It was quiet in the city after the rain and I was drowsing at my desk in that dark no-man’s land time of night between 3 am and dawn. There may have been a half-empty bottle beside the shaded lamp, or it may have been half full. Outside in the street below there came an oddly familiar rattling sound, followed by the piping whistle of a lilting tune, and in the next moment my door crashed open.
My visitor had evidently dropped a flash-bang as he entered, for he stood in a small cloud of sickly yellow smoke, back-lit from the landing. He was taller than average and wider too, but his form silhouetted in the doorway was indistinct and blurred as if it was underwater. he seemed to be robed from head to foot in some dark material, and holding a staff bearing a pair of horns, which he waved in my direction as if he wished to intimidate me.
“This is a warning!” he rasped through the wreathing smoke. “Do not present your evidence!”
I deduced that it was not the Easter Bunny, but a rather plump sprite of some sort, and probably harmless.
“Don’t quite follow, old beanpole. You’ll have to be more specific. Or make an appointment. I’m free all next week. M’secretary is damnably ureliable, but what can you do? It is the holiday season, after all, and – “
He shook his staff and taking a pace forward he suddenly doubled up in a paroxysm of coughing as the smoke caught his throat.
“Have a drink. Come and sit down and tell me all about it. Bottoms up! Happy Easter. There, better now?”
“Hem!” He settled in the chair opposite and leaned his staff against the desk. “Listen. This number sixty-eight you’ve been investigating. Certain members of particular establishments will be very unhappy if you make your research freely available, see? Ahem!”
“Can’t say I’m bothered. It’s Infinite Law, and you can’t argue with that. And really it’s about time the WOT faced the problems of the Third Chapter, don’t you think?”
“No! It is not to be tolerated! the last two thousand years can’t be undone, see? You cannot ask hearts and minds who have just escaped tyranny to return voluntarily to captivity! Those verses are to be ignored, those names must not be mentioned!” He seized his staff again and the horns waggled above the desk.
“Look, calm down, will ya? No names, no packdrill, I know the score, pal. But even so, they were written in on purpose, deliberately, wouldn’t you agree? Can’t make mistakes in a Holy Book, y’know. I mean, it just wouldn’t do.”
“Hah!” He banged his staff on the floor.
“So, it’s logical to suppose that they’re there for us to re-examine,” I continued unperturbed, “to reconsider, to re-interpret for this new aeon that we are apparently launching ourselves into.”
“The companies I represent are not interested in old aeon gods!” he barked uncertainly.
“Neither am I, old stick. But you shouldn’t ignore the principle of life. And we all share the ambition of causing change, or am I misinformed?”
He chewed his lip and frowned.
“Tell you what, though. I’m a reasonable sort of a gal. I’ll present my evidence, or some of it, but I’ll do it in a roundabout way, and I won’t mention any names. How does that grab you?”
“And no pictures!”
“One picture.” I had remembered the tune.
He coughed again and reaching into his robe he produced an enormous spliff.
“One picture then.” He sighed. “Have you got a light, mac?”
“No, but I’ve got a dark brown overcoat.”