Ran into the Cardinal again. Over an expensive bottle of non-wine (I paid) I got him to tell me how he acquired such a distinguished and subversive title. It didn't take much persuading, the body loves to tell a good story--especially if the story's about him.
As he tells it, while in the camps he bunked next to an old man who claimed to be the last Roman Catholic Cardinal on the continent, possibly the last in the world. The old man was sure he was never going to see the outside of the camps again and decided to make young Edison Borgia (the hero and narrator of this fantastic tale) a bishop so that apostolic succession would not be lost.
Now, young Borgia was, and is to this day, not a religious body, but as he says, 'the enemy of my enemy is my friend,' so he played along with the old man. And so it came to pass that the debauched and agnostic Edison Borgia allowed himself to be ordained a Roman Catholic priest and then be made a bishop by an old man who died soon after.
I pointed out that a bishop is not a cardinal and asked how he got the promotion.
"One day, about a year after they re-integrated me back into artificial society, out of nowhere I'm accosted by three bodies I've never seen before who claim to be a delegation from the Pope. I'm skeptical but how can I prove they're not. After a quick and dirty little ceremony in a back alley somewhere they tell me I'm now a Cardinal. Two of the bodies I've never seen since. The third I saw again a couple of months later when I was nicked by the rangers and dragged off to a disenfranchisement where he was the guest of honor. Incorrigible thrift and pernicious crankiness they said."
"And you make no secret of it," I said.
"Secretly I'd be a conspirator. Publicly I'm just a crackpot."
"Besides," he said from behind a lecherous grin, "it's a great way to get laid."
It's all very Count of Monte Cristo. I doubt if a word of it is true.
The body does tell a good story though, and that's a rare and
wonderful thing in this age we live in.