The Material World: Part 6-The Empty Bag

The Material World: Part 6-The Empty Bag

Exercise Your Imagination!  Do you like stories with mystery and suspense? Well, if you do, keep reading and enjoy Eggcentricsagas.  If you are just joining Eggcentricsagas, start from the beginning: A La Mano: Part 1-The Treasure

Madame Bisset’s jaw dropped, and she stopped cutting the material she was working on. “Un meurtre?!”

After hearing his name, Pepe looked at Claude. Anticipating a walk, the dog tilted his head. Penelope also tilted her head. “A murder? Who?”

“A man. One of the soothsayer’s clients,they think.”

Her curiosity piqued, Penelope asked, “One of her clients? What did he look like?”

“They didn’t say. Only that the red-haired policeman was asking the neighbors to describe any men they saw going in and out of her apartment.”

“Did they say anything else about him?”

“There was evidence of a fight prior to him being stabbed to death with a knife. It may have been over money as they found an empty bag beside the body.” Claude paused before adding, “Well, almost empty. It had Madame des Plumes’ card in it.” Penelope remembered the cards that her mother, Polly, would give to clients that asked for them. She recalled the information done in the fancy scroll.

Madame Bisset interrupted at this point and spoke rapidly in French to Claude. He answered her. Then she turned and glared at Penelope as if the girl had something to do with the crime.

Ignoring her suspicious staring, Penelope asked Claude, “Can you tell me anything else?”

He shook his head and then asked her a question, “Do you think that the policeman wants to interview you? To find out if you know the man?”

Penelope shrugged.

“Maybe you should go to the prefecture and find him. You might help to solve the murder.”

At dinner that night, Madame Bisset engaged Claude in more conversation in rapid French. Later that evening, she began to whisper to him. Penelope knew that she was asking him about the crime and then studying her. Judging. Therefore, the girl decided to retire early. Dressed in Madame Bisset’s borrowed nightgown, she climbed into her tiny bed beside Pepe.

For a long time, Penelope thought about all that had happened. Who could the man be? Did Madame des Plumes know the victim? Who murdered him? Was the fortune-teller aware of the murderer? Is that why she left for America in a hurry? Why didn’t the nephew know why his aunt left? And what about Claude and Madame Bisset? What exactly were they discussing? Why did his mother keep staring at her? Finally, her mind exhausted, Penelope kissed her dog on the head. Pulling the blanket over them, soon, she drifted into sleep.

She is back at Madame des Plumes. In the salon waiting for her mother to come back. The fortune teller’s blue turban is on the table, as well as three cards. The Path, Fox, and Clouds. Looking down, she sees a bag on the floor. A mouse crawls out of it. A dark shadow is there. She looks up and sees a man with two grey streaks in his hair.

Her heart beating fast and breathing heavily, Penelope woke up from her nightmare. The memory of Monsieur Le Blanc and his visit came back to her. She curled closer to snoring Pepe and pulled the blanket around them tighter. However, sleep eluded her until the early morning hours. Awakened by rough shaking, Penelope opened her eyes to bright sunshine and Madame Bisset.

“Leve toi! (Get up!) Fille paresseuse! (Lazy girl!) Temps pour coudre! (Time to sew!)”

Penelope blinked her eyes at her.

The grumpy woman snapped her fingers. “Maintenant! (Now!)” Motioning with her head towards the door, she frowned at Penelope, alone in the bed, before leaving.

Claude must have taken Pepe out, Penelope thought as she arose. Getting dressed, she pondered her nightmare with Monsieur Le Blanc. She thought of the three cards and their meanings. Then Penelope recalled a time when Madame des Plumes had given a reading with the Path and Fox. Telling the client, the seer warned, “Careful! Don’t choose the wrong way. There’s a trap!” Penelope groaned as she contemplated the meaning of the Cloud card: problems brewing on the horizon.

Penelope found Madame Bisset already at work at the kitchen table. She was cutting out the pieces of fabric that Penelope would fasten together. There was a bowl of cold porridge on the adjacent counter. The girl gobbled it and washed her bowl and spoon. Then she picked up some pieces of fabric, took up her seat across the room, and began to tack them together. Silent as usual, Madame Bisset didn’t even bother to look up, and so Penelope began to analyze her dream.

Why was Monsieur Le Blanc in her dream? Why the cloud card? Wasn’t that the card in Monsieur Le Blanc’s reading? The one that made the fortune teller give him an awful prediction? She remembered something about bad money and gambling. Madame des Plumes had said there would be a fight and murder. Did he have something to do with the murder? The Fox card was the red-haired policeman. But how did she and Madame des Plumes fit in? Intuitively, she knew that the dream was her subconscious trying to tell her something. What were the other symbols? A bag and a mouse. Claude had said a bag with Madame des Plume’s card in it was next to the victim. In her dream, a mouse had come out of the bag.

Penelope recalled the Mice card from her Lenormand deck. What did it mean? She racked her brain for meanings. Worry, stress, little things, gnawing, stealing, hiding in every nook and cranny. What had Madame des Plumes taught her? What else had she said? Then Penelope remembered a time when a family of mice had invaded the pantry at the seer’s apartment. Her mother was deathly afraid of mice. When she had found their droppings, Polly had become agitated and helpless. Madame des Plumes set the traps and then removed the dead carcasses because her maid refused to touch them. Afterward, Madame had told Penelope that mice represented both power and helplessness. The hidden ways of the rodents gave them force. However, traps could be set.

In her dream, a mouse had come out of the bag. Then she saw a dark shadow and Monsieur Le Blanc. What did that mean? She was unsure. Penelope shut her eyes and sighed. Perhaps she didn’t want to know. Madame Bisset grumbled something under her breath. Madame Bisset grumbled something under her breath, returning the girl to attentiveness. Penelope opened her eyes and looked over at the older woman. Madame Bisset was scrutinizing her.

“Quelle? (What?)” Penelope asked her.

“Un meurtre? (A murder?) Qu’est-ce que tu sais? (What do you know?)”

“Rien. (Nothing.)”

Madame Bisset sniffed and shook her head in disbelief but remained mute. She returned to her task of cutting material.

Why did Madame Bisset not believe her? How could she think that Penelope was involved in a murder? Then a revelation occurred to Penelope as she recalled when Madame des Plumes had told her an old wives’ tale about mice. There was a belief that mice were the visitation of souls, murdered people. Penelope had dismissed it as nonsense at the time, but now it made sense. Remembering the darkness that surrounded the strange visitor that day, a shiver went down her spine. She disliked Monsieur Le Blanc in life. Was his dark shadow visiting her in death?

The door opened, and Claude and Pepe came in. Her dog ran to Penelope and jumped into her lap.

This caused Madame Bisset to squawk, “Le matériel! Le matériel!” She glared at Pepe and waved her arms to frighten him off Penelope’s lap.

Trying to reassure her that the fabric was okay, Claude spoke to his mother in French. They began to argue. Penelope placed the cloth on the small side table next to her and then carried Pepe into her small bedroom. Setting him down, she closed the door so she wouldn’t have to hear them.

Pepe jumped onto the bed, and Penelope spoke to him. Cocking his head, he listened to her. “Madame Bisset doesn’t like us, Pepe. I’m afraid that we must leave here. First, I am going to our old house. I will borrow Claude’s bike. I am sure that Madame’s nephew knows more than what he told Claude. I must find out why Madame des Plumes left.”

Next: The Material World: Part 7-So Many Paths

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Author/veterinarian J. Fremont has created Magician of Light, a novel about famed glassmaker Rene Laliqué. Exercise your imagination. Enjoy!