Holy Smoke by Cam Jace Storykiller
Copyright©by Cameron Jace 2019
Tom Tower, Oxford University,London
Time: 8:02 PM Mood: Curious
I lived in the top room inside the Tom Tower, Oxford’s famous bell tower. Not that I liked the ringing waking me on an hourly basis, but I was looking to solve the tower's untold secret.
You see, Lewis Carroll’s studio was where I now slept inside the tower. In my ultimate search for the Singing Bone and the origins of folklore and the so-called fairytales, I suspected him hiding a little secret between these walls — I found some of his two-centuries old hallucinogens mushrooms once, but that's another story.
Lewis Carroll, like every other author in history, preferred keeping facts from the public eye, and selling them to us as fiction. In fact, his diaries mentioned the exact location of the rabbit hole that led to the real Wonderland being somewhere in the university's gardens. Someone ripped out that page though.
Never have I been lucky enough to find it though.
I sat back in my favorite antique chair, which once belonged to Sigmund Freud and earlier Sherlock Holmes. I had bought it from a Sotheby's auction in London after convincing its owner it was fake–sue me. Sotheby's was the richest, most expensive art gallery and auctioneer in the world.
Smoking my hookah and touching historical ass with Freud and Holmes was an intimate pleasure that infused such warmth in my… heart, I guess.
Looking outside my window, I enjoyed the foggy skyline of the city of London with its fascinating architecture and towers. No wonder it’s been called the City of Dreaming Spires. Not only could I glimpse towers everywhere, but the feeling of mystery never escaped me. Too bad the greying rain loomed all over the city almost all year long.
The other window in the room behind me overlooked the Tom Quad, the university’s square garden, which I avoided, as I had grown tired of seeing it everyday. Sometimes I questioned my motives to live inside the university. True, I was after its secrets, but I was also the youngest professor in Oxford.
At twenty eight, I was considered a child to other scholars. I couldn't say I didn't forge my way up to the degree though, but I will explain later.
London had always been the city of fake diplomas and PhDs.
“You realize there are priests watching you all the time, don’t you?” Karma mused from behind me.
She usually lay stretched by the sofa near the other window. Fascinated by Madonna, she wore the same outrageous 80s dress with long earrings, short curly haircut, and fishnets everywhere.
“Father Mathews acquaintances,” I said, trying to adjust the smoke levels in my hookah. I never got it right. The right puff. The right smoke. The right mood. “Don’t worry about it.”
“So they want you killed?” Karma popped her bubblegum in the air.
“Eventually they do,” I said. “but now they're waiting for me to solve the puzzle Father Mathews had on his bookmark.”
“So he hadn't solved it himself?”
“Of course not, or he wouldn’t have passed it over. You have any idea what powers the Singing Bone entail?”
“You never answer me when I ask.”
She now stood by the window overlooking the Tom Quad. “There is a priest down there looking at us. He looks pretty creepy in that black hood under the rain.”
“Actually yes,” she looked back at me. “How did you know?”
“Father Mathews wasn't just a priest, but I don't want to talk about it,” I lay the hookah aside and rubbed my beady eyes. The world looked so much better when stoned.
“How can men of God be so mean?”
“What's a man of God?” I frowned. “Besides, you're a demon, Karma. You make a living by scaring the shirt out of people.”
“That’s what I’m saying. I’m a demon. You’re an immoral sonofabitch. We get away with breaking rules. They, men of God, shouldn’t be trying to kill you.”
“It’s a all about power.”
“Money, you mean?”
“Money is part of the game, but all through history, wars, scandals, and betrayal were all part of man’s ultimate search for power.”
“What is power then? A magic wand? A Holy Grail? Ruling the kingdom?”
“Knowledge,” I said, pulling out a paper with the bookmark’s puzzle written on it. “If I know what you don't know, I'm king and you're my pawn,” I started reading the puzzle out loud, “Tom Bodley and Tom Tower, get inside, right on the hour, one-hundred-and-one strikes, are the limits of their power.”
“Isn’t Tom Bodley the man whom the Bodleian Library is named after?”
“Exactly,” I smiled at her intelligence. I loved intelligent women, but I also loved dumb ones–sue me.
“And Tom Tower is the name of this tower you live in,” she admired the place all around.
“Indeed,” I said, thinking about the tower's bell that were about to strike at 9 pm.
It was a deafening bell, but like I said, the place was priceless, and they didn’t make me pay taxes, as I had listed my accommodation under research expenses for the university. I basically didn’t pay rent and simply duped the holy government itself in the name of science and research.
“So the puzzle suggests a meeting connected to the Bodleian Library and the Tom Tower?” she said.
“Spot on,” I said. “The question is where would that meeting be?”
“Since both the library and the tower are here, I'd say it's a meeting inside the Oxford University,” she said. “but the real question is where exactly?”
“So the Signing Bone is here inside the university. It’s hard to believe, but I'll go with it.”
“Then it says ‘right on the hour.’ Is that a suggestion to the time you can find the Singing Bone?”
“I assumed that. I just couldn’t decipher the ‘one hundred and one strikes.’”
“One minute after one o'clock?”
“Afternoon or Morning?”
“Who knows?” she mouthed One-hundred-and-one strikes, Were the limits of their power to herself. “What does the limit of their power mean? Could it have something with your Mythbuster 101 class?”
“I searched my lecture hall. Nothing. Besides, what does my class have to do with Tom Bodley and Tom Tower?”
I stopped, interrupted by a knocking on my door.
“Expecting someone?” Karma pouted.
“Delilah Kat?” She suggested. “I know you two…”
Someone knocked again.
“I wouldn’t have her over while you’re here, don’t you think?” I rolled my eyes and went to open the door.
To my surprise, it was Joanne Rowling, soaking wet.
“What does she have that Delilah doesn’t?” Karma folded her arms in front of her.
“Delilah?” Joanne scowled.
I was caught between a demon and nerd, not my favorite combination of women.
“Come in, Rowling,” I ushered her.
She did. I helped her with her coat.
“I solved it,” she said.
“The Puzzle?” Karma couldn’t help herself, seeing the bookmark in Rowling’s hands.
Rowling nodded, “Tom Bodley created the Bodleian Library, so whatever you’re seeking is in there.”
“We know that already,” Karma said.
“The Tom Tower references the 101 bell strikes every afternoon.”
Karma gasped. I smirked. This Rowling girl was smart and rolling.
Each day at 9:05 pm, the Tom Tower's bell rang 101 times, for five continues minutes. An old tradition that annoyed most students, and even spooked some of them. It had been rumored the tradition was some kind of magic or ancient code to whiff off demons who lurked inside books in the libraries. One better presumption was that every dead professor from Einstein to Lewis Carrol who ever taught at Oxford woke up for those five minutes and attend a tea party.
“So the puzzle is telling me to go to the Bodleian Library when the Tom Tower bell rings 101 time at 9:05 pm?” I said. “This explains the limits of their power thing.”
“Because whatever can be accessed in the Bodleian Library lasts for only five minutes, starting 9:05 pm.”
“I have to go,” I pulled my coat and grabbed my hookah. “It’s almost 9 pm already.”
“Can I come?” Karma said.
“No! You're way behind on your chewing bubblegum skills. Stay here and practice.”
I pulled Rowling out and closed the door behind me.
Descending the stairs, Rowling said, “So I thought you could help me with my book.”
“Later, Rowling,” I said, panting down the stairs, thinking about whatever awaited me in the library.
“It’s about a wizard.”
“A young wizard.”
“Who wants to read about a young wizard?”
“It's hardly been done before.”
“Can he solve human stupidity?”
“I didn’t think of that.”
“Then he is not a wizard,” I pushed the tower's door open.
A torrent of rain and a lightning welcomed us outside. Rowling was right. Something otherworldly was going to happen in Oxford when the tower bells rang in a few minutes.
“I thought you might help with naming my hero,” she said. “A character’s name is most important.”
“Harry,” I said, gripping her hand and crossing upon the clutching grass of the the Tom Quad. She had no idea of the kind of danger I was saving her from.
“Dirty Harry, a Clint Eastwood movie, he shoots people left and right.”
“But my hero isn’t like that.”
“Then it wouldn’t sell. People love blood & gore,” I said while men in hoods smirked under red eyes at me all over the place. “Fuck!” I said.
“You a have a potty mouth, professor.”
“Potty,” I said, not really paying attention. All I wanted was to cross over to the library. “Harry Potty.”
“Not in a million years,” she scoffed. “My hero isn’t an immoral hookah smoker like you.”
I pulled her hard into the corridor. The library was only strides away. “Harry Potty and the Hookahs from Hell.”
“What's wrong with a wizard smoking pot?”
“Pot,” she said, thinking. “Pot-ter. I like that. Thank you professor. Harry Potter is a good name.”
“Good,” I held her by the arms. “Now run away as far as you can.”
“Why?” Her eyes dilated, sensing the horror in my tone.
She had no idea. I kicked the library's door open, thunder and lightning striking behind me. It was showtime.