WHAT THE BUTLER SAW ......
LET'S DO THE TIME WARP
Jeeves continued to lead the way back to the parlour, the alleged scene of his, errr Pshrynk's, recent murder, with Zelda meekly following, enclosed in her private fug of conflicting theories, facts, observations, fears, and possible hallucinations. Nothing made any vestige of sense anymore ... but then had anything made sense since she hauled herself through the window into this macabre fun-house of horror? Was it even still the same night? There was no way to judge the passage of time in these unlit corridors. She had to trust herself and her safety to Jeeves until she could reach ... or contact ... the outside world. And that couldn't happen until the power was restored. Would this farking thunderstorm EVER end?
"Tu parles d'une recherche du temps perdu... Marcel en personne n'aurait pu faire mieux."
"The parlour is just down this hallway," murmured Jeeves, as he steered Zelda into yet another unfamiliar unlit corridor.
The sound of a distant foghorn shattered the silence.
"Ah, the doorbell" remarked Jeeves. "Please wait here while I ascertain who is visiting us tonight."
Jeeves rapidly swanned away in a totally new direction, leaving Zelda literally and figuratively in the dark. Since when did MobileRead have a foghorn as a doorbell? How could someone ring it if the power was out? Who else was going to show up tonight?
"Bon jour Zelda! I didn't know you were in town too! You should have called me and let me know. We could have had dinner together."
Zelda wheeled around, heart hammering, eyes starting from her parchment-white face at the figure illuminated by the oil lamp she was carrying.
"Florence! What are YOU doing here tonight? How did you get here? Have you seen Pshrynk yet? Was he dead?"
Florence bent a concerned look upon her obviously agitated friend and patted her hand gently.
"Why Zelda, Pshrynk's the reason I'm here tonight. Colonel Alex has commissioned me to paint Pshrynk's portrait for the MobileRead Portrait Gallery. You know, that line of oil paintings in the library?
Anyway, we have an appointment tonight for his first sitting. I'm on my way to the library right now to set up my easel. Send him along when you see him, OK? We need to get started right away before I lose this unique lighting."
"Elle vient faire un portrait mais ça sera plutôt une nature morte !"
With this, Florence departed rapidly, leaving a tiny smudge of cadmium red on Zelda's hand, and she was once again on her own in the Stygian darkness.
"Psssst! Dollface! Over here!" A raspy voice hissed in the darkness.
Zelda twirled wildly, trying to locate the source.
"No, over here! Behind you!" ... "Ow ... that's my foot you're stamping on!"
With a familiar rasp, and the pungent smell of lighter fluid, a Zippo lighter flared into existence in Zelda's face, temporarily blinding her and igniting several wayward wisps of her rain-frizzied hair.
Pushing aside the hand holding the lighter, Zelda demanded "Who are you? Where are you? And stop calling me dollface ... my name is Zelda!"
"Awwww .... don't be so touchy little lady. Just trying to be friendly, that's all. You know .... 'Cherish la femme' ... and all that. Jeeessh, they told me you was feisty, but not downright hostile!"
As Zelda's eyes adjusted to the Zippo's flickering flame, her eyes flew open as she shrieked "You're the cabbie that drove me here from the airport! I saw you drive off. You abandoned me here! How did you get in? What are you doing here? How do you know who I am?"
"Surprised to see me again, ain't ya? Well, I'm not really a cabbie. All right, sometimes I do do hack work, when I don't have a paying client, but I'm really a Private Investigator. Really! Name's Rock Lobster. You can call me Rock, but not Rocky. I hate that! Unless of course it's whispered to me in the dark when ...... *cough*
Anyways, this Colonel Alex moke hired me yesterday to shadow you. See, he was tipped off there was gonna be a break-in here tonight, and someone was gonna get hurt. Seems his source fingered a French connection for the perp, so I hung around the airport International Arrivals gate tonight until you showed up. I'll never forget the sight of those black-stockinged gams coming down the ramp .... *cough*
Anyways, I followed you here by driving your cab! Pretty slick, huh? People always look behind them to see if someone is following them. They never think to look in front of them! Am I right? You never suspected I was tailing you, did'ja?"
Not waiting for an answer, Lobster plowed on with his yarn:
"I've had you in my sights the whole night! Up and down and back and forth ... man, my feet are killing me! How big is this farking building anyways? Anyways, what I can't figure out is how you managed to off that mug in the library without me seeing. Did you use knock-out drops on me? I'm a sucker for a free drink. Or did you hypnotize me? Come on, give with the info honey. How'd you pull this caper off so slick?"
"Qu'est-ce que c'est que ce charabia ? C'est un massacre de la langue, ça c'est sûr, mais de laquelle ?"
Zelda clutched a lock of hair in each hand, took a deep breath, and calmly explained: "Well, the reason you didn't see me murder Pshrynk is because I DIDN'T DO IT! *errrr* I didn't kill anyone tonight! I just kept finding the bodies after they were already murdered! NOT by me! Got it?"
"Now stop following me and help me get out of this funhouse from hell!"
[Will Rock Lobster be Zelda's knight in shining armor?]
[Will Zelda murder Rock Lobster?]
[How did Rock Lobster get into this novel?]
[Is anyone dead yet?]