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V. & R. Legacy Investigate the Case of the Viridian Child - Part 1


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Part 1 of the very first case Victoria and Rosemary investigated,

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V. & R. Legacy Investigate the Case of the Viridian Child - Part 1

  1. 1. The autumn sun streamed through the windows of Vicky Simself’s office, completely at odds with her mood. Sighing, she snapped the book she had been reading shut and put it down on her desk before walking over to the door.
  2. 2. As she entered the outer office she looked at her cousin expectantly, even though she knew what Rosemary was going to say. Rosie glanced up from the newspaper she was reading. “Nothing Vicky.” Vicky pulled a face. “It appears that this week is shaping up to be as quiet as the last.” “Quiet?” Retorted Rosie folding her paper. “Vicky, it is dead.”
  3. 3. Vicky perched on her cousin’s desk and swung her heels. “I know, I had hoped that we would have had at least one enquiry by now, after all, it is not through lack of advertising. Monsieur Jacquet has been very kind in allowing us to leave business cards at his tearoom, and Mr Merkins took some the other day too.” Vicky kicked the desk with her heels. “It has been nearly two months and not one case, apart from that lady with the missing pearls, and they turned out to be in her reticule when she withdrew her cheque book to write out our retainer.”
  4. 4. Rosie grinned. “Oh yes, I remember her very clearly. She was adamant they had been stolen by her greedy, nefarious grandson was she not?” Vicky nodded. “She probably put then in her bag to keep them safe from him, and then clean forgot about doing so.” Continued Rosie.
  5. 5. Vicky grimaced. “I agree my dear. Urgh,” she rubbed a hand over her face, “this is so frustrating! I know we can be good at this Rosie, I just know it. All we need is an enquiry and the chance to prove ourselves.” Rosie looked at her cousin. She agreed completely, but she also knew that her cousin needed a bit of cheering up, so she replied, “I know love, but it is worse than that.” Vicky looked at her. “What do you mean?” “If we do not have some capital come into the business soon, we will not have enough money to pay the rent on this place, or worse, buy tea and biscuits.”
  6. 6. Vicky threw her head back and laughed. Rosie always knew just the right thing to say to make her feel better. “And what would we do without our tea and biscuits?” “Exactly, we cannot function without a cup of Earl Grey and a couple of digestives or custard creams.” Pointed out Rosie
  7. 7. “Mmm, custard creams.” Responded Vicky, slipping off the desk. “Speaking of which, would you like a cup of tea?” “If you are making a pot, yes please.” Replied Rosie, going back to her paper, pleased that her cousin was looking a bit more cheerful than she had when she had entered her office.
  8. 8. As Vicky was placing her cup of tea, complete with two custard creams perched on the saucer, onto her desk, a hansom pulled up in front of the row of shops the office was situated above. A tall, impossibly good looking man alighted from it, and held out his hand to help his pretty, petite wife out of the cab.
  9. 9. “This appears to be the address.” He said as he looked up at the building. His wife nodded at the doorway between two of the shops. “I’m betting that’s the entrance.” Theo started to walk towards it, his wife by his side. “Do you believe that they can help?” He asked. Doc paused. “If they can’t, I don’t know who else can. We have everyone else we know looking and they have turned up nothing. Perhaps Vicky and Rosemary’s insights will help to shed light onto the situation.” He nodded sadly and opened the door.
  10. 10. As Theo walked up the stairs, his wife, despite the circumstances, couldn’t help but enjoy the view. She shook her head. ‘Stop it Doc, remember why you are here.’ She thought and instantly she became sombre as she trudged up the stairs.
  11. 11. By the time Doc reached the top of the staircase, Theo was stood looking at the brass sign screwed to the wall next to a door on the landing. V. & R. Legacy Enquiry Agents He looked up at his wife and essayed a weak smile before putting his hand on the handle and giving the door a push.
  12. 12. Inside the outer office, Rosemary, having seen the shadow of someone standing at the door, had folded her paper hastily and shoved it into a drawer in anticipation of a potential client. When she saw her cousin and his wife enter, she smiled as she got up and walked round the desk to greet them. “Theo, Doc how lovely to see you.” She said, noting the dark smudges beneath her cousin’s eyes as she hugged him and how drawn his wife looked.
  13. 13. “It is nice to see you too Rosemary, but this is not a social visit. Doc and I, we are in need of your services.” Replied Theo as he let go of her. “Oh, I will let Vicky know that you wish to retain us. Please wait here.” Rosie turned and headed towards Vicky’s office.
  14. 14. Vicky was savouring the way the buttercream filling in the middle of her biscuit melted on her tongue when Rosie entered her office. “Vicky, Theo and Doc are here.” “How lovely, send them in.” Replied Vicky after she swallowed her mouthful of biscuit. “Theo says he wants to engage our services.” Vicky’s brow furrowed as she looked at her partner. “Did he give you any indication as to why?” “No, none, but he and Doc are obviously upset about something.” Vicky sipped her tea. “Hmm, show them in, and I suppose we will soon find out.”
  15. 15. Rosemary opened the door and showed Doc and Theo into Vicky’s office. “Theo, Doc, how lovely to see you.” Said Vicky as she greeted Theo and his wife. “Please take a seat, I’ve just made a fresh pot of tea if you would like a cup.” “That would be lovely Vicky.” Said Theo as he settled himself into one of the chairs she had indicated.
  16. 16. Vicky poured both Theo and Doc a cup of tea and offered them the plate of biscuits. As she took her seat behind her desk, Rosie pulled up the spare chair in the office and sat down, notebook on her lap. Vicky watched Theo raise his cup to his lips, noticing that his hands were shaking slightly. Rosie had been right, their cousin was unsettled about something. She stole a glance at Doc, who was staring at the tan liquid in her cup, as if she had never seen a cup of tea before in her life. Vicky sipped her own drink, waiting patiently for Theo or Doc to speak.
  17. 17. Eventually Theo put his cup on the desk, the cup rattling in the saucer as he did so. He cleared his throat and looked up at Vicky. “Vicky, Rosie, we need your help. Celestia has gone missing “ He looked at his wife, who put her hand on his arm.” “We think she has been kidnapped.”
  18. 18. Vicky and Rosie both gasped. “Oh Theo, Doc I am so sorry.” Said Vicky. “You have gone to the police about this?” “Yes, they did not want to know.” Said Theo, a sneer gracing his usually composed features. “But why?” Asked Rosie astonished.
  19. 19. Theo gave a bitter laugh. “They were very sympathetic until I described her, then they did not want to know.” “But she is a child who is missing.” Responded Vicky appalled. “She is also green, and when I mentioned that fact, I was asked if I had been drinking. I was then informed that wasting police time was a serious matter, and I would be charged if I continued with my ridiculous charade.” Theo’s mouth twisted into a bitter grimace at the memory.
  20. 20. “That is dreadful.” Said Rosie. “As if anyone would make up a story like that. Indeed, one can see how distressed the two of you are over this, and yet they believed you to be intoxicated?” Doc nodded putting her tea back onto the desk. “Yes.”
  21. 21. “Well, of course we will do everything we can to find her for you.” Said Vicky. “Thank you.” Theo gave a small smile at his cousin’s words. “We need to know exactly when she went missing and the circumstances leading up to the event. I realise that this will be difficult for you, but it is imperative we know as much as possible to aid our investigation.” Continued Vicky pulling a sheaf of blank paper towards her and unscrewing the lid of her pen. “Of course.”
  22. 22. “Where to begin?” Mused Theodore. “The children’s school is not in session this week, and as such we have been arranging amusing diversions for the three of them.” “Such as?” Asked Vicky as she took notes. “Two days ago we took them to Seek Park here in Simdon, and yesterday, we took them to the Natural History Museum.” Vicky suppressed a smile. Theo and Doc were very scientifically minded, and it did not surprise her in the least that they were encouraging their children to enjoy the scientific field too.
  23. 23. “It was at the museum, that Celly went missing.” Continued Theo, clasping Doc’s hand tightly. “What happened?” Asked Rosie. “I do not know exactly. The children were off looking at one of the exhibits on their own, while Doc and I were...distracted. They were out of our sight about five minutes at the most when Peter and Andrew came running up to us to tell us,” he sighed heavily, “to tell us that Celly was missing.” He wiped his spare hand over his face, looking sick.
  24. 24. “Did they say what happened to her? Were they playing hide and seek, did she run off, or did they see someone snatch her?” Vicky asked, her hand moving quickly over her notepaper. “We have not been able to get much out of Peter.” Said Doc. “He’s devastated. Andy has been a bit more forthcoming, and said that Celly was looking at the penguin exhibit while he and his brother were looking at the polar bears They heard her cry out, but when they looked round at where she had been standing, she wasn’t there.” “And where were the two of you at this time?” “We the pandas.”
  25. 25. “Did he say if he saw anyone acting suspicious as they looked at the exhibits?” Asked Rosie. “No, he didn’t mention anything like that, but the whole thing has been a huge shock, he may have just forgotten.” Replied Doc. “Can we speak to the two of them? I promise we will do our best not to upset them anymore than they already are.” Asked Vicky. “I know Vicky and yes, of course you may. The two of you are always welcome in our house anyway. I do not know how much you will get out of Peter though: as Doc says, he is devastated.” Replied Theo.
  26. 26. “Thank you. I now have to ask if there is anything else you feel we need to know.” Continued Vicky. Theodore picked up his cup of now tepid tea and sipped as he thought. “I suppose that it would benefit you to know of her conception.” Vicky coloured slightly at his words. Although not a shy person, there were some things she did not want to hear about the members of her family, and the conception of their children was high on that list.
  27. 27. Theo put down his cup of tea and absentmindedly scratched his ear. “It was seven years ago. I had been working at the astronomy department at University College Simdon for a little over two years and had started to gain a good reputation in my field. There were other members of the department, two in particular, a Mr Kevin Lum and Mr Nawwaf Lew, with reputations not quite as good as mine, but I did not understand why this was. I had read their papers and seen their research and it seemed to be well researched and I had been suitably impressed.”
  28. 28. “One night I ended up in a pub with the two of them. We all imbibed a rather large quantity of ale, although, on looking back, I think that perhaps they did not imbibe quite as much as I thought they had at the time. Anyway, the topic of conversation turned to the reason behind their less than stellar reputations. They confided in me that since they believed in the fact that there was life beyond this planet, they were viewed as crackpots by some of the faculty. It was only the quality of their other research that prevented the university from removing them from the department.”
  29. 29. “I listened to this in astonishment before confiding in them that I too believed in extra-terrestrial life, and in fact as a teenager had an encounter that left me in no doubt that we are not alone in this universe. It is easy now to say that I was a fool for confiding in them so easily, and a drunk one at that, but apart from Doc here, and my grandfather, no one else had any idea of what had happened to me as a teen, not even Eddie or Stanley. Confiding in them felt good.”
  30. 30. “I thought nothing more of our conversation until I received a letter from them a few weeks later, inviting me to assist them with an experiment at their offices. I arrived on the day they had requested, and made my way up to their office. I was shocked, when I entered it to find a gyroscopic device rather like the one Grandpapa had provided at the house in Riverblossom Hills, where I met Doc. Then he had given me the advice not to ride it, because several men who had experienced what I had as a teen had vanished while using it.”
  31. 31. “I questioned Mr Lum on where they had acquired such an object, and was told that they had borrowed it from a colleague I did not know, who had built it at the request of a doctor he knew in order to research the affect of being inside one on the mentally ill. He then went on to ask me if I wanted to give it a whirl.”
  32. 32. Theo gave a small smile. “Of course I accepted. Things are a bit of a blur after the device started to spin. At first I put it all down to the disorientating motion of the device, after all I was being tossed and turned in all different directions.”
  33. 33. “I do remember my colleagues cheering, and then falling silent suddenly, before I again heard cheering, but I thought nothing of it.”
  34. 34. “When the device stopped spinning, and I stepped out, Mr Lew asked me how I was feeling. I replied quiet well, if a little dizzy, but I was more than willing to get on with the experiment. That was when Mr Lum told me that the research had to be rescheduled and that they would be in contact with me.”
  35. 35. “I thought it strange, but since I did not hear anything from them within the following few weeks, I put it all out of my mind, until one evening a month later. I had just finished my ablutions, when my stomach...popped.” “Popped?” Asked Rosie confused. “Yes, popped, just as Doc’s had when she had been carrying Andrew and Peter.” Rosie and Vicky looked at each startled by what their cousin was saying.
  36. 36. “Naturally I sought Doc out and was stunned but what she told me she thought had happened.” Theo looked at his wife, who continued with the story. “Where I’m from, it is well known that men who have been abducted by aliens, can be abducted while using a device such as the one Theo described. When they return, they’re always pregnant.” Vicky gasped. “Then it was not you who gave birth to Celestia, but Theodore?”
  37. 37. Theo nodded. “Yes, three months after I had been to their offices to take part in the experiment, I was awoken by excruciating pains in my stomach. I will spare you the gory details, but within a couple of hours, I held a perfectly formed, albeit green, baby girl in my arms. I called her Celestia because of her celestial origins, and she has brought my wife and I much joy.” Again, Theo reached for his wife’s hand.
  38. 38. Vicky chewed her lip as she processed what she had just heard. If it had been anyone but her cousin telling her that he had given birth to an alien spawn, she would have thought him quite mad. Then there was the fact that she had seen Celestia’s green skin with her own eyes. She had no doubt that Theodore was telling her the truth about his daughter, and she wondered how others would react to the news. “These colleagues of yours, did you ever hear back from them?” She asked.
  39. 39. “Surprisingly, yes.” Replied Theo. “It was about six months after I had last seen them, when Mr Lew Rang me on the telephone. He enquired as to my health, and then asked if I had put on any weight recently.” “You believe he knew what had happened?” Asked Rosemary sharply. “It is a distinct possibility.” Replied Theodore. “In anyway, I got rid of him as politely as I could, but made it clear I did not want to be contacted again. It was also at that time I took up a research position at Simford University, leaving UCS behind. I have not heard from them since.”
  40. 40. Vicky put down her pen. “Do you think that they might have had something to do with Celly’s disappearance?” Theo shook his head, pain etched on his face. “I do not know what to think. I am sick of thinking, all I want is my daughter returned to me.” Vicky looked at her cousin. “Theo, Doc, I promise you, Rosemary and I will do everything in our power to find Celestia and return her to you.” “Thank you Vicky.” Said Theo. “Do you have the address of their office?” “Of course, I noted it down somewhere.” Said Theo as his wife picked up her handbag. “How much did you want as a retainer?”
  41. 41. “Do not be silly.” Cried Victoria, causing Rosemary to look at her in disbelief. “You are family, I cannot charge you for this.” “Please, I insist you treat us like any other client.” “And I insist that you are not to give us a farthing. How can I charge you to find your daughter? All that I ask, is that we be allowed to speak to your boys later today.” Said Vicky in a voice that broached no argument. Theo nodded unhappily at Vicky He really did not like the thought that he was not paying for his cousins’ professional services. “Very well. You can speak to Peter and Andy at your convenience. Thank you again.” Theo and Doc got up, and, after saying goodbye to Vicky, Rosie showed them out of the room.
  42. 42. “Rosie,” said Theo turning as they got to the office door. “I cannot not pay you for this. You have overheads to meet, that I know. I cannot let the two of you do this as a favour to us.” Rosie spoke very carefully, thinking about what she was saying. “Yes, Vicky is being very kind in insisting we work for free, but kindness does not pay the rent.” “Indeed. How much do you want?” “A retainer of £2 will be more than sufficient.” Said Rosie after a bit of thought. “Is that enough?” Asked Doc. “Plenty.” Said Rosie. It was cheaper than she would normally think to charge as a retainer since Theo was family but at least it was something going into the business.
  43. 43. Having seen Theo and Doc to a hansom, Rosemary once again entered Vicky’s office to find her cousin looking at her notes “This is dreadful is it not? I cannot believe that someone may have kidnapped Celestia.” Said the blonde looking over at Rosie. “I know. When I think that someone has snatched that little girl, and the police do not want to do anything.” Rosie sighed. “What do you think?”
  44. 44. Vicky looked down at her notes. “First I want to speak to Peter and Andrew. I want to hear exactly what happened from their own mouths. Then I think we need to visit the museum, see what we can find out there. I also want to investigate these colleagues of Theo’s. It sounded to me as if they had an inkling about what might happen if he used that device. If they were after proof of extra-terrestrial life, who knows what they would do if they found out about Celestia’s existence.” “I agree, we speak to the children first.” ***
  45. 45. A little over an hour later, Vicky and Rosie were standing in front of the Harrison house, ready to speak to Andrew and Peter. Enid opened the door and showed them to the boys’ bedroom. There they found Peter and Andrew sitting glumly on the bottom bunk. “Hello boys.” Said Vicky. “Your mama and papa have asked the two of us to look for your sister, and we were wondering if you would tell us what happened yesterday.” Peter nodded, rubbing his eyes that were red and swollen from where he had been crying.
  46. 46. Alright.” Said Andrew as Vicky and Rosie pulled up the chairs from their desks. “We were at the Natural History Museum, and Mom and Papa were being embarrassing as usual.” Vicky opened her mouth to ask how they were being embarrassing, but thought of how her cousin and his wife often behaved, so said “what were you children doing?” instead. “We went off to look at some of the exhibits. Peter and I found these amazing stuffed polar bears! They were brilliant! They looked like they would come alive at any moment, and we were pretending we were explorers coming across them for the first time.” Andrew’s eyes sparkled as he spoke, recalling the fun he and his twin had had before their sister went missing.
  47. 47. “And what was Celestia doing while the two of you were playing?” Asked Rosie quietly. “She was looking at the stuffed penguins.” Said Andrew quietly, his demeanour changing as he thought about his sister. “She said she did not want to play explorers with us.” He started to pick at a wick on his index finger. “What happened to Celestia?” Prompted Vicky gently. “I do not know. Peter and I were playing. We both had our backs to the penguin exhibit, but we heard her cry out. When we looked back, she was not there.” Peter whimpered as his twin lapsed into silence.
  48. 48. “Did you notice anything strange or out of the ordinary before Celly cried out?” Andrew shook his head, but Peter lifted his head and said suddenly, “there was a man.” “There was a man nearby?” Asked Vicky intrigued. Peter nodded. “What did he look like?” “I do not know. I saw him standing by the peacock. I thought he was looking over at the penguins, but when I looked back, he had gone.” Peter looked down and started to rub at a mark on his boot.
  49. 49. “Was he tall or short?”” Asked Rosie. Peter shook his head, tears starting to well up in his eyes. “Was he as tall as your papa?” Said Rosie, trying to help him to remember. “No.” It was barely a whisper. “Was he shorter than Uncle Stanley?” Continued Rosie. “Taller.” “What about as tall as Uncle Eddie?” “Yes, ‘bout as tall as Uncle Eddie.” He nodded slowly, not meeting Rosie or Vicky’s eyes.
  50. 50. Rosie looked at Vicky, and she took over the questioning. “Did this man have dark hair or light hair?” “Brown hair like me I think.” Replied Peter. “Was it long?” “Sort of long. Not as long as Uncle Eddie’s but much longer than Papa’s I think. Oh I do not know, I cannot remember.” His voice rose to a wail. “Peter, you have done so well. You have remembered a lot, thank you. Do you remember anything else about him, or about how he was dressed?” Said Vicky. Peter shook his head, tears now rolling down his cheeks as he grabbed his legs and started to rock. “I lost my sister. I should have been paying more attention to her.” “Peter this is not your fault, please believe that.” Vicky tried to comfort him, but he was not listening. She looked at Andrew and saw that he was fighting tears too. It was time for them to go and start investigating.
  51. 51. “Auntie Vicky?” Said Peter as she opened the door to their bedroom. “Yes Peter.” “You will, you will find our sister, will you not?” She walked back into the room and squatted down in front of the twins. “I promise you, we will do all we can, and will not rest until we can bring her back home.”
  52. 52. After taking their leave of their aunt, uncle and cousin, Rosemary and Vicky stood waiting for a cab. “To the museum?” Asked Rosie as she smoothed her skirts. “To the museum.” Confirmed Vicky. “I want to see where the exhibits the children were looking at are in relation to the exits. Also we can ask some of the staff and see if anyone noticed anything suspicious.” ***
  53. 53. An hour later they were walking through the entrance to the Natural History Museum. “Oh my goodness.” Said Vicky as she caught sight of the enormous dinosaur skeleton that graced the entrance to the museum. “I am suddenly struck by the need to bring my nephews here. They would love this.” Rosie smiled. “Yes I can see Bertie and Stuart playing explorers and discovering this, while Christopher tries to find a way to climb it.” Vicky laughed. “I think I will wait until Christopher is a teenager before I bring them then, although somehow I doubt that will stop him. But this is not the reason we are here. Where are those polar bears?”
  54. 54. They found them in a rear corner of the ground floor, right next to the penguin exhibit. “I can see why Andrew was so excited about these.” Said Rosie inspecting the two bears. “Yes.” Replied Vicky, “they certainly are amazing creatures.” She looked around. “Well the bears certainly are not out of sight. I would think that you can see then from almost anywhere on the ground floor.” Rosie nodded, “the penguins though...” She said walking over to them.
  55. 55. “Visibility of them is partially blocked by that wall.” She pointed. “It would not be beyond the realms of impossibility for someone to be able to snatch a child and not be seen.”
  56. 56. Vicky nodded. “Not only that, look here. There are three doors nearby.” She walked over and pushed them open in turn. While the first and third led into lavatories, the second one turned out to be an exit.. Vicky turned back to Rosie. “It would have been easy for someone to grab Celly and hustle her out of the building without anyone else seeing or hearing it.” Rosie nodded, her face grave. “Maybe this man Peter saw is the culprit. Where is the peacock he spoke of?”
  57. 57. Vicky walked back to the polar bears and started looking around. “There.” She said pointing. She headed towards it, leaving Rosie standing by the door they though the kidnapper had used. She walked round the wall it was next to. “This leads straight to the penguin exhibit. The man Peter saw, whoever he was, could very well have ducked behind here and waited for the opportunity to take Celestia. He would have remained invisible to near enough the entire ground floor. Rosie nodded gravely. It looked like it was far easier to abduct a child from the museum than she had thought it would be. “Shall we see if we can find a member of staff who was working yesterday?” She asked. “Yes.” Replied Vicky. “I think we need to.”
  58. 58. It didn’t take long for them to track down someone who had been working the day before, but he was far from helpful. “I am sorry to hear that a child has gone missing madam, but I see an awful lot of people everyday. You cannot possibly expect me to remember each and every person that walks through the door of the museum. I suggest you talk to the police, and let them investigate. It is after all their job, while the two of you,” he laughed politely, “are merely housewives.” Rosie raised an eyebrow at him, and Vicky put a restraining hand on her arm. “Well thank you very much for you time and considered opinion. If you or any of your colleagues do remember anything at all, please contact us, you have our card.” She nodded at the card in the employee’s hand.
  59. 59. The two enquiry agents left the museum by the same door they believed Celestia had been smuggled through. “Even though the employee was most unhelpful, I still feel it was a productive visit. We have an idea of how Celly was taken, now we just need to find who took her, and where to.” Rosie nodded. “Time to visit the address Theo gave us and talk to those scientists who witnessed his abduction from the gyroscope I think.” She said as she started to search for her notebook. ***
  60. 60. To their great surprise, they did not have to travel far to reach the offices of the scientists, in fact the building they were situated in was within sight of the museum. “Well it certainly would be easy to get a child here from the museum with only the minimum amount of fuss.” Said Rosie, looking down the street. “Yes. Let us see what they have to say.” Replied Vicky pulling the doorbell.
  61. 61. After a short pause, the door was opened by a foppish black-haired man, in his mid thirties. “Can I help you ladies?” “Good afternoon sir. I am Victoria Simself, this is my cousin Rosemary Go. We are enquiry agents looking to speak to Mr Kevin Lum and Mr Nawwaf Lew” Said Vicky handing over a card as she did so, “I am sorry, but Messrs Lum and Lew no longer call these offices their own.” Said the man as he glanced briefly at the card.
  62. 62. Rosie took a step forward. “Really? Well perhaps we can come in and discus the matter Mr...?” She asked, not sure whether or not to believe the gentleman. “Dr Bruenig and yes, of course, although I do not see what good it will do you.” He stepped aside and motioned them inside. “Will you please come up to my office?” He said when they were inside.
  63. 63. He led them up a spiral staircase to a room that took up nearly all the first floor. “This was once the office of Messrs Lum and Lew, but as you can see it is now mine.” He said as he gestured at two seats for them. “What happened to them?” Asked Vicky as she arranged her skirts. “Oh it was a very sad affair really. I do not know the whole story of course, I am not a member of the Astronomy department myself, but about, oh I suppose seven years ago now, their funding was stopped and the Vice-Chancellor of the university himself told them to leave.” said Dr Bruenig as he sat down.
  64. 64. “Do you know why?” Asked Vicky, a sinking feeling in her stomach. If they had left so long ago, how on earth were they going to track them down? “At the time I heard rumours of...unconventional ideas and crackpot research.” He gave a small laugh. “One thing I do remember hearing, is that they believed one of the other members of the department, a Mr Harrington I think it was, was pregnant with an alien baby. How ridiculous is that?”
  65. 65. Vicky and Rosie joined in with his laughter, although their’s was forced. “Oh how silly!” Exclaimed Vicky. “And that was why they had to leave?” “I believe so.” “Do you know if they found other employment at another university?” Asked Rosie.
  66. 66. “I do not know. I think I read an article with their names on in one of the journals I take a few years ago, but I cannot be certain, and there is no guarantee that it was a recent paper when it was published anyway. I am afraid all I can tell you is that not long after they left, I was moved into this office, and have been here ever since.” He gave an apologetic smile when he saw how disappointed the two women were.
  67. 67. Vicky looked at Rosie who nodded. They had found out everything they would here. “Well thank you Dr Bruenig you have been most helpful.” Said Vicky pushing back her chair and standing up. “It has been a pleasure to meet you ladies.” He replied taking Vicky’s hand. “I am very sorry I could not be of more help, after all it is not everyday I meet two female enquiry agents. You never did say what you were investigating.” “No, we did not.” Said Rosie not wanting to give him any information in case he had not been entirely truthful with them and would tip off the two men they were looking for. “If you do happen to hear anything about Messrs Lum and Lew please contact us. You have our card.” “Oh I certainly will.” he smiled at them both and showed them to the door.
  68. 68. The sun was just starting to set as the two cousins exited the offices. “Is he telling the truth do you think?” Asked Rosie. “Yes,” replied Vicky, “I believe he is.” “Well that is disappointing.” Said Rosie grimacing at the rain that was now steadily falling. “Yes. I think that we will be paying a visit to UCS tomorrow to try to find out where Messrs Lum and Lew went after they were fired.” Replied Vicky as they started to walk back to their office, both wishing they had thought to bring umbrellas. ***
  69. 69. Several miles away, across the city, while Vicky and Rosie were walking back to their office discussing what they had found out that day, the little girl they were looking for was regarding a locked door intently. From the other side of it came the sounds of a struggle. “OW! Kick me again you little shit and I’ll break yer legs...OW! He bit me! The little sod bit me!” Celestia recognised the voice as belonging to the man with the lank, greasy, hair. The one who whined a lot. “He’s a child. Surely you can handle a child?” She thought that was the man with the crinkly eyes, but she wasn’t sure, him and the blond man sounded so similar. “it’s alright fer you, you have the girl! We have the boys!” Grumbled Greasy-Hair.
  70. 70. “Stop your whin...oof.” Celestia heard a young boy’s voice cry “Go twin-sister!” and the sound of running footsteps. “No you don’t!” That was Crinkly-Eyes again. Celestia heard the sound of heavy boots running, and then Greasy-Hair saying. “Here, help me unlock this, then I’ll go ‘elp.” Celestia heard a door open, and then slam after a short pause, before she heard the sound of Crinkly- Eyes’ boots on the stone floor. “You caught ‘er then?” Asked Greasy-Hair. “Of course I bloody well did. Now let us get these last two locked away and then have a drink.”
  71. 71. Celestia heard the key turn in the lock of the door she was looking at. She took a step back as the heavy door started to open, and two red headed, green-skinned children were pushed into the room. “You should let us go.” She said as Crinkly-Eyes started to shut the door. “And why is that? Because it is not nice to keep you all locked up?” Said Crinkly-Eyes with a sneer. “No. Because my parents will have told my Uncle Larch, Uncle Indy and Uncle Archie that I am missing. You do not want them to find out that it was you who took me.” Replied Celly matter-of-factly. Crinkly-Eyes barked a laugh. “I am not frightened of your uncles little girl.” Celestia blinked slowly at him before replying. “You should be.”
  72. 72. Crinkly-Eyes snorted and closed the heavy door with a fair amount of force. Celly looked at it, as the key turned in the lock, sealing them in. She turned round to see the red headed little girl staring up at the night sky though the window that was mounted high up in the outside wall. “What are you a-thinking twin-sister?” Asked the spiky haired little boy going up to her. “I am a-thinking twin-brother, that love-father will be most a-worried when he realises we are gone.” Replied the little girl. “You are a-right twin-sister. Night-grandmother and Granddad will also be a-worrying. This will not a-do.” Said the little boy sadly.
  73. 73. Celestia walked up to the two red-heads. “I am Celestia Harrison, what are your names?” The twins turned as one to face her. “I am Pipistrelle Tegenaria and this is my a-twin-brother Myotis.” “Like the bats?” Asked Celly, her brow furrowing. Myotis clapped his hands. “She has a-got it twin-sister. Yes a-like the bats!”
  74. 74. The black-haired boy sitting on top of a crate in the corner snorted. “You are named after bats? How stupid.” “Be quiet Gamma.” Said a blond boy as he stood up from the makeshift bed. “I‘m Derrial Whedonberry, but you can call me Derri. That,” he gestured at the brunette, “is Gamma Tester, and that is his little sister Zeta.” He pointed to a little girl with huge black eyes who was looking at the older children from behind another crate.
  75. 75. Pipi looked at Gamma and blinked her red eyes at him. “I do not a-understand. You a-think it is stupid we are a-named after bats, but you are a-named after a letter. I think that is most of the strange.” “Gamma just likes to argue.” Explained Celly.. “Do not!” Put in Gamma, but the rest of the room ignored him. “He has already complained about mine and Derri’s names, so I would not worry on it. “ Said Celly shaking her head.
  76. 76. In the silence that followed, Celly’s explanation, the six children could hear the inhabitants of the other room, or to be more accurate, one inhabitant in particular. “I want to sit there, so move or I’ll BITE YOU.” Said the little alien boy who had been thrown into the room not ten minutes before. “That’s not very nice.” Said Chelley Munster looking over at him. “So?” The brunette alien turned to glare at her.
  77. 77. “Do you know the other boy they put in the other room?” Asked Celestia suddenly. Myotis nodded. “That is Cousin Ivan. He a-bites.” “So I gathered.” Celly looked at the other occupants of the room as if sizing them up. “I do not intend to stay here any longer than necessary.” She said slowly. “I want to get all of us out of here, so who wants to help me?” Pipi, My and Derri all nodded, and even Zeta peeked out further from behind her crate, but Gamma pulled a face. “What can you do? You are only a girl.”
  78. 78. Celestia squared her shoulders. “I am also a Harrison, and all of my family, including my mother, would be deeply disappointed in me if they thought I was sitting around, awaiting rescue like some fairytale princess. If you do not want to help, or are too scared to, fine. The rest of us will manage quite nicely without you.” Gamma mumbled something inaudible, before pulling his knees up towards him and glaring sulkily at the other children, who ignored him.
  79. 79. For the next few hours, the occupants of the room sat in a circle, heads bent low as they started to make plans. ***
  80. 80. The next morning dawned bright and clear with the unmistakable crispness to the air that heralded the turning point in autumn where winter was fast approaching, and summer was a fading memory. Rather than meet at the office, Rosemary had met Vicky at her townhouse, and then the two of them had walked to M. Jacquet’s Patisserie and Tearoom to buy croissants for breakfast. Vicky was very partial to pastries, and had a tendency to put on weight easily if she overindulged. As a compromise, she and Rosie bought pastries every Thursday morning and tried to resist the tempting aromas that emanated from the kitchen of their favourite tearoom the rest of the week. They were finalising the plans they had made for the day over their croissants as they walked towards their office. “We may have to speak to Theo again, see if he can help us to track them down if the university cannot help. If they are still active in their field, then surely he will have connections that may be useful.” Rosie tapped Vicky’s arm interrupting her as they reached the street corner. “Vicky, it looks like there are two men waiting outside the bookshop. Do you think they could be waiting for us?” Vicky looked over at the shop. “Possibly. Let us find out.”
  81. 81. There were indeed two men standing outside the bookshop. “This is ridiculous.” Complained the older one. “We’ve been waiting ages and no one has shown up to open the office. We should go back to the police and make them listen.” “I don’t think that will work Sid, they were pretty adamant that we were wasting their time.” Said the one with the smexy hair looking at the business card in his hand. “I say we give V. & R. Legacy fifteen more minutes. If they don’t turn up then, we’ll try and find someone else to help us.”
  82. 82. “Can we help you gentlemen?” Asked Vicky approaching the two men, while Rosie fumbled for her key to the office. “We are waiting for V. and R. Legacy.” Replied the older of the two. “Ah, then you are waiting for us. I am Mrs Victoria Simself, this is Mrs Rosemary Go.” Vicky held out her hand to the man, studying him as she did so. He looked as if he hadn’t slept, and his eyes had the same dead look Theo’s had had yesterday. A quick glance at his companion yielded the same analysis. These two gentlemen were just as distressed as her cousin and his wife had been the day before. “Not Legacy?” Asked Sid raising an eyebrow. “Legacy is our maiden name, we are cousins.” Explained Rosie as she unlocked the outer door. “We thought it sounded better than Simself and Go.” Vox smiled. “I can see why, that sounds almost like an instruction.” “Hmm, yes.” Rosie opened the door and stepped through it.
  83. 83. The two cousins led the way to the first floor, and Rosie disappeared into the other room on their landing, while Vicky showed their potential clients into her office. “We normally start by offering our clients a cup of tea,” explained Vicky as if they had seen more than two clients in the past, “but since it will take a little while before the water is boiled, perhaps we should make a start. Please take a seat.” She gestured at the two chairs in front of her desk. “Thank you Mrs Simself.” Said Sid sitting down.
  84. 84. “How can we help you gentlemen?” Asked Vicky as Rosie slipped into the room and sat down on the same chair she had used for Theo and Doc’s visit. “I am Sidneyia Tegenaria, this is my brother Vauxia.” Said the eldest. “Hello.” The one with the smexy hair nodded at them both. “Our children are missing.” Stated Sid bluntly.
  85. 85. Vicky and Rosie looked at each other: two sets of clients with the same problem in two days? What were the odds of that? “Have you taken the matter to the police?” Asked Rosie. “Yes. The idiots didn’t want to know.” Said Sid, his voice rising. “Why may I ask?” Continued Rosemary. “They didn’t believe the descriptions we gave. Thought we had been drinking.” Sid gave a humourless bark of laughter, as Vox looked down at the desk, his jaw muscles clenching at the memory. Vicky and Rosie shared another look. This scenario was sounding very familiar.
  86. 86. “Can you describe your children to us please?” Vicky asked, her pen poised on a fresh sheet of paper. “Ivan is my son. He is eight years old and about four foot two tall. He has brown hair and violet eyes.” Sid finished his description and looked at Vox.
  87. 87. “My daughter is called Pipistrelle, shortened to Pipi most the time. She is about four foot tall, has long red hair and red eyes. Her twin brother Myotis is about the same height, and also has red hair and eyes.” Said his brother.
  88. 88. Vicky put her pen down, and turned her sheet of paper over. “Can I ask, are these children green by any chance?” Sid and Vox exchanged a glance. “Yes they are. If you are going to tell us that we are wasting your time...” Started Sid, making a move to rise from his chair. “On the contrary.” Replied Vicky raising her hands in an effort to placate him. “We are already investigating the disappearance of a green little girl, and I wanted to be clear as to whether or not there may be a connection with your children.” “Oh. Right.” Sid settled back down in his chair looking ever so slightly abashed.
  89. 89. “When and where did they go missing?” Asked Rosie, keen to get more information from the brothers. “Yesterday evening.” Said Vox, smiling sadly at the pretty redhead. “We were in the food hall of Harold & Merkins. Mum had left a note for us that morning saying we needed some more cheese because we were down to our last quarter pound of cheddar, and we knew we had to get some before Mum woke up.” “Our mother is very particular about cheese.” Put in Sid. “Yes, very. We took the children with us, but while we were looking at the cheese counter, they wanted to go and explore the clothing department.” Vox wiped a hand over his face. “I wish we hadn’t said yes, but at the time we saw no harm in it.”
  90. 90. “So they were out of your sight?” Asked Vicky, familiar with the layout of Harold & Merkins. “Yes.” Replied Vox, a grave look on his face. “It was not for long, but it seems it was long enough. When we went to look for them after buying the cheese, they were nowhere to be seen.” “You looked outside and asked if anyone had seen anything?” Asked Vicky writing quickly. “Oh for Goat’s sake, of course we did.” Snapped Sid. “I have to ask Mr Tegenaria.” Pointed out Vicky unperturbed by his outburst. “I take it no one saw anything?” “If they did, they didn’t say.” Replied Vox.
  91. 91. “I also have to ask if you have any connection with Messrs Lum and Lew” Asked Vicky starting a fresh page. “Never heard of them. Have you Vox?” Responded Sid. “No. Do you think they may have something to do with our children going missing?” There was hope in his voice as he spoke. “It is one avenue of enquiry. Perhaps you knew them under different names. They are scientists. Were you asked to take part in any sort of experiment or research that resulted in the birth of your children?”
  92. 92. Both brothers shook their heads. “My abduction was accidental.” Said Sid. “I was messing about with my telescope in my back garden when I was taken.” “And I was having a go on this gyroscope thing I bought,” said Vox, “when according to Mum, the gremlins took me.” “A gyroscopic device?” Asked Rosie excited, ignoring the mention of gremlins. “Where did you acquire it?” “I...found it in a scrap yard.” admitted Vox sheepishly, “but I can assure you I had nothing to do with any scientist before I took it home.”
  93. 93. “Hmm.” Vicky made a note on the nearly full piece of paper, before looking up at the brothers. “We will, of course, take your case, and do everything in our power to find your children and return them to you.” “Thank you.” Said Sid, smiling for the first time since entering the office. “We normally insist on a £5 retainer,” continued Vicky as if they had had a paying client before, “and then present our final bill on the completion of our enquiries. I trust that is satisfactory?” “Yes. I will pay anything to get my children back.” Replied Vox. Rosie nodded, and stood up. “Gentlemen, if you will follow me to the outer office, we can take care of the financial, and administrative side of things.”
  94. 94. While her cousin was taking down the contact details of the two brothers and processing their payment, Vicky was looking at her notes, and rethinking her plan for the day. Rosie found her staring into space, tapping her front teeth with her pen when she entered with a tea tray fifteen minutes later. “Penny for your thoughts?” She asked, pouring her cousin a cup of tea and placing it at her elbow. “Hmm? Oh I was just thinking about Mr Vauxia’s incident with the gyroscope. I believe that neither of the Messrs Tegenaria have knowingly met Messrs Lum and Lew, but I do wonder if the gyroscope Mr Vauxia purchased from the scrap yard was the same one Theo told us about.”
  95. 95. Rosie sat down and stirred her cup of tea. “I agree it is certainly a possibility. I also think it is worthwhile remembering, that just because the Messrs Tegenaria never knowingly met Messrs Lum and Lew does not mean to say that they did not see the children and abduct them as evidence of their theories on extra- terrestrial life.”
  96. 96. “That is a very good point Rosie. I really do think we need to find them and speak to them, but I would also like to visit Harold & Merkins so that we can talk to the cashier on duty yesterday, and find out if they observed anything out of the ordinary.” Said Vicky, pulling her cup of tea towards her. “We will have to split up.” Said Rosie. “I volunteer to visit the university and see if I can track down the two scientists. Why do you not go to Harold & Merkins?” Vicky nodded. “Harold & Merkins is so close Rosie. Those poor children could have been snatched while we were talking to Dr Bruenig If we had been here, would we have seen something? Been able to do something and stop them from being separated from their fathers?”
  97. 97. “Vicky, you cannot think like that. We have no idea what may have happened if we had been in the office, so we have to try our hardest to solve this case, and return all the children to their parents.” Pointed out Rosie patiently. “You are correct as usual Rosie. I will go to Harold & Merkins, see what I can discover, and meet you back here at, say two?” Said Victoria, business like once again. Rosie nodded and, their course of action decided, the two cousins finished their tea, before gathering their bags and setting off on their tasks. ***
  98. 98. Vicky left Rosie trying to hail a cab to take her to the university, and walked the few hundred yards to Harold & Merkins. As she walked, she thought. She knew that Rosie was right: it would have made no difference what-so-ever if they had been at their office when the Tegenaria children were taken, and if the roles were reversed, with Rosie voicing these concerns, then she would have said exactly the same things her cousin had. ‘So why do I feel like this?’ She asked herself. ‘Because they are children.’ She answered. She had been thinking about children a lot lately. Well, she’d had to, Patrick wouldn’t let the subject drop.
  99. 99. There had been yet another argument when she had finally got home the night before. “Patrick, please, I really do not want to discuss this tonight.” “Victoria, we have to discuss this at some point!” “We have Patty! We have been over and over the same points more times than I care to count. It is not that I do not want children, because I do, but not at this time in my life. We have just taken on the first client at the agency, hopefully the first of many, and I need to try to build our reputation. I cannot suddenly disappear to have a baby because then all my hard work will be for nothing.”
  100. 100. “The ‘client’ is your cousin, and you can always go back to the agency afterwards.” Victoria had turned to head to the door of the room at this point. “That is not the point, as you know full well. You used to be so supportive.” “I still am!” “No, not at the moment you are not.” She turned back to him. “At the moment, all you seem to be able to think about is having a baby. You are ignoring my ambitions, and the fact that I want to be more than just a wife and mother. I am not Alexandra. I am not content to fill my days with social engagements and child rearing. I want to do more with my life.” She had swept out the room at that point, and had missed the look on her husband’s face, and the way he had made to follow her, before changing his mind.
  101. 101. Her musings had taken her to the store, without her realising. ‘Come on Vicky, it is time to focus. You have four children to find.’ She thought looking up at the façade. Gathering herself together, she opened the door to the shop and stepped inside.
  102. 102. Vicky entered Harold & Merkins via the food hall, and, rather than heading straight for the shop assistant, she took a bit of time walking around both that department and the dressmaking one. She wanted to get an idea of how easy it would have been for someone to hustle three children out of the store with a minimum of fuss. The answer was easier than she had thought. There were two exits to the street in the dressmaking department, and one was definitely hidden from the food hall by the dividing wall. However, there was also a dressmaker sitting working at a sewing machine.
  103. 103. “Good morning, I wonder if you can help me?” Asked Vicky approaching her. “Certainly, dear. Is it a new bodice or skirt, or maybe an alteration you are wanting?” Asked the dressmaker, getting out a hankie and dabbing at her nose. “Neither actually. Three children went missing from this store yesterday and I am looking for them.” Said Vicky. “Oh, I had heard about that, but I am afraid I cannot help you dear.” Said the dressmaker sadly. “I was not working yesterday. As you can probably tell, I have a terrible cold, and spent all of yesterday in bed, drinking plenty of tea.” “I am very sorry to hear that.”
  104. 104. “Thank you dear. I cannot help but think that those poor children would not have been abducted if I had here though.” “I doubt it would have made a difference in the long run. I think that whoever took them, would have waited until they had another opportunity.” Replied Vicky, mindful of how she felt about the matter. “Thank you, it is very kind of you to say so.” Vicky smiled at her and left her to her sewing. She wanted to see if the shop assistant serving in the food hall had been working the day before as well.
  105. 105. Vicky had to wait for the assistant to finish serving a customer before she could talk to him As she was waiting, she noticed a stack of business cards displayed prominently by the till. Her business cards. She couldn’t help but smile a little. She was doing what she wanted to do, and her and Rosie made a good team. True it felt like they were making very little headway on their first case, but elimination was the better part of detective work, and the footwork had to be done. She wondered if the Messrs Tegenaria had seen the cards stacked there and taken one when they realised their children were missing and the police would not help.
  106. 106. “Can I help you madam?” Asked George McCarthy startling Vicky out of her reverie. “Actually yes. My name is Victoria Simself, I have been engaged to look into the disappearance of three children from this store yesterday evening. Were you working then?” “I was.” Nodded George. “You are talking abut the Tegenaria children are you not?” “Yes, you know them?” “The Tegenaria family single-handedly keep our cheese counter in business. Mrs Tegenaria is very partial to her dairy products and so her, or a member of her family, are often to be found here.”
  107. 107. “I see. Did you see, or hear anything yesterday?” “No. It was busy in here, and noisy as a result. I was preoccupied with serving the customers and was as unaware that the children were gone as their fathers, until they discovered the fact.” “I see. Was anyone else working at the time?” “No.” George shook his head. “Almost everyone has been off sick this week.” “Well, thank you for your time. Please contact me if you think of anything that may be relevant to the enquiry.” Said Vicky handing over a business card.
  108. 108. She stood in the food hall musing for a while, pondering her next move. Just because no one in Harold & Merkins had seen anything, didn’t mean that someone outside the store hadn’t seen anything either. Her course of action seemed so obvious and she spent the next hour or so, asking about the children in all the surrounding shops.
  109. 109. Unfortunately it was almost as if the children had been spirited away by unseen forces. No one had seen or heard anything, and she was starting to despair of discovering anything.
  110. 110. That was until she entered the bookshop opposite. After a little bit of prodding, (Vicky didn’t realise it, but she was getting better at phrasing questions with every person she interviewed), the senior assistant there was able to remember an incident she had discounted almost as soon as it had happened. “I do remember seeing an adult who seemed to be having difficulty getting a child into a waiting carriage, but I assumed it was a parent dealing with a recalcitrant child.” Vicky felt a frisson of excitement at these words. “Can you recall anything about the carriage?” Asked Vicky. The assistant thought for a bit. “The carriage was a very rough looking thing, and in fact calling it a carriage is too kind. The paint was dark, maybe black and peeling in places. It was also very muddy. I do recall that the window blinds were down, or at least there was something blocking them as I could not see in and I thought it slightly odd.” “What direction did it go off in?” The assistant thought for a while before pointing towards Holy Cross. “That way I think.”
  111. 111. Vicky nodded before asking, “what did the adult look like?” “He was about medium height I suppose, with longish dark hair. I only caught a glimpse of him, and as I say, I thought no more of him after the carriage drove off.” Replied the shop assistant shrugging. Dark, longish hair. Peter had thought the man he saw had brown hair, this was sounding promising. “Did you see the child though?” “Very briefly and,” the assistant laughed, ”not very well at that. To tell you the truth...well, it must have been a trick of the light, because his skin looked to be green.” “His? It was a little boy then?” “I think so. Yes, he was wearing short trousers, it was a boy.” She smiled and nodded. “Thank you, you have been most helpful,. Please get in contact if you think of anything else about the carriage or the man you saw.” Said Vicky handing over a card.
  112. 112. Vicky walked out the shop and looked down the street in the direction the assistant had indicated. She still had a bit of time until she was due to meet with Rosie, but she needed to think about how she could set about tracing the carriage and its occupant. She set off for the office to make her plans. ***
  113. 113. Vicky was at her desk, re-reading the piece of paper in front of her when Rosie came bounding into the room. She had decided that finding the carriage would be like looking for a needle in a haystack, and was drafting a notice to put in the classifieds, asking for information on it. “Did you find anything of interest?” Asked Rosie, taking a seat.
  114. 114. “Not at Harold & Merkins, but I did speak to a lady who works in the shop opposite who saw a child being manhandled into a carriage.” Rosie raised her eyebrows. “That sounds promising.” “Yes, but it is not going to be easy to trace. I thought of placing an advertisement in the classifieds, posing as someone who’s own carriage was clipped by it. I know full well the owners will not come forward, but perhaps someone who has seen this carriage around will be forthcoming.”
  115. 115. Rosie nodded. She knew that it was a long shot, but it may yield results. “Did you find out any information at the university?” Asked Vicky. “Yes, I had a very productive time.” She smiled broadly. “I managed to speak to one of Messrs Lum and Lew ex-colleagues, a Mr Wendland. Dr Bruenig was quite correct with his version of the events surrounding their dismissal from the Physics department. The new Vice-Chancellor dismissed them because of their unorthodox theories, and then stripped their offices bare. He also wields considerable influence and has effectively blocked all of their attempts to find other positions.” Vicky nodded slowly. “Is there anyway we can find out where they are now?”
  116. 116. Rosie’s smile grew even broader. “I already have. They are still here in the city, and Mr Wendland meets them at the Wagon and Horses on Mead Street most nights for a drink.” Vicky let out a squeal of delight. “Rosie, that is wonderful. We will of course go there tonight in an effort to speak with them.” “Mr Wendland was also kind enough to furnish me with a description of the two men, so we know who we are looking for.” Rosie got out her notebook and flipped through a couple of pages until she found the notes she was looking for. “Mr Lew is of average height, black hair he has always kept short, pale skin and a bulbous nose. Mr Lum is taller by a couple of inches, has dark skin, and brown hair he wears at about collar length.”
  117. 117. Vicky felt excitement bubble through her veins at Rosie’s words. “Rosie, the man the lady at the bookshop saw, had longish brown hair, as did the man Peter saw at the museum. It is starting to sound as if these scientists could be our men.” Rosie nodded. “Yes, I think we are following a very promising line of enquiry.” She sighed. “I do hope so anyway, when I think of those children alone and frightened...we have got to find them and return them to their families as soon as is humanly possible.” “Agreed.” Responded Vicky. ***
  118. 118. Vicky and Rosie weren’t the only two members of their family who were thinking about the missing children. As far as the members of generation five were concerned, there was only one missing child, but she was their cousin and their friend, and sitting in the shade of the big oak tree on the common in Regalton was not the same without her. “We all miss Celly,” said Bethany addressing the group, “but sitting here moaning about it is not going to do any good.” “She is our sister and she is missing. Said Andrew forcibly, putting an arm around his twin’s shoulders. “You cannot expect us to forget about it.”
  119. 119. “I am not expecting you to.” Explained Bethany. “But, what do you normally do when an item is lost?” She looked expectantly at her cousins and brothers and was disappointed to be met with a sea of blank faces. “Oh come on, you are related to me so you cannot all be this stupid.” Bertie scratched his head. “You try to find it.” He said. “Exactly! That is what we should be doing, not sitting here moping.” Bethany’s eyes grew wide with excitement as spoke.
  120. 120. “She went missing in Simdon.” Pointed out Peter looking sullenly at the grass. “And?” “And you, Christopher and David may live in Simdon, but the rest of us do not.” Continued Andrew. “But you have relatives who do. Bertie and Stuart, you can ask if you can stay overnight with us, Peter and Andrew, you can see if you can stay with Auntie Louisa. That way we are all in the city and we can go looking for Celly.” Said Bethany excitedly.
  121. 121. “Yes,” said Stuart smiling broadly as the idea captured his imagination, “I like that idea. We can go find her, and bring her back home. What do you think Bertie?” “I do not know,” started his brother, “Auntie Alexandra will not be happy, and running around the city on our own could be dangerous...” Plus there were his nightmares. Their frequency hadn’t decreased and the only thing that comforted him when he woke from one, was his father. “It will be fine Bertie.” Interrupted Stuart. “It will be a great adventure, and Auntie Alexandra will forgive us when we return home with Celly.”
  122. 122. “Besides, Mama’s bark is far worse than her bite,” piped up David as he scratched at a bite on his back, “and she will be more angry at Bethany, Christopher and me than you.” Christopher nodded in agreement. “Yes, absolutely. Come on Bertie, it will be fun.” “Yes, come oooon Bertie agree.” Begged Stuart. Soon everyone was looking at Bertie and pleading with him to join them.
  123. 123. In the end it didn’t take that much to persuade Bertie that the plan was a good one, and they decided on the next night to put it into action. As he was walking back home across the common, he stopped and looked back at the oak tree, remembering Celestia looking up at him and urging him on as he tried and failed to climb it. Any remaining doubts fled for the time being. He would go to Simdon tomorrow and he would find his cousin. After all if he was out looking for Celly all night, he wouldn’t be sleeping and therefore wouldn’t have a nightmare. ***
  124. 124. Vicky and Rosie left their office at six on the dot. They did not want to get to the inn too early, but neither did they want to be late and chance missing the two scientists they were looking for, so they stopped off at a café for a sandwich and a hot drink on their way. Consequently, they reached the inn at about half past seven. “This does not look like the most salubrious place.” Said Rosie as they stood outside. “No, but we cannot turn back. Let us go in.” Said Vicky as she headed to the door and hesitantly put her hand on the handle.
  125. 125. The patrons of the inn turned and looked at them as they entered, making the two women feel uncomfortable. Vicky was wondering on the wisdom of what they were doing, and making plans to bolt for the door dragging Rosie with her, when one, by one, the patrons turned back to their beer and resumed their conversations. “That was tense.” Whispered Rosie in her cousin’s ear. “Yes. Let us try to find the men we are looking for.” Murmured Vicky. “Did Mr Wendland say they were to be found at the card tables?” Rosie nodded. “Yes, apparently that is how they try to make their money now they are out of work. Let us go and find them.”
  126. 126. A glance around the room they were in showed them that the card tables were not to be found in that part of the building, and that the guest rooms were on the floor above. It did not take too much work to deduce that they needed to cross the yard to the part of the building that lay beyond the gazunder. This part of the building was much smaller, and the air was thick with tobacco smoke and the smell of stale ale. Vicky got the impression that less than savoury deals were made in this part of the inn, and was not surprised to see a redheaded woman in a rather revealing dress, and a man in a sweat-stained shirt break apart, and the woman then lead the man upstairs by the hand.
  127. 127. She was looking round the rest of the room, when Rosie tapped her upper arm with the back of her hand. She looked at her cousin, who pointed to one of the card tables. Vicky followed her finger and saw a pale man, with short black hair sitting there, a pile of chips in front of him. Vicky looked around and spotted a dark skinned man with longish brown hair standing at the bar. The cousins exchanged a glance and headed over to the bar. “Excuse me, are you Mr Lum?” “Who is asking?” Came the reply. “My name is Victoria Simself this is Rosemary Go. Can we have a moment of your time please Mr Lum?” “Yes, I suppose so. How can I help you?”
  128. 128. “I understand that you used to work at the university with Mr Lew?” Started Victoria. “Yes.” The man’s face darkened. “We were once employed at the university. But I would really rather prefer not to talk about it.” Vicky shared a look with Rosie. “I am sorry, but that is one of the things we wish to discuss with you. My understanding is that you were dismissed because of some unorthodox theories you held with regards to life beyond this planet.”
  129. 129. Mr Lum took a long drink from his glass, before putting it on the bar and looking at them steadily without saying a word. The silence between the three of them stretched on and on and Rosie started to wonder if he was ever going to answer them, or if they were wasting their time. Unfortunately, not receiving an answer was not an option, and although she was sure they could follow this man and find out where he went and if he had anything to do with the disappearances that way, getting a straight answer was by far the easiest option. “Yes,” He replied eventually when the two women made no move to take their leave of him. “The Vice- Chancellor was of the opinion that our research cast the department and therefore the university in a negative light, and terminated our funding.” At this point Mr Lew walked over and joined them. “What is going on?” “These two ladies want to ask some questions.” Mr Lum gestured at Vicky and Rosie. Mr Lew grunted.
  130. 130. “Did you try to continue your research after you left?” Continued Vicky, encouraged by him responding to the first question. “How? We had no funding, and no other university wanted to employ either of us.” Replied Mr Lum with a shrug. “So you abandoned your theories?” Pressed Vicky. “Not exactly.” Lum turned to the bar and took a swig of his drink. “What do you mean?” Asked Rosie. Lum turned back to them. “I, we, still believe that we are correct in our assertion that there are other life forms in our universe and that they are trying to...” “Procreate?” Supplied Rosie. “Procreate,” he nodded his thanks to the redhead, “with us. It is just, we no longer have the means to pursue the research.” Mr Lew nodded, agreeing with his partner.
  131. 131. “But, hypothetically speaking, if you came across evidence that you were correct, would you act on it.” Mr Lum looked at Vicky shrewdly. “Perhaps. It depends on what the evidence is.” Vicky avoided his gaze. “Say, a child.” “A child!” Excitement flooded Lum’s features as he looked at Vicky. “That would be the validation of everything we have always said.” “So what would you do?” Pressed Vicky. “Speak to the parents of course, especially the father. (We believe that only the males of our species can be impregnated by the aliens). We would offer complete anonymity in exchange for telling us of their experiences and allowing us to examine the child.” Said Mr Lew as Lum nodded in agreement.
  132. 132. “And if the parents refused?” Asked Vicky as they started to get to the crux of the matter. “We would try to persuade them of course. It would be validation, something we could not afford to allow to pass us by.” Lum paused. He was not yet drunk and he was suddenly unsettled by the direction the questioning was taking. “Why are you asking this?” Now it was Vicky’s turn to pause. “We are enquiry agents, and we have been retained to search for some children who have gone missing in the city.” She said truthfully. Mr Lew’s eyes lit up as the things Vicky had and hadn’t said slotted into place. “Green children by any chance?”
  133. 133. Vicky gave an almost imperceptible nod. “Then we are correct?” A thought suddenly occurred to, and the colour left his face. “My Plumbbob, you do not think that I, that we, had anything to do with the disappearances do you?” He reached out and grabbed Vicky’s hand. “I assure you, we did not. We are scientists, not monsters. I had no idea that there were alien children in the city, hoped yes, but never for the life of me expected to find out that those hopes were well founded.” Vicky looked at him for a long time. One of the things that would make Vicky and Rosie’s agency one of the best in the city was her innate ability to read people. She could look at someone and know instinctively if they were lying and right now she was convinced that Mr Lew was telling the truth. He knew nothing about the abductions of the children. She looked over at Mr Lum and saw the same shock etched on his face. Neither of these men knew anything about the disappearances of the children. She nodded once at them to show them she believed them, something that didn’t go unnoticed by her cousin.
  134. 134. “Were there any others who shared your theories?” Asked Rosie. Lum laughed. “No, if there were, we may not have been treated as we were.” Vicky nodded as she decided it was time to end the interview. “Thank you gentlemen, you have been most helpful.” They took their leave of the scientists and Rosie handed them a card, with the standard request to call if they thought of anything they believed might be relevant.
  135. 135. “Well,” said Rosie when they were outside, “that was informative, but it has effectively closed our most promising avenue of investigation. You are certain that they were telling the truth about having nothing to do with the children?” “Yes. If they were lying to us, they are both extremely talented actors. But I do not think they are. The look on their faces when I mentioned a child...they had no idea such a child existed, I am sure of it.” Replied Vicky adamantly before starting off down the street.
  136. 136. “Then what do we do now?” Asked Rosie as she fell into step beside her cousin. “I have no idea.” Vicky slowed to look at her pocket watch as they passed under a gaslight. “Go home I suppose, rethink our strategy in the morning. I hate the thought of those children spending another night where ever they are, but I cannot think of anything productive we can do tonight. There is still the carriage to try to find, and we are unlikely to do that in the dark.” Rosie nodded. “Do you want to share a cab as far as your house?” Vicky shook her head. “No. I think I am going to walk for a bit. Try to reason a few things out.” “If you are sure...?” “Yes I am Rosie. Go home to your husband, and I will see you in the morning.” Rosie gave her a hug and wished her goodnight and a safe trip home, before stepping out into the road to hail a cab.
  137. 137. Vicky had intended to walk straight home, even though it was over a mile. Instead she found herself outside the Natural History Museum. This was where her case had started. Celestia had been taken from here and at this point in time, she felt like she was no nearer to finding her than she was when Theo and Doc had entered her office yesterday. Sighing she turned to head for home and nearly tripped over a blond little boy standing behind her.
  138. 138. “Oh my goodness. I am so sorry, are you alright?” Exclaimed Vicky, reaching down to help the boy up. “I’m fine.” Said the boy brushing himself off. “Are you certain?” Asked Vicky. “Yes.” “I am Victoria Simself, what is your name?”
  139. 139. “Dean Winchester Whedonberry.” Replied the boy proudly. “Pleased to meet you Master Whedonberry. Again I offer my apologies on bumping into you.” Dean nodded in acceptance. “Where are your parents may I ask?” Dean pointed vaguely in towards a nearby parade of shops. “Over there.” Vicky looked over. “Really? I cannot see them.” Dean glanced over. “Oh they’ve probably popped into one of the shops.”
  140. 140. “I see. How old are you Master Whedonberry? Seven?” “Yes.” Replied Dean sullenly. “And your parents have left you out here on your own?” Asked Vicky shrewdly. “Yeah. They’re very trusting.” Said Dean as if daring her to prove him wrong. “I would like to meet them. Let us go and find them.” Said Vicky, putting a hand behind Dean’s back and guiding him down the street to the shops he had pointed out.
  141. 141. As they approached the shops Dean started dragging his feet, to the point that he almost stopped. “What is it Master Whedonberry?” Asked Vicky. Stopping and looking at him. “I may not have exactly been telling the truth.” Admitted Dean. “Really? I am surprised.” Said Vicky, raising her eyebrows. “Yeah, my parents might actually be at home.” Continued Dean. “So you are wandering the streets alone.” Asked Vicky. Dean kicked at the pavement. “Yes.” Vicky was torn between curiosity at why and concern given the case she was working.
  142. 142. Her curiosity won out. “Why?” Dean looked up at her. “I’m looking for my brother, Derri. He’s missing.” Vicky’s breath caught in her throat. Another missing child? “Can you describe him?” She whispered. Dean nodded. “He’s about this tall,” he held his hand about four inches above his head, “has blond hair like me, blues eyes like me, a long face, a long nose and green skin.” Vicky blinked. “Green!” She exclaimed.
  143. 143. “Yes.” Said Dean sticking out his chin and putting his hands on his hips. “Are you calling me a liar?” “Not at all.” Said Vicky trying to placate him. “I am amazed at the co-incidence. I too am looking for some children, four to be exact. Their vary in age, height and hair colour, but they all have green skin.” “Really?” Asked Dean, suspiciously. “Really.” Dean nodded. “Alright then.” They started walking down the street again as Vicky wondering how to phrase what she was going to say next.
  144. 144. “But, be that as it may,” said Vicky, “and as much as I understand why you are out looking, a young boy such as yourself should not be wandering the streets of the city on his own. You could come across anyone. It is not safe and I am going to take you home.” “Anyone?” Asked Dean, hoping to distract Vicky from wanting to escort him home. “Yes, kidnappers, footpads, drunks...” “Vampires?” Put in Dean hopefully as he trudged along beside Vicky. Vicky blinked at the change in Dean’s tone. “Yes, I suppose they may be abroad in this part of the city.” “They exist?” Asked Dean excitedly. “Yes.” Replied Vicky. “How do you know?”
  145. 145. “My Aunt Anne is a vampire.” It took a few steps before Vicky realised that Dean was no longer by her side. She turned round to see him standing there staring at her with eyes as big as saucers. “Your aunt is a vampire?” He asked incredulously. “Yes.” Replied Vicky as if it was the most natural thing in the world.
  146. 146. “That is fantastic. Does she sleep in a coffin? How much blood does she drink? Does she drink animal or human? Can she turn into a bat? Will she turn to dust in the sun?” Question after question tumbled out of Dean’s mouth as Vicky looked on amused. When Dean finally finished talking Vicky said, “I am afraid I cannot answer your questions Master Whedonberry. I have never enquired into my aunt’s sleeping habits, or dietary requirements, and I have certainly never seen her become a bat.” “Why have you never asked?” Dean couldn’t believe that someone wouldn’t want to know the answers to his questions. “Because it is impolite to enquire as to such things. Now, what is your address Master Whedonberry, so I can get you home?” Asked Vicky trying to change the subject. “1 Shepherd Street.” Replied Dean forgetting to lie in his excitement at meeting someone who was actually related to a vampire. “Can I meet her?”
  147. 147. Dean’s incessant chatter and questioning (after finishing on vampires, he wanted to know if Victoria had ever seen a ghost) lasted all the way to his house. “1 Shepherd Street, here we are.” Said Vicky reading the house number as she walked up the steps to the front door. “I’ve been thinking, you really don’t need to tell Mom and Dad that you found me. I can sneak in the back door...” Started Dean. “I cannot do that Master Whedonberry, besides I would like to speak to your parents about your brother.” Replied Vicky pulling the doorbell.
  148. 148. The door was opened by a pretty blonde woman, her hair pined neatly up, and deep, dark circles under her eyes. “Can I help...Dean, what are you doing outside? I tucked you in two hours ago.” “I found him wandering the streets near the natural History Museum Mrs Whedonberry. He was looking for his brother.” Explained Vicky. “Oh Dean.” She held out her hand to Dean who took it and entered his house. “Thank you for bringing him home.” “It was my pleasure. I was wondering, may I come in for a moment?” Asked the detective. “Erm, yes, of course, Mrs...?” “Simself. Thank you.”
  149. 149. Vicky walked into a tastefully decorated hall, the walls and surfaces covered with photographs of the Whedonberry family. Her eye was drawn to one of two little boys, the child on the left was unmistakably Dean, so that meant the one on the right had to be Derri. She looked at Cordelia. “Mrs Whedonberry, I am an enquiry agent. I have been retained to look for four missing children. Your son told me that his brother is also missing.” Said Vicky handing over a card. Cordelia Whedonberry looked at it and nodded. “Yes. Derri’s been missing for four days now.” She whispered. “And the police do not want to know?” Continued Vicky. “That’s correct.” “Because he is green.” Stated Vicky. “I believe so, yes.” Cordelia’s voice was barely audible when she answered.
  150. 150. “The children I am looking for also have green skin Mrs Whedonberry. I believe that their disappearances are connected. Your son’s may be too.” said Vicky gently. Cordelia looked at Vicky, and then Dean. “Dean-o, why don’t you go up to bed. I’ll be up soon to tuck you in, and this time you had better stay in bed mister.” Her voice was stronger when she spoke to her youngest son than it had been when she had answered Vicky. “Mom...” Started Dean, trying to get out of having to go to bed so that he could hear what his mum and Mrs Simself were about to discuss. “Bed.” Replied Cordelia firmly.
  151. 151. Dean knew it was fruitless to argue with his mother when she used that tone and so dragging his feet, Dean made his way upstairs to the top floor. Once there, rather than going into his room, the room he shared with his brother, he dragged a pile of books onto the small chest his mother kept in front of one of the dormer windows and knelt on top of them so he could look out at the city. His big brother was out there somewhere, and he wanted to find him.
  152. 152. With Dean on his way to bed, Cordelia turned back to Vicky. “Mrs Simself, would you like to come into the drawing room? I think we have something to discuss, and you just may have a new client.” Cordelia led Vicky up the stairs to the drawing room and gestured at one of the sofas. “Please, sit. I would offer you a drink, but caffeine and I do not see eye to eye at the moment. I have not slept a wink since Derri disappeared and caffeine would only make me sick.” “That is quite alright Mrs Whedonberry.” Replied Vicky as she arranged her skirts.
  153. 153. “My family.” Said Cordelia pointing to the photographs on the table. “Dean you have met, that is my daughter Deanna, my husband Johnny, who is out looking for our son and that,” she placed a manicured fingernail over the image of the second boy, “is Derrial.” “You have a very beautiful family.” Said Vicky as tears welled up in Cordelia’s eyes. “Thank you, but at the moment it isn’t complete.” She looked at Vicky. “You really believe that Derri’s disappearance is connected to the ones you are investigating?”
  154. 154. Vicky nodded. “It is too co-incidental otherwise. In the last two days I have heard of the disappearance of five children, the common denominator is the colour of their skin.” Cordelia gave a bitter laugh. “It is ironic. We moved here to escape the prejudice back home towards my husband and son because of their skin colour. Now my son is abducted because he is green.” “I am very sorry,” said Vicky, “but I would like to help: to try to find Derri and reunite your family.” Cordelia nodded. “If you think you can help...we are so worried about where he is, and the police don’t care.”
  155. 155. “You said your husband also has green skin, was he not with you when you went to the police?” Asked Vicky. “Yes, he was, but they seemed to think that he was wearing face paint and told us it wasn’t Halloween yet, and shouldn’t a grown man know better anyway.” Vicky tutted, shocked at the attitude of the police when confronted with evidence that green skinned people walked the streets of the capital. “Can you tell me where Derri went missing?” Cordelia nodded. “We were at the market on Barsoom Road, do you know it?” Vicky nodded and Cordelia continued. “The boys had gone off on their own as usual, while Deanna and I were buying vegetables. We had no idea anything was wrong until Dean came running up to us shouting that his brother was missing. We thought that Derri had just wandered off, or was hiding, but we couldn’t find him.” A tear slid down Cordelia’s cheek, and she quickly batted it away.
  156. 156. “So Dean was with him when he vanished?” “Yes, they were playing.” Cordelia raised a hand to her eye and wiped away another tear that was threatening to fall. “I know that you have just sent him to bed, but can I speak with him? Ask him a few more questions about what happened?” Asked Vicky hesitantly. Cordelia nodded. “If you think it will help you, then yes. I want my son back, whatever it takes.”
  157. 157. She stood up and Vicky followed her lead. “I want to find your son, and the other four children I am looking for.” “Thank you.” Cordelia smiled sadly before leading the way out of the drawing room to Dean’s room.
  158. 158. Fifteen minutes later Victoria found herself standing outside the Whedonberry house, feeling more confused than she had before she had met Dean. Another child was missing, taken from yet another part of the city. She should now have more information to help her and Rosie find the children, but instead she was having difficulty seeing any pattern at all.
  159. 159. She started to walk down the street, heading in the direction of home. Dean hadn’t seen anything. He and Derri had been playing amongst the stalls, (investigating the existence of ghosts), when Dean had become distracted by something a fishmonger was doing. He soon became bored and went to find Derri, only he couldn’t He then ran back to his mother and sister and they had started to look for his older brother. Vicky paused to cross a road. There were still only two clues to work with: the brown haired man Peter and the shop assistant had seen, and the carriage. Much as she hated to admit it, that wasn’t much. She would make sure that she paid a visit to the Barsoom Road market with Rosie the next day, and hopefully they would find out more information then. ***
  160. 160. Here ends part one, I hope you’ve all enjoyed reading it. Thank you to all my readers for your support, even though I know it’s been a while since we were last in Regalton. Special thanks to Stacielee, GintasticNecat, HurriKaty, Thls0, Smopothiequeen87, charris and everyone else whose sims and simselves I’ve borrowed for this. Some of you knew about it, others didn’t and I hope it’s been a nice surprise to see your sims appear. I promise there will be proper credits naming all the sims and their stories at the end of part two. Extra special thanks to DrSupremeNerd for her faith in me that I wouldn’t hurt her children, and also because I’m making her simself very unhappy. Thanks also to the creators who make my neighbourhood look as glorious as it does. My stories wouldn’t exist without you. Look for the conclusion to the case in a few weeks time.