Saturday, December 15 , 2018
It’s Straightlaced Saturday! Welcome aboard the #SteamPunk train. Our destination is the northern Pacific coast of the USA, during the Victorian Era. We’re headed for another episode of Copper, the Alchemist, and the Woman in Trousers.
Back in 2015, the random “three things” for this chapter were provided by John W. Howell at Fiction Favorites. As some of you might remember, this serial was originally a culinary mystery. John sent some delicious things to drive the episode. Consider yourselves warned that reading may give you the munchies.
Since I know you have a lot of other things to do on the weekend, I’ve divided this rather long chapter. The third thing will play out on Hidebound Hump Day.
Previously with Copper, the Alchemist, and the Woman in Trousers
When Copper unexpectedly put the second harmonic tuner on the map, there was an accident of alchemy that reached all the way to the hot spring and the washing machine…
Cornelis held out his harmonic tuner. A faint current of green streamed from the tuner to the washing machine. It wobbled, gurgled, and creaked. The wringer started to turn again, the magic pulling the tablecloth on through as we watched.
Alchemically inscribed phosphorescent lettering appeared on the tablecloth. The Dutchman shined the light on the cloth as it finished rolling from the mangle. In large glowing green script I read the word aloud,
Copper, the Alchemist, and the Woman in Trousers
22.1 — Pistachio, Porcini
My first thought wasn’t exactly a thought. All cogitation was clogged in a bottleneck of befuddled ideas. The first thought that got through the blockage was relief that Copper was up at the pavilion. It would be awful if the supernaturally printed word, Daddy, got her hopes up for no good reason.
At that point, I wasn’t feeling too optimistic myself, and to be honest, I was losing my sense of trust. So, that single, magically written word brought out all my suppressed concerns.
As if it wasn’t bad enough that I experienced occasional twinges of distrust for Ignatius Belle (who turned out to be Copper’s half-brother), it also bothered me that I had begun having doubts about Copper’s father, Calvin Hixon. (Revealed in Chapter 20.)
Granted, if Hixon was abducted, he probably had no chance to leave a warning or a reason. What if he left of his own accord? The notion was so awful. Had he willingly left his daughter with no explanation, and worse left the child on her own?
Other than his unfortunate money situation, Calvin Hixon appeared to be utterly brilliant. Could the circumstances be more complicated than an abduction? Did Hixon stand to somehow see a financial gain from the situation? Could he be involved in his own disappearance?
Oh surely not, I told myself. I’m over-analyzing things.
Most often the simplest answers are the correct ones. But was running away as simple as being abducted…? Had Calvin Hixon suddenly run away from his adversaries, perhaps thinking he would lead them away from his daughter, thereby keeping her safe?
I’m still over-analyzing, I admonished myself.
“Felicity,” I heard my name and realized that Cornelis had called it more than once while I pondered the unpleasant thoughts about Calvin Hixon.
“Do step back,” the alchemist told me. “Something unexpected might happen,” he said as he reached into that supernatural void through which he sometimes fetched things.
“Unexpected?” I commented sardonically, knowing how often Cornelis’ tricks tended to go awry.
To my surprise he produced the long map we had been looking at on the terrace. The area on which he had used the harmonic tuner still gave off a greenish glow. However, the phosphorescent script “Daddy” on the table cloth had begun to dim. Cornelis noticed the diminished glow with a frown. Hurriedly he placed the map atop the cloth.
The Dutchman held up the harmonic tuner and gave it one sharp clear ring.
The tiny ping of a sound reverberated and grew. I felt the vibration at the base of my spine. I could feel the sound spreading outward all around us. In the distance the big gong in front of the pavilion gave a mighty boom, the volume of which was magically transported into our midst. I put my hands over my ears, involuntarily squeezing my eyes shut.
Cautiously, I opened one eye. The map was copied onto the tablecloth. At first the drawings of topography overlaid the word “Daddy,” but then the script blazed through the map. The word shone with eye-searing chartreuse light, before stabilizing and dimming to a flat pistachio green.
Did it mark the location of Copper’s father?
I don’t know if it was a meteorological effect or if it was residual magic from the previous night, but when I got up the next morning, the sky above Alastair Wong’s home blazed with yellow clouds at sunrise.
No wonder they called it the Golden Pavilion, I thought.
Cornelis said he wanted to get an early start, but judging by the activity of the household staff, I suspected they were always up at that hour. As I admired the sunrise, the alchemist drove up in the road locomotive.
It didn’t seem like there could be enough room, but Cornelis, Copper, Alastair, and I all managed to get on the road locomotive.
To my surprise, Victoria, who was so taken with Copper, insisted on coming along. I wouldn’t have thought one more person, not even a tiny woman like Victoria, could fit on the little steam engine… and she carried a large picnic basket too. Yet somehow the tiny woman and the big basket managed to fit.
When I saw the hint of a green aura surrounding the Dutchman, I understood how so many of us managed to get onboard. One of his tricks of alchemy had made room for everyone.
We would part company with Alastair and Victoria when we reached the Pacific Ocean. Wong would take the road locomotive back to his pavilion estate for safekeeping, while Copper, the alchemist, and I continued our journey.
I looked a question at the basket Victoria carried. The night before, all the noise and vibrations from the harmonic tuners had given me a headache — and I still had it. So I was probably frowning fiercely. Victoria looked a bit uneasy.
“It will be past time for a meal before we reach the ocean. Copper is a growing girl and must eat,” the tiny woman said with a sharp nod that would have settled any row.
I tried to reign in my smile at her feistiness, because I truly did take her seriously.
“Besides,” she turned and spoke to Cornelis in a flirtatious tone that took me completely by surprise. “You will love what I’ve done with the porcini mushrooms you mentioned earlier,” she added, and the Dutchman’s eyebrows shot up to his hairline.
“Ah yes,” the Dutchman sighed. “Porcini are God’s great gift to humanity, a mushroom delicate enough to flavor a sauce, yet vigorous enough to stand up to a grilled steak.”
Really…, I thought. Should he encourage the tiny woman by flirting? And Could Victoria actually be attracted to Cornelis? The idea seemed not merely imaginative and impractical, but just plain impossible. I scratched my earlobe as the idea took root. Then I had the wicked thought that I’d like to see an argument between Victoria and Cornelis. The Dutchman would surely get his comeuppance.
“What are you smirking about?” Cornelis asked me quietly.
“Oh? Did I seem to smirk? It was just a bit of indigestion,” I said with no attempt to hide my expression.
Victoria held tightly to Copper’s hand as the steam engine barreled toward the ocean. The tiny woman’s eyes were huge with astonishment for the unnatural speed at which we traveled. However, it was clear that she possessed a fierce determination. She would not have gone back if the chance was offered.
Half-rats: Partially intoxicated.
Hanging: Excellent, outstanding. “Hanging new tie there, old man!”
Hawkshaw: A detective.
Holy Water: Said when one intensely hates someone or something. “He loves him as the Devil likes holy water.”
We’ll finish up the three random things supplied by John W. Howell on Wednesday for Hidebound Hump Day. Come back to learn where Penne Pasta takes our trio.
I’ll be looking for you at the station on Wednesday.
Now some shameless self-promotion.
Universal link to my Amazon Author Page
USA: Atonement in Bloom
USA: Atonement, Tennessee
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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.
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