The greatest question is not “how” we exist but “why.” Many insincerely lump the two orders of questions together, as if “why” is merely an idiot relation who needs his mail forwarded to a more reasonable family member. Yet unreasonableness does not make the question nonsensical, only unanswerable. “How” proceeds from the practical to the paradoxical by imperceptible degrees, but “why”, rhetorical as it is, has no home in any object of sense. That it resounds at all in our thoughts is proof enough it bounces off something to be heard.
It is one of the many curses of duality that men are divided from each other, and even from much within themselves. Perception makes unmovable pictures and unmovable judgments of all we see, because there is always an unconscious allusion to that which is unmovable and undivided in our being.
Resultantly, space, time, and causation make all men hypocrites. So seamless is their seduction, so intelligible do they render the world that we cannot distinguish between what is “unmovable” and what is “movable,” between what is “value” and what is “valued,” between what is “truth” and what is deemed to be “true.”
Schopenhauer told us we are the Thing-in-Itself but for the dimension of time, which means that everything we say and do is an attempt to be and know what, darkly perceived, we already are. ~Omar
Trembling, Aloysius snuffed out the candlewick and righted the tripod, yet remained unconvinced he was awake. He had not heard the marble or razorblade fall on the plate, but surely they had. Regardless, Jacques’ taped suicide was as frightening an image as he should ever care to see. As with his previous experience, he believed the tape he used had an even earlier history: a recorded-over event.
The videocassette was taken downstairs and, on inserting it into the VCR, rewound with dread. A blink preceded an unpromising black screen, but then the flashing twelve on the bedside clock appeared. The videographer had succeeded in copying over the tape, although several seconds of fast-forwarding through the murky footage turned up nothing else. No plausible explanation could explain why a clock face should show up in a recording and not window light.
The videotape was ejected and tossed onto the heap with the others, leaving Aloysius to charge back upstairs in a tear. “Come out, you bastards!” he shouted. “Show yourselves!”
The incensed resident was about to pace through less-explored rooms of the house when he spied, though window curtains, a dark blue Lincoln town car parked across the street. The car itself was not what stopped his action. It was the man inside: Police Detective Harrod Pincher.
It was just as Omar said it would be. The moment he started nosing around for their bugs, they sent Count Dracula in a squad car to cow him.
The set-upon man stormed down the stairs and out the front door. He was at the vehicle before the detective could react. Returning to form, Pincher donned a costume: this time made up to resemble an iridescent green Frankenstein.
The painter crackled with sarcasm. “Going to another Halloween party, are we?”
“Ah, Mr. Gauge,” responded the detective.
Out of his element, Harrod was not used to addressing people while seated in a car. He struggled to step from the passenger door, but the taller man stood so close it was difficult to rise with his customary gracefulness. Inadvertently he bumped his prosthetic crown against the doorframe. It partially separated from his forehead and revealed a strip of unpainted skin underneath. “Yes,” he began again. “You gave me a start! I was hoping to find you home.”
The reply he received was barely intelligible. “You wicked people! Where are your cameras?”
The detective reeled at the effrontery. “Mr. Gauge? Are you yourself?”
Aloysius grabbed at one of the detective’s fake neck bolts. “Are those microphones?”
Pincher brushed his hand away. “Sir, if you were still a suspect, your mental state would be of concern to our investigation. As it is, I have not come to harass you, but to inform you that you are no longer under suspicion. We have our perpetrator.”
“The man who kidnapped and in all likelihood murdered the caretakerís child. It was none other than the graduate student Jacques Cretier. It has all come together today with his blood sample turning up at the mortuary.”
Aloysius rolled his eyes as one absurdity was heaped upon another. “What do you mean? Jacques works for you! I bet the whole lot of you are having a good laugh at my expense!”
“I can assure you, Mr. Gauge, Mr. Cretier is dead, and is most probably our culprit.” He added, crisply, “I myself am not inclined to find humor in these matters.”
The artist was caught between conflicting realities. “What do you want me to say to this?”
“I require nothing of you, sir. I will, however, apprize you of the facts: The blood we found on the sheet tears from your trash was indeed a match to your DNA, and did not match the sample we found on the victimís bedroom window screen, so you were never a strong candidate as a suspect. As for Mr. Cretier, he had bandaged fingers, and it was his blood found at the crime scene. He likely encountered the child at his furtive place of employment, Peek-a-Boo Putt-Putt, where he formed a design on her.”
Aloysius scoffed, “Then where is she? Where’s Brae?”
“We have yet to find a body.”
“That’s because there isn’t one!”
The detective’s eyebrows curled. “You waste my time, Mr. Gauge, with this trifling conspiracy.”
The painter laughed. “I hope there will be monetary compensation in this for me playing the prize fool in your TV show!”
Laughter was answered with brittleness. “You are no fool, Mr. Gauge. Your artwork is the product of a morose imagination—this goes without saying, though perhaps it also vents your darker impulses. In which case, I hope you continue painting. As for Mr. Cretier, perhaps his talent was not as developed as yours. It is possible living too long as an outsider in Stonesthrow affected his mental state.” Pincher latched onto the car door handle, adding, “Small towns tend to amplify perversions of one type or another. It is well worth remembering. I advise you not to stay too long here as others have. I would not wish to see you end up worse for the experience.”
Aloysius was not ready to release the man. “What about Emma? Is she involved?”
“The young woman has been an unfortunate victim in this, Mr. Gauge. The recipient of unsolicited phone calls.”
“But the tape?”
“Tape?” Pincher bristled with surprise. “How do you know of a tape?”
“I heard your men gabbing about her being on a tape.”
The detective spoke disapprovingly. “You have leapt to another conclusion, sir.” He commented indirectly on it. “Being a performance artist was a clever means for the deceased man to case houses. Many of the tapes found in his trailer appear to have been stolen, although their labels were removed to conceal their identity in among those tapes he legitimately employed in his graduate study.” It was then turned another way. “You see, Mr. Gauge, no matter how well or poorly conceived a criminal act is, more consequences are generated by it than can be anticipated or intended.”
Aloysius was already fading from the door, providing the city official with an opportunity to drop in his seat. Once planted there, he remembered another reason for his visit and rolled down the door window, handing the resident a stack of twine-bound papers. “These are yours, Mr. Gauge. One of my overzealous officers collected them during our examination of your premises.”
More incredulity was expressed in accepting the offering.
The inspector probed them curiously. “These appear to be schematics for a secret room.”
“You mean a secret box,” reproached Aloysius. “You should know that better than I.”
The detective shrugged off the curtness. “One critical page is missing,” he observed. “Otherwise, it would be of interest to me.” With this strange obiter dictum, the man turned over the ignition key and mumbled, with forced politeness, “I bid you good day, sir.”
The wounded man lashed out one last time. “Tell the people at Fox I’ll be looking for the check in the mail!”
Pincher’s face crinkled, doing further damage to his savaged face paint. “Your discourteousness does you no credit, Mr. Gauge. Mind you, we will be keeping an eye on you.”
At the moment he pulled away from the curb, the galling television news van, still prowling the neighborhood, was spotted down the block. The vehicle abruptly started up and drove off after the detective’s car.
Aloysius ran after it with his arms in the air, yelling, “I’m ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille!”
Bean and Nothingness was several blocks out of the way to Emma’s house, but the battered suitor reasoned a cup of coffee would calm and refocus him.
It was a tortured bit of melodrama on his part: his leaving her that morning when it was clear she did not want him to leave. In truth she could be forgiven for construing his absence as a form of punishment, or abandonment, or both. A bigger man, a man with less pride, would have stuck it out with her in her hour of need, but it was a weaker man who did not act; and it was a foolish man who left her to seek solace in another man. Regardless, Aloysius needed more than wanted to see Emma. Given how he left it with her, it might well be a bumpy encounter; and given his present state of mind, it could not have been more ill timed. He was forever putting himself in situations where he needed to act out of desperation rather than on agreeable terms.
The suitor could not think what he would say to her. There was something inherently inferior and in-the-way about words, but he was compelled to fill up the air with the tin ring of them. Still, he knew firsthand it was not always about words in love. He might find courage to ask a woman out, and wind for a three-hour conversation over dinner, yet he was never able to figure out how to take it to the next level—or even if there was a next level. A second date would be more of the same, and a third date would be too painful to endure. In the end he blamed the woman for not facilitating in language what he found impossible to say. The painter found himself hogtied and neutered by his own ineffectual discourse, and the woman, having no true romantic regard in him he thought, made into friendship what she surely knew he never intended to be friendship.
Once in high school he gave a girl he dearly, secretively loved a daisy when she returned to school still speechless from a bout of laryngitis. He never attempted up to then to advance their flirtation, and sometimes pointedly ignored her out of fictitious wounds. At the time, he thought his simple gesture of a flower required no embarrassing explanation, though the long look the two shared in the transaction was like tripping over the key to a code. No boldness was intended by his offering, but he could not deny he said more to her in those silent seconds than he ever said before or would ever say again. He intellectually understood the dimension of nonverbal communication, but “intellectually” was the only sense in which he could embody it.
Chapter Twenty, Section Two/ Back/ Contents Page
Copyright © 2007 Michael Teague. All rights reserved.