Well, it’s been a week since we caught Ms McGinty dressing up as a slime mutant to rob the bank, and in that time we’ve a) not been congratulated by anyone besides Michelle’s Ma (and I honestly think she was just saying it because she was annoyed at James’s Ma) and b) not heard anything else from the woman with the fucked up voice calling herself ‘C’ like the letter. Still trying to puzzle out how she knew we were at Michelle’s - was she lucky, or did she have to call all our houses up and do her “You’re all doomed!” spiel then realise we weren’t there and call the next one?
…Nah, Mammy would have gotten annoyed at me for it already. C might just know that we’re usually round the Mallons’ on a Saturday night. This is Derry, after all.
It’s been a bit dry on mysteries this week. The only interesting things happening around here is that it hasn’t stopped raining since Sunday, and that tomorrow Jenny Joyce has organised a donate-a-pound-and-dress-as-you-please day to raise money for the school formal. I’ll need to confer with the girls but I think I’ll wear the jumper and skirt Mammy got me for Christmas - just need to make sure Orla doesn’t wear her matching set.
Dress-as-you-please was today; we all looked cracker, but we were eclipsed by Charlene Kavanagh, who wouldn’t stop going on and on to everyone about her new ‘locally manufactured’ ‘eco-friendly’ lizard skin jacket. Clare was Jack-the-Ripping about it because the lizards are a protected species and you’re not supposed to make them into jackets.
James told me I looked really nice, which was sweet of him because I know he likes to pretend not to care about what people wear. Sadly, I think I might be allergic to the wool in my jumper, because when I popped into the loo just after he said that (Sister Michael has had the big hole in the wall fixed now, by the way) my cheeks and neck were all pink and flushed and felt really warm. Hmm. I’ll try the jumper again in a week just to make sure. I don’t want to have to chuck it, especially since
James thought I looked so cracker in it.
Still raining. We’re all bored out of our minds. The gang are coming over to hang out/commiserate over the lack of decent mysteries around here. Also, Orla has booby-trapped her and Aunt Sarah’s front door in case any ‘bad sorts’ ring their doorbell, so I’ve put a sign up saying to ring ‘Quinn’ and not ‘McCool’.
Had lunch. Still bored. At least Mammy’s letting Michelle, Clare and James stay for a sleepover.
It has been revealed that Mammy had ulterior motives: she and Daddy are out at a party tonight, Aunt Sarah is going dancing with Cieran, and Granda and The Bingo Wings are facing off against Maureen Malarkey and The Real Bingo Wings at the pub quiz tonight, so she needs someone to watch Anna. Fucksake. Why do wains have to have stupid set bedtimes?
Holy shit. Right as soon as everyone clears out, the doorbell goes, and it’s the fella across the road saying a package for me got left at his by mistake. I wasn’t expecting a package, but I was unable to express my surprise as I was busy preventing Orla from convincing the poor lad to ring her doorbell and set off the booby-trap.
BUT. Oh. My. God.
We got the box open with Orla’s hunting knife and there was a note at the top - FROM C!!
Saved this for a rainy day. Enjoy -
Clare was cacking herself because she thought C might have sent us a bomb, but it turned out to be a really cute wee lizard skin handbag - just like Charlene’s jacket. Michelle tried to bagsie it, but then Clare snatched it (I was surprised too, given how raging she was about the protected species thing). HOWEVER, it turned out that she’d spotted a label on the bottom saying where it was from, and once she had that information, well, our plans were decided. Mammy and Daddy took a taxi so Daddy can have a few pints, so they’ve left us the car and James has a learner’s permit. He’s got a vague idea of how to drive, so I’m sure if we whack some L plates onto the back we’ll be grand. There’s some poor bastard up near Portstewart about to get an earful off an angry lesbian for turning wee lizards into jackets. Just have to figure out how to work Anna’s car-seat.
Well, we got to this wee village Laghairty at the top of a hill without any major incident (although if something happened and we didn’t realise, we’ll probably be recorded in police record forever as “the car whose occupants wouldn’t stop singing new and increasingly ruder verses of ‘the wheels on the bus’ all the way down the A2”) and Anna thankfully stayed asleep while we bundled her into her papoose, so we went for a walk around what looked like a ghost-village. Genuinely I don’t think anyone has lived here in at least five years, there’s about twenty buildings and all of them are empty. We’re no closer to figuring out where the handbag came from - there’s no advertising or anything for locally made lizard-skin products - but at least we have a mystery of some sort to solve.
I’d better go and see if Michelle’s found anything - there’s nothing over here anyway.
God help us. We have made a terrible mistake in coming here.
So, Michelle and I found nothing, and we headed back to the car to meet the others. James and Orla didn’t find anything either, but then Clare came sprinting up screaming something about a sign. We followed her over to this building that looked like it used to be a motel and Clare explained she’d seen a neon sign in the window saying “One of you dies!” . When we shone a torch on it, it turned out that most of the bulbs had died (obviously, it’s been left on all these years) and it was supposed to say “ O’Shaughnessy’s Motel! Pool, food, yoga, and sundries! ” Cack-attack averted, and we headed back to the car because there was no sign of life anywhere and we needed to be home before Mammy and Daddy.
Except the car wouldn’t start, so James got out and popped the bonnet.
THE FUCKING ENGINE WAS GONE. SOMEONE STOLE THE ENGINE OUT OF MY DADDY’S CAR. AND WE ARE NOW STUCK IN A TINY GHOST-VILLAGE UP A HILL NEXT TO PORTSTEWART ALL NIGHT.
Wait, there’s a payphone and Orla has a wee bag of 20ps she was saving for the bubblegum machine at McDonald’s. Clare has persuaded her to part with them on the basis that if we stay here, we’ll never see a bubblegum machine again.
…And Michelle’s parents are working, Clare’s parents don’t have their car as it’s at the garage getting the faulty suspension sorted, and my parents, Granda, and Aunt Sarah are all out and far more likely to kill us for taking both the car and Anna. We have one option left.
…That fell through amazingly quickly. Apparently Kathy Maguire can’t go out in the dark. Or at least, that’s what she told James. Then Michelle started yelling at her, and she hung up.
James looks a bit upset. I’d hug him, but Anna’s still strapped to my front and I don’t want to wake her up.
God, we’re going to have to sleep in the car. At least there are blankets in the boot for long drives.
Oh god. Oh god. Oh god.
So we’d settled down in the car for the night. Orla and Clare claimed the backseat with Anna, and I tried sharing the passenger seat with Michelle but she starfishes like mad in her sleep, so I wound up moving over to share the driver’s seat with James, whose shoulder is surprisingly comfy to sleep against. His heart was racing like mad too, probably because he was still upset about his Ma not bothering her arse to help us, poor critter.
But anyway, there I was, all comfy and warm and asleep on James’s shoulder, when something woke me up. I was feeling a bit annoyed because I was having this cracker dream where I was Jennifer Connelly and I was dancing with David Bowie like that scene in Labyrinth , except he never took his mask off so I could only see his eyes, which were this lovely bright green colour. He was right about to take his mask off when whatever it was woke me up. I thought it was one of the girls at first and I was about to give whoever it was a massive bollocking because they interrupted my dance with David Bowie, but it turns out the reason I woke up was because THERE WERE THREE FUCKING LIZARD MEN WITH GLOWING RED EYES STARING AT ME THROUGH THE WINDSCREEN!!
So, naturally, I screamed my head off and woke everyone up, and then Clare, Michelle, and Anna all started screaming too, because the Lizard Men started clawing and banging at the windscreen like they were trying to smash it, probably to eat us. Fortunately, James slammed the handbrake off and we rolled backwards down the hill. The Lizard Men chased us until we were about halfway down, then they stopped and waited for us to reach the bottom before lashing their tails and heading back up into the town whose residents they probably ate too.
…Hmm. Resident animal expert Orla has pointed out that if they’d meant to eat us, they would have kept chasing us right to the bottom of the hill instead of backing off and scarpering as soon as we stopped rolling. So it seems that our friends the Lizard Men just wanted us out of town. Maybe it’s the adrenaline, but I am so buzzing to finally have a decent mystery to solve!
…My enthusiasm has withered upon the discovery that since we have no engine, we’re going to have to walk back up the hill to find out what the Lizard Men are up to.
Oh ho! Things have been happening!
So we reached the village again (on foot this time) and decided our best starting point was the window where the neon light that nearly made Clare cack herself was still plugged in. We walked around and found the building’s fire door had been propped open, so we sneaked inside and hid behind a massive stack of wooden crates. Michelle found a crowbar and popped one of them open, and it was full of belts exactly like the handbag C sent us. They smelled a bit like when Orla melts the plastic wrap from her lunch with her lighter.
And THEN Clare was whisper-ranting about how many lizards they probably killed to make it, and Michelle was all “Catch yerself on, how big are these lizards anyway? It wouldn’t take that many to make a belt.” And Clare said they were tiny, like about the length of your finger at most.
This would have been useful to know earlier, because we might have twigged that there was no possible way anyone could catch as many lizards as would be needed to make a fucking jacket. However, I will let it slide, as Clare’s passion for protecting endangered species is the main reason we’re here in the first place.
So we wandered around and found this big room where the swimming pool was, except now the pool is filled with this green-black gunk that smells exactly like Orla melting plastic wrap with her lighter. There were these big lights hanging over it that looked like sunbed lamps, and there were old rubber tires stacked up all over the place.
The next room had this big machine like from a factory, and there were stencils of lizard skin propped against the wall - then next to that was a big stack of square sheets of lizard skin! Or rather, fake lizard skin, made from melted tires! The room after that had a bunch of sewing machines and half-finished handbags, belts, and jackets, and then we peaked out another fire door into an alley and saw our three Lizardy friends loading a van with crates like the one full of belts! There was a price list pinned to the wall - they’re charging people way more than these plastic jackets are worth!
Of course, with so much interesting equipment to hand, Orla built a brilliant trap for them. Michelle went out and shouted at them that they were “the ugliest fucking snakes with legs she’d ever seen”, and they got really angry about that and chased her back inside - right into Orla’s trap! Snares made out of the belts we found that hoisted them right up into the air! We used some of the smaller tires to pin their arms to their sides while Clare called the nearest police station. Once the masks were off, it was revealed to be three local conmen (well, two conmen and one con-woman.) who were known to the sergeant. Michelle is absolutely buzzing to drop the truth about the lizard skin on Charlene Kavanagh, so all’s well that ends well, I guess.
Except we still don’t have an engine.
I’m writing this from my bed. Holy shit. Tonight’s surprises had not ended apparently - when we walked back down to the car to sleep the night out, the bonnet had been popped again - and the engine was back! James tried it, and it ran like a dream!
The crazy part is, we made it home before anyone else! Mammy and Daddy are probably still at their party, and Aunt Sarah might have gone next door without coming through our’s; Granda was still at the pub, but he got in not long after we did and went to bed without checking on us. All we have to do is hope that if Anna babbles about this, Mammy assumes it’s a dream she had. Or a story we told her.
But here’s the craziest part - there was another note on the bonnet when we closed it.
Hope you had fun in Laghairty. This was just one piece of the puzzle -
I’m tempted to stay up pondering how much C knew about what happened tonight, and why she might be sending us mysteries to solve - and how she even knows when we’re looking for something to do - but James is asleep next to me, and, well, I know now that his shoulder is cracker to sleep against, so this will have to be put on hold.
But just so I don’t forget -
Who is ‘C’?
And how does she know so much about us?