NaNoWriMo 2020: Episode 18

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(Read a summary of the story up to now here. Or start at the beginning here.)

Julia wanders into the kitchen for another beer. The sky outside is already getting darker, and suddenly Helena realises that it would be kind of nice to let her friend Betty know about her whereabouts and possibly plans! She digs into the pocket of her jacket that is now hanging from the door handle, and fishes out her phone.

“Betty’s Boutique!”
“Betty it’s me.”
“Darling! Good god woman where have you been?” Betty’s slightly hoarse voice is always like coming home. “I don’t know sweetie, you just bugger off in the early morning with a screwdriver and a knife in your pocket, not to mention some piece of deadly jewellery, and not let me in on your adventures. What is that? I mean, if you are going to bugger off like that, either keep me informed or keep everything to yourself but let that include the unsavoury characters that have come this way in the mean time. Can’t do both or neither, hon!”
“Wha… unsavoury characters?”
“This man came around to the shop today. Had asked around in the area for someone looking like you. Lou and Rien from the sandwich shop sent him my way, apparently, for which I will thank them profusely you can count on that!” She tutted into the phone. “They should know better than that.”
“What did he look like? The man who came into your shop?”
“A bit tall, stoic looking and sounding, short cropped hair. He dressed a lot like you used to do when we would go on these exploration weekends at university. You know, the mud on your boots mud in your hair kinds of events?”
“Archaeology digs, I remember. So, outdoorsy type then?”
Julia pops her head around the corner and raises her eyebrows.
“Totally. One of those green leprechaun vests you people in park wear…”
“Oh gods… What did you tell him?”
“I told him what I tell all strangers who don’t belong in my shop: that he should get the fuck out! He wouldn’t budge at first but he did when I pulled out the old letter opener.”
“You what? You threatened him with a knife?”
Julia is looking increasingly alarmed now, still standing in the doorway to the kitchen.
“No you turnip head! I never threaten anyone! I only pretend I do.” She sounds smug.
“You are such a cat, I swear. But he left?”
“He hung around the street and the bridge for a while. Maybe waiting for you to show up, I don’t know. Who is that guy?”
“Is he gone now?” Helena asks anxiously and she peer at the mirror, the ‘spy’, to look at the street below, expecting Fred to turn up any second. She sees no-one. “He works for the people who want to get their hands on this necklace and I don’t think they should. I really believe they should never get their hands on this ever again.”

“Lena?” Betty asks calmly, “What the hell is going on at your end? Where are you?
Helena explains her current location, much to Betty’s increasing dismay. “You are in that freaking building? What were you thinking?”
Helena nods. “Yeah, I have been asked that before. I know I know maybe it was not very wise of me but I wanted to know more!”
“You come back to my place immediately, you hear me?” Betty is starting to sound like her mother now, a formidable woman Helena had the fortune to meet once when in university, and had very little desire to meet again.
“I don’t think so, Bets” she says, “And I think you shouldn’t be going to your place either. He will be sure to follow you, if he is still around.”
Betty is silent for a few moments. Then, “okay then, I will call a few friends to come pick me up. It is almost weekend anyway-“
“Wednesday.”
“-so I will let them take me for a spin tonight. See if your garden gnome can keep up.”
“Bets…”
“Look, you can always come back to the shop, or my house. You know where the key is? Under the rug at the top of the stairs – I always keep it there for my male lady friends who need a safe space. You can be one of those if you like. Text me what is happening some of the time, I will do the same. And be safe, will you?”
“You too, Bets.”
“Don’t call me Bets, darling, I will hate you forever” she finishes fondly before she hangs up.
“You too.”

“Your friend is safe?” Julia asks softly as she puts down another beer for Helena.
“I think so. I think she will use the cover of nightlife to disappear off the radar for a while.”
“Isn’t that a good place for people to get lost, and damaged, without anyone noticing?”
“She will be with a number of drag queens. They notice everything!”
“Maybe you should go with them?” Julia suggests, “Not that I want you out of here, but it might be a good place to hide out?”
Helena hesitates…

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