Icarus Transfigured by m. l. teague (page 27)

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Chapter Eleven

Dear Grasshopper,

Logic, being self-referential, cannot impart value. Value is viscerally closer to the domain of feeling, although our reasonable mind tells us the opposite. When we say something is “true or false,” what we generally mean is that it is “right or wrong.” Thus, our every fact is tainted with a measure of the proselytizer’s moral rectitude. We modify one mental abstraction (the world) with another (morality) and never tire of our disappointment. Yet it is well to remember that wishful thinking, blissful ignorance, and selective amnesia are instinctual in man.

In his Categorical Imperative, Kant argued that we should commit every act to the world as if we would wish it as a universal rule. Hegel, in response, pointed out that if we gave our money to the poor, and wished it universally as a practice, then eventually we would be poor or the poor would no longer be poor. Either way, the Imperative would cease of necessity. This however does not negate the impression that Kant’s Imperative feels right, even as it makes no sense as a practical matter. Hence, value is transcendental (not logical), and to utter it is to invite contradiction as the price for making intelligible to the mind what makes sense only to the heart.

Our heart is the dog-wagging tail unacknowledged in every debate. For good or ill, it colors every lens through which we attempt to view the world—not because what we see is true, but because what we remember is true. In short, we act on a world with a memory that is more real than the world itself, and in occasional, unintended ways are ennobled by it. ~Omar

         A Visitation

On his return to Spyglass House, Aloysius was stunned to see all its lights on. Police officers swarmed inside his doorway, and hardly a nod of acknowledgment was made when he stepped into the kitchen.

A sneer of a shadow turned up in the corner opposite him; the man attached to it was slower slithering into view. He circled the far end of the breakfast table, as on a stage, with arms behind him and head affectedly tilted down. His dark expression softened after the first impression found its mark. His greeting—melodious, and with a quaint English accent—cleared the bustle. “Good evening, sir!”

The grim police detective parked in a chair under the ceiling light fixture. A shock of black hair hung pendulously over his prominent forehead and intense grey eyes. His face was glabrous, except for thick, bristly eyebrows, which arched with his next utterance. “Mr. Gauge, I presume?”

The painter was too flabbergasted to respond.

“Sorry for the intrusion,” he continued, “but I assure you we do have a search warrant. My name, good sir, is Detective Harrod Pincher.” He rose from his chair, as to bow, and exhibited a flowing black cape over rather antique formalwear. He scrambled to apologize for it. “Please excuse my costume. My good wife and I were on our way to a Halloween party when I was called in on duty. Do sit down. I do not want you to be unduly alarmed, but evidence came to light that required us returning to conduct a thorough investigation.”

Aloysius slid awkwardly into a chair. “I don’t understand.”

The detective pulled a small transparent bag out from under his redlined cape and placed it on the table; it contained a utility knife. He was glum. “We found this lying conspicuously along the bramble of your house. Is it yours?”

“It looks like the one I own, but…”

Pincher interrupted. “When my man, Officer Tawny, was in your attic earlier today, he spotted a toolbox containing tools matching this maker. We returned to investigate and found blades for this particular model of knife in your box, but no knife. Unless, of course, you keep your knife in another part of the house?”

Aloysius remembered using his knife on Brae’s Halloween costume, but did not recall where he laid it afterwards. “I cannot say,” he replied.

“Well,” the man explained, “our thinking is someone used it to cut the screen off the missing child’s bedroom window before tossing it along the walkway. The inspector flapped his cloak like bat wings before taking a seat at the table. “The same officer who searched your attic found blood on your stairs.”

Aloysius blurted, “I cut my foot last night.”

Pincher leaned forward. “You told my officer you heard a loud noise while you slept last night. Correct?”

“Yes. I think it was the painting falling in the hallway.”

“You left your bedroom to investigate?”

“I may have been sleepwalking, and stepped in broken glass,” the resident hastened to add.

“Is the glass in the trash bin by the kitchen door from your hallway?”

“Yes.”

The inspector creaked solemnly in his chair, like a mast under a changing headwind. “Your backdoor was open when my officers came onto your property at noon. They said they found you fast asleep upstairs. Is it your habit to sleep in?”

“I have insomnia, sometimes.”

The detective highlighted the equivocation. “Did you in fact have insomnia last night?”

“No.” The hedge made his reply awkward. “I just got to bed late.”

“You have more than your fair share of sleep maladies, Mr. Gauge,” confessed Pincher. “By your admission of somnambulism, is it possible that you may have knocked the painting off the wall?”

“A draft on the stairs probably blew it off.”

“How do you conclude this?”

“Well,” Aloysius fumbled. “I incorporated the event of the falling painting into a dream about a shattering water glass.”

The listener met this statement skeptically. “A dream…? My understanding of sleepwalking (and correct me if I am mistaken) is that, because this altered state occurs during the deepest part of sleep, the afflicted has no conscious memory of events that transpire during it.”

“This was an involved dream. Involved dreams typically happen late in sleep, while episodes of sleepwalking happen early. My mind may have reordered events after the fact.”

The detective sighed loudly, sensing something was omitted in this technical account of definitions; and rightly so since Aloysius dreamt no less than twice that evening—if the shattering painting might be regarded as constituting a proper break between dreams. He would not, of course, volunteer more information than was solicited.

Pincher pulled at the corner of his cape before launching into another line of questioning. “I see you are a painter, Mr. Gauge. And no dauber by my limited knowledge in the matter.”

“My paintings are not to everyone’s taste.”

“Oh, I can imagine.” The man let slip a muffled, churlish laugh. In the next moment he sprouted eyes on the back of his head and referred to the refrigerator immediately behind him. “Did the caretaker’s child draw that picture? I see her name written upon it.”

Aloysius nodded cautiously.

“I gather the child kept your company yesterday since she would have no other opportunity to do so since your arrival in town?”

The resident was quick. “She appears to have the run of the place.”

“The thing in the drawing,” inserted the interrogator after a curious moment. “What did the child claim it to be?”

“‘An angel,’ she said.”

The detective hummed privately to himself, meditating on the matter before glaring at one of his officers; the man placed another plastic bag on the table. On first pass it appeared to contain nothing, but a single wound strand of hair was discerned with effort. The detective’s expression remained unreadable. “This was found on your bedspread. Forensics tells us it is a match to the missing girl.”

Aloysius gasped, “Her father has a set of keys. Brae probably plays here while he’s working.”

Pincher pressed ahead. “Remnants of a bed sheet are in the trashcan where the broken glass was discarded. May I ask where the remainder of the sheet is?”

“I made a Halloween costume.”

“For the child?”

“It was trimmed to fit her.”

“The tears are ragged,” he observed. “Did you use scissors?”

“No.”

“A knife?”

“Yes.” (Aloysius left it at that.)

“We have taken the liberty of removing the shreds from the trash receptacle. I hope you do not mind?”

“Of course not.”

“You must understand my concern here, Mr. Gauge. I’m sure you want to cooperate in every way to help us in our investigation.”

“That goes without saying.”

“Also,” the detective continued, “we found a trace of blood on one scrap. In view of your story about cutting your foot, the broken glass in the same trash bin may have conceivably contaminated the fabric. In this likelihood, would you do us the courtesy of giving us a sample of your blood? In keeping with this spirit of cooperation?”

Aloysius sank, thinking the vampire was about to leap across the table and bite his neck.

“And a set of your fingerprints, too?” added the cordial count.

The painter blurted his fear. “Am I a suspect?”

The man explained calmly, “The point of gaining a set of fingerprints is not to connect you to a knife that may very well belong to you, but to rule you out if we find prints on it in addition to (or instead of) yours.”

The stated reason for the prints was not convincing.

Pincher expanded on his reassurance. “The same goes for the blood sample. If it is a match to what we find on the sheet, this too bolsters your account of things. I am as anxious as you are, Mr. Gauge, to eliminate you as a candidate in this unfortunate business.”

“Then I am a suspect.”

The detective seized on his resignation as approval for the request. He glanced again at the subordinate, who moved in with an inkpad and heavy paper to take Aloysius’ fingerprints. The obliging suspect thought it unorthodox for official police business to be conducted at a private residence, but he was too discombobulated to question it.

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