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  • #6211
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    Today the planets are aligned, thought Liz as she looked at the blue sky out the French door. The frills of her glitter pink Charnel bathing suit wiggled with excitement.

    It was one of those rare days of this summer where rain wasn’t pouring somewhere in the garden. Every single day: clouds, clouds, clouds. If they weren’t above the mansion, they were above the pool. If they weren’t above the pool, they were flooding the lawn in between the mansion and the pool.

    But today, the sun had risen in a sky free of clouds and Liz was determined to have that dip in the newly repaired swimming pool with a watermelon mojito served by Roberto in his shiny leather speedo. The pool had been half frozen half boiling for so long that they had forgotten the swimming part. Once fixed, the summer had turned into a mid season rainy weather.

    ‘I don’t want to get wet before I get into the pool’, Liz had said to Finnley.

    Liz looked at her pink notebook lying on the coffee table. Resisting the temptation to fill in the empty pages with gripping stories, she hopped on the patio, flounces bouncing and her goocci flip-flops clacking. With a sparkling foot, Liz tested the grass. It was dry enough, which meant she would not inadvertently walk on a slug or a snail. She particularly hated the cracking noise and the wetness afterward under her feet.

    Roberto was bent forward. Liz frowned. He was not wearing his leather speedo. And his hands and pants were covered in green goo.

    ‘What happened?’ she asked in front of the disaster.

    Roberto shrugged, obviously overwhelmed by the goo.

    ‘Green algae’, said Godfrey popping up out of nowhere with a handful of cashews. ‘The ice and fire had kept it at bay for some time. But once it was back to normal the pool was a perfect environment for their development. I already called the maintenance company. They come next week.’

    ‘What? Next week?’

    ‘Yes. That’s sad. It’s the season. We are not the only ones to have that problem.’

    That said he threw a cashew in his mouth and popped back to nowhere he came from.

    #6204
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    “No, listen,” Sophie whispered, “I’ve heard some things about this place. We have to escape.”

    “What ‘ave you ‘eard?” asked Glor.

    “SSSHH!! not so loud,” Sophie looked around nervously.  “I can’t tell you now, you’ll have to trust me. We have to escape, and the sooner the better.  Tonight.”

    “I can’t come tonight, I’m ‘aving me nails done in the morning,” Glor said.

    “If you don’t leave tonight, they’ll probably pull all your nails out with pliers in the morning, don’t you see?”

    “Oh I say,” Glor shuddered, “Don’t say things like that,  it makes me toes curl up just thinking about it.”

    “Trust me,” insisted Sophie.  “Tell your friends ~ quietly mind! ~ to pack a small bundle of things ~ small, mind! ~ just a change of clothes and a bit of food, and meet me in the lavatory by the back door at 3 am sharp.”

    Glor started at her for a minute and then said, “Oh alright then. Why not. Getting a bit boring here anyway. I could do with an adventure. I’ll tell Mavis and Sha.”

    Sophie sighed with relief. It had been easier than she expected.

    “OY MAVIS! Come over ‘ere, I got summat to tell yer!” Glor shouted.

    “SSHHHH” hissed Sophie, horrified. “Be discreet for god’s sake!”

    #6196
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Ay, the framework knittin’ were ‘ard work, but it were our own, and better by a mile than what come next. We ‘ad the frame in our home and all the family helped, the girls’d be the seamers and the spool threaders and many a fine stocking we made in our cottages, until those industrialists and capitalists came to our fair dales with their factories and such and took our livelihoods from under our noses.

    We ‘ad a needle maker in our village, a miller and a baker, and a dressmaker. We ‘ad farms and a dairy and a butcher, and all the old families in our parish ‘ad their place. There’s always those that find work hard, and those that find it rewarding, but even them as found the framework knittin’ ‘ard soon changed their tune about the framework knittin’ being hard when they was doubled over under gods green earth all the day long in the coal mines.

    Ay, the changes wrought upon our fair parish wreaked an unholy disruption upon the face of village life.  It were the inclosures act what started our downfall, when our common land was took from us, that were indeed the beginning of the end of our fine community of largely honest souls, and even the good nature of the gent from the hall and the Parish poor fund couldn’t halt the downfall.

    Ay and I’ve traveled to the future and seen the ungoldy sight of it now. The old farm on the turnpike road surrounded now by house upon house and not an onion nor a carrot to be seen growing in their gardens, and the fronts all hardened floors for those contraptions they move around in, and empty all day long with not a sign of life until nightfall when they all come home and go inside and shut the doors, and never a one passing the time of day with their neighbours over the garden fence, and not a chicken or a cow in sight.

    There’s no needlemaker now, and the mill’s been knocked down, and there are painted lines on all the hard roads, although I will say that ugly as they are they don’t get near so rutted and muddy when the weather’s bad.

    I can’t stay long when I visit the future with that woman who comes to call upon us asking questions. I can’t stay long at all.

    #6188
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Reddening, Bob stammered, “Yeah, yes, uh, yeah. Um…”

    Clara squeezed her grandfathers arm reassuringly.  “We’re looking for my friend Nora.” she interrupted, to give him time to compose himself.  Poor dear was easily flustered these days. Turning to Will, “She was hiking over to visit us and should have arrived yesterday and she’d have passed right by here, but her phone seems to be dead.”

    Will had to think quickly. If he could keep them both here with Nora long enough to get the box ~ or better yet, replace the contents with something else. Yes, that was it!  He could take a sack of random stuff to put in the box, and they’d never suspect a thing. He was going to hide the contents in a statue anyway, so he didn’t even need the box.

    Spreading his arms wide in welcome and smiling broadly, he said “This is your lucky day! Come inside and I’ll put the kettle on, Nora’s gone up to take some photos of the old ruin, she’ll be back soon.”

    Bob and Clara relaxed and returned the smile and allowed themselves to be ushered into the kitchen and seated at the table.

    Will lit the gas flame under the soup before filling the kettle with water. They’d be too polite to refuse, if he put a bowl in front of them, and if they didn’t drink it, well then he’d have to resort to plan B.  He put a little pinch of powder from a tiny jar into each cup of  tea; it wouldn’t hurt and would likely make them more biddable.  Then the soup would do the trick.

    Will steered the conversation to pleasant banter about the wildflowers on the way up to the ruins that he’d said Nora was visiting, and the birds that were migrating at this time of year, keeping the topics off anything potentially agitating.  The tea was starting to take effect and Clara and Bob relaxed and enjoyed the conversation.  They sipped the soup without protest, although Bob did grimace a bit at the thought of eating on an agitated stomach. He’d have indigestion for days, but didn’t want to be rude and refuse. He was enjoying the respite from all the vexation,  though, and was quite happy for the moment just to let the man prattle on while he ate the damn soup.

    “Oh, I think Nora must be back! I just heard her voice!” exclaimed Clara.

    Will had heard it too, but he said, “That wasn’t Nora, that was the parrot! It’s a fast leaner, and Nora’s been training it to say things….I tell you what, you stay here and finish your soup, and I’ll go and fetch the parrot.”

    “Parrot? What parrot?” Clara and Bob said in unison.  They both found it inordinately funny and by the time Will had exited the kitchen, locking the door from the outside, they were hooting and wiping the tears of laughter from their cheeks.

    “What the hell was in that tea!” Clara joked, finishing her soup.

    What was Nora doing awake already? Will didn’t have to keep her quiet for long, but he needed to keep her quiet now, just until the soup took effect on the others.

    Either that or find a parrot.

    #6183
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Nora commented favourably on the view, relieved to have been given a clue about what she was supposed to have noticed.  It was a splendid panorama, and Will seemed pleased with her response.  She asked if it was possible to see the old smugglers path from their vantage point, and he pointed to a dirt road in the valley below that disappeared from view behind a stand of eucalyptus trees.  Will indicated a tiny white speck of an old farm ruin, and said the smugglers path went over the hill behind it.

    Shading her eyes from the sun, Nora peered into the distance beyond the hill, wondering how far it was to Clara’s grandfathers house. Of course she knew it was 25 kilometers or so, but wasn’t sure how many hills behind that one, or if the path veered off at some point in another direction.

    Wondering where Clara was reminded Nora that her friend would be waiting for her, and quite possibly worrying that she hadn’t yet arrived.  She sighed, making her mind up to leave first thing the next morning.  She didn’t mention this to Will though, and wondered briefly why she hesitated.  Something about the violent sweep of his arm when she asked about her phone had made her uneasy, such a contrast to his usual easy going grins.

    Then she reminded herself that she had only just met him, and barely knew anything about him at all, despite all the stories they’d shared.  When she thought about it, none of the stories had given her any information ~ they had mostly been anecdotes that had a similarity to her own, and although pleasant, were inconsequential.  And she kept forgetting to ask him about all the statues at his place.

    Wishing she could at least send a text message to Clara, Nora remembered the remote viewing practice they’d done together over the years, and realized she could at least attempt a telepathic communication. Then later, if Clara gave her a hard time about not staying in contact, she could always act surprised and say, Why, didn’t you get the message?

    She found a flat stone to sit on, and focused on the smugglers path below. Then she closed her eyes and said clearly in her mind, “I’ll be there tomorrow evening, Clara. All is well. I am safe.”

    She opened her eyes and saw that Will had started to head back down the path.  “Come on!” he called, “Time for lunch!”

    #6178
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Nora woke to the sun streaming  in the little dormer window in the attic bedroom. She stretched under the feather quilt and her feet encountered the cool air, an intoxicating contrast to the snug warmth of the bed. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d slept so well and was reluctant to awaken fully and confront the day. She felt peaceful and rested, and oddly, at home.

    Unfortunately that thought roused her to sit and frown, and look around the room.  The dust was dancing in the sunbeams and rivulets of condensation trickled down the window panes.   A small statue of an owl was silhouetted on the sill, and a pitcher of dried herbs or flowers, strands of spider webs sparkled like silver thread between the desiccated buds.

    An old whicker chair in the corner was piled with folded blankets and bed linens, and the bookshelf behind it  ~ Nora threw back the covers and padded over to the books. Why were they all facing the wall?   The spines were at the back, with just the pages showing. Intrigued, Nora extracted a book to see what it was, just as a gentle knock sounded on the door.

    Yes? she said, turning, placing the book on top of the pile of bedclothes on the chair, her thoughts now on the events of the previous night.

    “I expect you’re ready for some coffee!” Will called brightly. Nora opened the door, smiling. What a nice man he was, making her so welcome, and such a pleasant evening they’d spent, drinking sweet home made wine and sharing stories.  It had been late, very late, when he’d shown her to her room.  Nora has been tempted to invite him in with her (very tempted if the truth be known) and wasn’t quite sure why she hadn’t.

    “I slept so well!” she said, thanking him as he handed her the mug.  “It looks like a lovely day today,” she added brightly, and then frowned a little. She didn’t really want to leave.  She was supposed to continue her journey, of course she knew that.  But she really wanted to stay a little bit longer.

    “I’ve got a surprise planned for lunch,” he said, “and something I’d like to show you this morning.  No rush!”  he added with a twinkly smile.

    Nora beamed at him and promptly ditched any thoughts of continuing her trip today.

    “No rush” she repeated softly.

    #6174
    FloveFlove
    Participant

    Clara breathed a sigh of relief when she saw VanGogh running towards her; in the moonlight he looked like a pale ghost.

    “Where’ve you been eh?” she asked as he nuzzled her excitedly. She crouched down to pat him. “And what’s this?” A piece of paper folded into quarters had been tucked into VanGogh’s collar. Clara stood upright and looked uneasily around the garden; a small wind made the leaves rustle and the deep shadows stirred. Clara shivered.

    “Clara?” called Bob from the door.

    “It’s okay Grandpa, I found him. We’re coming in now.”

    In the warm light of the kitchen, Clara showed Bob the piece of paper. “It’s a map, but I don’t know those place names.”

    “And it was stuffed into his collar you say?” Bob frowned. “That’s very strange indeed. Who’d of done that?”

    Clara shook her head. “It wasn’t Mr Willets because I saw him drive off. But why didn’t VanGogh bark? He always barks when someone comes on the property.”

    “You really should tell her about the note,” said Jane. She was perched on the kitchen bench. VanGogh pricked his ears up and wagged his tail as he looked towards her. Bob couldn’t figure out if the dog could see Jane or just somehow sensed her there. He nodded.

    “What?” asked Clara.

    “There’s something I should tell you, Clara. It’s about that box you found.”

    #6168

    In reply to: Tart Wreck Repackage

    FloveFlove
    Participant

    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.”

    #6167
    FloveFlove
    Participant

    “Box?” said Bob placing a hand on his chest. “Not the … ”

    “Not box, Grandpa. Crops.” Clara spoke loudly. Poor old Grandpa must be going a bit deaf as well—he’d gone downhill since Grandma died. “His dogs got into your garden and dug up the crops. He says he’ll come by in the morning and fix up the damage. ”

    “No, need to shout, Clara. I swear you said box. I thought you meant the box in the garage.”

    “Oh, no that would be awful!” Clara shuddered at the thought of anything happening to her precious treasure. “Maybe we should bring the box inside, Grandpa? Make sure it’s safe.”

    Bob sighed. Last thing he wanted was the damn box inside the house. But Clara had that look on her face, the one that means she’s made up her mind. He glanced around, wondering where they could put it so it was out of the way.

    “Hey!” exclaimed Clara. “Where’s VanGogh gone? Did he sneak outside when Mr Willets came.” She went to the door and peered out into the darkness. “VanGogh! Here, Boy!” she shouted. “VanGogh!”

    #6164
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    VanGogh was sniffing frantically on the patio outside the house, a usual indication that he’d found the perfect spot for a healthy stool, but this time, as soon as Clara had looked the other way to take care of the sautéed mushrooms on the stove, he darted for the shed where the odd big toy had been unearthed and stored out of sight.

    His tail wagged frantically as he pushed the door open, and slid underneath the tarpaulin behind the sleeping lawn-eater.

    He started to scratch the box, the way he usually tried to open the puzzle ball Clara would fill with some kibble. It didn’t roll like the ball-that-dispensed-kibble. In frustration, VanGogh started to push his paws on the sleek smooth surface, near the curious indentations.

    Something clicked open.

    “VanGogh! Where are you boy?! Come!”

    Suddenly distracted from this puzzling quest, he rushed to the kitchen for dinner.

    #6159
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Nora moves silently along the path, placing her feet with care. It is more overgrown in the wood than she remembers, but then it is such a long time since she came this way. She can see in the distance something small and pale. A gentle gust of wind and It seems to stir, as if shivering, as if caught.

    Nora feels strange, there is a strong sense of deja vu now that she has entered the forest.

    She comes to a halt. The trees are still now, not a leaf stirs. She can hear nothing other than the sound of her own breathing. She can’t see the clearing yet either, but she remembers it’s further on, beyond the next winding of the path. She can see it in her mind’s eye though, a rough circle of random stones, with a greenish liquid light filtering through. The air smells of leaf mould and it is spongy underfoot. There’s a wooden bench, a grassy bank, and a circular area of emerald green moss. Finn thinks of it as place of enchantment, a fairy ring.

    Wait! Who is Finn? Where is this story coming from that whispers in her ear as she makes her way through the woods to her destination, the halfway point of her clandestine journey? Who is Finn?

    She reaches the tiny shivering thing and sees that it is a scrap of paper, impaled on a broken branch. She reaches out gently and touches it, then eases if off the branch, taking care not to rip it further. There is a message scribbled on the paper, incomplete. meet me, is all it says now

    The crumpled up paper among the dead leaves beside the path catches her eye.  No, not impaled on a branch but still, a bit of paper catches her eye as the mysterious  ~ ephemeral, invisible ~ story teller continues softly telling her tale

    Finn feels dreamy and floaty. She smiles to herself, thinking of the purpose of her mission, feeling as though it is a message to her from the past. She is overwhelmed for a moment with a sense of love and acceptance towards her younger self. Yes, she whispers softly to the younger Finn, I will meet you at the fairy ring. We will talk a bit. Maybe I can help

    But wait, there is no meaningful message on the crumpled paper that Nora picks up and opens out. It’s nothing but a shopping receipt.  Disappointed, she screws it back up and aims to toss it into the undergrowth, but she hesitates.  Surely it can’t have no meaning at all, she thinks, not after the strange whispered story and the synchronicity of finding it just at that moment.  She opens it back up again, and reads the list of items.

    Olive oil, wine, wheat, garum…. wait, what? Garum? She looks at the date on the receipt ~ a common enough looking till roll receipt, the kind you find in any supermarket ~ but what is this date? 57BC?   How can that be?  Even if she had mistranslated BC ~ perhaps it means British Cooperative, or Better Compare or some such supermarket name ~  the year of 57 makes little sense anyway.  And garum, how to explain that! Nora only knows of garum in relation to Romans, there is no garum on the shelves between the mayonaisse and the ketchup these days, after all.

    Nora smooths the receipt and folds it neatly in half and puts it in her pocket.  The shadows are long now and she still has some distance to walk before the halfway village.  As she resumes her journey, she hears whispered in her ear: You unlocked the blue diamond mode. You’re on a quest now!

    Smiling now, she accelerates her pace.  The lowering sun is casting a golden light, and she feels fortified.

    #6157
    FloveFlove
    Participant

    Bob sighed loudly as he rummaged through the odds and ends drawer: old menus from the takeaways in town, pens, rubber bands, a button, reading glasses, newspaper clippings. He’d never expected to need the phone number; now he did and what do you know? He can’t find the damn thing.

    “What a shameful mess that drawer is in,” said Jane. She was seated at the kitchen table, arms folded, shaking her head at him. She looked about twenty today with her dark hair cascading prettily over a lacy pink mini dress.

    Bob  frowned at her though his heart did a leap. The way it always did when he saw her. “You were the one who kept it clean and you jumped ship.  And I’ve said, can’t you look your age?”

    “Don’t I look pretty?” She pouted and fluttered long eyelashes at him.

    “Makes me feel old. And I don’t recognise you like that.”

    “You are old,” she said as her hair turned white. “And bad-tempered as ever. What are you hunting for?”

    “The phone number. You know the one he said to call if the box was ever unearthed. Can’t find it anywhere.”

    “You’d lose your head …”  said Jane as her head lifted off her body.

    Bob jumped. “Darn it, Jane. I’ve said don’t do that! Why do you always do that and go giving me the heebie jeebies?”

    “Cos I can, love.” She grinned mischievously before settling her head back on her shoulders. “Just a bit of fun. Now think hard, where else might you have put it? The shoe-box under our bed? The safe in the pantry?”

    Bob flung a hand to his head. “The shoe-box! That’s where it will be!”

    Jane grinned. “Well, get a move-along, old man. Before our Clara gets in more deep than what’s good for her. She won’t let it go now she’s found it. Stubborn as a mule my grandchild,” she added proudly.

    Bob reached a hand to her. “Come with me while I look? I miss you, Jane. You never stay long enough.”

    “Oh stop with all the sweet talk!” She poked her tongue out at him. “Anyway I’ve told you before, it takes too much energy.” She was fading and Bob felt his chest tighten. “Don’t worry, I’m keeping an eye on you, old man.” She was vibrating air now, sparkly and pink.

    #6154
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Clara wiggled her wooly fair isle toes in front of the log fire.  She was glad she’d brought her thick socks ~ the temperature had dropped and snow was forecast.  Good job we got that box out before the ground froze, she said to her grandfather.  He made an indecipherable harumphing noise by way of reply and asked her if she’d found out anything yet about the inscriptions.

    “No,” Clara sighed, “Not a thing. I’ll probably find it when I stop looking.”

    Bob raised an eyebrow and said nothing. She’d always had a funny way of looking at things.  Years ago he’d come to the conclusion that he’d never really fathom how her mind worked, and he’d accepted it. Now, though, he felt a little uneasy.

    “Oh look, Grandpa!  How fitting! It’s the daily random quote from The Daily Wail.  Listen to this:  “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift; that’s why it’s called The Present.”  What a perfect sync!”

    “Oh aye, it’s a  grand sink, glad you like it! It was about time I had a new one.  It was a wrench to part with the old one, after seeing your grandma standing over it for all those years, but it was half price in the sale, and I thought, why not Bob, be a devil. One last new sink before I kick the bucket. I was fed up with that bucket under the old sink, I can tell you!”

    Clara blinked, and then smiled at the old man, leaning over to squeeze his arm. “It’s a great sink, Grandpa.”

    #6152
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    By now, the trench had been dug deeply around the mysterious artefact. It was surprisingly not rusty at all, and the box was large and oddly pear-shaped. There was no obvious lid nor hinge. Nothing that seemed ancient per say, and yet, given the depth of the dig, it was probably coming from a past long gone.

    Clara had posted some pics to Alienor, her friend and amateur archeologist, and she’d been immediately intrigued (an slightly jealous at the find). There were still strict restriction in place, so she couldn’t come immediately, but you could hear from the tone of her voice messages, she was dying to become an outlaw to see the wonder in situ.

    “Come on Clare, it’s going to be dark soon, we should go home or you’ll catch a cold.”

    “Alright Granpa, but help me first get that out in the garage, we can’t let it outside unprotected.”

    VanGogh barked approvedly.

    EricEric
    Keymaster

    This year, Christmas has come a month early for Clara.

    VanGogh, her Malinois with the lopsided ear had dug a hole in the garden of Grandpa’s home in the countryside. She usually wouldn’t have given it second thought, but the hole was big this time, and the dog unusually excited. Looking at it, that’s when she noticed the shiny corner of what seemed to be a very large metal box.

    There was something buried there, apparently since a long time. Her archaeologist senses were all tingly. What, why, how, and how far back in time could she go… She couldn’t wait to tell the others.

    #6145
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    The moving lorry had been parked outside the Beige House for hours.

    The driver was furious, as nobody has been able to answer their calls or guide them. At least the manager had let them park in front of the entrance, but it might have been based on a misunderstanding. “That’s for the removal of the Lady’s stuff, is it?” He’d nodded, it was only half a lie, his client was a lady, except she wasn’t moving out. She was moving in.

    He shouted to his partner who was smoking outside.

    George! Bloody hell, if this Ms June isn’t picking up the phone or showing up, I’m going to dump all her stuff here, I don’t care how precious is her cargo!”

    “Come on, Fred! Don’t get mad, you’ve seen how particular she was when we loaded the boat’s content, so full of her sentimental knick-knacks!”

    “What do you expect? Us keeping all these stone statues that weigh a ton! I don’t care. I tell you, she better show up in the next minutes, or else…”

    #6138

    In reply to: Tart Wreck Repackage

    FloveFlove
    Participant

    “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.

    #6137

    In reply to: Tart Wreck Repackage

    TracyTracy
    Participant

    “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!”

    #6136

    In reply to: Tart Wreck Repackage

    FloveFlove
    Participant

    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.

    “And?”

    “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.

    #6134

    In reply to: Tart Wreck Repackage

    TracyTracy
    Participant

    “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.”

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