avlivro - 45 Chapter III.III

When the jammed latch finally deigned to make concessions to the human and released the inspector to freedom, Galbraith was already so tired that he did not unpack his things, but immediately went to the bed. Having undressed, he reached under the blanket and noticed with irritation that the sheet was burned by a cigarette, and the duvet cover had a hole. Pulling the blanket over himself, he thought about asking tomorrow for his bed linen to be changed. Be that as it may, the inspector was so tired after the flight that as soon as he closed his eyes, he immediately fell asleep.

In his dream, Galbraith found himself in a room somewhat similar to a hotel in a country cottage - a well-furnished room with many pieces of furniture, of which the carpets on the walls immediately caught his eye, a shelf with antique sabers, a huge wardrobe with books, decorated with stucco a fireplace (in which for some reason there was a crumpled sheet of paper lying around) and one window, curtained so thickly that the only source of light in the room was a small stearine candle standing on the lacquered top of the table, at which Galbraith himself sat on a simple wooden chair. Opposite him he saw mister chief inspector Schaeymoure - who was dressed in a cream-coloured sweater, under which one could see the collar of a white shirt, decorated with a silk tie. He kept his hands under the table, making his whole figure seem stooped, although Schaeymoure was far from a frail man, which slightly confused Galbraith, who looked straight into the interlocutor’s face, but the weak candlelight did not make it possible to properly examine the features of his face.

For some time the two of them sat motionless opposite each other, intently peering into each other's eyes. In the silence that stood in this place, some vague tension was felt, as if each of the interlocutors was about to attack the other, but could not decide. When the quiet became completely unbearable, Galbraith turned his gaze to the wall where hung the antique sabers and daggers - not because he was going to take possession of the weapon, but because he wanted to break this onerous eye contact for a minute. But suddenly, as if noticing this movement of his eyeballs, mister chief inspector gaved his voice, and Galbraith had to look up at his interlocutor again.

- From the height of my life experience, - Schaeymoure began in his usual impartial tone - I see how far you are from the true state of affairs. If you don't mind, I'll share with you some of my thoughts regarding your challenge.

The soft, senile voice of mister chief inspector had a calming effect on Galbraith. For a while, he began to trust him, completely forgetting how suspicious the place where the two of them were at the moment was. The inspector did not object to Schaeymoure's words and, without further questions, accepted his proposal with silent submission.

- The case you are currently investigating, - the interlocutor continued. - Has an unusual purview. The question it poses goes far beyond methodological and legal problems. I believe that the issues involved in this case are in an area that the police most often do not think about, - at these words he paused.

Galbraith, listening to Schaeymoure, only now noticed that the facial muscles of his interlocutor never contracted, despite the stream of words spewed from his lips. Cheeks, cheekbones and lips of mister chief inspector were completely motionless, as if he had not spoken at all. Galbraith tried to look at his eyes in order to understand something, but the darkness in the room hid everything except the trembling pale light of a candle, the light of which allowed him to see only the surface of the table and the jaws of the sitting on the other side man. 

- It's about faith, - continued mister chief inspector. - But not the Lord God, as you might think, and a delinquent.

This estimation of Schaeymoure was so inconsistent with the usual worldview of his interlocutor that Galbraith immediately wanted to ask the question that had been on his tongue from the very beginning of their conversation, but as soon as he tried to open his mouth, he suddenly noticed with horror that his tongue seemed to stuck to the sky and he cannot make a sound. Galbraith immediately fell into a panic, not understanding what was happening. And the senile voice continued to be heard from behind the tightly closed lips of mister chief inspector, which gave the impression that it was not a live voice, but a recording on a magnetic tape, played by a invisible in the darkness cassette recorder.

- Doctor Baselard committed a crime, - Schaeymoure continued. - I admit that this is an irrefutable fact. But has the thought ever occurred to you, that he did his deed for your own sake? Just like a whale cannot live in the ocean without plankters, so a policeman cannot exist in a society without a perpetrator.

Galbraith felt uneasy from these words. To the panic that gripped him was added an irrational feeling of shame, as if he was uncomfortable with the fact that, as it turned out, the whole world revolved around his modest person, even if it was a world of cruds and criminals. Looking away from his interlocutor, he suddenly noticed that the curtain hanging in front of the window was sticking out a little forward, as if it was pulled over a large object, the size of a man. With his eyes bulging, Galbraith peered into the curtain for several seconds, and although he was unable to see the exact outlines in the darkness, the thought immediately arose in his head that, in addition to him and mister chief inspector, there was another person in the room, who for the time being did not decide to show himself on the eyes.

- There must exist in the world constabulary and coffins, before whom they are obliged to perform their service, - Schaeymoure's even voice came. - In the crime of doctor Baselard lies your serenity, and in his person - salvation.

As if in response to these words, the curtains moved, and Galbraith saw the silhouette of a short and fat man flash in the darkness. The unknown person immediately stood behind Schaeymoure, and the inspector saw a familiar jacket and trousers, albeit somewhat blurred in the dark - the same ones that doctor Baselard was wearing at the moment when he found him at the entrance. But Galbraith was in no hurry to admit that this strange subject was the doctor, because, apart from the same garments, this man did not give the impression of an old and shabby man; on the contrary, under the clothes one could discern a strong, muscular body, and the stranger’s movements were filled with energy.

- And that's why you'll never catch him, - mister chief inspector continued. - After all, with his capture, your own existence will come to its logical end. And there is no mistake in my words - the whole thing about the young lady who died after doctor Baselard's surgery, is not so much an event of the present as a harbinger of the future. More precisely, it's the omen, - he emphasized the last words.

Galbraith wanted to ask whether mister chief inspector himself understood what exactly is the omen with Delia's death was, but at the same moment the stranger sharply jerked his hand, and Schaeymoure's head separated from his neck. But it could not be called beheading, because decapitation is possible only with a living creature, while in place of the mister chief inspector's neck, instead of an obvious bloody wound, the smooth surface of polished wood glistened. And when the head itself, instead of falling to the floor, began to perform intricate pirouettes in the air, it became clear to Galbraith that the stranger had pulled the lever of the crane, to which the head was attached by a invisible in the darkness nylon line.

However, there was no time to reflect on what was happening - the wooden head of mister chief inspector flew madly across the room, threatening to hit anyone who gets in her way, while a headless mannequin in a Schaeymoure's suit disappeared from the chair with the sound of a timber falling to the floor. Left alone with the stranger still hidden in the darkness, Galbraith could not help but feel a certain timidity and even something like respect in front of him - in any case, for organizing this whole affair with a artificial dummy of a mister chief inspector and a tape recording of his speech. It was completely unclear why, and, most importantly, for whom all this was being done, but Galbraith considered it unnecessary to ask about it - still he could not utter a word, because his tongue did not obey him. Trying to get up from the table, he almost lost his balance and suddenly noticed how a ligneous Schaeymoure's head flew over the table and hit the candle standing on it - at that very second the flame went out, and the room became truly dark...

Waking up the next day, Galbraith was involuntarily taken aback when he saw around him, instead of his native apartment, the unaccustomed interior of a "Stait of Snow Lake" hotel, but this was only a fleeting moment of confusion. Pondering his nightmare, he decided that the phantasmagorical nature of his events was explained by the fact that the human brain, after flying from one continent to another, adapted to new conditions in order to be ready to perceive everything that it would have to face in an essentially unfamiliar country. The first thing Galbraith wanted to do after sleep was to wash himself and brush his teeth. He started to go to the bathroom, but remembering that he had forgotten to take out his toothbrush since yesterday, he went to his suitcase with some annoyance. Having opened it, the inspector squatted down and began rummaging through its contents. The item he was looking for turned out to be at the very depths of the suitcase. Taking out a toothbrush, Galbraith involuntarily drew attention to a stack of white sheets - it was the materials on the case of his friend Pharqraut, which he conducted before his death. Sighing, the policeman took the papers out of his suitcase and, putting them on the desk, went to get himself in order.

After washing himself, Galbraith left the bathroom, wiping his face with a towel as he walked. Looked at the desk again. "Yes", he thought, "I've been putting off reading this document all this time..." He hung the towel on the doorknob and, taking a stack of papers in his hands, stretched out on the bed - because there was nowhere to sit in this hotel room. The Inspector began to read this magnum opus for the first time since its author personally handed it to Galbraith in the office of mister chief inspector Schaeymoure. On the first pages there was a short introduction in which Pharqraut indicated that he was led to the topic of the investigation by the words of the culturologist Japhet Byrnes, friend and colleague of Jordan Thurlow.

The point was that when the inspector interrogated mister Byrnes about his harassment of a certain Delia, daughter of pharmaceutist Yonce, he denied everything, but Pharqraut remembered how, during interrogation, Japhet admitted that that on that fateful day he wrote down a few words from the little girl in his notebook. When the inspector asked for what purposes, mister Byrnes, after a little hesitation, admitted to the policeman that in his opinion, for people who have Greek names, life always turns out in a rather sad way. When Pharqraut asked for an example, Japhet replied that the Inspector would simply need to go through the list of deaths to see that among the dead there were a lot of people with names of Greek origin. After reading these lines, Galbraith could not help but notice that mister Byrnes apparently had the makings of a person working with statistics, and wondered why he, despite everything, decided to choose the profession of culturologist, and not go, for example, to a market research institute, where he could direct his abilities in the right direction.

Galbraith's thoughts returned to Pharqraut, with whom he had studied together at the Portland Police Academy and even shared the same dorm room. Drawing parallels with Jordan Thurlow's colleague, the inspector couldn't help but remember that his own friend's fate was much the same - since childhood, Pharqraut dreamed of becoming a writer, and he became a policeman because he concluded that if he writes some book, and readers say that his work offends some of their feelings, then barely-literate to the end life cannot wash away the shame.

In the context of this, Galbraith recalled an episode from their student life. One Sunday afternoon, Pharqraut, alone with him in his favourite cafe, began to tell his friend about how, while still a student at the University of Portland (where he entered precisely in order to study to be a writer), for the credit he wrote a story based on Oscar Fingal O'Fflahertie Wills Wilde's "The Picture of Dorian Gray". Galbraith still remembered the contents of his friend’s work, although he didn’t even pick it up - but sometimes it happens that a work told out loud sinks into the soul much more powerfully than something read by the person himself. This was the case with Pharqraut's story, which the failed writer gave the somewhat immodest and pretentious name "Dorian Red". In fact, it was a curious reworking of that part of the book where James Vane returns from Australia to England...

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