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BlackEagle Girls

Chapter 4 - Waking up is hard to do (And Spooky too)

Priscilla opened her eyes.
Daylight was streaming into the bedroom.
She blinked, trying within her mind to resolve the vision of the past night that yet seemed so real.
It was of course a dream; a rather scary dream, but still only a dream.
She turned her head and there lay Monique, fast asleep in the other bed.

'Phew!' said Priscilla, relieved, scratching at her scalp through the mass of tumbled hair.

THUMP! RATTLE! THUMP! The sounds arose from below.

'That'll be the carpenters and the plumber again, I suppose', she muttered, throwing back the covers and sitting up. Her toes touched the floorboards and a sudden involuntary shiver ran through her.
'Golly, that certainly was some dream', she exclaimed out loud above the continuing din from downstairs.

'Dream? Dream...Yes of course, a dream...' mumbled Monique, stirring and propping herself upon an elbow.
'Ah! And there you are Priscy...Priscill...'

'You can just call me Cilla, if that's easier. That's what Henry, my little Brother, calls me.'

'Cilla Black. It is a name that seems to have some meaning for me...'

'Yeah, yeah,' said Priscilla, stretching and going to the window to peer down at the devastation below.
Would some little black dog come trotting out from the masses of flowering plants and thrusting trees at the far end of the garden?
However she did note, perhaps for the first time, how wonderful the garden seemed to be. It was simply filled to bursting with so many varied and beautiful things. 'Things,' she noted, under her breath, 'I don't even know the names of most of them.'

'Pardon?' said Monique, coming to her side to peer out into the sunlight.

'Oh nothing. But about that Cilla Black thing...It's the name of a singer, I don't know, someone who was famous as a singer...She made recordings, records they used to call them, sort of like C.Ds now, in the nineteen sixties or seventies...'

'And you have her name?'

'I expect it was Mum and Dad's idea of a joke, or perhaps Dad getting even.'

'Getting even?' Monica asked, clearly puzzled.

'Well not exactly getting even. More like continuing what happened to him.'

'I do not understand,' said Monique, staring at Priscilla.

'He copped the name Matthew from his Mum and Dad, his Mum being Granny Black, the lady you met last night.'

'This "copped", what does it mean?'

'Sorry, ' said Priscilla, breaking into a smile. 'It's an Australian expression, it means what was given you, even if you didn't want it.'

Monique shook her head slowly, clearly at a loss.

'Matthew Black...Matt Black...Don't you see? Like paint...Dull black...Not bright...Matt...' Priscilla shrugged. 'Guess you had to be there. Kinda like Teresa Greene...Get it, Trees are green?'

'Oh! It's a play on words! And so they, your Mother and Father, gave you a name of someone that was popular...'

'When they were very young, yeah, and all the old far...that is...older people remember and kid me about it.'

'Kid you?'

'Boy, I can see we're gonna have lots of fun translating,' laughed Priscilla, taking Monique's hand.

'Girls! If you both don't get showered and downstairs in the next fifteen minutes breakfast will be off!'
Grandma Black was taking no nonsense this morning. She stood in the bedroom doorway, her arms folded on her ample bosom, her foot tapping the floorboards. 'Louis and Henry have had theirs and I haven't got time to fool around. There's too much to be done, what with organising Prentice and the others. And,' she stated, turning to go, 'Matthew wants to speak with you, Monique, about your parents.'

The two girls exchanged a glance that spoke of hope that something good was to be forthcoming.

Grandma Black turned back and flung at them, 'And I want to talk to both of you as well!'
She strode away, leaving Priscilla and Monique with an ominous feeling in the pit of their stomachs.

Showered and dressed, the two girls came down to breakfast in the living room.
In something of a miracle, Grandma Black had managed fruit, poached eggs, toast and juice.
Matthew Black appeared while they settled in to eat. He looked stressed as he sat in a chair surrounded by unpacked boxes.
'Monique, I've just been on the phone to the Australian Embassy here and earlier in South Africa. I've also had a word with the French Consulates in Cape Town and Johannesburg.'

Monique looked at him expectantly.

Matthew drew a deep breath. 'I'm sorry to say that there is no news on your parents' disappearance. All the people available over there are on the case. They're searching, questioning, following every possibility; whatever can be done is being done. I'm going to be in contact all the time. As soon as we hear anything I'll...' he ended, a little lamely.

Monique bowed her head. Her hands trembled.

'What's really going on Dad?' said Priscilla.

'I don't know pet. Monique's parents have just vanished; gone into smoke. Her Dad, Jean-Michael, was my cameraman on "The Dark Side of Mothers and Children", a doco about women and kids in South Africa. Her mum Monica, as Monique might have told you, is from Durban.'

'No Dad, I don't know anything about it. Monique was too tired to talk last night.'

'I see. Alright kiddo, here it is in a nutshell, and Monique, I hope it wont upset you too much?'

'You can say what must be said Mister Black,' muttered the girl, now clearly distraught.

Bang! Bang! Crash!

'Oh such a nuisance! All these workers! Well everyone I have to fly! Taxi's waiting!'
Rachael Black popped into the room, blew anyone and everyone a kiss and darted toward the front door, a script clutched in her hand.

'Break a leg!' shouted Matthew as the front door slammed in the distance.

Monique blinked and looked from Matthew to Priscilla with an expression of absolute bewilderment on her face.

'Don't you fret at all, young lady,' said grandma Black, collecting breakfast plates. 'You'll get used to all this commotion soon enough.'

Matthew, half out of his chair, sank back and again turned to the girls. 'Now then where was I...Oh yes, well, I first met Monique's Dad some years ago when we were doing a nature film called "Sahara Song". Then we teamed up on "The French Attaché", a spy story set in Uganda. Before that, he had been all over Africa as a wild-life cameraman on lots of other projects, and that's where he met Monica Lawaka, Monique's Mother, in Durban...'

'And they fell in love,' suggested Priscilla.

'I guess so,' Matthew answered. 'Otherwise Monique wouldn't be...'

'I don't want to hear anymore!'
Monique was on her feet, her eyes wide, her hands clenched together. 'I want to know of my parents? I want to know that they are safe and coming for me!'

'Sure you do,' said Matthew, reaching out a hand to steady the trembling girl and drawing her over to his knee. 'But we have to get through what has already happened so that we're able to see where we have to go to get them here.' He gently patted her cheek. 'Just take a deep breath and trust us. We're all here to help you. You're not alone.'

Monique looked steadily into Matthew's eyes. 'I know that I am not alone, but Monsieur, I am so desperately frightened.' She buried her face against his shoulder and began to cry.

'There now, child,' said Granny Black, coming to comfort her, 'things will get better. Matthew will make sure of that.'

Matthew allowed his mother to take Monique from his grasp, although, as Priscilla noted, he seemed far from confident that he could indeed do anything at all.
'Well,' he said with a sigh, 'where was I?'

'You were talking about Monique's Parents when they first met,' said Louis in the doorway, a screwdriver held in one hand, a framed picture of Spiderman in the other.

'Yeah, cut to the chase Dad,' added Henry, rushing in slightly out of breath, a lidless empty cardboard box in his grasp.

'What's up Henry?' asked Priscilla.

'Gizzard, he's gotten out again...Anybody seen a green lizard about this big?' He held the box out.

'Please allow your Father to finish, then we'll organise a search party,' said Granny Black, her arms still around Monique.

'Yes mate, I am trying to cut to the chase, if I can get a word in...Anyway, some time ago I offered Jean-Michael work in Tasmania and Queensland on a couple of film projects and he said that he was interested. So much so that he wanted to bring his family over and settle here. He made application for a temporary work visa with the object of becoming an Australian citizen in the future. When his visa was granted I managed to enrol Monique at Hopewell so that she would have company there with both you, Louis and Priscilla as pals. Well, everything was going along fine. We finished the doco before time, Monique's folks were packed and ready to fly out of Capetown, all their luggage was set to be sent off to the airport, and then...' He shook his head, as if he still couldn't believe it. 'Monique went to say goodbye to some of her school friends and when she got back to the hotel...her folks had gone...'

'That is true,' said Monique, sniffing and wiping her eyes. 'I came back there, went to our rooms and found only our baggage. Father's equipment, his cameras and lighting gear, was not there...And neither were Mother and Father...Since then I have never seen them again.'

Matthew nodded. 'I was at the wrap party at the hotel where our production unit was staying when Monique rang me. At first she thought her parents had perhaps gone there and forgotten to leave a message. When I told her that I hadn't seen them since the day before, alarm bells began to ring. First I went to the hotel and met Monique, then I asked at the desk if anyone had seen Monica and Jean-Michele. No one had. But they hadn't checked out. Then I began to ring around to Monique's aunt and other relatives in Durban and Bloemfontein. Nothing. After that I reported them as missing to the authorities. Our flight was due to leave late that evening and when nothing more happened, I informed the police that I was departing and taking Monique with me.' He turned to the girl as if to reassure her. 'I couldn't just leave you there, with no family and only a couple of short term school friends. The arrangements had already been made for your travel. I had to become your guardian or send you back to Durban. I...Well, I made the decision to bring you to Australia.
And believe me Dear, I will do everything I can to locate your parents and bring them to you.'

Monique looked as if she would break down at any moment, hanging on to Granny Black's arms in absolute misery. 'I know you will, Mister Black...I just...I can't...' Her eyes filled with tears.

' Um, in any event, I have many things to do today,' said Matthew moving on; his own eyes, as Priscilla alone saw, glistening.
'I have to get together with the production bosses and start the editing and post production work on what we've brought back. Then I have to meet with Calvin and Klinger to discuss a new venture, and try to find a camera crew for the Tasmania thing...I...' He stopped in mid sentence and looked at Monique. 'I won't give up for you. I'll be on the phone all the time. You must hope that they will turn up. I'm sure they will. After all it's only a couple of days...'

'Yes Monsieur, I will be patient. You must forgive me if I shed some tears,' said Monique, gulping and standing away from Grandma Black. 'Please, I am most grateful to be here and to spend my time with all of you.'

'And you are most welcome,' said Granny Black, motioning her son into action. 'Now let Matthew get off to see what he can find out, and the rest of you,' she indicated the three children, 'should do your best to make our guest as comfortable as you can. Mind, considering it's school holidays, I don't want you getting under the workmen's feet. They'll be gone in a few days and then we can bring this house to order and sort out all the unpacking.'

Matthew stood and headed for the door, saying, 'I'll be off now, but I'll ring if I hear anything today. I'm going to organise a second phone line here so that we can get the computer up and running. There are people in Cape Town that I can talk to as well via email'.

'Great!' said Louis. 'I've missed the internet. Fantastic! What do ya think Henry?'

'I think I've lost my skink', Henry muttered, peering around the room, the cardboard box wilting in his hand.
'Gizzard! Where are you? Come on Gizzard!'

He made as if to wander off in search, but Granny Black halted him with an uplifted arm.
'Just one moment, Henry. I have a question for all of you, before you disappear.'

The children could hear Matthew's car keys jingling as he hurried down the hall and there was a faint thumping coming from somewhere outside that sounded like Prentice attacking the pipes.
'What's the problem Gran?' ventured Louis, never one to dodge an issue.

'The problem is, young man, that when I got up earlier this morning and came downstairs I found the kitchen door open. We could have all been murdered in our beds. Your Mother and Father were still asleep, as were you...So...How did it get opened? I know it was locked last night.'

'Beats me,' said Louis with a shrug.

'Maybe Gizzard opened it,' muttered Henry mischievously, itching to go and look for his pet.

'I...I don't know how it got opened,' said Priscilla, although the thought of her weird dream jumped into her mind. And yet even in the dream she hadn't unlocked the kitchen door. But before she could say anything further, Grandma Black went on, 'And another thing, the door to the cellar was open too. Now what kind of game are you children playing?'

'Maybe the house is haunted,' offered Louis with a smirk on his face.

'Maybe you all think I'm going crazy too,' Granny shot back at him.

No one spoke.

'Oh very well, get on with it. You girls, go and help Henry find his lizard. And keep out of trouble. Lunch will be ready around twelve. And bring down any clothes for the wash. And make an effort to get your beds made and your rooms sorted'.


'Gee, Gran sure can go on sometimes. Here Gizzard, here boy,' said Henry as the four ambled down the hallway.

'It's no good just wandering around,' said Louis, getting practical, 'let's split up. Henry and I will search down here. You girls can look upstairs while you're tidying our rooms.'

'Sounds like you two get the easy part,' Priscilla said, stopping at the stairs. She turned back and beckoned Monique. 'Come on, we may as well.'


When the girls were out of earshot of the others, Monique took hold of Priscilla's arm, saying quietly, 'Cilla, there's something I want to tell you. I think it was me, last night. I think I opened the back door!'

Chapter 5 [Next]

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