The following is a prologue to VOLK: A Novel of Radiant Abomination.
“Was he beautiful?”
As though he had just registered his own nakedness at that instant, Gottlieb blinked and covered himself.
“Beautiful? No. He was compelling. Huge. Very muscular.”
“And you were sexually attracted to him.”
“Of course I was.”
The doctor allowed a dozen beats of the metronome before he spoke the obvious: “He was not like you.”
Gottlieb was grasping at his penis. The doctor made no attempt to disguise his observation of that fact and noted with satisfaction that Gottlieb didn’t seem to care. He was as guileless as a babe just then. Could a metronome tick triumphantly? The doctor let it, twice more.
“Describe to me the ways he was like you.”
Gottlieb drew a deep breath and turned to the windows. They were open a crack to clear the air from the morning’s session, and the sweet smell of apple blossom wafted in. The doctor was used to the smell—this was a room in which he spent a great deal of time—but he noted it, along with the flaring of Gottlieb’s delicate nostrils.
“How was he like you?” asked the doctor again.
“I don’t really know,” said Gottlieb. “I didn’t know him for very long.”
“All right. He was German like me. And he was my age.”
“How old were you then?”
The slightest frown. “Twenty-two.”
The doctor looked again to the window. A conversation was drifting in along with the apple blossom scent. Two of the girls—Heidi and Anna? Yes. He recognized Anna’s lisp, and she and Heidi were inseparable. Ergo . . .
They weren’t too distracting—they would barely register on the recording. If they lingered, or became silly, he would have to stand and shut the window, and risk disturbing Gottlieb. But the pair were on their way somewhere, and within four ticks of the metronome were gone. The doctor settled back.
“His hair was brown,” said Gottlieb. “Like mine too.”
“And he was homosexual,” said Gottlieb.
Four more ticks now.
“But not like me.”
“Tell me how he is not like you.”
“As to his homosexuality?”
“If you like. Yes.”
“He is a masculine force. He looks at me and causes me to feel as if . . . as if I am not. Not masculine.”
The doctor smiled. The last time Gottlieb had spoken of this moment, he’d immediately denied his homosexuality. They were progressing very well, at least as measured against their stated objective of delving into Gottlieb’s neurosis. The doctor started to reach for a pencil where his breast pocket would have been, but stopped himself and settled his hands back in his lap. He spoke quietly, calmly, in rhythm. Like a lullaby. “He is looking at you now,” he said.
Gottlieb flushed and, as his hand came away from his penis, the doctor was pleased to see it was flushed too.
“In the beer hall, yes?” said the doctor.
Gottlieb stretched his slender legs on the chaise longue, and his eyelids fluttered shut. A breeze from the window lifted the drapes, raising gooseflesh as it passed. The air in the beer hall would not have been so fresh as this alpine breath.
“In the Bürgerbräukeller,” said Gottlieb.
“What does it smell like?”
“Many things. Food . . . there is a basket of schnitzel nearby. There is some smoke. I mean from tobacco. And the whole place stinks of old beer. Men have been drinking all day.”
The doctor waited until it seemed as though Gottlieb might drift off to sleep, before prodding:
“Where is he?”
Gottlieb smiled. “Leaned against a pillar. By himself, across the hall from me. He is a very ugly man—his eyebrows meet in the middle of his forehead, so it seems he is scowling into his beer mug.”
The doctor shifted in his chair. The towel he’d placed on the leather cushioning had moved, and in the warmth of the day the bare skin of his buttocks was sticking there. He fought to contain his discomfort, his growing impatience. The metronome ticked seven times more before Gottlieb was ready to continue.
* * *
“My friends are sitting with me at one of the round tables in the middle of the great room. There is Gunther and Alex and Haydn. Gunther is getting fat, somehow. His hair is still blond, but is starting to go up front, and in a patch at his crown. Alex is a little fellow—smaller than me. His moustache is long, and covered in foam from his mug. Black hair. Haydn? Always licking his lips. No foam there. Otherwise handsome enough. He works in a warehouse by the Isar. Keeps him strong and from getting fat.
“Are they properly my friends? Gunther maybe: we fought alongside in the War and he liked me well enough to have me at his wedding when it was done. Alex and Haydn were Gunther’s boyhood friends from Augsberg. They were good fellows and tolerated me, but they preferred to reminisce with Gunther about this or that from when they were all bachelors. I didn’t mind.
“We are drinking a round of lagers and Gunther is telling his story about the end of the War—after Armistice, but just by a few days. It is a little true, but for the most part a lie: he talks about how we met a company of British soldiers in No Man’s Land. We shared our rations with them because they were so pitiable . . . nearly starving . . . literally begging for our aid.
“Gunther tells it boastfully, so as to illustrate his honourable nature. I remember the night differently—that we were all cold and hungry, and we all ate our own rations. It was still a good night—we refrained from slaughtering one another, kept our insults to ourselves. But no one begged. There was no . . . undue generosity. Not a whiff of charity, from Gunther or any of us.
“But I don’t correct his lie. We are all becoming a little drunk, and this lie is preferable to political talk. Or a brawl.
“And yes. I am distracted.
“What is he wearing? It is . . . a grey shirt, yes, open-necked over a white under-shirt. He has a cap, but he is not wearing it. It is stuffed into the belt of his trousers. I don’t know what kind of trousers. Brown? Brown. A dark brown. I cannot see his boots, but later, I remember—
“All right. In the moment I cannot see his boots. There is a table of men in front of him, I think they are veterans too—two of them have helmets from the War, on the table before them. They are emptying their mugs quickly, having a very serious talk. I cannot hear what they are saying. But he is smiling at it, looking from one to the other as they argue among themselves.
“I imagine they are talking politics. Probably about the Weimar and the Jews, because of course later—
“Quite right, doctor. In the moment. In the moment.
“He looks up, and sees me looking. But he doesn’t seem surprised. I think he has known that I am looking at him for a long time. Maybe since I started. Maybe he saw me even before.
“He grants me a little wink, then takes a deep drink from his mug. And he is gone.
“Disappeared into thin air? No. There is a commotion around him—nothing serious. A gang of men arrive—more veterans, I think. They crowd into the discussion, grabbing the shoulders of the men in the midst of talk. One of them has a platter of sausages and sets it down on the table, and by the time they’ve moved out of the way, he is lost in the crowd.
“Now Gunther claps me on the shoulder.
“‘Hey, Markus,’ he says, ‘you look pale. Don’t tell me you’re done drinking.’
“On the other side of me, Alex empties his cup and grins at me. His moustache is dripping beer.
“I finish my drink. There is not much left anyway. ‘Another round?’ asks Gunther. It is his turn to buy. ‘Fine,’ I say, ‘but I need to return some of this, first.’
“‘Don’t take too long,’ Gunther says. ‘Little Alex is thirsty. He’ll drink his and your beer too if you dawdle.’
“I laugh at that and so does Haydn. Alex smiles, but I don’t think he likes being called little. Or maybe he sees through my ruse. Because yes, maybe it is a ruse. I don’t have to piss, or I don’t have to piss very much. I get up and go, all the same.
“I cross the room. It feels as though the men here are looking at me as I go, but that is rot. Why would they? I become a little fearful, I admit, as I move through here, slip beneath the shadow of the balcony, past the pillars, thinking that I . . .
“I . . .
“I am outside now. In the beer garden. What is the weather? What kind of question is that? It is November. Just before six. It will get colder, much colder, but right now the air is pleasant enough—I can feel the gooseflesh on my arms, which are bare, but that is fine, because the cool air is just what I need. I have had too much to drink, maybe, after all. And part of it—a state of arousal, yes, that is part of it.
“The wind gusts. It is coming from the southwest. A winter wind. From the mountains. The few that are outside getting air like me look for shelter from it, back in the hall. Not me. Not him, either.
“He is sitting on one of the tables, feet propped on the bench, spread apart, forearms resting on his knees. His forefingers and thumbs are rubbing together, as though to make warmth. His cap is on his head.
“Oh—I can see his boots now. They are old army boots. Laced up high. He has tucked his trousers into them. He is looking right at me. I look away, but only for a moment, because I cannot look away for long.
“‘You are a Jew?’ he asks me.
“I tell him I am not.
He points back at the hall. ‘Your friends. Jews?’
“‘None of us are Jews.’
“‘Are you certain?’ he asks. ‘Have you sucked all their uncircumcised cocks?’
“How does that make me feel?
“And no, I do not care for any of those feelings. What sort would enjoy that? What a question. But I also know it for what it is: a crude flirtation, such as men make with one another. I despise this part, the beginning. But there is no other way.
“I tell him a joke: that they are all too busy sucking one another’s cocks, and I must wait my turn. I laugh at it, my own joke, but he remains serious.
“‘Come here.’ That is what he says, then turns one great hand up and beckons me over. He might mean it as a command. I take it as permission.
“I am sitting on the bench where he is resting his feet, leaning back against the table where he is perched. He is saying something, but there’s some kind of commotion from the street. . . . It sounds like a flock of great birds taking off. But that can’t be right. . . . I cannot hear what he says because of it, whatever the sound is. His hand comes down on my shoulder and squeezes. He is looking down at me. I tell him my name, because maybe he was asking that. I think he was asking that.
“‘Good enough,’ he says. ‘What town?’ I tell him. ‘Then what are you doing here in Munich?’ And I tell him about the book that I am writing. He wonders why I could not write that book at home, and I tell him some of my story. He doesn’t say anything to that, but his hand doesn’t leave my shoulder. Aah, his grip is so tight.
“‘I sometimes write,’ he tells me, finally. ‘Is your book true?’ I tell him it is not true. It is a novel. ‘Writing books that are not true is easy,’ he says to me. ‘True books are more difficult.’ That is not my experience, I tell him. Fabrication is more difficult than just saying what’s so.
“A group of men are walking past us, toward the beer hall. There are . . . maybe a dozen of them? Maybe less. They are dressed well. He loosens his grip on my shoulder, sits up as he looks over at them, but they don’t seem to pay us any heed. Who are they? I ask.
“‘Who knows?’ he says. ‘I don’t like them, though.’ He slides off the table then, and slaps my back.
“‘Inside,’ he says. ‘Not good to be outdoors right now.’
“We are walking back to the beer hall. He is opening another door than the one from which we came, an exterior door that goes directly to the cellars. We are at the top of a wooden staircase. There is one bare bulb lighting the way down, set in the wall. We are climbing down the stairs. I am first. He is . . .
“He is . . .
* * *
Nearly sixty ticks of the metronome, and the doctor dared clear his throat. Gottlieb seemed to be dozing. But based on his experience, the doctor suspected something other: a phenomenon he had observed not infrequently, in the course of his work. In certain instances, the patient inhabited the memory so deeply that there would be no words for it. The patient might recollect these deep fugues, later, might write those memories in a journal, might share that journal with a trusted psychotherapist. And that might be as near a psychotherapist would ever get to the nub of that deep, crucial memory.
The only thing to do until the fugue resolved, in the doctor’s experience, was to wait.
The doctor reached and lifted the needle from the Dictaphone. He set about replacing the cylinder, which was more than three-fourths finished. Then, as quietly as he could manage, he shut and fastened the windows. Before he did, he drew in a last breath of the valley and regarded the circle of smooth-skinned girls and boys, sunbathing by the riverbank. The doctor savoured the breath, imagining he was capturing a last whiff of their virility . . . their fecundity.
From the chaise longue, Gottlieb gasped. The doctor didn’t need to look to confirm: He had ejaculated.
“Herr Gottlieb,” whispered the doctor, after he had set the needle back on the fresh cylinder.
Gottlieb’s naked torso twisted, pale droplets of semen distending into ghostly rivulets down his belly, and his eyelids fluttered over a gaze still focused elsewhere.
“Tell me his name,” said the doctor.
Gottlieb’s lips parted so his tongue could wet them, because they were very dry.
* * *
“I cannot say now. I do not know it. He has not said it.
“We are deep in the cellar. I am lying close along his flank. My head is resting in the crook of his shoulder, my nose pressed into the damp fabric of his undershirt. I can smell him, even as his taste is still fresh on my tongue. . . .
“We are resting in the crook of two stacks of barrels. He has taken me to the darkest corner, past high stone arches and thick pillars. There is some light—from the far end of the cellar—and there is some sound . . . men talking, perhaps, at that end of the cellar . . . the noise of the beer hall above us? No. It is the scurrying feet of rats. That is what he says.
“‘The true fathers of Munich,’ he says. ‘When those men are gone’—his hand leaves my shoulder to gesture upward, to the beer hall above us—’the rats will hold a feast.’
“‘Do you not think they are holding one now?’ I ask him, and finally he laughs at a jest I make.
“‘It is true. I have never seen a starved rat. They have that advantage over us men: they will eat anything.’
“He pushes me away from him, just enough that he can straighten against the wall. He kicks away our trousers, where they are balled at our feet. Then he asks me: ‘Do you know your blood type?’
“I do not know it, and he scolds me. ‘If you find yourself in a hospital, needing a transfusion, you had better know. There is A, there is B, there is AB, and there is O. Mix it up, get the wrong blood in you . . . that’s it!’
“‘Why do you say this now?’ I ask. I am thinking all of a sudden about Nosferatu—the moving picture. I had watched it not even a year earlier. The blood-drinking cadaver, who arrives in town on a ship of rats.
“Rats . . . blood type . . .
“‘You can tell about a fellow from his blood type,’ he says. ‘Type O . . . I think you are Type O.’
“‘I don’t know what type I am,’ I say. ‘What type are you?’
“‘I am Type AB. I,’ he says. ‘Can take any transfusion . . . Most of the time.’
“‘Most of the time? Have you done this often, taken blood?’
“‘No. Hardly at all.’
“‘What does your blood type say about you?’
“‘It says . . .’ he starts to answer, but seems to consider. He pulls me closer again, and takes my wrist, and pulls it over to his penis. It is hard again already. I tug at the foreskin with my thumb, and begin to caress it.
“‘I can travel anywhere,’ he says, ‘speak with anyone, although I am never truly of anyone. I can see the truth of matters, when others are blind to it. As I saw the truth of you.’
“I ask him what that means.
“‘You think that there is greatness in you—you have thought this since you were very small. But it is hard to discover, yes? You followed the Kaiser into war and thought there might be greatness there. But there was nothing but mud, and blood, and death. You write lies in a book that you hope others will read one day. Perhaps they will venerate you. Perhaps, through words bound together in a cloth cover, your greatness will be assured. But you know that words in a book won’t carry you any further than deeds in the War did. Not so long as the only words you write are lies.’
“‘I have a confession,’ I say, and I kiss his throat, insinuating myself closer. ‘I am not writing a novel.’
“‘Ah,’ he says. ‘The truth of you. As I sensed. Thank you for that.’
“And now he takes my face in his hand and draws me nearer, and kisses me on the mouth. . . .
“And . . .
“Light has filled the room—another bulb in the ceiling, switched on. There are three men. They wear brown shirts and ties. One has a stick, like a walking stick.
“One says: ‘What is this here?’
“Another: ‘My God—look there. A pair of deviants!’
“The third says nothing, but reaches down and grabs my shoulder, pulls me half to my feet. He has short hair, almost no hair . . . he is not much taller than I—but bigger around the middle. He has a wide moustache.
“‘Look at this,’ he says, and pushes me to the ground. ‘Bare-bottomed, hey? You a man or a woman?’
“I try to get to my feet. The walking stick hits me. I fall.
“‘We need to get them out of here,’ says one. ‘Tonight of all nights.’
“‘Teach them a lesson.’ The one with the stick. He strikes me again. In the chest this time. I feel a boot in my stomach. Another in my ribs. Someone laughs. I’m rolled over onto my stomach. The stick slaps my backside. I cry out—but not loud enough for anyone to hear.
“This has happened before, yes. In Stuttgart. Before the war. Then it was a whipping. I am recalling it. How I was made to scream. Manfred and I! Manfred!
“I will not scream at this. No. No screams. Tears—nothing to do for that. But no screaming. Not from me.
“But there are screams.
“Two gunshots, first. Like little barks from a dog, a room away. Maybe from upstairs. In the beer hall. Men screaming upstairs—the scraping of chairs on the floor above us . . . something is happening upstairs.
“Then . . . a moment of quiet. But barely that before . . .
“There are screams everywhere.”
* * *
Gottlieb’s eyes were wide and he sat upright. Was he still entranced? Or had the recollection of the events in the cellar—the admixture of the beating in Stuttgart—pushed him back to consciousness, perhaps into a mania?
“Herr Gottlieb,” the doctor said. “Markus. It is necessary that you breathe.”
Gottlieb drew a deep gulp of air, taken as though he were preparing to dive beneath the river.
“Let the breath out slowly,” said the doctor. “Slowly. And with it, let the memories of Stuttgart go too.”
The doctor knew about Stuttgart already. They had discussed this shortly after Gottlieb arrived here at the estates. Surrender your garments first, then your story. And oh, Gottlieb may have been shy about those garments, but he told his story easily—how his father and uncle had found him and his cousin Manfred in an act of sodomy. Manfred denounced Gottlieb, and Gottlieb believed that because of that, the flogging had gone harder for him than Manfred. In fact, claimed Gottlieb, it had been Manfred who had instigated the encounter. Gottlieb was not blameless—yet nor was he guilty.
The doctor frankly did not care, one way or another.
“Leave Stuttgart,” he commanded. “Return to the cellar. That is where we are.”
Gottlieb drew another breath, lowered himself back to the couch, and although his eyes did not close, they refocused on the ceiling.
“The screaming,” he said as the metronome ticked, “is everywhere.”
* * *
“He has pulled one of the men to the ground, tripping him between his legs first then grabbing his belt, then hauling him closer and grasping his head, by both ears. He holds it like an accordion, squeezing in. The man shouts. He twists. The man’s legs twitch madly. It happens very quickly—so quickly the other two barely see what is happening before their friend is dead. This is a difficult thing to do, it is nearly impossible . . . to kill a man by twisting his neck. But he is very strong, stronger than anyone.
“The one with the stick swings at him now. But he catches the stick in one hand and twists it out of the man’s grip. Then he stands, spins it in a blur, high enough to strike and shatter the light bulb hanging over us. It is darker again.
“And . . . crack! The stick strikes bone. A second man falls, nearly in my lap. Yes. I am turned over now, coughing, watching the third man—the one who took hold of me, I think—running between the pillars, shouting “Help!” He runs after that one, very fast. They don’t get far. He leaps on him, straddling him from behind as he draws the stick around the front of his throat, and kills him.
“I get to my feet. I find my trousers. The one who hit me with the stick might still live. I do not look to see. I do not care.
“I am not blameless. But I am not guilty either. He, after all, was the one who struck me.
“My . . . my lover, that is what he is, isn’t he? He returns and bids me help him drag the third man back to the shadows.
“‘The frauen rarely come back here,’ he says. ‘It is filled with spiders and rats. We can leave these men for a time.’
“He gathers his clothing, does up his trousers. ‘But we should be tidy,’ he tells me, and I ask him what he means, and he shows me.
“He takes the man he just killed and hefts him into the crook of barrels, where we had just been. He takes the second man, and lays him next to him. The third man—the one who hit me—he we stack on top of the other two both. As you would stack wood for the winter.
“‘We ought to take our leave,’ he tells me. ‘It has been some time. Do you think your friends are still drinking?’
“‘I don’t want to drink with them.’
“‘Better to do so,’ he tells me. ‘Unless they have chosen to leave.’
* * *
“We do not get to the beer hall—not right away,” said Gottlieb.
“No,” said the doctor. “That would have been difficult.”
“We leave the way we came: back to the beer garden. But now . . . there are more men outside. They are dressed in the same coloured shirts as the men we left below. They are standing in a row near the gate to the street. Seeing them like this makes sense. They are S.A.”
“Stormtroopers. One of them steps forward. He is very tall. He demands to know where we came from.
“We tell him that we were pissing. ‘In the cellar?’ he asks, and I shrug, drunkenly enough to convince him. But he is not finished with us, this one.
“‘There is a revolution taking place,’ he says. ‘Inside, we have Herr Kahr. He is even now acceding to our Fuhrer’s demands. The government will change. Things will improve for some. Others will get what is coming to them. You had better be ready for that. Now: Who are you for?’
“‘Germany,’ I say.
“‘Clever answer. That can mean anything.’ He stands close enough to smell us. ‘All right, clever fellows. Tell us your names.’
The doctor leaned forward. He wanted to prompt Gottlieb: what does his mysterious lover say? But he knew better: drawing a sliver hastily simply embedded it more deeply.
A smile twitches across Gottlieb’s face—oddly shaped, almost tentative, yet one of the few he’d spared the doctor since arriving.
“I tell him: ‘I am Hutter. This is my friend Orlok. We are just here for a drink.’”
* * *
The doctor finished Gottlieb’s session without the metronome—but the Dictaphone continued to spin. Gottlieb had laughed so hard at his own joke that the trance was broken for the day.
They spoke about the session, and the doctor allowed Gottlieb to talk about the things he believed he had learned from it, thereby generating his own theories. This filled the remainder of the cylinder. Gottlieb spoke at some length about the nature of his homosexual proclivities, and although it irritated the doctor, he held his annoyance in check. So far as Gottlieb was concerned, his homosexuality was a symptom of a disease of the mind, for which he sought cure here. And the doctor had given Gottlieb no indication that matters stood any other way.
So Gottlieb theorized that his homosexual attractions were a manifestation of the violence in his life, and finally concluded: “Had my father and uncle not beaten me so, I might have forgotten the sweet curve of Manfred’s arse. And then . . . well there was the War . . . and that night at Munich, where we killed the six stormtroopers! It has cemented my erotic fixation, yes?”
“You said three,” said the doctor. “Three stormtroopers.”
“Three? Oh yes, of course.”
“Were there others that night?”
Gottlieb shook his head firmly. “I meant to say three,” he said.
“And you know that those three were stormtroopers how precisely?”
Gottlieb shrugged. “They wore the same coloured clothing. And stormtroopers surrounded the beer hall that night, while Herr Hitler riled up the crowd within.”
“What did you think of Hitler?”
“Hitler? I’d seen him speak before. This night . . . he was very loud. Almost shrill. Ugly little man. Hard to look away from, though.”
“And your friend? What was his name?”
“Oh, he never cared for Hitler. He thought Hitler was a liar. One night, after things had settled down and they’d put Hitler and his Nazis behind bars . . . he told me that he would like to fuck the lies out of Hitler, and would if he got the chance.”
“Like he fucked the lies out of you?” asked the doctor.
Gottlieb appeared to study his hand, frowning at the slight webbing between his fingers as he held it to the light of the window.
“He never properly fucked those out of me, doctor. He went off long before that could happen.”
“And you do not know where he went?”
“It was a sudden departure.”
The doctor cleared his throat, and tried one last time. He put it to Gottlieb, directly.
“You know,” he said, “it is interesting that for such an impression that this man left upon you, you cannot summon his name to your lips. Can you tell me his name, please?”
Gottlieb’s fingers bent, then closed into a fist, casting a shadow across his face.
“I don’t see what that has to do with anything,” he said.
* * *
Daylight lingered over the grounds of the estate for some hours after Herr Gottlieb left the doctor’s rooms. The doctor himself did not linger there long after. It was a beautiful summer’s day in the valley where the estate stood, and the doctor thought to himself that he would not waste it, brooding over this troublesome patient.
He splashed water on his chest, beneath his arms, closed up his lavatory and then shut his office, and crossed the hall to the front steps. The outside air was cool, but welcome after the oppressiveness of the office, of his session with poor, broken Gottlieb.
As he walked, he passed Anna, her long blonde hair tied in braids that fell halfway down her naked back. She waved as he passed.
“Where is Heidi?” he asked, and she shrugged.
“I will meet up with her at supper,” she lisped. “Will we see you at dinner, Herr Doctor Bergstrom?”
He patted his bare stomach. “I must watch my belly. But I will be there if you are.”
She smiled—then glanced below his belly, and looked away from what she saw there. Now the doctor shrugged. Anna was a very healthy girl, despite her speech impediment, and she would soon become accustomed to all that her beauty inspired.
“We will see each other later, then, doctor,” she said and hurried off.
As he watched her retreating backside, the doctor wondered whether Gottlieb would ever consider that one the way he contemplated Manfred’s boyish rump. That was certainly Gottlieb’s hope—that he could undo his nature, as though it were simply a neurosis, and take a wife with something approaching enthusiasm. The doctor remained a skeptic.
He set off through the orchards, which would lead to the riverbank, where the others here might be found, doing their afternoon calisthenics. And having contemplated that happy prospect, he turned his mind away again from Gottlieb, pondering his true patient, if one could call such as he a patient. . . .
The doctor smiled to himself and shook his head, as though to dislodge something that had fixed itself inside there.
He could not call that one a patient. He had never laid eyes upon him. The doctor could only list what he knew of him, on one of those index cards they used in America.
He was a huge man. Brown haired. A single eyebrow. Very ugly. But muscular. And fearless. With fantastical charisma. But a man with no name or identity yet—not one the doctor could decode, until he could break through with Gottlieb, or the amnesiac French girl, or perhaps some others as his associates in Belgium might uncover. For the time being, the doctor had nothing with which to find him . . . next to nothing beyond that description, and what was almost certainly his phylum: