This week's mini words are all associated with Dr john, a gifted regular wordzzler who died recently and who is very much missed.
The mini (remembrance, Dr. John, Agent 012, dragons, Fortress)
A blind seer has a vision about a young man coming to harm from an old man living in a tower. To try to avert this fate, she anonymously pays for him to take a holiday somewhere far away. The young man arrives at the holiday town and sees an interesting tower, which he plans to investigate. The seer has a nightmare which she believes is connected to the young man's fate and resolves to go after him. She gets to the holiday town and realises this is the very place the tower is located. She gets lost trying to locate it and bumps into the young man on his way there. The seer soon discovers that this is the very man from her vision, and asks him to accompany her to where they can have a quiet talk. His phone rings, interrupting the conversation. As he completes his call, a car comes around the corner too fast and he pushes the seer out of its path, only to be struck himself.
The young man dreams...
I’m standing in the bar of the Three Dragons pub on Remembrance Street, except I can’t be: it was knocked down two years ago. It’s just as I recall it, though, a real old spit-and-sawdust pub, no frills, no food franchises, no noisy video games and dark inside. It was always dark in that pub, no matter what the time of year; I think it was as much the spirit of the place as the lack of light coming in through the grimy windows. Gordon the landlord - as miserable a soul as you’ll ever come across - is presiding over his dingy kindom from behind his fortress of beer taps, ashtrays and shining optics. Behind the bar, a tinny radio is playing some old Dr John blues number, but the station is not quite tuned in, so it’s impossible to work out which one it is. Suddenly, an insistent beeping noise cuts through the dead air of the bar, getting louder and louder. No-one else seems to notice: Gordon carries on calmly polishing glasses while Ken and Alf, two of the regulars who’ll probably still be sat at the bar when the place gets demolshed, carry on arguing about some old spy film they saw years ago – The Adventures of Agent 012 or something. I’m looking right at them, but they’re becoming oddly transparent and I can see beyond them or though them. ….Blinking lights are fading in... …a babble of anxious voices… …I see two people, an old man with a salt-and-pepper beard and a young woman wearing sunglasses… …sunglasses indoors? How odd… ...someone in white reaches over me and now the lights and the noises are fading again and I’m back in the Three Dragons. Gordon looks up, “The usual?” he asks.
The 10-worder (smoothness, crafty, purchase, brief, chirping, forever, shift, moonrise, lampshade, stereotype)
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“The crafty old beggar,” breathed Teatime in admiration, “Now all we need to do is work out what the numbers actually mean. May I see them for a moment?”
Othello held up the paper.
162.500 – 22.98976 – 95.96
“Three numbers.” Teatime mused, “ Could it be something like a map reference, I wonder?”
“I would expect that to be just two numbers,” replied Othello. “Anyway, before we get too deeply into that, we should look around and see if there’s anything else he might have left for us. Look around people, but don’t disturb anything”
The agents busied themselves around the deceased agent’s apartment, looking inside every lampshade and underneath every stick of furniture, searching for clues. Harold and Teatime were left at a bit of a loose end in the living room. Harold wandered around, taking care not to arouse agent India’s wrath by touching Emerald’s personal things. His feet soon brought him to the corner where Othello was working on Emerald’s computer, operating it with a smothness that Harold found quite fascinating.
“You’re pretty slick with this technology, aren’t you?” Harold said, “And it looks so complicated. It must take forever to learn.”
Othello spared him a brief glance and carried on working. Slightly disoppointed, Harold thought the agent was going to ignore him completely, and was about to move away, but Othello began to speak quietly.
“I went with him when he went to buy this machine. He wanted my supposedly expert opinion on it as it was a big purchase for him. I said it was good enough for anything he was likely to want to do with it and he laughed and said I might be surprised at what he wanted to do with it. So I asked him what his plans were and he just laughed some more and said he was thinking of trying his hand at computer art. He fancied having a go at drawing a web comic or something. I hadn’t really had a lot to do with him before that, I just assumed he fitted the usual stereotype of the dedicated bachelor agent with no time for anything but the job. Just goes to show how easily we make assumptions about people when we don’t know them.”
“But you became friends after that?” Harold was keen to keep the man talking, the story was interesting in its own right and it felt good to just be having a simple conversation with someone.
“Yeah,” continued Othello, “We’d go for the odd beer at the end of a shift or go see a play or sometimes just sit around and talk for hours. The guy could talk for his country - and he could draw too.” Othello turned the computer’s screen so Harold could see it. “Look at this.”
Emerald’s desktop background was a stunningly rendered moonrise over a fabulously turreted fantasy castle, all perfectly reflected in the gleaming ebony waters of a lake.
“It’s beautiful,” said Harold, wonderingly. “You humans are amazingly creative at times.”
As if Harold’s words had suddenly reminded Othello that he was chatting casually with a demon, the agent was suddenly all business again.
“I’m going to take this back with us.” He said, quickly starting the shutdown sequence. “I’m going to need more time to look through what’s on here.”
“Othello,” called Mercury from the bedroom where he had been looking around, “I found something.”
Othello made his way to the other room and Harold trailed after.
Mercury held up a paper wallet with a colourful airline logo on it. “Looks like he never went to Hawaii,” he said, “His ticket’s here.”
“Well that answers that question, anyway.” Othello looked round the small room. Everything was so neat and precise, not a thing out of place. He was about to go back out of the room when he stopped, frowning.
He knelt down beside the wooden bookcase where Emerald had housed his small collection of books. He had not been a particularly voracious reader and these were mostly reference titles, plus a few biographies.
Othello ran his eyes along the neat rows.
“Ah ha!” he said after a few moments.
“What is it,” cried Mercury, leaning over to see better.
“Another clue, I think,” Othello reached out and indicated a book – Basic Inorganic Chemistry by Prof. S J Chirping & Dr O N Kendrick.
“OK, I see the book, but so what?” said Mercury.
“It’s been put in the shelf in the wrong place.” Said Othello, “Everything is in alphabetical order except this one.”
“Are you sure?” asked Mercury, “That’s an awfully subtle clue if you ask me. Might it not just be a bit of carelessness?”
“Not likely,” said Othello. withdrawing the book from the shelf. “He did this on purpose.” He held the book by the spine and shook it gently to see if anything would fall out, and when nothing did, he turned it over and opened it.
“Bingo!” he breathed.
“What? “ demanded Mercury, “What?”
Othello held up the book so the flyleaf could be clearly seen. It bore an inscription “Happy 30th birthday, Emerald. Enjoy. Othello.”
“I never bought him that book – and that’s his handwriting, not mine.” Othello stood up still holding the book. “What on earth is he trying to to tell me?”