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.
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 2
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 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 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 Trilogy, by 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.
“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.
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 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 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 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
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