“I was only lengthening the wings on the king’s back.” Jensen explained, in reasonable tones. “I thought that if I could do it – and get away with it – I could provoke an academic discussion about the meaning of the Zuabu Bowl. The longer wings are suggestive of a demon, you see. Not a king.”
“The bowl’s been photographed countless times. Everyone would know it’s been changed. Who were you hoping to fool?”
He shrugged but did not argue. Did not even seem to understand. It was as if logic was a seven dollar bill to his mind – untenable, unusable.
Just then, a deputy cracked open the door and poked her head through.
“Superintendent Horowitz? I have an urgent phone call from…”
She waved the girl away without looking at her. “If it’s another important person calling to chew on my ass, tell them to take a metaphorical number, have a metaphorical seat, and then sit the fuck down for a very non-metaphorical wait. I’m interviewing the perp, okay? No disturbances for another hour.”
When they were alone, Dana turned her attention back to him.
“And you’re telling me you’ve done this before? Many times?”
“Yes. All over the world, and in all kinds of places. Archeological digs. Temples Museums. World Heritage sites. It’s incredible how poorly guarded most of them are. And whenever there’s a back turned, or a lock that’s not locked, I get in there and make the world a stranger and more wonderful place.”
“You destroy things. It’s amazing you haven’t been shot by now.”
“No, what’s amazing is the lives I change!” The ridiculous man adopted a Tony Robbins air. “Think of the digs that get funded because of what I do! Think of the journals that stay in print! And think of the countless youngsters who enter academia’s ivory towers because the mysteries I’ve planted at ancient sites…and their brains!”
“No.” She shook her head. “You’re not making this better for yourself at all.”
“I remember how I started down my current path. I was reading about palaeontology, and a strange occurrence in Eastern Colorado. Apparently, Palaeontologist Edward Drinker Cope unearthed a partial vertebra of a massive new dinosaur of the diplodocidae family. If his measurements are accurate and the dinosaur was of the same proportions as other diplodocids, it would have absolutely been the largest creature to ever exist – even bigger than today’s blue whale.
“But nobody knows for sure, because we don’t know where the the vertebra is now – if it even existed. All attempts to locate it have failed, and we can only rely on Cope’s illustrations and his measurements.
“I read about this, and I was suffused with a sense of certainty. It was a hoax, you see. Someone drew up some pictures, and forged Cope’s handwriting and signature. How? Why? I don’t know, but in doing so, he spawned an entire cottage industry trying to locate this giant dinosaur.”
If Dana’s face did not change, it was only because it had hit the bottom of a slippery slope. Complete incredulity.
“I will never know who this man was, but I salute him, and hope to carry on his tradition. I will fake things. I will break things. And in doing so, I will make the world a more exciting and wonderful place.”
“This is ridiculous.”
“It is sublime. It is almost a holy duty. Just last year, I was in Peru, at the old Incan stronghold of Sacsayhuaman. Though there was a sign saying we should not litter, I did leave behind a small rock, inscribed with the syllabary of the Kamakura-era Japan. It was aged to authenticity in my own oven. Come last week, and what do I see?” He jabbed a finger in the air. “A brand spanking new article in PLOS Journal, arguing that there had been trans-Pacific contact between Japan and South America! The author’s knockdown argument? A rock inscribed with Japanese characters at an old relic site. My rock! He wants to finance an expedition to dig up every corpse they can get their hands on and sequence the DNA, and he might just manage it. He should write me a check.”
“Why am I listening to this?”
“I’ve crossed and recrossed the world. I’ve scratched Christian symbols in the palaces of Han Chinese emperors. I’ve planted aged maize in ancient Egyptian tombs. I’ve put Eurasian bird fossils in Australian dig sites. And then I come home, and wait for the mail. I’m subscribed to every relevant journal in existence, and there’s always great delight when my mysteries are uncovered. I long for the sound of the mailman delivering a stack of magazines. That’s my Christmas.”
She suddenly found she couldn’t endure this man any more. His enthusiasm seemed to be achieved through vampiric theft of her own.
She summoned a deputy to the office. “Take Mr Jensen and sit him in the holding cell. I have some paperwork to do.”
As he left, he caught one last glimpse of his eyes, at the tidal swells of rapturous happiness contorting his face. A magician loves to perform, even if he does have to reveal his tricks at the end of the show.
She grabbed his psyche file, and started filling it in.
MENTAL DIAGNOSIS? One field asked.
She just wrote “Mystery.”