One of the challenges when explaining your life story is knowing where to begin. You could always say I was born here, and I grew up there–but what if some later event dropped down and exploded and shattered your life into a jillion tiny pieces? In that case, you might say:
I used to be happy. Then a Very Large Disaster occurred, and ever since I’ve fumbled in the dark, not knowing how to find my way home.
This was Edward’s story.
Edward Rook grew up in a small room on a second floor that looked over the Park, and his favorite color was the blue he sometimes saw on early mornings before the dawn. As a boy, he played beneath the Clock Tower, and as a man, he waited impatiently as the bells chimed the afternoon hours. Each day at five o’clock, Edward stopped whatever he was doing and sped as quickly as he could to the Park’s arched entrance.
He ran to meet an Important Person.
This Important Person had curly dark hair, shiny red shoes, and honey-colored eyes with a heart-trembling splash of little gold flecks inside them. Edward thought that the gold flecks looked exactly like the kind of stars one should wish upon.
Her name was Frances.
Edward worked hard to impress Frances as they walked through the Park.
“This is the arboretum to hold the roots of our story,” explained Edward. He gestured at the Park around them. “It is the avian green where all our dreams can take wing.”
Frances did not always know what Edward was talking about.
“I think you should hold my hand,” she said.
An arboretum, she noted later in her diary, is a garden of trees. Avian, she knew, meant something about birds.
Frances took Edward’s hand. Holding his hand, she had discovered, produced mysterious tingles in her stomach, her knees, and (for some unexplainable reason) her left elbow. Something happened when she held his hand that no words, no matter how big, could ever truly describe. There were only three words that came close.
I am happy, thought Frances.
Holding his hand, she discovered, had the additional benefit of keeping him quiet.
Edward always felt surprised when she took his hand. A tiny gong rang deep inside him that resonated from his toes to his ears, and in the stillness that followed, his brain stopped sending random sentences to his mouth and his mouth flapped shut.
As they walked quietly through the Park, Edward thought:
I am happy.
He also wondered: Does Frances feel the same?
It was difficult to tell. What he needed was a simple and plain explanation of her feelings, preferably communicated in as big a way as possible–maybe skywriting, or semaphore signals, or at least a megaphone.
Edward imagined arriving at the Park and seeing Frances at the base of the Statue of the Lost Poet. In his imagination, she held two flags and signaled:
I F E E L T H E S A M E
This, he thought, seemed unlikely. He didn’t even know how to read semaphore signals.
Maybe I should learn, he thought.
What the situation called for, he decided, was a man of action.
Edward wasn’t entirely sure if that meant him.
Detective Weisell and Edward sat on a park bench. Edward fell silent. Weisell waited.
Waiting, he reminded himself, was part of being a good detective.
Waiting and listening.
One of the first things they teach you at Detective School is the importance of waiting and listening.
You can learn a lot by waiting patiently, thought Weisell.
Unfortunately, one grows tired of waiting, especially if one hasn’t eaten breakfast yet.
“When are you going to tell me the rest of the story?” said Weisell.
“Hmm?” said Edward. “Where was I?” Weisell told him.
“Oh,” said Edward. He rubbed the lump on his forehead. “I decided I should ask Frances to marry me.”
Weisell nodded. I knew that, he thought. Maybe I’m not such a bad detective after all.
Edward and Frances met again in the afternoon and walked past the Statue of the Lost Poet and around the Chattering Pond. Frances thought Edward seemed nervous. She wondered if there was a problem.
“There’s something wrong with the Clock Tower,” said Edward. “That’s why I was late.”
“Oh,” said Frances.
Something else is wrong, she thought.
They walked through the Park several times as the sun sank lower in the sky. Edward only wanted to talk about the clock.
“It never stopped before,” he said. “It’s strange, isn’t it?”
Frances began to wonder if she was the problem.
Edward reached into his pocket and pulled out the small hinged box containing the ring he had purchased earlier that day. He held it behind his back and nervously opened and closed the lid.
“What’s that?” said Frances.
“What?” said Edward.
He closed the box and stuffed it back in his pocket.
I am not happy, thought Frances. I don’t think Edward likes me.
“Let’s sit down,” said Edward. “I have to tell you something.”
Edward sat down abruptly on a bench. By now the sun had set and the Park was mostly empty. Frances sat next to Edward and faced him.
I suppose this is the end, she thought.
“What I want to say,” said Edward, “what I have to tell you–”
“Yes?” said Frances.
“Close your eyes,” said Edward.
Frances closed her eyes.
Edward pulled out the small hinged box again and held it behind his back and opened and closed the lid.
“Well?” said Frances.
Edward held the box in front of her.
“Open your eyes,” said Edward.
Frances opened her eyes.
Edward felt his hands tremble.
“Why are you holding an empty box?” said Frances.
Edward looked down. Frances was right. His trembling hands held an empty box.
Edward’s heart froze. His brain and body panicked.
Run! said his body.
It’s a trick! said his brain.
Don’t be silly, said his heart–but it was too late.
“What have you done with the ring?” demanded Edward.
The moment these words came out of his mouth, Edward knew that it was, without question, the dumbest thing he had ever said.
“Me?” whispered Frances. “What ring?” She looked at the box.
Edward opened and closed the box several times, but the ring failed to reappear. He was certain the ring had been inside the box. Hadn’t he looked at it just before he entered the Park?
“I haven’t done anything!” said Frances.
Yes, he could picture it clearly: a silver ring with a small diamond circled by a pair of swallows.
“Is this some kind of trick?” said Frances.
Her eyes grew dark.
Frances leapt to her feet and ran. She shouted, “I’m never coming to this Park again!”
Frances had not entered the Park again. She occasionally walked near, and sometimes around the Park, but never passed through. Edward watched her as she skirted around the fence, and he hid himself when she neared–although it was unlikely she would recognize him. He now wore a long beard, and his clothes had grown dirty and ragged from sleeping outside on the ground. Edward had decided that if Frances wouldn’t enter the Park, he would never leave. He would stay and search day and night without pause, and he wouldn’t stop until he found the ring and made things right. But even after searching every day of every week of every month for nearly a year, he still hadn’t found it. He hadn’t made things right, and lately he had realized he was running out of places to search.
That, thought Detective Weisell, was a very sad story.
He left Edward and wandered through the Park and thought about the many sad stories he had heard. He began to arrange them in a list, but it was depressing work. He gave up and returned to the case.
So far, he thought, nothing made sense. He had no real suspects and no real leads. All he had was an earring that had fallen from the sky.
Weisell took out the star-shaped earring and examined it. It could be a clue. He took out a form labelled Clues, Leads & Other Discoveries.
One part of the form read: On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the highest, how likely do you think it is that this clue will become evidence?
Weisell had no idea. Two? Four? Eleven? Who could say?
He made a new list of the questions that bothered him most at that moment:
- How could Edward be a pickpocket?
- Why was the Chief so interested in him?
- Who took Edward’s watch?
- Why did the Broken Clock Tower clock stop running?
- Will Zhao would serve me a piece of cake?
Weisell skipped the first four questions and decided the answer to number five was Yes. As he walked toward the Bird House, he tried to push the case down into the basement of his mind and forget about it for a while.
It was no use.
“Keep an eye on Edward,” the Chief had told him. “He’s the one.”
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© 2018 Colin Lewis · Brought to you by Unlikely Objects