Skip to content

the Trailing Birds

red and green face with stapled wounds

“Did you send the dossier? Nobody’s reported back.”

“Give him a second,” Bennie tells his phone, and cracks open a can. “Let him do his thing.”

“His thing,” Auren’s voice on the phone makes it clear, “is a great big liability.”

Bennie shrugs, sticks the phone in the crook of his shoulder, hesitates, then pulls the cucumbers out of the refrigerator.

“It’s how he kills people,” he says. “What are you gonna do? It works.”

As it happens, Edward Trinley Fell is not knitting when Bennie’s beso comes through on the LRT. He is writing.

April put the Oppenheimer Key at the very bottom of her notions bag, surmising—rightly—that her father would never think to look for it there, and that her mother, finding it, would never realize what it was. With her bargaining chip secure, April tied her outdoor shoes, put on her day cloak, and prepared to leave the house. She wasn’t sure if Harman would still be there. Her Trailing Birds had told her nothing more than that his camp had not been struck. Perhaps, if she hurried, she would find him drawing his queer ley lines in the soft soil of the Outer Redwold.

Bennie’s beso sets the parameters and offers the retrieval code for Turner’s dossier. “Remind me again,” Bennie had appended in his own writing, “why we work for the guy who wrecked our lives? I keep forgetting.”

Edward Trinley Fell, when he is honest with himself, is not precisely sure.

April schooled her face to a suitable amiable blankness–

Turner, Fell, reading, thinks with some bewilderment, is a dinosaur. Two wars and still going steady, which you were not likely to see these days, what with abrupt retirement, re-inscription, wholesale release of memory. People signed on for nothing longer than four years, maximum; who would want to lose more than four years? Even if, Fell reflects, what there was to recall was…

It was a bit of bother to get through the kitchen and to avoid Mrs. Rutherford and the slap of her inordinately large hands, but April managed, reassuring the staff with her very timidity. All was normal, her slight, slumped shoulders proclaimed; all was as one supposed.

Fell feels a prickle of disquiet. Turner’s dossier can’t tell him whether the man still has his memory. A patchwork man of sutured time, he thinks; or whole, wholly in his wars, that might be worse. For a second Fell is lost in speculation at the living archive of killing power Turner might perhaps remain.  Many tools would fit on paper discs inside a watch, a pocket camera, a battery case.

Also unknown, Fell notices, is motive. He drops through layers of the dossier, reading documents, commentaries stored on separate, color-coded layers.  Auren Han’s layer of notes includes the reflection that Turner might have gone rogue, be acting on his own. Fell considers this unlikely. People do not realize, he thinks suddenly, how difficult it is to act on one’s own. More likely Turner is working for–and Fell’s thought turns, quickly, away from the name.

He feels obscurely sorry for the man Drin, who strikes him as a gentleman. It is obvious, to Fell, the way a dragon is obvious, that Turner is only incidentally interested in Dance. It is Drin who has attracted his attention; it is Drin for whom the trap is set. Dance is…what?

man, sketch by Henri De Toulouse-Lautrec
man, sketch by Henri De Toulouse-Lautrec

Fell rests for a moment against the counter that divides his tiny kitchen from his low-ceilinged living room. He closes his eyes, studying the faintly glowing afterimages left behind by the dossier. His right foot brushes restlessly against the whorled carpet.

Turner’s way, he recognizes, guided by Auren’s data. Turner’s way is to kill you with your house, with your friend, with your favorite song. Turner possesses the familiar, turns it. Fell understands this. It’s not too different, really, from what he does.
He feels it then, the light, thin, creasing him. A shiver of meshed planks. His self, he realizes abruptly.

Also, Turner.

A voice speaks quite clearly in his left ear:

Well, you see, Harman has gone to the Caves of Altamira.

In the trailing edge of the light he sees it emerge, the passageway that leads to the killer. He feels the old pathway open between himself and his prey, the meeting, as always, fated; he looks below his thoughts, finds him waiting there, the Under-Turner, the other inside himself, his necessary other half.

The Under-Turner is telling Fell to buy groceries at MidHaven and then to get on a ferry going north.

<< Dance UnpinnedPrevious | Next Small Mercies >>

16 thoughts on “the Trailing Birds”

  1. Whoa, wait a minute. Am I reading this right? I mean, I get two possible interpretations here, and both are pretty…ah…alarming. One perhaps moreso than the other, but…


    Holy shit.

  2. from the BRitannica website, which is insisting on an annoying login…

    major reference ( in Trois Frères )

    …discovered in 1914, and most of the pictures of animals, together with a couple of therianthropes (half-human, half-animal figures), are located on the walls of a deep interior chamber known as the Sanctuary.


    So they do have a formal, scholarly name…

    another reference talking abot the figure:
    You can easily make out the figures to be beasts and cattle surrounding a high figure that reaches the cave roof. This central figure is about 70 cm or 2 1/2 ft tall and appears to be half human and half animal. The figure has deer antlers and [bold mine] wears a mask with an eye of an owl. Below the mask is a beard and the hands are hidden within bear paws or lion paws. The back of the figure can be compared to that of a certain animal and somehow it appears that the figure is wearing an animal skin of some sort. The figure has an erect penis covered by a fox tail.

    Experts called the figure ‘Animal Master’ and if you want to see the picture of the cave painting, you can go to France or you can search the net and simply type the words ‘Trois Freres’. Find a link that will show you the painting itself.

  3. I don’t know if we find therianthropes in Altamira, but Edward (or Ed’s subconscious) seems persuaded that there is a link.

    I really hope the bad guys haven’t started rocking time travel.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.