“Big Men are Often in Charge”
“Read a headline the other day
Clown dies from a pie in the face
Can't be on stage all the time
The public image could swallow my life
Living up to your own myth's no fun
Drives our best talents nuts”
-Sung by Lard
The office was as big as any I had ever seen. It really felt as if you could play at least a baseball game and possibly a touch football game within it.
The works of art alone would have made the place memorable. Harry was brought to attention by these. “That’s a Matisse,” he said, pointing at one, “I think that may be a Picasso, and that’s, oh my God, a Van Gogh.”
Max whispered a “Gosh” under his breath.
Chester was very close to some kind of black and white sketch. It didn’t draw our attention, but it got him. “Boss,” he said, “It’s a DaVinci! Only a sketch, but it looks real!”
Harry nodded, “This is a Frank Lloyd Wright design. If these things are real you could buy a small nation with what they cost.”
“Oh, they are real,” squeaked a small voice from the far end of the room.
We all turned, awaked to reality in an instant.
There was a gargantuan desk at the distant wall. It was wood, but dark as obsidian. There was nothing much in the way of personal items visible on it. A couple of pieces of paper, a laptop and an intercom were all that dotted the desktop. They looked like dots on a whale.
Behind the desk was one of the smallest men I have ever seen outside of a circus sideshow. He had a hint of white hair on his head that wasn’t even worth combing over and windshield sized glasses on his face. It seemed hardly possible that this meager body could hold up those glasses without bending like a tree before a hurricane.
He reminded me of nothing so much as a hybrid of Mr. Burns on “The Simpsons” and Max Shreck in “Nosferatu.” It was hard to believe that he was any more than moments from his death. Maybe Simonson had promised him immediate resurrection and rejuvenation.
I think he stood after a moment, but it was hard to tell. He was at least as tall sitting as he was standing. It was only when he walked around the desk that I was sure he was standing.
“You are Savage, yes?” he hissed in a voice that sounded like life had left him a few minutes ago. It took me a fraction of a second to breathe again, after seeing the figure of death questioning me.
“I am,” I answered. “I have come with an idea to stop this trouble between the church and I.”
“That will happen when Walter Simonson is revenged upon you,” he squeaked. “Or he dies, whichever comes first.”
“What if I….”the sell was in, “took his place at the head of the Church, and your part would be the same as ever.”
“You still believe that the Church still exists?” he dropped the bomb right in my lap, “There are less than a thousand real members left. Why do you think we had to purchase soldiers to continue Simonson’s mad schemes?”
I was fully and completely confused. He read that, and it brought him laughter unlike he had had in a long time.
“They are fools who follow a fool. There is no point becoming the head of a body that is dead. The sepsis would eventually seep into you.”
I shot a glance at the guys, but they were as at odds with the reality of this as I was. It was time for a new strategy.
“I just want to buy them off,” I blurted. “I will pay them a thousand dollars each to save the Church. Another thousand for every new member they bring in.”
His eyes widened. He was intrigued.
“If they will meet with me, at one gathering, we will pay them. Then they will have a chance to recruit other members.”
His hand snuck to his chin. He was considering.
“That’s the way religions do grow,” he mused. “’Bring your friends,’ they say. And then those people bring in new people and so on.”
“I’ll even ‘Resurrect’ Simonson,” I was rolling now. “If I get him freed from prison, we can sell that aspect and really create a mythology about him. When he is dead, you can take his place!”
“No!” he demanded, “I am never the figurehead. You can be that, they are stupid, they will change that hate into love, because it is easy to do. But I will be behind the throne.”
“But they must swear allegiance,” Harry added, “Officially! They will sign a paper saying they will do anything the church asks of them. Even kill!”
I knew what he was doing. If they just showed up there would be nothing to charge them with. We had “Freedom of Religion” to deal with. But, pledging to kill people, well, that was another thing.
“That would give us ultimate power over them,” Coggen smiled, “We would have the ability to blackmail anyone who tried to leave or work against us. Yes, I like this. But a thousand dollars each?”
“It would only be a million if there are a thousand of them,” I told him as I rested a light hand on his shoulder, “I’ll put it up.”
“Hell, I spent more than that to get a Mayor elected,” he laughed under his breath, “I certainly can spend it to start the new Scientology.”
We smiled, each for his own reasons.
Out of nowhere he turned and sat at his desk, motioned to the door, “Now, get out; I’ve got business to do.”
We left silently.
© C. Wayne Owens