“*We* could have given him riches,” protesteth Jeffrie Phillips back in Teepot. “Jewels, diamonds, the lot.”
Peter pauses. “You did.”
The bridge is derezzing behind me. No time. No time!
It’s my worst nightmare.
“He should’ve stayed, you know. We would have gotten him some linden plants around here. He didn’t even ask.”
“Shush, Jeffrie. I’m reading. The book is being written again.”
Of course the treasure is here, fools, escaped prisoner Casey One Hole thought from his perch while staring toward the simulation. One comes with a snowy peak, one doesn’t, duhh. And now it’s all mine to find since the Klancaster Dixons are out of the picture.
He peers upwards. Hmmm, snowy from a distance, but even higher up close. Artificial rock on top.
And between the decoy treasure and this peak is that treehouse over there — an actual house in a tree. Perhaps that’s where it is. Simple as that.
“I don’t *need* the treasure,” he says to himself while descending toward it. “But I certainly *want* it.”
“I see we’re wearing matching trackers.”
Duncan looked down. “The Pot-D pendant?” Yes, it was red and hanging around his neck as well. He hadn’t thought about it before.
“Except mine’s from Pan-Z, the other, newer organization that does those kind of things. More thoroughly, if you ask me. Much more.” Jeffrie Phillips was wondering how the *heck* Duncan was going beyond the mirror book via improvisation. He stared through him to the 3 trackers he knew dwelt within, one by one by one.
Then: “I of course know you’re in there… *girls*.” But Phillips knew not who he was dealing with (Ragdoll titters here). These were battle tested *women*, fighting for the core of Pot-D which they understood to be ultimate truth.
“We know about the treasure,” they admitted (Indigo). “We know about Big Baby Jane” (Ruby). “We know about *Audrey*” (Ragdoll). “Audrey,” she repeated through Duncan’s lips. He gestured toward the black and white, zig-zag patterned chairs they sat in. He pointed out the “teapot” between them. He indicated an owl decorating a fluttering national flag he rezzed out of his inventory, bought at the Snowlands infohub just before teleporting over here.
“‘The owls are not what they seem,’ I know.” Jeffrie paused. “So you’re just *handwriting* this in. To make, I don’t know, a more satisfying ending?”
“Yes,” they admitted as a collective.
“Is it working?”
“*Is* it working, Ruby?” asked Indigo to her left, sensing the fatigue. “We can’t go on much longer. The 12th (novel) awaits!”
“We *have* to continue onward,” implores young Ragdoll to Ruby’s right. “Duncan knows who Jeffrie Phillips is, and that the treasure guarded day and night by Big Baby Jane is a, um, red herring, a duplicate of the one near the Snowy Peak. Another decoy.”
“Can we compare the 2 treasures again, just to make sure?” Ruby knew they could. “Hold on,” she says. “We’re almost done!”
Yes. The same. “Well, that does it, I think,” Ruby then says, finally lifting pencil from paper. She shuts the book. “The treasure cannot be found here.” She puts it back on the shelf at the end of
graphic novels journals 1 through 10.
But they weren’t quite yet finished.
They all took turns looking through Duncan’s eyes. Disappointment! At least for Ragdoll. Indigo remained intrigued about the whole situation. Hand weary Ruby just wanted to wrap it all up somehow. A good night’s rest she’ll get tonight!
The peculiarly remote infohub was quite devoid of objects and activity. No coffee shop. No restaurant. Just 3 austere, alpine style houses. And the combination of their user’s Second Lyfe Moon and its own Moon (“Moon of the Moon”) from Collagesity novel 1 that Ragdoll especially anticipated? Turns out to be “merely” 6 conjoined sims located out in the Great Linden Ocean a bit west of the old mainland continents Sansara, Heterocera, and Jeogeot.
Indigo finally found a landmark in the information poor location. They teleported over to one of the two official villages of the 6 sims. Not Teepot, but the other one. Twin cities they were. This was their first hint, beginning with Indigo, that they were looking at some kind of resonance with St. Croix, Virgin Islands. Duncan was now there, after all.
Jeffrie Phillips was waiting for them at the infohub on the other side. All 3 took turns being escorted by him up a quite lovely mountainside to Teepot proper and his sake bar hangout we’ve already seen him at with sometimes mate Audrey. In truth, Jeffrie was trying to sell Duncan the idea of staying. But on the walk, Duncan knew his world was already breaking down here. He must get back to Linden land, the ones looking out of his eyes realized. And soon!
“It really is unfortunate that Duncan had to be treated like that. But t’was a necessary evil to eliminate a competitor. One down, two to go. Maybe one. Horace Wise did his shtick well. Railroaded back to Dixie he was.”
“Treasure – must – be – protected.”
“Exactly, Potty Steve. They must never suspect we were the ones behind it all.”
“Stop *staring* at the man, Baker Bloch thought about Horace Wise. It’s like he’s never seen a black person before.
“So,” Duncan began, obviously conscious of the riveting gaze, “looks like we’ll have to start without our Mountain Lake representative Ms. Well.”
“A *wo*-man,” spoke Horace Wise incredulously from his side. “I think not. We already have [delete rest of sentence].”
Baker Bloch breathed deeply. Looking at him, Duncan decided to jump in first. “First of all, we’re African-*Americans*. Just like you Horace.”
Horace Wise finally broke his stare, sighed, and waved his arms around in despair. “The Virtual Chel-sea Hotel, the finest building, most likely, in this whole, wide conti-nent. Represented by *you*.”
Alright, that’s it Horace,” states Baker Bloch angrily. “I’m evoking class *5* status by rights of being the *author* of this novel — a *Collagesity* novel, after all — and saying that your Philo is disqualified, disqualified, *disqualified* from the race for the treasure. Now — *get out*. It will be between me, *Duncan* here — a man like yourself, thankfully, or I don’t know *what* you’d call him — and then Lou, our representative apparently from the Mountain Lake region of the Omega continent.” In his rage, he left out the remaining candidate at the table: Teepot’s Jeffrie Phillips.
But Horace Wise didn’t leave immediately. “You’re taking all this serious-ly. The” — he looks over at Duncan — “*black* man here. Then a woman. *Wo*-man.”
“Yes!!” Baker Bloch’s yell could probably be heard all the way over to Horace’s hometown.
And this is probably what a lot of people were like back then. And could still be. Yes, probably were around in good numbers still. Philo is *history*, but history repeats.
“They’re eventually going to find this place, Audrey. They’re scouting hither and thither for the killer of all those sickening Christmas figures… Santas, elves, snowmen, the lot.”
“I know, I know.” She takes a quick sip of her sake, then: “I’ll try to deflect Dr. Nightwing as much as possible on my end.”
“He’ll soon give you the book. Tell you to read it up to the end, which is almost the end of 4 now.”
“Right.” She rehearses what will happen. “I’ll *take* the book, shocked (she feigns shock on her face here while reaching forward), saying, ‘golly gee darnit (Jeffrie Phillips laughs at her here), I’ve *heard* of these mirror books but I had no idea…'”
“Good,” he replies. “Shocked and awed.”