Episode Seventeen ♦ Harmonie

Dark curtains fought back the morning sun as George got out of bed, careful not to wake Anita. He slipped around the end of the bed, the carpet pile tickling between his toes, and into the bathroom, easing the door closed. His movement activated the light.

After using the commode, he wanted to shower but thought it would wake Anita. Not knowing what the day, let alone the night, would bring, she needed to get as much rest as possible. He removed his shorts and used a washcloth to freshen up. With all that happened to him since leaving Hartfield, he was comforted to see the same person looking back at him in the mirror.

Willing the light off was futile; he had little choice but to ease the door open, slip out, and close it again knowing a lack of motion would extinguish the light. He crept through the bedroom and into the main room of the suite. Remembering home, it was a subtle thrill to find freshly laundered clothes waiting for him on the dining table.

Dressed, he tapped on the bedroom door. “Anita?”

“Yes,” she said drowsily.

“I’m going to grab breakfast at the White Oak Room. I want to go to the library. Let’s see what they have on ‘Harmonie.’ Should I wait for you?”

“No, you go. Don’t have much of an appetite.”

“Would you like me to send over a tray? Say some fresh fruit, yoghurt, croissants. Stuff like that?”


“Will do. Be back as quick as I can.”

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“Leave the tray on the dining table. Please be as quiet as possible. My wife is still sleeping.”

“Of course, sir,” said the waiter.

George exited the restaurant, looked up at the brilliant blue sky, and filled his lungs with fresh air. The growing warmth hinted much of the morning was behind him. As he walked up Fourth Street, a couple passed. “Good morning.”

“Beautiful day, isn’t it,” said George.

“Wonderful,” they replied in unison.

He turned left at York Street and walked up the steps only to find the doors of the Louisville Free Cultural Archive still locked. Sitting on the steps, he listened to birds twitter what-cheer and chuuree in the trees lining the street in front of the faux Greek temple.

His inclination was to query the hours, but since that was not an option, he thought about the message: “Nick Carraway says Harmonie by the mark.” The only thing he understood was the name Nick Carraway. That this was yet another reference to The Great Gatsby seemed to be a hint. Maybe Willem was traveling under that name? George knew someone was trying to tell him something: he just did not know what. Yet.

Tired of sitting, George walked over to the pair of brass and glass doors and looked inside the dark building. Without lights, he assumed the institution’s opening was not imminent. He decided to take a short walk while continuing to dissect the phrase as best he could without access to an Informateur. Crossing the street, he wandered down a small lane through the University of Louisville Spalding Campus.

The word ‘Harmonie’ was a proper noun, the name of a thing or a place, he reasoned. Either way, it seems like something they needed to find.  ‘By the mark’ was more troublesome. The first two words provided no meaning on their own so George reasoned it was a three-word phrase. He knew what a mark was –– everyone did –– it was a line, a spot and sometimes it meant something. They get to Harmonie by the mark? Or he could find Harmonie by the mark? Ugh! Pure nonsense.

After wandering around the small campus for what felt a reasonable amount of time, he approached the Ionic columns that framed the entrance to the library. George joined a few other people waiting. Light showed through the doors. Soon.

A clicking sound came from the doors. George filed in with the others as the first man held the door to the library open. “Thank you,” George said.

Inside the building, George walked across the marble floor, an auditorium to his left and on his right an exhibit entitled “Libraries: From Books to Cultural Artifacts.” Just in case, he took a quick peek at the display. It provided information he was well-acquainted with: libraries originally housed collections of books and periodicals, but with universal digitization of print literature in the twenty-first century the need for physical spaces diminished. Dying libraries merged with museums, archives, and historical societies: the Louisville Free Public Library was no exception. Extensive renovations had created a space reminiscent of the original structure’s Victorian roots, marble and brass being the most obvious features. The merged facility had even expanded to nearby blocks.

Leaving the exhibit, he turned right and walked past a children’s art exhibit. He stopped at a large sign and deduced his location within the main building from its floor plan. To the left were performance halls and rehearsal spaces; to the right, various galleries and classrooms for the visual arts. It looked like what he wanted might be upstairs: Historical and Archive Collections.

Twin staircases on either side, he opted for the one on his right. At the top sat a young woman with cropped brunette hair behind an imposing wooden desk. He approached.

“May I help you sir?” she asked with a polite, possibly insincere, smile.

Listening to his gut, George said, “Historical maps please.”

“To your right, third doorway.” The reply was curt, efficient.

George approached the doorway. Inside he found another desk covered with paper. His curiosity piqued, he explored the room. In the center were four large wooden tables with wooden chairs on either side and boxes of gloves at the near end. The remaining space was filled with a collection of shelves holding rather large volumes and various sets of filing cabinets – some with tall drawers; others, very wide drawers only a few centimeters high. The room had two enormous windows. Large trees grew outside.

In the back corner a solitary man labored over a large flat drawer. With gloved hand he gently lifted up corners of what appeared to be ancient engineering drawings. “Why does the mayor’s office always need everything yesterday,” the man said seemingly unaware of George’s presence.

“Excuse me,” said George.

Without looking up the man said, “Yes?”

“In doing some research, I’ve stumbled across a reference to Harmonie.” He spelled the name out. “But I’ve been unable to satisfactorily locate it.”

“Please have a seat sir. I will be with you in a moment.”

George sat. He wondered what it would be like to work with such a collection.

“Sir, that spelling of Harmonie was occasionally used in town names during the early nineteenth century. While I don’t have any maps or plats for Harmonie on the Wabash or the Harmonie north of Pittsburgh, I do show a photograph of the Harmonie on display in our photographic gallery on the basement. Is there anything else?”

“Could you tell me where I might find it?”

“I’m not sure. A docent can assist you.” As George stood and walked away, he thought he heard the librarian say, “Everything’s on the Informateur and they’re still too lazy…” George snorted.

Back at the information desk George asked the question of the politer brunette. “Down two flights, through the tunnel that way,” she pointed behind George, “and to your left is the Gallery of Photography. I will alert a docent you are coming.”

“Thank you.” George hustled down the stairs, found the tunnel, and turned left down a hallway. On his right he found the “Gallery of Photography.” A woman wearing a navy skirt and jacket greeted him.

“I’m looking for a photograph of Harmonie.” He spelled it out to ensure there was no mistake.

“This way sir. That name was taken from an earlier designation for the town of New Harmony, the site of two nineteenth century experiments in utopian, communal living.” George stole glances at photographs from across time as he followed her through the gallery. She stopped and held out her hand in front of one. “However, our photograph is of the riverboat Harmonie circa 1910.”

He looked at it. Feeling no better informed in his quest, his gaze returned to the woman. He then noticed a white daisy pinned into the scarf around her neck. “I assume that boat no longer exists,” he said.

“No, it doesn’t, but my cousin arrived this morning from Pittsburgh on the Harmonie. The name has apparently been reused for a modern riverboat.”

“Ending in I-E, not Y.”


“Thank you. You’ve been most helpful.”

“Excuse me, you’re Nick’s friend?”

“Nick Carraway? I am.”

“Then this is for you.” She handed him a piece of cardboard folded in half like the one they had received the night before.

“Thank you. I wish I had more time to look…”

“It leaves at one.”

George waved goodbye and retraced his steps through the gallery, along the tunnel, and up the stairs. At the top of the staircase he stopped to get his bearings, where, out of the corner of his eye, he noticed nine metal clocks on the wall. The clocks were labeled: Novosibirsk, Sydney, Tokyo, Los Angeles, São Paulo, London, Johannesburg, and Moscow. The largest, center clock was labeled Louisville. It was just after noon.

Wanting to run, George waited until he was outside and down the steps. He sprinted around the corner and down Fourth Street to the inn. The automatic door was much too slow in opening; George kept moving forward and retreating until he was able to slip in sideways.

“Good afternoon, Mister Winston. Your wife is waiting for you in the parlor.”

“Thank you. How soon can we have a carriage for the Harmonie? I don’t know where it is docked.”

“Right away sir. A carriage will be standing by in less than five minutes. Check-out has been completed by...”

“Thank you. And the parlor’s…?”

“Around the corner to your left sir.” The desk clerk motioned to her right.

George found Anita sitting at a reading desk, turning the pages of an enormous volume featuring detailed illustrations of birds.

“We must hurry. I figured it out.”

“What?” Anita asked, turning the page again and then looking at him over her right shoulder.

“The riddle. Where are our things?”

“I’ve got them here.” She pointed to the floor at her left.

He moved around her and grabbed the bags. “We don’t have much time.”

“What is it?”

“I’ll show you in the carriage.”

He kept looking over his shoulder, stopping, waiting for her to catch up, before speeding away. “We need to catch a boat that leaves at one.”

“What time is it now?”

“Maybe ten after?”


“No! Noon.”

A coachman waited for their approach. “To the Harmonie I understand, Mister Winston?”

“Yes. How long will it take?”

“Maybe twenty minutes, sir.”

“Please hurry.”

They were away.

George handed Anita the piece of cardboard. It read “Twain Calaveras and Connecticut. Rails watched.”

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