|Posted by Vladimir Mortsgna on February 22, 2017 at 10:00 PM|
Can't wait for the next sequel to the DaVinci Code? We don't know what Dan Brown has planned for us, but we have gotten our slimy little hands on the next offering from Doug Black, whose bestsellers are verrrrry similar. Probably, we're not supposed to have this...
Sorry it has taken so long to wrap up the followup to The Michelangelo Manifesto. I didn’t want to just do the same thing again, and you know some accused MM of just being a rehash of The Picasso Paradox and The Erte Enigma, though to me The Rockwell Rite was much more derivative and yet the critics seemed to give it a pass. At any rate, I think you’ll agree that the new book will be quite original and won’t open us up to that kind of carping again.
I’ve finished about three chapters completely, and of course have basically mentally laid out all the rest. It’s set in a Catholic University, named for St Bonicord of Brechtanse (real person), and the hero is a librarian who finds himself caught up in a huge religious conspiracy, which turns out to be headed up by an incredibly old former Professor from the University who belongs to the Sedevacantists (real group) and is willing to kill to preserve the reputation of the University’s patron saint. Other major action will take place at the U. S. Bowling Hall of Fame in St Louis –can you look into rights and permissions for those scenes? For a title I’m thinking something like The Archivist, though that’s a little plain for the Best-Seller Lists.
Ch. 1.: Fr Anselom Boulanger, the Archive Librarian at St Bonicord University, discovers that he has been poisoned with a toxin that will take exactly 14 minutes to kill him. He looks around himself to leave a message, but realizes his killer might discover any message he leaves and destroy it. Thinking quickly, he fashions a makeshift branding iron out of a coffee warmer and burns a series of numbers onto his own back, thinking as he expires: He will understand. (Reader will be wondering: Who is He?)
Ch. 2.: In a shadowy anteroom at the Vatican, a shadowy figure meets with some medieval-seeming Cardinals. His reaction to what they tell him is impossible to say – he reminisces about a long history of hiding his emotions. But when he returns to his car, he makes a mysterious call and listens to a report on some mysterious action. In the privacy of his car, he allows himself to exult at the report. (Later, we learn that the Vatican Cardinals were simply telling him he had to give up his drivers’ license, and that this meeting has nothing to do with the conspiracy. But the call in his car – that was to his shadowy dirty tricks organization – the IBUPPW.)
Ch. 3.: An idyllic Spring day on the bucolic campus of St Bonicord University. We hear callow students sarcastically referring to the irrelevance of “St Bungicord the Breakdancer” – little do they know how important the 15th-century Doctor of the Church will be to the lives and fates of many people in the next few days! In the bowels of the library, police are interrogating the nearly senile Fr Jasper Peridot, but he claims to know nothing about the horrific murder and branding of Fr Boulanger, nor can he attach any significance to the numbers burned onto his back. Then, young Jack Rogers walks by – he is the assistant archivist, who knows he will now have to run the show because Boulanger had long been hiding Peridot’s total incompetence. He and Boulanger were actually bitter rivals, dating back to a Religious Artifacts conference at which he proved that a shred of muslin Boulanger had presented as a third-degree artifact of St Joaquin of Plutszch (i.e., cloth which had touched something which had touched something which had touched something which touched St Joaquin) was in fact a worthless fourth-degree artifact (i.e., cloth which had touched something which had touched something which had touched something which had touched something which touched St Joaquin). Boulanger had never forgiven Rogers for the humiliation- but he also knew no one in the Catholic University system knew as much about relics and ancient texts as Rogers. Rogers realizes that the numbers on Boulanger’s back have a special significance that only Rogers would know – and Boulanger would know that.
Ch. 4.: A strange old professor in a university library in Australia is seen muttering to himself and frantically searching a computer for something. Every so often he glances at the entrance. Suddenly he is killed by an assailant wielding a pipe. He falls over and we see on the screen the address of Jack Rogers at St Bonicord University. Then the killer pulls the plug of the computer. Since it is a laptop, it does not turn off, so he presses the power button. He tries to remove the battery, but he doesn’t have the right kind of tiny screwdriver.
Ch. 5.: Jack Rogers is about to explain the significance of the numbers Boulanger branded on his own back when he is interrupted by Police Captain Gene Rimsky, who questions his right to even be present and demands that he be dismissed without saying anything. The police are about to act on this when Police Lieutenant Harlan Piezang intervenes and demands they let Rogers speak.
Ch. 6. A shadowy figure receives a report from Australia. He is delighted at what he hears.
Ch. 7. Jack is about to explain the numbers when there is a mandatory fire drill and all the police personnel are required to stand out on the lawn at least 100 feet from the library, until the Building Manager wearing an orange vest indicates they can return to the crime scene. [Note: Saul, this will be done in such a way that the reader will think there is a real fire first.]
Ch. 8. Jack explains that the numbers on Boulanger’s back are Dewey Decimal numbers for a book in the library. The police scamper to the old book section, where they find the book signified by the numbers. The book is a children’s biography of St Bonicord, but behind the book is an unmarked roll of microfilm. They rush to the microfilm room in the library, but seven of the ten microfilm readers are marked with signs. The eighth won’t turn on. The ninth doesn’t have a takeup reel. The tenth is occupied by a freshman doing a term paper; they politely wait for him to finish but he doesn’t seem at all close to finishing. Suddenly, Jack has an insight, shouting “Of course!”
Ch. 9. In a shadowy area in the steampipe tunnels below St Bonicord, a senior tribunal of the IPUPPW argues hotly about the actions of a member they refer to simply as “X”. While some defend X’s actions, others complain that his recklessness will destroy their entire brotherhood. (We find out at the end that the leaders of IPUPPW had no idea that X was murdering people at the behest of the shadowy figure and were totally innocent).
Ch. 10. Jack has realized that Fr Boulanger may have switched one of the “Out of Order” signs to make sure that Jack would have a machine free to work on. The first out-of-order microfilm reader is home to a family of escaped lab mice. The second is actually a microfiche reader. But the third works, just as Jack predicted. When they load the microfilm, they read a mysterious message: “POGS PLAYING DOKER.” The police are utterly baffled by this code, and fax the message to a team of cryptographers.
Ch. 11. We see a cryptographer working on the coded message, and we see a look of triumph in his face when he realizes its significance. But an assailant appears and murders him with a hammer.
Ch. 12. The shadowy figure is seen in a strange Walgreen’s, buying ointment. On the way out, he notices something in a newspaper headline that makes him laugh out loud, evilly.
Ch. 13. The police investigate the crime scene of the cryptographer. Captain Rimsky now realizes that he needs Jack’s help to crack this case, and also asks Jack for financial advice and about whether a certain mole looks like it should be checked out. Jack realizes that he understands the significance of the “POGS PLAYING DOKER” message – and it could mean the end of Life as we know it.
Ch. 14. At the very same moment, on a windy steppe in Kazakhstan, a former KGB agent lights a candle in front of his beloved outdoor ikon. He takes out a manuscript he has been working on, and painstakingly makes corrections. Suddenly he is murdered by an assailant who runs him over with a Daihatsu. It takes several passes. Then the murderer picks up the manuscript and looks at the cover, which reads “The Untold Story of St Bonicord of Brechtanse.” The assailant then burns this manuscript.
Ch. 15. Jack explains to the police that the message may refer in code to the famous painting, “DOGS PLAYING POKER”. They check with the art custodian about the location of this painting on St Bonicord’s campus, and discover that St Bonicord University was forced to sell the original just that very day, and has only a reproduction. Forensic teams investigate the print from top to bottom, but find nothing. “You know what this means!” Jack declares.
Ch. 16. At a seminary near St Bonicord, a student is having an argument with his fellow seminarians about the existence of St Christopher. One seminarian from a third world country complains of the difficulty of achieving practical improvements in his country when he has to defend superstitions. The first student stridently defends the reality of St Christopher, only to be laughed at by the others. He bitterly retreats to his room, where he calls a shadowy other caller on the other end and asks how much longer he must keep up this charade. Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, a meeting of the NRA turns ugly and one member demands that an enemy “pay”. (Note: it will later turn out that the NRA have nothing to do with the St Bonicord conspiracy, but in fact were demanding that one of their members pay for his membership dues).
Ch. 17. Jack and the police arrange to fly to St Louis, to visit the Bowling Hall of Fame in St Louis, where the original of “Dogs Playing Poker” is housed. (Note: Saul, in Chapters 17, 19 and 21, shadowy figures menace the police and Jack at the airport, in flight, at the St Louis airport, at the baggage claim and in the taxi. There will be a particularly harrowing scene on the baggage carousel that leads to the death of “X”. I’ve subcontracted these action scenes to a chap who is excellent at these and is available at all hours. In Chapters 18, and 20, the shadowy figure gives coded orders to “X” – the twist in Chapter 20 is that he does so from a confessional, so we learn that he is a priest. I intend to take over personally again to write the death scene of “X” in Chapter 21, when he expires saying “Habemus Papem – NOT!”
Ch. 22. Finally they reach the Bowling Hall of Fame in St Louis, where a gorgeous shoe rental attendant recognizes Jack from the Sacred Artifacts Convention and offers to help. They examine Dogs Playing Poker but find nothing. They tear the painting apart searching for microtext. Suddenly, Jack realizes something about how the message could have been left.
Ch. 23. A scene of the shadowy figure learning of the death of X from someone at the IBUPPW, who blames him. He keeps a poker face, but once the IBUPPW individual leaves, he has a fit of uncontrolled shaking.
Ch. 24. Jack has realized that an archivist like Fr Boulanger would never want a painting destroyed, so he probably wrote a message on the protective glass. A team of forensic experts reassembles the glass, which the police had previously broken to get to the painting. They discover a message has been written in lemon juice. The message reads “Should I die suspiciously, ask these men about the Sedevacantists.” The first is the Australian professor. The second is the ex-KGB agent. When he reads the third name, Jack says, “I don’t believe it.”
Ch. 25. A shadowy discussion at the International Fraternity of Sedevacantists. The head of the IFS, Fr Unruh Urquhart, is explaining sedevacantism to a new recruit. Sedevacantism is the doctrine that there is currently no real Pope, because the recent popes have accepted changes in doctrine that contradict prior doctrine, particularly in terms of the reality of certain saints who have been removed from the liturgical calendar. The recruit is enthusiastic about defending St Hubert, St Philomena, and St Joan of Arc, but has a little trouble understanding how Robert Bellarmine can be a saint if he executed people for heresy. When he learns that he must defend the belief that St Ursula was martyred with 11,000 virgins and not 11, he sadly declines to join. Fr Urquhart is disgusted by his failure to land this recruit, and lashes out at an underling who tells him of the out-of-control actions of the shadowy figure. (Saul, it will turn out that the shadowy figure is a rogue sedevacantist whose murderous actions were in no way endorsed by the sedevacantist authorities.)
Ch. 26. The last name turns out to be Fr Jasper Peridot – his senile act was a fake! So now they must fly back to St Bonicord to get the truth from Fr Peridot. Meanwhile, the beautiful bowling alley attendant makes a sinister call.
Ch. 27. Another action chapter. I don’t want to use the usual subcontractor again, because it could get repetitive. I am currently auditioning for another guy to put some danger in this chapter.
Ch. 28. They confront Fr Peridot, who confirms that he knows Fr Boulanger’s secret about the sedevacantists. But he says he is hungry and can’t tell the tale without some M&M’s, no peanut ones but the ones with Rice Krispies inside.
Ch. 29. The shadowy figure attempts to buy all the M&Ms at Walgreen’s. When he comes out the door, he sees Captain Rimsky coming out of Eckerd and curses.
Ch. 30. Peridot gives the same exposition about sedevacantism as in Ch 25. “But what does that have to do with Fr Boulanger?” Jack asks.
Ch. 31. The bowling alley attendant makes another call. We see that she is trying to win a radio contest.
Ch. 32. Peridot admits that Boulanger discovered, in the Archives, an early draft of the Kazakh’s manuscript about St Bonicord. “What was in that manuscript will change the world,” Peridot declares. He says the M&Ms have made him thirsty and he will need some water before he can continue.
Ch. 33. The shadowy figure murders his lawyer, who had been passing messages to “X” and is now blackmailing him. (Note: I have to put the lawyer in some of the earlier chapters too. Remind me when we’re at galleys!)
Ch. 34. Peridot explains that the Kazakh has discovered that St Bonicord of Brechtanse was behind the murder of St Joaquin of Plutzsch, and has proof positive of his guilt. One saint cannot murder another saint and be a saint, so this discovery proves that canonization can sometimes be inaccurate. “But why does that upset the sedevacantists?” asks Rimsky.
Ch. 35. Peridot explains that sedevacantists defend the true saintness of all persons who were ever declared saints. “But what does that have to do with St Bonicord?” shouts Jack.
Ch. 36. The shadowy figure is seen deciding to do something desperate.
Ch. 37. Peridot explains that if St Bonicord is not a saint, then at least one person who was canonized is not really a saint and therefore sedevacantism is wrong. “But how do we know Bonicord is not a saint?” asks the bowling alley attendant.
Ch. 38. Peridot reminds them that Bonicord had Joaquin executed. Either Joaquin is not a saint and deserved to be executed, or Bonicord is not a saint for executing him. “But what does that have to do with the IBUPPW?” shouts Jack. (Note: in an earlier chapter there should have been some clue tipping them off about the involvement of the IBUPPW. Maybe “X” might have a membership card on him when he dies).
Ch. 39. In an elegant conference room in Osaka, the Trilateral Commission meets to set the price of oil and decide next week’s weather. Going around the table, we see Bill Gates, Bobby Fischer, Oprah Winfrey, Augustin Pinochet, Vladimir Putin, Michael Jordan. Suddenly, a breathless messenger bursts in, demanding to give a message to the Chairman alone. (Note, it will turn out that the Trilateral Commission was not actually involved in the conspiracy.)
Ch. 40. Peridot explains that the IBUPPW is the International Brotherhood of University Physical Plant Workers, an insanely rich top-secret international organization that is bankrolled by the funds university departments pay Physical Plant to do things that are part of Physical Plant’s job already. They claim on their web page to use the money for charitable aims, but Peridot has heard rumors that a rogue IBUPPW operative may be in league with a rogue sedevacantist.
Ch. 41. Another clue leads them to learn that the shadowy figure is Monsignor Trull, a professor who over the years arranged for so many course releases that people forgot he existed. (Note: I will prefigure Trull in a previous chapter when I get around to it). They track him down to his lair underneath the Paris Opera. There he traps them and tells them their lives are worth less than the reputation of St Bonicord. But he is killed when he opens a vault that St Joaquin had boobytrapped centuries earlier, knowing that someday a villain would try to open it. When they emerge from the rubble, they find a world where all the major religions have merged, money is worthless and people must barter with farmers for basic necessities, and TiVO does not work. Jack, Peridot and the police realize that the world is not ready to know the truth about St Bonicord, so they sadly agree never to tell anyone again. They call 3-1-1 and claim that the news about St Bonicord was fake, and the world gets back to normal.
Ch. 42. 41 is an odd number of chapters, so I know I will need some sort of an epilogue here. It probably would be better to just have 40. Saul, what do you think?
Categories: Flash Fiction