Thursday, March 10, 2011

Windsong – Breath of Being (Chapter 7 – A Love Supreme)


Being The Beginning Sunday
January 23, 2011


1 The Exchange
Sunday January 30, 2011
2 bildende Kraft
Saturday February 5, 2011
3 Gossamer Wings
Friday February 11, 2011
4 Nemesis Saturday
February 19, 2011
5 Odd Shoes Friday
February 25, 2011
6 al-Rûh
Friday March 4, 2011
7 A Love Supreme
Thursday March 10, 2011
8 The Three Cornered Light
9 Serendipity
10 The Watchman
11 The Upright Way
12 Angels
13 The Cave of Montesinos


14 Idols
15 Nightingale
16 The Perfect Square
17 Haunting
18 The Uncontainable
19 The Ear of Malchus
20 Mauvais Pas
21 Sinan Qua Non
22 Spirit-Level


23 Witness
24 Alcibiades
25 Ney
26 Birdsong
27 The Vanishing Point
28 The Cat Walks
29 The Approximate Likeness of Being

Becalming Unscientific Postscript

Chapter 7

A Love Supreme

“ ‘I love you’ is a phrase one says while knowing
its truth and its untruth simultaneously.”

Victoria Griffin
The Mistress

“Cuando pienso en estas cosas
Doy rienda suelta a mi dollar”

Arvo Pärt
Com Cierva Sedienta

“I opened my mouth, and nothing came out.”

John Coltrane
Antibes, 27 July 1965

Flanagan leans back against the chair and looks at his watch. It’s nearly 5.30pm. He decides that he must go out soon to the local shop to pick up some tonic and soda water. Perhaps ginger-ale as well, he thinks and then wonders what drink is Felicity Fellow’s favourite. He guesses gin or vodka and plans to have enough of it. He also knows he must clean up the apartment and change the sheets on his bed for they smelt of his stale sweat, and smoke and whiskey. More in hope than expectation, he realises, dampening his enthusiasm to make a start on the process. He looks at his watch again. There’s plenty of time, he convinces himself, and there was something he needed to check first. He returns to the computer and opens his own appointments diary file and scrolls down to January 11. He sees his entry:

Phone call from Mac: further info on parchment they uncovered. Note in pencil mentioning Karabatakzade and Book of M. Leon Arsan confirmed as being involved, 1931. What’s his connection to Beatty? Meeting arranged with Rio Dawson for following Monday in Dublin. The 14th. At the Hairy Lemon, 12.30. Meeting with Ismâil, Sahaflar, 7.00 pm.

Flanagan then scrolls back up to the previous entry: Meeting Alanna at Four Seasons. 9.30.

He looks at the words and his hands shake. She had never looked more beautiful; more fired up, he remembers. She had called him out-of-the blue after nearly six months of silence and as she arrived into the hotel foyer it was like the very first time he had seen her, in a village high in the mountains of Corsica. They had been standing beside each other, mesmerised by the weaving procession of San Nicolo. Perhaps it had been the magical atmosphere that surrounded them, but at one point they had been pressed together by the crowd, and their skin touched, bare arm on bare arm, and the electricity flowed.
It still flowed, from him, as they sat down to eat in the hotel restaurant. Alanna, her eyes of opal black framed by flaming red hair, was so alive she’d hardly touched her food, excited by the prospect of getting an interview with General Orhan, to question him about the information, the dossier, she had stumbled upon; the dossier that she had then subsequently hidden away for safekeeping, both afraid and exhilarated by its contents. The dossier she then asked Flanagan to retrieve, as she wanted him to take it out of the country. ‘They are watching me too closely and I cannot take the chance. If I mean anything to you, Jaffa . . . if I meant anything to you, please do this for me,’ she had pleaded. He had hesitated, tried to caution her, told her of Ismâil’s warning earlier in the afternoon and asked her to be careful, asked her to back off for a while. ‘I am a Kurd, Jaffa but this is my Turkey, my reality,’ she shouted at him. ‘Why don’t you go home and close your eyes and heart?’ were her departing, angry words. It was the last time that he would ever hear her voice except for the brief message left on his answering service.

Nobody should see this and certainly not Jack, he thinks, scrolling back down to the entry concerning Mac. It’s too damaging and would be too difficult to explain. Jack Dawson will want answers, he realises, will want to know about how much Mac and he – or he alone – shared responsibility for what happened. I need to be very careful, he thinks, suddenly pressing the delete button and then again when the screen questions him; tries to second-guess him about his decision. Arvo Pärt’s “Com Cierva Sedienta” is playing on the CD and he reads aloud from the sleeve notes,

Cuando pienso en estas cosas:
When I remember these things,
Doy rienda suelta a mi dolar:
I pour out my soul in me.’

Leaning back Flanagan tries to recall exactly what had happened in Istanbul:


Ismâil Ibrahim had a quick look around the, by now, deserted courtyard of the book bazaar before tucking the envelope and portfolio case under his arm and locking the shop door. He then linked his free arm through that of Flanagan and together they descended the small set of steps to exit through the Gate of the Engravers. A biting, cold wind tunnelled down the narrow street.
‘Where shall we eat, Jaffa? I’m very hungry,’ he grunted.
‘You’re always hungry Ismâil,’ Flanagan observed. ‘How about the Rumeli Café across the road from the Hôtel Nomade, where I’m staying.’
‘Why are you staying there? What’s wrong with your new apartment in Beyoglu?’ the bookseller asked defensively.
‘That cousin of yours has no taste and so, I am re-decorating. I have the painters in at present and the fumes give me headaches. I only go there at the moment to deal with my mail and telephone messages.’
‘I see. The Rumeli will be fine then. It’s warm in there and it’s a cold evening,’ Ismâil grunted again as he shivered in the bitter wind.
‘I think you’re holding something back from me Ismâil. What is it?’ Jerome asked as they jostled for room on the street with de-camping leather-jacket sellers and homebound students from the nearby university.
‘All in good time, my friend! All in good time Jaffa. Let us eat first. I hate ruining good food with a rushed story,’ the bookseller cautioned as they reached Divanyolu Cadessi and hopped on a tram that would take them the short distance down the hill.

They got off at the Firuz Aga mosque, crossed the tramway-tracked road and walked the short distance up the narrow adjoining Ticarethane Street to the café. Inside there was a roaring fire in the corridor chimney and Ismâil stopped to warm his hands before climbing the narrow stairs to a table Flanagan had reserved for them on the first floor. Once they had ordered their food Ismâil prized open the envelope and extracted a typed manuscript which was different in its binding to the one he had read from earlier. He handed it to Flanagan. It was written in French and dated 6 June 1931.
‘What’s this?’ Flanagan asked as he began to read.
‘I am not entirely sure but I think, based on the manuscript I’ve already translated for you and other information available to me, I think it’s a background story Leon Arsan wrote about Karabatakzade Iskender Aga, and the times he lived in.’
‘I’m not sure. Perhaps it was a way to enhance the value of the document he already had and which he could use to touch on the history of the Book of the Messenger. I suspect he either used it, or planned to use it, as a coded means of inviting interest in the letter of Karabatakzade he already had possession of. I think –’ Ismâil stopped speaking as a plate of stuffed vine-leaves and small grilled fish arrived. He began eating immediately.
‘Does it contain any relevant information?’ Flanagan asked.
‘You tell me Jaffa. Your French is better than mine,’ the bookseller spluttered with a full mouth. ‘I only came across all of these documents five days ago and my efforts were directed to the letter in Ottoman Turkish.’

Flanagan picked at his food as he turned his attention to the typed pages. He read through it once silently before returning to the beginning. ‘It’s written in the first person, almost as if Arsan was trying to imitate the style of the letter.’
‘Or create a forgery, perhaps,’ Ismâil added as he began his second course, a large chicken-meat kebab. ‘To be translated and written into Turkish later.’
‘Perhaps,’ Flanagan agreed.
‘What does it say Jaffa?’
‘Do you want me to translate it to you?’ Flanagan asked, knowing inevitably the answer would be yes.
Ismâil grunted, his mouth full.
‘Oh, very well! I hope it’s worth it.’
The bookseller shrugged as Flanagan began:

‘I felt like a thief in the night as I moved towards a large storage chest that occupied one corner of the small workshop attached to the Köprülü library. I had not been back in the workshop for nearly a year, and it seemed from the layers of accumulated dust neither had anybody else. I watched as the disturbed particles of dust bellowed up through the beams of early morning light before I slid back the small bolt that secured the chest lid. A memory of happier days in the workshop came back to me and pausing for a moment, a silent prayer escaped my lips for the departed soul of my friend and master, Abazade Effendi.

At that point a cold chill suddenly made the hairs on the back of my neck. Abazade Effendi had been killed by falling masonry, three years previously, at the Panigra bastion of the castle of Candia when he had accompanied his friend, the Great Vizier Fazil Ahmet Pasha Köprülü, on the campaign to finally end the interminable siege of Candia in Crete. Despite his martyr’s death at the site of a glorious victory I regretted that our time together had been far too short. I had grown to love him as a son would a father. Before leaving for Crete, Abazade Effendi had arranged for me to complete my calligraphy training under his own former master, Dervis Ali and I had duly received my iscadet diploma. Our association also had other benefits as Dervis Ali was also a great archer and had welcomed me into the Archer’s tekke near the Ok Meydani, the Field of the Arrows. It was the comradeship of the lodge that determined my decision about my future following the death of Abazade Effendi.

Because of the friendship of the Vizier Fazil and Abazade Effendi, the Vizier, on his return from Crete, offered me either the custodianship of the Köprülü library or the position of an Aga in his own personal guard. I knew by then that I would prefer the company of soldiers to the isolation of the library and had willingly accepted the captaincy. I truly enjoyed being a soldier and prayed daily that my friend and master in paradise would not judge me too harshly for turning my back on the glory of the letters to wield a bow instead . . .

By now I had an increasing sense of danger in the deserted workshop, as if someone was watching. I leant down into the chest and extracting a thick bundle of parchment leaves that were tied together with a string of cotton. Then, after ensuring once more that I was still alone in the workshop I lifted a false panel that disguised a secret compartment in the bottom of the chest. From here I removed a thick leather-wrapped parcel before replacing the panel and closing the chest. Moving quickly to another container on a nearby bench, I left down the parchment leaves and the parcel and selected four reed shafts from the upright clay pot to fashion the pens for my work. I knew that these particular reeds had been buried in dung for up to two years and as I rolled them between my fingers, admired the burnished colour and felt their hardness. I also knew that like the reed shafts I too had grown hard; in the dung heap that was the political manoeuvring of the Sultan’s court. Abazade Effendi had often warned me of this possibility and how, I wish now, I had listened and learnt the lesson better.

“This is long enough and smooth enough for a flight arrow,” I whispered while admiring one of the reeds and looking down its length. A dove disturbed by my voice hopped along his ledge. I smiled at the bird’s unease as I felt it also. The sense of unease was everywhere in the empire. People were cautious. The Sultan Mehmed Han, known as Avci, the Hunter, had recently issued a ferman, from his encampment at Larissa, ordering that his own half-brothers, those that remained imprisoned in the cage of the palace harem, were to be executed by strangulation with a silken rope. To me, although I did not agree with the killing of the innocent princes, it was not an altogether unexpected demand of the Sultan. He was just continuing the practice of his predecessors in removing rivals to the throne, particularly when his own queen, Gulnus, had given birth to a surviving son. Others, were not so understanding. Over 40,000 of Istanbul’s citizens gathered on the Ok Meydani to object to the order being carried out. I knew however that it had been the Sultan Mehmed’s own mother, the Valide Sultana Turhan, who had seduced the Janissary Aga and who, with his help, had incited a group of Janissaries to storm the palace and free the princes. The Viziers thorough and secret police anticipated this plan and the Janissaries were captured.

I reflected on how I had executed these men on Vizier Fazil’s orders, impaling them without hesitation. I watched them die slowly at first and then quickly as the sharpened bamboo stakes had finally penetrated from their bowels to their hearts. “They were misguided and stupid,” I murmured as I ran my finger over the ends of the reed shafts to test their strength. “To listen to the entreaties of a woman.” I reflected for a second before thinking, but no more stupid than I. I never had had much time for the love of a woman as my needs could, and were, satisfied by readily available slave boys and the intermittent bounty of a victorious campaign. But that had all changed a year previously, when I saw Roxanna for the first time and standing there alone in the library workshop, all danger seem to be forgotten as I closed my eyes and thought of those of my beautiful Roxanna and how my heart had leapt when she had finally agreed to elope with me from the house of the Sultana Sporcha, a house where the slave-girls were picked for their grace and beauty and forced to dance and entertain paying guests of the Sultana. I remembered the very moment when Roxanna told me she was carrying our child and the joy I felt coursing through my entire being when she gave birth to our son, a fine son called Kasim, now ten weeks old. Our love has also brought great pain and danger, as the Sultana Sporcha was still looking for her missing slave. Nobody must know where she is hidden, from the clutches of that devil-woman.

Leaning against the chest I sighed as I pondered on the power of a Sultan’s command. How it would be to have that power. Reaching into my pocket I recovered a scroll of paper, which had lain hot against my chest. This was the berat or imperial order that had arrived from Larissa yesterday. Unravelling the scroll as I held it up to the light, I once again admired the stylised turgha seal of the Sultan that adorned the top of the letter and which incorporated the words:

"Shah Mehmed Han, son of Ibrahim Han, the ever victorious."

To one side of the turgha, in a decorated window, written in the Sultan’s own hand, was the hatt-I humayun order of the sultan:

"Let my illustrious decree be put into effect; beware of opposing it."

I felt my heart miss a beat. “Do you hear that little dove?” I whispered. “A message in the Sultan’s own hand to me, Iskender Sidanli: Let my illustrious decree be put into effect: beware of opposing it. You won’t oppose it, will you small bird?” I laughed as I began to read the scroll again, the writing in the main of formal celi divani style of one of the court calligraphers, and a poor calligrapher at that:

"We confirm on Karabatakzade Iskender Aga Sidanli, the tax-collecting rights previously granted to Abazade Effendi from his properties in the Bergos district. Furthermore, we do hereby commission from the same Karabatakzade Iskender Aga Sidanli, a student of the renowned calligraphers Abazade Effendi and Dervis Ali, whose work pleases Us greatly, and who is also a captain of Our champion, Sadrazam Kopruluzade Fazil Ahmed Pasha’s archers, to execute a hilyeler with the description of the glorious Prophet Mohammed by his son-in-law, Ali. The work shall be done on the finest parchment stained with the colour of pomegranates and bound in the leather of calf. Monies shall be provided from Our treasury for the purchase of first wash lapis lazuli blue and the finest yellow and green gold leaf to adorn the beauty of the words. It shall be executed in the sulus and nesih scripts and if this work is pleasing to Us and to Allah then further tax-collecting rights will be grant – " ’

‘Let me look at that!’ Ismâil interrupted.
Flanagan passed over the paper and watched the bookseller examine the writing while picking at some of his food. ‘What do you think, Ismâil?’
‘I have no doubt that this is a made up story but it is almost certainly based on original source material. Material that is now gone unfortunately.’
‘Why do you say that?’
‘It would have been together. Never mind. Finish your reading.’ The old bookseller shrugged as he handed the sheet back.
Flanagan obliged,

‘The berat had been dated almost a month previously and I knew that I would need to get working on the commission soon. “But not today, little dove, not today! Too much to do,” I murmured while picking up the bundle of parchment leaves, the leather bound parcel, and the reeds from the chest lid.

The following day was the day when all the best archers would hold a competition on the Ok Meydani and I was determined to gain the embroidered silk for the longest flight. My arm had never been stronger. My abide monument stone would mark the Field of Arrows with the prowess of that arm and I would be this year’s champion. It was my destiny. ‘After that nobody will oppose me! Today I will be your champion, my sweetest Roxanna and together we will find Paradise,’ I whispered while taking one last look at the workshop. I needed to hurry as a boat was waiting to take me up the Golden Horn. I needed to prepare my arrows.” ’

Flanagan stopped reading, pushed away his plate of uneaten food and lit a cigar. He didn’t feel hungry.
‘Not much there so far,’ Ismâil volunteered.
‘No. The rest of it is much of the same.’
‘You don’t know that. There might be clues. Go on Jaffa, my friend!’ Ismâil encouraged.
He began reading aloud again,

‘On the following day, the afternoon sun had moved to my back by the time I had climbed up the steep hill from the jetty at Kasimpasa. As I reached the steps of the shooting platform there was a favourable wind coming from the sea to gently lick the flags that fluttered in the courtyard of the archer’s tekke, high on the hill at the southern end of the Ok Meydani. Ahead, on the gently rising plain I could just make out the monument stones of previous years champions. The target for this year’s competition was to be the Puta-Tobra idol to the northeast. The target lay about . . .'

What are these idols the letter mentions?’ Flanagan asked pointing out a word on the typescript to Ismâil.
‘Ah I see,’ the bookseller nodded. ‘The puta-tobra. In reality the puta-tobra was one of three statues taken from a Christian church by Fatih in 1453, after he captured the city, and then set up in the Ok Meydani as a target for archery practice. Go on!’
‘Right,’ Flanagan said,

‘...the target lay about 1200 gez away on the small hill that overlooked the Piyale Pasha mosque. Looking around at the remaining men on the platform I knew my turn would soon arise and so it was time to select my equipment and do the pisrev exercises to prepare my arm and concentration.

My bow was smaller than those, which I use for warfare, measuring between its nocks, the distance from my right armpit to the tips of the fingers of my outstretched left hand. It was a composite reflex bow, the core of the three sections made of maple and Cornelian cherry. The belly and handle had an overlay of birch wood and buffalo horn but giving its strength were the pasted layers of battered sinew of wild deer using the fish glue made from the mouth lining of Danube sturgeons. This particular bow had been seasoned for a year before the tillering and stringing took place and now as I checked its strength and flexibility was happy that the heating in the conditioning box for the previous four days had achieved its desired dryness. The shoulders or kasans of the bow were decorated on the inner side with taliq script calligraphy of my own. On the upper one I had inscribed "Would that this arrow burn itself in the heart of Omar," and on the lower, a favourite quote of Abazade Effendi from al-Bistami: "al-kamil al-tamm – the perfect and complete". The silk woven string was taut against my pull and nodding my head, both in homage and satisfaction, I slung the bow over my shoulder and headed for my place. I was content with its suitability. The bow was, in our family’s language, a keman kajani, or a strong bow.

I could see Abdul, my servant, whom I had sent on ahead earlier that morning, rushing towards me. Abdul was a mute but we communicated in the sign language of the mutes that I had learnt in Fazil Pasha’s household. He was excited. He informed me that my main rival had shot 1030 gez so I knew I would have to be at my best. I chose three arrows, all of which were made of pine, measured half the length of the bow and had carved tips of bone. I next tested the resistance of the nocks which were made of antelope horn and which ensured that the string would be held. Two of the arrows had flights made of eagle feathers but for the third I had decided to use a little of the parchment I use for calligraphy. When this particular arrow flew it whistled, the sound made by the air flowing through holes drilled in the tip. This was a chaush or messenger arrow adapted for the test of distance. A small drill of gold had been inserted near the nock to change the balance and as I tasted the wind I knew that this arrow would be my champion.

Soon it was time. I walked slowly to the firing mound. The wind rustled in the nearby trees. It felt a little more humid than it had been previously and I knew then that its direction was swinging to the southeast. Unslinging the bow I chose the chaush arrow and rested this in the grooved silar arrow guide that was strapped to my left arm. Slowly I gripped and un-gripped the belly until comfortable with the hold. My hands were dry. I nocked the arrow on the silk string and gradually drew back on the string with the siri-mahi zihgir or thumb mounted draw ring made from a shark’s tooth. When the string reached my right ear the arrow tip no longer was visible at the belly but lay withdrawn inside the silar. My left arm held rigid as I fought against the power of the bow and the urge to release. The watching crowds quietened, but I waited and waited.

I knew it would come. A slight squall ruffled the hairs at the base of my neck and I understood. Rotating about fifteen degrees to take aim at the solitary western wall minaret of the Piyale Pasha mosque in the valley below I then raised the elevation until satisfied with the angle. The squall was now lifting the thin cotton strips woven at right angles into the silk thread. Suddenly I knew it was the right time, my thumb released and the arrow flew from its hold. The string sang and the soaring arrow whistled in its assent. "Fly kalam! Fly my messenger. Fly on the back of Allah’s breath," I whispered as I watched the arrow soar higher and higher into the sky before it finally crested to begin its descent. This was not as abrupt as the people around me expected and the arrow seemed to take wings and glide further and further into the distance. The crowds began cheering as they saw the destar bozmak or signal turban being thrown in the air to indicate the arrow has landed safely and its distance could be measured. Ten minutes later Abdul came running breathless up the hill waving his hands. For most of the crowds these were just the wild movements of excitement but for Abdul and me they were a voice, a language. 1090 gez was the signal . . .

I knew then that I was the champion. For a moment I thought of how this feat would bring great honour to me, to the archer’s lodge and to my regiment but then I thought of Roxanna, my beautiful Roxanna. She would be waiting for me in our secret place and tonight our pleasure would know no limits. I smiled broadly and bowed to the cheering onlookers before accepting the embroidered handkerchief of the victor. I also made sure that Abdul had retrieved the arrows and bow of my glory before turning and melting into the departing crowds that now streamed away from the Ok Meydani…’

Flanagan’s voice tailed off. A silence descended and hovered over the two men.
‘What is it, Jaffa?’ The bookseller asked, his voice edged with.
‘It finishes at that point,’ he eventually, and unnecessarily, said as he signalled to the waiter, ordering a beer for both of them.
Ismâil declined in favour of a coffee.
‘What are gez measurement units?’ Flanagan asked as the beer arrived. He pulled out a small Turkish-English dictionary he always carried in his pocket and searched for the word. ‘It says here gez means a plumb-line or back-sight.’
‘Now it does but in the old days it was a measurement, like a cubit, and was, as far as I understand, about five feet or two paces, just short of a yard and three-quarters,’ Ismâil explained.
‘Impressive arrow flights,’ Flanagan observed as he calculated the distance.
‘Yes,’ the bookseller agreed. ‘Some of the abidesi, the old competition monuments on the Ok Meydani, record distances of 1000 gez or more. Poetic licence I suspect, measured as a walking distance up and down the hills of the Ok Meydani rather than as the crow flies over a flat piece of ground! As far as I know modern tests with old Turkish bows suggest a flight distance of about 850 yards.’
‘Not much help for our problem,’ Flanagan said after pausing to sip his beer.
‘No. At least no clues to its likely whereabouts that I can sense of.’ Ismâil shook his head in a disappointed fashion but then smiled. ‘However . . .’ He pulled another typewritten page from his pocket and handed it across.
‘What is –’
‘Read it. It’s the final page of Arsan’s concoction. I held it back from you as a desert, a portion to be savoured as it were. I think you will find it interesting.’
Flanagan obliged:

‘However, in the blindness of my joy, I did not notice the two green-turbaned azap soldiers, from the garrison of the prison of Rumelia Hisar, who hurried to follow in my footsteps. They –‘

'Shit! Jasus,’ Jerome exclaimed as he stared at the paper. Underneath the typescript was a handwritten note: Silander 402-A, Curragh, October 1998, and the recognisable signature of old Prof Symmonds.
‘Interesting eh?’ Ismâil smiled.
‘No wonder the old bastard wanted me out of there. He was after it himself.’ Flanagan paused and looked at the bookseller. ‘How did you come across this transcript Ismâil? It should be in storage in Dublin.’
‘Let’s say, your friend Professor Symmonds’ accident was almost certainly no accident. This and the earlier document I showed you were recovered from his car before they –’
‘They?’ Flanagan interrupted.
‘You know whom I mean Jaffa. Do not get stupid on me now.’
‘Sorry,’ Flanagan apologised.
‘The documents were in a briefcase that was recovered by a local farmer, who came upon Symmonds’ car in an isolated area, and who then sold on its contents to an antiquities fence, a man I have dealings with on occasions . . .’
‘Jasus Ismâil. This is bloody dangerous ground.’ Flanagan lit another cigar.
‘Very much!’ The bookseller suddenly became wary. ‘Talking of dangerous ground, how did it go with Alanna?’
‘We fought. She stormed off.’ Flanagan said dejectedly.
‘I see. Probably for the best, Jaffa… yes, probably for the best.’ Ismâil looked relieved as he then asked, ‘What should we do about the Book? Where to next?’
‘I don’t know. But . . . Perhaps there might yet be another avenue to explore. An unexpected and strangely coincidental one,’ Flanagan answered, lost in thought.
‘What do you mean?’ the bookseller probed.
Flanagan explained about his earlier phone call from Cormac McMurragh. When he finished the old bookseller smiled. ‘Insha’ Allâh! Insha’ Allâh, my Irish friend. Those documents mentioned might be the original material that Arsan used to create the letter in French you just read out. Probably sent them to Beatty to entice him to consider purchasing the Book of the Messenger.’
‘I wonder if Beatty ever saw it?’ Flanagan pondered aloud as he got up to stretch his legs.
‘What? The Book or the letter your friend has seen in Dublin.’
‘Either, I suppose.’
‘Who knows the secrets hidden in dead men’s hearts?’ the bookseller said, draining the last of his coffee.


A loud knock on the door brings Flanagan quickly back to reality. Its nearly 6.00 pm. He cursed himself for not having cleaned the apartment or for getting to the shop. Felicity Fellows is early, or eager, he hopes, remembering to place the newly released re-mastering of Coltrane’s Love Supreme on the CD player before going to answer the door.
‘Hello,’ he says expectantly before focusing and stepping back in surprise. ‘Jack! Jesus. I wasn’t expecting you so soon.’
‘Disturbing you, am I Flanagan?’ Jack Dawson pushes past him, alcohol fumes wafting in his wake.
‘No. Well yes. I’m . . . someone’s coming in a little while.’ He waits at the door, holding it open.
‘Nooky, huh! You don’t waste time do you, scumbag?’ Jack’s voice is brittle, bitter. Then hard, ‘Who is the unfortunate victim?’
‘Listen, Jack. I’m not in any mood to deal with this now. Nor are you. Tomorrow would be better. Give you time to sober up. Say around 10.00. Ok!’ Flanagan watches the American hesitate for a moment. Unsteady in both emotion and stance.
‘No, prick! We’ll sort it out now.’
‘Fuck off, Jack! Get out,’ Flanagan shouts holding the door open.
Jack Dawson grunts, looks as if he is ready for a confrontation but then seems to think better of it. As he exits past Flanagan through the doorway, the door on the other side of the hallway suddenly opens. Felicity Fellows is standing there, checking on the commotion. Jack Dawson sees her.
‘I hope its not you he’s waiting for, maam.’ He turns and looks back at Flanagan, a sneer ripping his features. ‘Because this . . . this gentleman here is one sorry bastard and will bring you nothing but pain.’
Felicity says nothing but Flanagan sees that her face says it all. They both watch in silence as Jack Dawson tacks his way out the building.
‘A bit worse for wear,’ she says, quietly.
‘Yes. I’m very sorry about that Felicity. Listen! I was just about to pop out to buy some mixers. I will not be long. ’
Her eyes flicker, unsure. ‘About… about tonight, Jaffa. I’m… I’m afraid I will have to cancel. Something urgent has come up. I hope I have not put you to any trouble.’
‘No. I understand. Some other time perhaps?’ he says before adding, ‘We should talk about it Felicity… about what happened.’
‘Yes. We should. Perhaps later in the week? Sorry. I must rush…’ Her voice trails off as she retreats back into her apartment.
‘Sure. Goodnight Felicity,’ he calls out after her.
The door is already closed. Unlikely, Flanagan thinks, closing his own door behind him. The music reverberated from the walls.“I opened my mouth, and nothing came out.” Coltrane said this in Antibes on 27 July 1965, Flanagan remembers; the morning after he had played his tenor sax and a chant-silenced version of “A Love Supreme”.

No comments: