A few days passed until I saw Argus again, although the realization that I was not the sole member of this conspiracy slowly began to dawn on me. A few others, most notably Drusilla Gargg, the daughter of Festus Gargg, a sculptor from the original Reegs-Greeves Party, were stopping by my office on personal visits. This was a notable exception, since, as a rule, I never had clients anymore, if one didn’t count Gaffney. They would simply stop in, give me their cards, and mention that they had read my pamphlets. Drusilla Gargg was particularly intriguing. I hadn’t seen her in over a decade and she had grown up to be a wildly flirtatious young woman, albeit an unnervingly tall one. She seemed to be fond of dramatic capes and knee high, high heeled boots. She mentioned a “radical theater project collective,” an idea which immediately made me suspect she was a true convert to Gaffney, rather than a blackmail like myself. I wondered just how many young dramatists there could feasibly be in Zanzibar without an audience of which to speak. Not aloud, obviously.
On the Tuesday following the springing of Argus, however, I received a visitor I had zero interest in talking to: Gibney Greeves himself.
Unlike his twin, Gibney is a taciturn gentleman. He has an aversion to the colorful and eccentric clothes of Gaffney, prefering a pale blue wardrobe of a generous cut and comfortable shoes. His slab-like nose remains identical to both Gaffney and Argus. I found him waiting in my office with his usual retinue of hangers-on, a group of about fifteen people in a room the size of a medium sized coffin.
“Dr. Thwack! How rarely I get to see you, we just stopped by to invite you to the Fete.” Unlike Gaffney, Gibney has a low, almost whispery tone, which one could quite nearly mistake for pleasant.
The entourage consisted of the more serious minded of Zanzibar’s younger set, the sorts who were still convinced they had inherited something of their familial genii, the sorts who wear identical garments less as a uniform and more like a badge of competitive sport. Having rarely attended the usual symposiums and parties that I, as the notoriously secretive Dr. Thwack, was obliged to ignore. One of them, a high shouldered fellow in his late 20s, was actively reading the titles of the books on my shelves, and had seized upon an early Leviticus Greeves text, “On Distribution Of Galvanized Sub-Electrical Neurotronics.” Heavy reading that was not only inscrutable to the likes of me but also something I had long suspected of humbuggery anyway. Another follower, a black-haired little man who looked like a shaved marmoset, was staring at me with all the hatred of a thousand starved buzzards, and he handed me an invitation.
“I can’t say I knew you were holding one,” I said to Gibney. “To celebrate the giant?”
“Of course. I’d like you front and center, Thwack. Front and center.”
“Oh! I’m surprised you noticed. I had them specially made, I’ve been wearing them for, oh, what has it been? A year now?” Gibney’s round spectacles were tinted the same light blue as his suit, reflecting the light in a most deliberately effusive manner.
“At least a year,” said the high shouldered reader.
Gibney clapped his hand and rose, motioning the reader into a hand shake, introducing him. “Dr. Thwack, this is Ediphious Higgenbotham, you do remember the Higgenbothams? He’s joined us from the Carnies, one of my favorite bootstrap sorts.”
“I’ve read your cookbook,” said Higgenbotham. His handshake was limp.
“I’ve read your natural history of the Zanzibarbarian Birthday Crab, Mr. Higgenbotham. You made me actually interested in the subject.” I lied, but such was handling one of Gibney’s proteges.
“It’s a dry subject,” Higgenbotham replied, slapping the Greeves book shut and replacing it neatly on the shelf. He was the sort of young man that had a recessed chest, the type which usually grows out of weedishness eventually. His chest curved in on itself as he stepped back slightly to give me room. I didn’t know if he was serious or just arrogant. “I’d be happy to discuss it with you if you’re interested in the finer details, I find that I dumbed it down a bit for the regrettably small audience of Zanzibar.”
“Naturally,” I said.
Gibney then did the introductions of the other camp followers, but I was much too busy staring at Higgenbotham, who continued to avoid my gaze. He seemed to shrink from view the more I tried to get a pinpoint on just who exactly he was in his own space. There was Beatrice Waggerly, who was some sort of mechanic; Gerard Somethingerother, who yawned as he was introduced and refused to shake my hand; Gerard’s brother, Hubert, who shook my hand much too firmly, pressing into the knob of my wrist with overly hooked fingers; several Needlemans, who were the sons of Henk Needleman, a scientific critic from the original expedition who I was told was still alive and on artificial respiration. And, the marmoset, Gyro Dervington, whose name and face I simply had no connection to. Most citizens of Zanzibar are related to somebody, and Dervington was related to nobody, not even a Carnie. He was the “Greeves historian,” who I assumed was there to act as personal amanuensis to Gibney.
Quickly, the followers, as if of their own accord (but I knew quite well they were trained to know when Gibney needed privacy), left the room. Gibney sat down in my own desk chair, and motioned me to sit down on the psychiatry couch. “I need to ask you a question, Thwack. And I need to remind you that you neither owe me anything nor have ever presented yourself as a threat, two personality traits I simply cannot abide. This needs to change, you understand. However, I have been told you are accepting patients again.”
“Then I’d like to book your time, and bring you as the chief analytical researcher on the giantess.”
He drummed his fingers slightly on my desk in the manner with which one stalks a small insect one wishes to pluck one wing off and observe how many circles it flies in before it bleeds to death and dies.
“Ah,” I sputtered. It was sort of a gasp. “My... new patients haven’t even started intake yet, Gibney.”
“Excellent! They’d not be let down then.”
He rose, and approached the door. “The Fete is your chance to return, Thwack. To prominence. Dress well.”
Gibney left, closing the door without a sound. I could hear the entourage all the way down the hall, down the stairs, and into the street. I was in for the long haul now. I opened the invitation:
YOU ARE CORDIALLY INVITED TO
THE GRAND CELEBRATION
OF THE RECOVERY AND DISPLAY OF THE GIANTESS
BY THE PERSONAL EXTENSION OF
DR. GIBNEY GREEVES
“Friday, June 27th, 7 pm”
I fell asleep at my desk, six hours later, after staring at a particular knot of wood on the surface of it, trying to figure out what options I had to avoid the scenario. I had none. I had stepped into the shoes of Claudius, and I had thought I was so clever for so long pretending to be too dull and too stupid to be taken seriously. They had left me alone. It had worked. Why had it stopped working? Why all at once, why suddenly and in such numbers? It only seems the natural thing to do among people who think themselves clever. The problem with this plan seems to be that people who think themselves clever must raise their own status by finding and eliminating the dull and stupid, whether or not they actually are, and those of us who think it clever to pretend to be dull and stupid will eventually be gulled by those who are dull and stupid but think they’re clever, proving that it’s universally dull and stupid to think one’s self is clever regardless of how clever one actually may or may not be.
The giant returned to the camp. She was gone.
The wind had wiped away her footsteps.
Her scent, which he knew to the depths of his soul, was long gone. He didn’t need it, however. He knew where she was. He knew she fell for the brass idol.
The giant pulled his cloak closely, and considered what he was to do. Did she leave him? Or was she taken? How could he know? What if they were what she had been wailing for?