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Heidegger at Neverland Ranch

HC3 [1]

“This is Karl-Heinz Rudiger Gunther Schraeling, The famous nineteenth-century German Philosopher.”

5,094 words

The second chapter of a novel, Heidegger in Chicago (a comedy of errors). (Chapter 1 here [2].)

When Heidegger awakened, he thought that someone was slapping him on his left cheek. Then he realized that he was lying on a vinyl car seat, and the car was going down a bumpy road.

It was night. Heidegger sat up slowly. His limbs were stiff. He had no idea how long he had been out, and couldn’t remember the events leading up to his losing consciousness. He was in the back seat of the car. In the front was a middle-aged black couple. The man was driving. The woman looked in Heidegger’s direction. She was wearing bright red lip gloss. When she saw Heidegger, her eyes went wide, and she turned to the driver.

“He’s waking up!”

“Shut up!” the man said. Then, without taking his eyes from the road, he called back to Heidegger. “All right, you. Listen up. You’re our son, Cliotus. You’re eleven years old, got it?”

Heidegger couldn’t speak. He mumbled something and rubbed his head. It was then that he realized he had been stripped of his existential suit. He was wearing a white tee shirt (emblazoned with the words “STRUT FOR A CURE”), bright red shorts, and sneakers.

“I said, got it?” the man repeated. Heidegger was still unable to answer. “We’re taking you to see a very famous entertainer. You’ll have a very good time. Just don’t say anything. You’ve got throat cancer, okay?” After a pause, he raised his voice and bellowed, “Do you understand me?!”

“Honey, he’s German,” the woman said. “I don’t think he understands any English.”

The situation made no sense to Heidegger, and his imperfect English did indeed make it difficult for him to understand what was happening to him. However, he realized one thing with perfect clarity: he was being kidnapped. But could an elderly German philosopher really be passed off as an eleven-year-old, black cancer patient? That was evidently what this mad pair intended to do.

Heidegger sat up and scanned the road for other cars. He could roll the window down and try and signal to one and get help. But there were no other vehicles on the road. They were driving in the country, and the car was slowing down. Heidegger saw that they had arrived at a huge, wrought-iron gate. There was a large sign on the gate which bore a skull and cross bones and the words “NO TRESPASSING!” Cameras were mounted on either side. As the car came to a stop, security guards appeared.

Heidegger’s male kidnapper rolled down the window. “Mr. and Mrs. Berry and son Cliotus,” he said. One of the guards bent down, looked right at Heidegger, and leered. The gates opened with a low, electronic hum, and they were waved on.

Presently, Heidegger could see that they were approaching a huge, Victorian mansion lit by floodlights. There was a large flower bed set before the main entrance, with the flowers arranged to spell out “NEVERLAND RANCH.” A tall man dressed entirely in black emerged from the house and opened the car doors for them. His face was grim, until he peered into the back seat and saw Heidegger. “Well, hi Cliotus!” he said, in a syrupy tone. But when the door was pulled open and the light in the top of the car went on, illuminating Heidegger’s features, the man’s smile vanished. Soon another servant had appeared, and he saw to the removal of the luggage from the trunk. Berry looked down at Heidegger as they approached the front steps. “No funny business,” he whispered, but Heidegger did not hear him.

Another servant—this time a tall, gaunt woman in a khaki warm-up suit—greeted them at the door. She grasped Berry’s hand with a strength that made him wince. “Mr. and Mrs. Berry, I am Bertha Kittridge, Mr. Jackson’s nurse. Won’t you please come this way.” She put her arms around the Berrys and directed them into the east wing of the house, which was furnished to look like a hunting lodge except that everything was done in hot pink. Even the mooseheads were pink. Evelyn Berry turned around and saw that Heidegger was being led in the opposite direction by the manservant who had greeted them at the car.

“It’s all right, Mrs. Berry,” said Bertha Kittridge. “Cliotus is being escorted to the Imagination Wing. He’ll be well taken care of. Now let me show you to your quarters. You must have had a long journey. I’ve prepared some injections that will help you sleep soundly.”

Heidegger’s eyes grew wide at the scene which now confronted him. The walls were lined with candystripes. A forest of enormous false lollipops sprouted up from the rainbow-streaked carpet. They passed through a doorway flanked by two teddy bears the size of garbage trucks, and then entered another hall. Heidegger heard something that sounded like running water. At the far end of the passage, something dark and brown was shimmering, and a familiar odor tickled Heidegger’s nose. The passage wound through another forest of huge, multicolored lollipops.

Suddenly, a tall figure, probably male, stepped into the passageway from one of the side doors. It was wearing a black shirt, untucked and billowing out over the slacks. A wide-brimmed fedora adorned the head, but the face was covered by a surgical mask. Heidegger could see that the figure’s features were very white. Both hands, one of which sported a glove, were now outstretched to welcome him. “Colitis!” the man cried.

“Cliotus,” the servant corrected, clearing his throat.

“Cliotus,” the masked man purred. He indicated the shimmering wall of brown behind him. “I suppose you’re wondering about this. It’s a chocolate cataract! It leads to my very own chocolate river. Why don’t you take a sip? Go ahead, it’s there to be enjoyed.” Heidegger declined by shaking his head. The figure moved closer to him. The gloved hand came out and began massaging his left shoulder. “Alright,” the man said, in his unusually high-pitched, childlike voice. “Perhaps these are more to your liking.” He indicated the lollipops. “I know what you’re thinking,” he said. “Are they real?” Suddenly, he stretched his arms to the sky and, in a tone of exaltation cried, “Yes! Yes, they are! Go and lick one.”

Again, Heidegger shook his head.

“Lick one!” the man cried, his voice still jubilant. He moved to the one nearest him and motioned for Heidegger to follow, but when the philosopher did not respond he grew impatient. “Lick it! Come over here and lick it!” he commanded. “All right, I’ll show you how it’s done,” he said, and licked the lollipop himself. “Mmm, watermelon!”

Then he moved back over to Heidegger and slowly removed the surgical mask. “I . . . am Michael.” His face was peculiar. It was preternaturally pale, but the features did not look like they belonged to any particular race. It looked like the face of an extraterrestrial, masquerading as how he thought a typical human might appear. In particular, the nose was oddly formed. Perhaps the man noticed the way Heidegger was staring at the nose, or perhaps he was puzzled by the fact that Heidegger did not immediately respond to his name. (Michael? Wer ist Michael? thought Heidegger.) In any case, the man put his hands on his hips, and in an exasperated tone stated, “I’m Michael Jackson.”

Still Heidegger did not respond.

The servant, who had been behind Heidegger all the while, said, “Perhaps it’s the drugs.”

Jackson’s face took on a horrified expression. “You mean you’ve already . . . .”

“No. The chemo. The cancer treatment.”

“Oh!” Jackson seemed relieved. He bent down to put his face close to Heidegger’s and said, “I’ll bet you’re feeling nauseous. Well, anytime you feel like eating something just tell me. We can make anything here—anything.”

Heidegger was feeling a bit peckish. It had probably been hours since he had eaten anything. It could have been days, since he had no idea how much time had elapsed since he had been kidnapped. He turned to the servant and ordered Rouladen, a side of red cabbage, a pint of Warsteiner, and, for dessert, strudel. The servant stared down at him uncomprehendingly, then turned the same expression toward Jackson, who said, “Well, you heard him. Make it!” And the servant disappeared down the passageway.

Jackson now put his arm around Heidegger’s shoulders and began leading him toward the chocolate cataract, at which they took a right, and entered another passageway. “I want to show you my world, Clitoris. It’s not like the world out there. It’s a safe place, a place you can trust. You feel safe with me, don’t you?” He didn’t wait for Heidegger to respond. “It’s good to have someone in your life you can trust. You can’t trust your parents. I trusted mine. And look what happened? They were the organ grinder and I was the monkey. That was my whole childhood. The worst mistake you can make is to listen to your parents, especially when they warn you not to trust other people. They’re just jealous. They don’t want you to have other people who love you.”

Suddenly Heidegger heard a tremendous roar. It was, unmistakably, the roar of an Indian elephant. Presently they came to a pair of enormous, glass doors, at least ten feet high, and rounded at the top. Two servants in clown costumes stood beside each door.

Jackson looked down at Heidegger. Again, he stretched his arms up to heaven. “I want to show you the most wondrous place on earth!”

The clowns now reached out to open the two doors, simultaneously squeezing the bulbs on the bicycle horns strapped to their waists. With two simultaneous HONKS! The doors opened and Heidegger was hit with an assault of noise. It sounded as if they had suddenly been transported into the jungle. Heidegger heard elephants, tropical birds, monkeys, and hyenas. “We’ve just been through the Imaginarie, now tour the Menagerie!” Jackson cried. His arm had moved lower down Heidegger’s back.

The room they now entered was a vast gallery. A concourse cut through the center of it, at least thirty feet wide. On either side were large, glass-fronted pens for the animals. The first one they came to, on the left, contained the monkeys. There were five chimpanzees. The pen was carefully designed to give the animals a sense of being back in their own habitat. There were rocks, bushes, and a large, artificial tree in the center. One chimp was seated on a high branch, and two were swinging from branches below that one. Jackson came up to the glass so close that his nose pressed against it. “Hello, Bubbles. Hello . . .” Jackson stopped short. He reached up to the center of his face, as if adjusting something, then continued. “Hello Ping-Pong. Hello Diddles . . .”

Heidegger was staring across the room at the stark-white igloo pen that contained seventeen king penguins. “Cleetus, look!” Jackson scolded. Jackson was making kissing noises at the chimps. Suddenly, two of them jumped off the tree and began scooping up handfuls of feces and hurling it at the glass. “Eueww!!” cried Jackson. He quickly guided Heidegger toward the hyena pen. One of the clowns approached and whispered to Jackson: “Miss Kittridge is asking to speak with you.” Jackson kneeled down and clasped Heidegger’s cheeks in his hands. “Cleanthes, I have to make a phone call. I’ll be right back.” And he disappeared down a side passageway.

Jackson approached a clean, featureless stretch of oak paneling. “Open says me!” he cried. A section of the paneling suddenly sank into the wall and slid upwards, revealing a small closed-circuit monitor, a speaker, and a microphone. The screen flickered to life and, abruptly, Bertha Kittridge’s flat, unadorned face appeared.

“Progress report!” commanded Jackson.

“The subjects are sleeping peacefully, sir,” Kittridge answered.

“Have you successfully extracted the marrow?”

“Yes, sir. The woman was a match, Mr. Jackson. We have obtained a sufficient quantity.”

“Excellent!” Jackson exclaimed, smiling. “I want that smoothie on my bedside table by 9:00pm.” He whistled “Camptown Races” and the panel closed over the TV screen. Jackson turned to rejoin Heidegger, who he found had advanced to the final, and largest of the pens, containing two elephants.

Jackson came up behind him and placed his hand just above Heidegger’s left buttock. “There’s one more thing you need to see.” He walked past the elephant pen, for it was not quite the last exhibit in the gallery. At the very back of the gallery, past the bestiary, was a large, glass case.

“Come,” said Jackson, curling a finger at Heidegger. In the glass case was the mummy of man, dressed in a black suit of a style common in the nineteenth century. He was seated on a red velvet upholstered chair, his shriveled gray hands laid casually on his knees.

“Do you recognize him?” Jackson asked.

Heidegger did find something rather familiar about the mummy.

“This is Karl-Heinz Rudiger Gunther Schraeling, the famous nineteenth-century German philosopher.”

Yes, that was it! Heidegger could dimly make out Schraeling’s features in the mummy’s shriveled grapefruit of a face. Schraeling had been the first philosopher ever photographed. His son Guntram had persuaded him to sit for one of the early daguerreotypes.

Schraeling had been educated at Jena, where he had heard Hegel’s lectures on the history of philosophy. He had then submitted a dissertation entitled “On the Myriad Senses of Senses of Myriad.” A member of the school of “Young Schleiermacherites,” Schraeling had spent a year in Tübingen as a private tutor to the four children of the exiled Count Zippo of Bohemia. There, he had begun an intense study of Otto Pap, the medieval German mystic who had proclaimed that “God is a shave and a hot towel.” But it would be two years before he would begin his masterwork, Outline of My System of the Science of Ontology of the Subjective Inner Ground of the Distinction of all Objects into Spirit, Representation, Freedom, and Pure Manifestation (or the Outline, for short). In the meantime, he had married Ursula von Sauerkatze, the daughter of his landlady, and had become headmaster of a reformatory in lower Saxony.

The Outline was printed in 1830. Because Schraeling had published the work anonymously, there was much speculation as to its authorship. Many attributed it to Hegel, because of its style. However, when Hegel declared that he could not understand it, the anonymous author was hailed as a genius. A month after the first, wildly positive reviews were published, Schraeling revealed himself as the author, to great acclaim. A glorious career had been launched.

For five years, Schraeling remained silent. Many speculated that he was afraid to publish, since anything he produced would be judged against the standard of the Outline. In 1835, however, he brought out Foundations of Right and Left Elucidated Through the Closed Chemism of Phenomenology, with a note on the System-Program of 1805, as Hallucinated by Hölderlin and Found Inside an Autopsied Consumptive. This work was even less understood. It was not long before the call came from Berlin.

Cholera had brought an end to Hegel’s reign in Berlin as Germany’s leading philosopher. He had been replaced by Schelling, whose “Lectures on the Philosophy of Mythology” had been attended not only by students, but by merchants, aristocrats, clergy, soldiers, farmers, bakers, athletes, coolies, prostitutes, abortionists, thugs, and castrati. Unfortunately, Schelling, in a running feud with time, had scheduled his classes to begin promptly at 3:00 pm, and to end promptly at 1:00 pm of the same day. Few were able to keep up with this rigorous schedule, and, at the end of five years, even Schelling was forced to admit that his stint in Berlin had been a failure.

Schraeling was called to be his replacement. By this time, he had fathered seventeen children by Ursula. Two had died of scarlet fever, three of neglect, another two of acute dyspepsia, and one of ennui. The remaining nine went without names for several years before Schraeling could deduce them. There was also an illegitimate child, Bubi, who later achieved notoriety as the first openly gay town crier of Erlangen. The mother of this child was unknown for many years, but scholars now believe it was none other than Princess Alexandra von Sexe-Holstein-Moocow. The evidence for this is the dedication page of Schraeling’s first publication after coming to Berlin: The Critique of Intuitions of Essence Drawn Through a Thin Reed and Folded Lengthwise, Then Cooked Until Tender In The Identity of Being and Nothing, With Ten Dialogues Between Alphonse and Gaston. The dedication read simply “To A.” Interestingly, this dedication is the only evidence we have that any such person as Princess Alexandra existed. All birth records in Sexe-Holstein-Moocow were destroyed in the event which has come to be known to historians as the “great enthusiasm” of 23 April 1812.

Schraeling had begun his stay in Berlin with an inaugural address before the entire university, as well as many of the luminaries of Berlin society. Entitled “A Clear-As-Glass Explanation of My System of Philosophy, With All Ambiguity Removed, So That Even Imbeciles and Spastics Can Understand It,” the address had begun promptly at 8:00 am. The mood of the crowd was good, and they listened to Schraeling in absolute silence. At around noon, however, the crowd began to get restless. At 2:00pm, a catcall was heard from the balcony, but Schraeling seemed not to notice and continued reading. It was at this point that his pants fell down.

Schraeling often absentmindedly left home in the morning without his belt, his shoes, his shirt, and his hat—and sometimes did not leave home at all and imagined he had walked a great distance while washing himself. Outside the hall, the ushers mistook the laughter of the crowd for threatening cries, and sealed the doors with enormous beams. At 6:00pm, a foul stench rose up, and rats were seen streaming out of the hall and into the courtyard through gaps in the walls. Screams were heard, but, fearing a riot, the ushers were too nervous to act. Inside the lecture hall, a horrific spectacle was unfolding. As Schraeling continued to read, many in the audience fainted. A pregnant woman went into labor. An old man had a heart attack. Graf Alois von Gliedsaugen had brought several of his children with him, and in a matter of hours these scions of the aristocracy had been reduced to beggary, and were seen calling plaintively for a few morsels of food. Others were reduced to buggery. One man went raving mad listening to Schraeling. At 4:00pm the following day, Schraeling looked up from his text and asked if the audience had any questions. As there were none, he stepped down from the podium, and headed to the door, almost slipping in some fecal matter on the way. At just the moment he reached the doors, the ushers removed the bars and unsealed the room. Schraeling walked nonchalantly home.

He began a series of well-received lectures on ontology the following Monday, but the events surrounding the inaugural address cast something of a pall over his first year in Berlin. Schraeling published nothing for seven years, and instead lectured on a remarkable variety of subjects. Religion, the history of philosophy, politics, art, animal husbandry, botany, yodeling, badminton, leeching, and masturbation (or “self abuse”), were just some of his topics Schaeling took up in those fertile years. Most of these lectures have now been published. Several consist of Schraeling’s own notes, combined with student comments (or “additions”; Zusätze) culled from class notebooks. Several others, however, contain no original words of Schraeling’s at all, but are entirely made up of student comments about other student comments. A typical page from the Lectures on Yodeling reads as follows:

[Yodeling In the First Determination of its Concept]
[Division I:]
Addition [Zusatz] A. I don’t understand what he’s talking about.
Addition B: Why he’s talking about it is the real issue . . .
Addition C: Professor Doctor Braunschweig says he’s the greatest genius ever to lecture in Berlin.
Addition D:
(a) What does Braunschweig know?
(b) He’s an old fool anyway.
(g) He’s even harder to understand than Schraeling.
Addition E: No he’s not.
Addition F: Do you want to go out for a few beers after this is over?

After completing what would be his final series of talks, the seminal Lectures on the Phenomenology of a Woodcock, Schraeling fell silent for thirty minutes. When he at last remerged into the public eye, he had undergone a change in his thought scholars now refer to as “the twisting.” His next work shocked his followers, and delighted his detractors. It was, of course, the epochal Zalmoxis Was Here. In it, Schraeling had abandoned philosophical prose altogether and had written instead in the style of a parable. The first paragraph is justly celebrated:

When the moon did gleam its blue-grey glow over the hearths and tops of the townsmen’s caps, Zalmoxis came down from the mountain. Over the loch and through the heather he went, playing the clan lament. And when he came upon the town, he lit a lantern and went amongst the people crying “I seek dog! I seek dog! Where is my dog?” As there were many Chinamen about at the time he was mightily afeared. The people pointed at him and laughed. “Where did your dog go? Did he get lost?” “Yes,” said Zalmoxis. Then he began posting signs offering a reward in exchange for the return of the dog, who was called Putzi. As the first rays of the sun began to climb over the horizon, Zalmoxis started back for the mountain. “Can it be,” he thought, “that these people haven’t heard that my dog is dead?

“Dog is dead!” This was the key phrase of Schraeling’s “late” philosophy. Soon it was being debated in beer halls and salons all across Germany. There was little discussion among Schraeling’s colleagues in the philosophical profession, however. Many of them openly declared that Schraeling had abandoned philosophy altogether.

Zalmoxis is a challenging work, but it is false to say that it is not a work of philosophy. In the later portions, after one has got past the thinly disguised allegory on the Napoleonic code (die verkehrte Eier), the eggnog recipe, and the passionate plea on behalf of ear candling, one comes to the explicitly metaphysical sections. To be sure, these are put in the mouth of an idiot named “Stinking Simon,” but most scholars now agree that Stinking Simon speaks for Schraeling (and that the “Simon” in question is Simon Magus, whose thoughts on curing leather were greatly valued by Schraeling). In this section, called “Simon Says,” Schraeling outlines a metaphysics in which all of reality is seen as a reflection of an infinite, striving Odor (das Geschmell). In a return to a type of thinking characteristic of the pre-Socratics, Schraeling asserts that at root, all things are this Odor, and that “it stinks” (es stinkt).

It is at this precise point that the two streams of Schraelingians have their origin. The Classical School takes Schraeling’s words literally, as metaphysics. On the other hand, the Existential Schraelingians interpret “it stinks” as figurative. They see him as a precursor to Sartre. From an examination of Schraeling’s Nachlass, however, it seems clear that he means us to take his words literally.

“Odor,” Schraeling says, rarefies and condenses to form the things of this world. We do not notice it in its pure form because we are too used to smelling it. We would only notice its absence, if that were possible. Sometimes, in a diffuse form, Odor lingers, causing Angst, and what Schraeling calls the Stale (or, in the original notes to Zalmoxis, the “Struggle Unto Breath”). Borrowing a term from Aristotle, Schraeling calls man’s intellect nous, and declares that it is rarefied Odor. Life is a process of perfecting the Odor immanent within the individual. In passages clearly influenced by alchemical ideas, he distinguishes four “colors” (or, in the notes, “humors”) of Odor. The last stage, associated—in Kundalini fashion—with the tip of the nose, Schraeling describes as “a kind of sweet, Honeysuckle sort of odor.” In short, man’s task on earth is to “perfect” Being by raising its “stuff” from stench to perfume. However, Schraeling sounds a pessimistic note at the end of Zalmoxis, when he declares that, ultimately, this is impossible, and that we must instead “wait for rain.”

The day after his seventieth birthday, Schraeling was out walking on the Kurfürstendamm, and saw a man stomping on a beetle. Schraeling flung himself onto the insect and began trying to give it the kiss of life. When it was apparent that the creature would not survive, Schraeling began weeping and wailing uncontrollably. A crowd formed, but no one recognized him as the great Professor Schraeling. He was arrested, straitjacketed, and locked up in the city’s mad house. Three days passed before Ursula learned of his incarceration. The rector of the university persuaded the authorities to release Schraeling and to send him home into the care of his wife. There, surrounded by family and friends, he was able to recover his composure, but Schraeling was never the same again. He never wrote another philosophical work, and was incapable of lecturing.

Schraeling spent his last days at the pianoforte, beating it with a large mallet. When the instrument was removed, Schraeling beat his head against the wall until the piano was put back. Ursula suffered patiently through this, and still worse behavior. Her pain is apparent in one of her letters to her sister, Gertude:

When he is not abusing the pianoforte, he sits on the chamber pot, shouting down at his privy parts. The cat has abandoned us, after Karl-Heinz tried to train it as a valet. Then there was the awful business with the neighbor’s washing. I had no idea it had always fascinated him so. The leeching seemed to remove some of his obsession, however, just as the doctor had predicted. We received another case of vinegar today. Apparently, Karl-Heinz orders them when I am out. One has to watch him like a hawk. The other day I caught him trying to add footnotes to a large slice of roast beef. Madness does not run in his family. What can have caused this? We fear it may be the air here. My cousin Otto, who is a physician, recommends he take the cure at a spa. But I am skeptical. My father took the cure and twenty-three years later he was dead.

For five years, Schraeling lingered on in this fashion. Then, one evening, he entered the sitting room clutching at his stomach. “I have the most terrible pains in my head,” he said, and collapsed. The family doctor pronounced it a case of acute, undefined discomfort of unknown origin. On his deathbed, Schraeling asked that his body be mummified, and that whoever replaced him in his chair at the university be compelled to sleep with the mummy on the third Wednesday of each month. Then came his final words: “Even I have not understood me.”

Yes, Heidegger had read Schraeling long ago, but so far had avoided lecturing on him. “Climachus, I think it’s time you had your dinner,” Jackson said, playing with Heidegger’s ear. “Then, after that, would you like a bubble bath?”

An hour later, Heidegger was in Jackson’s bedroom. The plate in front of him was now clean, except for a few crumbs. He was finishing his Warsteiner. The featureless, steel door hissed open and Jackson entered, wearing what appeared to be a fluorescent green doorman’s uniform. “All done? I’ve got something else you might like to drink.” One of the clowns entered, carrying a tray. On it were two tin cans, with the tops popped. One was Mountain Dew, the other Dr. Pepper. The clown set the tray down on the bed in front of Heidegger. Jackson indicated the Mountain Dew can. “This is Jesus juice.” He indicated the other can. “That’s Jesus blood. Try some. Try both.” Curious, Heidegger lifted the can of Mountain Dew and sipped. It was obviously a cheap, sweet, Rhine wine. He tried the other. Probably merlot. Jackson had inched forward a bit. “Are you feeling sleepy?”

Suddenly, a hidden alarm went off, at ear-splitting volume. A large TV monitor dropped down from a hidden recess in the ceiling, showing a black and white image of the courtyard outside the house. Two cars had pulled into the circular driveway. Both were unusually tiny, with rounded tops. They looked like caricatures of Volkswagens. Their doors opened, and figures came tumbling out. At first there was too much confusion for Heidegger to make out who—or what—had arrived. But then suddenly the picture was clear to him: the courtyard was swarming with dozens of clowns. Clown after clown streamed out of the two cars. They scattered in all directions, and they were all carrying large, grey objects.

“Oh, no!” cried Jackson.

Suddenly, the clown who had brought in the tray reached into his baggy, polka-dotted trousers and pulled out a Glock. “Get your hands up, Jackson!” he cried.

“Are you . . . are you the police?”

The clown laughed malevolently. “Afraid you’ve been caught with your hands in the cookie jar?”

Jackson thrust his hands toward the ceiling and gasped. “What do you want?”

All at once there was a deafening CRACK! And the smell of gunpowder filled the air. Blood spurted from the clown’s neck, and he collapsed to the plush, royal blue carpet. Bertha Kittridge stood in the doorway, behind the smoking barrel of a Luger. She stepped forward and approached the shaken Jackson. “The clowns have already penetrated the security in the Imagination Wing. It’s only a matter of time before they locate the private quarters. I’ve prepared your bathosub.”

But Jackson just carried on whimpering and rubbing his hands together. “Mr. Jackson!” cried Kittridge. “Pull yourself together. Think of our work. We must get you and all of our records to safety.”

“Yes, yes you’re right. But what about him . . . ?” He pointed to Heidegger, who was peeping out from under the bed.

“Leave it to me, Mr. Jackson. Quickly now, get down the laundry shoot. Wurlitzer will strap you into the bathosub.” Jackson disappeared down the corridor, flailing his arms.

Kittridge leveled the Luger at Heidegger’s brow. “Goodbye, Cliotus.”

To be continued . . .