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Critique of Pure Murder (Part Two)

The Story so far:

Professor Witticus von-Etzdorf never went anywhere
without his copy of The Critique of Pure Reason.

The Critique was on his desk and the Prof. ~s
missing. With the Logical Positivist Meeting in
Vienna only two days away fast talking philosopherdetective Jean Paul Sauvage needed all his wits’ about
him when Athene von-Etzdorf, the Prof’s blonde and
beautiful daughter, asked him to trace her father.

The trail led to Heidelberg where a gunsel with a
Smith and Wesson named Gregor learned what it was to
cross Sauvage. In Gregor’s pocket was a library card.

Sauvage decided to check it out. Now read on •..

The librarian was young and pretty. Her hair was
the color of a fire burning out of control. I showed
her the card and requested a list of the books borrowed
on it.

She shook her head and snapped, “No dice, sport.

It’s against the rules.”
I dropped a wad of marks on the counter.

“I make my own rules, sister. Now, spill it.”
She shoved the bills in her purse and looked me
coolly in the eyes. I couldn’t help wondering how a
gal with a swell chassis like hers ended up here. “I’ll see what I can do.”
She came back a few minutes later with a list of
titles. Gregor had taken out 26 books last week.

Twenty-two were about Hegel. Four were by von Etzdorf.

TWENTY-TWO BY HECEL!

three … four … five
six … seven … eight
“Doubtless you are under the misapprehension
that when you pull that trigger, the bullet will be
fired into my heart, thus bumping me off. Nothing,
however, could be farther from the truth. According
to Zeno of Elea’s Fifth Paradox, before a body in
motion, in this case, your bullet, can reach a given
point, in this case, my heart, it must first travel
half of the distance. But before it can traverse the
half of the distance, it must first traverse the
quarter of the distance, and so on, ad infinitum.

Hence, that a body may pass from one point to another,
it must traverse an infinite number of divisions.

But an infinite distance cannot be traversed in a
finite time. Consequently, the goal can never be
reached.”
“You mean I can’t blast you?” he cried,
suspiciously eyeing his roscoe.

“Exactly. So long, pal.”
I left the library, ducked around the corner, and
waited. The gunsel came out about the time I finished
my third cigarette. After tossing his Mauser in a
trash can, he started walking north. Hanging back
about 15 feet, I trailed him through the twisting,
cobblestoned streets until he reached the Pink Zither,
a seedy cocktail lounge near the Jettenbahl. He was
about to enter when he spotted me.

“Hey! You’re following me.”
“You’ve made yet another fallacious assumption.”
I replied, stopping to tie a shoelace. “You are
confusing things-as-they-appear-to-be with things-asthey-are. Let us call our mutual point of departure,
Point A, and the exact spatio-temporal coordinates of
our pre~ent respective locations, Point B. The fact
that we have both moved from Point A to Point B cannot
be said to entail that I was following you, namely
having your person as the specific objective of my
wanderings. It may well be the case that I am going
to veer off in some other direction at the very next
instant.

“Secondly, ‘following’ presupposes that a body is
in a state of motion, and since I am unquestionably at
a state of rest, it is therefore logically impossible
that I should be engaged in that activity of which you
are accusing me.

“Thirdly, I should also point out that by turning
toward me to accuse me of following you, you are, in
fact, patently disproving your claim that I am
following you for, by definition, I cannot be following
you i f I am not behind you and, as you can perceive,
that is clearly the case.

“And finally, even if I were behind you, it might
well be that it is you who are following me, albeit
from a great distance.”
“Gosh, I’m sorry, mister, I thought you was
following me.”
He entered the bar aad I grabbed a hack back to
the hotel. It was all beginning to fall into place.

A telegram was waiting for me:

1.

2.

“Thanks,
avor
sometime.”
She touched my hand lightly and said,
“You just might, at that.”
As I was leaving, a thin, sallow-faced man
motioned me to sit down across from him. Normally,
I don’t talk to strangers, but the 9mm Mauser he was
pointing at my heart made the offer irresistible.

I’d been waiting for him to make his play. He’d been
shagging me ever since I left the hotel.

“Any funny business, gumshoe, and I’ll drill you
so full of holes, you won’t cast a shadow.”
“Then, at least, I needn’t worry about blocking
the sun,” I countered, leaning back in the chair.

He flasked a cold, even smile.

“Smart guy, huh? I like smart guys. Get one
thing straight, buster. I mean business. You got
till I count ten to fork over whatever the j ane
~lipped to you.

Then I blast you. One ••• two .•.

DOCTOR VON ETZDORF IS BEING HELD
PRISONER AT THE STOLICHNAYA VODKA
WAREHOUSE.

ALL TELEGRAMS SIGNED “A FRIEND”
ARE FALSE
A FRIEND

It was an odd telegram.

to make of it.

2A

I didn’t know quite what

I waited until nightfall to drive out to the
warehouse. As I neared the building, I cut the motor
and coasted to a stop in an alley. Even from there
I could make out the lighted window in the basement.

Moving like a gray cat, I inched my way along the wall
toward the window. It took me almost an hour to reach
it. I could see the Professor inside. His hands were
tied and Gregor stood over him with a shotgun. I was
about to jimmy the glass when I felt the cold muzzle
of a Luger in my back and a voice growled, “I wouldn’t
try anything i f I were you, Mr Sauvage.”

l

I turned slowly and observed, “But then, of
The shotgun is a swell weapon if you’re not
course, you aren’t me, are you? And yet, many
fussy.

Oriental philosophers, including such venerable sages
as Ch’~ng I-ch’uan and Chu Hsi, believe that all men
A few hours later, I was gunning the car toward
are One, identical with the Absolute or Great Ultimate,
Vienna and wrapping up in a few loose ends for the
unified in __ If
Prof.

“When I shadowed the mug to the Pink Zither,
“Save your breath, hotshot. or that big trap of
a known O.S.S. front, I figured I was in the squeeze
yours is gonna buy you a ride in the meat wagon.”
position between them and the Reds. The O.S.S. thought
The speaker was a Russian colonel. flanke~ by two
they could play me for a sucker by planting the Bolshoi
lugs packing grease-guns. I played my final card.

stub and then following my lead. Of course, if I
“Are you aware that you just expressed an
hadn’t flattened Gregor. he would probably have taken
argumentum ad baculum, that is to say. an argument
‘.

, me right to the warehouse. When this failed, the
deriving its strength from appeal to human timidity
Colonel sent me the telegram.”
and fear?”
We arrived in Vienna just in time. The bogus
• “Toss him in with Witticus!” the Colonel barked
Doctor von Etzdorft, almost identical to the real
to his henchmen. “.If he says anything to you, brain
him!”
one. was about to begin his talk, having just asked
the audience to “put on their thinking caps.” We
Minutes later. I was bound hand and foot. the
decided to watch from the wings for a short while,
Professor lay across from me.

just to see how far the Russians would go. He wait~d
“What’s the scoop. Prof?”
until the crowd quieted and ‘began.

“I’ve worked out a flawless refutation of
“Let me tell you about this here Hegel. I mean,
Hegel which I planned to reveal tomorrow at my Vienna
what did Hegel know? Huh? I’ll tell you what Hegel
lecture. As you know. Hegelianism forms much of the
knew – nothin’! that’s what Hegel knew. When ya get
foundation of the Marxist-Leninist dialectic. It
right down to it, Hegel didn’t know nothin’ at all
follows that when I refute Hegel. I will also topple
because Hegel was a bum. Now, my father, there was
the entire Communist political system. This prompted
a philosopher. ‘Live and let live,’ that was his
the Reds to kidnap me and hold me here while they
philosophy. And he didn’t need to go to none of them
substitute a double for me in Vienna who will deliver
fancy schools like that bum Hegel. The only school
a speech refuting Hegel but who will do so in such
my father went to was the School of Hard Knocks.

an inept fashion that he will be hooted by the
I’ll never forget how he used to tell me how ‘one hand
assemblage and I. subsequently. will be discredited.”
washes the other.’ Now, that’s good advice in any
“I’ve got a plan. First. we’ve got to get rid
man’s book. It reminds me of the story about the
of the guard. Can you recall any passages from
pessimist and the optimist and the half a bottle of
Critique of Pure Reason?”
whiskey. Now the pessimist, he looks at the bottle,
“I know the entire book by heart.”
“Start reciting it.”
and he says, ‘That bottle is half empty.’ But the
“But __ If
optimist, he __ If
“Just do as I say.”
I leapt up to the podium. I had to act fast
” ‘Whatever the process and the means may be
because the audience was starting to leave. A few,
openly hostile, shouted remarks from the floor, such
which knowledge reaches its objects. there is one that
reaches them directly. and forms the ultimate material
as “Define your terms!” and “What about the argumentum
a contingentia mundi?”
of all thought … ‘ ”
Hours passed as the Professor recited page after
page of Kant. Gregor and the guards were getting
drowsier with each passing second. In fact. it was
everything I could do to keep my eyes open. Finally.

I whispered. “You can stop now. They’re out like a
light. ”
I silently slipped free from my bonds. untied
the Professor. and together we stealthily overcame
the dozing guards and knocked them senseless. We
could hear the Colonel playing chess in the next room.

I grabbed the shotgun and got the drop on him.

“Sorry to interrupt, ‘Professor,’ but permit me
“I’ve got you covered. boys. The game is up.”
to demonstrate a basic Aristotelian concept.”
Suddenly the smell of mimosa filled the room
“Well, I’m right in the middle of talkin’ about
and a familiar voice said. “Hoist your mitts. sleuth,
Hegel.”
or I’ll feed you a few right in the belly.”
“It will only take a moment. Suppose, if you
I spun around to face Athene. She was holding
a .32 leveled at my guts.

will, that my fist is the Prime Mover and that your
”Meet your ‘daughter’, Professor,” I remarked.

jaw is the First Thing Moved, from which all subse”But this is not my daughter. My daughter is
quent motion is derived.”
“Yeah?”
attending school in Switzerland.”
“Right, pops. I posed as Athene to lure
I let him have it on the button. His legs
Sauvage here because he was the only person who might
buckled and he slumped to the floor.

stepped forward
and addressed the crowd.

have spotted our fake Doctor von Etzdorf for a ringer.

But now we got both of you and I’m going to polish you
“This man is an imposter, gentlemen. A lousy,
off, here and now. To coin one of your philosopher
two-bit grifter. Here is the real Doctor von Etzdorf.”
phrases — ‘I shoot you, therefore you ain’t.’ ”
During the applause, the Professor took me aside.

She aimed the rod at me and pulled the trigger.

“Thanks, Jean-Paul. After my lecture, I’m
The hammer clicked on an empty chamber. Again. And
going to buy you the biggest steak in Vienna.”
again.

“Afraid I can’t stick around, Prof. I’ve got
“I’m afraid you put Descartes before the hearse,
to talk with a redhead about taking out a library
angel face,” I quipped. “I realized from the start
card … and a librarian.”
that you didn’t know Ockham’s Razor from a Gillette
“One thing still troubles me. How did you know
Blue Blade. And so, when you left my office, I
that girl posing as my daughter was a fraud?”
followed you, found out where you lived, returned later
“Easy. That day in my office, she was carrying
snuck inside, came across your iron and took the libert
a copy of The Story of Philosophy.

I knew you’d
of removing all the bullets from it.”
never let any daughter of yours read Will Durant.”
“So. you know all the answers, huh, thinkster?

We shook hands and I left. As I drove past
But maybe you didn’t reckon with this!” She reached
TUrkenschanz Park, I noticed some of the leaves had
into her stocking and came up with a blazing Derringer.

already turned brown. It was going to be an early
Slugs tore all around me, but before they could hit
winter.

25
home, I brought up the shotgun and let go.

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