Lady Wimpleseed-Prissypott # 38: The Barcelona Tango

Previously, the Prime Minister executed a plan and it wasn’t pretty. Not pretty, at all. Quills has followed the Mighty Paddington to the Convent where Lady P. P. is being held hostage. 

Quills heard the dandy’s voice as it threatened someone at the top of the stairs of the convent. He would have liked to race up the stairs but Hector would have said, “Wait, mi hermano. Bide your time. Your patience may save your life.” So, Quills held back at the bottom of the stairs.

A woman’s voice came down to him. “Leave me alone,” she said. Quills recognized the voice as someone he had heard before. But when? Who? He couldn’t recall.

On the top of the stairs, the dandy, The Mighty Paddington, The Iranian Cubist Assassin, grabbed the woman by the arm and pulled her down the hall.

“Leave me alone,” the woman, Mary-Mary Smith also known as Lady Marye Caterina Wimpleseed Prissypott, said louder, wandering why the nuns on the second floor did not burst out of their bedrooms and come up to rescue her from this villainous man. Then it came to her. The nuns were all on a week’s retreat at their sister house in Madrid.

“What are you doing?” she said to the man who was dragging her to Mother Superior’s office.

“Never you mind,” the villain said. “The question is not what am I doing. Rather it is what were you doing?”

“I heard voices,” she said, struggling to loose her arm from the man’s grip. “They woke me up. I came up here to see. When I realized it was Mother Superior and Father Jerome, I was on my way back to bed. Let me loose so I can go back to my room and go to sleep.”

“None of us may get any sleep tonight,” he said, pulled open the door to Mother Superior’s office and pushed Lady P. P. inside. He followed. “My friends, I caught a spy. This little thing was listening at your door.”

A breeze eased through the latticework of the office as a full moon stood outside unaware of the danger inside the convent. Father Jerome, Mother Superior, the Doctor and Mata Hari were raising their glasses of wine to toast their success. They all stopped.

Mata Hari saw her ladyship; her ladyship saw Mata Hari.

“You,” Mata Hari said.

The fog of our heroine’s amnesia cleared, and the sun of her memory returned. Her ladyship remembered Mata Hari on the Orient Express, and her threat. She remembered that she was an English lady. She remembered the British ambassador refusing to believe her tale in Istanbul. She remembered Smythie Smathers’s words on the S. S. Twit. She remembered the sinking of the S. S. Twit. She remembered all that she had learned from her daddykins about self-defense.

“You,” Lady P. P. said, now free from the dandy’s grasp.

Mata Hari gave The Mighty Paddington, The Iranian Cubist Assassin, one of her come hither looks that seemed to say, “Take care of this bitch and I will give you some.” His legs almost gave in but he held his stand. He knew he could never trust a woman who carried a Wise & Heimer the way Mata Hari did.

Before Mighty could stop her, her ladyship was across the room. She formed a fist and drew back and rammed that fist right into Mata Hari’s nose, knocking the fatale out of her femme and off her feet. She turned and jumped in the air, like a martial artist, and slammed her left foot into The Mighty Paddington’s groin.

The priest, Mother Superior and Doctor Qwackers cowered in the corner. This was more than they had bargained. Her ladyship was like a lioness protecting her young. She had caught her Wah Wah League’s adversaries unawares.

Then Marye Caterina Wimpleseed Prissypott made for the door. She grabbed its knob. Quills pulled the door open and the momentum threw our heroine out of the room and down the hallway. She crashed through the latticework and off the ledge. She grabbed the ledge with one hand.

Quills rushed down the hall and over to the window. “What happened?”

“You threw me down the hall when you opened the door,” her ladyship said, hanging on for her life. Quills suddenly remembered where he had heard that voice. Gibraltar.

He went to reach for her hand. Behind him, he heard a noise. He turned and saw The Mighty Paddington coming for him. Mighty threw the first punch. It missed Quills. Quills threw the second punch. It hit Mighty squarely on the chin. Mata Hari drew her Wise & Heimer. She took aim but across the room came a knife to take out the gun in her hand. It was Pip, a chip off the old Flip of Flip, Fop & Flimby, Solicitors at Law. He ran up behind Mighty and knocked the dandy out with his pistol.

As Pip forced Mother Superior, Father Jerome and the doctor into a closet and locked it, Quills returned to the ledge to rescue her ladyship. But she was gone. She had fallen. He looked below to see a man throwing her body across his shoulders and hurrying off to a carriage.

“That must be 007,” Pip said from behind Quills. “We have to stop him. He’s working for The Times and he means to either kill her ladyship or ship her off to God-knows-where.”

“Let’s go,” Quills said rushing out of the office. “I’ve been to God-knows-where and that’s no place to be sent.”

Pip was right behind him as he took the stairs three at a time. They ran out of the building.

“I have horses waiting,” Pip said. “They’re around the corner.”

They made for the horses and rode down the cobblestone street where James Bond’s carriage had gone. The carriage raced toward the piers of the port of Barcelona. He was heading to a ship owned by The Times.

The horses came closer and closer to the carriage. From the carriage came gunshots. Bullets whizzed by Pip and Quills, barely missing.

“I thought this Bond was supposed to be a good shot,” Pip said to Quills as the two raced their horses nearer the carriage. One of the bullets breezed past an inch from his ear.

“He’s getting better and better,” Pip yelled back at Quills.

Quills and Pip closed in on the carriage. More bullets, and they realized that it was the driver that was firing. Seemed that James Bond 007 had his hands full, fighting her ladyship in the carriage. Pip aimed his revolver. He dropped the driver.

Now the carriage was a runaway. Quills pulled up beside the carriage and past it until he reached the horses. He was about to jump onto the carriage horses when they swerved in the opposite direction and turned up another street. As they did, the carriage came crashing down on its side and slid half a block further.

“Oh no,” Quills halted his horse and wheeled it around. “Oh no.”

Pip was already thinking what Quills was thinking. Her ladyship was dead in the carriage, or at the very least badly injured. Pip jumped down from his horse.

“Get off me, you turd,” Pip heard from inside the carriage. “I mean, you cad. Oh shit. I meant what I said the first time. Turd. You’re an incredibly bad turd too.”

Whack, whack came the sounds from inside the carriage. Quills and Pip were at the carriage door at the same time. Popping out of the carriage door was her ladyship.

“Would you kind gentlemen help a lady out of this carriage please?”

Next week, true love.

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Lady Wimpleseed-Prissypott 25: More trouble in the jungle

Previously the Ghosts of Haggismarshe found out that Lady P. P. had disappeared. She was possibly dead.

Back in the jungle, the night was one enormous sound, so loud that Mata Hari and Kruger could barely sleep. So loud that the noise was enough to scare the cojones off Kruger if he had cojones. But all those lion and tiger and elephant sounds were the romanticism of the jungle for Johnny Eager. It was his song.

Early the next day, the three were up and setting out for the diamonds. Mata Hari in the lead, taking directions from Johnny Eager on which way to go, then Johnny and Kruger following with the native carriers in the rear.

To say that the trail to the diamonds had curves would be the same as saying that Mata Hari had curves. Of course, the woman had curves and what curves she had. Johnny Eager had seen curves on other women. Mata Hari’s put all those curves to shame. Johnny watched her curves wiggle their way along the curves of the jungle trail.

Kaptain Kroger Kruger shoved his krugerand up Johnny’s caboose. “On, you huskey,” the cold steel intimated. So, on the party trekked their trek. Even with the map, it would have been hard to find the diamonds. Without Johnny, it would have been impossible. The map was only the first half of a puzzle. The second half was in Johnny’s brain. He was the only one who could interpret the map and find the diamonds.

It was a long way to Temporary where the gems were hidden. A long hard way indeed. This was one of those times that the Eager Beaver was not eager. Johnny was in no hurry to get to those diamonds.

On and on, the company marched, negotiating their way through the flora and fauna, the massive overgrowth and all the other jungle stuff that you might expect to find in a jungle. On and on, they marched down the long and winding road and up the yellow brick road, following trails that had not been followed since following began. They caught up with Terry Cognito and Terry N. Cognito, the Cognito twins, and passed them by. The native carriers followed, singing their national anthem “One Ton of Tomatoes” to the tune of “Guantanamera”.

The group managed to slip through the country of the Kwabanzi and avoid the tribal war with the Jujus, a war that had been going on for at least one hundred years. They missed Stanley and his I-presuming encounter with Doctor Livingston.

The party bypassed the territory of Tarzan. They were not interested in a close encounter with the notorious Ape Man. Sometime back, Jayne had divorced him and returned to England. “He’s never home,” she complained. “Boy and Cheetah need a father. He’s always gone somewhere, swinging on those damned vines. He knows I can’t keep up. But he does it anyway.” She took old Tar for everything he had, including the tree house he built in the middle of the jungle. She had rented it out and gone back to England for a decent English life.

In his loneliness, Tarzan was now on his third marriage. You really don’t want to know about his second marriage. Besides it was annulled. But this third marriage was not working out any better than the other two. The new bride, everybody said, had the face of a gorilla. That was because she was a gorilla. And she had old Tar on a short lease. He was getting a bit fed up. If he wanted a boss, he would have stayed with Jayne. These days he was plain peeved and a peeved Tarzan was not a pleasant fellow to come into contact with. So, the company went out of their way to avoid his territory.

When they came to the famous Victoria Falls, they stopped to admire the scenery. “One heck of a falls,” Johnny pointed out. While there, they stopped in for some grub at the Restaurant at the End of the Galaxy. It was a restaurant all Africa knew about.

“Time to go, ja,” Mata Hari said, touching the pistol at her side, a Wise & Heimer .45. They left the restaurant, stuffed to the gills if they had been fish. Of course, they weren’t fish but they were still stuffed.

On they trod. Through the kingdom of the Suk of Sukatash. Past several posts of the French Foreign Legion. They encountered potentates potentating. The journey was enough to make Mata Hari regret the evil work she had gotten herself into. If only she could relax. After all, it was the style to spend a while on the Nile. But on they went. Until one day, Kruger had had enough.

“I have had enough,” Kaptain Kroger Kruger said, pointing his krugerand at Johnny Eager’s heart.

“Oooo, you’ve had enough,” Johnny said. “You’ve had enough? I have had enough. You and your krugerand stuck in my back all this way. I am getting tired of it.”

“If we do not arrive soon,” the kaptain said, “I am going to start seeing that my bullets arrive in a place where the stars don’t shine, capeesh?”

“Boys,” Mata Hari said in her best Mae West accent. “We’ve come this far. Let’s not fight. I like my men alive and kicking. As I always say, it’s not the men in my life. It’s the life in my men, big boys.”

Johnny knew he couldn’t keep the charade up much longer. If he didn’t show them the diamonds, he would be a ding-dong-daddy and he’d be dead. The one thing Johnny knew was that he did not want to be dead. In his book, dead was not a good thing. Not a good thing at all.

Besides the soles of his boots were wearing thin. He needed a new pair of boots, preferably black and shiny. The ladies all loved black and shiny boots, and Johnny loved the women. He was tired of this cat and mouse, and he was ready for that new pair of boots. The worst that could happen: he would be dead. And he didn’t plan on being dead. At best, he would get his money, then he would buy his new boots.

“Alright,” Johnny said. “I will show you where the diamonds are. There’s one thing though.”

“I knew my krugerand would konvince you,” Kaptain Kroger Kruger kommented.

“It was not your gun,” Johnny said. “It was my boots. I need new boots. My feet are killing me. And I want this ridiculous trek over. So, what about it? Will you go along with my deal?”

“It is possible,” Mata Hari said, studying his eyes, studying for a trick. “What is your offer?”

“I will show you where the diamonds are. Kruger, you can’t come along.”

“Why should I go along with that deal?” Kruger said.

“Ja, why should he go along with that, Johnny?” Mata Hari said.

“Because you’ll never get the diamonds,” Johnny said. “I will never tell you.”

“I will just shoot you up until you tell us,” Kruger pointed his krugerand at Johnny’s leg. “And I will start with your third leg. How would you like your wiener to be schnitzelled ? Then there would be no Johnny for the ladies, ja?”

“Go ahead, Kruger.” Johnny reached over and grabbed the barrel of the krugerand and pointed it at his package. “Go ahead. I will guarantee you will not get the diamonds. Capeesh?”

“Hold it, Kroger,” Mata Hari interjected. “He means it. He would let you blow off his wiener rather than tell you. I say we agree to his offer.”

“You’d better listen to the lady.” Johnny smiled at Kruger.

Kruger shoved his gun into his holster, then stared at Johnny. “I don’t trust him.”

“Well, I don’t trust you either,” Johnny said.

“We will do it your way, Johnny,” Mata Hari said. “But no crossing doubles.”

“No double cross,” Johnny agreed. “You make sure you have my money ready when we come back.”

“If you cross us, I will hunt you down,” Kruger said, “and you will die a horrible death. I know things and I shall use those things on you.”

“It’s a deal,” Johnny said. “Get your gear, Mata. We’ve got a bit of a walk to take.”

Johnny Eager and Mata Hari gathered up a canteen and some beef jerky. “Let’s go,” Johnny said.

The two of them walked out toward the morning sun. They had a half day’s hike out into the open, then up a hill and into a cave. That was where the diamonds were. Johnny was hoping her greed would help him pull off what he was hoping to pull off.

But why were these diamonds Johnny Eager had hidden in a cave in the heart of Africa, why were they important.? Well, they were extra special diamonds. And they were purchased for an extra special purchase. Johnny Eager had only been the middleman, transporting them from a Boer in South Africa to Mata Hari.

Mata Hari belonged to an organization known as the Wah Wah League. The Right Reverend Henry Wah Wah formed the organization as a way to enforce his anarchist theories. He recruited a few hundred anarchists to join him in an effort to bring down governments everywhere.

Through the use of terrorist tactics, the governments would eventually yell “ouch,” and give Henry Wah Wah what he and the Wah Wah League wanted. Unfortunately the Russians discovered the Right Reverend in Moscow and executed him. However, and there’s always a however in these sorts of stories, his reign of terror was not over. Two of his disciples took over the leadership of the league. They were Mata Hari and The Mighty Paddington, the Iranian Cubist Assassin.

The two had changed his strategy. Now they were out to turn governments against each other, then those states would go to war. In achieving this, they were using WMD, Weapons of Mudpie Distress. They were assassinating with mudpies.

Their henchmen gave leaders of countries mudpies in the face. The victims died of embarrassment. When someone said that a politician got a pie in the face, they meant he really got a pie in his face. This tactic worked on leaders of state everywhere save one place. The United States of America. Everybody hit with a pie died from embarrassment but not the Americans. Nothing embarrassed them. Nada. As Buffalo Bill often told his audience, “That’s show business.”

What do diamonds have to do with mudpies? They were special diamonds produced especially for mudpies. I know, dear Reader, you think I am making this up. But ’tis true, ’tis true. In a ceremony created by the Right Reverend, he ground up these special diamonds into the mud.

Once they were ground up in the mud, he baked an especially potent mudpie that really embarrassed folks. The diamonds provided a solvent that glued the mudpie to the victim’s face. The only way to get it off was plastic surgery.

Several months earlier, the league had used up their last diamonds. They had ordered a new batch and Johnny Eager was hired to pick them up. Mata Hari was supposed to get them from him and take them to the league’s headquarters in Barcelona. Johnny Eager and Mata Hari stood on a hill overlooking a savannah.

“The diamonds are here, ja?” Mata Hari smacked her lips in anticipation. “My package is here.”

“There are packages and there are packages, Mademoiselle.” Johnny smiled at her greedily. “You sure are one hell of a package. No reason we can’t trade packages. I will give you mine and you can give me yours.”

Then he turned and walked up the side of the hil. She followed him into the dark heart of a cave. Johnny reached over and grabbed the woman by the waist and took her in his arms. He kissed her hard. She kissed him hard. Their bodies met. Then she pushed him away.

“Where are my diamonds? If you don’t give me my diamonds, I will kill you myself.”

Johnny loosened his hold on her. He walked further into the dark and returned minutes later. In his hand, he held a bag of diamonds. He also held a gun. She reached out to him. She felt both packages, one of gems, another cold hard steel.

“Man, I love your packages,” she said, taking the diamonds, moving the gun out of the way. She leaned over and kissed him. Kissed him hard. Her body close to his. His body close to hers.

“Let’s do it, Johnny,” she whispered into his ear. “And let’s do it with a verb.”

He wrapped his arms around her and the two lit up the cave with their passion.

Then Johnny pushed her body aside, raised his cold steel revolver and fired.

Next Week: A ride to the other side and back again.

Lady Wimpleseed-Prissypott # 22: Just when you think things can’t get any worse

Previously the S. S. Twit sank and our heroine found herself swimming for land. Back in Chapter 14, we were introduced to big game hunter Johnny Eager and his sidekick. They were up to their necks in rhinoceros poop.

Johnny Eager, our big game hunter, dropped the branch. At the toes of his shiny black boots lay the rhinoceros. Two shots and the beast had gone down. Johnny looked over to the spot where the shots came from. Walking toward him in a pith helmet and a khaki outfit was a woman he was very familiar with.

It was Mata Hari. Behind her followed a man. The woman raised her rifle again. She aimed. She pulled the trigger twice. Johnny looked over and saw his sidekick fall to the ground. Johnny jumped up and ran over to his friend.

Karl was on the ground dying. He looked up at his friend with a plea in his bright blue eyes. Then he died.

Johnny turned and rushed the woman. “You bitch,” he yelled. As he came within a foot of her, a rifle butt smashed down onto the back of his head.

“I wouldn’t advise that,” a toothless Scumbag Higgins said. He was someone Johnny knew as a smuggler and a poacher and an all-around worthless hyena of a man. He would steal from his mother if there was a buck in it. You could look the word “scumbag” up in a dictionary and there would be a picture of Scumbag Higgins.

“Johnny, Johnny.” Mata Hari looked down at the big game hunter on the ground and smiled. Her accent had changed from the previous episode when she was introduced to the Lady P. P. as well as the Reader. She often changed her accent to fit the occasion, depending on who the listener was. It was German now. “Guess that’s why they call you the Eager Beaver, ja? I did not think I was going to need a bodyguard. I thought you loved me. Oh ja, that is right. You love this body, do you not?” She moved her hands up and down her body, her tailored khakis hugging her curves tightly, leaving nothing to the imagination. If there was one thing she always did, it was to show off her curves. It usually distracted men long enough for her to do her business which was always no-good.

“Bitch,” Johnny said, then sat up and rubbed the back of his head. His face was flushed with anger. He tried to stand but couldn’t quite pull himself up on his legs. His head hurt and so did his wrist.

“Sit there, buddy,” Scumbag said. “When the lady says you can get up, you can get up. You don’t try anything or you’ll get a mouthful of this.” He pointed his rifle butt at Johnny.

“Now, now, Scumbag,” she said. “Johnny is our friend. He is going to help us out, aren’t you, Johnny? I didn’t know that you could spell mein middle name.” Mata Hari had no friends, only associates. As soon as she got what she wanted out of Johnny Eager, she’d leave him to Scumbag. “Am I not right, Johnny, you can spell and you are my friend, ja?”

“Why did you do it?” Johnny sat on the jungle floor. “I knew you were a cold-hearted bitch. But I didn’t expect murder. Why did you murder Karl?”

Mata Hari squatted down and the cold steel of her eyes met Johnny’s eyes. “I had not met mein quota of men today. Your friend made my quota. Now let’s get down to business. You have my package?”

“You sure you want my package?” he said, looking straight into her eyes, then between his legs, then back into her eyes. “How do you know you can trust me?”

“Oh, I know I can trust you,” she said, drawing a knife from her belt. “I want my diamonds and you have them.”

“You aren’t afraid I will get the best of you?” Johnny glanced over at Scumbag Higgins.

Scumbag took out his hunting knife and began to free the horn from the rhino. He looked up at Johnny. “You think you can take me, Eager? Try it. Just try it.”

“How can you be such a slime?” Johnny said, then picked himself up off the jungle floor. “That rhino had more honor in him than you and all your friends. Friends who almost got us killed. Selling us those crappy weapons. They both misfired. I plan to carve the nose off the face of that friend of yours who sold me them weapons, que pas?”

“Right. First you’ve got to buy yourself some cojones.” Scumbag returned to his task.

Johnny managed to get to his feet. The red went to his face. The adrenalin shot through his body. Before Scumbag knew it, Johnny was on top of him. Eager grabbed Scumbag’s rifle and slammed the butt down into his adversary’s face once, twice, three times.

“You …,” Johnny said. “Damn you, you.” He raised the rifle once more. Click. Feeling cold steel against his head, he stopped and turned. Mata Hari had aimed her rifle at the back of his head.

“I do not shoot you, Johnny,” Mata Hari said. “But I think you had better stop.”

Johnny dropped the rifle, turned back to Scumbag Higgins. The scumbag, Scumbag, was dead.

“He’s dead,” Johnny said. “And I don’t think even the hyenas will want to use him for a meal.” He suddenly realized how dark it was getting. The jungle was coming alive with the night. “We’ve got to get back to camp. That’s where the diamonds are. You can have your damned diamonds, then you can leave me in peace.”

“Such a waste, Johnny,” Mata Hari said and pointed at Scumbag Higgins. “We could have used him. You know how I hate waste.” She came from a long line of people who did not waste anything. Even suicide. Her father, General Hari Kari kept committing suicide but it didn’t take because suicide was such a waste.

“If you hated waste, why did you waste my friend?” Johnny stood up. He went over and threw Karl’s body across his back. “Let’s go.”

“He was a threat,” Mata Hari said as she followed Johnny Eager, big game hunter, back to his camp. “You did not know he was a spy, ja?”

“Who was he spying for?” he said, listening to the jungle sounds growing louder around him. He was relieved when he saw his camp’s fire through the bush ahead.

“I am not sure but he was spying. Stop.”

Johnny stopped in his tracks. “What?”

She pushed the barrel of her rifle into his back. “Before we get to camp, I warn you not to try anything. I will find the diamonds with or without you.”

“The sooner I am rid of you the better. You get the diamonds and get out of here and leave me to my hunting. Ja?” He pushed through the bushes.

“Ja.”

Several native carriers were eating around a fire.

Johnny Eager walked into the camp and dropped his friend’s body onto the ground. “It’s just us weenies, fellows,”

“Well, if it ain’t Johnny Eager,” a familiar voice came from the edge of the camp.

“I should have known that where she is you wouldn’t be far behind, Kruger.”

The native headman started to move toward his weapon. Kapitain Kroger Kruger pulled out his pistol, a krugerand, and pumped four gold bullets into the headman. The native fell.

“Enough,” Johnny said.

Mati Hari walked over and put her arms around her comrade. She kissed him hard on the lips as Kruger watched the Eager Beaver.

“Darling, what took you so long?” she said.

“I had some business to take care of.” Kruger said.

“Now, Johnny,” she said, “you give me my package. We will give you your payment, then we are gone. In the morning.”

“Good riddance,” Johnny said. He walked over to his tent and went inside, picked out a map from his personal papers and went back outside.

“Here.” He handed the map to Mata Hari.

“What is this?” Kruger asked.

“Johnny, Johnny,” she said. “Where is our diamonds?”

“It’s a map to your diamonds,” Johnny said, the light glancing off his face. “You didn’t think I was going to leave those diamonds lying around for anybody to pick up, do you?”

Kruger’s half lit face looked at Mata Hari’s shadow. “It makes sense to me. Let’s get some sleep and we’ll dig them up the first of morning. We’re taking your tent for tonight, Eager. And don’t try anything. I am a light sleeper, ja.”

Just to make sure that nothing happened, Kruger tied Johnny and the carriers together. He tied them with knots that had knots and more knots. When he was sure they were secure, he joined Mata Hari for some r and r in the tent.

Early the next morning. the native carriers buried Karl and the headman into two deep holes that they had dug during the night. Johnny said a few words over each of the bodies and the carriers filled in the dirt. Then the three set out for the diamonds. Johnny leading, then Mata Hari with Kruger. The native bearers in the rear carried everybody’s stuff and grumbled about the black man’s burden.

Next Week: England learns about the sinking of the S S Twit and the loss of Lady P P.

Lady Wimpleseed-Prissypott 10: A spy by any other name is still a spy

Previously our heroine met three ghosts at Haggismarshe. They convinced her that she should do some travelling. After all, she could afford it.

To prepare for her journey, Lady Marye Caterina Wimpleseed-Prissypott needed a wardrobe. She was off to London and shopping. She outfitted herself in the best that Bond Street had to offer for the well-dressed lady who wants to gadabout. And, as we all know, no gadabout would be a gadabout without gadabout hats. So she filled seven hat carriers. Each carrier held six hats.

Lady P. P., as she was now affectionately referred to by the servants of Haggismarshe, and by the press, donned her best pink pantaloons, corset and hooped skirt, her bright white dress and her pithy pith helmet and her dainty black boots. She bid her household fare-thee-well. Then she had Leavers leave her at the docks. Her ship passed the White Cliffs of Dover and landed in France. On to Paris she went, arriving in time to catch the Orient Express.

The train made its way through France and toward Istanbul. Lady P. P. noticed a mysterious woman dressed to the tens and more across from her. The woman was exquisitely embroidered into an outlandishly revealing dress. She had accoutrements of jewelry decorating her body in various and sundry places.

And, yes, dear reader, she was the woman in black, standing outside the Abbey during the wedding in Chapter Four. The very same woman arrived too late to marry Lord Dunnie which was her Plan A. Her Plan B to have an affair with the Old Cootster fell through as well. He went and died. In the meantime, she had come up with a Plan C. Hook up with Lady Wimpleseed-Prissypott, get in her good graces, and use her to do dastardly deeds. As they used to say, “All’s fair in love and war and getting your own way.”

“May I, how you say, introduce myself?” the young woman asked in a deep Franco-German accent with a tinge of Polish-Italian to it. “My name eez Mata Hari.”

“Oh, just call me Lady Marye Caterina Wimpleseed-Prissypott of Haggismarshe,” our heroine returned. She was not happy with the familiarity of the other woman.

“That eez such a looonnnng name to call someone of your obvious common background, don’t you think?”

“That’s what I am called. I’ve read that you are a spy. Is that true?”

“I spy, Lady Marye Caterina Wimpleseed-Prissypott of Haggismarshe. But eet eez not as eef I could help myself. I do eet for love.”

“I’ve always wanted to ‘do it’ for love,” Marye said. “But I seldom find the opportunity. Most of the men I know are regular prissypotts. There was one but that’s been a long time gone. Now I am on my own and gadaboutting ‘round the world. Mostly I find myself dilly-dallying about like some dolly on the Chattanooga Choo Choo.”

“The Chattahooga Shoe Shoe? I love ze shoes. Where can I find a pair of those? Hope zhey are more comfortable than the ones on my feets. My feets eez killing me.”

“You will find them in Chattanooga.”

“Where this Chattahooga?”

Before Marye could respond, Mata Hari suddenly appeared distracted by a noise from outside the compartment. “Pardon. Excusez moi.” She was on her feet lickety-split and out the cabin door and heading down the hall.

“That was so strange,” Lady P. P. said to herself. “Such a delightful woman. I mean, for a spy. Just as I was getting ready to let her call me Marye, she up and ups out of here.”

Two gendarmes appeared at the door.

“Madam?” the one with the mustache said.

“Yes?” Marye pulled out her compact and began to powder her nose.

“Have you, by some way, zeen a woman dressed elegantly with jewelry perched all hover her body? She eez Mata Hari, the notorious spy. Have you zeen her?”

“Can’t say that I have. Only us Americans here.” She smeared lipstick onto her lips.

The gendarme closed her door. Within minutes, Mata Hari, disguised as a mustachioed man in a tuxedo, appeared at the door and came inside. She had a dagger in her hand. “I will get you for telling ze gendarmes that I was here.”

“But I didn’t.”

“Then I will get you for lying.”

“But I didn’t.”

“Then I will get you for being such a bad liar.”

Then the dagger was gone, and so was Mata Hari. Mata Hari’s Plan C had fallen through. Now onto Plan D and a certain Eager Beaver.

PARLIAMENT PARLIAMENTS

In the House of Lords called “Lords” for shortsky, Baron Duffield said, “We can do anything we want. After all, we are the lords of Lords. We can take her title if we want. As far as her lands are concerned, we will repossess them and remit them to the Queen’s Estate.”

“If we do that,” Sir Myles said, “none of us will ever get another American heiress to marry us.”

“We could get the marriage annulled,” Tucksmeyer said. “Who knows if Lord P. P. ever consummated the union. I doubt he did.”

“Then there can be no objection to an annulment,” Baron Duffield said, “can there, Myles?”

QUILLS

It was a dark and moonless night on the Rock of Gibraltar. Quills, whom we met in a previous chapter, Chapter Six, stood on the beach at Catalan Bay, reflecting on his life. Twenty-five years old and he, Quilip Thomas St. James Loopsey, had no prospects for the future. Possibly his father, the Governor of Gibraltar, would buy him a parish to provide him a comfortable living. Then a wife of his father’s choosing. After that, children and soon old age and death. What a bore that would be.

Seeing Lord Dunnville Percival Wimpleseed-Prissypott’s face plop into his soup and die brought to Quills’ mind how mortal he was. At that moment, he knew he wanted more than his life of British privilegedom promised. He wanted passion, adventure, true love. He wanted his freedom.

He looked out into the darkness, a darkness that reminded him of his bleak future. He sat down on the beach and pulled off his shoes. He rose and walked into the water. When the water reached his waist, he began to swim, one arm in front of the other taking him farther and farther out to sea. And farther and farther into his future. He swam deep into the night. Joy and exhilaration cruised through his body. He was free.

Next Week: Istanbul, Constantinople.