Antinomianism (1649 — )

Assistant DA Fenwick could not restrain his glee and hopped from one foot to the other like a kid who has to go. Beverly knew from the papers served her the issue of the hearing would be a prosecution offering of probable cause to believe that the source of any pledge, deposit or indemnification paid, made, or promised for the execution of Jimmy’s bail was feloniously obtained, cf. Penal Code section 1275.1, but that was all.

“Your Honor,” Fenwick announced to Judge Miriam Wisewoman, “The so-called summer house of Mr. Volodich’s parents is nonesuch but belongs to him alone.”

“Their names are here on the mortgage documents,” countered Beverly.

“In name only. The money was his.”

“Sez who.”

“Mr. Volodich.”

“Not feloniously obtained, Your Honor.”

“The money was the fruit of crime.”

“What crime?”

“Mommy and Daddy’s so-called summer retreat is an underground drug lab for the production of illegal LSD, a felony, P.C. 11901. The house is felonious. The money is felonious.”

“What evidence do you have of an underground acid factory?” asked the judge. “And stop hopping.”

“It’s all here in black and white in the report by the Napa County Sheriff’s Office, the raid, the equipment, the beakers, the burners, the bottles, trays, cans, the fungus, the rye, the manual from Sandoz Corp. of Zurich etc etc. Plus a full confession!”

“And where is this confessor?” said Beverly, hoping whoever it was (not Cosmo certainly) was still in Napa County, which would buy her time.

“In custody.”


“Right behind that door!” (Ha ha.)

For full effect, the bailiffs hauled Cosmo out in chains. Jimmy went shockwhite, Cathy to internal tears, Bev on the rampage. Cathy attempted murder by mental-action-at-a-distance though she wasn’t sure at whom to aim. Jimmy settled for treating Cosmo as the hallucinatory effect of a psychic shock of unknown origin. The jangle of chains drowned out everyone’s remarks. Theater of pain concluded, the prosecution agreed to have them taken off.

“Your Honor,” said Bev, “there is nothing illegal on this list from Napa.”

“LSD, page 2,” said the DA.

“‘LSD-producing chemicals.’ What are they?”

“Whatever,” said the Assistant DA, “the Sheriff says they are.”

“Nothing here, Your Honor, no explanation.”

“Who does know?” asked Judge Wisewoman.

“The defendant,” said DA Fenwick, “I mean the witness.” He pointed to Cosmo.

“Swear him in,” said the judge, a Christian intellectual who more than anything hated antinomianism, a recurrent tendency in Christian history to reject the law, whether Mosaic, ecclesiastic, or moral. In 1649, the Diggers, an antinomian social-religious group who wished to establish a Christian communist community, dug up the Commons of St. George’s Hill in Surrey and planted vegetables because, they said, “the great Creator Reason made the earth to be a Common Treasury.” Cromwell’s soldiers arrested them and destroyed the garden. In 1968, the Diggers of San Francisco, antinomians dedicated to the proposition that there was no sense in everything not being free, distributed free food, free clothes, free medical care, free news, money, and car repair. That week, the Diggers had pasted posters around the city of two Chinese men in black leaning against a wall, below them the inscription 1% FREE. An instant classic and no one knew what it meant. Are 1% of us free and the other 99% in chains? Are all of us only 1% free? Should 1% of everything be free? Has 1% of everything already been made free, with 99% to go? And the men in China black: immigrants, racist stereotypes, symbols of California history? Is the one who is smoking, smoking dope? No one knew and the Diggers would not tell.

“Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help you God,” said a bailiff.

“No,” said Cosmo, “for to swear an oath implies that I tell the truth only inside a courtroom.”

“Ok, affirm then,” said the judge.

“Jesus said, swear not at all, Matthew 5:34.”

“Affirm,” said the judge, “or rot in hell.”

“Yes, wise woman.”

“That’s Your Honor to you.”

“God, before whom we are all equals, respects no rank,” said Cosmo.

“Oh my god, an antinomian, Oh most horrible blasphemy,” said the judge. “To the rack, I mean, proceed.”

“Mister Volodich,” said Fenwick.

Cosmo nodded.

“Speak up please.”

Cosmo nodded louder.

“I can’t hear you.”

Cosmo banged his head on the witness stand.

“Ask a question to the antinomian,” ordered the judge. “And you, blasphemer, keep a civil head on your neck.”

“Was the equipment seized in your Napa residence for the purpose of making LSD?” asked Fenwick.

“No,” said Cosmo, “it was not.”

“What then were you manufacturing with this equipment?”

“Ergotamine tartrate.”

“Which is?”

“A soluble white powder.”

“What does it do?”

“It is an alphaadrenergic blocking agent which depresses the central vasomotor centers and either increases or decreases serotonin and dopamine reception.”

“To what end?”

“Relief of migraine.”

“I put it to you, Mr. Volodich, that ergotamine tartrate is an essential ingrediant of LSD-25, the well-known hallucinogenic drug.”

“Is that a question?” asked Cosmo.

“Am I to understand,” asked the judge, who suffered from migraines, “that the Sheriff of Napa seized the makings of a migraine cure?”

“It is part of the criminal-industrial chain of cause and effect, Your Honor,” said Fenwick, “as essential as a carburetor to a getaway car.”

“To bake a felonious cake, counselor, you must put a file inside,” said the judge.

Cathy, Jimmy, and Bev were beginning to enjoy the show.

“What is this stuff and does it work?” the judge asked Cosmo.

“It is the alkaloid derived from ergot, sclerotium of the mushroom Claviceps purpurea, a parasite upon rye, wheat, and barley, used medicinally since antiquity by midwives and white witches in Europe; the first written mention of ergot occurs in 1582 in the tractatus —”

“Headaches!” said Judge Wisewoman, “does it work on headaches?”

“Like a charm. I’m told.”

“And this confession by Mr. Volodich, what is it?”

“I have it here,” said Fenwick.

“’I brake the law in all points,’” read the judge, “’murther excepted’. He said 'murther?'”

“That’s what it says, Your Honor.”

The judge read:

“‘And the ground of this my judgement was, God had made all things good, so nothing was evil but as man judged it; for I apprehended there was no such thing as theft, cheat or a lie, but as man made it so, for if the creature had brought into this world no property as Mine and Thine, there had been no need of defrauding, but unity one with another.’ Unholy obscene blasphemy in 1649 and blasphemy now! But not binding authority on this court. Witness dismissed, and if you want my opinion, the case against this other fellow too.”

“Wait, Your Honor,” pled Fenwick, “Mr. Volodich is a material witness to an eyewitness account of a scheme by Mr. O’Shea to flee to Canada in violation of bail. Here is a copy of a column by Herb Caen in the San Francisco Chronicle in which Mr. O’Shea declares his intent to escape.”

“Herb Caen?” said the judge, “now we’re getting somewhere.”

“I direct the witness’s attention to paragraph four. Will you please read the highlighted portion.”

“Cosmo,” read Cosmo, “as his readers know him, was of course not recommending flight to avoid prosecution, heavens forfend! Just temporary resettlement till the Revolution comes. Jimmy turned down the travel plan, though he did say, ‘I’d be better off in Canada than doing hard time in Q.’”

“You were there, sir. Were those Mr. O’Shea’s words?”

Cosmo did some rapid calculating.

“Remember, there were others there.”

Cosmo remembered the others who were there. They were here.

“No,” said Cosmo, “he said ‘I’d be better off in Q, than having a hard time in Canada.’”

“Are you calling Mr. Caen, the greatest newspaper columnist in America, a liar?” said the judge.

“Yes, Your Honor.”

“Is there no crime on earth you would not commit?”

“I draw the line at murder and praying in church.”

“Death to the antinomian insect!” cried the judge, “I accept the word of Mr. Caen, than which there is no higher. Bail is revoked. Bailiffs, take Mr. O’Shea into custody.”

Beverly Absalom’s bellowing would have earned her a record series of contempt citations had they been audible over the rattle of chains, the recitation by Cosmo of relevant sections from James 5:1 (Howl, howl ye rich men for the miseries that are coming upon you!), the huffing of overweight bailiffs and the knocking aside of chairs and persons as they attempted to pry Jimmy and Cathy apart, locked in embracing kisses.

When it was over and five doors slammed, Cathy and Bev sat alone.

“Did I dream that?” asked Cathy.

“No,” said Bev, “That’s how the legal system works.”