(Click here to listen to the MP3: Baby Crazy)
Though the sun shone brightly, in a few hours it would be pouring down rain. The Sheffields had planned accordingly. They were going to catch that baby even if it killed them… stork or no stork.
They sat on the roof, scheming together. It was a favorite pastime. “Go over the plan again?” Dana prompted. “I love it when you plot.” Chet smiled.
“The Knoxes are expecting a delivery any day now. And they’ve already got one, the greedy jerks.”
(Click here to listen to the MP3: Something’s Afoot)
Shelley Constance Windsor-Thorpe was a girl of keen observation. She was clever, insightful, and knew when to hold her tongue to avoid reprisals. And with a minimum of supervision, she was able to look after herself for long periods of time– no small feat for a girl of eight.
Thus, it was at one o’clock in the afternoon, only moments before enjoying her daily lunch of cream of mushroom soup, that her keen powers of detection noted something amiss about the trio of furnace-kith; trying to get her attention with a rancid sock.
“Hey kid. Kid. We’ve got somethin’ for ya.”
“Is she going for it?”
“Totally. Stop interrupting.”
Travis stood beside the lake on the hottest day of the year, quietly hating himself. The others had a short attention span. Not long after he’d waded out of sight, they’d gone back to splashing each other, picking on the girls, and generally having a good time.
It was hell.
Blame a gland problem. Call him big-boned. Say anything other than the three-letter word that stung like laughter and sea nettles.
He just wanted to go home. Home to his room, which was safe and cool and he didn’t have to talk to people, or be looked at; which was worse. Few things were worse than hating your own body… and Travis despised his.
Riley wanted to wake up. He desperately wanted to get away from here, and the prospect that the woman before him was only a nightmare… was his best hope. He just couldn’t remember the last time a dream was so vivid. Or smelled…
“Welcome.” She didn’t smile. That would have been preferable to the blank, empty look. Strings drifted down from her crown, nestled about stones at her feet.
Sulfur wafted to Riley’s nostrils. He coughed it out, but it didn’t help. The stink pervaded everything. A wisp teased at his forehead. He ran a hand over his bald head, brushing it away.
He looked around. A yellow fug hung in the air, masking the edge of the grass that, astonishingly, was the exact same color. Dry grass crunched underfoot. Nothing lived here. Nothing but him and that… woman.
“Dadgum flimflammin’ screwed up deliveries…” muttered Horace. Before him, a small pegasus swept through the air. It filled the room with magic and light. The old curmudgeon wasn’t having it.
“I can’t be having with this,” he grumbled. “Stupid magic horse. What’re ya good for? Hrm?”
The pegasus couldn’t be bothered, it was delighted as all get out to be free of the box. Horace found care instructions nestled in with the bubble wrap, which he’d save for later.
“Okay, open ‘em.” Sharon opened her eyes. Judy had brought her to an empty bistro. Well. Not empty, exactly. On every table, countertop, and surface, occupying every inch of space… was coffee. Cups of every shape and size. Hundreds of piping hot mugs o’ java.
“Is… is this heaven?” asked Sharon. Judy smirked.
“Nope. Take a look around. Try one out. Try a few.”
Sharon crept forward. Every cup looked familiar, somehow. She was certain she owned a copy of at least half the mugs here, at one time or another. She picked up a blue mug, brought it to her nostrils, took it in. Columbian roast. She sipped it. This was–
He found her in the woods. Hazel was not easy to get to. She wasn’t easy to know, either. “What do you want?”
Paul was speechless. He’d followed this peculiar girl a mile and a half into the woods, driven by a curiosity that insisted on feeding. And the whole way, he’d thought about what he’d say if he caught up with her. When he caught up with her.
Now his mouth was dry and his mind was blank. Hazel was unimpressed.
“I said, what do you want?” She was losing patience. Paul licked his lips.
John regarded Simone as flatly as he could. The training, the machinery was in place and he could call on it when needed.
He just wasn’t certain he wanted to.
There were layers when it came to duplicity. John knew them all. He knew Simone did, too. And he knew she knew. It was exhausting.
The commodore lit a cigar. His ‘smoking room’ was the only chamber of its kind that would safely handle so much as a lit match in deep space. It cost more by itself than some ships. Jacob’s ship, for instance. His host blew a smoke ring.
“Comfortable?” Jacob smiled and nodded, wanting this over as quickly as possible. “You know why you’re here.” He shook his head. The commodore smiled a little smile, and sat back in his chair–upholstered in extinct animal hide.
Sharon was grateful for a calm Sunday. The rain had stopped, the sun had come out, and she could work the back garden in peace. She had all sorts of plans: here some begonias, there a tomato plant. Further on, roses. All perfectly normal.
She hadn’t worked ten minutes when her spade hit metal. Sharon brushed away the dirt from… a locket? Even caked with soil, it was a lovely thing. Just like the one she’d… she’d stolen, as a girl. From Susie Bishop’s jewelry box when she wasn’t looking.