Thursday, November 29, 2007
Put it in gear
Note: This post was started on Thursday, finished on Friday.

I don't know how it happened, but somehow I have gotten way behind on the Christmas front. As a matter of fact, last night I had a panic attack (almost) and had to scrap the plan and punt. Instead of baking the Wednesday-night prepped cookies, I left the dough in the fridge and decided to take pictures for our Christmas cards. I also got out some of the decorations and began putting those up. Still not done, however, but things are looking up.

This morning (Friday), I awoke newly motivated. Last night was a success and had special little surprises, and this may have changed my outlook. In fact, all I can hear in my head is the following classic chorus:

Ain't nothing gonna break my stride
Nobody gonna slow me down, oh no
I got to keep on moving
Ain't nothing gonna break my stride
I'm running in a one touch ground, oh no
I got to keep on moving

My birthday is tomorrow, so last night I arrived home to find presents! This amazing lady, who is an exceptional cook and great friend, sent me a huge box. Inside the many many layers was a rustic bowl. It is totally cool! As it happens, it is also something I've been eyeing for sometime but as yet acquired. It has a lot of personality and I love it!

The next box was a parcel from SpySistah. Inside, much to my delight, was a digital picture frame. Did you know that they play music too? Mine does! Doesn't that totally rock? I can hardly wait to set it up. Frankly, the only real question seems to be whether to leave it at home or take it to work.

And then, I started baking. One of my ovens is down, so I had to use the convection bake setting. Even so, I managed to figure out the adjustments that needed to be made and had four batches of gingersnaps baked in record time. Four batches = four trips through the oven. And that ain't bad. That leaves 9 more varieties to go through the oven and four other candy type things that don't get baked. A lot of work, true, but I've started, and that is a big improvement. I'm going to bake tonight and most of tomorrow, then more baking on Sunday. I also want to finish decorating.

The Fantasy Golf League stuff is done, Bunny Boop's birthday party invitations are done, and that still leaves a few things, but you can't deny my productivity.

And my glee does not end there.

After many months of disinterest in the potty, Bunny went #1 in the potty this morning. Like a big girl. And collected two m&m's for her reward. I was giddy! She ate all of her breakfast, I had time for a bowl of oatmeal, and we found nearly two inches of snow on the ground outside.

Ain't nothing gonna break my stride.
posted by Phoenix | 10:27 AM | 2 comments

Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Midwest Airlines: Best Domestic Carrier
I am not being paid to post this.

I love Midwest Airlines. They really are "the best care in the air."

This airline is really going the extra mile for its passengers. When booking, I was unable to get three seats together for the first leg of our journey. When I spoke to the airline, they assured me that they would find a way for either me or my husband to sit with Bunny Boop. When we arrived at the airport, I started to get into one line for check-in, but a kind Midwest staff member assured me that as we were traveling with a toddler, we should be in the special line. Amazing thing #1.

When we reached the ticket counter, I brought the seating problem to the attention of the lady who was checking us in and asked her if she could find at least two seats together. Did She! She seated Bunny Boop and I in seats 1 A&B and put Prince Charming in 2B. Amazing thing #2.

The flights were easy, the staff was accommodating, the flight was on time...Amazing things #3-5.

And then, on our return flight last night, they brought us some of those fresh-baked, still-gooey, chocolate chip cookies. Amazing things #6-10,000,000! (Those cookies are AMAZING!)

If you can book your next flight on Midwest, I highly recommend it.

Oh, and for the record, in my book, the second-best domestic carrier is Jet Blue.
posted by Phoenix | 3:28 PM | 0 comments

Ladies Don't Swear in Texas
Here's a story for you, with a punchline that really punches...

Our Thanksgiving travels and travail had us in multiple airplanes, airports, hotel rooms, trains and automobiles. But it wasn't until we arrived in Amarillo, TX that I felt any comraderie with Steve Martin's character in Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.

We left Milwaukee very very early on Wednesday morning. It wasn't until after we were on our first flight, bound for DFW, that we realized we had left the car adapter to the DVD the Jeep. That's not going to do us any good, and if you've traveled with a 2-year-old, you know what I'm talking about.

So, we called ahead and asked my parents to see if they could get an adapter that would work at the Radio Shack in Amarillo. The helpful folks at Radio Shack said they couldn't be sure without seeing the unit, so we had to go to Radio Shack when our second flight finally touched down.

We're all in a hurry because we are hungry and have a 3 hour drive ahead of us, so I run in to Radio Shack by myself, with the unit in hand.

But let me preface the rest of the story with a bit of backstory. Have you ever been to Amarillo, TX? I have. Many, many, many times. I love this town, from its quirky signs to the American Quarterhorse Heritage Center and Museum and that billboard for the 72 oz. steak. Love it. But, Amarillo is a cowboy town. There's no other way to describe it. There are cowboy hats, buckels, and boots as far as the eye can see. Many other places, these things would be a novelty, but in Amarillo, not so much. They are the norm. Cowboys in Wranglers...ah, but I digress.

Anyway, in this Cowtown you will find and witness niceties that have long since gone the way of the dodo in other parts of the country. This is the kind of town where a man holds open a door and tips his hat to a woman who is a complete stranger to him. Sure, you can find this same behavior, sporadically, in other parts of the country, but when you do it will be by men of a certain age. In Amarillo, it is pretty much all the men who are this nice. It is so...accomodating and welcoming and wonderful to be treated this way.

I know, a million new "feminists" just rolled their eyes and picked up their phallic paperweights to throw them in my direction. I don't care. I don't care! Do you hear me, feministas? I like being treated like I'm deserving of courtesy. So shoot me (if the idea of picking up a gun, even a figurative one, if that doesn't offend your Liberal mind)!

Okay, back to the story.

I walk into what is basically an empty Radio Shack and the nice young man behind the counter assists me in my purchase of an adapter that will make the 3-hour car ride tolerable with a 2-year-old. I turn to leave, bag in hand, and have my head down looking into my purse as I am trying to replace my wallet.


I walk right into a display, nearly toppling it and myself in the process. And it hurt...hurt so much and right away. The kind of hurt that makes you want to go "Oh, Fuckfuckfuckfuckfuck!" You know the pain I'm talking about, right? Step on a nail pain. I nearly blacked out. Well, maybe not blacked out, but I definitely saw the little birdies circling my head with the stars twinkling. It bloody well hurt like hell.

Not to mention the humiliation, of course. That hurt too. Suddenly, that Radio Shack was hopping with witnesses to my idiocy. You'd have thought they were giving away iPhones or something. In particular, this one cowboy had just walked in the door. He had a clear view of me and my accident. It was his eyes that I looked into as the "Oh, Fuckfuckfuck!" was about to come out of my mouth. As proof that my brain was still working (though I wouldn't realize it until later), I managed to bite my tongue and keep the obscenities from spewing forth. Afterall, Ladies Don't Swear in Texas.

This is just something I've known all my life. Ladies Don't Swear in Texas. I'm sure that there are a few exemptions, like during childbirth, when gunshot, etc., but I don't think I qualified for the exemption. The cowboy who had the best view of my accident was quick to rush to my side, grabbed me by the arm, perhaps afraid that I was about to have a fit or something. Too bad all I could blame was my own stupidity! I said something to him, I doubt it was coherent. I was just concentrating on not putting into words this pain that was lingering. I was clutching my upper right arm and made a hasty retreat to the car.

What an idiot I am. I swear. Actually, I didn't swear, but I cried a little in the car. Damn, but it hurt! Now I have a 4 inch by 2 inch bruise and more than enough humiliation to keep me humble for at least a few weeks. But hey, I managed not to swear, so I retained a bit of my composure and my dignity (maybe just a scrap of my dignity). But can you imagine if I'd been standing there clutching my arm, crying, and swearing a blue streak? What would that cowboy have done?

I'll never know. And just so you know, I'm counting this one as a victory. A humiliating victory, but a victory. The ugly wins count just as much as the pretty ones, you know.

No doubt Christina will see the humor in this if nobody else does.
posted by Phoenix | 2:52 PM | 1 comments

Be it ever so humble,
There is no place like home.

In particular, there is no place like your own bed and shower. And nakedness. Being naked in your own home - that's fabulous and a great perk to home ownership.

Anyway, we have returned from our Western Adventure and I have stories...
posted by Phoenix | 2:49 PM | 0 comments

Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Wherein Phoenix Learns it is Difficult to Deceive a Clever Child
Let me tell you a secret: having a smart child is both a joy and a curse.

Bunny Boop, as I'm sure you are all exceedingly tired of hearing, is almost two years old. Two - and already she is forcing me into more dramatic acts of deception.

Perhaps I've mentioned it before, I'm not sure. But Bunny has a favorite blanket which she lovingly refers to as "bibi" (pronounced bee-bee). This blanket is a hand-crocheted pastel rainbow afghan which Bunny received at her baby shower from my aunt. She is nutty about this blanket. I can't really explain it. It isn't a security thing because I don't let her take it out of the house. She doesn't get to take it outside or even in the car (usually).

Now, she does get to play with it and she definitely sleeps with it, but it isn't exactly with her all the time. She doesn't drag it along behind her everywhere she goes, she just snuggles with it. Anyway, I wanted to be sure to take it on our trip with us, so I attempted to sneak it into the laundry last night.

I told Bunny that it was bath time and played the usual game where we raced to the tub. Fortunately for me, my legs are still longer than hers so I knew that I could make a small detour on the way. As she was scurrying, I grabbed bibi and put "her" (I know it is crazy - but this is what life with children is like!) in the washing machine with a few last minute items. I then chased after my little girl and we had bath time.

We return downstairs, me damp from neck to knee and she sweet smelling and ornery, and have supper. That is to say, I tried to eat, but a little gremlin crawled onto my lap (despite being fed before her bath) and decided to sample everything on my plate. Sample may not be the right word. She ate with gusto! In any event, I went and checked on the washing machine after supper expecting to be able to switch the load into the dryer. Big mistake. Huge, even.

Bunny followed me into the laundry room and freaked that bibi was being treated to such rough treatment as the spin cycle. Okay, she didn't exactly say it in so many words - her vocabulary still consists largely of whining Mooooooom, Dad, uppy, dowwwwwn, bear, no, a firm affirmative head nod which means "yes", ball, book, and sundry other typical words.

Suffice it to say that it was made clear to me that bibi needed to be rescued. There were big fat tears, much wailing, and a considerable amount of angst. So, what's a mom to do? There was no way she was going to leave her vigil of the spin cycle, so we sat down and watched bibi go round and round and round.

Eventually, the washer beeped its signal of completion and my child looked at me expectantly. And I wondered to myself, "does she love me that much?" Fortunately for my ego there was not a lot of time to ponder this and I opened the door. Bibi was saved from the round and round, but now what's a mom to do?

Bibi is still wet, afterall. Bunny helps me move all of the other laundry into the dryer. I wait to remove bibi until the very last. When there is no more delay time left, I pull bibi out and give it to Bunny to place in the dryer. But, bibi never made it to the dryer. You would have thought they were lovers separated by a grueling war, the embrace was so tight and emotional. Bunny wrapped herself in a damp bibi and retreated to the living room.

Now, bibi wasn't soaking wet. We have those fabulous new front-loading machines that manage to wring between 85 and 95% of the moisture from the garments. Bibi, being an open-weave crocheted item, didn't have a lot of moisture left in her. She was a bit stiff, though, and would have benefitted from a quick tumble. (hehehe...if you only read that last sentence, this blog is not PG)

But, after so many tears, I couldn't tear them apart. I let it be, figuring to abscond with bibi when my child became distracted. But, their time apart had been to stark, too long, too emotionally devastating, I suppose, and I was unable to snatch bibi in the first 45 minutes. After that, SpongeBob, or "Bob" as he is known at Chez Villains Vanquished, worked his magic and I was able to stow bibi in the dryer.

For three minutes. That's how long it was before she noticed bibi missing. And do you know what? Bunny knew exactly where to find her. She ran, crying, into the laundry room and proceeded to have a scene. An Oprah Winfrey/Dr. Phil worthy Oscar-winning type of scene. You would have thought I was holding a gun to the blanket's figurative head, or worse! So, after three minutes, bibi was again sprung from the warm, twisty, hell that is the dryer.

I tried again later to separate them, but it wasn't happening. Bunny watched bibi like a hawk! Finally, Bunny grabbed my hand indicating that it was bedtime and we made our way upstairs. As she was leading me away, I asked her to go ahead so that Mommy could put her cup back in the refrigerator. I knew, you see, that Bunny had forgotten bibi on the floor. With a rapidity I had thought long in the past, I swept bibi into my arms, ran into the kitchen, popped the cup into the fridge, and then bibi took a dive into the dryer and I hit the start button. And then I returned to where Bunny was climbing the stairs, having not yet reached the top of the third step.

I lifted her into her crib, gave and received kisses, and we said our nite-nights. I handed her the light-up bear (a gift from Christina) and attempted to pull up the covers. This, however, brought to light bibi's absence and Bunny pointedly informed me (not in so many words) that bibi was still downstairs. I told her I would go get bibi.

I made my way back downstairs and again sprung bibi from the dryer. Only magically, bibi was dry! Five minutes, possibly less, had converted bibi from a stiff, slightly damp lump into a soft and toasty bundle. Bunny was overjoyed with bibi's return to bed and I was just glad not to be putting my child to sleep wrapped in a wet blanket.

Cause that can't be good.

Seriously, though? All of this for a blanket? This is how much I love my child, I suppose. Two years ago I would have scoffed at the notion of me sneaking around to wash and dry a blanket. Do you think Barnes & Noble has a book on how to deceive your child? I can't imagine it is going to get any easier as she gets older...


posted by Phoenix | 8:51 AM | 2 comments

Crap, Crap, Wait for it, Happy Thanksgiving!
It hasn't been an eternity since I posted, it just seems like it.

Okay, here's the scoop:

Last Tuesday, my boss died suddenly. He had been struggling with Lung Cancer for about a year, but died of complications related to his treatment. Understandly, last week was a bit difficult. And, I should put everybody on notice that the ramifications of this are just beginning to shake out. I don't know how much time I'm going to have for the blog in the near future.

Later in the day last Tuesday, after finding out about my boss's passing, I had a not-so-nice email from a recipient of my volunteer efforts accusing me of, if you can imagine, "exerting undue influence" in my role as advisor. Let's just say that I was at DefCon 2 on the Pissed Off scale, and became highly emotional over the deal. I have since relaxed to DefCon 3, but the entire volunteer project is sort of on hold until either I get an apology, or I change my mind about whether I want to exert my time and effort away from my husband and child for a group of people who are going to treat me this way, or - you know - hell freezes over or something. I haven't decided, exactly, though I have put them on notice that their behavior is HIGHLY unacceptable. I'm taking some time off from that.

Next item: fiction. El Capitan has been getting slammed much as I have been and hasn't had a chance to revisit our fiction project. Until he does, there's not much that I can do, so you'll just have to wait for the next exciting episode. I'm sure he'll get it done eventually, but we are not trying to stress out about this - there's plenty of stress to go around as it is.

We leave on our Thanksgiving trip this afternoon, so I'll likely not be posting much (if at all) until we return. I hope you all have a wonderful holiday but that you don't eat so much that you don't feel well. Because, who enjoys that?
posted by Phoenix | 8:38 AM | 0 comments

Thursday, November 15, 2007
Gentle Readers & Friends,

I am AWOL due to some difficulties in my non-online life.

My boss and mentor died suddenly on Tuesday morning and since then I've also been dealing with some unkindness from another front.

I beg your understanding and hope that you will bear with me while I attempt to get shit together.


posted by Phoenix | 8:38 AM | 1 comments

Monday, November 12, 2007
I'm still light-headed
We spent the weekend painting at Chez Phoenix. It was a lot of work. Fortunately for me, my mother and step-father came to help. They were immensely helpful and I can't possibly thank them enough. I'm just glad it is done!

The walls turned out more peachy than I expected, and the Candlelight finish didn't turn out exactly as I expected, but it is okay. It is growing on me. I have pretty much decided against doing the same finish in the living room, however. Instead I am leaning toward a different finish with cafe au lait as the color.

Anyway, we took it easy yesterday (that is, after we finished cleaning up the mess and putting all the furniture back in place). It took a while to clean up, but we finally marked some quality couch time. I hope you had a good weekend too.
posted by Phoenix | 10:28 AM | 0 comments

Thursday, November 08, 2007
Topic for Thought
So, if a person was really planning to live a "green" life, how would you do your death?

Is it more harmful to the planet to be cremated or to be planted? On the one hand, burial means a tree has to be cut down to produce your box. On the other hand, it returns the carbon back to the earth, after a long time, though with the box interrupting the mixing, I'm not sure how effective this is and, since we don't actually grow anything in cemetaries other than grass and a few trees, I'm not sure this does any good at all.

Cremation doesn't kill any trees, but it has to consume some sort of energy to run that oven, right? And surely there is some sort of exhaust emitted. Would you want your last act on earth to be adding to greenhouse gases? I don't know.

I wonder if these are the types of quandries that keep greenies up at night...

posted by Phoenix | 11:55 AM | 3 comments

Mea Culpa
Someone has informed me that I have not posted anything in nearly a week.

What can I say? I've been busy. I'm painting the master bedroom this week and I run the financials on a fantasy golf league - that's been keeping me very busy.

I've also been busy tracking down the BIG gift from Santa this year (which was in the Target Toy Book but which apparently they don't stock in every store - BASTARDS!). I finally located one this morning, thank the shopping gods! Bunny Boop is getting an indoor trampoline (with walls and nets for safety). I'm really hoping her little eyes will light up bigtime.

I'm also busy planning my cookie tins and scheduling the baking. And, our first Christmas will be held on Thanksgiving and I'm having a hard time pinning down those gifts as well.

What can I say? I'm a busy lady. The only thing I have going for me is the fact that El Capitan has been even busier and has not yet written Chapter 7, therefore I haven't needed to write Chapter 8 yet.

Oh, and did I mention we are having houseguests this weekend?

That too.
posted by Phoenix | 11:44 AM | 0 comments

Friday, November 02, 2007
Trust & Treachery *NOT* a Story by Jane Austen
Here it is, boys and girls. Chapters five and six of the El Capitan/Phoenix writing project. Enjoy!

If you are catching this late, Chapters One and Two and Chapters Three and Four can be found at the links.

Trust & Treachery *NOT* a Story by Jane Austen

Chapter 5 by El Capitan

As the door slid shut after Jane Steele's departure, Major Creighton stepped over to the divan and extended the probes on his bioscanner. He glanced up as the door opened again, admitting Lord Wrenwroth.

"Please have a seat, Your Grace," said Creighton, concentrating on the streams of data crossing the pad's screen. "This won't take but a moment."

Lord Wrenroth perched upon the ottoman recently vacated by Sir Peters-Howe & Miss Fortson. He leaned back and watched Major Creighton, a sardonic look on his face.

Creighton slipped the scanner back in its belt pouch, then pulled out a small aerosol container. He quickly sprayed a fine mist over the divan, being careful to include a section of carpet directly in front of where Jane Steele had been seated. He then repeated the process on the body of Charlotte Brandon.

Finishing his task, Creighton sank into an overstuffed leather armchair facing Wrenroth. Digging inside his tunic, he withdrew a small pack of cheroots. Taking one between his teeth, he offered the pack to Wrenroth. On Wrenroth's refusal, he shrugged, snapped a lighter to the cheroot, and exhaled a wreath of smoke as he crossed his tall leather boots in front on him.

"So, what shall we discuss, Your Grace?" asked Creighton.

Lord Wrenroth chuckled and asked, "What in the name of Creation is iocaine powder? That one slipped by me in Biochem class."

Creighton's eyebrows arched in surprise. "Lady Steele didn't have time to share notes with you... I can assume there's an Extra Ear hiding in the room?"

"You can," replied Wrenroth. "Tucked in the cushions of the divan. It seemed the proper thing to do at the time."

"And you have the appropriate permits for that sort of device?" asked Major Creighton. "I doubt Lord Dunwoody would appreciate unwanted listeners in his private study. Duels have been fought over much less..."

By way of reply, Wrenroth leaned forward and extended his right hand. Flicking his thumb against a heavy gold signet ring slid back a concealed lens cover, and he brought the ring close to his face. A barely perceptible beam shone into his right eye, and reflected back into the ring. A second beam projected a small hologram in the air next to Wrenroth's face.

Creighton watched the holo of the retinal scan and a rapid printout of Lord Wrenroth's bona fides. It ID'ed Wrenroth as one of the Angels, elite investigators for the Ministry of Justice. They were known as Angels due to the simple reason that they could go anywhere, see and speak to anyone, and carried the power of the Kingdom to dispense as they saw fit.

This is starting to get way over my pay grade, thought Creighton. If possession of unlicensed Extra Ears incurred the displeasure of the authorities, falsely claiming to be an Angel would cost you your head, one small spoonful at a time. Wrenroth was who he claimed to be, without a doubt.

"Well, I suppose this takes you off the short list of suspects," said Creighton. "Will you be taking over the investigation?"

"Not at the moment, no." said Wrenroth. "Let's see where this takes you. I'd prefer to stay in the background if at all possible. Now, what's all this about iocaine powder?"

Creighton grinned as he took another pull on the small cigar. "I'm surprised you've never heard of it. It's derived from the same secret location where we harvest unobtainium, hush-a-boom, and upsidaisium!"

"Major, you've lost me. And I so dislike being lost..." said Wrenroth, his expression darkening.

"In short, Your Grace, I tossed a red herring at Lady Steele. Iocaine might indeed exist somewhere down on Io, but I pulled it from an old flat-dee comedyvid." explained Creighton. "I need her to think there's a murderer still lurking about."

"Because you thought the killer was myself, and she was innocent?" asked Wrenroth.
"Oh, no!" replied Creighton. "She's guilty. Guilty as a gut-bulged monkey sitting in a pile of banana peels." He held up the scanner. "Every bit of evidence I've gathered so far conclusively puts Lady Jane Steele as the wielder of that knife."

Lord Wrenroth leaned towards Creighton, his brow furrowed. "So, Jane Steele has no idea she's murdered Charlotte Brandon?"

"No," replied Creighton. "She doesn't know she did it anymore than Charlotte Brandon knew why she came alone to the library and willingly received multiple lethal stab wounds without making a sound."

"How do you explain the lack of bloodstains on Jane's gloves and her gown?" asked Wrenroth.

"The same way I explain their incomprehensible actions," replied Creighton. "Neither one was in control of their mental or physical functions. The same mechanism that drove Steele to murder her childhood nemesis also stilled Brandon's vocal cords and jelled her blood."

Wrenroth sat back, his face now gone pale. "You're talking about a nanobot infection, aren't you?" he asked. "They were both dosed with nanites sometime this evening, and someone else was pulling the puppet's strings once the concentration in their systems reached optimal levels... I think I'll take that cigar now, if you don't mind..."

Creighton nodded as he handed over one of the small cigars and his lighter. "I'd hoped for some other outcome, but we've got to accept the fact that there's someone loose with the ability to infect and control others." Creighton pulled on his cigar as he somberly reflected on how easily nanites could get out of control, and the havoc they could wreak. Barely a decade past, half the population of Ceres Station had literally melted away by an accidental release of carbon-digesting nanobots, over 4000 souls quite literally gone inside the space of a day.

"We're fortunate in this case that whoever's behind this atrocity has built in some safeguards," said Creighton. "The nanites in Brandon's body are already devolving into their component materials, and the 'factory' controller she either ingested or was injected with has disappeared completely. Jane is throwing off deactivated nanites with every breath, and they'll be slowly jumping ship and dying off for the next few hours as she perspires and eliminates. The fixative I've sprayed over the divan and Mis Brandon's body should catch a few of the nanites before they devolve completely. We might not be able to get a good signature off what remains, but we'll do what we can."

Wrenroth nodded. "You're obviously comfortable dealing with a situation of this magnitude, then," he said. "I'm not at liberty to disclose why I'm here or what I'm investigating, but I can let you know it appears we're working along parallel lines."

"I wouldn't go so far as to say comfortable, Your Grace, but I can cope." replied Creighton. "I'll need to go supervise the V-K teams as they begin interrogations. Would you mind keeping an eye on Miss Steele?"

"Not at all, Major," said Wrenroth. "Do be aware, sir, that perfect discretion is its own reward, n'est-ce pas?"

Creighton nodded, dropped the stub of his cigar in someone's forgotten champagne flute, and left the room.

Lord Wrenroth stood and walked slowly over to the corpse behind the divan. Peering down at the already glazed eyes of his former lover, he sighed. "Charlotte, my sweet... Whatever have you gotten yourself into this time?"

Chapter 6 by Phoenix

Peering over Charlotte’s dead body, knowing not for which he was looking, Lord Wrenroth let his mind wander to possible motives. Lady Charlotte did not lack for enemies, to be sure, but was the targeting or drafting of Lady Steele as the murderer done of convenience or was there a more sinister plot afoot? Was it possible that Lady Jane and Lady Charlotte shared an enemy?

Lord Wrenroth’s thoughts sought out the possibilities but this train was derailed suddenly when he spotted the locket. It was not around her neck as was Charlotte’s habit, but was peeking out of her glove. Had she been wearing it as a bracelet, or had she stowed it in her palm, out of sight, for safety? Either way, it was something to bring to the attention of Major Creighton.

Lord Wrenroth moved to the door and asked an Ensign to fetch the Major. Lord Wrenroth continued to study the room and Charlotte’s body as he waited, noting nothing more out of the ordinary. He was just stubbing out his cheroot when Major Creighton returned.

“Wrenroth, what the devil! I was in the middle of an interrogation.”

“You have my deepest apologies, Major, but I had to bring this to your attention before her body was claimed by the team and moved, else the evidence might be suspect.”

The Major had calmed slightly at the news of more evidence, but he was still perplexed. “Wrenroth, my examination of the body was comprehensive…”

“Yes, Major, comprehensive in all ways save one: did you actually search her person?”

“No, my Lord, procedure dictates…”

Interrupting again, Lord Wrenroth cut off Creighton’s train of thought. “To hell with procedure man, this is the sort of evidence that can go missing. Check if you must, but I have not touched the body.” Creighton cued the bioscanner and quickly confirmed what Wrenroth said. “Do you see that glint hanging out of her left glove there?”

“Yes. What is that?” Creighton leaned down to examine the hiding glimmer of gold, then eased it out from under the glove. A golden locket, still attached to a pearl bracelet, shone under the light. “It appears to be a regular woman’s locket.”

“Oh, that’s no regular locket, you can be sure of that.”

Creighton rose again and leveled his gaze into that of Wrenroth’s. “Am I to understand that you know something of this locket?”

“Yes, Major. That locket is the bane of a great many people’s existence. I suspect that it will also offer a more likely list of suspects than childhood pranks will.” Wrenroth took a deep breath and told his tale.

“Lady Charlotte Brandon is – was - a blackmailer. An exceptionally talented blackmailer, but a blackmailer nonetheless. That locket, that locket is where she keeps her secrets – always close to hand – and always safe upon her person. She usually wears it around her neck, I’m not sure why she’s moved it, but I recognize the thing.”

The Major dropped to his knee and removed Charlotte’s glove and then the bracelet from her wrist, rising again to cradle it in his palm and display it for Wrenroth’s review. With his other hand, Creighton brought to bear his electoscan from his belt and scanned the locket’s properties. “The scanner indicates that there is nothing unusual.”

“Well, it wouldn’t. The locket is an undetectable secret-keeper. Very rare, only a handful exist. And, this is the only secret-keeper I’ve ever known to be fashioned into a piece of women’s jewelry. Despite this, I can assure you that it has secrets to reveal.

“If you press the pad of Charlotte’s right thumb to the back of the locket, it will open. If she is up to her old tricks, we’ll know very soon.”

Major Creighton leaned back down again and pressed Charlotte’s cold finger to the much warmer metal of the locket. Instantly a seam appeared and the locket opened silently and glowed from within. Moments later, the glow projected upward into the room and a menu appeared in hologram.

Major Creighton viewed the menu with a gleam in his eye. Lord Wrenroth, however, was less pleased to be proven right and even more concerned with some of the names on the list. The menu read as a who’s who of Society. Lady Olivia Sefton made the list, as did her grandson Nigel. Sir Percy Fitzhugh was listed, not surprising given his sudden jilted of Lady Steele and quick engagement to Charlotte. Merriweather Grange, Heavenly Stubben, Isabelle Prentice, and Marjorie Hempstead all had files as well. Lady Jane Steele was notably absent.

Among the peers, Lord Wrenroth identified a Duke, an Earl, and half a dozen Viscounts. But, one name popped from the list and the possibility of the secrets held within excited Wrenroth. At the very bottom of the list, with an indicator lit to identify it as the last file opened, was an entry for his nemesis and the target of his own investigation: Admiral Westley Warren.

“There’s a lot of information here.” Major Creighton now seemed impressed with the little locket and was examining its interior.

“I’m going to have to get authorized to read you into my investigation, Major. The target of my investigation is on that list. I’m going to have to ask you to refrain from accessing the information until I can get approval from the Minister. I’m also going to ask you not to let that piece of evidence out of your sight, nor make its existence known to your team.”

Major Creighton had the uneasy suspicion that he was about to find his investigation superseded and voiced the question. “Are you going to pull rank on me and take over the investigation?”

Wrenroth took a deep breath, expelling the air slowly. “Not if I don’t have to, Major. I’ve got enough to do with my own investigation. If it were not a matter of State Secrets, I wouldn’t even ask you to wait. But, not yet knowing what the file contains, I need to hold off on giving you a clear field. I apologize, I do, but I would appreciate if you could give me some latitude until such time as it is made clear how much our cases involve each other.”

“How long will it take to get authorization? I have a houseful of suspects to interrogate and I doubt that Lord Dunwoody has any desire to house 300 people overnight.”

“Point taken. I will attempt to reach the Minister now and you can return to your duties. I will send the Ensign again when I have information. Does that suit you?”

“Very well, indeed.” The Major slipped the little locket into his breast pocket and the hologram disappeared. He walked with purpose from the room leaving Wrenroth to his task.

“State secrets” he thought to himself, pleased with the slap of his high polished boots on the tile. Maybe he’d end up with a promotion out of this investigation. He smiled to himself at the possibility of a raise in pay grade and the opportunities it presented.

Maybe this time next year he’d be a guest at this sort of party…


posted by Phoenix | 11:33 AM | 0 comments

Head's Up
I have just received Chapter 5 and have some writing to do if I am to post chapters 5 & 6 today.

No posting 'til that's done...
posted by Phoenix | 9:27 AM | 0 comments

Croupe? Dropsy? Consumption?
Motherhood is both heaven and hell. Sure, that sweetly smiling face is an amazing thing that will fill you with boundless joy, but when something is hurting your baby it is torture.

My baby is not feeling so good. On Wednesday morning she woke up with a small cough - a weird-sounding cough. But otherwise, she was fine. On Monday, she had woken up with some small bumps/rash on her back and legs, but I had ignored it as either an allergic reaction or a poor rinse in the laundry. As the rash/bumps didn't seem to bother her, I went about my business figuring that the rash would be gone by the end of the week. Now, fast forward back to Wedneday night.

After trick or treating, my baby had dinner and a bath, but then was acting sort of punky. She was clingy and not her usual out-going self. I didn't think much of it as there was a heck of a lot of people coming 'round the house on Wednesday night. I thought she might just be going through a shy phase.

That is, until 10:30 pm when she woke up screaming. I jumped out of bed to find my baby had a fever. I gave her some Tylenol and some juice, stripped off her clothes, and sat with her watching SpongeBob until 4 am. The cough, it turns out, was significantly worse and everytime I tried to get her vertical, she had a fit like she couldn't breathe and the barking/honking coughing would start. Basically, we watched cartoons from midnight until 4 am. That is when, thank the good Lord, she finally was able to sleep. We got another 2 hours. At 6 am she was up again with more coughing. I spoke to Prince Charming somewhere around 3 am, so the plan was set.

I would stay home with her and take her to see the doctor on Thursday and he would stay home, if need be, today.

The doctor determined that Bunny's rash, fever, and cough were croupe. Croupe. I swear to you, I thought this was one of those diseases people didn't get anymore. The doctor had never seen a rash with croupe, and thought that it was strange that the rash presented before the cough, but she determined that the rash looks viral and the cough is classic. Q.E.D.

She sent us home with instructions for rest and a humidifier in the bedroom and a scrip for some steroids to bring down the swelling. Per instructions, I gave Bunny the medicine with her supper and she...promptly puked all over me. So we took a second bath and through a stuffed toy away. I missed my supper, but once you've been puked on, you are surprisingly not hungry. She slept through the night last night, not waking until 4:30 this morning - which was close enough for me since I also got to sleep. I suspect that the humidifier is what did the trick.

Anyway, that's what I did yesterday (oh - while she napped I also baked some pumpkin bars for my wonderful husband and did the floors). I hope you had a better day.


posted by Phoenix | 9:10 AM | 1 comments


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