For All Nails #53A: Corbies
by M. G. Alderman
- As I was walking all alane,
- I heard twa corbies makin' mane.
- And one ontae the other did say.
- Where will we gang and dine the day?
- Where will we gang and dine the day?
- In ahind yon oul fail dyke,
- I wot there lies a new slain knight:
- Naebody kens that he lies there,
- But his hawk and hound and his lady fair.
- His hawk and hound and his lady fair.
--Traditional, "Twa Corbies"
Captain Lucien Reynard of the Sûreté Royal du Québec opened up his copy of La Presse as he eased his sturdy bulk into the hard wood captain's chair that stood behind his office desk, spreading the newsprint over his blotter to get the full sweep of the articles. The office, as befitting the head of a comparatively minor department within the Confederation headquarters, was small and slightly musty, the wall behind his desk taken up by a large and ancient lithograph of the King and a smaller, newer photograph of the current premier of Quebec. A large window, its sill crusted over with repeated applications of institutional white paint, looked out on his left onto the crowded roofline of the Old Town, overshadowed by the invisible new constructions, heralds of prosperity, that were accumulating like ornate skyscraping ramparts atop the bluffs of the upper town. Lucien, when he thought about them, considered them hideous, vast agglomerations of architectural styles stretched out of proportion, great babels spiked with chateau-like roofs or Gothic pinnacles or the fancifully tasteless beaux-artes style that all the new corporations in Quebec, or for that matter, the whole continent, wanted for their soaring headquarters.
Mais oui, there were worse architectural possibilities. He'd seen photographs of megalopolitan Mexico City with its stinking air and great Neo-Nahuátl pyramidal government buildings, Mercator's grandiose attempt to recall the glories of the Aztecs. He had once tried to talk about such things with Louise, and she hadn't understood, muttering something about how no Catholic nation should imitate the work of those murderers of innocents. Louise's piety was more old-fashioned than most Quebecois these days, and Lucien himself only went to Mass on Easter. Though sometimes he wondered if perhaps she had chosen the better half; she was the strong one in their marriage.
His father had been an architect, and Lucien had picked up a few things before he had gone into the Force. Now and then, there were moments when the humble police captain, with his wrinkled face and steely, receding hair, would try to impress his superiors by finally having the upper hand, knowing something they didn't know about. If he had any drawing skills, if he had any creativity, he might have followed in his footsteps. Instead, he ended up as a clerk for the Sûreté and finally found his way into the administrative workings of the Confederation's constabulary.
With a crinkling of paper, he took his montagu out of the brown lunch sack and began to chew, slowly, philosophically. He had spent almost thirty years in this office, stuck at the dead end of a command chain. Reading the news made him feel a bit better about his station in life.
Maeterlinck -- now, he liked Maeterlinck's work, a good fellow. They'd sent him up to Marlborough City to report on what all the papers were calling L'Affaire Stapleton. If the man had any good reason to turn from lamb pacifist to lionlike madman, nobody could put their finger on it. The New York Herald, as always, appealed to fashionable alienists to explain, and had started a small controversy between the Franklian and the Watsonian branches of that discipline, each pontificating about germ plasm or the brutality of the will to survive. The New Orleans Herald, always slightly anti-Mexican, perhaps due to the expatriates in the area that always threatened to take away jobs from the Georgians, as usual, suspected the hand of Mercator or Mocteczuma, though had been unable to substantiate the claim. After the Michigan City scandal, anything was possible, though relations had greatly improved since then. At least Maeterlinck had written about how they were at odds with each other. He never read English newspapers, nor had much need to.
But, she was his daughter, no? That was enough to drive any man mad, was it not?
Lucien continued to chew, philosophically, and turned the page to see if there could be any tragedy a bit closer to home to cheer him up.
Forward to FAN #53B: The Apes of Hell.
Forward to 11 July 1971: The King is Dead.
Return to For All Nails.