Chapter 7 a
If you follow the great circle through Cairo and New Orleans, you pass through Athens which was central to the Greek word, Rome of a later civilization, north Italy where the renaissance flowered, Paris, the Stonehenge area of England, where the industrial revolution started, Nova Scotia, Oak Island, Boston, which was central to the American Revolution, New York, the later commercial giant, Washington D.C., through Richmond, Charlotte, Atlanta, Montgomery and on to New Orleans.
From there the line continues
The van, in James’s expert
hands, roared toward
“I would have thought if the
power wasn’t in
“Everybody knows that the big
international giant corporations don’t have their headquarters in
James couldn’t stand it. “
“Tolerant but closed. And it’s the most secure port. The navy has a lot of subs in the
“Well where in the world did you hear about it?”
“I talk to a lot of rich business men.” It was not clear whether she was taunting him or she was serious. Anyway the idea that she talked with a lot of business men had to be right.
Jon returned to looking at
the screen of the laptop. Then he said,
“Hey, Ivan. It looks like
“Why should he care?”
“Didn’t you say he was descended from Charlemagne?”
“He said his family went back that far and farther. But he didn’t actually say he was descended.”
Interstate ten was gathering traffic as they swept in from the flat countryside. The eastbound lanes were clogged with the evening rush hour. “We’re going to go past the Super Dome,” said James. “It’s the biggest stadium in the world.”
“So all those huge
international corporations can have the biggest committee meetings in the
world,” said Jon. He was not going to
give up easily believing that
James laughed, and then he said, “I know where there’s a hotel you’ll like in the French Quarter. It’s nice and old and historic. You’ll look just like tourists. I’ll probably stay with family tonight. We can go visit Grandpa Amos in the morning.”
The hotel had been a private
house, where Harriet Beecher Stowe had written her fatal book. They settled in and then went for an early
evening stroll through the French Quarter.
They then let James lead them to a small restaurant, where he pulled strings and got them admitted despite the enormous crowds. They settled down to enjoy a feast of crawfish étoufé that did justice to its name suggesting a muted harp string, and they had blackened redfish, which had come back on the market as the fish population had recovered from excessive enthusiasm. Hapgood tucked in with the gusto of a far younger man, but he managed a few remarks about the scene anyway.
“The Cajuns, who developed
this style of cooking, are supposed to be a mixture of white, African American
and Native American. And that certainly
would account for the richness and variety.
But the name comes from the word “Acadian” or “Arcadian.” It’s an old name for
“It was. It was the heart of the Greek homeland,
Ivan said, “
Thoroughly mellow after the
meal, they started to wander again or rather to follow James’s gentle lead. Down a deserted street they found a voodoo
shop. They wandered in to have a look
around. For sale was an unsettling mix
of what looked like the tackiest tourist schlock, unblushingly imported from
The proprietor came in from the back and walked up to Jon. He stared at her face. She was an elderly Black woman, her face drawn not with fear but with concern; the face seemed to want to help but not to know quite how, a pleasant face indeed, but she seemed to be thinking about something difficult, even dangerous to mention.
She said, “I’ve seen you before.”
“I doubt it,” said Jon. “We just got into town.”
It was a reasonable enough reply. But it did not explain why he had gone pale. She led them through a curtain into a little room with a covered table and some chairs. There was nothing from the world market in the room, and the handmade decorations on the wall were far more sophisticated and unsettling than the objects out front. They sat, and the woman took out some bones, knuckle bones of a sheep, and rolled them on the table a few times. Then she looked at Jon again.
“The man you’re going to see is at the Pegasus Hotel, room 695.”
“We aren’t looking for a man,” said Jon. “Not one who would be staying at the Pegasus.”
“Maybe not, be he’s looking for you. Sooner or later you’re going to see him.”
She stood up and ushered them
out to the street.
“Voodoo or grapevine,” said Hapgood. “You never know. But it’s wise to take such things seriously, and with a serious grain of salt.”
They strolled back to the
small hotel. As they passed the iron
While James and Tracy went
shopping, the others went inside, where Jon set up the laptop and started work
trick was to decide just when an empire had started and when it fell, to
determine the lifespan of that civilization.
But while one had the expectation that a civilization would be invaded,
sacked and show no further vigor, the pattern was more complex. It was most hard to decide just who
supplanted whom when. Besides, much of
the manuscript had simply been copied out verbatim from old sources.
least he had worked out how he was proceeding.
Put together a list of civilizations and their dates. Record their ages at time of collapse. Then group them in fifty year intervals. Of those that started, calculate the
percentage that lasted until year fifty one.
Of those that lasted fifty years, calculate the percentage that lasted
until year one hundred one. Then the
percentage of them that lasted until year one hundred fifty one, and so
forth. But there was no trend, and
wouldn’t be a trend until he had some objective way of deciding when each
civilization rose and fell. Maybe
remarked, “Why don’t you have the computer search for mentions of
The early dynastic period
lasted 200 years. The
The numbers were obviously rounded to the nearest five or ten years. No matter. Jon grouped them by fifty years, did some calculations and made the computer display it as a graph. He whistled. “Ouch. Reverend, how long has the word been a single civilization?”
Hapgood shrugged and said, “Obviously you can take any date you like and define single civilization accordingly, but world trade rose above five percent of total trade for the first time in 1800.”
The three of them stared at the terrible information on the screen.
Ivan asked, “So why?”
The shopping trip had gone
In the van,
“You mean a fancy boy?”
“I guess that’s what I mean. Hotels sometimes have things like that.”
James smiled elusively, “Well of course I wouldn’t have any friends like that, and of course that would be against hotel policy. But if I had to guess, I’d try some name like Adrian Jones, just for example.”
“Good enough. In case I need help. Take me to the Pegasus.”
At the Pegasus she left the van and walked boldly through the front door. She was wearing strong reading glasses with heavy rims, that reduced the world to a blur, but made here eyes look big as if she was worried, which was not itself a deception. She was wearing a severe business dress with sensible shoes, carrying a purse with a strap over her shoulder and carrying a large chart with a graph on it. Her hair was done up in an uncompromising bun. She had thrust a couple very sharp pencils into the bun.
Anyone who challenged her would presumably have to deal with whomever she answered to, and nobody was going to want to do that. She made her way to the elevators and waited with ill concealed patience. She punched up floor six.
During the brief ride, she took off the business clothes. Underneath she was wearing a tube top and miniskirt. She swapped the shoes for a pair of spike heels in the purse, dropped the pencils in the purse and shook out her hair. She took a more frou-frou purse out. On the sixth floor she stepped out, leaving the business clothes and purse on the elevator, along with the business chart. She brought along a large, white cardboard carton folded flat, which had been concealed by the chart.
Her heart was pounding with fear and excitement. Her stomach was churning. She tried to swallow, but there was no saliva. She would have to move fast before her nerves let her down.
At room 695, she opened up the carton. The bottom was cut out. On the front she had painted a pair of enormous voluptuous red lips and a pair of eyes, winking. Where the bangs should be, she had cut out a window and hung a veil of cloth behind it to represent hair.
Quickly she opened the carton, glued a little hook, a light-stick and a note pad to the inside, and then she crouched and lifted the box over herself. Inside, by the light of the stick, she stripped off her clothes and hung them up. Then she edged up to the door. Her plan was to reach through the veil and knock. The bad news was that she had no further plan. She would have to wing it.
There have been 1,987 visitors so far.