Four years and he had to die on the day of our first ever meeting.
My writings on the war pictures, as he liked to call them, had intrigued him. It had taken me some time to convince my family that I simply had to come all this way to meet a man called Charles Leroy Nutt. This would be reason enough for many in my native land to be cautious if not hostile but this was not all. I did not say this was not what he called himself now. I dared not even tell the man himself that I knew his other name. This was a source of shame. Initially, the sole reason for our correspondence was my admiration for the work behind that other name.
The final terminus of my journey proved too much. I was ushered into a line for looking too closely at the door. Too many people were inside his room. I looked at his desk, then down. I saw the paper. I instantly recognised the scribble. It was unmistakably his handwriting. Instinct dared me not to pick up the paper. Strange to speak to him this way. I could not give anything other than a cursory glance to the clots of sticky red. Some part of me realised I had to see, smell and sense what had happened to him. That was, if I was ever going to be a writer.
Someone pushed me. My knuckles had frozen in an enraged anger and I could not hear anything. The heavyhanded shaking of me released my knuckles from their grip. He kept repeating: “How long have you known each other”. “FOUR YEARS”, I said. “Are you deaf or something?” he asked. ‘FOUR YEARS”. Another officer held me down as if somehow this would contain the shrilled volume in my voice. A tightly wrapped woman in a red coat with a large handbag and shiny black hair appeared. She apologised on my behalf. I had read what to do in such circumstances but just omitted to conduct myself in this way. Sometimes there was truth in writing. Deference even if false and it mostly is false, is and always will be a necessity of pointless authority. “I thanked her”. I wondered if she was Charles’ girl? He never mentioned a girl. She was a woman.
But the heavyhanded baboon had not finished. He simply did not realise I was distracted by this event and now this woman. I was trying to understand how to deal with losing something I had never had. I have another question. “What did you do for him? “I did not do anything for him. We corresponded. Of course, we wrote to each other” I said. Luckily, my sarcasm was covered by my rambling. “What about?” he asked. “The war”. Relieved at his momentary silence, I quickly filled the gap with “writing”. “Where did you meet?” Baboon began to poke me. I played the deference card. I was not from these parts. Red coat had helped me but my luck was running out quicker than my fellow Charles. “We never met physically, in person I mean”. Baboon was slightly taken aback but then suddenly showed no interest in me whatsoever. I wondered about testing the reaction. “I am a writer too”, I said but no one, not even the oversized uniformed baboon was interested in either me or my beloved fellow Charles Beaumont. There were hundreds of writers in these kind of places, dead ones, live ones, forgotten ones, you name it, they had every kind. It was hard to tell stony faced oaf that this particular fellow, Charles Beaumont, now dead, deceased, departed, who I had come all this way to meet, was actually my hero.
Red coat was back. “I’m Sandra Cheever” she said. “I am a writer”, Why did I say that? I felt stupid but things had a habit of coming out the wrong way. “Do you have any idea what happened?”, she asked. “I’ve just arrived” I said. “Your Roger”, she said. “You really a writer” she enquired. Yes, she was right, a name like Roger was a guarantee that I would never be a writer. “Yes”. She had that kind of face where involuntary talk takes over. “I corresponded with Charles but this was to be our first meeting. His last letter he had said he no longer felt alive”. An ominous statement perhaps indicating his impending death”… “Let’s walk” she said. I thought she meant run away but she just meant walk. She grabbed my arm and walked out with me. I was terrified but baboon did not care and neither did the others. Perhaps, I was harsh, a real baboon would be much more sensitive than this specimen. “Of course, people like me try to think up murders but these are in the comforts of our imagination. Some may feel visceral but they are not physical acts.” She hushed me into immediate silence. Did anyone understand that Charles was dead. I did not understand any of this. I had not even seen death, not in real life, not until today. It was no wonder murders were rampant if this was how crimes in this Niu Yawk were investigated.
“Can you think of anything?” she asked. “I feel blank, clueless on what to think. Charles is dead” I said. “Well we need a little more than that. What we need right now is for you to find the clue on what happened to Charles” she said. “The number” I said urgently. “The paper on the floor, it was a code, simple and disappointing and the purpose is unclear. But that crumpled bit of paper lay bare the code behind 6324. I rarely see numbers…” “Look Roger, get on with it” she insisted. “Charles said I was the only person to say this to him”. “What?” she asked. “FCB. That’s the code. The first three are obvious. He knew I was coming to meet him. I always referred to him as my fellow. He once told me this made him chuckle like a schoolgirl. I cannot imagine the sound of his voice. I’ll never hear his… Yes. The next two refer to his real name, Charles Beaumont. I am uncertain about the D?” She had began to thump her feet. “D’s got to be for disclosure. That policeman knows about the racket. Nutt’s dead because of him, he knows it and I know it but I can’t prove it” she said. “Are you trying to tell me, a policeman killed Charles” I felt bewildered. “Yes, don’t you know anything?” she said. She pulled out a pile of papers from her bag. I stole it, from Nutt. Nutt says you’re the only man to think like him”. “Did he really?” I asked. “Now I need you to make those weird connections and tell me how we end this.”
I lost myself and embraced Sandra. I soon realised this was not the kind of attention she wanted. I stopped. I felt so awake. I had never felt so close to my hero fellow Charles Beaumont, dead or alive. 863241