When that furious being I saw-through-methadone last week, raging a hole through its enclosure, breaks loose, all of Dodge-City-as-Detroit goes into a panic.

 

Except, it’s surprising.

 

The being, which had seemed titanic, even potentially world-destroying, back when we’d had those visions of it, turns out, in its current exposed form, to be basically tiny and pitiful.

 

We all come out from the various sham Detroit structures we’ve been cowering in to take a look. The Inspector, apparently gone tired and/or docile after braining those horses, comes over to look as well. His still very tall and very androgynous handler stands beside him, looking neither here nor there.

 

We start to make a circle in a ruined central gathering area, closing in around the worldly manifestation of that titanic beast, which now appears hardly bigger than a baby, wrapped in the same linens and rags as the Inspector himself. It clears a rag-strip away, surveys the circular crowd closing in, then pulls the linen back in place, quaking perhaps inaudibly on the inside.

 

It becomes clear that a lot of us are thinking the same thing, which is that this new being in our midst looks an awful lot — even exactly — like a miniature version of the Inspector himself.

 

The force of these thoughts seems to temporarily deactivate the actual Inspector, who hangs slack near the circle’s edge, graciously or impotently affording us time to think. We call a quorum in an old back room full of cases of cans for recycling and decommissioned arcade games and gambling consoles. There are some folding chairs, which we unfold in order to sit in a circle — a smaller version of the ever-growing one outside — and think about what to do.

 

There is, though you’d think for sure there would be, no real sense of hurry.

 

Once we’ve taken our time, our thinking amounts to: “We could use Girard to sacrifice this pseudo-Inspector, which broke free either of its own or of some unholy accord into our midst, to expiate two scandals at once: namely, first, to return our City to Dodge City and purge it of whatever Detroit it’s accrued of late by necessity and, second, to send the real Inspector (whom we know better than to try sacrificing in his own right) on his way, without having found what he came here looking for, but in some other, mimetic or otherwise equivalent manner, satisfied.”

 

This might, in other words, we think, clear a lot of air.

 

There are those among us who caution against using Girard to kill two birds with one stone. I, like the others not of this opinion, can see where they’re coming from, but also — I mean, seriously, you could kill a whole migrating flock with Girard without even altogether scratching the surface of a single chapter.

 

So it’s decided. We come out of our meeting space and back into the ravening downtown circle, the baby Inspector-to-be-sacrificed still trapped, the real Inspector still lingering on the peripheries dwarfed by his handler, hands slick and clean-looking in gloves of horsebrain blood.

 

*****

Professor Dalton is called out of whatever fearsome reclusion he’s descended into in the months since his Notes to Noir lecture, and, outfitting his little Girard medicine show on wheels, rolls it into the circle where the ritual is to take place.

 

Big Pharmakos, meanwhile, has agreed to serve as Executioner. He comes back dressed in a green, pink, and yellow jester outfit he bought over at Party World.

 

“It said,” he explains, “That in medieval Spain, or Germany, the Town Executioner would always dress in the brightest and most garish possible colors, so both townsfolk and strangers alike could distinguish him at a glance, and keep well clear until their, heh heh, number was called.”

 

“What said that?” I ask.

 

He’s zipping the back of the suit like a dress. “The Jester Costume package,” he replies.

 

“You mean the Town Executioner Costume package?”

 

But he’s already put his jester’s cap on, and bells are ringing in his ears.

 

A hasty rig is assembled. Looking out at the crowd, we see everyone spread out on picnic blankets, eating big country style lunches.

 

The scapegoat, docile as ever inside its linens, is brought onto the rig, as Big Pharmakos lurks in the background, sharpening his knife.

 

Dalton begins to read aloud from Chapter Eleven: The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist, from a copy he’s extracted from a side compartment in his little wheeled Girard cart.

 

“Herod wanted to take Herodias, the wife of his own brother, as his second wife,” Dalton begins, then continues, “There is no illusion in the Gospels about the possibility of arbitration between the brothers.”

 

There are sporadic sounds from the crowd, most but not all of them chewing sounds. I’m seated up on the rig but off to one side, in a spectatorial rather than instrumental position, like a spouse at an outdoor rock concert.

 

“Except for the prophet, there are only enemy brothers and mimetic twins in the text.” Someone doing sign language stands unobtrusively beside Dalton. He doesn’t seem to notice her.

 

Big Pharmakos, in full jester or Town Executioner regalia, looms up behind the Professor, sharpened knife by his side.

 

Dalton continues, “Something very odd happens after Herod’s offer, or rather, nothing happens.”

 

I — we can all — hear the crowd growing restive. “Move it along Professor!!” someone shouts, and a cheer goes up. Big Pharmakos raises his knife and the cheer magnifies.

 

“To Herodias,” Dalton explains, “John the Baptist is a scandal because he speaks the truth, and there is no worse enemy of desire than truth.” He can’t help but smile at the spicy luxuriousness of Girard’s words (though in translation).

 

Festive before, the crowd is now approaching Argentine soccer game manic. They’ve been drinking all this time, and gorging on meat and sugar, so by now they’re well beyond the ideal state of readiness to witness the bloody demise of the literally-innocent-but-symbolically-guilty scapegoat figure we’ve prepared for them.

 

Now they’re charging the stage, throwing cans and knocking out teeth, tripping all over each other.

 

We had some cool effects set up, whereby we were going to drop a mirror over the actual beheading, so the crowd could see the pitiless desire in their own eyes while knowing that the actual moment of sanctified violence was transpiring just behind what they could see, namely their own eyes reflected ad infinitum, which would in turn be … anyway, now it’s a fuckload of broken glass.

 

There’s shrieking and Big Pharmakos is slashing at random with his big knife, the bells in his cap ringing off the hook, and there’s biting and some people have knives of their own out, and others have firecrackers or other incendiaries, so now everything’s burning too.

 

Dalton, meanwhile, is lost to the world behind a scrim of Girard. “There is a popular legend in which Salome dies in the course of a dance on ice,” his voice hardly louder than before despite the mania all around him, or even a little softer, florally reverent.

 

On it goes, like some inland Civil War battle or a censored-out clip from Ken Burns’ Detroit Gang City.

 

*****

When it’s all over, just to sum up quickly here, the dead cover the entirety of what’s now known as Sacrifice Square, and Detroit has indeed been expiated, the air cleared to reveal, as if it’d been there all along, regular old familiar Dodge City.

 

And the Inspector and his handler — gone without a trace, like they’d never come.

 

I walk off down a side street, zipping my windbreaker, trying to remember what happens at the end of The Wizard of Oz and whether this all is like that or not really.

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