The Grand Inquisitor
Number 6 had only walked a few paces from the café, when for some strange reason his attention was drawn towards a tall man, wearing a dark blue turban and pale blue piped blazer and sporting a full beard. The middle eastern gentleman seemed to be perfectly ordinary looking, at least there was nothing extraordinary looking about his appearance. Youngish, in his late twenties no more, about six feet in height, and of thin stature. However one thing about this young man, was his apparently extraordinary ability of walking and passing amongst his fellow citizens but remaining perfectly unnoticed, like a ghost, or some will-o’-the-wisp. Because no one, no one at all paid him the least bit of attention! Or perhaps it was the case that because the Fakir is so ordinary that the good citizens of this community simply paid him no heed. Anyway if it were the former ability, then what havoc might he not play upon the observers Number 6 thought, as he began to follow the Fakir along the street, and without it ever once occurring to him as to ‘how or why!’ The Fakir continued on his way, with great purpose and attitude along the street, across the taxi rank and along the path up into the woods, carrying with him a length of coiled rope and a bamboo flute. Number 6 followed just to see what he was about, well it could be that he was a part of the Village fete activities, and if so then nothing was lost. And yet Number 6 felt that there was something about this young man, and then he was gone, quite suddenly and inexplicably! The path ahead curved round to the right and that was when Number 6 lost sight of the Fakir, not very far from the Village, but far enough as not to be seen, but yes to be heard. For there by the side of the path as it curved round was a red tannoy speaker set upon a black and white striped pole, under a candy striped canopy.
“This is an important announcement for Number Seven, would Number Seven please report to Number Two the Green Dome immediately. Number Seven, Number Seven to report to Number Two immediately” boomed out the supervisor’s voice.
Number 6 wondered what that was about, but as the Admiral had told him, they are always after someone, be thankful it’s not you! Number 6 ignoring the message over the tannoy, carried along the path until at last he caught up some little way behind the Fakir who walked on with ever increasing speed and determination in his purpose. The badge pinned to the left lapel of the Fakir’s piped blazer denoted the red numeral 7, and it was quite obvious that he had no intention of paying the least bit of notice to the message put out over the tannoy speaker.
“Number Seven please report to Number Two immediately, Number Seven report to Number Two immediately” boomed out again the supervisor’s voice, loud and clear.
The path lead both 7 and Number 6 passed the pair of ponds in the woods, up through the mangrove walk, through dense undergrowth and finally into a secluded clearing in the woods, and some distance away from the nearest paths. It was here that the Fakir laid down his length of coiled rope, and beside it the bamboo flute. Having settled himself down in the bushes, Number 6 waited to see what would happen next, perhaps the rope trick was to be performed at the Village fete and the young man was going to do one final practise. And so it was as Number 6 looked on from his vantage point amid the rhododendrons, that Number 7 began to disrobe. Piped blazer, polo neck jersey were folded and placed on top of each other upon the ground, these to be followed by light blue trousers, socks and deck shoes, the socks placed inside the deck shoes. And now standing only in white loin cloth and dark blue turban, sat upon the ground, the coiled rope before him, he picked up the bamboo flute and began to play. As 6 looked on Number 7 sat crossed legged upon the ground and began to play the bamboo flute. The music was haunting, eerie, but yet magical and somehow hypnotic, and as this strange haunting music played, something upon the ground stirred and rustled amongst the leaves. 6 watched transfixed from his crouched position as the end of the rope began to slowly rise up, the rope uncoiling and paying out some tens of feet in length straight up into the air, until the one end of the rope could not be seen. The Fakir, placing his flute upon the ground, stood at the base of the rope, grasped it firmly in both hands and began to climb it, hand over hand, bare feet gripping and with great agility. Number 6 maintained his observation because he wanted to know how it was done, such is the illusion of the Indian rope trick, it would go down well anywhere. And so he waited there amongst the rhododendrons to see the Fakir descend the rope. But descend the rope the Fakir did not. Emerging from the place of concealment Number 6 crossed the clearing and slowly approached the still taut rope. He looked up, but of the Sikh there was no sign! Then suddenly there came that blood curdling roar of the Village Guardian, and for Number 6 there was only one way…… grasping the rope firmly he managed to climb up a few feet, with the Guardian quivering agitatedly, unable as it was to pursue its prey. But then the rope suddenly became relaxed, and Number 6 together with the rope fell in a heap on the ground, with the Guardian bouncing clear, just as a taxi appeared on the scene. The two men, one burley built man, the size of Grandma’s outhouse, the other tall and lean, both dressed in red and black hooped jerseys and grey flannel trousers, climbed out of the taxi and manhandled Number 6 to his feet, then turned their faces skywards scanning the tree tops for the Fakir.
“What are you doing here Number Six?” Number 42 asked brusquely.
“I’m a horticulturist, plants, trees, bushes, that sort of thing” quipped Number 6.
“Not aiding and abetting then, where is he?” barked Grandma’s outhouse.
“Who?” Number 6 replied.
“Number Seven, we have been despatched to find him” said Number 42.
“That just might prove to be a little difficult” Number 6 replied, knowing that no one would believe his story, least of all himself.
“Are these Number Seven’s clothes?” 42 asked.
Number 6 answered in the affirmative, but when asked where the Sikh was, and told the two men that he had disrobed and climbed the rope, and that as far as he was concerned, the Fakir was still up there……. Somewhere!
Having scanned the tree tops, the two men began to thrash about in the undergrowth, but of Number 7 there was not a trace, he had vanished utterly and completely from the top of his rope!
Number 42, the leaner of the two men, picked up 7’s clothes, and Number 73 the rope and bamboo flute.
“You had better come along with us Number Six” Number 42 told him, dropping the clothes in the back of the taxi.
“Going for a nice drive are we?” quipped Number 6, who saw nothing else for it but to comply.
“Get in, the Grande Inquisitor doesn’t like to be kept waiting” 73 informed him, climbing into the back seat of the taxi.
“Surly not Don Miguel!” quipped Number 6.
“You’ll see, and when you do, perhaps you won’t find it quite so amusing” added 42 climbing behind the wheel
The taxi drove off, carrying them through the woods, back into The Village and right up to the steps leading up to the Green Dome.
The pair of steel doors opened and Number 6 was escorted into the office of Number 2, the Grande Inquisitor.
“So Number Six, what have we been up to
“I’ve not been up to anything.”
“Well there was a strange occurrence in the woods.”
“I’m not interested in strange occurrences in the woods. I want to know here Number Seven is.”
“That’s the funny thing, he’s escaped!”
“Escaped, escaped, what are you talking about, there is no escape!”
Number 6 approached the desk and leaning across it said “I watched a man climb a rope, and disappear!”
“And you expect me to believe that!” said Number 2 “he climbed the
rope and disappeared!”
“It’s what happened” Number 6 explained again “I watched it all, the Fakir disrobed, played his magic flute, the rope uncoiled
skywards, he climbed the rope and never came down again.”
But for Number 2 that was not good enough, who saw Number 6’s story nothing more than a fairy tale “You were in it together, you and Number Seven. You planted the clothes, the rope and the bamboo flute in order to second Seven away, until he could make good his escape at some later time, when the search had died down. Isn’t that how it was Number Six?”
“I have told you what happened, and I know
you find it difficult to believe, I have the same problem myself, and I was there!”
said Number 6.
Number 2 pressed a button on the control panel of his desk, a round section in the floor slid away and a black leather chair rose up through the hole. Number 6 was asked to sit down, and when he refused Number 73 saw that he did sit down.
Number 2 walked round the figure of the now seated Number 6 “That’s right my dear fellow, you hang on to that sense of humour of yours, it might be the only thing you are left with by the time I’m finished with you.”
Grandma’s outhouse-Number 73, stood stock still, arms folded and not once taking his mean looking eyes off Number 6 for a moment. Number 42 having taken the bamboo flute and rope to the laboratory.
“Who’s your funny friend?” Number 6 asked “doesn’t say much does he?”
“He’s the strong silent type” retorted Number 2 “however he is an expert when it comes to administering pain. Now why don’t you make this whole thing easy for yourself, and tell me what really happened out there. Tell me where Number Seven is and you are free to go.”
“I can’t tell you what I don’t know” returned Number 6, only wishing too well that he could.
“You really are a stubborn fellow…. I don’t much like the sight of blood myself… but if that is what it takes……”
“Look I’ll tell you what happened once more” began Number 6 for the last time “I saw this Fakir fellow walking along the street, he was like a ghost, no one was taking the least bit of interest in him, and he seemed to be aware of this because he didn’t seem bothered who saw him carrying that length of rope and his bamboo flute.”
“Why did you follow the Fakir” Number 2 asked pacing the floor of his office.
“I was curious that’s all.”
“You mean you were sticking your nose into other people’s business” retorted Number 2 accusingly.
“Just as well I did, otherwise you would now be a prisoner down, and with no idea of how he got away. Which incidentally, is your
present predicament!” Number 6 replied with a grin.
“Again why did you follow the Fakir, what was it that attracted you to him?” Number 2 demanded.
“I told you, he seemed to have the ability to move amongst his fellow citizens like some will-o’-the-wisp, he could walk through a crowd and without one of them paying him the least bit of attention” Number 6 said.
Number 2 was thoughtful and had to agree “Yes, he did seem to have that effect on the citizens, even our best technicians cannot explain it. And whatever it was he could do, he could do it at will. That’s why his presence here was so important, and what makes his escape so damnable!”
“And now he has escaped, and someone will have to pay, you I shouldn’t wonder!” said Number 6 with a smile.
“Perhaps, but what I can’t understand, is why you didn’t follow after him?”
“I was going to when your guard dog turned
up” Number 6 explained “then the rope went limp, and down it came and me with
Number 2 smiled.
“So you do believe me, and you knew all the time. I should have known!” barked Number 6.
Grandma’s outhouse shifted his position, but Number 2 signalled for him to leave, and waited for the pair of steel doors to close before continuing with the debriefing.
“He played his flute, I don’t suppose you recall the melody?”
Number 6 relaxed in his chair now that they were alone “Sorry, but I’ve no head for haunting tunes!”
“You can’t remember a note of it, surely if you tried” Number 2 pleaded.
Number 6 sat in his chair, the Fakir’s tune still inside his head, it was difficult to shake off, and so he had no idea why he said “Sorry I’m afraid not. It was a strange tune, one which hung on the air and then is gone!”
This was not what Number 2 expected to hear, nor wanted to hear, much to his disappointment he said “alright, you can go, but remember Number Six, I’ve got your number!”
“Thanks very much” he replied rising out of his chair and walking up the ramp and departing through the opening doors.
Number 2 took to his chair and pressing a button on the control panel of his desk activated the wall screen, where the image of a laboratory technician appeared, he was making a close examination of both the bamboo flute and rope found at the scene.
“Well, what have you discovered?” Number 2 asked the man pictured on the screen.
The technician looked into the camera and removed his spectacles “The flute is perfectly ordinary, fashioned out of bamboo, nothing remarkable in that.”
“I could have told you that” said Number 2 in response “what about
“Ah, there we do have a mystery. The rope has been hand woven, from Asian hemp if I am not mistaken.”
“Asian hemp, where would Number Seven get Asian Hemp from?” Number 2 asked the technician.
“I have no idea Number Two, unless he had grown the plant himself” replied the technician “the rope although hand woven, its not as usual rope is woven.”
If Number Seven was a Fakir, then it all boils down to mysticism, that of the Indian Rope trick, which he used to escape the Village thought Number 2 “What about the clothes, what did you discover about those?”
“Nothing in the pockets, washed and dry
cleaned yesterday, that’s all” was all the technician could offer.
“How was it done?”
“How was what done?” asked the staring technician on the screen.
“The Indian rope trick, how was it done?” Number 2 repeated.
“I’m afraid I’ve no idea. You want a mystic, or failing that another Sikh who might know the secret” was the technician’s suggestion.
“Yes, and I know what you want!” said Number 2 switching off the screen.
Sitting back in his chair, Number 2 pondered this latest situation. It was clearly one he was not going to quickly resolve, if at all. Problems are created so to be overcome, but this time he was dealing with something he had no experience of…. mysticism! And that one was going to be difficult to explain, to his masters, as he stared at the large curved, oversized red telephone, waiting for it to start bleeping as he knew it must. And when it did it made him start, and sounding quite impatient. And so with trepidation and a trembling hand Number 2 picked up the telephone.
“Number 2 here……..”
Outside in the clear light of day, Number 6’s befuddled mind, caused by what he had witnessed in the woods slowly began to clear, even the haunting melody played on the Fakir’s flute had finally dissipated. It left him with but one regret that he had not been quicker to react, after all if only he had been able to follow up the rope, where would he be now? Only the Fakir could answer that one. The Village was itself alive to the sound of music, played by the Brass band who were in the back of two taxis, and were being driven round and round the piazza, as the citizens themselves paraded around, all in their fancy dress costumes. A Bishop, Russian Cossack, Red Indian, Cowboy, Spanish Lady, Queen Elizabeth 1st, Harlequin, Black
Beard the pirate, a Chinese Mandarin, and an Arabian Sheik to name but a few. Then from behind the amusement tent advertising ‘What the Butler Saw’ tent, a clown leapt out, dressed in bright colourful patchwork clothes as Popsey danced and clowned around, her clown face painted white, with red curly hair and a big red nose with painted smile as to hide the person’s identity. But as Popsey linked arms with Number 6 and began to dance about with him, she stared him straight in the eye, and for a moment there seemed to him, something familiar about this clown, and when he was about to put his finger on it, popsey danced and whirled Number 6 along and around the piazza.
And as they whirled he couldn’t help himself, he allowed himself a smile. Then popsey stopped dancing and faced Number 6, and leaning forward indicated to Number 6 to smell her button hole. He leant forward and sniffed at the big yellow daffodil, and out of the yellow trumpet of the flower a jet of water squirted drenching him!
Oh how Popsey feigned her mimed laughter, before dashing off to irritate some other poor soul, as he took a handkerchief from his pocket to dry himself down.
“Ooh, ooh, Number Six” waved and shouted Number 27, trying to attract his attention from a balcony set in the stone wall “I see you’ve met with popsey, a lively character, and fun with it, don’t you think?”
“Hilarious, she’s a scream!” said Number 6 moping himself down.
“How are you enjoying the celebrations?” shouted she from the balcony, standing there in her green tight fitting and rather skimpy but very fetching Peter Pan costume.
“Oh, have they begun already, I thought that was tomorrow!” retorted Number 6 walking towards the balcony.
“Now you must not be an old grumpy face or sour puss. How do you like my costume?” 27 asked, almost flaunting herself at Number 6.
“Very nice, not much of it!” he replied.
“I like it, couldn’t wait to try it on, I think it’s sexy!” she told him.
“Well it’s that alright” he replied eyeing her up and down, several times.
“Do you like my legs?” she asked, lifting one up and stretching it out.
“Very nice, you wouldn’t be flirting with me, would you?” he asked.
“Oh, wouldn’t I? Of course I wouldn’t, it’s against the rules” she said, and went off giggling to herself like some giggly school girl.
The Brass Band suddenly came marching along playing the Radetski March, along the path that flanked the chess lawn and piazza, to the lawn by the fish pond. A small crowd had gathered on the lawn, but made way for the Brass Band and taxi which had just drawn up. The taxi towed behind it a trailer, and in the trailer something was covered by a tarpaulin sheet. Four men in dove grey overalls got out of the taxi and two ‘Top Hat’ officials joined them by the trailer. They seemed to be discussing the contents of the trailer and the best way of hoisting it out. The crowed was told to stand back, a crowd which included Number 6 as an onlooker, as the taxi was backed up across the lawn to where a stone plinth had already been erected a few days ago. Then the four workmen, under the guidance of the two ‘Top Hat’ officials, rigged up a tripod with block and tackle. Then fixing the stout rope around the object in the trailer, the four men hauled away, lifting the object clear and swinging it over to the stone plinth, whereupon it was settled down and then fixed in position with a stout bolt set in the base of the plinth. As the four men busied themselves in their work, Number’s 42 and 73 arrived, they to provide security until the time of the unveiling of the special 'Village Day' bust hidden
under the tarpaulin, which was duly pulled away to reveal a scarlet velvet covering, and tied with an ornate cord. The two Guardians took their positions either side of the monument. Both now dressed entirely in black, complete with dark glasses, their clear and explicit instructions being, not to let anyone within ten feet of the now proclaimed monument. The crowd were getting excited, anticipation filled the air, and the Band played on, and Number 6 asked someone in the crowd what it was all this was in aid of?
“Don’t you read The Tally Ho?” asked Number 51, a little white haired lady “under that covering is a bust, of the founder of this Village and its community.”
“He doesn’t rate a full statue then?” Number 6 replied mockingly.
“How do you know it’s a he?” Number 213, a thin youth asked suddenly, having overheard Number 6.
“I don’t” Number 6 said turning to the woman behind him.
“That’s how rumours start!” said Number 65, a rather brusque woman, butting in “there’s enough rumours about as it is!”
“Rumours?” asked Number 6 “what rumours are these?”
“We the citizens of this community are trying to guess who the bust is of” said Number 51 “personally, I think it’s of Number Two, in recognition for all his sterling work for the community.”
“Rubbish” said Number 82 “Number Two isn’t the founder of The Village, he’s far too young.”
“I agree” said Number 252 “it must be someone older, perhaps someone who has long passed away!”
“That’s right, Number Two-five-two is right” agreed Number 12, a middle aged man in a brown and white striped jersey “they don’t usually put up a statue of anyone unless their dead!”
Then Number 50 chirped up with her half penny worth “I look at it from the artist’s perspective, it could be a piece of modern sculpture.”
Number 99-the ice cream vendor thought it to be “A p,p, Penny f,f Farthing” he stammered.
As for Number 3 he said “Dim vast liquiardo fechar dem opposse uso” which roughly translated means, well no one knew what it meant because no one has thus far been able to understand a single word he
utters! And so the debate went on, until one citizen came up with the idea of it being a bust of Number 1, Number 1 being the most likely founder of the Village and its community. But then who is number 1, and when was the Village founded, since the war, before the war, which war?
As the Brass Band stopped playing, there came a fanfare through the public address system, followed by the following announcement
“Good afternoon everyone, good afternoon, tomorrow is Village Day and the celebrations will begin early. The Village fete will be opened by Number 2 himself. There will be fun and entertainment for all. And a speech by Number 2 will be followed by the unveiling of a special commemorative village day monument. A Grande Parade will take place around the Piazza with everyone in fancy dress costume, the Brass Band will play. And in the evening there is the Masque ball, come one, come all. Be seeing you.”
Number 6 had had enough of listening to people’s arguments over what it was underneath that scarlet drapery, and here he sat on the stone steps of the bandstand watching the general goings on as people passed by, “Watching the Village go by” he thought to himself, if only he could! Then at hearing the announcement he suddenly became interested in what it was that lay beneath those scarlet draperies. Perhaps he shouldn’t bother to wait until tomorrow, perhaps now, right this minute was a good time.
Taking to his feet, it was with purpose that Number 6 weaved his way through the stalls upon the chess lawn, up the steps and along the piazza, then emerging through the crowd upon the lawn, to be faced with the two Guardians
In the office of the Green Dome, Number 2 and the supervisor-Number 26 stood watching the wall screen as Number 6 made his way through the stalls on the chess lawn, up the steps and along the piazza, emerging through the crowd to be faced with Numbers 42 and 73.
“Number Six appears to be looking for trouble” the supervisor remarked.
“Well he’ll find what he’s looking for then, wont he!” smirked Number 2, not taking his eyes off the screen “my men are more than capable with dealing with Number Six.”
“You’re sure he won’t get to the bust and unveil it prematurely?” asked the supervisor, who could clearly see such danger.
“Watch, just watch” said Number 2, feeling slightly insulted, then pointing said “then get back to your Control Room, my replacement arrives tomorrow.”
“You’ve got the sack then, something to do with Number Seven was it?” the supervisor was quick to ask, trying to hide the smirk on his face.
Number 2 quick to defend himself said “Certainly not! As a matter of fact I’m going on to better things, they’re very pleased with me.”
“Yes, that’s what your predecessor said!” replied the supervisor, not taking his eyes off the screen.
Number 2 stared at the supervisor in silent indignation, then turned his attention back to the screen, just as the action was about to begin.
Number 73 stepped forward and asked brusquely “What do you want Number Six, you have no business here.”
Number 6 stood a few paces back, smiled at the crowd, shot his cuffs and said “A private viewing, if you don’t mind.”
“No one sees the statue before the unveiling tomorrow” returned 73 sternly.
“Not even as a favour, one citizen to another?” taunted Number 6.
The crowd of citizens looked on quite unemotionally, standing by the edge of the lawn and round the fish pond, as did two ‘Top Hat’ officials.
Number 42 stepped bravely forward “Keep clear Number Six, we don’t want any trouble from you, especially today.”
“Toeing the line, being a good boy for Number Two” Number 6 taunted “chin up Forty-two.”
“Mind your business Number Six, as you are so keen to see people mind theirs” retorted 42 aggressively “you will see the statue at the proper time, along with everyone else and certainly not before!”
“I never was much good at waiting though…..”
“Good at sticking your nose in where it’s not wanted though!” 42 taunted in response.
“……..I think I’ll take a quick look now” said Number 6 striking the first blow.
As Number 6’s fist made contact with 42’s chin he was sent reeling backwards. Number 73 was quick to react and elbowed Number 6 full in the chest sending him to his knees on the ground. Number 73 hauled Number 6 quickly to his feet as 42 recovered from the initial blow and went to punch 6 in the stomach. But Number 6 read the move, bringing his shoe down 73’s shin and stamping on his foot was enough to see 73’s hold on him released, and 42 receive a kick in the head for his pains, sending him sprawling to the ground. Then spinning round 6 caught 73 with an uppercut to his chin and a follow up punch to his stomach and a knee to the chin as 73 doubled up in pain. Blood streamed from 42’s broken nose and he delivered a punch to Number 6 kidneys, bringing him well and truly to his knees on the grass. And as Number 42 grabbed a handful of 6’s hair, 73 clenched his fist and punched him full in the face. Then together 42 and 73 picked up Number 6’s battered body, and carrying him over to the pond…….. splash they threw him in!
Post a Comment