Thus Was Inari Murdered

a parody of Sarah Caudwell's Thus Was Adonis Murdered

with admiration for Sarah Caudwell, Togashi Yoshihiro, Watase Yuu, and others

by Luriko-Ysabeth


Chapter One

    Scholarship asks, thank the gods, no recompense but Truth. It is not for the sake of material reward that she (Scholarship) pursues her (Truth) through the undergrowth of Ignorance, shining on Obscurity the bright torch of Reason and clearing aside the tangled thorns of Error with the keen clipping-shears of Intellect. Nor is it for the sake of public glory and the applause of the populace: the scholar is indifferent to vulgar acclaim. Nor is it even in the hope that those few intimate friends who have observed at first hand the labor of the chase will mark its eventual spectacular achievement with a few words of discerning congratulation. Which is extremely fortunate, because they don't.

    If the events in which Poison Giullia became involved last June had not been subjected to the penetrating scrutiny of the trained scholar -- that is to say, my own -- well, I do not say it is certain that Giullia would even now be languishing in a Venetian prison. The crime being thought to be one of passion, great lenience might have been shown; the Italian Government might have declared an amnesty; the State Department might have done something. Very possibly. I do say, however, that it was only as a result of my own personal investigation that Giullia's innocence was conclusively established and she returned to America without a stain on her character.

    As an instance of what the methods of Scholarship may achieve, the affair seems not unworthy of some written record or report. And you may think, dear reader, that those who had been able -- modesty prevents me from saying, if others do not choose to, privileged -- to observe for themselves the process of my reasoning would have eagerly striven among each other to undertake the task. How little, if you think so, do you know lawyers. Hoshino Kiyoshi -- additionally inspired by the reverence which ought to be felt for his former mentor -- that is to say, myself -- Kiyoshi-dono, you might imagine, would have been delighted by the opportunity. But no -- Kiyoshi-dono is assisting on a case on 'fair use' coming up before the Court of Appeal; he is weeks behind with his paperwork; he cannot do it. Urusasa no Akuma-daimaoh, who is fond of Giullia and would have been distressed by her prolonged incarceration -- no, Akuma-chan is engaged in a planning inquiry on behalf of certain objectors to a road-widening scheme; she is months behind with her paperwork; she cannot possibly do it. Karasu and Kounan no Saihitei Seishuku (Hotohori) of the same law firm -- Karasu is engaged on behalf of a lady who claims by custom immemorial to hang her washing across her neighbor's garden; the neighbor has employed Hotohori to oppose the claim; they confidently expect the matter to occupy their attention for the best part of the term, and that of a Circuit Court Judge for at least a fortnight; no, clearly they cannot do it.

    I am obliged, therefore, with some reluctance, to do the thing myself. It means my own work must be laid aside: the day must be deferred to a yet more distant future which sees the publication of Suis Porcellae dominae Itinerarium Vitae by Kendappa no Luriko-Ysabeth and the appearance in learned journals of such phrases as 'Ms. Kendappa's lively adaptation,' 'Ms. Kendappa's revolutionary treatment of a sadly little-known work' et cetera. But I am content to make my sacrifice -- if I hesitate, it is only for fear that some of my readers will be suspect that my motive for publication is mere self-advertisement. The danger of incurring so contemptible an opinion has almost deterred me; but I must not allow mere personal delicacy to deprive the public of a possibly useful and instructive chronicle. I shall therefore set down what happened, as it happened: and if, in the cause of Truth, I am unable to minimize my own achievement, I hope that the wiser spirits -- I refer, in particular, dear reader, to yourself -- will think none the worse of me for it.

    I had decided to spend June in Ann Arbor -- my work on the translation of Miss Piggy required me to study various works in Vulgar Latin in the Graduate Library. And Seattle in June has little in particular to recommend it, unlike other months.

    I had at first been uncertain where I should stay. For the occasional night or two, I am certain of a welcome at Kiyoshi-dono's apartment in University Towers. I feared, however, that my presence for a whole month might put an excessive strain on his roommate's hospitality. Fortune came to my aid: a former colleague of mine, now the owner of two cats and apartments in a house in Burns Park, had arranged to spend the month in Japan and had realized, at a late date, the difficulty of taking the cats with her to that country -- she wrote in piteous terms, begging me to come and care for them. Happy to be of assistance to a fellow scholar, I instantly consented.

    On my first day back in Ann Arbor I made an early start. Reaching the Grad not much after ten, I soon secured the books needed for my research and settled in my place. I became, as is the way of the scholar, so deeply absorbed as to lose all consciousness of my surroundings or of the passage of time. When at last I came to myself, it was almost eleven and I was quite exhausted: I knew I could not prudently continue without refreshment. (I would have been willing to defy the Grad's no-food policy in the privacy of my own cubicle, but I had unaccountably forgot to bring any small provisions with me.)

    If at eleven on a weekday morning one leaves the Harlan Hatcher Graduate library by its front entrance, follows the Diag in a northwesterly direction to State Street, crosses that, turns right, and continues past Nickels Arcade to the nearest coffee house and delicatessen, one will generally find gathered there (professional obligations and their paralegal permitting) the junior members of the respected law firm of Eluza, Ashura, Yomi, and Sakurazukamori. (There have been no Yomis or relations thereof for a century, but Dr. Fortin [the senior partner] would react with horror to any suggestion of a change in name.) They are a decorative little group -- it would be a difficult taste that was pleased by none of them. Between Hotohori and Karasu there are certain points of resemblance: they appear to be about the same age; are of similar height and hair length; both thin; both very pale. But it is for those whose pleasure lies in the conquest of virtue that Hotohori's delicate profile and demure autumnal coloring have a most particular charm. Karasu, on the other hand, has violet eyes to die for and hair of a witchlike blackness, more pleasing to those whose preference is for a sense of danger akin to riding a hurricane. Akuma-chan -- I can think of no especially striking feature by which you might distinguish Akuma-chan from any other pretty demoness in her (apparent) middle twenties, average in height and roundness of figure, with hair an inconstant shade of auburn and large feathery wings; I mean, until she speaks: for her voice is unmistakable, smooth and persuasive, the envy of rival advocates. But until then -- well, if you can imagine an Abyssinian cat which has just completed a successful cross-examination, that will give you some idea of her. Kiyoshi-dono, my former pupil, being an intern, is detained more often than not by the claims of his profession and was absent on the morning of which I write -- there is little point, therefore, in my describing him.

    They will be debating one of those diverse questions which interest the minds of the Michigan Bar Association -- when to file an injunction as opposed to proceeding with the case, how believable the President's denial of involvement in the latest scandal may be, or whose turn it is to pay for the drinks.

    'Perfectly scandalous,' Hotohori was saying as I entered the dim, crowded, and noisy coffee-deli. The object of his disapproval might have been almost anything -- Hotohori has such high principles. It turned out on this occasion to be the high price of coffee and other hot drinks. But he is a young man of graceful manners -- on seeing me he ordered a half-pot of Goddess tea, almost without hesitation.

    I had feared, in the middle of the summer break, to find the offices on the third floor of the Michigan Building deserted. I expressed my surprise and pleasure at finding them.

    'Watashi no Ysabeth,' Akuma-chan said from her perch on the back of the small rickety chair, 'you surely know by now that in the period ironically called the summer "break," Tamahome allows us to be away from the office no longer than a fortnight. Karasu and I have already taken our fortnights -- Hotohori is saving his for the end of the month.'

    Tamahome is the paralegal at Eluza, Ashura, Yomi, and Sakurazukamori. From references which will from time to time be made to him some of my readers, unfamiliar with the system, may infer that Akuma-chan and the rest are employed by Tamahome under a contract more or less equivalent to one of personal servitude. I should explain that this is not the case: they employ Tamahome. It is Tamahome's function, in exchange for ten per cent of their earnings, to deal on their behalf with the outside world: to administer, manage, and negotiate; to extol their merits, gloss over their failings, justify their fees and earn their delays; to flatter those clients whose patronage is most lucrative; to write reproachfully to those whose delay payment for more than two years or so; to promise with equal conviction in the same morning that  six separate sets of papers will be the first to receive attention.

    I asked if Kiyoshi-dono's absence, at least, was attributable to pleasure. Akuma-chan and Hotohori shook their heads.

    'Got snatched,' said Karasu, hooking an extra chair over to the table with his foot.

    'Snatched?' I repeated as I gingerly settled into the chair, a little perplexed by the expression. Karasu went to Ohio State -- it is not always easy to understand what he says. 'Snatched? By whom, Karasu? Or, to adopt the Ohio State idiom, who by?'

    'Tamahome, of course, ' said Karasu dryly. 'He spotted Kiyo-chan trying to make a break for it and sent out the guards to head him off. Had him hauled back to the salt mines.'

    'Karasu means,' said Akuma-chan, ' that as we were leaving for coffee Tamahome sent a message by the temporary typist that Kiyoshi's presence was required in the office. It appears that a group of University students need the advice of an attorney in some urgency, and Ashura-ohsama wants an intern to attend to the paperwork.'

    'That's right,' said Karasu. 'So while we sit around downing coffee, poor Kiyo-chan is listening to the demented ravings of some East Quad residents.'

    As an alumna of East Quadrangle myself, I felt some disturbance at Karasu's ready stereotyping, but forbore to argue. It is beneath the dignity of a Scholar, in any case, to enter into an altercation with a counselor whose advocacy resides solely on his ready access to large amounts of high-quality explosives.

    'So you see, Ysabeth,' said Akuma-chan, 'that no one's on holiday. Except Giullia, of course. She should be in Venice by now.'

    'Juri-chan?' I said, much astonished. 'You haven't let Juri-chan go off by herself to Venice, surely?'

    'Am I,' asked Akuma-chan, 'Giullia's keeper?'

    'Yes,' I said, rather severely, for her attitude seemed to me to be irresponsible. She likes, I know, to pretend that Giullia is a normal grown-up woman, who can be safely sent round the corner to buy a loaf of bread; but this, of course, is absurd.*

*This and the following are wild exaggerations for the purpose of hilarity. Juri-chan is far more fit to cope with life than this passage would suggest.

Poor Giullia's inability to understand what is happening, or why, in the world about her, her incompetence to learn even the simplest of the practical skills required for survival -- these must have made it evident, even in childhood, that she would never be able to cope unaided with the full responsibilities of adult like. She must have been, no doubt, a docile, good-natured child, with a certain facility for Latin verbs, intelligence tests, and kendo -- it is a constant amazement to me how she seems to acquire clumsiness in a vast wave every time she puts the sword down -- but what use is that to anyone these days? Seeking some suitable refuge where her inadequacies would pass unnoticed, her relatives, very sensibly, sent her to Ann Arbor (in the State of Michigan, in America). She is now a member of the small set of tax attorneys who have offices across from Eluza et al. There she sits all day, advising quite happily on the construction of the US Tax Laws, and doing no harm to anyone. But to let her go to Venice -- I imagined her, wandering alone through those devious alleyways, looking -- as, indeed, she does at the best of time -- like one of the more disheveled heroines of Greek tragedy; and I could not forbear to chide.

    'Furthermore,' I added, 'it is no use your implying, Akuma-chan, that your part in the enterprise was merely a negative one. If you tell me that Juri-chan could have managed to buy tickets, find her passport, pack her suitcase and catch an airplane, all without the aid of some competent adult, I shall be obliged to disbelieve you.'

    Akuma-chan admitted to having provided such assistance. She had accompanied Giullia to the travel agents and had represented, on her behalf, the necessity of a vacation in Venice being arranged at five days' notice. (I did not ask why Giullia had made no earlier arrangements -- to plan five days in advance is, for her, a remarkable achievement.) The travel agent had found a vacant place on something called an Art Lover's Holiday. Asked in what manner this differed from other holidays, the agent had explained that it included guided tours of various places of historical and artistic interest: additional tours were available on an optional basis.

    'This made,' Akuma-chan said, 'a great impression on Giullia. If some of the tours are optional, the rest, she reasons, must be compulsory. For most of the time, therefore, she will not be on her own, but traveling about the Veneto in a group of respectable Art Lovers under the supervision of a qualified guide. So you see, Ysabeth, that all this alarm and despondency is quite unjustified.'

    'You naturally prefer,' I said, 'to look on the bright side. So far as I am aware, though, the qualifications for a guide are not those of a nursemaid or a guardian of the differently challenged. The poor fellow will take his eye off her for a moment and she will wander off. What then?'

    'She'll ask the way back to her hotel.'

    'She will have forgotten the name of her hotel.'

    'We made her write it down on a piece of paper.'

    'She will have lost the piece of paper. She will find herself alone in a strange city. She will not know where she is or what she ought to do.'

    'The same thing,' said Akuma-chan, 'happens in Ann Arbor at least once a fortnight.'

    There was some truth in this. In her adopted city Giullia is still unable to find her way with confidence from Angell Hall to Kerrytown. Even so --

    'Giullia,' said Hotohori firmly, 'will not get lost in Venice. I have lent her my guide books, both to Venice itself and to those cities of the Veneto which she is likely to visit.  I wasn't always able to get the English version, so one or two of them are in Italian. Still, I doubt that it matters -- the main thing is that they all have maps in them. Perfectly clear, sensible maps. Giullia will be able to see at a glance where she is, where she should be, and how to get to one from the other.'

    This was a kindness beyond mere courtesy. On visiting Venice the previous autumn, Hotohori had formed a passionate attachment to the city and all connected with it -- the guide books were as dear to him as the last mementos of a love affair. To hand them over to Giullia, particularly when one remembers her tendency to spill things --

    'I have told her,' said Hotohori, 'that she is to take great care of them and not to read them while drinking gin. Or coffee. Or while eating pizza with her fingers. And I have put brown paper covers on them to protect them on the outside. So it really should be all right.'

    'Of course it will,' Akuma-chan said. 'And it doesn't matter about some of them being in Italian. Giullia speaks very good Italian.'*

*She actually does, but for purposes of this story, she doesn't. Wakaru n deshou?

    This opinion of Akuma-chan's is erroneous but incorrigible. Akuma-chan herself declines to learn any foreign language. If people wish to deal with demons, they can learn a language comprehensible to HER. Giullia, on the other hand, makes her way along the shores of the Mediterranean in the happy belief that everyone still speaks some version of  Latin, with the endings of the nouns slurred, a slightly lilting accent, and assorted words borrowed from Portuguese: she achieves in this way a sufficient fluency to be regarded by Akuma-chan, when they travel together, as the one who speaks the language.

    I raised another question that was perplexing me. 'It all sounds,' I said, 'very expensive. How can Juri-chan afford it? I thought that the IRS had reduced her to penury.'

    Giullia's unhappy relationship with the IRS was due to her omission, during four years of modestly successful law practice, to pay any income tax. The truth is, I think, that she did not, in her heart of hearts, really believe in income tax. It was a subject which she had studied for examinations and on which she had thereafter advised a number of clients: she naturally did not suppose, in these circumstances, that it had anything to do with real life.

    The day had come on which the IRS discovered her existence and reminded her of theirs. They had not initially asked her for money: they had first insisted, unreasonably but implacably, that she should submit accounts. They had shown by this that they were not motivated by a just and lawful desire to fill the public purse for the public benefit: their true purpose was to make Giullia spend every evening for several months copying out the last four years' entries in her paralegal's Fee Book on an old typewriter that did not work properly. (They have not yet been able to afford a computer there.) I myself am not sure that the age and defectiveness of the typewriter were an essential feature of the Revenue's planning. But Giullia was: every time it stuck, her bitterness towards them deepened. The IRS, on receiving the result of her labors, had uttered no word of gratitude or commendation. They had demanded a large sum of money. More than she had. More, according to her -- though I think that she cannot be quite right about this -- than she had ever had. More than she could hope to have.

    In this extremity, she had appealed to her paralegal. Giullia's paralegal is called Tetsuya, an older man than Tamahome, and perhaps more indulgent. It took a mere two hours of sycophantic pleading, freely laced with promises of perpetual industry, to secure his assistance. He sent out fee notes, as a matter of urgency, requesting immediate payment from those clients who were indebted to Giullia for her services.

    His efforts raised a sufficient sum to pay the IRS, but left Giullia with nothing to live on. Or at any rate with only so much as might support the bare necessities of life. I did not see how she could afford to go to Venice.

    'The unhappy events to which you refer,' said Akuma-chan,' occurred some months ago. That is to say, in the financial year which ended on the fifteenth of April. On or about that date, the IRS wrote to Giullia, reminding her that they were now entitled to another year's accounts.'

    'And Giullia was pretty ticked off,' said Karasu. 'Because the way she saw it, she'd done her bit as far as accounts were concerned.'

    'But she consoled herself,' Akuma-chan said, 'with the thought that it was only one year's accounts and couldn't be as bad as last time. So she returned to her typewriter and in less than nine weeks prepared her accounts for this year.'

    'But since,' Hotohori put in, ' her income for the previous year included the rather substantial sum raised by Tetsuya to pay her previous liabilities to the IRS -- '

    'She now owes them even more than she did last year. And she's really rather despondent about it. Because it seems to her that every effort she makes to reduce her liability will in fact simply serve to increase it. And it is difficult to point to any fallacy in her reasoning.' Akuma-chan gazed sadly into her coffee cup.

    'It is still not clear to me,' I said, 'why she now feels able to afford a vacation.'

    'It is true,' said Akuma-chan, ' that if she takes a vacation, she will not be able to pay the IRS. But if she does not take a vacation, she will still not be able to pay the IRS. On the sheep and lamb principle, she has decided to go to Venice. I think it's very sensible. She will return to London spiritually refreshed and able to cope with life.'

    'Spiritually?' said Hotohori. 'Akuma-chan, we all know exactly what Giullia is hoping to find in Venice, and there is, I regret to say, nothing spiritual about it.' Hotohori's rather beautiful mouth closed in a severe straight line, as if denying utterance to more explicit improprieties.

    'Chasing tail,' said Karasu. It is an Ohio State expression, signifying, as I understand it, the pursuit of erotic satisfaction.

    'Giullia has been working very hard all winter and spring,' said Akuma-chan, 'and has had few opportunities for pleasure. No one, I hope, would grudge her a little innocent diversion. My only fear is that she may be over-precipitate. I have reminded her that young men like to think one is interested in them as people: if one discloses too early the true nature of one's interest, they are apt to be offended and get all hoity-toity. But we must hope someone takes her fancy in the first day or two, or she may feel she hasnít got time for the subtle approach.'

    'How long does she have?' I asked.

    'Ten days. But effectively only eight, because two are spent traveling. She gets back to Ann Arbor on Saturday week.'

    After a moment's reflection, Akuma-chan thought it prudent to qualify her last statement with the words 'Deo volente.' The phrase was intended, no doubt, to allow for some lesser catastrophe than Giullia's arrest on a charge of murder.


Chapter Two

    Despite her professed confidence that Giullia would come to no harm, Akuma-chan's conversation betrayed, in the days that followed, an unusually anxious acquaintance with those columns of The New York Times which carried the news from Italy. It was full, suddenly, of casual references to student unrest in Bologna; the problems of the Tuscan peach farmers; and the doctrinal innovations of the Vatican and the Italian Communist Party. Happily, it appeared that neither crime nor accident, civil commotion nor natural disaster had impinged on any person answering to Giullia's description.

    In addition to this negative intelligence, she expected letters. She had impressed on Giullia the need to write daily, for the edification and amusement of those left in the Michigan Building.

    'You made it clear, I hope,' said Hotohori, 'that the letters should be suitable to read in mixed company and the activities described of unquestionable decorum?'

    'Not precisely,' said Akuma-chan. 'I said that what we hoped for was a picaresque series of attempted seductions. I told her we would not insist, however, on their uniform success. I said that on the contrary we might think it inartistic.'

    Hotohori sighed.

    I had thought Akuma-chan optimistic to expect that any letters sent from Venice would arrive in Ann Arbor before Giullia herself; but we were fortunate, throughout the period of which I write, in the efficiency of the postal services. The first of Giullia's letters arrived on Tuesday, and Akuma-chan, who alone can decipher her writing, read it to us over 'coffee.'

Detroit-Wayne Metro Airport.
Thursday afternoon.

Ichiban no Akuma-chan,
    'Twelve adulteries, nine liaisons, sixty-four fornications and something approaching a rape' are required of me for your innocent entertainment. Well, you will have to be patient -- the airplane is not designed to accommodate such adventures. I am beginning, however, as I mean to go on, and in accordance with your own instructions -- that is to say, with an exactly contemporaneous account of everything that happens.
    It occurs to me that to abide literally by this resolution may have a slightly inhibiting effect on the adulteries, liaisons, etc. In certain circumstances, therefore, I shall hope, as regards precise contemporaneity, for a measure of indulgence -- which, since you are the most reasonable of women, I do not doubt to receive.
    It is about an hour and a half since you left me at the airport. Things, since you left, have not gone well with me: they have taken me from a place where there was gin to a place where there was no gin, and from a place where I could listen to my portable CD player to a place where I cannot listen to my portable CD player. They have also taken my passport.


    'They can't do that to Giullia,' said Akuma-chan. 'She is an American citizen.'


    And it's no use your saying, Akuma-chan, that I am an American citizen and they can't do that to me. They have done. It began with a difference of opinion about my suitcase; I thought it was carry-on baggage, which I could keep with me; the stewardess, at the last moment, decided that it was not. Deferring to the expert view, I handed it over, and she pushed it down a sort of chute. Only as it slid, with irreversible momentum, into the bowels of the aircraft, did I remember that my passport is in the side pocket. I shall not see my passport again until I get my luggage back: which will be, if my memory of airport procedure is not at fault, on the other side of the Passport Control Barrier. We have the makings of an impasse.
    Too late, too late, Akuma-chan, I recall your as always excellent advice, to keep my passport at all times in my purse. Together with such other essential documents as my ticket, my traveler's checks, my Italian phrasebook, Hotohori-Love's guide to Venice and my copy of this year's edition of the Internal Revenue Code. Will any of these, do you think, be accepted as proof of my identity? Or am I doomed to be shuffled for ever between Venice and Wayne County, with occasional diversions, on account of administrative error, to Ankara and Bangkok?


    'I would not wish,' I said, 'to say that I told you so.'

    'The postmark is Venice,' said Akuma-chan. 'We may infer that the Internal Revenue Code was accepted in lieu of the passport.'


    And that, I may say, is the optimistic view, assuming as it does that we actually get to Venice. The pessimistic view is that the airplane will be hijacked. There is sitting next to me an immense man of about fifty, of vaguely military appearance, who looks the type for such an undertaking: his suntan is too deep to have been acquired in Michigan; his white mustache bristles piratically; his blue eyes are of a fanatic brightness. And he is wearing Bermuda shorts in colors reminiscent of an exploding bomb: those expose to public view his legs, which are as hairy as an ape's. A man who parades such legs as I have described in such clothing as I have mentioned on an airplane full of passengers -- some of tender years, others perhaps of nervous disposition -- that man, you will surely agree, Akuma-chan, is capable of any depravity. His hand luggage bears a distinctive label, similar to those given me by the travel agency, proclaiming him, like me, to be an Art Lover. But one cannot be an Art Lover without some minimum of aesthetic sensibility. That minimum he lacks -- for evidence, vide supra. I conclude that he is an impostor.


    'Can't bear bombs, poor kid,' said Karasu with a sinister chuckle. 'Did I ever tell you -- ?'

    'Yes,' said Akuma-chan. 'We have heard all about the bomb episode, Karasu, and we don't want to hear it again. It's a revolting story.'

    'I thought it was rather witty,' said Karasu.

    'I gather,' said Hotohori, 'that Giullia didn't.'

    'No,' said Karasu, rather sadly. 'No, she didn't, actually.'

    It will not, I hope, be necessary, at any stage in my narrative, to disgust my readers with an account of the bomb episode. I will say only that any exchanges of an erotic nature between Giullia and Karasu which may hereafter be referred to may be conclusively presumed to antedate the incident. Though, in all fairness, it does seem to me that a woman who retires for the night with Karasu at ANY time, much less the 31st of March in any year, forgetting that the following day -- still, as I have said, I propose to draw a veil over the whole matter.


    Mind you, Akuma-chan, when it comes to looking around for potential hijackers, I am by no means happy about the armor-plated woman on the other side of the aisle. I am suspicious about her figure -- can any normal woman be of such height and muscle? And can any lady so closely resembling the late Queen Boadicea be without military aspirations?
    I notice with apprehension that she too is labeled as an Art Lover. Perhaps there is a conspiracy. In furtherance of some desperate enterprise, a band of ruthless extremists have disguised themselves as amateurs of the artistic and historical. I shall look round carefully and see if there are any more of them.
    There is another Art Lover's label a few rows back, on the other side of the gangway, attached to the shoulder-bag of a rather pretty girl. Her hair is of the shade which you yourself favored in the spring ó 'Heartís Blood,' I think, was what the manufacturers called it. She has that ethereal pallor which one associates with idealism: a large proportion of hijackings are committed by idealists. There is a young man with a headband sitting next to her. They seem, though they do not converse much, to be traveling together. If so, then presumably he too is an Art Lover. His face is of the shape known in geometry as the trapezoid: rectilinear but not rectangular, being wider at the jaw than across the forehead. His figure is of the same shape, but the other way up, being broader at the shoulders than at the hips. Still, he is of clean and wholesome appearance and could be quite pleasing to look at; but he has a distrustful, peevish expression, as if on constant guard against someone pulling a fast one.
    He is asking the stewardess just how much longer we're going to have to wait here: his manner indicates that he expects an untruthful answer, his accent that he is Chinese. The proportion of hijackings caused by Chinese is also very large.
    The only other Art Lovers I can identify are two young men sitting some rows ahead of me. I would not have noticed them; but one has just stepped out into the aisle to allow the other to lift their hand baggage into the overhead compartment. (One is not supposed to put baggage in the overhead compartment. They have been reproved by the stewardess.)
    The one who did the lifting (up, and, following reproof, down again) is at first glance not well suited to the task, being short enough to have to stand on the armrest to reach the compartments. Still, he has the physique of a more than usually muscular wildcat, and an air of an unstoppable force of nature -- rather like that blue-haired mage who was following you around in college, the one who wanted to learn some spells so he could find his sister Schala. His face, which was briefly turned in my direction, has an angry, pointed sort of look, and a shock of unmanageable-looking hair. Not my sort of thing at all.
 But the other -- the one who stood aside to let the lifting be done -- he looks like a more attractive proposition. His hair is an even purer red than the red-haired girlís. And he is thin, very thin. He is wearing a rather beautiful wide-sleeved shirt of that coarse muslin material that Hotohori-Love sometimes likes -- I think it is called cheesecloth. He has adopted a most graceful and decorative attitude, leaning back against the top of the seat with just sufficient pressure to emphasize the charming hollow of the left hip. But I haven't been able to see his face.


    'Quite disgraceful,' said Hotohori.

    'Taken her mind off getting hijacked, anyway,' said Karasu.

    'Aesthetic considerations,' said Akuma-chan, 'have prevailed over concern for her personal safety. It reflects very well on her.'

    'Aesthetic, forsooth,' said Hotohori.


    The captain has announced that we are about to take off. She has recommended us to read the safety booklet. I have done my best; but it is all in pictures, with nothing to explain them. There is a picture of a female passenger sitting upright, then an arrow, then a picture of her leaning forward with her head in her hands. Is the only thing required of me in an emergency to lean forward and put my head in my hands? If so, I shall be equal to it. I may, however, be missing some deeper significance. The artist intends, perhaps, to depict an act of contrition -- the lady is preparing to meet her Maker. That is a less agreeable idea.

Some miles above the Atlantic.

    Things are much improved. My ears have been filled with the health-giving strains of "Boku no Uchuu ni Kimi ga Iru." The due proportion of gin has been introduced into my bloodstream. I have been given food in little plastic trays. I have decided that the Art Lovers are not going to hijack the airplane.
    The red-haired girl, it is true, still has that transparent pallor which I associate with idealism. It now occurs to me, however, that it is more probably due to travel sickness.
    The man sitting next to her may indeed be Chinese; but, though many hijackings are committed by Chinese, it by no means follows that many Chinese commit hijackings. One must avoid the fallacy of undistributed middle.
    The blonde armor-plated matron has vented her martial spirit in complaining, at full voice, to the stewardess about the food. She is displeased with both the quality and the quantity. Her views on the former would make her, one might think, indifferent as to the latter -- but not so: she declares it uneatable and demands a second helping.
    My loudly-dressed neighbor, on the other hand, is pleased with everything. This, he says, is the life. 'Got to hand it to the travel agent joes,' he says. 'Do a guy proud on a package like this. Good plane, good food, decent-sized noggin to drink, bang-up dish to sit next to. That's the life for Bob Linnaker, all right.'
    He seemed to intend a compliment.
    'The travel agents,' I said, putting on what I hoped was a Hotohori-like expression, 'had no title to include me in the package. If they claimed to do so, your remedy is under the Federal Trade Commission Act.'
    At this he laughed immoderately and told me that I was a sharp one. I fear I am not perfect in my imitation of Hotohori-Love. I must study carefully, when I return to Ann Arbor, how he achieves that austere narrowing of the eyelids and daunting compression of the lips.


    'I am afraid,' said Hotohori, 'that Giullia, however much she may practice, will never achieve the appearance of truly formidable propriety. Her shape is against it.

    'I think that Giullia has rather a nice shape,' said Karasu. A certain proprietary tenderness softened his violet eyes: he was no doubt thinking of times before the bomb episode.

    'Precisely,' said Hotohori, his features composing themselves in that expression of cold decorum which would have been so useful to Giullia. 'It is the sort of shape, to put the matter with all delicacy, which gives rise to a misleading inference of sensuality.'

    'Not all that misleading,' said Karasu, continuing nostalgic.

    'Most misleading,' said Akuma-chan, 'to those most apt to draw it.'


    As for the two young men, I can tell you nothing more -- our relative positions prevent me from observing them. I wish I could see the face of the tall one. The face is for me the essence of attraction. No matter how graceful the figure, if the face lacks aesthetic charm, I can feel no spark of passion. It is, I know, absurd -- you will make fun of me for being a sentimental woman: well, that is how I am, Akuma-chan, there is no help for it.


    'Would one say,' said Hotohori, 'that Giullia was sentimental, exactly?'

    'Incurably,' said Akuma-chan.


    My neighbor still seems to believe that proximity is the sole condition of friendship. He addresses me as his dear. In reply, I have addressed him coldly as Mr. Linnaker; but he is undiscouraged. Actually, he says, it's not Mr., but Major, though he doesn't bother with it now he's in Civvy Street. Anyway, to his friends he's just Bob. This puts me in a dilemma: to call him Bob will seem an admission of friendship, to call him anything else will seem uncivil.
    He has also taken to patting my knee. This is making me rather peevish. I try to be tolerable of other people's innocent pleasure; but it is, after all, my knee. Still, it is hardly feasible, when sitting next to somebody on an airplane, to move unobtrusively away.
    I could try reading the Internal Revenue Code. That would surely give an impression of quite implacable respectability. I must, at some stage, give some attention to the Internal Revenue Code: I promised Tetsuya, if he would allow me to go to Venice, that my Opinion on Sections 861-5 would be ready within forty-eight hours of returning. Yet somehow, despite the interest of its subject-matter and the elegance of its style, the Internal Revenue Code does not at the moment appeal to me.
    The only refuge seems to be the restroom. I don't suppose I can stay there for the rest of the journey -- other passengers would become annoyed; but it would be a temporary respite from the Major. And I should be able to get a look, on the way, at the face of the tall young man.


    'The next paragraph,' said Akuma-chan, 'is rather difficult to read. The writing, even by Giullia's standards, is unusually difficult. She also seems to have spilt gin over it. Do get some more coffee, Karasu.'


    Ah, Akuma-chan, Akuma-chan. 'The face of the tall young man' I have written, as if some commonplace and worldly thing. How casually my pen first wrote that phrase, not knowing of what it wrote: with what trembling ardor do I inscribe it now. 'The face of the tall young man' -- ah, Akuma-chan, what a face. A face for which Narcissus might be forsworn and the Moon forget Endymion. The translucent skin, the winging eyebrows, the angelic mouth, the celestial profile -- lament no more, Akuma-chan, the drabness of our age and the poverty of our arts -- over the time that has brought forth such a profile not Athens, not Rome, nor the Renaissance in all its glory shall triumph: Praxiteles and Michelangelo kneel in admiration.
    I grow too faint with passion to continue. It is a dreadful thing, at such a moment, to lack the benefit of your advice; but I shall mail this immediately on arrival, so that you may know as soon as possible of the agitation which now affects my spirits. In the meantime, I send you a

Big Kiss,
PS. The above, I need hardly say, is entirely without prejudice to my devotion to the virtuous and beautiful Hotohori, to whom please convey my respectful regards.

    'I think Giullia's quite struck with this red-haired guy,' said Karasu -- he is noted for his insight into the feminine heart. 'She hasn't gone on like this about anyone since that Greek barman they took on to help out in Angelo's in March.'

    'If then,' said Akuma-chan. 'I don't think she's mentioned Praxiteles since the out-of-work actor in October.'

    'The whole letter,' said Hotohori, 'is perfectly disgraceful. I am very relieved that we have reached the end of it.'

    I would not impute to any of my readers a less refined sensibility than belongs to Hotohori, or for any frivolous reason risk offending it. I have nonetheless thought it better to set out Giullia's letter in extenso, containing, as it does, descriptions of various individuals who will be mentioned later in my narrative, including her supposed victim.

Chapter Three

    There was a coolness. Akuma-chan said that she did not in the least blame Kiyoshi-dono but added that one might have known how Tamahome would go on about it. Hotohori was satisfied if the Bar Council saw no objection -- and confessed to a little surprise on hearing they had not been asked. Karasu used the expressions 'brownnose' and 'teacher's pet.'

    All this because Kiyoshi-dono was going to Venice -- unlike Giullia, at someone else's expense. His absence from coffee on my first morning in Ann Arbor had been due, as the attentive reader may recall, to an application for his advice by one of the senior partners in a leading firm of attorneys. While he was in the office, one of the other senior partners -- Dr. Fortin or Dr. Sakurazukamori, I am not sure which -- who was one of the trustees of a discretionary trust, called him in for assistance with regards to same. 'Quite a nice little trust,' the senior partner had said modestly; worth, on the most recent valuation, just under twenty-five million dollars. The principal beneficiary, advised to take certain steps to mitigate his prospective liability to inheritance tax, had been found recalcitrant. Kiyoshi-dono's assistance was required to persuade him of the seriousness and urgency of the matter.

    To do so, moreover, in person. Attempts to explain in writing -- and a number of long letters had already been sent on the subject -- had been met with an obdurate refusal to perceive the need for action. It happened that the beneficiary, though normally resident in Tenkai, would shortly be going to Venice to settle the affairs of his recently deceased courtesy-aunt, who had made her home in that city: an admirable occasion, thought the senior partner, while his mind was devoted to such matters, for him to consider also his position under the American trust, established by his late grandfather. It would therefore be most kind if Kiyoshi-dono -- for a fee, it went without saying, which would reflect not only the intrinsic value of his advice, but also the inconvenience to him -- 'Oh, quite' said Hotohori -- of being absent for several days from Ann Arbor -- if Kiyoshi-dono would go to Venice. Kiyoshi-dono, kindness in itself, had consented.

    'And your accommodation,' said Hotohori, 'will also be in a style commensurate with the value of your advice. Danielli's, I suppose. Or perhaps the Gritti Palace?'

    It appeared that the estate of the deceased courtesy-aunt included a little palazzo just off the Grand Canal. The beneficiary had been good enough to indicate that Kiyoshi-dono would be welcome to stay there.

    'Most agreeable,' said Akuma-chan, wrinkling her nose.

    'Delightful,' said Hotohori, raising an eyebrow.

    'Makes one sick,' said Karasu.

    The thing that made Akuma-chan wrinkle her nose, Hotohori raise an eyebrow and Karasu sick was not mere envy of Kiyoshi-dono's good fortune. What chiefly irked them was its effect on Tamahome, who for several days had not ceased to comment on it as an instance of the wonderful rewards heaped on the just -- being those who do not spend their mornings drinking coffee -- by comparison with the unjust -- being those who do. In the eternal struggle of Counsel against Paralegals to gain a moment in which to call their souls their own, some yards of ground had been lost. Coffees were curtailed, lunches abbreviated, dinner engagements canceled.

    But they are tolerant, good-natured young people at Eluza, Ashura, Yomi, and Sakurazukamori, their minds always open to equitable compromise. Upon Kiyoshi-dono's undertaking that on the eve of his departure, that is to say on Friday, he would buy dinner for all those adversely affected, it was agreed that no more would be said of the matter. I pointed out that I myself had some claim to be among his guests; to which he answered, very nicely, that he had not imagined I could think myself excluded.

    We were to meet in the Corkscrew, a wine bar on the north side of East Liberty, popular on the grounds of proximity with the denizens of the Michigan Building. Our entertainment was to include two further letters from Giullia, which even Akuma-chan, in the conditions obtaining in the office, had not yet had time to read.

    At seven o'clock, I was the first to arrive. I sat down at one of the little round oak tables and lit the candle provided for its illumination. The bar of the Corkscrew is designed for those who prefer a certain murkiness: long and narrow in construction, it admits, even at noon, the minimum of daylight; most of what does get in is absorbed in the dark ceiling and wood-paneled walls; there is left, after this, just so much as younger eyes (such as my own) may comfortably read by. To light a candle there is almost in itself enough  to inspire in those gathered round it a sense of cheerful conspiracy.

    I did not have long to wait for company. Kiyoshi-dono, arriving with Hotohori and Akuma-chan, stopped at the bar to acquire a bottle of plum wine and a bowl of cookies. The other two joined me at once in the circle of candlelight.

    'Why cookies?' I asked, returning a highly battered copy of The Fellowship of the Ring to the depths of my handbag. 'Kiyoshi-dono is just going to buy us an excellent dinner.'

    'We'll be eating late,' said Hotohori. 'It's Karasu's night for reading the Bull.'

    It is thought prudent by the proprietors of the Modern Bull  that their publication, before it goes to press, should be read by a lawyer. They are subject to the endearing superstition that they will protect themselves, by this ritual, against all claims and proceedings for libel, blasphemy, obscenity, sedition, contempt of court, scandalum magnatum or any other crime or civil wrong known to American law. In the evenings this work is contracted out on a freelance basis to various indigent members of the Junior Bar. Though the law of libel and so forth is not peculiarly within that firm's province, the post of Friday reader, for reasons now lost in antiquity, is always held by one of the members of Eluza et al. It is currently occupied by Karasu. If hunger compelled us to begin dinner without him, good fellowship would not allow us to end it in like manner. We would therefore be dining late. In the meantime, the Corkscrew would enjoy our custom.

    It is poignant to reflect that as we sat drinking plum wine in the convivial quarter-light of the Corkscrew poor Giullia must already have been trying to persuade the Venetian police that the presence of her Finance Act at the bedside of the corpse -- but I must not anticipate the orderly development of my narrative. We drank untroubled by knowledge of Giullia's difficulties: it was the last occasion for some time that we were able to do so.

    As to the unhappy consequences of Kiyoshi-dono's going to Venice, no more, of course, was to be said. Still --

    'Are you really sure it is proper,' said Hotohori, 'to see the lay client without a full lawyer present? To explain, you know, in words of one syllable what you are telling him?'

    'And in words of four syllables what he is telling you,' said Akuma-chan.

    'Quite sure,' said Kiyoshi-dono. 'One's own lawyer is, of course, entitled to be present, but the client may quite properly waive his rights in the matter.'

    'Well, if you say so,' said Hotohori, 'then naturally we accept it. Since you are buying us dinner. But what seems so strikingly unconventional is that you should go to the client. It is surely a long-established rule of precedent that the client comes to Counsel. It has always been my understanding that only in the most exceptional cases, such as grave disability -- '

    'My client,' said Kiyoshi-dono, 'does, in a sense, suffer from a disability. He can't face coming to America. He spent his three thousand eight hundred thirtieth year in N'Orleans and this inspired in him such an aversion to this country that he has since refused to set foot in it.'

    'How eccentric,' said Akuma-chan. The honey of her voice was laced, as it were, with lemon: herself much attached to her native land, she is inclined to take personally any disparagement of it. 'If he doesn't mind living in Cyprus, dodging the crossfire of the Greeks and the Turks, it is quite absurd of him to mind coming to America. And if he is prepared to go to Italy, which, as we all know, is in the grip of a vast crime wave -- '

    'Is it?' asked Hotohori.

    'My dear Hotohori, of course it is,' said Akuma-chan. 'Crime in Italy is a national industry. If an Italian isn't murdering someone in Calabria, it's only because he's too busy kidnapping someone in Lombardy. Or embezzling public funds in Friuli. Or stealing little-known pictures from churches in Verona. Or burgling the Courthouse at Monza. That, at any rate, if The New York Times is to be relied on, is how they have spent the past week, and we have no reason to think it untypical.'

    'My client,' said Kiyoshi-dono, 'is not troubled, as I understand it, by the possibility of being murdered, kidnapped, or embezzled. His objection to America is founded on the belief that the humidity never falls beneath eighty percent, that the only food available is over-spiced chicken, and that the population consists entirely of rude cab drivers speaking no recognizable language of Earth and sword-wielding assassins.'

    'I wonder if it's wise,' said Akuma-chan, 'to send you to talk to him, Kiyoshi. You do look rather assassinlike, you know.  You'll probably remind him of the assassin who killed his mother and he'll run away and hide.'

    I seem to have omitted to give my readers any description of my protege. It is true, however, that his long red hair is caught back at the nape of his neck, that he has a talent with the sword amounting, in my humble opinion, to genius, and that if he had scars on his cheek and his face were not set near-perpetually in a cute innocent look, often clueless, that he would be a double for the legendary assassin Battousai. (Considering the amount of my earnings for the next twenty years I gave as remuneration to the Yuugao Laboratories to clone Kiyoshi-dono from Battousai-san, I should be very annoyed indeed if such were not the case.)

    'Precisely what is it,' I asked around a mouthful of oatmeal-raisin cookie, ' that you have to persuade him to do?'

    'I have to persuade him,' said Kiyoshi-dono, 'to become domiciled in America before the 19th of December of this year.' He leant back comfortably in his chair with a glass of plum wine, not looking like a man discouraged by the difficulty of the task before him. 'On that date, which is his three thousand eight hundred forty-second birthday, the discretionary trust will come to an end. My client, as the only surviving descendant of the family of miko to the Ashura clan -- '

    'Only?' Akuma-chan and I asked in unison.

    'Well, the only one that counts -- genderless people are disbarred by Heavenly Law from inheriting anything pertaining to the Heavens.' Kiyoshi-dono blushed and hastily took a long drink. 'As the only eligible surviving descendant of the family of miko to the Ashura clan, my client will scoop the jackpot. The inheritance tax payable in that event, if my client is then domiciled outside the United States, will be something on the order of $1,125,000. If, on the other hand, he were then to be domiciled in America, tax would, of course, be charged at a concessionary rate under the transitional provisions of -- well, certain paragraphs of certain sections of the Internal Revenue Code that you're probably not interested in, and he would have to pay only fifteen per cent of that sum.'

    'That certainly seems,' I said, ignoring all this talk of sections and paragraphs, 'to be a substantial inducement. But will it be enough to overcome his repugnance to this country?'

    'Ah, Ysa-chama,' said Kiyoshi-dono, smiling at me, ' he doesn't have to come to America. Merely to become domiciled here.'

    I perceived with chagrin that I had been led into a trap. Kiyoshi-dono's smile, to a casual observer, might have seemed unobjectionable, even attractive. Quite attractive. I, knowing him better, identified it at once as that smile of enigmatic complacency which signifies that he knows something about the law that I don't and is going to explain it to me. It would be irritating, heaven knows, in anyone -- in a protege it is quite intolerable. Though a member of a family of attorneys, I am a librarian rather than a lawyer: my interest in the principles of Western law wanes with the advent of the Middle Ages. I do not doubt -- for his clients' sake I devoutly hope -- that Kiyoshi-dono knows more than I do of modern American law: it is nothing for him to look complacent or enigmatic about.

    Still, I remembered that he was buying me dinner. I allowed him, therefore, as he clearly wished to do, to give a little lecture on the law of domicile. The nub of which was, as I recall, that if you are resident in one country but intend to spend your last years in another, you will not necessarily be domiciled in either, but rather in the place where your parent-of-record -- which, although usually the father, due to the odd circumstances of the client's conception was his mother, as she was the one whom they could be absolutely sure of -- was domiciled at the time of your birth. If he, at that time, happened to be in a similar equivocal condition, then your domicile will be that of your paternal grandfather at the time when your father was born. And so ad infinitum, if Kiyoshi-dono has explained the thing correctly, through any number of ancestors of migrant disposition, until domicile is finally established in Takamanohara or Nenokatasukuni, whichever the case may be.

    In the present case, however, such extremes were not called for. His client's grandmother's husband, one of the old trustees of the little trust, had lived all his days in --

    'Tenkai, surely?' I asked.

    At this point Hotohori interrupted me with authority. Most of the denizens of the Heavenly Realms, he told me, had established alternate homes in the Ningenkai for business purposes. The ancestral dwelling of the Ashura no Miko was on what was now Magnolia Hill in Seattle. This was just as well, since human law recognized neither Tenkai, the Makai, nor the Reikai as valid addresses.

    Kiyoshi-dono asked if we were quite done. On being assured that we were, he continued. The previous miko's consort had lived all his days in 'Seattle' and shown no desire to wander. The client's mother, though dwelling, when her son was born, at Zenmi-jou/Knosos and married to the Lord of the Thunder himself, had written home numerous letters, still extant and available for inspection by the Inheritance Tax office, expressing her ultimate intention to return to her home and make her mother happy. They had both behaved, from Kiyoshi-dono's point of view, admirably; it was only the client himself who was being difficult.

    'But surely,' said Hotohori, 'your task is very simple, Kiyoshi. It is clear that your client has an American domicile of origin. Whenever he is not domiciled anywhere else he will be domiciled in America. If he is resident in Cyprus, all he has to do is form an intention to retire, in his declining years, to some country other than Cyprus. Sailoh or Okinawa or somewhere. He can manage that, surely.'

    'And you will draft a nice letter for him,' said Akuma-chan, 'explaining his intention to the Inheritance Tax Office. One or two little artistic touches, to add verisimilitude, such as the purchase of a grave in the country chosen for retirement -- '

    'I fear,' said Kiyoshi-dono, 'that my client has behaved foolishly. At the time of the Turkish invasion of the island, when other foreign inhabitants were making haste to leave, he made several public statements, reported in the news, declaring with some vehemence that he himself would do nothing of the sort. He would continue, he said, to run the farm which he had inherited from his mother and would devote his life to restoring the island to peace and unity.'

    'As well as Tenkai?' Hotohori said, pouring more plum wine. 'Whatever possessed him to add to an already-heavy imperial burden?'

    '"Devote his life,"' said Akuma-chan. 'Ara, what a very unfortunate phrase.'

    'I don't know,' I said, taking another cookie, 'but I bet he's in desperate need of a vacation by now. No wonder he's going to Italy.'

    'Yes, isn't it?' Kiyoshi-dono answered Akuma-chan. 'So the IRS are likely to be a little skeptical about his forming a sudden intention to end his days in Sailoh or Okinawa. No, I am afraid he'll have to sell his house in Cyprus and become resident somewhere else. Somewhere, of course, where he has no intention of remaining permanently.'

    'What I don't understand,' I said, raising a point that had been puzzling me for some time, 'is how his mother got a farm in Cyprus when she was resident in Magnolia Hill and Crete.'

    'Naboth's vineyard, I expect,' Akuma-chan said, her shrug making the light glint off the raven-feathers of her wings.

    It must have been, I think, at about this point that the telephone rang; there was nothing odd about that. The girl behind the bar answered it and called for Kiyoshi-dono; there was nothing odd about that, either -- anyone wanting to communicate, at such an hour of a Friday evening, with one of the junior members of Eluza et al. would do sensibly to try the Corkscrew. The telephone was too far away for us to eavesdrop without effort; we had no reason to think that the effort ought to be made.

    I tried, instead, to learn from Akuma-chan and Hotohori whether I too, by living in a country I did not mean to stay in and establishing a domicile in one I never meant to go to, could save a vast sum in inheritance tax.

    'No,' said Akuma-chan.

    'No,' said Hotohori.

    'Why not?' I asked rather indignantly.

    They pointed out that in order to save tax of a million dollars I would first have to be heir to a fund worth twenty-five million. I conceded that I was not. Neither was Akuma-chan. Neither was Hotohori. It seemed -- for we had no doubt that in intellect, charm, and beauty we were all more deserving than Kiyoshi-dono's client -- an extraordinary oversight on the part of Providence.

    Kiyoshi-dono, concluding his telephone conversation, looked a little less cheerful than when it had begun; but he paused at the bar to buy another bottle of plum wine.

    Returning to the table, he refilled Akuma-chan's glass. This, as it turned out, was a pity. Then he filled his own. Hotohori and I were left to fend for ourselves: a trifling discourtesy, but not like Kiyoshi-dono. I began to think that something must be wrong.

    'That was Karasu-san,' said Kiyoshi-dono, sitting down and addressing himself to Akuma-chan. 'I'm afraid it sounds as if Giullia-san's in a bit of trouble.'

    'She can't be,' said Akuma-chan. 'She's still in Venice. I mean, I dare say she could be, but Karasu couldn't know about it.'

    'Karasu-san, you will remember, is working in the News Room of the *Bull*. The News Room is equipped with a number of facsimile machines, which produce a continuous print-out of the reports coming in from the various international news-agencies -- Reuters and so on. The process, I gather, is nearly instantaneous: once a report is telephoned through to the agency, from anywhere in the world, it's only a few minutes before it's on the facsimile machine.'

    'Yes,' said Hotohori, 'we know that. But what could Giullia possibly do that would interest an international news agency?'

    'They seem to think,' said Kiyoshi, looking apologetic and still addressing Akuma-chan, 'that she's stabbed someone. Fatally.'

    It was, as I said, a pity that he had so recently refilled Akuma-chan's glass, for she now released her hold on it and it dropped, almost full, on to the hard composite floor.

    'I'm sorry,' said Akuma-chan. 'How very clumsy of me. I don't think, Kiyoshi, that I have correctly understood you. What exactly do you say it said in the agency report?'

    'So far as I can discover,' said Kiyoshi-dono, 'that an American tourist has been found stabbed to death in a hotel bedroom in Venice. And that a member of the same group, Ms. Poison Giullia of Ann Arbor, attorney, has been detained by the police for questioning.'

    I got up and put an arm around Kiyoshi-dono. He seemed to need it.

    'Nonsense,' said Akuma-chan.

    'I know,' said Kiyoshi-dono, still looking apologetic. 'But that seems to be what it said in the report.'

    'They didn't say,' asked Hotohori, 'who's supposed to have been stabbed?'

    'No. I suppose they're waiting to tell the next of kin, if there are any. But it sounds as if it must have been one of the Art Lovers.'

    'Kiyoshi,' said Akuma-chan, 'are you sure it isn't one of Karasu's frightful jokes?'

    'Quite sure, I am afraid. Karasu-san's jokes, though admittedly frightful, are not as frightful as that. Besides, if it had been a joke, he would have been trying to sound serious. He wasn't: he was trying quite hard to sound casual. He was still in the News Room, you see. I was rather confused at first. He began by asking me if I knew a chick called Poison Giullia and I said of course I knew Giullia-san, what on earth was he talking about. To which he replied that he didn't think I did, but he thought it was worth asking because his News Editor had suddenly got interested in her. So I gathered then that something odd was happening.'

    'Are we,' asked Hotohori, 'going to do anything in particular?'

    'We're meeting at Fuji, as arranged. Karasu-san will be keeping an eye on the facsimile machine, of course, and if any more news comes through before ten o'clock he'll tell us about it.'

    It is difficult, on such occasion as I have described, to know on precisely what note to resume the conversation. We were silent for several moments.

    'Ara,' said Akuma-chan eventually. 'What a very good thing, after all, Kiyoshi, that you are going to Venice tomorrow.'

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