Chapter 7: Ambushed
Long before Pumpkin had arrived in front of AV’s hauntingly tenebrific house, Sam and Rosy had made their successful exit out of the crowd, and entered a nearby Si Galala where Sam decided they would wait for Johnnie to show up so they could talk over a plan of action.
Johnnie normally did show up, no matter where they were, at some time or other, so they hoped she would show up there, before much time had passed. (It was not a reasonable assumption, but they held to it without a second thought).
Their expectation was shortly exculpated by the sudden appearance of Johnnie herself looking in at them through the high-tech motion window, through which they saw her cross her arms after beckoning them outside.
Sam and Rosy jumped through the trapezoid in the center of the window, and landed under the fountain in front of Si Galala with dynamism.
“At your service,” said Sam, bowing as much like other people as he could.
“You shouldn’t risk getting caught for something so silly as not walking out the front door,” remarked Johnnie in a rebuking tone, as she looked at them admiringly.
Sam smiled. “No one was looking.”
Rosy raised her eyebrows, as much as to say “that’s not true” and Sam looked uncomfortable and muttered beneath his breath, “Except you.” “We’ll let it pass, but you’d better be more careful Sam, you never know who could be on your track. Why, Sam old fellow, you’ll never believe what happened-”
“I will, I promise to,” interrupted Sam, quite eager to finally have a good excuse to believe something totally unbelievable.
“Of course you will!” remarked Johnnie, crossing her arms again and suddenly looking thoughtful (or offended, Sam wasn’t quite sure which)… continued on page 4
“I should certainly take it very ill if you didn’t,” she was continuing, in a bemused tone. “Here goes anyhow – Pumpkin and I found Semmes and he’s in the Yellow House I told you about the other day but we can’t go see him until tomorrow morning and you were right about the WAS being a totally fraudulent organization and – and I don’t know where Pumpkin is. There, do you believe it?” finished Johnnie, triumphant and out of breath.
“Oh,” exclaimed Rosy. “That’s pleasant.” She paused, as if calculating the precise hour when they could reasonably expect to close the case.
“Oh come now, Rosy, don’t tell me you got any of that,” began Sam, argumentatively.
”I did,” replied Rosy, evidently choosing to consider herself insulted. “All of it! Well… a little of it. Anyway I know more than you do! They found Mister Whatshisface, they really found him! Where is he, Johnny?”
“I told you,” said Johnny. “He’s in the Yellow House. I know just where it is. Pumpkin and I found it. Aha! Here cometh Pumpkin to prove it himself.”
“Pumpkin looks terribly cold,” said Sam.
“Let’s stay out here then,” said Johnnie, who always relished punishing Pumpkin a little. “It suits him.”
“You mean a blue nose and an arctic, huddling aspect suits him?” asked Rosy, in a I-could-disagree-with-that tone of voice, together with a degree of generous candor at which Johnnie couldn’t bite back a grin.
“Well, what do we find in the air to be so jolly about?” queried Pumpkin, as he mounted up the steps and approached them. “It isn’t the weather I hope,” he added presently, glancing gloomily up at the sky, and afterwards looking at them with a well-known venerable air of knowing something that made them all ignore what he had said and pin their hopes on what he hadn’t said.
Johnnie grabbed his shoulder with a sudden burst of feeling. “Why, what do you know, and what have you found out, Pumpkin? I’ll give you a pound if you tell me we can go see Mr. Semmes right now.”
“Oh, don’t get excited, Johnnie,” began Pumpkin hastily, “And do give me the pound. It’s nothing much and not half so exciting as that.”
“You’re not engaged?” guessed Rosy, in a flat voice.
“I am not,” conceded Pumpkin. “Have no fear. I have merely to say that I have found General AV’s house.”
Rosy, Sam and Johnnie all looked somewhat disappointed, each a little more than the last, and at length Rosy said hopefully, “He’s a General now?”
“You would think so if you saw his house,” replied Pumpkin mysteriously, making at the same time a vigorous effort to push everyone towards the entrance of Si Galala.
But Johnnie resisted. “You had no right to get our hopes up and then dash them to pieces like that,” she remarked, favoring Pumpkin with an intense frown and a heavy sigh.
“Don’t do that again or you’ll blow me away,” said Pumpkin with a shiver. “And anyway, I didn’t get your hopes up on purpose – in fact I didn’t say anything at all, on purpose not to.”
Johnnie said “she believed him,” and Sam was beginning to think up a lecture in his head, when Rosy, who had been trying to warm her hands in Pumpkin’s pockets for some minutes past, said suddenly, “I bet AV’s house is nice and warm, and cozy and like. Why don’t we go tell him we miss his relishing presence, and ask him if he knows anything more about Semmes?”
“It isn’t proper grammar to say ‘And like,’” said Johnnie, in a whisper to Rosy.
“I don’t know what you mean about relishing presence,” said Pumpkin, “but it sounds like a good idea.”
“It is a good idea,” remarked Sam, and he wondered whether they were talking about relishing AV’s presence or paying him a visit.
But, Pumpkin at any rate, knew which they were talking about, and picking Rosy up he proceeded to walk down the steps with her when Johnnie, who had said nothing until now, remarked, as she crossed her arms and stood immovable at the top of the stone steps, that she was sure she didn’t know what they were going to do once they got to AV’s front door.
“We’ll watch his house, and see if anybody goes in or out. You have no notion of the intelligence you may glean by this ancient detective procedure,” Sam was beginning.
But Johnnie did know, so she gave in, and followed them all out of one cold weather and into a different cold weather – (“A sort of warmer cold weather,” as she remarked to herself. “Because now we have something to do in it.”).
Daylight had faded into a faint glimmer of night when they at last arrived in front of AV’s house, and Rosy said, to Pumpkin’s unbounded astonishment, “It does look nice and cozy! I knew his house would! I always knew I had good instincts.”
“You felt it instinctively from the moment you were born no doubt,” remarked Pumpkin, putting her down, and adding hastily to everybody in general, “We’d better not get any closer now, he’s got traps and lasers out of mind just about everywhere. I don’t think we should make it half-way to the door if we tried, and then, you should see how the door works! Upward on hinges…”
This interesting explanation was being attended to closely by Sam and Johnnie, until they all suddenly realized that Rosy had not only left the conversation, but was entirely out of earshot, and they presently became aware that she would soon be out of eyesight as well, for she had wriggled her way through the fence, and climbed into AV’s house through a doggy-door, unscathed.
Johnnie froze tense, and said in a whisper, “What are we going to do now? We have to rescue her.”
But Sam said, “Relax, Johnnie, she’ll be fine. – It’s just AV. (At which Pumpkin looked inauspiciously up at the dangerously knived roof, and down at Sam again; however he said nothing). She’ll be fine. She’s probably playing with his daughter right now. I bet he’s a great dad.”
“It looks like it,” remarked Pumpkin, looking at the doorbell again. “Anyways, are we going to wait here and stake out like we were planning to?”
Sam and Johnnie nodded, and shivered, and waved back to Rosy, who had appeared smiling and waving at one of the upper windows, and they could have kept nodding, and shivering, and waving, for all the good it did them, all night long.
And it began to snow.
When AV next came out of his study room, Rosy had descended the great, spear-railed stairwell again, and was sitting comfortably on a sofa, swinging her legs, with a grey cardigan pulled over them, and a cup of coffee in her hands, and another one on the coffee table nearby.
“Hang fire! Who turned the temp stat up?” and “Where is Daniella?” demanded AV, in a growling voice, as he walked in, twisting his cocked hat into an uncocked one by holding onto it with both hands while ducking in his anxiety to avoid the battleaxe that was hanging in the doorway.
“It looks better cocked,” remarked Rosy in a bright little voice.
AV jumped five feet in the air, just about getting his head chopped off by the battleaxe in the process, but quickly recovering himself, he turned his head in her direction as he said in a loud voice, “I don’t believe it! Minx, if that’s what you are, however did you get in?”
He strode over (cocking his hat again as he did so) and Rosy replied, “I got in through the doggy-hole. Where’s the dog?”
“Rosy! You! I was right in calling you a minx, mouse. – I have a cat, not a dog, and I knew, I knew,” he added, clenching his fist, “that something ill would come of not putting a trap next to it!”
“I like cats even better,” said Rosy, evidently laughing at him with great relish. “And if you had put a trap, think how many times the cat would have died, before remembering to come in another way! Oh, do you know, I should have scared you,” she went on, swinging her legs again. “But it doesn’t matter, I can do it another time just as well; and it gave you a capital scare anyhow, though I wasn’t even trying.”
“You didn’t scare me,” observed AV, in a let’s-just-make-this-clear voice. “I was simply startled at the appearance of a totally random stranger in my practically impregnable house.”
“Impregnable, except for the doggy-hole,” amended Rosy, tittering to herself. “But I haven’t forgotten your questions. All of your questions. I’ll answer them before I ask you to go fetch the cat (so I can pet it and give it cream, and make it purr). I am the one who turned the temperature up, and Daniella is in bed already, and this cup of coffee is for you, and this one’s for me.”
“Oh, thank you,” said AV, taking the cup of coffee from her hands instinctively, and then putting it down again immediately and looking annoyed. “I really think you haven’t got any right to offer me cups of coffee in my own house, when I never invited you to even come in in the first place,” he began, a little heatedly.
“I know, I got tired of waiting for it,” replied Rosy, calmly.
“Well, you are very cool about it! Wait – waiting for what?” asked AV, finding himself incapable of construing any possible meaning to Rosy’s answer.
“For the invitation to come and have tea with you. Oh dear, I think it is dark, do you?” she asked, staring gloomily at him.
“Mother always used to say that when the sun went down, the children went down. We all slept in the basement,” she added, brightening up at the recollection. “Does Daniella sleep in the basement?”
“She does not,” replied AV, looking regretfully at his cup of coffee, which he had unconsciously picked up, and had been sipping sociably for some time past. “She sleeps in the gabled room, in the back. She says she likes it because it’s the one with the best connection. But perhaps she can be convinced to sleep in the basement for one night.”
“Connection?” asked Rosy, suddenly looking worried. “Do you think she is afraid the other rooms will fall?” she asked at last, in a whisper. “She must be an odd child, to be sure.”
“He means Internet connection!” came in a loud voice from the back of the house, startling them both very much, and almost making them jump out of their seats.
“That’s Daniella,” said AV, as if he were introducing her to Rosy, in quite the usual manner.
“She’s not asleep anymore. I guess we woke her up with our ‘earsplitting tommyrot,’ as Johnny calls it,” said Rosy, rather unpleasantly, as AV picked her up and prepared to take her upstairs.
“We weren’t even being very loud,” said AV defensively, ducking past the doorway and making a rush for the banisters.
“Why the ruuuush?” asked Rosy, laughing with fun at the ride.
“If you don’t go fast enough… I should really deactivate that, now I think of it,” began AV, thoughtfully. “Oh, well, here’s Daniella’s room; don’t stay up talking later than two, don’t look under the bed, and whatever you do, don’t close the window.”
“What if it’s cold?” asked Rosy, impudently, lifting up her head.
“I have a distinct impression that being cold is better than blowing up, my dear!” observed a voice loudly from the inside of the door, and “Hasten to open the door Daniella, and look sharp about it!” cried AV, using Rosy’s head to knock on the door, each knock thus being accompanied by an echoing “ow”.
Something was heard to fall and roll around on the inside, and then Daniella was evidently working a lever for quite some time, and at last the efforts of her labour were evidenced by the sounds of chains drawing away from the door, and croaking as they went.
The door was open now, and revealed an old oak-paneled room, with several decorative weapons arranged gracefully on the wall, and several non-decorative weapons lying about hither and yon in brave disorder on the floor and on the old-oak book-shelves. “In case anyone comes in through the window,” Daniella took care to inform Rosy, as she piloted her safely towards the old canopy bed.
“Don’t we live it rich!” remarked Rosy admiringly, as she climbed in. “Say Daniella, wouldn’t you like to be a villain?”
“Is this a random question?” asked Daniella, turning off the electrical candles on the chandelier, which now began swinging with the change of wind. “And is my dad out of the room?”
“Yes, to both of those,” replied Rosy, whispering. We do whisper, in the dark, for some reason.
With this the conversation ended; and as nothing stirred below, the girls soon fell asleep, and so… the Night ended.
Continue to Chapter 8
Subscribe to The KWC Paper for more stories like this one, delivered to your inbox every month!