2018-06-24 21:41 fiction cyclopaedia

Cyclopaedia Chapter Fifteen: Like A Mountain

Jon disappeared. They had to investigate. They had to follow up on everything. There was a small chance it wasn't related to the current case. However, that would be an extreme anomaly—the person who worked closely with the original missing person was now, himself, also missing. These connections must be finite, Slv&Elin believed, but they worried about degradation of the situation. The disappearance was an unfortunate twist.

They'd just finished interviewing Pietr, the second assistant who said he hadn't seen Jon since the lab was closed. They ran through the usual questions, maybe a little wearily. Pietr answered the questions adequately, he was a nervous man, but there was nothing in his answers that made them doubt his veracity. They would have to interview the Director again, they would have to question Compiler Hedvin again.

"Hedvin is the obvious suspect, we could legitimately arrest him now."

"If the Cyclopaedia pushed back however, we'd have a real problem on our hands."

"And then there are the interests of the Garde."

The previous day they'd searched Compiler Hedvin's apartment. They were also of course having him watched. They wanted to know where he went and who he talked to. The search of the apartment turned up nothing, as they'd expected. But they signaled to him that they were willing to escalate the investigation, this was important. If he did kill Ove and then kill Jon, they were at a loss for any real motive. Anger over a project he didn't agree with wasn't enough reason for this degree of premeditation or this level of risk and personal danger. And he didn't seem like a psychopath. Perhaps difficult, but not psychotic. Compiler Hedvin had an easy life, a life that many would envy, why would he risk everything out of ideological anger and disagreement? And yet they sensed, if sense was the proper word for an Inspector to ever use, another factor—Compiler Hedvin was misdirecting, there was something he didn't want them to know. They would be failing as Inspectors if they didn't fight to find out what he was hiding. Hidden things must be revealed. They wouldn't stop until they understood what it was, and they assumed Compiler Hedvin knew they would pursue it, since he was smart and likely understood Inspectors' prerogatives. So they had to play this game with him. The situation made Slv&Elin uncomfortable because they were being forced onto Compiler Hedvin's terrain. And they knew this inevitably involved the Garde.

They'd used some of their more important contacts to get in touch with the Garde. They'd been told these operations were never easy, and almost never obvious because the Garde didn't want them to be. You might have to wire someone, who then wires someone else, and so on, until you get a cryptic response. Or you would be asked to bring something to a park, or a restaurant, or a forgotten street, leave it in a particular place. Or you might be told to walk somewhere, at a certain time over several days, to prove you wanted the meeting, knowing full well you were being watched. Slv&Elin believed they were already being watched by the Garde. At this level, everybody watched everybody else. This situation irked them too—if they were being watched, then the Garde already knew they wanted a meeting, why bother with the theater?

They'd been told to leave a written note at a bar, with a bartender, and they hoped this most recent method of getting in touch with the Garde hadn't already been deprecated.

The next day they found a brand new hat in front of their apartment door. This must be contact, they thought. A new hat, pristine, placed directly in front of the door, centered perfectly in front of the door, it must be the Garde. Are we supposed to wear the hat? Which of us? Were they meant to bring the hat somewhere? There was no note. Why such opaque methods? Frustrating. They knew of course, these methods were meant to keep them playing, just like Compiler Hedvin meant to keep them playing. Looking inside the hat they saw the label of the maker. So they went with that. They traveled down to the hat makers' shop. They returned the hat, which the hat maker accepted wordlessly. After this they received a letter by courier directing them to a train station for a particular arrival. Grudgingly, because they knew what was going to happen, they made their way to the train station. They stood on the platform for an hour, gave up, and left.

The next morning they picked up breakfast from a bakery on the way to the Division. Inside the bag of pastries was a note. On it were instructions to go, after hours, to an obscure office in the basement of a municipal building, a bureau of city planning and sanitation. Perhaps this would be the actual meeting. It fit the Garde's profile, have the meeting on unfamiliar territory after convoluted steps to make the attendees feel off-balance and insecure.

The night before the meeting Slv opened the drawer she kept the things her mother had given her before she died. There was a bag of smooth, small, black stones. She didn't know what animal skin the bag was made from, but it was thick and smooth. The stones were the same size and shape. Heavy for how small they were. They had an interesting purple glimmer in the light, like the wet feathers of a crow.

Her mother had been from the North. She met Slv's father who was a government surveyor and they fell in love. She moved back to the Grønn with him but had never really been happy. As her mother grew older she talked more about her village in the North, about being a girl by the ocean, the dangerous beauty of the endless winter, of the stories they told in the village. The things Slv kept in the drawer were the things her mother had as a girl, that she'd kept with her all those years in the Grønn.

The stones, her mother said, are the blood of the world and will protect you. But you have to be careful with them, they want to return to the ground, she said, they will try to get themselves lost if you aren't careful. But they will let you see things the way Nunataata, the world father, sees them. They will let you pass through the ground as if it were water. They will let you be immovable like a mountain.

Sometimes Slv would take a couple of the stones out of the bag and hold them in her palm, clicking them together. She imagined her mother doing the same thing a long time ago.

The night before they were to meet the Garde she took two stones from the bag and she handed one to Elin. Slv told Elin what her mother had said about them. It didn't matter if they believed in it, Slv thought, the stories of the world do not require belief. If the Garde wanted theater they would bring their own stories, the Garde were not as powerful as her mother's stories.

When they left that morning she could feel the weight of the stone in her pocket—it was there, and she knew it would make her a mountain.