Elizabeth

Peter Schranz

Peter Schranz has been writing since before he found out the word “beast” had an A in it. He is a fantastic speller now. The stories of his that have appeared in Flashes In The Dark, Black Lantern, and Studio 360 were spelled perfectly. He is the webmaster of http://www.dailydoofus.com, and his anthology Astonishing Tales Of The Sea was published in October.

Simon’s father, Doctor Joel Teller, worked in an office in the east wing of the Long Library, in the town of New Broome. The east wing was devoted mainly to paleontology, and yet, Doctor Teller studied mathematics.

He summoned Simon to his office on the fifth floor of the library one morning. Simon climbed up the spiral staircase of creaking black and orange ebony. The stairs were steep, and when Simon realized he would be late for work no matter what, he rested at the narrow window that fell down the entire stairwell. Simon had climbed high enough to finally rise above the high trees of the rainforest. A few lemurs jumped and hassled each other at the tops of the trees. Perhaps they would be the ones Simon shot at work.

He didn’t mind being late if his father needed him for an important task like bringing him his compass, but Simon was ever so irked by the tea towel he held in his hands.

He passed several laboratories full of individually jarred fossils that they dug up on the island, housed in glass jars shaped like more polygonal versions of the bones inside of them.

Doctor Teller’s office was cluttered with towers of rough-edged paper, pencil stubs, open volumes sitting on one another, and tea-stained saucers weighed down with disgusting once-soaked teabags. The paper was made from ebony pulp, which yielded dark, rough sheets. Doctor Teller was bald but for a horseshoe from ear to ear.

“Thank you, Simon,” he said, still hunched over his desk. He put his hand out behind his back, feeling around for the tea towel. “Just in time. You’ll be late if you don’t hurry.”

“That was five flights of stairs, dad. I can’t breathe yet.”

“You’ll be on your way down, won’t you? The fur building will need you soon.”

“They needed me twenty minutes ago. I’ll just bag an extra few today. How is your chapter going?”

“I’m concerned with the sets of the colors today, Simon. We know which sets of primaries make which secondaries, but how can we determine what parts of a secondary color are what wholes of its primary color?”

“I don’t know,” Simon said. He glanced at the black bookshelf nearest his father’s desk. Almost an entire row was filled up by volumes one through twelve of Doctor Teller’s life’s labor, How to Complete Part of a Question When You Have the Answer Already.

“Nobody knows these things until I find them out, so far, anyway,” said Dr. Teller. “Ever since you started chewing solid items, I haven’t been able to consult many others on this.”

“That’s fine, dad. I better go.”

Any five-year-old artist distinguished enough to have her work on the refrigerator can tell you x in the sentence, “yellow and x make orange,” Doctor Teller wrote as Simon slipped out of his office. He sipped his steaming tea. But x can be determined theoretically; it is not in fact necessary to mix yellow with other colors to determine x, which may come as some comfort to people like me whose paints always seem to end up on their trousers.

During the week, Simon shot lemurs in the rainforest for a Chinese fur concern called Xiamen Hexing. He and a small team were sent out into the rainforest each day and were paid a complicated combination of wages and commission for each hour they spent hunting and each dead lemur that they brought back.

The building, a big black box biking distance from the library, was made of a dark Indonesian stone. On the outside stood a sign that said in plain Roman letters “Xiamen Hexing Building.” When Simon arrived, the hunting party had already left. Nancy Roe was Simon’s supervisor. Their haircuts were very similar, short and out of the eyes. “I’m docking you thirty dollars, Simon.”

“What, for helping my father?” Simon said.

“What was it this time? A compass? A pencil sharpener? Refuse the man. It’s costing you.”

“You can’t just refuse him,” Simon said. “He has these long stories––ah, forget it, Nancy.”

“Done,” she said. “Find your equipment. The others should be near the valley by now.”

Simon would have felt too terrified to take a job in a rainforest if he didn’t know that he was the lemurs’ only predator. When Percy Guinness discovered the island about two centuries before, he named it New Victoria, after his home state, and discovered on it no creatures larger than the lemurs dwelling within the darkness of the forests.

For ten years he and his surveyors searched the island for predators, but the only dead lemurs they ever found were simply old; never did they find a half-eaten one. At about that time, when the queen died, Guinness changed the name of the island to Elizabeth, and returned to the world with news of what he’d found sticking out of the Indian Ocean. He returned of course, but he was one of the settlers whose life ended in mystery. The fate of many of the earliest settlers was an obscurity. There was nothing even so much as the word Croatoan scratched into a tree to hint at their fortune to any of the settlers who followed.

Simon crept towards the valley. Narrow sunbeams came through from the canopy as Simon heard the gibbering of the primates above him. The trees were unknown beyond Elizabeth, great broad and tall columns that bore the pretty ebony the island was famous for. Simon listened for gunshots to find the other hunters.

He had brought his Browning shotgun and a belt full of birdshot, which worked well enough to kill lemurs without destroying much of their fur. When they had been training, Nancy instructed the hunters to aim for the lemurs that would fall to the ground if shot, and to aim for the highest up among the animals. It was often that Simon wouldn’t take lethal shots, but just knock a few of them from the highest bough with his blast, and let the ground kill them. It saved ammunition and fur, and preserving ammunition, Simon was confident but not certain, fit into the computation of his commission somehow.

Simon heard the first shot of the day, he reckoned somewhere north of where he stood. The lemurs tittered a little above him, but he had a feeling they knew what their chances were of being killed that day by the handful of lumbering things below, and it was way better than one in a million. Simon bolted northward, toward where he heard the shot in the valley. As he ran, he passed a little hole in the canopy, where a few cocoa trees had taken root.

Usually the trees were further toward the beach where no canopy blotted out the sun, but these stood still in the forest where a ray of light shone on them as though a spacecraft were trying to beam them up. Both the lemurs and the humans on Elizabeth recognized the pretty orange pods that emerged from the tree bark, though each primate preferred a different part of it. Simon sometimes shot a lemur while it was distracted, clutching a pod with both its little hands, chewing through the rind or slurping its pulp. He sometimes watched humans with sweet teeth lined up at the bakery in wait for some chocolaty blob or another.

The thoughts diverted him and, running, he tumbled into a shallow pit half covered in dead foliage. “Ah–” was the sound the air in his lungs made when it rushed out of his mouth all at once. As he sucked breath back into his chest, and struggled to his feet, Simon noticed the darkness of the caverns he had discovered. Not caverns, hallways. Three of them, of smooth dark wood, and of stone. The hole in the canopy lit the meeting of the three hallways, but beyond, under the ground, they were in a total gloom. The roots of the cocoa trees clung to the walls, but Simon could still make out reliefs carved on them. The first one he saw was of a group of lemurs tumbling. He pushed some roots out of the way and found another relief of the animals standing in a row. Half-obscured by darkness in one of the hallways, Simon noticed a relief of a lemur sitting on a throne with a crown on its head, sticking three of its fingers in the air.

Simon was very close to considering going down the halls of darkness. He took a few steps, trying to tell himself that there could be nothing there any bigger than a lemur, but he knew that such a mantra could be proven wrong all too easily in the dark. He heard another shot, and grasping the roots of the trees climbed out of the hole.

He wanted to scream out to the other hunters about what he had discovered under the hole in the canopy, but he didn’t want to scare off the little hairy things in the trees before they could get shot.

Beatrix and Owen were the other hunters. The two of them already each had a bag slung over their shoulder with the familiar black stains growing at the bottom. “Where on earth have you been, Simon?” Owen said.

“I don’t know, I had to find my dad’s tea towel.”

“Is that how you got so filthy?”

“No, I have to show you guys something,” Simon pointed in the direction of his discovery.

“Are you sure you don’t want to shoot anything?” Beatrix asked.

“This could make us famous,” Simon said. “It’s some kind of underground passageway. There are pictures on the wall, you two.”

Beatrix and Owen were intrigued enough to follow Simon back. They had their hourly wages to fall back on during days when the lemurs were particularly lithe, or the days when Simon interested them in an irrelevant adventure.

“There. Down there,” Simon said when they reached the pit.

Owen leaped in, and landed on his feet at about the same place Simon landed on his back.

“I can’t believe it,” he said. “What have we found here? You brought the flashlight, right?” He glanced hopefully up at Beatrix. She drew it from her belt and tossed it down to him. “We’ve got to look around.”

“Maybe we should save it for the weekend,” Simon said. Owen started to disappear down a hallway and Beatrix jumped in. “Or best not.”

The three of them wandered down a hall. To Simon’s surprise, nothing bigger than a few lemurs were there in the dark. They scampered through holes that the roots of trees had bored into the walls and ceiling. All along the walls cracked images had been carved of lemurs in the most dignified-looking postures.

“We’ve got to go directly to the library after work,” Beatrix said. “There’s someone there who will be very interested, I think we can all be certain of that.”

The hallway Owen had chosen ended in a large rectangular room at the end of which he found the biggest relief of all, made as a shrine, one of a lemur sitting like a meditator. The edges of the relief had chips of beautiful red paint on them, and Simon thought perhaps once the entire image had been painted. Another relief depicted five lemurs sitting on each other’s shoulders, and another two powerful-looking lemurs crushing a great orb. Before the shrine was a basket full of black beads and pretty colorful things.

“Who could have built this place?” Beatrix asked quietly.

“Lemur-worshippers,” Owen murmured. He had found a shelf full of moldering scraps of paper. Simon watched him touch one, which immediately crumbled.

“Don’t touch that, Owen!” Simon cried, his echo assuring that Owen complied. He leaped back from the shelf and Simon said, “We’ve got to let the people at the library figure out how to take those things away.”

“I can’t wait,” Owen said. “How much longer until the end of the shift?”

“Five hours,” Beatrix said.

Simon did about as well as any other day, bagging six, but the little temple was on his mind the whole time, and he thought a bit more than usual before he knocked the animals out of the trees. The three of them left their bags with Nancy, who got paid slightly extra to process the carcasses with the second shift.

The three of them clocked out and biked to the Long Library. In the front of the building stood a statue of William Long, Percy Guinness’s first mate, and the founder of the library. Long too was among those first settlers whose fates history did not record.

“We found some kind of temple,” Owen told the elderly woman at the front desk, who recognized Simon from that morning and gave him a good long look as though he should only come once a day.

“Archaeology is north wing, on the sixth floor,” she said. “The elevator is out.”

The three young hunters walked up the spiral staircase, each time around seeing through the long narrow window the canopy of the forest grow closer, and then as they rose above it, shrink further below.

Passing the fourth floor, biology, they heard a single inhuman shriek that surely hastened their ascent.

“Hey, you want to go see your dad before we leave, Simon?” said Owen as they passed the floor his father was on.

“No, thank you. We’re not even in the right wing.”

The sixth floor of the north wing was lit by light bulbs, being except for the stairwell fully without windows, in a hallway deep inside of the building.

Rooms full of broken potsherds and ebony figures opened onto them, and it took them a little while before they found who they were looking for, Rosina Kimberley, the expert on antique Elizabethan structures.

“A lemur-temple, you say?” she said after they’d explained. She was no taller than Beatrix, but her gaze was so narrow it was hard to notice. Her eyes were green and when she talked to the three of them she looked at each one for a few seconds, then moved her head to the next. “It sounds exciting. You probably know about the Indonesian peoples that came here around the eleventh century?” Doctor Kimberley said with great hope.

“Not exactly,” said Simon.

“It could be one of theirs.”

“Maybe,” said Owen, “But there were scrolls there, and they were in English.”

“No kidding,” Rosina said. She sounded sort of half-amused, but her gaze got even narrower and she tried to creep out of her office. “Very interesting, Owen. That’s all the time I have this afternoon.”

“Thank you for listening to us,” said Beatrix as they all left the room, less quickly than Rosina Kimberley.

“Of course,” she said as she entered the office opposite hers, and shut the door in their faces.

For breakfast the next morning Simon and Joel drank tea and ate a sort of chocolate bread one only finds on Elizabeth, with hard little specks of cocoa beans cooked into the dough. They sat on the porch, just a dozen yards or so from the Guinness River that cut through the trees in front of their house. Much of the river was composed of what once had been rain.

“Now, you’re sure you’re going to remember to bring everything today?” Simon said.

“Of course I am,” said Joel. “My pencil sharpener’s already there, my compass, my tea towel.”

“What else does a man need?”

“Your mother used to come by whenever I forgot something,” Joel said, perhaps trying to answer Simon’s question in some peripheral way. “She’d bring you, of course, but I don’t think you remember.”

“Vaguely,” said Simon.

“She must have moved back to Perth before you knew about any of that. But now that you can ride a bicycle––” Joel thought about how to finish, “You probably ought to get to work a little early today.”

Simon’s mother Susan moved in with her sister in Perth when he was very small. Joel became a little too involved in his volumes for her taste, and she left.

He got to work early, and made for the forest, this time before anyone else. He knew the others would go as directly to the temple as he did, so he decided once he arrived to wait there for them.

The hole Simon had fallen into was taped off, and Rosina Kimberley and a dozen or so others were measuring the surroundings. People kept climbing into and out of the hole, from where echoing yells also escaped. A man gently tossed a typewriter out of the hole and followed after it. He had long hair, longer than Beatrix’s, Simon estimated, but he was also balding. A strange combination, he thought as Rosina approached him.

“Looks like you had no trouble finding the place,” Simon leaned against the tape.

“We’ve discovered the last dwelling place of Percy Guinness and his voyagers,” Rosina said. “My associate Mr. Cobby tells me those scrolls are holy texts penned by him and William Long. They went native, it seems.”

Simon craned his neck and tried to peek. “You found all that out just this morning?”

“We’ve been here much of the night, Simon.”

“I have to shoot some lemurs, but it looks like you might have scared them away with all the noise down there.”

“You’ll have to find somewhere else.”

Owen and Beatrix came, and Doctor Kimberley told them the same thing. The three of them left and grumbled all day about getting kicked out of their own discovery.

“I want to go back tonight,” Owen said while they had lunch under the trees in the valley. “We can’t let them have our temple.”

“I’m coming, too,” said Beatrix. Simon wasn’t surprised, but he didn’t want that to be the end, so he came along too. He didn’t approve of his behavior, not so much, but a lemur-temple doesn’t just fall into your lap every day, he thought.

They returned that night, after all the archaeologists had slunk home. Beatrix jumped in first, and then turned on her flashlight, followed by Owen, and then Simon. Doctor Kimberley and the others had placed string lights along each of the three hallways, though they were all off.

The two hallways they hadn’t looked at led to rooms a little smaller than the one with the shrine, and housed only a few rows of old rotting bed frames, where worshippers would rest, it seemed. In the shrine, someone had been hard at work typing up the contents of the papers on the shelf, one of which Owen’s touch had disintegrated.

“How did they manage not to wreck the paper?” he said, looking at the desk with the old crusty documents lined up neatly alongside the new light gray copies with slightly smoother edges. “They’re cleverer than I thought.”

“We’ve got to read this stuff,” Beatrix said. Something mischievous looked to well up in her, as she nabbed the copies and stuffed them under her shirt. “It’s probably some religious testimony or something.”

“This is going to be great,” Owen said, shining his flashlight on the relief of the great serene lemur sitting before its basket of offerings.

Simon didn’t see Owen or Beatrix at work for the rest of the week. They didn’t tell Nancy anything, and she wanted to fire them but Simon promised to find out what they were up to if she postponed her decision. He meant to go see if they were home sooner, but didn’t manage to until that Sunday. Owen lived alone in a little house of stone and wood that his grandfather built just outside of New Broome. The place was quiet, but through a window a little shadow danced behind a candle flame, and he could see their silhouettes.

“Owen?” Simon knocked on the dark wood. “Are you there? Beatrix?” The door cracked open, and Owen peered out cautiously. He wore a hood.

“Simon,” Owen said. “Come in.” It was dim inside. “Take off your shoes.” He did. “You probably wondered where we’ve been.”

“Nancy wants to fire you two,” Simon said. “I got her to promise she wouldn’t until I went and found what was going on. You better have a good reason, or I don’t think we’ll be hunting lemurs together for a while.”

“We won’t be hunting lemurs ever again, Simon,” Beatrix said softly. She sat on the sofa, in front of a table of fruit, and a knife. Simon wavered at the sight of the knife. Maybe they’d moved on to more dangerous prey.

“We read the papers Beatrix took from the temple, Simon,” Owen told him as he sat down next to her. Candles lit their faces. “Lemurs are little people. That’s what Percy Guinness wrote.”

“They’re definitely not people,” Simon said. “I wouldn’t take that stuff too seriously.”

“We’ve done the wrong thing with our lives,” Owen went on. “We’ve got to fix it. Killing lemurs for a living is not just a violation of the law, it’s a blasphemy. I don’t mean just Beatrix and I have to fix it. You too, Simon. If you read these documents you would know what we mean. And you have killed as many as we have.”

“I wouldn’t read that in a million years,” Simon said. “You sound like you got cursed or something.”

“Simon,” Beatrix said sincerely. “Listen to us. You’re in terrible danger, working at the fur concern. Do you know about eternal consequences?”

“I’d rather not,” he said.

“You think it’s funny, this devotion to the lemurs on Elizabeth,” Beatrix shook her head. “It’s very serious. We are not wise people to have overlooked the sculptures on the temple walls. The people who carved them had a very good reason to do so. We have to absolve ourselves of the things we have done, and quickly.”

Owen looked Simon over. “We have to demolish the Xiamen Hexing Building.”

Simon put his hands up in the air. “Okay, goodbye, guys,” he said, and made for the door, almost forgetting his shoes.

“Simon,” Owen said. But he didn’t wait to hear anything more.

He went immediately to the library, where even on Sunday his father worked until evening. As absent as his father might have been, Simon knew it would be wise to tell him about the plans his friends had.

He rushed up the stairs in the east wing, and heard the shrieking on the biology floor. It sounded like the shrieks of a lemur.

His rushing was for little, because Doctor Teller was not in his office, nor was his teapot.

“Can I help you?” Doctor Green, one of Joel’s acquaintances from the paleontology department, said to Simon as he walked down the hall.

“I’m just waiting for my father,” Simon said.

“I’ll let him know if I see him. What is your name?”

“Simon.”

Doctor Green went off. Simon walked to his father’s desk and glanced at what he had been working on that day. An open volume on his desk read, “The students of algebra were the first to ponder the labor that I aim to complete in these volumes. The sentence, ‘Two and x make seven,’ as a few of them have no doubt written, tackles much the same difficulties as my statement in the previous volume, ‘Carbon and x make diamond.’

“Simon,” Doctor Teller said behind him. “I didn’t ask for anything.” He was carrying his steaming teapot in one hand and a jar of leaves in the other.

“It’s not that, dad,” he said. “This is really important.”

“Please,” his father said, motioning to the extra chair by his desk. “Sit down.” The chair had a pile of books on it, and Simon hunched over to set them on the floor before he sat.

“I don’t know how much time there is,” Simon said. “You know Owen and Beatrix?”

“No,” his father said.

“They’re just my friends at work, and they think for some reason that they are in some kind of danger and have to destroy the Xiamen Hexing Building.”

“How will they destroy it?” Doctor Teller said. “It’s made out of that stone.”

“I don’t know, but they have access to guns and I don’t know what’s going to happen.”

“Calm down, Simon. I’ll notify the police. Will that make you feel better?”

“Of course it would, dad.”

“You go home. Don’t worry about your strange friends.” Simon was always getting shuffled out of his dad’s office no matter whether he came with a tea towel or news of a potential bomb plot. He didn’t go home, not immediately. He went to the stacks of the Long Library, on the first floor and the basement. He wanted to know about Percy Guinness.

The stacks were huge, and filled mostly with books written right on Elizabeth. He walked past a couple of shelves and got hit in the face with a spider web. The card catalogue indicated that he could find information about temples on the basement level, in the archiving room. Simon had never heard of the archiving room. When he found it, after a long while searching the basement, which was definitely more than one level despite what the map in the lobby said, he wondered if anyone at all had heard of the archiving room. It was a tall square room, but narrow, with bookshelves on each of the four walls. There were two levels, and he entered at the top, nothing more than a balcony above the bottom, which he could see from a square hole in the floor. Simon climbed a stepladder down to the bottom level, and blew dust away from the spines of the books.

A fragile little book called The Journal Of Percy Guinness was the only one that stuck out to Simon. He looked at the back out of curiosity, where he found that the book hadn’t been checked out for one hundred and seventy years. He flipped to a page towards the beginning, and read.

The sparse people of this island,” Guinness had written, “who call it Sahibandar (though I prefer New Victoria), today offered to tell me their mythologies if I write them down for posterity. Two of the priests brought me to the temple to tell me their stories. It takes me a long time to determine how best to translate their words into my English tongue, but they are patient men.

Simon flipped a little further. Each day I write the stories of these priests I have a harder time deciding whether they themselves believe them. I will not repeat their knowledge here, to spare the future of these uncomfortable thoughts.

Simon was certain the entirety of the explorer’s journal was not for him, but he couldn’t help but read one last passage near the back: It is true what they say of the lemurs, the few priests who still live on this island. For example, consider this axiom you no doubt are already intimately familiar with— Simon decided that was quite enough when the hundreds of memories of lemurs falling from the trees came to mind all at once. He slammed the book shut and misplaced it on the shelf.

It was getting late, and Simon biked home. The next day was Monday, and he had to be at work, whether Owen or Beatrix or Percy Guinness liked it or not.

Simon was all alone when he got home. Joel must be at the police station, he thought. Simon heated up some egg and soup and ate in on the porch, watching the river flow by while he could still see it. The night was hot, and he drifted off to sleep outside, any worries that would otherwise trouble his rest put away by the knowledge that his father notified the police.

In the morning Simon had another slice of the sweet black bread, and biked to the Xiamen Hexing Building, which he was happy to see standing while he was still far off.

Things were a little different when he approached, and Simon’s heart felt suddenly tight. Most of the windows of the building were broken, on the wall by the entrance the word ‘killer’ was written in white spray paint, and, inside, Nancy cried above her overturned desk.

“What happened?” Simon said, wondering whether he could better answer that question than she could.

“I don’t know,” she managed to say. “Vandals last night. They wrecked the lockers, too.”

Though Nancy didn’t realize it, Simon felt better to know that Owen and Beatrix’s plot amounted to a little juvenile crime spree.

Most of the lockers were fine, Simon found, all but his, which looked to have pry bar dents on the door. Since the most Simon ever stored in his locker was an empty bandolier, he figured it must have been an act of spite. But he noticed a slip of paper sitting neatly on top of the belt. He snatched it out of his bent locker and had to read what was written on it twice before he biked as fast as he could away from the building.

Dear Simon, he read, as you have showed up today you might have seen our handiwork, which did not amount to much, certainly not the building’s destruction. We understand your hesitation as it is the source of your livelihood, but we have a much more urgent matter to attend to, one we hope will sway you. Gordon Cobby, the archaeologist who copied those texts we took recognized the truth in them as well and has joined us. He told us of the experiments on living lemurs performed on the biology floor of the Library. Did you hear the screams on floor four? By the time you read this, the library will be aflame. We had a long night, but a victorious one. Please read the texts and join us before it is too late, Simon. Your very concerned friends, Owen and Bea.

“Nancy, I have to go,” he said. She was still sobbing, and Simon squeezed her shoulder as un-frantically as he could manage.

He had biked between the Long Library and the Xiamen Hexing Building a million times, but as he smelled smoke Simon could hardly remember which way to go. Not the path’s familiarity but the beacon of pure black smoke mingling with the morning sky was the tool he used to get there, where hundreds of people watched the library reduce to ashes.

Simon leaped off his bike and panicked, searching for his father in the crowd. He jumped over a giant hose that sprayed seawater onto the flames. It seemed only to produce steam; the flames were unstoppable.

“Twenty-five years!” Simon heard his father’s distinct scream. He found him on his knees, his hands on his bald head, watching the building that had kept his work safe for as long burning up into nothing.

Simon rushed to his father and hugged him desperately. “Simon,” he said, watching his boy tearfully. “You’re safe.”

“I’m safe? You got out.”

“It was like this when I got here, Simon.” Joel sighed. “It’s all gone.”

“All your work?”

“You were an embryo when I started writing How to Complete Part of a Question When You Have the Answer Already.

“This is the worst thing I’ve ever seen.”

“It’s pretty bad, Simon,” Joel said evenly.

Simon looked at his father’s face. “You seemed a lot crazier a minute ago.”

“Now you’re here,” Joel said. The rushing winds of the fire were loud, but the firemen had made everyone stay very far back. Simon thought he saw the statue of William Long glowing.

They watched all day, and as everyone’s panic wore down, a serenity moved over the crowd, at least Simon and Joel, and most of the people they saw. Later in the day, they saw some policemen leading away Owen and Beatrix in shackles, along with that balding long-haired man Cobby who Simon had seen climb out of the temple hole with the typewriter.

Doctor Green, whose jacket was smudged with ash, came to talk to them.

“They used to work with me,” Simon pointed out his apprehended friends.

“They probably destroyed everything in the library, centuries of research,” Green said, “But, you know, nobody died because of their little game, not even a lemur, as your pious friends set them all free last night.”

Later on, the west wing collapsed, and the fire shrunk.

“Did you ever tell the police about Owen and Beatrix, dad?”

“No, Simon,” he admitted. “I got distracted.”

Simon removed the note his friends had left in his locker. “I think they did this instead.”

Joel read the note a few times himself. “I’m tempted to blame myself, now.”

“You can’t blame yourself for what nutcases do.”

“I didn’t know about the experiments on the animals,” Joel said. “Maybe your friends did the right thing after all.”

“I don’t know about that, either,” Simon said.

“Let’s go home, and I’ll make us some egg and black bread,” Joel said.

Much of the Xiamen Hexing Building was repaired by Tuesday, and Nancy Roe seemed fine again to process lemur fur. “A little setback never hurt us, right, Simon?”

“Right,” he said, being the only hunter there since Owen and Beatrix were imprisoned. As it happened Nancy never actually fired them, but Simon figured she would get around to it if they ever got out.

He walked alone through the rainforest, and couldn’t help but wander over to the site of the temple. He found neither teams of archaeologists, nor any tape around the site. Simon did find that Xiamen Hexing had made one repair beyond the building. When he approached the hole to the temple, he discovered that it had been filled with cement.

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