Whelan closed his eyes and picked up, at random, one of the three ties he had laid out on the other twin bed the night before.

Did it matter what he wore? Why was he so intimidated by the prospect of meeting this man? Why did he remember the curious itch of the short trousers in school regulation grey serge which he had worn on the day he was awarded his illustrated edition of Pilgrim’s Progress by the Chairman of the Circuit at his Methodist Sunday School Anniversary?

He dragged himself through the predictable buffet breakfast. Whelan had by now learned that the only remotely palatable product of the pig available in American hotels in the early morning is what is strangely called ‘Canadian Bacon’. Trade agreements with those north of the 49th parallel had obviously collapsed. He gazed at the waffles and maple syrup with blank incomprehension, and left the grey porridge to its own sad fate.

Why, Whelan asked, in unwonted philosophical reflection, as he poured himself into the waiting taxi, is breakfast the meal that divides nations? Along the trenches of the Somme they had no doubt awakened to unrealized and conflicting dreams of bratwurst and pumpernickel; croissants dipped into brimming bowls of milky coffee; plates of Wiltshire bacon, topped with two fried eggs. And then, of course, they had known precisely why they must fight one another.

At 8.15 he paid his driver and entered the elevator. It was a surprise to be greeted, as the doors opened, by the PB himself.

‘It was so good of you to come,’ he said, extending the warm hand of inclusion.

* * *

The office was decorated with tasteful anonymity – sub-Bauhaus plush. Two men in sombre but opulent suits came forward to greet him. They were, it turned out, the senior partners of an expensive law firm. The Presiding Bishop seldom went anywhere without them.

‘We have,’ said the older man, steering Whelan towards a vast expanse of leather upholstery, ‘prepared a statement.’

And a remarkable statement it was.

‘Our client,’ read the younger one with gel in his hair, ‘our client denies all knowledge of and involvement with the loss or theft of the Lambeth Quadrilateral. At the time of the alleged felony he was visiting Hawaii, where together with the Bishop of Southern San Diego he was addressing an inter-faith conference on Labyrinth Spirituality (on which our client is a world authority). He has never visited the Muniment Room of Lambeth Palace, nor himself ever set eyes on the missing Quadrilateral. Statements by Primates of other Provinces that the Most Revd Martin F Dauzenburg III has been heard to speak disparagingly of the Quadrialteral, describing it as a “fusty bit of pre-modern flummery”, either at the recent Lambeth Conference or elsewhere, are vigorously denied.

‘The Presiding Bishop protests his Anglican Orthodoxy in all matters, and the right of each and every Primate to assert that his Truth is quite as valid and certainly as Anglican as the Truth of any other Primate.

‘The Presiding Bishop furthermore asserts the absolute orthodoxy of every bishop and each and every worshipping congregation of the Episcopal Church of the United States. Whilst it may be true that some bishops, subsequently to their retirement, have circled the globe denying the existence of God and the saving power of the Lord’s resurrection, they never, to the best of Bishop Dauzenburg’s knowledge, did so whilst actually on the payroll.

‘Bishop Dauzenburg is the happily married husband of one wife. He teaches the inclusive nature of the Church of Christ, embracing as it should, all sexual activities apart from those which, by reason of possible legal action might adversely affect the insurance premiums of the Episcopal Church. He has deposited with us a sworn affidavit to the effect that he has never interfered with a minor, used his episcopal office to further abusive sexual relations with employees, or changed sex whilst in the employment of the Episcopal Church.

‘The Presiding Bishop strongly denies accusations of racism. In particular he denies ever having called bishops from other parts of the Communion ‘primitive animists’. Nor was he present if or when other bishops of the Episcopal Church did so. He believes that accusations by his opponents in the electoral process that no heterosexual white male was ever appointed during his entire term as Bishop of Milwaukee, whilst not necessarily true, point to the integrity of his position on ethnic minorities. He expects in the near future to consecrate several native American women as bishops.

‘With regard to recent inhibitions of clergy for refusing to accept visitations from their diocesan bishops, Bishop Martin along with the whole House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church maintains that whereas a bishop is under no obligation or requirement to be a censor or adjudicator of doctrine, he has a sacred function as the defender of diocesan boundaries and ecclesiastical real estate.

‘The presiding Bishop, moreover, has deposited with us documents proving his adherence to core doctrines of the world-wide Communion on Aids, World Poverty, Palestinian Politics, Hunger, Thirst, the IMF, the World Bank, East Timor, Northern Ireland, Basque Nationalism, Zimbabwe and the Argentinian Economy. Testimonial letters have been lodged by Jimmy Carter, Eileen Carey and Cherie Blair.’

As this catalogue of the incriminating and inconsequential drew to its close Whelan put away his Metropolitan Police notebook and tightened his randomly chosen tie.

‘So help him God,’ said the sergeant politely. ‘And me as well.’

The lawyers smoothed his way to the waiting elevator and within minutes he was in the refreshing paganism of the streets of New York.

Their task done, and with scarcely a word to their employer about anything except the bill, the attorneys removed to their offices on the 75th floor. The PB slipped out of this purple shirt into jeans and a gaily checked blouson. In such assumed anonymity he was on his way to receive Holy Communion in the local Roman Catholic Church before chairing a meeting of International ARCIC.


The Primate of All Ireland