Tart Wreck Repackage

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       💫to be sTarted…… 🌟🌟

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      “Never again,” said Tara, pouring her second black coffee.  “I’m done with these hangovers. You’ll have to find someone else to drink with from now on.”

      “You say that every week, Tara.  What are we going to do next? We’re floundering. We don’t even have a plan. Everything we do takes us further away from the case. I don’t even remember what the case is!”

      “Here, have some more coffee.  Don’t roll your eyes at me like that, cases are always like this, they always go through this phase.”  Tara wasn’t in the mood for this kind of depressing talk, it was much too complicated. Surely it was simply a matter of drinking another coffee, until everything fell back into place.

      “Cases do, do they?” Star asked, “Do they really? And what phase would that be, and how would you know?”

      “Snarky tart, yes they do. I’ve been researching things you know, not just swanning around.  We’ve reached the part of the case where nothing makes sense and the investigators don’t know what to do next. It’s an essential part of the process, everyone knows that.  The important thing is not to try and work things out too early. The danger is preconceived ideas, you see,” Tara pontificated, warming to the theme.

      “I can assure you that I have no preconceived ideas because I have no clue what’s going to happen next,” replied Star, trying not to roll her eyes too obviously.  She knew from experience not to provoke Tara too much until at least the third cup of coffee.

      “Precisely!” Tara said triumphantly. “Now it will all start to come together and make sense. ”

      Star didn’t look convinced.  “What are we going to do about the middle aged lady we locked in the wardrobe last night, though?”

      “What did we do that for?!” asked Tara in astonishment.

      “I can’t remember.  Maybe we thought it was Aunt April?”

      “Wait, if Aunt April isn’t in the wardrobe, then where is she?”

      “That’s what I”m saying!” cried Star in exasperation. “What do we do next?”


      “Clearly,what we do next, my friend, is free the middle-aged lady,” Tara smiled smugly.”First rule, notwithstanding that I hate rules, if you don’t know what to do, do what you do know what to do, even if you don’t want to do it because at least you’ve done something.”

      “Is that a Lemone quote?” asked Star. “Haven’t heard much of him lately.”

      “No, I made it up myself.”

      “Oh, well … I’m too tired to do anything.You do it, Tara.”

      “No, you do it! Lazy tart.”

      “I’ll do it!” says Rosamund, appearing from nowhere and bounding over to the wardrobe. “I want to borrow her lippy again.” She tugged at the door. “It seems to be stuck.”

      “Let Star try,” said Tara. “She goes to the gym.”

      “It does seem to be rather stuck,” said Star said after a few minutes of fruitless tugging. She knocked on the door of the wardrobe. “Excuse me, are you there? Excuse me … dreadfully sorry about all this.” There was no reply.

      “Dead,” said Tara. “Darn it.”

      Undaunted, Star tried again. After a particularly spirited tug, the door flew open and Star fell backwards. “She’s gone! But she left a note. Thank you, Ladies for your hospitality. This is a clue. At 4pm Thursday, go to the cafe on Main street. Vince French will be there..”

      Tara gasped. “Who was she? That seemingly innocuous middle-aged lady.”

      “Perhaps we will never know,” said Star.


      “It’s Thursday today,” remarked Star.

      “Special subject the bloody obvious?” Tara replied rudely.   “You should be on Mastermind.”

      “Well, we were wondering what we were going to do to pass the time until Thursday, and here we are. It’s Thursday!”

      “Are you losing your marbles?”

      “Actually it’s you losing your memory,” Star sighed.  “Remember the case?”

      “What case?”

      “The case we were working on!”

      “Oh, that case! Well you can hardly expect me to remember that when it’s been such a strange week!” Tara was starting to get tearful and agitated.

      “Look, Tara, the tests came back negative. You can stop worrying about it now.  We can go back to normal now and carry on. And just in time for the rendezvous at the cafe on Main Street.” Star patted Tara’s arm encouragingly.  “And what timing! If the results hadn’t come back yet, or we’d tested positive, we wouldn’t have been able to go to the cafe.”

      “Well we could have gone and just not said anything about the tests,” sniffed Tara.  “Everyone else seems to be doing what they want regardless.”

      “Yes, but we’re not as morally bankrupt as them,” retorted Star.

      Tara giggled. “But we used to work for Madame Limonella.”

      “That’s an entirely different kind of morals,” Star replied, but chose not to pursue the issue. She was relieved to see Tara’s mood lighten.  “What are you going to wear to the cafe?”

      “Is it a fancy dress party? I could wear my plague doctor outfit.”

      Star rolled her eyes. “No! We have to dress appropriately, something subtle and serious.  A dark suit perhaps.”

      “Oh like my Ace of Spades T shirt?”

      This is going nowhere fast, Star thought, but then had a revelation.  A moment later, she had forgotten what the revelation was when the door burst open.

      “Ta Da!” shouted Rosamund, entering the office with two middle aged ladies in tow.  “I nabbed them both, they were lurking in the queue for the food bank! And I single handedly brought then back.  Can we talk about my bonus now?”

      Both Tara and Star were frowning at the two unfamiliar ladies. “Yes but who are these two middle aged ladies?”

      One of the ladies piped up, “She said you’d be taking us out for afternoon tea at a nice cafe!”

      The other one added, “We haven’t eaten for days, we’re starving!”

      “But neither of you is April!” exclaimed Tara.

      The first middle aged lady said, “Oh no dear, it’s September. I’m quite sure of that.”


      “Will you look at these prices!” exclaimed one of the middle aged ladies.

      Privately, Tara called them the miserable old bag and the crazy old witch, or Mob and Cow for ease of reference. Anyway, it was Mob who was banging on about the prices.

      “Feel free to take yourself somewhere cheaper to eat,” she snarled.

      “Oh, no, that’s okay, as long as you’re happy paying these outrageous prices.”

      Cow cackled. “I’ve not eaten for a month so bugger the prices! Not that I need to eat, airs good enough for me seeing as I have special powers. Still, a raspberry bun wouldn’t go amiss. Thank you, Ladies!”

      Star sighed heavily and glanced reproachfully at Rosamund.

      “Sorry, I were trying to help,” she said with a shrug.

      Tara scanned the room. The only other people in the cafe were an elderly gentleman reading the newspaper and a bedraggled mother with two noisy snot-bags in tow. Tara shuddered and turned her attention to the elderly man. “Those deep wrinkles and wasted muscles look genuine,” she whispered to Star. “There’s nobody here who could possibly be Vince French. I’m going to go and keep watch by the door.”

      “Good thinking,” said Star, after covertly checking her Lemoon quote of the day app on her phone; she realised uneasily she was increasingly relying on it for guidance. “There’s a sunny seat over there; I’ll grab a coffee and look inconspicuous by doing nothing. I don’t want to blow our cover.”

      Tara glared at her. “I saw you checking your app! What did the oracle say?”

      “Oh, just some crazy stuff.” She laughed nervously. “There is some kind of peace in not feelign like there’s anythign to do.

      “Well that’s not going to get us far, is it now?”


      “Let me see that,” said Tara, snatching the phone off Star.  “Aha!” she exclaimed. “Just as I thought! You’ve been hacked. I’d spot those tell tale typo’s anywhere. That’s not the real Lemoon.  Now the question is, what have they been advising you to do?  That’s exactly what these cults and oracles do, they infiltrate and dish out bad advice.”

      “But why?” asked Star, “It doesn’t make sense!”

      “To cause chaos, apathy and inertia?” interjected one of the middle aged ladies, who got a swift dig in the ribs with the other ones elbow and a whispered  “Shh! You’ll blow our cover!”

      “Since everyone seems to be blowing their cover, maybe we should all come clean,” said the elderly man, who had sidled up behind them unnoticed.  “May I join you?” he asked, pulling a chair out.

      “It’s another trick!” hissed Rosamund, hoping to salvage the situation. “Don’t trust him! Look at the tattoo on his neck!”

      “Ah, yes,” the elderly man said, rubbing his neck ruefully. “Let me explain.  I was kidnapped and this tattoo was done against my wishes.”

      “Why should we believe you?” asked Tara suspiciously.

      “Will you believe me if I take you to the cult headquarters?”

      “But I wanted a raspberry tart!” whined one of the middle aged ladies. “You promised!”

      “Oh bugger off and buy your own tart,” snapped Star. “We’re on an important case and we don’t have time for starving middle aged ladies.”


      The door crashed open and an imposing looking gentleman strode into the room. He looked rather dashing in his  pinstripe suit; unfortunately the effect was spoilt by the fact that he was wearing  a bright purple beanie complete with yellow pom poms on his head.

      “Meandering! Unfocused!” shouted the newcomer. “Call yourselves private detectives? I’ve had enough of this rubbish. I demand you interrogate me.”

      “Alright, keep your voice down,” said Tara. “For starters, who are you? And why are you wearing that ludicrous thing on your head?”

      “I am Vince French. Yes, that got your attention!” He looked brazenly around the cafe with an unpleasant sneer.


      “Oh, the headgear. My elderly Aunt knitted it for me and insisted I wear it. What could I do?”

      “Well,” said Star mildly. “That’s extremely sweet of you. And, you are in luck because we’ve been looking for a Vince French. But first can you prove you are Vince French because we are getting rather a lot of false negatives lately. Or do I mean false positives. I really get so confused.”

      “Yes, and tattoos as identification won’t do,” said Tara.

      “Will Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi prove it to you?” he asked and broke into song.

      “Wow,” whispered Star. “What a voice! It must be him.”

      “Arrogant bastard,” said Tara.


      “Shut up, Tara!” hissed Star, “And keep him singing while I think. This is a monumental clue!”

      “But I can’t stand bloody opera singing,” Tara whispered back, “It’ll drive me mad.  When they said he had a melodious voice I was expecting something more modern than this ancient caterwauling.”

      “Do you want to solve this case or not?”

      “Oh alright then,” Tara said grudgingly. “But your thinking better be good!”  She clapped loudly and whistled. “More! More!” she shouted, stamping her feet. The assorted middle aged ladies joined in the applause.

      Star leaned over and whispered in Tara’s ear, “Do you remember that client I had at Madame Limonella’s, that nice old man with a penchant for seeing me dressed up as a 13th century Italian peasant?”

      “Yeah, you had to listen to opera with him, poor thing, but he did tip well.”

      “Well, he told me a lot about opera. I thought it was a waste of time knowing all that useless old stuff, but listen: this song what he’s singing now, he’s singing this on purpose. It’s a clue, you see, to Uncle Basil and why Vince wants to find him.”

      “Go on,” whispered Tara.

      “There’s a lot of money involved, and a will that needs to be changed. If Uncle Basil dies while he’s still in the clutches of that cult, then Vince will lose his chance of inheriting Basil’s money.”

      “Wasn’t that obvious from the start?”

      “Well yes, but we got very cleverly sidetracked with all these middle aged ladies and that wardrobe!  This is where the mule comes in.”

      “What mule?”

      “Shh! Keep your voice down! It’s not the same kind of mule as in the opera, these middle aged ladies are trafficking mules!”

      “Oh well that would make sense, they’d be perfect. Nobody suspects middle aged ladies.  But what are they trafficking, and why are they all here?”

      “They’re here to keep us from finding out the truth with all these silly sidetracks and distractions.  And we’ve stupidly let ourselves be led astray from the real case.”

      “What’s the real case, then?”

      “We need to find Uncle Basil so that Vince can change his will. It wasn’t Vince that was in a coma, as that hatchet faced old butler told us. It was Basil.”

      “How do you know that for sure?” asked Tara.

      “I don’t know for sure, but this is the theory. Once we have a theory, we can prove it.  Now, about that wardrobe. We mustn’t let them take it away. No matter what story they come up with, that wardrobe stays where it is, in our office.”

      “But why? It’s taking up space and it doesn’t go with the clean modern style.  And people keep getting locked inside it, it’s a death trap.”

      “That’s what they want you to think! That it’s just another ghastly old wardrobe!  But it’s how they smuggle the stuff!”

      “What stuff are they smuggling? Drugs?  That doesn’t explain what it’s doing in our office, though.”

      “Well, I had an interesting intuition about that. You know that modified carrot story they tried to palm us off with? Well I reckon it’s vaccines.  They had to come up with a way to vaccinate the anti vaxxers, so they made this batch of vaccines hidden in hallucinogenic carrots.  They’re touting the carrots as a new age spiritual vibration enhancing wake up drug, and the anti vaxxers will flock to it in droves.”

      “Surely if they’re so worried about the ingredients in vaccines, they won’t just take any old illegal drug off the street?”

      Star laughed loudly, quickly putting her hand over her mouth to silence the guffaw.  Thankfully Vince had reached a powerful crescendo and nobody heard her.

      Tara smiled ruefully. “Yeah, I guess that was a silly thing to say.  But now I’m confused.  Whose side are we on? Surely the carrot vaccine is a good idea?  Are we trying to stop them or what?  And what is Vince up to? Falsifying a will?” Tara frowned, puzzled. “Whose side are we on?” she repeated.

      “We’re on the side of the client who pays us, Tara,” Star reminded her.

      “But what if the client is morally bankrupt? What if it goes against our guidelines?”

      “Guidelines don’t come into it when you’re financially bankrupt!” Star snapped.  “Hey, where has everyone gone?”

      “They said they had to pick up a wardrobe,” said the waitress. “Shall I bring you the bill?  They all left without paying, they said you were treating them.”

      “Pay the bill, Tara!” screamed Star, knocking over her chair as she flew out of the door. “And then make haste to the office and help me stop them!”


      “What about me?” asked Vince French. “Are you going to interrogate me or not?” He sounded peevish, even to his own ears. But he put his heart and soul into singing and to have the whole audience, bar that rude detective girl, run out during a performance was unconscionable.

      “We don’t really need to now,” said Tara. She softened slightly seeing his dejected face. “Great tune by the way. If you like, you can come and help us find Uncle Basil.” She edged towards the exit. “After you’ve paid the bill!” she shouted as she took off through the door.


      “I’m not paying for everyone’s bill!” shouted Vince, stamping his foot.

      “If you don’t pay the bill, I’ll call the police,” said the waitress, closing the door and turning the open sign to closed. She turned the key and put it in her apron pocket.  “Either you pay the bill or you wash the dishes.”

      Vince was just about the stamp his foot again and a look of anguish came over his face. Finton, the waitress, looked quizzically at him and reached out to touch his arm.  “Are you alright?”

      Then the floodgates opened and Vince collapsed in a chair, tears rolling down his face.  Finton sat down next to him and put her arm across his shoulders, patting him gently until the sobbing had subsided.

      “Now then, sir, why don’t you tell me all about it while you’re doing the dishes,” she said kindly, “I’d be happy to listen, and I can interrogate you too, if that’s what you’d like.”

      Vince wiped his eyes and blew his nose with a crumpled napkin, smearing strawberry jam across his cheeks.  Finton didn’t have the heart to tell him, and tried hard not to snigger.

      “Call me Vince,” he smiled weakly, and followed Finton into the kitchen.


      The wardrobe was sitting solidly in the middle of the office, exactly where they had left it.

      Or was it?

      “I was expecting a room full of middle-aged ladies,” said Star, her voice troubled. She frowned at the wardrobe. “Has it moved a little do you think? I’m sure it was closer to the window before. Or was it smaller. There’s something different about it …”

      “Maybe they are inside,” whispered Tara.

      “What! All of them?” Star sniggered nervously.

      “We should check.” But Tara didn’t move— she felt an odd reluctance to approach the wardrobe. “You check, Star.”

      Star shook her head. “Where’s Rosamund? Checking wardrobes for middle-aged drug mules is the sort of job she should be doing.”

      “Are you looking for me?” asked a soft voice from the doorway. Tara and Star spun round.

      “Good grief!” exclaimed Tara. “Rosamund! What are you wearing?”

      Rosamund was dressed in a silky yellow thing that floated to her ankles. Her feet were bare and her long hair, usually worn loose, was now neatly plaited. Encircling the top of her head was a daisy chain. She smiled gently at Star and Tara. “Peace, my friends.” Dozens of gold bracelets jangled as she extended her hands to them. “Come, my dear friends, let us partake of carrot juice together.”


      “I think not!” declared Star, knocking the foul concoction out of Tara’s hands as she raised it to her lips. The bilious sludge hit the full length mirror with a thwack, and slid down the glass in a revoltingly lumpy fashion, momentarily mesmerizing them both.

      “Well make your bloody mind up, are the carrots a good thing or a bad thing?” asked Tara with more than a hint of exasperation.  “I can’t seem to keep things straight.”

      Star sighed. “I think we’re supposed to keep an open mind until we know for sure.”

      “Well, it isn’t easy. It would be nice to know what exactly it is that I’m trying to prove.”

      “We won’t know until we find out, which is why you need to keep an open mind, and keep track of what you know for sure, which can be whittled down considerably to manageable proportions when you eliminate all the suppositions.”

      “In a nutshell though, what does that mean with regard to the wardrobe?”


      Star and Tara were seating at their usual table in the Star Frites Alliance Café, sipping their coffee and reflecting on the strange case of the wardrobe. They had managed to find Uncle Basil, and Vince had been able to change his will just in time. They had also discovered that the wardrobe was being used to smuggle illegal drugs, which they promptly reported to the authorities.

      As they sat there, they saw Finton, the waitress from the café where they last met Vince French, walking towards them with a big smile on her face. “Hello there, ladies! I just wanted to thank you for helping Vince find his uncle. He’s been so much happier since then.”

      “It was all in a day’s work,” said Star with a grin. “And we also managed to solve the mystery of the wardrobe.”  she couldn’t help boasting.

      “Did we now?” Tara raised an eyebrow.

      Finton’s eyes widened in surprise. “Oh my! That’s quite the accomplishment. What did you find?”

      “It was being used to smuggle drugs,” explained Star. “We reported it to the authorities.”

      “Well, I never! You two are quite the detectives,” said Finton, impressed.

      “Sure, we could be proud, but there are more mysteries calling for our help. Now if you don’t mind, Finton, we have important business to talk about.” Star said.

      “And it’s rather hush-hush.” Tara added, to clue in the poor waitress.

      Star’s knack for finding clues in all the wrong places, and Tara’s slight nudges towards the path of logical deduction and reason had made them quite famous now around the corner. Well, slightly more famous than before, meaning they were featured in a tiny article in the local neswpaper, page 8, near the weekly crosswords. But somehow, that they’d accomplished their missions did advocate in their favour. And new clients had been pouring in.

      “Do we have a new case you haven’t told me about?” wondered Tara.

      “Nah.” retorted Star. “Just wanted to get rid of the nosy brat and enjoy my coffee while it’s hot. I hate tepid coffee. Tastes like cat piss.”

      “How would you know… Never mind…” Tara replied distractedly as handsome and well-dressed man approached their table. “Excuse me, are you Star and Tara, the private investigators?”

      “Well, as a matter of fact, we are,” said Star, propping her goods forward, and batting a few eyelids. “Who’s asking?”

      “My name is Thomas, and I have a rather unusual case for you.”

      Tara pushed Star to the back of the cushioned banquet bench to make room for the easy on the eyes stranger, while Star repressed a Oof and a fookoof..

      “It involves a missing pineapple.” Thomas said after taking the offered seat.

      “A missing pineapple?” repeated Star incredulously.

      Tara had an irrepressible fit of titter “So long as it’s not for a pizza…”

      “Yes, you see, I am a collector of exotic fruits, and I had a rare pineapple in my collection that has gone missing. It’s worth quite a lot of money, and I can’t seem to find it anywhere.”

      Star and Tara exchanged a look. They were both thinking the same thing. Was “exotic fruit” code for something else? Otherwise, this was not even remotely bizarre by their standard, and they’d seen some strange cases already.

      “We’ll have to think over it.” for once Star didn’t want to sound too eager. “Do you have any leads?” asked Tara.

      “Well, I did hear a rumor that it was spotted in the hands of a local street performer, but I can’t be sure.”

      “Alright, we’ll consider it,” said Star decisively. She fumbled into her hairy bag —some smart upcycling made by Rosamund with the old patchy mink coats. She handed a torn namecard to the young Thomas. “We’ll call you.”

      Thomas looked at her surprised. “Do you mean, should I write my number?”

      Tara rolled her eyes and sighed. “Obvie.” Somehow the good-looking ones didn’t seem to be the brightest tools in the picnic box.

      “But first, we need to finish our coffee.” She took a long sip and grinned at Tara. “Looks like we may have another mysterman on our hands.”

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