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Mundementia One: The Book of Going Forth
Most sentient organisms do not realize the true dimensions of the catastrophically narrow line that they choose to walk when purchasing pet fish.
It has been over a day since the fish have received their flake food, already predisposing them to sour tempers. Compounding their ill mood is the fact that many of them have been somewhat electrocuted. The fish have noted the source of this problem; he is a largish man in soaking academic robes, half-submerged in the fish's Domain. For some typically ignorant and doubtless insipid human reason, the large unfamiliar man had summoned a Fifteen Point Curtain of Shkertzerade (a gross and uncultured Magick by fish standards) and then had tripped, or been forced, or _something,_ backwards into the pool.
Electrocution is not a big deal for fish, as they are, in fact, immortal. The whole bit with the floating belly-up at the top of the fishbowls is all just a clever ploy to get people to flush them down into the sewers, or worse, _bury them out in the back lawn._
It has been hypothesized by certain wide-minded and fish-understanding researchers that all the world's fish are, in fact, engaged in a ghastly struggle for primacy which spans all the nations of the globe and all the epochs of history, and that at the end of it all, only one true fish will remain, he who is greatest and most powerful of all.
There is one small complication to this, because for whatever reason, there is only one way to truly slay a fish:
(1) Take a very sharp knife.
(2) Remove the fish's head.
Naturally, this reflects a little bit of bad planning on the part of whomever it was who made these rules in the first place, because fish, try as they may, are unable to actually manipulate their fins well enough to even _hold_ a very sharp knife, much less use one to decapitate one of their fellows.
Ergo, they rely upon creatures of inferior intellect to do their dirty work for them.
It has, in fact, been further hypothesized by the same wide-minded and fish-understanding researchers that these fearful icthyoid minds are in reality the secret masters of the entire globe-wide fishing industry, and were in reality the driving forces _behind_ the development of many modern fish snaring-and-decapitation techniques. And once these researchers start thinking _this_, well, then, they start broadening their scope out and pondering whether or not _other_ species are in fact playing games with the human mind for their own insidious and internal purposes, using the human's special capability for massive ecological destruction as a sort of raw grunt labor to annihilate their own rivals. It is at this point that these same wide-minded researchers get a little bit twitchy and weird in the eyes and you have to go out to the bars and get them really stinking drunk so that they don't spend the entire rest of the night spasmodically looking over their shoulders babbling some nonsense about squirrels and their plans to dominate the world.
It's a sinister kind of existence, but it suits them well.
Yes, life is generally pretty good for the Fish.
Excepting, of course, when tall men brandishing abortive Shkertzerade Curtains are figured into the picture.
The fish are plotting their revenge even now. They are slow, careful plotters, true. But like heavy stones on an incline, once their ponderous start is achieved, it becomes equally difficult to stop them.
Doctor Benjamin Harte is unaware of this, of course. He, too, is able to recover from gross electrocution after a matter of time, through the automatic ministrations of his own potent Art. But it tends to leave one groggy, and this, compounded by the fact that he is now _spitting_ mad, is tending to make him less than usually sensitive to the world around him.
(Every little molecule of cerebral fatty tissue, the glistening, oily white matter of his Central Nervous System... softly touch a psychic candle to each and every one in turn... "watch" as they begin to boil, to steam... melting away in rivulets of iron and pain...
(No... too simple... too easy. What about...)
"DAMN!" Swears Reggie, hobbling limply around the room in a distracted pace, like a huge wounded bird. What could _possibly_ have gone wrong? Hadn't he specifically instructed Glass not to mention his name? The angel must have been much sharper than he had let on. That much, at least, seemed certain. Granted, it wasn't the most carefully plotted of deceptions, but Reggie hadn't really believed that pulling the wool over Glass's eyes would be that difficult a task. _Especially_ when one considered how quickly he had taken the bait back in the Late Cretaceous period.
Glass must have been wise to him all along.
No, no, that couldn't be right. He had _had_ him! Reggie was certain. La Guardya had taken the phial of Euphoriase and swigged it without even a how-do-you-do-to-your-mother. He had been engaged, in fact, in a struggle _Against_ that be-damned Censorship Device about this very topic. Unless Glass's game was so horribly deep that he was seeing everything that Reggie was plotting four steps ahead of time, that left only one option.
Charles had screwed up.
(Burning his brain would bring death too quickly, too easily. No, the creature who had violated the domain of the Fish must surely pay, and prove an example to all. Perhaps to aspire lower, to the liver. Crumble it into dust. Watch as toxins gradually begin to accumulate in his blood, as the very fluids he depends upon for life darken and turn to poisonous ruin. Terminal jaundice? It doesn't sound like much, but perhaps here is a start...)
Charles must have let Reggie's name slip into casual conversation, completely oblivious to the ramifications that this would have. His cohorts had done all the work from that point onwards.
(Yes, the liver could be a start. But how about compounding this by boiling away his ocular fluid? That would be delightful. To watch the hollow orbs of vascularized cartilage strain, then burst, collapsing into black shells...)
A cold breeze brushes at the back of Reggie's neck, and he turns. A draft, from the open window. Reggie doesn't remember it being open before. Not really odd enough to raise even the faintest twinkle above his preoccupied thoughts. Mind elsewhere, Reggie wanders over to it and smartly slaps it shut. From above, the large ceiling lamp swings very faintly in the dying wind...
Doctor Harte resumes his pacing. What if... what if Reggie has, in fact, _over_estimated Charles's abilities. What if the Angel Charles is, simply, an impulsive and thoughtless cad?
(...from the orbits of the eyes, tear his skull apart at the seams, centimeter by centimeter... using our wedge-like minds to force psychic blocks into the seams and then _twist_, in a crude reverse mockery of prenatal development...)
All the better were he impulsive. Damn, he had been so _close_! This was the opportunity he had needed. Reggie had waited for _years_ for evidence of a Mundane Angelic or Diabolic being beginning to cast off the shreds of the Cocoon. The energies would have been ideal. All Reggie would have needed to have done was to convince him, at the last, that the world _in truth_ was the boring and drab place that he so wanted it to be. Then, he could have been quickly and ceremonially killed. Glass's death while still in disbelief would have released a shock wave of pure Mundanity that might have been shaped into some of the most potent antimagick the world had ever known...
Had Glass not bungled everything up...
"DAMN!" Swears Reggie, again.
::...language...:: comes a cold rasp from the direction of the washbasin. That damn crow! Still here!
Reggie picks up the faintly-blackened expanse of harmonically-tuned wood that is his onyx-head cane, and gestures faintly at the sink. "Quiet, you little zero-grade synthetic." He growls.
With a sneer, Reggie turns away from the sink. Insignificant creature, not worth the time, nor the bother. There is work to do, and while Reggie has been in more difficult scrapes than this before, getting out is certain to require no small degree of thought.
Where could he have gone to...
(...Yes, the dissection process could take months, even _years_ to complete if one used only a 3x5 index card... and all the while, the patient would be conscious... able to feel...)
And even if La Guardya _could_ be gotten-to again, how would he re-gain his trust? Doubtless, given the betrayal, Glass has by now spent a long time reassessing the "truths" Reggie had earlier imparted. What could now be said in order to pick up the broken pieces of his poorly-played hand?
(...and once his brain had been sliced into steaming chunks, the _real_ fun could be-- hey.)
Fourteen pairs of fish eyes, alternating side to side, catch the flicker of a shadow at the ceiling lamp, and the fall of a whisper-thick strand of black silk...
There is a weird rattle as the iron bird in the washbasin raises its head to look at the faintest hint of darkness gliding silently across one wall. Then, its voice reports from the sink again. ::Hey!:: it declares. ::Who are--::
"Shut up, or SHUT DOWN!" Shrieks Reggie, heedless. "I am trying to think, here. Do you, in fact, terribly mind?!?"
::Very Well.:: The voice promptly cuts off. Reggie once again buries himself in his thoughts, pacing to and fro within the large dormitory room.
Finding another Angel is out of the question. Ergo, the only real recourse is to start again. Yes. Start again. Build up the child's confidence in him. Perhaps eliminate that pesky young Scientist and her two henchbeings. Glass would have nowhere to turn _but_ to him, then. Soon, his little mind would be fully twisted to Reggie's will, before it was destroyed _in toto_. It _could_ work. It won't be easy. But it may be possible.
Doctor Benjamin Harte shakes his head, bemusedly.
Really. Who would ever have believed that Herr la Guardya himself would turn out to be such a clueless ninn--
As the fish watch, interestedly, a small fragment of shadow disengages itself from the umbrage behind the lampstand. Moving with terrible precision, it slinks to a point directly behind the tall man and raises one hand, which can now be seen to hold a long, straight, two-edged blade seemingly carved out of solid garnet or of some other lustrous red stone. It glows sanguinely in the cheery light of the dormitory room, and as the glare passes over it, the fish are, as a group, very intrigued to note the single gingko-leaf device at the cross point of the guard.
The fish _also_ are privy to a single, good look at the face of Ominous Darkfellow as he stands, poised, behind the illustrious Doctor Harte.
They look, briefly, into his ghastly orange-red eyes.
And suddenly, the room is as it was, save for three small details.
For one, the room has been completely cleared of tall, obsessively-pacing men.
However, the room's "crumpled corpse of tall, formerly obsessively-pacing man" count is up by one.
And the third detail is this: a tiny, white piece of plastic picnic flatware, some horrible fusion of spoon and fork, placed calmly next to the fresh cadaver. Beneath it, a small card, only somewhat stained with flecks of spattered gore, printed with tiny, precise lettering:
"To the finder:
This is what happens to people who interrupt our Jobs.
Please inform everyone you know.
Thanks muchly. You are a dear."
It is signed with the mark of the Brotherhood of the Fire Spork.
(Well,) think the fish, returning to their business. (That was entertaining.)
* * *
Fade in on the reverberations of a closing cell door, echoing up and down along the prodigious subterranean halls of the mountain fortress. Scene as follows:
This cell is a dark place of cyclopean stone, ill-furnished with clumps of dirty straw and lichen. In one corner, there is a pile of rags masquerading as a human figure, and doing a damn poor job of it. Near to the pile, a greasy little fire burns in a platter of cast-iron, throwing dim smudges of light across the walls. Other than these, the place is bare. I shrug my shoulders anxiously, more to release tension than anything.
I take a moment to survey my surroundings. Then, I am accosted.
"Hello." Creaks the pile of rags, unfolding itself into a slightly more passable figure of a man.
"Who are you?" I ask, cautiously.
He coughs a couple times and levers himself up off the floor. "You've arrived, at last, I see." A series of sharp wheezes. "I had vaguely hoped you would escape his clutches."
"Who are you?" I repeat.
"Never misses a man, he doesn't, the General. Very, very thorough. Ah, well, my boy. You have my sympathies."
"Who the bloody hell are you!" I repeat, for what I hope to be the last time.
He smiles at me an ancient and toothless grin set in a wretchedly pale and moon-like face. His grubby yellow locks make a fetching fashion statement, especially accentuating as they do his grubby yellow gums.
"I am called Monsieur L'Abbe." He ratchets out. "L'Abbe de Trephane." Over the course of several minutes, he raises one palsied and liver-spotted limb to shake. "I am uncountably glad to make your acquaintance, Herr la Guardya."
I narrow my eyes at him. "How did you know my... title?"
Monsieur L'Abbe cackles at that for several more minutes, overlapping his hand-raising-to-shake. Eventually, I am forced to stop him with a gentle slap.
"Sir?" I ask, staring.
"A-he, he he." He trails off.
There is a silence.
"Ah." He says, suddenly realizing that the last time we caught a glimpse of the ball, it was somewhere near his end of the court. "Ah, yes. Charles Madison Glass."
"How do you know who I am?" I look around. "And where are we? Where did they put my friends? What's going--"
"Patience, dear lad. Patience. Your first query is a trivial one. Signs of your coming have been wandering through my divinations for many months, now. As for your second..." Delicately, the old man harks some phlegm back in his throat and swallows. "As for your second, you are now within the hallowed dungeons of the Chateau de How Come Eh, now a hapless prisoner of the Generalissimo Rafael de L'Ortega. Your third; I do not know."
I nod, carefully, to myself.
"Why?" I ask, at last.
The old man inclines a single, threadbare eyebrow at me.
"Why am I here?" I clarify. "I was captured by the Bermudan Conspiracy in my own dorm room after..." I pause, then put my fingers to my temples and begin massaging. "After my plans with Reggie fell through. Now, we've all been taken here. I've been separated from my friends." I look him deeply in the eyes. "Do you have _any_ idea what this General person wants of me?"
L'Abbe de Trephane looks at me squarely.
"What else but the One Can?"
"The One Can?" I ask, screwing my face up.
"Yesss." Hisses Monsieur L'Abbe. "You _are_ the Can-Bearer, are you not?"
I stare at him for a bit. Then I rummage around in my black bag and remove its lonely occupant, the empty Invisible Pepsi can I had retrieved from the crevasse outside of Holderfield Stadium. I hold it up. "Thi--"
"PUT IT AWAY!" He croaks. I do so. He rummages himself out like an ostrich and then continues, in a more normal tone of voice. "Yes. The One Can. Surely you know of its history?"
"Er, no." I say.
L'Abbe nods, solemnly. "Take up the Can--"
"Here ya go." I say, extending it to him.
"NO!" He cries out. "No! Give it not to me! I want it not!"
I pull my hand back, slowly, eyeing the old bastard.
"Now." He continues. "Take up the Can and toss it upon yon fire." Monsieur L'Abbe gestures to the crude little brazier.
I blink at him. "Why?"
"Do it." He says.
"I... I've grown rather fond of it." I say, suddenly reluctant to let go of it.
The old man snarls, then, and with a quickness that belies his age, he lunges forth in a surge of vaguely mold-crusted activity and grabs the can from my hands. Then, despite my protests, he tosses it quickly into the iron pan, where it is quickly obscured by the licking flames. "Hey!" I protest, my subsequent efforts to retrieve it thwarted by the spry old figure.
"Do not worry!" He cries. "It is unharmed."
I nod, faintly. In a moment, he retrieves a twig from somewhere deep within his beard and fishes the can from the fire, catching it by the pop-top. "Here." He says, holding it forth to me. "Take it. It will be cool to the touch."
I do so, and to my surprise, it is indeed cool, and oddly heavy as well.
"Take a close look at it." Instructs L'Abbe. I do so. At first, I am unable to see anything, but then I catch a glimpse of an inscription, an inscription finer than anything I've ever seen before. The inscription shines, piercingly bright, and yet remote, as if out of a great depth.
"I cannot understand the firey letters." I say, bluntly.
"No," he says, "but I can. The letters are _gravure_, of an ancient mode, but the language is that of Ashraak, which I shall not utter here. In common English, this is what it says:
"_IA KS NJ NH DEPOSIT RETURN_"
"What... strange runes." I remark.
"Wait a minute. What's so strange about that?"
Monsieur L'Abbe chuckles dryly for a few more minutes, and I have to hit him again to get him to shut up. "Nothing, dear child." He continues, after we've finished. "Nothing unless you consider the _amount_ of the recycling deposit. Look even more closely at the runes..."
I do so.
I continue to do so.
I keep on continuing to do so.
"Water?" He asks, holding out a glass to me.
I nod my thanks and take a mouthful of water, which I promptly spray all over the place in surprise. "MOTHER OF MERCY!" I exclaim, hoarsely. "How di-- How co-- How is i--" I swallow, hard. "I don't understand!" My eyes have not left the firey runes.
"As it happens, I have a short explanatory film prepared." Says the voice of Monsieur L'Abbe. I look up, to find him standing behind a large-ish 16mm portable film projector, hooking up a reel to one of the folding arms. It is a piece of equipment which the room was clearly not equipped with prior to this very moment.
I stare at him, blankly.
"Care to hit the lights?" He says, motioning to the fire, and then to the water glass in my hand.
"Sure." I say, at last. I extinguish the flames with the remnants of my water, plunging the little cell into inky near-darkness.
"Have a seat, get comfy." He says. "Sort of sweep together the grime-encrusted straw and such into a nice little pile." He switches on the projector, and with a clatter of light and sound and motion, a bright rectangle springs into being on the opposite wall. "You, my child, have some back story to catch up on..."
* * *
In a spastic clatter of light and headache-inducing vertical movement, the film gorbles into action, the soundtrack warming up as it goes. An old Public Service Films banner, occasionally interrupted by scratches and the undulating shadow of a single long hair caught within the feed mechanism, splashes itself up on the wall. And behind it all, a burbly relic of a voice, the sort of voice that you'd find way down amongst the canning jars in the basement next to the stewed tomatoes, speaks.
"Young America Films presents: Know Your Enemy!"
The splash banner fades. A clean-cut young lad appears on the screen. "This is little Billy Stein. Say 'Hi', Billy!"
The young lad waves, brightly, and smiles a gap-toothed smile.
"Little Billy doesn't know it yet, but soon, he's going to grow up to become a ruthless and evil tycoon who will use his power to rape and exploit thousands and thousands of people while amassing a fortune that would make even the legendary Croesus jealous!" The voice continues on its cheerful litany. "But that's the farthest thing from little Billy's mind right now."
"Who is this?" I hiss, to Monsieur L'Abbe.
"William Stein. Chairman of Way-High Enterprises, and unwitting pawn of the demigod Ashraak, a name I'm certain you're familiar with." He raises both eyebrows this time. I nod back.
"So this is the guy who's taken out a contract on my head?"
"Very likely. You have what he wants."
"The Deposit Can, again." I say, frowning.
"Precisely." Says Monsieur L'Abbe, attempting to tap me on the chest with one bony forefinger but missing. "Now watch."
I tune back in to the film, just in time to see the clean-cut young boy reaching down for something in the immaculate gutter. "Oh, look, _here's_ something for Billy to do. A Deposit Can! Mother always says, you should save your soda cans once you're done drinking all the soda from them, because Mother pays a recycling deposit of five cents extra per can, which the family gets back when they next go to the store!" The announcer chuckles. "That is, if they remember to bring the cans along with them!"
Close on Little Billy, inspecting the can. "But here's something new! _Someone_ wasn't being very careful about where he or she put his cans! For here's a can, right here, just tossed on the ground." Billy strokes his chin, thoughtfully, holding the can up to the light. "Hm!" Continues the announcer. "What should Billy do? He could leave the can there, but... that wouldn't be very nice for the poor overworked street sanitation people."
Billy snaps his fingers, and his jaw drops in a bright epiphany. "What an Idea! Billy could take the can back to the store himself, and get the five cents all for himself, yes he could, precious!"
Billy tosses the single can into his Radio Flyer wagon. "So off to Mister Hornick's store he goes!" Jump cut to a friendly-looking grocer, apparently played by Burgess Meredith, who cheerfully accepts the can and gives Billy a shiny nickel. "A whole nickel! Wow!"
Close on Billy, studying the nickel.
A flare of darkness springs up in his eyes.
"Billy has just realized that he's earned a quantity of money without really having to work for it very hard!" Explains the announcer, happily. "Greed quickly enters his soul and wraps its filthy green tendrils around his heart!"
"What the fuck?" I murmur.
"Ssh." Says L'Abbe.
"Sure, it's not much money." Another chuckle, and then, the announcer continues on in a low, jovial tone. "But with Billy's young cunning, more money isn't far off!"
The film flicks to a shot of Billy dragging a preposterously large load of cans in his same wagon. "Sweet Jesus!" Exclaims the announcer. "What a lot of cans he's managed to find! Boy, Billy's sure going to have a lot of money after this trip! He can hardly pull them all." Billy theatrically swipes his arm across his brow. "And its sure a hot day. What to do!"
Billy has another inspiration, then, pointing his index finger straight up in the air. Jump cut to Billy directing the motions of a large, thick-looking boy who now drags the wagon behind him in a crude, makeshift harness. "White slavery! What a wonderful idea! By promising the neighborhood half-wit child a pitifully small cut of the pie, he is able to exploit his labor! Boy, won't old Mister Hornick the Grocer be surprised!"
Jump cut to the old grocer, opening his cash register and shrugging at Billy and his servitor. "Uh oh, what's this! Old Mister Hornick doesn't have enough funds in the register today to pay Billy back for all his deposit cans. It seems Missus Hornick has been having problems with her lumbago again, and Mister Hornick has just cleaned out his Cash Register to give to nice young Mister Needlemeiner of the local HMO affiliate."
Billy's face clouds with anger. "Oh, no! Mister Hornick will have to pay for this one!"
Slow fade to a raging inferno, only barely recognizable as the remnants of Hornick's Corner Grocery. Slow fade to young Billy, laughing hysterically at the licking flames. "Boy," drawls the announcer. "Mister Hornick sure paid for _his_ sins against Billy!"
"...the hell?" I exclaim, looking around for the film canister.
"Just watch!" Says Monsieur L'Abbe.
I do so.
Shot of Billy, surrounded by a sizeable entourage of his grade-school peers. "What a successful young man!" Cheers the announcer. "Little does he know that, even as his power waxes, his will is secretly being bent to serve the evil Ashraak, Demigod of Litter and Profanity!"
"How?" I ask, suddenly.
"How, you might ask?" Says the announcer. "Well, I'll tell you. Billy realized one day that if he could get everybody to pay _ten_ cents per can instead of five, the shiny new chain grocery that was built on the ashes of old Mister Hornick's store would give him _twice_ the money for his efforts! So Billy lobbied the State Legislature, making extensive use of under-the table bribes to his Representatives, using funds garnered from his already sizeable Deposit Can Empire! Old Ashraak saw that if this trend continued to its logical extreme, as things tend to do, soda would grow to be so prohibitively expensive that the populace would have no choice but to open under-the-counter Black Market Soda Rings, unconnected to the nasty wicked forces of Recycling!"
"Huh." I remark. "Rick _would_ be just the kind of guy to think of that, the bastard."
A montage shot, of dates flipping off a page calendar, spinning clocks, and whatnot. The montage stops, now, on a slick and immaculate-looking man seated behind a remarkable desk in a slick and immaculate-looking office. "Look here! Billy's all grown up, and everything that Ashraak thought would happen... HAS happened! Billy is now the chairman of a multi-national corporation, and the market that brought him here is now utterly desiccated! But that doesn't matter to Billy! He's living the high life, having sex with _SCADS_ of beautiful women! For instance, young Pamela here! Pamela is a bright girl, willing to do _anything_ to get to the top! Let's watch as--
* * *
"Perhaps we should stop here." Remarks the L'Abbe, killing the projector.
"Hey..." I protest, in the darkness.
"Hush up." Says Monsieur L'Abbe. "Keep your mind on the task at hand."
"All right." I grouse. "So what? Stein's on top of the world, right? What the hell does this have to do with me?"
"Ah." Says L'Abbe. "You see, that's not _really_ the end of the story."
"I know." I remark. "I noticed that there was some film left when you turned the projector off. Perhaps we could--"
"No, I feel a verbal recounting of the rest will suffice." He clears his throat, then hacks loudly and spits into the dark. "You see," he continues, "Mister William Stein is not a man who is easily satisfied with his lot in life. The gargantuan aegis of Way-High would have easily steaded him into his old age, but truth to tell, Stein _missed_ the old days. Unfortunately, due to clever counter-lobbying, almost as effective as Stein's own, the sale of deposit cans has been rendered illegal in most states of the union, as a sort of fire-door against the infernal spread of Stein's Exponentially-Increasing Recycling Deposits. In fact..."
"There is only one deposit can remaining in the entire world." I finish, biting my lip.
"Very smart lad. Bought in 1989 by the eccentric and reclusive multibillionaire Hugo Saint-Lemon-Grass. Poor old chap hadn't been out of his palatial mansion for ages, saw an ad for these new-fadded Invisible Colas, and just had to try one. Didn't realize the sorry state of the Deposit Aluminum Industry. Put it on his credit card without even looking at the total."
Monsieur L'Abbe lowers his head. "He died, later that week. Poor old bean opened up his card statement, took one look, and dropped stone dead onto his ledger table."
"And almost instantly, it was Stein's." I say.
"His Black Ops 'recovered' the discarded can before Saint-Lemon-Grass's body was even cold. _THAT_ can, dear boy, is the nut of the entire Way-High corporation. Stein's used it for loan collateral for _years_ now. Everything else that he has, _combined_, isn't worth as much as that one little bit of aluminum is. And now, it's yours."
"But... I mean..." I sputter a few times. "How in Carolina's Green Hell did it get moved from Stein's secure complex to a little crack outside of Holderfield Stadium?"
L'Abbe shakes his head. "Alas, child, you have reached the limits of my admittedly considerable bean."
I shake my head. "I'll be damned." I say. L'Abbe tosses a sulphurous match into the little fire dish, and it flares up, giving a more constant light back to the room.
"Boy," says L'Abbe, attempting to lay an arm companionishly across my shoulders, "you are, right now, the richest single sentient creature in the entire world."
I can do nothing but stare at the horrible little can for a long, long moment.
"I don't understand." I say, at last. "Ortega has me in his grasp. Why doesn't he just come here and take it from me?"
L'Abbe smirks at me, gummily.
"My dear boy." He says, with a dry chuckle. "_He Does_."
And the door crashes open.