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  • #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.

    #6187
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Aunt Idle:

    You can’t blame me for not updating my diary because bugger all has happened all year.  Borders closed, no tourists allowed in.  How are bespoke bijou boutique establishments like ours supposed to survive?  But we’re still here. Somehow we’ve managed to keep the wolf from the door, but only just barely.  I get a bit muddled up these days and can’t remember the dates. Sometimes I find myself living in the past for weeks on end: things change so little around her that it’s easy to do. But what does it matter anyway?

    Mater went into a sulk the likes of which I hope never to see again, when her 100th birthday party was cancelled. I thought she might give up the will to live, but oh no. She’s determined now to have a 110th birthday party now.  She says the bloody pandemic ought to be over by then.  I hope she’s right. She changes her health food and exercise regimes as often as she changes her knickers. Well more often than that, probably, she doesn’t bother much with personal hygiene.  She says the germs keep her immune system in good shape.  I think the smell of her would keep any plague ridden body well away from her, but whatever works, I always say.  At least she isn’t sulking anymore, she’s grimly stoic now and tediously determined to outlive me.

    I had some worrying news through the telepathic grapevine about the twins and Pan, they’d gotten into the clutches of a strange cult over there.  I’ve got a feeling they weren’t really sucked into it though, I think they needed to use it as a cover, or to keep themselves safe.  I say cult but it was huge, took over the entire country and even started spreading to other countries. As if the pandemic wasn’t enough to deal with.  I knew they shouldn’t have gone there.  There’s been a peculiar blockage with the telepathic messages for ages now.  It’s a worry, but what can I do.   I keep sending them messages, but get nothing in return.

    Ah, well. We carry on as best we can. What I wouldn’t give for an unexpected visitor to brighten things up a bit. Fat chance of that.

    #6186
    FloveFlove
    Participant

    Will didn’t like unexpected visitors. What kind of people turned up unannounced nowadays? He was tempted to ignore the knocking but then it is the not knowing that’s the killer. And what if someone gets it in their head to nose around the property?

    “Yep?” he said opening the door. The pair of them were starting off down the front steps as though they meant to go exploring. He’d been right to answer.

    “Oh, you are here!” said the girl, turning towards him with a bright smile. “Sorry to just turn up like this …”

    Will gave her a curt nod and she faltered a little.

    “Uh, my name is Clara and this is my grandfather, Bob, and we are hoping you can help us … “

    The old fellow with her, Bob, was staring hard at Will. He looked familiar but Will couldn’t quite place him … he wasn’t local. And he certainly didn’t recognise the girl—very pretty; he would definitely have remembered her.

    “Have we met somewhere, Bob?” Will asked.

    #6185
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    “I’ll be right back!” Nora told Will, who was stirring a big bubbling pot on the stove. “Need to wash my hands.”

    She had a quick look around the bedroom she’d slept in for her missing phone. Nowhere to be found!  Maybe she could find Will’s phone when he went out to feed the donkey, and call her phone to try and locate it. Damn, that wouldn’t work either. Will had said there was no network here. That would explain why her phone stopped working when she was alone in the dark woods.

    “Smells delicious!” she said brightly, scraping a chair back across the brick floor and seating herself at the kitchen table.

    The home made soup was chock full of vegetables and looked and smelled wonderful, but it had a peculiar acrid aftertaste.  Nora tried to ignore it, taking gulps of wine in between each mouthful to eliminate the bitterness.  She wished it wasn’t soup in a way, so that she’d be able to surreptitiously palm some of it off onto the dogs that were waiting hopefully under the table.  If only Will would leave the room for a minute, but he seemed to be watching her every move.

    “Very tasty, but I can’t manage another mouthful, it’s so filling,” she said, but Will looked so offended that she sighed and carried on eating. He topped up her wine glass.

    By the time Nora had finished the soup, she felt quite nauseous and stood up quickly to head for the bathroom. The room started to spin and she held on to the edge of the table, but it was no good. The spinning didn’t stop and she crashed to the floor, unconscious.

    Smiling with satisfaction, Will stood up and walked around the table to where she lay. Shame he’d had to put her to sleep, really she was quite a nice woman and cute, too, in a funny elfin way.  He’d started to like her.  Plenty of time to get to know her now, anyway. She wouldn’t be going anywhere for awhile.

    He picked her up and carried her to the secret room behind his workshop on the other side of the patio.  The walls and floor were thick stone, and there were no windows.  He laid her on the bench, locked the door, and went back in the house to fetch blankets and bedding and a pile of books for her to read when she came round.  Probably not for a good 24 hours he reckoned, somehow she’d managed to eat all the soup.  He would put much less in the next batch, just enough to keep her docile and sleepy.

    It would only be for a few days, just long enough for him to find that box and move it to a safer location. He’d been entrusted to make sure the contents of the box were preserved for the people in the future, and he was a man of his word.

    If they had listened to him in the first place this would never have happened.  Burying a box was a risk: all kinds of possibilities existed for a buried box to be accidentally unearthed.   He had suggested encasing the contents inside a concrete statue, but they’d ignored him. Well, now was his chance.  He was looking forward to making a new statue.

    #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!”

    #6166
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    “Grandpa,” Clara said, partly to distract him ~ poor dear was looking a little anxious ~ and partly because she was starting to get twangs of gilt about Nora, “Grandpa, do you remember that guy who used to make sculptures?  I can’t recall his name and need his phone number. Do you remember, used to see him driving around with gargoyles in the back of his truck. You look awfully pale, are you alright?”

    “No idea,” Bob replied weakly.

    Tell her! said Jane.

    “No!” Bob exclaimed, feeling vexed.  He wasn’t sure why, but he didn’t want to rush into anything. Why was Clara asking about the man whose phone number was on the note? What did she know about all this? What did he, Bob, know for that matter!

    “I only asked!” replied Clara, then seeing his face, patted his arm gently and said “It’s ok, Grandpa.”

    For the love of god will you just tell her! 

    “Tell who what?” asked Clara.

    “What! What did you say?” Bob wondered where this was going and if it would ever end. It began to feel surreal.

    They were both relieved when the door bell rang, shattering the unaccustomed tension between them.

    “Who can that be?” they asked in unison, as Clara rose from the table.

    Bob waited expectantly, pushing his plate away. It would take days to settle his digestive system down after all this upset at a meal time.

    “You look like you’ve just seen a ghost, Clara! Who was it?”  Bob said as Clara returned from the front door. “Not the water board again to cut us off I hope!”

    “It’s the neighbour, Mr Willets, he says he’s ever so sorry but his dogs, they got loose and got into some kind of a box on your property.  He said…”

    #6165
    FloveFlove
    Participant

    “Knock, knock! Dinner’s ready!” Clara popped her head around the door to Bob’s room. “What are you doing?” she asked as Bob started and hurriedly put his hand over a small piece of paper.

    “Er, nothing, just …” His words trailed off. He smiled brightly at her. “Dinner eh. Smells good. I’ll be right with you.”

    Clara’s gaze travelled from Bob’s face to the cardboard box on the bed. “Are you okay? You look strange. What’s in that box?”

    “Odds and ends. Just doing a bit of sorting.” He put the piece of paper in the box and placed the lid back on. “Nothing that won’t keep till after dinner.”

    “If there are any old photos in the box I’d love to see them.”

    “Tell her,” said Jane. There she was, sitting cross-legged in the middle of the bed near the box. “Go on, tell her about the number.”

    Bob shook his head vigorously and Clara regarded him strangely. “Not to worry about photos then,” she said

    “You were wishing I was here and now here I am and you aren’t even going to listen to me?” Now Jane was whispering into his ear and he imagined he could almost feel her breath like a feather tickling his cheek—it was all he could do not to laugh. “Tell her or I will.”

    #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.

    #6156
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Clara couldn’t sleep. Alienor’s message asking if she knew anyone in the little village was playing on her mind. She knew she knew someone there, but couldn’t remember who it was. The more she tried to remember, the more frustrated she became. It wasn’t that her mind was blank: it was a tense conglomeration of out of focus wisps, if a wisp could be described as tense.

    Clara glanced at the time ~ almost half past three. Grandpa would be up in a few hours.  She climbed out of bed and padded over to her suitcase, half unpacked on the floor under the window, and extracted the book from the jumble of garments.

    A stranger had handed her a book in the petrol station forecourt, a woman in a stylish black hat and a long coat.  Wait! What is it? Clara called, but the woman was already inside the back seat of a long sleek car, soundlessly closing the door. Obliged to attend to her transaction, the car slipped away behind Clara’s back.  Thank you, she whispered into the distance of the dark night in the direction the woman had gone.  When she opened her car door, the interior light shone on the book and the word Albina caught her eye. She put the book on the passenger seat and started the car. Her thoughts returned to her journey, and she thought no more about it.

    Returning to her bed and propping her pillows up behind her head, Clara started to read.

    This Chrysoprase was a real gargoyle; he even did not need to be described. I just could not understand how he moved if he was made of stone, not to mention how he was able to speak. He was like the Stone Guest from the story Don Juan, though the Stone Guest was a giant statue, and Chrysoprase was only about a meter tall.

    Chrysoprase said: But we want to pay you honor and Gerard is very hungry.

    “Most important is wine, don’t forget wine!” – Gerard jumped up.

    “I’ll call the kitchen” – here the creature named Chrysoprase gets from the depth of his pocket an Iphone and calls.
    I was absolutely shocked. The Iphone! The latest model! It was not just the latest model, it was a model of the future, which was in the hands of this creature. I said that he was made of stone, no, now he was made of flesh and he was already dressed in wide striped trousers. What is going on? Is it a dream? Only in dreams such metamorphosis can happen.

    He was made of stone, now he is made of flesh. He was in his natural form, that is, he was not dressed, and now he is wearing designer’s trousers. A phrase came to my mind: “Everything was in confusion in the Oblonsky house.”

    Contrary to Clara’s expectations ~ reading in bed invariably sent her to sleep after a few paragraphs ~ she found she was wide awake and sitting bolt upright.

    Of course! Now she remembered who lived in that little village!

    #6151
    FloveFlove
    Participant

    Grandpa Bob loved the sound of the kettle whistling. Cheery, he thought as he turned the flame off. Companionable.
    He shuffled to the kitchen door. “Clara, cuppa?” he shouted down the hallway but there was no reply. Maybe she wasn’t up yet—it had been a long trip for her yesterday. Perhaps he could make her up a tray, although she’d probably say he was fussing.
    Just then he heard VanGogh barking from the garden. He drew back the curtain and peered out the kitchen window. There she was! Way down the back digging in the vegetable garden. Bless her soul. Must have got started early on that weeding. She was saying she would last night. Grandpa, you really need to get some help around the place! she’d scolded.
    “Clara, love!” he shouted. Damn dog was making such a racket she didn’t hear him. Nothing for it but to go out there. He chuckled, thinking how she’d probably scold him again for wandering around outside in his pyjamas. Bossy little thing she could be. But a good girl coming all this way to visit him.
    He slipped on his outdoor shoes and slowly made his way down the path to the vegetable garden. VanGogh bounded over to him and Grandpa Bob gave him a pat. “What are you two up to out here, eh VanGogh?” But Clara was so engrossed on her phone she didn’t even glance up. He was about to call out to her again when he saw what she’d dug up and the words stuck in his throat. He let out a small cry.

    #6139

    In reply to: Tart Wreck Repackage

    TracyTracy
    Participant

    “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.

    #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.

    #6133

    In reply to: Tart Wreck Repackage

    FloveFlove
    Participant

    “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?”

    #6131

    In reply to: Tart Wreck Repackage

    TracyTracy
    Participant

    “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.”

    #6129

    In reply to: Tart Wreck Repackage

    FloveFlove
    Participant

    “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.

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