Rewind – Three Things – Conclusion

New YR faeriesSheiks and Shebas, welcome back.  It’s time to conclude this rewind of our first “interactive” serial!  It was fun romping through the Roaring Twenties with you in 2014.  I’ve met many new friends that I treasured right away.  Just as importantly, old friends stuck around too.  I hope our serial’s family grows even more in 2015.  The more the merrier.

You’ve all been the cat’s pajamas.  I wish each of you a New Year that brings your fondest dreams to reality.

It’s time to pop the cork on this conclusion.

Happy New Year!

1915 New Yr

Three Concluding Things Episode 30, Part 2

Clasped Hands, Harpsichord, Pyx

The sky looked as gloomy as I felt.  What were Frankie and his cousins up to?  And why had he become so quiet and distant?  Maybe if I caught up with them I could find out.  However, before we had gone two feet down the path Andy the Astronaute turned up.  He was babbling something about the trapeze setup and the amazing performers.  He was excited and talking so fast that I could hardly understand him.  Then I heard Countess Bepa’s voice calling to us, asking if we would please come inside for a moment.  Mona clasped my hand and Andy’s hand to pull us inside the gilded mansion,  Ca’d’Zan.

Ca'd'Zan Mansion

Ca’d’Zan Mansion

I looked back over my shoulder.  The Fabro boys had disappeared, and the wall of rosy vines concealed the entrance to wherever they had gone.  I thought I saw another man moving awkwardly among the bushes, headed that way.  However, I barely got a glimpse of the guy.  The next thing I knew, my friends had pulled me past the pink patina of the stucco and terra cotta exterior, inside beneath a crystal chandelier from the original Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, across white marble floors, and finally into one of the many opulent rooms in the “House of John.”

Mrs. Ringling, or Mable as she insisted we call her, asked us to please sit down for a while and have tea.  A servant brought in a silver tea service as if on cue.  “There’s a chill in the air, and young people looked like you were cold out there,” our hostess told us.Ringling hapsichord

Meanwhile Countess Babikov went on enthusiastically about the ornately decorated French harpsichord that dated back to 1652.  It had somehow escaped destruction during the French Revolution.  I wouldn’t have known what the overelaborate thing was, despite its familiar shape.  So I was surprised to learn it had produced the charming music we had heard moments before.  The instrument was covered in carvings and gold leaf, and painted landscapes.  Everyone has different taste, but I had to admire the craftsmanship and artistry.

As I leaned in to see into the harpsichord, I also took a close look at the intricate landscape painted inside the lid.  Beside the pastoral scene was a rectangular frame with several medallion carvings.  Was that a dragon — like the one on the key?  I bent closer, wishing the sun would come out from behind the clouds and light the room better.

The bent key was still in my purse.  It was too bad I didn’t have it with me so I could compare the designs.  I felt a twinge of guilt.  I had taken the key from the pottery vase where Mr. Ringling casually dropped it.  Although I was the one who found it when it fell from the getaway car, it didn’t really belong to me.  But on the trip from Santa Rosa Sound I had been working at the thing, doing my best to straighten it out. It was just that I needed something to do with my hands; Mona was occupied with her three suitors; Frankie seemed to have forgotten I was alive.  Plus the poor key looked like it would be so pretty if it hadn’t been damaged..

Russian knights badgeYes, I was pretty sure the dragon carving inside the harpsichord was the exact same dragon.  In the carving the dragon rested above a shield design.  The shield had a helmet rising above a banner with a cross, which was flanked by three matching banners on either side.  I squinted, and leaned even closer trying to make out the word beneath the shield design.  Grand… something.  Well, it wasn’t a grand piano, it was a harpsichord.  I tilted my head.  Ah… Grand Priory.  Above the shield design I saw words written in a foreign alphabet.  Was it Russian?  “Humph,” I muttered. I wasn’t quite sure what I thought, but my brain felt like rusty clockworks beginning to turn.

Just then somebody goosed me.  I jerked up, banging my head into the harpsichord lid.  “Ouch!” I said, turning to find Frankie behind me.  He was grinning and pleased with himself for startling me.  I rubbed my head, then brushed at my bobbed hair with my fingers, not sure what to make of his change in attitude.  Suddenly he was like the Frankie I knew.  His smile was infectious and I found myself returning it even though I still felt miffed at him for ignoring me for so long.

Clara Bow as Mona the Movie Star

Clara Bow as Mona the Movie Star

Flavio was behind him, frowning at Mona.  The brunette was talking quietly with the countess.  Those two had their heads together a lot lately.  She became fast friends with Boris the Ballerina’s grandmother.  That didn’t bode well for Andy’s prospects with Mona.  Flavio didn’t seem to think it was going to help his chances either.

Frankie gave me that sad puppy dog look.  I rolled my eyes and took it for an apology.  “So what have you guys been doing?”

All of a sudden, Frankie stopped smiling.  Flavio stepped closer and gave me that smooth smile he usually saved for Mona the Movie Star.  I had never had anything against Frankie’s older cousin.  He was easily the most dashing of the Fabro brood.  But I didn’t take to him the way Mona did.

“We’ve been up the tower.  Wow! You can see for miles and miles up there,” Flavio said.

His enthusiasm rang flat to my ear.  Especially since I knew that was a lie.  I looked at Frankie.  “Yeah, doll face,” Frankie the Fireman said.  “It would be a great place to watch the sunset.  Maybe I can show it to you some evening,” Frankie suggested, wriggling his eyebrows in a humorous way.

I smiled at him.  I think I smiled.  I sure as shootin’ tried to smile at him.  How could he lie to me like that?  Okay, I told myself, maybe that was true and they had gone to explore the tower first — before they did whatever it was they were up to in the rose garden.  Even as I told myself that, myself knew it wasn’t so.  Oh, applesauce!

***

I promise – I will get to the “Pyx” next time.  Really.   🙂

Introduction for Part-3 of this conclusion

Here it is, everyone — the conclusion to this storyline. Forgive me for making this episode a good deal longer than usual, but I wanted to do it justice. After all it’s the conclusion to our Three Things Serial.

New Movie mag

I don’t kid myself that this serial is literature. From a technical standpoint it hasn’t had the structure for that.  However, I was determined to let the things all of you sent drive every aspect of this story — the characters, the setting, and the plot.  So naturally there are jumps and jitters in the plot — it’s the nature of writing the story in this “interactive” way.

It has been a great pleasure to have everyone contribute.  I sincerely hope you will do the same with the next incarnation of “three things,” whatever form that takes.  Your participation is the most important thing.

Now hang on to your hats because here we go!

Three Concluding Things Episode 30, Part 3

Clasped Hands, Harpsichord, Pyx

I tossed and turned in restless dreams before I finally awoke in the “wee hours of the morning,” as my granny would say.  The one that woke me was disturbing.  Throughout the dream I heard the music of the harpsichord.  Boris stood in front of a huge version of the carved medallion I had seen inside the ornately decorated instrument, the emblem of a dragon resting above a shield showing banners with crosses. In the dream it was all solid gold.  I clasped Frankie’s hand in a grip so tight that my fingernails dug into his skin, but something pulled him from my grasp.

Life Flapper BatA knight in armor wearing a priest’s collar (bizarre yes, but you know how dreams are) entered the room to give someone last rites.  The dragon climbed down from the shield.  I was afraid it would breathe fire and kill us all, but it opened its maw and consumed everything, including Boris and Frankie, in its giant jaws, even the room was gone. Only the knight, the gold shield, the harpsichord, and I remained. We were at the far end of the rose garden.

I cowered beneath the harpsichord and watched as the knight-priest gave the dragon last rites.  Then the knight dropped a large gold pyx on the ground.  The pyx opened and the dragon shrank down and got inside the receptacle.  The knight parted the vines of the climbing roses and disappeared, taking the pyx with him.

Then I woke and sat up in bed.  I paced my room, trying to shake off the dream.  From my window I could see the rose garden in the moonlight.  A light flashed in the distance.  It flashed several more times, in what seemed to be a pattern.  This unexpected sight only added to my unease.  A number of people lived on the property.  I told myself that it was likely just someone who’d been out late at a speakeasy.  However, I knew I wouldn’t go back to sleep.  So I slipped into my robe, lit a candle, and headed downstairs, meaning to go to the kitchen and make some warm milk.

I walked into the dark music room as a shortcut to the kitchen.  Maybe I was still unnerved from the 1922 Sat Postdream, but when I heard a door open I blew out my candle and ducked under the first thing I saw that was big enough — the harpsichord.  “Just as I did in the dream,” I thought with a shudder.

My head bumped against the underside of the harpsichord.  “Ouch!” I thought. “That didn’t feel like wood.”  I put my hand to the spot and my fingers met cold metal, a round shape.  However, I didn’t stop to think about it, because I heard footsteps.

From my hiding place I saw a large pair of feet and I recognized Frankie’s shoes.  I felt like a silly goose for hiding — it was only Frankie!  I thought mischievously about popping out to scare the stew out of him.  But something held me back.

More footfalls brought a familiar voice.  Flavio.  “We’ve looked everywhere else,” he said to Frankie.  “It has to be down there.”

“We’ve already checked that hidey-hole from top to bottom,” Frankie said in an exasperated tone.  “The Priory must have moved it.  Or laid out all this as a red herring,” he added as I watched his feet shift.  “Do you really think it could heal the dead, like the story says?”

Flavio snorted.  “Of course not.  But it’s made of solid gold.  All the legends say so.  Our Order in Europe would pay a king’s ransom to get their hands on the gold Pyx of the Knights Hospitaller.  Their grudge against the Russians goes back to the Pyx1600’s.”

“The old woman wouldn’t give up any information,” Frankie said.  “I told you it was wrong for us to grab her. I don’t think she knows anything, despite the Order saying the old count’s grandfather inherited it.  That was a long time ago; anything could have happened to it,” Frankie added and stepped closer to my hiding place.

He came right over to the harpsichord.  Frankie sat down on the bench, causing it to creek.  I scrunched up into as small of a ball as I could manage and held my breath.

I heard the sound of Flavio moving toward the doors that opened out onto Mable’s rose garden.  “Boris knows; I’m sure of it.  But he’d die before he told the Order anything about the Knights Hospitaller and especially about the solid gold pyx,” Flavio practically spat.  “It’s ‘protected by a dragon’ and that’s the only dragon we’ve found.  Come on.  We’ll check one more time.  Fred and Fedel are already down there.”

Silent Detective Movie coverFirst I thought of the dragon in my dream.  Then I remembered the one on the carving in the harpsichord.  The shield also had a knight’s helmet.  “It’s protected by a dragon,” Flavio’s words echoed in my mind as the French doors opened quietly and the two men went outside.

Their footsteps sounded on the path.  I knew they must be going to the hidden spot where I’d watched them disappear behind the climbing roses the day before.  I thought about all that mysterious talk about the Order and the Knights Hospitaller, and I remembered the odd tattoos I saw on all the Fabros when they were fishing.

Applesauce!  What the devil was going on here?  My heart rejected what my head had figured out.  With an icy knot in my stomach I knew that Frankie and his cousins were responsible for the break-in at Boris’ place, and worse — the abduction of Countess Babikov.  No wonder they found the bad guys so fast.  The two men they brought for Ringling to hand over to the G-men were either expendable associates, or another group that was after the valuable gold pyx.

I gulped, feeling sick.  I crawled out from under the harpsichord and ran out into the rose garden.  My slippers weren’t made for the outdoors, but at least they didn’t make any sound as I hurried toward the climbing roses.  In the light of the full moon I could see a gate beneath the vines.  I pulled the latch and cringed when it squeaked.  I took a deep breath and stepped beyond the gate.  Then I felt an arm around my waist and a hand over my mouth.1920s Cosmo Feb

My muffled scream hardly made a sound.  I heard “Ssshhhh!” and it had an oddly familiar sound.  “Shush, Pip,” Andy whispered.  “It’s me and Boris.  Now you’ve got to be quiet, okay?”

I nodded and he moved his hand and let go of me.  I turned accusing eyes on the two men.  Boris shook his head “No.”  In a voice so soft I could barely hear he said, “This is dangerous Pip.  You don’t understand what’s happening.”

With a sigh I told him that I actually did know what was going on.  “At least some of it,” I whispered.  “But where is the dragon?”

Boris looked shocked, but Andy gave a little smile.  “I told you she was a smart cookie,” our little Astronaute man told him.

In answer Boris switched on a flashlight and shone it upward.  The beam of light revealed a small windowless stone building.  Above the door was an emblem of a dragon.  He turned off the beam but motioned toward the door.  “Your friends are part of a group that followed me across Europe.  They think I have a valuable artifact.  It does not belong to their…” Boris hesitated, probably looking for the right word in English.  “It doesn’t belong to their group, but they desire it none the less.  It is a feud, you see?”

When I nodded he continued in hushed tones.  “My ancestors were part of an organization, a priory.  Your friends, their maiden-n-knightancestors were in an opposing group.  But their group still survives.  They are not nice people.  They think I can lead them to this artifact.  I would have given it to them, or anything else they asked to save my Babushka when they abducted her.  But I did not have it.  I don’t know if it still exists.”

“The pyx,” I said.

Boris tensed and looked at me suspiciously.  Andy drew a sharp breath.  “I heard them talking just now,” I said feeling annoyed by their distrustful reaction.  “I wouldn’t be out in the night wearing my robe and slippers if I were meeting up with a bunch of crooks now would I?” I said dryly.

The Russian breathed and relaxed.  Andy smiled and put his arm around my shoulders in a little hug.  “Did you see any more of them coming?” he asked Boris.

“No.  It doesn’t seem that anyone else will be joining them,” Boris answered.  “The back door is secured?”

Andy gave a smile so wicked that it surprised me.  “You bet-cha,” he said.

Then Andy and Boris lifted a heavy iron bar out of the vines and dropped it across the door with a loud G-men Posterclang.  Shouting ensued from inside the little stone building.  Boris calmly stepped back into the rose garden and used his flashlight to signal toward the mansion.  Then a big commotion came from Ca’d’Zan as a dozen of Ringling’s men hustled toward us.  In the distance I heard a whine that soon became the wail of sirens.  So, the police were on the way too, I realized and the sick feeling returned.

I thought about the young twins, and Flavio, and especially about Frankie.  This was not something I could bear to stick around and watch.  I told the guys that I was cold and turned to go back inside.  But I looked up at the dragon above the door and something fell into place in my mind.

“What is it?” Andy asked, noticing the strange expression on my face.

I tilted my head as the epiphany dripped through the crannies in my mind.  “They said ‘It’s protected by a dragon’ and this,” I pointed to the dragon above the door, “is the only dragon they could find.  But there is another one.”

By then the men from the house reached us.  They parted to let a man with a hat and a badge through.  So, one of the Feds was already there.  Apparently Mr. Ringling or Countess Bepa, or both had their own suspicions.  “You folks should go back up to the house,” he told us.  Then he seemed to recognize Boris.  “Your grandmother is very upset.”

Boris looked like he would protest.  I looked at him and Andy.  “Well, personally, I don’t think I can bear to see this,” I said.  I didn’t know I was crying until I felt a tear fall from my cheek to my neck.  I brushed at the tears, irritated that I would cry about something that never was.  “Frankie in with these kidnappers?  I must be a stupid bimbo.”1920s PhotoPlay

Andy took my elbow and Boris limped at my other side as we walked back to the mansion.  I didn’t look back.  I just couldn’t.  Inside the music room we found the Ringlings, Countess Bepa, and Mona.  The women were in their dressing gowns, but Ringling was dressed.  I had a hunch he was ready for what happened.  He was pretty darned shrewd.

A gunshot rang out.  Then several more cracked the predawn silence.  “Frankie!”

Boris caught my arm to keep me from going outside.  Ringling had a gun in his hand and he moved to a place where he could see farther into the rose garden.  He squinted into the moonlit shadows.  The sound of feet pounding the path was followed by the voice of the Fed.  “The big one got away.  I’m not sure if I hit ‘em.”

I was too stunned by everything that happened that night to know what to say or do.  I stood mutely looking into the darkness. Frankie on the lam from the law! I wondered if he had been shot, if he was hurt, maybe dying.  I also wondered how he could betray all of us.  It was clear that he and Flavio had gotten close to Mona and me just to have access to Boris.

“Pip, this is serious business,” Boris said in his accent.  He looked at me intently, making me bring my chaotic thoughts to the moment.  “What were you saying about there being another dragon?”

The comment caused Bepa and Ringling both to start.  “The harpsichord,” I said.  “Look at that medallion inside it by the pastoral scene.”1920s Style Book

“That’s very observant of you dear Pip,” the countess said.  “But there is nothing behind that.  I have already checked.”

“Not behind it,” I said.  I took the flashlight from Boris and I crawled under the ornate instrument.

The light revealed a metal circle where I had bumped my head earlier.  It had the look of a sort of maker’s mark, like something the craftsman might have put there.  But it also looked like…  If I were to twist it just so… that it would come out.  So I gave it a little twist.  A moment later I crawled out from under the harpsichord with a round box, decorated just like the carving inside the lid, with a shield and banners.

I held out the solid gold pyx.

It was heavy and obviously worth a fortune.  It was hard to believe that men would plot and hurt one another for hundreds of years over something like the object in my hand, no matter how beautiful or valuable.  However, Boris and Countess Babikov were pursued halfway across the world by men trying to find the gold pyx.

I shook my head thinking about everything that had happened.  There were just three things that I knew for sure.  One – I was dog tired.  Two – I didn’t want to have any more weird, and maybe even prophetic dreams.  And there…

Young Lucille Ball

Young Lucille Ball

There would always be at least three things to keep my life interesting.

***

1920s FanCan you believe this serial began with Oscillating Fan?  That was our very first “thing.”

In case you felt like there was a bit too much unresolved, I’ve written an epilogue for our little 1920’s story.  I expected that the characters readers would be most curious about are Frankie the Fireman and Mona the Movie Star, even though Pip is nearest to my heart as the narrator.

So for those who like things nice and tidy, here’s a bit more.

Epilogue

“Are you sure you won’t stay here in Sarasota for a while?” Mona pleaded.  “You don’t have to breeze off. Ca d Zan-1 Bepa told me that Mr. Ringling asked you to stay as long as you want.  There aren’t many places where you could get free room and board.  And there aren’t any at all that are as beautiful as Ca’d’Zan!”

I looked down at my hands and shook my head mutely.  I promised to stay until after the party Mable Ringling was throwing for her friend, Countess Babikov.  However, everything I saw in and around the gilded mansion brought me unhappy thoughts.  I was so disappointed in Frankie and all his cousins.  How could they kidnap anybody, let alone a sweet old woman like Bepa?

Lucille Ball teenaged 1What I overheard didn’t sound like Frankie wanted to commit those crimes, but nonetheless that’s what he did.  Maybe when he saw that Flavio and the twins were going to prison, I hoped maybe he would straighten up.  Maybe.  But how could he reform himself when he was going to spend years running from the law?  Ringling’s G-man friend told me that it might not be as big a deal, since they didn’t take Bepa across the state line.

He hinted around that if Frankie turned himself in that Countess Babikov would be willing to let the charges against him “go away.”  Wealth and power had arms as long as those of the law.  But the coppers would demand that Frankie testify in court against his cousins, and I knew the fireman wouldn’t do that. Besides, whether the police detective believed me or not, I didn’t know where Frankie was, and I didn’t expect to hear from him.

“Come on Sweet Pea,” Mona cajoled.  “Cheer up.  Bepa and Mable want to take us shopping for glad rags to wear for their swanky soirée.  It’ll be the bee’s knees!”

I smiled and told myself to join in the fun and not bring everyone else down with me.

When we stepped 1925 Emanuel Haldeman-Juliusinto the hallway I could hear Andy pounding away at his typewriter.  The events that broke my heart had inspired Andy to write an original screenplay.  He wasn’t unfeeling, quite the contrary.  He was just too creative not to put it all on paper.

“There are going to be studio big wigs here all the way from Hollywood,” Mona said.  “Andy is determined to finish his story before the party so he can pitch it.  He hasn’t slept a wink since it happened.  I expect he’ll be moving to California.  I really think his ship is on its way in.”

“And you Mona?  Has Boris warmed up any?  It’s obvious that his babushka adores you,” I said.

Mona blushed prettily.  “Oh, I don’t know Pip.  Maybe.  I think Boris is a man who needs to take things slowly.  I liked the countess the minute I met her, and after getting acquainted with Bepa, I think she’s the cat’s pajamas.  So I’m willing to give this situation more time.  Maybe I need to slow down just a little bit too.  I’m going to stay here for the winter and maybe take trapeze lessons from some of the 1920s circus acrobatsperformers.  They were encouraging me to when Andy and Ringling told them about the short film,” Mona confided.

The butler walked up to us.  Yes, they had an honest-to-God butler.  Can you believe it?  I was surprised and apprehensive when he said there was a phone call for me.  He led us to a sitting room with a phone.  It was my father.  I had sent a telegram to him so he’d know that I was alright, figuring he’d get wind of the shootout in the newspaper.

“Pops, how are you?”

“Yes, I’m fine.”

“Yes, Mona is fine too.”

“Granny?  Is something wrong with Granny?  … Oh thank goodness.”

“What?  Cooking?  Pops, you know I can’t even boil water.  What do you mean that’s the point?”

“Yes, I know how Granny is when she sets her mind on something.  But I’m a modern woman.”

“No, I don’t want to learn to cook!  Flappers don’t pin all their hopes on being a good cook and housekeeper.”

“But…  Oh come on Pops!  I love Granny, but I don’t want to live there…”

“Pops…  But…  Pops please!”

***

The Beginning

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=leB3Ewm7qtc

1920s Dance Party

***

 

Three Things 25 & Character Recap

1920s Vaudeville Cats Postcard

1920s Vaudeville Cats Postcard

Welcome back to our whimsical version of the Jazz Age.  You’re just the cat’s pajamas for coming back to this flapper tale.

I hope the characters in this 1920’s serial have wiggled into your mind so comfortably that you have your own ideas of how they would look or sound.  However, I thought it might be fun to show you how I imagine them. So in no particular order, please meet the cast of The Three Things Serial.

Paisley Idelle Peabody

Better known to you as Pip

Young Lucille Ball

Young Lucille Ball

The moment I saw a picture of a teen-aged Lucille Ball she became my Pip. In my imagination the voice of a grown-up Lucy narrates The Three Things Serial, looking back on the adventures of her youth.

Pip might be a tad conservative, naive, or innocent as flappers go, but that allows her to take people as they are, without judgement.  Time and “things” will tell if that open hearted naïveté gets her into a pickle — or maybe a barrel of them!

The heart of a true flapper beats in Pip, and she is determined to be what she thinks of as a modern woman.

*

Pops

Pip’s Unseen Dad

Thus far I’ve done three incarnations of this “interactive” serial.  Pip’s father has been mentioned many times, and he’s made a phone call or two. However, he has never actually made an appearance. It started to remind me of the 1970’s television series, Charlie’s Angels, with John Forsythe phoning in as the never-seen Charlie.

John Forsythe 1958

John Forsythe 1958

*

Mona the Movie Star

 Pip enjoyed giving everyone nicknames, usually based on their occupations or their aspirations.  Her friend and neighbor, Mona, had big dreams of being an actress, but little chance of seeing them come to fruition. Mona is something of a flirt, but you won’t see her “lead anyone on.” It’s just that people (particularly men) jump to do things for her.

 In my imagination, the original “It Girl” — Clara Bow plays Mona.

Clara Bow

Clara Bow

*

Andy the Astronaute-man

Andy Avis

The “things” for Episode-2 required me to write about a ballerina, a fireman, a movie star, and an astronaut. Have I mentioned that I’m a research geek? I had to make sure the word “astronaut” was actually used in the 1920’s. I got conflicting information, but the greater consensus said “no.” However, I learned the term Astronaute was used in France at the time. So Andy Avis is also of French descent.

Willie Garson

Willie Garson

Andy is a science fiction writer, hence Pip’s nickname for him Andy the Astronaute-man.  Despite the heroic stories he writes, Andy is not the bravest bean in the bunch. Discretion is pos-i-lute-ly the better part of valor with him. To his credit, sometimes Andy overcomes his big fears and takes action. Doesn’t it take a lot more courage to do something when you’re afraid than if you are just naturally brave?

Buster Keaton

Buster Keaton

Right away I saw a younger Willie Garson as my Andy.  (You might know him from “White Collar” or Sex and the City.) I could see the friendship between him and Mona. Although unlike Stanford, Andy hopes the friendship will become a romance. On the other hand, Andy could easily look like Buster Keaton with those sad eyes.

*

Ca’ d’Zan

The Ringling Mansion

Although it is not truly a character the Ca’d’Zan mansion is an important part of this story. Learning about this amazing place was so much fun that I had to include it here. I hope you’ll do some research of your own about the home of John and Mabel Ringling.

Ca'd'Zan Mansion

Ca’d’Zan Mansion

*

John and Mabel Ringling

The Ringlings don’t play huge roles in the story, but they were important nonetheless.  Pip and company are invited onboard a yacht that they don’t at first realize belongs to John Ringling. Countess Bepa is old friends with Mabel Ringling.  The entire gang ends up at fabulous Ca’d’Zan where the mystery concludes.

Mabel and John Ringling

Mabel and John Ringling

*

The Fabros

Frankie Fabro and His Cousins

Frankie the Fireman and his cousins Flavio, Fedel, and Frediano. First we meet Frankie. He’s taller and a little bigger than his cousins, but all four of the young men look a lot alike. Elder brother Flavio looks out for twins, Fred and Fedel. Pip has a crush on Frankie. Flavio, like most men seems to think Mona is the berries.

Oddly enough I never had an image in my mind of Frankie the Fireman. So he is included here with his look alike cousins.

1920s 4 Look-alike Guys

*

Countess Bepa Babikov

The mysterious white-haired woman… turns out to be not only the grand mother of Boris the Ballerina, but a real life countess. It was after Bepa Babikov came along that I saw a photo of Countess Von Hartenau that was simply the vision of Bepa’s elegance, as well as her fierce determination.  She instantly replaced any other image I had of Bepa.

Johanna Loisinger; the Countess Von Hartenau

Johanna Loisinger; the Countess Von Hartenau

*

Boris Babikov

Boris the Ballerina

Retired from the Ballets Russes after a career-ending injury, Boris gives the occasional dance lesson to earn a living. Mona is infatuated with Boris, but also conflicted. She has some ways of thinking to outgrow.  Boris is the strong silent type. His friends have to work at it to get to know him. When I saw a photo of Fred Astaire, in a rather sulky pose, it made me think of Boris Babikov.

Fred Astaire

Fred Astaire

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little break from the serial.  Next weekend I’ll be back with…. What’s that? Stop screaming so I can tell what you’re saying. No episode this week? Oh… Well if that’s what you really want.

Let’s get a wiggle on and round out this character recap with Episode-25.

25.  Kitten, Fake, Comfort

My eyes strayed to the Art Deco pottery jug into which Ringling had casually dropped the bent key. 1920s  Ben Key Had he been a little too offhanded when he did that?  What if his nonchalance was fake?  I shifted my gaze to the circus millionaire and found him looking at me.  I knew it might be foolish of me, but I couldn’t stop myself from blurting out my thoughts.

“That’s no ordinary key,” I said.  “It might be to Ca’d’Zan, but it’s no door key.”

Everyone became silent, except for Pear the hedgehog, scrabbling inside his lunch pail carrier.  I turned to Countess Babikov.  By the expression on her face, I knew the direction of my words didn’t give her any comfort.  It was obviously meant to be a distraction when she turned to Mona and indicated the tin lunch pail.

“Dear!  What have you in that box?  I hear a tiny creature moving around.  Is it a kitten?” she asked Mona.

It was a feeble attempt at diverting me and the white-haired woman must have realized that, because she blushed and glanced over at me.  However, I was not diverted.  My mind went to that very eventful night when the hedgehog in handscountess was abducted, and later the group of us returned home to find Boris’ place being burglarized.  I remembered the broken vase and speculating that a key might have been hidden inside.  At the time I wondered if Boris had a key to match the bent one that was dropped from the getaway car.  Once again I considered the same idea — and I voiced the thought.

Ringling and the countess looked at each other in a silent exchange.  She drew an unsteady breath and looked up at him from her spot on the beautifully upholstered sofa.  “John, I am more worried than ever for my grandson’s safety.  If these young people can tell us where to find him…  Can you bring him here?  Please?”

I couldn’t imagine anyone refusing the tortured look in the woman’s eyes.  The circus magnate was not immune to her gaze.  Frankie shifted his feet in a nervous way.  Mona sat in silence.  She licked her lips and looked from the fireman to me.  After all, these people were strangers to us.  Boris kept us at arm’s length, but he was our neighbor and a friend, if not a really close one.  We had already concluded that he was in some kind of trouble.  But did these people have his best interest at heart?  And why did my friends seem to want me to make that decision, I wondered in dismay.

***

Tune in again next weekend. Same flapper time, same flapper channel. You’re pos-i-lute-ly the cat’s pajamas!

Copyright © 2014 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene

All rights reserved.

No part of this book 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 from Pinterest unless stated otherwise.

Rewind – Three Things Episodes 15 – 17

Hi there Sheiks and Shebas!  I’m having a hard time coming up with an intro that will “hook” my readers.  Honestly, I don’t mean to complain, but I’ve been battling a migraine on and off for two days.  So All I can think of is…

What did you do this week? Me? I killed a basilisk.

Horsefeathers… I know that sounds geeky and 1651 Lumen de luminesnotty, but it’s all I have.  Of course I’m talking about my National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) book, The Guitar Mancer. Well, I promised to give you little updates on my progress. I didn’t know there was going to be a giant, venomous, kill-you-with-a-gaze serpent… but there was, and now it’s conquered. Come on. This is the part where you’re supposed to laugh.

We now move from the 1969/70 setting of The Guitar Mancer to the Roaring 20’s and another rewind set of our first interactive mystery serial, Three Things. There are a few fun links hidden along the way.  Enjoy the ride.

***

St. Joseph Sanitarium, Albuquerque, NM; 1920's

St. Joseph Sanitarium, Albuquerque, NM; 1920’s

Finally I’m posting another episode of our 1920’s serial.  These three things come from the most “crafty” lady I know — Joye in Albuquerque.

Since I didn’t do a mid-week post, you might need to refresh your memory of the serial.  You can read all the episodes at the Three Things Serial page.

Pip finds interesting things before the group even gets to the gate of the big shindig.  Read on as the mystery deepens…

15. Tattered Quilt, Memory Squares, Quilting Bee

Flavio bent closer to inspect the bullet hole, which was in the crease where the fender met the body of the car.  “I’m amazed that you spotted it,” he told me.

Frankie looked around uneasily.  One of the chauffeurs stopped his idle polishing of the limousine he drove and looked our way.  “We should get going,” the fireman said, with a significant nod in the guy’s direction.

He took my arm, but I pulled back.  What was that inside the car?  I sighed.  That chauffer was still looking at us.  “Mona, be a doll and distract that mug for a minute, will ya?  Ask him for something for Pear to eat.”

The movie star wriggled over to the first driver, and within seconds the other two were clustered around Mona and the tin lunch pail that housed the little hedgehog.  Flavio looked on with a hint of a green monster lighting his eyes.  I barely controlled the urge to tease him about being jealous.  The chauffeurs seemed to have completely forgotten about the rest of us.

I stealthily opened the car door and pulled out a piece of fabric.  I had to give it a good yank, as it was caught on some metal under the seat.  Then I eased the door closed again.  “What is it?” the Fabro cousins asked in unison.Vintage Quilt ad

“A tattered quilt,” I began.  “Or rather a torn off piece of one.  I think this is part of a memory square.”

Cotton batting clung to the bit of fabric.  I turned it over and saw part of an embroidered word was cut off at the tear.  It must have been a name.  I looked past the swirly print design and at the white muslin below it.  Frankie touched the print.  “Hey!  It’s Paisley, like you,” he kidded me about my given name.

I turned the bit of quilt this way and that to make out the stitched word.  “B-o-r… could that be part of the letter ‘I’ maybe?” I wondered aloud.  “Holy Hannah!  Boris!”

A reddish brown stain marred the white muslin, and covered more of the embroidery.  The spot was caked and stiff.  Holding it close to my nose I detected a coppery odor.  Blood.

Frankie bent closer to have a look.  “That ain’t from the average quilting bee.”

***

I’m pleased to tell you that today’s three things are from a “science nerd turned quilter who lives near Bristol UK” – known to bloggers as Spockssister.  For the sake of this blog’s header (which is not at all cooperative with me) the things are sort of abbreviated.  However, in the serial I’m using them as she sent them:  microscope, a hand cranked Singer sewing machine, and a large, stupid, but affectionate dog.

16.  Microscope, Sewing Machine, Dog.

Hand crank sewing machineAs we headed down to the swank party we were greeted by a large, stupid, but affectionate dog.  He bounded up to us, tail wagging and tongue lolling.  Then he tried to take the torn piece of quilt from my hand.  Mona was quick to take the scrap from me, rolled it up and tucked it into her bag.  Frankie picked up a stick and gave it a strong throw, which sent the dog happily in pursuit of the game.

Flavio watched as Mona put the memory square away.  Like most men, he was mesmerized by the movie star’s every move.  “That reminds me of a quilt my ma’s been working on,” he began.  “She’s been whipping up all sorts of things since she got this hand cranked Singer sewing machine.  Ma called it a ‘double wedding ring’ quilt.  She said she’s going to make one for each of us when we get hitched.”  Flavio shot a quick hopeful look at Mona.  She looked away just as fast.  It wasn’t as awkward as it could have been, I guess.

Mona was a thoroughly modern Millie for sure.  Men threw themselves at her all the time.  She wasn’t above using that, to some extent, but she never took it to extremes.  Like getting the fire department to loan her the truck.  It wasn’t much of a risk with two of the firemen in charge of it.  And she genuinely liked Flavio.  But he didn’t have her heart.  Nope, her career had her heart.  And maybe Boris the ballerina – if she’d stop being so darned conflicted about her feelings for him.

unknown Silent movie

Poor Andy the Astronaute, I couldn’t help thinking.  He was so smitten with Mona.  Andy had real talent as a writer.  Maybe one day that really would bring them together.  Then I remembered Boris again.  Mona’s potential futures were enough to give me a headache, so I put the thoughts away for another time.

When I brought my thoughts back to the present I gasped.  “Applesauce!  This shindig is incredible.”  It was almost a carnival.  It was huge, spread out along the banks of the sound.  There was a band stand, and a wooden floor was set up where dancers did the Charleston.  I saw balloons everywhere.  Tables with white linen and silver were clustered beneath a brightly colored tent.  In other places blankets were spread for picnics.  Everywhere I turned there was something else happening.

Then I saw it.  The yacht.  It was breathtaking.  I knew there was no way it would happen, but I really wanted to see the 1920 Fuji Microscopeinside.  I must have been drooling over it because a flapper stopped and giggled at me.  “Be careful if you go in there, hon.  Dr. Fred might put you under that microscope of his.”

I tried to ask the girl what she meant, but she was already gone in a flash of fringe and sequins.  Then an idea occurred to me.  I clutched my pocketbook and felt it still inside.  The bent key.  I never had been able to make out what was engraved on it.  Was there really somebody on the yacht with a microscope?  Maybe they could read it.

***

Mary is not just a writer — she’s a brave woman to throw me a word like “Reality.”  There’s no telling where I might go with that!  These three things took me in directions I didn’t expect, but that’s the point of this serial — to let the words all of you supply drive the plot and characters.  By the way, you are most welcome to leave your own three things in comments.  Hint-hint…  🙂

And now, another episode of our little 1920’s story.  Remember you can do catch up reading at the page where the full story lives, the Three Things Serial page.

17.  Associate, Challenge, Reality

1920s Dance PartyThe flapper in the sequins bounced away, the fringe of her dress dancing as she went.  She turned back, smiled, and waved to someone behind me.  She called, “Hey Doctor Fred!  Come on and Charleston with us!”  Then she looked at me and rolled her eyes.  “Those scientist types…”

Doctor was a title that I associated with dignity and age.  I found it hard to imagine any “Doctor” doing the Charleston.  However, a moment later a man in his thirties, wearing a tuxedo hurried past me.  “Good morning, Miss, and pardon me.  Please make yourself at home,” he said in a Canadian accent and motioned toward the yacht.

How could I resist?

I had never been on any vessel bigger than a fishing boat.  I certainly had never seen inside a luxurious yacht.  I spotted Frankie; then I saw Mona and Flavio.  I called out and motioned for them to come to the yacht.  It was a challenge to my patience, but I waited for them before boarding the gorgeous craft.

When Mona reached me her eyes were as big as saucers.  “Pip, I think that man was Dr. Fredrick Banting.  He won a Nobel Prize, and he’s the youngest to ever win it for Medicine!”

“That’s absolutely ducky,” I said with an impish grin.  “I bet there really is a microscope in there.”

They all looked at me like I was goofy.  I held up my pocketbook, even though they couldn’t know what was inside.  “Remember that key?  Maybe I can see what’s engraved on it with a microscope.”

Clara Bow***

Sure enough, the yacht was ritzy.  Mona plopped down on a chaise lounge, pouted her lips, and peered up at us from beneath her eyelashes.  She looked for all the world like Clara Bow.

Flavio grinned and bowed over her outstretched hand. “Just remember, toots,” he cautioned.  “This is all a fantasy world. ”

Mona sighed dramatically.  “But I want it to be my reality.”

***

We now return you to your reality.  Or you’re welcome to stay in this one if you’d rather, because you’re just the cat’s pajamas!

Rewind – Three Things Episodes 6 – 9

National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo as it is affectionately called, is underway.  I Participant-2014-Square-Buttonstarted out with a lot of enthusiasm; let’s just hope it holds out.  Writing the draft of a 50,000 word novel in a single month is grueling!

While I’m slaving away at my keyboard, I’m posting a “rewind” of the original interactive mystery serial — the one where Pip and Andy came into being. I hope everyone enjoys this look back at the beginning of our 1920’s friends.

Oh applesauce!  I just remembered something I need to research for NaNoWriMo… so back to work with me.  Remember that I think all of you are just the cat’s pajamas!  Hugs!

Teagan sig

Three Things Serial Continued

Episode 6:  Search, Cocoa, Fox

Even though Boris said it wasn’t important, I knew that it was.  Whatever or whomever he saw had really shook him up.  His eyes searched the crowd and everything within sight.  His gaze lingered on a rich looking white-haired woman wearing a fox fur stole.  After a moment he seemed to satisfy himself about whatever it was, and he looked away.

1920s Police carWhen a police car rolled up, siren blaring, I realized that the crowd wasn’t just congregating near the theatre door.  Something had happened.  Boris must have picked up on that before the rest of us.  When the police car stopped, one of the coppers waved at Frankie and smiled.

“I know that guy.  I’ll go find out what’s going on,” Frankie said and ran off before anybody could say boo.

Even though Boris said he was fine, he looked pale and twitchy.  The strangeness had not escaped Mona’s notice.  She was always nice to Boris, but I thought she was a little condescending about it.  I knew she didn’t like his accent.  She’d said as much.  Sometimes I wondered if she had a crush on him, but at the same time she thought he wasn’t the “right sort” for her.  What I mean is she felt conflicted.  Before I knew it, Mona hurried over and made Boris sit back down inside the Studebaker.  He slumped down in the seat, and she put her hand to his brow.  Then she sort of looked around to see if anyone was paying any attention.  Yep.  She was conflicted alright.

Everyone was getting a little nervous.  So I decided to put my skills to use and distract them.  Well, you remember that I read palms, don’t you?  I’d never done a reading for Boris, so I offered to read his palm.  He smiled politely and agreed, though he seemed more interested in covertly peeping up over the car window at whatever was going on in front of the theatre.

I took his hand and placed it face up in my own.  Boris had a pretty interesting palm.  “Your Saturn line begins very late,” I said in puzzlement, because I knew Boris had been very palmistry handsuccessful in ballet.  Then of course he was injured, ending his career.  “I always assumed you must miss the ballet terribly… but do you?”

To my astonishment he gave me a sad little smile.  “It is not the dance I miss.”

“Your Saturn line tells me that you have not yet found your true vocation.  Your lifeline is strong.”  As I continued looking at has hand, I was more and more intrigued.  Boris was not at all what I expected, leastwise not based on his palm.  “And you tend to accept your lover totally, despite any eccentricities or imperfections.”

My interpretation brought teasing oohs and aahs from the rest of the group.  Mona looked particularly interested, and then she turned beet red.

Just then Frankie trotted up behind me.  “Hey, you promised to read mine,” Frankie protested, and nudged me playfully with his elbow.  “I’ll buy you some cocoa if you do.”  I whispered to the fireman that Boris seemed really upset and I thought he could use a distraction.

“Did you find out anything?” Andy wanted to know.  So did the rest of us.

“Sure did.  There was a group of Russian big wigs here in town for some business or other.  Then they came here after a fancy dinner.  And then one of ‘em got shot!”

“Oh how awful!” Mona exclaimed.  “Boris, is there any chance you know any of these people?  After all, you were a celebrity with the Ballets Russes.”

“No.  No, it would not be anyone I know,” Boris sad flatly in a tone that brooked no argument.  Then he turned away and looked off into space.

***

The Rewind Continues

Today’s “Three Things” are from Suki in North Carolina.  Among other things, she writes fan fiction.  Check out her site. I’m sure you’ll be entertained.

As always you can check out the full story (thus far), or catch-up if you’ve missed an episode, on the page dedicated to it, The Three Things Serial Story…And now let’s see where these three things take our characters…

Episode 7: Bent Key, Empty Barrel, Torn Hem

MargaretYoung1921There was more commotion as the coppers went inside the Nickelodeon Theatre, nightsticks and guns at the ready.  We all stood taller, trying to see what was going on — all of us except Boris, that is.  He slumped down even further into the seat of Andy’s Studebaker.

“So, who got clipped?” Andy asked Frankie.  However, the fireman didn’t know who had been shot, or whether the person was wounded or dead.

Frankie spotted an empty barrel in the alley a few yards away and rolled it all the way to the car.  Then he lifted me up so I could stand on top of it for a better view of the action, though there wasn’t really anything to see.

I hopped down from the barrel so Mona could take a turn, but my skirt got caught on it.  I heard a little ripping sound and looked down in dismay at my torn hem.  “Oh applesauce!  This was my favorite outfit.”

Mona stooped down to inspect the damage and said that it didn’t look so bad.  “I bet Tim the Tailor can fix it in nothin’ flat,” she said, meaning another of our neighbors.  “Cheer up doll.  It’ll be okay.”  Then she took a safety pin from her pocketbook and made a passable repair in a jiffy.

When Mona finished I looked up to find all the boys staring at us.  Or rather at my legs, the police and the shooting were all but forgotten.  Even Boris had roused from his slump and got out of the Studebaker.  Honestly!  Men…  I cleared my throat meaningfully.  “What are you mugs lookin’ at?” I demanded and they made a big show of looking the other way.

Just then I heard the crack of “Chicago lightning” — gunfire and a lot of it, from inside the theatre.  A chair crashed through the big plate glass window in front and a man jumped

Johanna Loisinger; the Countess Von Hartenau

Inspiration for “The White-haired Woman,” Johanna Loisinger; the Countess Von Hartenau

through the shards.  He was dressed all in black and wore a hat, which made it hard to focus on him in the dim light.  He made a beeline toward the group of Russian dignitaries and grabbed that white-haired woman who was so rich looking.  A car from across the street suddenly roared up, and the man in black dragged the old woman into the car before it completely stopped moving.  Then it sped away.

The getaway car careened past us, mere inches away.  Mona jumped back with a shriek and Andy yelled angrily at it.  I heard a metallic ping and the streetlight glinted off something.  I moved to see what it was.  At first I thought Boris was following me, but he continued for several paces, staring in the direction the car went.  He had a pained expression on his face.

“You know her, don’t you?” I said and he turned back to me with eyes that were wide and questioning, but also fearful.  “The white-haired woman in the fox fur stole.  You know her.”

Boris didn’t answer.  He walked back to the Studebaker, and standing behind it stared at the very upset group of people and the police for a long moment.  Then he shook his head and looked down at the ground.

I sighed in frustration at his silence.  There was definitely something going on with him and this whole goofy mess. I almost forgot what I had been about to do… that metallic sound and the glint of light.  I bent down and spotted the source.  It was some sort of key.  I picked it up and turned it over in my hand.  It was a bent key and it was engraved with something, but it was too dark out for me to read the inscription.1920s  Ben Key

 What mysterious words are engraved on the key?  Who is the white-haired woman?  Stay tuned…

***

I’m really excited to have received “three things” from two different readers over the weekend.  So I’m doing a mid-week post with the first set I was given.  The story continues with new things from Provincial Lady.

Episode 8: Flight, Itch, Heartbreak

Louise BrooksI was pretty sure the strange key had fallen from the getaway car.  That would make it evidence, so I hurried over to the group of policemen to give it to whichever one was in charge.  One of them grinned at me with a leer and muttered something I didn’t catch, but I knew nobody’s grandmother would have approved, based on the smirk on his mug.  I had an itch to slap his face, officer of the law or not!  A younger one pointed out the captain, so I pushed my way through to where he stood.  I honestly tried to give him the bent key.  I said I had something that might have dropped from the getaway car.  But he just gave me a condescending laugh.

“This is man’s work doll face.  It’s past your bedtime.  Go on home.”

If that’s how they were going to be, those flattie cops could just kiss my…  I’d just keep the key for myself.  Maybe I could figure out something about it, and what was going on to boot.  As I stomped back to my pals I was so mad I growled.

“Hey Pip, what’s the matter.  Whatever it is, there’s no point getting sore about it,” Mona said with an empathetic smile.  “Whatever those flatfoots were saying, you just ignore them.”

I sighed and nodded.  Andy and Frankie hadn’t paid much attention to our exchange, but Boris had.  He cleared his throat in a hesitant way, but the look in his eyes was pretty darned eager.

“You found something?  Something dropped from that car as it took flight?  Please, show me,” Boris asked hopefully.

Astaire sitting

Fred Astaire as Boris

I showed him the once beautifully worked key.  “There is something inscribed on it, but I can’t make it out in this light.”

Boris handed the key back to me, but put his hand on my wrist in a gentle grip, like someone might do to make sure a small child didn’t move away.  He hurriedly rummaged in his pockets.  With a relieved breath he produced a match, which he struck across the sole of his shoe.  I couldn’t help noticing his shoes were expensive looking for an out of work ballet dancer.

The sulfuric scent of the match tickled my nose.  He took the key from me and held it near the tiny fire of the match, turning it this way and that.  I don’t think I had ever seen anybody look so intently at anything.

“Can you tell what it says?” Mona asked.

Just then he gave a gasp as the matched burned down and singed his finger.  Boris handed the key back to me.  Without a word he walked away.  The look in his eyes spoke of old and deep heartbreak.

***

1920s Catering Menu-1

How different our food supply is from what it once was! A friend at work became very interested in the many unexpected things that lurk in our groceries.  She thought about serious questions, like “Where does it come from?” and “What goes into it?”  The answers were much more complicated than “From the grocery store” and “Seeds, sunshine, and rain.” It can be hard to run down the answers to those questions, and in looking you will often find the phrase “genetically modified organisms (GMOs).”

With its 1920’s setting, the characters in our Three Things Serial didn’t have to worry about such things. Food was simpler for them. Since this post is also a continuation of our story, I won’t delve further into the GMO topic.  However, here is a great link with lots of well-presented information.  It’s supplied by Laura in Virginia, who also gave me three old-fashioned-food “things.”

As always, you can do catch-up reading for the entire story at the Three Things Serial Story page.  And now another episode…

9.  Aspic, Empty Milk Bottles, Ice Cream

1920s Ice cream Flapper

Viola Dana, 1920’s Film Star

The coppers weren’t letting anybody inside the Nickelodeon Theatre, and there didn’t seem to be anything else for us to see there.  We loaded back into Andy’s jalopy and went for ice cream to kill some time.

I put the bent key carefully into my pocketbook while I listened to my friends discuss what had happened.  Mona hadn’t gotten a very good look.  About all Andy had seen was a commotion around the group of Russian dignitaries when the car paused beside them.  But Frankie, being the tallest in the group, had seen the white-haired woman get nabbed; pulled into the getaway car.  Andy, ever the screenplay writer, was coming up with some wild theories about the whole thing.  The Russian hadn’t said a word, but the more Andy speculated, the more worried “Boris the Ballerina” looked.

Within a few minutes we were all ordering our favorite sweet treats, unsettling thoughts pushed aside for the moment.  I commented that I wasn’t sure if I should get anything, since Frankie had brought me that yummy gelato earlier in the evening.  But what the heck!  Mona the Movie Star, who carefully watched her figure (though not as carefully as Andy the Astronaut watched it) was aghast at my appetite.  But she laughed it off.

“Honey, don’t worry.  You can make up for it tomorrow.  I’m going to make a nice tomato aspic.  You can come by for lunch tomorrow and share it with me,” she said.

I tried to look enthusiastic about Mona’s offer.  I hope I looked more optimistic than Boris.  http://eatjax.com/?p=5885He was positively peaked.  I suggested he get a Coca-Cola float — that should pep him up.  He agreed almost absently, but within a few minutes it seemed to be doing the trick.  Boris looked more like himself, and everybody was having a good time.

Later when we were all stuffed with ice cream and sodas and syrupy goodness, Andy dropped Frankie off at his place.  The fireman teased me that I still hadn’t read his palm, but he was a good sport about it.  Then the rest of us went back to our pseudo “office” homes.  (Who cared if we lived in what was supposed to be office space, as long as the rent was cheap!)

Andy pulled right up to the front door, and we got out of the Studebaker, Boris stopped in his tracks, looking up at his windows.  A light was on.  I knew he wouldn’t have left it that way.  He took a quick step toward the front door, but I grabbed his arm to hold him back.  There was definitely something bad going on in the Russian’s life, and I didn’t want to see him rush in and get hurt.

Just then Andy put the car into gear to go park it.  The Studebaker backfired.  I jumped.  Mona shrieked.  Boris whirled toward the sound.  The light went out in his apartment — I mean office.

I shoved Boris as hard as I could; pushing him into the shadows of some decorative bushes when the sound of running feet met my ears.  Then a man in dark clothes rushed past us.  He seemed to realize someone was there.  empty milk bottlesHe gave a look over his shoulder in our direction, and that caused him to stumble over some empty milk bottles that Tim the Tailor had put outside.  When the man turned, the light caught something metal in his hand.  Was it a gun?

“Oh Applesauce!” I exclaimed as Boris broke loose from my grasp.  “Come back, I’m afraid he has a gun!”

However, Boris was already gone.

***

Oh applesauce! What will happen to Boris when he charges unarmed into the night after criminals who have guns?  Tune in next weekend!

Rewind – Three Things Serial Episodes 1 – 5

busy bee cafe signHello everyone — and welcome. I’m delighted to have you here, and I’m happy to be here too.  You see, a week ago I had a resignation blog ready to post — leaving this blog and the serials, and maybe writing all together. Why? Something troubled me greatly when I concluded Three Ingredients Cookbook-2, a Ghost in the Kitchen.  I keep trying to let it go, but a swarm of thoughts like buzzing little bees, kept stinging me.

The most important of those buzzing thoughts is Sanctuary. Not long ago I wrote an episode introduction describing this blog as my sanctuary, my safe place, my refuge. I said that I mean for it to be a safe place for you as well.  Yet some of my favorite people complained about how I wrote the end of Cookbook-2 — and my sanctuary no longer felt safe.  I know no one said anything with malice in their heart, and I know everyone meant well. I’m honored whenever anyone takes the time to leave a comment. So I guess they meant to criticize nicely, but first one complaint and then others had to jump right onto that critical bandwagon. Buzz-swarm-sting-sting-sting!  Can you imagine that stole my thunder? And then some.

Throughout the serials I make a point of staying true to the spirit and mood of the story, wherever the things or ingredients may lead. That includes endings.Black Kettle

I write for the same reason that I read — pleasure. I don’t go into detail about my “9 to 5” job. It has evolved such that I wear several hats, but chiefly I am a technical editor with executive-level experience. (Yes you will find plenty of mistakes in my work despite that — my purpose is to entertain with the tiny amount of time I have to write this blog, not to be a perfect example.) So I turn off my editor-brain and simply enjoy what others produce. Can you imagine what I see when I look at books, products, and posts with a critical eye?

All I’m saying is remember, this blog is a sanctuary.

Enough said. No apologies necessary — don’t even think about it. Moving on.

I had suggested a repeat of the original serial Three Things, to allow me some time to participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), which is November. I’ll try to give you a peek into my thought process with these interactive serials as I rewind them.

It’s hard to believe that Granny Fanny, Maestro Martino, and Cracker the Parrot all have their roots in the images the words “oscillating fan” brought to my mind. That was the first reader-contributed “thing.”  Using a writing challenge for Episode-2 resulted in some characters who have gone the distance with us.

Young Lucille Ball

Young Lucille Ball

You’ll see that I hadn’t even “met” Pip in Episode-1.  I didn’t know anything about the narrator, except that it was a woman — I was letting the “things” guide every part of the story. Neither did I know the era of the story’s setting. Horsefeathers, it might have been on another planet for all I knew!

As I rewind Three Things, I will include the original episode introductions as well. I feel the things I share about you readers who contribute things and/or ingredients are an equal part of the storytelling. So hang onto your hats Sheiks and Shebas — rewind commencing!

Three Things Serial Story

With “things” sent from readers everywhere

Episode-1

Here begins the “Three Things Serial Story.” Mary kicked things off with Oscillating Fan, but to keep things consistent right 1920s Fanfrom the start, I needed to use three things.  So I took two more “things” from Mary’s last two blog posts: Scent and Cowboy.

Oscillating Fan, Scent, Cowboy

Tic, tic, tic, grunt.  Tic, tic, tic, grunt.  The noise chipped away at her preoccupied mind while she absently gazed at the quiet street below.  It was Sunday, so hardly anyone was out.  A little boy in a cowboy costume came around the corner.  He pushed himself against the brick wall of the building across the street and peeped back around its edge at his unseen playmate.  Then he jumped out with arms spread like a bear to startle his friend, and quickly disappeared out of sight.

Tic, tic, tic, grunt.  Tic, tic, tic, grunt.  The sound of the fan drew her attention away from the window.  Some would find the low repetitive noise hypnotic, perhaps even relaxing.  To her, however, the sound was becoming downright annoying.  A dust bunny skittered out from a corner, propelled by the breeze of the oscillating fan.  The stirring air brought a familiar scent to her nostrils and she looked toward the door.

Episode-2

1920s PhotoPlayCome on now everyone — don’t let me down about sending “three things.”  Words, phrases, that’s all it is; whatever pops into your head.  As an example, I’m taking “things” from The Daily Prompt Today’s was a thought provoking post. They asked what you wanted to grow up to be when you were ten years old, and how it compares to what you’re doing now.  At ten I wanted to be a psychologist.  Can you imagine how well off I’d be by now if I’d had any encouragement?  Ha! But you can’t change the past, so you move forward.

Having a few more “things” helped me see how the story might grow, so I’ve revised yesterday’s post telling it in first person. Now continuing our serial with “things” from The Daily Prompt.  (Even though these things are related, all being careers, I encourage you to send unrelated things if you can.)

Ballerina, Fireman, Astronaut, Movie Star

Burned toast.  That’s what the scent was.  I sniffed the air and stood up behind my desk as the odor was suddenly much stronger.  My new pink cloche hat fell to the floor and I quickly scooped it up and dusted off the nonexistent dirt.  “Oh, applesauce!” The hat was brand new.

I wrinkled my nose at the growing odor.  Really burned toast.  A heavy knock at the door made the newly painted glass shake.  I cringed thinking about how much it had cost to get the frosted glass with my name stenciled on it put in that door.  It was nearly as much as I’d spend on food for a week, but the expensive glass inset proudly bore the sign, P. I. Peabody, Palmistry.

Right behind the knock was a fireman.  And right behind the fireman was a lot of smoke.  He didn’t have say a word.   I swept papers from my desk into a satchel and followed him down the stairs.1920s Fire truck

“Don’t tell me,” I said over my shoulder in a dry tone.  “The ‘movie star’ in 2-C burned her toast again.”

“That and half her kitchenette too,” the fireman said with a lopsided smile.  “But don’t worry.  It wasn’t too bad.  We just want to check and make sure everything is okay before we let folks back into the building.  Procedures the chief always says.  It’s a decent building,” he added with a thoughtful expression.  “You think there’s a vacancy?  I’m Frankie Fabro, by the way.”  He took off a heavy glove and offered his hand.

“Paisley Peabody,” I introduced myself and shook his hand.  “Call me Pip.”

Nope, with a moniker like that I didn’t have any business giggling about anybody else’s name, but I couldn’t help smiling at the thought of Frankie Fabro, Fireman.  Besides, Frankie really was the cat’s pajamas, a real cutie.

I explained that the building was meant to be for offices, but times were tough, so as long as occupants at least put up the pretense of having a 1938 Saturday Post Firemanbusiness and paid the rent on time, the management let them live there.

Because of the pseudo businesses, I had come to think of my fellow tenants as if they were children playing the roles of what they wanted to be when they grew up.  There was the toast-burning Mona the Movie Star, so a fireman might be good to balance that.  There was also the Boris the Ballerina, a graceful but aloof man with a Slavic accent who gave dance lessons about twice a week.  Then there was Andy the Astronaut, or rather Astronaute, as he would correct me.  He was really a writer, but he wrote stuff like Edgar Rice Burroughs – wild imaginative stuff.

As if on cue, Andy came running out of the building.  His glasses were askew and he clutched his screenplay to his chest and chased a few loose sheets of paper down the street when they escaped.

Episode-3

Surprise — a mid-week post! Here’s another short installment of the Three Things Serial.  This time the “things” are courtesy of Sharon in Virginia.  You can view the entire story (so far) as it develops on the Three Things Serial Story page.

Popcorn, Painting, Movies

A sheet of Andy’s carefully typed screenplay drifted to my feet.  I picked it up, thinking how he must love his work.  He had gathered up all his writing when he thought the building was on fire.  Andy really was a sweet guy, but he was head over heels for Mona.  I looked at the sheet of paper.  His typewriter had a broken “M” so the letter had a blank streak across it.  However, it was easy enough to read the title, “A Princess of Mars, A Reimagining.”

250px-Princess_of_Mars_large“Hey Andy!” I called after him.  “Everybody’s going to see the new Fatty Arbuckle down at the Nickelodeon.  You wanna go?”

Andy looked pensively back at me.  “I really don’t have time for movies.  I need to repaint my apartment — I mean my office.”  He walked over to where I stood with Frankie, muttering to himself.  “I think I got ‘em all…”

I grinned and handed him the piece of paper that had floated to me.  He gave me a sheepish thank you and straightened his glasses.

“So’d you write this?” Frankie asked him, looking over my shoulder at the page.

“Yes and no.  Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote the story awhile back.  I’ve turned it into a screenplay.  I know there would be all sorts of legal issues, but Mona would just make such a perfect Dejah Thoris, I just had to write it.”

Frankie seemed to be familiar with that stuff, so I let the two guys talk for a minute.  “Andy, there’s no point in painting your place ‘til all that smoke settles.  No more lame excuses.  Come on to the Nickelodeon with the rest of us.  Mona’s going too,” I added the deal maker.  “So you want to go, Astronaute-man?”

He brightened considerably.  “And how!  Okay, Flapper.  It’s a date.”  Then he blushed and stammered, all serious like, “My deadline is self-imposed, so I can change my schedule.”

“You know; if there’s room for one more…  Well… that would be a way for me to check out my potential new neighbors,” said Frankie the Fireman as if in sudden inspiration.  “I’d buy your popcorn.”

I gave him a quizzical look, just to mess with him.  “OK Fireman.  Put on your glad rags and come back around dark-30.”

Episode-4

Our “interactive” story continues with two sets of “things” from amazing friend, Provincial Lady.  But that doesn’t mean you’re off the hook — be sure to send me your three things!

(Episode-5 was combined in the same post with Episode-4.)

Gelato, Aerobic, Thunderstorm

1920s Girl Hat 2

A teenaged Lucille Ball — Surprised?

Clouds gathered ominously, so twilight came early.  I worried that Frankie might be early too – and I wasn’t ready yet.  However, the face in the mirror winked at me, or I winked at it, whichever.  I smiled and applied some rose colored rouge to my cheeks, and “helped” my lips into a Cupid’s Bow with careful use of some plum colored lipstick.

I had run into Boris a few minutes earlier as he was finishing what he called his aerobic exercise.  He was limping some as he came up the stairs.  A bad knee injury caused him to give up his career with the Ballets Russes.  Before the sky had even clouded, Boris insisted that I take an umbrella with me to the movies.  He was sure there would be a thunderstorm.  “The knee,” he said, “it never lies.”

Just as I put my lipstick away I heard a man’s shoes pounding up the stairs.  Then came three quick knocks to my door, tap tap-tap.  I practically skipped across the room, and when I opened my “office” door I saw Frankie’s smiling mug.  He looked at the frosted glass inset on the door for a minute, at the new sign I was so proud of, “P.I. Peabody, Palmistry.”  The only other time he’d seen my door he was there as a fireman, because of a small fire in Mona’s kitchen down the hall.

“Hey, maybe you can read my palm some time.  My grandma reads tea leaves,” he said by way of a greeting.

“Hello to you too,” I said dryly.

Frankie looked abashed enough that I let him off the hook for his lack of manners.  Then he held out a brown paper bag that was damp with condensation, finally looking at me.  “Wow!” he said with quite a gratifying drop of his jaw.  “You look swell, Pip.”

“Why, you’re dudding up pretty well yourself, Frankie.  Come on in for a sec.”

When I looked at the bag he exclaimed, “Gosh, I almost forgot!  I brought you some of my grandmother’s gelato, but you’ll have to eat it now.  I mean if you want.  Uh, I mean…”

It was good to know that I could make him stutter.  I stepped into my little kitchenette and got two spoons.  “Only if you help me,” I said, digging my spoon into the softly frozen treat.  “Oh, holy Hannah, this stuff is delicious!”

Ballet Russe

Episode-5:  Slate, Waterfall, Devious

Everybody piled into Andy’s jalopy.  He deviously made a big deal of helping Boris, whose limp had become more pronounced, into the backseat.  Then he made over Frankie, being as he was our newcomer, seating him as well.  Naturally I’d be expected to sit with the fireman, since I’d brought him into the group.  So that left Mona to share the front seat with the little Astronaute-man, as he obviously intended.

Poor Andy, he was so transparent.  Mona the Movie Star rolled her eyes at me in an exaggerated way, but she was a good sport about it as he handed her up to the Studebaker’s running board and then the seat.  Andy tucked a slate-blue plaid blanket carefully around Mona’s lap.  She protested that the night was too warm for the blanket, but she didn’t remove it.  Then he carelessly tossed a matching blanket back to the rest of us, and nearly knocked off my hat.Studebaker

As the Studebaker puttered up in front of the Nickelodeon Theatre the bright lights reflected off the waterfall in the fountain.  The star billing for Fatty Arbunckle was mirrored in squiggly letters in the water.  Boris the Ballerina looked at the theatre entrance with a sharp intake of breath.

“You okay, Buddy?” Frankie the Fireman asked, having been told about the Russian’s bad knee.

Boris muttered that he was fine.  But that little gasp didn’t sound like pain to me.  It sounded more like shock laced with fear.  Boris looked intently at the people going inside and murmured in his accent,  “I thought I saw someone.  But is not important.”

 

Three Things Epilogue

1920s FanCan you believe this serial began with Oscillating Fan?  That was our very first “thing.”

In case you felt like there was a bit too much unresolved, I’ve written an epilogue for our little 1920’s story.  I expected that the characters readers would be most curious about are Frankie the Fireman and Mona the Movie Star, even though Pip is nearest to my heart as the narrator.

So for those who like things nice and tidy, here’s a bit more.

Epilogue

“Are you sure you won’t stay here in Sarasota for a while?” Mona pleaded.  “You don’t have to breeze off. Ca d Zan-1 Bepa told me that Mr. Ringling asked you to stay as long as you want.  There aren’t many places where you could get free room and board.  And there aren’t any at all as beautiful as Ca’d’Zan!”

I looked down at my hands and shook my head mutely.  I promised to stay until after the party Mable Ringling was throwing for her friend, Countess Babikov.  However, everything I saw in and around the gilded mansion brought me unhappy thoughts.  I was so disappointed in Frankie and all his cousins.  How could they kidnap anybody, let alone a sweet old woman like Bepa?

Lucille Ball teenaged 1What I overheard didn’t sound like Frankie wanted to commit those crimes, but nonetheless that’s what he did.  Maybe when he saw that Flavio and the twins were going to prison, I hoped maybe he would straighten up.  Maybe.  But how could he reform himself when he was going to spend years running from the law?  Ringling’s G-man friend told me that it might not be as big a deal, since they didn’t take Bepa across the state line.

He hinted around that if Frankie turned himself in that Countess Babikov would be willing to let the charges against him “go away.”  Wealth and power had arms as long as those of the law.  But the coppers would demand that Frankie testify in court against his cousins, and I knew the fireman wouldn’t do that. Besides, whether the police detective believed me or not, I didn’t know where Frankie was, and I didn’t expect to hear from him.

“Come on Sweet Pea,” Mona cajoled.  “Cheer up.  Bepa and Mable want to take us shopping for glad rags to wear for their swanky soirée.  It’ll be the bee’s knees!”

I smiled and told myself to join in the fun and not bring everyone else down with me.

When we stepped 1925 Emanuel Haldeman-Juliusinto the hallway I could hear Andy pounding away at his typewriter.  The events that broke my heart had inspired Andy to write an original screenplay.  He wasn’t unfeeling, quite the contrary.  He was just too creative not to put it all on paper.

“There are going to be studio big wigs here all the way from Hollywood,” Mona said.  “Andy is determined to finish his story before the party so he can pitch it.  He hasn’t slept a wink since it happened.  I expect he’ll be moving to California.  I really think his ship is on its way in.”

“And you Mona?  Has Boris warmed up any?  It’s obvious that his babushka adores you,” I said.

Mona blushed prettily.  “Oh, I don’t know Pip.  Maybe.  I think Boris is a man who needs to take things slowly.  I liked the countess the minute I met her, and after getting acquainted with Bepa, I think she’s the cat’s pajamas.  So I’m willing to give this situation more time.  Maybe I need to slow down just a little bit too.  I’m going to stay here for the winter and maybe take trapeze lessons from some of the 1920s circus acrobatsperformers.  They were encouraging me to when Andy and Ringling told them about the short film,” Mona confided.

The butler walked up to us.  Yes, they had an honest-to-God butler.  Can you believe it?  I was surprised and apprehensive when he said there was a phone call for me.  He led us to a sitting room with a phone.  It was my father.  I had sent a telegram to him so he’d know that I was alright, figuring he’d get wind of the shootout in the newspaper.

“Pops, how are you?”

“Yes, I’m fine.”

“Yes, Mona is fine too.”

“Granny?  Is something wrong with Granny?  … Oh thank goodness.”

“What?  Cooking?  Pops, you know I can’t even boil water.  What do you mean that’s the point?”

“Yes, I know how Granny is when she sets her mind on something.  But I’m a modern woman.”

“No, I don’t want to learn to cook!  Flappers don’t pin all their hopes on being a good cook and housekeeper.”

“But…  Oh come on Pops!  I love Granny, but I don’t want to live there…”

“Pops…  But…  Pops please!”

***

The Beginning

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=leB3Ewm7qtc

1920s Dance Party

***

Three Things Conclusion: Part 3

Here it is, everyone — the conclusion to this storyline. Forgive me for making this episode a good deal longer than usual, but I New Movie magwanted to do it justice. After all it’s the conclusion to our Three Things Serial.

I don’t kid myself that this serial is literature. From a technical standpoint it hasn’t had the structure for that.  However, I was determined to let the things all of you sent drive every aspect of this story — the characters, the setting, and the plot.  So naturally there are jumps and jitters in the plot — it’s the nature of writing the story in this “interactive” way.

It has been a great pleasure to have everyone contribute.  I sincerely hope you will do the same with the next incarnation of “three things,” whatever form that takes.  Your participation is the most important thing.

Now hang on to your hats because here we go!

Three Concluding Things Episode 30, Part 3

Clasped Hands, Harpsichord, Pyx

I tossed and turned in restless dreams before I finally awoke in the “wee hours of the morning,” as my granny would say.  The one that woke me was disturbing.  Throughout the dream I heard the music of the harpsichord.  Boris stood in front of a huge version of the carved medallion I had seen inside the ornately decorated instrument, the emblem of a dragon resting above a shield showing banners with crosses. In the dream it was all solid gold.  I clasped Frankie’s hand in a grip so tight that my fingernails dug into his skin, but something pulled him from my grasp.

Life Flapper BatA knight in armor wearing a priest’s collar (bizarre yes, but you know how dreams are) entered the room to give someone last rites.  The dragon climbed down from the shield.  I was afraid it would breathe fire and kill us all, but it opened its maw and consumed everything, including Boris and Frankie, in its giant jaws, even the room was gone. Only the knight, the gold shield, the harpsichord, and I remained. We were at the far end of the rose garden.

I cowered beneath the harpsichord and watched as the knight-priest gave the dragon last rites.  Then the knight dropped a large gold pyx on the ground.  The pyx opened and the dragon shrank down and got inside the receptacle.  The knight parted the vines of the climbing roses and disappeared, taking the pyx with him.

Then I woke and sat up in bed.  I paced my room, trying to shake off the dream.  From my window I could see the rose garden in the moonlight.  A light flashed in the distance.  It flashed several more times, in what seemed to be a pattern.  This unexpected sight only added to my unease.  A number of people lived on the property.  I told myself that it was likely just someone who’d been out late at a speakeasy.  However, I knew I wouldn’t go back to sleep.  So I slipped into my robe, lit a candle, and headed downstairs, meaning to go to the kitchen and make some warm milk.

I walked into the dark music room as a shortcut to the kitchen.  Maybe I was still unnerved from the 1922 Sat Postdream, but when I heard a door open I blew out my candle and ducked under the first thing I saw that was big enough — the harpsichord.  “Just as I did in the dream,” I thought with a shudder.

My head bumped against the underside of the harpsichord.  “Ouch!” I thought. “That didn’t feel like wood.”  I put my hand to the spot and my fingers met cold metal, a round shape.  However, I didn’t stop to think about it, because I heard footsteps.

From my hiding place I saw a large pair of feet and I recognized Frankie’s shoes.  I felt like a silly goose for hiding — it was only Frankie!  I thought mischievously about popping out to scare the stew out of him.  But something held me back.

More footfalls brought a familiar voice.  Flavio.  “We’ve looked everywhere else,” he said to Frankie.  “It has to be down there.”

“We’ve already checked that hidey-hole from top to bottom,” Frankie said in an exasperated tone.  “The Priory must have moved it.  Or laid out all this as a red herring,” he added as I watched his feet shift.  “Do you really think it could heal the dead, like the story says?”

Flavio snorted.  “Of course not.  But it’s made of solid gold.  All the legends say so.  Our Order in Europe would pay a king’s ransom to get their hands on the gold Pyx of the Knights Hospitaller.  Their grudge against the Russians goes back to the Pyx1600’s.”

“The old woman wouldn’t give up any information,” Frankie said.  “I told you it was wrong for us to grab her. I don’t think she knows anything, despite the Order saying the old count’s grandfather inherited it.  That was a long time ago; anything could have happened to it,” Frankie added and stepped closer to my hiding place.

He came right over to the harpsichord.  Frankie sat down on the bench, causing it to creek.  I scrunched up into as small of a ball as I could manage and held my breath.

I heard the sound of Flavio moving toward the doors that opened out onto Mable’s rose garden.  “Boris knows; I’m sure of it.  But he’d die before he told the Order anything about the Knights Hospitaller and especially about the solid gold pyx,” Flavio practically spat.  “It’s ‘protected by a dragon’ and that’s the only dragon we’ve found.  Come on.  We’ll check one more time.  Fred and Fedel are already down there.”

Silent Detective Movie coverFirst I thought of the dragon in my dream.  Then I remembered the one on the carving in the harpsichord.  The shield also had a knight’s helmet.  “It’s protected by a dragon,” Flavio’s words echoed in my mind as the French doors opened quietly and the two men went outside.

Their footsteps sounded on the path.  I knew they must be going to the hidden spot where I’d watched them disappear behind the climbing roses the day before.  I thought about all that mysterious talk about the Order and the Knights Hospitaller, and I remembered the odd tattoos I saw on all the Fabros when they were fishing.

Applesauce!  What the devil was going on here?  My heart rejected what my head had figured out.  With an icy knot in my stomach I knew that Frankie and his cousins were responsible for the break-in at Boris’ place, and worse — the abduction of Countess Babikov.  No wonder they found the bad guys so fast.  The two men they brought for Ringling to hand over to the G-men were either expendable associates, or another group that was after the valuable gold pyx.

I gulped, feeling sick.  I crawled out from under the harpsichord and ran out into the rose garden.  My slippers weren’t made for the outdoors, but at least they didn’t make any sound as I hurried toward the climbing roses.  In the light of the full moon I could see a gate beneath the vines.  I pulled the latch and cringed when it squeaked.  I took a deep breath and stepped beyond the gate.  Then I felt an arm around my waist and a hand over my mouth.1920s Cosmo Feb

My muffled scream hardly made a sound.  I heard “Ssshhhh!” and it had an oddly familiar sound.  “Shush, Pip,” Andy whispered.  “It’s me and Boris.  Now you’ve got to be quiet, okay?”

I nodded and he moved his hand and let go of me.  I turned accusing eyes on the two men.  Boris shook his head “No.”  In a voice so soft I could barely hear he said, “This is dangerous Pip.  You don’t understand what’s happening.”

With a sigh I told him that I actually did know what was going on.  “At least some of it,” I whispered.  “But where is the dragon?”

Boris looked shocked, but Andy gave a little smile.  “I told you she was a smart cookie,” our little Astronaute man told him.

In answer Boris switched on a flashlight and shone it upward.  The beam of light revealed a small windowless stone building.  Above the door was an emblem of a dragon.  He turned off the beam but motioned toward the door.  “Your friends are part of a group that followed me across Europe.  They think I have a valuable artifact.  It does not belong to their…” Boris hesitated, probably looking for the right word in English.  “It doesn’t belong to their group, but they desire it none the less.  It is a feud, you see?”

When I nodded he continued in hushed tones.  “My ancestors were part of an organization, a priory.  Your friends, their maiden-n-knightancestors were in an opposing group.  But their group still survives.  They are not nice people.  They think I can lead them to this artifact.  I would have given it to them, or anything else they asked to save my Babushka when they abducted her.  But I did not have it.  I don’t know if it still exists.”

“The pyx,” I said.

Boris tensed and looked at me suspiciously.  Andy drew a sharp breath.  “I heard them talking just now,” I said feeling annoyed by their distrustful reaction.  “I wouldn’t be out in the night wearing my robe and slippers if I were meeting up with a bunch of crooks now would I?” I said dryly.

The Russian breathed and relaxed.  Andy smiled and put his arm around my shoulders in a little hug.  “Did you see any more of them coming?” he asked Boris.

“No.  It doesn’t seem that anyone else will be joining them,” Boris answered.  “The back door is secured?”

Andy gave a smile so wicked that it surprised me.  “You bet-cha,” he said.

Then Andy and Boris lifted a heavy iron bar out of the vines and dropped it across the door with a loud G-men Posterclang.  Shouting ensued from inside the little stone building.  Boris calmly stepped back into the rose garden and used his flashlight to signal toward the mansion.  Then a big commotion came from Ca’d’Zan as a dozen of Ringling’s men hustled toward us.  In the distance I heard a whine that soon became the wail of sirens.  So, the police were on the way too, I realized and the sick feeling returned.

I thought about the young twins, and Flavio, and especially about Frankie.  This was not something I could bear to stick around and watch.  I told the guys that I was cold and turned to go back inside.  But I looked up at the dragon above the door and something fell into place in my mind.

“What is it?” Andy asked, noticing the strange expression on my face.

I tilted my head as the epiphany dripped through the crannies in my mind.  “They said ‘It’s protected by a dragon’ and this,” I pointed to the dragon above the door, “is the only dragon they could find.  But there is another one.”

By then the men from the house reached us.  They parted to let a man with a hat and a badge through.  So, one of the Feds was already there.  Apparently Mr. Ringling or Countess Bepa, or both had their own suspicions.  “You folks should go back up to the house,” he told us.  Then he seemed to recognize Boris.  “Your grandmother is very upset.”

Boris looked like he would protest.  I looked at him and Andy.  “Well, personally, I don’t think I can bear to see this,” I said.  I didn’t know I was crying until I felt a tear fall from my cheek to my neck.  I brushed at the tears, irritated that I would cry about something that never was.  “Frankie in with these kidnappers?  I must be a stupid bimbo.”1920s PhotoPlay

Andy took my elbow and Boris limped at my other side as we walked back to the mansion.  I didn’t look back.  I just couldn’t.  Inside the music room we found the Ringlings, Countess Bepa, and Mona.  The women were in their dressing gowns, but Ringling was dressed.  I had a hunch he was ready for what happened.  He was pretty darned shrewd.

A gunshot rang out.  Then several more cracked the predawn silence.  “Frankie!”

Boris caught my arm to keep me from going outside.  Ringling had a gun in his hand and he moved to a place where he could see farther into the rose garden.  He squinted into the moonlit shadows.  The sound of feet pounding the path was followed by the voice of the Fed.  “The big one got away.  I’m not sure if I hit ‘em.”

I was too stunned by everything that happened that night to know what to say or do.  I stood mutely looking into the darkness. Frankie on the lam from the law! I wondered if he had been shot.  I wondered how he could betray all of us.  It was clear that he and Flavio had gotten close to Mona and me just to have access to Boris.

“Pip, this is serious business,” Boris said in his accent.  He looked at me intently, making me bring my chaotic thoughts to the moment.  “What were you saying about there being another dragon?”

The comment caused Bepa and Ringling both to start.  “The harpsichord,” I said.  “Look at that medallion inside it by the pastoral scene.”1920s Style Book

“That’s very observant of you dear Pip,” the countess said.  “But there is nothing behind that.  I have already checked.”

“Not behind it,” I said.  I took the flashlight from Boris and I crawled under the ornate instrument.

The light revealed a metal circle where I had bumped my head earlier.  It had the look of a sort of maker’s mark, like something the craftsman might have put there.  But it also looked like…  If I were to twist it just so… that it would come out.  So I gave it a little twist.  A moment later I crawled out from under the harpsichord with a round box, decorated just like the carving inside the lid, with a shield and banners.

I held out the solid gold pyx.

It was heavy and obviously worth a fortune.  It was hard to believe that men would plot and hurt one another for hundreds of years over something like the object in my hand, no matter how beautiful or valuable.  However, Boris and Countess Babikov were pursued halfway across the world by men trying to find the gold pyx.

I shook my head thinking about everything that had happened.  There were just three things that I knew for sure.  One – I was dog tired.  Two – I didn’t want to have any more weird, and maybe even prophetic dreams.  And three…

Young Lucille Ball

Young Lucille Ball

There would always be at least three things to keep my life interesting.

***