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Stories from the Verse
Old Verses New
Chapter 70: Kondor 65
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"Come in, officer," he said, shaking the sleep from his mind and flipping on the light in the sitting room. He noticed that in addition to the plainclothes officer there were three others, Professor Merrick, Krannitz the Stupefying, and another he guessed must be the officer's partner. "Is there a problem?"
"Well, Mr. Kondor, we'd like for you to account for your movements this evening."
Something had happened, and in the secretive style of the careful investigator, the officer wasn't going to tell him what that was until a few basic questions had been answered.
"Well, there's not much to tell," he said, grabbing the robe from the bathroom door on the way by and tossing it on. "I ate in the hotel restaurant, and then arrived at the museum between six and seven. I participated in the first act, and then stayed until after it was over, offering to help move the props back to the exhibit. They said they didn't need me, so I returned here, and have been here all night."
"Can anyone establish this?"
"Well, Mr. Merrick and Mr. Krannitz of course saw me at the museum. The hotel staff would be able to verify the rest. I ordered towels, and later sandwiches, and then I called to have them removed. I don't know how long ago that was; I've been asleep since then."
"Thank you, sir. Those were really formalities; we've already talked to the hotel staff, and they've confirmed your presence here pretty much all night."
"Can I ask what this is about?"
Professor Merrick answered, clearly agitated. "Somebody has taken the Vorgo."
"The Vorgo?" Kondor said. "That's crazy. I mean, it's a pretty rock, but hardly worth stealing. I'm sure it's priceless and all that, but what's it really worth? Who would buy such a thing? Who would even want it?"
"We were actually hoping you might help us with that, sir," said the other officer. "Did you see anything or anyone unusual at the museum tonight?"
"No," Kondor said, "unless...."
"Unless what?" the first officer queried.
"Well, there was a man in a...a gray suit, a white man with dark hair and a beard. He was in the back row, and he left rather quietly right after the ritual that was supposed to bring the dead to life was performed."
"Bring the dead to life?" asked the second officer.
Professor Merrick fielded the question. "Yes, in our studies we've found that the Vorgo was supposed to have the power to give life to the dead. It's all superstitious nonsense of course, but our ancestors took it very seriously, and we were performing the sort of ritual they would have used centuries ago to attempt to bring someone back to life."
"And you think," the first officer said to Kondor, "that this man might have something to do with it?"
"I don't really think anything of the sort," he answered. "You asked if I saw anything strange. At the time I did not think it strange that someone would leave a performance early, or that he would do so quietly. But he caught my eye, and it was the only thing I noticed that wasn't part of the program. It's probably perfectly innocent, some guy who needed to get home to his wife but wanted to see what he could of the show."
"But it is odd that he would stay until the end of that particular ritual," the second officer said, "and then leave."
"Yes," said Krannitz, "especially since there was only one more part to the show, the unmaking ceremony."
"Ah, but no one in the audience would know that," Kondor offered. "At least, I didn't know it."
"Well, it's something to check," the first officer said. "Would you be willing to come downtown and give a description to a sketch artist?"
"Not a problem. Let me get dressed, please, and if you'll give me a ride I'll be happy to come."
"And this might seem an imposition," he said, "but we'd like to check your suite. We know you didn't take it, but it's really for your protection. It's one thing for us to say it would have been hard for you to have slipped out of here and back inside without being either missed or noticed by the staff; it's better if we can say we searched your room and it wasn't there."
"I don't mind," he said. "But I do have some valuable and unusual possessions, and I'd like to be present while you search."
"That's fine. Should we search first, or wait for you to get dressed?"
"Let me pull on my trousers, and then you can search while I'm dressing." He headed into the bedroom, and grabbed a new pair of desert camo pants, pulling them on under the robe while the door was open. He didn't want them to think he might be hiding something while they waited. Then he removed the robe and grabbed a shirt. "Come in here, if you'd like to start here, and I'll finish dressing while you work."
The two were thorough, but in a cursory sort of way. They opened every drawer, every door, every case which might hide the sphere, and looked under the bed and behind the chair. The truth was that there weren't many places in the suite where something so like a bowling ball could be hidden, and it didn't take long for them to satisfy themselves. The Jacuzzi was probably the most difficult spot to check, as the door was equipped with sensors to activate the air and water jets when someone entered, thus making it difficult to see to the bottom. It took a few minutes to figure out how to turn it all off without shutting off the lights. But they were soon satisfied, and Kondor was dressed.
"Gentlemen," he said, "I would like to carry my pistol. I am, after all, wearing rather valuable jewelry and carrying a large quantity of cash, and assuming that I may be traveling back here in the middle of the night alone I really should have some protection."
They looked at each other, as if trying to decide what to say.
"And I really don't want to leave valuables here in the room. I could leave them in the hotel safe, but that's time consuming, and I'd have to pick them up again when I return."
"Bring your gun," the second officer said. "We'll worry about the details at the station."
He agreed to leave his pistol with the desk sergeant while in the building. With his description they soon had an adequate picture of a somewhat nondescript dark haired bearded man. They thanked him, and said they would give him and the others rides to their respective homes in a few minutes.
"I don't understand it," Professor Merrick said. "Who would want to steal the Vorgo? As you say, it's really not something you can sell."
"Maybe the thief doesn't know that," Krannitz suggested.
"No," said Kondor, "anyone who attempts to steal from a museum for the money first knows that what he is going to take is worth something to someone. It's too difficult to rob a museum to do it without such forethought."
"Then what?" said Krannitz.
Kondor thought for a moment. Merrick spoke. "It's so strange. Maintenance and security have been questioned, and no one remembers moving or seeing it after the show."
"At least," Kondor said, "no one has admitted it." He tapped his fingers absentmindedly on his knee. "You know," he said, "you and I know that this thing is, well, just a rock. But to Sowan and Dimtri and Talwin, it was always a magical thing that could bring life to the dead. What's the chance that there's some superstitious nut who actually thinks he can use it, either to give himself perpetual life or to bring back some loved one from death?"
The others thought for a moment. "That's a good theory," Professor Merrick said. "There are still superstitious people throughout the world. There might be someone who believes in the legends of the Vorgo."
"And life after death is a compelling idea," Krannitz added. "People will believe and do almost anything for the possibility of cheating death."
"So, how do we find this superstitious nut?" Merrick asked, and they all stood silently for a few minutes.
"Gentlemen, may I take you home now?" a uniformed officer asked, and absentmindedly they all followed him out of the building and hopped into his squad car. "Which way? Who's first?" the officer asked.
Suddenly Kondor thought of something. "The library!" he said.
"The library will be closed this time of night," the officer said.
"What do you mean, the library?" Merrick asked.
"Well, whoever this is must have been doing research pretty much along the same lines as you, professor. That means he probably read and maybe checked out some of the same books. I don't expect there are too many people really that interested in the kind of scholarly works you were reading to recreate the rituals, but this guy must have been. If we can find out who else was doing extensive research into the Vorgo, and eliminate anyone who is clearly another scholar, we'll have a short list of suspects."
"That's brilliant!" Krannitz said. "Can we get into the library now?"
"I'll call the station and see what can be done," said the officer, and keyed his radio mike.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with eight other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #100: Novel Settling. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter. It may contain spoilers of upcoming chapters.
As to the old stories that have long been here: