Alert Marksman Kimor K. has written in to say:
As I am certain that you are well aware of the latest exploits of the famous detective, Jordan Damascus, I shall spare you the details of explaining the relevance of this matter. However, you may find it interesting to note that Mr. Damascus was previously a rather highly decorated member of the armed services. (See: Wondermark #641) I am having difficulty understanding how such a high-ranking officer could have fallen into such incompetence, but I shall leave the interpretation of this fact up to you. Was he disgracefully discharged and now struggling to survive in a civilian occupation? Was he abducted by aliens and lobotomized? Does the armed services of this fictional company promote solely based upon the length of mustaches? We, your readers, would love to know.
Good catch, Kimor! Damascus is indeed a former military man. (If you notice the bottle in the latter picture, you may have an idea why he was discharged.) He was a Detached Leftenant with the King’s Eighth Regiment, the “Crackerjack Riders,” serving in a Rhodesian field post.
As is required by law, the Ministry of Foreign Service has retained copies of all correspondence sent from foreign posts, and after a thorough search of the Regimental Archives (with many thanks to Mrs. Myrtle Fumblebum in the Ministry’s head office in Chestershire-upon-Boffin) I have compiled the below, sent by Leftenant Damascus back home to his mother.
My dear mum. This place burns me with its presence. Why did you make me enlist. No man shall this experience make of me; rather, a mongrel begging at the table for any scrap of sanity, any thinky, glistening sweet-fat to remind me that justice might yet exist in the world. The whole of Camp George is a dog fallen into a crevasse. Its legs are smashed to dust but the only thing to do is whimper. Please send any meats that will make the trip. Yours, J
Mum. The Colonel is in receipt of your letter of January twenty-seventh. What did you tell him? He has turned more brutish than ever before. My ration of bootblack has been halved. A pinch of salt I had been saving in my pillow for Lent was discovered and burned in front of the men. This is not a good way to encourage thoughtful souvenirs for yourself. Write our MP and complain about this treatment. Affix my name; I have enclosed an extra signature here for your use in this. Cordially, J (here is the extra: J)
Old dear mum. There is some mystery afoot. The Colonel says he has not heard from you at all, but he is suddenly possessed of a deep knowledge of my childhood and details known only to our family — including the way I became stuck in the chimney after eating too many sweets last Christmas. But here is a clue! I blamed the sweets as a ruse. If he had known the true story, he would have not mentioned the sweets at all. Someone has been feeding him information. Curiouser and curiouser, J
Mumsie dearest. The Colonel is a man bewitched. He mumbles in his sleep about me and my childhood. I have tried prolonging his sleep with aether but the chemicals I purchased in a Salisbury bazaar proved to be counterfeit. He awoke in a rage and pushed my head through a series of walls. I believe the elixir I paid handsomely for to be simple extract of camel. This foul brew has many uses, but dulling cranial pain is not among them. I have not slept for days. Did you ever hear from the MP? Please advise him that the situation grows dire. I cannot see from both eyes at once. Ever your twinkle-fly — J
Margaret. What horror I have described in the past was but a cheery Spring afternoon compared to the recent ordeal. The temperature and humidity in the camp resemble being inside of a whale at all times, even when asleep or bathing. We have but one bath-tub for the entire squad and I have been near the last in line each day on account of my declining vision. I would be last every time if not for one Private Muldoon, the battalion imbecile. He is continually convinced that the sky is the underside of a giant frog. The Colonel continues his tirade of abuse. This morning he called me a coward for stealing an apple from Broad Street, but this happened twenty-one years ago. Please advise. Until death, J
Hello Mum. Please excuse the penmanship as I write this from the brig. The Colonel discovered an escape plan I had been formulating on an old bedsheet. I had thought to bribe Muldoon (who is possessed of a powerful energy) to excavate a tunnel from our barracks, to emerge ideally in Egypt. From there I should find a friendly native and return home by steamship. I have been roundly disciplined by the Colonel, but all the while Muldoon toils unawares. I imagine the man halfway to the Nile by now. I know not if I should live to see [illegible] underside of my arms. Please advise the response of the Bishop. Unblinking, J
Greetings Mum from the centre of the earth. Or someplace not far removed — a cell clearly just shy of the outermost circle of Pandemonium, such is the heat and misery of this place. The Colonel suspects me of being a spy for the French. As he is suspiciously versed in every minute of my past life, I do not know where he thinks being recruited by the French may have occurred. He claims that my loyalty turned Gallic here in the camp and that I have yet to meet any actual foreign agents. Still no sign of Muldoon but I imagine the tunnel will be discovered any day. Please write the Colonel in my defence and apologise to the Bishop. Rottingly, J
Mum, this life has ruined me. My strength and resolve are sapped. The Colonel has claimed to have merely guessed correctly all those facts about my life. I believe him either a liar or possessed by a nefarious spirit. I do not think I can perform an exorcism in this pagan country without risk to my own person. The cell has become a coffin. Mother, your son dies as he writes. Please send copies of the Post, it is dreadfully dull down here. If I ever see the sun I shall be grateful the rest of my days. Sad sad sad sad sad sad sad [this continues for three unbroken pages] — J
Mum: By trying a little each day, I have managed to bend the bars of my cell cumulatively the width of the smallest fingernail. At this rate I may celebrate my eightieth birthday outside. The Colonel visits daily, but simply makes noises. Either I have forgotten language or this country has made savages of noble men. Pretend you have no son so that you may one day be surprised if I return. In a vat of oil, J
I am free! I have solved the mystery that has haunted me these many months! The Colonel is a madman who has stalked me since infancy. He has worn cunning disguises so as to be never recognised. A dream brought on by putrefied soup revealed the evidence to me incontrovertibly. The dizzying heat provoked a fugue state of sorts, in which I apparently shoved my left ring finger into the cell’s lock until it malformed into the shape of the required key. I have been wedded to a door, Mother. Do not send gifts; they will not make it in time — for I return! As soon as I murder the Colonel. Excited for the future. J.
Mother everybody in this camp has been transformed into a bat. I will attempt to do the same. Put the kettle on. J
O Mumsy. I am in Crete but not on purpose. The Colonel makes a poor boat. Back on the Continent soon. You know, I think I might make a good detective.
Thanks, Kimor! Folks, feel free to write in with these questions any time you like.