Hello, Neighbor

Hello, Neighbor

Marisol and Bastina in gardenMarisol sat on a blanket on the front lawn while her mother tended the garden. The little girl wrinkled her nose as her mother turned over the rich, black soil. She furrowed her brow and tilted her head as her mother pulled out some plants and discarded them, and placed fertilizer around others. After a while, she lost interest in her mother’s activity, and turned to her pile of picture books.

About 20 minutes later, Bastina glanced up from her gardening. Her daughter seemed content sitting on the blanket. She had obviously tired of leafing through her picture books, which lay scattered on the grass next to the child. Now, Marisol was putting together the 10-piece jigsaw puzzle, dumping the pieces out of the frame, and putting it together again, over and over.

The young woman sighed and looked wistfully at her daughter. Oh, why can’t she take an interest in the garden? Most children delight in digging in the dirt. Bastina shook her head vigorously, as if to dislodge that thought. No, she decided. There will be time enough for Marisol to learn her craft when she is older. For now, it is sufficient that she just enjoys being a child.

Bastina put down her trowel and pruning shears, stood, and stretched. Her muscles ached more today than a thirty-year-old’s muscles should. The woman performed a quick mental inventory of her supply of herbs, deciding she would try some chamomile tea and a peppermint rub later. She walked over and sat down on the blanket next to her daughter. “Have you finished looking at your books, baby?”

Marisol’s little face darkened like a thundercloud. “I didn’t look at them, mommy. I read them. I keep telling you I’m not a baby anymore.”

Bastina and Marisol on blanketThe little girl’s mother smiled indulgently at her daughter. “Oh, yes, I forgot. You’re a whole five years old now, not a baby at all! In fact, you’re practically grown up! So, perhaps you would be so kind as to finish weeding that flower bed for me while I relax?”

Marisol shook her head and frowned. “You know I don’t like digging in the yucky dirt, mommy. There are worms and bugs and other nasty things in it! And the last time I pulled a plant out of the garden, you got very cross. You told me it was not a weed, but a plant that would have produced a very beautiful flower.”

Bastina was about to answer her daughter, but she noticed the little girl was no longer paying any attention to their conversation. Marisol was looking toward the street at something – something quite fascinating, Bastina thought, if the expression on the little girl’s face was any indicator.

The young woman turned around to see what had captured her daughter’s attention. She shook her head and did a double-take, unsure she had seen correctly the first time. She and her daughter jumped up and stared at the approaching spectacle.

Bastina and Marisol see dwarfA dwarf in full plate armor was clomping down the street. He was cussing a blue streak and brandishing an axe at a large rabbit that appeared to be enjoying the chase. Several times, the long-eared critter slowed down and looked over its shoulder, almost appearing to wait for the rotund figure puffing and panting after it.

“Oh, my!” Bastina’s eyes widened.

Marisol tugged on her mother’s sleeve. “Mommy, can I go play with the man in the funny metal suit, and his bunny?”

* * *

Dwarf chasing rabbitI was lounging in the gazebo, reading a book. Sorceress, Cleric, and Dragon sat nearby, watching my Foreman and the lads work their illusory horses. I glanced up as my Old Dwarf raced past us, brandishing an axe, chasing a rabbit through the yard. “I be gittin’ ye this time, ye ornery little beastie, ye jest be seein’ iffin I do na! Thet be the lastest time ye be getting’ in Mistress Writer’s carrot patch!” The rabbit seemed to be enjoying the chase, slowing up whenever it seemed the dwarf might be lagging too far behind.

I smiled and returned to the book. Seconds later, I dropped the book and yelped as my Old Dwarf raced past again. The rabbit, now over 6 feet tall, was in hot pursuit of the diminutive figure.Rabbit chasing dwarf

I heard a snicker behind me. Without even looking around, I knew it was my Arrogant One. “Cut it out.”

“But it is so much fun!” The elf’s voice was an annoying combination of petulance and arrogance.

“Release the spell. End the illusion. Now.” I turned and glared at my Arrogant One.

Dragon and Arrogant One“Yes. Do it immediately!” Dragon turned toward the elf and smoke spewed from her snout.

“Oh, very well.” The elf snapped his finger and the rabbit disappeared.

My Old Dwarf stomped over and stood next to the gazebo. “I be bettin’ ye be thinkin’ thet be real funny.” The dwarf doubled over, gasping for breath.

My Arrogant One scoffed. “Yes, I do think it quite amusing that you are too witless to realize a small, helpless rabbit you are chasing relentlessly around the yard and through the neighborhood is not likely to suddenly grow and turn on its tormentor.”

I could feel the blood drain from my face. “Wait. Did you say through the neighborhood?” Without waiting for the elf’s reply, I rounded on my Old Dwarf. “How many times do you need to be reminded to stay on our property, protected by the spell of concealment? Do you want people to see you?”

“Ummmm . . .” My Old Dwarf shuffled his foot and fidgeted with his axe. “Lass? I be afeared thet mebee some people be seein’ me . . . right now.”

“What?” If I had been standing, I doubt my legs would have supported me.

wide-eyed

“Hello?”

My characters and I turned as one to face the new voice.

A small child tugged on the hand of a young woman, urging her further into our backyard. “See, mommy? I told you the man in the funny metal suit chased his bunny into this yard.” The little girl pointed, then her eyes grew big and round as saucers as she spied something else. “And, Mommy, look! They have horses!”

They see us

 

“Dragon?” My mouth went dry, and I could hardly speak. “They can see everything!”

Dragon’s eyes widened. “Forsooth! This is not good.” Her voice was barely a croak.

“Oh, hello!” The little girl let go of the young woman’s hand and walked up the steps of the gazebo. “We followed that man in the funny metal suit. He chased a rabbit into this yard.”

Marisol meets DragonThe little girl walked right up to Dragon and gave her an appraising head-to-toe look. “I am Marisol.” She pointed to the young woman. “And that is my mother. Her friends call her Bastina, but I call her mommy. We live down the street. What’s your name? Do you live here?”

Dragon with smoke bubbles

Dragon bent down and gawped at the small human, who showed no fear of her. The flummoxed beast turned blue, and smoke bubbles started dripping from her nose.

 

Has Dragon’s spell of concealment failed? If not, how did Marisol see everything in our yard? Can her mother see it all, too? Be sure to come back again as we get to know these two neighbors. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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Not Exactly Déjà Vu All Over Again

Not Exactly Déjà Vu All Over Again

For today's blog 001“Honey?”

My husband came into my office.

I looked up from the computer screen and saw a big frown on his usually cheery face. “Uh-oh. What did my characters do now?”

Miles laughed. “It isn’t your characters this time.”

“An historic moment! You’re frowning, and it isn’t because of anything my characters did!” I blinked. “Wait! This is weird. I feel like we’ve had this conversation before.”

Miles frowned and stroked his chin. “I get that same feeling. To quote baseball great Yogi Berra, “It’s déjà vu all over again.”

I raked my hand through my hair and frowned. “Yeah, but I can’t quite remember the particulars.” I shrugged “Oh, well. Back to the problem at hand. If it isn’t my characters, then what is the trouble?”

“The heat element in the rain gutters out front doesn’t seem to be working. We’ve got icicles hanging from the gutters, and the beginning of an ice dam on the roof. There’s already a six-inch-thick glacier in the roof valley over the front porch, and I don’t think today’s temperatures will be high enough to melt it.”

I gaped at my husband. “Hold on! I’m sure we’ve had this conversation before!”

Miles wrinkled his brow. “I think you’re right, but how could that be?”

“We had problems with the heat element before. Let me check my files. I know I kept the receipt.”

looking for fileNote 2It took me about twenty minutes to find the receipt in the mess I termed my filing system. “Yeah, here it is. We had someone here to fix it in December of 2017. And the repair technician, Guy, attached a note to the receipt. It says if the heating element ever fails again, please call another company to deal with it.

“Oh, that’s right! How could we ever forget that? Your characters caused quite the hullabaloo. I thought Guy and his co-worker – I think his name was Bill? I thought the two of them were going to have coronaries!”

https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2017/12/17/just-another-typical-day/

I sighed. “Yeah. I remember that, too. And now the heating element isn’t working again?”

Miles nodded.

“Great. Well, why don’t we look at a few things before we make any calls?”

checked everythingWe checked that the unit was plugged in, we checked that the power switch was on, we checked that neither the ground-fault circuit interrupters nor the circuit breakers were tripped, and we checked everything else we could remember the repair technicians checking the last time we had a problem. They all looked ship-shape and Bristol fashion. We walked back to my office.

I frowned and chewed on my lower lip for a few minutes. “December 2017 . . . that was, what, 15 months ago?”

Miles nodded.

“Do you think we could risk calling the same company to send someone to look?

Miles shrugged. “Why not? I mean, what are the odds the same techs would still be working for that company?”

I brightened a bit. “True. Companies don’t seem to retain employees like they did years ago. I’ll give them a call and see if I can get anyone to come out.”

phone with caller IDI dialed the number and I was quickly connected to the company’s automated phone system. A recorded voice directed me to please listen to the entire message, as their menu options had recently changed.

I listened. The options sounded the same to me as they had 15 months ago – press one for sales, two for customer service. I pressed two. The same recorded voice told me to press one for billing inquiries or two for repairs and technical assistance. I pressed two, and got more options from which to choose. After navigating through all the correct options, I heard a different recorded voice sweetly advise me that all service representatives were helping other customers.

I looked over at Miles, who was waiting patiently next to my desk. “All service representatives are helping other customers. I guess they haven’t hired any more employees.” Back when we first contracted with them to install covered rain gutters and heating elements, the company only had a total of about a dozen employees, including Skit and Skat, co-vice-presidents in charge of rodent control in their warehouse.

Skit and Skat

The disembodied voice droned on, informing me that all calls were taken in the order received, and cautioning me to remain on the line. Then I was treated to some soothing music.

I glanced over at Miles again. “I’m on hold, with music. It sounds like the same crossover thrash version of the 1812 Overture, accompanied by yowling dogs and cats during a car crash that entertained me the last time I called them.”

noise 2

The music was blessedly interrupted at regular intervals by the sweet voice endlessly repeating how much they appreciated my business and assuring me that a customer service representative would be with me shortly.

Forty minutes later, I was finally connected with a live being, whose tired, irritated voice contrasted sharply with the sweet tones of the recorded voice on their automated system. After taking all the pertinent information, the representative put me on hold again, this time, blissfully music-free.

Another twenty minutes passed. I was beginning to think either I had been disconnected, or the customer service rep had forgotten about me. Then the tired, irritated voice came back on the line – this time sounding a lot more irritated. “Mrs. Tesch?”

“Yes, I’m still here.”

“Mrs. Tesch, our records indicate you just had the heating element replaced in December.”

December 2017I corrected the speaker. “December 2017.”

I heard the rep shuffling through some papers. “Oh, yeah, December 2017. Still, that’s only . . . what? 15 months ago? Why are you calling about it again? What’s the problem?”
eyes rolling
I sighed and rolled my eyes, even though I knew the other person couldn’t see me. “I should think that would be obvious. The problem is it’s not working again. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be calling for a repair technician to come look at it, would I?”

“Well, why isn’t it working?”
scowl
I scowled. “How should I know why it’s not working? Why don’t you just send a repair tech out here and let him determine why it’s not working?”

Completely ignoring that suggestion, the customer service rep proceeded to ask me questions. “Are you certain the heating element is plugged in?”

eyes rolling“Yes, I’m certain the heating element is plugged in.”

“Is the power switch in the on position?”

“Yes, the power switch is in the on position.”

eyes rolling“Are the ground-fault circuit interrupters tripped?”

“No, the ground-fault circuit interrupters are not tripped.”

“What about your circuit breakers?”

“None of the circuit breakers have been tripped.” I sighed. “Look, my husband and I have already checked out all the obvious things. We need a repair tech.”

I heard more shuffling of papers. “Well, Mrs. Tesch, we might be able to get someone out there next week. Or maybe we could refer you to another company?” The voice sounded hopeful.

I could almost feel the steam coming out of my ears. My voice dropped to a dangerous growl. “Look. By next week, the damage to the roof caused by the ice dams could be considerable and costly. We need someone here today.” When I got no response to that, I took a deep breath and pressed on. “Your company installed this system, and your repair techs worked on it last. So I suggest you get someone out here now.”

The voice responded, sounding considerably cowed. “Ah, yes ma’am. We’ll have someone there within the hour.”

Backyard 050MilesAfter hanging up the phone, I shared the details of the conversation with Miles, who looked impressed. “My wife, the tiger!”

I grinned. “Well, the tiger better go have a chat with her characters, so we don’t have a repeat of the last debacle! Care to accompany me?”

“Actually, no. I’d prefer not getting on the bad side of any of your characters, thanks.”

“Coward!” I gave Miles a quick peck on the cheek before scurrying off to round up my characters.

In less than 10 minutes, I had my characters rounded up and corralled in the conference room.

Elf facing rightCleric was the first to speak up. “Why did you wish to see us all here, Mistress? Is something wrong?”

I nodded. “There is a problem with the heating element in the rain gutters out front. The . . .”

Arrogant OneI was cut off mid-sentence. “Well, we certainly did not cause it!” My Arrogant One drew himself up, rocked back on his heels, and grasped his cloak with both hands. My other characters nodded, and several muttered similar comments.

Dwarf“Aye, we be inn-o-sent, lass!” My Old Dwarf was beet-red, obviously upset at the notion he stood accused of anything.

I sighed and waved my hand dismissively. “I am not accusing anyone. I just wanted to let you all know the company is sending someone here to fix the problem.”dragon looking right

“The same repairmen they sent last time?” Dragon snickered.

I gave her a narrow-eyed glare. “I don’t know. What I do know is you are all to stay right here in the conference room until the repairmen finish their work and leave. I do not want a repeat of the trouble you caused last time.”

My Old Dwarf gaped at me. “But lassie! We just been tryin’ ta be helpful.”

I rounded on him. “Well, don’t. Just stay here, out of the way.”

My Old Dwarf’s face crumpled, and I almost felt bad about speaking so sharply. Almost. Until I remembered the murderous look in the dwarf’s eyes when Guy called him Gramps. And the looks on the repairmen’s faces when they witnessed Dragon change from her elf maiden guise to her true form.

“The repairmen will be here any minute. I don’t know how long it will take them to fix the problem. Not one of you is to leave this room until I come back here and tell you it’s okay. Understand?”

There was a lot of muttering and grumbling, but everyone nodded their understanding.

I headed up the stairs and had just reached the landing by the front entry when the doorbell rang. I opened the door to find an old man standing there, squinting through his coke-bottle glasses at a clipboard.

repairman

“Can I help you?”

The man looked up, startled. “Eh?”

I sighed, perceiving his eyesight was not the only sense with which he had problems. I raised my voice. “Can I help you?”

He relaxed. “Oh, yeah, maybe you can. Are you Mrs. Tesch?”

I nodded. “That’s me.”

He smiled hesitantly, and flashed me his company identification. “I’m Crawford. I was asked to look at your heating element.”
icicles
I pointed at the rain gutter, festooned with icicles. “There it is.” I pointed to the cord and the power switch. “It’s plugged in, the switch is on, and my husband and I have checked the ground-fault circuit interrupters and the circuit breakers.”

CrawfordCrawford looked taken aback. “Well, seems you folks did half my job for me.” He looked at the rain gutter and squinted at the notes on his clipboard, then turned back to me, grimacing. I wasn’t sure if the expression was directed at me, or if the man just had a touch of indigestion.

Crawford 3Suddenly, Crawford seemed a bit startled. He looked over my shoulder and seemed to be squinting at something behind me. I glanced behind me, but saw nothing. I turned back. Crawford was looking directly at me and giving me a big smile. “Well, Mrs. Tesch, why don’t you give me about an hour or so, and I’ll see if I can’t get this little problem resolved.”

Somewhat confused, I merely nodded. “Okay.” I looked in the direction of his truck but didn’t see anyone else. “Do you need some help? My husband could . . .”

“Oh, no, ma’am! The company frowns on non-employees assisting us. Insurance and all that, you understand.” Another big smile.

He turned to begin work, and I went back inside and returned to my chores. I thought Crawford’s estimate of an hour to be optimistic. I figured it would take the old man, working alone, several hours to complete the job.

I was surprised when, only about 40 minutes later, the doorbell rang. I ran to answer it.

Crawford stood there, a bill in one hand and a thick, flat cable in the other. “Here you go, ma’am. I replaced the heating element for you. The old one was damaged. It looks like a chipmunk or squirrel was gnawing on it, maybe last fall, and the melting snow just shorted out the unit. Happens all the time.” He showed me the damaged cable. I could see the bare wire and the scorch marks on the insulation.

After examining the damaged unit, I stepped outside and looked at the rain gutters and roof. The ice dams were gone, as was most of the snow.

“Wow! That was fast! How did you manage to clear all the ice and snow so quickly?”
Crawford 3
Crawford gave me a sly smile and a conspiratorial wink. “I have your friend to thank for that. Never could have done it without her.”

“My . . . friend?” I furrowed my brow and narrowed my eyes.

“Yeah.” He smiled again, looking like the cat that swallowed the canary. He leaned closer and lowered his voice. “You know, your dragon should get together with my griffin. I bet they’d have a grand old time together!”

Dragon and Griffon

Crawford leavingI gaped at him as he thrust the bill into my hand, turned, walked back to his truck, and hopped in. Before he drove away, Crawford rolled down his window and called back to me. “You know, there’s a great writers’ group that meets twice a month at the local Coffee Shoppe. Maybe I’ll see you there sometime. Be sure to bring your dragon!”

I stood gaping at the departing vehicle for several stunned moments. Then I turned and charged back into the house. “Dragon!

scaly dragon

Is it possible that other writers have had characters fall from their manuscripts? Hmmmmm. I guess we may never know for certain. Be sure to return every week to see what new adventures and misadventures await my band of displaced characters. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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Which Way Did They Go?

Which Way Did They Go?

dragon looking rightDragon looked around cautiously. She stuck her head through the open conference room door and looked, first down the hallway toward Mistress Writer’s office, and then up the stairs toward the front entry. She sniffed the air, then tilted her head and cocked her ears, listening carefully. “I think they are gone.”

Stu-04-NatGalShe turned back to the conference room, where the companions had gathered. Sorceress nodded. “Yes. Mistress Writer and Master Miles left the house about 15 minutes ago. They said they would be gone all day. They told Cleric they are going to spend the day shopping, and then they plan to go to a restaurant and maybe to a movie after that.”

Dragon drew back her lips in a wide, toothy grin. “Good. We may commence.”

* * *

“Hey, Nolan! I thought you said that couple we’re watching left the premises.”

“They did, Johnson, about a half-hour ago.”

“Well, then, who’s that?” The man called Johnson pointed to a car leaving the garage of the property they were watching.

Walkie-talkie“I don’t know! Let me check. Maybe they came back when we were patrolling another area.” Nolan picked up his walkie-talkie. “Hey, Davis, you there? Over.”

The radio crackled, and a scratchy voice replied. “Yeah, I’m here. Who’s this? Over.”

“Davis, this is Nolan, at the stakeout. Are you still tailing that pair in the car? Over.”

“Sure, Nolan. Jakoby and I are right behind them. Why? Over.”

“Well Johnson and I just saw a car leave the garage. It looks the same as the car that left earlier, the one you say you’re following. We thought maybe they came back when we weren’t looking. Over.”

“Don’t know what to tell you. They didn’t return to their house. We’ve been following this car ever since it left your location about a half-hour ago. It’s heading east on 212, and it’s never been out of our sight. Over.”

“Okay. Stay with that car. Don’t lose them. Out.”

Nolan turned back to his partner. “Davis said . . .”

FedJohnson cut him off. “I heard. Contact Pruse and McFadden. They’re at the end of the street. Tell them to tail this new car.”

Nolan contacted the other team and relayed the message.

After a few seconds of silence, a reply crackled through the walkie-talkie. “Nolan, how long ago did you say this car left your location? Over.”

“Maybe five minutes. Why? Over.”

“You putting us on, Nolan? If it left your location five minutes ago, it should have passed us by now. There hasn’t been a car go past since the one Davis and Jakoby are tailing. Now quit trying to be funny! Over and out.”

Miles waving from carBefore Nolan could say anything, he and Johnson saw the garage door open again, and another car leave, identical to the first two. This time, they got a good look at the driver, who smiled and waved as the car drove slowly past them.

Johnson’s jaw dropped. “That’s the guy! That’s the guy we’re supposed to be watching. The one who left here earlier with his wife. The one Davis and Jakoby are tailing.”

Johnson grabbed Nolan’s walkie-talkie. “Davis and Jakoby! Pull that car over! Make sure the occupants are who you think they should be! You hear me? Pull it over! Pruse and McFadden, if a car tries to go past you, stop it!”

* * *

While Johnson and Nolan were trying to make sense of what was going on with the car, Deputies Whitewash and Dawg were patrolling the street east of the stakeout location.

“Whitewash! Look! There’s that crazy old coot with the suit of armor and the axe!”
Dwarf and rabbit
Deputy Whitewash looked in the direction her partner was pointing. She saw the armored dwarf sprinting down the street. He was cussing a blue streak and brandishing an axe at a large rabbit that appeared to be enjoying the chase. Several times, the long-eared critter slowed down and looked over its shoulder, almost appearing to be waiting for the rotund figure who was puffing and panting after it.

As the rabbit led the Old Dwarf closer to the deputies, Whitewash and Dawg heard the dwarf yelling. “I be gittin’ ye this time, ye ornery little beastie, ye jest be seein’ iffin I do na! Thet be tha lastest time ye be getting’ in Mistress Writer’s carrot patch!” He waved the axe wildly over his head.

The two deputies eyed the approaching figure with trepidation. As the dwarf continued chasing the rabbit toward them, they both removed their pistols from their holsters and released the safeties.

“Sir? Sir! Please put down that weapon.” Dawg dropped to one knee and aimed his gun at the dwarf.

“Sir, we don’t want to hurt you, but you must put down that weapon!” Whitewash stood with her feet planted firmly apart and took aim at the approaching figure.

Suddenly, the rabbit and its pursuer made a quick turn and disappeared between two houses. The deputies gave chase.

“Where did they go?” Dawg looked down the side yards separating the houses. Nothing was there.

“They couldn’t have run the length of the houses and gotten to the back yards so quickly!” Whitewash gaped in the direction they had seen the dwarf and the rabbit running.

Dwarf, rabbit, and deputiesSuddenly, they heard a commotion behind them. The rabbit was loping down the side of a house on the opposite side of the street, coming straight toward them. The dwarf was hot on its heels, still cussing and yelling and waving the axe around.

“How did they get over there?” Dawg’s eyes were as big as saucers.

As the two deputies raced toward the dwarf, the rabbit turned right and streaked past several houses before turning again and running between two buildings. The dwarf was still right behind the creature.

“Stop! Stop or we’ll shoot!” Dawg yelled at the back of the departing figure.

When Whitewash and Dawg reached the side yard the dwarf had run down, they saw nothing. Once again, they heard a commotion behind them. They turned and looked just as the rabbit and the dwarf popped out from between two houses on the other side of the street.

Whitewash blanched. “That’s not possible!”

Using their shoulder microphones, Dawg and Whitewash contacted several of the other law enforcement agents who were manning various stakeout locations throughout the neighborhood. Soon, four sheriff’s deputies and six federal agents were chasing the dwarf and the rabbit around the neighborhood.

Dwarf and rabbit 2The dwarf and the rabbit always seemed to disappear between two houses on one side of the street, only to reappear a few seconds later, a little further down the road, running from between two houses on the other side of the street. They kept leading the law enforcement officials further and further down the lane, heading east, away from the house under surveillance.

* * *

Half of the task force was chasing the dwarf heading east, and all but two of the remaining members of the team were at the far western end of the street trying to figure out what was happening with the car that was being tailed, and the other identical cars that Johnson and Nolan swore they had seen leave the garage. Only two agents were still watching the dwelling when Dragon, in her customary elven guise, left the house with Cleric and Sorceress. The agents watched as the three figures crossed the street and hurried to the house of their neighbors, Mace and Gloria.

Dragon tapped on the door, then opened it just wide enough for her and her two companions to slip through. The two agents immediately ran over to the house. One agent crept up onto the porch of the house the three figures had just entered while his partner stayed on the sidewalk and used her walkie-talkie to contact the team leaders. “Johnson? Nolan? Denhurst here. Over.”

The radio crackled. “Nolan here. What’s up, Denhurst? Over.”

“Three of the people from the house we have staked out just left that house and entered the home of our two informants, Mace and Gloria. Over.”

“Stay there. Try to keep them in sight. Mace and Gloria could be in danger. Johnson and I will be right there. Out.”

Moments later, Johnson and Nolan joined the other two agents on the porch of Mace and Gloria’s house. Johnson placed his right index finger over his lips and pointed with his other hand. The front window was open a few inches, just enough to let the agents hear what was going on.

In the living room, Gloria was throwing a hissy fit, screeching and waving her hands around. “What is this? What are you three doing here? How dare you come into my home?”
Confronting Gloria
Dragon narrowed her eyes. “We want to know what is going on, Gloria. We know you are the reason the task force is here, watching us.”

“Get out!” Gloria ran to the window and peeked through the curtains. “Get out now, before you bring them here!”

Sorceress snorted. “And why would you not want them here?”

Gloria’s face contorted into a snarl. “Get out! Get out! You’re going to ruin everything! It was the perfect plan. We convinced the sheriff’s deputies those annoying neighbors, Marge and Miles, and all you people constantly visiting them, are involved in illegal activities. When they saw all of you, particularly that crazy old coot that goes around in the suit of armor and an axe, it was easy to get them to open an investigation. Then, Deputy Dawg called in the feds and they formed a task force. They staked out that house and have you all under surveillance. That way, everyone’s attention is on that house, and nobody notices what Mace and I do. We can’t risk having them come in here and finding . . .”

Gloria’s voice trailed off, and she looked around the room, her eyes wide with fear. She wiped her damp palms on her jeans and sweat poured down her face in rivulets.

“Finding what, Gloria?” Cleric advanced on the woman. “What is it you do not want them to find?”

Just then, Dragon yelped. “I hear someone out front. Come, we must leave. Head for the back door!”

Johnson jumped. “They’re running! Denhurst, you and your partner get to the back of the house and stop them. Nolan, we’ll take the front door.”

Johnson and Nolan waited until Denhurst radioed that she and her partner were in position at the back of the house. Then they drew their weapons and kicked in the front door to Mace and Gloria’s house.

Gloria was just coming down the hallway and into the living room with a hamper of laundry when two federal agents burst through the front door with weapons drawn. Gloria screamed, and dirty socks and wet towels went everywhere.

* * *

neighborNeighbor 2 facing leftLater that afternoon, Mace and Gloria met with federal agents. They threatened to press charges against the members of the task force. Gloria was almost hysterical. “They broke our front door, and they tore our entire house apart! They kept saying over and over and over that the jig was up, that they had heard everything! They claimed that right before they broke in they had seen and heard me talking with three people from my neighbors’ house. They’re wrong! I was alone in the house when they broke in!”

Mace was not much calmer than his wife. “Gloria said they pointed weapons at her! I think they’re all crazy!”

Every member of the task force was brought in to be debriefed by their superiors. Four sheriff’s deputies and six federal agents all claimed they had been chasing a suspect going east through the neighborhood. Deputy Dawg kept babbling about the chase. “It was that crazy old coot in armor. He had an axe, and he was chasing a rabbit. We called to him to stop, to drop his weapon, but he wouldn’t. He just kept chasing the rabbit. They would run between the houses, but then they would disappear and pop out from between the houses on the other side of the street!”

The deputy’s nine colleagues sat there with him, looking dazed. They all kept nodding at Dawg’s account.

Meanwhile, Agents Johnson and Nolan, along with four of their fellow task-force members, were gibbering about a car that kept leaving the garage over and over and over, without ever first re-entering it. And Agent Denhurst and her partner kept blathering about people who had been in a certain house, talking with the owner, and who just disappeared.

Their superiors frowned. One sighed and raked his hand through his hair. “Maybe it’s time for some of these people to be put on leave.”

Another answered, “Maybe it’s time for them to check into a nice, quiet rest home.”

 

* * *

dragon talking

Dragon smiled at her companions. “That was a good day’s work.”
Arrogant One
The Arrogant One nodded. He drew himself up, rocked back on his heels, and grasped his cloak in both hands, puffing out his chest with pride. “I told you I was an illusionist extraordinaire.”

“You did a great job with Master Miles and the car!” The Gypsy’s voice held a grudging admiration for the elf.

Cleric chuckled. “And with our little chat with Gloria as well! Do you think Gloria was able to convince the authorities that she never saw us in her house, let alone spoke with us?”

Sorceress smirked. “Serves her right if she cannot!”

The Old Dwarf doubled over with laughter. “An’ tha looks on tha faces o them deputies! I couldna be belivin’ me ownest eyes, as ye been havin’ tha illusion ye been creatin’ o me be chasin’ thet fool rabbit all o’er tha place! Do ye be thinkin’ tha deputies be still tryin’ ta be catchin’ me?”

Dragon smirked. “I do not believe we will have to worry about the deputies or any of the others ever again.”

* * *

Easter 128Backyard 050As Miles pulled the car into the driveway, I commented, “I hope my characters had a nice, quiet day today and didn’t get into any trouble.”

Miles looked at me as if I had grown a second head. “Yeah. Right. Like that would ever happen!”

We both sighed.

So now that my characters have taken care of the intrepid Deputies Whitewash and Dawg and the other members of the task force, what’s next? Be sure to come back next week and see! We’ll leave the porch light on for you!

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Preparing for Halloween

Preparing for Halloween

me questioning my Foreman“Are you all sure you haven’t done anything?”

I was speaking to my characters, who were all busy working on various Halloween decorations.

My Foreman’s gray eyes locked on my brown ones. He frowned and when he spoke, his voice was tinged with annoyance. “I believe you have asked us that 20 times or more in the past few days, Mistress. I do not believe the answer has changed. None of us has done anything to attract the attention of any member of law enforcement.”Foreman's horse painted on pumpkin

He returned to painting a black stallion on his Halloween pumpkin.

Gypsy's Jack-o-lanternMy Gypsy glanced over at my Foreman’s pumpkin, shook his head, and chuckled. “That does not look very scary.” The lad examined the pumpkin he was carving. His tongue stuck out of the side of his mouth as he concentrated. He took his silver stiletto and carefully carved a few more slivers from the jack-o-lantern’s nose. He cocked his head, giving his work a critical appraisal. He nodded in satisfaction. “This is how a Halloween pumpkin should look. As for your question, Mistress, I believe the Foreman is correct. Our answers will not change, no matter how often you ask.”

My Old Dwarf snorted. “An’ wot could we be doin’ wot would be causin’ trubble wit yer law enforcers?”

I raised an eyebrow at that statement.

Dwarf's orange rock jack-o-lantern 2The dwarf paused and squished his eyebrows together as he looked at the large, orange rock he was painting. After a few minutes of deliberation, he carefully brushed some black paint on the rock, creating a reasonable facsimile of a jack-o-lantern . . . if a jack-o-lantern was supposed to look like a sick rabbit. Looking up at me, he continued the discussion. “Dinna ye be sayin’ thet tha people wot be skulkin’ about tha neighbor’s yard be tha same difference as our king’s guard? Thet they don na be jest tha law enforcers o yer little town here, they be tha law enforcers o yer whole country?”

I nodded.

“Wale, there ye be havin’ it, lass! There do na be much any o ussins kin be doin’ wat be so bad as ta be merittin’ tha attention o tha king’s guard!”

My head hurt from trying to follow both my Old Dwarf’s logic and his convoluted use of language. I frowned. “You haven’t been out in public in your full set of armor, have you? Maybe chasing rabbits down the street, threatening to cleave them with your axe?”

My Old Dwarf turned red and sputtered, but he swore to his innocence.

I started pacing around the room. “Well, what about the rest of you? Dragon, you haven’t let yourself been seen by the neighbors when you have been in your true form, have you?”

Dragon's pumpkinDragon had shrunk to the size of a Chihuahua to work on her pumpkin, which she was decorating by magic. She did not look up at my question, but black smoke poured from her nostrils. “Do you really think me so foolish as to allow the inhabitants of your world to see me unless I fully intended them to do so?”

I stared at her. “Well, have you intended them to do so?”

“I have not.” She put the finishing touches on her pumpkin.

I shrugged apologetically and raked my hand through my hair. “Well, someone must have done something. The FBI and all those others do not investigate someone unless they have cause.”

Young Hero's jack-o-lanternI sighed and continued pacing around, as my characters continued to work on their projects. I stopped next to my Young Hero, who was trying to make his jack-o-lantern even scarier than the one his best friend, my Gypsy, was making. “What about you? Have you been riding your pony off the property?”

The lad’s eyebrows shot up, and his mouth fell open. “I would never! The only time I have ridden him off the property was when we all went on that trail ride with Colton and his mother. A number of us went on that ride, including you, Mistress, and – if you will remember – Dragon used her spell of concealment to hide us from the neighbors.”
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/09/02/an-old-mystery-revisited/

I sighed and nodded. “Yes, I remember.”

Cleric's ghost and witch patternsI walked over to Cleric, who was creating patterns to sew ghost and witch pillows. “I don’t suppose you can think of anything you may have done? Maybe when you and Sorceress were out collecting botanicals for your spells?”

Cleric rearranged her ghost on the work table as she considered the question. She looked up at me, her cornflower eyes clear and guileless. “I do not believe anyone in the neighborhood was around when we left the property, Mistress.”

Sorceress's black cat pumpkinSorceress put another dab of paint on her black cat pumpkin, then looked over at me. She agreed with Cleric, and her tone, like my Foreman’s, was edged with annoyance at the questions. “Even if someone had seen us gathering plants and flowers, I do not think they would have paid us any attention. We did not go on private property or take anything from the areas you have warned us about – state or county parks where gathering specimens is illegal.”

“And before you even ask, we have done nothing!” My Arrogant One gestured to himself and his sidekick, my Bounty Hunter. “We have been working hard on the repairs to the shed roof.” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/10/14/a-small-problem/

Arrogant One's Haloween scene“Don’t remind me.” I scowled and looked at the illusory figures he was conjuring for Halloween. “You haven’t created any illusions that may have been seen by any of our neighbors, have you?”

My Arrogant One drew himself up, rocked back on his heels, and grasped his cloak in both hands. He answered me in his usual tone – half arrogant, half petulant, and entirely annoying. “I said we have done nothing!”

Bounty Hunter's ScarecrowMy Bounty Hunter looked up from the scarecrow he was stuffing with straw. The corners of his mouth twitched. “I can vouch for that. We have been working on the shed roof. Even at other times, the elf is usually with me, and I have seen him do nothing that would attract the attention of the neighbors or the gendarmes.”

I sighed once more.

Cleric looked up from her patterns. “Mistress? How do you like our Halloween decorations?”

I tried to focus on the decorations my characters were creating. “They are quite good!”

Cleric’s dazzling smile only lasted a moment. Then she furrowed her brow and chewed on her bottom lip. “We looked through the magazines you gave us, to come up with ideas. We saw lots of ghosts, witches, skeletons, monsters, and other scary things, and many variations of a thing called a jack-o-lantern, but nowhere could I find an explanation of this holiday.”

My Gypsy furrowed his brow and clucked. “We have celebrated Halloween with Mistress Writer and Master Miles in previous years. Do you not remember, Cleric?”

remembering past halloweensCleric nodded. “I remember Mistress and her spouse buying lots of candy to give to visitors. I remember children dressed in costumes, some beautiful, some scary, some strange, coming to the door for these sweet treats. I remember a few decorations being placed around the front door. But I have never really understood the meaning of the day.”

“I also lack an understanding of this day and its history.” Dragon looked at me expectantly.

“Well, let’s see . . .” I tried to think of a simple way to explain Halloween to a group of characters from an alien world. My characters gathered around to listen.

harvest“This holiday has its roots in the ancient celebration called Samhain, marking the end of summer and harvest, and the beginning of winter. ghosts, witchesIt was believed that on that night, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred, and the ghosts of the dead returned to earth. Some believed it to be the time when magic was at its strongest, with witches, demons, and other creatures able to openly walk the earth. I think I read somewhere that the practice of wearing costumes – which people still do today on Halloween – came from the ancient custom of people disguising themselves so that they would not be recognized and harmed by the creatures that walked the earth. Of course, Halloween has changed greatly over the centuries, as other religions and cultures tried to change it and adapt it to their beliefs and customs.”

Cleric wrinkled her brow and stroked her chin. “So how has Halloween changed?”

“Well, that’s even harder to explain than the origin of the holiday. It is no longer widely celebrated as a harvest feast, nor a magical time. Now, it’s mostly just for fun. In modern times in this country, there are many ways people celebrate the holiday. I think the most widely recognized celebration is Trick or Treat. Children in costume go from house to house, greeting the residents with the words trick or treat, a playful threat to play a trick on anyone who doesn’t give the children treats. Some people celebrate Halloween by watching scary movies or telling ghost stories. Other people have Halloween parties or create a haunted house for people to walk through and view.”haunted house

My Arrogant One’s eyes lit up. “Create a haunted house?”

I scowled at him. “Don’t get any ideas! The houses aren’t really haunted, nor are they created through magic. The people who create them just place a lot of creepy decorations around their homes, and dress in scary costumes, like witches or monsters. There are no real spirits haunting the houses, and there is no real magic involved, not even illusion. And it’s all done just for fun.”

The elf sighed. “That is not very creative.”

“It’s creative enough. You need to remember that this world is different from yours. Magic is not as commonplace, nor are mythological creatures or any of the things we would term demons or monsters.”

“Mistress?” Cleric tugged on my sleeve. “Mistress, did you not once write a scary poem for Halloween? I believe I remember you reading it to us once.”

“Well, I wrote a little ditty once for Halloween, but I really don’t know how scary it is.”

My Young Hero furrowed his brow. “A Halloween poem?”

I shrugged. “Well, sort of. A mood piece that could be used for Halloween.”

My Gypsy scratched his head. “I do not remember hearing it, Mistress. Could you read it to us?”

“I suppose so, if you really want to hear it.”

Several of my characters nodded and murmured their assent.

“I’ll go get a copy.”

It only took me a few minutes to return with a copy of my poem, written many years earlier. I cleared my throat and read it.

Illustration for poem

                            Night Fears

Shadows steal through moonlit room,
Stairs creak and groan and sigh.
Tree limb taps on window pane
As wind moans through the pines.

Field mice scuttle through dry leaves;
Far off, some dog howls.
Trash cans rattle, curtains rustle,
Imagination growls.

Blood rushes, pounding in your ears,
Mouth grows desert dry.
Horror tiptoes from your heart
Up to strangle your mind.

 

 

My characters sat there, looking at me as if expecting more.

I sighed. “Sorry, folks, that’s it. Just a short little piece, nothing more. How did you like it?”

“Oh . . . oh, well, it is quite . . . interesting, Mistress.” Sorceress looked like a deer caught in the headlights as she attempted to be complimentary.

“Yes. Ah, very . . . very evocative.” My Foreman swallowed hard and turned away quickly.

“Wale, I be likin’ it, lass! It be turnin’ tha skin on me arms all ta gooseflesh, an’ tha hair on me neck be all standin’ up, bristly-like.” My Old Dwarf patted my arm before returning to his rocks. “Now, iffin ye be excusin’ me, there be a second rock wot be needin’ some paint.”Dwarf's second orange rock jack-o-lantern

I watched as the old reprobate transformed the second rock into a much better representation of a jack-o-lantern than his first effort had produced.

For today's blog 001As I was admiring my Old Dwarf’s latest effort, Miles entered the conference room.

I looked at him, taking in his worried expression. “Honey, what’s wrong?”

following Miles“Nothing, really, I guess. It’s just that those cops . . . detectives . . . investigators . . . agents . . . whatever they all are . . . are still lurking all around the neighborhood. There were two people in a county sheriff’s car at the end of our street, and they actually followed me to the supermarket!”

“This is getting ridiculous! I wish there was some way to stop it.”

dragon talking“I could take care of it for you.” Dragon’s voice dripped with sweetness, and the expression on her face was pure innocence.

“No roasting anyone!” Miles and I replied in unison.

Dragon shrugged. “As you wish.” She turned away, but not before I saw a sly smile parting her reptilian lips.

 

What is Dragon planning? And will it work? Be sure to come back next week and see. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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What Have my Characters Done Now?

What Have my Characters Done Now?

computer_keyboardpen and writing pad for blogAfter sufficiently recovering from my . . . uhm . . . small problem of the day before (https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/10/14/a-small-problem/), I decided I had neglected my Young Adult Fantasy series for far too long. But before I could return to my book manuscripts, I had to work on this week’s blog.

office-and-bookshelf-for-blog-002I went to my office, intent on getting my blog outlined and written. Evidently, my brain had other ideas. This is a frequent occurrence. A very frequent occurrence. To quote a famous sports figure, it was déjà vu all over again.

computer-308393_960_720I stared at the blank computer screen and tried to wrestle some ideas into submission. My fingernails tapped out a staccato beat on my desk, and I grumbled under my breath. Why did I ever start this blog? No one ever told me how difficult it would be to come up with fresh, new ideas every single week!

“Mistress?”

Elf facing rightI just about jumped out of my skin. If an idea had been about to cooperate and take shape, it was lost now. I spun my chair around, ready to bite someone’s head off. I found myself looking up into the soulful, cornflower-blue eyes of my Cleric, and bit back my impending outburst.

“What can I do for you?”

“I just wanted to make certain you were feeling better after your ordeal yesterday. I was so glad I was able to help.”

Cleric’s warm smile was infectious, and I returned it in kind. “I greatly appreciate your help. I assure you, I’m fully recovered, and now it’s back to work for me.” I glanced pointedly at the computer, my smile fading to a scowl.

“I shall take my leave, then, Mistress, so you can continue with your work uninterrupted.” She turned and skipped off down the hallway, leaving me and the blank screen to stare at each other again.

Pileated Woodpecker on suet logI sighed. I removed my glasses, cleaned them on my shirttail, and put them back on. I squirmed around in my chair. I looked out the window and stared at the huge Pileated Woodpecker on the underside of the suet log. Hmmm…maybe… My fingers moved toward the keyboard.

“Mistress?”

Young hero 2GypsyI jumped again, another idea flying out of my brain, probably never to return. For a second time, I swiveled my chair around, ready to give someone a severe tongue-lashing. This time, it was my Young Hero and my Gypsy sticking their heads in the door. I groaned.

“What is it?”

“It is almost noon. We thought you might want some lunch.” My Gypsy had obviously started without me, as he spoke around a mouthful of food.

food-dinner-pasta-broccoliMy Young Hero placed a small platter on my desk. “There were plenty of leftovers from last night’s dinner.”

“Yes, I had thought to have them for this night’s dinner.” I attempted to frown, but the food did smell good, and my stomach was growling. As usual, I had lost track of time while working on my blog.

After a quick bite to eat and some chit-chat with the lads, I thanked them and handed them the empty platter. They headed upstairs, and I turned back to my computer once more.

146-computer-free-vector-clip-art-lTwenty minutes later, my screen was still blank. I rubbed my head, which was starting to pound. Suddenly, I blinked several times rapidly and leaned in toward the computer. Oh, this is a great idea! My readers will love this! My hands were poised over the keyboard, ready to start typing.

“Mistress?”

I jerked, and my fingers tripped all over themselves, the letters on the monitor jumbling into an incoherent mess.

Arrogant One“What?” I whirled my chair around, ready to take no prisoners. My Arrogant One stood just inside my office door.

My eyes narrowed, and I slowly rose from my chair. “Out. Now.” I pointed to the door.

“But…”

“Now!” I advanced on the annoying elf, the perpetrator of my small misadventure of the preceding day.

He stammered. “B…b…but the Old Dwarf said…”

“If you aren’t out of here in the next 10 seconds, what I do to you will be a hundred times worse than anything my Old Dwarf could ever dream of doing!”

I took another step toward him, and my Arrogant One turned and fled down the hallway and up the stairs. I heard the back-door slam, so presumably the elf was going to take refuge in the shed.

One more time. I sighed as I returned to my seat. The great idea I had conceived just moments before would not revisit my brain. I spent the next half-hour staring at the blank screen, half-formed ideas chasing each other around my mind. Suddenly, my head jerked up and I smiled. Eureka! I started to type again.

“Mistress?”

“Aaaauuugh!”

sorceress-facing-rightI twisted around in my chair to see the latest intruder. Sorceress stood there, her brow furrowed.

I narrowed my eyes and crossed my arms. “What is it?”

Sorceress hesitated in the face of my obvious annoyance. “I am sorry. Am I disturbing you?”

“No, I always give a murderous look to every fifth person who interrupts my train of thought while I’m writing.” I glared at her.

“Mayhap I should return later.” She started backing out of the room.

“You’re here now. Why don’t you just tell me what you want?”

“Well…” She hesitated again, chewing on her lower lip.

“Well?”

“Mistress, do you remember the two sheriff’s deputies who were here earlier this year?”

I felt the blood drain from my face. Remember them? How could I forget them?

2 Police OfficersDeputy Melody Whitewash was a rather non-descript, but extremely efficient, law-enforcement officer. Her partner, Deputy Dustin Dawg, was a barrel-chested hulk who perpetually wore sunglasses, outdoors or in. They had first come to our door in February of this year, investigating a complaint lodged by our neighborhood nosey-bodies, Mace and Gloria, who claimed we were keeping horses on our residential property. I thought the deputies were going to shoot my Old Dwarf, who had held them at bay with his axe when he thought they might disturb my husband and me. (https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/02/18/more-visitors/)

I shuddered at the memory. “I remember them. What do those two want now?”

Sorceress wrinkled her nose and tilted her head. “Well, I am not certain what they want, Mistress.”

I furrowed my brow. “Oh?”

Sorceress nodded. “Your Old Dwarf has observed them skulking about the edges of the property.”

I sighed. The blog would have to wait. I needed to find out what the intrepid deputies were up to.exterior-interior-wonderful-white-wooden-entrance-glass-double-french-door-frames-as-modern-interior-accesories-decors-witching-french-door-inspirational-pictures-collection-interior-french-doors-whit-840x1120

I followed Sorceress up the stairs to the living room. We went over to the French doors leading to the deck and peered through the glass.

“See? There, in the next yard.” Sorceress pointed to the left.

Deputies trying to hideI tried not to giggle. “I wonder if Deputy Dawg really believes that tree is wide enough to hide him.”

Sorceress arched an eyebrow and shrugged. “It does a better job concealing him than that short bush does concealing his partner.”

I smirked and shook my head. “Do you happen to know where Dragon is currently? I need to ask her about the spell of concealment she has cast on the property. I don’t want to walk over to the edge of the yard and start talking to the deputies if they can’t see me. It might be hard to explain a disembodied voice.”

dragon talking“You need not worry.” Dragon had overheard the last part of the conversation as she entered the room. “The spell does not conceal anyone who is from your world, what you term the real world. It only conceals your characters and the illusions I have created, such as the barn, the paddocks, and the horses. If you walk out into the yard, the deputies will see you.”

I nodded. “Good. I think it’s time to have a conversation with the deputies. In the meantime, where are the precise boundaries of the spell? At what point would you or any of my other characters become visible to the residents of our real world?”

“Of course, you and Master Miles can see us wherever we are. Other people from your world would see us any time we leave the property.”

“You mean you are invisible until you step off the property, then poof! You’re visible?”

“That is correct.”

I frowned. “That’s no good. Can the spell be altered?”

Dragon nodded. “How do wish it altered?”

horses-all-gone-for-blog“I think from now on, if anyone wants to leave the property, they need to leave the house through the front door and be visible there, just as Miles and I are visible walking out of the house. That way, it looks natural when they walk down the sidewalk and step out onto the street. They don’t just suddenly appear and scare the heart and soul out of anyone who sees them. They should still be concealed by the spell if they are in the back yard.”

Dragon nodded again. “It shall be done.”

Sorceress sighed. “I best inform the others, so they all know to exit the property through the front door and down the driveway.”

I smiled at the two of them. “Thanks. Now I’m off to see what’s up with the deputies.”

Talking to deputiesAs I crossed the yard, the two deputies saw they had been spotted. They stepped out from behind the vegetation and tried to look nonchalant.

I pasted on a grim smile as I greeted them. “Deputy Whitewash! Deputy Dawg! It’s so nice to see you again. Is there anything I can help you with?”

“No, not a thing,” Deputy Whitewash assured me. Her partner merely grunted and gawked at the tree as if watching for squirrels.

I narrowed my eyes. “You seem to be surveilling my property. Is something wrong?”

“No, not a thing,” Deputy Whitewash assured me again, and again her partner merely grunted.

I folded my arms over my chest. “Then why are you watching my property?”

Deputy Dawg drew himself up, hooking his thumbs into his belt. “We’re not at liberty to discuss any ongoing investigations. Department policy.”

“Are you saying my husband and I are under investigation?”

“Didn’t say that.”
Police Officer in sunglasses
I frowned. I wish he’d take his sunglasses off. It’s hard to tell what he’s thinking when I can’t even see his eyes. “Well, then, we’re not under investigation?”

“Didn’t say that, either.”

“Well then, unless you have a warrant allowing you to trespass on my neighbor’s property and stare at my house, I think you had best leave.”
Another person hiding

The two deputies glanced surreptitiously at a nearby tree as if looking for answers. That’s when I spied another figure hiding behind that tree. Judging from his attire, he was not a member of the sheriff’s department.

 

I balled my hands into fists and placed them on my hips. “Just what is going on here?”

SuitsI jumped back when a surprising number of figures, all similarly dressed in black suits, stepped into sight from behind trees, bushes, and the neighbor’s house. One man hurried over to stand in front of the deputies. “Ma’am, as Deputy Dawg indicated, we are engaged in an ongoing investigation and cannot discuss the details with civilians. If you return to your house, you will be safe.”

I scowled at the man. “So, something’s going on that makes my back yard unsafe?”

“We can neither confirm nor deny that, ma’am.”

“Then can you at least tell me who is involved in this ongoing investigation? You certainly don’t look like a sheriff’s deputy.”
Deputy Whitewash
Before the man could stop her, Deputy Whitewash replied, “He’s not. This is a joint taskforce between local law enforcement represented by the county sheriff’s office, and the FBI, ICE and Homeland Security.”wide-eyed

My jaw dropped. What had my characters done now?

 
Be sure to come back next week. If we’re not all in prison, we’ll be sure to leave the porch light on for you.

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The Case of the Poison Mushrooms?

The Case of the Poison Mushrooms?

Young hero 2Deputy DawgMy Young Hero felt the weight of someone’s hand on his shoulder. He whirled around and found himself face-to-face with a frowning Deputy Dustin Dawg of our county sheriff’s department. The youngster’s eyes widened, and his face turned even redder than it had been. “S-s-sir?”

spilled food“I said that didn’t look like an accident to me, son. It looked to me like you deliberately pushed that platter of food onto the ground.” Deputy Dawg’s voice was hard as nails. His mouth was turned down in a scowl, and even with his eyes hidden behind sun glasses, the intensity of the deputy’s glare wilted my Young Hero.

Wiping the sweat from his brow, the lad shrank back from the uniformed figure. He swallowed hard, several times. “Deliberately . . .? Oh, no sir! It was an accident. I have the unfortunate affliction of extreme clumsiness.” But I noticed the lad’s green eyes, normally so open and guileless, were veiled.
Gypsy close-up
My Gypsy placed a hand on the other lad’s arm and nodded. “My friend is right, sir. It was naught but an accident! Your line of sight must have been blocked. I was right next to the lad when he knocked the plate off the table. As he said, he is very clumsy!”
Deputy Whitewash
The deputy continued scowling. His partner, Deputy Whitewash, had been standing silently by his side. Now, she joined the conversation, shaking her head emphatically. “My line of sight wasn’t obstructed, and I agree with my partner. It looked deliberate.”

I stepped into the fray, trying to keep my emotions under control and my voice even. I was torn between defending my characters and not drawing attention to them. “The lad isn’t the type to deliberately do something like this. Besides, why would he?”
Deputy Whitewash
Backyard 050Deputy Whitewash stared at me for a second before recognition darkened her face. She snorted. “Oh, it’s you. Whenever there’s trouble in this neighborhood, you’re close by.” She looked from me to my Young Hero, who was still standing there, red-faced and apologetic. “I should have figured he was related to you.”

I narrowed my eyes. “He’s a good kid.”

Before I could say more, the rest of my characters moved between my Young Hero and the deputies.
Dwarf closeup 2
“The laddie be sayin’ it be jest an ax-i-dent. Be ye callin’ ’em a liar?” My Old Dwarf stood there, glaring at the deputies. His chin jutted, his bushy eyebrows were squished down over narrowed eyes. He balled one hand into a fist and thumped it repeatedly into the open palm of his other hand.

I saw Deputy Whitewash move one hand to the holster of her service revolver. With her other hand, she grabbed her partner’s sleeve and tugged to get his attention. “Be careful. He’s the one that had that axe!” The words were said in a whisper loud enough to carry through the assembled crowd.

I moved in front of my Old Dwarf, trying to keep the incident from escalating. I was spared the need to do anything, by Gloria, of all people.

neighbor-2neighborGloria, who had been rooted in place gaping at the mess on the ground, finally shook herself, as if trying to wake from a bad dream. She turned toward us and addressed the deputies. Given the dark look on her face, her voice was surprisingly perky. It still reminded me of a high-school cheerleader. “Oh, accidents happen. I’m sure the boy didn’t do it intentionally. I was just so upset when it happened because I spent so much time preparing that dish. Oh, well, there’s plenty more food here, no one will starve. I just need to get it cleaned up.” She looked around the crowd that had gathered until her gaze fell on her husband. Her voice and body language switched from cheerleader to drill sergeant. “Mace, help me clean up this mess before someone slips and falls!” Mace jumped to do his wife’s bidding.

My Young Hero waved Mace away and turned to Gloria. “Milady, I made the mess; please allow me to clean it up.”

Gloria gave him an appraising glance. She frowned but nodded. She took Mace by the arm and led him away, beckoning the deputies to follow. The four of them huddled near a tree, gesturing and whispering.

in a huddle

Another one of our neighbors, just arriving at the park, saw Miles and me. He called to us, waving us over to join him and his family. I figured he wanted the low-down on the commotion. I gave my characters a stern look. “I don’t know what’s going on, but there better not be any more trouble. Understood?” Without waiting for a reply, Miles and I smiled at our neighbor and walked over to join his group.

                                                                   * * *

Elf cleric close-upThe lad and his friends all pitched in to clean up the spilled stroganoff. Dragon, inconspicuous in her customary guise of a delicate young maiden, whispered something to them. They all nodded and started picking the mushrooms out of the mess and concealing them in napkins.

Dragon raked her hand through her hair. “Something is not right.”

Stu-04-NatGalSorceress tilted her head. “Other than the fact our neighbor was trying to poison people?”

Dragon lifted an eyebrow. “Mayhap she was not.”

The companions finished cleaning up the food they had spilled, and surreptitiously handed the napkins full of mushrooms to Dragon.

Dragon was staring at the group huddled under the tree. “Some of you keep an eye on the two deputies. The rest of you, do not allow Mace and Gloria out of your sight.” She turned back to Cleric and Sorceress, who were looking at her quizzically. “Come. We need to examine these mushrooms.” The three women headed back toward the house.

                                                                    * * *

Forty-five minutes later, the three women were back at the park. They gathered their friends and found a quiet spot to talk, away from the crowd.

Keeping her voice low, Dragon announced, “Forsooth, we were wrong.”

Everyone stared at Dragon, brows furrowed, heads tilted.

“What be we wrong aboot?” The dwarf scratched his bearded chin.

“Cleric, Sorceress, and I examined the mushrooms from Gloria’s stroganoff. They were not poisonous.” Dragon looked as confused as everyone else as she made this revelation.

The pompous elf looked down his nose at Dragon. “But you said you were sure of what you overheard.”

Dragon glared at him. “I was sure. I am sure. Cleric, Sorceress, the dwarf, and I were coming back from gathering botanicals. We took a short-cut, under my spell of concealment. We found ourselves in Mace and Gloria’s yard. They were sitting in their gazebo, and we were close enough that I distinctly heard their conversation.” Dragon paused, her brow furrowed in concentration. “They were discussing a problem they were having with some neighbors, obviously Mistress Writer and Master Miles. Mace’s exact words were ‘they’ve been nothing but trouble since we moved here. We need to do something about them, and soon.’” Dragon paused again, her eyes narrowed. “Gloria told him not to worry, that she had it all planned. Then Gloria explained to Mace about the poison mushrooms in the stroganoff.”

The elf sneered. “But you just said the mushrooms in the stroganoff are not poisonous.”

Dragon sighed. “They are not. I can only presume Mace and Gloria changed their minds when they realized Mistress Writer and Master Miles might not be the only ones to fall victim to the poison if they used the mushrooms in the food served here today.”

“Thet be meanin’ they be tryin’ ta be kiltin’ the lass an’ ’er lad some udder way.” The dwarf mumbled around a mouthful of food.

Sorceress frowned at his manners but nodded at his conclusion. “We need to keep a sharp eye on Mistress Writer and Master Miles today.”

Everyone nodded.

                                                                      * * *

Elf clericBackyard 050“Missy! There you are!”

I could hear the relief in Dragon’s voice. I looked up from my conversation with one of our neighbors and saw all nine of my characters crowding around, worry creasing their faces. I frowned. “What’s wrong?”
Dwarf closeup 2
“Eh, there be nuttin’ wrong, lass. We jest dinna be knowin’ where ye be.” My Old Dwarf spoke around a mouthful of food.

bullhornNeighbor 2 facing leftBefore I could pursue the matter further, a voice blared over a bullhorn. “Everyone . . . everyone . . . can I have your attention?” Gloria addressed the gathering in full cheerleader mode, voice perky, body language bouncy – I almost expected her to start turning cartwheels. “Hi, neighbors! Thanks for coming out today! Isn’t it great to get together and get to know everyone in the neighborhood a little better? Be sure to grab something to eat before we start clearing the tables. In about an hour, we’re going to rearrange everything into a semicircle over there.” She pointed as she spoke, indicating a shaded corner at the far end of the park. She continued without pausing for a breath, one of her talents that never ceased to amaze me. “We’ll need a few strong helpers to move the benches, then everyone who has something to sit on should bring it – lawn chairs, camp chairs, blankets, whatever you have. We have a surprise for you! I’ve arranged for some entertainment for our neighborhood get-together!”

Stage
A little more than an hour and many bull-horned directions later, the entire neighborhood sat around a small stage that had been erected in the northeast corner of the park. Miles and I sat in canvass stadium chairs, while my characters perched on boxes or sprawled on blankets around us. All eyes were on Gloria as she hopped up on the stage.

Thankfully, Gloria had managed to set up a sound system that did not require further use of the bullhorn. She had no problem being heard over the noise of the crowd. “Well, neighbors, I don’t like to toot my own horn – well, yes, I do! Toodle-de-toot!” Gloria followed this with a deep, throaty laugh before continuing. “But tonight, I am very pleased to share center stage with a group of people who have been working hard for the past few weeks. Please welcome Waiting in the Wings in Waconia, our new local theater group!”

Looking embarrassed, Gloria’s husband, Mace, stepped up on the stage next to his wife. Deputies Whitewash and Dawg, and several of our neighbors whom I did not know as well, stepped up to stand next to the wooden platform.

On stage

“Tonight, folks, we’re going to present a very short play, a murder mystery, penned by none other than yours truly.” Gloria gave a little curtsey. “We didn’t have the time or the manpower to build sets, so you’ll have to use your imagination.”

Gloria set the scene for the first act, explaining what the set would look like, if there was a set. Then she explained the storyline. “I play Penelope, a southern belle. Mace plays the part of Beauregard, Penelope’s husband. We recently moved to a new house and one of our neighbors is not very nice.

Gloria and Mace then took center stage, as the other players sat on the edges, waiting their turns.

Backyard 050MilesI tried not to giggle as Gloria and Mace delivered their lines. I leaned over to Miles and whispered in his ear. “If this is the best Gloria can do as a playwright, she better not quit her day job.”

Miles put his finger over his lips and leaned forward to hear the play.

neighbor“They’ve been nothing but trouble since we moved here. We need to do something about them, and soon.” Mace/Beauregard frowned.

Neighbor 2 facing leftGloria/Penelope laughed a deep, throaty laugh. “Don’t worry, darling! I’ve got it all planned.”

“Oh?” Mace/Beauregard quirked an eyebrow.

“Remember the mushrooms?” Gloria/Penelope smiled smugly. “Is it my fault some poisonous fungi got mixed in with them?”

“Poison mushrooms?” Her husband’s eyes widened, and a smile spread across his face. “Do you think you can get our . . . friends . . . to eat them?”

“Oh, darling, do you know anyone who can resist my stroganoff?” Gloria/Penelope simpered at her husband. “By this time next week, we will have one less headache with which to contend in our happy little neighborhood.”

The play turned out to be more comedy than mystery, with the two deputies bumbling through their lines just as the characters they played bumbled through the investigation of the murder. Still, the neighborhood crowd was happy to be entertained, and we gave the cast a standing ovation. After Gloria tried to drum up some more members for Waiting in the Wings in Waconia, the gathering wound down and we all started to pack up and head for home. I looked around for my characters, but they appeared to have slipped away already.

                                                                       * * *

Arrogant One facing rightDragon elf maiden turning redTheater!” The annoying, pompous elf giggled. Dragon turned red and glared at him.

“How were we to know?” Dragon scuffed her feet as she trod along the street toward home.

“It sounded very real when we overheard them.” Cleric’s face was as red as Dragon’s, and she couldn’t stop wringing her hands.

“Well, one thing is certain.” Sorceress glared at her companions. “We do not mention this to Mistress Writer . . . ever!”

For once, there was no dissent among the companions.

We hope you enjoyed this little misadventure, and we welcome you to come back next week and see what my characters are up to then. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

Dragon’s Not the Only One With a Problem

Dragon’s Not the Only One With a Problem

For today's blog 001“What is Dragon’s problem?”

I looked up from my computer, and my husband leaned over and gave me a quick peck on the cheek before continuing. “I know she’s moody most days, but she’s really outdoing herself today.”

I put my finger over my lips, trying to signal Miles not to say any more, but he kept talking.Charing shoes 2

“Do you know she threatened me? Again! She told me she’s going to char my shoes with my feet still in them. She hasn’t said that in ages, and now she’s threatened me with it three times in the last hour!”

“Ah, honey . . . this may not be the best time to discuss this matter.” I inclined my head and my eyes darted toward the back of the room.

Dragon in officeMiles looked over the mess and mayhem that was my office, and realized Dragon was standing next to the bookshelf in the alcove at the far end of the room. A toothy grimace spread across her reptilian face.

“Oops.” My husband turned bright red, then gulped. “I’m dead meat, aren’t I?”

Dragon put down the book she had been perusing, and fixed Miles with an icy stare. “I am not moody.”

Miles raised his eyebrows. “If you say so.”

“I do.” She walked toward him, closing the gap between them in two steps, incredibly not disturbing any of the precariously positioned clutter with her great bulk.
Miles and Dragon
The huge beast towered over my husband. She leaned over, pushing her face right into his. She glared at him, nose to nose, for several long, agonizing moments, then straightened up and left the room without another word.

I jumped up and caught Miles by the arm and guided him into a chair as his legs turned to rubber. He looked at me, wide-eyed, with beads of sweat on his forehead. “Why didn’t you do something? She might have eaten me . . . or roasted me . . . or –”

“Oh, honey, Dragon would never harm you. She gets her giggles from intimidating you.” I gave him a peck on the cheek and affectionately tousled he hair. “Besides, it’s your own fault. I tried to tell you this was not a good time to talk about her.”

After he had calmed down, Miles got up and walked over to the door. He glanced into the hallway to make sure Dragon wasn’t standing there, listening. When he was certain the big beast had departed, he turned back to me. “So, what is her problem today?”

I sighed and dragged my hand through my hair. “She’s feeling guilty.”

“Why?” Miles sat down again.

“She believes that she’s responsible for the recent illness that incapacitated so many of her comrades.”

Miles furrowed his brow. “How could she be responsible?”

Snow devils on mountainI shrugged. “She’s convinced herself, since she can’t find any other source of the malady, that it must have been introduced into our world by the snow devils. And, you remember, she’s the one who inadvertently captured them in her magical conduit and brought them here.”

Miles tilted his head and rubbed his chin. “How can she be sure the snow devils were the source of the illness?”

I sighed again. “I don’t think she is sure, but she’s desperate to find the cause. She fears that such a disease could strike again.”

Miles scoffed and shook his head. “Knowing where it came from isn’t going to prevent it from happening again. And, anyway, she could be wrong. The virus or bacteria causing the illness could have come from anywhere. Since it didn’t affect us, it could have been a common germ from our own world for which your characters had no immunity.”

“I know. I pointed that out to Dragon. She dismissed that argument, saying she and Cleric weren’t affected, either, so it couldn’t have been a germ from this world. She thinks her explanation makes the most sense.” I sighed again. “Dragon is all too ready to assume blame for the whole incident. So, cut her some slack. Be nice to her or avoid her for a while until this all blows over.”

“And maybe I should invest in some fireproof shoes, in case I can’t stay out of her way?” Miles winked at me and left.

Two hours later, Cleric knocked on the door. “Mistress? Master Miles requested me to ask you if you could assist him upstairs.”

computer-and-monitorI looked up. “Uh, sure. Just let me save this story I’ve been working on.”

Cleric crossed the room and looked over my shoulder at the computer. “What are you writing about?”

“Oh, it’s just a silly kid’s story, with talking animals.”

“Oh, that sounds delightful! May I read it?”

“Well, it’s nowhere near finished yet, but sure, you can read it next time I work on it – probably sometime this afternoon, after I finish helping Miles.” I tilted my head and winked at Cleric. “Maybe you could even help me write it.”

About a half-hour later, I called down the stairs to Cleric, “I’ve got to go out for a while. Miles and I need to do some shopping. I’ll see you when I get home.

                                                                           *  * *
Elf facing rightCleric paced back and forth in the hallway outside my office door. She chewed on her bottom lip and wrung her hands. She scuffed her foot back and forth and straightened her robes. She walked to the foot of the stairs and looked up, staring as if willing me to walk in the front door. After a few minutes, she sighed and walked back to my office. She stood there for a few more moments before entering the room.

computer_keyboardMistress Writer will not mind if I look at the story without her being present. Cleric looked at my computer and hesitated. I have watched the Gypsy activate this machine countless times, when we characters used to sneak in here and read Mistress Writer’s manuscripts and look at her photographs. Now, how did he do it?  She began to tap on the keyboard.

 

                                                                   * * *
“Let’s try to get these groceries inside and put away as quickly as possible. I promised Cleric she could read that children’s story I’ve been working on, and I know she’ll be chomping at the bit.” I took two bags from the trunk of the car and headed for the door.

Miles grabbed two more bags and followed close behind. “Okay, but let’s be careful. I don’t want to run into Dragon.”

We reached the kitchen with no sign of Dragon. We placed the bags on the counter and started to go back for the rest of the groceries. As we walked through the living room, we were almost knocked over. My Old Dwarf came tearing past us, yelling, cussing, and waving his battle axe, in pursuit of a rabbit.

Dwarf chasing rabbit

“Ye be commin’ back here, ye consarned varmit! How did ye be gittin’ in the hoose, anywho?”

I grabbed my Old Dwarf as he made a second pass, chasing the rabbit around the room.

“Whoa! What are you doing? Put that axe down!”

“Yeah, ya big bully! Put that axe down!” The rabbit turned and scolded my Old Dwarf.

Rabbit yelling at Dwarf

My jaw dropped.

Miles grabbed my arm. “D . . . did that rabbit just say something?” My husband gaped at the small, white creature, who hopped over to stand in front of him.

“Hey, bub, don’t cha know it’s rude ta stare?”

I sighed. “Okay, not funny. Where’s my Arrogant One?”

“You mean this is one of the elf’s illusions?” Miles wiped his brow and looked relieved.

“It must be.” I frowned.

“Hey, sista, do I look like an illusion?” The rabbit thumped her hind foot and glared at me.

I turned to my Old Dwarf. “Find the elf.”

He nodded curtly and took off for the garden shed.

sorceress-facing-rightI heard footsteps behind me and turned to see Sorceress walking up the stairs. She nodded a greeting to Miles and me and walked over to stand with us. She crossed her arms over her chest and stared at the rabbit, who was now wandering around, inspecting the room. “I see you have met our visitor.”

I nodded, still frowning. “How long has she been here?”

“I am not sure, but some of her friends are in the conference room.” She raised an eyebrow and grimaced.

“Well, I just sent my Old Dwarf in search of my Arrogant One. As soon as the elf is here, he can get rid of the visitors.”

“Oh, these are not the elf’s illusions.” Sorceress shook her head.

“Then what?” My frown deepened.

“Toldja, sista. I ain’t no illusion!” The rabbit was standing in front of me again, a smug look on her furry little face.

“Then where did you come from?” As I realized what I said, I snorted and shook my head. “I don’t believe I’m trying to have a conversation with a rabbit.”

“Why not?” The rabbit looked insulted.

Rabbit

“Rabbits don’t talk.”

“Oh yeah?” The smug creature grinned.

I turned back to Sorceress. “You said this was not one of my Arrogant One’s illusions. So, where did a talking rabbit come from, and why is she here?”

“I think you best seek those answers from Cleric.”

Before I could inquire about Cleric’s part in all this, my Old Dwarf came back in, dragging my Arrogant One by the collar. The elf was screeching in his normal glass-shattering pitch. “Let go of me! I demand you release me this instant, you oaf!”

 

“As ye be wishin’, elfie.” The old reprobate deposited the elf at my feet.

“Sorry, we apparently don’t need him after all. I’ve been informed the rabbit, and several other visitors, are not his illusions.”

“Oh, well. No harm be done ’em.”

“No harm? Why you . . .”

But we didn’t get to hear what my Arrogant One had to say. At that moment, a large deer bolted up the stairs, wailing. “My baby! That beast is going to barbecue my baby!”Deer

Miles jumped back out of the deer’s way, pulling me with him. He gaped at the panicky animal, then turned to me. He looked almost as panicked as the deer. “Honey? What’s going on?”

Over the wailing and bleating of the deer, I shouted, “Why don’t we go down to the conference room and try to find out?”

The deer snorted and galloped down the stairs, the rabbit hot on her heels. Miles, Sorceress, and I followed at a more dignified pace. After a moment’s hesitation, my Old Dwarf grabbed my Arrogant One by the collar and ran after us, dragging the screeching elf behind him.

I stopped dead just inside the doorway of the conference room. On the one side of the room were the deer, the rabbit, a fawn, a trio of baby raccoons, and some baby birds. On the other side of the room was Dragon, glaring at the assembled animals and spewing black smoke. Cleric was in the middle, facing Dragon. Her arms and legs were spread wide, as if shielding the animals from Dragon, and tears were streaming down her face.

Cleric protecting animals

“Ya bedda do sometin’ quick, sista! Ya got yerself a baaaad situation here!” The rabbit hopped over and stood next to me. “Ya ain’t gonna let that there big, scaly brute barbecue us poor, defenseless little animals, now are ya?”

“What in the name of Sam Hill is going on here? Where did these animals come from?”

At my explosive outburst, everyone turned and stared at me. For a long few moments, you could hear a pin drop. Then chaos broke loose as Cleric, Dragon, and all the animals started talking at once.

Where did these animals come from? What part did Cleric have in their appearance? Why does Dragon want to barbecue them? Be sure to come back next week and see how this baaaad situation is resolved. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.