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

On Wings of WhimsyRocking chair

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

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

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

Mary DD Ranch 3 bks

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

From last time:

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

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

6. Soup Bone, Destiny, Ceramic Statue

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

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

The Empress of Little Rock

The Empress of Little Rock

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Daddy…” Copper murmured.

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

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

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

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

“Chimpanzees!” Cornelis corrected me.

Cornelis Drebbel

Cornelis Drebbel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copper

Copper

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lewis Francis Hadley,  the Long-haired Sign Talker

Lewis Francis Hadley,
the Long-haired Sign Talker

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

Washoe and the family teach Loulis to use sign language

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

Recipe: Cannellini Bean, Kale, and Bacon Soup

Cannellini Bean Kale Bacon SoupRecipe and photo credit: Suzanne DeBrango

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

 

Copyright © 2015 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene

All rights reserved.

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: The Midnight Baker

Photo Credit: The Midnight Baker

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

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

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

All aboard!

The Flying Scotsman

The Flying Scotsman

From last time…

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

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

5.  Corset, Irish Soda Bread, Steam Engine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copper

Copper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Empress of Little Rock

The Empress of Little Rock

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Parlor, Empress of Little Rock

Parlor, Empress of Little Rock… Is it haunted?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Drebbel stamp

Cornelis Drebbel Stamp

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Burrell Road Locomotive

Burrell Road Locomotive

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To be continued

***

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

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

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

Recipe:  Slow Cooked Roast Pork

Sallys Roast Pork

Photo and Recipe Credit:  Sally Georgina Cronin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

Copyright © 2015 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene

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

Where Is the Steam Locomotive?

Girl n Cat at Train Station

If you’ve looked high and low, and the steam locomotive scheduled to take you to Copper, the Alchemist, and the Woman in Trousers is no where near the station…

Next Train-ClockWell, that’s because the characters from Atonement in Bloom (book 2 in the Atonement series) have gotten together and carried me off to work on their story.  Chief culprits are Bethany, Ralda, and a new character, Lew Lawton-Gyffes.Train ad Germany

But don’t worry, I will be back next weekend with Episode-5: Corset, Irish Soda Bread, Steam Engine.  Those “things” are from Sally Georgina Cronin.  If the Atonement characters don’t want to let me go, then the Alchemist and Copper are on hand to make sure I get back to their serial.

Meanwhile, there are a number of things to keep you entertained (depending on where you are):

Train schedule BlueMeow!  

What? Lilith?  Don’t tell me you’re helping them hijack me.

Meow!

Okay, so the calico is in on the act too.  If there is an altercation between the two sets of characters… Well, Cornelis may have met his match in Lilith… I wouldn’t want to place any bets.  But that’s all the time I’m going to get.  I do hope you’ll come back next weekend. Here’s a teaser…

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.

See you next weekend.

Hugs,

Teagan sig

Valentine’s Day in Atonement, Tennessee

Happy Valentine’s Day my friends!
AT Valentine 2I wish there had been time to write a new short story as my Valentine to all of you… But I’m going to re-Press the one I wrote last year. At least it will be new to some of you.

What is new is the video I made for it. Yes, I tried my hand at making a trailer. So if you’ll put up with the short video, the story will follow.

It is an “Atonement” story, but one that is not in the novel at all. It takes place about 20 years before Ralda Lawton moved to the quaint little town of Atonement, Tennessee.

This tale features one of the Atonement, Tennessee characters — the sheriff, Robin Warden.  If you’ve read the novel, you’ll probably think he’s an odd choice, but that’s what makes it fun.  The sheriff is not the most endearing citizen of Atonement.  This short story takes place quite a few years before the timeline of the novel, with a much younger Robin who is only a deputy sheriff. He has recently come to the town of Atonement and of course, strange things happen.

Animoto video

Embedded

An Atonement, Tennessee Valentine

Hey Robin!  Where’s Batman?  He might let you drive the Batmobile if you’re real nice to him.”  The bullies hadBatmanRobin never outgrown their taunts.  Whether they were ten, twenty, or fifty, those jerks would harass him with the same old thing, Robin Warden thought as he landed on his chest with a thud.  Why had he thought of them?  He had been away from those guys for a month.

What was so wrong with looking like Burt Ward, or being named Robin?  Well, all right — he supposed he could understand how the jokes were tempting.  What he didn’t understand was why they got such a kick out of the same old jabs.

Robin picked himself up and continued looking for the pig.  He’d been chasing it all afternoon.  He couldn’t believe a stupid pig kept getting the better of him.  Maybe that’s why he had thought of the bullies he’d grown up with back in Asheville.  The pig was dragging his self-image through the mud. Literally.

True love heartHis breath froze on the air as he sighed… February in Atonement, Tennessee — “East Bumbles,” the back end of nowhere.  Then he realized that it was Valentine’s Day and he was even more annoyed.  Robin secretly had daydreams of a perfect Valentine’s Day, bringing flowers to a beautiful girl, romance, the whole hearts-and-flowers nine yards.  One year the guys had found out, and he’d never heard the end of it.  As if his unfortunate resemblance to the TV Batman’s sidekick didn’t give his tormentors enough fuel for their quips, they teased him about Valentine’s Day too…

He gave a derisive snort at the memory, and a porcine snuffle seemed to answer from the other side of a bush.  With a lunge he almost had the pig that time.  Almost.  It slipped out of his grasp like a magician, and it ran faster than anything that might someday become bacon had a right to run.  Robin patted his chest to make sure the deputy’s badge was still there.  At least he had that over the guys back home.  He was a real deputy sheriff.

“I’ll show those jerks,” he thought.  “I’ll be driving a real ‘Batmobile’ when I get my own police car, or close enough.  They’ll never match that,” he promised himself.  “And I’ll catch that dang pig or die trying too!”

Scrambling to his feet, Robin ran after the pig again.  He was amazed that his Valentine’s Pig ValentineDay was being spent that way.  He asked himself what difference it made.  He hadn’t made any friends in the tiny town of Atonement yet.  There weren’t many people his age period.  He’d only met a couple of girls, and they weren’t interested in him.  He let out an irritated breath.  The blasted pig might as well be his Valentine.

A glance at the cloudy sky told him night would come early.  He picked up his pace in the chase after the pig.  Leaves crunched as he pounded the twisting path, running, sliding, gaining, and losing.  Sometimes he wondered if the little porker intentionally let him catch a glimpse of it.  Once it actually seemed to be waiting for him to catch up.  Robin was so exasperated he could have screamed.

Until the unwanted memory of the bullies intruded on his thoughts, Robin had thought signing up for the Interstate Sheriffs’ Department exchange program had been the worst mistake of his life.  To think he’d believed he was bored living in Asheville, North Carolina!  It was a wonderland of excitement compared to Atonement, Tennessee.  However, after he thought about it, chasing livestock through rural Atonement was probably better than dealing with the bullies and jerks back home. Robin shook his head resignedly.

Gate Ajar Night

It was really clouding up, and it would be dark soon.  Robin thought uneasily that he wasn’t exactly sure where he was anymore; the pig had led him on such a chase.  That was kind of unnerving.  He’d only lived in the area for a matter of weeks.  The idea of being lost, in the woods, on a winter night was not something he liked to consider.

Then he caught sight of the little rascal running up a trail.  With a burst of energy Robin poured on the speed.  That sorry pig was not going to get away again!  It was headed straight for a tall iron fence.  The pig kept running.  So did Robin.  He finally had it cornered.  Or not…  Were some of the iron bars bent aside?

The young deputy cursed as the pig went through the gap in the fence.  However, Robin Warden wasn’t any bigger than Batman’s sidekick with the regrettably similar name.  He slipped through the damaged bars and made a heroic dive for the pig.  It complained loudly when he caught it by its back feet.

The wind kicked up as he tied a rope securely around the wriggling animal.  He was so intent on his task that he didn’t notice how threatening and dark the black clouds became.  Abruptly the pig became unexpectedly still.  That’s when Robin realized the earth was trembling.  A loud thump proved something heavy had fallen, but he didn’t see what it was.  An earthquake?  He knew Tennessee sometimes experienced very small quakes.

A sharp crack made him jump half out of his skin.  It sounded like lightning, but there was no flash, just the sharp, sudden sound.  Robin looked over his shoulder and saw that a huge old oak tree had a wide split down the center of its trunk.Split tree

The frightened pig huddled against him.  For a moment it didn’t dawn on Robin that he was holding the animal.  The ground stilled.  Robin and the pig looked at one another with wide startled eyes.  The pig looked as embarrassed as Robin felt.  At least the guys weren’t around to see that awkward moment.  He set the pig on the ground and stood up.

Robin took a deep breath.  “Oh crap!” he muttered when he saw that he’d dropped the rope.  However, the pig sat calmly back on its haunches, like a well-trained pet on a leash.  Robin quickly bent down and snatched up the rope before the animal could change its mind.

Mystified by the pig’s sudden change in behavior, he scratched it behind the ears.  It seemed to smile, but he guessed that was just the shape of its mouth.  He patted the pig’s head and said, “Good pig.”  Even as he spoke the words they sounded ridiculous.

Robin spotted the source of the heavy thud sound.  A tombstone was overturned.  He looked around at a very old and rundown Mausoleum_dreamstime_xs_20242963cemetery.  At least he knew where he was — the old Sunhold estate’s graveyard.

A snuffling sound drew his attention.  There was another pig behind the tumbled gravestone.  Then he saw a third pig a few feet away, rooting in the tall dead grass.  The more Robin looked around, the more pigs he saw.  There were at least a dozen.

Twilight descended and Robin stood in perplexed awe, looking at all the pigs.  As the light dimmed, the pigs seemed to emanate a pale glow.  The one he had spent most of the day chasing looked up at him with its smiling face and he took a reflexive step back.  The pig had blue eyes.  “What the—” he muttered, wondering how he had failed to notice that.

The blue-eyed pig nudged Robin’s knee and swung its head toward the damaged oak as if it meant for him to look.  The rent in the tree trunk shown with blue light that reminded him of the cobalt vase his mother had, a deep rich blue.

The pig took a few steps toward the tree, as much as the rope would allow.  However, the animal didn’t tug at the leash.  Robin stood rooted to the ground.  As twilight deepened the glow from the pigs became more apparent.  The other pigs walked tranquilly toward the tree.  The one on his rope sat back down, seeming patient and at peace.John_Collier_Queen_Guinevre's_Maying

The cobalt blue radiance expanded beyond the tree.  All the pigs snorted and snuffled in a way that sounded… pleased.  Then a girl stepped out of the glow.  The luminous pigs continued to look peaceful, but somehow Robin could feel that they were happy and excited.

At first Robin thought the girl was little more than a child.  But as she approached, Robin saw that she was in fact a petite woman.  Long ash blond hair fell in waves like a river of moonlight that reached almost to her knees.  Pale blue flowers were scattered through her tresses.  As she moved the blossoms seemed to bob on the currents of the moonlit river of her hair.

Robin stood in open mouthed astonishment.  She was so beautiful that he couldn’t speak; so purely lovely that there was no room in his mind to question the strange circumstance of her appearing.  Finally the idea that he should say something tickled in his stunned thoughts.  He tried to talk, and managed to make some kind of sound, but the noise that came from his lips reminded him of a hog squealing.

The radiant pigs gathered in a half circle at her feet.  They became quite noisy as they looked at one another and then up at the tiny woman.  Grunt, snuffle, snort.  Grunt, snuffle, snort.  The porcine grunts took on a specific pattern and rhythm, and gradually came together as if the pigs were chanting.  They seemed to grunt the same three syllables repeatedly, go-eh-win, go-eh-win.  Finally the grunting chant flowed into the sound of a name, Goewin.

He gazed up at her in silent wonder.  No face had ever been so sublime.  No name had ever bQueen and knighteen so poetic.  Goewin.  She spoke his name and he thought he might die from the happiness the sound gave him.  Robin didn’t realize that he had dropped to the ground on one knee, amid the glowing pigs that clearly adored her.  He felt unworthy of her touch when she laid her hand on his head and told him to rise.  He was no better than the pigs… probably even less.  At least the pigs could glow.

With weakness in his knees, Robin struggled to his feet.  As he stood he looked into her eyes.  He was astonished to find that they were lavender and as bright as any faceted amethyst.  Then when Goewin returned his gaze, Robin felt so light of heart that he was surprised he didn’t float into the air.

She exclaimed in delight.  “Oh you found her!  Deme, you naughty pig!  Your brothers and sisters came right away, but you roamed the countryside in your game, getting this kind man to chase you,” she admonished the pig, but her voice was gentle.  “Robin, I really am sorry that Deme led you on such a chase.  She took an instant liking to you.  To her it was a great game,” Goewin told the young deputy.

It never occurred to him to question how she knew his name, or that he had been in pursuit of the pig all day.  Robin could barely string two words together.  She seemed to understand when she paused briefly.  Goewin continued to talk, but he was sure she meant to give him a moment to adjust to the strange situation and her presence.  By chattering she gave him time to find his voice.

“It truly is important that I get these pigs back where they belong.  Do you know that 2 Pigsthere has already been at least one war over these pigs?” she asked, but nodded as if answering for him.  “Yes.  And it was a very foolish prank that let them get away this time.  How very shortsighted of that trickster to do such a thing.  But you, Robin, have helped set things aright.  You have my eternal gratitude,” she said as she lowered her eyes and curtsied deeply.

She actually curtsied, he thought.  First she’d placed her hand on his head and told him to rise.  Now she curtsied to him.  It made Robin feel like he was a knight of Camelot and she was a princess.  Suddenly he felt strong and valiant, as if he wore the brightest armor.  Then when he glanced at himself he gasped.  He was glowing!  A little anyway — the light wasn’t nearly as bright as the radiance of the otherworldly pigs, but he was definitely glowing.

His reaction made Goewin giggle.  It was like chimes, he thought.  Her laugh made him smile.  Robin didn’t know how long he stood looking at her like a dumbstruck fool.  He didn’t even care if he was being silly.  They looked into one another’s eyes, they laughed, he thought they even sang.  Later he couldn’t say what they talked about, what they actually did, but he never forgot the bliss he felt.  Moreover, he realized he might never feel such things again, so he simply enjoyed it.

Midnight moon farieRobin remembered noticing the various changes to the sky as the hours passed.  Then as pink and gold clouds streaked the morning, Goewin left.  She didn’t ask him to come with her.  Robin was pretty sure that she knew he was afraid to venture that far from the world he knew, so she didn’t invite him.  The young deputy could have kicked himself for that fear, for not asking her to take him with her.  However, Goewin touched his face and her hand sent a vibration that reached from his chin through his scull.  After that all he could feel when he thought of her was joy and peace.

However, that happiness didn’t stop him from going back to that same spot in the old cemetery every Valentine’s night.

The end.

 Copyright © 2014 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene

No part of this writing, blog, or book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission.  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination, or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Copper, the Alchemist, & the Woman in Trousers: Episode 4

A Flight of Fancy

Laura Locoul Gore (Dupree Family)

Laura Locoul Gore (Dupree Family)

Welcome. I invite you to come with me on a flight of fancy, somewhere in the late Victorian Era.

I’ve done all sorts of things in my life — nothing glamorous. There are also a lot of things I’ve never done. This is not a “bucket list” ramble, but one of those never-done things is Mardi Gras. In the USA, Mardi Gras is just around the corner. I’ve never been to that type of carnival.

I don’t think I want to be in the middle of that big crowd, but I do appreciate the spontaneous vibe of the celebration. And a virtual celebration seems like a great way to lift the spirits!  So I’m giving a nod to Mardi Gras with the images for this episode — and maybe next week too, since that’s closer to the carnival date.

Enough of my thoughts — back to the serial.  Remember, everyone is welcome to send three random “things” or food-related things (“ingredients”) to drive the story.  Please keep in mind that earlier things gave the story a setting in the late 1800’s.  So try not to send anything that didn’t exist back then.

Andrea Stephenson at Harvesting Hecate, Thoughts on life, writing, creativity and magic  sent the things/ingredients for Episode-4.  I sincerely admire her writing.  Andrea’s blog is stunningly well crafted.  Her writing style has what I would describe as an easy grace.  There’s something comforting to me about the way she uses language.  Her words and topics resonate with me.  Pay a visit to her blog.  I think you’ll enjoy yourself.

Orpheus Smoky Mary float Mardi Gras

Orpheus Smoky Mary, Mardi Gras

Andrea’s ingredient (food-related thing) was pease pudding. That sent me on an adventure!  I searched the WordPress countryside and found a truly entertaining cooking blog – Two Fat Vegetarians.  I enjoyed their presentation of pease pudding. You’ll find it at the end of this episode. Check it out.

A last nod to Mardi Gras, is inspired by Chris the Story Reading Ape. You’ll have to read to the end of the episode to find it.  Be sure to look for fun links along the way. Some are in images others are in the text.

Let’s get this steam locomotive back on track. Laissez les bons temps rouler!  Here’s Episode-4.

Artist’s Palette, Pease Pudding, Owl-Shaped Lamp

The hand of a heavenly painter colored the evening sky, dipping the brush in an artist’s palette of pink, orange, and gold.  Squinting in the fading light, I wondered if doing so would give me wrinkles as everyone claimed.  I didn’t particularly care.  What was a face without a bit of character?

I lifted the skirt of my dark green and cream striped gown as I picked my way through the barn, wishing I had brought a pair of trousers with me.  As I squeezed between the wall and a work table, a space I should have been able to navigate with ease, the wretched bustle got caught.  Carefully, I extricated myself.

Spooky Victorian in VeilThe barn was empty of life, except perhaps for a few mice.  It was easy to see that the horses had been gone for a while, evidence of the financial problem Cornelis uncovered.  Surely Hixon kept at least one for his own transportation, I thought.  Had he left on horseback then?  Was he abducted?  I came full circle to the first question I faced when I came to the estate – who was the dead man in the study?

Since I had no idea what I was looking for, my intention had been to search the storage building and barn for anything that didn’t belong.  However, Calvin Hixon was a man of extraordinary interests and tastes.  Not belonging was a description that could be applied to nearly everything he owned.  I supposed that made all the strange articles and artifacts actually belong, in that way.

Secretly I thought it would have been better if Cornelis had sorted through all the oddities in the outbuildings.  The alchemist had remarkably broad knowledge of such things.  However, Cornelis would have taken days with the task, getting consumed as he looked at each object.  So it was just as well left to me.

I searched the barn and the larger storage building.  There was another shed on the opposite side of the grounds.  I had not inspected it yet.  So far I had seen many interesting, if unexplainable, gadgets and oddments, but nothing that gave me a clue as to what was going on.  At least I found a stash of canning jars — and some containing food.  In the dim light they looked unspoiled.  The hungry girl had eaten everything I brought earlier, and I hadn’t seen much else in the larder except some dried peas.  I put the jars in a burlap sack and hefted it over my shoulder.

The food was welcome, as it was unlikely that I would spend any time at the Belle Inn when I went back for my things.  No matter what the obstacles, I had to return to the inn to get my hatbox.  I couldn’t leave the area without the hatbox.  It contained the skull of Cornelis Drebbel.

1903 Mardi Gras manLeaving the barn, I gazed in concern at the beautiful sunset.  How much time did we have?  Sheriff Alvin Bullard was going to send someone to attend to the body of the still unknown man.  As he left he indicated that might take a bit of time, but how much?  A few hours?  A few days?  To my knowledge, there was no doctor in residence in the little town.  The veterinarian was half a day’s ride away.  Perhaps they used him as the coroner.

With a sigh I headed back to the main house.  I walked through the rolling lawn to the back of the house and its broad covered porch.  I recalled that the child, Copper, had been out at play somewhere.  When she returned home she found her father gone and the stranger at his desk in that most unfortunate condition.  That was all Copper knew.

My heart lurched for an instant when I heard Copper’s shrill cry.  However, the exclamation became a gale of giggles.  While it was the last thing I could imagine happening, Cornelis Drebbel took a liking to the child.  The Dutchman was supposed to be investigating the sprawling manor while I looked through the outbuildings.  I began to wonder if the entire time he and Copper had been playing whatever spontaneous games the girl invented.

When I opened the kitchen door my nose met a shocking smell.  I was stunned because the aroma was delicious.  “Cornelis?” was all I could manage.  I was at a loss for words.

Masked Victorian GirlsThe kitchen still looked like a battleground for Armageddon, but the smell was tantalizing.  The Dutchman had a smug look on his face.  He gave the tip of his pointed beard a twist as he smirked.  “Haven’t I always told you I was a good cook?  Yet you never believed me,” he said and gave a sly glance at Copper who giggled again.

“I didn’t think there was any food to cook,” I said, trying to ignore the alchemist’s self-satisfied behavior.  “Admittedly it smells good.  What did you manage to make?” I asked.

He removed the lid from the pot to display a perfect pease pudding.  Then I remembered seeing the uncooked peas the first time I entered the horrifying mess of the kitchen.

“But we don’t have any bread to spread it on,” Copper said in a disappointed tone, but she quickly cheered when Cornelis waved the pot’s lid to push more of the aroma to her nose.  “All we need is a spoon,” she decided with a grin.

“Oh, but my dear, you are mistaken,” Cornelis told Copper.

Judging by the disorder, Copper had looked through every inch of the kitchen in search of food.  It was no wonder she looked surprised by his words.  The Dutchman pointed to a wooden breadbox atop one of the cabinets.  It was a little out of my reach, but I spotted a small stool in a corner.  I had the box in hand in no time.

1891 Masquerade dance card“Always,” Cornelis began and held up one finger to emphasize.  “When searching for something, always remember to look above your normal line of sight,” he told Copper.

“It’s stale,” she said in disappointment when I opened the breadbox.

“It’s not so bad that we can’t make toast from it,” I told Copper and her eyes lit up.

A short time later we were all happily stuffed with pease pudding and toast.  I asked Cornelis if he had found anything interesting while searching the house.  Or if he found anything that gave a clue to what might have happened to Copper’s father. Or that business of the letter from Alexander Graham Bell and the bizarre hydrofoil contraption.

Cornelis gave the back of my hand a sharp tap with one finger.  It gave an unpleasant static shock when he did that.  He refused to tell me how it was done.  However, it might have been one of the extraordinary things he was able to do after that accident of alchemy left him in his current state.  At any rate, he meant to remind me to think before I spoke.  I made a poor choice when asking about Copper’s father in the child’s presence.

“I mean a clue to where he might have gone,” I stammered, trying to backtrack.  However, the child was more concerned about getting the last bit of her pease pudding onto the remaining toast.

“What could possibly be more interesting than that wonderful Wurlitzer organ in the back parlor?” Cornelis exclaimed.  “It’s no ordinary musical instrument, you know.  It’s perfectly keyed to the harmonic tuner you found at the Belle Inn.  Why, there’s no telling what the two could do when used together.  If only I had the second harmonic tuner,” he said wistfully.

“The second one?  Do you mean there is another of those odd sounding little bells?” I asked.

Mardi Gras King, Dave Hennan, March 7, 1905

Mardi Gras King, Dave Hennan, 1905

“Naturally my dear.  Harmonic tuners are always made in pairs.  A single one will do remarkable things, but the pair together – and in combination with a harmonic amplifier like that very special Wurlitzer.  Why there’s no telling what could be done!” he said with enthusiasm.

I was never sure when Cornelis was onto something that held importance to a situation, or if he was being carried away by passion for his wild ideas and inventions.  Clearly the organ was something exceptional, but was it relevant?

“We found this too!” Copper cried, happy to be able to contribute.

Cornelis had that self-satisfied expression again.  I knew he had been holding back.  Copper got up and ran to a table in the corner.  Amid the clutter I had not noticed the addition of an object.  She picked it up carefully and brought it over to me.

“What have we here?” I said and for the girl’s sake I showed much more interest than I felt.

“It’s a lamp.  It’s supposed to look like an owl,” she said.

“Well, it’s certainly a curiosity,” I commented.  “It looks like it’s carved from some sort of rough mineral,” I added.

“It’s salt — Himalayan salt,” Copper told me.  “Daddy said it is special salt and when it gets warm, it gives off healthful vapors.”

1800 Mardi Gras Queen

1800 Mardi Gras Queen

My interest grew as I examined the unusual piece.  The Dutchman murmured something I didn’t quite hear in his usual droll tone.

“It’s even more interesting if you turn it over,” Cornelis repeated pointedly.

When I upended the owl-shaped lamp, I found an opening.  Some very old documents were tightly rolled and inserted into the lamp.

I was about to pull the ancient papers out of the lamp’s cavity when I heard a door bang open.  My immediate thought was that the coroner had already arrived.  However, it had been an interior door.  The sound came from the direction of the study, unless of course it actually was from the study.  The crash of the door was followed by strange sounds that steadily drew closer.  Thump-drag.  Thump-drag.  Thump-drag…

An earsplitting screech preceded a cacophony of similar sounds.  Scrabbling feet and overturning furniture followed.  The front door slammed open so hard the stained glass window rattled.  I looked at my companions.  Copper seemed curious but not alarmed as she ran her finger around the pot, getting the last bit of pease pudding.  Cornelis Drebble returned my questioning gaze with wide eyes and a knitted brow.

I dashed to the door and looked into the hallway.  I heard Cornelis depart with a pop.  The first thing I saw was the open door to the study, where the unknown cadaver had been left, sitting at the desk where we’d found him.  A table in the hallway was overturned, breaking a vase that held flowers.  The front door stood wide open.  I saw movement at the porch stairs, so I hurried to the door.

1857 Mardi Gras Mistick Krewe of ComusThree very large chimpanzees were in the process of dragging the corpse away.  I stood in mystified, shocked silence.  With a loud pop, Cornelis appeared at the foot of the stairs.

“What the bloody…” he began.  “Stop!  You lot!  Stop that this instant!” Cornelis ranted at the chimpanzees.

They stopped and looked quizzically at the alchemist.  One scratched its head.  They chattered briefly to one another.

“Now put that back where you found it!” Cornelis demanded regarding the body.  “This instant!” he added.

It looked as though the chimps might actually do as he said.  The alchemist dashed to the top of the stairs and motioned to the chimpanzees.  He certainly had their attention.  Cornelis switched to an encouraging tone.

Victorian Chimp sailor suit“Yes, bring it back up here.  Yes, you understand, I know you do.  Come on.  Back up the stairs,” he said and began cajoling the apes.

One of them took hold of the body’s foot and started pulling it back up the stairs.  It looked like the other two might follow suit.  Then a horrible shrill screech sounded right behind me.  Something bounded into me.  It knocked me down and my head banged against the doorframe.  A fast moving blur of fur hurtled past me and launched into the Dutchman, sending him tumbling down the stairs.

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.

Naughty Chimps

***

The mysterious woman in trousers is out cold.  She found the “flat sounding pop” with which Cornelis Drebbel vanished disturbing.  So what happened to the alchemist?  You’re invited back next weekend when Sally Georgina Cronin at “Smorgasbord – Variety is the Spice of Life” provides the things and ingredients – and the recipe too.

Here’s this week’s promised culinary delight, and featured cooking blog.  Be sure to check out “Two Fat Vegetarians.”

Recipe:  Pease Pudding

https://twofatvegetarians.wordpress.com/2013/09/15/recipe-pease-pudding/

Pease Pudding Episode 4

Photo and Recipe Credit:  Two Fat Vegetarians

 

 

Copyright © 2015 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene

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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.

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Atonement, Tennessee Q&A with @TeaganGeneviene the Southern Voice.

teagan geneviene:

Ronovan and I had briefly discussed the concept of a “southern voice” in writing. That led to this interview. I hope you’ll enjoy it.
By the way — I can’t resist adding an aside…
Since I tell parts of the novel through the eyes of my heroine’s cat, people often ask me about my kitties and cats in general. Lest I come across as a “crazy cat lady with a lot of cats” let me just say… That’s only half right — I only have two cats. ;) (winks)
Have a marvelous Monday my friends.

Originally posted on :

RW: Tell us about Atonement, Tennessee.Orange LinkedIn 6-18-2014TEAGAN:  It always seems simple in my head, but describing it never is.  Atonement, Tennessee is a tiny fictional town where a lot of strange things happen.  The novel is an “urban fantasy” – set in the current day of our real world, but with magical elements.  I also added a mystery subplot to the fantasy.The story is inspired by (but not based on) ancient Celtic/Welsh mythology, particularly the myth of Gwydion fab Don.  I give sneaky little nods to the myth in some of the characters’ names (such as Guy Fabdon).  If you’re a person who responds well to visual information, I have a modest book trailer.  Because of the mythology that motivated me, I put a lilting Celtic tune with the trailer — it will give you a good idea of the story.The heroine, Ralda Lawton, short for…

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Copper, the Alchemist, & the Woman in Trousers: Episode 3

Victorian men hatsWelcome back to the late Victorian Era and our all new “interactive” culinary adventure!  The things and ingredients for Episode-3 have the story rolling along as they building the plot and characters.  Keep an eye out for informational links in the text and with some of the images too.

I’m honored to say that Lord David Prosser of the Barsetshire Diaries and the Buthidars (I like to call him the Hug Master General) was among my first followers at Teagan’s BooksBarsetshire Diary Cover Take a look at his blogs and books.  They are one hundred percent charming — just like the author.

When Lord David sends “things” to drive an episode, I always know it will turn out fun and interesting. I also know that at least one of the things will turn into a learning experience.  He likes to give me a challenge, and I love it.  He really does send great things.

3.  Quail’s Egg, Wurlitzer Organ, Hydrofoil

The dapple mare Ignatius Belle loaned me cantered at a pace that seemed comfortable for the horse.  We traveled along a river.  Water lapped gently against the shore making a soothing sound.  I reigned in the mare, stopping under a large shade tree beside the main house of the Hixon estate.

Side saddle close upFor a moment I considered how I should approach a frightened child.  I decided to simply knock on the front door.  I expected that convention would outweigh Copper’s skittishness, especially within the familiarity of her home.  After all, when there was a knock at the door, one tended to answer it.

Though it irked me, I dressed in socially acceptable feminine attire.  Under the circumstances I realized that was best.  However, I still refused to wear a corset, and I absolutely did not ride sidesaddle!  If someone was upset about the sight of a bit of stocking showing above my boots, then they could look away.

After I dismounted the horse, I adjusted the full skirt and bustle.  The dark green and cream colored stripes were attractive, even if the design was utterly impractical.  I touched the smaller lady’s version of my favorite top hat.  It sat at a jaunty angle on my head, and was adorned with ribbons, feathers, and tulle.

Through the multicolored stained glass inset on the door I saw the shape of a small person approach after I knocked.  Sure enough, the door opened just a crack.  Although I thought I already knew the answer to the question, I asked if Mr. Hixon was available.

“Um… no.  No ma’am,” Copper said through the crack in the door without giving further information.

“Oh, that’s unfortunate,” I dissembled.  “I had an appointment with him.  I’ve come to apply for the governess position,” I said, hoping that Copper felt the need to have a grownup around.Victorian girl w cat

While I knew nothing about children, I expected that most youngsters who had nothing to eat and a dead body in the study would like to have an adult to fix things.  I held up the basket of calamari and rolls.

“I’ve brought my lunch, but there is too much of it.  Perhaps while I wait for Mr. Hixon, we could share it.  Maybe in the kitchen?” I suggested.

Cornelis had mentioned that the study and the kitchen were on opposite sides of the house.  I hoped the idea of me being in the kitchen would seem less threatening to the girl than letting me into another part of the house.

Indecision painted her face, along with the smudge of dirt I saw on her nose at the general store.  She bit her lower lip as she looked from the basket and back up at me.  The aroma of its contents was making me hungry again, so I knew her mouth must be watering.  A gurgling noise came to my ears.  That was surely her stomach growling.

“Governess?” Copper finally repeated.

“Yes.  You know how busy your father is.  He’s been looking to get a new governess to help with things, and to help look after you,” I said, hoping she had liked her former teacher as much as I expected.  Hixon wasn’t likely to have written the glowing recommendation Cornelis mentioned if the child didn’t like her.

“Um,” she began and licked her lips.  “Won’t you please come in,” she said in a rehearsed formal way.  “But you must make sure not to disturb my father,” she added with a frightened look in her eyes.

When I crossed the threshold I detected an unappealing scent.  It smelled like sweet oil, overlaying a vague odor of something that was rotting.  Forgetting my resolve to take things slowly, I turned to follow my nose.  Copper gasped and grabbed my hand and pulled me toward the kitchen and away from the odor.

Quail eggsAs might have been expected the kitchen was a horrendous mess of dirty dishes and disastrous attempts at cooking.  The shell of a quail’s egg lay on the floor.  Flour covered the work surfaces, part of what appeared to be an unsuccessful attempt at pancakes.  By the look of things, Copper must have been on her own for a while.  By the time I recovered from the shock of seeing a kitchen in such a state, the moppet had already eaten most of the food I brought.  The poor thing was ravenous.

I twitched with a shudder when the disembodied voice of Cornelis was suddenly in my ear.  He warned that someone was coming.  I could hear him more clearly than I usually could when he sent his voice without his body.  Usually his voice sounded rather far away in this circumstance, but at that moment he was loud and clear.  However, I heard a distracting faint chiming sound in the background and I wondered what it was.

“Who said that?” Copper asked with a start.

It surprised me that she heard him.  I told her that it was just a friend, but she pelted out of the kitchen.  I followed Copper as she ran to the front parlor to look out the window.  A small coach and a man on horseback approached.  Cornelis spoke into my ear again stating that the rider was the sheriff.  I asked who would be in the carriage, but he didn’t know.  Copper must have thought I was speaking to her.

“The orphanage,” she whispered wide eyed.

She looked likely to run again.  I knew I’d never catch her in that retched skirt and bustle I was wearing, so I quickly took hold of her hand.

“Don’t worry.  Whoever it is, I won’t let them take you,” I assured her.Sad Eyed Victorian Girl

Copper looked up at me with frightened eyes that were filled with tears and a spark.  That spark seemed like a trace of hope that I sincerely would protect her.  How could anyone resist that face?  However, I needed information, and I needed it fast.  The slow approach was no longer possible.

“Is there some other reason why the sheriff might be here?” I asked.  “What about your father?  Are you sure he’s just busy?  Is he… Is he well?” I asked the scared girl.

Her eyes moved to the direction of the study, where Cornelis said a dead man was slumped at her father’s desk.  “Copper has anything happened to your father?” I asked.  I realized that I might be pushing too hard, but I tried to make my voice gentle.  “Is he in the study?” I asked and that was as close as I dared come to asking if her father was dead.

“I don’t know!  No,” she cried sounding confused.  “I don’t know where Daddy is.  When I came back inside from playing he was gone.”

That surprised me.  “That isn’t him in the study?” I asked much too bluntly.

“No!” she screeched.

“It’s alright,” I reassured her, but I had to hurry and get some facts before the sheriff came into the house.  “How can you be sure that isn’t him?  You didn’t see his face did you?” I asked.

As soon as I said the words, I wished I could take them back.  Cornelis was right in saying that I spoke before I thought.  It was a poor choice of words, but Copper didn’t react as strongly as I feared.

“No.  His hair.  Daddy doesn’t have hair like that.  His is gray and thin,” Copper said.

The voice of Cornelis supplied the detail that the corpse had luxuriant brown hair.  Then he reminded me about the signet ring.

“Darling, have any relatives come to visit?  The man wears a family ring like your fathers.  Does he have brothers, nephews?” I had to ask since it was only hearsay that there was no family.  Copper shook her head, unable to take her eyes away from the view of the coach and the rider.Victorian Coach

The coach driver climbed down, ready to open the door and help his passengers alight.  I turned away from the window and took a step toward the study.  There was no more time to handle the delicate situation in a slowly paced, gentle way.  I had to investigate the room where the unknown corpse rested immediately; else I might never get another chance once the sheriff was on the scene.

A pop sounded and Cornelis Drebbel was suddenly in my path.  I ran right into the Dutchman.  Copper gasped.  It wasn’t like the alchemist to reveal himself to anyone.  I thanked the stars that Copper had only gasped.  She might well have screamed loud enough for the sheriff to hear.  I was sure that he and the coach would be at the gates by then.

With a flourish Cornelis bowed and took my hand.  That was also unlike him — behaving flirtatiously with me, I mean.  “You will need this,” he said and placed a beautifully carved ring on my finger.

“Cornelis, what—?” I began, dumbfounded.

Could the Dutchman have lost his mind?  I didn’t get to ask him at what foolishness he was playing, because he pointed dramatically at the window.

Signet ring“You will need this,” he said of the ring but before I could comment he continued.  “The people who are about to step out of the carriage?  The moppet is correct.  They are from the orphanage.  And the presence of the sheriff indicates that they have a serious purpose,” Cornelis said.

Copper shrieked.  The child didn’t utter a word when the alchemist materialized out of nowhere.  But mention an orphanage and she screamed.  All I could do was shake my head.  I hoped she wasn’t heard outside.

I ran to the study.  To my surprise, Copper followed even as I opened the door and entered the room where the dead body was.  The smell of sweet oil was almost overpowering.  It was as bad the odor of the corpse.  I saw the empty oil bottle lying on the rug at his feet.  Then I noticed that the back of his head looked greasy, and an oil stain ran all the way down the back of his waistcoat.

I almost laughed.  “Copper, did you pour the sweet oil on him?” I asked the child who stood a foot behind me.

“He stank,” she said simply but emphatically.

I hurriedly scanned the room for anything obvious.  However, I wasn’t sure for what I should be looking.  Neither was I certain of my purpose in this situation.  I had been drawn to this place for a reason, but it was unknown to me.  I didn’t think my purpose was merely to solve the riddle of the dead man at the desk.

First things first, I told myself as I turned my attention back to the body.  I had expected to see a pool of blood, but the top of the desk was clean.  The dead man’s left hand rested on the desktop.  Something seemed wrong about the position of the hand.  It had been moved.

Hadn’t Cornelis said he wore a signet ring?  Without looking I could feel the cool metal of the ring the alchemist placed on my finger.  “You’ll need this,” he’d said.  My eyes went back to the naked hand of the dead man.

“You moved a ring from the finger of a cadaver and put it on my hand?” I exclaimed, but Cornelis was nowhere to be seen.

“Cornelis Drebble!”

***Victorian gown bustle stripes

After extracting a promise from Cornelis to watch over Copper, and a dire warning of what he’d face if he let her run away, I sent the two to the back parlor.  A moment later I heard the Dutchman exclaim, “Oh look! It’s a Wurlitzer!”

There was no telling what Cornelis was talking about with that comment.  I thought he must have been saying something silly to get the child’s mind off the situation.  I hoped Cornelis would be responsible in looking after Copper.  He wasn’t always reliable.

An official seeming knock sounded at the door.  I took a breath and moved to answer it.  The “visitors” were clearly surprised to see me, particularly the people from the orphanage.  They included two women and a man.  The man, who was standing farthest back, mumbled that there was not supposed to be anyone there except the child.  I got the impression that he had plenty of courage to accost a child, but not so much if he had to confront an adult.

The sheriff was an ordinary looking man, with the exception of the shiny badge and a thick mustache.  He had the air of a man who was simply doing his job.  He glanced at my stylish frock and seemed to notice a horse hair that clung to my cuff.  He bowed over my hand in a formal but obvious ploy to get a good look at the signet ring.

I introduced myself as Copper’s aunt, her father’s half-sister, Mina.  Yes, Mina.  That was the first name that came to mind, though I’ve no idea why.  Of course my assertion was met with astonishment.  However, Calvin Hixon had not been born in the little town.  They couldn’t know much about the extended family.

Sheriff Seth Bullock-DeadwoodAt least the sheriff seemed to think it plausible enough.  He glanced again at the ring on my finger and nodded his head.  Whatever these orphanage people were about, from the sheriff’s point of view, a long lost relative showing up would simplify things for him.

I raised one eyebrow expectantly when none of them introduced themselves in return.  The sheriff understood, but the other three silently — and arrogantly stepped across the threshold.  The sheriff cleared his throat and they hesitated.

“Pardon my lack of manners,” he said awkwardly and began making quick introductions.

The county sheriff was Alvin Bullard, also part owner of the local grist mill.  The other man was Claude Dinkley, a board member of Merciful Haven Orphanage, as well as the county truant officer.  He had a slim build, a weak chin, and his starched collar was too tall for the length of his neck.  He also looked like he’d tremble in fear of one of the women.

That woman was Ethel Farthing, chairlady of the board and owner of the Merciful Haven Orphanage.  She was of average height and build.  Her movements were stiff and choppy, though she did not appear to be arthritic.  Ethel Farthing positively radiated bossiness and was the first to shoulder her way across the threshold uninvited.  She made a sarcastic comment at which the other woman gave a honking laugh.

Which brings me to the last visitor.  She was a tall willowy woman, Gertrude Hobbs, administrator of the orphanage.  Her wire rimmed spectacles sat far down her nose.  She was very quiet, but nodded sharply to everything Ethel Farthing said.  She had a small head with a prominent Goosey Gooseynose and a long neck.  Those features combined with her honking laugh and the large bustle of her gown reminded me of a goose, a greedy goose waiting for a chance to peck away at something.

But why were those people here at all?  How could they know Copper was on her own?  Did the authorities already know something about Calvin Hixon’s disappearance?  Why did they have such an interest in Copper?  Although I supposed if they established themselves as her guardians, they could take over the Hixon estate.  They looked like a covetous lot.  They were likely unaware of the financial problems Cornelis discovered.

As I motioned toward the front parlor where I planned to lead them I saw the sheriff’s nose twitch.  I had not anticipated him being an experienced lawman.  He recognized the odor of decomposition beneath the heavy smell of sweet oil.  His hand moved to the holstered gun on his hip as if reflexively.

He gave me a cold look.  “Is there some problem here, Miss?” he asked levelly.

There was little I could do, except tell the truth — mostly.  “Actually Sheriff, there is.  I arrived only a short time ago,” I began and I saw him take note of horse hairs that stubbornly clung to my gown.  Hopefully my unkempt attire corroborated that much.  “And I came into a terrible thing.  I’ve spent all my time trying to calm the poor child.  She was in hysterics.  Heaven only knows what she’s been through,” I said with a grain of truth.

“Do continue,” he said flatly when I paused.  He was definitely the no nonsense type.

“I found a stranger in my brother’s study.  The child has been too distraught to tell me what happened or where her father is.  I assumed he went into town to get help,” I said, though it didn’t look like the sheriff believed that.

“What stranger?” Gertrude, the bird-like woman asked.

Victorian Man Collar“No doubt another long lost relative,” Ethel Farthing, the more aggressive woman said before I could answer.

I chose to ignore the people from Merciful Haven as much as possible and focus on the sheriff.  I only wished I could ignore the doubtlessly ironic way the facility was misnamed.  Sheriff Alvin Bullard was the one with the real authority.  I led the sheriff to the study.  The others followed.  They gasped and nearly retched when they walked into the room.

“Nothing appears to be amiss,” I told Sheriff Bullard, and hoped against hope he would not to the kitchen where it looked like Armageddon had been fought.  “Well except of course for…  I assumed the poor man was struck by a sudden death, a heart attack, or a stroke perhaps,” I said with a distraught wave toward the dead body, trying to give the impression that I was just a helpless woman.

Making my eyes as wide and sad as possible, I looked up at the sheriff.  Oh yes.  That had him.  His shoulders relaxed and he took his hand away from the gun at his side.  He gave the corpse a cursory inspection.

Lovers Eye Brooch

Lover’s Eye Brooch

The orphanage people recovered themselves enough to start complaining about my presence.  Their assertions about concern over the welfare of the child sounded hollow at best.  Based on the expression on the sheriff’s face, he thought so as well.

“No sign of a struggle,” the lawman murmured as he looked at the body.  “No apparent injuries, no blood from an attack,” he observed.  Then he took a close look at the man’s face and at the desk and nodded again.  “No traces of vomit to indicate poison.  Not so much as a hair out of place.  I have to agree that the poor soul must have died from natural causes,” he said with a due amount of reverence and he looked at the others as if silently suggesting they follow his example of decorum.

“You said you attended the child,” he said to me and I nodded.  “I’d like to speak to her,” he added.

I made a reluctant, concerned face.  “I’ve only just given her a tonic to get her to sleep.  It would be best not to wake her.  Perhaps I could bring her to your office tomorrow?” I suggested and Sheriff Bullard reluctantly agreed.

The others were not so amenable.  A veritable caterwauling ensued.  They demanded to see Copper and determine her welfare for themselves.  Then they demanded some kind of identification from me.  Fortunately, it was in no way unusual for a person to be without such documents.

Cornelis Drebbel

Cornelis Drebbel

The voice of Cornelis whispered into my ear.  “Prime these fools for what I’m about to do,” he said but I couldn’t ask what he meant.  Thankfully he continued.  “Get them to face the corpse, and say something about making the dead unhappy,” he said.

I couldn’t imagine what the alchemist had in mind.  However, I moved to stand behind the body so they would have to look at it.

“It was my late brother’s wish that I come here as soon as I could.  As for this poor man, well that is up to the sheriff,” I said, unsure how to fit words to the alchemist’s unknown plan.  “It’s unwise to have such antagonism and animosity in the presence of the so very recently deceased!” I said in wide-eyed fearful seeming warning.  “It is dangerous to anger the spirits before they have had time to move on to the heavenly plane.”

As my words ended, a shrill harmonic sound vibrated.  It seemed to be within my own ears, but I saw everyone else react to it as well.  The sound escalated into loud eerie music that thundered within the room.  The volume was so strong that it vibrated through the floor and up through my boots.  I felt as though I stood in the middle of a gigantic cathedral pipe organ.

I finally understood the exclamation Cornelis made when he entered the back parlor.  He’d found a Wurlitzer organ and was using it to grand effect.  Somehow he had amplified the sound and made it seem to come from within the study.  A glint of silver caught my eye, and I spotted the ornate bell Cornelis took from the inn — the one he said was actually not an ordinary bell, but a harmonic tuner. 

Bass notes emanated from the Wurlitzer in an ominous way.  When he managed to add a sound like a howling cry on the wind the people from the orphanage nearly trampled the sheriff trying to get out of the study.  They stumbled and fell repeatedly in the hallway as they made for the front door.

The sheriff looked rather confused by the loud music.  I saw him look around the study for the source of it.  He seemed mildly uneasy as I walked him to the front door.  He seemed calm enough when he said he would send someone to take the body.  However, his footsteps became very quick as he went to his horse.  By then the dust stirred by the coach was all that remained of the officiaries from Merciful Haven Orphanage.

I returned to the study.  Something had caught my eye on the desk when the sheriff moved the corpse to check his face.  It was an envelope addressed to Calvin Hixon.  I had only glimpsed the return address, but I thought I’d seen a notable name.  I grimaced as I moved the corpse enough to retrieve the letter.

That was interesting, I thought as I read the envelope.  I had not been mistaken about the sender.  I removed the stationary from the envelope.  It was a businesslike missive, complimenting Hixon’s project.  I had no idea Hixon was an inventor.  Perhaps it was a hobby.  The letter was an offer of collaboration to improve a design belonging to Hixon that the writer called a hydrofoil.  The letter was signed by Alexander Graham Bell.

“Ah yes,” I thought.  “The telephone man.  And another Bell.”  It seemed that bells of one kind and another had surrounded me ever since I arrived.

Forlanini hydrofoil

Alexander Graham Bell and Hydrofoil

I reread the letter, trying to comprehend the idea of a boat that sat on “foils” that lifted it out of the water, allowing it to reach amazing speeds.  Could it actually be made to work?  Hixon’s invention had attracted the interest of someone like Alexander Graham Bell, so it must be worthwhile.  Was it related to his disappearance?  Did it have anything to do with the corpse beside me?

At that moment Copper ran into the study, followed by Cornelis.  Both laughed merrily at the fright they had given the child’s would-be guardians.

Cornelis picked up the intricate silver bell and gave it one harmonic chime.  The organ in the back parlor responded by making a comical oboe-like sound.

***

To be continued

I look forward to seeing you again next time when the things/ingredients for Episode-4 are from Andrea Stephenson at Harvesting Hecate, Thoughts on life, writing, creativity and magic.  Andrea’s blog is one of my favorites.  So tune in again next weekend for her episode.  … But what ever am I going to do with owl-shaped lamp?

Now for this week’s recipe!

I always hope to use a recipe to match one of the food-related things — and to find it on the site of a regular commenter. However, there weren’t that many recipes that included quail’s eggs.  So once again I scoured the WordPress countryside.  Now I’m glad that quail egg recipes are scarce, else I would not have found a delightful blog, Cooking in Sens!  It’s by Rosemary, “an American living in Burgundy, France.”  I hope you’ll enjoy her blog as much as I did.

Bon appétit!

Recipe:  Ginger Sesame Coquelet with Korean Quail Eggs

https://cookinginsens.wordpress.com/2011/12/09/ginger-sesame-coquelet-with-korean-quail-eggs/

Ginger Sesame Coquelet with Korean Quail Eggs

Photo and recipe credit:  Cooking in Sens

 

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