Novel 3: Act III, Chapter 1, Scene 1c

TOC page here.

Here’s the third of four parts of the transition from Act II to Act III:

She rose from the dead in the gathering gloom of the evening. The house was full of the rich scent of savory food: something with meat and garlic in it. With the peculiar, insipid calm the aftereffects of the drug gave her, she padded downstairs in a bathroom to find Fiona and Grace, holding glasses of wine and arguing.

“Mom!” said Grace. Her wineglass slid out of her hand.

Fiona, with her usual instinctive dexterity, reached out a foot, caught the glass by the stem between two toes, lifted it back up to where Grace could reach for it, all without spilling a drop. “I’d no idea you were home. I’m sorry about the music.”

“What music?” asked Diana. “What’s for dinner?”

“Krog Street Tacos,” said Grace. “We didn’t see your car. Burrito casserole: I’ll break vegan for it.”

“Mustapha drove me home. You went to KST and you didn’t tell me?”

Fiona said reasonably, “We didn’t know where you were. Gracie phoned you.”

“I was dead to the world. Did you get enough for me?”

Grace and Fiona exchanged a look. “Um, sure,” said Grace.

“No,” said Fiona. “Grace, go get more.”

“The line will be out the door. You go: you have faerie magic.”

“It’s okay,” said Diana. She opened the fridge, which was completely empty. “Maybe there’s cereal?”

There wasn’t. But Grace remembered the bag of granola in her bike’s pannier, so Diana grazed on that while the casserole finished reheating, then restrained herself to just a few bites of casserole and half of one of the sausages Fiona had brought along to add flavor to it. Fiona and Grace were playing Scrabble, as they have been doing since Grace was eight, for blood, as always: both were closing in on four hundred points, even with a few letters left in the bag.

Grace reached out and picked up the blank Fiona had used; she replaced it with a B. She and Fiona had long played a variant where blanks could be recycled. “Ha ha ha,” she said. “Prepare to be bingoed.”

“Hang on,” said Fiona. “That blank was an X, not a B. AXLE and XI, not ABLE and BI.”

“Who cares? It’s a word either way.”

“I said it was AXLE. It’s an X.”

“Both letters fit, and there’s no other word that would get messed up. It could be either one.”

“It’s not… Schrödinger’s blank, Gracie. It’s an X.”

“You don’t get to dictate reality. ABLE is just as legit. My blank, now.”

Fiona looked to Diana; Diana held up her hands. “Work it out.” She slipped from her chair and went to get her phone, which had no voicemails from work, thank the gods, and only one text, from Grace, asking what she wanted from Krog Street Tacos. She tossed the phone on her bed, found her book, and set to reading, ignoring the bickering she could hear from down the stairs.

Eventually, the kvetching subsided, to be replaced by a faint odor of high-quality cannabis. Diana ignored it all, focused on the book, enjoying the part where the typography started to get weird.

Why is this part here? Why aren’t we investigating a murder? One, because these novels are about character as much as they are about plot. But there’s a better answer: we have two perfectly plausible answers to a puzzle, otherwise interchangeable but for intent. Keep that in mind as we move forward.

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