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 Wednesday, May 4, 2011
13 The Cave of Montesinos
16 The Perfect Square
18 The Uncontainable
19 The Ear of Malchus
20 Mauvais Pas
21 Sinan Qua Non
27 The Vanishing Point
28 The Cat Walks
29 The Approximate Likeness of Being
Becalming Unscientific Postscript
“Her eyes consumed the beauty of his light, moving slowly down his
powerful body, the richly feathered wings, broad, elegantly flat torso,
the lovely girded loins, long leanly muscled thighs and calves.
Then she saw the feet . . .”
Thomas E. Kennedy
It has been a very long day and the clock shows 3.00 am. Flanagan, still standing in front of the computer, rubs his eyes. One more entry, he sees. Probably did not want to bring her laptop to Istanbul; and that’s why the diary finishes, he suspects. He wonders whether there is another handwritten diary somewhere. ‘Keep going’, he reminds himself out loud knowing that Jack Dawson was sure to arrive at an ungodly early hour. So what, he thinks, I’ll confront the bastard. Most of this mess is his fault, he decides: Jack should have known better; he should not have encouraged Rio to go to Istanbul and should have taken her away from here when he had the opportunity. Too late now, he thinks and opens the last file, still looking for answers.
Getting ready for departure tomorrow morning Walt. I am excited by it all. Busy all day. When Gerrit Flatley rang I had to dodge through the suitcases cluttering the hallway to get to the phone. His mood was light. ‘Are you all set?’ he asked. I tried to politely relieve of the need he felt to bring us to the airport. He insisted but wanted to talk to Jack first…
Rio brought the phone to where Jack was sitting at the dining table. He had spent the previous evening and most of the morning calling in favours from former FBI colleagues for their help in tracking down any information they could get on Flanagan and Ahmed al-Akrash. As Jack took the phone the doorbell rang and his eyes flickered anxiously for a moment, flashing a note of caution to Rio, before she went to answer it.
‘One moment, Gerry,’ Jack whispered into the phone as he waited for her to look out through slightly drawn back window curtains at whoever might be at the front door. Rio turned back towards him and gave a silent, thumbs-up before heading for the hallway.
‘Yes, Gerry. Go on. . . oh no problem.’ There was a pause for a moment as he listened intently. ‘No Gerry, best say nothing . . . gotta go . . . see you in the morning,’ he said, terminating the call as Rio returned to the room with another visitor behind her.
‘Say nothing about what? What did Gerrit want Jack?’ she asked.
‘Oh that. One of my contacts in the FBI had telephoned Gerry’s boss seeking some clarification on what I was up to. I was telling him to keep it to himself. He also wanted to know if there was anything more he could do before we left. Police work I mean of course!’ Jack grinned.
‘Don’t be so crude. He’s a nice man.’
‘He likes you Rosalind. Anyway you better introduce us.’ Jack looked over her shoulder at the visitor.
‘What! Oh I’m sorry.’ Rio apologised as she moved aside a little. ‘Jack Dawson, my uncle – James Somerville, the Western Curator in the Library.’ She was still somewhat surprised by Somerville’s unexpected arrival.
‘How do you do, sir?’ James Somerville leant forward, reluctantly offering his hand.
‘It’s a pleasure to meet you, Jimbo,’ Jack said, taking it.
It was a very brief shake and their hands seemed to withdraw from each other quickly. From the corner of his eye Jack could see Rio trying to stop her face creasing in amusement. ‘Please sit down, James,’ she said, composing herself ‘Would you like some coffee? I’ve no milk I’m afraid, as I’ve thrown it out. We’re heading off very shortly.’
‘No thanks Daw . . . Rio. I heard you were heading for Istanbul and I wanted to be as much help as I could.’ James Somerville was unable to stop himself blushing. ‘I think you were dealt with in a very unjust and undeserved way by the Museum and I wanted to try and make some amends.’
‘That’s very sweet of you, James.’ Rio smiled at him.
‘What do you mean, Jimbo?’ Jack was edgy and anxious for him to get to the point.
‘I’ve tracked down the names of all the dealers in Istanbul that Chester Beatty sometimes bought from. They, or their inheritors, might be able to throw some light on the parchment’s origins and perhaps give you a lead to its present whereabouts. If Jerome Flanagan has gone to Istanbul–’
‘How do you know that, Jimbo?’ Jack grunted.
‘I’d prefer James, if you don’t mind Mr. Dawson.’
‘Sure. How do you know that . . . James?’
‘Obviously Mr. Dawson,’ Somerville said a little pompously. ‘There is little else being talked about in the Museum at present. If Flanagan has gone there, then there is a very good chance that that is where the parchment is by now. I am hoping . . . no, I believe he is following rather than leading, if you catch my drift. Cormac McMurr–’
‘Right,’ Jack Dawson interrupted gruffly. ‘May I see the list?’
James nodded gravely as he opened a very old and very battered tan leather briefcase, to pull out three pages of neat, hand-written notes and lay them on the table. ‘Under no circumstances must anyone in the museum, particularly Aengus FitzHenry, know that I’ve done this. Is that understood Rio . . . Mister Dawson?’
‘Sure,’ they said in unison sitting down on either side of him. James squirmed with the close bodily contact.
‘What’s this one here?’ Jack asked as he pointed to one of the pages where there was a lot of underlining for emphasis.
James Somerville smiled. ‘I think that might be your best bet but also a little frustrating.’
‘Why?’ Rio asked.
‘There are three file entries relating to one Bay Arslan Nuzhet Bogac, a bookseller who had dealings with Chester Beatty, first as a guide to Beatty and his daughter in 1926 and subsequently, as a dealer between 1928 and 1947. One of the files is empty but is cross referenced with another in the archives.’
‘Why is the file empty?’ Jack looked at him suspiciously.
‘A few possibilities for that, Mr. Dawson. Sometimes it might have been only one page of correspondence or a bill of sale and it has been re-filed by mistake in a different folder.’
‘And the cross reference?’
‘Refers to another dealer called Malek Hakim, who brought a Qur’an to Cairo after the war for Beatty to look at. There is a letter to Beatty from this man complaining of his troubles with two or more other dealers in their attempts to get hold of the Qur’an. He calls himself a intermediary and said he was enclosing something by way of proof of his right to negotiate.’
‘Hakim! But–’ Rio blurted out before Jack quickly interrupted, ‘That’s very interesting, Jim . . . James.’
‘And he refers to himself as a –’ She started to say before Jack interrupted again, ‘Any record of this particular Qur’an in the Museum? Did Beatty buy it?’ Jack Dawson’s questioning was very business like as he looked at his watch.
‘No record, I’m afraid Mr. Dawson,’ James Somerville said apologetically, shrugging his shoulders. ‘As I’ve mentioned to Rio before that is not altogether unusual. Many of the files in the archives are just notes of the money involved and not the actual purchase details.’
‘Are you saying James, that this Malek fellow might have been an agent for another bookseller like say Arslan Nuzhet?’ Jack Dawson persisted.
‘The cross-referencing seems to point that way. However, you should realise at the outset that transactions with dealers of ancient and rare manuscripts is like walking into a hall of mirrors. Due to difficulties of provenance you can never be really sure of whom you’re dealing with. Even though Nuzhet and Chester Beatty had a long-standing relationship, the Turk was more of an intermediary than source of rare books. Other dealers would use him to make a pitch to Beatty. Malek Hakim might just have been another cog further down the line,’ James Somerville concluded with a smile.
‘I’d love a photocopy of that letter.’ Jack’s fingers were playing with his lips.
‘I thought you might,’ James said with a self-satisfied air as he pulled a sealed, brown envelope from his briefcase. ‘There is a photocopy of all the correspondence and also the addresses of all the dealers, in Istanbul at the time.’
‘That’s fantastic James. I could kiss you!’ Rio put her arm around him and hugged tightly.
The familiarity caused James Somerville to shoot up in almost ballistic fashion from the chair. ‘I . . . I’d better be going. I hope I’ve been of some help Rio and I do wish you the best of luck.’ He had retrieved his bag and was already bolting for the door as he spoke.
‘One more question, James,’ Rio called after him, trying not to laugh. ‘There is no mention of a Hekim or Hakim on this list,’ she asked without any undue emphasis.
‘No. As I said, it was a murky world,’ he replied.
‘Plus ça change,’ Jack Dawson said with surprising accentuation.
‘Please don’t mention my visit to anyone,’ James insisted, looking really worried.
‘We won’t. Thank you so much, James. Hold on and I’ll see you out,’ Rio said, getting up. She looked at Jack, in passing, and he had a wide smirk on his face, which was still there when she returned to the room.
‘I think I would have better luck with James than you,’ he laughed. ‘I could practice my sensitive side and if his limp handshake is anything to go by, Jimbo is one dude who likes to keep a distance.’
‘Don’t be so cruel Jack. Irish gays are the most homophobic homosexuals in the world. You’d need a complete makeover,’ she laughed back. ‘It was very kind of him all the same.’
‘Yes. It was,’ he agreed.
‘Why did you cut me off earlier?’ She asked sitting down beside him.
‘This letter that Somerville brought is in code, Rosalind. Somebody was alerting Beatty to the true nature of the Book of the Messenger. ’ Jack Dawson pulled the copy of Malek Hakim’s letter from amongst the enclosed pages. ‘I bet you that Hakim is not even the true name of the dealers agent. There was no need for Somerville to know of the possible significance of the word.’
‘Melek or malak means angel or God’s messenger,’ Rio added, suddenly realising what her uncle was alluding to.
‘I’m not completely ignorant Rosalind,’ he said defensively.
‘So do you think now that Jerome knew of this letter when he gave me the false name?’ Rio’s face betrayed the mixed feelings she felt about that possibility.
‘Perhaps. I don’t know. Flanagan worked in the Museum for long enough and has been looking equally long for the Book, his Holy Grail as he called it. He probably came across the letter but ignored or missed its significance at the time. However the ‘catchword’ or ‘Watchman’ that you found on the parchment sealed it for him and I suspect he already knows . . . or knows where to find out, about this intermediary. He’s after that Book, and the Book alone, the parchment is of no further interest to him. We’ll need to study this carefully. It might be our only lead to tracking him down.’
The doorbell rang again. Jack pursed his lips as he got up to go to the hallway. Rio could hear the door opening and then two voices talking but so quietly she could not make out what was being said. She was about to go out when Jack returned accompanied by Detective Inspector Gerrit Flatley.
‘I’m sorry to intrude Rio, but I called into say that I’ll not be able to take you to the airport tomorrow, something has–‘ the policeman said.
‘Phyllis?’ She asked – hoped, dreaded.
‘No word yet, I’m afraid. Sorry,’ Flatley said with genuine concern.
‘It was good of you to let us know, Gerry,’ Jack said, almost pushing him out of the room again. Rio followed them out to the doorway and down the path.
Gerrit Flatley turned to look at her. ‘If you run into any language or communication difficulties in Turkey give me a shout,’ the detective offered, hesitating before getting into his car.
‘Why? Do you know someone?’ Jack Dawson asked.
‘Yes.’ Flatley hesitated for a second. ‘Me!’
‘I don’t understand,’ Rio said, puzzled.
‘Gerit is the Turkish for Crete. My mother was the daughter of a Turkish diplomat and she named me after the island where I was conceived when on honeymoon with my father, although in Ireland they added the second “r” on my birth certificate. Turkish was the first language I learnt. Have a safe trip.’
So that’s where his darkness comes from, Rio thought, as she watched his car speed off. ‘Jesus! That’s a turn up,’ she said, turning to Jack.
‘Yeah. Isn’t it!’ He frowned. ‘Come on. Lets get some shuteye!’
Something was bothering Rio.
‘Jack,’ she asked quietly.
‘Why did you really – No. It doesn’t matter. Some other time,’ Rio said.
‘Right,’ he shrugged, and headed for bed. ‘Are you coming?’
‘In a while. I want to finish up some computer work before we leave,’ she said thinking of the diary and needing to write in it before leaving.
Later the unanswered question bothers me again Walt. Looking up, I see Jack has left his door open. What I had wanted to ask him is a question for another time, perhaps in Istanbul. Perhaps never!
I wonder why Mac hasn’t called back. No. I know why he hasn’t. Left a message on his machine telling him where we are staying. Will ring him again tomorrow. Need to make amends somehow . . . that night, ignoring him was a mistake. I know that now. I don’t do intense . . . or forgiveness well, Walt.
Right! Time to back up on disc and then bed. The thought of Istanbul is exciting…