:: Monday, August 31, 2015 ::
Excerpt from An August Interlude
Posted by Edward Cline at 3:05 PM
An August Interlude, set in August 1929, takes Cyrus Skeen to
a notorious “upper class” brothel, the Turf Club, and to the Catholic convent
next door to it , in this twelfth detective novel set in San Francisco. He is on a quest to
clear the name of a valued friend accused of a horrendous murder five years go.
In the Turf Club he meets Lachlan Figgis, its personable manager, and his
alluring twin sister Lachina. In the convent he talks with Sister Mary Joseph, the
Chapter 6: Misery Loves Company
Well, thought Skeen as he walked up the
street to the convent: All I had to do was endure Lachlan Figgis’s hospitality
and his sister’s circumspect flirtations, to get an answer to a few questions. The
brother and sister were an astonishingly peculiar couple.
He didn’t bother showing Figgis or his
sister the photograph of Valda Redfern. He doubted they would have recognized
her, if it was true that they didn’t follow the story past the finding of
Willowman’s body the next day. He wondered if the newspapers had carried
another photograph of her.
He also wondered what he would need to
endure now when he visited the convent. Probably expressions of piety,
humility, and sanctimony. And reproof. He strode stolidly and determinedly up
the sidewalk past his roadster to the home of the Sisters of the Apostolic
Skeen mounted the brick steps two at a
time. Just as he reached the extended portico, the bells of St. Joseph the
Carpenter struck twelve. Before he could step into the cloister and knock on
the single arched oaken door, from his left a column of nuns in twos came from
a door on the far end. He stopped and watched the parade.
It was led by a handful of older nuns
– one of them using a cane and being helped along by a much younger woman –
with hunched backs and downcast eyes, arms crossed and hands hidden in the
oversized sleeves. Next came some younger nuns in their thirties or forties.
Following them like a passel of ducklings were the novices, or novitiates. Some
of the girls were in their late teens.
One of the girls noticed him and
braved a quick glance at him before resuming her humble mien.
The parade passed as quickly as the
hobbling, and probably arthritic older nuns allowed. He guessed they were going
to some sort of service. The column rounded a corner and disappeared.
There was a brass knocker on this
door, too. Skeen lifted it and hammered it three times. After a moment, he
heard a latch turn and the giant door creaked open. A little pinched-face woman
of about sixty years, not in a habit, but in the drab garb of a housekeeper,
looked at him with puckered lips and a furled, disapproving brow. “Yes?”
Skeen removed his trilby. “My name is
Cyrus Skeen. I’m here to see Sister Mary Joseph. I believe she’s the Mother
“Men aren’t permitted in the convent.
And you need an appointment.”
“I think she’ll see me. It’s about
Valda Redfern, a missing novitiate.” Skeen took out his wallet and showed her
his private investigator’s license.
The woman studied it – longer than did
Howard Li – with some comprehension of what it meant, blinking only once. Then
she glanced up at him with an even more disapproving look. “Wait here outside.
I'll ask if she can see you.”
The door slammed shut and the latch
was turned. Skeen lit an Old Gold, twirled his trilby around on one finger, and
paced back and forth on the stone walkway. Men weren’t permitted in the
convent? No priests, either? Bishops? Cardinals?
He had just pitched the nearly
finished Old Gold into a nearby rhododendron when he heard the latch turn
again. The door opened and the housekeeper stood on the threshold, glowering at
him. But she waved a hand at him. “This way, sir,” she commanded.
Skeen stepped inside. The woman
slammed the door shut and turned the latch.
They were standing in what Skeen
surmised was a visitor’s waiting area. There were some benches and chairs
pressed against a bare cement wall. There was a table with some kind of
literature on it, probably, Skeen guessed, about the Apostolic Faith order and
But the first thing that struck him
about the place was a dank, lifeless odor in the air. The hall they had entered
had the same basic interior layout of that of the Turf Club, except that there
were no amenities like couches or chairs or benches. No potted palms. And
certainly no ash stands. Half the hall had been partitioned off with a series
of unpainted plaster walls. He glanced up. There was a no mezzanine, just a
series of unlit chandeliers. If there was anything else up there, it was hidden
in darkness. No rotunda. He could not guess the layout of the rest of the
The housekeeper shuffled ahead of him.
He hung back a few steps to look into an open space. He saw pews of raw,
unfinished, unvarnished wood and a plain, unembellished altar. Nuns were
sitting in them. An older nun was standing at a pulpit, leading them in prayer,
in Latin. He guessed this was the convent’s chapel. It was nothing like the
glittering French church on Bush Street he had had occasion to visit during the
Enoch Paige case in May, Eglise Notre Dame des Malheurs
He felt a tug on his coat sleeve. He
turned. The housekeeper was glaring furiously at him. She nodded with her head
to continue following her.
Skeen shrugged and obeyed. A chant
came from the chapel.
The housekeeper turned left at a
detour, then into another long corridor. They came to the end of it. He
supposed they were in the vicinity of where Lachlan Figgis’s office was in the
Turf Club. A plain wooden sign on a plain wooden door read, “Sister Mary
Joseph. Mother Superior. Please knock before entering.”
The housekeeper knocked once, then
opened the door and went in. “Mr. Skeen, ma’am,” she announced.
A voice that sounded like crumpled up
paper being squeezed into a ball as tightly as possible said, “Show him in,
Hortense stood aside. Skeen went in.
The housekeeper waited to be dismissed.
“That will be all, Hortense. Thank
Hortense sort of curtsied, left the
room, and closed the door behind her.
Skeen found himself in an office that
was about the size of Lachlan Figgis’s office, but it was so sparsely furnished
it may as well have been empty. There was a large desk, a bow window almost
hidden by a black curtain behind the desk, some wooden filing cabinets, and
armless chairs strewn about the room. There was no carpet on the wooden floor. There
was a single colored picture under glass of Christ on a wall to the side of
Sister Mary Joseph’s desk. It looked like it had been cut from a newspaper’s rotogravure section and cheaply
There was a overly-ornate marble
fireplace in one corner, with a large crucifix sitting on its mantle. A cradle-shaped
rack holding firewood sat to the side, together with a black iron poker. But
otherwise there was no statuary, not a single plant, no tapestries. Not even a
plaster statue of St. Joseph. Nothing to absorb the sound of one’s voice in the
A weak overhead light in the middle of
the room fought to dispel the gloom. The rest of the room was in darkness. He
could see what there was in the black space in the rear.
Practically the only “luxuries” Skeen
noted were a typewriter on a rolling stand next to the nun’s desk, a small desk
lamp, and a candlestick telephone on her desk. That was all.
Sister Mary Joseph rose as he
approached her desk. She was nearly as tall as Skeen, but seemed taller because
of the headdress, which was a wimple that was just a black veil of voile attached
to a cornette or kind of curved white crown of some scratchy fabric. A white
coif completely enclosed her neck, ears, presumably the back of her head, and
her hair. Skeen could detect no strands of it peeking out from anywhere in the
There was a weak overhead light and a
lamp on the desk, but the glare from the white guimpe that flowed down from her
shoulders clear to her abdomen nearly blinded him. It looked so thoroughly
starched that he imagined using it as a weapon, or as bullet-proof armor.
Her blouse and skirt looked like heavy
black serge. A crucifix on a rope dangled from beneath the quimpe, and a rosary
with another crucifix hung from her waist.
The woman exuded a strange, pungent, and
unpleasant antiseptic odor that complimented the dank smell of the place. Perhaps
Sister Mary Joseph bathed in ammonia, too, Skeen thought. Or in a tub of
mothballs. She must be in her late forties or early fifties, he estimated. She
was once a handsome woman. Not pretty, just handsome. She wore round rimless
glasses. Her face was sallow, almost anemic looking. He was certain it did not
see much sun or even fresh air. When she was not speaking, her mouth and thin
lips were set in a prim bitterness. He did not imagine she smiled much, either.
The white fabric of the coif that
enveloped her face was fixed high enough to reveal a one-inch scar on her
forehead. It looked like an incision, or a burn. Skeen did not think this was
the result of a violent encounter with an open door.
And all throughout their conversation,
Sister Mary Joseph, Mother Superior and boss lady of all the other wrecked,
humbled souls here, never once looked at him directly. Instead, she peered
askance at him through her glasses with a glint of pious fanaticism, as though
she suspected him of being guilty of the most horrendous sins. It was the look of
doubt someone gave you if he was certain you were lying.
Skeen said, “Thank you for seeing me.”
Sister Mary Joseph nodded and said,
“The only reason I’m seeing you, Mr. Skeen, is because you have some notoriety
as a detective. We read the newspapers here. You were the one who got that
atheist rogue acquitted last May, weren’t you?”
Skeen replied, “He wasn’t acquitted.
The charges were dropped.”
Sister Mary Joseph frowned.
“Regardless. He was the devil.”
Skeen said, “He was a kind of Prince
of Darkness, ma’am.”
“He was something like Hamlet, too
morose at times, but with a happy ending.”
“I don’t think I appreciate your
humor, Mr. Skeen,” Sister Mary Joseph scolded.
So much for her sense of irony. “That’s
all right. I don’t think I’d have much of a career in vaudeville, either.”
“Then please confine yourself to the
purpose of your visit, sir.”
She sat down and folded her hands over some
papers on a brown blotter and waited.
“May I sit down?”
“I’m not stopping you, Mr. Skeen.”
Skeen shrugged. He grabbed one of the
armless chairs and sat it in front of the nun’s desk.
“Hortense gave me to believe that you
mentioned a person by the name of Valda Redfern.”
“Yes,” said Skeen, sitting down. He
reached inside his coat and pulled out a photograph of Valda Dilys had taken
from the model’s portfolio. “To make sure we're speaking of the same person, is
this the Valda Redfern who apparently was a member of this convent?” He handed
the photograph over the desk to the nun.
The nun took the glossy image and
studied it for a moment. Her mouth bent in distaste. It was a head shot of
Valda in a strapless gown smiling a toothy, friendly, almost “come-hither” grin.
Then she handed it back to Skeen and refolded her hands on the blotter. “Yes,
that is the same person. That was Sister Clare Lawrence. What about her? She
left this convent and abandoned Christ under the most disgraceful
circumstances, and without any notice to me or to Father Brendan.”
“The pastor of St. Joseph the
Carpenter church, with which this order is affiliated. It is just down the
“I noticed it,” said Skeen. “It
doesn’t look like a Catholic church.”
This remark surprised Sister Mary Joseph
and opened up the conversation, and Skeen led it in virtually any direction he
“It was once a Unitarian Universalist place
of worship. I would never have called it a church.
It did not have much of a flock and the people who ran it decided to sell it.
Father Brendan’s predecessor bought it for a fraction of its worth. Before then
his parish met in a less commodious church elsewhere in this district.”
“How long has your order occupied
“For the last eight years. The order
moved here from its convent in the Mission district. But it seemed it was built
over what eventually became a sinkhole. The convent had to be demolished. We
had to move, and applied to Father Brendan to have a new convent built here. He
bought this building from its former owner, some sort of oil plutocrat who
decided he did not like it enough to live in it.”
Skeen said, “It’s a fine looking
“That is your opinion, sir. When it
was bought, it was renovated to remove all the temporal facilities that would
appeal to people in the clutches of material wealth. According to Father
Brendan, all the furniture, artworks, and other ostentatious and wicked items
of comfort and convenience fetched a sum that helped to reimburse the parish
for the price paid for the building.”
Skeen feigned concern. “I hope that
didn’t include bathtubs and plumbing, ma’am.”
Sister Mary Joseph would neither
confirm nor deny the idea. “I sense you are mocking the Apostolic order, Mr.
Skeen,” she said. “But you must understand that we Sisters of the Apostolic
Faith are in many respects much like Amish women. We place God’s wishes, the
spiritual integrity of our order, and the community of Christ our Savior far
above the needs and comforts of the flesh. We disdain any instrument, device or
practice that relieves us of the stain and guilt of our original sin.
“Our moral code is apart from and
opposed to that of the temporal world beyond our doors,” continued the Mother
Superior, as though Skeen needed a better explanation.” Our sisters are taught
to strive daily to minimize their individual needs, spiritually and physically.
As daughters of God and brides of Christ, we are committed to asceticism and
the hermit’s life in the midst of this modern Babylon.”
0 Comments ::
:: Sunday, August 30, 2015 ::
Review: Sharia-ism is Here Revisited
Posted by Edward Cline at 4:11 PM
review was reprinted on several other blog sites, most notably on The National
Writers Syndicate site on August 8th, 2015. Her review is tellingly
illustrated with a photograph of ISIS sex slaves being paraded in a cage on the
back of a pickup truck.
follows is a reprint of my May 6th review for those who may have missed it.
that's not the actual title. Sharia-ism
is Here: The Battle to Control Women and Everyone Else might have been
called that but doubtless Joy Brighton, the author, would have encountered
brand or trademark infringement problems with the publisher of the popular and
successful For Dummies series, John Wiley
& Sons. I also suspect that Wiley & Sons would have been horrified
by the idea of publishing such an "Islamophobic" book anyway. It has
for Dummies and The
Koran for Dummies, both of which, to judge by their Amazon
descriptions, are treacly, inoffensive, sanitized guides to a highly "misunderstood"
and "misperceived" religion-cum-ideology.
opus is a generously illustrated and
annotated book intended as a "show n' tell book for national security,
civil right and women's right activists and lobbyists in America." It is meant
to be read by, and serve as, a handy reference guide for anyone who is aware of
the peril posed by Islam as it is practiced around the world, in the West, and
especially in the U.S., but who really hasn't digested the scale of the threat
or any of its details. And it isn't just about Islam's crusade to control
women. It truly is about Islam's designs on everyone.
citing the book's plenitude of virtues, however, there is one issue I must
raise. Page 131, for example, under the heading, "Conversion to Islam or
Sharia-ism in America? How do we help youth understand the difference?" highlights
the conversion percentages of Americans to Islam. At the bottom of the page is
an "Insight Box," which reads:
many of these American Converts have been converted to Islam the religion? How
many are knowingly or unknowingly slowly being converted to Sharia-ism, the
political movement of Radical Islam? How do we help young potential converts
understand the difference and draw the line between Islam and Sharia-ism?
point of disagreement between Sharia-ism
is Here: The Battle to Control Women
and me is that I do not draw a line
between Islam and what Brighton calls "Sharia-ism." Brighton writes in her Introduction:
are holding in your hands a chronicle of the surprising inroads that Shariah,
the guiding principles of Radical Islam, has made in America during the
critical years of 2008-2013.
Islam, also known as Political or Sharia Islam, has expanded onto every
continent, and with it Sharia-ism, the political movement of Radical Islam,
whose goal of totalitarian control of every nation and people is incompatible
with Western values of individual liberties and inalienable rights. Sharia-ism
is about politics, not religion.
is about total control, not simply destruction or terrorism. (p. 6)
of Brighton's terms, Sharia-ism and Radical Islam, violate Ockham's Razor of
economy of concepts by arbitrarily divorcing Islam and Sharia. The dichotomy is
fallacious and inadvertently grants Islam an unsought-after epistemological and
ideological victory. Brighton is not the only authority to commit this error. Seen
as a virulent ideology, Islam and Sharia are one and the same. They are inherently
complementary and co-dependent. I do not think Islam, "moderate" or
otherwise, is a benign belief system, because it is fundamentally political,
nihilist, and totalitarian in means and ends. Sharia is Islam, and Islam is
nothing without Sharia. Without the primitive, anti-conceptual, rote-learned
code of Sharia, Islam is little better, and perhaps even worse, than your
random whacky California cult, or Scientology, Wiccanism, or Pyramid-Worship.
were it not an ideology, why have its proponents, spokesmen, and activists
focused so much on its political status? Catholics, Protestants, Jews and
members of other creeds are not waging campaigns to force government, businesses, and other social organizations to
accommodate their beliefs and practices. The promulgators of Islam, however,
such as CAIR and the various Muslim organizations in this country, seek
accommodations to Islam in virtually every sphere of American life, from
demanding foot baths in various venues (schools, office buildings, airports),
removing "offensive" crucifixes and other non-Islamic religious icons
from classrooms, insisting on halal
restaurant menus, to praying en masse
on public streets, to inveigling their way into government jobs and
way of contrast, I am not aware of a movement in the Catholic Church to compel,
by statute, non-Catholics to genuflect when passing a Catholic church on the
street, or else pay a fine.
perhaps more importantly in the context of politicizing Islam, Catholicism,
Protestantism, Judaism, and other faiths do not campaign to silence critics and
criticism of those faiths. Islam, however, yearns to suppress all criticism of
its practices and tenets. As Brighton herself points out in her book, the term
"Islamophobia" was coined by the Muslim Brotherhood to stigmatize any
and all criticism of Islam, the term implying racial, ethnic, or religious
even were one to portray Islam as a mere patriarchic theocracy, one is still
talking politics, for a theocracy implies the governing moral structure of a
country. Ergo, it is a political system, and specifically a totalitarian one,
because it prescribes the course of one's life from head to foot, from sunrise
to sunset, in thought, in action, and in one's social associations.
make no allowances for Islam, or cut it any slack by calling it a
"private" belief system as I might the Catholic or Jewish. Privacy is not Islam's leitmotif; on the
contrary, it is unabashedly and necessarily public.
Conformance to its bizarre catalogue of dictats is audited. Straying from the
ritualistic and behavioral drill can result in death (e.g., honor killings, and
for apostasy). To refer to "radical Islam" is to commit a redundancy.
Islam is "radical" in the sense that must obviate all other
alternatives and choices, else it is nothing. Force or the threat of force is Sharia's
telling hand. Islam is Sharia, and vice
non-violent Muslims face a decision: a continuation of their submission to
Islam, or total repudiation, as Ayaan Hirsi Ali decided on. There is no
dignified or respectable "middle ground"; one cannot be half-free and
free at the same time. That is a delusion. See some of my columns on Islam and
its inherently totalitarian and irrational nature here,
Those objections having been made, Sharia-ism is Here draws on a galaxy of authorities on Islam such
as Nonie Darwish, Steve Emerson, Robert Spencer, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Wafa Sultan,
Walid Phares, Diana West, and Melanie Phillips, to name but a few whose names
appear in the Acknowledgements and throughout the text.
are fifteen chapters in the book, under such titles as "What is Sharia-ism
and Shariah Islamic Law?"; "Sharia-ism: Concepts and
Vocabulary"; two chapters, titled "Two-Armed Leadership of
Sharia-ism," one dealing with Shariah clerics in American mosques and
home-grown radicalization, another with the Muslim Brotherhood network in the
U.S.; "Creeping Sharia-ism," which exposes the strategy of imposing
Sharia in small steps, which is what we are seeing now; and "Shariah
Lawfare," which demonstrates how Islamic law is insinuating itself into
the American judicial system on all levels, and not with much resistance from
a recent Jihad
Watch article on a legislative initiative in Florida to banish foreign or
Sharia law from the state's judiciary. It is just one of several initiatives
discussed by Brighton in Chapter 14, "U.S. Representatives and Governors
take action: Congressional Hearings and New State Laws.")
goal of the "stealth," cultural jihad
in this country by organizations like CAIR, the Muslim
Lawyers Association, the Muslim Bar
Association of New York, and Muslim
Advocates, is to persuade, or browbeat, our judiciary into removing the
"foreign" designation from Sharia, and to see it
"integrated" into American law as they are now doing in Britain –
step by stealthy step. A Telegraph (London) article of March 22nd by
John Bingham, "Islamic
law is adopted by British legal chiefs," reports:
law is to be effectively enshrined in the British legal system for the first
time under guidelines for solicitors on drawing up “Sharia compliant” wills.
ground-breaking guidance, produced by The Law Society, High Street solicitors
will be able to write Islamic wills that deny women an equal share of
inheritances and exclude unbelievers altogether. The documents, which would be
recognized by Britain’s courts, will also prevent children born out of wedlock
– and even those who have been adopted – from being counted as legitimate
married in a church, or in a civil ceremony, could be excluded from succession
under Sharia principles, which recognize only Muslim weddings for inheritance
how piddly and surreptitious the issues are: Inheritances and wills. Nothing to
worry about. The cases will be handled by the British equivalent of American
family courts or civil law courts handling suits and torts. It's just some
people fussing and feuding over money and custody. None of our business.
same thing is being attempted here in the U.S. Brighton devotes several pages
to the organization American Laws for American Courts (ALAC).
has unique values of liberty which do not exist in foreign legal systems; this
is particularly true in regard to Shariah Islamic Law, included among them, but
not limited to the following, are these values and rights: freedom of religion,
freedom of speech, freedom of the press, due process, right to privacy, and the
right to keep and bear arms.
goal of the American Laws for American Courts is a clear and unequivocal
application of what should be the goal of all state courts: No U.S. citizen or
resident should be denied the liberties, rights, and privileges guaranteed in
our constitutional republic.
is a neutral law. it is designed to protect the U.S. Constitutional rights of
Americans against any foreign law from any country which challenges their
rights. (pp. 224-225)
ALAC-style laws were overturned in a few states because they mentioned Islam or
Sharia. ALAC then created a draft model law that would not be "country,
culture, religion, or ethnic specific." This model seems to have been
successful in many states, because neither CAIR nor a dhimmified appellate court could concoct a
charge of "Islamophobia" or "discrimination," although the
unnamed subject is specifically Islam.
hopeful sign is the passage in several states of "anti-libel-tourism"
laws that reject foreign suits against Americans accused of libel. The
Committee to Protect Journalists features a brief history of those laws,
which stemmed from the suit against Rachel Ehrenfeld for publishing a book in
2003 in the U.S., Funding
Evil: How Terrorism is Financed and How to Stop It, in which she accused
billionaire Saudi businessman Khalid bin Mahfouz of channeling funds to
terrorist groups. Ehrenfeld was subsequently
sued by Mahfouz in London, but not in the U.S., because the First Amendment
protected her. As a consequence, New York passed the
appropriately named Libel Terrorism Protection Act in May 2008. It refuses to
recognize foreign law, in this instance, Britain's bizarre defamation statutes,
and in particular suits brought by super-rich Muslims in other countries.
13, "Failure of U.S. leaders to address the threat of Sharia-ism,"
inadvertently underscores my objection to separating the cream from the milk,
that is, making an erroneous distinction between Islam and Sharia law. Islam is
one whole cow.
politicians are fearful of criticizing Islam because it's a
"religion," and they don’t wish to be accused of attacking any religion. This prevents them and now
our law-enforcement and intelligence agencies from honestly and effectively addressing
the threat posed by Islam. The redaction of all mention of Islam and Muslims
from FBI training documents, and the recent dissolution of New York City's
crack mosque and Muslim suspect surveillance program by the new socialist mayor
of New York (at the behest of Muslim "civil rights" activists) simply
blind-sides the country by hamstringing those charged with protecting it from
lengthier review of Joy Brighton's book would not do justice to it. Her book is
an all-in-one instructive guide to what Islam is, what danger it poses to our
country, and what we have and have not done to combat its corrosive
"cultural jihad" against
this country. It names culprits, and it names courageous individuals who have
sounded the alarm (often to deaf ears), and lists all the rogues and scoundrels.
I think the book is so comprehensive and well done (albeit with my stated
reservations above) that a fund should be started to send free copies of it
every member of Congress, and also to members of the state legislatures.
no vigorish in being a dummy when it comes to betting against Islam. I
recommend Brighton's book because it can alert Americans to the cards – or
knives – that are regularly hidden up Islam's sleeve.
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