Monday, April 25, 2011

Windsong – Breath of Being (Chapter 11 – The Upright Way)


Being The Beginning
Sunday January 23, 2011


1 The Exchange
Sunday January 30, 2011
2 bildende Kraft
Saturday February 5, 2011
3 Gossamer Wings
Friday February 11, 2011
4 Nemesis
Saturday February 19, 2011
5 Odd Shoes
Friday February 25, 2011
6 al-Rûh
Friday March 4, 2011
7 A Love Supreme
Thursday March 10, 2011
8 The Three-Cornered Light
Thursday March 24, 2011
9 Serendipity
Tuesday April 5, 2011
10 The Watchman
Friday April 15, 2011
11 The Upright Way
Sunday April 25, 2011
12 Angels
13 The Cave of Montesinos


14 Idols
15 Nightingale
16 The Perfect Square
17 Haunting
18 The Uncontainable
19 The Ear of Malchus
20 Mauvais Pas
21 Sinan Qua Non
22 Spirit-Level


23 Witness
24 Alcibiades
25 Ney
26 Birdsong
27 The Vanishing Point
28 The Cat Walks
29 The Approximate Likeness of Being

Becalming Unscientific Postscript

Chapter 11
The Upright Way

“Detach thyself, be hanifi
And from all faiths’ fetters free”

Mahmud Shabistari
Garden of Mystery

‘Damn,’ Flanagan says aloud, as his vision blurs. He feels a sharp pain warp around his temples, rise to a throbbing crescendo before releasing to irritate the back of his neck. His vision remains blurred and this worries him. Rubbing doesn’t help so he stands up and heads for the kitchen where he finds the Spanish paracetamol tablets – the ones that always work – and gulps them down. There is noise elsewhere in the building, the click of high-heeled shoes getting louder. Flanagan looks at his watch, focusing hard: it is 3.25 am. ‘Felicity’s coming back,’ he whispers to his reflection in a hanging saucepan. He drops the saucepan to the floor with a clang, to let her know he’s still here, still awake. He waits for her to knock. The footsteps stop, there is a grunt, then a creaking groan and then . . . giggles. More than one voice, Flanagan realises, as silence returns to the corridor when the laughing door closes.

Serves him right, he thinks, thinking he was doing Felicity Fellows a favour, even just by asking. She on the other hand, had not lied to him, and did have better things to do. Not Jack’s fault after all, he realises. ‘Shit,’ he says aloud, thinking of Jack.

‘Shit, shit, shit,’ he repeats, thinking of Mac and Rio. Returning to the table, Flanagan decides on a single malt and the Coltrane trio again; Islay and Antibes; peat and performance: double helpings of both. In the diary Mac’s puppy-dog pursuit of Rio had played out before his eyes. And I’m the bastard, she thought! Mac had never told him. ‘Didn’t fool Flatley though!’, he growls, downing the malt. The pain eases and his vision clears. Flanagan lights a cigarette and draws deeply on it. He decides to remain standing, a hanifi. Leaning forward he exhales smoke at the computer mouse, testing how slight a movement might reawaken the screen from sleep mode. Rûh, the breath, the wind, he thinks and like a spinnaker, the screen fills and pulls him away:

Arm-pit Diary,
January 21:

Woke late Walt, midday or thereabouts. Drank to keep my misery and my annoyance company. Joyce Holden called over around 3.00 in the afternoon. She was visibly upset at the state I was in…

‘I’m so sorry about what has happened, Rio. Aengus is being very unfair.’
‘Doing his job, I suppose. I did break the rules,’ she replied. ‘He shouldn’t have suspended Mac, though.’
Joyce Holden looked at her for a few seconds, and then shook her head. ‘That’s what I wanted to talk to you about.’
‘What do you mean,’ Rio asked.
‘About Mac. Marie rang me, very upset.’
‘His wife . . . ex-wife. We have remained friends.’
‘Of course,’ Rio said, nodding her head slightly.
‘It seems he called round to the house when she was at work. One of the kids was home from school and they got in an argument over nothing. Mac lashed out, hit the child . . . hard it seems. The –’
Jesus! He loves those kids,’ Rio interrupted. ‘He wouldn’t do anything to hurt them.’
‘No. I know but the child was devastated, and very distressed. Locked herself in the bathroom. When Marie got home Mac was still there, curled-up at the foot of the stairs, crying like a baby. Marie said she was frightened. It was like the old times.’
‘Old times?’
‘When Mac was drinking, he used to get violent. One the major reasons for their separation.’
‘Oh my God!’
‘Once he was served with a barring order and denied access to the kids. It got to him so much he threatened suicide . . . attempted suicide –’
‘Suicide!’ Rio gasped.
‘Yes. He took a combination of Valium, paracetamol and whiskey. Only for Jerome, Mac would have died.’
‘Yes. He found Mac and brought him to casualty. Stayed with him as his stomach was pumped. Afterwards got him signed into John O’Gods, the addiction unit. Set him on the road to recovery. Attended AA with him as well. The whole deal.’
‘I never knew.’
‘How could you?’ Joyce shrugged.
‘Does FitzHenry know?’ Rio asked.
‘Don’t think so. Happened when Prof Symmonds was Director.’
‘I don’t know what to say Joyce. Where’s Mac now?’
‘Marie said he left the house, went off into the night.’
‘Shit!’ Rio groaned, looking at her watch.
‘I just wanted you to know. If Jerome gets in touch tell him.’
‘I will.’
‘Also . . .’ Joyce Holden hesitated.
‘Spit it out, Joyce.’
‘I know you and Mac are close, maybe closer than close. He worships the ground you walk on.’
‘Nothing has happened between us Joyce…I swear.’ Rio was surprised that somebody else had noticed, yet realised she should not have been.
‘Be that as it may . . . be careful, Rio.’
‘Why? What do you mean?’

Joyce and I talked for another hour or so and then she left. The phone started ringing at 6.00pm. I didn’t answer it… I couldn’t answer it Walt. I turned off the lights in the house and pretended I wasn’t there. It eventually stopped ringing after midnight. I looked at the call log. Eight messages – all from Mac. Nothing from Flanagan…

Flanagan shrugged and scrolled down to the next entry.

Arm-pit Diary,
January 25:

Jack arrived late yesterday Walt, worse the wear for all the first-class pampering he’d had and I immediately put him to bed. Withdrawing quietly from his room I found myself hesitating, suddenly feeling a strange desire to linger. With one hand on the handle of the half-closed door, I looked back into the room and found my thoughts being transported to something that happened in December. It’s hard to believe it is only a month ago now. While browsing with Séamus in the pre-Christmas bedlam of the second-hand market, I picked up a book by a French writer called Daniel Pennac. Opening a page at random I began to read the page aloud only to have to put it down again, to be swept away by the tide of Séamus’ interest in a woolly hat for his ski trip. Later I returned to the same spot but the book was gone and no one in the bedlam quite knew where.

At that moment, for some strange reason – if there are ever strange reasons Walt – in the closing of the door, those briefly glimpsed lines of Pennac resurfaced in my brain as I watched Jack flop, exhausted, onto the clean sheets and plumped up pillows of the second bedroom…

‘The Coot was a Pole who’d been spat back up to the surface by a flatulent mine-shaft,’ Rio said quietly as she closed the bedroom door. ‘What did you say Babs? Who’s the Coot?’ asked a shadow from the darkened room. Jack Dawson, she thought, looked – after his late evening, and much delayed, flight arrival from Miami – as if he had been spat out from an even darker hole. ‘Nothing, Jack. Go off to sleep. I’ll see you later,’ she called back through the narrowing gap before closing the door as silently as possible.

It was much later, some five sleep-hours later, when she heard him shuffling around upstairs and after a hot shower and endless gargling, he had finally made it down to the lounge, dressed in faded blue denims and a pale blue shirt with rolled-up sleeves. Looking at him, Rio liked that he was still a handsome man; a man whose dancing green-grey eyes never failed to shine for her whenever they met. It was an exclusive response that had annoyed Nan Greta when she was small, she remembered.
Jack Dawson clapped his hands together after kissing her on the cheek. ‘Right! Down to business, Rosalind. What in God’s hell sort-of-mess have you got yourself into?’
‘Sit down, Jack and have something to eat first. After that I’ll tell you all about it, or at least as much as I understand.’ Rio pointed to a chair before moving into the kitchen to fetch the Costa-Rican coffee and type of blue-cheese sandwiches that he liked; that she liked. ‘Would you like some wine . . . or beer,’ she shouted from the kitchen.
‘No thanks . . . just coffee. I’m swearing off the booze for good.’
‘And matrimony?’ She couldn’t help asking as she brought in the tray.
‘That too,’ he said with a smile looking directly into her eyes. ‘All the good women run away!’

Rio did not reply and just watched as he ate in silence, hurrying to finish his food. After starting his third cup of coffee, he indicated that he wanted her to start telling him what had happened and then listened intently as she spoke. When she had finished he sat there saying nothing. Pulling out a penknife he began to pare at a small piece of wood he recovered from deep in a pocket. Rio smiled at this, remembering whenever he needed to concentrate, Jack whittled. It was an enduring image from her childhood and it felt good, and warm.
‘Lets go over the facts again, Rosalind. What time did –’
The shrill of the telephone suddenly interrupted.
‘Shit. Sorry, Jack. I should have left it off the hook. It’s probably Mac.’ Rio stood up, crossed the room and looked at the caller display. She did not recognise the number and hesitated for a moment before answering. ‘Hello,’ she said in an irritated voice before realising who was on the line. ‘Oh. Hello Inspector Flatley. What can I do for you? Any word on Phyllis?’ she asked, softening her voice. She shook her head in Jack’s direction and he looked bemused as she suddenly broke into a beaming smile. ‘That’s great news, Inspector,’ she grinned flapping her free hand. ‘Sure. Come on over. Jack, my uncle is here.’ Hanging-up she danced back to where Jack was sitting.
‘What’s up, Rosalind?’ he frowned, puzzled.
They have found it Jack! They’ve found the Durer engraving. Flatley is bringing it here for me to identify.’
‘He said he’d tell me when he got here. Isn’t that great news?’
‘Yeah. What about the parchment? Any news on that?’
‘No!’ Her waltz abruptly ended and she slumped into a chair. ‘He did say he had some other news.’
‘I wonder . . . nah, it doesn’t matter,’ he grunted.
‘What, Jack?’ she quizzed him.
‘I wonder why the Inspector is bringing the recovered etching here instead of asking you to come down to a police station to identify it. Procedurally it’s a little bit unusual…very unusual where evidence is concerned. I was just wondering why.’

It was almost 20 minutes later when the doorbell sounded. Jack stopped whittling, got up and headed for the kitchen.
‘I hope I’m not intruding,’ Detective Inspector Flatley said as he shut the door behind Rio and followed her back into the lounge. He carried a small briefcase, tucked tightly under his arm.
‘No. Of course not, Inspector. After all that’s happened this is a welcome visit,’ she said, turning to face him.
‘I hope so,’ the detective frowned as he opened the briefcase and pulled out a cellophane envelope. ‘Is this it?’
Rio’s hand trembled as she peeled back the envelope join and extracted the etching. Despite the very unique nature of the etching subject she held it up to the light to check the watermark before inspecting the front and back surfaces of the small rectangle of paper. ‘Yes it is. Yes it is! See there Inspector.’ She pointed to the area of oxidised writing on the back. ‘That confirms it. Thank God. Where did you find it?’ Jack Dawson had come back into the room behind her and in her excitement Rio did not notice. The two men eyed each other territorially for quite a considerable time before it became uncomfortable for both of them and a loud cough from Jack distracted her from the etching. She looked up. ‘Oh! Sorry you two. Inspector Flatley this is Jack Dawson, my uncle. I’m sorry I don’t know your first name, Inspector.’ She noticed that he had very dark irises and a small mole just below his left eye.
‘Gerrit,’ the policeman said quietly as the two men smiled, and moved towards each other to shake hands. ‘My mother’s choosing.’
‘It’s a nice name, Inspector,’ she said sincerely.
‘Thanks. Most of the lads call me Gerry.’
‘I prefer Gerrit,’ she said, too quickly and a little too possessively.
‘You, at least, pronounce it right, Dr. Dawson,’ he said releasing himself from Jack Dawson’s vicelike grip.
‘Rio,’ she said. ‘Please call me Rio, Gerrit, but don’t get confused when Jack calls me Rosalind. It’s my given name but Jack is the only one that still uses it.’ She held out her hand to take Jack’s and squeezed it tenderly. ‘Why don’t you take off your coat and sit down Inspector . . . Gerrit. Surely you have time for a drink.’
‘Sure! Coffee if you have it. Black please.’ Inspector Flatley slipped out of his coat and laid it neatly across the armrest. The mohair suit he wore underneath was of an indigo hue. She liked its sheen of communication.
‘On duty eh! Commendable,’ Jack ventured.
‘No. I don’t drink much, Mr. Dawson,’ Detective Inspector Gerrit Flatley said flatly, as he looked at the older man. ‘Coffee is fine just now.’
‘Call me Jack please, since we’re all cosying up so much,’ Jack said, grinning at Rio. She glared at him, letting his hand go.
‘Talking of duty, Jack,’ Gerrit Flatley said with slight annoyance. ‘I’ve been asked by my superiors to extend you every courtesy. You still have friends in very high places in the FBI!’
‘I am only here as an uncle, supporting Rosalind through a difficult time,’ Jack said as he put his hand around her shoulder and pulled her in. ‘I will not get in your way.’
‘Gee, Uncle Jack! I didn’t know you cared,’ she teased sarcastically while secretly wondering how the detective would handle the situation. Jack had performed this blocking, 'over-my-dead-body' routine to boyfriends of hers for as long as she could remember and suddenly she blushed, before squirming from his grip.
Gerrit Flatley smiled. ‘If it was as simple as that, Jack I could well understand your concerns, but, my contacts in the FBI assure me that you are not a man to ever remain uninvolved and that you have a wealth of experience and expertise that might help in the case.’
‘Would that bother you?’ Jack challenged.
The late-afternoon light was fading fast and afraid to miss any of the expressions of the sparring men Rio turned on two of the large pottery lamps that dominated each end of the room. She was enjoying the antler bashing too much to miss anything.
‘No.’ The Irish policeman’s answer was adamant and unstrained. ‘But if you get any leads or information I’m to hear of it at the same moment in time. Is that understood, Jack?’
‘Yeah. Sure, Gerry.’ Jack knew then that he would be able to work with this young detective. ‘Rosalind mentioned that you had other news.’
‘Yes…and I hope it is of some comfort to you Rio,’ Flatley said catching her eye at the far end of the room over Jack’s right shoulder. ‘The pathologist Dr. Hanratty has completed the post-mortem examination and has suggested – it’s preliminary, you understand, that the night security-man, Joe Reilly died following a sudden and massive myocardial occlusion . . . a heart attack. There was no evidence of assault. He must have been surprised by the intruder–’
‘Or perhaps surprised them and rushed into the situation,’ she interrupted.
‘Perhaps, but in any event the most likely scenario is that he had the heart attack and collapsed into the water bath. I am . . . our unit is to remain on the case however until the whereabouts of Phyllis Andrew is established.’
‘That’s good,’ Rio said a little too quickly.
‘Speaking of the spirit of co-operation, Gerry there is something I want to show you in the kitchen,’ Jack said suddenly. ‘Come on thru’. If nothing else it’ll get you closer to the coffee you were promised in any case.’
‘Watch it,’ Rio said, reddening.
Jack smiled at her before turning to the policeman. ‘Has Rosalind filled you in on the whole story, Gerry?’
‘As far as I know . . . yes. Yes, she has,’ the policeman said looking at her.
‘What’s the big mystery Jack?’ she asked diverting her eyes.

They followed Jack into the kitchen and watched him walk to the microwave unit, lift it from its position and place it down, further along the granite worktop. He pointed to the cleared space. ‘Rosalind told me that Flanagan said he had found the piece of paper with the copied word from the bottom of the parchment underneath the microwave. Look at the dust, Gerry. Its undisturbed!’
Flatley nodded in agreement.
‘But why would he lie?’ Rio mouthed the words, already knowing the answer.
Jack gesticulated angrily, upset for her. ‘He found the paper with Rosalind’s copy of the catchword on it allright but not when he said or where he said. He needed to be sure but once he had the information he needed he then was able to relax into a knight-errant role later on. Girls keep falling for knight-errants. Don’t they Gerry?’
Rio ignored the jibe, she was too busy looking at the dust and resisting the urge to wipe it away. ‘He would have only had about a few minutes at most though,’ she said sadly, in truth angry at her own feelings of stupidity where Jerome was concerned. I really did misjudge that bastard, she thought.
‘Time enough,’ Flatley observed, before continuing, ‘I also suspect that the catchword . . . What did you say Flanagan called it? Nesr, was a deliberate false trail and that the word Phyllis Andrew worked out for you, Hakim, is the right one.’
‘Any word on Phyllis?’ she asked.
‘No. Unfortunately,’ the policeman replied.
‘Are you worried?’ she asked, already knowing from his face that he was.
‘Yes,’ he said.
‘Do you think Jerome Flanagan really has anything to do with the robbery, Gerrit?’ she asked before turning away to fill the kettle hoping that neither of the men would notice the hurt evident in her eyes. ‘He already had most of the information he was looking for. He did not need to rob the place.’
‘Of course he did, the prick,’ Jack Dawson growled.
‘I don’t know, Rio,’ Inspector Flatley said and that’s why we need to question him. Even if he is in Istanbul, we should have heard from him by now. The robbery and possible murder was well publicised and it would be in his own interests to make contact as soon as possible.’
‘You two go on back in. I’ll . . . I’ll bring the coffee,’ she stuttered. Her voice was breaking and both men hesitated for a moment before acceding. Policemen both they were examining the etching with policemen’s zeal when she rejoined them. ‘Where did you recover it from, Gerrit?’ she asked.
‘There was a problem with staffing in the State Pathologist’s office and Joe Reilly’s post-mortem was only carried out yesterday. The etching was found lying against his stomach deep under three layers of clothes.’
‘That means –’ Jack Dawson pushed back his chair in an excited jump. The tray in Rio’s hand rattled as she avoided the chair to leave it down.
‘Watch it Jack!’ she interrupted.
‘I’m sorry, Rosalind.’
‘Its ok, Jack. Go on Gerrit.’
‘Phyllis Andrew and Joe Reilly were good friends,’ Flatley continued. ‘She signed out of the museum at 2.00 am. She’s wheelchair bound, right! Imagine for a moment that when she came to the museum and found your note she might have asked Joe Reilly – did he have the combination of the safe?’ he suddenly asked looking at Rio.
‘No. I don’t think so. Phyllis did though,’ she replied.
‘Yeah. That’s it!’ Jack said enthusiastically. ‘She might have asked Reilly to get the etching and parchment for her from the safe. Suppose a little later, when she was finished with one or both of them, he was bringing them back when he realised there was someone in the lab and managed to hide the etching before – he would have seen that as his priority. And then the intruder probably went looking elsewhere and came across Phyllis Andrew . . .’ he hesitated, looking at the Irish policeman.
‘It’s a possibility, Jack. That’s why we need to find Phyllis Andrew,’ Flatley summarised, with a finality that only policemen can.
‘Unless of course there were two or more intruders,’ Jack said, nodding his head.
‘There is also that possibility but we have found only one type of alien clothes fibres on Reilly.’ Flatley then turned to Rio. ‘By the way, traces of chloroform were identified in Phyllis Andrew’s office. Would she use it for her work?’
‘I see. Then . . .’
‘That one intruder may have overpowered her and taken her away,’ Jack finished what Flatley was thinking.
The policeman nodded.
‘But why wouldn’t the murderer have searched for the etching.’ Rio tried not to think of Joe’s miserable death or of Phyllis missing somewhere.
‘The parchment was the real objective all along and he got that.’
‘And Ahmed al-Akrash, the Syrian?’ Jack asked.
Jack, Rio saw, was beginning to take notes.
‘Our prime suspect.’ Flatley smiled at the ex-FBI man. ‘Disappeared from the face of the planet but we’ll track him down.’
‘I feel so responsible. I must do something.’ Rio looked at each man in turn.
‘We will, Rosalind. We’ll go to Istanbul sweetheart. Follow the trail of Flanagan.’ Jack reached out to console her.
‘Then you’ll need this.’ The policeman pulled out Rio’s blue American passport, which she had been asked to surrender.
‘Thanks, Gerrit. I’m no longer a suspect so?’ she said flippantly, taking it back.
‘No. You’re not as it happens. There was some blood swabbed from beneath Joe Reilly’s fingernails, which tested as group A. Neither he, Phyllis Andrew as far as we can ascertain, nor you have that type so he must have grappled with the intruder at some stage. We have sent everything for DNA analysis.’ Flatley was courtroom-serious in his cold summation.
‘What about all the others working in the museum? Have they been blood grouped?’ Jack asked.
‘Yes. About 42% of the Irish population are group AA or AO and the breakdown amongst the museum staff is similar. We can only really use it for exclusion not inclusion.’
‘I know that Gerry. Tell me who else was group A,’ Jack persisted.
‘That’s confidential to our enquiries and to the people involved, Jack. I’m sure you’ll understand.’ Flatley blushed a little as if uncomfortable with his answer.
‘So much for co-operation. Listen Gerry…’ Suddenly there was a hard edge to Jack’s voice. ‘…this was certainly an inside job, on that we’re agreed right?’ Flatley nodded. ‘In that case Rosalind is in danger and I want to know who can be excluded from my concerns. If you don’t see the reason in this then you’ll get jackshit help from me. Comprendez!’
‘Very well,’ Flatley conceded. ‘We don’t know about Ahmed al-Akrash, given the lack of documentation concerning him, but five of the part-time and full-time museum staff are group A blood-types. Mrs. Mags Golden, the manageress of the café; Brigadier Crawford one of the Trustees; Professor Aengus FitzHenry the director; Cormac McMurragh the photographer and Brian Foley one of the other guards.’
‘And Flanagan?’ Rio asked.
‘We also have a problem there in obtaining any sort of record. Jerome Flanagan is either incredibly healthy or incredibly careful about leaving a spoor. In fact, this is something I need to talk to you about Rio. Did -’ Gerrit Flatley looked towards Jack Dawson, hesitant about continuing.
Jack Dawson nodded knowingly and stood up. ‘I’m just going to grab some fresh air. I want to look around the back laneway before it gets too dark.’ He winked as he left.
‘What was all that about, Gerrit?’ Rio asked, puzzled.
‘I felt a little awkward about asking this in front of your uncle. Did you and Flanagan use a condom?’
She immediately realised that he was looking for a sample of Jerome’s semen for blood group and DNA analysis but still resented the intrusion. ‘You mean did we have sex?’ she asked defiantly.
‘Yes. Did you and he have . . . penetrative sex?’
‘No. There was . . . is neither penetration nor substance in my relationship with Jerome Flanagan,’ she said with a bitter conviction.
His eyebrow lifted slightly. ‘Good . . . I mean fine.’ Rio thought his discomfort endearing, old-fashioned. ‘A great pity though.’
‘I’ll remember to demand a sample next time I’m a suspect,’ she said beginning to laugh. ‘Would you like some more coffee, Gerrit?’
He also started to laugh and its deep timbre carried the mood of the room before it. Jack returned and was relieved at the atmosphere between them. Flatley then noticed the fly-fishing rod hanging over the fireplace and asked about it. Jack obliged. ‘Rosalind caught her first bonefish with that rod. Be carefully Gerry what she hangs up there next.’ They both smiled about this and at her embarrassment.
‘I must get along, Rio. Thanks for the identification and the coffee.’ Flatley pulled on his coat.
‘Thank you,’ she said. ‘For letting me know about Joe’s post-mortem. It’s a relief in a way. I hope you get news on Phyllis soon. Call me.’
‘I’ll keep in touch,’ he said, looking at Jack. ‘With you both,’ he added looking at her.

I walked him to the door and watched until he had disappeared around the corner. Nice man Walt. Uncomplicated. Good-looking with it! He held onto the etching as it was still in the chain of evidence. I did not mind, as long as it had been recovered and definitely thought that things were looking up then Aengus FitzHenry arrived shortly afterwards. I was upstairs and from the bedroom could hear Jack giving him a very frosty reception once he had introduced himself. I delayed as long as possible before coming down. FitzHenry was still standing at the door and looked furious…

‘What do you want here FitzHenry?’ Jack demanded loudly when he saw her coming down.
‘I’m used to my title being used Mr. Dawson,’ FitzHenry blustered.
‘What do you want Dickhead,’ Jack obliged.
‘Easy, Jack. I’m sure Professor FitzHenry has a good reason for being here,’ Rio said standing close to Jack. There was a bitter cold wind ruffling FitzHenry's sheepskin collar as he stood in the doorway.
‘I was told Inspector Flatley would be here. I received a message that they had recovered the etching.’
‘They have and they are holding onto it as evidence. He asked me to identify it and also about the conditions it should be stored in. I obliged on the museum’s behalf, free of charge of course.’
‘I see. Thank you?’
‘A lot more loyal than you fucking were,’ Jack growled.
‘My hands were tied Mr. Dawson. The trustees demanded it. Somebody had to be held responsible.’
‘And you decided it should be Rosalind . . . Rio. Why not you? Ahmed al-Akrash was, I understand, employed directly by you. Did you not check him out? Where did you hire him from?’ Jack Dawson was back being the policeman.
FitzHenry was caught off guard. ‘That . . . that is none of your business. I don’t discuss the museum’s hiring practice with strangers.’
‘You were happy to discuss my firing with all and sundry,’ Rio said.
‘I’ll do what I please, Dr. Dawson.’
‘Goodbye then, Aengus. I’d like to say it was a pleasure working with you but you will understand if I don’t,’ she said with icy control while moving towards the door.
FitzHenry suddenly looked uncomfortable with his dismissal. ‘Listen Dr. Dawson . . . Rio. I am ready to apologize for my hastiness, to you and to Mr. McMurragh. I would like you both to return to work.’
‘I’m not sure that I would want to work there again. My uncle and I are planning to go to Istanbul and I will take some time there to think about it.’
Istanbul? Are you meeting up with Jerome Flanagan?’
‘If we are it’s none of your business?’ Jack growled.
‘Why? What do you know? What does he know?’
‘About what Aengus?’Rio probed.
‘Oh . . . the Book,’ he answered shivering in the wind.
‘I thought you said the Book was bullshit. You certainly didn’t give it much credence when you were firing me,’ she said angrily.
‘Suspending, to be accurate. Which is now lifted. I hope we can forget this little contretemps between us Rio. We have the opening of the Anglo-Danish exhibition in two weeks and I hope to use the occasion to announce the finding of the Durer.’
Little! For God’s sake Aengus, Joe Reilly is dead and Phyllis is still missing. That is not little. How can you be so unthinking? The opening should be cancelled.’
‘That is most unfortunate, I know, but the Library must carry on. Dr. Andrew would have wanted . . . would want that. I’m sure the police will soon sort it out soon. Now I really must go. Goodnight Mr. Dawson.’
Jack simply grunted.
Rio stood in the doorway watching him turn and leave. He was in a great hurry. ‘Oh Professor,’ she called after him remembering something. ‘Talking about the museum. Do you have a key for the solvent cupboard?’
‘What? Yes . . . why do you ask?’
‘I have December’s diffusion samples in a sealed bag inside my fridge. You need to bring them to the museum.’
‘Isn’t the safety officer coming first thing tomorrow to dispose of the solvents and collect the diffusion samples?’
‘Oh right! I’d forgotten. I'll probably cancel as the place is still cordoned off as a crime scene. Thank you. I’ll look after them.’
‘Fine. Hold on there,’ she said, turning back, to retrieve the samples from the kitchen.

Accepting the bags, FitzHenry mumbled, ‘I hope you’ll come back Rio. You are very conscientious. It’s a rare commodity.’
‘I’ll think about it and let you know,’ she said closing the door.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Rihla (Journey 23): Whitby, Yorkshire, UK – Dracula, Dionysius, Demeter and Chips

Rihla (The Journey) – was the short title of a 14th Century (1355 CE) book written in Fez by the Islamic legal scholar Ibn Jazayy al-Kalbi of Granada who recorded and then transcribed the dictated travelogue of the Tangerian, Ibn Battuta. The book’s full title was A Gift to Those who Contemplate the Wonders of Cities and the Marvels of Travelling and somehow the title of Ibn Jazayy's book captures the ethos of many of the city and country journeys I have been lucky to take in past years.

This Rihla is about Whitby, Yorkshire, England.

Notions of time and place loom large this time of the year when once again the scholastic, legal, civil and religious society of European and European-derived countries is dictated by the movable feast of Easter, a Christian celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ; a Christian celebration based on the very pagan new moon after the Vernal Equinox and a calculation designed to avoid the competing Passover celebration of the Jewish faith. It seems to me, now that our lives are timed by a universal cosmic atomic pulse instead of a lunisolar centrifugal revolution we should settle, for example, on the first Sunday in April as a constant and do away with the alchemal calculations, that continue to resonate of the early medieval proofs derived to show the Sun circled the Earth rather than the other way round.

These notions reminded me of a journey made to Whitby, a fishing port on the east Yorkshire coast a few years ago for the wedding of my nephew. Although I had lived and worked in Leeds from 1988-‘89 I had never made it to Whitby and looked forward to seeing the town, for it was a place that had featured strongly in the imagination of my adolescence.

Dracula Film Poster

Parking the car near the crescent-shaped green that overlooked the beach and the cold North Sea beyond I stepped out into a warm day with only a light easterly wind blowing. The sea beyond was calm, unlike an August evening in the late 1800’s when a most unusual and violent storm struck Whitby:

‘Then without warning the tempest broke. With a rapidity which,
at the time, seemed incredible, and even afterwards is impossible
to realize, the whole aspect of nature at once became convulsed.
The waves rose in growing fury, each over-topping its fellow, till
in a very few minutes the lately glassy sea was like a roaring and
devouring monster. White-crested waves beat madly on the level
sands and rushed up the shelving cliffs. Others broke over the
piers, and with their spume swept the lanthorns of the lighthouses
which rise from the end of either pier of Whitby Harbour.’

This, as some of you will recognize, was Bram Stoker’s description of the storm that wrecked the schooner Demeter of Varna on Whitby’s sands and brought Dracula to England… and the Goths to Whitby.

It was a fantastic wedding, full of joy, and to cap it all, after trooping down from the escarpment of the upper town, we had the wedding breakfast on the beach. A wedding breakfast of ‘Fish&Chips’ from a nearby famous shop, carried in boxes by the groom along the shore, who just about avoided a rapidly incoming sea starving his invited guests.

The Wedding Breakfast cometh with the tide!

Aaron should have consulted his lunar tidal tables, I thought as I watched him dodge the waves, and wondered what James George Frazer’s The Golden Bough said about pagan auspices and vagaries for weddings.

Later we had a chance to walk the narrow streets that descended sharply to the fishing port. The shops and hostelries were a mixture of old world charm and new world Gothic indulgence. One in particular specializing in Draculian nail-painting and tattoos had a sign saying ‘Fuck off – We’re closed’ and another the Little Angel pub had a mounting stone outside, there for centuries, to help you onto your horse.

On the summit of the hill opposite, on the southern side of Whitby harbour, was the ruined Abbey (St Hilda’s monastery of Streanaeshalch – the Northumbrian name for Whitby) where in 664 at a Synod, King Oswiu accepted the central authority of the Roman Church’s way of calculating when Easter Sunday fell in preference to the Ionian or Celtic Church’s calculation.

The Council of Nicea, chaired by the Emperor Constantine in 325AD, gave responsibility for calculating the dating of Easter to the Egyptian Church. Headquartered in Alexandria the calculation was based on the 19-year Metonic lunisolar cycle. The early, and competing, Church in Rome used the 84-year Hippolytic cycle for calculation and it was this formula that was adopted into the early Celtic Church. The Roman Church finally accepted the Alexandrian calculation method about 465 AD and in 530 AD Dionysius Exiguus, an Abbot from Scythia, devised what we now call the Christian era and set out clear methods for calculating the date of Easter. This calendar is what Oswiu accepted for the Nothumbrian Kingdom in the Abbey overlooking Whitby in 664 although the remnant Celtic Church monks of Iona did not do so until 715.

I thought of Dracula again, my newly-married nephew, and of the schooner Demeter which brought Dracula in the storm to Whitby; Demeter the Greek Goddess of the Harvest who presided over the seasons through the Horae, the goddesses of the natural portions of time…and chips perhaps!

Whitby "Fish&Chips"

Friday, April 15, 2011

Windsong – Breath of Being (Chapter 10 – The Watchman)


Being The Beginning Sunday January 23, 2011


1 The Exchange Sunday January 30, 2011
2 bildende Kraft Saturday February 5, 2011
3 Gossamer Wings Friday February 11, 2011
4 Nemesis Saturday February 19, 2011
5 Odd Shoes Friday February 25, 2011
6 al-Rûh Friday March 4, 2011
7 A Love Supreme Thursday March 10, 2011
8 The Three Cornered Light Thursday March 24, 2011
9 Serendipity Tuesday April 5, 2011
10 The Watchman Friday April 15, 2011
11 The Upright Way
12 Angels
13 The Cave of Montesinos


14 Idols
15 Nightingale
16 The Perfect Square
17 Haunting
18 The Uncontainable
19 The Ear of Malchus
20 Mauvais Pas
21 Sinan Qua Non
22 Spirit-Level


23 Witness
24 Alcibiades
25 Ney
26 Birdsong
27 The Vanishing Point
28 The Cat Walks
29 The Approximate Likeness of Being

Becalming Unscientific Postscript

Chapter 10

The Watchman

“A strange spark flashes in the eyes,
a strange word slides into the song,
the soul, rising itself with the dawn,
does not know about its night to be. . .


Reaching for the familiar bottle of the malt Flanagan begins to unscrew the cap. He suddenly hesitates mid-revolution, and changes his mind. Coffee is required instead, he realises, to concentrate his wits. He heads for the kitchen, ladles a double helping of Java into a cafétière and waits for the kettle to boil. Once prepared, he leans against the breakfast counter, gulping down the coffee before refilling the cup and returning across the room to the diary. He scrolls down to check how many entries are left and decides to keep going. Jack Dawson is bad enough drunk, but sober he’ll be lethal, he reasons, and then wonders about the true nature of his and Rio’s attachment and the silence of that attachment. Almost a conjugal silence he had thought the night they had all met in the hotel; so little need to say anything between them and yet so much unsaid between them.
He waits for an announcing creak of the apartment building’s front door but it doesn’t come. Felicity Fellows is not returning, he finally decides, rubbing his eyes. ‘I need to understand everything,’ he says into the silence. He scrolls down, glancing quickly at two short entries. The one for January 18 reads:

Back from Belfast, Walt. No word from Jerome. Bastard! Mac rang, wants to come over. I put him off. He thinks I’m with Flanagan. Hangs up not believing…

Flanagan skips over the accusation, remembering an article he’d read recently about how George Gamow’s predicted cosmic radiation, the Universal noise from the Big Bang, was detected after all possible elements that might account for that noise were eliminated, including the “white dielectric material” – birdshit – scrubbed from the antenna dish. Bastard! She called me. Bullshit, he thinks, brown dielectric material confusing the noise of his imploding universe.
‘Bring it back,’ he reminds himself, sipping the coffee. Azure dielectric material:

Arm-pit Diary,
January 20 – morning:

What a shit day Walt! It started with a loud and persistent knocking sound that woke me up. I looked at the clock. It was nearly midday and I had been asleep for the best part of nine hours; too much to drink after Mac’s telephone call. The knocking noise got louder…

‘Right. Hold on. I’m coming,’ Rio shouted, throwing off the bedcovers and walking to the window. She pulled back the drapes. In the street, a white police patrol car was parked against the kerb, its engine still running. She opened the window just enough to stick her head out. Directly beneath her, standing at her front door, was a uniformed policewoman.
‘Hello,’ she called down, her tongue moving like sandpaper in her mouth.
‘Dr. Dawson?’ the policewoman looked up and asked in an irritated fashion.
‘Would you come down ma’am. I need to talk to you.’
‘About what?’
‘Just come down please and open the door,’ the policewoman demanded.
‘Sure. Hold on a sec!’ Rio closed the window, straightened up, turned and suddenly stubbed her toe against something hard. ‘Shit. What’s that doing there?’ she squeeled aloud, looking down to where the combined telephone-answering machine and its handset lay scattered on the floor, unconnected to each other. Jerome’s poem lay beside them. She must have knocked it off the side table during the night, she realised as she bent down, lifted the handset and listened. There was a low hum of an engaged signal and the low-battery warning light was flashing. Replacing the handset on the machine, and the machine on the table, she checked that the line was working before donning a towel-robe and going downstairs.
‘Please come in,’ Rio said as brightly as she could on opening the door. ‘What’s the problem, officer?’
‘We need you to come to your lab in the museum, Dr. Dawson. We have been trying to contact you since early morning,’ the policewoman said with a clipped, impatient emphasis.
‘I’m sorry about that. My phone was off the hook. I must have knocked it over in the night. I …’ Rio paused and then asked anxiously, ‘What’s up with the lab? There wasn’t a fire, was there?’
‘Then what?’
‘Dr. Dawson, please get dressed quickly and come with us. Everything will be explained when we get there. I’ll wait in the car for you.’ The policewoman turned on her heel and left.

Rio watched the young officer get into the patrol car before closing the front door and it was another ten minutes, and a quickly taken shower, before she joined them. Without a word they sped the short distance, with the siren blazing and against the flow of traffic, to Ship Lane. This time the recently repaired barrier of the security gate was already erect and as they pulled in Rio saw that there was a tremendous amount of police activity all around the Clock House building. There had been rumours all week of an imminent, but unscheduled visit by former US President, Bill Clinton to the Museum and she now wondered whether all staff had been called in on their Saturday off to be in grovelling attendance. ‘I’ll kill Aengus for not warning me,’ she murmured. The words slipped out before she could stop them.
‘What did you say, Dr, Dawson?’ The young policewoman looked sideways at her as the car skidded to a halt.
‘Look at all the activity. I’m annoyed with the Director for not letting me know there was an important visitor coming. The lab is in a mess.’
‘You’re right there,’ the policewoman growled.
‘What?’ Rio was taken aback by her tone and the observation.
‘Please come with me, Dr. Dawson.’
The policewoman stepped out of the car and waited for Rio to do the same. They headed for the front entrance and it was only when she saw the blacked-out windows of the Silk Road café and the fluttering, yellow tape of a crime scene exclusion area, blocking their way that she suddenly realised that something terrible must have happened. As the policewoman held up the tape for her to duck under, a tanned, dark-haired man came forward to meet her.
‘Dr. Dawson, I’m Detective Inspector Flatley of the Garda Central Detective Unit in the Phoenix Park.’
DI Flatley was taller than her, and had eyes that were so brown, Rio noticed, they were nearly black. Wearing a well tailored and very tight fitting navy-blue suit, a bright pink tie and pale-blue shirt, and pointed, highly polished Italian shoes, he didn’t strike her as being very Irish or fitting any stereotype she might have had of an Irish police detective. ‘What’s going on Inspector?’ she asked accepting his proffered handshake, which was firm.
‘We’re here investigating a possible homicide,’ he replied brusquely, releasing his grip.
‘Did you say homicide?’ she queried, confused.
‘Yes. I need to ask you a few questions Dr. Dawson. Please follow me.’
Stunned by the unfolding events Rio meekly followed him around the corner of the foyer entrance and into the first room of the restaurant. Through a connecting doorway she could see an ashen-faced Mac sitting at a table being questioned by another, heavier built, man. Cormac McMurragh looked up briefly as she passed and nodded his head. She was shown to a chair placed where her back would be to where Mac was sitting. DI Flatley sat down on the chair opposite, his face impassive.
‘What’s going on, Inspector? Please tell me,’ she pleaded.
‘Somebody may have been murdered here last night . . . in your lab as it happens. We’re trying to piece it all together. When were you in the lab last?’
‘What? Who for God’s sake?’
‘A Mister Joseph Reilly, the night security guard.’
Christ no! I don’t believe it,’ she cried. Rio pushed back on her chair and stood up. She felt her stomach heave. ‘I’m going to get sick. Excuse me.’ She covered her mouth and ran across the marble floor of the atrium, jumping over the ornamental pool in the hurry to get to the ladies toilet. The policewoman who had collected Rio from the house followed, to stand near the cubicle door as she retched, clearly annoyed by the need to do so. It was a few minutes before she felt composed enough to return to the restaurant where DI Flatley was waiting with two cups of coffee.
‘Sugar,’ he asked kindly.
‘No. Thanks.’
‘When were you last in the lab, Dr. Dawson?’ Flatley persisted as he opened a notebook.
‘About 2.30 pm last Tuesday! I had a meeting in the afternoon and went straight home from there. I was in Belfast until yesterday. At a conference. Took the evening train back. You can check, if you like.’
‘I have,’ Flatley said, flipping over a page. ‘Alone?’
‘Last night. Were you alone at home last night?’
Rio could hear one of Mac’s distinctive loud slurps erupt behind her. ‘Yes,’ she said, blushing.
The policeman noticed. ‘Did anybody call to the house?’
‘What about Tuesday?’
‘What about it?’
‘Did anybody call to your house then?’
‘What’s Tuesday got to do with it Inspector? Joe’s…the homicide happened last night,’ she said, flustered.
‘Please answer the question Dr. Dawson. We are trying to establish everybody’s movements for the last week or so.’
‘It’s what we do. With your training you must realise that.’
‘What do you know of…’ Rio started to object but then realised of course they would have checked on her background, including her time with the FBI. She relented and answered his question. ‘Yes, two people did. Mac . . . Cormac McMurragh and Jerome.’
‘Jerome . . .’ DI Flatley did not look up as he flicked through the notebook until reaching a blank page, ‘. . . that would be Jerome Flanagan?’
‘Yes. Dr. Jerome Flanagan! He used to be a curator here in the museum.’
‘I see,’ he said, writing it down. ‘Any telephone calls?’
‘When? During the entire week?’
‘No. Last night,’ the policeman asked, in a tone which suggested he already knew.
‘Yes my uncle. About midnight.’
‘A bit late!’
‘Not for him. He lives in Florida.’
‘I thought that Dr. Flanagan was staying in the house.’
‘No he’s not,’ she said, a little too emphatically.
‘I thought he was with you.’
‘Who told you that?’
‘Something Mr McMurragh said earlier,’ Flatley mumbled, flicking back to another page.
‘That was on Tuesday last. I told you. He and Mac . . . Cormac McMurragh were with me.’ Rio half turned to see if Mac was listening.
‘Until what time?’
‘They left at about 7.00.’
‘You were alone all night so?’ Flatley’s eyes were sizing her up, testing her.
‘No. Dr. Flanagan came back for dinner.’
‘I see and what time did he leave.’
‘About 3.00 or 4.00 in the morning.’ She couldn’t stop her face blushing.
‘Was that the last time you saw him, Dr. Flanagan . . . the early hours of Wednesday morning?’
‘Any telephone contact since?’
‘I understand.’ Flatley smirked.
Well, I don’t,’ Rio shouted back at him, annoyed with the process, the intrusion and the inference in his tone. She stood up. Heads everywhere turned to look at them. ‘What’s happened here? Tell me!’
‘Take it easy, Dr. Dawson,’ he whispered as he leaned forward and touched her hand. ‘Please sit down.’
He smelt of expensive aftershave, Issy Misake, she thought, calming down a little and retaking her seat. ‘I will if you would do me the courtesy of some sort of explanation…about what happened here. I’d like to go up to my lab.’
DI Flatley studied her for a long time before answering. ‘Mr Reilly was found dead in your lab. Crime scene officers are still working up there but his body will be removed to the morgue shortly. Unfortunately it’s not a pleasant sight. Tell me, apart from the routine security patrols which he usually made at . . . let me check,’ he flicked through his notebook again, ‘ . . . at midnight and 6.00 am would there have been any other routine reason for going into your lab. Would, for example, he have been doing something for you?’
‘No. Why do you say that?’
‘Dr. Hanratty, the Assistant State Pathologist, has determined that his death took place roughly between 2.00 and 5.00 am, no sooner than that at any rate. The last person to leave the building was Phyllis Andrew at 02.00.’ He paused for a moment. ‘Why would Miss Andrew have been working in her office so late?’
‘Phyllis, Dr. Andrew, is the Islamic curator. She has been away all week in the States and perhaps was catching up on some work. She’d have still been on East Coast time. It’s not that unusual for some people when they come back. Why don’t you ask her?’
‘We will when we find her.’
‘Oh. Nothing serious. Her neighbours said she left early from her house this morning. By taxi.’
‘I left a written message for her yesterday about something that I’d been working on,’ Rio said, in an abstract way.
‘We know. We found it in her office . . . let me see.’ The detective pulled a clear plastic bag from his jacket pocket. Inside Rio could see that there was a single piece of paper; the writing on it was her own. DI Flatley began to read it. ‘ “Dear Phyllis, I hope you had a good trip. Please destroy the photocopied letter I sent you for an opinion. I’ll explain later. Love Rio.” I thought you said you went straight home yesterday evening.’
‘I said I got home about 11.00pm. I called into the museum about 10pm on the way from the train-station to pick up my mail, and that is when I left the message for Phyllis . . . Dr. Andrew.’
‘So you were in your lab?’
‘No. The mail collection boxes are in the foyer. Joe Reilly let me in and I left straight away again without going up to the lab. I was very tired.’
‘How did he seem?’
‘And Miss Andrew?’
‘No. Phyllis wasn’t there then . . . at least Joe didn’t mention it. He offered to slip my note under her door.’
‘What is the letter you mentioned?’
‘Oh. Nothing important. Some . . . museum business,’ she said defensively.
‘I see,’ DI Flatley said with a click of his tongue. After a moment of contemplation he spoke again. ‘On a different note, Joe Reilly and Miss Andrew were very close, weren’t they? ’ he asked in a nonchalant way as he folded up the plastic bag containing her note and replaced it in his pocket.
‘Yes, they were good friends and whenever Joe was working nights, Phyllis would often stay in to talk with him. It’s so sad.’ Rio’s eyes filled with tears as she spoke her thoughts out loud.
‘Yes. That’s what Mr McMurragh said.’ DI Flatley smiled, a thin sad smile, reminding her of Flanagan. ‘Would you mind coming up to the lab with me, Dr. Dawson? You have to be careful not to touch anything but I would value your help. See if anything is missing; that sort of thing. I’m looking for a motive.’
Rio cringed at the word and had to fight hard against the waves of nausea that suddenly washed over me. ‘Sure.’
‘You’ve probably been to many of these scenes? With the FBI?’ Flatley enquired as he walked alongside.
‘As it happens, Inspector, I have not. My work was always lab based although my uncle would sometimes describe some of his cases when I was growing up.’
‘Was he a policeman?’
‘State Trooper then FBI.’
‘I see,’ he said with another click of his tongue. ‘I’d like you to put on a pair of crime-scene overalls and gloves. You don’t have a latex allergy do you?’
‘No,’ she replied, searching Flatley’s face for any hint of inappropriate sarcasm.

They soon reached the top floor landing, stopping to put-on the overalls at a spot from where Rio could see an animated Aengus FitzHenry entering the foyer below. Nearby a fingerprint technician was dusting the doorway that led to the lab corridor and slightly irritated by the disruption protested loudly before pushing it open with the end of his dusting brush. They entered the corridor and turned into the laboratory doorway.
Oh God no!’ she suddenly screamed.
‘I’m sorry about that,’ Flatley said in annoyed fashion as they had to retreat again to allow the gurney with Joe Reilly’s body on it pass out. One of his hands had released and had slipped out through a small tear in the body bag.
Rio shivered. The familiar was no longer familiar. She felt disembodied, as if walking in an alien space, observing it from a distance. Its sanctity seemed desecrated and destroyed, dirty and in need of a cleansing wind.
‘This way Dr. Dawson.’ Flatley led her to the far end of the room. There was a large crescent-shaped board with writing on it being held up by another detective.
‘DI Flatley.’
‘Yes sergeant.’ Flatley spoke down to another detective who was on his hands and knees searching around in the shadows beneath the sink.
‘Look at this.’
‘Show me.’
The sergeant moved to one side and Rio could see a small square piece of paper on the floor. It had writing on it. Flatley hunched down to examine, without touching, the paper more carefully. He read it aloud, ‘Dear Rio, I’ve done what you asked. By the way the Watchman translates as the “idol of Hakim”, the judge. Love P. Do you know what she was talking about?’ he asked.
Rio’s head was spinning. Phyllis had translated the word as hakim and not nesr as Jerome Flanagan had done. Why? What’s he up to? she wondered.
‘What’s a “Watchman”?’ Flatley persisted.
‘The linking word between the end of one page of a document and the start of another in Islamic texts, usually used as a guide to the binders, so that the proper page sequence would be maintained,’ she answered automatically. Suddenly her hand came up to her mouth. Oh Jesus . . . Flanagan lied to me, she thought as her stomach heaved again. She wobbled before leaning heavily against a workbench.
Flatley had a concerned look on his face as he stood up to stop her from falling. ‘Do you want to sit down?’
‘No thank you, Inspector. I’ll be ok in a minute,’ she replied quietly, knowing she would not be. It was at that moment she noticed the slightly sweet smell, which was drifting through the lab. She looked around and then noticed the pink, frothing liquid that filled the jacketed water tank. She moved forward for a closer look.
DI Flatley spoke softly, ‘Joe Reilly was found slumped on the floor beneath the tank. He had copious frothing liquid coming from his nostrils and mouth. Drowned probably. Held down into the bath.’
‘Oh dear God,’ she said, horrified by the thought. ‘But it’s not deep enough!’ she protested.
‘It is if you’re concussed or drugged and your head is held down. I’d say he was carrying that letter to you when he collapsed and that the letter fell from his grasp and lay hidden from view under the sink.’
‘God! I’m going to retch again.’ With that Rio turned and vomited into a small hand-washing sink beside the tank. Straightening up she accepted a handkerchief that the policeman offered. ‘I’m sorry Inspector.’
‘No harm done. It’s a distressing scene for you. We should go.’
‘Yes . . . no. It’s not just the scene. There is something else.’ She was sniffing the air again.
‘That sweet aroma in the room! Do you smell it?’
‘Yes, I think so. Is it somebody’s deodorant?’
‘I have a very keen sense of smell, Inspector. It’s not perfume it’s . . .’ Rio broke off and went to the middle section of the lab where the small solvent cupboard and over night storage safe were located, side-by-side. Their presence was obscured for security purposes by a false panel on the wall. She depressed a small lever and the panel slid to one side. The solvent cupboard’s door was open. ‘Inspector. Come here please!’ she called out.
‘What is it, Dr. Dawson?’
‘The solvent cupboard! It’s been opened.’
‘What of it?’
‘There was some chloroform in there.’
‘Chloroform! Why on earth would you have that in here.’
‘It is sometimes used for removing old varnish in picture restoring. It was due to be disposed of on Monday.’
‘I see. Why such security measures?’ Flatley examined the sliding panel.
‘The security is for the night-storage safe. It is really a lockable, modified drying cabinet where small items I might be working on can be safely deposited overnight, or at weekends, without having to return them to the main vaults or leaving them lying about. Small items have a habit of disappearing from museums.’
‘And the solvent cupboard?’
‘It was easier to position them side-by-side when remodelling the building. Both need the same controlled humidity and air extraction connections.’
‘And the safe. What’s in there?’
‘God. The parchment! I’d forgotten all about it,’ Rio bent down and started to dial in the combination of the safe. She suddenly thought of the fingerprint technician. I looked up at Flatley. He nodded for her to go ahead, as she was still wearing the latex gloves. The safe opened. It was empty. She almost knew it would be. ‘They’re gone,’ she said wearily flopping back onto the floor.
‘What are?’
‘A Durer etching and an old parchment letter that I was working on. They are both gone.’
‘You mean stolen?’
‘Yes . . . I suppose so.’
‘Were they valuable?’
‘Priceless . . . oh my God.’
‘Do many people know about the safe and the cupboard? Their location and security codes?’
‘God. I don’t know. Anybody who has ever worked here I suppose. At least anybody who has worked since the Library moved to this location. Oh my God!’ Rio felt herself getting dizzy again and tilted forward to lean against the safe.
‘Right. Let me help you up, Dr. Dawson.’ Flatley placed his hand under her elbow and helped her to her feet. ‘I’ll get the technical lads over here and we’ll go downstairs again and you can give me a description of the etching and the parchment and also detail who, currently, has access to the lab. Before we go out however, is there anything else out of place?’
She had difficulty taking her eyes away from the empty safe but eventually looked around as he requested. The rest of the lab was the way I’d left it on Tuesday afternoon, only it wasn’t. It was changed forever.

Outside fresh snow was beginning to fall again Walt, and I wanted to rush forward and open the window and let it blow in; to cover over me; to hide me…

Flanagan scrolls quickly on:

Arm-pit Diary,
January 20 – afternoon:

After FitzHenry and DI Flatley had left the conference room, Rio sat staring up at the blue sky through the nearest window. Mac was opposite, fidgeting, his face in shadow. Each of them, she thought, nervous; waiting in silence; anticipating the explosion that would surely happen when FitzHenry returned. It was not long in coming. The door swung open and looking up she could see that his face was already a flaming, incandescent red. He stood at the head of the table, visibly shaking, a labile volcano looking down its length at us, saying nothing, threatening everything.
‘Aengus. I –’ she began, trying to deflect the eruption.
‘Dr. Dawson if you don’t mind,’ he interrupted, with magma spittle that showered over them. ‘I would like you to remain silent for a moment. I will come to you shortly. First, I want some answers from you, Mr. McMurragh!’
‘Prof! Honestly. There is nothing linking me to the theft or the murder. How was I to know that Ahmed could do something like this? I was simply in the café having a coffee and had the pictures with me when he came over and asked me about them. He seemed genuinely interested and I saw no harm in it,’ Mac protested, moving his hands around like a small child.
‘You should not, should not have discussed confidential Library business with a man running the café!’ FitzHenry shouted, the veins on his temples almost distended to bursting point.
‘But Prof –’ Mac was flustered and Rio felt sorry for him.

Together with FitzHenry they had spent nearly three hours with DI Flatley going over their individual statements and trying to piece together what had happened in the days prior to the murder. Rio had given an account of her work with the stolen parchment; of Jerome Flanagan’s involvement; the story of the Book of the Messenger; and finally had explained to Flatley about the concerns Flanagan had expressed with regard to the significance of the parchment to orthodox Islam and his theory about “sleepers” waiting in the shadows. At one point she was just about to bring to the detective’s attention to the discrepancy between Phyllis’s and Jerome’s translation of the “Watchman” word when Mac suddenly mentioned he had shown some of the photographs of the parchment to Ahmed al-Akrãsh, the proprietor of the Silk Road Café in the museum. This had brought the first noticeable flicker of genuine excitement, Rio noticed, to Flatley’s otherwise impassive features.
The policeman had then explained that Ahmed al-Akrash had not been seen since the afternoon of the murder, had not come into work the Saturday morning and that the café manageress, Mags had not heard from him. A neighbour returning from the night shift in Guinness’s Brewery thought he had last seen him leaving his house in a hurry very early on Saturday morning and enquiries with the Syrian Embassy in London were equally worrying. Neither they nor the authorities in Damascus had issued a current passport or exit visa to anybody called Ahmed al-Akrash.

‘I don’t believe for one fucking moment Jaffa Flanagan’s ridiculous tale of “sleepers” waiting around for a mysterious book to suddenly reappear after hundreds of years.’ FitzHenry continued in a sarcastic tone as he paced across the top of the room, ‘What concern’s me most you two, is that the Durer is fucking missing and, DI Flatley agrees with me on this, that is far more likely to be the motive of the robbery and murder.’
‘Putative Durer, Aengus!’ Rio said, annoyed with his attitude but really surprised by FitzHenry’s facility for gutter language.
The Museum director suddenly stopped pacing and glared down at her. ‘From now on I think it would be far better if you addressed me as Professor or Director, Dr. Dawson. How could you have put my . . . our work here in the library at so much risk by involving yourself with Jerome Flanagan?’
Rio glared back at him, her own volatility releasing. ‘How dare you make judgement on, or assumptions about, my personal life FitzHenry! It’s none of your fucking concern,’ she shouted, descending into the same gutter.
‘As it happens, it is very much my concern Dr. Dawson.’ FitzHenry’s voice hardened to a superior sneer as he sat down. ‘Your personal involvement with Flanagan has led to property of the Library going missing and puts our reputation at considerable risk. Just when I …we had recovered it.’
‘Jerome Flanagan would have had nothing to do with the murder and I think you are jumping to conclusions.’ Rio did not back off. ‘In any event, only a week or so ago, if I remember correctly, you were prepared to be involved with Flanagan in trying to acquire the Ptolemy, only for Brigadier Crawford to slap you down.’ She stood up, wanting to leave when the thought struck her. ‘Is this where this is coming from? Are you lap-dogging for Crawford?’ She was fuming and like a trapped animal would fight her way out if required.
‘Sit down Dr. Dawson. I was in fact talking about the photographs that you and McMurragh kindly supplied him with. I gather from Inspector Flatley that they are all gone; taken the night he was with you. I also understand that Flanagan needs to account for his whereabouts since then. You’re not enough of an alibi it seems. Pity!’
DI Flatly had informed them before he left that the police were reasonably certain Flanagan had caught a connection to Istanbul on the Saturday morning, about the time Joe Reilly’s body was discovered. The Turkish police had been informed that he was wanted for questioning but they held little hope of finding him in a city of twelve million people. "Istanbul is a city full of the disappeared," the Turkish Chief of Detectives had explained to Flatley. "Living and dead." ‘I’ve had enough of this bullshit innuendo. I’m leaving.’ Rio picked up her bag.
‘That’s a good idea.’ FitzHenry was nodding his head with a resigned look on his face.
‘What do you mean?’ she asked, suddenly disarmed by his vacant stare.
‘Brigadier Crawford contacted me only ten minutes ago on behalf of the Trustees and I appraised him of the situation. Your contract with the Library is to be terminated forthwith, Dr. Dawson and we would like you to leave straight away. The Garda technical bureau are not finished with the lab so you will have to come back at some stage for your belongings. I’ll take your security swipe-card if I may.’
Rio was too stunned to speak and in a dazed fashion lifted the ribbon-held card from around her neck and slid it down the table to FitzHenry.
‘You too Mr. McMurragh,’ he said without looking up.
‘Wha . . .wha . . . what do you mean Professor?’ Mac stuttered.
‘As a full time employee you are suspended without pay and your future with the Library will depend on a full review of your involvement. I suggest you contact your union representative for advice on this matter.’
‘That’s bloody typical of you FitzHenry! Isn’t it?’ Rio had recovered some composure and was not going to back down. ‘Whatever about me, suspending Mac is not warranted. He only brought the photographs to my house as a favour to me. We have not even buried Joe yet and you want to pile on the bodies. Because of past problems in the museum, the almighty bloody Library, you want to make us scapegoats for deficiencies in the very expensive, and much hyped, security system that you sanctioned. It’s a typical bloody overreaction on your part.’
Aengus FitzHenry stood up. ‘I’m sorry our association has ended this way but it’s your own fault, Dr. Dawson. I will arrange for one of the security men to accompany you off the premises. Good bye!’ He was gone and Rio turned to look back at Mac.
‘I’m so sorry, Mac.’
Jasus! It’s enough of a blow to drive a man back to drink.’
‘You wouldn’t?’ she asked, genuinely worried.
‘Nah. Even if the worst came to the worst a man with my skills will have no problem getting work. It’s not a problem. The stuck-up gob-shite!’
‘I’m so sorry,’ she said.
Mac shook his head. ‘Flanagan is a bollix,’ he said with real anger.
‘I thought you were friends,’ she said surprised by the intensity.
‘We are. We go back a long way. Did you know we were at school together, at a boarding school in Dublin? Me up from Connemara, him flying in from Kuwait like some exotic bird – his father worked in the oil industry. Only children, the both of us and an unlikely pair, even then, fair and dark, surface and deep. When his parents separated and his mother came back to live in Dublin, he stayed on in the school. For some reason he preferred it that way as he and his mother didn’t get on. Jaffa was always a selfish bollix. Calculating and loving himself, and himself alone, in the way that calculating men do. Brave with it though, brilliant mind, very few loyalties in his life, except me for some reason. Stuck by me when I left the seminary and –’
‘The what?’
‘The seminary. A place where they train you for the priesthood.’
‘I know what it is? What were you doing there?’
‘Chancing my arm, really.’
‘For how long?’
‘Nearly six years! Went awol before my ordination.’
‘A crisis of faith?’
‘No, it was lust. I’d met Marie and she got pregnant. Jaffa was my best man.’
‘Jaffa later got me the job here in the museum. Told them I was a top-notch photographer when I could hardly spell Polaroid. He could charm the pants off a nun, but a bollix all the same.’
‘I’m sorry to have got you into this,’ she said.
‘I don’t give a shit about the job, Rio.’ Mac’s voice quivered. ‘It’s you I care about and the thought of you and Jaffa getting together is tormenting me. I love you, Rio. There I’ve said it. I love you.’
There was a long silence. She reached out and touched his hand. ‘I know,’ she said softly.
‘I know how you feel about me. You don’t hide your feelings very well.’
‘But you and Jaffa?’
‘Nothing happened between us, Mac.’
‘Then you and I . . .’
‘I don’t know, Mac. What does one say to a best friend who has suddenly declared his love? I love you but I want us to remain friends, or some crap like that. I’m no good at this. It changes everything and nothing. I want to run away and not deal with it. That’s my real skill.’ She stood there looking at him not knowing what else to say. A chasm had opened up between them and he wilted before her eyes. Flanagan had betrayed them both and she would get him for it.
Mac read her mind. ‘What’ll you do, Rio? Go after him?’
‘Then this might be helpful!’ Mac reached into his pocket and pulled out a roll of film. ‘This was the last roll of film I had installed in the camera on Tuesday morning. I had only taken two or three images of the parchment and engraving with it before you took them back from me to lock away, so I hadn’t bothered developing the entire role. Given our new circumstances I plan to get a few copies made. I’ll give you a set and also one to the police. FitzHenry can go and fry himself!’
‘Mac that’s fantastic! Do those images show the writing clearly?’ she wanted to hug him, but held back. Everything had changed.
‘Yeah! Thanks for speaking up for me with FitzHenry but it was my own fault.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘I shouldn’t have shown the photographs to Ahmed and I shouldn’t have set you up with Jaffa. I knew you would find him attractive. It was like I was testing you, us, or least the fantasy of us.’
‘Listen Mac! I make my own mistakes.’
‘Jaffa would have had nothing to do with the murders, Rio,’ he said quietly.
‘No, of course not! I know that. Jerome’s intensity fooled me. The truth be told, he’s far more interested in going off chasing after some bloody book than in me. He used me . . . us and I will make him pay for that. Whatever it takes! I’ll get the bastard.’
‘I am sorry,’ he said, obvious relief washing over him. ‘Anyway, the police might get him first.’
Rio said nothing for a while until the thought could no longer be contained. ‘Mac. You really don’t think he had anything to do with it, do you? From our conversations he seemed to have all the information he needed from the photographs.’ She suddenly felt very unsure.
‘No! But if he doesn’t get back here soon and answer Flatley’s questions, Brigadier Crawford will be quite happy to have him made the prime suspect.’
‘Serve him right!’
‘Yes, Mac,’ she replied, knowing what was coming.
‘Could I call over to you tonight?’
‘No, not tonight. I’m really tired.’
‘Yeah.’ Resignation. ‘Tomorrow then?’
Another test of the notion of us, she thought. ‘Yes Mac, I’d like that. Call me around 6.00 first though.’

A smile, a strange smile from Mac and we parted, each to collect our belongings before leaving the building. He didn’t wait to talk to me again and I saw him heading off home, walking as usual, head down into a biting wind.

It will be ok, Walt. I think. I owe him that much, an easy gift to give!

Jack rang. All arrangements in place. He’ll be here soon...