“This is the life, eh!” June said, stretching out on the sun lounger sipping a fruity cocktail. “Turquoise sea and a salty breeze, this is the life for me!” she said, kicking off her new deck shoes in nautical blue and white, and hitching her dress hem up to expose her thighs to the sun.
The skipper raised an eyebrow and smiled sardonically, while simultaneously averting his eyes from the unappetizing sight of the doughy flesh. He could imagine this one rolling around below decks looking green as soon as the weather changed.
“Sure beats that jail. That had me worried, I’ll admit it. I wasn’t sure we were ever gonna make it outta there,” replied April, smiling fondly at Ella Marie and giving her hand an affectionate squeeze. “You saved our bacon, honey.”
“If it weren’t for that there Lord Wrick turning up, even the money might not have got you out.” Arthur chimed in. “Promising ole president Lump that land for the golf course if’n he pardoned you. Jacqui, you done wonders there.”
“Ah well, the young Lord Wrick owed me a favour, you might say. But that’s another story,” Jacqui replied. “The main thing was we had to get out of the country fast before Lump finds out about that land in Scotland.”
June sniggered. “Can’t imagine him in a kilt, can you? I wonder if he’s orange down there as well.”
“Oh, please! You really know how to lower the tone, dontcha? Gawd, what a thought!” April started to feel queasy. Changing the subject, she said, “Hey, did I tell you our Joanie’s going to meet us in Australia too?”
“Curiouser and curiouser” said Blithe after Hilda and Ric’s call led the improvised investigation to the doors of the Beige House. “It’s like those huge bills, I tend to find myself at the places I hate the most.”
The clue trails were solid. Track marks led to the Carpet cleaning business, and by following the plates of the van, and interrogating the suspicious yet gossipy neighbours (once she produced her P.I. badge), it was just a matter of time before they tracked the van’s whereabouts into Washingtown.
“I wonder what business they could have had there…”
Ricardo was doing his part too, tracking the social media feeds for anything hashtagged. Difficult to sort through, yet something came up.
“I’m not sure, usually I would have jumped at the occasion…” Hilda was showing unusual restraint. Maybe the perspective of US prisons…
Thankfully Blithe Gambol raised to the challenge. “Of course, we must check that out. Can’t be a coincidence. Just… Remind me what the case was already?”
Star was perusing the messages in the cults online forum, having joined the private group under the name of Writhe Mamble. It was time consuming, and a task that Star hoped to delegate to Rosamund. But first she needed to familiarize herself with the angle of the dogma and the leanings of the various members, as well as the physical data: photos, location, age and other affiliations.
Star had to keep reminding herself that it was of no importance whether or not she agreed with some of the messages, or strongly disagreed. Never the less she found herself liking some of the members as she read more, as well as wanting to slap others.
She made a note: remain neutral and remember why you are there. Star couldn’t help wondering uneasily how Rosamund would be at remaining neutral.
Maybe easier than you can manage it, said Granola, the voice appearing as if from nowhere.
“Easier than I can manage what?” asked Rosamund, crashing into the room with an armful of pizza boxes. Without pausing for an answer, she continued, “Mum’s having a fit, I might have to have tomorrow off work to go and calm her down. She’s talking about locking the house up and moving in with me. I can’t have that, I got a bit of business going on at the flat, you know what I mean?” Rosumund wiped the tomato sauce off her mouth with her sleeve.
“But why is she threatening to do that?” asked Star, who wasn’t the least bit interested.
“Her sister’s on her way over.” Misinterpreting Star’s raised eyebrow, Rosamund added. “Oh yes. THAT sister.”
June was impatiently waiting for the Oober, and asking April every second where the driver was.
“You should get the app if you’re so damn impatient!” finally snapped April who had watched a video on how to stop being a crowd pleaser and start asserting herself. Might as well be with June, as she was the kind of bossy britches who would let the light shine anywhere else than on herself.
June looked at her and raised an eyebrow. “Good, you’re learning from our dear Pdt Lump, be yourself. Have you tweeted it already?”
“Why do you always have to make everything a political statement?”
“Because everything is, dear! Don’t get me started on that… Look, I think that’s our driver! Whoohooo!” She waved at him in an outrageous fashion.
“Stop that! Or we’ll have to find another ride, or worse, get assaulted!” The driver did actually look a little bit started by the two in their matching red tracksuits. They had a street dance planned with the Chinese maids from the Chinese Embassy where the party was planned during the time it was empty, due to Chinese New Year.
“Anyway, I hope the kid is going to be fine.” April sighed a little concerned.
“Oh don’t worry about that, what could happen, really? Let’s enjoy our Friday night out, shall we.”
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.
“This is mine,” said the *Man In Black (MIB) as he wrestled the waterbottle from the grip of a small boy. “You are welcome to the mangled bike though,” he said as the boy started to whimper. “Maybe you can fix it up.”
After a quick glance to make sure nobody was watching, MIB yanked off his waxed moustache and put it in the top pocket of his Louis Vuitton tux with black satin trimmings. He opened his briefcase and carefully deposited the waterbottle inside. Finally, he pulled out a wooden top beanie and placed it on his head.
He raised his arm to his mouth. “Good to go,” he said into his writstwatch.
[* (for Tracy) Maeve thought she saw a man in black following them at the airport. He supposedly went back to his headquarters, however turns out that was a ruse and now he is in possession of the waterbottle containing the doll. don’t ask me which doll. Maybe Eric knows.]
Bugger them all then, Lucinda said to herself, I’ll carry on here without them.
For a time she had been despondent at being abandoned, sinking into an aching overcast gloom to match the weather. Waiting for it to rain, and then waiting for it to stop.
On impulse, in an attempt to snap out of the doldrums, she signed up for a Creative Writing and Rambling course at the local Psychic Self Institute. Institutionalizing psychic matters had been the brainchild of the latest political party to gain power, and hitherto under the radar prophets, healers and remote viewers had flocked to sign up. The institute has promised pension and public health credits to all members who could prove their mental prowess, and needless to say it had attracted many potential scammers: useless nobodies who wanted to heal their diseases, or lazy decrepit old scroungers who wanted to retire.
Much to everyone’s surprise, not least their own, the majority of them had passed the tests, simply by winging it: making it up and hoping for the best. Astonishingly the results were more impressive than the results from the already established professional P.H.A.R.T.s ~ (otherwise known as Prophets, Healers and Remote Technicians).
This raised questions about the premise of the scheme, and how increasingly difficult it was to establish a criteria for deservingness of pensions and health care, particularly if any untrained and unregistered Tom, Dick or Harry was in possession of superior skills, as appeared to be the case. The debate continues to this day.
Nothwithstanding, the Institute continued to offer courses, outings and educational and inspiring talks. The original plan had been to offer qualifications, but the entrance exams had provoked such a quandary about the value and meaning (if any) of qualifications, that the current modus operandi was to simply offer each member, regardless of merit or experience, a simple membership card with a number on it. It was gold coloured and had classical scrolls and lettering on it in an attempt to bestow worth and meaning. Nobody was fooled, but everyone loved it.
And everyone loved the tea room at the Institute. It was thought that some cake aficionado’s had even joined the Institute merely for the desserts, but nobody objected. There was a welcome collective energy of pleasure, appreciation and conviviality in the tea room, and it’s magnetic appeal ~ and exceptional cakes ~ ensured it’s popularity and acclaim.
A small group had started a campaign to get it placed on the Institutes Energetic Cake Connector mapping programme. As Lucinda had said in a moment of clarity, “A back street bar can be just as much of an energy magnet as an old stone relic”, casting doubt over the M.O.S.S group’s (Mysterious Old Stone Sites) relevance to anything potentially useful.
“In fact,” Lucinda continued, surprising herself, ““I’ve only just realized that the energy magnets aren’t going to be secret, hidden and derelict. They’re going to be busy. Like cities.”
Several members of the M.O.S.S group had glared at her.
Lucinda hadn’t really thought much about what to expect in the creative writing classes.
“Vincentius?” Arona was surprised to see him back in the cave; she looked at Leörmn with a doubtful raised eyebrow.
“Don’t look at me like that, dear”, the dragon replied “he found his own way back to you.”
“It was all thanks to Yikesy” Vincentius said.
Albie was confused as ever.
“Albie! Where have you been!” His mother Freda (or was it Lottie?) was howling from the top of the stone staircase overlooking the crystalline blue pool with its shore of diamantine sands. “Come right here immediately! That dragon and these foreign interlopers ain’t no fit and proper company!”
I couldn’t offer Sanso a drink, as there wasn’t a drop of anything in my room, so I sent him down to the dining room to get a bottle of gin, and a couple of glasses of ice. I was a bit reluctant to let him out of my bedroom at such an early stage of the proceedings, but felt he was a man of his word when he assured me (with an engaging twinkle) that of course he’d be back, in just two shakes of a mongooses tail. Odd expression if you ask me, but then, where does he come from? Hard to say. He had a slight accent, but it was impossible to pin down to a location, and it had a changeable quality, too.
He wasn’t gone long, and said that the only person who’d seen him was Prune, but that was inevitable, he said. That kid sees everything! She’d be a fount of valuable information, if she didn’t put such a unique spin on everything.
I sat on the bed, and he sat in the wicker chair by the window, and after we’d clunked glasses and said cheers, he came right out and asked me what my mission was. Well! Mission? I asked. I’d never really thought about it in terms of a mission. Then a funny thing happened. I could hear myself speaking but hadn’t thought about what to say, you know how it is sometimes.
I said, “my mission is a glorious infinite wandering, threading multicoloured silken skeins of clues and riddles, people and places, weaving them in and out of time and to each other…”
Sanso laughed. “He said “That’s my mission, too!” and we raised our glasses in honour of that, and then he got serious. No, not like that. I mean, he started going on about the mines, and how we really had no time to lose because there were two daft tarts in extreme danger down there, and they needed rescuing. I rolled my eyes as you can imagine. I’d already started semi reclining in anticipation.
“It’ll be fun,” he said.
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.
“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.
“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?”
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.”
“It’s quiet here, don’t you think?” Godfrey was enjoying a moment, gazing through the Victorian windows of the silent mansion at the piglets running outside chased by Roberto.
“Not in small parts thanks to Elizabeth Madam being abroad for a visit to her Uncle Bob.” Finley raised her nose off her wool balls, as she was indulging in a little knitting break from the cleaning duties by the fire.
“God knows what it will bring though. I have an idea, she might come all shaken from so much family time.”
“Certainly, no one wants to see her shaken though, we all remember too well the last… episode.” Finnley sighed.
The trial run was not a complete success, and so it was back to the cooking pot and the agonizingly slow wait.
The spell and the magic concoction had rendered the three women partially invisible: it seemed that anything with the colour yellow in it (including of course green and orange and so on) remained plainly visible. Pathways of bile had been illuminated like never before: it was not a pleasant sight.
“I always have trouble with the damn yellows,” remarked Eleri with a despondent sigh, as her hand absentmindedly rubbed her solar plexus. “Hey!” she elbowed Glynis in the ribs, “I just had a thought! Maybe you need to put something purple in the pot.”
“I don’t know but you know how they always tell you to twirl your yellows with purple.” Eleri’s face fell and her shoulders sagged. “I don’t know, Glynis, it’s all so discouraging. I miss the others, it’s too damn quiet around here these days. You’d think we’d be able to amuse ourselves, and that makes it even more depressing, doesn’t it? How on earth are we going to snap out of it?”
“Speak for yourself you miserable tart, I’m busy trying to make this potion so we can get out of here. Just try to buck up, will you! If I had time I’d make you a Buck the Fuck Up potion, but can’t you see I’m busy!” Glynis slammed the wooden spoon down on the counter and burst into tears.
Eleri raised an eyebrow and said sagely, “Who’s calling who a miserable tart now then, eh!” and then ducked as the wooden spoon came hurtling towards her.
“Now now,” said Margoritt, “We’re all a bit stressed, no need to take it out on each other. Group hug!”
Lucinda answered her honking phone, while silently indicating to the waiter whose drink was whose. She smiled as she noticed the reaction of the people sitting at the other tables to the strident honking geese noise she’d chosen for her phone. The mundane daily things that amuses one are more important that you think, she’d say if anyone mentioned it, and the reaction to the honking tickled her every time her phone rang.
“Maeve, darling!” she gushed, showing off a bit in front of Shawn Paul and Jerk, and then her face puckered into a frown as she cringed. “Oh dear, I’m awfully sorry… . No, of course you can’t decorate it all on your own, that wouldn’t be fair at all, but that’s the thing I wanted to tell you,” Lucinda was thinking quickly, “The neighbour, you know that tall one with the nice smile, and the, er..the well dressed one, yes that’s the one, the writer, well he’s going to help us with everything…”
Almost imperceptibly, Shawn Paul’s head jerked back a little upon hearing this, as he wondered what exactly he was expected to help with.
Lucinda continued into the phone, “And you know the guy from the supermarket down the road, the , um, the quiet one, well ok perhaps you haven’t noticed…. what? yes, that’s the one! well he’s going to help too. What? Oh I’m sure he’s only like that at work,” Lucinda glanced at Jerk with a little laugh, mouthing something indecipherable to him and pointing at the phone with a roll of her eyes. Jerk raised a single sardonic eyebrow and sipped his cocktail.
“I tell you what Maeve, come and join us. We’re having drinks at the Red Beans cafe. Where? It’s next to the Karmalott Kafe on the river front, you know it? Good! See you in ten, then.” Lucinda snapped her phone shut and beamed at the two men.
“Where does that music come from?” asked Liz baffled that someone could play such unLiz music while she was there.
Godfrey and Finnley looked at each others rolling eyes and gulped another glass of tonic.
“Well, why. It’s Roberto,” said Godfrey. “He came to me the other day with an old VHS he had found in the cellar. Apparently an old French gym program called Gym Tonic with two girls hopping and stretching for one hour.”
“I didn’t even know we had a cellar here,” said Liz. More treasures to find, she thought, her eyes glittering.
“I recognise that look of yours,” said Finnley, “Don’t even think about it. You’ll come back and scatter spiderwebs and dust all around and I’ll have to find someone to clean your mess. Take another tonic.” Finnley handed a glass to Liz and Godfrey looked, one eyebrow raised dramatically, at her other hand hidden behind her back. It held a small vial that looked empty.
“I think a sandstorm is coming” Rukshan pointed at Olli the menacing clouds galloping towards them. “We need to find cover!”
It was too risky for them to teleport again with this meteorological turbulence.
A small ridge of rock was showing not far from their landing spot. They started to rush towards it, their steps burrowing in the shifting sands making their run almost like a crawl.
“We won’t make it!” Olli had stumbled in the soft ground, his eyes filled with terror at the darkening reddish sky.
“Olli, hurry! we’re almost there!”
“Kweee” a squeeky sound that almost felt like a purring seemed to alleviate Olli’s fears for a moment, and he managed to hurry back to cover.
“Not a second too early!” Rukshan shouted in the midst of the howling sands.
The rocky formation had a crevice which was just big enough for them, and would keep them safe. Rukshan had deployed a large cape to try to seal the entrance with a magical spell.
“Safe, for now.” He felt tickled. “What the…?”
A few weeks back now, a visitor had come to the forest. A visitor dressed in the clothes of a tramp.
“And who might I say is calling?” asked Margoritt. She looked intently into the eyes of the tramp and a look of shock crossed her countenance. “Ah, I see now who you are.”
The tramp nodded.
“I mean no harm to you, Old Lady and I mean no harm to Glynis. Tell her to come to the clearing under the Silver Birch. Tell her to make haste.”
And with that he hobbled away.
It was no more than a few minutes later, Glynnis came to the clearing. She strode up to the tramp and stood defiant in front of him.
“What is it you want now!?” she demanded. “And why have you come disguised as a homeless wanderer dressed in rags, you coward! Is this more of your trickery! Can you not leave me in peace with my fate! Have you not done enough harm to me already! And all because I could not love you in return! she scoffed at him, her voice raised in fury and unable to halt the angry tirade though she knew caution would be the more prudent path to take.
The tramp stood silent in the face of her anger.
“I have come to say I am sorry and to undo the harm I did to you,” he said at last. “I was wondering would you like me to remove the scales from your face?”
Glynnis could not reply. She stared at him in shock, trying to comprehend what his words meant.
“My father left this dimension a short while ago,” he continued. “When he left, something changed in me. A dark mass had obscured my vision so I could feel only hatred towards you. When my father departed, so did the hatred. I realise now he cursed me … since then I have seen clearly the wrong I did to you and hastened to make amends. I came dressed as a tramp … well to be honest I thought it was quite a fun costume and I did not want to cause undue fear in those I met on my path.”
He reached into his tattered cape and pulled out a small package. “Apply this lotion every night for a week. It will dissolve the scales and as well will heal the scars within as you sleep.”
The teleporter in pink raised an eyebrow at overhearing the mention of the refund policy of the auction house: just moments ago she had received a message of satisfaction from an interdimensional auction house on the successful completion of a returned manifestation.
hut silence arrived humans
air fell comes above ape raised
paused taking particular powerful window entrance
death rather waiting minutes dry
Liz’s smile melted away when Roberto entered the living room, he was covered in dust and spider webs. What flustered her most wasn’t the trail of dirt and insects the gardener was leaving behind him, but that he was not in India.
Liz threw knives at Godfrey with her eyes, a useful skill she had developed during her (long) spare time, but he dodged them easily and they sank straight into the wall with a thud.
Finnley rolled her eyes and ordered one of the guy from the TV crew to take the knives off the wall. “Don’t forget to repaint afterward”, she said with a satisfied smile.
“I think I slept too much long,” Roberto said with his charming latino accent. At that time, Liz could almost forgive him not to be in India. “Funny thing is I dreamt I was doing yoga in India, near Colombo.”
“What about the interview?” asked the woman from the TV.
“We’ll need a charter,” said Finnley who liked very much to give orders.
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