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Breaking Down Nemesis: Part Seven

  • Posted on September 23, 2014 at 9:53 am

As it’s been a little more than three weeks since our last Part, I’ve decided to include a small recap. That way, we can start fresh with new memories as to what’s going on within Nemesis.

In Part one, we met Miss Jane Marple, an octogenarian who has a penchant for solving mysteries, and a recently deceased friend whom helped her solve a mystery on the isle of St. Honore. We discover that Miss Marple has a very organic thought process that really draws the reader in!

In Part Two, Miss Marple receives a letter from her deceased friend, Mr. Rafiel, letting her know that she’ll receive the British equivalent to $41,000 if she solves a mystery for him. What mystery, who’s to say? It also begins a recurring theme, which checks of a part of our Agatha Christie Theory.

In Part Three, we follow Miss Marple into finding out more information on this mystery she is supposed to be solving. We also find more of that organic thinking process.

In Part Four, our intrepid detective, Miss Marple, is rather sneaky in her dealings with an old friend, Mrs. Anderson. Who, it turns out, knows next to nothing about what Mr. Rafiel might have wanted her to do. This sneakiness is a good trait to have, when you’re trying to discover mysteries!

Part Five treats us to more thinking on Miss Marple’s behalf, while waiting for more instructions from Mr. Rafiel, and then, while meeting new people on a tour that the dead Mr. Rafiel set up for her. A rather boring chapter, it is, however, notable for it’s literary device of having the main character sort out her thoughts via notebook. Quite exciting!

Part Six left us with more questions than answers, which was, perhaps, the whole reasoning! Miss Marple explored a mansion, got to know people from the group, and found out more about Mr. Rafiel’s son, who, for lack of a name, we are calling Junior.

And now, on to Part Seven, entitled An Invitation. This should be exciting. Miss Marple has had so many invitations so far that it’s hard to keep track. The invitation to Mr. Broadribbe’s office, the invitation to the home and garden tour, and now, we find, she’s going to have another.

By skipping the afternoon wandering, she manages to stick close by to Miss Cooke (whom we had met in chapter one. She was passing by, and she and Miss Marple spoke about gardening.) and Miss Barrow.  While discussing how she knew her, Miss Cooke remembers the conversation in the garden. In fact, she forgets, however, whom she was staying with at the time. Miss Barrow, thankfully, recalls it as a Mrs. Hastings. She also took a slice of chocolate cake, although I don’t think that’s important.

She begins to wonder if Miss Cooke walking by her home in St. Mary Mead was a coincidence at all. In fact, Miss Marple determines that she’s right to be a bit skeptical, especially when one considers that Miss Cooke recently dyed her hair from a dark almost-black, to a striking blonde.

She planned to stay behind the next day in the hotel, so that she could view the gardens, as the rest of the tour was quite foot-heavy, which wouldn’t do. After all, Miss Marple really shouldn’t be moving too much, as Cherry often reminds her.

However, in the morning, she’s accosted by a Miss Lavinia Glynne, one of three sisters, who, by Mr. Rafiel’s design, invite her to stay with them in their old manor home. Mrs. Glynne is a plump, good-natured, friendly lady, Miss Marple determines, and so she agrees to stay there. To be honest, I’m a bit surprised, now that she’s starting to feel at home with the large group.

But, we have another portion of the Agatha Christie code to go along with. The introduction of new characters. Now, we have Cherry and her husband, Mr. Broadribbe and his associate, Mrs. Anderson, All of the people on the tour, and Mrs. Glynne and her sisters to worry about. So many plot threads, I can only wonder if we’ve dropped any yet!

What about you? How many characters do you tend to have in your stories? Are they all introduced right away? Or perhaps over time? Do you tend to insert them into the story, or do they introduce themselves naturally, as Miss glynne did?

Breaking Down Nemesis: Part Five

  • Posted on September 4, 2014 at 4:36 pm

Welcome to Part Five of Breaking Down Nemesis! In Part Four, we discovered that Miss Marple’s original idea, of meeting Mrs. Anderson and asking her about the deceased Mister Rafiel, turns out to be a bunk. In fact, we are no closer at all to finding out the mystery that Mister Rafiel wanted us to find, nor are we actually anywhere closer to the actual plot! It turns out that from what we’ve found out, Mrs. Anderson doesn’t have anything to do with it at all!

Luckily enough, this chapter is entitled Instructions From Beyond, so I don’t doubt we’ll finally get some directions! It starts out with a letter that arrives three or four days after the confrontation with Mrs. Anderson. I’ve copied it here, for your perusal as well!

Dear Miss Marple,

By the time you read this I shall be dead and also buried. Not cremated, I am glad to think. It has always seemed to me unlikely that one would manage to rise up from one’s handsome bronze vase full of ashes and haunt anyone if one wanted so to do! Whereas the idea of rising from one’s grave and haunting anyone is quite possible. Shall I want to do that? Who knows. I might even want to communicate with you.

By now my solicitors will have communicated with you and will have put a certain proposition before you. I hope you will have accepted it. If you have not accepted it, don’t feel in the least remorseful. It will be your choice.

This should reach you, if my solicitors have done what they were told to do, and if the posts have done the duty they are expected to perform, on the 11th of the month. In communication from a travel bureau in London. I hope what it proposes will not be distasteful to you. I needn’t say more. I want you to have an open mind. Take care of yourself. I think you will manage to do that. You are a very shrewd person. The best of luck and may your gaurdian angel be at your side looking after you. You may need on.

Your affectionate friend,

J. B. Rafielmr.rafielgrave

My fangirl instincts are beginning to really enjoy the idea of these two in a romance.  However, putting that aside, Miss Marple is quickly contacted, again in two days time, by the Famous Houses and Gardens of Great Brittain. I won’t type up their whole letter, it basically states that she’s been given a free tour around London, and after checking with a few of her friends to make sure the company wasn’t a scam, she made arrangements.

Once again, we are treated to a scene with Cherry. She’s worried that Miss Marple might not be up to the long amounts of walking involved with the group tour. In the end, Cherry decides that so long as Miss Marple doesn’t “Fall down with a heart attack, even if you are looking at a particularly sumptuous fountain or something”, that she’s fine with it.

Another two days later, and Miss Marple carries her small overnight bag as well as her new suitcase onto a very nice new bus. Another bit of her genius shows through, as she studies the Passenger list, along with the daily itenerary. Apperantly, the itenerary was quite well arranged, with two seperate tours, one for those fleet of foot, and one for the elderly who can’t really move that well. Miss Marple then began guessing who each name on the passenger lists belonged to.

Now, during this particular strain of thought, Miss Marple uses that term again, that I took exception to in the second chapter. “Old Pussies” is a bit… Well, problematic nowadays. So, we’ll not be going over that too much. I’m attempting to take this book as the time period it was written in.

To be quite honest, this chapter really didn’t interest me all that much during my first read through. It was mostly descriptions of what people looked like, and how they struck Miss Marple, which while normally quite interesting, was, in this case, quite boring. Of the fifteen passengers, she determined quite a few things. Unfortunately, with the way it is written, and how tangled it all is, I honestly can’t begin to untangle it.

However, this does bring credit to our Agatha Christie Code theory. Miss Christie just added sixteen new characters to the story, and gave them all very in depth descriptions, and as noted, my brain basically just GAVE UP. Luckily, in the next chapter, we get slowly introduced to them a little easier, so I’m not really going to lay them out now. However, I am going to note a few bits of good writing.

Once again, we’re treated to a very organic thought process from Miss Marple. She goes from thinking about the four other old women, which is realistic mostly due to the fact that people generally note those similar to themselves. I know that I tend to look at young women on the bus before I look at old men, or older women. We see again, how she compares others to those that she knows. Specifically, she compares an old woman to someone called “Dame Emily Waldron”, a notable scientist, and a Principal of an Oxford College.

Perhaps we should learn from this. The next chance you get, take a moment and categorize your own thinking. Take notes on what you notice first, and follow along to your next thought. When you read books, note the thought processes of the characters that you’re reading.

The first day of the trip passes, without Miss Marple determining if anyone was involved in a murder, and she goes to bed, hoping that she might find something out the next day. Before bed, she spends a few moments, noting things down in her notebook. Which, honestly, is a wonderful way to bring us into re-thinking the things she’d discovered today as well. A wonderful narrative device, in fact.

So what have we learned today? Having an organic thought process for your character, as well as showing creative narrative devices to re-iterate information that may have been hard to understand in the first place, are keys to salvaging a rather horrid chapter.

For those of you following along, what did you think of this chapter? For those of you who aren’t, Share your experiences in the comments, with books that start slow and boring, and then pick up?

 

Breaking Down Nemesis: Part Four

  • Posted on August 27, 2014 at 8:31 am

Welcome again, to another installment of Breaking Down Nemesis! Once again, we are here to learn and experience Miss Agatha Christie’s work, and perhaps find a link to the elusive Agatha Christie Code that I keep hearing about. Essentially, the idea is to break down and discover if an Agatha Christie novel really is addictive! For this experiment in literature, I’ve chosen a random novel from her Miss Marple series, titled Nemesis. 

If you’re lost already, please see Part One, Part Two, and Part Three for the previous installments, that way you can keep up with the mystery as it unravels! And don’t forget to subscribe to see future installments, as well!

In the beginning of this chapter, we are introduced to Miss Marple’s sneaky side. In chapter three, we get to see her be sneaky when she asks Cherry, her assistant, to phone Mrs. Anderson, in order to find out if she’s at home, or out and about. This plan included a caveat that was to have Cherry inform Miss Anderson that she, Cherry, was Mr. Broadribb (Mr. Rafiel’s lawyer)’s secretary, and that she was to meet him at his office, but only if Miss Anderson was out and not to be back today.

The brilliance of that plan still makes me giggle. Honestly, it sounds a little like something I’d have done when playing Dungeons and Dragons, and setting up a trap for someone! Unluckily for us, we don’t get to see how that might have played out. I’d like to point out that this sort of organic thinking is coming a bit more often now. Or maybe we’re beginning to understand Miss Marple’s thought process a lot clearer, now that we’re actually involved in her investigation? Miss Christie certainly has me by the ear.

It turns out that Mrs. Anderson was out shopping at the supermarket. And who should she collide with, but Miss Marple herself! And as if the old codger wasn’t planning the whole thing, the two of them talk as if they’ve just run into each other. Instead of having the conversation she wants to have right there, Miss Marple instead arranges to visit Mrs. Anderson at home, instead.

Now, this might seem odd, but if you think about it, honestly, Miss Marple has the right idea. Mrs. Anderson will be more comfortable at home, and we might get to see what it was that the two of them are so at-arms with each other about. I can’t wait to find out myself!

The two exchange pleasantries for a little bit, and then Miss Marple seems to try to slide small questions in there, to find out more about Mr. Rafiel’s supposed request. She also takes a moment to notice that the oppulence of Mrs. Anderson’s new home, and connected it with a possible inheritance by Mrs. Anderson from Mr. Rafiel. Miss Marple asks if he left anything to the Nurse-Attendant Jackson, and finds out no he did not, and Mrs. Anderson hasn’t even seen the gentleman since they worked together.

Another series of questions by Miss Marple, and I’m beginning to see that she has a bit of a built in camouflage.

“…I was thinking it only the other day, after I’d seen the notice of his death. I wished I could know a little more. Where he was born, you know, and his parents. What they were like. Whether he had any children, or nephews or cousins or any family. I would so like to know.”

Esther Anderson smiled slightly. She looked at Miss Marple and her expression seemed to say “Yes, I’m sure you always want to know everything of that kind about everyone you meet.”

We’re getting more hints as to how people see her. Mrs. Anderson clearly thinks of Miss Marple as someone who is overly curious. But it’s tempered by the old-woman camouflage I was talking about. Everyone expects her to be nosy, because that’s how old women are! Take this lesson to heart. Let your characters use their own camouflages. If a woman wears glasses, let her put her hair in a bun, and pretend seriousness, despite her real personality. If a man has a raspy voice, let him pretend that he is dark and dangerous, when necessary. And when a person looks younger than they really are, let them use that childishness to their advantage to make others underestimate them! Remind yourself constantly of who they appear to be to others, so that this can be turned one-eighty and used against them!

The two go on to discuss more information, specifically about how Mr. Rafiel lost his wife long ago, but had three living children. Two daughters, and a son. One of the daughters married, and now lives in america, and the other daughter died, very young. It turns out there was trouble between father and son!

Picture Courtesy of bildungblog.blogspot.com

Picture Courtesy of bildungblog.blogspot.com

Apparently, the son was a scandalous sort, and died a few years ago. Mr. Rafiel never spoke of him. Odd that a deceased son, who was involved in scandals shows up just as Miss Marple is looking for a mystery, don’t you think? However, the two of them quickly come to a derailment, as the events at St. Honore get brought up again! And it turns out that Mrs. Anderson is still upset with something Miss Marple did in the Caribbean, but instead of actually discussing it, Mrs. Anderson stares coldly at Miss Marple, who takes her leave.

After leaving Mrs. Anderson’s home, Miss Marple determines that maybe, just maybe she was wrong to visit Mrs. Anderson, and thinks that perhaps there’s nothing to do with her at all in this mystery. I’m not quite so sure, but I think Miss Christie wrote it that way. I still can’t tell if this is a red-herring, or if I’m honestly right when I think that Mrs. Anderson is going to have something to do with it.

Eventually, after doubting herself a little bit, she comes to the same conclusion I have, which is that her old-lady-camouflage is a wonderful trait to have, and that she comes to recognize what people are like, based on who they remind her of. After that, she goes to sleep, thinking that it is entirely up to Mr. Rafiel to give her some sort of sign as to what exactly she is supposed to be doing.

This chapter in general, I think, was to show us more of Miss Marple’s character. I’m not sure anything really got done, other than, perhaps, clearing Mrs. Anderson of suspicion, and refusing to hand us any real clues as to what it is that Miss Marple is really supposed to be doing. Another point towards the Agatha Christie Code, as I was told that there was to be a lot of description, and slowness getting to the main plot. Which this chapter seems to embody quite a bit.

I find myself, however, instead of growing intrigued, growing a little bit bored of it. I’m starting to wonder, just like Miss Marple, if there really is any mystery to be solving at all! Which, I’m not sure if that’s a good way for a mystery novel to begin. However, dear reader, I will slog on, in order to find out! Just for you!

Please, however, do me a favor! In the comments, give me an idea or two of what you think the mystery is going to be! Do you think it’s Mr. Rafiel’s deceased son? Do you think Mrs. Anderson perhaps murdered someone? Do you think something entirely different is going to happen? Let me know!

Breaking Down Nemesis: Part Three

  • Posted on August 20, 2014 at 12:46 pm

Hello again, all! Time for Part Three of the Breaking Down Nemesis Series, in which we break down “Miss Marple Takes Action”. For those of you just joining us, the previous two posts can be found by clicking the above posts, or these links right here: Part One and Part Two.

At the last we left off, Miss Marple had just finished reading a letter from the deceased Mr. Rafiel, who provided her with a code-word– “Nemesis”- and instructions to solve a crime. But what crime? Now, Miss Marple must take action, as the chapter title so endearingly states, and we begin to see how the lovable elderly lady whom Murder She Wrote was based upon works!

This gif says everything.

Like us, Miss Marple is startled over the amount of information she received. Or rather, the sheer lack of information. Dismissing the idea of Mr. Broadribb providing her any more information, Jane quickly decides that it was intriguing. And that, perhaps, Mr. Rafiel had meant it to be.

She then goes on to describe it as a crossword puzzle with no clues given. Considering for a moment, that he might have meant her to take a plane or boat to the West Indies or to South America, she decides that if that’s what he meant, he’s insane. Which, I agree. After all, he couldn’t expect her to find something to solve there that had anything to do with him? No, instead, Miss Marple would have to find something from her own stores of knowledge.

Three days later, Miss Marple writes a letter to Mr. Broadribb, letting him know she’s accepted the proposal (and wants that 25000. See Part Two for a visual representation of the money.) and that she really was expecting more information. She asks him questions about Mr. Rafiel’s relationships and connections, and whether or not he’d had a relative that might have fallen on an unjust situation.

Again, we are treated to Mr. Broadribb and Mr. Schuster talking. They seem to have no idea what to tell her either. Now, in this section, Mr. Schuster said something that I find rather offensive.

“-I don’t see the least chance that some old pussy from the country can interpret a dead man’s brain and know what fantasy was plaguing him.-”

-Mr. Schuster

Now, I realize that it was true to the times, as this is exactly how a man of that day and age might talk if he were uncultured swine, and I think it was used exactly to show that this man was boorish and rude. More and more I find myself disliking this man. I hope he ends up getting kicked by a horse or something. He also brings up the idea that Mr. Rafiel might be trying to take Miss Marple down a peg, ‘teach her a lesson’ so to speak, by sending her on a fool’s errand.

Mr. Broadribb, however, doesn’t. He seems to think that something was worrying Mr. Rafiel, and that he was dead serious about all this. Since neither can fathom what Mr. Rafiel might have been thinking, they decide to wait for some development. Meanwhile, Miss Marple waited for something to turn up as well. In fact, she ends up getting yelled at by Cherry for taking walks too much.

Apparently, her doctor has said that she wasn’t to exercise too much. Which honestly sounds odd to me, because exercise has good affects on the health. But well, it was back in old times, so. Cherry, done telling Miss Marple off, goes and has dinner with her husband, Chinese food, specifically, which set me off to craving Chinese too.

During after-dinner tea, she and Miss Marple talk about the house at the end of the village, which has been repainted, done up and someone called Miss Hastings moved in. If you remember from Part One, Miss Hastings is the employer of Miss Bartlett, whom Miss Marple talked about gardens with briefly. Miss Marple decides just then to write a letter. Specifically, to another friend from this previous adventure we still know nothing about, a Miss Prescott, who is sister to Canon Prescott, a clergyman.  She feels much better after sending the letter, because at least she’s done something.

Joan replies quickly, informing her of Mrs. Walter’s location. Apparently, Mrs. Walters DID remarry, and she’s now Mrs. Alderson or Anderson now. Miss Prescott provides her address, and Miss Marple sleeps on whether or not she should contact her by surprise, or write her first. And that night, she has a dream: MissMarpleDreamQuote

“I had a curious dream,…I was talking to someone, not anyone I knew very well. Just talking. Then when I looked, I saw it wasn’t that person at all I was talking to. It was somebody else. Very odd.”

This is the most brilliant bit of foreshadowing I’ve ever seen. Who does it refer to? Is Mrs. A not going to turn out to be who Miss Marple remembers? Perhaps Joan Prescott was not who she seemed? Or maybe something else entirely! I can’t wait to find out. What a lovely shiver from it, it seems so important!

Decided now, Miss Marple asks Cherry to help her set up a sting operation. Cherry is to call Mrs. A, and ask if she’s to be home today. If she answers or if she is going to come to the phone, she’s to say that Cherry is Mr. Broadribb’s secretary and ask if she can meet with him later that week. If she is to be home that day, then Cherry is to find out when she comes back.

Turns out Mrs. A is going to be in all day, and Miss Marple sets off in a cab towards her next clue!

I’ve noticed a trend, as I began breaking down these chapters. They’re quite short, for the most part. Easy to digest in a bus ride or over a lunch break. I find it easy enough to read a chapter, but not so easy to stop. With things picking up the pace, I can definitely begin to see why some have called Miss Agatha’s work addictive. I didn’t go into much detail about it, but even the cab-company gets some expanding on, information that Miss Marple remembers.

The descriptions in the beginning ARE very lengthy and quite detailed, which is definitely a point towards out Agatha Christie Code theory. But what drew me in the most in this chapter is how seamlessly Miss Marple went from having no idea what to do next, to thinking through, logically, onto what she should do next, her next point of contact. It was, again, very organic. It was what I had been thinking about in chapter two, just after I read the letter. Contacting Mrs. A is her best bet, and the logic of it gives the reader a sense of accomplishment, because they thought of it too.

In the comments section, please tell me your opinion on this. Is it a good thing to allow the reader to guess what is going to happen before hand? Or does it ruin the mystery of the story? When was the last time you read something so compelling that it felt as if you were deducing it yourself before the character?

Breaking Down Nemesis: Part Two

  • Posted on August 17, 2014 at 11:36 am

For those of you just joining us, here’s a link to part one. For those of you who aren’t, we’re working on chapter two this time, of Miss Marple’s mysterious adventure in Nemesis. In chapter one, Miss Marple read in the newspaper about the death of an old friend. Now, we get to continue!

Chapter two: Code Word Nemesis

We pick up a week later, when Miss Marple receives a letter. Correspondence, we’ll find out later, turns out to be a really important thing to the lovely Miss Marple. And in fact, pretty important too.

She again, notes the details of the envelope. Good quality envelope, London postage, that sort of thing. Broadribb and Schuster, Solicitors and Notaries of the Public. We’ll meet these gentlemen later, I get the feeling. Yay, more characters! So far, we have five characters, one post-humous. So far, the Code is starting to look pretty reasonable. I know I’ve been drawn in. How about you?

The “Courteous and Legal phraseology” asks her to meet them at her earliest convenience, which turns out not to be Thursday the 24th like they suggested. You’ve got to love the thought that Agatha puts into these thought processes. What character have you ever known to DELAY THE DAMN CALL by attending a meeting at a women’s college about adding some new classrooms.

After a quick discussion with Cherry, who seems to enjoy caring for Miss Marple the same way some people teach children to read, Miss Marple decides she’s going to visit them. If only because Mr. Rafiel might have left her something. A very organic thought process, here, something I might think myself. She hopes not for money but for a rare book on flowers, or a nice cameo broach.

Instead of waiting, we are treated to a quick flash forward to a discussion between Mr. Schuster and Mr. Broadribb. As with Cherry and Miss Marple, we learn about these two through their conversation rather than through a flat out description, or even an introduction. The very first bit we hear is this:

“Wonder what she’ll be like,” said Mr. Broadribb to Mr. Schuster, glancing at the clock as he did so.

“She’s due in a quarter of an hour,” Said Mr. Schuster. “Wonder if she’ll be punctual?”

“Oh, I should think so. She’s elderly, I gather, and much more punctilious than the young scatterbrains of today.”

“Fat or thin, I wonder?” Said Mr. Schuster.

Mr. Broadribb shook his head.

Already I like this Mr. Broadribb MUCH more than Mr. Schuster. But maybe that’s just because I really like Miss Marple, and Mr. Broadribb is being nicer. Then, after their impromptu discussion on what they thought she would be like, they fall into a discussion of their employer. Or rather who and what their employer WAS. As of course, Mr. Rafiel is dead. He seems to be considered a very shrewd man. They say he had “Flair” for what he did, as well as a “Great financial brain.”

This makes me want to meet him even more. Too bad he’s already dead. I wonder what finally killed him?

Miss Marple arrives, and Mr. Schuster excuses himself, thank god. We finally get a description of Mr. Broadribb, and it turns out he’s rather melancholy and long of face. Which just makes me like him more, honestly. Good lawyers should be rather down-trodden, otherwise they aren’t doing their job. Anyway, they begin again, by opening the discussion with Mr. Rafiel. I find myself in a state of constant tension. I just want to find out what he left her already, despite knowing that it was a job, thanks to the description of the book.

Miss Marple is then given a letter. She reads it through, and then rereads it. Then, she has this to say to Mr. Broadribb:

“This is hardly very definite. Is there no more definite elucidation of any kind?”

Apperantly, all Mr. Broadribb was supposed to do was give her the letter, and then tells her that the ‘sum of the legacy’ is 25000 pounds. Now, for my american viewers, who may not understand this amount, that’s a little over 41,000 dollars. Which is quite a lot of money for an old lady. In fact, they go on to discuss what she might do with this money, while Miss Marple is in a bit of a shock over it. Or maybe she’s just trying to figure out the letter already.

Then, Mr. Broadribb asked her if the word ‘Nemesis’ meant anything to her. And she explained that she said it once to Mr. Rafiel, and he was amused at her calling herself that. Again, I really want to read that damned book. Both Mr. Broadribb and Miss Marple are left thoroughly confused by the events, and so am I, until a page or so later, when we FINALLY get to know the contents of the letter.

“To miss Jane Marple, resident in the village of st. Mary Mead.

This will be delivered to you after my death by the good offices of my solicitor, James Broadribb. He is the man I employ for dealing with such legal matters as fall in the dealing with such legal matters as fall in the field of my private affairs, not my business activities. He is a sound and trustworthy lawyer. Like the Majority of the human race he is susceptible to the sin of curiosity. I have not satisfied his curiosity. In some respects this matter will remain between you and myself. Our code word, my dear lady, is Nemesis. I don’t think you will have forgotten in what place and in what circumstances you first spoke that word to me. In the course of my business activities over what is now quite a long life, I have learnt one thing about a man whom I wish to employ. He has to have a flair. A flair for the particular job I want him to do. It is not knowledge, it is not experience. The only word that describes it is flair. A natural gift for doing a certain thing.

You, my dear, if I may call you that, have a natural flair for justice, and that has led to your having a natural flair for crime. I want you to investigate a certain crime. I have ordered a certain sum to be placed so that if you accept this request and as a result of your investigation this crime is properly elucidated, the money will become yours absolutely. I have set aside a year for you to engage on this mission. You are not young, but you are, if I may say so, touch. I think I can trust a reasonable fate to keep you alive for a year at least.

I think the work involved will not be distasteful to you. You have a natural genius, I should say, for investigation. The necessary funds for what I may describe as working capital for making this investigation will be remitted to you during that period, whenever necessary. I offer this to you as an alternative to what may be your life at present.

I envisage you sitting in a chair, a chair that is agreeable and comfortable for whatever kind or form of rheumatism from which you may suffer. All persons of your age, I consider, are likely to suffer from some form of rheumatism. If this ailment affects your knees or your back, it will not be easy for you to get about much and you will spend your time mainly in knitting. I see you, as I saw you once one night as I rose from sleeping disturbed by your urgency, in a cloud of pink wool.

I envisage you knitting more jackets, head scarves and a good many other things of which I do not know the name. If you prefer to continue knitting, that is your decision. If you prefer to serve the cause of justice, I hope that you may at least find it interesting.

Let justice roll down like waters.

And righteousness like an everlasting stream.

Amos.” 

And with that, we are at an end for chapter two. Now, I am a fangirl at heart, and usually, in fandoms, when this sort of accord is reached between two people, we start shipping them. Which means that I thoroughly believe that, had circumstances been different, Miss Marple and Mr. Rafiel might have been paramours. Lovers. Sweethearts. Soul-mates. But then again, it might just be me. Either way, these two characters have a great respect and care for each other. They know each other inside and out.

It’s a rare thing to see two characters connect like this. It’s something to emulate, for certain. Also, the characters themselves are really relatable. I seriously want to meet this Mr. Rafiel. I’m also kind of hoping he’s faking his death. I doubt it, because this doesn’t seem that kind of book, but I hope.

Another thing, I find the use of “Cloud of Pink Wool” to be the beginning of our recurring themes. Check number two on the Agatha Christie Code list. I’m close, guys. I’m close. But this is important. Recurring themes have been shown to be very addictive. Memes. Episodic plot-threads. Recurring characters. Simply enough put, Miss Christie is onto something here. Because everyone seems to put these recurring things into their work. Or at least, the smart ones do.

So, your turn! Tell me about the recurring themes in your own work. Memes, inside jokes, the kinds of things that you think your future fandoms will latch onto and turn into an indoctrination method.

Breaking Down Nemesis: Part One

  • Posted on August 13, 2014 at 12:05 pm

Welcome to a new series of articles centered around breaking down, and understanding Nemesis, a Miss Marple Mystery, by Agatha Christie. If you’re curious, and wish to follow along, you can purchase the book here! (or make use of your public library, of course! <3) We’ll be breaking down several things, focusing on the Tension, the Characterization, and the Plot Threads, while searching out this mysterious Agatha Christie Code that I’ve heard so much about!

Nemesis is a story in the middle of the Miss Marple Mysteries, a series about an old woman, Miss Jane Marple, who happens to solve mysteries in between gardening, knitting, and enjoying her golden years. At twenty two chapters, we’re going to be breaking down each chapter and looking over it. At the end, I’ll give a final post about what I’ve learned from the intrepid Miss Agatha.

In the afternoons it was custom of Miss Jane Marple to unfold her second newspaper.

The cover for the copy I am reading. Clicking will take you to Miss Christie’s Wikipage.

This is the first line of the novel. Odd choice, honestly, but it works, because it shows off a certain oddness about Miss Marple in the first place. Then, odder still, Miss Marple goes off on a tangent about how often her paper is late because the boy delivering it is either late, or has handed off his route for a little while, or has been sacked.

Strangely enough, this drew me in immediately, if only because I really felt like I was listening to the mental ramblings of an old lady. But another part of it shows just how very AWARE Miss Marple is about EVERYTHING. She knows more than just ‘oh the paper’s late, I can’t read it with early morning tea.’ She knows WHY her paper is late, which is something few people even bother paying attention to.

The pacing so far is unbearably slow. I haven’t figured out anything other than what this old woman is doing with her afternoon. Which appears to be reading a newspaper she’s nicknamed “The Daily All-Sorts”. Then, we are treated to another rant, this time about being unable to find anything in the Times. This rant seems devoted to her lamenting how things have changed from when she was young.

A wonderful way to show us her age, and also an intriguingly clear indication that perhaps the so-called Agatha Christie Code is correct. She seems very intent on describing Miss Marple’s thought process in larger-than-life detail.  Here, we find out another odd detail about Miss Marple.

“It’s sad really, but nowadays one is only interested in the deaths!” – Miss Marple

Miss Marple discovers the Internet

She seems to be looking to see if anyone she knows has died, or perhaps given birth, or gotten married. An odd passtime, but when one has all the time on her hands that Miss Marple seems to, I can see why it would become interesting. Everything about Miss Marple at this point seems to be just this side of odd for an old woman. Miss Christie is leaving us hints as to just how odd Old Miss Marple is underneath. This is wonderful examples of characterization. But still, nothing has happened yet.

Finally, Miss Marple comes across a name that stirs some familiarity. Jason Rafiel, listed in the obituaries. She can’t seem to remember who it is, but she has no doubt it will come to her. In fact, we are treated to a long process of her figuring it out. She begins by looking out the window, lamenting that the doctors refuse to allow her to garden. Another hobby we find she enjoyed that now she is restricted. Poor Miss Marple, her old age is catching up to her. Turning away from the window, she picks up her knitting, which appears to be a pink jacket, just missing the sleeves.

Now pink wool, this triggers something of her memory. As we can see:

Pink wool. Now wait a minute, where did that fit in? Yes- yes- it fitted in with the name she’d just read in the paper. Pink wool. A blue sea. A Carribean sea. A sandy beach. Sunshine. Herself knitting and- why of course, Mr. Rafiel. That trip she had made to the caribbean. The Island of St. Honore. A treat from her nephew Raymond. And she remembered Joan, her niece-in-law, Raymond’s wife, saying: “Don’t get mixed up in any more murders, Aunt Jane. It isn’t good for you.”

Do you see what she did there? Miss Agatha Christie just took us through a perfect example of how the mind ACTUALLY works! After scent, touch is the closest sense to memory, followed by sight! Now, Miss Marple didn’t just remember this up, as if it were a scene, no, it’s broken down into actual recollections, actual thoughts. Instead of a flashback, we get a disjointed connection through various memories.

And like any of us, Miss Marple doesn’t just remember everything about that trip at once. No, she has to tease it together, starting with the names. She remembered the elderly Major, whose name continued escaping her. Then she remembers the kind of man Mr. Rafiel had been. Not perfectly, as some people are want to do. She remembers him being an obstinate man, as well as strong, as well as rich. Difficult, irritable and shockingly rude, she remembers. Clearly he made an impression on Miss Marple. And, not only has she remembered Mr. Rafiel, but others too.

Mrs. Walters, a widow and Mr. Rafiel’s secretary. Mr Rafiel’s Masseur-Attendant, Arthur Jackson, who she thought was a rather doubtful character. But instead of being sure of Jackson’s name, she continues to question it. This is a very organic process of tracking down what the thoughts and memories of this time were. And clearly she is remembering the people specifically, not the events. I assume this was Miss Christie’s way of not rehashing the entire events of the previous book, but instead teasing us along into remembering it as well.

Then comes Miss Knight, who was once Miss Marple’s own companion, a young woman she’s rather happy to get rid of. But for some reason, she keeps messing up her name, thinking of her as Miss Bishop. She even quips about it:

“Oh dear,” said Miss Marple again, “I always get all the names wrong. And of course, it was Miss Knight I was thinking of. Not Miss Bishop. Why do I think of her as Miss Bishop?” The answer came to her. Chess, of course. A Chess piece. A knight. A bishop.

I’ll admit, at this point, Miss Christie had me hooked as a writer, although perhaps not as a reader. Such an organic transition, and a clear definition of this character’s mind. Already I am aware that she notices things others don’t care about, and she puts together odd connections, forming them in her mind to remind herself of things. I haven’t even had to read the rest of the series, and I find myself feeling like Miss Marple is an old friend.

She gives us a rundown of how she and Mr. Rafiel had been partners, for a time, but she never gets around to explaining in what. This makes me want to track down the book previous and read it. Well played, Miss Christie. We find out that Miss Marple was quite excited about these events, and it makes us excited too. Already, we’ve found ourselves enthralled by the way Jane Marple sees the world.

Then, we get to meet Cherry, who is now Miss Marple’s Companion. It seems that Miss Marple uses Cherry as a bit of a sounding board. Also, the voices between Miss Marple and Cherry are quite different. I find myself seeing Cherry as perhaps african american, if only because of the vernacular she chooses.

“You did have it in for little Gary Hopkins I must say,” said Cherry. “When you caught him torturing his cat that day. Never knew you had it in you to go for anyone like that! Scared him stiff, you did. He’s never forgotten it.”

“I hope he hasn’t tortured anymore cats.”

“Well, he’s made sure you weren’t about if he did,” said Cherry. “In fact I’m not at all sure as there isn’t other boys as got scared. Seeing you with your wool and the pretty things you knits and all that- anyone would think you were gentle as a lamb. But there’s times I could say you’d behave like a lion if you was goaded into it.”

Also, a wonderful choice there, to show us Miss Marple’s sense of rough justice through the eyes of Cherry, her companion. At this point, I’m also hoping to see more of Cherry. Their interaction seems quite natural, that of a companion and someone of an age beyond adulthood.

Let’s pause for a moment and talk about the syntax of Miss Christie’s work. So far, I’m seeing quite a large number of ‘said’s, and very little added description. She was clearly a follower of the ‘no adjectives’ rule, as well as a detractor from the ‘said is dead’ forum of discussion. However, I don’t feel it takes away from her work. The dialogue itself is well written, as well as showing us little glimpses of what we need to know about Miss Marple. There isn’t a word wasted here. I can see why Agatha Christie is said to be the single best-selling author in the world.

There’s a small break away from the heavy thinking to have a conversation with Miss Bartlett, a companion-gardener to one Miss Hastings. Then, her mind turns back to Mr. Rafiel, and gives us a wonderful description of their relationship. Ships that pass in the night. After that, she resolves that she will probably never think of him again. She’d look out for an obituary, out of what seems an honor for his passing, but she isn’t very hopeful about it. As a final thought, she notes that he hadn’t been anyone of major importance in any industry.

He had just all his life made enormous amounts of money…

All the money. Obsene amounts of money.

What I wouldn’t give to make enormous amounts of money. But on another note, clearly, the foreshadowing here is pretty thick. On the second read through, I found things I hadn’t noticed, such as the Mrs. Hastings reference. Already we have so many characters to follow, and Miss Marple at the center of it all. Red herrings everywhere for a mystery that hasn’t even been introduced, and I’m excited about this book that literally NOTHING HAS HAPPENED IN. All Miss Marple has done is read her newspaper, think about old memories, and talk to two women for five minutes each!

Breaking it down, just a bit, we see already how Miss Christie built up the character for us, showing through thought and action just what sort of woman Miss Marple is. We know she has just a little lion inside her, and is the kind to beat a child senseless for torturing an innocent creature. We know that she has an impeccable memory for detail, although sometimes it takes her a minute and some odd associations to get there.

This entire first chapter was spent introducing the main character. But it wasn’t wasted at all. We weren’t bored to tears by a flashback of what happened in the Caribbean. We weren’t shown her beating the boy, we weren’t even shown her doing anything other than normal things. THIS is an introduction chapter. This is the type of first chapter that will get you published.

Here’s a challenge, then. Take the first chapter of your book, or first paragraph of your short story, or any beginning at all. And have the main character do nothing, but think. Explain who this character is, show it, by their thoughts and actions. Give us a snippet of your results in the comments! And don’t be afraid to tell me what you think about the article either!

Vassilissa the Fair

  • Posted on April 26, 2014 at 12:02 pm

There was once a fair young maiden, with hair like a river of gold. Her beauty was a gift passed down from mother to daughter. Plagued by illness, her mother had grown sicker, and sicker, until finally, only her deathbed await. With her father gone to seek a cure for her mother, Vassilissa, as the maiden was called, saw over her mother’s last words.

“Vassilissa, my sweet daughter, I am so sorry. I will not be here to aide you in your troubles. But do not fear.” Her mother breathed, and Vassilissa, sweet girl that she was, shook her head, begging her mother silent. But her mother continued to speak with the last of her strength. “Go to the cupboard. Inside, there is a doll. This doll will be your companion when I cannot. If you ever find yourself for loss of what to do, feed her a bit of food, and give her just a sip of water, and tell her your troubles.”

Vassilissa swore that she would, and held the doll close to her breast as her mother slipped from this world. And as all things must, her story continued. Her father returned, not with a cure, but with a new bride. Vassilissa tried not to let her heart harden against the man, but it was impossible not to when he left not three days after, leaving her alone with her new step mother and the woman’s daughter.

Her step-sister was not a dutiful girl, spending her time instead in town, flirting with the boys and pushing off the chores of the farm upon Vassilissa. Vassilissa’s step-mother grew angrier and angrier, but instead of punishing the step-sister, she blamed it on the golden haired girl. Vassilissa learned true cruelty at her step-mother’s hands.

 

The step-mother grew colder and more hateful each day, as she watched Vassilissa grow even more beautiful and dutiful and intelligent, while her own daughter grew lazy and spiteful and ignorant. One day, she just couldn’t take it any longer. Her husband had not sent enough money for all three of them to live comfortably, and she was not going to let her daughter starve for this wretch.

So she sent Vassilissa on an errand. In the dead of winter, with the wind howling and the snow falling, she sent the girl out into the woods surrounding their farm, to gather flowers. Fresh ones. Dutiful and sweet, Vassilissa could find no way to say no, to beg pardon from the awful cold outside. However, she was unable, and was sent into the cold. Her tears froze on her cheeks, and her hands trembled around the basket and the little doll she always carried.

At least she had a bit of bread and some cheese to have for a snack. Finding a small hollow beneath a great huge tree, she lifted the bread and the crumbs to her mouth. And then, as suddenly as a lightning bolt, she remembered her mother’s words. With shaking fingers, she fed the little doll instead. And then, she told it of her troubles.

To her surprise, she heard the doll speak. In a voice as cold as the ice around them, the doll told her to continue walking into the wind, and not to stop until she smelt a fire. This seemed a cruel thing, but she was used to cruelty now, and so, after chewing slowly her own respite meal, she did as she was bid.

Cold ate at her, and soon, she felt hope, for she smelt a fire. The light and warmth of it were desperately desired by Vassilissa, and it was only when she heard voices that she cautioned herself to stop. In the clearing there was no snow, there was no wind. There was a fire, and around it, twelve man sat. Three were boys, three were young men, three were men grown, and three were old men. She listened to them speak and tell stories for just a moment, before the cold drove her closer, and she stepped into the Field.

“Forgive me, good sirs, please pardon the intrusion, but might I share your fire, if only until the snow passes? I will be happy to share what little food I carry?” She offered, and waited while the men conferred. Eventually, one of the old men bid her sit, and they all asked her to tell her story, to explain why a girl so fair and young was out in such horrid weather.

“My step-mother sent me for flowers to weave into my step-sister’s hair.” She did not complain, did not whine, but explained truthfully. The men respected this, and when she was done, one of the young men stood, and went to the eldest man.

“January, my friend, might I borrow thy crown for but an hour, to lend this poor girl aid?” And the old man passed his crown to the young, and once it sat upon the young man’s head, the snow stopped, and melted away, trees turned leafy and grass turned green. Soon, flowers were blooming everywhere, and Vassilissa was beside herself with joy. She gathered up snowdrops and tulips, daffodils and wild daisies, and then thanked the two profusely. “Your thanks are not needed, but hurry, for I must return the crown to January in an hour. Run home, and stay where it is warm, sweet girl.”

Vassilissa did as she was bid, running home through the bright warm woods, and only minutes after she was inside, did January sweep April away like a tempest, the blizzard all the colder now for having been warm. Her step-mother and step-sister stared in awe at the basket of flowers, fresh and impossible in Vassilissa’s hand. The step-sister snatched an empty basket, and ran off, following Vassilissa’s story. When she returned she was an old woman, cursed by the twelve men in the little clearing for having demanded where Vassilissa had been given.

#

Again, the step-mother grew resentful and hateful towards the young and beautiful Vassilissa, this time for making an old maid of her daughter. This time, she demanded that Vassilissa seek out the help of the old witch who lives in the woods, that she go to her and get a cure for the curse that her step-sister was under. Being a good, sweet girl, Vassilissa did as she was bid and took a basket full of cheese and bread for the journey.

The wind was cold and the snow still falling as Vassilissa trailed through the woods. She knew stories of Baba Yaga, the old witch who lived in the wood, and she knew that she would not return alive. In her despair, she thought again of the little doll and fed it some cheese and some water melted from snow. The doll asked her her troubles, and she told it her errand.

“Be careful, fair Vassilissa. Drink nothing the old witch gives you. Eat nothing the old witch makes for you. And do not ever open your eyes after dark. She will eat them from your head, should you see her secrets.” The doll spoke in a voice black as the evening sky, which slowly filled with stars.

Vassilissa did as she was told, and when she found the old woman’s hut, her legs shook with the want to turn around. The hut stood upon chicken’s legs, surrounded by a fence made of bones and topped with skulls whose eyes burned with fire. She made her legs move forward, onto the green grass around the hut, and she lifted a hand to knock on the door.

An old woman answered, her eyes dark as night, and her teeth sharp as a cat’s. Vassilissa begged her to help her step-sister, and in the end Baba Yaga refused. Vassilissa pleaded with the old woman, and finally, Baba Yaga declared that if Vassilissa could serve her for three days, she would cure her sister. But if she failed even one chore, Vassilissa would be her meal.

She had no choice but to agree, for Vassilissa wouldn’t be welcome home without the cure.

The first day, her only test was to search out all of the mice in the old woman’s hut, and cook them into a stew. Vassilissa was terrified of this, as mice were biting little things and she did not wish to cook them. But after she fed the doll and gave it some water, the Doll told her to take the cheese from her basket and crumble it up. Scattering it like breadcrumbs, the mice came out of hiding in seconds starved as they were.

Then, Vassilissa caught them all up in a burlap sack, and it wriggled and it squeaked, and she dumped them all, fur and tail, into a pot. She covered it with a lid. Ignoring the terrified scratching, she lifted the pot and set it atop the fire. The shrieks of the mice haunted her dreams that night, and she had no trouble keeping her eyes closed while Baba Yaga bustled around her.

The second day was not nearly so easy. Baba Yaga set her to finding and feeding her chickens. The moment she saw one of these chickens, she knew she would be dinner tonight. Tears bubbled on her cheeks as she gazed upon the razor winged, lion-mawed creatures that had only the barest traces of feathers to call themselves chickens. She hid in a corner, near the hut’s chicken legs, and fed the doll some crumbs of bread, and the salty water of her tears. She begged it’s help and it told her to braid a rope of her long golden hair, and cut it off. Then she was to dip it into the mouse-soup she had made the night before. After this was done, the doll told her to tie it between two trees and to scatter the buckets of feed underneath it. She did as she was told and was startled to see the beasts racing for the rope, gnawing on it. And when her golden hair snapped and fell, the beasts began to eat their own breakfast as well.

When she returned to the hut, and laid down, the sounds of screaming kept her awake that night, and she flinched whenever she heard the drop of a metal cleaver. She only barely managed to keep her eyes closed through the night.

The next morning, Baba Yaga had an even harder task for her. “You must go into the depths of the underworld, and bring me three teeth of the ruler of that realm.”

The old witch took down a cloak of black feathers, and wrapped it around the girl’s shoulders. “This will let you pass unharmed through the gates of the underworld. Do not lose it girl, and bring it back to me.”

Once again, Vassilissa begged the little doll for help, after feeding it its fill.

“Walk towards the setting sun. As you walk, you will see three horsemen. Do not speak to the first or the second, do not even look at their faces. The third, you must ask him to take you home. He will take you to the bowels of hell. When you are there, you must find and pick the largest apple you can find. Give this to the king of the dead, and he will break his teeth upon it. Take the teeth, and run. Do not look back, do not fear, and do not stop running, even if the ground falls out from beneath your feet.”

#

The fair Vassilissa set foot to road, and walked. Dawn came, and with it, a rider upon a white horse. She didn’t dare look up to see his face, and past him without seeing more than the flick of his horse’s white tail, and the flying hem of his white cloak.

She walked, and walked, and walked. And then, when the sun was high in the sky and the world was warmer than she could remember it ever having been in winter before, a red rider came thundering down the pass, the hooves of his great beast running swiftly. She did not even see the flutter of his hem as he passed, and for that she was grateful. The goosepimples on her skin were tickled by the feathers of the cloak.

She walked, and walked, and walked again. Finally, as the sun set and the night sky filled with stars, she saw the black horse, as it stood, fidgeting, in the middle of her path. She swallowed, and looked up to his face. She was suddenly glad she did not look at the other two, for this creature had no true face, had only bones and burning red eyes that felt as if they pierced her heart.

She begged in a quiet voice that he take her home, and soon, found herself over the front of his saddle, and the horse careening like a creature possessed through the woods. The girl screamed, and squeezed her eyes closed, and then, as suddenly as her journey began, it was over. She was standing in a dark place, the ground beneath her glowing faintly blue. Twisted trees made of crystal and rock spiraled up around her.

Remembering the little doll’s words, she searched desperately for an apple. But all she found growing on the trees were rocks. Red rocks, blue rocks, green rocks. All oddly shaped and hanging from branches like fruit. Finally, she picked one, a green rock that was roughly the size of both of her fists put together.

“Who are you?” A voice called behind her, and she saw a woman, dressed in black and with long black hair that fell over one side of her face. “Where did you come from?”

Vassilissa couldn’t get words to come from her throat, and instead, held out what she hoped was the Apple. Vassilissa desperately hoped that perhaps Baba Yaga wouldn’t realize if she took this woman’s teeth instead. They were only teeth after all, how could one tell the difference between one person’s teeth and another? The woman took the fruit, and as if compelled, bit into it. Just as the doll had said, the ghostly woman’s teeth cracked and broke into the fruit, and the fair girl snatched the fruit and ran.

It was hard not to look back, it was hard not to stop when she heard the woman shriek, and felt the walls coming down around her and when it felt like she might die if she ran any longer. But eventually, she found herself back on the road. The road that lead to Baba Yaga’s house. She had succeeded. She had won.

She took the doll out of her pocket, hoping to share her success with it. She fed it a bit of the stone apple and a bit of the juice from it as well and the doll awoke. She told it of her success, and the doll told her not to return to Baba Yaga, to take the fruit and go back home and give her sister a single bite of the fruit, instead.

Vassilissa returned home, quick despite the slick snow melting between the trees. When she opened the door, her step-mother seemed not to recognize her. Vassilissa wondered how long she’d really been gone. Happily, upon giving her step-sister a single bite of the apple, she saw that it reversed whatever curse the men had cast. Her sister was once again young.

The three women lived in harmony for a bit, the rest of the apple hidden beneath Vassilissa’s bed along with the doll. In her happiness, Vassilissa fed the doll one last time, and it spoke to her.  ”All your troubles will be soon forgotten and one day I will leave you. I ask that you do not come to find me.” She didn’t know what to say, but agreed, weeping tears for her mother’s doll. 

It wasn’t until months later, in the month of April, that a handsome young man rode through their farm and Vassilissa caught his eye. She was instantly enamored with the handsome man as well, and when he returned with his father, the king, to ask for her hand in marriage she said yes.

Angry beyond all compare at being cheated out of such an opportunity, the step-sister, still lazy and mean-spirited and ignorant, stole the doll and the apple from beneath Vassilissa’s bed. She went into the forest to find and demand that Baba Yaga give her a spell to win the prince and make her better than Vassilissa. No one saw the step-sister again, and all throughout Vassilissa’s wedding, her step-mother cried bitter tears of grief for her lost daughter.

A new skull sat upon Baba Yaga’s fence, and she kept the helpful little doll sitting right next to the odd green rock with the wrong teeth in it. She wondered where that Vassilissa girl wandered off to, but was preparing for the next tale she would appear in. She had a broth to brew before they arrived, after all.  

Tristan and Ysolde

  • Posted on April 24, 2014 at 12:54 pm

“I thought you said he was your dad!” He cried, ducking under a tree branch. Her hand was sweaty and slick in his, and honestly, Tristan thought he was dying. The shotgun went off once more, and he ducked instinctively, nearly sending both of them careening into a tree. She yanked on his arm and he twisted, ankle sliding in the mud, and sending him into her arms.

“NO, I said he was LIKE my dad!” She corrected, yanking him upright, and then ducking under a different tree and tugging him along. She’d always been a bit stronger than he was, and now he was grateful for it, because the beacon of her wheat-gold hair in the moonlight was enough for him to follow through the woods.

Another shot rang out, and the tree next to his head exploded, and Tristan yelped. His heart pounded, his chest ached for breath as his feet tried to keep up with hers. Over a rock, under a tree, around an oddly shaped shed that honestly wouldn’t have hidden them at all. He was glad when she jumped down into a gulch, at least until his leg went out from under him and he landed ass-first in mud. He had to bite his tongue not to curse out loud, and scrambled to his feet, the mud sucking at his shoes like a  child taking a toy.

“What do you MEAN, like your dad?! He’s not even related to you!” He hissed, surprised she could be that graceful at three months pregnant. With his kid. Oh god, that was his child in there, being shot at by her creepy caretaker.

“He adopted me when I was little, okay?! I never thought anything of it until he started taking me to look at wedding dresses when I turned fifteen, okay?!” Her voice grew higher, terrified, as another blast blew through the little shed behind them. “Then I met YOU!”

Yeah, him. The odd twenty something hiking through town with nothing but a backpack, and some odd jobs. He’d managed to win her heart, because she’d won his the moment he’d seen her. He could still see the smile she’d given him in the farmer’s market, and wow, was it beautiful. She threw a strained version of it over her shoulder at him and he saw the glint of moonlight off her teeth.

They burst out of the brush and into the highway leading out of town. He stopped, because if they could get a ride before he caught up… She tugged impatiently on his hand, desperate to get him to follow her into the woods on the other side. But there was a truck coming, he could see it, maybe they could get a ride out into the next city, where he could get a job, and she wouldn’t have to marry some crazed sixty year old man.

Pain. Blinding, absolute agony, ripping through his thigh, and he went down, knee buckling. The concrete beneath him was hard, and he could feel a pebble pushing into his face. He thought he might have taken Isolde down with him, and he wasn’t sure, but the boots on the blacktop were his, the old man’s, and oh god. Oh god, there was a shotgun in his face.

“NO! Please, don’t, I’ll never run again, please just DO-” He could hear her shrieking, and then the sound of the trigger. He never heard the boom of the gun, just saw a flash of light.

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