After Kim Zinter’s body is found draped over the Tri-State monument and the crime is reported up the chain by Sheriff Roddy Walker, Agent Mark Felt, a relatively new FBI hot shot currently assigned to a field office in Texas, is dispatched to the town of Greendome by Director J. Edgar Hoover personally. Only thirty years of age, with an aristocratic air and look about him, Felt has already worked on a few occasions with Domestic Enemies Containment, Observation and Neutralization. His current job in Texas, in fact, consists of evaluating which cases of wartime espionage and sabotage warrant being transferred from FBI oversight, where the Constitution of the United States still applies, to the black hole of DECON where it simply does not.
If you’re passing along blueprints of the latest proximity fuses to German spies, you go to DECON. If you’re extorting wartime ration cards and selling them on the black market, the Bureau owns your ass.
On the phone, Hoover tells Felt that the Greendome case is a basic homicide but it is compounded by special circumstances. For one thing, the body was found lying across three different states. Felt is to be in charge of the criminal investigation, but Hoover warns that DECON would probably assert certain protocols with respect to the classification of evidence. Felt’s job is to navigate the minefield.
Agent Felt arrives at the sheriff’s office. Sheriff Roddy pours him his first cup of coffee and lays out the documents in his growing case file for him. “The victim’s name is Kimberly Zinter,” he begins. “She’s a local girl, age eighteen. Her mother lives in town, but Kim hasn’t been seen anywhere around Greendome for about a year.”
“She’s been in the custody of an agency called DECON. Before today I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a DECON.”
“I know all about them,” Felt says. “The Director told me the body of the girl was found by yourself, lying on a marker, on the exact point where three different states meet.”
“Yes. I figure the perpetrator did that deliberately, to elevate the case to your level. I’m therefore assuming this is premeditated murder.”
“Did you do an autopsy?”
“I did the rudiments of one with a local doctor. Early this morning DECON sent out their own doctor. He’s downstairs with the body right now.”
“What did your local doctor come up with?”
“The cause of death was heart failure after multiple penetrations with a knife through the chest, from the front. My doctor counted thirteen wounds.”
“Did you find the murder weapon?”
“The perpetrator tossed the knife some distance from the scene, but we found it by using a bloodhound. It was a kitchen knife, homemade, not store-boughten, with a unique handle carved from wood. The blood type on the weapon matches the blood of the girl and we have one set of prints.”
“Okay, I’ll go down to see the girl in a minute, but first tell me if you can think of anyone who might have had a motive to kill this girl. What’s the local situation, Sheriff?”
“What we have here in Greendome, Agent Felt, is basically a one-church town. Some have said Eleven A.M. is the most segregated hour in America, but that’s just not true here in Greendome. The Church of Green Dome has two halves, a white half and a red half. By red I mean the Plains Indians. Two wings, but one Church. The two wings are kept separated by the central dogma of the Church, which is that only cousins may get married.”
“Are you a member of this Green Dome Church, Sheriff Walker?”
“By birth, but I’m not in good standing anymore. You might say I’m a lapsed Greendomite. But I’m still plugged in, you might also say, and I hear things. Recently the Prophet of the Church, Peter Twofeathers, announced an exception to that cousin law so that the victim could marry a boy named Jerry Shybear. When he said that, half the white members of the church walked out of the service.”
“So that narrows it down a bit,” Mark Felt said, tongue-in-cheek.
“Later on that same Sunday three local boys tried to talk sense into Jerry with a bullwhip and put him in the hospital. After that some of Jerry’s friends, we think, talked with the three boys who messed up Jerry and put them in the hospital too.”
“So are Jerry’s friends in your holding cells?”
“No. I don’t know who they are. Jerry won’t talk. The three kids missing their feet won’t talk either.”
“Missing their feet?”
“Some kind of Indian torture. The doctor considered it a kindness to amputate. Add to all that, Prophet Twofeathers has suddenly gone missing, and now they say there’s a new prophet.”
“It sounds like things are getting out of control in your little town, Sheriff. Lets go downstairs and see the girl.”
Sheriff Walker makes the introduction. “Dr. Trochmann, this is Agent Mark Felt from the Bureau. Agent Felt, this is Dr. Ian Trochmann of Domestic Enemies Containment, Observation, and Neutralization.”
The doctor is in the middle of his autopsy, so with his gloved hands covered in Kim’s blood he bypasses the traditional handshake. “How do you do, Agent Felt?”
Felt asks, “Did you confirm the cause of death, Doctor?”
“Fourteen wounds in the chest with a knife,” the doctor says. “Your own doctor missed one, Sheriff.” He catches Felt’s eye again and nods at a manila envelop.
The agent puts on rubber gloves and extracts the murder weapon to examine it. As weapons go it is not as seriously dangerous as a hunting knife would be. The blade is thin, flexible, nothing more than a steak knife perhaps, but with a hand-carved handle.
Felt says, “Director Hoover told me DECON might choose to classify evidence in this case. Is that true?”
The doctor flips Kim’s body over so she was face down, and moved her pony tail out of the way. He said, “This bony structure is classified.”
“What is it?”
“I’ve been studying it for a year, and I still don’t know.”
“All the way up to the day when Kim here and her friend Sophie escaped from quarantine.”
“How did they escape?”
“That’s classified too.”
“Classified because knowing the answer will damage the interests of the United States, or classified because knowing the answer will embarrass DECON?”
Deputy Bob and Deputy Bill knock on the door of the Zinter home and the door is opened by a girl who looks exactly like the murder victim. After a pause, Deputy Bob asks, “Is Clara Zinter here?”
“No, she went away for a while,” the girl answers. “Her son-in-law was whipped, her daughter was murdered, I told her I didn’t think Greendome was safe for her right now and she agreed.”
“Who are you?”
“Robyn Zinter. Kim was my twin sister.”
“Do you mind if we come in to ask some questions?”
“Sure.” Sha opens the door wider and lets the officers in. “Have a seat, fellas. Would you like coffee?”
This they kindly refuse, because they are already loaded up on joe. Deputy Bill says, “If you don’t mind me saying, Robyn, you don’t seem to be too cut up after the death of your twin.”
“We weren’t that close. I don’t even live here in Greendome, I’m only house watching while my mom is away.”
“Where do you live?”
“I live in a place with a funny Indian kind of name. The Land We Know, they call it. Have you arrested Klaus Hansen and Paul Bergin yet?”
“Why should we?”
“Well, uh, because they murdered my sister!”
“How do you know that?”
“Means, motive, and opportunity,” Robyn says. Sha holds up the pinky of har left hand. “Means: My sister was killed with a knife from Klaus Hansen’s kitchen. Today’s Friday. Trash pick-up day. If you dig in his trash can you’ll find the whole set.”
“We’ll need a warrant,” Deputy Bob says.
“Not after the trash lands in the truck,” Deputy Bill replies.
Ring finger now. “Motive: She married Jerry Shybear. Any children they would have had could have married their cousins in both the Red or the White Wing of the Church. Klaus Hansen walked out of the Church for precisely that reason, and now I hear he’s back in as the Prophet.”
“We didn’t know they were already married,” Bob says.
“Didn’t you collect the jewelry she was wearing? Kim had both an engagement ring and a wedding ring.” Sha holds up her middle finger now. “Finally, fellas, opportunity: Kim was in the custody of DECON for the last year or so, but she escaped, and came home. Klaus and Paul scooped her up at knife point.”
“Why do you think Klaus and Paul killed her, and not more of the same boys who whipped Jerry?”
“The boys who whipped Jerry didn’t do it because they wanted to do it, they did it because they were told to do it. Those boys may not have talked to you, but they talked to Jerry’s friends for a couple of days, and Jerry’s friends aren’t quite so reticent. The merciful thing you can do is arrest Klaus and Paul now before they have to talk to Jerry’s friends too.”
Deputy Bob says, “You’re not under arrest, Robyn, but you seem to know a lot more about this case than you should know just by being Kim’s sister. We don’t have a warrant, but would you object to letting us take your fingerprints?”
“Not at all, officer. You’ll find my fingerprints don’t look anything at all like those of Klaus Hansen’s wife.”
“Billy, go get the kit.”
Later, Deputy Bob is deep in the middle of a garbage truck, up to his chest in trash, when the truck stops in front of Klaus Hansen’s house. The trashman tosses two bags into the back of the truck where it is caught by Bob, then stands on a step outside of the truck as it moves along. He dips his head inside the truck to take a look.
“Did you see Hansen?” the deputy asks him.
“He was standing on his doorstep, making sure his trash was unmolested until it was mixed with the rest, I figure.”
“We’ll molest it at the station. Let me out when you round the corner.” Deputy Bill is waiting for him in a county mountie car.
At the station, Earl G. Roland has arrived. He has already taken his report of Kim’s autopsy from Dr. Trochmann. Now Roland is explaining to Sheriff Walker and Agent Mark Felt that he is the director of what DECON is calling the “Kim & Sophie Project” and he is still looking for Sophie.
The stinking deputies come in and dump their stinking trash on the floor. Sheriff Roddy chews them out but Bob, wearing gloves, digs out of the trash a wooden block with several knives in it, all of identical make to the murder weapon. He sets it on a table.
“Who?” Agent Felt asks.
“Klaus Hansen. I think the print on the knife belongs to his wife. And Mr. Paul Bergin’s in on it too.”
“I’ll pick up Hansen with the sheriff. You and Bill get cleaned up and then bring in Bergin.”
After Sheriff Walker throws Klaus in the slammer, Mark Felt compares the print taken from the murder weapon to the ones he got from Hansen’s wife when he arrested him and gets a match. He goes to the part of the station where the cells are located and he says to Klaus, “You may have worn gloves during the murder, but the knife used to kill her came from your house. That’s already Murder in the First Degree and the chair.”
Klaus says, “Ah, but the way you found the girl means this isn’t county or even state.
“We’ve got that covered, Mr. Hansen. I’m from the FBI.”
“I mean higher than that.”
“Talk to me,” says Earl Roland, who has followed Felt and the Sheriff out to the holding pens.
“Who are you?”
“DECON. I’ve taken a special interest in Greendome lately.”
“I’m the Prophet of the Green Dome Church,” Klaus tells him. “I alone can get you in to witness the funeral of the girl.”
“Why would I want to see that?”
“Because the Green Dome Church alone in all the world has tangible evidence of the existence of God. Something you can see and hear and touch.”
This claim intrigues Roland very much, and Felt can see it. “Bullshit, Roland!” he explodes. “I don’t care what he has to show you, this is Murder One. He’s staying right there in that cell.”
“I suggest you make a call to Director Hoover, Agent Felt. Perhaps he can re-clarify for you exactly where you and I stand in this case.”
The funeral for Kim Zinter is the first opportunity for the latest Prophet of the Green Dome Church, Klaus Hansen, to preach in his new role. He has nothing to say about Kim at all, nor her parents, nor how she has been missing for the last year , torn out of the lives of her friends and classmates. He doesn’t even know the girl, and in fact despises her for marrying Jerry Shybear and thus ripping apart the One True Church. So instead of giving anything like a decent eulogy, Klaus says to the flock, “Please join me in turning in your Bible to the book of First Kings chapter eleven, verses four through eleven.”
Paul Bergin stands in front of Klaus in a white robe, but one step down, holding a large Bible open for the Prophet to read, marked with tabs. And Klaus quotes, “For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. And Solomon did evil in the sight of the LORD, and went not fully after the LORD, as did David his father. Then did Solomon build an high place for Chemosh, the abomination of Moab, in the hill that is before Jerusalem, and for Molech, the abomination of the children of Ammon. And likewise did he for all his strange wives, which burnt incense and sacrificed unto their gods. And the LORD was angry with Solomon, because his heart was turned from the LORD God of Israel, which had appeared unto him twice, and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods: but he kept not that which the LORD commanded. Wherefore the LORD said unto Solomon, ‘Forasmuch as this is done of thee, and thou hast not kept my covenant and my statutes, which I have commanded thee, I will surely rend the kingdom from thee, and will give it to thy servant.’”
After this the people in the congregation thought the Prophet was through, but then he said, to their dread, “Now turn please to the book of Nehemiah chapter 13, verses 23 through 27.”
More page flipping, less eager this time.
He said, “In those days also saw I Jews that had married wives of Ashdod, of Ammon, and of Moab: And their children spake half in the speech of Ashdod, and could not speak in the Jews’ language, but according to the language of each people. And I contended with them, and cursed them, and smote certain of them, and plucked off their hair, and made them swear by God, saying, ‘Ye shall not give your daughters unto their sons, nor take their daughters unto your sons, or for yourselves. Did not Solomon king of Israel sin by these things? yet among many nations was there no king like him, who was beloved of his God, and God made him king over all Israel: nevertheless even him did outlandish women cause to sin. Shall we then hearken unto you to do all this great evil, to transgress against our God in marrying strange wives?’”
The prophet Klaus Hansen goes on and on, quoting favorite parts of the scriptures having to do with the sin of inter-marriage, until even most of the Bunners are in tears, desperately wishing he would stop. When the liturgy of the word finally gives way to the Final Rite everyone is greatly relieved.
Jerry Shybear is carrying out a small deception. He has already given the original Golden Gift back to Haziel and constructed his own copy of it. Since it makes the effects of the quantum micro-world efficacious on the macro scale Jerry calls his copy a macro. It is about the size of a Zippo lighter, and for the sake of the Last Rite he has encased it in a facsimile of the original Golden Gift which is covered in gold paint.
Wearing white robes in his role as the Extraordinary Lay Minister of the Final Rite, he stands over the embalmed body of Kim, which is laid on har back on the altar, and says the following prayer:
“Lord, when Prince Melchizedek first came to Father Abraham, he used the Golden Gift as a sure sign of your divinity. In the years that followed, Michael, the Captain of your hosts, used the Golden Gift as a shield against the slings and darts of the enemy at Jericho. Closer to our own time the Golden Gift came into the hands of Chief Wanica, and through it today we now commit the body of our beloved sister in faith and my own wife, Kimberly Barbara Shybear, directly into your hands, and we eagerly look for the time to come when she will receive again in paradise the years that were taken away from her on Earth. Amen!”
And Jerry uses his macro to make every scrap of Kim’s body disappear, even taking swaths of the concrete altar with it, though Jerry carefully tries not to do so. Periodically a new altar surface needs to be poured and cured.
Earl Roland watches this astonishing sight, then gives the signal to go. The sanctuary of the Green Dome Church is constructed like a wheel, with aisles forming twelve spokes. Earl Roland, Dr. Trochmann, Sheriff Walker, his two deputies, Klaus Hansen, Paul Bergen and five agents of DECON descend toward the altar, each in his own aisle, making straight for Jerry, who has already made his macro disappear, but he keeps the phony shell.
Sheriff Roddy Walker is the first to reach Jerry, and he tackles him, flipping the young man face down. The fake Golden Gift falls out of his hand, and Dr. Trochmann reaches it first. Roland makes the doctor hand it over to him right away. And he is angry to find it is nothing but an empty shell.
“Where is it, you son of a bitch?” he screams at Jerry.
Jerry is already cuffed, but now he’s being poked and prodded and rolled over and over by at least four different people. The members of the congregation are beginning to stream out of the temple, and even the Bunners are muttering, angry that Klaus Hansen actually permitted outsiders to witness and now defile the Final Rite. At one point the five DECON agents tip over the altar itself in their search for the innards of the Golden Gift.
Jerry is hauled down to the station, strip searched, body-cavity searched, and thrown into a cell. But the DECON people stay in the Temple and begin to tear it apart, looking for Kim’s body and looking for Jerry’s magic tricks. They find the storeroom directly under the altar, and they find the little anteroom with the stone floor where the cairn had been built over the avatar of Chokhmah, but the white dome with needles is long gone.
In their frustration, DECON sets fire to the Temple and razes the entire structure to the ground. It is the Abomination that makes Desolate.
Around nine o’clock at night Jerry pulls his macro from the fold-space pocket that goes wherever he goes, and cuts his way out of his jail cell.
As an immediate result the entire Green Dome Church, including the Bunners, becomes an outlaw cult subject to official persecution from the United States government. Before Klaus Hansen and Paul Bergin can be re-arrested, Jerry’s friends with the sledgehammer, knives, and blowtorches gather together even worse instruments and forcefully invite Klaus and Paul to spend a week with them.