Franz heard Gun say urgently, "Cal, are you all right? Franz!" Then Saul; "What the hell's happened to his room?" Then Gun again; "My God, it looks like his whole library's been put to the Destroysit!" but all that Franz could see of them were shoes and legs. How odd. There was a third pair - brown denim pants, and scuffed brown shoes, rather small; of course - Fernando.
Doors opened down the hall and heads thrust out. The elevator doors opened and Dorotea and Bonita hurried out, their faces anxious and eager. But what Franz found himself looking at, because it really puzzled him, was a score or more of dusty corrugated cartons neatly piled along the wall of the hall opposite the broom closet, and with them three old suitcases and a small trunk.
Saul had knelt down beside him and was professionally touching his wrist and chest, drawing back his eyelids with a light touch to check the pupils, not saying anything. Then he nodded reassuringly to Cal.
Franz managed an inquiring look. Saul smiled at him easily and said, "You know, Franz, Cal left that concert like a bat out of hell. She took her bows with the other soloists and she waited for the conductor to take his, but then she grabbed up her coat - she'd brought it onstage during the second intermission and laid it on the bench beside her (I'd given her your message) - and she took off straight through the audience. You thought you'd offended 'em by leaving at the start. Believe me, it was nothing to the way she treated 'em! By the time we caught sight of her again, she was stopping a taxi by running out into the street in front of it. If we'd have been a bit slower, she'd have ditched us. As it was, she grudged us the time it took us to get in."
"And then she got ahead of us again when we each thought the other would pay the cab driver and he yelled at us and we both went back," Gun took up over his shoulder from where he stood inside the room at the edge of the great drift of shredded paper and stuff, as if hesitant to disturb it. "When we got inside she'd run up the stairs. By then the elevator had come down, so we took it, but she beat us anyway. Say, Franz," he asked, pointing, "Who chalked that big star on your wall over the bed?"
At that question, Franz saw the small brown scuffed shoes step out decisively, kicking through the paper snow. Once again Fernando loudly rapped the wall above the bed, as if for attention, and turned and said authoritatively, "Hechiceria ocultado en muralla! "
"Witchcraft hidden in the wall," Franz translated, rather like a child trying to prove he's not sick. Cal touched his lips reprovingly, he should rest.
Fernando lifted a finger, as if to announce, "I will demonstrate," and came striding back, stepping carefully past Cal and Franz in the doorway. He went quickly down the hall past Dorotea and Bonita, and stopped in front of the broom-closet door and turned around. Gun, who had followed inquisitively behind him, stopped, too.
The dark Peruvian gestured from the shut doorway to the neatly stacked boxes twice and then took a couple of steps on his toes with knees bent. ("I moved them out. I did it quietly.") and took a big screwdriver out of his pants pocket and thrust it into the hole where the knob had been and gave it a twist and with it drew the black door open and then with a peremptory flourish of the screwdriver stepped inside.
Gun followed and looked in, reporting back to Franz and Cal, "He's got the whole little room cleared out. My God, it's dusty. You know, it's even got a little window. Now he's kneeling by the wall that's the other side of the one he pounded on. There's a little shallow cupboard built into it low down. It's got a door. Fuses? Cleaning stuff? Outlets? I don't know. Now he's using the screwdriver to pry it open. Well, I'll be damned!"
He backed away to let Fernando emerge, smiling triumphantly and carrying before his chest a rather large, rather thin gray book. He knelt by Franz and held it out to him, dramatically opening it. There was a puff of dust.
The two pages randomly revealed were covered from top to bottom, Franz saw, with unbroken lines of neatly yet crabbedly inked black astronomical and astrological signs and other cryptic symbols.
Franz reached out shakily toward it, then jerked his hand sharply back, as though afraid of getting his fingers burned.
He recognized the hand that had penned the Curse.
It had to be the Fifty-Book, the Grand Cipher mentioned in Megapolisomancy and Smith's journal (B) - the ledger that Smith had once seen and that was an essential ingredient (A) of the Curse and that had been hidden almost forty years ago by old Thibaut de Castries to do its work at the fulcrum (0) at (Franz shuddered, glancing up at the number on his door) 607 Rhodes.