Bird cage

Wednesday the Raven

by Colin Lewis

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Chapter Twenty-four

The Pawn

Detective Weisell paced his office. He walked back and forth from the desk to the door and opened the window and looked all around and pulled in his head and let the window drop with a bang.

He returned to his chair and slumped down with a heavy sigh. He took all the pencils from his pencil jar and sharpened them, capped his pens and filled his stapler, rearranged the items on his desk, and folded up several of the Chief’s forms into paper planes and sent them sailing and darting across the room.

Really?

Really.

He has orders.

Oh.

Really.

The words of Zhao and Madame Alouette looped around in his head.

“Yes, really,” said Weisell.

Why?

Because.

That’s the job. Those are the orders.

There was a noise at the window. Weisell looked over and saw two pigeons had landed on the windowsill. Weisell crumpled another form into a ball and threw it at the window. It bounced off the glass and fell to the floor. The pigeons didn’t move. Weisell crumpled several more forms and threw them.

The pigeons looked around the room.

“What do you want?” said Weisell.

He walked over to the window and tapped on the glass.

“Go away,” he said.

“Hello,” said one of the pigeons. “I am needed here.”

“Be quiet,” said the Captain. “Just keep an eye out for the sparrow.”

He raised his wing and saluted Weisell.

The pigeons flew away.

Weisell opened the window and watched them fly down the street. When they passed Zhao and Madame Alouette, they circled once, then disappeared.

Pigeons, thought Weisell. I’ve been saluted by a pigeon. Unless it was a rude gesture.

Weisell did not understand pigeons.

He returned to his desk and reviewed his list of riddles and mysteries. The list had grown:

  1. Who took the blue-covered book?
  2. What is the problem with the Broken Clock?
  3. Why does the Chief blame the Park thefts on Edward?
  4. When did Wilhelmina lose the star-shaped earring?
  5. Where are Edward’s missing ring and watch?

Who, What, Why, When, and Where, thought Weisell. All I’m missing is a How.

He crumpled another form.

How can I be a good detective? he thought.

Weisell made a mental list of all the leads he had on the case. There were zero items on the list.

Really?

Really, he thought.

I really don’t know.

He made a new list titled Should I Or Shouldn’t I. In one column he listed all the reasons he should let Edward go, and in the other all the reasons he should leave him in the cell.

One of the columns was much longer than the other.

Weisell cleaned up the paper airplanes and the crumpled forms and left his office. He walked quietly to the cellblock.

The jailor put down his book.

“What are you reading?” said Weisell.

The jailor turned the book over. The cover read: A Field Guide to Songbirds.

“Huh,” said Weisell. “Open cell number three.”

The jailor got up and jangled his keys and opened the cell. He whistled as he returned to his desk.

Weisell entered the cell. Edward sat and stared at the floor.

“I’ve made mistakes,” said Edward.

He didn’t look up.

“You’re not alone,” said Weisell. “What mistakes have you made?”

“There’s something I should have done when I had time. Now I’m out of time,” he said.

“Maybe,” said Weisell. “Maybe you have time. Maybe we all have a little more time than we believe.”

Maybe, and maybe.

“No,” said Edward. “I think I wasted my chances while I worked on unimportant things.”

“I thought you said time had no meaning to you,” said Weisell.

“That was back when I still had some,” said Edward.

“Right,” said Weisell. He sat down next to Edward.

Really?

Really.

He has orders.

Oh.

“I’ve been a pawn,” said Weisell.

“A what?” said Edward.

“A pawn.”

“A prawn? A large, shrimp-like crustacean?”

“A pawn,” said Weisell. “It’s a small chess piece. Or someone who gets used by others.”

“Oh,” said Edward. “I don’t play chess. Or eat shrimp.”

“A pawn is the smallest, weakest chess piece. It only moves one square at a time, and it moves straight ahead unless it’s capturing someone.”

“Like a detective?” said Edward.

Weisell grunted.

“Maybe,” he said. “Your name is Rook. Edward Rook. Like the bird, or the chess piece.”

“I really don’t know anything about chess,” said Edward.

“I told you about the pawns,” said Weisell. “The rook is different. It’s a major piece. In the beginning of the game it’s boxed in by the other pieces. This leaves it powerless. But when you free the rook, it’s stronger than a knight. Do you see what I’m saying?”

“Not exactly,” said Edward. He rubbed the lump on his forehead.

Something was happening here, he thought, and it was definitely important, and he had absolutely no idea what it was.

“Most of the time, pawns are nothing,” continued Weisell. “They’re used and thrown away. But once in a while, a pawn will successfully cross the entire board, often led by a rook, and when the pawn reaches the opposite side it transforms and it changes from the weakest piece into the strongest.”

He’s speaking in a kind of code, thought Edward. It definitely means something.

Weisell stood before Edward and looked down at him.

“I’ve been a pawn up until now,” said Weisell. “My question to you is this: are you a good rook?”

Edward thought carefully. He never felt his best when taking pop quizzes.

“Yes?” he said.

“Is that a question?” said Weisell.

“Yes,” said Edward.

Weisell stared at him.

“Good enough,” he said. “Let’s go.”

Weisell led Edward from the cell.

“Really?” said the jailor. “You’re letting him go?”

“It may appear that way to you,” said Weisell, “but what I’m actually doing is solving the case.”

The jailor raised his eyebrows. “But I’ll have to tell the Chief,” he said.

“I know,” said Weisell. “It’s your duty. And in a way, it’s the same for me.”

“I don’t understand,” said the jailor. He looked at Edward.

“Sorry,” said Edward as they exited. “I’m just as confused about this as you.”

Wednesday the Raven cover

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