The Paris Awakening: Air Part 15

Aye

Marie sat on the floor and looked in horror at the transfixed audience staring blankly at Pook. He smirked across at her. Suddenly there was a loud banging from the dias between them.

“Order! Order!” shouted the Adjudicator. “This is unnatural order!”

The Osienne looked at Pook and pointed his gavel at him.

“This is a realm of the intellect,” the Adjudicator said. “You have no right to use glamour here. Magic has no dominion.”

“No dominion! No dominion!” parroted the audience, springing back to animation. Marie pulled herself to her feet, propelled by a surge of relief.

“Since you show ignorance of the rules of Parliament I shall explain,” said the Adjudicator. “The applicants shall debate a topic from the floor. The first one to lose three debates is the defeated and suffers the judgement of Parliament. The other is victorious and gains the boon we have to offer. You, sir, have forfeited the first debate by your skullduggery. Commence!”

Marie tried not to grin. Pook turned away as a sour look formed on his face.

“What is truth?” shouted a Oisienne to hoots of approval and the Adjudicator indicated Pook with his gavel. Pook turned back then and the smirk had returned to his face.

“Well truth is of course very closely linked to honesty and I shall enjoy hearing all about that from Mme Jennings, who is an expert in the topic.”

Marie felt herself flush and caught a glimpse of her husband. Pook continued.

“But in the end, truth is not as simple as many think. Indeed, one might argue that there are as many truths as there are mouths to feed as each must speak his own truth, which will differ one from the other. Further, one may very well argue that there are as many truths as meals to feed those mouths, for which man, woman or child keeps the same counsel from hour to hour. I posit then that truth is not one thing, but a multitude multiplying as the sum of human, and even other, opinion swells through time. You may as well hold a drop of water in your hand and ask – is this the ocean?”

There was a smatter of applause and the Adjudicator indicated Marie.

“Truth is…” she started, “truth is words that describe what is real. The rest is opinion.”

Her head lowered a touch.

“Or lies.”

There was more applause to this. The Adjudicator nodded to the audience.

“She wins!” cooed a voice. The call was taken up by the others.

“She wins! She wins!” chorused the room. The Adjudicator silenced it with his gavel and indicated to the floor.

“You said truth describes what is real,” chirruped a voice. “What is real?”

Pook scoffed.

“I think I have the measure of you now,” he said to the room. “I believe I can judge what passes for intellectual skill in these most remarkable rooms. Let me proffer then that the real is at once tangible and ephemeral. At once prosaic and poetic. At once solid and gaseous. For if we ask one person what they saw on any given day, at any given moment we can find a precise and determined account of the events that had unfolded. If we then were to ask another one, also present, to describe the self same events, we will get another certain account. And yet, if we were to compare the two, we may find ourselves surprised to see discrepancies twixt the two. We may wonder then at how we might divine what has truly occurred. We may ask a third for an opinion, and find more facts are confirmed whilst yet others agreed on are uncertain. And so on, and so on. It is, I believe then, a most scientific approach that we must take in order to be certain of the real. We must question each one, in a structured manner, on any event, and concern ourselves only with that which the majority can agree on. In this manner, must we proceed to be certain and definite on what has really occurred. The rest then is conjecture or deception.”

At the last word Pook smiled over at Marie. The room fell silent as they waited her response.

“Reality is what happens whether you believe in it or not,” she said.

The silence continued for a beat and then a shrill voice cried out.

“She wins! She wins!” it said, and the chant was picked up by the room. The Adjudicator banged his gavel.

“Let me confirm the good opinion of this Parliament,” he said. “Those who agree on the acceptance of Mme Jennings’ victory say ‘aye’.”

The room was filled by squawking and screeching. The Adjudicator banged his gavel. Pook was starting to look nervous. One Oisienne holding a small box had climbed on the stage from behind the dias.

“Those who dissent say ‘nay’,” said the Adjudicator.

“Nay,” said a voice from the back. Everyone turned round and Marie looked and saw Clackprattle.

“Then,” said the Adjudicator, “Mme Jennings receives the artefact.”

The Oisienne pressed the small wooden box into Marie’s hand. There was applause from the floor.

“And M Pook receives the judgement.”

Suddenly the room seemed full of sharp beaks and talons. Heads tilted and twisted, unblinking eyes staring coldly at Pook.

“Judgement!” shrieked one Oisienne, a chanting joined by the others as they pressed toward Pook. Sir John pushed towards Marie and gestured to her to join him. She heard screams and screeching from where Clackprattle was standing. The fat man was placing his lethal hand on Oisienne and also pressing toward Pook. Sir John grabbed hold of Marie’s hand as they met up in the melee.

“Well done!” said Sir John, “I rather suggest we flee.”

Marie didn’t argue.

The Paris Awakening: Air Part 14

Mononoke

There was a murmuring in the room, which was packed with Oisienne of all shapes and sizes. Marie looked from her vantage point behind the stage on the left and scanned the crowd for her husband, her friends, or her enemies. She saw Sir John craning to look at the stage from behind a tall man with a long neck and she thought about waving but it seemed childish. She needed to be in control here, to neutralise Pook before he got the next piece of the key.

Behind her a fat man with a impressive beard pushed passed her with a grunt. The beard seemed to emerge from his neck and was a shock of white. As he passed by, he turned his head round to look at her, rotating it to an unnatural degree. Then he clambered on stage.

“Good evening my fine friends,” he said to the audience which started to settle at his words. “Welcome to the Parliament of the Oisienne. I will be the adjudicator for our soiree. We have a most interesting debate this evening between two newcomers to our roost. First let me introduce to you a Monsieur Ernest Pook.”

There was a cawing from the audience and the sound of footsteps on the stage. Marie heard Pook speak.

“May I honestly and most fervently say what a tremendous honour it is to stand in such a remarkable and distinguished company as this. I am both excited and in awe, and I hope that the debate that follows will prove as entertaining as it does enlightening. I can honestly say that I hope I can persuade you to my view.”

The audience cooed at this flattery and Marie then heard a gavel banging on a desk.

“Silence in the parliament,” said the Adjudicator. “Pleasant words Mr Pook, but fine feathers do not fine birds make. I will now introduce our next speaker.”

The hook nosed Oisienne next to Marie gave a little nod and pointed to the steps to the stage. Marie walked up to see the Adjudicator sitting high on a dias and on the far side Pook. She glared across at him and instantly a panicked look spread across his face.

“May I present…” started the Adjudicator.

“No, no,” said Pook with a look of terror on his face. “Not her, not her!”

“May I present,” repeated the Adjudicator, throwing a look at Pook. “Madame Marie Jennings.”

“Please not her,” said Pook staring at Marie, his eyes staring wide.

Maybe this will be easy thought Marie and then looked again at her adversary. The frightened look passed from his face and was replaced with a smirk. A girlish laugh emitted from his mouth.

“She’s far too easy to beat,” he said cruelly.

Marie felt herself flush and had to remember what she was there for. She looked into the audience to find her husband and thought she saw a glance of Clackprattle. She then became aware that everyone was silent and looking at her. She glanced at the Adjudicator who had raised an eyebrow.

“Would you like to introduce yourself?” said the Adjudicator.

Marie swallowed and found her mouth was dry.

“My name is Marie Jennings,” she said, “and Mr Pook is fully aware of what it is like to be beaten by me.”

A sour look passed over Pook’s face and Marie felt pleased she had scored a point. Now she should go for the kill she though and whispered, “Obéir.” She saw Pook rock back at the command and then she felt…

…pain…

…something like a ricochet or the feeling of punching a wall. She fell over and there were crows of laughter from the crowd. Pook was smirking back at her again.

“Not that easy, is it?” he said to her. “Not like this.”

He clicked his fingers and the crowd went silent. All the heads slowly turned to look at him and fixed their gaze on him without blinking once. Marie saw her husband in the same state.

“Now that I have your undivided attention,” Pook said to the spellbound audience. “We will have our little debate.”

The Paris Awakening: Air Part 13

Parrot

Just a few hours later Sir John, Marie and Emile found themselves arriving into the same downtrodden alley that their adversaries had just been.

“Are you sure it’s here?” said Sir John, entering the alley first. “This place is filled with…”

Merde!” said Emile, entering next and clamping a handkerchief to his nose.

“I was going to say filth actually,” said Sir John. “But you’re not inaccurate.”

“It’s here,” said Marie, bringing up the rear and staring at a stone in her hand. “I could tell even if this little one wasn’t saying so.”

“Where? Is it one of these doors?” said Sir John, looking about in confusion.

“That one,” said Marie, pointing to the dilapidated wooden door with a grate, covered in feathers. “That door there.”

Sir John went to speak. He saw the expression on his wife’s face and apparently had a rethink. He knocked on the filthy door. As before, nothing happened for a moment. Sir John turned away when the panel slid back and the same hook nosed face stared out, head tilting in all directions. Finally its beady eye settled on Sir John.

“Back?” it squawked.

“I’m sorry?” said Sir John.

“No. Others,” it cooed then shrieked, “Wait!”

The panel slid shut and presently the door opened. A tall woman with hair spiked up into a high coiffured arrangement came out. She was wearing colourful clothes and bold makeup. She looked at the three in the alleyway and nodded.

“We’ve come about the challenge,“ said Sir John.

“The challenge? The challenge?” she said.

“Yes,” said Sir John. “The challenge for the key.”

“For the key, for the key,” she said.

“Yes exactly!” said Sir John. “You know it! Tell me, how does one take it?”

“Take it?” she said. “How one take it?”

“Yes,” said Sir John. “Can you tell us?”

The woman strode over and leaned into Sir John’s face. Her head bobbed from side to side and she seemed to be thinking. Eventually she leaned back.

“Who’s a pretty boy then?” she said.

“I beg your pardon?” said Sir John, as another person came out of the door. It was the rotund, red chested man from before, with the peculiarly thin legs.

“Another one come for the challenge?” he said.

“Yes,” said Sir John, “as I was explaining to your, er…”

He indicated the woman.

“Polly want a cracker,” she said.

“Which one?” said the rotund man.

“Me,” said Marie.

“Wait, what?” said Sir John. “We didn’t…”

“Next Tuesday,” said the Oisienne. “Sunset we gather.”

The two strange creatures flew inside leaving Sir John aghast.

“We didn’t agree that,” said Sir John. “I thought we’d just…”

“He said another one,” said Marie. “That means Clackprattle and Pook.”

“Precisely,” said Sir John. “It’s far too dangerous.”

Mon cher,” said Marie, “now I know about my power, it is best for me to do it. Safest for me too.”

“She’s right,” said Emile looking glum. “I hate to say it, but she’s right.”

The Paris Awakening: Air Part 12

bird1

Clackprattle, Pook and Bisset stood in the dingy alleyway in front of the door. Bisset had a handkerchief over his nose and Clackprattle was sniffing profusely.

“Are you sure this rat infested pox hole is the place?” said Clackprattle.

“Hey!” said someone from a window overhead. “Watch your tongue, fatso.”

“Most assuredly,” said Bisset, muffled by the cloth. It almost sounded like he was stifling a laugh.

“Well then Pook,” said Clackprattle, staring sourly at the upstairs window. “Have at.”

Pook stepped in front of a old wooden door, noticing the feathers and guano stuck to it. He rapped lightly, doing his best to avoid contact. For a moment nothing happened and Pook went to rap again when a wooden panel slid back at head height.

A slender man’s head with a long nose appeared at the panel. The man’s head tilted side to side and back to front, never actually straight up. Finally the right side of the face was pressed against the hole and the man’s eye rolled around.

“What?” squawked the man.

“We are most delighted to make your acquaintance,” said Pook brightly. “We are assuming we are addressing a member of the Oisienne?”

The head bobbed up and down vigorously in lieu of an answer.

“That is indeed wonderful news,” said Pook. “We are, you see, here in order to undertake the challenge we believe it behooves you to administer to those who request it. I refer of course, to the challenge for the famed key of the weapon of Paris.”

The man’s head bobbed back and forth a little more.

“Wait,” shrieked the man and the panel closed.

“I do hope we do not have to remain here too long,” said Bisset.

Clackprattle smirked.

“The difference between you aristos and me is that you’ve never seen an ounce of muck in your life,” he said jeeringly. “You don’t know what to make of it.”

He stepped back into some horse ordure.

“Bugger!” he said, and Bisset turned away a moment holding his cloth ever tighter to his face.

The door started to open then, and all three men watched it. A short man of an unusual style came out. His legs were exceedingly thin and were dressed in hose, whereas his torso was large and his bulging stomach, extremely bloated, poked out from his red waistcoat. He had a round face with a small pinched nose. Holding his hands behind his back he walked around them, nodding as he did.

He made a tutting sound and another strange gentlemen emerged, This one was unusually wide and had no neck. His eyes were round and the colour of amber. He waddled out into the alley as well.

“You come for the challenge?” said the first man. His voice was surprisingly thin and high.

“To wit?” asked the second.

“Indeed we most assuredly do,” said Pook.

“Which one?” said the first Oisienne, looking rapidly between the trio.

“To who?” asked the wide one.

“That will be myself,” said Pook. “Mr Ernest Pook of Lancashire and latterly London.”

“Hmm,” said the red-chested Oisienne. “Next Tuesday. Sunset we gather.”

The two strange creatures returned into the building and the door slammed shut.

“Tuesday it is!” said Clackprattle in triumph before kicking out at a small creature scurrying around his feet. The creature seemed to catch Pook’s eye who watched it then smiled.

Intermission

drunk sir john

There was a loud hammering at the door of the dingy lodgings.

“Mr Michael, Mr Michael,” cried the Landlady, Mrs Grobblewit. “Oh it’s no use constable, it’s been like this for two months now and the smell is sometthing awful. Actually, to be fair the smell was always something awful, but he owes me two months rent, and me once again in the family way.”
“Never fear, madam,” said a stout man’s voice. “We’ll have this sorted in no time. Constable, with me.”
There then followed some loud thumps and finally the door crashed in. Two police officers with enormous mustaches looked into the room, whilst a middle aged lady with ham hocks for arms looked in nervously from the door.
“Good God!” said the larger policeman. “He’s dead!”
He gestured to the man slumped in the battered arm chair.
“Dead drunk more like,” said the other peeler, picking up a bottle lying on the floor and sniffing at it.
The larger policeman sighed and gave the unconscious man a light slap on his face. He immediately sat up.
“What the… what is it… what’s happening?” he said, eyes darting around the room.
“It seems, Mr Michael, you have been asleep for a protracted period of time,” said the Policeman.
“My God, how long man? How much time did I lose?” said the disheveled looking writer. “Twenty four hours? Forty eight?”
Mrs Grobblewit walked into the room, her lips pursed.
“It has been over two months, Mr Michael,” she said.
“How can this have happened?” said Michael.” I had a… a visitor from the South West… he left a bottle… that’s all I recall.”
“Hmm,” said the smaller policeman, “I think we have all the evidence we need here.”
He turned to show the bottle to the others. It said, “Finest Medicinal Laudanum, Bottled in Porlock, Somerset. Good for All Ailments.”
—–
We here at the Benthic Times can only prostrate ourselves in apologetic humility at the appalling delay in our story telling. We have contacted the primary creators of the story in order to get a fuller understanding. Miss Pichette muttered something incomprehensible about robots and Mr Michael told us the above preposterous story. I suspect the truth will never become clear and we hope you will accept our grovelling apology and continue to enjoy the story. We have extracted the most profound promises that an absence of this sort will never happen again. We are, in truth, uncertain if we truly believe that

The Paris Awakening: Air Part 11

PAairpart11bug prisma

Bisset sat at the table of the great room and permitted himself a small smile. Things seemed to be improving considerably. Clackprattle’s list was being ticked off to plan. Pook had convinced the fat idiot not to try the next challenge himself. Best of all, he now knew the details of that challenge. The door creaked open and Bisset wore the mildly pleasant expression that seemed to work best for these two. He started repeating the mantra that kept the little pookah from invading his mind.

“Ah Bisset,” said Clackprattle as he beared down on the table. “Do you have any news for us or has your band of posh idiots failed us yet again?”

Bisset smiled indulgently.

“My dear sir,” he said. “I am able to report the best possible news.”

Clackprattle and Pook sat down.

“That does indeed sound most encouraging,” said Pook. “I am sure I can speak for both the Master and I that we would be most desirous to hear this news without even a second’s delay.”

Pook and Bisset smiled warmly at each other. Bisset felt his temples throb a little. “Not today, little one,” he thought.

“I can tell you not only the location of the next key… not only the creatures that guard it but also the nature of the challenge itself,” Bisset said.

“Creatures?” said Pook. “As in plural?”

“Just so,” said Bisset. “Scared you can’t influence a group?” he thought.

“What utter gibberish is this?” said Clackprattle. “You told us very clearly that there were four of these things, not a horde of them.”

“They are… somewhat unusual,” said Bisset. “They are something of a group mind, called the Oisienne.”

“The what again?” said Clackprattle.

Pook’s brow furrowed.

“If I were to hazard a guess, would I be wildly off the mark if I were to guess some manner of bird-like creature?” he said.

“Most astute, Mr Pook,” said Bisset. “For as ideas are things of air, the Oisienne are those ideas incarnate. They are in some sense the body politic of the thought of the city, the sum of current thinking and ideas of the intelligentsia.”

Clackprattle made a snorting sound.

“There can’t be very many of them then,” he said laughing heartily at his own joke.

Bisset smiled wanly.

“Very droll,” he said.

“The challenge then?” prompted Pook.

“The challenge is to be presented to and to debate in a… parliament, I think they say. To explain one’s ideas and thoughts and see if they are accepted or championed by the Oisienne. If they are, then the key is yours.”

Clackprattle chuckled some more.

“Is that it?” he said. “This one should be able to convince a bunch of bird brains in five minutes.”

He slapped Pook on the back, causing a flash of surprise to appear on the pookah’s face.

“It may not be quite so straightforward…” started Bisset.

“Nonsense!” said Clackprattle, cutting him off. “It’s all but ours. I’m going back to my room. Tell me when we leave to go.”

Pook and Bisset faced each other.

“What happens if one fails,” said Pook lightly.

“We aren’t certain,” said Bisset, “on that point. Except we notice there is another name for a collection of birds which can be called a parliament.”

“A murder?” said Pook.

“Just so,” said Bisset.

“I shall go prepare,” said Pook. As he stood up, a quizzical look passed across his face and he looked around the room. Eventually, he left.

Bisset allowed himself another small smile. Indeed everything was going most well. One way or another all the problems would get solved. He settled back in his chair then noticed with irritation that an insect was running on the armoire opposite. He resolved to speak most firmly with the staff on the matter of cleanliness.

The Paris Awakening: Air Part 10

dinner

“So,” said Emile, regarding the remains of the food scattered around the table, “now we are all one big happy family again, and we have released our unfortunate hostage, what do we do next?”

“Isn’t it obvious?” said Sabine. “Now we know Marie has this power, we walk up to the mansion and stop this Pook creature in its tracks.”

“It is not so simple…” said Marie.

“I would imagine the mansion is heavily guarded,” said Miss Henderson. “These posh occult types always seem to have henchmen up their sleeves.”

She leaned back and pushed her arms forward, her fingers interlocked. A cracking noise proceed from them. Sabine looked mildly alarmed.

“And there is the question of Mr Clackprattle’s deadly hand,” said Sir John. “We know he can kill just by touching.”

“And also…” started Morag, “there’s… the incident at the hotel. Marie, are you sure this faun can be trusted. Remember at the hotel, you were almost mesmerised.”

Sabine let out a gasp.

“Of course I had forgotten,” she said.

Marie looked stern.

“You know I think I had done that to myself,” she said. “I was tied up in knots in my head and… that won’t happen again.”

“Nevertheless,” said Emile, “although it amazes me that I’m saying this, but I think we should proceed with caution.”

“I agree,” said Sir John. “It would be best if we kept our distance, used our knowledge to tease them out, maybe find where the next key part is.”

“You could make a stone bug again,” said Phlebotomous.

“A what?” said Emile. “Oh wait… we started this, didn’t we…”

He looked down at his feet.

“It is a little insect creature that is good for locating things.” said Marie. “I can make them from stone. It’s a good idea Phlebotomous, but it would be too slow. They could have solved the challenge while we wait for it to return to tell us where it is.”

Osvold pulled on Phlebotomous’ sleeve, who turned to smile at his friend.

“Can we follow the bug somehow?” said Emile. “So we are close by, at least?”

“They have to come back to you,” said Marie. “Which means they return to where they started.”

There was a silence as everyone tried to think through the problem. Phlebotomous pulled a piece of paper from his jacket and a pencil and started sketching something. Osvold pulled on his sleeve again and Phlebotomous patted the little vampires’ shoulder. Sir John observed them from across the table.

“What are you thinking?” said Sir John. “Some kind of device to help?”

“I’m thinking some kind of flying device,” said Phlebotomous, “that could hover over the bug so we could track it.”

Osvold pulled his sleeve again. Phlebotomous looked down quizzically then leaned down as Osvold whispered to him.

“Don’t you think they would notice something flying over their heads all the time?” said Emile.

“Maybe we could disguise it like a bird, or a insect,” said Sir John.

“Argh!” exclaimed Phlebotomous loudly. Everyone at the table looked at him.

“Osvold has just told me he read in a tome in the shop about stone bugs,” he said. “You can make a double bug, and use the second to track the first on a map, by dowsing.”

“Brilliant!” said Sir John, “Phlebotomous, Osvold, let’s go to the shop right now and find that book.”

“I shall look for some suitable stones,” said Marie.

“I’ll help,” said Morag, “I could use a walk.”

Miss Henderson looked at Emile and Sabine.

“Me too,” she said and got up.

Everyone left; Emile and Sabine sat alone. There was a pause of the awkward variety.

“Well,” said Emile, picking up a newspaper on the table, “I’d better get back to the apartment.”

He glanced idly at the pages.

“You won’t… stay?” said Sabine.

“I… er…” he said. “Maybe… another time.”

Sabine smiled thinly.

“As you will,” she said.

Emile wandered out of the door still clutching and looking at the paper.

Mon Dieu!” he said as he was leaving. “Bûcheron is dead too!”

Author Postcards: Jennings and Jennings

Apologies for no episode – here’s a postcard instead…

Blake And Wight . com

Welcome to Steampunk’d Lancaster my dears! I am Mrs Baker, otherwise known as The Last Witch Of Pendle. My soup kitchen is rather quiet now for the summer, Max and Collin and all the little street urchins are out selling Lemonade, everyone else seems to be off on their holidays and things are overly quiet around the bakery. Nevermind, it gives me a chance to go through all the lovely postcards I have been receiving – although some appear to be mis-directed and others seem to be from dimensions I have never even heard of! Still, it is very nice to have mail, let us see now what have we got in the letter box today… why it’s a postcard for me from my dear friend Miss Henderson!
jennings1.jpg
Hello Mrs Baker,
I hope you are well.

We are all in Paris now, myself, Mr Bosch and Morag. We all came…

View original post 4,611 more words

The Paris Awakening: Air Part 9

concoction

Gendarme Levaux had originally assumed he was suffering from concussion.  However, the latest turn of events had lead him to conclude he might, in fact, still be unconscious and simply dreaming.

He remembered that he had encountered a strange group of women and a dog, that he had attempted to coerce them to the police station and had received a blow to his head for his troubles. His next recollection was of waking up in what appeared to be a church to a lunatic god. He was tied up so couldn’t fully see the environs, but he did note that that Art Nouveau style that seemed to be colonizing Paris like an invading bloom had taken root here so fully it was impossible to tell what was building and what was plant.

The three women and the dog were there and had been joined by two small, pale gentlemen who seemed very peculiar to Gendarme Levaux in a way he could not quite define. A large and garishly dressed gentleman had joined this odd group. On seeing the gendarme tied to a chair, this gentleman had proceed to issue a prolonged and profoundly creative set of oaths that made Gendrame Levaux blush, let alone the ladies.

Levaux had put all of this strangeness down to concussion until the tall woman dressed like a maid had addressed the dog and the dog had spoken back. At this juncture, the gendarme realised he was in a kind of lucid dream, and wondered idly if that was a normal response to being punched violently in the head.

Levaux then became quite curious as to how imaginative his mind was. For example, from the little English he understood, it seemed like the tall violent lady was asking the dog to help with a recipe for a drink of some kind. The dog, humorously enough, seemed to be replying with instructions although Levaux gathered from the tone, the dog was not entirely happy to do so. Finally, the tall lady had approach the gendarme with a most unusual drink. She was apologizing over and over as she removed Levaux’s gag and the gendarme laughed and said that she wasn’t to worry as it was only a dream. The drink was being proffered to him when a middle-aged couple came into the room and everyone turned to look at them.

The couple’s arrival seemed to provoke a great deal of excitement amongst all these strange creatures and they all set about talking at once. Since there was some French spoken, the gendarme learnt that the middle-aged lady, called Marie, had visited a village and spoken to a mythical creature that had told her she had some powers over other mythical creatures. This seemed to be greeted with quite some excitement and the gendarme was for a moment forgotten until the middle-aged man, seemingly a surgeon, had seen the gendarme and made an exclamation in English.

There was more excitement and shouting and someone showed the strange concoction to the Marie lady. She had shaken her head vigorously and come over to Levaux. He noticed her eyes looked quite kind and wise as she leant down to him and said a single word: “Oublier”.

The Paris Awakening: Air Part 8

Clackprattle's fist on map2

“What is that confounded racket!” roared Clackprattle.

Bisset got up from the table.

“I will find out at once,” he said and left the room.

“I don’t like this, Pook,” said Clackprattle. “It’s taking too long to find the second part of the key.”

“I believe, master, that Monsieur Bisset is working with all haste and energy towards our mutually desirable goal,” said Pook. “Indeed, I have myself witnessed him working into the very small hours.”

“Hmm.” said Clackprattle. “I don’t understand, though. We have the map, we have the first key, surely we have all that’s needed?”

“My understanding is that Monsieur Bisset has indeed identified the location of the key on the map,” said Pook. “There is however the matter of translating the places on the map to places in the city itself.”

Clackprattle snorted.

“So he’s got no further than we could have done,” he said. “Typical. I thought we were using him because he knew Paris so very well.”

“Apparently, the likely sites are not in the most salubrious parts of Paris, and quite understandably, Monsieur Bisset and his esteemed compatriots do not have the requisite knowledge.”

Clackprattle eyed Pook suspiciously.

“Don’t forget who you work for, little pookah,” he said and Pook winced. “I could send you back to the forest in a heartbeat.”

Pook smiled.

“I can assure you that is never far from my thoughts,” he said, bowing lightly.

Bisset returned to the table.

“Apparently some beggar woman let her dog loose,” said Bisset. “I have dealt with the servant who allowed this to happen. He won’t be a problem again.”

“He has been dismissed from your service?” said Pook.

“From this world,” said Bisset.

“We were talking about the slow progress in finding the second part of the key,” said Clackprattle.

“Ah yes,” said Bisset. “Of course I understand completely your concerns, the situation is somewhat…”

“Shut it!” interrupted Clackprattle. “Just fix it, don’t bore me with the details.”

Bisset smiled.

“I trust progress with our list is going well,” he said. “That we are still working through it, removing the, uh, obstacles.”

“Yes, of course,” said Clackprattle, looking bored. “We’ll do another one this week.”

Bisset glanced at Pook.

“There is one other matter we should discuss,” Bisset said.

“What?” said Clackprattle.

“We should talk about how we might deal with the challenge when we find the location of the second part of the key,” said Bisset.

Clackprattle looked puzzled.

“The Air key challenge must be an intellectual challenge, correct?” he said. “A challenge of one’s wits?”

“Indeed,” said Bisset.

“Then why is there even an iota of debate,” said Clackprattle. “Clearly I shall take up the challenge.

Bisset glanced at Pook again. There was an imperceptible nod of his head.

“I think that whilst your intellectual achievements are unique amongst men,” said Pook, ”there may be an issue of, shall we say, style here.”

“What?” said Clackprattle.

“The, er, local Parisien manner of intellectual discourse runs in a manner different from… from…” started Bisset.

“From your own inimitable direct style,” completed Pook. “You see, as one might expect from a city such as Paris, there is a certain circumlocution, a loquacious eloquence that is the expected in academic intercourse.”

Clackprattle snorted.

“Fancy talking?” he smirked. “No, I have no talent for that, no sir. I tell it how I see it, how it is.”

“And so,” continued Pook, “whilst that profundity and wisdom is the cornerstone of our success, we have need of something rather more, can I say, evasive and ambiguous. Something more opaque in its meaning.”

Clackprattle brooded for a while.

“It is indeed, quite the curious conundrum,” said Pook.

Clackprattle waved his hand to silence him.

“I’m thinking Pook, I don’t need your prattle,” he said. Then he slapped his hand on the table and pointed at Pook.

“You must do it,” he said. “You can talk the hind legs off a two legged donkey.”

Both Pook and Bisset let out gasps of amazement.

“It would be such an unexpected honour,” said Pook.

“That is indeed a wonderful display of the intellect and wisdom we have come to expect,” said Bisset.