The incident didn’t provoke any further conversation on the campus, beyond how some young lovers had gotten caught in flagrante delicto by pranksters, which, changing one noun, was more or less true. The fact that it didn’t provoke further ambushes said as much as anything about the new situation.
MacMorris’s pentonics class had gotten very dull since February, suddenly got really interesting. It seemed as if MacMorris was trying to give hints to someone who almost got the secret, the kind of hints that would mean nothing to most people. And who he was hinting to was Arnulf. “Yes,” he would say, on the far side of the room, and then he would walk all the way to the right side where Arnulf and Ahir sat taking notes. “A network may incorporate a Field, but also a Market.” Field Museum? Merchandise Mart? Maybe Woodfields Mall? Nah… Or: “The golden apples. Do you believe in the golden apples, Mr Shmoke? No?” (Arnulf had made no gesture either way.) “Well, they are to be found in the fall. In the fall. By the black river.”
“I don’t know what to listen to and what to ignore,” said Arnulf later. “So I write it all down.”
“I’m trying,” said Ahir, “to do a frequency analysis on the symbols he uses. Like he always talks about fruit, you notice that? Fruit and rivers.”
“All I know is,” said Arnulf, “someday we’re gonna be in an apple orchard by a black river, and we’re gonna be like, this is what he meant, now I get it.”
“Hope so,” said Angelica.
Angelica, Natalie and Rachel became the intimidating trio on campus, with second and third year girls giving them a wide berth. They were a sort of anti-clique, toying with the boys (Leonard Harris, Rocky Shore and even the enigmatic Geen Tiaw), being aggressively obedient in class with their favorite profs (Ash, White, Timms, Sear, Temple), sitting with the Ash people at lunch and surrounding themselves with illusions of more kids to take up the nearby tables, and generally being in kids’ faces while looking exactly like perfect little women in all their classes.
Their illusions were getting better and better. Their crowds were excellent, and they had a forest that took all three of them to put up and which could linger, if left alone, for months. And they were starting to get lil gok, scenery-people. The three girls were also, like everyone else, trying to make items, and while they had the theory down pat and got 100 on all the tests, none of them had succeeded in making a decent item yet.
“It’s a sort of rolling ear,” said Natalie. “It’s supposed to roll where you want it.”
“But instead,” said Timms.
“Instead,” said Rachel, “it always follows Angelica.”
“It likes me,” said Ange.
Tom was working on items too—he was getting close to fixing up a sonic screwdriver. “It makes sounds, anyway,” he said. His pentonics was much better. “I’m starting to understand it,” he said. “It’s weird.”
“How about all that stuff about apples and waterfalls?” asked Ahir.
“I never listen to MacMorris,” he replied, “but I’m starting to understand the book, which is scary enough.”
Cloudius, as assistant to Timms, was learning more than the students. His sonic screwdriver did a lot more than make funny noises. He was making toys and letting them wander around Ash House. He was forging a sword under the watchful eye of Daphne. Timms and Janhara Jambis were showing him all kinds of interesting uses for penton pumps. And somehow, somehow, the boy had learned to actually study for tests.
Daphne’s second sword was in the middle of its long process, and now she was learning about armor. At first, that meant making regular old armor pieces, just to learn very well how they worked together. She began the laborious process of making, piece by piece, a suit of Amazon ritual armor, which concentrated on protecting the power centers of the body, and thus left usually armored areas like the belly uncovered.
“Aren’t you worried—?” passers by would ask, as she battled Spiny or Ahir or Keisha in the early morning.
“Are you kidding?” one of the others would say. “You take this sword and try to get near her belly.”
“But it’s not magic armor yet,” Spiny pointed out, after she feinted one way, then spun, then spun back and whacked Daphne on the side of the head with the side of her sword.
“No,” said Daphne, adjusting the slim steel helmet interwoven in her hair, “no, not yet.”
But for Arnulf Shmoke and Ahir Shaheen, it was all about history.
“I have it,” Ahir said one night in April as it rained outside. The two of them, plus Angelica, sat on Ahir’s floor poring over police logs and piles of notes. “Look.”
“What do you mean, you have it?” asked Angelica, who thought she almost had it herself but was completely wrong. She looked at the two sheets Ahir held up: one was her own notes and doodlings, and the other was from a sheet stuck into a 1943 case book.
“It’s Arnulf’s dad’s case book,” Ahir said, “but it’s the year his grandpa Josephus was killed. And this is in Josephus’s handwriting. Well, hieroglyphs, demotic actually.”
Arnulf took the sheet. He stared at it, his lips moving. “I can read it,” he said. “Dad knew hieroglyphs, and Tom reminded me about them, he had a book.”
“So what’s it say?” asked Angelica.
“It says, go get Tom and his book.”
A few minutes later, Tom and Cloudius and Rachel had joined them, and they all sat around Ahir’s room scribbling. “11–1,” said Angelica, “go S, EE, R, S, tower buy coat. It’s not cosmic, but it makes sense, it’s November, he needs a coat.”
“But why the Sears Tower?” asked Cloudius. “It’s not like it’s famous for coats.”
Daphne said, “I got ‘T, EE, Ah, R, Ah, N, man, um, in, in red door.’ Yes. Door.”
“Man? It says that?” asked Cloudius.
“That little guy sitting there,” Daphne explained. “He tells you it’s a guy, not a chick.”
Arnulf cleared his throat. Everyone looked at him. He gazed around at them dramatically, his eyes just visible above the old piece of paper. He pushed his glasses up, and read aloud: “I know Brut here somewhere look for N-Ah-Z-EE segment. Art know tomorrow it is his fight. B R man good young keeper of maps.”
There was a short silence, then a short intake of breath, then a much longer silence.
“Arnulf,” said Angelica at last, “that’s your grandpa’s last note. He’s saying goodbye. He knows Art—that’s your dad—!”
“Ange,” said Arnulf, “I actually do know Art’s my dad. He died when I was two. I wish I knew more about him than his name and some stuff on a sheet of paper. You know?”
“Arn, I’m really sorry. Arn—!”
“Never mind.” He focused on the text. “Nazi segments. They had at least three segments, some people think they might have had seven segments, and then it got broken up by US and Soviet spies, and at least one of the segments got here.”
“But your grandfather did not know where to look,” said Ahir. “All he could do was follow this Brutus around and at some point, they met.”
“Yeah,” said Arnulf. “And we know how that came out. But he mentions B R man, I’m thinking Bertram Rinehart. Good, yes, I’d call him that, young, well, in 1943 he was maybe in his thirties?”
“But keeper of maps,” said Ahir. “What does that mean?”
“It means we thought we had a full collection,” said Tom, “but there’s maps we don’t have.”
Academically, it was a good year for the Second Floor. Arnulf and Ahir underperformed, at least in the classroom, Pinhead barely muddled through, and Rats rose to the level of mediocre, but everyone else killed. Daphne and Cloudius did particularly well on finals; Angelica and her gang made the grades they needed; and Tom sailed through on strong study habits.
But there were other things that Ahir and Arnulf were studying, other things besides each other’s brown eyes. Two weekends before finals began, the two of them were visiting Bert Rinehart in his nursing home. They sat down, Rinehart in one big comfy chair, Arnulf in the other big comfy chair, Ahir perched on the desk chair. They presented him with eighteen chocolate chip cookies, the ones they had managed to defend since last night out of a batch of four dozen. Then Ahir tried the spell she’d just learned: lil shesh, which she called Quiet Room.
Thus protected, they had a long talk, managing to hit the future of the Cubs and the past of the Chicago machine, the truth about the first Chicago style pizzas and the decline of diner coffee, and Detective Rinehart’s four kids and six grandkids. His wife had died five years ago, but his kids came up every so often and he had his mystery novels—he was working his way back through the Ruth Rendells before indulging himself with the Raymond Chandlers again.
And they talked, still in veiled terms, of what Rinehart knew about the Shmoke legacy, from the life and death of Grandpa Josephus to a few mildly dirty jokes that always used to make Art laugh in the window booth at the Greek’s diner.
And he had something for them, when they explained about the Keeper of the Maps. “Yep,” he said, handing over a packet inside a manila envelope, “old man Shmoke thought I was something special, I always appreciated that. Always knew there was something about him. Can’t picture how scary a person would have to be to be able to take him down.”
Arnulf gave the packet the briefest inspection: maps. Tunnels. Buildings. Odd rural areas—there was some sort of ritual place in the Morton Arboretum, and down in Allerton Park way downstate there was an installation of some sort. He carefully replaced the maps and papers and resealed the envelope.
“Thanks, Detective Rinehart,” said Arnulf.
“We understand Josephus was pretty strong,” said Ahir. “I was wondering what you thought about Arthur, Arnulf’s dad. If that’s okay.”
“He had something too, obviously,” said Rinehart. “Can’t fool me. He’d say, ‘You’re normal, Bert, but you get it, don’t you?’ Well, I wasn’t sure I did. But I did. We were doing regular police work, and on the side he was doing his own police work in that secret world of his. There’s things going on no one knows about, out in the normal world. Normal. Well, that’s what it wasn’t, and I got to know a lot about it because your dad trusted me. I’ll always appreciate that.”
“He had to trust someone,” said Arnulf. “I’m sure he appreciated you.”
“Well,” said Rinehart, “you have to have someone to trust. You have to have someone who has your back. In this job.” He smiled at Ahir, then looked at Arnulf. “You’re lucky that way, young fella.”
“Yeah, I am.”
“Detective,” said Ahir, “can I ask you—?” Her voice dropped to a whisper. “Brutus?”
His face got instantly sad. “I don’t know. I know, but I don’t. Your dad, young man, he talked about that—guy, a lot. I don’t know if he ever met him, but I suppose he did.” He gave Arnulf a long sad look, then went on. “I always knew when we were on one of his special cases. His special case—I think, I think the guy you named was the only special case, really, it was always about him. Anyway, I got used to the fact that there were certain people your dad knew, who your granddad had known, and who could help us or maybe, at least, we could trust them. And there were other faces we saw that he knew to be wary of. And we were. Was one of those—that guy? I don’t know.”
Arnulf looked at him for some seconds after he finished. “You were probably looking at him and didn’t know it,” said Arn.
“My question is,” said the old man, “did your father find him? If he killed your grandfather—!”
“That’s the question,” said Arnulf.
A second ticked past, and suddenly Ahir grabbed Arnulf’s arm. He looked at her. “Arnulf,” she said, “it’s a—you know, if—Arnulf, we need to talk.” She turned her chocolate eyes on Rinehart. “Take care, Detective. We’ll come see you soon.”
“Take care of yourselves, young folks, thanks for the cookies.”
“Don’t go anywhere,” said Arnulf.