Cause Celesta Part 1:

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
A much celebrated author begins to lose his mind in a Parisian hotel, the cause and consequence of this expose more than than the workings of genius.

Submitted: December 05, 2011

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Submitted: December 05, 2011

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Cause Celesta
Part I:
It was late evening when Thomas slipped through the Nord-de-Gard entrance to the Hotel La Grange. His lean shadow skirted the grease-stricken walls of hotel's scullery as manoeuvred himself deftly to the access elevator, by ducking a hanging-line of table cloths all the while cautious to avoid an encounter with the superintendent, Monsieur Herroux - who had for the past two weeks been hounding him for rents. But it was to no avail, as upon arriving on the 12th floor, and just when he thought when was home-free... even daring to whistle a fair tune, as he stumbled for his keys, there came that familiar voice: 'Thomas, I'm glad you're here! if I could have a word?' like a dirty rat, he had crept up on him.
'Forgive me Monsieur Herroux' Thomas began apologetically, his heart sinking he searched his pockets in gesture, though he knew them to be empty 'There's been a change of circumstances a slight delay in payment you understand, our account will be settled, I assure you that!' he laughed nervously, 'it's not necessary to get yourself all worked up!' Well, you see my hands? look there! I have been working the cooking-stove at the Chez les Dinges for two straight shifts, the way they work you Monsieur Herroux, you'd think it was five! even the plongeurs have it easy by comparison!'
Feeling this show of honesty had allayed any choler his enemy might hold, Thomas relaxed a little, and was quick to remind himself that at the Hotel la Grange his credit was good, insofar as his co-resident Hank McNulty remained co-resident... as he indeed was.
The superintendent knew of Hank's work before they had checked in as residents, back in June. Hank had published articles in Nouvelle Revue Française and the much esteemed Herald Tribune.
Thinking back, Thomas recalled the article the superintendent had praised him heartily on on their arrival was an article on the Devil's of Loudon, and of which he said: 'It's so rare to find a writer so willing to capture the essence, the dynamic of French provincial life.' He had particularly enjoyed Hank's luxueuse portrayal of Louis XIV, had even offered to carry the bags himself, those thin spindly legs chattering in excitement, whilst he commenced into a long discourse on the Religious Wars; his family being of a distant Calvinist descent.
But now, the superintendent whose sharp face was twisted in thought, whispered 'No, this isn't just about the rent, Thomas' he inched a little closer, 'It's your friend, Mr. McNulty, there has been some complaints, it seems he spends all his time in his room, there have been reports of... unusual sounds... screams, abusive language... that sort of thing; please, allow me to further explain.'
'Hank is an artist!' interrupted Thomas, feeling now he had some leverage, quick to jump to friend's defence, 'And he as an artist, has a license to eccentricism!', he waved his finger majestically, 'you!.... you and your kind!' with a raised voice, he stepped towards into the superintendent, whose eyes were now wide with confusion, 'You'd rather stifle him, trample on him... just like the rest! well these fingers are not laboured to the bone for the whimsy of it, and I will not hear his name slandered, do you hear me? not whilst I have absolute trust in the man!' Knowing that Herroux was given to buckle under such pressure, Thomas stood back haughtily and buried his hand in his pockets.
But instead of retracting his statement, the superintendent took his arm gently in his own and he said imperiously: 'Why of course not! the very idea of hindering Hank in his work, well... that would be contrary to the hotel's interests!', he frowned down on Thomas like the a noble benefactor, and leading him on down the corridor to the direction of his room, 'But you must understand the interests of the hotel, which may seem extraordinary, even excessive are enforced by policies even I have no control...'
Thomas allowed himself to be led and as the two men fell abreast, he noticed his eyes were weary, and the thin lines which marked his face matched exactly the stitching on his grey flannel suit, which was a little too short on the cuff. His cheeks were deeply depressed, like an anaemic's. Whisks of blonde hair mottled the unshaven pocks of his neck, his thin lips and a sharp chin worked to gloss a slightly effeminate appearance. He reminded Thomas of a photograph he saw as a child of Ambrose Burnside, taken during the American Civil War as the Battle of Bern raged fiercely on in the background, he had the same steely determined eyes.
Occasionally, during their silent ambulation he would stop suddenly to close a resident's door, cutting off abruptly the sound of a television set blearing like dynamite into the hallway, a war in progress, the sound of gunfire and artillery bringing Thomas's thoughts to life. He performed this task in the most graceful, punctilious manner, it was obviously a part of his daily duties. 'Shutting off my thoughts, that's his duty - there's nobody in those rooms' thought Thomas perversely, he shuddered at the surreality of this notion and felt instantly an unwarranted hatred towards the superintendent.
At last they had reached the far end of the corridor. Immediately Thomas noticed perched outside his room was a small, disfigured old man seated precariously on a carpenter's stool, above him hung an impasto painting of a sinking schooner, lapsing waywardly on a grey-scale ocean; which, although it had not been there earlier; seemed well suited and of distinct merit.
The old man, with his back arched slightly, displayed signs of a deformity, a hunchback perhaps or scoliosis. He held one hand resting on the small of his back for support, the other was resting on the wall above him, his face torn in fierce concentration as he peered through a gilded spyhole and into the room.
'Who's that?' asked Thomas taken by surprise he instinctively marched forward to confront him, 'The Watcher...', answered the superintendent bleakly, he stayed Thomas with a heavy glance as he tightened the grip on his arm. 'His name is Mr... well, I apologise, he doesn't have a name' he laughed incongruously,
'No name!?' incredulously,
'No, we do not keep any personal contact outside of his nominal duties, we do keep on him the payroll of course, though his name remains a complete mystery to all but a select few' he said very matter-of-factly 'Watcher, won't you stand and introduce yourself?'
The old man introduced as The Watcher, who had thus far remained silent, rose with a great strain and with many groans turned slowly with a bow to greet Thomas, 'Interesting friend you have in there,' he marked, pointing to the wall of the room 'I've been watching him some, he's very strange, I would say almost as strange as myself... he reminds me of a young soldier I once met in Trier, who had the most outrageous notions, in cognito he had infiltrated a club for doctors and the secrets he gleaned was suppressed by the local papers - '
'That's enough! Tell him that's enough!' screeched the superintendent, 'If you don't we'll be all day listening to this nonsense....'
Another apparent deformity of The Watcher was his prognathic jaw which doubled as a substitute for the expression of anger, by jutting out his jaw even further, the effect was the look of an old hermit-turtle; this, it seemed was necessity as the many folds and wrinkles had rendered his countenance expressionless, and after this bizarre gesture, he continued:'I would say your friend is a real schizophrenic and there's a good chance he's a homosexual too, he's aware of my presence, yet he insists on washing out in the open, well that's my professional analysis' he broached, with a burst of laughter he sputtered onto the polished terrazzo flooring, wiping his mouth with his sleeve he perched himself once again.
It was hard for Thomas to believe the existence this Watcher. Had anything come between him and this wall in which his shape seemed so suited, like a barnacle on a ship's hull, he wondered? He was attired in the most unusual fashion - heavy trench boots, and a long brown anorak, the day's equipage which lay besides his feet, a bottle labelled Gouttes oculaires, Continentale, a hand-bell and a glass of water. A strange profession.
'Watcher...', whispered the superintendent to himself 'He has been in our service many years' he mused as he pulled a muslin handkerchief from his inside pocket and dabbed around the corners of his mouth 'Thomas! enough formalities, we're aware of your circumstances, we know that your friend Hank McNulty has completely lost his mind, only the other day he was parading the corridors 'Dotards! New warriors, urge thee to be gone! Thy life decays! and old age, weighs thee down!' comes to mind, not particularly pleasant for our elderly guests now is it? but then, later - now, don't interrupt Thomas, please! - later on in the dining area, he was claiming himself to be a Russian muzjik and so he demanded a entire leg of lamb to celebrate his new found freedom, freedom from the – ' he cut off and shaking his head solemnly, he continued:
'Thomas, the fact is, that he has become entirely unstable whilst you're away; this is why we have, The Watcher...' and laying his hand on Thomas's shoulder affectionately, he said, 'you're working at the Chez les Dinges in order to support your friend sudden economic and mental deficiencies; a noble act indeed which we commend... now, now! truly we do! And since you entangled in such rent arrears.' Thomas felt himself nodding, following the words though his stomach was sinking. 'We wish only to ensure that both our interests, in the full settlement of this account'
'Don't be upset,' he said with final note, 'like I said, the hotel's policies can be quiet extreme, but then they are beyond my control entirely'
The Watcher on hearing this looked uneasily to the superintendent, he shifted his gaze before awkwardly picking at lacing on his boot, finally he glanced to Thomas before returning to his spyhole. Thomas took this pitiful glance as a sign of his own incarceration.
'What if agree with everything you've said? That my friend is insane?'
'Then, you will have two months to settle your arrears and only then is Mr. McNulty free to vacate the Hotel La Grange. You, yourself of course are free to leave at any time as your employ demands. But, as co-signatory you understand Mr. McNulty will be in our charge and must remain here at all times under strict observation'
Thomas soon found himself signing documents presented to him by the superintendent. After which, much to his relief, he was quick to depart leaving Thomas staring blankly at The Watcher for answers. Not leaving his seat, he introduced himself afresh with the name Hartz. He said the superintendent had never asked his name and he had been working as a reform agent for recidivists and criminals – it was his ability to detect the criminal mind, which had won him the job as The Watcher.


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