Kaj Bernh. Genell



Kaj Bernh. Genell is a Swedish philosopher and writer of fiction.

A Tough Case For Armamente

A Though Case For Armamente

One might be painted while
one is asleep," suggested Mr. Brand
as a contribution to the discussion."

( Henry James,
The Europeans, (1878) p.66. )


Chapter One


happened in Baltimore and at the end of September. David West, a lonely, troubled, white boy of twenty-five, shared an apartment with Elsa at a central spot in town, at Upper Fell's Point. He lived in a predominantly black city, was currently on social security, and did not know what to do with his life.
Young West had smooth North European or British features, and his pale face was broad with marked eyebrows and his eyes deeply set and dark blue. There ran a furrow between the small eyebrows. Most of the time, he, therefore, unfortunately, had an angry or dissatisfied look. Furthermore, the tiny, red mouth was open all the time. Maybe there was something wrong with the ventilator function of his nose. Davis's blond hair was thin and had a beige tone. He wore what once had been a postmodern, neat, worn jeans dress but now looked like rags. Mahogany-colored boots with high heels made him look a bit taller, middle height. His movements were quite irregular, insecure, and had no musicality in them or any timing at all. As a whole, his walk was just some combined jerking and swaying. David was an outsider, a loner, and a real sissy. He was - not surprisingly - thus full of despair. As a small remedy, he often carried a small bottle of reddish Baltimore beet extract and a Glock pistol.

David was alone on a Sunday afternoon. It looked as if it was going to rain. Despite this, he decided to take a short walk in the yards close to where he lived, at St. Vincent's Cemetery, which was almost as snug and flowery as the famous gardens at Cylburn Mansion. A small white-breasted nuthatch sat picking on a branch in an elm tree that stood by a grave a few yards from him. It sat upside down, which David had never seen before. "Perhaps that bird is crazy," he thought.
He knew that his thoughts used to be "all over the place." It was long since he could concentrate upon anything at all. Some people seemed to think that David was soulless. However, David was no junkie.
Last summer, he had been using cocaine for a short period. That was it. David promised himself not to use any stimulants, ever. He had begun experiencing abnormal things and having visual hallucinations. These were unpleasant experiences, and David had interpreted it as a result of drug use. Because of this, he had decided that - at least - he intended not to perish because of drugs. In August last year, he made that decision on the 23rd, and he was determined never to go back to cocaine or any other medication, come what may! This decision was so damned steadfast for an apparent and distinct reason. The hallucinations hadn't ceased to come.

The tiny nuthatch in the tree looked at him. Its small black eye fixated him in a way that was not crazy at all. The bird looked friendly and a little begging. David often thought about the psyche of animals. Trying to understand their urge and simple doings was almost magic. Sometimes, David fed the ravens, crows, and magpies in town. He knew that the crows in the harbor remembered him. They sometimes followed him around at the piers.

He knew of those few people who had learned to live a full and social life, hallucinating. Within the cultural realm, there were many examples. David always had an enormous appetite for books. Writers like Baudelaire, de Quincey, and Coleridge had learned to live a life, including daily visions. But he, he didn't want to. He wanted to be safe and sound, unaffected by substances from bright-colored mushrooms, striped snakes, and blossoms, so red that no cameras could grasp their redness. He didn't want to live a life like that!
David was downhearted almost continuously because of these experiences, thoughts, and feelings. Nobody suspected the real reason for his murky features. He had not told anybody.
It never occurred to David that most of these people could - in theory - have hallucinations. However, David did not believe that was the case. He would have heard them complain, and they did not.
David also didn't know if other people in Baltimore and elsewhere shared his experience. It didn't seem like that. Many kids in Baltimore were on drugs, though. It was a common habit. Widely known was that many kids even earned their living by selling drugs.
Maybe a few of those kids had hallucinations and did not tell anybody but just continued to take their dope because they were ashamed. They doped themselves into eternity. David, though, wanted to return to square one.
David was not only experiencing hallucinations in the evenings and the mornings. He was also having delusions during the day. David wondered if the experiences of the unreal ever would vanish. Either, he thought, they would stay, and he would never be able to be as clear and bright in his head as he had been before, or they would - right out of the blue - stop. It was also possible that the future would present a middle way: He would perhaps suffer mild aberrations from the saneness he so dearly worshiped. No doctor, psychologist, or even magician or spiritualist could tell anybody the long-term result of abstinence. He could hope that he one day would get rid of all this tumultuous suffering. He thought about it repeatedly and continuously. It was all a mixture of deep sorrow and faint hope.
He barely had any money, but he decided to go to the drugstore to buy some milk.
Politically, he regarded himself - just like Socrates - as an anarchist.

Chapter Two

Eric Goldkettel, an elderly Connecticut medical doctor born in Tidwell, Maine, was tormented by the most unhappy love. Once a day, in the morning hours, in half slumber, Eric's memories of the beautiful, voluptuous Martha appeared from the forgotten. It only glimpsed in the after-dreams visual realm, among dream figures that never existed and would never exist, among the memories of a half-forgotten unhappy love. This inconceivable loneliness followed him unconsciously like a shadow in the Connecticut countryside. The pine forests almost constantly refused to solace his mourning. The silence of the landscape brought "a month of Mondays…." to his soul.

The doctor had early on taken a fancy in western Connecticut's rural landscape. Reader's mansion was situated on a slope by a lake embedded in the most enchanting greenery. The house was a wooden castle with a small guesthouse built of yellow brick nearby. The village, which was the closest village, Bloomside Grove, situated by the lake's outflow, by the old brick mill ruin, was but sparsely populated. The church of the parish, which was a Quaker one, was but a tiny reddish shed.
Reader's mansion was surrounded by pinewood. The landscape tried to market itself as a recreation ground for youngsters, fishing and riding as main attractions. Retired people populated several houses; many had moved back from Florida or Georgia not long ago. In Bloomside Grove itself, some IT-entrepreneurs had tried to build a small Silicon Valley. Still, the houses now - in this massive global depression - were deserted and torn. Even a theatre had been built, but it was used as an inline skating rink. The local Quakers were fervent though in their religious tremor. The parson of the small congregation, Jansen, summoned it to service every Sunday. Jansen held, especially for children, adorable predictions, which all contradicted science, of which he was incredibly proud.
Burg Lake was always black - and was said to have a monster in it and had an air of romance and autism. The lake had its name after a local tyrant. Long ago, Mr. Burg had built his house near the lake, on an aboriginal graveyard. He had been shot dead by an apache arrow. His name had been Burg the Porcelain Potter.
The hills around the lake, tiny as they were, stretched their heads. The mountains seemed as uninterested in the small pond as in the pastures and the waterways. Mountains are always stuck-up.
A couple of swans swam in the middle of the lake, chasing brown ducks along the surface of the shallow water. Signs around the lake were informing people of climate change and the necessity to keep nature clean and free from drugs.
The pine forest had a sad look, and some people had heard the trees whisper ominously in the night:" Everything is long gone. Long gone. Long gone. The ravens are gone. The ravens are gone. It is way too late."
Jansen Quakers were the dominant tribe in the small valley. Most people here did not even own a car but drove around on motorcycles. Goldkettel had a car, an old white Buick. No electric vehicle had ever been spotted in Bloomside Grove.

A Cessna airplane suddenly flew by, and the swans on the lake hurried ashore. One might frequently see the doctor walking the small paths around the lake, stick in hand. Goldkettel was old, and he was antique, bucktoothed, and outdated.
Today, an ordinary September Sunday, it looked like it was going to rain. Goldkettel's open eyes narrowed, and he took out a small foldable cap from his waist pocket and put on his grey hair. Soon the rain splattered down on the remote landscape by the Burg Lake. Close to Reading's, there was another property owned by the Delmonte's. The houses of Goldkettel and Delmonte lay in a suite by the lakeshore. Goldkettel's was the one westward, more toward the deep forest and the stuck-up mountains. Behind Delmonte's, there was more mixed vegetation and finally, to the east on bushy meadows lonely, utterly small cows of foreign breed were straying around looking for fresh grass and snails.
Paul Delmonte was a well-to-do author of colorful bird books. He lived alone together with a young, dark-haired philosophy student from NY. She served as a temporary housekeeper. Aged 23, this eager student, who looked upon this job as a pleasant variation, went by the name of Armamente Dulcinea.

When Eric Goldkettel arrived at his house again, he glanced in the direction of his closest neighbor's house, at the Palace, Delmonte's mansion. So he caught a glimpse of young Armamente, how she, dressed in a simple black gown, stretched for a small glass. A red rosette in her raven hair threw out some small decorative mats from a balcony. The girl had dark hair, greyish eyes, and pale skin. She waved at Goldkettel and whistled. She did not now notice the rain, and she fed the cat, which, striped and small, gently stroked her leg. Armamente seemed just a kid, a schoolgirl. But she had an air of intelligence and awareness about her.
"What a beautiful day!" she shouted.

The slender, athletic girl suddenly rushed down the stairs and came out on the porch while the rain took a pause. She swiftly ran down the small lane, past a dead crow, towards the old doctor, who stood by the gate of Delmonte's wooden fence. She finally reached the gate and said, pulling aside some locks of her raven hair, which had fallen in her one eye:
"Hello, Doctor! I heard you are going to have a visit today?"
"Oh, yeah, Armamente, I sure will."
"But who is she?"
The girl with the small stick panted a breathed heavily. She had an exciting pair of shades below her green eyes, greyish and purple.
The doctor's heart leaped, and then he said:
"It is a friend of Martha's, my former love, Inga. My friend's name is Inga North."

All of a sudden, Paul Delmonte appeared like from behind. He had come from the forest and was walking his dog, a bloodhound named Oscar. Delmonte - a man in his sixties - had lived on his farm for eternity. The prominent author was tall and energetic and had an all-consuming interest in animals, especially birds. He was freckled and red-haired. From his shoulder dangled a small old-fashioned rifle. Eric thought Delmonte was pretentious. To make things worse, Delmonte was in the process of building a guesthouse close to Eric's property.
Goldkettel seemed an old, kind goat, while Delmonte flourished and was with excellent health, a happy pig with a big red nose. Some natural scientists are thriving with their work. Probably he also in every way wanted to impress Armamente, who was new as his servant because he smacked his upper leg and said:
"Oscar! JUMP!"

Delmonte was busy writing a book on trained birds but also had an interest in sheep and dogs. Goldkettel was not impressed by the actual books fabricated by Delmonte, but Delmonte's book sold. Goldkettel himself planned to take up painting or something.
Paul Delmonte's latest wife had died just half a year ago. Her name was Swanee. She had drowned herself in the Burg lake.
The beautiful and active Armamente, who, in her paleness, seemed to suffer from a lack of vitamins but still seemed full of youthful energy, had been hired just a month ago. The agency who had brought her had told Delmonte that she was a real treat. She was a philosophy student but had taken courses in cooking, they had said.
"Oh," said Armamente, and she reached for her foot." My poor foot, I think I have wrenched it."
"Here." her master with the rifle said, and he handled to her a red scarf. She took it and put it around her neck, instead of around her ankle, and laughed and smiled at the same time. She then hit him playfully with the back of her hand.
The doctor looked on, enjoying the sight of the odd couple.
They then all started to laugh.
"You look a little pale," Delmonte rightfully said and took Armamente's hand and tried to kiss it. Still, the girl suddenly ran away, and as if her foot was okay, she soon disappeared to the backside of the mansion, where they kept the hens.
The doctor and the author of books on birds stood left alone at the gravel by the gate.
"It looks like it is drying up." Eric finally said.

Oscar Bloodhound sniffed for something in the doctor's pocket. The doctor always brought medicines of all kinds in his pockets, in case of emergency. He glanced at Delmonte. Although Eric did not like Delmonte nor his books, he was fascinated by the man and his knowledge of nature. Eric, who was well educated, and a double-doctor, had great respect for facts and knowledge.
"Certainly, I will send her for a health examination. After all, you have to have a sound housekeeper," Delmonte said.
"She is a real beauty." the doctor said laconically.

"I think she is a police undercover. They do not send out girls like that for keeps," Delmonte said. Delmonte was referring to the housemaid agencies. The bloodhound seemed to agree because it let out a moderate growl and wagged its tail. Armamente, all the same, happily shouted from a window:
"Mister Delmonte! Breakfast is ready!"

The pair of swans, lying quietly on the lakeshore, suddenly came flowing up to the grass plane in front of Delmonte's mansion.
"Does she feed the swans?" Goldkettel asked, all red in his face. He often went all red. Goldkettel was greatly respected for his kindness and generous attitude, and for his respect for other people and their sufferings.
"No way." said the author of bird books, who did not have much to say on matters he did not think were profitable for his career.
The doctor also felt a little smell of whisky from the big man. That might explain the absentmindedness and oddly casual behavior of his neighbor.

Suddenly there was a commotion out in the middle of the sea. One of the swans seemed to have trouble when it tried to lift off the lake's surface. One of its feet dragged a green plastic rope with it. The other swan looked extremely troubled and kept a few yards away, blasting out its anguish.
Delmonte took steps nearer to the coastline, but at the same time, there was shouting from the balcony.
"I am coming!"
It was Armamente, who swiftly swung from the balcony, jumped onto the grass, and as soon as she started running, she took off her jacket and then, when she reached the shore, her leather boots. She took a small fabric bag that she saw lying on a bench by the little bridge, glided into the water, and swam out to the poor swan, which had a frantic look in its dark eyes.
Some people glide in the water like torpedoes, the sensitive doctor thought.

When Armamente had come close, she grabbed the swan by the head and forced it into the woolen bag. Then, holding the swan between her legs, she freed the swan's foot from the awful plastic rope. Within minutes she was back ashore with the two men, who, perplexed, were both standing by the bridge on the seaside, panting from exaggeration and anguish.
"Pooh!", Armamente sighed while she slid out of her sweater and then, keeping her bra on, rubbed herself dry with a striped cloth, handed to her by the doctor, who happened to carry one.
The two men were profoundly admiring her.
"I never saw anything like that!" said the doctor in a very high voice." I thought you were a philosopher!"
"Haha," Armamente replied. "Practical Ethics…" She held out a piece of the rope, which glittered bright green in its polystyrene shape. She then long-legged ran inside the Palace, and Eric congratulated Delmonte on his excellent housekeeper.
"See you." he then said in a light tone and turned to go to his place, since Reading was situated just a hundred yards away from the Palace, which lay closer to the lake.
I want to become a painter, the doctor thought, and I will paint Delmonte while he is asleep in a portrait.
Delmonte looked after the doctor, and he muttered:
"Yeah, yeah," just like psychopaths sometimes do.
Through the years, we have found more and more reasons to classify people as psychopaths.
Delmonte's face lit up since he saw how Oscar, with a leap, nearly caught the swan that had not been subjected to the rope, instead. However, the swan, that probably was the male one, which had looked for a spectator's spot on the shore, took a jump and ran right into the Delmonte mansion kitchen.
After a few seconds, the winged beast came out again, carrying a piece of butter bread in its beak. It then disappeared far out over the woods, diligently and with a great thunder moving its dark wings. The female swan lay still by the side of the small bridge.
Burg Lake now was deserted, and the rain from up above was gone too. The old bloodhound had a sore look in its reddish eyes. Armamente's laughter, however, bounced bright out over the surface of the dark lake.

The doctor soon slowly sat down in his office. After having refreshed himself with a glass of carbonated water, called Vichy, he took out his opium pipe. Nothing beats opium in its very softness, he sometimes thought.
Delmonte, in turn, went inside his house to have another whisky on the rocks. Bell's it was. Armamente called him a second time to bacon and eggs breakfast. She was now very fancifully dressed up in a red shirt and a matching semi-old black uniform jacket, which she had found in a cupboard. The smitten jacket had the name "Swanee" embroidered on its back. In the early morning, Armamente Dulcinea had earlier this day been out in the woods and collected some chanterelles too. She was serving them, lightly fried, with Bacon, eggs, tea, marmalade, bread, and butter. She was a good cook.
Broad-shouldered and slim-hipped as she was, she looked more like a boy.

Chapter Three

David West was well on his way to buy milk at the drugstore. It was Sunday.
In Baltimore, the global competition had since long closed down its steel plants and shipyards. The Covid 19 epidemic had done away with a hell of a lot of other jobs. People were, of course, yet still thriving with their lives, inventing new jobs and careers. Despite climate change, summer had come, birds had been singing, and coyotes kept hunting rats and weasels. And then autumn came and surprised at the fact the trees started dropping their leaves. Now it was late September. A slight, lukewarm rain had been falling ceaselessly all day. More often than not, on evenings like these after the earliest autumn storm ever, small, friendly ponds appeared on the lonely streets of the flat-footed picturesque city. Everybody hoped that there would not be another storm.
Suddenly lights from the random street lamps glittered brightly. They were soon reflected by myriads or more wet surfaces outside the semi-suburb's low, nondescript concrete buildings. Cars drove in all directions in the center of the city. Lukewarm water silently flooded in the gutters outside the six-story houses near Pratt Street. Three rugged young magpies fought over a filthy pizza slice thrown under the bus stop's worn wooden bench. By Patterson Park, the bus resided in the middle of the street; the engine turned off, taillights still blinking. It required to repair, some black men seemed to think, gathering around it, some of them busy with their phones.
Dusk was compact. It was almost a classic vampire night. The houses were void of any significant decorations and painted in dark sepia, and their eyes were closed. Some of them entirely lacked inhabitants. Baltimore did not grow anymore. The old rowhouses were beautiful. They were not like the new ones. Architecture, by the way, is an extraordinary form of art. Because it is, of course, not art at all, it is at least not entirely art. It has a practical side, as far as houses are for living in. Hence, we might conclude that the architect ought to have some rudimentary knowledge about both beauty and practicality; it is thus a two-sided business. In Baltimore, though, the art aspect is very much pronounced.

People marveled at the strange nights because it was as if there was an extra shadow this year or an additional light when shadows came. One cannot imagine shades without light, which is both a strange thing and not strange at all.
Some people think that life is a tale, and many people think politics is telling tales. "You have to have the defining story.";" You have to own the story."; "Who has the story wins the election!" and the like. Now: a tale is never really just the course of events. No. The story that I am telling - I'll let you know… - is not about the facts themselves. Literature, in general, is not about the events that comprise the story. No course of events ever makes a story. The report or the source of a specified kind of report is not equal to what is happening. There is always something else that makes a story. Content is something infinitely small.

What makes the story is the underlying myth. Myth is the law and the conscience of a society, and of the times we live in. In precisely the same way, it is not bricks and layers that make houses, not in Baltimore's charming town anyway. It is something else. Remember that "elseness" is not comparative. You might say that New York is more different from Tampa, FL, than Baltimore. But you cannot say that New York is much more than Baltimore, from Tampa's perspective. Because you have to understand the mystery of the "else" and of "something."
Hence: if you have a defining story, it is a story that is not about events but about something else and of the mystery of the Else.

Today David had been trying, in vain, to configure a web server onto his laptop at home. Why he did this, he was not sure. He knew it was not very useful. But someday it might be, he thought.

On his short evening errand walk to the drug store, he suddenly spotted a slender man, accompanied by a black and white terrier. The dog seemed to be sick or something and it looked wretched. David approached the man, who seemed to be in his seventies, had grey hair, and seemed more than slender at close range. He was thin, on the verge of being anorectic, but very energetic. The senior with the terrier had a dark blue striped costume on, 1949 Humphrey Bogart style, outdated but still stunning. The outfit was hanging around his tall body. He also had brought a light grey raincoat, pending on his arm.
David - who wore a black leather jacket - was an aesthete. He was susceptible to the striped suit's beauty. Nothing in the world was so beautiful as a striped suit, according to him.

"What´s the combo?” he asked, referring to both to the man, the dog, and the entire situation and because it was his common greeting phrase at the time of this story. The dog seemed to be really out of its mind, and it rolled its eyes, dragging its cord.
However, there was no reaction from the rather impressively dressed thin man on anything.
“Is anything wrong?” David reiterated with a wave of slight anger.

Then he suddenly remembered having seen the man before. Yes, at the jeweler’s store. Oh, yes! He was the one who bought the $4000 necklace. David, in turn on this sad day, had sold his mother´s wedding ring. His mother was since long deceased. The golden thing was a dear memory.

“No, of course, I know what is wrong with him.” the man responded and in a low tone. ”The dog is epileptic. He´ll be fine.”
The man seemed on guard. David looked at the poor animal.
“Epileptic? Ah, I see.” David said in a brighter tone, much to ease his confusion. The younger man, who ordinarily had a way with words, was easily disturbed by health and sickness matters, like the dog´s predicament, and could not this time grasp the situation. He hastily took a step back and looked with curiosity at the dog and the man as if he did not believe what he just told him.
The dog suddenly fell on the ground in massive seizures. The older man stood by him, just slowly waiting for the dog to get a hold of himself. It had a broad leather collar with some white stripes on it with text that said: ”I am epileptic. Pills inside.” If you zipped up the collar by the side, there would thus be some kind of medication there to help the dog out.
Young West had come halfway on his walk to the small drugstore that resided on the corner between East Pratt Street and East Harvey Street. He had brought with him a small bag, made of thin, checkered cloth. Now, facing the dog in distress, he bent down on the sidewalk and placed the cloth bag under his little head. The dog had his eyes eerily rolling, and the white saliva now and then was pumping out of his mouth. It could not keep its jerking head still. Eventually, it fell about after about three minutes and lay quite still, apart from violent panting.

David bent down over the creature. He grasped the dog’s tiny neck firmly and almost professionally. The man in the Bogart suit still did not say a thing, though. His mouth was tight, and he breathed through his nostrils, which seemed all free from obstacles. His eyes were strangely widened as if he was perpetually astonished.
“Do you live around here?” the man suddenly asked.
The dog now had got hold of himself, seemed to be okay again, and lay still. The man did not seem worried.
There was also something odd with his way of expressing himself. Behind the word and the apparent meaning of those words, there was like a hidden meaning or a peculiar light shining. In a way, the words were said as if the transmitter hoped for some memory or a ghost would come forth and fill in the omitted part of the question. There was something Gothic about his speech. But this was not true either. He looked earnest and a skeptic, David thought, but his talk was at the same time rather pretentious.
“But…,” David, who despite being a sissy, in various situations also had absolute compassion for the sick and the disabled, said in an aggregated tone:
“You cannot possibly have a dog with epilepsy!!”
With this, David apparently meant that the dog ought to be put to death.
“It´s not mine,” the man answered rapidly as if someone had pressed a button. ”I am just walking him. Why shouldn´t I take care of him, if I can?” The man said, whom we hitherto regarded as the dog-owner.
The man's energy again transformed his utterance. He did not seem to be talking but kind of tryingly reciting something. The dog walker was not PRESENT. Maybe he was dead.
“I see,” David said.
The man in the striped suit, who was very earnest in his whole appearance, despite his ambiguousness, definitely seemed eager to defend neither his actions nor his standpoints but proposed his case was with calm and indifference. But, on the other hand, dead people seldom did protect themselves. Anyway, the Bogart man sure looked secure and reliable, David thought.

When David had a closer look at the man´s wrinkled but anonymous face, marked by a small, stubborn nose in the middle of it, he noticed that the senior most certainly had had his face surgically modified around his eyes. David soon realized that since this face had so many wrinkles, it was probable that the wrinkles over his eyes had bothered the eye-sight. Thus the older man most likely had let a surgeon remove the skin above his eyes. The outcome, however, was this eerie, clown-like, astonished look.
He was undoubtedly much more muscular built than David was. Maybe he was a former military or agent or something. He had large hands and still a strong neck under the grey hair, despite his age.
David had all of a sudden come to reflect on multiple matters. The man who had incited all this seemed unaware of it, though. He blinked, changed the overcoat from one arm to another and took out an old-fashioned cigarette of some strange brand, and lit it.
Sometimes, when David met a person, who looked in a certain way, he thought that this person seemed to have dealt adequately with terrible looks, or the opposite. David could distinguish between bad and good looks and bad and good energy. The man with the dog, for instance, had exciting natural features, and his face shone with complete irregularity and was disfigured by surgery. His mouth was rather wry, but he had a friendly look all the same aside from the clown eyes. Although they met outside on the street and on such a rainy night, he smelled grossly from tobacco.
“You see …,” the dead, or ironic, the man finally said, ”the woman who owns him is sick.”
That was at least something, David thought. The man wanted to clarify himself and was not just reciting.
He sure would like to hear him talk at length, David thought. He did not know that he would have lots of opportunities for that.
West´s gaze focused on the old man, but his mind all of a sudden took a turn. He had spotted an ostensive, golden tooth in the older man´s mouth. David realized that this man had a story. Everybody with a golden tooth had a story, according to David. Not only the man in the suit seemed awkwardly ambiguous and but definitely interesting. Thirdly, he must be rich too! Anyone with a golden tooth was rich.
The man with the dog was generous with not being present. But he apparently wanted to share his absence with David because he gave no indication of leaving the street-corner.
The dog eventually had recovered fully and rose to indicate he wanted to leave. West decided that he did not need the milk he had set out to buy from the drugstore but instead chose to accompany the man and the dog. They performed a circular walk around the children’s playground and the nearby hideous old church. Concerning this latter phenomenon, the two newfound friends soon came together in a united deep despise.

“Strange things, churches.” The man in the suit said. “I have never been able to understand religious people. Do they really believe in that nonsense?”
“I don´t get who they are neither, those folks who go to church!” West agreed.
“I was married once to a woman whose closest friend frequently attended church,” the niggard man said while he, at last, tended a little to the dog and tapped it on the head. It dawned upon David that the man in the striped suit appeared incredibly selfish. David noticed that this guy had not uttered a single positive thing for twenty minutes. He also had not asked David anything essential. Neither of these conclusions hurt, though, because he was such a formidable mystery.
“I see! Ah, you´ve were married? By the way, I mightn´t perchance get to know your name, sir?”
“My name is Longman. Reuben Longman.”
This was positive, kind of, David reconned. At the same time, he did not bother that Longman did not answer the first question. Thus this whole conversation seemed not very earnest.
“Mm. You look like one who has traveled a lot.” David continued.
“Mm, yeah,” Reuben Longman said.
Reuben looked, and his look was a kind of heavy, perpetrating one from light blue eyes, at the dog, which seemed keen on leaving for home. The little terrier sat down and lifted his paw.
“Perhaps he wants to be carried,” David said in a neutral tone. ”He just had a severe seizure.”
Reuben looked like an old sailor. Again, he showed no gratitude towards David´s friendly approaches - but lifted the dog and took out his ancient, long-armed army gloves from a pocket inside the raincoat and put them around the poor dog.
“I have to go home,” Reuben suddenly said. ”Nice meeting you, pal.”
“Nice, Mister!” David nodded with a smile,” Hope to see you again! I guess you don’t live far away, eh?”

David felt the Glock's presence in his pocket. The gun made him talk in a way he would not without it.
“Well, not exactly close to where we are; I live on Thames Street, No 340.”
“I see.”
The young boy nodded again, stored that information, and put his hand out to cuddle with the dog, but then in a whizzy Reuben, carrying the terrier, already was far away towards the harbor. David realized that Longman had not invited him to his place.

David - who continuously was in financial trouble - realized that Longman was wealthy. Anybody with a golden tooth and that could buy a necklace worth $4000 was wealthy. It would not hurt him to give David some, David thought. Sure, enough, David realized that Longman might be a dangerous person. It seemed that he had been through a lot. But Reuben was more likely an old sailor, David sensed, than a retired military or an agent or something like that.
When David - who did not exactly plan to rob Longman - strolled further on his walk, he thought that life and culture in the U.S.A., in a unique way, wholly revolved around the 2nd amendment. To David anarchism also presented many problems. But he put them aside for now. His personality was only very slowly evolving.
David was all mesmerized by the blue, striped suit.

Chapter Four

The small shop on the corner, owned by Captain Georgie Butterfield, a local property broker, had two main entrances, one from East Pratt and another from Harvey Street. The one from Harvey Street was since long bolted up and sealed. In the doorway to East Pratt Street, there hovered a large bookstand, almost blocking the way. David slid into the small shop to finally get his milk bottle from Ethan, a tall, slender, black boy with soft, glowing, greyish skin and an enormous. The colored guy seemed to be always at the store, reading on his tablet or in a pocketbook, and now and then obsessed with making small sketches on his iPad. David - being the customer and polite as was his habit - showed his interest:
“Hi! What´s the combo?”
“Just fine. And you, bro?”
“Fine. What cha´ reading?” David asked.
The shop was scarcely lit, and it had a sweet smell as from some forgotten rotten bananas.
“I am reading a book on writing.” The young clerk laughed friendlily and looked at the same time powerful and very modest. He looked intelligent.
“Hah!” David retorted in a hollow tone. “Are you an aspiring author?”
“Who isn´t?” Ethan´s answers, as well as all his ways, were all the time very swift. His laugh was extrovert, but David did not think that Ethan´s extrovertedness was of any ordinary kind. He had probably learned to be that way.
David smacked with his lips and looked around for the paper stand. After the pandemic, not many papers were traded off, and there were just a few left. The Baltimore Chronicle announced that there was going to be a small concert tonight in the town hall. Sunderland “Sleepy” Polly-Ann. David looked at yet some more papers and magazines. He did not know Ethan very well, but he had - just from a couple of short conversations with him - come to a rash conclusion that he - although he had modest ways - was a bit aloof. Ethan was too sure of himself, even if he was humble. It wasn't delightful how humble this competent young black man was. On the other hand, David thought that Ethan seemed very friendly and probably was a very warm-hearted young man. David had a history of being tricked and robbed by countless people, so he was finally set to be on guard against tricksters, psychopaths, and junkies.
A commotion was heard on top of the convenience store. David looked up at the ceiling:
“What´s all the noise about?”
“They are having a funeral. The old mama has died.”
“Oh, I see.”
They dropped the subject.
David these days felt extraordinarily insecure. He was at a turning point in his life. It may turn out either way. He might have great success, or he might - on the other hand - end up in the gutter. The 25-year-old was preposterously broke and haply had the money for the small rent. He had no one to borrow money from and no one who would help him with anything. The only thing he had was his student loan for his studies in programming and his Glock pistol.

“You don´t happen to know anything about Mr. Longman, the old man with the dog, who was outside just a while ago?” David asked.
Ethan looked suspicious. David boldly went on with his ranting. This is the boldness that poverty and despair gives.
“I wonder if he is … rich?”
Ethan looked down in his book again, reading.
“I don’t know.”, he mumbled monotonously but under strain.
A bottle of Worchester Sauce, or something, suddenly fell off a shelf in a back room. Maybe the cat had caused it to fall about.
“Hush!” David panted. ”I cannot stand sudden noises. But hear me! Do you feel me?”

He actually could not stand anything sudden. It is a frequent remark in the literature on magic and the occult that Satan himself is as fond of the unexpected as of the sinister.
The two of them went silent again.

In the shop's corner, a man in his sixties in a beige coat and a blue hat was sitting, sipping on a cup of coffee. Perhaps he also was listening to the two youngsters.

“A book wouldn´t be too hard to write.” Ethan suddenly said in a casual voice.
“A book, what about? About what?”
“About small things, or nothing at all.”
“Why small?” David asked, mischievously, in a try to make friends.
“It is a good way to start with small things.”
“Greater things come when the stage is set, eh?” David laughed, satisfied with his poetry. Nonsense made him relax. Absurdity seemed to him the perfect hallucination.

”Now, I don´t know if the books I am going to write would be like porn for women or if they are going to be completely incomprehensive.”
Ethan, at the same time, laughed tryingly at himself. His massive Rastafari-hair trembled or waved around his big head. David did not comment on what Ethan just said. Ethan subsequently added:
“I don´t know if I will develop into a writer at all.”
Ethan, like David, was a very young man. In posing that question that way, he showed himself mature, David thought.
“I see,” David said, but he hadn´t many clues to the actual subject. Therefore, he changed to his old topic:
“You don´t happen to know Mister Longman? Reuben Longman? Do you?”
“Yes. I know him. He´s having The New York Times.”
“Yeah, I think he´s a democrat.”
“So what?” Ethan finally put down his book, The Walled Kingdom, a book on the history of China, and looked at David, who was a couple of years his senior, but seemed younger than Ethan, who only was nineteen:
“What do you want with him?”
“Rob him,” David suddenly said and put his fingers in a moving stand with umbrellas with funny logos on them that stood nearby, and swung the whole set of umbrellas full circle to the left. At the same time, he felt the weight of the Glock against his chest, almost in a hurtful way.
“Now, that´s not a sweet thing to say,” Ethan said. Ethan Bailey did not know if David was serious. It was impossible to tell, but if David´s words had been ironic, it certainly was covert irony.
“I can´t help it. I do not respect other people´s property. I think property itself is robbery. Just like Kropotkin thought. Besides, that Longman is old. He does not NEED the money. I do.”
As a matter of fact, it was not Kropotkin, but Proudhon, who thought that property was theft.
Perhaps David´s dissatisfaction with his own life was so immense that he simply wanted to ruin his chances. But of course, deep inside, he actually did not want to destroy them, but his talk of these criminal actions was a cry for help. David also thought that, since he was such an outsider and such a loser, common law did not apply.

Ethan did not know if David meant what he said.
“Have you been to his place?” Ethan asked in a new tone while he rose and folded his book into a roll, and began piling chewing gums in a box under the counter nearer to the back exit.
“No,” David said and looked up, curiously: ”have you?”
“Yes, I have. The man has got porcelain, artwork, books, and oriental rugs, and dead animals at home. Horns from buffalos and skins from alligators, tigers, and snakes.”
“Wait a minute! You don´t say!? I asked you about him, and you said he bought The New York Times! I told you he was also….”
“Let us go there tomorrow! Reuben likes to be with young folks.” Ethan tried to smile, although this conversation had nothing comical in it.” You might pick me up at six o´clock because Joshua has his shift from around then until midnight on Mondays. I know where Reuben lives.”
“Thames Street,” David said, knowingly, looking at Ethan´s slender fingers piling chewing gum packages at an enormous pace. The Afro-American then picked up his rolled-up book about writing again to continue his studies.
Ethan´s phone rang. He picked out the Samsung S5 from his waist pocket and answered.
“Yes, hello. Of course. ----- Yes. --------- Yes.----- Sure. Just come in.----- We always do.---- Bye-bye.”
Those fingers looked fiercely arrogant, the Euro-American thought. Did Ethan know that David was out of a job since last year and that he had nothing to do but trying to learn to be a hacker and some History at the University at a course he most likely never would complete? Did he know that he, David, was wearing a Glock pistol? The meeting between Ethan and David almost could serve as a prototype between a guy who has a job and hasn´t.
Suddenly a tall, bald man, in his seventies, dressed in a smug blue striped suit, entered the shop. The man in the back of the shop immediately called upon him with a hoarse Hello.
The newcomer, David soon realized, turned out to be the shop-owner himself, Captain Butterfield.
He probably was no Captain at all but was a sheer businessman. He looked like a small gangster of the salons. He was dominant in his gestures but was a rather skinny man. His voice was thunderous, though. His narrow, meticulously clean-shaven face was red or purple, and his minuscule hair was white. It was put tight to his skull by use of a fluid like Keratin or something.
“Howdy, Ethan!” he said casually, lifting his hat that had a sharp turn by his right eyebrow.
“Everything is fine, Mr. Butterfield,” Ethan said.
“´It´s fine, Captain, ´is it,” the Captain retorted, with no irony. He early had found out that being dominant served his business.
“Yes, Captain,” Ethan obeyed and made sounds with his fingers hitting the book cover.
Butterfield looked casually up at the cigar shelf and the shelf with liquors on it and then left for the man in the back of the shop, after giving David a quick look and touched the brim of his hat with a little smile.
Butterfield greeted the man with:
“Oh, Sammie!” and then they sat together and talked, and both of them lowered their voices to a minimum.

David yawned and decided to leave. But before he left, he got an idea.
“See you tomorrow then at six o´clock. Will we go and see Longman then? But do you work the day after tomorrow, Ethan?”
“No, as a matter of fact, I am free. Why?”
“Want to go fishing early? I have a small boat by the bridge.”
“Sure, but I don’t know how to fish.”
“You´ll learn,” David said.
“I´ll pick you up at 4.30 AM.”
“Yes. Do you have a car?”
“Yes. I can borrow one.”
“Well. What do you say?”
“It was a little sudden. But okay! It will be an experience.”
Ethan smiled, and they made a high five.


When he got home, he was so sore at Ethan that he threw out the pet raccoon, Niels, on the street yelling: ”Shitty, shitty cat!” although it was no cat at all. But he was happy that they should go fishing together. It would be a real feast. He thought he would call upon somebody to tell about his new friend, though. While he made some tea, David took out his phone, laying on his bed, and swiped his contacts. David had got some friends, most of them through his apartment mate Elsa, others through the University. Elsa´s closest friend Haylee had a brother, Raymond, who had lots of friends. Sometimes, David used to hang with them, especially at concerts and dances.
But soon, his thoughts were around Ethan again.

He guessed that as soon as Ethan understood, which he soon would, that they shared the same interest in literature, they would quickly be the best of pals. David West liked what he had heard Ethan say, that he did not know what novel it was going to be. The trouble was to define the concept of “incomprehensible,” he thought. David did not believe that the novel was just entertainment. The word “incomprehensible” could refer to utterly modern prose, or it might be something still more subtle.
He was happy that they would visit Reuben´s place, and he wondered much about it. But the prospect of robbing him had almost vanished. Longman appeared much too capable, in his relative wealth, for David to be able to take any advantage of him. David also had a feeling that Reuben, as well as Ethan, knew absolutely everything about him without him having to say anything. This, in turn, was incredibly depressing. David sometimes bordered on persecution mania.

David´s friend Elsa, a tall black girl, who rented the other half of the apartment where David lived, now, after having knocked twice, entered his room, looked at him in his misery. With a tiny, amiable grin on her narrow face, she flung out, after having seen the look on David´s face, her close to enormous chin protracted:
“Are you preparing to die or something, sweetie?”
Elsa herself, a girl of twenty-two, was, as indicated, no immediate beauty. She was flat-chested, slightly bent, and had that chin, under which one almost could hide a bus. She was a brave girl. She worked as a help nurse at a nearby care home for older people. Elsa was an honest girl, though, a real diamond, and everybody liked her. David did not answer, but he was happy that she was around.

Chapter Five

David´s buddy dream.

This night, David dreamt. His dream, however, had the character of absolute reality.
He dreamt that he was thirteen years old. It was October, and the weather was cold and wet. Together with a friend of his, Cole “coolie,” Humphrey, they were on their way to a small uninhabited wood outside town. The two camerades had arrived there by bicycle, and with them, they brought a substantial golf bag. They had prepared the golf bag at Cole´s house in the evening before. Now, that was on a Saturday. They had rehearsed what they should tell curious people who might wonder why they were heading to a dense forest, carrying a golf-bag.
Back home, at David´s place, his parents probably were dealing with their respective miseries, mourning their lives, and trying to figure out why and how they should spend the coming years in the same loveless manner at the least financial cost. However, in Cole´s house, his parents spent their time watching the telly together, cuddling on the sofa, making up plans for their spare postal order business and their home. They often talked about how proud they were of their son, who spent a lot of time battling his dyslexia. His parents were convinced that this handicap would not hamper young Cole in his desire for a productive and prosperous life. David's parents, on the other hand, did expect nothing of their son and didn´t do anything to socialize him.
Cole, who was a boy, both longer and sturdier built than David, had a face with a reddish complexion. The always pale-faced, thin-haired David almost looked feminine by his side.
Coolie - who was not a “cool” person, but more of a very hearty, friendly, and boisterous youngster - owned a Ruger Blackhawk Combo air rifle and a small air gun, marked Stiga, as well. Those were the objects that he kept hidden away in the golf bag. David did not own any such playthings.
Their project for the day was to go hunting squirrels.
They had embarked on the subway train by 10.00 am, and nobody asked them about their luggage. They got old clothes on them as if they were going on a real dirty job or were going to jump in muddy waters. However, they were heading towards the woods.
The simplistic and thoroughly kind Cole was a real talker. He had emphasized to David that this was not only going to be fun but that it was an entirely profitable business too. They would not only shoot the squirrels. No, they were going to sell the furs also. About $10 apiece they would get, all in all, per coat.
“This is fun, isn´t it?”
Cole took care of everything. He was not at all afraid that they should meet someone. David was.
When they had proceeded a couple of miles from the railway's immediate nearness, they also had a less habituated area around. The boys thought they had made it with their golf bag, and they felt safe to unpack the rifles and get them on their backs. The wood was closing down upon them, and it was now a dense wood of firs and lots of bushes and weed around them.
They finally put the rifles in their hands. Cole gave David the ammo to the pistol, and the young hunters started to look out for the small tree-rats.
“Imagine when you are old, thinking back on this moment, how we were hunting here today! That´s a memory in creation! Eh?” and Cole jolted his gun and lightly smashed David on the upper arm, trying to exert more enthusiasm.
David got perplexed. He hadn´t thought in those lines before. Was it a sound idea, the setting up a memory? Imagine, David felt for himself if you had that kind of thinking all the time! Still, it was a cozy thought. But David decided he did not like it. Notwithstanding that, he intended to enjoy himself and took a shot on something high up a tree that looked like a squirrel.
The small leaden bullet smashed against the trunk of a tree, and then it blasted to other trees before it came back down and landed in front of David.
“You must do like this,” Cole said, and he smelled from a cigarette that he just lit. And Cole was adjusting the barrel on David´s pistol, with a small black screw.
“Now,” he said.
David nodded.
They proceeded through the dense and varied forest that contained many an unusual tree and brush. The many squirrels were not exactly afraid of the hunters, which bothered David.
“Stupid creatures!” he thought to himself, but to his friend, he just said:
“They ought to be easy to get.”
They flashed smiles towards each other.

Later in the afternoon, when they walked back to the metro, carrying the golf bag between them, and Cole had a t-shirt, which he had knot to a small bag, in his free hand, they were both tired and happy. They had eight squirrels with them, shot dead, seven of them by Cole, and one by David. The one squirrel shot by David was regarded as “useless,” though since it had been hit five or six times.
Suddenly, when they just had two miles left to the main road and the metro station, a man with a dog exerted from the dark of the forest - it was about 08.00 pm.
The dog immediately sniffed around Cole's t-shirt-bag, and the man heaved up his voice and cried out:
“What´d´u´ have there?”
Cole looked at David and David at Cole. Then they just ran.
Luckily the man withheld his dog, and so they escaped and got on the metro in one piece, each.
“Now,” Cole panted, as they both sunk on a seat in the wagon. ”You bet, this will be a beautiful memory!” He patted the t-shirt bag, from which a couple of drops of blood silently lukewarm were dripping onto his shoe.

Chapter Six

Ethan´s buddy dream.

Ethan dreamed: He and Thomas, one of Ethan´s colored friends, who was an author of several horror stories in the Edgar Allen Poe style, was at Ethan´s place watching the news and to have a chat at an evening in Dreamland.
The stormy weather had returned to Dreamland Baltimore and ravaged the roofs. Ethan and his friend sat in chairs opposite to each other, watching clouds assemble in the sky above through the window. Thomas smoked a cigar. He had also brought some fine cigarettes. Ethan enjoyed the evening fully and slowly combed his cat. The furniture was rather luxury.

Some ravens were sitting on the windowsill. Now and then, the rain broke loose, only to rapidly vanish again. The ravens also lifted off with much noise and were gone.
“Here!” Thomas said, put out his cigar in an old ashtray, marked “De Dion Bouton”, and pulled out the cigarettes from a pocket. “These are particular joints. Take one, and you will see for yourself.”
Ethan was usually very cautious and certainly not into smoking strange substances. Still, since Thomas was offering, and they both were in Dreamland, Ethan accepted, and they both lit a cigarette and took a deep inhalation.

Thomas, whose face was extremely black, intelligent looking, and with a marked nose, acted like he would make a speech. He had a blue cup full of coffee standing beside him.
“I got a thought,” Thomas said,” I just got it, actually, out of nowhere, and it has nothing to do with anything.”
“Sounds interesting,” Ethan said, half sarcastic. He wished that he and Thomas became friends but was not sure how this ever would happen. Thomas was advanced and had a contract with a New York publisher. The writer of horror fiction looked at Ethan with his sharp black eyes.
Outside, the ravens were back on the sill of the large window and pressed themselves towards the pane as if they wanted to hear what Thomas would say.
“Now, suppose,” Thomas began,”it was, that some things existed, at least in part, in the enormous mischievousness, that they in an invisible DNA has engraved the ability entirely being able to avoid to be detected by the scientific method?”
“How?” Ethan said, just because he wanted to know.
“Well,” Thomas said, excusing himself ( he always was very polite ),” I mean, to be more exact, it is not entirely impossible, that it has been, in an evolutionary way in the infinite universe, since long favorable to some type of existence, in the meeting of countless civilizations that have come and gone, to evolve through the eons of time, the property of being unable to be detected by the scientific method. Maybe most civilizations that, this type of existence met with, were all concentrated upon what could be detected by the scientific method.”
“Well, that sounds tricky.”
The wind outside the windows kept soaring. The poor ravens that seemed to try to take shelter against the wind in the window corner and listen to Thomas drew closer to the window glass. In the wind gusts, their feathers rose above their heads.
Thomas glanced at Ethan.
“But, you know what that means, of course?”
“Oh yes, I think so,” Ethan said, and he looked at the window and the darkening clouds, who had a purple tone. ”But certainly, it would be a giant extra manœvre. An unlikely one, for someone to choose to create a shield against human knowledge, and the scientific method, to gain an evolutionary advantage, when there are so many ….”
“Well, I agree. Highly unlikely. But certainly very smart. And highly unexpected. Don´t you think? Nobody would assume that?”
Outside Ethan´s window, which faced a street intersection, and therefore was more open to the wind, which arrived straight from the harbor, a bulky thug of wind came. The clouds in the sky now miraculously vanished.
”What you are saying is, that out there, something exists, that keeps dodging and laughing at the scientific method, something that thrives and might enjoy all sort of vain human commotion, just because we, in our civilization, are so prone to think that everything can be observed by the scientific method and controlled experiments?”
Thomas grasped his blue coffee cup and emptied it in one big sweep.
“Yes, indeed. It is incredible, isn´t it?”
His eyes shone.
“I just came up with it.” He smiled, ”I am surprised that I haven´t thought of it before.”
“Nothing strange with that,” Ethan tried to order his thoughts. The two ravens now knocked at the window pane with their hard beaks and wing pens.
“Nobody else has been thinking like that either,” Thomas said, and continued:
“It is creepy, though. Because what does it MEAN? Well, it means that right now, Invisible Existence is at your shoulder, in evolutionary superiority, sits there laughing at us, at how both of us are trying to come to grips with what governs our lives. And while we are doing that, brooding about OUR understanding of evolution, they have the keys in their invisible hands, walking around in their secret dimension. We are not able to hear the least ring from their keys and their other belongings.”
Now Ethan shuddered because a giant orange light shone across the sky, and it somehow wobbled out there. The two ravens had started to cry tears, and they hugged each other, and it almost looked as if they bade Ethan, through the pane, to save them.
“The wind is surging,” Ethan said, now letting the cat, which he had been holding in his lap, slip down on the floor. It stayed by his feet, though, and pressed his shaking body against his leg.
The wind was shaking the walls of the building.
“It is not supposed to be a wind like this in our area, is it?” Ethan shouted at Thomas. His Rasta hair waved around his head.
Loose furniture started to jump up and down. Even electricity suddenly vanished.

“Look, what you have done!!” Ethan suddenly shouted at Thomas since Ethan could no longer discern cosmological theory and a Baltimore storm.
In turn, Thomas had been hit by a flying object, a small tin box in his head, and bleeding from a scar.
“Yes,” he shouted, ”Invisible Existence is VERY SMART,” and he had grown furious. ” Look! IT IS TRYING TO KILL US!”
“Yes, certainly it will. Quite understandably, it will!” Ethan shouted back, rushed to the bed, and from under the pillow drew a Colt 1911s.
“Why the hell,” he simultaneously shouted at Thomas, ” did you have to dig into the secrets of existence, you vain absolute complete IDIOT?”
Thomas was rushing about in the room. Ethan shouted:
“Let´s go down in the cellar!”
Well out in the stairs, they saw broken windows and other ravens in the staircase. The raven´s eyes were quite mad too. The walls squeaked, but the doors to the other rowhouses, seen in the dark from Ethan´s front door, did not open.
“Terrible fuzz someone has ordained, just because one puts forth a theory!” Ethan shouted in a loud voice.
“Take the theory back then!” Ethan shouted to Thomas, in vain to open the door to the cellar. The door seemed stuck.
“You cannot take back a theory,” Thomas said, adjusting his collar.
“Of course you can. You can try.” Ethan claimed incoherently, hoping and praying that something would bring things back to normal.
Perhaps, Ethan suddenly thought, if he could get Thomas out of … existence, then these invisible powers of nature would calm down. It was Thomas’ fault. But then it struck him that it might not play such a significant role if Thomas actually should be dead and gone. Because he was himself consecrated. There was no hope, Ethan thought, now managing to get the cellar door open.
“What are you thinking?” Thomas asked, just as the wind took a small pause.
“You never know anything about the end, do you?” Ethan asked. He thought that if he took out the Colt and shot Thomas, maybe Existence would spare him just because he was not guilty at all.
“Ah, pfui, bring yourself together! You aren´t superstitious, are you??” Thomas said, raising his voice in almost anger.
When Ethan looked out through the window down versus the harbor, he saw that wind has calmed down. Suddenly it was all silent, and everything fell in its usual place, just like magic.
“Oh, my head,” Thomas said, and he held his hand to the bandage around his forehead.
“That was really bad,” he added, looking almost dizzy.
“I guess it´s climate change,” Ethan said with devastating irony. He went out on the front stairs, put the Volt back in his pocket, sat down on the wet white marble, massaging his Colt's hand.
The two ravens ruffled their wings and were soon walking down the lane, picking fallen chestnuts, and they seemed to chatter in a good mood.

Suddenly Ethan Bailey woke up in the middle of the night.

“Strangest dream!” he whispered to himself.

Chapter Seven

On the following day, which was a Monday, Inga, Nord, Eric Goldkettel´s friend, arrived at Goldkettel´s house by an antique deep blue Mercedes SL. Eric was thrilled. Inga was an impressive woman, muscularly built, a former athlete and Boston marathon runner. She had a small head with red, shortcut, curly hair. She was a bit juvenile in her thought and adventurous, and now in her early sixties. Inga was also extraordinarily verbal and a clever woman, much into reading. They said she read two books a day, readers of every sort imaginable. Eric and Inga had a long story together. Not the least, she had been the best friend of Martha, Eric´s former wife. Now, for a couple of months, Martha was dead, and this was the first time that Eric met Inga, or, for that matter, anybody who knew who Martha was since she died. Martha had been married many times, and the last one of her many husbands was a Baltimore sea-Captain, one Reuben Longman. Eric also knew that Reuben and Martha had been planning a divorce and that Martha´s death had been a mystery. She had been found dead in a deserted park, and no exact cause of death had ever been established. Partly to discuss the end of Martha and the mystery around it, Eric had invited Inga.
“Oh, Inga, Inga!” Eric cried out as they met on the small grassy knoll that severed Eric´s mansion from the small parking lot ( built for up to six cars ) between his and Delmonte´s estate, the Palace.
“Oh, Cedric!” it elapsed her, and she, also, cried out, “WOW!” as they hugged. “Cedric” was, curiously enough, Eric´s second name.
Inga had been to Eric´s house earlier, but it was ten years from now, and then she had had Martha as a company.
To make the relationship between Eric and Inga and the relationship between Inga and Marta more comprehensible, I will, myself, tell you in such an objective way, as is ever possible, a little of Martha.

Martha, born Stilton, of the Jewish Stiltons in Tampa, was an adventurous girl, youngest of four. Already as a First-grader, she had her own business in Tampa, where she sold candy.
Papa Stilton had died in a fire, being a firefighter, and Martha was raised - or not raised at all - by her maternal grandmother. Martha´s mother, Beatrice, you see, had disappeared to Africa with a Nigerian priest just after Martha was born.
Martha was not only an unusually bright and social creature. She was also awfully good-looking. Since the grandmother was poor, Martha did not for long attend any school, but she started to earn her living as a local waitress from the day she turned sixteen.
Early every morning at 06.00, she stood up, made her bed, and went swimming outside Tampa, 3 miles away. She went by bicycle. She loved swimming and dreamt of being an athlete, a gold-medalist at the Olympic Games. Soon the grandmother died. Her brother and two sisters left for different jobs ( they were substantially older than Martha and had other fathers). She never was to meet them ever.
Martha tried to reach out to her mother in Africa. Still, it turned out baboons in Uganda had eaten the neglecting adventurer. Thus poor Martha found herself all alone in the world. She then decided to go to Europe.
She sold her now-deceased grandmother´s house and bought a flight ticket for the money. She was sure she would succeed one way or the other in Paris. This was in 1978.
Martha Stilton swiftly got acquainted with a couple of other girls in Paris. They joined in a small flat at Montmartre, and she, almost a Marilyn Monroe copy, started to work as an art model for the painters. She not only looked good, but she also was amusing and friendly.
Soon a painter, living at Rue Bréa, took her home, and they married after a month. His name was Peterson, Robert Peterson.
Peterson originated from Cape Town in South Africa, and the two of them soon emigrated from Paris. Martha had barely caught a couple of French phrases when she found herself living in a Cape Town suburb in a family where Africaans was spoken. Martha took a fancy in learning Africaans and soon became a teacher for the small colored children. These immediately grew fond of their American mistress, and she was like a mother to them.
After a while, Peterson was unfaithful to Martha. It was decided that Martha should move out from the Peterson´s residence. She then got a flat on Regent Street in Johannesburg.
She started to work in an orphanage and took children to the zoo; she then met Abraham Girma. And after that, she went to Ethiopia, as Mrs. Girma. Girma was a banker, and Martha now learned fine fashion. She got pregnant, but the child, a small boy, died right after birth. She lived in Addis for three years, and a gang of servants escorted her wherever she went, for example, to the river to swim. Her favorite servant-boy, named Bennah, followed her into the water. He gave her such a good massage that she almost fainted from pleasure. Some natives of Ethiopia know how to provide a tender massage. Years later, she would describe the beauty of the limbs of Bennah, especially his muscular arms, to her female friends. The girls eventually grew so tired of hearing about them that they asked her to talk about her Jewish background instead. Martha was a Zionist and loved to indulge in the subject of the Jewish race's alleged superiority, which, of course, is neither a race nor superior in any way. But the beautiful Martha Girma always claimed it was both.
She divorced Girma since he got disappointed at her not wanting to have more children. The doctor, a Medical Professor at a nearby college, had advised her not to try. Together with young Bennah, Martha now returned to Florida. After ten years of earning her living as an Antiquarian, while Bennah disappeared to Los Angeles to become a bar pianist, she finally met with the mysterious Captain Reuben Longman. She moved with him to Baltimore. There, they should have many years of a happy marriage, during which they respected each other's need for freedom and living space.
Captain Longman dearly loved his blonde bombshell wife. They had assured each other that this was to be a free relation. And to Martha, who at last happily felt both free and secure, it was.
In Baltimore, she, at a fur shop, found her female mate, her best friend, Inga, who in every way seemed like a twin sister. Inga was her soul mate and an admirer as well. The first time they met, they immediately realized their kinship, embraced, and were going to be the best of friends until their last breath.
Inga, who today lived in Asheville, but earlier in Philadelphia, often earlier visited Reuben Longman´s home. She also escorted Martha on the many adventures Martha had with several men in and outside of Baltimore. They even took a trip to Europe together. Hence, Inga also had, together with Martha, visited Eric in Connecticut a couple of times. And now, although this time without dear Martha, she stood in the hallway of Eric´s Reading mansion.
“Lunch is ready,” Eric said in his courteous manner.
He fumbled with his soft hands around plates and pots. The remarkable thing was that Eric had been an outstanding surgeon, even though his general manners were those of a man who will mess up any dinner and drive a car onto the wrong side of the road.


After having the meal that Eric meticulously had prepared for lunch and clumsily served to his dear friend, the two of them, Inga and Eric, sat down in the library. Eric´s library was an old brown study. It was elegant and dark and had books up onto the ceiling. The windows were large and stretched widely across one wall and were slightly open so as for the smoke to be free to escape and fresh air to get in, to clear the brains and foment the discussion. Inga wanted to have a cigar, and she took out one from a box in her purse.
“Now, a cigar is always a cigar.” Inga smiled, her still very muscular and fit body lustfully submerged into a large mahogany armchair. She was fully aware that she was paraphrasing Freud, who once claimed that “a cigar SOME-TIMES is just a cigar,” in relation to his theory of dream symbols.
Eric laughed at this elegant joke.
“Let´s not waste time, Inga,” Eric then said,” I just want to know what happened to Martha, please!”
Inga stroked her red hair, wrinkled her forehead, and said:
“It is so sad! Poor Martha! But I guess she knew that being an adventurer has its risks.”
“How do you mean?” The doctor now seemed controlled.
“She was found in a park in Baltimore. She had no obvious signs of how she had been brought to death. The coroner claimed she was not strangled or suffocated but might have had been stressed or scared to death. She had some scars from her nails in the weak of her palms and face as well as bruises on her arms and knees from falling on the lawn.”
“I see. But when was this? And is her husband a suspect?”
“Yes, it was in July, during the heat, July the 23rd. Reuben, her husband, was brought in by detective Ludwig, the officer in charge of this case at the Baltimore Police Department. But Reuben claimed he knew nothing about her being in the park and that he had been home all night. He was alone, though, so nobody could corroborate his testimony. But they had nothing on him. There was no mud or grass on any shoe in Reuben´s house. Ludwig, whom I have spoken to, said that they simply had no clue what happened to Martha. As far as I know, nobody is a suspect at the moment. Reuben seemed not very bothered if you ask me. I talked to him as well, by the phone.”
“But when did you last meet with Martha? Please give me the whole story, please. You know I loved Martha, and I have to know who took her away, no matter who it was!”
Then Inga told about the last meeting:
“It was in June,” Inga said, ”We had not met for a year. We went bathing together one day, out into the bay by a boat that we hired. I always like boating. Martha had a bright red swimsuit.”
“Anyway, I had talked to her a couple of days before. She was a little tired of Reuben, who seemed lost in memories. He had started to talk about an old love, she said, way down in Mississippi, long ago. She told him that it was okay if he connected to any old flame, just claiming she did not want to listen to it. If he had grown tired of her, he should say so, she had said. He responded by telling her that he just felt low. He had a small lung condition, and he said that nothing is as terrible as a lung condition. Martha said to me that Reuben very seldom complained about anything at all and very seldom of his health.”
“She had joined a course in writing last spring, and she met with some of the writers now and then. The aspiring writers met even during summer to be inspired and to exchange books and manuscripts.”
Inga was a bright and conscientious woman, Eric thought:
“How would you best describe Captain Reuben?”
“He is economical,” Inga said.
Eric looked up.
“How do you mean?”
“He´s a niggard,” Inga clarified. “You know, Martha had brought a lot of money to their household, and she was collecting art, and my God, is there an art collection at Reuben´s place today! It is worth millions!”
Her face suddenly had gotten red with excitement.
“Why so? How had she been able to buy that much art? Is it precious art?”
“She used to beg her lovers for it or simply take it away from them.”
Eric looked depressed.
“I know…” he stated, clumsily.
“We know. Both of us know. She was not always nice. She was not just adventurous, but sometimes a criminal. To be blunt about it.”
Inga however wrenched her hands a little and looked down.
Both now seemed desolate, and they knew that whoever had brought death upon Martha, she probably had angered that person before.
“I am determined to find out who it was,” Eric said in an anonymous tone.
“I cannot go on living if I don´t.”

Then, from behind the window, that had been slightly open, a voice suddenly was heard. Yes, if there ever was anything sudden in this world, this was it.
“I might be of certain help.”
It was a woman´s voice, and it belonged to no less than young Armamente Dulcinea, the housekeeper at the Palace. She now showed her head, and within a minute, she had unhooked the window, crawled in, and was soon seated in a chair next to the doctor.
“How?” Eric panted, almost fainting from consternation.
“We will ALL of us go to Baltimore to investigate Reuben´s place.”
But how do you know….?”
“I always investigate people I live close to and come into contact with. In the night at the Palace, I have lots of time. I looked you up on the Internet. It was easy to see that you and Martha Stilton were a couple and that she is -inexplicably - dead.”
“Good Lord,” Inga said, and her mouth was about to smile out of pure consternation.
“And I can assure you,” Armamente said, rubbing off some plaster she had got on her hand when climbing through the window, ”that this here Reuben is, just as you said, Inga, a real niggard.”
Inga was confused, and rightly so, because she, of course, had no idea who Armamente was. This she asked about now.
“Who are you then, darling?”

Armamente told Inga her story. As it turned out, Eric could also find out about the girl who so bravely and unexpectedly had lined up to offer to be a catcher in the rye.

Armamente was born in New York City, she told them, in a hotel, since both her parents, the Dulcineas, had been too lazy to move out of their favorite social spot and leave their friends, all of them being hotel people. So she was raised by some highly intellectual beatniks in a hotel. Her parents did not talk about anything else than Psychoanalysis, Quantum Physics, Marcel Proust, and Philip Grass' music. When she had graduated from high school and decided to become a policeman, they told her that this was alright, of course. They insisted, however, that she studied something else than Policing before that. So she took up philosophy before forensics and Dactylographic ( finger-print ) studies.
“But,” Inga said, a bit consternated,” what are you interested in regarding police work. I mean, this seems a bit strange to me, for a spoilt child to start with wanting to be a policewoman ….?”
“I guess I am a bit like Martha,” Armamente answered. ”Only that I might choose my men or women a bit more cautiously and don´t want to collect art. I am all for the experience.”
Eric looked baffled.
“Maybe, when you grow…”
“I assure you that I would not mess up anything,” Armamente said.

Inga looked at Eric, who nodded like there was nothing else to do other than letting the girl in on the case.
“I am sincere,” Armamente said. ”I would never mess up things for you. I just….”
“Then, off we go to Baltimore!” Eric said, and finally, all of them started to laugh.

( “We´re off, we´re off, we´re off, we´re off, to see the wizard of Oz,” Armamente thought, Martha maybe being the wizard. )

Soon after, Eric brought forth a photograph of Martha from his hidings and placed it on the mantelpiece.
“This is the woman whose reputation we will set out to save,” he said and added:
“Let us all drink a cup for Martha!”
He took out a bottle of whisky, and soon all of them were hailing Martha and greeting each other.

“I think that with a superpower like you on the boat, we cannot fail,” Eric said to Armamente, who looked very pleased. She looked around in the brown study and then raised and took a couple of steps to the room's freest space. She then buttoned up her short borrowed cheerleader coat, on the back of which it said “Swaanee” in red engraved letters, and she … made a … backflip.
Eric and Inga applauded this somersault and laughed in loud voices. Armamente bowed. She then looked a little more earnest and said:
“You have to remember that I was raised in a hotel! I really cannot help if I am not like others.”
The two adults did not comment upon that. Suddenly she looked at her wristwatch and screamed:
“My God, I have to make dinner for Mr. Paul!!”
Then she stopped, adding:
“Please, I have to arrange for a replacement woman for myself if I am going to Baltimore. Could you fix some money for that?”
“Of course,” Goldkettel answered. ”Money is no problem. I´ll see to that!”
As fast as she had entered the room, she disappeared. But this time through the door.

When Armamente had left, Eric and Inga started to plan for the trip on the following day. They arranged rooms in a hotel and then decided to call Reuben Longman up to ask for a chat and for permission to look at Martha's belongings.
“It was long since I was in Baltimore,” the doctor said,” by the way, where do you live now? I have forgotten…”
“Asheville. I have lived in Philadelphia for a long time; and then a while in Baltimore. I am a fur specialist as you might remember. But even if I have lived in Baltimore I don´t know a soul there..”
“What do you think, Inga, of the girl - of Armamente?”
“She has a cute name.” Inga blinked. Inga always was full of humor, even if there was no humor around. At worst she was at least happy.
Inga whistled, scrolling on her phone, murmuring:
”It is 19$ for a Greyhound ticket from Hartford to Baltimore, one way…”, and then she asked:
“Maybe it is better if I am the one calling upon Reuben and not you doing that?”
Eric nodded and then put his hand on her shoulder, saying:
“It is good to have you here, Inga. On this mission.”
Inga smiled.
The doctor was generous as a person, and he was forthright. Through his long practice as a doctor, he had learned that time seldom is on our side. You have to be generous while you can.
And what is the meaning of life other than being generous?

Chapter Eight

To the South of Baltimore's center in the Fell´s Census, Reuben´s house on Thames Street was a well-attended rowhouse, and in every aspect gorgeous. It contained three rooms and a small kitchen on the bottom and three rooms on the top. All the rooms were worn and darkish but stuffed with wondrous furniture, expensive antiquities, and parts of dead animals, and beautiful art. Almost a hundred relatively small oil paintings hung on the walls, mostly landscapes, sea motifs, and harbor views, in an unorderly and abundant fashion.
Reuben had a high appreciation of his home, which had also been Martha´s. He showed every room of it with extreme proudness.
“Bourbon?” he asked, looking a bit like a byzantine warrior. For the first time, David saw a smile on his disfigured face. He was perhaps the kind of man who only smiled at his own words. David had thought he was above that.

From various photographs on the walls, especially in the hall, one could infer that Reuben had been a sailor who had sailed on many a foreign sea. Reuben had been far away from Baltimore Bay. The whole apartment had a curios smell of musk and vanilla. In the saloon, there was in the corner by the window a mahogany table set for a coffee-party. Three porcelain cups and ditto flowery plates in rose and purple, with small tarts and cookies, a few lumps of sugar, wrapped up in paper, and with logos from cafés on them and a tiny jug with a little milk in it adorned the table.
David and Ethan looked confused and uneasy, but the old sailor seemed in good spirits and bade them sit on the sofa. It was a vast, bolstered, greenish, majestic piece of furniture with curved legs. The couch shrieked and almost fell about when the boys sat down, and David startled because he - as we know - could not stand even modest surprise.
The scene stood under three ancient lamps, who resided by tripod feet on the wooden floor.
From the number of curtains and cushions, it was apparent that not long ago had there been a woman living in this house. In the corner by the sofa, the small epileptic terrier lay asleep. Surprisingly it did not wake by the entrance of perfect strangers. Maybe it was not conscious. It was breathing, though, and the sound of the dog´s snoring was to accompany the slightly tense conversation between the three males.
A newly shaven Reuben had on a brand new red shirt. His surgery-afflicted eyes shone from poorly disguised satisfaction when he glared at them and served the two youngsters strong coffee. He was discretely enjoying himself.
David directed his attention towards the walls again. There all the paintings and all the souvenirs from travels and possibly hunts in Africa were carefully displayed. David did not think, though, that Reuben himself had had any contact with live buffaloes or tigers, but he wasn´t exactly sure, so he asked about it:
“Did you shoot those animals yourself?”
Reuben smiled and said that he had traveled a lot, but he had never been hunting live animals. No.
Ethan said:
“But you have been a sailor, you told me before. Tell us more about that! Was it a long time ago?”
“Those odd things on the walls my wife bought. We liked auctions. She passed away three years ago. I miss all those travels around all along the coast. I miss that.”
“That is bad,” David said. “I am sorry.”
“But you were a sailor?”
David had risen from the sofa and walked up to one of the larger paintings on the wall. It showed a waterfall and a barn, and a couple of horses. It was a typical North American 19th-century oil painting.
“This is nice,” he exclaimed.
“As for my time as a sailor,” Reuben recaptured,” I was the 1st officer many years. I seldom, during my first twenty years, was hired as a Captain. And I mostly sailed on Australia and Indonesia.”
“Ooh,” said the boys.
“But when you are on those trades, you seldom get the opportunity to return home. You have to enlist in books pertaining to foreign companies. Not many U.S. vessels are trafficking in those waters. But I liked Indonesia. But of course, it did not take many years before I got homesick. When I arrived here in the United States again, I got a job, badly paid, but a job, on a steamship on the Mississippi River. And the years on that rotten ship, they were the best.”
“How come? Not much happens on the Mississippi?” David said, but once he had left that remark, he wanted to take back his words. What did he ( himself ) know about Mississippi? He had never even seen it even from the landside.
“Well, it is a great difference. Of course, Mississippi is no ocean. However, I just liked it. And I fell in love.”
“With the boat?” David cried out.
“No, with a woman.”
“Ah, your wife?”
“Wrong again. With a lady. Just a lady. I married later but to another woman, the one who liked to collect these things. Well, that is it. That was about me. Let´s talk about you, or something else, eh?” he said, blinking with his clown eyes.
Reuben rose, collected the empty coffee cups, and took them out to the kitchen sink. Ethan and David also got up to inspect all the marvelous things along the walls. Ethan cried out with joy when he, behind some large bird beaks and a stuffed chimpanzee, found an old saxophone made of some bronze-like material. It was a “Dolnet,” Ethan observed. Not the most exclusive of brands, but it looked all right, and it was an old brass beauty. Ethan was a true connoisseur in many areas. David could not understand where Ethan had gotten all his expertise. Maybe he was superhuman or was half robot.
“Heye, do you play the saxophone?” David shouted to Reuben, who was still in the kitchen or somewhere.
“No.” was the prompt answer.
“In fact,” Reuben added, ”I don´t have a single talent. If I had had, I would probably just develop that talent.”
“You do have talents to kill tigers,” David said.
“It is not nice to mark words,” Reuben answered. Probably Reuben had not heard what David just said.
”Martha brought those.”

The dog now was awake, and it snuffed on David and Ethan. It was very polite and friendly and had an intelligent look in his sleepy eyes, half-hidden under sticky eyebrows. He didn´t look taken aback by epilepsy or anything. Reuben lifted him in his lap as he has sunk in his armchair.
“You are my boy.” The senior said, in a voice, slightly trembling.
“What are you two planning then?”
David began to feel bad about himself. He wondered how he could ever have thought of robbing this man. Reuben was very different from all the people that the boy had met. He was strange and represented some peculiar, seldom seen Otherness, he thought.
“Might I take a look upstairs?” Ethan asked, ignoring the question. ”This is such an exciting place.”
“Of course.”
Perhaps Reuben was on the look for heirs, David thought. Reuben Longman was old, and very soon, he would be gone. Possibly David and Ethan could inherit his house, all the paintings, and all the stuffed animals? They would get rich! David was sure that Ethan did not have any thought like that at all. Ethan - the bastard - wanted to succeed in life by his powers. That´s for sure, David thought.

Now the three of them walked up the quirking staircase to the second floor. It was, Ethan thought as if Reuben let them go on with their search, scrutinizing every move they made. But why?
A phone suddenly rang, and it was Reuben´s. He took the phone out of his pants pocket and answered. At the same time, he halted. While he continued his call, he waved at the two boys to continue with their sightseeing while returning to the first floor to concentrate on what was said.
“Of course,” Reuben said. ”You are welcome, Mrs. Nord!” Reuben wrinkled his brow and listened to Inga´s voice. Some seconds elapsed.
”Yes, Inga, but I don´t remember….”

Simultaneously, on the second floor, Ethan and David entered into what seemed to be a woman´s beauty parlor. Ethan and David were not aware of much about Martha. This was her room. On one of the walls, there was a giant mirror. That must be weighing a ton, David thought. On the small table in front of the mirror, there were several photos of the woman. She looked happy and proud. A little vain too. But beautiful. She had platinum hair.
David first blushed when he saw the photograph, and then he whitened.
“Sure, she was worth losing one´s mind for,” Ethan said, but ashamed for having said so, he pointlessly added:
David felt dizzy and had to sit down.
“What is the matter?” Ethan asked.
“It is nothing,” David said, holding on to the chair to which he had taken refuge.
This room was incredibly messy. There were packages on the bed and on the floor that looked as if they were going off somewhere. They only had temporary stickers on, though. “To the antiques.”, “Antiquarian.”, “Stored.” And so on. The wrapping was. Reuben was in the process of selling goods that had belonged to his wife.

When they were back down in the living room again, Ethan pointed at a painting and, blinking with his right eye, he said:
“This must have cost a fortune.”
“No, not really.” Reuben said, ”But I don´t quite remember. Be with it as it may. Now let us talk about you! I want to know what your plans are for the future? Both of you.”
Reuben then pointed at a large painting of a naked cocotte:
“This is the famous Matisse. It has attracted attention from the galleries.”
The Matisse painting was impressive. It was clear that this was a work of genius. The colors were sublime.
Ethan sat down on the quirking sofa next to David, who pondered over his future as a non-robber.
“He´s going to be a writer,” David said, referring to Ethan while patting the dog's head. The handicapped terrier sat beside his knee.
“A writer?” Reuben got surprised.
David and Reuben looked at Ethan, who stared down at the worn carpet in a greenish color, with white-greyish flowers.
“It´s a dream,” he said.
“What kind of books do you want to write.”
“Just good books.” Ethan smiled.
“But you, then, David? What are your plans?”
“I am studying programming. Java. And taking a course in History right now. Maybe I would like to become a teacher.” David responded, displaying an innocent look. He was afraid of Reuben.
David thought that he wanted to leave. Why were they at this place? He thought.
“What was the name of your wife, sir?” David asked.
Ethan nodded. Reuben now suddenly got a stern look on his face.
“Now, what kind of folks are you?”
David was worried.
“I once was a Captain, you know. I have to know something about my crew.”
David and Ethan looked at each other, not knowing what to think.
“Crew?” David said.
“Yes. I am planning to have a social club.”
“A SOCIAL CLUB?” David echoed.
“Yes. A club. Why do you think I asked you to come if I had no errand?” Longman asked but blinked at the same time with his clown eyes. ”I think it would be nice for a bunch of youngsters on the loose to gather here and for me too. We might talk about life and Baltimore, thus overcoming the generation gap. What do you think? Some eight or ten youngsters and me. I would tell you about life on the Seven Seas. And I would serve coffee and biscuits. Every Wednesday night.”
David and Ethan looked at each other.
“That is a great idea!” Ethan said. I know some people, and David does. We´ll take care of that. When will be the first meeting?”
“We will sort that out. But on the coming Wednesday, probably. We are friends then?”
“Sure. Of course,” the youngsters agreed, and they looked pleased about having got such an interesting person, an old Baltimore sailor, as a buddy.
“What is your phone number, then?” Reuben rapidly asked. Ethan gave Reuben his number, which the old man immediately put into his phone. To ease the tension, the old Captain now distributed a couple of old small red Chinese books, with plastic covers on them, from the time of Mao Tse Dong, among them, and then shoved them to the door. They all laughed, and David was truly baffled.

They left, and on the street, David called Elsa on his iPhone to ask her if she was going to the concert, which soon was about to begin at Marsden Palace. She did not answer.
Ethan and David strolled on Thames Avenue. Ethan showed David his favorite video-blog on YouTube. It was a bunch of videos with Young Pharaoh, a boxer and black intellectual, who had “a higher perspective” on race. They both laughed, watching videos as they uniformly strolled on. Avoiding a clash with a small ultra-juvenile street gang, they, by running, managed to get to Ethan´s place at nine o´clock. David had no Glock on him on this evening.
“Strange guy,” Ethan said, referring to Reuben.
“Yeah!” David agreed.
“Let´s meet in a couple of hours then, to go catch some flounder !”
“Yes, four o´clock!” Ethan smiled. “Not much sleep tonight.”
“You don´t have to, if you want to sleep…”
“I am too curious,” Ethan said.

Chapter Nine

David had called Ethan late in the evening to confirm their agreement and had asked him if he had a car. Ethan said it was not so, but a friend of his, Dupree, had a vehicle that Ethan used to drive. Ethan promised to pick David up at 04.00 am, and David said he would provide them with everything they needed, fishing gear, clothing, and food. The only thing Ethan was required to bother about was gas for the car.
When arriving outside David´s place in the dark at 04.00 AM, Ethan had on him an oversized, green, checkered lumber jacket, old blue jeans, and massive winter shoes with thick soles. He wore a sizeable woolen cap on his head that made his head look like a large hay bundle with the Rasta hair all tucked inside. David kept the city-style, and he had a white shirt with a collar and a small vest.
Ethan very wisely still took a small backpack, a black and white, where he had another set of clothes.
“I have been on the Bay, of course,” Ethan said, ”but I actually never have been out fishing here.”

They now had arrived at Annapolis, the capital of Maryland, the city where James Mc. Cain was born. They had arrived on Route 50 to the Pearl Harbor Bridge, as Severn River Bridge recently is called.

After having parked the car by the river's side, there was a short walk to David´s small boat shed. It was now awfully early in the morning, 04.35 AM, and it was a beautiful day, although it was a bit misty and slightly chilly. Some other boats were already out on the water. Fishing people are early ducks.
Marsh birds - like black duck and coot - had left the immediate neighborhood in the river and were now sitting on the water upstream. It was still very early in the morning, and next to the coastal banks, there was a mist. The greenery over the meadow was dense, slightly covered by milky-white haze. The insects had not yet been awakened by the sun. The sky not round but an oval, and it was of immense proportions and far away in the east. Thin clouds of greyish complexion tried to mask the big star.
The boat lay in still juicy cordgrass by the river, and the bright blue, small outboard motor was well hidden, not in the boatshed but a tree trunk nearby. David got out the engine from its hiding-place and heaved it upon the boat's stern plank, where he secured it with handy clamps while holding the whole apparatus by the tiller. Then both of them showed the entire Santa Maria afloat in the river. The boat, which was relatively small and freshly painted, slid out through the grass onto the river. The air was fresh in the brisk of the morning.
Some birds that David did not recognize told the boys that they were a nuisance to birdlife and, in doing so, shrieked loudly.

It was going to be a continued splendid day, David could tell from the formations of the cloud down over Washington, as he started the engine. He had learned a lot about the language of the clouds. Because clouds can tell a lot, now they told David no more than there was a great day to be unraveled. Ecliptic latitude: -3 degrees, Ecliptic longitude: 46 degrees
The Chesapeake bay had been a place of wars over oysters. The Chesapeake Bay means “great shellfish bay.” One may see turtles and dolphins surfacing nearby.
“I am often watching the seagulls here,” David said, raising the speed carefully.
One might catch fish around the bridge and off the bridge pilings this time of year, but autumn was the best time for flounders.
“We should use bloodworms, trout magents, and shrimps to get them,” David said. “I used to fish a lot when I was a little boy.”
David looked at the fishing gear on the floor of the boat.
“Is this boat safe?” Ethan asked. He looked a little uncomfortable.
“Of course. By the way, we are not going out at sea. We will stay just under the bridge.”
“Where are the rods then?”
“I personally don´t use rods. I use my finger,” David said.
It turned out that Ethan was not very used to any boats at all. His movements onboard were clumsy, and David wondered if Ethan was one of those people who were utterly unpractical. Maybe Ethan was pure theory, David thought.

It was still dark on the river. The moon was up, and thin clouds now and then covered its whiteness. Towards the bridge, there was a mist. The small outboard 5hp Suzuki motor now was coughing. The ship was initially a rowing boat, and it contained a couple of oars and necessary oarlocks. David sat at the tiller, both feet on deck-hooks. The motor worked fine. Little puffs of smoke came out of the water bubbles just above the exhaust. Slowly the boat, by its own motor power, got closer to its destination, the bridge bars to the River Bridge. It rippled in the water under the lining of the boat. A few small whitish-greyish seagulls flew up from an islet not far away and soon circled over the small vessel. They probably were used to small boats and had felt the smell of the bait David had picked up and put on the bottom boards in front of him, mussels and shrimp. On the gunwale, he had fastened a couple of empty hooks.
Ethan, sitting on the center thwart, looked curiously and cautiously around. He had drawn his woolen cap down to his eyes. Having had a questioning mine, he now seemed more content, and he laughed, showing his big white teeth. His slender black hands rested on the knees of his jeans.
They had arrived at one of the mighty concrete pillars that bore straight down in the mud. A couple of other boats, slightly bigger, were assembled in the early hour, and with people that had expensive fishing rods were assembled close to other pillars by the New Severn Bay Bridge. The others were not after flounder, like David, but trout and Spanish mackerel.

There was a relatively strong undercurrent sweeping below. The eelgrass mysteriously seemed to feel with his tiny hands after everything that was not theirs for the taking.
“So, this is where you spend early mornings?” Ethan smiled, now better at easy, when he saw that they had company.
“Mm,” David murmured, his foot on the side plank. He had let the small anchor go and secured the iron chain attached to it by the thwart, and now he distributed the fishing lines.

Soon they had two lines on each side of the boat. David had charge over the two in the front of the water car, Ethan over the two ones in the aft.
The wrinkle over the nose of David had flattened out a little, and he looked more half-satisfied now and not worried or half-discontented anymore. David was happy as he had made an effort, and it seemed as if it were going to work out well. At least they were actually fishing now.
Ethan´s expression, his left hand on the gunwale, was that of concentration. They were simple lines, knot to one oarlock each. With this fishing method, the very idea was that you would hold the rope with just your hand and so with your index finger feel the fluttering itself. When you felt the jerk, you would then leave the line that was not relevant tied to an oarlock and turn exclusively to the side, starboard or portside, of the boat where the pacifier came.
”The idea with my method is one when you might fasten the hook more secure by pulling it up in the upper cheek on the flounder. And then it is another thing too. You might perceive the weight and the power of the fish right in your finger. It is like having a battle between your hand and the in known fish down below. Often, very often, the fish has a lot of mass and weight. It will eventually feel like you are having a finger battle with Nature, or with God himself,” David said.
His eyes had an unusual glow. Not a big one, but still a very rare glow. Thus were his feelings and his thoughts about fishing this way.
Ethan just nodded and tried by way of experiment to put himself into David´s half-trance.
On the other boats, the rods did the job. After a while, they suddenly bent. The fishermen took the rod and carefully and, under stern concentration, winched the catch onboard.
“I like fishing. Fishing is a good idea.”
“It is simple. I like it when it is not complex.”
“Yes.” Ethan took a deep breath, ”so what do you want to do when you are through the university then?”
David was grossly disappointed that Ethan did not take time to enjoy the hunt for flounders but still answered the question:
“Well, travel, maybe.”
David arranged his line carefully in his hand. He tested several times to catch the flounder by surprise, by a violent pull. Ethan - who revealed he never had in his life caught any fish of any kind - on the other hand, was silently waiting for the fish to act themselves.
“You said you had taken History? Can you tell me more about that?” Ethan said when in a boat thirty yards up the river, a man yelled out:
“There´s not a single fish here at all!”
David smiled at Ethan and then explained to his friend:
“This is the usual talk here. Everyone is giving misleading information about everything. About fish. And about the weather, and sand and gravel. And bait.” David said he had to explain a little about this exceptional art of fishing.
“One cannot,” he said, lecturing, ”when flounder fishing, overestimate the importance of boat positioning. Flounder don’t lie around just anywhere on the bottom, but they dwell near drop-offs. Only by the bridge here - a classic spot - there is a real steep drop, and the most likely catch is between at a depth of 10 to 30 feet. One never can set the hook on the initial nibble, though. Flatfish will almost always grab and check up on their prey before eating it. When fishing using bait, you’ll practically always initially feel a small jiggle-jiggle in your finger. It is the flounder chomping down on the bait-fish or shrimp, shaking it. If you try to set the hook on the first jiggle, you’ll miss the catch. A thump-thump-thump feeling, yes, it is quite like heartbeats. It is bizarre. When the flounder has taken the bait, then you shall make a move. You just pull for all you are worth. Usually, you will then hook the fish somewhere near the mouth. Then haul it up to the boat.”
Ethan smiled. It was a cozy day.
David decided not to answer. Too much talk might scare the fish off and also distract themselves.
Slowly the day became brighter. David took off his coat. A dragon-fly landed on the tiller with a small ticking sound. The morning mist now was gone, and all the fishermen enjoyed bright sunlight.

Nobody got any fish. There were four boats near the bridge and two upstream, fishing for trout. The boats had been out there, all of them for more than an hour.
“What did I say?” the upstream man shouted. He was alone, and he suddenly decided to haul aboard his anchor to move to another location on the river.
David and Ethan waved at him in a friendly manner.
“I like studying,” David said. ”Maybe I will study all my life.” He did not know if this was true.
Ethan did not respond but more and more enjoyed the tranquility of being out on the river.
“Maybe I will take up some language after History. I think Italian would be nice to know.”
Ethan nodded. The boy with the Rasta hair did not believe that his white friend was clear about anything at all.
“What do your parents do?”
“They are dead.”
“Oh. I am sorry.”
“I grew up with an aunt. In Texas. But now I live here, alone.”
“I see.”
“There is no fish today,” David said.
“No, I have not seen any of the others getting any either,” Ethan replied, nodding towards the boats to the south of their own, which lay closest to the shore, away from the town side.
Ethan shouted out:
He bent to the left and grabbed his fishing line with both hands, leaving the other lose by the other bulwark.
It did not take long before Ethan had secured the first greyish-brownish spotted, slimy flounder aboard with no help from David.
There came applause from other boats around since this indeed was the first fish of the day.
After a couple of hours, they took a break, and David started the engine, and they took to the shore.
They had caught twenty-three fish, and it was almost 2.00 PM when they dragged the boat on land and took off the motor. David smiled, and Ethan nodded profusely.
They took the car and brought the fish back to Ethan´s apartment, wrapped up in a large plastic bag. It looked like they could have a fish party.
David called up Elsa and Odile.

Chapter Ten

Ethan and David had decided to meet up at Ethan´s place at Pratt Street in the following evening. Like Reuben, Ethan lived in a characteristic Baltimore row-house of older origin. But Ethan hired a single room. It was a two-and-one-half-story, side-gabled, red brick building, where Ethan resided. He had access to a small kitchen on the second floor, but the building itself was two rooms deep, with a dormered attic, it had white marble steps and pressed-metal cornices. However - as I said - this very house was rather ancient and looked almost ready for some real thorough renovation. Half of Ethan´s apartment was secluded and reserved as a supply of some sort. It was closed and locked up. What was left was this single room that had no lights. Ethan showed David how to light a candle and instructed him to sit on a kitchen stool by the window.
David was shocked at the extremely miserable conditions of Ethan´s earthly housing and home living. At least there was a fireplace. No wood or fire in it, though. No wood basket.
“You like it here?” David asked the Afro-American.
Ethan lit another candle and sat down on another chair.
“It was nice go fishing, David!”
It ought to be remembered that these two persons, both are very young and vulnerable people. Every action must be taken to safeguard them and forgive them for their peculiar manners and strange ways of expressing themselves and their ways of thinking and feeling. Young folks are strange folks, and they often develop potent strategies to cope with the fact that they are mostly left alone with the problem of the future. It is not the case, as some people are saying, that the business of the future is to look after itself. It is neither the case that the business of the future is to wait for us. Actually future has no business at all! Young folks are those who have a business.
Ethan´s greyish face under the Rasta hair was a face of a 1500-meter runner. It was healthy and fresh. The dark brown eyes were extremely observant but still shy, and eyelids slightly sunk. Shyness often comes with high intelligence.
“You have no electricity?” David asked. He was stunned because Ethan certainly had a steady job and income, so why this darkness in his home?
“I like it without light bulbs.” Ethan responded.” It is way calmer this way. I have electricity.”
Fractions of light entered through the transom from the stairs outside the slab to the hallway. The hallway was very narrow, void of door-jams. The glazed panel of the door had been painted heavily with black tar.

When David's eyes had gotten used to the dusk, he saw the immense heaps of books that lay all over the apartment, along the walls, which in turn were covered with all kinds of photographs and posters and sketches. A door to a cupboard had not been able to close, and there were books in it piled up unto the ceiling.
“My God!” David exclaimed, awestruck.
“I have lots more in the garage,” Ethan added, with modest modesty. His skin seemed to have an even stranger greyish-greenish color in the dark.
“Good griseous.” David said, who perhaps thought that was an accurate expression.
Ethan pulled out a coffee can from under a small mahogany table.
“I want to write a book about Paris,” he said as he strolled out to the small kitchen to make some new, fresh caffeine drink for the coffee party. He exerted the remains of his former session into the sink.
“Why is that? Why? Have you been to Paris?”
“Never,” Ethan said, almost cutting David´s question.
David now began to look around more, and he saw that the muntins in the windows were broken. Why would Ethan have such a skunky home? It was a two-story, elementary building of the all too frequent sort in Baltimore, slightly older than the neighboring houses. Maybe this house was a remnant from an earlier period. Not Middle Ages, but almost. Ethan´s Fell´s Point house did not have striped mortar joints but was looking like a backyard house on the very front façade. It was a pity. It is always a pity when things are worse than they have to be.
“You cannot write a book on Paris if you´ve never been there. It is just silly.” David finally said.
“Not at all! Would you like to read a book about New York by some New Yorker? Isn´t that the dullest book you would come to think of?”
“Yes, but ….”
“Surprisingly, the best book about America is written by Kafka. You bet Kafka never visited New York!”
“You are not Franz Kafka,” David clumsily riposted. As he rose from his chair and walked up to one of the three windows, he broke loose a piece of rotten wood.
“I never thought people lived in rotten houses these days,” he said. “Now I get why you don´t have on the light. I am rather stupid when it comes to wisdom.”
“Not at all. I just like it the way it is. I don´t know why.”

But David secretly thought that Ethan was very close to perfection. Like all boys that never had a father, David looked everywhere for father figures and autonomous and fabulous people. David felt that he would rather be with Ethan right now than anything else. He was happy, and he didn´t care about Reuben. Ethan Bailey was, in several ways, a surprise to David. He had never thought that people like Ethan that chose not to have light bulbs, existed in real life.
“Now,” Ethan said when black coffee was served in the dark parlor, “what do we want with ol´ Reuben? You hope he will make you his heir?”
David did not respond. This was not going to be an easy thing to explain. Not easy at all.

David felt that Ethan was ahead of him. As soon as David arrived at a certain point in the discussion, it seemed that Ethan already had been at that very spot for a long time. When David, on arrival, looked for where he was heading next, Ethan was gone, waiting somewhere else. And this would, it seemed to David, go on and continue to repeat itself indefinitely. And if David had dared to ask Ethan about this, and asked him how it came about, then Ethan would have answered that this depended upon the simple case, that he, Ethan, had will-power, had a vision about what was right for him.
In contrast, David had no such power nor any such idea at all. And if David had agreed but asked Ethan about how will-power and visions could be got, Ethan would have told David that it merely was a matter of exercise. If you had no dreams, you would have to imagine visions and train yourself to do things that seemed right to do. You would have to - all the time, 24-7 - indulge in putting goals ahead of you and then immediately try to reach them. To become a decent person, a person yourself could stand, was a matter of exercise, repetition, and practice. If you were able to construct goals and achieve those, you would be a decent human being. You would then eventually find that other people never were ahead of you in any conversation because you simply already knew what you wanted. If you knew what you wanted, you had almost every possible answer to everything.

“I guess I think he has more money than he can use,” David admitted reluctantly and felt like trash.
David nowadays - ever since his dear Aunt Mary died, and Albert, his black friend - had fallen into nausea. Yes, nausea it was. There were many things that David simply couldn´t stand nowadays. Among those things, real objects, that were all of them very concrete and everyday things, we might - while only looking into David´s head - refer to striptease, newborn babies, and raw meat. David got into intense shivering when he thought about it. He was very sensitive to every smell too. He often thought it smelled of fire. When he woke up in the morning, he could wonder if he had gone mad, if he was psychotic, or just had depression. He did not know, and he did not dare to try to find out. Some days he didn´t even care if he was alive or dead. He also had lost the ability to smile. What he had told Ethan about his feelings about Reuben was, in fact, all true. He thought that it was no need for Reuben to own all those things, Matisse and all and probably being a millionaire too. David himself was broke.
“Crazy,” Ethan said in a firmly decisive manner.
Then all of a sudden, Ethan´s phone rang.

It was Joshua, Ethan´s colleague at the drugstore. He was distraught, and he was talking in a loud voice. There had been robbers in the store, and he, in trying to escape the robbers, had tripped on a stone in the small alley and hurt himself. He was waiting for an ambulance.
Ethan and David immediately took a cab to the hospital and then spent sat all night in a corridor at the Johns Hopkins Emergency Hospital, waiting to get information about Joshua, who had hurt his foot.

Ethan in the cab told David about Joshua. David learned that he was a black youngster, with his parents coming from Trinidad and Tobago. Joshua was just 17 years old and worked spare time. He was a good guitar player, and Ethan often bade him sing in the drugstore's backroom when they were both working and had not much to do with supplies or customers.
David thought that what had occurred was awful and wondered if there had been a fight.
The police came to the hospital, and Ethan and David talked to them, and they said that Joshua had tried to escape as soon as the robbers entered, armed with handguns, the two of them. But in the struggle to open the back door, he had caught himself in a mess of old bicycles that were stored in the backyard. When the robbers came after him, he had also fallen into the gutter and hurt his foot, which still was entangled in the remains of a wheel of a bicycle.
The robbers had gotten nothing but cigarettes and a handful of dollars. They were caught on the surveillance camera, and they would soon be apprehended, the officers assured Ethan and his comrade.

By 03.00 am, Joshua came out in the corridor at the hospital, supported by a nurse. He had gotten his foot in a bandage and had a couple of crutches. The doctor had offered him to stay the night, but he had declined, telling them that he had a dog waiting for him at home.
He was overwhelmed in meeting Ethan and David and surprised at how tender and sweet they were towards him, especially David, whom he had never met before. They almost carried him out to a taxicab and then took him home.

Joshua lived in Halethorpe on Ridge Avenue. They got into his house by 03.45 PM and helped Joshua find a small sofa. His parents were on vacation in Georgia, and he had but one brother, who was in the army. The only living thing in the small apartment was a golden retriever, called Bobby, who licked Ethan´s hands as he took him out for a short walk in the still of the September night. There was no rain now, the weather was pleasant, and you could almost see the stars.

David stayed with Joshua. The boy was rather shocked, continually repeating the eerie fact that he had been pointed at with a gun.
“I could have been shot,” he said. “I just ran, you know.”
“I am so sorry,” David said, sitting on the edge of a wooden sofa, which stood by the fireplace in the parlor in Joshua´s home. Nearby there was an old piano, and on the wall hang several musical instruments, like Spanish guitars, trumpets, and clarinets. A large painting was dominating on the wall, showing a raccoon and a cat sitting on a rooftop.
“How is your foot?” David asked, rubbing his head.
“It is not broken. It is just bruised. I got penicillin.”
“I don´t know. I just got penicillin.”
“Yes. Well, they know what they are doing.” David agreed.
“I could have been dead by now, easily,” Joshua said.
David nodded silently, gasping for air. It was stuffy at Joshua´s place. His father must be a heavy smoker, David thought. They had terrible pictures on their walls too. Badly painted raccoons and racehorses.
Ethan finally came back. Bobby, the dog, wagged his tail, and all the time, was very observant at Ethan, especially his face and hands. David thought that Joshua had trained his dog Bobby into a state of sheer and absolute stupidity. However, he did not comment aloud on this.


Later Joshua told his comrades that he would like to sleep, but of course, he was delighted if they would stay because he was afraid. They did not know if the robbers had been caught. Ethan called the police department, but they said they had five patrol cars looking for the culprits. They had an excellent identification of both of them. The police would call Ethan back as soon as the bandits were apprehended.
“They will call back as soon as they have got hold of them,” Ethan said as he put back his phone into his breast pocket.
“Or when they are dead,” David said, without really want to say anything at all.
Ethan and David decided to stay with Joshua. He went to sleep in his bedroom while the comrades from the Reuben meeting resided in the parlor, each in his separate uncomfortable sofa, glancing through old newspapers that lay about on cupboards. Joshua’s father seemed to have a passion for newspapers. He read the Baltimore Sun, Washington Post, and The New Yorker.

“Now, about me wanting to rob Reuben,” David slowly said, letting his newspaper drop onto his chest. At least this house was adequately equipped with lightbulbs. Still, Ethan immediately interrupted him, telling him that this was not the right time to talk about that.
“But do you think Joshua is afraid they might come here to get him …?” David changed the subject.
“Maybe, but I don´t think there is a real danger,” Ethan answered after a moment´s deliberation.
“Look at that old cornet on the wall!” David said and pointed at an instrument right above his head.
“My uncle had one of these,” Ethan answered.
“He, the mad one?” David smiled.
Ethan startled.
“Why are you so rude? You must sharpen up! I don´t like when you are so rude.”
“I just try to be fun.”
“Well, that you are not. Cut that out!”
“Tell me about your uncle anyways! Please!”
“Mm …. Yes. My uncle….”
There was a spectacular noise from the bedroom.
“Listen!” Ethan said and got up on his elbows, dropping the Baltimore Sun on the floor near the sofa on which he was residing, with a brown blanket on top of him.
“I think he is crying,” David said.
Ethan got up, left David, and went into Joshua´s room. David meanwhile looked at Bobby. The dog was asleep in a remote corner of the living room on a green blanket.

Joshua and Ethan spoke silently, and David refrained from excessively bothering them. Ethan would undoubtedly be comforting Joshua better than any priest, psychologist, or shrink, David thought
“It certainly takes guts to cry aloud,” David thought and suddenly felt how tired he was. It was 03.15 AM. He turned to the wall, and after a short minute, he was fast asleep on Joshua´s sofa.

After an hour, he was awake again, though.
Joshua sat by his kitchen table, and he looked like a mummy or at least semi-dead. David and Ethan looked at each other and shook their heads. Ethan told Joshua that it was terrible luck for Joshua since it might as well have been him that the robbers could have attacked. Ethan told Joshua that he must think that his swift actions had saved his own life.

Ethan and David then decided to leave. So they did, after giving Joshua leave to call them any time on the phone. They would be back as soon as he wished for it, they said.
On their way back to Ethan´s house, David was silent. He tried to digest what he was experiencing.

They were now on at Ethan´s place on Pratt Street at 05.00 am when Ethan turned to David:
“I have to get one hour´s sleep. Then I go on my shift.”
“Good. See ya!”
David immediately took off towards his own house, and Ethan did not follow his departure.

Soon Ethan was at home again and swung the door open to his narrow hallway. There was a letter on the floor. He seldom got letters. In the last couple of years, postal handling of ordinary mail had decreased. The young Afro-American bent down and picked up the letter. It was from his uncle, his oldest uncle, William. Ethan decided to read it later in the day because he needed an hour´s rest before going to work.
The moment he laid his head on the pillow, he slept.

David hurried home to Beck Street, and on the way, he thought that his and Ethan´s relationship was a real uncomfortable relationship, if there ever was one. Even though they had gone fishing together, they had not come any closer. He also felt that it would be a terrible thing if he would spend the rest of his life in Baltimore. But, on the other hand, he knew Baltimore and loved the harbor.

hapter Eleven

Captain George Butterfield, the owner of the drugstore where Ethan worked, was a man in his sixties. He lived with his wife Griselda, who was slightly younger, at Fannershead, in a large white mansion with four round marble pillars and two broad front stairs. The house had three stories and a large roof compartment that hovered and swelled with a somber maternal grace over the rest of the house. It lay on a flowery slope, embedded in the most profuse greenery, huge lilacs covering some areas of the front so that you could not be sure if the windows were open or not. Close to the house was a small lake called Lily´s Pond, to the south of Baltimore.
Butterfield, a republican, had a Lincoln convertible and a dog, a German Schaefer, called Hubert, and was a relatively wealthy man, having in his financial sphere some thirty of the one hundred small houses in the center of the town as well as contacts within the local Maryland administration. He was the closest friend to the brother of the governor. For some reason, however, this brother was a man who always wanted to act in the background. His preferred Nom de Guerre was Leclerc.
owever, recently, Butterfield had been diagnosed with pancreas cancer, which had brought on him a giant depression. He was determined not to let this crush him, but he would now ramp up his efforts of securing his small fortune. He would do this at any cost.

Butterfield and his wife had had a daughter, aged 25, but she was away at a Glasgow university in Great Britain. Butterfield had planned for his daughter to inherit and overtake his business, including all the rental housings. But the daughter, whose name was Eliza, was not the slightest interested in the property business. She studied art and literature, played the bassoon and the alto saxophone, and was a prolific painter. She had her own art site on Facebook and had sold some works through Etsy and even on a large internet auction at Sotheby´s. To Eliza, literature was necessary. She also despised the fact that her father had supported such an illiterate president as the last one.

To try to console themselves for the absence of their only child, the Butterfields used to invite friends to stay for a week now and then. Right now, there was Mr. and Mrs. Buck Allen, who were distant friends of Mrs. Butterfield, who were visiting. The Allens were sitting in the garden together with Griselda, amusing themselves by playing with two dogs, poodles, Buster and Curt. They had a radio on, and on the table, there was coffee, tea, and sandwiches, which were brought to the small party by Evelyn, the maid, an Irish girl by the handy age of eighteen.

Griselda was a bitter woman. Her husband had since long been bored with her. He had several erotic ladies, which he both visited and supported, several times a week. Those ladies often were very young, not seldom quite the age of his own daughter or the maid. Since Griselda also was aware of this fact, her resentment, bitterness, and anger were second to no human feeling.
On this evening, Butterfield, completely ignoring his guests, sat in his back garden, talking to his simpleminded gardener, Mr. Joseph, a stunningly beautiful black man with bright eyes, in his early 40ies.
“You see, Joseph, I just spoke to a friend of mine, and I will have him on a visit in an hour. Please try to see to that my wife stays occupied with her guests. I don´t want to be disturbed. You might entertain them in any way you like. I know you have many talents, Joseph!”
“I could show those folks when I catch fish in the lake, sir. With my teeth. Then they are practically out of sight for almost an hour, sir.”
He grinned. He thought much of Mr. Butterfield. To him, his master was equal to the president.
“You have such a great understanding,” Butterfield said and clapped Joseph on the shoulder. He took out his phone and asked Joseph if $100 would be of any use to him. Joseph nodded and tried to clean his hands with his shirt. Butterfield asked for his number and then instantly wired the money.
Half an hour later, Joseph had brought Griselda and her guest down to Lily´s pond, where the Afro-American man sang and dived and brought the delighted guests fresh trout by the teeth.

Leclerc´s car, a small black Mercedes DL70, glided up on the front porch at Butterfield's residence. The brother of the governor escaped from the dark of the van, whose windows all were black. He drove himself and was all alone.
Richard Leclerc was a small, fat man with a bald head and thick glasses. He was profoundly nearsighted, almost blind in the left eye. On the sides of his round pale head, there hang a pair of bushy black whiskers. He was known for his immense memory and was also a wealthy man. A strange nervous condition caused him to always have some sort of tremble, or tremor, all over his body. Some thought it was just due to an overflow of energy; others meant that it was some odd disease. He had always been like that, and he was used to his condition and did not like to be notified about it.
Leclerc owned a couple of industries that dealt in cocoa. He also owned some ghost towns in Utah and a tourist boat on the Amazon River. He was not married and had never been.
Butterfield welcomed him and led him from the parking lot to the front of the house since he noticed that the talented Joseph had already started his show by the lake. Screams and laughter were heard as he caught fish with his teeth. Greenery and huge slurs prevented the party by the sea from seeing the mansion from there.
Butterfield led his guest to the backyard. He had lunch waiting on sideboards beside a small group of tables and resting chairs.

Leclerc was in a good mood, and the elegant host served him cigars and whiskey. During all the preparations for the small lunch meal, consisting of roasted deer steak, Captain Butterfield was talking:
“I have nothing to complain about, Richard,” the Captain said to Leclerc, “but I want my sweet little daughter to be impressed enough by some thrilling news for me to be able to lure her back. She is right now dwelling in pure fantasies, and she can´t yet put into her head that her very bright future lies here, with a business right here and not in London Soho.”
Leclerc was a kind, apt and eager listener. He had been a friend of the Captain for a considerable time, and so far, it seemed to be a perfect companionship. The Captain had his Real Estate Company, called GEBB Properties, where Leclerc owned about 22% of the active stock. In return for the revenues from the housing business, Leclerc, through the years, had, through different connections, led state officials to make economic and political decisions that favored the Captain´s Company. Leclerc was, as we already know, also related to the governor.
Leclerc swept a glass of wine. From a distance, there was a peal of rising laughter. It seemed as if not only was Joseph catching fish, but both the Allens and the Captain´s wife, the relatively massive Griselda, had taken a bath together with the athletic black gardener on this beautiful hot day in August. Maybe they even got out of their clothes altogether.
“Now, let us turn to my actual errand, which has nothing to do with Eliza.” Butterfield said, glancing at the trembling man, ”I have to tell you some about Martha. Because you never knew her, did you?” Captain Butterfield said as he pushed away his plate and dried his fingers on the tablecloth.
Leclerc said he did not think he knew who that woman was.
“You are familiar with the museums here,” Butterfield continued, ”… and all the famous art collectors that this town has produced. Yes, We all know. Anyway, this Martha had no education, no money, and nothing but her matchless beauty and conversation skill. She happened to know all the families with cultural interests in our town during a couple of decades, and she also was kind enough o offer her amorous services to some wealthy collectors of art too.”
“I still don´t know who that woman was.” said the man who was known for his immense memory.
“I am telling you right now. Some coffee?”
“Certainly,” Leclerc said in a neutral voice.
Captain Butterfield lifted a small golden bell placed on the table and rang for the young Irish girl, who immediately appeared carrying a tray with the desired fluid in a small, blue pot.
“Excellent! Thank you so much!” Leclerc said and smiled at the young girl, who appeared very modest and shy in the presence of the shaking Leclerc. She was not an American girl, and it is, of course, a certain flair to have a European maid. Captain Butterfield just seemed to have realized that he wanted so much more excitement in his life since he was about to lose his only daughter to London and jazz music. The future looked anything but bright to him. And he had grown deeply irritated with his wife. He barely could stand to have her company at all.
“You know the type, I am sure,” Butterfield said,” She came from a simple background, but energetic and beautiful. She had a significant handicap, though, because she was excessively dominant. She simply could not be handled by any man at all. Not during her heydays, anyway. It was not until she was about sixty years old that she could be tamed, and then it was by a strange, reliable Sea Captain.”

Leclerc nodded and glanced around him the loggias and the garden flowers, the plume trees, and the small lamp cherubs made of porcelain that enlightened the railing to the back garden.
Screams were still heard from the small pond on the other side of the house.
“Well, what business was she into?” Leclerc asked.
“She had small gift shops and such. She was no businesswoman.”
“She just was attractive?”
“Well, she was educated, well self-educated, and she could carry a conversation. She traveled around the world, accompanying people. Marrying. And then she was mistress to many men.”
Leclerc nodded, and he seemed a little puzzled. What would eventually be revealed about this woman that possibly could be of any interest to him? He had known many women like Martha. They were nothing to him since Leclerc was exclusively into men, or, more exact, boys. And of this, he knew that Captain Butterfield was well aware.
“She had a hobby.”
“She was an art collector, and she managed to swindle off art from the men that she seduced.”
“Is that possible?” Leclerc said, raising his eyebrows to his skull, where some thin straws of hair crossed each other.
“Well, you just have to visit the home of Mr. Reuben Longman, her very last husband, to get a clear opinion about that. But I would say that Martha when she died of a stroke or something in the middle of Riverside Park on a summer's day some months ago, she left to her husband many million dollars worth of art on his walls. And in fact, and this is the exciting thing, I don't think he is, to this day, aware of it at all. He is not aware of how she got these paintings, and - pro secundo - he is not aware of their immense worth. There are Modigliani's, Mattisses, and Rubenses in long rows on his walls. And he does not know it. She did not steal these paintings. SHE GOT THEM FOR FAVOURS.”
Leclerc sat still, puffing at a small cigar that he just had managed to get out of his summer coat.
“You bet,” he said.
“Yes honestly,” Butterfield tried to smile and added:
“But, Richard, now comes the horrendous part.”
Leclerc looked at Butterfield. ”Soo?” he asked and raised his massive eyebrows.
“Yes.” Butterfield said, “She blackmailed me.”

“She blackmailed you?” Leclerc asked, now a bit more concerned.
“Yes. She found out certain things about my business that could be held against me. Nothing serious. You know, even some figures, calculations, and prognoses might be of danger to oneself if they fall into the wrong hands….”
“Sure, it is understandable,” Leclerc said, and he nodded.
“And since Martha now is dead but died in such a sudden and unexpected manner, I fear that the papers which she stole from me - because they are missing - might be in Longman´s house. And I have to get hold of them.”
“And you haven´t informed the police?”
“No, actually not.”
“So what are you going to do?”
“That was what I would like to ask you. It is hard to figure out which steps are the best ones to take…..”
“I see.”
“I have to emphasize that I don´t want to cause harm to Mr. Longman. He certainly has nothing to do with this. He is just an innocent bystander whose wife just was a bit extravagant, or more exactly a criminal. You know, the poor man had a wife, who not only betrayed him but also was a thief.”
“Anyway,” Butterfield continued, ”what I have thought of is to lure Longman away for a couple of days, somehow, so that I could send my men in to take a thorough look at the entire building because SOMEWHERE inside those papers must be kept. I don´t think Martha kept them in the safe at the bank. That was not how she was. She kept the paintings in Longman´s home, where she lived on the upper floor, in some sort of marriage. And I think she kept my documents there too. But I don´t think Longman knows of any documents.”
“Well, it can be tough.”
“It is only one more thing.” Butterfield added and continued:
“A murder inquiry is ongoing. I mean an investigation. Some think that Martha was murdered in the park and that she did not die from heart failure or something.”
“I have to ask you,” Leclerc, who suddenly had stopped shaking, began, but Butterfield interrupted him.
“No, no, nothing of the kind! I had ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with her death. I swear.”
He held up two fingers.
Leclerc nodded.
“So, you will be absolutely sure that whoever lures Mr. Longman away, while you are searching the house, that this could not be linked to you. Am I right?”
“Spot on.”
“Aaah. Let me think. Give me a day or two?”
“Oh, yes. I have a man on watch outside Longman's house, and today Longman was carrying lots of boxes out to the backyard. Of course, I will try to get hold of these, but I certainly do not think that the documents are there. Longman is a conscientious fellow, a former Kofferdist Captain.”
“You will hear from me,” Leclerc said, now rather tired. He probably had wanted to discuss the art collection more than some Butterfield documents.
Butterfield escorted him past the hedge, behind which Griselda was heard to sing together with her friends.
“I am so thankful to share my problems with you, Mr. Leclerc. That Martha was a real ... I hope there is something I can do for you in the future.”
“It´s all right,” Leclerc said and drove away in his Mercedes, which ran perfectly noiseless. It seemed as if it instead absorbed noise than emitted any. Butterfield shrugged. He did not like to have to ask for help.
Now he heard Griselda shouting in a shrill voice:
“Geordie boy! Come over here!”

Chapter Twelve

To reach another place, geographically, taking the bus is often a good solution. The storm was waiting out on the Atlantic Ocean. All the east coast birds of the U.S.A. took shelter between houses, in alleys, forests, or holes in the ground. So they did in Connecticut and at Fell´s Point. On CNN, the male meteorologist in charge was dressed in black and stammered. At the same time, his arm repeatedly wavered up and down in front of his map, showing the area outside of New York.
Life was full of storms.

Eric, Inga, and Armamente had on this Tuesday embarked on the six o´clock Greyhound bus from Bloomside bus station to Baltimore. It was an eight-hour ride. They showed their luggage in the outside box compartment and entered the streamlined bus, half full of people.
It was decided that Inga, who wanted to sleep, should sit alone, while Eric and Armamente, who wanted to chat and watch the road, sat together on the left side of the bus. As soon as they had gotten on the highway, where the traffic was at least somewhat less heavy, Armamente took out a book and placed it in her lap.
Inga told the two of them that she had dialed up Reuben, who had told her they were welcome tomorrow Tuesday at 01.00 PM. Eric nodded, and Armamente smiled. Her face shone young and bright. Her nose was curved and her eyes clever. She took out a small notebook where she scribbled down the information received with a little pencil that she had kept hanging in a string around her slender neck. Tiny straws of hair caressed the tanned skin on that neck.
Eric tried to make the journey comfortable by removing his small Mocka shoes and putting them in his coat pockets.
“Now, let us start fresh. Have you ever been to Baltimore?” the doctor asked.
“I told you,” Armamente said.
“Let me ask you.” Eric continued, unobservant to her remark,” What do you think of today´s America?”
Armamente sat silent for a while.
“I cannot answer a question like that.”
She tried to modify her bra, which seemed to be itching.
Suddenly, a hand came through the small raft between their chairs, and it was Inga´s. In it were a couple of almost crumbled envelopes.
“Here! Take a look at these. They are the three letters I got from Martha before what happened. I think they might tell a lot of her situation….”
Eric and Armamente took hold of the letters. They decided not to read them separately but out loud and right away so that they both could be judges of their content.
“Who´s going to read them?” Eric Goldkettel asked.
“I´ll read,” Armamente said.
Martha´s handwriting in these letters was clear, round, and easy to read. She misspelled some words but was, on the whole, a decent writer of letters.

“Dear Inga!

Baltimore on the 6th of January of 2xxx.

I am so tired of the life I have right now. Ah, Inga, if we could do something funny! Reuben is genuinely dull, which he certainly was not before. He has lost hope in some way.
I am trying to cultivate myself and find new things to do. I have taken up writing. At the moment, I am on a course with wonderfully artistic people in a writing circle. I am writing a novel too. Do you hear it? I AM WRITING A NOVEL.
Please write soon and tell me what you are doing yourself, my little sweetie tartie!

Martha (P.S. Loooooove! )”

And then we have letter No.2.”Armamente continued. It goes like this:

Dear Inga!
Thank you for your letter. You seem to do alright. I know you have a talent for that. I wish I were more like you. I have always hoped for that.
Reuben seems depressed. I don´t know what is wrong.
I have met a beautiful gang with writers, though. Yesterday we were at a restaurant. Some are from Africa. You know how I love Africa!
Please write soon


“She is not happy,” Eric remarked. He looked at the hands of Armamente, which so swiftly and graciously dealt with the letters and envelopes that seemed terribly torn and shabby. He was almost fascinated by her hands.
“You´ve got very boyish hands.” He said.
“Well, I am not exactly a girl,” Armamente said in a light tone as she flattened the last letter against her Levi Strauss knee.
“What do you mean??” the doctor mumbled, and his mouth went dry.
“I am a transsexual. A transgender person. I am not a girl.” Armamente insisted.
“What?” The doctor had to grip hold of his bus seat because the bus now swung in the heavy breeze on the highway.
“But….” he said. ”Oh, I did not know…..”
“No, of course, how could you? I should have told you.”
Eric was shocked. He had to loosen his seat belt and turn for a glass of water. Eric kept a bottle on the holder in front of him, water provided by the bus company.
“Confusing, isn´t it?” Armamente added in the same light tone. ”If it is to you, imagine what it is for me!”
“Ha, yes, you´re right,” Eric said, and he wondered what it would be like to take Armamente´s hand. Immediately he decided that that was what he would do. So he grabbed her left hand, thus made her drop the letter, and he said:
“It perfectly fine with me. I like you, no matter what.”
“I think so. And thank you!” Armamente said, smiling, and picked up the letter.

She started reading it while the doctor loosened his grip on her hand and took out a handkerchief to wipe his face.

“Dear Inga!

Thank you for your letter. It must be great to be in control of your future.
I am having trouble with everything. Reuben merely is sarcastic.
I don´t know what to do.



“What a strange letter!” Armamente added.
Eric nodded and looked out the bus window. Now it was night, and all the electrical lights were just flaring by in the wind, just like in some unreal, cosmic dream.

Chapter Thirteen

he n David woke up in the morning from his deep sleep, he did so very slowly. Still, when he finally regained full consciousness, he checked on his mobile phone, especially the news. There had been more shootings during the night, CBS reported. The record from 2019 of 57 dead by gun violence per 100000 inhabitants would probably be broken this year. It was ten o´clock. He rang little Elsa. She immediately answered while attending an old lady in the care home somewhere.
“It´s me, David. I just want to tell you what Ethan and I did yesterday.”
“I haven´t got time now, gringo.”
“OK, I´ll call you up later. When can I call you?”
“When I am home. I´ll give you a knock. At seven.”
“OK. Bye!”
David hung up. He then dialed Raymond up, Elsa´s friend, Haylee´s older brother.
“Raymond,” the sullen voice said.
“This is David, Elsa´s co-liver at Beck Street. Would yo like to join in? We´re gonna visit an ol´ sea-Captain who has opened up a social club by the harbor, at Thames Street. It is gonna be open every Wednesday night. I think it will be great fun. And I would like to know what you think of him, if he is dead or not or something. You know. He has sailed all over the planet….”.”
All David heard was Raymond´s heavy breath.
“You talk too much,” the voice said.
“No, I talk like that.”
“Sure. I like new stuff. I am bored too, you know.”
“Fine. I´ll let you know the details. The old man wants to know. He wants at least seven or eight persons, for a start. He´s got a whole house. And boy, it is stuffed with chimpanzees and zebras. And a lion too. Stuffed.”
“Ah. Lion and zebras?”
“Yes, awesome guy. A real sailor.”
“I´ll be there. Call me!”
“See ya!”
They both hang up.

David rose and walked up to the window. He placed his knuckles on the windowsill and pensively banged with his head against the windowpane. He still didn´t know what his plans were. One thing was clear, though. He wanted to give Ethan a good impression of him, because meeting Ethan was the best thing that had happened for a year or so.
David stopped banging his head and left for the kitchen where he took out some bread from a paper bag and jam from the fridge and then sat down with a pile of books on Italian renaissance at his desk beside the window.

Outside David saw the trees losing their leaves in the light September breeze. The lane was deserted. Just three or four of these small, dense cars by the side of the road served as a contrast. Not a single sound was heard. You could neither see nor hear any birds.

His books on the Italian Renaissance always waited for him. He was not interested anymore. It was a new thing, though, that had come about lately, him losing interest in what had been important just days before. It was never like that a couple of years ago. Now he felt like this frequently. Like for instance, in July, when he had had a mania about science fiction. Just a few weeks later, in August, he was not the least interested any longer. Now it was only Ethan that was on his mind, and he didn´t care at all about de Medici, Julius II, Castiglione or Cesare Borgia. He would never take up Italian. He had just last spring planned to learn Italian. David could not stand these manias any longer. He was sick of himself.
David did not have any idea about what might help him. He was fascinated by Ethan. Ethan wanted to write books in French. That was gorgeous.
David had some sort of intuitive wisdom and logic. He thought that maybe he was on the verge of going crazy and end up in an asylum, like Ethan´s uncle. But being crazy does not in itself exclude wisdom.

David decided he needed a walk. These times were strange. In the recent pandemic, many people had acquired the habit of taking pointless walks. Many continued to do so. Life would never rearrange. Lots of businesses were all gone, and most people too. At least here in this town, just like in Texas. He sighed.
It was almost noon. David strolled down to the harbor. While watching the small yachts in the Inner Harbor, enjoying the weather, he sat down on a bench in the sun. Some days were like summer, he thought, and called up Ethan to check if everything was okay.

David returned to his house, putting his shoe on the white rectangular marble doorstep, when he suddenly heard voices from Elsa´s window on the other side of the front porch. Elsa had visitors. David sat down on the stairs to pretend to fix one of his shoes.
It had to be Elsa and her friend, Haylee, David thought. He knew Haylee from the library. She worked at a small pharmacy, and she used to spend her evenings at the library. David overheard their conversation. The girls discussed joining the basketball team - The Northern Gulls - due to being excluded from the football team. Haylee also complained about her friend Jenelle, whose brother Joseph who had no job but was just cleaning car front windows at street intersections together with a pal of his. And she was for some reason worried about him. Then the girls suddenly got silent, and in a minute, both their heads were visible in the window. Elsa tore it open and shouted:
“So, you´re just sitting there?”
David didn´t answer but rose and went inside. He banged at Elsa´s door, and the girls giggled, but they did not open the door. Maybe they were trying on new clothes, painting their fingernails or something, he fancied. It was Saturday, and they were both going out tonight.

Inside his own room, there was a real mess. It was long since there had been any cleaning of any sort. David now the girls leaving for a walk. They probably thought that they didn´t have privacy enough in the apartment, David being in his room close by. But they hadn´t been long gone when they returned. They knocked at David´s door and told him they were going to near Woodstock, up the Patapsco, because they had had a call from a friend of Elsa’s, who had his brand new wooden shack just by the river being burnt down. Elsa and Haylee had decided to go there by bus to see if they could help him sort things out. The girls bade David look after the cat. They might be gone till the next day, they told him.
David was just going to slip out on the street to check if the cat was in. He noticed a crowd on the other side of the road, at a house where another friend of his lived, Buster O´Malley. Buster was a jazz piano player, bebop style, an excellent one. It was not rare to see people standing or seated outside his window.
The cat lay on the bed.
David did not like at all to go into girl´s rooms when girls were not there. It was something unsettling with all their clothes, lotions, medicaments, garments, and the small faux jewelry. To David was downright sickening - that is when they were not there themselves.
David had several times been up at Woodstock, by Woodstock Road, which had a manifold of dense woodlands at small, brisk, idyllic waterways. It was kind of heaven on earth. That a concert had been held there, twice, was nothing that came to his mind.

David often had ideas about himself, picturing him as an enormously gifted and essential person. Usually, these ideas were linked to the fact that he partly was of Jewish origin. Young West did not look upon himself as a Jew or being of any race at all. He sometimes did not even think that he was a human being at all. The thought of being important worked very well when he was alone but did not work well with Ethan.

David now heard Elsa rumbling about in her room again behind the door to her quarters. Much of David´s time in his home was wasted by trying to listen to what Elsa did. It was not long before he heard a slight knock on the door. She had heard him, as he had heard her. Now she whispered:
“Hey, David, are you there??”
When David saw Elsa, he got still more tired. She was never any inspiration to him. That was not anything he could help. He patiently waited for what she had to say. At the same time, he thought that he would be kind to her the next time he spoke to her, but not yet, not now. He said to himself that he in his heart was much nicer than what was immediately apparent to others. Thus David - of course - was a liar.
“Oh, David, it was terrible.”
“With Joshua, of course… and the police shootings.”
“Yes, quite a shock. Don´t worry! Joshua is all right, I think. Ethan and I were with him at his house until just an hour ago.”
“He is alright then? Is he really?” Her lip trembled.
“Yes. I told you.”
Elsa hesitated. She looked tired, and her hair was a mess.
“I was just wondering,” she said and returned to her room. She turned the lock twice.
When she was gone, David undressed and went to bed. He slept until 01.00 pm.

Chapter Fourteen

Whashington Post had the news early on the next morning, on Tuesday. The perpetrators from the robbery in Upper Fell´s Point had both been shot dead by the police.

It was 10.00 AM. In Joshua´s house on this very morning nobody checked that Washington Post web site, or Baltimore Sun, but the three youngsters in the apartment on Ridge Avenue all lay fast asleep. David´s phone rang, and Elsa told him of the deaths. She wondered if Joshua, he and Ethan were okay. David told Ethan and Joshua the bad news, and then he assured Elsa that he would call back later.
“Thank you, Elsa. Just take it easy.” David finished the call. Joshua soon walked around in the small apartment on his crutches, looking awful, all grey in his face.

“I saw them you know. They were just my age,” Joshua said, taking out, trembling hands, some cups from a shelf above the stove. The cups were green.
“I will make some coffee,” David said.
Ethan took the cups from Joshua, and soon, he had laid the table in the kitchen, which was much cozier than the parlor and the other rooms.
Joshua maneuvered himself wearily to the window, where there was a small radio, and he turned on a news channel.
After listening to some ads about new Kia models, the news announcer reported on the latest violent crime cases. He told the Baltimoreans that two young kids, aged 15 and 16, had been shot by the police amid incredibly tragic circumstances. They had not succumbed to the police patrols' commands in Patterson Park.
“They got shot in Patterson Park,” David said, whiter in his face than ever before. Joshua, who just had his jeans on, no shirt, also seemed to be close to fainting.
“We don´t know, they might …” Ethan said. But David cut him short and in a sudden rage flung out at him:
“They are dead, for sure. We do know.”
The radio reporter continued, almost in a hysterical tone:
“The youngsters had refused to give back their guns. At first, the police shot the older boy, who declined to lay down his gun, which he waved over his head. Later, when the younger boy, in attempted revenge, aimed at the shooter with his revolver, he was himself shot in the head. The two deceased boys, who just had been robbing a small grocery store in Fell´s Point, were both well known to the police. Their parents are contacted by the authorities. …. And now the weather forecast …”
Joshua now had to sit down. He was sobbing again, and Ethan´s trying to solace and to comfort him were all in vain.
“You must give your parents a call!” Ethan said while patting Joshua on the back, serving him coffee.
“Why?” Joshua sobbed. ”Why did they shoot them?”
“They were a danger to the police,” David said.
“I am so sad ….” Joshua sobbed.
After a while he calmed down.
“I only wish it would stop someday,” He added. “Sooner or later. The shooting. I can´t stand it. What is the use of growing up here, just to get shot?”
David looked out the window. He felt helpless too, and sad, not only for the people that had lost their lives, but also - in the usual way - for himself. David could see nothing to live for. Just hours ago, he had enjoyed Ethan´s company. However, right now, Ethan felt mentally absent to David, far away, and it was as if Ethan had frozen or turned into stone since he came to know about the robbery of the drug store. David realized that Ethan had not at all been able to cope with the recent events. Maybe he was a softer man than one might initially think, and he needed help …, David suddenly thought. Maybe he himself was stronger than he thought. The white boy glanced at Ethan, but Ethan´s eyes were covered with tears. Ethan was the superior mind here, David knew that, but why didn´t Ethan speak up then? People with brains do have responsibility. Haven´t they?
“Let´s call the police,” David whimpered, ”to tell them that we are in severe need of a psychologist or something! We cannot handle this situation by ourselves anymore.”
Ethan looked at David, and suddenly there was a new understanding in his eyes.
“Do that!” he said, and he nodded his head fiercely, actually gulping.
David, happy to be able to grasp the situation and to be able to try to do something about it, called the police headquarters and told them that they were in a crisis. The operator was very understanding and forthcoming. She told David that they would immediately send two social workers educated to handle psychological strain and traumas. They also wondered if they should send a vicar or daikon too. However, David declined the latter part of the offer. A psychologist would do, he said. He thanked them and said that they waited for the help to arrive.
Joshua felt better while overhearing David´s call. Now, the three were more bound together, and David was happy with his action. He did not understand from where he had gotten his strength and such a brilliant idea of calling for that sort of help.
When the social workers arrived David and Ethan soon left for their own homes.


It was late that day, at 11.22 PM at David´s place. David slept while having the radio turned on. The cat sat on the window sill. The small fan on the bookshelf worked at a slow speed, and it sounded like a medical ventilator.
Now, the phone rang. It was Haylee.
“Hello, it´s Haylee. I am with Elsa, but she is hurt. We´re at Woodstock. By the road. She´s been hit.”
David got on his feet in a hurry.
“Where? How?”
“We got off the bus, and she slipped, and by accident, she got in front of a bicycle. An old man, a bum with a bicycle, hit her. Maybe she has broken her hand or something. It's just the wrist though. But we don´t know how to get to the hospital. I cannot reach Raymond ….”
“Oh, is she bleeding or …?”
“No, but she´s got pain.”
“I´ll go look for Raymond. I´ll call you. But …. Wait!”
“Can she talk?”
“Ah. It´s nothing. Just tell her that we´ll come for you. Where are you, then?”
“At Woodstock Inn. It is quite near the shack that burnt down.”
“Where is the guy with the shack then?”
“He´s not here either. I don´t know where he is. We´re all lost. Jus´ the two of us.”
Haylee was sobbing. David could feel the desperation.
“I´ll call you in a minute,” David reassured her, and he at the same time got his short woolen coat on and rushed out on the street to go over to Raymond´s place.

Raymond was at home with his girlfriend, Beth, and they fixed with a new music video. They had set up an intricate net of cameras in the basement, arranged with several colored spotlights. They were both dressed in rather fantastic, elaborate gothic outfits. They had a friend of Beth´s serving as a cameraman; a clever black girl named Odile, and were performing and shooting a crazy Goth song called “Death in the green attic.” which was a work of their own.
Raymond´s car, a small Kia, was in the garage, and they all stopped the shooting of the film and he all rushed for it, stilled dressed and in an outfit as Dracula, and Odile and David jointly called poor Haylee to tell her they were on the run. Odile could not ride in our car because they had to have enough room in the vehicle for Elsa and Haylee. Odile had a big motorbike with her, though, standing in the backyard of Raymond´s place, and she said she would follow us tight.
“The bike is faster than anything. I jus´ have to know what has happened to Elsa.” Odile said. She was a small, bowlegged, fit girl who wore a black leather jacket, neatly decorated with a massive red fist and the letters “NESSIE B.” ( Nessie B. was a sea monster in the bay of Baltimore.)
Raymond and Beth both had their Goth masquerade suits on. David felt surreal.
“How far is it?” Raymond asked, when they had all gotten in the small car, while hitting the gas... His face, all chalky white, with red horns on top of it, looked scary, which of course added more tension to the whole expedition.
“Maybe 30 miles,” David answered, though he was not very confident in this matter. No life where at stake here, though, David thought. It was about a hand concussion.
David was beginning to feel tired, and as always, when he was awake too long, voices came into his head, and pictures. Now there came up a striped monkey in his imagination or live dream, a primate with big white teeth. It laughed and told him to say, `That´s shit, bro.., That´s shit, bro´!” `You just tell `em that´s shit!´ David sternly pressed his lips together and suffered.

He glanced through the rear window to look for Odile. She waved her hand when she saw him turning around to look for her. She had on a blue helmet and was on the bike behind the Kia. Odile was small with a blunt nose. Her eyes always sparkled with mockery. She probably was not afraid of anything at all. But she was no psychopath at that.
Raymond, as they ran faster and faster, thought it was wise to take Elsa to Mercy Medical Center on Calvert Street downtown. He knew the doctors and nurses there, he said. Raymond had been shot in his leg not long ago. He had gotten his trauma treatment there for months after.

The night was dark, and it was a long ride for our small caravan of horrors out of the city towards more rural areas. The car ran smoothly, and so did the motorcycle behind. Beth, who also was a friend of Elsa, rang her up, and as Haylee answered her phone, she just told her that they were on their way to take Elsa to Mercy´s. Haylee was happy to hear that, and she told Beth that Elsa had had her arm wiped up in a towel and that it was terribly bruised. The lower right arm was susceptible to touch, and now and then, Haylee told, Elsa just screamed when she tried to move it.
David - who had planned to spend the evening alone - noticed that he had a pleasant feeling. It was relieving when something was going on, and it felt good as well to have a company.
David glanced at Beth, who sat beside him in the backseat. Flickers from streetlights rhythmically bounced right into the car through the newly washed windows. Beth had removed half of her facemask by using Kleenex, and David thought she was stunning.
Raymond was an excellent driver. The car ran smoothly along the Patapsco River and up towards Elliot county and the Woodstock area. The woods surrounding the meandering road were densely grown. There were pine trees, white oak, and maple trees. Often a small current broke loose by the wayside. On a small meadow, there could be seen a glimpse of a deer or a large bird.
“There´s a deer!” David actually cried out when he thought he saw one. He never tried to appear more mature than he was. He wanted no credit for that.
“You ever were fishing `round here?” Raymond asked.
“Nope,” David said, ”but I have been fishing a lot in the Chesapeake Bay, though. By Severn Bridge.”
David glanced at Raymond. The contrast between his Dracula face and the relatively commonplace question was so gross that he started to laugh.

Chapter Fifteen

Raymond by the car wheel took the last turn before Woodstock, and David and Beth stretched their necks on the look for Elsa. It was now in the deepest night, at 02.00 am, and the small Inn, which indeed was nothing more prominent than a hamburger stand, was several hours closed. Nevertheless, by the creek, there was a trucker´s stop. There Elsa and Haylee sat together with two young males drinking coffee from plastic cups. Haylee waved her hand to the newcomers.
An owl howled.
The rescuers parked their car and got out, and Raymond went up to Elsa, who was wrapped up in a blanket, sitting by the table. The poor girl had bruises practically everywhere. She shrieked a little when she saw the Dracula face of his. But she soon calmed down. She pointed at her own face with her healthy hand and said:
“This is how you look when you have been hit by a bicycle.” She could not talk straight because she had been hit on the mouth too.
Haylee had her arm around her.
“Why didn´t you call an ambulance?” David asked, standing in front of Elsa, indicating that he wanted to see her hand.
“I can walk, you know,” Elsa mumbled. Her lips were swollen, and she had scratches on the side of her face. Her right hand was swollen and had a range of colors.
“Move it!” David told her.
She moved her hand up and down, and it did hurt, you could tell.
Odile, that had parked her motorcycle but left it blinking, came up to Elsa and hugged her and took out from her coat some small paper napkins to wipe her face with.’ Elsa looked thankful.

In a couple of minutes, they were on their way to town again. When they arrived at Grace Hospital, Elsa was sleeping in the car´s backseat, leaning on Beth, who had put a spare blanket around her.
“What happened, really?” Raymond asked Haylee.
“It was just an old man on a bicycle. He was drunk. He ran into her, just when she had left the bus. He got petrified. He cried and peed his pants. He was from Marriottsville.”
Nobody commented on Haylee´s recount of what had taken place. All of them realized why nobody had called the police.
At the hospital, a doctor and a nurse took care of Elsa. She had not broken any bones. She did not have to stay there neither, the doctor said, and ordered some painkillers.
Raymond and his sister Haylee took her home and put her to bed, and David kissed Elsa on her cheek and went to his room. Elsa was dead tired and almost slept when they tucked her cushions and toy elephants around her.
It was 05.30 AM and a new day dawned. The giant owl grumbled and slurred and then made it ways through the woods of Patapsco Valley in search for squirrels.


Chapter Sixteen

Around 08.00 AM, Ethan sat on his usual barstool behind the counter. He had few customers. On a September Saturday morning, there is not exactly any rush at convenience stores. Butterfield had called, asking if any journalist was there for comments about the robbery. Ethan said there had been one, but he had told her he did not know anything of substance related to the case. Butterfield then asked the usual questions about supplies. Ethan checked upon it, and then Butterfield was temporarily content. The owner of the shop was a straightforward person to communicate with. Ethan was happy about that, although he did not like Georgie Butterfield. Ethan was equally tired of David, who, although it was clear that David wanted to make friends, did not seem willing to come forward as any sort of reliable person at all. However, Ethan, all the time, encouraged him to try to head in that direction.
The phone rang. Ethan rubbed his nose.
“Hi, it is Thomas,” a voice said. Thomas, who was the most intellectual friend of Ethan, wondered if Ethan had read a specific book, which he named the title of. It turned out that he had not. Then Thomas asked Ethan for a loan. Ethan turned that request down, however. Thomas then said that he would come over for a chat. Then he hung up. Ethan looked out the window.
Thomas was immensely talented, but Ethan did not share his interest in politics. Thomas always had new ideas for political protests on his mind. Ethan thought that David would most certainly very soon make his own life a living hell if Ethan himself did not pay attention. To seek relief, he took out his sketchbook and prepared himself to draw something on one of the leaflets. He started out on a dragon.

By noon, the Police returned to Ethan´s store to return the video surveillance material to the owner, which of course was Mr. Butterfield. Some people from the press were entering the shop to talk to Ethan, but he subsequently had nothing to say.
Ethan answered questions put by the Police about the robbery. They all compared this incident to other incidents, better known to the general public.
By lunchtime, he took a hotdog, a soda and then talked to Mr. Butterfield by the phone. The latter was very friendly and promised him an extra $100 to help Ethan ease from the current stress caused by the robbery and all the surrounding tragedy. Ethan also was told that his boss had arranged for another replacement man.

Butterfield had owned stores, cafés, houses, and apartments in Baltimore for at least thirty years. Although he could have dozens of employees taking care of his stores, he liked to keep a close eye on the business himself. At present, he had one of those periods when he was overactive and was sneaking around to look for irregularities and fraud everywhere.
In the afternoon, Reuben rang.
He wondered if the guys would turn up on the following evening.
Ethan told Reuben about the robbery, which Reuben was unaware of, since he did not regularly check up on the news. However, they agreed that David and Ethan should visit Reuben at 07.00 PM on the following day. Ethan said that he did not know if he could be able to assemble any of his other friends that fast but that he would try. Times were troubled too, Ethan said, but then realized that times always were troubled. They agreed that anyway, it was a great idea, and Ethan thanked Reuben again for the initiative.
They hang up, and the rest of the afternoon slipped by in the way it used to do.
That is, Thomas came by. Thomas was silent. He walked around in the small shop, fingering on packages and bottles, and finally bought a smaller Coca-Cola can.
“I heard you had been robbed.” he said.
“Okay. How much?” Thomas held up the Coca-Cola can between them.
Thomas paid and left the shop but, standing in the doorway, he said:
“So, Reuben Longman intends to open up a social club?”
“How did you know that?”
“I met him on the street. He invited me.”
“Oh,” Ethan said.

Chapter Seventeen

Reuben realized that he had all day to himself. He had left the dog at Mrs. Campbell´s house. It was too early to summon to a Social Club meeting, and for that matter, he had not yet got the house ready. Consequently it was no hurry. But he longed to meet the boy´s friends and to find out about the youth of today.

Reuben was delighted at his new project and had set out not only to clean the house but also to rearrange the furniture on both floors. Since the death of Martha he just had let everything stand the way it used to. After lunch that day, he also managed to fabricate a sign to put outside his home. A piece of sheet-metal comes in handy. After having first painted it in a dark blue color, he had set out to meticulously put a text on it, in white, saying: ”SOCIAL CLUB.”
He left the sign on the kitchen table to dry, leaning against a package of corn flakes. Tomorrow he would pin it to the wall outside beside his front door.
The doctor who took care of the elderly Mrs. Campbell, rang. The lady was very ill, and the doctor did not think she would make it through the night. She wanted her dog to stay with her for a while.
Reuben should check upon the dog and Mrs. Campbell on the following day, through the nurse that cared for her. He got her telephone number.
He had taken the boxes out of Martha´s room and firmly put them in his house's backyard. It seemed too much of an effort to try to sell off those old artifacts. Instead, he planned to burn everything on the following day. After all, he did not need the money. He was financially independent for the rest of his life, much due to Martha. He did not need any small earnings.
Reuben also took out a can of kerosene and placed it outside the back door. He then returned to the living room. All the animals needed some sort of cleaning. The lion and the chimpanzee glared at him with their eyes of glass. He glared back and started to look for a brush.

But as he did not find a suitable brush he soon grew tired of tending to the artificial creatures and of cleaning up the house and finally gave the whole thing up and decided to go for a walk a walk. Then he remembered that he had to bunker up with some beer and biscuits. He rang a store and bade them deliver some good around 05.00 PM. He then changed clothes, looked himself over in the mirror, and checked that he had keys, wallet, and phone with him. He took an umbrella too, although it did not look to be any rain. The sky was plain grey, and it was windy like it had been all last week.
Before he left the house, he returned towards the living room and stopped at the wall close to the hall entrance. Reuben had pinned a photograph, an old worn one of A4 size, depicting a Mississippi steamboat. It was a glossy one in black and white, but it did not seem from very long ago. The Captain touched the photograph with his finger tops, said something indiscernible, maybe the name of a woman, and then returned to the hall to leave the house.
He decided to have his usual walk to Upper Fell´s Point. Reuben liked those quarters.
He left his house, thinking of how long it was since he was Captain of a ship. It must be more than fifteen years now, he thought, making a small roundabout during his walk not to disturb two pigeons, which were having a meal on the sidewalk.

hapter Eighteen


ne cannot measure the vast, almost bottomless, depths of a human soul by deploying the simple tools of a land surveyor, or, in the telling of a story of one´s life, use the multicolored signal flags that one has onboard warships.

Eric, Inga, and Armamente arrived at Baltimore Station on Wednesday at 04.00 AM. They were all of them sleeping when the bus arrived at the destination, and Eric had a sore back when he woke up. Armamente and Inga almost had to carry him to a cab.
They installed on Morton Hotel, which was in Grant Street close to Porter´s Furniture, by the Kern´s Saloons. Since the doctor was not feeling well at all, they had to rearrange their planning. The appointment with Reuben had to be postponed. Inga called the Captain up at noon and told him that they would arrive on another day. Reuben agreed and said that one should not be careless with a sore back caused by bus travel. One should never go by bus, Inga said. But since none of them had any driver´s license, a bus ride was what “had happened.”
After lunch, Inga and Armamente went for a walk in Baltimore, a town familiar to Inga. She took Armamente to the most picturesque of streets. Since the wind had slowed down a bit, they had a pleasant afternoon in sunshine, strolling about and buying unnecessary things in the very smallest shops that the illustrious town could muster.
Eric lay on his back, looking straight up in the ceiling in his room. He was in pain. They finally had to send for the doctor. Doctor Elijah Elias declared that the doctor for a long time seemed to have neglected his exercise. This was such a thing that inevitable would happen if the backbone muscles were not sufficiently used, the specialist earnestly told Eric.
Eric then got painkillers for one month.
Early in the evening, Eric declared that he was fit for fight again. But Inga and Armamente were cautious, and they told him he had to stay at the hotel for another twenty-four hours. Armamente at once started with letting the doctor make sit-ups, though.
Inga suggested that they should have a reconnaissance meeting on the same night at 09 PM. She wanted first to discuss the letters that she had brought, and which Armamente had read aloud on the bus. Secondly, she wanted to have a reconnaissance patrol that should investigate the writer circle, Martha had attended on the spring season in the year before.
Eric agreed that this was the right thing, and while they all started to search for the author´s circle via Google, they soon noticed that the hour was late, and they turned to their sleeping quarters. Each had wanted to have their separate room in their new villa, and they agreed on meeting at 09.30 AM on the following day. Armamente went to bed, without further ado, while Inga read a book on gardening. Eric listened to a string concerto by Vivaldi in his headphones before taking his sleeping pill. Vivaldi was his favorite composer.


At Morton Traveller´s Hotel in Baltimore, it slowly dawned upon Connecticut's small crime team that they perhaps had to re-group.

The young detective herself was an early bird. She woke up at 05.24 AM, out of heavy dreams about dragons, and took on her shirt while looking out the window. There was not much commotion in the street. She only spotted the paperboy, and Armamente wondered about this old, historical city, on which she had just embarked. Since she did not know much about Baltimore, she googled on “Baltimore, a portrait of” and she read this, which was written by a schoolboy, who called himself Riddar Cato, on his blog Phat That Swat:

“Baltimore, ( pronounced.: ´Balwmore´ ) The City that Reads, Clipper City, The Greatest City in America, Frank Zappa town, Charm City or whatever you may prefer to call it, is situated where it is because of the Patapsco River, an almost forty miles long river in the state of Maryland, which is perhaps the per capita wealthiest state in the USA. This meandering river emanates into the famous Chesapeake Bay. Dams heavily support the river, so one cannot sail on it nor use the water. But after much renovation and cleaning of the water, one might nowadays again fish trout in it.
Baltimore is a flat city. No point reaches above 160 feet above the sea. This town was initially mainly a seaside port. Baltimore was created close to the Patapsco to ship tobacco and grain vessels up and down the East Coast. It has also always been famous for the building of those ships. Baltimore clippers for a long time - and long before Joseph Conrad´s times, too - plied the oceans. Baltimore region has a subtropical climate, with hot, humid summers and a short winter, which often is very mild. For Europeans, the weather in Maryland may most be like Spain's climate than any other country. Baltimore thus is an old city, in a former slave state, today mainly populated by black people.
Baltimore was established mostly by former Europeans in 1729 and was a local household for the mighty lord George Calvert family. Calvert's name is frequently found in the center of the town, referring to streets and buildings.
Despite Maryland not seceding from the Union during the Civil War, many of its citizens were conservatives and had Southern sympathies. Union troops, therefore, occupied Baltimore throughout the war. When the war was over, the city only slowly recovered from disruption and poverty.
A fire in early February of 1904 razed most of the center of the town. During World War I, Baltimore began to develop industrially with a multitude of war industries. A period of urban decay in the city's central parts after World War II was followed by a grand renovation of the downtown buildings, streets, and waterfront.
There have been devastating epidemics of Cholera and other diseases that have taken their toll on the population.
In 1821 the Basilica of the Blessed Virgin Mary became the nation’s first Roman Catholic cathedral. The Washington Monument, a Doric column, rises since 1829 high in the old city. State parks, such as Gunpowder Falls, Hart-Miller Island, and North Point can be reached near the center.
The current metro area population of Baltimore in 2020 is 2,325,000.
Birds you might see in Baltimore and the surroundings are Brown Pelican, Snow Goose, Ring-necked Duck, Ruddy Duck, King Rail, Marbled Godwit, Great Skua, Pomarine Jaeger, and Parasitic Jaeger, Laughing Gull, Franklin's Gull, Black Tern, Chuck-will's-widow, Least Flycatcher, Eastern Phoebe, Bank Swallow, Nashville Warbler, Northern Parula, Yellow Warbler, Field Sparrow, Vesper Sparrow, Common Sparrow, Baltimore Oriole, and Purple Finch. The Orioles is also the baseball team, and the Ravens are well-known for American football. A few blocks from the stadium, baseball legend Babe Ruth was born. The grave of Baltimore native writer Edgar Allen Poe is situated in Westminster Burying Ground, close to West Lafayette Street. Other birds are House Finch, Eskimo Curlew, Long-billed Curlew, Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Long-tailed Jaeger, Mew Gull, Bachman's Sparrow, Lazuli Bunting, and White-winged Crossbill.
Finally: here is a small zoo too, in David Hill Park, with lion and tigers in it.”
Armamente was quite content and amused by what she read, She already knew some of it, but it put things in perspective anyway.
Morton Hotel offered free pancakes 24-7. She went down to the dining room and looked for to eat some. Only one more guest was awake and in the dining room at this time. It was an older man with long white hair. Armamente greeted him at a distance, and he waved back and smiled. He gestured at her where she could get the pancakes.
She asked if she might sit down at his table. He was a retired teacher from Oklahoma, on vacation and sight-seeing alone in Baltimore. He asked Armamente what her errand was in town.
“I am here to try and find out whether there has been a murder or not. A friend of mine has an old love that has died here, during mysterious circumstances.”
“Oh, that is good of you,” the man said.
“I am studying criminology at the University really,” she answered, and she blushed because the old man seemed to her so kind and sincere.
“Oh, I see. But you still seem to be a very kind girl.”
“Thank you. I am also looking for writer´s circles or writer´s courses in town. You don´t happen to know who is in the business of organizing such activities?”
“Not really. But you will easily find it, as you might well know. But I cannot give you any insider tips. Has it anything to do with the investigation you brought up before?”
“Yes. The victim seemed to have participated in a writer´s circle. Perhaps she wanted to learn to write like Poe?”
Armamente smiled. She so much loved the older man´s eyes that she was willing to say anything, to make him smile a little bit more.
“Indeed. Like Poe. But of course, you don´t know the favorite author of the victim, do you?”
“No. You are right. I don´t.”
“Most people have one.”
“You are right again. I don´t know what I am saying.” Armamente lay her hand on his hand. “I might be better off if I just ate my pancake and kept silent.”
“Anytime,” the oldie said, ”by the way, my favorite author is Stephen King. I think he should have the Nobel Prize.”
Armamente nodded.
“My name is Armamente, by the way,” she said.
“Oh, I am honored. I am trying to be as incognito as I can, if you don´t mind. It is just a way of life,” the old man smiled. Armamente was a bit baffled by this, but she was content anyway.
They sat silent while Armamente ate her breakfast. Outside, the wind surged. She hoped that she at least some time would be able to meet with the mysterious Mr. Longman.
She would, but first, she would, as we shall see, meet with a man by the name of Askelon. A Haitian writer and participant on the circle Martha attended.
She later googled and found out that there had been three writer´s circles held on a free basis by Johns Hopkins. She found out before lunch which of them Martha had attended.
Eric and Inga applauded her. They soon decided that Armamente and Inga should try to contact all the pupils of the course. Eric´s back was even worse, and at times he gnarled from pain.
At three o´clock, the young private detective had a Mr. Josiah Askelon on the phone. He remembered Martha well. But he also knew that she was dead, and he did not want to talk about her over the phone.
“I am not insensitive,” he said.
They decided to meet on the following day at a café in the harbor, close to where Josiah lived.
She now went to see Eric and Inga, who was seated in a study at the hotel. Eric was wrapped up in a big frock-like fur, which had been provided by one of the attendants at the hotel. He was on painkillers and looked pale.
“Now, I have come into contact with the circle,” Armamente said.
Inga was impressed by this achievement, but she also had news of her own.
“Listen,” Inga said and flexed her very muscular legs,” I don´t know about you - I have to ask you something, both of you.”
Eric grunted and took a sip of his tea. Armamente looked at the old lady with curiosity.
“Eric, you are retired and in deep trouble with your back. But we are on a mission, and I suppose that we all want to complete it. I don´t know about you, Arma ( she had created a nickname ), but it seems as if you for this season does not have much of a plan.
But I have a plan, and since we are having such a good time but are living in an expensive hotel, I have done some research in the housing market.”
“Housing?” Armamente cried out.
“Yes. You know, here in Baltimore, many houses are all empty and for rent. Why don´t the three of us just rent a house here and settle for a month or two, to let Eric recover in perfect peace and calm? And we might do a thorough investigation in the Martha case. We might also further learn about each other and have a more pleasant time without bothering about the regulations and the hotel costs. What do you think? Let´s rent a row house in Arbutus!”
Eric and Armamente looked at each other. Large smiles appeared on their faces, and it did not take them long to agree.
“As a matter of fact,” Armamente said, laughing,” I do enjoy myself so very much in your company. I could not think of anything more exciting than living with you fellows for a month or two in Baltimore!”
“So be it,” Eric concluded, and it was agreed upon that Inga should fix a house for them until the next day.
They now laughed, and they told each other that now they were all Baltimoreans.
Eric then said he wanted to return to his room. He had found an interesting book on a bookshelf in the hotel's small study, where they had been sitting. He showed them the book. The feathered serpent by Edgar Wallace.
“What is good about that one?” Armamente, in glancing at the cover of the book, asked, without knowing why she put such a rude question to the sick old doctor.
“Ha!” the doctor burst out,” Yes, you know, I am familiar with Wallace since long. I will tell you that he once was quite a remarkable and very successful mystery writer.”
“Why?” Armamente insisted, who had disliked the book, on the cover of which green figures performed some dance.
“Among other things,” the doctor grunted,” Wallace claimed that his books had no literary value of any sort. They were written with the sole purpose to entertain. He claimed that he had left absolutely no mark whatsoever of his thoughts or personal reflections or anything in those books. They were all dictated to a secretary and went checked by no one to the publisher.”
“No literary value. I told you!!” Armamente cried out triumphantly. “That´s what I said!”
“But, don´t you see, dear Armamente, that that is a real achievement. Isn´t it a real proof of genius to be able to write tons of books - because he wrote dozens - and not leaving one single personal trace in them?”
“I see,” Inga said,” I bet you have set out to find the real Edgar Wallace!”
They now all laughed, and Inga took out a big cigar from her purse. While the doctor retired to his quarters, Inga and Armamente Dulcinea decided to have a refreshing walk in the escalating wind, which was not very cold though, outside of the small hotel.


On the following day, grey and windy, Armamente hired a bicycle in a small shop and set out for the New Harbor. She found out that she was already in love with Baltimore.
She was troubled thinking of Eric and how he almost had changed to the worse after he had got his back ailment. It seemed, she thought, as if his table of existence suddenly had become very small. Inga, she thought, was a marvelous woman, energetic and competent.
The café where she should meet Josiah was a small one, facing the water.
A lovely schooner from Australia lay on the fly.
She went onboard the café, that itself was on a small boat, fastened by the quay.
Soon she spotted Josiah, who had informed Armamente, that he would have a black cap on with the name of E.A. Poe on it.
“Hello! Come and sit!” Josiah shouted, in a modestly high fashion. He had of course spotted her first.
After they had exchanged some phrases of politeness, Josiah started to tell about Martha:
“She immediately became a central person in the circle, although she did not show any special talent in anything at all. It was her charm and presence that made the rest of us seem negligible.”
Armamente tried to understand who the young man with the Poe-cap was. He had a yellowish complexion and African treats, although his skin was not black. He had curly brownish hair, and his speech was fast, and he was well versed. Josiah´s eyes were sad, his clothes clean and old fashioned and a bit too large. He had a brown khaki shirt on and blue jeans.
“She was immensely sexy, despite that she was not at all young anymore. Her mouth was like a strawberry, eyes like cornflowers. She often wore all white; a white top and a white skirt, and a white taffeta shawl. She also had a white or red gardenia or something in her hair. It was all overdone, but it suited her.”
“Ha. But what about her writing then?” Armamente interrupted.
“Oh, yes. Our teacher, Ogy, Mr. Ogilvy, told us to write a short story about meeting our new neighbor in the elevator. Martha wrote a long story, but hers was the only one where the elevator fell and crashed. Her story was about the split second when it fell.”
Josiah paused.
“It was a very effective plot. But it was badly written.”
“Hm?” Armamente said.
“Well, she also flirted with all the male pupils at the course, and I had an evening with her in a park.”
Josiah changed the subject and blushed.
“Oh, yes. Sorry. Not in the park where she died. We were in a big park, to the west. I have forgotten the name of it. I borrowed a car. And we went up there.”
“Was it kind of romantic?” Armamente asked.
“Yes. Oh, yes. But she kept talking about Africa all the time. I got nervous by all her stories about Johannesburg and Addis and the parties there and so on….”
“She seems to have been a completely terrible person!”
“Absolutely. Yeah. Yes. Martha was terrible, indeed. But she had lots of charms. Tons of it.”
“Did she have any self-distance at all? Had she any irony?” Armamente asked.
“No. Oh no.” Josiah looked down.
Armamente looked at Josiah. He had given a remarkable portrait of Martha. She was delighted to have met him. Now she knew better what kind of person the whole expedition was about. And no wonder Eric was in such a miserable shape. After all, the woman he had loved was both gorgeous and thoroughly despicable. And that sort is the most dangerous, and the hardest ones to come to terms with when dealing with them in our recollection, Armamente thought. Armamente, consternated, emptied her coffee and thanked Josiah.
“You have been of great help! I´ll see myself out.”
She mounted her bike and drove back to the hotel.
When she arrived, Inga and Eric were already outside, packing themselves to leave for the house, complete with simple furniture supplied by the housing agency, Butterfield Housing Ltd, from which Inga had rented it for a month at a time.
“Oooooh,” Armamente cried out, ”this will be absolute heaven!” She left the bike with a boy in the street and told him to leave it at the bike-store. She then rushed up the stairs to her room to get her things.

After fifteen minutes, they were on their way to their new address. Oyster Pancake Street.
The Connecticut doctor with friends embarked on their new home during chat and laughter. Pain in Eric´s back seemed to down normal. It was such a lovely house, with red brick and white brims. The kitchen was small, and the house had modest proportion all over. But there were seven rooms in it, and the furniture was a simple one. Striking was that the Housing Agency had hired some consultant who had chosen an all-blue interior for this house. Thus not only all the chairs and tables in the kitchen were blue, but all the beds in their bedrooms, as well as sofas and armchairs in the living room. Even the willow furniture was blue. Everything in the house had this sky color.
Eric did not like it, but to Inga and Armamente, this was a change, and they did not object to it.
A man from Butterfield Housing, Mr. Condon, helped them to gain entrance and showed them around.
“Here in the cellar,” he said and pointed at a bolted door in the hall. There are some other furniture down there if you grow tired of the blue style…”
He laughed, and Inga smiled and praised the management.
In the kitchen, there were complete sets of pots and plates and cups of all sorts. Armamente had bags with food and wine sent for from the Food Markt. They sought out a bedroom each in the upper story, and Armamente got one with windows facing the backyard. In contrast, Eric´s and Inga´s rooms faced Oyster Pancake Street. Trees outside still had left on them, and magpies strolled around at the parking lot.
At 05.00 PM, they were all seated in their living room, watching the telly.
“This is fabulous!” Eric said. “I have not enjoyed myself this much since I was a young medical student.”
“I can´t wait to get to work,” Armamente said and blinked. The others laughed.
“Yes, please, tell us about the writer´s circle,” Eric cried out while he turned off the TV-set. Armamente, in great detail, recapitulated what the Poe-loving Haitian writer had told her.
“Now, that is not exactly true,” Inga said, referring to the young man´s picture of Martha, ”she was in no way vulgar! I must protest!”
“Indeed, everyone has a right to have his view,” Eric said, blushing a little. ”But I, of course, never saw Martha like that. Was he sincere in his purpose, that man? It seems to me that he almost had a … plan.”
Armamente corked up a bottle of red wine, and she said that she would try to contact more people from the writer´s circle. Armamente jostled around in the living room, wine glass in her hand, where there even was a small bookshelf with some old novels in it. While she dusted them off with one finger, she said:
“Tomorrow, we must visit Reuben Longman. I can´t wait to see that person.”
“We sure will,” Inga said in an authoritative tone. ”Still, I would like to meet with inspector Ludwig to hear where the investigation stands.”
“Calm down, girls!” Eric said, and then he suddenly remembered that Armamente was no girl, and he blushed again and corrected himself: ”Everybody, one at a time!”
All three of them laughed, and Inga and Armamente smiled at each other.



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