Copper, the Alchemist, & the Woman in Trousers: Episode 31

Three Things & Three Blogs

I hesitated to ask for more “things” to fuel the steam locomotive to the Victorian Era, because the serial is nearing the end of the line.  What if I got more things than I could use?  I wouldn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.  However, I still had to have the three things.  So as a way of showing my appreciation for your comments, I took one word from the blog names of the first three commenters on Episode 30!  (I was rather pleased with that idea, if I say so myself.)

So we have (drumroll please)…

3 locomotives

 

(Content removed.)

Kitchen from Suzanne at A Pug in the Kitchen, Good Food with Simple Ingredients http://apuginthekitchen.com/

It’s a rather noisy episode. I didn’t even hear the locomotive pull up to the platform.  However, I see the conductor waving, and now I can hear his voice.  All aboard!

31.  Purple, Diary, Kitchen

My finger traced the edge of a purple leather portfolio I found.  Now the case held the priceless drawings of Leonardo da Vinci, which were previously hidden in the owl-shaped lamp.  I nearly dropped the folio at the sight before me.

In open-mouthed wonder I stared at the riot of possessions and the general confusion of what might have been the alchemist’s bedroom.  It was such a mess that I wasn’t completely sure it was a sleeping chamber.  I thought that was a bed under a stack of shoeboxes and a pile of clothing, though I couldn’t imagine anyone managing to sleep on it.

Terrence Mann as Cornelis

Terrence Mann as Cornelis

I came to the conclusion that the meticulously way in which the laboratory was organized was not the doing of the alchemist — or I should say the version of Cornelis Drebbel that inhabited the amethyst world.  I shrugged.  After all, our Cornelis kept the most haphazard scheme of things, whether on his submarine or anywhere else.  So I expected it was only natural that his doppelgänger would be a slob.  Alright… that wasn’t very generous of me to use such a word to describe my traveling companion.  Shall I say untidy?

Thank goodness his skull, which was safely in my hatbox, wasn’t capable of disarranging things too.  Then I had an uneasy thought.  What if the skull had capabilities of its own?  I firmly pushed that idea into a dark corner of my mind.  There was more than enough trouble at hand, without borrowing even more.  But I digress.

No, I thought, the orderly one must be Cal Hicks, the amethyst ape of the strange purple world of doppelgängers where we’d run aground.  Cal was also the double of Copper’s father, Calvin Hixon.

I tapped my foot in a restless rhythm, annoyed with myself for wasting time, yet drawn to the room nonetheless.  My intuition had become a feather, tickling a sleeping notion in my mind.  That feather suddenly woke the notion and in the full light of thought, it quickly morphed into a certainty.Victorian w purple feather hat

“Ooooh…” I murmured aloud, stretching out the word.

Abruptly I was sure that the alchemist of the amethyst world was with Copper’s missing father!  However, the question remained — where?  How they got together in the first place was a secondary matter.  I hoped to find some sort of clue in the personal quarters of amethyst world’s version of Cornelis Drebbel.  Unfortunately I had no idea what I sought, and the disarray of the room didn’t help.

A soft snuffling sound alerted me to the presence of Absinthe, the Green Fairy.  He fluttered around the eyesore of a room before perching on a shoebox.  Absinthe looked at me and gave a derisive snort, clearly an opinion about the state of the bedroom.  I laughed.  For once I understood the little fairy.

Then Aubrieta, his mate, flew into the room.  Her purple wings missed a beat when she beheld the mess.  Aubrieta gave a little scream before recovering herself.  I had to agree.

I felt a moment of comradery with the two fairies.  They seemed to understand everything I said, but I could not interpret their snorts, grunts, and snuffles at all.  However, emboldened by that friendly feeling, I told them my thoughts about the alchemist of the amethyst world and Calvin Hixon being together somewhere.  I opened the portfolio of Leonardo da Vinci’s mechanical design drawings, and said that I felt one of the designs might also be involved.Aerial Screw drawing
When I added that I thought there might be a clue somewhere in the disarray of the bedroom, the fairies went quickly to work.  They busily looked through every pile and opened every box, cupboard, and drawer.

While they looked through the room, I turned to the closet.  When I opened the door I almost shrieked like Aubrieta.  Boxes and all manner of other things toppled out of the closet as soon as I opened the door.  Cases and trinkets continued to tumble for what seemed like an unnaturally long time.  A purple feather boa draped across my shoulders as it fell.  Aubrieta snuffled appreciatively.  Apparently the little skunk-looking fairy thought it looked good on me.

“So you like this?” I asked Aubrieta of the boa and she chirped enthusiastically.  “Well, it is your color,” I conceded with a smile.Woman in purple boa

As I held out the purple feather boa, Aubrieta wriggled the single eyebrow that was between her one eye and her golden unicorn-like horn.  Static ran through the feathers and with a spark the boa was transformed to a much smaller size — just the right length for the Purple Fairy.

By the way, I never mentioned that the Purple Fairy is a title for Aubrieta, just as Absinthe is the Green Fairy.  Though I had yet to meet them, there were other purple and green fairies, but our tiny companions held some particular distinction among their kind.

I bent down to pick up a full sized feather that was dislodged from the boa.  That’s when I saw the corner of a book.  Its cover was made of tooled lavender leather.  In the center elaborate script spelled the word diary.  It should be the journal of the Cornelis Drebbel doppelgänger.  Shouldn’t it?  Although, the Dutchman was a wily fellow.  It might belong to someone else.

Though it didn’t really help, I took a deep breath to steady my nerves.  Cautiously I opened the lavender tome.  The handwriting inside was a match for that of the alchemist of my world.  I surreptitiously looked over my shoulder.  I bit my lower lip, as with a bit of apprehension I began to read the diary.

However, the journal didn’t seem to be terribly personal.  (I admit I was a little disappointed.)  There were a lot of what I supposed were alchemy related notes, and symbols I didn’t understand.  Then I found a section of spells.  At least I could understand the language with those.

Lady writing lettersTurning the pages faster, I focused my search.  I hoped to find some mention of Cal Hicks, or even better, Calvin Hixon.  Unfortunately I hadn’t found either name.  However, I was skimming the pages awfully quickly.  I could easily have missed something.  I began to notice repeated references to “Cu” but that made no more sense than the rest of the text.  It seemed to be more of a name than initials.  I shrugged.  The inhabitants of the amethyst world did seem to be fond of very short names, like Cal and Von.

As I turned pages I also saw drawings and diagrams.  Some of the sketches reminded me of the da Vinci drawings.  I slowed down, paying closer attention.

My focus was broken by a commotion elsewhere in the laboratory.  It sounded like an argument.  Yes, there was some sort of disagreement.  Aubrieta made an impatient snuffling sound and winged away in a blur.  I figured the situation was safe in the Purple Fairy’s capable hands — or should I say wings?  Paws?  Whatever, I had no doubt that the one-eyed, erstwhile dragon could use that pointy horn to good effect.

I could hear the raised voice of Cornelis Drebbel, though I couldn’t make out his words.  I stood, placing my finger in the diary to hold my place.  I knew I’d best go see what the trouble might be before things got out of hand.  Then I heard Absinthe shriek an irritated noise.

As I walked quickly down the hallway I tried to determine where the commotion had come from.  Beyond the long workroom, the laboratory was a warren of hallways and alcoves.  I hesitated when I came to an intersection of corridors.

Jamie Murray as Felicity

Jamie Murray as Felicity

A teeth jarring screech of unused metal was followed by a crash.  The noise came from the kitchen.  The shouting was louder, but not coherent until I heard clearly the voice of Cal Hicks.  “Lord of Alchemy!” the amethyst ape cried.  “No!  Please wait!”

I broke into a run.

The “kitchen” of the laboratory was a combination food preparation area, dining room, and relaxation area, with several chaise lounges.  Above the wide open room was a clear crystal dome which let in the sunlight.  The dome was divided into sections, much like one would cut an orange.  The sections were held in place by brass strips.

Earlier, after a meal, I had stretched out on a chaise and gazed up at the pastel clouds drifting in the sky beyond the dome.  It was tranquil.  However, the sounds coming from the kitchen were anything but calming.

When I reached the kitchen I found Copper and Aubrieta perched on an open wooden packing crate.  Another metallic screech caused me to look upward.  The sections of the crystal dome slowly spread, opening to the sky.  It was a fanciful idea, but it made me imagine a clear flower bud with petals opening to the sun.

Directly beneath the dome I saw Cornelis and Absinthe.  They argued.  Cal Hicks stood between the two, urging them to be reasonable.  I got the feeling that the tableau might go on for a while.  There was nothing I could do to improve the situation, and no need for me to be agitated.  I leaned against the crate and turned to Copper who dangled her feet from the top of the wooden box.

Copper

Copper

“What was inside?” I asked her as I stuck my head into the empty container.

“That top thing Cornelis has.  I think Absinthe wants to play with it,” Copper said knowingly.  “Cornelis is too big for it.  He really ought to give it to Absinthe.”

Aubrieta snorted in a derisive tone and shook her purple head.  She didn’t seem to think Absinthe should have anything to do with it either.  I noticed the purple feather boa had returned to full size and was draped across Copper’s shoulders.  The little fairy must have wanted the boa so she could give it to the girl.  I was fascinated by the way both of the fae took to Copper.

“What top thing?” I wondered aloud and stretched in attempt to see around Cornelis and Cal Hicks.

The ape and the alchemist finally moved and I saw a working model of Leonardo da Vinci’s aerial screw.  It stood about waist high.  The “threads” of the screw were made of linen, and it rotated slowly.

“It’s only a model,” Cornelis told Absinthe.  “I need firsthand experience of it before we make a full-sized machine,” he said as the Green Fairy snorted and chirped.

Abruptly, Cornelis snapped his fingers.  A yellowish green glow surrounded the aerial screw and it gently rose from the floor.  With a last whine of metal, the dome finished opening.  The aerial screw continued to rise.  The alchemist schooled his face to a bland expression and he looked from Cal to Absinthe as the rotating machine rose above their heads.

“If the tiny fae thinks the device is unsafe,” Cal Hicks began, apparently understanding the sounds Absinthe made — was I the only one who didn’t understand fairy-speak?  “Don’t you think it would be wise to listen?  It needn’t be a long delay,” the ape offered in a reasonable tone.

With a mischievous glint in his eyes, Corenlis grinned.  He leaped up and grabbed onto the bottom of the aerial screw.  A green glow surrounded the contraption and the alchemist.  The device quickly moved up into the opening of the crystal dome.  Absinthe gave an angry scream.  He fluttered up to Cornelis and pointed his bantam backside at the alchemist’s face in a very threatening posture.  A poot of super-concentrated absinthe vapors would surely cause Cornelis to fall, and he was many feet above the floor.

“Well, climb on, old boy!” Cornelis told the Green Fairy.  “There’s room for one more,” Cornelis invited as he dangled high in the air.Green fairy skunk

However, Absinthe flew in circles around the aerial screw.  The Green Fairy jerked his head around, as if he heard something.  He screamed again and pointed.  The sound came again, loud enough for me to hear.  The linen “threads” of the screw ripped loudly.  The aerial screw lurched.  Cornelis struggled to keep his grip as the machine darted wildly.

***

Now what has Cornelis Drebbel gotten himself into?  Be at the train station next week to catch the steam locomotive to the Victorian Era.

Since one of the three blogs I used as this episode’s three things is a chef’s blog, I’m taking the recipe from it.  How could I resist this beautiful lavender colored cake to go with the amethyst world?  Thank you Suzanne, for letting me use one of your recipes.  Suzanne is a marvelously talented chef.  So be sure to take a look at her blog.

Recipe:  White Cake With Whipped Cream Icing and Blackberry Lemon Cream Filling

Suzanne lavender cake

Recipe and photo credit: Suzanne Debrango at “A Pug in the Kitchen”

http://apuginthekitchen.com/2012/03/28/white-cake-with-whipped-cream-icing-and-blackberry-lemon-curd-filling/

 

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 8

Do you want some cheese to go with that whine, Teagan?

Whine expertIf you saw yesterday’s post, you know I have even more stress than usual right now.  So thanks for letting me vent.  Usually I have to be in a really “good place” or I can’t write.  The spontaneous nature of the serials help with that, though I’m not sure why or how.  Even so, yesterday… I didn’t think I could even write a serial episode this weekend.

But I kept thinking about how long the amazing Elini has been waiting to see the episode for her “things”… and I did manage to write a short episode.  Elini is a Elinifascinating person and chef.  I relate to how she describes her life as a journey.  I hope you’ll take a look at her blog and get to know her – as well as Elini’s Empanadas.  She’s pretty amazing!  So be sure to read to the end of this episode where you’ll find a link to one of her recipes.  Then devour some more of her scrumptious posts.

By the way — we’re running low on things to keep this train running.  Everyone is welcome to send three random things, including food-related things.  Just leave your “things (ingredients)” in a comment.

Now, let’s get this steam locomotive rolling, even if the journey is brief today.  All aboard!

From before…

The woman thought one of the voices she heard back at the Hixon estate could have belonged to Sheriff Alvin Bullard.  Thanks to the magically juiced road locomotive, Copper, the alchemist, and the woman in trousers outdistanced the three presumably hostile groups that pursued them.  However, when the speeding engine took a turn too fast, the woman and the skull of the alchemist ended up in the frigid waters of the river.  The resultant head colds for those two temporarily stalled their adventure.  Not to mention the strange things that happened when the alchemist sneezed.

8.  Short Ribs, Eggplant, Red Pepper

Frog Handkerchief Soap adCornelis Drebble rolled his watery eyes up toward the frog that sat atop his head.  “Huh.  Huh—” Cornelis began and quickly put his finger under his nose in attempt to forestall yet another sneeze.  The frog wisely jumped down from his head.

“For pity’s sake!  There’s no telling what will rain down on us if you sneeze again!” I said, though I knew the alchemist couldn’t help himself.

Ah-choo!” was the answer to my plea.

Another wet splat soon came.  What smelled like a very savory reddish brown sauce splashed onto the legs of my trousers.  I drew back, annoyed.  I finally had been able to put on clean dry clothes, and they’d already been stained.  Cornelis bent down with a curious expression on his face.  Copper left off playing with the frogs to see what new wonder was produced by the sneeze of the alchemist.

He picked up the sauce covered thing that made the wet splat.  I asked what it was as I tried to clean the warm goo from my pant legs.

“It appears to be the short ribs of a swine,” he said as he pulled the meat into two pieces and licked the sauce from one.  “Umm.  Tasty,” he commented. Victorian girl making face

I made a disgusted face.  “Since that is the product of your sneeze, isn’t it rather like the equivalent of eating your own buggers?” I asked; just to see how he would react.

Copper burst out in a gale of laughter.  Cornelis looked at me.  One side of his mouth turned down in an expression of contempt.  Cornelis raised an eyebrow and cast his eyes downward at the ribs.  Then he shot a glare at me and took a big bite of the meat, licking his fingers for good measure.

Then the second wave came.  Short ribs fell all around us.  They landed on my shoulder and in my hair.  They pelted the alchemist, who suddenly had sauce smeared across his nose.  Even Copper wasn’t spared — nor were the frogs.  Riotous ribbits ensued as the amphibians leapt for cover from the rain of ribs.

After calm returned, Cornelis and I discussed the three groups who converged on the Hixon estate.  We both agreed that their only logical purpose would have been to abduct Copper.  I supposed that was good at least in as far as it should mean her father was still alive.  Of course that was no guarantee, as Cornelis quickly pointed out.  Fortunately the girl had gone back to playing with the frogs and didn’t hear that comment.

Suddenly I beheld the strangest sight, and mind you, I have seen some very bizarre things since the alchemist came into my life.  Hundreds of frogs made a procession toward the huge wrent in the building’s wall.  Several hopped huddled together as they balanced an eggplant on their backs and heads.

Copper

Copper

Copper skipped along beside the strange spectacle.  I told her not to go outside.  She stopped and nodded regretfully as the frogs carried their eggplant away.  I asked Cornelis what that could possibly be about.

“One sneeze doesn’t always produce a singular effect.  The eggplant could have come from the same accident of alchemy that created the frogs,” he said.

The Dutchman shrugged it off.  Even so, something nagged at me.

The frogs continued to stream out of the building.  I followed in the opposite direction, tracing the line of amphibians to their source.  Cornelis followed my lead.  Ever curious, Copper came along too.  With a ribbit, a last frog hopped out of a crate.  The large wooden box was almost intact.  Only one corner of it was broken.

I started to try and pry the crate further open to get a better look.  Then, eyes bulging, Cornelis tapped his finger on the label he’d found on the container.

It was marked κόκκινο πιπέρι, and I thought the address was Macedonia, but I wasn’t sure.  “What’s wrong?  I don’t recognize the language,” I said.

Cornelis shook his head and pursed his lips.  “Your education was sorely lacking,” he complained.

“It was not,” I countered.vintage red pepper

“This, κόκκινο πιπέρι or kókkino pipéri if you will, is Greek,” he informed me.  “It means red pepper.  So show a bit of mercy and do not open that crate.  I don’t think I can bear another sneeze!”

“Then move away,” I told him with a motion of my arm.  “I have a hunch.”

I had removed the priceless Leonardo da Vinci papers from the owl-shaped lamp.  It was best that I carried them in the thin leather script that was tucked into my long coat.

“Copper, did there happen to be a magnifying glass among that carpet bag full of things you packed?” I asked the girl.

Apparently there had been.  Copper hurried away to the place where our things lay.  She was back in a moment with a lovely ornate magnifying glass.  I imagined it was another of the treasures her father had brought her from his travels.  Although perhaps it was not of the magical variety, as was the “bell” carved with the three wise monkeys which was in fact a harmonic tuner.

I opened the leather script and took out the embossed letter.  Moving this way and that, I tried to get into the best light.  As I held the magnifying glass to the faded seal embossed onto the letter I found the word Macedonia.

Was there finally a clue to the mysterious goings on?  It didn’t feel like a coincidence to me.

The Flying Scotsman

The Flying Scotsman

***

 Where will our trio go from here?  Jump on-board next time when the “things” are from the incredibly creative Suzanne Debrango at “A Pug in the Kitchen

 Now for our recipe!  In addition to things/ingredients, lovely Elini was kind enough to also provide a truly creative recipe to go with this episode.  Bon appétit!

Recipe:  Chocolate Chili Pulled Pork Sandwiches

Chocolate Chili Pulled Pork Sandwiches

Photo and recipe credit:  Eleni Herrera

http://elenisculinaryjourney.com/2014/04/16/chocolate-chili-pulled-pork-sandwiches/

 

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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