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  • #6143
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    The Beige House was eerily calm. Most of the staff had left after the super spread of the epidemic.

    Fanella and Finnley had managed to agree to a temporary truce and a fair share of tasks (and masks). After all, they didn’t have the luxury of unpaid leaves, and had to continue to work.

    “Ready for a change of crowd in the building, Fanny?” said Finnley in her unmistakable Kiwi accent, as a matter of breaking the silence in the grand hall. She was dusting the chandeliers, while Fanella was shampooing the carpets.

    “I don’t know Miss Fin’, it iz such a mess now. And I have to take care of ze baby, no time to be political.”

    “Oh, by the way, I received a message from the gang…”

    “Aprrril’ and Joone?”

    “Yep. Those two. The money has dried up, and they learnt the hard way that American are not loved much these days, big spreaders and all. So they decided to sail back to the good ol’ States. Looking for a job now, and hoping that autumn doesn’t mean everything will turn to orange disaster!”

    #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!”

    #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.”

    #6102

    In reply to: Tart Wreck Repackage

    TracyTracy
    Participant

    “That damn cult is going from strength to strength and not a damn thing we can do about it,” said Star.  “What bloody awful timing for a lockdown, just as we were getting started!”

    “I know,” replied Tara sadly.  “At this rate we’ll have to go back to work for Madame Limonella.”

    “Don’t be silly, she’ll have had to close down too!”

    “Don’t you believe it!” retorted Tara, “She’d find a way to keep her clients happy.”

    “But we’re not keeping our clients happy are we? We haven’t found a way. We’re pretty useless, aren’t we?”

    “Not just our clients. Well client, really, we only had one. We could have saved the world from the Zanone cult if it hadn’t been for this quarantine.  Hey, maybe that cult started all this, just so we couldn’t stop them.”

    Star barked out a bitter laugh. “Now you sound like one of them parroting out conspiracy theories.”

    “We could find a way to break the quarantine, sneak out at night dressed as urban kangaroos or something.”

    Star was shocked. “Tara, that’s morally reprehensible!  Where is your community spirit!”

    “I don’t think the kangaroos would mind all that much,” Tara replied huffily.

    “I didn’t mean the kangaroos, good lord!  But you know what, you might be on to something.  Remember that kangaroo dressed in a mans overcoat that tried to break someones car window the other day?”

    Tara had a feeling Star had got her wires crossed somehow, but didn’t question it. Star was getting excited and it was a welcome change from the weeks of despondent boredom.

    “Well never mind that,” Star continued, who had started to wonder herself, “The point is, we can use a disguise.  And it’s a matter of grave social responsibility to expose the cult. In the fullness of time, we will be exonerated, hailed as heroic, even.”

    The excitement was contagious and Tara found herself sitting upright instead of slumped in despair.  “Let’s do it!”

    #6044
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    They had to stop to get some rest. Rukshan knew the signs, the song of a black swan, a nesting bear in the forest, cubic clouds… All strange omens not to be taken lightly. He told the others they’d better find shelter somewhere and not spend the night outside.

    As soon had he make the announcement that he saw the relief on their faces. They’d been enthusiastic for half a day, but the monotony of walking got the better of their motivation, especially the kids who were not used to such long journeys out of the cottage’s safety.

    Fortunately they were not far from the Sooricat Inn, a place lost in the woods, it still had four walls, warm food and almost certainly a hot bath. Let’s just hope they’re open, thought the Fae.

    When they arrived, the owner, an old man from Sina, looked at them suspiciously.

    “Ya’ll have your attestation? I can’t believe ya’re all family. Don’t think I’m a fool, ya’re a Fae, and this little fella there, he’s smaller than the children but has a beard. Never saw anything like him,” he said with rumbling r’s pointing at the children and Gorrash with his chin. The dwarf seemed offended but a stern look from Rukshan prevented him from speaking.

    “Anyway,” continued the innkeeper, “I can just sell ya food. Not’ing parsonal. That’s rooles, ya’know with the all stayin’at home thing from Gavernor Leraway, I can not even let ya’in. Ya can buy food and eat it outside if ya want.”

    “Look, it’s almost twilight,” said Rukshan. “We’ve walked the whole day, the children are exhausted.”

    Tak and Nesy showed their best puppy face, risking to make Fox burst into laughter. That seemed to soften the man a little.

    “Oh! I really shouldn’t. I don’t like breaking rooles.”

    “I knew you more daring, Admirable Fuyi,” said a booming voice coming from behind them. They all turned around to see Kumihimo. She was wearing a cloak made of green and yellow gingko leaves, her silvery white hair, almost glowing in the dark, cascading beautifully on her shoulders. A grey cat strode alongside her.

    “Oh! that’s just the donkey, Ronaldo. It got transformed into a cat after walking directly into a trap to get one of those darn carrots. He knew better, don’t pity him. He got what he deserved.” Kumihimo’s rant got a indignant meow, close to a heehaw, from Ronaldo.

    Kumi! I can’t believe it’s ya!” said the innkeeper.

    “You two know each others?” asked Rukshan.

    “It’s a long story,” said the innkeeper, “From when I was serving in Sina’s army, we had conquered the high plateaus. I gave up the title of Admirable when I left the army. After Kumi opened my eyes.” Fuyi’s eyes got wet. “Ah! I’m sure I’ll regret it, but come on in, ya’ll. Let me hear yar story after you taste the soup.”

    #5995
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Fanella was frantic, trying to think of a way to escape with her baby.  The atmosphere in this city was unbearable at the best of times, and especially in this house, but now it was excruciating. It wasn’t that she was afraid of the plague that was terrorizing people, it was the way the people were reacting that was so alarming.  They were howling like wolves, a sure sign of lunacy since time immemorial. The sound of it made her blood run cold.

    Nobody had seen the president for over a week and rumours were rife. Many said that he’d died, and they were keeping it secret to avoid civil unrest.  An office junior was continuing his tweets to the nation, using a random predictive text algorithm. Nobody had noticed. That wasn’t strictly true of course as many had commented that the messages now made marginally more sense.

    Fanella could sense the swelling chaos in the air, both inside the house and beyond, in the city and in the nation. Everyone was losing their minds. She had to escape.

    She consulted the U Chong:

     (Chin / Jin) : Progress / Advance. It represents Prospering, as well as Progress. It is symbolic of meeting the great man.

    The great man! Of course! Lazuli Galore would come to rescue her! But how would he know where to find her? Would he be able to travel freely? He’d find a way, surely! But how would he know she needed help? It was so complicated. So hard to know what to do!

    But first things first. Fanella crept down to the kitchen, in the dead  of the night while everyone was tucked up in their beds with their fitful nightmares, and filled a rucksack with provisions. Then she crept up the back stairs to her hideout in the attic of the west wing.  The baby was still sleeping soundly. Fanella lay down and pulled a blanket round them both. Maybe the answer would come in a dream. If not, she’d think about it again tomorrow.

    #5974

    In reply to: Story Bored

    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Board 3, Story 3:

    Star, Tara and Rosamund discover the mysterious cult is nothing more than a tropical yoga retreat and slimming spa for cross dressers.

    Aunt Idle finds more than she bargained for in the basement of the old Bundy place.

    Fanella is delighted to find their hot air balloon landed in a field in time for a fancy dress picnic party

    #5966
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    Tikfijikoo, of course” said June with a wink. “Where else?”

    Before the quizzical look of April, she ventured “Thought I’d forgotten all about that dolls mystery on that weirdo website, have you?”

    April yawned. “Well, beats the daily boredom for sure. Wait,” she added with a second thought “how are you sure the carotene virus hasn’t travelled the Sarcastic Sea?”

    Ella Marie was formal about it, her voodoo isn’t that out of touch, you know.” She mouthed detaching all the syllables “Nothing harmful ever ventured past the Bermuda Triangle.” June was beaming. Then, she thought again. “Unless she said the contrary, you silly tart, you’re making me doubt now. No matter, it’ll just be a quick touch and go.”

    “Touch and go, it is then.” pouted April not all too sure where that next chapter was heading to.

    #5927
    FloveFlove
    Participant

    Dear Diary

    Bella says to me, I want to see the whales. She keeps going on about it, tugging at my skirts while I’m trying to get things done. What do you mean you want to see the whales I asks her. Took me a time to know she means the stories I used to tell about the place where my Mam lives with the legend of the whales there. The place we be going but how can she know that?

     First it is Jimmy and his dreams and now Bella. It be so many years since I told her these tales and now she is remembering them. Cook is here I must leave off writing for now for she is asking after the hens. I won’t have her killing my Esther for her pot. God knows what will happen to them once we’ve gone. I will set them free before then. At least they have a chance.

    #5824
    FloveFlove
    Participant

    Dear Diary

    Young Jimmy says to me this morning, “I dreamed we were travelling far away from here, Mama. It was only you and me and Bella.” I nearly choked on my grits. I am thankful Cook did not hear. She is as superstitious as the day is long and takes great store in dreams and the like. “Funny things, dreams,” I says to Jimmy. “Hard to know what they mean.” I longed to question him more on the dream, same time, don’t want him talking about it in front of Cook. Best he forgets it.

    I’ve heard no more of the sickness. Methinks perhaps it has come to naught. And I’m fit as a fiddle and the children too. I’ve decided Thursday next. On Thursdays, Master goes to the meeting in the Village and Cook has her night off when she goes to see her brother in Thombeen.

    I think how pleased they will be to see me. How astonished they will be. When I think about it like that, stops me from fearing. Ten years it has been. I would send a letter ahead but cannot risk it falling in the wrong hands.

    #5797
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    “This is the life, eh!” June said, stretching out on the sun lounger sipping a fruity cocktail. “Turquoise sea and a salty breeze, this is the life for me!” she said, kicking off her new deck shoes in nautical blue and white, and hitching her dress hem up to expose her thighs to the sun.

    The skipper raised an eyebrow and smiled sardonically, while simultaneously averting his eyes from the unappetizing sight of the doughy flesh. He could imagine this one rolling around below decks looking green as soon as the weather changed.

    “Sure beats that jail. That had me worried, I’ll admit it. I wasn’t sure we were ever gonna make it outta there,” replied April, smiling fondly at Ella Marie and giving her hand an affectionate squeeze.  “You saved our bacon, honey.”

    “If it weren’t for that there Lord Wrick turning up, even the money might not have got you out.” Arthur chimed in.  “Promising ole president Lump that land for the golf course if’n he pardoned you.  Jacqui, you done wonders there.”

    “Ah well, the young Lord Wrick owed me a favour, you might say. But that’s another story,” Jacqui replied. “The main thing was we had to get out of the country fast before Lump finds out about that land in Scotland.”

    June sniggered. “Can’t imagine him in a kilt, can you? I wonder if he’s orange down there as well.”

    “Oh, please! You really know how to lower the tone, dontcha? Gawd, what a thought!” April started to feel queasy.  Changing the subject, she said, “Hey, did I tell you our Joanie’s going to meet us in Australia too?”

    #5790

    In reply to: Tart Wreck Repackage

    FloveFlove
    Participant

    Rosamund’s Aunt Joanie is a vegan anti-vaxxer,” said Tara, frowning at the large piece of pizza being shovelled into Rosamund’s mouth.

    “That’s right,” Rosamund nodded enthusiastically. “Anti-vegan vaxxer and she don’t eat nothing with no eyes either. She drives Mum bloody mental going on about how the animals have got souls while Mum’s trying to enjoy a nice baccy fry up. Mum calls her Aunt Moanie.”

    Tara shuddered and turned her attention firmly to the laptop. “This is very strange,” she muttered. “Star, what exactly do we know about Mr Vince French?”

    Star smirked. “Other than his obvious attributes?”

    “Which are?” Tara’s voice was sharp and Star sighed. Tara could be a mardy cow sometimes.

    “You mean the fella with the voice like a bloody angel?” asked Rosamund, spitting an olive onto Tara’s sleeve. Tara swore under her breath as the olive bounced to the floor. Fortunately there was no mark; it was a new blouse and had cost Tara an arm and a leg. Worth the investment, she had reasoned at the time. One must look the part. And clearly, her Moulin Rouge ensemble wasn’t a good look for a Professional Investigator, even with fishnets and a feather boa.

    “He cancelled his appointment but he paid the, quite frankly exorbitant, deposit we asked for,” said Star. “He’s going to email us the rest of the details. Do we need to know more that that?”

    “Well, I’ve been doing a search and there is nothing anywhere online about him, or his world famous melodious voice. I suggest we pay this Mr French a visit.”

    “Oh bloody awesome!” Rosamund leapt to her feet and pizza boxes went flying. “Oops, sorry about that. I’ll clean it soon as we get back.”

    “You’re not coming!” shouted Tara and Star simultaneously.

    #5783
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    “How in tarnation did ya do that?” Arthur looked at his wife suspiciously.

    “Do what, honey?” Ella Marie replied, feigning innocence.

    “This here lottery win! How did you do that? You aint been doing them there voodoo tricks again, have you? You promised…”

    “Oh heck Art, it’s pure chance,  a million to one, you know that! We just got lucky, is all.”  But she couldn’t meet his eye.  “Well I had to do somethin’! It aint for us, it’s for those friends of Jacqui’s. When I heard they’d been locked up in jail on cooked up charges, after being so excited about visiting the family, well I couldn’t bear it.”

    “You promised you wasn’t gonna do that hokey pokey stuff no more,” Arthur said.

    “Yes but it aint for us. This is different, just a one time thing, helping out friends.  We can pay the bail money for ’em now and get ’em outta that stinking hellpit.  Aint no place for decent ladies, Art.”

    “They’ll need some darned expensive lawyers to fight the Beige House, and fat chance of winning.” Art looked doubtful.

    “Oh they won’t stick around to fight the case. I had this idea,” Ella Marie had that old twinkle in her eye that used to get Art all fired up, back in the day. “We’re gonna buy them a boat. I been talking to Jacqui ’bout it. An old flame of hers turned up who can sail the boat for them.”

    “How big’s the boat?” asked Art, an idea brewing in his head. He’d always wanted to sail around the world.

    “Well we aint bought the boat yet, Art, the lottery check only just arrived.  How ’bout we go down to Orange Beach Marina and see what’s for sale? We could have a seafood lunch, make a day of it.”

    A big smile spread across the old mans face. ” Well, hell, Ella Marie, I guess we can do whatever we darn well please now!  Let’s do it! And,” he added, planting a loud smackeroo of a kiss on her forehead, “Let’s get a boat big enough for all of us.   I’ve got an adventure in me, afore I pop my clogs, I sure do.”

    #5676
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Ella Marie looked at the peculiar child sitting on the car seat next to her.  This was no normal kid, she knew that much. Looked like one, except that expression on his face, well! That was no baby looking out of those eyes. And the thoughts she was hearing coming from him! Ella Marie shivered and gave him another sidelong glance. He caught her eye and winked. Winked!

    “Well if this all aint the darnedest thing,” she said aloud.

    Echoing her thoughts, Jacqui agreed. “In all my years as a nanny I’ve never seen a wee bairn like this.  He’s giving me the creeps.”

    “Rude old bag,” thought the child,  his face reddening. “Take that,” as he filled his disposable diaper.

    Ella Marie gasped, reading his mind.

    #5660
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    Arthur was driving the minivan. It was an old Chewy Express van with the big bold “DRAPES CLEANING” sign on it that he’d repainted by himself over the years. The business wasn’t doing great, truth be told, so he’d cut down the marketing costs, which according to Ella Marie wasn’t a bright idea. “You never know where you next patrons could hide.” She’d said, and then had him hooked up on some social website to post random things and get some likes and thumbs up. He’d come a little late for the new century’s game and couldn’t see any of the appeal, but he’d learned over the years never to make the missus irate.

    He’d been so glad when she’d come back from the floods, unscathed and full of completely batshit crazy stories. Mummies and stuff. Sounded like being rolled in shredded drapes fanfiction to him. Complete garbage, but you can’t tell people they’re crazy, they’d hate you for it, and in truth you may be wrong. You might be the one crazy and all the others the sane ones. How’s that for a thought.

    Anyway, he loved his Ella Marie dearly, and had learned not to sweat the small stuff. Like this night drive to a funny place she’d just received coordinates from an acquaintance on the Net. Those were mad times, mad times indeed. At least, she could have told him she wanted to catch a new rare pokemeon go! in the dead of night, and it might have sounded… well, just as mad probably.

    They were driving steadily, being careful about the road signs; the van wasn’t much for crazy stunts anyway.

    “How far is that?” he asked the wife, who was busy on her phone tracking the route and chatting on the thing with her friends imaginary or else.

    “Not far, luv’. Next turn right, then left, then right and we should be there.”

    The last turn took them off the road, and Arthur started to wonder if that wasn’t another “turn left at your peril” GPS experiment, where they’d have to haul the van out of a tar pit, but it seemed fine so far. The place looked ominous, and full of croaking noises 🐸🐸🐸🐸.

    He killed the headlights, and moved in the parking lot at a crawl. There was no point in alerting whoever was there of their nocturnal visit. A barn owl flew straight in front of the van, scaring them.

    “STOP!” jumped Jacqui, who’d been sleeping the whole time, and woke up to a frightful sight.

    Arthur pushed on the brakes that gave off a screeching sound that would wake up a mummy.

    Ooh, I’ve got a bad feeling about this” Ella Marie said. “Something evil is afoot, that owl was bad omen.”

    #5652
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Finnley had a feeling that May down in the kitchen knew something about the baby girl imposter.  On impulse, she pushed her cleaning cart over to the service lift.  Luckily the baby was still sleeping soundly.

    May was in the lavatory, a young woman informed Finnley as she entered the kitchen.

    “Are you Finnley?” Fanella pushed her chair back and stood up. “I ‘ave come to ‘elp you with the bedding.”

    The familiar voice roused the baby, whose cry was at once recognized by her mother. Fanella knocked her chair over a she dived into the pile of dusters and seized the child.  “My baby!” she cried.

    “Thank god for that,” said Finnley under her breath.

    #5637
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    “Och aye, now that’s intriguing,” remarked Jacqui, looking up from her phone. “Well I’ll be darned.”

    “What’s that, honey?” asked her friend Ella Marie, looking up from her needlepoint. She was working on a cushion cover with an Egyptian theme.

    “How far away is Chickasaw?”

    “Why, that’s not far away at all,” Arthur said, and then went into some detail involving road numbers that neither of the ladies paid attention to.

    “What all is a happening over there in Chickasaw anyway?” asked Ella Marie.

    “Can you drive me over there? I have to kidnap a baby,” said Jacqui.

    Noticing the astonished looks on her friends faces she hastened to add, “Oh it had already been kidnapped. I just have to kidnap it back, the mother misses it.”

    Arthur and his wife said “Ah” in unison, recalling the time when the divorced father had snatched the neighbours children, causing poor Mary Lou no end of grief.

    “Of course we’ll help you, that child needs his mother,” Arthur said. “Where in Chickasaw are they holding him?”

    “That’s the tricky part, Art. The exact location isn’t known. In fact, ” Jacqui said, “In all honestly I don’t quite know where to go from here.”

    #5636

    In reply to: Tart Wreck Repackage

    TracyTracy
    Participant

    “We’ll start as soon as we get our first client, Tara,” replied Star, “And don’t keep calling me a tart. You had better get out of the habit or you might do it accidentally when we’re working on a case.”

    “What if we don’t get any clients? We’ve advertised everywhere we can think of. Once we get started, we’ll get recommendations, we’ll probably have to take on staff, we’ll be so busy.” A wistful look crept into Tara’s eye. She’d never been a boss, never been in the position of telling a subordinate what to do. It had a certain appeal.  “Anyway, you are a tart.”

    “Was, Tara, was. We are not tarts now, and nobody needs to know what we did for a living before.  Nothing shameful in it of course, but people have such antiquated ideas; it might put them off. They don’t need to know that we might be able to use our skills to our advantage to solve cases.”

    “I’d rather solve cases with our new skills,” said Tara.  “Remote viewing, out of body travel, lucid dreaming, that sort of thing.”

    “Never a bad thing to have an assorted tool box,” replied Star. “We have unique skills compared to most private investigators. Just thank your lucky stars that we escaped the eagle eye of Madame Limonella.  She’ll never think to look for us in here in Melbourne, she’s probably thinking we’ll fetch up in some back street dive in Perth, desperate for our jobs back.”

    “Well it might come to that if we don’t get any cases to solve,” Tara said glumly, “And on less money too, we’re not spring chickens any more.”

    “Don’t be silly,” Star snapped. “We’re not even 40 yet. If we were too young we wouldn’t be taken seriously.”

    “Not even close to 40,” replied Tara, who was 33. “You are, though,” she said to Star, who was sensitive about being 39.

    Star was just about to call her a rude tart when the phone rang.

    #5628
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Realizing that she had to come up with a plan quickly to distract April from taking her pith helmet, June took a few deep breaths and calmed herself.   It was true she was often flaky and disorganized, but in an emergency she was capable of acting swiftly and efficiently.

    “I’ve got it!” she exclaimed. April paused on her way over to the hat stand and looked over her shoulder at June.  “Come and sit down, I have a plan,” June said, patting the sofa cushion beside her.

    “Remember Jacqui who we met in Scotland at the Nanny and Au Pair convention?  Called herself Nanny Gibbon and tried to pass herself off as Scottish?” April frowned, trying to remember. Europeans all looked the same to her. “Ended up with that eccentric family with all the strange goings on?” June prompted.

    “Oh yes, now I remember. Wasn’t there an odd story about a mummy that had washed up from, where was it?”

    “Alabama!” shouted June triumphantly. “Exactly!”

    “Well excuse me for being dense, but how does that help?”

    June leaned back into the sofa with a happy smile. April had forgotten all about the pith helmet and was now focused on the new plan.  “Well,” she said, rearranging some scatter cushions behind her back into a more comfortable position, “Do you remember the woman who arrived with the mummy, Ella Marie?  She stayed with Jacqui for a while and they became good friends.  Apparently she loved that crazy Wrick family;  Jacqui said Ella Marie felt right at home there. She would have stayed, but she missed her husband in the end and felt guilty about leaving him, so she went back to Alabama.”

    Aprils eyes widened slightly as she started to understand.   “Did they stay in contact?”

    “Oh yes!” replied June, leaning forward. “And not only that, Jacqui is there right now, on holiday!  I’ve been seeing her holiday photos on FleeceCrack.”

    “Maybe they can find that baby for us,” April said, looking relieved.  “Or at least swap it for that girl baby. Where did that come from anyway?”

    #5623
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    “Who can that be now!” exclaimed May as she made her way to the back door.  A flustered looking woman in odd looking mismatched clothes was standing on the door step.

    I ’ave come to ’elp Finnley wiz ze bedding!” she said by way of introduction, “But I ‘ave lost my baby, ’ave you seen ’er? My name is Fanella.  I ’ave come to ’elp Finnley wiz ze bedding, but I must find my daughter first!”

    “You’d better come in,” replied May, wondering what to do.  Until the right baby turned up, she could hardly give this woman her daughter back.  But the poor woman was distraught, and May wanted to ease her distress.  She would have to try to delay her somehow.

    “There is no need to worry, er, Fanella, as it happens there is an unexpected baby girl visiting with the bosses son, but they are both fast asleep. They are quite safe, but I am not in a position to disturb them yet. Do sit down, you look exhausted.  Let me get you a drink.”

    May handed her a glass of wine. “How on earth did you manage to lose your daughter?”

    “I was just about to ring ze bell but I was so nervous I ’ad to pee so I ran quickly be’ind ze bushes. And when I ’ad finished, my baby was gone!” Fanella started to weep.

    “Did you say you’d come to help Finnley in the bed?” Suddenly May started to wonder if this was another call girl for Mr August. Was he planning a threesome?

    “Yes, I ’ave come to ’elp Finnley,” Fanella replied, “Wiz ze bedding.”

    “And you brought your baby with you?”  aghast, May wondered what to do next. Maybe this woman shouldn’t be given the child back after all.  It had been a long night, with far too many babies.

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