Wednesday, October 10, 2018
Welcome back to Hidebound Hump Day, and another episode of Copper, the Alchemist, and the Woman in Trousers. My blog-writing time is limited to the weekend, and it was a very busy one. So without further ado, here’s chapter 12.
Previously with Copper, the Alchemist, and the Woman in Trousers
Felicity thought one of the voices she heard back at the Hixon estate could have belonged to Sheriff Alvin Bullard. Thanks to the magically juiced road locomotive, Copper, the alchemist, and the woman in trousers outdistanced the three presumably hostile groups that pursued them. However, when the speeding engine took a turn too fast, the woman and the skull of the alchemist ended up in the frigid waters of the river. The resultant head colds for those two temporarily stalled their adventure. Not to mention the strange things that rained down when the alchemist sneezed.
Do you think we need to open our umbrellas before we join them?
Copper, the Alchemist, and the Woman in Trousers
12 — Short Ribs, Eggplant, Red Pepper
Cornelis Drebbel rolled his watery eyes up toward the frog that sat atop his head.
“Huh. Huh—” Cornelis began and quickly put his finger under his nose in attempt to forestall yet another sneeze. The frog wisely jumped down from his head.
“For pity’s sake! There’s no telling what will rain down on us if you sneeze again!” I said, though I knew the alchemist couldn’t help himself.
“Ah-choo!” was the answer to my plea.
Another wet splat soon came. What smelled like a very savory reddish-brown sauce splashed onto the legs of my trousers. I drew back, annoyed. I finally had been able to put on clean dry clothes, and they’d already been stained. Cornelis bent down with a curious expression on his face. Copper left off playing with the frogs to see what new wonder was produced by the sneeze of the alchemist.
He picked up the sauce covered thing that made the wet splat. I asked what it was as I tried to clean the warm goo from my pant legs.
“It appears to be the short ribs of a swine,” he said as he pulled the meat into two pieces and licked the sauce from one. “Umm. Tasty,” he commented.
I made a disgusted face. “Since that is the product of your sneeze, isn’t it rather like the equivalent of eating your own buggers?” I asked; just to see how he would react.
Copper burst out in a gale of laughter. Cornelis looked at me. One side of his mouth turned down in an expression of contempt. Cornelis raised an eyebrow and cast his eyes downward at the ribs. Then he shot a glare at me and took a big bite of the meat, licking his fingers for good measure.
Then the second wave came. Short ribs fell all around us. They landed on my shoulder and in my hair. They pelted the alchemist, who suddenly had sauce smeared across his nose. Even Copper wasn’t spared — nor were the frogs. Riotous ribbits ensued as the amphibians leapt for cover from the rain of ribs.
After calm returned, Cornelis and I discussed the three groups who converged on the Hixon estate. We both agreed that their only logical purpose would have been to abduct Copper. I supposed that was good at least in as far as it should mean her father was still alive. Of course that was no guarantee, as Cornelis quickly pointed out. Fortunately the girl had gone back to playing with the frogs and didn’t hear that comment.
Suddenly I beheld the strangest sight, and mind you, I have seen some very bizarre things since the alchemist came into my life. Hundreds of frogs made a procession toward the huge wrent in the building’s wall. Several hopped huddled together as they balanced an eggplant on their backs and heads.
Copper skipped along beside the strange spectacle. I told her not to go outside. She stopped and nodded regretfully as the frogs carried their eggplant away. I asked Cornelis what that could possibly be about.
“One sneeze doesn’t always produce a singular effect. The eggplant could have come from the same accident of alchemy that created the frogs,” he said.
The Dutchman shrugged it off. Even so, something nagged at me.
The frogs continued to stream out of the building. I followed in the opposite direction, tracing the line of amphibians to their source. Cornelis followed my lead. Ever curious, Copper came along too. With a ribbit, a last frog hopped out of a crate. The large wooden box was almost intact. Only one corner of it was broken.
I started to try and pry the crate further open to get a better look. Then, eyes bulging, Cornelis tapped his finger on the label he’d found on the container.
It was marked κόκκινο πιπέρι, and I thought the address was Macedonia, but I wasn’t sure. “What’s wrong? I don’t recognize the language,” I said.
Cornelis shook his head and pursed his lips. “Your education was sorely lacking,” he complained.
“It was not,” I countered.
“This, κόκκινο πιπέρι or kókkino pipéri if you will, is Greek,” he informed me. “It means red pepper. So show a bit of mercy and do not open that crate. I don’t think I can bear another sneeze!”
“Then move away, old thing,” I told him with a motion of my arm. “There might be good provisions in that crate. Clearly we can’t depend on your sneezes to always provide food.”
The truth was, having spotted that strange writing, I secretly hoped I would find a clue about something, anything in the crate.
I had removed the priceless Leonardo da Vinci papers from the owl-shaped lamp. I relished learning something before Cornelis figured it out, and I itched to do it again.
Who knows secrets might hide in a huge wooden crate? I thought with anticipation.
Yet, I didn’t want the Dutchman to know that lest he tease me if there was nothing of interest in the wooden box. Unfortunately, it did not yield anything that appeared to be a clue.
Cornelis Drebbel and I argued. Again.
“This is a perfectly good place to make a stand and fight,” I said. “We can’t just keep running away to who knows where. Especially when we aren’t even sure who we’re running from. That will lead to us walking right into their clutches! We have to know who the enemy is. One of us should circle ‘round and come up behind them and at least find out who they are.”
The alchemist rolled his eyes heavenward.
“They were coming from three different directions – which group do you want to get behind?” he asked in a testy voice. “And how far back do you want to go to get behind one of the groups, if you can even find them. You know we out distanced them by a long way,” Cornelis reminded me.
“And just how do you propose we make a stand?” the alchemist acerbically retorted. “We don’t know how many of them there are, but the one thing we do know is that we are sorely outnumbered. Knowing their identifies is of no use if we are overwhelmed by our foes in the process of learning who they are,” Cornelis said with exaggerated patience.
I realized he had a point, though I hated to admit it.
A frantic honking noise interrupted our disagreement.
“Where is Copper?” I asked, suddenly worried.
While I knew nothing about children, abhorrent as it was to Victorian society for a woman to be unacquainted with child-rearing, I did have good insights into human nature. When people argued it had an effect on those around them. That was even more true of children. Copper had been through unimaginable upheaval, and taken away from every familiar thing and person.
Had the argument between the alchemist and me caused her to run away?
To be continued…
Could our little moppet have run away? Even if she only got bored and went to explore, is it safe for Copper to wander around the abandoned compound? They seem to have eluded their pursuers. Yet have they really?
I hope you saw my big cover reveal. If not then click the arrow at the bottom of the page. Copper, the Alchemist, and the Woman in Trousers will be back again in a few days for Straightlaced Saturday. I’ll be looking for you at the station.
Now some shameless self-promotion.
This is a work of fiction. Characters, names, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, locales, or events is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2015 and 2018 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene
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