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Phil's Excellent Detective Novel, in FULL!


WATCH YOUR STEP, MORGAN!

The wind stirs: live, leave all but life behind!
My book is torn by that tremendous wind,
the splaying wave dares leap the rock at last;
vanish, bright pages, into the shining skies,
break, waves, break, joyous fountains that uprise
from this calm roof where sails came striding past!

—Paul Valéry

ONE

We are in inglorious Weimar, in 1920. Morgan, who considers himself a Social Democrat, is walking down Preuss Avenue on an outrageously sunny day. He is not a Jew, though his nose is large; it is unlikely, though possible, that he will end up in a camp. Who knows anything these days? Using a chubby palm to block the sun’s passage into his delicate green eyes, Morgan makes his way down the steps of the Spielbergplatz, his head craned to the left on the lookout for his lover. But there is nobody there, only indifferent passersby and posters: Wer rechts wählt, der wählt den Krieg! Actually, this is a slight anachronism. Those words come from a 1930s anti-Nazi poster, and today is a decade earlier than that. Morgan is barely aware of this man Hitler, who’s more of a thug at this stage than a politician. Onwards Morgan walks, still looking desperately for Elise, whose father paid for Morgan’s studies…
No!
It was all a dream. Tom Morgan had been dreaming. He looked outside. The weather was apocalyptic. Our hero was drunk and hungover. He got a call from the guy who tells detectives which cases to investigate, whose name was Howards.
—Hello.
—Morgan, get yourself to Edgar Street. We got a homicide.
—I don’t wanna.
—Get over there straight away. Are you drunk?
—I would prefer not to.
Tom Morgan hung up the phone and dressed in those clothes that detectives wear, like a tweed jacket and some sort of brown shoes. He walked around his apartment looking for the whisky. He drove to Edgar Street, drinking.
—What seems to be the problem? he said, a genuinely convincing thing for a policeman to say.
—Looks like a homicide.
—That sucks. Who?
—Who what?
—What do you think, who what? Who died.
—You might’ve meant, who did the thing that made the dying happen.
Angry, Morgan punched the unnamed character in the face.
—Take me to the body.
He was led into a building with many floors and some doors. On one floor, on the floor, there was a dead guy. He had been killed by a man named Keith Crockett, but Morgan was unaware of this. Keith Crockett was born in 1949 in a small village in Saskatchewan. As a child he was known for his polite demeanour and broad shoulders. At that moment Keith Crockett was having champagne with a hot blonde chick with awesome breasts. Pretty soon they’d be having sex like you can’t imagine, all pounding and screaming, a real good time. Though, it should be noted that this hot blonde had feelings, like any other person, and in fact she was a pretty nice girl, with dreams of becoming a veterinary doctor once she finished law school. She had been forced to go to law school by her strict father, who had recently passed away, and so now, only a year away from passing the bar exam, the hot blonde (with massive tits and a great ass) could feel her dreams beginning to materialise. This was a great thing, because, as I’ve said, she wasn’t a bad gal. In fact, she took very good care of her young autistic sister, and always gave money to the poor, even though she didn’t have much money of her own. I’m pretty sure she was one of the sweetest people in that city. You know, you sometimes meet someone who just has it all: looks, brains, a heart…
Anyways, there was a dead guy on the floor. He’d been stabbed in the lungs. His face had gone purple, or whichever colour is most realistic on a dead body. Maybe white.
—That’s a really purple face, or maybe white, Morgan said.
—Well, who do you think did it?
Morgan paused and took out his cigarettes, which detectives often do.
—I don’t know, he said with the utmost confidence, but I won’t rest until I find out.
—Yay, said a little boy I just made up who was sitting on the floor next to the corpse.
—You there, little boy. What’s your name?
The little boy said his name was Montgomery Pitt.
—And what is your relation to this carcass?
—He was my daddy.
And then, in a long monologue, Montgomery Pitt explained that his daddy, Huckleberry Pitt, had been murdered by a scary man with enormous eyebrows, so thick that they looked like moustaches over his eyes. This was very interesting to Tom Morgan, who had recently read that men with enormous eyebrows are often sex offenders. He listened as Montgomery Pitt described the life of hardship that he and his father had endured at the hands of the Baron Aproon van Bondecramp, a vicious drug dealer and pimp who often teased them because they both had funny-looking foreheads, like mine, actually. It was an appalling story, but completely irrelevant, because, as I’ve said, the killer was actually Keith Crockett, who was about to make out with that smoking blonde chick. Unfortunately for us, Tom Morgan had no way of knowing that the story was a red herring, so he listened the whole way through. Eventually, Montgomery Pitt went quiet, and with a furrowed brow he said:
—Life, inspector, is full of trials.
—Yeah, Morgan said, only now aware of this.
A character named Boots came and kidnapped Montgomery Pitt when Morgan had his back turned. He took him to a secret torture chamber in which he played all sorts of sick, sadistic games with the child, before finally murdering him in an unspeakable fashion. He then buried the body in his backyard, singing:
That corpse you planted last year in your garden,
Has it begun to sprout? Will it bloom this year?
Or has the sudden frost disturbed its bed?
Boots is going to be an important character later on, in another book that I’m going to write.
—Where the hell did that kid go? Morgan said.
And he had a sip of his whisky, and smoked a cigarette.
—Dammit. Now my only witness is gone. Everyone, I want you on the lookout for a man with enormous eyebrows. I have a feeling we may be dealing with a sex offender.
Someone objected, saying that there was no evidence of sexual intercourse in the autopsy report, which was already complete.
—Well, I have to cover all my bases, Morgan said. Plus, I trust Psychology Today even more than I trust my own instincts.
—Whatever you say, boss.
Morgan noticed he was smoking two cigarettes at once. This is because I forgot that I’d already made him smoke one a few paragraphs above.

TWO

When I say the weather was apocalyptic, I mean it was very rainy and ugly. It was essentially a dark and stormy night. Dark and stormy nights are usually good for murders. The temperature was three degrees Celsius, or thirty-seven point four degrees Fahrenheit. Interestingly, Tom Morgan had the ability to convert from Celsius to Fahrenheit without difficulty. He was, however, unaware that it was three degrees Celsius out that night.
—Hey, you!
The voice, which I haven’t identified so as to build suspense, was deep and scary. It had come from behind Morgan, who turned, and saw an enormous robot with evil red eyes and crablike claws.
—Who are you? he said.
—Hey, you!
—What do you want?
—Hey, you!
It was then that Morgan realised that he was inside his wacky inventor friend Aaron’s apartment, and that in all likelihood it was just one of Aaron’s wacky inventions he was dealing with.
—Oh, hey, Aaron.
Aaron was only seventeen and had already built an atomic bomb and sold it to Pakistan. He was one of those clichéd child prodigies that really bug me in teenage spy movies. Fortunately, he’s about to be killed.
—Hi, Tom! said the geeky Aaron, jumping out of his robot outfit.
—That’s a neat-looking robot, Morgan said.
—Thank you. It sure is dark and stormy tonight, isn’t it?
—Listen, you motherfucker…
Morgan grabbed Aaron by the collar and pushed him against the wall.
—What are you doing? Help!
—I need your help, Morgan said, and I need it for free, straight away. You hear me? I’m not paying you this time.
—Okay! Let go of me!
—Not a penny, you understand? I’ve got no money, and this is serious business!
—But I’ve never charged you for anything.
This was basically true. Morgan felt stupid.
—Oh, yeah.
—Now put me down.
He dropped Aaron and walked around the apartment, wondering how he’d even arrived there. Then he said:
—I need to use your Megagun.
The annoying little shit gasped.
—My Megagun? That’s outrageous! You could kill an entire army of hell’s angels with a single blast!
—Precisely.
—Who do you need to kill? A banker?
—Worse.
—A pimp?
—Worse.
—A terrorist?
—No. A sex offender.
—What did he do?
—He stabbed a man named Huckleberry Pitt to death.
—That doesn’t sound like a sex crime.
—God damn it, Aaron, give me your Megagun.
—No, I can’t. It’s simply too powerful.
So Morgan smacked him in the face, kicked him in the ribs, bust his lip with a crowbar and pulled out each of his teeth individually. After this excessive violence, he said:
—I want your Megagun.
—Okay.
He helped Aaron insert his teeth into his gums again, then waited for the little bastard to take out his Megagun from a drawer marked “Socks and Megagun”. You should see what I think a Megagun looks like: half gun, half golf club, shooting bullets made of discarded shards of diamonds. Awesome.
Then Aaron died of a heart attack, and he won’t be bothering us anymore.

THREE

Morgan had a monologue, out loud, even though he was alone, like in a play.
—Okay, I’ve spent the last hour looking for clues. There weren’t any in my coffee, so that was a bad start. None in the mail, either. I did find a homosexual overtone in a sentence I wrote to my colleague. There was one in my coffee, too. Now, I need to find out who killed Huckleberry Pitt, and fast. Howards, my boss, is going to have my ass if I don’t. Also, I get paid to solve murders. So let’s get right to it.
He took a cab to the art gallery and looked for clues in a painting by Donald Weiss, an obscure German expressionist who doesn’t actually exist, but whose paintings were by far the most beautiful in the country at the time. Colours abounded. There were people and flowers on the canvas, and a little convenient splash of blood!
—Aha!
He called the maitre d’ over and asked him what that blood was doing on the painting.
—I am not a maitre d’, I am a curator. That blood? By Jove, you should have seen the fight that broke out here last week! Some ruffian known as El Cabrón was beating the life out of my stepfather, who suffers from terrible asthma. That awful kid nearly killed him! Blood was flying everywhere, and a little bit landed on this wonderful painting. It is a tragedy. Inspector, you must find El Cabrón before he gets up to any more mischief.
The maitre d’ was very fat because he ate too many pistachios.
—Very well, Morgan said resolutely. But if he’s not involved in the murder of Huckleberry Pitt, he’s not my top priority.
—Huck Pitt! By God, is he dead?
—You knew him?
—Why, he was practically this gallery’s most frequent visitor. He’d offered to buy this Weiss painting on many occasions. Sadly, I had to refuse. It simply is too precious. Look how the colours blend into one glorious rainbow of bliss!
—Yes.
—And you see on the left there, behind that tree? That is an owl, like in the paintings of Hieronymus Bosch. Weiss was certainly respectful of his masters.
—Yes.
—He also paid homage to Van Gogh. Look, that rock is shaped like an ear.
—Uh-huh. Why did El Cabrón beat up your stepfather?
—I don’t know. It was something to do with this painting. My stepfather owns this museum, you see.
—Can I speak to him?
—I’m afraid he’s just passed away.
—When?
—Right when I showed you the ear-shaped rock.
—Damn. What does El Cabrón look like?
—Piercings everywhere. A tattoo of a bottle of milk on his forehead. Thick eyebrows.
—Another sex offender… Morgan said aloud, in case he was in a movie and the audience wanted to know what he was thinking. Thank you very much, maitre d’.
—I am a curator.
Morgan gave him a good smack and left.
On the way to the homicide department, Morgan had an epiphany.
—I’m a violent and resentful person and should try to sort my problems out before I lose all my friends!
Then he bought a donut, as cops do apparently, and reported to Howards, his boss, who was also very fat, but for a different reason: he was an unpleasant man, and the weight of his anger was slowly metabolising into fat. It was a medical curiosity worthy of attention. Howards said:
—Did you find out who killed Huckleberry Pitt?
—No, but I have a lead.
—Tell me.
—Pitt was trying to buy a rare painting. Some dude called El Cabrón beat up the owner of that painting and then disappeared. I think there’s a connection.
—You better make damn sure there’s a connection.
—I will.
—And shave, you lousy bastard. You look like a drunk.
This reminded Morgan to pour himself a drink of whiskey back in his office. Someone knocked on the door. It was his colleague, Karachi, who was terrified of Morgan for some stupid reason that I wrote about in another story. He was quivering.
—What do you want? Morgan said.
—I’ve been assigned to the Huck Pitt case. I’m your partner. Please don’t hurt me.
—God damn it, Karachi, why you? Where’s Julien?
—It’s his day off.
Shit, it was the middle of the night when this story began. Never mind. This was the next day.

FOUR

Morgan had smoked eighty cigarettes and still couldn’t decide what step to take next. Huckleberry Pitt deserved justice, but how to proceed? By the way, the sex that Keith Crockett had with that smokin’ blonde chick was even better than I thought it would be. She was all over him, man. His cock was all hard and veiny, and her pussy was all wet and wrinkled, and they were doing it everywhere, on the couch, on the piano, on the Eiffel Tower — yes, they travelled there just to do it above Paris. Then they came back, and came again, har, har.
Karachi was reading up on German expressionism. He learned some interesting things about it; I can’t be bothered to make them up. This really is a poor novel. Morgan was pacing around his office, smoking away, when he said:
—Karachi, let’s go look for clues in the park.
—Why?
—Because we haven’t looked there yet.
They took a cab to the park and looked for clues. There was another homosexual overtone under a bench, but little else. A homeless man was urinating into a fountain. Morgan frowned:
—Stop, you fiend!
The man turned and frowned back.
—How dare you call me a fiend? Do you know who I am?
—Oh… damn. It’s you.
It was none other than the infamous Homeless Man, Palmeida’s only superhero. Because he lived on the streets, Homeless Man took great care to fight crime in order to avoid getting mugged by anyone stupid enough to assume that he had possessions. His beard was known as the Beard of Justice, for inside it he kept a mysterious artefact he’d found in a trashcan. This artefact, the Heart of Kamboo, gave him superpowers. It was his only possession. He didn’t even have any clothes.
—Nice to see you again, Homeless Man, Morgan mumbled.
—Greetings, Inspector Morgan. Is there any crime that requires fighting?
—I got a homicide case. I’m looking for clues.
Homeless Man fondled his scrotum and said:
—I could help you. The streets are quiet today.
—No thank you, Morgan said. I don’t like you very much.
—Oh, shucks, are you still sore because I solved that Easter Bunny case instead of you?
—You didn’t solve it, you idiot. The Easter Bunny is still at large.
—An irrelevance, Homeless Man said.
The Easter Bunny was a bizarre serial killer, but not important in this story. Morgan said:
—Have you found any clues that could help us?
—As a matter of fact, I found a clue this morning in the newspaper.
—What’s that?
—It’s a daily or weekly publication on folded sheets; it contains news and articles and advertisements. People read them in the mornings and then throw them away.
—What clue?
—Look here.
Homeless Man showed him an article in the Daily Archangel: FASCIST WINS PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION.
—We have a new president?
—His name is Capricorn Yentei. He’s a fascist!
Morgan grabbed Karachi by the collar, as he was prone to do, and said:
—Find out everything you can about this new president.
—Yes, sir!
—Thank you for the info, Homeless Man.
—Don’t thank me, said Homeless Man. Thank the Heart of Kamboo!
And he disappeared in a puff of yellow smoke that smelled of bacon.
While Karachi did his research, Morgan smoked three cigarettes and had a drink at his favourite haunt, an Irish pub called A Distant Eyre. There he saw his miserable fat friend, Raul, but avoided his gaze. He was in no mood for idle chatter. He was speaking aloud again, just in case people were interesting :
—Okay, so let’s look at what we’ve got so far. An amateur art collector, Huckleberry Pitt, is stabbed in the lungs. A painting by Donald Weiss gets bloodied during a fight between the stepfather of the maitre d’ and a young rapscallion called El Cabrón. The president is a fascist. What to make of all this? I’d better have another drink. Sip-sip. Ah, that’s better. Nothing like a good scotch, even though I’m of Irish heritage. My hair is red and curly.
It dawned on him that he might never solve this case. And then something miraculous happened: it was his friend and colleague, the homosexual Julien Vasquez, calling him on his cellphone!
—Hello?
—Hi, Tom. It’s Julien, your gay friend.
—Jules, you gotta help me out here. I’m stuck with Karachi on an important case.
—Sorry, Tom, it’s my day off.
—But it’s Karachi!
—Listen to me. I’m on my day off.
—Karachi, Jules. The same Karachi who…
—I know it’s tough, but you’ll have to deal with it. I’m having a nice break from all the murders and such. Now, guess what?
—What.
—I hooked up last night!
—With who? Another queer?
—He’s adorable. He’s called El Cabrón. A Latino, like me!
It was an incredible coincidence. It was too good to be true. It wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t want to move the plot along so quickly so I could go smoke my pipe.
—El Cabrón? Christ! Jules, you need to arrest him. He’s a suspect in my case!
—What? That’s impossible. He’s the sweetest kid you’ll ever meet.
—He beat up a maitre d’!
—Which restaurant?
—Why are you talking about restaurants? I mean the maitre d’ at the Triton art gallery, or museum, or whatever it is.
—Then he’s a curator, not a maitre d’.
—Dammit, Jules, will you please find El Cabrón and arrest him?
—Oh, alright. He talks too much anyway. I’ll call you back.

FIVE

In the interrogation cell.
—Alright, you piece of shit, Morgan was saying to El Cabrón, let’s get this over with. Who’re you working for?
—Que?
—Who are you working for, motherfucker?
—No comprendo nada!
—Who the fucking fuck do you fucking work for, you fucking motherfucking fucker?
—Ay, ay, ay, said El Cabrón. So much abuse, hombre. I work for nobody. I am a humble soul. I get up at six every morning to plough the land, and only take ten minute breaks for lunch and dinner. I go to bed after sunset and sleep soundly, knowing that I’ve done a good day’s work. My mother, she is very sick, señor, and I must find a way to pay the medical bills, sabes? I have no father. He left us when I was muy pequeño, very little, and left us very little, muy poco. Understand? I didn’t do anything wrong, mister. I have a pet goat called Antonio, who keeps me company every Sunday evening when I have a few hours of rest. Together we roam the countryside, watching the sun’s slow descent into the other side of our world. I play my flute and my goat dances, and then we fall asleep on the grass, at peace with each other and the universe at large. It helps me to cope with my mother’s illness, señor.
—I’m sorry to hear about your mother, Morgan said. The one you fuck every day! Tell me the truth, you piece of shit. Who do you work for?
Julien, who had come in to replace Karachi, stood by the door and sighed continually. He had a better idea.
—Tom, instead of calling him a motherfucker, why don’t you try being polite?
The thought had never occurred to Morgan.
—Very well. El Cabrón, please tell me who you’re working for.
—I will not tell you, pendejo. He is a very important man.
Julien took over.
—Listen, darling, you need to talk if you want to get yourself out of serious trouble. Why were you at the Triton art gallery last week, beating up some harmless old man?
—You’ll have to threaten to cut off my hands if you want me to talk.
Morgan took over.
—I’ll cut your fucking hands off if you don’t talk.
El Cabrón let out a terrifying scream.
—You wouldn’t! You’re a monster!
—Then talk!
—Okay! Okay! Ay, Dios mio, no puedo vivir asi. Caramba! Macarena!
—Speak English!
At this point the exclamation marks became distracting.
—I work for none other than Capricorn Yentei, the president of the United States.
—That’s outrageous, Julien said.
—I’m ready to believe anything, Morgan said. After what Karachi told me about the guy…
I’m not very good at exposition so I’m just going to explain what Morgan is referring to. Capricorn Yentei was a fascist. He was handsome, rugged, grey-haired and had loads of hot female assistants. He had rigged the electoral system in order to come to power, and people didn’t notice because it wasn’t even election time! Boy, what a genius! Also, he had a series of diabolical plans for world domination, and we’ll find out what these were later on. All of this was discovered by Karachi, who had logged onto Yentei’s homepage. Good job, Karachi!
Morgan said:
—What did Yentei want you to do?
—Ay, ay, ay, puto, he wanted me to kill the curator of the Triton gallery.
—Why?
—Will you really cut off my hands?
—You best believe it, fucker.
—Okay! Okay! I will tell you everything. President Yentei wanted me to kill the curator because he would not sell him the Donald Weiss painting on which I so conveniently spilled blood for you to find. This painting is far more valuable than you can imagine, señor. It contains many secrets. Some might say it is… priceless.
—Go on.
—I cannot. That’s all I know, I don’t remember what else I was supposed to tell you if I got caught.
—Well you’d better try to remember, bitch, because… wait, are you lying to me?
—Dios mio! No!
There was a knock on the door. Julien opened it. It was none other than Homeless Man, Palmeida’s beloved superhero. He was carrying an ancient-looking leather-bound book in his right hand, and a beer in his left.
—What do you want, Homeless Man?
—I have brought you another clue.
—Let’s have it, then.
—No. I want something in return. That young man deserves the Homeless Man Corrective Procedure. It is his only hope for a civilized life.
—Outrageous. You can’t have him. Gimme the clue.
—Fair is fair, inspector. The boy for the clue.
Julien was on Homeless Man’s side:
—Let him have El Cabrón, Tom.
—Yes, let me have the boy.
Morgan was confused.
—Why do you want him so badly?
—Because, inspector, he owes me money.
—Is this true, El Cabrón?
The Latino remained silent.
—Is this true, you fucking motherfucker?
—Yes, joder.
Morgan sighed.
—All right. Homeless Man, take El Cabrón. What’s the clue?
Homeless Man bravely took out a newspaper article from his beard.
—Here you go, inspector.
The article was titled: FASCIST PRESIDENT OBVIOUSLY LINKED TO HUCKLEBERRY PITT’S MURDER. WAKE UP, MORGAN!
—Oh dear, Julien said homosexually. We’re really far behind.
—I’ll get to the bottom of this. Where’s Karachi?
—You sent him home.
—Well then, Jules, I need you to contact the reporter who penned this article and tell him I need to talk to him.
—Shouldn’t we read the article first?
—For Christ’s sake, Julien, do what I’m telling you.
This chapter ends with Homeless Man inserting El Cabrón into his thick beard and disappearing in a puff of yellow bacon smoke.

SIX

Keith Crockett was one bad mofo. He was buff, buffer than me anyways, and also more intelligent than me, and more charming. At that moment he had just finished sexing some hot brunette like there was no tomorrow, and she was amazed at how good he was in bed, as in everything. If there’s a real hero in this story, it’s Keith Crockett. But he’s also the bad guy, or one of them. So he’ll have to get caught in the end. But that’s okay, because he’ll make everyone in prison his bitch.
—Hubert, he said to his clichéd English butler, fetch me a plate of Parma ham.
—Of course, my lord.
Oh yeah, Keith Crockett was also the lord of some massive mansion where he had all sorts of hot sex parties.
When Hubert returned with the Parma ham, he had a telephone in his hand.
—For you, my lord.
Hubert, although another relatively unimportant character, bears some exposition, because he had lived a fascinating life, full of romance, adventure and gambling, before settling down to become Keith Crockett’s clichéd butler. You have to understand that he was happy to be a mere stereotype these days, as it afforded him a sense of security after all those years of living on the edge, Kerouac-style, without ever feeling at home anywhere. He had loved; he had suffered. His time in Cuba had taught him many things about human nature, things best left unsaid if we are to continue finding life bearable on this repulsive human planet. Although he’d enjoyed his prolonged stay in the Antarctic, what he most craved now was the warmth of routine, the comfort of repetition in a nice mansion, waiting on Mr Crockett, who paid him generously and was never too fussy. It was a nice change from fighting polar bears armed only with an army knife, saving damsels in distress from dragon-like pimps in the streets of Tangiers, catching syphilis in Bucharest and having it treated in Tuscany, and making a name for himself in a short-lived career as a political journalist during the Iranian Revolution.
We switch now to the present tense, for dramatic effect. Keith Crockett picks up the phone.
—Who is it?
—It’s me.
Keith Crockett is only intimidated by one man, and that man is…
—Mr Yentei. How nice to hear from you.
—I read in the papers that Mr Pitt has been disposed of, Capricorn Yentei says.
—Yes, sir.
—Does anyone suspect anything?
—I think they’re more worried about a fascist being in power.
—Yes… yes… Hahaha! I am delightfully maniacal, Yentei says.
—What’s my new mission, sir? Keith Crockett asks.
—You must come to my lair. I am ready to unveil my plans for humanity.
Keith Crockett drives his awesome red sports car to the Whitish House, which is the underground part of the White House and more top-secret. It is called the Whitish House because, being built underground, its whiteness has mostly faded, and calling it the Brown House would make it sound like a toilet. When he gets there, Keith Crockett flashes his ID card in front of a robotic guard and is granted access to the FIASCO, or Fascist International Association’s Source of Corruption and Oppression, the Whitish House’s most evil section available only to really, really disgustingly bad people.
Sitting on the Chair of Doom is Capricorn Yentei, the president of America. Keith Crockett shivers as he locks eyes with him. The president gestures for him to sit down.
—Welcome to my evil lair, he says.
—Thank you, sir. I hope you don’t mind, but I brought my Parma ham with me.
—Noted, the president says with a frown. Now, Mr Crockett, what is the worst thing about the world, apart from the Jews?
—Ugly women.
—I do not much care for ugly women, I confess, but I am looking for a different answer.
—Jugulars that are difficult to cut.
—Perhaps, but no.
—I give up.
—The worst thing about the world, Mr Crockett, is the Fantasy.
—The fantasy?
—With a capital F.
—The Fantasy…
—Yes, the Fantasy.
—What is the Fantasy?
—The Fantasy… Yentei begins, then pauses.
—Yes?
—The Fantasy is that which prevents us all from seeing the world as it truly is. I have been reading, and probably misunderstanding, the works of Jacques Lacan. Have you read him?
—I don’t read.
—Well, Jacques Lacan was a Frenchman. Don’t frown, he was a good Frenchman. And thanks to him I have discovered the problem with the world. I have adapted his theories to suit my evil designs. I must warn you, before I explain, that I have appropriated his ideas and modified them so much that they are no longer Lacan’s, but my own. Do you understand? I have corrupted, most unjustly, the brilliant thoughts of a brilliant man.
—Yes, sir.
—Very well. That pathetic creature known as the human being… ugh!... lives in a world of fantasies and lies. Oh, fuck it. I’ll just show you… the Vortex.
Yentei presses a button and suddenly Keith Crockett sees something he will never forget.

SEVEN

Karachi was sleeping and will no longer be used in this story.

EIGHT

Morgan was smoking fifteen cigarettes at once. It was a pretty stupid thing to do. He burned his nose.
—Ouch!
He was daydreaming. He’d have his own practice one day. He had a monologue, in his daydream:
—I used to work a lot. A hell of a lot. Dead people all over the place and it was up to me to find out who had knifed ‘em, shot ‘em. Sometimes, who had made muffins out of ‘em. It wasn’t a lonely job. I had Julien. I still have him now, except I don’t work that much anymore. Fact is, I don’t work at all. I quit. I got tired of my boss, Howards. He was a bastard. But there was another thing, too. See, I’m a… what do you call ‘em… I’m terrified of being just another cliché. I don’t care if I’m another nobody. I don’t want to get rich or famous. But whenever I got up in the morning, still dirty from not taking a shower last night, a little tipsy still, wondering where my life was going, whenever that happened every morning, I’d think: woah, wait, I’m a fuckin’ pulp fiction detective if there ever was one. I’m a lonely bastard who never gets the women he wants, whose liver’s been chewed on by too many cheap martinis. I don’t want to go out like this. I’m better than this. Etcetera. Then I’d go off to work and I’d work on whatever case I was supposed to work on. And where was the reward? These people were dead; I wasn’t helping anyone. I was a miserable son of a bitch. So one day I quit. And I took Julien with me. I told him: “You’re quitting with me. Together, we’ll become private eyes. Super sleuths.” Julien looks at me and says. “But you’re inches away from a promotion, Morgan! Why would you quit?” But I convinced him enough. That was a month ago. I rented this office here three weeks ago. I’ve been sitting here ever since.
He noticed he was still in his office at the homicide department.
—Damn.
Then he noticed he was dreaming, for it was night.
—Oh.
Suddenly there was an explosion somewhere nearby. It was loud and horrifying. The next day, after saying good morning to Julien and Howards, he reported the explosion to the guy who’s in charge of explosion reports. It turns out it had already been investigated. What Morgan didn’t know was that the bomb was meant as a warning: Next time, it’ll be you! Stop investigating the Huckleberry Pitt case, or you’ll get killed! Yes, he was supposed to read into the explosion in that very way. The guy in charge of explosion reports, Watson, was puzzled, because there was no mention of an explosion in the report.
—I have a slight concern, Tom, and maybe you can help me out. You see, what I have here, here in my hands, here, is the official police report. Written by the chief of police himself. Okay? Um, let’s see. You see, in this report, there is absolutely no mention of an “explosion.” At all! Ha, ha! So, you see, if there’s a problem, then you’re going to need to report it quickly, while it’s still fresh in everyone’s… okay, wait. Okay… Um, let me see. It says here… do you want to hear what it says?
Morgan was pissed off, and almost beat him senseless, but instead politely said that he did.
—I do.
—See, what it says here is… that you were forcedly removed from sleep… you see… at a chronologically inconvenient time… by a spontaneous energetic disassembly. Uh… I can’t find any similarities between your version and the chief of police’s version.
—Gah!
Morgan killed Watson in the most horrific way. First he frantically removed Watson’s eyes and made him swallow them, then he kicked him in the ribs until he heard three loud cracks. Next he stabbed him repeatedly in the neck and smiled as the blood gushed out. Suddenly he realised what he had done.
—Oh. My. God.
He hid the body under Watson’s desk.
—Oh. My. Good. God.
He was a murderer!

NINE

Now, at this point in the story, you may be wondering what the hell is going on. What is a Fantasy, which covers up the cracks and inconsistencies within the ideological field of our society? It is just that. And it must be removed, according to Yentei: we must not let the emperor have his clothes! And Capricorn Yentei, who has built a machine which can remove the Fantasy from the film of our very thoughts, intends to do just that. It’s happening right now!
The Fantasy keeps us sane. Without it, we would have no sense of narrative, no symbolic fictions to make sense of our lives. We would exist solely in the Real of the Real of the Real. What Yentei is doing is simply monstrous. He is naturalising the absurd, the incomprehensible. For instance, the other day, a man was sitting behind me at the theatre, and he held a pillow over his face, and he squealed, he cried, disrupting the whole performance. Someone told him to be quiet but he still he cried, mumbling incomprehensibly, moving around in his seat. People tried to ignore him but it wasn’t any use, his tears were unstoppable. He didn’t seem to breathe; he cried, cried, shrieked, and somehow the ushers didn’t think he was out of place, nobody asked him to leave, and after a while everybody became accustomed to the man’s effusive weeping. I wanted to see his face, the face he covered with a pillow, like a fluffy, safe mask; I wanted to ask him what was wrong but he didn’t listen. Now, that’s bizarre enough; but without the Fantasy to help me remember this story, to make me feel safe in my own identity, I might have simply confused myself with the weeping man, and become hopelessly decentred, reflected in my own imagination, trapped in the Real of the Real of the Real.
This is the key to understand the Vortex, which Yentei hopes will destroy the Fantasy once and for all: the Vortex will return to us the face we had before the world was made, much like in the poem by Yeats:

IF I make the lashes dark
And the eyes more bright
And the lips more scarlet,
Or ask if all be right
From mirror after mirror,
No vanity's displayed:
I'm looking for the face I had
Before the world was made…

TEN

Morgan was so fucked. If he got caught, he’d be in trouble, because he’d killed Watson, who up until now was a relatively unimportant character. Unfortunately, by being killed, Watson was now dead, and no longer with life. This meant that he would not be waking up again any time soon, or any time at all. In other words, Morgan was a criminal.
He called Julien over to his office. Julien came. Then he wiped the sperm off and left the bathroom and entered Morgan’s office.
—What is it, Tom?
—Jules, I’m in deep shit.
—That reminds me of a joke…
—Not now. I killed Watson.
—Who the hell is Watson?
—The guy who works in the bomb reporting thing.
—What?
—Watson! You know, Watson!
—Tom, Julien said sympathetically, there is no Watson.
Morgan froze. It was cold. He closed the window. The weather was apocalyptic again.
—Then who did I kill?
—MORGAN!
It was Howards’s voice that boomed across the homicide department. Morgan shivered. He was still cold. His nipples were very erect, but not in a homosexual way. Julien noticed this but because he was one of the good queers he didn’t molest Morgan.
—MORGAN!
These capitalised utterances were growing louder. Morgan was terrified.
—What do I do? What do I do?
—Just tell him the truth, Julien said. Tell him you killed an imaginary person.
Howards burst in.
—Where’s Watson?
—I killed him.
—Killed who?
—Watson.
—Who the fuck is Watson?
And that was the end of Morgan’s troubles… for now! Howards wanted Julien to make him some coffee.
—Yes, sir.
Like Karachi, Julien was a bit of a pushover.
—Any new leads? Howards asked Morgan as he sipped his coffee through his ear, a special talent he had.
Much to Morgan’s horror, Morgan realised that he had no new leads.
—All I know is that the newspapers think our president was involved in the murder.
—Well go arrest the president! Howards said, unaware that he was an idiot.
—Tom, Julien said, I think we should go visit that curator again at the Triton art gallery.
—Why?
—I get the feeling he wasn’t being entirely honest with you last time.
—Why’s that?
—Because I discovered on the internet that the curator is…
—What?
—He’s… an escaped convict. His name is Patrick O’Keefe. He’s wanted for killing and raping forty-six young girls, all in the space of three hours.
—A sex offender! Morgan said jubilantly.
—Exactly. And since you’re so certain that we’re dealing with a sex offender, maybe it’s worth checking him out a little more.
—Good, Howards said, and coughed through his anus, which was like a fart.
They took a cab to the art gallery again.
—How good to see you, inspector! the maitre d’ said.
Morgan grabbed him by the collar, as he was prone to do, and said:
—Listen, you fucking motherfucker. I know all about your sex crimes. You’re scum. You’re the worst of the worst. Little girls deserve respect. Respect, motherfucker! And pieces of shit like you are not what this country needs. Why, I oughta…
—Wait, Tom, Julien said. Let me talk to him. Put him down. Mr O’Keefe, we know you’re running from the law. We know you’ve been calling yourself Stewart Milligan and earning your living as a shady art dealer. We also know you eat raisins compulsively.
—It’s true! You understand me! said the maitre d’.
—No, the criminal profilers do. Now, Mr O’Keefe, we need you to tell us the truth about that Donald Weiss painting.
—No… I can’t!
The maitre d’ was shaking with fear.
—Why can’t you?
—Because…
—Because what?
Morgan grabbed him by the collar again:
—Because what, motherfucker?
Morgan often swore when he was angry because he believed it intimidated people, whereas in fact it simply made him appear crude and unpleasant. It was a bad trait to have, and if he had taken the time to work on himself a little more as a teenager, he might not be a cop today, but a pharmacologist, or something equally peaceful.
—Because…
And then the maitre d’ told them a story they would never forget.

ELEVEN

My brother Frederick has a robin, and he calls him a dear little pet, he sings so sweetly. Oh! you cannot think how well he knows Freddy. You should see him early in the morning, when we first come down stairs, or at any time when we come in from a walk, how he runs to one corner of his cage, to look at us: and when Fred whistles and says, "My beauty! my fine fellow!" he stands up so straight, to listen to his kind little masters voice, and then begins jumping and hopping from one end of the cage to the other, just as I have seen happy little children jump and hop about in their sports.
Sometime ago he was ill, and we were sadly afraid he would die; he used to sit from day to day, with ruffled feathers and drooping wings; his food was left untasted, and his pleasant voice was seldom heard; but in two or three weeks he began to grow better, and to eat his food as usual, and to pick amongst the green grass of the little sod we had placed in his cage. Oh, how happy we all were then, especially Frederick, who took care of him, and watched over him with the greatest love and tenderness. Indeed, he was well repaid for his care and anxiety, when his little pet once more began to jump about as blithely as ever.
And now, you see, he is quite well, and we treasure his little songs more than ever we did before, for we never knew how sweet they were until we were deprived of them.
And thus it is, dear children, with many blessings we possess; they become so common to us, that we cease to be thankful for them, and know not their value until they are taken away. We forget who is the Author and Giver of all good; we forget that it is through the mercy and loving kindness of God, that we receive food and clothing, and every blessing we possess.

TWELVE

—Outrageous, Morgan was saying to the maitre d’. I can’t believe your uncle called you a queer in front of your father, who took it literally and proceeded to beat you.
—Yes, said the maitre d’, but that’s just the sort of fellow Jacob was.
—Simply wrong, that is.
—Yes.
Julien spoke.
—I was quite fascinated, and also appalled, by your account of your time in the Sudan.
—A horrible moment in my life, the maitre d’ agreed. Those savages almost killed me with those blasted poison darts. Fortunately, I was saved by my trusty katana, which was given me during my years in Japan by a meddling little man called Fun-Ki Mu-Zik. Did you know, incidentally, that in Japan it is customary to sever the hands of your third child, as a gift to the camera god?
—Tell me, Morgan said, lighting a cigarette and also smoking it, because he was a multitasker. Why did you rape and murder all those little girls?
—Ah… that, inspector, is another story. Join me in my luxurious secret lounge and I shall reveal all.
They went into the luxurious secret lounge, which was full of luxury. Morgan sat on the luxury and thought it would make a very fine couch. The maitre d’ lit a pipe and said:
—I’ve always had a fondness for little girls. Especially when they wear leather and tease you, saying, “You can’t have me, I’m only twelve, but look at this fanny. Look at this tight, twelve-year-old fanny, full of ripeness and moist youthfulness. Look at this dripping wet fanny, tight enough to uncork a merlot, like a Chinese torture instrument. You can’t have it, Patrick! You’re too old to have this fancy fanny. And look at this leather.” Now, I’m a vegan, don’t you know, but I do love the leather, and that makes me a very confused little vegan. Fannies, inspector, are peaches, and I have the teeth for peaches.
—Yes, said Morgan, who had been won over by the maitre d’. But why did you rape them and kill them?
—That, said the maitre d’, is a thinly-veiled request to enter my even more luxurious lounge. Follow me, gentlemen.
In the next luxurious lounge was a portrait of Capricorn Yentei! Julien remained silent, determined to hear the curator out until he had run out of fascinating stories to tell. He also noticed a cabinet marked SECRET THINGS NOT TO TELL INSPECTOR MORGAN, and another marked SECRET THINGS NOT TO TELL HIS ATTRACTIVE SIDEKICK, JULIEN, which made Julien blush girlishly. The curator went on:
—I did not mean to kill them. I did not even mean to rape them. Sometimes, gentlemen, a man’s impulses get the better of him. It is a sad fact of life, wouldn’t you say? Is not the truest sign of a life well lived if a man cannot keep his pistol loaded for more than a few hours at a time? I daresay our friend Huckleberry Pitt was one such man. He was a fine specimen, surely, but incapable of controlling his urges. That young man who thrashed my late stepfather, El Cabrón, you recall, the one with the large eyebrows that made him look like a sex offender (and I assure you, gentlemen, that there is no greater thing to be when you lack the good looks of an undead James Dean and the charm of a Cary Grant), where was I, ah yes, that El Cabrón fellow is another who can’t keep his hands out of the mousetraps of life, you see, for, as I was saying, the mark of a great man is that his fingers are blistered from trying to pick out the cheese before the vermin eat it.
—You are a brilliant man, Morgan said, but you lost me there. Why did you kill those girls?
—It was an accident.
—There were over forty of them.
—It was quite a large accident.
—All in the space of three hours!
—It was, how shall I put it, a rather large and lengthy accident.
Julien couldn’t take it anymore.
—Why is there a painting of the president in this lounge?
The curator was not fazed.
—He is a friend of mine.
—You share his political views?
—Only those that I consider right.
—Right-wing?
—The Right is always right. There is no Left, gentlemen. You are either Right, or you are Wrong.
—Well put, said Morgan, who was a bit of a fascist at heart, despite always voting green, since his eyes were also green and voting for either of the two most likely candidates just preserves the status quo.
—President Yentei is an intelligent man, the maitre d’ went on. He is clever enough not to take over by illicit means. That only ever causes bitter resentment. Let the leftists have their failed revolutions. Any man of intelligence knows that the only real way to rule a nation (and I have experience in that field, for, as you know, I was briefly the Shah of Persia) is by manipulating the masses, duping them into believing that by relinquishing their autonomy they are giving up essential freedoms in order to gain new, untold freedoms, whereas in fact they are effectively authorising their leaders to rule the country in whatever way they see fit.
—How cynical, Julien said.
—Not at all. The masses are begging to be led. They will give up any liberty in return for a little leadership. What the communists fail to see is that people do not want a utopia; they want a firm leader who will tell them exactly what to do. President Yentei is that sort of leader. What good is a utopia when you can never have to worry again about making the wrong choices, since your choices will be made for you by a higher power? We live in post-religious times, my friends, and God’s role has been downgraded — but not for long, for, you see, someone needs to replace God if the people are to be comforted. Enter Capricorn Yentei, an evil man perhaps, but also a decent man. He knows how to rule; he’s proved it! Outer Bangolia, his native land, has blossomed in the last twenty years, thanks to his leadership. Wait till you see what he does to America!
—But about those girls… Morgan began.
—Yes, yes, the girls I raped and killed. It was a statement.
—How so?
—I don’t think you’d understand, inspectors. I fear I may have lost my soul somewhere along the way.
There was a silence.
—Those girls didn’t deserve to die, Julien said.
—Indeed not, the curator agreed. But die they did.
—You don’t respect women very much, do you? Morgan said hypocritically.
—I don’t understand women, Mr Morgan. Should I confess that I do not very well understand what “feminism” is? Of course, some vague notions come to mind: gender equality, women’s rights, protection from domestic violence, and so on; but why should these laudable ideals, which even a hyper-conservative pig like me ought to hold in esteem if he is to be taken seriously in the West, inspire contempt when fought for by a nasty, self-righteous woman? It takes an imbecile of the Rush Limbaugh variety to claim that the feminist movement “was established to allow unattractive women easier access to the mainstream of society”; nevertheless, for someone who does not exactly know what is meant when a young woman calls herself a feminist, it is also unclear what misogyny is, and what is being done wrong. My goal here is not to define feminism precisely — which, given the range of interpretations I have explored, seems to me an impossibility — but to delineate some of the problematic features of maintaining a friendship with a self-proclaimed feminist.
—Go on, then, said Julien.
—It is very easy to meet a woman who calls herself a feminist. Unfortunately, I’ve discovered that sometimes no amount of questioning will make clear what such a woman means by that. “I’m a feminist!” “Ah? What does that mean?” “Don’t you know?” No, I do not. Does that mean you believe that something ought to be done about the alleged — and for all I know, perfectly real — inequalities between the sexes in our society? If so, I applaud you. Does it mean you believe a woman ought to have complete control over her body, without the interference of religious dogmatists? I tip my hat to you. Or do you mean that you reserve the right to launch into an ill-informed, vicious tirade against me and my misogynous attitude whenever civilised conversation fails you and the appeal of a swiftly-delivered ad hominem is too great to resist? In that case, I find myself stumped once again. I don’t know what you mean when you say you are a feminist — if you cannot explain it in clear terms to me, then please, be kind enough to drop the subject entirely, you insufferable psychopath.
—You do sound like a misogynist, though, Julien said.
—I’m only saying this, detective. It is difficult to be friends with someone who would sooner call you a misogynist than, as any decent man or woman might, explain why your beliefs are hurting the feminist cause. Is it because I think Andrea Dworkin was an overzealous, unhappy woman that I am sexist? Is my fondness of Kathy Acker offensive, since she did not combat pornography with the rabid enthusiasm of a Susan Brownmiller? Has the power of Naomi Wolf’s work been lost on me, since I still prefer my women to be conventionally “beautiful” rather than universally considered unattractive, thereby propagating the beauty myth? And because I very much admire Betty Friedan but not the crazed Valerie Solanas, am I an old-fashioned goon, uninterested in tackling the new problems faced by women in our postmodern age? Christina Hoff Sommers fascinates me — too conservative, too “anti”-feminist? What, then, am I supposed to say when someone calls me a misogynist, when I do not even know what current of feminism they subscribe to… if any at all? As you can see, I am well acquainted with feminist tracts.
—It’s very impressive, said Morgan, noticing a pair of feet protruding from behind the curtains. He remained silent.
The maitre d’ continued:
—The problem I most often encounter when dealing with a young “feminist” is that she seems to have appropriated the title for the sake of maintaining some fragile sense of symbolic identity, and little more. She neither actively fights for women’s rights — because, it must be acknowledged, she is simply not up to speed on current events, or she lacks the energy to become it — nor does any actual research to verse herself in what is an impressive, and often compelling, universe of feminist literature.
—Wait a minute, said Morgan, who was beginning to sense that someone else was in the room. You’re crazy, you know that?
Julien sensed it too. He looked around but saw no one. Suspicious, he used his keen sense of smell to detect the foreign presence’s location. It came from behind the curtain! Keeping his eyes on the curator, he slowly took out his gun, which was rather large, like a phallus, and pointed it at the curtain.
—Looks like we’ve got an unexpected guest, he said.
The curator looked around.
—I don’t see anyone, old chap.
Then who else but Keith Crockett jumped out from behind the curtains and said:
—Alright, fellas, easy.
—Ah, Mr Crockett! said the curator, very happily. What were you doing behind the curtains?
—May I have a word with you, Mr O’Keefe? In private.
—Of course. Excuse me for a minute, inspectors.
But Julien sensed that something was wrong. And it was! For, at that moment, Keith Crockett pulled a precious katana from the fixture above the lighted fireplace and cut off the curator’s head. Blood oozed out gelatinously, like semen sliding down the back of a slug in slow motion. It was a very ugly sight. Julien pointed his large gun at Keith Crockett and said:
—Hold it!
But Keith Crockett kicked his expensive leather shoe into the air, and it landed on Morgan’s nose, which cracked with a loud crack at a high volume, audibly. And as Julien watched in horror, Morgan collapsed on the floor, gurgling bloodily like a hyena giving a blowjob. When Julien looked up, Keith Crockett had vanished.
—Damn it!
—My nose!
—We lost him, Tom!
—My nose!
Miraculously, Homeless Man appeared in a puff of yellow bacon smoke, naked as ever. He said:
—What seems to be the problem, chaps?
—That bastard broke my nose!
—Never fear. Homeless Man is here. I shall find him at once.
And with that the strange superhero ran off.
—Thank God we have Homeless Man on our side, Julien said.
—I hate that guy.

THIRTEEN

Capricorn Yentei was having a smoothie by his private pool in the Whitish House. He was happy. Soon the Fantasy would be destroyed, and all of humanity would see things “as they really were.” Hot scantily-clad women were making out all around him, for his entertainment and also because all women are secretly bisexual, no matter what they tell you when you’re trying to get them to share another woman with you, since it’s your anniversary and the sex has grown a bit stale and introducing a second woman into the bedroom activities would suit you just fine, even though it might cause a little bit of weirdness later on, especially when you ask for it a second time and your girlfriend gets really pissed off at you and says:
—Aren’t I enough for you?
—Of course you are, baby.
—Then why do you insist on having a threesome?
—I just think we should try it.
—We’ve already tried it and it hurt me very much to see you with another woman.
—Maybe next time will be better, though.
—I can’t believe you.
—Look, sweetheart, if you don’t want a threesome, that’s fine, but at least consider it because you dismiss the idea.
Anyways, Capricorn Yentei had built an enormous and powerful machine which could unleash a massive force of anti-ideological destruction known as the Vortex. This Vortex was vomit-green with purple streaks and could effectively shatter any illusions you might have about anything at all, including yourself. Think about that, Patricia! No matter how much you try, you’ll never be as good as you think you are, you complete bitch.
Capricorn Yentei, like my friend Patricia, was considered a very arrogant guy. He did not understand why he had this reputation, since in fact he was a rather sensitive soul with insecurities, just like everybody else. It often annoyed him that the people who called him arrogant were the people he loved the most. Why they considered him arrogant was a mystery to him. So what if he liked himself? If he could only find out exactly what he was doing wrong, then maybe he’d be able to work on himself. Unfortunately, nobody seemed willing or able to help him out. They’d just call him arrogant and then change the subject. Was it because they didn’t want him to talk about himself even more that they refused to discuss why they thought he was arrogant? If so, that was a very silly thing to do, and it didn’t help anybody. If they wanted him to change his attitude, why can’t they just tell me what I’m doing wrong so I don’t have to waste time trying to change things about me that people actually like? What’s wrong with me? Do I say too many nasty things to people? Do I really give off the impression that I think I’m superior to others? And if so, how do I change that? People are so easily offended that I’m afraid to open my mouth. I don’t find myself particularly handsome, and I wish I could be funnier than I am, since I get the impression that when people laugh at my jokes they’re secretly laughing at me and my stupidity. That is, Yentei’s stupidity.
Here’s the thing. Yentei was very nervous around people. His mother had told him many times in his childhood to relax. It rarely worked. He was simply full of anxiety. Also, he was cleverer than most of his friends, although he quickly learned not to let them know that he knew this, for it made him appear even more arrogant. This anxious young man — Yentei in his earlier days — was very sensitive, some might say hypersensitive to criticism. What people thought of him mattered more than what he thought of himself. What a foolish boy! Yet that’s how it was. How, then, did people get the impression that he was arrogant? Although he did not know it, it was precisely his fear of the Other that made him susceptible to his own self-loathing. People thought him arrogant because he tried desperately to save face whenever someone criticised him, and this was perceived as arrogant. In fact, it was the opposite: Yentei was terrified of people, too sensitive, too insecure. He’d have been much nicer to people if they’d only stopped calling him arrogant.
He remembered when he’d had his first nervous breakdown, could still smell the hospital room, could feel the rough blankets. He knew why he was here, certainly: he’d slipped again into those disgusting, moist labia of depression … All he could do now was inspect the room… These pillows were comfortable enough but stank of sweat. It was an entirely malodorous room, the walls too white on the eyes, with a TV he couldn’t figure out how to work and bland wooden furniture of the type you’d see in any other hospital…
Someone made him sign papers. He skim-read before signing: sexual relationships between patients are not permitted, smoking and alcohol and drugs are not permitted. He signed, he sighed. The romantic in him was already fantasising about meeting a like-minded woman on this ward who’d sneak into his room at night and have a party… Soon they would drug him up. He had a word for this state of mind, this sense of futility you could only combat with a constant grin on your face: he called it golboty. To be a golbot is to brave the inevitable with a wink at your torturer, to run through hell with your balls on fire and like it…
No, no more, no more. He wasn’t there any longer. He was sitting by the pool with a bunch of hot women making out around him. Hell yeah.
—Bring me Keith Crockett, Yentei said.
—I’m afraid he’s been captured by the police, Hubert said.
—Oh. Damn. He’ll be back.
Yentei had no idea how right he really was.

FOURTEEN

Because his nose was broken, Morgan decided to have a nap. He dreamt of the great Danish philosopher, Kierkegaard.
(The elder Kierkegaard as a young boy walks in the prairie and raises a fist at the skies and curses the Lord who from His hidden solitude vows never to forget.)
There was no explosion that night, thank God. Morgan still hadn’t understood that the previous explosion had been meant as a warning for him.
(Years later after Madame Kierkegaard has disappeared Sören the great makes his bed and hears himself breathing as the big disquietude penetrates his terrified heart.)
Why was he dreaming of Kierkegaard? Was it because of the hours he had spent reading Either/Or and Works of Love as a young man, to compensate for never having studied at even the crappiest university? No, it was something else. Something terrified him beyond all other things, and that was what Kierkegaard had called the possibility of possibility. At any moment, he knew, he might do something self-destructive. Scratch that — at any moment, he might do anything at all. He was not free, not in a political sense; but he was free, simply because he was alive. Condemned to freedom, as they say. And you know, he wasn’t such a bad guy. He was terrified of the stupidest things.
Like frying an egg. Exactly like that: it was terrifying to fry an egg. Where did the egg come from? From a box. And the box? From a machine. And the machine came from another machine, and that machine from someone’s brain, and in turn the brain came from another, greater brain, or someone’s womb, or both. The whole thing was a machine. Rocks and tables and shoulders and feet — all one big machine. So Morgan was the surplus, the excessive presence, and did not belong in the machine, or anywhere, because he was free, and freedom is an excess, like a stain that won’t come out but takes up no space. The stain of freedom, that’s a good metaphor. What good did it do, all this crime-fighting and murder mystery-solving? For all he knew, nobody else was an excess. For all he knew, he alone was the excess, the stain on the carpet that took up no space but was nevertheless excessive. What a grisly thought! No doubt if he’d studied philosophy he’d have been able to come up with even deeper philosophical dilemmas. But he was an amateur, and in fact hadn’t even understood most of Either/Or. As for Works of Love… he’d only skim-read it. Too much Christian stuff. There’s no room for kindness in this world. It’s all dark. Dark! Like Morgan’s soul. He liked his coffee black because he knew, deep down, that there was no other colour. And not only that, but black wasn’t even a colour! What a ridiculous universe.
Nevertheless, it was worth living. Yes. It is always worth living. He would go on. He’d solve this case, and then he’d solve another, and then another, until he retired, and then he’d do something completely unrelated to case-solving, and the two activities would be so far apart that he’d actually be a different person, as he was today, at least different from the person he was yesterday, and what indeed is a person? One day he was Morgan-wearing-a-tie, and the next he was Morgan-frying-an-egg. Were they one and the same? No! Morgan was not self-identical. Terrifying stuff. But he would go on, and he would fail, and he would go on failing until he could no longer fail, but only cease.
—Inspector Morgan!
It was Homeless Man, naked and bearded as ever. He had entered Morgan’s office, which confused Morgan a tad, because he’d thought for a moment that he was in his apartment. Then again, he had been drinking a lot of whisky to get rid of the pain in his nose. That damned Keith Crockett! He’d soon have a taste of Morgan’s awesome Megagun.
—What do you want, Homeless Man?
—Allow me to show you.
And with these words, Homeless Man opened his Beard of Justice and pulled out a terrified and very subdued Keith Crockett. Morgan was happy.
—Yay! Now I can have my revenge on this motherfucking fucker.
—I want something in return, Homeless Man said.
—What’s that?
—The occurrence of a change in direction back in the opposite direction. That’s one definition, though admittedly not the one I had in mind.
—WHAT DO YOU WANT IN RETURN?
—I want you to let me assist you in your efforts to solve this mystery. I have a big surprise for you, inspector Morgan.
—What’s that?
—It’s the astonishment you feel when something totally unexpected happens to you.
—Oh for fuck’s sake. What’s the surprise?
Keith Crockett spoke sadly. Although he was normally very tough and awesome, at this moment he was just overwhelmed by the terrifying things he had seen inside the Beard of Justice. Demons… hands reaching for his throat, sticky with blood… a wet patch here and there, of unknown origin… fiery eyes glaring at you… judging you… knowing you.
—I killed Huckleberry Pitt.
Woah! There was a silence that had no noise. Morgan grabbed Keith Crockett by the collar, and said:
—You motherfucking motherfucker-fucking motherfucker! I’ve got you at last!
—But that’s not all, said Homeless Man. Your work isn’t done yet, inspector. Tell inspector Morgan why you killed Mr Pitt, Mr Crockett.
—I was paid by Capricorn Yentei to kill him.
—Why? said Morgan.
Julien came in.
—What’s going on around here?
—Jules, we’ve found our suspect. He killed Huck Pitt.
—But why? said Jules.
—Because, Keith Crockett went on, Capricorn Yentei needs everyone who’s stopping him from getting his hands on a certain Donald Weiss painting KILLED. The curator’s stepfather was his greatest threat, so Yentei sent El Cabrón to do him in. Then it was Pitt, who wouldn’t stop trying to buy the damned painting. I was sent to kill him. And finally, the curator himself was in the way, so I cut off his head. And I would have got away with it, too, if it wasn’t for you meddling cunts.
—Why does Yentei want that painting so badly? Morgan asked.
—I don’t know. He’s got some diabolical plan, something about unleashing a Vortex that will remove the Fantasy underlying all our ideological beliefs.
—But we live in a post-ideological era, someone in the audience objected.
—Try telling that to Yentei.
—Well, said Morgan, we’ve got to stop this guy before the Vortex is unleashed. Where does he live? The White House?
—The Vortex machine is in the Whitish House, in the FIASCO department. I’ll take you there.
And thus the Brotherhood was formed.

FIFTEEN

But Capricorn Yentei was not to be stopped. As president of America, he had a lot of paperwork to do. The former president was locked up in a cell inside the FIASCO, which, if you don’t remember, stands for Fascist International Association’s Source of Corruption and Oppression. Not a very good acronym, really. The former president, Barack Obama, was a black man, and therefore probably inferior to most of the people who had elected him, although it was not appropriate for anyone to say this because of the whole political correctness thing. Keep in mind that this is not my opinion, but Yentei’s, and he was a fascist if ever there was one, which there was, and his name was Adolf, I think, not a very good chap if I’m not mistaken, something about concentration camps and Jews… or was it juice made from concentrate?
Yentei was not a thoroughly bad guy. But he was diabolical, and delighted in upping the crazy talk whenever there was someone to impress around. Keith Crockett had been captured by the homicide squad — that is, the homicide department, the coppers, the men in blue, the fuzz. Isn’t it interesting that “cop” can also be a verb, meaning to take by theft, which means to thieve, which is what thieves do, and aren’t cops what thieves fear the most? This, Yentei knew, was an important thing to know: every concept implies its contradiction (being/nothingness, infinity/finitude, woman/person), and although the two are seemingly irreconcilable, they are in fact sides of a single coin, the coin of Hegelian sublation. The key word in this instance is “thieve”, which is synonymous with “cop” and “steal”; thus we have COP/THIEVE/STEAL, three synonymous verbs, which, when seen in their substantive modes, make COP/THIEF/STEALING, which could be seen as a formula for a wacky chase scene in a cartoon.
Anyways, Yentei did not know about the Brotherhood, which consisted of Morgan, Julien, Homeless Man, and Keith Crockett, who had turned to the good side after spending what seemed an interminable day inside the Beard of Justice. It really was terrifying to be trapped inside that beard: worms and maggots everywhere, the stench of sweat, the horrible truth about Eskimos projected on an enormous chin, the foot of God upon the treadle, the horror, the horror…
Multitudinous breezes rocking the very foundations of your writhing soul… impossible winds gearing up and forming impenetrable walls of air, cyclopean and endless… see them. See the eyes. Feel the scorching sand scraping your face… is it blood? Wave after wave after wave, rising and collapsing against the eldritch temples of peoples from the distant past, the shoreline shrinking beneath scalding water, a diabolical disemboguement from the bladder of the Styx… a penguin.
It really was terrifying to be trapped inside that beard: worms and maggots everywhere, the stench of sweat, the horrible truth about Eskimos projected on an enormous chin, the foot of God upon the treadle, the horror, the horror… Anyways, Yentei did not know about the Brotherhood, which consisted of Morgan, Julien, Homeless Man, and Keith Crockett, who had turned to the good side after spending what seemed an interminable day inside the Beard of Justice.
A penguin… wave after wave after wave, rising and collapsing against the eldritch temples of peoples from the distant past, the shoreline shrinking beneath scalding water, a diabolical disemboguement from the bladder of the Styx… is it blood? Feel the scorching sand scraping your face… See the eyes. See them… impossible winds gearing up and forming impenetrable walls of air, cyclopean and endless… multitudinous breezes rocking the very foundations of your writhing soul…
See the eyes. See them… is it blood?
A penguin. Feel the scorching sand scraping your face… let me out! Let me out!
Let me out… is it blood? Wave after wave after wave, rising and collapsing against the eldritch temples of peoples from the distant past, the shoreline shrinking beneath scalding water, a diabolical disemboguement from the bladder of the Styx…
The Beard of Justice was no Club Med.
The Brotherhood visited the Triton art gallery once again. Julien, who was now in charge of the investigation because Morgan kept bitching about his nose, explained why he felt it was necessary to remove the Donald Weiss painting from that gallery:
—It is probably important to do so.
After this reasonable explanation, they each held on to one of Homeless Man’s toes as he flew them over the rooftops of Palmeida towards the gallery. It was far more practical than taking a cab, but less comfortable by eleven percent. Once there they were horrified to discover that the painting had been stolen!
—Damn it! Morgan screamed, and kicked Keith Crockett, who did not feel it because he was so strong. Morgan hated Keith Crockett for having broken his nose.
—What do we do now? Homeless Man said.
Julien had an idea.
—In the more luxurious secret lounge, he said, there are cabinets that contain things that the maitre d’, I mean the curator, didn’t want us to know. I forgot to check them out after the curator was killed.
They opened the cabinets, and Morgan drank some whisky.
The documents, too, had been stolen.
—Motherfucker! Morgan screamed, and kicked Keith Crockett, who was too tough to show any pain and frequently had sex with attractive women, and who said:
—Look, I know the secret of the Weiss painting. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you before. What Yentei intends to do is beyond evil. He’s a very insecure guy, and he has a complex about being called arrogant. He takes things too personally, too seriously. That’s why he’s such an evil genius; he feels the need to show off just how good he is so that people will at least think he’s justified in his arrogance. You don’t realise how unhinged he is. What we need to do is to get that painting back from him, before it’s too late. I’m sure he’s got it.
—But what does the painting actually do? Julien said.
—It doesn’t do anything, not actively. But it is the most expensive painting in the world, except very few people know it. Its estimated price is 650,000,000,000 dollars. If he manages to sell that painting to a pretentious nouveau riche Russian in Moscow called Piotr Fyodorovich Vaginov, he won’t need to use government money to fund his mischief. This Vaginov guy is hell-bent on acquiring that painting. He’ll pay anything to hang it up in his living room. And this is convenient for Yentei, because he needs money to build as many Vortex machines as possible, one for each society on the planet. This is because when a Vortex destroys a Fantasy in any given society, the Vortex self-destructs at once, negated by its own positivity, which it only acquires when its original negativity is reflected in the Fantasy screen. It’s a very complicated operation.
—I see now, Julien said. So the painting itself contains no secret?
—No.
—Motherfucker, Morgan said helpfully.
At that very moment, in the Whitish House, Capricorn Yentei was about to ignite the Vortex machine.

SIXTEEN

An incandescent monster was sweeping the city, a green foreign presence, purple-streaked, turning and turning: a widening gyre, sphinx or golem, behemoth or leviathan, omnipotent and unstoppable — dreams crushed — fragmentation — the thrill of it — people were not people in the Vortex — the Vortex — the Vortex — the Vortex — gyrating frenetically, ultimate annihilation, Nyarlathotep, Cthulhu, the great impossible, the unsurpassable everything — burst tires — spaghetti — flying bricks — demolished brains, neurological apocalypse — it is the Second Coming! — it is Xenu! — it is global warming in its final incarnation… it is none of these things… Vortex… slow… turning and turning, howling and cracking, winds, a great godly yawn… trees uprooted… nothing and all of the things… sticks and stones… broken bones… only the words remain.
Words, words in random sequences, in strings and pearls, the world is an oyster, the oyster is a pearl, the pearl’s a world, the world is a word… word… word… word… word… word… word… word… word… word… word… word… word… word… word… word… the boring bigness… word… word… word… word… screeching in the crib…. word… word… word… word… word… ultimate violence… word… word… word… word… word… word… word… word… word… word… endless… word… word… word… word… word… miscalculations… word… word… word… carnage… word… incomprehensible… word… word… word… word… word… word… more… word… word… word… word… word… word… word… word… word… word… word… word… word… word… word… word… word… word… word… word… word… floating signifiers… and only the words remain.
Homeless Man was squinting through the green-green darkness, looking for the remaining members of the Brotherhood… tables splintered into shards of diamond… he looked, he screamed…
—By Jove, where are you, my brothers?
He heard a faint scream, a scream louder than the innumerable others.
—Where are you? Where are you, my brothers?
The scream grew more distinct:
—Homeless Man, save me! It’s me, Morgan! I hate you, you motherfucker, but by God, I need you right now!
Morgan was kneeling by a broken bench. Blood poured from his nose. Homeless Man ran to him, picked him up and said:
—I am sorry to do this, but I must. It is for your own protection, my friend.
And he inserted Morgan into the Beard of Justice.
Alone, Homeless Man knew what he must do. Since the others were nowhere to be found, it was up to him and Morgan to destroy the Vortex machine, which was located in the Whitish House.
—It’s time to speak to the president, he said, and with a giant effort he flew nakedly above Palmeida, shaking and vomiting as the Vortex tried to suck him back into its heart of darkness.
—Get your Megagun ready, inspector Morgan, he said after a few hours of flying. I see the White House!
And Morgan heard him, and he knew it was a good plan. The end was in sight. More than words must remain. The city of Palmeida could still be saved, but right now it looked exactly like Donald Weiss’s final painting, completed shortly before his madness drove him to suicide… a green blotch on an extremely large canvas, with a purple beetle carefully crushed at its centre.