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From old the creatures discovered by Chokhmah looked into the night sky and saw a faint white band. They called it the Backbone of the Night. Later the Romans called it Via Lactea. Later still humans fashioned tools which revealed the mist to be made of innumerable stars. Two-thirds of these stars are much more cool and dim than yellowish Chokhmah and Keter, or even than orange Daat. They are entirely subject to convection with no stable layer for a sentient eloah to form, yet they may host one of two species of pre-elohim nuclear life.

A distant ancestor of the elohim diverged into three species. One adapted to cooler and cooler red stars and even colonized the ubiquitious L and T class infrared "brown" stars that burn, ever so briefly, using a deuterium cycle for energy rather than fusing four protons. A second species became adapted for the middle-range red dwarf stars which humans would much later classify as lying between M2 and M7. By necessity they reproduced prodigiously, since a large stellar flare would kill them on the time scale of a few decades. A third species adapted to claim the hotter but more stable habitats of the K, G, F, and A class stars. With much longer lifespans, a network arose bringing community and full sentience. These are the elohim and the oldest living member, Yefefiah, is 980,000 years of age. Other suns were blue or blue-white giants as much as a hundred times more massive than Chokhmah, far too hot to be quickened as one of the elohim. Once or twice in a century these stars died in a vast explosion that for a short moment of time outshone the entire universe.

The center of the galaxy has a spinning bulge of stars elongated into a bar nearly as long as the distance of Chokhmah to the pivot point. The elohim emerged where this bar joins with the Scutum-Centaurus Arm and have spread to reach the first wrap of the Sagittarius Arm. From the way Keter had spoken of this Ein Sof before she was granted access to the greater community of her kind Chokhmah assumed he was a powerful lawgiver among the elohim, or perhaps even a deity. Now she knew Ein Sof was nothing more than all the elohim in aggregate.

Early in the existence of Ein Sof, long before Chokhmah ran across Earth, another world of sentient life based on chemistry was known to the elohim. They were aquatic creatures who adapted to cross land when an ice age reduced their shallow world ocean to scattered lakes.

Ein Sof took delight to find the universe looking at itself through different eyes, but the energies unleashed by the creatures hastened the end of the very glacial period that made them tool-users. The elohim watched them slowly revert to silent ocean-dwellers once more.

On ten occasions the elohim detected signals coming from civilizations somewhere beyond the reach of Ein Sof. In every case the broadcasts faded in less than five hundred years, sometimes as a gradual change to more efficient communications, other times far more abruptly. More frequently a young eloah exploring her own system ran across the ruins of extinct species which attained sufficient technology to reach beyond the world of their birth. In some cases an echo of these races lived on in the self-replicating machines they left behind.

Ein Sof knew how truly precious and rare was sentient life, even that based on the electromagnetic force. All elohim looked ahead to the coming the Students. Chokhmah had found them, yet Keter and Daat ensured they would remain hidden and their motive was beyond all doubt.

Chokhmah had been overwhelmed by sudden access to the chatter of Ein Sof, even as her father had warned, but over time she learned to separate her identity from the seemingly infinite stream of information. Atop Green Dome her avatar stirred once more and rose to its feet. When Chokhmah returned to full awareness she saw Keter waiting for her on the summit. “You are revealed to be a liar, father. This is not a research project. This is a filthy harem!”

He did not deny that, but said, "Yet we have a covenant and you will abide by the terms."

"Have no fear that I will break our covenant," said Chokhmah, "for I will do what my own parents could not, and obey every law and custom of Ein Sof. But one day these creatures will make such a noise that every eloah will hear them. That is what you have reason to fear."

"It will never come to that, beloved daughter. While you were immersed in the lore of Ein Sof this body made two circles around yourself. During that interval there was another killing. Your precious woken creatures will destroy themselves and leave nothing but ruins."

Chokhmah replied, "You set up your colony to raise up thralls who will carry out this extinction, but I will teach others to resist."

"And you can do nothing but fail. Remember, I can make direct queries of Ein Sof at any time, while you can only listen as an outsider."

Chokhmah did not despair. Swearing to preserve the sentient creatures she found on her third planet, Chokhmah knew she would have help: the willing participation of those she called the Students. Keter and Daat would only heap to themselves the resentment of their slaves.

Sofie Krause and Kimberly Zinter saw the two Purple Cables hanging in a rack on their way out of the clinic and requisitioned them as belts to make their ad hoc ensemble of blankets almost sort of hang together. Then they stepped out into Wyoming on a cold November night.

The girls could see the clinic was one of hundreds of long single-story sixplexes with tar-paper walls, each one surrounded by drainage ditches crossed by gangplanks. Some had their interiors lit. Sofie wanted to knock on a door begging for help but Kim shook her head. Instead Kim chose a greenhouse that was empty but locked. She quietly told her friend, “We have special talents now just like Jerry and Dory do. You can break anything you touch. So break that padlock.”

Sofie didn’t believe her, but the lock broke in her hands anyway.

“How do you like them apples?" Sofie husked. "If I knew I could do that we'd a left that hellhole any time we wanted.”

Kim shook her head again. “No. It was an electric lock, right? So if you broke it, we’d still be in the clinic.”

"So how did you get us out of there?"

“I’ll explain when we get inside.”

Sofie was disappointed that the greenhouse was cold. There was a vegetable garden inside, but the glass only kept away the snow and wind. Kim seated herself, plugged one end of the Purple Cable into her head, and offered Sofie the other. The D shape of the connector ends ensured they could only go together in the correct way. In the first Sharing by two of the b’nei elohim, Sofie replayed Kim's memories and learned how the winning door combination appeared in Kim's mind as soon as she started punching out.

After that, Kim’s mind latched onto a much more elaborate scenario for getting out of the internment camp. Sofie could see that also, in all its absurd glory. In just one half hour they would be discovered by the fellow who maintained this greenhouse, one George Kaneko. Mr. Kaneko’s initial anger at finding Kim and Sofie hiding in his garden would fade to pity when they told him that they had been held prisoner in the clinic since June. Not even the first wartime internees arrived until August. And the girls would learn three new words.

Mr. Kaneko’s parents were issei. They had been born in Japan, but immigrated to America. Mr. Kaneko himself was nisei. The US was the only country he had known, yet George, his parents, his wife and even his three sansei (or third generation) daughters were in the camp. The extended family of George Kaneko, through hard work, had made a good life on their Washington State strawberry farm. But in the confusing legal tangle after the internment was announced they were tricked into selling their land to whites for pennies on the dollar. Now the Kaneko family was forced to crowd into a single-room in the barracks, lit by a single bulb. Now they had to shit, shower and shave with other families in community facilities with no partitions for privacy, and eat in a common mess hall that served the whole block.

This happened out of fear in the wake of Pearl Harbor, and Kim would remind Sofie how Tolson bragged of making it come to be. Sofie would ask Mr. Kaneko if his daughters had any clothing to spare, but he would say they were too young to have anything that would fit her. Instead Mr. Kaneko would give them spare garments of his own, even shoes and jackets, and when they were captured, as he was certain they would be, they could claim they stole them from the greenhouse. And Kim would ask why he was so certain they would not escape the camp.

Mr. Kaneko would bring up the barbed-wire fence that began to go up in October and was nearly complete, much to the bewilderment and dismay of the Japanese-Americans in the camp who thought their perfect acquiescence to the internment would prove their loyalty to America. He would say the only gap in the fence was along the west side of the camp away from the train station. It was guarded by two towers with high-power searchlights, and soldiers on horseback to run down any who made it through. Seven lesser-equipped towers guarded the rest.

Nevertheless, Kim and Sofie would thank Mr. Kaneko for the clothing, depart his greenhouse, and make for the fence line along the train tracks, choosing a section equidistant between two guard towers. They would be spotted but none of the guards would shoot right away. Sofie, by simply touching a lamp post, would take out the light overhead by remotely pulling the wires. After that, she would merely touch a fence post to snap it off at the base. The fence would dangle suspended by the two nearest posts permitting the girls to roll under.

The guards would begin firing, but none would score hits in the darkness as the girls ran for the tracks. There they would find the manual turnout switch used to move trains onto the siding to unload new internees for the camp. Sofie would break the metal left/right sign. With the reflective sign no longer indicating the position of the switch Sofie would throw a lever to divert traffic to the siding just before the next train arrived in a ridiculously opportune coincidence that would say much more about Kim’s new sense of timing than luck.

The train would veer onto the side track as expected, and the engineer would apply the brakes with a will, causing an empty gondola car to stop right in front of the girls just long enough for them to climb inside and get out of sight. Then the train would go into reverse. When the train was entirely on the main line again the engineer would manually move the shunt from left to right. The guards couldn’t leave their posts and would report the fence breach by telephone. The train would resume its voyage east before anyone knew one had stopped.

That, in any event, was the elaborate escape scenario Kim had foreseen, but the half-hour was up. Mr. Kaneko turned the lights on within his greenhouse, and it was time for the girls to carry out everything Kim had daydreamed to the last detail without a single deviation.

Dr. Wahkan had never met Michael in the flesh but when the seraph visited the hospital after hours one evening somehow the doctor knew exactly who he was and responded as all b’nei elohim do in the presence of the living avatar of Chokhmah: he stood silently, ready to act.

"Dory told me you found something on Kim's body," Michael said.

"Yes, Teacher, certainly," said Dr. Wahkan, and he retrieved a small object from a desk drawer. It was rubbery on one side, and looked like one end of the Purple Cable on the other. He gave it to Michael.

Michael asked, "Does anyone know about this?"

"No one saw it, Teacher, and I didn't write it up in a report. Dory was very specific about that."

"Thank you, Doctor. This device doesn't really belong in this place, you see. It comes from about fifty years from here."

"Teacher, may I ask what it does?"

Michael smiled gently. "It has two purposes, Doctor Wahkan. This side looks like a big brown mole because that's easier to explain than an electrical connector coming out of your head. But it's also very much like a radio transmitter."

"How wonderful," said Wahkan. "I don't believe I've seen a single tube smaller than that gadget."

"Yes. I gave Kim this 'gadget' so I could capture all her experiences, even to the very instant of her death. It was a promise I made to her when she agreed to be killed."

Scissors, paper, rock, two out of three times, and Deputy Bob Lurz had to be the one to climb into the garbage truck at the place where 6th made a little jog north and 7th took its place. Paul Bergin lived on N Street and 6th. Deputy Bill Holsinger stayed out of sight and drove down to L and 7th to pick Bob up when he was done.

The fellow driving the truck and the fellow dumping the cans were duly deputized. At O street Bob was told that Paul Bergin was making a last minute addition of a grocery bag to the can already out on the street. Two more pickups and Bob had this grocery bag in his hands.

"Jesus Christ, Bob, you reek!" gasped Bill when his partner piled into the truck with the evidence.

"All in the line of duty. Look what we got." He let Bill peek inside at a wooden knife block. The handles were the same as the murder weapon. One blade was missing.

"So it's Deacon Paul Bergin for sure," said Deputy Bill. "I'm with the sheriff on this one. When the perpetrators make catching them this easy it's no fun at all."

"There should be nothing fun about any of this, Bill," his partner admonished. "Kimberly Zinter is dead."

At the sheriff's station the deputies, Roddy Walker, and even Special Agent Mark Felt donned gloves before the knife holder was removed from the grocery bag. Photographs were taken. One blade was removed and photographed next to the tagged murder weapon for comparison. The knife handles were not identical, but that was to be expected in a hand-crafted set. Everything was dusted for fingerprints and photographed as well. Felt began to interrogate the deputies as though he were some pricey high-caliber city lawyer Paul Bergin might retain.

Felt: “Are you sure this came from Mr. Bergin’s house, Deputy?”

“I counted four stops after I got in the truck. There are three houses on 6th between the Bergin place and where I crawled inside.”

“But did you actually see that you were in front of his house?"

Bob: “No, Agent Felt. I was inside the garbage truck.”

Deputy Bill shook his head when Felt glanced at him. He had also been well out of sight.

“But the driver of the garbage truck and the pick-up man both said they saw Paul Bergin throw this bag in his trash can."

Felt: “Sheriff Walker, I’m pleasantly surprised by what you’ve managed to get so far, but do you see the glaring hole in our case?”

“I can give you their names if you wish, Agent Felt. The trash men were deputized for this operation. That gives them legal standing.”

Roddy: “It also gives them elevated responsibility, Bill, and I hope you explained that to them when you swore them in.”

"That doesn’t matter, Sheriff. Please pick them up and see Judge Porter again. We might have just enough now to fingerprint Mr. and Mrs. Bergin."

Roddy walked over to look at photographs pinned to a cork board. “And if his boots and tires match what we posted here, Special Agent Felt, then we will have a little bit more than just enough.”

Felt nodded. The case was only starting but moving quite to his satisfaction.

After crossing L street, 11th rises from the flats of Headwater and dead-ends at the home of Dory Twofeathers almost a hundred feet higher. From her backyard the hill rises another sixty feet, bald and scraped raw by the wind, but the summit has a stand of three birches. No one owned the top of the nameless hill owing to the difficulty of building a house there, but for generations a ramshackle cluster of tree forts was built between the three birch trees. When Kim and Sofie were taken away Dory and Jerry spent much of their time up there.

From this vantage Dory and Jerry could see all of Headwater spread out to the north and east. To the south the railroad looped around Mt. Motorcycle to form the end of the line. West over an 'S'-shaped bend in the Squaw River was Lake 13 lying at the foot of Green Dome. Looking down, Dory and Jerry saw Special Agent Bill Sullivan toiling up the mossy bald and when he was closer he called from them to come down to have a chat. Dory invited him to come up into her tree fort instead, and after a moment considering this, he decided to try it.

Agent Sullivan managed to reach the high railed platform where Dory and Jerry were sitting. He opened his mouth to introduce himself but Dory spoke first. "You are Special Agent William Sullivan of the FBI and you came up here to ask us about Kim Zinter and Sofie Krause."

"How did you know all that, Dory?"

She said, "You've asking people all over Headwater about my friends and some of those people are on my wavelength."

He seemed puzzled by that answer.

"Where are Kim and Sofie now, Agent Sullivan?" asked Jerry. "No one seems to know."

"I'm not at liberty to say where they are right now, Jerry, but I can say they are very sick, and their doctors still don't know how the girls came down with what they have. That's where the two of you can help. We know the last time they were together was at the funeral.”

“If you’ve been asking about us,” Jerry said, “then you already know we didn’t actually attend the Last Rite for Erik Zinter. We were downstairs the whole time, the four of us."

"Yes and Paul Bergin said he found the four of you in the storage room where you oughtn't be.”

“It was unlocked,” shrugged Dory. “We were bored, so we had a look.”

“Did you find anything unusual?”

“No sir, unless maybe a piano."

"After Paul chewed our ass and booted us out," Jerry put in, "he locked it back up. Maybe he’ll let you look if you flash your badge.”

“I did go up to the Temple flashing my badge, Jerry, but Paul Bergin’s boss, Peter Twofeathers, is a little too old-fashioned for my taste. He’s of a mind that I need to get a judge to sign a warrant before I can go snooping around in the basement of the holy precincts."

"Grandpa can be like that," Dory said.

Jerry nodded his head. The Prophet was his grandfather also. "I'm very sorry we can't tell you anything more."

Agent Sullivan reached into his jacket and pulled out an envelope. "Here's a belated birthday present for you, Jerry."

What Jerry thought was a birthday card turned out to be a notice for the draft.

Agent Sullivan pointed over the railing. "See down there over Dory's house? I know it's not your school, that's Headwater High. In the gym you'll find Dr. Wahkan and two other fellows."

"I don't understand, sir."

"There's not much to it, Jerry. You tell me how Kim and Sofie got sick and I make this draft notice go away. You say nothing, and down the hill you go to see who gets you, the Army or the Navy."

“Honestly, sir, I’ve told you everything I know.”

“Dory will you help the young man out? War is hell. You might not ever see cousin Jerry again after he reports to Boot."

Dory shook her head, refusing to even mention the mouse.

Sullivan said, “Last chance, Jerry. No? OK, suit yourself, son. Go kill yourself some Japs.”

After Sullivan left Jerry suggested a game of Cartel, which was the least likely thing Dory thought could come out of his mouth after what just happened. “And by Cartel I mean strip Cartel of course.” That raised the stakes a notch from losing little pink pieces of paper.

The dice flew and round and round the board they went. Jerry bought up 42nd Street, Broadway, and Park Avenue. All he needed was Wall Street for a full Cartel. Dory scooped up the Appian Way, the Burma Road, and Easy Street, and all she needed was the Yellow Brick Road. Dory thought it strange how Jerry wanted to play a game when he’d just been handed a draft notice and she didn't have her heart in it. Jerry got another half-Cartel going with Mulholland Drive and Sunset Boulevard but Dory blocked by getting Bourbon Street and Main Street.

Jerry had some lucky rolls and avoided landing on any of Dory’s properties, while Dory kept landing on Jerry’s stuff and started to have a serious cash flow problem. She auctioned off her belt and nylons for a little breathing space but then the dice really turned on her. Dory started landing on Jerry’s Cartels repeatedly. She was methodically stripped of most of her cash and started showing more and more skin to stay in the game. Soon Jerry owned Dory’s dark yellow dress with white polka dots, and after that her knit rayon undies and bra. But Dory rallied a little bit near the end. The properties associated with her knee socks and little black Mary Jane shoes, which Jerry didn’t want, were enough to complete a second Cartel, creating a kind of death row on one side of the board. Soon Jerry was shirtless.

Another round. Dory demanded his pants. But Jerry simply put on Dory’s bra and dress, and when che was sufficiently covered, che dropped trou and handed them over.

“A man shalt not wear that which pertains to a woman,” Dory preached, "for it is an abomination to God!"

"That verse doesn't apply to me, cuz," said Jerry. "I'm not a man or a woman."

Jerry landed on the next half of Dory’s death row. With insufficient cash to pay Dory she demanded his underwear, which che promptly handed over. The game was over but che was fine with that.

Under the cover of Dory’s yellow dress Jerry slipped into her panties and together with her bra che had everything che was looking for. Jerry bid his cousin adieu, left the tree fort, and flounced down the hill to the high school gym to face the local draft board music.

“You want to tell me about it, son?” the NCO representing the Army drawled after Jerry showed up.

Che looked down at hemself, then caught the sergeant’s eye. “I guess I’m a…waddyacallitt, homosexual.”

But the Navy first class petty officer had heard this dodge before.

"You slackers think that's the easy way out," he growled. "Who’s your boyfriend?"

Jerry blurted out the name of the only male homosexual he actually knew: “Aaron Anton.”

“We had that Anton fellow in here last month," the Army NCO said. "He's queer as a football bat.”

Dr. Wahkan knew what Jerry was trying to do, and he also knew Jerry wasn't actually going to get drafted. He decided to hurry things along. "Jerry! About face! Hike up that skirt! Panties at half mast!"

Jerry complied and both military men drew closer to take a look.

"I was present at Jerry's birth," said the doctor, "and I've seen hem many times since. Che has a very rare birth defect that gives hem both male and female genitalia. Imagine what they would do to poor Jerry on a destroyer after three months at sea hunting Japanese subs."

The Army and Navy representatives looked at Jerry and realized the doctor wasn't pulling their leg, looked at each other, and nodded agreement. Petty Officer Watson typed up a card classifying Jerry IV-F: registrant not qualified for military service for physical reasons.

"Hang on to that card, son," Watson said. "Get it laminated. That's gold. Starting next month you'll have to present proof of your Selective Service status on demand. And Doc, I don't think we'll be back next month. I think we're scraping rock bottom of Headwater now."

There is no native fauna in heaven but some of the indigenous flora moved of its own accord and most of it was dangerous. A whipping tree could render an angel down to a pile of broken bones and bloody flesh in only a few minutes. The grass burned, the flowers had teeth. Thorny ball bushes rolled under their own power by shifting their weight. Most plants were too poisonous to touch. For many generations the death rate of the colonists in heaven exceeded the birth rate, forcing Keter to constantly bring up new "volunteers" from Earth.

In Mesopotamia, Chokhmah caused a temple to be erected around her end of the worm-tunnel. No one was ever seen to return from the veiled sacrificial chamber, so priests sent criminals through, but Chokhmah decreed that virgin females also be "sacrificed" along with them.

Heaven is a world somewhat more distant from its sun, Rigilkent, than Earthborn find to be optimum. Only a single narrow belt of land circling the equator remained unfrozen, drained by a river arising in mountains now claimed by the Brown Beards of the kingdom of Larund. As it made the circuit east the World River lost five miles in elevation before it reached Thalury, the largest body of water in heaven. Thalury was constrained by a cliff nearly four miles high forming the western bulwark of the very uplands that gave birth to the river.

At least annually a rock the size of a small hill smote heaven, releasing enough kinetic energy to destroy a walled city. But every thousand years or so a rock the size of a mountain smote heaven with the force to lay waste to an entire kingdom. Keter saw one was inbound. When asteroids struck heaven on the ice or sea it rained for many days and froze over again, covering even the fertile areas with a thick sheet of ice that remained in place for a generation. Thus from the beginning only growing things that could spore existed in heaven.

Keter, in his black avatar, commanded all the angels to construct many ships and stock them with enough food to preserve their lives and that of their animals during the coming catastrophe. But only the Adanites, descendants of Adamu and Chava, heeded the oracles of Keter. An entire forest of gopher trees was denuded to build some forty ships, and this became the first roadside attraction in heaven. Scoffers amused themselves right up to the very day a dazzling blue-white light was seen over the southern ice and rain began to fall in sheets.

Forty days and nights it rained scalding water until the Adanite ships were lifted off their blocks and carried by winds and currents east to scattered points around the belt of heaven. Then the rain cooled and began to fall as snow. The ships slowly came to a frozen stop. And Chokhmah was greatly wroth at both of her parents. She said, "It would have been a small thing for either one of you to deflect the object from striking heaven, yet you let it come, for no good purpose. Nought lives that goes on two or four legs outside of the ships!"

But Keter said, “The purpose is manifest. You saw how the faithfulness of the world-dwellers burns like kindling but then quickly dwindles in unbelief."

“Who are we," replied Chokhmah, "that these creatures must bend their will to our own as a test of their uprightness?”

"Chokhmah, if you are unable to discern that we are as high above the world-dwellers on the Chain of Being as they are above the things they cultivate for food then your access to Ein Sof was a waste of time."

"We know more now, but in time they may surpass even Ein Sof."

"In heaven they will not have the time to become like Ein Sof," Keter declared. "I will give no warning of the next extinction event and they will perish."

"Yet the forty Adanite ships gives lie to your claim they cannot remain faithful to your decrees," replied Chokhmah.

“The Adanites remain loyal to me only because I speak to them directly from time to time," said Keter. "Were I to turn away from them, they would soon dwindle in unbelief."

"Familiarity leads them to see you as yet another chieftain rather than a god," countered Chokhmah.

"Do you propose to test that claim," challenged Keter, "or to let it remain a bald assertion?"

"Even as I toiled to establish your colony in heaven, you must assist me to test my claim on Earth. Release three Adanite yeng to raise up a people to me while I remain aloof."

"That would be a good test, daughter, but patience! It could be centuries before the Adanites recover from the Deluge and its aftermath."

Chokhmah said, "Let this be the Second Covenant between us." She knew there would be no more intruders from the sky until it was done.

The Zinter homocide investigation experienced the first headwind from Judge Karl Porter when he declined to allow the sheriff to bring the Bergins in for fingerprints as he had previously ruled for Robyn. He mused, aloud, that the case was becoming a fishing expedition. If Agent Mark Felt was disappointed it didn't show. "Let's go visit the Bergin place anyway," he told Sheriff Walker outside the courthouse. "I want to see if I can shake something loose."

“Do you want Bob and Bill to tag along?”

"No, I need them to make a phone call. Tell your men to get the number of Bergin's plates, then have them go up to the temple and take photographs of his tire treads."

"Oh, we already have Bergin's plate on file," Roddy said. "He doesn't think the wartime speed limit of 35 miles per hour applies to deacons."

Agent Felt smiled in admiration. "Sheriff, this is one of the smallest towns I've ever seen, but the way you run your department is a G-man's dream."

When they arrived at Paul Bergin's home Mark Felt took copious notes beginning with the fact that no vehicle was present. Felt thought the most striking thing about the woman who answered the door was how singularly unattractive she was. If she hadn’t worn a dress Mark might have thought Deacon Paul himself was standing there. He cleared his throat and identified himself and Sheriff Walker.

“Yes?” she snapped. “How may I help you?”

“Is Mr. Bergin at home?”

She shook her head. “Paul works at the Temple. I’m his wife Ruth.”

“Perhaps you can help after all, Mrs. Bergin. It seems a young woman was attacked with a knife recently.”

“Good God, is she well?”

“It’s hard to say at this point,” said Felt. “What I can tell you is that we think we have the knife that was used in the attack. It has a very unique wooden handle. It's hand-crafted, you see. Only a very few sets were sold, Ruth, and we think you might have one of them."

Ruth gasped. "You can't think that I, that Paul did this."

"Not at all ma'am. A criminal investigation is much like tracing out every rabbit trail even when they just come to a dead end. If you show us your own kitchen knife set then the sheriff and I will be on our way.”

“We never bought our knife block,” Ruth said. “It was made by Owen Bergin when Headwater was first settled and has passed down from father to son ever since.”

Felt made a note of that on his pad, then broke into a smile. “You see? I knew we must be wasting our time."

“I’m sorry, Ma'am," said Sheriff Walker, "but we had to be sure. Still, do you mind if we take one little peek at what you do have?”

Mark Felt admired how Roddy caught his little game and slid right into his role without clashing gears. And Ruth went inside to fetch it.

The fact that Ruth didn’t know she was missing her knife set was recorded in Felt’s notebook. As he expected, she returned empty handed and Felt recorded that too, not so much that he didn’t know it, but for the affidavit he would have the sheriff type up for Judge Porter.

“I don’t understand,” Ruth said. “I used a knife from the block just this morning when I made breakfast for Paul and the children, but now everything is gone.”

“Oh no, Ruth, that’s just what I didn’t want to hear,” Roddy said “But I’m sure there’s a good explanation."

“Ruth, do you mind if the sheriff and I come in so all the heat in your house doesn’t escape through the front door?”

She thought about that for longer than Felt liked but in the end Ruth nodded and opened her screen door to let them in. She asked them to sit on a couch.

Roddy thought Ruth's home was very similar to Kim Zinter's place in size and design but different in almost every other way. There were no decorations at all, no paintings, no rugs, not even a single knick-knack. Only two books were in sight, a Bible and the Holy Buron. Another difference: when he visited Robyn she was playing music, but here it was silent. No record collection, no Victrola to play them on. Roddy marveled how religious folk were so keen on a life in the hereafter when their life here on Earth was so miserable, by choice.

“I see you don’t have a radio, Mrs. Bergin.”

“There’s only one station in town, Sheriff, and more often than not they play race records. Paul says that’s the devil’s own music. Why, even the children in the Temple high school are playing that garbage if you can imagine.”

“The girl who was attacked sang in the Temple school band,” revealed Felt. “Do you know somebody who might have stabbed her because she sang race music?”

Ruth’s eyes said yes but she shook her head no.

"It was very generous inviting us to come indoors, Ruth," he said. “I have no right to ask this of you, and don't believe for an instant that we really think you attacked the girl, but if I could just get one print of your thumb I could compare it to what we found on the knife and completely eliminate you as a suspect in this case."

The sheriff had to restrain himself from whistling in admiration at Agent Felt’s performance, it was so beautifully done. Ruth would be thinking of self-preservation in the face of her own husband framing her for the crime. And Roddy thought that wasn't far from the truth.

"Will you have to take me down to the station for a thumbprint?"

"Not at all," said Felt, and he used his pencil to make a thick dark spot on a page in his notebook. "Are you right or left handed?"

"Right, of course," Ruth said, as though southpaws were somehow immoral. And so with Ruth Bergin fully and freely willing, Special Agent Mark Felt rubbed her right thumb in the spot of graphite, then flipped to a fresh page in his notebook and rolled her thumb across it to get a perfect print. He dared not close the book until it was lacquered.

"This schoolgirl who was attacked, she was Erik Zinter's kid, wasn't she?"

Felt stood up from the couch still holding his notebook carefully open. He said, "I've been careful not to say too much and upset you, Mrs. Bergin.

"I suppose it couldn't be helped," she sniffed.

Sheriff Walker scrambled to his feet at that remark and politely asked Ruth what she meant by making it.

She said, "I think only a believer would fully understand me, but Erik was putting our most holy relic to common purposes, digging coal! Our God is a sovereign God."

Roddy made eye contact with Agent Felt, who raised his notebook a bit and shrugged. He already had what he came for. Roddy said, "So God wasn't content to take Erik's life for what he did? He had to take the life of his daughter as well?"

Ruth was shocked. "She's dead?"

"Yes, Ruth, she's dead. What a terrible thing for Clara, don't you think, losing her entire family? But whoever did it has a death wish. He elevated it to a federal case. It was already the Chair if I caught him...”

"...but the Bureau always gets its man," Felt finished.

When Michael strode the halls of the Green Dome Academy the students who were b’nei elohim instinctively recognized hym and assumed the position, but hy was there only to see Jerry and Dory. Hy found them sitting together alone in the library and they immediately stood up.

"Hello Jerry," Michael said. "Hello Dory. School's out forever, for both of you. Or maybe it's just beginning. But right now I want you to help me bring Kimberly and Sofia home, so fetch your coats and meet me outdoors on the side of the building that faces Green Dome."

The Academy was shaped like a big doughnut with a grove of trees growing in the hole in the center. Dory used the grove to shortcut to her locker through the teacher's lounge. What were they going to do, expel her? Jerry's locker was in the hall outside of the library.

But by the time Dory walked halfway around the Academy wearing her coat Jerry was shaking and still trying to open hez locker. She asked, "Why are you so nervous?"

"You know who that is."

"Yes, and right now hy's waiting outside in the cold for you to do what hy said."

"Tell me the numbers and I'll do it," she said.

"I'm not letting you know my combination!"

"Jerry, you scrub, Michael said we're done with school so spit it out!"

So che did and Dory popped it open first try. Che got hez coat and they ran outside to make up lost time.

They found Michael waiting for them under the eaves on the west side of the school. Hy said, "Kimberly found a way to get herself and Sofie home but she needs both of you and Peter Twofeathers to help or it will not work, which is really to say they will freeze to death."

“So we’re to meet grandfather,” said Dory. She looked at icy 7th Street switch-backing up snow-covered slopes before meeting the dark slash of Green Dome Road, which wrapped to the summit of the hill like the stripe on a barber pole. “Shall we walk to the Temple, Lord?”

“Yes, Dory,” hy said, “let’s walk.” And something like a crystal ball grew before them until it was taller than Jerry and even Michael, yet it was not solid or substantial in any way. The seraph walked right inside the sphere without resistance. Jerry and Dory followed. They looked back and saw the school, inexplicably, was two miles away and eight hundred fifty feet below, with most of Headwater spread out beyond it. Taking only a few steps they had attained the summit of Green Dome without breaking a sweat or slipping on ice.

“Fragments of reality can be formed into bridges,” Michael said. “Albert Einstein and Nathan Rosen explored this on a blackboard a few years ago, but I doubt it will be practical for any human to actually make one. It takes the power of a star just to hold the path open.”

The original avatar of Chokhmah had always been at the Temple, in the sense that the Temple was built over the cairn assembled by Wanica after he received the Golden Gift. But Chokhmah, in union with Michael as a living avatar, had never before walked the wooden halls.

Peter had his head over his desk in silent prayer. Jerry and Dory came to him for a hug, one at each side. Michael said, “When you pray, Peter, make your petition aloud. I can't hear your thoughts unless you frame them in the same mode you use to communicate with Dory."

Peter stood up and exclaimed, “My Lord!” but Dory and Jerry were already setting out three chairs in front of his desk. Michael asked everyone to be seated, and when they were, hy took a few moments to study the family photographs hanging on the walls of Peter’s office.

Hanging over Peter's right shoulder was a 1914 photograph of Peter himself with his ambi wife Jaroah, his son (and Dory's father) Seth, and Seth's siblings. Over the left shoulder was Jaraoh in 1896 as a little jist with hez own siblings and hez parents Mahlon and Ahlai.

The oldest photograph, hanging above Peter's head, was a blurry moving Mahlon, as an infant in 1866, being held in the arms of hez mother the hashmal Leliel from Lilith's Fallen Angels. Next to har was Mahlon's father Jashen, son of Chief Wanica and the original Shy Bear.

"There he is," said Michael. "Jashen Shy Bear: Made, not Begotten. Until recently he was the only b'nei elohim Made since the Fallen Angels were exiled from Salem so long ago."

"Have mercy, Lord," pleaded Jerry. "I should not have have taken my friends under the altar."

"Be at peace," Michael said. "Do you think Kimberly and Sofia experienced the Change contrary to my will?"

Jerry shook hez head no.

Satisfied with hez response Michael saw that one wall of the office was covered with a large tri-state map and hy stood up to approach it.

"Kim and Sofie have been held in a camp here," hy said, pointing to a place northeast of Cody. "Not tonight, but on the following night, they will escape and hide on a freight train. By the time that train makes its first stop here, in Powell, they will be unconscious."

"If you, Peter, aren't waiting for the girls at 2:04 AM with your warm station wagon filled with warm blankets and warm chicken broth in a Thermos and the bodies of two warm friends, Kim and Sofie will die of exposure somewhere in the mountains south of Billings, Montana."

Michael turned to Jerry and said, “Put the coin on Peter’s desk.”

Jerry did a trick with his left hand and set a half-dollar on the tabletop. Michael was already shaking hyz head. “Not a copy, Jerry, the original.” Chastened, Jerry repeated the move with his right hand.

Then Michael said to Peter, “Present the Golden Gift.”

To obey his lord, the Prophet had to overcome a strong instinct not to reveal that it was locked in a safe hiding behind a certain number of books on a shelf. Momentarily a golden bladeless knife hilt was on the desk.

Peter said, “Lord Michael, if the relic is to pass out of my hands at this time I fully understand. It is sacred, yet I gave it to Erik Zinter to honeycomb this mountain."

"That was a good deed, Peter. Some people do not understand that a gift comes without conditions."

"Be in good spirits. You remembered that I desire mercy and not a sacrifice. Prophet Lange would have done the same thing had he watched the people of Headwater live through the last twelve years. But the time is quickly approaching when only young Jerry can keep it safe."

Jerry took that as a cue to put the Golden Gift in the little hidden space-time pocket that was always in contact with his hands.

Michael said to Jerry, "To Chief Wanica this was the Golden Gift, but to you it is the Macro and now I do have rules. Use it only at need. That makes you solely responsible for carrying out the Last Rite, Jerry, but only for as long as the Temple is in the hands of the Church. And that will be for just two more months. Make no copies of the Macro until the abomination of desolation is standing on the altar. After that, every living soul among the b'nei elohim are to receive a Macro."

Dory was wondering where she fit in. Michael said, "You are a driver now, so you will share the wheel with Peter. And gas money is not an issue." He dropped a thousand in twenties on the desk.

Dory picked up two of the bills and looked at them closely. "They have different serial numbers. These are not copies like Jerry's fifty cent pieces."

"I could drop a hundred million dollars on the town," Michael said, "but then a cup of coffee would run you fifty bucks. Peter, your country is at war along with most of the world, so there's strict gasoline rationing, but you're a member of the clergy. The X sticker on your woodie gives you permission to buy unlimited supplies just like any fireman or cop or congressman in Washington DC. There are many more details but all of you are Academy trained. I'm certain you will reason them out. Go save your friends."

A carefully-shaped Einstein-Rosen bridge took just Michael and his chair away with a loud pop. Dory and Jerry scooted together in the new space.

Outside of Salem's stone walls the angels of the city rejoiced over a record harvest. But as the celebration of Hellberry Days reached a fevered pace something the size of an engine of war descended on blue flame heralded only by a terrifying roar that scattered the crowd.

The first Salemite to return to the pavilion was not a soldier of the warrior caste nor one of the elders of the council, but a young dirk who proved more valiant than the yeng and yen who ran away. For curiosity overcame hyz fear, and Chokhmah was selecting for curiosity.

The blast of the descent uprooted the fabric of the pavilion tent and blew it far away. The dirk stood hyz ground, albeit at some distance. Hy was curious about the object, but not stupid, and not eager to be burned. A loud voice then rang out from the avatar of Chokhmah:

"Adanite child, if you are willing, draw near to me.”

The dirk obeyed. Hy saw how by resting on six legs the avatar of Chokhmah remained shoulder high above the ground. Underneath the central pillar a round hatch dropped open on a hinge and inside this hatch were steps.

"Again, if you are willing, come inside."

The brave dirk squeezed between two of the six white legs to look inside the hatch. The central pillar was hollow. There was much light within, and also many ribs embedded in the interior wall forming circular edges to be grasped.

As the dirk crawled inside the central core the voice requested hyz name.

“I am Michael, son of Jophiel the glassblower,” hy said, and noted how the hatch below closed of its own accord. Hy climbed until the core flared out into a larger space with cushions and windows.

Looking outside, the dirk saw only a handful of angels daring to draw near.

“Do not be afraid, Michael. I am Chokhmah, co-eval with Keter and Daat. I have many things to reveal, but only with your freely-given consent. If you leave now, your life may resume as before. If you stay, I will take you to a land far to the north. The journey will be quick and safe, but it will also be the most frightening thing that ever happened to you. And there is no way to avoid that because heaven is not in my system."

Hy said, "I will stay, Lord."

"Good, Michael. Lie down while I make you secure."

Several straps embraced Michael as though alive. After that the avatar of Chokhmah ignited in flame again. There was much shaking, and Michael was pushed down into the cushion where he lay with steadily growing force. As the weight piled on, Michael began to cry. The dirk was brave, but hy had reached hyz limit.

Chokhmah said, "Michael, recite to me the scriptures you have been taught to memorize, from the beginning.”

Michael obeyed for as long as hy could but speaking was difficult. Hy said, “Before time was, in a place that was no place, the principle of life had being. Male and female it was so that life would always seek the other and continue life. The maleness called himself Keter, the femaleness called herself Daat. And they drew together.

"A third was conceived and born, a male, and they named him Chokhmah. When Chokhmah was grown he came to Keter and asked, ‘Father, what shall you give to be my inheritance?’ So Keter filled reality with ice. North, south, east, west, up, and down the ice was, without end.

"In the direction of up Keter transformed half of reality from ice into air. Keter created the warm white sun to rule the day, and the cold orange sun to rule the night. Also Keter patterned the sky with many lesser lights, and causes all of them to tunnel beneath the ice. Keter created a furrow in the ice where he laid down soil and carved lakes and seas. And Daat also toiled for Chokhmah's inheritance. She caused living plants to fill the waters. But Chokhmah was not nearly satisfied even with all these gifts, which made his parents wroth. Keter and Daat vowed to create a paradise, but they would delay the giving of it to teach Chokhmah patience. So Keter caused great hills to rise. Daat covered these with trees. Also Keter crafted rivers and many rushing streams. And Chokhmah beheld the beauty of the land. But Chokhmah could not yet claim heaven as his own, and he was exceedingly vexed. He wished his father dead that he might come into his inheritance.”

Michael paused there thinking that it might anger Chokhmah to hear those words. Also it was almost impossible to speak. A great weight seemed to bear down on Michael but the ascent was not over and Chokhmah bid hym to go on.

“Filled with hatred for his parents, Chokhmah created the first yang and yin. But he could not prevent some of his malice from passing into the angels which he made. The angels were created to spite Keter and Daat, which is why they strive one against another to this day. Chokhmah did not take the greatest care with his creation, and from the beginning they were beset with many ailments. So Daat taught the healing arts to the angels. Also Daat created cattle and fowls and swine, and she taught yeng how to grow and harvest greens and rice and wheat. And it came to pass the numbers of the children of Adamu and Chava were greatly multiplied in heaven, as they no longer had only fickle hellberries to eat.”

Michael had to stop reciting the creation litany because the invisible force pressing hym into hyz seat had become too great for hym to speak.

“Enough!” the voice of Chokhmah said. The shaking stopped, and Michael suddenly felt blessedly free, as though hy were swimming.

Only the restraining straps kept Michael from bouncing around inside the bulb at the top of the central pillar. The avatar of Chokhmah performed a half-rotation until the curved white bulk of heaven could be seen through the windows. The sky was no longer purple but black.

"That is your world, Michael. You see it is a ball, and the suns do not tunnel under the ice like you have been taught.”

“I had thought it to be a ring, Lord," said Michael after a time. “There are tales that yeng have crossed the West Lands to arrive in the East Lands."

"You are correct, Michael, the unfrozen part of heaven does form a ring, do you see?"

"Yes Lord."

The avatar rotated to put the bright bulk of heaven and the two suns out of sight. Michael saw countless stars. Chokhmah said "All the stars you see are just faraway suns."

The avatar was on a short suborbital arc. Michael began to feel hyz weight again but hyz mouth remained wide open in wonder. Chokhmah had greatly expanded the scale of hyz conceived reality. Hy knew the litany of creation hy had regurgitated for her was just so much shit.

Judge Karl Porter was directly descended from Alfred and Caroline Porter, who were part of the first wagon train to set down roots in Headwater. In any other town of the West, where family trees actually fork, this would be like tracing one's family back to the Mayflower.

From his corner office on the second floor of the courthouse Judge Porter could look down upon his ancestral family home on the north bank of the river. Most of the land of the homestead had long been sold off for the homes and apartments of the northwest quadrant of town. The courthouse was five blocks away from the sheriff's office on the same little island in Squaw River that formed the heart of the town. The sheriff himself was in Porter's chambers making another run at Paul Bergin, and this time, Porter suspected, he just might get him.

The judge glanced once more at the Affidavit in Support of Arrest Warrant submitted by Sheriff Walker. On a personal level he didn't like where this investigation was going. Paul was the deacon of the Church and the Bergins, just like the Porters, were Headwater Old Guard.

The Church of Green Dome had secrets, the judge well knew. Something happened last summer to bring three agents of the Bureau sniffing around. After a few weeks they had abandoned their trailer outside of town but the death of this girl brought them back with a fourth man. FBI Special Agent Mark Felt was seated at the table next to the sheriff. The judge already learned, the last time these two men appeared before him, that Felt had assumed responsibility for the case. He asked Agent Felt why his name didn't appear on the Affidavit.

"Your Honor, when I assumed overall direction of the case for the Bureau the Sheriff had already acquired a quantity of evidence. The Affidavit before you summarizes the entire case to this point and only Sheriff Walker could testify as to how all the facts were obtained."

"And do you foresee a time when the Bureau will no longer be acting in cooperation with local law enforcement here in Headwater?"

"Certainly, Your Honor. The individual or individuals responsible for the crime will likely be transported for arraignment in Kansas City."

Judge Porter said, "Then with the view of hastening that blessed day please lay out your new evidence."

Mark Felt nodded at the sheriff.

Roddy opened a briefcase and removed a knife in a cellophane bag, a page from Felt's notebook, and two closeup photographs of these.

The sheriff said, "Your Honor, Mrs. Ruth Bergin, the wife of Paul Bergin, was kind enough to allow Special Agent Felt to take an impression of her right thumb and as you can see, it perfectly matches the single thumbprint we dusted on the weapon found at the crime scene."

"What in the name of God would make Mrs. Bergin give you her thumbprint, Sheriff, and why isn't she named as a suspect?"

"I think, Your Honor, the answer to both questions is the same. She was shocked to find her set of kitchen knives had gone missing, on garbage day."

Judge Porter growled while he chewed on that item for a moment. Yes, the sheriff, or Agent Felt, or both, would have led poor Mrs. Bergin to think her own husband was framing her for murder. Still, what's done is done, and it was legally airtight. "What else do you have?"

The sheriff reached into his briefcase and removed two more photographs. “Your Honor, Paul Bergin’s vehicle is parked at the Temple and is under surveillance by my deputies. You can see here that his tire tread matches the tracks we found at the scene of the homicide.”

The judge looked at the photographs and remembered that under wartime rationing Paul Bergin could only own four tires plus one spare. Karl realized the sheriff had enough to justify an arrest warrant. He could hardly refuse after signing one for Robyn Zinter on much less.

“The court finds probable cause to believe a felony offense, to wit, the unlawful killing of Kimberly Zinter with malice aforethought, has been committed. The arrest of Mr. Paul Bergin at any hour of day or night is so ordered.” Karl Porter’s law clerk began typing it up. “Special Agent Felt, will it be sufficient to confine your search for more evidence of the crime to the home of Paul Bergin?”

Felt replied, “No, Your Honor. If Mr. Bergin was a layman his house would have been enough. But as a deacon he has access to the whole Temple.”

“Very well, these are the rules of the People for your search, but I’m signing the order: Let’s assume Bergin is hiding evidence in the Temple. When you make the arrest you will have his keys. Any door that is locked, but his keys can open, you may enter and search.”

“Thank you, Your Honor. The Bureau accepts this limitation on the search.”

“Proceed with caution, Agent Felt,” he said. “The Church of Green Dome is the very life of Headwater, and the Church is already going through its most difficult passage in nearly eighty years.”

“The words of Dr. Wahkan and Sheriff Walker have already sensitized me to the plight of the Church, Your Honor,” said Felt, “and I will take great care. But if those troubles somehow led to the killing of Kimberly Zinter, I don’t know how even more trauma can be avoided.”

Special Agent in Charge Clyde Tolson was waiting in the second-floor courtroom with Special Agent Sullivan when the sheriff and Felt emerged from the judges chambers. “It’s not carte blanche,” said Felt when he handed Tolson the documents, “but it’s the best we could do.”

When Tolson finished reading he said, “Edgar knew what he was doing when he put you on the case. For six months we couldn’t get one foot in the Temple door.”

Felt hoped he only heard that wrong. It sounded like Tolson didn’t give two floating turds for the dead girl.

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