Kelsey Quitch dropped the leaking paper bag on Freddie Wotoch’s desk and flopped down on the lemon melamine chair across from him with a deep sigh.
Freddie did not stop scanning the weekly Saccharine dispatches unrolled in front of him. The Saccharine layer in the upper atmosphere retained a half life salty residue after magical occurrences and was a crude but effective predictor of the state of the magical sphere. “You found the safe,” he said, not looking up.
“There was nothing in it,” said Kelsey. “Nothing except that.”
The paper bag was busy staining the edges of the stack of papers on the left corner of Freddie’s desk a dull pink.
“And that is?”
“Trevor. Well, not all of Trevor, just his head.”
“And Trevor is?”
Freddie leaned back in his chair which creaked ominously and intertwined his fingers under his chin. “Kelsey Quitch,” he said, “I am saying this now even though you know it already. Finding that safe and what was supposed to be in it was the first step in a line of dominoes that must not fall. Not finding it means that that first domino is teetering on the edge.”
Kelsey leaned forward and placed her elbows on her knees. “That you have said before. And a head was not what I was supposed to find. That I know. But what I don’t know was what I was supposed to find.”
Freddie said nothing. Kelsey waited for what could have been a whole minute before she gave up. “Dammit Freddie, give me something.”
Freddie shrugged and leaned forward and picked up the roll of Saccharine dispatches again.
Kelsey slammed her hand flat on the desk so that the bag with Trevor’s head wobbled and rolled away from the stack of papers. “Give me something or I walk away from this one,” said Kelsey, clenching her jaw tightly.
Freddie placed the dispatches slowly down on the desk and for the first time looked at Kelsey. “There is evidence that the safe has been used as a dimensional airlock.”
Kelsey jumped up so that the melamine chair scraped backwards. She walked three paces away from the desk, scratching the back of her head violently before she stopped and turned back. “What kind of evidence? Who gave the evidence? Dimensional lock to where? Used by whom? You tell me something by telling me nothing Freddie. Do you have anything or is this a joke?”
“No joke,” said Freddie.
“So what do you want me to do then?”
Freddie’s voice softened. “Get some answers to your questions Kelsey, because they are our questions too. This may be something or it may be nothing. But if it is something it is something big. Big enough to burn the MCT. Start with where we got the evidence from.”
Kelsey stuffed her fists in her sides. “And that is where?”
“An anonymous tip. A sealed vanilla flask that came through the tubes. No authorisation code, no nothing.”
“A vanilla flask? I thought that was a myth.”
“Scarce, but no myth. It came down the Twelve Wheel Tube. Track it back to the end of the line or to where it came from.”
Kelsey shook her head. “That’s all you got.”
Freddie shrugged and picked up the dispatches.
Kelsey kicked the leg of the melamine chair just hard enough for it to slide sideway before she turned to go.
“Don’t forget Trevor’s head,” said Freddie.
2017 © Gerhi Janse van Vuuren
The painting Red Bitch was painted while we stayed in Pietermaritzburg. View other paintings from the same period here.