The Investigation of Mac'leaffy Roner: The Mektoub Affair - Part Three

One, two, three Mektoubs; as he gazed over them, my uncle couldn't stand still. Two were dust laden and one was lame. Mac'leaffy walked frenetically around them, tracing circles of his passing in the dusty ground. He could count and recount the basic facts in his head, but nothing changed and the missing spark of awareness refused to come. He could almost feel his head throbbing with the knowledge that some obscure detail was eluding his grasp. Aesken, Eoxy, Gether… one two three. As he was thinking aloud, everyone began too look at him curiously.

"He must have lost his mind – not that there was much there to lose” was the popular consensus. Suddenly, a small child appeared through the curious crowd. His eyes sought the unconscious speaker and it was almost as if he understood the turmoil that was raging through him. Cautiously the lad approached and tapped my uncle on the leg. Mac'Leaffy stopped his restless wandering, as rigid with surprise he faced the toddler.

"Four?" added the small one, calmly joining in the rote session.

"Four!" cried my uncle with such a joy that the child ran off scared. It was as simple as that! It was not a case of seeing what was there in front of him, but searching rather for what was missing. The details often confused him like this until he got used to seeing their patterns, and the traces of what was not.

Immediately he ran to the stableboy and tried to extract the truth from him by looking at him straight in the eyes

"How many Mektoubs are you missing?”

"Erm, four" was the response, as he asked himself nervously where all this was leading.

Four! He was approaching the goal. He questioned further – “It's nice stock that you have there! How many animals are there in total?"

"Twenty five" answered the stableboy mechanically...

One, two, three, four… twenty four. My uncle had his proof at last. Each and every Homin who witnessed that scene will testify that it was at that moment that my uncle truly came into his greatness.

He walked slowly towards Gether, having regained his composure.

"An innocent homin does not have to take the blame for a theft, my friend." he told him, all the while watching his impassive visage.

"Why take this mektoub if it was to give it back?" he mused, considering every word.

Gether finally conceded a response "We prefer to keep our convictions to ourselves."

Mac'Leaffy went then to Eoxy. Eoxy, eaten by fear and guilt, looked like one who was living in his own nightmares... "I believe in your innocence. But for the others to believe me, I must know your secret. I will guard it, of course...” Eoxy was on the verge of collapse, but in a last effort he whispered something to my uncle. I never knew precisely what was said; only that it was an old story of love and betrayal

Finally, my uncle walked over to Aesken, but had no further questions. He already knew everything…

What happened next is very confused in my mind and it may be that in my childish innocence I misunderstood some of the nuances. My uncle talked a long time with the Tryker authorities and it transpired that the stableboy was the real culprit. Aesken, Eoxy and Gether had all made individual mistakes, but none of them were guilty of theft.

It seemed that the stable boy had gone out to count his Mektoubs at the height of the storm and seeing that three were missing, had panicked. Taking a mount, he rode off after them, but the sharp peal of the thunder had made his mount throw him and run off. Dejectedly, he returned home, and not wishing to admit his losses, cried thief.

He was not to know that the missing mounts were quietly returned, after all.

The famous "Mektoub affair" was thus resolved, changing my uncle’s life for ever. It even had an impact on me, leaving me with a distrust of merchants that I hold to this day. Having heard, sometime later, my uncle asking Aesken to take his injured mektoub and give back the one he had taken, probably compounded this. And to be honest with you … it's hard to not to be involved when in your childhood it was you who uttered that pivotal word:

“Four”

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