Today’s writing prompt and my response.
A picture prompt today – it’s there in the story
‘This is who we need to call.’ Mrs Wilson waved the business card for PE Snoop, Private Investigator, under Suzie’s mum’s nose. She realised she didn’t know the woman’s name, only ‘Suzie’s mum.’ What a bad neighbour she’d been all these years.
But Suzie’s mum wasn’t interested in the card. She grabbed Mrs Wilson’s arm as they stood in the hall, the contents of the handbag spilled about their feet. ‘Fairy Queens, Suzie talked about Fairy Queens when she came home the other night, that the Fairy Queen liked Jamie best, but would take her away too, soon.’ She pulled a part shredded tissue from her dressing gown pocket and wiped her nose. ‘I thought it was a game … but perhaps …?’ Her red-rimmed eyes blinked at Mrs Wilson.
Mrs Wilson hadn’t much time for Fairy Queens, although it seemed an odd game for her 10-year-old son to be playing, unless he was humouring the little girl. The thought made her squirm. Perhaps he wasn’t as bad as she thought he was.
She tapped the business card. ‘I’m going to call this guy. I think he can help.’ An irrational thought but a determined one lodged in her head. She strode into the kitchen, Suzie’s mum trailing behind, and swiped up her phone from the bench.
‘Make us tea while I do this.’ Mrs Wilson nodded at the electric jug stood by a jar of teabags. ‘Mugs up there.’ She tilted her head at a cupboard, punching in numbers at the same time.
The phone at the other end rang. And rang. And rang. Mrs Wilson tapped her foot, waiting for the message service to break in. The phone rang.
‘Yes, what in the hell do you want?’ a gruff voice grumbled. ‘Can’t a man have a holiday in peace?’
Mrs Wilson cut to the chase. ‘You gave me your card once, in a shopping mall. You looked at my son, said I’d need you one day, and gave me your card.’
‘Yes, and now I need you.’
‘You do?’ The gruffness remained, coloured with a touch of wary interest.
‘He’s disappeared, and so has the little girl next door.’
‘Tell him about the Fairy Queen,’ Suzie’s mum whispered, loudly enough for PE Snoop to hear.
‘Fairy Queen? Ah.’ As if that meant something to him.
‘Can you come, can you help?’ Mrs Wilson pleaded. She didn’t like this talk of Fairy Queens.
‘And leave my holiday? Do you know what it’s like here? Warm, and beautiful, with the sun coming up over the lake. I was about to take my fishing line, a thermos and a good book to the end of the long pier and doze the morning away.’
‘My son is missing.’
‘My Suzie is missing,’ Suzie’s mum added in an anguished cry.
‘Be right there.’
The old woman made porridge for herself and Jamie, who had found enough dryish kindling and wood among the trees to keep the fire going with no further sacrifice of the scant furniture. While they ate, Jamie told the old woman about the so-called Fairy Queen and how he had escaped from the doorless garden by finding a tree in a far, overgrown corner, climbing it and jumping from a branch to the world outside. He’d meant to find his way home, but he had landed in a forest, and when he tried to follow the wall around to where the road must be, he had gone full circle without finding it.
‘Ah,’ the old woman said, and looked pensive.
Before Jamie could ask what she might know about this Fairy Queen and her strange garden, there was a loud rap at the door.
The old woman straightened in her chair and nodded at Jamie. ‘See who it is,’ she said. A faint smile played about her wrinkled lips.
A man stood outside, wearing a deer stalker hat just like the pictures Jamie had seen of Sherlock Holmes, which was why he knew what the hat was called.
The man’s eyes widened. ‘Are you Jamie?’
‘Well, at least that’s one found.’ The man stepped inside, stamping off the snow from his boots. ‘Hello, Mother,’ he greeted the old woman. He looked about the cabin, frowned. ‘What happened? Where’s your bed? Why is the fire so low?’
‘Another story,’ the old woman said. ‘But you’re here now, and things can be put right.’
‘What do you mean, at least that’s one found?’ Jamie stepped from foot to foot, trying to calm a nervous fluttering in his stomach.
‘Suzie, your next door neighbour. She’s missing too.’
‘The old house, she’ll be in the old house!’ Jamie was nauseous. What had the Fairy Queen meant to do with him, that she would now do to Suzie? ‘We have to get her out!’
The man peered down at Jamie. ‘Is this old house tall, with a high steep roof, a porch, in a huge garden with a wall with no doors or gates?’
‘Yes, yes, let’s go!’
‘Yes.’ The man turned to the old woman, who had stood from her stool, her fingers to her mouth, eyes fearful. ‘Yes, Mother,’ the man said. ‘Seems my dear sister is up to her old tricks again. Time to go home and sort her out, once again.’
To start the story from the beginning, go here. Last episode tomorrow.
Find Cheryl’s flash fiction and short stories here!