Trying to calm down and collect his thoughts, Galbraith lowered his hands to his knees and only now discovered that all this time the same cardboard that was in the envelope along with the ill-fated letter had been lying on them. The inspector grabbed it and brought it to his eyes. He's already seen what's on it were listed the letters of the English alphabet in two rows, under the huge red letters of which there were numbers in small print - index numbers. Then, as soon as he opened the envelope, it seemed to him like a funny mistake by the postman, but after reading the letter, this modest accessory of a preschooler acquired a strange and meaningful significance in the inspector’s eyes.
Galbraith was so engrossed in his little investigation that he didn’t even notice that at that time the radio was playing in the cabin, which the driver turned on so as not to drive in dead silence with a taciturn passenger. Only when Galbraith began to look at the children's alphabet did the words that were heard from the speakers reach his ears:
- Hello! Now you are listening "Dom-I-Double" broadcasting service, announcer О'Girard is with you, - the voice of a mature man spoke with a Swiss accent.
The inspector could not help but notice that this O'Girard spoke with such glee, as if this announcer had just returned from some kind of feast and had not yet completely sobered up. But most likely, it was simply difficult for him to hide the joy that overwhelmed him, which was felt in his every word. But why? Galbraith, who involuntarily became curious about this, listened to the radio more closely
- It's no secret that yesterday, the twenty-sixth of December one thousand nine hundred and ninety-one, Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union adopted A Declaration on The Demise of Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Our radio station believes this is A Day of The Great Triumph for all...
The announcer's voice was drowned in the noise of applause and joyful screams of the crowd - it was obvious that salute had started in the studio. Galbraith even thought he heard the pop of a cork and the hiss of foam - apparently, someone opened a bottle of champagne right next to the microphone. But this festival of life was put to an end by the taxi driver, who on this cheerful note reached out to the radioreceiver.
- Smile nice, mister Capitalist.... - he said, addressing someone unknown.
The taxi driver didn’t finish his sentence - he simply switched the radio channel and took the wheel. The sounds of jazz were heard inside the car. However, the inspector, who managed to hear the news, was involuntarily stunned. The point was not that he was worried about the fate of some state - Galbraith was amazed that, according to the announcer, today was the twenty-seventh of December.
- It's only mid-October now.... - the policeman puzzled muttered to himself.
He couldn’t understand what had happened - is that really time flown faster for no apparent reason and ended up jumping ahead two months at once?
- This is clearly someone else's mistake... - the rational inspector repeated to himself.
He had two assumptions about this. The first was that it was possible that announcer O'Girard had misspoke when he announced the date. Galbraith rejected this idea immediately - he rightly believed that it was unlikely that the radio would so blatantly misinform its listeners, passing off black as white.
The second hypothesis that the inspector put forward was that it was a trick of the taxi driver. If this were really the case, then it would be outright paranoia - why would some random driver suddenly gather a bunch of people in one room, give them pieces of paper with a script and, having recorded it on some audio cassette, put it in the tape recorder of his car and play it at the right moment to the right passenger? Against this assumption was the fact that Galbraith clearly saw that the driver had switched the radio, and not pressed the tape recorder button - unless it was an optical illusion. Anything, of course, could have happened, but the inspector did not consider himself the navel of the earth around which the whole world revolves. Galbraith decided not to torment himself with meaningless guesses and turned to the driver, who, after changing the radio channel, continued to drive the car in silence.
- Sorry, can you tell me what date it is today? - he asked politely and even meekly.
This simple and innocent question caused an unexpected reaction in the man - he instantly turned around and stared at his passenger. Galbraith involuntarily staggered back - it seemed to him that the taxi driver had suddenly gone crazy and was about to tear him into pieces. But the next second the driver realized what was going on, and he smiled widely.
- Ah, good sir, you look so intelligent, but... - he began.
- What do you mean? - Galbraith's fear gave way to discontent.
- I'm talking about the fact that it's not proper for a man like you to drinking into oblivion, - the man said reproachfully.
- How do you figure that? - the policeman frowned.
- How else did you manage to forget that today is December twenty-seventh? - The taxi driver winked and finally turned to the windshield.
- You have got to be kidding me... - this answer stumped Galbraith.
- Nothing of the sort, - muttered the taxi driver. - Check it out for yourself, if you do not believe me! - and he made a gesture with his left hand.
The inspector, who had already lost his temper, obediently followed the man’s instructions and looked out the side window - they were driving along a straight road, on both sides of which stretched snow-covered fields, behind which rare buildings were barely visible. The only source of light was the headlights of the car, which illuminated the road ahead, and in their light it was clearly visible how rare snowflakes were swirling in the air and slowly falling onto the snow-covered asphalt. Galbraith was confused and grabbed his head with both hands. The view of nature outside the car window silently made him understand that there was only one way to explain what was happening - a miracle happened, and the policeman inexplicably moved in time.
In this regard, he suddenly remembered that in childhood he had come across a book - a collection of fantastic stories. There were a lot of interesting things there, but he remembered one story for a long time. As far as Galbraith could remember now, it was about students who found a broken grandfather clock in the house of an elderly relative. Taking them with them, they showed them to the professor and he decided to have them. His actions caused the trinity of them to travel back in time to the Eighty Years' War. Over the years, the inspector forgot the author of the story, its title and almost all the details, but the fact that in this work, from the nineteenth century, which was more or less familiar to his perception, the action was suddenly transferred to the sixteenth, was imprinted on his memory.
Galbraith raised his eyes to the ceiling, all the impressions he had experienced that day made him dizzy. Common sense told him that fantastic is fiction, but now he was in reality! If someone outside tried to briefly describe what had just happened to him, the result would be complete nonsense - the inspector got into a taxi in the fall, and winter immediately set in outside. How the most ordinary and banal passenger car was able to travel forward two months in time? The inspector was brought out of this frantic whirlpool of thoughts by a familiar tenor. Galbraith turned away from the window and listened - the voice sang to the accompaniment of jazz, which was heard from the radio. The passenger could not resist touching the driver on the shoulder.
- Listen, these are not... - and inspector uttered two words that sounded like the name of a French fashion magazine.
- Yes, that's them, - the driver nodded affirmatively, who also seemed pleased to listen to this song.
- Did they really release a new album this year? - Galbraith was surprised.
He remembered that these guys were so busy touring that they simply did not have time to get together in the studio and please their loyal listeners with another full-length masterpiece.
- What the album? - said the driver. - Only one track.
- Hmm... - the policeman scratched his chin.
- But this is not just a ordinary composition, - the driver began to clarify, - It's a song for the new movie by Ernst Wilhelm Wenders!
Galbraith had never heard of this man before. Apparently, he was simply not particularly interested in what was happening in the world of cinema recently.
- Okay, I was excited to learn about this, - Galbraith thanked him and leaned back in his seat.
He began to listen to the song streaming from the radio speaker. The beautiful voice of the vocalist had an alluring and hypnotic power, which was ideally combined with an accompaniment very similar to jazz - which was quite uncharacteristic for these guys who mostly played synthesizers. The lyrics involuntarily sunk into Galbraith’s soul - as he could understand, the lyrical hero of this song felt like a stranger in the real world, and so he went to the afterlife, which he considers his true home. In the refrain he appealed to his parents, hoping for a suitable reception from them. It seemed to the inspector that this composition was clearly intended for those who were disappointed in life.
Analyzing the content of a song that came across a random radio channel, Galbraith noticed its similarity to a Missa pro defunctis. And I couldn’t help but wonder, for whom does this requiem sound? According to Jordan Thurlow - a young man who had no place in this life? Maybe for Delia Yonce - a little girl who did not have time to know this world? Or in the end for himself, inspector Galbraith, who has recently been forced to try to understand the meaning of life?
- Delia... - he whispered.
When the name of this girl came to his mind, the inspector was suddenly overcome with determination. He remembered the cardboard with the alphabet and, taking it in his hands, began to study it again. The letters themselves were printed in large font, and their serial numbers in smaller.
- How was it, four and five... - the inspector recalled the last lines of the letter.
On the cardboard, these numbers corresponded to the letters "D" and "E", and they - what a coincidence - came one after the other.
- This is quite naturally, - Galbraith grinned into his moustache.
He remembered that, according to the radio, it was now December - the twelfth month. He lowered his eyes again - on the cardboard this number corresponds to the letter "L".
- Well... - he became interested in solving this logical puzzle.
The ninth letter from the beginning was "I". Galbraith thought that it could carry the answer in itself - after all, in the Roman number system this letter corresponded to the number One (1). And this, by the way, was also helpful for the decision, because "A", the very first letter of the English alphabet, fit this number.
- Okay, this is D-E-L-I-A. Ideal.. - burst out from Galbraith.
The inspector tried this phrase on his tongue, and accidentally discovered that both of his last words - "delia" and "ideal" - consisted of the same letters, only arranged in a different sequence. "One is any better than the other", he breathed. Now Galbraith had no doubt that the mysterious author of the letter had this girl in mind. But what was the point of this? An extra reminder for the inspector? An unknown author called for Galbraith to restore justice in the name of the pharmaceutist's daughter? For some reason, the policeman immediately remembered his dead friend Pharqraut, who just liked to find unusual clues in things in which other people would not have noticed anything. The dead do not write letters, but the logic of his close friend and the author of the message, who wished to remain anonymous, was very similar...
- It is possible that the essence should be sought not in morphemic, but in arithmetic, - the inspector said quietly.
A hunch told him that if he added up the numbers, the riddle would be solved on its own. He was afraid of making a mistake in his calculations, so he turned to a taxi driver.
- Sorry, do you have a calculator? - he said meekly.
- Do you want to calculate how much money will be transferred to you in a month? - The driver said cheerfully and opened the glove compartment.
- Something like that, - Galbraith decided to maintain a carefree tone of conversation.
- If it's not a secret, what will you spend it on? - asked the driver, rummaging through things.
- For the holidays, of course, - the inspector answered evasively
The driver, meanwhile, continued to look for what the passenger asked him for. Finally, he pulled out a small electronic device from the very depths.
- Did you ask? Hold it, - and he gave the policeman a Casio fx-7000G.
The inspector turned the silver calculator in his hands. The well-worn device had a small green screen and five rows of tiny buttons.
- If only you knew how much money I spent on it at one time... - the driver said with unexpected warmth, and for the first time notes of sadness were heard in his voice.
"There was no need to rush to buy the product when it was just thrown onto the market", Galbraith thought, focusing on the device. Means, D-E-L-I-A. The inspector checked the cardboard - it turned out that in numbers this word was transformed into 04-05-12-09-01. Galbraith began to poke at the small buttons of the calculator.
- Which operation should I perform first... - he asked himself, referring to operations of a mathematical rather than criminal nature.
He decided to subtract the numbers. The matte green display of the Casio fx-7000G displayed "-23". A negative number meant nothing to him. Then he decided to add them. He got the number "31". "Already makes sense", the inspector thought. For example, he himself was just thirty-one years old...
- What if I added up both of these answers? - Galbraith decided.
He typed "-23+31" on the calculator. The result is the number "8".
- Eight... Delia was eight years old when Jo met her... - the policeman muttered as if in a trance.
Yes, Galbraith thought, one German scientist said the truth that Mathematics is The Queen of The Sciences...
- Take it back, - he handed the calculator to its owner.
- What, did you find out how much you will spend on the holidays? - the driver asked in a joking tone, putting the electronic device in the glove compartment.
- Well, I'm a huge strapped for cash, - Galbraith smiled in response.
- Why so? - there was surprise in the driver’s voice.
- I don’t really want to work, - the inspector lowered his gaze in embarrassment.
- All right, I get it, you are lost the grip... - the driver nodded understandingly and returned to the controls.
And Galbraith, who was somewhat tired from solving mathematical riddles, leaned back in his seat and closed his eyes. Already without a calculator in his hands, he simply turned over the number thirty one (31) for fun. The result involuntarily made him grin - because the number thirteen (13), which he came up with, was famous for generating an unhealthy excitement around itself. It’s funny, Galbraith thought, when overly impressionable people are afraid of Baker’s dozen, not least because that at one time some quacks gave birth to a cult, which in fact was needed only to instill fear in the souls of uneducated people. And, as the inspector noted, this mission to obscurantion the people was successful - this extremely ridiculous cult in its essence was not only not forgotten over time, but on the contrary, it penetrated into all spheres of people’s lives and became as integral a part of culture as, for example, the hippie subculture.
Galbraith marvelled at how the people could allow their heads to be filled with such nonsense, and thought that if these quacks heard about the incident with poor Delia Yonce, then they would immediately call her a witch, hang all the mortal sins on her - in general, they would turn the story about a rare medical case into some kind of idiotic mystical fairy tale, which would only cause bewilderment to any even more or less educated person.
- I can think of no worse deed than demonization of the child, - Galbraith sighed sadly.