Copper, the Alchemist, & the Woman in Trousers: Episode 3

Victorian men hatsWelcome back to the late Victorian Era and our all new “interactive” culinary adventure!  The things and ingredients for Episode-3 have the story rolling along as they building the plot and characters.  Keep an eye out for informational links in the text and with some of the images too.

I’m honored to say that Lord David Prosser of the Barsetshire Diaries and the Buthidars (I like to call him the Hug Master General) was among my first followers at Teagan’s BooksBarsetshire Diary Cover Take a look at his blogs and books.  They are one hundred percent charming — just like the author.

When Lord David sends “things” to drive an episode, I always know it will turn out fun and interesting. I also know that at least one of the things will turn into a learning experience.  He likes to give me a challenge, and I love it.  He really does send great things.

3.  Quail’s Egg, Wurlitzer Organ, Hydrofoil

The dapple mare Ignatius Belle loaned me cantered at a pace that seemed comfortable for the horse.  We traveled along a river.  Water lapped gently against the shore making a soothing sound.  I reigned in the mare, stopping under a large shade tree beside the main house of the Hixon estate.

Side saddle close upFor a moment I considered how I should approach a frightened child.  I decided to simply knock on the front door.  I expected that convention would outweigh Copper’s skittishness, especially within the familiarity of her home.  After all, when there was a knock at the door, one tended to answer it.

Though it irked me, I dressed in socially acceptable feminine attire.  Under the circumstances I realized that was best.  However, I still refused to wear a corset, and I absolutely did not ride sidesaddle!  If someone was upset about the sight of a bit of stocking showing above my boots, then they could look away.

After I dismounted the horse, I adjusted the full skirt and bustle.  The dark green and cream colored stripes were attractive, even if the design was utterly impractical.  I touched the smaller lady’s version of my favorite top hat.  It sat at a jaunty angle on my head, and was adorned with ribbons, feathers, and tulle.

Through the multicolored stained glass inset on the door I saw the shape of a small person approach after I knocked.  Sure enough, the door opened just a crack.  Although I thought I already knew the answer to the question, I asked if Mr. Hixon was available.

“Um… no.  No ma’am,” Copper said through the crack in the door without giving further information.

“Oh, that’s unfortunate,” I dissembled.  “I had an appointment with him.  I’ve come to apply for the governess position,” I said, hoping that Copper felt the need to have a grownup around.Victorian girl w cat

While I knew nothing about children, I expected that most youngsters who had nothing to eat and a dead body in the study would like to have an adult to fix things.  I held up the basket of calamari and rolls.

“I’ve brought my lunch, but there is too much of it.  Perhaps while I wait for Mr. Hixon, we could share it.  Maybe in the kitchen?” I suggested.

Cornelis had mentioned that the study and the kitchen were on opposite sides of the house.  I hoped the idea of me being in the kitchen would seem less threatening to the girl than letting me into another part of the house.

Indecision painted her face, along with the smudge of dirt I saw on her nose at the general store.  She bit her lower lip as she looked from the basket and back up at me.  The aroma of its contents was making me hungry again, so I knew her mouth must be watering.  A gurgling noise came to my ears.  That was surely her stomach growling.

“Governess?” Copper finally repeated.

“Yes.  You know how busy your father is.  He’s been looking to get a new governess to help with things, and to help look after you,” I said, hoping she had liked her former teacher as much as I expected.  Hixon wasn’t likely to have written the glowing recommendation Cornelis mentioned if the child didn’t like her.

“Um,” she began and licked her lips.  “Won’t you please come in,” she said in a rehearsed formal way.  “But you must make sure not to disturb my father,” she added with a frightened look in her eyes.

When I crossed the threshold I detected an unappealing scent.  It smelled like sweet oil, overlaying a vague odor of something that was rotting.  Forgetting my resolve to take things slowly, I turned to follow my nose.  Copper gasped and grabbed my hand and pulled me toward the kitchen and away from the odor.

Quail eggsAs might have been expected the kitchen was a horrendous mess of dirty dishes and disastrous attempts at cooking.  The shell of a quail’s egg lay on the floor.  Flour covered the work surfaces, part of what appeared to be an unsuccessful attempt at pancakes.  By the look of things, Copper must have been on her own for a while.  By the time I recovered from the shock of seeing a kitchen in such a state, the moppet had already eaten most of the food I brought.  The poor thing was ravenous.

I twitched with a shudder when the disembodied voice of Cornelis was suddenly in my ear.  He warned that someone was coming.  I could hear him more clearly than I usually could when he sent his voice without his body.  Usually his voice sounded rather far away in this circumstance, but at that moment he was loud and clear.  However, I heard a distracting faint chiming sound in the background and I wondered what it was.

“Who said that?” Copper asked with a start.

It surprised me that she heard him.  I told her that it was just a friend, but she pelted out of the kitchen.  I followed Copper as she ran to the front parlor to look out the window.  A small coach and a man on horseback approached.  Cornelis spoke into my ear again stating that the rider was the sheriff.  I asked who would be in the carriage, but he didn’t know.  Copper must have thought I was speaking to her.

“The orphanage,” she whispered wide eyed.

She looked likely to run again.  I knew I’d never catch her in that retched skirt and bustle I was wearing, so I quickly took hold of her hand.

“Don’t worry.  Whoever it is, I won’t let them take you,” I assured her.Sad Eyed Victorian Girl

Copper looked up at me with frightened eyes that were filled with tears and a spark.  That spark seemed like a trace of hope that I sincerely would protect her.  How could anyone resist that face?  However, I needed information, and I needed it fast.  The slow approach was no longer possible.

“Is there some other reason why the sheriff might be here?” I asked.  “What about your father?  Are you sure he’s just busy?  Is he… Is he well?” I asked the scared girl.

Her eyes moved to the direction of the study, where Cornelis said a dead man was slumped at her father’s desk.  “Copper has anything happened to your father?” I asked.  I realized that I might be pushing too hard, but I tried to make my voice gentle.  “Is he in the study?” I asked and that was as close as I dared come to asking if her father was dead.

“I don’t know!  No,” she cried sounding confused.  “I don’t know where Daddy is.  When I came back inside from playing he was gone.”

That surprised me.  “That isn’t him in the study?” I asked much too bluntly.

“No!” she screeched.

“It’s alright,” I reassured her, but I had to hurry and get some facts before the sheriff came into the house.  “How can you be sure that isn’t him?  You didn’t see his face did you?” I asked.

As soon as I said the words, I wished I could take them back.  Cornelis was right in saying that I spoke before I thought.  It was a poor choice of words, but Copper didn’t react as strongly as I feared.

“No.  His hair.  Daddy doesn’t have hair like that.  His is gray and thin,” Copper said.

The voice of Cornelis supplied the detail that the corpse had luxuriant brown hair.  Then he reminded me about the signet ring.

“Darling, have any relatives come to visit?  The man wears a family ring like your fathers.  Does he have brothers, nephews?” I had to ask since it was only hearsay that there was no family.  Copper shook her head, unable to take her eyes away from the view of the coach and the rider.Victorian Coach

The coach driver climbed down, ready to open the door and help his passengers alight.  I turned away from the window and took a step toward the study.  There was no more time to handle the delicate situation in a slowly paced, gentle way.  I had to investigate the room where the unknown corpse rested immediately; else I might never get another chance once the sheriff was on the scene.

A pop sounded and Cornelis Drebbel was suddenly in my path.  I ran right into the Dutchman.  Copper gasped.  It wasn’t like the alchemist to reveal himself to anyone.  I thanked the stars that Copper had only gasped.  She might well have screamed loud enough for the sheriff to hear.  I was sure that he and the coach would be at the gates by then.

With a flourish Cornelis bowed and took my hand.  That was also unlike him — behaving flirtatiously with me, I mean.  “You will need this,” he said and placed a beautifully carved ring on my finger.

“Cornelis, what—?” I began, dumbfounded.

Could the Dutchman have lost his mind?  I didn’t get to ask him at what foolishness he was playing, because he pointed dramatically at the window.

Signet ring“You will need this,” he said of the ring but before I could comment he continued.  “The people who are about to step out of the carriage?  The moppet is correct.  They are from the orphanage.  And the presence of the sheriff indicates that they have a serious purpose,” Cornelis said.

Copper shrieked.  The child didn’t utter a word when the alchemist materialized out of nowhere.  But mention an orphanage and she screamed.  All I could do was shake my head.  I hoped she wasn’t heard outside.

I ran to the study.  To my surprise, Copper followed even as I opened the door and entered the room where the dead body was.  The smell of sweet oil was almost overpowering.  It was as bad the odor of the corpse.  I saw the empty oil bottle lying on the rug at his feet.  Then I noticed that the back of his head looked greasy, and an oil stain ran all the way down the back of his waistcoat.

I almost laughed.  “Copper, did you pour the sweet oil on him?” I asked the child who stood a foot behind me.

“He stank,” she said simply but emphatically.

I hurriedly scanned the room for anything obvious.  However, I wasn’t sure for what I should be looking.  Neither was I certain of my purpose in this situation.  I had been drawn to this place for a reason, but it was unknown to me.  I didn’t think my purpose was merely to solve the riddle of the dead man at the desk.

First things first, I told myself as I turned my attention back to the body.  I had expected to see a pool of blood, but the top of the desk was clean.  The dead man’s left hand rested on the desktop.  Something seemed wrong about the position of the hand.  It had been moved.

Hadn’t Cornelis said he wore a signet ring?  Without looking I could feel the cool metal of the ring the alchemist placed on my finger.  “You’ll need this,” he’d said.  My eyes went back to the naked hand of the dead man.

“You moved a ring from the finger of a cadaver and put it on my hand?” I exclaimed, but Cornelis was nowhere to be seen.

“Cornelis Drebble!”

***Victorian gown bustle stripes

After extracting a promise from Cornelis to watch over Copper, and a dire warning of what he’d face if he let her run away, I sent the two to the back parlor.  A moment later I heard the Dutchman exclaim, “Oh look! It’s a Wurlitzer!”

There was no telling what Cornelis was talking about with that comment.  I thought he must have been saying something silly to get the child’s mind off the situation.  I hoped Cornelis would be responsible in looking after Copper.  He wasn’t always reliable.

An official seeming knock sounded at the door.  I took a breath and moved to answer it.  The “visitors” were clearly surprised to see me, particularly the people from the orphanage.  They included two women and a man.  The man, who was standing farthest back, mumbled that there was not supposed to be anyone there except the child.  I got the impression that he had plenty of courage to accost a child, but not so much if he had to confront an adult.

The sheriff was an ordinary looking man, with the exception of the shiny badge and a thick mustache.  He had the air of a man who was simply doing his job.  He glanced at my stylish frock and seemed to notice a horse hair that clung to my cuff.  He bowed over my hand in a formal but obvious ploy to get a good look at the signet ring.

I introduced myself as Copper’s aunt, her father’s half-sister, Mina.  Yes, Mina.  That was the first name that came to mind, though I’ve no idea why.  Of course my assertion was met with astonishment.  However, Calvin Hixon had not been born in the little town.  They couldn’t know much about the extended family.

Sheriff Seth Bullock-DeadwoodAt least the sheriff seemed to think it plausible enough.  He glanced again at the ring on my finger and nodded his head.  Whatever these orphanage people were about, from the sheriff’s point of view, a long lost relative showing up would simplify things for him.

I raised one eyebrow expectantly when none of them introduced themselves in return.  The sheriff understood, but the other three silently — and arrogantly stepped across the threshold.  The sheriff cleared his throat and they hesitated.

“Pardon my lack of manners,” he said awkwardly and began making quick introductions.

The county sheriff was Alvin Bullard, also part owner of the local grist mill.  The other man was Claude Dinkley, a board member of Merciful Haven Orphanage, as well as the county truant officer.  He had a slim build, a weak chin, and his starched collar was too tall for the length of his neck.  He also looked like he’d tremble in fear of one of the women.

That woman was Ethel Farthing, chairlady of the board and owner of the Merciful Haven Orphanage.  She was of average height and build.  Her movements were stiff and choppy, though she did not appear to be arthritic.  Ethel Farthing positively radiated bossiness and was the first to shoulder her way across the threshold uninvited.  She made a sarcastic comment at which the other woman gave a honking laugh.

Which brings me to the last visitor.  She was a tall willowy woman, Gertrude Hobbs, administrator of the orphanage.  Her wire rimmed spectacles sat far down her nose.  She was very quiet, but nodded sharply to everything Ethel Farthing said.  She had a small head with a prominent Goosey Gooseynose and a long neck.  Those features combined with her honking laugh and the large bustle of her gown reminded me of a goose, a greedy goose waiting for a chance to peck away at something.

But why were those people here at all?  How could they know Copper was on her own?  Did the authorities already know something about Calvin Hixon’s disappearance?  Why did they have such an interest in Copper?  Although I supposed if they established themselves as her guardians, they could take over the Hixon estate.  They looked like a covetous lot.  They were likely unaware of the financial problems Cornelis discovered.

As I motioned toward the front parlor where I planned to lead them I saw the sheriff’s nose twitch.  I had not anticipated him being an experienced lawman.  He recognized the odor of decomposition beneath the heavy smell of sweet oil.  His hand moved to the holstered gun on his hip as if reflexively.

He gave me a cold look.  “Is there some problem here, Miss?” he asked levelly.

There was little I could do, except tell the truth — mostly.  “Actually Sheriff, there is.  I arrived only a short time ago,” I began and I saw him take note of horse hairs that stubbornly clung to my gown.  Hopefully my unkempt attire corroborated that much.  “And I came into a terrible thing.  I’ve spent all my time trying to calm the poor child.  She was in hysterics.  Heaven only knows what she’s been through,” I said with a grain of truth.

“Do continue,” he said flatly when I paused.  He was definitely the no nonsense type.

“I found a stranger in my brother’s study.  The child has been too distraught to tell me what happened or where her father is.  I assumed he went into town to get help,” I said, though it didn’t look like the sheriff believed that.

“What stranger?” Gertrude, the bird-like woman asked.

Victorian Man Collar“No doubt another long lost relative,” Ethel Farthing, the more aggressive woman said before I could answer.

I chose to ignore the people from Merciful Haven as much as possible and focus on the sheriff.  I only wished I could ignore the doubtlessly ironic way the facility was misnamed.  Sheriff Alvin Bullard was the one with the real authority.  I led the sheriff to the study.  The others followed.  They gasped and nearly retched when they walked into the room.

“Nothing appears to be amiss,” I told Sheriff Bullard, and hoped against hope he would not to the kitchen where it looked like Armageddon had been fought.  “Well except of course for…  I assumed the poor man was struck by a sudden death, a heart attack, or a stroke perhaps,” I said with a distraught wave toward the dead body, trying to give the impression that I was just a helpless woman.

Making my eyes as wide and sad as possible, I looked up at the sheriff.  Oh yes.  That had him.  His shoulders relaxed and he took his hand away from the gun at his side.  He gave the corpse a cursory inspection.

Lovers Eye Brooch

Lover’s Eye Brooch

The orphanage people recovered themselves enough to start complaining about my presence.  Their assertions about concern over the welfare of the child sounded hollow at best.  Based on the expression on the sheriff’s face, he thought so as well.

“No sign of a struggle,” the lawman murmured as he looked at the body.  “No apparent injuries, no blood from an attack,” he observed.  Then he took a close look at the man’s face and at the desk and nodded again.  “No traces of vomit to indicate poison.  Not so much as a hair out of place.  I have to agree that the poor soul must have died from natural causes,” he said with a due amount of reverence and he looked at the others as if silently suggesting they follow his example of decorum.

“You said you attended the child,” he said to me and I nodded.  “I’d like to speak to her,” he added.

I made a reluctant, concerned face.  “I’ve only just given her a tonic to get her to sleep.  It would be best not to wake her.  Perhaps I could bring her to your office tomorrow?” I suggested and Sheriff Bullard reluctantly agreed.

The others were not so amenable.  A veritable caterwauling ensued.  They demanded to see Copper and determine her welfare for themselves.  Then they demanded some kind of identification from me.  Fortunately, it was in no way unusual for a person to be without such documents.

Cornelis Drebbel

Cornelis Drebbel

The voice of Cornelis whispered into my ear.  “Prime these fools for what I’m about to do,” he said but I couldn’t ask what he meant.  Thankfully he continued.  “Get them to face the corpse, and say something about making the dead unhappy,” he said.

I couldn’t imagine what the alchemist had in mind.  However, I moved to stand behind the body so they would have to look at it.

“It was my late brother’s wish that I come here as soon as I could.  As for this poor man, well that is up to the sheriff,” I said, unsure how to fit words to the alchemist’s unknown plan.  “It’s unwise to have such antagonism and animosity in the presence of the so very recently deceased!” I said in wide-eyed fearful seeming warning.  “It is dangerous to anger the spirits before they have had time to move on to the heavenly plane.”

As my words ended, a shrill harmonic sound vibrated.  It seemed to be within my own ears, but I saw everyone else react to it as well.  The sound escalated into loud eerie music that thundered within the room.  The volume was so strong that it vibrated through the floor and up through my boots.  I felt as though I stood in the middle of a gigantic cathedral pipe organ.

I finally understood the exclamation Cornelis made when he entered the back parlor.  He’d found a Wurlitzer organ and was using it to grand effect.  Somehow he had amplified the sound and made it seem to come from within the study.  A glint of silver caught my eye, and I spotted the ornate bell Cornelis took from the inn — the one he said was actually not an ordinary bell, but a harmonic tuner. 

Bass notes emanated from the Wurlitzer in an ominous way.  When he managed to add a sound like a howling cry on the wind the people from the orphanage nearly trampled the sheriff trying to get out of the study.  They stumbled and fell repeatedly in the hallway as they made for the front door.

The sheriff looked rather confused by the loud music.  I saw him look around the study for the source of it.  He seemed mildly uneasy as I walked him to the front door.  He seemed calm enough when he said he would send someone to take the body.  However, his footsteps became very quick as he went to his horse.  By then the dust stirred by the coach was all that remained of the officiaries from Merciful Haven Orphanage.

I returned to the study.  Something had caught my eye on the desk when the sheriff moved the corpse to check his face.  It was an envelope addressed to Calvin Hixon.  I had only glimpsed the return address, but I thought I’d seen a notable name.  I grimaced as I moved the corpse enough to retrieve the letter.

That was interesting, I thought as I read the envelope.  I had not been mistaken about the sender.  I removed the stationary from the envelope.  It was a businesslike missive, complimenting Hixon’s project.  I had no idea Hixon was an inventor.  Perhaps it was a hobby.  The letter was an offer of collaboration to improve a design belonging to Hixon that the writer called a hydrofoil.  The letter was signed by Alexander Graham Bell.

“Ah yes,” I thought.  “The telephone man.  And another Bell.”  It seemed that bells of one kind and another had surrounded me ever since I arrived.

Forlanini hydrofoil

Alexander Graham Bell and Hydrofoil

I reread the letter, trying to comprehend the idea of a boat that sat on “foils” that lifted it out of the water, allowing it to reach amazing speeds.  Could it actually be made to work?  Hixon’s invention had attracted the interest of someone like Alexander Graham Bell, so it must be worthwhile.  Was it related to his disappearance?  Did it have anything to do with the corpse beside me?

At that moment Copper ran into the study, followed by Cornelis.  Both laughed merrily at the fright they had given the child’s would-be guardians.

Cornelis picked up the intricate silver bell and gave it one harmonic chime.  The organ in the back parlor responded by making a comical oboe-like sound.

***

To be continued

I look forward to seeing you again next time when the things/ingredients for Episode-4 are from Andrea Stephenson at Harvesting Hecate, Thoughts on life, writing, creativity and magic.  Andrea’s blog is one of my favorites.  So tune in again next weekend for her episode.  … But what ever am I going to do with owl-shaped lamp?

Now for this week’s recipe!

I always hope to use a recipe to match one of the food-related things — and to find it on the site of a regular commenter. However, there weren’t that many recipes that included quail’s eggs.  So once again I scoured the WordPress countryside.  Now I’m glad that quail egg recipes are scarce, else I would not have found a delightful blog, Cooking in Sens!  It’s by Rosemary, “an American living in Burgundy, France.”  I hope you’ll enjoy her blog as much as I did.

Bon appétit!

Recipe:  Ginger Sesame Coquelet with Korean Quail Eggs

https://cookinginsens.wordpress.com/2011/12/09/ginger-sesame-coquelet-with-korean-quail-eggs/

Ginger Sesame Coquelet with Korean Quail Eggs

Photo and recipe credit:  Cooking in Sens

 

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Copper, the Alchemist, & the Woman in Trousers: Episode-2

Rockwell Girl on TrainYou are the best!  Yes, I mean you!  Last weekend I launched the first episode of our latest “interactive” serial. I was doing Snoopy’s happy dance about the positive responses from all of you.  Not only that, but so many of you have been generous with sending three random things and/or food-related things.

Remember, you are also welcome to send Recipes (or links to your recipes if you are a blogger) to share as part of an episode.

As you saw in Episode-1, the things established a setting in the late Victorian era. The things/ingredients also gave us the title characters for this serial: Copper — a young girl, Cornelis Drebbel (borrowed from history) — the Alchemist, and the Woman in Trousers who narrates the story.  Will her name be revealed?  Only the things/ingredients can say!

Engineer n EngineThis week’s things are from Kathryn (aka K. R. Big Fish) at Another Foodie Blogger.  Check out her fun blog and amazing recipes.  KR’s Creamy Cauliflower and Potato Soup has been one of my favorite easy meals this winter.  However, you’ll find her featured recipe at the end of this episode.  I’ll let that be a surprise for now.

I often say “You’re behind the wheel” when it comes to what happens in the serial stories.  However, giving the new setting, maybe I should say “You’re the engineer of this locomotive!”

Now, let’s get back on track with Episode-2.

2.  Soup Pot, Kitchen Sink, Mail-Order Wine Club

Cornelis Drebbel, shimmered and blurred before my eyes.  Then the alchemist popped out of my suite at the Belle Inn.  I do mean that literally.  He disappeared with a pop sound.  Though he acted put upon when I asked him to do such investigative errands, I knew he secretly relished getting out on his own.  As I waited for his return, I gazed speculatively at his skull, which rested in my hatbox.1900 Maid with tray

There was a light knock at the door.  It was one of the Belle Inn’s staffers bringing up dinner.  I was infinitely glad she hadn’t come a moment earlier.  Though I flaunt tradition and wear trousers as I please, it would still be hard to explain having a man in my room.  Or at least what would look like a man from the maid’s point of view.

She brought the tray into my suite and sat it on the small round table.  It was laden with several covered dishes of food and an ornate little bell.  The aromas escaped tantalizingly from the dishes.

“Thank you.  It’s very kind of you, miss.  It smells delicious,” I said as my stomach made a noise of agreement.

“Oh, just call me Bitsy — everyone does,” she commented as she uncovered a generous portion of the fried calamari I ordered.

Bitsy only glanced at my trousers.  That was rare.  Reactions to my usual attire ranged from bulging eyes, to gasps, to righteous rants.  Once a woman even screamed hysterically.  Yet the maid barely seemed to notice.  My eyebrows went up just a bit.  Naturally I was surprised by the lack of reaction.  However, I was also gratified.  I’d have to make sure and give her a generous tip.

K-Hepburn-2

Katharine Hepburn

“Mr. Belle said to make sure you had plenty of anything you want from the kitchen.  That was some smart thinking you had about the little foal.  Even Cookie was impressed,” the maid chattered, merrily jumping from one subject to the next.  “You didn’t mention it, but I brought you a treat from Cookie’s soup pot,” Bitsy said.  “She makes lovely soups, a different one almost every day.  After all, woman cannot live by calamari alone — regardless of how delicious it may be,” she added with a grin.

The aroma of the soup was lovely indeed, but my attention fell upon the bell.  The intricate design of the silver bell was unexpected.  Even the patina of the silver was unusual.  The young woman told me to just ring it if I wanted anything at all.  Bitsy picked up the bell and gave it one ring to reinforce her words.

The bell had a very strange, almost harmonic sounding ring.  As I commented on how unusual looking the bell was it occurred to me that I had seen all manner of bells about the Belle Inn.  Bitsy laughed when I mentioned the fact.Tiffany Arabesque bell

“Oh yes, the bells of the Belle Inn,” she said.  “I only moved here six months ago, so I don’t know the history of the place that well.  But it was the whimsy of one of Mr. Ignatius Belle’s ancestors to collect all sorts of bells, being as their family name was Belle,” Bitsy said.

“The Belle family’s been in this town forever, but Mr. Ignatius Belle was from some other branch of the family tree.  He inherited the inn and moved here.  But he took to things like he’d been here since childhood.  He’s very fond of those bells.  I’ve seen him gather up a bunch of them, and ever so carefully clean and inspect each one,” Bitsy went on about her employer.  “I thought it was sweet. You know?  A big, strong man with a highfalutin education being so taken with little bells,” she said with an impish grin.

It might have been interesting to learn more of what the maid knew of the proprietor and all those bells.  After all, Ignatius Belle was a fine figure of a man.  However, I gave my sincere thanks to Bitsy and hurried her on her way.  It would not do for her to be here whenever the Dutch alchemist reappeared from thin air.

A moment after the maid left I heard another pop, and Cornelis materialized.  He looked at the large tray of food and then rolled his eyes at my selection.  I reminded him that I had gotten the Stilton cheese of which he was so fond, and he was somewhat mollified.

“Well?” I urged.  “What did you learn?”

He pursed his lips considering whatever he had seen.  “She’s clever, that one.  Reasonably resourceful.  Definitely determined,” he said of Copper, the young girl I saw at the Best’s General Store.  “Though I am not sure I have the same conviction that you feel,” he added.

Flexibone corset adHis lack of positivity made me feel deflated.  I plopped down on the side of the bed and slumped. That poor posture was not something I could manage in proper female attire.  The boning of corsets did not tolerated a slouch.

“So you don’t think it’s her?” I said, not sure whether or not I was asking a question.

“I don’t know that she is,” the Dutchman said seeming to contradict himself.  “Yet I don’t know that she is not.  It bears investigation.”

“How so,” I wanted to know what had stirred even a small amount of interest in the jaded alchemist.

“Because of the dead man at the desk in the study,” he replied in a tone that suggested that should be obvious.

“Oh, so that’s why she positively reeked of death.  What an awful thing for a little girl to find,” I murmured sadly.  “It is her father?” I made it a question, though I was sure it must be so.  “That would explain why she was so frightened when the women at the general store mentioned the orphanage.”

The Dutchman shrugged as he absently tossed the cream colored tassel from Copper’s cape into the air and caught it.  “I don’t know if the deceased is Calvin Hixon.  I can’t say who the man is.  He is slumped over the desk, face down.  He does, however wear a signet ring that indicates he is part of the family,” Cornelis supplied that tidbit.

One might think Cornelis would have bothered to move the body enough to get a look at the man’s face.  However, he was unexpectedly, and often inconveniently, squeamish about such things.

Copper

Copper

“I didn’t think there was any family, just Copper and her father,” I said, perturbed.  “I suppose it must be him then.  You didn’t see anyone about the house or grounds?” I asked, but Cornelis shook his head negatively.

“There had been a governess up until a couple of months ago,” Cornelis offered.  “Hixon wrote a glowing recommendation for her, but there was no clear reason for her dismissal.  Except of course the money troubles.”

“Money problems?  Why didn’t you say so?” I asked.  The man could be infuriating.  I knew Cornelis delighted in holding back the important facts for dramatic effect.  And doubtlessly to watch the expression on my face.  “What kind of financial problems did Calvin Hixon have? Could you see that?” I asked to the Dutchman’s obvious delight.  He loved to have an audience.

“Oh my,” he began.  “There were unpaid bills for everything but the kitchen sink!” he said.  “Calvin Hixon had clearly been having financial issues for months, possibly years.”

Curiosity finally got the better of Cornelis Drebbel and he investigated the tray of food the maid left.  He seemed quite pleased by the soup.  He looked hopeful when he spotted the bottle of wine, but his smile faded in an exaggerated way when he read the label.

The Dutchman had a mind filled with ever changing wild ideas for things, inventions and new ways of doing things.  He had brought many of those ideas into existence before an accident of alchemy had radically changed his own existence.  The look on his face told me he was having one of those inventor-type ideas.

1893 Burpees Wine ad“How is it that we end up in so many places that don’t have a decent bottle of wine?” he grumbled in a droll tone that was edged with exasperation.  “Why has no astute businessman gathered all manner of fine wine and made it available to back-of-beyond places like this one?  It wouldn’t be so complicated,” he complained, but his eyes twinkled with his idea.

“What do you mean?” I asked, though it was usually a bad idea to encourage him.  Whenever Cornelis had an idea, he would go on about it until he had laid out a five year plan for its creation.  “Through the post, like purchasing things from a catalogue?  Sent to individuals, rather than businesses?” I pondered aloud, realizing all the while that I had let him draw me in once again.  “So what you’re suggesting is a mail-order wine club.  Things are different than in your day, Cornelis.  All the taxes and levies would make it impossible,” I commented, once again the voice of reason to his wild ideas.

I felt rather guilty when I saw the disappointed expression in his eyes.  It actually wasn’t such a bad idea.  It was much more reasonable than his underwater boat device or his floating bomb.  However, I frowned because I shouldn’t have let myself be sidetracked.  I had to figure out Copper’s situation.

Cornelis gave me directions to the Hixon estate.  Hopefully Ignatius Belle would let me borrow a horse.  I had to travel by more mundane means than the alchemist.  Cornelis would meet me there.

I wrapped up a large portion of the calamari and freshly baked rolls, and when Cornelis wasn’t looking, I packed some of the Stilton cheese I had gotten for him.  It seemed obvious that the child didn’t have any food left.  A good meal might also help me gain her trust.  She had seemed skittish at the general store, even before the surly comment from those women about her going to an orphanage.  How she was involved in the grand scheme of things was a mystery to me, but I was certain that Copper Hixon played a key part.

Crystal Ball by John William Waterhouse (1849-1917)

Crystal Ball by John William Waterhouse (1849-1917)

The alchemist had such a twinkle in his eyes when he dematerialized that I wouldn’t have been surprised to see him rub his hands together in anticipation.  Instead he gave the tassel from Copper’s cape a toss toward the ceiling and disappeared.  When I realized it would likely land in the soup, I jumped off the bed to catch it.  However, Cornelis reappeared before the tassel came back down and he caught it.

“Oh yes,” he said as if he’d never left.  “I need a look at that harmonic tuner.  I may have seen its counterpart at the Hixon estate.  So do be a lamb and bring it with you,” he said drolly.

“The what?” I asked.

He pointed toward the food tray on the table.  “They seem to be using it as a dinner bell,” he said.

I cautiously picked up the ornate bell that had such an unusual ring.  I had thought of the sound as harmonic and perhaps with good reason.

“A harmonic tuner…?” I repeated, looking curiously at the unusual bell.

***

Recipe:  Cheater Pho Bo (Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup)

Click above for the recipe

Pho-bo Soup

Photo and recipe credit: Another Foodie Blogger

 Will the woman in trousers reach Copper, who is surely frightened and alone in a big empty house with a dead body?  And what the devil is a “harmonic tuner” and for what is it used? Be sure to tune in again next weekend when the fabulous things/ingredients are from Lord David Prosser of The Barsetshire Diaries fame.

 

Copyright © 2015 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission.  Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights.

All images are either the property of the author or from Pinterest unless stated otherwise.

New Interactive Serial – Episode-1

Three Things: A culinary mystery with “things and ingredients” sent from readers everywhere.

Welcome one and all!
It is my pleasure to tell you that we have a first-time contributor of ingredients/things to begin this “interactive” serial.  John W. Howell did me the honor of sending things for the kickoff of the new story.  I hope you’ll visit his wonderful blog and take a look at his book too.  You’re sure to enjoy your stay there.My GRL cover

Last weekend I did a poll, asking everyone to vote, choosing from several options for the next serial.  (And I was downright pleased with myself for getting the handy-dandy poll thingamajig to work too!)  Quite a few of you were kind enough to click on your preferred option.  So now I will announce the results.  Drumroll

A solid 44% of you voted to …

Begin an all new serial from scratch, with an all new setting and characters!

You were ready to get behind the wheel! I was happy to get three sets of “things” right away for the kickoff of the new interactive serial. So let me show you how my mind works.

Copper

Copper

Since I couldn’t avoid looking at all three sets of three, the whole shebang influenced the setting and characters. I’ve already admitted to being a research geek — Stilton cheese, through a twist of fate gave us a character’s name and personality. How?  A sort of happy accident — when I saw the name of the first Englishman to market Blue Stilton cheese was Cooper Thornhill, for a moment I thought I’d read — Copper.  I liked the name too much to let it go.

I also had to know when Wurlitzer organs (that will be in Episode-3) were first made — and suddenly I knew that era had to be the general time-frame for the story.  I opted for the late 1800’s, near the end of the Victorian era.

Many of you particularly liked Maestro Martino, the ghost chef from Three Ingredients, Cookbook 2, so I wanted to add a mystical magical element to the new serial. Don’t ask me to explain my twisting thought process but…

Cornelis Drebbel

Cornelis Drebbel

I had a vague idea about a skull, and somehow that made me research alchemists… and that gave us the supernatural character for this serial, Cornelis Drebbel. I borrowed him from history.

As for the mysterious woman who wears trousers — you’re about to meet her, but I have no idea from where she came other than it was inspired by the late 19th century setting.  She was just there.

Be kind and remember that this story is propelled by the things or ingredients that you send. So it might take a few episodes for it to really begin to flow.

Enough of my stalling. I present to you, our all new interactive serial —
Three Things: Copper, the Alchemist, and the Woman in Trousers

1.  Stilton Cheese, Mare’s Milk, Calamari

I was having second thoughts.  The fishing town was too small for my unconventional presence to go unremarked, plain and simple.  That was apparent as I watched a single carriage pass by on the dirt road and the driver turned to stare.  It was downright obvious from the shopkeeper’s scandalized expression when I stepped inside Best’s General Store.

Yes, I knew I should limit my wanderings to large cities.  However, I was weary of the crowds and odors.  And the noise!  I was desperately tired of the clamor and clang of cities.

Jaime Murray as the woman who wears trousers

Jaime Murray as the woman in trousers

It was a pleasing little town with a salt tang in the breeze and cozy houses.  I liked it the moment I set foot there.  I took a tidy suite in the Belle Inn. 

There was even a store where I unexpectedly found the most marvelous Stilton cheese.  Cornelis would be delighted with that find.  For once, he might not be so grumpy when I wake him, I thought.

However, as I stood in the general store and watched Mrs. Billie Best and her customer from the corner of my eye, I foresaw that my stay in the charming township would be brief.  I blocked any distractions from my mind so I could hear their conversation.  I already knew they were talking about me.  How could they fail to comment on my mannish waistcoat and trousers?

It always raised eyebrows when I dressed that way, but I wanted freedom of movement that I’d never have whilst restricted by the yards and yards of fabric that made a proper skirt and bustle.  Besides, my first thought that morning was “I’ll be damned if I’m going to squeeze myself into a corset today.”

I pushed back my top hat, pretending to read a label while I listened to the two women speculate about me and my strange apparel.  They had the most outlandish conjectures about my foreign accent and from whence I’d come.  A smile quirked my lips and I tried not to laugh out loud.

The proprietor of the Belle Inn stood across the room shaking his head at the foolish conversation.  Ignatius Belle made a good first impression when I checked in at his inn.  He stepped over to me.  I hoped his housekeeping staff had as much respect for guest privacy as he seemed to have.  I’d hate for a curious maid to wake Cronelis.  That would be most unfortunate.  Actually it could get quite ugly.Victorian men hats

“Ma’am, you were right about the mare’s milk,” he said loud enough for the women to hear.  “Doc said there was a fungus in the grass she was eating before she foaled,” the innkeeper said in a respectful voice.  “He said that’s likely what caused the problem.  The Johnsons have a pregnant mare, and they’re going to foster the foal.”

My relief that the little horse would be well was genuine.  I was glad my off-handed comment had been helpful.  Cornelis always complained that I spoke before I thought, and that I drew unnecessary attention to myself.  Yet it ended well that time, and there was the added benefit that now at least the innkeeper accepted me.  Although I still doubted I would remain there for long.

“Your dinner is on the house tonight.  Whatever you want, and as much of it as you care to eat.  Your comment likely saved the foal’s life,” he said then looked suddenly shy.  “Just a humble way of saying thank you.”

The burst of bashfulness was rather endearing on a man of his stature.  Ignatius Belle did not fit my image of a proper innkeeper.  They should be rotund, pink-cheeked men with aprons.  My host however, was tall and well-made and he wore a suit and a Bowler hat.  He barely gave my trousers a glance.  Interesting.Victorian child cape

The bell affixed to the shop door chimed and a wide eyed moppet came cautiously inside.  She might have been seven years old or she may have been nine.  Disgraceful as it may sound, I knew nothing about children.

An unfortunately familiar odor reached my noise when she walked past me.  The bouquet was dreadful, but it gave the girl my full attention.  She hesitated in her walk, just one step, and then she moved toward the counter.  The shopkeeper frowned and her patron became even more disdainful — if that was possible.  However, their scorn was not due to the odor I detected.  They hadn’t noticed it, but I was sensitive to such things.

She had hair the color of a new penny.  There was a smudge of dirt on her little nose.  Her stylish cape was made of peacock blue wool, embroidered in cream silk thread, with a cream colored tassel on the hood.  Her eyes twinkled with intelligence.

And she reeked of death.

I smiled.

At that very moment I knew that little russet haired child was the reason why I’d come to the out of the way little town.  I didn’t know how it would come about, but I was certain — she would be the heart and soul of the next adventure!

What would Cornelis make of the girl?  He despised anyone who was weak, and children by definition were weak.  So the Dutchman detested children.

I smiled again — broadly.

“Your daddy spoils you too much Copper Hixon, letting you wear your Sunday best when you go out to play,” said the storekeeper from behind her counter.  “Flaunting his wealth on clothes for a child, when there’s others as have to put their noses to the grindstone to get along.”

A barely audible remark came from her customer.  “Spare the rod and spoil the child,” the other woman mumbled.  “She’d best be glad her pa recovered from that influenza last spring, else she’d be in the orphanage, and no fine clothes there,” the customer added in a resentful whine.

child labor“Old Hixon should’ve taken another wife,” Billie Best declared.  “There are plenty of women here abouts who’d make him a good wife,” Billie Best replied with a mystified shake of her head.  “But he’d have none of them after that dance hall floozy died birthing this one,” the storekeeper said with an unconcerned wave toward Copper.

“I’d not have that evil child in my house,” said the other woman.  “Any child that kills the mother birthing it is the devil’s own, you mark my words.”

The girl’s eyes widened at the mention of the orphanage and she was clearly afraid.  Copper swallowed hard.  “I need… I mean Daddy sent me to buy food to make dinner,” she stammered.

I noticed that she didn’t specify what food nor did she have a shopping list.  But why would she?  The odor that clung to her was faint.  However, I had no doubt about its origin.  No one told the child what to buy for dinner, but she was hungry enough to think of shopping for it.

The woman behind the counter looked at the girl and her mouth turned down in contempt.  “Did your daddy send you with money to pay his bill?” Mrs. Best asked, emphasizing the payment.  “He’s months behind.  No?” she said when Copper shook her head and looked confused.  “Well, you go back and tell him that hard working folk have to be paid.  Not everybody was born with a silver spoon in their mouth.  He’ll have to pay off the bill he’s run up before he gets another crumb from Best’s General Store!”

“Now was there really any need to speak so harshly to the child?” the innkeeper asked.

The child turned and fled the store.  The tassel on her cape caught on the door and was left behind as she ran.  I excused myself to my new landlord.  Quickly picking up the cream colored tassel, I followed to see which direction little Copper went.  Then I turned and ran back to the Belle Inn.Belle Inn

When I opened the inn’s door, the aroma of fried calamari slowed my stride.  It wafted to me from the kitchen.  It made my mouth water.  I reigned in my haste.  There was no need to run.  The child wasn’t going anywhere.  Not yet.

I popped into the kitchen, profusely complimented the cook, and asked if dinner could be sent up to my room.  Cornelis hated it when I ate in my room, but he didn’t have much choice in the matter.  I couldn’t resist the calamari!

My hatbox was on a high shelf.  I carefully took it down and opened it.  An object that appeared to be a ball covered by a satin scarf was inside.  My top hat would fit around it, as a form to keep the hat’s shape.  But in truth it was no such thing.  I removed the scarf and held up a human skull.

“Cornelis,” I exclaimed.  “Adventure is afoot!  This is no time to be lazy, Cornelis Drebble.  Wake up!” I said and placed the skull back in the hatbox.

My eyes closed against the bitter chill that blew through the room.  A moment later I looked into the eyes of the Dutchman.  Though he stood no taller than me, his presence was forceful.  He was a handsome man.  He had light hair with a mustache and pointed beard, much like a Musketeer.  However, the disgruntled expression on his face belied his gentle manners.  He gave a polite bow, yet managed to make the movement seem sarcastic.

“Why such haste?” he asked drolly, and smoothed back hair that perpetually looked mussed from a nap.

“Don’t be such a grump,” I said, and holding up the parcel of Stilton cheese I watched his nose twitch in anticipation.

To the Dutchman’s consternation, I held back the cheese.  I wouldn’t share that until I got what I wanted.  When I handed him the cream colored tassel from the girl’s cape he was hardly mollified.

“This bauble does not seem so portentous,” he complained.

As one eyebrow climbed toward his hairline, I knew he’d been won over, despite his sullen look and tone.

“Stop sulking and tell me about the girl,” I said, trying to be firm.  One had to be firm with Cornelis. If he saw the slightest weakness…

“Ah, so that’s it is it?  You think it’s her?  Bringing on a child would complicate things enormously,” he asked, finally showing interest.  “It seems awfully — how to describe it?  So unassuming,” he said with a little twist to one side of his mouth as he looked at the tassel.  “Do you really think she is the one?” he asked, his tone softening.

“You tell me,” I prodded.

Cornelis shimmered and blurred before my eyes, as his mind traveled.  Then with a sharp pop he disappeared.

 ***

To be continued…

Most of you voted for a completely new serial, so there you have the beginning.  See you next weekend for Episode-2 where we’ll have things / ingredients from Kathryn, aka KR Big Fish at https://anotherfoodieblogger.wordpress.com/

Wait — don’t leave yet. Each episode of this culinary mystery will feature a recipe.

I scoured the WordPress virtual countryside for recipes.  That led me to One Happy Table, Vegan Food for the Whole Family, and I chose the following recipe to round out Episode-1.  Click the link for this beautifully photographed step by step recipe.  Bon appétit!

Recipe:  Baked Oyster Mushroom Calamari

oyster-mushroom-calamari

 Photo and recipe credit: One Happy Table

Copyright © 2015 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission.  Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights.

All images are either the property of the author or from Pinterest unless stated otherwise.

UPDATE: New Interactive Serial – What do YOU want?

Hello everyone,

As of Monday evening, most people want to start an all new serial from scratch.  If that’s not the option you’d choose, then be sure to cast your vote!

The poll will stay open until Friday, January 16th.

No need to re-comment on this update unless…

Whatever form the new serial takes, I’m going to bring back the culinary aspect of the story.  However, the “random things” do more to drive the plot.  So, this time I will ask you for a combination of Random Things and Food-related Things.  You are also welcome to send Recipes to share as part of an episode.

So if you want to see the first episode of the new serial (whatever it may be) next weekend, then leave a comment with three things/ingredients.

Sincerely,

Teagan

Sign FutureThis is your chance.  You can put the next serial story on a completely new road. Or you can keep it as it is.  Or it can be a little of both!

Last weekend I gave you the conclusion of the re-wind of Three Things. So now it’s time for a new, original, reader-propelled serial.  Once again I’ll put you in the driver’s seat.

Sign Slippery car

My main purpose in giving you a serial episode each week is to engage you, the reader. I do that by making the serial “interactive” — getting readers to send three random things or ingredients (food related things). As I write each episode I let those things inspire and guide what happens in the story.

Sign Heart Shattered

Doing that in the first serial is what resulted in the 1920’s setting.  It’s even what brought you the cast of characters.

Sign Gator

Now that we are ready to begin a new story-line, I want to bring you into the process right away — before a single word is written. That’s what I’ve always done.

In the second and third stories, most people wanted to keep the same characters. But it is time that I asked for your feedback again.  So I’m giving the WordPress handy-dandy poll thingamajig a try. (I’m crossing my fingers that I did it right!)

Sign Vote Exit

This poll should let you leave comments as well, or elaborate on the option you chose.  I look forward to your feedback.

 

You’re behind the wheel! So — Please vote.

This poll will only be open through Friday, January 16, 2015.

If you have other thoughts that the poll doesn’t cover, then just leave a comment.

I’m looking forward to hearing from you.

Mega-hugs!

Writing from an Unexpected Point of View

Originally posted at Chris The Story Reading Ape‘s Blog.

Chris TSRA

 

Many thanks to Chris Graham (aka The Story Reading Ape) for hosting me at his amazing Author Promotions Enterprise blog. “The Ape” generously promotes authors on his blog, and he offers excellent resources for our use. However, he’s also a gifted cover artist. Be sure to take a look at some examples of his work.  Also, he has started creating fantastic book trailers! (By the way, his trailers are much, much better than the one I have.)

Here’s the article Chris hosted for me.  It features my Lilith character from “Atonement, Tennessee.”

If you want to capture someone’s attention, whisper.… Maybe, but they Book Cut Out Holmesmight not hear you at all. One way to capture a reader’s attention is to occasionally write from an unexpected point of view.

That can also be a practical tool, not just a “hook.” When I wrote Atonement, Tennessee, I decided to have my heroine narrate the story. However, there is a stumbling block with that kind of writing. My heroine could only tell about what she had witnessed. If she was not present for part of the action, someone would have to just tell her about it. Not nearly as exciting, huh?

So I wanted to occasionally shift and let another character be the witness. But who would be suitable? None of the people in my fictional town of Atonement, TN would be likely to see the events I needed to describe. Then I remembered an old exercise about writing from the point of view of an inanimate object. It was very enjoyable to me. Next I thought, what about an animal instead?Cat Eyes Watching

I gave my heroine a cat. At strategic points I make that shift and let the feline witness events. To bring you into the fun, I’m sharing a “character interview” I did with Lilith, the calico cat and part time narrator of Atonement, Tennessee.  Then I’ll show you a snippet of the novel written with the cat as witness.

Here goes!

Character Interviews: Lilith the Calico

Teagan: Lilith, won’t you come over here and sit with me?

(She looks all around the room — everywhere but at me.)

You’re even prettier than I expected. (Now she jumps onto the sofa. The compliment seems to have helped.) For this interview, the Creative Muse has given you the power of human speech.

Lilith and mirrorLilith:  Meow…

Teagan:  Now, Lilith. There’s no need to be contrary. You know you can talk for now. Take advantage of it. I understand you were a rescue kitty. Tell us about your life before Ralda adopted you.

Lilith:  Meow…

Teagan:  (I sigh. Talk about catitude…) I think what everyone wants to know most about you is — are you really a cat? Or are you some kind of supernatural? Maybe an enchanted person who has to… atone?  Because, in all honesty, even though I wrote the novel, I do not know.

(Lilith narrows her eyes then turns her back on me and proceeds to wash her face.  Clearly that line of questioning is not acceptable.) Calico washing face

All righty then; I’m not going to get an answer to that one either.

Okay, moving on. You tell the parts of the story that Ralda doesn’t see. What about Cael? Do you know more about him than anyone else?  Wait — what’s that?  …Are you purring?

Cael at rest- Adrian Paul

Adrian Paul as Cael

Lilith: Oh, Cael is simply divine. (Purrrrr…) Yes, I know more about him than Ralda does — even at the end of the story. He’s strong, courageous, faithful, and he knows about a lot more than is apparent. Cael is also childlike sometimes, which is an intriguing contrast to his strength. I also sense even more about him than I witness. I can’t really describe everything I sense. I can’t quite put my paw on some things.

Teagan: At least that brought you out of your shell. Ralda said you like attractive men. Anyway, I don’t think Ralda really trusts him. Do you know why?

Lilith: She can’t put her paw on it either. Or rather she can’t put her finger on it. Cael is truly extraordinary though. His backstory is only hinted at in this novel. I’m sure there will be more about him in “book 2.”

Teagan: What about Gwydion? Ralda seems to at least try to trust him. Should she?Man Flower Face

Lilith: (She purrs again, even louder. Then she even turns halfway upside down, a paw across her face.) Ah… Gwydion! Oh he smells delicious, all manner of flowers and herbs and catnip. Did you know that he brought me catnip?

(Lilith sits back up, still purring.) Gwydion is a magical creature, you realize. His magic is tied to flowers. It’s not stated outright in the novel, but it’s pretty obvious. At the very beginning it’s even hinted that his grandmother was a faery. You know, Fae’s Flowers, named for his Gran?

Teagan: Who do you think would be better for Ralda, Gwydion or Cael? If they, so to speak, fought for her affections, who would win?

Lilith: Oh, it would be awful if those two actually did fight, wouldn’t it? They do seem to compete with each other in odd ways. But if they fought…  No, I couldn’t bear for either of them to get hurt! I’m not sure, but I have a suspicion that if it came down to it, Cael might be stronger than Gwydion.  However, Gwydion would have fewer — or at least different inhibitions so he might best Cael.  Oh, I’m just not sure. I really don’t like that question at all.

(Her tail makes a slash-thump against the sofa, signaling annoyance. Lilith jumps down from the sofa and sashays out of the room.)

I suppose that ends my interview with the cat.  However, you can read more from Lilith in Atonement, Tennessee.

veil_of_sky_open_Lilith copy

And now for that promised excerpt…

Esmeralda slept. Lilith’s ears pricked when she heard a tiny rustling sound coming from downstairs. The first time she inspected the bedroom, the calico had found a way out. She hadn’t shown it to Esmeralda. Immediately on the hunt for the source of that sound, Lilith soundlessly got up from the pile of blankets on the floor where they slept.

WardrobeShe trotted soundlessly to the tall heavy wardrobe. It was even bigger than the one where she found the mirror, and it reached almost to the high ceiling. It stood a few inches away from the wall. She squeezed behind the wardrobe. There was a gap in the wall. It was actually a door, which would open with a push. At some point in time, it had been left ajar. Lilith had originally found it because she scented the different air from the drafty opening.

Beyond the door was a narrow hallway and equally narrow steps that led to the parlor downstairs. She had a bit of trouble opening the door to the parlor. Fortunately it had a lever handle that was much easier to manipulate than a doorknob. After a moment her persistence paid off and the door creaked open. She stood still for a second. The rustling sound had diminished to almost nothing. The calico stalked into the living room. Her tail was held low and her body was close to the floor as she walked.

Her ears had more than twenty muscles, which the cat used to pinpoint the sound of a final rustle. She looked toward the flower arrangement by the windows. The white heather had grown and branched, vine-like until it covered every window and the front and back doors as well. All the flowers in the vase pulsed as if with a heartbeat. Lilith watched them for a moment to see what else they might do.White flowers take over

A sound came from the kitchen, and she went to investigate. It sounded like something had pressed against the porch roof for a moment and then pushed off. Immediately afterward she heard a few heavy beat and whoosh sounds, like extremely large wings.

She jumped to the kitchen window, but the heather covered it too, and prevented her seeing anything. However, through the little draft of air that came in around the window, she scented one of the odors she had tracked earlier that evening. There wasn’t enough of it for her to be sure which one.

After a while, the cat grew bored and returned to the secret door in the parlor. It was still open. She gave it a little nudge, using it to scratch her cheek, and it closed behind her. She returned to the bedroom.

***

I hope these examples have entertained you. Maybe you’ll want to try writing from an unexpected point of view.

Thanks for reading,

Teagan

Links
At My Website
https://teagansbooks.wordpress.com/ More about Teagan: https://teagansbooks.wordpress.com/?s=workspace
Link to character interviews blog category: https://teagansbooks.wordpress.com/category/teagans-books/character-interviews/
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I’ve used Pinterest to tell a story in pictures not just for “Atonement, Tennessee,” but for my works in progress as well. Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/teagangeneviene/
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Rewind – Three Things – Conclusion

New YR faeriesSheiks and Shebas, welcome back.  It’s time to conclude this rewind of our first “interactive” serial!  It was fun romping through the Roaring Twenties with you in 2014.  I’ve met many new friends that I treasured right away.  Just as importantly, old friends stuck around too.  I hope our serial’s family grows even more in 2015.  The more the merrier.

You’ve all been the cat’s pajamas.  I wish each of you a New Year that brings your fondest dreams to reality.

It’s time to pop the cork on this conclusion.

Happy New Year!

1915 New Yr

Three Concluding Things Episode 30, Part 2

Clasped Hands, Harpsichord, Pyx

The sky looked as gloomy as I felt.  What were Frankie and his cousins up to?  And why had he become so quiet and distant?  Maybe if I caught up with them I could find out.  However, before we had gone two feet down the path Andy the Astronaute turned up.  He was babbling something about the trapeze setup and the amazing performers.  He was excited and talking so fast that I could hardly understand him.  Then I heard Countess Bepa’s voice calling to us, asking if we would please come inside for a moment.  Mona clasped my hand and Andy’s hand to pull us inside the gilded mansion,  Ca’d’Zan.

Ca'd'Zan Mansion

Ca’d’Zan Mansion

I looked back over my shoulder.  The Fabro boys had disappeared, and the wall of rosy vines concealed the entrance to wherever they had gone.  I thought I saw another man moving awkwardly among the bushes, headed that way.  However, I barely got a glimpse of the guy.  The next thing I knew, my friends had pulled me past the pink patina of the stucco and terra cotta exterior, inside beneath a crystal chandelier from the original Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, across white marble floors, and finally into one of the many opulent rooms in the “House of John.”

Mrs. Ringling, or Mable as she insisted we call her, asked us to please sit down for a while and have tea.  A servant brought in a silver tea service as if on cue.  “There’s a chill in the air, and young people looked like you were cold out there,” our hostess told us.Ringling hapsichord

Meanwhile Countess Babikov went on enthusiastically about the ornately decorated French harpsichord that dated back to 1652.  It had somehow escaped destruction during the French Revolution.  I wouldn’t have known what the overelaborate thing was, despite its familiar shape.  So I was surprised to learn it had produced the charming music we had heard moments before.  The instrument was covered in carvings and gold leaf, and painted landscapes.  Everyone has different taste, but I had to admire the craftsmanship and artistry.

As I leaned in to see into the harpsichord, I also took a close look at the intricate landscape painted inside the lid.  Beside the pastoral scene was a rectangular frame with several medallion carvings.  Was that a dragon — like the one on the key?  I bent closer, wishing the sun would come out from behind the clouds and light the room better.

The bent key was still in my purse.  It was too bad I didn’t have it with me so I could compare the designs.  I felt a twinge of guilt.  I had taken the key from the pottery vase where Mr. Ringling casually dropped it.  Although I was the one who found it when it fell from the getaway car, it didn’t really belong to me.  But on the trip from Santa Rosa Sound I had been working at the thing, doing my best to straighten it out. It was just that I needed something to do with my hands; Mona was occupied with her three suitors; Frankie seemed to have forgotten I was alive.  Plus the poor key looked like it would be so pretty if it hadn’t been damaged..

Russian knights badgeYes, I was pretty sure the dragon carving inside the harpsichord was the exact same dragon.  In the carving the dragon rested above a shield design.  The shield had a helmet rising above a banner with a cross, which was flanked by three matching banners on either side.  I squinted, and leaned even closer trying to make out the word beneath the shield design.  Grand… something.  Well, it wasn’t a grand piano, it was a harpsichord.  I tilted my head.  Ah… Grand Priory.  Above the shield design I saw words written in a foreign alphabet.  Was it Russian?  “Humph,” I muttered. I wasn’t quite sure what I thought, but my brain felt like rusty clockworks beginning to turn.

Just then somebody goosed me.  I jerked up, banging my head into the harpsichord lid.  “Ouch!” I said, turning to find Frankie behind me.  He was grinning and pleased with himself for startling me.  I rubbed my head, then brushed at my bobbed hair with my fingers, not sure what to make of his change in attitude.  Suddenly he was like the Frankie I knew.  His smile was infectious and I found myself returning it even though I still felt miffed at him for ignoring me for so long.

Clara Bow as Mona the Movie Star

Clara Bow as Mona the Movie Star

Flavio was behind him, frowning at Mona.  The brunette was talking quietly with the countess.  Those two had their heads together a lot lately.  She became fast friends with Boris the Ballerina’s grandmother.  That didn’t bode well for Andy’s prospects with Mona.  Flavio didn’t seem to think it was going to help his chances either.

Frankie gave me that sad puppy dog look.  I rolled my eyes and took it for an apology.  “So what have you guys been doing?”

All of a sudden, Frankie stopped smiling.  Flavio stepped closer and gave me that smooth smile he usually saved for Mona the Movie Star.  I had never had anything against Frankie’s older cousin.  He was easily the most dashing of the Fabro brood.  But I didn’t take to him the way Mona did.

“We’ve been up the tower.  Wow! You can see for miles and miles up there,” Flavio said.

His enthusiasm rang flat to my ear.  Especially since I knew that was a lie.  I looked at Frankie.  “Yeah, doll face,” Frankie the Fireman said.  “It would be a great place to watch the sunset.  Maybe I can show it to you some evening,” Frankie suggested, wriggling his eyebrows in a humorous way.

I smiled at him.  I think I smiled.  I sure as shootin’ tried to smile at him.  How could he lie to me like that?  Okay, I told myself, maybe that was true and they had gone to explore the tower first — before they did whatever it was they were up to in the rose garden.  Even as I told myself that, myself knew it wasn’t so.  Oh, applesauce!

***

I promise – I will get to the “Pyx” next time.  Really.   🙂

Introduction for Part-3 of this conclusion

Here it is, everyone — the conclusion to this storyline. Forgive me for making this episode a good deal longer than usual, but I wanted to do it justice. After all it’s the conclusion to our Three Things Serial.

New Movie mag

I don’t kid myself that this serial is literature. From a technical standpoint it hasn’t had the structure for that.  However, I was determined to let the things all of you sent drive every aspect of this story — the characters, the setting, and the plot.  So naturally there are jumps and jitters in the plot — it’s the nature of writing the story in this “interactive” way.

It has been a great pleasure to have everyone contribute.  I sincerely hope you will do the same with the next incarnation of “three things,” whatever form that takes.  Your participation is the most important thing.

Now hang on to your hats because here we go!

Three Concluding Things Episode 30, Part 3

Clasped Hands, Harpsichord, Pyx

I tossed and turned in restless dreams before I finally awoke in the “wee hours of the morning,” as my granny would say.  The one that woke me was disturbing.  Throughout the dream I heard the music of the harpsichord.  Boris stood in front of a huge version of the carved medallion I had seen inside the ornately decorated instrument, the emblem of a dragon resting above a shield showing banners with crosses. In the dream it was all solid gold.  I clasped Frankie’s hand in a grip so tight that my fingernails dug into his skin, but something pulled him from my grasp.

Life Flapper BatA knight in armor wearing a priest’s collar (bizarre yes, but you know how dreams are) entered the room to give someone last rites.  The dragon climbed down from the shield.  I was afraid it would breathe fire and kill us all, but it opened its maw and consumed everything, including Boris and Frankie, in its giant jaws, even the room was gone. Only the knight, the gold shield, the harpsichord, and I remained. We were at the far end of the rose garden.

I cowered beneath the harpsichord and watched as the knight-priest gave the dragon last rites.  Then the knight dropped a large gold pyx on the ground.  The pyx opened and the dragon shrank down and got inside the receptacle.  The knight parted the vines of the climbing roses and disappeared, taking the pyx with him.

Then I woke and sat up in bed.  I paced my room, trying to shake off the dream.  From my window I could see the rose garden in the moonlight.  A light flashed in the distance.  It flashed several more times, in what seemed to be a pattern.  This unexpected sight only added to my unease.  A number of people lived on the property.  I told myself that it was likely just someone who’d been out late at a speakeasy.  However, I knew I wouldn’t go back to sleep.  So I slipped into my robe, lit a candle, and headed downstairs, meaning to go to the kitchen and make some warm milk.

I walked into the dark music room as a shortcut to the kitchen.  Maybe I was still unnerved from the 1922 Sat Postdream, but when I heard a door open I blew out my candle and ducked under the first thing I saw that was big enough — the harpsichord.  “Just as I did in the dream,” I thought with a shudder.

My head bumped against the underside of the harpsichord.  “Ouch!” I thought. “That didn’t feel like wood.”  I put my hand to the spot and my fingers met cold metal, a round shape.  However, I didn’t stop to think about it, because I heard footsteps.

From my hiding place I saw a large pair of feet and I recognized Frankie’s shoes.  I felt like a silly goose for hiding — it was only Frankie!  I thought mischievously about popping out to scare the stew out of him.  But something held me back.

More footfalls brought a familiar voice.  Flavio.  “We’ve looked everywhere else,” he said to Frankie.  “It has to be down there.”

“We’ve already checked that hidey-hole from top to bottom,” Frankie said in an exasperated tone.  “The Priory must have moved it.  Or laid out all this as a red herring,” he added as I watched his feet shift.  “Do you really think it could heal the dead, like the story says?”

Flavio snorted.  “Of course not.  But it’s made of solid gold.  All the legends say so.  Our Order in Europe would pay a king’s ransom to get their hands on the gold Pyx of the Knights Hospitaller.  Their grudge against the Russians goes back to the Pyx1600’s.”

“The old woman wouldn’t give up any information,” Frankie said.  “I told you it was wrong for us to grab her. I don’t think she knows anything, despite the Order saying the old count’s grandfather inherited it.  That was a long time ago; anything could have happened to it,” Frankie added and stepped closer to my hiding place.

He came right over to the harpsichord.  Frankie sat down on the bench, causing it to creek.  I scrunched up into as small of a ball as I could manage and held my breath.

I heard the sound of Flavio moving toward the doors that opened out onto Mable’s rose garden.  “Boris knows; I’m sure of it.  But he’d die before he told the Order anything about the Knights Hospitaller and especially about the solid gold pyx,” Flavio practically spat.  “It’s ‘protected by a dragon’ and that’s the only dragon we’ve found.  Come on.  We’ll check one more time.  Fred and Fedel are already down there.”

Silent Detective Movie coverFirst I thought of the dragon in my dream.  Then I remembered the one on the carving in the harpsichord.  The shield also had a knight’s helmet.  “It’s protected by a dragon,” Flavio’s words echoed in my mind as the French doors opened quietly and the two men went outside.

Their footsteps sounded on the path.  I knew they must be going to the hidden spot where I’d watched them disappear behind the climbing roses the day before.  I thought about all that mysterious talk about the Order and the Knights Hospitaller, and I remembered the odd tattoos I saw on all the Fabros when they were fishing.

Applesauce!  What the devil was going on here?  My heart rejected what my head had figured out.  With an icy knot in my stomach I knew that Frankie and his cousins were responsible for the break-in at Boris’ place, and worse — the abduction of Countess Babikov.  No wonder they found the bad guys so fast.  The two men they brought for Ringling to hand over to the G-men were either expendable associates, or another group that was after the valuable gold pyx.

I gulped, feeling sick.  I crawled out from under the harpsichord and ran out into the rose garden.  My slippers weren’t made for the outdoors, but at least they didn’t make any sound as I hurried toward the climbing roses.  In the light of the full moon I could see a gate beneath the vines.  I pulled the latch and cringed when it squeaked.  I took a deep breath and stepped beyond the gate.  Then I felt an arm around my waist and a hand over my mouth.1920s Cosmo Feb

My muffled scream hardly made a sound.  I heard “Ssshhhh!” and it had an oddly familiar sound.  “Shush, Pip,” Andy whispered.  “It’s me and Boris.  Now you’ve got to be quiet, okay?”

I nodded and he moved his hand and let go of me.  I turned accusing eyes on the two men.  Boris shook his head “No.”  In a voice so soft I could barely hear he said, “This is dangerous Pip.  You don’t understand what’s happening.”

With a sigh I told him that I actually did know what was going on.  “At least some of it,” I whispered.  “But where is the dragon?”

Boris looked shocked, but Andy gave a little smile.  “I told you she was a smart cookie,” our little Astronaute man told him.

In answer Boris switched on a flashlight and shone it upward.  The beam of light revealed a small windowless stone building.  Above the door was an emblem of a dragon.  He turned off the beam but motioned toward the door.  “Your friends are part of a group that followed me across Europe.  They think I have a valuable artifact.  It does not belong to their…” Boris hesitated, probably looking for the right word in English.  “It doesn’t belong to their group, but they desire it none the less.  It is a feud, you see?”

When I nodded he continued in hushed tones.  “My ancestors were part of an organization, a priory.  Your friends, their maiden-n-knightancestors were in an opposing group.  But their group still survives.  They are not nice people.  They think I can lead them to this artifact.  I would have given it to them, or anything else they asked to save my Babushka when they abducted her.  But I did not have it.  I don’t know if it still exists.”

“The pyx,” I said.

Boris tensed and looked at me suspiciously.  Andy drew a sharp breath.  “I heard them talking just now,” I said feeling annoyed by their distrustful reaction.  “I wouldn’t be out in the night wearing my robe and slippers if I were meeting up with a bunch of crooks now would I?” I said dryly.

The Russian breathed and relaxed.  Andy smiled and put his arm around my shoulders in a little hug.  “Did you see any more of them coming?” he asked Boris.

“No.  It doesn’t seem that anyone else will be joining them,” Boris answered.  “The back door is secured?”

Andy gave a smile so wicked that it surprised me.  “You bet-cha,” he said.

Then Andy and Boris lifted a heavy iron bar out of the vines and dropped it across the door with a loud G-men Posterclang.  Shouting ensued from inside the little stone building.  Boris calmly stepped back into the rose garden and used his flashlight to signal toward the mansion.  Then a big commotion came from Ca’d’Zan as a dozen of Ringling’s men hustled toward us.  In the distance I heard a whine that soon became the wail of sirens.  So, the police were on the way too, I realized and the sick feeling returned.

I thought about the young twins, and Flavio, and especially about Frankie.  This was not something I could bear to stick around and watch.  I told the guys that I was cold and turned to go back inside.  But I looked up at the dragon above the door and something fell into place in my mind.

“What is it?” Andy asked, noticing the strange expression on my face.

I tilted my head as the epiphany dripped through the crannies in my mind.  “They said ‘It’s protected by a dragon’ and this,” I pointed to the dragon above the door, “is the only dragon they could find.  But there is another one.”

By then the men from the house reached us.  They parted to let a man with a hat and a badge through.  So, one of the Feds was already there.  Apparently Mr. Ringling or Countess Bepa, or both had their own suspicions.  “You folks should go back up to the house,” he told us.  Then he seemed to recognize Boris.  “Your grandmother is very upset.”

Boris looked like he would protest.  I looked at him and Andy.  “Well, personally, I don’t think I can bear to see this,” I said.  I didn’t know I was crying until I felt a tear fall from my cheek to my neck.  I brushed at the tears, irritated that I would cry about something that never was.  “Frankie in with these kidnappers?  I must be a stupid bimbo.”1920s PhotoPlay

Andy took my elbow and Boris limped at my other side as we walked back to the mansion.  I didn’t look back.  I just couldn’t.  Inside the music room we found the Ringlings, Countess Bepa, and Mona.  The women were in their dressing gowns, but Ringling was dressed.  I had a hunch he was ready for what happened.  He was pretty darned shrewd.

A gunshot rang out.  Then several more cracked the predawn silence.  “Frankie!”

Boris caught my arm to keep me from going outside.  Ringling had a gun in his hand and he moved to a place where he could see farther into the rose garden.  He squinted into the moonlit shadows.  The sound of feet pounding the path was followed by the voice of the Fed.  “The big one got away.  I’m not sure if I hit ‘em.”

I was too stunned by everything that happened that night to know what to say or do.  I stood mutely looking into the darkness. Frankie on the lam from the law! I wondered if he had been shot, if he was hurt, maybe dying.  I also wondered how he could betray all of us.  It was clear that he and Flavio had gotten close to Mona and me just to have access to Boris.

“Pip, this is serious business,” Boris said in his accent.  He looked at me intently, making me bring my chaotic thoughts to the moment.  “What were you saying about there being another dragon?”

The comment caused Bepa and Ringling both to start.  “The harpsichord,” I said.  “Look at that medallion inside it by the pastoral scene.”1920s Style Book

“That’s very observant of you dear Pip,” the countess said.  “But there is nothing behind that.  I have already checked.”

“Not behind it,” I said.  I took the flashlight from Boris and I crawled under the ornate instrument.

The light revealed a metal circle where I had bumped my head earlier.  It had the look of a sort of maker’s mark, like something the craftsman might have put there.  But it also looked like…  If I were to twist it just so… that it would come out.  So I gave it a little twist.  A moment later I crawled out from under the harpsichord with a round box, decorated just like the carving inside the lid, with a shield and banners.

I held out the solid gold pyx.

It was heavy and obviously worth a fortune.  It was hard to believe that men would plot and hurt one another for hundreds of years over something like the object in my hand, no matter how beautiful or valuable.  However, Boris and Countess Babikov were pursued halfway across the world by men trying to find the gold pyx.

I shook my head thinking about everything that had happened.  There were just three things that I knew for sure.  One – I was dog tired.  Two – I didn’t want to have any more weird, and maybe even prophetic dreams.  And there…

Young Lucille Ball

Young Lucille Ball

There would always be at least three things to keep my life interesting.

***

1920s FanCan you believe this serial began with Oscillating Fan?  That was our very first “thing.”

In case you felt like there was a bit too much unresolved, I’ve written an epilogue for our little 1920’s story.  I expected that the characters readers would be most curious about are Frankie the Fireman and Mona the Movie Star, even though Pip is nearest to my heart as the narrator.

So for those who like things nice and tidy, here’s a bit more.

Epilogue

“Are you sure you won’t stay here in Sarasota for a while?” Mona pleaded.  “You don’t have to breeze off. Ca d Zan-1 Bepa told me that Mr. Ringling asked you to stay as long as you want.  There aren’t many places where you could get free room and board.  And there aren’t any at all that are as beautiful as Ca’d’Zan!”

I looked down at my hands and shook my head mutely.  I promised to stay until after the party Mable Ringling was throwing for her friend, Countess Babikov.  However, everything I saw in and around the gilded mansion brought me unhappy thoughts.  I was so disappointed in Frankie and all his cousins.  How could they kidnap anybody, let alone a sweet old woman like Bepa?

Lucille Ball teenaged 1What I overheard didn’t sound like Frankie wanted to commit those crimes, but nonetheless that’s what he did.  Maybe when he saw that Flavio and the twins were going to prison, I hoped maybe he would straighten up.  Maybe.  But how could he reform himself when he was going to spend years running from the law?  Ringling’s G-man friend told me that it might not be as big a deal, since they didn’t take Bepa across the state line.

He hinted around that if Frankie turned himself in that Countess Babikov would be willing to let the charges against him “go away.”  Wealth and power had arms as long as those of the law.  But the coppers would demand that Frankie testify in court against his cousins, and I knew the fireman wouldn’t do that. Besides, whether the police detective believed me or not, I didn’t know where Frankie was, and I didn’t expect to hear from him.

“Come on Sweet Pea,” Mona cajoled.  “Cheer up.  Bepa and Mable want to take us shopping for glad rags to wear for their swanky soirée.  It’ll be the bee’s knees!”

I smiled and told myself to join in the fun and not bring everyone else down with me.

When we stepped 1925 Emanuel Haldeman-Juliusinto the hallway I could hear Andy pounding away at his typewriter.  The events that broke my heart had inspired Andy to write an original screenplay.  He wasn’t unfeeling, quite the contrary.  He was just too creative not to put it all on paper.

“There are going to be studio big wigs here all the way from Hollywood,” Mona said.  “Andy is determined to finish his story before the party so he can pitch it.  He hasn’t slept a wink since it happened.  I expect he’ll be moving to California.  I really think his ship is on its way in.”

“And you Mona?  Has Boris warmed up any?  It’s obvious that his babushka adores you,” I said.

Mona blushed prettily.  “Oh, I don’t know Pip.  Maybe.  I think Boris is a man who needs to take things slowly.  I liked the countess the minute I met her, and after getting acquainted with Bepa, I think she’s the cat’s pajamas.  So I’m willing to give this situation more time.  Maybe I need to slow down just a little bit too.  I’m going to stay here for the winter and maybe take trapeze lessons from some of the 1920s circus acrobatsperformers.  They were encouraging me to when Andy and Ringling told them about the short film,” Mona confided.

The butler walked up to us.  Yes, they had an honest-to-God butler.  Can you believe it?  I was surprised and apprehensive when he said there was a phone call for me.  He led us to a sitting room with a phone.  It was my father.  I had sent a telegram to him so he’d know that I was alright, figuring he’d get wind of the shootout in the newspaper.

“Pops, how are you?”

“Yes, I’m fine.”

“Yes, Mona is fine too.”

“Granny?  Is something wrong with Granny?  … Oh thank goodness.”

“What?  Cooking?  Pops, you know I can’t even boil water.  What do you mean that’s the point?”

“Yes, I know how Granny is when she sets her mind on something.  But I’m a modern woman.”

“No, I don’t want to learn to cook!  Flappers don’t pin all their hopes on being a good cook and housekeeper.”

“But…  Oh come on Pops!  I love Granny, but I don’t want to live there…”

“Pops…  But…  Pops please!”

***

The Beginning

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=leB3Ewm7qtc

1920s Dance Party

***