Saturday, September 26, 2020
Welcome back, my chuckaboos! I’m so glad you could come to the riverboat for an all new episode of The Delta Pearl. Thank you for being here. Special thanks to everyone who was threatened by the awful fires, but took time to let me know you were okay.
I’ve been gradually working on several things. Rebecca Budd and I (along with superb audio-editing work from her husband, Don) have been cooking up a podcast. She’ll be posting that soon.
A “meanwhile” effort has been in progress over the past ten months. At night I’ve been editing a novella that was a serial here on my blog in 2018. Hullaba Lulu, a Dieselpunk Adventure is finally at the dieselpunk train station. Since some weekend readers aren’t available for my Wednesday posts, I’m making a pre-announcement statement. I’ll do an All Aboard! post on Wednesday with full details. The eBook versions have an introductory price of 99¢. There’s a schedule after the Delta Pearl chapter.
Update! Dan Antion is making preparations for his launch party at No Facilities.
Back to the riverboat
This chapter finds us with Émeraude and Eliza Needleman. Mr. Needleman rescued Émeraude when she was snared in that big net, operated by some nefarious force intent on flying away with our bricky heroine. As the net was pulled higher, it was engulfed by toxic gas — the same noxious substance that injured the Captain many weeks ago. We’ll look in on Randall while we’re at it.
The Delta Pearl
Chapter 49 — Disassemble
Eliza continued to look at the tiny holes in the papyrus. She tilted her tawny head and delicately scratched a spot under the Gibson Girl bun. I believed that was a habit that meant she was deep in thought.
“A music box cylinder, you say…” she murmured.
Abruptly she grabbed my hand and pulled me into the hallway. We all but collided with the Chief Porter, Garnet Redford.
“Oh, serendipity!” Eliza exclaimed after a hasty pardon me. “Chief Porter are you, by any chance, adept at disassembling small things?”
“Ma’am?” Garnet asked in a neutral tone.
The question was clearly unexpected. However, Garnet was rarely ruffled. His red-blond mustache twitched and his green eyes twinkled.
“I dare say I could take something apart. Although putting it back together could be another matter,” he told her.
I never wondered why female passengers were known to swoon in his presence. His charms were obvious. That refined British accent alone was enough to leave most women weak at the knees.
“That’s bang up to the elephant! Very good. Perhaps Victor can reassemble it when he’s back to himself,” Eliza said, placing a hand on Garnet’s arm. “Could you please spare some time to help Émeraude and me with something?”
A moment later, Garnet and I stood in Eliza’s sitting room. A raspy voice called from the next room. Mr. Needleman was awake. I hoped that was a good sign for his recovery. Although I would not have recognized that voice as being the previously robust man.
“Yes, darling. I’m here,” Eliza lifted her voice to reply. “I believe what I want is in the bedroom. Excuse me for a moment,” she told us.
Eliza ran to the bedroom. Bits of muffled conversation reached my ears. Coral emerged from the room, carrying a tray. I knew Eliza wouldn’t have left him on his own in such a diminished state. Eliza followed the maid.
“Yes, Mrs. Needleman. The Cook says to give him two spoonsful again at bedtime,” Coral was telling Eliza.
Coral placed the tray, and the bottle it held, on an end table. She nodded to Garnet and me as she left.
Eliza was holding what looked like a small decorative cage. She held it out and looked at the Chief Porter expectantly.
Garnet and I exchanged a puzzled look. We bent for a closer look at the object. Inside the cage was a yellow enameled bird figure. It adorned a rectangular wooden box that had curling silver shapes at the corners. There was a tiny handle on the side.
“This is a music box? Surely you don’t mean for me to take it apart?” Garnet asked.
“Oh, yes, Mr. Redford. Indeed, I do. We need to know if its cylinders match the holes in this,” she explained, holding up the little scroll. “Émeraude, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to run off with this,” she said and handed the papyrus back to me.
Taking the music box, the Chief Porter turned it this way and that. He squinted, looking for a way of opening it.
Eliza eyed him curiously. Then her brows went up in comprehension. She turned to a table that sat beneath a porthole and picked up something that looked like the kind of opera glasses a person would hold in front of their eyes by a long handle at one side, a lorgnette. Holding it by the long filigree stem she passed it to Garnet.
“Yes, I insist,” Eliza told him. “If you’re a bit shortsighted, these might help. I’ve been using them to keep an eye on, um… the weather.”
“You’ve noticed the strange cloud,” Garnet said softly and nodded.
His moustache twitched as she handed him the little spectacles. I realized it was a point of vanity with many people, not wanting to admit to nearsightedness. However, he thanked Eliza gracefully.
I gave Garnet a nudge of encouragement. He took a breath and then removed a slim leather envelope from his vest pocket. It held a few delicate looking metal instruments. I had seen him use the tools to open locks when passengers lost the keys to their luggage. A time or two he even helped them open their cabin doors if he didn’t want to wait for someone to fetch a skeleton key.
We had left the stateroom door open. I was startled to see the Mate step inside. Strange was the only word I could think of to describe his manner, which was already off kilter.
Blue John had been agitated, irritable, and nervous for weeks. However, I had not seen the Mate quite so frazzled since the Delta Pearl reacted strongly to crossing the boundary of a state line. In the past he was levelheaded, but at that moment his tension was tight as a drum.
“All hands, Chief Porter!” Blue John barked, then noticing Eliza, he cleared his throat. “Um, begging yourn pardon Mrs. Needleman.”
I knew that in some situations, the crew would try and gather one another without an alarm, not wanting to worry the passengers. I wondered what the trouble was.
On a fine silver thread, Amethyst lowered herself from the light fixture in the ceiling and onto my shoulder. Outside the door, Onyx flew past with a flash of brass wings. It must be truly urgent for the clockwork owl to brazenly fly inside the riverboat, where anyone might see him.
The Mate was sensitive to the inner workings of the Delta Pearl. I had always thought he had a peculiar intuition when it came to the riverboat. However, it had become clear, even to me, that the Delta Pearl was reacting more strongly to things that previously had merely caused a “rough spot” as one might say.
“You know how the Delta Pearl can get finicky about boundaries and such things. I think we tarried too long at the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio rivers back at Cairo, Illinois,” Blue John commented almost as if to himself.
“I’ve seen that when strange things happen aboard ship, they’re often connected to her moving into a new time zone or crossing some line of demarcation, like the borders between states. Just like that rough patch we had when we went from the borders of one state to the next,” Garnet replied.
“Now we’re coming up on a time zone boundary. The Pearl is so distraught that I can barely think straight. I don’t know how or why she seems to think our different time zones have anything to do with actual temporal shifts, but this time she insists that it does!” he said and rubbed the back of his neck.
Temporal shifts? I didn’t know the term, but I had a vague idea of what it probably meant ― and it didn’t sound like it would be all beer and skittles!
End Chapter 49
As I was saying, Hullaba Lulu, a Dieselpunk Adventure will be making the rounds. Several people were kind enough to offer to have me visit their blogs. Thanks in advance to them.
Friday, October 2, I’ll be in South Africa with Robbie Cheadle chatting about Ouija boards.
Saturday, October 3, I’m in Connecticut where Dan Antion is hosting a launch party at the No Facilities Bar.
Monday, October 5, I’ll visit Miriam Hurdle – watch out for the bubbles.
Tuesday, October 6, I’m off to Spain for a visit with Olga Núñez Miret for chat about Carl Jung.
Wednesday, October 7, I’m in Oregon where D. Wallace Peach is hosting me. Watch out for that Tesla coil!
Sunday October 11, I’ll be in California chatting about 1920s styles with Valentina Cirasola.
Monday, October 19, I’m in Kentucky for Teri Polen’s festival, Bad Moon Rising. I didn’t bring Lulu, but she came by herself.
Be well, be happy, my chuckaboos.
This serial is made possible in spite of (not because of) the deplorable lack of Internet service from TDS Telecom. They are even worse than the government about claiming no problem exists in the face of failure. TDS Telecom meets every complaint and service call by saying they find no problem. Their technicians come to my home and refuse to do any work or replace equipment, even when their offsite managers have instructed them to do so. They brought equipment that they openly state does not work properly. They refuse to let me talk to a manager. They refuse to promise to send someone other than the previous do-nothing tech. They refuse to make sure the technicians have working hardware with them. My letters, emails, and tweets go unanswered. Dear readers, please do not comment here in response to this paragraph. Just be aware of my awful experience with this so called provider.
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 © 2016 and 2020 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene
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