Cities of the Red Night

Cities of the Red Night by William S. Burroughs

Book: Cities of the Red Night by William S. Burroughs Read Free Book Online
Authors: William S. Burroughs
witnesses, who wore masks?” I asked Dimitri.
    â€œI surmised that they would be eligible for immediate disposal. A charter plane for London leaving Athens the day after the ritual murder crashed in Yugoslavia. There were no survivors. I checked the passenger list with my police contacts in England. Seven of the passengers belonged to a Druid cult suspected of robbing graves and performing black-magic rituals with animal sacrifices. One of the animals allegedly sacrificed was a horse. Such an act is considerably more shocking to the British sensibility than human sacrifice.”
    â€œThey sacrificed a horse ?”
    â€œIt’s an old Scythian practice. A naked youth mounts the horse, slits its throat and rides it to the ground. Dangerous, I’m told. Rather like your American rodeos.”
    â€œWhat about the twin sister who hanged him?” Jim demanded.
    Dimitri opened a file. “‘She’ is a transvestite, Arn West, born Arnold Atkins at Newcastle upon Tyne. A topflight ultraexpensive assassin specializing in sexual techniques and poisons. His consultation fee to listen to a proposition is a hundred thousand dollars, nonrefundable. Known as the Popper, the Blue Octopus, the Siren Cloak.
    â€œAnd now, would you gentlemen care to join me for dinner? I would like to hear from you, Mr. Snide, the complete story and not a version edited for the so limited police mentality.”
    *   *   *
    Dimitri’s house was near the American Embassy. It was not the sort of house you would expect a police official on a modest salary to own. It took up almost half a block. The grounds were surrounded by high walls, with six feet of barbed wire on top. The door looked like a bank vault.
    Dimitri led the way down a hall with a red-tiled floor into a book-lined room. French doors opened onto a patio about seventy feet long and forty feet wide. I could see a pool, trees and flowers. Jim and I sat down and Dimitri mixed drinks. I glanced at the books: magic, demonology, a number of medical books, a shelf of Egyptology and books on the Mayans and Aztecs.
    I told Dimitri what I knew and what I suspected. It took about half an hour. After I had finished, he sat for some time in silence, looking down into his drink.
    â€œWell, Mr. Snide,” he said at last. “It would seem that your case is closed. The killers are dead.”
    â€œBut they were only—”
    â€œExactly: Servants. Dupes. Hired killers, paid off with a special form of death. You will recognize the rite as the Egyptian sunset rite dedicated to Set. A sacrifice involving both sex and death is the most potent projection of magical intention. The participants did not know that one of the intentions they were projecting was their own death in a plane crash.”
    â€œAny evidence of sabotage?”
    â€œNo. But there was not much left of the plane. The crash occurred outside Zagreb. Pilot was off course and flying low. It looks like pilot error. There are, of course, techniques for producing such errors.… You are still intending to continue on this case? To find the higher-ups? And why exactly?”
    â€œLook, Colonel, this didn’t start with the Green case. These people are old enemies.”
    â€œDo not be in a hurry to dispose of old enemies. What would you do without them? Look at it this way: You are retained to find a killer. You turn up a hired assassin. You are not satisfied. You want to find the man who hired him. You find another servant. You are not satisfied. You find another servant, and another, right up to Mr. or Mrs. Big—who turns out to be yet another servant … a servant of forces and powers you cannot reach. Where do you stop? Where do you draw the line?”
    He had a point.
    He went on: “Let us consider what has happened here. A boy has been hanged for ritual and magical purposes. Is this so startling?… You have read The Bog People ?”
    I

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