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  • EricEric
    Keymaster

    This year, Christmas has come a month early for Clara.

    VanGogh, her Malinois with the lopsided ear had dug a hole in the garden of Grandpa’s home in the countryside. She usually wouldn’t have given it second thought, but the hole was big this time, and the dog unusually excited. Looking at it, that’s when she noticed the shiny corner of what seemed to be a very large metal box.

    There was something buried there, apparently since a long time. Her archaeologist senses were all tingly. What, why, how, and how far back in time could she go… She couldn’t wait to tell the others.

    #6146
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    “And who might you be?” Finnley looked at the oddly clothed bag lady who’d appeared in the staff wing.

    “I’m November, you punny insolent thing.”

    “What sort of name is that? Is that a woman’s name anyway?”

    “Jeeze Louise, consider it non-binary. It feels like there is too much woman energy in that den anyway.”

    “And what makes you feel like you are in charge now?”

    “Let’s call it power vacuum, sweetie. And if you’re itching at the thought, just wait until you see my boss.”

    “Let me guess. She’s December, right?”

    “Yep. And they are a mean piece of work, and going to make a swift clean up of all the dregs left over by that orange nightmare.”

    #6139

    In reply to: Tart Wreck Repackage

    TracyTracy
    Participant

    “I’m not paying for everyone’s bill!” shouted Vince, stamping his foot.

    “If you don’t pay the bill, I’ll call the police,” said the waitress, closing the door and turning the open sign to closed. She turned the key and put it in her apron pocket.  “Either you pay the bill or you wash the dishes.”

    Vince was just about the stamp his foot again and a look of anguish came over his face. Finton, the waitress, looked quizzically at him and reached out to touch his arm.  “Are you alright?”

    Then the floodgates opened and Vince collapsed in a chair, tears rolling down his face.  Finton sat down next to him and put her arm across his shoulders, patting him gently until the sobbing had subsided.

    “Now then, sir, why don’t you tell me all about it while you’re doing the dishes,” she said kindly, “I’d be happy to listen, and I can interrogate you too, if that’s what you’d like.”

    Vince wiped his eyes and blew his nose with a crumpled napkin, smearing strawberry jam across his cheeks.  Finton didn’t have the heart to tell him, and tried hard not to snigger.

    “Call me Vince,” he smiled weakly, and followed Finton into the kitchen.

    #6137

    In reply to: Tart Wreck Repackage

    TracyTracy
    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!”

    #6132
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    I don’t know how long it’s been since I ran away but I wish I’d done it years ago. I’m having a whale of a time. Every day is different and always new people to talk to.  Boggles my mind to think how long I spent sitting in the same place seeing the same two or three faces day in day out.  I miss my old comfy chair sometimes, though. That’s one thing that’s hard to find, a nice recliner to kick back and snooze in.  You can find things to sit on, but not with arms and a backrest.

    I discovered a good trick for getting a bit of a lie down, though, especially when it rains.  I go and sit in an emergency ward waiting room and start doubling over saying I’m in pain, and they let me lie on a trolley.   If I fall asleep quietly they tend to forget me, they’re that busy rushing all over the place, and then when I wake up I just sneak out.  Always make full use of the bathroom facilities before I go and if I wander around a bit I can usually find one with a shower as well.  Usually find some useful odds and ends on the carts the staff push around, and then I’m on my way, rested, showered, toileted and ready to roll.

    I always wear a mask though, I don’t take unnecessary risks.  And I only take unused syringes to trade with the junkies.  I wouldn’t want it on my conscience that I’d passed the plague on to anyone vulnerable.

    #6128

    In reply to: Tart Wreck Repackage

    TracyTracy
    Participant

    “Never again,” said Tara, pouring her second black coffee.  “I’m done with these hangovers. You’ll have to find someone else to drink with from now on.”

    “You say that every week, Tara.  What are we going to do next? We’re floundering. We don’t even have a plan. Everything we do takes us further away from the case. I don’t even remember what the case is!”

    “Here, have some more coffee.  Don’t roll your eyes at me like that, cases are always like this, they always go through this phase.”  Tara wasn’t in the mood for this kind of depressing talk, it was much too complicated. Surely it was simply a matter of drinking another coffee, until everything fell back into place.

    “Cases do, do they?” Star asked, “Do they really? And what phase would that be, and how would you know?”

    “Snarky tart, yes they do. I’ve been researching things you know, not just swanning around.  We’ve reached the part of the case where nothing makes sense and the investigators don’t know what to do next. It’s an essential part of the process, everyone knows that.  The important thing is not to try and work things out too early. The danger is preconceived ideas, you see,” Tara pontificated, warming to the theme.

    “I can assure you that I have no preconceived ideas because I have no clue what’s going to happen next,” replied Star, trying not to roll her eyes too obviously.  She knew from experience not to provoke Tara too much until at least the third cup of coffee.

    “Precisely!” Tara said triumphantly. “Now it will all start to come together and make sense. ”

    Star didn’t look convinced.  “What are we going to do about the middle aged lady we locked in the wardrobe last night, though?”

    “What did we do that for?!” asked Tara in astonishment.

    “I can’t remember.  Maybe we thought it was Aunt April?”

    “Wait, if Aunt April isn’t in the wardrobe, then where is she?”

    “That’s what I”m saying!” cried Star in exasperation. “What do we do next?”

    #6124

    In reply to: Tart Wreck Repackage

    FloveFlove
    Participant

    “I’ve been wondering …” Star tightened her lips. “No … perhaps not.”

    “What? Spit it out,” said Rosamund.

    “It’s nothing … just that … I interpreted my remote view as New Zealand but perhaps it wasn’t New Zealand per se, and by that I mean perhaps it was a symbolic representation, a clue if you will, and i was too quick to rush in and give it meaning.”

    Rosamund screwed up her face. “You lost me at Purse Eh.”

    “Me too, dear!” said the middle aged lady. “Does she always go on like this?”

    “Worse usually. Yabba yabba yabba them two. How about I swop you dental floss for some lippy?”

    “Don’t yo mine those rudy poohs,” said Tara, who was starting to sound a little slurred. “What’d ya see, Star, eh?” Star’s remote viewing skills never failed to amaze her, and, to be honest, she’d been surprised when Star made such a horrendous hash of this latest attempt. Once she had sobered up she might feel compelled to apologise for her rude outburst. She snorted into her drink. Not bloody likely!

    Before Star could answer, there was an excited scream from the waitress.

    “Look, who’s here!” she shouted. “Look everybody! It’s only Vincentius come to join us!!”

    “Why, thank you. What a welcome!” said Vincentius in a deep melodious voice. He sauntered casually over to the bar, seemingly oblivious to the effect he was having.

    “Oh. My. God,” said Star.

    Rosamund who was using the lipstick to write her number on the burly bouncer’s bicep gave him a shove. “Get lost, Loser!” she hissed.

    “Over here, Vincentush! Whover yo are!” shouted Tara before falling off her bar stool.

    #6122

    In reply to: Tart Wreck Repackage

    FloveFlove
    Participant

    “Wait!” said Star. “Have we unwittingly stumbled upon a secret meeting of the bellbird cult?”

    The bouncer laughed. “Not exactly a secret meeting. It’s more of our monthly get-together. We have drinks and what-not and a bit of a sing-song”

    “Sound great! Where do I sign up?” asked Tara, mesmerised by the burly bouncer’s biceps.

    Tara!” hissed Star. “I think you’ve had a few too many!” Just then, she noticed April trying to make a sneaky getaway.”NOT SO FAST, APRIL!” she shouted.”Grab her, Burly Bouncer!”

    The BB grinned charmingly and grabbed hold of April. “Anything to oblige,” he said, flirtatiously winking at Star.

    “Now, April,” said Star sternly, “you are not going anywhere until you have told us exactly what is going on?”

    April sighed crossly. “I came to the get-together tonight to find out if anyone had seen or heard from Vince. It was mere chance I stumbled upon you two.”

    Tara sneered at the obvious lie. “Then why did you run? Huh?”

    “If you must know, and it appears you must, I believe I saw him.” She pointed to the entrance. “He was wearing a disguise of course. When he saw me, he ran, clearly fearing I would see through his disguise and reveal to the world that he is not in a coma.”

    Star scratched her head. “I see,” she said.

    “So much for New Zealand and your remote viewing skills,” sneered Tara.

    “Why is Vince French pretending to be in a coma? And, if it is not him, then who is in a coma?” asked Star, ignoring Tara’s rudeness. She had always been a nasty drunk.

    April shook her head. “Those are questions only Vincent French can answer.”

    “Going around in circles a bit, aren’t you?” said BB with a kindly smile. “Cheer up! Look around you! Beauty is everywhere and drinks are on the house!”

    #6121

    In reply to: Tart Wreck Repackage

    TracyTracy
    Participant

    “Now then ladies, what’s all this about?” The burly bouncer appeared, blocking the doorway.

    “Look!” hissed Tara, showing him the tattoo on April’s shoulder.  “This!”

    “Nice tattoo!” he said appreciatively.  “Why, I even have one myself just like it!”

    “On your buttock?” asked Star incredulously.

    “Why you cheeky thing,” replied the bouncer with a smile. “No, as it happens it’s on my ankle.  I left the cult before I reached buttock bell bird status.”

    “Wait, what? What cult?”

    “The same cult as you were in,” he said, turning to April. “Am I right?”

    “I don’t know what you mean,” stammered April, reddening.

    “What the hell is going on!” shouted Tara.  “Are we the only ones NOT in the damn cult?”

    “Looks like it” smirked the waitress, pulling her blouse up to reveal a bell bird tattoo on her belly.

    “That’s it, I’ve had enough of this! I’m going back to the wardrobe!” exclaimed Star.

    The bouncer and the waitress exchanged glances. “Unwoke sheeple losing their minds,” the waitress said knowingly.

    “Oh my fucking god,” Tara said, close to tears.

    #6116

    In reply to: Tart Wreck Repackage

    TracyTracy
    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!”

    #6114

    In reply to: Tart Wreck Repackage

    FloveFlove
    Participant

    Aunt April blew her nose loudly into a tissue.

    “Are you ready to talk, April?” asked Star gently.

    April nodded, took a sip from her tea, put it on the saucer and sighed loudly. “I’ll do my best. You see, everyone thinks Vince French is in a coma. But he isn’t. That isn’t Vince.”

    “Wait up, let me take notes,” said Tara. “So, how do you know that isn’t Vince French?”

    “The real Vince has a tattoo of a bell-bird on his right buttock.”

    Rosamund snorted. “Ooh, go Auntie April!”

    “I had my suspicions … so I had to see for myself. On pretext of being a nurse, I managed to inveigle myself into the institution where he is supposedly being kept to look at his derriere. There are other small differences too, but that clinched it for me.”

    Star nodded. “I see, well done! So you and Vincent French were having an …?”

    “A liaison of rather a passionate nature. Yes.”

    “And the wardrobe? The notes?”

    “I had the wardrobe sent up.”

    Tara looked puzzled. “But … what on earth for?”

    “Oh, the wardrobe is a red herring. I really just wanted to get rid of it and rather than send it to charity thought you girls might make use of it.”

    “And the notes? The fictitious Uncle Albie?” asked Star.

    April screwed up her face and giggled nervously. “Well, you are a struggling start-up business and there were no social media reviews to go by … so it was a test really. To see if you were good enough to take on the case.”

    Tara glowered at her. “And?”

    “You passed! Congratulations! As Rosamund may have told you, I am filthy rich and money is no object. We must get to the bottom of this mystery.”

    “Bottom,” said Rosamund and sniggered.

    #6111

    In reply to: Scrying the Word Cloud

    TracyTracy
    Participant

    thought cult ask nice

    soon lack aunt garden

    half understand tea fancy

    finger snoot boredom

    mad mind matter ladies

    young sun

    waiting crazy sorry

    worry seems nice rosamund

    fresh local mind

    mad strong character

    luck fact enjoy

    hardly sitting matter

    #6107

    In reply to: Tart Wreck Repackage

    FloveFlove
    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.”

    #6104

    In reply to: Tart Wreck Repackage

    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Rosamund pressed her ear to the wardrobe door and listened.  Nothing.  She tapped gently. No response.  “Is there anyone in there?” she whispered.  She rapped on the door, harder this time. “Are you hungry?” she said loudly.  “Got a pizza ordered, you want one?”

    “Yes please,” came the muffled reply. “Ham and pineapple.”

    Rosamund reeled backwards.

    “Pineapple!”  Romamund was aghast. “Not on pizza!”

    “OK cheese and tomato then, just let me out! I’m desperate for a pee!” the voice was wheedling, and oddly familiar.

    “Promise no pineapple?”

    “For god’s sake woman, let me out! I promise!”

    Rosamund turned the key and quickly stepped back a few paces, grabbing the broom as a weapon. People trapped in wardrobes could be aggressive, she knew that much.

    The wardrobe rocked dangerously as a bulky shape emerged, swathed in mink.

    “Aunty April!” Rosamund gasped. “What are you doing in there!”

    April shook the moth eaten fur off her shoulders and smoothed the tangled hair back from her brow.  “I might ask you the same question, young lady!  Wait til your mother hears about this!  But first, point me in the direction of the rest rooms!”

    “Over there, ” Rosamund said weakly.  “I’ll order your pizza.”

    #6103

    In reply to: Tart Wreck Repackage

    FloveFlove
    Participant

    “Do what?” asked Rosamund, returning from lunch.

    Rosamund! About time. You’ve been gone days. Thought you must have quit.” Tara tried to keep the disappointment from her voice.

    Tara and I are going to expose the cult! And it would be a whole lot easier if you would stick around to answer the phone in our absence.” Star looked accusingly at Rosamund.

    Rosamund scrunched her brow. “Am I in bloody groundwort day or something? Didn’t you close that case?” She grinned apologetically.  “Just before I went to lunch?”

    Tara rubbed her head. “Damn it, she’s right! How could we have forgotten!”

    “Oh!” Star gasped. “The person who turned up in the mask! Yesterday evening. That must have been our second case! The one with the cheating husband!”

    They both looked towards the wardrobe — the large oak one, next to the drinks cupboard. The wardrobe which had rather mysteriously turned up a few days ago, stuffed full of old fur coats and rather intriguing boxes—the delivery person insisted he had the right address. “And after all, who are we to argue? We’ll just wait for someone to claim it, shall we?” Star had said, thinking it might be rather fun to explore further.

    Tara grimaced. “Of course. It wasn’t an armed intruder; it was our client practising good virus protocol.”

    “And that banging noise isn’t the pipes,” said Star with a nervous laugh. “I’d better call off the caretaker.”

    “We really must give up comfort drinking!” said Tara, paling as she remembered the intruder’s screaming as they’d bundled her into the wardrobe.

    Rosamund shook her head. “Jeepers! What have you two tarts gone and done.”

    Star and Tara looked at each other. “Rosamund …” Star’s voice was strangely high. “How about you let her out. Tara and I will go and have our lunch now. Seeing as you’ve had such a long break already.”

    “Me! What will I say?”

    Tara scratched her head. “Um …offer her a nice cup of tea and tell her she’ll laugh about this one day.”

    “If she’s still bloody alive,” muttered Rosamund.

    #6088

    In reply to: Tart Wreck Repackage

    EricEric
    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.”

    #6086

    In reply to: Tart Wreck Repackage

    EricEric
    Keymaster

    “A dil-do factory?” She was aghast. “A fucking carrot dildo factory?”

    “Admit it, we’re rubbish at this” Tara said. “Even Rosamund may be better at this than us.”

    “Oh don’t push it.” Star lit a large cigar, a nasty habit that cropped up when she was nervous. She blew a smoke ring and sighed. “At least the rogering was a nice change. Good clean sex, almost a spiritual experience.”

    “Oh come now, with all the don’t-need-to-know details…”

    “Well, don’t be such a prude, you were there after all. With all that luscious moaning. Haven’t seen you so flushed in ages…” Star tittered in that high-pitched laughter that could shatter crystal flutes.

    “Wait… a minute.” Tara was having a brainwave. “We may have overlooked something.”

    “What? In the sex department?”

    “Shush, you lascivious banshee… In the flushed department.”

    “What? Don’t speak riddles tart, I can’t handle riddles when my body’s aching from all that gymnastic.”

    “Can’t you see? They got to get rid of the dissident stuff unfit for cultish dildoing, if you catch my drift.”

    “Oh I catch it alright, but I’ve checked the loo… Oh, what? you mean the compost pile?”

    “I’ve seen trucks parked out the back, they where labelled… Organic Lou’s Disposal Services… OLDS… That’s probably how they remove their archives, if you see what I mean.”

    “Alright, alright, we’ll go investigate them tomorrow. Meanwhile, what about Mr French?” Star was puffing on her cigar making a good effort at trying to remember and link the details together.

    “I have a theory. Although it usually would be more in your area of theories.”

    “What? Alien abduction?”

    “No, don’t be ridiculous. I’m talking time travel… Haven’t you noticed the scent of celery when we were at the mansion and the appartment?”

    “A dead give-away for time-travelling shenanigans!”

    “Exactly. And if I’m correct, might well be that it’s Mr French from the future who phoned us, before he returned to his timeline. Probably because he already knows we’re going to crack the case. Before we know.”

    “Oh, that’s nice. Would have been nicer if he’d told us how to solve it instead, if he knew, from the future and all? Are you not sure he’s not from his past instead, like before he got in that dreadful car accident?”

    “Oh well, doesn’t matter does it? And probably won’t any longer once we locate the Uncle Basil in the Drooling Home of Retired Vegetables.”

    #6078
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    “You really know your trade, Fuyi,” said Rukshan. “You’ve built the most exquisite and comfortable place. And I think the empty dishes speak aplenty about the quality of the food and the pleasure we took in this shared meal. Now, let us help you with the dishes,” said Rukshan.

    “Ach! Don’t be so polite,” said Fuyi. “I’ll have plenty of time after yar departure tomorrow. It’s not like the inn is full. Just enjoy an evening together, discuss yar plans, and have some rest. I know that life. Take the chance when it presents itself!”

    Rushan nodded and looked at Kumihimo. Fox sighed with relief. His belly was full and round, and he didn’t want to disturbed his digestion with some chore.

    The Sinese food made by the innkeeper had been delicious and quite a first for most of them. Tak had particularly enjoyed the crunchy texture of the stir fried vegetables flavoured with the famous five spices sauce. Nesy had preferred the algae and chili dishes while Fox, who ate a red hot pepper thinking it was bell pepper, had stuffed himself with juicy pork buns to put out the fire in his mouth.

    Gorrash, befuddled by the novelty, had been at a loss of labels, good or bad. He simply chose to welcome the new experiences and body reactions to flavours and textures. As for Olliver, he gave up the chopsticks when he saw how fast Fox made the food disappear from the dishes.

    Now that the dishes were empty, the children and Gorrash had left the table and were playing near the fireplace. Olliver was looking at the trio with envy, split between the desire to play and enjoy the simplicity of the moment, and the desire to be taken more seriously which meant participate in the conversation with the adults.

    “We have plenty to discuss, Fae,” said Kumihimo.

    Fuyi looked at Olliver, recognising the conundrum. “That’s settled, then,” he said to the group. Then turning toward Olliver: “Boy! I’m sure the start of the conversation will be boring for a young mind. Let’s join the others for a story of my own. You can still come back later and they’ll fill you in on the details.”

    Fuyi and Olliver moved to the fireplace. The innkeeper threw cushions on the floor and sat on a wooden rocking chair. At the mention of a story, Tak, Nesy and Gorrash couldn’t contain their exuberant joy and gathered all ears around Admirable Fuyi. As he rocked, the chair creaked. He waited until they all calmed down. And when he was satisfied he started.

    “I was young and still a fresh recruit in the Sinese army,” started Fuyi. “We were stationed at the western frontier just below the high plateaus and I hadn’t participated in any battle yet. With the folly of youth I thought that our weapons and the bond we shared with my fellow soldiers were enough to defeat anything.”

    #6074

    In reply to: Tart Wreck Repackage

    EricEric
    Keymaster

    “Wait a moment!” he turned back and asked Eugene.

    “Have you given a thought about tartigrades? Heard they’re those sorts of teensiest moss piglets and could eat their fill of microscopic snails — I guess provided with enough microscopic garlic butter.”

    He didn’t wait for Eugene’s answer. “Give it a thought, will ya.”

    Damn right he couldn’t do everybody’s job around.

    #6062

    In reply to: The Pistil Maze

    AvatarJib
    Participant

    The journey to the Pistil itself would have been worth its own story, thought Charlton. They had to avoid road blocks, crowds of chanting christians that had certainly vowed to spread the virus as fast as possible, and howlers who you were never sure weren’t the real thing from Teen Wolf. They had to be, in such a landscape. Once arid, it had turned greener in just a few weeks. Rain was now weekly when drops of water used to only show up with the bottles of water from the tourists.

    Despite Kady’s advice not to take anything, he’d still brought the book of drawings. Kady had said nothing about the book, nor the clothes, or the snacks. Charlton was sometimes literal about what people told him, but he also knew it. So he didn’t say anything when he saw Kady had her own backpack with clothes, some money and food. During the trip, he tried to reproduce the experience with the drawings and the dreams —but nothing happened. Charlton felt a little disappointed.

    They saw the pistil long before they arrived at its foot. It was at the end of the day and the sunset was splashing its reds and purples all around it. Charlton had had time to get used to its tall presence in the landscape. Yet, seeing it at a close range from below was a strange experience. Taller than the tallest man-made tower. He wondered what he was supposed to feel in its presence. Awe? Electricity? Enlightenment? Bursts of inspiration? This should at least be a mystical moment, but all he could feel was annoyance at the crowd of people crawling around like aphids avid to suck its sap.

    Kady looked more annoyed than surprised. She was walking past the flock as if she knew exactly where to go. Charlton followed, feeling dizzy by the sudden increase of activity and smells. He soon got nauseous at the mix of incense and fried sausages.

    “There are so many of them,” he eventually said. “How come? It was so difficult just for the two of us to avoid police controls. Do we have to wait with them?”

    “Nah! They’re just the usual bunch of weirdoes,” Kady said. “They’ve been here a long time. I bet some of them aren’t even aware there have been a virus. But stay close. I don’t want to lose you, it’s a maze before the maze. I just need to see someone before we go in.”

    They walked for about another ten minutes before stopping in front of a big tent. There, a big man with a boxer’s face was repairing all kind of electronics on a table with the application of a surgeon. Phones, cameras, coffee machines… Charlton wondered how they got electricity to make it all work.

    “Hey, Kady!” said the man. “You’re back. Did you give it to her?” His face looked anxious.

    “Of course Max! I even got an answer,” Kady said handing him a pink envelope. Max smelled it.

    “Her favourite perfume,” he said with a broad smile.

    “I told you she still loves you. I also brought you something else.” Kady dropped a box on the table among the electronics. Charlton didn’t think it could be possible to witness the expression of a ten year old child on such a hard face, but what was inside the box certainly did magic.

    “You brought chocolate?”

    “Yep.”

    “Did you find the chestnut one?”

    “Yep.”

    “My favourite,” said Max to Charlton. “Is this your friend?”

    Max, meet Charlton. Charlton, Max. Listen, we plan on going in tomorrow, but tonight we need a place to get some rest.”

    “I told you, you’re always welcome. Did you know she saved my life in there?”

    “Saved your life?” asked Charlton looking hesitantly at Kady. “No, I didn’t know.”

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