Bird cage

Wednesday the Raven

by Colin Lewis


Chapter Twenty-three

The Prisoner

Detective Weisell stared out the window of the Police Chief’s office.

“He had the other earring on him?” said the Chief. “The dog lady’s earring?”

Weisell nodded.

I am not a good detective, he thought. I have arrested the wrong man. I have not discovered the truth.

The Chief rubbed his hands together.

“Do you have him in the cell?”

Weisell nodded again.

Maybe there are riddles without answers, thought Weisell. Or maybe I’m just not good enough to find the answers anymore.

“What else did he have on him?”

Weisell took out his notebook and read: tube of lipstick, wristwatch armband, blue bottle cap, pencil stub, star-shaped earring, and one wounded sparrow.

“I let him keep the sparrow,” said Weisell.

“A wounded sparrow?” said the Chief. “Why would he steal a wounded sparrow?”

“I don’t believe he stole the sparrow,” said Weisell. “We’re not sure he stole anything yet.”

“How much would a common sparrow be worth?” said the Chief. “Not much, I bet.”

“It’s not a common sparrow,” said Weisell. “This one has unusual blue eyes.”

“A wounded sparrow,” said the Chief. “It makes no sense.”

“I agree,” said Weisell. “It makes no sense.”

An officer knocked and stuck her head in the door. She looked at Weisell.

“People to see you,” she said.

Edward sat in a gray cell with a thin bed and thick bars and one small window wedged awkwardly in a high corner. Many prisoners before him had sat on the thin bed in this cell and stared at the window and wondered. Some concluded that whoever built the jail must have forgotten about the window until it was almost too late. Others decided the architect must have run out of space after building in the rest of the emptiness.

Edward sat with his hands open and his palms up, and he spoke in a low voice and did not look at the window.

Ella lay in Edward’s hands with her eyes closed. She listened.

Edward told her a story about a ring.

“And I was sure it would reappear,” he said. “I had stopped at the arched entrance to the Park and opened the box and looked at the ring and let it shine in the light. I can still picture the circling swallows.”

“I have seen your ring,” said Ella. “I can see it now.”

She did not open her eyes when she spoke.

“I would bring it to you if I could,” she said softly.

“I don’t know how my path led me here,” said Edward. “Maybe I’m paying for something I didn’t know was a crime.”

“I don’t know how I got here either,” said Ella. “I only know it was a long journey.”

“If only I had that ring,” said Edward. “I think everything would be right again if only I had that ring.”

“If only,” repeated Ella.

Maybe, and maybe.

Madame Alouette and Ming Zhao followed Weisell to Edward’s cell. They passed the jailor who sat reading at his desk and walked along the row of cells.

“He had a number of items on his person,” said Weisell. “But he didn’t have the book.”

“These things are difficult to believe,” said Madame Alouette. “It’s all so far-fetched. It’s unlikely and improbable. And now you’ve arrested him.”

“It’s all part of the process,” said Weisell.

I am not a good detective, he thought.

Zhao looked down and watched his feet as they walked. He thought about his strange dream.

Change, he thought.

Weisell stopped at Edward’s cell and tapped on the bars.

“I am sorry to ask you this,” said Zhao. “Do you have the book?”

“The book?” said Edward. He looked behind him. “What book are we talking about?”

“Please,” said Madame Alouette. “It is important to us. It is urgent and essential.”

“Right,” said Edward. “What does this book look like?”

“It has a blue cover,” said Zhao.

“I see,” said Edward. “I always liked the color blue. The problem is that I don’t have any books.”

“Are you one hundred percent certain?” said Madame Alouette.

One hundred percent, thought Edward. How can I possibly be one hundred percent sure about anything?

“I think so,” he said. “I only have this bird, and she’s not even mine.”

Zhao looked at Madame Alouette and shook his head. She waggled her chins in agreement.

Zhao turned to Weisell.

“There must be some mistake,” said Zhao. “Edward does not have our blue-covered book. We have no charges to press, and we think it would be best if you could release him.”

“Aha,” said Weisell. “I can’t do that.”

Zhao folded his hands and looked at the detective.

“Why?” he asked.

Why, Zhao knew, is an excellent question to ask when there is no good reason for the thing you see occurring before you.

“Why?” repeated Weisell.

“Yes,” said Zhao. “Why?”

Weisell looked from Zhao, and to Madame Alouette, and to Edward, and back to Zhao.

“Orders,” he said in a weak voice. He swallowed uncomfortably.

That word always has a funny taste, he thought.

“Really?” said Zhao.

“Really,” said Weisell.

“Oh,” said Madame Alouette.

She looked at Zhao.

“He has orders,” she said.

“Yes,” said Zhao. “Orders.”

Weisell looked away.

Zhao turned toward Edward and bowed.

“Last night I dreamed of a strange wind,” said Zhao, “and I am waiting for that wind to set things right. Please forgive us.”

They turned to go.

“Wait,” said Edward.

He reached through the bars and handed Zhao the sparrow.

“She fell,” explained Edward. “Out of the sky. Out of thin air.”

Zhao glanced at Weisell. The detective shrugged.

“And I caught her,” continued Edward. “But I wasn’t searching for a sparrow. I was searching for a ring.”

They gathered close around Zhao and stared at the tiny bird cupped in his hands. Ella lay with her eyes squeezed shut and breathed hard little breaths.

“Edward,” said Madame Alouette, “keep a green bough in your heart.”

Wednesday the Raven cover

This is a work in progress, and to keep track of things you can subscribe to the update notifications. Readers are also encouraged to submit suggestions & edits through the Github repository (or old school email). Questions? Check the project announcement page for more information.