Orient

Orient

So you are empty
A hollow ball of copper floating on moonlit waves
Where am I?

Lying on the ocean floor
Half-buried in the mud
Looking up at a shadow drifting overhead?

In the heavens
Countless stars away
Staring down at a metallic speck of burnt red in a glittering sea?

Inside you
A hard steel ball
Wondering why my world is dark and tumbling?

Beside you
Another empty sphere
Drifting with the tide and wind?

In old Japan
Fishermen bound their floats together with cord and knots
So they wouldn’t get lost on the water

The moon is full tonight
Let’s follow her to the black shores of
Mount Kaimandoke

Maybe we will be picked up by salt-cracked hands
Carried like treasure
Into the heart of the Orient

Share

30 Minus 2 Days of Writing III: Yes, I Made That

My Dear Dr. Watson,

Imagine the ecstatic rush that shot through me when I realized the tracking device I placed in the hilt of the katana stolen by Moriarty had not only led me straight to Paris, but to the very place I expected to meet you, the Café Le Select. The chase was not only afoot, but underfoot!

I sped to the scene with great alacrity, expecting to locate my prey comfortably ensconced at a table blithely sipping espresso from white China, the fingers of her free hand indolently lingering on the sword’s intricately decorated scabbard while she gloated about her presumed victory over me. Instead, I found the café empty except for a young garçon, who was standing at the counter resting his head on his hands while he sullenly stared into a dark corner of the establishment that sheltered a table littered with the remains of someone’s lunch.

“Did you serve that vanished repast?” I queried, pointing at the table.

“Yes, I made that. What’s it to you?” he sneered.

“It’s quite a lot to me,” I replied, withdrawing a small stack of euros from my wallet. The waiter stood up straight, his expression suddenly alert. “Tell me what you remember about that particular diner, if you would,” I said, smiling.

“She was quiet, ordered a Croque Monsieur and a Pepsi Max, read a book that she pulled from our shelves while she ate.”

“And her appearance?”

“Hesitant smile, piercing gray eyes—like a wolf. Remarkably long and full brunette hair.”

“Moriarty!” I cried.

The waiter shrugged. “I didn’t catch her name.”

“When did she leave?”

“She didn’t,” he said, pointing toward the restrooms.

“What!?” I immediately bolted toward the rear of the café, performing a quick calculation in my head.

I’d been speaking to the garçon for perhaps a minute. From my studies at London’s Natural History Museum, I knew that all mammals, including homo sapiens, take an average of twenty-one seconds to urinate. This is as true for an gigantic elephant as it is for a diminutive bat—or 5-foot, 1-and-a-half-inch-tall criminal mastermind. There was a slight chance I’d catch her in time.

But I was a split-second too late. Moriarty must have overheard me speaking to the waiter, for I spied her fleeing out of the restaurant’s back door, her infamous hair whipping around like a tornado.

I chased her through the alley and into the street out front, where she hailed a cab, ducked into the rear seat, and urged the driver forward. I scanned the road for another cab, but it was hopeless; There were none, and she vanished into the city’s infamous traffic faster than a frightened ferret running from a feathered hawk.

Scurrying back inside, I handed the waiter several of the bills that were still clutched in my hand.

“May I examine her table?” I asked.

Oui, knock yourself out,” he said, grinning.

I stepped into the shadows and studied the area closely.

My katana was resting on the table, the hilt split open with a bread knife, the tracking device defiantly stuck into a pat of butter. So she had known about it all along, and used it to lead me here. A taunt.

A book was lying open on the table, Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast. Moriarty had circled a line on a page, “Never go on trips with anyone you do not love.”

Like you, I thought, wryly. Another taunt.

But Moriarty wouldn’t be satisfied with mere taunts.

I sat down to think, ordering a coffee and a chocolate Napoleon as aids, for I was sure the book itself was a clue, however obscure. Long after the sun had set and the moon had risen over the city, it finally came to me. Based on Hemingway’s experiences when he was young and working in Paris, the short collection of essays was an ode to a city he admired and loved like no other. In it, he deliberately mentions many of the city’s most-famous landmarks—the Luxembourg Gardens, the Louvre, a number of cafés, specific neighborhoods he walked in with friends, even a favorite English bookstore, Shakespeare and Co., which doubled as a library and boarding house for aspiring writers like himself.

Yet curiously, to the observant reader there is one object he never mentions.

Located on the Champ de Mars in Paris, it was built in1889 as the arched entrance to the World’s Fair, and at 324 meters high, it remains the city’s tallest and best-built structure next to Bernadette Brigitte, the comely burlesque striptease artist at the Moulin Rouge: The Eiffel Tower.

It’s world-famous, visited by millions of tourists every year. So how could Hemingway write about Paris yet fail to mention the Tower? It’s absence is striking, almost as if it had been lost, or stolen.

Stolen!

I knew with certainty that was her clue, and her cunning plan—to steal France’s beloved cultural icon, no doubt that very night, if not already, while I insufferably wasted time solving the puzzle she had set before me.

But how?

I scanned the site for other clues—not the ones she meant me to find, but ones she had overlooked.

There was a cloth napkin with a smear of lipstick on it. Having earlier made an effort to memorize the various brands and shades of women’s makeup to assist my investigations, I recognized the light-pink shade as an expensive one manufactured by the German company OEKAbeauty.

At the table’s far end, I spotted a notepad that appeared blank. When I held it up to the light at a severe angle, however, I saw the faint traces of handwriting from the missing page above it, and made out the word “Hochtief,” which proved in a quick Google search to be a German construction company headquartered in Berlin. One of the few companies in the world with employees who have the necessary expertise and contempt for France to dismantle the Eiffel Tower and spirit it away.

I turned to the waiter.

“What did Moriarty say to you while she was here?”

“Not much. Said hello, ordered her meal, told me I have wonderful eyes, and thanked me for my service.”

“In English or French?”

“German,” the waiter spat. “Fucking Nazis.”

So that was it. Moriarty, already a mistress of half a dozen languages in addition to her native Finnish, had mastered one more. I knew instantly she intended to take the Eiffel Tower to Germany, where she could seal her reputation as the world’s greatest thief. To Hochtief’s corporate warehouses hidden in the beating heart of old Deutschland, Berlin.

I should look on her scheme with disapprobation, Watson. But I confess I cannot help but admire her audacity and assiduous attention to detail. She is brilliant. A challenge even to me, if wicked where I have chosen serve the good. Or if not the good, then at least the lesser of evils.

Still, I mean to foil her, Watson. Not literally, of course, because aluminum’s expensive. I mean the other foil, as in “to thwart.”

I am headed to Berlin even as you read this letter, which I left in the waiter’s hands to keep you informed. Meet me there as soon as you can, at the currywurst stand near the Holocaust Memorial in the city’s center. Bring strong rope, a gag, and your handcuffs. We will need them to stifle her pleading and hold her fast once we finally have her in our grasp.

Together, we will set a trap that even Moriarty cannot escape…

Sincerest regards,
Sherlock

———————————

This overly long post was written for the prompt “Yes, I Made That,” on Day 21 of 30 Days Minus 2 of Writing III, hosted by Nicky and Mike at We Work For Cheese. It’s also the third installment in a thrilling mystery written by my Team ZiMi teammate, Ziva, at Ziva’s Inferno. Look for part four on her blog soon.

Share

30 Days Minus 2 of Writing: Succubus

My Dear Dr. Watson,

Professor Moriarty is proving to be as slippery and as well-fanged an opponent as a moray eel. Earlier today I tracked her to a unassuming house in Finland brimming with expensive custom-made furniture befitting a well-heeled mastermind of the underworld.

At first, I thought the place was an empty show home designed to lure new buyers with its tidy yet luxurious appointments. But then I heard her caterwauling pop tunes in the shower.

Stealthily I crept deeper into her lair, the sturdy, razor-sharp sword gifted to me from Master Masamune unsheathed for battle. Yet when I rushed into the steam-filled room with a furious shout, I found she had slipped away from me faster than an unwelcome bar of soap at the men’s baths in Newgate Prison.

Never bend over to pick up a bar of soap at Newgate.

I proceeded to conduct a thorough search of her lair, even checking the towels for clues to her identity. I confirmed that she has awesome hair, but my investigation was thwarted prematurely when she sneaked into the room like an unwelcome succubus and stole my precious katana while my back was turned. No doubt she intends to keep it until the day she sells it to an unscrupulous dealer in the black market for a tidy sum, using the profits to further her nefarious schemes.

Had you seen my face at that tremulous moment, it would have been shrouded in a desperate mask of humiliation and despair. But that was only a show for the benefit of Moriarty, aka Ziva, who was no doubt watching my every move with a hidden camera and gloating over her presumed victory.

Such an ego that one, though well deserved. Never in my career have I matched wits with an opponent so utterly frustrating and yet so challenging. It’s exhilarating.

So to all outward appearances I seemed defeated. But privately, I could barely contain my excitement. For the Professor made a grievous error and fell directly into the trap I cleverly set for her. Inside the leather-bound wooden handle of the Masamune sword she now carries with her, I hid a diminutive electronic tracking device that pinpoints her exact location to within 50 feet anywhere on the globe using Geosatellite Positioning technology.

Even as I write this letter, I am preparing to give chase. Minutes from now, I will board a rapid train in hot pursuit of my mysterious and elusive prey. Meet me at the Café Le Select in Paris as quickly as you can, if you can…

Sincerely,
Sherlock

————————–

This post was written for a blogging meme hosted by my good friends Nicky and Mike at We Work for Cheese. I’ve done a terrible job of participating, having failed to post daily, and having failed to make the rounds to comment on all the participants’ posts. I plead mercy from you all, and ask that you trust me when I say it’s been difficult to impossible for me this month due to heavy family and work obligations. Not mention my drinking problem—a problem I am steadfastly working to resolve in deep consultation with my companions Johnny Walker, Glen Livet and Glen Fiddich.

Share

30 Minus 2 Days of Writing III: Damn

She has good hair but a bad habit of whipping it around like a medieval weapon, and I realize now her behavior was a clue that I never should’ve placed my trust in an ex-Mossad agent from Finland who’s name may or may not be Ziva.

We had an agreement, you see. An iron-clad bargain forged in the fires of trust.

We would participate in 30 Days Minus 2 of Writing III, but only on our terms. Terms dictated by our schedules and our families and our laziness and our general distaste for joining any movement that would count either of us as one of its members. We would select a handful of prompts—mostly the ones we suggested or those we could handle with minimum effort—and write about those, posting on the same day together, as Team ZiMi.

This was manageable.

This was what I wanted. What I needed. What I thought we both wanted. A plan born of mutual necessity.

And laziness. Did I mention how lazy we are?

But then Ziva went rogue on me, dropping a hint that she might write a post for today’s prompt, Damn.

“I’m working on a post for Damn,” she wrote, her phrasing so subtle that her words might as well have been a Cold War cipher written in the clouds with fog.

The meaning nearly escaped me.

But I’m no spring chicken. This isn’t my first rodeo, my first lap around the track, my first dance at the Debutante’s Ball, my first bucket of fried chicken at the picnic. I got Ziva’s meaning, by God.

Suddenly I felt all alone. A man without a post, a man who was no longer one half of the dynamic Team ZiMi, but a singularity. Just Mi. Me, all alone in the frigid waters without a post to accompany hers.

Damn, I mused, I can’t let Ziva do this to me without a fight. I can’t let her leave me holding the bag.

Not that bag, you perverts.

The other bag, the one filled with clichés and hackneyed phrases writers use when they can’t think of anything original to say. Which is about 90 percent of the time because, to quote the wise but dispirited King Solomon, “There is nothing new under the sun.”

And so here it is: My post.

Now you might think this post is enough to foil her nefarious plan to one-up me by posting solo.

But I know Ziva. She’s the Gary Kasparov of blogging competitors, always thinking 30 moves ahead in order to kill your King. If you’d asked me at the time, I would’ve guaran-damn-teed you she had a trick up her black sleeve, if not a dagger, a vial of poison, a whip and a stick of Nordic reindeer jerky, which isn’t deadly but does make a mighty good snack between meals.

I settled back into my easy chair, furrowed my brow, and thought like Deep Blue, Kasparov’s computerized nemesis and eventual conquerer.

Ponder this perplexing puzzle I did, and long. Well into the night and early morning.

Just before sunrise, the full weight of her wicked plan hit me like a ton of bricks, or roughly 11 liters in Finland’s curious metric system. Or maybe 17 liters. Or 23. Whatever. I was just estimating because I didn’t have time to Google the answer.

Rushing over to her blog, Ziva’s Inferno, I found a post for yesterday’s prompt, Hint Hint. Nothing long. A mere ditty, in fact. Seven sweet, pensive, plaintive sentences. Yet enough to do me in.

It was a brilliant move.

Or would’ve been if I’d fallen for it.

But I didn’t.

Bwahaha!

Thanks to the magic of the Internet, I knew I could manipulate time and space. So I ran—no, sprinted—over to my own blog and published my own post for Hint Hint dated the very same day.

Game and match, my dear foe Ziva!

Today, at least. For I am sure we will match wits again, perhaps to solve the final problem on a rocky precipice overlooking Reichenbach Falls. May God be with us both.

——————————-

This post was written for the 30 Minus 2 Days of Writing III meme hosted by Nicky & Mike at We Work For Cheese. Visit them now to see today’s other entries.

Share