The Alwar Dagger
by euhal allen
part 1 of 2
T. Percival Bombast — the only person in the Philatelic Universe with the temerity, and the expertise, to correct Quorn Sulti of the Martio-Jovian Philatelic Society in public, and make Sulti back down and admit he was wrong — waddled his puffy little body up the stairs and into the massive structure that housed the Institute of Philatelic Science. Soon, standing in front of the counter, he asked in his high voice, “I should like to see the Alwar Dagger, please?”
“You have an ID as one qualified to examine the Dagger?”
“My good man,” complained T. Percival Bombast, “I don’t wish to examine the Dagger, I only wish to see it. That is why you have it on display, is it not?”
“The Dagger will be on display for general citizens in two weeks. Until then you will have to wait. Next, please.”
“Do you,” T. Percival Bombast squeaked, “understand to whom you are speaking?”
“No, SIR! Now step aside, please and let the next person to the counter.”
“I, young man, am T.... Percival... Bombast.”
Ashen-faced, the clerk touched a button and began to speak to his supervisor when a voice came out of his intercom, “T. Percival Bombast, it is so good of you to visit us.
“Escort him to my office, Richard, apologizing as you do so. It will make your upcoming evaluation less serious for you... if you do it well.”
Richard, stiff and formal now, bowed to T. Percival Bombast and said, in his most polite manner, “This way, sir.”
The crowd at the end of the hall parted as a Very Important Person broke through and headed, quite quickly, to welcome T. Percival Bombast to the Institute.
“It is an honor, T. Percival Bombast, to have your presence at our institute. I had been hoping to find a way to invite you here, perhaps with the bait of a membership in our distinguished and unsurpassed Academy of Philatelic Scientists.”
“That,” said T. Percival Bombast “is quite an offer, Sir Rupert, with many possibilities. Yes, quite. I do wonder, though, how I would look in a gray suit and brown shoes. Standard for the Institute, I believe. Of course, as a consultant I must remain neutral in these matters, and pass up such opportunities, as gratifying as they may be. Besides, I am really only here to see the Alwar Dagger. Hopefully that will be possible?”
“But of course, T. Percival Bombast,” Sir Rupert replied, “we shall have it brought to an examining room right away and you may take all the time you need.”
“Time? What have I need for time? I only have to have a glance at it for my purposes. Then, my schedule is very full, you know, I shall have to be on my way. Oh yes, quite.”
* * *
Back at the reception desk, a clerk, wondering at the whole chain of events, asked a fellow employee, “Who is that guy and why do they keep using his entire name? Isn’t Mr. Bombast good enough?”
“T. Percival Bombast is his full public name,” the other clerk replied. “He is from Cjerzy’Nigzt, a world somewhere out on the edge of everything, and it is a custom there to always call someone with his full public name.
“As for who he is, don’t you remember the guy who came, seemingly out of nowhere, and challenged Quorn Sulti on his own ground and proved him wrong about several artifacts on display at the Martio/Jovian Philatelic Society’s headquarters. And, he did it with half the galaxy watching. He really put Sulti in his place. And, he has been making the rounds of philatelic conventions and meetings ever since.”
“Yeah, now I remember, the news media made a big thing about how this nobody comes in and sets Sulti straight. No wonder Sir Rupert is bowing and scraping like that!”
* * *
Sir Rupert, sure of his victory over the Martio-Jovian people, and the influence that T. Percival Bombast’s certification of the stamp would bring to his Institute, escorted T. Percival Bombast to the display case that contained the Alwar Dagger.
Using his eyescopes, T. Percival Bombast took only a moment to examine the specimen. “Magnificent,” he said, “it is the best forgery of the Dagger that I have ever seen. Worthless as a specimen, of course, but still, the best Alwar Dagger forgery, perhaps, in existence. Oh, yes, quite well done!”
“T. Percival Bombast,” shrieked Sir Rupert, “this is no time to joke. It can’t be a forgery! My best people acquired it only with the greatest of effort and at a huge expense. It must be your sense of humor, T. Percival Bombast, and, surely you are now exercising it in a most dreadful way!”
“Sir Rupert, I am, indeed, known to have somewhat of a cruel sense of humor, but, let me assure you, Sir, that I never joke about a specimen. The stamp is a forgery.
“Look at it man! It is clearly a forgery of the quarter anna issue that was done on the first matrix stone. Don’t you see the point of the dagger, how it sweeps back to match the inner width of the handle?
“My dear sir, in the original the blade width matched the outer width of the handle, and, a sure clincher, the inscription below it is much too small. Yes, there can be no doubt that it is a forgery, and I have no further time for examining forgeries. Good day, Sir Rupert.”
“T. Percival Bombast,” asked Sir Rupert, “you will be discreet about this until we can make our own announcement, will you not?”
“Rest assured, Sir Rupert, I have no reason to embarrass you. I shall not speak of it until you, yourself, give me permission to do so. Of course, under those conditions I shall have to bill you for my professional discretion: five hundred Egyptian gold shekels will be sufficient.”
With those words, T. Percival Bombast turned and left the Institute and a much shaken Sir Rupert Ollney.
* * *
Shortly after, in the boardroom of the Institute of Philatelic Science, Sir Rupert Ollney sat facing the rest of the Institute’s token directors.
“I don’t care what any of you say or what research you have done; if T. Percival Bombast says that it is a fake, it then is a fake! And that is a disaster for my Institute. If the Martio-Jovian people find out I shall be the sour pickle of galactic philately.”
“Sir?” asked Rheams, a third level staffer.
“What is it, whoever you are?” replied Sir Rupert.
“I’m Rheams, Sir Rupert. I am a researcher on the acquisition staff, assisting Vice-Chairman Hitchery.”
“Oh, one of the bright boys that brought me into this mess,” said Sir Rupert. “Well, what is it?”
“Would it not be efficacious in this situation to arrange for the Martio-Jovian people to acquire the specimen? Then, when they announce it being on display, we might arrange an inspection of it by T. Percival Bombast.”
“Yes,” said Sir Rupert, “yes. But, even better, I could examine it with T. Percival Bombast in attendance. Put T. Percival Bombast on retainer, Rheams, whatever it costs. He could then confirm my identification of the issue as a fraud and the Institute, with me as its head, will emerge as the pre-eminent philatelic organization in the galaxy.
“Fenton! Double Rheams’ stipend.
”Rheams, contact Malcox and tell him I want to see him at once. The rest of you, carry on with the agenda, I have other things to do,” he said as he hurried out of the boardroom, with Rheams exiting through another door.
Hitchery, Vice-Chairman of the board, rose and moved to the Chairman’s place. Then, after sitting down, asked, “Agenda? I don’t recall ever seeing an agenda. Sir Rupert has always led our discussions. Still, our presence here does give the Institute respectability and creditability. Fenton, ring for tea. Then we shall consider our everlasting problem of just how large the janitorial closets really should be.”
* * *
Giuseppe Malcox leaned back in his chair and watched the screen and Sir Rupert carefully. He was a cautious man and knew from experience Sir Rupert’s reputation and actions.
“Let me get this straight,” he said to Sir Rupert, “you want me to approach a clerk at your institute and purchase this item. Then you want me to make the item available to the Martio-Jovian people. So tell me, why would I do such a thing? Why don’t you just sell it to them yourself?”
Copyright © 2006 by euhal allen