Biff Bundie, University Cop, in 'The Circle of Seven'

Chapter 3: The Bronze Rhinoceros

The Story Thus Far: Biff Bundie, University undercover man disguised as graduate student Kevin Stoddard Heath came into possession of a mysterious book bag when he was bumped into by a strange foreign man. As the Bick he opened the bag to find a sinister notebook, a library book ("The Secret Plants of Ancient Egypt"), and a small box containing a hypodermic needle and a white card on which was printed a Roman numeral seven enclosed by a circle. Suddenly Biff discovered he was being watched by a suspicious man who introduced himself as Doctor Drugg. Drugg persuaded Bundie to walk with him to his office for a discussion of urgent matters, and Bundie, forgetting the book bag, left with him. When he realized his blunder he dashed back to the Bick to find that the book bag had been taken by "a little man with snow white hair." Meanwhile, in the midst of a fire in the Chem 20 lab at Mallinckrodt, a mutilated, decapitated body was discovered in a fire blanket cabinet.

Biff Bundie buret into University Police head-quarters only minutes after an hysterical phone call brought news of the hideous discovery in Mallinckrodt. Unaware of what had happened, Biff buttonholed the Chief.

"Chief, I'm on to something big. I found a book bag..."

"Book bag." roared the Chief. "Book bag. There's been a murder, and you dare to babble about a book bag!"

"Murder?" gasped Biff.

"Yes, murder, and I'm on my way to find out about it." With that and an angry glare the Chief strode out of the room accompanied by several policemen. Biff was left alone in the office, bewildered by the confusion he had stumbled into.

"Phone call for Biff Bundie!" came a shout from the outer room.

"I'll take it in here," said Biff, not knowing what to expect next.

"Hello!" he said into the phone. There was no answer.

"Hello!" he repeated.

"Misster Biv Bundig?" questioned an all too familiar voice.

"Yes," replied Biff excitedly.

"Don't talk," said the foreign voice, "chust lissen." It had an urgency about it that only increased Biff's tension.

"Zere hass been a mistake. I must haff mine book bak back."

"Who is this?" demanded Biff, but all he heard in answer was a nervous gasp.

"I cannot talk. Zere iss danchur. You musst meet me at vunce." There was a short pause, then three hastily whispered words: "Ze bronts rhinotseros!" This was followed by a sharp click.

"Hello! Hello! Who is this?" yelled Biff, but he knew he would learn no more. Biff stood help-lessly holding the receiver. "The chief said there was a murder," he thought to himself, "but somehow I know that this book bag is the thing I should work on. Its big--maybe bigger even than murder!"

Clearly, the little foreigner had intended the book bag for someone else. But who? And why? "I've got to find him," Biff said aloud. But where? What had he said--"The Bronze Rhinoceros--; it meant nothing to Biff. "What could it be?" wondered the detective--"The Bronze Rhinoceros--I've got to find out!" He set down at a desk to ponder the possibilities.

Half an hour later he had come no closer to understanding when commotion in the outer office announced the arrival of the Chief and his men. They looked pale and shaken, and when Biff heard what they had seen he realized why.

"Bludgeoned to death," the Chief was saying. "Brutally mauled and mutilated horribly.... No means of identification...Fingerprints removed by simply cutting off the tips of the fingers,...The only shred of evidence was a circle with a Roman numeral seven stamped on the sole of the right foot."

"Did you say Roman numeral seven?" cried Biff.

"Yes, is something the matter, Bundie? Another book bag, perhaps?"

But Biff didn't hear the last remark, for he was already running out of the building. He knew now he was right; it was big. And he had to find that little foreigner with the only clue he now had: a cryptic phrase--"The Bronze Rhinoceros."

"Kevin!" called someone as he emerged from the Grays Hall police office. "Kevin!'

"Ulp," thought Biff, "that's my new name." He turned and saw a 'Cliffe junior he had met that morning. Jane something.

'Hi, Jane," he said unenthusiastically, not wishing to be delayed in his quest of The Bronze Rhinoceros.

"And where are you off to in such a hurry, Mr. Heath?

"Uh--er--my--uh--room."

"Where is that?"

"Er...well, I don't exactly have one yet. You know I--uh--just transferred here."

"Honestly, Kevin, you're not making much sense. Come on, let's have a cup of coffee, and you can tell me about yourself."

had stimulated his brain to the limit of its powers,

like a flash it came to Biff. The word "coffee" and suddenly he knew: The Bronze Rhinoceros was a coffeehouse!

Trying to hide his excitement, he said slowly and meaningfully, "Sure, Jane, let's pop over to the Bronze Rhinoceros." He studied her face carefully for a sign of recognition.

"The what?" asked Jane.

"The Bronze Rhinoceros," said Biff, leaning closer, "best coffee in the world." He scrutinized her intently.

"Kevin, are you...all right? You've got an awfully odd look in your eye."

"Bronze Rhinoceros," he intoned, bending right over her.

"Uh...well...Kevin...I...uh...I've got to get back to Comstock. Nice...uh...seeing you again." She edged away slowly, then broke into an open run and dashed across the Yard at an amazing speed.

"Hmm," thought Biff, "I guess it's not a coffee-house." He watched Jane disappear and then turned away dejectedly. "I've miscalculated," he thought. He looked around him and saw students with happy faces walking to and fro. "Strange," he thought, becoming philosophical, "life is going on as usual, but right under our noses there is something horrible." It was four o'clock, and the afternoon sun was casting long shadows; the Yard looked oddly serene. Two students passed Biff and broke his reverie by speaking loudly:

"You've got to write a paper, don't you?"

"Yeah, for Soc Rel 182--sluts and nuts."

Instantly, like some great steel spring, Biff's mind leaped into action. "I've got to solve this puzzle!" he said aloud. Still, he couldn't help laughing for a moment at the nickname the student had given his course. "That's almost as good as some of the nicknames we used to give our profs at the Police Academy--like 'Old Baldhead.'" Biff laughed aloud with the memory. And then abruptly he stopped. "My God," he cried, "of course--The Bronze Rhineroceros is a nickname! He has the answers to this whole business.'"

Quickly he overtook three undergraduates on the path in front of University Hall, and putting on his best Harvard manner, said:

"Say, fellows, any of you in the old Bronze Rhinoceros's course?" He stared at them intently, hoping for confirmation of his hunch. The students gave each other curious glances, but did not reply. Biff was not discouraged, for he knew he was right. "Yeah," he went on with great seriousness, "I think the world of the old Bronze Rhinoceros." Now the young men increased their pace markedly and in a few moments left the detective behind. "They must have been freshmen," thought Biff, undismayed. "But this time I'm right. I'll track down that Bronze Rhinoceros if it's the last thing I ever do!"