"The fuck you do!" yelled Daphne, startling the siblings out of their fond embrace: "wanker here turns up like some badass Prodigal Son – for Jesus sake, Monty, your poor mother and father went to their graves not knowing what terrible fate you may have encountered, and you waltz in like some tabby bad, expecting a cerulean sky and bluebirds twittering in the apple tree and rambling roses climbing the walls, when it's Maude who's been climbing the walls for the past seventy years and I have lived every day of those seventy years with her and she may put on a mask that kids everyone else on, but I see the tears in her eyes and the ache in her heart every single day, so cut the cackle and tell her straight: tell her now, not where you were or what you were doing on that Thursday in 1962 or Christmas Eve in1984; just tell her straight, why, for seventy years, you let Maude and your poor mother and father not know that you were alive, you were well and why for fuck's sake you hadn't bothered to send them a postcard from Brighton or Belgrade or Bruges or Boston-fucking-Spa just to put their minds at rest; you owe Maude that, not a minute-by-minute account of where you were and what you saw and who you did, just something to take away their grief!" and Daphne went over to the single oak and sat on the swing, their old childhood swing, put up by their Grampa Dumbiedykes a hundred and twenty years ago for his own children and which had hung and swung there all these years, a lasting memorial to the strength and durability of their family, with only three replacement wooden seats and perhaps a dozen ropes, something created by old Duncansby Dumbiedykes with his own hands and which, like the family itself had weathered all that Scotland could throw at it and still support her weight, and she fumed at the dithering, doting pair who stared at her as if she had just thrown the stool at the Dean of St Giles like old Jenny Geddes herself, and she began to work the swing vigorously, something she hadn't done for maybe twentyfive or thirty years, with every intention of getting high enough to see over the garden wall!
And as Monty – for indeed it was he – made himself comfortable in a garden chair, and Daphne brought a fresh pot of tea from the kitchen and buttered a couple of May's freshly baked fruit scones, while Maude, tears streaming down her face, pulled her chair close to her brother's and took his hand in hers – began to tell them his story, his face full of emotion and delight at finding his dear sister and her best friend both hale and hearty: "you dozed off in the warmth of that afternoon, and I heard some music from just over the garden wall, so I opened the door and looked out and it was a party of what we called gipsies, Romany really, and they were playing fiddles and tambourines and dancing that tittup way they have and a crusty old police inspector, d'you remember him? we called him Pincher MacFarlane, because he'd pinch anybody to improve his Cases Solved File, didn't he pinch our Dad once? accused him of being a German Spy because he was reading Emil and the Detectives to us and some of our chums, but the JP was old Claud Cockburn, who had the Bookshop and he was able to dismiss the case as he had sold the book to dad just a week before and anyway, if Dad really was a spy it'd be more likely that he was spying for Russia and as Russia was our ally against Germany, all strength to his elbow; well anyway, there was Pincher MacFarlane and a couple of constables and that Sergeant, Dangerous Doubleday, another rascal of the first order, and they were pushing and shoving the Romany men, women and children, and I just sort of got into the middle of it, you know me, always trying to be the peacemaker, and that's when I took an awful crack to the back of my head and everything went black, like diving into a deep and bottomless lake – like Cauldshiels in fact – and when I eventually opened my eyes, and was aware of coloured lights and whatever I was lying on, rocking and rolling, I was pretty sick, threw up into a bucket somebody stuck in front of me, and then I passed out again, but probably more asleep than unconscious, because every now and then I became aware of the movement and the sounds of people talking and horses hooves on cobbles or something but it was quite a while, I found out, by the time I was properly conscious. by which time it was dark and someone gave me some bread and water and after I ate I slept again; when I woke properly, I realised there wasn't any movement, or sounds of hooves and I called out and one of the men climbed in what I now realised was one of the caravans, and he said I had probably been concussed after being struck down by the police sergeant and kicked by a couple of the constables before the Romany were able to get me out of reach and bundled me in the van, he didn't think my skull was fractured but I could certainly feel a whopper of an egg which was very painful! although it was quite dim in the van, I could see him well enough, but when he held up his hand and asked me how many fingers, and said three, he laughed and said I had double vision, seeing three repdigits though he was only holding up two, but he assured me I'd be fine in the morning; well by this time I was feeling hungry, and he called for someone to fetch me a bowl of broth, and I soon polished that off and though I hadn't reached satiety, he advised me to wait and maybe have some more later, because I could be sick again if I ate too much, and really, I didn't need any more, and I was so overwhelmed by his mensk, and that of the others in the group who had saved me from a real kicking by the police, that I tried to thank him but he just said that anybody would have done the same, as I had tried to do for them, and with that he shook my hand and pushed me down on the bed and blew out the candle and I must have gone straight back to sleep because the next time I woke, it was broad daylight and according to my watch, 10 o'clock and obviously morning!" and Maude said: "but I thought you had just disappeared, I didn't know how or why, I called the police and the Inspector, MacFarlane, came and gave me the third degree, like he suspected I'd been responsible, like I had murdered you! it was dreadful, so where have you been for 70 years? without a word, with no contact? you know Monty, I've missed you so dreadfully, why didn't you get in touch?" and he sighed: "it's a long story, Maude, and I don't know how to make it short; have you got a few days?" and Maude said: "as long as it takes, Monty, I want to know everything!"
"Oh well," said Maude, "what it all comes down to is, that you were doing your stand-up on The Fringe, receiving adulation for your characterisation of, who was it?" and Daphne, imperturbable in the face of Maude's accusation, said "it certainly wasn't 'Stand Up' dear, that term hadn't been invented yet, I was Anji Banji, Ranee of Rajhastan, Indian Comedienne, on the posters and hand-bills, to put it all in oldspeak, and I certainly wasn't on the receiving end of adulation, the Evening Times said: 'a refreshing blast of fresh jasmine from the Sub-Continent, whose accent owes more to Morningside than Bombay!' but, my sweet honey-plant, don't be such a looky-loo, I'm no hippalektryon, maybe if you and Monty had come up to my performance that afternoon, he would still be here – you don't think the disappearances are directed towards individuals do you? it's more likely that it's the location of the Worm Hole, rather than who happens to be there – if it had been you who was disappeared, I don't think I could ever have got over losing you, so I know exactly how you feel about what happened to Monty," and Maude embraced Daphne, knowing in her soul that her dearest love was absolutely right; which was when there was an unexpected knock on the door, a familiar rat-tatta-tat-tat tat-tat which they had not heard for seventy years, and the door opened to admit a little, nut-brown man, wearing the distinctive garb of the traditional travellers, who doffed his cap and said "hello, old bean, am I in time for tea?"
"And this Inspector, what was his name?" asked Daphne: "it was that Inspector MacFarlane," replied Maude, "oh my God, MacFarlane! do you know, I'd completely forgotten that," and Daphne said: "a touch of obliviscence, you never forget anything, dearest, except what you want to forget – like how many minutes for a soft-boiled egg, or how to programme the VCR," and Maude laughed, "we don't have a VCR since we got the DVD player," and Daphne snorted: "oh yes we do, it's in Teri's bedroom, she bagsed it and all the old tapes, though I doubt she ever watches them, she's a bit of a Luddite when it comed to technology," and Maude said: "he wasn't interested in the nosegay that Monty gave me," and Daphne said: "he probably didn't think it relevant, it would thwart his preconceptions," and Maude agreed: "he would probably have arrested me for fratricide, although that might jar with his oldspeak, if you know what I mean, he was very much in the mould of George Findlay, you know: "evening, all, some strange things have been happening to Dick Green," and Daphne interjected: "you mean George Dixon, not Doctor Findlay, and it was Dock Green, not Dick Green, he was an American Baseball player in the 60s and 70s," and Maude stared at her friend, cousin and lover: "how do you know that?" and Daphne preened: "my Specialist Subject for Mastermind!" and they both fell about laughing until Maude asked: "have they really accepted you," and Daphne nodded: "yes, dear heart, they start recording next month, so I'll have to spend some time studying seriously if I want to stand a chance! unless I can get a good score in the Specialist Subject, I'll have to rely on General Knowledge, and you know how out of date I am about that sort of thing – what's the capital of Myanmar? or who holds the World Record for the Women's 1500 Metres? really, I'd be sunk without trace. and now I'm in it, I'm determined to win it," and Maude hugged Daphne and whispered, "we'll put £50 on you at the Bookies, now that would be a nice little earner, dearest one!"
"Thinking of Monty?" asked Daphne and Maude nodded: "it's the anniversary today, 70 years," and a tear trickled down her papery cheek, she rubbed it away with the back of her hand, "he was so insouciant that day, I know you all thought him too volatile for an academic career, but that was all a façade, he'd just received his acceptance letter from Edinburgh that morning and was so happy, and utterly calm; what kind of cruelty would make him an unperson, just disappear him like that? he was the first, to my knowledge, but who knows how many other could it have happened to? we've had more than enough here over the past few years, and those sudden appearances: the American soldiers!" and Daphne reached out for Maude's hand: "and like them, like Tavish and the others, Thomas Learmonth, Patience Scott, Elizabeth Bennett. he may come back yet," but Maude shook her head: "but Wild Bill, Calamity Jane and Annie Oakley arrived here from the Wild West, Rasputin from Russia – this might be a hub but the Wormholes go anywhere through Time and Space; he might be anywhere, past, future, or even present, there's no way of knowing! oh I remember that Police Inspector who came here to interview me, such an ekphrasis I had to give him, over and over again, it was though he was trying to get me to make a slip somewhere, contradict myself, but when all that has happened is that the person who was lying on his back on the grass, right here, where we are now, simply vanished, it was like that thing we used to do with the cine-camera, remember, stop it, and the person who was in the frame, hops off, and the start again and it looks just like that, the only thing that has changed is that who was there now isn't, and I told him over and over, but I'm sure he didn't believe a word!"
It was with a nonchalance verging on pigritude, that my Big Brother slid a pair of cooling glasses on to the bridge of his nose and lay back down on the grass; which was when it happened, the inexplicable: utterly earth-shattering, absolutely impossible to describe in words, it changed everything and even now, just thinking about it, after all those years, I can feel my heart-rate change, shivering with goose-bumps all over my body, and the sudden wave of heat inside me, bringing a flood of sweat as my pores opened and my skin was awash; and all because of that single moment in time!
Gazing down at the teeming waters of the pisculent river, The Gaffer glanced sharply towards his fair-weather friend, MacLiammoir and grunted: "sure, an I accept every word of yer story, tall though it surely is, an both rare an unbelievable, an a grand ould yarn, but I doubt there's a true word in it," and MacLiammoir glanced suspiciously at The Gaffer – was he damning with faint praise, or was the doublethink just his way of lying through his teeth, ah. but here's the rub: "it's a grand enough day," said The Gaffer, "but if that rascal MacFarlane's correct, we'd surely be burning our own fingers, not to mention cutting off our own noses," and he spat a gobbet of phlegm into the dark, where a trout swallowed it whole and then curled out of sight, the way trout are wont to do; and then The Gaffer laughed, took a packet of fags out of his jacket pocket and handed one to MacLiammoir, who produced a box of matches and lit up both of them, his discarded match hitting the surface and being swept under the bridge, as the sound of a heavy motor car could just be heard coming from the south; they turned as one and saw the vehicle, with it's hood down, approaching; the driver was in the familiar black and tan uniform, the only passenger, in the rear seat, wearing a greatcoat and cap with the insignia of a senior officer; the acknowledging glance from The Gaffer was not lost on MacLiammoir and they both pressed themselves against the parapet as the car slowed slightly to take the tight bend, then picked up speed again as it climbed the small slope that brought it onto the bridge; their movements were fluid, instinctive: MacLiammoir's shot took the driver in the middle of his face and his brains spattered the passenger, just as The Gaffer's bullet took away his temple; the car slewed towards them but they dived away in opposite directions before it hit and demolished the parapet, plunging into the river, where it stuck, upside down; they waited five minutes, to make sure no-one broke the surface, then mounted the two bicycles and rode up the track towards the railway station where they boarded the Dublin train and were back in the city before the car and it's occupants were officially discovered, several hours after the vehicle and the bodies had been stripped of everything valuable and useful; and The Gaffer made a mental note to pass on his thanks to MacFarlane together with a five pound note and a suggestion that there was more where that came from if he could provide any further information which might prove useful.
The dapper freewheeling Propaganda Minister, conceptualizer and assiduous proselytizer of newspeak, slammed down the telephone and cursed his caller for craven last-ditchery in justifying the deletion of an exclamation mark on a poster, 500,000 of which had just arrived from the printer and every one of them sans his meticulously designed and carefully placed exclamation mark for which the Minister had been so orgulous: "gone, gone, gone, gone, gone!" he screamed, face contorted, fists clenched, spittle flying from he lips as he vented his fury "the Managing Editor, the Chief Editor, the Executive Editor, The Deputy Editor, the Assistant Editor, the whole fucking lot of them!" and his secretary said: "thank God Lansky spotted it then, sir," and he stared at her with cold eyes: "who spotted what, woman?" and she smiled, Meyer Lansky, the Copy Boy, sir," and his nostrils twitched: "what did he spot? spit it out," and she grinned, "he noticed that it looked like a question mark, sir, and he realised it had been a slip of the pen, sir, and none of the Editors had picked it up and it should have been a Full Stop, sir, and he just whited out the squiggle and there it was, just as you meant, sir," and he couldn't think what she was talking about: "what did I mean, you stupid girl?" she grinned: "well, sir, the last three words, sir, they needed a Full Stop, sir, it's the only way it made sense sir:
The Final Solution."
You don't need a Lapidarist to know that diamonds are forever, but a good trick is worth more than it's weight in gold, and while Jenni was only the Juvenile in the company, she and Magda were sisters – not twins, but with the same bone structure – and expertly applied make-up and two identical wigs, combined with the lack of real scrutiny by a distracted audience, made the trick work; for although Jenni was the nude in the spotlight, she wasn't the Frau Stubenhocker on the sofa, that was Magda, and by such sleight of hand a Pop Art Icon was born, for in the audience that night was the Theatre Critic of Wiener Zeitung – Felix Salten – and his review of Cabaret Voltaire was high praise indeed: 'Art, Theatre, Music, Song, Dance, Poetry, Satire and a stunning piece of Magic which ended the evening, should guarantee this avant-garde venture success now and in the future; if there is one thing that Vienna has always had room for, it is for new and exciting ideas and artistic expression, the capital of the Austria-Hungarian Empire has always bubbled with the ferment of creation, has always teemed with the different cultures and languages of her people, has always laid down the welcome mat – as we do now for Cabaret Voltaire and her young and exuberant company of artists, writers and performers, long may they grace our city and our evenings, but be warned, they do not guarantee repeats, every evening will be original and not even the performers know what will happen next!'
Next was an improvised ensemble piece entitled The Critics, devised by Jakob and featuring most of the company, including Grigor the Doorman; the stage lights were dimmed, while the auditorium was fully lit: the Stubenhockers' sofa was turned to face the audience, and extra chairs were quickly placed on either side of it; Grigor stood high-lone, centre stage, peering out, apparently thinking and then he said: "that's rather a good one," picking out and pointing directly at his selection, in this case a florid man accompanied by a very young girl; this occasioned gales of laughter and Magda, quite hysterical, jeered and said: "you've got no taste, Grigor, it looks like it was put together by a salami-dealer, or is it the girl you've got your eye on?" and Grigor, blushing to his roots, protested that he wasn't so easily won over and said: "no, the man, the man, I swear he's the clown at the State Circus, can't you see? his eyebrows, I've never seen such fine eyebrows, they must have been done by Dada, they look like two hairy caterpillars intent on mating!" which brought Dada to his feet: "never in my life, no, never, not once, not twice, have I been so humiliated, I've done dozens, hundreds of eyebrows, but never in my life have I done anything so, so, Prussian!" and the banter continued as members of the company compared views on different individuals in the audience; Tristan thought a young man was surely Caspar Friedrich's original attempt at The Wanderer: "of course here it is a Front View, while in the finished work he is seen from behind, with no hint of his face, but can't you see the similarity? the coat is very well-executed, you can almost feel the cloth, definitely from the Flea Market!" and Miriam spoke up, whip-smart: "yes, I know it is a Still-Life, but even so, there is something Vital, almost Alive about it, you can almost feel the blood pumping through their bodies, and although that girl is dressed in the height of Demi-Monde fashion, you can sense she has no knickers on!" and the girl in question shrieked with laughter, which brought her more attention and her companion squirmed as if he wished the house lights cold be dimmed and he would no longer be in the spotlight; then of a sudden all the lights went out for a few seconds, and a single spot came on, tight on the face of a blonde girl – it was Jenni, who had been on stage with the others but had raced, by a circuitous route, to emerge in the middle of the audience – so bright that the darkness in the rest of the room seemed denser, impenetrable; slowly, incredibly slowly, with all eyes fixed on her face, the light expanded, showed her whole head and the cascade of her hair, her white shoulders, upper arms, breasts! there was a gasp of shock, but no eyes left her, motionless as if carved from marble, and the audience realised she was entirely naked and – darkness! the house lights came on, dimmed, became brighter, and on the spot where she had stood, a red dress was pooled around a pair of shoes – no-one had heard her slip away and there was a drum-roll and when the audience turned towards the stage, there, on the sofa with Herr Stubenhocker, once again dressed as his wife, she sat quite demorely; there was a brief silence as the audience worked out what had happened, did a double-take, but couldn't work out how it had been done in the time it had taken, and burst into applause for having been quite baffled!
That evening, during the show at the Cabaret Voltaire, Dada and Magda played a couple who – as Tristan envisaged them, being of the same indolent nature as Oblomov – spent their entire time lounging on a rather battered sofa: Herr and Frau Stubenhocker gazed out of a window at the world which existed beyond the walls of their room: banners fluttered past and a chorus sang The Marseilles; the sounds of war drifted in, with gunshots and explosions; fierce arguments in English, French, German, Russian, Hungarian, Italian; a Stars and Stripes filled the window: "what's that doofer?" drawled Dada and Magda laughed: "a rash! everyone will have it soon," then the voices of Neitzsche extolling the virtues of Der Übermensch and Marx overthrowing bourgeoise Zarathustra with the Dictatorship of the Proletariat while Dada sipped his wine and Magda asked a servant to peel her a grape and Dada quipped: "it's such a treat to have this Window on the World but I do wish they would stop bickering and ferruminate, you know, my dear? sing from the same Hymn Sheet, it would make more sense and give us a more pleasurable view," and Magda added: "and a lot easier for us to understand what it's all about - I really think Human Beans have quirte lost the plot, it's not very considerate of them!" and there was loud applause and cheering from the audience.
Which was when Dada's long-time patron Samuel Morganstern and his wife Emma came in, with Grigor carrying the bowls of lamb stew and cabbage which they had prepared for the Cabaret's performers, as was their daily contribution; Morganstern had the shop next door, primarily selling picture frames, but in practice, acting as the only Gallery in Vienna where Dada's work was sold and Emma was the most vociferous promoter of his paintings and it was through her efforts that many of them had been sold to collectors in the large Jewish community of which they were prominent members – in many ways they were surrogate parents of the young artist and he regularly dined with them and spent pleasant evenings discussing art and music; Dada introduced his sister to them and the ever practical Emma insisted that she should move into their house: "we have a lovely spare bedroom which would be perfect, dear," insisted Frau Morganstern, hugging the girl to her bosomy breast in such a manner which was clear to all who knew her that she would brook no opposition; Tzara whispered to Dada: "it's women like Emma who demonachized entire nations, even the Holy Roman Empire! have you heard of Jenny Geddes? no? well, she was a market-trader in Edinburgh in 1637 who threw her stool at the head of the Dean of St Giles when he started to read from the new Scottish Episcopal Book of Common Prayer and yelled: 'De'il gie ye colic, the wame o' ye, fause thief; daur ye say Mass in ma lug?' which translates as 'Teufel du verursachst Kolik in deinem Magen, falscher Dieb; wage es dass du die Messe in meinem Ohr sagst?' you know, Dada, men wage wars with guns and swords, kill or be killed, but it's the fungible women who, armed with with footstools and choice words, overthrow tyrants and potentates! but if we want some of that fine stew we'd better grab bowls and get places at the table," and the Painter and the Poet joined in the beanfeast!
As they entered the Cabaret Voltaire – down the stairs from the street to the basement entrance and past Grigor, the fearsome doorman who, today, was wearing mufti instead of his usual uniform which he claimed to have won from an Imperial General at a game of Russian Roulette, but had in fact bought at a knock-down price from the Pawn Shop next door – they were momentarily stunned by a crescendo: it was August Kubizek experimenting with a klaxon! and assisting him, young Dada – they had just met the day before after several years during which neither knew where the other was or what he was doing: inseparable friends since first meeting on their arrival in the city, Dada had suddenly broken it off and gone into hiding, from which he had so recently emerged; yesterday, as they talked over a coffee, Dada finally admitted to August that he had been rejected by the Academy of Art and had been so humiliated and ashamed that rather than tell his best, at that time his only, friend, he had gone off in a funk, like a wounded animal retiring to a quiet place to die; now Dada leapt to his feet and embraced his little sister, it was surely a week of olive branches! he introduced her to August and to several other artists rehearsing for the night's show, including a young Romanian poet, Tristan Tzara, who immediately took rather a shine to the young girl: "see," he cried, "The Muse is here at last and, in one hand a scrap of bookfell, as blank as my mind and, in other, a quill with which I shall write an Ode to her Beauty!" and he asked each person to say a word in turn and this was what they said: "Market stall," "She," "Lips," "Lover," "Marmalade," "Traces," "Ate," "The," "From," "And," "It's," "Licked," "Her," "Traces," and all written down, he quickly composed from them this poem, which he had entitled: She Descends to Earth:
"She ate Marmalade
from the Market-stall,
And her Lover
licked it's traces from her lips!"
and when the applause died down it was Dada who had spotted an extra From and an extra Her, but Tzara waved the comment away: "Poetic Licence, dear boy, my prerogative, and here, I give it to the beautiful girl who has just entered our Lives!" and bowing, he presented the sheet to Paula, who blushed to her roots.
As Jakob and Frauleine Heidler left Hackensack's journalistic factory, he asked her about herself, commenting that she and the other stenographers were very young: "oh, yes," she replied, "the oldest is just twenty-two, I'm 17 and the youngest is fifteen," and, surprised, Jakob said: "and you all know so many languages!" at which it was Frauleine Heidler's turn to laugh, "just call me Paula, you are a friend of Wolffie, we all know our own language plus English, so that's the one Herr Hackensack uses," but that raised more questions for Jakob: "where did you learn English? at home? how can you translate so fast?" and Paula stopped and he stopped too: "ark at ee," she said, "questions, questions – Herr Hackensack has a friend with a language school: Berlitz Babel – learn any language in 14 days or your money back! but we only had to learn English and Herr Hackensack paid for our courses, but how is Wolffie? it's so long since I saw him, though he did write to me at home, but his letters were solipsisms – he was bereft at the loss of our dear mother, but so was I and I was only 11 when she died, and he was distressed about being rejected by the Art School, he kept saying that in every letter, in the end I threw them all away, and I didn't have an address for him but I came here anyway, I didn't realise that Vienna is so BIG! and with so many people, I thought I would probably bump into him in the street, like back home, what a lot of boodle! you must think I'm stupid," but Jakob stopped and so did she: "no, Paula, you are not stupid, you came from a small town to the Capital of the Austria-Hungarian Empire, a city with more than thirty languages being spoken among it's two million inhabitants! you aren't stupid, you are very brave, to come here, find a job, learn English! look, here we are, Cabaret Voltaire! let's go in and see if Dada's there . . . ." but she held back: "who's Dada?" and Jakob realised that he hadn't used his friend's nickname during their walk, and that Paula kept calling him by his childhood nickname: "you call him Wolffie, we call him Dada, but whatever name we use, he's still your big brother, let's go in!"
And as Sir Principle MacFarlane was speaking with Mahip Manee Officer, just some fourteen hundred miles to the east and sixty years later, Magda and Dada were talking about how best to track down Dada's sister, Paula, who he knew was also in Vienna but had no address for her, which was when Jakob slapped his knee and said: "Kermit! Kermit Hackensack! why didn't I think of him already?" and the young couple looked at him in puzzlement: "who is Kermit Hackensack?" asked Dada; and Jakob explained: "he's a journalist, he writes under a dozen different names, collects boodle from Monarchists and Bolsheviks, Nationalists and Libertarians, Pacifists and Sabre-rattlers; you've probably read articles by him – he's in every newspaper and magazine in Austria, supporting every political ideology, espousing opposite views somet8imes on the same page! he's actually quite slimsy, looks like a Russian Poet – in fact he'll write you a Russian Poem for the price of a coffee! but he knows everyone in Vienna, he has a network of spies and informants, he probably knows that the Emperor has an ulcer even before the Court Physician has given a diagnosis; he calls them his Eyes and Ears, they are everywhere; in his spare time he writes novels and guide books and histories of the Balkans; some say he's a member of The Black Hand, and the Okhrana, and the Evidenzbureau, and even Nova Bosna, and I wouldn't put it past him, but if anyone can trace Paula, it's Kermit," so, after agreeing to seek out this mystery man, Jakob went alone to a bath-house which had a secret door at the back which led to Kermit's Headquarters; it was some time since he'd last been there and he was surprised to find a large room with twelve young women typing furiously while Kermit himself, wearing the uniform of a Hussar, complete with riding boots and a whip, walked about dictating extempore: "why Jakob Feldman, as I live and breathe! take a break girls while I catch up with my old friend," and as they shook hands Jakob asked why Feldman was dressed so outlandishly: "oh, it impresses the stenographers and helps when I'm writing about military matters; I've got the same piece being translated into Russian, Hungarian, Bulgarian, Serbo-Croat, Greek, Turkish and Rumanian, as well as Polish, Czech, German and French – this is the future, a typing pool who do simultaneous translations
as I dictate; watch my lips – this is the 20th Century, we have to adapt or die, Jakob; now, before the come back from their smoko, what do you want?" and Jakob laughed, "why should it be me who wants? maybe I habe something that you want?" and the modernist writer looked quizzically at his friend: "what can you possibly have that I don't know already?" and Jakob said: "my young friend, an artist – no Michaelangelo, but with encouragement and practice he can be very good, if he just relaxes a little, he's too tense," and Kermit asked: "is that the one who went for a consultation with Dr Freud the other day? pah! I've got no time for all that airy-fairyology, but tell me, how did it go for him?" and Jakob wondered how Kermit could possibly know, but simply replied: "Freud regressed him to a few years ago, when his mother was dying and Dada, that's the artist. and his sister Paula were nursing her; they were very close, Dada and Paula, but since he came to Vienna he lost touch with her, he believes she is here in the city, but has no address, and it would be like looking for a straw in a tailor's shop," and Kermit laughed delightedly, "you turn everything round, my friend, but I think I can make your young friend's day," and he strolled to the door and looked into the courtyard where the girls were laughing and gossiping: "hey, Paula," he called, "can you join us for a moment?" and a pretty, blonde girl followed him back into the room: "my friend is looking for you on behalf of your brother, Adolphus isn't it?" and she nodded, looking worried: "is he alright? I don't know where he is, can you help me?" and Jakob reassured her that Adolphus, "we call him Dada, that's his nom-de-plume, is well and working hard at out new venture, an avant garde night club, Cabaret Voltaire, he's been worried about you and didn't know how to find you!" and Kermit gave a mock-formal bow, sweeping his hand low: "you needed information and came for your enlightenment to the luminary, I already knew that your friend was looking for his sister, so I found her myself, two days ago: she is our German Stenographer and about to have her pay increased, because her work requires little correction – oh Zjarrta who does our Albanian can't spell, so she types everything phonetically, and sometimes I think that would be best, at least if i's read out loud it sounds perfect even if on paper it's a disaster area! but you don't need to know that, do you? go have a word with Paula, make an arrangement for after our office hours, I have no hold on the girls then, so as far as I am concerned she will be as free as a bird, just so long as she is here on time in the morning, would you like a glass of Vodka? there are a couple of bottles left from a piece I had in one of the Anarchist papers – they have no money so pay in kind, the liquid kind, but it's from St Petersburg, it's okay, you have five minutes and then I need to get this place buzzing, I have lots more in my head I need to pour out!"
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