I sell items which are associated in some way with my stories. The story-copyright is not for sale.
Please read the story while the images load up
CHAPTER 1: FIRST SIGNS
Cassette 1: New Year's Eve, Hotel Kyla, Middle of Nowhere, North Finland.
Well, here we are and here I am, Nyge dear – and I should have expected the snow. It looks as if I'm going to be giving you longer to sort out your life than you had hoped: the weather is closing in with a vengeance.
It was so pretty when we arrived. The view from the ‘copter window was a pastel rainbow. The clouds were gold and silver against a pink sky, and the snow was all blue shadows and sparkles. You couldn't see the hotel at all from the skies, because of the snow on the roof, but from the ground it's vast, and all made of dark brown carved wood, inside and out. Mandy screamed and clutched onto my arm when she saw the grinning faces over the door.
“Eek! – That one's Maury – oh and look – it's Edenfield and you, Masina, there at the end.”
I am tired of Mandy already. She was an absolute nuisance on the flight – terrified to look out of the window, and spending most of the time on my lap, with her head buried in my shoulder. I hope she didn't notice anything. I kept calling out to Edenfield to take care of her, but he was determined to sleep through the whole journey. I'm sure I saw him peeping.
Anyway, as soon as the rooms were allotted, she went straight to hers, with Shorty, Paul and Stuart hopefully (well, she is a looker) puffing along behind, under her suitcases and boxes. Edenfield was hiding in the bar. I was walking to my room when he wandered out.
“Tarschnapps, tarschnapps, tarschnapps,” he blustered, shaking his huge head.
“Tarschnapps. Nothing But. Behind the bar; under the bar. Tarschnapps. No whisky. No soda. Not bad though,” and he disappeared back through the door again.
It echoes and creaks, this place – I don't know why Sleighbells'n'Hotels hired such a big, cold building. Only a small part of it is heated for us. If you open the wrong door it freezes you half to death in your indoor clothes, and it takes ten minutes to warm yourself up again. Still, I'm only here for the weekend, and then back to London and your arms, my darling – and then our dream wedding in the Caribbean – or shall it be Goa?.
Lunch was disappointing. I don't know what sort of New Years' Eve party we're going to have with this lot. We all met on the flight, of course, but what with the engine and wind noise, and Mandy carrying on, I had no idea of what a mixed bunch they are. But if I'm going to be tactless, I'd better find somewhere secure to hide these tapes. Elizabeth is a lawyer.
Ah, yes: lunch. Let me tell you about it. The single advantage of Mandy's continual wittering and squealing is that no-one else need be on his or her best behaviour, and they all begin to show themselves.
Louise Moss, our courier, didn't exactly call for silence before she spoke. In fact, she had been addressing us for at least a minute before Paul noticed, and banged the table with the gravy spoon. My blouse was splashed. She doesn't look at people. She spoke to her plate, then to the wall behind her, and then to her fingernails. She has bright green eyes, though. They flash. You get glimpses.
Paul was scratching somewhere personal. Louise addressed a salt-cellar.
“And this is Paul, who is our cook this weekend. Paul is a cordon-bleu chef and has been with Sleighbells for nine years, haven't you, Paul?”
Paul stopped scratching, and looked blankly at Louise. He blew his nose.
“Erm . . .”
“So we two are here to look after you for the weekend. Any problems – come to us,” she said to the back of her chair. Couldn't she sit still?
“So let's tell a little about ourselves. Mr Maurice Bowland – you are from Watford, I believe? And a draughtsman?”
“Yes. Call me Maury. Would you mind passing the potatoes, please?”
Maury has a fine grin. He needs it. It turns his embarrassing size into lovable roguery. Not that he is embarrassed. He uses two dining chairs for a start. Mandy passed the vegetables with a briefly silent respect. He touched her arm and smiled. She giggled. Edenfield ignored them.
“And you all know Mr Grizebeck and his partner Miss Dockray, of course,” said Louise to her knife, to Shorty's glass and to Elizabeth's gold rings, respectively.
They ignored her, and carried on arguing. They have been bickering in vehement undertones since Helsinki. Elizabeth has a permanent bruise around her left wrist where Shorty grips her when he's angry. Right now they are arguing in the room next door to mine. I must bring a water glass and listen. But it will only be about money. She keeps pointing at his Rolex and calling him names. She has a Vuitton handbag. I wonder if she will whop him with it.
Last of all, Louise introduced Stuart and Tracy. Now there's a pair that never were. He reads all the time. On the ‘copter it was a pile of magazines, then Louise's tour brochures, then a chick-lit novel that Mandy had dropped. Now at table he made an attempt at a Finnish newspaper, gave up, and started on a blockbuster with a gun on the cover, which he must have brought with him.
He's quick, though. Notices everything. Every time Paul scratched in a new place, Stuart glanced across at me, nodded down at Paul's culinary efforts, and winked. I didn't eat much at lunch. I even declined my favourite: baby carrots. Maury ate them all, gladly.
Ah yes, Tracy Wrea, last of all. What can I say? She sat there, staring into space. I don't believe she has any conversation. There's something cushion-like about her. Her body is soft and shapeless, and moulds itself to her clothes, her chair, and her pose – which is usually a slouch. I don't know why she wears red lipstick, when she has a shapeless mouth. It's a moving amorphousness because she chews gum. A moving nothing, like eddying water. You can't tell when she smiles. I asked her what was her line of work.
“Cats,” she said.
“What breed of cat?”
“Strays. I just feed 'em all and the house fills up. People say I breed ‘em.”
I'm sure she has smuggled in a cat or two in her suitcase. It's very large, and Paul looked surprised when he lifted it, raising it high as if it weighed nothing.
Falling snow looks spooky at night, from a lit window. Every time I look out, I see shadows of people, although there can be nobody out there – I must be casting the shadows myself. If I turn the light off, and press my face to the window, though, I still see the shadows. I have told myself not to look any more, and I have closed the curtains. I keep peeking, though. I don't know why. I thought once – but no, that's silly.
My goodness, what a kerfuffle. Excuse me, Nyge, dear, while I go and have a look.
* * * * *
Well, it serves him right. Maury has passed out from over-eating, I guess. Stuart is bent over him, doing urgent medical things. It turns out that he's a nurse. Maury does look very pale. We were all crowded into his little room, looking. Louise told the light-switch in no uncertain terms that it was to leave, to give poor Maury some air. Something exciting planned for the party tonight, apparently. I hope Maury is well enough for it. Next report: tomorrow morning, hangover permitting.All my love, your Thomasina.
Copyright © 2003 LS
NEXT INSTALMENTS: SATURDAYS 6PM UK TIME ON EBAY: SEARCH FOR STORYE ~ POISON
Images hosted by Reactive Networks: see my About Me page.