Lucifer's Last Laugh

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Chapter 5: Teddy’s Tale

I excuse myself from the flight back to San Francisco much as I regret not being in your company. The glow of your teeth exudes the courage of raw liver.

In my room at the Fairmount I spot a handsomely engraved card perched atop the chest of drawers. I bend over to read it.

“To and fro with plans you’re fraught

All your plans will come to naught.

A Message from Mara”

“Do you know of any being named Mara?” I telemessage Melchom.

Moments later he replies. “Nothing in our databases.”

“Mucho thanko, Melchom.”

I summon my lieutenants.

“I’m getting really tired of Americans,” says Canda, now incarnated as a prima ballerina in disguise. Thin to the point of Auschwitz emaciation but with a beautiful countenance and an observable mean streak

“Now, now,” says Dusana, uncharacteristically fitted out as a male bodybuilder with self-satisfied narcissism oozing from her every pore, a sensational disguise. “They’re not so bad.”

“Yeah?” Canda is quizzical and mocking. “How about the way they treat children?”

“Americans love children,” says Dusana, a bit defensively.

“Americans romanticize children,” puts in the judicious Asira. “Not the same thing.”

“Exactly,” says Canda with mild triumphalism. “Nothing in Americans’ minds is worse than crimes against children. Yet who commits more such crimes? Americans. No other country, semi-civilized or not, permits such widespread economic, physical and sexual depredations against kids.”

“But Americans believe firmly in responsible parenting,” objects Dusana.

“Right. And what does that mean? Leaving them half fatherless and mostly motherless? Allowing them to fend for themselves in almost all circumstances? Permitting them the privilege of developing feral values? ”

“Oh, come on,” I say, “You are surely too harsh.”

“I don’t know,” says Asira. “I have visited hundreds of other cultures where, by and large, children are raised as part of a larger community, both an extended family and an implicit culture. Take two obvious examples: Mexico and Italy.

“Mexican and Italian kids are remarkably well behaved compared to American child monsters precisely because their parents lavish affection on them yet expect them to live up to certain standards of deportment.”

“By our Father,” sneers Dusana, “you sound like the dreariest of sociologists, spouting polysyllabic pointlessness in the service of power elites.”

“Huh?” I query.

Dusana blushes. “Well, it seemed like a useful rhetorical ploy at the time.”

“Ad devilem attacks will get you nowhere,” Asira says.

“Ad devilem? Really, Asira.”

“OK, OK,” I interject. “I didn’t summon you to discuss the vagaries of American attitudes towards children. Have you made any progress on finding out about Teddy Teawater?”

Canda pipes up. “She seems to have a connection to a Baton Rouge insane asylum.”

“How so?”

“An inmate there, an unknowing demon, was once her lover.”

“Male?”

“Yeah. A guy named Atlas Shrugg. Has delusions that in other lives he was Tamerlane and Frank Lloyd Wright.”

“So does he have a current connection with Teddy?”

“About three weeks ago he received a call from a woman with an astonishingly sexy voice and promptly escaped the Baton Rouge ho-ho house.”

“And?”

“You have to understand, ” says Canda, “that Atlas is one scary dude. Six foot nine, three hundred fifty plus pounds, violent as Dick Cheney with a mean streak a mile wide and a fathom deep.”

“Sounds like someone easy to apprehend,” puts in Asira. ” Big as he is by human standards.”

“Unfortunately, he also has a tested IQ of 185 and an odd capacity, perhaps inherited from one of us, to blend into his surroundings.”

“So do we know anything more?” I ask. “Like whether he hooked up with Teddy at any point?”

Canda shakes his head. “That’s all I’ve got, boss.”

“The rest of you?”

“No,” say Asira and Dusana .

“OK, keep an outlook for Shrugg in your various regions and I’ll do the same.”

They vanish and I telemessage Melchom, bringing him up to date.

“Wish I had something more for you but Teddy seems to one elusive slattern.”

“Ciao, Melchom.”

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