ALL CRY CHAOS
A N H E N R I P O I N C A R É M Y S T E RY
The Permanent Press
Sag Harbor, NY 11963
Henri Poincaré, 1854–1912, was a leading mathematician of his day. His great grandson, Interpol agent Henri Poincaré, and all other characters in this novel are creations of the author. No character in this work is intended to resemble a real person, living or dead. Any such resemblance is coincidental.
Copyright © 2011 by Leonard Rosen
All rights reserved. No part of this publication, or parts thereof, may be reproduced in any form, except for the inclusion of brief quotes in a review, without the written permission of the publisher.
For information, address: The Permanent Press
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Rosen, Leonard J.–
All cry chaos : an Henri Poincaré mystery / Leonard Rosen.
ISBN 978-1-57962-222-0 (alk. paper)
1. International Criminal Police Organization—Officials and employees—Fiction. 2. International relations—Fiction.
3. Murder—Investigation—Fiction. I. Title.
Printed in the United States of America.
For Esther and Sidney
my foundation; and
for Matthew, Jonathan, and Linda—
my windows and skylight.
One cannot write about fractals without acknowledging a debt to Benoit Mandelbrot, whose insights into the geometry of Nature have profoundly influenced modern science and, at least in this work, the modern imagination.
I owe a special debt to James D. Jones (U.S. Navy, retired), my math tutor—patient, good-humored, and an expert on fractals and chaos theory; Moshe Waldoks and Meir Sendor, who created a sanctuary in which I could explore the questions that frame this novel; my agent Eve Bridburg, who not only found the project a home but pushed me to revise until a story emerged that was equal to my intention. Without her critical eye, this would have been a very different book. Doug Starr commented on numerous drafts, often seeing possibilities I overlooked. He is a tough and loyal critic, a good friend, and a coach for all seasons. Arthur Golden commented on drafts and has long been generous with his advice. Todd Shuster showered an unknown author with the sort of close editorial attention that has made the Zachary, Shuster, Harmsworth Literary Agency a standout. All these efforts would have come to naught were it not for Marty and Judy Shepard, publishers of The Permanent Press. They have welcomed me and shown extraordinary enthusiasm for All Cry Chaos. I cannot imagine having more thoughtful or devoted advocates.
Thanks also to Susan Ahlquist, Beth Keister, Lon Kirschner, Joslyn Pine, Kathy Porter, Graham Orr, Jessica Schwartz, and Jessica Stein for wise counsel in various stages of manuscript development. The following people also read early drafts and offered helpful criticism: Larry Behrens, Martha Brand, Jeffrey Chin, Adam Cohen, Will Cohen, Aaron Cooper, Tina Feingold, Larry Heffernan, Suzanne Heffernan, Kathy Koman, Stuart Koman, Lester Lefton, Mindy Lubber, Emma Marks, Richard Marks, Bob Morrison, Jenny Morrison, Mark Pevsner, Jeanette Polansky, Rosalie Renbaum, Jed Schwartz, Monica Sidor, Barry Siegel, Jane Siegel, Lois Slade, Frank Sladko, Abe Stein, Norman Stein, and Dean Sudarsky.
I'm a bit gray for a debut; but being an older writer has its advantages, one of which is the pleasure of having adult sons as critics. Jonathan and Matthew Rosen were in-house witnesses to the evolution of this book. They have seen it, and me, through a long process; their support and advice have been invaluable. Robert and Gerald Rosen, my brothers, have offered nothing but encouragement and affection these many years. I celebrate with them the commitment to family on which this novel rests. Most important is Linda Rosen, touchstone for three decades and author of so much that is precious in my life. To Linda, our sons, and the memory of my parents I dedicate this book.
In the Temple, all say "Glory!" In the streets, all cry "Chaos!"
Who can see the order in the whirlwind?
Who can see the pattern in the wildness?
Who dares cry "Glory" in the midst of chaos?
— R. SHAPIRO, PROLOGUE
after Psalm 29
He could not approach the grave all at once. Instead, Henri Poincaré wandered the Cimetière du Montparnasse until the gloom drew him in and down to a place where he could hear spirits scuttling, calling his name.
For thirteen years he had come, circling past monuments to poets, philosophers, artists, and scientists—heroes of the republic all. As a young inspector, he believed that one day he might rest among them, beside his great-grandfather, as a reward for his service to country and love of justice. His ambitions had been that large, driving him not merely to solve cases but to solve them with a fortitude and intelligence that would credit the family name.
What a fool he had been. To restore this one life, he would have given his own a thousand times over. He would have signed away his soul. Yet no devil's bargain, not even suicide, could have canceled his existence. For Poincaré
lived and had hurt the ones he loved, the most terrible proof of which lay in a quiet corner of this cemetery.
He walked, therefore, until half shadow himself he stood over the grave.
Clouds churned and trees moaned. He would measure out his life this way: in an overnight train from the Dordogne each week, arriving at noon to clean the granite and exchange new flowers for old. An efficient man would have cleared the debris in minutes; but this man had borrowed a broom from the caretaker's shed and swept for an hour. He plucked a last wind-driven scrap and marveled that it was spring again. He did not understand why the daffodils still bloomed. But they did . . . even here in the cemetery. And the songbirds were back and the trees were leafing out. It should have been a comfort.
He knelt and with his good hand set fresh lilies on the grave. PART I
, he said.
They killed the wrong person. They should have
What is the way to the abode of light? And where does darkness reside?
— JOB 38:19
When he entered the cellblock, Henri Poincaré braced himself for the clank of steel doors coupling, which produced in him a physical effect not unlike the dysentery he once contracted drinking bad water in Senegal. A long career had made him no stranger to prison corridors; yet the clank of steel on steel still ripped through his insides like a disease bent on killing him, which it did, in its way, with every visit. The extortionists, the counterfeiters and Ponzi schemers, the assassins who for the love of money would take one life at a time and the fanatics who would weep if they killed fewer than fifty: those condemned to these cages thought themselves superior but misunderstood, justified in what they snatched from the world. In Poincaré's estimate, they deserved the daily reminder of these clanging doors, and most of all they deserved each other.
Which is to say, Stipo Banović kept good company.
Cathedral light from high, fixed windows cut through the upper air of the cellblock, though little of the Dutch springtime made its way inside. Here was the prison and this the block reserved for celebrities of a sort, war criminals awaiting trial in The Hague's international court. Four months earlier, at the end of a lengthy search that had taken him to six countries and two continents, Poincaré had found Stipo Banović living in a suburb of Vienna with his young bride and their son and daughter. On the evening men with battering rams knocked through his front door, Banović had been reading bedtime stories to these same children, who sat in his lap in an easy chair by the fire. The very picture of domestic happiness, save for the fact that Banović had in another lifetime personally ordered and participated in the massacre of seventy Muslim men and boys—some younger than the ringleted beauties in his lap that evening. His wife cried bitterly and his children cried as Banović screamed in perfect if heavily accented English: "Can't you see I've started over? I'm leading a
That was not for Poincaré to decide. Before they assigned him the case, his superiors at Interpol-Lyon sent him to the ravine where those bodies lay. It was springtime in the former Yugoslavia, and the snow melt had made traveling to the site a muddy ordeal. But the day was crisp and green shoots were emerging and everywhere the sound of water flowing suggested the possibility of life. Everywhere but in that shadowed ravine, where the stillness of bleached bones and the flapping fragments of cloth dropped him to his knees. No, it was not for Poincaré to decide or to forgive. He had done his job and the courts would do theirs.
He was already busy with another case, supervising security at the ministerial meetings of the World Trade Organization in Amsterdam. This visit was unnecessary, but he had come to face Banović one last time before catching his train, much as he would check to see the fire was off in the kitchen before leaving on a trip. The man, unattended, was dangerous. Poincaré needed to see him in his place, behind bars.
"As I live and breathe," said the prisoner at the approach of footsteps.
"Good news, Stipo. I'm officially off your case. Reassigned. It's enough to make one sentimental . . . all the time I spent hunting you."
Banović turned away. His plaid shirt buttoned to the collar and his wire-rimmed glasses lent the former death squad commander an aspect very like the librarian he was before the Bosnian war: high forehead, small boned, a pianist's fingers. He looked more the scholar than the mass murderer, an impression only strengthened by the fortress of law books he had amassed for his upcoming trial.
His back still turned, Banović said: "It was war time. Ugly things happened. You have your witnesses, those traitorous sons of whores. But the law gives me precedent, Inspector. Battle conditions. Men are beasts, it's true—as even a cursory reading of history will attest. Do you know what Titus's soldiers did to the Jews fleeing Jerusalem?" "I don't really care," said Poincaré, approaching the bars.
Banović glanced over his shoulder. "They cut living men and women open to look for swallowed gold."
If Poincaré faced him alone in the forests of Bosnia, beyond the reach of law, he knew he would have died and suffered considerably in the process. As it was, standing before this cage was rather like standing in a zoo before a predator high on the food chain. The steel offered some assurance, but even so Banović radiated a danger that backed Poincaré away and made his heart beat erratically. This job had never been easy. Friends predicted that with his fondness for opera and arcane journals he would last all of three weeks. Three decades later, notwithstanding his successes, he wondered if he was truly cut out for this work.
"Years I ran," said the prisoner in a low, rasping voice. "The fight ended. I deserved a life, as combatants do. Now look at me, gagging on law books and reduced to kissing photos of my children. You are responsible, Poincaré. The others Interpol sent showed some common sense, some human concern—an appreciation for my circumstance. I warned them away and they broke off their searches. But you . . ." He reached for a photograph and slowly traced a finger.
How could the man bear to look at those children? If Poincaré lived to be a hundred he would not forget what lay in that ravine, the bones of young ones reaching for fathers, brothers, neighbors—men who, if they reached back, could offer only a willingness to die first. And all of them left to rot until the snows came. "I could have broken off the search," Poincaré agreed. "There was a war. You
The prisoner nodded.
"And now that the war is over and you have a new family, you want to go home."
Banović closed his eyes at the thought.
"Like those men and boys wanted to go home. Did they beg for mercy, Stipo? Did they pray?"
The prisoner stared down the corridor, and Poincaré wondered if his words had registered. They had—and the response, when it came, was saw-blade jagged: "Bad things happen in war," said Banović. "But then you never fought a war. So don't talk to me. Don't you
"Not to worry, Stipo. The court will do that."
The cellblock was half the length of a soccer field, the two men the sole representatives of their species on that square of earth.