Lady Wimpleseed-Prissypott # 32: The Conspiracy to End All Conspiracies

Previously, Lady P P can’t remember a darn thing. And she’s completely lost any interest in fashion. Is there no justice?

The Ichabod Crane figure of Pip, a chip off the old Flip of Flip, Fop & Flimby, Solicitors at Law, said to the Prime Minister of England, “I have news.”

“Yes, I have heard the news,” the Prime Minister said, displeased that he was interrupted by this flunky from the Defense Staff’s Office. Hadn’t he told his Personal Secretary that he did not want to be interrupted? He had. What now? “Her ladyship, Lady Marye Caterina Wimpleseed Prissypott was drowned. Now the whole damned country from the queen on down to the sewage cleaners are upset about the commoner. Why everybody cares I do not know. You’d think she was Princess Di. Well, she was not. She was an American with a lot of cash who bought herself a title. That’s all. Now go away before I kick your skinny rear all the way to Whitehall. Leave me in peace.”

“But Prime Minister …,” Pip said.

“My God, man,” the Prime Minister said and wiped his mouth with his napkin. “Did you not hear me?”

The Prime Minister had raised his voice. He seldom raised his voice. It was the sound of not raising his voice that had gotten him where he was. It was the tone and the words he spoke. All the diners in the Commons Dining Room turned to see the Prime Minister stand and raise his fist. He was fighting mad. When he went fighting mad, he was dangerous. He knew how to use his fist. His mother’s brother MacFeeney, the brawler, had taught him the fine art of fisticuffs and his fisticuffian bro had fought the great Sullivan himself.

The Ichabod Crane of a Pip looked like he was about to run away. He was no boxer. The Prime Minister would make mincemeat out of him. Before P. M. could slam Pip’s pip of a face, Sir Myles stepped in front of Pip.

P. M. halted his fist’s progress and dropped his hand to his side. He smiled. He was always glad to see Sir Myles di Fussye-Pants. The two had been friends for quite some time. They had something important in common. The same woman. Two Ems had been P. M.’s mistress for several years. And she was Sir Myles’ very popular wife. As the Queen of London Society, she knew how to throw a party, and she definitely knew how to party like it was 1899.

“Our friend has some news,” Sir Myles said.

P. M. returned to his chair, then offered Sir Myles a seat at his table. He did not offer Pip a seat. It just wasn’t done. Allowing someone of his lowly station to sit at the same table as the P.M. Especially not in public. That would have been taking his liberalism too far.

“What is the news, Myles?” P. M. asked his friend.

“I haven’t been told, Argyle,” Sir Myles said. He was one of the few allowed to call Prime Minister Mactavish by his Christian name Argyle.

P. M. scratched his bald head. He looked over at Pip, standing uncomfortably nearby.

“Well, young man?” he demanded.

“Yes, sir,” Pip said, then recognized his mentor, “Sir Myles, I have news.”

“Well, get on with it, man,” P. M. demanded some more.

“Her ladyship, Lady Marye Caterina Wimpleseed Prissypott of Haggismarshe, is not dead.”

“What!” Both P. M. and Sir Myles stared up at Pip, their mouths dropping open when they heard the news.

“Would you repeat that?” Sir Myles said.

“Lady Wimpleseed Prissypott is not dead. This is why the Chief sent me over to interrupt your meal, Prime Minister.”

“What do you mean?” P. M. wanted to know. “Of course, she is dead. The Times has reported her death. Therefore, it must be true. The Times is never wrong.”

“I assure that The Times is incorrect, sir. They will have to offer a retraction.”

“Lower your voice, man,” Sir Myles said. “And have a seat. I am tired of seeing you standing there like some Ichabod Crane of a Flip, Pip. Sit and tell us what you know. But quietly, please.”

“With your permission, Prime Minister,” Pip said, taking his place in the seat across from the P. M. He knew where his bread was buttered and he had not been about to sit without his boss’s boss’s boss’s permission. That was no way to advance a career either in government or the law. One simply did not go against one’s betters.

“By the way, young man,” P. M. said, “By the way, who in Disraeli’s name are you?”

“I am Pip Flip, a chip off the old Flip of Flip, Fop & Flimby, Solicitors at Law. I am also a member of the Defense Staff.”

“Yes, I knew the old chip, Kip Flip, Pip,” P. M. said. “Used to be a mighty fine solicitor until he tripped over a law case. I think he defended your wife in a law suit once, did he not, Myles?”

“He must assuredly did,” Sir Myles said. “Did a damned good job of it too. Two Ems won her case and gathered more than the damages she originally asked. We had enough left over from that suit to pay for passage around the world. We’re planning on a trip next summer. A second honeymoon.”

The prime minister was ready to get down to business. He lowered his voice to a whisper and asked Flip, “So what do you know that I don’t know? What would cause The Times to retract their story? And keep your voice low please. We do not want a panic. The Times is never wrong. After all, it is The Times. You do know that?”

“Sir, I agree. The Times is never wrong,” Pip whispered. “And The Times is not wrong this time. They reported what had been reported to them on Gibraltar. So, you see it’s the second-hand smoke that always does the most harm.”

“Damn that fake news,” the P.M. spat out.

“Then she is not dead?” Sir Myles said.

“She is alive, Sir,” Pip said quietly. “One of our men saw her on the outskirts of Barcelona.”

“No?” P. M. said.

“She was in pretty bad shape when he saw her,” Pip reported. “She was dressed in a white underdress. Her hair was all caked with mud. She had no shoes on her feet.”

“Is he sure it was her?” Sir Myles intruded.

“Yes, sir. He is. The woman he saw had her ladyship’s bright red hair. And those amazing bosoms. There is no mistaking those bosoms. They are internationally famous bosoms, the best in the world today.”

“Tis true, Myles,” P. M. said. “I’ve seen those bosoms. They are some bosoms. Bosoms enough to unstiffen an Englishman’s stiff upper lip. I saw them at the wedding and I was in awe. It made me jealous of an English lord for the first and only time in my long career. There is no mistaking those bosoms. But where is she now? Does the man know?”

“He followed her,” Pip Flip continued. “She was taken in by a church. The Church of St. Teresa de Avila. She’s staying at the convent. The Sisters of St. Teresa de Avila are caring for her.”

The Prime Minister and Sir Myles breathed a sigh of relief. It was one heck of a sigh of relief that they both breathed. They were relieved.

Then they realized. Sir Myles was the first to whisper, “That means that The Times was wrong. It will have to retract. They will not retract. Because The Times is never wrong.”

“Her life is in danger?” P. M. said.

“There’s more, sir,” Pip whispered. “She has amnesia.”

The P.M. and Sir Myles leaned forward, their interest heightened by all the intrigue.

“And they are keeping her that way,” Pip said. “They have hired a quack of a doctor, a Doctor Qwackers. He has his ways to keeping her from remembering. He has done more damage to more people in the country of Spain than any other quack quack of his time. And there’s more.”

“There’s more?” Sir Myles and P. M. asked at the same time. They looked at each other. How could there be more? What more could there be?

“Of course, there’s more,” P.M. said. “There’s always more. Even when there’s no more, there’s more. Thanks to that blasted Oliver Twist.”

“Yes, sir,” Pip said to the Prime Minister. “The Church of St. Teresa de Avila in Barcelona is the headquarters of the Wah Wah League.”

“What?” both his listeners spoke at the same time again.

“It’s the headquarters of the Wah Wah League?” P. M. asked. “Could you repeat that?”

“The Church of St. Teresa de Avila is the headquarters of the Wah Wah League.”

“We heard you the first time,” P. M. said.

“You said to repeat it,” Pip said. “I was responding to your request, sir.”

“I know what I said,” P. M. said.

“Argyle,” Sir Myles said quietly, “you do know how to turn a phrase.”

“Thank you, Myles. You are very kind. So how do we go forward now.”

“That is why I am here,” Pip said. “Chief and I are the only ones who have this information. And the man on the ground, of course. Cdmr. Thomas Edward Button. He’s known within the department as Double Oh Seven Button-Button.”

“Hmmmmn,” P. M. hemmed. “Button-Button, you say?”

“Yes, sir. I do say,” Pip said, “and there’s one more thing.”

“That figures,” P. M. said. “There’s always another thing. What now?”

The Times has contacted us to have our man take care of her ladyship. The Times already has this information. Don’t know how they got it but they do.”

“It’s the leaks,” Sir Myles commented. “There’s always a trump full of leaks.”

“Don’t you mean ‘trunkful of leaks’?” P.M. asked.

“That too,” Sir Myles said.

“In these kinds of things,” Pip continued, “we are pretty thorough. But somebody on the Defense Staff has dropped his pants. I think it’s the Chief. But I am not sure. I think they’ve offered him a substantial retirement. Maybe even a Chairman of the Bored.”

“So why is the Chief,” P. M. asked, “passing this information on to me?”

“He isn’t, sir,” Pip said. “I am doing this on my own initiative.”

“My, my,” Sir Myles said. “This is one hell of a horns of a dilemma. Two Ems would love this. She loves a good puzzle. Always solving those ‘Where’s Waldo’ things.”

The Prime Minister’s wheels had started turning all this over in his mind.

“Has Chief done anything yet?” he asked Pip.

“He has contacted Button-Button to do as The Times asked.”

“Sounds like,” Sir Myles said, “whatever you choose to do, you had better do quickly. Are you going to let this Button-Button fellow go through with this?”

“Double Oh is to do nothing,” Pip said. “He’s to allow the Wah Wah League take care of the problem. Then The Times will be off the hook. The story that her ladyship is dead will be true. But there is plans on the part of the Defense Secretary to take out the Wah Wahs in their headquarters. They plan to send in Special Forces and bomb the place. When it’s over, everybody in that church and convent will be dead. Double Oh is to do something only if her ladyship escapes. He is to transport her to the Falklands and leave her to the sheep.”

“They do have some vicious woman-eating sheep in the Falklands too,” Sir Myles said. ‘So, Pip, what is in it for you? Why are you not going along with the program?”

Pip said. “I figured that if I kiss the Prime Minister’s bottom, and a mighty fine bottom it is, si–”

“Why thank you, young man,” the P.M. smiled.

“–I could advance.”

“I must say,” P. M. said, “that you are a damned good bottom kisser. Almost as good as I used to be before I had a bottom to kiss.” He was starting to take a liking to this Pip fellow. Kip Flip, the Flip he was the chip off of, had instructed his son well in the art of Machiavellian Machevellianness. “So, what are your plans, Pip?”

“The Chief wants me to go over to Spain and make sure that it’s all going according to plan. I am to stay at the consul in Barcelona. I will be under the direction of the British ambassador.”

“Our ambassador to Spain?” Sir Myles wanted to know.

“Yes,” Pip said.

“This gets more interesting as it goes along,” Sir Myles said.

“This means,” P. M. said, “that I can’t trust anyone in my own government.”

“I am afraid so, Sir,” Pip said. “It was that briefing with the Queen. His lordship, the Lord of the Gartery, reported to Lords what happened. Lords is now conspiring to put their own man in your place.”

The Times has wanted to see you sacked,” the Prime Minister’s good friend said, “for a very long time. Seems now they have the opportunity.” He turned to Pip and asked, “Who is the fool they are planning to replace Argyle with?”

“You are, sir,” Pip said to Sir Myles.

Next Week, Back to the Convent


Lady Wimpleseed-Prissypott # 31: Constipation

Previously, three strangers in an inn.

“Take two poops and see me in the morning,” Doctor Qwackers said, after examining Mary-Mary Smith, the Lady Marye Wimpleseed Prissypott. She lay in the bed of her convent room and pulled the sheets over her. The doctor shoved his stethoscope back into his bag.

“Doctor, how is that going to help me recover my memory?” Mary-Mary Smith wanted to know. She wanted to know badly. Real badly.

“Your memories are damned up. It’s the constipation of the sturm und drang you’ve undergone. The damn needs to break. As soon as the wall breaks, all your memories will be released. Don’t worry, my dear. The flood of your memories will come, I assure you.”

Mary-Mary Smith watched the elderly doctor leave her room. How much longer was it to be before she knew who she was? How much longer? She buried her face in her pillow and cried herself to sleep. It was early evening, and her hope was about gone.

Next Week, Back in Dear Olde England

Lady Wimpleseed-Prissypott # 30: The Aragon & The Castile

Previously, Portugal loses a Crown Prince

So far we have heard a tale of sex and violence, and no love. We have heard of the Second Son Curse. We have heard of ships sinking and amnesia. We have heard ghosts run amuck but for a darned good reason. And the House of Lords amucking too for no damned good reason.

We have had a marriage and lots of deaths. We have been taken for rides on the Orient Express and the steamer, S. S. Twit. We have been to Brooklyn Heights, to London and to an English country estate, seen Istanbul and Gibraltar, and our story has taken us to the jungles of Africa. We have met Queen Victoria, ambassadors, a prime minister and war councils. We have found ourselves facing down rhinos and guns. We have found diamonds hidden and watched as a Crown Prince met a mud pie.

And it has all been for a good reason. It has been for the story. But where is true love as you promised, Writer?

That too will come. In due time our heroine, Mary-Mary Smith, the Lady Marye Caterina Wimplesee-Prissypott, now an amnesiac, will find true love. But, as we all know, true love is not always easy to find. Sometimes it takes lots of adventures, lots of false starts, kissing a lot of frogs before a prince is found under his green, froggy mask. Sometimes it takes a lot of words before the right word is struck, and it is love.

The Mighty Paddington, the Iranian Cubist Assassin, delivered his package of a mud pie in the face of the Crown Prince of Portugal right on schedule. It was the last of several mud pies, mud pies made with those special diamonds dug out of the mines in Boertown in Southern Africa. Thanks to Mata Hari more were on their way to be delivered to the Wah Wah League headquarters in Barcelona for their dastardly Mud Pie of a Plan. Soon, if things went as the Wah Wah League meant for them to go, there would be a war. A really really, very big war.

The Wah Wahs knew of the British ambassador and his intrusion in the Portuguese War Council’s deliberations. They had a spy, a fifth column if you will, a guy on that Portuguese War Council. He was there to encourage the King of Portugal to go to war with Spain or Somebody Else and the Somebody Else did not matter to the Wah Wahs. What mattered to the Wah Wahs was war, a really really big very big war. What mattered to the King of Portugal was that the war be with Spain. So Spain was his Somebody Else.

It was only a matter of time before the King of Portugal would take out all those centuries of Portuguese frustration with Spain. The frustration that the Spanish had half stolen the Portuguese language and not given Portugal the credit it felt it was due. The frustration that Portugal had given the world the first explorer to sail into dark seas for parts unknown. That was Prince Henry, not Columbus of the Christopher kind. And how the world had forgotten the around-the-world voyages of the Portuguese Magellan and his gang of sailors.

The frustration that Spain had almost stolen Brazil. The rest of South America was not enough. The Spanish wanted it all. The frustration that Portugal had become a backwater country on the world stage and not recognized for the once greatness that it had long ago lost. It was simply an also-ran to Spain’s becoming. The King of Portugal had a chip on his shoulder and he would do anything to get it off. Even go to war.

Some might be on the Road to Temporary but The Mighty Paddington, The Iranian Cubist Assassin, that night was on the Road to Barcelona. And he was no Dorothy in the company of a Toto, a Scarecrow, a Tin Man and a Cowardly Lion following the Yellow Brick Road to the Emerald City. Oh yes, he was on the Road to the Emerald City of Barcelona. But it was old Roman roads, dirt roads and cobblestone streets his carriage travelled, not that fabled yellow brick road.

With the Portuguese gendarmes on his tail, The Mighty Paddington, The Iranian Assassin, sped across Portugal for the Spanish border. He crossed the border into Spain, dumping the army behind him for he went where the Portuguese gendarmes dared not go. He rode into Spain in the dark of midnight on a moonless, starless night, the kind of night assassins, murderers, conspirators and thieves find particularly attractive. Onward into the darkness he moved. His route went south through Sevilla, stopping only for some flamenco dancing and a glass of the Agua de Sevilla, “a mild and tasty drink” that Sevillanos are so understandably proud of.

The carriage made its way east, its music singing, “To the Wah Wah League we go, we go to the Wah Wah League in Old Barcelona.” He hurried through Jaen and came to a small roadside inn. He decided that he could afford to stop for some of the hospitality Spanish roadside inns were famous for. And a good rest to boot.

He stepped out of his carriage, his long dark hair falling easily around his shoulders, his dastardly costumes hidden away in his luggage awaiting their next assignment of villainy. He no longer wore his dark mask but wore only the face he was born with. He wore a silk shirt and black pants, white gloves and black boots completing his ensemble. He was relaxed, taking a few minutes to exchange a joke with his driver. Then he stepped through the dark oak doors of The Aragon & The Castile named after the Isabella and the Ferdinand who had united the Kingdom of Spain into the Kingdom of Spain. His dark eyes studied the candlelit room.

“Hola,” the innkeeper approached his well-dressed guest, his mind raising the price of his goods by fifty percent for a good night’s profit. “Welcome to my establishment, Señor. Let me give you my best table right here.”

“No,” the stranger said. “I will take a table over by those two men sitting in the corner. And I will have a bottle of your best cava.”

“You would prefer that Catalan piss water over our fine Andalusian sherries. Señor, you will give my establishment a bad name if I serve you that…that stuff.” The innkeeper could not bear to bring himself to call the cava a wine.

Mighty pushed back. “Then I will leave and let all of Andalusia and Catalonia know how you insult your guests. That, in all of Spain, your establishment has no hospitality for the stranger and the traveler. How would that be, eh?”

The innkeeper’s face paled as pale as a face can pale. His face was white as the snows of the Sierra Nevada. “No, Señor, please. You are my guest. Your wish is my desire. My establishment’s hospitality will rival any you will find in Andalusia, in all of Spain. Cava you request, cava you shall have.” Leading Mighty over to the table he requested. “And you will find my paella unbelievably tasty.”

“Paella then it is,” Mighty said as he sat down in the chair at the table. His back to the wall, he faced the front door of the inn.

“And when you are ready,” the innkeeper said, “I will have the best of my girls show you upstairs. You will find that for an inn of this size there is a spacious room for a man of your honor’s stature.”

“No girl for me. Just a meal and a good night’s sleep. Then I am on my way.”

“Si, Señor,” the innkeeper said, disappointed. It was an opportunity to show off what a fine establishment he had and here the traveler was refusing his hospitality. What was the world coming to when an honest innkeeper couldn’t make an honest living showing off his best wares to someone who could afford them? How dare the stranger. Oh, well, and now the paella. He rushed away for the cava and the food.

Two men several tables down sat quietly drinking their sherry. They had not spoken since The Mighty Paddington, The Iranian Cubist Assassin, out of costume and all dandied up, had walked through the entrance. Both pistoleers wore black boots, black pants and black shirts, their black pistolas in black belts. Their black hats and black gloves in a third chair at the table.

They glanced over at the stranger and smiled. The stranger did not smile back. They lifted their glasses of Andalusian sherry and saluted the stranger. The stranger ignored their friendliness. One of the two men did not take kindly to this arrogance. They were making an effort and they were being insulted. How dare he.

The shorter of the two rose and sauntered over to the table of The Mighty Paddington, The Iranian Cubist Assassin. He leaned down and placed both his hands on the table. “Señor, why do you go out of your way to insult my friend over there?”

“Go ‘way, Señor,” Mighty said, his voice threatening.

“I asked you kindly. Now I am demanding that you rise up and go over there and apologize to my good friend. He is English and alone in the world, and here you insult him. We Andalusians do not take kindly to your arrogance. First you insult the good innkeeper here by ordering that stinking Catalan piss. Then you go out of your way to slap my friend in the face with your impudent manners. Now do as I say, and I will be magnanimous and forgive you. All will be well when we part, and we will part friends.”

“What part of ‘Go ‘way Señor’ did you not understand?” Mighty stared viciously into the highwayman’s eyes. The highwayman stared back.

The innkeeper rushed over with the cava. “Señors, please. Let us be civil.”

The pistoleer blinked first. He stood up taller than his shortness normally would allow.

“You are right, Señor Innkeeper,” he said. “We are civilized men. We should be civil.” He looked back at the stranger. “Am I not right, Señor?”

The innkeeper held his breath. The pistoleer turned back to the innkeeper. “Of course, I am right. This is our beloved España and Alfonso is our king. What other country could be so beloved? Not Portugal, not England, not Italy. Not even France, and there is much good to say for France. Of course, I am right, and,” he once again gave the stranger the evil eye, “and You Are Insulting. But, for the sake of hospitality, I forgive you. I sure hope my good English friend forgives you.”

He returned to his friend’s table. The two drank the last of their wine, donned their hats and their gloves and saluted the stranger. The taller of the two took out a bag of coins and dropped several on the table. On their way out, the Englishman, Quills, dropped a few coins into each of the waitresses’ hands. Then they said their goodbyes and went outside.

The stranger, The Mighty Paddington, The Iranian Cubist Assassin, drank his cava and ate his paella alone, and in peace. Undisturbed. He paid his bill and went upstairs for a well-earned rest. He was no longer in a hurry. He had time to get to Barcelona. Perhaps he would have a girl after all. He rang for the innkeeper. Within minutes, the innkeeper was at his door. Soon the innkeeper had supplied the stranger’s request. But the waitress was not happy about it. She hated spendthrifts. This man was a spendthrift. That she knew.

Next Week, Constipation.

Lady Wimpleseed-Prissypott # 29: How the heck did Portugal get in this story anyway?

Previous our heroine arrived in Barcelona.

It was easy, easier than the assassin thought.

The carriage carrying the Crown Prince of Portugal arrived at the restaurant late. He had been expected at nine o’clock in the evening. It was already eleven when he pulled up in front. The coachman stepped down from his seat atop the carriage and opened the door to allow the prince to exit.

A man stepped from the shadows on the street called Prince Henry the Navigator. His black cape and dark mask kept him camouflaged until he stepped into the light by the carriage. He had brought three mudpies but only one would be needed to do what was required.

The Mighty Paddington, the Iranian Cubist Assassin, pulled one of the pies out from under his cape and raised it. The prince’s face smashed right into it. The mudpie man cried, “Long live the Wah Wah.” Before either of the prince’s three retainers could do anything, the prince keeled over and fell to the street. He had died of embarrassment.

Mighty turned to flee. He ran smack dab into the coachman. The coachman grabbed him by the mask and the cape. Mighty reached under his cape and pulled a second mudpie from its sheath. Another of the prince’s retainers grabbed Mighty’s cape. Mighty raised the pie and rammed it into the coachman’s face. Before the second retainer could stop him, Mighty dropped his cape and jumped over the coachman. Then he was back into the shadows.

The Mighty Paddington, the Iranian Cubist Assassin, hurried to the house of an underground supporter. Before the army could get itself organized and block off all exits to the city, Mighty was dressed in the dress of a fancy-dancy nobleman and in a carriage and on the road to Spain.

To say the least, the King of Portugal was peaved. He was royally pissed. He called his War Council to a meeting. Pacing back and forth, steam came out of his ears. “The Spanish did this,” he said pacing. “I know it. They have been trying to do something like this ever since the Pope gave us Brazil. Well, they won’t get away with it. We will have our revenge on that arrogant Aragonist, Alfonso.” He meant the Spanish king’s son, His Royal Highness The Infante Alfonso. Not the father, Alfonso, who was old and senile. Though only the heir to the throne of Spain, Junior was the one who ruled over the Cortes and the country.

At that moment, one of the Portuguese king’s courtiers entered the War Council room. He approached the king’s person and bowed.

“Yes, flunky?” the king asked. “What do you want of His Divine Majesty, the King?”

“Your Wonderfulness,” the kneeling servant said, “the British ambassador is here. He has news about the attack upon the prince.”

“Then show the B. A. in.” The king stopped his willy-nilly pacing and turned toward the door.

The courtier escorted the B. A. into the room. The B. A. bowed a bow that was quite civilized. It showed that the B. A. was not the king’s subject, yet it showed respect for the king’s person.

“Your Majesty,” B. A. said, “you have Her Majesty’s most gracious condolences.”

“Yes,” the King of Portugal said, “yes, we know that. But you have news of the perpetrator?”

“My government does. It was not Spain.”

“Not Spain,” the king said. “Of course, it was Spain. It is always Spain, rubbing my people’s nose in its ass. We don’t even have our own language. It’s half Spanish, and not the good part, do you know that? How dare you tell me that it isn’t Spain.”

“Your Majesty, my government has proof that it was not Spain. It was an organization known as the Wah Wah League. They are trying to stir up trouble between the countries of Europe. They want us to go to war with one another. Once the war starts, there will be no stopping it. We will wear ourselves out. Then this organization steps in to take the proper governments’ places. First they create anarchy, then they create revolution, then the whole damned thing falls in upon itself. And pretty soon we’re out of a job.”

“Are you sure?” the king wanted to know.

“I am indeed. The assassin killed by mud pie, did he not? He wore a dark mask and a black cape, did he not?”

“Yes, that is true. That was him.”

“Then it was,” the B. A. said, “the Iranian Cubist Assassin. This has all his markings on it.”

“Hmmm,” the king hmmmed. “What would you have us do?”

“Have the army stand down.”

“Are you sure that it was this Iranian Cubist Assassin?”

“Yes, Your Majesty. I am sure. And we will catch him and bring him to justice. This I promise you.”

“Oh, I was so looking forward to taking on that Alfonso and his hoity-toityness.” The king turned to his Council. “Very well, gentlemen, order the army to stand down.” Then back to the B. A. “We want to see justice, and we want to see it soon. Do you understand?”

“Yes, Your Majesty.”

Next Week, The Mighty Paddington

Lady Wimpleseed-Prissypott # 28: A bit of sightseeing for Lady P. P. Not.

Previously the ghosts of Haggismarche received some good news.

When you’ve escaped a shipwreck and made land, it is a good thing to sit on a beach and cry. Lady Marye Caterina Wimpleseed-Prissypott, the former Mary-Mary Smith, sat on a beach and cried. She cried harder than she had ever cried before. Even harder than the night before she was sent off to marry an English lord. She cried, but did not know why she was crying. She was sitting on the beach and crying until finally she had cried herself out.

“Now that I’ve had my little cry, I’ll cry no more.” She looked out at the rising yellow sun. She had never seen anything so beautiful. Its beauty ran through her like first love. It was wonderful to be alive. There was only one itsy-bitsy little problem. She did not know where she was or how she had gotten on that empty beach early that morning. She sat in her white underdress and her corset, her dress and her hoop skirt torn off by the sea. She sat there in that sand and gazed at the sun and tried to remember. Her memory was not returning to her.

Mary-Mary was hungry. But she had no money. She had nothing but herself.

Mary-Mary picked herself up off the sand. In the distance, there were mountains. Little did she know that they were the Serra de Collserola. From up the beach and toward the north came the hum of ships as they sailed in and out of a nearby port. The sounds confused our heroine. Should she go in their direction?

After some hesitation, she decided against it. She picked herself up off the beach, saw a cobblestone street and took it. The street winded its way toward a broad shallow hill overlooking the sea. Perhaps on her way up that hill she could find a kind face or someone who could guide her to help. She passed a milkman, his cart delivering milk to the houses she passed. He gave her a look as did several women she spotted on the other side of the street. Perhaps they were upset that she had no shoes on. Where were her shoes anyway?

She came to a church, the Church of St. Teresa de Avila and walked past it, then turned around. Don’t churches help lost souls such as myself? She went through the large cedar doors and into the sanctuary. In the church, several women had their heads covered. One was lighting a votive candle. The rest knelt before the altar, praying. Behind the white marble altar, there were statues of the Mother of Jesus, Jesus, and St. Teresa de Avila.

Mary-Mary felt that she should not be in that place. She opened the entrance door to go back out into the sunlight. Then she fainted.

Several hours later she woke up in a bed. She found herself covered with a white sheet, lying on white sheets, her head against a white pillow. The room was white. There was nothing on the walls but a cross above the door.

In a chair sat a woman reading. Her black dress and black habit matched her black hair. She looked up from her prayer book, her face filled with peace. She smiled at Mary-Mary, then said several words in a language the survivor of the S. S. Twit did not understand.

“I don’t understand,” Mary-Mary heard herself say. “I don’t understand what you’re saying.”

The woman rose from her chair, said another thing, then left the room. Several minutes later she returned with a gray-haired man with a gray beard. He wore a cassock. He looked like a priest. Yes, he must be a priest.

“Señora? Señorita?” he stood by her bed and said. “You’re awake.” Then he noticed the wedding ring. “You had us worried, Señora. Would you like something to eat?”

“Yes please,” Mary-Mary said.

The priest turned to the woman she realized was a nun and said some words in the language Mary-Mary did not understand. The nun left.

“I am Father Jerome. You came into our church, and you fainted. We have been waiting for you to wake. Would you like to tell me something of yourself? How did God bring you to us?”

She shook her head. “I don’t know, Father. I woke up on the beach and walked up the streets until I came to your church. Something told me that I should come into the church. But I found it all very strange.”

The priest smiled. “That was God. He led you to us.”

The nun returned with a large bowl of soup and two slices of bread and a cup of hot tea.

“Have some nourishment. I have some duties to take care of. I will return late this afternoon, and we will see if we can sort this out, you and I with God’s help.”

Late that afternoon the priest returned. The nun had found Mary-Mary a long dress. It was white and she was sitting at the small table in the room.

“So, Señora,” the priest said. “I see the nuns have gotten you something more appropriate to wear, and you look like you’ve had some nourishment. You think you can talk now so that we may discover what brought you to us?”

Mary-Mary shook her head.

Father Jerome joined her at the table where she was sipping a cup of tea. He sat down and faced her from across the table. He folded his arms on the table and struck a pose that made her feel that he was totally listening to her.

“Where am I, Father?”

“You are on the outskirts of Barcelona in the convent attached to the Church of St. Teresa de Avila. You sound American but you have a little British accent to your English. From the ring on your finger, you must be a married woman.”



Mary-Mary gave him a look as if he were talking about the moon.

“España. Spain.”

“The nun that was here when I woke,” she said slowly, struggling to see through the haze of her disorientation, “that has brought me soup and tea, she must be Spanish. Yes, she must. What am I doing in Barcelona?”

“That is what we need to find out. How did you come to be here?”

“All I know is that I woke up on the beach this morning. I saw a street and I started walking. I was starved. Other than that. I don’t remember anything else.”

“I have heard cases of such as yours. It is called amnesia. Something traumatic must have occurred. You can’t remember anything else?”

“No, Father. What am I going to do?” she asked, then resignedly, “What am I going to do?”

“Let us not worry about that right now. The important thing is that you recuperate. Please accept our hospitality until we, you and I, can figure out what you next move will be.”

“Thank you, Father. I am sorry I am such a bother. I wish I could be more help.”

“You are no bother. It is our mission to provide hospitality to the stranger, the outcast and the pilgrim. We, the nuns and I, are here to help in any way we can. When you are feeling better I would like for you to have a visit with the Abbess. She is the mother of this congregation. Her name is Mother Sarah, and she will be overjoyed that you are feeling better.”

“How come you speak my language so well when the others do not?”

“I spent ten years in a mission in Texas. I cared for both the Mexicans and the Anglos. My health became poor. Since Barcelona is my home, I was assigned to this church.”

“You are ill?”

“I am better,” Father Jerome said. “Now you must have your rest. I will see you in the morning after I celebrate mass. Are you Catholic?”

“I don’t know, Father. I don’t know.”

“Ah, I forgot. Even if you are not, let me give you this.” The priest handed her a rosary. He blessed it as it sat in her hand. “Perhaps you would like to pray the prayer.”

“Yes, Father, I would.”

“Then tomorrow I will teach you. I know the Madonna, the Mother of Our Lord, is watching over you. Listen for her voice. She will speak to you.”

Over the next few days, Mary-Mary recuperated as she opened herself up to the hospitality of the priest and the nuns. She found a place to sit outside in the sun. She would spend hours, sitting in her chair, praying the rosary and trying to remember. After about a week of this, she asked to speak to the Abbess.

It was a bright spring morning when she went to see the Abbess whose office was on the third floor of the Convent. Behind a small desk stacked with papers sat an older woman in a nun’s dress and habit. On the wall behind her was a picture of St. Teresa de Avila, smiling down upon her disciple with kindness. Mary-Mary looked at the woman. Mary-Mary looked at the picture. She looked back at the woman. The two could have been twins.

The woman rose from behind her desk. She embraced Mary-Mary like a mother embraces a daughter, then she guided Mary-Mary over to a sofa. The two sat down. The nun studied the young woman’s face for several minutes.

Finally, she asked, her voice very soft, “Are you doing well, my child?”

Mary-Mary shook her head yes.

“Are you starting to remember?”

Mary-Mary started to cry. She cried for several minutes. The nun waited. The nun reached into a pocket and pulled out a handkerchief. She handed it to Mary-Mary. Mary-Mary wiped the tears from her face, then continued to sob.

“I can’t remember anything before that morning I came here. I am sorry, Mother. I am so sorry.”

Next Week: Wah Wah