget for their national day parties, Turkish embassies are famous for putting on big, fat no-holds barred feasts with shit-loads of food and booze that make them perennial favorites on the annual diplomatic calendar. Asian embassies have lots of good food too, but you have to endure tacky furniture and bad lighting and a giant bowl of pink rosewater-flavored milk sitting on a table decorated with gold ribbons and flower petals, along with the fact that everyone’s shy and nervous because there’s usually no alcohol, all of which makes them a case study in boringdomness.

That being said, there are also certain arcane rules of conduct at diplomatic functions that universally hold true no matter what embassy function you attend.

The first rule is that everyone has to act like they’re great friends. That explains why on the 29th of October the Greek ambassador was there in front of me warmly congratulating the Turkish ambassador on his nation’s having kicked the Greeks’ asses to create Turkey, just as the Turkish ambassador would have been present at the Greek embassy reception on the 25th of March to congratulate the Greek ambassador on their nation’s having kicked the Turks’ asses to create Greece. But if your countries have no diplomatic relations, then you actually have to ignore each other, which explained why His Excellency the Iranian ambassador (a grown adult) and His Excellency the U.S. ambassador (another grown adult) were both acting like the other didn’t exist. Seriously. Remember kindergarten, when you pretended your friend was invisible after you’d had some kind of falling out over a chocolate bar or something? It was just like that.

Secondly, nobody can ever say what they mean or mean what they say, since the first thing a diplomat must master is the art of periphrasis. For example, when I (for the sake of amusement to relieve the nausea of having to endure cheese, alcohol and halitosis-flavored dialogue that generally occurred three inches from my face) mentioned to a Venezuelan diplomat how the Spanish king told the Venezuelan president to shut up at an official conference, he said something to the effect of “We sincerely believe that this unfortunate incident between our two peace-loving leaders will not do any harm in terms of furthering the brotherly bonds that unite our two nations and…” before I knew it I’d forgotten my own name! I then asked him if he didn’t think it was strange that countries still had kings with crowns on their heads ruling over them, but he deftly excused himself in a way that seemed polite yet determined, even though you could tell he was dying to rip the Spanish king a new metaphorical asshole. He was very good at his trade.

Thirdly, you have to act respectful of every nationality you meet. For example, when you meet the Pakistani ambassador, you do not break the ice with, say, "Hi there, your meaningless country was created as a gigantic islamic theme park for Jinnah's enormous ego to play follow-the-leader in, and the name Pakistan - 'the land of purity' - is the biggest oxymoron since two morons sat on an ox. Oh well, at least it's doing well now with a thriving economy, democracy and... oh wait, no it isn't! It sucks! Why don't you just put the image of a nuclear bomb on your flag instead, since it's the only thing you can be even mildly proud of?" Instead you start the conversation with, say, "We've been following the recent events in Pakistan with concern, but I believe that in the end common sense and the rule of law will prevail and prove your country a better place, having stood the test of..." you know, blah blah blah. Act like you have some respect.

Fourthly, the patina of refinement at these cocktails is actually a clever disguise under which guests can indulge in the gluttonous ingesting of as many hors d’oeuvres and as much free booze as possible. You could tell who the seasoned cocktail-goers were, because they were crowded around the kitchen door, knowing that to really come out trumps in the merciless competition for limited resources you have to stand as near the food source as possible to get first dibs. I once saw a documentary in which Dutch scientists left a pile of fruit for a bunch of chimps who then tried to stuff as many bananas and oranges as they could between each finger and toe to the point that they couldn’t even walk back to their camp, completely incapacitated by their own greed. Well, this Turkish embassy cocktail was just like that, but with neckties and jewelry which gave it the semblance of a civilized confab, even as orts of food were flying between liberally perfumed and heavily maquillaged faces, while baklava syrup from tilted plates held by inebriated hands formed little puddles of sugary deliciousness on the parquet tiles below as a xanthodantic old lady told me about her soap-opera actor nephew (which is, apparently, the logical segue that comes to mind after you tell someone you’re a writer). Binge eating, free alcohol and small talk is a volatile mix.

Finally, you have to be skilled at cocktail mingling. If you don’t know how, then just watch the diplomats, who are as masterful in the art of social circumambulation as they are in that of political circumlocution. Here’s how it works: you get introduced to somebody whom you act like you’re very happy to meet and proceed to tell each other what you do for a living. Then you take turns mentioning all the people you think you might know in common. Having established a common acquaintance, you engage in a laudatory 30-second repartee about that person. Then as soon as you spot somebody else you know who’s within a two-meter radius, you grab that person and introduce him/her to the one you’re talking to, and as they settle into their own oppressive cocktailversation, you say you have to locate someone (say a name, like “I have to find Mr. Lafayette!”, there's almost always a Mr. Lafeyette), after which you go off and get a drink (stand near kitchen door) before setting out to find the token hot single person who’s about your age, and is hopefully as drunk and bored as you are.

Leave the party with that person if you can.

11/25/07

Mabel Micklethwaite - Coffee Fortune!


Hello my little jelly beans! Hubby Phil and I visited a friend who read our coffee fortune! It was so much fun that I decided to try my own hand at it! First you have to turn the coffee cup upside down, which I did, but apparently one has to do so carefully – and preferably over the saucer with all of the liquidy bit already consumed! Oops! I hope coffee doesn’t stain! Then you shake it around a bit, but apparently not too violently, and preferably in horizontal circular motions, not up and down with wrist snaps! After wiping some spattering of coffee out of our friend’s hair and face, I proceeded to read her fortune! Goodness, was she in for a shock! The first thing I saw was an enormous mudslide! Massive! It was cascading down from all sides and swallowing her up in a big boggy ocean of sludge! Waves and waves of goopy granulated tragedy awaited her and everything she held dear! It was one massive tar pit that would slowly drown her life! Phil also pointed out an added danger, namely an immense fecal cataract that was slowly descending down from the other side as we looked on in horror! To be claimed by tides of mud and poo is a tragic end indeed! I was getting queasy reading her fortune! And just when we thought it was all over, we saw a fork in the path of the plop storm! That meant that one part of the gigantic glob of doodie would become her own fetid grave, while the other would slowly subsume all her loved ones! I don’t blame her for snatching the cup and telling us to leave! But at least we saw it coming before the bad times hit! See you next month my little rabbit pellets!

11/15/07

Revolution on your face -- a Facebook manifesto


Facebook is the fastest growing online social networking forum around, so if you want to be cool in Istanbul you’d better jump on the bandwidth wagon and become a part of the procrastination revolution.


Facebook fever is sweeping all in its path as what was once a student networking tool has gone extra-extracurricular and been embraced by young and not-that-young (perhaps-even-bordering-on-creepy) alike. Our need to see and be seen has now been appropriated, exploited and intuitively packaged into a single website which serves as a sort of adult playpen where you get your own page in which you can upload movies and photos of yourself, indulge in all sorts of amusing games, send messages back and forth, pry into your friends’ lives, list everything in the world you like to do, and avoid the odd stalker, or stalk the odd avoider. The party is now literally in your face and all your friends are there to partake in a non-stop virtual ego orgy in which everyone is their own star.

At first you’d be excused for wondering why insular cliques of socializers who yo-yo along the Otto-Lucca-Leila axis, and who generally attend all the same concerts and art openings anyway, would need additional incentive to waste more time together. But that would be to overlook what Facebook really stands for, because the universal embrace of Facebook is actually indicative of a much more significant phenomenon than just making and maintaining friendships: it’s nothing less than a white-collar workers’ revolt against the mind-numbing soul-draining life-wasting inhumanity of the eight-hour workday that forces hordes of innocent people to spend half their lives sitting in front of a computer monitor staring at Excel spreadsheets. It’s nothing short of a procrastinarian revolution that has enabled Facebooking drones around the world to find some respite and claim some semblance of pleasure from an entire day spent in a cubicle.

The official Facebook motto would have you believe that their site is a social community where friendships are strengthened and myeh myeh myeh. In fact Facebook serves no such purpose, because friendships don’t get stronger when someone sends someone else a vampire bite or a smiling blue elephant – if anything, it just makes the friendship more questionable. Instead, Facebook’s real function is to streamline the utilization of existing friendships so as to provide a means of perking up your libido and stoking your vanity while sating your compulsion to voyeurism and exhibitionism with the aim of ameliorating the pointless meaningless quotidian drudgery of sitting at a desk in a stuffy air-conditioned office surrounded by a bunch of annoying co-workers as you watch your youth slip through your fingers with every Powerpoint presentation you have to prepare for your idiot boss and antediluvian board of directors. In other words, Facebook is sort of an online daycare center where you can drop the real You off to play with your friends while the fake serious work You continues the menial chores necessary to pay the rent.

After all, where do you think people are when they send pink starfishes to each other’s Facebook aquarium? At home? Think again. Who wastes time at home Facebook-fighting friends over teddy bear icons while sending cutesy happy hour drink gifts that you can’t even scratch and sniff let alone drink, when you could instead be spending your inter-officehell time getting sauced on a real drink that can actually get you obliterated so you can forget the pain of your humdrum existence for a few hours and mercifully pass out on the couch in front of the TV instead of crying yourself to sleep every night on a tear-soaked salt-stained pillow?

That’s right comrades, Facebook is a white-collar procrastarian uprising against the crime that is wage-labor and the 40-hour workweek. Every time you send someone a Talking Smiley of a little monkey with a banana, you’re saying FUCK YOU! to the system. Every time you become Fluff Friends with someone who sends you an adorable little squirrel that says it’s a rockstar, you’re fighting the power. Every time you read your Fortune Cookie on someone’s Fun Wall, whenever you grow a gift egg that hatches a penguin, every minute your mystery seed sprouts into a magnolia, or any time you Superpoke someone you’ve been wanting to super pork for a long time, you may as well be manning the barricades at the Paris Commune in 1871, chanting the Marseillaise as you hold off the royalist scum and every other blackguard trying to make a buck off your back.

It’s time to throw off our shackles. After all, we have nothing to lose but our paychecks. So reset your profile picture, update your status (again), join the group Lovers of Cirque du Soleil, check up on your Japanese word of the day, send a Sticky Message to someone’s Super Wall with a kiss icon and a cuddly alien, review your Where I’ve Been map to finally include Cincinnati after much deliberation, let everyone know whether you’ll be attending a concert at Babylon featuring some throat-singing percussion octet of midgets from Zanzibar called TspoomZ, and wait… Do you hear it? That’s the sound of millions of index fingers clicking their mice in unison to the tap-tappity-tapping keyboards of the rising urban procrastinariate revolution.

Workers of the world, send a Unite! icon as a gift for $1!

11/14/07

Mabel Micklethwaite - Hooray for the Benniale!


Hello my plum puddings! Dear me, art has certainly changed since yours truly last poked her head round a gallery door! Well, thanks to the Istanbul Binniale, hubby Phil and I got to catch up on some cutting edge contemporary art! First we popped in to see the IMAM (Istanbul Modern Art Museum) after which we went to a wonderful exhibition opening at Frtinsginistit (I might have mispelled that one!). My, it was so well organized, with many videos broadcasting the exhibition from four different screens, but I had trouble finding where the exhibits themselves were! You can imagine my surprise when the gallery director told me the videos WERE the exhibit! How bizarre! Phil said it wasn’t bizarre but rubbish, but old Mabel had read a thing or two about conceptualised art (Tracey Hirst anyone?) and did not fail to recognize the genius of the artist’s next exhibit: ‘fire extinguisher’, which was untitled! I found the artist, Pultug Amante (I think), and told him I was very impressed because obviously it was a postmodern critique of the utilitarian coercion of aesthetics in industrial society! But he told me it was just the gallery’s own fire extinguisher ‘You know’ he said ‘to put fire’s out with?’ How ironic! One exhibit was truly astounding: an interactive art piece entitled ‘Gents/Ladies’ where the public becomes a part of the artwork every time they use the loo! Brilliant! I too became a work of art as I squatted and relieved the inspiration that had accumulated over a few too many glasses of white wine! I also heard Phil let out a particularly sonorous piece of art indeed from next door! Well, enough refinement for one month my pets! A big thanks to Hu Hanshu, the Benialle curator from China! Sayonara Hu!

11/11/07

story - Sector 70


“And if a man chooses to believe in a lie, who are we to call him a liar?”

- Act I, Scene V, “The Fool of Genavere”



A.J. Cavallier paused for a moment to wipe the sweat off his forehead with his handkerchief, before rubbing his protruding belly with superstitious gravity, as if it were not out of nervous habit, but was meant for good luck. He proceeded to polish off another beer before resuming his lengthy monologue on the virtues of law and order, and the example Genavere had set for other city-states over his last 6 years in tenure as Genaveran Chief of Security.

“So, where was I Larry? Oh yeah, so, it ultimately comes down to ac-count-a-bi-li-ty…” He emphasized the last word syllable by syllable, with pedagogical precision. “A system is founded on the accountability of each tier of the hierarchy vis-a-vis all others, and thus if one link in the chain be weak, then the whole system breaks and rots away. Vigilance is what keeps this from happening, because vigilance is not just something kept out there…” (He pointed out the nearest window as he said this, and then wiped the sweat off his forehead again with his handkerchief) “but vigilance must also be kept within the power that invigilates, within the system of security, within the policing mechanism upon which a just and ordered society is founded.”

He paused briefly, rubbed his amulet belly once more, and added with a very serious expression, although not without a slight slur “And who is the ultimate responsible party in such a mechanism? The top, the head, the brain of the mechanism, of course. Every problem has its source at the head. If even a traffic cop screws up, do you not think the head of the whole system is responsible? Of course it is, because the head is responsible for making sure it has the right guys under it doing the job right. The traffic cop should have been kept fit for duty by his sergeant, and if he’s not up to scratch, then the sergeant is to blame, in which case his superior, the regional directors and invigilators, are responsible, because they have to make sure they have the right sergeants on the job at every moment and for every eventuality… And if they haven’t done their job, then who was it in charge of invigilating them? The Chief-of-Security! Thus any problem is always a problem from the top, from the head…”

Upon stressing the last word he pointed his index finger at his head, though a split-second too late to actually help emphasize the word rather than make it slightly comical. He paused further and looked into his empty glass. Fat beads of sweat had formed once more on his forehead, but this time he didn’t care to wipe them. “Ac-count-a-bility,” he said carefully one more time as his elbow slipped (inconspicuously, he thought) slightly off his armrest. “Any rot in the system means rot at the top damn it!” he concluded with a misplaced thud of his meaty fist on the table, a little too close to the ashtray, from which a few butts jumped out and danced for a half-second before settling back into their extinguished slumber.

He was talking to three other men around him: Larry Halstead was an upper court magistrate and one of the most respected men of law in Genavere, while the other two were childhood friends of Cavallier’s – Harold Synge, a security consultant, and Imrahor Nagy, a burnt-out broker-turned-real estate salesman, who was married to Cavallier’s sister. It was a Wednesday night, and they were seated in a restaurant-bar by the name of Psychophant’s on Felicity Lane, just up from the newly restored Museum of 20th Century Art. It was getting late and Harold made the first move to get up and go, not without a slight gesture of annoyance by way of a deep exhalation delivered through nostrils flared especially for the purpose.

“C’mon A.J., let’s get out of…”

“Wait a second,” Cavallier slurred, before a very long pause spent completely looking down at his belly, or perhaps his shoes. “Just wait a second. You gentlemen too, please…” with his hand he signaled for Larry and Imrahor to sit down, even though they had never got up. “Sit, sit, sit,” he added unnecessarily with closed eyes. Imrahor looked suggestively at his watch, but it didn’t have the intended effect.

“Harry…” As soon as A.J. Cavallier said his name, Harold knew what was coming next, and he tensed up a bit and let out a sigh. “Harold,” Cavallier repeated, “… I still think about it, and it never gets easier… I know it’s been a long a time, and I know you’ve told me before that you’re over it…”

“A.J. please, I really don’t…”

“No, wait, damn it, let me finish, because I feel I have to say this…” A.J. Cavallier spoke haltingly, and was still slurring. “I can assure you nobody was more upset than me when… well, you know what happened…”

“When my son was taken into custody and beaten till he was crippled in the 5th District precinct in Sector 18?” Harold was looking defiantly straight in A.J. Cavallier’s face as he said this, without even a blink. A.J. Cavallier felt a cold chill throughout his body, as if he were looking at a ghost.

“I told you there was nobody more saddened by all this than me. But the fact is we took all the necessary measures against the sergeant in charge of that district, in fact he’s been dismissed from the force… and besides, I know this doesn’t excuse anything that happened, but Kieron – that was his name wasn’t it?”

“Yes, Kieron,” said Harold.

“Well Kieron was in a dodgy area, and he didn’t have any I.D., and you know what the lads down that sector are used to dealing with… Harold, you know not a day goes by when I don’t wish…”

A.J. Cavallier paused once again, but this time it was an uncomfortable one for all. He felt tears well in his eyes. Not a day went by when he didn’t think about it. All of a sudden he jumped up and violently sent his fist crashing down on the table. He felt two arms grab him from behind. They were the bouncer’s. The manager was looking at him, as were all the other customers there. Suddenly Cavallier felt a sickening sense of loneliness and despair.

“Accountability,” he whispered suddenly, and he sat down as if nothing had happened, trying not to take his eyes off the table in front of him. Everyone else was still staring at him, and the bouncer wasn’t far away from the table. He felt ashamed. He felt that everyone there wanted to laugh at him – or kill him. “When there’s a rot in the system it’s from the top, and… and… I failed, I was the top, and I failed you… Cavallier failed you.”

“Dietrich was dealt with A.J., and that’s that,” said Imrahor, trying to bring an end to this topic once and for all, but Cavallier seemed not to hear him.

“That fucking dirt bag, what was his name? That’s it, Sgt. Manfred Dietrich. The scum was dismissed, disgracefully dismissed… six years now…”

“I know A.J., I know.”

“But the responsibility was mine…” Cavallier whispered, inaudible to the others.

Harold got up on his feet, and both Imrahor and Larry had their eyes fixed on him, as if they were watching a movie, keen to see what the next scene would be. A.J. Cavallier was not, however, looking at Harold, his gaze was still fixed on the table.

“If it’s all the same to you,” said Harold, “I’ve told you what’s done is done, and I’d rather not talk about it.” All three men got up and started putting their coats on. Imrahor urged A.J. Cavallier to his feet, and although he was listless at first, he eventually stirred, as if woken from a dream. He got up unsteadily, wobbling a bit, before the four men paid the bill – insisting A.J. shouldn’t pay, that he would get it next time – and made their way to their cars. Larry offered A.J. a ride home, but he refused and said he needed a bit of a walk, assuring them he’d hail a cab when he’d sobered up a bit.

As Harold got in his car, A.J. came up outside his car door and placed his hands on the bonnet. Harold bid him good night, but A.J. still had a bitter expression on his face.

“Good night Harry,” he said. “I really am sorry.” The car sped away while he was in mid-sentence.

As Cavallier started walking away, he noticed there was a crowd of people from Psychophant’s standing outside the door and staring at him, some of them murmuring to each other. He looked around and saw that he was all alone. Larry, Harold and Imrahor had all left in the blink of an eye. He put his head down and dived into the penumbral streets of Sector 70.

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The air felt muggy around him, although he thought maybe it was just his grogginess that gave it that effect. A light rain started coming down, and it felt like relief to him. It seemed to cleanse his mind with cold, accurate drops. Random thoughts swam around his head and he followed them all some way before he’d get hooked on another thought that he could never follow to its conclusion. He thought about his coat button and wondered how many of them there were that were exactly like this one… he saw a streetlight go off just as he passed under it, and he thought it was because of him, and wondered if all the streetlights would go off as he passed under them. When they didn’t, he assumed they only would when he was unconscious of his passing under them. He suddenly got the feeling that he was being followed, and turned to look behind him, but saw nothing but a deserted, semi-lit street. He thought about Harold’s kid, Kieron, and as soon as he did, he started mentally retracing everything he’d said that night, or at least what he remembered of it. He’d thought of Kieron for the last five years. He didn’t want to think of it anymore. He stopped briefly, gripped his hair as he bent over, and he let out a gut-wrenching groan.

This made him feel better. He glanced once more behind him and hurried on his way.

He was muttering to himself as he rounded the corner to Ravenshead Avenue, and he couldn’t avoid stepping into the suction lid of one of the garbage disposal units that were now placed on every street corner in Genavere Central. He heard what sounded like an enormous vacuum, and he quickly pulled his foot back out. He kept thinking about Kieron… “Accounnability,” he slurred in a loud voice, but there was nobody to hear him. “The rot is at the top… Top of the rot…” he repeated a few times. The rain picked up, and A.J. Cavallier picked up his walking pace with it. He decided to take a shortcut off Ravenshead and went into a small side-street to cut up to Sector 58. He thought he was sweating now. But he felt happy all of a sudden, happy that he wasn’t in a chauffeur-driven car, without security guards, without dozens of leeches hanging about him, without the constant sound of buzzing phones (at one point he thought, what if people had no more phones? They’d have a micro-phonechip planted into their heads so they could be saved all the buzzing – but then he wondered how everyone wouldn’t seem insane talking to themselves, or if indeed anyone could tell the difference between the sane and the insane, and he ended the thought with an image of him trying to dig something out of his ear with a screwdriver). In any case, walking by himself in those streets then and there, he felt like he did when he was a youngster when he used to go out near here, in Sectors 18, 26, 32, before those areas got dodgy… The lads he hung with, the girls he pursued, the punch-ups to alleviate the boredom of youth, and even his own run-ins with cops, the irony of which made him laugh. He remembered his youth and it gave him comfort. He put his hands in his coat pockets, pulling up his collar and walking with a determined stride which often accompanies a sense of heroic nostalgia that has been awoken by good memories – or at least memories made good over time.

He heard a noise behind him, but thought nothing of it, even though he instinctively quickened his step, as if his body were more alert than his mind. He heard a police jeep siren not too far away, but it passed quickly, and now he was certain he could hear the sound of people whispering and walking with quick steps behind him. He thought it was himself at first, but turned nevertheless and looked behind him. The darkness of the street and the haze caused by the rain clouded his view. He turned and continued up the street, eager to get to Sector 58 quick. He thought of buzzing for his personal 24-hour security patrol, but he felt ashamed of it. Tonight was meant to be a chance to get away from all that, to just be ordinary again with old friends, to be incognito, just a normal joe.

There it was again. He turned quickly and stopped in the middle of the street. He only heard the sound of his heavy breathing and the sound of rain hitting the asphalt road. He stood dead still, straining to hear if there was anyone there, his hand instinctively going to his buzzer. He felt goosebumps, and the fear now inspired a rising feeling of aggression within him. He felt his heart beating furiously, he felt truculent and his fighting spirit was now aroused because he had the feeling of being cornered. All the while he thought that he was being watched and followed. He gave out an incomprehensible shout, meant as much to ward off possible attack as to help ease the rising tension within him.

He turned again and this time walked faster than before, looking behind him every so often. “Fucking long street for a shortcut” he thought. He started running at a slow pace and could hear his footsteps splashing in puddles now and again. He was feeling more at ease now, and then he put his foot into a particularly large puddle, getting his shoes and socks wet all in one messy splash. He stopped and swore and looked at his shoe, but then he noticed something terrible: he could still hear the running and splashing of feet behind him. Without even looking, he began running as fast as his lugubrious body could carry him. He heard the footsteps getting closer. He went for his buzzer, fumbling around for it, but he couldn’t find it, perhaps because of his panic, he couldn’t figure out which pocket he’d put it in. Then, to his relief, he saw the end of the street. The sound of pursuing feet was getting even closer, but he could see the lights of Strathwood Boulevard, the boundary to Sector 58, and he knew as soon as he got to it he would be too conspicuous to be a target. Within a few seconds he got to the end of the street, but as soon as he rounded the corner, he felt a painful impact on his face, as if he’d hit a wall. He reeled back, completely stunned, before feeling a heavy force push him further back into the street. He felt another body behind him. Arms and hands immediately wrapped around his neck and body, and he was pushed back into the dark side-street from which he had fled.

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When Cavallier had recovered his senses, he found himself lying on his back, looking up at two indistinguishable faces, one belonging to a person substantially bigger than the other, but with a face and a figure that was not unfamiliar. He was about his own size, and he had a cut on his left cheek, as did Cavallier. The other one was small and scrawny. The two were peering menacingly down at him. He made a move to get up, when a heavy foot pressed on his chest and pushed him back down.

“Stay down and give us your wallet and phone,” came the voice from the big one, a raspy voice. “Don’t do anything,” added the little one’s voice, more unsure of itself, almost comical, because it was delivered in an exaggeratedly threatening tone. After 25 years as a cop, and now as the appointed Chief of Security under the incumbent administration, A.J. Cavallier was an expert in immediately determining a person’s character, just from the first encounter. It was something instinctive, something only cops and army officers and taxi drivers could pick out, usually much more effectively than any psychologist. He felt a little bit more at ease now that the circumstances he was in were clear to him. Even though they weren’t good circumstances, they were comprehensible ones, and thus could be adapted to.

“The money, the phone,” repeated the big one. The other one was shifting around nervously, looking over his shoulder, getting tenser by the minute.

“I need to sit up to get it,” said A.J. Cavallier. The big one lifted his foot from Cavallier’s chest, never taking his eyes off him. The faint light and the falling rain around the big dark head with familiar features had a strange effect, as if there were a halo and he was looking up at a strange, malicious angel, or a demon. Cavallier sat up and searched for his wallet, but to his disgust, he found it was not there. He searched his other pockets, and then his pants, but his wallet was gone. In fact, he couldn’t find his phone or his buzzer either. He felt cold beads of sweat forming in each and every one of the pores on his forehead, slowly, purposefully, uncontrollably.

“THE MONEY AND THE PHONE!” demanded the big guy, before landing a kick on Cavallier’s shoulder. Cavallier didn’t seem to notice it however. He looked up at the two faces, dreading that he had to tell them he had no money or phone.

“I… I can’t find my wallet,” he stuttered, knowing exactly what the consequences of this would be. “I must have left it at the bar, after I paid, I…” But he remembered he hadn’t paid. His friends had insisted he wouldn’t pay, Harry had said to him “you’ll pay next time.” He had no idea what had happened.

Then something strange occurred. Cavallier knew from experience that such a situation would always cause instant anger and aggression from the attackers, and usually the revealing of a weapon to show the victim that they are not “kidding around”. But the reaction of these two, whose faces were becoming more distinguishable, was almost that they were expecting this, as if it were no surprise at all to their ears, and there was no change in their demeanor.

The big one grabbed Cavallier by the arms and drew him up. Cavallier saw his face, and then the other’s, clearly. The big one had a scar down his left cheek, and big, black eyes that were so dark they almost looked like they were empty. The little one had beady blue eyes, a pockmarked face, and scruffy brown hair. The little one drew a knife, perfunctorily, as if it were par for the course.

“We’re not kidding around, we want your money and your phone right now,” said the big one.

“I told you I don’t have it. You can search me. I don’t know what happened to them…”

“Had a bit to drink eh?” chimed in the little one, still shuffling nervously. He pressed the knife into Cavallier’s ribs as the big one still held him from behind and around the arms. Then the small one started punching him with his free hand. Cavallier was taken aback, not by the punching, which was almost ineffectual, a mere nuisance (A.J. Cavallier may have been out of shape, but he had the sort of tough hide that builds like layers of dead skin armor around the body and the mind over 25 years as a cop), but he was much more taken aback by the fact that neither of these hoodlums bothered to search him. He was also astonished that they were wearing nothing to conceal their faces, not even a hood over their heads. The little guy punched him again, but Cavallier was thinking how even their speech seemed too… he didn’t know exactly, but it seemed too polished. But before he could follow the thought through, he found himself spin around and no sooner had he come once again face to face with the big one, he felt a big heavy fist go straight into his belly, knocking the wind right out of him and sending him reeling down to his knees.

Cavallier had pretty much sobered up now, and he was starting to lose his patience. He acted more hurt than he was, and he rolled over on his side, bringing his knees up to his stomach which he had wrapped his arms around. He writhed and moaned on the ground. All the while he was careful to keep track of what was going on between the two attackers. They seemed now to be indecisive, as if they didn’t know what to do next. He heard them whisper something to each other, but he couldn’t make out what they were saying. They must’ve been talking about him, but what? He noticed that the attackers had turned their backs on him and were debating something heatedly, in whispers. He thought he could make out “…until they come…” but wasn’t sure. He was now totally over the blow but still feigned pain, although he was slowly getting up on his knees. The big one gave a quick glance at him and then turned again to the little one to explain something, it seemed.

Cavallier got up slowly to his feet, which seemed to take the two of them by surprise. The little one made a panicky lunge at Cavallier with his knife, off balance and unprepared. The big one was a couple of feet away. Cavallier waited until the little one was at him with the knife, and just as the little one warned “Hey, what did I…” Cavallier grabbed his knife-wielding hand, twisted it, gave a crushing left hook to the little guy’s jowl, and the blow knocked the knife – and the consciousness – out of him. Cavallier expected the big one to be on top of him by now, but he noticed that he was also somewhat panicky. Cavallier quickly picked up the knife and went toward him, but the big one stepped back slowly, looking around him nervously, as if he were expecting somebody else to come to his aid. Cavallier made a swipe with the knife at the big one, and then lunged at him. But just at that point he heard the running of feet coming rapidly towards them. Cavallier thought he was doomed, thinking he had been beset by more attackers, but when he looked over his shoulder, he saw to his delight the familiar green and black uniform which he himself had once worn so proudly from his years on the force. He saw the police running straight at him, even as he was still wrestling with the big attacker. He freed himself with enough space to send another crushing left punch that sent the big guy crashing on his back.

The cops were now upon him. Cavallier made a move toward them, knife in hand, blood on the side of his mouth. But before he could tell them how glad he was to see them, he felt a crushing pain on his head and he fell in a dizzy spin to the ground for what seemed like a very long time.

Everything was black, everything was silent.

-----------------------------------------

“Rouoscupjuutkum!”

A.J. Cavallier felt a thumping pain in his head as he came to a groggy consciousness. The first thing that went through his head – besides the pain – was the feeling that he was slowly crawling out of a very deep, cold and dark pit.

“Droup yup skoom!”

He heard talking around him, but it sounded unfamiliar, as if it were muffled and in slow motion.

“Wkeuke rup jous cum!”

He opened his eyes and found himself lying on a hard, tiled floor, in a drab room with light blue-colored walls, under dull fluorescent lighting. He realized he was being shouted at by one of three cops standing above him like fierce black and green birds of prey.

“Wake up you scum!”

Cavallier couldn’t understand yet what was happening, but as he became more conscious of his surroundings he felt a sense of nausea that was as much a result of his physical predicament as it was his sense of confusion. He first lifted himself up on his elbows and then put his hand on the cold hard floor to get himself up on his feet. But a swift kick in the stomach quickly sent him back down, his head knocking the floor and causing an agonizing, involuntary bellow to emanate from his lungs and echo throughout the room.

“SHUT UP!” He could now make out the three cops towering above him. One of them seemed to be doing all the shouting. He had a diabolical crimson face, while the others were relatively composed, but with no less a malicious expression on their mugs. Then he heard another voice, but one that came from behind him, from a heretofore unseen fourth person.

“Liebermann, Equilano, get him up on his feet. Fraterlee, bring the chair.”

Cavallier’s immediate impulse was to turn and see who the voice belonged to, but changed his mind when he saw that the red-faced cop who was shouting at him was still looking him straight in the eyes, as if ready to kick him again.

“Fraterlee,” the faceless voice continued. “I said get the chair.” Whoever the voice belonged to, he thought that it wasn’t that unfamiliar to him. Cavallier turned his head to look, but no sooner did he move he felt a heavy slap across his left cheek.

“Fraterlee!” the voice repeated. “CHAIR!” This time Fraterlee obeyed his superior’s orders.

Cavallier was seated on the chair and his hands cuffed behind the seat rest. The three cops stood in front of him, but the sergeant remained behind him and out of view.

“You know why you’re here?” the voice behind him asked.

“I was attacked… I was attacked by two men, I beat them away and…”

“LIAR!” screamed the crimson-faced cop, Fraterlee. “You’re a fucking…”

“Enough Fraterlee!” The voice cut him off. The voice was composed and self-assured and redirected its attention to Cavallier. “Those men you attacked…”

“I ATTACKED?!” Cavallier couldn’t believe what he was hearing.

“You had a knife.”

“NO! They had a knife and I wrested it from them, I, I, knocked one out and then I got the other when…”

“You did, did you? The other one?”

“Wait a minute, do you know who I am? I’m the Chief of Security of Genavere and I will…”

As soon as he said this the three cops standing in front of him laughed out loud. The voice behind him did not however.

“Do you have proof of this?”

“Proof? Don’t you watch TV? Look at my face! Check my wallet…” As soon as he said this Cavallier remembered that he hadn’t been able to find his wallet when he was attacked.

“I’m looking at your face and I don’t see nothin’ but a fuckin’ lying fat bum.” Fraterlee’s veins were protruding violently from his neck as he spoke.

“We didn’t find your wallet, or a phone, or any sort of identification whatsoever,” said the voice. “The man you attacked did however have an identification, driver’s license, everything… Where do you live?”

“I… I live in Rickdale Heights, off the…” As soon as he said this the cops started laughing again.

“The only way you’s gonna see Rickdale Heights is if yer scrubbing pools there!” This caused more laughter to reverberate around the room, all except from the voice. Then Fraterlee cut his maniacal laughter and stuck a heavy punch into Cavallier’s belly, causing Cavallier to scrunch up in pain, gasping for air.

“Look, stop wasting our time. You have no I.D., you’re drunk, you were caught beating up…”

“I WAS ATTACKED! THERE WERE FOOTSTEPS AND I RAN AND THEY HIT ME AND I…”

Fraterlee slapped Cavallier again across the face, this time across his right cheek.

“So Adrian Jackson Cavallier, Chief of Security of the Free City State of Genavere of the Confederate City States of Northwest America, happens to be walking in Sector 70, by himself, 2 in the a.m., drunk, stumbling and without a wallet, a phone, or any I.D…” Cavallier could hear the voice walking behind him, almost coming into view from the corner of each eye before retreating again with the precision of a pendulum. “And he’s wearing a wrinkled old shirt and a worn-out pair of pants… Nice. Where were you earlier?”

“I was with friends at Psychophant’s…”

“Psychophant’s no less!” Liebermann, Equilano and Fraterlee were laughing again. “A.J. Cavallier was at Psychophant’s earlier tonight was he!?”

Before Cavallier could answer, the voice ordered Liebermann and Equilano to take him away and lock him up until they got some idea who he was. As they led him through the door, Fraterlee kept poking his baton into Cavallier’s side and snarling in his face, the veins on his neck still protruding, his face still crimson and perpetually filled with blood. Cavallier thought if he were to cut off his head it would be like a balloon popping, a balloon filled with blood, splashing all over the walls. He thought it would be like swatting a fat, well-fed mosquito on a white wall early in the morning. Cavallier felt the grip of Liebermann and Equilano loosen on his arms. When he was in his cell the cops took off his cuffs, and as soon as it was off, Cavallier lunged at Fraterlee, who was momentarily occupied with a call on his cell-phone, and caught him right across the jaw with his elbow, knocking him over with a look of shock plastered across his face as he went down. Cavallier was immediately beset by Liebermann and Equilano and he felt the dull thudding of their batons on his back as he fell to the floor. Soon Fraterlee was up on his feet too, and the three of them, Liebermann, Equilano and Fraterlee, beat and kicked him until he lost consciousness once again.

The last thing he remembered was descending slowly – almost as if he were floating – into a dark, deep, silent, yet familiar pit.

-----------------------------------------

The courtroom was not abuzz, it was in fact quiet and somber, certainly not the sort of thing Cavallier expected for a trial involving the Chief of Security of Genavere vs. Genavere. But Cavallier was contented nevertheless, because he knew that today justice would be done. Today the system would work, and it would work in the name of justice once and for all. It would work in the name of accountability, in the name of Genavere, in the name of him. He felt his heart beat faster as he was pushed on his wheelchair into the courtroom and parked up alongside his lawyer.

He looked around him and saw familiar faces, as well as unfamiliar ones. There were the three policemen Liebermann, Equilano and Fraterlee. They looked ridiculous out of their uniforms and in their cheap suits and ties, Cavallier mused, as if someone had dressed up three monkeys and taken them to church. There was another man sitting next to them, but he didn’t look ridiculous in his suit. On the contrary, he was stylish and impressive, and, Cavallier thought, his face was familiar, as if he knew him a long time ago, but his memories had become desultory, murky and dyslexic for a long time now. He had trouble distinguishing anyone anymore.

The judge entered the room. It was Larry, Larry Halstead, Cavallier’s friend, one of the most respected magistrates in Genavere! Cavallier couldn’t believe his luck, and he felt even closer to satisfaction now, he felt even closer to justice at last. He kept his eyes on Larry, and Larry gave no sign of recognition, but nothing could dampen Cavallier’s spirits now. This was his time, this was his hour. He turned to his lawyer, Spiro Gainway, and he smiled, and although Gainway didn’t smile back, Cavallier was still on top of the world. He thought of the press coverage this would bring, of all the sensation this trial would cause. Sure it didn’t look like there was much of a hubbub as yet, and the courtroom was only about a quarter full, but he knew that when a verdict was taken, all hell would break loose.

Judge Halstead read out the case at hand and opened proceedings, but Cavallier barely followed what was going on. Witnesses came up on the stand, and many spoke a few names he’d never heard of, or didn’t know who they were. But he didn’t really care, because he was assured of success. He looked at the jury, at each and every face in there and he was assured of justice. The jury members would shy away from his stare, but he wouldn’t mind, because he felt that he loved each and every one of them, as if they were all on the same side, and even, he thought, part of the same tribe. Cavallier’s lawyer, Gainway, got up and spoke now, and this time Cavallier turned and listened.

“…and so my client sees fit that the state of Genavere take the necessary measures for the punishment of the party or parties involved in this gross violation of human rights and flagrant disrespect for the laws and institutions of the Free City State of Genavere, violations which has left one person – my client – crippled in the left leg, as well as psychologically damaged as a result of the actions of the three officers and sergeant of 12th District precinct of Sector 70 in Central Genavere…”

Judge Halstead interrupted Spiro Gainway.

“However, and let me get this straight again, you would like to bring charges not on these officers, or the sergeant in charge of the precinct, but… on the Chief of Security of Genavere himself: Adrian Jackson Cavallier?”

Spiro Gainway gave an embarrassed glance down at his papers and then back at the judge after a prolonged shutting of his eyes, before gulping and answering in a less than certain tone… “Y-yes your honor, that is correct.”

Cavallier was beside himself. He felt ecstatic. Spiro Gainway went on…

“Your honor, my client believes that…” At this point Gainway looked down at Cavallier, who pointed at a piece of paper he’d written beforehand and urged Gainway to read it, as they had agreed before the trial. Gainway let out an audible sigh, glanced briefly at the judge, and proceeded to read Cavallier’s declaration.

“The highest interests of not only the Free City State of Genavere, nor of just the Confederal States of Northwest America, but of all civilized societies – indeed, all mankind – rests in the accountability of those in power toward their own citizens, toward their own institutions, in short, toward the rule of law and order. The powers that be, those who have been appointed to head these institutions must be forever vigilant in the administration of these institutions, including the invigilation not only of the laws in place, but also the invigilation of those charged with the invigilation of those laws. It is the task of the top office to make sure, therefore, that along each and every tier of the hierarchy of power are officials capable enough to carry out that which is exigent upon them as upholders of the law. It is the task of the top office to make sure there is no weak link in its ranks, to appoint inspectors to make sure of this, to provide the necessary training and psychological aid in the case of possible putrefaction in any rank…” (Gainway looked up briefly after reading the word “putrefaction” before continuing) “…In the case of Sector 70, the police officers and sergeant in charge of Precinct 12 clearly proved themselves inept in the performance of their duties as upholders of the law of the Free City State of Genavere. When there is a rot, the rot begins at the top. Therefore, I charge that…” (Gainway glanced down at Cavallier, who was beaming) “…I, I charge that Adrian Jackson Cavallier is responsible for the crippling treatment I was subjected to on September 26, in the 12. District precinct of Sector 70, because of the failure he has shown in his capacity as the Chief of Security of the Free City State of Genavere. Thank you your honor.”

And so the trial went underway, and the witnesses came one after the other, but A.J. Cavallier was oblivious to them all. He followed the proceedings as if he were viewing a dream. Everything was hazy and unreal, and, ultimately, caused no reaction in him, for good or better. He was simply suffused with the feeling that everything would work out in the end. He noticed the manager of Pyschophant’s was giving witness…

“… and he was just talking to himself, but he was explaining something heatedly, as if he were saying it to someone, some imaginary person – or people. He comes there often, and usually he’s quiet, but that night he seemed in a bad state. He was saying names and looking around him, as if he were directing his words at people, saying stuff about ‘law and order’ and he kept saying ‘responsibility’ or ‘accountability’ or something… We had to restrain a couple times, he got a little violent, yes… Well we let him leave without paying, he has a tab with us, we charged him on that… He’s usually quiet, but that night he was disturbing the other patrons…”

Cavallier heard voices talking as if from another realm, as if they were voices on a radio. He saw another familiar face, that of the scrawny man who tried to mug him on the street after he left Psychophant’s that night…

“… so I’m walking behind him,” the man, whose name was apparently Samuel Kavanaugh, was interrupted by the defense attorney and asked if he could identify the person, upon which Kavanaugh pointed at Cavallier before continuing. “I’m walking behind him and I notice he’s started to get very nervous and agitated and he starts running. I heard him shout something too, and he was talking to himself really fast, like he was arguing with someone. I thought he was mad. Anyway, just as I round the corner, he attacks me and we fall over. But he’s crazy, like, he’s struggling with something, like he was having some kind of seizure, some sort of epileptic fit or something… He kept telling me to give him my money and my phone. I told him not to do anything, and I noticed that he was sort of drunk… But he was still struggling and arguing with himself, he looked like he was in pain. One moment he’d bunch up into a ball and moan, another he’d get back up, grab my neck and threaten me again. Then he pulled out a knife, and I was petrified. I tried to run, I thought I should at least try, but he punched me in the face, and that’s the last I remember…”

Cavallier heard everything, but he felt like he was listening to them talk about someone else, someone alien to him, someone he used to know somehow, but had long since forgotten. He saw the faces of the three cops from District 12 precinct, Liebermann, Equilano and Fraterlee, as they took the stand one after the other. They corroborated Kavanaugh’s story. They told how they found the man lying there with the other towering over him with a knife and a crazed look in his eyes. They had to beat him unconscious because he had a weapon which he refused to put down.

“He was delusional, he had no identification, nothing on him, he had a weapon, and he was still violent at the precinct,” said Equilano at one point. “We used force to restrain him, and even then, when we took him to his cell and removed his cuffs, he attacked Officer Fraterlee, to which we responded with due force.”

Cavalier gazed outside the window of the courtroom, and he was fixated on a branch that stretched across the window view and swayed gently, rhythmically with the wind. He felt a longing, like a sweet memory that had invaded his mind from a long banished realm and demanded he follow through with its remembrance no matter what the consequences. But he didn’t. He just watched the branch sway, and the voices around him grew more and more muffled and confused. But then he saw a new face, the face of a man perhaps ten years younger than him, clean-shaven, not particularly handsome, but impressive. He was not unfamiliar to Cavallier, who stared at him without any expression on his face, but an expression that resembled stupidity to those who looked at him then and there.

“… yes, I am the sergeant in charge of the precinct in District 12.” It was the faceless voice. “We detained him for two days, until we found where he lived… We asked around at Psychophant’s, this dive bar where he would apparently go often, and where he told us he’d been that night. We asked around and found a guy who knew him and he told us where he lived. It was in a decrepit building down in Sector 18, on Endevor Street. We asked some people in the building which room he lived in. Most of the inhabitants were junkies and bums, the place smelled of sardine cans, oil and ash. One of them vaguely knew him and showed us the room. The landlord let us in. It was a single room that looked like a hurricane had ripped through it. There was a filthy stove-top in the corner, and there were newspapers strewn everywhere. On the table were hundreds – literally hundreds – of just… bric-a-brac. Empty cans, crumpled boxes, stuff you’d find in a dumpster. But one thing caught our eye. There was a shelf with books and notebooks and photo albums on it. There were photos of him as a child with his mother, of his time as a cop, photos from balls, one of his marriage, one with his aunt…”

The sergeant was asked how he knew it was Cavallier’s aunt.

“Because, I knew him. He used to be my sergeant in the 5th District precinct in Sector 18, until five years ago.”

“Tell me Sergeant Leatham,” (the name suddenly got Cavallier’s attention, but he made no especial remark upon hearing it, as if he was oblivious to it) “Did he not recognize you at the precinct?” The defense lawyer looked over at Cavallier briefly after he asked the question.

“I didn’t let myself be seen to him, he only heard my voice.”

“Why?”

“I… I felt embarrassed. I felt… I don’t know… I guess I felt sorry for him. I didn’t want him to see me.”

Cavallier still looked vacantly at Leathem, before turning to fix his gaze once more on the branch outside the window. He noticed that the daylight was fading, that the sky was darkening, and he felt a sense of sorrow at this sudden realization.

“You found anything else at the house – or rather, his boarding room?”

“It was… it was a scene of abject poverty. I felt depressed there and I wanted to leave as soon as I could. But I did notice all those newspaper clippings…”

“Of A.J. Cavallier?”

“Yes.”

Cavallier looked down at his belly and rubbed it, again as if it were not out of habit, but were meant as a superstitious gesture – for good luck. He saw Officer Leathem – or sergeant now, apparently – disappear from the stand, and in his place a thin, tall man with a long head and small round glasses took the stand. He was introduced as Dr. Feingeld, and he talked at length on the psychology of a name that Cavallier did not recognize, as he had not recognized when the same name had come up frequently during the trial. It’s not that it wasn’t unfamiliar, it was simply alien to him, as was almost everything that was going on around him in this room, through these faces, behind these words and above these voices.

“…This has been seen in other cases of schizophrenia, when the patient’s masochistic tendencies born of a traumatic experience have led to his internalization of a concomitant sadistic tendency, which has led to his transposing a fantastical identity upon the patient’s original personality. The internalized sadistic urges thus focus their energies upon the new, fantastical identity of the patient, while also serving the deeper subconscious desire for self-punishment born of self-loathing, thus leading to what we call ‘Sado-Masochism Bi-Proxy.’”

“Dr. Feingeld, tell me about the causes for this bipolar shift in the patient’s personality,” asked the lawyer for the defense.

“Actually what seems like a bipolar disorder is actually more like a ‘unipolar shift.’ It’s almost always caused by a traumatic event which has led to a sense of shame, hatred and – most importantly – helplessness, or rather a sense of powerlessness perceived by the patient regarding his being able to overcome the trauma. This often leads to a personality shift in which the patient takes on the personality (whether real or imaginary) of that which he or she has seen as the cause of the traumatic event which has caused feelings of shame in him, and so the hatred of self this fuels coupled with the hatred of that outside force which has caused it leads to the case at hand: The assuming of another identity upon which the feeling of helplessness is overcome by bringing harm to oneself once of course ‘one’s self’ has become that ‘other’ which had brought it harm…”

“So put simply, Dr. Feingeld,” the lawyer turned to the jury when he said this, “the person in question has taken on the persona of A.J. Cavallier and sought to satisfy his desire to see him punished for a wrong committed against him by seeing himself punished as A.J. Cavallier. And this, in turn, also serves a deeper, subconscious yearning to punish his ‘true’ self, if you will, because of the shame and the helplessness caused by that ‘traumatic event.’”

“Yes.”

Here the judge interrupted.

“But he has been answering to his real name all through the proceeding… or at least he hasn’t been objecting to its use…”

“Your honor,” responded Dr. Feingeld, “With such a tentative grasp of reality, the name he hears to describe him – or anything he hears to describe him for that matter – is just as if he were hearing someone talk of somebody else, somebody he doesn’t know, nor perhaps ever did.”

“So you would say he is in fact… insane?” asked Judge Halstead.

“Yes, your honor.”

More words floated in the air all around A.J. Cavallier, but he was suddenly tuned in, as if woken from a long semi-consciousness. He felt something slipping away, as if something all of a sudden would not be realized, something wonderful would never happen. He looked at the judge who was looking pitifully back at Cavallier. He saw his own pessimism in the eyes of the judge. Those were not the eyes, that was not the look that Cavallier wanted to see for so long. He had dreamt of this moment, and this was not how he dreamt it would end, not with those eyes. It was Larry, it was his old friend Larry Halstead, he was the most important…

“LARRY! LARRY I’M TRUSTING IN YOU!” Cavallier hadn’t said a single thing throughout the trial, and this sudden shout at the judge, delivered just as he stood up and pointed at him, sent a shock throughout the courtroom, causing such a furor of gasps and murmurings from jury to onlookers alike, that Judge Halstead, himself in momentary shock, had to call for order with repeated strikes of his gavil. But before everybody calmed down, the judge passed a fulminating glance at Cavallier. His gigantic bushy eyebrows were furrowed and between them ran a wrinkle deep as a canyon between his eyes. Judge Halstead was an old-school rational man, and for him there were no grey zones. His stentorian voice bellowed like a god’s and he brought his gavil down one last time.

“You have shown not only contempt of this court, not only contempt of the judge presiding over this court, but, in the process, contempt over the very City State of Genavere itself. I who am a high court magistrate, I whom you do not even now, nor ever could, on a personal level… you dare to stand and point and call me by my Christian name? You dare to trample the very laws and institutions of our Free City State with your arrogance, cunning and trickery?”

Cavallier was suddenly beginning to feel happy again, suddenly his optimism was growing again, expanding boundlessly, even as the judge continued to upbraid him and condemn him.

“I have seen many cases of deceit and trickery in my time, but this is one of the most sinister. I was almost ready to grant that you were not of the mental and psychological capacity to stand trial, but your utterance of my name has proven you wrong. It was proven that you can indeed distinguish faces, names and people, it has proven, thus, that you know full well who you yourself are, despite your lies and tales to the contrary, and despite this act you have been putting on. The case you have brought against Genavere, a case which has sought to shame Genavere, has been nothing but your own doing. I have seen here that you were the one deceiving everyone with your act of insanity so as to bring shame upon our glorious City State. You were the one who brought upon yourself – in a carefully, rationally and meticulously planned manner mind you – the treatment you received in Sector 70. You have attacked an innocent Genaveran citizen. You have attacked a police officer. You have brought a false charge against the state and institutions – the very laws – of Genavere, and now you have insulted a high court judge! And I hold all this in perspective to also your past shameful behavior and the resulting trial, which, although it does not pertain to this one, for this is another, an independent trial, nevertheless shows the consistency with which you have not only remained of the same personality, but also your character has remained of the same moral fiber as it was five years ago…”

Cavallier’s moment had finally come. The moment he had been waiting for, for five years. His moment of shame and humiliation. The moment he would beg and grovel for his innocence, the moment he would prove himself a coward in front of the whole world. The moment when justice would finally be done, when the system would finally be accountable, when the truly guilty would be punished for his ways.

“…I find you guilty, guilty of attempted manslaughter, guilty of attacking with intent to harm an officer of the Genaveran Police, guilty of bringing false charges against the Free City State of Genavere, guilty, you, on all these counts… I therefore sentence you, Dietrich Manfred, to 7 years in prison so that you may reflect upon, ponder and perhaps one day set straight your evil ways.”

And so it had happened. And it was every bit as wonderful as he thought it would be. The sergeant was innocent, yes, the rot was at the top. Finally, Adrian Jackson Cavallier had paid with his freedom, and he was going to make sure that he would never again attain his freedom, nor ever leave prison alive.

But he didn’t beg and grovel as he always hoped he would, nor did he cry and show supreme cowardice. The moment was perfect enough as it was.

-----------------------------------------

The Genavere Times lay open on page 12, upon the desk of Genaveran Chief of Security, Adrian Jackson Cavallier. A small column and photo had been circled with pen, either with the aim of catching someone’s attention or of retaining an attention that had already been caught. As it turned out, it was the latter. A.J. Cavallier put on his spectacles, adjusted the newspaper on his desk and leaned forward to have a look at it once more. Deputy Chief Andrew Andropoulos was standing silently by his side, straining to read over Cavallier’s shoulder.

“Have you read this Andrew? It’s quite extraordinary,” Cavallier said without taking his eyes off the paper. “Remember that case five years ago, the sergeant in charge of that precinct from Sector 18? A boy was beaten so bad he came out partially crippled… This is the guy, Dietrich Manfred. Look what it says here: ‘Despite showing schizophrenic tendencies resulting in what witnesses have described as a belief that he was in fact someone else – namely Genaveran Chief of Security Adrian Jackson Cavallier – Judge Lawrence Halstead deemed him of sound mind and further sentenced him to 7 years in prison…’ It goes on to say here that Manfred had been living in squalor since he was discharged five years ago…”

Cavallier kept reading the article, or at least kept looking at it, without lifting his head or saying a word.

“What exactly had happened there, you know, when Cavallier was discharged?” This time Cavallier pushed the paper aside and looked up at Andropoulos.

“Well… like I said the kid was crippled. His father, what was his name… Harold something, Harold Singer or something, can’t remember exactly… His father went to court and the press jumped all over it. You’ll probably recall that all this happened just two months after the Sanders administration came to power, and the last thing they wanted was something like this to start with…”

“What actually happened at the precinct? Was this Sergeant Dietrich…”

“Manfred,” corrected Cavallier.

“Sorry, this Sergeant Manfred, was he the one who…”

“No, not really… I mean it didn’t even happen in the police station, it was on the street. A couple of cops from that precinct found this kid, no I.D., in a dodgy area – I mean Sector 18 for christ’s sake – acting shifty. He was probably on something, that super-speed-amphetamine concoction that was going around in all those clubs in the area at the time, ‘amphies’ they called it… anyway, I don’t think Manfred knew what had happened until the kid was brought in…”

“So why did he…”

“I know what you’re going to ask. We needed this to die down quick. Sanders called me the day it was in the news, and he wanted this nipped in the bud quick. He wanted names and he wanted those names’ heads to roll. The cops were small fry, and they weren’t even discharged. We just sent them to other precincts… The obvious name was the commanding sergeant, Dietrich Manfred. I remember how distraught he was… he kept saying how the cops were coming out too young, not trained enough, no experience, and maybe he had a point, but the public wanted action – and I don’t need to tell you that five years ago crime in Genavere was worse than it is today. We had to put more cops on the streets and in the precincts. Anyway, Manfred always blamed us for it, saying we were responsible for letting out boys who were unfit to be cops, saying something like this was bound to happen. Sanders wouldn’t hear of it of course. There were even calls for me to quit, but Sanders had just appointed me one month prior, and would have looked like an idiot for doing so if his newly appointed security head were to quit… anyway, you get the picture…”

There was a brief silence during which both men looked vacantly at the newspaper as if they were looking at Dietrich Manfred’s own face.

“I have to tell you Andrew, I felt a little bad about it. He had a good record, he’d been on the force 15 years or something, maybe more. He loved his job. The guy was just unlucky I guess. Maybe I even felt a little responsible, sure, but that’s the way the system works. Someone has to be held accountable, and sometimes we have to delegate accountability. And when accountability is delegated, it’s always delegated downwards – before it’s too late to do so, that is.”

Andropoulos picked up the paper again and brought it close to his face. He looked at the photo at the bottom of the column. It showed the face of a portly 48 year-old man with a balding head.

“Strange,” Andropoulos said. “He looks so content.”