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  • #5819
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    Hello Whale,

    Coming from the computer world that makes it a pun of sort. I’m overloaded with whales nowadays. They’re everywhere. Are you involved? Or were they around all along? I must say I never paid too much attention to whales before. Now it’s a sticker on the asphalt when I get out of the metro to my daily rendez-vous with myself at the café. Or an advertisement of a winking whale on a bus side for a whale cruise near Canada. Or a friend this morning who called me to tell his dream: A Ballistic Whale shut through huge distance in space, it was angry and ever arriving.

    Let me think that something big is coming.

    I ordered a macchiato and the waiter had made a funny whale design with the foamed cream. When I asked he said he didn’t know why because he had never made it before. I could see it. And it looked angrier as the foam melted. I decided not to pay too much attention to the whale, focusing my attention instead on finding a friend in the passing crowd. Lots of students that day. A group of girl came and stopped right in front of me, chatting loudly. I started to feel irritated and looked at them angrily. One of them saw my face and turned to tell something to her friends. I saw the blue whale keyring hanging from her backpack zipper. They all looked at me and laughed.

    I think I’m whale cursed.

    #5671
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    With her pink glove on and her lips apart, Liz passed her finger on the bookshelf. Making the most of the opportunity of Finnley’s excursion outside, Liz had pretexted she wanted to show Roberto how to check for dust. In truth, but she would never confess to it, except to Godfrey after a few drink and some cashew nuts later that day, in truth she had bought a new pink uniform for the gardener/handyman and wanted to see how it fitted him. Of course, she had ordered a few sizes under, so Roberto’s muscles bulged quite nicely under the fabric of the short sleeves, stretching the seam in a dangerously exciting way.

    “What’s this book?” asked Roberto.

    “What?” asked Liz who had been lost in one of the worst case scenario. Why would Roberto talk about something as undersexying as a book? Nonetheless, without wanting to, her eyes followed the gardener’s sexy arm down to his sexy finger pointing at the book spine and her brain froze on the title: “An Aesthetic of the Night Mare“, by Vanina Vain.

    “What’s this book doing among my personal work?” she asked, all sexying forgotten.

    “Don’t you remember?” asked Godfrey who happened to pass behind her. “Years ago when you still read your fanmail you answered one from a young girl wanting to follow in your footsteps. You sent her a handwritten copy of Rilke’s letter to a young poet. I wrote it myself and Finnley signed it for you. She’s so good at imitating your signature. Well anyway a few years later that girl finally published her first book and sent you a copy to thank you.”

    “Have I read it?” Liz asked.

    “You might have. But I’m not sure. It’s quite Gothic. The girl takes advantage of her sleep paralysis at night to do some crazy experiences.”

    Liz had no recollection whatsoever of it, but that was not the point.

    “Tsk. What’s it doing among my personal work bookshelves? Don’t we have somewhere else to put that kind of…”

    “The trash you mean?” asked Finnley.

    “Oh! You’re back”, said Liz.

    “Tsk, tsk. Such disappointment in your voice. But I’m never far away, and luckily for some”, she added with a look at Roberto who was trying to stretch the sleeve without breaking the seam.

    #5655
    prUneprUne
    Participant

    I don’t know if that’s a second youth or what, but getting to that 100 line has put Mater in an energetic frenzy. She’s been putting her things in order, like she said.

    My studies on machine learning and artificial intelligence are keeping me away for now. I’ve been studying hard for that Mars program selection, but it looks like it’s hopeless. Anyway, I had the good idea to put nannycams in all the hidden spots of the Inn. It’s not been as much fun as I’d hoped, spying on Aunt Idle and her manic ramblings. You would think she’s drunk all the time, but for all the recordings, I’d be damned if I’ve caught her yet on tape with a bottle. I guess her body just distills it on its own…

    So, I’ve kept an eye on Mater too; she’s been acting funny at the mention of Jasper. And I found her quick to put a tight lid back on the topic.

    I’m not even mentioning the dubious trails of “Uncles” of late: the Fergus, Basil or otherwise. She’d known quite a few of these in her days, although she’s claimed to have been a paragon of matrimonial virtue, being single woman with kids in these parts must have been rough after she lost Pater.

    I think I finally caught something between all the cloak and dagger mascarades, tatty letters and all. Digital footprint isn’t big, but it may be something tangible to begin with.

    Meanwhile, we’ll have to get started getting the invitation list in order; Mater’s contemporaries are falling by the minute, and Aunt Dido’s braincells are probably dying as fast as that— it won’t be easy to get a complete list. I know I should enlist Devan, I even put him on that family group thing, but he’s not big with all the tech stuff. As for the twins, well… We still have to hear about their stories. At this rate, might be faster to learn to telepathically tack on Dodo’s brainwaves. She says to whomever wants to hear she’s got direct connection to them… Would sound cultish to me, if I didn’t know better about the sisters! I’ll be worried when Mater starts to take this woowoo seriously.

    #5651
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    Looking at the exasperated voices of his captors, Barron needn’t know how to speak Spanish to be entirely certain he was in over his head.

    He wondered why the negotiators hadn’t been brought in already; the plan was simple —well, initially. He was to get a cut of the ransom, and disappear with it in some nice sunny resort in the South. Like the extreme South, not Alabama South.

    Someone must have interfered… He could have sworn there was a woman’s voice with a funny accent speaking to them before she hung up on them.

    ¡La chica dice que ya tienen al bebé! :yahoo_on_the_phone:   That much he could understand; an impostor 👶🏻baby now? And who had replaced August in his duties?

    Well, at the moment, he had a group of angry Frenchmen and Mexicans in a smelly rillettes distillery with a useless baby on their hands. He knew too well that if he wanted to keep all his limbs, he’d have to improvise quickly. Good thing they hadn’t removed his eye-watch. By now, as inept as they’d be, the two nannies should have got his GPS coordinates.

    Well… They had trouble spelling their names without typos at times so he’d better not leave that to chance.

    He started to text:SOS - baby in danger at Rillettes Distillery, Alabama

    He added the GPS coordinates, just in case; now, with help possibly on the way, he’d have to prepare that distraction in order to extract himself of his predicament.

    #5590
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    His trip had changed him, Rukshan realized. He doubted it at first, don’t all journeys change the traveller?

    This one had been peculiar, his life had never felt more on the line. Now, even the feeling of this place he now called a home was contrasting.

    He wasn’t despondent, but he wasn’t sure where to focus his energy now. The World outside didn’t lack causes to fight for; that much was a given. The Great Fires in the South had taken a toll on the Austral Dry Lands and started to menace the Great Forest borders. The Heartswood would be safe for now, but with the villagers’ rampant deforestation, what would be next? He was glad to hear that Eleri & Hasamelis were not short of ideas and clever contraptions to tackle the matter.

    Yet, his cause was not this one, though it did stir his heart with sadness and longing.

    Tak and Nesy had come back from school. He was glad to see them so full of life and well-adjusted. Nesy was coming into her powers, even if they stemmed from a dark place, she’d found ways to use them gracefully, listening to nature. For one, Eleri had seen early the appeal of using Nesingwarys’ fear-inducing power to shroud the place and repel Leroway and his thugs. Nesy didn’t like too much to use her powers that way. It would also affect the birds and it made Glynis sad that the place was so silent at times.

    For now, both were pleased to join the team and the little Snoots towards the effort at rebuilding Gorrash.
    All were focused on finding a way to get enough pink clay. They’d started to realize that there was not enough stock left around, and the main supply source was from the now scorched & sooty Austral lands.

    This was a good cause for now.

    #5589
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    Barron was not really a baby, more a toddler already. He was playing alone in his play fence, like he was usually left doing when his odd caretakers had gone for an escapade. After a while, he got bored cooing like a baby looking at shiny stuff and suckling at noisy things. After all, as not many had realized, he was blessed with a genius IQ — there was no point at hiding his smarts when no one was around.

    The house bulldog was sleeping nearby, snoozing like a roaring motorbike. Apart from that, this part of the House was quiet. Occasionally he could hear gurgling sounds coming from the badly soundproofed pipes of the old building. Somebody was having an industrious bowel movement. Hardly news material, his father would have say.

    He checked the e-zapwatch that his nannies had put on his wrist. Bad news. His kidnappers were late. He wondered if something had changed in the near perfect plan. Yet, he’d managed to have the money wired to the offshore account, while his contacts, codenames Jesús & Araceli (he wasn’t sure they were codenames at all) said it was in order for the baby abduction.

    He could hear suspicious sounds outside; the bulldog barely registered. What if some acolytes in the plan had bailed out? The sounds at his bedroom’s window could be his abductors, waiting for a way in.

    As usual, he would have to take matters in his own tiny hands, and let others get the credit for it.

    He peeled off one side of the net and tumbled outside of the playpen. Damn, these bodies were so difficult to manœuvre at times. Reaching the window would be difficult but not impossible. After dragging a chair, and a pile of cushions, he hoisted himself finally at reach of the latch, and flung it open. The brisk cold air from outside made his nose itch, and it was the last thing he remembered while he smelled the chloroform.

    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.”

    #4770
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    Finnley disappeared.”

    Liz couldn’t believe her ears; at first she’d ignored the harbingers, the unattended dust trails, and of course, all the crumbs on the table piling up day after day.

    Godfrey repeated “I’m telling you, Finnley took off and disappeared.”

    He paused to leave room for Liz’ to answer, not that she ever needed any to start with. But she was profoundly shocked at the betrayal.

    “I don’t believe you gave her paid leaves, have you; one of your silly ideas?”

    Godfrey thought for a moment, “Now you mention it, I don’t believe she had any, even after all this time, had she?”

    “Don’t be daft, Godfrey, she wouldn’t want any; of course, there’s a reason I chose her over the other very qualified staff lining up to work here.”

    “Not even a trace, her personal belonging are gone; not even a message left behind. A mystery fit for one of your novels, eh.”

    “I guess there’s nothing in the fridge either.” Liz said listlessly. “Guess you’ll have to order from the Pakistani restaurant tonight. Roberto, cute as he is, can’t cook for his life.”

    #4761
    AvatarJib
    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.

    #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.

    #4729
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    The room was not oversized and not to bright despite facing south. It had the oddest strange decor Shawn Paul would have expected from that place. It seemed to come right out of a Victorian movie with the heavy furniture that took all the space in the room and the dark and overloaded wallpaper that sucked up the light coming through the velvet curtains.

    Shawn Paul sneezed. It didn’t as much feel dirty as it felt old like his grand parent’s house. He wondered how often the Inn’s staff cleaned the room. He had to move his luggage in order to open the window to get some fresh air. It was so hot and dry. There was a drug store on the other side of the dusty road and a strange man was looking at him. A feeble wind brought in some red dust and Shawn Paul sneezed again, reducing the little enthusiasm he could have had left to nothing. He imagined his clothes covered with red dust and quickly closed the window. As the man was still looking Shawn Paul shut the velvet curtain, suddenly plunging the room into darkness.

    His fear of insects crept out. He had no idea where the light was so he reopened the curtain a bit.

    He then checked thoroughly under the pillows, the bedcover and the bedsheet, behind the chairs and in the wardrobe. Australia was know for having the most venomous creatures and he didn’t want to have a bad surprise. He looked suspiciously at a midge flying around not knowing if it was even safe to kill it. Shawn Paul had never been the courageous type and he began to wonder why on earth he had accepted that trip. He had never traveled out of Canada before.

    Needing some comfort, he looked frantically into his backpack for the granola cookies he had brought with him. With the temperature the chocolate chip had melted and he wondered at how to eat a cookie without dirtying his hands.

    Someone knocked at the door making him jump with guilt like when he was a kid at his grand parents’ and would eat all the cookies in his bedroom without sharing with his cousins.

    “Lunch is served,” a woman’s voice said from the other side.

    Shawn Paul remembered having said with Maeve they would meet at lunchtime so he closed his luggage with an extra padlock and made sure his door was safely locked too before going downstairs.

    Anxiety rushed in when he saw all the people that were already seated at the only table in the lunch room. He might have gone back to his room if Maeve hadn’t come from behind him.

    “Let’s go have a seat.”

    He read between the lines what he was thinking himself: Don’t leave me alone. Whether it was truly what she had meant was not important.

    #4719
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    Granola suddenly popped back in the real world — the one with her friends she meant. Oh, this was all rather confusing. Looking around, she was feeling quite corporeal.

    “That can’t be right!”

    She looked around, feeling herself. That wasn’t her body, it was Tiku’s. Yet, if she was corporeal, did it mean she was in the mental space with the story characters? Boundaries seemed to blur. She took a spin around to get a feel of the space, and fell on her bum with an infectious laughter.
    Tiku was quite pliant and surprisingly accommodating of her in-that-body visits. It was as though they could converse, but it felt like a familiar voice of her own, not someone’s else.

    “I’m in the magical thread of their story, am I not? It’s all in their head…” She thought. She could feel Tiku’s mind there, laughing and answering back something about the Dreamtime, that it was all the same and connected anyway.
    “But it’s confusing as hell!” She liked a bit of order, and explanations in big bold letters.

    A jeep coming out from the horizon followed by dark billowing smoke braked noisily in front of her.

    “Hello there!” A girl was driving, wearing a sort of loose grey hijab, smiling at her.
    Tiku-Granola waved as her, still sitting on her butt.

    “Are you in trouble? No? Great. Listen, we’re looking for an Inn, it shouldn’t be very far from here. Our GPS is a piece of rubbish and is making us turn in rounds… Could you point us there, I’m afraid I took a wrong turn at the last fork in the road.”

    Granola left Tiku to reply, as she seemed to know exactly what to answer.
    “No Miss, you’re on the right road, it’s just a little ahead, you’ll find the old washed-out sign that points to the mines. Follow the sign until you reach the little brook, cross it and it’s on the left, 2 miles, then right, then…”

    Arona stopped the lady.

    “It seems a bit complicated, and my copilot here isn’t that good with memory riddles” she added pointing at Sanso. “Would you care to join us for that last mile.”

    “Sure, of course, I was planning to go back there anyways. Never seen such activity in a while. Seems they’ll need a bit of help there, with all the guests coming.”

    #4706
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    “You know,” Inspector Melon said, having narrowly missed a peanut threat perniciously placed on top of a carrot cupcake. “I’m most intrigued by that mysterious Management organization that you wrote in your stories. They seemed to steer the plot somewhat efficiently, placing operatives on certain threats…”

    “What’s your question Walter?” Liz was getting tipsy on the rosé bubbly, and she frankly had no idea what he was talking about, clutching at the bottle that Finnley was trying to move out of her reach.

    “Well, somehow the Management, such fascinating and mysterious organization as it is, seems to have gathered an awful lot of information on this world’s arcane mysteries, and let’s not be shy to say, on some of its evils.”

    “And?…”

    “And, I wouldn’t be surprised if they’d decided a “Blow the lid off” type of covert operation, in order to gather KEY evidences of those evils and release all of them simultaneously so that the evil guys can’t get clued to it in time for an escape.”

    “Mmm, of course yes.” Liz replied distractedly, looking at watermelon pièce montée that had just rolled into the room. It had suddenly triggered fond memories of watermelon codpieces she’d written as fashion pieces in one of the novels, that would have been perfect with the theme of the party.

    Walter thought deeply… “Then, that would mean the mysterious Uncle Fergus with the Harley Davidson, may be one of such operative, that could have been compromised and sent the keys as a fail-safe… Now, I wonder what secrets these may reveal.”

    He looked at Liz who was gorging herself on watermelon chous.

    “But of course, you would have thought about all that. I can’t wait to read the rest of it!”

    Of course, nothing of the discussion had been missed by the ever careful Finnley. Sliding behind the heavy curtains, she found Godfrey in the kitchen who was looking for the peanut jar.
    He greeted her with a non nonplussed look. “Hmm, lovely socks.”

    She leaned in conspiratorially: “I think the Inspector knows too much already.”

    #4687
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    Ric was confused as to why he found himself flushed and vaguely excited by Bossy Mam’s sudden and attractive outburst.
    He was so glad the two harpies were off to goat knows where, or they would have tortured him with no end of gossiping.

    Still troubled by the stirring of emotions, he looked around, and almost spilled the cup of over-infused lapsang souchong tea he had prepared. Miss Bossy was the only one to fancy the strong flavour in a way only a former chain smoker could.

    Thankfully, she was still glaring at the window, and while he had no doubt he couldn’t hope to give her the slip for that sort of things, she probably had decided to just let it go.

    He took the chance to run to the archives, and started to dig up all he could on the Doctor.
    Sadly, the documents were few and sparse. Hilda and Connie were not known for their order in keeping records. Their notes looked more like herbariums from a botanist plagued with ADHD. But that probably meant there were lots of overlooked clues.

    He flipped through the dusty pages for a good hour, eyes wet with allergies, and he was about to bring Miss Bossy the sorry pile he had collected when a light bulb lit in his mind.

    How could I miss it!

    He’d never thought about it, but now, a lot of it started to make sense.

    Thinking about how Miss Bossy would probably be pleased by the news, he started to become red again, and hyperventilate.

    Calm down amigo, think about your abuela, and her awful tapas,… thaaat’s it. Crème d’anchovies with pickled strawberries… Jellyfish soufflés with poached snail eggs on rocket salad.

    His mind was rapidly quite sober again.

    Taking the pile of notes, he landed it messily on the desk, almost startling Miss Bossy.

    “Sorry for the interruption, M’am, but I may have found something…”
    “Fine, there’s no need for theatrics, spill it!” Miss Bossy was ever the no-nonsense straight-to-business personality. Some would have called her rude, but they were ignorants, and possibly all dead now.

    “There was a clue, hidden in the trail of Hilda’s collection. I’m not sure how we have missed it.”

    “Ricardooo…” Miss Bossy’s voice was showing a soupçon of annoyance.

    “Yes, pardon me, I’m digressing. Look! Right here!”

    “What? How is it possible? Is that who I think it is?”

    “I think so.”

    They turned around to look across the hall at Sweet Sophie blissfully snoring.

    “I think she was one of her first patient-slash-assistant.”

    “How quaint. But, that explains a lot. Wait a minute. I thought none of his patients were ever found… alive?”

    “Maybe she outsmarted him…”

    They both weren’t too convinced about that. But they knew now old Sweet Sophie was probably unwittingly holding the key to the elusive Doctor.

    #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.”

    #4675
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    The sixth finger on Barbara’s left hand looked quite odd, but it was a nice recent addition from the Doctor. She looked at it while the Magpies were slowly awakening. A bleak bipping sound was all there was indicating the average pulse of the seven spies.
    The Doctor, poor man, seemed to have had some difficulties recently to remember her name and also that she was a woman. Since a few weeks, in order not to startle him when she entered the new lab, she had had to get rid of her beehive hairdo, but she had kept it in a secret vault in her bedroom and every evening she took it out and brushed it and put it on her head to remind her.

    She had been quite dedicated to the Doctor and had stayed despite the last mess at the Hidden Spa. She spent an awful lot of time erasing all the links and comments that could lead to them, hence such an empty thread. It was all her doing, Barbara’s, and she could do that because of her new left pinkie in which she had an electronic key controlling all the machines and the lab’s security network. And it was connected to the Internet.

    The bipping sound was accelerating signalling to her that they were close to awakening. She was going to call the Doctor, he had said that he had to be there when they opened their eyes because he must be the one on whom they imprinted. Like birds you know. He would be like their mother and they would obey him. She turned on the comlink and called him.

    “What?”
    “It’s Barb, Doctor.”
    “Who?”
    “Your assistant.”
    “Oh. Why are you disturbing me in my Jacuzzi?”
    “They are awakening.”
    “Who?”
    “The Magpies.”
    “Oh. I’m coming.”

    But there was no more time.
    The pods were open and the seven Magpies were looking at her.

    “No! No!” said the Doctor who entered at that moment. “What have you done!?”

    #4663
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    The plants seemed even more alive since Roberto had put on his new loincloth. The gardener’s joy was communicative and spreading rapidly. It had been a revelation to him, a newly found freedom and discovery of his sculptural body. Not that the gardener himself was aware of what was happening, but he enjoyed the effects of this new uniform. Knowing that it would lead to another great party was an even greater incentive for him to show it around.

    He always fancied himself as a healer of souls through his expertise of gardening, and seeing how his newly found joy in his work seemed to have awaken the desire of his landlady to get out more was a step in this direction.
    The poor woman was always staying inside, except for the big occasional parties, wearing pink night gowns. The house was too big and dark compared to the huge garden at her disposal.

    Roberto had been watering the begonias, and he also had been thinking. He thought Mistress Liz needed a man. He remembered he had kept the name card of that inspector with a fruity name. Inspector Melon. He could invite him to the Roman party and organise a little incident to have them alone for some time.
    What a marvellous idea, he thought with his latin accent.

    He went on watering the gardenias. He might be dressed up as a slave, but he had put himself in charge of the organisation of the Roman party. He would send the invitations and order the necessary props and costumes. It would be the perfect occasion also to find someone for Godfrey and Finnley.

    Although it should remain a surprise.

    #4655
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    He didn’t like the City, but there he was again. There seemed to always be a trail of clues leading back to it, no matter how much he wanted to distance himself from it.

    Rukshan wanted to make quick thing of his mission there. Find the librarian and trade the old map that the Sages had given him during the gathering, for another one.
    His appointed quest was to find the origin of the dark force, and for that, all clues seemed to point toward the elusive Master that Gorrash said had created him.

    The Sages in the Forest had told Rukshan about how, long before, the Master was banned from the magic circle in the Forest for practicing forbidden magic. They suspected he had since been hidden in the land of the Giants. The librarian had the map that Rukshan needed in order to get there.

    “Of course” he said, looking at the worn-out parchment that the librarian had taken from a large leather binder. The land of the Giant was on no map known to man, because their land was on another plane, much like the Shadow world of the Faes. Except this one was underground, in a hollow plane under theirs, untouched by men, with only rare points where both worlds touched.

    Of course, the portal to this world was back at the center of the Forest.

    #4652
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    Despite the underground currents, following the trail of blue glow from the glukenitches’ droppings was easy; far less subtle than old fashioned glow worms starmap reading…
    Mandrake was alerted to a sudden drop when the trail started to disappear abruptly, indicating the strong possibility of a chute of some kind.
    He only managed to catch Albie’s pants before he fell right in, and pulled both of them back to the shore. He had to be sure.

    “Good thing, that slimey dragon managed to power back the sabulmantium, we may get a hint of where we’re headed to.”
    “There’s no other way than the waterfall, is there Mr Mandrake?”
    “Shht. Let me concentrate, this thing is sensitive.”

    Under the paws of the cat, the sand inside the clear sphere started to move in shapes and describe a living story.

    “Mmm. Seems he wasn’t joking, never seen this thing behave so strangely before.”
    “What is this?”
    “It looks like something that I have seen a long time ago, but that wasn’t in this dimension… I guess we won’t know for sure until we get there. Ready boy for the dive of your life?”

    Albie didn’t have time to answer, as the cat wasn’t waiting for him.

    :fleuron2:
    :fleuron2:
    :fleuron2:
    :fleuron2:
    :fleuron2:
    :fleuron2:
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    :fleuron2:
    :fleuron2:

    The fall seemed to last forever. But then a light appeared, and they started to float up, up, up.

    When they emerged, they were clearly out of swamp waters. Salty water was all they could see for miles around.

    “A blessing you had an inflatable zodiac in your purse, Sir.” the boy said to the cat once they were up on the boat, waiting for a sign as to where next.

    “Whales! Whales!” the boy shouted excitedly, pointing to the shapes moving under their boat.

    “Ah, finally, someone with some wits about that can tell us some valuable information.”
    It didn’t take long to Mandrake to grab the attention of one of the belugas and engage the conversation; it didn’t seem particularly long to Albie, but it seemed like a lot was exchanged.

    “We’re on the Gold Coast of Australia” Mandrake said. “That dimension is a bit tricky for my species, humans here take us for lazy playthings and don’t really understand us, so I may have to rely on you for some of the talking, boy.”
    “For sure, Mr Mandrake. Did you get any news as to where Ms Arona might be?”
    “Might be. That whale started to babble thing about granola cookies and dolls. I have no idea what she meant, she might have been popped in by some alien force. Luckily whales are used to manage multiple personalities well, so I managed to get the rest of the navigational hints once she got her channels back in order.”
    “So where to now?”
    “Starboard, son, starboard!”

    #4635
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    Shawn Paul couldn’t help but listen when he heard Maeve’s voice. Was she at Lucinda’s again? He ventured outside his apartment with his unopened packet in his hands in order to have a clearer idea of what they were talking about.
    Not him apparently. They were talking about dolls and spies. He felt a bit jealous that other peoples had such beautiful stories to tell and he struggled so much to even write a few lines. Fortunately he always had a small notebook and a pen in his pockets. He scribbled down a few notes, trying to be fast and concise. He looked at his writing. It would be hard to read afterwards.
    He paused after writing the uncle’s name. Was it uncle Fungus? And the tarty spy in the fishnet, was it a photograph? And what about the bugs, was it an infestation? Too much information. It was hard to follow the story and write while holding the packet.

    He realised they had stopped speaking and Lucinda was closing the door. He suddenly panicked. What if Maeve found him there, listening?
    The time it took him to think about all that could happen was enough for Maeve to meet him were he stood the packet in his hands.

    “Hi she said. You got a packet ?”
    “Yes,” he answered, his mind almost blank. What could he possibly say. He was more of the writer kind, he needed time to think about his dialogues in advance. But, was it an inspiration from beyond he had something to say and justify his presence.
    “Someone just dropped this at my door and I was trying to see if I could catch them. There’s no address.” He turned the packet as if to confirm it.
    “There’s something written on the corner,” said Maeve. “It looks like an old newspaper cut.
    “Oh! You’re right,” said Shawn Paul.
    She looked closer.
    “What a coincidence,” said Maeve, looking slightly shocked.
    Shaw Paul brought the packet closer to his face. It smelled like granola cookies. On the paperclip there was an add for a trip to Australia with the address of a decrepit Inn somewhere in the wops. There was a photo of an old woman standing in front of the Inn, and Shawn Paul swore he saw her wink at him. The smell of granola cookies was stronger and made him hungry.
    He was not sure anymore he would be able to write his story that day.

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