The Button Maker Murders - Chapter 1 - Who's the Fool Now? (continued 5)

December 11, 2017  •  1 Comment

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So it's you. I thought I was dreaming. Or rather, first I thought I was awake and then I thought I was dreaming.

It is, after all, that time of the morning long before dawn in which the living are wont to wake and worry. So I saw myself lying here, sweating under the covers, staring at the moon-shadowed ceiling, swamped with all the problems of identity and livelihood a lost soul must necessarily face when he becomes real again. So absorbed was I that the two sharp knocks on the door downstairs shocked me as if I had been kicked in the stomach. I was breathless. Of course I didn't get up and go answer right away. Who comes knocking at this hour and with such authority?

Then when a window appeared at my bedside and a man came climbing through and I grabbed at him and found myself grabbing the wall, then I thought of course I had awakened from a dream.

But it was you. Burton the Buttoner. Truth Twister Burton. Burton the Bargain Maker, who spins the roulette wheel of souls and pretends luck is involved.

Am I surprised? Well, no and yes. Because of course you spoke to the important people first - the heroic demon destroyer and prospective saint my former host Raymond, his beautiful widow the irresistible Catriona, my outrageous and courageous brother Angle the once-upon-a-time pirate, that purest of pure beings Jenny no longer the Simple. What surprises me is that you came to talk to me at all. Because who am I? Nobody. Named after a Roman emperor because my studious mother loved me. Octavius. And yet she left me too. Because in the end I am not worth the trouble. And when I took her place as the village schoolteacher, they called me schoolmarm same as they did her. As if I were a woman not a man.

So what if I spent what amounted to a span of several lifetimes reforming my murderous brother in the In Between? No one there cares. No one gives you credit. No one can. You know that. And no one knows about it here that matters.

Ah, yes. You know. That's why you are here. Because you trust a man like me. One compromised by both desire and opportunity. Ha! Well, make your offer. I am more amenable now to questionable powers than when last we crossed paths. For instance, we needed a way, Angle, Jenny and I, to reenter society. We needed birth certificates. I have obtained them. We needed credit. Now we have some. We needed money. Angle's fishing keeps him busy, keeps him sane I daresay, since he believes himself profoundly miscast as a modern, but money it does not provide. Not anymore. Why is the mortgage still being paid on Catriona's house? How is it we all eat and clothe ourselves? Who pays for anything? For everything? Who comes up with whatever is called for? I do. Because this business of computers and internet commerce has come to me as easily as if I had trained for it in my sleep. Is all I do according to the law? Sir, the law makes no provision for us, does not allow for our existence, would deny it in court. How can I be guided by it? What strictures can it place on me?

Sure I am nobody. But I am nobody with a vengeance. Here I lie in Raymond Kidd's bed. Here I wait for his wife. Tell me, who's the fool now?

I do have other qualities, by the by. I am a prodigious singer. Was nicknamed Octave therefore. Let me sing you this song that I have on my mind, that my dear mother sang often in the absence of her roving husband.

I saw a mouse chase the cat, fie, man, fie,
I saw a mouse chase the cat, who's the fool now?
I saw a mouse chase the cat, saw the cheese eat the rat.
Thou hast well drunken, man, who's the fool now?

What do you mean, do I think you deaf? Because I speak loudly and sing even more so? Oh, come sir, you jest. I can tell by the crooked smile on that hook-nosed mask of death I must presume to call your face. And indeed there is humor in it. For was it not Raymond Kidd who used to lie here propped up on these pillows and wish for a respite from the racket of those ghosts in his basement that were Angle and I? And now he is the ghost and I am the one deprived of blessed sleep.

You see, Catriona took it to him to comfort him, that red guitar that was his. And it is his conceit to serenade her with it. She senses he is there, all right, but she can no more hear him play than I can hear the man in the moon lament his loneliness. I, however, though no longer a ghost, have retained the ability to hear what goes on in that realm. And I am sick to death of all his serenading. He plays well. His taste in music is impeccable. Even now, a fantasia from Dowland, intricate and subtle and him sounding the subtleties. But she is not to be wooed. He has no claim upon her anymore. It is I, sir, I who have the claim, I who will take what was his for my own!

I am not one for wickedness. I see no harm. He is not here and he will not be here again. No, and if he were a man of his beliefs, he would move on. When it was Angle and I in that realm, he was constantly exhorting us to do so. “Let go and move on to the next life. There is nothing for you here.” Of course, we didn't know what he meant. Let go of what? But he must know. He's the proper Buddhist. Look at all his books.

Get rid of his books? Get rid of everything he loves? The red guitar? And tell him what? But what will Catriona think?

I see. I see. And what's in this for you? Who are you trying to fool this time?

Where did you go?

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Comments

Carolyn Anne Kennedy(non-registered)
Wow.I am so hooked on this .Suspense....more to come I am sure.Fascinating!
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