Kramberger with Monkey, Ch. 11-13

After following the movements of the disturbing figure of Mandrake Pizdamonavić, two more narrators are lost. To sort of tread water as we get our shit together we throw in two letters from JFK conspiracy theorists.

Chapter Eleven

The First Man, So to Speak


Nothing is everything, but if something were it would be timing. I think those idiots brought this on themselves. All that bullshit about the limits of omniscient narration and then this premature disclosure of the movements of Mandrake Pizdamonavić. There was no need; worse, there was absolutely no use. Stupid move, really stupid. If I speak ill of the dead, so be it. Like Todd Fullmer, who I consider a much more admirable figure than the ‘others’, a truly brilliant and fearless journalist, I won’t flinch from the truth, however ugly it might be, however uncomfortable it might be for me or my readers. That said, I probably should say that of course I am not happy about the way things turned out. But the very fact that I wasn’t with them reflects on the nature of our collaboration, which was coming apart at the seams. As to what happened, I am as mystified as anyone else. The need to visit Germany to verify certain facts about Kramberger’s life there was not absolute, but not altogether absurd. Yet when I heard that their gondola fell a thousand feet into a gorge in the Tyrol, I had to ask myself why the hell they had broken the trip for a little skiing. That wasn’t like us at all. So again we have suspicious circumstances and no answers. When a gondola falls a thousand feet and two dead bodies are found and identified, there is little room for conspiracy. Case fucking closed. But were they directed to go there, for instance instructed to take the Gondola to the top to meet with a source who trusted no one and insisted on meeting in an odd, remote location? I’m terribly sorry about the way things went, I really am, but I have to proceed in the only way possible. After all, this is a novel about the assassination of Ivan Kramberger, not about the authors of a book about Ivan Kramberger. And for now that leaves me, and I am only who I am, or, better said, I am what I am, and I will say what I want to say. So now here’s a little of what I think. First and foremost Fullmer, who has been given short shrift. The blankets of his death bed have been short-sheeted. Easy to dismiss indeed! Just as it’s easy to dismiss the pieces of a puzzle that don’t fit, to back away far enough the picture looks good enough, to keep backing away til you fall off a cliff. I’ve read nothing of Fullmer’s that wasn’t dead accurate. So I’m going to go ahead and print one of his articles that was twice quashed, once by his editor, and then again by omniscient selective narrators. But before I do, I would like to address the greatest smear against him—in Chapter Seven, the accusation that he was Americo-centric, that there was something unusual about his idealization of the assassination of John F. Kennedy. First off, Fullmer was American and writing to an American audience. The Kennedy assassination is one of the great moments in American life. Take that assassination away suddenly and the entire nation would be in a gut sucking withdrawal that would make quitting cigarettes seem like tossing a candy bar wrapper in the shitcan. But even more important, more admirable, was the way Fullmer took that assassination as the sort of Platonic Ideal assassination, took it into the world as a model by which he and his readers could understand other assassinations. He gave people that assassination, people of all countries, all colors, all religions. Here’s a direct example of the importance of this method. The guy who was convicted of shooting Kramberger, Pijan Lovec, is called the Lee Harvey Oswald of Slovenia, and was thus labeled almost immediately, by the first Slovenes who voiced their doubts about the official version. If there were no Todd Fullmer to clarify how the pieces of any particular assassination fit into the Kennedy paradigm—or how they don’t!—it would be all that much easier to bamboozle the citizens of the world, the whole fucking world! I hope I’ve made my point, because I have something to add here. Some fucking idiots who will not be named, made the decision to contact some subFullmers in America to sort of replace him, to see if it might be helpful to understand how these Americans who don’t buy their government’s bullshit might explain assassinations. One idea was to see if we could get a couple of versions of the Kennedy assassination, so that our readers who don’t know much about it would at least see how it all fell out in the American imagination, so to speak. Sure, everybody knows Oswald was a patsy, but then what happened. Does anyone know? Well, we did make a couple of good contacts, a guy called Skip Obscure, probably a pseudonym, though a diligent search brought out the use of his name in an obscure—pun unavoidable—novel called The Sleep of Aborigines, now out of print. Interestingly, in that ‘novel’ he is portrayed just as we have come to know him. The other man is more suspect. His ‘name’ is Mack Beltch, probably not a pseudonym…okay, definitely not a pseudonym—I checked and he is beyond doubt exactly who he says he is. So we got these two fantastic sources, who know all about American assassinations—Skip himself has read over 40 books about the Kennedy assassination, and more reliably, been obsessed with it for 17 years—and they wrote brief synopses of the Kennedy assassination, gave us permission to use them in this book, and the decision was made by ‘us’ to shelve the essays! Can you believe it? So before I deliver the ‘controversial’ Fullmer piece, I’m going to provide the two essays from our sources.

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Chapter Twelve

Letter from Skip Obscure


Regarding Oswald, I’d tell the questioner that it’s extremely unlikely Oswald killed anyone that day. About a minute after the assassination, he was seen on the first floor of the book depository in the lunchroom. He was calm and composed and not out of breath as he would have been had he made a mad dash down from the 6th floor after supposedly killing JFK, wiping his weapon clean of fingerprints and then carefully hiding the weapon. The elevators were out of service at the time. Interestingly, Oswald’s alleged weapon, the Italian Manlicher-Carcano was sent to the FBI lab that Friday and no fingerprints were found. The weapon was then sent back to Dallas, where…voila…a palm print was located. Oswald was dead by this time and it can be safely assumed the print was taken from his corpse. The undertaker reported that government agents had visited the body and after they left, he found ink on Oswald’s hands that hadn’t been there before. Also of note, Dallas Police found another rifle on the 6th floor, a 7.65 German Mauser, which promptly disappeared, sort of like JFK’s brain disappearing from the National archives. Oswald was, at best, a marginal marksman; his weapon was deficient in that the scope was off center, and there was an Oak tree in his line of fire. As Stone’s movie so vividly points out, if it was Oswald up there by himself, he had a clear shot at JFK as the caravan came down Houston St. He could have got off three or four unobstructed shots.  But he supposedly waited till the motorcade turned onto Elm Street and the Oak tree was in his way before firing. Obviously, the assassins waited till JFK was on Elm Street because then they had him in the focus of a triangulation of gunfire, the fatal shot being fired from the grassy knoll in front of the president. Some 50 witnesses said the shots came from the grassy knoll. Also some 59 witnesses said the limo came to a halt or a near halt after the shooting began. This is evidence that 1) the Secret Service was in on the conspiracy and 2)the famed Zapruder film was tampered with, because nowhere on that film do you see the limo stop or come to a near stop. Obviously scenes were edited out by the CIA that would have revealed the conspiracy…….so basically, the forensic evidence and eyewitness testimony exonerates Oswald. Interestingly, the Warren commission never established a motive. The general government impression handed down to the people is that Oswald was a lone nut who killed JFK for the glory of it, to make a name for himself. Of course, if that was the case, one must ask why he continued to deny his involvement portraying himself as a patsy.   Regarding a synopsis on the JFK assassination, you’re on target when you say that finding out the “who” on JFK’s death “will amount to the same thing as finding out who is behind the war on Iraq.” JFK became a threat to the IGUS– Imperial Government of the United States (Vietnam, détente with the Soviets, rapprochement with Castro, closing military bases) so he had to go. His assassination was an object lesson for future presidents, the message being–DON’T CROSS THE IGUS OR WE’LL ARRANGE A MOTORCADE FOR YOU.


Chapter Thirteen

Letter from Mack Beltch

The alternative to the question is complex; re: Kennedy himself it is posited that he underwent some sort of profound political revelation in part as a result of the traumatic experiences of both the notorious Bay of Pigs invasion of Castroite Cuba in April 1961 and then which came from that the adventurous attempt by Soviet premier Khrushchev to place nuclear-armed missiles in Cuba in the summer and fall of 1962.  That crisis ended with the Soviet agreement to withdraw the missiles in conjunction with the concurrent assurance by the Kennedy administration that no more direct assaults like the Bay of Pigs would be countenanced by the American government. President Kennedy then proceeded to authorize negotiations to end testing of nuclear weapons in the atmosphere and consequently a treaty with the Soviet Union was signed and ratified.  Kennedy also turned his attention to a worsening situation in the republic of Vietnam (south Vietnam) in which an obviously corrupt government increasingly appeared unable to prevent an insurgency supported by the communist government of north Vietnam, or the democratic republic of Vietnam. Various close aides to the president have stated that he announced to them his intention to withdraw most US troop support from the south by sometime in 1965, i. e. during the first year of his second term.  Kennedy expected to be re-elected in 1964 but he wished to avoid a right-wing confrontation, a “who lost Vietnam?” issue, so he would retain troops (there were about 16,000 by Nov 1963) but he did initiate a planned withdrawal of 1,000 by the end of 1963 as a gesture of intention. (This was not done after his death.) Kennedy it seems anticipated what would be named “detente” in the Nixon administration to come but in the early 1960s this sort of thinking was extremely controversial and challenged the dedication of the so-called (by President Eisenhower) “military-industrial complex” to destroy world-wide communist power and influence while making a considerable amount of money doing it.  There was indeed dissent within the Kennedy government among not only the military but notably within the espionage-state police apparati, i. e. the Central intelligence agency and the Federal bureau of investigation, the latter led by the staunch and powerful cold warrior J. Edgar Hoover. Kennedy was also very young to be president — in his mid-forties and only Theodore Roosevelt had been younger and TR became president at 42 because President McKinley was assassinated.  This meant that JFK was viewed suspiciously, perhaps enviously and probably dismissively as someone without the necessary gravitas or even as what the 70-year-old Eisenhower once deemed him “that smart-ass kid.”  Moreover some in the still-paranoiac “carry-over” environment of the Joe McCarthy 1950s actually seemed to see Kennedy, increasingly more liberal on the issue of Negro civil rights, an advocate of old-age medical insurance paid by the government and interested in some kind of federal anti-poverty program, as somewhat “radical,” certainly as more and more a political danger to the cold war establishment.  Since his rising political and personal popularity by late ’63 made his re-election the next year likely it is thought that some sort of numerically small but high-level and authoritative conspiracy to eliminate him via assassination was concocted by summer-early fall ’63 and brought to fruition in Dallas, Texas on Nov 22, 1963. On the “micro” level following the 1964 release of the federal government’s “Warren report on the assassination” a number of amateur and particularly the “sub-official” investigations of New Orleans district attorney Jim Garrison brought forward many individual “witnesses” who contended that the accused assassin Lee Harvey Oswald was not the “lone gunman” or even a gunman, that he may well have been in the employ of those espionage-police forces as a “covert agent” designated to be a “patsy” or “fall guy” while the actual killers were probably professionals with covert US military connections; and the entire assassination scenario at the “ground level” would have been run by a combination of military-CIA with some necessary cooperation (probably without “full” awareness of what or even who was the “object”) from local law enforcement and even from organized crime. Of course the most shocking occurrence — aside from the murder of the president in broad daylight on a city street — was the killing of Oswald himself literally before live television cameras by a Dallas “night club” owner later discovered to have had close associations with organized crime as well as with corrupt police.  This happened only two days after Kennedy’s death and so strong suspicions arose that Oswald was “silenced” before he “talked,” i. e. before he revealed his own secret associations. Oswald is an odd figure; a boy from a nondescript lower-class background who grew up with a single mother but joined the marine corps and was stationed in Japan in the vicinity of a U-2 spy plane base.  Also LHO studied Russian though he was supposedly a radio operator and not in “naval intelligence” (the corps being technically an adjunct to the navy); he even received a “hardship” discharge from the marines (his mother was said to be ill) and shortly after he traveled to the Soviet Union, actually defected, remained in that country for some months, marrying a Soviet police colonel’s daughter and yet was able to change his mind and return to the United States with his Russian wife!  All this during a period of increasing cold war tensions. Oswald’s reputed “acquaintances” with some notorious figures with CIA-FBI credentials and his “fronting” as a pro-Castro self-styled “marxist” especially in New Orleans (along with Miami a major “center” of covert anti-Castro activities coordinated and sanctioned by the US government) where he came post-mortem to the attention of the district attorney (see above) all further combine to call into question the Warren commission’s official portrait of him as an alienated outsider looking for a Wilkes Boothian kind of permanence in history.   And beyond the “mystery” of just who was “Lee Harvey Oswald” there are many many dissenting (from the Warren version) eye-witnesses to the shooting of Kennedy who have sworn that “shots” (in particular the final “kill shot” to JFK’s head) came from other directions — that last one from behind a fence adjacent to a railroad yard on a grass-covered rise just off the street and in front of the presidential motorcade.  Some of the witnesses have been officially “discredited” as bizarre publicity seekers or as mentally ill perhaps but interviewed on film and tape many in fact come across as sincere and rather convincing despite that some do have “questionable” backgrounds in the netherworld of border-line crime and vice. However most are really “ordinary” citizens extraordinarily convinced of what they saw and heard. There is so much minutiae dealing with the witness accounts that it requires books to recount them but it may suffice to observe that even the general little-read public has become skeptical about that official Warren thesis but then there are unfortunately perhaps so many “alternative histories” that it’s difficult to “know” exactly what is credible although one can recommend the 1991 Oliver Stone film JFK as a very good “primer,” even compilation of the most important and credible “alternative” aspects though Stone does take some liberties for the usual Hollywoody “dramatic purposes.”  To “believe” in the Oswald as “lone nut” theory now seems naive; whether all the suppositions about Oswald that dissenters propose are “true” might be naive too in a way but clearly the strangeness of Oswald’s brief but packed adult life (he died at 24 years) deserves attention.  He is not so easily categorized. That Kennedy had strong doubts about the cold war during the last year of his life also has acquired more and more historical credence and along with that the possible motivations within the power structure to get rid of him and replace him with a president more pliable.  No one can know what would have actually happened if JFK had lived but many are convinced that the course of the Vietnam war under the Johnson administration was not what a man as ambitious and intelligent as Kennedy would have wanted as his presidential legacy.   If one believes in Kennedy’s “change of heart/direction” and as well that the witnesses are telling at least the truth as they experienced and that Oswald is not so blithely dismissed, that his life is far too odd to wave away its contradictions, then “who killed Kennedy” and why have to remain significant historical questions that need far more attention from the “historical establishment” if you will.  That a Kennedy assassination conspired by those “at the highest levels” was arranged could also illuminate much of the subsequent history of the late 20th century and the beginning of the 21st explains perhaps why the subject is still so “verboten” at  those “mainstream” levels?…                            

Kramberger with Monkey, Ch. 10 (Mandrake Pizdamonavić, assassin extraordinaire?)

Chapter Ten

The Travels of Mandrake


Since he maneuvered his way into this book in such a way that the trained eye could hardly miss him, it might be of some interest if we follow Mandrake Pizdamonavić’s movements over the years preceding and following the one in question, 1992. But first let it be noted that Mandrake is a corruption of the Greek Mandraki, and Pizdamonavić of the Bulgarian Pesdamulov. Mandrake Pizdamonović was that rare creature, the Greco-Bulgar. Some of his movements and suspected activities make a great deal more sense in this light. Where there is a degree of uncertainty we have omitted mention of the assassination. But if we can place Mandrake Pizdamonavić in the vicinity on the day of an assassination we include it on our list. The temporal cut-off points are only arbitrary to the degree that they stray from June of 1992, when Kramberger was shot and it has been established beyond doubt that two days prior to the killing, Pizdamonavić landed at Brnik airport, spent that night in Ljubljana, the next in Maribor, and on the day of the shooting, late in the afternoon, crossed the Austrian border and stayed in a hotel in Vienna before dipping under the radar of documentable vigilance. So we begin in 1986, though we could easily have gone back a few years or started with the veritable spree of 1988. Please keep in mind that Mandrake Pizdamonavić is a warm weather suspected assassin. If the event occurred in the winter months—see Chico Mendes–indeed in late fall or early spring, then it happened near the equator.

In 1986, Olof Palme,

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the Swedish Prime Minister, was shot twice in the stomach while walking down the street with his wife, who was shot once in the back and survived to identify a patsy who was convicted but later acquitted on appeal. The killing took place on February 28 in Stockholm. Profiles of Pizdamonavić, who was without question in Stockholm on that day, as well as the next, in Oslo the week before, and soon on his island home in the Aegean, suggest that it was the horrible weather and light conditions of this experience, or let us in the interests of fairness say this ‘visit’, that led to his refusal to operate in cold weather conditions. Palme’s loud and confrontational expressionism on the international stage would have naturally provided many enemies, so it is not worth the time to speculate as to who would have hired an assassin.

No assassinations in 1987 can be linked to the presence of Mandrake Pizdamonavić, but 1988 was a fecund year. Mandrake arrived in Paris in mid-March and spent at least two months there. Interestingly, Dulcie September

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of the ANC, who was shot five times by a pistol with a silencer on March 31, was without question ordered dead by the South African government, which was a constant target of Olaf Palme’s recriminations. Sometime in June, Pizdamonavić returned to Greece, where William Nordeen

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of the United States was blown up on June 28 while driving outside Athens, ostensibly by the revolutionary 17 November group. Military attaché to the American Embassy, Nordeen was said to have been killed to exert pressure on the U.S. to remove its military presence from Greece. Given Mandrake’s Greek bloodlines and the fact that he makes his home in Greece, one can make the connection that he was somehow involved. However, as he lived in Greece, he would be implicated in any assassination in Greece, wouldn’t he? No clear evidence is helpful. He arrived in Piraeus by ferry on June 25 and left by ferry on July 3. One message uncovered during the investigation questioned the reason for moving up the date of the assassination, so it is interesting that by July 5 Pizdamonavić was in Brazzaville, Congo. Yes, that Brazzaville. No one has ever been able to pin down the date of the assassination of Pierre Anga,

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rebel captain, and rumors that President Sassou-Nguesso personally cut off his penis and stuffed it in Anga’s dead mouth remain rumors. Not even the precise day of death can be determined. We know that Anga was on the run and was caught by someone and killed by someone. We know that Mandrake Pizdamonavić was in Brazzaville, for a while appeared not to have been, and certainly was when he flew out on July 27. In December, Pizdamonavić was in Rio de Janeiro. In December/January, he celebrated the new year in Sao Paulo. On December 22, Chico Mendes

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was killed. The obvious ranchers were rounded up and a couple were convicted and sentenced, but unreliable witnesses—that is, disgruntled employees of the rainforest-eating giant corporation Cargill, which habitually disgruntles employees—have claimed that even back then Cargill, the rainforest-eating giant corporation, had its eyes on Amazonian profits that could only accrue in a sort of correlation to the recession of the Amazon forests.

Organizer, assassin, or both? That’s one of the unanswered questions about Mandrake Pizdamonavić. Though he can be connected to no assassinations in 1989, he spent several weeks that year in Tehran and was in Berne, Switzerland, by April 19, 1990, and Geneva by April 23, the day before prominent anti-clerical Iranian dissident Kazem Rajavi

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was gunned down—machine gunned down—by two men in Coppet, a suburb of Geneva where Rajavi lived. Witnesses described the killers in such a way as to rule out Pizdamonavić’s direct involvement. In all fairness it must be noted that Pizdamonavić flew to Zurich directly from Washington, D.C., and the death of Rajavi has been used as an anti-Iranian government propaganda tool by the ruling cabal in the United States.

Champions of privatization such as the American business government would have approved of the next coincidence here taken note of, the death of Detlev Rohwedder


in Dusseldorf, picked off by a sniper while under heavy guard, standing unconcerned near a window at his house on April 1, 1991. Rohwedder was in charge of the privatization of East Germany, so to speak, and many thought he was not only dragging his feet, but positively entrenching them in an attempt to obstruct the process in order to eventually implement some kind of passé worker controlled environment in factories and such. While if any of the suspicions regarding Mandrake Pizdamonavić is actually true a visit to the city that was home to the famous Dusseldorf killer, Peter Kuerten,


would not be unthinkable, the timing and duration of the visit make one curious. March 31 arrival, April 2 departure. And one could suppose that a visit to Chicago, the city associated with Al Capone all over the world, might also be in order. Sure enough, Pizdamonavić was there on May 21st, when Ioan Culianu,

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a professor at the University of Chicago was knifed to death in a bathroom in a campus building. An authority on mysticism, magic, Gnostics, and an altogether mysterious mind and man, his death has been blamed on the Romanian secret service, the theory being that he was critical of the economic policies (privatization again) of the new, post Ceausescu, regime. Speculation involving Mandrake Pizdamonavić begins with his chosen pseudonym and suggest a personal motive, as does the intimate nature of the assassination. Oddly, that same night, a Mexican poet who called himself by the Aztec moniker Zenzontli,


and his bizarre work ‘anti-regime’ and pulled such wild stunts as imitating a crow for an entire three minute rendition of a poem, cawing out Shaft! over and over, was found hanging in his hotel room in the Loop that same night, time of death some hours later than Culianu’s, name of hotel Blackburne, which is where Mandrake Pizdamonavić happened to be registered at the time. In July, Pizdamonivić was all over the Low Countries, and was missing from Brussels on the day that Andre Cools,

André Cools

minister of the Walloons and member of the socialist party that was implicated in a scandal involving an Italian helicopter manufacturer, was killed, July 18. On July 20th, he was in Paris, where there is reason to believe he stayed, more or less, until August 9th, when he flew to Milan. On August 7th, Shapour Bakhtiar,

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former Prime Minister of Iran (Iran again) and leader of Iranian exiles, was murdered at his house in a Paris suburb, allegedly with the complicity of the French secret service. And of course we know that soon after the plane landed in Milano Pizdamonavić was drinking coffee on the Slovene coast, keeping his eye on Kramberger. Breaking ranks with time to follow up on a connection, if there is one kind of person the French secret service would want dead it would be an Algerian, and in 1995 just such a creature, Abdelbaki Sahraoui

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was killed in Paris during one of Mandrake Pizdamonavić’s many stays there—on July 11. The assassination was claimed by an Islamic Militant Group supposedly, in what journalists covering the event, including Todd Fullmer, consider a forged letter so poorly concocted as to all but eliminate the French secret service even though such a combination of assassination and misattribution would be right up their rue.

Moving back now, in 1994 (nothing terribly suspicious in 1993), the Georgian politician Giorgi Chanturia

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was gunned down by a lot of people while he was in his car. It happened in December, and it is doubtful that Mandrake Pizdamonavić was there, but, strangely, irrefutable proofs have him in Tbilisi from May that year at least until early September. Otherwise, in this case, big fucking deal.

Finally—well, not finally, but to round off this summary and suggest a future for Mr. Pizdamonavić–in 1996 he was in Sofia on October second when Andrey Lukanov,


former prime minister, reformer, in bed with several major western business interests, etc., was killed in an assassination on the street much reminiscent of the murder of Olof Palme. Pizdamonavić was in Sofia even more often than he was in Paris, so coincidence is a slippery word, but then again, after 1996 he was often in Sofia and two dozen assassinations in Bulgaria, mostly in Sofia, over the next decade suggest that not all of Mandrake Pizdamonavić’s bullets were spent in Beograd during that time.

Kramberger with Monkey, Chapters 6-9 (while I search for photos to go with Chapter 10)

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The following short chapters stand out for their narrative hijinks, but the close reader will note that Kramberger’s monkey is misnamed ‘count Belisarius’ (Ančka, of course, was the real name) in Ch. 9.

Chapter 10 will be posted as soon as I find enough photos to illustrate it.

Chapter Six

The Second Man


You weren’t there so you don’t know what happened, but then again neither were you, so yous can talk about it on an equal basis. Added to that, had you been there, you might have been up there, too, leaving only you, which would take us back to me, a sitting duck, exactly what the three of us were trying to avoid.

The flying duck, as you can see, got pretty high up there, especially compared to how far he fell—what would you call it, one neck length? You’ve had an overly exuberant chiropractor move your head pretty far from your torso, but that would still be no more than half the distance his neck stretched.

You saw the police report, which is not a simple piece of paper. Cause of death: suicide. And it didn’t stop there. Likely due to stress. That left little room to record the conversation of the first officers on the scene of the…Catholic crime. You can imagine, though, one cop asked ‘But how’d he get up there?’ Because it’s not so easy to get to the rafters near the midpoint of the ceiling of a gymnasium that doesn’t have a climbing rope, and that’s not what he used to hang himself, was it? No.

And there was no ladder.

But you hear the savvy veteran cop sum it all up: ‘Suicides sometimes go to surprising lengths. Nothing surprises me anymore.’

In Slovene, as you know, there’s no pun in the statement.

In America there’s that great strategy of giving a feller just enough rope he can hang himself.

The main thing is you’re writing this book and you’re half the distance back to the first person, which, again, is precisely where you do not want to be, in part because it might not be you, so before you continue you need to find some new blood, so to speak.

Chapter Seven

Here We are Alone Again. It’s All so Sad, so Slow…


Here we are alone again. It’s all so sad, so slow…

The great myth of the conspiracy theorist, besides that he is a lunatic, which is fifty fifty, the same as in any given population group, is that he somehow needs the company of the conspiracy, that it comforts him in a perverse sort of way. The truth is that anyone on the assassination conspiracy continuum is likely to be tremendously lonely, for he has been abandoned by truth itself. Compared to losing one’s faith in, say, God, this is a more difficult blow to bear—for it is, indeed, a blow. Imagine rather than losing faith in God, God turned his back on you. This is how the unsolved assassination is felt by a man like Todd Fullmer or anyone who lends the event his time. And this is probably why the Slovenes appear to be rather complacent about Kramberger’s assassination. What could have been the seminal controversial event in a young country’s history instead has become an acknowledged yet unimportant assassination and cover-up that typically the Slovene is not obsessed with. Any number of speculatories can be made, such as the Slovene as Balkan man simply takes such business in stride, or the Slovene as neighbor to Austrian keeps it all inside, drinks too much, then commits suicide. But more likely the apparent individual Slovene reaction is a combination of not being all that eager to allow an event so early in its history as an independent nation to spoil things and the stronger impulse to guard against the loneliness one feels when truth denies us its company. Reading through the Fullmer archives, we come to know a man who is Americo-centric about assassinations, yet increasingly self-aware. To read his articles and not quickly grasp his faith that America is the home of the great assassinations, that for instance the Kennedy assassination is the most important of all time, the most interesting, the most historic, would be impossible. Yet, in his last few years, usually between the lines, sometimes in a stray line or two, he seems to display an understanding that he is in effect imprisoned by his Americo-centrism. His editor, who asked not to be named even though his name can be found easily in the most obvious ways, said that in one of his last conversations with Fullmer that Fullmer expressed his mystification at the relatively slight impact the Kramberger assassination seemed to have made on Slovene life, which he said was at first a great disappointment to him, but was gradually becoming a slippery theme. ‘It’s as if the man simply wasn’t important enough to give a shit about’, he told his editor, ‘yet in my head I know he was flesh and blood like JFK and in my gut I believe he mattered as much, and maybe even more…I just don’t get it.’

Chapter Eight

Omniscient Disclaimer


At this point, if you were impatient and this was not a novel, we could answer any of your questions with absolute clarity and accuracy. We could even tell you who killed Ivan Kramberger and why. We could tell you what color underwear the assassin is sporting at this very second, what aftershave (hint). However, the cavils are complicating creatures. And though we don’t know why—well, we do, but have to write as if we don’t—but the omniscient narrator has lost a great deal of stature over the centuries. How  this came about has nothing to do with any misbehavior on the part of the omniscient narrator, rather springs from the lie woven into the very fabric of his subject combined with the lack of patience of the reader, which is just another way of saying that there are limitations to the form. The Hindu explanation of the lie is commonly summarized in the term maya, which is a word that almost everyone familiar with it misunderstands for reasons and in such a way that is easily understood if one properly understands the term maya. Not to get carried away, but to proceed with such rapidity that a turnabout is possible rather than an about-face, what we are talking about are nama and rupa, name and form, which is to say that which must be in order for us to speak of name and form, yet which disguise the truth that is unity–the calm terrain beneath the ocean of chaos, one might say. There are two possible, honest omniscient narratives. One is the strictly factual account of events, which in the case of our novel about Kramberger could be limited to as little as one page. The other is the infinite novel, the Funes the Memorius version. No thought or act would be left out, yet so many would be included that to end the novel, to omit but one thought, but one distant, apparently insignificant incident that had even the slightest bearing on the subject—say, the way the sun set on the evening of August 23, 1991, when Kramberger stopped playing with his monkey on the promenade in Koper to watch the Adriatic eat fire—would be to render the entire book a sham. Interestingly, this leads the omniscient narrator of today into a sort of complicity with the assassins, all of us relying on what may or may not be called the willing suspension of disbelief.

One more point in this regard, and that’s all. Given that our intention is to refuse the mantle of absolute omniscience, we find it best to leave, to the extent possible, Slovene speculations about the assassination to some mundane interviewer of the future, or end times, for knowing in each case in which way they are imbalanced, and who isn’t imbalanced?, we would face the predicament of whether or not to expose their misconceptions, deceptions, misunderstandings, odd oral tradition folk versions, simplistic guesses, and even nearly perfect diagnoses.

Chapter Nine

Man Meets Monkey


Kramberger, Ivan, was fond of saying—even when he was still in Germany—that we have in common with monkeys 99% of our genetic structure. The truth is that we have about 98% in common with chimps and bonobos, but probably a mere 93 with his capuchin. He also used to say that nothing is more pathetic than a man who believes his own lies, once in reference to the Croat Tuđman. Yet it is true that in Koper, on that same hot day in August that he watched the sunset from the promenade, he was selling his books and chatting up the body politic when his monkey, Count Belisarius by name, slipped away without Ivan noticing. In the middle of a sentence to a misguided student of management, Kramberger broke off suddenly—»My monkey! Where’s the count?« He ran his hands through his Rasputin hair and looked about in panic, his eyes enormous and wild. Where do you even begin to look for a runaway monkey? Trees, he thought, you look in the trees. But they were in Tito Square, where there are no trees, just a palace, a loggia, a church, and a building with a plaque on it that commemorates fallen partisans who couldn’t get back up.  Arteries ran from the square in every direction. Count Belisarius had never run away before—would he return? Yes, he would. Before Kramberger could decide what measures to take, up came Count Belisarius from the lane that runs past the Pretor’s Palace, brandishing a bottle of borovničevec. “I had been discussing the good and bad of various Slovene liquors with a peasant down from the kras in town on civic matters, and had expressed my preference for borovničevec, often considered a ladies drink, as the peasant pointed out. And Count Belisarius subsequently took off and stole a bottle for me.”

And when he told this story he would recognize in the eyes of many listeners that look elicited by the pathetic figure who comes to believe his own lies. These were the same kind of people who, rather than suspecting this revenant gastarbeiter of incipient demagoguery, considered his idealism too naïve to merit their sympathy.

Meanwhile, stirring an espresso at a table behind the arches of the loggia, observing the spectacle, Kramberger, his books, and the crowd that never entirely dissipated until Kramberger packed up and took the count for a stroll down to the promenade via Garibaldijeva—so that he passed quite close to this observer and probably noticed his thick moustaches and perhaps even the innate menace that often kept even waitresses at bay—was a man named Mandrake Pizdamonavić—a pseudonym, naturally.

On a bench along the promenade Kramberger was joined by an admirer, a pensioner who had worked at the shipyard in Izola, who asked where he’d gotten his monkey. First Kramberger told the old guy that 99% of our genetic structure is identical to that of the monkey. Then he said, “I went to a pet shop in Bremen and this little fellow was the only monkey in the shop who took an immediate liking to me.” He watched the old man turn this over in his mind, imagining this extraordinary pet store in Bremen with its array of exotic animals, including monkeys. In Koper at the time you couldn’t even buy a tortoise. Finally he added, “Of course, he was the only monkey they had.” Ivan Kramberger was not without a sense of humor.

Kramberber with Monkey, Chapters 4 and 5

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Chapter Four

Todd’s Posthumous Cigar


It would be the easiest thing in the world to dismiss Todd Fullmer. For one thing, he’s dead. For another, he was not a great writer, never wrote a book, and was beset by a particularly tawdry obsession. In addition, he was often wrong. Though throughout his career he tried to offset his passion for assassination with attention to detail and absolute adherence to absolute facts absolutely known to have been facts, he often was required by his own momentum to forge ahead without any facts at all. In fact, we can see from his one chapter in this book that he considered his own burden of proof to be less weighty than that of the law, and—here’s where the hubris swells its chest—therefore made him more adept at getting at the truth of matters assassinatory. But Todd Fullmer was honest in his way, and probably knew more about assassinations one way or another than anyone in the world. Plus he actually wrote a few pieces worthy of reprinting. The following may well have been his best:

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In the Gaza Strip today, the Israelis assassinated another terrorist, as they call them, someone they tell us was a member of Hamas. I’m not going to give his name, because his name isn’t what strikes me as important. They got him with a missile, in a car, in a car with three other people. Those four died as well as three bystanders. The fact that one bystander was a nine year old girl doesn’t much affect me, because the others were innocent as well. Perhaps even the terrorist was innocent, and his three cohorts. My regular readers will recognize that my fascination with assassinations is of an intensity that renders me apolitical. If it weren’t for assassinations, I would be either without passion or have a passion for something else, probably something morbid. But I like assassinations too much to claim to be outraged at their occurrences. Yet even with assassinations a morality prevails. A target should be chosen and executed and that should be that. A degree of collateral damage is acceptable because no assassination can be perfectly controlled, at least not that of a well-protected high level figure. Jackie Kennedy may well have gotten in the way of a bullet, but she didn’t. She didn’t because as assassinations go, that one was done within the moral confines of assassination. High-powered accurate rifles were used, and all of them were pointed at John F. Kennedy. Surely a mistake could have been made and someone else could have been killed. Someone, as we all know, was badly injured. Jackie could have cracked her skull leaping to safety from the vehicle. Had that happened I would still consider that assassination a moral assassination. Another aspect of assassination morality is that the assassin must undertake a measure of risk. Whoever shot from the grassy knoll risked being spotted by a gutsy bystander or two and wrestled to the ground and apprehended. But the Israelis took no personal chances, and gave no thought to innocent bystanders other than tacitly determining that some of them would die. Yes, plane crash assassinations also premeditate the death of innocent people. The difference is that they are not a matter of state policy. They are rogue acts, and when carried out by states they are rogue state policies. The Israeli assassinations are mainstream state policy. In the Gaza Strip, the victim of the assassination deserves to be named; but here in our publication we refuse to dignify this assassination with a single victim. In fact, I ultimately refuse to call these murders sanctioned by the state of Israel assassinations. Only out of convenience, only to place them out of context of legitimate assassinations do I even discuss them as such. In the Gaza Strip today a missile fired by the Israelis killed seven people. Next week a bomb will go off at a cafeteria in Tel Aviv, but no one in the Gaza Strip will call it an assassination. And I am not an expert in suicide bombings. When it happens, I will remain silent. When the Israelis respond by assassinating a target by missile and killing several more innocent people, I will not repeat this article; instead, I will write a short note: The Israelis assassinated no one today.


Being a reporter and not an historian of grand synthetic qualities, Todd Fullmer simply wrote a sort of lamentation. He did not, as we would have, trace the sad decline in assassination techniques from the purely specific, 99% accurate, poison tipped Bulgarian umbrella to the Predator Drone. But that idea is nestled in between his lines, and our hats are off to Mr. Fullmer. As they said about Fidel Castro, give the man a cigar.

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Chapter Five

Trotsky is Notsky

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Nothing drives a man like the combination of failure and the failure to come to terms with it. There is absolutely no doubt that if Todd Fullmer had lived he would have gotten to the bottom of the Kramberger business. Or at least one of the bottoms. Since we have already mentioned sinkholes, we will say that an assassination is like a karst landscape and the truth is a subterranean labyrinth—the absolute truth is the fresh rainwater that gets lost down in the vast limestone darkness, but there are all these sinkholes that dogged investigators who refuse to accept the official line end up finding whole puddles of trapped truth turning to stink therewithin. Had Todd lived, we would be looking over the fields and seeing the top of his head just clearing the lip of a sinkhole of a story much nearer the truth than the government version.

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What gave Todd his extra drive, what allowed him to pursue the most difficult stories to the deprivation of many of his humane needs—to give a mundane yet resonant example, he once spent three months in a hunting lodge far outside Tomsk without a toothbrush—was his lifelong failure to come to terms with the assassination of Trotsky. To lapse briefly into his lingo, one of the greatest assassinations of all time, one that everybody knows about even if the ice pick is often confused with an axe or vice versa, and especially remarkable to Todd in that it took so long to carry out after the initial order was given—at least thirteen years. The problem was that he just could not figure out what to say about it. His head was alive with ideas, but they were vague ones, little puffs of sarin as opposed to gleaming bullets. The problem was not that everyone knew who carried it out and who ordered it and in a confounding, that little Stalin in all of us sort of way, why; no the problem was something else, and that something else was like what would have happened if Kennedy hadn’t been shot, a meaningless unknown that nonetheless rapaciously drives all else from the mind. It is probably safe to say that if there weren’t so many assassinations to go around during Todd Fullmer’s career he would have wound up on a Manhattan street corner, the same one always, repeating ad infinitum in a semi-distracted, semi-determined manner, ‘Trotsky is notsky, Trotsky is notsky, Trotsky is notsky…

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Kramberger with Monkey, Chapters II and III


Chapter Two

The Third Man


Well, that guy was quickly eliminated, which puts us square in the third person, where we hope for a degree of safety in numbers. He may not have been of much use anyway. His name was Todd Fullmer, and he was a tabloid reporter for an American weekly, called, with admirable something or other, Political Sleeze. He was their assassination correspondent, perhaps the only one of his kind anywhere in the world. He rented an Opel, perhaps the most popular rental car of our time, drove from Ljubljana to Maribor, and then going about 90 kph on a straightaway near Negova the steering went out abruptly and the straightaway curved and he drove, with his learner’s permit—no, with his empty notebook—in his briefcase, head on into a large tree. He was killed instantly, or, if not, after great suffering.

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But what about that empty notebook? This was to be his second visit to Kramberger’s birth and then death place(s). Why would he have brought an empty notebook? He had interviewed dozens of people on his first visit, always with a notebook open, always jotting things down, even though he always had a tape recorder going, a tape recorder he apparently didn’t think to bring along this time, for no tape recorder was found at the scene of the accident. Remarkable negligence in an experienced reporter, wouldn’t you say?

Experts on such matters suggest that though it is easy to doctor, so to speak, an automobile so that it might malfunction at a high speed, there are far better ways to ensure that an accident will occur to deadly effect. What if, say, the steering went out as Fullmer was coming to a stop sign? He might veer off the road into a field and come to a gentle, rolling stop, might he not? One answer to that is that, well, if the accident doesn’t kill him, maybe it could serve as a warning. With such ambiguity of intent it is difficult to call his death an assassination. Then again, it is certainly not fair to call it a warning gone awry. The perpetrator(s) had to have known that his death was a good enough possibility.

Whatever. Todd Fullmer died before he could finish his investigation into the circumstances of Ivan Kramberger’s death, before he could publish his article, which would have been quite a coup in that it would have lumped Slovenia in amongst those countries that solved political inconveniences with assassination, especially that small group of European countries that emerged as new nations or makeovers of nations after, to accept one dividing line, the fall or knocking down of the Berlin Wall.

The emphasis here should be on the cleanliness of Slovenia, which declared independence, had a clean little war, turned out to be a clean little country, about fifty percent forested, with clean highways, and clean living, striving folk, who were not maniacs like their southern neighbors and ex-partners, nor fascists like their northern neighbors. Slovenia didn’t even have a ‘Gypsy problem’.

Todd Fullmer’s death kept Slovenia clean.

Chapter Three

Literature and Conspiracy in Slovenia

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If the terrain of modern literature were three dimensional, we would drive around it even if it took an extra day. The landscape is littered with above-average unpublished American writers and lesser American writers who are published; these are the side of the road equivalent of plastic bags. There are, of course the occasional great figures, like Antonio Lobo Antunes, standing alone like a cypress; but the wind carries these bags all over the place and the cypress gets spoiled with all these anti-ornaments. We could go on and on with this metaphor—maybe Beckett would be a horny toad blending into the desert and Joyce would be a fantastic, giant pink buttocks, etc.—but I’ll stop at the sinkholes, the virtually unknown great writers, who are not only invisible from the road, but even when you are standing at the very lip of their weedy descent. The bones of Vitomil Zupan are buried in a sinkhole somewhere. Even though his Minuet for Guitar is one of the greatest war novels ever written he is unknown outside of Slovenia. As tragedies go, this kind is very difficult to gauge. Recognition lacks protein and has no affect whatsoever on longevity vis a vis actual life span. Vitomil himself understood this; here is a quotation from Minuet for Guitar: ‘What did Leibniz gain in his last hour from his innocent faith in the orderliness of this world? At any rate my cat is happier than him.’ Perhaps later we will have the opportunity to discuss Zupan’s theory of revolutions. For now it is enough to say that his extraordinary novel’s action comes to an end with the accidental death of the narrator’s comrade in arms, Anton. Celebrating the end of the war, a partisan pounded his Italian automatic on the floor and its magazine spent itself, sending a volley up through the ceiling to where Anton stood waiting to receive his absurd death.

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No study of the modern Slovene novel is complete without some mention of Ciril Kosmać’s A Day in Spring in which the somber tale of a Czech soldier in the same war in the same general region is killed almost identically, though by an English Sten gun, which Kosmać tells us was notorious for going off accidentally. 30 bullets to the head, end of novel.

What are we to make of this coincidence? Maybe nothing. Or maybe we will end this novel with an accidental death by gunfire. But as the prevailing topic is assassination it is incumbent upon us to consider that aspect of the conspiracy known as the cover story. Now in a small, highly literate country such as Slovenia, where the two greatest novels of recent history end with accidental death by gunfire—and neither novel is surreal or absurdist—one cannot help but think that a darn good anodyne for the body politic that loses a politician to assassination would be the cover story best abbreviated ‘Woops’.

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Chapter One

Monkey Business


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Where the hell was the monkey when Kramberger was assassinated? There’s the story I really wanted. But nobody knew. Nobody. The man was famous for traveling the country with his jalopy and his books and giving speeches with a monkey on his shoulder. And when he was assassinated the monkey was nowhere to be seen. When Kramberger was killed by a small bore bullet from a distance too great to make sense given all the details of the story, hence we conclude conspiracy, the monkey was absent. What, did he call in sick that day? Conspiracies are one thing, but it’s difficult to approach one from the point of view that a monkey was somehow involved, that maybe the victim’s own monkey was complicit, that at the very least the monkey ‘let it happen’. And so, not given to allowing a preponderance of the absurd in such investigations—let’s say a Latin American ruler spouting off against American interests is handed a tape recorder just before boarding a flight that subsequently blows up, killing all on board: we, not being an actual court of law and thus having less stringent burdens of proof and therefore more effectively arrive at the truth, conclude he was handed a bomb–in fact basing much of our conclusions on the refusal to give the absurd more than its due, we are forced to accept a degree of chance, or, if you like, coincidence. And that puts us flat on the continuum that leads all the way to the official version that a drunken hunter got off a freak shot that just happened to puncture Kramberger’s chest with the precision of a sniper shot rather than zinging off a railing somewhere or chipping a wooden roof slat. It therefore seems incumbent upon me to investigate the circumstances of the missing monkey. Maybe I will only eliminate a possibility; maybe the monkey was up in Graz undergoing dialysis.

Kramberger with Monkey

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Within a year of moving to Slovenia, I heard this wild tale about a populist politician who drove around in a Bugatti he built himself, sold books he wrote, and spoke to large crowds with a monkey on his shoulder, and that he was assassinated before the first national election in 1992. His name was Ivan Kramberger, a gasterbeiter made good, having gone to Germany and made a fortune with a patent involving dialysis machines. So upon independence he returned. Great stories abound, but it was the monkey that sealed it. I found an old notebook not long ago with the title Demagogue with Monkey. That was how I first conceived the novel. But I didn’t start until some years later, maybe 2008. I remember I had a couple chapters written when I went one spring night to the balcony and I thought of something for the book and started laughing. I dashed into the next room, where my computer was and typed a quick chapter. That was to be the process for the first half of the book, about a month’s worth, before travel interrupted the process. It was the first novel I wrote directly on computer.

The book a turned into a dark comedy of Balkan, mostly, assassination. A journalist for a sleazy magazine is sent to Europe to write about the assassinations in Minsk. His specialty is assassinations, so he naturally has connections in Beograd and Sofia. He takes the opportunity to stop and visit old pals and informants, even to finally see Sarajevo, the world capitol of assassination, though by the numbers it would be Sofia or Beograd, or by now Moscow or Minsk. But he doesn’t want to go to Minsk. So when an informant in Beograd happens to mention Kramberger’s assassination, he is thrilled–Slovenia has one! He will go to Slovenia (this leads to trouble with his editor who at one point threatens that if this shit keeps up he’ll find himself working for the New York Times!).

The book is told in first, second, and third person, for the narrators are continually getting picked off. But the book does finish, apelike, as it should

The book has been published in Slovene, but has not been available to Englisih readers who did not ask to see the manuscript. That ends now. I will post the book in order, a few chapters here and there. Maybe two or three people will be interested.

Kramberger was born in Negova, Slovenia, and killed by ‘a drunken hunter’ in Jurovski dol, a small village:

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Here is the road to Jurovski dol, in an image that is similar to what I see at the Slovene end of the book:

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In How to Read a Book, Mortimer Adler stressed the importance of reviewing the table of contents and letting the mind ask questions, become curious, all for the sake of better comprehension and retention. So I will begin thusly:

Kramberger with Monkey


Still Life

By Rick Harsch


  1. Monkey Business
  2. The Third Man
  3. Literature and Conspiracy in Slovenia
  4. Todd’s Posthumous Cigar
  5. Trotsky is Notsky
  6. The Second Man
  7. Here We are Alone Again…it’s all so Sad, so Slow…
  8. Omniscient Disclaimer
  9. Man Meets Monkey
  10. The Travels of Mandrake
  11. The First Man, So to Speak
  12. Skip Obscure
  13. Mack Beltch
  14. Al Zawahiri Doesn’t Eat Here Anymore
  15. Some Really Secret Monkey Business
  16. Slovenia’s Got One!
  17. The Consequences of Passing up Minsk
  18. Yushchenko’s Face
  19. Birdy Num Num
  20. A Math Title
  21. Anonymous Note: Does This Answer Your Question, Todd?
  22. Chimp Attack Kills Cabbie and Injures Tourists
  23. No, Fuck You
  24. We’re Going to Go with Bugatti
  25. Fullmer Files Fluff
  26. When is Fidel Going to Move out and Get an Apartment of his Own?
  27. Was Constantine a Serb?
  28. Sokollu, Sokollee, Sokollahahahahahaaaaaaaa
  29. A Bone for Numerologists
  30. Smaller Coffins
  31. A Fracas
  32. Green Dragons and Fox Hunts
  1. Did Kramberger Kramp your Style?
  2. Nobody Likes a Master Stylist
  3. He Never Writes, He Never Calls
  4. Wow! What a Fucking Assassination
  5. The Smoking Cigar
  6. Gone Apeshit
  7. Somewhere Valvasorry
  8. Captive Learners
  9. Indaba: Simian Song
  10. Fuck the Polish Swimmer
  11. Bidding is, After All, Bidding
  12. Life Goes On

      Epilogue: Warning?

Answers to Geography quiz #2

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  1. Minsk is farther north than Pinsk by a long distance in Belorussian standards.
  2. Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan
  3. At least two islands are part Malaysian. This was supposed to be a trick question, the answer being only Borneo, but I found from a fellow who got 7 right that there is at least one more. At this point I have no idea if there are two or five thousand. (Of course most of you immediately thought, SEBATIK!!! of course! and Borneo!…)
  4. All three are islands, but when I wrote the test, I had a brain collapse and thought only Penang was an island. It’s very embarrassing.
  5. None of the Middle Eastern countries I could find were landlocked. I had to check on Jordan, though. It has a Slovene coast type of sliver of sea.
  6. Botswana is the host of Gaborone, pronounced with an h sound, not an English style g or g.
  7. Wroclaw is more northern in latitude than L’viv.
  8. Most fans of geography wished for Prague to be closer to the Mediterranean, and maybe one day we can arrange that, but as of now it is closer to the Baltic.
  9. Tunis lines up well with Oslo.
  10. France is nearly twice as big as Zimbabwe. This was supposed to throw you into confusion, thinking well, Zimbabwe is actually rather small, but Africa is so damn big…

Thanks for your attention, and please start thinking ahead to the next quiz, when we will explore such questions as where was Chernowitz last seen…


While I invite you to continue reading the fiction I post, I again interrupt with a geography quiz.The answer will be posted in two days.

Sorry about the formatting: 4 through 7 should be A through D

Geography quiz 2

Woops. Two of number 4 or 8 are islands.

  1. Which is farther north, Pinsk or Minsk?
  2. Name the five ex-USSR ‘stans’.
  3. How many islands are partially Malaysian?
  4. O
  5. 1
  6. More than one
  7. More than ten
  8. Which of these is an island: Penang, Phuket, Singapore?
  9. How many Middle Eastern countries are landlocked, not counting the West Bank, not considering Armenia to be in the Middle East?
  10. Gaborone is the capitol of which country?
  11. After WWII, the Poles had to leave L’viv if they wanted to remain in Poland. More settled in Wroclaw than any other city. Did they go west northwest or west southwest?
  12. Is Prague closer to the Baltic or the Mediterranean?
  13. Tunis is closest to which of these cities in longitude: Vienna, Berlin, Oslo?
  14. Which is bigger, France or Zimbabwe?

More Vietnam fiction for These Troubled Times

another excerpt from The Manifold Destiny of Eddie Vegas

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The nipple placement was not all that was illusionary or anti-corporealist about Picasso Tits. As Donnie remembered her now, he could almost imagine her in one of her near sheer dresses that fit her as if she were a pulsing ghostwoman, almost see her gliding over the Pacific waves in the dark that was neither black nor blue, approaching in a sort of drift of foggy flight, approaching, fading, somehow rapid like a gust of wind—And why not? Are there not those for whom the strict logic and lines of transport are far too mundane? Are there not those ethereal ones for whom enclosure violates truths glimpsed in ephemeral mockeries? If so, Picasso Tits, here now on the California sands so intensely desired by the one who was not her lover, is of these mythicals.

Back in Brussels, Picasso Tits was not surprised that she missed Donnie more than she missed Drake. Though not of narcissistic kind, she was wholly aware of herself in the world of desirous men, and though she was too slender to be voluptuous at first sight, she was fully formed and tensile, voluptuous—after the fact, the fact of wide ranging breasts and nipples out where yonder ought be, after the fact of face, fingent, never twice the same, full enough of lip, small enough of nose, and subtle enough of eye that a man once entrapped by tit, could become lost and later in lustry lunging lunglessly in love, for the vivacity of her lissome animacy.

Many of these men, most in fact, would be of a type classifiable only as wanting, perpetually wanting, and would be unable to resist sexuality of greater immediacy. They often returned to her in tears, which she never grew to scorn, for she understood.

Then there were men like Donnie, who saw it all and contented himself to seeing. If ever there were a man to last out her lifetime it would be such a one, she thought, but for the paradox that he would eventually have to break through the zone of separation and would then have to remain, say, Donnie, and she had no idea if that would happen.

She was not surprised that Drake had not asked her to flee with them to the United States. He knew it would be a selfish request, and she knew he knew she would understand everything and that including his own understanding of everything. Yet missing them, she felt pain that it was not Donnie’s place to ask her to join them, to ask anything about her future, their future, the possibility of a return to Europe even. Donnie would have, or would have been unable to keep the question from his eyes, and he would be recalling her with more tenderness than Drake, who, after all, was a fine man and perhaps the best she had ever been with.

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Donnie’s thoughts turned, too, to his father, for there was no mistaking his return to his father’s land. His father did not fly gossamerly from the black, feet above the waves. His father’s feet were always on the ground, stomping, no—pressing, pressing down on a carpet that tended to curl up at the corners, for beneath this carpet were secrets, the truth Donnie was never told. Donnie did indeed despise his dilettante double-doucher dipshit mother, for he knew her deeply, and like his miner ancestors he had found the scoured out gaseous scarred innards to be bare of yield—nothing to proffer, nowhere to go but deeper into despicable depths. But his father was different. Did his father really believe that Donnie hated him for his diffidence, his distance, his desquamatory daddy clichés? Seems so. But Donnie did not hate his father–he resented him, resented him for never revealing the secret that impelled a decent man, and a man of depth and originality, to live in the near death of a demi-lackey to that bitch of a mother, and further, to allow Donnie to reach the age of leaving without realizing that he could have revealed all to Donnie, that as far as his father was concerned that was all that Donnie lived for, the day when they went to the tavern in Nevada, the Green Jockey, on a Saturday afternoon in Spring, shot a few games of pool, during which a few hints would be dropped, before the bellied up to the šank, sit down, son, two beers, I know you’ve been waiting for this day for a long time, but once I tell you everything you’ll understand why I had to wait, of course your mother must never know…But his father kept his feet on the ground only to prevent the carpet corners from curling.

Inside the bungalow burned many candles, disguising matter, bestowing an illusion of substance on their marionettes of shadow, yet so many candles that the two faces alive with conversation remained undisturbed by the trickeries of light, retaining their opacities, contours, emoting aspects. Across a common plate of victuals from Drake sat Nordgaard, a man of indifferent age, if definitively old, bald, the head perhaps deformed: high and narrow, elongate, without eyebrows to break the wrinkling stretch from eye to apex. He had damp, motile lips, an extravagance, black deep nostrils that glared like the cave mouths they were, betraying no illusion of an accompanying or enabling nose.

His voice was flauty, as of wind given voice by sudden compression, a force of unkempt yearning.

Nordgaard had been with Drake’s father since the early days in Vietnam, indeed it was Nordgaard who saved the senior Fondling from his coming frag, when Captain Fondling had called in an airstrike on his own men. Now he was telling a story about a battle that occurred before Drake’s father had even been in Vietnam, back in ’62 or ’63, when Nordgaard was a sniper for the ARVN.

What matter if the wee man indulge himself, Drake figured.

‘This was a turning point I’m telling of, lo, even if we were the mighty ones yet again visiting on the rebels, the VC of course in this battle, a new instrument of death deliverance. The M 113 armored personnel carrier—ten fucking tons! This was particularly effective because most of our surprises up until then, lo, had come from the air—napalm nearly won us the war, us then being the French. I should point out that not many share my point view, nor am I offering a tactical opinion vis a vis more napalm. But this was Greek Fire from the air, and we all know that Greek Fire speaks its fear in the pages of innumerable books of history and memoire. Perhaps, lo, it is the atomic age, the beast, beastmost of bombs, that overshadow napalm as a weapon. Or perhaps among the Vietnamese napalm is still recalled, written of, memoired, in the same way as we of Europe recall Greek Fire. Hot tar, too, though, ought have its place. Yet it does not. Why? Simply because from the first day a man stormed a high wall, something nasty was dropped on him. So strike that about the hot tar. Nonsense. Anything at hand, not just hot tar, entrails of oxen, yesterday’s soup, donkey shit, corpses, scorpions…Therefore here, lo, was a machine all the more frightening for the fact that it crawled amongst them—and over their hidey-holes in the embankments! Uprooting trees! Not very big ones, but saplings and the like. And as they conquered their fright enough to maintain a shooting crouch a pepper the beast with bullets that zinged off harmlessly, lo, up from a hatch popped a sniper…or in most cases an ordinary soldier made bold by his newly safe method of attacking the VC. The embankments, they were for dikes, you’ve seen rice paddies. Dikes everywhere, and the VC hiding in holes in the dikes, or in the jungle vegetation along the dikes. And our 113s could surmount the dikes—they had nowhere to run, nowhere to hide but where they hid. Clever devils. They hid in holes on the dikes, in the side of the dikes, everywhere. Imagine the first VC to hold his position on the far side of the dike, in his perfectly camouflaged hole, holding still, crouched with his automatic, in his mind, lo, the machine will begin its crawl up the embankment and flip over backward—imagine his horror when the machine rumbled over his hole in perfect balance. Of course, imagine that in the 113 ARVN is chasing horrified VC across the rice paddy, and popping up out of hatches to take pot shots at runners, now imagine the little son of a bitch with his hidey hole picking off ARVN unfortunates one by one until they realize they’re getting hit from behind. He’s probably alive to this day, that runt VC, telling the story to his best friend’s son, in a bungalow, on the waterfront. But he had a cousin, lo, and this is where I come in, being the top sniper in ARVN. When the 113s scattered the enemy, they would often run mad into the paddies, where they must have endured nightmare horrors of making absolutely no progress while running for their lives, the water up to their waists, before they get slaughter by raking fire. But the VC were a well-trained bunch, cool headed, and some of them would break off reeds, crouch under the water, breathing through the reeds. Sometimes it was easy to figure: five ran off that direction and we only shot three, where’d the others go? Under the water. And we’d have our drivers rock the big car—they could do that, rock it back and forth, and create waves and the rising falling water would expose these poor little fuckers who now looked so ridiculous, at war and all crouching with a tube in their mouth, heads bent back, and I’d drill them in the temple. They were some of my favorite kills.

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I’ve written a poem about it, lo:

Hollow is the reed of the head above water

Naked is the wearer of wave cloth

Enemy. I shoot you in the temple

You laugh in your eternity

as laughter echoes in my mobile chamber

I have written thousands of poems about war…’

‘Each in its time, I suppose.’

‘Meaning you fear me reading them all to you now.’

Drake smiled. ‘True enough.’

‘No, not now, not ever. I am old enough to know how easy it is, lo, to be an old fool. I have a poem about that, too, if you would like to hear it.’

‘Please no.’

‘Right, about your father, where were we?’

‘Donnie! Glad you’re back. Nordgaard is just going to tell me what happened.’

What happened? Time and distance appeared to have over-reacted to event, and now after having been met at the airport by the Suave Facilitator, Drake and Donnie were being driven through the disorienting expanses of Los Angeles, when the Suave Facilitator explained that for reasons of safety they were taking a circuitous route (to where?) and would change vehicles twice. At some point after landing, probably before clearing customs, Donnie had already realized, Drake’s parents having been assassinated, that safety would require much reason, reason applied to executing his, reason for the executioners of safety to apply to his safety the same standards that would be applied to Drake’s. Drake, just as he spoke no explanation for absconding with Donnie months ago on bare notice, spoke nothing of the current situation vis a vis dead parents, dangerous business, next moves, a future requiring the absorption of parents dead by head shots. All he said was that he wanted Donnie with him.

Nordgaard would tell them what happened.

When they arrived at the bungalow, an old man with smooth facial and skull skin standing between three and four feet opened the door; he was barefoot, wore a t-shirt and grey shorts so that his spindly build and enormous limb veins were plain to observe.

‘Do you preserve dwarf or midget?’ (Drake)

‘Call me Lew Alcindor, it won’t make me any taller.’

This was Drake senior’s executor, right-hand man, companero, Rasputin, Sokollu.

Amazingly, Drake had never met him, never even knew his name, though more than vaguely knew of his existence. He was certainly the little man in all the stories.

Not absurdly, Donnie, stepping into the bungalow, flashed on the suspicion that Nordgaard was ‘behind it all.’

‘I have their ashes inside,’ Nordgaard said, putting very little to rest.

Exhausted, charged with renegade momentum, Donnie flashed on Senator Hafbreit. Drake Senior had arranged his murder, he was sure of it.

In the moments of human reaction to oddities, the Suave Facilitator had disappeared and the three appeared to be alone in the bungalow. Would there be giant vehicles filled with modernist goons parked a hundred yards down the street, another outside the guardbox outside the gated beach community? Would the guardbox be hit by the VC? Or did he wonder that later…

‘Good, I’d like to hear it. Can I have something to drink?’

‘Tullamore Dew?’

‘I guess you know something about me.’

‘Yes, lo, of necessity not malice. And I apologize for the intrusion.’

Donnie looked to Drake.

‘If I had thought about it, I guess…but I didn’t.’

Drinks. Low chairs, attentive bodies leaning forward, three men slanting toward each other.

‘There’s little doubt who was behind it, Drake: Dane Frot. Your father encroached on his business every chance he got. They knew each other from Nam, hated each other there.’

‘I know who he is.’

The two looked to Donnie, who shook his head.

‘Ran Blackwater.’


‘Did he ever tell you the Frot Nam story?’


‘Better you hear it. This was 69, when your father was special forces. Frot was special forces, same rank. What they called Vietnamization had begun, though it was more an imminence at the time. For it to succeed, the architects knew two things: the north would have to understand that the time of reason, such as it was, was over. They were dealing with an utter madman who valued his own life and none other and as such would bomb anywhere and everywhere at an intensity greater than ever until the enemy brought acceptable peace proposals to the table. On the ground, lo, the terror would both have to increase and appear to be relentlessly closing in on higher ranking Congminh’s. That was your father’s job, to conceive of and carry out operations that would strike terror, reverberating terror, into the fibre of the enemy. In a way, it wasn’t a hard job. The horrific had long been a fact of that war. The hard part was ratcheting up the horrific. This would require creativity. No cock and balls stuck in the mouths of the dead would do. No tits carved off mothers, no bamboo staved shoved up the cunts of virgins. That stuff was old. The solution was rather obvious. Surprise. They had to get close, closer than the enemy thought possible. This would require action in the north, since security in the south was always lax, duplicity the norm. By the north I don’t mean Haiphong, either—too easy. Escape by boat is always comparatively easy.

‘I don’t tell this story to aggrandize myself, but because the action was in the north, I, who could appear as Vietnamese as Ho Chi Minh and know the languages, was able to move relatively freely throughout the country and was expert at intelligence gathering. I will tell you how this all came about some other time, lo. But suffice to say that north or south, Hanoi or Saigon, the typical Vietnamese looked at me and saw, lo, a hick, a sad, poor peasant of the hills. My height? Given my slender build, my height was generally overlooked. I am no hunchback, nor seized by dwarfism. Allow me to interject one poem, lo:

‘You think you know what is an eye

Your eyes, you think, see

But you think, you think

Do not think, and your navel sees

We look eye to eye

And it is I who does the thinking

It is I who sees

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‘I trust you understand. What I wish to emphasize is my necessary role in these northern conspiracies of terror. Your father, Drake, was a very intelligent warrior. Unlike almost all warriors who fought the Congminh wars, he never, never, lo, underestimated his opponent. As such, in this context, he paid special attention to the best fighters on the enemy side. One of these was a northerner who was one of those who rejected the Hanoi line in the mid-fifties or so, and went south to continue the resistance. He was a master strategist. Ngu Cao. From a village near Hai Duong, a city in the delta halfway between Haiphong and Hanoi. First you must understand that this entire region was red and had been since before the war against the French, probably before World War II. Almost any enemy activity would be conspicuous, but as your father pointed out, at the same time any personal enemy activity would be entirely unexpected. Security precautions would be taken, but the human element of inadvertent, unconscious laxity would also avail. This we could not factor into our plan per se, lo, but we could expect a greater chance of success. Most important of all was intelligence. Periodically, main leaders from the south would be called to Hanoi for general strategy meetings, as before Tet. These we always knew about. More important, we knew that Ngu Cao would send an underling to Hanoi and he himself would visit family in his village near Hai Duong. Our plan, therefore, was to strike a fearsome blow at Ngu Cao and particularly his family when we learned of a great strategy meeting being held in Hanoi in the Spring of 69. Special forces had operatives who could pass for northerners, or were northerners, trained as well as any American. Both your father and Frot would infiltrate the delta with a cadre of five, not including me. As a sniper and intelligence agent, it was important that I never be seen on a mission. But I would be there.

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‘When Ngu Cao had the opportunity to visit his extended family, it was a festive occasion that had to remain quiet, of course. But it was important to him, for in perhaps 14 years he had been home fewer than five times by my calculation. He did not return to the north personally for the planning of Tet. The family gathering would not be held in the village itself for fear of bombing, though I very much doubt that Cao feared that his movements were known. For the most part they were not. We were just lucky that there were certain nodes attaching to him. In the south he was as elusive as a jungle snake. Half a mile from his village, there was a Confucian school just big enough to host his family gathering. The school was in an area of rice paddies, but for a kilometer or so in every direction was surrounded by foliage, a sort of thought environment for the students that was sacred. A dirt path went in and then out of this little jungle. Both entrances or exits would be well guarded. How would we get in? How would we get out? Suicide missions are really not so frightening, after all. Guards would also be placed outside the school. The only way was to enter the jungle, making our way through rice paddies, enter the jungle, find the clearing, and exit the other side, without alarming the soldiers guarding the road. Once we assessed the guard situation at the clearing and quietly eliminated them, we would probably cause a great deal of screaming that we could not be sure would be heard but had to assume would be at the entrances to the jungle. We determined that we would have fifteen minutes to carry out our mission before we would have to flee. Your father would lead the mission into the jungle. Frot would lead the covering mission on the other side of the jungle. If we managed to succeed with our mission, we had only a forced march through rice paddy terrain of between 20 and 30 kilometers to reach forested mountains to the northeast, from where we would make our way to the coast to a secluded spot between Ha Long and Quang Ninh, a journey for which we allotted ourselves a week, given the terrain and need for utter invisibility.

‘So Frot really had the easy job. He and his men would choose a spot halfway along the line where jungle met rice paddy and simply wait. If all went well, lo, our team would meet them and we would quietly scamper off, mission accomplished. Frot fucked up. First, he was careless of his position, making toward the jungle not 100 meters from where one end of the road entered, and area swarming with soldiers. Second, he gave us away by tripping onto a dugout on a dike. One of the men shot the soldier inside who had a radio in his hand. At that point, he fled with his men, figuring the entire mission was fucked. His third mistake saved us. He was about ten minutes late.

‘So our group reached the Confucian forest. We made our way to the clearing. Five guards were in front, two in back. Your father and I shot the five in front while two of his men knifed the two in back. No one inside heard a thing. Your father entered alone. In the school were perhaps fifty people. One of them was Ngu Cao, of course. This is terror. Deep, deep, deep inside you home territory, at ease with your family, a white man strolls into your sanctum, and, lo, the end is at hand. Your father walked in alone for effect, but his men soon came in from all sides. Two of them grabbed Ngu Cao. Your father ordered his eyelids sliced off. Then he took a pistol and went from frightened woman and child and whatever range of men, and, lo, he yanked them by the hair and shot them in the brains in front of Ngu Cao. After something between 10 and 20 of such executions, which included the wife of Cao, lo, and your father ordered the slaughter of the rest, followed by the slaughter of both of Cao’s legs below the knee. He personally put at least ten bullets in each leg. Then we took off into the jungle. As we neared the paddy we could hear much shouting, a few rounds fired. Peering through the foliage, we could only see a swarm that was about to turn its fury back toward us. We saw no sign of our comrades. There was nothing to do but work our way back through the jungle, try to avoid the clearing, come out the other side and hope we could leave the way we came. Whichever end of the road these soldiers came from, it was certain those at the other end would be heading toward the school. Remember, lo, we didn’t know if they would hear our automatic fire. They may have already been alerted.

Your father and I stuck together, one of our men was hit and dropped beside me as he ran. The others we lost track of. Presumed dead. We encountered no one, slipped into the paddies, quietly made our way away.

‘Before dawn I found a village I was familiar with, where I was known as a traveler and trader. I was given shelter. Your father hid during the day, spending miserable days in the heat, beset by insects, in bushes where he could never be sure he would not be seen or pissed on. No patrols came through. We hoped and assumed that the enemy was on the trail of chickenshit Frot and his squad. Of course, that settled one matter for us, lo—no escape route. We would have to improvise. We did. We travelled by night, slept by day, stayed in a few villages, and in a couple weeks made the jungle mountains south of Ha Nam.

‘Much later, in Da Nang, your father came across Dane Frot. Frot didn’t know he was at the base and his first involuntary start told your father all he needed to know. He heard Frot out, heard a story not unlike the real one—they were fired on, who knows what happened, figured we heard the firefight, no choice but to hightail it out of there, flanking movements both sides, not a second to lose. How many dead? Lucky group. All survived. None wounded. Frot twisted his ankle and made the forced march on that the whole way, using a bamboo staff for support. Behind a dispensary your father nearly beat him to death. I wasn’t there, and your father sometimes doesn’t tell much detail, besides, lo, I could well enough imagine. And his profile is known for the broken nose. At some point, he tired and the notion entered his mind that Frot need not die then and there. He often told me himself he regrets not finishing him off with his fists. A poem, lo:

‘Left to die

Why inflict this redundancy on me?

I who have slain boredom

I who have slain your demons

I left to die have become your demon

‘That is one of my favorites. I hope you like it, as well.

‘At any rate, now you know the origin of the conflict between Dane Frot and your father. Surely you know much about the competition between the two in recent years, particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan.’

‘Yes, quite a lot.’

Slowly Nordgaard turned his head toward Donnie, his eyes steady in their bloody white globules, as if incapable of independent movement.

‘Does any of this make you uncomfortable?’

‘Not that I know of. Not to any extent that I know of. Perhaps after I catch up on my sleep. I take it that soon I will be made aware of the extent, if any, of danger Drake and I are in.’

‘Yes, lo, that is a question we need to assess. First I would like to describe what I can about the circumstances of the deaths of Drake’s parents.’




‘Drake, they were shot once each in the head from about five hundred yards, from a tree up the hill. It was a high-powered sniper rifle, no point going into the details, but the kind of rifle you don’t miss with, don’t have to be an expert. However, lo, we believe they were marksmen—experts—hired by Frot. Much remains to be understood. The view from the location the shots came from is obscured, by design, by a row of cypress trees. A very narrow gap between two of them from that angle would allow an open view that would allow such shots if the car stopped exactly where it did, so that as each head rose from the car both would barely be within the range of sight. It was as if your father was in cahoots, lo, with his assassins. What is remarkable most of all is that he stopped the car at all, I mean outside the gates, which is something he never did as an elementary security precaution. Guards posted saw the bodies fall. No one heard the bullets. These guards have been questioned and have no idea why your father stopped the car when and where he did. As far as they could determine, there was no reason to do so. There was nothing wrong with the car, with the gate mechanism, which anyway can be controlled from a manned sentry box within the gate if something went wrong with the mechanism in the car. The car is fully bullet proof, so at that point the only thing that could have killed your father was a bomb…unless he stopped the car and got out. If you care to, I can take you there and walk you through it—’


‘Well, what—’


‘Lo, it is something to think about. There is very little else to tell you. The assassins escaped. A car waiting nearby no doubt. That isn’t the kind of neighborhood you can easily move through on foot. Virtually every house has security. The property the assassins were on was vacant and the alarm system disarmed. An elementary job, simple security system. The chance of the killers being identified, captured, etcetera, is very slim. A detective Schneider has been assigned the case and we are in touch. He knew your father and liked him. He is good enough, but this is simply an impossible case to solve. The killers were not local. Likely they trained in Carolina at Frot’s facilities. They probably spent time in Iraq and various other countries. Their resumes would read like many of those of our own people and like dozens of Frot’s. In any case, lo, it is Frot we want, for there is no doubt in my mind that he ordered the assassination. Without a secret tape turning up or something along those lines, a disgruntled employee close to Frot approaching us, say, we have no chance of proving that it was Frot. Therefore, ipso facto, this is really not a matter for the law, but a matter of revenge or revenge foregone.’

‘You asking me a question?’

‘Not right now, but that is the question, and you, as his heir, will be the one to decide. I am prepared to execute your will. And speaking of wills, executing them and such, lo, it is I who have been named executor of your father’s will. Well, lo, and your mother’s will as it turns out, for in this event what he left her he left you. I won’t complicate. Various provision are made in the will for his employees, for their pensions should you decide to dismantle the company, something he foresaw as a possibility given that it was not your line of work and was not likely to be. It is set up to run itself—I would be CEO until a replacement could be decided upon—but he wanted you to feel free to leave it all behind as well. Much of what I have to tell you is not the kind of thing that is found in a will. For instance, he wanted you to know that despite appearances, he was not emotionally attached to the business. Furthermore, as you will see, he did not need the business to earn a living. Your father, your father, lo, formed the company to provide employment for some very difficult to employ friends, comrades in arms…The world became the kind of place in which such companies thrived. When Blackwater became big, your father did all he could to damage it, though with Dane Frot at the helm the company did quite well damaging itself. But, again, the world is the kind of place where such men thrive. Your father delighted in being a thorn in Frot’s ballsack, as he would put it, but he knew that that was all he was, lo, a thorn in a ballsack.’

‘I can certainly hear him saying it.’

‘Lo—Mister Garvin—’


‘Feel free to stay or leave, drink as much as you like. Please feel free and comfortable. You may also ask any questions that arise. Drake has already informed me that you are to be trusted and nothing is to be kept from you.’

‘Does that do me any good?’

‘Comes down to it, Donnie, I think if you’re fucked at all by this you’re already fucked. If you know what I mean.’

‘I do. I’m not concerned. But I do wonder…it’s an obvious thing, but…pardon the cliché, but is this not, this assassination, possibly an inside job?’

‘Long story short, lo, absolutely not. I can explain in detail if you would like.’

‘No no, good enough. Go on.’

‘Your father, having engaged in this business, found delight mostly in getting Frot riled. He often pointed out that it wasn’t fair in that Frot could not in the least disturb your father while at the same time your father was virtually a daily nightmare to Frot. Frot sued when Blackguard was formed, but your father had anticipated that and had the legal question completely locked in before the suit. Not enough colors to go around, and, of course, a blackguard is a blackguard, a thing, a person, it has meaning—how can it reasonably equated with Blackwater? In fact, as your father had his lawyer point out in court, the very name Blackwater was rather senseless in comparison, for as much of the work of the company was in fact guarding…And, surely you know a great deal about the Iraq years. 90% of the contracts Blackwater lost went to Blackguard. Remember the slogans? “Blackguard: Our Business is Security, not Publicity.” “Blackguard: Protection is More Economical than Killing.”’

‘No, that one was mine: “Blackguard: At the Intersection of Safety and Savings”.

‘Right, he chose yours over mine. I remember.’

‘But there were others, several along the lines of yours: “Going About Our Business Quietly So You Can Go About Yours” type of thing…

‘“Criminals Fear Us, They Don’t Work for Us.”’

‘Good one.’

Enough candles had burned out that they light was much the same as the color of Tullamore Dew.

‘I can feel it now,’ Drake said.

‘Can you hold on a bit longer?’


‘Best to get the financial aspects out of the way. Not in detail, but enough so you can begin to give it all some thought.’

Drake’s face reflected the oddity of the request, but amiably so.

Donnie felt now as if his physiology were dependent upon Drake’s.

‘Sure, Nordgaard, go ahead, then.’

‘Where I was headed, lo, was toward stressing that your father did not need the Blackguard business. He was already making a fortune from the military. This is a secret of the state variety, so probably Donnie should leave the room, but I will settle for a sworn…’

‘I promise.’

‘Yes, lo, call it what you may.’

‘Don’t tell anybody. Anyway, Nordgaard, you, sitting here, you’ve casually testified to the fact that my friend’s father is a war criminal many counts over. I have a lot to keep quiet about. And I don’t think I’ll feel morally compelled to disclose any of it. What’s a single state secret to me?’



The quiet imbuing the room was turning the color of Tullamore Dew.

‘Well,’ Drake prodded. ‘I got the war criminal part and I’m still listening, so while we can endure, please get on with the rest.’

‘Yes. Where to start…Why not. Area 51.’

Both young men laughed.

‘Yes, Area 51. Why not. It does exist, you know.’

‘So it is said.’

‘And so it does. Your father has been there more than once. He had a good friend stationed there. I won’t say which branch of the government, but a close friend I also happen to know from Vietnam. He had become a very important, a very powerful person. He was in on the drone project from the very beginning. Your father was up there with him, drinking at Sam’s Bar, lo, and they were going over the drone idea, back in the earliest days, and your father, shooting from the hip, happened to mention that this thing, which as far as anyone had yet conceived would look much like an airplane, ought to be blind, that it would be all the more fearsome were it to be blind—that is, windowless. His friend had made a sketch on a bar napkin and it had windows, and your father quite naturally asked why it needed windows if there was no pilot. And he imagined how it would appear to its victims, the extra bit of terror it would inspire by appearing…further removed from humanity, I suppose you could say, he conceived of a monstrous insect face, which is not so far off what ensued. It was a brilliant idea, lo, and he was credited with the patent, the patent for the windows, or lack of windows. A funny way to make money, really, getting paid, in effect, for something that does not exist: the windows of the drone. I don’t know the math off the top of my head, lo, but you can imagine—the expense of those weapons, and a percentage of each one made. Your father, Drake, was a billionaire. You, Drake, are now a billionaire.’

‘Well,’ Drake drew out his response thoughtfully, ‘I figured I’d have enough to get by.