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MURDER EXAM 5 months 2 weeks ago #3939478

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Murder Exam

For two days a furious gale had been making the sea look like gigantic winged monster.
One could hardly see anything beyond the distance of twenty feet because of the whirls of sand flying above the coast. At first sight they seemed to be just the black clouds floating safely along the sea, but in fact they were extremely dangerous like tiny evil birds of prey.
A small inn behind the long ridge of big dunes had been empty for two days. There were only innkeeper and his wife inside.
They sat at a wide table made of oak boards. Their eyes were dull, and their faces embodied the highest degree of boredom mixed with frustration.
The couple gave a start on hearing a loud knock at the door. It had been shut down because of gusts of wind and sand attacking the inn from the outside.
" Karl," the woman turned to her husband, "do you think an honest man would be hanging about during such the hell of a weather?"
" Berta, what are you waiting for?" the innkeeper cast a furious glance at his spouse. " While you're talking nineteen to dozen my stewed pork is in trouble! Let the guest come in!"
It was a peculiar couple per se: the chief was thin, bald, wrinkled like dried apple, a creature not higher than five feet.
His spouse, and it seemed subordinate, on the contrary, was a woman of huge bulk which was surmounted by huge pumpkin of a head with a blank glance of bulging eyes.
It was obvious that nature created her with a firm intention to set her in a dominant status, but somehow it turned out that her hubby, almost a dwarf, lorded over her to his great enjoyment.
Despite of her bulky body Berta bounced from the chair and swiftly headed to the door.
She opened it and saw a tall young man clad in a grey raincoat.
" Come on in," she said. " What made you roam in this mess of a weather?"
The visitor entered with a subtle smile, curving his white lips.
Because of inflammation his shrewd eyes were red and seemed irrelevant on his gaunt pale face.
He put his shabby leather bag and an easel on the floor, and took off his waterproof. He placed all this in the corner of the hall near a table at which he intended to sit down.
Berta squinted at the wretched clothes of the stranger with a slight contempt and said " Please, make yourself comfortable if you can. From the least expensive we have chops, beans and grog," she said. " I'll heat it up in a moment."
But the young man didn't dare to sit at the table, stood near it and murmured "I have no money."
Berta' eyes became glassy, her face looked like a tombstone. Karl' eyes reminded of two gunpoints.
Berta glanced at Karl with consciousness of absolutely deserved right for indignation, as if saying: "Is not that what I just told you about?"
Karl' potato nose sniffed, and he grumbled "It's a foul play. You think it's a charity shelter? Am I supposed to be an Adventist of Seventh Day? Is it my fault you have no money? You know what, you'd better go."
"I have some sketches," the young man babbled. He unfastened his knapsack and took out several scrolls of paper.
He handed them to Berta.
She seated herself close by her husband, and both of them for several minutes were engrossed in perusing the drawings.
" Not so bad," Berta mumbled.
"Not so good, " Karl cast a sidelong glance at the young man.
"I like them," Berta insisted. She raised her head and addressed the young man "So, you are a painter?"
"What's your name?" Karl intervened.
"Vincent," the painter answered. "Vincent Villem."
"Never heard of you," Karl shrugged.
" What do you want for this?" Berta asked.
" Whatever you offer," Vincent answered with a feeble smile.
Karl said something inaudible to Berta, whereupon she stood up and murmured to Vincent " Sit down, please, and wait a minute."
Vincent obeyed, and Berta left the hall. While she was absent, Karl looked through the pictures.
Vincent was scrutinizing his slim, paint smeared, badly scratched hands when Berta appeared carrying a glass of grog and a chunk of bread with cheese, and placed all this in front of Vincent.
"Thanks," Vincent said. He took a swallow of grog and began to eat bread.
" How long have you been a painter?" Berta' eyes twinkled with curiosity.
" Seven years."
"Really?" Berta exclaimed and shook her head. " You've lost so much time of your life. The best time of your life. Though, you seem quite young. How old are you?"
" Twenty seven," Vincent answered reluctantly.
"You look younger." Berta said thoughtfully. " Anyway, it's not too late to start doing business instead of fooling around."
Vincent finished his drink and bread, stood up and put on the cloak .
He pick up his knapsack and placed his equipment on his shoulder.
"Just out of curiosity," Karl said, "what makes you roam here during the storm?"
Vincent turned to him and said "That's it. The storm. I want to feel its wild breath and depict it in the midst of its fury."
Karl and Berta looked at each other.
" Well, good luck," Karl shrugged.
Berta pressed her palm to her blossoming breast and shook her head with empathy.
"Poor boy," she whispered. "He is not gonna make it."
In the doorway Vincent came across a man so suddenly that they ran into each other very powerfully.
"Schmuck!" the man roared. "Where are your eyes! Your board hit me on the head!"
"Sorry," Vincent looked attentively at the man, being scared not by the vituperative words but by the possibility of causing a wound to the man.
The stranger was short but stout, robust young man with broad shoulders, boxing nose and round eyes, recurrently changing their colour.
His black thin beard ala Mephistopheles and short ala Hitler moustache was in accordance with his massive chin.
"You sorry?" the man shouted. " jerk! You won't get away with this so easily!"
Vincent caught a sight of the second guy that followed his interlocutor.
Vincent wasn't inclined to anger them, and he said " Really, I'm very sorry!
I swear I didn't mean to hurt you!"
" Cool down, Daniel," said the second man and clapped his comrade upon the shoulder. "Let him go. Don't forget about your exam."
The second man, tall and slim, was clad in long black leather coat.
Wide brim of his huge black hat was bent all the way under the gust of wind.
"Get lost!" Daniel hissed to Vincent, and having pushed the painter aside, made his way inside.
His partner followed him, locked the door behind Vincent, and the pair, accepting Berta' greeting, made themselves comfortable in the chairs at the table.
"Is there anybody here today, I wonder," the man in black cloak and sombrero(which he refused to put off) asked.
His hooked nose was elegantly shaped, and the man would have had a handsome appearance (unlike his uncouth young companion) had not his eyes shone like two cold moons.
There were no pupils in his eyes; instead of them two phosphorescent discs emitted a strange, irritating light.
"Nobody here," Berta said and sighed, "you know, for three days. Anyway, we can offer you fried pork, beans, grog and whisky."
"Just what we need. By the way, who's that crafty tramp we encountered at the door?" Daniel asked.
" Crazy chap," Karl tapped his temple with his forefinger, grinning, " a penniless freak."
" We've got his pictures here," Berta added looking askance at the man in black cloak. "He is a painter. He went to the seashore to enjoy the sight of the storm."
"He has guts, anyway," said the man in the cloak, "though he seemed a slob at first sight."
"We're waiting for your best eatables and whiskey," Daniel addressed Berta.
"Just a minute, " Berta rushed to the kitchen.
"Teacher," Daniel said to the man in the black cloak. "Why did you let him leave?"
"Because we didn't know for sure if there were any tenants here," Teacher answered.
" Now we know," Daniel said. "But now he has gone."
Teacher smiled and said. "Take it easy. There's no need to kill him."
Karl listened to this dialog with a frown. Finger of his left hand were tapping on the table, while his right hand slipped something into his jacket pocket. He looked furtively at the strange guests, engaged into conversation.
Berta entered the dining room with a big tray on which various viands emitted a smell evoking the appetite.
In the middle of the tray stood a bottle of whiskey.
Berta placed all this on the table in front of the visitors.
Karl raised himself from his chair and standing akimbo stared at the visitors point blank.
"Show me your cash before you ate all this, will you?" he said.
"What?" Daniel looked at Karl with a grim smile, "What did you say, you stinking piece of slime?"
"Easy, easy, Daniel," Teacher clapped his disciple on the shoulder. "No need to offend our host. He just wants to be sure in our solvency, right?"
He turned to Karl and his blind sparkling eyes made Karl shrink and shiver.
"That's right," he answered trying his best to sound firm.
" Well," Teacher stood up, took out a golden coin from the pocket of his cloak and put it on the table.
He gestured Karl to approach who obeyed not without apprehension.
"Take it," Teacher commanded. "Check it out."
Karl grabbed the coin and bit it slightly.
"Blimey," he exclaimed. "The purest gold I ever tasted!"
"Keep it," Teacher said. "But before we commence our dinner I want you to take a knife out of your pocket and place it on the table."
"What knife? I don't have a knife," Karl shifted from one foot to the other, avoiding to look at Teacher.
"You lie," Teacher said with a dead smile. "The knife is in the right pocket of your jacket."
Karl grew pale, rummaged in his pocket and took out a small exquisite dagger.
"I forgot," Karl stammered, "I bought the thing a couple of weeks ago."
"And again lie," Teacher shook his head. "You stole the knife ten years ago from a certain gentleman on the ship named "Sankt Victoria." Does your wife know that you had been a pirate before you bought this inn?"
Berta jumped off of her seat, her face grew red from indignation. She exclaimed " What is it? What's you talking about?"
Daniel jumped on his feet and pushed Berta back into her seat and roared: "Sit tight. Don't meddle."
" Does your wife know that it was you who killed the aforementioned gentleman?" Teacher continued angrily. "You stole money from sir Barnabas, the money that were allotted to alleviate appalling famine in Antioch. Do you know that ten thousand people died that year of famine after they had not got bread Barnabas had been supposed to buy in Asia Minor?"
"Who the hell are you?" Karl croaked trembling severely. "You are after that goddamn money, I guess? I have nothing from that sum, a considerable part of it I spent on this inn and mind you, I had to pay great amount on tax and..." Karl staggered for a moment.
" On bribe to obtain new documents?" Teacher prompted. "Black Fox was not supposed to pass the government committee, eh?"
"That's the truth then!" Berta shouted. "Karl, how could you lie to me about ostensibly big inheritance."
" We are not after money," Teacher said sharply. "We are here to set up justice."
"Justice?" Karl sneered. "What do you mean? Are you going to sue me? How can you prove your statement? I never been on the Sankt Victoria, Your Honour, I can swear on the Bible! Period. The end of the story!"
"We are not going to sue you," Teacher said.
"What then?" Karl frowned. "You want to kill me? But that would be not a justice but a murder. And in that case you become criminals and will be hanged surely. So, gentlemen, what's your move?"
"We have no moves," Teacher said. " We are waiting on a miracle, we are waiting on an act of God."
"What?" Karl looked askance at Daniel.
"Is your pal crazy?"
"No," an ominous smile crept across Daniel's lips. "He is not my pal, he is my Teacher, and he's going to perform a miracle for you."
" Oh, I see," Karl laughed. "You two clowns came here to fool me?"
He grabbed the knife and held it firmly, his eyes flashed in anger, and he croaked "You, a couple of jerks, get out of my house!"
Teacher's face and lunar eyes betrayed no evidence of frustration, fear or bewilderment.
"Put the knife on the table," he said in an icy tone.
"Get out of here!" Karl screamed and waved his hand with the knife in front of Teacher's face. "Who do you think you are dealing with? You wanted Black Fox? Now, you see him, but mind you, he is not a guy to trifle with. Get out of here! Both of you!"
Two phosphorescent beams emitted from Teacher's eyes were focused straight on the Karl' hand holding the knife.
For a moment Karl froze and stood with his eyes bulging in surprise as he stared at his hand and could not utter a word. His hand in a single moment inexplicably was devoid of all flesh. There were no more skin, flesh, tendons, cartilage, even blood, no nothing but crooked bones still clasping the knife.
At last the idea of what had happened shaped itself vaguely in Karl' mind.
He grew pale, his eyes rolled up, his lips turned white with a tint of blue. His face was distorted with pain while he kept looking at his crippled hand in wild consternation, and when he understood in full measure what had happened he screamed like a deadly wounded beast.
Berta burst out screaming and rushed to the next room, but Daniel in two leaps intercepted her, grabbed her throat while his other hand took out a razor from his pocket and pointed it at her white, fleshy face.
"Stop, Daniel, shame on you," Teacher shouted angrily, "trying to kill her in such a boring cliche way. You think to impress me just cutting her throat? You are not going to pass the exam that way! "
" I'm not going to kill her yet, Teacher," Daniel protested humbly. "I just want this woman to shut up and watch your show." He pushed Berta to her seat and commanded "Sit tight."
She sat and wept silently.
Meanwhile, Karl sat on the floor, whined and cried like a child.
" What did you do to me?" he whimpered. "I don't understand how this could happen. How can I run my inn with such a ghastly disgusting hand?"
"Just look at this fool, Daniel." Teacher's thin lips curved in contempt. "He is still going to run his lousy inn. He still doesn't understand who we are and what we are here for."
Daniel shrugged and said under his breath "He's gonna get it soon, Teacher."
"By the way," Teacher addressed Karl, "after you stabbed Barnabas three times in a row didn't he plead you to finish him because the pain from wounds to the belly was unbearable to him?"
Karl looked fearfully at Teacher and groaned "Why the hell you asking me? Looks like you know everything, albeit I have no idea how you managed it. There was nobody on the ship..."
"Why aren't you answering him?" Daniel roared. "Teacher asks, you answer! Is that clear, you stinking pig?"
Daniel lunged to him and hit Karl' crippled hand by the tip of his shoe. The knife and several bone-knuckles fell rattling on the floor.
Daniel picked up the knife and shoved it in his pocket.
Karl doesn't feel any pain but he was deadly scared. He looked at his two remaining bones-fingers and sobbed.
"Yes," Karl whimpered, "he asked me to kill him, but I was in a hurry, 'cause the ship was sinking and I ran to my ship which was about to leave."
" Oh, look at this, Teacher." Daniel exclaimed. " Looks like a guillotine?" Daniel stared at a mechanical structure with a sharp knife on top and gaping slot at the bottom.
"This is a bread slicer," Berta answered.
"Bread slicer? I thought so" Daniel smirked. "Is your bread King Louis' size? Now, I've got an idea. We are going to play some game. Come to me! Both of you move here."
Karl and Berta approached Daniel and stared at him in a fear.
"Stand at both sides of the knife," Daniel commanded. "Now, both of you place your hand here under the knife..."
"I'm not playing your game!" Karl shouted terrified.
"You will," Teacher said. "Otherwise your left hand will be the same as the right in a moment, and then your leg and then the other one. Do what my disciple tells you!"
"You are not going to do us any harm?" Berta pleaded sobbing.
"By no means," Daniel assured. "You have my word for it!"
Berta and Karl stretched out their trembling hands under the knife and froze in dire premonition.
Daniel took a rope from his pocket, and he tied their hands so that Berta' right hand and Karl' left (healthy) hand were tightly bound together at the wrists.
Daniel took the handle of the knife and said. " Before the knife fall down I will slowly count to twelve, and you have enough time to decide whether it will be ' Karl' hand cutted off. Now, if you don't move your hands, then the knife is gonna cut off both of your hands.You'd better sit down on the chairs to think better."
When Karl and Berta, sweating and shaking, dropped on the chairs, Teacher touched Karl' temple with his finger.
Karl' eyes closed and he began to snore.
"Okay," Daniel nodded. "Now your disgusting husband is sleeping, so, it's only you have the right to choose whose hand will be the knife's victim. You push your hand backwards, you have your hand saved but your husband's hand cut off; you push your hand forward and you have his hand saved but your hand cut off; and if you don't move your hand, well, you loose both of your hands."
Daniel grabbed the handle and closed his eyes tightly. "I don't care who is going to loose the hand," he said. "I just count to twelve and push the handle with all my power. So don't count on my compassion, sympathy or empathy. Here we go! One, two, three..."
"Oh, no, please!" Berta screamed, her white, ghost-like face was turned to Teacher. "Please, don't, don't, Teacher don't let him do it!"
Teacher paid no attention to this passionate appeal.
"Seven, eight, nine," Daniel kept counting with methodical accuracy and with his eyes closed.
"No!" Berta cried frantically.
"Ten, eleven, twelve!"
Berta pushed her hand and Karl' hand forward, the knife rapidly fall and cut off Berta' hand like a slice of bread.
The first moment she was in overwhelming shock, so she didn't quite understand what exactly had happened to her. She stared at her separated hand and the stump from which blood splashed out smearing all around her with red pools.
Daniel opened his eyes and grew pale.
" You fool! What did you do that for!" he shouted. "You had a fair chance to save your hand, you stupid, why did you save his hand?"
"It's pointless to ask her now," Teacher said looking attentively at Berta. "'She is not able to understand what you say. You'd better do something immediately, because the shock is coming to an end and then she is in awful trouble."
And indeed, Berta' face changed its expression of numbness and distraction on the expression of dire suffering and pain.
She opened her mouth wide to provide sufficient amount of air for a terrific wild cry, but Daniel stretched out his hand to her neck and pressed with the tip of his forefinger carotid artery. Berta fell asleep momentarily with her mouth still opened.
"Now what?" Daniel asked desperately.
"What do mean asking me?" Teacher frowned. "Who is trying to pass exam here? I passed my own two thousand years ago. You must know what to do, if you attended all my lectures properly."
Daniel unfastened the separated part of Berta' hand from Karl' wrist, and with an effort attached the severed hand to the stump.
When the tremendous bleeding lessened, Daniel rolled his eyes, and his head began vibrate in various amplitudes, strange gurgling sounds came out of his mouth, and his face was distorted by terrible exertion. Sweat was rolling down his face, and his breathing was like that of a dog in the hot weather.
"Yeah!" Daniel exclaimed at last. "I did it! Look, Teacher, her arm is as holistic and healthy as it was!"
"Modesty, modesty, student," Teacher admonished Daniel with a kind smile. "No reason at all for such a triumph. It's the simplest task for sophomore. Mind you, if you couldn't do this you would be expelled from the Academy automatically. Anyway, good job. Are you going to wake them?"
"Sorry, Teacher, I forgot."
Daniel snapped his fingers in front of Berta' nose, and when she woke up, did the same in front of the Karl' nose, and he instantly stopped snoring and opened his eyes.
"What's happening here, Berta?" Karl said angrily. "Why the bread slicer smeared with blood?"
"I don't know," Berta answered, slapping her eyelashes vigorously. "Seems I had a nap."
"Where are those two devils?" looking around cautiously asked Karl. "And why the door is not shut?"
"They seem to leave," Berta ventured a guess.
"Close the door and give me something to drink," Karl stared at his finger-bones and groaned. "I can't watch this with sober eyes!"
Berta came up to the door and peered out.
She saw Teacher and Daniel standing at the distance of fifty feet from the door.
"I don't see any point in killing the painter," Daniel said, "since I failed to kill that scoundrel Karl which means I didn't pass my exam, did I?"
" I think you did, and therefore you don't have to kill the painter." Teacher said beaming at Daniel. "You didn't kill Karl because you didn't want to make Berta suffer."
"Yes," Daniel shrugged. "I can't understand, though, what makes her love this scoundrel. Anyway, the Instruction prohibits to offend loving souls and those who is willing to suffer for the sake of the others."
"You've learned the Instruction perfectly," Teacher said. "And your actions were quite correct. Being slightly more cool would be better but overall you passed the exam all right. Congratulations, the third-year student! Now, we ran out of time. Let's go back to Heaven Academy!"
The silver cloud began whirling above their heads, and they raised their hands, grabbing the cloud's brim. The next moment they soared into the heaven and disappeared behind the clouds.
Berta stood agape until Karl roared "What are you doing staying there like a ghost? Lock that goddamn door and give me a good portion of brandy."
"There's no need to lock the door," Berta said. "The storm is over, and those two ghosts left."
And she hastened to the bar to execute her husband's order
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