The long corridor echoed wildly with the unfamiliar ring of heavily-booted, running feet. The Geneva cantonal police had responded within minutes to the distress call from the headquarters of the European Organization for Nuclear Research and were now scrambling to secure the area on foot of the arrival of some specialist from the US. I had stepped into the cool passage way to catch my breath, watched closely by the middle aged detective who had given the instruction that no-one was to leave the vicinity. After a few moments he indicated with a surly grunt that I was to step back inside. Once in the room I tried to concentrate my gaze upon the clipboard in my shaking hands but inexorably I found my eyes drawn toward the macabre tableau that had so dramatically shifted the focus of activities in this secretive, subterranean laboratory. The blood, an impossibly dark mirror upon the pristinely maintained, polished concrete floor, had pooled about the corpse but even so, the large pentagram was still clearly discernible, daubed there in the victim's own blood. Clearly something darkly symbolic had happened here, something we did not fully understand. I scanned the floor again, taking in the full horror of the scene. The dead man was a colleague, Dr Guy Bahgg, a solemnly soft-spoken and respected senior physicist, one of the guiding lights of the CERN organisation. His naked body had been brutally dismembered and arranged in a most grotesque form upon the floor. His eyes, plucked right from their sockets, lay now upon his chest and in their place had been mounted his own severed hands, which had been savagely hacked off at the wrist. Besides the pentagram, a number of other cryptic messages had been scrawled in blood about the scene. The line "A loada wee" was written to the left of the doctor's head and to the right was a crudely drawn parrot that appeared to be cawing the words "Pieces of Shit". Most peculiarly of all, the word "Dumpty" had been carved in large and deeply wounding letters into the poor man's midriff. The most appalling detail of all, the one that had chilled each of us to the bone, was the evidence that this had been no elaborate murder but a sort of self-inflicted, ritualistic orgy of madness that had taken place in a room, locked from the inside and in which Dr Bahgg had been the sole occupant.
A commotion in the corridor and the sound of hurried voices broke through the electronic hum and the murmured conversation of the police detectives, jarring us from our frightened torpor. The door swung inward and across the threshold stepped a tall, athletically built and grey-templed man in wireframed glasses and a brown tweed suit. He had a charismatic air about him and moved with the confidence of those in the first flush of middle age.
"Captain La Suite?" the man asked in a deep-toned American accent, addressing the question to the surly detective who had stepped forward to greet him.
"Captain Bonbon La Suite." the detective nodded in curt response, shaking the man's hand.
"Robert Langdon sir, Professor of Religious Iconography and Symbology at Harvard University and suavely debonaire protaganist of such books as, 'Angels and Demons', 'The Da Vinci Code' and.... Great Scott, what the hell happened here?!"
The man in tweed had seemed only now to have spotted the scene of bloody destruction that held the room in its terrible sway.
"It is why we called you sir, we heard you were the best." replied Captain La Suite, gesturing quickly with his hand toward the carnage.
"Of course, of course... mmm.... mmm..." the academic was already bending down to more closely inspect the remains of our colleague, poring over the words and symbols, the geometry of the pentagram, the arrangement of the body and its severed parts. "Tell me, has this body been moved at all? Has anything been removed from the scene?"
"Of course not." replied the Captain, sounding slightly put out. "Does it make any sense to you?"
Langdon stood up and began to pace around the edge of the pentagram, taking care not to tread in any of the congealing blood.
"This phrase here, 'A Loada Wee', does it mean anything to anyone here?" He glanced around the room to elicit a response. Hesistantly I raised my hand. "You, the hairy one."
"well sir, back home in the pigsties of Ireland when something is a bit off like, we might say 'Ahh, it's a loada wee!' Like if someone said they were going to going to go to mass in the next parish 'cause they heard there was a new priest, freshly back from the missions, I might say to them 'Nah, don't bother, it's still a loada wee!"
"Excellent." Replied Langdon, "What you may not realise however is that this phrase is a derivation of an old French expression that was historically used with great prevalence right here in Geneva. L'eau d'nuit - a truncation of L'eau de la Nuit or Nightwater to give it its direct English translation, referred to the practise of emptying chamber pots directly into the street during the hours of darkness. Les Hommes de la Nuit were those men drawn from the local peasantry and payed by the city to clean the streets of the Night Water and its accompanying Night Soil while the merchant classes slumbered. Like so many tightknit and secretive organisations of humble beginnings however, the ranks of Les Hommes de la Nuit were ultimately usurped by the rich and powerful drawn to the sultry allure of nocturnal adventure and stories of clandestine rites, mysterious rituals and the heavy, bacterial fug of night time poo-poo. Though membership of Les Hommes de la Nuit is even more covertly guarded than that of any other secret society, rumours abound that, in it's modern form, it has become a brotherhood of ruthless, scientific assassins who collectively protect the darkest physical secrets of our universe, in accordance with a creed handed down by Jesus Christ himself."
"No way!" "Jesus Christ!" "Bleedin' hell!" - a gasping chorus of shocked amazement greeted Langdon's appraisal.
"You don't seriously expect me to believe this subterranean brotherhood rubbish?" Captain La Suite surveyed Langdon and the rest of the room with unconcealed disdain.
"I am offering my interpretation of the symbols sir, nothing more - I am merely a cryptologist. Shall I continue or would you prefer that I leave?" Langdon looked put out.
With a curt nod, the Captain indicated that he should continue.
"The parrot then" Langdon resumed his circling, intent again upon the floor "and its crude call nod again to the idea of Night Soil and Les Hommes de la Nuit. But why a parrot, why particularly this animal?"
Langdon looked up and catching his eye I shrugged and quietly voiced "Pirates?"
"Precisely!" he barked excitedly "Yes, Pirates or Cybernetic-Hyperdrive-Intersphere-Pirates to give them their full description or indeed, CHIPS as they are known to Interpol and the intelligence services of the world. It seems that what our victim here was trying to tell us is that somehow Les Hommes de la Nuit and CHIPS have infiltrated this facility, presumably in an effort to suppress some great emerging physical truth that was on the verge of discovery right here."
"Jesus balls!" "Fuckin' Wizard Shit!" "Holy Moly!" "Flippin' Cakeholes!" - another chorus of stunned expletives rolled through the room.
"You expect me to believe that this man pulled out his own eyes, chopped off his own hands, scrawled cryptic messages in his own blood and carved the word 'Dumpty' into his own torso simply to warn us that two fairytale organisations might be attempting to subvert the course of human scientific discovery inside one of the most heavily protected scientific institutions in the world. What is this jackanory horseshit you yankee-doodle bumbleswiper?" La Suite was in a transport of fury, positively foaming at the mouth as he challenged Langdon's analysis.
"Please Captain, I am merely a crytobanologist sir! This is simply the conjecture of an academic versed in the study of symbanology, icons and cryptocraptomonkology." Langdon drew himself up, filled with indignation at the Captain's attack.
"This Dumpty then, you have an equally fantastical explanation for that too I can assume? Presumably something to do with a ridiculous, fairytale egg!" La Suite gestured flippantly to the bloodied stomach of Dr Bahgg.
Langdon gazed at the Captain for a moment before shaking his head. He looked lost, desolate and when he spoke it was little more than a whisper. "There is a story of a number, but it is only a story... The story itself is rumoured to be from one of the secret Gospels, supressed by the early Catholic Church, the Gospel according to Matthewmatix. This number - described as the lowest number, the demon number, the lowest common denominator - it is called 'Dumpty'".
Silence greeted this last proclamation for in the halls of CERN, the rumours of Dumpty were known but rarely spoken of.
La Suite glared about the room and then demanded shortly as to what doctor Bahgg had been working on prior to his demise. In answer to this doctor Gruman Grumbles stepped gingerly in front of the control desk and powered up the LHC monitoring systems. The hiss of charge and low-level symphony of electronic bloopy-bleeps were hardly a fitting precursor to the cries of horror that issued through the room as my colleagues visibly balked at the apparition glowing hideously through the swirling static. It was Dumpty - the number to end all numbers. That was what doctor Bahgg was trying to warn us about - Dumpty was here!
So readers, what is Dumpty? Who are CHIPS and Les Hommes de la Nuit and what's their connection to Nuther Bono? Will Bonbon La Suite and the charismatic Mr Langdon manage to cut through that sexual tension in time for a bit of bumming before the end of act 2? Why the hell can't policemen solve crimes without the help of amateur sleuths anymore? And how the hell do we manage to get any work done at the European Headquaters for Nuclear Research anyway with so much crazy shit going on all the time? Tune in next week or whenever I manage to get the finger out again to find out and all the rest...