Murder mysteries, p.3
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       Murder Mysteries, p.3

           Neil Gaiman
 
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  NARRATOR -- LIVE

  The Universe?

  /SFX/ LA NOISE ENDS. HALL OF BEING NOISES GET LOUDER...

  RAGUEL NARRATION

  Phanuel was the senior designer; working under him were a multitude of angels labouring on the details of The Creation. I watched him from the floor of the hall. He hung in the air below the Plan, and angels flew down to him, waiting politely in turn as they asked him questions, checked things with him, invited comment on their work. Eventually he left them, and came down to my level.

  PHANUEL

  (fussy)

  You are Raguel, are you not? What need have you of me?

  RAGUEL THEN

  I hear you found the body.

  PHANUEL

  Poor Carasel? Indeed I did. I was leaving the hall -- there are a number of concepts we are currently constructing, and I wished to ponder one of them, Regret by name. I was planning to get a little distance from the City -- to fly above it, I mean, not to go into the Dark outside, I wouldn't do that, although there has been a some loose talk amongst... but, yes. I was going to rise, and contemplate. I left the Hall, and...

  (his voice cracks)

  Poor foolish Carasel. How could he do that to himself? How?

  RAGUEL THEN

  You think his destruction was self-inflicted?

  PHANUEL

  (surprised at the question)

  But of course. Carasel was working under me, developing a number of concepts that shall be intrinsic to the Universe, when its Name shall be spoken. His group did a remarkable job on some of the real basics -- Dimension was one, and Sleep another. There were others.

  (beat)

  Wonderful work. Some of his suggestions regarding the use of individual viewpoints to define dimensions were truly ingenious. Anyway. He had begun work on a new project. It's one of the really major ones -- the ones that I would usually handle, or possibly even Zephkiel. But Carasel had done such sterling work. And his last project was so remarkable. Something apparently quite trivial, that he and Saraquael elevated into... But that is unimportant. It was this project that forced him into non-being. But none of us could ever have foreseen...

  RAGUEL THEN

  What was his current project?

  PHANUEL

  I'm not sure that I can tell you. All the new concepts are considered sensitive and confidential, until we get them into the final form in which they will be Spoken.

  RAGUEL NARRATION

  I felt myself transforming. I am not sure how I can explain it to you, but suddenly I wasn't me -- I was something larger. I was transfigured: I was my function.

  RAGUEL THEN

  (treatment -- transfigured)

  I am Raguel, who is the Vengeance of the Lord. I serve the Name directly. It is my mission to discover the nature of this deed, and to take the Name's vengeance on those responsible. My questions are to be answered.

  PHANUEL

  (Shaken)

  Yes. Yes of course. Carasel and his partner were researching Death. Cessation of life. An end to physical, animated existence. They were putting it all together. But Carasel always went too far into his work -- we had a terrible time with him when he was designing Agitation. That was when he was working on Emotions...

  RAGUEL THEN

  You think Carasel died to -- to research the phenomenon?

  PHANUEL

  Or because it intrigued him. Or because he followed his research just too far. Yes.

  (beat)

  I trust that you will repeat none of this to any unauthorised persons, Raguel.

  RAGUEL THEN

  What did you do when you found the body?

  PHANUEL

  I came out of the Hall, as I said, and there was Carasel on the sidewalk, staring up. I asked him what he was doing and he did not reply. Then I noticed the inner fluid, and that Carasel seemed unable, rather than unwilling to talk to me.

  (beat)

  I was scared. I did not know what to do.

  The Angel Lucifer came up behind me. He asked me if there was some kind of problem.

  /SFX/ SLIGHT ECHO OVER THIS: A TINY FLASHBACK TO ADD SPICE TO THE NARRATIVE...

  LUCIFER

  ...kind of problem, Phanuel?

  PHANUEL

  Indeed. Yes. This angel. Carasel. A bad thing has happened. A very bad thing.

  PHANUEL (CONT’D)

  (present narration)

  I showed him the body. And then... then his Aspect came upon him, and he communed with The Name. He burned so bright. He said...

  LUCIFER

  (voice treatment -- transfigured)

  I shall fetch the one whose function embraces events such as this.

  PHANUEL

  --and he left -- to seek you, I imagine.

  As Carasel's death was now being dealt with, and his fate was no real concern of mine, I returned to work, having gained a new -- and I suspect, quite valuable -- perspective on the mechanics of Regret. I am considering taking Death away from the Carasel and Saraquael partnership. I may reassign it to Zephkiel, my senior partner, if he is willing to take it on. He excels on contemplative projects. Look, can we hurry this up -- there are dozens of angels waiting to talk to me. I’m extremely busy.

  RAGUEL THEN

  Mm. Who did Carasel work with? Who would have been the last to see him alive?

  PHANUEL

  You could talk to Saraquael, I suppose -- he was his partner, after all. Now, if you'll excuse me...

  (to angels, under...)

  Hmm -- I rather like those, photons are they? but we’re going to have to make them a lot smaller. Now, who has the giraffe patterns...?

  RAGUEL NARRATION

  He returned to his swarm of aides: advising, correcting, suggesting, forbidding.

  /SFX/ LA STREET SOUNDS. CRICKETS.

  RAGUEL NOW

  Hey, did you see that?

  NARRATOR -- LIVE

  What?

  RAGUEL NOW

  Over there. By that car. A jackal. Coyote. Damned if I know what they come into the city for.

  (beat)

  Good story, huh?

  NARRATOR -- LIVE

  I’ve never heard anything like it.

  /SFX/ GHOSTLY CITY OF ANGELS NOISES UNDER, BUT THE LA NOISES REMAIN...

  RAGUEL NOW

  Yeah? Okay. So I went to talk to the Dead angel’s partner. Saraquael was in the highest of the mezzanine galleries that ringed the Hall of Being. As I said, the Universe was in the middle of the Hall, and it glinted and sparkled and shone. Went up quite a way, too...

  NARRATOR -- LIVE

  The Universe you mention, it was, what, a diagram? I don’t quite understand...

  RAGUEL NOW

  Not really. Kind of. Sorta. It was a blueprint: but it was full-sized, and it hung in the Hall, and all these angels went around and fiddled with it all the time. Doing stuff with Gravity, and Music and Klar and whatever. It wasn't really the universe, not yet. It would be, when it was finished, and it was time for it to be properly Named.

  NARRATOR -- LIVE

  I’m sorry. I really don’t see...

  RAGUEL NOW

  Don't worry about it. Think of it as a model, if that makes it easier for you. Or a map. Or a -- what's the word? Prototype. Yeah. A Model T Ford universe.

  (satisfied chuckle)

  You got to understand, a lot of the stuff I'm telling you, I'm translating already; putting it in a form you can understand. Otherwise I couldn't tell the story at all. Look, you want to hear it or you want to keep asking questions?

  NARRATOR -- LIVE

  (keeping the peace) I want to hear it.

  RAGUEL THEN

  Good. So shut up and listen.

  /SFX/THE TOP GALLERY OF THE HALL OF BEING -- SLIGHT ECHO...

  RAGUEL NARRATION

  So I met Saraquael, in the topmost gallery. There was no-one else about -- just him, and some papers, and some small, glowing models.

  RAGUEL THEN

  I've come about Caras
el.

  SARAQUAEL

  Carasel isn't here at this time, I’m afraid. I expect him to return shortly.

  RAGUEL THEN

  Carasel won't be coming back. He's stopped existing as a spiritual entity.

  SARAQUAEL

  He's dead?

  RAGUEL THEN

  That's what I said. Do you have any ideas about how it happened?

  SARAQUAEL

  I... this is so sudden. I mean, he'd been talking about... but I had no idea that he would... well, take it on to the next step...

  RAGUEL THEN

  Take it slowly.

  RAGUEL NARRATION

  He stood up and walked to the window. There was no view of the Silver City from his window -- just a reflected glow from the City and the sky behind us, hanging in the air, and beyond that, the Dark. The wind from the Dark gently caressed Saraquael's hair as he spoke. I stared at his back, and listened.

  SARAQUAEL

  Carasel is... no, was. That's right, isn't it? Was. He was always so involved. And so creative. But it was never enough for him. He always wanted to understand everything -- to experience what he was working on. He was never content to just create it -- to understand it intellectually. He wanted all of it.

  RAGUEL THEN

  All of it?

  SARAQUAEL

  Yes. That wasn't a problem before, when we were working on properties of matter. But when we began to design some of the Named Emotions... he got too involved with his work. And our latest project was Death. It's one of the hard ones -- one of the big ones, too, I suspect. Possibly it may even become the attribute that's going to define the Creation for the Created: if not for Death, they'd be content to simply exist, but with Death, well, their lives will have meaning -- a boundary beyond which the living cannot cross...

  RAGUEL THEN

  So you’re saying you think he killed himself?

  SARAQUAEL

  I know he did.

  (beat)

  That’s him, isn’t it?

  RAGUEL THEN

  Excuse me?

  SARAQUAEL

  The white and red dot on the sidewalk, down there. Is that Carasel?

  RAGUEL THEN

  I believe so.

  SARAQUAEL

  How can they just leave him there like that?

  RAGUEL THEN

  Someone will clean up the mess.

  SARAQUAEL

  Who?

  RAGUEL THEN

  I don’t know who. But there will be an angel whose function it is to remove things that are unwanted. My function is discovery and vengeance. So how do you know that Carasel killed himself?

  SARAQUAEL

  How? There’s no other possible explanation. Look, recently he'd begun asking questions -- questions about Death. How could we know whether or not it was right to make this thing, to set the rules, if we were not going to experience it ourselves. He kept talking about it.

  RAGUEL THEN

  Didn't you wonder about this? Weren’t you concerned?

  SARAQUAEL

  Not in the slightest. That is our function -- to discuss, to improvise, to aid the Creation and the Created. We sort it out now, so that when it all Begins, it'll run like clockwork. Right now we're working on Death. So obviously that's what we look at. The physical aspect; the emotional aspect; the philosophical aspect...

  RAGUEL THEN

  So that was what Carasel was working on?

  SARAQUAEL

  That and the patterns. Carasel had the notion that what we do here in the Hall of Being creates patterns. That there are structures and shapes appropriate to beings and events that, once begun, must continue until they reach their end. For us, perhaps, as well as for them. Conceivably he felt this was one of his patterns.

  RAGUEL THEN

  I see. I think. Did you know Carasel well?

  SARAQUAEL

  As well as any of us know each other. We saw each other here; we worked side by side. At certain times I would retire to my cell, across the city. Sometimes he would do the same.

  RAGUEL THEN

  Mm. Tell me about Phanuel.

  SARAQUAEL

  (confidentially -- gossiping)

  The boss? Honestly? He's officious. Doesn't do much -- farms everything out, and takes all the credit.

  (intimately)

  To hear him talk, you'd think that Love was all his own work. But to his credit he does make sure the work gets done. Zephkiel's the real thinker of the two senior designers, but he doesn't come here. He stays back in his cell in the City, and contemplates; resolves problems from a distance. If you need to speak to Zephkiel, you go to Phanuel, and Phanuel relays your questions to Zephkiel...

  RAGUEL THEN

  (interrupting)

  How about Lucifer? Tell me about him.

  SARAQUAEL

  Lucifer? The Captain of the Host? He doesn't work here... He has visited the Hall a couple of times, though -- inspecting the Creation. They say he reports directly to the Name. I have never spoken to him.

  RAGUEL THEN

  Did he know Carasel?

  SARAQUAEL

  I doubt it. As I said, he has only been here twice. I have seen him on other occasions, though. Through the window over there. In flight. On his way somewhere.

  RAGUEL THEN

  Where was he going?

  SARAQUAEL

  I.... I don't know.

  RAGUEL THEN

  It’s beautiful, isn’t it? The city, from this height. And the darkness, beyond the city...

  SARAQUAEL

  Yes. It’s beautiful. It’s all there is.

  RAGUEL THEN

  I may want to talk with you some more, later.

  SARAQUAEL

  Very good... Sir? Do you know if they will be assigning me another partner? For Death?

  RAGUEL THEN

  No. I’m afraid I don't.

  /SFX/MUSIC UNDER. RUNNING WATER -- A RIVER...

  RAGUEL NARRATION

  In the centre of the Silver City was a park -- a place of recreation and rest. I found the Angel Lucifer there, beside a river. He was just standing, watching the water flow.

  RAGUEL THEN

  Lucifer?

  LUCIFER

  Raguel. Are you making progress?

  RAGUEL THEN

  I don't know. Maybe. I need to ask you a few questions. Do you mind?

  LUCIFER

  Not at all.

  RAGUEL THEN

  How did you come upon the body?

  LUCIFER

  I didn't. Not exactly. I saw Phanuel, standing in the street. He looked distressed. I enquired whether there was something wrong, and he showed me the dead angel. And I fetched you.

  RAGUEL THEN

  I see.

  /SFX/ THE SOUND OF WATER.

  LUCIFER

  The water’s so cold... Is that all?

  RAGUEL THEN

  Not quite. What were you doing in that part of the City?

  LUCIFER

  I don't see what business that is of yours.

  RAGUEL THEN

  It is my business, Lucifer. What were you doing there?

  LUCIFER

  I was... walking. I do that sometimes. Just walk, and think. And try to understand.

  RAGUEL THEN

  You walk on the edge of the City?

  LUCIFER

  (a beat)

  Yes.

  RAGUEL THEN

  That's all I want to know. For now.

  LUCIFER

  Who else have you talked to?

  RAGUEL THEN

  Carasel's boss, and his partner. They both feel that he killed himself -- ended his own life.

 
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