Story:Unspooled/Drafts/Segments/The Stolen Brooch

From Constant Noble
Written on Miraheze on 20/8/2022, 2:27–4:12 a.m. Expanded from 8:29 till 11:22 a.m. through NovelAI.

Marigot, 7/7/2009 (Tue)

"Hold up, hold up!" Seán the otter cried out as he rushed out his father's room.

"Lass, what's the matter?" murmured the father, Drake.

"Something's happened inside," he said hurriedly. "They took your fáinne!"

"M—My fáinne?" muttered Drake. "Oh, dear Gauls! 'Twas the last thing my own da' had left!"

"But, sir," said his wife Darla, "maybe you misplaced it at noon before we left. I saw you digging out a few bits and pieces—"

"Yeah, for my chequebook," retorted Drake. "I know I shoved it right back—"

"And if you lost it, then don't you worry. Plenty more like it this side of the northe—"

"But we're talking about 'certificate of authenticity' on a finger right here!" Drake barked, harriedly pointing to his index claw. "That means I have Irish, and so do the rest of you!" (Not in the sense of guests, but the ability to speak it.)

"And without it," said Seán's cousin Riona, "how are we to prove our worth? We have a reunion in Connemara to attend next week—"

"Lest we get kicked out after passage," said Drake, "I'm calling the police. Haibéil!"

The Murphy otters could swear their entire downridge cottage was all locked up before they left for the baby shower. Not one hour after their last happy moment in the Nature Island this summer, not five minutes more after they walked down the steep unrailed stairs and long pathway to their front door, and bad news had to greet them out of nowhere at ten past nine. Seán could sense it, right in his almost webbed paws: This was clearly an inside job that would put Buster and the train gang to shame.

And they could all tell, too: Everything in Drake's den was ship-shape, the way he kept it most of the time. The Directorate of Overseas Surveys' Montserrat map hanging next to his cabinet; the portrait of his good friend Bernard lying next to a half-taken glass of water on his table; the long row of polished shoes next to his bed. Except for one small bit: The slightly dusty, small red case, where he always kept his prized treasure when not in use, deep at the back of his bed drawer.

Insistent on proof, Séan reached out inside the drawer and tried feeling for the case where it should be. Then Drake, a bit doubtful, did likewise. For once, his only kit had vindicated him.

"Well, it's not like they went through a secret trapdoor or anything," said Riona.

"Well, at least not what this house originally called for," said Darla.

"So how else did they get in?" wondered Drake.

A round of shrugs later: "We don't know," the group spoke out.

"Well, face it," said the otter mom, "we sure as the depths are not taking this standing easy. This is our heirloom, and we are not leaving this village till we get it back. Now who's with me?"

Everyone raised their paws, but as for Seán?

"I'm not."

" 'Not'? However come, then?"

"Well, I...have to keep someone company a mile away."

"I don't remember you mentioning that after your last school day."

"Change of plans: The guinea pigs down the highway have invited me over to their loft while you're gone. They got a baby on Sunday."

"But you're seven!"

"But I'm friends with the Longmires. Each of us knows what the other half's doing."

"Well, tell Joseph Crossheart and the gang we're on an important mission. No ifs, ands or buts."

Séan gave out a sigh. "Whatever you say, máf."

"Brooch or no brooch, we're still going. We worked the whole decade to book our tickets, and we can't let 'em go to waste. Thomas Cook doesn't work here, you know."

"All right, folks. Time to settle down," said the otter dad. "Soup's coming up shortly."

"And a couple of Psalms for the asking," added Riona.

"And a trip to the baths if you ask me," groaned Seán. "Those brownies can't wait to get out." (And yes, he actually ate chocolate carob cake over there.)

Seán thought over his fate for the next ten minutes. The family was all leaving on Friday, and there was almost no way he'd meet Little Miss Longmire for the first time before he left; besides, the parents wouldn't want to be disturbed while feeding her. Nor, on the Murphys' side, would they have adequate time—or funds—to assemble an investigation team just for the very need of one small fáinne.

So as it stood, sleeping it off was all he could do from this point.

And there goes my first stint at Adanson's, too...

Despite the calendar's insistence, this was not quite their lucky day.

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The following afternoon, Sam came by Sean's. He was looking rather sullen, with bits of silver soot and sand clinging on his fur and cheeks. The sun had done him in a bit too much these past few hours; better if he showered before long.

"Hey, Sammy, how'd it go?" asked Seán.

"It's a long story."

"Well, sit down, then."

Sam took a seat on the edge of the bed, and began. "You know, I went to the beach this morning with Dad, and—"

"Yeah, we heard about that. Molly reminded us Murphys over the phone."

"There were those three bears—at least three years older than me. Running along the shoreline like crazy, taunting us like jerks, peashooting at the passersby and swimmers and fishers..."[1]

"And then what?"

"They sailed off to Marie-Galante—unannounced—on a Chuck Noland raft—without a visa. Drifted away fast enough before the villagers could catch 'em."

"No visa?" Seán twiddled his thumbs. "Boy, are their parents gonna whoop 'em flat once they reach back!"

"That'll make our day."

"I mean, seriously, you can't leave Dominica for the French isles without a visa!"

"Visa? You know what that reminds me of?"

"Your uncle Matthew? He's shooting his dream movie in the Biscuit. Heard about it on the Marpin News last Friday."

"And we can't afford any ourselves." Sam shook his head, eyes rolling. "Guess it's up to Edison—but we'll have to go back to Roseau to apply for one."

"And even if we could afford it," lamented the otter, "time would be against us. Takes the Embassy five days to process; we're leaving this cottage in four."

"I'll remind Andrew's mom when I go up the road," Sam told Seán. "She'll understand better."

"So tell me, pal: What else did you see?"[2]

"'Twas a mere blur as they disappeared behind the biggest crest five miles off Sand Bay," said the raccoon, "but I can definitely recall. Something small, something red..."

"Oh, dear. I don't have a good feeling about this..."

"...and something slightly dusty. But at least the surf took care of the cobwebs in no time, I bet."

"You're telling me they stole my dad's heirloom?" Seán was about to sob.

"Afraid so. Unless it was something less important."

Dismayed, Seán slunk away and collapsed on the mattress, arms flailing and hindpaws clobbering up and down. "Our Connemara camaraderie's cancelled! Now we'll never leave this field!"

"Face it," said Sam, "we still have plenty of time."

"No, we won't!"

"Yes, we should. We'll tell the authorities, and once we do, full steam ahead."

Even though he stopped wailing for a while, tears still streamed from the otter's eyes.

"Face it, this case is gonna span two counties: Us Nature Islanders here, and my family's ancestral home in Guadeloupe. That'll be enough for everyone else to take notice."

"It better," cried Séan, as he wiped away his misery for once. "Or else I'll never forgive you."

"Trust me," said Sam, "your dad's keepsake will be good as returned—as long as we work hard on it. Now...how else are we getting to Capesterre?"

"Well...plane's safer than boat," said the otter. "But more expensive..."

"Not to mention you can't fly directly from Melville Hall," Darla reminded Sam as she as Drake came back from errands. "Even though it's so visibly close to us. Oh, and good afternoon, you two."

"Good afternoon, boys. Pity they had to make Guadeloupe a stopover," added Drake. One look at his son and Sam, and he told them: "By the way, I've reached out to the village police. They'll look into it starting tomorrow. Better be found or we'll never g...

"Wait a minute. How come you're bringing Marie-Galante into this mess?"

The youngsters looked straight towards the other Murphys, with a harder stare than Paddington himself could have imagined. "Long story."

Notes

  1. Original suggestion by NovelAI (with since-replaced text in red and prompt sentence in bold):
    The following afternoon, Sam came by Sean's. He was looking rather sullen.
    "Hey, Sammy, how'd it go?" asked Seán.
    "It's a long story."
    "Well, sit down, then."
    Sammy took a seat on the edge of the bed, and began. "You know, I went to the beach yesterday with Dad, and—"
    "Yeah, we heard about that."
    "They were having a baby shower over there, so we decided to take the kids for a walk along the shoreline."
  2. Originally suggested as "And what happened?" by NovelAI.