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  • #6096
    FloveFlove
    Participant

    Liz!” shouted Finnley, without pausing from her writing. “Liz, be a love and make me a cup of tea. The organic green tea in the second drawer down.” There was a crash and some unintelligible screaming from the next room. Fortunately, Finnley was used to unintelligible noises coming from Liz’s mouth. “Oh for the … what do you mean you don’t know where the kitchen is?”

    Finnley took a deep breath. She recalled the words of Lemon Tzu:

    Tension is who you think you are, relaxation is who you are.

    “Okay, okay. Don’t get your knickers in a twist. I will interrupt my important writing for a few minutes to elucidate you on the mysteries of the kitchen.”

    A duster came flying into the room, closely followed by a red-faced Liz. “There is really no need for sarcasm, Finnley. I trust you remember it is all down to MY goodness that you have this opportunity.”

    #6088

    In reply to: Tart Wreck Repackage

    EricEric
    Keymaster

    No sooner had they reached for the drinks in the office cupboard, than the phone rang loudly.

    Rosamund!” howled Star. “Where is that daft niece of yours, and what good is she if she doesn’t even answer the calls! Rosamund!”

    “I thought you gave her the afternoon?” Tara mouthed while picking the annoying phone. “Cartwright and Wrexham Private Investigators, can I help you?”

    Her face frowned. “Herself speaking.”

    “Yes, we do private investigations. Very successfully I may say. Alright Ma’am, let me check my agenda.” She looked in the air, flipping an imaginary agenda. “Oh, you’re in luck, our 5pm just cancelled. Alright then, see you at our office. Au revoir.”

    Tara hung up with a smile.

    Star was busy slurping the mojito while struggling with the mint bits in her teeth. “What? Tell me this instant!”

    “Our second case! Isn’t it exciting!”

    “Sure thing, what it is this time? Evil possession?”

    “Actually, it’s not that far off. Apparently, our ladyship needs a falgrante delicto of adultery. Her husband seems to be a cheating one, and with a twinge of double personality… Or at least that’s what she said.”

    “Fantastic. Can’t wait for all the juicy details. I’ll go prepare my sequin red dress to set the honey trap darling.”

    “Good lord, get a hold of yourself Star, it’s only been a day, and you’re ready to jump on the next passing horse as it were.”

    “Who said you shouldn’t mix pleasure with business.”

    “Right. Thought that was the reverse…”

    “Tsk. Just to get the last word.”

    “Indeed.”

    #6070
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    “Wake up Glo, you don’t want to miss Cryoga class,” said Sharon. She tore open the curtains, letting in the merciless mid morning light.

    “Oh Sha, can’t I sleep a little more? My head’s still dizzy after that cryo gin treatment. All those shots, I don’t remember what I did afterward.”

    “You tried to seduce that young Canadian boy. I can tell, his lady wasn’t very pleased. If she could make voodoo dolls you’d be in big trouble.”

    “Ah! Shouldn’t be so far from that acupuncture treatment in Bali when you didn’t want to pay the price. Remember your face afterwards? I bet that girl had used those needles on sick pangolins without cleaning’em.”

    “It hurt. But never had my face skin so tight in my life!” Sha cackled.

    “And lips so big you could replace Anjelyna Jawlee in Lara Crop.”

    “Don’t make me laugh so hard Glo. Not in the morning before I went to the loo.” said Sha trotting to the bathroom.

    “Where’s Mavis?” asked Glo who noticed the third bed empty.

    “She’s already up. Wanted to take a walk on the beach with the cows, she said. You better don’t invite us, I said.”

    They put on their tight yogarments, a beach hat and left for the class.

    “I don’t like walking in the sand like that,” said Glo. “With or without shoes, the sand come in between your toes. I could still have eaten something, my stomach sounds like a whale during mating season.”

    “They sent a message this morning. It said: ‘Come, Fast’.”

    When they arrived at the practice room, they wondered if they took a wrong turn. Maybe the cryoga class was in another bungalow.

    “Why all those tables and milk bottles?” asked Glo.

    They went to see the lady with the beehive hair that looked like a teacher.

    “Sorry, young’un,” said Sha. “Wasn’t that supposed to be cryoga class?”

    “Oh! no,” said the teacher. “It’s cryogurt class today. How to make your own yogurt ice cream and apply it on your body to flatten out tight those wrinkles.”

    #6029
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    Based on post #5959 in The Whale’s Diaries Collection.

    As soon as Charlton finished editing his journal entry, someone knocked at the door. It was Kady in a red dress. She looked different than his dream. For starter she was not restless and she had some kind of self-assurance that she didn’t have before.

    “Oh! Hello,” Charlton said. “Are we going to the pistil?”

    “So you got the dream I sent you. It’ll be easier. I’m not against a cup of tea. It’s been a long time since I could enjoy one in a couch.”

    Charlton made some rare Da Hong Pao Chinese tea, the one called Big Red Dress. A warm and rich aroma steamed out of the purple clay teapot he had brought from a trip in China. He thought the tea was a nice touch considering his friend’s garment.

    “So, where have you been?” he asked.

    Kady brought up the little cup to her nose and smelled the tea.

    “Oh! You truly know your shit, Charlton.” She took a sip before continuing. “The pistils, they have been around for longer than everybody think. We call it the Pistil Maze,” Kady said. She looked at him with hesitation in her eyes. “You may not believe me, but aliens put it there, you know. Who else? But most of the people they don’t understand. They don’t want to. It’s too frightening for their little comfort. People are perceiving them now because of the virus. It’s making them able to see their frequency when they weren’t able to before. But they have been there for a long time.”

    Then Kady told Charlton about an ancient alien race from another dimension that was bringing a power, a treasure of knowledge and abilities, but that current humans bodies were too weak to bear its intensity, and that people had to somehow upgrade before they could. The pistils, they were a series of mazes, a path to transformation. People had to follow it in order to change themselves and there was not just one path. Everyone had to follow their own.

    The whole story about the pistils fascinated Charlton, especially after his dream. It didn’t took him long before asking his next question.

    “Do I need to pack up special things for the trip?”

    “Actually you don’t. We’ll find all that we need inside.”

    #6000

    In reply to: Story Bored

    AvatarJib
    Participant

    Board 6, Story 3

    Idle: Prune, you’re a little green. You ate all the termite honey I kept hidden in the kitchen cupboard. The robot isn’t real. We’re not in Mars botanical garden dome.

    Godfrey: Dammit! Liz said turn right after the wHysteria roots. But I wouldn’t be able to recognise the roots of any plants… except maybe for carrots or potatoes.

    Kumihimo: Oh! No, my poor Ronaldo. Those darn traps turned my donkey into a sooricat! We have to do something, Fuyi (mysterious character that one of us hasn’t introduced yet)

    #5957
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Nobody came at all yesterday, not to get my breakfast and leave my sandwiches for lunch and a tea flask, and the evening one didn’t come either. I didn’t have a cup of tea all day long, good job I found that bottle of sherry in the cabinet or I’d have been parched.  I found a half eaten tin of assorted biscuits left over from Christmas, and had to make do with those. Not very nice because they were all the ones I don’t like, which was why I’d left them in the first place. I wasn’t too hungry to sleep though, not after all that sherry.

    A woman came this morning, one I hadn’t seen before.  I didn’t recognize her anyway, which doesn’t tell you much I suppose.  She seemed distracted, and did a very shoddy job, I must say, lumpy porridge, burnt toast with no jam, and she forgot to put sugar in my tea as well.

    You just can’t get the staff these days.  No character to them anymore, just a series of faceless drones, it never used to be like that. The staff didn’t used to come and go and flit about like these lot, they were always there, as long as you could remember, part of the household.   It all changed during the war though, the horrors of servantlessness. That was a rude awakening, having to do our own cooking and laundry. I’d have given anything to see even that feckless lazy Annie Finton, even if all she did was the ironing.  The old boy turned out to have a knack for cooking and quite enjoyed it, so that was a blessing. Darned if I can remember his name though.  Truth be told, he was better than cook had ever been. He wasn’t afraid to experiment a little, diverge from the traditional.  I think the trouble with cook was that she hated cooking all along.  She never came back after the war, she got a job in a factory. Liked the freedom, she said. I ask you! No accounting for taste.

    #5644

    In reply to: Tart Wreck Repackage

    FloveFlove
    Participant

    “You are so bloody childish, Tara” said Star. She slammed her cup of coffee on the desk so that it slopped over the sides.  “Damn,” she said, wiping it up with her sleeve.

    “It was my idea and you’ve just taken over. The way you always do.”

    “Your idea? What are you? Three years old?”

    With dignity, Tara rose. She closed her laptop, straightened it on the desk so it ran parallel to the sides, and, using a cloth made for that very purpose, dusted it. “I’m going out for some fresh air. ”

    “Well you won’t find it round here. It’s worse than China they said on the news today. Oh, OKAY, Tara. DON’T GO. The business was your idea and I promise I won’t treat you like a secretary. Happy?”

    Tara smiled sweetly. “That’s all I need to hear.” She rubbed her hands together. “Right, time to find Uncle Basil. Last night I had a dream…”

    “Ooooh, do tell, Was Mr Sexy voice in it?”

    “No, but Uncle Basil was. And he said, cold snap and falling reptiles.”

    Star furrowed her brow. “Okay, well … we shouldn’t discount anything at this stage.”

    “It’s bound to be a clue. Speaking of secretaries … I have a niece, Rosamund. She a bit rough around the edges but I’m sure she could answer phones and make our coffee.”

    “Great idea, Tara! As usual. Get her to come in and do a trial.”

    #5606
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Aunt Idle:

    I wish now that I’d had the sense to open the letter in private. I can’t imagine why I didn’t think of that, but I didn’t. I tried not to make a drama out of it, I didn’t make an announcement or anything. One morning after breakfast I untied the string and opened the letter. It wasn’t any of the things I had expected.  Clearly printed in large capital letters at the top was written DON’T TELL MATER.

    Quickly I folded it over, dropping it discreetly into my lap under the table.   “Any more nettle tea in the pot, Bert?” I asked and feigned a casual yawn.

    “Well?” asked Mater.

    “Well what?” I asked.

    “I can read you like a book,” she said, to which I replied hotly, “Well then I won’t need to write one, will I.”

    “What did the letter say?” she pressed on.

    “What letter?” I said

    “For crying out loud!” she said.

    “Pass your cup then,” said Bert, giving me a piercing look. Over the top of Mater’s head he mouthed a word, with a questioning look. I’ve never been any good at lip reading, but it looked like he was trying to say Jasper.

    “Who?” I mouthed back, but Mater saw me, so I pretended I had a bit of nettle stuck between my teeth.

    “For crying out loud,”  Mater said again which elicited an exasperated remark from Bert about broken records, open books, unread letters and lost marbles.

    #5596
    FloveFlove
    Participant

    Mater

    I told Prune how I couldn’t follow these internet link thingies everyone’s so fond of. Didn’t grow up with computers I guess; it was all letters in my day. I said to Prune, “Will you just tell me who Jasper is, for crying out loud?” Cheeky begger told me not to worry about it and would I like a cuppa? Then she asked how old am I! “I was born in 1935,” I told her. “You do the bleedin’ maths!”

    Anyway, Dodo is still carrying on about the letter. It worries me. Better not tell young Prune that. Haha.

    I wish I knew who Jasper was though. Feels like it is something I should remember. I’ll have to remember to ask Prune again.

    #5376
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Aunt Idle:

    I don’t know how I restrained myself from throttling Finly when she finally handed me the letter from Corrie.  A whole week she’d had it,  and wouldn’t share it until she’d cleaned every last window. Some peoples priorities, I ask you!  The funny thing was that even when I had it in my hand I didn’t open it right away. Even with Mater and Bert breathing down my neck.

    It was something to savour, the feeling of having an unopened letter in ones hand.  Not that this looked like the letters we used to get years ago, all crisp and slim on white paper, addressed in fine blue ink. This was a bundle tied with a bit of wool pulled out of an old jumper by the look of it, all squiggly,  holding together several layers of yellowed thin cardboard and written on with a beetroot colour dye and a makeshift brush by the look of it.  The kind of thing that used to be considered natural and artistic, long ago, when such things were the fashion.  I suppose the fashion now, in such places where fashion still exists, is for retro plastic.  They said plastic litter wouldn’t decompose for hundreds of years, how wrong they were! I’d give my right arm now for a cupboard full of tupperware with lids. Or even without lids.  Plastic bottles and shopping bags ~ when I think back to how we used to hate them, and they’re like gold now.  Better than gold, nobody has any interest in gold nowadays, but people would sell their soul for a plastic bucket.

    I waited until the sun was going down, and sat on the porch with the golden rays of the lowering sun slanting across the yard.  I clasped the bundle to my heart and squinted into the sun and sighed with joyful anticipation.

    “For the love of god, will you get on with it!” said Bert, rudely interrupting the moment.

    Gently I pulled the faded red woolen string, and stopped for a moment, imaging the old cardigan that it might have been.

    I didn’t have to look at Mater to know what the expression on her face was, but I wasn’t going to be rushed.  The string fell into my lap and I turned the first piece of card over.

    There was a washed out picture of a rooster on it and a big fancy K.

    “Cornflakes!” I started to weep. “Look, cornflakes!”

    “You always hated cornflakes,” Mater said, missing the point as usual.  “You never liked packet cereal.”

    The look I gave her was withering, although she didn’t seem to wither, not one bit.

    “I used to like rice krispies,” Bert said.

    By the time we’d finished discussing cereal, the sun had gone down and it was too dark to read the letter.

    #5375
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    May took the brat down to the kitchen and gave him the pot of cold spinach to play with while she slipped outside to send a coded message to her fiance,  Marduk.  Barron happily commenced smearing globs of green mush all over his face, mimicking his fathers applications of orange skin colouring paste.

    “We have a window of opportunity tonight,” May wrote. Actually she said “hu mana sid neffa longo tonga bafti foo chong“, which meant the same thing.   “Slopi sala ding wat forg ooli ama“,  which she knew Marduk would read as:  “The kid will be in a big pot of spinach by the gate at midnight.”

    Forg ooli ama? keni suba?” he replied.   With an impatient sigh May texted back “Sagi poo! And bring a spare set of clothes and a wash cloth!”

    Now all she had to do was pack her suitcase, and keep the kid occupied for the next couple of hours.  What she wasn’t expecting was a visit from Norma, who plonked herself down at the kitchen table, and started a long story about how underpaid and underappreciated she was.

    May tried to hurry her along with the story, but there was no rushing Norma.  She was firmly planted at the table for the duration of the evening. May did some quick thinking, and slipped a couple of fast acting laxative pills into the glass of wine that she handed to the maid, frustrated that no sleeping pills were easily found.  They usually worked within a couple of hours, and with a bit of luck May could coincide her exit with Norma’s inevitable rush to the lavatory.

    “امیدوارم که مؤثر باشد” May said to herself, and seated herself at the table to endure Norma’s long winded complaints.  One hour and 43 minutes to go.

    #4871

    In reply to: Coma Cameleon

    TracyTracy
    Participant

    “Lord Gustard Willoughby Fergusson helped his wife Floribunda onto the camel,” Tibu spoke softly, gently turning the well worn page. “And clamboured onto his own. Cranky and Illi were mounted on donkeys, as were Tibn Zig and Tanlil Ubt, their local guides. Three hot dusty days, and two bitterly cold nights away lay their destination: Tsnit n’Agger and the home of the legendary giant of the Alal’ Azntignit.”

    A movement caught Tibu’s eye and he glanced up. She was still there, listening.

    He turned back to the book and continued reading. “Cranky was feeling like a fish out of water in the desert, but Illi had taken to it like a duck to water. Not that there was alot of water about in the desert, Cranky grumbled to herself. What she wouldn’t have given for a nice hot cup of tea and a crumpet.”

    “Hey, would you like a cup of tea?” she interrupted. “It’s such rotten weather to stand out here and I ~ well, I like just listening to you.”

    #4869

    In reply to: Coma Cameleon

    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Tibu preferred selling second hand books to selling watches, for he could read them while waiting for customers instead of watching the minutes and hours tick by. Maybe that’s why they called them “watches”, he thought, because if you have one, you watch it. Too much, it would seem.

    He was reading “The Perilous Treks of Lord Gustard Willoughby Ferguson” while sheltering from the pounding rain, huddled in the corner of an office building porch with a few dozen books piled onto an old blue blanket. He rarely sold any books, but passing strangers kindly brought him a coffee in a take away cup from time to time, or a sandwich or burger. The more thoughtful ones dropped some money into the upturned bowler hat that he’d found in the bin, so that he could choose tea, which he preferred, or some fruit, which he preferred to burgers. One of the regular office girls, a fresh faced young looking redhead, brought him a brand new lighter one day, after noticing him asking for a light the day before. She was a good listener, and often stood beside him silently listening to him read aloud from one of his books.

    #4857
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    WIB (workman in blue) opened his lunch box and unwrapped a sandwich. He sighed when he saw it was cheese and pickle again. It had been cheese and pickle all week, a sure sign that WAH (woman at home) wasn’t giving him the attention he deserved, throwing the easiest thing together day after day instead of planning a nice roast chicken dinner, with the prospect of a couple of days of savoury chicken sandwiches to take to work. She hadn’t even bothered to boil up a few hard boiled eggs for a bit of variety. He loved egg sandwiches. He wasn’t a hard man to please, he ruminated dolefully, chewing the cheese and pickle.

    He reached for his flask to wash it down with a gulp of tea, and noticed with some surprise that she’d bought him a new flask. His old one had a few dents in the screw on cup, and this one looked all shiny and new. Anxious to wash down the cheesy lump in his throat, he unscrewed the cap and poured the flask over the cup.

    But there was no tea in the flask, nothing poured out of it. He peered inside and shook it.

    “That woman’s lost her marbles!”

    It was the last straw. He stood up, shook the flask above his head, and roared incoherently.

    “Everything alright, mate?” asked his work colleague mildly. WIB2 was contentedly munching a juicy pink ham sandwich. He even had a packet of crisps to go with it, WIB1 noticed.

    “No tea? Fancy some of my coffee? Pass yer cup. What’s in the flask then, what’s rattling?”

    WAB1 sat back down on the low wall and upended the flask, pulling at a bit of black stuff that was protruding from the top.

    ““Maybe it’s full of banknotes!” WIB2 suggested.

    “It’s a fucking doll! What the..?”

    “Why did your old lady put a doll in your flask instead of tea, mate? Private joke or something, bit of a lark?” WIB2 elbowed WIB1 in the ribs playfully. “No?” he responded to WIB1’s scowl. “Maybe there’s something stitched inside it, then.”

    ~~~

    Lucinda, where is this going?”

    “I don’t fucking know, Helper Effy.”

    “I thought as much. Perhaps we’d better go back to the beginning.”

    #4852
    FloveFlove
    Participant

    It had been a long day and MIB decided he could spare a few moments to recuperate before propelling himself at the speed of light to Destination D.

    Probaby better to let the targets get there first so there was no chance of detection.

    MIB sauntered to a nearby park bench and sat down. He then proceeded to take the water flask from his briefcase and gently unscrewed the top. After a surreptitious glance over his shoulder, he pulled the doll’s head out of the flask. “Oh for flove’s sake!” he said and quickly shoved it back in.

    “Target doll is Man in Black i.e. myself,” he said into his wrist watch. “It appears conscious detection of target is no longer necessary for Magpie to actualise dolls. Repeat, conscious detection of target NOT NECESSARY. Subliminal factors at play. Doll will be destroyed poste haste before activation takes effect.”

    He carefully pulled the doll out of the flask for a second time. He fingered the miniature moustache; the doll was perfect down to the last detail, even the small scar he had over his right eyebrow. He felt the back of the doll and pressed, relieved to feel the hardness of the key.

    As long as the key is still in the doll, activation can’t happen. What harm is there …

    He stuffed the doll back into the flask and put it back in his briefcase.

    #4812
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    “Buns, Ed?” Evangeline said as she burst through the door brandishing a tea tray. “Nice cuppa tea and a bun?”

    #4784
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    When Nurse Trassie woke up with the worse case of hang-over she had since the retirement party of Doctor Minkitystump, she realized something was amiss.
    She couldn’t think straight without her cup of morning joe, so she went for the kitchen, but realized she was still in her nursing pajamas, and had not come home at all.
    “Those old drooling flabby buggers better not have done anything strange, or else…” she muttered to herself with seething anger.
    She punched her muscled arms together, ready to benchpress the deviants and teach them a good correction.

    After a quick tour of the dorms, she redid the math. Three were missing. Three bad apples in need of a dear punishment. That wouldn’t do; no, it wouldn’t do at all.

    #4779
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    Jerk was waiting for the courrier to pick-up the documents and deliver the mail before closing down, and while the mall’s activity was still painfully slow, he was observing the tos and fros of the few people outside.
    Summer was on its last leg, and there were signs that the city workers would soon come back. Nothing like cranky business people in addition to cranky old people to spice up your day.

    Maintenance had not come yet. He’d noticed his dead pixel had stopped blinking anyway. Instead it was showing a single red dot.

    The courrier guy arrived at last. “Never a quiet time, man!” he said maybe as a sort of excuse for his tardiness. Maybe Jerk needed to change his own line of work, since the other’s job looked so thrilling. He signed the documents distractedly, and was ready to lower the iron curtain to close the shop when the guy called him back. “Oh wait, I forgot to give you that.”

    Jerk looked at the letter, and opened it to find a postcard. That’s when he remembered he’d given the address of the mall to the mysterious Ms M. from the findmydolls forum. Couldn’t be too careful, there were so many weirdos on the Internet.

    It came from Australia? Half a cup of blue sand was enclosed in a clear plastic wrap bag, along with the postcard.

    The postcard wasn’t saying much, but it was intriguing.

    “No network there, so I’m sending a card. Hope it will reach in time. You must flood your group with fake addresses of dolls. It’ll send mysterious nefarious parties off-track and avoid casualties. Otherwise, lovely weather, beautiful scenery. Ms M.
    PS: Do what you want with the blue powder, I just found it too lovely not to share.”

    #4773
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    Albie, wake up, sweetie!”

    “He doesn’t seem to have been hit as hard as the others, yet, he doesn’t look very bright…” Mandrake said to Arona, with a hint of concern behind the usual snark.

    “It’ll take him a day or two to recover. This was a psychic attack the scale of which I haven’t seen before.” Arona was assessing the situation. Luckily for her, the old protective spells woven in the cloak that she’d used to make her hijab had protected her from it. Sanso seemed to have been hit more, although the effects varied and honestly, it was always a bit difficult to be a fair judge of his sanity or lack thereof.

    “Strange things happen around these keys.” Mandrake said pointing at the key that Arona was wearing around her neck. “Are you sure you still want to run around places finding the others? Especially after what Fergus said about them?”

    “I never knew you to pussy out like that” she said with a smile “where’s your sense of adventure?”

    “The point is, I wouldn’t know where to start. It was all supposed to be a simple recon mission, wasn’t it? But that energy surge… Something else entirely; maybe we should leave it to Ed Steam and his team.”

    Mandrake stretched lazily, and continued “I wouldn’t feel bad about them, seems they got the hang of living in a ghost town, they don’t need all the action to feel good. Might end up wake up the underground monsters, if you let them.”

    Arona sighed “You still have a few of these pearls left, do you? Then let’s give Albie a day or two to recuperate, and we’ll bring him back to the Doline.”

    “Oh, that’s smart. From the Doline’s vortex, it’ll be much easier to pick up the energy signature of the other keys, check if they haven’t been moved.”

    “Better pray that they haven’t been moved, or found.”

    #4760
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Aunt Idle:

    The old ruse was still working, so I continued to use it. Only way to get a bit of time to myself, especially lately. A bit of quiet time, to think. And there was so much to think about, what with all these people around. I wasn’t put on this earth to make beds and pander to tourists, and the clues were coming in thick and fast. Oh yes, some of these new guests were thick, and some were fast. Anyway, I pretended to be inebriated again and did a pretty good imitation of a lurching drunk to throw them off the scent. They always fall for it.

    After turning the key in the lock of my bedroom door, I leaned my back against it for a minute and closed my eyes. It was the bird flying in the window at the crack of dawn that got me worried. Now I’m not a superstitious person by any means, but there have been times when a bird in the house has been followed by a death, and things like that stick in your mind. The sight of Mater in that red pantsuit had etched itself on my mind as well, which was almost as worrying as the bird.

    I went over to the window and pulled down the blinds. The bright sun was making my head hurt. I was thirsty, and wished I’d brought a cup of tea with me, but lurching drunks can’t be seen to be making plans for a quiet afternoon of sober contemplation. I tried valiantly to ignore my parched mouth, but it was no good. I put my ear to the door, and the coast seemed clear so I inched it open, looking up and down the hallway. I sprinted to the bathroom, unfortunately tripping over the vacuum cleaner that Finley had no doubt left there deliberately to trip me up. She was a dark horse, that one. Good at dusting, and reliable, so I suppose that was something. Hard to get hired help out here so we had no choice, really.

    I smashed my nose on Mater’s doorknob and skinned my shin on the hoover. My nose hurt like hell, and quickly spurted an astonishing quantity of bright blood, similar in colour to that ghastly pantsuit. My fall made a hell of a din so I staggered quickly to the bathroom wash basin for the much needed drink of water before anyone came to investigate the crash, hoping to get back to my room before anyone appeared on the scene.

    Had the water in the cold tap been cold, it might have been different, but the new water pipes were still above ground, and the cold water was scalding hot from the heat of the sun on the black pipes. I didn’t have a moment to waste, so drank some quickly, horrid though it was. The unfortunate side effect of the cold water being hot was that it encouraged and diluted the blood, making the overall effect look considerably more alarming. I was tempted to blame Mater for the whole sorry affair, for starting the red theme with that damn pantsuit. I actually said “bloody pantsuit”, which struck me as inordinately funny, and made it hard to get back to the bedroom quickly. I was still laughing hysterically, leaving red hand prints and strange red markings along the corridor wall, when Sanso appeared, seemingly out of nowhere.

    “I saw cave paintings like that in Zimbabwe,” he said conversationally, taking a closer look at the bloody hand prints. “I’ve often wondered what the purpose was, the meaning.” He raised an eyebrow and smiled at me. “Have you interpreted these?”

    I was momentarily speechless, as you might imagine. Then I had an impulse, and grabbed his elbow and propelled him into my room, slamming and locking the door behind him. He was almost unnaturally calm and unperturbed, albeit looking as if he was trying not to smile too broadly, which was just the kind of energy I needed. My kind of man! I gave him one of my famous coquettish looks, which made him laugh out loud, and then I caught sight of myself in the wardrobe mirror and hastily grabbed an old nightgown off the floor and spit on it to rub the blood off my face.

    “My kind of girl!” he laughed. Oh, how he laughed.

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