Stevie Wonder vs The Stranglers – Golden Brown/Superstitious mash-up…
Reluctantly, I pick up the tiny bone-china cup along with the others, and prompted by Higham Dry Senior, we all drink.
It’s not bad. Rather like Chai tea, with some sort of fermented kick. I hiccup, and immediately start to feel light-headed. Wow – this is better than a Sloe Gin Sling! The men around the table exchange more knowing looks at the taste, and grin at each other.
Maybe it’s moonshine. Perhaps they’re spiking it with whatever the soldiers are supposedly trying to brew in the laundry, having lost their Guinness rations – to a Caribbean chef and an alcoholic goat…
“How do you plan to get the clockwork hand back?” I ask of Crispin between mouthfuls, who is seated to my left. “Luke could be anywhere, back amongst those pyramids. Or could have been eaten already.”
Crispin dabs his mouth with a linen napkin.
“I imagine that as a treasure-seeker, he will be most interested in its worth, rather than its powers,” he tells me. “So it would make sense to anticipate that he will take it somewhere that its basic mineral value can be estimated. In which case there are few such places he will find any direct route to, from the Five a.m. Lounge.”
“But what if he’s interested in its powers?” I press him. “What is the worst case scenario?”
“If the worst case scenario arises,” says Crispin, “I would suggest we enjoy our last meal, and look forward to the next instalment of my grandfather’s flying experiments.”
“Does this have anything to do with the giant river-god?” I ask. “What was its name?”
“Atum,” Crispin murmurs, in an even more hushed voice. “Everything has Atumic significance, yes.”
“You said it had been taken before?” I remind him. “What happened?”
He gestures with his spoon, in the direction of the bounty hunters.
“Those clockwork hands worn by our breakfast companions,” he begins. “…Were based on the original, made under the Dry family’s supervision. There were only ever intended to be four, in total. And the three you see here have remained intact on their wearers since the day they were wrought. On a number of occasions in the past, however – the original has been… misplaced. Sometimes only down the back of the couch, or left in coat pockets in strange cloakrooms. But in a few cases – stolen.”
“Stolen?” I repeat, horrified.
How could they be so careless, with such a precious family heirloom?
“Yes – by grave-robbers, or amoral museum curators – the occasional power-crazed super-villain,” Crispin whispers. “Even an entire cult, once or twice. Fortunately none of them were able to unlock its full potential, before it was recovered.”
“But if it’s so important – what’s it doing just knocking around loose on your estate?” I demand. “Surely it should be locked away for safekeeping – in a bank-vault, or some sort of anonymous high-security storage facility…”
“Ahhh – but that is the first place they would look, Sarah Bellummm,” he murmurs. “Turning up with their safecrackers and cat-burglar skills, and whatnot.”
“So what do we do?” I ask, again. “Do we have any way of tracking its movements?”
Crispin looks uncomfortable.
“It was lost for a great deal of the time, Sarah,” he admits. “Electronically tagging it would have been a foresight indeed, if the technology were available the last time it was seen.”
“That reminds me.” Carvery Slaughter puts his foot up on the table, hikes up the leg of his jeans revealing a cuff around his ankle, and scratches around it. “You’re welcome to this one. This is probably giving the Old Bill a proper headache right now.”
“We will catch up with Mr. Lukan,” Crispin reassures me, as Carvery puts his foot back down again, and continues eating. No-one seems to have taken offence – but then, Carvery is the only one who has a gun at the table with him. “No-one has succeeded in getting away with it before.”
“But there’s always a first time!” I snap, my voice rising above the gentle tinkling of bowls and cutlery.
“Ooohh!” Higham Dry Senior’s eyes sparkle, and I shrink in embarrassment. “You looking for your first time? You have to give an old man more notice… it take a while to get this bad boy warmed up.” He looks down at his robes, below the table. “I have to get the special key to wind him and everything…”
“I must apologise for Sarah Bellummm, Grandpappy,” Crispin says. “She is exhausted already after all the running around this morning.”
“Shame! But you perk up quickly with proper breakfast inside you. You have a sweet tooth, maybe? I get the staff to bring dessert early.” He snaps his palest gray, almost white zombie fingers at one of the servers by the tea urn. “Bring the chilled monk brains! Young lady here need energy, for her first time on Mister Whizz.”
“Monkey brains?” Ace repeats, slowly, as the server bows and heads back to the kitchen.
“No, not monkey brains!” Higham Dry’s face scrunches up in disgust. “Filthy things.” He taps his own temple meaningfully. “Monk brains. Nice and clean, no naughty thoughts allowed. Make you feel like superhero, mmmm?”
“Maybe we could cut dessert and go straight to the flying experiments?” I suggest, weakly.
Higham Dry Senior’s eyes widen, like emerging quail’s eggs.
“You so keen!” he approves. “But we finish eating first. Then have a little tour of fort.”
I wonder if it’s going to be anything like the tour of Crispin’s mansion earlier… and then all my thoughts are scattered, as a large silver platter is placed in the centre of the table.
“Oohh,” says the old man. “We have the whole choir today!”
Chilled monk brains – served à la tete…
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, food scene – enjoy *hic* 🙂
More mindless mayhem: The Zombie Adventures of Sarah Bellum
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