9 June, 2010
Somehow I seem to have fallen out of fictional inspiration lately, having difficulties finding the time and inspiration to focusing my mind on it.
It is still my hope and intention to some day get back to the Wordzzle game and finish off The Slumber Party Mystery story.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009


 Sorry for my delay in posting the next episode of  The Slumber Party Mystery. Since there is going to be a break in the Wordzzles until after New Year however, I hope to be able to catch up.

.~. GOD JUL .~.
.~. GOTT NYTT ÅR .~.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Raven's Wordzzle Challenge #92

Raven's Wordzzle Challenge #92

sugar, mortgage, logical, roller skates, outlandish, "Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus", cumberbund, unexpected, photo album, scarecrow

tomatoes, turtles, basement apartment, circumference, make my day

The Slumber Party Mystery
Chapter 39 - Gossip

Skittles had talked his friend Matthew Turtles into having Sunday breakfast with him in his basement apartment, and then going with him to the village church.

"Please," Skittles had said on the phone. "You know I don't usually go to church, and if I go alone I'll feel as though they'll all be staring at me, and I'll be red as tomatoes in the face. But Diana said she might be going, and it would really make my day if you'd accompany me and see her. It's enough if you just say hello and then you could give me your opinion of her afterwards."

"I really can't see why it would cause any less staring if I go with you," had been Matt's answer, but since he was feeling curious, he had agreed anyway.

Up at the Brigadier General's house, Bumblebee was tying a cumberbund around the impressive circumference of his belly. Miss Diana had warned him that she would probably be bringing some guests back with her after church.

At the village church, Diana could not really have made a more spectacular entrance if she had arrived on roller skates instead of in her outlandish little red sports car, wearing her grandmother's diamond necklace.

The quartet of old ladies standing outside the church were so preoccupied looking at her that they paid no attention at all to the two police officers, nor to Dr Challenge; and certainly not to young William.

"Yes Virigina, there is a Santa Claus!" said Mrs Smith to Mrs Jones. "Just look at her! I have a picture in my photo album..."

"Now isn't that unexpected?" said Mrs Jones to Mrs Anderson. "That poor little scarecrow, growing up into such a fashionable young lady!"

"Well, Virginia," said Mrs Anderson, "I'd say it's only logical that she should, really, all things considered. I shouldn't wonder if that diamond necklace is a fake, though! I heard the General had to take a mortgage on the house you know," she added in a whisper.

Skittles, looking at Diana, found himself thinking that he should have taken at least three lumps of sugar with his morning coffee instead of just one. He was suddenly feeling a bit weak at the knees.

His friend Matt noticed, and gave him an amused smile.

"Hey John, you're not the groom waiting for the bride, you know, even though I must agree she'd make a stunning one! If you still want me to meet her, you'll have to introduce me!"

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Raven's Wordzzle Challenge #91

Raven's Wordzzle Challenge #91

edge, haven, sunglasses, sprightly, telling, frazzled, juicy, quartet, tied, necklace
bees, crackling, wooden, staple, earful

(Words this week provided by Argent)

The Slumber Party Mystery
Chapter 38 - Going to Church

Adam Challenge awoke on Sunday Morning still feeling kind of frazzled and on edge. In spite of this he decided to go to church. There was no telling yet how much the rumours of Friday's events - or Saturday's for that matter - had spread around the village, but church would be the right place to find out about all the juicy gossip. He might just as well take the bull by the horns! As he went outside, he tried his best to put on a sprightly manner. The bees were already busy buzzing around in the gardens and it looked as if it was going to be another warm and sunny day.

Since William had been working at the back of the store all Saturday, handling staple goods, with no one to talk to but his boss who wouldn't listen, he too decided on Sunday morning to go to church. If the news was not already spreading on its own, he intended to help! After all, he had not only been a principal witness, but even taken active part in the events, saving the Brigadier General's house from burning down!

As Adam approached the little wooden church with its crackling white paint, he saw a quartet of women outside who were all patients of his. He would get his earful of gossip alright. He noticed however that their attention was not at the moment directed towards himself. A little red sports car had just driven up in front of the church, and out stepped a young woman in sunglasses, wearing a white skirt and black top. Her hair was neatly tied back; but around her neck she wore a sparkling diamond necklace. This was something he had not counted on. Miss Diana Haven had obviously come to the same decision as himself, about facing the crowd rather than just stay at home wondering.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Raven's Wordzzle Challenge #90

Raven's Wordzzle Challenge #90

love is a many splendored thing, trucks, inspector, symbols, rising, organic, liberation, costly, smug, naughty,

the nature of the beast, identical, charcoal, braggart, vacation

If you're new to my story, there is a Summary here.

The Slumber Party Mystery
Chapter 37 - Love is a many splendored thing

William, late on Saturday afternoon, was still stuck at the grocery store, unloading trucks and handling costly goods marked "organic" and with some strange symbols he took to be Chinese signs. His boss was just watching from behind his glass windows and acting inspector, looking very smug and not even rising from his chair. William in the meantime was getting naughty thoughts of practical jokes but realized that any such attempts would only get him into more trouble. Finally his hour of liberation came, and he was allowed to go home and watch the DVD he had rented: Love is a many splendored thing.

Diana was sitting in her room making a charcoal picture, but she had problems quite catching the nature of the beast she was drawing. In her head she could hear the voice of her friend Sandy saying: "All men are such braggarts!" Diana threw the picture aside and started on another identical one. It struck her that her vacation would soon be coming to an end and there were decisions to be made. 

Friday, 13 November 2009

Raven's Wordzzle Challenge # 89

Raven's Wordzzle Challenge # 89

officer, candid, drowning, turtles, sugar-coated, prospecting, shame on you, reclinder, luggage, brains, paragon of virtue, cats-in-the-cradle, swamp, sprinkles, garbage

The Slumber Party Mystery
Chapter 36 – Cat's Cradle

Getting home on Saturday evening, John Skittles called up his friend Turtles, who was also a police officer.

"To be quite candid with you, I don't understand what's happening," he complained. "I thought I was solving a mystery, and then suddenly I seem to be drowning in a sugar-coated romance instead."

"Sounds like interesting prospecting to me," said his friend. "Shame on you for moaning about it! You know you always fall in love with a good mystery. Perhaps this time the mystery has also fallen in love with you! I suggest you lean back in your recliner and put those Sherlock brains of yours to some good use for once. Try and figure out what it is about this girl that attracts you."

"I have no idea," said Skittles, still in a grumpy tone of voice. "She comes with such a lot of strange luggage. Her grandfather's house is only part of it. The place is a veritable swamp full of garbage, in some ways. She's hardly a paragon of virtue herself either. And she's not in love with me, she's in love with that doctor. She said so yesterday."

"Ah," said Turtles. "The cat's in the cradle, and sprinkles of jealousy on top."

"What?" said Skittles, irritably. "You know I'm no good at metaphors, you always end up having to explain them to me."

"This one is kind of hard to explain over the phone, John," said his friend. "Cat's cradle is an intricate game, and it takes the combined efforts of two people to sort it out."

Later in the evening, Turtles emailed this web page to his friend John Skittles:



Saturday, 7 November 2009

Raven's Wordzzle Challenge # 88

Raven's Wordzzle Challenge # 88

Cute, come with me to the Casbah, bloodhound, respiration, Facebook, Canada Geese, modern, gravity, spider webs, sea shells, curiosity killed the cat, charming Victorian, railroad tracks, tower, salt and pepper

The Slumber Party Mystery
Chapter 35 – A Curious Phone Call

What Skittles actually said to Diana when he asked her to have lunch with him was "Come with me to The Casbah", referring to the Algerian restaurant by that name a few blocks away from the Modern Arts Museum.

Diana, for some reason, said she thought it was very "cute" of him to say so. When he asked her why she said that, she just smiled and said "Curiosity killed the cat". He did not dare ask again. Then Diana asked if he was on Facebook. John said no, and she said no matter, she could show him how to set up an account – he would soon learn.

On their way out, they passed another work of art in the entrance hall.. Skittles found himself rather liking this one, which was called "Sea Shells and Spider Webs". At least he could see what was what in it.

The Casbah restaurant, as Skittles knew from before, was in a charming Victorian style building. On each of the tables, they had little tower-shaped containers for salt and pepper. Skittles had always liked those.

Just as they sat down, Diana's cell phone rang. Skittles listened anxiously to the part of the conversation that he could hear.

"What do you mean, respiration problems?!" she gasped to the person at the other end. Skittles immediately thought of her grandfather, and found his bloodhound police instincts aroused. This sounded like a situation of gravity that might be requiring their immediate presence back at the hospital.

However, what followed did not quite seem to fit.

"But what on earth was she doing on the railroad tracks?" said Diana.

After listening a while longer, she said "Okay, we'll talk more later," put the cell phone back into her handbag, and turned to Skittles with a deep sigh and tears in her eyes.

"That was about Puddles," she said. "It seems curiosity killed the cat for real this time. Apparently she was hit by a train while chasing Canada Geese along the tracks."

Skittles did not know what to say, but reached out over the table and patted her hand, rather clumsily.


Friday, 30 October 2009

Raven's Wordzzle Challenge # 87

Raven's Wordzzle Challenge # 87

plumber, autograph, Florence Nightengale, a chill wind’s a blowing, watering hole, sleek, triplets, backwards, surface*, tension*, parrot, free estimates, French fries, carpet, Braille, silver-tongued bandit

The Slumber Party Mystery
Chapter 34 – Adam's Saturday Adventures

Dr Adam Challenge's Saturday had not started well, and did not seem to be getting better. During Lieutenant Skittles' unexpected visit in the morning he had tried to remain calm on the surface, but their talk had left him with a lot of tension. After Skittles left - advising Adam not to leave town - on top of everything, Adam discovered that his toilet was out of order. He called several plumbers, repeating the same questions feeling like a parrot, but none of them would give free estimates on a Saturday. Finally he got in touch with one sleek silver-tongued bandit of a plumber who promised to come and have a look at it the same evening, but at four times the normal cost. In spite of the sunny day, Adam felt a chill wind blowing.

Right after that, just as Adam was contemplating going to his favourite watering hole and get himself a drink and some French fries for lunch, he got an emergency phone call from a patient having triplets. Adam found her lying on the living room carpet and there was no time to get her to the hospital. He had to deliver the babies himself. Luckily everything went well, in spite of one of them coming out backwards. The husband, before following the ambulance in his own car, compared Adam to Florence Nightingale and asked for his autograph in triplicate, to give to each of the children later on. He also wanted it in Braille for the children's grandmother but Adam said he would have to get back to him about that.

Watching the happy father drive away, Adam suddenly felt a lot better about himself. After all, the Brigadier General had not died; and today he had helped bring three new lives into the world.

*Note on the words: Picking up the link to #87 today, I find that I made a mistake when picking up the words from last week. I took surface and tension to be meant as separate words. I don't have time to rethink and rewrite today so I'll just make apologies and leave them as they are in my story.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Raven's Wordzzle Challenge #86

Readers: Apologies in advance for the contents below! It was either this or skipping another week...
No time; and some of the most impossible words I've ever come across so far, I think... LOL

Raven's Wordzzle Challenge #86

Incensed, sidewinder, bogus, conniption, Haz-mat, conniving, customize, perforated, zeal, rolling off a log, abstemious, chlorophyll, origami, cheerleader, dung beetle

The Slumber Party Mystery
Chapter 33 - More Distractions

After having spent about fifteen minutes in front of the Pinnochio painting, Diana also dragged Skittles through the rest of the Modern Art Museum. He did not understand much of what he saw, but it was undoubtedly an experience unlike anything he had been through before in his life.

The next room was incensed with heavy aromas. In the middle of the room stood a sidewinder on a platform. As they got close to it, an alarm went off. Men in customized Haz-mat suits came running into the room. They seemed to be going into conniption and at the same time showing great zeal in examining the sidewinder. Skittles didn't understand a thing what they were on about. He feared a conniving setup and looked anxiously around for the emergency exit. Diana, however, said that it was all bogus and part of an art performance. She clapped her hands, and the men in the Hazmat then did a sort of cheerleader dance before they left the room. As they left, Skittles noticed that the back of their suits were all perforated.

In another room, there was a painting of an abstemious hermit sitting on a pillar looking out over the desert. At the bottom of the pillar there was an oversized dung beetle of chlorophyll-green colour. Diana stood for quite a while in silent admiration of this painting, which was entitled Rolling off a log.

The last room turned out to be an enormous plain white hall, containing nothing but a very small piece of colourful origami artwork. The sign said it was of Swedish design. After having expressed some appreciation of this, Skittles suggested that perhaps they should go and have some lunch. Diana, apparently, had nothing against that.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Raven's Wordzzle Challenge #85

I apologize for last week's absence from the Wordzzle. I was too distracted by other things to be able to focus. Now I'm back to tackle my own words... They seemed pretty good to me when I sent them to Raven a couple of weeks ago. Now suddenly they seemed not so easy at all...!

Raven's Wordzzle # 85
early morning light, Pinocchio, mist, leaves, sandy, coffee, walking, traffic, pray, stomach,
train, art, admirable, cotton, fluffy

The Slumber Party Mystery
Chapter 32 - Distractions

Much to his own surprise, while having coffee with Diana in the hospital cafeteria, Skittles found himself telling her all sorts of things about his own past rather than taking the opportunity to ask her some questions that had been on his mind since the previous day, about "the case". In fact, he was starting to wonder if there was "a case".

"John," said Diana – because he had just told her his first name – "I think I'll skip my bowling appointment, I'm late for it already. Won't you come with me to the art museum instead? They have a painting on show that I'm just dying to see. A friend told me it's so spectacular it makes you want to pray.You don't mind walking a bit, do you? There is so much traffic." She didn't really wait for Skittles' reply, but went on: "I'll just go and put my bowling bag in a locker here, and make a quick phone call to Sandy, that's my bowling friend. See you in a minute!"

Skittles watched her walk off. She was wearing a blue cotton dress today. He had a curious fluffy sensation in his stomach and was not quite sure if that was the heavy piece of cheese cake he had just been eating, or possibly something quite different.

An hour later, they were standing in front of a huge painting entitled "Pinocchio waiting for the train in early morning light and mist among the falling leaves".

"Well, what do you think?" said Diana. "Is that an admirable piece of art or what?!"

Skittles really thought that "or what" would be the more accurate answer – but nodded, and tried to look as if he understood these things. He had never set foot in a modern art museum before in his life.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Raven's Wordzzle Challenge #83

Raven's Wordzzle #83

 family, cheese cake, 20 years ago, refrigerator, laugh and the world laughs with you, bath brush, zombies, African violets, butterflies, holding hands, monsters in the closet, roughly, bowling, menu, Pennsylvania

The Slumber Party Mystery

Chapter 31 - Coffee with Diana

Coming out from the General's room in the hospital, Lieutenant Skittles ran into Diana, carrying some African violets and a big bag that seemed rather heavy. He found himself quickly running his hand through his hair – his mirror image in the morning had showed him a hairstyle resembling a bath brush. Other images also fluttered through his mind: The poster in Diana's room with the text "laugh and the world laughs with you" and her water colours of magenta butterflies in the drawing room at her grandfather's house…

"Oh, it's you!" said Diana. "What are you doing here? Any news? Have you been talking to Granddad? What did he say? Is he okay?"

"Eh… roughly…" said Skittles, not quite sure how to answer all this, since he had not been able to make any sense out of what the General had said.

"Not talking about zombies, was he? Or monsters in the closet?" said Diana. He sometimes gets these nightmares… Morning really isn't his best time of the day. By the way, are you officially working or just here anyway?"

"Eh…" said Skittles again, since he had not checked with his boss yet if he could count his visits this morning as work or not.

"Morning not your best time of day either, is it?" said Diana. "Tell you what, I'll just drop these off with Grandpa, and then you and I go down to the cafeteria and have a cup of coffee. You wait here for me!" She disappeared into the ward, and Skittles found himself waiting for her in the corridor. Why it should seem natural just to obey orders from this girl, he had no idea. He tried to get irritated, but instead, an image of her and himself holding hands fluttered through his mind… So he waited. Ten minutes later she came back out; still carrying the bag, which seemed as heavy as before.

She saw his glance and laughed. "I'm going bowling after this," she said. But come on, we still have plenty of time for that cup of coffee."

She led the way without problem through the maze of corridors and elevators down to the hospital cafeteria, while chatting on about everything and nothing as if they had known each other for years. At the cafeteria counter, after a quick glance at the menu, without asking Skittles what he wanted, she ordered two cups of coffee, and two pieces of cheese cake, cold, from the refrigerator.

Sitting down at the table, she said: "Now, you already know a whole lot about my family. It's only fair I get to know something about you, too. You needn't go back to your birth, but tell me something random from – let's say, 20 years ago. Where were you living then?"

"Pennsylvania," said Skittles.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Raven's Wordzzle Challenge #82

Raven's Wordzzle #82

Tibetan sky, symbols, won’t you come home Bill Baily, shadow figures, brain cortex, practice makes perfect, life, start of school, lavender, chow down, mental hospital, falling leaves, apple cider, packing crates, clues

The Slumber Party Mystery
Chapter 30 – Interview with the General

After leaving Dr Challenge's house, Skittles decided to go to the hospital to check how the Brigadier General was doing. He found the General sitting in his bed trying to chow down his breakfast. He did not seem to recognize Skittles. A young nurse was making up an empty bed next to him, while singing "Won't you come home Bill Baily". The sheets were the colour of lavender. She stopped singing when Skittles entered, and smiled at him while tucking in the last corner. "There, practice makes perfect!" she said. "Are you looking for someone?"

Skittles introduced himself and asked in a low voice if it would be all right if he talked a little to the General. The girl nodded towards a frosted window, behind which some shadow figures could be seen moving.

"You had better ask the head nurse first," she said. So Skittles went out into the corridor, and then into the nurse's office.

"Hm," said the head nurse. "Police, eh? I'm not sure the patient is up to being questioned. He has not been quite coherent. The doctor says the problem is probably in his brain cortex. But all right. You may try. No more than ten minutes, though!"

Skittles went back into the General's room and sat down on a chair beside the bed.

"Good morning, General," he said. "Do you remember me, Lieutenant Skittles? We met yesterday, in your garden, after your" – Skittles made a short pause – "accident."

The General looked sharply at him.

"I'm in a mental hospital, aren't I?" he asked. "Are you here to get me out, or to get me locked up for good?"

"No," said Skittles. "I mean… This is not a mental hospital, it is a regular hospital. You were in a kind of accident and probably had a bit of a shock yesterday. I just wanted to ask you if you remember what happened?"

The General seemed to be thinking hard.

"We were picking apples to make apple cider," he said. "After start of school, but before the falling leaves, you know. But then one of the packing crates fell on me."

Skittles did not know how to respond to this. This must refer to some much earlier event in the General's life.

"Eh… I'm afraid that cannot have been yesterday," he said.

"No?" said the General, looking surprised. "Let me think…" He leaned back on the pillows, and closed his eyes. Skittles was almost sure he had fallen asleep, when he suddenly looked up again.

"Tibetan sky burials!" said the General triumphantly. "I was reading about them, in that magazine with the strange symbols on the front cover."

Skittles sighed, and gave up hope of getting any real clues out of the Brigadier General as to what had really happened the day before.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Raven's Wordzzle Challenge #81

Raven's Wordzzle Challenge #81:
dangerous, engine, sullenly, bespoke, evergreen, bauble, medicine, freight, destined, tinsel, carbon, feelers, outright, ballet, fizzing

The words this week were provided by Argent, and made me want to shout AAAAAAAAHRG...ENT… How am I supposed to fit baubles and tinsel into a story that is taking place in the heat of summer?! (LOL) This is what came into my head, and it's not moving my story forward AT ALL, but I do not have time to rethink, so here it is anyway:

The Slumber Party Mystery
Chapter 29 – At the Grocery Store

At the store, Saturday morning, William was unloading a lot of goods that had arrived the previous afternoon and had been left outside over night. As expected, his boss, Mr Engine, generally known as just Mr E, was very angry about his late arrival back at the store last night, and did not even want to listen to William's explanation.

"You had better start unloading those fizzing sodas immediately," he said. "They're full of carbon something you know and might explode any moment if they're left out in the sun! It's outright dangerous, so just get on with it! And when you're done with that, you will have to clear a space at the back of the storage room for those boxes over there."

William had his inner feelers out; he knew that in this mood Mr E was not to be reasoned with, so he shut up, obeyed orders and "got on with it". Mr E, meanwhile, went into his office to make a phone call. William could hear him throught he glass door, yelling something about freight and a ship destined for Hell. Or at least that was what it sounded like.

The soda bottles safely inside, William went over to look at the rest of the goods. He was somewhat surprised to find three boxes marked "baubles", "tinsel" and "evergreen festoons". He looked through the window into the office again. Mr E had put the phone down, and was now taking a drink from a bottle of brown stuff. William recognized the bottle, Mr E kept it in a special cabinet and it was labelled "Universal Medicine". Mr E used it frequently. Sometimes it seemed to calm him down. Sometimes not.

William knocked very lightly on the door, got a grunting reply and stepped inside.

"Excuse me, sir," he said. "Those boxes with Christmas ornaments…?"

"Yes, yes, I know it's still summer!" said Mr E sullenly. "They are bespoke. By Mrs E, for the Christmas ballet. Last year we didn't get the stupid things until New Year, so this year she wanted to make sure! As I said – just clear some space and put them at the back!"

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Raven's Wordzzle Challenge #80

Raven's Wordzzle Challenge #80 : Charitable, alligator, tribute, drunk, slave, preparation, carrots, mountainside, propeller, lark, chisel, worship, suicide, organic, plus

The Slumber Party Mystery
Chapter 28 – A Nightmare

Lieutentant Skittles lay awake that night, turning things over and over in his head. He did not usually work on weekends – emergency calls were then referred to the police station in a bigger city - but this Saturday he decided to pay tribute to his own sense of duty and put in some extra hours anyway. He hoped his superiors would see this as a plus in the upcoming promotion talks. The thing was, Dr Adam Challenge had talked of coming down to the police station "tomorrow", but Skittles doubted that he really meant to - and if he did, he would find the station closed, because it was Saturday. But Skittles could go and see Adam…

Adam had not slept well either. He was usually no slave to alcohol, but last night he had got drunk, and in the night he had dreamt very strange dreams, in which he had been running an organic farm growing carrots, which he had then attempted to feed to an alligator. But the alligator had attacked the boat he was sitting in, and had preferred to chew on the propeller; which Adam had then attempted to fix with a chisel, even though it did not really seem like the right kind of tool for the job. Just as the boat was sinking under him, however, he woke up. He fumbled for the alarm clock, but pressing the button didn't help. After a while, he realised that it was not the alarm clock that was ringing – it was the door bell.

Adam, in spite of being saved from drowning, did not feel in charitable mood when he opened the door, and even less when he found Skittles outside.

"Oh, it's you," he growled moodily. "I was asleep, you know. I'm not usually up with the lark on my days off! Is there an emergency?"

Skittles did not answer. "May I come in?" he asked. Adam realized it was no use saying no, and stepped aside to let the lieutenant pass into the hallway.

Skittles looked around curiously and noticed a suitcase in a corner. Had the doctor been making preparations to go away?

"Going somewhere?" he asked, nodding towards the suitcase.

Adam sighed. "I had intended to go up the mountainside to a cabin and do a bit of climbing this weekend," he said. "But that was before I got that possible suicide note from the General. I decided I had to check that out first, and then you know what happened. I'm not planning to run off anywhere now, if that's what you're thinking!"

"Good," said Skittles. "I'm not accusing you of anything, it just struck me that I forgot to tell you yesterday, that I strongly advise you not to leave town."

The two men looked at each other. It was evident that neither of them was exactly in worship of the other.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Raven's Wordzzle Challenge #79

Raven's Wordzzle Challenge # 79:
Spam, perpetual motion, sprinkle, telephone pole, stains, alphabetical, surgery, flattery, liberty, preservation, shadows, singularity, Florida, caterpillars, copy

The Slumber Party Mystery

Chapter 27 – Letters

Back down in the hall, Skittles had intended to leave the house through the front door and go home, but suddenly changed his mind. Instead, he went back into the library, which now lay mostly in shadows. The doors to the terrace were still open, letting an evening breeze in. Outside, he could hear the faint swooshing of the watering device in perpetual motion, still distributing an even sprinkle of water over the lawn. He closed the door to the hall behind him, then also the doors to the terrace before he switched on the light. He went behind the General's desk to have a glance at the books. He was soon able to establish that if they were arranged in any kind of order, at least it was not alphabetical. "Preservation of liberty" he read on the back of one. "Caterpillars in World War I" it said on another. Skittles decided not to waste any more time on the books; it was something else that had made him go back in here. He went over to the ginger jar with the sunflower pattern, lifted the lid and peered down into it. Yes. The letter was still there. He had completely forgotten to ask Diana why she had put it there, he had only remembered it as he came downstairs again. He took the letter out and looked at it. It was addressed to Diana c/o the General's address, and it was postmarked in Miami. He turned it over. Nothing on the back, except for a few ink stains. What was it she had said about the plot in her book… something involving a blackmail letter and postage… and he was sure Florida had been mentioned, too. Skittles weighed the letter in his hand and in his mind for a while. Then he sighed and put it back into the jar. Being intrigued by a young lady's singularity was hardly reason enough for him to open a letter that she claimed to have written to herself. Flattery might be a better way to get her to explain. But not tonight. Skittles put the letter back in the jar, turned off the light, opened the glass doors to the terrace and went out into the night.

Upstairs, Diana had turned her computer on again to print out a copy of her next translation assignment, and was annoyed to find her email inbox full of spam. What she had hoped to be serious job offers turned out to be an offer of cheap plastic surgery, and instructions how to climb a telephone pole. Diana did not consider herself in need of either.

Saturday, 29 August 2009

Raven's Wordzzle Challenge #78

Raven's Wordzzle Challenge # 78

records, impulsive, really cool, bread crumbs, angels, Sponge Bob, magical moment, back and forth, suffering, good fences make good neighbors, side effects are generally mild, clingy, rooster, samples, curiosity

The Slumber Party Mystery
Chapter 26 – At the Hospital

At the hospital, a male nurse by the name of Robert Sponge, generally called Sponge Bob, had had a difficult time getting blood samples from the Brigadier General. The female nurses, on the other hand, found the old man to be rather clingy. It was hard to understand what he wanted, because when he tried to speak, it sounded most of all like the crow of an old rooster. But one of the younger nurses going back and forth between the beds showed a bit more curiosity, and said she was sure he kept repeating the word angels. "I think he is an old darling and really cool, just a bit impulsive," she said to her older colleague, while brushing some bread crumbs off the General's chest after trying to get him to eat a sandwich for supper. "I think maybe he is trying to tell us he had a magical moment, like a near-death-experience." The other nurse looked sceptical. "Good fences make good neighbours, that's what I always say," she said mysteriously, while drawing the curtains between the beds.

Now Sponge Bob was back, trying to convince the General to take some pills a specialist had prescribed after checking his hospital records. "The side effects are generally mild," Bob said. "Trust me, the doctor does not want to cause you any more suffering." The old man sighed, and reluctantly swallowed the pills.

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Raven's Wordzzle Challenge #77

Wordzzle 77 Mini Challenge:
class, calendar, keeping secrets, boring, fashion

The Slumber Party Mystery
Chapter 24 – One More Question for Diana

Glancing at a calendar on the kitchen wall in the General's house, Lieutentant Skittles suddenly realized that if today was Friday, tomorrow was Saturday. Before he left, Adam Challenge had said he would come down to the police station tomorrow. But the police station was not open on Saturdays. Skittles was pretty sure that the doctor was keeping secrets from him, his behaviour had been very suspicious. Maybe he had better make sure that the doctor did not try to leave town? But before he himself left this house, he wanted to ask Diana about something. He told Bumblebee about his intentions, and then found his way back through the corridor to the hall, and up the stairs to Diana's room. Her door was still open, and he found her sitting on her bed reading a fashion magazine, the very image of a spoiled upper class young lady. She looked up as Skittles entered, and put the magazine aside.

"So you are still here, lieutenant?" she said. "Don't you have anything better to do on a Friday evening? I thought I heard Adam's car leaving again a while ago. And William, too."
Skittles felt sure she had not only heard, but seen them both from her window.
"I will be off soon," he said, "but I have one more question for you. The doctor showed me an invitation card he had got for this evening. Who sent it?"
"I did," said Diana, without hesitation. "Or we. Evenings here can be pretty boring, so I asked grandpa if we couldn't invite Adam for supper. He likes the doctor, so he didn't mind. So I used one of his card's to write on."
"And why did you call it a slumber party?"
"Oh, that," said Diana. "Just a joke. Grandpa keeps nodding off half the time, Adam knows that. And then…" She gave Skittles a mocking smile. "Well, if he'd take it as an invitation to stay over night, that might have been fun. One way or the other. If he had wanted to stay, that would have been a development I honestly wouldn't mind. If he had been shocked, I would just have given him the grandpa-nodding-off explanation and looked innocent. I'm good at that," she added, with an expression to prove her words.

Skittles decided, for now, to keep to himself the doctor's opinion that the note might also be interpreted as a message from the General hinting that he intended to take his own life.

Wordzzle 77 - 10 Word Challenge:
blind panic, apartment, fleas, soap operas, cajun cooking, free and easy, legal, sangria, public school, new
The Slumber Party Mystery
Chapter 25 – More About Adam

Of course there had been no emergency call the second time he ran off from the General's house either. During the interview with Skittles, Adam had just pressed that button on his cell phone that adjusted the ringtone. Once again he had fled in blind panic from a situation he could not handle.

He unlocked the door to his house, and stepped inside. He went into the kitchen, opened the fridge, poured himself a glass of sangria and took it back with him to the living room. He wished he could turn back time. Instead of going to the General's house, he should just have stayed at home watching soap operas on TV. He wondered if he would ever get back to feeling free and easy again. It seemed unlikely.

His forced his thoughts once more back to the accident in Italy, years ago - the burning car, the death of his first wife. He had thought he would never get back to normal after that. There had also been a lot of questions to answer and legal business to sort out after Eve's death. First in Italy, then back in the States. But he had been very young. He got himself together, finished medical school, and then went to work among poor people in a big city. Closing his eyes, he could still bring back the shabby apartment buildings, the smell of cajun cooking, how he felt the first time he discovered his patients had fleas. And then he had met Linda, new teacher at the public school. They were passionate about the same things, and for a brief time, he had felt happy again. But then someone had set fire to the school where Linda worked, and she had died trying to save one of her pupils. Adam had arrived on the scene too late. He had seen the building burn, knowing Linda was inside, but had not been able to help. The police were sure the fire had been started by an arsonist, but they never found out who. Adam had not been able to bear the thought of staying in that city. He had moved on, and had eventually been able to open up his own practice, in a small quiet town.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Raven's Wordzzle Challenge #76

Raven's Wordzzle Challenge #76

superlative, flea market, falling leaves, disinformation, who was that masked man?, keeping kids out of trouble, I'm a believer, bonnet in the attic, staff, generation,
deep in the forest, government, charming, heirlooms, flabbergasted

The Slumber Party Mystery
Chapter 23 - Conversation in the kitchen

Choosing a corridor on his left lined with so many mysterious objects that it could easily have been mistaken for a flea market, Skittles eventually found his way through the staff quarters to the kitchen. There he found the butler busy with something at the sink, and William sitting at the table, talking. Like many others of his generation, the young man seemed to enjoy using superlatives in every other sentence. High risk of more disinformation, Skittles thought.

"… keeping kids out of trouble, that sort of thing," William said. " Do you remember when she found that old bonnet in the attic for Diana to wear to the fancy dress ball, but Diana convinced her to make her a Zorro costume instead? 'Who was that masked man?' people kept asking afterwards. William started to hum a tune that Skittles recognized as "I'm a believer", but interrupted himself when he became aware of Skittles standing in the doorway.

"Hello lieutenant. We're just talking of old times while waiting for falling leaves." Seeing Skittles' raised eyebrows, he quickly added:

"Sorry, it just feels like a waste of time to just sit around waiting. My boss will be furious that I didn't get back before closing time, and I still have tons of goods in the van that should have been delivered to other customers. Knowing my boss he won't think it reason enough that I saved a charming old gentleman and his heirlooms from being destroyed in a fire deep in the forest.

Skittles looked out of the window. He did not agree that a few trees in the garden was quite the same as "deep in the forest", but let it pass. He wasn't really interested in questioning William further, since the young man had clearly not arrived until after the fire had started. He told him so.

William looked flabbergasted.
"You mean I have been waiting around for nothing?" he groaned. For a moment, it seemed like he was going to add something rude, but then he just rose, and left through the kitchen entrance, muttering something in a very low voice between his teeth. Skittles thought he could distinguish the words "writing to the government".

Skittles turned to Bumblebee.

"I do, however, have a few more questions for you," he said. "Miss Diana says she saw Dr Challenge arrive here twice this afternoon. Can you confirm that?"

"Yes, sir," said the butler. "I did hear his car earlier, before I went outside with the drinks, and I remember saying to myself, 'That car really needs a new muffler', and then I saw it disappearing down the road. He does not usually come on Fridays. But Miss Diana had told me he would be coming for supper. I don't know if it was by her invitation, or the General's. I did not notice when he arrived - it must have been while I was not in the kitchen - and I wondered a bit why he left again, but thought that maybe he had had an emergency call or something. That would explain it, wouldn't it?"
"It might," said Skittles, adding to himself: If the doctor had not known that an emergency call could have been checked out, and had instead started talking nonsense about going home to change his shirt…

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Raven's Wordzzle Challenge #75

reluctant, sacrilege, territory, humiliating, master of ceremonies, gesture, dirty deed, crumbling, thaw, token,
official portrait, personal bank account, shoulder bone, unbearable, widow
The Slumber Party Mystery

Chapter 22 - Avoiding the humiliating truth

Adam still felt reluctant to answer. The truth was so humiliating. He might not have committed a really dirty deed, like murder. It was still a kind of sacrilege, considering his medical profession, to have run away from a fire without trying to help.

"Who saw me?" he asked. "I mean – who says they saw me arrive twice?" he added, a little too late for Skittles not to take his first reaction as a token that he was on the right track.

"Never you mind who saw you," said Skittles, making a mental note to ask Bumblebee if he had also made the same observation as Diana. "Just explain."

"So what if I came, and left, and came back?" said Adam, trying to regain position as master of ceremonies. "It's not a crime to forget something, is it?"

If I'm lucky, he thought to himself, no one can tell for sure when the fire started, or if I went round the back of the house the first time I came, before I left again. But he felt his defences crumbling. Or melting, like ice in thaw.

"So you're saying you forgot something?" said Skittles. "What, exactly?"

"I forgot to… change my shirt," said Adam desperately, regretting the words the moment he'd uttered them. However, this was another answer so unexpected, that Skittles again felt himself losing control over the territory.

"You forgot to change you shirt?!" said Skittles, with a gesture indicating disbelief.

"Yes," said Adam, sticking with it. "I was wearing my white shirt but noticed it had some stains on it. So I went back and changed to my lavender shirt. Since it was a party."

"But a moment ago you said you did not think it really was an invitation to a party," Skittles objected. "You said you thought the Brigadier General might be planning to commit suicide."

At that point, Adam's cell phone rang. Before Skittles had time to stop him, Adam had answered the call.

"Yes, Dr Challenge speaking," he said into the phone. "Broken shoulder bone? Unbearable pain? I understand. I'll be right over."

Adam put the phone back in his pocket and said to Skittles.
"That was a patient," he said. "A poor lonely widow. Had a bad fall. I have to go over immediately. I'm sorry, but can't I come down to the station tomorrow and fill in the rest? I've really told you all I know, and after all, it's not as if anyone died." He rose, shook hands with the astonished lieutenant, and left the room.

"Well, I never…" said Skittles to himself, distractedly taking a nectarine from the bowl on the table, biting into it. In a way, Dr Challenge was right, of course. It was not as if someone had died. Or even as if someone's personal bank account had been emptied. But there had been a fire, even if it was in all likelihood caused by accident, and had been put out before it caused any real harm. Still, the Brigadier General was in hospital, and there were some mysterious circumstances. Actually more and more mysterious, the more people he talked to. Like who sent the invitation card to the doctor, and why? And why was the doctor being so evasive in all his answers? Skittles couldn't help feeling a nagging suspicion that even that phone call might somehow have been faked, although he didn't know how. He had heard the phone ringing…

He went out into the hall, with the intention of finding his way to the kitchen, where he presumed he might find the butler, and maybe still also the boy from the grocery store. Looking around wondering what door to choose, his eyes fell on what he supposed must be the Brigadier General's official portait. He had indeed been an impressive man in his day, Skittles thought, and quite handsome, too.

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Raven's Wordzzle Challenge #74

fair warning, hormones, journalism, philanthropist, burgeoning, running the bulls, saturation, tossed in the towel, whine, indelicate details,
hard labor, lurid, quick fix, sizable contributions, trumpet

The Slumber Party Mystery

Chapter 21 - Fair warning

Interviewing reluctant witnesses, Lieutenant Skittles thought, was like running the bulls. You had to keep ahead of them. First he had had to deal with that young girl, burgeoning with hormones, crying like a waterfall and babbling about the love of her life. And now the doctor, the object of Diana's feelings, seemed to have reached his point of saturation, too - breaking off in the middle of a sentence, and starting to whine about being thirsty and asking for fruit! More likely than not, there were some indelicate details the doctor was trying to avoid revealing.

The problem when being alone on a job was that you had no one to play good cop/bad cop with, you had to choose. Skittles was tempted to take the easy way out again, playing the goodhearted philantropist, but decided to wait a while yet before he tossed in the towel.

"First we finish the interview, then you can have a nectarine!" he said to Adam. "I'm giving you fair warning: Don't try to sidetrack me, it won't work. You said you thought Diana might be coming home for a summer job, but that was only after…? After what?"

Adam had had a few seconds to think while Skittles hesitated.

"After school?" he suggested, weakly, not really believing he'd get away with it.

But the unexpected answer did throw Skittles off guard.
"After school? What's that supposed to mean?" he asked, feeling confused.

"Well, she goes to school, doesn't she?" said Adam, defensively. "Studies journalism, or something of that kind, I believe."

"She said to me she's writing a book," said Skittles, thoughtfully.

"Well, there you are then," said Adam; and Skittles, again, felt completely lost. How could it be so hard to keep control over a simple interview?

"If she's writing a book, I bet it's either a murder story or a ghost story," said Adam. "She was always very much into lurid tales, even as a child."

It was really hard labor to keep this conversation on track, Skittles thought to himself. On the one hand, for all that he knew, the doctor might actually be giving him sizable contributions for the bigger picture. On the other, Skittles couldn't get rid of the feeling that Adam was just trying to quick fix some slip of the tongue he had made earlier.

"Doctor Challenge," said Skittles, in as trumpet-like voice as he could accomplish, "let's get back to topic, shall we? Who do you really think sent you that invitation card, and why?"

"Now I think it might have been Diana," said Adam. "But wouldn't the simplest thing be to ask her whether it was she who sent it or not?"

This might just go on for ever and ever, Skittles thought. Whether innocent or guilty, people always tried to hide their own secrets by directing the attention towards someone else. Then, suddenly, he remembered what it was Diana had suggested that he should be asking Adam.

"Right now, I'm questioning you," he said. "You were seen coming to this house twice this afternoon. You came, you left, and you came back. Explain, please!"

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Raven's Wordzzle Challenge # 73

Raven's Wordzzle Challenge #73
riverboat, procrastinaton, drank, demons, invisible, candle, enough, film stars, summer job, computer, general demeanor, surprisingly, masked man, reach, standards

The Slumber Party Mystery
Chapter 20 - Procrastination

Skittles resisted another impulse to reach out for one of the tempting nectarines. He reminded himself again that as a detective, he had to keep certain standards. Not eating while interviewing people was one of them.

"Dr Challenge," he said, focusing on the man on the other side of the table. "Please tell me when and why you came here today."

Adam hesitated a moment. He was still fighting invisible demons within himself about what to say.

"I came to see the Brigadier General," he said. "He's a patient of mine."

"Excuse me," said Skittles bluntly, "but to me you look dressed for a party rather than a housecall." He looked disapprovingly at Adam's lavender colored shirt.

Adam in turn did not like the detective's general demeanor. The man reminded him of one of those old film stars – what was his name – he'd played a riverboat captain once… Adam found himself wondering if the lieutenant drank. The riverboat captain did... But enough with the procrastination. He would have to tell the truth. Or part of it, anyway.

"Well, as a matter of fact I was invited to a party," he said, taking the invitation card out of his pocket and pushing it across the table to Skittles, who took it and read out aloud:

"Welcome to be my guest at a slumber party this Friday evening."

Skittles stared at the card, and then at Adam. "Slumber party?" he said, incredulously. "What's that supposed to mean?"

"I don't know," said Adam, truthfully. "As you can see, it is not signed, but it's one of the General's cards. It has his address printed on it. So I came to find out."

" An old man inviting his doctor to a slumber party!" said Skittles. "That doesn't make any sense! Slumber parties, that's for giggling school girls!"

"Well," said Adam, "as a doctor I can't just ignore a strange message like that from a patient. True, it might be just a prank. It might also be really serious. The General is not at all well, you know. He has hinted at times…" Adam fell silent and tried his best to play the role of the masked man who is really just waiting to have his mask ripped off. Skittles fell for it.

"Oh," he said, as it dawned upon him what Adam was suggesting. "You mean… You thought the General might intend to take his own life?"

"Well," said Adam. "You never know."

"But…" said Skittles, thinking hard. Something did not quite make sense. "But you diagnosed he'd had a sun stroke!"

"Yes," said Adam. "That's what it seemed like when I examined him after we got him out of the pool. I'm telling you now what I thought when I got the card."

Skittles looked again at the doctor's lavender shirt, and his thoughts went simultaneously to the young girl sitting at her computer upstairs. Just a little while ago she had surprisingly admitted to him that Adam Challenge was "the love of her life"…

"You didn't think of the possibility that someone else from this house might have sent the card?" he asked. "Someone thinking more along the line of a late candle lit dinner, perhaps…?"

Adam blushed and looked very uncomfortable. "Well, yes and no," he said. "It wasn't my first thought. It did occur to me that Diana might be home for some kind of summer job. But that was only after…" Adam broke off in the middle of the sentence and fell silent.

"After…?" prompted Skittles.

"Do you think I might have one of those nectarines?" said Adam. "I'm terribly thirsty!"

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Raven's Wordzzle Challenge #72

Raven's Wordzzle Challenge #72
corn pone, delegation, nectarines, happiness, 12 going on 13, prancing horses, magenta, butterflies, fragmentary, arthritis, lavender cowboy, over the moon, preparation, zebra, area rug

The Slumber Party Mystery
Chapter 19 - In the Drawingroom

When Skittles came downstairs into the hall again, he was met by a little delegation: Bumblebee, Adam and William were all standing there together, waiting for him.

Bumblebee was again holding out a tray with a glass of water and an aspirin tablet, and Skittles received the peace offering, grateful that the butler had not forgotten him.

"Lieutenant, how much longer do you intend to keep us here?" asked Adam. "I have patients to see, you know," he added, trying to sound important.

William, who had been going to say that he was needed back at the shop before closing time, looked at Adam in surprise. "Patients? On a Friday evening?"

Adam hummed. "Well, yes. I sort of promised I'd make a housecall. An old lady with arthritis…"

"I see," said Skittles. "And the name of this lady…?"

Adam tried to look shocked. "I can't reveal details about my patients."

"Well then," said Skittles, "since arthritis is hardly a life-threatening emergency, the lady will have to wait a while longer, while we have a little talk."

Turning to Bumblebee, he said: "Is there another room down here that we could use instead of the library, do you think? I found the atmosphere in there a bit stuffy."

If Bumblebee took offence that Skittles was not feeling over the moon about the library as interview room, he did not show it. "Maybe you'd prefer the drawing room then, sir," he suggested politely, pointing towards another door. This room was brighter than the library, with a smooth area rug in mild colors on the floor. The walls were covered with pictures, but most of them were light drawings and cheerful water colours. Skittles stopped to examine a pencil drawing of prancing horses. It was signed "Diana, 12 going on 13". Next to that one hung a drawing of a zebra, just signed "D". There was also a watercolour of magenta coloured butterflies with the same signature. Apparently, young Diana was quite an accomplished artist, Skittles thought to himself. The odd thing that struck him was that compared to the fragmentary images he had got from Diana's childhood so far, these pictures seemed breathe happiness and freedom rather than feelings of being shut up and stifled by conventions.

The butler withdrew, and Adam and Skittles sat down opposite each other at a table in the middle of the room. On the table stood a bowl of nectarines, looking juicy and delicious. Skittles felt his mouth watering, but this was not the right time to relax and eat fruit. He must concentrate on the interview. That lavender cowboy across the table – Skittles did not quite know himself where he got the expression from, maybe it was just the lavender shirt and blue jeans that the doctor was wearing. Hardly an outfit for professional housecalls come to think of it? Anyway, while Skittles had been talking to Diana, the doctor would have had plenty of time for preparations if indeed he had some reason or other not to tell the exact truth. And he, Skittles, was after all the detective, and had to be careful not to fall into the trap of accepting any corn pone opinions served to him on a plate.

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Raven's Wordzzle Challenge #71

Raven's Wordzzle Challenge #71
sober, spoilage, knight, laugh and the world laughs with you, peak, blueberries, owl, drugstore, lampshade, keyboard,  economy, Michael Jackson, ladder, clue, structure

The Slumber Party Mystery
Chapter 18 - Upstairs

Lt Skittles decided to end the interview with Diana for now. Before he went to find Adam Challenge, however, he felt in need of a short break. He also had a sudden urge to see a bit more of the house. Not that there was much point in looking for clues as he didn't even know whether there was any real mystery to be solved. He just had a feeling that perhaps a tour of the house might provide hime with some sense of structure. Since he couldn't think of a better excuse, he asked Diana for directions to the bathroom.

"Follow me upstairs, then!" she said, and led the way. Skittles was glad to get out of the dark library with all its strange objects; but he soon found the rest of the house to be just as museumlike. In the hall right next to the library there was a knight in shining armour standing guard – or rather, Skittles corrected himself, a shining armour presumably without any knight inside. On a small table beside it stood a big ceramic owl crowned with a hideous lampshade with a pattern of blueberries. At the peak of the stairs there was a gallery with a collection of paintings, but Skittles did not get a chance to get a closer look at them. Diana pointed to a door on the right, saying "There's the guest bathroom, just opposite my room."

The bathroom had a suprisingly sober atmosphere of economy with all white tiles and no extraordinary decorations at all. The only object that did not quite seem to belong there was a ladder leaning against one wall.

He could not resist opening the little cabinet over the washbasin, but to his disappointment, this turned out to contain nothing but an unused toothbrush in a clean glass. "I'll probably have to go to the drugstore to get my own aspirins," he thought sulkily.

Leaving the bathroom, he found that Diana had left the door to her room open. She was sitting at her computer, her hands resting on the keyboard. On the wall he could see a poster of Michael Jackson and the text "Laugh and the worlds laughs with you". Under the desk a big box marked "spoilage paper".

"Good luck with the rest of the interviews, lieutenant," she said, without looking up. This left Skittles with no alternative but to go straight downstairs again, feeling that he had been wasting time, while being laughed at behind his back.

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Raven's Wordzzle Challenge # 70

Raven's Wordzzle Challenge # 70

Florida, spit, child bride, operatic, busy, holding pattern, sunflowers, ginger jars, office, superintenden, music to my ears, plot, powerful, braggart, super model

The Slumber Party Mystery
Chapter 17 - Diana's holding pattern

When Bumblebee had left the room, Diana lifted the lid of a big ginger jar decorated with a pattern of sunflowers, dropped the letter in it, and put the lid back on. Before Skittles had time to ask why, she turned back to him again and looked him straight in the eyes.

"Look here, superintendent," she began.

"Lieutenant," said Skittles. His own rank, at least, he still felt pretty sure of.

"Sorry. I guess I read too many British crime novels. Look here, lieutentant, I'm sure you're a very busy man and must be wanting to get back to your office, and I'm getting the impression you don't really understand a thing I'm saying. I assure you I had no intention of hurting my grandfather in any way, nor anybody else for that matter. I was only kind of trying out a holding pattern, you might say, for the plot in my book. By the way, the working title is "Music to my ears" and it's set partly in England, partly in Florida."

Standing there in her lime green dress, not only did she look like a goddess, but like a mysterious combination of innocent child bride and braggart super model all in one, thought Skittles. Humble and powerful at the same time, and somehow operatic. You could never predict when she'd break out into another aria. He still wished he could get her to spit out something a bit more informative, though.

"All I did," continued Diana, "was to put the sausages on the grill. I asked grandpa to keep an eye on them for me, and to watch Bumblebee's reaction when he came out with the drinks. The sausages weren't on the menu, you see. If things went really perfect, I was also hoping that they'd pop out of their skin at just the right moment. In my book, there are explosives involved, but of course I couldn't take my real life experiment that far. Analyze the remains if you will, you'll find nothing extraordinary about the sausages! But of course it was still stupid of me not to think of the fire hazard, on a day like this, and with grandpa not able to rise from his chair on his own. But he had his alarm, you know, and I didn't expect him to faint, and I was really expecting B to come out much sooner. And then when I got upstairs to my room, I saw from my window that Adam had arrived, too – that is, I saw his car parked in front of the house. But then he left again, I watched him drive off rather in a hurry. But then he came back. Has he given you any explanation for that yet?"

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Raven's Wordzzle Challenge #69

Raven's Wordzzle Challenge # 69

Mini challenge: motorcycle, grandiose, summer, flying off the handle, blue jays

Ten Word Challenge: Chorus line, clam chowder, apples, jack-in-the-box, puddles, Iran, quarry, housekeeping, speed, letter

The Slumber Party Mystery
Chapter 16
- The Letter

Lt. Skittles was beginning to question seriously whether he really had the right qualifications for his job. Right now, he felt he would need to be a psychatrist to be able to sort out whether this young girl was suffering from serious grandiose delusions, or just babbling. How do you continue questioning someone who has just informed you that she thinks of herself as "the goddess of the hunt"? In combination with the summer heat, he felt himself dangerously close to flying off the handle. He looked desperately around the room for inspiration, but all the strange objects in there were no help at all. That picture on the wall, for example, of two blue jays sitting on a motorcycle… Actually, anyone could go crazy growing up in a place like this, he suddenly thought.

"Look here," he started to say, but was interrupted by the butler appearing like a jack-in-the-box, carrying a tray with a letter, a glass of water and the aspirins that Skittles had asked for earlier.

"Oh, Bumblebee!" exclaimed Diana. "You're a darling, you always know exactly what I need!" She rose from her chair, took the pills and emptied the glass, before Skittles had time to even blink. "I'm so sorry you have to do all the housekeeping this weekend, but of course we shall have to change the menu for this evening. Do you think you could manage to whip up that clam chowder of yours instead? And I was thinking of asking you to make raspberry tart for dessert, but if there aren't any raspberries, you could use apples instead." She was talking with such speed that Skittles suddenly got the impression of watching a chorus line, except of course that she was performing solo.

"May I suggest bass instead of clam chowder, miss?" asked Bumblebee. "And by the way, I thought you might want to know that Puddles is back."

"Puddles? Who is Puddles?" said Skittles, hoping for some useful information at last.

"Oh, I'm so glad! I was wondering whether I would have to go out on a hunt again, with her as quarry," said Diana. Turning to Skittles, she added: "Puddles is my cat, a Persian. Like from Iran. I mean, Iran used to be Persia, you know. But don't worry, I don't really hunt cats any more, that was just an attempt at a joke." She took the letter from the tray that Bumblebee was still holding out to her. "Oh, excellent!" she exclaimed. "This is the blackmail letter I sent to myself. And the right postage, too."

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Raven's Wordzzle Challenge # 68

For the rules of the game, go to Raven's Nest. For this week's words, also a special thanks to Dr John!

Since I've been a on a "break" from this game for a couple of weeks, I take the opportunity to make double use of this weeks words instead - first the 10 word challenge, then the mini, then all 15 together - to move along with my ongoing story:

The Slumber Party Mystery
Ten Word Challenge: sow, close, console, lives, minute, polish, bass, pussy, complex, resume

Chapter 13 - Meditations in the Garden

While Diana was pouring her heart out to Lieutenant Skittles in the library, William and Adam were left together out on the terrace, not knowing how to resume the conversation, or even if they were supposed to talk at all.

William looked at the marigolds that he himself had helped the gardener sow, thinking about how much he would like to be close to Diana and console her. She had seemed so upset about the fire, even though it had been put out (by him, William!) before it had done any real damage.

Adam, meanwhile, absentmindedly polished the smooth surface of a marble statue with his handkerchief, contemplating how complex the whole situation was, and how people's lives can change in less than a minute.

A cat came strolling over the lawn. William tried to call it: "Pussy-pussy-puss…" but the cat ignored him and disappeared around the corner of the house. Seeing the cat reminded Adam of that time several years ago that he had caught Diana chasing another cat in the same garden, with a bow and arrow from her grandfather's collection. He did not know what to make of the young woman she had grown up to be. Deeply absorbed in his own thoughts, he hardly took any notice when William said:

"If the lieutenant asks for me, tell him I just went round to the kitchen to help Bumblebee with the groceries. I really need to explain to him why he got bass instead of stingray."

Mini challenge: bow, sewer, house, import, intern

Chapter 14 - Following the Cat

William followed the cat around the corner of the house. Entering the kitchen, he made a polite bow to Bumblebee. He had always found the butler a very impressive man, and he himself was really only a sort of intern at the grocery store, at least when it came to dealing with more important things than just driving the van.

"I'm very sorry about the fish, sir," he said. "I know you wanted stingray, but there was some kind of problem with the import regulations and the bill of lading, so we didn't get any. I took the liberty of bringing you bass instead."

For a moment, William felt that the butler looked at him as if he was something that had just come up out of the sewer; but then he just sighed and said in a quite friendly tone of voice: "Never mind, it obviously wasn't your fault. And by the looks of things no one will be wanting a barbeque this evening anyway…"

Mega Challenge: All 15 words
Chapter 15 - A Life of Pretending

In the library, Diana had had another attack of tears, and Lieutenant Skittles was trying to console her and make her resume her complex story; which he still sensed might possibly be of some import, although he found it difficult to understand.

"Come, come," he said in a deep bass voice, "take a minute to calm yourself, and then try to explain it all to me again.

"My grandmother used to say, we all reap what we sow," sighed Diana, "and I guess she was right, wasn't she, although we were never really close. It wasn't all easy, you know, growing up in this house. Sometimes I felt like an intern, a prisoner, or something they had had to rescue from the sewer. It often seemed to me that in this family, we had to polish our lives as well as all the silver and brass. But all that shiny stuff, that's not really me. So that's why I started making up my own adventures. Like pretending Pussy was a tiger, and borrowing grandfather's bow for the hunt, to make it feel real." She looked at Skittles to see if he understood, but he just stared back blankly at her.

"You don't get it, do you?" she said. "The only thing I felt I had as a child that was really my own was my name: Diana. And Diana is the goddess of the hunt. That I learned from these books." She made another gesture around the walls of the library. "So all the games I played as a child were based on that. And when I took up writing – well, I didn't realize it at first, but I do now – it's just been another way of continuing the same game."

Friday, 29 May 2009

Raven's Wordzzle Challenge # 65

Raven's Wordzzle Challenge # 65

Ten word challenge: parasite, meals on wheels, crows, it's my fault, everything but the kitchen sink, on sale, patriotism, the love of my life, library card, common sense
Mini: blackmail, California, stethoscope, postage, crank

The Slumber Party Mystery
Chapter 12 - Diana's confession

If the butler had seemed like an impregnable castle, meeting the brigadier general's granddaughter was like running into a waterfall, Lieutentant Skittles thought.

Before he had even decided whom to call in next, Diana came rushing into the library and threw herself into one of the big leather arm chairs.

"It's my fault," she sobbed. "Arrest me if you must, I deserve it. I'm a parasite, that's what I am. Living here all these years and never really appreciating it. I can't bear it. Almost killing my own grandfather! I do love him, you know, but sometimes I couldn't stand it, all this talk about war and patriotism... And all these stupid things he kept wasting money on! Stuffed crows and whatever. There were times when I wanted to put just about everything but the kitchen sink on sale. Like all these first editions of old books" - she made a theatrical gesture around the walls of the library where they were sitting – "what do you need them for? Why not just a library card at the public library? Grandma tried to make up for it all I suppose, with her charity meals on wheels and whatever. I guess she had some common sense, but I never quite understood that until after she was gone…" She took a handkerchief out of her pocket and made a pause to blow her nose.

Skittles took advantage of the pause. "Let's back up a bit, please," he said. "What do you mean, it was your fault? Were you actually trying kill you grandfather?"

Diana stared at him. "Of course not," she said. "But I shouldn't have left him alone for that long out in the sun, on a day like this. I only did because he insisted on it. And I was sure old B would be coming out with the drinks at the usual time, to check on him. How was I to know B would be late, on this day of all days? And Adam, who is always late, for once in his life being early! It all just goes to show that you really cannot trust anybody, not even yourself." She shook her head, and added: "Adam is the love of my life, you know, although he's not aware of it. I fell in love with him the first time I saw him with his stethoscope around his neck."

"Eh," said Skittles. "I'm afraid you've lost me again."

Diana gave an impatient little sigh. "On an afternoon like this, grandpa always wants to sit in the sun for a bit. Sometimes his assistant, Miss California as I call her, keeps him company, but she's off on vacation this weekend. I offered to sit with him instead, but he said he wanted to rest his ears. Don't know what he meant by that. Anyway it seemed safe to leave him, because following his usual schedule, old B would be bringing out his afternoon drink in just a little while. He's usually on the dot. So that's why I dared my little experiment. It was for my book, you see. And old B never seemed to mind my jokes, not really. He might seem an old crank sometimes but he's always been very patient with me." Diana's eyes filled with tears again.

Skittles was beginning to feel an increasing need for that Aspirin that he had sent Bumblebee to fetch for him.

"What experiment? What book? What jokes?" he said. "Please try to keep to one thing at a time."

"Well, you see, nobody knows about this yet, but I'm trying to write a detective story. It has a very complicated plot involving blackmail and postage, but another important thing is getting the timing right, so I had to try it out for myself, to see if it was possible."

"If what was possible?"

"To get the sausages to burst at the precise moment when Bumblebee came out with the Sunburst cocktails. Without actually being there myself. But obviously, I'll have to rethink my plot now."

"Obviously," said Skittles, rubbing his temples.

Saturday, 23 May 2009

Raven's Wordzzle Challenge # 64

For the rules of the game, go to Raven's Nest

Ten Word Challenge: albino, trench, marble, assistant, Indian, What's that supposed to mean?, sound first principles, the key thing, moat, curtain
Mini challenge: under the surface, doomed, grand design, temple, aspirin

The Slumber Party Mystery
Chapter 11 - Into the Library

"The library is right through here, sir," said Bumblebee, showing Lieutenant Skittles through the glass doors leading into the house from the terrace. "Please mind the bear," he added.

"Mind the… What's that supposed to mean?" said Skittles, feeling utterly confused. After the bright sunlight outside, stepping into a room with most of the curtains drawn was like entering a dark cave; he could not see a thing at first. Then he almost tripped over something, and looking down, found it to be a huge grinning albino bear's head, attached to the rest of its skin spread out flat on the floor.

"What the… Oh," said Skittles, collecting himself. "Polar bear?" he wondered, looking closer at the grim stuffed head.

"Yes, sir," confirmed Bumblebee. "The brigadier general is a collector of various objects from around the world."

"Hm," said Skittles, looking up and finding himself facing an Indian totem pole. "So I see…" He had never met the general, but he had heard of him. It was said that he had started out digging trenches, and ended up building himself a palace. The house was certainly of grand design, the pillars on the terrace reminding of a Greek temple. Some people wondered whether the old man still had all his marbles in the right place, while others claimed that he was and had always been a man of sound first principles, knowing exactly where his priorities lay. But right now, Skittles reminded himself, the key thing was to find out who or what had started the fire.

"Mr Bumblebee," he said to the butler, "perhaps you could enlighten me on a few points. For example, I take it you cannot be the only servant in this household?"

"No, sir. There is also the brigadier general's personal assistant, who is a trained nurse, but she has this weekend off. Then there is the cook and the gardener, but neither of them live in this house, and they leave early on Fridays."

"But you were having a party this evening?"

"One guest only, Dr Challenge."

Skittles waited for Bumblebee to continue, but the butler obviously was not going to volonteer any more information without being asked a direct question.

Skittles still had a feeling that there was something hidden under the surface, he just didn't know how to get at it. Why did the butler suddenly seem as impregnable as a castle surrounded by a moat? "I must find someone who is willing to let down the drawbridge, or I'm doomed to fail with this investigation," Skittles thought to himself.

Aloud, he said to Bumblebee: "I'm sorry, I feel a headache coming on. Do you think you could find me an aspirin and a glass of water, while I interview somebody else?"

* * *

Author's comment: For this week's challenge, Raven used words that I had sent to her. After this little experiment, I have to report that having come up with the words myself did not make the challenge easier... At least when someone else has chosen the words, you can always blame them if you find the words impossible and not really leading anywhere... ;-)