Yarrow turned the keys over in her hand. One looked to be to a padlock, the other to a door. “Not for the safety deposit box then.”
Thorn shook her head and leaned back against a boulder. “Must go to something around here.” She stared out over South Cove in Cape Arago State Park.
A door appeared in a nearby tree and Rose stepped out. “Stupid subway,” she grumbled.
“What was it this time?” asked Thorn.
“Oh, a gnome tried to get fresh with me so I told him his fortune. I predicted great pain if he didn’t leave.”
Yarrow shook her head. “Back to business, ladies. We’ve only got a day left to solve this.”
“I found scuba gear in the safety deposit box,” announced Rose.
Thorn stared at her blankly. “Scuba gear?”
Rose nodded. “That’s what I said. Scuba gear.”
Thorn gestured at the cove. “Well, there’s plenty of water here. Search it.”
Rose rolled her eyes. “Hardly. Did you find anything?”
Yarrow held them up. “Looks to be to a door and a padlock. There are old war bunkers all over the place here. Shall I start looking?”
Thorn stood. “Good idea. I’ll talk with the dryads. Rose, see if you can learn anything from the sea creatures.”
“Who died and made you queen?” muttered Rose.
Thorn arched an eyebrow. “Some sweet pathos of thy tears.”
Rose sighed. “Very well. This time.”
“You are strangely troublesome,” quipped Yarrow, shaking her head.
Rose stuck out her tongue.
“Just get to work, both of you,” ordered Thorn.
They met back on the beach two hours later.
Yarrow said, “I found the lock for the door key. An old storage room in one of the buildings. Found a slip of paper with coordinates on it.”
Rose took the paper. “Perfect. The fish reported little except to complain of humans swimming in their waters, something they consider very unsanitary. I did make the acquaintance of a mermaid though. I might persuade her to check on the location.”
Thorn nodded. “The dryads reported seeing a man fitting Steven’s description swimming here a few times,” she said, waving toward South Cove. “Though I wouldn’t put much stock in it since they also said all humans look alike.”
Rose smirked. “I win. I found the mermaid.”
Thorn snorted. “Fine. I’ll congratulate you if you convince her to retrieve the treasure.”
Rose took the padlock key from Yarrow. “Oh, you’ll owe me more than that. I also want a box of chocolates from Gail Ambrosius.”
Thorn waved her off. “Time is wasting.”
Rose waded into the water until she stood waist deep and whistled. A wake appeared in the water, moving swiftly toward the beach then slowing as it neared Rose. A mermaid surfaced, splashing water everywhere.
“Hello again,” said the mermaid cheerfully. “Ready to go swimming?”
“Hello, dear. I don’t think I’ll be swimming today but I have a shiny for you.” Rose dried off her face and held up the key. The mermaid made a grab for it but Rose pulled it back. “I need you to go to this location,” she wove a map in the air pinpointing the coordinates. “You’ll find something belonging to humans. This key will open it. Bring me back the magic cloth. Anything else you find is yours.”
“And I can keep the key?”
“Yes.” Rose handed it to her.
The mermaid squealed in glee and swam off.
Yarrow paced the beach, pretending to look for rocks and shells. Thorn stood perfectly still, as if she herself was a dryad. Rose waded through the water, humming When I’m Gone by Eminem. The sun sank lower on the horizon.
“She isn’t coming back,” said Thorn.
Yarrow said, “Ah, stone can speak after all.”
Rose retorted, “She’ll be back.”
“Mermaids are flighty things.” Thorn stretched. “Ah well. It will give us seven years to figure out how to ruin this man.”
“The sun hasn’t set yet,” countered Rose.
“We’ll wait then.” Thorn smiled coldly. “And you’ll owe me that box of chocolates.”
“You don’t even like chocolate,” grumbled Rose.
Yarrow pointed across the water. “Look, a wake.”
The disturbance in the water grew closer then the mermaid emerged, holding a stainless steel thermos above her head. “Look what I found!”
“That’s very nice. Did you find anything else? What about the cloth?” asked Rose.
The mermaid held up her other hand. “Here you go.”
Rose waded ashore, smirking. “Who owes who chocolate now?”
Thorn met her at the water’s edge and took the cloth. “It’s a fake.”
“What?” Rose snatched it back and examined the red, black, and white square. It was indeed a copy of the talisman, the pattern printed onto a square of ordinary cloth designed to fool the eye.
The mermaid asked, “May I have it if you don’t want it?”
Rose sighed and handed it to the mermaid. “Enjoy.”
The mermaid squealed with delight then swam off with her treasures.
Yarrow’s phone rang. “Hello?”
“Did you enjoy your wild goose chase?” asked a male voice.
“Steven.” Yarrow raised an eyebrow at Thorn who scowled.
Rose said, “The sun is setting.”
“Looks like I get to keep my lucky charm for another seven years,” said Steven. “Those are the rules.”
“So it seems,” said Yarrow. “Of course, that just gives us seven more years to find it.”
“Good luck with that.” Steven laughed and hung up the phone.
Yarrow is quoting from The Complete Works of Shakespeare, Project Gutenberg Etext, Copyright 1990-1993, World Library, Inc.
Rose is quoting from The Seventh Octave : The Early Writings of Saul Williams, Moore Black Press, New York, New York, 1998′
Thorn quotes from Sappho : One Hundred Lyrics by Bliss Carman, Project Gutenberg EBook, May 2004
Copyright 2014, Kimberley Long-Ewing, all rights reserved