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.

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.”