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.

 

The Paris Awakening: Earth Part 15

Earth 15

“I say sir!” said Sir John, echoing his wife’s annoyance. But Marie had gone, while the bearded man sat and laughed.

There was a roar of excitement from the crowd and then a sigh of disappointment.

“Where’s Marie?” said Sir John, perplexed at the absence of his wife who had been there just a second before.

The crowd started to slowly move away from the famous windmill.

“She was just here?” said Emile, equally perplexed.

“Did that man…” said Sir John, turning to look where the bearded man was sitting. He moved towards the table, his view obscured by the departing crowd.

“What did you do?” said Sir John as he pushed his way to the table, but he found he was addressing an empty chair. The man had gone too.

“What is going on?” said Sir John to himself.

The crowd was still dispersing around him as he wandered back to where he had been standing. Miss Henderson was there looking around distraught.

“I’ve lost Morag,” she said. “I had her with me one moment, then she went the next.”

Sabine emerged from the departing crowd.

“It was an acrobat,” she said. “Doing some trick on the sails of the windmill, jumping from one to another. At the end he stood on the roof and waved with something in his hand. Then he went in.”

“Something’s happened,” said Sir John. “Marie and Morag and that obnoxious gentleman have all vanished.”

Sabine looked unperturbed.

“Be calm, Sir John,” she said. “It is a big crowd in Paris, they are probably somewhere in it. We will wait here and all will be fine, I’m sure.”

“But the man…” said Sir John.

“Even in Paris people sometimes leave a café,” said Sabine.

Emile leaned close to his friend.

“You know earlier, when Marie said we needed a witch,” said Emile quietly, “what exactly did she mean?”

“Well,” said Sir John, “it’s funny you should ask that…”

“We’re too late!” said Marie, emerging from the crowd with Morag. “They have it.”

“Who has what?” said Emile.

“The key, the part of the key,” said Marie.

“You mean the part of the weapon?” said Sir John.

“No… yes,” said Marie. “Whatever it is, they have it. There was a man on the sails…”

“An acrobat,” said Sabine, “from his costume.”

“Yes, that was the task, the man at the café was the elemental, the task was to go around the sails three times while it moved. The acrobat did it and… something appeared in his hand.” said Marie.

“We tried to get to the windmill, but we were too late,” said Morag. “Even with everyone frozen for while.”

“When was everyone frozen?” said Miss Henderson. “I didn’t see that.”

“Aye, well,” said Morag, “you were one of them.”

The crowd had thinned out now and the street was mostly visible again. As the group looked at Marie and Morag they missed the fat man, short man and acrobat getting into a carriage.

“The point is,” said Marie glumly, “the point is, we lost.”

The Paris Awakening: Earth Part 14

crowd at moulin rouge

The Place Blanche was filled with people all seemingly staring at the Moulin Rouge. From the back of the crowd it was hard to see exactly what was catching their attention, beyond the lights starting to seduce in the pall of dusk. But there were audible gasps and fingers pointing in the direction of the windmill.

“What’s happening?” said Morag to the group.

A young man staggered past, visibly drunk and even more visibly perturbed by a talking dog. He looked in horror at the bottle of absinthe he was drinking and hurled it to the ground before running away. Emile winced at the sight of it.

“It’s a bit hard to make out,” said Sir John, clutching his wife. “Something on the windmill maybe?”

“Oh for ‘eavens sake!” said Sabine and started pushing through the crowd. Her apologies were quickly followed by her blows to the ribs or backs of the onlookers. People turned and made exclamations as she pushed her way to the front but she seemed oblivious to her impact.

“Not very ladylike,” said Miss Henderson to Marie, before casually standing on the foot of a drunken man leering towards her. He howled in pain and fell backwards. Emile made a moue of approval.

“Ho ho, so you brought the maid,” said the fat bearded man at the café, sitting in the same spot as before and once more with a crowd around him.

Sir John glanced over and muttered something.

“Ignore him,” said Emile, under his breath.

“It’s annoying,” said Sir John, equally low voiced, “and ungentlemanly. In London he would be horsewhipped.”

“My friend,” said Emile kindly, “you are not in Kensington now.”

Sir John made a noise.

“Which one is your maid,” said the man. “The amazon?”

Miss Henderson rolled her eyes.

“Or is that your wife?” said the man.

Monsieur!” hissed Marie and swivelled round to confront the man.

Then…

…everything stopped….

…nobody moved….

…time halted…

…and sounds faded to silence.

“Is that you?” said Morag, walking up to Marie and looking at everyone now still as statues.

“No!” said Marie, confused.

“It’s just no-one else is moving.” said Morag.

The bearded man let out a big earthy laugh.

“Well, nearly no-one!” he said.

“You!” said Marie. “You’re the elemental.”

The man nodded forward, his demeanour seeming to change from brusque bon vivant to gentle man-mountain.

“Enchanted,” he said, “quite literally. And what may I ask are a witch and a… I’m sorry m’dear. What are you?”

“I’m an alchemist,” said Morag. A frown crossed the man’s enormous forehead.

“We’re looking for the weapon,” said Marie.

“The weapon?” said the man.

“The four parts,” said Marie. “The weapon in four parts.”

“You mean the key,” said the man. “The key in four parts.”

“The key?” said Morag.

“Yes, the key,” said the man, looking a little uncertain. “I guard one part and administer a test for it.”

“Yes, that,” said Marie. “What is the test?”

The man looked at the windmill on the Moulin Rouge.

“The test is simple, one must stay on top of the sails of the windmill for 3 full turns. A garçon over there is trying to do it as we speak,” said the elemental.

Marie tried to squint.

“I don’t see, what garçon,” said Marie.

“The one that came with the English men, the fat pompous one and the thin one that rubs his hands,” said the elemental. “They came yesterday, spoke to me, and I explained the task. Today they came back with an acrobat, I think. They started a little a while ago and he has made two turns now.”

The elemental turned to look at Marie and Morag, but they were gone, pushing through the stationary crowd and towards the Moulin Rouge and its windmill.

The Paris Awakening: Earth Part 13

peacock

“And what did you find there?” said Sabine, rapt.

“Nothing,” said Emile flatly.

“Nothing?” said Miss Henderson.

“Nothing,” said Sir John.

“Nothing at all?” said Phlebotomous, prompted by Osvold.

“Not a thing,” said Emile. “No elemental creature, no challenge, no weapon.”

“But Clackprattle and Pook were there,” said Morag, “and there was still nothing?”

“Is my accent a little confusing?” said Emile, sounding irritated. “We saw nothing, found nothing, heard nothing, smelled nothing!”

There was a pause during which a peacock walked into the church. It looked at the group sitting around the table and made a noise.

“Is that new?” said Sir John, pointing to the peacock.

“It matches the decor,” said Sabine waving a hand round at the reworked church hall, now filled with rooms made with ornately decorated panels.

“We lost the noise of the workmen and now we have the noise of this overdressed chicken,” said Miss Henderson to Sir John, with a poor attempt at sotto voce.

Morag barked and the peacock ran out of the church.

“It’s a bit wary of me,” said Morag. “Probably with reason.”

“So what do we do next?” said Sabine.

“We go back, I think,” said Sir John. “We can take some of our investigative devices to see if that helps. Phlebotomous, do you think you have anything?”

“It’s not exactly my area,” said Phlebotomous,” but I could probably make a sort of elemental detector. Something that registered when one element was out of balance. That might help you find this creature.”

“Sounds perfect,” said Sir John, “and we can take the Ectoscopic Glasses. They may help with identifying supernatural sources. Emile?”

“I’ll see what I can find, but I have an Ethereal Detector that may help,” said Emile.

“And we’ll need someone who can carry out the physical challenge,” said Sir John. “When we find out what it is.”

There was a short pause.

“Of course!” exclaimed Sabine excitedly. “It is obvious. I will do it.”

“Ah,” said Sir John, “we were actually wondering…”

“Nonsense,” interrupted Sabine. “The duty falls to me. I insist.”

“Sabine,” said Emile, “we wondered if Miss Henderson would volunteer.”

They all looked at the maid.

“Well of course, mess sewer,” said Miss Henderson. She did a strange sort of half-courtesy and tried to hide a smile.

“And since I’m the only one who can’t be hypnotised by that numpty Pook, I’d better come along as well,” said Morag.

“Osvold and I will stay here,” said Phlebotomous. “Since it’s day time.”

“Well, that’s settled then, I guess,” said Sir John. “Let’s go tomorrow, first thing and find whatever it is.”

The door to Marie and Sir John’s room swung open and Marie walked out.

“You’re forgetting one thing,” said Marie, smiling. “You’re probably going to need a witch.”

“Did she say what I think she said?” said Sabine to Emile, her sotto voce as bad as Miss Henderson’s.

 

Picture adapted from W.H. Bradley “The Modern Poster – Frontis art” under Creative Commons License

“Our Best Man is in Switzerland”

We apologise for the spontaneous intermission but traveling has overwhelmed our ability to publish. Please accept this holiday snap as an apology, enjoy the over-priced ice cream and normal service will resume shortly…