Saturday, September 29, 2007

The Bird Next Door

There’s something unpleasant going on in the Terrace, where Ada lives. When we went down there today, Mrs. Starling, who lives at number 23 has always been a bit of a busybody, poking her nose into other peoples business, desperate to be both the bringer of gossip and the leader of any social group she’s involved in I don’t think she realises that the two are mutually exclusive.

I caught her twitching curtains today. It was a little gusty and they’d blown off her washing line. Quite why she washes them so often I’ve no idea, though I suspect it’s an excuse to be in and out of the communal drying area; a ready excuse to listen to the conversations of the other residents that don’t have the space for a washing line.

I knocked on her door to hand them back and she opened it as far as her security chain would allow. “You’re Mrs. Waterman’s gentleman friend,” she said.

I agreed, though I avoided pointing out that I was more commonly known as Harold’s business associate. “Someone sold you a duff load of pegs, Mrs. Starling,” I said. “You ought to be more careful where you use them.”

I’m not sure if she got the message.

Ada was pleased with the cake. She put it down on the table and only the judicious use of a cantrip prevented the antique beech wood to split right down the middle. “That’s just what I needed,” she said.

I’m not sure what she needs it for, mind. Either she’s short of something to wedge a door open – or closed – with or else she has a dastardly plan to feed it to the local wildlife, thus depriving them of the ability to move. Personally I’d send it down to the Laverstone Senior Citizen’s club. It’d go down well with the hot brown sludge they optimistically refer to as tea.

“Well then,” she said, seeing through my plans for casual conversation. “What are you after this time?”

“Same as before to be honest with you, Ada.” I gave her smile number 37: Disarming. “Still looking for Harold’s relatives.”

“He doesn’t have any,” she replied. “None worth speaking of, anyway.”

I decide to be direct. “What happened to Lydia? I haven’t seen her for years.”

She looked at me sideways, her head tilted to one side. “Aunt Lydia?” she said. “I haven’t heard from her since the day that Papa died. Frederick looked after us both after that. I heard she moved south, and Harold got a few birthday and Christmas cards. Why?”

“Do you think she’s still alive?” I ignored her question.

“I don’t see why not,” said Ada. “She’s got more fae in her than I have.”

“You never heard if she had a child, though?”

Ada frowned. “No. Did she?”

“I believe so.” I told what I’d found out. Her eyebrows raised at the mention of her cousin, but other than that she gave no sign of interest.

“I’m sure she has her reasons for keeping it quiet,” she said.

Until the morrow.

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