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.

The Paris Awakening: Air Part 7

Grand House

“What’s happening?” hissed Sabine at Miss Henderson. Miss Henderson continued to stare into the hedge surrounding the grand house they were standing outside.

“Mme Meurdrac and Morag are at the door,” said Miss Henderson. “They have rung the bell. Oh, someone’s opened the door now. A butler, I think.”

They heard Mme Meurdrac’s voice from across the imposing lawn.

“Oh, won’t you ‘elp a poor old lady in need of assistance?” she said, with all the acting skill she could muster. Sabine winced at the effort.

“She doesn’t seem very authentic,” said Sabine, “even dressed in those rags.”

There was some mumbled discussion between the butler and Mme Meurdrac and then a shout of “Hey, stop!”

“Morag is in,” said Miss Henderson. “The butler isn’t sure whether to keep Mme Meurdrac out or go in for the dog.”

“Oh, do come back, Foufou,” shouted Mme Meurdrac in an unconvincing manner.

“The butler’s gone in,” said Miss Henderson. “Mme Meurdrac is looking round the front door, Ah, Morag has come back out and the butler has appeared.”

There was more mumbled talk from the doorstep.

“Mme Meurdrac and Morag are coming now,” said Miss Henderson. “The butler looks red and is gesturing at them.”

Soon Mme Meurdrac and Morag appeared around the hedge. Mme Meurdrac also looked a little flushed.

“I could have been on stage at the Theatre du Chatelat,” said Mme Meurdrac proudly.

Sabine started to speak.

“That was excellently done,” said Miss Henderson quickly.

“They’re there” said Morag. “I could smell them. Pook and Clackprattle are in there. There is something else there as well. A scent of incense and… magic.”

All the women looked at Morag.

“So what do we do now?” said Mme Meurdrac.

“You come to the station with me,” said a voice. The women all turned round to see a policeman standing behind them.

“I had a complaint about a strange woman and a dog,” he said, “as well as two women loitering suspiciously. I guess I have found you all.”

“You must go into that house at once,” said Mme Meurdrac, “They are murders!”

“I don’t think so,” said the policeman, regarding the woman dressed in rags.

“Monsieur,” said Sabine, turning on all the charms she had, “I am afraid it is a simple misunderstanding. My… sister is a little derangée and we have come to find her and take her home.”

“Oh, it is a misunderstanding!” said the policeman. “Well, that is fine then, we can easily resolve it. At the station.”

“One of my very good friends is a policeman in London,” said Miss Henderson. “So I’m terribly sorry about this.”

Her first flew out and the policeman crumpled to the ground.

“You hit a policeman!” said Mme Meurdrac. “We will all go to jail.”

“No we won’t,” said Miss Henderson. “Morag, can we make some sort of potion to make him forget?”

“Yes,” said Morag, “but it’s not…”

“Then we take him with us,” said Miss Henderson.

The Paris Awakening: Air Part 6

Faun

“It still seems strange though,” said Marie, walking slowly by the river, “that we couldn’t find it.”

“Well, it was quite a large graveyard,” said Sir John just behind her, “maybe we just missed it. Or maybe she is buried somewhere else.”

“I don’t think so,” said Marie. “It is the only one for miles. Unless she moved. Maybe she moved.”

Marie went quiet and walked on. Her head tilted down a little.

“Yes,” said Sir John, looking concerned at the back of his wife’s head, “that’s probably what happened. Maybe we can…”

“It’s here,” interrupted Marie. “Here where it all started.”

Sir John looked at the grassy bank rolling back from the river to a wood. It seemed such an ordinary place.

“So this is where you saw this… faun?” said Sir John.

Marie looked back at him. Here eyes were a little red. She pointed to the the treeline.

“There,” she said.

They both looked expectantly at the spot. Nothing happened.

“Perhaps,” said Sir John, “you could call it or something.”

Marie looked all around.

“No one else here,” she shrugged. “O Faun, come out, we want to see you.”

Immediately a creature burst out of the wood. It spun around and made angry sounds and looked straight at Sir John and Marie. It had the legs of a goat, a wiry human torso and a long thin face surmounted by two spiky horns. It radiated malice.

“What?” it said.

Sir John looked stunned at the creature while Marie looked on impassively.

“What?” it repeated. “I don’t have all day.”

The creature had a flute that it was clutching in dirty long fingers with needle-like nails. The fingers were moving reflexively as the creature rocked back and forth.

“How?” said Marie. “How did you know?”

“Know what?” it spat. “I don’t know nothing, I ain’t seen nothing.”

“How did you know I was… a witch,” said Marie.

“How did I…? I just met you,” said the faun.

“Years ago,” said Marie. “Before I even knew, before I’d… cast a spell or… anything. You knew.”

The faun’s thin eyes widened.

“Bugger me,” it said, “you’re the little miss from way back, ain’t you. The one that froze them kiddies.”

Sir John could see Marie was shaking but whether it was from fear or rage, he wasn’t sure.

“Yes,” said Marie, “that’s me. So you know what I can do.”

“Alright, alright,” said the faun, “no need to be unpleasant.”

Sir John noticed the faun had shrunk back a bit now, noticed the fingers around the flute moving quicker. Marie just stared at the creature.

“Well,” said the faun, “it’s kind of obvious to us.”

“Us?” said Marie.

“The woodland folk,” said the faun, “The ones that run in the wild. People like me.”

“Why,” said Marie.

“Well,” said the faun, “it’s obvious, innit. It’s what your born to do. Way back when, when we was all living cheek by jowl, it was your lot that kept us lot in line. Telling us what to do, bossing us about. Keeping your crops and your kiddies safe from the things in the wood. That was when all the human people thought you were wonderful. But, some of you have leakage, that’s where it went wrong for you lot.”

“My lot?” said Marie.

“Witches. Some of you got powers not just over the woodland folk but some of the humans too. You have that, don’t you? That’s what happened that day. It made me laugh and laugh,” said the Faun. “Laugh and laugh.”

“Silence!” yelled Marie. The faun stood stock still. It’s mouth clamped shut and its eyes flicked about.

“These woodland folk?” said Sir John. “Does that include pookahs?”

The faun nodded its head vigorously.

“All pookahs?” said Marie.

The faun nodded again. It started to breathe heavily through its nose.

“Marie,” said Sir John, “if that’s true then…”

“We have to go back to Paris,” said Marie. “Then I can stop this with one word.”

The faun was making noises and jumping up and down a bit.

“You’re free to go,” said Marie.

The faun gasped for air and bent over double. He looked up at Marie.

“I met some in my time,” he said, “but you, you’re… the most dangerous one I ever met.”

He ran into the wood without looking back.

 

Faun image (modified) from Recueil d’Emblêmes ou tableau des sciences et des vertus morales by Jean Baudoin

The Paris Awakening: Air Part 5

Card on tray

“And which newspaper did you say you were from again?” said Mme Meurdrac.

Le Temps,” said the man who’d called himself Emile.

Le Croix,” said the woman called Sabine at the same moment.

There was an awkward pause. The middle aged woman in the expensive dress raised an eyebrow in query.

“We syndicate,” said Emile.

Mme Meurdrac look at the quartet askance. Apart from this extravagantly dressed pair  that had done all the talking there were two more. One was a woman who clearly did not speak French and who was wearing a modern Parisienne dress that she fiddled with all the time. The other was a dog, that stared at Mme Meurdrac in a way that she found disconcerting.

She had let this bizarre collection of people in as they seemed to know something about her poor brother’s death. Or at least they seemed to suspect something more than the “natural causes” which the police had decided to publicise. Mme Meurdrac had always known her brother might come to an unfortunate end. That is, after all, what morbid people hope to see in an acrobat’s act. But she was surprised when he was found dead on the street looking 20 years older than he was. The police had suggested that maybe some aspect of his circus lifestyle was somehow responsible, hinting darkly at drugs or powerful liquor as a cause. But Mme Meurdrac knew better. Her brother may have been the proverbial black sheep of her wealthy family, but he was no fool. Even when he ran away to join the circus, he naturally joined the best.

“Let me order some coffee,” said Mme Meurdrac and left the room.

“What’s happening,” said Miss Henderson.

“You are giving the game away with your constant fidgeting,” said Sabine. “No Parisienne girl would do that.”

“And no Parisienne girl would be unable to speak French,” said Emile. “I think the jig is up there.”

“So…” said Miss Henderson, “What do we know?”

“That she’s suspicious,” said Emile, “of both her brother’s death and our presence. We need to earn her trust.”

Mme Meurdrac returned to the room.

“You wanted to talk about Albert’s last days?” she said.

Oui,” said Sabine. “Was there anything unusual, a strange job offer, perhaps?”

Mme Meurdrac eyed Sabine cooly.

“There was,” she said. “I spoke to him the day before. He was hired for some special stunt.”

Emile unconsciously leaned forward is his chair.

“Did he say what it was?” he asked.

“He was to climb onto the windmill sails of the Moulin Rouge and traverse it three times,” said Mme Meurdrac.

A butler came in then with a card on a tray. Mme Meurdrac looked at it and nodded quickly. Her lips pursed.

“But then I’m going to guess you knew that already,” she said, not looking up from the card. “I’ve spoken to the editors of both the Temps and the Croix and neither has heard of you.”

She looked up the to see two shocked faces.

“So why don’t we stop the games and you can tell me what you know.” said Mme Meurdrac. “And more importantly, how.”

“Mme Meurdrac,” said Emile. “You have caught us, and I apologise for our deception. There are forces at work in this story more powerful and amazing than you can guess at, and I suggest for your safety and sanity, we keep some of those details from you.”

Mme Meurdrac pulled herself up in her seat.

“I,” she said, “I am the last scion of an old and extremely wealthy Parisien family. I can trace my ancestry over 500 years. There is nothing about power that can frighten or cower me.”

Emile sighed.

“If you are sure?” he said and when Mme Meurdrac nodded he turned to Morag.

“Maybe you could help… explain,” he said, “the kind of world we live in.”

The dog nodded.

“Hello, my name is Morag,” she said in perfect French, “I am a 400 year old alchemist trapped in the body of a dog and I’m not even the most remarkable creature I know.”

The quartet turned to look at Mme Meurdrac and then at the butler, who was staring ashen faced.

“Perhaps you could get some smelling salts,” said Sabine. “Mme Meurdrac appears to have fainted.”

The Paris Awakening: Air Part 4

Rosé

“Here is your table Mr and Mrs Smith,” said the waiter, indicating a place in the restaurant. “You’ve just arrived in our little village?”

“Yes,” said the man with an English accent, “we just got here from Paris this evening. We’re staying next door.”

“A very good choice,” said the waiter, handing over two menus as the couple sat down. “That is without doubt the best in the area.”

“They said the same about you,” said the man, looking at the menu. The waiter nodded and left.

“It is the only hôtel in the area” whispered the woman with a French accent, “unless things have changed.”

“How do you feel now you are here, Marie,” said the man. “Is it strange to back?”

Marie looked over at Sir John and smiled wryly.

“Well Mr Smith… it’s not what I expected, arriving incognito with an English husband,” she said and reached over to hold his hand. He smiled back at her.

“So what’s the plan?” said Sir John. “We look for your old house, or the neighbours or…”

“Yes and yes,” said Marie, “although I don’t think we’ll find much out. We can visit the Hôtel De Ville.”

Sir John looked confused.

“I thought we were staying there?” he said. Marie laughed.

“It’s the… how you say… Town Hall,” she said giggling. “They may have records on my mother, although I doubt it.”

Then Marie looked serious and looked down.

“We should visit the churchyard too,” she said.

“Is it nice?” said Sir John, then realisation dawned on him. “Oh…”

“I have never seen her grave,” said Marie.

Avez-vous choisir?” said the waiter. “You have chosen?”

“Um… I’ll have the Beouf Bourguignon and my wife will have the Sole Meuniere,” said Sir John. “Do you have any wine to go with that?”

The waiters eyebrows nearly touched his hairline.

“I will see what I can find,” he said.

“There’s someone else I’d like to see,” said Marie.

“Who’s that?” said Sir John.

“The faun,” she said.

“Will he, it, will it still be there?” asked Sir John.

“Maybe not, but, these things do live a while,” said Marie. “And it knew, in a second it knew.”

“But so did Albrecht and Phlebotomous,” said Sir John. “Maybe it’s just… things like that know other…”

“Things like them?” said Marie, looking down.

“Not things, I mean, entities, er, creatures er…” Sir John looked across and saw the hole he was digging. “I mean maybe powers recognise powers. Whether they are human or not. But those things, those nature sprites, they’re slippery creatures.”

“Here is a nice local rosé,” said the returning waiter with two glasses of wine. As he left the couple took a sip of their wines. Sir John’s face contorted.

“That’s rather… rural,” said Sir John

“You should let me order the wine,” said Marie, smiling.

“But about this faun… think of Pook. We should be careful,” said Sir John. “They live for mischief.”

“True,” said Marie, “but he looked at a small girl who knew nothing about herself and knew what I was. Mon cher. I wanted to come here for two things, in truth. My mother’s grave and to see this one.”

“Very well then,” said Sir John, raising his glass, “we shall see them together.”

He took a big gulp of the wine and grimaced. Marie tried, and failed, to stifle a laugh.

The Paris Awakening: Air Part 3

Pie Air Chap 3 processed

There had been shouting for a little while now. Phlebotomous and Osvold had come out from their room when they heard Miss Henderson, Sabine and Morag return. Sabine had proudly placed a large meat pie on the table and then they had discovered a note. The note was from Sir John explaining that he and Marie would be away for a few days. That was when things started to go wrong.

Phlebotomous and Osvold had sat quietly whilst everyone had discussed the matter. It was difficult for Phlebotomous to understand exactly what was transpiring. He was aware there were some subtle aspects of human communication that he missed. He wasn’t quite sure, for example, why Miss Henderson’s eyes always seemed to roll back whenever Sabine spoke. Or why Sabine often talked when Miss Henderson was trying to say something.

At first the discussion seemed to focus on what they would do next, with some people thinking it would be a good idea to go and find either Sir John, Marie or Emile. That conversation had somehow changed into one where everyone tried to guess why Marie and Sir John had left. Once again Phlebotomous felt sure he missed something as Miss Henderson and Sabine seemed to start all of their sentences saying, “perhaps if you had…” whilst Morag had repeated, “ladies, please”. Then the shouting had started.

The shouting had continued for some time until Morag had surprised everyone by barking. Phlebotomous couldn’t recall her ever doing that before. She had then explained that it would be much better for everyone if they focussed on solving problems rather than arguing with each other which everyone had agreed was very true. There had been some quiet then and Miss Henderson had muttered something about how she thought she knew how to solve one problem and then there had been more shouting.

After a little while, and some more barking, everyone was quiet and staring at the floor. Phlebotomous was looking down to see what was catching their interest when Emile walked into the church. A few seconds later there was more shouting.

Finally, this last bout of shouting came to a halt and once again everyone looked at the floor. After a quick glance down, Phlebotomous felt that he should add something to the conversation.

“I think the pie might be cold,” he said. Three pairs of human eyes and one pair of dog’s eyes looked over at him with a look of utter confusion.

“This one,” said Phlebotomous pointing at the pie to help clarify. Osvold leaned into him.

“Good point,” he whispered in his ear.

“I don’t have much appetite,” said Emile glumly.

“Nor should you, you dog,” said Sabine.

‘There’s nothing wrong with dogs,” said Miss Henderson.

“Please,” said Morag, “everyone. We have to get past this, we have to try to find the next part of the key and we have to find Clackprattle and Pook.”

“And the acrobat,” said Phlebotomous. Again everyone looked confused at him.

“It’s a sort of person who jumps and does tricks,” he said to explain, “usually in a circus.”

Emile slapped himself on the forehead and swore which made Osvold jump.

“Of course, I saw this earlier and didn’t think of it,” Emile said. He pulled out a newspaper and flipped rapidly through it. He then slapped the paper down and pointed at an article.

“Artist de kirk retroove mort?” read Miss Henderson. Sabine gasped.

“Circus performer found dead,” said Emile. “Quite a coincidence n’est pas?”

The Paris Awakening: Air Part 2

air chap 2

Emile jumped up from his seat.

“Am I the last to know everything?” he shouted. “What does that even mean that you’re a witch?”

“I have… some powers,” said Marie.

“We worked together for years,” said Emile. “We pored over photographs looking for spirits, we visited seances to find any trace of ectoplasm and all this time, you’re, a… a sorciére?”

“I’m sorry, Emile…” said Marie, her eyes watering a little.

“I’m a researcher in the paranormal, I have been derided and ridiculed and any day… any day… you could have stopped that,” he continued. “It is… a kind of betrayal.”

“Emile!” said Sir John.

Arreter!” yelled Marie and Emile froze.

She wiped the tears from her cheeks then pointed a shaking finger at her friend.

“And you have never betrayed or tricked anyone, Emile?” she accused. “Isn’t that your stock in trade. I wanted so many times to tell you and to tell my husband, but it became harder and harder. And you know why? Because of this. I was frightened of this.”

Emile was mute and frozen.

“I was frightened of this,” said Marie again, quietly this time. “Libérer.”

Emile unfroze with a gasp. He looked wildly around the room.

Mon Dieu!” he said and ran out of the church.

Marie sat down at the table and put her head in her hands. Sir John went over and hesitantly put an arm around her.

“And I thought I could throw a scene,” said Sabine. “When I see that boy next I shall have some strong words for him.”

“It is my fault,” said Marie. “I should never have… done that.”

Sabine leaned over and petted Marie on the back.

“I wish I could have done that,” she said before turning to Miss Henderson.

“I believe we should go out to find some food for everyone, perhaps with Miss Morag,” said Sabine to the maid.

“I… yes… perhaps… but…” said Miss Henderson.

“Aye, that’s a good idea,” said Morag.

“And Mr Bosch, perhaps you and Osvold could study the map to make a list of places we might investigate. Over there,” said Sabine pointing to the vampires’ room.

“But there’s plenty of space here?” said Phlebotomous looking confused. Osvold tugged at his shoulder, though and Phlebotomous followed the smaller vampire to their lair.

A bientôt,” said Sabine cheerily, practically dragging Miss Henderson and Morag out of the church.

As the church emptied Marie’s sobs grew louder.

“There, there,” said Sir John, looking a bit panicked. “It will all be alright.”

“Will it?” said Marie, her head still in her hands. “I’ve insulted a dear friend and cast a spell on him.”

“Well, I’m sure he’ll be fine,” said Sir John. “Once he stops being terrified.”

Marie sobbed loudly again.

“I imagine that will be soon,” said Sir John trying to be reassuring.

Marie lifted her head up.

“This was always my fear. That there would be a scene and… something would happen. This is why I hid myself. But this is also why I need to find out more. I know we need to find Clackprattle and Pook, but they will always be scheming, mon cher. We can’t forget why we are here.”

“I agree Marie, but how?” said Sir John.

“There are enough people here to search for them, and I’m sure Emile won’t want to see me anyway. Let’s slip away for a few days. Let’s look together for my history.”

Sir John started to speak then looked into his wife’s eyes.

“I’ll get our things,” he said.

The Paris Awakening: Air Part 1

Sabine's High Tea

Marie, Emile, Sabine and the two vampires sat around a table in the art church that had become their home in Paris. In front of them was a collection of papers and a 3 tiered tray with sandwiches, small cakes and and scones on the top. They were untouched and everyone was looking morose and thoughtful.

Sir John, Miss Henderson and Morag came into the church talking loudly.

“I’m just going to get changed,” said Sir John, oblivious to the air of gloom. Miss Henderson looked in confusion at the high tea.

“What is that?” she said, just managing to keep annoyance out of her voice.

“I made it,” said Sabine, brightening a little, “to lift our spirits and remind you of home.”

Miss Henderson glowered at the indignity of being offered a treat from Sabine. The maid sat down at the table and sniffed at the food.

“That clotted cream looks a bit strange,” she said.

“It’s creme fraiche,” said Sabine, elegantly scooping some onto a spoon with a flourish. “I couldn’t get this English cream.”

Miss Henderson took the spoon and put it in her mouth. She pulled a face instantly.

“I don’t think it is fresh at all Miss Bellevoix,” said Miss Henderson patiently. “It’s really quite sour.”

“Ooh, what’s this?” said Sir John arriving at the table. He grabbed a scone and liberally plastered butter, jam and cream on it. “So what have we found so far?”

“Do you want the bad news first?” said Emile.

“There’s some good news?” said Sir John.

“No,” said Emile, “the other news is very bad.”

Sir John looked a little deflated and took a bite of his scone. His expression turned to one of surprise and he put the scone down. Miss Henderson suppressed a little smile.

“Do tell,” said Sir John, now eyeing the rest of the tea with suspicion.

“Well, we know Pook and Clackprattle have the first part of the key. We also know they have the map, and hence should be able to find the second part of the key,” said Emile.

“But have Dinard’s notes” said Sir John, “they should help, shouldn’t they?”

“Yes and no,” said Sabine, “I have read the notes and they tell us something disturbing. It seems that to find the second key, you must have the first. The map is not enough. There are some five or six possible places, which Dinard identified, but you need the first part to be sure.”

“And so we are, as you say, stuffed up,” said Emile.

“Hmm,” said Sir John, “that is a conundrum.”

“So…” said Miss Henderson, “we can’t find the next part of the key, but Pook and Clackprattle can?”

“Indeed,” said Emile, “the situation in a nutshell.”

“So we need to find them, then,” said Miss Henderson. “Pook and Clackprattle.”

Everyone looked at Miss Henderson.

“Why didn’t I think of that,” said Emile.

“Miss Henderson has some interesting family connections,” said Sir John, “Marie my dear, can you, er, think of a way.”

“The stone bug!” said Phlebotomous, “She made one before.”

“Yes, but that was using the mud of the gollum,” said Miss Henderson. “We don’t have a gollum.”

“But there was one before,” said Morag, “You told us about it, that followed Pook didn’t it?”

“Everyone, please,” said Marie, looking mildly panicked.

“What is this bug?” said Emile. “What did you do,”

“Ah,” said Sir John, “erm, its, well…”

Marie sighed.

“It’s alright, mon cher,” she said. “It is time to explain, I think. Emile, Sabine, I am a…. I am a witch.”

“I knew it!” said Sabine and grabbed a petit four in triumph.

The Paris Awakening: Earth Part 16

acrobat

The three men wore fixed expressions as Clackprattle ranted on. They were sitting around a table with Clackprattle at its head, his goblet dripping wine as he swung it round manically.

“And it is I that has triumphed,” he shouted. “It is I that have succeeded and it is I that have the key.”

Pook smiled insipidly at his employer.

“Indeed, Master, it is a great success, one that, I feel sure will be greatly remembered for years as a stepping stone to a most splendid achievement,” he said.

“Stepping stone!” roared Clackprattle, quite red in the face. “Don’t you see Pook, you fool, see how easy it was for me? The other three keys will be ours in a week and we shall then hold the weapon.”

Pook, who had flinched only slightly at the insult, went to speak but was interrupted by the man opposite him.

“Indeed, Master Clackprattle is correct,” said Bisset. “We have achieved a famous victory and the next steps will proceed as quickly as possible.”

“I trust we haven’t forgotten our bargain?” said Clackprattle, waving his gloved hand. “We aren’t stalling, are we?”

“Most certainly not,” said Bisset. “We are indebted and I trust our support is clear. Indeed, even now we are working without pause to locate the other three parts. But, you have had a tiring day, no doubt. Why not retire to your chambers whilst we continue the investigation?”

Clackprattle sat down.

“It is true,” he said. “The exertion required is quite astounding.”

“Of course it is, Master,” said Pook. “Monsieur Bisset makes a valid point, why tire yourself more when we, your willing servants, can carry out your biding while you rest?”

Clackprattle made a grunting noise, his head lolling onto his chest.

“It would expedite matters if we could take temporary possession of the key-piece,” said Bisset, still smiling.

Clackprattle rotated a bloodshot eye at the man.

“You mean to take it from me?” he said groggily.

Bisset went to speak when Pook interrupted.

“I, your most loyal and devoted servant will be here all the time,” he said. “Nothing untoward or unseemly will occur.”

Clackprattle seemed to think on that for a minute. He made another grunting noise and dropped the round key-piece on the table. He then stood up woozily and headed out of the room.

Bisset and Pook looked across at each other, both still smiling.

“You need the key-piece to find the next one,” said Pook, “I surmise.”

“Most astute,” said Bisset. “Not only must the pieces be retrieved in order, it is necessary to use the first to find the second, and so on. You won’t mind if I take the piece to look?”

Pook shrugged.

“I am sure you will return it in good measure, after what Master Clackprattle has done for you,” he said.

“Naturally!” said Bisset brightly. “But may I ask you one question?”

“Please, feel free to do so,” said Pook.

“Earlier by the fire, what were you doing?” said Bisset.

“I was warming myself,” said Pook. “I find that I feel the cold quite acutely.”

Bisset frowned.

“It looked like, you…” he started, then shook his head.

“What shall we do with him?” said Pook, indicating the man at the end of the table, dressed in an acrobat’s outfit.

Bisset looked at the ashen face.

“Someone will deal with him,” he said and got up from the table. “I will take my leave and will start on the key.”

As Bisset left the room, Pook and the other man both stared into space.

“What a remarkable day indeed,” said Pook, turning to the other man. “I imagine you’ve not seen one like it before?”

The acrobat, long dead, stared vacantly in front of him.

Pook made a little giggling sound then got up to leave the room.

 

 * The superb bronze sculpture of the acrobat can be found in the city of Montreux along the beautiful shores of Lake Geneva.