[The next two posts take place a bit later in the story, outside an old cemetery in a strange part of town. Since Victorian adults (preserved as their post-mortem photos), will be joining the kids, the featured picture is a triptych of Victorian post-mortem photographs of adults.
We’re adding two (living) characters from the book this time (their ages in parentheses):
Connie Capuletto (12) – Reggie’s on-again, off-again (currently off) American girlfriend. She’s equal parts Juliet (as in Romeo &), Becky Thatcher, Lisa Simpson, and Lucy van Pelt, with a secret insecurity that makes her clingy, jealous, manipulative and hot tempered. She’s petite, dark, and has the kind of innocent looking angel face with huge brown eyes that practically lets her get away with murder.
Glen Gunderson (12) – Reggie’s American would-be nemesis and Connie’s current boyfriend. Blonde, handsome, athletic – JV star in track and gymnastics – but dumber than the proverbial bag of hammers. Glen’s alternately contemptuous and jealous of Reggie, and determined to make his life miserable in any available way.
Although Connie is not above being “creative” with the truth, Reggie and Gilbertine did, as she says, disappear from the school gym in a puff of smoke.]
We’d walked a block or so when I saw a pair of familiar figures running to us at a pace I’d have found impressive at any track meet. It was Connie and Glen, still in devil costumes, faces terror-stricken.
Connie reached me first, flung her arms round my neck the way a drowning person might a likely rescuer.
“Help me, Reggie, please help me…,” she panted, the tone of her voice once again bordering on hysterical. As I slowly peeled her arms off my neck, I asked her what the trouble was.
“After you two disappeared in a puff of smoke from the Hayes High gym, Glen and I just had to find out what was going on,” she began. I’d heard the two of you sometimes met in the park during lunch but I went there a couple of times, and never found either of you there. I wrote the stories off as just a bunch of stupid rumors. But what happened in the gym made me think of the park again – that maybe the rumors were true. So we went to the park…”
“And you found a place, not much bigger than a shed, in a Queen Anne style?” I asked.
She nodded. “Lights were on in the window, but the door was locked. We were going to leave when Glen saw a window ajar on the side.”
I shot Gilbertine a sideways glance; she’d lowered her face and turned her big eyes up to me. I decided then and there that Ilynka was not a good influence on her. I turned my attention back to Connie. “And the two of you went in through the window?”
“No,” she replied. “I did. Glen lifted me up to the window and I climbed through. The room was dark, but I saw a light behind a closed door. I went in, saw the front door and let Glen in. We started going through the house and we found …we found…”
She couldn’t finish the sentence.
She didn’t need to.
I saw the glow of a profusion of ABC Minors’ Club badges in the distance and knew who’d she’d come upon.
I could guess how she and Glen had reacted to them, and they to her and Glen. At first, I couldn’t figure how dead Victorian children had walked unseen down Leighton Causeway as they’d pursued the two of them. Then I realized that they probably had been seen, but that anyone who did see them on a Halloween night would’ve taken them for a bunch of revelers out carousing and paid them no heed.
At Bidwell Way they must’ve all gone east past where the street curved near Seventh. At that point, Glen and Connie had likely taken enough of a lead to try losing their pursuers down a series of meandering side lanes, or even dirt paths. Even Glen would’ve had trouble sustaining the pace they were running, and Connie couldn’t have hoped to sustain it.
They must have stopped to rest whenever they thought they’d given their pursuers “the slip,” only to panic and take off again each time they found the dead Victorian children reappearing out of nowhere and gaining on them. Somehow, the two had stumbled on us.
“Stand behind us,” I told them. “We’ll sort this.”
They did so: Connie quite willingly, Glen grudgingly.
My new fellow Minors’ Club members caught up to us in just over a minute. There was a variety of adults of varying ages with them, whose movements also didn’t stray too far from what I recognized as customary standing post-mortem poses. Jessamynne, luckily, was at the head of the crowd, bringing them to a halt in front of us.
Gilbertine and I smiled amiably. As ever, Jessamynne herself couldn’t smile, and had too much dignity to distort her face into one of those ghastly grins. But her voice, at least, was friendly. “Reggie, what a delight to see you again so soon! And I do so love this new costume you’re wearing, Gilbertine.”
I kissed her on both cheeks as Gilbertine thanked her for the compliment. It still felt as though I were kissing a manikin.
“‘Thy lips are warm!’” Jessamynne gushed.
Of course, the tomb scene from Romeo & Juliet – she would like that.
“I do love a girl who knows her Shakespeare,” I countered, smiling.
She slowly raised a hand, pointing at Glen and Connie. “Friends of yours?”
“Might we assume, for the moment, that they are?” I replied.
“I’d ‘assume’ that you occasionally have questionable taste in your selection of friends,” she said, gentle admonition in her tone.
“I take it you’ve met them, Jessamynne … and that they’ve not made a good first impression,” I said.
She laughed. “You’ve such a talent for understatement.”
“Remember our first meeting?” I reminded her. “We living people can be such plonkers.”
© 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014 G. H. McCallum and Duvanian Press, all rights reserved.
My ebook on Victorian postmortem photography will be coming back soon, for a few weeks. Stay tuned.
The Bluebottle Boys (Volume One) and Walking Backward for Christmas: A Tale of Woe from Soggyhall are each now available from Amazon Books. The Bluebottle Boys (Volume Two) is expected to be available later this year. Gilbertine & the Exhange (Volume 2) will be available in early 2020.