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Friday, June 22, 2012

A Song of the Past: Thirty

Table of Contents

Saturday, 12:30 PM
Deirdre slept for a couple of hours after returning to her apartment. She woke up for the second time that day at half past noon. Once again, she found herself spending an instant searching for Ariel before she remembered. Immediately she knew that she must get up, must keep moving, or she would grind to a halt from which she might not move again. But what movement would offer respite? How could she persuade herself that anything she could possibly do made sense in a world where an innocent creature’s life might be taken merely because doing so was a handy way to send a threatening message?

But that way lay madness; instead, she had to think about the case, about catching the bastards who had killed Ariel. With that end in mind, she fixed upon the plausibly achievable subsidiary goal of making it to headquarters that day.

She tugged her clothes off and marched to the shower, turning the temperature control to near-scalding on the chance that the heat of the water could burn away unwanted memories. After a long time she shut off the water, toweled herself dry with deliberate severity, and went to her bedroom to dress. Finally, she grabbed a light jacket from her hall closet and pounded down the stairs from her apartment to the front door of the house.

There she found an envelope sitting on the porch, with the single word "O'Reilly" typed on the front. She knew it had not been there when she had arrived home earlier that morning. She put on the gloves that had rested in her jacket pocket, stooped to pick the envelope up, and then removed the note it harbored.

On the single sheet of paper that emerged was printed a brief message: “We’re willing to give you Harrison Tyler in return for your abandoning this meddling in our affairs. Show your good faith: arrest him now. Then we will produce the evidence you need to convict him.”

What was she to make of this? On the one hand, if this cabal was ruthless enough to kill Ariel to make a point, it was not inconceivable that they also might be willing to betray one of their own members, if doing so served their interests, interests that they obviously held to trump all conventional moral injunctions. On the other hand, wouldn't they run a great risk of Tyler exposing their schemes if they made him their scapegoat? Why, if he thought he was going to be convicted of murder, would he feel obliged to maintain his silence about his “brothers”? Did their hold over members run so deep that he still would keep their secrets? It struck her that there was something contrived about the scenario that was being assembled before her, as if a skillful dramatist was laboring to achieve in her the proverbial suspension of disbelief. She could not dismiss the suspicion that she was unwittingly playing a part in one of those audience participation mystery adventures. If that were true, then, no doubt, she had been cast as the clichéd flatfoot who finds each of the plot twists utterly incomprehensible, a character included for comic relief while the real detective untangles the knot of intertwined clues and fingers the true culprit.

She had to admit that attempting to pierce through the veiled code behind which her clues hid their significance was, right at that moment, too daunting a task for her to face. So she tucked the note and envelope in the breast pocket of her jacket, planning to hand them over to forensics once she reached the station. However, given the apparent care that Ariel's killer had exercised at her apartment two days earlier, she had little hope that anything would come of examining the items.

A half-an-hour later she had delivered the envelope and note to the scientific detection boys and was at her desk, searching the Internet for more stories relating to the cast of her mystery. She was beginning to get the hang of Internet searches, and was increasingly able to figure out the combination of words and phrases that would yield what she sought for without hundreds of irrelevant links being included in the results.

She wondered if in cyberspace she could find any connection between Harrison Tyler and Alvin Blaine that she had missed in "realspace." She typed into the search site, the one which Srinivas had shown her, the words 'Tyler,' 'Blaine,' and '"New Haven."' The first several results seemed entirely irrelevant. But the eighth one, from the New Haven Register, looked interesting. It was recent enough -- January 1996 -- that it might actually connect her Tyler and her Blaine. She clicked on the link to view the article.

It turned out to be a local theater review, of a production of Hamlet at Wilbur Cross High School. Her first surprise was that the director was named Jacob Tyler, who apparently worked part-time as an acting coach and play director at Wilbur Cross. Could the fact that he had the same last name as her chief suspect possibly be mere coincidence? She recalled from the case files that Tyler had a brother in the area. He had been interviewed, but the investigators had concluded that he was an irrelevant figure, since he had been estranged from Tyler and had been out of town on the day of the murder.
Her next surprise, even more startling than the first one, was learning that Alvin Blaine had played the lead role in the production. What's more, he had received the highest accolades given to any aspect of the evening’s performance.

"Jesus, Mary, and Joseph," she thought, "Alvin played Hamlet?" Gazing out from a tower that beetles o'er its base, setting springes to catch woodcocks?

When Justin had told her that Alvin could act, she had assumed he meant in contemporary, inner-city dramas, with plots and characters that Alvin knew firsthand. But perhaps she was dealing with a mind that could grapple with one of the most complex figures in the history of the stage.

She flipped through the files on Evelyn's murder, to see if Jacob Tyler was indeed Harrison's brother. He was, and he had lived in Hamden at the time of the investigation. Harrison's brother -- now where did that put her?

She sat back in her chair, her feet on her desk, intending to do some serious thinking. But contrary to that intention, she found herself drifting into idle daydreams. She rose from her seat to go put a CD on the player shared by the whole floor. Until the inklings of having been under the spell of a weaver of tales had arisen just a few minutes ago, she innocently had assumed that she was dealing with a series of un-staged performances and accidentally theatrical props that created the effect they had on her by their unscripted, perhaps even random, intrusion into her investigation, like walk-ons who just happened over to the right stage at the right moment and so were given a bit part. Now she wondered if she might be witnessing an authored play that happened to incorporate a real murder victim and an irretrievably dead cat. Perhaps the concealed dramatist deliberately was leading the audience, especially the member who would conduct the murder investigation, to interpret the action on his stage according to his own, fictional schemata. And she had a hunch as to whom this demur director might be. Deirdre intended to meet Jacob Tyler as soon as she could locate him.

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