From the Archives: Faith’s Adventure – All 8 Stories
Partly true, partly fictional. 8 very short stories about Ken and his dog faith. Suitable for all ages. Please note: story “Faith Loses a Friend” may need parental guidance for younger children.
From the Archives: Faith’s Adventure – All 8 Stories
Partly true, partly fictional. 8 very short stories about Ken and his dog faith. Suitable for all ages. Please note: story “Faith Loses a Friend” may need parental guidance for younger children.
The smell of fresh coffee teased my nostrils. I entered Daisy’s Café below the row of offices that overlooked a noisy intersection on Charter Row.
Daisy’s beaming smile greeted me. ‘Morning, Dave. The usual?’
‘Yes, please. Any doughnuts?’
Daisy handed me the coffee then bagged the doughnuts while I guzzled down a few mouthfuls of the piping hot brew. ‘Ah… Just the way I like it. See you later Daisy.’
I stepped back out into the commotion of the busy street and headed up the flight of stairs a few feet away. There, blocking my way, sat a vagabond. A middle-aged man, down on his luck and known to every tenant on Charter Row as Tom.
‘Tom.’ I paused to calm my tone. ‘I really need to get to my office.’
‘Can I-I-I come up? I-I-I need to t-t-talk,’ he stuttered.
‘Come on then.’ I sighed. I knew the only way to pass was to allow him to accompany me. I shook the bag of doughnuts. ‘I’ve got your favourite.’
Tom grinned. He followed me up the stairs and I handed him the bag so I could unlock the door. I stepped aside to let him enter. Closing the door behind me, I placed the coffee on my desk and opened a window.
‘Now, what can I do for you Tom?’ I watched him gulp down the last doughnut.
He choked and sprayed crumbs over my desk. I handed him my coffee. I would go without. Tom stuttered his thanks and drank before he explained his request.
He began by telling me his name was actually Thomas not Tom. His problem was a simple one. Thomas needed bus fare to a canning factory where his friend John worked as a packer. Thomas needed to go today, preferably before ten o’clock, because the cannery was employing staff this morning. He needed me to go along to speak for him. It was true enough, I understood his stuttering and asking for a position would be difficult for both Thomas and the employer.
‘Okay, you can’t go like that.’ I pointed him to the tiny bathroom and told him to strip and have a sponge bath using the sink while I checked the phone messages.
There was only one message. ‘Lord Bellamy here; I need you to find someone. If you return my call before midday the job is yours.’ I looked at my watch. ‘Ouch!’
I could hear Thomas complaining about the cold water. I gave Thomas some spare clothes I kept at the office in case I slept at the office during investigations. The trousers were definitely too long but they would have to do.
The wash, the change of clothes and a comb through his hair, made Tom respectable enough. Thankfully his thread bare shoes were hidden by his trousers. I sprayed Thomas with cologne until we both choked.
Thomas’s eyes widened. He seemed excited to be out of Charter Row. He obviously hadn’t been on a bus for a long time; maybe not at all. There was a lot I didn’t know about Thomas.
‘Thomas,’ I asked, as the bus neared the factory. ‘Where will you live if you get this job?’
‘M-m-my friend, J-J-John, h-he let me stay for a-a bit,’ he answered, his eyes still fixed on the view beyond the window.
We arrived at the cannery a little before ten thirty. The manager was sympathetic and understanding.
‘John would like me to give you a go’, he told Thomas. ‘I’ll give you a month’s trial. John’s a good teacher. I’m sure you’ll be fine.’
After handshakes all around, I left Thomas with the manager and returned to my office where Old Spice cologne still lingered in the stuffy air. I pressed the replay button on the answering machine and dialed the recorded number. I was pleased Thomas had the opportunity for a fresh start. I wondered now if I had a job.
‘Lord Bellamy’s residence, may I help you?’
‘Yes, this is Dave Strong, Private Investigator. Lord Bellamy left a message on my answering machine.’
‘Yes, Mr. Strong, he’s been waiting for your call. I’ll put you through.’
There was only a brief silence before the voice on the phone matched that of the recording on my machine. He came straight to the point of his request.
‘Hello Mr. Strong. I need someone to find my brother.’ Lord Bellamy’s voice sounded stately but urgent. ‘My brother and my father, Lawrence Bellamy, had a disagreement over twenty years ago. My brother left and we haven’t heard from him since.’
He paused before continuing. ‘Our father passed away a few weeks ago and regardless of their differences, Father left my brother half the estate. I need to find him. It’s time to bring him home. Can you help?’
This was right up my alley. I needed a good investigation and I loved finding long lost souls. ‘Yes, I can help you Lord Bellamy. Might I have some details to help start my search?’
‘His birth name is Thomas Alfred Bellamy, born 40 years ago in Sheffield. He has one significant characteristic trait that stands out. He stutters.’
© Chrissy Siggee
(Perhaps the shortest investigation in history)
Fourteen-year-old Electra sat perched on the edge of her chair facing the small group that sat cross legged on her bed.
‘It happened a long time ago’, she began, ‘but it seems like yesterday—probably because I’ve told the story so often. The only reason why I tell the story is because it’s why my family is the way it is. You see, we are a family with roots. Oh, you think your families has roots too? Okay, let me explain what REAL ancestry means.’
Electra put the empty popcorn bowl on the floor before continuing.
‘In 1801, my great, great, great, great grandfather, built this house. He had been a pirate ever since he ran away to sea and became a captain’s cabin boy. The ship was called the Black Raven… its captain’s name was..’
‘Electra! Will you please stop telling that tale.’
‘Aw…Dad. Why not? It sure beats the real story.’
‘There’s nothing wrong with our family’s history, or your family home. And, don’t forget the reason why you were named Electra.’
Sandy, one of the girls at the pyjama party, bounced off the bed. ‘Tell us, Mr Chapman. We really want to know about your house and your family.’
The other girls joined in the pleading.
Electra stood and took the freshly made popcorn from her father, pointed the bowl toward her chair where she had just been sitting, and motioned him to take over the narration.
‘Electra was right about the year. That’s when the house was built, but that’s where the truth of her story finishes.’ He waited for Sandy and his daughter to join the other girls on the bed. Electra passed the popcorn round before he continued.
‘Basically, my father wanted to save this house from being bulldozed. The locals wanted it demolished for safety reasons. He pleaded his case and renovated it. It’s been our family home since I was a boy. There are a few rooms that have never been restored but it’s stable.’
Sandy stared at nothing in particular. ‘You mean those rooms could be haunted?’
Electra burst out laughing. ‘You must be kidding.’
‘Please continue’, one of the girls requested, her eyes focusing on Electra’s father and ignoring his daughter’s outburst.
‘No, the house is not haunted—not that I know of. The rooms have just never been needed. There’s no great mystery, only the history gets a bit confusing. A few generations back the family lost most of their fortune and the house was left empty for years.’
Sandy looked puzzled. ‘Is that it? Electra, I think it’s a great story. Tell us Mr Chapman how did Electra get her name.’
‘It’s not all that interesting,’ Electra commented casually, wriggled back against the bed board and stuffed popcorn into her mouth.
Her father paused and took a moment to continue. ‘Electra’s mother was beautiful. She had red hair…’
‘That explains your hair,’ Sandy teased.
Electra pushed Sandy playfully off the bed, causing Sandy to squeal and the others to laugh.
‘She died in child birth’, he continued unperturbed. A hush filled the room before he continued. ‘I didn’t know what I would do or how I would bring up our little girl on my own. I brought her back here to my family home where my parents helped until they passed away. Not only was Electra born with red hair but she looked like she had a shock that caused her hair to frizz. Her grandmother named her. Over time her hair lost its frizz… but the name stuck. Her hair still reminds me of her mother.’
He stood and left the room, closing the door quietly behind him.
The girls remained speechless. Electra climbed off the bed and placed the popcorn on her desk before anyone spoke.
Sandy followed Electra and stood behind her, hesitating before speaking. ‘You’ve never told me the real story. Why wouldn’t anyone like the true story about your family and this house?’
Electra turned; her eyes glistened with tears. ‘I wish I knew my mother but I do know a lot about her. Dad and my grandparents made sure I knew everything about her. Every birthday I tell my pirate story so I don’t get sad. I guess I didn’t realize, until today, just how sad my dad gets.’
The girls gathered around their friend for a group hug. ‘Your family sounds wonderful,’ Sandy exclaimed. ‘Your family home is beautiful. Why don’t we ask your dad to show us around?’
Electra smiled and wiped her eyes. ‘That’s sounds like a great idea. Maybe we’ll find some pirate ghosts or some lost treasure’, she added with a giggle. She took Sandy by the hand and led the girls from her room in search of an adventure.
© Chrissy Siggee
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
The lunch bell rang. The din of chairs screeching, student chatter and books slamming closed echoed in the classroom.
‘Peter Mason, I’d like a word with you in my office over lunch.’
Peter had only been at this school for six months. His father’s job regularly moved them from state to state. This was his second school in three years, making it difficult to make friends and to be accepted by his peers.
‘Hey Mason, what’s Olsen want to see you for this time?’ Jeremy Spears sniggered.
Jason shrugged and kept walking.
‘Mason,’ Spears shouted after him. ‘See you after school … usual place.’
The gym was his favourite place. Oddly enough, it was the only class he didn’t share with Jeremy. He entered the locker room and quickly changed into his gym gear.
One of the team’s pole-vaulters came over while Peter was placing a sweatband around his head. ‘Mason, I didn’t think you were going to show. Good to see you.’ He snickered and slapped Peter’s back.
Peter turned but the guy was gone. What’s he on? Peter pushed open the swinging doors, entered the gym and did his usual warm-up routine. His favourite apparatus were the rings, and he was grateful he had them to himself for the next hour.
‘Mason,’ the coach shouted. ‘Didn’t you hear the bell? Go shower. Principal Olsen is waiting.’
He showered quickly, dressed and was running his fingers through his matted hair when the coach entered the locker room.
‘Mason, you have an ability that will get you to the 2024 Olympic Games. Don’t waste your time painting walls in your spare time.’
‘Coach, I …’ But the coach had already left.
What is it with these jerks? He stormed off to the administration block, notified the secretary he had arrived and plopped in a chair to wait.
‘Come in, Mr. Mason. Take a seat.’
Principal Olsen didn’t even look up when he stepped behind his desk and sat down on his swivel chair. He picked up a newspaper and started reading.
They both sat in silence for a few moments before Principal Olsen spoke. ‘It’s come to my attention … again, that you were seen immediately following the latest graffiti incident here at the school. Somehow your picture and story made front page news.’ He emphasized his last words by tossing the folded newspaper across the table for Peter to read.
Peter stared at the photo, obviously taken by a security video camera, and the caption below. ‘Graffiti King Identified on Camera.’ In the hood of his jacket was a pressure-pack can.
‘How? Spears, it had to be Spears. Sir …’
‘I’d like to believe you, I really would. However, Spears is seen … here.’ He pointed to a gate, to the left of what appeared to be Peter. ‘He may have avoided the ‘camera rotation but …’
‘Why would I carry a spray can in my hoodie, Sir?’ Peter felt his pulse racing.
‘I’m sorry, Peter. This time I have to issue a suspension. Your father has been notified. You can collect your things now before classes resume. Return to the office to collect your suspension letter for your father and leave while everyone’s in class.’
Peter left in a daze. He couldn’t believe it.
He emptied the contents of his locker into his backpack and shut the door. He made his way back to the gym and wandered over to the rings. He was overcome with disappointment. He took one last look and turned to see the coach standing nearby.
‘It’s only for the remainder of the term, Peter, and unfortunately, Olsen won’t let you use the school gym after school hours either. I tried, but he won’t budge.’
‘Coach, I didn’t do it. Honest.’
His coach sighed. He placed his hand on Peter’s shoulder and spoke with compassion. ‘Look, stay away from Spears. He’s bad news. If you can keep out of trouble, I’ll talk to Principal Olsen about a summer training program.’
Peter smiled weakly. ‘Thanks Coach.’
With regrets, Peter returned to the administration block, collected the letter and headed home determined to hold on to the hint of hope that his coach had given him.
© Chrissy Siggee
Everyone except Thomas Creighton-Smiths’ granddaughter, Ada, knew Rosie was more than just a pig. Ada’s ideal retirement for Rosie was to explore the ancient land of dragons by day and visit the kitchen for under-the-table dinner scraps in the evenings before dreaming by the fireplace.
At breakfast one dank April Friday, Grandma had suggested they have roast pig for Sunday lunch complete with the traditional three vegetables and brown gravy made from the juices of the roasting meat. It was while Grandma chatted on about where she would insert the large rotisserie rod that Ada ran from the kitchen with Rosie close at her heels. ‘It will help tenderise the old sow’, Grandma was saying without acknowledging she had heard the back-door slam.
Thomas put down his morning paper. ‘I just wanted to take the pig to the abattoir to recoup some of our losses. After all, this is a working farm’. He muttered as he left the house in search of Ada.
His eyes scanned the landscape for a sign of the two gallant explorers. In spite of himself, old Thomas didn’t envy the little girl. He had grown up in Beatrix Potter country and the fantasies she created. The stunning Lake District would have been more practical for Ada’s school holiday imagination. He shook his head. Maybe we should have stayed in Ambleside and taken up trout farming.
It was two days before St George’s national holiday and Thomas needed to take that fat old pig for a road trip but Grandma was fixed on having tough pork and bacon. He stood at the garden gate and looked around. Where are they? He squinted into the fog that settled over the bogs as he recalled his mother’s favourite story that dated back to the 6th century. What was it again? Oh yes. St George rescued a young maiden by slaying a terrifying fire-breathing dragon. He slipped his hands into his warm pockets and headed for the main road.
So she wouldn’t fall over, Ada held up her long flowing medieval princess costume as she marched down Old Kent Road. Rosie trudged slightly behind with cardboard toilet cylinders on her pointy ears and three black ribbons tied onto her limp tail.
They stopped near a red telephone box just beyond the intersection where the road-signs crisscrossed on a wooden post. ‘Oh Rosie, how could Grandma say such horrid things? I won’t let them eat you.’ Ada stomped her foot splashing slops of mud over both of them.
She lifted the old play dress above her waist to search the pockets of her faded jeans beneath. With a silver coin in her hand she stepped into the telephone box. Finding the correct number from the list beside the chunky black phone, Ada dialled and waited. Rosie grunted, shuffled and squeezed in until she jammed herself tight between Ada’s knees.
‘Hello!’ Ada shouted into the mouthpiece. ‘Please help me. They’re going to kill Rosie!’
Approaching the end of the lane where it met the road, Grandpa looked left then right. Their farm was located two miles due east of the abattoir between Dover and Holyhead. He sniffed the thick foul air. This neighbourhood is likened to the lowest-priced property on the English Monopoly board. A few moments later he decided Ada would have headed away from town so off he trudged.
Minutes later he heard an ear-piercing squeal followed by a shout from young Ada. He quickened his stride. The telephone box, a little way past the next farm on the opposite side of the road, seemed to be alive as it shook and groaned. Grandpa stopped in mid-step; his neck craned forward. There was someone, or something, in the telephone box. There were too many legs to count. He saw what looked like horns and a tail with blades. There was a lot of banging and bumping going on behind the grime and moss streaked glass.
‘Oh my, it looks like a dragon!’
Ada screamed again jolting Grandpa from his trance. Manoeuvring the door open to avoid swishing his granddaughter, he grabbed Rosie by the tail and dragged her squealing from the booth.
Later, after the local Bobbies had their explanation and had a good laugh, Grandpa and Ada sat down to rest at the nearby bus-stop.
‘Did you know Ada, only forty-five to fifty percent of animals at the abattoir can be turned into edible meat products, fifteen percent is waste, and the remaining forty to forty five percent is turned into by-products like bath soap, candles and glue?’ He paused. ‘You know, glue suits her.’
‘It’s OK. I’d rather like rescuing my little princess from dragons. Come on, let’s go home and break the news to Grandma.’ He winked at his granddaughter. ‘There will be no more talk of bacon and roast pork.’
© Chrissy Siggee
From the Archives: Faith’s Adventure – All 8 Stories
Partly true, partly fictional. 8 very short stories about Ken and his dog faith. Suitable for all ages. Please note: story “Faith Loses a Friend” may need parental guidance for younger children.
‘This is the Police. Come out with your hands in the air!’
Three police cars parked strategically around the front of the gas station. The alarm had been activated and the police were called in. There had been a spate of break-ins and they had finally caught the culprit in the act. Firearms used in the previous two robberies made the police nervous. They guarded themselves behind their cars where the faint smell of body odour and heated engine oil mingled. Neighbours awakened by the early dawn invasion, gathered cautiously outside their homes to observe the commotion.
‘Do you hear me? This is Police Officer Brody. Come out with your hands up!’
The door opened slowly, revealing a small laced-up boot. The officers dropped down behind their vehicles, guns cocked.
‘Please don’t shoot’, a quiet trembling voice responded.
The door opened a little further and an elderly woman hobbled out. She was stooped low and walked with a cane.
‘What the…? Please step out into the open and put down your—cane.’
She dropped the cane and raised her hands as far as her skinny arms would allow.
Officer Brody stepped forward to access the situation. He motioned Police Officer Mandy Walters to carry out a search. Brody steadied the shaken old lady with his powerful hand under her elbow. Officer Walters placed the crooked walking stick back into an arthritic hand. She obviously didn’t want to embarrass the startled petite woman any further by searching her.
With an indignant expression, the woman faced the officer in charge. ‘I think there has been a mistake. You see, I left my keys in the bathroom and when I went back in, I noticed I had grease on my clothes.’ She rubbed at the spot on her weathered skirt.
‘I tried to wash it, but I had to take it off because the skirt wouldn’t reach the faucet. I locked myself in so no one would disturb me. Unfortunately, I think the nice man at the counter must have closed up for the night and didn’t realize I was still there.’
‘Where is your car?’
‘Sir! I don’t own a car. That’s my motorcycle.’ She lifted her cane and pointed with her bent fingers past the police cars and confused police officers. A Harley Davison that sheltered under an ancient oak tree glistened in the morning sunlight.
‘I find this all hard to believe. Tell me how you were in there all night without triggering the alarm?’
‘Well, you see…. I sat on the toilet seat to adjust my tights and I slipped off into the corner. I was stuck and didn’t have the energy to get up until this morning. When I left the bathroom, I was aware that I couldn’t get out so I shook the door. That pesky alarm just kept screaming at me.’
Brody scratched his head, completely mesmerized while she shuffled towards the Harley across the road. She mounted the motorcycle with a little difficulty, but unwavering. She placed an opened-face helmet over her greying, outdated hairstyle.
Using her key, the engine started up with a roar. Poking the cane into a side pouch, she flipped the kickstand up and drove off in one smooth movement. Officer Brody glanced at a smug-faced Walters before replacing his gun into its holster.
‘What are you looking at? You can do the report when we get back.’
© Chrissy Siggee
Jessie stared wide-eyed at the freckled face of the checkout operator whose hair was as green as a florescent frog on high beam. She took a deep breath, reloaded her shopping trolley and headed to the back of the store where she plonked down the leaking carton of milk and retrieved a replacement before wandering along aisle after aisle until she felt ready to face another checkout operator.
The older woman wore a badge with the name Heidi printed in bold lettering. She was pleasant and the process went more smoothly than her earlier encounter. ‘How was your shopping experience today?’
‘It went OK,’ Jessie lied. ‘Thank you for asking.’ She tapped her credit card, loaded the grocery bags into the trolley and returned to the basement parking area.
After loading the boot of her SUV, she sat in the driver seat before bursting into tears. ‘I didn’t need that. I didn’t deserve that.’
It wasn’t until a car full of teenagers pulled in beside her that Jessie started the engine and reversed out of the car space. Taking a deep breath, she drove home.
‘Colin?’ Jessie asked that over their evening meal, ‘am I grumpy?’
Her husband of four years looked up; a surprised look on his face. ‘You mean in general or this evening?’
‘Well…either, I suppose.’
‘Not to my knowledge. You seem quieter than usual but I didn’t think you were grumpy. Why do you ask?’
‘Today was a trying day at work and I left late. I still needed to get the groceries on the way home. I must have caught every traffic light red and I had to drive around the car parking station for twenty minutes looking for a parking space. It really didn’t take long to collect the items I needed but I hadn’t realised until I unload the groceries at the checkout that the carton of milk was leaking and dumped a third of it’s contents on the conveyor belt.’
‘That would make me grumpy,’ Colin chuckled.
‘I did groan a little. I asked the cashier if someone could bring another carton and perhaps something to clean up the mess.’
‘What did she say?’
‘Now that’s the part when I almost lost the plot. She said, I quote: “I’m the checkout operator, not your maid and don’t get grumpy with me or I’ll call security”. I found myself just staring at her bright slimy green hair that looked like it hadn’t been washed in a month. I just put everything back into the trolley, including the milk and went back to the dairy section.’
Jessie continued the story while Colin sat opposite and listened quietly. He reached across the table and took her hand. ‘That was just plain rude. You should have reported her.’
‘What good would that do.’ She sighed and a tear ran down her cheek. ‘I won’t be going through her checkout again, that’s for sure. The worst of it is, I think I convinced myself that I must have been grumpy.’
‘I don’t think so Jessie, you shouldn’t either.’
She poked at her food for a few minutes before speaking again. ‘I feel like I’ve been stabbed through the heart. I hear her words in my head over and over.’
‘Well, let’s change them.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘Jessie, you are too sweet a person to be called grumpy. I think you should stand up to those nasty statements.’
‘How? Do I go back and tell her she’s a freckled face, slimy green frog? That’s not me either.’ She paused. ‘That would get security onto me,’ she added with a chuckle.
They both laughed at that.
‘I could tell her, and my head, that I’m not grumpy.’
‘How about: Don’t call me grumpy. I’m not grumpy.’
‘OK. Don’t call me grumpy!’
They smiled at each other before finishing their meal.
© Chrissy Siggee – January 2020
Carla answered her mobile phone after the second line of her special ringtone “Nobody Weird like Me”, Travis’s favourite song. ‘Hi, Travis. What’s up?’
‘Not much, I just wanted to see what my baby sister was up to.’
‘Oh fine, I guess. I just wish Dad would ease up on me.’
Travis chuckled. ‘Still skipping classes?’
‘You know I hate school, Travis. Why do I need an education to be in movies? It’s…’ Carla’s voice trailed off.
‘I know, Sis. You just want to hit the big time now.’
‘Yeah, as if that’s going to happen when I’m in a stupid Math class or something. What have you been up too?’
‘I had a few minutes. Just wanted see how my kid sister was doing before I ironed my uniform, polished my buckle and shine my boots. You know how it is.’
It was Carla’s turn to chuckle. ‘OK, have fun at boot camp. Don’t let them catch you with your mobile phone.’
Carla rested back on her pillows and sighed. She missed Travis; missed his loud music and after school visits with her to the youth centre to play snooker when she was supposed to be doing homework.
Her phone buzzed. ‘Hello,’ she answered without checking the caller ID.
‘Hey, Carla, you up for some fun?’
It was Toni, a girl she’d met a few weeks ago at the youth centre. Toni wanted to be a model and Carla liked her right off.
‘What kind of fun?’ Carla answered half-heartedly.
‘Yeah, he’s the nerd that was playing chess at the youth centre. Goes to that snooty school off Main Street.’
‘Yep, that’s him.’ Toni sounded excited. ‘He’s making a video for his school. Kevin’s uncle is on the school board and has heaps of money and some neat video equipment. He likes Kevin’s script and wants to enter him in a junior filmmaker’s competition in Hollywood!’
‘So, what’s that got to do with me?’
‘Kevin needs a couple of girls to do some acting for him.’
Carla sprang from her bed. ‘You’re kidding! When?’
‘We’re meeting them at the youth centre in half an hour.”
‘I’m on my way.’ Carla ended the call. This could be the break I’m looking for. If Kevin wins the competition, Toni and I could be on our way to Hollywood.
It took less than a minute for Carla to see Toni talking to Kevin near the snooker tables. They were talking to another young guy who was leaning against a soda machine. Carla smiled at the handsome young man. He reached out to shake her hand. She was mesmerized by his presence.
‘Hi Carla.’ Kevin broke the spell. ‘My uncle is waiting for us at his home. We’re doing the video there.’
Kevin’s uncle’s house was a few blocks from the youth centre. On the way Kevin explained his script. ‘It’s a film I’m doing for my photography and visual effects class. My uncle offered to help with his equipment.’ He laughed. ‘He doesn’t trust me with his precious stuff.’
They arrived at a huge two-story house surrounded by an immaculate garden. They climbed the front stairs and Kevin unlocked the door.
Carla was elated as she stepped into the impressive entry. She looked beyond an archway where two video cameras and a still life camera were set up on tripods facing a sofa… a sofa covered with cushions and satin sheets. Toni grinned at her and winked. The boys walked on past the girls and headed to one of the cameras and began to adjust some dials.
‘What’s going on, Toni? Where’s Kevin’s Uncle?’ Carla began to panic.
‘Who needs his uncle? They have the equipment and we have the opportunity of a lifetime right here.’
Steve returned to Carla’s side and skimmed his index finger down her cheek and flicked her hair. ‘Hey Carla, don’t fret. Isn’t this what you wanted? Glamour! Fame! It’s worth a hundred bucks.’
Carla’s heart raced and her breathing quickened. With one sudden movement, she turned and ducked through the still open front door. She raced up the path and onto the street turning her head to see the three of them standing outside. They were laughing at her. Carla gasped and began to run.
When Carla was sure she hadn’t been followed, she slowed her pace. Tears and sweat streamed down her face. She drew in deep breaths and swallowed repeatedly trying to regain control before returning home. Maybe I should wait a few years before I think about Hollywood. She wiped her brow with the sleeve of her sweater and wished for some big brother advice.
‘I’m home,’ Carla called from the front room. ‘I’ve got an assignment due. I’ll be in my room.’
‘OK,’ her mother called back. ‘We’ll be eating at seven. I’m running late.’
Carla entered her bedroom and closed the door. She took her mobile phone from her pocket and hit Travis’s speed-dial. Taking a deep breath she struggled to fight back more tears.
‘Hey Sis, you just caught me. What’s up?’
© Chrissy Siggee
Historian Albert Winslow sat at his desk in a sparsely furnished London office. Using two large wooden tweezers, he gently unrolled the manuscript. Faded calligraphy on tea coloured paper revealed its age and fragility. With a magnifying glass he studied the almost illegible signature confirming the author, John Keats.
Winslow peered over the top of his wire-framed spectacles. He studied the gentleman sitting opposite, who repeatedly wiped his balding head with a handkerchief. ‘Sir, where did you say you found this manuscript?’
‘I didn’t exactly find it. It’s part of my inheritance.’
Removing his spectacles, the historian studied the gentleman sitting on the other side of his desk fidgeting in his chair. ‘What did you say your name was?’
‘Kent. Michael Kent.’
‘Mr Kent, this signature doesn’t appear to resemble a Kent.’
‘It was handed down on my mother’s side. My mother changed my surname when she remarried.’
‘I see. Leave it with me, Mr Kent. I’ll have it valued for you by tomorrow. Leave your details with my secretary on the way out.’ He rose and shook his client’s hand.
Winslow’s secretary entered his office the following morning. He looked up as she reached his desk.
‘Miss Harwich, could you please place a call to a Lord David Keats of Hampstead? Give him my name and switch him through to my office. Give me a few minutes though, I need to talk to Scotland Yard.’
‘Yes, Mr Winslow.’
It took just moments for Lord Keats’s voice to be heard.
‘Yes, this is he.’
‘I believe I have in my possession your great grandfather’s missing manuscript, ‘Endymion’.’
The line was quiet for so long that Winslow thought he had been disconnected when suddenly Lord Keats continued.
‘How can that be? It disappeared after he died, in 1821? It’s been almost a century?’
‘Yes, I know. I also know that your father, Lord Alfred Keats, passed away last week, my condolences.’
‘Thank you, but how do you know and what does his death have to do with my great grandfather’s manuscript?’
‘Your father paid me to know. You see I’m a historian and a private investigator. Your father visited me here in London on December sixth last year. The manuscript had apparently resurfaced and he hired me to investigate its location. I sent him a wire last Monday about my findings before his heart attack. Did he mention it to you?’
‘No, and I’m not sure why he would hire anyone. Until Christmas my father and I had been investigating the mystery disappearance together for almost a decade.’
Winslow carefully chose his words before proceeding. ‘Perhaps, Lord Keats, your father discovered he hadn’t been told when someone had found it. That someone decided to use it for his own financial gain.’
‘What are you implying, Mr Winslow?’
‘Let me refresh your memory. Two years ago, your cousin, Michael Kent, inherited a meagre bequest. While clearing out his mother’s writing bureau, Kent discovered a key to a safe deposit box that contained a letter from his grandfather—your grandfather’s younger brother. With that letter was your great grandfather’s manuscript. The letter described in detail how your grandfather cheated him out of his share or their father’s estate. Your great uncle stole the manuscript after your great grandfather’s death in 1821— before he could have it published. Are you following me Lord Keats?’
‘Continue, Mr Winslow. I find your hypothesis intriguing.’
‘Late last year, your cousin decided it was time to show his hand by attempting to blackmail your father. Because your father didn’t want his conniving nephew to get his hands on his money, he came directly to me. We thought it was an open and shut case until I discovered that Michael Kent had an accomplice—someone who wanted revenge for an unrelated incident years before. Unfortunately, that piece of information inadvertently killed your father. The accomplice was you. Am I right Lord Keats?’
‘You’re very clever, Mr Winslow. There’s one thing you haven’t explained. How did you get your hands on the manuscript?’
‘That was the easy part. After your father’s death, you and your cousin-initiated plan B: to sell the manuscript to a publisher and split the profit. However, your cousin decided to have it valued first. Unfortunately for you both, he came to me. I advertise my professions separately and I only display my name on the door.’
There was another notable silence followed by a murmur of voices at Lord Keats’ end of the line. ‘You’ll have to excuse me, Mr Winslow. Apparently, I have visitors.’
‘Ah yes, my friends from Scotland Yard. Blackmail is a serious crime. Good day to you, Lord Keats.’
© Chrissy Siggee
English poet John Keats, born October 1795 in Moorgate, London, died in February 1821 at the age of 26 from tuberculosis. His works had been the target of much abuse including his last epic poem ‘Endymion’. John Keats never married, which should indicate that the contents of: ‘The Mystery of Keats’ Missing ‘Endymion’ – Solved’ set in the early twentieth century, is completely fictional.
‘Don’t just sit there Cindy, talk to me’. Steve pouted.
‘Don’t you think you are being just a wee bit selfish? I mean this place has a lot of potential. It has everything you need. Look at it. Your old place is gone Cindy. This is your new home.’
Cindy looked around. Her arms remained folded; her head held aloft. She puckered her lips and blew raspberries at no one in particular.
‘You’re not being polite. A lot of thought went into your new environment.’
‘Please, Cindy. Look at me. Talk to me. I’m supposed to be your best friend. What kind of conversation can we have if you won’t even look at me?’
She turned to face Steve and tapped on his watch with her long fingers.
‘It’s almost noon. Are you hungry?’
Her reply was instant – and loud.
Steve was laughing now. ‘With all the dozens of words you understand, you must know every one relating to food.’ He stood. ‘Why don’t we see what’s to eat?’
They walked hand-in-hand to where Cindy’s siblings sat sniffing and feeling fruit.
‘See Cindy’, Steve pointed out. ‘That’s the way I’ve been showing you how to choose the best fruit. Only, I don’t kiss mangoes before I eat them’, he teased.
Steve moved toward Oliver and Tracy but Cindy pulled back.
‘Hi you two’, Steve said with a smile. He patted the top of Cindy’s head. ‘It’s okay. I promise.’
The pair didn’t look up from their meal.
With a flick of her free hand Cindy turned and marched away pulling on Steve’s arm to follow. She lowered her head to face the floor. Hands faced up and wiped her eyes and nose on Steve’s trousers.
He crouched down and spoke quietly. ‘I know this is all new to you…and you haven’t seen your family for a while, but you will settle in. Things can only improve but this conversation has got to stop being one way.’ He paused and cupped Cindy’s face in his hand. ‘Look at me and tell me what makes you so sad.’
In one huge lunge Cindy wrapped her arms around him and kissed his face, then danced around on the spot. She stopped suddenly and grabbed Steve’s shirt and tugged hard.
Taking the tiny wrists in his hands, Steve began to whisper. ‘I wish you could talk, Cindy girl. This is no sign I’ve ever taught you. What is it?’
She fell limp in his arms.
‘Oh, I get it. You don’t want me to leave.’
The reply was the slowest of nods with a bottom lip that would trip up a python.
‘Cindy girl, you have been the best chimpanzee I have ever had the pleasure to work with.’
He gently lifted his little friend’s chin with two fingers. He looked into her misty eyes. ‘But, it’s time to be just that—a chimpanzee. You’re the best. You deserve the best. No more bananas for a trick. No more peeled grapes for signing a new word. You’re free.’ He paused. ‘Well, as free as the government will let you.’ He smiled and kissed his girl.
With that, Cindy strode in her cute swaying way to the table. She grabbed a banana and took it back to Steve, planted a kiss on his cheek and headed back to her family.
Oliver and Tracy looked up at Cindy shaking their heads and puckered their lips. They squealed in unison.
Cindy blew raspberries at her siblings and kissed a mango.
© Chrissy Siggee
Prickly wind struck his face repeatedly like razors and sweat stung his eyes as his horse zigzagged down the steep mountain. With every frightening turn he clutched the reins that were wrapped tightly round his raw and bleeding fists. His partly bare knees ached as they gripped firmly against the saddle, still his horse hurtled on further with sweat dripping from every inch of its petrified body.
The rider hung on frantically. With no power of control, they careered toward the valley below. He forced his head to turn to see the blazing inferno that threatened to overtake them and felt the searing heat insulting their already over heated bodies. The air was thick with blinding smoke but his horse continued to pursue an unknown trail heaving deep wheezing breaths as they went.
Rocks skidded from under foot causing the horse to lurch sideways and slide forward for a number of stomach-churning seconds. With stability regained the horse veered sharply left but the terrifying ordeal of the incline was not over.
Just as they plunged into the openness of the green valley a stampede of wild horses threatened their safety. The rider’s horse swerved to avoid collision. Regaining control, the rider eased his horse to a slow trot to allow its heartbeat to ease gently. But with the rapidly descending flames still raging toward the valley he needed to act fast.
Immediately the stampede had past, the rider steered his sweating horse toward a shallow stream. Without wanting to stress his faithful horse further he gently steered the horse with the reins toward a rugged landscape located on the opposite side of the valley. Once there he dismounted and led the horse through a maze of rocky crevices.
Above them a cloud of thickening smoke rapidly blocked out the sky. The ground beneath them altered from the luscious valley grass to a rocky path leading into a partially hidden opening in the side of the valley wall. The cave-like passageway was dark and damp as they edged forward to the echo of his horses’ hooves on the rocky surface. The horse’s wheezy breath gradually eased closer to a regular breathing pattern.
A gentle breeze carried a fresh earthy fragrance as they made their way through a tunnel that seemed to have no end. The man touched the wall and the ceiling above to find their way. Following a bend slightly leftward a faint light filtered in. Within moments they stepped out once again into the valley now blackened – burnt to ashes. A hundred yards further on, the stench of burnt flesh insulted their nostrils. The horse tried to push the man away from the scene but they couldn’t avoid the hundreds of carcasses of wild horses that were scattered across the valley floor.
The rider’s horse reared and snorted. In awe and wonder the rider mounted and rode away from the valley of death.
© Chrissy Siggee
No one, especially not 44, would expect what followed after the invention of the ‘Super Entertainment Network Systematic Active Technological Interactive On-track Node’, which was eventually shortened to SENSATION for obvious reasons.
Eugene Gilbert Dwight, creator of SENSATION, sat smugly at his dusty computer watching the latest advertising video that would draw in millions of dollars to the company. It would also make a tidy increase in his personal bank balance over the next few months. Eugene pushed his thick glasses further up the bridge of his nose, clicked the end video link and sat back in his desk chair that had seen better days. He grinned until his face hurt.
’44’, the overhead intercom announced. ‘Please report to Mr Preston’s office.’
Carl Preston’s an okay boss I suppose but he only climbed the ladder of success with out-dated software games. He rose and put on his jacket still smiling. With his hands shoved deep into bulging pockets of his baggy trousers, Eugene left cubicle 44. He strolled with his head held high between endless rows of doorless cubicles. Each cubicle was numbered and accommodating an unknown geek working monotonously in their narrow workspaces. At the far end of the long building he knocked on the door of Preston’s eight-by-eight square air-conditioned office.
‘You wanted to see me, Mr Preston?’
‘Yes, sit down 44.’
Eugene sat but he left his hands in his pockets. He fidgeted with an iPod in one pocket and his mobile phone in the other. He preferred multiple gadgets; not like these new all-in-one inventions they had been selling in this dump lately. He relaxed. It was a good feeling to know that SENSATION is too perfect for a delayed unveiling.
‘We have a media release tomorrow for SENSATION’, Preston was saying while continuing at his computer. ‘We’ll be using the video I emailed to you this morning.’ He sat back in his chair. ‘However, after considerable negotiations with both the Executive Management of this company and the media, it’s been agreed unanimously that I will represent SENSATION at the press conference.’
With hands suddenly still within his pockets, Eugene stared at his supervisor in disbelief. ‘But it’s my invention. You know how hard I worked on this project. I worked unpaid overtime for six months to develop SENSATION to perfection before I revealed it to you.’
Preston sighed and raised his hand, palm forward. ‘I know, I know.’ His voice more relaxed and sincere. ‘This is business Eugene. Your place is working on your next invention. You’ll be rewarded financially for your design and efforts, but you have known from the beginning, whatever is invented in our workshop belongs to Super Techno Entertainment. Plain and simple.’
‘But that’s not fair.’
Preston returned to his business tone. ‘Life’s not fair 44, but a contract is a contract. I’ll send a copy of the paperwork you signed when you joined the company eight years ago if you want.’ He paused to lean forward. ‘I’ll tell you what. I’ll ask if your name can be mentioned as part of the team for the invention. It’s the best I can do. I have also informed 3 to swap with your cubicle after work tonight. I need a good man nearby. What do you think? It’s a huge promotion from 44.
Eugene was still absorbing the team part. ‘Team? What team?’
Preston offered a little further expansion on his offer, which Eugene considered reluctantly, but he was still annoyed over his lost chance to make Eugene Gilbert Dwight known in the technology circles via this press conference.
‘It was a one-man team—Eugene’s one-man team,’ he mumbled.
Preston’s tone became serious. ‘It’s a take it or leave it offer.’
I guess that $10,000 bonus will help me out.’ A little self-esteem returned as he shook Preston’s hand.
‘I’ll see you again after we complete the press conference and media release,’ Preston said as he stood. ‘You’ll be the first to see it.’
Eugene stood and forced a smile then left.
‘Oh, and Eugene’, he added apologetically. ‘Don’t forget to empty all the rubbish bins in the workshop every day. It’s part of cubicle 3’s allocated duties.’
© Chrissy Siggee
‘It didn’t take long for the coroner’s report to come through. Ryan died from a burst aneurysm in the brain. His funeral was held a week later and he was buried beside his Uncle Rick. The uncle who left him the property.’ Stella added for Teresa’s benefit. ‘The next day I was called to our solicitor’s office for the reading of Ryan’s latest Will. It was straightforward enough. The property and house were to be left to me. Everything except for the few head of cattle he had been breeding. Apparently, they were on loan from Uncle David so Ryan could breed and start his own herd. Unfortunately, there had been only four calves born at the time of his death. Once they were old enough to be separated from their mothers the loaned cattle had to be returned.’
‘Why wouldn’t this uncle David leave them a little longer so you could have an income?’
Stella was about to answer when she noticed a man through the window of the doors leading to the next carriage. He was leaning slightly forward speaking to one passenger after another.
‘I think Sarah needs her nappy changed.’ Stella stood to retrieve the bag she had put in the overhead storage earlier.
At the same moment the guard came through the rear door. ‘There’s a small table in the guardroom if you would like to use it and a microwave. I won’t be using the cabin for a while.’
‘Thank you’, she smiled and let him pass before reaching for the baby.
She had only just closed the door of the guard cabin when the man entered her carriage from the other end. She stepped aside and peered through the stripped security screen that allowed the guard to see out but no one could see much if they looked in. Muffled voices kept her alert. Sarah stirred. Stella rocked her gently. ‘Ssshhh…little one.’
Stella risked a glanced through the window. She drew in a sharp breath. David?
Finally, David moved out of the carriage and Stella could see him move from the next carriage through the door at the other end.
‘Let’s get you cleaned up’, Stella cooed at Sarah her big blue eyes gazing back.
Minutes later she returned to her seat. ‘I should have bought a baby carrier before I left Sydney.’
Theresa stretched out her arms. ‘That would only make things more difficult for you.’
Once settled back into her seat, Stella looked up to see Teresa looking straight at her.
‘What was that about?’ Teresa asked directly.
‘What was what about?’ Stella replied before looking away. ‘Sorry. That man was Ryan’s Uncle David.’ She turned in her seat slightly to face Teresa. ‘I was about to tell you what happened after David came for the cows.’
Stella kept her voice low even though there were only two other passengers at the front of the carriage since the train stopped to embark and disembark passengers at Katoomba. ‘The bull Ryan bought was lame after stepping into a hole in his enclosure. I had only been filling the food and water troughs through the fence since Ryan died. I was no way going to go in there, pregnant or not. I was about seven months along by then and Ryan’s only income was from the land he leased out to another property owner. David said he would pay to have the bull treated by a vet and then buy it from me at a fair price that included the vet fees. That was fine until the bull up and died. David demand his money back after I had already spent it on feed for the calves.’
‘That doesn’t seem fair’, Teresa interrupted.
‘Well, I don’t know much about what’s fair but Kath, David’s wife, was upset over his treatment of me. She had come to stay with me after Ryan’s death until after the funeral. She’s a real sweetie. Anyway, from what I heard over the radio gossip line and in town that David beat her and she up and left him. I didn’t see her again until I came to Sydney a month ago. I was having problems with fluid around my ankles and Doc Stone insisted I go to Sydney until after the birth. Friends from another property offered to look after the place until I returned.’
Stella was tired. She hadn’t slept properly since Sarah was born and the gently movement of the train made her sleepy. She almost dozed off when Teresa spoke.
‘How did you find Kath, or did she find you?’
Stella squeezed her eyes closed before blinking repeatedly. ‘Kath found me.’ Her voice cracked. Doc Stone told her where I was. She asked him not to tell anyone else, not even David, because she thought I was in danger. I guess he believed her because of what happened to her.’ She turned to Teresa; tears streaming down her cheeks. ‘He broke her arm and her nose for standing up to him – for me.’
Teresa sat quietly and looked out the window for a few minutes. Her heart broke for Stel and her baby. She lifted Sarah and kissed her forehead then turned to Stella. ‘That man just now, your Ryan’s uncle, he asked if I had seen a woman with a baby. I’m sorry…’ Her voice drifted off.
Stella sat up straight and looked down the carriage through the door. ‘What did you say? I don’t understand. Why didn’t he stay or go into the guard’s cabin?’
Teresa turned back to Stella and gazed into her eyes. ‘I knew something wasn’t right. I answered him in German, my second language. I knew it would come in handy one day.’ She winked. ‘I didn’t lie. I couldn’t lie. I won’t, but he had no idea what I said and he just left.’
Stella stared at this beautiful woman that had befriended her. She didn’t know whether she should laugh or cry. After a few moments, she smiled. ‘Thank you.’
‘So, tell me what happened in Sydney.’
After a long sigh Stella continued.
To be continued….
© Chrissy Siggee – 2019
Stella began her story from the day her life changed forever. She had awoken early New Year’s Day with a dry mouth and covered in sweat. Nothing unusual for this part of the world but what was different was that Ryan wasn’t in bed and there was no evidence that he had. A wonderful husband of three years and a baby on the way, Stella’s only longing was for a relief from the heatwave and yet another drought.
Peeling back the damp top sheet Stella sat up on the side of the bed; her head groggy from a restless night.
Making her way down stairs she headed to the refrigerator for the jug of water she had place there the evening before. She peered out the kitchen window and noticed the door of the tractor shed was open. ‘That’s strange. It wasn’t open before I went to bed. Maybe Ryan’s tinkering with the engine’, she spoke into the empty room.
Stella looked around the kitchen for a sign that Ryan had eaten breakfast early. Nothing. Heading to the back door she pushed opened the fly screen door. Ryan often left the back door open to allow any breeze that might stir in the sweltering night air.
It wasn’t until she reached the tractor shed that she realised how quiet it was. ‘Ryan, where are you?’
Flo, Ryan’s Blue Cattle Dog began to bark. Stella turned to see that Flo was still in her fenced off area near the house. Since a recent pack of wild dogs had been seen roaming the surrounding properties at night, Ryan had made sure Flo didn’t wander and so the dogs couldn’t ambush her. No way would he leave Flo in there if he were here.
A sudden chill rushed through her. She stood in the wide doorway. ‘Ryan!’ There was no reply except for Flo’s constant bark. She approached the tractor and looked around. Where are you? It was then she noticed a dull glow of light coming from the small doorless room at the rear of the shed where Ryan used as an office of sorts and to clean small tractor parts.
Stella felt like she was walking in a dream only for the constant barking from Flo. There sitting on a stool slumped over a newspaper that lay open on the wooden bench was Ryan. A moment of relief that Ryan must have dozed off while working past through her. The lantern was struggling to keep alight. With no power to the shed, Ryan had kept an old kerosene lamp ready in case of an emergency.
Placing her hand gently on his shoulder she jerked it back. It was cold, an impossibility in this heat. She moved to where she could see one side of his face. His left eye looked back at her. ‘Ryan!’ She gently shook his shoulder but he remained silent and cold.
Stella heart pounded as she ran back to the house. Letting the screen door slam behind her she rushed straight to the radio in the front room. She forced herself to concentrate on the user instructions. Even though Stella used the radio on occasions, it was Ryan who usually operated it.
Almost immediately the operator came over the line. ‘You’re on air early, Ryan. How can I assist you? Over.’
‘Maggie it’s Stella,’ she sobbed in relief. ‘Over,’ she finally remembered and released the button.
‘What is it, Stel? You sound panicked. Over.’
‘It’s Ryan. I think he’s dead’, she blurted out and released the button without the ‘over’.
‘Calm down, Stel. Doc Stone is over at David’s place visiting Ryan’s grandmother. I’ll contact him there. Stay calm. Over.’
Stella gulped down air. ‘I’ll try. Tell him to hurry, please.’ She sat staring at the radio and took long deep breaths until she heard Maggie’s voice again.
‘Stel, Dr Stone will be there in about twenty minutes. David is driving him over in his off-road utility. Over.’
‘Thanks Maggie. Over.’
‘I’ll call you later,’ Maggie signed off.
Flo’s yapping was beginning to annoy her so she went back out to the shed and closed the door but not before looking in the direction of back room where she could barely see Ryan through her tears. Then she let Flo loose, giving her a long hard hug.
‘Oh Flo…what will we do without him?’
It took less than twenty minutes for Doc Stone to arrive but to Stella if felt like hours. She had managed to change into a cotton house dress that had seen better days but she didn’t seem to notice.
David, who was also Ryan’s Uncle, raced ahead of the doctor. ‘Where is he? What happened?’
He was full of questions but Stella could only point. She was shaking and her eyes hurt from rubbing away the constant tears.
‘He’s in the tractor shed,’ she finally blurted.
David put his arm around her shoulder and tried to soothe her. ‘I’m sure he’s fine. Let’s go with Doc and see what he says.’
By the time David and Stella had reach the shed, Doc Stone had already squeezed through the door so Flo wouldn’t follow.
‘David, I can’t go back in there.’
‘OK, stay here and hold Flo. I’ll see what Doc has to say.’
Moments later David and the doctor returned to where Stella waited. They both looked sad and pale.
‘I think he’s been here since possibly late last night. What time did you find him, Stel?’ The doctor asked gently.
‘It was just after five this morning. I woke on Ryan’s alarm and headed to the kitchen for a drink. I guess it was only five minutes later when I noticed the shed door was open.’ She finished in a sob. ‘What happened to him, Doc?’ she pleaded.
The doctor gently turned Stella back toward the kitchen. ‘You’re in shock.’’
‘She’s shivering,’ David added running ahead to open the door before heading into the front room for a throw rug.
After the doctor gave Stella a mild sedative, he sat beside her at the kitchen table while David brought glasses of cold water.
‘Stel,’ Doc began quietly. ‘From what I can ascertain without an autopsy,’ he coughed apologetically. ‘It appears to be a natural death.’
‘But he’s only thirty-four,’ Stella gasped.
‘We have to wait on the coroner’s report.’ He sipped from the glass that David had placed in front of him. ‘I need to use your radio.’
David pointed to the front room and the two watched the doctor leave the kitchen. ‘Stel, I’ll get Kath to come over. She can stay as long as you need.’
‘Oh David, she has too much to do to bother with me.’
‘You forget I make enough money to pay for a housekeeper to help my wife.’ He sighed heavily. ‘Look, I know I haven’t been close to Ryan since…. since my brother left the property to him instead of leaving it in my father’s family. To me…I’m mean, I’m sorry.’
Stella looked up as if she didn’t hear him correctly.
Only hearing bits of what Doctor Stone was saying in the other room, she waited. Her shaking had eased but she couldn’t stop the tears.
Another few minutes passed before Doc came back into the kitchen. ‘The authorities will be here as soon as they can. They’ll question you. It’s routine but I’ll stay until they take Ryan away.’
David rose from his chair and gulped down the rest of his water. ‘I’ll head back and send Kath over in the Jeep. You can use the Jeep Doc until I can get to town to collect it. I need to get those antibiotics you prescribed for mother anyway.’
The doctor nodded and sipped at his water.
The train lurched as it rounded a curve in the rails. Stella sighed. ‘I can remember that morning like it was yesterday,’ she said looking over at her baby asleep in the arms of Teresa. Teresa had become a comforting traveling companion. ‘You know, I didn’t even ask how David’s mother was. She died a few months later from complications after a long illness…’ Her voice trailed off.
‘I’m so sorry to hear that you went through that. So, the little one is fatherless?’
Stella nodded sadly. ‘That’s only half of it,’ she whispered before continuing her story….
To be continued….
© Chrissy Siggee – 2019
Stella’s thick black hair momentarily obscured the unpaved footpath. Another April gusty breeze sent the fringe in the other direction but not in time to avoid the muddy puddle. Conscious now of a stain that would ruin her best pantsuit she avoided looking down. She wouldn’t have been able to see much past the bundle in one arm and the heavy khaki carry bag over the other anyway. ‘Can my day get any worse?’ she mumbled.
Oblivious of the people bustling around her, Stella again focused on one thing…to get onto that train; her only escape.
Entering a short, almost empty tunnel the clicking of her heels on the concrete floor motivated her to walk faster. She dared a quick glance over her shoulder. Feeling only slightly easier, she turned a sharp right onto a crowded platform. Side stepping suitcases and groups of passengers that chatted and laughed, she kept going until she found an empty bench seat at the far end of the platform where she would be able to embark closest to the guard’s carriage.
The bundle stirred as Stella sat and eased the heavy bag from her sore shoulder. ‘Not long now, little one.’ She reached into the bag for a pacifier. Sucking was instant. Stella’s attention returned to her surroundings.
In a few short minutes, everyone had hushed and turned to face the approaching train. Returning the bag to her shoulder she stood carefully so not to lose grip of her precious bundle. Once the train had stopped completely, she stepped forward to board the carriage. Someone touched her elbow. Panic filled her until she realised that it was a short, pump woman dressed in very plain old fashion clothing. Around her neck hung a chunky cross on a simple chain.
‘Let me help with that.’ The woman took the bag without waiting for an answer.
‘Thank you, ‘Stella answered as calmly as she could before she stepped across the gap and followed the woman to a seat at the rear of the carriage. ‘Thank you,’ she said again before sitting beside her.
Stella moved the baby to the other arm to relieve the ache that had reached the point of stiffness and also to let the kind woman see her baby. ‘Thank you,’ she said, knowing she had repeated herself again.
The warm smile made Stella feel more relaxed than she had been since the day before but still kept alert of what was happening around them.
‘I’m Sister Anna Teresa, but you can call me Teresa. It’s actually what my father called me.’
‘It’s good to meet you Teresa. I’m Stella… or Stel for short,’ she added with a smile.
‘Such a sweet baby.’ The words were tender.
‘Would you like to hold her,’ Stella asked.
‘Oh, could I?’ Teresa handed Stella the bag and reached over to accept the baby. ‘She’s so tiny. Must be a newborn.’
Stella searched the bag for the items she needed to prepare a bottle. ‘Yes…Sarah is a week-old today.’
A whistle blew and the train began to move.
Teresa watched as Stella mixed the powder. ‘Such a shame…’ she said. ‘I mean…’
‘That’s all right. I’m fine about not being able to feed her myself,’ was Stella’s simple reply. ‘Would you like to give her the bottle?’
Teresa’s huge grin was all Stella needed to hand over the little bottle and remove the pacifier. She watched as Sarah sucked furiously bringing laughs from both women.
Looking up, Stella saw the guard making his way through the carriage. She closed her eyes and sighed heavily.
‘Do you have to travel far? Teresa asked carefully.
‘As far as the train goes,’ Stella answered without thinking. ‘I mean…I’m heading back to Bourke.’
‘Such a long trip on your own with one so little.’ Her eyes now fixed on Stella’s.
In that awkward moment she leaned forward and looked down at the blotchy brown marks at the hem of her slacks. She cringed slightly and studied the other passengers in their carriage. Some were involved in conversations, reading or preparing for a snooze. Stella took a deep breath and released it slowly before making an effort to respond. ‘I am alone,’ she whispered. ‘It’s a long story.’
‘We have plenty of time and I’m a good listener…if you want to share.’
With a sense of relief, Stella slowly began her story.
To be continued….
© Chrissy Siggee – 2019
‘WOW this little guy has one blue eye,’ Ken exclaimed.
Luke took the pup from Ken. ‘”Heterochromia Iridis.” It’s rare. It occurs as a result of too much or too little melanin in one eye. Can happen in humans too.’ He studied the pup further before reviewing the eyes again; a torch in hand.
‘So what does that mean?’
‘Well, nothing we can hope. It’s certainly striking. You may have problems selling him but I wouldn’t worry about that just now.’
Ken reach for the pup. ‘What do you think, Faith? Shall we call this little one Blue Eye?’
Faith licked her pup.
‘Thanks for coming around, Luke. Much appreciated.’
I see you built two new kennel yards. Great size.’
Ken led the vet through the rear door. ‘Yes, it seems to be working well. I bring Faith out onto the verandah with two or three pups at a time before bringing Shield out. He’s certainly clumsy. He almost squashed one on of them trying to play with it.’
As if on cue, Shield barked and jumped at the fence.
‘It’s sounds like a plan. Faith’s area is large enough for the next few months if you don’t sell them all by then but let Faith and Shield out together for an hour or two every day. Just watch his behaviour though.’ He looked beyond the enclosed area to the rest of the small acreage and chuckled. ‘A good place to wear them out as they grow, and believe me, they’ll grow.’
The two laughed and shook hands.
‘Call the clinic when their ready for their vaccinations. If its easier, bring Faith in at a different time.’ Luke left by the side gate.
Ken released the catch on the Shield’s cage. ‘Hey, Boof! How about a sprint around the acreage?’ He started the three-wheeled farm buggy and sped off.
Shield leapt out of the enclosure and chased after Ken while Faith and the pups looked on.
On a sunny day five weeks later while the pups were exploring the back yard beyond their enclosure, Ken released Shield for the first time with his whole family.
Ken mounted the buggy and turned the key. The buggy rumbled to life. ‘Let’s go! Shield, Faith.’
Faith turned to her pups and barked a couple of times before chasing after Shield who had already bolted after the buggy.
It wasn’t until Ken sped past the litter on his first lap that the three bigger pups joined the chase. On the second and third laps all but one pup had joined the game.
Faith slowed and plodded over to the little one that just sat staring out at the paddock. Aw…come on little Blue Eye. She nudged the little one but he remained staring. She woofed gently before she turned and ran to follow the last of the slower pups.
Blue Eye leaned forward. His eyes focused only on the buggy.
Again Ken sped past. ‘COME ON BLUE EYE! YOUR’E MISSING ALL THE FUN!’ By the time Ken had passed Blue Eye the pups were spread around the full lap of the paddock.
Still Blue Eye sat and focused on Ken and his buggy. Then…One, two, RUN! With an awkward leap forward, Blue Eye raced directly out across the worn track almost colliding with his youngest sister. With eyes focused straight ahead he ran faster than he thought his little paws could carry him. He crossed the centre of the paddock just as Ken made the bend to take the back straight.
Blue Eye yapped and slid sideways into the dust cloud that had formed behind the buggy. He was now leading the pack ahead of his father. Yap Yap Yap
Ken glanced behind. ‘How’d you do that?’
Ken steered into the final bend toward the start place with Blue Eye yapping close behind. He glanced over his shoulder as he approached the turn to begin a new lap. Blue Eye had slowed and returning to the same spot to sit and stare as he had before.
Ken watched Blue Eye in amazement. ‘You must be kidding me,’ he said out loud to himself when Blue Eye again dived out to cross the paddock. ‘He’s figured this out.’ He laughed. ‘Go Blue Eye!’
Again Blue Eye skidded in behind the buggy and yapped loudly. This time however, the others were slowing, including his father. Ken slowed to let Blue Eye pass but to his surprise the pup came up beside him and slowed to match the speed of the buggy.
The two continued side by side until Ken stopped and turned the engine off. ‘Well I’ll be…we have one smart pup here, Faith.’
The proud mother didn’t need to be told. She was all ready smothering him with licks. Shield however was not so pleased and bared is fangs.
‘Shield! That’s enough!’
At Ken’s pointed finger, Shield returned to his enclosure.
‘Well, Faith,’ Ken said. ‘I think we had better get these pups cleaned and fed.’
While Blue Eye enjoyed a few moments praise from his mother, the rest of the pups headed to the back porch. Ken approached Shield where he had waited at the entry of his enclosure. ‘Ah… Shield. Don’t be jealous. You should be proud of Blue Eye…all of them. You have a great family. Try to get on and don’t be so rough.’ He patted Shield before filling his food and water bowls. Leaving the gate ajar, Ken headed over to feed the rest of the family.
© Chrissy Siggee – 2019
Ash threatened to gag her with each breath she took but Faith continued to sniff the charred ground around her. The smell of burnt flesh occasionally assaulted her nostrils and smouldering debris quickened her steps. Small puffs of smoke drifted upward here and there. It was a dismal aftermath.
‘Mind your paws, Faith,’ Ken’s voiced in a raspy whisper. He cleared his throat before continuing. ‘I don’t think there’s anything out here but death,’ he added and knelt on one knee beside the burnt carcass of a small wallaby.
Faith nuzzled Ken’s elbow. He lifted his arm and drew her near. There’s always life after a fire. We just have to keep looking. With her head held low she continued her search.
Ken’s radio crackled to life. ‘Hey you guys. Did you find anything?’
‘Not yet, Chief. Mandy and Steve are searching along the creek then up to Wattle Road. Faith and I are moving in the same direct along the top of the ridge. Hopefully, we can cover more ground this way without walking right past any life. The air is still thick in places. Oh, and there’s been a few spot fires we had to extinguish too. I’ll check in when we meet up with the other two.’
‘OK, Ken. I know it’s not the best job but someone has to do it. Later.’
‘Come on, Faith. Let’s get moving.’
Faith thought about the conversation Ken had with his fire fighter friend Joe earlier today. Poor Joe. He found that old man in that burnt-out shed this morning. Not much left of him. Faith shuddered. Counselling, Chief had told him. I think I would need it too. A high-pitched whistle broke into her dismal thoughts.
Looking around, Ken whistled back. Faith’s ears pricked up and shifted back and forth. The whistle came again and they both turned toward the sound in a hurried walk.
‘What’s up,’ Ken shouted as they approached two figures slumped over a mound on the ash covered ground.
‘Looks like a backpack but there’s no one around here,’ Steve said. ‘At least not in the ten-metre circle we’ve searched.’
‘It could have been here for months,’ Mandy added poking at the pack with her fire fighter’s axe. ‘We can take it back for further investigation.’
The guys nodded in agreement and continue toward the road that was just within their hazy vision. Faith led the way with her head close to the ground. No one spoke until they stopped in the middle of the deserted street. They all walked slowly in a small circle just staring. Three burnt-out cars smouldered on the side of the road. They appeared to have been heading north out of harm’s way. Ken approached the closest vehicle and peered inside before moving to the other two. Faith stayed by his side.
‘Well, at least the occupants seemed to have escaped,’ Ken said to no one in particular. He removed his hat and wiped his sweating brow with the sleeve of his filthy jacket.
‘This has been a day of deaths and sadness,’ Steve said quietly. ‘Down right depressing it is.’
Steve and Mandy dowsed what flames they could. Dark puffs of dark clouds formed and died above the cars.
Faith began to walk in circles sniffing the ground.
Ken crouched on the warped bitumen. ‘What is it, Girl?’
She barked and headed up the road with Mandy, Steve and Ken following close behind.
Most of the houses on both sides of the road were burnt out; some still burning.
‘Anyone here?’ Ken shouted.
‘Hello’, Mandy and Steve called in unison.
Silence. Except for the crackling of nearby flames and the shifting of rubble, it was eerily quiet.
‘We’ll split up. Faith and I will check out these two houses. Mandy, Steve, take those two,’ Ken pointed across the road opposite the burnt-out cars. ‘Don’t go in unless you see someone…but call for us first.’ He removed Faith’s lead. ‘I’ll call for you if we find anything.’
Steve nodded. ‘All right. Be careful, Ken.’
Faith looked up from the steps she had been sniffing to see Ken jog through the charred remains of the front gate. Nothing here….or is there? With ears twitching back and forth she listened.
‘Hear anything.’ He stood beside her and waited.
She wagged her tail and proceeded to circle the entire house before returning to Ken and looked up. Nothing. Let’s go. She bolted through the side fence while Ken took the long way around.
The second house revealed nothing as well. They returned to find Mandy and Steve putting out spot fires near an outdoor BBQ and gas bottle. ‘Nothing?’ Ken asked.
‘Nope,’ Steve sighed.
Faith’s ears snapped to attention. There it is again. Something…
She looked over her shoulder at Ken and woofed.
The three followed her around to the rear of the house to what appeared to be a workshop or garden shed. As they neared the opened door they heard a faint cry. Faith was nudging a shelf that had collapsed.
‘Let’s see what we have here,’ Ken said quietly. Faith moved out of his way and sat beside Mandy who patted her gently.
‘Oh my. How did you get stuck in there? Steve, give me your rake.’
Steve obliged and placed his fireman’s rescue rake into Ken’s hand.
A few minutes later Ken stood up with something in his hand.
‘A flower pot?’ Mandy gasped.
Ken turned the pot around to reveal a little bundle of fur. A kitten, to be exact.
Faith whimpered and Ken placed the kitten, still in the pot, under Faith’s nose.
She gently licked the ball of fluff. Hi cutie. I’m sure glad Shield is spending the day in training. He’d eat you alive.
‘Smart dog,’ Steve finally reacted and moved outside with the others close behind.
The three fire fighters laughed. Faith barked. The Kitten meowed. Their depressing mood had suddenly been lifted. Mandy took out her water bottle and removed her glove. The kitten lapped from her opened hand.
Just above the commotion the chief’s voice was heard. ‘Hey, what’s happening out there? We haven’t heard anything for some time. What’s happening, Ken?’
Ken handed the kitten over to a jubilant Mandy. ‘We’re fine Chief,’ he yelled. ‘You won’t believe this.’
The cheering rose and Faith jumped up and down barking excitedly.
‘Everything’s OK, Chief. We found a kitten. He’s alive!’ Again, cheers went up.
The chief responded with a chuckle. ‘I’m glad for you guys. It’s been a depressing day. Oh, and another search and rescue team found a backpacker. He’s all right. He was dazed and wondering around. Says he lost his backpack in the fire somewhere by the river.’ He paused. ‘Return to headquarters. I think you all need a break.’
‘See you soon, Chief. We’re bringing in the kitten. Mandy’s already named it.’ He laughed. ‘Lucky, I think. We also have the backpack. Hope that makes the owner’s day. Over and out.’
Faith bounded over to Ken at his call. Let’s go home.
© Chrissy Siggee – 2019
The day began with rain setting in just after dawn. The roof over the back porch where Faith slept leaked with a constant drip echoing through her dreams. Breakfast was unappetizing. She washed it down with mouthfuls of water from her bowl.
Ken met her at the gate and opened the front passenger door of his twin cab utility. His Australian Border Security uniform looked impressive as usual but it somehow saddened her this morning. She sighed heavily.
‘Come on girl, you’d better sit up front today, I left the back window open last night.’
Faith kept her opinions to herself during the fifteen-minute drive to work. She just stared out the front window oblivious of the usual excitement of the windscreen wipers swishing back and forth.
‘OK, let’s go.’
Faith and Ken’s responsibility was to track down drug couriers, find hidden narcotics sent through the mail and check newly arrived shipping containers at the wharf. Today was different somehow. Faith wondered why Ken held her back from the work truck parked behind the security police offices. Instead, they headed into the lunchroom where she greeted the other officers. They joked together and tossed a ball around when the telephone was quiet. Faith particularly liked Jonesy who always brought biscuits.
Ken knelt down and rubbed Faith behind her ears. ‘We’re not going out today, girl. Sorry’.
Chief Barrymore stuck his head around the door-frame.
‘Ken, Faith,’ he called out. ‘My office.’
Faith followed Ken obediently into the office before the chief closed the door.
‘Ken’, Barrymore began, ‘it’s a sad day when I have to keep you two from your work but this is important.’ He motioned to Ken to sit before handing him a file.
‘You are aware that we had stored those drugs from last night’s bust in our unused vault here for safekeeping.’
Ken nodded his reply but didn’t look up from the file opened in his hand.
‘Some vault. The stuff vanished overnight. It’s the last time I listen to Headquarters.’
Ken head jerked up. ‘ You’re kidding?’
‘No, I’m afraid it’s no joke but something’s strange about this whole thing.’ He paused… ‘Like there had to be a tip off. How would anyone know that it would be stored here until Headquarters could pick it up this morning?’
Ken closed the file. ‘What do you want us to do, Chief?’
‘I want you and Faith to track down the culprit. Our overnight visitor didn’t leave any clues that I can see. Come with me.’ He stood and led them out the door and down a long hallway to the vault.
After Barrymore open the safe Ken peered inside and examined the dark chasm.
‘There’s no damage to the front of the safe but there’s seems to be another room… or space behind it.’
‘Yes, that is odd. I thought the rear of the vault was the outside wall. Hard to tell in these old buildings.’
‘It’s too small a gap for me.’ He turned to Faith and clicked his fingers at the opening.
With the light of Barrymore’s torch, Faith moved forward and crouched down onto her belly to crawl the short distance. She started to whimper and paw at the rear wall. Suddenly, there was a thin strip of light.
Ken and the chief raced outside and around the building where they saw a couple of bricks laying on the ground between their building and the next.
As they approached, Faith’s pushed her nose up against another brick causing it to fall at their feet.
Ken rubbed his finger along the mortar line around the immediate area then pulled a few more bricks aside and helped Faith through.
‘Good girl, Faith.’ Ken said before giving her a hug.
‘Clever,’ the chief said. ‘They must have balanced the bricks after removing the mortar to give the appearance that it was still intact.’
Thunder rumbled overhead as Faith sniffed the ground around them before heading back up the path. Barrymore diverted toward the rear door of the building where a few old umbrellas leaned against the wall before following Ken and his dog.
Alerted senses led Faith to the cracked concrete car parking area before circling a place where signs of fresh oil mingled with rainwater. The murky liquid dribbled on to an area where a car must have recently parked for some time. She continued to sniff around a small puddle of oily water.
Ken appeared behind her. ‘What did you find, Faith?’
Without waiting for his pat she continued on, her nose close to the concrete. It was still raining. In fact, it was becoming a heavy downpour.
Ken wiped his hand across the top of his head and followed.
Barrymore came up behind them with an umbrella held high and shrugged. ‘It’s got to be too wet for…’ he yelled.
In the next instant she had raced off towards a car that was parked opposite the police vehicles. It was Jonesy’s car. Faith was all over the old Ford V8 in seconds. Chief Barrymore and Ken hurried over to the rear of the car where faith was barking and scratching at the boot lid.
Ken twisted his penknife into the keyhole before kicking it with the heel of his work boot. Concealed inside were the missing bags of heroin. Chief Barrymore turned and raced as fast as he could against the driving rain toward the rear door of the offices. His umbrella turned inside out with a violent rip, flew from his hold, and lodged into the fence, narrowly missing Ken struggling with the duffle bag.
In the confusion, Faith noticed Jonesy creeping around the side of the building toward one of the police cars. She bounded after him, leaving Ken to deal with the now-soaked bag.
Faith dived onto Jonesy, bringing him down hard onto the concrete. Chief Barrymore and two other officers arrived as he hit the ground. Jonesy was handcuffed and taken back inside.
Ken called to Faith as he passed carrying the duffle bag over his shoulder.
Once inside, and the drugs guarded in Barrymore’s office awaiting armoured collection, Ken wiped his face with a towel then dried Faith.
‘You did great,’ he said.
Later, when they were finally home, Ken put in an extra handful of dried biscuits into her dish and gave her a pat before heading inside to get out of his wet uniform.
Faith ate her tea hungrily and wandered off to her bed where she dreamed of biscuits that she would no longer get at coffee breaks. She would miss them and her friend Jonesy.
The sand was soothingly warm. A gentle breeze kissed her face. With a sleepy yawn, Faith watched seabirds glide silently over a distant wave. A solitary, early morning board rider, paddled out across the sandbar in search of the best. Sunbeams danced on the surface around him. A shipping tanker seemed to glide across the smooth far-away horizon while the sound of waves crashing ashore filled the air.
It was Faith’s first day on the job as a lifeguard. Ken, the head lifeguard, slouched high on the lookout tower, binoculars swinging from the arm of his deck chair. Faith was happy to stretch her long legs on the beach below. She watched a young mother dressed in red, chasing her small child around a sandcastle they had sculpted in the wet sand. The little one was wearing a bright yellow shirt and bathers. Faith blinked drowsily, shifting her slender body into the shade of the tower.
‘Help, someone, please help!’
The scream jerked Faith to attention. Ken almost fell off the tower as he took the steps two at a time. Faith’s gaze fell on the young woman in the red bathing suit screaming hysterically at a small yellow object bobbing in the waves. A quick assessment alerted Faith to a crosscurrent. Seizing a short-coiled rope, she raced down the beach and plunged into the breakers.
‘Wait for me!’ Ken yelled.
She turned her head momentarily and saw Ken dragging the life raft behind him. Her strong legs kicked through the waves. Tolerating her aching limbs, Faith’s eyes remained focused on the tiny head that kept disappearing below the surface. It felt like an eternity of great effort. Her eyes and throat stung from the salt.
Training had not prepared her for the fear she saw in that little pair of eyes of such a small child. Closing the distance, Faith could see the little boy’s eyes wide with fright and gasping for breath. His lips were tinged with a thin blue band. Just a few more yards. Hang on, little one.
She held one end of the rope tightly between her teeth, causing the rope to trail behind, but as she advanced forward it gave her full use of her tiring limbs. Short wheezing sounds escaped her lungs as she convinced herself to breathe.
‘That’s it, Faith. Let him take the rope,’ she heard Ken calling as he approached from behind her.
The small child gripped the rope briefly then lunged forward, wrapping his little arms around Faith’s neck. Gasping from the pressure, Faith twisted awkwardly with every rise and fall that attempted to consume them. She swam with determination to the nearby raft.
Ken reached over the side and picked the boy up by his shirt sleeve.
Faith began to tread water for a few minutes while Ken rubbed and patted the little one’s back. He gave a choking cough and vomited seawater all over Ken.
Faith turned and swam back to the beach.
By the time Faith reached the dry sand she was exhausted but relieved the child was safe. Faith gave a few hoarse coughs before returning to meet Ken and help pull the raft ashore. The boy’s mother raced to retrieve her toddler from Ken’s arms.
‘Thank you! He was so quick. I only turned my back for a moment to get the towels.’
‘Don’t thank me, thank Faith, our newest lifeguard. It’s a trial program and I think she passed with flying colours.’ Ken grinned.
Faith barked at hearing her name and shook violently, spraying salty water over everyone. Ken and the woman laughed. The child struggled from his mother’s embrace and wrapped his little arms once more around his rescuer’s neck.
‘Say thank you to Faith, Ethan.’
Faith barked with excitement and licked the little boy’s face until he giggled with delight.
© Chrissy Siggee – 2016