You’re not Chirurgus. Chirurgus tells me I have to keep working until I finish my job.
The following preview is of chapter five of TIMELESS KEEPERS, the recently published third volume of our quanum fiction/magic realism quintet, THE TAMMABUKKU CHRONICLES.
I feel my Daniel rage erupt when I think of the fate of Grayson Hall. Who was this strange Lev, and did he have anything to do with the fire? “Did Gabriel think that Lev might have been connected to what happened?”
Joanna nods. “Gabriel believed that the fire was deliberately set, but they couldn’t prove arson, despite our suspicions.”
“But who’d do such a despicable thing?” Lia asks. “There would have to be a motive.”
Visibly frustrated, Joanna says, “No Grayson gained anything by the fire that was for sure—it was only a devastating loss. All the money in the world could never replace Grayson Hall. It was the seat of our family for four centuries.”
“I heard they blamed it on using modern appliances with faulty wiring,” June comments.
“That theory was unsubstantiated,” Timothy replies. “I also heard that it was caused by a kerosene heater, but investigators found no evidence of an explosion.”
Joanna shakes her head. “There was no shortage of theories, but none of them could be proven. I remember Ralph, our valet, swearing that two of the other buildings were burning separately before the fire tore through the dry landscape and formed one conflagration. He said it was only as everyone started running outside that the fire spread, but because he was still awake when it started, he was positive that the manor house, carriage house and stables were burning separately before the three fires turned into one. The stable manager freed all the horses in the nick of time. My horse was found several kilometers past Thornton-le-Dale.”
“I remember that the fire started in the middle of the night,” Timothy begins. “Our father shook Rosalie and me awake, and we couldn’t believe what we were seeing—it all seemed surreal. It was drier than usual that year, which didn’t help, but something didn’t add up. Father was also sure he saw the buildings burning separately.”
“I’ll go to my grave swearing that the fire was deliberately started,” Joanna solemnly states.
Since hearing about Lev, my mind has been racing, and the story has left me disconcerted. “The arsonist to whom you’re alluding is Lev, isn’t it?”
“Well, I believe it’s noteworthy that Lev disappeared that very night and was never heard from again,” Timothy replies. “It has stuck in my craw all these decades. A week before my father died, we spoke about this subject.”
“The investigation couldn’t prove a criminal act,” Joanna says with a tinge of bitterness.
Lia’s expression turns incredulous. “Wasn’t Lev’s disappearing on the same night enough to raise every eyebrow?”
“Not to mention that two people said they saw three fires burning separately before they spread,” June adds.
“They took all of that into account,” Joanna responds, “but at the end of the day, it’s about what they find, not what they sense.”
“What about Lev?” June asks. “Did they ever find him?”
“They tried for years,” Joanna answers, “but he was never found. All the other displaced members of the staff gave their statements—only Lev’s was missing. The stable manager chastised himself for not asking for more background information, but Lev was a mere stable hand. Papa told him that he was the one who should chastise himself for listening to me by not firing Lev when he wanted to, but the stable manager remained terribly remorseful the rest of his life.”
“It was a different world back then,” Timothy explains. “There was less fear of strangers. We had just come out of World War II. The stable manager wanted to help kids like Lev who were obviously alone in the world. Unfortunately, in this case, it seems his trust was misplaced.”
“And if Lev was guilty, then my trust was also misplaced,” Joanna adds, “because I insisted he was harmless when Papa wanted to fire him.” She sips her wine before continuing. “The night before the fire, Gabriel and I were walking in the garden, while Lev was watering. He glared at Gabriel from a distance, and when I saw that malevolent look, I remarked to Gabriel that his crush had gone too far, and I would have another talk with Papa. This time I wanted Lev dismissed. When we passed by the area where Lev was working, Gabriel tried to be cordial by mentioning what a splendid sunset it was. I’ll never forget how Lev replied. He said that some people are not good enough at birth to enjoy a sunset the way they would like to. He never looked up from what he was doing, but we could hear the intensity in his voice. Gabriel suggested that he take the rest of the night off, and the stable manager would never question Gabriel’s decision. Instead of being pleased, however, Lev said, ‘You’re not Chirurgus. Chirurgus tells me I have to keep working until I finish my job.’”
I shudder. “Chirurgus? That name sends a serious chill down my spine.”
“Mine, too, David,” Joanna commiserates. “Every time I think about that name I immediately want it out of my mind. I even told Gabriel I didn’t want to talk about it when he tried to bring the subject up. All of that surprises me, as I’m not usually that way.”
June quivers. “I don’t think Chirurgus is a word in any language for the Creator.”
Timothy gives a bitter chortle. “Lev was not religious. He refused to go to church on Sunday, claiming that God never did anything for him.”
“I already knew that ‘Chirurgus’ wasn’t one of the seventy-two names of God.” I don’t have to look at Lia to know I’m not the only one drawing parallels with “Mrs. Graeber” talking about the Master.