* * *
He just outright told her, McKeefe thought as he went in search of Bertelli.
He found that Bertelli was no longer at the Charing Cross Inn so he returned to his own hotel and saw Bertelli and Bernardo and Babydoll getting out of the taxicab at his hotel. They had luggage with them.
â€œHey, yo, Bertelli!â€ he called.
Bernardo looked towards him and then got the luggage out of the taxi and took it into the hotel. Babydoll gave him a look and then followed Bernardo.
â€œHey, so, Iâ€™m to understand that you told Miss Holland about how you stole the book, the little fancy book that I had borrowed, and you told her it was a legitimate sale,â€ McKeefe said.
â€œI bought the book from you,â€ Bertelli said.
â€œNo, technically I gave you the address.â€
â€œIf you want to argument semantics, either of us could be correct.â€
â€œIâ€™m not going to try to argue semantics but the problem is that she wants the book back and â€¦ I guess you already talked to her about this.â€
â€œNow, what she thinks is the correct way is that I give you back a thousand dollars. Now, I happen to have that thousand dollars sitting in a couple of stocks. So, Iâ€™d be inclined to suggest that, instead of paying you a thousand dollars, because â€¦ eh. I could. But I think I might be able to interest you a little more. Iâ€™ve got a ring that we found in correlation with that book. Now, I donâ€™t personally know that it has any special powers, but I know that, in the past, there have been certain strange happenings. So, I would be inclined to suggest that we could come to a little deal about this. Maybe instead of a thousand dollars, I could hand you this ring and maybe five hundred dollars or so. Or â€¦ or, I could hand you this ring and, maybe if you wanted, I could send some good deals or bargains that I might find your way in the future.â€
â€œYour proposition is pretty nice. If this ring is of any occult value, I would actually like to run it by Miss Holland too, so I could get her opinion, just to make sure weâ€™re not doing any sales of hers.â€
â€œNo, but this one I pried off the hand of a corpse myself.â€
â€œI â€¦ I like the way your work. But â€¦ again, yes, that sounds like a deal. I would like to run it past her. Because, again, Iâ€™m a little weaker on the magic side. Iâ€™ve not been able to do a successful spell of any kind. But, yes. I would be interested in that.â€
â€œBut she does want this book back ASAP so would I be able to say, come to a deal with you first, and then we happen to deal with the exchange.â€
â€œYes, I can grab the book and do my part. Because you said you are a man of your word, right?â€
â€œI am a man of my word as much as my word is.â€
â€œAnd â€¦ uh â€¦ if nothing else, I can always get a favor from you.â€
â€œYes, precisely. So, do we have a deal of, say, maybe five hundred and the ring and one or two favors here or there?â€
â€œUm â€¦ sounds good to me. But you donâ€™t have to touch the money or the ring quite yet. We can iron out your side â€¦ but I can get her hers so sheâ€™s not as distraught.
* * *
Miss Holland returned to her hotel room and started working on researching the book theyâ€™d found.
* * *
On Tuesday, August 4, 1925, at breakfast at their new hotel, Bertelli told Bernardo that he wanted him to get acquainted with Miss Holland and Mr. McKeefe.
â€œWhy?â€ Bernardo asked.
â€œBecause the guy owes me something,â€ Bertelli said.
â€œAll right,â€ Bernardo replied, unhappy.
Bertelli took the train back to Providence that day to retrieve Miss Hollandâ€™s book and his automobile.
* * *
A knock came from McKeefeâ€™s hotel room door. True to form, he moved to one side of the door.
â€œWho is it?â€ he called.
There was no answer but the knock came again.
â€œWho is it?â€ he said again.
Then there came another knock.
â€œWho is it?â€ he asked.
â€œMr. McKeefe?â€ a rough male voice came through the door.
â€œOh, yes, this is he.â€
â€œYes, I am here to meet you.â€
â€œWho is this?â€
â€œMy name is Mr. Capelli.â€
â€œMr. Capelli? Are you theâˆ’â€
â€œIâ€™m supposed to meet you. Mr. Bertelli sent me.â€
â€œOh, are you Mr. Bertelliâ€™s manservant, Bernardo?â€
McKeefe couldnâ€™t see Bernardo, on the other side of the door, lean his head to one side and then the other in frustration.
â€œManservant doesnâ€™t quite describeâˆ’â€ the voice on the other side of the door finally said.
â€œAh right, sorry,â€ McKeefe said. â€œManâ€™s man Bernardo.â€
There was another long bout of silence from the other side of the door, where Bernardo winced and frowned as if heâ€™d been physically struck.
â€œIâ€™m his driver,â€ Bernardo said. â€œDriver. Okay? Can you open the door? Iâ€™m not going to hurt you.â€
â€œYouâ€™re not going to beat me up like last time?â€ McKeefe said
â€œUnless you told me to again.â€
McKeefe opened the door. Bernardo Capelli was a solid man who stood about six feet tall. He was roughly handsome with an olive complexion and wore his hair dark slicked back with plenty of pomade. He dressed nicely.
â€œBernardo Capelli,â€ he said, holding out his hand for McKeefe to shake.
â€œJohn McKeefe,â€ McKeefe said.
â€œMr. Bertelli would like me to get to know you better.â€
â€œOh, because we both have similar sorts of â€¦ obligations to him now.â€
Capelli looked at him.
â€œSure,â€ he finally said.
â€œWhy not?â€ McKeefe said.
â€œSo, why donâ€™t we have breakfast to start?â€ Capelli said.
â€œWonderful,â€ McKeefe replied. â€œIâ€™ll have some toast.â€
â€œMr. Bertelli caught the early train this morning and he will be back in a couple of days,â€ Capelli said. â€œWhich room is Miss Hollandâ€™s?â€
â€œAh â€¦ I believe that is privileged information unless she decides to give it up,â€ McKeefe said.
â€œWell, can you ask her if she will have breakfast with us this morning?â€
â€œI will happen to find her and see if she will have some breakfast with us.â€
â€œI will be waiting in the dining room. With bells on.â€
He sounded very irritated. He turned and walked away.
McKeefe walked to the door next to his and knocked on it.
â€œWho is it?â€ Miss Holland called.
â€œHey!â€ McKeefe said. â€œItâ€™s me. McKeefe.â€
It was very quiet from inside the room. Then the door opened a little bit. She looked very tired.
â€œDid you get my book back?â€ she asked.
â€œI actually do have it secured.â€
â€œSecured? What does that really mean?â€
â€œIâ€™m guessing that Mr. Bertelli will be handing it to you once we see him again. Apparently, heâ€™s had to go back home on business. But, Mr. Bernardo, I donâ€™t remember his last name, Cappuccino or something, wants to have breakfast with us to get to know us.â€
â€œDonâ€™t ask me, itâ€™s what he said,â€ McKeefe said.
â€œFine, Iâ€™ll be down in a minute,â€ she replied. â€œThe dining room, right?â€
She slammed the door in his face.
McKeefe headed down to the dining room and found Bernardo at a table. They waited for what felt like a long time. Every time the waitress came over, Bernardo told her they were waiting for someone. It was 20 minutes before Miss Holland joined them. When she arrived, Bernardo stood up and held her chair for her to sit at the table.
â€œWhy thank you,â€ she said.
He was very polite and made some small talk. He found out what she wanted from the menu and then ordered for her. He continued to make small talk and polite conversation, noting that Mr. Bertelli wanted him to get to know both of them better. He said that he was Mr. Bertelliâ€™s driver. She realized that he was the man who entered McKeefeâ€™s apartment that night and guessed that he was the one who punched McKeefe in the face. She was unsure how to take all of that.
They all had a nice breakfast.
* * *
Bryan arrived back at Charing Cross and eventually found the hotel that McKeefe, Holland, and Bertelli were staying at. There was no answer at Bertelliâ€™s door.
He found McKeefe and they went to the college to look for Professor Carlsonâ€™s paper again. They searched the shelves where it was supposed to be but it was not in the correct place. However, one of them noticed that there was space behind the shelves and found where it had fallen.
It was entitled â€œTowards a New Theory of Calculating Piâ€ and was dated 1918.
They were allowed to check it out and spent the rest of that day, and the next, studying it.
* * *
Silversmith had been spending his nights in the park ever since heâ€™d been arrested. He didnâ€™t want to get thrown in jail again and was fearful of the law in the town. He knew what hotel the others were staying in but still went to the park as he needed some booze. He was hopeful that the vagrants at the park had some alcohol and was disappointed that he couldnâ€™t find anyone with something to drink.
A few days later, he went to the warehouse to get his stuff and so contacted Marty Smith. While Smith was getting his items out of a bin, Silversmith wandered into the building.
â€œHey, where are you going?â€ Smith said to him.
He kept walking.
â€œHey!â€ Smith said. â€œHey!â€
He set off in pursuit of the man. He caught Silversmithâ€™s arm before he could see anything of interest.
â€œHey!â€ Smith said again. â€œHey buddy. You canâ€™t be in here.â€
â€œOh,â€ Silversmith said.
â€œCâ€™mon,â€ Smith said. â€œCâ€™mon.â€
â€œYou got the shakes like crazy.â€
â€œYeah. Iâ€™m in a bad place right now.â€
â€œIt seems like. Câ€™mon, you canâ€™t stay here. Iâ€™m sorry.â€
Smith gave him back the items that had been confiscated when heâ€™d been jailed. The men left the warehouse and Smith locked it back up again.
* * *
Miss Holland was still reading the book theyâ€™d found in the underground temple the next day.
McKeefe and Bryan had finished taking the paper apart by then. What they learned turned out to be simply â€¦ math.
The rather dry and focused mathematical book contained information about the potential for calculating pi out several decimal points. The Middle East, exposed to an influx of ideas from India, was the focal point of mathematical progress during the middle ages. Carlson was particularly interested in al Kashi, d. 1436, a prominent Arab mathematician. Al Kashi wrote a treatise in which he calculated pi out to 16 places, a few years before his death. Al Kashi utilized the Archimedean method of pi calculation, which involved approximating the circumference of a circle by circumscribing a polygon into a circle and calculating the circumference of the polygon. The more sides to the polygon, the closer one came to the true value of pi. A six-sided hexagon, for example, only yielded a value of 3. Al Kashi painstakingly used a polygon with over eight billion sides to calculate pi out to 16 places. In 1596, Ludolph van Ceulen, a mathematician from Leiden, used this method to calculate pi out to 35 places. When van Ceulen died in 1610, he had three further places inscribed on his tombstone.
The modern method (as of the time of Carlsonâ€™s paper) was to calculate pi by means of an infinite equation. One simple equation, known as Gregoryâ€™s equation, equating pi to 4 - 4/3 + 4/5 - 4/7 + 4/9 - 4/11 â€¦ A variation on Gregoryâ€™s equation, devised by Machin, was the state of the art method for calculating pi circa 1920.
Carlson was seeking to improve on Machinâ€™s equation by finding one that would calculate pi out to more places without having to make as many calculations. Carlson posited that the answer lay in non-Euclidean geometry. Much of the rest of Carlsonâ€™s paper discussed non-Euclidean geometric principles and models. Carlsonâ€™s paper reached no particular conclusions, but suggested that a reexamination of medieval Islamic mathematical technique, integrating it with non-Euclidean theory, might have held the key.
They also realized that calculating pi beyond 16 places or so had no practically scientific or engineering application and they wondered why someone would bother calculating it out any further.
* * *
Bryan was also curious as to what had happened to the Arabic book that Miss Luckey had mentioned Professor Carlson had apparently borrowed. He went to the manâ€™s classroom but found nothing. He wondered where it could be. He checked at the post office but they didnâ€™t have any packages for Professor Carlson.
He realized that if Carlson sent the book back and it was returned after he died, it might have been dropped off at a neighborâ€™s house nearby. He headed out to the Dunneâ€™s house in the local taxi. He asked Mr. Dunne if any packages had been dropped off after Carlson died.
â€œOh,â€ Dunne said. â€œOh, yeah. Yeah. Yep.â€
â€œMind if I take a look at it?â€ Bryan said.
â€œYep,â€ Dunne replied.
â€œYes, you mind?â€
â€œYou wonâ€™t let me look at it?â€
â€œNo. No. That belonged to Mr. Carlson and you donâ€™t represent him, so â€¦â€
Bryan returned to town and informed Mr. Black of the book that was at the Dunne farm. Over the next couple of days, he and Bryan retrieved it from the Dunnes. The book was apparently left on their stoop and they put it in a closet or somewhere and forgot about it. It was roughly the size of a breadbox, insured for $100, and addressed to a Dr. Faisal Hamadi in Alexandria, Egypt, c/o The University. Scrawled across the face of the package were the words â€œInsufficient Addressâ€”Return to Sender.â€
Black opened it and found a letter and an old, crumbling book in poor condition, both written in Arabic. Black noted that heâ€™d have to have it appraised and potentially it could be sold. Bryan mentioned that he knew someone who could speak and read Arabic. Black was willing to lend him the book, once a receipt had been written. He noted that if it was not returned, he would have it appraised and Bryan would have to pay him the value of the book.
Bryan signed the receipt and then found Miss Luckey, who was still in the town. He asked her if she could translate the book and the letter.
* * *
Bertelli returned to Charing Cross on Thursday, August 6, 1925. He gave Douglas Timmonsâ€™ book to Miss Holland. He also apologized for the misunderstanding. She gave him a dagger that had a black stone blade and a stone or perhaps petrified wood handle.
* * *
It took several days for Miss Holland to translate, read, and understand the book theyâ€™d found in the strange room under Bertelliâ€™s house.
The untitled manuscript told the tale of John Hafnirsson, son of a Saxon Earl who, in the Year of Our Lord 1302, found himself outlawed by a petty Norman baron who coveted Hafnirssonâ€™s daughter: Guillaume de Pont-Voisy. Fleeing England for France aboard his vessel, the Stag, Hafnirsson and his crew were blown off course by a freak storm and, after a year of wandering, starvation, mutinies, and attacks by sea monsters, ended up (with only his first mate still accompanying him) in an equatorial jungle inhabited by a degenerate people calling themselves the Shabbiths. Hafnirsson told of hideous rituals (one involving the sacrifice of his first mate to a horrible monster named Shabbith-Ka) and joining the Shabbith tribe. Hafnirsson likened the fearsome Shabbith-Ka to â€œdauncing wicche-fyr, purple-hued, yes possâ€™d of Spirit most Foul.â€ Hafnirsson related that after his sacrifice to Shabbith-Ka, his first mate, Erik, was little more than purplish dust.
Hafnirsson finally escaped from the Shabbiths only by creating and concealing a strange symbol in his robes, and thrusting it forward at a ritual sacrifice to Shabbith-Ka. The â€œdauncing wicche-fyrâ€ turned on the Shabbiths, slaying hundreds before shooting into the sky and allowing Hafnirsson to escape in the confusion. Hafnirsson returned to England and turned his â€œwicche-fyrâ€ loose on M. de Pont-Voisy and his followers, and ended his tale by proclaiming himself avenged.
There were also, allegedly, two spells in the book. One of them claimed it created a protective symbol. The other was titled â€œSummon the Purple God.â€
* * *
Miss Luckey returned to them several days later, on August 15, having read the book and the letter. She told them that the letter read:
My dear Dr. Hamadi,
Enclosed please find the volume by ibn Abbas. My sincerest apologies for not returning
it by the date we had agreed to. It seems that my Arabic has deteriorated worse than I had
discovered during my recent sojourn to your country. It took me longer than anticipated to
study. Alas, it proved of little use in my studies. Again, my apologies for the delay.
The book, titled Dreams of the Circle, had disturbed her greatly to read. She told them it was in medieval Arabic and was dated 1456, authored by Hassan ibn Abbas, who described himself as a mathematician and student of al Kashi. Hassan told of a journey along the east coast of the Arabian peninsula. Beset by bandits, he escaped by fleeing out into the desert. Short of supplies, Hassan became disoriented and delirious. Hassan beheld strange visions while desperately searching for water, lost in the middle of the Arabian peninsula. Hassan wrote of inhuman voices whispering secrets to him on the wind, and of half-glimpsed figures peering at him over the dunes. Near death, Hassan underwent a fantastic nightmare involving an ancient, ruined city with towering pillars of basalt. In this nightmare, all the voices Hassan half-heard while searching for water joined together, whispering dark secrets from the tallest tower in the black-pillared city. Hassan related several of these secrets, and alluded to others too blasphemous to relate. Included was a discussion of space-time, other dimensions, and how, as Hassan put it, â€œpaths unseen to places unknown and times undreamt of exist, and can be found by those willing to sacrifice their soul for such knowledge.â€ Hassan lost consciousness but revived to inexplicably find himself at the feet of the Sphinx. The book concluded with a calculation of pi out to one thousand places. Hassanâ€™s method of calculation involved casting a spell and getting some hints.
The spell he used to get his hints was some sort of spell to contact â€œThe Black Man.â€ Another alleged spell, that would allow the creation of some kind of dimensional circle, required the use of special blue chalk and what it was supposed to do was make gates and portals work better. There was a possibility that someone might have made one of the circles and that might be causing the troubles in Charing Cross.
An excerpt from the book read: â€œAnd faintly, far more subdued than the cacophony from the highest tower of ebon basalt, came a sibilant hiss from the dunes, like the voice of an adder expelled from Paradise by the Prophet (bless his holy name). Beware the approach of the Star with One Red Eye, it hissed, for its light shines most brightly, and can be seen by Hidden Things Most Foul. From beyond the dreadful veil shall they tread, their malevolence manifest. So too can the river of light flood its banks at such times, when no dam is there to shape it. And then I wondered, in my delirium, what that light might bring forth from the Circleâ€™s hidden face, and where the river might flow if not bound. All circles have two faces, and some, the unseen adder hissed, have many more.â€
â€œThe missing blackboard,â€ Bryan said.
Miss Luckey noted that sheâ€™d talked to some of the mathematicians and astronomers at the college and found out that the dates of the missing and mangled people coincided with dates that Jupiter was in opposition to the Earth. That night would have another alignment.
She also said she never wanted to see them again in her life. The book had been terribly disturbing and she wanted to put Charing Cross and what had happened behind her and never think about such things again.
â€œGood luck,â€ she said. â€œIf you ever read that book, youâ€™re a fool.â€
â€œSo, weâ€™re looking for a blue circle of chalk,â€ Bryan said.
They realized they needed to get into the warehouse.
* * *
That evening, McKeefe, Bryan, Silversmith, Bertelli, and Miss Holland crept to the shadowy side of the warehouse that faced the park. They had hacksaws and crowbars that theyâ€™d purchased that day. They set to work removing one of the three bars that secured the window. They thought Bertelli was small enough to get through if they removed at least one bar.
It took them about 10 minutes to cut the bar free. They had just gotten the bar cut and were getting ready to boost Bertelli up when people approached from the shadows behind them. It was Fetz and the other two Charing Cross officers. Fetz already had a gun in his hand. His eyes were practically bugging out of his head and he seemed terribly angry.
â€œI knew you were agents of that purple thing all along!â€ he shrieked. â€œI finally caught you red-handed!â€
â€œFetz!â€ Bryan said. â€œWeâ€™re not actually agents of the thing.â€
â€œNo! You are!â€ Fetz shrieked. â€œYou are!â€
â€œI know you are! Each and every one of you!â€
Fetz pointed his gun at all of them in turn, his hand shaking.
â€œI know whatâ€™s causing it!â€ Bryan said.
â€œShut up!â€ Fetz screamed. â€œJust shut up!â€
â€œI know whatâ€™s causing the problem,â€ Bryan said.
â€œNO!â€ Fetz screamed again. â€œI donâ€™t want to hear it! I donâ€™t want to know! I donâ€™t want to know! I donâ€™t want to know this! Iâ€™m not listening to you!â€
He pointed his gun at Miss Holland, who had moved her hand towards her purse.
â€œWatch it lady!â€ he screamed, spittle flying from his mouth. â€œI know what youâ€™re up to.â€
Silversmith was shaking. Officer Nelson looked at Fetz uneasily.
â€œYou are under arrest,â€ he said calmly. â€œIf you have any weapons, you need to drop them right now.â€
â€œYeah! Yeah!â€ Fetz screamed. â€œDo as he says! Do as he says!â€
As the sound of his yelling died away, the smell of ozone filled the air all around them. Fetzâ€™s hair, what there was of it, started to stand on end and little crackles of static charge ran along his hair. As they watched, he began to oddly curve and distort.
McKeefe backed away slowly.
The sound of discharging static grew louder and Fetz screamed for help. Bryan jumped to one side and to the ground as the other police officer bravely grabbed Fetz by the seat of his pant. Then, the back half of Fetz came into proper focus as the front half of him continued to distort. There was a loud pop. The lower half of Fetzâ€™s body, from the belt down, flopped in a bloody mess to the ground along with the officer. The upper half of his body was gone.
The police officer whoâ€™d fallen with the lower half of Fetzâ€™s body leapt up, shrieking. Officer Reynolds joined him in his ululations and both of the men fled, screaming, into the night.
The others took a moment and then helped Bertelli climb up into the window.
* * *
Bertelli found the blackboard in the light of his dim flashlight. There were strange figures written upon it and he saw an eraser on the tray and picked it up to erase it. Then he hesitated. He took out his notebook and wrote down some of what he saw on the chalkboard. He definitely copied what was within the circle. Then he erased the circle and what was in it, leaving the rest on the chalkboard.
He climbed up through the window and they helped him climb out.
â€œYou erased the thing, right?â€ Silversmith said.
â€œWe need to get out of here,â€ Bryan said.
â€œYes,â€ Bertelli said to Silversmith. â€œMost of it.â€
They went back to the hotel to get their items and then piled into Bertelliâ€™s car, driving back to Providence. It took them two days to get back home.
* * *
Bertelli telephoned the Charing Cross Trumpet the week after he returned to Providence. He learned from Nick Richards that Fetzâ€™s death was reported to the newspaper as being either the work of a pack of wild dogs or a crazy man. There was no mention of any of their names.