Weekend Serial — Atonement in Zugzwang: Episode 7, Featuring Teri Polen

Saturday, April 8, 2023

Image by Teagan
CGI image by Teagan

Hello, everyone.  The month of April has begun with odd weather again for many of us.  Not to mention the odd happenings under my kitchen sink.  I’ve had the plumber out for my badly leaking sink three times in as many weeks.  “Nothing is wrong” with the sink.  I guess that bucket just fills itself with water.  Needless to say, I’ve been frustrated in the extreme, and that makes it nearly impossible to write… But did the best I could with this week’s random reader things.

Weird weather, unexplainable leaks — you’d think I really did live in Atonement, TN.

The random reader things, which drive this episode are from fellow blogger and author, Teri PolenOne of my favorites among her books was Subject A36.  I was thrilled when not too long ago, Teri published the sequel, The Insurgent.  It is the final book in The Colony Series duology.

Bond Teri Polen 08-2022
Teri’s cat likes his treats shaken, not stirred.

I think Teri’s favorite character in my Atonement series was probably Lilith the calico cat.  So, I had to chuckle when one of her “things” was feline-related.  Her random things for today are:  Catnip, yoga mat, and wicker backet.

The layers of mystery in this serial continue to increase.  If you missed an episode, or if you want to refresh your memory, earlier this week I did a writing process post that is really a recap of some of the important details of this serial.  Click here.


Fletcher held the photographs I had shoved back into his hands.  My eyes darted from the pictures to the blue figures.  I thought about the other places where my uncle had been seen.  For a moment, I shook my head in distraught confusion.  I turned wide eyes back to the deputy.

“My uncle’s body…  These chess pieces…  Is someone trying to make me think I’m crazy?”

Atonement in Zugzwang

Episode 7


The twinkle in the dark eyes of the deputy was replaced by concern.  I couldn’t stop shaking.

“Ma’am, I know you aren’t crazy.  Nobody thinks that.  Weird shi— I mean weird stuff happens in this town all the time.  Not that it means we take the situation with your uncle’s body any less seriously.  But there’s no need for you to be upset.  I don’t believe anyone is targeting you, whether it’s for a thoughtless prank or something malicious,” he tried to reassure me.

“It’s alright, Fletcher.  I’ll stay with Ms. Riley until she’s feeling better,” came the refined alto of Adelle Metatron from the still open front door.

In one hand Adelle held a wicker basket. From her other arm hung a similar container that was much smaller.  Both had lids that were securely closed.  Fletcher Hodge glanced at me to make sure I didn’t object to the woman coming inside, then he helped her with the things she carried.

At my confused nod, she moved to set the small basket on the bar, which separated the kitchen area from the living room.  Then she went to the living area and placed the larger basket on the sofa.  She handled it carefully.  Bending to put her ear close to it for a moment, she even gave the braided edge a caress before gliding back to the deputy and me.

Tea basket n muffins Teagan

My mouth opened to speak, but a female voice scratched from the device at the deputy’s shoulder.  He turned away and spoke to the dispatcher.

“I’m on my way, Connie,” he replied to the voice before returning to me.  “Ms. Riley, if you think of anything we should know — whether it’s some strangeness here, or something in your uncle’s history, then be sure to call me.  And if something scary happens just say so.  We’ll send a car right over.”

I nodded mutely, unable to think of what I was supposed to say.  Dealing with law enforcement wasn’t a frequent occurrence in my life.  Fletcher quickly excused himself and went to his next call.

The tearoom owner went to the bar.  Opening the smaller basket, she extracted lemon poppy seed muffins.  I finally found my manners and tried to be friendly.  Murmuring my appreciation, found paper plates and cups.  Uncle Salty didn’t seem to have many dishes that weren’t disposable.

At the first bite, I was already making yummy noises.  The muffins were moist and bursting with bright citrus flavor, and they were decorated with perfect lines of lemon glaze.

“They go well with this,” Adelle said with a grin.

Then she produced a small braided container.  It was clearly vintage, so I expected it came from her twin sister’s antique shop.  Inside, places had been formed for a small teapot and two teacups.  Adelle gingerly lifted out the hot pot.

“Think of it as a housewarming gift,” she said waving aside the objection I made around a mouthful of muffin.  “Or if you don’t stay here, it’s just a friendly gift.  No one should try to push you into a decision.  That’s very important right now,” she added as if to herself.

I sniffed the aroma.  It had a pungent edge that I would never have chosen myself.  Although it also smelled pleasant.  Adelle explained that it was catnip tea.

“No need for skepticism, Pepper,” she began upon seeing my expression.  “Admittedly, it takes some ‘doctoring’ to make the catnip palatable, but it can be done if one knows how.  The lemon and poppy seed flavors offset the tea nicely.  More importantly, with what you’re going through about your uncle’s body, you need a little help.  People don’t react to catnip in the same way as felines.  However, it can produce a mildly euphoric effect on humans.  You’re bound to be feeling anxious, so drink up.”

Maudie by Teagan
Maudie, CGI by Teagan

Just as Adelle and I finished the tea and muffins, my friend Maudie’s rental car pulled up outside.

“Maudie Rocket — what a delightful name.  Your friend went to the thrift shop to pick up a few things,” Adelle remarked, seeing my puzzled face.  “Didn’t she mention the stretching class?  I offered to guide you two through some stretches and a five-minute meditation.  It won’t take much of your time.”

I didn’t think I had ever encountered such a serene woman.  Adelle was so poised, and clearly had many skills and talents.  I admit that I was a little envious.

Maudie approached the door, carrying several bags and a yoga mat.  Just as I got up to get the door for her, I saw Bheema jog over from next door and open it.

When Deputy Hodge dropped in, I forgot all about having called my neighbor.  I wanted him to check the place for pests.  I had heard movement inside the building every night, although I couldn’t pinpoint its source.

However, I had forgotten to warn Maudie.  Despite being a big flirt, Maudie sometimes reacted strongly to scars.  Bheema had a disfiguring scar that ran down beside his rather long nose.  I assumed he had been in an accident, but honestly, it looked more like he had been in a fight and somebody tried to take off his nose.

The two came through the door in a bluster.  While Adelle and Bheema greeted one another and introduced him to Maudie, I used the act of helping Maudie with her bags to disguise my whisper to her.

“I already saw his scar,” Maudie began before I could speak.  “It’s horrid, but I didn’t let on.”

“Bheema, dear, won’t you join us?  We’re just going to limber up and try to get Pepper here to let go of that awful tension,” Adelle suggested.

“I’d like that,” Bheema started with a bright smile, although he shook his head.  “I have to get to L-O-L-A Lola’s.  Ms. Tipton couldn’t open this morning because of an uninvited guest.  She’s in a tizzy.”

I noticed the melody of his accent.  I supposed that like many of us, the sounds of his homeland came and went when he spoke.  There was a British roundness to his speech.  Yet at moments it was clearly Indian.

“Pepper, I’ve already looked around outside.  I blocked off one spot that could possibly be a way inside,” he said, motioning toward the back yard.  “I’ll make a quick check inside, but if Salty ever had any pest problems, he didn’t mention it.  Then I’ll go and take care of Marge Tipton’s bats.”

“Bats!” Maudie shrieked.

“I’m glad there’s no belfry in this old gas station.  I’d have bats in it for sure,” I complained.  “Do you think any kids are pranking me or anything like that?  Between my uncle’s missing body showing up several times, and the noises…”

Surprisingly, his dark eyes narrowed as if he considered someone who might be doing such a thing.  After a second he shook his head.

“It’s doubtful,” he began with a serious expression, which suddenly turned to that contagious smile.  “Your new friend will be able to help you find the culprit if anything is inside,” he said, motioning to the wicker basket on the sofa.

“Oh, I almost forgot,” Adelle began, but I had the feeling that nothing ever slipped her mind.

Just then the lid of the basket bumped up and down.  On the third bump, a tiny furry head popped up.

“I didn’t mean to impose,” Adelle began, but she cut off as a gray kitten scrambled out of the basket.

Thinking she meant the kitten as another “housewarming gift,” I started making mortified refusals.  Fortunately, my noises were incoherent, because, I was mistaken about Adelle’s intentions.  Or so she said.

“I was going to show it to you, but I was distracted.  Please believe that I wouldn’t have brought an animal into your home without asking.  Kittens so small shouldn’t be left on their own,” Adelle spoke in a persuasive voice that made me wonder if she ever failed to get her way.

“Oh, it’s adorable!” Maudie gushed, already cuddling the tiny kitten.  “Is there something strange about the shape of its head?”

The kitten resisted being held, so Maudie placed it on the floor.

“It’s just an unusual shape, combined with a thick spot on her skull,” Adelle replied.  “A um, an expert in this kind of cat checked the entire litter of kittens.  The little darling is perfectly healthy.”

“Who do they belong to?” Maudie wanted to know.

Meanwhile I drew away from the kitten, not wanting to be drawn into what I was sure was about to happen — me becoming a new kitten parent.

“Ms. Lawton, who has the old Sunhold place on the opposite end of town,” Adelle replied.  “The mother cat is a lovely and smart calico named Lilith.  This baby seems to be as determined as her mother.  She took a liking to my nephew Donny.  She managed to follow him without anyone realizing.  Fortunately, Donny noticed her before anything could happen to her.  That’s why I have her with me.  I picked her up from Donny to take her home.”

Despite my efforts to be aloof and uninviting, the kitten ambled over to me.  Mewing, it started climbing my pants leg.  I extracted the tiny claws from my clothes and held her up to eye level.

Yes, I was already won over at that point, though I continued to deny it to myself.  I saw Maudie covertly grinning.

With a louder mew, the gray kitten head-butted me.  Surprised that a weak, defenseless baby seemed strong, I looked at her curiously.  To my astonishment, a single gold horn protruded from her forehead.

I gasped, and then blinked.  The horn was still there, glittering in a beam of sunlight.  I blinked again, harder.  The kitten’s head was normal.  It returned my gaze blissfully and started to purr.

CGI by Teagan
CGI by Teagan

♣ ♣ ♣

Now, after seeing the kitten, Pepper really will think she’s losing her marbles.  Oh-oh… marbles.  There’s no telling where my brain might roll with that.  Don’t think, Teagan. Don’t think about it.  Tune in again next weekend.  I expect the otherworldly pigs will return. 

Be sure to follow the links and visit Teri Polen and check out her great books. I love to hear from you, so friendly comments are encouraged.  Hugs!

♣ ♣ ♣

The Insurgent

Teri Polen The Insurgent

Kindle: relinks.me/B09TTSZKG6

Paperback  relinks.me/1684339537

♣ ♣ ♣

The Atonement Series

Atonement kindle covers Cat eyes shelf 2023

Atonement, Tennessee

Full series of e-books with one click:  relinks.me/B087JV25JT

Kindle:  rxe.me/HGSVA8A

Paperback: relinks.me/1481826948

Also in Spanish, translated by Olga Núñez Miret! The title for the Spanish-speaking market is Expiación y Magia

Atonement in Bloom

Kindle:  rxe.me/5RRBLH

Paperback:  relinks.me/1726882128

The Glowing Pigs, Snort Stories of Atonement, Tennessee

Kindle   rxe.me/LTBDNH

Paperback   relinks.me/1725891972

♣ ♣ ♣

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 © 2023 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene

All rights reserved. 

No part of this work 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 used with permission, or from free sources.

67 thoughts on “Weekend Serial — Atonement in Zugzwang: Episode 7, Featuring Teri Polen

  1. I love this! And Lilith making an appearance… and Ralda and… A kitty unicorn! I didn’t want to ask you what would you come up with next, Teagan, but I guess we’ll see soon enough. Thanks for another wonderful episode and congratulations to Teri on her new book!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My plan worked! I got kittens into the story! I loved how you worked my “things” into the plot, Teagan. And Bond is quite pleased about his pic being included (such an ego), lol. Last night I dreamed about a gray kitten before reading your post this morning. But it didn’t have a golden horn. Thanks so much for allowing me to participate – hugs!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Horn or not, I hope Pepper keeps the kitten.
    Of course I am a cat person. I’ll never get over their beauty.

    Speaking of beauty, this is a beauty of an episode. Thank you Teagan!
    Maudie looks fab.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, Resa. I feel the same way about cats. 🐱 I’m happy you enjoyed this episode and the images. I couldn’t find the perfect model for Maudie. Actually a CGI one was perfect except that she wasn’t smiling. Maudie needed a smile. This one was close, although I see her as fuller than this slim woman. Thanks for spending part of your weekend here. Hugs winging back to you.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. LOL. Yes, Marge Tipton arrived in Atonement, and wanted to give her restaurant the wildest name she could think of. Margeio.zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz (sorry — Daphne says hello) Anyhow Marge hadn’t been around much, and that song was the wildest thing she could think of. 😀
      Have a lovely Easter weekend, John. Thanks for spending part of it here. Hugs.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. A uni-kitten plus magical pigs, Atonement sounds like a lovely place to be as long as the legislature stays away. Can’t wait for the next installment. Holiday hugs rolling your way. Good luck with the sink that seems to have it’s own connection to Atonement where weird things are regular events.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed it, Jan. I knew that whenever I asked Teri for “things” she would lead me to a cat. So I’ve been toying with this idea for weeks. I finally had to use it. Have a good holiday weekend. Hugs.


    1. Noelle, that means a lot to me. All my energy went to real world frustrations, and I was afraid the episode was dull. I already had one thing in mind for the kitten, but only the “reader things” can say how it or she will tie to the overall story. 🐱 Many thanks for reading and commenting. Hugs.


  5. Lilith had kittens – yay! So now we know what she’s been doing when she escape the confines of that house 😉 This is a wonderful episode, Teagan. I feel more at home in Atonement now that the familiar faces (from all species) are growing in number. One thing is for sure, Pepper will likely see and hear more strange things in the future.

    I hope you have a wonderful weekend. I hope you can figure out the source of your leak. Water leaks are a nightmare to diagnose – but you know that. Hugs.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so glad you enjoyed this one, Dan. Ha! Pepper and I are both clinging to scraps if sanity. Just as something/body is about to make her crazy, the plumber would like me believe what I know is not the case.
      Lilith’s kittens were part of the ending of Atonement in Bloom. I won’t say more, since more would be a spoiler, if anyone is reading comments but has not read Bloom. Although next week I give a big hint about Lilith’s kittens… so maybe I need to forget about that particular potential spoiler. I have enough to worry about without making more trouble for myself.
      Ha! Yepper, the strangeness is only beginning for Pepper. Have a relaxing weekend. Hugs.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. No worries. That part was after the big finale of the story. I’m kind of stretching it with this kitten, but I justify it with ancestry. More on that next time. GP’s things (next week) included a barber pole, and that’s moving the plot along more than I expected. I need to find a way to get the mental horse back in front of the cart. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

    1. You might be right about that horn, Liz.
      Yes about the catnip. I’ve done a lot of past research into herbs that might help anxiety. I’ve used catnip tea, and maybe it helps a little. However, the taste is such that one probably has to be desperate to tolerate it. I added honey and it was drinkable. Others would disagree about anything being enough to make it palatable.
      Thanks for reading and commenting. Hugs!

      Liked by 1 person

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