Three Things: 26 – Angiogram, Burglary, Cockroach

1920s Picture Day MagI’m privileged to have a dear friend whom I also think of as a mentor.  For the majority of her life she has given huge effort to educating herself about complex medical issues that have touched the lives of her loved ones.  That truly amazing woman sent today’s set of “things” and as usual, my mind went to unexpected turns with our 1920’s serial.

This episode is a bit longer than I usually like to post.  I confess that it took me a little while to work my way to angiogram!  However, it was enlightening, educational, and fun.  Be sure to check out the story that I did not tell, by clicking on the link near the end for Werner Forssmann.  It’s pretty amazing.

26.  Angiogram, Burglary, Cockroach

Countess Babikov was utterly fascinated with Pear the hedgehog.  She had pulled both Mona hedgehog in handsand me into conversation.  However, I still noticed when John Ringling covertly motioned to Frankie and they began a quiet little exchange on the other side of the room.

The fireman looked over at me.  Oh, he was hiding something; that was for sure.  Frankie was about as obvious as a cockroach going after a plate of leftovers.  But he pretended nonchalance.  His long legs took him across the cabin in two strides.  Frankie excused himself and put his hand on the lovely wood of the door.  Then he turned back and I saw the glint of an idea in his eyes.

He moved to the countess who was still on the sofa with the tattered quilt over her lap.  “Here ma’am,” Frankie said bending down.  “Let me take this dirty old thing and get you a nicer blanket.  Something that smells nice and fresh.”

The circus magnate’s eyebrow shot up and his lips pursed.  I could tell that Frankie had just done something unexpected.  Ringling seemed to guess what the young man had in mind.  But I couldn’t imagine what he was up to!

After a moment, the millionaire left briefly and returned with a soft wool blanket.  He carefully placed it over the white-haired woman.  I asked him where Frankie had gone.  I felt a sudden pang of worry.  First there’d been a shooting with the countess being abducted.  Then the same night a burglary at Boris’ place.  Now the older woman was safe and sound, but the kidnappers were still free.  And I had a hunch they wouldn’t be satisfied with the payoff John Ringling gave them for very long.  I felt worried thoughts taking a firm hold on my mind.  My face must have showed it too.

“Don’t fret,” the millionaire told me with a tight smile.  “He’s going with a few of my men to fetch Boris.”1920s 4_guys_car

That statement got a pleased response from Countess Bepa.  She had taken Pear out of his lunch pail and held him in her lap, but her eyes were looking sleepy.  I thought the brandy was finally kicking in, and silently blessed the millionaire for skirting prohibition and having that kind of hooch on hand.

I wasn’t very pleased with this turn of events.  I should have gone with them to get Boris.  He hardly knew Frankie.  The retired dancer would feel less threatened if I was there.  I started to protest, but I already knew that somebody would tell me that it might be dangerous and that it was no place for a woman.  Now, I ask you — what self-respecting flapper could sit still for that?  However, a glance at the countess silenced me.  I didn’t want her to hear the word “danger” in the same sentence with “Boris.”

Ringling deftly changed the subject by complimenting Mona, and it quickly turned into a discussion of her acting career.  “My dear, you move with a natural grace,” he told the brunette.  “Have you ever worked on the trapeze?”

While Mona replied animatedly, I looked out the porthole at the strangest sight.  Flavio and two men I hadn’t seen before got onto the old fire truck.  Even at a distance I could see that Frankie’s cousin still didn’t feel well.  One of the men helped him up onto the truck.  The really strange thing was what appeared to be a very large old woman hunched over a cane and hobbling along with two burly men.  They got into a sedan and sped away.  I couldn’t see what the woman looked like because she was huddled in an old quilt.

Then I turned an accusing look on Ringling.  That quilt was the same one the countess had been using.  And it had to be Frankie under it.  Was Frankie setting himself up to lure out the villains?

The circus magnate shot me a silencing glare and pointedly looked at the countess.  I could tell he was concerned about her, so I held my piece.  The white-haired woman was dozing quietly with the little hedgehog snuggled in the blanket.  Mona looked at them fondly.  She seemed to have had an instant rapport with the older woman.

“Why don’t you young ladies go enjoy the party for awhile,” Ringling suggested kindly.

Mona and I softly closed the cabin door behind ourselves.  As we approached the room where I had found the microscope, I heard male voices escalate.  One had a German accent.  We paused at the open door because we were so startled.  A bunch of brainy looking guys sat around the table.  The one with the German accent waived his arms in frustration.

“Calm down Werner,” another man said to him.  The guy on the other side of him said in a calm voice, “Dr. Forssmann, we know your ideas are scientifically sound.  But you know everything has to be properly tested.  Things involving the heart even more so.”

The German didn’t look as upset as he sounded, but he was still intense.  He vowed to everyone at the table, “I will create a true angiogram even if I have to insert a catheter into my arm myself, and pass it into my own heart!”

Werner Forssmann copyMona and I exchanged startled looks.  A young man in waiter’s clothes came up behind us.  “Don’t worry ladies,” he said as he adjusted his uniform.  “The German doctor isn’t as frightening as he sounds right now.  Werner Forssmann has ideas that sound like something Edgar Rice Burroughs would dream up.  But the others say he’s a real pioneer of medicine.”

“I don’t know…” Mona said to the waiter’s back as he went into the cabin to check on the group of men.  “He sounds like he really means to do… whatever he was talking about.  Good golly, that’s a lot of science talk!”

I had to agree with Mona.  It sounded like the German meant to do some very risky procedure on himself, just to prove it would work.  Mona and I retreated to the yacht’s deck.  Neither of us wanted to get into that conversation.

Three Things: 25 – Kitten, Fake, Comfort

anna-may-wongAs some of you know, National Novel Writing Month began at the stroke of midnight, November 1st.  This is my second year to participate… and silly me… I follow the rules.  So I’m limiting how much time I spend on our Three Things Serial.  That said, let’s get on with the story.

Okay… I freely admit to being a cat person.  So I imagined doing something really cute when a friend in Albuquerque sent three things, one of which was “kitten.”  However, the things didn’t take me to anything as sweet as a kitten.  But that is the point of letting the words all of you send drive the tale.  I don’t know what the story is going to do until I begin writing with the things you send.

Even so, the minute I read the word “kitten,” I had a 1920’s kitty on my mind, and went on a quest to decorate this post with one.  That tangent led to the “history” part when I stumbled upon a lovely woman holding a Siamese cat. It was Anna May Wong, a very interesting actress from that era. Her history and accomplishments fascinated me enough that I had to include her here.  Do you think she should make a cameo appearance in a future episode our story?

As always you can do catch-up reading where the entire story is housed on one webpage.  And now… episode 25 of our little 1920’s story…

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 countess 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.

Astaire sittingRingling 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.

Three Things: 24 – Tommy and Tuppence

Illustration by Arthur Ferrier of Agatha Chris...

Illustration by Arthur Ferrier of Agatha Christie’s detective pair Tommy and Tuppence, from the December 1923 issue of The Grand Magazine (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You’d think I would have thought of Agatha Christie the minute the Three Things Serial became a 1920’s story.  She created so many memorable characters.  Two of my favorites are not as well known, but they showcase the spirit of the 1920’s for me — Tommy and Tuppence.  The first novel in which they appeared was The Secret Adversary.

At any rate, I didn’t think of Tommy and Tuppence until recently, although they could easily have inspired our little story.  With a nod to Agatha Christie, today’s Three Things come from the opening of that novel:

“TOMMY, old thing!”

“Tuppence, old bean!”

The two young people greeted each other affectionately, and momentarily blocked the Dover Street Tube exit in doing so.

Now I give you Three Tommy and Tuppence Things.

  Old Thing, Bean, Dover Street Tube Exit

Frankie had already caught on to the mischievous twinkle in Countess Bepa’s eyes.  Mona would probably faint when she walked in and saw a big cheese like John Ringling — not to mention a for-real countess!  He blocked the door for a second so he would get a good look at her face when she saw the occupants of the cabin.

“Frankie, old thing,” she said.  “I wondered where you’d gotten to.”

The fireman stepped aside and Mona saw the countess.  Even in her disheveled state, right after having been ransomed by dastardly kidnappers, the older woman exuded easy elegance and confidence.  Mona’s face registered recognition, and I knew she was thinking of the night at the Nickelodeon Theatre when we all saw the white-haired woman pulled into a car that careened away.

“Aren’t you the…” Mona began, but then she noticed the owner of the yacht, and she simply stopped, open mouthed.

“Hey, Movie Star, did somebody just bean you?” Frankie asked with a lopsided grin.

The countess chuckled, and even the circus magnate, still worried about his recently kidnapped guest, smiled.  Introductions were made to the astonishment of Mona the movie star.1920s subway crowded

“I heard you refer to this charming young man as ‘old thing.’  That’s a term I’ve rarely heard since I arrived in this country,” Countess Babikov told the aspiring actress.  “Are you perhaps from England?”

“Oh no,” Mona said with an attractive blush.  “But I did go to school in London for a couple of years.  It was near Dover Street.”

The countess looked shocked.  She turned to Mr. Ringling.  “John… I just remembered.  That is where I first saw those men.  I had just parted company with my Boris at the Dover Street Tube exit.  That is where I saw them!”

Three Things: 23 – Dissolute, Rocky, Bonehead

LifeFlapper1922I’m finally here with another episode of our little 1920’s story.  The characters have been nagging at my thoughts.  I don’t know what I’m going to do with them during November, while I’m trying to write an entire (new) novel in a few short weeks, for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)! Maybe I’ll skip the fun part of decorating the post and looking up historic links, because I spend a good deal of time with that.  There’s bound to be some “thing” that pulls me back to the story.

Sometimes a single word conveys so much feeling or imagery.  Flapper is that kind of word.  Wasn’t your mind filled with images the moment you read the word?  Provincial Lady has a talent for thinking of those words.  She supplied three evocative things for today’s post.  As always you can find all the episodes in one place at the Three Things Serial page.

Episode 23 causes Pip to contemplate the unusual events that she and her friends have recently experienced.  Can she put the pieces together?

Dissolute, Rocky, Bonehead

An expression of warmth and kindness came to the white-haired woman’s face when she looked at Frankie and me.  “I worried that my Boris squandered his talents in some dissolute existence,” she began, her accent becoming heavier.  I had to focus to understand some of her words.  “But if he has friends such as you, then I know that fear is unfounded.”

Countess Babikov seemed to be wilting from her burst of energy.  I poured another splash of brandy into her glass.  Mr. Ringling helped her sit back on the sofa and put her feet up.  I spotted a decanter of water and used some to wet my handkerchief and then gently cleaned the cut at her temple.

A plaintive call reached my ears.  “Pip?”

I opened the door to find Mona looking for me.  She held the tin lunch pail that she’d used for a home-away-from-home for Pear.  However, other than the little hedgehog Mona was alone.  “Where’s Flavio?” I asked.

“He was feeling a little rocky, and went back ashore,” she said with an expression that suggested she was pleased with herself for using the term.  “I don’t think he’s a very good sailor, but he’s a sweet guy.”

Frankie gave me a lopsided grin and commented, “Nah, Flavio’s a bonehead.”  I shot the fireman a skeptical look and his grin was unrepentant.  “Okay.  He’s a good bonehead, but he’s still a bonehead.”

“Oh, Pip!” Mona exclaimed, still in the corridor, but walking toward the door.  “You’ll never believe who I heard this yacht belongs to.”

“Pip, dear,” the Countess said with a twinkle in her eyes.  “Do invite your friend inside.”1920s Dime Mystery

I heard the circus millionaire inside, cautioning Bepa or Faith — she asked us to call her one or the other, but I wasn’t quite comfortable with that.  Holy Hannah!  The woman was royalty for goodness sakes!  Anyhow, he was worried about her exerting herself after the ordeal of her kidnapping.

A thought struck me.  No one had ever said what the kidnappers wanted with her…  Of course there was the ransom, but I had a strong feeling that money wasn’t everything they were after.  I was also sure it had an awful lot to do with Boris.   I felt like I was working a jigsaw puzzle and some pieces were missing.  I didn’t like that feeling.

Three Things Serial: 22 – Blue John, Clarice Cliff Pottery, Art Deco, Silk

It was an adventure to do the research for this set of things.

Please join me for episode 22 of our little 1920’s serial.

Blue John, Clarice Cliff Pottery, Art Deco, Silk

Before I could stop him, Frankie told Countess Babikov about the burglary at Boris’ apartment — I mean office.  I was worried about that episode upsetting her.  The white-haired woman had clearly been abducted and roughed up, so she seemed fragile.  There was that cut and bruise at her temple, plus her expensive sheer silk stockings were badly torn.

However, the look of frailty was momentary.  Countess Babikov got a steely, protective look in her eyes.  I was almost worried about her kidnappers.  She took another sip of the brandy I had gotten for her, but I could tell she was thinking.  You could practically see the wheels turning in her mind.  She blinked as if something had interrupted her thoughts.

“Frankie my dear, would you bring my coat?” she asked pointing to a chair where the coat with the fox collar was draped.

When the fireman handed her the coat she thanked him, then quickly searched through it.  “Ah!  It is still there.  Thank goodness,” she said in a pleased tone as she withdrew a small silver jewelry casket.  She opened it to display a beautiful dress clip, shaped like a butterfly.

English: Ballets Russes, scene from Apollon mu...She smiled warmly and held it out to the circus magnate.  “I saw this when the Ballets Russes last performed in England.  I could imagine the butterfly in Mable’s rose garden, and I knew she must have it… my dearest friend, Mable.”

The butterfly was made from a lovely blue banded gemstone.  I asked if it was fluorite, but it didn’t really look like any I had ever seen.  In answer Countess Babikov described her visit to Castleton and the shop where she found the dress clip made from a rare stone she called Blue John.

“Jeepers, I almost forgot!” I exclaimed and started fishing in my pocketbook.  When I looked up, I was uncomfortable to find all eyes on me.  I felt a little foolish, but I produced the bent key and grinned.  However, I wasn’t sure to which of them I should give it.  I tried to look at John Ringling and the Countess both when I explained.

“This fell from the getaway car back at the Nickelodeon Theatre when they nabbed you, Countess Babikov.  I think the engraving says Ca’d’Zan,” I told them.

“It’s seen better days, hasn’t it?” commented John Ringling as he took the key and inspected it closely.  “It’s for Ca’d’Zan alright.”

Then he dropped the damaged key into a lovely pottery jug.  The sound made everyone look at the piece.  Leaning closer to look at the pottery Frankie asked, “Is that what they call Art Deco?  The style, I mean?”

Mr. Ringling wore a rather distracted expression, but he answered, “I believe so.  I haven’t heard the term until just recently.  Mable, my wife, took a shine to this stuff during one of our travels.  The young lady who painted it is called Clarice Cliff.  I think she called that pattern Bizarre.

Early 'Original Bizarre' pattern on an Athens ...“Tell me everything about Boris,” the Countess said imploringly, and changed the subject.  “When he left the Ballets Russes, he had begun acting strangely.  At first I thought it was because of his injury — you know?  That he was depressed because he could dance no longer.  Yet strange men began to come to see him.  I thought I saw one of them, when I started making inquiries here about my grandson.  Then the other men abducted me, making a ransom demand of my most kind friend here, John,” she said with a look of gratitude and a motion to the circus magnate.

“What can be going on to cause these strange events?” she said as if to herself.  The same question nagged me as well.

Three Things Serial: 21 – Underwear, Tasteless, Limestone

1920s_photoplay-health-for-beautyWhen I researched ways to illustrate this episode I noticed that media topics of interest in the 1920s were much the same as they are now. I saw headings about sex, diet, scandal, fashion, and other things that you’d see today.  Like they say, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

The “things” for episode 21 come from a friend in the southwest who is positively gifted at refurbishing things.  I think she could give new life to any old item she might find.  When I saw “underwear” as one of the things, I really hoped I’d do something funny with it.  But everything that came to mind was just “tasteless.”  Har-dee-har… a play on words or rather things.  However, I admit that I had to put some thought into “limestone.”

Come on everybody — send me three random things to keep the story going.  Remember, if you need to look back at something that already happened, go to the page where the story lives.

Underwear, Tasteless, Limestone

1920s Girdle adI swallowed hard, unable to escape the feeling that I had been caught doing something 1920s Underwear for Men adthat I shouldn’t.  That was silly of me, I know.  After all, we had been invited onboard.  Just the same, I was as uncomfortable as somebody with twisted underwear.

The white-haired woman turned to us with a haunted expression in her eyes.  “These children,” she began, speaking to Mr. Ringling in an accent I recognized.  “They are familiar.”  She took a trembling step toward Frankie and me.  Her bright eyes zeroed in on me.  “You were there when I was taken.  You were there with my Boris!”

Then she paled and swooned.  Frankie Fabro, fireman, rushed forward and scooped her up as if she weighed nothing at all.  John Ringling, circus magnate, motioned him into the cabin.  Me?  Paisley I. Peabody, palmist?  I stood in mute astonishment for a second, but I snapped out of it when Frankie called my name.  “Pip?” came the fireman’s anxious voice.

I hurried into the beautifully appointed cabin.  I still thought my suite back at the office building was the cat’s meow, but that room made it seem tasteless in comparison.  The woodwork alone was stunning, and brightly polished brass reflected light from a small but glorious crystal chandelier.  An ornately carved table had a red marble top.  But no… that would be travertine, not marble.  I remembered travertine was actually a kind of limestoneHorsefeathers!  Why was I thinking about something like that during all the drama?

With a shake of my head, I gathered my scattered wits.  An etched glass decanter of what looked like brandy stood on the tavertine table.  Picking up the first glass I saw, I poured a little and held it to the elderly woman’s lips.

Johanna Loisinger; the Countess Von Hartenau

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

“John, kindly introduce me to these lovely young people who know my Boris,” she said with a weak smile.

Frankie cleared his throat awkwardly, knowing we were strangers to that gentleman as well.  He introduced himself and then me to both of them.  “I’m John Ringling,” the man said, but of course we’d figured that out already.  “It’s my pleasure to welcome two clear headed young people aboard.”  Then he made a bow to the white-haired woman.  “I present the Countess Bepa Babikov.”

I bounced in place before I caught myself.  Then I blushed at my childishness.  But I had been right!  Boris’ last name was Babikov.  Maybe it was too forward to be polite, but I blurted out the question.  “Are you his… grandmother?  I mean Countess… ma’am…”

The woman nodded her head and smiled a hopeful looking smile.  “Please, dear one.  Call me Faith.  That is what Bepa means — faith.  If I may call you Pip, as this strong young man does.  The sound of the name pleases me.  It is like a little bird chirping.”  I nodded, speechless for once.  “Yes my dear Pip, I am his babushka.  Please tell me.  My Boris, he is well?”

Government Shutdown & Three Things Episode 20

English: Rainbow

“In the middle of a difficulty, lies opportunity…” Albert Einstein

Personal friends and those who know me from LinkedIn have expressed kind concern over whether or not the “government shutdown” will effect my employment and the roof over my head.  That job is my only source of income.  So far it has not impacted my livelihood.

I count myself fortunate that regardless of how it impacts my job, I will not have to go to my workplace and do my job without being paid.  That has happened to many, including groups who put their very lives on the line, like the Capitol Police.

I promise you that if the shutdown does affect me, I will do everything I possibly can to find opportunity in my situation.

Now to the point… episode 20 of the serial.  Our little 1920’s story is set in Florida. Today’s things come from another peninsula state — Michigan.  You can do catch-up reading where the entire story lives at The Three Things Serial page.

20.  Medical Bill, Confirmation, Military

The man had an authoritative manner and was dressed in very expensive looking clothes.  He had what they called presence.  The white-haired woman murmured something that was lost in a sob.  “Don’t worry about that either,” the man told her in a kind voice.  “Besides, there won’t be any medical bill.  There’s more than one doctor here today.”

A teenager with an alarmed expression on his face came running toward them.  Clearly he’d heard all the ruckus.  At first I thought he wore a military uniform, but then I realized he was some kind of servant, dressed in livery.

In a calm voice the man instructed, “Go fetch a doctor.”

“Yes, Mr. Ringling,” the young man said, and ran away.

Frankie and I exchanged astonished looks.  Even though we had just seen a picture of this very yacht moored at the Ca’d’Zan mansion, I was amazed to think I was standing a few feet away from a celebrity like John Ringling!

The white-haired woman lifted her head and stood a little straighter.  I could see her profile.  The first thing I noticed was a bit of blood and a bruise at her temple.  I was sure that bump to the head didn’t come by accident.  Then my eyes just about popped out of my head.  Her profile — it was the spitting image of Boris!

No wonder the “ballerina” had acted so funny back at the Nickelodeon Theatre, when he saw this woman and the group of Russian dignitaries.  Even then I wondered if Boris was connected to that group, though he refused to discuss it.  Right then and there I was sure I had confirmation.  The white-haired woman had to be a relative; probably a close one.  I wondered if she might be his grandmother.

However, this old woman looked like she was well off.  Boris wouldn’t be living in the building with the rest of us if he was from money.  The building owner had a soft spot for people trying to better themselves.  Even though the building was supposed to be for office space, he let us live there if we at least went through the motions of having our own businesses.  It wasn’t the nicest place to live, but he let us rent the suites for a song.

Despite her wealthy appearance, the woman appeared to have said something to indicate she didn’t have the money to pay a doctor.  Maybe, I speculated, she had been wealthy but had fallen on hard times.  There was plenty of that going around with the land bust.  Or maybe Boris had a falling out with his family and they’d cut him off.

My speculation was cut short when the yacht’s owner, John Ringling, turned and looked at Frankie and me questioningly.