Three marches militaires
Mister Melbourne's residence was big and ostentatious. The facade newly remodeled proclaimed the growing fortune. Quillsh observed a pair of marble statues flanking the door while waiting for being allowed. Finally, a grumpy maid opened, and the homeowner received him in a magnificent living room.
—Bring a tray of snacks for our guest —Thomas Melbourne ordered the maid—. I want him to notice how well the stoves of our brand cook.
Mr. Wammy sat down and drew up a smile for that fat, sweaty man who did not hide his envy.
—I won't stay for long. I just want us to talk a little about the fire —said the visitor.
—That disaster only tickled us. For sure you know that we are the number one manufacturers in England. In fact, if I weren't terribly busy with my current business, already have opened many more factories. Fortunately, my niece will take care of the new branches.
—Did your factory have anti fire systems?
Thomas Melbourne flushed with anger, but tried to speak calmly.
—Of course was equipped with a very modern one. The problem was that they put a bomb in it.
—Just like that. Some rival wanted to harm me, and the worst thing is the law seems to be on his side.
—What do you say?
—The police validated the safety of my installations, because regular experts were busy with the great storm. Some officer must have put the damn bomb right in the main generator to overload every device, taking advantage of the still non active camera system.
Melbourne coughed nervously, realizing he had said too much. Both were silent for a while, and then the fat continued:
—As you see, we don't need your services, but I appreciate your kind visit. As bad as your business is going, of course you want to make sales everywhere.
Mr. Wammy didn't respond. The notes of a piano had reached his ears.
—¿Three Marches militaires? That score is for four hands. Who is playing?
The sound of the doorbell interrupted the scene, and behind the maid four sympathetic little girls entered carrying music books. Then, a beautiful woman appeared in the room to receive them.
—Ah! Hi! —exclaimed her when saw the guest—. Sorry, didn't know you were here. I am Elizabeth, Mister Melbourne's niece.
Quillsh squeezed the hand offered to him, feeling his heart trying to get out of his chest. He wasn't even able to introduce himself.
—This is Mr. Wammy —said the host, and after a thoughtful pause, he added with extremely friendly attitude: "This gentleman is one of the most successful men in the country. His wit and fortune cannot be compared. "
—Schubert —the aforementioned said babbling—. It was you who played?
—Oh, yes —the lady said—. I teach piano. Right now my class begins —she said, hugging the girls.
—Would you like to accompany them? —proposed Thomas, surprising his guest.
—Oh, well. Yes, for a moment —Wammy managed to answer—. As long as I do not discomfort them.
The troubled man was taken to a large and luxurious lounge crowned by a black Steinway. The students performed melodies of Beethoven, Mozart and Liszt; despite their age, they were good artists. When the review was over, Elizabeth turned to the viewer.
—Now it's your turn. Play something for us.
Quillsh mechanically sat at the piano and with trembling hands got the first notes of his favorite piece.
—I wanted to practice this opus, but I needed another pair of hands—said the teacher—. Let's play together!
Wammy handed the seat and approached another bank to stand beside her, but when he looked closely at her long golden hair, her perfectly smooth face and captivating green eyes, felt his strength failed him.
—I am very sorry, but I must go. I forgot that I have a meeting —he said standing up suddenly.
Elizabeth smirked and shook his hand in farewell.
—Come back as soon as you can. The melody won't complete without you.
When my boss told me his adventure, his face became red. It was obvious he liked the lady very much. Having a new motivation to continue his search, he went to see the Chief Inspector Albert Collingwood, who was the son of a friend. The unit he ran was the one involved in the Melbourne factory incident. With affable smile and jolly-looking, he received the great inventor.
—It's a pleasure to have you here, sir. How can I help you?
—I'm worried about you, boy. I have heard serious rumors.
—For sure you are referring to that of the bomb. I see the details have been released.
—Then is true that there was an explosive?
—Yes, and we are under the magnifying glass; the bomb had controlled detonation, and it's virtually impossible it had arrived before or after our inspection. It had to be during.
—What about the nightstand?
—Everything pointed to him as responsible, until a witness reported hearing the screams that the other spoke. His report coincided in every detail: it was the call of a woman saying, "Help me, Michael!"
—That does not exempt him from responsibility.
—But it doesn't make sense that he wanted to become unemployed. In addition, these weapons are the work of terrorists, or at least people with knowledge of chemistry and electronics. The poor Michael did not even finish primary school.
—What about your subordinates? Are all legit?
—The four men who came to the revision enjoy my complete confidence; they have worked many years by my side and they even have been honored. Their record is clean. None of them would have been capable of such barbarity.
The conversation continued for about an hour. The agent told his visitor the trajectory of each one of his subordinates, and Wammy praised them all. Eventually they exchanged a warm hug, and everyone left to continue their activities.
Outside was falling a thin but very cold rain, so the atmosphere was foggy. While Quillsh opened his umbrella, he saw in the other side of the sidewalk a small child who ran off. The way he did it reminded the pattern of footprints that had investigated, but could not see if he wore shoes. John wasn't the suspect we were looking for, that was quite clear, and it was obvious that we should not be guided by the brown coat.
"Reizo!", Mr. Wammy shouted, but the boy had disappeared as if by magic.
My boss attended Mass twice the following Sunday. He participated in the first ceremony very early when we took our orphans to church, and then went to the chapel of the colony where we seek the mysterious boy. He was hoping to see him among parishioners, or find it at the exit begging, but had no luck. Deep in thought, my friend walked by.
Quoting him: "I would never have imagined doing so many strange things during that trip to Winchester. It seemed as if my usual self had stayed in London and I would be forced to reinvent me to survive a series of unexpected events. "
But he didn't care only about the fugitive; Elizabeth had also taken over his head. How old was she? The lady was obviously much younger than him. What would be the story of his life? where she had learned to play so well, to speak so well, to dress so well? Everything about her seemed perfect, in contrast to his own person. He considered himself withered, and was terrified that someone could discover the big emptiness inside him.
Wammy came back to reality when bumped with the highest building in the area, the one where I found John. The front door turned out to be pretty solid, but it was not difficult to climb up to a broken window. My friend was afraid to be caught in the maneuver; he could imagine the headline in the newspapers: "Mr. Wammy becomes a vandal." The interior of the place was very humid, which made it unattractive to settle, but still, the explorer decided to check out the five floors. As there was no electricity, he walked groping steps and walls, feeling stupid for what he did. He was about to leave when he heard something dripping, and following the sound came across a closed room almost invisible in the darkness.
The orphanage children like to play with pieces of twisted metal whose challenge is to disentangle them in the shortest time possible. I mention this because the door was stuck with one of those toys. When Quillsh unmade the contraption, discovered an exceptionally clean bathroom that even had toilet paper and soap. The shower floor was still wet. Finding the access hatch to the roof, Wammy rejoiced: another set of wires announced there was more to be seen. Upon crossing the threshold he found a house made of plastic bottles, assembled with such a design and proportions, that it was totally waterproof and invisible from the street. Inside there was a pillow marked with two bare little feet, plus a disposable tray with some food, a water bottle and a pile of books, notebooks and pencils. Everything was very clean and tidy. My friend dared to examine the objects in pursuit of information about its owner. He found "The case book of Sherlock Holmes" alongside with the T, U and V volumes of an encyclopedia boring the stamp of the Stanmore library. The vessel showed the logo of a restaurant that was close by. The notebooks seemed to came out of the trash, because the covers were damaged and most pages contained school notes from two years ago. In the last sheets, however, appeared different notations made with different calligraphy, such as Japanese cities, skin diseases and transport terminals in England. Everything seemed normal until a folded paper fell between the pages: it was a bill with names of chemicals and their price. The part where the store and buyer data should be, had been torn, but there remained a "b" and "s" annotated by hand. The inventor sighed with concern as substances registered there were used to make bombs.
It rained again, so Quillsh packed the note in his pocket. He deduced that the inhabitant would return soon for shelter, but seeing their locks removed would not approach. It was necessary to plan a better way to capture him. At least he knew where he bought their food and what reading center visited, so he tried to put things in their original position and retreated. He was already linking the wires when reasoned that the books should have been stolen, because can not be taken for external loan without a residency proof, so he returned to retrieve them.
My friend had to wait until Monday to go to the library. In the crystals of the entrance stood out a poster notifying that place kept the notebooks of Louis Bennett, a distinguished scientist who died recently. The notes would be reproduced and made available to the public the following month. Wammy thought his rivals would progress having that information, but did not mind too much; his ship was sinking, but what really interested him was to see certain mermaid again.
When Quillsh left the volumes on the desk, the librarian gasped:
—Where did you get those books? We've searched for them so much!
—They were in a dumpster —lied him—. Is there a record of the person who borrowed?
—Not at all. I guess you have not heard about "The midnight reader."
—No, but I would like to learn.
One day, at the start of my shift, I found the volume Q, R and S of the same encyclopedia and "The last bow" on my desk. That was very strange, because I'm always the last to leave and put everything on its place. The books were wet, but the library has no leaks, and no one had asked for external loan. Reviewing the lock, we discovered it had been forced, so we put a nightstand, but then realized we were missing the titles that you just brought. "The midnight reader" could not return them while there was surveillance.
The girl looked thoughtful for a moment and continued:
—I liked that intruder. If he had left the wet texts on the shelves, we would have never discovered him, but the materials would have spoiled. That spoke of his love for culture; I do not understand how he was able to leave the others in a dump. How disappointing!
Mr. Wammy had to agree to hold his lie, and then went to browse the rest of the looted encyclopedia, trying to determine why attracted the mysterious boy.
Finishing early my floriculture works, in the afternoon I usually was bored, so I developed a habit of playing with the children of the hospice. I couldn't reach them in football, but helped them to solve jigsaws or narrated stories. Our benefactor arrived just when I was telling "The Golden Bird" tale, so he sat next to the kids and waited for me to finish. Later, he told me that day's story.
—Maybe he's just trying to return home. Otherwise, why would be collecting data on cities and transportation? —I concluded after hearing his report.
—I had that same thought, but we still need to explain his presence in the burnt area and the bill he had with him.
—Well, maybe that paper already was in notebooks when he picked them up. On the other hand, the fire must have caused him curiosity.
—I think you're right: I have been unfair to him. I'll bring him candies and a pair of shoes. As he can read, I'll also leave him a letter to try to gain his trust. Could you come with me, Roger?
—Sure, boss —I replied.
—I'd like you to call me just Quillsh. You are my confidant, and as such I should treat you.
I nodded, feeling flattered, and headed toward Reizo's abode.
Someone who didn't know well Mr. Wammy, might have thought his mental abilities began to fail, for we find no trace of the findings that he mentioned, and even the bathroom was covered in dust.
—You may be thinking I'm going crazy —he said—. And maybe you're right.
—Of course not. It's just that boy is too clever. Now I do consider him suspicious.
My companion dried his face, which was drenched in sweat. I cleared the window and motioned to get out.
—Wouldn't be better if you left this in the hands of the police? —I said once outside.
—It's true: I must finish the task that brought me here to return to London soon.
His announcement saddened me, but I didn't express it; we left the gifts there and walked silently away from the aging building.
We didn't talk again about the strange events until early Wednesday, when we learned that the Stanmore library was in flames. Despite his intention of not to involve again, my boss walked over there, so I decided to go with him desiring to be useful. I imagined we were some kind of Sherlock and Watson.
When we arrived, the building was still burning, which was logical given the amount of flammable material. A few meters, the librarian cried leaning on a fire truck, but when he saw my mate, ran to him.
—Bennett documents are lost! The anti fire systems didn't work!
—That's a pity, but you should feel happy for escaping unharmed.
—I wasn't there. The fire started at six o'clock.
—Is the nightstand all right?
—Since 10 p.m. he has been in the health center because of a strong stomachache.
My boss told me to visit the sick man while he analyzed the facade destroyed. The glasses had burst without leaving fragments on the sidewalk and the wall had a large star-shaped patch. Inside, there were some charred shelves, but the ones to the bottom showed less combustion. Among the ashes was a piece of a poster announcing: "Classical music recital on Wednesday 28 from 5:30. Four rising piano players will delight us with pieces by Beethoven, Mozart and ". the rest of the ad was missing.
When we met again at the orphanage in the evening, we exchanged our information; I told him that the guardian had felt ill after eating a sandwich found in the library, and as the pain grew stronger, he had to leave his post to seek help. I also learned that the police had a list of people who may have left the detrimental food. All readers were known in the neighborhood, but one who signed up as "Leopold Blummer."
Wammy shared with me his impressions: everything pointed a bomb had been detonated from the outside and the fire had jumped to the pile of paper thanks to the failure of the defective safety systems. He shuddered to imagine the attack could have happened during the concert, with the small pianists present, who were undoubtedly Elizabeth's students.