Get Caught Reading — The Sign of the Ape 3 (2016 Rerun)

 

Crystal Reading Atonement

Crystal pointing to a clue

Hello everyone.  Welcome back to my rerun of last year’s mini-series, in support of Get Caught Reading Month.  It’s about the escapades of our intrepid band of bloggers and their pets.  Who could resist those fur babies?  

If you were here last year, I’m delighted that you’ve stuck with me.  If this is new to you, then hang onto your hats, because it’s a wild ride!  I hope you’ll visit the bloggers included in this post.  Now for the rerun.  Enjoy!

***

Wow! May is nearly half over already.  However, it’s still  Get Caught Reading Month.  Welcome back to the zany and bizarre story I’ve been writing to encourage people of all ages to read.  As many of you know, a few elite bloggers (and their pets) banded together with one quest — catch the Story Reading Ape reading.

When we left our heroes…

During the first chapter, I found a shimmering airship outside my window.  The pilot looked suspiciously like Cornelis Drebbel.  Before I knew it, I was in Time Square beginning a chase to “catch” the Story Reading Ape reading.

Last time  Suzanne from A Pug in the Kitchen and I met a number of author-bloggers (and their pets) who joined the quest to catch the illusive Ape. Mary J. McCoy-Dressel  (Cowboy Boss and His Destiny), Christoph Fischer (The Gamblers.), John W. Howell (John J. Cannon Trilogy,) and blogger Dan Antion.

This time a new duo gets added to the intrepid band of bloggers –  Hugh Roberts and Toby.  Now, let’s join our adventuring bloggers.

Sign of the Ape 3

Ape in Tokyo

Image courtesy of Chris Graham

I couldn’t see anything when I looked out the portholes of the dirigible.  No, I don’t mean that it was nighttime.  There was nothing to see, just flat blackness.  I supposed it was just as well.  The airship was traveling outside the laws of nature with the alchemist, Cornelis Drebbel, at the helm.

That gave me a very unsettling feeling.  However, the steady whir of the engines was comforting.  The sound was almost hypnotic.  I wondered aloud how long it would take us to get from New York to Tokyo, even with the magic Cornelis used.Kasha reading

“I don’t feel very well,” Mary J. McCoy-Dressel  murmured, and her fur baby, Kasha, put her head on Mary’s knee.

“Air sickness, Mary?” Suzanne DeBrango asked the author in a concerned voice, but Percy the Pug barked a decisive yip.

Tilting my head, I studied the little dog.  It seemed like he sensed something, but we humans were not picking up on it.

Suzanne made a face.  “Now that you mention it, I don’t feel quite right either.  Maybe it was the hors-d’oeuvres back at the Fictional Heroes exhibit,” the blogger-chef suggested.  “My stomach feels all wrong, but then so does my head.”

Abruptly we experienced a sharp bump, an air pocket, I thought.  However, the pressure inside my ears immediately did something strange, causing me to shake my head.  With a sinking feeling I knew that was no air pocket.  It was the blasted alchemy going awry.

“Cornelis Drebbel!” I shouted, much as Felicity, the woman in trousers, would have.  “What have you done?”

Before the words had left my mouth, I felt the sensation of horrible pressure.  It was like having a giant vice in front and in back, pressing hard against me from both sides.  I thought my head might explode, but my ears finally popped, giving me some relief.  It effected my eyesight as well.  Everything blurred and twisted.  Then my eyes bulged painfully, so I squeezed them shut.Anime eyes Kagome

After a moment I the dirigible bumped lightly.  I heard soft groans from my companions.  Snuffling sounds told me Kasha and Percy were sniffing everything excitedly.  My eyes were still closed against all the unpleasant sensations I had just experienced, but I felt a little paw on my knee.  I put my hand out and knew it was the Pug’s sturdy little body, so I petted him.  Then he ran back to Suzanne.

Finally I opened my eyes, but I had trouble focusing.

“Teagan, are you okay?” Mary asked.  “You know, I never realized how huge your eyes were before,” she commented in a puzzled tone.

Or at least it sounded like Mary.  Her hair was blond, but there was something different about it.  When she moved I realized that her hair flowed almost to the floor.  Something else wasn’t wright, but everything was still blurry.

“I think I’m okay,” I told Mary.  “I’m having trouble getting a deep breath though.”

She and Suzanne helped me stand.  Suzanne led us to the portholes.

Terrence Mann as Cornelis 2

Terrence Mann as Cornelis

“Look at the lights,” Suzanne exclaimed.  “It’s Tokyo!  We’re there.”

Cornelis called out that we should sit down.  The airship was about to land.  The three of us staggered to our seats.  Apparently I wasn’t the only one experiencing my unfortunate symptoms.

“Teagan, could I ask you something?” Suzanne began hesitantly and my affirmative came out as a groan.  “Oh, here – these might help,” she added handing me my glasses.  “Are you feeling a little… deflated?  Because I sure am.”

Putting on my glasses I looked at Suzanne.  I was speechless.  Her hair was suddenly short and bluish-green.  She was dressed in a turquoise metallic futuristic outfit with matching tall boots.  There was one other thing.  Suzanne was flat.  So was Mary.  So were the dogs!  They all looked like anime characters.  I started to hold my hand up in front of my face to see if I had been effected, but I was afraid to look.

I turned to Mary, who was shifting uncomfortably in her seat.  Mary made a complaint to that effect.  She wore a flowing airy gown.  Indeed there was something that prevented her getting comfortable.

“Erm… that might be because of your wings,” I told her.  “I think maybe you’re some sort of goddess character.”

Mary reached frantically behind her and gasped when her fingers came into contact with her wings.

For a moment I studied Suzanne in that futuristic outfit.  I asked her if she thought perhaps somewhere nearby there was a giant robot that belonged to her.  The oddest expression came to her face.Eureka

“I know it sounds crazy,” Suzanne admitted.  “But I think maybe there is!”

“Don’t you all look delicious?” Cornelis exclaimed as he strolled into the area. 

He was dressed as a Victorian gentleman, but that would not be unusual for him.  However, it was certainly odd that he looked like an anime Cornelis Drebbel.  He reminded me of one of the male characters I might see on the Black Butler series.

“Am I supposed to be some kind of goddess?” Mary asked the alchemist.  “These wings!” she added, still uncomfortable in the seat.

“Darling Mary, all women are goddesses,” Cornelis replied slyly with bobbing eyebrows.

“But what about you, Teagan?” Suzanne asked worriedly.

Inuyasha vol-1 1997

Inuyasha (& Kagome) manga, v. 1, 1997

Looking down, I saw that I wore loafers and knee socks.  I was dressed in a pleated skirt, and white blouse with a sailor collar.  It was like an anime schoolgirl uniform.  I groaned even louder than I had when the air was squeezed out of me.  I was barely aware of hearing a rhythmic thumping sound.

“Cornelis Drebbel,” I growled pushing my skirt into place.  “You’d better be glad this skirt was not a mini!  Else you’d be a dead man.”

“I don’t mean the outfit,” Suzanne told me as she gestured to her head, just above her ear. 

Moving a strand of my hair, I realized it was long and black.  I gasped, but apparently that wasn’t the full extent of my transformation.

Finally Suzanne added, “Ears?  Tail!

I put my hands to the top of my head and felt two soft furry ears.  The thumping sound grew faster and louder.  I put a hand to my backside.  The noise was coming from my anxiously swishing, thumping tail!

“Your character may have gotten a little… crossed,” Cornelis said in a droll voice.  “You were actually supposed to be a Neko character.”

Percevil Ulysses Holmes

Percevil Ulysses Holmes

“Come along.  There’s a city square we must get to.  It has a number of billboards bearing images of our quarry.  We can take the giant robot as transportation, if Suzanne will kindly drive him,” Cornelis told us all, with a bow to the blogger-chef.

The turquoise anime version of Suzanne scrambled to the porthole and gasped in excitement.  I followed and my tail swished, knocking over a small table.  Mary glanced at her wings, murmured something about what damage she might do with her wings, and stayed in her uncomfortable seat.  When I reached the window, I saw a huge flatbed being pulled by a heavy duty construction loader.  Stretched out on the flatbed was a giant flying robot.

Cornelis moved to help Suzanne and Percy as they disembarked the dirigible, though they both scampered down the gangway without need of assistance.  Mary’s wings presented more of a problem.  A gust of wind caught her and she was lifted into the air.

“Mary!” I screamed and Kasha barked.

A thread of magical glowing green shot from the alchemist’s hand and wrapped around Mary’s ankle.  Cornelis and Kasha walked down the ramp, with the anime version of Mary in tow via the magical lead.  Once safely on the ground, Cornelis helped her touch down.

My tail swayed as I descended.  It was amazingly useful for balance.  Then my cat ears picked up a familiar voice and barking.  Kasha and Percy also heard it and barked their replies.  A man and a Corgi hopped out of the construction loader.  It was Hugh Roberts and Toby.

Toby reading Hugh

Toby caught reading

Moments after I introduced everyone, my new cat ears picked up muffled sounds.  It was the same music I’d heard back at the wax museum.  I heard the funky guitar music of the original James Bond theme, and I remembered the tunnel back at Time Square into which John W. Howell, Dan Antion, and their pets had gone.  It seemed impossible that it could be them.  Then I heard two dogs barking and a cat’s meow.  It had to be Lucy, Maddie, and MiMi.

Finally the sounds grew loud enough for the other humans to hear. 

“Isn’t that ruckus coming from below ground?” Hugh commented in surprise.

“Yes.  It sure is,” I replied, feeling very worried.

End Chapter 3, The Sign of the Ape

I begin to think the Ape won’t be caught until he simply allows us to do so.  Now that I’ve seen his image all over billboards in Tokyo I think maybe he’s in charge!  Stick around to see what happens to our intrepid bloggers next week!

By the way, it is a work day, so forgive me if I’m slow to answer comments.

GCR pets

 

The Sign of the Ape, furry family cast

Row 1:  Percy, Crystal, Lucy, Kasha

Row 2:  Claudius, Oh Kitty, and Sweeney, and Toby

Row 3:  Wilma, Greta, Maddie, MiMi

 

 

Copyright © 2016 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene

All rights reserved.

No part of this work may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission.  Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights.

All images are either the property of the author or from Pinterest unless stated otherwise.

Special mention to Christopher Graham for the marvelous “Atonement, Tennessee” images.

Get Caught Reading — The Sign of the Ape 2 (2016 Rerun)

#GetCaughtReadingMonth

Hello everyone.  As you may have noticed I’m rerunning last year’s mini-series.  It’s about the escapades of our intrepid band of bloggers and their pets.  That was how I participated in Get Caught Reading Month.  After May I’ll get back to my usual posting schedule.

This when I’m not working at my “real” job, I’ll be working on a short story to follow-on the story Chris Graham shared with us in my previous post.  So, I’ve disabled comments today. The comments from last year are still there.

I hope you’ll visit the bloggers included in this post.  Now for the rerun.  Enjoy!

The month of May is a lovely time of year.  It’s also Get Caught Reading (GCR) Month.  As many of you know, I’m doing a midweek mini-series in support of this public service campaign.  The intention of GCR is to encourage people of all ages to read, and that is what bloggers do with every post.  So this fictional, fanciful story includes an intrepid band of bloggers.

Have you caught me reading any sort of novel?  Why yes you have — the novel that inspired the title of this mini-series, Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Sign of the Four.  The plot has nothing to do with my story though. I was not ambitious enough to try and follow the footsteps of Sherlock Holmes.  You can get The Sign of the Four free here.

Last Time

During the first chapter I found a shimmering airship outside my window.  The pilot looked suspiciously like  Cornelis Drebbel.  Before I knew it, I was in Time Square beginning a chase to “catch” the  Story Reading Ape reading.

At Times Square I glimpsed something very large and very furry carrying a book.  He bounded around the corner.  I ran to the spot, but he was long gone.  Then on the sidewalk I saw a banana.  It had to be the sign of the ape.

The Sign of the Ape — Chapter 2The_Sign_of_the_Four-_in_Lippincott’s_Monthly_Magazine_1890

How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?

Sherlock Holmes, The Sign of the Four Chap. 6, p. 111

 

“Percy and I will meet you at Madame Tussaud’s Celebrity Wax Museum,”  Suzanne from A Pug in the Kitchen had promised.

I had thought the blogger-chef was the only person in New York that I knew.  However, at the famous wax museum I entered a gallery with a marque announcing a new exhibit called Fictional Heroes. I saw familiar faces.

Kasha reading

Kasha reading about Michigan lighthouses

The first thing I noticed was a cowboy who seemed oddly familiar to me.  When I saw author Mary J. McCoy-Dressel  I understood why — it was Tristan Carlson, from Cowboy Boss and His Destiny. Or rather it was a wax version of him. 

Excited barking greeted me.  It was Kasha, Mary’s fur baby.  Kasha stopped for me to pet her, but then tried to run out to the hallway.  Mary of course caught her.

However, something four footed may have been what interested Kasha.  In came two large curly haired dogs.  Mary said she wondered what they were.  A smile slowly spread across my face as I recognized another statue — Ben Andrews of The Gamblers. 

“I believe those would be Laboradoodles, and I think you’re about to meet Christoph Fischer,” I told her just as the writer walked into the room.

Greta-Wilma

Greta and Wilma caught reading

Then I heard the funky guitar music of the original James Bond theme.  I looked back at the collection of wax heroes.  Was there a spy or thriller hero among them?  I didn’t recognize the statue at first.  However, Kasha was sniffing at one.  I saw the wax man was the hero of the John J. Cannon Trilogyby John W. Howell.

It was odd about the music… Was it my imagination?  I gave my head a shake.  However, I forgot about it when a moment later, Percy the Pug led Suzanne into the exhibit.  Seeing the blogger-chef reminded me…  The opening of the exhibit was shaping up to be such a great party that for a moment I almost forgot the strange events that brought me there.  

“Did you happen to see John W. Howell, out there?” I asked Suzanne, motioning to the hallway.

Lucy digging_John

Lucy digging

“Oh, that must have been the man with the boxer.  I thought he looked familiar,” she replied.  “They were just outside.  The dog was trying to dig up something.  She was really persistent about it.”

That was odd.  I knew John’s pets were well behaved.  I wondered what was going on with Lucy.  However, my thoughts were interrupted when all the dogs started barking furiously.  Suzanne deftly picked little Percy up in her arms.  The other dogs tore out of the exhibit, their author owners running frantically behind them.

As the dogs left, I noticed it on the floor near the wax figures.  The sign of the ape — a ripe yellow banana.  I picked up the banana, examining it carefully.  I saw nothing unusual about it.  There was no clue or suggestion of where the Story Reading Ape had gone.  I followed the sound of barking to another gallery.

A single display was far larger than all the rest, taking up an entire wall. Everyone was transfixed by that figure.  It was a wax exhibit of the Ape himself.  The dogs stopped barking, but Kasha, Greta, and Wilma sniffed every inch of the exhibit.  Percy struggled until Suzanne finally let him down to join the others.

“What has them so excited?” Christoph Fischer asked as he moved closer to Greta and Wilma to make sure they weren’t at risk.  

I explained to him about the chase to catch the Story Reading Ape reading.  Meanwhile I examined the display closely, or at least as much of it as I could reach.  Christoph, being taller than the rest of us inspected the higher portions.  However, we found no clues, nothing that would lead me to the Ape.  The dogs had stopped their sniffing.  Apparently they had lost his trail.  

Ape Gallery

Christoph’s Laboradoodles moved over to me.  I petted the dogs, amazed by their soft curly fur.  I wasn’t sure which was Greta and which was Wilma, but they were both adorable.  Soon the authors were called back to their exhibit.  I was able to quickly introduce Suzanne to Christoph and Mary before the authors had to return to their exhibit.

I detained them long enough to ask if any of them had met John Howell yet.  Apparently John never came inside the museum.  That made me uneasy, so I went looking for the Texas based author.

To my surprise, Percy followed me.  A moment later Suzanne ran behind the pug to catch him.  As I rounded a corner I all but collided with a tall man.

MiMi reading_Dan

MiMi reading for a clue

Dan Antion?” I exclaimed in surprise.

It turned out Dan was in New York to meet John W. Howell and see his John Cannon wax statue.  Dan carried a small kennel, from which I heard a meow.  I asked if he always traveled with one of his cats.

“MiMi has been acting really clingy and… just strange,” he confessed.  “I could have sworn I heard her meowing back and forth with some other cats, but she was alone.  Then she got one of my books.  She slapped my hand when I tried to take it away from her.  I thought it was best to take her with me.”

I suspected Annette‘s cats had called Dan’s for a meow-wow, just as they had called Crystal.  Then I heard barking from a new canine voice.  Dan looked around worriedly and muttered something I didn’t catch.  Suddenly I realized he must have brought his dog too.

Maddie sniffing_Dan

Maddie on the trail

“Maddie!” he called and then whistled as we all moved toward the barking. 

 Outside the museum was a small landscaped area.  Percy ran to a sizable hole in the ground there.  Dan’s Irish Setter had already gone into the hole, but she ran back out when Dan called her.  At that point I realized the hole wasn’t simply a hole, but a tunnel.

Then I heard it again…  It sounded far away and muffled, but I could hear the funky James Bond guitar music again.  The music seemed to move gradually farther away.  Percy wagged his little tail and gave a yip, as if he meant to say everything was as it should be.  Suzanne and I exchanged puzzled looks.  

“I think John and Lucy are down there,” I told them.

Before you could say boo, Dan along with Maddie and MiMi, went into the tunnel after John W. Howell.  Suzanne tightened her grip on Percy’s leash, but the pug didn’t try to follow the others.

“It might be dangerous — especially for just one person,” Dan called from the tunnel.  “I’d better go after John and Lucy.”

A taxi rolled up.  It was the same driver that brought me to the wax museum, the same driver who looked a lot like the pilot of the airship — I mean the man who looked an awful lot like Cornelis Drebbel.  Suzanne’s eyes widened.

Percy Tie pug hill

Percy reads Pug Hill

“It’s him isn’t it?” she exclaimed.  “It’s the alchemist.  How did you bring Cornelis Drebbel here?” she asked in astonishment.

I told her that he was actually the one who brought me.  At that point I had to admit to myself that the driver/pilot truly was Cornelis Drebbel.  Yes, I had been in denial.  As  Sherlock Holmes said, “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”  My driver and pilot had been Cornelis Drebbel, the alchemist.

 

Cornelis began to flirt outrageously with Suzanne.  The two were having such a good time, I didn’t mean to be a wet blanket.  However, all I could think about was the fact that I had no idea where to look next for the Story Reading Ape.  Then I realized I still had the banana, the sign of the ape.  I took a closer look at it.  There was a little sticker, a brand mark, but the writing was Japanese.

Cornelis looked askance.  I showed him the sticker.  

“Oh yes, I know this market.  It’s in Tokyo,” he said, but I gave him a blank stare.  “That’s your next clue.  Come along now.  Get in the car.  We need to take the dirigible to get there,” he added and I mutely got into the cab.

“Well m’lady?  May I have the honor?” Cornelis spoke to Suzanne and she and Percy eagerly got into the taxi.  

“Did you say dirigible?  That sounds like a slow way to get to Japan,” Suzanne commented.  “Cornelis, are you going to use magic?” she asked with a grin.

Cornellis merely wriggled his bushy eyebrows.  

I cringed.  This couldn’t be good.

“Where is that blond?” Cornelis asked hopefully.

“Do you mean Mary J. McCoy-Dressel?” I wanted to know.

“Well yes, we have a brunette and a redhead,” Cornelis said as if explaining to a child. “It would work better if we also had a blond too.”

That of course made no sense at all to me.  However, as if on cue, I heard barking and Kasha bounded up to Cornelis.  Mary ran after her dog, but looked at Cornelis Drebbel in shock.

“Is he?” she began and I nodded.

“Cornelis, what would work better?” I demanded as a queasy feeling formed in my stomach.  “Cornelis Drebbel, you’re not planning some complicated alchemy are you?”

The alchemist wriggled his bushy eyebrows again.  This really, really couldn’t be good.

***

End Chapter 2

If you remember Copper, the Alchemist, and the Woman in Trousers, then you know Cornelis Drebbel’s magic had a tendency to go awry.  Between the alchemist and the Ape, what will happen to our intrepid band of bloggers in Tokyo?  And what about John and Dan (and their pets)?  We left them in that tunnel.  Come back for the next midweek episode to find out.

Copyright © 2016 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.

 

Copper, the Alchemist, & the Woman in Trousers: Episode 28

RewindingWhite Mt Locomotive

It was serendipitous that “three things” from Western Romance writer Mary J McCoy-Dressel fueled the story-line of this episode.  While there’s not a typical romance involved, there is something sort of along those lines.

Mary has been a great supporter of this blog and all the serials.  In fact, if I were to rewind, you’d see that she sent the very first thing, for the very first of these interactive serials.Marys Blog

Since Copper, the Alchemist, and the Woman in Trousers has been progressing for several months, you might want to rewind to episodes four through six.  One element of today’s chapter is rooted in Episode-4. However, I’m rewinding to Episode-6 where it really escalated.

Ah! Here’s the locomotive now.  All aboard! 

 

***

A Rewind from Episode-6

The chimp must have seen me looking back at him.  It started wreaking havoc in the branches of the tree, jumping up and down and screeching bloody murder.  His fellows in the distance screamed back excitedly.  It sounded like there were a lot of them.  I remembered nervously how strong they were.  I hoisted the carpet bag, putting its strap over my shoulder so I could take Copper’s hand.  I had to make sure we weren’t separated.

An earsplitting screech made me look over my shoulder.  However, the noise was not simian; rather it was a metallic sound.  Then I heard the shrill whistle of escaping steam.  The doors of the outbuilding where Cornelis was working burst open.  The road locomotive moved toward us with a loud clickity-clack clickity-clack.  As it increased speed, the clicks and clacks blurred together into a continuous noise.

Copper squeezed my hand.  I followed her gaze.  The chimpanzees had amassed at the shade tree.  They milled curiously as they watched the road locomotive.  One and then another would chatter to the others.  I had a bad feeling that they were working themselves up for an attack.

***

And now, from last time…

The purple people eater flapped her broad wings and arched her back, fiercely roaring heavenward.  Then she belched an enormous ball of fire that spread out above her and Absinthe like a lethal flaming dome.  Suddenly, both Absinthe and the purple fairy dropped from the sky, the burning dome hurtling downward, ever closer to them.

“Lord of Alchemy!” Call Hicks yelled as Cornelis used one of his tricks to run right through the door without opening it.

“Cornelis, no!” I screamed.  “You’ll be burned to a crisp!”

***

Reading Ape purple

28.  Well-bred Man, Courtship, Horseback

Cal Hicks yelled at me that it wasn’t safe.  His expression immediately became rueful and he apologized profusely for his tone.  Hicks truly was a well-bred man — or rather ape.  However, my feet had taken me to the door before my common sense caught up with them.

When I opened the door I saw Absinthe and the one eyed one horned flying purple people eater hurtling toward the ground.  The vast dome of fire continued to descend.

Michael Whelan Dragon purple

A Michael Whelan dragon

The tiny green skunk-looking fairy shrieked something at the purple people eater and grabbed onto the tip of her tail as they fell.  Absinthe used a trick like the one Cornelis sometimes used to send his voice.  Though I didn’t understand him, I clearly heard him snuffle and grunt to the Alchemist.

Both Cornelis and the dragon looked at Absinthe doubtfully.  Cornelis held up the harmonic tuner and gave it one sharp ring.  Absinthe echoed the tone and the pitch of his voice merged with the harmonic sound.  I could see a emerald aura stretching up from Cornelis to the Green Fairy.  Absinthe glowed verdantly and the intensity of the aura doubled.  I was sure they had somehow combined their powers.

The she-dragon looked at Absinthe as he clung to the tip of her tail.  She snorted a puff of purple smoke that briefly circled her one-eyed one-horned head.  Then she flicked her tail, launching the tiny Green Fairy even closer to the flames above.

Absinthe summersaulted as he soared pointing his bantam backside toward the dome of fire.  He lifted his fluffy tail and proceeded to produce one of his powerfully potent poots.  The forceful fairy fart flew against the flaming dome.

Albert Maignan's "Green Muse" 1895

Albert Maignan’s “Green Muse” 1895

I had first-hand knowledge of the fairy’s flatulence.  When startled or threatened, the Green Fairy produced a spray that was essentially a very highly concentrated form of the liquor, absinthe.  I was fearful to see him aim that fart at the flames.  I was certain it would only make the fire worse.

Cringing, I looked over at Cornelis.  The Alchemist drew a deep breath and then blew upward.  I couldn’t see his breath, but I remembered Cornelis telling me that his alchemy sometimes worked to exchange or transform one thing into another.  As I watched, the cloud of green vapor from Absinthe’s bottom expanded to the width of the flaming dome.

My arm went up reflexively to cover my face when the green vapor met the flames.  A blinding flash and a loud crack of thunder shattered the air.  I braced myself for the blast of a huge explosion, but the opposite happened.  The alchemically charged green vapor caused the dome of flames to implode.

The immense Purple Fairy and the tiny Green Fairy settled to the ground, singed but unharmed.  I heard a long sustained grumble.  After a moment I realized that the sound was a low growl from the dragon.  Absinthe snorted and snuffled and the Purple Fairy continued to growl.  I gathered they had not yet settled their differences.

Green fairy skunkGlimmering green powder slowly drifted to the ground.  It settled on the two fairies, though they didn’t seem to realize it.  I stretched out my hand, watching as it dusted my palm.  Unexpectedly I felt content and happy.

“What is this shimmering powder?” I wanted to know.

“It’s residue,” Cornelis said with a shrug.  “It’s what was left of Absinthe’s defensive spray after it caused the flames to implode.  Have a care not to inhale the powder.  It’s not as potent as the concentrated absinthe vapors that Absinthe sprays, but it’s still intoxicating,” he cautioned.

Copper ran to the doorway, with Viola right behind.  The violet complected chimpanzee tried to grab the girl’s arm, but Copper was too quick.  Happily she stopped well away from the one horned cyclops Purple Fairy.

The sharp point of the dragon’s fat curved black onyx horn gleamed in the sunlight as the two fairies continued to make odd noises at one another.  However, they did seem calmer.  I thought I could see a bit of greenish dust on the black onyx horn.  I wondered if the powder had the same comforting effect on the fairies as it had on me.Copper curious w-green

“Don’t they like each other?” Copper asked.

“She’s his mate,” Cornelis said of the gigantic purple fae.  “They had a disagreement and both stormed off their separate ways.  Each was too stubborn to seek out the other.”

“You mean Absinthe was married to that big dragon?” Copper asked incredulously.

“Well, that would have been quite an unusual courtship, wouldn’t it?” Cornelis began.  “However, Aubrieta — that’s the Purple Fairy’s name — she wasn’t always a dragon.  I’m not sure how Aubrieta wandered into this place.  However, something about the combination of her particular magic and the nature of this amethyst world transformed her.  Of course, that situation made it even less likely for them to patch up their differences,” the Dutchman added.

Cal Hicks cautiously stepped out of the laboratory building.  Cornelis assured him that all was well.  He sketched a bow toward the two fairies, but did not approach them.

“Lord of Alchemy, you named the Purple Fairy Aubrieta?” the amethyst ape asked and his mouth twitched and puckered.  “Aubrieta is a tiny purple flower,” he whispered but failed to completely suppress a soft chuckle.  “No offense.  It’s just that I enjoy the irony of a one eyed one horned gigantic fairy being named for a tiny flower,” Cal said.

Victorian Ape CoupleThe mannerly ape composed himself and became businesslike.  “My family surely heard the commotion down at the main house.  That fireball was probably visible for quite some distance as well,” Cal reminded us.  “Since the effects of being too near their doppelgängers made young Copper and Lady Felicity so ill, I’m sure there is great merit to your assertion that bringing any of the two together would be dangerous indeed.”

“I’ll take care of that,” Viola called out as she came around the corner of the building leading an aubergine coated horse.  “Swift and I might be long in the tooth,” Viola began and patted the horse.  “If Nate and his wife and Penny are faster than us, we’ll still meet them on the trail.  I can turn them back, or prevent them trying to come in the first place, whichever the case may be,” she said as Cal helped her onto the horse.

We watched as Viola left on horseback.  However, our attention quickly transferred to the fairies.  Absinthe made a series of consolatory sounding chirps.  Then he fluttered up and perched on the curve of the dragon’s black onyx horn.  Aubrieta rolled her single eye upward at the tiny green fae.

I thought she was coughing.  A puff of smoke came from her snout.  Absinthe started chirping happily and flew backward several feet from Aubrieta’s face so she could see him better.  The dragon’s mouth curved and I realized she was not coughing, but laughing.Carson mansion Queen Annd

With an awkward pucker, Aubrieta spat out what looked like a purple grape.  She breathed lavender smoke onto the grape.  Absinthe chittered encouragingly.  The grape grew and grew to the size of a house.  It continued to expand until it finally exploded into a purple mist.

Aubrieta was suddenly transformed into a winged purple skunk-looking fae as tiny as Absinthe.  She still had only one amber eye.  In her dragon form she had a fat curved black horn, but it was changed to a golden unicorn-like horn.

As the purple fog settled, dozens of big chimpanzees could be seen.  They had the coloring of our home, not the hues of the amethyst world.

First one or two, then most of the chimps realized their nakedness.  Clearly embarrassed, they tried to cover themselves and hide.  However, a few stood boldly and cheered that they had returned home.  When they saw the one eyed one horned flying purple people eater, they too scattered and ran away.

Cornelis Drebbel

Cornelis Drebbel

“Are those…?” I began but the power of speech left me.

“Those naughty chimps!” Copper exclaimed.

Cornelis Drebbel folded his arms across his chest in a self-satisfied posture.  “Aubrieta, the purple people eater, didn’t devour the chimps, or rather the folk of this place who were lost at the abandoned chapel we saw on the way here,” Cornelis explained.  “However, she was angry at the way she had been treated here, and she used her power to banish them.  They of course ended up in our world.”

“So the chimp who was gesticulating what looked like sign language for Daddy—” I started to ask a question but the Dutchman finished my sentence.

“That clever chimp had figured out that Calvin Hixon, Copper’s father in our world, was the doppelgänger of Cal Hicks here,” Cornelis said with a nod.

Copper moved to the amethyst ape and took his hand.  “Can you help us find my Daddy?” she asked him with wide imploring eyes.

Portuguese Silver Toothpick HolderI thought Cal would melt on the spot.  He doubtless would do anything possible to help the girl who was so much like his own daughter.  The only question was — could he.

As the chimps fled into the distance I saw that their fur was already turning various shades of purple.  That reminded me of the device that looked like a silver toothpick holder.  It was shaped like a little gazebo with a domed roof supported by columns.  Within was a crystal bird with wings outstretched.  Tiny holes in the rounded roof held toothpicks.

It was a measuring device; if the toothpicks started to turn lavender, it was a warning that we had been in the amethyst world too long.  If all the toothpicks turned purple we were in serious danger of being unable to return home.  Should the bird turn purple, it would be too late.

I quickly took the detector out of the Dutchman’s bag so I could examine it.  The toothpicks were lavender.

***

Video:  Love potion number 9, The Searchers

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7rXhXLsNJL8

***

Now that the army of naughty chimps has returned to their amethyst world, how does that effect the search for Copper’s missing father?  However, the meter device that detects the danger level of their exposure to that world has begun to turn lavender — a warning sign.  Will our trio be trapped forever in the strange land where everything is purple?  Be at the train station next time to learn more.

***

 Don’t leave yet — we still have a recipe!  I briefly wondered what kind of “food” I could take from the three things that fueled the story-line of this chapter.  The obvious answer was bread.  The next thing that was clear to me was where to get a recipe.  That was easy! I turned to the wonderful Chitra Jagadish of Chitra’s Healthy Kitchen where I’ve often seen lovely bread recipes.

Recipe:  Garlic Parsley Flat Bread

garlic-flat-bread Chitra

Photo and recipe credit:  Chitra Jagadish 

Garlic Parsley flat bread

***

 

 

Copyright © 2015 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.

Copper, the Alchemist, & the Woman in Trousers: Episode 24

Choices

Couple boat pug

One of my favorite bloggers, Donna Parker, wrote about choices. Her post got me thinking — as it often does. Eventually my pondering turned to choices about writing. Despite the fact that writers are advised to choose one genre and stick to it, I think most of us like to dabble in various types of storytelling. I continue to dally with different styles, but my stick-to-it choice is fantasy.

I’ve been encouraged to write romances, but I leave that to the experts — like Mary. This time, the three things that fueled the steam locomotive to the Victorian Era were sent by Mary J. McCoy-Dressel.

Mary’s latest book, Of the Cowboy’s Own Accord, took off like a rocket. It reached #1 in Amazon’s ranking of best sellers in Contemporary Western Fiction.  She describes herself as an author of sensual Contemporary Western Romance with strong family ties. I’m fond of calling it her dynasty of cowboys, but it would be more correct to say (as Mary puts it) she specializes in “gentlemen cowboys (with a touch of bad) & their feisty heroines.”

Mary_Double Dutch Ranch Series

Our steam locomotive is rolling ’round the bend. Again, I’ve included some fun informative links in text and images. This time I’m also giving you a menu for a Victorian afternoon tea.  All aboard!

 

As you’ll recall…

Our trio was on the run from three different groups of bad guys, including huge and dangerous trained chimpanzees, one of which gestured in sign language the word daddy.  Felicity recognized the leader of one group by her voice — she was a woman from Copper’s town, but the woman in trousers couldn’t recall which townswoman possessed that voice.

Our heroes hid out at the pavilion of Alastair Wong, where alchemy gone awry gave them a map with a clue to where they might find Copper’s missing father. Still on the run, they boarded Cornelis Drebbel’s submarine where they met Absinthe, the Green Fairy.  Subsequently the submarine ran aground in an amethyst world.

24.  Straitlaced, Queen Anne Style Architecture, Harper’s Bazaar

The suited, bespectacled purple primate was a willing listener for Cornelis Drebbel.  I wouldn’t have expected an ape to speak our language, even if he could talk.  Nor would I have thought we would understand him.  When I was about to ask, a significant look from Cornelis caused me to realize it had to be one of the Dutchman’s tricks at work, allowing us to communicate with one another.

Tea Gown by Charles Frederick Worth as seen in Harper's Bazaar, December 1891

Tea Gown by Charles Frederick Worth as seen in Harper’s Bazaar, December 1891

The alchemist gave the primate a full tour of the submarine.  The amethyst ape soaked up every detail as Cornelis explained how the many inventions onboard were used in the navigation and other workings of the submarine.  The ape seemed to have an astonishing scientific comprehension of what the Dutchman said in describing his inventions.

Cornelis had gone on about doppelgängers and was genuinely concerned about the consequences if one of us met our double in this perplexing purple place.  I remembered Copper’s giggling exclamation comparing the straitlaced ape to her father.  I thought it simply childish fantasy, but then I recalled how the Dutchman reacted to her words.  He curled his lips inward in a rueful grimace and raised his bushy blonde eyebrows.  Then he pursed his lips and inclined his head pointedly toward the purple primate.  At that moment the ape reminded me very much of the portrait of Calvin Hixon.

I studied the primate’s face and tried to imagine a human version.  My eyes grew wide.  The amethyst ape was Calvin Hixon’s doppelgänger!

Cornelis was quite adept at reading facial expressions, no matter how fleeting.  When he glanced my way he raised one eyebrow and gave half a nod to indicate he knew I had caught on to what he had figured out the first moment he saw the ape.  It was no wonder he’d frozen in amazement when Copper and I had gotten out of the submarine.  I finally understood why. I tried not to stare at the ape version of Copper’s daddy.

After Cornelis had shown off his favorite inventions, the ape invited us to tea.  Cornelis wasn’t quick enough to hide his reluctance to disembark the submarine.  The ape tried to encourage him by describing the setting and the Queen Anne style architecture of his charming home.  I couldn’t help wondering if this amethyst world had held a purple primate version of Queen Anne, and suspected that it actually had.  However, Copper was beside herself with excitement.

Carson mansion Queen Annd

The Carson Mansion located in Eureka, California is considered one of the finest examples of American Queen Anne style architecture.

In a very discrete way, the alchemist worked the conversation around to inquire about the ape’s family life and whether he lived alone.  Abruptly the purple primate puckered his face, looking very contrite.  He bumped his palm to his brow and apologized profusely.

“I was so amazed and excited that I forgot to introduce myself.  Can you ever forgive my lacking manners?  Cal Hicks — at your service,” he said with a bow.  “Penny will be devastated not to have met you.  That’s my daughter.  She’s away for the week, visiting her brother Nate and his wife.”

When the ape — or I should say Cal Hicks, mentioned his daughter-in-law he gave me the strangest, quizzical look.  “Something in your manner puts me very much in mind of my delightful daughter-in-law,” he told me with a twinkle in his eye.Jaime Murray-2

I was speechless.  Could there be a purple ape version of me?  And was she married to an ape version of Ignatius Belle?  Surely not, it was incomprehensible!  The ideas were a bit too much and I suddenly had a headache.

The ape didn’t know the reason behind the alchemist’s concern, but what he disclosed about his family reassured Cornelis that it was unlikely for any of us to run into our doppelgängers.  With a little more please-pretty-please urging from Copper, Cronelis finally agreed.  So we set out with Cal Hicks, the primate equivalent of Copper’s daddy, to have tea at his home.

A violet complected chimpanzee housekeeper graciously served tea with all the trimmings.  She seemed delighted to have a chance to show off her skills, and served the perfect pot of tea to complement each course.

(How to Host a Victorian Tea Party)

 

1920s Catering Menu-1Tea Menu

Sandwiches and Savories
Smoked Salmon with Dill Butter on Dark Bread, garnished with Dill (open face half-moon sandwich)

Ham and Chopped Watercress with Basil Butter on Rye Bread (finger sandwich)

Thinly Sliced Cucumber & Chopped Mint with Mint Butter on White Bread (open face round sandwich)
Chopped Egg and Diced Black Olives on Whole Wheat Bread (pinwheel sandwich)

***

Scones and Breads

*********

Enhancers

Devonshire Cream

Flavored Butters (Fruit, Herb & Spice)

Raspberry Preserves and Rose Petal Jam
***

Sweets

Served in a champagne or martini glass:

English Trifle with Heart-Shaped Hazelnut Shortbread Cookies

***

Mauve teacup Wileman Co 1893

My cup rattled against its saucer.  I was embarrassed to I spill my tea.  Charming and hospitable as Cal Hicks was, the entire situation was unnerving.  I almost wished I had stayed behind at the submarine with Absinthe.  Cornelis was downright twitchy — probably still worried about doppelgängers.  Copper was the only one who took everything in stride.

Several portraits hung in the hallway.  It seemed that Cal Hicks enjoyed a much happier, devoted family life than had Calvin Hixon.  The son was presumable born out of wedlock, since this place seemed to reflect our own world.  But unlike Ignatius Belle, Nate Hicks agreed to become a true part of the family.  And since Penny was visiting Nate and his wife for a week, I assumed that she did not share Copper’s dislike and mistrust of her half brother.

Victorian Ape CoupleA purple primate version of Harper’s Bazaar magazine lay on a beautifully crafted mahogany table.  The deep color of the wood had dark purple highlights.  On the magazine cover was a woman-ape wearing a fashionable ensemble.  A painting hung above the table.  It was a portrait of Cal Hicks’ son and daughter-in-law.  I had to admit the young ape in the portrait bore a vague resemblance to Ignatius Belle.  However the female looked nothing like me whatsoever.

“Look Felicity!  She looks like you,” Copper enthused.

Looking away, I tried not to let the ape see how aghast I was at the girl’s comment.  With narrowed eyes I watched Corenlis.  His mouth twisted in any number of ways as he tried to stifle his laughter.  I knew it was our host he didn’t want to offend.  He certainly wouldn’t be concerned about my pricked ego.

To hide his mirth, the Dutchman tapped his fist to his breastbone, pretending to stifle a burp.  Then he asked our host if we might stroll around the grounds to help the fine repast he’d provided settle.  The amethyst ape was happy to oblige.

As we toured the property we came upon a church.  “That doesn’t look like it’s been used in quite some time,” I commented about the chapel.

“Ah yes.  That was indeed a tragedy,” Cal Hicks replied sadly, and Copper was quick to push for details on a topic we adults may have deemed too delicate.

Mount Olivet Cemetery Chapel, Nashville, TN

Mount Olivet Cemetery Chapel, Nashville, TN

“It happened during the last confrontation with the one eyed one horned flying purple people eater,” the ape said then turned to Cornelis as if concerned.  “Do you not remember it?”

“Err…” Cornelis hesitated, but a spark in his eyes told me he was about to dissemble.  “I must confess,” he said looking so sad and sincere that I almost rolled my eyes.  “An accident of alchemy brought my submarine back to these shores.  Sadly I have no memory of the events that happened here,” he explained.  “Oh now, there’s no need for concern, I’m sure the memories will return in due time.  Such is the way of alchemy,” he assured our worried looking host.

“Well, perhaps a refresher will help it along then,” Cal Hicks said with a hopeful nod.  “I mentioned that we had thought all of your species,” he said turning to me, but hesitating when he looked at Copper’s wide eyes.  “Well, um, that the one eyed one horned flying purple people eater had, um gotten them,” Cal said and seeing that Copper didn’t look frightened, he continued.  “However, there was one more confrontation with that huge purple fae creature.  You, Cornelis Drebbel, cornered the magical beast, and with your alchemy intended to transfigure it to something harmless.”

“Let me guess,” I said with a wry grin.  “The alchemy went awry.”

Cornelis Drebbel

Cornelis Drebbel

Cornelis glared at me, but the ape remained perfectly serious, continuing his narrative.  “The Lord of Alchemy insisted that everyone take refuge in the chapel while he confronted the monster alone.  Meanwhile, I ran to retrieve his harmonic tuner.  It’s a magical device decorated with a carving of a trio in the classic mystic people pose — hear no evil, see no evil, and speak no evil.”

The ape suddenly looked overwhelmed with regret.  He moved his spectacles to wipe a tear.  “In my haste, I tripped.  The harmonic tuner flew from my grasp.  It rang as it flew through the air.  However, you, Cornelis Drebbel, caught it before it fell.  So I thought all would be well, and that my mishap had done no harm,” Cal Hicks told us in an apologetic voice.

The ape dabbed his nose with a silk handkerchief and took a deep breath before continuing.  “The purple people eater vanished, presumably vanquished.  You, Lord of Alchemy popped off, as was your habit, to make sure the beast was gone for good.  But you never returned,” he said, looking like a repentant child caught in mischief.  His expression gladdened as he looked up and added, “Until today that is.”

“And the church?” I prompted.1860s Woman Handkerchief tintipe

Cal Hicks turned somber eyes to the chapel.  He shook his head slowly.  “When the loud harmonic noise of the misused tuner dissipated, I realized there were no sounds whatsoever coming from the church.  To my horror, I found it empty.  Everyone inside had vanished along with the purple people eater,” he said.

I gasped despite myself.  The ape seemed to think I found his telling of the story that shocking, and he seemed gratified to have at least told it well.  Although it was obvious that he blamed himself to a degree for what happened.  So I tried not to let on that the story wasn’t the reason for my gasp.

“Cornelis!” I whispered to the alchemist.  “That army of chimpanzees back at the Hixon estate.  What if they weren’t trained,” I said but paused, looking for the right word.  “What if instead, they were actually translocated?”

***

Felicity has figured out at least part of the mystery of the “trained” chimpanzees, but we still don’t know who was using them.  Can the ape version of Calvin Hixon somehow help our trio reach Copper’s real daddy?  Will seeing the portrait of primate doubles of herself and Ignatius Belle influence Felicity’s capricious feelings about him?  I hope to see you at the platform for the train to the Victorian Era again next time. 

Hot and humid… day after day, night after night – it’s just that time of year here.  So when I saw a beautiful post from Suzanne at A Pug in the Kitchen for “Nicoise Salad,” it seemed like the perfect recipe to share with this episode.

Recipe:  Nicoise Salad

Nicoise Salad suzanne

Photo and recipe credit:  Suzanne Debrango

 

Copyright © 2015 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.

 

A Shout-out – Copper, the Alchemist, & the Woman in Trousers

I’d like to thank the Academy…

Copper Cover 3-25-2015

By the “Academy” I mean the group of wonderful people, writers, chefs, photographers, readers, and bloggers who come here to Teagan’s Books each week.

You see, when I introduced the previous episode, I got a little off track. Ever since, I have felt that I did not do justice to the amazing chef and blogger who provided that set of “three things” — Suzanne Debrango at “A Pug in the Kitchen.”

I know Suzanne never thought of it that way, but I can’t deal with feeling like I didn’t do my best for someone who has been so very supportive of me and my writing.  Then I thought that it would be nice to do a shout out to everyone who has sent “things” so far!

So I’d like to thank the Academy!

Episode-1:  John W. Howell John W HowellJohn gave us the kickoff episode, the first set of three things, Stilton Cheese, Mare’s Milk, Calamari.  The Cheese and calamari helped put an image of a setting into my mind. Somehow that Stilton cheese keeps coming back around in later episodes. 

Episode-2:  Kathryn aka KR Big Fish

Kathryn KR BIgfish

Along with writing the second chapter of this serial, I had to come up with a name for it. Since the “things” had not had time to develop a story-line, I took the easy way out and titled it with the names of my trio of protagonists, Copper, the Alchemist, & the Woman in Trousers. I know it’s long, but I kind-of like it. For the second episode Kathryn gave us a delicious recipe and Soup Pot, Kitchen Sink, Mail-order Wine Club.

Episode-3:  Lord David Prosser

Lord David Prosser

 I can always count on the wonderful imagination of Lord David for fantastic “things.” The ones he sent for the third episode brought out the Steampunk element of this serial — Quail’s Egg, Wurlitzer Organ, Hydrofoil.

Episode-4:  Andrea Stephenson

Andrea Stephenson

When Andrea offered “things” for the fourth chapter, I knew I was in for a treat, because she writes so beautifully. With Artist’s Palette, Pease Pudding, Owl-Shaped Lamp, the lamp deepened the mystery.

Episode-5:  Sally Cronin

Sally Cronin

Incredibly generous in promoting other bloggers, Sally gave us things and a recipe for the fifth episode. Corset, Irish Soda Bread, Steam Engine led to a favorite inanimate “character,” the road locomotive!

Episode-6:  Mary J McCoy-Dressel

Mary J McCoy-Dressel

I knew “things” from my favorite Romance writer would lead to something interesting. With Soup Bone, Destiny, Ceramic Statue, Copper grew up a bit, and… well, I don’t want to give any spoilers about the statue.

Episode-7:  R.C. of New Mexico

I’m not showing a photo here, because RC is not a blogger, and I didn’t know if it would be okay…  But no one can rival the creative “things” that come to the mind of my friend RC, like Muff Pistol, Sourdough Pancakes, Airtights. Plus they were so perfect for the setting of the story.

Episode-8:  Elini Herrera

Elini

Fascinating Elini took time from her Culinary Journey to provide “things” for the eighth episode — Short Ribs, Eggplant, Red Pepper.  Her recipe was a big hit too.

Episode-9:  Suzanne Debrango

Suzanne Debrango

As I mentioned, the multi-talented Suzanne provided the delicious recipe and things for the ninth chapter, Pâté, Profiteroles, Olives. As you might expect, those profiteroles had many a mouth watering — and so did her blog when everyone went to visit her gorgeous dishes!

Episode-10:  Christine Robinson

Christine Robinson

Christine has the most marvelous enthusiasm. It comes through in her writing and in her delightful blog. I couldn’t wait to use her “things.” She went out of her way to make sure her things were appropriate to the Victorian Era. So stay tuned for Bicycle, Mauveine, Shepherd’s Pie. They’ll make the next episode.

Episode-11: Olga Núñez Miret

Olga Núñez Miret

The schedule at the train station has the eleventh set of things in queue, thanks to Olga.  I don’t know how she does it… Olga has so many things on her plate, blogging, writing, translating, reviewing books… She’s phenomenal.  Stay tuned for  Old Family Bible, Carved Whale’s Tooth, Vine Leaves.

After that, there is no fuel for the steam locomotive!  So keep the train on track, and leave a comment with Three Things, which can be random things or food-related things — or both. (Just remember the story is set in the Victorian Era, so try to avoid things like television sets.)  Recipes are also welcome.

Thanks for dropping by for a mid-week post.  Hugs to everyone!  See you this weekend when the steam locomotive is at the station.

Copper, the Alchemist, & the Woman in Trousers: Episode 6

On Wings of WhimsyRocking chair

The four naughty chimps probably weren’t as much of a surprise to those of you who have been with Teagan’s Books for awhile.  I don’t think I can get more whimsical than a ghost cowboy riding a giant seahorse.  I really shouldn’t let those wings of whimsy sprout again, lest you think I’m off my Victorian rocker…

However, I was talking to Mary J McCoy-Dressel, when she provided the “things/ingredients” for this episode.  She made an off-handed, fanciful comment and… well… I ran with it.  I’ll let you guess which “thing” gave wings of whimsy to this episode.

I hope you’ll check out Mary’s blogs and books. I think of Mary as a romance writer extraordinaire.  She has a veritable dynasty of gentleman cowboys and “sensual, contemporary western romance” books.

Mary DD Ranch 3 bks

It’s time to get back on track with this weekend’s episode.  Be sure to take the train all the way to the end of the line for this weekend’s recipe.  All aboard!

From last time:

“What is it?” I asked once I could see Cornelis Drebbel properly again.

“There are people coming.  More than one group.  From more than one direction,” he said sounding like he was still trying to understand what he saw.  “We have to hurry.”

6. Soup Bone, Destiny, Ceramic Statue

“Copper!” I called.  “We have to hurry.  Where are you?”

I had climbed the narrow stairs up to the tiny room at the top of the turreted tower of the lovely Hixon estate.  I wanted to get the best possible view of the land around me, but I didn’t hold much hope of seeing anything in the dark.

The Empress of Little Rock

The Empress of Little Rock

Opening the window, I leaned out precariously.  Although I needn’t have been concerned about falling out — the wretched bustle on my skirt wouldn’t fit through the window.  I exhaled in exasperation at the convention of fashion I had to adopt.

When I looked to my right, I saw a small light.  At first I took it for a firefly, but it wasn’t.  It was too far away, I wouldn’t see a firefly at such a distance.  Then I saw another light near it — and two more.  Torches.  They moved steadily toward the house.

Bustle-CorsetI twisted my torso and looked to my left.  There I spotted more lights, coming from the west.  One lantern held still and several others moved toward it.  I had no doubt that the group of them would also begin moving toward the Hixon estate soon.

However, Cornelis detected three groups, each approaching from a different direction.  Quickly I walked across the round turreted room to the other window.  I stretched out as far as I could, but I didn’t see anything.

If only there were more stars, or a bigger moon, I thought.  Well then, if I couldn’t see, perhaps I could hear.  I held very still and strained to hear, isolating the sounds of nature, the insects and owls.  Faint and far off I heard growls and barks, but they were only canine.  Probably two dogs fighting over a soup bone.

Abruptly the dogs gave a startled yip.  Then I heard the familiar screeching and chattering of chimpanzees.  I still couldn’t see anything.  I wondered how far away they were.  Of the two groups with torches one seemed to be about as far away as the other.  I could only guess about the chimps.  Their cacophony might carry a long way in the quiet of the night.  Or for all I knew, they might be nearer than the others.

I hurried down the turret stairs and headed for the bedrooms to find Copper.  When I told the girl to only get the most important things, I’d meant clean nickers, stockings, and a change of clothes…  However, she struggled to carry a sizable carpet bag.  It was black with a floral design done in cheery shades of mauve and red.  It also looked too heavy to contain only the “important things” I told her to gather.Victorian knickers

Shaking my head I looked at the bag.  “Copper, there’s no time for me to sort through your bag and get the things you really need,” I said resignedly.  “I hope you chose well, because it certainly seems you chose enough.”

The girl tried to mollify me by holding out the harmonic tuner — the erstwhile silver dinner bell from the Belle Inn.  In truth I was pleased with her quick thinking.  No one told her to look for it.  I smiled despite myself.  I didn’t know what to do with a harmonic tuner, but Cornelis did.  It might prove very useful.

When Copper shifted the heavy bag I heard a muffled but pretty chime.  “That doesn’t sound like something ‘important’ now, does it?” I said and with a groan hefted the heavy carpet bag.

“Yes it is!” she insisted.  “Daddy gave it to me.  It’s the most important thing I have.”

Previously the Copper I had come to know was logical, creative, and resilient.  To my surprise the girl’s lower lip began to tremble.  How could I be so insensitive?  She really was just a kid.  Copper had been through enough in the past few days to make any adult a nervous wreck.  And now Cornelis and I were about to tear her away from her home and run headlong into parts unknown.

Feeling ashamed of myself, I put the bag down and put my arms around Copper for a hug, which she returned with a sob.  “Go ahead and cry if you need to,” I said softly.

She sniffled, shook her head, and wiped her nose on her sleeve.  “I’m fine,” she said.

Tiffany Arabesque bellCopper opened the bag.  I saw with relief that she had packed the owl-shaped lamp, the base of which held the priceless letter and drawings of Leonardo da Vinci.  She removed whatever made the chiming sound.  I didn’t get a look at it because she was quick to secret it inside her blue cape.  I felt like such a heel when I thought she must be afraid I’d take her father’s gift away from her.

“May I see it?” I asked, trying to make amends.

It was an ornate bell with detailed carvings of the fabled three mystic apes — see no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil.  After dealing with the real life chimpanzees, I could have wished the design was of anything but apes.  However, I wasn’t the girl whose father had made it a cherished gift.  Even so, it was artistically rendered in a style that made me think it was a Japanese antique.  It was likely quite valuable.

I nodded appreciatively.  “Of course you should keep it with you.  Put it some place safe, so you don’t drop it,” I said.

“You’re right.  We do have to hurry.  Those stinking naughty monkeys are getting close,” Copper added causing me to smile at her bravery.  “I mean chimpanzees,” she amended, no doubt remembering Cornelis correcting her.Wise Monkeys statues

With a chill I realized she was correct.  The chimps moved faster than I expected.  Their eerie screeching filled the night.

My suitcase and hatbox were sitting in the hallway.  Copper picked up my suitcase, which was less than half the weight of the carpet bag she had dragged through the house.  When she moved to get my hatbox too, I hastily said that I would get it.

“I need you to get the doors,” I gave my excuse.  “So you’ll need a free hand.”

The truth of the matter was I never let anyone carry my hatbox.  It contained the skull of Cornelis Drebbel.

We stepped quickly down the stairs.  I hesitated so I could adjust the heavy carpet bag and make sure I had a tight hold on the hatbox.  I saw Copper turn back to gaze at her house.  She looked up at the beautiful home with large sad blue eyes.

“I’ll bring you back as soon as everything is sorted out,” I assured her.

Copper shook her head.  There was something very grown up about the way she stood and the expression on her face.

Copper pensive“Daddy says that your destiny isn’t always what you expect,” the girl said.  “I didn’t get it when I was real little,” said the suddenly mature moppet at my side.  “But I think I understand now.”

A simian scream split the air.  It came from the far end of the lawn, from the shade tree where I had tied my borrowed horse when I arrived at the Hixon estate.  At that moment I could have wished for a fast horse, but Ignatius Belle had taken his dapple mare back into town with him.  I heard simian screeching in the distance, growing closer and ever wilder.  It made my skin crawl.

Two pinpoints of light seemed to stare at me from the high branches of the tree.  I shuddered when I realized it was one of the chimpanzees.  It must have come ahead of the others, like some kind of advance guard.  I was amazed at how well the creatures were trained.  Who could possibly train and control animals in such a remarkable way?

The chimp must have seen me looking back at him.  It started wreaking havoc in the branches of the tree, jumping up and down and screeching bloody murder.  His fellows in the distance screamed back excitedly.  It sounded like there were a lot of them.  I remembered nervously how strong they were.  I hoisted the carpet bag, putting its strap over my shoulder so I could take Copper’s hand.  I had to make sure we weren’t separated.Burrell Road Locomotive

An earsplitting screech made me look over my shoulder.  However, the noise was not simian; rather it was a metallic sound.  Then I heard the shrill whistle of escaping steam.  The doors of the outbuilding where Cornelis was working burst open.  The road locomotive moved toward us with a loud clickity-clack clickity-clack.  As it increased speed, the clicks and clacks blurred together into a continuous noise.

Copper squeezed my hand.  I followed her gaze.  The chimpanzees had amassed at the shade tree.  They milled curiously as they watched the road locomotive.  One and then another would chatter to the others.  I had a bad feeling that they were working themselves up for an attack.

1903 Girl 2 Horses postcardOne very large chimp moved far ahead of the rest.  Standing alone, he gesticulated wildly.  He paused, screeched and repeated what seemed to be the same set of motions.  It did seem a little odd to me, but the antics of angry apes were not something I had time to consider, not in those circumstances.

“Daddy…” Copper murmured.

Poor Copper, I thought, pleading for her missing father.  “Everything’s going to be fine,” I shouted to be heard above the chimpanzees and the noise of the approaching road locomotive.

Cornelis built up speed with the engine and charged directly into the group of chimps.  The apes scattered with wild complaints.  The accident of alchemy that left him in his strange state, also gave him some otherworldly powers.  When he blew the locomotive’s whistle, it belched a long gout of green flame with a sound so shrill and loud my ears rang long after the noise was gone.

“Don’t hurt them!” Copper shrieked, and I supposed she hadn’t grasped how strong and dangerous a pack of attacking and very large adult chimpanzees actually were.

“Those are no organ grinder’s monkeys!” I cried.

“Chimpanzees!” Cornelis corrected me.

Cornelis Drebbel

Cornelis Drebbel

Yes, he corrected me at a time like that.  The alchemist could be absolutely insufferable with that kind of thing.

The Dutchman blew the locomotive’s whistle a second time and it went to an escalating pitch that climbed until I could no longer hear it.  However, I could feel that the awful sound was still there.  The chimpanzees screamed in pain.  The group of them scattered and ran away.  Or I thought they did.

The alchemist brought the road locomotive back around to where Copper and I stood.  He jumped down from the engine, grinning ear to ear.  He was quite pleased with himself.

“Isn’t it an amazing machine!” Cornelis exclaimed.

“How did you do that?  With the green flame and the sound,” I asked as I rubbed my fingers inside my ears.

“You liked?” he said with bobbing eyebrows.  “I could have done more if I’d thought to bring the harmonic tuner.”

At that comment, Copper retrieved the device that looked like a decorative silver bell and handed it to the Dutchman.  He bowed and thanked her effusively.  I saw that she also held the monkey bell her father had given her.Victorian gown bustle stripes

Cornelis lithely climbed back onto the locomotive.  He held out his hand for Copper but she couldn’t quite reach, so I gave her a boost from behind as I climbed.  Then I saw the apes.  Three of them remained, undeterred from whatever their mission was.  I had to assume they meant to capture Copper.

A very human-like, extremely strong hand grabbed my ankle before I could get onto the engine.  When I looked down, all I could see were the big chimpanzee’s bared teeth.

I struggled to hang onto the locomotive.  Copper grabbed my arm to try and help, but then I feared that if the chimp pulled me free, that she would be dragged down with me.  I was relieved to notice that Cornelis still had her other hand.

“Cornelis!  Go!” I yelled and he saw the three chimps.

The locomotive jolted back to life.  I was afraid I would lose my grip if I moved, but I kicked backward with my other foot.  My boot heel thudded softly against something and the chimp’s hold on my ankle loosened enough for me to dislodge him.

In the commotion our lantern fell to the grassy ground.  A small fire spilled around the torch, but it was slow to spread, as the weather had been damp throughout the week.

1924 Little Dipper Champagne adThe three chimps looked at one another and chattered.  One of them motioned with his simian hands.  I recognized him for the same chimp who had gestured so insistently before.  He fiercely looked right into my eyes.  Was that the same set of motions he made earlier?  I saw their muscles bunch as the trio of adult chimpanzees readied to jump onto the locomotive.  I knew we could not fight off all three of them.

The alchemist began muttering odd sounding words that I quickly recognized for the strange language he used when he was about to do something that would either end horribly or be extraordinary.

He held the harmonic tuner in one hand, but still held protectively onto Copper with his other hand.  The “bell” began to make that strange multi-level sound it had generated before.  I could see an aura vibrate around it.  The sound and sensation doubled.  I realized half of it was coming from a second source.

That was when I saw that Copper held the cherished “mystic monkeys” bell her father had given her.  It was the second source of the harmonic sound.  A tri-colored aura made a rainbow around the bell and the girl.  The sound seemed to vibrate through the entire world.  Then I felt it inside my throat, and wondered if my voice would take on that dual harmonic sound when I spoke.

Copper

Copper

“Dear God,” I said in a strangely pulsating voice that sounded odd to my own ears.  Cornelis only glanced at me, so focused was he on his task.  “It’s another harmonic tuner!” I said just as the alchemist finished the magic he was working.

He looked at me with a wide eyed expression of shock at my words.  I was jolted and nearly fell from the engine as an aura that matched the one surrounding Copper quickly engulfed the three of us and the road locomotive too.  I felt more than saw something radiate out from the aura.  It stretched, expanded, and then contracted abruptly.

The harmonic sounds staggered as they dwindled.  The auras vanished.  The world was incredibly quiet after the bombardment of sounds.  Nature did not stir.  The noises of night were silent.  As I looked down from the engine the first thing that caught my eye was a shining spot of celadon green.  It was our lantern, it lay where it had fallen with flickers of what once had been flames in the grass around it.  The little fires were cold and unmoving.

I started to climb down from the road locomotive.  Cornelis reminded me to use caution.  I scanned the area, but I didn’t see the chimps anywhere.  Then I saw it.  I jumped down from the engine.  A large celadon green ceramic statue rested on the ground.  Three wise monkeys, see no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil stood transformed.

“Are they still alive in there?” Copper wanted to know of the transmuted chimpanzees as she looked over my shoulder.

Cornelis and I exchanged a knowing glance.  Copper looked inexplicably dismayed, considering how the creatures had been attacking us.

Lewis Francis Hadley,  the Long-haired Sign Talker

Lewis Francis Hadley,
the Long-haired Sign Talker

“Possibly so,” the Dutchman told the girl and she looked less upset.  “Quite possibly so.”

She brushed a tear from her cheek.  “Daddy!” Copper cried.  “He was saying ‘daddy’ when he waved his arms around,” she said to my astonishment.

“Do you mean sign language?” I asked incredulous, but Copper nodded.

“I think so,” Copper said.  “He wasn’t doing it right, but it looked like he was trying to say daddy.”

The idea of an ape communicating through sign language was preposterous.  I thought it was wishful thinking on Copper’s part.  I could have thrown something at Cornelis when he made a comment that basically encouraged the fantasy.  I frowned and made a face when my next thought was that the trickster would just use one of his tricks to let anything I threw pass right through him.

“He likely wanted you to believe he could lead you to your father,” Cornelis said.  “But you know they were naughty monkeys, and you could not trust them,” he added and Copper nodded her reluctant agreement.

“Chimpanzees,” I said because I couldn’t resist turning the Dutchman’s correction on him.

His eyes narrowed but he didn’t respond to my taunt.  Instead, he looked past me.  “We’ve no time to doddle,” Cornelis reminded us.  “The other two groups are mere minutes away.”

When I turned to look I saw the torches again.  There were two groups, one larger than the other.  They still approached from different directions, but they were indeed much closer.

***

The question remains — who controls the chimpanzees?  Was it Copper’s fertile imagination, or did the chimp really try to use sign language to say something about her father?  Who are the other two groups of pursuers? Will our trio escape? Only the things and ingredients can say.

Don’t leave yet.  Here’s a point of interest for this episode:

Washoe and the family teach Loulis to use sign language

Since Mary’s food-related thing (ingredient) was soup bone, I couldn’t resist sharing a link to one of my two favorite soups of this winter.  Its creator is Suzanne at A Pug in the Kitchen.  Suzanne also sent “things/ingredients” for a future episode but it is a few weeks away.  Bon appétit!

Recipe: Cannellini Bean, Kale, and Bacon Soup

Cannellini Bean Kale Bacon SoupRecipe and photo credit: Suzanne DeBrango

I look forward to seeing you next weekend. Who knows where the steam locomotive will take us — only three things or ingredients can say.

 

Copyright © 2015 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.

Copper, the Alchemist, & the Woman in Trousers: Episode 5

atonement_in_bloom_1_03-24-2014Welcome back to the Victorian Era. I’m so happy to be here with all of you. Thank you for coming back after my weekend away.  I’m glad to report that I accomplished a lot on “Atonement in Bloom,” my current work in progress — or one of them, that is!

Photo Credit: The Midnight Baker

Photo Credit: The Midnight Baker

I’ve never given a shout-out for something local to me, because nearly all of you are far away.  However, the three “things/ingredients” Sally Georgina Cronin provided for this episode had me frequently thinking about one of my favorite places, Best Buns. They have a truly lovely Irish soda bread and a wonderful salad, and fabulous apple monkey  bread, and… Well you get the idea. The list goes on and on.

Sally is such an extraordinary woman that I can’t find words that are adequate to describe her. So I will invite you to check out her blog and let her posts and books do the talking for me. Sally’s aptly named blog, Smorgasbord – Variety is the Spice of Life, is a veritable buffet of information and entertainment. So I’m sure you will enjoy your visit there.

Now it’s time to get our steam locomotive back on track with Episode-5 of Copper, the Alchemist, and the Woman in Trousers.  Once again, watch for fun informative links, some are hidden in the images.  Also, you can do catch-up reading at the serial’s homepage. Just click on the button at the top of this page.

All aboard!

The Flying Scotsman

The Flying Scotsman

From last time…

I heard a flat sounding pop, and Cornelis was gone.  I had only heard that particular sound one time before, and that time the alchemist had been seriously harmed.  It seemed that I was about to become insensible as well.  My legs wouldn’t hold me when I tried to stand.  When I touched my temple my fingers encountered blood.

Falling again to my hands and knees I saw the fourth chimp join the other three.  While the porch floor seemed to spin, I watched as the furry quartet danced a jig.  Then the naughty chimps dragged the unknown dead man away.  The whole world swayed and went dark as one chimp gave a parting screech.

5.  Corset, Irish Soda Bread, Steam Engine

I was worried about Cornelis Drebbel.  Whenever he appeared or disappeared it caused a pop sound, like champagne being uncorked.  I couldn’t tell you why.  He refused to discuss the accident of alchemy that caused him to be in his unique state.  However, it gave him several inexplicable abilities.  I didn’t even know the extent of those talents.  He wouldn’t talk about them either.  The one thing I did know was the only other time his departure was accompanied by that strange flat sounding pop, he was almost lost forever.

Copper pensiveAfter that thought the pounding in my head took center stage in my mind.  A drop of water landed on my face, causing me to open my eyes.  My field of vision was filled by two enormous blue orbs.  The tear-filled eyes were so close to my face that I reflexively drew back, bumping the back of my head.  As if I needed another lump there.

“Copper?” I mumbled, trying to focus my blurry vision.

I jumped again when I saw something that my rattled brain took for a fat hairy snake, inches away from my face.  I nearly screamed, but before the cry escaped my lips, my vision cleared.  The furry snake was Sheriff Alvin Bullard’s thick mustache.

Sheriff Seth Bullock-DeadwoodThe sheriff helped me sit up.  The porch and the world around it lurched when I moved.  My hand shot out wildly, trying to catch my balance.  I felt like I was falling, but then I remembered that I was already prone on the floor of the porch.

Copper’s tight hold on my arm didn’t budge even as Sheriff Bullard helped me to a sitting position.  I leaned back against the wall of the house.  When he stood he noticed the blood on the doorframe where I hit my head when the big chimpanzee careened into me.

“You took quite a knock on the head,” Sheriff Bullard commented and I groaned in reply.  “Did someone attack you?” he asked.

I took a deep breath, trying to steady myself.  I was intensely glad that I refused to wear a corset.  Wearing one of those hideous things, I would never have been able to get enough air into my lungs.  It was no wonder so many women suffered from “the vapors.”

“Something hit me from behind.  Something large,” I said; my thoughts still fuzzy.  “It knocked me against the doorway,” I added, gingerly touching my bloodied temple.Chimpanzee Reading

Abruptly my head cleared.  I remembered the four large chimpanzees and them dragging the cadaver away.

Soft footsteps moved close to me.  I thought perhaps it was Cornelis.  The world swayed when I looked upward.  It was not the alchemist.  Rather, it was Ignatius Belle, the attractive and most un-innkeeper looking proprietor of the Belle Inn.  Copper’s grip on my arm got even tighter as he approached.  I wouldn’t have thought she was that strong.  Her hold on my arm was downright uncomfortable.  I shifted in attempt to dislodge the girl.

“I won’t let you take her from me!” Copper shocked me by yelling at the two men.  “You can’t take—” she said with a tiny hesitation.  “You can’t take my Aunt Mina!”

That was astonishing.  Could the child be that quick on her feet?  Copper apparently heard me introduce myself as her father’s half-sister, Mina, when I opened the door to the people from the Merciful Haven Orphanage.  However, when I met Copper, I told her I was there to apply for a governess position.  She had to know that at least one of those things was a lie.  She must have been terrified of that orphanage to think so quickly.

Copper

Copper

I wanted to ask Copper if she had seen Cornelis after he vanished with that off sounding pop.  However, I didn’t want to draw the sheriff’s attention to the Dutchman.  Where was the alchemist?  He had the power to speak directly into my ear without showing himself.  If he was unharmed, then why hadn’t he made himself known to me?

Ignatius Belle stooped down and tried to reassure Copper that he and the sheriff were only there to help.  A handsome man like Ignatius, with his kind smile and those soft eyes would have been enough to make most grown women melt.  A young girl should have been putty in his hands.

Copper however, drew away from him distrustfully.  I found her reaction intriguing.  I considered the innkeeper from a new perspective, wondering if there was more than met the eye.  However, I saw nothing that caused me concern — quite the contrary.  I liked what I saw.

“The child’s been going on about some flight of fancy,” Sheriff Alvin Bullard said.  “She says monkeys took away the dead body from the study and knocked you down,” he said with a tolerant smile for a child’s whimsy.  “Though she’s a little old to tell such tales,” he added in a mildly chastising way for Copper’s benefit.

I tried not to react when I saw Ignatius and Sheriff Bullard exchange a look.  Their expressions didn’t seem to indicate that they fully believed Copper’s explanation was simply a product of an overactive imagination.  Did they did they secretly credit her story about the chimps?  What could the men know that would allow them to believe the preposterous truth?  However, my head throbbed so much that I quickly forgot about that unspoken exchange and the twinge of fear it gave me.Edwardian man

The neigh of a horse distracted me.  Twilight had deepened while I lay senseless on the porch.  In the diminishing light I saw an enclosed wagon with lanterns affixed.  It was a hearse.

“Weren’t you going to send the coroner to remove the body?” I asked the sheriff.

Then a startling thought made me look at Ignatius Belle.  So far, most of the townspeople I had met held more than one role.  For instance, the sheriff was also the local grist mill’s owner.

“You are not innkeeper and undertaker are you?” I asked the tall man, suddenly unsure how attractive I found him.  After giving careful attention to the set of his shoulders and the line of his jaw, I decided that didn’t matter if he was also a coroner.

“I inherited the wagon, but the duties of coroner or undertaker are beyond my skills,” Ignatius told me and held my gaze longer than was absolutely necessary.

Sheriff Alvin Bullard looked from me to the innkeeper, lifted one eyebrow, and cleared his throat pointedly.  “We’d only been here a short time when you regained consciousness,” Bullard said.  “May I help you inside?” he asked.

Victorian courtingAt first I reached out to take his offered hand, but when I moved the world took such a turn that it nearly took my stomach with it.  I shook my head negatively and that only made it worse.  “I think I’ll just rest here for a moment longer,” I said ruefully.

Ignatius Belle stepped quickly to the hearse.  He returned with a suitcase, a hatbox, and a basket.  I recognized the first two items as my own.  I felt a stab of worry that he had opened the hatbox.  It contained the skull of Cornelis Drebbel.

I lifted my hand reflexively toward the hatbox, but forced myself to rest the wayward appendage in my lap.  It took all my self-restraint to let the hatbox sit untouched.  I wanted to open it and see if anything had been disturbed.

Taking a deep breath I reminded myself what anyone who opened the hatbox would find.  They would see my favorite top hat.  Inside the hat was a round satin covered form, which helped keep the hat properly shaped.  They would have to remove the hat and then the satin scarf before knowing the “form” was actually a human skull.Skull Victorian setting pink

“Why?” I started to ask, but for once thought before I spoke.  “It’s very kind of you to bring my things.  I would have retrieved them tomorrow.  I didn’t mean to cause you any trouble,” I told Ignatius.  “I didn’t want to presume on my half-brother’s hospitality, since there was no way for me to let him know the exact date I expected to arrive.  Besides,” I dissembled. “You can imagine… meeting with family one hasn’t seen in so many years… I felt the need to settle my nerves before coming here, so I took accommodations at your inn,” I said.

The sheriff gave a knowing nod to my explanation.  Ignatius was turned away from me as he placed my belongings next to the door.  Copper watched him intently.

“Alvin, I mean Sheriff Bullard, told me what had happened here when he asked me to bring the hearse to pick up the um…” he stopped short and looked at Copper.  “The you know.”

“You mean the cadaver?” Copper chimed in, emphasizing what was apparently a new and interesting word in her vocabulary.

Ignatius cleared his throat.  “Err, yes.  He explained that you were Calvin Hixon’s half-sister and would be staying here to look after the girl.  So I expected you would need your things.  If you plan to come back into town I’ll simply take them back with us,” he said with a smile.  “Maybe you really should consider coming back with us.  No offence, but you don’t look well.”

The Empress of Little Rock

The Empress of Little Rock

“Oh, I’m feeling better already,” I assured the handsome innkeeper.

I didn’t know what kind of monkey business I had stumbled into, but those people from the Merciful Haven Orphanage clearly hoped to get control of Hixon’s estate.  I didn’t want to risk having Copper in town with them.  There was no telling what they’d do with an opportunity like that.  If Ignatius had conveniently brought my belongings to me, that saved me having to retrieve them.  However, it did create another problem.  He would be taking his horse back with him, and I’d be without any transportation.

Finally I felt like I might be able to stand.  Ignatius took my hand and all but lifted me to my feet.  Maybe I wasn’t ready yet after all, I thought as I swayed.  He put his arm around my waist and I leaned into him until my equilibrium equalized.  And maybe just a little while longer.

The unfamiliar basket sitting next to my bag and hatbox caught my eye.  It didn’t belong to me.  I was about to tell Ignatius that he must have picked it up by mistake, when he followed my gaze.

1900 Maid with tray“That’s from Cookie.  She and Bitsy were there when Alvin told me about the dea— about the situation you found here,” Ignatius began then glanced at Copper.  “Cookie could manage the inn singlehandedly if she were of a mind.  She could manage the entire town for that matter.  She has such a head for details and anticipating needs.  It was her idea to send dinner.”

Copper, Cornelis, and I had eaten our fill of pease pudding and toast, but the aromas wafting from the cloth covered basket were tantalizing.  Ignatius picked it up and handed it to me.  I couldn’t resist peeking inside.  I gasped with pleasure when I found pork roasted with onions and apples, roasted potatoes and carrots, and an entire loaf of Irish soda bread.

“Are you sure you’re alright, Miss Hixon?  I have to agree with Ignatius that you don’t look well,” the sheriff asked me, and with the nasty bump to my head, I nearly ruined everything by not knowing who Miss Hixon was.

Oh yes.  Miss Hixon was supposed to be me, Mina Hixon, Calvin Hixon’s long lost half-sister.  “Yes.  Yes, I’ll be right as rain in no time I’m sure,” I said.

“I’m worried about leaving you alone,” Ignatius Belle said.  “I think that head injury is worse than you’re letting on.  At least let me send one of the maids to stay the night and look after you.  I’m sure Bitsy wouldn’t mind.”

I wondered at the solicitous offer, but I politely declined.

Parlor, Empress of Little Rock

Parlor, Empress of Little Rock… Is it haunted?

The sheriff insisted on looking around inside, since someone had been in the house and attacked me.  I didn’t want him snooping around, but it would look odd if I refused.  The dead body was his province as well.  So I ushered them inside.

Sheriff Bullard purposely took the lead as we walked down the hallway toward the study.  The broken vase and flowers were strewn across the marble floor.  The study door stood open.  Once inside the room we saw the window had been pushed wide open.  The desk chair was overturned.  The papers and other items that had been on the desktop were scattered across the rug.  The desk drawer was open and the contents had obviously been riffled.  Books had been pulled from their shelves and discarded haphazardly.

That explains the fourth chimpanzee, I thought.  It lagged behind to search for something.  Then it slammed into me as it hurried to catch up with the other three.

Yet, could the creature be intelligent enough to do something like that?  Perhaps they could be trained to recognize particular objects and retrieve them.  But for what had the chimps been searching, besides the corpse?Ape Grandma ad

As the two men looked around the study I drew Copper aside.  “Copper, it’s important that you don’t talk about the chimpanzees,” I whispered.  “I’m afraid it will cause trouble if they know,” I whispered about the sheriff and the innkeeper.  “Do you understand?” I asked and received an eager nod in return.

When the sheriff asked again if I had seen my attacker, or whomever took the body away, I maintained that I had seen nothing.  If the lawman knew about the chimpanzees, I was certain that it would do more harm than good.  At minimum I’d be branded a lunatic and unfit as Copper’s guardian, and the orphanage people would waste no time in getting control of the Hixon estate.

Besides, someone was controlling the animals and to my thinking, the law could only get in the way.

***

After the men left, Copper and I set about putting the disaster of a kitchen to rights.  I had a lot of thinking to do, and it helped if my hands were busy.  It also helped distract me from worrying about Cornelis Drebbel.  Copper told me she had not seen him since “the naughty monkey” knocked him down the stairs.

Copper sat at the table.  She had the owl-shaped lamp turned upside-down.  It was proof of my hit on the head that I had forgotten about the lamp and its hidden compartment.  Before I could caution her, Copper pulled out the documents.

Drebbel Incubator“Be careful with those.  I think they’re quite old.  You wouldn’t want to tear them,” I said, and complimented myself on keeping my voice gentle when I was startled enough that I might have snapped at her.

We spread the papers on the kitchen table.  One was a letter written in an unknown language.  I had no idea what it said, but it looked quite official, with an embossed crest.  However the document was so old that the embossing was unclear.  The other pages appeared to be plans, drawings for strange inventions.

“A magnifying glass would be useful,” I murmured.

“Daddy keeps one in his desk,” Copper said helpfully.  “Do you think the monkeys will come back?” she asked, her tone edged with fear.

“We’ll go look together, shall we?” I said with a smile.

As we stood I heard a pop, then a little electric shock at my neck when a finger tapped it.

“Cornelis!” I said, barely stopping myself from hugging the Dutchman.  “I was worried half to death.  Where have you been?  Are you all right?”

“Yes, yes.  Although it took me a bit to… shall we say, compose myself,” he said in a rueful voice.1924 Little Dipper Champagne ad

Copper’s eyes were wide as she regarded the alchemist.  Her brow knitted and she looked suspicious.  The blue eyes narrowed and she looked at Cornelis intently.  “Are you a ghost?” she asked bluntly.

The Dutchman grinned impishly.  He gave a twist to his pointed beard and wriggled his eyebrows.  Copper’s expression relaxed.

“That’s rather hard to say,” Cornelis told Copper.  “I never died.  However, my body stopped living hundreds of years ago.”

Copper tilted her head, thinking about the strange answer Cornelis gave her.  I got the feeling that she would study the matter until she understood it.

“Oh!  What have we here?” he exclaimed excitedly over the ancient papers.  “Don’t tell me this is what was hidden in the lamp!” he cried and Copper and I both nodded, taken aback by his enthusiasm.  “Really?  The audacity!  To hide such treasures that way.  Don’t you know what these are?”

“I couldn’t read the language,” I defended myself.  “I know a smattering of the Romance languages, but I haven’t had time to decipher the texts.”

“Well, I suppose it isn’t any wonder,” he said agreeably enough.  “These are so old that the language has changed a good deal.  You really have no idea what they are?” he asked genuinely surprised.  “My dear, these are the work of Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci!  They are valuable beyond belief.”

The Leonardo da Vinci?” I couldn’t help asking.  “Then they must be at the core of whatever is going on here,” I said with certainty.

Hixon Dining RoomI asked copper if she could reach dishes to set the table in the dining room.  She could, so I busied her with that task so I could speak to Cornelis.

“I’m even more concerned about Copper’s father now.  I can’t imagine he would leave without this carefully hidden treasure.  Or Copper either for that matter,” I said quietly.

“Perhaps he meant to lead whomever away from the child?” Cornelis offered and that explanation made sense, but it didn’t feel right.

“If he has been abducted, we don’t know who they would contact for ransom.  So, their next move would be to take Copper and threaten her life to make Hixon give them the da Vinci papers,” I speculated.

“Yes, but that is assuming there are only two factions,” Cornelis said.  “These papers are so valuable there might be multiple parties involved, each working against the other,” the alchemist said.

Drebbel stamp

Cornelis Drebbel Stamp

That idea was complicated enough that my head pounded harder.  The pain had finally eased off, but it came back with a vengeance.  I groaned.  Cornelis took my elbow and led me to the dining room.  Copper had even arranged the food Cookie and Bitsy sent via Ignatius Belle.

As we ate, Cornelis spoke in a very matter of fact tone.  I was sure he did so to avoid alarming Copper.  “I mentioned that I thought there were multiple factors involved?” he said as if he was talking about something utterly boring.  “I also have a hunch that they will converge here.  So I think we should begin a journey, an adventure,” he said smiling at the girl.  “We should set out as soon as we can.”

“But we’ve no transportation.  It will attract attention, but we’ll have to hire a coach,” I said.

“Too bad Daddy didn’t get the steam engine to work right,” Copper said surprising both of us.

“Steam engine?” Cornelis and I echoed in unison.

“Uh-huh.  It’s in the building on the other side of the house,” Copper motioned toward the remaining outbuilding — the one I had not had a chance to inspect.Lantern magic

The alchemist found lanterns where Copper said they would be.  He blocked the girl’s view of what he was doing as he used one of his tricks to light them quickly.  We hurried to the outbuilding.  The chimpanzees had been very large and amazingly strong.  I couldn’t help glancing uneasily into the darkness, wondering if they would come back that night.

Soon we reached the building.  It was locked, but breaking a lock was also within the range of the Dutchman’s unearthly talents.  The building was small, and apparently only had one room.  A machine of some sort filled most of the space.  I lit a lamp to see it better.

I marveled at what the light showed.  The contraption looked very much like a steam locomotive.  However, it was closer to the size of a stage coach.  It had a tall column in front for the steam.  There were two wheels in front, supporting the engine, an area for a few passengers, and two much taller wider wheels in back.

Burrell Road Locomotive

Burrell Road Locomotive

“What on earth is this thing?” I asked of the strange contraption.

Cornelis had that look in his eyes.  I mean that obsessively excited look he got about inventions and wildly impossible things.  “Isn’t it wonderful?  It’s a traction engine,” he said quickly before vanishing.

“It’s a road locomotive,” Copper informed me.  “Daddy always said this part was the trouble,” Copper said pointing at something I couldn’t see, but Cornelis was suddenly looking over her shoulder making an ah-ha sound.

The alchemist abruptly looked away, distracted.  I could feel the air around Cornelis Drebbel vibrate.  The sensation made the hair on my arms stand on end.  I knew he was somehow investigating the odd engine — what worked and what did not.  I heard a clang from somewhere inside the machine.  Then he muttered happily to himself.

“Do you think you can make it work?” I asked after a moment.

“Oh yes,” he said.  “In no time at all,” he added with a smile that twitched his mustache.

As I looked at Cornelis his form blurred and became transparent.  I had come to realize that meant he was somehow present in more than one place at a time.

“What is it?” I asked once I could see him properly again.

“There are people coming.  More than one group.  From more than one direction,” he said sounding like he was still trying to understand what he saw.  “We have to hurry.”

To be continued

***

Several different groups converging on our trio?  Who could they be?  Are they friends or foes?  The road locomotive is a bit of “Real Steampunkery Tech” — that’s my made-up word.  Will Cornelis get it working before it’s too late?  

Come back next weekend for “things” from Mary J McCoy-Dressel.  We’ll see where “Ceramic, Destiny, and Soup Bone” take Copper, the Alchemist, and the Woman in Trousers.

But don’t forget this weekend’s recipe!  The afore mentioned lovely Sally didn’t just give us “things/ingredients” – she kindly supplied this recipe as well.  Bon appétit!

Recipe:  Slow Cooked Roast Pork

Sallys Roast Pork

Photo and Recipe Credit:  Sally Georgina Cronin

Preheat the oven to 230C/210C for fan assisted ovens or Gas mark 8

You can use any pork joint that has a decent amount of fat under the skin so that you can produce great crackling to eat with your pork. Because you will lose the weight during the slow cook aim for a larger size joint around the 3-4 kilo mark for 6 -8 people.

Crackling.. Take a sharp knife and cut one direction across the skin down to the fat level and then score again in the other direction so that you have a diamond pattern.

Then rub olive oil into the skin and well into the cuts.

The Rub. 1 teaspoon each of Pimiento Dulce which is mild, Garlic powder (you can rub the crushed cloves into the skin but it can be too powerful) Salt and Black Pepper.

Take your mix and rub in thoroughly over the skin and into the cuts.

Place your pork on two rough chopped onions and on chopped cooking apple which will help flavour the meat but also provide a very tasty base for gravy later.

Give the pork 30 minutes at this temperature and then reduce to 150C/130C for fan/Gas 2 and continue to roast for another 2 to 3 hours depending on the size of the joint.. I use an hour per kilo as a general rule.

After this time – increase the temperature back up to the 230C/210C for fan/Gas Mark 8 and give the crackling a last blast.

Take out and put on a rack covered in foil and leave for around 20 minutes to let the meat rest.  Take off the Crackling and divide into portions and carve.. The meat will be so tender that you need a very sharp knife.

Make a gravy with the juices from the meat, onions and apple.  Serve with Roast Potatoes, carrots and greens.

***

Copyright © 2015 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene

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