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Update 30 June 2005
The Willow Pages
Willow Fawnsworthy created by M. Mitchell Marmel
"Tierra de la Muerte"
by M. Mitchell Marmel
"Tierra de la Muerte"
From the Diaries of Willow Fawnsworthy
edited by M. Mitchell Marmel
(with dialog improvements by E.O.Costello & lyrics assist by David Ackermann)
November 11, 1936
Funny, really. When I was a fawn, I used to love Halloween. While Mama and Da didn't necessarily approve of the quasi-sacreligious aspects of the holiday, we all enjoyed dressing up in costumes and pretending to scare the neighbors, who, good sports that they were, pretended to be scared right back.
What a difference a few years make.
Spontoon in late October is kinda nice. The weather is cool but not cold, the winter rains haven't started yet and, with the tourists gone for the season, the place is a lot more relaxed. Most of the tourist hotels are closed, but, of course, the residential places such as the Shepherd and the Grand are open (with a somewhat reduced staff). The whole place just seems more relaxed and intimate, in a way.
Of course, the native performers like to keep in form for the tourists, and, hell, there's enough Euro expats around to make Halloween something of a large party/small carnival sorta thing.
Which is where the trouble started.
Rosie had come back from Frisco on the Pan-Nimitz Boing Clipper bearing goodies like fresh sourdough bread (Yum!) and a trunk of costumes from her vaudeville days for us to play dressup. My, er, Grace's years with Mask and Wigge paid off as I cheerfully helped outfit our little group. Les was dashing in a Doglas Fairbanks pirate outfit. Lady Pamela ("please, dear, call me Pam!") Fenwick, who's working out some business deals between Fenwick Foods and duCled Chemicals (boring stuff about the latest preservatives) was made up as the female corsair Anne Bunny. Reggie (who had made up with Pam over their boat race) was playing Antony to my Cleopatra. Mmmm, buck legs. Yum. Last but not least, Rosie and Toni had done themselves up as the Doublemink Twins, putting a whole new twist in the term "Double your pleasure, double your fun."
We wandered around Casino Island, having fun at various booths (Reggie was like a kid in a candy store with various small poppers, cracklers et cetera; Pam beat the rest of us out in bobbing for mangoes), pausing for refreshments (real candy apples! Yum!) and enjoying the various costumes (and, sometimes, lack of costumes, although those lava-lavas must have been a tad chilly that evening). In all, a really good party; lively without being too rowdy, and a general good time was had by all.
A rumble of native drums. "Ah!" Les said, perking an ear up. "Sounds like a parade..."
Boomlay, boomlay, boomlay, boom
"Sure does!" I said, turning my head to watch the procession turning the corner.
Boomlay, boomlay, boomlay, BOOM
Neat stuff. Great costumes, effigies on poles, the whole shooting match.
Boomlay, boomlay, boomLAY, BOOM
Great worksmanship on those effigies. Very lifelike. Very scary. You'd almost think-
Boomlay, boomlay, BOOMLAY, BOOM
Boomlay, boomLAY, BOOMLAY, BOOM
Boomlay, BOOMLAY, BOOMLAY, BOOM
What are you doing up there?
BoomLAY, BOOMLAY, BOOMLAY, BOOM
BOOMLAY, BOOMLAY, BOOMLAY, BOOM
The Red FIST!
BOOMLAY, BOOMLAY, BOOMLAY, BOOM
Get OUT of here!
BOOMLAY, BOOMLAY, BOOMLAY, BOOM
BOOMLAY, BOOMLAY, BOOMLAY, BOOM
"Willow?" Rosie was touching my arm, a look of concern on her face. "You okay, hon? You look like you've seen a ghost."
I looked at her with anguished eyes.
"...i think i might have..."
I'm afraid I rather spoiled the rest of the evening.
Everyone else insisted on seeing me back to my room. Rosie helped me get changed into my flannel nightie, and Reggie, a worried look on his face, brought a glass of warm milk and gave me a peck on the cheek before switching off the light by the bedroom door.
I settled back on the soft pillows, took a sip of milk and closed my eyes, trying to rest a bit.
It didn't work.
A ludicrous bit of melody running through my head. "The eyes of New Haven are upon you, all the live long day, the eyes of your mother are upon you, you cannot get away, can't you hear the whistles blowing, policemen so early in the morn, can't you hear the Captain shouting-"
My father's eyes. Tears streaming from them. Da in front of me, holding the pawcuffs out.
"Grace Victoria Stagg, I have a warrant for your arrest."
I only did-
"The charge is murder. I caution you that anything you say..."
Faces swam before me. Mama. Helen. Peggy. The Red fist asshats on the stand. Rahksov.
Mama. Helen. Peggy. Faces bulging. Tongues lolling. Eyes glazed-
I whirled. Rahksov! Rakhsov, his bloated nude corpse shambling through the glass doors of my verandah. Slimy kelp plastered his chest, and his dead eyes green glowed did they-
click click click click click click click click click click click click
Les later told me that he found me in the middle of the room, my hair askew, my eyes wild and staring, mechanically pulling the trigger of my empty pistol, a neat hole blown in the wood and glass doors and the empty cases lying around my bare feet. Eight in the clip, one up the spout, all through the doors.
I don't remember anything except some halfheard whisperings.
(et the docto)
(er into bed. It's gonna be all)
(re'd she get the gu)
(rry it for self defense. These islan)
(ergency numbers. Me, Reggie, Ros)
(eggie? Les. Get over he)
(ouble Lotus, pleas)
(osie? It's Les. It's Wil)
(oney? It's Rosie. Can you hear)
(ctor Meffit's here)
(oors off. Close the screens and open the windows, get the fumes ou)
('s goin' on here?)
('d say, Sergeant, that the lady had a nightm)
(mned good shootin'. One tight group 'ere.)
(ood thing there's just ocean out the)
(hemicals will, naturally, be paying for all the dam)
(ppreciate it, Sergeant, if we kept the facts regarding the gun quie)
(eah, okeh, sure. Just lock up th' artillery, hanh? Don't want no
(here's Willow? What's wrong? What's happened? Willo)
(alm down, Reggie. What happened to yo)
(loody closet disguised itself as the front doo)
(t's okay, Reggie, she'll be fine, right, Doc)
(ing to administer a sedative.)
(tay by her side, is that all righ)
(bsolutely. Okay (okayokayokay), just a little pinprick, there'll be no mor)
Blackness. Blessed blackness.
Took me three days to come out of it. I woke up with Reggie holding my hand and Rosie curled up on the bed napping at my feet.
Doc Meffit called it "overwork", and recommended peace and quiet.
I gave him a weak grin. "How about a tropical vacation, Doc?"
The skunk chuckled. "Probably just the thing for you."
So it's been a few days.
Outwardly, I've been trying to look like I'm snapping out of it.
This is probably one of the finest bits of acting I've done.
Still need Doc Meffit's help to sleep without nightmares. Good mephit, Meffit.
Arm's getting sore with all the knockout shots, though.
Rosie and Reggie and Les and everyone have been marvelous.
I am blessed to have such good friends.
November 12, 1936
"Damned shame you're still not in shape to travel," Les frowned. "I feel bad about leaving you here alone."
I grinned, a trifle wanly but firmly. "I'm not alone. There's Reggie and Rosie and Doc Meffit..."
"Quite so," Reggie said. "We'll take care of Willow while you're in...where did you say you were going?"
"Istanbull," Les said.
Reggie looked adorably confused. "I thought Istanbull was Constantilople."
Les shook his head. "Now it's Istanbull, not Constantilople."
"Been a long time gone, Constantilople," Doctor Meffit offered.
"Now it's Turkish delight on a moonlit night," Lady Pamela chimed in.
Les nodded agreement. "Every gal in Constantilople..."
"Lives in Istanbull, not Constantilople," Rosie said.
Reggie nodded and seemed to understand. "So if you've a date in Constantilople..."
"She'll be waiting in Istanbull," I confirmed.
Rosie snickered. "Even old Gnu York was once New Hamsterdam."
Doc Meffit nodded thoughtfully. "Why they changed it, I can't say."
Rosie shrugged. "People just liked it better that way."
Les assumed a dramatic pose. "So take me back to Constantilople!"
A Turkish Air stewardess stuck her head out of the cabin door of the DC-2. "No, you can't go back to Constantilople."
From the cockpit window, the pilot chimed in. "Been a long time gone, Constantilople."
Reggie looked confused. "Why did Constantilople get the works?"
I shrugged. "That's nobody's business but the Turks."
"Relax, Les, you'll love it in Istanbull," Lady Pamela said. "We'll be staying with the Creighton-Wards. She's an old school chum of mine..."
As they chattered, I wandered over as the concerned secretary to have a word with Lady P's chauffeur and maid. Of course Angus MacPherson and Fifi DeDion are about as much a chauffeur and maid as I am a secretary; they're actually a couple of the Continental Detective Agency (London)'s better operatives. I've worked with them in the past on a prior assignment, and I knew they were good.
The big Scots bulldog looked down at me. "Hae ye feelin', lass?"
"Pretty good," I lied.
Fifi gave me a look. "Bool. You look lak crep. You sleepeeng at all?"
"Some," I said.
"Withoot a Mickey Finn?" Angus asked, eyebrow askance.
"I hear Lady Patricia has a pink Rolls Royce," I said briskly, nodding at the British racing green Paragon Panther (odd licence plate, GEN 11) parked nearby. "Hope it doesn't give Lady Pamela ideas."
"Ugh," Angus groaned. "Doon't even jook about tha'." He looked at me. "An' doon't change the soobject, lass. We'll be after takin' care of the principals. Yer joob right nae ista get better, ya hear?"
Why were my eyes misting up? "(snif) 'Kay, I will..." Impulsively, I gave the big bulldog a hug. (Uncle Whitney, that one's for you.) A big paw gently patted my back. "Ye'll be fine, lass. Ye'll be jist fine."
Fifi stood, paws on hips. "No hahg for me, cherie?" I grinned and hugged her. Yikes! She hugged me back and planted a smooch-my God! I thought 'French kiss' was-Good heavens! The pretty poodle pulled back and grinned mischievously. "Sorree, cherie. Rosie, she put me up to eet..." I glared over at Rosie, who tried to look innocent and failed utterly.
Angus just shook his head, trying (and mostly succeeding) not to laugh.
Back at the boarding step, Les pulled out his pocket watch. "Now boarding," he intoned nasally, "for Anaheim, Azusa, and Cuc-" a ten second pause-"amon-ga!"
Eventually, everyone who was going got boarded and the hatches closed. The silver bird started its engines and smoothly took off, headed west for the Mysterious East.
Reggie pleaded personal business and took off with Doc, leaving Rosie and me to head back to the hotel on our own. It was a fairly nice day, and we opted to walk. Frankly, I needed to stretch my legs.
Rosie seemed a tad subdued and kept shooting glances at me. Worried about me, i suppose. But I felt all right...at least until I saw...them...
See, back at the hotel, I ventured out on the balcony and enjoyed the sun and the breeze.
I smelled...deer? Reggie? No, strangers. Moving my lounge over to the rail, I sat up and leaned over to look.
A young married couple. The buck was in a three-piece suit, the doe in a cocktail dress, gloves and a hat. Kinda like Mama and Da when they were courting. The doe looked around and called out. In
response, a little fawn in a frilly white dress came scampering across the lawn and, taking a paw on each side, walked off between her parents, chattering excitedly about ice cream and flagging wildly.
Rosie found me slumped over the rail, the deer couple and fawn long gone, weeping bitterly over, apparently, nothing at all.
Sometimes, the true test of a friend is to know when not to say anything. Rosie passed with flying colors as she sat down beside me and, saying nothing, simply rubbed my shoulders until the weeping stopped.
That night, we slept together again.
Just sleep. By unspoken mutual agreement, we were in full pajamas and Rosie simply held me as I wept.
November 13th, 1936
"Rise and shine, dearie."
"I can make you."
Modesty forbids me from describing just what Rosie did to get me out of bed. Suffice to say that it probably would be illegal in some jurisdictions and highly enjoyable in others. Rosie grinned. "Told you."
I sighed and started searching for my robe. Rosie held it for me. "Grab a shower and get dressed. The watertaxi will be waiting in half an hour."
I looked dubious. "You sure about this?"
Rosie nodded firmly. "The bartender and friend have done as much as they can. It's time to try the priest." I still looked dubious. "Look," Rosie said reasonably, "you've talked to Father Merino before. I know a little bit about him, and he's a straight shooter." She grimaced. "The other choices are a psychiatrist or a witch doctor. Of the two, I'd take the witch doctor."
"Okay, okay," I sighed, heading for the shower. I looked over my shoulder hopefully. "Scrub my back?"
Rosie looked mock-incredulous. "Before going to Confession?"
I essayed a sad smile. "Hey, can't blame a girl for trying."
Thirty minutes later, I leaned back in the seat of the watertaxi.
Rosie was right.
I gotta talk to someone.
The business on the balcony was a warning.
Rosie's back at the Double Lotus by now, waiting to hear from me.
Let Father Merino help me.