The Thunder of Nautilus

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Justin's Discovery

Justin’s interrupted night sleep meant that he slept into the day a lot longer than he had planned. When he got up, he discovered that it was a clear day and the sun was shining already in the zenith of the sky. Before he made himself a modest ‘brunch’, he used the binoculars, which gave him an unobstructed view of the manor. On the right, next to the entryway, three large windows allowed a direct view into a room, where he saw Marie sitting behind a desk, typing into a laptop computer. Her long brown hair was bound back and the expression on her face was serious and concentrated on the screen before her. He saw how she, without moving her eyes from the screen, lit a cigarette, inhaled and then looked up from the screen and appeared to look straight at him. He lowered the binoculars in a moment of reflex, thinking for a second that she had seen him hiding in the woods, which was of course impossible. When he looked through the binoculars again, he saw a man coming into the room and Marie and the man starting a conversation. Thinking that the man probably was the lord of the manor and that Marie was safely occupied, Justin decided—after drinking three cups of coffee—to explore the vicinity, with no direct plan of action in mind.

He drove out of the woods to Nigel’s cottage, where he stopped and looked around, assuring himself that there was no other access road, and that the same country road continued to the historical site. The chapel and castle were still cordoned off and unavailable to public viewing, so Justin parked on the side of the road, took out the map and pencil from the glove compartment, circled the chapel, and drew lines from there in every direction from his current position. He then drew a dotted line between each of the four lines and then drew circles radiating outward from the chapel and covering the shire in ten-kilometer intervals.

Farther along from the historical site, the country road forked—to the east in one direction, joining a road leading back to the village closest to the manor, and another fifteen kilometers to the west in the other, connecting with a country road leading to a farmhouse. Justin continued driving on the road leading to the village, and from there drove down a country road, passing meadows and a farm. Then, instead of continuing on the road leading to the highway towards Bristol, he backtracked and, choosing another road, he drove to a township, where he stopped at a petrol station, filled the tank, and then drove to a pub, where he ordered potato chips and a beer. He sat down at a table next to a window, took a pad, pencil, and map out of his bag, and spread the map out on the table. He began to make a list of every historical site, every cottage, village and farm radiating outward from the central point of the manor house and wrote the distances in a column next to them. Before he left the town, he bought a six-pack of lager, a few packs of cigarettes, and a takeaway dinner from a Chinese restaurant.

It was already dark when he returned to the woods late that afternoon, and he had to use his night-vision binoculars in order to see through the fog and through the windows into Marie’s room, where he saw her again sitting behind a desk, a black dog lying at her feet.

He lowered the binoculars, opened a bottle of beer and a pack of cigarettes, lay down on the bed in his van, lit a cigarette, and thought that his plan to protect Marie from a distance seemed like a good idea at first, but now appeared to him unrealistic— even ridiculous. For that reason he thought he’d come out of hiding the next day, drive to the manor, and let Marie know that he’d remain close by until the killer was found. He also thought it best to call his brother and explain what he was doing, but he’d ask James to not tell their parents for the time being, thinking that James would understand and support him, but not his parents.

That night, Justin had a particularly vivid dream. He was in a room filled with people, and there was music, but he didn’t know where it came from until a black man came to him and whispered, “Listen, and then you’ll see.” He looked up and saw the man playing the piano and singing a mournful song. Justin felt overwhelming sorrow, and then he saw a road in front of him and began to walk down the road. It was wide to begin with, like highways he’d traveled through Louisiana, but it kept narrowing until there was only a path, and the black man stood beside him and pointed into a dark lane.

Justin woke suddenly feeling hot and sweaty despite the cold. The winter morning had just begun, and the light of day gently illuminated the soft grey sky. His dream was like a haze of unclear memory, but he saw in his mind’s eye the road that had forked just past the historical site, and without thinking further he started the van, drove to the chapel, and from there took the path leading him through a gloomy, secluded part of the woods until he came to an isolated farmhouse.

When Justin parked the van and turned off the engine, the sudden silence was like a rush in his ears. He walked to the house, knocked on the door, and called out, “Hello? Hello, anybody home?” When nobody answered, he turned the doorknob and finding the door unlocked, he pushed it open and entered. The smell of death was piercing and raw, and Justin’s immediate reaction was to pinch his nostrils closed as he walked through the hall and opened the door leading into a room warmed by a gas heater. There, lying on the couch was the source of the smell, and he was barely able to contain his nausea as he ran out of the house and back to his van. Not caring that he was exceeding the speed limit, he drove away from the farm to the first police station he could find.


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