|The Tin Bird
Author: The Folk Extraction PM
To find the truth one must dig. Dig up the graves, dig up the evidence and follow the trail until the answer is revealed. And there was neither detective nor hound that accomplished this better than the woman with the tin bird. Mystery/fantasy. All reviews returned.Rated: Fiction T - English - Adventure/Fantasy - Chapters: 2 - Words: 2,782 - Reviews: 3 - Follows: 2 - Updated: 10-08-12 - Published: 10-07-12 - id: 3063829
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Chapter 2: Mr. Varnum's toy shop
Upon opening the door to the shop, Calist was greeted with a great gust of warmth that nearly unfroze her chilled bones. There was the noise of at least a dozen children playing with creations that filled the air with music and laughter. There was a heavy smell of cinnamon and chocolate candies that made her stomach growl. And of course there were the toys. The tiny model steam engines that chugged circles around displays, the wind up dancing dolls that spun on their tip-toes, the stuffed animals that looked soft enough to be real.
"And what can I help you find today, little one?"
With a start, Calist looked up to find that she was already caught. For there stood Mr. Varnum behind the counter with his long beard and kind eyes.
"Nothing," she said. "I just came in to look, that's all. So's I can find a present for my little brother."
"Your brother, yes," Mr. Varnum said with a nod. Of course he'd already seen her shoes, or lack there-of, not to mention the state of her clothes and face; Little Children who slept under bridges did not spend their money on presents for siblings. "And a lucky brother he is, isn't he? Why I think I have just the thing for your brother. Tell me, what is his very favorite animal?"
"Birds," said Calist, answering her favorite.
"Ahh, and does he have a bird of his own?"
She shook her head. "Course not."
He turned away and while he did so she took the opportunity to look around. It was easy to be distracted by the sounds and sights, but when she really looked it was easy to spot the door at the other end of the room. She supposed that if there really was a stolen box, she'd find it behind that door.
"It would appear that he has one now," said Mr. Varnum when he turned back to her. "Go on, hold out your hands." She did, and in them he placed a little wind-up bird.
"This is a snowsparrow," he said, "and it can go anywhere in the world and come back in less than a day. Don't you want to see?"
Remembering that he was a contraptionist, Calist wondered if he might be telling the truth. She wound back the peg that stuck out from the toy's side and held her breath for a moment as she waited. When the bird came to life in her palm it flapped its mechanical wings, but it did not lift off into the sky as she'd hoped.
He must have seen her disappointment in her expression, because at that point Mr. Varnum said, "this bird can go anywhere that dreams can, all it takes is the wings of imagination."
Calist put it in her pocket next to Trinket's pin. "Thank you," she said, but just as she said it there was a great volley of shouts from one of the displays. Two children who wanted the same doll were playing tug-of-war with it. And poor Mr. Varnum looked worried that it would break right in half. In an instant he had dashed off to the rescue, leaving Calist alone with her thoughts of thievery.
She wasted no time in closing the distance between herself and the door. She cast one cautious glance back at Mr. Varnum, but in the chaos of the moment he seemed to have forgotten about her. When she tried the door it opened very easily, and without a second thought she had slipped in and closed it behind her.
Now, the room she entered was very dark for there were no windows. The only source of light came from a little oil lamp on a desk full of stacked papers. It was a messy room filled with unfinished designs and Varnum's ongoing projects; a stark contrast to the vibrant atmosphere of the shop. It did not look like the sort of place she would find something so interesting as the box Trinket had described.
She opened one drawer and then another. Inside there were more papers and pieces of junk. In one that she opened there lived a number of misplaced parts that she could only assume were meant for fixing toys. In another there was nothing except a pile of envelopes and some sealing wax. She was starting to get nervous that she was taking far too long, that perhaps she had the wrong room altogether. And then she saw it.
It was a wooden chest that sat on the shelf above the desk. It was two feet long and half a foot high with a domed top. This was not the box that Trinket had asked her to find, but if she had to take a guess she would wager her foot that this was where she would find it. There was just one problem, one which she observed after climbing onto the desk to inspect it. It was locked.
"'Course it's locked," she whispered thinking that Trinket was a fool to believe otherwise. If something was so important to steal from someone in the first place, then chances were they wanted to keep it good and stolen. She humored the thought of slipping out the door and taking her chance at outrunning Trinket when she heard the distinct creak of a handle turning.
She looked behind her just in time to see Mr. Varnum opening the door. She gasped, and in her panic lost her footing on the edge of the desk. It felt like it took an awfully long time to hit the floor. When she did she was dizzy and scared, but not actually hurt. Mr. Varnum's concern was entirely unwarranted.
"You poor silly girl, what were you doing up there?" He said. "There are no toys in here, just old papers and old junk. Old junk is all. You aren't hurt are you?"
Calist got to her feet. She was about to answer him when Mr. Varnum made the most agonizing shout. It was half surprise, half pain and when she looked at him next he was stumbling backwards holding a hand over his eye.
The old man fumbled about for some time streaming a line of shouts and curses and calls for help. Calist, meanwhile, backed herself into a corner. She watched, frozen with a mix of terror and morbid curiosity, as Mr. Varnum pulled something long and thin from his eye and tossed it toward the far shelf. Calist put a hand in her pocket and realized that the pin was no longer in it.
"I see….Come for it, has he?"
Calist could not tell if Mr. Varnum was speaking to her or not. His one undamaged eye was fixed on the pin, more so on the locked wooden chest it had landed near. His eye narrowed and he uttered his next word like it was a poisonous snake come to bite him.
Calist looked to where his eye was fixed and saw the most curious thing. The pin teetered on its side and rolled so that it bumped into the wooden chest. Then, moving of its own accord, it fixed itself in the lock and moved about until something clicked.
Sensing her cue, Calist unfroze herself. She stepped cautiously to the desk and hesitated when she saw the pin. The thing had dropped dead on the surface of the shelf like it had never done anything the least bit extraordinary. But there sat the chest unlocked, reminding her that she had not imagined the whole thing. She decided to leave it be, focusing Instead on the chest. She removed the lock and unhinged the sides before finally lifting the cover to see what sat inside.
Strange how such a small object could be the cause of so much trouble. The little music box was exactly as Trinket had described. Small and dark with six sides and a little wind up peg sticking out the top of it. Calist picked it up and found it to be much heavier than it looked. She decided that there must be something very valuable hidden inside; A block of gold perhaps, or a very large diamond.
"Wait!" Mr. Varnum's voice held her before she could bolt with her treasure in hand. Her instincts told her to run, but since Mr. Varnum had been so kind, she decided to return the favor.
"Tell him that he's wasting his time, would you?" Mr. Varnum still held the hand over his eye. He spoke with great difficulty. "He'll never find the key. Not if he searches for the rest of his miserable life. You tell him that, now. Tell him and watch that smug grin disappear from his face. Go on."
So Calist took the box and bolted from Mr. Varnum's toy shop.