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  • #5831

    In reply to: Tart Wreck Repackage

    AvatarJib
    Participant

    “Are you sure this is a good idea? Replacing all our culture with carrots seems a bit extreme.”

    “We entered unheard of territory. And yes, carrots are the future of our community. We need more carrots.”

    “Do you mind illuminating my inferior mind?”

    “What do you think? People are allowed to go out only in a few cases. Walking your dog, buying food. It is easier to grow carrots than to breed puppies. It also take less time. We need to be able to go out at will. Take a bunch of carrots and no policeman can tell that you weren’t out for illicit purpose.”

    “Oh! You’re so clever. No wonder you’re the head of our new cult.”

    “Indeed.”

    #5829
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    “I’m loathe to admit June, but you may have had a genius impulse, getting us out of the US.”

    “Of course, dear April.” June answered absentmindedly. She roared in laughter. “Look at the last one! Isn’t it hilarious! Fun change from the boring elections newsies!”

    The spike in humorous creativity on the network of confined friends was indeed an unexpected relief.

    “My parents are starting to worry though. I’ve got some news, and they are starting to hide from the neighbourhood, with Lump talking about Chinese virus, it’s not good being too Asian looking.”

    She pointed at the unfamiliar coastline. “And you never told us where we were sailing to? Care to explain?”

    #5808
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    Truth be told, April was missing the US. She missed all their little coterie of maids living in the shadows of the powerful. Missed the drama most of all.

    She’d been secretly texting Norma and May, while June was lazily sipping mojitos with Jacqui.
    Norma was fine, but May and the other alien staff had suddenly disappeared when the Secret Services had started to investigate more deeply into the staff’s backgrounds after all the kidnapping fiasco. At least, August had been covering for Norma, such kind soul he was. Besides, the President’s wife could no longer live without her butter chicken. But May and the others couldn’t face the music apparently. Funnily, they couldn’t find “real” American maids nowadays suited to replace them. Good luck with that!

    April couldn’t tell June, obviously, since her friend harboured such hatred for the system that had them put in jail. As for herself, she couldn’t argue with the fact they’d deserved it. Nothing a good lawyer couldn’t fix though. That’s why she loved the idea of America. Guilty as charged, indeed. Those charges now vanished.

    She’d thought first that it would fuel her inspiration nicely, but it was the opposite. The sudden extra time had distracted her entirely, and her inspiration seemed inaccessible.

    She was starting to make up her mind. She would go back, to her family in Arkansas. That could only be temporary of course, as her mother, bless her soul, would start to have her meet all the gents in the neighbourhood in the hopes to finally get her only daughter married. Talk about drama. If that doesn’t kick-start her inspiration engine, nothing would.

    Problem was, with the virus around spreading mass panic, there seemed to be no sure way to fly back. She would have to devise some circuitous plan.

    #5807

    In reply to: Tart Wreck Repackage

    EricEric
    Keymaster

    The front door of Mr French had a certain Gothic quality to it which caught the eye of Star. She was a sucker for the glitz and the extravagant –the more garish, the better. Had she got her way, their office would be full of the cumbersome stuff. Catching the glint in Star’s green eyes, Tara rolled hers. She clanged the metal lion to signal their presence.

    A decrepit butler called off their ruckus after what seemed like a pause in eternity. They could hear the rambling from a distance behind the door. “I’m coming! No need for such noise! Ah, these youngs nowadays, not a shred of patience!…”

    “Are you sure about it Star? After all, the deposit check cleared, why should we be concerned about Mr French. And we still haven’t got much to go on about Uncle Basil…”

    “Shttt, let me handle it,” replied Star shaping her face into a genial one, oozing honey and butterflies.

    When the butler finally opened the door, he snapped her shut “We’re not interested in whatever… hem, services you’re offering Mesdames.”

    Tara caught Star’s hand mid-air, as it was about to fly and land square on the rude dried up mummy’s face in front of them.

    “Sir, you must have us confused. We’ve been hired a week ago by Mr French for a very private matter we cannot obviously discuss on the doorstep. Please check with Mr French, maybe?”

    The butler’s face turned sour. “Yes of course, I understand. Then you should know Mr French has been in a coma since his dreadful accident last month. Since you have a direct line to him, I suggest you… call him?” And with that, he slammed the door shut on their faces.

    “Rude!” Tara mouthed.

    “At least, that tells us something my dear.”

    “Don’t bait me like this. I’ll ask, what exactly?”

    “That our Mr French is not who he says he is…”

    “I wonder if it has something to do with the immense fortune he made with his voice…”

    “That would be a very interesting question to answer indeed.”

    #5742
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    The clay mixture was giving off a golden hue. Everyone had gathered to look at the miracle happen, especially the two kids and their Snootish pets.

    “I think there’s a word in the old language for what we are,” mentioned Glynis feeling that pregnant silence was too dangerously promising of unsilent babies. She was looking fondly at the odd looking family. “Tūrangawaewae. They are places where we feel especially empowered and connected. They are our foundation, our place in the world, our home.”

    Eleri whistled a tentative “whoohoo to that!” but she was starting to get inebriated with the fermented goat milk, and was wondering what it was all about.

    “We’re reviving Gorrash!” the kids Tak and Nesy were chanting, like a sort of strange memory spell for her.

    “I got news from Mr Minn,” Glynis said “Margoritt is going to be back for a few days. She said she wanted to write a novel about weaving clay and had to gather some proper material.”

    “Good for her,” said Eleri “although I wished you’d kept some of that magical clay for me, had experiments to make on that. Could help in the great fires recovery process down under.”

    “As a matter of fact, there was some left that I kept for you.” said Glynis. “I’ll give it to you later, but for now, just shush, and let the process unravel, or we’ll never catch up.”

    Indeed, the protective golden carapace around Gorrash embued with rebuilding powers was finally starting to crack as the last ray of light of the day were vanishing behind the horizon.

    #5661

    In reply to: Tart Wreck Repackage

    EricEric
    Keymaster

    “Y’were in a cult?” breaking the odd silence, Rosamund left her mouth gaping between messaging-styled sentences and chewing of gum. “What kind of cult?” she said, resuming the noisy chewing.

    Tara rolled her eyes, thinking how she just needed another baby-sitting now. There was a case to crack, and it was their first client. She went for her favorite subtly make-a-ton approach. “Oh yeah, right. Abso-lu-tely. A damn strange cult at that.” Then, when she got her hooked well, she went for the elusive-slightly-patronizing approach. She was good like that. “But I think you’re too young for the crazy details, might have you wet your bed at night.”

    She immediately regretted her last sentence.

    Changing the topic, Tara asked. “What kind of cult indeed. That’s the damn bloody question we forgot to ask!”

    Rosamund put a cocky smirk on her lips and mouthed “amateurs”. Could have been the chewing, Tara couldn’t tell. She was myopic but refused to wear corrective eyewear, so she had to strain at times, which gave her a funny wrinkled look.

    Star, who’d just been back from her shopping at Jiborium’s emporium was drenched head to toe and interrupted the exciting conversation.

    “I’ve got us all we need for our invertigastion.”

    “she means investigation” Tara knew better than to correct the verbal typos Star couldn’t help but utter by the minute, but it was more a knee-jerk response than anything else.

    “Did you find clues too in the clue department?”

    “As a matter of fact, I did. Got us that well-worn out book at a bargain price. Have a look.”

    #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.”

    #5659
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    “You know, I wasn’t initially fond of this idea, GodfreyElizabeth said, while looking at Roberto doing the dishes. A bit unusual of her to spend time in the kitchen, probably her least favourite room in the house, but she was keen to revise her judgment as the view was never as entertaining.

    Godfrey was finishing a goblet full of cashews while leafing through the “Plot like it’s hot” new book from the publishing house that Bronkel had sent autographed and dedicated to Liz “without whom this book may have never seen the light of day”.

    Godfrey, are you listening to me? You can’t be distracted when I talk to you, I may say something important, and don’t count on me to remember it afterwards. Besides, what’s with the cashews anyway?”

    “Oh, I read they’re good natural anti-depressant… Anyway, you were saying?”

    “You see, like I just said, you made me lose my stream of thought! And no… the view is for nothing in that.” She winked at Roberto who was blissfully unaware of the attention. “Yes! I was saying. About that idea to write Finnley in the new novel. Completely rash, if you’ve had asked before. But now I see the benefit. At least some of it.”

    “Wait, what?”

    “Why are you never paying attention?”

    “No, no, I heard you. But I never… wait a minute.” The pushy ghostwriting ghostediting, and most probably ghostcleaning maid (though never actually seen a proof of that last one) had surely taken some new brazen initiative. Well, at least Liz wasn’t taking it too badly. There maybe even was a good possibility she was trying hard to stay on continuity track about it. Godfrey continued “Benefit, you said?”

    “Yes, don’t make me repeat myself, I’ll sound like a daft old person if ever a biopic is made of me, which by the way according to Bronkel is quite a probability. He’s heard it from a screenwriter friend of his, although his speciality is on more racy things, but don’t get me carried away. The benefit you see, and I’ve been reading Bronkel’s stupid book, yes. The benefit is… it moves the plot forward, with ‘but therefore’ instead of ‘and then’. It adds a bit of spice, if you get what I mean. Adds beats into the story. Might be useful for my next whydunit.”

    Godfrey was finding her indeed lingering a tad too obviously on the ‘but‘ and their beats, but abstained from saying anything, and nodded silently, his mouth full of the last of the cashews.

    Liz pursed her lips “Well, all this literature theory is a great deal of nonsense, you know my stance on it; I made my success without a shred of it…”

    “Maybe you’re a natural” Godfrey ventured.

    “Maybe… but then, they’ve got some points, although none as profound as Lemone’s. His last one got me pondering: finckleways is not a way in, delete it or it’ll get you locked out; only flove exists now. “

    #5656
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    “You’ve lost weight” Rukshan said, not knowing where to start. The shaman thinner look was besuiting.

    “So have you, my friend.” They both laughed.

    “So what have been up to, in these parts of the woods?”

    “It just happens that I was a bit ahead of you, and have just come back from the Great Austral Dry Lands.”

    They all became somber. The Fires had devastated the place, and the news which came were not good. There was little chance they could put an expedition in place to gather the pink clay, with all this devastation… unless… He smiled.

    “You’ve brought some back, haven’t you?”

    Kumihimo smiled back. “Indeed. Not easy to come by, pink clay, isn’t it?”

    Fox who had been turning his head right and left, and right and left following the conversation marked a moment, and the realization came.

    “Does it mean we can revive Gorrash?”

    “It may well be my dear Fox, with this last ingredient now gathered, it may well be.”

    #4837
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Liz was not pleased about the latest insubordinate action of those plotting against her. Fashion choices indeed! She had been sorting out her wardrobe, having to do it all herself because of Finnley’s latest scam to take time off, putting away the summery things and bringing out the clothes for the coming cooler weather.

    She’d had the usual little thrill at seeing familiar old favourites, clothes that she’d felt comfortable and happy in for many years. It would be unthinkable to throw them out, like tossing out an old friend just because they were getting wrinkled and saggy, or fat in the wrong places.

    Liz prided herself on her thoughtfulness about the environment when making her “fashion” choices, always choosing second hand items. She liked to think they already had a little of their own history, and that they appreciated being rescued. She abhorred the trends that the gullible lapped up when she saw them looking ridiculous in unflattering unsuitable clothes that would be clearly out of fashion just as they were starting to look pleasantly worn in.

    Warming to the theme, Liz recalled some of the particularly useless garments she’d seen over the years. Woolly polo neck sweaters that were sleeveless, for example. In what possible weather would one wear such a thing, without either suffering from a stifling hot neck, or goose flesh arms? High heeled shoes was another thing. The evidence was clear, judging by the amount of high heeled shoes in immaculate only worn once condition that littered the second hand markets. Nobody could walk in them, and nobody wanted them. Oddly enough though, people were still somehow persuaded to buy more and more new ones. Maybe one day in the future, collectors would have glass fronted cabinets, full of antique high heeled shoes. Or perhaps it would baffle future archaeologists, and they would guess they had been for religious or ritual purposes.

    Liz decided to turn the tables on this new character, Alessandro. She would give him a lesson or two on dress sense. The first thing she would tell him was that labels are supposed to be worn on the inside, not the outside.

    “One doesn’t write “Avon” in orange make up on one’s face, dear, even if it’s been seen in one of those shiny colourful publications,” Liz said it kindly so as not to rile him too much. “One doesn’t write “Pepto Dismal” in pink marker pen upon ones stomach.”

    Alessandro glanced at Finnley, who avoided catching his eye. He cleared his throat and said brightly, “I’ve organized a shopping trip, Liz! Come on, let’s go!”

    “While you’re out, I’ll see what Liz has thrown out, so I can cut it up for dolls clothes,” Fnnley said, to which Liz retorted, “I have thrown nothing out.” Liz cut Finnley short as she protested that Liz didn’t wear most of it anyway. “Yes, but I might, one day.”

    Turning to Alessandro, she said “Although I’m a busy woman, I will come shopping with you, my boy. You clearly need some pointers,” she added, looking at his shoes.

    #4836
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Lucinda handed in her assignment to Helper Effy with a satisfied smile. The first major confrontation, action, or dramatic event that came to her mind had surprised her. She had no idea where it came from, and only a vague idea about who the characters were, or indeed, where they were. But she felt the apple cart and bicycle scene was rather thrilling and had potential.

    #4809
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    The downward climb had taken what felt like days. The more he went, the darkest it was even the stars at his feet were now swallowed in obliviating darkness.

    Rukshan felt like abandoning at times, but pressed on and continued, down and down as he rose above clouds.

    The ancient energies that had shaped this topsy-turvy passage spiraling around the fence of the heartwoods wouldn’t have done something of that magnitude and let it unfinished. It was calling for an exploration, while at the same time protecting itself from mere wanderers, the kind with lack of imagination or endurance.
    His mind reminded him of old tales that spoke of sacrificing to the trees for knowledge and passage, but it was surely meant as a metaphor. Hanging upside down for hours was probably in itself a form of sacrifice.

    He reached to his pouch for a drink of sour milk, when he suddenly realized that the gravity had turned, and the pouch was no longer floating above his head. With the darkness and the lack of landmarks, he’d failed to notice when this happened.

    It surely meant he’d crossed an invisible barrier, and was now journeying inside another plan, deeper down. Ground couldn’t be far now. He took a pearl off one of his braids, and threw it. Then he looked at the darkness beneath his feet with intent to discern the faintest sounds. Quickly enough, the pearl gave back a ricocheting sound, clean and echoing slightly against what seemed to be moist stones. Indeed ground was there, where once the sky was.

    Maybe the final test was a leap of faith. Or maybe it was just to patiently complete the climb. A few more steps, and he would be there. A few more steps.

    #4726
    matermater
    Participant

    Thank God for Finly. She appears to be the only one who has any sense left in her noggin. Dodo is passed out on the sofa in the lounge, sprawled in a most unladylike manner. It looks like she got rip snorting drunk again.

    Bert has disappeared. I can’t recall if I sent him to town to buy food for the guests … but perhaps I did. Bert is the only other person who knows the secret. I would like to discuss it with him but we’ve both kept our silence all these years and silence is a hard habit to break.

    What monster will we unleash if we speak I wonder? But if we don’t speak, will the monster choke us all?

    As I said, or I think I said, Finly is being a real trooper, showing guests to their rooms and for the most part being civil.

    I did see her slap an odd looking gentleman in a ruffle shirt when he asked if he was in room six. “Sex is not included in your room rate!” she shouted at him and glared most ferociously. Fortunately the man was not offended, indeed he ragarded her almost with a look of admiration. She did look a fine sight standing there, hands on hips and her face flushed with righteous indignation. Unfortunately, Finly has never managed to rid herself of her awful kiwi accent, despite the years she has lived here.

    Dear Prune is behaving oddly. I am loathe to even consider it but it did cross my mind she may have become one of those dreadful drug addicts I’ve read about. I caught her hiding behind a curtain and motioning for me to “Shush!” in a most agitated manner. After all, it wouldn’t be surprising given the influence Dodo has surely had on her over the years. I will be most disappointed if I find out this is indeed the case. In the meantime, I intend to give the dear child the benefit of the doubt.

    #4707
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    An unexpected shaman tart witch was looking and had spotted them coming from afar.

    Head Shaman Tart Witch, if you please.” She muttered in her breath, happy to break the fourth wall and all.

    The sun was already high and the air was sizzling ready to burst out like buttered pop corn.

    “A rather lame metaphor. You’ve done better.”

    The Head Shtart Witch, as we will call her later for brevity’s sake, was as tart as a sour lemon dipped in vinegar, and prone to talking to spirits, when not cackling in tittering fits of laughter, as shamans are wont to do.
    She was surprisingly in tune with the narrator’s voice this late in the day, considering it wasn’t her first bottle of… medicine she ingested today.

    “Voices are rather quiet, yes. I was expecting a bit more… quantity if you know what I mean.”

    The narrator had absolutely no idea of what she meant, not discontent with the quantity per se.

    Three in quantity, they came, looking for her. A girl, visibly in charge, although a bit hard to tell either, buried into the baggy hood and all.

    “The star-studded stockings under the striped red and white trousers were a bit of a give-away though… she was a she, and a bossy pants to boot.” the Head Schwtich replied.

    “And don’t take advantage to maim my full name… Jeeze, they’re so lazy these days. Can’t even spell right.”

    Ignoring the rude comments, the narrator continued.
    Then, a man, a bit namby-pamby with the gait of a devil-may-care goat at that.
    And a boy, on the threshold of manhood, with lots of red hair and freckles he could have put the bush on fire.

    “You have forgotten the gecko… and the cat.”

    The cat wasn’t forgotten of course, but was it technically a cat, with the talking and all? Poor thing had ill-fitted boots (probably a clearance sale from the Jiborium’s), so that it wouldn’t burn its pads on the red hot trail. It seemed stubborn enough to refuse being carried, although not confident enough about the surrounding life in the bush to stop checking every minute for all that crawled and crept around.

    “That’s why they’re here. The protective charms. That, and the jeep of course.”

    The Twitch seemed to know everything so the narrator felt it would probably best to let her finish the comment.

    “Oh, don’t you start. That passive aggressive attitude isn’t going to get your story done, is it. And it’s not like I’m going to follow them in their dangerous and futile quest. It’s your job, better get to it.”

    Indeed, she was only just a sour, old, decrepit…
    “You stop that!”

    :fleuron:

    “Is that her hut?” Albie pointed at the horizon.
    “Yes, I think we’re there.” Arona looked at the compass she’d put around Albie’s neck. “Yes, that’s it.”

    Sanso yawned and stretched lazily “I hope they have a hot shower now, I feel so dirty.”

    Arona chose to ignore Sanso and let him gesticulate. They’d only walked for less than 15 minutes, and the perspective of few more hours of driving with him breathing down her neck started to give her murderous thoughts.

    She turned to the team. “Listen, whatever happens, don’t make rude remarks, even if she seems a bit… unhinged.”

    “Are you talking about the crazy lady with the chameleon on her head, who talks to herself and looks like she hadn’t got a bath in a century?”

    “That’s what I meant Sanso.” Arona rolled her eyes in a secret signature move she owned the secret of. “Listen, it would be better for everyone if you’d stay here and stop talking until we get the keys to the jeep, alright.”

    Luckily for all of them, a little sage smudging and a bakchich in kind sealed the deal with the HEAD Shaman Tart Witch, and less than an hour later, with the mountain at their back, they were all barreling at breakneck speed down the lone road towards the Old Mine Town.

    That’s where the Inn was, now starting to crawl with unexpected guests and long lost family members.

    #4695
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    The note had troubled Maeve. It was different than the one Shawn Paul received, not only because it was handwritten and very long, but also because it implied someone, potentially even several groups, were after the dolls and the keys.
    “You have to retrieve them,” the note eventually said, “and use the clues they hide to find the important people they protect.”

    There was no signature, but it sounded so much like uncle Fergus, oddly wordy and mysterious. Was he still alive after all this time? Did he still ride his Harley?

    Maeve’s first thought after the surprise was that she needed someone to take care of Fabio. The next thought felt like a brilliant idea. Lucinda. Maeve would go ask her to take care of Fabio during her vacation to Australia and would use that opportunity to spirit away the doll. She had the intuition she might need it afterwards.

    So she prepared her luggage and cuddled Fabio who knew he wouldn’t be part of the trip.
    “I’m sorry,” she said, “but I need you to keep that sad face of yours when we go see Lucinda.” In response, Fabio wiggled his tail happily and tried to lick Maeve’s face. “No! Keep the face,” she mimicked what she thought was a sad face.

    After all was packed she went to Lucinda’s with Fabio and her luggage.
    “I’m sorry, I’m going on a trip and I need someone to take care of Fabio,” Maeve said. As she had imagined Lucinda was moved by Fabio’s look and couldn’t refuse to take car of him.
    “Of course! He’ll be well treated here with my new parrot.”
    Huhu,” said the colourful bird.
    “I think it comes from New Zealand,” said Lucinda. “It flew in yesterday and had not left ever since despite me not putting it into a cage, so I’m buying it food. It seems particularly fond of that doll I told you about the other day.”
    Indeed, the parrot was on the sofa, trying to open the doll’s head. That’s when Fabio jumped and tried to catch the bird. He clearly didn’t like it and the parrot flew away to a higher ground on an old grannies’ Welsh dresser, making a few glasses and china fall down in an awful breaking noise. Lucinda tried to catch the bird or the china or Fabio, but could do neither of the three.

    Seizing that as an opportunity, Maeve put the doll in her messenger bag.
    “I don’t want to bother you longer, I have a plane to catch. Bye,” she said, and she left with bags and luggage without checking if Lucinda had heard.

    At the elevator, she met with Shawn Paul.
    “Hi.”
    “Hi. I’m going to the airport,” the young man said. “Australia. Like you?”
    She felt uncomfortable. The note hadn’t mention anything about him. Unless he was part of one of those groups who were after the dolls. Maeve grumbled something while holding her bag closer. She didn’t know if she could trust him.

    #4688
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    “It is a rather peculiar mystery indeed, don’t you think.” Liz leaned suggestively towards the Inspector. He had insisted to keep his trench-coat on, which for some reason she was finding incredibly alluring. It reminded her of all the fun she had in the past, playing her favourite character, Becky in tarty nun’s outfit. She made a mental note for the next costumed party.

    “Some peanuts, Inspector?”
    “Good gracious, no. I’m terribly allergic to nuts, but I’m partial to your delicious canapés.”

    Luckily for him, he couldn’t see Finnley overlooking behind the velvet curtains and the paneled walls, glaring at Liz for taking the credit of her cooking.

    After a mouthful of tarragon cod pâté with capers, Walter leaned back and a little further from Liz and said “Mmm, delicious. Well, it is indeed quite a good mystery you’ve chosen to write about. All these keys, I love the idea. It sounds out of a spy novel, but I do wonder what are the connections, you see, in most crimes I’ve solved in the past,” he cleared his throat, taking the glass of red wine Finnley had just brought “there is always a good chance the culprit is closer than you know. The skill is always to find the hidden connection.”

    “Aaah. I’m so glad you’re saying that Walter, I was telling them the same no later than this morning!”
    She took a random ramekin from the coffee table “some peanuts?”.

    #4671
    FloveFlove
    Participant

    “For the love of Flove, will everyone put some clothes on,” muttered Finnley.

    To set a good example, she put on a her best grey overcoat—which only had a few ever-so-small moth holes—and a pair of woolly socks pulled up to her knees.

    “There are far too many naked bodies covered only in towels and togas for comfort in this thread,” she said, shaking vigorously and thinking how pretty the dust looked as it floated around her. “And I for one intend to take a stand.”

    “Indeed!” agreed Godfrey. “it’s a health and safety issue for one thing. I’m concerned Liz might have one of her turns, the amount of time she spends peeping through the curtain at Roberto. She looks quite flushed.”

    #4660
    FloveFlove
    Participant

    Finnley, I owe you a debt of gratitude for assisting me in reaching my quota,” said Liz, humbled by the maid’s kindness.

    “What quota?” asked Godfrey. “And why does Roberto keep trying to throw a sheet over me.”

    Godfrey, you know how often I have abused and ridiculed dear Finnley.” She carefully wiped a small tear from her eye so as not to smudge her mascara.

    Godfrey nodded.

    “We all have, Liz,” he said. “To my great shame.”

    “Yes, indeed. Well, we need to do better and give her the great admiration and reverance she is due. I have a writer’s meeting this morning, and if it weren’t for Finnley haranguing me, I would not have completed my assignment and I would have been a laughing stock. She saved me, Godfrey.”

    “It was nothing,” said Finnley.

    #4657
    FloveFlove
    Participant

    Fortunately, Mandrake had a rope ladder which, with the assistance of a small remote control pigeon, he was able to throw to Arona.

    “Cool pigeon,” said Arona when she was safely onboard and appropriate introductions had been made. “Mr Jiboriums’s Emporium?”

    “Indeed! it really is a wonderful place,” said Mandrake. “Now, stop all that fussing, you will mess up my whiskers.”

    “I can’t help it. I am so pleased to see you, you cuddly old grump,” said Arona, ruffling Mandrakes head again. “Are those grey hairs I see?”

    Mandrake snuffled and slapped her hand away with a paw.

    “Do you care to stop all that nonsense and tell us what you are doing floating around in a hot air balloon?’

    Arona rolled her eyes. She reached into her pocket and pulled out a key.

    “I am looking for the doll which goes with this key,” she said.

    #4641
    FloveFlove
    Participant

    “Cute pyjamas”, said Maeve helping herself to butter from the refrigerator.

    Maeve didn’t need the butter any longer as she had discovered she could successfully substitute olive oil and the muffins were still deliciously fluffy. However she did need an excuse to enter Shawn Paul’s apartment. Emboldened by recent events, she was privately rather pleased with her recent brazen persona. The Maeve of a week ago would never have barged into anyone’s apartment without an invitation.

    Not finding anything suspect in the refrigerator, except maybe some oranges which looked past their use by date, she scanned the rest of Shawn Paul’s apartment. It was then she spied the package, mostly obscured by old notebooks and granola cookie boxes.

    “Find what you were looking for?” asked Shawn Paul. He had found his dressing gown under a pile of clothing on the floor.

    “Yes, thanks,” said Maeve, brandishing the butter at him and wondering how she could get hold of the package without Shawn Paul noticing. “So, how long have you been a writer? Have you had anything published?”

    A quick google search had not uncovered anything, but perhaps he wrote under a pseudonym. Best to give him the benefit of the doubt.

    Shawn Paul looked awkward.

    Or was it guilty? Maeve wondered. While she was pondering this, she had her brainwave. Some would say it wasn’t much of a brainwave really, or indeed, a brainwave at all. But it was the best she could do under the circumstances. And after all, she was now an intrepid investigator.

    “Look over there!” she shouted pointing at the window and at the same time making a lunge for the dining table.

    “What are you doing?” asked Shawn Paul. There was nothing at the window and now Maeve was taking his package.

    “Um, I just adore granola cookies,” said Maeve.

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