“Mr. Walker, I honestly don’t think a one-in-a-million monster like the Trespasser is worth comment. He’s a freak.” Philip protests with far too much energy. “He’s a murderous little whatsit and that is all.”
“Then there’s nothing more to say about him?” I question.
“There’s nothing more you want to say?”
Philip gives me an annoyed look. “What do you mean by that exactly?”
I recognize that look. It’s the look of a man that fears his bluff is about to be called. It turns my stomach to see that expression on the face of a good man. I’ve seen it on too many of my prey.
I step closer to Philip. “I can tell when a person is lying. It is a skill of mine.” I look Philip in the eye. “And you have been lying.”
Philip takes a step back. He cringes from me. He knows me to be a friendly old man and yet he pulls away. He knows me to be a veteran of the Great War in the Air, something like a hero by his reckoning, and yet he pulls away.
It is an involuntary response to an involuntary slip of my mask.
I don’t mean to be intimidating. I only want to get the truth out of him. But I end up interrogating him nonetheless. Its as if I’m in costume and we’re in a dark alley and I’m approaching him like he’s a criminal and this is wrong, this is so very, very wrong.
I should be able to act more human than this.
“Philip.” I say taking a step back and checking my tone. “I’ve been very open about myself tonight.”
And in some ways I have.
“Now, I can tell you don’t really think the Trespasser is a monster. I see it in your eyes. I hear it in your voice. The truth is there within you.”
“Mr. Walker, whatever impression I’ve given you--”
“I understand you wanting to hold your tongue because you know how I feel about the Trespasser. That is very polite of you Philip. But it is not honest, and I would appreciate you requiting the honesty I’ve shown you tonight.”
Philip stares down at the floor, rolls his head to the side, looks at nothing, and then looks at me.
“I have ruined friendships talking about the Trespasser--totally ruined them.” He says in a low tone. “If this is some kind of test Mr. Walker I beg you not to spring it on me.”
“This is not a test. From what you have shown me tonight Philip, I believe you to be a very intelligent, creative, and moral man. That will not change regardless of what your opinion may be.”
Philip takes a deep sigh. “Everytime...every single time...I try talking to someone about superheroes and he comes up. I dared to hope that tonight would be different. Because of that, you know I almost do hate him.”
“But you don’t.”
“You think he’s a warrior, don’t you?”
Philip squares up to me. “I think he’s a superhero.”
“So it’s out there now. The man that flayed Mal Gideon to death and tossed him into the sea--and I think he’s a superhero.”
“I see…” I pretend his words weigh heavily upon me. But inwardly, I smile.
“So, do you still think so highly of me Mr. Walker?” Philip asks somewhat angrily.
“Yes I do.”
“Well, I’m so glad.” Philip answers flippantly, seemingly to take my answer as sarcasm.
“Now, can we return to the matter of deciding what we shall call the Trespasser and those like him under your schema?” I ask.
Phillip stares at me.
“Are you sure you’re fine with how I feel about the Trespasser?” He asks in a disbelieving tone.
“I just told you that I am.”
“Yes you say that...but it’s just too damn strange Mr. Walker!”
“You’ve told reporters he’s evil and a menace--and yet here I am telling you to your face that I think he’s a hero and you act like that’s nothing!”
Stupid, stupid me.
I am such a fool.
I forget, once again, that there is a difference between being disguised as Lee Walker and being Lee Walker.
Be Lee Walker, you fool.
“I was asked me to give my opinion on the Trespasser. And I did.” I explain. “But they did not ask me to...elaborate on my opinion.”
“...What do you mean?” Philp asks, a tone of hope rising in his voice.
“I mean that I’ve carefully studied the Trespasser as I have all men who live by taking human life and I have decided that though I can’t agree with his methods, I cannot argue against his results.”
A relieved expression washes over Philip’s face.
“I believe the Trespasser to be something like a necessary evil.” I say.
Life is very strange when one can lie inside a lie.
So Lee Walker approves of the Trespasser now.
Okay. That’s not part of his character. That’s something new.
I fear I might have just made a mistake.
One of my agents, a Frenchman by the name of Claude Marceau, is a highly skilled actor and makeup artist. He has done his best to pass on his skills to the other agents and myself, but I am afraid the world will never see his like again. Claude is fond of saying that acting is the art of “comfortable consistency”. As he explains it, acting relies on consistent and seemingly involuntary patterns of behavior. A bad actor is one whose behaviors appear uncomfortable and inconsistent and thus voluntary and artificial.
In this case, I fear I have been grossly inconsistent. I fearI have been a bad actor in front of a socialite known for liking gossip.
For a moment, I feel naked and awkward
But it passes in an instant.
No. It is a good lie. There is consistency.
Lee Walker secretly approves of the Trespasser but fears what would happen to his reputation if it was known. More charitably, he fears what would happen to his lover’s reputation. He is also jealous of the Trespasser as he was able to rescue Lorna when he couldn’t. He imagines the Trespasser to be a rival for Lorna’s affections and sees his greater morality as something to hold over him, so he takes any opportunity he can to demonize the Trespasser though rationally he knows the Trespasser is worth existing.
It all makes sense.
And even if it doesn’t, Philip is too happy to bother scrutinizing Lee Walker’s characterization.
“I get it, I get it!” Philip exclaims. “So all of that was a what? A test?”
Yes. Because what I will eventually ask you to do will require even more courage than admitting you approve of the Trespasser in front of one known for hating him.
“I was just curious about the honesty of a man who speaks so highly of knights in shining armor.” I say.
“I suppose this makes us...the only fanclub of the Trespasser in Mainline? The country? The universe?”
Oh Philip, wait until you meet the real fanclub.
“Now don’t get me wrong Philip. I do harbor a degree of animosity toward the Trespasser for endangering Lorna.”
“That’s perfectly understandable.”
“Still, I imagine your appraisal of the Trespasser is far more glowing than my own.”
“Hey, so long as you don’t think the Trespasser should be shot in broad daylight by the police I welcome you with open arms to the Trespasser appreciation society!”
George Douglas re-enters the room with a plate of rum and Philip nearly leaps at him.
“Ah! My good man! I was wondering where you were!” He says taking a drink off the plate. “Your boss and I, we turn out to have quite a lot in common! Quite a lot in deed!” Philip flashes a broad smile. He’s just discovered the thrill of flaunting a secret in front of the ignorant. He’ll learn to reign in that excitement. In time, he’ll learn to be discreet like Georage Douglas and myself. We communicate with glances--I nod to tell George to mean that I approve of Mr. Philip Tyro and he nods back.
George cracks a smile. His boyish enthusiasm always shows whenever we have a new potential agent.
With one hand holding the tray of drinks and the other working with a magician’s grace, he takes out Philip’s wallet, opens it, and slips a very special note in it that will tell Philip to meet Arthur Gideon at a certain place at a certain time to discuss a certain mutual friend--that will be the first step in his initiation.
George moves his hand with the wallet behind Philip’s back, and when he brings it back the wallet is gone.
“Excuse me sah.” George speaks to me. “But I need to discuss the library’s shelf space with you at your nearest possible convenience.”
That is the signal to mean that George is done going through the guests’ purses and wallets and that he and Arthur are ready to discuss his findings in the library.
Not the one available to guests.
The soundproof one.
“Oh, shelf space!” Philip exclaims. “What new books are coming? Something dark and occult like Crowley? Bessant? Massey?”