Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Labyrinth of Klavdia Klangfarben: Installment #31

In the previous installment of The Labyrinth of Klavdia Klangfarben, Dr. Kerr and Cameron are getting ready for the opening night reception of the “Pimp My Prodigy” Pageant at Phlaumix Court where ace reporter Badger Bronson is trying to interview as many people as he can: contestants like Carmen Miranda Reitz, judges like Destinée Knox and of course legendary producer Skripasha Scricci. Among the crowd are the house librarians Kerry Eliasen and his wife Christie, SHMRG's Lex Luthier and the Guidonian Hand's Carmen Díaz-Éray, not to mention the oldest person working on the Pageant, the mysterious woman-in-the-library, Melissa Fourthought (or at least one of those named Melissa Fourthought).

(If you've only just arrived and have no clue what's going on, you might find it easier to start with the introductory post, here.

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A Moment in Time inside Bognar Regis' mind

It bothered Bugsy in the same way all such incomplete epiphanies bother anyone: missing the bell by inches or a mile still didn't ring the bell. Yet the images suggested by seeing this face – the same person? someone similar? – opened a flood of recollections he found inescapable. Everything, everybody, every sound had suddenly slowed down to an almost indecipherable blur, the only thing functioning deep inside his brain. Slow motion, slow speed, everything including the answer, slowed down to imperceptible levels.

The slide show of his life flashed before his eyes with ominous precision – had he just been shot? was he dying? – and he felt like a man caught drowning, but only gradually, slowly, inevitably. Was it the shock of recognition or was there pleasure in this memory? Did he have time to figure it out?

If he hadn't been shot, he tried thinking, these memories would've begun earlier in his life, if not at the beginning. But he remembered seeing faces peering over him – no, he'd just been shot. Yes, while on patrol that sunny Sunday afternoon on the outskirts of Hillsborough – Northern Ireland, near the start of The Troubles.

The captain of his unit, he'd been shot, severely wounded, nearly bleeding out. He'd passed out many times, the pain unbearable. He'd forgotten everything else between then and waking up back home in hospital.

Faces, so many faces peering over him, prodding, waiting for him to respond. "Ow, quit poking me," but nobody heard him. Had this face been there? How could it – this face was too young. But he did remember one of those faces, a woman standing over him, someone visiting the patient in the next bed.

"My brother-in-law," she explained, "my late husband's brother-in-law. He'd been shot in a sniper attack – Hillsborough."

"Yes, I know him – Hillsborough."

The name sounded familiar – he didn't survive. "Sorry..."

She had been almost beautiful.

He ended up marrying her – Vexilla – a bit haughty for a ministering angel but nice enough – and a marquess's granddaughter, too. The wedding, her second, was quiet, just family – had this face been there? After that, she didn't mind his being transferred to a boring desk job at the military's home office, away from harm.

"Oh, thank God," Bugsy thought, "I don't have to remember everything in between," glad that something was moving in fast-forward speed. Those were boring years chained to that desk, slowly working his way up. They mostly lived in London, spending weekends visiting her grandfather at Phlaumix Court: Bugsy couldn't stand the place, gave him headaches.

But everything seemed to be going his way, if on the slow side, and then he found himself transferred to Whitehall. Then he stayed in London while Vexilla took care of the old man.

Then it finally happened – a long time coming – no doubt the highest he could imagine going as a pusher of pencils: he was named Deputy Assistant to the Vice Chief of the Defence Staff. It brought him into contact with "higher ups" on a more daily basis, but could this face be one of those?

It was the social contacts he made with this crowd during those years that led to his being recruited by MI5. Being good with figures had come in handy and his tenacity impressed them. Soon he headed up a small, low-level division with a project so secretive even he wasn't sure what he was investigating.

But Bugsy couldn't go up and risk exposing some undercover agent or mole, compromise the man's integrity and blow his identity. Those were extremely clandestine years: "things that happened in Whitehall, stayed in Whitehall."

"No, wasn't it earlier than all that?" His thoughts ricocheted around his brain like a pinball machine that's lost all direction. And still everyone in front of him's moving at one-tenth their normal speed.

"Who is that idiot flailing his arms, being dragged away in slow motion? Where did that guy I'd recognized get to?"

Did "earlier than that" mean before he'd been sent over to Northern Ireland? How long ago was that – over forty years? Before his father'd left for Egypt during the Suez Crisis, never to return?

Bugsy's had always been a proud military family, not without making its sacrifices – he still recalled those stories heard growing up about his great-uncle Newton killed in the last months of World War I, or the legend of his heroic great-great-grandfather Houghton who fought valiantly in Crimea, survivor of the the Light Brigade at Balaclava.

Great-grandfather Barton had fought in Afghanistan during the second war there, bloody place, but full of the glory of the Empire on which, across these far-flung places, "the sun never set" and all that. Barton's brother Letcombe, gravely wounded in the 1st Boer War serving the Queen, had risen to the rank of lieutenant colonel.

His father, Beeston, became a Royal Navy commander after the St. Nazaire Raid and then a captain during the Suez Crisis only to be fatally wounded by a sniper's bullet while on shore leave.

These were the legends of his family, proud in their contributions to history, a distinguished record of service to the crown, and though he too may have been lucky to have survived his wounds, spending the bulk of his career behind a desk he felt was shameful, an act of bureaucratic cowardice, hiding behind paperwork. But the family glory and dedication to duty basically ended with his nearly dying in the countryside outside Belfast that morning: his nephew, a coddled hippie pseudo-intellectual, shamefully protested against the family's military legacy.

Generations of the Regis family going back to the days of Queen Anne devoted their lives to the defense of England: though he'd become a Peer of the Realm, with him that glory ended. Named Baron Regis of Snaffingham in the Queen's Birthday Honors List of 1995, he retired a "spook" sitting behind a desk.

"I hate when this happens," Bugsy heard himself say, like his own voice-over amidst the slow-motion reception going on around him, as if he had no control over what he saw, heard or thought. "And you know it's not going to come to me until I wake up sometime in the middle of the night."

What was it about this guy he'd caught only the briefest glimpse of, who did he remind him of and why? Given these memories swirling about in his head, was there some family connection?

Bugsy had no children of his own to carry on the family's honor and Milton's only son had run off to America with his hippie girl-friend (they lacked even the respect to get married). He'd become a baron, marrying a wealthy widow, yet let the family down, centuries of duty come crashing to a halt.

Yet he had this sinking feeling it wasn't so much about him directly as about some other member of his family who, affecting him directly or indirectly, shows up unexpectedly like a bad penny. He sifted through his memories for clues, for any recent news he'd gotten but that was the thing: who was there?

And who else was there in his family (now that he'd mentioned it) who would likely be as bad a penny as his nephew Lyman except this guy was too young to be Lyman.

Poor Milton, he thought, recalling his younger brother, barely three years his junior, always more popular, the handsome one they'd said, blonde and dashing with his brilliant blue eyes, wavy hair and swimmer's build. Bugsy'd always been the smarter of the two but what were brains in a family whose life was based on duty?

But what can you do when you're standing there, smoking a fag, and some bloody IRA bastard tosses off a grenade? Poor Milton, blinded by shrapnel: they also serve who only stand and wait.

After he'd recuperated from that, he was always "Poor Milton," wasn't he, though, disfigured and blind, those eyes now weirdly vacant. And then the sorrow of having a son like Lyman protesting the military.

Seeing him show up at his brother's funeral,

Wasn't it at the funeral when Bugsy almost slapped him in the face? Lyman had even changed his name to "King"!

That was it – the funeral, where he saw this guy, poor Milton's funeral! Bugsy hadn't seen Lyman since he was a teenager wearing a gas mask, hurling stones and insults at the London police. An ungrateful son, the wretch, always spitting on his father's sacrifice like that. Bugsy was glad when he'd left for America.

But at least he had the decency to come pay his respects at his dad's funeral, bringing that woman of his, the one he had never bothered marrying, and that bastard son of theirs.

It was the son, wasn't it, Lyman's son, this guy reminded him of, though it couldn't be him, now, could it, not at the height of this winter storm, here in his own home?

It would be too much of a coincidence, someone who looked like him, this dark-haired version of his poor brother Milton?

How old was the boy at the funeral, then, a student in college? Bugsy hadn't paid much attention to them, considering. Observing the standard social protocols, he pretty much ignored them beyond the basics.

Hadn't they said something about the boy – Earl? – wanting to be a musician, an instrument maker, actually, or something like that?

And what would the boy be doing here: trying to scope out how much his father's stuffy old uncle was worth?

"Maybe then I shouldn't go talk to him..."

Now, what's going on there?

Frieda's sitting room, Phlaumix Court: the same time

"I brought someone to visit you, Frieda," Cathie said, peering into the room. "You said you weren't going to this reception, so I took the liberty..."

"Oh, that's wonderful. Really, what a pleasant surprise," Frieda told her, trying to mask the fact she had been caught dozing.

Toni appeared in the doorway, trying not to look lost in the shadows though somewhat cautious of entering a stranger's room. She'd only been here a little while ago, but somehow things had changed.

The old woman had been kind enough, just like Schnellenlauter said she'd be, plus she was curious about that secret message. He'd warned her not to let it fall into strangers' hands, another mystery. If it was in some kind of code, who else could read it? Who else would even be interested in it?

"I thought it was Minona, getting me ready for dinner," Frieda said, smiling, "but it's a little too early for that." She reached out her arms to Toni and welcomed her into the room. "And Minona is, well... nothing if not punctual. (Did I say that right? Double negatives in English have always confused me.)"

Cathie steered the child toward one of the chairs next to Frieda's desk. "I asked Minona if she would retrieve Toni's suitcases from the pageant people – unfortunately, Sidney was too busy with the reception."

"Did they seem to mind, anyone involved with this ridiculous pageant," Frieda asked, "about leaving there, moving your things over here?"

Toni settled herself into the chair, getting comfortable. "I don't think anybody noticed."

"I'm not even sure what it is you're doing there with those people. Such a horrible idea for a music contest."

The girl couldn't quite explain it either, except Maestro Schnellenlauter had had her register for this competition, as he'd called it. It had been a last-minute decision, apparently, getting the visa and everything ready.

"It seems this message the Maestro asked you to deliver concerns you – and may be the real reason why you're here."

Toni looked at her with some alarm, wondering what this was all about.

"Do you want to find out more about your family?"

"Oh, yes – please..."

Frieda bit her lip, wondering how to begin.

There was much to tell but so much she didn't need to know, especially given all the news she'd received today. How much more could a typical thirteen-year-old absorb, Frieda wondered, in one day? It had been enough of a shock to have discovered the news herself, and she had been 22 at the time.

The whole purpose of the Unsterblichesverein had been to look after and protect all the descendants of Beethoven and his Belovèd. Technically, she was told they weren't supposed to know about their heritage themselves.

It wasn't that Schnelly had broken the rules: she had figured it out and only had to ask him for confirmation. He'd asked her too many questions about her past, especially about the twins. That was the one bit of information she was reluctant to part with, and the most difficult for her to accept.

But what impact did it have on her, knowing she was Beethoven's great-great-great-granddaughter? It certainly explained why she stopped composing, then. It had been so much pressure, realizing that – how could she keep going? None of her ancestors and none of her descendants, it seemed, ever became well-known, respected composers, even if they didn't know!

Hadn't it almost paralyzed Brahms, nearly bringing his creativity to a screeching halt, all just for being hailed as Beethoven's heir? "What if he'd really been descended from the Master," she wondered, "what then?"

Instead of starting at the beginning, she decided to work her way back, beginning with the girl's parents, a logical place – not the ones who'd raised her, she explained, but with her birth-mother, Fern. Toni knew she was adopted and she knew who her real mother was, even had an old photograph of her father.

She explained how she and Maestro Schnellenlauter had been married once, sort of, and how he'd spent much of his time looking for her own children "from a, uhm... how you say, previous relationship.

"So – your mother was Fern Geliebter who'd been adopted by her birth-father, Andy Vernon Geliebter, and his wife, living in Connecticut. Now, Fern's birth-mother was a woman who worked in Andy's office, named Melody."

"That's funny," Toni said, "I'm a musician and my grandmother was named Melody. Maybe that explains it," she wondered, "kind of..."

"There's more to it than that," Frieda smiled, but continued as if counting on her fingers, going back generation by generation. "Now, Schnelly only recently discovered that Melody's father was someone named William Hawk.

"You know they say 'it's a small world.' Well, William was my son and so, Toni, that makes me your great-great-grandmother."

"You mean... we're related? Then, you're my family?" Toni was close to tears.

"Cathie said you've got your birth-father's photograph, yes?"

As Toni searched through her phone for it, somebody knocked at the door.

Minona entered, setting down both of Toni's suitcases, whispering something in Frieda's ear: how "pageant people" were asking after the girl.

"And why is that, Minona: did they say?"

The maid shrugged her shoulders.

Frieda leaned forward and told Minona, should anyone from the pageant ask again, the girl's no longer involved with their program.

"Perhaps it's better for you to move in here, Toni," Frieda told her, pointing back toward another room. "There's more privacy."

"Uhm, thank you, your ladyship..."

"Please, I'm not 'your ladyship,' I'm... oh, whatever..."

For being a descendant of Beethoven, this girl seemed a little too meek, though maybe that wasn't entirely a bad thing. Still, Frieda wondered if she'd had more self-confidence, where would she be today?

"I'll ask Vector to set up an extra bed in my spare room." Frieda pushed a small button beside her phone.

Somewhere dark in Phlaumix Court: the same time

Cameron had no idea where he was but knew that his head hurt, that he had been bound, gagged, and blindfolded, left somewhere chilly and damp. The floor was not only hard and cold but, aside from smelling musty, also made him think of an unfinished basement. He also had no idea how long he might have been unconscious, basically, though feeling slightly hungry wasn't all that unusual despite having been nibbling at a tray of hors d'ouvres during that reception.

Who had knocked him out or for that matter even where that happened was not coming to mind at the moment. He shook his head and discovered that was not a very good idea. It really was like swimming up from a great depth, slowly coming to. An odd dream began evaporating, children punching him.

Had anyone else at the reception noticed he was missing yet, he wondered, if anyone would have started looking for him. He'd stood on the edge of the crowd, hardly knowing anyone else there. And where had Dr. Kerr wandered off to, shmoozing with the other guests. By himself, he's usually pretty awkward around strangers.

Had somebody planned on abducting him, drawing Dr. Kerr away like that?


Who would knock him out and kidnap him? Did it have something to do with that woman in the library?


Or, he thought, maybe it might have something to do with Schnellenlauter's murder? Did that mean the killer might've followed them? Did he – or she – think they (especially he) had discovered the killer's identity? Was he going to be tortured for information which he didn't really have, or eliminated because he might know too much?

And who was the person that had lured Dr. Kerr away from him? Did that mean he was also in danger? Or was someone else on the killer's list, Schnellenlauter not the only victim?

What if it had been the Guidonian Hand, out to eliminate Beethoven's legacy? Certainly, Schnellenlauter had known a lot about it. The thing is, now, because of that, so did he and the Doctor.

Did that mean they were also in danger – or Frieda and that girl, the one she said was her twins' great-granddaughter?

But in danger from whom, and also why? That woman in the library? She hardly seemed the type, Cameron thought dismissively, but wasn't she the one who'd kidnapped Dylan and stole his Beethoven Letter? "Schnellenlauter may have been one of these Unsterblichesverein Watchers Frieda was talking about, but I haven't officially been sworn in yet."

And what information were these Watchers supposed to have that would be valuable to someone who's a member of The Hand? Nothing short of the identity of all the descendents of Ludwig van Beethoven!

True, he thought, sitting on the cold floor up against a cold wall, he only knew about two of these descendents: did this woman know anything about the child, the offspring of Frieda's twins?

If this woman was an operative for the Guidonian Hand, who's the boss?

"Wait – isn't she's involved in SHMRG's Prodigy Pageant?"

If she's up to her old kidnapping tricks and part of The Hand and if she's also here working for SHMRG...? Somehow he must get this news to Kerr – unless they already have him...

There were footsteps far away – no, coming closer – they're coming to torture him (echoes of Ravel's Bolero arose in his brain).

The door unlocked, opened and then a man said, "Now, we'll send your sorry ass back to where you came from."

Then he recalled that foggy memory of something, back before everything went dark.

That wasn't a recent memory he was having, just as he came to: he was a boy of 8 once more. This was almost two-thirds of his life ago yet he couldn't forget it. He was in school and being pushed around, blamed for those attacks on the twin towers because he was a terrorist.

Didn't they understand? He was only part-Persian, born in Brooklyn, and had nothing to do with the Arabs flying those planes. Just because he looked only slightly Middle Eastern, they called him a "Towel-head."

It was like blaming everyone Russian for the actions of the Soviet Union back in the days of the Cold War: or more like blaming anyone European because the Germans started World War II. How stupid were these people they couldn't see the difference between the two? No wonder the world was in such trouble.

And he'd been joking about that moments earlier – Fubaristan, Al-Qalín: pure stand-up comedy. Who was he telling this – that librarian fellow. "What the hell," he thought. "Can't you even make a joke around here?"

Then a woman started talking – she sounded like somebody pretending to be French.

"I've called ze police to send him beck."

"Back?" he thought. "To where?" They probably didn't mean back to New York. And how were they going to do that? Could they arrest him on charges of terrorism for making a bad joke?

He could imagine President Bush – "W" – not getting the joke, but really – Fubaristan? He'd thought it was fairly obvious, from FUBAR, back in the days of World War II:

"Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition."

It's not a joke he shared with many, just those he thought might understand the humor: this library guy seemed okay.

Hadn't Dr. Kerr, not finding it that funny, warned him often enough how it would someday bite him in the ass?

"People have little tolerance for humor," he'd said, "when it comes to terrorism."

"You know, I googled zat country and couldn't find it on any mepp," the woman who sounded kind of French said.

"Aaah," the man grumbled, kicking the wall not far from where Cameron sat.

"So you realize, don't you," she continued, lowering her voice a little more, "zat means even his country must be... underground!"

The Great Hall, Phlaumix Court: a little later

It was Bugsy who first 'sounded the alarm' while everybody at the reception was focused on Skripasha Scricci yelling and howling like a banshee in heat. There was something on the periphery of the crowd – back toward the library – that caught Bugsy's attention which nobody else noticed.

Unfortunately, with all the commotion trying to get Scricci away from the crowd and Badger Bronson tripping over himself hurrying to get the best camera angle, Bugsy was like a salmon desperately heading upstream.

Instead of swimming toward Vector who was standing not far from the library, Bugsy was swept off toward the main entrance, caught up in the crush of everyone else rushing after the screaming Scricci.

He found himself pressed tight against Sir Charles. "What d'you make of that? It's like he suddenly became a raving lunatic!"

Being short was not usually considered a disadvantage, something Bugsy chose to rethink when, after turning around, his face buried deep in Mrs. Dean's ample bosom, he was barely able to catch his breath. Vector was nowhere in sight. In fact, no one was in sight until he extricated himself from Mrs. Dean's copious façade.

She hardly noticed until Bugsy, stumbling backwards, landed in front of the cameraman who then tripped headlong against Mrs. Dean's stern, leaving Badger Bronson annoyed at having lost the shot of the raving Scricci.

After the Public Wing's door closed behind Scricci and the tumult was defused, Bugsy saw Vector standing not five feet away, and looking considerably solicitous over what had happened, more concerned perhaps than agitated.

"Pop," Badger was shouting, yanking on O'Rotcey's arm, "did you get any footage?" Good thing they weren't going live with this.

After helping Mrs. Dean up off the floor – her cleavage had suffered a wardrobe malfunction no doubt due to Bugsy's mustache – Vector turned to him and asked what was wrong: "M'lord, you look flushed."

"Ah, Vector, good, there you are," Bugsy sighed, as he straightened himself up. "Had you seen what happened? I've been trying..."

"No, sir, he'd been standing there being annoying, then his annoyance-level simply sky-rocketed."

"No, not that maladroit," he said, flattening out the bristles of his mustache, "that young man behind you, with LauraLynn's friend...?"

"That would be young Master Cameron," Vector replied. "No, I'm afraid I did not see anything. 'Happened,' sir? What happened, m'lord...?"

Everyone was gravitating back to what passed for the center of the hall.

Bugsy said he didn't see anything very clearly, it all happened so quickly, but someone conked the boy over the head.

"'Conked him...'," Vector repeated, dubious but looking around. "Are you sure? That seems..."

"I saw something, I'm just not sure who might've done it," Bugsy added, "everything all happening at once – like an explosion."

Then Bugsy remembered the young man who had reminded him of his grandnephew, noticing he wasn't anywhere to be seen, either.

"Ask around – will you, Vector? I'm pretty sure what I almost definitely saw."

With that, he wandered away, as Lady Vexilla apologized profusely to Mrs. Dean. Vector caught Sidney's eye and motioned him over.

Vector explained the situation – "the possibility of a situation" – to the young footman, asking if he'd seen their presumably missing guest.

"Perhaps," Sidney theorized, "he got bored and just went back to his room."

Sidney tried to look nonchalant as his gaze wafted casually over the crowd. Very definitely, the handsome young man had gone.

That was when Sidney noticed Herring wandering back from Downstairs, brushing his lapels, and not far behind him, the nonchalant deKoy.

"If something happened to Master Cameron," he thought, "those two would be involved."


The Great Hall, Phlaumix Court: immediately following the above

Scricci's entourage made short work of getting him away from the Great Hall, out of the public view with its nasty prying eyes and wagging tongues. The last thing they needed was to have their boss become the victim of another media frenzy like last summer's fiasco. If he started raving about Fictitia again and ripping his clothes off, baring those inked-on "tattoos" that had become so scandalous, they'd all be out of jobs before they could even secure the perimeter.

But Scricci's almost surgical removal from the scene hardly succeeded in allowing the reception to return to anything remotely approaching normal. People were chattering to one another in hushed undertones about what had happened. And meanwhile Sidney would walk up to Dr. Kerr to ask about Cameron, Kerr then would start talking to Kerry Eliasen.

Bugsy, carefully working his way through the crowd, managed to corner the cameraman and ask him if he'd taken any film toward the back corner by the library hallway, pointing in the general direction.

"Well, mate, depends on what you mean," O'Rotcey began, holding up his camera,
"this here's not really film, now, is it?"

Badger immediately came over, seeing his cameraman being confronted, asking, "What's going on?"

Bugsy, pointing and waving his hands some more, tried to explain the situation. "It would help us clarify what did happen."

"What's going on with Scricci," Díaz-Éray asked Destinée Knox, busy striking a pose.

"Oh, it's just another Fictitia Flashback," she explained.

Other people asked similar questions around the room and heard the familiar story.

Badger asked someone nearby – it turned out to be Burnson – who Fictitia was, but he responded, "Go ask one of those..."

While Badger and his cameraman worked their way over to "one of those," who happened to be the imposing Holly Grayle, he overheard someone telling someone else, "he said there'll be, like, an explosion!"

"Pop, I've think we're on to something," Badger told him. "We're going live," and radioed the engineer out in the truck. Quickly calling the network's newsroom, in minutes he had them on the air.

"Good evening, this is Badger Bronson live from Phlaumix Court in Snaffingham, Surrey, where reports of a terrorist attack appear imminent."

Sidney was hurrying back down the grand staircase and reported directly to Vector who was himself still scanning over the proceedings.

"I checked the Dodecahedron Room, like you said, but he hadn't returned there."

He tried to imagine where Master Cameron might have gone if he had met someone and was looking for... someplace private.

Just then, Kerr returned from the private hallway leading to the Cube Room and informed Vector the restroom there was empty. Sidney frowned when he wished he'd thought of that and checked there first.

Badger was interviewing one of the other judges, singer Desi Finado, on camera, asking him who would possibly sabotage the pageant.

"You were talking to the host, Skripasha Scricci, when suddenly something strange happened."

"Well, maybe not so strange, but then, yes: he complained about the champagne, said it tasted like ginger ale, and then..."

Mrs. Dean was telling Tabitha she'd overheard that reporter with the television station say there was a bomb in the house but Tabitha stopped laughing when she realized Mrs. Dean was being quite serious.

She quickly found her brother and told him what Mrs. Dean had said. Burnson then made a discreet call to 999.

"The bomb's maybe placed in the public wing of Phlaumix Court," Badger continued, "where the reality show Pimp My Prodigy's filming. The police have already been called: I'm told a suspect's already in custody."

Mr. Eliasen cornered Burnson before he could pocket his phone and get away.

"You were standing near me when I was talking to young Cameron Pierce: you didn't happen to see where he went?"

When Burnson, already distracted, said he had not, Eliasen agreed nobody seems to have noticed him, with all eyes on Scricci.

"You were heard threatening Mr. Scricci," Badger insisted. "What was that all about," stuffing the microphone up into Holly Grayle's face.

"Yo, I didn't mean no harm by that – I'm a diva," she squirmed.

Canon Pettifogger, his hand resting on Burnson's wrist, urged him not to over-react. "I'm sure it's just rumors – publicity, you know."

"And if it's not, Reverend, what happens next? My guests are in danger!"

Destinée Knox was telling one of Scricci's entourage – Faiello, or was it Colangelo? – after Scricci screamed, someone ran up the stairs.

Díaz-Éray hurried around the room, trying to find the girl, but she'd disappeared. People all around her talked of terrorists and a bomb set to go off in an hour if demands weren't met.

The whole room was nearly a constant blur but Sidney noticed two figures, immobile, over by the punchbowl: Herring and deKoy.

"According to a trusted source," Badger said – he'd just been handed a note – "the suspect is a young man of Iranian descent recently arrived from Germany perhaps after having visited his homeland in Fubaristan."

Kerr had little doubt that Cameron had disappeared and no one had any idea what could have possibly happened to him.

"He wouldn't have gone willingly, and Fourthought is nowhere to be seen, either."

Then Sidney, noticing Sir Charles heading towards him, recalled Cameron had gone over for a drink and chatted with Mlle. deKoy.

"We're not aware of any casualties and Mr. Scricci's condition is currently unavailable." Badger was responding to the news anchor's questions. "However, one of the contestants, here, Carmen Reetz, is afraid for her life."

Lex Luthier, asking about the cab's mysterious passenger, heard only about the terrorist.

"Maybe he's the guy who planted the bomb?"

"It's like an Agatha Christie murder mystery: with this storm, who can escape?"

Badger introduced a still-shot prepared by his cameraman.

"This is the suspect, Kamrún al-Pirsi, with his accomplice, American musicologist Richard Carter."

= = = = = = = = = = = = =

to be continued... [with any luck, this link should become active at 8am on Wednesday.]

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The usual disclaimer: The Labyrinth of Klavdia Klangfarben, which you've no doubt figured out by now, is a work of fiction and as such all the characters (especially their names) and incidents of its story are more or less the product of the author's imagination, sometimes inspired by elements of parody, occasionally by personal experience. Many of the places are real (or real-ish) but not always "realistically used." Other places like Phlaumix Court and Umberton are purely fictional. Any similarity between characters and real people, living or dead, is entirely coincidental, but then, as Klavdia Klangfarben keeps quoting a former professor of hers, "Perception is everything." Yadda yadda yadda.

©2016 by Richard Alan Strawser for Thoughts on a Train

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