Search Results for 'leaving'

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  • #5834
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Shaking, Liz wiped the egg yolk out of the corner of her eye. The beer that was gluing her hair into sticky clumps would have to wait. She flicked a half sausage off the corner of her desk with a tremulous sigh and sat down. Her noble features creased into a momentary visage of despair when she saw the bacon, but her natural stoicism corrected her expression as she picked the rasher up between her thumb and finger, removed if from her keyboard and blithely flicked it over her shoulder.

    Roberto, standing silently behind her, ducked nimbly as the greasy slab flew past.  It stuck to the French window briefly and then slithered down, leaving a snail trail of lard.

    Liz cleared her throat and looked sternly at each of them in turn.

    “What,” she said, her voice cracking, “What next? Whatever next?”

    “A whale, maybe?” asked Godfrey with a lop sided smirk.

    #5822
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    The evening helper said she was very sorry to tell me that my niece wouldn’t be able to make it this week, as she’d been on holiday and got quarantined.  You needn’t be sorry about that, I told her, I don’t know who she is anyway.  Not that I’m ungrateful, it’s very kind of her to come and visit me.  She tells me all about people I’ve never heard of, and I pretend to take an interest. I’m polite you see, brought up that way.

    Then she said, you’ll have to go easy on the toilet paper, it’s all sold out. Panic buying, she said.

    That’s what happens when people start shitting themselves with fear, I said, and she tutted at me as if I was a seven year old, the cheeky young whippersnapper.  And how shall I go easy on it, shall I crap outside behind the flat topped bushes under my window? Wipe my arse on a leaf?

    Don’t be daft, you’d fall over, she replied crisply. She had a point.  My hip’s still playing me up, so my plans to escape are on hold. Not much point in it with all this quarantine nonsense going on anyway.   I might get rounded up and put in a tent by a faceless moron in a hazmat suit.  I must say the plague doctors outfits were much more stylish.  And there was no panic buying of loo rolls in those days either.

    I don’t know what the world’s coming to. A handful of people with a cough and everyone loses their minds.  Then again, when the plague came, everyone lost their minds too. Not over toilet paper though.  We didn’t start losing our minds until the carts started rolling past every night full of the bodies.  No paper masks in those days either, we wound scarves around our faces because of the stench.

    The worst thing was being locked in the house when the kitchen maid came down with it.  All of us, all of the nine children, my wife and her mother, the cook and the maids, all of us untouched, all but that one kitchen maid.  If only they’d taken her away, the rest of us might not have perished.  Not having enough food did us in, we were weakened with starvation. Shut in the house for weeks, with no escape.  Nothing to do but feast on the fears, like a smothering cloud. Like as not, we just gave up, and said, plague, carry me off, I can bear no more. I know after the youngest 6 children and the oldest boy died, I had no will to live.  I died before the wife did and felt a bit guilty about that, leaving her to face the rest of it alone.  She wasn’t happy about that, and who can blame her.

    One thing for sure, it wasn’t running out of blasted toilet paper that was worrying me.

    #5751
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    “Why are you looking guilty?”  It was impossible for Godfrey to hide anything from Liz. She noticed at once the nervous tic in his left eye, and the way he was shuffling his feet around.  He was clearly rattled about something.

    “I’ve g g g ot a confession to m m make,” he stuttered. Liz had never heard Godfrey stutter before, and it was unheard of for him to make confessions.  Something was troubling her old friend greatly, and she was concerned.

    Liz sighed.  If only Finnley were here.  God knows where she was, gallivanting around and leaving Liz to deal with a demented Godfrey on her own, when she had so much writing to do.

    Moving the bowl of peanuts out of Godfrey’s reach, in case he choked on them in his stuttering condition, Liz gently suggested that he spill the beans and tell her all about it.

    “I put two of your characters in jail.”

    Liz gasped and her hand flew to her mouth.

    “And now,” Godfrey’s voice caught on a little sob,  “And now, I have to pay the bail money to get them out.”

    “Why not just get Mr August to talk Mellie Noma into paying it? She got the kid back ~ mysteriously, I must say, quite a gap in the tale there..”

    “Well it’s your book, so it’s your gap,” Godfrey retorted, reverting back to his old self.

    “Then what were you doing in it, putting my characters in jail?” Liz snapped back. “Go and get that bail paid so they can go to Australia. Otherwise you’re going to muck up another book.”

    #5674
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    “Damn it, too late again, Miss B won’t be pleased.”

    Ricardo was looking at the clandestine distillery from a distance. It had burst in flames a short while ago, and the local press was already covering the event.

    “But Sophie was right. Maybe there’s more to this particular… calling of hers.” Ricardo brandished his fake newsporter card in front of the officer at the police cordon and managed to slip unnoticed into the area. It had probably more to do with his ability to be unnoticed at times than it had to do with the card itself, but the card helped boost his confidence.

    There were a number of car trails leaving from the place, and the police would certainly take time to go through all of it thoroughly, including the rats’ and frogs’ trails if they could. But Ricardo didn’t care for meticulousness, but rather for efficiency, and of course, potent gossip. One trail in particular caught his eye.

    “You’re good at hiding in plain sight, Ric’, but you’re still a rookie.”

    Hilda was there, in all her usual flamboyance, hiding in plain extravagance. “You didn’t think Bossy would have let you without a senior chaperon?” she added cockily. “But I see you caught up on an interesting lead.”

    “How could you be there so fast? It’d been months we couldn’t reach you? And more importantly… How can’t anybody around see you, especially in this horrible, completely out-of-place mustard orange plastic leather suit?”

    Hilda guffawed “They can’t see what they can’t understand! You can’t imagine how invisible I become in America. They don’t understand diddly squat!” She turned intense again. “I was myself on a case, you see. A case of the mummies. Sanso told me I’d find a trail of clues at this place, but now it’s gone in flames, I started to wonder. Until I saw your interest in that particular one. It’s not a frog’s for sure,… or it’s got some big crummy tyres. I get a feeling it’s going to lead us to our next story.”

    “It better be.” Ric’ said glumily, “or Bossy isn’t going to be chipper about it.”

    “Not to worry, I’ll call my friend Blithe Gambol, P.I. to the help with the tracking and all. Could never beat her at the find-the-trail-on-gloogloo game.”

    #5672
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    “Aren’t you worried it’s been 2 days now the boy is missing?”

    “Nonsense” replied June curtly. “Don’t you start ruining our poker night.” She slurped delicately her overflowing mojito glass. “Besides, I told you Jacqui and her friends are on the case. I sent her the coordinate. Baby is obviously fine.”

    “I still preferred my pith helmet idea and leaving it to professionals though” April pouted her lips in a sulky way. “Now, what are we going to say when Mellie Noma is coming back? That we lost her baby but worry not, the local nutcase friend is on the job.” she finished her sentence almost out of breath “and I heard from August she was coming back at the end of the week.”

    “So, are you playing or what? Fold or call?” June was growing impatient about the topic. The French maid and her baby, like the strange Finnley, were making themselves dangerously at home now, like three little annoying cuckoos in her own nest, and June felt stifled as though the FBI were closing in, breathing down on her neck.

    That Finnley looked surely suspicious enough, there was no telling she wasn’t a Russian spy in disguise, or worse, some undercover cop…

    “You’re right!” she slammed the cards violently on the table, making April almost faint. “We have to take matters in our own hands. I’ll get Mellie Noma to fire her. Blame the Finnley and her French friends for Barron’s disappearance. Mellie No’ owes me that much, especially after I saved her neck from her husband after that horrible giraffe incident.”

    April’s face turned to shock at the mention.

    #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?”

    #5370
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    August Finest, the chief of Stuff at the Beige House, liked the feeling of his dark flannel suit and his sunglasses. He always wore them inside too, because he didn’t want people to notice he was looking at them. He also had an earpiece that gave him a handy excuse when he didn’t want to speak with somebody and often pretended to be needed by the boss. But these days, the boss barely needed him, except for pesky tasks and it made August a bit gloomy.

    The maid was looking at him with her wide dark eyes. She frightened him a bit, but he wasn’t sure why, except that her eyes were too… He readjusted his glasses. Certainly he shouldn’t be afraid of a maid in the Beige House. He quickly looked at his notebook and it reminded him of something. He raised his right index, gave the maid a big smile and left in the other direction, leaving Norma gaping. She had just remembered about her wages.

    EricEric
    Keymaster

    Pitch: June and April are two au pair middle-aged ladies with a penchant for lavish parties and copious drinking, who after being sacked from many places due to their poor manners and laisser-aller in their duties, have finally landed a dream job at the Washingtown Beige House, to take care of the often vacant whereabouts of the Lump Family, and chiefly of their baby Barron, the pride of Pres. Lump. The pay is nice, so long as they keep the Boss happy.
    Their main concerns are the Indian maid Noor Mary (Norma) Chowdhury, who has a PhD in Social Studies, but has had difficulties finding a better job, and doesn’t see too well the intrusion of the new staff. They also have to deal with August, the chief of staff, who collects golf balls and pewter memorabilia from the Civil War.
    They are unaware, but there biggest trial yet to come is a dangerous Mexican cartel on their way to kidnap baby Barron…

    June felt like excitement, while April was more modestly quiet, currently absorbed in reading with horror the news about the fires; April had a sister there, married to an Australian and very fundamental Christian in her beliefs. Over the years, they’d stopped being able to communicate… Crazy to think about all the fires down there — and by down there, she didn’t mean down there, but rather down “down there.” Actually, it was a long time since there had been any fires there, if she didn’t count the last infection…

    “Hold that thought…” June interrupted, while sipping her cognac. It was medicinal, she kept repeating to nobody in particular but herself, Back Blossom infusions to calm her nerves. They had to be kept in something, so why not cognac. “You did mention something about a party tonight? But what are we going to do about the baby?”

    April did ponder for a second but the response was actually obvious. “Don’t worry about baby Barron, we’ll instruct the dog to keep guard, and I’ll put an EyeWatch on his wrist with your number on speed dial in case anything happens.”

    “Brilliant! I wonder why I didn’t think of it myself. Let’s get ready. Really, that family is a blessing; never on our backs, always travelling everywhere, leaving us partying to all the fancy places in Washingtown. Sure, the only bother is to take care of these pesky kids.”

    “True. All the maids and au pairs in the neighbourhood make for a good network. It’s a nice life.” April pondered and added. Although the Boss is a bit lewd, if you tell me.”

    “Really? With his orange face and his five orders of periwigs?” June sounded surprised, and a bit disappointed not to have been able to notice.

    “But the one we should really worry about is the maid, if you ask me. Good thing the boss can’t understand her English, otherwise she would have ratted us out long ago.”

    June smiled mischievously. “Oh, but she better watch her six this one, you’ll leave her to me.”

    #4861
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    “Typical of Eleri to leave us hanging there like that.” Fox said between his teeth.
    “Oh you know, I wouldn’t have hold my breath for a promise of whatever’s been happening.” tittered Glynis.

    “Oh, by the way,” Fox suddenly recalled “I’ve received a message from Rukshan. He’s been sailing through the dodlums…”

    Glynis giggled “Doldrums, you mean doldrums…”

    “Yeah, something like that.” Fox became somber, he always felt rebuked when he had interesting news to share.
    “Anyway, I’m off to my teleportation course. Olliver’s been trading me courses for shapeshifting mentorship.”

    “Oh, good. With a bit of practice, you’ll be able to be at multiple places at once. Like doing the chores at the cottage, while chopping wood at the same time.”

    “Way to kill the mood lady!” Fox, said leaving a dust trail in his wake.

    #4786
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    Shawn-Paul was quizzing Maeve who remained silent as a dignified statue of old, full of inscrutable enigma.

    “Come on Maeve, you know you can trust me. These secrets are killing me! It’s not like I’m going to write them immediately in my book you know. Believe me I’d like to, but I’m probably going to procrastinate anyway, so telling me is like going to a priest, your Uncle’s secrets are going to be safe.”

    She chuckled against her will. There was something endearing in the awkwardness of Shawn-Paul, and if anything he’d been a complete gentleman throughout their stay in the shabby Inn.

    She didn’t trust the paper-thin walls however. And especially after the incident where they all blacked out, she wasn’t sure whom to trust. Some of the guests had disappeared too. Highly suspicious.

    She’d decided to pack early. She’d found out later after the accident that her Uncle had managed to slip 2 new coupons for their next destination. One extra, in case she wanted to bring someone in.

    Two tickets, each one way to Tikfijikoo. Most probably the way to a second doll and its key.

    She wondered why it was at all important, she knew all the dolls and what they looked like. She’d made them!

    She realized, looking back at the doll she’d managed to steal back from Lucinda, that this particular doll… was not at all imaginary! She had in fact been standing right in front of her all along these past days before leaving off to the mines and disappearing with Mr Sanso: It was a spitting likeness of Ms Idle, the dry drunk hostess of the Inn!

    It seems… It was folly to imagine, but… Did she have the power to activate these dolls she’d made, and somehow materialize them?!

    She had to be sure.

    “Pack your bags, SP, and meet me in the lobby in ten minutes. The cab is picking us up to our next destination. Maybe you’ll get your novel done after all”, she added, with a wink.

    #4777
    prUneprUne
    Participant

    That was a first. I had no idea what just happened. And believe me, this girl has seen some serious hanky-panky going ‘round here. Starting with Aunt Idle and her hustling and lascivious seducing of the Middle Eastern pirate cosplayer we had as guest.
    But of course, that was nothing compared to how glamorous Mater looked in her red gabardine.
    Anyway, something odd happened, like everyone was zapped in a torpor after the Fergus guy arrived. We were all expecting a sort of big reveal, and he did drop some incoherent clues, nothing truly worth the wait sorry to say, so we all went upstairs to sleep.

    Blame it on the spiced lizard meat maybe, but I can’t figure what happened after that until I woke up. Everyone this morning was playing it by ear, as if everything was normal. But people are missing. Fergus and his motorbike, and the scarf girl with the young boy and their cat. Maybe others, I’ve lost count, and I’m done putting sticky notes for Idle (funny she insists being called that by the way… Maybe a side-effect of her medications).

    There was an Italian corvette parked outside, all black & white. It arrived during the night, it woke me up when it arrived, but I went back to sleep I think. I wonder if those are new tourist guests. The Canadian guests were a bit in alarm, especially after the Fergus reveals.

    Mater would tell me, “there is no cause for worry dear, mark my words, in an hour or less, it will all settle back down to the usual deadly boring as usual business.”

    I think that planned family time was a bit too much anyway. Or too little. Devan hardly spent an hour with us, he’s too obsessed with his lost treasure conspiracies. He’ll be doing great with Dodo and her friends from the journal. I think they all enlisted Bert for a trip to the mines by the way. For all the good it’ll do everyone to try to unearth old secrets. Might give Mater a serious heart attack, for real this time.

    As for me, I’ve had enough. I’m packing my bags and leaving with the first bus back to the Academy. There’s a mission to Mars to conquer.

    #4760
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Aunt Idle:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    #4745
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    Eleri was dressed in—too short— fairy garments and had sad looking transparent wings hanging on her back. Her hair was full of twigs and red and yellow leaves fallen from the trees.

    “Have you been rolling yourself into the piles of leaves Ollie had gathered this morning?” asked Glynis.
    Eleri looked like a child caught in the act.
    “Guilty I guess, that’s my little pleasure these days. I recall when I was a little girl and my mom was handing me candies for being a good girl.” She sighed of relief. “Gosh! How I hated that period. I got rid of that neat little girl long ago and now I’m just being myself.”
    She turned around and went back into the forest shouting like a tookantipooh trying to catch a young kakapo, leaving Glynis crestfallen with all the dish to clean again.

    #4732
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    The day was young, and Mandrake was enjoying playing the cat in the Inn.
    Besides the benefit of unrepentant naps, what best way to be undercover in a dimension where talking cats where unheard of. His boots had been a subject for a casual chat during the breakfast, but he managed to get away with them, thanks to Arona’s quick wits who had explained he had sensitive paws.
    Some of the other guests at the Inn were a bit curious though, too curious.
    He’d almost jumped to rip his face off, when the Canadian guy asked whether it wouldn’t be best to have him neutered. Luckily, years of dealing with humans and dragons had left him with a patience for these types of shenanigans, even tolerating a pat or two on the head.

    The maid-who-wasn’t-a-maid was another story, she seemed to fear him, and chased him with a broom when he was wandering in the morning, looking for clues as to the key.
    While he was napping in a corner of the main hall on a dusted shelf near a silly looking fish, he had spotted a suspicious old man who had sneaked in and had done some business in a locked hangar before leaving. Maybe the man knew about the three words engraved on Arona’s key.

    doctor.experiences.funk

    #4730
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    The vegetable garden was luxurious and greener after the rain. The trees were trembling with delight in the light afternoon breeze.

    Rukshan found Fox seated upright and legs crossed in between the courgettes and the purple cabbages. His eyes were closed and he didn’t flinch when the Fae approached.

    “Are you meditating?” asked Rukshan who wanted to get going on the mission already.
    “Kinda,” answered Fox without opening his eyes. “I’m using my imagination as a creative tool in order to make the carpenter show up and finish his work.” He breathed in deep and exhaled a humming sound.
    “I think you’re mistaken. It’s not about making the other do what you want.”

    Fox opened his eyes. “Don’t tell me what to do,” said Fox feeling a tad tense. “It’s a technique transmitted to me by Master Gibbon.”
    “I’m just saying…” began the Fae.
    “Oh! You’re happy, I can’t meditate now I’m too tense,” Fox bursted out.
    “I guess if you got tense that easily, you weren’t that relaxed in the first place.”

    Fox got up and squished a courgette. That seemed to put him into even more anger, but Rukshan couldn’t help laughing and Fox couldn’t keep angry very long. He walked on another courgette and laughed.
    “I don’t like courgettes,” he said.
    “I know. Glynis will not be very happy though if you crush all the vegetables.”
    “Yeah. You’re certainly right. When are we leaving?”
    Mr Minn’s nephew, who’s a carpenter, was just visiting in the city and Margoritt asked them if they could help with the carpentry. You know how Mr Minn can’t resist her charms. They have collected the material from the other carpenter and they are coming tomorrow to finish the work. So we’ll be ready to go. I just have to convince Glynis to let Olli come with us.”
    Margoritt is coming back?”
    “No. She’ll stay in the city. You know, her knees… and her sister being at the cottage.”
    “Oh! I had forgotten about her,” said Fox raising his eyes to the sky.

    #4727
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    Tak was surprised to see Rukshan back. He’d thought he would be gone on his secret mission for a longer time.

    As if reading his mind, Rukshan said as soon as he saw him “It’s a joy to see you, little devil! Don’t expect to have me here for too long though, I’m just gathering a few things before I go for my new exploration. How have you been? And aren’t you going to introduce this young lady?”

    The young lady in question wasn’t shy, and stepped in front to introduce herself. “I’m Nesy, Sir. It’s a pleasure to meet Tak’s family.”

    “It’s a pleasure too, have fun in the garden, but be careful not to trample Glynis’ new plantling.”

    Dropping his satchel on the front of the cottage, Tak started to run towards the little clearing where he knew the baby snoots liked to enjoy a nap, and waved at Nesy to join him.

    “He’s a nice kid.” Glynis was at the windowsill, enjoying the quiet afternoon air.

    Rukshan smiled and said. “I like your new carpet, and what you have done with the house. Has your spell worked to get the carpenter to fix the loo? I feel bad leaving you all again while there is still much to do.”

    “Don’t worry, Fox is good help, so long as you keep him away from the chickens.”

    They laughed.

    #4691
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    The day had started uneventful, the perfect kind of day for Shawn Paul to write his novel. He had been quite productive concerning the numbers of characters written in total, but after a few erasing and correcting only one paragraph of a few lines remained. But he was very satisfied with what he had written.

    Perfection will kill me, he thought. Looking at the piles of documents on his table, he felt tired. He looked at the unremarkable clock on his wall. It was eleven in the morning. Time for a tea. He got up from his desk carefully. He missed a step and inadvertently hit the wrong key combination on his keyboard. It closed his writing app without saving his work. Shawn Paul started panicking when the bell rang. Déjà vu.

    This time it was the mailman.
    “You’re a lucky winner. I need a sign.”
    Shawn Paul signed and was handed a big envelop written “LUCKY WINNER!” all over it. There was barely enough room for his address. The young writer, almost author, feared to open it. It was reeking of distraction potential and it could put his novel in danger when it needed loving care… and a lot of discipline.
    “Look,” said the mailman. “I have another one for your neighbour.” the man knocked at Maeve’s door and gave her the envelop in exchange for a signature. The young woman had no qualm about it and tore open the envelop. It was hard to read her expression when she got a plane ticket out and read the short accompanying note. She almost looked asian poker face at that moment. Her eyes went to the envelop in Shawn Paul’s hands, and he understood the question she hadn’t formulated.
    He felt forced to open his own envelop and it was as agonising as tearing apart the last chance to write his unborn novel.

    “What’s inside?” asked the mailman who was a curious fellow.

    “A plane to Australia, and a voucher to the Flying Fish Inn.”

    “Oh! I know that place, it was all over the news a few months back,” said the man. “I don’t need to envy you then,” he dropped before leaving Shawn Paul and Maeve in the corridor.
    Her cat showed up and meowed. It was clear to the young man there was an interrogation point in its voice.

    #4685
    FloveFlove
    Participant

    “I used to win prizes you know,” Miss Bossy Pants sighed and rubbed her hand through her hair, leaving it in further disarray.

    “I’m sure you did,” said Ric with a small smile which could have been interpreted as a smirk. Miss Bossy Pants decided to give him the benefit of the doubt.

    “For journalism. One year, I received the top journalism prize for my investigative piece about the sausage industry. Cutting edge they called it. And now,” she frowned and looked out the window. “We must get someone to clean those. And now, I am a mere figurehead.”

    Ric opened his mouth but Miss Bossy Pants held her hand up.

    “A mere figurehead. Mocked and deriled. My staff, who I pay, follow whatever goddam leads they want and pay no attention to my explicit orders. You think I don’t know that?”

    She glared at Ric.

    “Quiet!” she said, slapping her hand on the desk and standing up so violently that her cup of tea trembled and sloshed over the sides. She glowered down at Ric, also trembling.

    “This ends now! Get me everything we have on the Doctor. I want names of victims and any poor sod who is still alive you are going to interview! I am going to crack this goddam doll case wide open. He’s the one who is going to be goddam very very sorry.”

    #4632
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    Sometimes, you have to go underground to uncover the truth.

    Rukshan thought it meant taking the new underground carts once only.

    Frankly, he’d preferred to travel through the familiar Shadow Maps, the ones Dark Faes like him could draw, that would give them access to a secret parallel world of mist and phantoms, shadows and secrets. It was the true world the Faes originated from, long ago, in a time before history.

    It wasn’t used much nowadays, most Centenial Faes having lost the capacity, or the interest in the place, leaving only bitter unsavoury people creeping there, spying on secrets, and trading in for favours, while being too afraid to leave the known parallel world, too afraid that if they left it, they’d lose the way back.
    For Rukshan and a few in the Queen’s lineage, the place was still more or less of a familiar dwelling, a winter residence of sorts, for when solace and retreat was required.

    Only the Shadow Maps weren’t safe any longer, something had crept along the lay lines and was lurking at every corner, keeping guard at most of the known entrances and reporting to some unknown power.

    Few moons back, Rukshan was still meditating in the Shadow world, not very far from the work at the cottage, which he could hear at times through the thin dimensional walls, when he came across Konrad. Konrad, another Fae from the Old Houses, one with a heavy secret. “I’ve hidden her from him” he told him in short broken sentences. “His daughter, Nesingwarys, she is hidden for now, but He’ll be looking for her, once He recovers, and she won’t be safe. He can’t find her, I have to protect her, she holds power to bring his reign of terror back.”

    Truly, it didn’t make a lot of sense, but it had picked his curiosity. Rukshan left the other Fae to his apparent madness, but wondered about the coincidence. That Garl, the name Konrad gave to the dark fallen monarch, according to what he could piece together, seemed to have been vanquished or disappeared about the same time they’d all managed to repel the Shadow in the Forest.

    He would usually have left it at that, but then, a few days later, started to realize something was wrong in the Shadow world, and that this very something was growing.

    “And now, I’m stuck in an underground cart crammed full of people to go to the city. And they call that progress…”

    A bearded guy smelling of piss and wine, was doing acrobatics with his crutches and what was left of his left leg. He was looking at people with a half-toothed grin and a blissful face while muttering things Rukshan couldn’t figure. His face reminded him of a thespian he’d known. Rukshan couldn’t shake the feeling there was message in that. When the underground cart dinged to announce the Grand Belfrey Station, Rukshan was relieved to finally be out for fresh air. Magnificent craftsmanship he would say to the gnomes in charge of the tunnels, but really, underground cart wasn’t his thing.

    #4627
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    Jerk looked puzzled at the screen.
    As his side job, he was managing the maintenance of a popular website findmystuff.com where people where posting lost&found items, which had turned into a joyful playground at times for groups of pranksters as well as good samaritans leaving stuff for people to find. Monitoring and curating the content was mostly done by an AI these days, but now and then the flagging seemed to require a human analysis, to check if it was a false positive or not.
    Right off, there were some odd blinks on his screen, but if that hadn’t caught his attention, the details of this case certainly would have.
    It was a particular group, not specially overactive, the quiet under the radar group catering to less than a few hundred people at the time, but picking up strongly over the past few days. The group was called “findmydolls” and there was a comment which had been flagged as “fake news”.
    He had to decide to “moderate” (read “delete”) the comment or not, but he couldn’t decide about it.

    Have found one of your dolls, Ms M. Brilliant hiding! During the last Aya trip, I was teleported to some place that looked like Australia’s dream time, and there was your doll. I’m sure it’s there in Australia, a remote place in the middle of the bush, there’s an inn with a flashy fish neon sign over it. Your doll was there, and there was a message. PM for details.

    He shrugged. The rules of the board didn’t explicitly forbid “remove viewing” as a source of clues, nor an astral view was any less flimsy than a vague visual report from the streets.

    He clicked on “approved”.

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