The Theodore Beem Affair: An Aftermath
This story is a continuation of story Excelsior in which we were first introduced to Theodore Emelior Beem.
When Constable Julia Vane first learned there was a disturbance in the Mayberry District, she immediately thought the worst. The district was already home to Gearford's most disreputable elements, but this most recent news was alarming. An explosion destroyed a large home and shook a neighborhood. A mysterious airship was launched, seemingly from nowhere.
Although the technocrats turned a blind eye to many of the things in Mayberry, they were not as forgiving about terrorist acts and civil unrest. A small mob, could turn into a large mob and then a full scale riot. With this in mind, Vane was sent to investigate and was given wide latitude to do what was needed. It was her discretion and steady hand that had earned Vane the trust of her technocrat superiors.
If she hadn't known the location of the police precinct, she could have guessed. It was the building with the large loud crowd around it. It didn't look like a mob, though. At least for now, the crowd seemed almost festive. There were even street vendors selling meat pies, as well as street performers plying their trade.
When she entered the precinct, a Bobbie named Giddings, greeted her and led her into an office. After giving her a cup of tea, Giddings shared a fantastical tale of the explosion that had blown apart the old Beem house deep within the residential section of the Mayberry district. The house had been the largest on the block and in better economic times, had accommodated textile workers. Late yesterday the Bobbies had been called out on a disturbance after the Beem house blew up. Shortly thereafter, Theodore Beem was seen flying in an airship about the neighborhood, shouting to the crowd below and blowing a steam whistle to the delight of the children. The initial investigation revealed that Beem, who was employed as a librarian at a government library, had apparently blown up his own house, flying his airship out into the night sky.
"And you arrested him?" asked Constable Vane.
"Uh, yes ma'am. Well, there was the disturbance, the ruined house and the airship flying about and all the noise. We figured, it be best we sort things 'ere at the station."
"And the crowd followed," asked Vane evenly.
"Yes," said the now uncomfortable Bobbie, "We tried'r best to disperse'm, but they, um, insisted on following us 'ere. With the morning, the crowd grew, exponel, exponent...Um they grew pretty large"
"And now, you have something of a celebrity on your hands.?"
"Am afraid so, ma'am.'
"Alright, alright," muttered Vane with a shake of her head. This couldn't have been handled any worse and now she had to clean up the mess, before things got out of hand.
"Very well," sighed Vane, "Show me the criminal."
They walked to the precinct's holding cell. A medium sized man in a brown tweed vest, glasses, with a ridiculous hat, sat manacled to the bench. He looked every inch the librarian, except for the hat and his grease stained hands.
"Bring me a chair and open the cell, and by the gods, take the manacles off. He's not going to fly away now."
Sitting down, Vane and Beem stared at each other, each trying to gain the measure of the other. Finally, Theodore gave a shy smile and Vane shook her head.
"Mr. Beem, let me introduce myself. I am Constable Julia Vane, and as lead investigator on your case, I can either make your life easier or more difficult. I suggest cooperation. You have a great deal to explain, sir.
"Um," Theodore looked puzzled, "Explain, ma'am?"
"Don't play with me," replied Vane, "Why did you blow up your home? Why did you launch an airship? Where did this infernal airship even come from?"
"Uh yes. Where should I start?" stammered Theodore nervously, "Rightly spoken, the house didn't blow up, it blew out. Had to, you see. Couldn't get Excelsior out, without the controlled demolition, although I confess that I may have used a bit too much explosive."
"Excelsior?" questioned Vane.
"My airship, ma'am," said Beem with a proud smile, "I built her and a finer craft you'll not find."
"You want me to believe that you, a librarian, built an airship in your living room?"
"Not at all Constable, it wasn't just the living room. It was the sitting room and the hallways and two of the bedrooms. Had to knock down most of the internal non-weight bearing walls to give me a big enough work space. A shame in a way..."
"You misunderstand me," said Vane shortly, "Beem, you built an airship? You built this airship??"
Thus prompted, Theodore Beem spun out a fantastical tale, how over the last five years, he had built an airship in his home. Along the way, Vane asked pointed questions trying to determine whether Beem was just a lone eccentric or someone part of a larger conspiracy. After nearly two hours, Vane sat dumbfounded. Finally, she shook herself out of her stupor. All of this was ridiculous and absurd.
"Very impressive Mr. Beem, " said Vane waving her hand back and forth, "Assume for the moment, I actually believe you built this airship by yourself. Why? Why did you do it?"
"Ahh, there's the question. You see, ma'am it took me nearly five years to build Excelsior and so I had a long time to think about the why of it."
Theodore paused and sat deep in thought before he again resumed.
"As long as I can remember, I read about airships. I looked at them in the sky and likewise imagined myself looking down at the world, flying through the clouds. I had dreams of being one of them pilots. More than anything, I wanted to fly. But you see, by then time had passed, and I had started with the library, So when I told people my dream, they just laughed at me. Thought it was a joke, I was just a librarian and from Mayberry to boot. But it wasn't their right to piss on my dreams. Don't get me wrong. I still love my books, but I also love flying. Maybe that's not a good reason, ma'am, but that's the best I got."
For a brief moment, Vane let herself get carried away by the enthusiasm of this modest librarian. He made his dreams and aspirations sound like beautiful cloud like things.
"Damn," thought Vane, bringing herself back to the moment. This was a ridiculous case and one that should have never gotten this far. She took a breath, knowing what needed to be done.
"Alright, Mr. Beem. We will discharge you, upon payment of the fine for the demolition of your home without a license."
"Um, actually ma'am, "said Theodore almost apologetically, "I had a rightly obtained license."
Theodore pulled out a yellowed piece of paper from his front pocket. Vane could see that it had all the appropriate signatures and seals. She shook her head and looked at Beem with the briefest hint of a smile.
"Well played, Mr. Beem," said Vane, shaking her head as she walked out of the cell. "Today was your day. Enjoy it, but if I ever hear your name again in conjunction with the words explosion, public disturbance or mob, we will not be as amused."
Once out of the cell block, Vane ordered the prisoner's release, much to the surprise of the guard. Leaving the station, she walked out through the milling crowd. Nearly a bock away, she heard the cheer of the boisterous crowd when Beem left the station.
Perhaps Vane should have referred Beem to the Ministry of Peace for further interrogation. Perhaps she should have made an example of him. Many of her colleagues in the Technocratic bureaucracy, would have frowned upon her leniency. Nevertheless, Vane's instincts, which were rarely wrong, said this still was just a librarian and right now there was no mob, just a crowd of people that would disperse, unless otherwise provoked. While Beem no doubt had queer ideas about the world, he seemed like nothing more than a harmless eccentric. Vane had no desire to make this guileless librarian into a martyr. For now, restraint would rule the day.