2.1 Alenby Incarcerated

2.1.1 Alenby, Inmate Number 271828

A Cell, Prison Simone Weil, Richelieu

About 2 pm Friday 4 April 1987

The arresting officer was right to tell Alenby he would take lunch in prison. But what she didn't tell him was that lunch, indeed all meals at Prison Simone Weil consisted of fresh air washed down with distilled water. For possession of 100 grams of Assam tea--an ancillary Substance--he had drawn the standard misdemeanor penalty of twenty-one days on a medically supervised, water-only fast, to be followed by nine days of refeeding.

He was naturally displeased at this message, particularly the word "refeeding." He saw "feeding" and consequently "refeeding" as activities of the hoi-polloi, having no applicability to himself. As for the rest, he was confused. Questions piled up. What was incriminating about possession of Assam tea, as opposed to, say, Sikkim? How was it possible that in this universe u, putative home of science and reason, one might be arrested and incarcerated without due process? In U, in America, that sort of thing simply didn't happen except to people of no account, like graffiti artists and trouble makers....

Or--and here he felt an ominous chill somewhere around his kidneys--to people who willfully evade police doing their duty as assigned by law. Like the Red Baron....

His thoughts were still swirling about that last point when they came and and took him to the prison. There they took away his all the meds he happened to be carrying in the pockets of his Harris tweed jacket, as well as all his everyday health and grooming products--antibacterial hygiene wipes, lip balm, antiperspirant, cologne, deodorant....  They took also his clothes and shoes, replacing them with a cotton pajama suit, labeled XXXL but actually a shade small, and hempen flip-flops. They subjected him to a large number of medical tests, and from preliminary results of some of the tests they suggested, ominously, that during his fast he was likely about to feel more than the usual discomfort from detoxification, or "detox," as they said for short.

Finally a warden showed him to his place of confinement.

The accommodations proved austere but not as primitive as he'd feared. A simply furnished cell to be shared with another prisoner. Two narrow, iron-frame bunks covered with disproportionately large, featherweight duvets, a digital reader, a sound system with a wide range of recorded music available from something called, mysteriously, the "cloud." No HV, no vex connection. A glance into the adjoining bathroom revealed a standard überdüngermischmaschine-bidet-wash basin combination, no shower....

He pushed aside the duvet on one of the bunks, sat down and and reviewed his situation. He was surprised  that he felt little resentment at the sentence of thirty days in this place without a single nice lunch in prospect, but it took him only a moment's introspection to see why this was so: his outrage was utterly swamped by his fear of being identified as the Red Baron. Panicky thoughts kept intruding. At the market, for instance, he'd picked up some curious looks from the other shoppers, whispered allusions to Le Baron Rouge. If it's thirty days for 100 grams of tea, he asked himself, how much for blowing by a PROFATPOL roadblock? Ada's right, he thought. One must keep a low profile....

He tried to damp down his feeling of apprehension by concentrating on a mundane object--the duvet on the opposite bunk. But wasn't there something odd about it, a bulge that seemed slightly different from a moment ago? He remembered the warden saying something about a cell-mate....

The cause of the bulge pushed back the covering, removed the headset he'd been wearing, and immediately started talking--volubly, in English with a nondescript European accent:

"Hello there! I'm 314159. Call me 31."

"Hello there, ah, 31," said Alenby. "I'm, uh--"

"271828. It's stamped on the back of your pajamas. So what are you in for, 27 old pony?"

"Tea. Assam. Possession of more than 99 grams of." Alenby tried to hide his anxiety behind an uncharacteristically breezy manner. 

"Assam tea!" 31 whistled admiringly. "Ancillary substance, frequently used to cut milk-- So you're a milkic! Flirting with CHAOS AND OUCH--Gaea-damn, that takes guts! Me, I'm in creative promotion, also called disinformation. An interesting game, and lucrative too. But challenging--you have to be so-o-o careful to avoid naughty words! By naughty words I mean words for low-nutricity foods used with deceptive intent. Low-nutricity, that means--"

"Yes," Alenby said, "Actually I am familiar with the term. It means sugary snacks and drinks sort of thing. Junk food."

"Junk food! Splendid expression--colorful! Well, I'm in for a naughty, or as you say, a junk-food word. Just one lousy naughty word. Creating some promotional copy for Poilâne's natural healthy sourdough--it's a juicy opportunity to penetrate the Anglo-Saxon market. I realized I couldn't leave it out--the offending word, I mean. 'Poilâne' alone doesn't mean that much to Anglos...anyway, I conceived this jingle, got as far as

'He Mrs Poilâne

She Mr Poilâne

We Ms Poilâne

Poilâne, the natural healthy sourdough--'

and then I just couldn't see how not to put in that naughty word at the end...."

"Bread?" Alenby burst out, "A naughty word? But surely that's ridiculous! Bread isn't junk food. Bread is the staff of life!"

He recalled then, that Ada's advocacy group, Extend Prohibition Now!, or XPROW, targeted all low-nutricity foods for prohibition. Sugary snack and drinks were the prime candidates for prohibition, but tofu, pasta, potato chips, pizza and yes, bread also came in for a share of disapproval. The French authorities must have taken the XPROW message seriously, and gone on to the next step--declaring the misleading use of those words a misdemeanor.

"The staff of life--nice phrase, I could use that," 31 was saying. "'Poilâne, the natural healthy sourdough staff of life, mm-mm good!' A useful line, deceptive. Doesn't scan, but that can be fixed. Makes bread seem healthy, plenty of fiber.... The staff of life--uh, you own copyright, old horse?"

"It's at your disposal," Alenby said, and he added: "Surely it is impediment enough to your artistic expression, to be required, on pain of imprisonment, to refrain from explicit mention of its subject matter." Neatly put, he thought with an inward smirk.

"Yes," said 31, "but I wouldn't use the word 'pain' to describe doing time in Prison Simone Weil. Fasting is rather pleasant, I find, at least after you serve a term or two. Detox can be tough the first time round, especially if you're on Substances and meds, but it's not so bad after that. Meditation--that's a good way to pass the time. Or what I do--listen to music."  He gestured to the headset he'd been wearing. "Beethoven piano sonatas. Thirty of 'em, one for each day of your standard sentence."

"Actually," said Alenby, "there are thirty-two Beethoven piano sonatas."

"Thirty, omitting Opus 49."

Alenby nodded approvingly. The fellow was right. The two Opus 49 sonatas, mysteriously banal, might as well be omitted.

"Speaking personally, old colt," 31 went on, "I've done that a couple of times--I just showed up, and they let me in. I needed a break. It's a tough game, writing advertising for low-nutricity foods. Junk foods, I mean. You eat the stuff to get in the mood, get the old creative juices flowing. You don't feel satisfied, because the nutrients aren't there, so you eat more, absorb more empty calories. Next thing, you're overweight, and before you know it, obese. That's the second O of CHAOS AND OUCH, you know. You've got to break the cycle, get back into a sensible routine. You've got to give the inner man a break. Solution: take another fast.

"That reminds me," he went on, "it's nearly time for the PROFATPOL show on HV. In the men's common room. They allow time for you to see it before your pre-fast doctor appointment. Hey, let's go!"

His brisk style of speech notwithstanding, 31 took his time getting up. First he sat up, wrapped himself closely in the duvet, and rested a while. His face was pale with a blue tint, drawn, and untidy with its scruffy beard. His teeth chattered, though the cell seemed cozy enough. "About the time you get to number eight, the 'Pathétique' sonata," he went on, leaning on Alenby's arm, "you tend to feel cold all the time. And a bit feeble, too--even the simple act of standing up up can make you dizzy. You have to take it in easy stages...."

Finally upright, 31 led the way downstairs, one step at a time, but still talking volubly: "We always go down to the common room about this time anyway. Watch a game, have a few drinks. Distilled water only, of course, ha ha! Only today we'll watch the PROFATPOL show. It's a special episode, coming right after yesterday's road-block fiasco. I suppose you saw the video on HV. No? Well, you missed quite a show, but don't worry, it'll go viral. Gaea, that Red Baron bird must be one heck of a driver! Made the PROFATPOL cops look like amateurs. They're embarrassed--and dangerous. If those scumbags ever catch this Red Baron guy, they'll knock the humanure out of him!"

To this prediction Alenby offered no response beyond a faint gargling sound, and 31 shifted back to his own concerns:

"Actually I have a professional interest in the show today. They're scheduled to showcase PROFATPOL's a new regional publicity chief. Name's Leo Barton. Just an interne, but he's supposed to be something of a star in the disinformation game. I can hardly wait to see how he handles yesterday's foul-up. He'll stonewall it, I think...." 

31 was right. The rooky publicity man ducked every question about the failed road-block. Instead, he spoke earnestly about PROFATPOL's commitment to public health and safety. He refused to acknowledge the existence of the Red Baron. To Alenby this was a relief. Still, he found the sight of the suave Leo Barton strangely unsettling. He fancied he'd seen him before, up close in person, and quite recently....

  2.1.2 Alenby in Conference with Dr Isador Bott

Doctors' Office, Prison Simone Weil, Richelieu

About 2 pm Friday 24 April 1987

"Welcome, Excellency!" said the clean cut, pleasantly bland Doctor Isador Bott as he rose from behind his desk in an awkward but sincere attempt at an élévation. And extending his hand, "Welcome to Prison Simone Weil! Right at the start, let me assure you that all your records are strictly confidential and are associated not with you personally but with your prisoner number, namely 271828."

Alenby responded courteously, but he didn't believe a word of it. Here was a man he'd definitely seen before--at the airport, and in the company of the smoothly menacing Leo Barton! Obviously the two of them were in cahoots. Feds. FBI, possibly NSA. They'd spotted him boarding AF4 at Newark, suspected he was a U-person, trailed him to Richelieu, and now in all probability had fingered him as the Red Baron! The question was how to react--low profile, or show of irascibility?

Observing Alenby's discomfiture, the doctor hastened to put him at ease. "Please be seated, Excellency. You would like a drink of water? The water we serve here is clean as a river. Cleaner, actually. It's distilled, so rest easy--there's no need to fear inadvertent consumption of any minnows or any river plant matter or food of any description that might interfere with your fast. Perhaps you haven't noticed, your fast is already in progress, and you have every reason to look forward to the full twenty-one day without food. But I see you have a question. Please go ahead."

"Yes," said Alenby, lurching to the irascible. "I certainly do have a question. Why in God's, uh, Gaea's name am I compelled to suffer these indignities? And without a shred of due process!"

The doctor reacted calmly. "Yes, the indignities of fasting. I prefer the word discomforts, actually, but each to his own taste. Anyway, the discomforts of fasting are indeed substantial in the case of patients suffering from serious auto-immune conditions or with a long history of Substances or medication use. Normally, however, the experience is comfortable enough considering that in the long run, water-only fasts under competent medical supervision have nearly in every case proved of net benefit.

"As to due process," he went on, "you are right, we do indeed have a habeas corpus situation here. Where should we draw the line between individual freedom, and the greater good that might accrue to society that might result from curtailment of that freedom? That question has engaged thinkers for millennia, and I am not qualified to address it. I can say, however, that should you seek legal remedy, you will find that PROFATPOL attorneys will counter with a 'greater good' argument that has proved persuasive in courts of law. The greater good in question is the substantial freedom of our society from the monstrous evils of CHAOS AND OUCH and other diet-related health deficits. It is served by, among other measures, the confinement and rehabilitation of individuals such as yourself, who appear from standard medical tests to have to have succumbed to the lure of Substances."

Taking advantage of a pause as Alenby digested those unexpectedly sympathetic remarks, the doctor continued with occasional glances at a desk-top monitor: "In your case, tests show evidence of minor disorders common many users.

"First, they reveal reveal early signs of CHAOS AND OUCH type degeneration. Most noticeable at this point is atherosclerosis, the first A in CHAOS AND OUCH. In your case the arteries most affected are those that carry  blood to the penis, so I should think you may be having difficulty achieving and maintaining an erection--" 

"You can think whatever you like," said Alenby, "but with all due respect to your no doubt benign intent and presumed skills in the practice of the healing arts, I am am accustomed to discuss such personal matters with reputable legal, insurance, cardiological and atheromalogical specialists of my own choosing, and not with a laid-back lackey of a loopy left-wing socialized medical establishment unacquainted with my particular health history and way of life."

 The doctor was unfazed. "Oh, but I am so acquainted!" he said. "Our tests trace you health history in considerable detail. For example--please correct me if I am wrong--you have a history of taking the drug Uppleze for your penile dysfunction, but recently, on Wednesday actually, or maybe Thursday, you switched to Prixaloft. I imagine neither drug gave relief--?"

 At Alenby's nod of assent--reluctant nod, since he had never quite given up hope for success with Prixaloft--he  continued, "Here at Prison Simone Weil we  have a totally different treatment for atherosclerosis.  In the now-outmoded drug treatments, the blood is thinned--made less viscous--so that it flows more quickly through the affected artery. In the fasting approach, however, the focus is on effecting a permanent change of the artery itself."

The doctor waited for a question or some other sign of interest, but when none was forthcoming he continued: "In  fasting, your bodily system, deprived of its normal source of energy from food, makes use of a backup source--your body fat. Your system seeks out fatty deposits throughout your body, in every nook and cranny of your body wherever they might be hiding, and carries them away in the blood stream to be converted into fuel to power the body's basic functions--the pumping of the heart, the regular action of the lungs, the detoxification of the entire system--"

Alenby started violently at the word "detoxification," but the doctor continued steadily: "Your atherosclerosis is caused by a certain sort of fatty deposit, atheromas, that are unfortunately present in your pudendal arteries. In the course of your fast, these atheromas will be gradually consumed by your body, with consequent partial alleviation of your impotence. Not a complete alleviation, mind you. For that, a second or even a third twenty-one day fast may be called for."

For Alenby this should have been a cause for jubilation, but he didn't believe a word of that either. He might not have heard it all, for as the doctor went on in the same matter-of-fact tone about about the value of fasting in regard to the other conditions revealed by the tests--inflammation from his osteo-arthritis of knees and hips, incipient obesity, inclination to diabeties, overactive colon, in short the usual wages of a long-term Substance habit--he gradually lost consciousness.

He started awake at the words "Red Baron."

"You might have dozed off," said the doctor his friendly way. "It has been a long day for you. Anyway, I was wondering if you watched the PROFATPOL show on HV. My friend Leo Barton--he's PROFATPOL's new disinformation man, you know--he's going to have a serious publicity problem with this Red Baron business, don't you think?"

Alenby, very much awake, blurted: "I've heard it said that if the PROFATPOL officers catch this Red Baron fellow they'll knock the--some sense into him."

"Oh no, Excellency. Leo would not allow violence. Coming on top of the roadblock fiasco, any display of brute force would be a public relations disaster. No, I think you will find that, if they catch the rascal, it will be in some contest of skill in the art of driving automobiles. As long as the Red Baron, whoever he might be, refrains from taking his place behind the wheel of his tomato red Mercedes, he's going to be perfectly safe."

Reassured, Alenby relaxed. And returned to his cell, he snuggled under his duvet and slept for a long time.

***

Alenby's fast went much as the doctor had foreseen, except that he experienced more than the expected degree of discomfort from detoxification. It was as if he'd had a brush with poison ivy--skin reddened and bumpy, and itching all over. After a few days, however, those symptoms went away, and he would eventually think of his sojourn in captivity as a period of blessed release from quotidian cares.

 

2.1.3 Alenby Modifies his Views on Refeeding

Prison Simone Weil, Richelieu

12 noon Monday 27 April 1987

Before his incarceration in Prison Simone Weil, Alenby rarely thought of anything other than food and wine. Now, on his fifteenth day of subsistence on stored body fat and distilled water, his outlook had changed. Now he never--not rarely, but never--thought of anything other than food. Not good food and good wine--just food. Currently, for instance, as he lay prone on his bunk, headphones attached, listening to Beethoven's "Pastoral" sonata Opus 28, he was titillated not so much by sound itself as by its evocation of peasants on their midday break, gnawing a crusty sourdough bread.

The scherzo ended, his gustatory sensation faded. He took off his headphones and lay still, listening to the quiet breathing of his cell mate on the other bunk. Thanks be to Gaea, the fellow had stopped snoring. Everyone, it seemed, stopped snoring at some point in a prolonged fast. Something to do with the vibrations of the uvula, some said. Utter nonsense, of course....

His nose, preternaturally sensitive of late, picked up a delicate aroma. What could it be? He reeled through the associations: fresh-baked sourdough, of course; spaghetti, superbly cooked, just to the point where the pasta flops over your fork so you can roll it up neatly without it breaking. Spaghetti moistened with oil of olives from the groves of...yes, the groves of Maussane-les-Alpilles. With thin slices of toasted--lightly toasted--?

"Zucchini!" he said with a note of triumph.

"Zucchini!" repeated 31, startled awake under his duvets. "27 old colt, you sure have one sensitive snorkel. The kitchen-dining area is supposed to be sealed off so inmates aren't disturbed--I mean driven bonkers, is that the correct expression in English?--driven bonkers by cooking smells, and I sure can't pick it up. But I know they'll be cooking zucchini about now 'cause it's my twenty-first day, my "Appassionata" day, the day  to start refeeding. Zucchini, boiled zucchini, it's always on the menu--it is the menu on the first day. Plenty of potassium to offset electrolyte imbalances some inmates develop after a few weeks fasting...."

He raised his upper body on his elbows and sniffed, and his lean features arranged themselves in a beatific expression of some scrawny saint catching a vision of heaven. "Whoo-hoo!" he exclaimed carefully, "Now I'm getting it in the nose. Boiled zucchini! Hey, how 'bout you come along, help me celebrate? I'll ask some of the others too--better get on it. It's at midi et demi--"

***

Having accepted the invitation, Alenby joined in singing "Happy Refeeding," raised his glass of distilled water and said "bon appétit" at the proper moment, and posed for a picture with the others grouped around an exuberant 31.

The ceremony was brief. The chairs were hard, and most of the attendees, having lost a significant amount of  buttocks padding, were eager to return to their comfortable bunks. But the outdoors was also attractive, for the day was warm and still, and an exultant 31 prevailed upon Alenby to accompany him on a stroll around the prison's exercise area, a patch of grass bordered by a circular walkway with a statue of Simone Weil at its center. They donned the hats and long overcoats provided for inmates with a yen for fresh air, and set off.

A few minutes into their ambulation, Alenby commented on another interesting aroma he was picking up.

31 smelled nothing. "27 old colt," he said, "you are some bec fin! It's not zucchini again, is it?"

"No, it's  some sort of chemical, a disinfectant...but with hints of something one might conceivably drink. Hints of a good Chardonnay--1982 Bâtard Montrachet comes to mind...."

"Oh, I wouldn't let that chemical pong worry you--everyone who's fasted for a weeks or so gets that off-putting nose in her first glass of wine. Fasting sets your taste and smell on hyper-sensitive, so you pick up all sorts of oddball flavors. Whatever it is will go away in a day or two after you resume your normal booze habit. That'll take a day, maybe two. A week tops. So what you're sniffing is most likely pure 100% what you just said--Bâtard Montrachet.

"Bâtard Montrachet," 31 repeated, suddenly thoughtful. "It could well be Bâtard Montrachet. That's the sort of stuff they drink over there--" As he said that he inclined his head in the direction of the next building, a fortress-like edifice just beyond a high barbed wire fence. "That's our sister institution, old colt. Behold, Prison Fernand Point!"

Fernand Point! Somewhere, in some universe, there may exist Francophile gourmets indifferent to the name Fernand Point, but Alenby was not one of them. The thought of the renowned chef's achievements--pigs feet in puff pastry Albert Lebrun, truffled Bresse chicken en vessie, sponge cake marjolaine--sent him into a paroxysm of nostalgia and anxious longing: oh that such oasis might yet exist in the dreary desert of Prohibition!

Observing Alenby's emotion, 31 hastened to comfort him. "Don't take it too hard, old horse" he urged. "We've all taken a hit from Prohibition, one way or another. But the history of our neighbor institution is a joyful one. If you're not familiar with it--"

Upon Alenby's gesture--go ahead, tell me your yarn if you must--the cell-mates sat down on a bench facing the statue of Simone Weil, stood up and rolled the tails of their overcoats to cushion their posteriors, and sat down again. Then 31 began his account of the history of Prison Fernand Point:  

"As you know, early in the twentieth century, scientists linked the  consumption of milk and other food-like substances to a rising incidence of CHAOS AND OUCH. The United States reacted to this health emergency with a Constitutional amendment--Prohibition--and other nations followed suit.

"Naturally enough, these measures met with difficulties of various sorts depending on the social contexts in which they were enacted. In France, a particularly awkward situation arose in 1927, shortly after passage of the Prohibition edict: Paris police of the newly formed PROFATPOL division raided the esteemed Academy of Gastronomes and arrested the entire membership just as they were starting on the plat de résistance of their regular Thursday 14-course luncheon at Maxim's--a repast that included the entire gamut of newly-prohibited substances.

"The question arose--what to do with this criminal crčme de la crčme? To put them in a regular prison seemed too harsh, yet the other extreme course, to let them off with mere fines, would  make a mockery of the new law. The solution was to confine the academicians in a special prison, equipped with kitchen, garde manger--pantry, you know--and wine cellar of a caliber commensurate with the inmates' eating habits. Thus the Prison Fernand Point came into being, with the President of the Academy, His Extreme Lowness Monsieur Maurice Edmond Sailland, also known as Curnonsky, serving in the dual capacity of inmate and Superintendent. He's still there, as a matter of fact. Nobody, not academicians nor anyone else who might have finagled the life of luxury in that opulent setting ever came out alive.

Alenby followed this account with rising interest, and at the mention of the name Sailland he could no longer contain his excitement:

"Edmond Sailland!" he exclaimed, "Curnonsky, Prince of gastronomes, still there, you say? But that's impossible! Curnonsky died decades ago. Got into a frenzy over a clumsily sauced salmon, fell out of a window--that was back in the fifties!"

"Not in this universe," 31 said, giving Alenby a puzzled glance. "But he must be a good age by now, around 115 at a guess. Most of the original Academicians have passed into the eternal cold, but Curnonsky is hanging in there. Hanging in--is that the expression? Yes, well, he still hangs in there, he's still the prison Super. Goes on regular tours the area to check on his suppliers. Keeps them on their toes, you know. Keeps them striving to match the traditional culinary standard upheld by the late Fernand Point. And that's some standard, you know...."

Alenby nodded. He did know. And from that moment the idea of meeting the renowned Curnonsky, perhaps accompanying France's--the world's!--greatest gourmet on a tour of culinary hot spots filled his mind to the exclusion of all else.

 

2.1.4 Alenby and Dr Isador Ott, a Debriefing

Doctors' Office, Prison Simone Weil, Richelieu

About 2 pm Monday 4 May 1987

Freshly shaved and shampooed, dapper in his woolen togs that had been skillfully altered to fit his reduced girth, Alenby strode into the doctor's office a picture of health and vitality. After a few friendly preliminaries, the doctor displayed the record of prisoner 271828 and launched into a point-by-point debriefing:

"First, Excellency, you've been a model prisoner--no escape attempts, no calls for a delivery of a Small Mac or anything of that nature--so I'm authorized to offer two extra days of incarceration for good behavior. Interested?"

"Thanks, Doctor, but I have other plans...."

"Hmm--if those plans happen to involve dropping by our sister institution next door, keep in mind that no one who ever turned herself in to Prison Fernand Point ever came out alive."

"Thank you. I've heard that said."

"Okay, just a thought. Moving on to your medical record, we have good news--a follow-up fast is not necessary. Of course we would be happy to administer another fast any time you need it, but for now your impotence is largely overcome, and your risk of heart attack or stroke greatly reduced. By the way, if you want to check out your new-found virility I've heard there's a reasonably good al fresco sex orgy in the park on Monday afternoons, just opposite the entrance. No? Okay, then. To continue, you may also expect improved overall health as a result of the nearly complete elimination of toxins that have accumulated in your body as a result of two long-term life-style factors: your Substance habit and also your experience of chronic over-medication.

"Speaking of chronic over-medication," the doctor continued, warming to a topic evidently close to his heart, "your test results indicate that you have been taking over many years, quite possibly since childhood, a hodge-podge of medications apparently designed to relieve the symptoms of conditions that would have been better treated, or prevented altogether, simply by following a high nutricity diet: I'm talking about Paxitin, Rsolace, Ipüpoften and so on, as well as various wide-spectrum antibiotics. Pharmaceuticals have their place, certainly, but in your case they seem to have been used irresponsibly. Could you have spent your life in some isolated area of penurious ignorance where people have not yet become accustomed to act in accord with science and reason? If so, it may be my duty to report it. In a generic way, of course. No reference to you personally--"

"No, I don't think that will be necessary," Alenby put in. He thought quickly: stay low profile, but appear frank, open etc. Avoid allusion to U.

"I was born and brought up in Healthcareville, New Jersey. Neither penurious nor ignorant. Home of big pharma, actually--all the major companies were based there. My pater served on the boards--"

"Healthcareville New Jersey," the doctor repeated. "I recall that they changed the name of the place after the pharmaceutical firms you referred to went into receivership after having been found to have colluded in a large-scale fabrication of medical research results throughout the 1920s and early 30s. It's now Pelfcareville, isn't it?"

"Oh yes, how forgetful of me!" Alenby said with a weak attempt at levity. "Pelfcareville, of course. For some reason everyone kept right on calling it Healthcareville...."

Alenby saw that his cover-up had fallen flat and the debriefing was over. Damnably disconcerting, he thought, that this doctor bird seems to know about the sorts of thing one would prefer to keep to oneself. Still, he shook hands with the doctor and thanked him for a pleasant imprisonment, put on his freshly-brushed homburg at a jaunty tilt, and walked out of out of the office, out of Prison Simone Weil, into the sunshine and shade of Parc Richelieu.

He'd turned in the direction of Chezelay, humming as he strode along the melody of Come un bel dě di maio from Anrea Chénier, when he came across a group of short, well proportioned women who seemed anxious for him to join them for what they called a moment of happiness. He'd encountered the Monday al fresco sex orgy, he realized, and felt a normal sensations of arousal. The fast must have worked to clear his arteries, just as the doctor said it would. But he didn't pause. He had other business to attend to.

***

Though he had other patients scheduled, Doctor Isador Ott remained seated at his desk, lost in thought. This gentleman, Alenby Faintwether Hoggett IV, also in all probability the Red Baron, was an interesting enigma. His post-fast medical tests showed him to be healthy both mentally and physically, despite a history of over-feeding including animal milk consumption in childhood, idiotic personal habits and criminally ill-advised medical decisions. Yet a careful internet search failed to turn up any personal record beyond that provided in his United States passport. Where has the man been? Where is this birthplace that he knows as Healthcareville New Jersey, despite its having been renamed Healthmaintenanceville years before his birth?

A possible answer came to the doctor's mind when he happened to recall a passage from the United Nations Secretary General emeritus' recent Prohibition Day address. Actually it had been cut from the original presentation, but had been restored by Wakileaks. About a possible U-person sighting in New Jersey’s Newark Airport. Pathologically tall, grossly overweight adult human, male, attempting to board a flight to Paris....

Complete nonsense, of course. Everyone knew no material body could make it through hyperspace from one universe to another. Still, the idea fit all the facts....

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