Home   International Poetry Fiction Non-fiction
© Copyright 2003-2009 K S Mulholland  

BlackEagle Girls
and The Ice-Angel of Death

Chapter 7 - The Casablancan Canary

It was a happy Sunday morning. The children were all up and about early and after breakfast Henry was treated to the first of his birthday loot, a rather large box of milk chocolates and a double colour CD of The Sea Hawk and Robin Hood, starring one of his favourite old-time actors Errol Flynn.
'Woh! This guy was sooo cool even in the olden days when you were young, thanks Gran,' he said, giving Amelia a big hug and a bigger kiss.
Granny Black, kissing him back, said, 'I'll have you know, young man, that I was very, very young when Errol Flynn was in his heyday.'
'Aw yeah sure, you must've been just a kid like me,' Henry replied diplomatically, though Priscilla saw his brow arch and his impish grin briefly flash. 'So anyway,' he hastened on, 'is that it?'
'We're going to string this out through the day chum,' said Mathew, easing the cast on his leg across a stool. 'Now that you've turned eleven, don't get into the comfort zone. There might be a present or two to come but patience is...'
'A virtue,' ended Rachael piously, before contradicting herself by immediately producing a gift-wrapped box with holes cut into the sides. 'Do be gentle with it,' she cautioned.
'Wow! Whatsit!' said Henry, letting go of Granny Black and latching on to the package. In seconds he pulled open the bow, tore off the paper and gently opened the lid. 'Well bugg... um blow me, it's a real beauty! Here Louis, Cilla, Monique look!' He offered the open box for the others to peer inside.
'Oh, it is a beautiful little lizard,' said Monique, somewhat uncertainly, looking askance at Priscilla who simply grinned and slightly shook her head.
'Thanks Mum!' said Henry spontaneously, 'Is it a girl skink?'
'Oh well, I didn't think about asking,' Rachael replied, dithering a little, ' just thought that your little fellow... um Buzzard... '
'Gizzard Mum.'
'Yes, well, I wondered if he might get lonely up there in his plastic box, so when I was passing a pet shop with all those cute kittens and puppies I thought I might pop in and there he, she was. Couldn't resist. Such nice eyes and... and such a fashionable colour.'
'It will go very well with your latest handbag,' suggested Amelia, looking away to hide her amusement whilst arranging some fresh flowers in a tall vase.
'Well no, of course not,' said Rachael, appearing slightly confused as Henry gave her an almighty hug.
'Woh! Now that lunch is over and I can't eat another mouthful... it's time for my party trick!' said Henry, gesturing to several of his school friends who had come over to help him celebrate. (Including the black-haired Rosalind Dawtrey, who Henry had had a crush on since the beginning of the year.)  He stood up from the dining table, pushed away his chair and swished a folder from the top of the upright piano with a flourish. At that moment his party hat slipped down over his eyes, engendering a few guffaws, and he pushed it away, getting serious. 'Now Dad and me have been putting this together. It's a kind of a radio play, so you have to imagine it. I do the part of narrator and some of the guy's voices and Dad does some too and all the girl's voices as well... '
'How very amusing,' remarked Stefan Mans, reclining in his dining chair and uplifting a glass of champagne.
'I can't wait. I would never have guessed a broken leg could bring on such latent talent. What do you think Jon?' he asked of his friend, a rather well constructed fellow with the lithe body of a dancer, which in fact he had been, and the pock-marked face of someone it might be well to avoid on a darkened street.
'I'm waiting for the wigs and fur wraps!' returned Jonathan Southerland, laughing easily, already comfortable with those about the table. 'And if I can't dance and dear Rachael here can't sing, I think it's on with the birthday boy!'
'Yes, yes!' agreed Monica and Jean-Michael together, while Brodie and Vincent, two of Henry's chums, pumped on their stadium hooters and Rosalind trilled on her party blow-out.
'Alright, here we go, ready Dad?'
'Yep, just hitching up the mesh stockings,' grinned Mathew, taking his part of the script and looking slightly embarressed.
'OK,' said Henry, 'picture this! Istanbul, mysterious city of Turkey, filled with thieves and cut-throats, just like Timbuktu in French Sudan at the edge of the Sahara desert, or Shanghai or Cairo, or Port Melbourne in Australia. Well, not really Port Melbourne, although... Anyhow, this story isn't in any of them. It's set in Casablanca, chief sea-link of Morocco in the second World War during the German occupation. It begins in a little bar and grill known as the... yeah wait for it... "Pair O' Dice", a hangout of thieves and cut-throats... And that's only the staff... And watched closely by the German High Command, who were on the lookout for several very nasty people... Not the staff, they already knew about them... Anyway, late one dusty afternoon, inside the almost deserted "Pair O' Dice" a guy is sitting at a piano, running his fingers over the owner's bank account and humming a grin to himself. Suddenly a soft, vaguely familiar, female voice breaks his tallying trance.'
' "Hello Sonny,"' said Mathew in a high-pitched tone. ' "It's been a long time. While you're fingering the cashbook, maybe you could play it, one more time for me. Play it again, Sonny." '
' "My name ain't Thonny. It'hs Thyril. An' I don't do requesths when I'm counting," ' said Henry, lisping away.
' "I can make it worth your while. Let me dance for you!" '
'The tall, shapely blonde leapt lightly onto the piano in her string-net stockings and six inch stilettos and began to sway in a wanton manner. (She was wanton him to belt out that old familiar tune of long ago when she and his boss had played footsies together.) Cyril, sorry, Thyril, began to tickle the ivories. Just at that moment, her old flame was watching the scene below from a curtained window above the gaming floor. He cursed, spluttering over his iced cocoa and nutmeg. "Of all the pizza-parlour, kebob house, Game-boy, Nintendo joints in all da woild, she has ta walk inta mine. After she beats it, I gotta have a woid wid Thyril. (Damn teeth!)" '
' "Ohh-ee, ohh-ha-ha, ting tang, walla walla, bing bang. Ohh-ee, ohh-ha-ha, ting tang, walla walla..." '
' "What's that yer playin'?" '
' "Oh nothin' Bosth, just a little sthumphin I wrote..." '
' "Well stop it! You know what I wanna hear!" '
' "No I don't Bosth..." '
' "You played it for her, now play it for me. Play it!" '
' "O.K. Bosth. You asked for it. Well...I thaw this thing coming outta the sky, it had one big horn and one big eye, I think I might have peed as I thaid Oowee, it lookth like a Purple People Eater to..." '
' "Alright, alright, shut it! I need time ta think. What the hell would Legs Akimbo be comin' to the Pair O' Dice for? A dance on the grand piano? I don't think so." '
' "Legth Akimbo? Aint thshe the exhotic danther?" '
' "I think yer pushing the lisp. Bring it back a little, or I wont be able to get away with saying Cashablanca." '
' "Thorry Bosth..." '
' "That's better. Now, let's get our heads together..." '
' "Ith's cosy like this..." '
' "Yer breathin' down my shirt-collar Thyril, and unless you want a knuckle sandwich, you'll back off!" '
' Later that same night, at the Pair O' Dice gaming tables, Rick O'Shea, owner of this den of inic...inicwi...
iniqewt... very nasty place where lots of baddies gathered, was cruising the floor, picking up chips, kicking out girls and tickling bums... Or was that, picking up girls, kicking out bums and ti...or maybe it was...Aw! He was there anyway. Suddenly a man shouted!'
' "Meester Rickhh, Meester Rickhh! They're coming for meee! Quickly, you must hide mee!" '
' "Take it easy, little swarthy, slightly sweaty, foreign looking pershon. Shay? Do I know you?" '
' "Sure you do, Meester Rick, I come to the gaming tables often, twice on Sundays. You must save me! They are coming and...they are going to take me away and...and drill me!" '
' "Hmm Dentists huh? Well don't stress out, you'll just get a shot to deaden the pain. Now what's your name?" '
' "Hugo Furst." '
' "Don't get cute with me shweetheart, you already know my name, now c'mon, give!" '
' "Excuse me, Mister O'Shea," said a man dressed in the uniform of a German officer. " That iss his name. He iss Hugo Furst, a double-dealing-double-agent-dealing-in-double-indemnity-und-double-trouble-on-zee-double!" '
' "Aw yeah! And who might you be?" '
' "I am Major Hans Kuft of the Hitler Boys Movement and boy, have ve been shaking und moving lately!" '
' "Hans Kuft huh? Catchy. So what gives? And why have you got that rod pointed at Furst?" '
' "I hev ziz gun pointed at first him, und now you, Herr O'Shea." '
' "More than you'll ever have by the way your cap keeps slipping off your head. G'wan beat it. Run along or I'll have Thyril throw ya out." '
' "Do not be so hasty to try my patience O'Shea. I want to know where it is, und if I have to shoot you both to find out I will." '
' "I think your logic is a little cuckoo, Kuft." '
' "Mh, um, umjh, ho-ho, or a little Canary, Suh!" '
' "That guy behind you got somethin' caught in his throat?" '
' "Don't try me with zat old chestnut, Herr O'Shea. If zere was somebody behind me I would feel the barrel of a revolver in the small of my back, just like...oh! Gotterdammerung!" '
' "Indeed Suh! And I assure you that Wendy will not hesitate to use it if I tell him. I think it best if we all sit down and have a little tate-a-tate." '
' "Nein, I am on a diet. No starch for me, just a small portion of salad." '
' "Foolish German person! Wendy, escort these people to one of those alcoves where we will not be interrupted." '
' "I don't know who you are," said O'Shea, checking a hip pocket for his butt... of the gun he always kept there,  "but you'll never get away with it here. Not in my plache!" '
' "Ah, there now Suh! As you will observe, we are getting away with it, umm, ah, ah, jahaa, mumph." '
' "Is it a chicken bone? I'll have my chef sacked..." '
' "No Meester Rick,"  said Hogo Furst, his eyes so wide that they were bugging out of his head,  "you do not understand. That is the laugh of...THE FAT MAN!" '
' "Shut your mouth Furst! Or I'll shut it for yah," said Wendy, waving his snub-nose automatic under Hugo Furst's snivelling snub-nose, which he wiped, automatically.'
' "This is the Fat Man?" Rick O'Shea's eyebrows lifted. "This skinny little wimp in the baggy suit?" '
' "Ummph, ahh, ererch, erm, eckher, ack ack, urmph! Suh, you think you have the better of me, yes indeed, but I am simply in a cunning disguise so that I could get past the authorities. Now allow me to pull this rip cord attached to my belly-button." '
' "Holy Moses! He's like The Michelin Man on shteroids!" said O'Shea aghast, as clothing stretched to its maximum limit before his shocked eyes.
Suddenly Kasper Gutman stood before them in all his humungousness. "Greetings, Mister O'Shea, um, ah, he ho, ahh, from your old friend Sam Spade in the U.S.A. Suh!" '
' "Shpade? Yeah, an alright guy. So what? And shay! I think we've bumped into each other somewhere before Gutman. Was it in Warshaw?" '
' "No Suh!" '
' "Ishstanbul?" '
' "Try again Suh," said The Fat Man, a playful smile stretching across his moon-face.'
' "Yugoslavia?" '
' "I go where ever I must Suh, in order to secure the object of my desire. Mmm mmuph! But enough of this guessing game! I shall tell you later where we encountered each other, after you furnish us with some
answers. Now take a seat Suh! Ah how charming, you have named each booth." '
' "Yeah, this is the Abraham Lincoln, the one behind is more private. It's the John Wilkes..." '
' "Very good Suh, Wendy will make sure that we are not interrupted whilst we have our little chat." '
' "Yeah, Wendy huh," said O'Shea, ushering the others forward. "You go first," he indicated to Hans Kuft, who was immediately pushed out of the way by the swarthy little double agent. O'Shea gave a knowing grin, checking that his false teeth were still in plache as he slid in next to Kuft and Furst. "This here little gun-totin' creep in the trenchcoat and turned-down hat looks familiar. What's your last name Wendy?" '
' "Darling." '
' "Don't play the wiseguy with me shweetheart, answer the question!" '
' "Indeed Suh, you are a card that is for certain, yes indeed, umm, ah, ho hoh! That is his name, Wendy Darling, umm, eh a ha. Now to business Suh! Where is it!?" ' 
' "Search me, What exactly is it that you're looking for?" '
' The Fat Man's face crinkled into a sneer. "Suh, now it is you who are playing the fool. Don't waste my time. I want it, and I want it now! One of you in this booth has it, or knows where it is. Now speak up!
If you want to see the main course, produce The Bird!" '
' "Well, chicken's on the menu, but you'd better duck right now or your goose's cooked!" O'Shea warned, seeing the flash of gunmetel blue behind Gutman. There was a sound like a rubber mallet hitting a vat of custard and something viciously whipping past THE FAT MAN'S rather bloated thigh. A bullet smacked into the woodwork just to the left of Hans Kuft's head.'
' "Silencer!' snarled O'Shea, "Get down on the floor! Take cover!" '
'Immediately at the cry of "silencer!", all the patron's and croupiers around the gaming tables emitted frantic whispers of panic, and tip-toed out of the Pair-O'-Dice.'
' "Where'd that shot come from?" said Wendy Darling, his beady little eyes scanning the now deserted room.'
' "The piano,"  answered O'Shea, who had dived out of the booth and was now stretched full-length on the floor between two...'
'BANG! BANG! BANG! Wendy fired off three rounds in rapid succession.
PLING, PLANG, PLONGG! jangled the piano.'
' "Best its ever shounded," muttered O'Shea grimly. Then, looking up, he realised that he was lying between two very shapely female legs... '
'Henry!' cautioned Amelia Black, ominously.
'It's OK Gran, she was wearing nickers,' said Henry innocently, to a round of laughter from those at the dining room table. 'Alright to go on?' he added cheekily, whilst his school mates Brodie, Vincent, Rosalind and Priscilla and Monique all tried not to smirk or giggle.
Rachael poured wine whilst Amelia Black humphed a bit before saying, 'Yes, but I do hope that my Son has ensured that this is seemly for young ears!'
Mathew, shifting his leg-plaster at the far end of the upright piano, nodded. 'Mother,' he sighed, 'Henry and I have been rehearsing this for two weeks. It's fine, can we just get on with it?' He turned his gaze toward the other adults with a look of, 'Well, he's my son, it's his Birthday, and he's having fun', on his face.
Grinning broadly at his school chums, and especially at  Rosalind, Henry began again, ' "Holy shmoke! Gay Abandon!" Rick O'Shea found himself peering into the barrel of a revolver pointed directly at his face by the woman who stood over him.'
' "Better call off your watchdogs Lover or this thing might go off," said the tall red head. "And don't bother to wonder whether your pals are of any use. Their all taken care of. Take it easy, give me the gun and then you can stand up and join the boys. There, that's better,"  she said as she relieved O'Shea of his weapon and he regained his feet. "Alright girls, you can come out now." Legs Akimbo stepped from behind the John Wilkes, a revolver levelled at Wendy's head, and a third woman emerged from the shadows, shoving Thyril in front of her, a gun at his back.'
' "Fraulien Anna Conda!' gasped Hans Kuft, "but how can this be?" '
' "It can be any way you want it, my liebling, as in vertical or horizontal. Depending on what happens next." '
The brunette, her hair blowing in a soft cloud about her beautiful features, ambled up to the group and laid her hand upon O'Shea's shoulder. "Too bad for us Rick, all those years ago in Paris when we..." '
' "Yeah sure, when we walked out together! I remember. But this isn't about then, it's about now. You're lookin' at me, and I'm lookin' at you. Well?" '
' "Well Suh! Miss Conda is wanting what we are all wanting. The Bird! Produce it! And perhaps then Suh, we will see what might come of it!" The Fat Man laughed, and for a moment everybody else thought he was having a heart attack, or starting a small earth quake.'
'O'Shea shook his head, "Beats me, I dunno what you're on about..." '
' "Wait a minute Bosth," said Thyril, "somethingth coming to me, err, you must remember this, a kissth ith shtill...no! Ith's probably the package that arrived thith morning. The one labelled Flowerth ". '
' "Did it say which florist?" asked Hugo Furst timidly." '
'Thyril thought a momenth. "Umm, Gumpth, I think. Anyway, I used it to prop upth the piano leg..." '
' "Flowers?" said Hans Kuft, puzzled.'
'Thyril sthcarthed his head, "Oh thorry, I meant flowerth, like in a thack of flowerth, it was heavy as, and the piano being lopsthided all thesth years... " '
' "You mean that dirty, newspaper-covered package over there under the grand is it?" said Legs Akimbo, her eyes resting upon the dirty... There was a frantic scramble. A cloud of dust arose: several heads, arms, legs and other bits, were dragged back into and popped out of it. Eventually, Hugo Furst emerged clutching the prize. "Mine, mine, all mine!" he screeched insanely, until Hans Kuft ripped it out of his grasp. "Nein, nein, all mine!" he shouted gleefully. A gun exploded and a shot whizzed into the ceiling. "Just put the thing on top of the piano and let's all calm down," said Anna Conda, coolly.'
' "Boy you're shome dame, Anna. If only we had our time again..." '
' "Yeah, sure Rick, we could have done a lot of walking out together, but it's too late for that now. Gay, unwrap the package and let's take a look at it." With trembling fingers, Gay Abandon began to undo the string, which was actually a newly invented high tensile material that would later become invaluable in textile manufacture, then she pulled away the outer layer with the 1856 British Guiana one cent Black on Magenta stamp attached, to reveal a canvas with the painting of a woman sitting with her hands crossed on her lap and a sticker that read M. Lisa. By L. Da Vinci.'
' "C'mon, c'mon, hurry up! Let's see it!" said Hugo Furst, as Gay Abandon's shaking hands carefully tore away the painting to reveal a copy of Lee Falk's Phantom comic number one, volume one, which she  tossed aside, ( Though it was to be noted that Hans Kuft picked it up and slid it beneath his tunic, for a little light reading later no doubt. ) and then there was a loud, dramatic chord from the piano as Thyril knelt on the keyboard to get a better look.'
' "His knees never played it better," muttered Rick, beads of sweat standing out on his curled lisp.'
'The last fragment of a rare manuscript by Shakespeare was torn asunder by Legs and Gay... And there it lay, the treasure that many had died for over the years, The Casablancan Canary!
With knocking knees the two girls stood it upright on its final covering, an ancient parchment from beneath the Sphinx.'
' "Look at it!" exclaimed Major Kuft, his eyes glittering with greed. "It is beautiful, it is a work of indescribable wonderbar, worth more than a Kaiser's ransom!" '
' "Looks like a canary sitting on a tree stump ta me," muttered O'Shea, unmoved.'
' "No, no! don't you see the wonder, the symmetry of line, the technique of the sculpture?" hissed Hugo agog. (Or is that Hugo agogo?) "This is poetry, this is sublime... " '
' "Aw shaddup!" said Wendy, slapping Furst over the head. "What do we do now Boss?" '
' "Muh! Eh, heh! Erm, och, er, goc pthuh!" said The Fat Man. "Well my boy, to begin with, I will take over from this point on. Oh yes Suh! Because, as you may all observe, I now hold the whip hand." '
'The others, so engrossed in their examination of the Bird, suddenly turned to find Gutman covering them with two extremely dangerous looking German luger pistols. "Mmm, ah oh, allow me to assure you that there are more than enough bullets here for everyone Ladies and Gentlemen. Now! To business! Wendy! Do you still have that pen knife that you stole from a boy scout? " '
' "Sure Boss," Wendy Darling answered in a surly tone, noticing that he also was being covered by the two Mausers in Gutman's hands.'
' "Good, then take it out, my boy, and scratch at the surface of The Bird. I want to see what lies beneath that cheap imitation gilt. Do it, Wendy, or you'll have mugged your last little old lady!" '
'Wendy began to scrape away at the Canary, but after a few minutes nothing happened. The yellow surface showed no sign of anything else beneath.'
' "Bah Suh! Humbug! Another forgery! I was at least hoping for a little obsidian, or agate, cornelian, chrysoprase, sard or onyx, even a tad of malachite! And all we have here is a fake! The real Casablancan Canary is still somewhere out there! Wendy, I think we had better pay a visit to that florist Gumph. After all, life is like a box of chocolates. " '
' "Whatdaya mean Boss, is it like ya never know what yer gonna get next?" '
' "No Suh, like some people always get the soft centres, we always get the hard ones. Come Suh! And bring along that German fellow, he may still be of use to us. You go first Suh!" Immediately, the swarthy little man darted to the door and hurried out, followed by Hans Kuft and Wendy. "And now, if you don't mind everybody, I shall bid you adieu, ah, ec, ahem, hem ka! Wish me luck as you wave me goodbye!" '
' "Yeah, yeah, cheerio, here you go on yer way," sneered O'Shea, as The Fat Man pocketed his two colt forty-five revolvers and took his leave.'
' "Abyssinia!" '
' "Not if I shee you first," chuckled O'Shea.'
' "Rick! How can you be so calm at a time like this?" asked Gay, staring absently at the ancient Book Of Kells, which had been included instead of the steak knives in the packaging of the bird.'
' "Easy baby!" said O'Shea, adjusting his teeth, "They always scratch at it, but nobody ever thinks ta do anything elshe!" '
' "What? With this useless fake?" said Legs Akimbo, stroking the bird and looking at Thyril dreamily.'
' "It ain't that useless," O'Shea answered, peering closely at the statue. "See that? That hole in its beak, and the other one in the tree branch? What's the bet that if you poured some water in there and blew inta the bottom hole it'd play Yankee Doodle just dandy?" '
' "Yeah fine, we can all join in the singing," muttered Gay. "Meantime The Fat Man and those others are beating it and no one's stopping them!" '
' "Oh, I wouldn't shay that," beamed Rick, a grin spreading across his gleaming dentures. "Right about now a friend of mine, Captain Claude Boules of the French Police, will be arresting the whole bunch and bundling them into a van. They'll cool their heels for a while in some damp cell until the Authorities get the entire mess sorted out. Now that could take months, maybe even years..." '
' "And how can you be so sure that your French police Captain is waiting outside?" asked Anna Conda.'
' "He's always waiting outside. My guess is that he's got a thing for Thyril..." '
' "Well Thyril doesn't want his thing, no thur!" thaid Thyril emphatically, as his eyes met Gay's.'
' "That's good to know Thyril," she cooed.'
' "As I was shaying," Rick continued, "They always scratch, they never do anything else..." '
' "Like what would you suggest?" asked Anna. "Do you want to chemically analyse it? Dip it in a bath of salts? Weigh it? X-ray it?" '
' "There'll be no need for that," answered O'Shea evenly. "Thyril, take yer eyes off the dame, and wrap yer kisser around the bird." '
' "Do what Bosth?" '
' "You hoid me, take a slurp at it. G'wan! Do it!" '
'Somewhat reluctantly, Thyril took a little nibble at the log the canary was perched on. "Mmm... tastes like...
er... nougath?" '
' "That's what I thought it might be," said Rick, nodding his head and flashing a toothy grin. Anna noticed one of his gold fillings blinking in the light.'
' "Nougat?" said Legs Akimbo, licking a finger and tracing it over the Canary, then inserting it (Her finger, not the Canary.) into her mouth. "Mmm, sure it's nougat! Best I ever tasted!" '
' "You better believe it shweetheart! This stuff's even finer than Montelimar. This is..."
He waited for the dramatic pause, but when it didn't come, he continued, "This is Xavier Nougat! Rarest and most precious of all. This bird is worth more than we could spend in five lifetimes, and there's more, (Apart from the shteak knives.) when we get some D.N.A. testing we'll be able to deduce the location of the mine..." '
' "Wish you wouldn't spell Bosth, it makes me dithhy," said Thyril, his eyes crossing.'
' "What mine?" asked Legs, crossing her... fingers.'
' "Why the mine where they mined this. The Nougat mine, ya dumb..." '
' "D.N.A. testing hasn't been invented yet," interrupted Gay.'
' "O.K. Then we'll get forensics to check it out... No? How about an archaeologist? Indiana Jones, yeah!" '
' "And you could play the lead in the film," said Anna, brightening.'
' "Nah! Brad Pitt'd be better," said Rick, shaking his head.'
' "Brad Pitt hasn't even been born yet Bosth," said Thyril thoftly.'
' "He will be! Anyway stop putting up obstacles, this is cause for a little celebration. We're all gonna be rich as Rockafeller!" O'Shea's bowtie twirled as he swept Anna Conda into his arms. "From now on it's gonna be you and me Shister!" He looked over to Legs, Gay and Thyril, who all seemed well pleased with the night's work.
"Shay Gay! why don'tcha whip up a few o' them cocktails you always used to do when you were behind the bar. Anna and me'll have Tequila Mockingbirds in honour of The Canary. What'll you have Thyril?" '
'Thyril drew his arms shyly around the shoulders of the two girls. "Me Bosth? I'll thettle for Gay Abandon with
Legth Akimbo." '
'Rick grinned, "Kinda thought you might shay that. I guess you better shing the shong Thyril. You can accompany yerself on the piano, wid yer knees." '
' "If you thay tho Bosth," thaid Thyril, thettling comfortably at the keyboard, with a girl on the lid perched either thide, long legs akim... em, dangling. Trilling a tiny arpeggio, he launched into, "You musth remember this, a kiss is sthill a kiss, a thigh is sthill a thigh. The fundamental thingth apply..." '
' "Here's lookin' at you Kid," thaid Rick, torn between Anna Conda and the magnificent, nougat bust of The Casablancan Canary.'
' "Asth time... goeth... bye bye! " '  And with a flourish Henry placed his last page of script on top of the piano, opening the lid with his other hand so that his father could strike a single chord, and took a long bow. 'Ta dahh!'
'Steak knives not included. Conditions apply. Judges decision is final, Suh!' exclaimed Mathew Black, levering himself upright whilst the adults and youngsters all broke into cheers and applause. Even Harry, who had been comfortably curled up on Monica's lap, erupted into yodels that sent everyone into gales of laughter.
'Whadaya reckon?' asked Henry unashamedly, 'Any good?'
'I think that you and your Father have done all the old movies proud,' shouted Jonathan. 'Bogart, Bacall, Maltese Falcon, Ingrid Bergman, Veronica Lake, Casablanca. I loved it!'
'And the dog liked it too,' added Jean-Michael, clapping.
'He would, it's just his sense of humour,' laughed Priscilla, before suddenly realising what she'd said. But no one seemed to notice as the whole group erupted into 'Happy Birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday Dear Henry,' and out of nowhere Amelia Black produced a large, white-iced cake complete with eleven brightly burning candles and proceeded to set it down on the dining-room table.
'Well at least he didn't do any of his dreadful body-function jokes,' remarked Rachael in an aside to Stefan and Jonathan as the children gathered about the table and Henry, poised with cake knife in hand, said in a rather hurt tone, 'Mother! I heard that. How could you even think such a thing. And after all Dad and my work together.' His lips twisted aside in the same characteristic way his father's did. 'Now that I'm eleven I have risen above such toilet humour. Especially when I have school friends in our new family home.' Here he grinned at Brodie, Vincent and Rosalind. 'Anyway, now I must make a wish.' He sliced the knife into the cake saying, 'Star light, star bright, first star I see tonight, I wish I may, I wish I might, see Uranus... '
Louis, standing next to him, managed to fire off three party poppers almost simultaneously, sending streamers cascading over everybody, and amidst the smoke and ensuing laughter Harry yelped and scrabbled away to cower beneath the table.
'Aww, poor boy,' said Rosalind, kneeling to coax him out again, 'he's frightened. There, there little furry boy. It's alright. You can come out to me. Come on, I'm sure Henry will have a treat for you, and after cake we can go outside for playtime.'
Henry knelt down beside her, milking the situation for all it was worth.
'Errch, he's such a smarm,' muttered Priscilla, carefully balancing a large slice of cake in one hand whilst endeavouring to steer the remainder of another slice toward her mouth.
'Henry or Harry?' asked Monique, between mouthfuls.
'Mmwell, Harry omm course, although come to think of it, both of 'em; cake's great, Granny does great cake.'
'Oh no,' said Monique, halting to stare out through a kitchen window, 'Harry has them all playing Throw the Ball. Even the grownups.'
'Let's head for the hills,' suggested Priscilla conspiratorially, 'we can always say that we're getting ready for an early start back to school tomorrow.'
'Ah yes, and so we are,' agreed Monique glumly. 'I will say goodnight to Mother and Father after dinner, and goodbye again for Tasmania in the morning. And we do have to get ready to be off early, Miss Poe will be waiting to see me.'
'Oh come on Moni, I'll be there with you. You didn't do anything wrong. Whatever Boofhead Roseanne has up her sleeve, we'll beat it. I've still got the plastic blood-bag as evidence'
Monique sighed as they retreated upstairs. 'Yes of course Cilla, but I wonder. These have been two happy, happy days. Does one have to pay a price for such happiness?'


Chapter 8 [next]

Australian Page email your comments to the author Exchange critiques on the Lit-Talk board