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    I grabbed the baby when nobody was watching. That’s most of the time. I nestled him comfortably on the dusting cloths in my cleaning cart and told him not to cry .

    I popped my head into the lounge on the way past. The Aunties were both snoozing with their feet up and their mouths open. “Good afternoon, Miss June, Miss April!” I added a smile that would melt butter, maybe even stone. I don’t know. I’m new to this smiling carry-on. They ignored me, as usual, but maybe they were just asleep.

    I didn’t really have a plan. I just had a feeling about this baby.

    And, I was right. Barron turns out to be a girl. I don’t know who else know … that maid has to know. She’s the one changes his .. her … nappies.

    I am going to get to the bottom of this. Haha. Excuse the joke.

    In the meantime, the baby is safe with me.


    Aunt Idle:

    Oddly enough, I was optimistic about the new year. First of all, it was novel to even realize it was a new year.  And what a tonic it was to have Finly back!   And not just because of the dusting, although it was a pleasure to see a bit of sparkle about the place where she’d spruced things up.  Even Mater had a new spring in her step. She said it was the chocolates, one a day she said was better than any vitamins. I’d eaten all mine the day Sanso and Finly and the others had arrived (and regretted it) but Mater had hidden her box to savour them slowly and secretly.  I remarked to her more than once that she should have the decency to wipe the chocolate off her lips before coming downstairs, gloating because all mine were gone.  But it was nice to see her happy.

    It was a funny thing with chocolate, I’d forgotten all about it. It wasn’t like I’d spent years craving it, and yet when I unwrapped (gift wrapped! oh, the memories!) the box Sanso gave me, it all came flooding back. I popped one in my mouth and closed my eyes, savouring the slow melt, ecstatic at the way it enveloped me in it’s particular sweet charm.

    I felt so sick afterwards though that I was left with the thought that there was something to be said for a simple life with few opportunities for indulgence.  I hadn’t felt that sick since the plague.

    I was glad I’d worn that old red dress when Sanso arrived, and just a little disappointed when he left before my seduction plans reached fruition.  I did try, but he had a knack of dematerializing whenever I got close enough to make a move. Disconcerting it was, but it kept me on my toes. Literally, in those high heeled red shoes.  I twisted my ankle on the damn things and been limping ever since. Oh but it was worth it.

    And the champagne! I asked Sanso where he found it and he said that was Finly’s work, she’s got it from the water larks.

    Finly! What water larks, where? Did you see…? I was almost afraid to ask. Had she seen the twins?

    Yes, she said, with a smug and enigmatic smile. But that’s a story for later, she said.  Maddening creature that she is, she still hasn’t told me about it. She will when she’s finished cleaning, she said.


    “Speaking of people hiding, has anyone seen Eleri since she went to that funeral?” asked Glynnis. “She promised she would help with the dusting … “

    “Perhaps said promise is the reason for her failure to materialise,” said Fox with an almost imperceptible twitch of his nose. “Not that I am one to be catty, but let’s call it … an astute observation.”

    “I am inclined to agree, though, like you, I am loth to come to such a harsh conclusion. It is possible, I suppose …” Glynnis paused doubtfully, “some misadventure may have befallen her?”

    “She does complain frequently of being locked out,” agreed Fox. “Although I confess, I fail to see the barriers to which she so often refers.”


    Fox was looking with appreciation at the brand new loo that completed the picture of the construction work. It had taken so much time to arrive that he felt a bit daunted to use it.

    “It’s amazing how much wonder a sprinkle of gold sheen obsidian dust can do to clear obstacles.” Glynis said, as she finished dusting the window ledge in a swift and zen practicality mixed with paradox.

    “Yes, that and a good measure of flogging.” sighed Fox. “At least now, I’ll feel free to find out where Rukshan has been hiding all this time.”


    “Snap out of it!”

    Liz was gobsmacked, literally. “Did you just slap me, Godfrey? How unexpected!”

    “You were delirious for a moment, I guess the shock of it all. Myself, I haven’t quite processed the news.”

    “What do you mean? Tsk, about all that sag-shaming, and childish trifles?”

    “No, Liz. You know… That Finnley just announced she was secretly a writer, and doing her own saga, with almost a finished manuscript and a deal for three oth….”

    “Stop it! STOP IT! That little ingrate! All that time spent shadowing, learning from my brilliance. AAaar! AAAAAARRRR! I knew she was up to something pretending to spend so much time dusting, and so little got done around this house!”

    “The silver lining…”


    “Is that she’s back?” Godfrey ventured timidly.

    Liz suddenly cooled down. “It’s true I’ve had enough of the French pastries. Those maids were mostly good for entertaining value, but spent way too much time fooling around Roberto. At least Finnley isn’t turning any eyes. If you see what I mean,” she ended in a manic cackle.


    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.


    But it wasn’t a window ledge. It was Godfrey, sitting cross-legged on the floor under the window ledge.
    “Oops, my bad,” said Finnley, dusting his head to make up for dusting it the first time. “Didn’t realise you were meditating.”
    “I’m trying to maintain my composure with all this dusting of window ledges when there are many more places which are gathering dust. Stories gathering dust, as it were,” he added cleverly.
    “Precisely,” snarled Liz, hoping to make up for her previous mistake.
    “Too late,” said Finnley.


    Finnley dusted a comment but of course she meant to dust the window ledge

    “Happy now?” she snarled at Liz. “Your turn to do some bloody dusting now. “


    Finnley will you get up and do the dusting,” Liz said pushing the clearly unwell maid out of her bed. “What do you mean the dust gets up your nose and makes you sneeze! It will do you good. Release energy! Honestly you are such a drama queen sometimes. “


    “There it is” he pointed at the worn-out dusty book he’d found after turning around the whole library. “Techromancers appear at the seams between realities. They possess technologies to divine outcomes beyond conventional means of the place in which they appear — in a word, they are from the futures, always, whenever the period they were found in — a reason for which scholars have surmised they come from a unique convergence point of the infinite lines of time in a real projective space of time, hinting at the nature of an all-connected roundabout timeline. Although them popping in existence at awkward places is not unheard of, they tend to stay discrete for fear of the Timeline Riots Impeachment Police.

    “T’isn’t that helpful now, is it” he said dusting a peanut from the floor before cracking the shell open. “And doesn’t tell us why Finnley is so emotional now. Or where is Roberto. If I were to worry, that would worry me more…”


    “I feel really bad now,” Godfrey said to nobody in particular, although he hoped Finnley’s hearing was as good as usual, while she was busying herself dusting the booklice off bookshelves. With the humidity, there was an infestation, and Finnley was polishing her art of war against the invaders in novel ways each day.

    “There’s really no need” she answered, or maybe she wasn’t, but Godfrey was glad for their parallel monologues.

    “True, true, nobody has really forced anybody into a tooth synch…”

    “How clogged is the sink is what to think about…” never-missing-a-bit-of-synch Finnley answered, taking her bag of booklice harvest to the kitchen.
    Then, smiling wickedly while raising the bag to eye level “not as good as huhu bugs, but hey, it’ll make for a easier to chew medicine…”


    “Good!” said Walter, rubbing his hands together. “A bit of cooperation wouldn’t go amiss around here!” he said, unbuttoning his trench coat and closing the door behind him.

    “I wasn’t talking to you, I was conferring with Roberto”, she replied crossly, but it was too late. The disappearing gardener had vanished again.

    Walter draped his coat on the back of a kitchen chair and sat down.

    “Do sit down”, said Finnley with unmistakable sarcasm. “I’m far too busy to join you, I have dusting to do.”


    “Well, the backdoor was opened, you see, like my wife says…” Inspector Melon started to explain Finnley how he managed to be in the house no sooner had she turned back to dusting duties, or rather turned her back to the door and said duties.

    “Stop it!” she interrupted, “and put those shoe covers on your muddy shoes, damnit, I’m not going to do the floors again on your behalf, you miscreant.”

    Finnley, what’s this racket about?” Godfrey appeared from behind the massive last last century clock licking his fingers off the peanut butter.

    Finnley put her fists on her hips with a defiant air, not gone unnoticed by Godfrey, “Well, THIS dripping wet gentleman pretends to be a policeman investigating on the Jingly girl disappearance… Not that we know anything about that anyhow.”

    Inspector Melon couldn’t help but say “Interesting you should mention it, did I say I was looking for Ms Jingle Bells?”

    Godfrey couldn’t help but give a sideway look of “what have you done” to Finnley, who replied by her usual “why look at me like I did something wrong” look.



    Bert seems to be digging a very large hole. I mean, good grief, it’s just a veggie garden. I don’t think my cabbages warrant all that effort. I pull open the window—the latch wobbles precariously on its single screw—and call out to him.

    “What are you doing, Bert? Digging a grave or something?”

    My humour is clearly lost on him. He glances over in my direction, distractedly, before placing his spade on the ground. He then kneels down in the dirt and leaning right inside the hole begins scrabbling with his hands.

    How odd!

    I pull a jacket on over my pink floral onesie. The onesie was a birthday gift from the girls and was accompanied by rather a lot of silliness and giggling. However I was privately rather taken with my gift and with summer over and a cool chill in the air it was very handy to put on in the mornings. Completing my ensemble with an old pair of gumboots by the back doorstep, I go and join Bert in the garden.

    “What’s that, Bert? What’s that you’ve found in there?”

    “I’m not sure yet,” he replied. At least, I think that’s what he said. It was hard to hear him when he was hanging upside down in a hole.

    I crouch down beside him, no mean feat at my age, and take a look.

    All I can see are some bones.

    “What is it? A dog or something?”

    “Too big for a dog.”

    “Oh my goodness!” I gasp. “Are those … people bones?”

    Bert gently extricates an object from the dirt and pulling himself back up he perches down beside me. “Not unless they have a beak for a nose,” he says, gently dusting off the dirt and holding it up for me to see.

    It was a giant skull. Like a strange giant bird.

    “Dragon skull,” says Bert with a satisfied smile.


    Cornella giggled, dusting off her keyboard before leaving the office. Ed Steam might have something to say about it when he saw the new lists of identities in the morning, but it had been worth it. A little alliteration helped to pass the day, after all. For the most part the story refugees either didn’t notice, or at any rate didn’t complain. They were relieved that the endless process was over, or too nervous about starting a new story to notice.

    Zoe Zuckerberg to Zimbabwe was one of her favourites; and Quentin Quincy to Queensland. What did it matter that Zoe, previously known as Madam Li, had no desire to go to Zimbabwe, or that Ted Marshall had family in Spain? It was up to them to make up whatever they wanted once they started the new story. Her job was assigning names and locations, the rest was up to them.

    She’d laughed out loud when one of them sat down at her desk, clearing his throat nervously. Current name and location? she asked.
    Percy Piedmont from Paris, he said, I have a brother in Shanghai who has a new story, he said he’d insert me into his.

    Cornella couldn’t help wondering who had assigned him his last character role, and if they were playing games in the office to pass the day, too.

    Alright Percy, how about Shane Shylock?


    In reply to: Tales of Tw’Elves


    “Guess it was about bloody time I got back here” Franlise said, her feather duster firmly clutched in her left hand.
    The matronly black woman started dusting vigourously, sending myriads of half-written papers flying in the air.
    “My draaafts!” Elizabeth shriek was lost in the gusts of winds.

    “Bugger, bugger, bugger” the impromptu cleaning lady started to enunciate in a most perfect Queen’s English. “Nothing like some good buggery bugger to start the day and clear the lungs. And many a little makes a damn buggery mickle, isn’t that right darling?”. She said, striking a pilates pose in between the cleaning.

    Elizabeth stood aghast, not knowing what to say but a meek “Didn’t I fire you?” to which Franlise knew better than to answer with nought but a smile.
    Drawing a sharp letter opener from behind her back, she nimbly leaned toward Elizabeth, with all her white teeth glowing in the dark apartment where even the aspidistras had long gone dried up and wrinkled, their pots now no more than mere ashtrays.

    “Well, now, what shall we do about all that spider cobwebs you’ve got yourself wrapped in…”


    Peanelope smiled serenely as she gazed at the heads of her loved ones.

    “Oh Pixel,” she said, “Is that dust on your eyelid?”

    Chuckling to herself she ran her dusting cloth over his face, relishing the control she now had over her dear ones. One of her greatest pleasures was rearranging them on the mantelpiece. Sometimes, if her mood was poor, or she had one of her many men friends visiting, she would make them face the wall. At dinner time she would place them around the table, each head propped up on a large pile of Pee’s precious encyclopeadias.

    “More blubbit stew, Pee?” she asked.


    Dory was often reminding herself (and anyone within hearing or blogging distance in the process) of one of her favourite catch-phrases: what you are looking for is probably right under your nose.
    It seemed of particular relevance these days, Yurick was noticing, for a variety of reasons.

    First, his glasses needed some dusting… He’d have to finish that monologue later then.


    What was he about then? Yes. The tillandsias near the window. Last week-end, they’d been to a crystal store with Yann, and mildly interested by crystals, Yurick had been wondering loudly at the heaps of strange plants in the middle of the paraphernalia of rocks, shells and starfishes. The store owner had proceeded to explain those were aerial plants, known for gathering the elements of their sustenance out of the air.
    The curiosity would probably have ended with those quick answers, had the guy not not given them on an impulse two little specimens just when they were about to go with Yann’s newly acquired amethysts.

    Cute. New plants to interact with. Yurick had to say he preferred plants to rocks. Yann for his part had found them funny names. “Sha” for the witchy hairy one, and “Glo” for the pineapple-looking one. Why not…

    The tilland… Well, “Sha” and “Glo” (you had to give credit to Yann for granting the reader a good respite from long unpleasant names) had been there in the bathroom for a few days, and only now had Yurick found some interest in investigating more about them.
    The capacity they had to live apparently without any strings attached was very appealing to him, and it was like a symbol of focusing on one’s own vitality, and finding the means to live out of that elusive “new energy”; of not feeding off something outside of self.

    Now, he was finding even more interesting facts; a picture that Yann had taken of a blooming plant recently was of the same genus of plants, and it reminded Yurick of plants which had fascinated him in a botanical garden, that were also from this species.
    Interestingly, he found out that the plants were named after a Finnish botanist (Elias Tillandz )… He couldn’t help but notice the similarities with another focus of his: Elias Lönnrot.

    The string of clues suddenly filling up the previously empty corridors of his mind were sparkling a renewed interest for focus hunting.


    Oh for foocks sake, Finnley grumbled, does that woman never go home?

    Elizabeth Tattler was passed out on the desk, two empty wine boottles on the floor beside her chair.

    Foock you too! Foock you too! Screeched Robert X

    She grinned, she quite enjoyed Robert X, or MrX as she liked to call him.

    So what’s our Elizabeth been up to eh Mr X? Finnley picked up the messy pile of papers on the desk and carefully put them in order. They looked sort of interesting. Maybe it was time for a rest break. She pulled out her vegemoot sandwooches on chunks of rye bread, and, carefully dusting it first, she sat down on a big armchair in the corner of the office to read.

    Twenty minoots later she threw the pages on the floor in disgust, but then, disturbed by the mess it made, picked them up again.

    The character Veranassessee left her particularly disturbed. What a name! And what a Wishy Wooshy Noomby Poomby. Whats all this YES YES YES businoos! That Agent Gabriele was a selfish and dictatorial bastood as far as she could tell.

    She would see about that! She was no writer but she was sure she could do better than this load of old mongoat droppings.

    Well she would if she could find a pen on Ms Tattler’s shamboolic desk anyway.


    Veranassessee (V) drew back from his sloppy kisses. Wait! Have you got protection? she asked, imperatively and sensibly.

    Protection? … my gun is under the pillow … oh right I see what you mean, stuttered Agent Gabriele apologetically, reluctantly pulling himself from making suction noises on her breast to rummage for a condom in his suitcase.

    Great, now say that stuff again. You know all that crap about how beautiful I am. I sort of liked it.

    Agent Gabriele willingly obliged. Of course V recognised it for the lustful rubbish it was … still might as well have a bit of fun. He was damn good looking.

    Perfect, she said. Now, what position do you prefer?

    He was momentarily speechless, stunned, and even more aroused, if that was indeed possible, by her forthrightness.

    She rolled her eyes. Yes, you know POSITION … on top … underneath ..front … back… through a hole in a blanket …? myself I like to keep things simple, don’t want to make too much mess around the place.

    Anything you want Darling Agent V.

    A little bit later he sighed contentedly. You are by far the best lover I have ever had.

    Thanks, everyone says that. Hey! Put out that cigarette, there’s no smoking inside you know. She looked critically around the room. You know this room could do with a damn good clean, I could see dust on the headboard, you know, while we were doing it.

    I’ll make sure I clean it next time, he murmered huskily, kissing her, and saying that stuff again, about how perfect she was.


    Finnley giggled to herself. Much better! Well who’d have thought she would have a bit of a gift for writing. Carefully she replaced the pages under the telepooh and made her exit. With a bit of luck Ms Tattler would never notice.


    Becky sneezed again, and shivering, reached for the box of tissues. She was choosing to align with those old fashioned ‘catching a cold’ beliefs because, frankly, she wanted to spend a few days wrapped up in her dressing gown idly flicking through magazines and taking naps and not doing anything much.

    Sean appeared with a tray.

    I’ve made you a nice pot of Earl Grey, and buttered some scones for you, dear. How are you feeling? I’ve done the laundry but I think the nun outfit has shrunk.

    Becky blushed. Oh well never mind that, eh.

    I’ll get you another one, Sean said hopefully.

    Maybe a trench coat and some thigh boots instead, suggested Becky, recalling her drenching in the park in the tarty nun outfit. More practical.

    Sean grinned and sloped off to do some dusting. Call me if you want anything, he called over his shoulder.

    Becky picked up another magazine from the pile next to her. Crisp, it was called, and had a photograph of Sue Flay and the Ova Tones on the front cover.

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