“Okay, you’re on your own from here,” Thacker said.
“‘From here?’ Where’s here?” Jenkins asked with some confusion.
“Well- Here is where the Ullanon meets the Little Ulla, and it’s as far as I go.”
“But how are we supposed to get to the logging camp?” Weiss asked.
“Well, it’s easy. Just follow the Little Ulla up that way, and with a little luck and a little hard walking, I’m sure you’ll get there is a few days,” Thacker replied.
“How many’s a few?” Jenkins asked.
“Well, if it were me – and it isn’t – maybe three. With you two – maybe four, unless you stand here all day wasting my time, then five.”
“May I ask why you are stopping here?” Jenkins asked.
“Sure you can,” Thacker responded. “It is because from here I’m going to back to Port Newton and bringing some other loggers up here.”
“Two reasons really, first is so you can see how the place was intended to look before you came messing it up, and the other is that Eco-Guard pays me bring you all this way.”
“But you said you were our guide. Didn’t the logging company pay you to get us all the way there?” Weiss asked. “Isn’t that dishonest.”
“No dishonesty to it. I never said I worked for the loggers, you just assumed it. I hope you gents have a good day, and if I were you I would be making a start.” With that Thacker turned and headed back downriver.
Merton thought that delivering parcels again might be a nice little money spinner to help make ends meet in his retirement. The first few deliveries for the university seemed straightforward enough. Then came the Schrödinger delivery. He was told that he had to collect a box containing a cat from the physics lab. He was then to deliver the same box back to the same lab the next day. When the delivery was made, he was told to repeat the process for the next two weeks. Under no circumstances was he to open the box, or attempt to feed or water the cat.
The professors all seemed really excited about this arrangement, and there was much discussion as to whether the cat was living or dead.
Merton just didn’t get what those eggheads were carrying on about. After all, with his thirty years working for UPS he knew the answer. Well, after he had kicked the box down the hallway, dropped it from the back of his van, forgotten it twice on the subway, and placed it under five heavier boxes to make space, the answer seemed obvious.
The scuttlebutt in the Second Division was that the “accident” down in engineering wasn’t quite as accidental as it might seem. It looked like the rather expensive port call in Hong Kong was going to be cut short so that the ship could get an overhaul in the Philippines. Yes, wonderful Olongapo awaited with cheap beer, and bikini clad “waitresses.”
While the Navy might want to court martial Petty Officer Brown, the crew at least wanted him to get the Navy Achievement Medal.
The Bell was a generally reputable establishment, though not one known for its first class accommodation. It had a good stable yard, and a shed in which the wagon could be secured for the night, and an eye kept on it by a burly Dwarf that served as the yard-man.
The tavern itself was a three-floor affair with a shingle roof and a spacious dining area. Signage in several languages proclaimed that it had the most honest gambling suite in the region, and bore warnings of severe consequences for any who might attempt to cheat.
“How would they know?” Luke asked, with an eye on the sign.
“Do you see the woman at the little desk next to the bar?” Maya asked.
“Yes, the one playing solitaire,” Luke responded.
“She’s not playing cards,” Maya corrected. “She is doing readings on all who pass through that curtain. She knows more of their intentions than they do. I advise that you don’t go in there with dishonest intentions, and better still don’t go there at all.”
“Yes Auntie Maya,” Luke said sarcastically.
“And no, I’m not your mother,” Maya rejoined. “But that doesn’t mean your thoughts aren’t easy to read,” she said with a shake of her head.
“I – um. Let’s get a table,” Luke said and went off to find one big enough for the party.
The third Saturday of October in Crockerton is one of comings and goings, and toings and froings. It is the transition day for the entire community. It’s the day after the workshops have their annual clean, and the kilns relined with fresh clay. It is also the day that new annual employment contracts are made, and on which apprentices find out if they have been retained as journeymen.
To accompany this, it is the tradition that each new journeyman smash an unfired pot in the town square as a symbolic gesture that they too have not been fired. Yes, it is that which gives the third Saturday of October the name Shatterday.
Mosha Honowitz was the third son of Aaron and Miriam Honowitz. They scraped out a living as tailors in New York City, and never really gave up the way of life from the old country.
Mosha wanted more from life than living hand to mouth, and at seventeen hopped a freight train west. He made his way to Cleveland, before finally finding himself in Memphis. By that time, the tailor Honowitz was no more, and Moe Honor had made his debut in several of the more questionable establishments along the Mississippi waterfront.
The two things that Moe could do even better than sew, were count cards, and to lie through his teeth. Mister Honor, late of Manhattan, was a gambling man.
Honor soon was known throughout the whole steamboat trade, and wherever high stakes games might be between St. Louis and New Orleans. His red silk cravat, and gold front teeth became trademarks, not to mention his winning streak that more than once found him catching the next boat out of town before dawn came.
Well, winning streaks don’t last forever, and Moe met his equal when he went head to head with Sam Flash, or more rightly Samuel Fleischmann of Baltimore. The two met up in Natchez and it was a sight to see. Funny thing was that the proceedings were conducted in Yiddish, but both Flash and Honor told onlookers that it was gamblers’ code. The pasteboard pugilists battled the entire evening, and by all accounts the largest pot in living memory all rested in a single hand. That hand has gone down in history, not for its considerable size, but for the fact that in the end eight aces resting on the table.
The tension was high as the party entered the enclosure. It was then that Julie caught sight of a Goblin waiting in ambush in a side corridor. She drew her sword which immediately began to radiate with a soft blue glow. She then stepped into a small recess to engage the fiend.
As she did a huge icosahedron rolled across her pathway, unbalancing her. “Shit,” she shouted in shock and exasperation. “What in the hell was that?”
Her comrades looked on in disbelief, until Ted, the wizard, finally said, “Um – Jules, I think you might have forgotten that this blog is a PG forum, and that you might need to rein in your explicatives a bit.”
“Yeah, Julie,” Tina interjected. “It was only a d20.”
“The Goblin got a Nat 20 on initiative,” Brian the DM said. “What do you plan on doing next? And whatever it is, roll with disadvantage for your potty-mouth.”
“Okay Marines, liberty is scheduled to commence at 1100. Unless this field day is finished, not a single one of you wastes of space is setting foot out of this barracks,” the sergeant snapped, before turning on his heel and heading back to his office.
“You heard him,” Corporal Chin said to his squad. “Meissner and Reece empty those shit cans. White and Cortez get this deck swabbed. Doc, you and Smitty get the head swabbed.”
The head was a daunting proposition, but Hospitalman Davis used Navy ingenuity, finishing on time by overflowing the toilets to speed the mopping.
It wasn’t much to look at. This was no Gothic mansion, or Victorian stately home. It was a quiet house on a tree-lined suburban street. It wasn’t the site of some violent murder, or desperate suicide either. It was an ordinary heart attack of a fifty-seven year old electrical repairman, while eating a pastrami sandwich in his living room.
Carl Jorgensen was an amiable enough fellow, but never really got on with his wife, Karen after the “honeymoon was over.” They grew apart, and divorced when Carl was fifty-two. He lived alone, and suspicion was only aroused when he failed to make a couple of call-out appointments on Monday.
The customers called repeatedly, and the voice-mail on his phone soon filled. It was when his daughter, Amy tried to call that she grew concerned. After all, he always answered the phone, and never had that many messages unanswered.
She arrived late Monday evening to find the television on, and Carl dead on the couch. The usual tearful panic ensued, and it was obvious that it was too late for anything to be done.
Amy found it hard to deal with the aftermath, and ended up paying a house clearance firm to put the place in order for it to be sold. Even with full disclosure of the death on the premises, the property was purchased within two months.
The Stevensons were a happy young couple, and they were expecting the arrival of their first child in February. The house was affordable, and seemed to have all they were looking for as a “first step on the property ladder.”
With the contracts signed, and with great expectations they moved in and began to redecorate, and to make the place “theirs.” It was on the third night in the house that they had the first inkling that something wasn’t quite right. The light in the utility room, which had previously been Carl’s workroom, kept coming on. No matter how many times David turned it off, it would come back on. Finally in frustration, he removed the bulb.
On their first Friday night, the television in the living room switched itself from their favourite talent competition to re-runs of Seventies sit-coms.
“I will call the cable company in the morning,” David said.
“Please do, because this is really freaky,” Miriam said more in annoyance than fear.
The cable guy couldn’t find any faults in the system, but installed a new box anyway, and all seemed fine until the following Friday when the same this happened again.
Soon after they noticed that several of their electrical items seemed to go missing, only to reappear days later and in better working order. Not only in better order, but in some cases upgraded.
The spirit of Carl Jorgensen was definitely at work, and though Miriam wanted to contact a priest or exorcist, David convinced her that now real harm was being done, and to think of all the money they were saving on gadget repairs and upgrades. Watching a few reruns of All in the Family was surely a small price to pay for such convenient service.
It could hardly be called a garden; in fact, it was little more than a herb patch. The scrawled labels on the small beds bore names such as Dead Man’s Wart, and Feverfew. Alex passed through it with some apprehension as he approached the Canny Woman’s cottage.
He knocked the door and stood uncertainty on the step. After a few moments, a silver-haired woman wearing a threadbare shawl opened the door.
“Yes,” she said in a weak voice.
“Um – I’m . . . , ” he began.
“You are Alex White,” the old woman said.
Taken slightly aback, Alex said, “Yes, Mam.”
“What can I do for you, Alex White?”
“I have a runny nose, and my eyes won’t stop watering,” the young man replied.
“Wait here,” she said and shuffled past him into the garden. She then plucked several peppermint leaves, and a few dried stems of what seemed a dead plant. She then pushed past him again and went to a mortar and pestle in the cottage. She put the stems and leaves into the bowl, and then took a small glass container from under her worktop. She poured a little of its contents into the bowl and crushed all together.
“Take a little of this each day until the blossoms fade on the trees,” she instructed. Be sure to do it in the morning when the dew is still on the grass.”
“Yes Mam,” Alex responded, and took the little parcel of mixture and placed it into his shirt pocket. “Thank you.”
“You are welcome, Alex White,” she said and closed the door as he stepped away.
Turning back to her workplace she lifted the glass bottle and weighed it in her hand. “I’ll need to get some more Benadryl soon,” she said to herself.