Paul Dellit has written some excellent political articles for The AIMN, so it came as some surprise that he is better known for his screenplay writing. Thomas Keneally, in a recent review of one of Paul’s screenplays I wrote: “I liked your screenplay and plot very much” and went on to describe it as “a very interesting and well-wrought script”. This particular screenplay – a spy thriller set in 1992 involving a MI5 mission directed at uncovering the source of stolen Russian radioactive material – has been turned into a novella (with input from Mr Keneally) and prior to publishing in hard copy has been offered to The AIMN.
We are pleased to ‘publish’ Paul’s novella. Being over 40,000 words, it will need be published in weekly installments.
Today we offer Part 10 (picking up where we left off from in Part 9).
Chapter 5 (continued)
Emma is walking out of Kleinsdorf’s room, down the stairs, and into the living room where Oliver is reading a fax. She interrupts him. “We forgot to tell Clive and Jim to bring us food and drink. We’re running out of a lot of things. I wonder if we can get one of them to go out after they return with Feint. We have Kleinsdorf and us, Clive, Jim and Feint – six to feed.”
“I made a list early this morning before they left with Venner, when you were in the shower.”
“Clever boy . . . Oh, and I can guess why. There is no decent wine in the place. I hope you gave them some money.”
“Of course. I thought it was about time we had a slap-up meal or two, some nice wine, so I gave them ample funds. I can’t imagine the expense account for this place would cover it.” He pauses and looks at Emma. “Feint won’t recognise you, will he?”
“We haven’t met. He will have seen photos of me as I was in Australia.”
“When you were . . .”
“Your next words may be your last, Oliver.”
“As far as he knows he is spending the night here before heading off to identify my body at the morgue tomorrow morning. Perhaps you could meet him at the front door and lead the three of them up to Venner’s old room. I’ll be waiting for him there.”
“Maximise the shock-value.”
“Precisely. I’ve just been reading his personnel file. Andrew faxed it to me. Very useful.”
Oliver is in Venner’s old room where he has set up the small dining table with two chairs on one side and one on the other. There is a sheaf of papers in the middle of the table. There are also chairs at either corner of the room behind the single chair at the table. Oliver is leaning against the wall of the room to one side of the door so that he cannot be seen when Feint first enters the room. The door is opening and Feint walks in followed by Clive and Jim and Emma. Feint does not see Oliver until he speaks.
“Come in Peter. That’s your chair.”
Oliver walks to one of the two chairs on the other side of the table facing Feint’s chair. Emma joins Oliver facing Feint. Feint stops, still standing, shocked and looking increasingly nervous. He tries to regain his composure.
“Your alive, Oliver. I was told you were . . . not.” He makes a feeble attempt at a good natured laugh. “What happened? I mean, it’s good to see you’re well.”
Oliver looks stoically at Feint. “Please sit down, Peter.”
Feint sits followed by Oliver and Emma. There is a long pause while Oliver leafs through the papers which are lying on the table.
“You were a Christian Brothers’ boy, Peter.” Oliver pauses, and looking up, directly at Feint, smiles. “Jesuits.” He pauses again. “Remember the old rivalries.”
There is another long pause while Oliver continues to leaf through the sheets of paper. Then he puts them down and looks directly at Feint again.
“I’m sorry, Peter. I forgot to introduce Mrs. Plessey, widow of the late Mr. Phillip Plessey, mother of the late Kate Plessey.” He stares at Feint. “Are you in the state of grace, Peter? Would you like me to arrange for a priest to see you?”
Feint is now very flushed, sweating, and finding it hard to form words. “What’s the matter, Oliver? What’s going on? Why . . . why are we . . . meeting like this?”
Oliver keeps staring at Feint without speaking.
Feint is becoming agitated. “Please tell me, Oliver, what do you want? What’s this all about? Why am I here like this?” Perspiration runs down his cheeks and he begins squirming in his chair. He looks nervously for a handkerchief in his pockets. His hands are shaking. “Please Oliver, please. What do you want from me?”
Oliver takes a writing pad and pen from beneath the sheaf of papers and places it in front of Feint. He leans across the table and speaks with a soft, confidential voice. “You can achieve absolution for a mortal sin without the sacrament of penance as long as you have perfect contrition. That means your contrition must be absolutely sincere. God could call any of us at any moment, Peter. If you were to die, here, in this room, your immortal soul would go to hell, Peter. You effected the murders of Mrs. Plessey’s husband and child, and my wife and child. That’s four mortal sins, Peter. Then there are all the children you have personally abused, molested like some craven animal, Peter. They will bear the scars of your abuse for the rest of their lives, Peter. And then there are all your exertions to ensure the safe conduct of the orphanage where numbers of children are held in captivity so that depraved entities like you can sate their perverted appetites.” Oliver stands and walks around to Feint’s side of the table. “Stand up, Peter!”
Feint stands and shakily supports himself on the back of his chair.
Oliver rests his foot on the chair leans on his thigh towards him. “What kind of appetite do you think that I have at this moment, Peter? And how do you think I might sate that appetite?” He continues in a calm voice. “Please sit, Peter. I just wanted you to understand that we are serious. You can forgive my melodramatic gesture, can’t you, Peter.’
“Of course, Oliver.” He sits down again and settles himself forward in his chair, the immediate danger now passed. “Look . . .”
Oliver now seated facing Feint again, slams his fist down on the table so that it jumps, shocking everyone in the room. His expression remains calm, smiling, his gaze remaining fixed upon Feint, the more menacing because of its contrast with the violence of his fist-slamming gesture. He pauses. The room is silent. Then Oliver speaks softly. “On that writing pad you have in front of you, I want you to write the following: the name, address and phone number of the orphanage; the name and description of the head of that orphanage who also performs the role of courier for Oleg; the number of children held at the orphanage; the number of personnel resident at the orphanage, men of the cloth and their lay staff. I want the names of every sexual predator who visits the orphanage – the names of the two Curia Cardinals who are its effective owners, as well as the names of every cardinal, bishop, monsignor, priest and member of the laity. I also want you to draw a diagram of the layout of the orphanage and associated buildings and the grounds with gates, fences, boundary lines and any other details which I may consider relevant – including directions for getting there from the nearest town – the name of the nearest town as well.”
“I . . . I . . . don’t know all of this. How can I . . . I just visited . . . I didn’t pay attention to the layout and . . . Please, Oliver . . . what will happen if I can’t do what you ask?”
“If you convince me that you have provided every atom of information you have, you will be taken from here and placed in custody and put on trial for your crimes. If you fail to convince me, I will ask the others present in the room to leave the two of us together for a more intimate chat. I can’t predict what the outcome of that may be, what sins I may have to confess afterwards.” He looks at Feint with cold hatred in his eyes, pauses, looks away and speaks calmly. “Where do the clients of the orphanage stay when they make their pilgrimages?”
“There is a fryer’s retreat . . . about a kilometre away.”
“How many stay there at any one time?”
“No more than ten, I think.”
“I want the name, address and phone number of that retreat as well – the same details you will provide about the orphanage. Start writing, Peter. If you procrastinate I will regard that as a failure to respond.
Feint nervously picks up the pen, sweating, hands shaking. “Yes, yes, I will . . . can I please have a glass of water.”
“Could you please, Jim? Thanks.”
Jim leaves the room to get a glass of water for Feint.
Oliver leans over to Feint. “We will leave you to it now. Clive will wait with you to make sure you don’t get up to any mischief. Let him know when you’ve finished.” And as Oliver walks past Feint, he leans over so that he is very close to Feint’s ear, so that Feint is conscious of Oliver’s hot breath as he whispers: “As bad as this day has been for you, Peter, remember, it could get much worse.” Oliver stands up and speaks so that everyone can hear. “We’re on the same page, aren’t we, Peter?”
Feint, now sobbing, replies: “Yes . . . yes.”
Jim is poring over the notes and diagrams Feint has prepared, with Emma and Oliver looking on.
Emma comments: “It seems he has the civil servant’s concern for detail – fortunately.”
Jim riffles through his attaché case and takes out a map, and after examining it for a moment, exclaims: “Right!” He spreads the map out and begins to pore over it and with Emma and Oliver looking on, he traces his finger across the map until he jabs at his destination, turning to the other two to add: “Here it is: San Domenico Savio – remote, mountainous – there’s the road in; terminates there (indicating the place with another jab) . . . no, runs on to a small farm for about another kilometre or so – the nearest town, more like a village, is Castello Dei Martiri. It’s on the only access road, in or out. Yes. Good!”
Emma crouches over the map, slowly speaking the translation for the benefit of the other two: “The Castle of the Martyrs.”
Jim indicates another place on the map to complete their briefing on the location of the final place of interest: “The retreat . . . here, San Giovanni Bosco, about a half a kilometre from the orphanage . . . on a small side road.”
Oliver asks: “You’ll wait on that access road – it’s the only way in and out, right?”
Jim nods, adding: “Hopefully there is a pensione in Castello overlooking the access road – hopefully. Don’t fancy a car stakeout in the middle of winter in the Italian high country.”
Oliver places a hand on Jim’s shoulder to draw his attention to ask: “Jim, I forgot to ask if there was anything you wanted, you and Clive, any preferences you may have for food and drink?”
“No. We’ll be okay.”
“Look, mate, I forgot to ask what you and Clive might want when I made out that list. No beer or Scotch in the place. Shops aren’t far.” Oliver walks over to Jim and discretely produces some notes. “I don’t want to feel guilty for the next couple of days while you’re here. Ask Clive then you can pop out and get whatever you want.”
“Well, okay. Thanks.”
Emma is spreading out Jim’s map upon the dining room table while Oliver looks on. Oliver comments: “We could do with a bit more detail on the layouts of the orphanage and the retreat.”
Oliver gets up and walks upstairs to the room where Feint is being held. There is the sound of the door opening and closing.
Emma is referring to Feint’s notes and the map and making her own notes. There is the sound of the door to Feint’s room opening and closing again, followed by the sound of footsteps coming downstairs, then the sound of the fridge being opened.
Emma calls out: “Could you bring me a fruit juice?”
Clive replies: “There’s apple . . . orange or pineapple.”
“Apple please – I thought you were Oliver.”
“Then who’s minding Feint?”
“He’s just wrapping up. Feint remembered a few more details.”
Emma jumps up and runs upstairs. She tries to open the room where Feint is being held, but it is locked. She knocks. She tries to listen through the door.
The door is opened slowly by Oliver who walks out closing it close behind him. “Hello there. Had a chat with Mr. Feint and he did remember one thing he’d forgotten to tell us: there is an older boy there, about ten or eleven – Marcello – who acts as an interpreter. He speaks the languages the other children speak and Italian and English. Other than that I am convinced that Feint has nothing else useful to tell us. We can be sure of that. I think we should leave him alone for now. He needs his rest. Clive can babysit.
“What do you mean ‘needs his rest’?”
“It was an emotional experience for him – mentally taxing. He became quite remorseful – stricken with guilt. Actually, you could say he is sick with guilt and remorse – but nothing that a good lie down won’t fix, except for a little bit of blood around the nose and cheekbones – when he fell down.
Emma takes hold of both of Oliver’s hands and examines his knuckles. “Raw, bruised, and bloody.”
“Tried to catch him when he fell, then barked them on the floor when I was picking him up. I knew that’s what you would want me to do – try to catch him when he fell down and then help him up.”
Emma holds up his knuckles as if they were exhibits in a courtroom hearing.
“More than once, by the looks of it. What kind of a state is he in?”
“No stitches required. Mother Nature will take care of him, in a day or two.”
“Thank god for that.”
To be continued . . .