PROLOGUE: Northern Iraq
The blaze of sun wrung pops of sweat from the old man's brow, yet he cupped his hands around the glass of hot sweet tea as if to warm them. He could not shake the premonition. The dig was over. The tell had been sifted, its entrails examined, tagged and shipped. Nothing exceptional. The withered proprietor shuffling toward him. "Kaman chay, chawaga?" The man, in khaki shook his head. The Kurd stood waiting like an ancient debt. The old man in khaki looked up into eyes that were damply bleached. Glaucoma.
He slipped out his wallet and probed for a coin. He paid for his tea and left a tip of fifty fils. He walked to his jeep. The key sliding into ignition was crisp in the silence. Something was waiting. He started the engine, turned in a narrow, eccentric U and headed toward Mosul. The painstaking inventory was finished by ten after six. The Mosul curator of antiquities was carefully penning a final entry into the ledger on his desk. For a moment he paused, looking up at his friend, as he dipped his penpoint into an inkpot.
The train to Baghdad left at eight. The man in khaki, his eyes fixed upon something on the table. There was something in the air. He stood up and moved closer; then felt a vague prickling at the base of his neck as his friend at last moved, reaching down for an amulet and cradling it pensively in his hand. It was a green stone head of the demon Pazuzu, personification of the southwest wind. Its dominion was sickness and disease. The head was pierced. The amulet's owner had worn it as a shield. "Evil against evil," breathed the curator.
The man in khaki still appeared not to hear, absorbed in the amulet, the last of his finds. After a moment he set it down, then lifted a questioning look to the Arab. "Nothing." They murmured farewells. At the door, the curator took the old man's hand with an extra firmness. "My heart has a wish, Father: that you would not go." His friend answered softly in terms of tea; of times; of something to be done. "No, no, no, I meant home." The man in khaki fixed his gaze on a speck of boiled chick-pea nestled in a corner of the Arab's mouth; yet his eyes were distant.
"Home," he repeated. The word had the sound of an ending: "The States," the Arab curator added, instantly wondering why he had. He had never found it difficult to love this
man. "Good-bye;" he whispered; then quickly turned and stepped into the gathering gloom of the streets and a journey home whose length seemed somehow undetermined. The Arab watched his dwindling form as he crossed a narrow street at an angle, almost colliding with a swiftly moving droshky.
Its cab bore a corpulent old Arab woman, her face a shadow behind the black lace veil draped loosely over her like a shroud. Shrugging loose of the city, he breached the outskirts, crossing the Tigris. Nearing the ruins, he slowed his pace, for- with every step the inchoate presentiment took firmer, more horrible form. Yet he had to know. And then he was there; he stood on the mound where once gleamed fifteen-gated Nineveh, feared nest of Assyrian hordes.
Now the city lay sprawled in the bloody dust of its predestination. And yet he was here, the air was still thick with him, that Other who ravaged his dreams. The man in khaki prowled the ruins. The Temple of Nabu. The Temple of Ishtar. At the palace of Ashurbanipal he paused; then shifted a sidelong glance to a limestone statue hulking in situ: ragged wings; taloned feet; bulbous, jutting, stubby penis and a mouth stretched taut in a feral grin. The demon Pazuzu.
Abruptly he sagged. He knew. It was coming.
He stared at the dust. Quickening shadows.. He heard dim yappings of savage dog packs prowling the fringes of the city. The orb of the sun was beginning to fall below the rim of the world. He rolled his shirt sleeves down and buttoned them as a shivering breeze sprang up. Its source was southwest. He hastened toward Mosul and his train, his heart encased in the icy conviction that soon he would face an ancient enemy.
CHAPTER ONE: The Beginning
The beginning of the horror passed almost unnoticed; in the shriek of what followed, in fact, was forgotten and perhaps not connected to the horror at all. The house was a rental. A bride colonial in the Georgetown section of Washington, D.C. Across the street was a fringe of campus belonging to Georgetown University; to the rear, a sheer embankment plummeting steep to busy M Street. Chris MacNeil was propped in bed, going over her lines for the neat day's filming; Regan, her daughter, was sleeping down the hall.
Asleep downstairs in a room off the pantry were the middle-aged housekeepers, Willie and Karl. At approximately 12:25 A.M., Chris glanced with a frown of puzzlement. She heard rapping sounds. She listened for a moment; as the rappings persisted. She got up to investigate. It seemed to be coming from Regan's bedroom. She padded down the hall and the rappings grew suddenly louder, much faster, and as she stepped into the room, they abruptly ceased. Her pretty eleven-year-old was asleep. Okay, Rags. Say it. "April Fool!"
And yet Chris knew it wasn't like her. The child had a shy and very diffident nature. Abruptly, she flicked a quick glance to the ceiling. There! Faint scratchings. Rats in the attic, for pete's sake! Rats! That's it. Thump, thump. She felt oddly relieved. And then noticed the cold. The room. It was icy. She padded to the window. Checked it. Closed. She touched the radiator. Hot. Puzzled, she moved to the bedside and, touched her hand to Regan's cheek. It was smooth as thought and lightly perspiring.
She looked at her daughter, at the turned-up nose and freckled face, and on a quick, warm impulse,
leaned over the bed and kissed her cheek. She returned to her bed and her script. For a while, Chris studied. A subplot had been added dealing with campus insurrections. Chris was starring. She played a psychology teacher who sided with the rebels. And she hated it. It didn't make sense. One more week. It was Easter vacation and the students were away. She was getting drowsy. She yawned, then glanced fondly at the side of her script.
She remembered the rats. She made a mental note to have Karl set traps for them in the morning. A fumbling hand groping out to the light switch. Chris slept. And dreamed about death while something was ringing, she gasping, slipping off into void, I will die, the ringing------ The phone! She leaped up and answered. The assistant director. "In makeup at six, honey." "Right. And thanks." And for moments thinking of the dream. A dream? More like thought in the half life of waking. Gleam of the skull. God, it can't be! She considered. But it is.
She went to the bathroom, put on a robe, and padded quickly down to the kitchen, down to life in sputtering bacon. "Ah, good morning, Mrs. MacNeil." Gray, drooping Willie, squeezing oranges, blue sacs beneath her eyes. A trace of accent. Swiss, like Karl's. Chris, ever sensitive, had seen her weary look, and as Willie now grunted and turned back to the sink, the actress poured coffee, then moved to the breakfast nook. Sat down. And warmly smiled as she looked at her plate. A blush-red rose. Regan.
Many a morning, when Chris was working, Regan would quietly slip out of bed, come down to the kitchen and place a flower. Chris chuckled at the memory. Sipped at her coffee. As her gaze caught the rose again, her expression turned briefly sad. She'd recalled another flower. A son. Jamie. He had died long ago at the age of three, when Chris was very young and an unknown chorus girl on Broadway. She had sworn she would not give herself ever again as she had to Jamie; as she had to his father, Howard MacNeil.
She glanced quickly from the rose, and as her dream of death misted upward from the coffee, she quickly lit a cigarette. Willie brought juice and Chris remembered the rats. "Where's Karl?" she asked the servant. "I am here, madam!" Catting in lithe through a door off the pantry. Commanding. Crouching. "Yes?" Thickly muscled, he breathed by the table. Glittering eyes. Hawk nose. Bald head. "Hey, Karl, we've got rats in the attic. Better get us some traps." "No rats." "Maybe rats! Will you buy the damn traps and quit arguing?"
"Yes, madam!" Bustling away. "I go now!" "They are closed!" chided Willie. He was gone. Chris and Willie traded glances, and then Willie shook her head. Strange man. Like Willie, hard-working; very loyal; discreet. And yet something about him made her vaguely uneasy. What was it? His subtle air of arrogance? No.
Something else. The couple had been with her for almost six years, and yet Karl was a mask--- a hieroglyph running her errands on stilted legs. Behind the mask, though, she could hear his mechanism ticking like a conscience.
She picked up her wig box, slouched downstairs, and walked out to the piquant tree-lined street. Beside the house, a precipitous plunge of old stone steps fell away to M Street far below. She entered the Georgetown campus front gates and her depression diminished as she looked at the row of trailer dressing rooms; and by 8 A.M. and the day's first shot, she was almost herself: She started an argument over the script. "Hey, Burke? Take a look at this damned thing, will ya?"
Director Burke Dennings, taut and, elfin, left eye twitching yet gleaming with mischief, surgically shaved a narrow strip from a page of her script with quivering fingers. They were in the center of actors; lights; technicians; extras; grips. Dennings put the
paper in his mouth and giggled, his breath reeking faintly of the morning's first gin. A sly, frail man in his fifties, he spoke with a charmingly broad British accent so clipped and precise that it lofted even crudest obscenities to elegance, and when he drank, he seemed always on the verge of guffaw.
"Now then, tell me, my baby. What's wrong?" The scene in question called for the dean of the mythical college in the script to address a gathering of students. "It just doesn't make sense," said Chris. "Well, it's perfectly plain. Shall we summon the writer? I believe he's in Paris!" "Hiding?" "Fucking!" Chris fell weak to his shoulders, laughing. "Now then, shall we get on with it?" Chris didn't hear. She'd darted a furtive, embarrassed glance to a nearby Jesuit, checking to see if he'd heard the obscenity. Dark, rugged face. Like a boxer's. Chipped. In his forties.
Something sad about the eyes; something pained; and yet warm and reassuring as they fastened on hers. He'd heard. He was smiling. He glanced at his watch and moved away. Chris looked toward Dennings. Chris did not believe that Dennings was either an alcoholic or a hopeless problem drinker, but rather that he drank because he was living up to his legend. She turned, looking for the Jesuit who had smiled. He was walking in the distance. She had never liked priests. And yet this one... "Roll the film," ordered Burke. "Now action!"
They worked with intermittent sun. The assistant director dismissed the company for the day. Chris walked homeward. She glanced diagonally across the street to a Catholic church. Staffed by Jesuits. As she walked down O, a priest rushed by from behind her. Young. Very tense. Up ahead, he turned into an easement. Chris paused by the easement, watching him, curious. An old screen door creaked open and still another priest emerged. He looked glum. He nodded curtly toward the young man, he moved quickly toward a
door that led into the Church.
Once again the cottage door was pushed open from within. Another priest. It looked--- Hey, it is! Only now he looked grave as he silently greeted the new arrival, his arm around his shoulder in a gesture that was gentle and somehow parental. He led him inside and the screen door closed with a slow, faint squeak. She was puzzled. She wondered if Jesuits went to confession. She tugged up her coat collar and slowly moved on. In a minute she was home and walked into the kitchen. "Hi, Chris, how'd it go?"
Pretty blonde in her twenties sitting at the table. Sharon Spencer. Fresh. From Oregon. For the last three years, she'd been tutor to Regan and social secretary to Chris. "Oh, the usual crock." Chris sauntered to the table and began to sift message. "Anything exciting?" "Do you want to have dinner next week at the White House?" "Where's Rags, by the way?" "Downstairs in the playroom." "'What doin'?" "Sculpting. She's making a bird for you." "Were you kidding me about that dinner?" she asked. "No, of course not," answered Sharon.
"How'd the lesson go?" Sharon frowning, "Had a bad time with math again."
"Oh? Gee, that's funny." "I know; it's her favorite subject," said Sharon. "Oh, well, this 'new math,' Christ, I couldn't make change for the bus if---" "Hi, Mom!" She was bounding through the door, slim arms outstretched. Red ponytail. Soft, shining face full of freckles. "Hi ya, stinkpot!" Beaming, Chris caught her in a bearhug, squeezing, then kissed the girl's cheek."Mmum-mmum-mmum!" More kisses. Then she held Regan out and probed her face with eager eyes. "What'djya do today?"
"Oh stuff Well, of course, I studied. An' I painted. An' then--- Oh, yeah! This man had a horse, ya know, down by the river? We were walking and then along came this horse, he was beautiful! Oh, Mom, ya should've seen him, and the man let me sit on him! Mother, can't we get a horse? "We'll see, baby. Where's the bird you made?" Regan looked blank for a moment; then turned around to Sharon and grinned, her mouth full of braces. "You told. It was a surprise," she snickered to her mother. "Can I see it?" "No, I still have to paint it."
"When's dinner, Mom? I'm starving. Can we go to the Hot Shoppe?" "Run upstairs and get dressed and we'll go." Regan ran from the room. Chris reached for her mail, began listlessly sorting through scrawled adulation. Chris got up and went upstairs to Regan's bedroom. Regan was standing in the middle of the room staring up at the ceiling. "What's doin'?" Chris asked her. "Funny noises," said Regan. "I know. We've got friends. Squirrels, honey; squirrels in the attic." Her daughter was squeamish and terrified of rats.
They went to the Hot Shoppe. Chris ate a salad while Regan had soup, four rolls, fried chicken, a chocolate shake, and a helping of blueberry pie with coffee ice cream. Where does she put it? The child was slender as a fleeting hope. Chris stubbed out her cigarette and chuckled. "Let's go." They were back before seven. Willie and Karl had already returned. Regan made a dash for the basement playroom, eager to finish the sculpture for her mother. Chris headed for the kitchen.
She found Willie brewing coffee. She looked irritable and sullen. They had gone to a movie, Willie explained. Karl had insisted on an art-house film about Mozart. "Terrible," she simmered. Karl, had walked in. "Did you set those traps?" asked Chris. "I set them, of course; but the attic is clean." Chris entered Regan's bedroom and stubbed her toe against the base of a bureau. As she lifted her foot and massaged her toe, she noticed that the bureau was out of position by about three feet. Willie must have vacuumed.
She went down to the study. The doorbell chimed. Burke Dennings. "Yes, hullo, where's a drink!" he demanded crossly. Chris handed him a gin on the rocks. "Beg pardon, madam. You wish something?" Karl stood at the door to the study. "Tell me, Karl, was it public relations you told me you did for the Gestapo, or was it community relations?" Karl spoke politely. "Neither one, sir. I am Swiss." The director strode belligerently from the house. Chris turned to Karl, "Where's Rags?" "Down in playroom." "I'd better go see the bird. And I apologize for Burke."
Chris walked to the entry hall of the house, pulled open the door to the basement staircase and started downstairs. "Hi ya, stinky, whatchya doin' down there? Got the bird?" "Oh, yes, come see! Come on down, it's all finished!" The playroom was paneled and brightly decorated. Easels. Paintings. Phonograph. Tables for games and a table for sculpting. Red and white bunting left over from a party for the previous tenant's teenaged son. "Hey, that's great!" exclaimed Chris as her daughter handed her the figure.
It was not quite dry and looked something like a "worry bird," painted orange, except for the beak, which was laterally striped in green and white. A tuft of feathers was glued to the head. "Do you like it?" asked Regan. "Oh, honey, I do, I really do. Got a name for it?" "Uh-uh." "What's a good one?" "I dunno," Regan shrugged. "Let me see, let me see." Chris tapped fingertips to teeth. "I don't know. Whaddya think about 'Dumbbird'? Huh? just 'Dumbbird.' " Regan was snickering, hand to her mouth to conceal the braces. Nodding.
"Dumbbird by a landslide! I'll leave it here to dry and then I'll put him in my room." Chris was setting down the bird when she noticed the Ouija board. She'd forgotten she had it. Almost as curious about herself as she was about others, she'd originally bought it as a possible means of exposing clues to her subconscious. It hadn't worked. She'd used it a time or two with Sharon, and once with Dennings, who had skillfully steered the plastic planchette so that all of the "messages" were obscene, and then afterward blamed it on the "fucking spirits!"
"You playin' with the Ouija board?" You know how?" "Oh, well, sure. Here, I'll show you." "Well, I think you need two people, honey." "No ya don't, Mom" "Well, let's both play, okay" "Well, okay." She had her fingertips positioned on the white planchette and as Chris reached
out to position hers, the pianchette made a swift move to the position on the board marked No. Chris smiled at her slyly. "You don't want me to play?" "No, I do! Captain Howdy said no." "Honey, who's Captain Howdy?" "Oh, ya know. I make questions and he does the answers."
Chris tried not to frown as she felt a dim and sudden concern. The child had loved her father deeply, yet never had reacted visibly to her parents' divorce. And Chris didn't like it. Chris was fearful she was repressing and that her emotions might one day erupt in some harmful form. Why "Howdy"? For Howard? Her father? "Why do you call him Captain Howdy?" "Cause that's his name, of course," Regan snickered.
"Says who?" "Well, him." "Of course." "And what else does he say to you?" "Stuff." "What stuff?" Regan shrugged. "Just stuff."
"I'll show you. I'll ask him some questions." Her fingertips on the planchette, Regan stared at the board with eyes drawn tight in concentration. "Captain Howdy, don't you think my mom is pretty?" A second... five... "Captain Howdy?" Chris was surprised. She'd expected her daughter to slide the planchette to the section marked Yes. An unconscious hostility? "Captain Howdy, that's really not very polite," chided Regan. "Maybe he's sleeping and I think you should be sleeping. C'mon, up to bed!" "He's a poop," muttered Regan, then followed her mother up the stairs.
Chris tucked her into bed. "Sunday's no work. You want to go see the sights?" "Oh, yeah, Mom!" "And tomorrow night a movie! How's that?" Regan gave her a hug and Chris hugged her back with an extra fervor. "You can bring Mr. Dennings if you like." Chris pulled back for an appraisal. "Mr. Dennings?" Chris chuckled. "Honey, why would I want to bring Mr. Dennings?" "Well, you like him." "Oh, well, sure I like him, honey; don't you? Baby, what's going on?" Chris prodded her daughter. "You're going to marry him, Mommy, aren't you."
It wasn't a question, but a sullen statement. Chris exploded into a laugh. "Oh, my baby, of course not! Mr. Dennings? Where'd you get that idea?" "But you like him." "I like pizzas, but I wouldn't ever marry one! Honey, he's a friend, just a crazy old friend!" "You don't like him like Daddy?" "I love your daddy, honey; Mr. Dennings comes by here a lot 'cause he's lonely, that's all. Now go to sleep." "Can I read? I'm not sleepy." "Sure. Read your new book, hon, until you get tired." "Thanks, Mommy." "Good night, hon." "Good night."
Chris walked down the stairs. She wondered if Regan connected Dennings to her filing for divorce. Regan knew only that Chris had filed. Yet Howard had wanted it. Long separations. Erosion of ego as the husband of a star. He'd found someone else. Regan didn't know that. Back to the study. The script. Chris read. She saw Regan coming toward her. "Hi, honey. What's wrong?" "There's these real funny noises, Mom.
I can't go to sleep." Where the hell are those traps! "Honey, sleep in my bedroom and I'll see what it is." Chris led her to the bedroom and tucked her in.
Chris turned out the light and went down the hall. She climbed the narrow, carpeted stairs that led to the attic. She opened the door and felt for the light switch; found it; flicked it, stooping as she entered. She glanced around. The traps, six of them, baited. The room was spotless. "There is nothing." Chris jumped from her skin. "0h, good Jesus!" she gasped. "Jesus Christ, Karl, don't do that!" He was standing on the steps. "Very sorry. But you see? It is clean." "Yeah, it's clean. Thanks a lot." "Maybe cat better. To catch rats."
Without waiting for an answer, he nodded and left. Either Karl hadn't any sense of humor whatever, or he had one so sly it escaped her detection. She considered the rappings again, then glanced at the angled roof. The street was shaded by various trees, most of them gnarled and interwined with vines. Was it squirrels after all? Or branches. Right. Could be branches. "Maybe cat better."
Abruptly she smiled, looking partly mischievous. She went to Regan's bedroom, picked something up, brought it back to the attic, and then back to her bedroom.
Regan was sleeping. She returned her to her room, then went back to her own bedroom. The house was quiet until morning. Eating her breakfast, Chris told Karl that she thought she'd heard a trap springing shut during the night. Without any comment, he went up to investigate. Chris passed him in the hall, staring expressionlessly at the large stuffed mouse he was holding. He'd found it with its snout clamped tight in a trap. "Someone is funny," Karl muttered. She prepared to go to work. Yeah, maybe cat better, old buddy.
The filming went smoothly that day. Early in the evening, Chris took Regan out to a movie, and the following day they drove around to points of interest in Chris's Jaguar XKE. Across the river to Arlington Cemetery. Regan turned solemn, and later seemed a little sad, "Mom, why do people have to die?" The question pierced her mother's soul. What could she tell her? She looked at her daughter's face. "Honey, people get tired," she answered Regan. "Why does God let them?" Chris stared. She was puzzled.
An atheist, she had never taught Regan religion. She thought it dishonest, "Who's been telling you about God?" she asked. "Sharon. Mom, why does God let us get tired?" Looking down at those sensitive eyes, Chris couldn't tell her what she believed. "Well, after a while God gets lonesome for us, Rags. He wants us back." Regan stayed quiet and her mood persisted all the rest of the day and through Monday.
On Tuesday, Regan's birthday, she seemed quite gay. But after dinner and the opening of presents, the mood seemed to fade. No word from Howard.
Chris placed a call to him in Rome, and was told by a clerk at his hotel that he hadn't been there for several days and couldn't be reached. Chris made excuses. Regan nodded, subdued. Without a word, she went downstairs to the basement playroom, where she remained until time for bed. The following morning when Chris opened her eyes, she found Regan in bed with her. "What are you doing here?" Chris chuckled. "My bed was shaking." Chris kissed her and pulled up her covers. "Go to sleep." What looked like morning was the beginning of endless night.
He stood at the edge of the lonely subway platform, listening for the rumble of a train. He stared down the tunnel. A cough. He glanced to the left. The gray-stubbled derelict in a pool of his urine was sitting up. With yellowed eyes he stared at the priest. The priest looked away. He would whine. Couldjya help an old altar boy, Father? Wouldjya? The vomit-flaked hand pressing down on the shoulder. The reeking of the breath of a thousand confessions with the wine and the garlic and the stale mortal sins belching out all together, and smothering.
The priest heard the derelict rising. "Hi ya, Faddah." He winced. Couldn't turn. He could not bear to search for Christ again in stench and hollow eyes; for the Christ of pus and bleeding excrement. In absent gesture, he felt at his sleeve as if for an unseen band of mourning. "Hey, Faddah!"
The hum of an incoming train. Then sounds of stumbling. He looked to the tramp. He was staggering; dragged him to the bench against the wall. "I'm a Cat'lic," the derelict mumbled. The priest eased him down; stretched him out; saw his train.
He quickly pulled a dollar from out of his wallet and placed it in the pocket of the derelict's jacket, then he picked up his bag and boarded the train. At the end of the line he walked to Fordham University. When he reached the residence hall for visitors, he signed his name on the register. He took a room in Weigel Hall. The following day he attended a meeting of the American Psychiatric Association. As principal speaker, he delivered a paper entitled "Psychological Aspects of Spiritual Development." He left them early. He would have to see his mother.
He walked to the crumbling brownstone apartment building on Manhattan's East Twenty-first Street. Pausing by the steps that led up to the door, he eyed the children on the stoop. Unkempt. Ill-clothed. No place to go. He remembered evictions: humiliations: -walking home with a seventh-grade sweetheart and encountering his mother as she hopefully rummaged through a garbage can on the corner. He climbed the steps and opened the door as if it were a tender wound. An odor like cooking. Like rotted sweetness.
He gripped the banister and climbed, overcome by a sudden, draining weariness that he knew was caused by guilt. He should never have left her. Not alone.
Her greeting was joyful A shout. A kiss. She rushed to make coffee. Dark. Stubby, gnarled legs. He sat in the kitchen and listened to her talk, the dingy walls and soiled floor seeping into his bones. The apartment was a hovel. Social Security. Each month, a few dollars from a brother. She sat at the table. Mrs. This. Uncle That. Still in immigrant accents.
He avoided those eyes that were wells of sorrow, eyes that spent days staring out of a window. He wrote a few letters for her later. She could neither read nor write any English. Then he spent time repairing the tuner on a crackling, plastic radio. Her world. The news. He went to the bathroom. Yellowing newspaper spread on the tile. On the floor, an old corset. Seeds of vocation. From these he had fled into love. At a quarter to eleven, he kissed her good-bye; promised to return jest as soon as he could. He left with the radio tuned to the news.
Once back in his room in Weigel Hall, he gave some thought to writing a letter to the Jesuit head of the Maryland province. He'd covered the ground with him once before: request for a transfer to the New York province in order to be closer to his mother; request for a teaching post and relief from his duties. In requesting the latter, he'd cited as a reason "unfitness" for the work. The Maryland Provincial had taken it up with him during the course of his annual inspection tour of Georgetown University.
On the point of Damien Karras' mother, the Provicial had nodded and expressed his symphathy; but the question of the priest's "unfitness" he thought contradictory on its face. But Karras had pursued it: "Well, it's more than psychiatry, Tom. You know that. Some of their problems come down to vocation,
to the meaning of their lives. Hell, it isn't always sex that's involved, it's their faith, and I just can't cut it, Tom, it's too much. I need out. I'm having problems of my own. l mean, doubts" "What thinking man doesn't, Damien?"
A harried man with many appointments, the Provincial had not pressed him for the reasons for his doubt. For which Karras was grateful. He knew that his answers would have sounded insane. And much of the evil resulted from doubt; from an honest confusion among men of good will. Would a reasonable God refuse to end it? Not reveal Himself? Not speak? Why not a sign? The yearning consumed him. Perhaps he understood that faith was finally a matter of love. The Provincial had promised to consider the requests, but thus far nothing had been done.
He sluggishly awakened at 5 A.M. and went to the chapel in Weigel Hall, secured a Host and said Mass. He lifted the Host in consecration with an aching remembrance of the joy it once gave him; the pang of an unexpected glimpse from afar and unnoticed of a longlost love. He broke the Host above the chalice. He tucked the Host inside his mouth and swallowed the papery taste of despair. When the Mass was over, he polished the chalice and carefully placed it in his bag. He rushed for the seven-ten train back to Washington, carrying pain in a black valise.