Wednesday, October 19, 2011
The nervous man, who looked about forty, had long, graying hair pulled back in a ponytail. A tattoo of a snake ran up his left arm. The lady reminded Elliot of his second grade school teacher. “I apologize for the wait,” he said. “My name’s Detective Elliot. I’d like to ask you a few questions.”
Conley introduced Bill Morton as the man who discovered the body and Ella Mae Smith as the woman who had called the police. Elliot pulled the man aside first, and after a few steps, he flipped open his notepad. “Mr. Morton, how did you happen to discover the deceased?”
Morton gestured toward the scene. “I was coming up through here, going to the park. The Mercedes was sitting by the dumpster, all crooked-like, so I noticed it right off. When I went past, I saw someone was in the car. She didn’t look right, wasn’t moving or anything, so I thought I’d better have a look.” Morton paused and cleared his throat. “Knew she was dead when I saw all the blood.”
Elliot made a notation. “Do you recall what time that was?”
“I don’t know, about five thirty, I guess.”
“Do you work around here, Mr. Morton?”
“Nah, nothing like that, I was just out getting a little exercise.”
Elliot tapped his notepad. Morton was wearing athletic shoes, but the rest of his attire, blue denim jeans and a western shirt, didn’t seem to confirm his explanation. “Did you see anyone else nearby?”
“No, but I wasn’t really looking.”
“Any other cars in the area?”
“Not that I noticed. Except for Mrs. Smith. She pulled in across the way and stopped. She used her phone to call you guys, after I asked her to.”
“Why do you suppose she stopped?”
Morton shrugged and reached into his shirt pocket for a pack of cigarettes. He lit up then tossed the match onto the tarmac. “I don’t know, Mr. Elliot. Maybe she saw something she didn’t like.”
Elliot weighed the response. Morton wasn’t dressed for a night on the town any more than he was for jogging, but his clothes were free of bloodstains and had no rips or tears. He had no weapons on him, and none were found at the crime scene. It would be nearly impossible to inflict that kind of wound on someone without getting dirty. Of course he could have gotten rid of the weapon, but if he were the killer, why would he leave to ditch the weapon and change clothes, only to return to the scene and call the cops? It didn’t seem likely, but Elliot still got the impression Morton wasn’t being entirely truthful. “I’d like to ask you to come down to the station with us, Mr. Morton. You’re not under arrest. We just want to ask you a few more questions.”
A streetwise look of understanding crossed Morton’s face. Elliot had seen the look before; Morton had a bit of experience with the police, knew something about their procedures. The last thing he wanted was to go downtown with a bunch of cops, but he figured he had no choice. If he refused it would indicate guilt. If he tried to turn and run, that would be probable cause. He took a draw on his cigarette. “This is exactly why people don’t want to get involved. I try to do a good deed and the first thing you know, I’m a suspect.”
“Everyone’s a suspect, Mr. Morton.”
“Yeah? Well, I bet you don’t take Mrs. Prissy over there.”
“Don’t bet on it,” Elliot said. “I’d haul the Pope in if I thought he was connected to the case.”
Morton shook his head. “You probably would, at that. Yeah, sure, I’ll go answer your questions. Not like I got much choice anyway.”
After thanking Mr. Morton, Elliot went to the other witness. “Would you mind telling me why you were in the area this morning, Mrs. Smith?”
Ella Mae Smith smiled, and began to speak. “It’s Monday. I come down on Mondays and Wednesdays to look after Edna Jones. She gets up with the chickens, if you know what I mean. We’re both members of the Presbyterian Church. I’ve been looking in on older folks who need it for ten years now, not that I wouldn’t mind taking a break from it for awhile…taking care of this and worrying about that…but just try and get someone else to do it. Everyone wants to help, so long as they don’t have to take responsibility for it. If you want to quiet down a congregation, just ask for volunteers. And Pastor Schaffer can be quite demanding.” She paused and shook her head, then continued, “It’s not like I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. Patricia Letterman, God rest her soul, tried to warn me. She did it for years, you know, until her health started to fail.”
“I see,” Elliot said. “Could you tell me what caused you to pull up here?”
“Well, it was that car.”
“Yes, sir. Pastor Schaffer has one just like it. Not that he’d park it there. I guess that’s what caught my attention. And that strange man lurking about, glancing up and down the sidewalk, all nervous and jittery, like a cat in a room full of dogs.”
“You mean Mr. Morton?”
“Yes, sir. I would’ve just driven on, because I’d figured out by then that it wasn’t Pastor Schaffer’s car. And that Morton man looked like he was about to leave, too. But then he stopped and pressed his face against the window of that car, like he was trying to get a better look at what was inside. Well, that didn’t last long. He backed away from there like he’d touched a hot stove, and I just figured he was going to take off running cause that’s what it looked like he wanted to do, but then he saw me.”
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Tuesday, October 11, 2011
The Alchemy of Potter – Part III
After arranging for and overseeing the burial of Maestro Canches, Nicolas Flamel returned to his home in Paris where he resumed his work as a scribe and a seller of books. However, as you might have suspected, the story does not end there.
According to Flamel, during his brief association with Canches, he’d gained enough knowledge from the Maestro to allow him to interpret the mysterious book he’d come into the possession of. As a result of his study, he achieved, approximately three years later, the holy grail of alchemy, the art of transmutation. If Flamel is to be believed, he successfully created the substance, in the form of a dry powder, which is known as the philosopher’s stone, and used it to change one half pound of mercury into pure gold.
It’s important to note here that some claim the stone is actually a metaphor for an inner potential of the spirit to evolve from a lower state of imperfection and vice, symbolized by the base metals, to a higher state of enlightenment and perfection, symbolized by gold. In Flamel’s words, due to his understanding of the book of Abraham the Jew, he had risen above the satisfaction of the senses and the turmoil of passions. It’s also important to remember that Nicolas Flamel was a Christian, who devoted much of his life to working out his personal salvation. In addition, Flamel was informed in a dream, by an angel of the Lord, that he would be receiving the book of Abraham the Jew.
As to what, exactly, Nicolas Flamel actually created or achieved is open to speculation. However, historical records bear testimony to some remarkable things he accomplished after having interpreted the book of Abraham the Jew. Flamel, and his wife Pernelle, continued to live a modest life. However, during this period of their lives, they began to act as wealthy benefactors. They established low-income housing for the poor, founded free hospitals, donated heavily to area churches, repaired cemeteries, and endowed the Quinze-Vingts, an institution for the blind. No small feat for a seller of books.
Flamel’s gifts were so generous that they aroused curiosity and even jealousy among his peers, enough so that King Charles VI eventually heard of it and ordered an investigation of the matter. Due to Flamel’s prudence and reticence, though, nothing much came of it.
Nicolas Flamel reached the age of eighty before he passed away. With his wife, Pernelle, having preceded him in death, Flamel carefully settled his affairs and planned how he was to be buried at the end of the nave of Saint-Jacques Boucherie. His gravesite, at the Musee de Cluny in Paris, can still be visited. As might be expected, though, his death was as circumspect as his life. Flamel was not long buried when news of his death and, due to his alchemical prowess, suspicions of enormous quantities of gold concealed within his property, spread throughout the area. Would be Alchemists and fortune hunters came in droves to search for his treasures. Sculptures and inscribed stones at Saint-Jacques Boucherie, and the Cemetery of the Innocents were broken and carried away under the cover of darkness. Flamel’s houses were ransacked and nearly destroyed. However, other than alleged reports of a few vials containing a reddish powder, nothing was ever found.
What happened to the book of Abraham the Jew?
Nicolas Flamel bequeathed his papers and library to a nephew named Perrier, who was also interested in alchemy. For two centuries, the book was handed down from father to son without much being heard of it. During the reign of King Louis XIII, news of the book resurfaced. A descendant of Flamel, named Dubois, who supposedly had a supply of the reddish powder, ignored the wise reserve of his ancestors and used the powder to gain attention. Reportedly, in the presence of the King, he changed lead balls into gold. It is known that during this time Dubois had many interviews with Cardinal de Richelieu, who no doubt wished to learn the secret. Not long after the interviews, Dubois was imprisoned at Vincennes where he was later condemned to death. It is believed that Cardinal de Richelieu took possession of the book of Abraham the Jew. He built a laboratory at the Chateau of Rueil, which he often visited to study the manuscript. With the death of the cardinal, all traces of the original book disappeared.
What about Nicolas Flamel?
When news of the book of Abraham the Jew resurfaced during Dubois’ incarceration, robbers made their way during the night to the church of Saint-Jacques la Boucherie where they lifted Flamel’s tombstone and broke into his coffin. After this, rumors quickly spread that the coffin had been found empty, and that it had never contained the body of Flamel, who was believed to still be alive. If that were true, since Louis XIII reigned from 1610-1643, and Flamel was born somewhere around 1330, that would have put Flamel around 300 years old at the time.
Is it possible that a 680 year old alchemist still roams the streets of Paris? Perhaps we should ask Harry Potter.
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