The Material World: Part 7-So Many Paths

The Material World: Part 7-So Many Paths

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

The next day, Claude decided to accompany Madame Bisset to the market. Penelope knew that this was her chance. Not knowing whether or not she would return, she brought her deck of cards, Pepe, and his leash. To cart around Madame Bisset’s fabrications, Claude had lashed a large basket to the handlebars of his bicycle. Penelope put Pepe in the basket and told him to stay. Pepe seemed nervous at first, but when his mistress began to peddle faster down the street, he turned to face the wind and let it blow his ears gently backward.

Penelope was unfamiliar with this side of Paris, so it was difficult, but she managed to navigate her way back to her old street. Pepe endured the bumpy ride over the brick pavers, laying low in the basket to avoid bouncing out. The dog remained alert and watchful. It was a sunny day, and Penelope was relieved. After she dreamed of the Clouds card, she would have been much more apprehensive if the day had been gloomy. Penelope decided to put Claude’s bicycle on the sidewalk across from Madame des Plumes’ former residence.

When she arrived, she parked, took Pepe out of the basket, and set him on the ground. Then she fastened Pepe’s leash on him, crossed the street, and approached the entryway. Penelope hoped that the nephew of Madame was nice and would be helpful.

Tapping on the door, she waited. There was no answer, so she knocked harder and continued to wait. Tapping her foot and frowning, thinking that she had come all that way for nothing, she tried the doorknob. Turning it, Penelope pushed the door open slightly. “Bonjour? Bonjour?” No one responded, so she cracked the door a bit wider. Next to her, Pepe’s tail was wagging furiously. When Penelope had provided enough space for him to slip through, Pepe dashed inside, pulling Penelope with him. She stumbled through the doorway before she could stop the dog.

“Non! Pepe! Non!” she whispered loudly at him and yanked on the leash. Pepe stopped and looked at her but was too excited. Starting to prance in place, he barked at her. Scared that a neighbor might see or hear them, Penelope closed the door quickly and then admonished her pet to be quiet. “Non!” she told him fiercely. Having taught him this trick a long time ago, she made him sit by snapping her fingers. Then putting her fingers to her lips, Penelope told her pet, “Shhh, Pepe, we must be quiet.” Obedient, Pepe cocked his head and watched her.

The apartment seemed empty and oppressively silent. Penelope tiptoed noiselessly across the hallway towards the salon. The only sound was the click of Pepe’s nails on the tiles as he trotted beside her. Peeking into the salon, she noted it was all the same. Everything remained of the former fortune-teller’s belongings except the dark blue velvet curtain that separated the rooms. Penelope checked all the rooms downstairs, all similar and devoid of people.

Deciding to check out the second floor, she and Pepe climbed the steps. First, the girl checked Madame des Plumes’ bedroom. All of the seer’s things were gone except for the bedroom furniture. Draped over a chair was men’s clothing, and the closet door was open. Penelope could see more male attire in there with boots and shoes spilling out. Penelope wrinkled her nose at the smell in the bedroom. Most likely, it housed the nephew.

Penelope turned and entered her old room. It seemed unchanged. Pepe sailed up onto the bed and ran around the perimeter of it. Then he sniffed and nuzzled the pillows. The dog proceeded to happily rub one cheek and then the other over the comforting pillowcases before doing the same to the bedspread. Satisfied, he sat down and watched his mistress.

The girl checked the closet, and her mother’s things were gone. Only Penelope’s clothes and shoes remained. Opening the dresser, she found the upper drawer was the same. Just her stuff. The next drawer: the same. The next drawer: the same.

Opening the last drawer, expecting nothing new, she found a difference. In the corner, was Madame des Plumes’ turquoise blue turban.

Her finger touched her parted lips before Penelope thought, Why would she leave it here? Then the girl noticed that the peacock feather was missing. Instead, there was a purple silk flower fastened in its place. Penelope picked up the hat expecting the feather to be underneath it, but there was nothing. She turned the turban over and looked inside. No feather. About to put it down, she remembered her dream. The turban had been in it. What could that mean? Turning the hat over again, she looked at the gathering of folds below the flower. She felt the silk fabric there, a firm bulge. Getting ready to stick her finger beneath the material, she heard Pepe growl.

A male voice said, “You must be Penelope.”

Whipping her head around, the girl dropped the turban when she saw a man standing in the doorway. Pepe sprang off the bed and positioned himself between Penelope and the stranger. Growling and barking fiercely, the dog bared his teeth at him.

The man did not move but commented, “Such a fierce one, he is!”

Penelope grabbed Pepe’s leash and pulled him back towards her. “Non! Pepe! Shhh!” Pepe stopped barking, but a low growl continued. He did not take his eyes off the man.

“I am Émile, Adelaide’s nephew,” the man introduced himself and then added, “You are Penelope, non?”
Penelope nodded.

“She said that you might return. That is why I left your clothes.” He smiled at her. “Shall we go downstairs to the salon?”
Penelope nodded again, picked up Madame’s turban, replaced it, and then closed the drawer.

When she turned around, Émile had already left. Penelope and Pepe walked down to the salon. Émile was sitting on the sofa situated in the middle of the room with its back to the windows. Even though the day was bright, the salon seemed cheerless and unwelcoming. Émile smiled at her again and indicated one of the chairs across from him. Waiting for him to talk first, Penelope sat and kept silent.

He stroked his beard, studied her for a moment, and then asked, “Where have you been?”

Unsure of him and his motives, Penelope answered vaguely, “At a friend’s.”

Seemingly convinced, he nodded and said, “Oui, oui.”

Wanting to leave but still curious, Penelope blurted out, “Where is Madame des Plumes?”

“In America. Didn’t your friend, the young man that was snooping around the neighborhood, tell you? What was his name again?”

How much does he know about Claude? Clutching her hands in her lap, she tried to sound nonchalant. “Young man, snooping, huh? I don’t know what you mean.”

“There is no use in lying. You know who I mean.”

Penelope refused to answer his question. Instead, she focused on her questions. “Why did Madame des Plumes leave in such a hurry?”

“Do you mean to say, why did she leave without you?” he asked while shrugging noncommittally. Another phony smile appeared on his lips.

Her scalp felt prickly. There was something about the man that Penelope didn’t like. Pepe seemed to sense it too. Flashing across her inner vision, the girl recalled the dream symbol, the Path card. “Since you don’t know anything or don’t want to tell me, I think I’d better go,” she said and got up.

The man leaned forward into his seat a little and Pepe instantly growled with bared teeth. The man settled back into the sofa. “Fine, if that is what you want.”

Penelope backed away from him. She was near the doorway that led into the hall when someone began to knock upon the front door. She stopped in her tracks.

Émile got up and went to the window. Spying who was on the front doorstep, he then turned to the girl. “The red-haired policeman and your friend are here.”

Next: The Material World: Part 8-Starlight

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About J Fremont

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