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  • #6169
    Eric
    Keymaster

    There was a screeching sound in the warehouse.

    “Purple & Glitter Alert, Purple & Glitter Alert!” the junior drag-queen in training howled to wake up the troops. “Briefing in Linda Pol’s office, now!”

    Linda Pol was busy e-zapping motes and dust bunnies when the last one of them entered and closed the room silently.

    She pushed her fancy glasses up her nose and pointed at the screen. “Girdle your loins, ladies! There’s been a potential breach in the timelines at this particular junction point, the Universe may be in grave danger. We need volunteers to go and investigate.”

    Someone raised their hand “Can’t we wait until 2021? 2020 was such a nasty year, it is known. Major jinxy vibes. Everything you do goes to poo-poo on this year.”

    “Thank you for the history course Bubbles, and glad you volunteered. Anyone else?”

    #6168

    In reply to: Tart Wreck Repackage

    Flove
    Participant

    The wardrobe was sitting solidly in the middle of the office, exactly where they had left it.

    Or was it?

    “I was expecting a room full of middle-aged ladies,” said Star, her voice troubled. She frowned at the wardrobe. “Has it moved a little do you think? I’m sure it was closer to the window before. Or was it smaller. There’s something different about it …”

    “Maybe they are inside,” whispered Tara.

    “What! All of them?” Star sniggered nervously.

    “We should check.” But Tara didn’t move— she felt an odd reluctance to approach the wardrobe. “You check, Star.”

    Star shook her head. “Where’s Rosamund? Checking wardrobes for middle-aged drug mules is the sort of job she should be doing.”

    “Are you looking for me?” asked a soft voice from the doorway. Tara and Star spun round.

    “Good grief!” exclaimed Tara. “Rosamund! What are you wearing?”

    Rosamund was dressed in a silky yellow thing that floated to her ankles. Her feet were bare and her long hair, usually worn loose, was now neatly plaited. Encircling the top of her head was a daisy chain. She smiled gently at Star and Tara. “Peace, my friends.” Dozens of gold bracelets jangled as she extended her hands to them. “Come, my dear friends, let us partake of carrot juice together.”

    #6137

    In reply to: Tart Wreck Repackage

    Tracy
    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

    Tracy
    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.”

    #6116

    In reply to: Tart Wreck Repackage

    Tracy
    Participant

    “What a load of rubbish,” said Star later. “I don’t believe a word of it. Well, except for the part about Vince French not being in a coma, that bit rang true. But the rest of it’s downright nonsense, if you ask me.”

    Tara waved to the waiter and ordered another two gin and tonics.  The Bell Bird Inn was conveniently located mid way between the office and their apartment, and needless to say, they were regulars.

    “There’s definitely something fishy going on with April’s story,” Tara agreed. “The wardrobe, for instance. Those notes with the same handwriting.  I don’t believe she’s filthy rich, either. Nobody who is filthy rich ever says “I’m filthy rich”.”

    “How would you know? How many filthy rich people do you hobnob with, then?”

    “Let’s not get off the point!” Star cried, exasperated. “What are we going to do?”

    “May as well start at the bottom and work our way up. Vince’s bottom. All we need to do is find Vince’s tattoo and we’ll have found Vince.  It’s fiendishly simple!” Tara looked smug.

    “Oh, right,” said Star when she found her voice. “Right. Because it’s just so easy to peruse bottom tattoos on the general public.”

    Tara giggled. “Don’t be silly. This is where we use our special unofficial skills. Remote viewing.”

    “But where do we start?”

    “Set the intention, and trust your intuition. Oh come on,” Star’s lack of enthusiasm was becoming tedious. “It will be fun!”

    #6113

    In reply to: Tart Wreck Repackage

    Flove
    Participant

    VINCE FRENCH!” shouted April. “WHO IS VINCE FRENCH? I DON’T KNOW ANYONE CALLED VINCE FRENCH! I SAID I SANG WITH VINCE ENTIUS!”

    “Me thinks the lady doth protest too much,” mouthed Tara. Star nodded and, leaning forward, she smiled engagingly at April.

    “So, April …. you’ve never heard of Vince French? The famous singer who is touted to have a voice like an angel?”

    “Oh! THAT Vince French,” blustered April. “Yes, of course I’ve heard of HIM. But he’s not the one I sang with. Never met him personally. Good voice, or so I’ve heard.”

    Rosamund folded her arms and glowered at April. “Auntie April, who is this Uncle Albie of what you speak? Mum said you never got hitched. Said you was too uppity.”

    “Stop it!” shouted April, flinging the broom wildly above her head. “Just stop it, will you! First, you man-handle me into the wardrobe filled with dirty old coats and refuse to let me have pineapple on my pizza and now you are interrogating me as though I am some sort of criminal.” She threw the broom to the floor with such force that the handle snapped off, and then she collapsed in a sobbing heap.

    “I suppose we have been rather unwelcoming,” said Star.

    “There, there, Auntie,” said Rosamund, patting her awkwardly on the shoulder. “If you need to make up a husband, I totally get it. I’m always making up stuff.”

    “I think it is about time you tell us the truth,” said Tara sternly. “Why have you invented a philandering husband and what does Vince French have to do with it and, last but certainly not least, why is that wardrobe filled with stinky coats in our office?”

    “How about I make a nice cup of tea and you can tell us everything,” said Star.

    #6107

    In reply to: Tart Wreck Repackage

    Flove
    Participant

    Star paused in the lobby. “I need some more persuading,” she said. “What if she dies in that wardrobe? What will we do with the body? Or, worse, what if she doesn’t die and sues us?”

    Tara decided to ignore Star’s dubious reasoning; after all it was late. “She’s probably going to sue anyway,” said Tara morosely. “Another night won’t make any difference.”

    “I’m going back. I can’t leave Rosamund to face the consequences of our drunken stupidity.” Star headed defiantly towards the stairs; the lift was out of order, again. “We would have to be on the eight bloody floor,” she muttered. “You do what you like,” she flung over her shoulder to Tara.

    Tara sighed. “Wait up,” she shouted.

    Star was relieved that Tara decided to follow. The building was scary at night – the few tenants who did lease office space, were, much like themselves, dodgy start-ups that couldn’t afford anything better. Missing bulbs meant the lighting in the stairwell was dim, and, on some floors, non-existent.

    “I’m amazed they managed to bring that wardrobe up,” puffed Tara. “Just slow down and let me get my breath will you, Star.”

    “My gym membership is really paying off,” said Star proudly. “Come on,Tara! just one floor to go!”

    As they approached the door to their office, they paused to listen. “Can you hear something … ?” whispered Star.

    “Is it … singing?”

    “That’s never Rosamund singing. She’s got a voice like … well let’s just say you wouldn’t wish it on your worst enemy.”

    “I’m going in,” hissed Tara and flung open the door.

    “Don’t come any closer!” cried a woman in a mink coat; she did make a peculiar sight, surrounded by empty pizza boxes and brandishing a broom. “And you, shut up!” she said reaching out to bang the wardrobe with her broom. There were muffled cries from within, and then silence.

    “Was that you singing?” asked Star in her most polite voice.

    “Yes, what’s it to you?”

    “It was rather… lovely.”

    The woman smirked. “I was rehearsing.”

    “We are awfully sorry about locking you in the wardrobe. We thought you were a masked intruder.”

    “Well, I’m not. I am Rosamund’s Aunt April, and you …” she glowered at Star … “should have recognised me, seeing as how I am your cousin.”

    “Oh!” Star put her hand to her head. “Silly me! Of course, Cousin April! But I have not seen you for so many years. Not since I was a child and you were off to Europe to study music!”

    Tara groaned. “Really, Star, you are hopeless.”

    Loud banging emanated from the wardrobe followed by mostly unintelligible shouting but it went something like: “Bloody-let-me-out-or-I-will-friggin-kill-you-stupid-bloody-tarts!”

    “It wasn’t really Rosamund’s fault,” said Star. “I don’t suppose we could …?”

    April nodded. “Go on then, little fool’s learnt her lesson. The cheek of her not letting me have pineapple on my pizza.”

    “About bloody time,” sniffed Rosamund when the door was opened. She made a sorry sight, mascara streaked under her eyes and her red fingernails broken from where she had tried to force the door.

    “Now, then,” said Tara decisively, “now we’ve said our sorries and whatnot, what’s all this really about, April?”

    April crinkled her brow.”Well, as I may of mentioned on the phone, my husband, Albert — that’s your Uncle Albie,” she said to Rosamund, “is cheating on me. He denies it vehemently of course, but I found this note in his pocket.” She reached into her Louis Vuitton hand-bag and pulled out a sheet of paper. “That’s his handwriting and the paper is from the Royal Albert Hotel. He was there on a business trip last month.” Her face crumpled.

    “Chin up,” said Tara quickly, handing April a tissue from the desk. “What does the note say?”. Really, this case did seem a bit beneath them, a straightforward occurrence of adultery from the sounds.

    April sniffed. “It says, meet you at the usual place. Bring the money and the suitcase and I will make it worth your while.”

    “Let me see that,” said Rosamund, snatching the note from April. She reached into the front of her tee-shirt and pulled out another crumpled note which had been stuffed into her bra. She smirked. “I found this in the wardrobe. I was keeping it secret to pay you back but … ” She brandished both notes triumphantly. “The handwriting is the same!”

    “What does your note say, Rosamund?” asked Star.

    “It says, If you find this note, please help me. All is not what it seems..”

    “Wow, cool!” said Tara, her face lit up. This was more like it!

    Star, noticing April’s wretched face, frowned warningly at Tara. “So,” she mused, “I suggest we explore this wardrobe further and see what we can find out.”

    #6106

    In reply to: Tart Wreck Repackage

    Tracy
    Participant

    Rosamund gaped at her aunt.  “Really, Auntie April? Wow!” She leaped up, not noticing her aunt smirk, and climbed into the wardrobe.

    Seizing the moment, April tossed her pizza aside and sprang over to to the wardrobe door, slammed it shut and turned the key.  Leaning her back on the locked door, she smiled triumphantly.

    The office door opened slowly, due to the melted cheese stuck on the carpet that had slid down the door when the pizza hit it.  Fortunately for April the door got stuck on an olive, providing a valuable few seconds in which to grab the broom and flee to the rest room before Star and Tara entered the room.

    “Don’t let me out until April!” a muffled voice joined the banging sounds coming from the wardrobe.

    “The client is still in the wardrobe!” Tara said, exasperated. “And where the hell is Rosamund? She was supposed to let that woman out! Useless, that’s what she is.”

    “Just ignore her until Rosamund comes back. Sounds like she’s gone a bit mental already anyway. Why does she want to stay in there until April? It’s months away.”

    “I’m going home, it’s been a long day. Come on, let’s leave a note for Rosamund to deal with it. She took long enough off work, now it’s our turn.”  Star didn’t need any more persuading.

    #6088

    In reply to: Tart Wreck Repackage

    Eric
    Keymaster

    No sooner had they reached for the drinks in the office cupboard, than the phone rang loudly.

    Rosamund!” howled Star. “Where is that daft niece of yours, and what good is she if she doesn’t even answer the calls! Rosamund!”

    “I thought you gave her the afternoon?” Tara mouthed while picking the annoying phone. “Cartwright and Wrexham Private Investigators, can I help you?”

    Her face frowned. “Herself speaking.”

    “Yes, we do private investigations. Very successfully I may say. Alright Ma’am, let me check my agenda.” She looked in the air, flipping an imaginary agenda. “Oh, you’re in luck, our 5pm just cancelled. Alright then, see you at our office. Au revoir.”

    Tara hung up with a smile.

    Star was busy slurping the mojito while struggling with the mint bits in her teeth. “What? Tell me this instant!”

    “Our second case! Isn’t it exciting!”

    “Sure thing, what it is this time? Evil possession?”

    “Actually, it’s not that far off. Apparently, our ladyship needs a falgrante delicto of adultery. Her husband seems to be a cheating one, and with a twinge of double personality… Or at least that’s what she said.”

    “Fantastic. Can’t wait for all the juicy details. I’ll go prepare my sequin red dress to set the honey trap darling.”

    “Good lord, get a hold of yourself Star, it’s only been a day, and you’re ready to jump on the next passing horse as it were.”

    “Who said you shouldn’t mix pleasure with business.”

    “Right. Thought that was the reverse…”

    “Tsk. Just to get the last word.”

    “Indeed.”

    #6087

    In reply to: Tart Wreck Repackage

    Eric
    Keymaster

    “I knew it!” Tara had gone to investigate early, disguised as an elderly jogger in a velvet teal jogging. “Seemed clear enough that that retirement home was a front…”

    Later when she came back to the office, she was quizzed by Star, who was still yawning despite the bright sunlight.

    “So tell me, a front for what?”

    “Can’t you guess?” Tara said, removing her false teeth.

    “Nooo?” her hand flew at Star’s mouth and incredulous face.

    “Yes, hmm-hmm; you guessed right: a time travel agency.”

    “Oh dangit, they stole my idea! After all the virus pandemic thing, they sure know how to surf the crisis to make a buck. The buying carrots alibi traffic, and now that!”

    “Yep, guess that people unable to go anywhere for holidays make up for a good clientele. You can imagine the slogans: Celerity: Why go anywhere? When we can send you anywhen! “

    “And a convenient way of disposing of nosy people too. I hope they didn’t send Uncle Basil to the Dinosaurs, can’t imagine the stench of those Time sewers.”

    “Oh no, don’t think he was affluent enough, you see. Apparently you pay by the time meter. The further in time, the pricier. And I guess the surest way to dispose of someone would be in the past rather than in the future…”

    “So Uncle Basil is in the past!”

    “Exactly.”

    “Well, I could have told you that from the start. No wonder Mr French paid us in advance then, he already knew we’d crack that case. Our first case’s closed, dear! If Mr French ever wakes up and calls, we’ll just redirect him to our Time Dragglers friends in Marseille for their ‘relative lost in time’ retrieval package. Now, anyone for mojitos?”

    #5995
    Tracy
    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.

    #5807

    In reply to: Tart Wreck Repackage

    Eric
    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.”

    #5737
    Eric
    Keymaster

    April knew better than to ask where June managed to teaf the money needed for the plane tickets. Nothing she could have scrapped from their meager wages.

    The loud voice got her all startled.

    “Not so fast Ladies. Hands in the air!”

    An officer in uniform was standing there, his service taser pointed at them like they were two dangerous criminals. He was flanked by a trenchcoat acolyte inspector whose tiny glasses were shining in the dark.

    “Damn it June,” whispered April “they’ve caught up with us with your shenanigans; did you steal credit cards again?…”

    “Shhtt! Don’t say anything. They look daft enough, let me do the talking.”

    “Mrs June, you’re under arrest for multiple accounts of credit fraud, as well as unlawful impersonation with the intent to commit fraud. You can remain silent. Anything you’ll say may be held against you…” The inspector was speaking like a robot.

    “STOP RIGHT THERE!” the officer shouted, “hands up or I shoot! Last warning!”

    June was undeterred; she had eluded the police forces for so long and in so many States, she felt invincible and started to voice confused explanations while moving her hands in a frantic fashion and trying to sweet talk the police force.

    She never saw the taser come.

    Between fuzzy moments of consciousness, she realised she was being cuffed, and her and April taken to the police station.

    #5674
    Eric
    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.”

    #5638

    In reply to: Tart Wreck Repackage

    Tracy
    Participant

    “Cartwright and Wrexham Private Investigators, can I help you?”

    “Do you do missing persons?” Vince asked, getting straight to the point.  “Good, well then can I speak to a detective; it’s a very confidential matter.”

    “Speaking!” replied Star, elated to receive a business inquiry, but simultaneously feeling a spasm of irritation at the mans attitude.  “Star Wrexham, what can I do for you, Mr…?”

    “French, Vince French.”  Smoothing his hair and glancing in the wall mirror, Vince added, “You will have heard of me and my world famous melodious voice.”

    Star had not, but replied encouraging, “Oh, I see.  You can be sure of the utmost confidentiality and discretion, Mr French.  Our credentials are unimpeachable.  The missing person is..?”

    “My uncle Basil, he’s gone. He got in with that cult, and now he’s gone. They’ve seduced him with all that mumbo jumbo and hype and parlour tricks, I could see it coming, I tell you, I knew they’d take him.” Vince was becoming emotional. “And now he’s left me.”

    “Well if it’s your uncle, he must be, how old?  So what if he wants to join a cult?” said Star, wondering why he was being so melodramatic.  “What?” she whispered to Tara who was pulling faces and shaking her head. “Oh, right!” she replied, getting the message.

    “Now then Mr French, I’m confident that we can find your uncle. We have some experience with cults and know how they operate.  If you’d like to make an appointment with our secretary to pop in to the office as soon as possible..”

    Star handed the phone to Tara. “Ms Cartwright, if you wouldn’t mind? The gentleman caller would like to make an appointment.”

    “I’m a senior partner, not a secretary!” Tara hissed, taking the phone.  Her anger subsided when she heard his voice. Where had she heard that voice before?

    #4869

    In reply to: Coma Cameleon

    Tracy
    Participant

    Tibu preferred selling second hand books to selling watches, for he could read them while waiting for customers instead of watching the minutes and hours tick by. Maybe that’s why they called them “watches”, he thought, because if you have one, you watch it. Too much, it would seem.

    He was reading “The Perilous Treks of Lord Gustard Willoughby Ferguson” while sheltering from the pounding rain, huddled in the corner of an office building porch with a few dozen books piled onto an old blue blanket. He rarely sold any books, but passing strangers kindly brought him a coffee in a take away cup from time to time, or a sandwich or burger. The more thoughtful ones dropped some money into the upturned bowler hat that he’d found in the bin, so that he could choose tea, which he preferred, or some fruit, which he preferred to burgers. One of the regular office girls, a fresh faced young looking redhead, brought him a brand new lighter one day, after noticing him asking for a light the day before. She was a good listener, and often stood beside him silently listening to him read aloud from one of his books.

    #4761
    Jib
    Participant

    Barbara’s office was dead silent apart from the regular bips of the machines. The whiteness of the painted walls made it feel like a psych ward. She shivered away the memories that were trying to catch her attention.

    It’s been two hours since the Doctor had locked himself up in his rage-release room, a spacious soundproofed room with padded walls. Not even a small window to look inside and check if his anger had subsided. Barbara clearly preferred the trauma of the shouts and cries and the broken plates that were hidden here and there for him to use when he needed most. But when he started his therapy with the AI psych module, the damn bot suggested he built that room in order to release his rage in a more intimate framework.
    Now the plates collected dust and the sessions in the room tended to last longer and longer.

    Today’s burst of rage had been triggered by the unexpected gathering of the guests at the Inn. The Doctor was drinking his columbian cocoa, a blend of melted dark chocolate with cheddar cheese, when the old hag in that bloody gabardine started her speech. The camera hidden in the eye of the fish by their agent, gave them a fisheye view of the room. It was very practical and they could see everything. The AI engineer module could recreate a 3D view of the room and anticipate the moves of all the attendees.

    When that girl with the fishnet handed out the keys for all to see and the other girl got the doll out, the Doctor had his attention hyper-focused. He wanted to see it all.
    Except there had been a glitch and images of granola cookies superimposed on the items.

    “Send the magpies to retrieve the items,” he said, nervousness making his voice louder.
    “Ahem,” had answered Barbara.
    “What?” The Doctor turned towards her. His eye twitched when he expected the worst, and it had been twitching fast.
    She had been trying to hide the fact that the magpies had been distracted lately, as she had clearly been herself since she had found that goldminer game on facebush.
    No need to delay the inevitable, she had thought. “The magpies are not in the immediate vicinity of the Inn.” In fact, just as their imprinting mother was busy digging digital gold during her work time, the magpies had found a new vein of gold while going to the Inn and Barbara had thought it could be a nice addition to her meager salary… to make ends meet at the end of the month.

    It obviously wasn’t the right time to do so. And she was worried about the Doctor now.

    To trump her anxiety, she was surfing the internet. Too guilty to play the gold miner, she was looking around for solutions to her boss’s stress. The variety and abundance of advertisement was deafening her eyes, and somewhere in a gold mine she was sure the magpies were going berserk too. She had to find a solution quickly.

    Barbara hesitated to ask the AI. But there were obviously too many solutions to choose from. Her phone buzzed. It was her mother.
    “I finally found the white jade masks. Bought one for you 2. It helps chase the mental stress away. You clearly need it.” Her mother had joined a picture of her wearing the mask on top of a beauty mask which gave her the look of a mummy. Her mother was too much into the woowoo stuffs and Barbara was about to send her a polite but firm no she didn’t want the mask. But the door of the rage-room opened and the Doctor went out. He had such a blissful look on his face. It was unnatural. Barbara had been suspecting the AI to brainwash the Doctor with subliminal messages during those therapy sessions. Maybe it also happened in the rage-room. The AI was using tech to control the Doctor. Barbara would use some other means to win him back.

    OK. SEND IT TO ME QUICK. she sent to her mother.

    #4709
    Jib
    Participant

    The vibration of the phone on the table made Barbara jump and she almost deleted her report. Her heart was racing at the thought of erasing what took her an hour to write. She reminded herself to breath like she had learned during her hot yoga class the previous week. It quieted her heart a little and she checked her hair out of habit and winced when she felt the short haircut. She checked her phone.

    “Wonderful!” she said readjusting her glasses. A new acquisition, big and cat eye like, the brim covered with colourful strass. She couldn’t resist.
    She got up from her desk and adjusted her skirt with her six fingers hand. She went to the Doctor’s office and knocked three times on the door. A sleepy voice, a tad angry, asked from the other side: “What?”

    “It’s Barbara. Our undercover agent sent me a confirmation that the Dreamcatcher operation is a success. Subject zero has been activated unaware that you are manipulating her dreams.”

    #4696
    Eric
    Keymaster

    Ricardo!” Miss Bossy shouted from her office she was rearranging into an office cum interrogation room.

    “Yes, M’am!”

    “Any news from our two insubordinate scouts?”
    “I’m afraid not M’am. Phone coverage isn’t that good in the bush I hear.”
    “Stop that nonsense! What tells you they’re aren’t just squandering my newspaper’s money over unearned mojitos doing precious nothing like gator’s watching on a beach, hmmm?”
    “I think they’d call that gathering clues M’am.”

    If Ricardo hadn’t be so earnest, she would have slapped him in the face for his attempt at humour, but he was blissfully unaware of the unwanted irony and impertinence of his retort.

    You’re going soft… she mused to herself, while snapping electrical wires together making a splash of sparkles in the air. The makeshift interrogation room was ready.

    Ric’! Bring Sweet Sophie!”

    #4653
    Flove
    Participant

    “Come on now,” said Ricardo. “Nobody has put anything out there about the dolls. Come and sit down on this nice comfy office chair and tell us what is going on. You will do yourself an injury running in those heels. Lovely shoes of course,” he added quickly.

    Miss Bossy Pants glared at him suspiciously but allowed herself to be coaxed to the nearest office chair while Hilda and Connie raised their eyebrows and Sweet Sophie snorted.

    “That’s right,” he said. “Just let me wipe that chair for you before you sit. Now, you tell us what’s going on while I make the tea. One sugar?”

    Hilda and Connie made gagging noises.

    Slimy creep, hissed Connie.

    “No hurry then,” said Hilda. “We’ve only been waiting half an hour for tea already.”

    Miss Bossy Pants wiped her forehead with a tea towel, too relieved to question what a tea towel was doing on the desk. She pulled her phone out and scrolled through her messages.

    “I received this,” she said. “Read it out will you, Ric. I can’t stand to look at it again.”

    “Put a lid on the doll story or you will be sorry. And I mean very sorry Very very sorry,” read Ric. “Hmmm rather unimaginative as threats go, don’t you think?”

    “Scroll through to the next one.”

    “By the way, it’s the DOCTOR sending this, in case you think for one moment this is an unimaginative idle threat.”

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