The Opposing Venus: The Complete Cabalistic Cases of Semi Dual, the Occult Detector - Junius B. Smith - ebook
Opis

Semi Dual returns in another suspenseful mystery which only his occult skills can resolve. Dorien, a wealthy man about town, is shot and wounded in his apartment in the course of what Inspector Johnson suspects is an extortion attempt. But Dorien won’t talk, leading the Inspector to call on Glace & Bryce—private investigators—and their strange partner, Semi Dual, the recluse and astrologist who uses his occult powers to straighten out the tangles of human affairs.

Ebooka przeczytasz w aplikacjach Legimi na:

Androidzie
iOS
czytnikach certyfikowanych
przez Legimi
Windows
10
Windows
Phone

Liczba stron: 264

Odsłuch ebooka (TTS) dostepny w abonamencie „ebooki+audiobooki bez limitu” w aplikacjach Legimi na:

Androidzie
iOS

The Opposing Venus

The Complete Cabalistic Cases of Semi Dual, the Occult Detector

by

J.U. Giesy and Junius B. Smith

Altus Press • 2018

Copyright Information

© 2018 Steeger Properties, LLC, under license to Altus Press

Publication History:

“The Opposing Venus” originally appeared in the October 13, 20, 27, and November 3, 1923 issues of Argosy magazine (Vol. 155, Nos. 1–4). Copyright © 1923 by The Frank A. Munsey Company. Copyright renewed © 1950 and assigned to Steeger Properties, LLC. All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, without permission in writing from the publisher.

Special Thanks to W.J. Andrew Franklin & Janice Roberts

THE RETURN OF SEMI DUAL

IT HAS been said that there is nothing new under the sun, and especially in the realms of literature. This may be true, and if we go back to civilizations long perished from the memory of man—perhaps to that famed Atlantis, now lying at the bottom of the deep—we may find that it is true, indeed. But of literature, as we know it, it may be said without fear of successful contradiction, that the Semi Dual stories are an exception to that rule.

Away back in 1911, there came unheralded, addressed to the “Editor of Argosy,” a script labeled “Semi Dual.” The name showed it a title picked by amateurs, but the contents and their nature had never greeted editorial eyes before. Here was a story different—as different from every-day fiction as day is from night. It was purchased on the spot and given to the world in the early months of 1912 under the title of “The Occult Detector.” But the name which the authors psychologically sensed as the one to endure, stuck in the minds of those who read, until Semi Dual became visualized to countless readers as more than an imaginary being.

Semi Dual—the joint creation of two minds, trained in medicine, science and law. Readers of the Argosy, the All-Story, the Cavalier, will recall his numerous appearances through the pages of those magazines, his solving of intricate problems and always by a dual solution—one material, for material minds—the other occult, for those who cared to sense a deeper something back of the philosophic lessons interwoven in the narrative of each story.

We know that the Semi Dual stories in the past created world-wide interest, for thousands of letters greeted their appearance and voiced demand for more. Who, of our old readers, will not recall such stories as “The Wisteria Scarf,” “Rubies of Doom,” “The House of the Ego,” “The Ghost of a Name,” to mention just a few of more than a score of these novels which have appeared. And scarcely need we mention “Black and White” and “Wolf of Erlik,” to recall Semi Dual’s more recent appearance on the covers of this magazine.

That these stories are the work of master craftsmen, cannot be denied. Always a story to tell from the beginning of their writing career, the creators of Semi Dual have improved in art and technique as the years went by. But art and technique alone could not have given to the world such stories as those twined about the character of Semi Dual.

J.U. Giesy is a physician and surgeon. Junius B. Smith is an attorney-at-law—yet we are told by these two gentlemen, that to acquire a worthwhile knowledge of Hermetic Philosophy and Astrology, more time is consumed and more persistent application is necessary than to learn medicine, surgery and law combined.

That their knowledge of the occult and the stars is profound, may be inferred from their election as Fellows of the American Academy of Astrologians—the highest honor that can come to any delver into Nature’s hidden mysteries.

We are told by Messrs. Giesy and Smith that one does not really understand the meaning of life until he understands the soul and the science of the stars.

The world was turned topsy-turvy some time ago. People, by circumstance, were forced aside from their accustomed pursuits to business of immediate international importance. The stories of Semi Dual disappeared from the pages of this magazine. The pendulum of human emotions, however, is now again swinging toward the transcendental, gaining momentum with amazing suddenness. Giesy and Smith and the editors both feel that the time is ripe for a return of this famous character.

In “The Opposing Venus” you will find him in one of his best moods. Read it, tell us what you think of it, let us know whether we shall again place Semi Dual before you at regular intervals, as we did at your behest for so many years in the past. This magazine is run for you and what you want we will get, if humanly possible.

Tell us: Shall we have more of Semi Dual?

CHAPTER I

A CALL FOR HELP

“SAY—” Danny Quinn, our red-headed office boy, whom my partner, James Bryce, had recruited from the ranks of the city newsies, announced as he followed his rap into my private den, where Jim and I were sitting, “I reckon that city tec Johnson must have got a line on somethin’ too big for him to handle. Anyway, he’s outside wantin’ to know if he can horn in here. Shall I let him or throw him out?”

Danny was loyal to the interests of “Glace & Bryce—Private Investigators,” but had small respect for the central office force, and being a protégé of Jim’s he comported himself very much according to the dictates of the shrewd little brain he carried around beneath his brick-dust thatch.

I glanced at Bryce. Before we organized our firm, he himself had been a member of the city force. Johnson and he were friends. And as the former was no man to spend time on a merely social visit and had appealed to us for aid on more than one occasion, there was justification for Danny’s supposition that if he were seeking an interview at present there was something in the wind.

Jim nodded.

“That will do, Dan,” I said. “Show Inspector Johnson in.”

Danny winked and withdrew, and a moment later Johnson opened the door.

He was a large man, rather heavy of figure, with brown hair and eyes and a ruddy tinge to his skin.

“ ’Lo, boys. How’s tricks?” he spoke in greeting as he helped himself to a chair and balanced his hat on his knees.

“Nothin’ doing.” Bryce told him the literal truth. “Gordon an’ I was just wonderin’ if th’ preachers had finally convinced th’ public that bustin’ laws didn’t pay.”

John nodded. “Oh, well,” he said, “I wouldn’t worry. I don’t guess they’ve put th’ devil out of business. Course this private game you’re sittin’ into ain’t much like the old days, Jim, but it ain’t likely you’re goin’ to starve for a lack of a little human cussedness to keep you on th’ job.”

“That’s encouragin’.” Bryce eyed him, pursing out his stubby brown mustache. And suddenly he gave vent to a chuckle.

“What particular form of cussedness brought you up here? Come on—kick in, ’stead of sidlin’ all around th’ subject like a pup round a saucer of milk. What’s on your mind?”

Johnson’s lips twitched as he answered. “J.H. Dorien.”

“The importer of oriental fabrics?” I asked as he paused to note, so I suspected, what effect his response produced upon us.

He ducked an affirmative head. “Yes. Know him?”

“I know of him,” I replied. And I did. J.H. Dorien was the head of a considerable business and a somewhat lurid young man—a sport, a spender—one who went in for horses, motors, and women, particularly the last if common report was to be believed—a bachelor—reputedly wealthy. I asked another question:

“What’s happened to J.H.?”

“He’s been shot,” said Johnson.

“Killed?” Bryce suggested, with quickened interest.

“Not yet.” Johnson grinned.

Jim sighed. “Well, now that the prologue’s been played off, let’s get down to the main action. Just where do we come in?”

Johnson shifted his hat to the top of my desk and hitched his chair around. “That’s what I come up for—to see whether you would or not. There’s something darned funny about th’ thing from start to finish. I thought maybe you’d like to take a hand.”

“Yeh?” Bryce produced one of his deadly black cigars and bit off the end. “How d’ye mean, funny?”

“Why—Dorien was shot three times—once in th’ head—once in the breast and once in the arm, and—he won’t talk.”

Jim nodded and struck a match. “Well— don’t know if that’s funny or not. If I was shot in the head, I’m not sure I’d be deliverin’ any Chautauqua lectures myself,” he opined.

“Oh, you couldn’t be shot in th’ head.” Once more Johnson grinned. “But—listen. Dorien can talk all right if he wants to—but he won’t. He’s making a noise like a clam.”

Jim blew out smoke. “Then—where’s it any skin off your back?” he inquired.

“Ordinarily it wouldn’t be, of course. But so far as we know anything about it, it’s a mighty raw bit of work. We’ve reason to believe that Dorien was the victim of a gang—”

“Black hand or blackmail?” Jim cut in.

“Blackmail,” said Johnson shortly, “and it ain’t their first piece of work by a long shot, but it is the first time there’s been any shooting mixed up in the stuff they’ve pulled.”

“Meanin’,” Bryce made rather cynical comment, “they’ve sort of took off th’ muffler an’ made too much noise. Still I haven’t seen anything about it in th’ papers—”

“And you won’t.” Johnson’s color heightened a trifle and he frowned. “I told you Dorien wasn’t talking and it’s his affair whether he puts up a holler or not. That’s a hot line of chatter you’re using. You know as well as I do that it ain’t th’ department’s place to wet-nurse the public.

“We can’t chaperon a lot of darned fools that go lookin’ for trouble, an’ find it through mixin’ themselves up in some sort of a rotten mess. An’ if they choose to get themselves out again th’ best way they can an’ pay th’ piper, it ain’t our part to butt in unless they file a complaint. That’s about what’s been goin’ on in this burg for some considerable time. Dorien ain’t th’ first by a long shot, but up to now nobody’s hollered for help.”

“An’, accordin’ to your own say-so,” Bryce reminded, “Dorien ain’t exactly screamin’. An’ if he ain’t, I reckon there’s a reason an’ I reckon it wears skirts.”

“You’re a darned good guesser,” said our guest. “There’s always a skirt mixed up in this mob’s work.”

“Know her?”

“Know her?” The inspector took a deep breath. “Of course we know her. She’s Roma Temple. That much is easy. She was with Dorien at the time he was shot.”

“The girl was?” I interjected.

“Yes.”

“And where did the shooting occur?”

“In Dorien’s rooms over here in the Monks Hall.” Johnson mentioned a very modern and ornate apartment erected a couple of years before on Park Drive, in the most exclusive part of the city. “He’s got a mighty swell dump over there, and I reckon they must have had a slip up somewhere. Anyway, Dorien was shot and somebody called a cab and carted him over to a hospital and left him. Oh, they tried to hush the matter up.”

“And where is the Temple girl now?”

Johnson eyed me. “She’s down at the Kenton as big as you please. Got a suite there, and a woman companion—chaperon, I suppose you’d call her, name of Mrs. Meese. She’s supposed to be a Western heiress, or somethin’ of that sort, accordin’ to what I can gather—”

“Say,” Bryce broke in, “what was this—a fancy sort of badger game, or what?”

“I wouldn’t wonder,” said Johnson. “It looks a good deal like it on its face. This mob we think the girl belongs to have been specializin’ on stuff more or less like that for th’ past two years. They get their fall guy mixed up with some jane and then they put on the screws. It’s about time it was stopped.”

“Migosh,” Bryce grinned. “You’ve answered my question at last. This run-in gives you a first class chance. You’ve got about three definite charges at least—unlawful possession of firearms, assault with intent to kill, attempted extortion.”

“Sure,” Johnson nodded. “We have if we can find anybody to hang ’em on to. So far we haven’t. I’ve told you th’ thing’s been hushed up an’ Dorien won’t talk.”

“You’ve seen him?” I questioned.

“Oh, yes, I’ve seen him,” he returned in a tone of disgust. “It was like this. The patrolman on that beat reported. He saw Dorien carried out and put into the cab, and made a note of its number, an’ he saw a drop or two of blood on the curb after the thing had left. We ran down the driver an’ the fellow told us he’d took a man to th’ hospital, pretty badly shot up.

“It was easy enough to find Dorien after that, and to run out quite a lot besides. But the minute we struck th’ man himself we hit a snag. About all he had to say was that he wasn’t asking any help from the department, and until he did, he’d thank us to keep out.”

“He’s still at the hospital?” I asked.

“No. He’s back home. This thing happened about a month ago. He’s getting over it, but is sort of weak.”

“Then what’s the notion?” said Bryce.

“Th’ notion is that if we can get a line on what really happened, we’re goin’ to bust up this outfit,” Johnson rasped. “Look at it, you two. I’m a bull—an’ I’ve been one most of my life, an’ I ain’t got many illusions left, an’ I know what they say about th’ department, but—it makes me sick.

“Here’s a mob organized to just naturally capitalize human dirt—usin’ a bunch of women to work on th’ natural damn foolishness of men, an’ then bleed ’em. No wonder th’ suckers won’t talk. An’ it wouldn’t matter so much if it was only them an’ th’ women this bunch is usin’, but it ain’t. Some of these men are married. There’s good women mixed up in this rottenness—or at least affected by it, an’—kids, all for a few dirty dollars.”

I nodded. All at once Johnson was talking from the heart. Sincerity rang in his voice. And I knew him, had known him for years—that he was a man absolutely honest, absolutely loyal to the functions of his office.

“But if Dorien won’t talk, and the whole thing’s been hushed up, why do you think this affair was the work of that sort of a gang?” I asked.

His eyes lighted. “Because—Roma Temple is known to be pretty thick with a guy by th’ name of Archer Kell, or ‘Kelley’ as they call him—an’ we’ve a pretty straight hunch that he’s th’ head of that kind of mob. He does nothing, always has money, is a swell dresser—oh, you boys know the type—th’ sort that are apt to live off women one way or another.”

“Then,” I said, “it boils down to this: you think Dorien was shot as the result of a frame-up in which the Temple girl played a part—”

“A big one,” Johnson interrupted. “She was the bait”

“All right,” I accepted. “But you can’t find out who fired the shots. How about this Archer Kell or Kelley?”

Johnson frowned. “I thought of that, but—he’s about town same as ever.”

“All right,” I said again. “Now, in what way can we help?” Even then I had a suspicion of his answer, and he proved me instantly right.

“Why—I’m tryin’ to find out somethin’ there don’t seem any way of learnin’ so far as I’ve gone, an’ I don’t know of but one man alive who can pull that sort of trick.”

Semi Dual! Bryce’s and my strange friend who lived on the roof of the Urania building where we had our office suite. From this unusual abode, which he had constructed for himself, with its garden full of growing things, roofed over by curving plates of green yellow glass against the sting of winter, and sumptuous quarters in the tower of the Urania, set like a pure white temple in the center of the garden, a little private telephone line led down to a box on the wall of the room wherein we sat. Semi Dual—the modern student of nature’s higher forces—a reader of the stars—a believer in the law of retributive justice, which measures to each man according to his actions, so that in very truth indeed he reaps in time a harvest partaking in its nature of the thing he sows—the law of cause and effect, which in its widest application holds each man responsible in the creative scheme for his every thought and act and word.

To him astrology, telepathy, psychometry, and other of the so-called occult subjects of research, at which mankind in the mass is apt to scoff or regard from a merely superstitious viewpoint, were open books. I myself had been a doubting Thomas when first I met him, but later I became convinced—came to accept his teachings that all force is one—and matter but its expression in a concrete way, be that matter involved in man, or a living germ or the rocks or the trees. And when one looks at things that way it explains a great deal.

It had been Semi Dual who had originally led Bryce and me to organize our firm. He stood to us very much as the god from the machine. Time after time he had bent his unusual faculties to our need in unraveling some intricate tangle on which we were engaged.

And with all his powers of knowing the unknowable—or what seemed the unknowable from every-day standards—Dual was a practical man. He was neither charlatan nor dreamer. He knew life values—the limits of human credence. And knowing it, he never sought to strain it.

“Material proof for material man, Gordon my friend,” he had said to me many times when seeking to support some of his own deductions by means of palpable evidence.

Johnson knew him—had even worked with him more than once in the running down of a crime. And though he admitted that Semi left him baffled, I think that deep in his soul his faith in Dual’s ability was little more than a degree behind Jim’s and mine. Hence his coming thus to enlist Semi’s aid through us, when he found himself once more faced by a perplexing problem, could hardly be considered strange.

I heard Bryce draw in his breath as Johnson spoke, and then he voiced a comment. “I reckon Dual could find the jasper you’re after if anybody could, but—th’ question is—would he be willin’ to take it on?”

For Semi was a man to whom mere petty crime—the theft of a jewel or a sum of money meant nothing—to whom the objects for which mundane man is always striving were but passing things. To him the soul—the spiritual values—were the only really worth while issues in the cosmic scheme. And because of that I answered before Johnson made any comment:

“I’ve an idea that he would, not because of any injury to Dorien short of death, or any sum of which he may have been mulcted, provided there was any loss, but because, as Johnson says, his major object is to put an end to the operations of this gang—that would appear to be prostituting women and debauching men for the purpose of gaining a certain filthy wealth. I think that is the angle of this affair on which he might very probably consent to take it up.”

“That’s th’ talk,” said Johnson. “Dorien ain’t a white lamb to be protected, but it makes me hot to see this bunch gettin’ away with these plays year after year.”

Bryce nodded. “Well, if you think Semi would be willin’ I don’t see why we shouldn’t buy a stack or two in th’ game, do you?”

“No,” I said, “I don’t. And we can soon settle the first point.”

I rose and turned toward the little telephone box on the wall. It was in my mind to call Dual and ask him if we could let Johnson explain the situation.

But before I reached it, its buzzer whirred, with a staccato suddenness that actually made me pause, and both Jim and Johnson sat bolt upright.

CHAPTER II

THE SEER OF THE TOWER

I THREW them a glance. They sat there, eyes involuntarily widened, bodies frozen into a rigid attention, and I laughed.

Remember what I have said about Semi Dual’s belief that all force is one, his use of telepathy among other so-called occult things. For if force is actually universal, then the product of mental activity which we denominate thought, is as much a thing as the wireless currents shot forth from the antennae of a tower along the Hertzian waves. Personally I knew Dual possessed the ability of sensing such lines of force and translating them into meaning. And here we three had been sitting, discussing Johnson’s problem for the past hour, while all the time his brain at least had been centered on the major purpose of his visit. Wherefore Dual had caught the mental vibration. He had done such things within my knowledge before.

Anyway, I put it to the proof. I removed the receiver and answered what could only be his call:

“Glace speaking.”

His voice came back to me, low pitched, deep, full, calm with the matter of factness of a merely casual suggestion:

“If Inspector Johnson wishes to consult with me, Gordon, suppose you bring him up.”

“Thanks,” I accepted, “I will.” I hung up, turned around and repeated Semi’s invitation.

Jim grinned.

Johnson put up a heavy hand and ran a finger about his neck inside his collar. He got up.

“Every time he does a thing like that, it gets me, but”—he reached for his hat—“it’s what I wanted when I came here. Let’s go.”

We went out and caught an up-going cage, to leave it on the twentieth floor and mount bronze and marble stairs. It was the approach to Semi’s domain upon the roof. There was an inlaid plate of glass and metal at the top let into a pathway that led from the stairs to the tower between beds of flowers and shrubs. One trod upon it and rang a chime of bells in the tower to announce his coming.

As they pealed out, soft, mellow as temple bells in some shrine of a half-forgotten god, Johnson paused and jerked a hand at the vine-covered parapet walls about the garden.

“An’ out there,” he said, “is th’ world th’ way we know it, an’ here’s—this. I ain’t emotional as a rule, but every time I come here I can’t help feelin’ it’s different—as if there was somethin’ here th’ rest of us are missin’, even if I can’t put a name to th’ thing myself. I’ve felt th’ same way once or twice when I got out in th’ hills with just th’ clouds an’ th’ trees.”

That was quite a rhapsody for him and I assented to his mood. “What the everyday world is missing is peace.”

“Peace?” he echoed almost sharply.

“Yes—a harmony of thought and action.” For always it had seemed to me that the very spirit of peace and harmony was brooding here upon this roof.

“Well—I don’t know but you’re right,” he said as we went on along the path.

We reached the tower. Its door was opened by Henri, Dual’s constant and only companion, who ushered us into a room done in soft, deep browns, and across it to a farther door, which he swung wide before us.

We filed through it and into the presence of Semi Dual.

He lifted warm gray eyes at our coming. As was his habit here in his own abode, he was clad in long loose robes of white, edged on cuff and skirt with purple.

“Be seated, my friends,” he said with a smile that lingered on his strong-lipped mouth while we helped ourselves to chairs. “And now, inspector, in what way may I hope to prove of assistance?”

I saw Johnson’s eyes as always when he came here run about the room, with its priceless Persian rug, its great and ancient clock in the corner, its bronze and life-sized figure of Venus bearing the golden apple, which was no more than an electrolier at one end of the massive desk beside which Dual was sitting. And then he plunged into the story of Dorien’s shooting much as he had given it to Jim and myself, except that now he told it straight through from start to finish, since in all the time of its narration, Semi did not interrupt.

Instead, he lay back in his chair and closed his eyes. Save for the rise and fall of his deep, full chest, he did not move until Johnson came to a close. Then and then only he sat erect and asked a second question:

“And what, Mr. Johnson, is your purpose in all this?”

“Why—I want to bust this gang wide open.” Johnson drew an actually rasping breath. “Why—look at it, Mr. Dual. Why—if I’ve got my dope right, they’re taking girls an’ trainin’ ’em to th’ job—educatin’, you understand, to trap men. It’s a pretty filthy business, an’ I thought—”

“Ah, yes,” said Semi Dual, and for just an instant I saw a spark of what seemed leaping light, flash deep in the clear gray of his eyes, “it is a filthy business indeed—a perversion of what should be held sacred—a fouling of the fount of life itself—for behold, Mr. Johnson, and you my other friends as well, a great truth: The Life of Man is a pure stream which flows through the bodies of men and women unsullied unless mayhap it be clouded by those individual actions which mankind denominates sin, wherein Woman becomes the Temple of Life and Man the High Priest—and whosoever save the High Priest shall enter the Holy of Holies which lies within the Temple, or rend the Veil before it—that one profanes a shrine. These things are set down in the Kabbala of the Hebrews for those who understand. And whoso breaks the law, by the law shall that one be broken. At what time was Dorien shot?”

“Ten o’clock on the mornin’ of May 15th, as near as we can place it,” Johnson told him.

I glanced at Bryce. He was pursing out his stubby brown mustache. Semi’s words had been characteristic, and what I saw in Jim’s face indicated plainly that, like myself, he was convinced that Johnson had won the ally he sought.

Nobody spoke, however, as Semi noted the time of the shooting on a bit of paper, and it was his voice broke the silence:

“And—have you any knowledge of his birth date?”

“Why, no,” Johnson said, “but I reckon I could dig it up at th’ Bureau of Vital Statistics. You know they’ve got a record of all th’ births that are reported—”

“Exactly,” Dual accepted. “Do so. I believe there is a space for the birth time on the official blanks. And some physicians are in the habit of noting the hour of birth by watch time at least. If you know the woman, describe her physical appearance.”

“She ain’t a bad looker. About twenty-four or five, I’d say, and a swell dresser,” Johnson began. “She’s rather short, with a good figure, blond hair and complexion, and well-shaped features, an’ from all I can gather, she’s mighty attractive to men. Of course, she’d have to be to get away with the sort of work the mob I think she’s hooked up with is pullin’.”

Dual nodded. “Possibly a Neptune type,” he said half to himself.

“Eh? I don’t get you?” Johnson eyed him.

“No, Mr. Johnson.” Semi put out a hand and drew to him a sheet of paper on the desk. Lifting a pair of calipers, he spun a circle upon it, cut it into twelve parts, set down a numeral counterclockwise opposite each dividing line, before he continued, smiling: “Give me an hour, my friends. Pass it in my garden or devote it to your own affairs. Return to me at its end.”

I got up, and so did Jim and Johnson. Personally I knew what Dual was doing—that his intervention in the human problem Johnson had brought to him had begun—that he was about to erect an astrological figure based on the time of Dorien’s shooting—a horary chart so called—and that after we had gone out of this room where he sat and spun his circle on a virgin sheet of paper, he would write down upon it other symbols and signs, such as he used in those computations of his wherein he sought to read the influence of the stars themselves upon mortal mundane affairs.

I led the way out and Jim and the inspector followed without a word. When we stood in the sunlight of the garden, Jim spoke. “Well—I guess you got what you come for. An’ seein’ as we’ve got to kill an hour, we might as well do it here. Come over an’ sit down an’ rest your heels. I’ve got a question or two I’d like to ask myself.”

He led the way to a seat beside a little fountain where ruddy goldfish were floating among budded lily pads.

Johnson sat down and once more ran a finger about his collar while Jim and I found seats and Bryce lighted another cigar. “Yes,” he agreed, “I reckon I’ve got what I come for. He’s sittin’ in there now drawin’ them figures of his on a piece of paper, addin’  ’em up, dividin’  ’em, multiplyin’  ’em, takin’ their square root for all I know, to find out how a man come to be shot. On th’ level—I’ve knowed him to do it often, but every time it gets my goat. It’s—it’s sort as if he knew so danged much more than I do, that he’d worked out a regular mathematics of life.”

A mathematics of life. My brain caught at his words. After all I found myself thinking, it wasn’t a bad definition—was a fairly good, if not too comprehensive, definition of what Dual was employing toward the end of knowledge, back there in the tower where he sat in his white and purple robes. A mathematics of life, which showed how and why man the puppet did this thing or that, to the pull of invisible strings, the urge of invisible cosmic forces as the cosmos moved.

“An’,” Johnson ran along, “he always makes me feel as if he was sayin’ two things at once. He says this Temple skirt is a Neptune type, an’ while I ain’t exactly certain, as I recall it, Neptune was a god of th’ fishes or somethin’ like that among th’ ancient Greeks.”

Bryce cleared his throat. “Which ain’t th’ reason why I brought you over here beside the fishes. It’s a nice place to sit. Maybe he meant she was one of Neptune’s daughters. Neptune’s a star, ain’t he, Glace?”

I nodded.

“Well, then,” said Jim, “that point being settled, th’ next one is, who’s this Archer Kell or Kelley?”