Murder mysteries, p.2
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       Murder Mysteries, p.2

           Neil Gaiman
 
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  NARRATOR -- LIVE

  I love the drawings. Did she do them?

  TINK

  Yes. My little angel. She loves drawing. Isn’t she beautiful? She takes after her father.

  /SFX/RADIO IN THE BACKGROUND, UNDER...

  NARRATOR

  We went downstairs. We had nothing else to say, nothing else to do. Tink turned on the main light. For the first time I noticed tiny crows' feet at the corners of her eyes, incongruous on her perfect, Barbie-doll face.

  TINK

  I love you. I really, really love you.

  NARRATOR -- LIVE

  Thank you.

  TINK

  Would you like a ride back?

  NARRATOR -- LIVE

  If you don't mind leaving Susan alone...?

  NARRATOR

  She shrugged, and I pulled her to me for the last time.

  (beat)

  At night, Los Angeles is all lights. And shadows.

  /MUS & SFX/ SCATTERED MEMORIES SOUND FX SUDDENLY UP AND OUT. MUSIC CONTINUES UNDER...

  NARRATOR (CONT’D)

  A blank, here, in my mind. I simply don't remember what happened next. She must have driven me back to the place where I was staying -- how else would I have gotten there? I do not even remember kissing her goodbye. Perhaps I simply waited on the sidewalk and watched her drive away.

  (beat)

  Perhaps.

  (beat)

  I do know, however, that once I reached the place I was staying I just stood there, unable to go inside, to wash and then to sleep, unwilling to do anything else.

  /SFX/ LOS ANGELES STREET SOUNDS IN BACKGROUND: AN AURAL COLLAGE – DISTANT TRAFFIC, DISTANT RADIOS...

  NARRATOR (CONT’D)

  I was not hungry. I did not want alcohol. I did not want to read, or talk. I was scared of walking too far, in case I became lost, bedeviled by the repeating motifs of Los Angeles, spun around and sucked in so I could never find my way home again. Central Los Angeles sometimes seems to me to be nothing more than a pattern, like a set of repeating blocks: a gas station, a few homes, a mini-mall and repeat until hypnotised; and the tiny changes in the mini-malls and the houses only serve to reinforce the structure.

  (beat)

  I thought of Tink's lips. Then I fumbled in a pocket of my jacket, and pulled out a packet of cigarettes.

  /SFX/HE LIGHTS A CIGARETTE AND BLOWS SMOKE.

  NARRATOR (CONT’D)

  I lit one, inhaled, blew blue smoke into the warm night air.

  /SFX/ HIS FOOTSTEPS START, ON THE CONCRETE. SLOW, MEANDERING, GOING NOWHERE.

  NARRATOR (CONT’D)

  There was a stunted palm tree growing outside the place I was staying, and I resolved to walk for a way, keeping the tree in sight, to smoke my cigarette, perhaps even to think; but I felt too drained to think. I felt very sexless, and very alone.

  (pause)

  A block or so down the road there was a bench, and when I reached it I sat down. I threw the stub of the cigarette onto the pavement, hard, and watched it shower orange sparks.

  RAGUEL NOW

  Hey. Hey pal. I'll buy a cigarette off you. Here.

  NARRATOR -- LIVE

  Jesus. You startled me. I’m sorry. I didn’t see you.

  NARRATOR

  He did not look old, although I would not have been prepared to say how old he was. Late thirties, perhaps. Mid forties. He wore a long, shabby coat, colorless under the yellow street lamps, and his eyes were dark.

  RAGUEL NOW

  Here. A quarter. 25 cents for a smoke. Take it. That's a good price.

  NARRATOR -- LIVE

  Keep your money. It's free. Have it.'

  NARRATOR

  He took the cigarette. I passed him a book of matches (it advertised a telephone sex line; I remember that), and he lit the cigarette.

  /SFX/ A MATCH IS STRUCK, A CIGARETTE LIT.

  RAGUEL NOW

  Here.

  NARRATOR -- LIVE

  Keep them. I always wind up accumulating books of matches in America. You people just give them away. Where I come from you have to pay for them.

  RAGUEL NOW

  That a fact, huh?

  NARRATOR

  He sat on the bench beside me and smoked his cigarette. When he had smoked it half-way down, he tapped the lighted end off on the concrete, stubbed out the glow, and placed the butt of the cigarette behind his ear.

  RAGUEL NOW

  I don't smoke much. A pity to waste it, though.

  /SFX/ A SPEEDING CAR CAREENS DOWN THE STREET. A RADIO BLARES A ROCK SONG -- THAT DEEP BASS THUMP OF A CAR STEREO. BRIEFLY WE CAN HEAR THE SHOUTING VOICES IN THE CAR. “GARY YOU ASSHOLE! WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU ON, MAN?” A SQUEAL OF BRAKES.

  NARRATOR -- LIVE

  Idiots. Did you see that? They could have killed someone.

  RAGUEL NOW

  I owe you.

  NARRATOR -- LIVE

  Sorry?

  RAGUEL NOW

  I owe you something. For the cigarette. And the matches. You wouldn't take the money. I owe you.

  NARRATOR -- LIVE

  No, really, it's just a cigarette. I figure, if I give people cigarettes, then if ever I'm out, maybe people will give me cigarettes. (chuckles) Don't worry about it.

  RAGUEL NOW

  You’re English, right?

  NARRATOR -- LIVE

  Yes.

  RAGUEL NOW

  That’s that thing the English do, where they say something like it’s a joke, even though they mean it. So. You want to hear a story? True story? Stories always used to be good payment. These days... not so much.

  NARRATOR

  I sat back on the bench, and the night was warm, and I looked at my watch: it was almost one in the morning. In England a freezing new day would already have begun: a work-day would be starting for those who could beat the snow and get into work; another handful of old people, and those without homes, would have died, in the night, from the cold.

  NARRATOR -- LIVE

  Sure. Why not? Tell me a story.

  RAGUEL NOW

  (coughs, smoker’s cough, then,)

  First thing I remember was the Word. And the Word was God. Sometimes, when I get really down, I remember the sound of the Word in my head, shaping me, forming me, giving me life.

  /SFX/ THE SOUNDS OF LOS ANGELES CROSSFADE WITH

  /SFX/THE SOUND OF RAGUEL’S AWAKENING, UNDER...

  /MUS/THE WORD WAS GOD -- SILVER CITY THEME --

  RAGUEL NARRATION

  The Word gave me a body, gave me eyes. And I opened my eyes, and I saw the light of the Silver City. I was in a room -- a silver room -- and there wasn't anything in it except me. In front of me was a window, that went from floor to ceiling, open to the sky, and through the window I could see the spires of the City, and at the edge of the City, the Dark. I don't know how long I waited there. I wasn't impatient or anything, though. I remember that. It was like I was waiting until I was called; and I knew that some time I would be called. And if I had to wait until the end of everything, and never be called, why, that was fine too. But I'd be called, I was certain of that. And then I'd know my name, and my function.

  /SFX/ DISTANT WHISPERS, CRYSTAL CHIMES, UNDER...

  RAGUEL NARRATION (CONT’D)

  Through the window I could see silver spires, and in many of the other spires were windows; and in the windows I could see others like me. That was how I knew what I looked like. You wouldn't think it of me, seeing me now, but I was beautiful. I've come down in the world a way since then.

  (beat)

  I was taller then, and I had wings.

  /SFX/STRETCHING AND FLAPPING OF WINGS FOR THE FIRST TIME

  RAGUEL NARRATION

  They were huge and powerful wings, with feathers the colour of mother-of-pearl. They came out from just between my shoulder-blades. They were so good. My wings...

  /SFX/ SOUNDS AND MUSIC OF ANGELS IN FLIGHT, SWOOPING PAST; DISTANT CHIMES AND SOUNDS OF THE CITY OF ANGELS, UNDER...

 
RAGUEL NARRATION (CONT’D)

  Sometimes I'd see others like me, the ones who'd left their rooms, who were already fulfilling their duties. I'd watch them soar through the sky from spire to spire, performing errands I could barely imagine. The sky above the City was a wonderful thing. It was always light, although lit by no sun -- lit, perhaps by the City itself: but the quality of light was forever changing. Now pewter-coloured light, then brass, then a gentle gold, or a soft and quiet amethyst...

  /SFX/ THE SOUNDS OF THE CITY OF THE ANGELS CUTS OUT AS:

  RAGUEL NOW

  You know what amethyst is? A kind of purple stone?

  NARRATOR -- LIVE

  Yes. I know that.

  NARRATOR

  My crotch felt uncomfortable. It occurred to me then that the man might not be mad; I found this far more disquieting than the alternative.

  RAGUEL NOW

  I don't know how long it was that I waited, in my room. But time didn't mean anything. Not back then. We had all the time in the world.

  /SFX/ LA CROSSFADES TO THE CITY OF ANGELS

  RAGUEL NARRATION

  The next thing that happened to me, was when the Angel Lucifer came to my cell. He was taller than me, and his wings were imposing, his plumage perfect. He had skin the colour of sea-mist, and curly silver hair, and these wonderful grey eyes...

  /SFX/ MIX UP THE SOUNDS OF LA

  RAGUEL NOW

  I say he, but you should understand that none of us had any sex, to speak of. Smooth and empty. Nothing there between the legs. You know.

  /SFX/NOW LA FADES BACK INTO RAGUEL’S CELL IN THE CITY OF ANGELS, AND THE FLAPPING OF LUCIFER’S WINGS...

  RAGUEL NARRATION

  Lucifer shone. I mean it -- he glowed from inside. All angels do. They're lit up from within, and in my cell the angel Lucifer burned like a lightning storm. He looked at me. And he named me.

  LUCIFER

  You are Raguel. The vengeance of the Lord.

  RAGUEL THEN

  Yes. I see. I am Raguel. I am vengeance. That is my name. That is my function.

  LUCIFER

  There has been a ... a wrong thing. The first of its kind. You are needed.

  RAGUEL NARRATION

  He turned and pushed himself into space, and I followed him.

  RAGUEL THEN

  (shouting over the wind of flight)

  It’s astonishing! It’s wonderful!

  LUCIFER

  (in flight)

  The Silver City. Yes. It astonishes. It inspires wonder. It’s all there is, you know.

  RAGUEL THEN

  (in flight)

  What about outside the city? What is that?

  LUCIFER

  (in flight)

  It’s called the Dark. We do not go there. It is not of this place.

  /SFX/ LUCIFER AND RAGUEL TAKE FLIGHT, SWOOP OVER THE CITY, EVENTUALLY LANDING, AS RAGUEL DESCRIBES IT, UNDER...

  RAGUEL NARRATION (CONT’D)

  I flew behind him across the Silver City, to the outskirts, where the City stops and the Darkness begins; and it was there, under a vast silver spire, that we descended to the street, and I saw the dead angel.

  (beat)

  The body lay, crumpled and broken, on the silver sidewalk. Its wings were crushed underneath it and a few loose feathers had already blown into the silver gutter.

  (beat)

  The body was almost dark. Now and again a light would flash inside it, an occasional flicker of cold fire in the chest, or in the eyes, or in the sexless groin, as the last of the glow of life left it for ever.

  (beat)

  Blood pooled in rubies on its chest and stained its white wing-feathers crimson. It was very beautiful, even in death.

  (beat)

  It would have broken your heart.

  LUCIFER

  You must find who was responsible for this, and how; and take the Vengeance of the Name on whoever caused this thing to happen.

  RAGUEL THEN

  I know. The hunt, and the retribution: it is why I was created, in the Beginning; it is what I am. Who was this?

  LUCIFER

  The Angel Carasel. He worked in the Hall of Being, there.

  RAGUEL THEN

  Impressive building.

  LUCIFER

  Perhaps. It serves its function. Do you know who did it yet?

  RAGUEL THEN

  No. Not yet.

  RAGUEL NARRATION

  I leaned down to examine the body. All luminescence had by now left it. It was a dark thing; a parody of an angel. It had a perfect, sexless face, framed by silver hair. One of the eyelids was open, revealing a placid grey eye; the other was closed. There were no nipples on the chest and only smoothness between the legs.

  RAGUEL THEN

  Help me turn him over.

  /SFX/ MOVING AND A GRUNTING.

  LUCIFER

  What happened to it?

  RAGUEL THEN

  It’s a mess. Let’s see: Carasel’s wings are broken and twisted; the back of the head staved in; I think its spine has been broken as well. In a couple of places. There’s blood all over its back.

  (to Lucifer)

  Okay. Let’s turn him back again.

  (inspecting)

  His front is pretty clean. The only blood is in the chest area. Hmm. Some kind of hole in its front. Look -- if I probe it with my forefinger, it enters the body without difficulty.

  LUCIFER

  What have you learned?

  RAGUEL THEN

  He fell. And he was mortally wounded before he fell.

  (Voice treatment -- Raguel in his aspect. He is addressing the whole city, but quietly:)

  Somebody is responsible for this. Somebody made this happen... I will find you, whoever you are. And I will take the Lord's vengeance upon you.

  LUCIFER

  You’re very certain.

  RAGUEL THEN

  Yes.

  LUCIFER

  I have work to attend to.

  /SFX/ FLAPPING WINGS.

  RAGUEL THEN

  Before you go! Who discovered the body? Was it you?

  LUCIFER

  Phanuel. The senior designer in the Hall of Being. You can find him inside.

  RAGUEL THEN

  Yes. I can. Thank you, Lucifer.

  LUCIFER

  You are most welcome. Now, if you’ll excuse me...

  RAGUEL NARRATION

  He flapped his wings, once, hard, and rose upwards; the gust of wind sent the dead angel's loose feathers blowing across the street.

  NARRATOR

  The man took the cigarette stub from behind his ear, lit it with a match.

  /SFX/ LA STREET. A MATCH IS STRUCK, HYPER-REAL...

  RAGUEL NOW

  Waste not, want not. That’s what they say, isn’t it?

  NARRATOR -- LIVE

  That’s what they say, yes.

  NARRATOR

  I could smell the ashtray smell of a dead cigarette, acrid and harsh; then he pulled down to the unburnt tobacco, exhaled blue smoke into the night air.

  RAGUEL NARRATION

  So. The angel who had first discovered the body was called Phanuel.

  /SFX/ THE HALL OF BEING. INT. ANGELS FLAPPING. NOISES OF STRANGE MACHINERY. BUT WITH THE LA NOISES STILL GOING OVER...

  RAGUEL NARRATION (CONT’D)

  I spoke to him in the Hall of Being. That was the spire beside which the dead angel lay. In the Hall hung the... the blueprints, maybe, for what was going to be... all this.

  NARRATOR -- LIVE

  All what? The cars? The streets? LA?

  RAGUEL NOW

  Yeah. All that and more. The universe.

 
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