The Invisible Moment
by A. Molotkov, S.B. Reda, Pamela Zero
“So, Harry is dead,” Goombeldt thinks. It is hard to believe. More than hard, impossible to believe. He finds himself in his room, pacing back and forth. When he got off the train yesterday morning, he was the one to identify the other guests. Sure, he had expected a car to pick them up. But knowing Harry, he was not that surprised. He suggested they take a cab. Had he deterred the guests, told them to go back instead, nothing would have happened. The guests. What about the guests? The thought has been there right on the tip of his brain since the very moment they discovered the body. When he saw Katie on the stairway this morning, coming from the side Harry’s bedroom is in, he was surprised. Her own bedroom is the other way.
Shaken, grieving, shocked, Kate is going to be sick. She flashes back to her meeting with Harry last month. His voice, his laughter, the accidental meeting of their fingers on the banister... She’s unable to reconcile the image of the Harry she knew with the Harry before her, lying still in his bed, cold, motionless…
“Oh my god! Harry is dead!” Dr. Van Der Hoven shudders with the thought that the person he has in mind could be capable of such a crime.
“True”, Dr. Van Der Hoven thinks, “our meetings were brief, but I never got the sense that he was capable of the vicious act which he undeniably has committed! Perhaps I am not the good judge of character that I consider myself to be.”
Dr. Van Der Hoven is a very serious psychic tactician who employs a battery of thorough, metaphysical tests that one must pass before he will consider befriending them. “Of course!” he thinks to himself. “I should have employed the very same technique that he used to take over and ultimately terminate Harry’s character - aura transposition and tampering (that is, the illegal covetation and use of another’s aura for the explicit purpose of defrauding one or many).”
The letter they all had received. They discussed it in the cab. But who really sent it? And if Harry really sent it himself, what did he mean by “too late”. It seems that they came on time, but still too late.
Well, now I am to play the part of Harry all by myself, Goombeldt thinks recalling their first meeting. Harry hired him to impersonate himself at an official ceremony. Well, it was a better way to make a few bucks than acting in commercials. The request did take him by surprise, for sure. They practiced for a couple of weeks, and it was Harry’s unshakeable conviction that helped them along, since Goombeldt was uncertain that the endeavor would work. But it did, and so smoothly that no one suspected anything. Even those who knew Harry well.
She is filled with a roaring rage. How could this have happened? Who did this to him? Suddenly, as if someone were pouring cold, slick oil over her thoughts, Kate’s mind stills.
It is obvious. Dr. Van Der Hoven did it. “Of course,” Kate murmurs aloud, and then silences herself. “Dr. Van Der Hoven was struck with the idea of killing Harry as soon as he met him. Dr. Van Der Hoven thought that Harry was part of a Secret Group of some kind, you know, the rich cats get together and rule the world sort of thing. Dr. Van Der Hoven wanted in, Harry wouldn’t let him.”
But the facts are staggering! After careful deliberation, Dr. Van Der Hoven arrives at the only conclusion that one logically could – Goombeldt murdered Harry!
“Where did I go wrong?” Dr. Van Der Hoven thinks to himself.
Dr. Van Der Hoven was surprised to see Goombeldt at the train station yesterday morning. Moreover, he was sure that the fact that both of them were going to see Harry at the same time was a surreal coincidence, (a condition that was remedied when Katie appeared from nowhere and identified Goombeldt). What was clear at that moment was that they were all invited to Harry’s home for a special reason: a solemn letter sent to each one of them that read, “Come before it is too late.” What was the “it” to which Harry was referring?
Why did she do it?
The answer is prosaic like all such answers, and Katie herself has provided it. Didn't she say yesterday afternoon, “I will never be able to pay him back”? Goombeldt overheard her say this to Dr. Van Der Hoven. Not that he was trying to listen in on their conversation – he just couldn't help hearing it. When she said she was going to take a nap, what did she really do? She had us both tied-up, Goombeldt thinks. Dr. Van Der Hoven and he playing ping pong. Not only did she know we would be at it for a while, but she would hear if we stopped. They didn't keep score. Dr. Van Der Hoven was, to put it mildly, a mediocre player. And then later, who was it who suggested to go swimming? That’s when she gave him the note.
Kate realizes that Harry was in danger from Dr. Van Der Hoven as soon as Dr. Van Der Hoven told her he had met Harry at a convention in Kansas City. He asked Harry to pass the sugar - an obvious code sentence (probably meaning “safety in numbers” or something like that) clearly designed to lure Harry out into the open. But sweet Harry was innocent of any wrongdoing and missed the cue, and Dr. Van Der Hoven was clearly forced to pretend friendship with him in order to infiltrate the Secret Group.
After lunch, Katie went back to her room for a nap and Dr. Van Der Hoven accepted an invitation to a game of ping-pong from Goombeldt, who first went to his room for something. Dr. Van Der Hoven remembered being really happy about the prospect of playing, as he had a need to keep his skills sharp – he was due to participate in an international ping-pong tournament the very next week, and playing against a sub-standard player such as Goombeldt would provide enough of a challenge to do the trick. But when Dr. Van Der Hoven entered the room, his body was overcome by a wave of nausea, which instinctively forced him to muster all of his strength to suppress the vomit that was dangerously rising in his throat. Goombeldt’s eyes appeared like two unsheathed daggers that penetrated Dr. Van Der Hoven’s heart, and there was nothing that Dr. Van Der Hoven could do about it. He thought that perhaps he should strike Goombeldt, but immediately considered Harry and how ashamed he would be if he learned that Dr. Van Der Hoven attacked one of his guests. But as Dr. Van Der Hoven recalls, he could not stand this sight – Goombeldt was no longer wearing his glasses!
“This is something that I cannot tolerate!” Dr. Van Der Hoven thought.
Can you imagine living a life in which every non-bespectacled fellow conjures within you such a venomous feeling of hate that you are almost certain that you have been possessed by the very devil himself? Can you imagine walking down a city street and wishing to launch the un-goggled through the closest window? This is how Dr. Van Der Hoven felt. It was embarrassing to him. His family certainly didn’t help – instead of assisting him in getting over this trauma, they opted to wear glasses instead. This sort of enabling has created the monster that he is today!
Later last night, instead of undertaking an acting practice in the video room, he should have been aware of what was happening in the house. But why is he supposed to be the one entrusted with the care for Harry’s safety? He tried a few different parts, until he felt tired and ready to go to sleep. What time was it? Rather late, apparently. Goombeldt didn't memorize the exact time. The exact time didn't matter anyway.
Why did Harry want someone else to take his place at that meeting? Certainly not to save time: they spent much more time practicing. Was it just a joke? It must have been. Goombeldt has asked Harry about it, but for some reason his replies never seemed sincere. Maybe they were? Maybe their presumed insincerity was itself a part of the joke? Anyway, one never can tell an object of a joke from its subject. And what fun is a joke if no one is aware that it is a joke? I don't believe anyone except for the two of us even knows about it, Goombeldt thinks. Well, it’s just one of us now, he corrects himself.
Kate feels bile rise in her throat as she recalls Dr. Van Der Hoven’s duplicity. At dinner last night, he pretended to be just as puzzled and confused as the rest when Harry still did not make his appearance. Kate got very drunk after dinner, as her hopes for a reaction from her note to Harry faded with time. She knows that he saved her life that day when he passed her on the freeway in his limo. Kate was on her tiny Bott’s Dots installer, perched nodding behind the controls trying to recover from yet another evening of drinking. Harry swerved the car and nearly hit her. The shock of it woke her up, shook her up and got her thinking. She remembers muttering “I’ll never be able to repay him” as she spent the rest of the evening wandering from room to room in an effort to find Harry’s safe and get the details about the Secret Group straight so that she could thwart Dr. Van Der Hoven once and for all.
Shifting across the limitless sky, the eye of the telescope focused in on Harry’s home. As Dr. Van Der Hoven trained the lens on the darkened frame of Katie’s room, he realized that either it was vacant or Katie had gone to sleep. Since she had been drinking a little more heavily than Goombeldt or himself, he thought that perhaps she had passed out. Of course, twenty-four hours before, Dr. Van Der Hoven had no knowledge of this person named Katie, so to say she had passed out was a great assumption on his part. But Dr. Van Der Hoven was confident that this person would succumb to the silent hand of sleep much sooner than the others, so he decided there was no point in spying on her room any longer. In fact, Dr. Van Der Hoven thought that perhaps it was not the most polite thing to be doing in the first place, so he turned the telescope away and noticed a light coming from Goombeldt’s room.
“What is he up to?” Dr. Van Der Hoven thought.
The light was leaving the confines of the room, returning as a dim apparition in the windows of the other rooms along the hall.
“Oh no!” Dr. Van Der Hoven thought to himself. “He is moving!”
Dr. Van Der Hoven felt he had to do something, perhaps chase down the light or scream to startle Goombeldt. But he hadn’t the courage to do that or anything else; he just froze. In retrospect, Dr. Van Der Hoven realized he did have strength - the strength to not move. Having merely adrenaline-charged blood left to pump through his heart, Dr. Van Der Hoven prayed to the Christ Brothers, hoping that he had not seen what he had definitely seen – and then, with no warning, the light disappeared. While Dr. Van Der Hoven was contemplating its very existence, the physical evidence vanished from the radar. Perhaps he too had had too much to drink. It was 10:45pm - time to go to sleep.
When they got in yesterday morning, they found a note. “Please make yourselves comfortable. I’ll be down shortly.” Coffee and snacks were awaiting them. They exchanged a few words only. Did Katie seem suspicious then? When did she first reveal herself? Retrospectively, it’s hard to tell. She said something about Harry’s almost killing her. What did she mean? When the gong rang later, Goombeldt felt almost responsible for explaining that it was lunchtime. Did he know that for a fact? Not really, but the part of the one who knows more than others somehow appealed to him since their meeting at the station. Likewise, he presumed that food would be provided – and there it was, neatly packaged in the refrigerator.
The note that she had given Goombeldt at the pool to pass on to Harry would have been the perfect opening bid in the ultimate game of chance. Now she is not sure if Harry ever read it. When did Dr. Van Der Hoven kill Harry? Yesterday afternoon? Before or after she gave Goombeldt the note? Kate recalls her meeting with Dr. Van Der Hoven out on the porch - his squirming and fidgeting and obvious discomfort. “Oh god!” Kate gasps, ”That’s when he did it! Just after he bolted inside after talking with me! Obviously, my friendship with Harry was throwing a wrench in the works - after all, with a trusted and loyal friend of Harry’s here on the premises, how much wiggling into Harry’s inner circle could Dr. Van Der Hoven do? None. So he ran upstairs, demanded that Harry reveal to him the existence of the Group, and when Harry would not (since he could not) Dr. Van Der Hoven killed him. Right there in bed. Must have used some kind of poison dart - instant, painless, leaving poor Harry looking so peaceful and calm.”
Dr. Van Der Hoven awoke at 8:45 this morning, and of course, the first thing that came to mind was the terrifying visage of Goombeldt doing his evil dance from the night before. In his dream, Dr. Van Der Hoven envisioned Goombeldt performing this tribal dance over Harry’s decapitated carcass, drinking his blood from a decrepit skull. Something happened to Harry; there was no longer any doubt. Even in his dream, marbleized monkeys jumped about excitedly, imploring Dr. Van Der Hoven to call the police and have Goombeldt arrested. So what remained was the disclosure of exactly what happened and the notification of the authorities – please, come take Goombeldt away! The effect of this dream was profound, and it has been the only thing that Dr. Van Der Hoven could think about. Even during the opening chords of the morning, Dr. Van Der Hoven endured wide-awake nightmares of miniature marionettes dancing to the whims of a puppeteer in the middle of a town square. The puppets danced until they broke themselves free, and playfully ran into the crowd that was watching them. With the precision of a military marching band, the animated puppets hung their strings over the unsuspecting necks of the approving crowd, and pulled the slack until the audience’s eyes popped out! And the puppet master was Goombeldt!
Nevertheless, Dr. Van Der Hoven remembers trying to maintain his composure throughout the game, which he would have won much easier than he did had he been more settled. But even from his sideways glances, Dr. Van Der Hoven was able to tell that Goombeldt had interests other than the game. After a while, it became clear to Goombeldt that playing ping-pong against Dr. Van Der Hoven would do nothing to enhance his ego, as he suggested that they drop the game and go for a swim. Or perhaps he had something else in mind. As luck would have it, Katie was waiting outside in her bathing suit, readying herself for the pool. Or was it luck? The water was beckoning them ¼
While Dr. Van Der Hoven was floating at one end (again, he wished to have nothing to do with Goombeldt at this point), he remembers that the other two were laughing and carrying on at the other end. He recalls that his skin began to shrivel like a prune, so he got out of the pool, immediately followed by the others. Astonished that it was already after 5 p.m., he announced that he was going back to his room to ready himself for dinner (assuming that the food would automatically appear on its cue).
When Dr. Van Der Hoven arrived at the fund-raiser, he expected to be the only one there (since he was an hour and a half early!). But sure enough, as Dr. Van Der Hoven remembers, there was Harry, sitting at one of the tables closest to the dais, sipping tea and going over some notes. He had been billed as one of the evening’s guest speakers. Dr. Van Der Hoven recalled seeing his name on the program, but was not quite certain who he was. In fact, all he had really known about Harry was that he was a wealthy businessman who dedicated much of his free time to these (and other) causes – finally, someone to whom he could relate! After a formal introduction, Dr. Van Der Hoven sat down. For the next hour, they discussed the plight of those who were afflicted with the terrible and insidious non-threatening, non-intrusive, hardly detectable diseases that were currently running rampant throughout the country. Harry was able to correctly measure the pulse of this unfortunate group, which had given him a unique insight of which Dr. Van Der Hoven felt all the more honored to learn. Dr. Van Der Hoven couldn't wait until Harry’s speech! Afterwards, they went out for drinks, and have been good friends ever since, fighting the good fight for the less fortunate.
Katie didn't really do that much to hide her act. Goombeldt saw her snooping around last night. She was pretending to be drunk. Obviously just a trick. And that note! The note Katie asked him to give to Goombeldt. Why didn't she do it herself? He meant to ask her at the time, but it didn't seem polite. This morning, when they entered Harry’s room, the note was gone! What did it say? Too bad he didn't open it last night. After all, he carried it in his pocket for half a day. He no longer regrets forgetting to deliver the note on time. Maybe he should have never delivered it at all!
After leaving the scene of the ghastly crime, Dr. Van Der Hoven finds himself sitting at the top of the steps, remembering what his father once said to him: “Show me your friends and I will show you who you are.” It would be fair to say that Harry (and by extension his friends) was a model citizen, a person you could trust and confide in. Of course, Dr. Van Der Hoven thought he could count on the precise judgment of his former host Harry¼
Kate berates herself for not noticing sooner, for not tracking Harry down and warning him the minute she arrived at the house. But his letter had been so vague - “Come before it’s too late! I’ve reserved a seat for you for the 8:45am train” – and upon meeting the other two at the train station, she found them harmless enough. She recalls the slight repulsion she felt while shaking Dr. Van Der Hoven’s hand and the way his eyes slid quickly away from hers. Kate tries to remember who suggested sharing the taxi - then thinks of the note they had found upon arriving at the house. “Please make yourself at home. I’ll be with you as soon as I can.” Sweet, sweet Harry. He had put out coffee and cookies for them, small cakes and some fruit. What did they talk about, she wonders? Why did they accept Harry’s absence so casually? Oh yes, she remembers now, they spent a few minutes discussing Harry and his oddness and then found their respective rooms. She thought at the time that maybe this would be the visit when she and Harry would finally admit their feelings for each other. Finally, the charade would end. And now he is there on the bed, so still, so quiet. Her mind starts racing again and she stuffs part of her sleeve in her mouth to keep from sobbing aloud.
Following a nice rest, Dr. Van Der Hoven left to go out and walk the grounds. He had always enjoyed the landscaping of Harry’s property; a meticulous arrangement of flowers and shrubs aligned in interesting configurations, all surrounding a crystal clear swimming pool into which Dr. Van Der Hoven made a point of dipping his foot – not too cold, as he remembers! Around noon, Dr. Van Der Hoven stumbled upon Katie (he assumed she was taking advantage of the good weather, as he saw her tanning on the patio). He took a seat on the lounge chair next to hers and they began to talk of how they had met Harry. Needless to say, Dr. Van Der Hoven was quite blown away by the bizarre circumstances under which she had met Harry, but it did not surprise him to learn of Harry’s kindness afterwards.
Dr. Van Der Hoven remembers hearing the gong toll in the foyer. There he met the other two (Katie just reached the bottom of the stairs when he arrived); Goombeldt assumed that it must be lunchtime (he, having had spent much more time at the house than the others, could rightly assume such a thing), so they promptly went off to the kitchen. There were sandwiches waiting in the refrigerator – freshly made! In fact, Harry must have made them himself since nobody but he knew that Dr. Van Der Hoven must have both pieces of bread on top of each other (with nothing in between!) while all of the fixings and fillers sat on top of them.
The group sat down at the table to eat, and collectively they began to wonder where their host was (this made Dr. Van Der Hoven feel a little better, since it was clear that he was not the only one who was concerned). Dr. Van Der Hoven recalls Goombeldt’s attempts to amuse by providing a little more insight into the nature of his relationship with Harry – it really was a funny story. On the other hand, Dr. Van Der Hoven became somewhat more skeptical of him following that story, a skepticism that would grow.
And Harry’s letter? Why did it say “Come before it’s too late!” He must have had a premonition. Did he know it was Katie? And if he did, why did he invite her? Goombeldt sighs realizing that the answers to all of these questions may never become available.
When Harry asked him to impersonate him, could it be that he was really hoping to fail? Perhaps he was secretly venturing to prove that he was irreplaceable? Perhaps the success of their endeavor ended up being a disappointment? One could never tell what was on his mind – at least Goombeldt could never tell.
And yesterday afternoon, exploring the house alone, why didn’t she take the time to find Harry? Some misled sense of honoring his privacy. Everything pointed to Harry’s being in trouble - the sandwiches left in the fridge for lunch should have been a sure-fire clue that something was amiss. Harry was a consummate host and lunch made two meals that he had missed. She should have known. But then of course she had fallen asleep, and then joined Dr. Van Der Hoven and Goombeldt out at the pool for a swim. And she has to admit now that all she was thinking about then was finding a way to tell Harry how she felt about him.
Since Katie was already started on her way (it seemed that a small amount of alcohol was all that it would take to get her tipsy), she departed the dining room early with a bottle and glass under her arm. “Katie seems like a kind person,” Dr. Van Der Hoven thought, “aside from the incident by the lounge chairs”. He felt that she is a harmless woman who really enjoys the moment and the people who share it – not the murdering type for certain! Shaking himself from his thoughts, Dr. Van Der Hoven noted that it was 7:30, so he figured that he had at least an hour of daylight left to sit out and read. Leaving the room, he noticed that Goombeldt went off into Harry’s music room to tinker with the various instruments.
Dr. Van Der Hoven was completely engrossed in the story that he was reading; it was a tale of two lovers who together made a complete human - they were voluntarily conjoined twins. Since one of the two (the female) came from a rich family, it was decided by that family’s elders that an emergency operation would be arranged - an operation that would make her whole, like a normal human. However, this physical split would render her lover completely useless and he would expire instantaneously. Dr. Van Der Hoven remembers getting to the part where the female is being told that an operation has been scheduled on her behalf, when he noticed that it was completely dark and that he had been reading merely from the luminescence of his digital watch. He looked at the watch – it was 8:47pm.
The recollection gave Dr. Van Der Hoven a shiver, and it was then that the morning gong tolled its notice. He went to meet everyone in the dining room, but found the room empty. Katie and Goombeldt were walking into the room together . . . they looked as surprised as Dr. Van Der Hoven did - no Harry! This time, there was no sense that anything was prepared, that anything was waiting for them. The inevitable was about to happen - they all decided to go to Harry’s room. The fact that Goombeldt led the way made Dr. Van Der Hoven angry and even more convinced about Goombeldt’s guilt than he was fifteen minutes before!
Perhaps I should talk to Dr. Van Der Hoven? Goombeldt thinks. Call the police? But he has no proof! What if Dr. Van Der Hoven doesn't believe him? After all, he may have not seen Katie meandering around the second floor and preparing to strike. Yesterday afternoon the two of them were communicating rather amicably. Could they be in on it together? No way! Dr. Van Der Hoven would never participate in something like this. You just know these things about people, and sometimes you can tell right away. Dr. Van Der Hoven is not a murderer, that’s for sure!
Kate knows that she made no reference to any secret group when she spoke with Dr. Van Der Hoven on the patio. In fact, she went out of her way to avoid the subject, becoming a bit more flamboyant, a bit more earthy than usual to distract Dr. Van Der Hoven from the fact that Harry had a friend like her. A dear, close friend that Harry would have probably confided the Secret Group’s existence to, had it existed.
Under the pseudo-protection of the covers, Dr. Van Der Hoven remained, hoping to fall asleep. He was disturbed by the light in the hall, by the presence of Goombeldt, and the circumstances surrounding Harry’s absence. A whole day had passed without seeing Harry – something went horribly wrong, and it was certain that Goombeldt was the perpetrator. The red glow of the alarm clock notified him that it was 11:45; in fact he had been staring at the clock all along, as he had not yet been able to fall asleep. One eye blocked by the feather fluffiness of the pillow, the other eye remained open, scanning and surveying the room for movement. Perhaps some food would do the trick, Dr. Van Der Hoven’s stomach suggested to the rest of his body, and on that note, his body automatically rose from its aborted sleep.
The kitchen was almost completely dark. Dr. Van Der Hoven remembers “almost” because it was slightly illuminated by a curious blue hue that emanated from the video room. Silently he made his way across the wood floor that lined the hall, and slowly he edged his face over the boundary of the doorframe. Inside, he spied Goombeldt mimicking the actions of the fellow moving about on the television screen. It was a mealtime scene that erupted into a full-scale fight. Goombeldt wore a bed sheet tied around his neck, emulating the character that wore a napkin tied around his neck. Goombeldt’s exaggerated gyrations projected against the wall of the room made him look like a 3-inch dervish. It was frightening and no less mentally taxing ¼
“This Goombeldt was up to no good since the minute he got here!” Dr. Van Der Hoven thought to himself as he turned his head and ran back into the kitchen to finish up his snack.
Since it was a rather clear night, Dr. Van Der Hoven decided stargazing might be appropriate (he never liked to read in a room). Harry owned what was perhaps the finest collection of astronomical equipment that money could buy, short of a laboratory or space agency. The stars appeared to dance off the backdrop of the night sky like skeletons shifting against the blankness of the closet wall.
“Stargazing is merely an inter-planetary form of voyeurism,” Dr. Van Der Hoven thought as he peered through the telescope perched in the courtyard.
As they traveled to Harry’s house by cab, Dr. Van Der Hoven noticed that Goombeldt seemed to be slightly irritated. Dr. Van Der Hoven wasn’t talking to him (Katie was), but that social detachment supplied Dr. Van Der Hoven with an interesting perspective. He observed that Goombeldt was nervously and deliberately looking everywhere but at Katie or himself, which was interrupted only by his equally unusual need to check the time. Even at this point, so early in the day, Dr. Van Der Hoven couldn't help being alarmed by Goombeldt’s abnormal behavior. When they arrived at the house, Goombeldt was the first one out of the car and up to the front door (he left Dr. Van Der Hoven behind to help Katie with her bags). When no one responded to their ringing, they decided to go inside unannounced. Right in the foyer, they stumbled upon a note: “Please make yourself at home. I’ll be with you as soon as I can.” Dr. Van Der Hoven thought that it was unusual that Harry did not come down to greet them, but since coffee and pastries were waiting, he was pleasantly distracted. After a brief conversation, Dr. Van Der Hoven left for his room to wash up, unpack, and rest for a few moments (Harry was so nice; he remembered that Dr. Van Der Hoven has a chronic phobia which prevents him from sleeping anywhere but on the first floor).
Harry helped him out that time, he certainly did. Goombeldt needed something to hold on to, and the prank they were planning was just the right thing. Many times since then has he found himself impersonating other people, and he is grateful for the idea.
Kate thinks back on this morninwhen they all met, how innocent he seemed. How querulous his voice, how concerned his words. And when they all started looking for Harry, how insistent he was that they check Harry’s room.
Then something unusual happened to Dr. Van Der Hoven. During the conversation, Katie, who was situated to his left, sat directly in line with the sun. The light was so intensely focused on Dr. Van Der Hoven’s defenseless pupils that it obscured any definite features of her face. While she was speaking (her voice muted by some type of loud engine that was growling in the distance) her arms waved around and her legs stomped the ground; very quickly, Dr. Van Der Hoven started to feel as though he was beginning to hallucinate. Appendages blended into the shape of elongated sparrows flying across the sky; hair congealed and morphed with the branches of a willow tree just off to the side. He recalled that words seemed to be jump-edited within the looping track of a lawn mower engine. The conversation became a cacophonous mix of disjointed images, a scene that he could no longer take; abruptly, Dr. Van Der Hoven ended the conversation and returned to his room.
Dr. Van Der Hoven took a few moments to wash his hands before he lay down on his bed, relishing the fresh feeling of cleanliness. He stretched out and caught the subtle aroma of potpourri. It was in that moment of clarity that his thoughts returned to Harry. Where was he? He had always been a punctual person; in fact that is what impressed Dr. Van Der Hoven most about him upon their first meeting – his punctuality.
“But where is he now?”, Dr. Van Der Hoven thinks.
So how did Katie do this?
Lethal injection, most likely. After all, it is hard to imagine her wrestling down a grown man. They hadn't heard shots, they saw no blood. True, they didn't look under the blanket, but a bloody wound would somehow show itself anyway. Besides, Goombeldt is sure that killing someone with a poisoned needle is quite in line with Katie’s personality. Cold, cunning, deceptive. What about that drunken stupor she was showing off last night? Good acting, I must confess, Goombeldt thinks.
Last night at dinner, after the caterers left, they talked about Harry and exchanged hypotheses about where he might be. Mostly humorous hypotheses however. The host’s absence started to seem strange, but everyone knew what an unpredictable person Harry was. What did Katie say? Goombeldt realizes that he has forgotten most of her statements. He disregarded them even as they were being said. Had he only known! When he was playing guitar after dinner, he remembers remembering something about it, but what was it? He has forgotten. Wouldn't it be convenient sometimes to carry a mini tape recorder, taping every word said by you and by others?
And Kate knows now, for sure, that it indeed was Dr. Van Der Hoven who killed Harry. For didn’t she see him out on the grounds last night scanning the skies with a telescope - scanning for the traces of a satellite hovering in space, providing the instant communication facilities that a Secret Group would need? And she mourns, knowing that as she was searching for the secret safe that she knew would reveal whether Harry was really in a Secret Group or not, Harry himself was probably dead, cold, loveless, and alone. Dead by the cruel, heartless hand of Dr. Van Der Hoven.
It did. Shortly before six, the chime of the doorbell reverberated, and in walked six caterers with silver trays and carts. As quickly as they entered, so too they left, placing the meal on the dining table in record time. The three guests stood around the table dumbfounded, silently overwhelmed by the surreal visit that they just received. Dr. Van Der Hoven admitted to himself that it was a pleasurable dinner, since Goombeldt had the decency to wear his glasses. (Clearly, Dr. Van Der Hoven had frightened Goombeldt with both his intense attitude and dominating ping-pong play.) Of course, dinner was delicious. The meal was sprinkled with characteristic Harry touches: a plate of trembuccini served over a bed of vellutian spears, topped off with crème d’agen and a glass of Montegreco red. But where was Harry? In the midst of relaxation and frolicking, Harry’s absence took a back seat. They once again began to speak of Harry, this time in a more animated fashion (a symptom of the wine). Goombeldt seemed the least disappointed by Harry’s absence, a coolness that Dr. Van Der Hoven noted right away. There was something very fishy about this fellow, Dr. Van Der Hoven thought, glasses or no glasses.
So what do we have? Ping-pong, swimming pools, and eating. Certainly not the ingredients of a crime. But the more Dr. Van Der Hoven thinks about Goombeldt’s job and the psychological tactics he employed to carry it out, the more he finds this person capable of anything (and the less that incidental facts will play in the re-construction of the crime). Nevertheless, the icing on the cake was the removal of his glasses. At that point, Dr. Van Der Hoven made a promise to himself to keep his eyes on Goombeldt, as he was a shifty character that could no longer be trusted.
How well did he know Harry anyway? Well enough to be upset about his death. But how well is that? Well enough not to expect anything. And he certainly did not expect this. Maybe Harry wanted him to play this part of the part too: the death? If he were still around, I would ask him, Goombeldt thinks. He is still pacing up and down the narrow isle between the bed and the TV.
And he thought Katie was after Harry’s money! Poor fool! She couldn't care less about the type of money that could be found in someone’s safe at home. How much does she owe Harry? How much does it take to make someone a worthwhile murder victim? Goombeldt happens to know where the safe is, and last night he couldn't help checking it. But the safe seemed intact, just as a safe is intended to be.
When they found that breakfast was not prepared, they knew already. Or, he knew. He couldn't say for the others. Well, the other. Dr. Van Der Hoven. Because Katie had already known.
“How could anyone wish to rush off to Harry’s room, knowing that something potentially tragic has occurred?” Dr. Van Der Hoven thought.
Dr. Van Der Hoven was sick as they made their way down the hall. He was convinced that the grisly sight that they were about to see would sum up Harry’s glaring absence and the questions that surrounded it. Fittingly, they followed the same path as the light from the night before, and with each step, Dr. Van Der Hoven sensed the vile essence of Goombeldt’s murderous aura!
Goombeldt pushed the door open, allowing an angelic white light to break through. It was beautiful; in fact, if one listened closely, one could hear the hum of a choir one million strong, softly reciting an ancient prayer. And the moment that Dr. Van Der Hoven had feared became a stark fixture upon the walls of his reality - Harry was dead!
“Oh my god!” Dr. Van Der Hoven shrieked as he dropped to his knees. “Harry is dead!”
And it is true – his frozen-stiff body is already beginning to decay under the pristine sheets.
Dr. Van Der Hoven knows that Goombeldt will soon reveal himself! He knows that Goombeldt will soon weaken, and at the last moment will convict himself in the eyes of the court.
“He is no actor”, Dr. Van Der Hoven thinks. “He is an aura transposer and tamperer and nothing else!”
Goombeldt has murdered Harry!
Kate finally loses control and throws up.
“Oh my god Goombeldt you did it!” Dr. Van Der Hoven says.
“Katie, I know all about it.”
“Dr. Van Der Hoven how could you!” screams Katie.
“Woman what are you talking about? Are you mad? Goombeldt is the murderer!”
“How can you say this about me? Don’t you see that it’s her? She put it all together!”
“Me? Dr. Van Der Hoven was the one who wanted in the secret group!”
“But Goombeldt’s the one who wasn’t wearing glasses.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“You know what I mean.”
“You fiend! You unholy fiend!” Katie sobs.
“Dr. Van Der Hoven, don’t you see what she’s doing? She’s trying to confuse both of us. She already has you set against me!”
“It’s time to stop acting, Goombeldt. It’s real. What you’ve done is real.”
“Dr. Van Der Hoven, how did you do it?” Katie demands, “Poison dripped from your jealous heart? You’ll never be half the man he was.”
“Instead of asking me how I did it, why don't you ask Goombeldt how he did it? Ask him where his glasses were.”
“Shut up, I’m not talking to you,” Goombeldt interjects. “You’ve obviously lost your mind! She has you fooled, completely fooled, and you are going to let her get away with it!”
“Goombeldt, you idiot! I didn't do it. Dr. Van Der Hoven did it. He asked Harry to please pass the sugar.”
“You both are fools, you both have gone insane. Katie, how can you not see the web of lies spun by someone as deft as Goombeldt? And Goombeldt, how can you stand before us and lie? I thought Harry was your friend.”
“He was my friend, and this is why I will not allow you to accuse me of something like this. When I beat you at ping pong yesterday, I thought you were a suspicious person. If I weren't sure that Katie did it, I’d think that you did.”
“I didn't do it. But why don't we get the police in here? And I’m sure a background check on Dr. Van Der Hoven will turn up some very interesting things.”
“But Katie! He lost the ping pong game!” Dr. Van Der Hoven protests.
“And he lost his mind!”
“I’m serious. Dr. Van Der Hoven, I know you did it, and I can prove it.”
“Look, it’s clear that we all find each other guilty. Why don't we talk about it as intelligent people? I know Goombeldt did it. Nobody walking around without glasses, dancing around like he was last night can be innocent of anything.”
“Don't talk about innocence, Dr. Van Der Hoven. You were searching for the satellite and you were squirming on the porch. You obviously did it.”
“What about that note you gave me? I didn't read it, but it proves that you are guilty. Dr. Van Der Hoven, don't you see? “
“Well, all I can say is that we have reached an impasse. We can't all be guilty.” Dr. Van Der Hoven concludes.
“Maybe we can . . . Maybe we are.”
“Oh God, oh God, he’s dead. It’s all our fault. It’s all our fault.”
“Well, if we all are guilty, then we all must die. I can't live anymore knowing what I know.”
“True, there is no other way.”
“Well, then let’s do it. Let’s dispense justice. But how?”
“Well, I saw some rat poison under the sink.”
“Leave it to Dr. Van Der Hoven to notice that.”
“Rat poison should work.”
“Let’s take it upstairs. We should do it with Harry.”
“The only way I will do this is if we do it together, at the same time. I wouldn't trust Goombeldt. Who knows if the charade is still on.”
“That’s just fine with me. If we go, we have to go together.”
“Here we are. Harry, Harry, I love you.”
“Look how motionless, how pale he is! In a few minutes we’ll be like that too!”
“We should spread around and give ourselves some room. Rat poison will cause convulsions.”
“We are all sorry, Harry. This toast is to you, Harry!“
When Harry woke up, all he could think of was a cup of coffee.