The Triumph of Evil

The Triumph of Evil by Lawrence Block

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Authors: Lawrence Block
Tags: thriller, Politics
with the ring of conviction. He talked of progress through a return to traditional American values. He praised the spirit of Godfearing American workers and farmers, who toiled for their bread and lived decent honest lives. He railed at the vipers of the left who would divide the country. He quoted Lincoln’s observation about a house divided. The vipers of the left, he suggested, were moved to divide and conquer.
    “I just don’t know,” she said, her face troubled. “Everybody says he’s a reactionary, and I guess he is. But—”
    “Yes?”
    “Sometimes I can’t help feeling that some of the things he says make sense.”
    “What do your friends say?”
    “Everybody hates him. You know, ‘fascist bastard.’ He’s an obvious racist. He doesn’t come right out with it like that redneck Guthrie. But it’s there. There’s a phrase he uses. ‘The speckled band of subversion.’”
    “I thought that was a reference to Sherlock Holmes. He calls radicals ‘vipers of the left,’ and the ‘speckled band’ was a snake in a Conan Doyle story.”
    “I know. But first he’ll talk about the black nationalists, and then he’ll talk about radical college students, and then he’ll use this ‘speckled band’ thing. Like speckled black and white. That’s what I get from it.”
    “I see. A subtly racist remark.”
    “That’s it, Miles. He’s subtle. And he’s so great on television. There was one speech I saw, I only caught the tail end of it, and there wasn’t a thing he said that I especially agreed with, but when he finished, I don’t know, I felt like standing up and singing ‘God Bless America.’ I felt like marching.”
    “Interesting.”
    “I hear people I know say, ‘I don’t like him, but he has some good ideas.’ Once I heard a friend of my father’s say that about Hitler.”
    Dorn smiled. “Ah. Hitler did have some good ideas, you know. The German people went to him as an alternative to chaos. And he put a stop to inflation, and increased employment, and raised the standard of living, and ended civil disorder, and reversed the terms of Versailles. And—”
    “You make it sound—”
    “And then, when he had evidently saved the German people from chaos, he went on to create for them the most nearly total chaos the world has ever known. He launched an impossible and unnecessary war. He guided the war so as to make utter defeat inevitable. He slaughtered millions. Millions. He destroyed all that he had created along with all that had existed before him. The savior from chaos turned himself into the supreme nihilist. But he had some good ideas.”
    “Do you think—”
    “A wild exaggeration on my part,” he said. “After all, this is America.”
    There was the noise of a small struggle outside, and unfamiliar sounds of pain. Dorn rushed out the front door. Jocelyn was close behind him. The cat was in a bed of irises by the side of the front steps, killing something.
    “Oh, Vertigo!”
    Dorn stooped for a closer look.
    “Is it a mouse?”
    He took hold of the cat by the nape of the neck and retrieved its tiny victim.
    “It’s a bird,” he said. “A young robin.”
    “Oh, no!” She stood over the cat, her face drawn with anguish. “Vertigo, you bad cat! How could you do it? Oh, you bad, bad cat!”
    Dorn had released his hold on the cat’s neck. Vertigo looked up, puzzled, as the girl wailed at him. He stood still while she slapped him twice across his face. Then, baffled, he darted off into the bushes.
    “Oh, God,” she said. She was shuddering. “How could he do that? How did he get out?”
    “It was my fault. There were windows open. It did not occur to me that he might leave.”
    “No, I should have thought. He never did anything like that before. He’s always been a good cat, a wonderful cat. He never even puts out his claws. How could he do that? Is the poor thing—”
    There was life in the bird that he held in his hands, but it was terribly mauled. “I’m

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