In September 2015, I wrote a short piece I called ‘Assimilated‘. A short while later, I wrote a sequel titled ‘You have nothing to fear, but …‘, which I produced in response to a challenge at esthernewtonblog.wordpress.com that asked for a story about fear.
Using those as a start-point, we now follow Victor’s adventures after his exposure to Martinus mendax.
Let’s run with this for a few weeks, to see where it takes us.
I will welcome storyline suggestions or even complete scenes, as long as they fit the overall scheme (which I hope will emerge before too long).
Catch up on earlier episodes of Martinus mendax at this link
That was all three years ago, when I was sixty-seven years old, seriously overweight though not quite clinically obese, and eating, drinking and smoking far more than I should have been. Shortly after returning from that holiday, I decided to get myself fit, lose some weight and live a more healthy and, I hoped, longer life.
It worked. After only a year, my doctor declared that I was as fit as any forty-year-old on his books. I could run a mile without getting out of breath, I was sleeping like a baby and I was feeling great.
Now, approaching my seventieth birthday, I’m in better shape than I was when I stopped work at sixty and, until a week ago, I had completely forgotten about Martin. I hadn’t heard his voice or felt his presence since that day in the crypt, and had put the incident down as a product of my imagination or worse, an hallucination. It was only when John the Ping referred to it a couple of times – we met up for a group reunion every August – that I began to accept it was more than that. Martin hadn’t bothered me, though and I thought, if he had somehow influenced my decision to turn my life around, perhaps he wasn’t such a bad sort after all. That doesn’t mean I accepted what he had said; the decision, like all decisions I make on a daily basis, was mine; entirely mine.
What happened a week ago? I’m glad you asked. Sit down, make yourself comfortable, and I’ll tell you.
I was at home alone, and reading one of a series of books on the history of the Crusades from 1090-1190. The period and the importance of religion at that time had provided my main intellectual stimulus for the past eighteen months or so. A police officer, a well-spoken young man of south Asian or similar heritage, came to my door in the middle of my afternoon tea and tiffin.
“Does the name Abdurrahman Al-Nawazi mean anything to you?” he asked.
“No,” I replied, “Should it?”
“It certainly should,” he said, “he’s the gentleman who runs the corner shop.”
“Which corner shop?”
“The corner shop,” he explained, “the one just down the road; the only one within a kilometre radius of your house.”
“Last time I went in there, Elsie Longhurst was running it,” I said.
“Mr Al-Nawazi took it over a few years ago. Someone broke into the shop and ransacked it early this morning.”
What I said next surprised even me. “Al-Nawazi,” I grimaced, “he sounds like a follower of the accursed abomination Salah ad-Din. Deserves all he gets!”
“I know nothing of this Salah ad-Din of whom you speak, but Mr Al-Nawazi is a member of the Muslim faith; a senior elder at the local mosque.”
“Mosque? Local? In a Christian country? Explain yourself, man!” I ranted.
“I must caution you, Sir, your words come very close to constituting a religiously motivated hate crime—”
Before the young officer could say another word, I had grabbed him by the arm and thrown him out of the house. He landed in the middle of the pavement, devoid of any dignity whatever.
Next thing I knew, four burly men, dressed more like a black ops team than police officers, burst in, arrested me, and eventually hauled me in front of a magistrate. He told me I had been charged with an offence of using language ‘which is perceived by the victim or any other person to be motivated by hostility or prejudice based on a person’s religion or perceived religion’. Of course, I denied it. I suggested that the young officer – I was careful not to refer to his racial origin – had either misheard or misinterpreted what I had said. The magistrate looked at me, a respected and respectable pensioner with an impeccable reputation locally and involved in a number of community projects; and then at the young officer, only recently out of training. He finally said that he was inclined to believe my account. When the arresting officers told him that, beyond calmly protesting my innocence, I had given them no trouble, submitting to arrest and behaving as a model prisoner, his mind was made up. He declared there to be no case to answer.
I knew that it was not I who had been ranting, but my ‘guest’ Martin.
At the magistrate’s suggestion, I made myself available to the police to help them, in whatever way I could, to identify and apprehend the person or persons responsible for the burglary. I also offered to help Mr Al-Nawazi to tidy his shop, so he could reopen sooner.
It was while I was helping him that I ‘found’ a wallet underneath one of the collapsed display shelf units. I picked it up and tried to hand it to Mr Al-Nawazi.
“Don’t give that to me,” he said, “I don’t want my fingerprints to be on it, when the police examine it.”
“I hadn’t thought of that,” I lied, “I suppose they’ll find mine all over it.”
“Don’t worry Victor,” he reassured me, “I’ll let them know that you found it and picked it up to give it to me. They’ll be able to eliminate yours.”
“Shall I open it, to see whose it is?” I asked – as if I didn’t know!
“No, don’t,” he replied, “I’ll call DS Hamblyn; it’s his case. Let him be the first to find out who owns the wallet.”
When the detective arrived, I handed the wallet to him. He took it from me in his gloved hands and opened it.
“My God,” he said, “it’s Veraswamy’s!”
“Who?” I asked.
“Constable Veraswamy. He’s the officer who interviewed you and accused you of religious intolerance.”
“Maybe he dropped it during the investigation,” I suggested, helpfully.
“Hardly,” DS Hamblyn replied, “he had no reason to enter the shop after the crime was reported. You know what this means, don’t you?”
“What does it mean, Sergeant?” Al-Nawazi asked.
“It means, Mr Al-Nawazi, that Constable Veraswamy is my prime suspect.”
When he said those words, no-one could possibly have been more surprised than I.
Sorry; did I say more?
I meant, of course, less.