Thursday, August 21, 2008

Cliffhanger

A little while ago, the Bag Lady had an idea about starting a novelette, and passing it around, with everyone who was interested adding a couple paragraphs. Well, several folks expressed an interest in playing along, and today the Bag Lady is pleased to present the results! The bloggers who joined in were: (in random order, to protect their anonymity!)

Missicat (of Missicat's World)
Leah (of the Goat's Lunch Pail)
Sagan (of Living Healthy in the Real World)
Melissa (of Melissa's Mind Sweeper)
Emily (of Walking Contradiction)
Reb (of Sibu Pegasus Power)
Crabby McSlacker (of Cranky Fitness)
Tokaiangel (of Off the Scale)
and the Bag Lady

The Bag Lady wishes to thank all the bloggers who participated and hopes they had as much fun as she did! Without further ado, the Bag Lady presents.....


I was whistling to myself under my breath as I swung my car into the parking lot. I'm not sure what was making me so happy, and I've always despised people who do that; it sounds like a pit full of hissing snakes when other people do it, but there you have it. I jumped out of the car and checked the address on the building before I made my way toward it.

The door made a little hissing sound as I opened it and I thought perhaps it was happy, too. I gave my head a little shake at that crazy thought, and strolled into the air-conditioned office. I looked around at the utilitarian sparseness and wondered who on earth had decorated the place. There were closed doors on all three walls, with a waist-high desk directly ahead of me. No other furniture, no diplomas or photographs, not even a calendar - nothing to tell a visitor what kind of business you had wandered into. And not a soul in sight.


"Hello?" My voice echoed in the room. The phone shrilled, startling me. I waited for one of the doors to open and someone to respond to the phone. Nothing. I moved toward the desk, counting the rings.
From where I stood, I could see the phone, light flashing with each ring. I finally leaned over the desk and almost fainted when I saw the body sprawled on the floor behind it.

It's not my first dead body. Cleaning rooms at The Gleaning Seniors' Lodge and Care Centre got me used to seeing corpses. But a surprise dead body is startling. It's like surprise nudity. There's nothing wrong with the human body in all its glory when it's expected. But when you
come up on somebody who's nak-
"Meow."
"What the? Oh, kitty. Hello." I reached out to the sleek black and white tabby that jumped down off the chair and came toward me.
Meeeeooooowwww!"
The cat turned away and shuddered its tail at the body then stalked toward the elevator.
"Rarrrrmeeeooowwwww!" It had half turned toward me, tail high and curved slightly inward at the top. It looked impatient. Did it want me to follow it?

The cat appeared to not be bothered by the corpse that lay there on the
ground unceremoniously, face down in the carpet. I wondered how long
the cat had been wandering around the room, alone with this body.
Typical of a feline to have such complete indifference as to the state
of its owner.

And now the cat stood there before the elevator, staring fixedly at
me with those unblinking eyes. I moved towards it and only its tail
flicked back and forth. There was much that I could learn from this
room; I was sure that further investigation of the desk would provide
me with information about the person who had, only a short time before,
sat behind it. And there was no doubt that a closer inspection of the
body itself would expand my knowledge of what had happened in this
office, but now I found myself inexplicably drawn towards the
elevator. After all, that body wasn't going anywhere, and I wanted to
take a look around this building. So I pressed the elevator button.
As I waited for the door to open, something behind me stirred and I
turned sharply as the cat hissed, running under the desk like a shot.


There was nothing there, I think. If the cat hadn't reacted, I would have been sure of it. As it was the hair was standing on the back of my neck, and my heart pounded like it was on a trampoline. Cats don't bestir themselves for just nothing. I sidled back toward the desk myself, eying the corners of the room, the large potted plants. It was still as death.
Behind the desk now, I backed up against the wall. The cat looked up at me, its eyes glowing dimly from a dark space under the file drawer.

Almost frozen, I glanced down at the body again. She lay there, her brown hair partially covering her face. Old?young?I couldn't tell from the clothes; they were nondescript; slightly full skirt, sensible shoes. Then I noticed her left hand, plump and white, a large solitaire sparkling.


It was the largest, sparkliest diamond I have ever seen. The longer I stared at it, the more mesmerized I became. At that point, a bomb could have exploded in the vicinity and I would not have blinked an eye. As I continued to stare, it seemed to grow larger and more brilliant, casting a glow that infused the office. Behind me, a soft, husky voice spoke. "We have been looking for this gem for centuries. A pity she wouldn't give it up without a fight". I whirled around – but I was alone in the office. Except…for the cat. We locked eyes.

Ridiculous. Here I was, alone in a room with a cat and a corpse, and now apparently the cat was talking to me. I squatted down and peered underneath the desk where the cat watched me warily.

"Could you repeat that, please?" I asked politely.

"I SAID it's a pity she wouldn't give it up without a fight. Stand up old girl, why on earth are you talking to a cat?"

The voice wasn't coming from the cat. Of course. Cats don't talk. I straightened quickly and there he was, standing stock straight in the middle of the office as if he'd been there all along. The eminent Dr Rowley Watson, dressed in his standard: tweed jacket, plus fours, green wellies and a pipe, twirling his silvery moustache. He regarded my present fluster with a twinkle. I sighed with relief.

"I suppose you're wondering why I brought you here." He sucked toothlessly on his pipe and puffed the smoke out in a series of perfect, rising hoops. "To the middle of this perfectly bland office, in the middle of Nowheresville, in the middle of the night."

"Well - I presume it has something to do with her!" I pointed at the dead woman on the floor.

"Yes!" He cried, delighted. "Thank goodness. I was worried you'd lost your mind for a minute, what with all the talking to cats. Yes my dear old fruit, you are about to commence solving one of the most intriguing puzzles ever to land on the doorstep of Watson & Daughter: Private Eyes. And that's not the best part."

"What's the best part?"

"That you only have until daybreak to do it!"


"ONLY! Until daybreak?! And you question my sanity?" I asked as I pulled my camera out of my pocket and began snapping the scene.

"Yes, dear - must I repeat everything? By daybreak the staff will start coming in and someone is bound to notice and call the police. That will inconvenience us immensely, not to mention the damage that will be done to the evidence."


"Da, what was that you said about looking for the gem for centuries? Who has been looking and what is so special about that gem?"


Don't tell me you can't recall at least hearing about the Gem of Eternity?!? Surely you learned about it in one of those Ancient Egyptian classes you took back in the 1970's when digging up buried mummies was all you could think about. No? Well let me explain again: once put on, the wearer is guaranteed eternal life even if they remove the stone. However, if removed, the outward appearance of the person changes to reflect their real age, which clearly could be quite frightening to those they encounter. This woman here is probably over 120 years but with the ring on, she still looks the same as she did over a century ago. I calmly asked her for it but she was too self conscious to risk exposing her real self to the world




"So, was it you who bonked her on the head?" I was only half-joking; thinking this Gem of Eternity could make even reasonably sane people a little bit crazy.

"No, I'm pretty sure you'll discover she was poisoned. That's almost the only thing the Gem of Eternity will not guard against." He strolled toward the body, rolling his pipe to the other side of his mouth. "There is a small faction of fanatics who have been looking for the Gem for centuries. They call themselves the Gem Seekers - original, don't you think?" His eyes twinkled.

Behind him, the elevator finally dinged, signaling it's arrival. As the doors slid open, A glint caught my eye. "Look out!" I dove at him, tackling him to the floor behind the desk as the first shot spat out.
Frantically, I searched the desktop for some sort of weapon, but knew there would be nothing of any use against a gun.
"Watson?" A voice called out, "Is that you?"
I watched as Da worked frantically at pulling the solitaire off the plump white hand of the corpse we shared the small space with.
"Quick, " he whispered, "touch the diamond." We held the ring between us. "Now, stand up, follow my lead, and whatever happens, don't let go!"
"Are you nuts?" I whispered fiercely, "He has a gun!" Ignoring my protests, Rowley Watson rose, dragging me with him.
"Ah," he said, as calmly as greeting an old friend at a social gathering, "Alistair, old man."
I looked from Watson to the man across the room, gun held loosely at his side.
"Watson. I should have known."
"Alistair." Watson nodded in the direction of the body. "Is this your doing?" Sternly, as if speaking to a recalcitrant school boy.
"No," he shook his head slowly, "That was Marguerite. She has become obsessed with acquiring the Gem ever since she turned 50. Personally, I think she's menopausal."
Watson nodded again. "And where is Marguerite now?"

"Probably on her way to Liberia."

Alistair and Watson stared at one another for a moment. They assessed one another like Olympic wrestlers trying to feel out the other's weakness. I had more important things to do like sort out what had happened . Was Marguerite really on her way to Liberia? Or was she somewhere in the building? Hiding. Waiting.

I shook my head to clear these thoughts. I had enough to think about with the body and the solitaire's sparkles taunting me. I needed a closer look at the body, but couldn't let go of Rowley and the ring.

"Come with me."

The commanding tone of my voice startled even me. I became aware of my muscles, my heartbeat, and how secure my feet felt on the floor. I breathed more deeply, taking more than my share of air into lungs. Life force sped through my veins and I felt a cocoon of energy build around me. I even felt taller. My vision sharpened and my sense of smell became acute.

It didn't matter about Alistair and the gun or Peg maybe waiting in the shadows or anything. I felt the presence of the solitaire in my body and in my mind. My hand tingled nearly to the point of a compelling itch.

"Hey Marguerite! Come out and show yourself."

"For heaven's sake be quiet." Watson sounded irritated and stronger than usual.

"Like hell. I've got a few hours to solve this and if the killer is right here and we can't be harmed, then why not just ask? Seriously, what's wrong with the direct approach?"

"In a word sweetheart… blowguns."

"Blowguns?"

I felt myself tremble, my new-found confidence starting to fade.

I'd never been hunted by blowgun-wielding assassins before and I wasn't looking forward to the experience. I'd heard accounts that blowguns were no longer just an obscure weapon used by indigenous rain forest tribes, but were gaining in popularity among hired killers. Blowguns were famous for being "silent but deadly," though not in the way that causes twelve year old boys to giggle.

I heard a rustling noise in the corner of the room and then suddenly: Thwoooosh! Thwoosh! Thwack!

We were under blowgun attack! Darts were flying everywhere as yet again we dived for cover.

Were they poison darts?

Thwack!


"Aaaargh"!

We would soon find out, because apparently a dart had just hit Alistair's forearm--sending his gun to the floor.

Alistair dived for his gun, as did I. And Watson too as he had little choice. We were both still clinging to the precious gem for dear life as darts flew all around us.

Was Alistair weakening? Were the darts indeed poisoned? You certainly couldn't tell by the speed with which he dropped to the floor and groped for the gun. But I summoned my courage and lunged too.

Watson flopped down right along side me.

"Damn it, warn me next time before you do that, will you!"

This was no time for bickering, however so I left his complaint unanswered. I felt the cold metal of the gun and wrenched mightlily... then Watson grabbed onto the gun too and we struggled with Alistair until...

Blam Blam Blam! The gun went off.

I heard an unfamiliar scream, and the sound of a body dropping. All three of us followed the sound and saw the shocking sight of...

17 comments:

Christine said...

Wow! I'm super impressed!

I want to know how it ends!

MizFit said...

you were right
the cliffhanger is the best part until ROUND TWO.
now Im gonna reread and try and match the blogger with the paragraphs.

love,

Ima Moron who thought adding to the novelette was adding PAGES as when Id done this before thats how it went.

Missicat said...

Aren't we a talented bunch!! :-)
Want to know the ending!!!!

Crabby McSlacker said...

Thanks for putting this together Bag Lady, and thanks even more for retaining anonymity!

(Especially as I either misunderstood instructions or did not see all of the previous contributions and my part probably made no sense in the ongoing narrative!)

I can only hope mizfit fails in her quest to identify the perpetrators... er, contributors.

Hilary said...

Fun idea. How did I miss the start of this? A cliffhanger, eh? I only have one thing to say about that. It's...

Leah J. Utas said...

Ha! Love it! And it was so much fun contributing.

JavaChick said...

Ok. What's with the cliffhanger? That's not fair!

the Bag Lady said...

Christine - so do I!! I'm hoping to send it 'round again (and anyone who didn't participate last time is welcome to join in! Just let me know if you're interested.)

Miz - Sorry for the confusion - you can add as much or as little as you want! It's the process that's the most fun - seeing what the next person will do.

Missicat - I was amazed at the talent in our little group! I want to know the ending, too!

Crabby - you goof! Everyone who contributed did such an excellent job - I was absolutely thrilled!

Hilary - I think you must have been at the cabin when this idea popped up - perhaps you'll join in on the next round?

dfLeah - I love it, too! It exceeded my expectations, and I had so much fun! I hope everyone else did, too.

Javachick - I wanted everyone to see how well it was going! But it was so much fun, I didn't want it to end.

The Bag Lady has been thinking about making this a semi-regular feature of her blog. What do all of you think?
Anyone who is interested in participating can do so by dropping her a note at the email address in her sidebar.

Melissa said...

WHAT A HOOT!!! Mine was the boring part.

Bag Lady, ya gotta do this again, just so I can redeem myself.

It would be so cool to do a progressive limerick game too, I think.

Hilary said...

Ok.. you know my addie. Count me in, please. I love Melissa's idea of making it a Limerick. Maybe whomever ends the first one can start the first line of of the next one.. or something. Such cleverness in your bloggie people, Baggie.

Emily said...

Oh I am so interested in continuing this. I thought my part was stupid (and I spent half a day at work trying to word it just right!) But the story over all is very interesting. Make sure to keep me in the rotation!

Susan said...

Ah! I love it! What a creative bunch of authors. I really enjoyed this novelette, and I'm anxiously awaiting the ending! :)

new*me said...

cool idea. How does it end?! We wanna know now ;)

Reb said...

Oh, count me in again. That was so much fun. Besides, I want to know how it ends.

the Bag Lady said...

Sharpen your pencils, people! This will make the rounds again.... soon.

The Bag Lady loved doing this, and she'll include anyone who wants to play!

Geosomin said...

ooh...sorry I missed out on this.
Looking forward to more.
Need someone for the next one?
*blinks hopefully*

the Bag Lady said...

Geo - of course you can join in - I'll be sending it round again sometime next week!