Mystery Stories Home Page
Copyright 2005 by Michael E. Grost
A Jacob Black "Impossible Crime" Mystery
By Michael E. Grost
"I had the strangest dream yesterday," Greg told Jake.
Screenwriter Jacob "Jake" Black, and his actor friend Greg were sitting in a restaurant in Paris. It was a beautiful Sunday in Spring, 1924. The two of them had just finished shooting a movie which Jake had written and in which Greg had starred, Secret Service. Greg had spent the last two weeks in a grueling round of publicity for the film. Even today, a Sunday in which few Parisians were working, would lead to more interviews and publicity photo sessions for Greg. Also with them were Lt. Moe Apfelbaum of the Los Angeles Police, who had been a consultant on the crime thriller about matters of police procedure, and Moe's wife Esther.
Two French women came up and asked Greg for his autograph. Greg smilingly gave it to them. Greg's screen name was Gregor von Hoffmansthal. His real name was Greg Karzag, although he rarely used it.
The restaurant, celebrated for its excellent cuisine, was packed with diners. A middle-aged society woman sat at the next table, with a group of her friends.
"Let me tell you about the dream I had yesterday afternoon," she said to her fellow diners. Her high-pitched voice easily carried to Greg and Jake's table.
"I was standing on top of the Eiffel Tower," she began. "Suddenly, I launched myself into the air. I could fly through the air. Actually, it was more like swimming. I could swim, buoyed up by currents of air. Soon, I was swimming over Paris. I could see the streets curving below me, and the tall, beautiful apartment houses. I passed a galleon, flying through the air. It was a Roman sailing ship, and it could fly, just like me. It was manned by dozens of Centurions. One could see their red-plumed helmets nodding as they rowed."
The listeners at her table were soaking up every word. Jake was fascinated too,. But Jake was startled when he saw the look on Greg's face. Greg was sitting there, dumb-founded. But nobody at Jake's table wanted to say anything till the lady completed her recital.
"Eventually, I reached the hills of Montmartre," she went on. "I could see the great outdoor staircases of the district below me as I swam. Finally, the great hill with the Basilica of Sacré-Coeur appeared before me. I swam through the air to its great dome, where I rested, panting breathlessly. I looked down over all of Montmartre. A parade of elephants was marching through the streets where the artists sold their wares. At this point, I woke up," she concluded.
A woman who was with her said, "Suzanne, that is the most chic dream!" The other ladies nodded in agreement.
"Dreaming is a sign of artistic creativity, Madame," a bearded middle-aged man told Suzanne. "It is a mark of your sensitive spirit."
Suzanne purred with pleasure.
"Jake!" a bewildered looking Greg whispered to his friend.
Jake turned his attention to Greg.
"That was my dream from yesterday," Greg said. "The one I was about to tell you."
"You mean you had a similar dream?" Jake asked.
"It was the exact same dream!" Greg said urgently. "I remember the Roman Centurions. Some of them looked just like the guys on my fencing team back in high school." Greg had learned to fence in school. "And the parade of elephants at the end. It is all exactly the same."
"Who did you tell about your dream?" Jake asked. "Maybe Suzanne is just repeating your dream as her own." Jake kept his voice down, so Suzanne and her friends would not hear his suggestion at the next table.
"That is just it, Jake," Greg said. "I didn't tell anyone. I was too busy last night. I just remembered it again now, and was going to tell all of you all about it."
"But that doesn't seem possible," Esther said. "I never heard of two people having the same dream."
"I'm confused, too," Greg said. "Do you suppose it is telepathy? Maybe Suzanne read my mind."
"Telepathy makes for great pulp magazine tales," Moe said, "Homer Eon Flint wrote a crackerjack story about telepathic spacemen on the planet Jupiter. But I've never encountered a good case in real life." Moe loved to read. "Suzanne had her dream yesterday afternoon," Moe went on. "When was yours, Greg? If it's telepathy, both dreams would be happening at the same time."
"Mine was yesterday afternoon as well," Greg said. "I just lay down on my bed in the hotel, after the interview downstairs in the lobby. The next thing I knew, it was an hour later. I had not intended to take a nap. I had even slept in my suit coat - it was all wrinkled." Greg made this sound tragic. The Studio expected movie star Greg to look perfectly groomed at all times. "I hurriedly changed into my tail coat for the evening charity appearance, fan meeting, press interview and hospital visit photo session. The dream was vividly in my head at that time, but the publicity activities last night kept me too busy to think about it any more. The press interview was the hardest; my French is still not fluent." Greg spoke English, Russian, German and his native Hungarian. His limited French was no obstacle to starring in silent films, which were a universal language.
Greg had been working too hard, Jake realized. Even for someone as athletic as Greg, his frantic pace of publicity had pushed him to exhaustion.
The people at the next table were rising to leave.
Esther jumped up, and went over and spoke to Suzanne.
"Pardon for the intrusion," Esther told her politely, "but we could not help overhearing. That was a most fascinating dream, Madame," Esther said pleasantly.
After a brief initial start of surprise, Suzanne seemed pleased. Esther was a most respectable woman, and she spoke the excellent French she had learned as a child from her parents.
Esther gave Suzanne her card, and Suzanne fished out a similar visiting card from the black beaded reticule bag she carried. Esther was in a white dress, with a white picture hat, while Suzanne was dressed with elegant simplicity in black.
"Madame Suzanne Clermont" the card read, followed by an address in an upper middle class faubourg to the North of Paris.
After Suzanne and her party left, Esther shared the card with Moe, Greg and Jake.
"Does the name Clermont mean anything to you?" Jake asked Greg.
"No," Greg said slowly, "but we have met so many people the past two weeks that it is possible that we have encountered them somewhere."
Greg's interview that afternoon was with French journalist Claude Dufay. Claude had also been present during the shooting of Secret Service, and Jake and Claude had become friends then. Jake went along with Greg to the interview, so he could visit with Claude. The interview was conducted in the lobby of Greg and Jake's hotel in Pigalle.
Claude kept the interview with an obviously exhausted Greg short. After they had done, Claude closed up his notebook, and started visiting with Jake. Greg promptly fell asleep in the hotel lobby chair. The giant black leather armchair did look comfortable to sleep in. Claude took a candid photograph of Greg asleep in it.
"That's a strange story about the dreams," Claude said to Jake.
"Do you know anything about the Clermonts?" Jake asked.
Like most reporters, Claude Dufay had a fund of knowledge about goings on in Paris.
"Gerard Clermont is a prominent banker," Claude said. "He is rich, infinitely respectable, stuffy and downright dull. He encourages his wife's aspirations to be a patroness of the arts. She has funded the music education of some gifted young female classical musicians from poor families - a violinist, a cellist and a pianist, so far. Suzanne Clermont is flighty, always keeping up with the latest trends, and a person with artistic pretensions. She hosts a salon that is not quite at the first rank of Parisian intellectual life, but which does encourage young poets and painters, especially young women."
"Could she be involved in anything crooked?" Jake asked.
Claude looked shocked. "It is hard to imagine," Claude said with a frown. "Monsieur Clermont is the last word in bourgeois respectability. And Madame Clermont is most respectable too, underneath her verneer of culture. There is nothing bohemian about her. She tries to keep up with the latest intellectual crazes: table turning two years ago, vegetarianism last year. Currently dreams are fashionable in Parisian intellectual life. Intellectuals are keeping diaries of their dreams, and using them for inspiration in their writing. If they cannot have real dreams that are exotic and creative, they make them up," Claude said with a grin.
"It sounds like a good dream life is now a requisite calling card for entry into Parisian cultural circles," Jake said.
"Precisely," Claude replied. "The Surrealists have even opened a Dream Bureau. They encourage the public to walk in and recount any interesting dreams they had. Then scribes at the Bureau write them down, and preserve them for posterity." The Surrealists were a group of poets and painters, who believed in the unconscious and the world of dreams.
"I have read some poetry by the Surrealists," Jake replied. "It is really strange."
"That's the whole idea!" Claude replied.
Claude left. Jake hated to wake up Greg, who was sleeping so peacefully in the lobby chair. Jake had to do some writing. He got out the little notebook he always carried, and started the writing there in the hotel lobby. Jake never minded writing in public. In fact, it was often easier for him to write when other people were around - it was much less lonely than being by himself in a room somewhere. And this way, Jake could keep watch over Greg while he was sleeping in the lobby.
Jake had an idea. Why not see what the Surrealists at the Dream Bureau could tell him about Greg and Suzanne's dream? After all, they were experts on the whole subject of dreaming.
The Dream Bureau turned out to be just a block from Jake's hotel. It was in an old storefront in Pigalle. The whole Pigalle area was packed with pedestrians. It was famous for its night clubs - the Moulin Rouge was not far. There was an immense amount of traffic in the district, and having the Dream Bureau there certainly encouraged Parisians to drop in and recount their dreams. The street between the hotel and the Dream Bureau was full of small horse chestnut trees in bloom. Their red flower spikes reminded Jake of the red plumes of the Roman Centurions in Greg's dream. Spring in Paris seemed so beautiful.
The inside of the Dream Bureau was spectacularly if inexpensively decorated. The Bureau consisted of a single large room. The walls had been painted a flaming red, with window frames striped yellow and blue. Gold colored Chinese lanterns hung from the ceiling, linked by crepe paper streamers that were every color of the rainbow. The front door was purple and had a large ram's horn affixed to it, while the back entrance way was guarded by two huge tusks of ivory that flanked either side of the door. A sign on the wall pointed out that in Greek mythology, true dreams came from a gate of horn, while false dreams entered through a gate of ivory.
The front shop window had a pale green umbrella and a small sewing machine, enameled baby blue, laid out over a striped cloth from the African Gold Coast. Another sign on the wall gave a quotation from the poet Lautréamont, "the meeting of an umbrella and a sewing machine on the dissecting table". There was no back partition in the shop window - people in the street could peer right in and see the interior of the shop.
There were a series of three desks in the back of the Bureau. Each was manned by a scribe. Visitors to the Bureau sat in chairs in front of the desks, recounting their dreams to one of the scribes, who recorded it in a large ledger.
Jake sat down in a visitor's chair, in front of the left hand desk.
"Name, please," the scribe said. He was a young man in his early thirties, just a bit older than the thirty year old Jake. He spoke in German-accented French, and Jake replied in his own American-accented French.
"Jacob Black," Jake introduced himself. "I write adventure stories." Jake stood up again and reached out to shake the scribe's hand.
"Max Ernst," the scribe said, shaking Jake's hand vigorously. "I am a painter, and volunteer here at the Bureau."
"You sound American," Max told him. Jake nodded.
"Do you know many cowboys?" Max asked.
"I once wrote a movie script for Tom Wilson," Jake replied tentatively. Wilson was a cowboy actor at Mammoth-Art Studio, where Jake worked.
"Tom Wilson!" Max exclaimed excitedly. "Pierre! Henri! Come here at once! This American knows Tom Wilson!"
Henri and Pierre were the two other scribes in the Bureau. Henri came over at once, from his far right hand desk, but a bored looking Pierre at the middle desk waved Max's comments away.
Max and Henri began to pound Jake with questions about Tom Wilson and his movies.
"Is the Petrified Forest really filled with fossil logs from trees that are a million years old?" Max asked. Wilson's biggest hit had been shot there, on location in Arizona.
"Absolutely," Jake said. "The trees were relatives of the Araucarian pines that still grow in Chile and Australia. I just saw a Monkey-Puzzle tree in the same plant family when I was in Nice."
"Do Red Indians really have a mythology as rich as Ancient Greece or the old Norse religion of Odin and Loki?" Henri asked Jake. Several Indian legends had been dramatized in Wilson's movies. Cowboy Wilson was "Friend to the Red Man, and All Who Seek Justice", according to the title cards in his silent films.
"I think so," Jake replied. "I have read Schoolcraft's books. His collections of Indian storytelling were used by Longfellow in Hiawatha. Longfellow is our great American poet," Jake added proudly.
"I will see if Schoolcraft has been translated into French or German," Max said. "My English is still weak, but I am learning."
"Is the Hopi village a real place, or did they invent it for the movies?" Max inquired.
"The Hopi village is real," Jake said. "It is not as ancient as your European cities, but it has been there maybe 500 years."
Wilson's movies were always filled with Western lore. Jake remembered being told by the head of Mammoth-Art's Writing Department to include plenty of real Western facts in the script Jake wrote for Wilson. Jake, who was a city boy from Milwaukee, had had fun researching everything from square dancing to Indian medicine at the library.
Eventually the conversation turned back to dreams. Jake began to tell Max and Henri about Greg's dream.
"My friend dreamed that he was swimming through the air, from the Eiffel Tower to the top of Sacré-Coeur," Jake began.
"But that is not an original dream, Monsieur," Henri replied quietly.
"No," Max said politely but firmly. "I just heard that dream yesterday from a man who came into the Bureau."
"Maybe it is not quite the same dream," Jake suggested.
"In yesterday's dream," Max replied, "the man encountered Roman Galleons sailing through the air. And finally saw a parade of elephants throughout the art fair in the streets on Montmartre."
Jake was taken aback. "But that was my friend's dream, too! Please tell me more about yesterday."
"A man came into the Bureau," Max began. "Quiet, fashionably dressed in a dark suit, tall, bearded, looking a bit lost. I guided him into the visitor chair where you are sitting now, Monsieur Jake. He began talking quietly in a language I do not know. I think it was Eastern European."
"Maybe Polish," Henri said.
"I tried talking to him in French, but he only mumbled a few French words, in a thick accent," Max said. "Then I tried my native German - I was born in Köln," Max added. "The stranger was fluent in German, but he had a thick Polish accent, or whatever his native tongue was. I asked him what his dream was. He began to recount this strange dream. He was slow and halting, but gave us the whole bizarre story. Then he stood up, as in a daze, and quietly left the shop."
"Did you get his name?" Jake asked.
""I wrote it down," Max replied, consulting the ledger. Max showed yesterday's entry to Jake.
"Monsieur Colcheque, 16:15" the entry read, in Max's spidery handwriting.
"The spelling of the name is probably not right," Max went on. "He mumbled his name, and I had to guess."
"16:15," Jake said. That was the French way of recording 4:15 PM. That was about the same time Greg was having the dream back in his hotel room. Talk about telepathy! There were now three people in Paris who had all had the same dream: Suzanne, Greg, and this M. Colcheque.
A young woman, a lower class Parisian, came into the Dream Bureau. She gravitated towards Pierre's desk in the middle. She plainly had been there before, and knew Pierre. Pierre was younger than Max and Henri, in his early twenties, and was quite handsome. The woman, a housemaid in a wealthy home, began to recount her latest dream. There was no privacy in the Bureau; Jake could hear every word of the woman and Pierre's conversation at the next desk. The woman's dream was about an orangutan.
Henri winked at Jake. "The ladies love Pierre," Henri told Jake quietly. "He gets every shopgirl and serving woman in Paris."
"Have you ever heard of Suzanne or Gerard Clermont?" Jake asked Max and Henri.
The two shook their head no. The two had never met Greg either, although both men had seen him at the movies.
"I liked Gregor von Hoffmansthal in Robin Hood," Henri said. "It was fascinating to see a film in color." The studio had shot Greg's version of the Robin Hood legend in two-color Technicolor. "Even Hoffmansthal's black stallion Pepper looked different in color. It would be good to see Tom Wilson's Palamino horse Pete in color, too." Greg always rode Pepper in his swashbucklers, and Tom Wilson always rode Pete in his cowboy films. The two horses were as famous as their human riders. "In Robin Hood, Robin was all in green, and Will Scarlett was all in red. It brought these ancient English myths to life, as if they were a dream. Film is a 20th Century mythology."
Jake told Max and Henri about Suzanne and Greg having the same dream at the same time as their visitor to the Dream Bureau, M. Colcheque.
"Is there not a saying about your town," Max asked, "Hollywood, the Dream Factory?"
"Yes," Jake replied. "It means that Hollywood films are like beautiful dreams for the public to enjoy, and that Hollywood turns them out en masse, just the way an automobile factory produces cars."
"It appears that Paris has become a different kind of Dream Factory," Max replied. "Now real dreams themselves are being massed produced, and being sent to many dreamers at once."
"That is impossible," Jake said.
"It is Surreal," Max Ernst declared.
The next morning, over a breakfast of rolls and milk in the hotel dining room, Jake was startled by a headline in the newspaper.
"Clermont Mansion Robbed!"
Jake hurriedly showed the paper to Moe and Esther. The three were letting Greg sleep in. Jake had put his foot down with the Studio publicity people, and insisted Greg needed a day off from interviews.
Esther translated the article for Moe, who spoke no French. "Thieves daringly broke into the mansion of banker Gerard Clermont last night. Valuable gold plate, and paintings by Fragonard and Boucher were stolen. Monsieur and Madame Clermont had taken a trip to the countryside, and given much of their household staff the day off.
"The robbers seemingly knew their way around the Clermont mansion and estate," Esther went on, reading the article.
"That sounds as if they had had inside information," Moe said. "I bet the French police are going to grill every servant in the house, to see if they are in league with the thieves."
"The robbery is one of a series at the homes of wealthy Parisians that have the police baffled," Esther said.
Moe was interested about what the Surrealists had said about film being the new mythology. "I always thought the movie people at Mammoth-Art resembled the Norse gods," Moe said. "Harry Callaway, the publicity man whose wild schemes are always getting in everybody's hair, could be Loki the Trickster, the god who always tries to bamboozle the other gods. Greg could be the powerful Thor, swinging his huge hammer. And Jake could be Odin, the all-wise," he said with a smile at his friend.
That afternoon, Jake stopped back inside the Dream Bureau. Henri and Pierre were there, but Max was not. The Bureau was manned by a large group of volunteers associated with the Surrealists.
"I have an invitation, to the salon of Madame Suzanne Clermont tonight," Jake told Henri. "It is for you and Max and Pierre and myself."
Henri, who was a little known poet struggling for recognition, was grateful for the invitation.
"A reporter friend I know has a contact among the habitués of the salon," Jake told Henri. Claude Dufay had set up the invitation for Jake.
"This could be a chance to meet other writers," Henri said enthusiastically.
Pierre, however, immediately declined.
"I have a prior engagement," Pierre said haughtily.
"Take her along to the Clermonts," Henri said with a laugh. "This is a great opportunity for an unknown painter such as yourself."
Pierre was adamant in his refusal, and Henri could not budge him.
Greg joined Jake, Esther and Moe for lunch, in a little cafe in a side street. Greg looked the most rested Jake had seen him in two weeks. He was elegantly dressed in a new French suit, which gave him the look of a Parisian boulevardier.
"I slept in till noon," Greg said, with his usual enthusiasm.
Greg had also donned a fake beard.
"Isn't that the beard you wore for a scene in Secret Service?" Moe asked.
"Yes," Greg replied, "when the detective I played was undercover at the train depot. I am hoping it will keep me from being recognized by my fans."
The salon was held in a large, tastefully appointed room in the second floor of Madame Clermont's mansion. Max and Henri had come along with Jake. They encountered the bearded, middle-aged man Jake had first seen dining with Suzanne Clermont, and listening to her dream.
"Jean Ruttenberg, artist, at your service," he introduced himself.
"This room was locked up during the robbery yesterday," Jean Ruttenberg told Jake. "So none of its paintings or furnishings were stolen by the thieves."
There were some brilliantly colored oil paintings by the painters known as the Fauves on the walls. The intense, unrealistic colors of the paintings startled Jake. One painting had a brilliant yellow sky, and a red sea.
"This painting is mine," Jean Ruttenberg told them. He pointed to a large still life on the wall, painted in flaming colors. Ruttenberg walked with a limp. It turned out that he had lost a leg in the Great War.
One of the waiters brought over a large tray of fresh fruit. The fruit was served on a silver plate, sitting on a gleaming white cloth that covered the tray. There were bananas from Madame Clermont's conservatory, and a sliced, pale yellow fruit Jake did not recognize.
"What is that?" Jake asked politely
"A pineapple," was the waiter's reply.
"I thought pineapples only came in cans!" Jake told Max and Henri. "It looks completely different fresh." Jake loved fruit, and promptly dug in.
"Suzanne Clermont is a vegetarian," Jean Ruttenberg said. "Only fruits, vegetables and bread and rolls are served at her salons."
Some of the bananas had an ice-blue skin, instead of the yellow peel Jake had always seen. When Jake opened one up, the flesh inside was a bright orange. It tasted delicious, both sweeter and a little spicier than a regular banana.
"These bananas are a variety from the isle of Java," Jean Ruttenberg said. "Its colors are as wild as some of the Fauves' paintings we see on the walls. Suzanne Clermont has allowed me to sketch in her conservatory several times. It is full of the most amazing tropical fruits - very inspiring for an artist."
Madame Suzanne Clermont wanted to ask Jake about Jazz.
"I am fascinated by your American music," she told Jake warmly. Jake was obviously American. In his American-styled tuxedo, Jake looked as if he had just stepped out of a night club in New York City.
A string trio came out, two women who played the violin and cello, and a third who played the piano. Jake guessed that they were Madame Clermont's young protégés. After a brief introduction, they played an arrangement for string trio of a brand new ballet, The Creation of the World, by Darius Milhaud. Jake expected a waltz, or some other ordinary classical form. Jake had only seen one ballet in his life, Les Sylphides, in which a dozen young ladies in white tutus had danced sedately to waltz music by Chopin.
Instead, the Milhaud music combined American Jazz with a traditional French elegance of form. Jake found the piece fervent and wild and altogether different from anything he had ever heard. It had the ferocious rhythms and blue harmonies of the most advanced Jazz music Jake had heard back in the States.
The piece was warmly applauded at the end. Suzanne Clermont seemed especially gratified.
A lady's maid came into the salon, and whispered a message to Madame Clermont.
"I know that woman," Max Ernst told Jake unexpectedly, indicating the lady's maid. "She is a regular visitor to the Bureau. She is always there telling her dreams to Pierre."
Jake went and got a closer look. The maid was a sharp faced woman of around forty, plainly dressed.
Jake asked a footman about her.
The somewhat startled footman tried to be polite. One could tell he thought you never knew what an artist at the gathering might do or say.
"That's Helene Ariston," the footman told Jake. "She has been with Madame Clermont for over a dozen years, as her personal lady's maid."
After the ballet music, Jake wandered to the refreshment table in the back of the room. There was a small painting in a simple wooden frame, set up on the table, propped up on a tiny easel. It had not been there earlier in the evening.
Jake looked more closely. It was a painting of Greg and Suzanne's dream. One could see the swimmer over the skies of Paris, the Roman galleon sailing through the air, manned by the Centurions, and the hill of Montmartre in the background. The whole painting had an eerie air, as if even stranger events were about to happen. At the lower right hand corner, the painting was signed Dourant '24.
Max came up to Jake. He seemed intrigued by the painting, too. "Jean-Baptiste Dourant is one of the Surrealist painters," Max told Jake.
A crowd was beginning to gather. Jake saw a startled Suzanne in the background. Jake quietly followed her to the main entrance door of the salon. She stopped to talk to the formidable looking butler standing there. "Joseph," she asked him in a puzzled tone, "how did that painting get there? I gave no orders to have such a painting set up on the buffet."
"Indeed, Madame," Joseph replied after a somewhat startled glance at the buffet, "it is a most unwelcome surprise to me as well." Joseph thought for a while. "None of the guests brought it here tonight. I have been by this entrance all evening, and none of the guests carried any packages or objects into the salon."
Jake could see that it would have been hard for any of the guests to smuggle in such a painting under their clothes. It was a beautiful, warm Spring night. The women all wore the simple, elegant frocks dictated by current Paris fashion. And the men were in light suits. No one had worn a coat or a cloak or any other outwear under which a wooden framed painting could be smuggled. The painting was small - around a foot and a half by a foot - but still rigid and inflexible in its frame. The waiters were all in tight white mess jackets and closely fitting black trousers. They too would be unable to conceal such a painting inside their clothes.
Suzanne Clermont proceeded to the other door of the salon, the one leading to the kitchen and servants' quarters. The young footman Jake had spoken to earlier was still there. Jacques was in his late twenties, and dressed in brown footman's livery.
"No one brought in a painting from the servants' entrance, Madame," Jacques the footman told her respectfully. "Admittedly, the waiters here tonight are outside servants, and not part of the regular Clermont household staff. But I have been watching them closely as they leave the salon tonight, to make sure they have not absconded with the silverware or plate. None has left the room with any of Madame's property."
Jake looked at the windows. They were all in the front wall of the salon, behind where the musicians played. So many eyes were on these windows all evening, that it was hard to imagine anything being smuggled in through them. The salon was on the second floor of the mansion, too, with a sheer drop to the ground far below.
"It is as if that painting appeared by magic on the buffet table!" Suzanne exclaimed to Jake, as they wandered back into the center of the salon. All around them, they could hear the guests discuss the painting. Dourant's name was on everyone's lips. The "magical appearance" of one of his paintings at an intellectual salon would clearly be a great boost to the little known artist's career. "Both Jacques and Joseph have been with our family for a decade," Suzanne added. "One can trust them implicitly. C'est impossible!"
Jake wanted to think out all the puzzling events. He suspected that they were the product of a series of tangled coincidences, each one contributing another twist and turn to the events.
There was indeed a conservatory at Madame Clermont's. Jake had told his hostess how much he loved trees, and Suzanne had insisted that he visit it. Jake loved the conservatory, which had a huge green glass roof.
Jake sat down on a wrought iron bench. The bench was full of fountain patterns, beautifully formed in outline in the curving ironwork. Up above Jake was a mango tree, in full bloom. The tree was covered by numerous branches bearing bunches of small purple and green flowers. Jake began to stare at the beautiful flower panicles. He began to think about dreams.
Suddenly, Jake got an idea about dreams, and how the dream factory worked.
Jake and Greg met in the bar of their hotel, that night after the salon at the Clermonts. Greg was resplendent in white tie and tails. Neither man drank alcohol, but both were experimenting with fruit flavored non-alcoholic syrups. Greg had a cherry drink, while Jake's was blueberry. Moe and Esther came in, after an evening at the Paris Opera, and ordered hot chocolate.
"Did you ever sleepwalk while growing up?" Jake asked Greg.
"Why yes," a somewhat startled Greg said to Jake. "How did you know? It mainly happened when I was over-tired. I would wander around at night, and walk downstairs at night to the butcher shop in my sleep." Greg's family lived upstairs over the butcher shop they owned. "A couple of times they even found me in the street. I made it all the way down to an all night screening of a movie in the next block once. They found me sitting there in my coat over my pajamas, eating popcorn, still asleep."
"I bet you were sleepwalking two days ago when you had your dream," Jake replied. "Here is what might have happened. You fell asleep in your hotel room, still wearing your suit coat. You were in a state of exhaustion from all the publicity. Your nerves were keyed up, and instead of sleeping on your hotel bed, you took to sleep walking. You put on your false beard. You wandered down the street, and into the Dream Bureau. You started talking to them in your native Hungarian. Max did not know what language you were speaking, but recognized it as Eastern European and guessed it was Polish. You gave him your real name, Karzag, but he had trouble understanding your mumbling in your sleep, and wrote it down as Colcheque. He made communication with you in German, which you spoke with a Hungarian accent, and you told him your dream. Right while you were having it. Max wrote it down, and you got up, and sleepwalked back to your hotel room. When you woke up, you remembered your dream, but you had no idea you had been sleepwalking."
"That makes sense," Greg said. "I was always very hard to wake up while sleeping. I remember my brother telling me how he talked to me a few times while I was sleep walking. He would ask me questions, and I would reply, and I would have no memory of any of it after I awoke."
"But how did Madame Clermont have the same dream?" Moe asked.
"I suspect that Suzanne Clermont told a white lie about that," Jake went on. "Her maid Helene is a habitué at the Dream Bureau. She really likes to visit the handsome Pierre there. Either Helene was sitting next to Greg while he was telling his dream at the Bureau two days ago, or Helene could have heard about Greg's dream from Pierre afterwards. Helene later told her mistress Suzanne Clermont about the dream. There is so much prestige associated with having exotic dreams in Parisian intellectual circles nowadays that Madame Clermont appropriated the dream as her own. She merely wanted to impress her circle of artistic friends. I get the impression that the intellectual world can be a bit cutthroat," Jake added ruefully. "It is possible that Suzanne regularly has her maid Helene on the look out for dreams from the Bureau that Suzanne can use.
"And one suspects the painter Dourant probably heard about Greg's dream through the Surrealists' Dream Bureau," Jake said. "Dourant used the dream as inspiration for his painting."
"How did the painting appear on the buffet table?" Greg asked.
"One of the waiters might have smuggled in Dourant's painting," Jake guessed. "It could have been concealed under a tray of food, along with its collapsed easel. Both the painting and the easel would have been hidden under the white cloth draped over the side of the tray. The waiter could have brought the tray and hidden painting into the room and over to the buffet without either Jacques the footman or the guests noticing. When all eyes were focused on the three woman musicians entering the salon, the waiter could have taken the painting out from under the tray, and set up the easel and painting on the buffet. The waiter probably was a friend or relative of Dourant's, trying to get some publicity for his painting.
"If this were a crime," Jake went on, "we could investigate more, and get the actual truth out of Dourant. But it was just a harmless publicity stunt for a painter."
"What does any of this have to do with the robbery at the Clermonts?" Esther asked.
"Actually, nothing," Jake said. "But, last night, both Henri and Max, the poet and the artist at the Dream Bureau, were eager for opportunities to go the Clermont salon. This could lead to important professional connections and advancements for them. Pierre the painter turned down the invitation cold, despite Henri's pleading. It seemed strange. But if Pierre were involved the robberies at the Clermont mansion and elsewhere, it would make sense. Pierre might be scared to be seen near the Clermont home, or have any involvement with the Clermonts.
"Pierre has a large clientele of Parisian servant women, eager to tell him their dreams," Jake went on. "He's a handsome young man. What if Pierre is pumping these servants for inside information? They could innocently tell him all about when they had evenings off due to their employers leaving town, for example. That is when the Clermont home was robbed. And the servants could boast a little bit about the treasures in the homes. Pierre could even visit some of the servants in the kitchen, on occasion, and get the lay of the land at the homes. He could wind up with all sorts of inside information useful to a gang of thieves."
Moe passed on Jake's suggestion about Pierre to his contacts on the French Police. They began to watch young Pierre, and soon set a trap for him and his burglar friends. The police decided that none of the servant women were involved - Pierre had just been extracting information from them through his charm.
Greg paid another visit to the Dream Bureau, disguised in his beard. This time he was fully awake. Max Ernst immediately identified Greg as the M. Colcheque who had visited them before. Greg did not remove his beard, or identify himself as the actor Gregor von Hoffmansthal. The whole incident was the sort of publicity he did not need - Greg was always very careful in his behavior, especially with the press.
Jake and his friends said nothing more about Greg and his dream. They especially did not want to embarrass Suzanne Clermont, who seemed like a nice person, or Helene either. Helene reportedly had a good cry about the treacherous Pierre. But soon she was dating a far more honest man, who appreciated her wit and her figure.
That night, Jake had a dream. Jake was swimming through the air, just as Greg had earlier in his dream. The flying Roman galleon showed up, a huge ship whose many oars were propelling it through the air. Greg was standing on the side of the ship, in full Roman costume of sculptured breastplate and leather tunic. He bent down over Jake swimming along side the ship, the huge red plume of Greg's shiny helmet brushing against Jake as he bowed over. Greg's powerful arms pulled Jake into the ship.
Jake, Greg, Moe and Esther saw the production of Darius Milhaud's ballet The Creation of the World, at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, where it had debuted the previous October. In addition to the dancing, Jake was overwhelmed by the abstract sets and costumes, by the painter Fernand Léger. It was like seeing abstract paintings come to life. Jake had seen abstract paintings before - the head of Mammoth-Art Studio, J. D. Upshaw, was a connoisseur of modern art, and the walls of executive offices at the Studio were full of abstract works from Upshaw's personal collection. But Jake had never realized that abstraction could be part of a dramatic work, or used for sets and costumes. The clothes worn by the dancers were covered with stripes, circles, ellipses, zig-zag patterns of rectangles, and numerous multi-colored chevrons, arranged in vertical rows that went up and down the dancers' legs.
At the recommendation of Max Ernst, Jake and his friends went to see a new Russian science fiction movie, Aelita, Queen of Mars. It too had abstract, geometric costumes, for its Martian characters. Huge wheeled spokes made up hats or skirts, and arms and legs were covered with cylinders and cones.
"The day of abstract art has come!" Moe said.
Jake, Moe and Esther went to Max Ernst's one man show in Paris. It was held a tiny gallery on the Left Bank. The Americans were some of the few people there, aside from some of Ernst's fellow Surrealists. This was the first time Jake had ever seen a real art exhibit, but Moe and Esther regularly went to them in Los Angeles. Moe and Esther had a great time, talking with the artists about their work.
Jake purchased one of Ernst's paintings. The picture was called "Homage à Tom Wilson". The cowboy actor did not appear in it, however. Instead, the picture was a strange landscape, filled with tea-kettle shaped cacti, and brilliantly colored birds. It had the vague feel of a landscape in the American West. Jake loved its strange shapes and unusual colors.
"Someday when you are famous," Jake told Max, "this painting will be worth a fortune." Jake had purchased the painting by the unknown artist for almost nothing.
Max Ernst laughed. "That will never happen," he replied modestly. "But it does not matter. I intend to devote my life to my art."
Author's note: The Surrealists really did keep a Dream Bureau in Paris, in which they invited the public to record their dreams. Max Ernst was the greatest of the Surrealist painters, along with Joan Miró. Homer Eon Flint, mentioned in passing, was a real writer of science fiction stories, although the work mentioned by Moe is imaginary. La Création du monde (The Creation of the World), by Darius Milhaud is a real ballet; one can see a photo of Fernand Léger's design for it in The Concise Oxford History of Music (1985), by Gerald Abraham. Aelita, Queen of Mars is an actual film. Henry Rowe Schoolcraft was a real ethnologist who wrote much on Native American culture. All the trees, plants and fruits in the tale are real. All other characters and incidents in the tale are fictitious.