#Bookreview – The Three Things Serial Story: A little 1920’s story

Applesauce! Look — my first story about Pip and her friends has a pos-i-lutely wonderful review from the inspirational and creative Robbie Cheadle! I thought I would add it to Jazz Age Wednesdays, but I couldn’t wait.

Young Lucy pensive

Young Lucille Ball

Robbie’s remark that Pip is “a suitable role model or female readers in our modern world of obsessions with food and extreme thinness.” Means a lot to me.  Be sure to click over to Robbie’s Inspiration and check out her wonderful blog.

You’re the bee’s knees!

Robbie's inspiration

The Three Things Serial Story: A Little 1920s Story

What Amazon says

The Three Things Serial Story: A little 1920’s story is a spontaneously written (“pantser”) story. Everything in it — characters, setting, plot, was driven by “things” left by readers of the blog Teagan’s Books, episode by episode. Each week readers left three more things. The story evolved according to what those random things inspired. The serial began with oscillating fan, which brought me the vision of the 1920s setting. The era and narrator continued in two more serials that followed. While it was not great literature, it sure was a fun ride! Many readers asked me to provide the serial as a book, and that’s what I’ve done with this novella. So sit back and enjoy the Three Things Serial.

My review

Teagan Geneviene is an amazing writer and has an incredible blog where she shares highly entertaining episodes of her latest “pantser” story. Here is a…

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Copper, the Alchemist, & the Woman in Trousers: Conclusion

99 Things

A few days ago I posted a heads-up that Copper, the Alchemist, & the Woman in Trousers would have its concluding episode today. Then I had the “brilliant idea” to use a poll, asking you to vote on which of certain features you’d like to see on the posts I’ll be doing while I work on book-2 of the Atonement series.  Well… as I told KR Big Fish, I seem to have a bad case of “foot in mouth disease,” because now I can see huge problems, like spoilers, with most of the feature ideas I suggested.

What kind of feature will it be?  Drumroll please

Annie's Antiques

Annie’s Antiques & Consignment Shop

I will rotate between (or possibly do both)…

Recipes from Bethany’s Kitchen

and

Annie’s Inventory Notes

More about these features when the time comes.  Once Atonement in Bloom is finished, I’ll do another “three things” serial, with your things driving the “pantser” plot.

Now back to our serial story.  As you know, all four of the serials I’ve so far published on this blog are pantser stories. They are completely unplanned. I let the “three things” readers send drive the plot of each episode.  This conclusion is the exception. It was not driven by three things — rather it was formed by the 3 things from the 33 previous episodes — so that’s 99 Things!

 

girl-waiting-for-train-freeYou can see how that might make for a longer than usual episode. Some of you will be pleased.  For those who don’t like longer posts, be ready to mark your place, maybe by remembering the closest picture. I hope you’ll be interested enough to finish this final episode. This conclusion is about twice as long as most of the other chapters in this serial; so not really all that long.

The steam locomotive to the Victorian Era has reached the platform one more time.  I’m happier than you can know that you’ve been on the train with me, and that you are here for the finale today.  Are you ready?

All aboard!

34.  Conclusion of Copper, the Alchemist & the Woman in Trousers

The alchemically enhanced, large version of Leonardo da Vinci’s aerial screw powered-on, and with a screech the threads began to turn.

Reading Ape purple“I’m sorry my friend, there’s no time for proper goodbyes!” Corenlis Drebbel called to Cal Hicks, the amethyst ape.  “It will save an enormous amount of energy if we take the aerial screw through the opening the villains created.”

“I understand, Lord of Alchemy,” Hicks told him.

Just then Itsy ran back into view.  The chimpanzee rushed straight for Cal Hicks and I thought she meant him harm.  I yelled for Cornelis to do something, but he only gave me that pucker-faced contemplative look of his.  Itsy slipped as she ran at Hicks.  She slid to a stop, sobbing at his feet.

To my astonishment she turned her tear-streaked face up to Hicks and handed him the mystic people harmonic tuner.  Itsy seemed to be apologizing, but it was difficult to distinguish her words with all the weeping and wailing.

“What the devil?” I began.

Terrence Mann as Cornelis

Terrence Mann as Cornelis

Cornelis cast an impatient gaze on me and I didn’t finish my sentence.  “You really mean to tell me that you didn’t know?” he asked with a sardonic twist of his mouth.

“Know what?” I sputtered.

The alchemist gave a negligent waive of his hand at the contrivance above our heads.  The threads of the device glowed yellow-green and the noise was magically silenced.  I could hear Itsy clearly as she spoke to Cal Hicks, repeating her remorse.

“They said they’d kill you!” she cried.  “Ced told me so.  Those people are the ones who enslaved Ced.  Thinking he was only a stupid animal, the fiends discussed it in front of him.  They plan to kill your doppelgänger, once they get what they want.  And we think you will die when your double is killed!” Itsy bawled.  “I couldn’t bear it if anything happened to you Cal— I mean Mr. Hicks.”

“No, no dear child,” Hicks told Itsy as he patted her hand.  “It doesn’t work like that with the doppelgängers.  If they wanted to kill me, then they’d have to kill me.”

1900 Maid with tray

Bitsy as we “thought” she was

The villains, including Bitsy the erstwhile maid at the Belle Inn moved closer.  Abruptly Itsy gave a horrified look at Cal Hicks, and put both hands to her mouth, desperately trying to avoid sicking-up.  Still halfway across the burned out yard, I saw Bitsy being less successful at controlling her reaction to the nearness of her double.

“Do you mean to tell me Itsy was in love with Cal Hicks and you deduced it that quickly?” I demanded crossly of Cornelis Drebbel.

The Dutchman of course, only gave a self-satisfied smirk.  “I know what they were after too,” he added with a wriggle of his bushy blonde eyebrows at the foes who chased us all the way into the amethyst world.

I tapped my foot, silently waiting for him to answer.  I wouldn’t give the man the satisfaction of asking.

“What did they want?” Copper asked, spoiling the point I was trying to get across.

“Why you are standing in it, Copper!” Cornelis said and tousled her new penny colored curls.  “We all knew it was a potential, we just didn’t really think they knew about the drawings of Leonardo da Vinci.”Aerial Screw drawing

“So they wanted to make one of these things?  Will it really fly enough to carry us?” Copper asked.

“Oh yes, Copper.  This one will fly and carry us wherever we want to go,” Cornelis Drebbel told the girl and grinned before turning to me.

Copper looked preoccupied with her surroundings.  The alchemist moved closer to me and spoke in a faint whisper.  “They knew about the valuable drawings all along,” he told me.  “But they needed a talented inventor if they were to have any hope of making it work.  Calvin Hixon slipped through their fingers.  So they set out to kidnap his daughter, planning to use Copper to force her father to do their bidding,” Cornelis finished.

Basil Gill (1877-1955) as Ignatius Belle

Basil Gill (1877-1955) as Ignatius Belle

“Ignatius,” I hissed accusingly.  “Bitsy got the information from him, one way or another, didn’t she,” I said and Cornelis nodded.  “Hixon surely told him about the drawings when he tried to bring Ignatius into the family fold, if he in fact didn’t tell him before.”

“Wave goodbye, Copper.  We must hurry and be off,” Cornelis told her and she waved and blew kisses to Cal Hicks, who looked very sad to see us leave.

A horrified expression came to Copper’s blue eyes.  “Absinthe hurry — come here!  Aubrieta!” Copper yelled to the little fairies.

The last time I noticed the Green Fairy and his mate the two skunk-looking fae fluttered around the upper parts of the aerial screw, making adjustments.  However, I followed Copper’s gaze and saw them through the tall window of the laboratory.  They were inside the building and investigated the array of gadgets on the long worktable.

Aubrieta, the Purple Fairy who had been trapped in a transformation as the one-eyed-one-horned-flying-purple-people-eater when she first came to this realm, chirped as she darted from one instrument to another.  Absinthe, the Green Fairy behaved similarly.  The two moved a few strange looking implements aside for reasons only they knew.

Absinthe, the Green Fairy

Absinthe, the Green Fairy

The acute hearing of the fae caused them to stop what they were doing and turn toward Copper’s voice.  The fairies dotted on the girl.  A purple and green aura surrounded the small collection of implements.  Absinthe shook his fluffy striped tail at the aura and it disappeared — along with all the devices it covered.  Aubrieta nodded to her mate in a satisfied seeming way and the two fairies popped out of sight.

An instant later Absinthe appeared on Copper’s shoulder.  Aubrieta fluttered in the air beside her, delicately playing with a strand of her coppery hair.  The display was charmingly affectionate, but it seemed sad to me.

A tear rolled down each of Copper’s cheeks.  Absinthe kissed one and Aubrieta kissed the other.  Without realizing I spoke aloud, I had murmured the word no.  Absinthe flew to me and playfully pulled the bright purple streak in my hair.  I knew the metering device would turn completely purple if we stayed too long in the amethyst world.  But the alchemist never warned me that my hair might begin to turn ultra-violet!

Absinthe turned his bantam backside toward me and fluffed out his tail, pretending he was about to spray his potent potable of super-powered absinthe poot.  Aubrieta chirped a warning at him, but both still seemed playful to me.green skunk palm

“They’re not coming with us?” I asked Cornelis, but I already knew the answer.

“Felicity, I do believe you’ve become attached to our farting fae,” Cornelis said.  “No they aren’t coming,” he continued.  “Well, not right away.  They’re far too fond of Copper to stay away.  No, they’ll make sure the portal closes properly behind us.  We don’t want all manner of riffraff from our world coming into this idyllic purple place.”

“So they’ll join us again in moments,” I said hopefully.

Copper shook her head sadly, but then brightened.  “They have a surprise for Cornelis,” she confided in an over-loud whisper that immediately got the alchemist’s attention.  “They’re going to stay and fix his submarine.  Then they’ll bring it with them,” she told me as a grinning Cornelis turned his back, pretending he didn’t hear.Drebbel submarine

As the threads of the contraption whirred the gondola lifted up into the air.  Cornelis didn’t take it up very high though.  The portal through which the hydrofoil entered was not far above the ground.  The aerial screw entered the edge of the bright pink aura that outlined the opening to our world.  Copper looked intently all around at the crowd of simians.

“Viola’s not here.  I didn’t get to say goodbye, and I really liked her.  Can’t we go back so I can tell her?  Maybe she’d like to go with us,” Copper pleaded.

“No child,” Cornelis told her looking genuinely regretful as the flying machine began to enter the gateway.  “This portal can only be used once.  If we tried to go back now, we’d be lost between.”

“Between what?” I had to ask.

Jamie Murray as Felicity

Jamie Murray as Felicity

“Between here and there,” Cornelis said and my mouth twisted, because I should have known he’d say something to annoy me.  “I hear it’s not a terribly pleasant place,” he added.

When I looked back toward the laboratory, I saw the lavender sky.  Turning my head the other direction I saw a sky of blue.  I sighed a relieved, happy breath.  Sometimes I wondered if I would ever see that blue sky again.

Just as the gondola finished traversing the gateway, I looked back and saw the hydrofoil charging toward us.

“Oh no…” Cornelis muttered.

I could see Bitsy’s angry face.  The men with her held up guns aimed at us, ready to fire the minute they got close enough.

“Cornelis, shouldn’t you put some kind of shield around us.  Those guns fire real bullets, you realize,” I reminded the alchemist.

“He wasn’t oh-no-ing about the guns,” Copper said with a light of comprehension in her blue eyes as she watched the scene in wonder.

The hydrofoil entered the portal and immediately the view was dimmed by a foggy veil.  The craft lurched violently.  Then it rocked as if in slow motion.  The fog became so thick we could no longer see inside the portal.  The fog bulged out from the gateway and then drew back.  I heard the hydrofoil’s engine cough and muffled yelling from the people manning the craft.  After a moment there was silence.Forlanini hydrofoil

Copper, the alchemist, and I stared dumbfounded.  Finally the shrill cry of a hawk broke the silence.  I gave an involuntary shudder, pondering the kind of place that must sit between the two worlds.  I wondered if Bitsy and those men deserved whatever their fate actually was.  However, I reminded myself that they were willing to do harm to Calvin Hixon and to Copper to get what they wanted.  Suddenly the idea of their fate didn’t bother me so much.

When I looked down I expected to see the tops of giant redwood trees, or the beaches of the Pacific coastal area where we were before we accidentally entered the amethyst world.  Yet I didn’t see anything of the kind.

“Cornelis, that doesn’t look like California or Oregon or any part of the Pacific coast,” I pointed down and declared.

English countryside aeiral“No?” he said and nonchalantly looked down from our vantage point, which was much higher after we went through the portal.  “Well, it is not exactly to be expected that the flying machine would return us to the place where we left in the submarine.  That portal was opened haphazardly, without professional design or calculations,” he said, finally looking a little bit concerned.

“Actually there’s no telling where it opened or where we are,” the alchemist said with that sardonic twist that curled his upper lip while his lower lip twisted to the side.

“There’s something down there that looks pretty large,” I commented, trying to see through a feathery white cloud.

Cornelis pulled a lever and twisted a crystal knob and the aerial screw moved gently lower.  I saw a massive complex of stone buildings.

Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle

“Well I’ll be a monkey’s uncle!” Cornelis exclaimed to gales of laughter from Copper.  “It’s Windsor Castle.  We’re in England.  I haven’t been to England in at least a hundred years!  Shall we pay them a visit, Copper?”

“I don’t know Cornelis,” I began.  “That seems like a bad idea.  One doesn’t simply drop in on the Queen.”

Naturally the Dutchman paid no attention whatsoever to my protest.  The aerial screw hovered above a green area within the castle walls.  They seemed to be holding a small faire on the lawn.  I thought it must be to showcase inventions, as several large and unusual things were on display on each side of the lawn.Sm SteamboatI saw a boat dry docked that looked a lot like the paddle steamer that belonged to Ignatius Belle, as well as a dirigible tethered by a rope so that it floated twenty feet above the ground.  There was something made of gleaming metal that I supposed was a steam powered motor car.  Then I saw what I could have sworn was our road locomotive!

Our flying machine slowly drew closer to the ground and I could see the people clearly.  A tallish Asian man stood before an elaborately decorated seating area.  He wore a brocade of a white lion and a very tiny woman stood next to him.  “Alastair!” I cried in astonishment when I recognized Alastair Wong and Victoria.Burrell Road Locomotive

With my shout, everyone on the ground turned to look up at us.  I was even more surprised, if less pleasantly so, to see Sheriff Bullard and Ignatius Belle inspecting the strange looking motor car.

However, it was no surprise when the alchemy went awry and Cornelis began having difficulty controlling the aerial screw.  Our craft loomed dangerously close to a tall model of the Eiffel Tower.  The gondola became ensnared on the tower.

Alastair Wong, nimble as ever, rapidly climbed the scale model of the French wonder.  In a moment he freed the gondola and hopped onboard.  I stared in stunned appreciation of his feat.

Sessu Hayakawa as Alastair Wong

Sessu Hayakawa as Alastair Wong

“I hope you didn’t expect me to climb back down,” Wong commented jokingly.  “It’s only fair that I get to experience this magnificent machine from up here.”

Of course we assailed him with questions about the event below and the people we knew.  We already knew about the money problems of Copper’s father.  Alastair informed us that Calvin Hixon had reached out to nobility all across Europe, looking for a benefactor for his inventions.  He had kept that mostly to himself, in fear of rejection.Copper with Flowers

It turned out that Copper’s father had not abandoned her at all.  Hixon got a response to one of his requests for a sponsor.  He arranged for a woman to take care of his daughter while he, on last minute notice in the form of a royal command, sailed across the Atlantic to meet his new benefactor.

Unfortunately, the woman he hired to take care of his daughter was Bitsy.  The conniving maid had already been at work on Ignatius, having overheard conversations between the two men that revealed Ignatius was Hixon’s illegitimate son.  She also heard them discuss re-creating Leonardo da Vinci’s inventions.  She suspected that Hixon possessed the priceless drawings.

Bitsy intercepted Hixon’s communications so no one knew where he had gone.  She made it look like Copper had been abandoned.  Bitsy went to Ether Farthing of Merciful Haven Orphanage and put a bug in her ear that Copper had been left on her own.  Bitsy had thought that if the orphanage took Copper, the girl would be neatly out of Bitsy’s way.  Then Bitsy could search for the drawings and anything else that might be of use in her scheme.

Ethel FarthingOne thing in Alastair’s narration surprised me. I would have thought the mean spirited people from Merciful Haven were involved in the mess.  However, it seemed that they were simply bad people, and not otherwise involved.

Cornelis regained control of the aerial screw and the threads twisted smoothly again.  We floated slowly closer to the grandstand where Alastair and tiny Victoria were standing when we arrived.

I gasped.  “Oh! That’s the Queen isn’t it?  Queen Victoria?” I said excitedly and Alastair chuckled and confirmed my brilliant bit of deduction.

Cornelis really didn’t need to snigger at me the way he did.  Looking down I saw an elegant man of middle years.  He bowed down on one knee before the Queen of England.  He seem completely focused on the monarch, hardly even noticing our flying machine.

Copper

Copper

Abruptly Copper gave a shrill cry, “Daddy!”

Calvin Hixon looked upward toward his child’s cry and a broad smile split his face.  Finally he noticed the aerial screw and wonder lit his eyes.  The Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and Empress of India was utterly forgotten the moment Calvin Hixon saw his daughter.

It wouldn’t have been Cornelis Drebbel if we had landed smoothly.  The contrivance that carried us gave a loud screech.  The Dutchman said he’d have it fixed in a jiffy.

“Cornelis, no!  Please, let’s just land as best we can.  We’re not that far above the ground,” I pleaded.

“Actually Felicity, we’re at enough of a height to risk serious injury,” Alastair said in a reasonable voice.  “I know you wouldn’t put Copper at risk,” he added and I slumped in resignation.

A yellowish green aura surrounded the alchemist.  Cornelis climbed to balance on the edge of the gondola.  He was doing something to the threads of the screw, but I couldn’t see what he did.  The machine stopped making that shrill sound and it appeared to run smoothly.

“See!” Cornelis exclaimed proudly, still balanced on the rim of the gondola.  “Simple as that,” he said with a satisfied nod.

Jamie Murray as Felicity

Jamie Murray as Felicity

The threads of the screw began to rotate rapidly.  “Alastair! The brass lever behind you,” Cornelis cried.

Alastair Wong whirled to move the lever.  When he touched it the aerial screw lurched violently, but immediately slowed to normal and continued to descend.

However, Cornelis Drebble fell from the gondola when the craft lurched.  I saw his body falling rapidly toward the ground.  At the last instant he popped out of sight.  Sometimes when he popped away like that it was a while before the alchemist could return.  I never understood how the pop works.

Alastair Wong, ever a gentleman helped me alight from the gondola — not that I needed assistance thank you.  I was just being polite.  I was not conforming to the constraints of society.

Anna May Wong

Anna May Wong

The diminutive Victoria Wong rushed to join us, delighted to see Copper again.  Not to mention the fact that she was quietly pleased with Alastair’s theatrical rescue of the air machine from being snared on the tower.

Copper and her father had a joyous reunion.  Hixon had sent an excited telegram to Ignatius Belle when Queen Victoria asked him to take part in the faire that was in progress.  Ignatius hurried to join him and let him know the fullness of what was happening at home.  However, none of them knew about the amethyst world.

“So where is this amazing alchemist?” Calvin Hixon wanted to know.

I looked around, beginning to feel worried that Cornelis hadn’t yet reappeared.  Then I heard a sharp pop.  A woman screamed and Palace Guards hurried to her side.  When I got a look between the broad shoulders of the guards, I cringed and shook my head.

Cornelis Drebbel had rematerialized.  The Dutchman sat in the lap of Queen Victoria.

Queen Victoria olderThe Queen’s eyes narrowed as she looked at the strange man who appeared out of nowhere and landed in her royal lap.  I feared she’d demand his head right then and there.  Then I remembered his skull was safely in my hatbox.  He wasn’t exactly alive, so he couldn’t precisely be killed.

I was absolutely aghast when Cornelis Drebbel wriggled his bushy blonde eyebrows at Queen Victoria.

Her eyes widened as she looked at the alchemist.  “We are not amused,” she said evenly.

It was even more surprising when a wicked glint came to her eyes and abruptly the Queen pinched his bottom and Cornelis shot up from her lap.  For the very first time, I saw shock paint the face of Cornelis Drebbel.

The end

***

copper-cover-3-25-2015

***

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

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

New Interactive Serial – Episode-1

Three Things: A culinary mystery with “things and ingredients” sent from readers everywhere.

Welcome one and all!
It is my pleasure to tell you that we have a first-time contributor of ingredients/things to begin this “interactive” serial.  John W. Howell did me the honor of sending things for the kickoff of the new story.  I hope you’ll visit his wonderful blog and take a look at his book too.  You’re sure to enjoy your stay there.My GRL cover

Last weekend I did a poll, asking everyone to vote, choosing from several options for the next serial.  (And I was downright pleased with myself for getting the handy-dandy poll thingamajig to work too!)  Quite a few of you were kind enough to click on your preferred option.  So now I will announce the results.  Drumroll

A solid 44% of you voted to …

Begin an all new serial from scratch, with an all new setting and characters!

You were ready to get behind the wheel! I was happy to get three sets of “things” right away for the kickoff of the new interactive serial. So let me show you how my mind works.

Copper

Copper

Since I couldn’t avoid looking at all three sets of three, the whole shebang influenced the setting and characters. I’ve already admitted to being a research geek — Stilton cheese, through a twist of fate gave us a character’s name and personality. How?  A sort of happy accident — when I saw the name of the first Englishman to market Blue Stilton cheese was Cooper Thornhill, for a moment I thought I’d read — Copper.  I liked the name too much to let it go.

I also had to know when Wurlitzer organs (that will be in Episode-3) were first made — and suddenly I knew that era had to be the general time-frame for the story.  I opted for the late 1800’s, near the end of the Victorian era.

Many of you particularly liked Maestro Martino, the ghost chef from Three Ingredients, Cookbook 2, so I wanted to add a mystical magical element to the new serial. Don’t ask me to explain my twisting thought process but…

Cornelis Drebbel

Cornelis Drebbel

I had a vague idea about a skull, and somehow that made me research alchemists… and that gave us the supernatural character for this serial, Cornelis Drebbel. I borrowed him from history.

As for the mysterious woman who wears trousers — you’re about to meet her, but I have no idea from where she came other than it was inspired by the late 19th century setting.  She was just there.

Be kind and remember that this story is propelled by the things or ingredients that you send. So it might take a few episodes for it to really begin to flow.

Enough of my stalling. I present to you, our all new interactive serial —
Three Things: Copper, the Alchemist, and the Woman in Trousers

1.  Stilton Cheese, Mare’s Milk, Calamari

I was having second thoughts.  The fishing town was too small for my unconventional presence to go unremarked, plain and simple.  That was apparent as I watched a single carriage pass by on the dirt road and the driver turned to stare.  It was downright obvious from the shopkeeper’s scandalized expression when I stepped inside Best’s General Store.

Yes, I knew I should limit my wanderings to large cities.  However, I was weary of the crowds and odors.  And the noise!  I was desperately tired of the clamor and clang of cities.

Jaime Murray as the woman who wears trousers

Jaime Murray as the woman in trousers

It was a pleasing little town with a salt tang in the breeze and cozy houses.  I liked it the moment I set foot there.  I took a tidy suite in the Belle Inn. 

There was even a store where I unexpectedly found the most marvelous Stilton cheese.  Cornelis would be delighted with that find.  For once, he might not be so grumpy when I wake him, I thought.

However, as I stood in the general store and watched Mrs. Billie Best and her customer from the corner of my eye, I foresaw that my stay in the charming township would be brief.  I blocked any distractions from my mind so I could hear their conversation.  I already knew they were talking about me.  How could they fail to comment on my mannish waistcoat and trousers?

It always raised eyebrows when I dressed that way, but I wanted freedom of movement that I’d never have whilst restricted by the yards and yards of fabric that made a proper skirt and bustle.  Besides, my first thought that morning was “I’ll be damned if I’m going to squeeze myself into a corset today.”

I pushed back my top hat, pretending to read a label while I listened to the two women speculate about me and my strange apparel.  They had the most outlandish conjectures about my foreign accent and from whence I’d come.  A smile quirked my lips and I tried not to laugh out loud.

The proprietor of the Belle Inn stood across the room shaking his head at the foolish conversation.  Ignatius Belle made a good first impression when I checked in at his inn.  He stepped over to me.  I hoped his housekeeping staff had as much respect for guest privacy as he seemed to have.  I’d hate for a curious maid to wake Cronelis.  That would be most unfortunate.  Actually it could get quite ugly.Victorian men hats

“Ma’am, you were right about the mare’s milk,” he said loud enough for the women to hear.  “Doc said there was a fungus in the grass she was eating before she foaled,” the innkeeper said in a respectful voice.  “He said that’s likely what caused the problem.  The Johnsons have a pregnant mare, and they’re going to foster the foal.”

My relief that the little horse would be well was genuine.  I was glad my off-handed comment had been helpful.  Cornelis always complained that I spoke before I thought, and that I drew unnecessary attention to myself.  Yet it ended well that time, and there was the added benefit that now at least the innkeeper accepted me.  Although I still doubted I would remain there for long.

“Your dinner is on the house tonight.  Whatever you want, and as much of it as you care to eat.  Your comment likely saved the foal’s life,” he said then looked suddenly shy.  “Just a humble way of saying thank you.”

The burst of bashfulness was rather endearing on a man of his stature.  Ignatius Belle did not fit my image of a proper innkeeper.  They should be rotund, pink-cheeked men with aprons.  My host however, was tall and well-made and he wore a suit and a Bowler hat.  He barely gave my trousers a glance.  Interesting.Victorian child cape

The bell affixed to the shop door chimed and a wide eyed moppet came cautiously inside.  She might have been seven years old or she may have been nine.  Disgraceful as it may sound, I knew nothing about children.

An unfortunately familiar odor reached my noise when she walked past me.  The bouquet was dreadful, but it gave the girl my full attention.  She hesitated in her walk, just one step, and then she moved toward the counter.  The shopkeeper frowned and her patron became even more disdainful — if that was possible.  However, their scorn was not due to the odor I detected.  They hadn’t noticed it, but I was sensitive to such things.

She had hair the color of a new penny.  There was a smudge of dirt on her little nose.  Her stylish cape was made of peacock blue wool, embroidered in cream silk thread, with a cream colored tassel on the hood.  Her eyes twinkled with intelligence.

And she reeked of death.

I smiled.

At that very moment I knew that little russet haired child was the reason why I’d come to the out of the way little town.  I didn’t know how it would come about, but I was certain — she would be the heart and soul of the next adventure!

What would Cornelis make of the girl?  He despised anyone who was weak, and children by definition were weak.  So the Dutchman detested children.

I smiled again — broadly.

“Your daddy spoils you too much Copper Hixon, letting you wear your Sunday best when you go out to play,” said the storekeeper from behind her counter.  “Flaunting his wealth on clothes for a child, when there’s others as have to put their noses to the grindstone to get along.”

A barely audible remark came from her customer.  “Spare the rod and spoil the child,” the other woman mumbled.  “She’d best be glad her pa recovered from that influenza last spring, else she’d be in the orphanage, and no fine clothes there,” the customer added in a resentful whine.

child labor“Old Hixon should’ve taken another wife,” Billie Best declared.  “There are plenty of women here abouts who’d make him a good wife,” Billie Best replied with a mystified shake of her head.  “But he’d have none of them after that dance hall floozy died birthing this one,” the storekeeper said with an unconcerned wave toward Copper.

“I’d not have that evil child in my house,” said the other woman.  “Any child that kills the mother birthing it is the devil’s own, you mark my words.”

The girl’s eyes widened at the mention of the orphanage and she was clearly afraid.  Copper swallowed hard.  “I need… I mean Daddy sent me to buy food to make dinner,” she stammered.

I noticed that she didn’t specify what food nor did she have a shopping list.  But why would she?  The odor that clung to her was faint.  However, I had no doubt about its origin.  No one told the child what to buy for dinner, but she was hungry enough to think of shopping for it.

The woman behind the counter looked at the girl and her mouth turned down in contempt.  “Did your daddy send you with money to pay his bill?” Mrs. Best asked, emphasizing the payment.  “He’s months behind.  No?” she said when Copper shook her head and looked confused.  “Well, you go back and tell him that hard working folk have to be paid.  Not everybody was born with a silver spoon in their mouth.  He’ll have to pay off the bill he’s run up before he gets another crumb from Best’s General Store!”

“Now was there really any need to speak so harshly to the child?” the innkeeper asked.

The child turned and fled the store.  The tassel on her cape caught on the door and was left behind as she ran.  I excused myself to my new landlord.  Quickly picking up the cream colored tassel, I followed to see which direction little Copper went.  Then I turned and ran back to the Belle Inn.Belle Inn

When I opened the inn’s door, the aroma of fried calamari slowed my stride.  It wafted to me from the kitchen.  It made my mouth water.  I reigned in my haste.  There was no need to run.  The child wasn’t going anywhere.  Not yet.

I popped into the kitchen, profusely complimented the cook, and asked if dinner could be sent up to my room.  Cornelis hated it when I ate in my room, but he didn’t have much choice in the matter.  I couldn’t resist the calamari!

My hatbox was on a high shelf.  I carefully took it down and opened it.  An object that appeared to be a ball covered by a satin scarf was inside.  My top hat would fit around it, as a form to keep the hat’s shape.  But in truth it was no such thing.  I removed the scarf and held up a human skull.

“Cornelis,” I exclaimed.  “Adventure is afoot!  This is no time to be lazy, Cornelis Drebble.  Wake up!” I said and placed the skull back in the hatbox.

My eyes closed against the bitter chill that blew through the room.  A moment later I looked into the eyes of the Dutchman.  Though he stood no taller than me, his presence was forceful.  He was a handsome man.  He had light hair with a mustache and pointed beard, much like a Musketeer.  However, the disgruntled expression on his face belied his gentle manners.  He gave a polite bow, yet managed to make the movement seem sarcastic.

“Why such haste?” he asked drolly, and smoothed back hair that perpetually looked mussed from a nap.

“Don’t be such a grump,” I said, and holding up the parcel of Stilton cheese I watched his nose twitch in anticipation.

To the Dutchman’s consternation, I held back the cheese.  I wouldn’t share that until I got what I wanted.  When I handed him the cream colored tassel from the girl’s cape he was hardly mollified.

“This bauble does not seem so portentous,” he complained.

As one eyebrow climbed toward his hairline, I knew he’d been won over, despite his sullen look and tone.

“Stop sulking and tell me about the girl,” I said, trying to be firm.  One had to be firm with Cornelis. If he saw the slightest weakness…

“Ah, so that’s it is it?  You think it’s her?  Bringing on a child would complicate things enormously,” he asked, finally showing interest.  “It seems awfully — how to describe it?  So unassuming,” he said with a little twist to one side of his mouth as he looked at the tassel.  “Do you really think she is the one?” he asked, his tone softening.

“You tell me,” I prodded.

Cornelis shimmered and blurred before my eyes, as his mind traveled.  Then with a sharp pop he disappeared.

 ***

To be continued…

Most of you voted for a completely new serial, so there you have the beginning.  See you next weekend for Episode-2 where we’ll have things / ingredients from Kathryn, aka KR Big Fish at https://anotherfoodieblogger.wordpress.com/

Wait — don’t leave yet. Each episode of this culinary mystery will feature a recipe.

I scoured the WordPress virtual countryside for recipes.  That led me to One Happy Table, Vegan Food for the Whole Family, and I chose the following recipe to round out Episode-1.  Click the link for this beautifully photographed step by step recipe.  Bon appétit!

Recipe:  Baked Oyster Mushroom Calamari

oyster-mushroom-calamari

 Photo and recipe credit: One Happy Table

Copyright © 2015 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene

All rights reserved.

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What’s Next? New “Interactive” Serial

Cooking kittyThree Ingredients Serial

What’s next?  Thanks to everyone who sent “votes” on what you wanted to do next – now that we reached a conclusion in the Three Things Serial storyline.  It was a three-way tie, appropriately enough!  So I’m going with the one that is the biggest challenge for me.  (Yes, I’m just twisted that way.)  Also I think I chose the tie-breaker that will give you, the reader more creative ways to send “things.”

To break the tie, I chose to do a culinary mystery.  This subgenre was new to me.  If you’re not familiar with it, here is a goodreads link to several such novels.

Our next reader-participation-driven story will be The Three Ingredients Serial.  I’m putting you back in the driver’s seat.  The “things” will become ingredients.  This time I’m asking you to send three ingredients, which is not too different from sending three things.  Now, those ingredients can be all sorts of food related things – not just recipe ingredients.  Or if you’d rather — you are welcome to send a recipe that I would feature at the end of the post.

So please leave comments, telling me your Three Ingredients!  I’m excited to see where they take me.

Can’t wait to hear from you,

teagan

PS:  The illustrious Alexandra of The Scholarly Skater has just nominated me for two awards. The “Internet hugs” abound, and I’m delighted to participate.  So please take a look at her very interesting blog.  Thank you Alexandra — mega-hugs to you.

Three Things Conclusion: Part 3

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

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

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

Now hang on to your hats because here we go!

Three Concluding Things Episode 30, Part 3

Clasped Hands, Harpsichord, Pyx

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The pyx,” I said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I held out the solid gold pyx.

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

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

Young Lucille Ball

Young Lucille Ball

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

***

Conclusion of Three Things Serial Headed Your Way

Yes, the conclusion of Three Things Serial is headed your way.  1920s Flapper Driving

I made sure the sets of “three things” readers sent me drove all aspects of this little story.  Everything — the characters, setting, even the plot took shape and turns from the things all of you sent.  Now the storyline is ready to conclude…

This Weekend!

So stay tuned.

Need to catch up with Pip, Mona, Boris and the others? The entire story lives on The Three Things Serial page.

See you this weekend,

teagan