Odobenus Rosmarus and Cetonia Aurata

Victorian Walrus

Greetings Dear Reader!

We interrupt your usual, if sporadic, reading with a message from the creators. We have frequently been struck by the strange, synchronistic phenomenon that often accompanies the writing process. The writer Alan Moore has, I believe, encountered John Constantine in a sandwich shop. After writing a story about some confusion between a bicycle and a head, we were amazed to find a poster containing both appear opposite our house. We have many, merry little tales of events from the page intruding into every day life.

Most recently, whilst our characters were being emotionally tested by an imaginary walrus, we found ourselves being tested by some very real walruses. We sat down one evening to watch Our Planet, which we had naively assumed to be a pleasing animal documentary with some walruses in it. Dear Reader, at this point you either understand exactly what we are referring to or we recommend you watch the aforementioned television show with a box of tissues to hand. For we were truly moved to tears by the horror show we saw.

We decided that immediate action was necessary and so are now the proud adoptees of a walrus from WWF.  In turn, we would like you, Dear Reader, to consider a donation of some kind to this most worthy cause.

Yours imploringly

Paul Michael

The Paris Awakening: Water Part 16

Emile

Emile sat as his desk organising papers into neat and largely random piles when there was a knock at the door.

“I’ll have it Saturday,” he shouted without moving.

There was a short pause then another knock.

“Alright, Friday then,” said Emile.

The door knocked a third time and Emile got up with a sigh. He went to the door and opened it.

“Thursday is probably…” he started but was stopped when a green coloured hand grabbed him by the throat. Clackprattle pushed Emile back into the apartment while Pook followed after and quietly closed the door behind them.

Emile was making soft choking noises as Clackprattle held him. The skin around Emile’s neck and chin was starting to age rapidly, wrinkling and thinning.

“We’d better make sure, before his face is gone,” said Pook and took out a piece of paper from his jacket. He looked at the small daguerreotype of a man and the details written on it, then at Emile then back and forth rapidly.

“Emile?” Pook said, “Emile Planquette? Of the Société d’Evénements Mystérieux?”

Emile looked over at him, his eyes wild as the skin around his mouth aged rapidly.

“I’m pretty sure it’s you,” said Pook. “Let me check these papers.”

Clackprattle continued to stare at Emile as the corruption spread up to his nose.

“Sab…” breathed Emile liquidly, “Sab…ine.”

“Is that a lover, wife or mother do you think?” said Pook looking at the piles on the table. “It’s always women at the end isn’t it? Ah, yes, this is definitely the right chap. He has signed something here.”

Pook turned back around and saw Clackprattle continue to stare manically at Emile as the aging reached his eyes. They bulged rheumily as the the aging spread further over the temples, Emile’s hair fell out in chunks onto the floor and at last the eyes went blank, all light behind them gone. Clackprattle let go and and the wizened corpse of an old man fell to the ground.

“Well, that was the last one,” said Pook. “I imagine this one will arouse a little more suspicion given the state of him.”

Clackprattle put his green hand back into its glove and looked around the room for the first time.

“Filthy,” he said.

“Well, shall we be off?” said Pook.

“Yes, yes,” said Clackprattle, then hesitated.

“This is the last one, isn’t it Pook?” he said.

“Indeed Master,” said Pook. “We have discharged our side of the bargain in this regard.”

“I just wonder, a little,” said Clackprattle. “Now that we have done what they wanted and given the blasted luck we had with the key, whether, whether the order may see us as… disposable in some sense.”

Pook’s eyes widened dramatically.

“Master Clackprattle,” he said, “I am sure that a company as prestigious and courteous as theirs would always understand that bad fortune could befall a man and would in any event be certain to value one as esteemed as your good self in the highest possible manner. I think you need have no fear in that regard.”

“And you…” said Clackprattle hesitantly. “You will be there to support me?”

Pook looked at his feet and smiled vacantly.

“I will always be there to do the bidding of my master,” he said. “Always.”

Clackprattle nodded once.

“Your a good sort Pook,” he said and the two men left the apartment.

 

Charles Baudelaire + personal archives

The Paris Awakening: Water Part 15

Henderson hand

“In we come everybody, in we come Sir John, Mrs Jennings, Morag,” said Miss Henderson at the door of the artists church.

Mon Dieu!” said Sabine, jumping up from the big table. “What happened?”

“Let’s get these lot in,” said Miss Henderson, “and I can try to explain.”

She brought the trio in, arms around the Jennings and one hand on the lead of Morag. Sabine helped her get the humans into chairs and the dog onto a comfortable rug. All three had a vacant look in their eyes and their lips twitched occasionally. Miss Henderson sat down at the table.

“I think, under the circumstances, a nice cup of tea might be in order,” she said. “I’ll make one in just a minute.”

“Have you been crying?” said Sabine. “Your eyes… never mind tea I think this calls for brandy.”

Sabine disappeared for a moment then returned with an ornate bottle and two glasses.

“It is extra old, from Cognac,” she said as she poured two glasses.

“Oh well, I suppose it will do anyway,” said Miss Henderson. She took the glass and took a big gulp of the drink.

“That’s actually quite acceptable under the circumstances,” said Miss Henderson. “Thank you Mrs… I mean Madame Bell… Bell..”

“Sabine, please,” said Sabine, “under the circumstances.”

“Under the circumstances,” agreed Miss Henderson, and drank the rest of the glass.

“So what happened?” said Sabine, refilling the drink.

“Well we went to see the Walrus and we had the test,” she said. “I was last, but even though that was the case I don’t know what was said to the others. It was like he spoke to them, but you couldn’t hear, like his words were underwater. But after he spoke, they were in this state, all gin and tonic as Morag says.”

“Did he speak to you?” said Sabine. “What did he say?”

“He said… well he said,” started Sabine then took another big gulp of the brandy. “There’s this gentleman… and some difficulty.”

Sabine patted Miss Henderson’s wrist.

“With gentlemen there is always some difficulty,” Sabine said. “They are naturally difficult creatures.”

“Actually,” said Miss Henderson, “It’s not a difficulty with the gentleman. It’s a difficulty with family and friends. It’s a question of what people might think.”

“Felicity, do you mind if I call you that?” said Sabine. “Felicity, what matters is what he thinks and what you think. Other people, they either like you and will accept you or don’t and then you don’t need them. Good friends are good friends not because they like who you are, but because they like you no matter who you are.”

Miss Henderson looked up at Sabine and nodded slowly. Sabine raised her glass and smiled and the two women clinked glasses together. They both drank.

“So, I suppose we have to go back and try again,” said Sabine sighing. “Maybe we can work out what’s needed to pass the test next time.”

“Actually,” said Miss Henderson. “I’m not sure we do.”

She pulled her hand out from under the table, still clenched in a fist. She opened her whitened fingers one by one to reveal a small piece of metal.

The Paris Awakening: Water Part 14

ghost walrus 2 prisma

“Are you ready?” said the Walrus.

Sir John glanced at Marie, Morag and Miss Henderson. Marie nodded lightly.

“I believe so,” said Sir John as a small fish passed in front of his face.

“Then we’ll begin,” said the Walrus.

She doesn’t need you, John. She hasn’t needed you for a while now. She’s more powerful than you. She had found out more with her wits than you have with your clever toys. Even as we speak she learns more and more about who she is and what she can do. How long before she leaves? How long before she finds people, creatures, beings that she does need?

And what will you do then? Lick your wounds and fly home? Build more pointless machines? Look for phantasms that you’ll never find? For if she doesn’t need you, then no one will.

Mon cher?” said Maire, looking at her husband, her brow furrowed. “Mon cher, are you alright? What was said, mon cher? I didn’t hear.”

Why do you think she’s dead, Marie? You never had proof except from an aunt who lied to you. How do you know she didn’t lie about your mother? Or is it easier for you to believe she is dead? After all, running away is what you do, isn’t it?…is what you always did. Is it easier to run from the possibility of your mother than to search for her? Is it easier to believe there is no family at all anywhere? That you, with all your powers, couldn’t find a family if they did exist? Have you really come to Paris to find who you are, or are you just running again from who you’ve become?

“They’re catatonic,” hissed Morag, “What did it say to them to do that?”

And why do you think he’s dead, Morag? Your father stuck by you for centuries, made sure you were safe. He dragged your soul from death, even in the wrong body. He tortured himself every day for that mistake. He worked tirelessly to create the stone to liberate you both or keep you alive until he could. And then when he vanished, magically, you forgot about him. You didn’t try to see if anything had happened, not one operation, not one conjuration to see if he was alive. Was it such a relief for him to be gone, after all he did, that you turned your tail and walked away?

“Morag?” said Miss Henderson. “Marie? Sir John? What… what’s happened to you?”

He can never marry you, Felicity. No matter how much he loves you or you love him, you can never be man and wife. How could you be? Your family are criminals and he is a policeman, a detective even. How would that work? What would the wedding be like? At least there would be no need for introductions as the left aisle has likely been arrested by the right. If you were to marry, what would happen to you both? He would be rejected by your family, suspected at work. He’d have to leave the job he loves and he would come to resent you for that. And you, how would you feel about your family, or them about you? You could be ostracised, you could be abandoned. It is impossible to see how you could be together.

A tear slowly trickled down Miss Henderson’s cheek and she looked down.

“That…” she said, “that would be a very sad thing, because in truth, I like him very, very much and I think he likes me and I think together, just us, we could be very happy. But if what you say were true… if that were true…”

She looked up at the Walrus and stuck her trembling chin out.

“There are plenty more fish in the sea.” she said.

The Walrus smiled and the aquarium vanished. Miss Henderson stood in the gloom with her three companions. She wiped the tear with a clenched fist.

The Paris Awakening: Water Part 13

ghost walrus

The door to the old aquarium burst open and Clackprattle and Pook walked in.

“Another fine Parisien location,” said Clackprattle. “Truly we have seen the sorry arse of this sorry city. Are you sure there is something here, Pook? This isn’t another wild goose chase?”

“Indeed, I believe we have found something of true value here,” said Pook. “The bug couldn’t or didn’t go inside but went right up to the door which means…”

The door slammed suddenly.

“That the door probably slammed shut on it,” said Pook.

The darkened corridor seemed to turn from black gloom to blue glow. Tiny lights appeared that resolved into fish shapes.

“I think I’m seeing things in this blasted dark,” said Clackprattle and swatted at things in front of his face. Pook saw a shape forming down the corridor and moving towards them. Presently, it resolved form.

“The avatar of the water key, I presume?” said Pook to the gigantic ghost walrus.

The walrus nodded gracefully in the air.

“Indeed,” he said, “and you are?”

“Clackprattle and Pook sir,” said Clackprattle. “Master and servant, here to take the challenge, here to claim our just reward.”

“Which is which?” said the Walrus.

“I am Clackprattle,” said Clackprattle, “and this is….”

“No, who is master and who is servant?” said the Walrus.

“Why you impertinent swine,” said Clackprattle. “If you knew who you were dealing with you’d show some respect.”

“Excellent advice,” said the Walrus.

“Do I assume from your presence that the key part has not yet been claimed?” said Pook. “That we are, as they say, still in with a chance?”

“Indeed, I still possess the key part, and you may take the challenge,” said the Walrus. “I would advise a note of caution… powerful emotions may be released. Are you sure you are up to the task?”

Clackprattle scoffed.

“I think sir it will take more than a few little feelings to disturb my temperament. I am a man of unusual emotional fortitude,” he said.

“On that note I believe you,” said the Walrus. “If you wish to proceed you may go first.”

Clackprattle rolled his eyes and nodded and…

You’ve spent your whole life as a joke and you know it. A stupid man, too proud to learn, your so-called wisdoms are the guessworks of a moron. Since you are too fragile to live without the respect of others, you have bullied your way to power. But the respect you seek, you will never receive. All you can gift to others is fear, and in return loathing and contempt is your reward. At the end even your greatest servant plays you for a fool. Your grand attempt at grabbing power has left you grasping thin air – an emperor not only without clothes but also without an empire.

Clackprattle stared vacantly into space.

“What did you say?” said Pook, in an agitated manner, “I couldn’t hear? What did you do to him?”

And you, little pookah, think you’ve played such a grand game. From your little hedge magics and tricks to being here in Paris with the great and the grand. And how proud you are of having this fat buffoon on your puppet strings. But you forget little one the puppet strings that bind you and move you. You forget that when you plot to cut the strings you pull, the one above may do the same. Or do you believe your ultimate master will show you the mercy you will not show to your toy?

Pook stared in front of himself too, lost to the world. The corridor went dark again, and the ghosts disappeared like smoke. The door swung open, leaving the duo staring vacantly into the dark, damp, rotten building.

 

Ghost Aquarium

Ghost Walrus

The Paris Awakening: Water Part 12

Victorian Walrus

“Come in a little please,” said the Walrus. “Otherwise the gateway will be seen.”

He floated back into the hallway and the Jennings, Miss Henderson and Morag followed him in. The door closed behind and as their eyes adapted the corridor seemed a deep blue colour. Ghost fish swam past in little shoals. Apparitions of octopus, wraiths of rays and phantom turtles swam around. It was no longer clear where the wall was.

“So,” said the Walrus, “How may I be of assistance to you?”

A perplexed looking crab came up to Sir John’s feet and squeezed his boot inquisitively. Sir John couldn’t feel a thing.

“We are, uh, looking for a key part,” said Sir John.

“Are you sure?” said the Walrus as a confused tiny whale flitted by.

“Fairly certain,” said Sir John.

“And when, if, you get the key, what will you do with what it opens,” said the Walrus.

“Well, we’re rather hoping to keep it from some others, some rather dastardly chaps,” said Sir John, “who we think would like to use it to kill us.”

“And you think you’d do better at this task than four supernatural creatures that set appropriate challenges to one who search for it? That you are a better guardian than those who have guarded the key for centuries?” said the Walrus.

“Er…” said Sir John, “Well, we aren’t intending to be critical of the excellent work you have all done but…”

“They have something special,” said Marie, “something dangerous that might help them achieve their goal. And they are devious, and they have one part already.”

“Hmm,” said the Walrus. “Very well, it is your prerogative to seek and it is mine to hide. You understand then there is a challenge?”

They all nodded as a sea snake wound its way around them.

“Let me explain the challenge for you. As I’m sure you may imagine, it is a test of one’s emotional resilience. We are testing to ensure that one who gains access to the power the key permits is stable enough to earn it. You will be presented with certain emotional truths. These will be hard to hear and hard to bear. Anyone that can bear them will have passed the test.”

“How will we know,” said Marie, “if we have borne these truths?”

“It will be clear,” said the Walrus. “It always is. Also, I must inform you, you will be on your own. As your emotions are yours only, so must be your responses. Is that all very clear?”

The group nodded.

“Does just one… take this test?” said Sir John.

“Anyone can. Indeed, all of you can. The tests are very arduous even for the strongest, so I would advise you to be sure you are in your best frame of mind.”

Miss Henderson looked at Marie and then Morag.

“Perhaps,” she said, “we would be better placed to come back after a big cooked breakfast and a nice cup of tea.”

The Walrus smiled, the door creaked open and the ghost aquarium vanished in the daylight.

I am the walrus

The Paris Awakening: Water Part 11

Jardin des Plantes

Morag stood on her own a little distant from the empty, rusting cages. She shivered a little as she saw the others wander around. Miss Henderson saw her and came over.

“I’m not that keen on cages, truth be told,” said Morag when Miss Henderson arrived. “I got picked up one time in London and put in one for a while until my father came and found me.”

“Sounds awful,” said Miss Henderson. “Were you scared?”

“Terrified… and there was nothing I could do. If I’d opened ma gob I’d been in worse trouble. Luckily the other dogs in the cage were pleasant enough,” said Morag. Miss Henderson’s eyes went wide.

“Can all dogs talk?” she whispered.

“Oh aye,” said Morag, “we all had a big natter about philosophical epistemology.”

“You’re teasing me,” said Miss Henderson quietly.

“Sorry Felicity,” said Morag. “This place gives me the creeps.”

“Me too actually,” said Miss Henderson. “I feel quite on edge, thinking about what happened. I notice Miss B… Miss Bell… Sabine hasn’t joined us.”

“I believe she is trying to make the church look presentable for the anticipated return of Emile,” said Morag. “You’re none too keen on her are you?”

“I’m sure it’s not my place to have an opinion,” said Miss Henderson primly. “She just seems a little… showy to me.”

Morag chuckled quietly.

“And impertinent, forward, ill humoured,” said Miss Henderson, “and extremely inappropriately dressed for a lady of her age.”

“But apart from that?” said Morag. “Ah look, here come the Jennings now.”

“Anything?” said Sir John to Morag and Miss Henderson.

“Not really,” said Morag.

“It feels nearly right, but not quite,” said Marie, looking around her. Morag noticed her eyes were a little red. Marie in turn caught her looking.

“I used to come here as a child, with my aunt,” said Marie. “I never came after, you know, and I was remembering how nice it used to be. Then I remembered that my aunt was not who I thought she was, and that I don’t know who was who.”

“What building is this?” said Sir John. “What does that say beneath these plants?”

He pulled aside some foliage from the sandstone structure they were standing next to.

“Oh, it’s the door to the aquarium,” he said.

“That’s it!” said Marie. “That’s where it will be. Does the door open?”

“It’s rather stuck,” said Sir John leaning on it.

Miss Henderson barged into the door, and she and Sir John nearly fell in as it swung open. A dark passageway lay behind.

“Should we explore?” said Sir John hesitantly.

“I… think something is coming,” said Miss Henderson standing back. They all looked as something formed in the air at the end of the corridor. As it headed towards them it gathered more form, but remained translucent. It arrived at the door and the shape was clear. Two eyes, two huge tusks and a multitude of whiskers stared at them.

“What are you?” said Morag.

“I am the Walrus,” said the avatar of the water key.

“G… g… good God!” said Sir John.

 

Le kiosque du Jardin des Plantes

The Paris Awakening: Water Part 10

menu seige

“So, you know about the siege?” said Marie. She looked around the table at the blank faces of her husband, Miss Henderson, Morag, Phlebotomous and Osvold.

“The one in Paris,” said Sir John, trying to be helpful. “With the, the whatnots… In, er…”

“1870,” said Marie. Osvold leaned in to Phlebotomous and started whispering rapidly, glancing over at Marie from time to time. After a few minutes the whispering stopped and Phlebotomous looked at everyone around the table.

“That was before Osvold’s time,” said Phlebotomous. Sir John looked confused.

“But I thought vam… I thought you were immortal?” he said.

“Yes,” said Phlebotomous, “but we have to be born sometime. Osvold was born in 1871.”

“But he looks older than you,” said Sir John.

“I was… turned at a younger age than Osvold,” said Phlebotomous. “I’m actually over 200 years old. We don’t age after… it happens.”

“So there’s a 200 year age gap between you and Osvold?” said Miss Henderson. “Is that a bit difficult?”

Phlebotomous looked confused.

“I’m not sure I understand what you mean,” he said. Miss Henderson went to speak but then felt Morag’s paw tap her foot.

“Anyway,” said Marie. “In 1870 the Prussian army surrounded Paris. There was shelling every night and day.  Nothing could get in or out. Even the the mail was sent by balloon. And there was no food. It was… it was terrible. When the good food ran out, people ate whatever they could find.”

“I thought French people did that anyway?” said Miss Henderson. “I mean snails, frogs.”

“I mean whatever,” said Marie. “People ate…”

Marie glanced at Morag.

“People ate anything that could be eaten,” she finished quickly. “There was a zoo in Paris. There were many creatures there, and they were… cooked… and served in the more fashionable restaurants.”

“Cooked? Like what?” said Miss Henderson.

“Like kangaroo, like antelope, like, like elephant,” said Marie. “It is a sad story I know, but one borne of necessity. And it fits what we are looking for. A garden on the lake, a place of joy and sadness, where things have been caged and where death has been seen.”

“Is it far,” said Sir John.

“Not far, but it will be dark now.” said Marie. “We should go tomorrow.”

Silence descended in the room.

“What a horrible story,” said Miss Henderson.

“War is a horrible thing,” said Marie. “Need is a horrible thing. It drives people to such horrors.”

“I think I’m glad I grew up in England,” said Miss Henderson. “At least we always had good wholesome food like tripe, sausage and black pudding.”

“What do we know about the test?” said Morag. “Can we prepare ourselves?”

“Earth was a physical test and Air intellectual,” said Sir John, glad of the change of subject. “This is likely to have an emotional aspect.”

Morag looked at Marie, who in turn was looking blankly at the table, lost in the horrors of the past.

“Aye,” said Morag. “It certainly has that.”

 

The Christmas Menu can be found at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siege_of_Paris_(1870–71)

 

The Paris Awakening: Water Part 9

chess

“So we had a most marvellous afternoon walking around a poncy park looking at some ugly statues,” said Clackprattle to Pook and Bisset as they sat around the table. “And we learned precisely nothing. Is it possible, Bisset, is it possible your crack team of witless map readers can suggest some places instead of us trailing around the Jennings’ wake like puppy dogs?”

Bisset smiled.

“It is entirely possible for my brothers to supply to you a list of possible locations. The problem is that that list would take a year to investigate. The Tuileries was indeed a candidate so it wouldn’t be a surprise they looked there,” he said. “Of course, they have the advantage of having spoken to the Oracle so may know more than we.”

“That pitiful creature was useless,” said Clackprattle. “She told us nothing but riddles.”

“Indeed that is the nature of an oracle,” said Bisset, “and our task is rather to solve those riddles. It is indeed unfortunate that she was killed when you met her as she may have been helpful. I have to say, some of the brothers are concerned by that and what it implies.”

“What do you mean by that, sir?” said Clackprattle rising, his glove slipping off his hand.

“I mean,” said Bisset, “they are concerned that maybe the… abomination that infects your hand also affects your mind, affects your judgement.”

“I believe I can interject here,” said Pook. “I can honestly say I can see no deviance between Master Clackprattle’s resolve and composure from before his acquisition of power. He is, and remains, as solid and reliable as ever.”

Clackprattle snorted.

“At least one man can see the truth,” he said, indicating Pook.

“Indeed, that is most enlightening,” said Bisset. “I will be happy to convey that to my brethren. But there is nothing you can remember of your conversation, nothing however insubstantial seeming that may help?”

“As I said before, it were nonsense,” said Clackprattle. “So I suggest your brethren pull their enlightened fingers out of wherever they have stuck them and find us some answers before we lose another key piece!”

Clackprattle thumped on the table for affect.

“This bores me,” he said. “I shall retire.”

After he had gone Bisset and Pook smiled at each other.

“This is a most unfortunate situation to find ourselves in,” said Bisset pleasantly. “I worry the order may lose patience if we do not progress soon. I am sure they can be placated in the meantime by the completion of your other task.”

“We are indeed very close to that goal,” said Pook. “But I must admit to a certain nervousness on that score. Were we to complete that task, and given our current difficulties, it would rather seem that we were exposed somewhat to any negative consequences triggered by the order. We would have, as they say, no chips with which to bargain, if push came to shove.”

“An understandable concern,” said Bisset, “but I can assure you, as a friend, that should push come to shove, it would be the architects of the failure that would shoulder the blame, not their agents or servants.”

Pook smiled.

“I feel I must press you for a little more clarity,” he said. “I believe for example it could be suggested that I may bear some small responsibility for the problems that were encountered in recovering the piece from the Oisienne. I would like to be sure I am not seen as the, ah, architect in that situation.”

“M Pook,” said Bisset, “whilst fingers were understandably pointed after those events, I think I may be able to reassure you here. For when push does indeed come to shove, any who assists in the, er, shoving are bound to be seen as above reproach in eyes of the brotherhood.”

Pook leaned back, his shoulders dropped a little.

“I am sure,” he said, “you will always find me a most willing servant in all your endeavours.”

“I would imagine nothing less,” said Bisset.

The Paris Awakening: Water Part 8

Drinks with Emile

Emile tidied the mess of papers on his desk and tried to concentrate. He reminded himself that he had an institute to run and started to focus on that. Despite his manner and demeanour he had a tidy mind when needed. Although recently it had deserted him a little.

As he looked at the pile of investigations and reports his hand went reflexively to the brandy decanter. Almost absently he poured himself a glass and he sat back reading the first report. A junior investigator was waxing enthusiastically about a haunting he was investigating. He had added a daguerreotype and mused that a small white blob in the corner may yet be proof of supernatural creatures. Emile snorted out loud and lit a cigarette.

This whole business with the Marie and Sir John had driven him crazy he was sure of that. And yet, something else was on his mind too, a strange urge he could neither define nor resist. He wanted to do something new, different. He wanted to create something, to paint, to sing, to write poetry.

Mon Dieu!” he said out loud. “What worse fate can befall a man than to become a poet?”

There was a knock on the door and Emile dragged himself up with the enthusiasm of a schoolboy. It was probably the landlord again, hoping for rent.

“I’ll have it Tuesday,” said Emile as he opened the door. Sabine stood behind it. She smirked.

“Have what exactly?” she said.

“The rent,” said Emile. “I thought you were the landlord.”

“Do I look like the landlord?” said Sabine, pouting a little.

“Not even remotely,” said Emile. “Come in. Do you want some Cognac?”

“No, no it’s far too early,” said Sabine. “I’ll have whisky.”

Emile poured a generous glass for her and sat opposite. Sabine pouted again and Emile looked away.

“Still angry with me?” she said.

“Yes, no, I don’t know,” said Emile. “Not you, or not just you.”

“You feel you’ve been hoodwinked?” said Sabine.

“No, I understand, more or less,” said Emile. “I just feel….”

“That you’re not special?” said Sabine.

“Have you been talking to Sir John,” said Emile.

“No, but I encouraged him to talk to you, as a friend, to clear the air,” said Sabine.

“Ah!” said Emile. “That explains it, poor man, he’s not very good at expressing his emotions, it was quite the trauma for him.”

“How about you,” said Sabine, “can you express your emotions?”

The sun set a little deeper and the room went quiet. Emile looked at his shoes.

“You know,” said Sabine. “You are wrong. You are special.”

Emile glanced up at her.

“Come back to the church. Come back to me,” she said.

“All right, you win, I’ll come back.” Emile said. “But look, I need to finish up here. Let me sort things out, set things up to take some time off. I’ll be there in a day or two.”

Sabine smiled and stood slowly up.

“Don’t take long, it’s too quiet without you,” she said and slinked out the door.

Emile took a long drag on his cigarette and exhaled loudly. He took a big swig of his brandy then looked at the next report, a smile forming on his face.