Chapter 26b


Saint Malo


Hapgood found a farmyard where they could get out of sight of the main road.  As they got out of the car, the farmer came out of his house curious.  “Buy something,” said Tracy.


Hapgood used his best French to say that he wished to buy a bottle of wine.  He pushed a handsome fistful of bank notes into the man’s hand.  The farmer went back to the house to see if he could find a bottle that would come anywhere close to being worth that amount. 


Meanwhile Tracy had pulled paper and tape out of the trunk of the car and started papering over the windows.  As soon as Hapgood returned from the first round of negotiation, the two of them sprayed the car with a chemical designed to keep rain from sticking to windshields.  They then spray painted the car.  It had been white.  Now it was green. 


While the paint dried, they ducked into the barn and change clothes.  The farmer returning with the open wine bottle looked amazed at what he saw.  Tracy and Hapgood thanked him and left him holding the bottle as they peeled out onto the road and started back the direction they had come from. 


They passed the lookouts, who seemed only to be interested in south bound traffic.  They evidently were calling reports in by cell phone.  As soon as he could after they were out of sight, Hapgood turned eastward.


“A nun’s habit,” said Tracy.  “I can’t believe you made me dress up like a nun.”


“Revenge is sweet,” said Hapgood.


“And you’re dressed like a priest.  That looks good.  ‘How sweet,’ they’ll say, ‘That nice old priest is out on a date with a nun.’”


“What are you worried about? Afraid we’ll trash the reputation of the Catholic Church for the Muslims?  We just look like we’re doing what they think we’re doing anyway.  The French won’t be fooled, but we don’t care about them.  Besides, your habit will be as easily recognized as a Green Bay Packers t-shirt.  They’ll know we’re out of place.  But the guys after us won’t.”


“But a nun’s outfit, for crying out loud.  What would my grandmother say?  You are a totally weird human being.”


They arrived at the town of Chartres.  Hapgood drove past the cathedral. 


Chartres,” he said.  “Many people say it’s the most perfect Gothic cathedral in the world.  We’d go in and see the rose window, but not dressed like this.”


“Tell me about it.”


 “It’s dedicated to the Virgin Mary, and the site was special to her long before the cathedral.  I imagine it was sacred to Dianna before that and before that to your earth goddess.  She is still with us in a way, since so many want her back.  It’s a pity no fertility goddess ever gave anybody a pregnancy.  It would have saved the world a lot of trouble.


“The bigger tower is good.  The smaller tower is the celebrity.  The number of sides changes imperceptibly as you go up.”


They continued eastward out of town.


“But its’ pronounced, ‘Charters,’” said Tracy.  “That’s what they said in New Orleans.”


“That’s how you pronounce the name of that street.  But the cathedral is ‘Shahkkktkkh.’”


“All right.  Show off your stupid French.”


“No.  In French it’s more like, ‘la Nowtkkkuh dahm du Shakkktkkh.  That’s so you can tell it from the Notre Dame, which rhymes with ‘motor game  or maybe ‘motor gam.’”


“No, its Nochra Dam.”


“In English it’s Notre Dame.”


“Well why don’t you say it right?  The way the French do.” 


“Because I speak French with an accent.  They say something like la Nuowtkkkuh dahm du Pahkkkeee, and I can’t say it right.  But I speak English like a native born American.”


“With a southern accent.”


“That’s valid.  But on the other hand mapmakers now will give you a map of Europe with names in ten different languages.  There aren’t many people who speak all those languages.  And nobody but nobody speaks that many languages without an accent.  It simply can’t be done.  It isn’t honest for them to pretend they are making maps for people who do.”


“Maybe the maps are for people who are willing to try.”


“Take the city of Gothenburg in Sweden.  On the map it’s spelled G-o accent-t-e-b-o-r-g.  People pronounce it Goteborg.  But in Swedish it sounds closer to ‘Gyurtiborn.’  You bounce on it.  You bounce on some words in Swedish.  In English you never bounce on a word.”


“Are there Goths in Gothenburg?”


“There is a young community that has the Goth style, dress in black, listen to the music and so forth.  But the city is named after the river, which is pronounced something like ‘Gyurt Aylve.’  It was named after Götland, the island where the people who found the river lived.  And that does mean Goth Land.  Uh oh.  I think we’ve been spotted.”


They found a small woods, where they repainted the car and changed into clothes that made them look more like American tourists.


“I need to drive,” said Tracy.  “You are twice as old as anybody else driving in this country.”  They turned southward at the next chance.


“English,” continued Hapgood, “Is a perfectly fine language.  We have names for things.  Some people think it’s cool, as you might say, to change the words.  But it separates us from our past when you can’t find an old name on a new map.  And it costs money.”


“Horse patookie.”


“Look, more or less on average a person will earn as many dollars in a year as he knows words.  Ten thousand is pretty thin and will get you minimum wage.  A professional knows a lot more.  If you know a hundred thousand words, either you are making a fortune or you don’t care.  So a word equals an investment of ten dollars.  Multiply that by the hundred million Americans who may know a word, and that little change just fried a billion dollars worth of social value.


“But it’s more important than that.  Your intelligence has a lot to do with your ability to love.”


“Of course it does, lover boy.”  The sarcasm oozed.


“Fact, there was a hospital once where they were looking after some children who had been orphaned and they had some young women who were mentally challenged.  They were otherwise normal young women; they just weren’t very bright.  They decided to let the women, under supervision, play with the babies.  Well the women were delighted.  They were very happy just loving the children.  As for the children, their intelligence went up.


“So to deal with the world, you are going to have to spend a little of yourself.  You are going to have to love the world, to trust it, to believe in it.  And since we aren’t infinite beings, our capacity is limited.  So every time you lose something you know, you lose something you love.  It takes some of your heart.  And people who mess around with the language are destroying things you love and messing around with your ability to live productively in the world.”


They came to Tours, the place where Charles Martel fought the battle against the Moors and drove them from France. 


“The battle,” said Hapgood, “Meant that Europe remained Christian.  The Franks under Charles Martel were the only substantial resistance between here and Constantinople.  The Moors were already at the gates of Constantinople from the south, so that would have left the city isolated.  The only advantage that city ever had was that it is a great crossroads for shipping, maybe the best.  But they wouldn’t have had anyplace to ship to.  Every European owes the fact that he is not Muslim to the victory here.”


“‘He or she,’ you sexist,” said Tracy.


“‘He, she or it,’ you sexist,” said Hapgood.  “You got anything against people who for no fault of their own are neither male nor female?”


“Trouble.  Time to change directions again,” said Tracy.  


They changed, repainted the car and were on their way again.


“Woman’s clothes!  You’ve got me dressed up like an old matron, wig and all,” said Hapgood.


“I just wanted to see whether you were as obnoxious as a woman as you are as a man.”


“Another thing about languages.  The post-modern philosophers complain that we are separated from the real world, that we see it through veils, through masks.  Every time you change a word, you have to learn that what was, say, the city of Benares is now the city of Varanasi, you add another layer of illusion between yourself and reality.”


“They should have got it right the first time.”


The two continued in the direction of Rochelle, where the settlers of Nova Scotia had departed.  Meanwhile Ivan was in a dungeon deep under Saint Malo.  He was tired.  They had been questioning him all day and into the evening. 


“You are very strong,” said Aden.  “But you cannot hold out forever.”  Ivan did not feel strong.  He was by nature attack minded, and being trussed up and questioned was not good for him.


“I have told you everything I know except names, which wouldn’t do you any good anyway.”


“We have your friends.  Which ever talks we will let go.  The rest will be punished terribly.”


“You have been saying that for hours.”


“Where were you going?”


“I won’t tell you that, because I don’t believe you have them.”


“We have them, and I think one is just about to talk.  You need to make up your mind soon.  I know the truth.”


“Well if you know something I don’t, tell me.”


“You know it.  You are working for Hans Turelli.”


“For the thousandth time, no.  I never met the man.”


“One of the others is just about to admit it.”


“It’s no good.  Not only do I not know whether you have the others.  I don’t know what they are saying.  And I have no way at all of enforcing a bargain with you, even if we could make one.  What you are doing is called the ‘prisoner’s dilemma.’  But that supposes you can make a real offer.  You can’t.  All this is a secret.”


From Rochelle, Hapgood and Tracy made their way to Bordeaux, where the great tapestry depicts the Norman Conquest, and then eastward through the night toward Carcassonne.  The conversation had continued to deteriorate.


“Senile fossile.”








“Doddering octogenarian.”






“Bad driver.”


It was dawn as they caught sight of the massive citadel of Carcassonne, the great fortress, the Virgin of Languedoc, never taken by siege.  Built by Romans, strengthened by Goths, betrayed but never defeated.  The rose light softened the chilly majesty of the battlements they could see across the vineyards to the left.  To their right was a stone wall and vineyards above.  There was a truck parked in their lane with its back set down as a ramp. 


Tracy pulled out to pass the truck when another truck suddenly appeared coming at them.  It must have been out of sight in front of the truck they were coming up on.  Tracy slammed on her brakes and pulled back into the lane.  The SUV which had been following them struck them from behind and pushed them up the ramp and into the truck.  Young men, who had been hiding under some cloth sacks emerged brandishing AK 47’s and leveled them at Tracy.  Some men picked up the back of the car and pushed a block under it.  The ramp slammed shut.


Tracy and Hapgood looked at each other and spoke in unison.  “This is all your fault.”


Ivan was dismayed that night when Tracy and Hapgood were dragged into the dungeon where he was being held.  Aden glared at the three of them.


“So now you know.  I do have you.  Jon will be brought in shortly.  Now confess what you know.”


“We have,” said Hapgood.


Aden exploded.  “I know.  Everybody knows.  Your boss Hans Turelli, it was he that planned the skyscraper collapse.  There was no Islamic movement behind it.  He duped a few Arab boys.  But he did it.  He murdered his own people.  You monsters!”


The three stared at him in astonishment.


“Don’t pretend you don’t know.  It’s in all the newspapers.  Where have you been?”


“Here in this dungeon,” said Ivan.


“Running from you,” said Tracy.


“When your friend Jon comes,” said Aden, “I shall begin to castrate and blind the three men.  The woman will watch.  Then maybe you will tell me what the plan is, and where Turelli is.”


At this point Gamal came in with Jon.  Gamal took one look around and then released Jon and ran to Ivan.  He lay on the floor in front of the big man and gently lifted Ivan’s foot and put it on his own head.


“Now that,” said Jon, “Is what a good cop is supposed to act like.”


“Don’t I get any credit?” asked Tracy.


Gamal went to Aden and prostrated himself.  “Friend, I owe these people a life debt.  In Baltimore they risked their lives, total strangers, to save mine.  They cannot be evil.”


Aden left the room guarded and went to the street where he could call his father.


When Ali had heard the news he said, “What do you believe in your heart, Aden?”


“I believe they are telling the truth.  I believe they knew nothing of the killings.  They are enemies of Turelli as well.  Or at least he is enemy to them.”


Ali spoke.  They exchanged blessings.


When Ali returned to the room he said, “Release them.  I would call you friends, but I fear you will never forgive me.  But as enemies it was always clear that you were brave and loyal.  You never struck where you could avoid it.  You never ran unless it was for a purpose.  You never turned against each other.  No man ever had better enemies than this.  I am your servant.  If there is anything I can do for you, I will help you, although you may never trust me.  Tell me what I may do.”


“Getting us as far as Paris would be a good start,” said Ivan.


That night they took the high speed TGV train to Paris, traveling first class.  The great machine hissed through the night at two hundred miles an hour.


“Everyone seems to have good trains but us,” said Tracy sleepily.


“It is the capitalist pigs that run your country,” said Aden.  “First they were slave traders.  Then with the same money they became the robber barons who built the railways.  Then with the same money they became the war mongers of World War One and Two.  Then they were the military industrial complex.  Now it is Turelli.  It is the same money, the same people.”


“So they want us to drive cars,” said Tracy. 


“No.  They are afraid to build a fast train because they would have to dig up the roadbeds to lay good foundations.  It is easy to build the train if you have the track.  But they cannot build the track.”


“And why not,” asked Jon.


“It is all in that book Walden, that you Americans talk about but never read.  The roadbed, you notice it is called a bed.  And the crossties are called sleepers.  Your American tracks are huge narrow mass graves.  The workers died like flies building the railroads.  Their bones still lie below the rails.”


They didn’t care.  They just wanted sleep.  


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