A Glimmer of the Warlock
B. A. Ramsey
A Glimmer of the Warlock
It was before I met my patient that a news clipping would later, in her presence, take on significance that the younger generation would refer to as something random, but in my own Case File, pertained more to witchcraft. The article is very short, about a man from Kenya who was emigrating from his country only to die mysteriously on the airplane voyage before he reached our home and native land. He complained of no sickness on the airplane and had remarked to a passenger in his seating section that he did not wish for conversation during the journey, rather wanting to sleep through the flight because there was much to be done in his new home. He died in his sleep, poor man! Upon arrival the airplane was quarantined, the Centre for Infectious Diseases conducted its tests, but soon afterwards the man's death was ruled natural; caused by heart failure, due to the excitement of the voyage; and the grumpy airplane passengers were let go.
The thought my clipping occasioned me might not have occurred except for the esotericism of the patient assessment I made one month later; for the circumstance of a relationship that patient and I commenced soon afterwards; and for the fact that these days I am in the habit of receiving the majority of my news from the FM Classical Station and there is much music and so little news on that station. Moreover, it is rare that I should pick up that newspaper and read that article. I had empathy for the man who had died on the airplane voyage and some thoughts for the airplane passengers, too. So, I clipped the news.
This man died before his new life could happen.
I begin to think of Africa. Of the reddish-brown earth and top-grass that must cover its plains; the strange trees and wild flowers; the great beasts that make prey in the jungles. I begin to feel the closeness to the quick turns of Nature's cycle that the many peoples of so spectacular a continent must go around. I begin to wonder at my life in this climate, this city, the awful monotony, where the elephants are caged in a zoo; and the ground is not reddish-brown earth, but grey and cracked and manufactured.
"Wouldn't I like to leave, to emigrate?" I thought to myself. "Don't I even miss my own Victoria Falls and perish like the man I read about?"
There are plenty of morbid ruminations that are the cause of any city slicker, but I am made sick by the monotonous seasons; I am smote by angry drivers; I am exhausted by the thick exhaust; and I am butchered at the markets.
No, I shall never see that continent. And by my own misfortune I can allow of myself to have had only a Glimmer of it.
Do not think me so naive to believe that the encounter with the striking patient who is the subject of this Case File was ever more than like the coincidence of two ships passing in the night. It is not fate or evil, I dare say; but this lady will have me believing that anything unpleasant which happens for no other apparent cause is unequivocally accomplished by witchcraft.
When I first met this disarming female African émigré she was a young patient, newly arrived in Canada, complaining of migraines. She did not place much trust in our western pharmaceutical science for the respite of illness. Her general practitioner worrying that her patient was refusing treatment, and wanting the lady well, made a referral to me, Dr. Clay Glimmer MD F.R.C.P. Dip. Of Psychology, for a psychological assessment of her condition. I have that doctor’s referral in my Case File and I know a great deal about migraines.
I'm not one to say my patient’s name is exotic for I believe to have a worldly nature one must be prepared to give up the notion that anything is so rare. Yet to my mind her name suits her beauty. Her name is Mastifa. Her skin is so black it seems to glow, her eyes are like onyx. Her hair is cut short, and she is tall and strong; making the impression that you are in the presence of a truly formidable woman. She speaks slowly and forcibly, with perfect mastery of the English language. And no doubt her intellectual prowess matches her physical endowments.
"Your doctor has sent you here because she believes the migraines you are having may be psychosomatic." I said. "I am prepared, if you are willing, to ascertain the truth of this diagnosis; whether they are caused by some late trauma," (I believe she cringed when I said trauma), "By some accident or what have you; and together if you are willing we may reduce the discomfort."
"I know what is happening to me - it is witchcraft!" she complained.
"The notion of witchcraft may have some importance in Africa, but you will have a hard time convincing me of its credibility." I assured her.
She looked at me directly with anger as if I had blatantly called her backward and said, "I am an educated woman and I am quite aware of how this part of the world imagines witchcraft - all spells and potions, black cats and broomsticks. It is not so where I am from. Witchcraft is commonplace in my country. When I walk and stub my toe even that is witchcraft."
"Forgive me Mastifa,” I asserted. “But I should think that when you walk and stub your toe that is because you are not looking where you are going."
"You are mistaken," she insisted. "When I walk down the same path that I walk daily, when I can number the steps to my destination and walk it with my eyes closed because I know it so well, and yet I still stub my toe, that is witchcraft. There is no other explanation. So it must be witchcraft."
"So, witchcraft occurs when there are no other natural explanations to something that happens?" I hesitated.
"That is very often the case." she affirmed.
I thought for a moment and made some notes. I then asked how long she had been having migraines.
"I have had headaches before," she told me. "But never as bad as in the last month. Now it gets so bad that when I have one, I feel like throwing-up."
"How do you account for the bad turn in the last month?" I asked. “Is it also witchcraft?”
From her purse she produced a folded bit of newspaper. "Yes, it is.” she said, showing me the clipping. “I have been cursed by witchcraft for my knowledge about the events in this article."
I took the clipping from her hand and read the headline. "Yes," I said. "I am familiar with the news." I was familiar with the news because it was the same article I had read and clipped a month before. "Why should this upset you?"
Mastifa did not answer right away. She clenched her head and keeled over making a terrible moan, "Oh, oh!" I gave her the waste paper basket but she refused it. Then Mastifa said, "I must tell you what I know, I must tell you about myself so you can help me."
"Why should the death of an émigré of Kenya upset you?" I asked.
"I knew him.” she said with a pained look in her eyes. “He was a farmer in my country."
"Was he a friend?” I asked. “What role did he play in your life?"
"He played no role in my life," she insisted. "He was nothing to me."
"Then why does it make you sick to think about him?" I implored.
"Because," she said. "I know who killed him."
"Murder!" I gasped. "The article makes no mention that he was murdered. For all purposes the man died of a natural albeit mysterious cause."
"That is what the news reports,” Mastifa said quietly. “But I am sure he was poisoned."
"Poisoned!” I exclaimed. “By someone on the plane?
"No,” she sighed. “By someone in Kenya."
"Where is your evidence?" I asked. "Surely, a poison would have shown up in the tests that were conducted."
“Normally, that would be the case.” Mastifa said. “But not if it was a drop of sap from the Fatal Bottlebrush.”
"Fatal Bottlebrush!" I exclaimed.
"Yes,” Mastifa said. “A tiny amount induces death in the one who ingests it within twenty-four hours and leaves no trace."
Then Mastifa took a deep breath and told me more of what she knew.
“The man who was murdered was a white landlord and the person who murdered him was a tenant who worked on his farm. The landlord was terribly cruel and so the tenant vowed to kill him.” she explained.
"You knew this murderer?" I asked.
"The tenant is my lover," she confided.
Piecing her remarkable story together I said, "But why should your lover have wanted to kill this man? Surely, he should have been content with the fact that he would never set eyes on his landlord again. Why poison him the day before his landlord emigrated? Your lover does not seem reasonable if what you are telling me is true."
"Dr. Glimmer, what I am telling you is all too true. As for my lover's reasonableness, I grant my lover is not the most intelligent and circumspect person. But this is just what my lover vowed to do."
I thought for a moment, surveying the cunning eyes of my patient. She had perspiration on her brow and one of her arms was folded around her stomach, "You seem like you are a highly intelligent lady. I wonder that you would become involved with such a reckless person."
"We have passion." she said with a slight smile.
This word passion makes me uneasy. It begins a reflection that my own life is an unexciting bore. Here before me was a beautiful lady, whom I should never have met in any other circumstance but the one at hand. And whom I would never address but as a doctor to a patient. Yes they have passion. Is that really what women want? "Damn it," I thought, "I should have booked a flight to Africa the day before last. By now I'd be watching the sprinting impalas."
"Have you," I asked at last, "Thought of telling the police your story?"
"Yes, I sometimes do." she sighed. “But my lover will not let me, and so I remain silent.”
"Do you realize that makes you accessory to murder?" I asked.
“Yes, I do.” she responded.
"Surely you don’t believe that what your lover did was right?" I urged.
"Well,” she said coldly. “There are some people who deserve to die."
"But your lover committed murder." I objected.
Mastifa said, "In my country, when the elephants are too numerous for the land and they get in our way, we kill them. We do not call it murder. We call it culling. There is no moral disapproval about that."
"We aren't talking about elephants," I insisted. "A man's life was taken. He was murdered."
"I don't agree," Mastifa said, suppressing her emotions. “This man was an animal. He treated my lover cruelly and he deserved to die.”
“Mastifa, it is not witchcraft which is causing you migraines,” I offered. “They are being caused by the guilt you must be feeling.”
“I feel no guilt, Dr. Glimmer.” Mastifa said in denial.
“Surely, you have a conscience?” I implored.
But Mastifa insisted that I did not understand her lover or the situation. She said this with a hardness that was quite convincing. It reinforced my feeling that the migraines were psychosomatic due to suppressed emotions. I decided to try to crack her tough exterior.
"Would you- have you ever - committed a like offense?" I asked.
"No," she said with resilience. "But I would have done the same."
"I could report this," I said, summoning up my authority.
"What about doctor-patient confidentiality?" she said with a sharp tone.
"Under these circumstances there are exceptions to the rule." I retorted.
"It would be useless anyhow," she said. "How can the authorities ever prove anything without a trace of poison? They have ruled it a natural death.”
I began to give into her nerve. "You are putting me in a difficult position, Mastifa."
"If you want to do something, try to see it my way.” said Mastifa. “How can I speak to you of these things when you have so little understanding of the situation? You should meet my lover. We are both in Canada now. Hear for yourself our story. I’d bet you will not be so quick to judge or to condemn anyone for murder."
"I won't come with you,” I insisted. “It is not proper. The place for our meetings is in this office.”
I hurried to conclude our appointment. “We should end here. What medication are you taking? Really? Well I am not sure you are taking it. I want you to have injections. You may take them at the clinic downstairs. They will commence today and you will receive them once a week."
"Dr. Glimmer, I shall agree to do as you want, if you also will agree to do what I want of you." She wrote out an address with a pen on a piece of paper which she also took from her purse. "Come to this place and meet my lover."
She put her pen away and handed me the address. I handed her back her clipping and after some hesitation I said I would call her.
"Damn it," I thought.
Settling down to review some notes pertaining to my next patient, my mind soon began to wander. That I should read this article a month before and have it suddenly take on such a meaning in my life was certainly coincidental. I began to think of what my patient had said about witchcraft. There being no other natural explanation to this event, I wondered, "Had I too become bewitched?" I smiled at what I was suggesting to myself. And yet there was no doubt that many men would consider my patient to be a bewitching woman.
“A Glimmer of Witchcraft,” I wondered.
I turned the address in my hand and took notice of the street. I knew the address from my Case File. It was Mastifa’s apartment.
Three days later I telephoned Mastifa and agreed to meet her, and her lover- the murderer.
The apartment was one which Mastifa and her lover shared together. But I was a little surprised when the person she introduced to me as her lover was another woman. I stood awkwardly before the two of them, while they held out their hands to greet me.
I began to wonder whether Mastifa knew I had assumed that her lover was a man. And I also began to wonder when if she did know that, why she hadn’t corrected my assumption. But she only said nervously, "Doctor Glimmer, you came. I am very happy to see you."
"Well, I didn't see the harm in coming after all." I stammered.
Mastifa’s lover seemed almost apologetic in her mannerisms, and apart from saying hello she did not say another word. I do not even know if she spoke English, she was so silent. For the first time since I had made acquaintance with Mastifa, she too seemed frightened of something. It came about in a hurried conversation with Mastifa that her lover was going to turn herself into the police and that it was the appointment Mastifa had with me that had caused both lovers to have a change of heart. I nodded approval to Mastifa’s lover upon hearing this, but she only stared nervously back into my eyes in a way that suggested that she would say a great deal more if she only could. Mastifa went on to inform me that she had taken her first injection and had not had a migraine for the past three days. I was pleased with them both but remained a little withdrawn because I too felt uneasy. From the moment I entered their apartment and met them, an uncanny sense of alarm seemed to be growing inside of me. I looked at them both, and they both seemed terrified. I was about to clear the air and ask what was wrong, when Mastifa’s lover quickly stood up in a way that almost startled me, held open the front door which was adjacent to where we had been sitting, and indicated with her free hand that it was time for me to leave. I did not protest but simply left the apartment, glad to put an end to the uncomfortable feeling I had been experiencing while in their home. I never saw either of those two ladies again, for one of them was murdered only an hour after I left the apartment and the other was consequently arrested for the homicide.
I was scheduled to meet Mastifa the following week for her next appointment. But instead of Mastifa arriving, a Homicide Detective entered my office at the appointed time. I read from his expression that something awful had happened. He asked for my Case File and informed me that Mastifa had been arrested for murder.
“There’s been a mistake,” I protested.
“What do you mean by that?” yelled the Homicide Detective.
“I met them both and Mastifa’s lover wanted to turn herself in.” I said.
The Homicide Detective demanded when I last saw Mastifa and I told him when it was. “Five days ago.” I said.
“About what time were you at Mastifa’s apartment?” he demanded.
I told him the time I was there and he informed me that the murder took place an hour afterwards in that very apartment.
Again I protested, “There’s been a mistake.”
The Homicide Detective whistled. “There sure has been a mistake. One of Toronto’s finest has been murdered!”
“How is Mastifa?” I asked.
“Uncooperative.” The Homicide Detective yelled.
“And Mastifa murdered her lover?” I asked in disbelief.
“Mastifa shot and killed a police officer.” The Homicide Detective shouted.
“So, the woman I met in that apartment last week was actually a police officer?” I confirmed.
“Yes.” the Homicide Detective growled. “She was requested to be there to discuss a private matter with Mastifa.
It was then that I began to suspect what must have happened.
“Then her lover wasn’t in the apartment, after all.” I said aloud to myself.
“What’s all this about a lover?” The Homicide Detective demanded.
I looked into the eyes of the Homicide Detective.
“Or else her lover was there all the time.” I said with more confidence.
It was then that I opened my desk drawer and handed the Homicide Detective my clipping.
“What’s this?” the Homicide Detective demanded.
“It is an article about an émigré from Kenya,” I answered. “And the first of two murders of which I am certain Mastifa’s lover, and not Mastifa, is guilty.”
“The first of two?” The Homicide Detective fumed.
“Yes, first the man from Kenya, and now a police officer.” I said.
“Why would this so-called lover murder a police officer?” The Homicide Detective demanded.
“Because, Detective. Mastifa was overcome with guilt, being accessory to the first murder. And she was trying to convince her lover to turn himself in.” I explained.
The Homicide Detective looked as though he was about to explode, so I handed him my Case File.
“Here, Detective,” I said, passing it over. “Is a case I call A Glimmer of the Warlock.”
“Warlock!” The Homicide Detective boiled.
“Witchcraft is the explanation of any event that can’t otherwise be explained.” I informed him.
“Very bewitching indeed,” the Homicide Detective roared. “But Doctor, I believe that there always is an explanation to everything that happens.”
“So do I.” I agreed. “Mastifa tried to convince her lover to turn himself into the police on the day the police officer was at her house. Everything would have been alright except for the fact that Mastifa’s lover did not want to turn himself into the police, after all.”
“Can you describe Mastifa’s lover?” the Homicide Detective demanded.
“That’s just it, Detective. I can’t describe her lover at all. All I knew was that Mastifa had a lover whom she thought murdered that man from Kenya and she wanted to introduce me.” I explained. “I was to be introduced that day. And it was also on that day that the police officer who Mastifa invited over to discuss the matter must have learned more than her lover cared for about the murder. So Mastifa’s lover decided to kill her next. The only problem being, I was due at any moment for a visit.”
“If you knew someone was guilty of murder,” the Homicide Detective yelled. “Then why didn’t you contact the police?”
“I suppose I wanted to give Mastifa a chance to follow her conscience and a chance for her to help her lover turn himself in.” I said guiltily.
“Quite an exotic, this Mastifa. Eh, Dr. Glimmer.” The Homicide Detective whistled. “Seems Mastifa got the better of your judgment.”
The Homicide Detective waited for me to reply to his challenge, but I was at a loss for words. It was unlikely the Homicide Detective would believe that I was a victim of witchcraft, when to him it was obvious that I had merely let a woman’s looks deceive me. If there was only one possible explanation to something that can’t otherwise be explained, I suppose the Homicide Detective had hit the nail on the head. I had agreed to come to Mastifa’s apartment against my better judgment, and I hadn’t revealed my knowledge to the police about a possible murder. Indeed, I had let my attraction to my patient get the better of me.
Seeing that I was at a loss for words, the Homicide Detective continued.
“So realizing that you had never met him before and could be fooled, Mastifa’s lover had the female police officer pretend to be him.” he boiled.
“I suppose I was more trouble than I was worth to kill that day.” I said sheepishly. “So he decided to fool me.”
“How long were you in the apartment.” the Homicide Detective demanded.
“Just long enough to say hello and goodbye.” I answered. “Something was definitely wrong in there. They both looked terrified.”
“The murderer must have hidden out of sight, holding them both at gun point while you were there.” proclaimed the Homicide Detective.
“Yes,” I concurred. “And it was the Police Officer who so quickly got me out of the apartment.”
“That’s Toronto’s finest for you.” boomed the Homicide Detective.
“And the only thing Mastifa wanted was for her lover to turn himself in.” I reiterated.
The Homicide Detective faced his eyes down so that he could more readily read over the words of my Case File.
“Witchcraft.” he read. “Just why would any person be in love with a witch?”
“I wonder if passion is a spell by which almost all of us are enchanted.” I sighed.
“Not all of us are enchanted by a spell a witch casts, Doctor.” the Homicide Detective objected.
“Nor are all of us enchanted by a spell a warlock casts, either.” I said solemnly. “And I hope you will be able to catch this particular warlock who is still at large.”
With that the Homicide Detective closed my Case File and continued his case.
It was a week later that I picked up that newspaper again and read with interest the fate of my patient and her lover. The article reported on the terrible day that Mastifa’s lover had held Mastifa and the police officer at gunpoint in the apartment, and the subsequent murder of the police officer. After questioning Mastifa, the Homicide Detective released her on condition that if her lover tried to contact her, she would inform the police at once. Mastifa told the Homicide Detective that she would cooperate fully, as she was angry about the ordeal her lover had caused, and she was ready to do whatever it took to put this nightmare behind her.
It was not long after Mastifa was released that her lover came back to the scene of the crime. The couple had a long conversation and some supper. Soon after they finished eating Mastifa’s lover went to bed for the night and it was then that Mastifa contacted the Homicide Detective who came over and made the arrest.
Mastifa’s lover was due at a bail hearing the following day, but he died that night in a holding cell. An autopsy was performed and the coroner ruled that the death was natural, caused by heart failure, most likely due to the shock of his arrest and his subsequent confinement.
I clipped the news.