The Mustache Man

Chapter Twenty


“ Carlton mentioned you got fired because of your belief that a choirmaster named Marlston was innocent of the murder of two ten and eleven year old boys?  On the first page you wrote: “God-baby. A theological mystery. Is this real Detective Schulman or fiction?”

Still he could not answer her.  If only Carlton were here, the ultimate secretary, the partner who could protect him from prying enemies or friends. But Carlton was gone.  She had sent one last cryptic message, the way only Carlton could send messages, telepathing in script coded in his brain the crazy words: “Just entered the storm with the Mustache Man. The hunter is real.  He grinds it all down unless….” Then the scrawl had dissolved into static and Carlton was gone, perhaps for good. She was gone, the only Detective who had ever believed in him, an angel disguised as a human being sent by a being Shul refused to believe in and never would believe in because all that would be an excuse, an excuse for not thinking things through, a hope, a delusion. There was no divine being, no hunger, and yet?  He believed human beings were disappearing as they worked the internet.  He believed in the site Disappering Acts because his daughter was one of them. He had only one daughter left.  The other had disappeared into an ocean of static, her identity erased, no trace of her existence left on this earth, the only testimony to her memory the picture Jewels held in her lap.

Jewels held the photograph of his daughter as she sang whimsically to birds out his open window sill. In her other hand Jewels held the “Book of Mysteries,” his daughter’s favorite book.  There was writing in one of the blank pages. This was too much.  Pete Vargas’ family were invaders.  They had no right to be here.  Carlton had prepared him for their coming but he couldn’t take it.

The questions kept coming.

He heard them as he slowly emerged from his all day tunnel of sleep. He answered in monosyllables, not yet awake, not yet prepared for this assault on his little home that used to be piled high with papers and magazines and books, now reordered and swept clean by Chance Montclaire and Jewels and for all he knew the bulldog Bert who must have been busy carrying half eaten boxes of pizza in his teeth to the open garbage can in the tiny kitchen off this tiny living room.

“What about your pension?”  He lost it he muttered in such a low voice Chance had to ask him to repeat what he had just said. “Lost it.  Forced to retired the year before I  would have been eligible.”

“When did you last see Detective Carlton Jamis?” Shul replied in a low murmur that Carlton had visited him yesterday. 

“Why are you nicknamed Shul?”

Shul answered that his name was an ironic twist, a nickname given to him by fellow detectives because he never went  to synagogue on the high holy days, Rosh Hashonah and Yom Kippur.  He would spend his time instead in Saint Patricks Cathedral staring at the twisted figure on the cross, the same cross that had been used to slaughter his people down the centuries.

“Where did you work?”

Manhattan heard himself saying.  He transferred from Manhattan to Denver to be with his second daughter who lives in Boulder.

“Where does your other daughter live?”

In Arizona Shul had replied. He didn’t tell her his other daughter was a statistic on the site that had connected Chance to Carlton and brought her here, the site called “Disapearing Acts.” He didn’t tell Chance Montclair that he believed that she wandered in the caverns of hyperspace hopelessly lost and he had to find her just as Pete Vargas had to find the young woman who called herself Chance who sat here right in front of him as Jewels continued to whistle out the window to birds singing right back to her and Bert gazed at him unblinking.

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