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“He says he is on his way but it could take a while. He also says to give you a big kiss in advance.” Helena tries to give the phone to her friend but Betty waves her off.
“Back in my purse, darling! I never touch the damn thing.”
Helena looks around. Everywhere she looks are purses hanging by the elegant gowns: sleek black satin purses, discreet champagne coloured purses, even puffy pink purses with tassles. “Which one is yours?”
Betty laughs. “All of them! But these are all useless. I mean the one behind the counter, love. The big one.
Betty’s purse is indeed a massive affair made of leather. Helena unceremoniously drops the phone in.
“Now. While he is on his way over, the sweetheart, tell me Lena: why in the world are you digging mysterious and possibly eldritch things up out of the mud in the middle of a thunderous lightning storm?”
“Yes! Yes, it was exactly like that. With forked lightning on the horizon while banshees cried out in the night.” Helena accepts the glass of wine she is offered and looks around. “Something to eat?”
“Not around my gowns! Nobody eats in my shop. Never!”
“Is this another lightning storm?”
“Yes. The nuts are in the cabinet behind you.”
Helena reaches over and pulls the packet of nuts out, along with a dainty crystal bowl to put them in. The necklace is on the little table between them in a ceramic bowl. Betty has put a felt coaster underneath, in case it becomes hot again.
“I am doing an internship to become a ranger” Helena says.
Betty laughs. “A ranger? I thought you were perfectly happy as a shopkeeper? I thought you wanted to do something simple so you could concentrate on embroidery or whatever it was.”
“Calligraphy. And I don’t do that anymore.”
“Really?” Betty is not impressed.
“At the end of the day it was just writing curly letters. I got bored with it.”
“Don’t do that. You are giving me the dead questions treatment. You know I hate that.”
“Yes sweetie!” Betty says exasperatedly, “But what else can I say? You are always getting bored with everything! I mean, it is all nice and everything to want to get back to nature and sink your boots in the mud and hug deer or whatever it is that rangers do…”
“Tell people not to hug deer?”
“But it is only a matter of time before you get bored with that as well!” Betty perseveres. “You just chucked your shopkeeping job into your boss’ belly this morning, which is probably the end of that job, and by the sound of it you somehow also managed to sabotage your internship – way to ruin a job before you even started it!”
“I did not sabotage my internship! Or my job… well okay, I may have sabotaged the shop job. But they wouldn’t let me improve anything and they were running it into the ground anyway” Helena pouts. “And I need to eat more than nuts for lunch, especially if we are drinking wine.”
“We’ll get something. But first this.” Betty looks stern.
Helena gives in. “Fine. I didn’t sabotage this internship. Not really. I didn’t expect Fred to be so rigid about this, and so angry. I don’t understand why he told me not to come yesterday.”
“And yet you went. By yourself, to a place he told you not to go.”
“He didn’t tell me!” Helena scowls, “Not explicitly anyway. I think. I don’t remember, really.” She sighs. “It wasn’t even the cat. I thought at first that I had gone back for the cat but if I am being honest, no. It had seen something in the bank of the gully and I wanted to know what it was!”
“Did it glimmer? Or did it glow?”
Helena is silent for a few moments and sips her wine. “I don’t know. It must have done something to draw my attention, although I couldn’t see it after a while anymore. Besides, I was busy with the kittens, and the raging ball of fury that came at me at head height.”
Betty looks alarmed.
“The mother cat,” Helena explains, “she wanted to have a say in the relocation of her children.”
“Good for her” Betty nods.
Helena’s chest tightens. “Maybe, but she will be dead by now. Fred said he was going to poison her.” She takes another sip. “Damn it.”
“That man is a bad man.” Betty’s full and bright red lips have gone thin.
“I don’t know. Maybe,” Helena says. She looks at her glass. “I definitely need more than nuts if I’m not going to keel over in a bit.”
“Walk down to the end of the street, there is a sandwich shop at the corner that is quite good. Nothing touristy or hipster, just bread rolls with cheese and things. Not a quinoa in sight.”
“You want anything?”
“No darling, no bread for me. I want to continue to fit into my own gowns thank you very much.” She flaunts the silk gown she is wearing, even during her work day.
Rolling her eyes, Helena heads out the door.
The fresh air feels good on her face. He has gotten used to the open sky above her but here in the old quarters of Amsterdam the sky can feel a long way off. The quaint and beautiful facades of seventeenth century buildings look down on her as she makes her way through the street. There are tourists, of course, but also local people with little kids on the back of their bikes. Helena waves at a little girl with a bobble hat. The kid smiles and waves back just before they round the corner. Helena buries her hands into the pockets of her parka and continues to the shop at the end of the street.
She has just ordered her lunch and is chatting with the shopkeeper about the weather and the tourists and how the neighbourhood has changed in the past ten years, when something catches her eye. Was that Fred walking by the window? Leaving her explanation about why she moved out of the city in the first place hanging mid-sentence, Helena jumps to the door and pulls it open. Can that be? But Fred is working today at the park! She knows for sure, it is on his schedule! And Fred always follows the schedule… She watches as Fred’s green jacket reaches the end of the street and starts to climb the bridge over the canal.
“Hello? Lady? Everything okay? Your rolls are ready!”
Confused, Helena looks at the shopkeeper. “What rolls? Oh yeah, no, whatever.”
The shopkeeper shakes his head but Helena is already out the door, poised to follow Fred. And then she sees a man entering Betty’s shop. The man does not look very friendly, and it is highly unlikely he’ll be shopping for vintage evening wear. Is it Benny? But he said he would be while! Is Betty in danger? And the necklace is still there! What to do?
tl;dr Helena called Benny the fence and he said he’d be a while so she decides to grab lunch, but suddenly sees Fred walking by. He is not supposed to be in Amsterdam! But then she also spots a suspicious looking man entering Betty’s shop. What will she do?
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