Saturday, November 6, 2021
You’ve reached The Armadillo Files. Stand by for zaniness.
Three Random Reader Things
This episode features “things” from Beth at the I Didn’t Have My Glasses On blog. Beth’s three things are Post Office, Bicycle, and Tomatoes. I know I’ve used bicycle already, but it’s back with the rest of her “things.”
Tidbits of Truth
There’s one hairstyle for women that I always associate with the World War II Era. I didn’t know the name for it until I researched. It’s “Victory rolls.” Learn more about it here.
I’m giving a nod via the names for some new, probably minor characters. Although only the things know for sure if they will remain minor. I used a book and film of the era, “To Have and Have Not” for their names. The nod is to Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. I also took the name for “little Frankenstein’s” big sister from the list of characters. At the end of the post, you’ll find a link to the radio play version of “To Have and Have Not.”
Previously in The Armadillo Files
Delilah Faraday and Tatu Pinkerton, aka Fang, got the spaceship transformed, although TROLLEY did most of the work. Dilly went out snooping around the outskirts of the Secret City. Then they met some trick-or-treaters, and the big sister of one of them had gone missing.
12 — How did you know?
Fang and I looked all around, late Halloween night, in case the little boy’s sister was in the nearby woods. Although TROLLEY didn’t detect any one. Still, it was reasonable to assume she and the kids had found each other. A touch of worry nagged at me just the same.
The next morning, Fang said something about going downtown. I asked what he had in mind. To my surprise, he said the Post Office.
“Prime uses some low-tech backup measures,” he started. “There will be a post office box for me. I need to check it at the beginning of a mission just incase there’s been a cosmic snafu and Prime or another operative had to communicate, but couldn’t use the normal ways.”
Meanwhile, I occupied myself by arranging items the artificial intelligence “replicated.” I started making the transformed spaceship look the way I imagined a 1940s bar-and-grill.
I was sweeping the walkway when a man approached. He appeared to be an ordinary working man, but the way he moved and spoke made me think of a movie tough-guy.
However, he took off his cap when he greeted me. He was too polite for any sort of thug, despite his air. He introduced himself as Harry Morgan.
With calloused but nimble fingers, Harry produced a photograph of a woman. He wanted to know if she had been there.
My first thought was that the photo was going to be of the girl, the big sister from whom Little Frankenstein and his friends were separated.
However, the picture was not of any teenaged girl. It was a woman, and a beautiful one at that. Her hair was done into “Victory rolls” framing her face.
Unconsciously touching my unruly hair, I couldn’t imagine the work it would take to get her hair to do that.
“All the curling, back-combing, and pinning… it would take me hours if I tried to do that myself,” I murmured.
“Marie always has been fussy with her hair. Wanted it to be just so. Marie Browning, that’s her name. She works as a dorm mother, chaperoning one group of the high school girls they hired to monitor and maintain the fancy secret machinery at the Y-12 Plant. Clinton Engineer Works, they call it, but that’s all a front for some big war secret. Everybody hereabouts knows that much,” Harry told me, and I nodded knowingly.
Maybe I picked up the man’s worry, but I had an uneasy feeling. I didn’t think my unease had anything to do with him, despite the fact that he had the look of a tough-guy.
He scratched his stubbled chin. As he tucked Marie’s photo into a rumpled overcoat, his broad shoulders slumped. When he turned to leave, I noticed a slight limp. It reminded me that Fang was supposed to affect a limp as a visible reason for not joining the military, like most men.
Speak of the devil, or in this case think of him, I thought.
Just then Fang rode up on the bicycle, still wearing the zoot suit. With a hopeful air, Harry showed Fang the picture.
How could I remind Fang to limp?
I gritted my teeth as the erstwhile armadillo agilely hopped off the bicycle and drew the man to the umbrella table that we had setup earlier that morning.
Fang pulled out a chair and motioned for him to sit. Then my companion leaned down to sniff the guy! I flushed. Harry Morgan recoiled, but not overtly. I got the impression that it wasn’t the first time he had encountered people who were at least a little strange.
“She sure is a looker,” Fang commented with a low whistle, and then handed the photograph back to the guy. “Say, where’s that foldable motorcycle of yours?”
“The front tire blew. How’d—” the man began, but Fang was already moving away.
“Hang on, buddy. The Pink Armadillo isn’t open yet, but I’ll get us some coffee,” Fang added.
Then he took the stairs up to TROLLEY two at a time. So much for the “limp.”
“He’s not all there, is he?” the man commented, but didn’t seem to expect an answer.
It occurred to me that he might have just suggested an alternative cover for Fang. I’d have to worry less about the odd way he acted and dressed if it was assumed that he was… unstable.
“You’re farther off the road than I expected. I left my old heap parked on the shoulder,” Harry continued, looking toward the unseen road before turning to me curiously. “That won’t be good for business.”
“Umm, I know… I hired somebody to cut and gravel a driveway for us, but they took the deposit and ran off,” I dissembled.
Wanting to change the subject, I stuck out my hand before I thought about whether we were supposed to have false names to go along with Fang’s fake limp. After all, Fang was “the operative” not me. I was a botanist, and utterly unaccustomed to any sort of intrigue.
“Sorry I didn’t introduce myself, Harry. I’m Dilly Faraday, and that was Fa— Tatu Pinkerton. He usually goes by Fang,” I said, my words stumbling at the end, when the pseudonym question popped into my head.
Harry Morgan shook my proffered hand.
“Have you been to the police?” I asked, indicating the woman’s photograph.
He gave a snort and rubbed the stubble on his chin again. Then he shook his head and gave me another look. That time his expression was closer to suspicion than curiosity.
“Nobody’s going to touch anything that has to do with the Secret City,” he grumbled. “Haven’t you seen the billboards around town? What you see here, What you do here, What you hear here, When you leave here, let it stay here,” he quoted.
Just then Fang came out of TROLLEY, carrying an enormous tray. He stumbled. I winced when I saw that long pink armadillo tail flash out behind him, and touch a stair to steady him. Fortunately, Morgan had his back to the “entertainment establishment” and was preoccupied with returning the photo to the breast pocket of his overcoat.
“Tail!” I hissed into Fang’s ear as he bent toward the table with the tray.
“Pardon me,” he muttered with a tiny fart sound and the tail disappeared.
The tray was laden with all the parts of a hearty southern breakfast. The sight of fluffy golden biscuits, sausage, white gravy, eggs, grits, sliced tomatoes, bacon, and peach preserves made my stomach rumble. Harry Morgan looked at the spread like it was also more than he could resist.
“Dig in,” I encouraged.
I pulled Fang aside, pretending to ask if we had plenty of supplies. However, as soon as we were a few steps away I whispered my real question.
“Why did you ask him about the foldable motorcycle? How did you know?” I asked.
“I recognized his smell,” Fang stated in a tone that suggested that should have been obvious.
“And the woman in the photo? That’s not the ‘big sister’ the kids were looking for last night, right?” I added.
“How would I know? I can hear pretty darned good, and my sense of smell is good. But I can’t see worth a damn. You know that,” he replied.
“They were passing out flyers down near the E Gate,” Fang went on in a normal voice as we returned to the umbrella table. “You know I can’t see without my lenses, err without my glasses. What does it say?” he asked, handing me the flyer.
Morgan looked up from his food, startled. He didn’t seem to know about it the missing teenager.
I read the flyer aloud. It named the girl, Hellene de Bursac. The description included her age, height, weight, hair color. She had not been seen since she took the children out trick-or-treating.
“Another one!” Morgan snarled. “Marie was right. If the Calutron girls find out about the wrong things… then they just disappear.”
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The mystery is layering up. I love to hear from you, so be sure to stop and say hello. Whether your comment is to me or another commenter, keep it friendly. Hugs on the wing!
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Dead of Winter, All the Journeys
Universal Purchase Links
Journey 10, Pergesca
Journey 9, Doors of Attunement
Journey 8, The Lost Library
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 © 2021 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene
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