by Dawn Knox
tea made with real tea leaves
Brian was heartily fed up with Christmas. Ma Bear had seen to it that he’d had everything he could possibly wish for before she and her family left to visit her sister over the festive season - but Brian had been lonely and homesick, wondering what Eddie, Gideon and Colin were doing. And now that Christmas was over, he was faced with the prospect of having to leave the Bear family’s house. He knew the chances of being discovered in the spare room by Pa Bear, would increase when the family returned. Joey had been rather subdued for a few days after her fur had been shaved and she’d kept to her bedroom, so she’d not been a threat. Pa bear had done his best to cut off the minimum amount of fur needed to free her from the floor but she’d looked so moth-eaten, Ma Bear had taken the clippers to her and shorn her all over. However, Joey had shown signs of boredom during the few days before the family left and, on several occasions, Ma Bear had stopped her from entering the spare room.
“It’s not that I don’t like having you here,” she’d told Brian, “you’re the perfect house guest but I’ve told Pa that I sent you back to Honkin & Sniffet because you were broken. If he finds out you’ve been here all the time…”
Feeling guilty at leaving him alone, she’d ensured Brian had an enormous pile of magazines to browse and plenty of food throughout the holiday. It had been an education reading about all the problems females faced and how to deal with them, and he now knew so much about weight-loss diets, he considered himself an expert. Lucky really, because with all the chocolate he’d eaten, he was going to need to lose a few pounds in the New Year. But exactly what the New Year would bring, was another matter.
He’d thought about the journey home to Hummus-on-Sea and his reunion with Eddie. His hands bunched into fists as he tried to imagine Eddie’s expression and his first words. Would he apologise or would he bluster? But the thought had occurred to Brian that rather than going home, it might be a good time to travel. He’d always wanted to make a trip round the coastline of the Isle of Macaroon and now might be a good time to go. Ma Bear had found him some suitable clothes, so he was no longer wearing the tutu and ballet shoes. He could simply pack his things and leave.
Yes, tomorrow, he’d decide on a destination. The Bear family would be home in three days’ time, so he’d make up his mind where he was going, then tidy the house and go.
At the same time as Brian was packing his things up ready to leave, miles away on the other side of the island, Colin was holding his empty teacup out to Cook.
“Hmm,” she said, peering into it and winking, “it looks like you’re going on a long journey… tomorrow, I’d say.” She was about to put the cup down when she faltered, as if something had caught her eye. She frowned and re-examined the cup, turning it slowly. Silently, she placed it back on the saucer, her face an impassive mask.
“What?” asked Colin in alarm.
Cook looked in the cup again, “Well, if you insist…” She sighed deeply, “Hmmm, I see anger and conflict.” She rotated the cup and screwing her eyes up, she examined its depths.
“What? What?” asked Colin gripping the edge of the table.
“And there’ll be children, lots of children ̶ “
“Children! I’m not ready for children! I don’t like the thought of anger and conflict but I especially don’t want children!”
“The tea leaves aren’t giving you a wish list, they’re telling you your future.”
“Please can I have another cup of tea and try again?”
“It won’t do any good, Aleema,” said Cook, “the tea leaves have spoken.”
The following day, Colin lay on the back seat of the car next to Lady Lovelace.
“ALEEMA! ARE… YOU… STILL… BROKEN…?” Lady Lovelace shouted, “ONLY… IF… YOU’RE… NOT… I… SHALL… GIVE… YOU… ANOTHER… CHANCE…”
“I have malfunctioned,” said Colin in a robotic voice, “and I am beyond repair. It is terminal. I need to be returned to the manufacturer,” he added in case she changed her mind about taking him back to the shop and instead, gave him to Newton to fix. The butler had a large set of screwdrivers and the previous day, it had taken some fast talking from Colin, to persuade him not to use it.
“You have been such a disappointment,” said Lady Lovelace with a sniff.
Seeing Colin close his eyes and turn his head away, she tutted and added “And I won’t miss having to use your wake word every time I speak to you either. I said, ALEEMA…YOU… HAVE… BEEN… SUCH… A ̶ “
“I heard!” snapped Colin.
It was quite likely Lady Lovelace would take him directly to Sir Hugh Honkin, who was an old friend, and undoubtedly, she’d complain about shoddy goods being sold in his store. And he would investigate… Colin spent the rest of the journey planning his escape. As soon as Darwin helped Lady Lovelace out of the car, Colin intended to open the other door and run. There’d be lots of people shopping in the sales in Hummus-on-Sea and it would be easy to hide until he decided what he was going to do. The obvious choice was to return to the Soup John Bee and… well, he wasn’t sure what might happen then. It probably depended on how contrite Eddie was, as to whether he forgave him or not. But Cook’s reading of the tea leaves had shaken him. He didn’t want anger and conflict in his life, and he particularly didn’t want children – well, not yet anyway. Cook, however, had been unable to tell him whether the future she’d seen was inevitable or whether it could be changed, although it seemed to Colin that if he didn’t go back to the boat, he wouldn’t get angry because he wouldn’t see Eddie. And if he went off on his own, backpacking, then there couldn’t possibly be any children. The more he thought about it, the more certain he became that he should take control of his destiny and go off on a trip.
“So what next?” asked Sat Nav, “No one’s responded to the posters we put up and we’ve driven down every street in Hummus-on-Sea. We’ve got to face facts; Colin and Brian may have been taken out of town. They could be anywhere on the island or even have been taken off the island…” her voice began to rise in panic.
“Calm down,” said Eddie.
“Calm down! Calm down! I wouldn’t need to calm down if it wasn’t for you and your greed!”
“I say,” said Gideon, “that sort of talk isn’t helping us find them. But you’re right, old girl, we need a plan. And I think I have one. Being involved in the world of espionage, I got to know a few private investigators. They can usually find anyone.”
“But we won’t be able to pay much,” said Eddie. “We’ve only got enough to keep us until our first charter in February.”
“Don’t you worry about that, old chap” said Gideon, tapping the side of his snout with his trotter, “I have favours to call in and I intend to do just that.”
An hour later, Gideon admitted defeat. Of all the private investigators that he knew, some had retired, some immediately hung up, some denied they’d ever met him and the rest had died.
“Well, they’re not the only private eyes on the Isle of Macaroon,” said Eddie, “I’ll find someone.”
“But I thought you said we didn’t have any money,” said Sat Nav.
“We do now,” said Eddie, “I’ve sold the van. I wish I’d done it before. It would have saved all this trouble.”
“You’ve done what?” said Sat Nav, “Well don’t for one minute think you’ve sold me too! A Sat Nav isn’t just for Christmas, you know!”
“Hello,” said Eddie into his phone, “I wonder if you can help me, please. I’m looking for a private investigator.”
“Then you’ve come to the right place. This is BDI - Beady Investigations. We keep our BDI’s on your business. How can we be of assistance?”
“BDI’s?” asked Eddie.
“BDI’s – Beady Eyes – We keep our beady eyes on your business… I said it was a bit subtle for most people but my partner insisted. Well, how can I help?”
“I’ve lost two friends and I need to find them.”
“Yes, and if you’re about to tell me losing two friends is very careless. Please don’t. I’ve heard it all before.”
“No, of course not. Well, if you’ll give me some details, I’ll brief my partner and we’ll get to work.”
The money tucked inside the bodice of Colin’s tutu was irritating him but he dared not move and attract Lady Lovelace’s attention. The five Ducat note that Cook had given him might be aggravating him now, but when he reached Hummus-on-Sea, he would need it to buy some new clothes before he resumed his old life or indeed, started a new one. He wanted something simple – a onesy perhaps? In a neutral colour – beige? Or grey? Grey, he decided.
At ten past eleven in the morning, Darwin eased Lady Lovelace’s car into Sir Hugh Honkin’s parking space in the Honkin & Sniffet car park. He held her door open and while she climbed out, Colin leapt out of his door and sprinted through the car park, accompanied by Lady Lovelace’s enraged shrieks. Running as fast as it was possible in ballet shoes, Colin hurtled into the packed High Street where he lost himself amongst the crowds. He dodged between the legs of shoppers who were strolling unhurriedly, inspecting the sales items in the shop windows. No one was in a hurry except Colin and in order to make some progress, he stepped into the road to get past a particularly slow group of chattering squirrels who’d obviously spent their Christmas money in Honkin & Sniffet, judging by the number of carrier bags they were clutching. As he stepped off the kerb, the bus from Eggsenham which was just approaching the Market Square bus stop, swerved and narrowly avoided him.
Had Brian been looking out of the window of the Eggsenham bus which was about to arrive at the Market Square bus stop, he’d have seen a lemur in a ballet tutu leap back out of the gutter into the throng of squirrels and he might have even have seen two young rabbits stopping passers-by in the market, handing out leaflets. But he’d been too preoccupied with his thoughts and hadn’t noticed anything. In fact, he’d been so distracted, he only realised he’d arrived at his stop as the conductor was about to ring the bell. Brian had leaped out of his seat and jumped from the platform onto the road just as the bus pulled away, earning him some choice words and a rude gesture from the conductor.
Shoppers clutching carrier bags and children’s paws, eddied and flowed around the two rabbits who were handing out leaflets. Many passers-by peered at the photos of the lemur and the monkey on the flyers and then shook their heads before losing themselves once again in the crowd. Others took a leaflet, promising to look at it later, then stuffing it in a carrier bag and forgetting it was there.
“My feet are killing me. Fancy a cup of coffee?” asked one of the rabbits. The other nodded, “Cake would be good too. I’m starving.”
They sat down inside Le Bunnoir coffee shop, not far from the table where Colin was sitting with his back to them, thoughtfully sipping a hot chocolate. A few yards away, in the opposite corner sat Brian, who with an air of martyrdom and a glance at his bulging waistline, had resisted calorie-laden hot chocolate and had ordered chamomile tea.
“We’re getting nowhere, Babs,” Deirdre said, putting her bag of leaflets down on the table, “No one’s seen Colin or Brian.”
“We’ve just got to keep trying. Good Private Eyes keep their ears and beady eyes open.”
Police Sergeant McNabb entered Le Bunnoir and pushed his way to the front of the queue at the counter. He cleared his throat loudly.
“It has come to our attention that a crime has been committed. An item has been stolen or has escaped from Honkin & Sniffet—”
“Wot you tellin’ me for?” Ronnie, the owner of Le Bunnoir asked.
“Because your establishment is a very popular place and I want you to keep an eye out for the aforesaid item—”
“What sort of item?”
The sergeant cleared his throat again and flipped through pages in his notebook.
“It is a Voice Recognition Speaker,” he read loudly.
“Wossat then?” Ronnie asked.
“I do not currently have that information—"
“Well what you tellin’ us for then? You don’t know if it’s escaped or been stolen and you don’t know what it looks like. What d’you expect us to do about it?”
Sergeant McNabb scowled at Ronnie, “We know the item looks something like a fairy and it answers to the name Aleema.”
“Now, it’s funny you should say that because there was a lemur in here a short while ago. Bought a hot chocolate, if I remember rightly. But ‘e didn’t look like a fairy. Not unless it was an off-duty fairy dressed in a onesy. Dunno what ‘is name was though.”
“I do,” said Ronnie’s wife, “I wrote it on his cup. It was Colin.”
Deirdre and Babs’ ears pricked up.
“Colin?” said the sergeant, “Obviously not the item I want then, is it, madam?”
“Well, we ‘ad a monkey in ‘ere earlier too. Bought some o’ that disgustin’ ‘erb tea. They look a bit like lemurs, don’t they?” Ronnie said.
“His name was Brian,” said Ronnie’s wife, “I wrote it on his cup and he didn’t look like a fairy.”
Deirdre and Babs looked at each other, their eyes wide open in surprise.
The sergeant sighed, “Well, just keep your eyes peeled… A large flat, white with extra cream an’ toffee syrup an’ a sprinkling of chili pepper, please.”
“How d’you spell sergeant?” asked Ronnie’s wife who was poised with cup and pen.
While Sergeant McNabb was spelling out his name, a small figure dressed in an inconspicuous, grey onesy glanced warily at the policemen and quietly slipped out of Le Bunnoir into the street. He was followed seconds later by a figure in black, with his hood pulled over his face.
“Did you see those two leave, Babs?” Deirdre asked, “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?”
The two rabbits rushed to the door and looked up and down the busy High Street.
Brian, dressed in black, arrived at the harbour seconds after Colin in a grey onesy.
“Brian! Am I pleased to see you!”
They hugged and quickly exchanged stories.
“So, Eddie sold you as well!” Brian said.
Colin nodded, “There was a stampede for monkey fairy dolls after you left and I got snapped up too.”
“And, you haven’t seen Eddie since you left Santa’s Grotto?” asked Brian.
“No, I wasn’t sure I wanted to come back but I thought I’d have one last look at the Soup John Bee and then decide.”
“So, have you made up your mind?”
“Perhaps we ought to go aboard and let Eddie explain – and apologise.”
“Yeah, I think we should.”
Deirdre and Babs arrived at the harbour five minutes later.
“Honestly, what’s happened to you? If you lost a bit of weight, you wouldn’t keep tripping over your own feet!” said Babs.
“Don’t get cross with me just because we lost them. It wasn’t my fault. And don’t forget it was me who spotted them in the coffee shop.”
“All right, all right! It doesn’t matter whose fault it was. They’re gone. We need to face it; we’re just not cut out to be private investigators. There’s only one thing for it. We’ll hand the money back and go home.”
“Yeah, I s’pose.
They walked up the gangplank.
“Excuse me, ladies,” said Gideon who was mopping the deck, “may I be of assistance?”
“We’re looking for Eddie.”
“And you are?”
“Babs and Deirdre from BD Investigations ̶ “
“Come aboard, ladies! Such a pleasure to meet you! And very well done for finding Colin and Brian, by the way.”
Babs looked at Deirdre.
Deirdre looked at Babs.
“#Confused,” said Babs.
“#Relieved!” said Deirdre, as they followed Gideon on to the Soup John Bee.
Links to previous stories in The Macaroon Chronicles series
1) The Macaroon Chronicles Prologue and the Three Wise Monkeys - http://cafelitcreativecafe.blogspot.com/2020/01/the-macaroon-chronicles-prologue-and.html?m=0
2) #ChickenInCustard - https://cafelitcreativecafe.blogspot.com/2020/02/chickenincustard.html
3) The Fine Print - https://cafelitcreativecafe.blogspot.com/2020/02/the-fine-print.html
4) French for Cheese - https://cafelitcreativecafe.blogspot.com/2020/02/french-for-cheese.html
5) Porkies and Espiggy-onage (Lies and Spies) – https://cafelitcreativecafe.blogspot.com/2020/03/porkies-and-espiggy-onage-lies-and-spies.html
Nearly Death by Chocolate - https://cafelitcreativecafe.blogspot.com/2020/03/nearly-death-by-chocolate.html
7) Waxing Lyrical - https://cafelitcreativecafe.blogspot.com/2020/03/waxing-lyrical.html
8) Seduced by Zeros - https://cafelitcreativecafe.blogspot.com/2020/04/seduced-by-zeros.html
10) The Year’s Most Popular Christmas Toy - https://cafelitcreativecafe.blogspot.com/2020/04/the-years-most-popular-christmas-toy.html
11) Holey Night - https://cafelitcreativecafe.blogspot.com/2020/05/holey-night.html
About the author
Dawn’s latest book is ’The Basilwade Chronicles’ published by Chapeltown Books. She enjoys writing in different genres and has had romances, speculative fiction, sci-fi, humorous and women’s fiction published in magazines, anthologies and books. Dawn has also had two plays about World War One performed internationally. You can follow her here on https://dawnknox.com, Facebook here DawnKnoxWriter or on Twitter here https://twitter.com/SunriseCalls