Sunday, February 04, 2007

Sebastian Frazer Wilson.

I realised this morning that I had already given up on David Challoner. I didn’t hope once on Friday that he might call, or check my mobile for messages. So in the morning I took a final minute for his promised file and the way he’d manipulated me, and then I moved on.

I phoned Enright and asked if I could meet him. When I’m in the house with Samuel I find myself listening to him move around, from room to room, imagining what he could be up to from the noises, and then becoming annoyed with myself, because I know that what he’s really up to is utterly mundane.

Being Saturday, I hoped to find that my real friends might have some time for me. When I called they were all at Top’s house, listening to his latest vinyl acquisitions. I was invited to join them.

“I was wondering,” I told Enright. “What you said about feeling included. I don’t know what I can do to help, but if you need help, I’m available, to offer a hand.”
“When are you free?”
“I could come over now if-”
“To the house? No, best to make it The Red Deer. Someone there will be able to set you to work. I’ll let them know to expect you.”

I felt stupid, as if I’d gone to a party and been asked to serve drinks. It was Enright I wanted to see. Not for the same reason everyone else is tending on him – hoping to get thrown the next scrap of magic- but just because he knows what it is to be powerful. Not even for that really – but just because.

I went to The Red Deer, having told Enright I would. I couldn’t have him find out I never bothered. A once-magician in a three-piece suit, with two pocket watches and pot belly, took me to the room upstairs. I was given a file – yellow, split cardboard – from a stack of messy looking reports. It was a reminder that an uninterest in computers is not quaint and olde worlde, it’s just backwards. Inside the file were handwritten transcripts, compiled over the last few weeks, from all over the world. Every known, surviving magician they could reach gave a report of their experience on Tuesday Midnight.
“I need you to make a timeline,” said the once-magician. “What we’re doing here is making a timeline, and a map of the world. To see what happened, where and when. Arthur believes that this will lead to a point of focus. A source of the menace.”
“Arthur believes? You’re not convinced then?”
“I must admit that currently it all appears rather random, but the information we have is incomplete. What you need to do, is take a note of the particular properties that were noticed, obviously where, and then check the time against GMT. You will find that many reports are hazy on the specific time, so work your way back from the eventual time check and reconstruct. Also, double check what they took the time from. Is it accurate? Has it been altered since that night? If not, check it against GMT now and factor in that inaccuracy to your timeline.”

I think his name was Desmond Matthews. He looked unsure at giving me the file to take away, but he seemed more unsure about those that remained. My one is sat in my room now, thick with the sludge of information. I’ve scanned through it and there must be twenty reports in there, so I resolved to begin straight after tea. It didn’t seem like the sort of thing to open with an empty stomach.

Tea, and Chris’ commentary on why Sheffield is rubbish compared to Devon, was interrupted by the door. Norman showed in a tall man, bony and thin, making him seem taller still. He was wearing a raincoat, like a black and white spy. He apologised for disturbing us:-
“I’m a friend of David Challoner.” He spoke to me directly. “I believe you met with him on the twenty-fourth of last month, which makes you one of the last people to see him. I spoke with him on the Tuesday, the twenty-third, and was expecting another call before the weekend. When he didn’t call, I waited, obviously, but still nothing for over a week. After that I started to call around, but he’s been in contact with no one. They have his credit card at his hotel, and an open ended booking, so apparently they don’t need a physical guest. It’s not unheard of for David to go off in his camper for a few days and lose himself, but generally he’s a man of strict habits and punctuality. It simply isn’t like him not to make contact for this long. Did he give you any clue as to what he might have planned, when you saw him?”
“We never met.” I said. “On the Wednesday you’re talking about he didn’t show up.”
“Sounds like he’s let you both down.” Said Chris.
“I can assure you he intended to make that appointment,” the thin man said. “He said as much when we spoke. He was looking forward to it. Said you deserved it.”
“He was supposed to be giving me some information.”
“On Ilford Dyson, yes.”
I wanted to take the man to one side, lead him by his skinny arm away from all the excess attention and tennis eyes at the table. At the very least, I didn’t want Chris and Samuel to be listening.
“You know about the file?” I asked. “I pretty much assumed he’d made it up.”
“Why would he do that?”
“To get himself in with the in-crowd.”
The thin man laughed: “David’s never been one for the in-crowd. Even in our office he’s out of the loop, and there’s only two of us. What made you think he’d made it up?”
“He kept putting it off. First of all it hadn’t been sent, then it was lost in the post, then it was coming but not quite. All so I couldn’t change my mind about Arthur Enright’s party.”
“David mentioned Arthur Enright. Said he performed some spectacular trick.”
“He came back from the dead.”
“That’s the ticket. David said it was very impressive. As for the delay with the file though, I’m afraid that was my fault. I did delay in sending it at first, and then I sent it recorded instead of special delivery.”
“You sent the file?”
“Then the file exists?”
“Oh, absolutely. David had it on the Tuesday.”
“And you know what was in it?”
“Not a clue I’m afraid. Not my area of interest.”


Anonymous Anonymous said...

i did realize the card was in there but not until after i bought the book and as i was reading it the card fell out!

2:30 pm  

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