Fugue of Fibbing
[The continuation of the Survivor Short Story “project” in the War On Boris the Bytrode series. This time, back in time, 1967, following the adventures of middle-aged mum, Letitia…
In this episode (4.2) After enjoying the wild Weber char-grilled salmon Letitia faces the prospect of another mission; one which she may not relish…]
‘Oh, no! How awful!’ Frieda sympathetically patted her shoulder.
Wilhelm leaned back on the bench seat and cynically remarked, ‘You fool! No one leaves their belongings on the beach. What were you thinking?’
‘But, but, this is Tasmania. 1967! I thought my stuff would be safe on a near deserted beach.’
‘Well, now you know. Not even Coles Bay is safe from thieves.’ Wilhelm shook his head in disgust. ‘After all, someone stole our illegal alien this morning from The Royal Hobart Hospital, no less.’
‘Or the alien escaped and stole the cleaner’s clothes…’ Frieda nodded slowly at Letitia.
‘I guess the thief got her just desserts,’ Letitia mumbled while raising her glass, studied the final quarter of wine in the bottom of the flute.
‘What do you mean?’ Frieda leaned forward to catch her errant friend’s every utterance.
‘She means that Miss Thief who stole her identity and everything, ended up crashing in the plane,’ Will said.
‘Oh! So that’s why you are here,’ Frieda said; the Riesling had gone straight to Frieda’s head addling her brain cells.
‘Yes!’ Wilhelm and Letitia replied in unison. Letitia congratulated herself for a story well executed and believed.
‘Oh, well, then, I guess your family are relieved,’ Frieda concluded. ‘We’ve been in contact with them and heard you may turn up here.’
‘Yes, Fritz sent a message with the flight from Mawson Station that you’d been found and were being transported to Hobart.’
‘Fritz did?’ Letitia picked at her nails and glanced at Wilhelm.
‘He did,’ Wilhelm replied. ‘I was to make sure you stayed safe and undetected in the hospital. But you decided to take matters into your own hands and escape.’
‘Silly girl.’ Frieda patted Letitia’s hand. ‘And I had to go in search of you, before anyone else, undesirable found you.’
‘Like Boris,’ Wilhelm said.
The smug expression that Letitia had been inwardly harbouring drained from her face. She had not covered that little scenario. ‘Oh, beetle juice! You got me. I woke up in that hospital. I don’t know what I was thinking.’
‘Oh, you poor thing! Lettie!’ Frieda grinned before dashing into the house, and returning, armed with a solid black phone attached to the longest cord Letitia had ever seen in her life. She shoved it under her nose. ‘Here, you must ring them. They would be so worried. But, here’s the thing. You haven’t been sent here to enjoy the views and life of luxury. Your father has a mission for you. He wants you to help rescue a couple of children who have been abducted and something rather peculiar, take them back to their own time.’
‘First task,’ Wilhelm cleared his throat, ‘is to be some lady called Maggie. They say you knew of her on this Mirror World you have been going on about.’
Trembling, Letitia shook her head. ‘Me? Maggie? I look nothing like her.’
‘Of course, you’re not.’ Frieda chuckled. ‘But you only have to call their home and put on a voice like you are her.’
Heat flushed through Letitia from her scalp and cascaded down her neck, shoulders, body. Beads of sweat accumulated on her temples and coursed down her cheeks. ‘I’m not ready for this. I’m still fuzzy headed from the coma. I don’t want to stuff it up.’
Wilhelm leaned back on the table and sniffed. ‘You’ll be fine. You’ll make a great Maggie. Whoever she is.’
‘You reckon?’ Letitia twisted the cord in her hand. ‘What if Tails, that’s her husband and partner in crime, answers?’
‘Intelligence from Nathan is that Maggie’s husband has just driven down from Alice Springs.’ Wilhelm smiled. ‘Your dear friend Nathan has been tracking him. Tails has the boys, and Maggie according to our sources, is somewhere here on the island.’
Frieda nodded. ‘So, here’s your chance. Call Tails, put on your best Maggie voice and give him the good news.’
Letitia examined the contraption of a telephone with an inward sense of horror. Then in an even voice said, ‘Right!’ Staring at the angular black lines of the phone, calm flowed over her. Was this part of the plan? From above? Or at least the IGSF of the future? Was Fritz in on it? Was this plan Jemima’s doing? She was skilled at invisibility, but putting on voices? Impersonating Boris operatives?
Letitia took a deep breath. She decided to go with the proverbial flow and join Wilhelm and Frieda in their world’s script.
So, mustering up as much sincerity as possible with the view of taking on the role of Maggie, while at the same time figuring out how to sound like Maggie, she said, ‘There was this lady with red hair on the plane, she gave me a sick-bag.’ Then gushed, ‘But, there is one problem. What if they think – well actually, by this time they must believe I’m dead. I mean, Boris, he was there with his bomb. He blew up the plane over Mirror Antarctica…and – and what if Tails and the boys are on their way to Hobart? I should try by… what else can we use to communicate? Telegramme?’ She looked at the couple, both wide-eyed. Then, before they could answer, continued, ‘But I – don’t know the number.’ She had to think of some feeble excuse she can’t call the dreaded family.
‘You ring the exchange, dear. They’ll know.’ Frieda sighed. ‘Go on! At least try.’
‘But they might be using different names—aliases. Tails likes doing that. No one really knows what his real name is.’
‘All under control. Seems they go under the name Taylor. Nick and Maggie Taylor, as far as the IGSF intelligence can ascertain,’ Will said.
‘Okay.’ Letitia conceded and plucked the phone from Frieda. She did not want to admit that she had forgotten how to manage telephone exchanges in the 1960’s. The two hovered over her like hawks. ‘What do I dial for Adelaide?’
‘Here, let me.’ Frieda lifted the phone out of her hands, twirled the dial, and with efficiency, handled the exchange with the words, ‘Connect to Taylor, Nick Taylor of Somerton Park, please.’
Then, handed the receiver back to Letitia.
This will be interesting! Letitia thought while listening to the dial tone of antiquity.
A click sounded on the other side of the phone as a boy with a timid voice answered, ‘Hello, this is Liam. Who’s this that is calling?’
Letitia gaped, stunned by the randomness of her luck. Then, grounding herself that such coincidental events are rarely coincidental, she spoke in the voice she remembered of the women with red hair from the plane. ‘It’s your mother, here, Liam. I, er, survived the crash.’ She paused, unsure if her voice sounded convincing. The mosquitos hovered over her bare shoulders too, waiting to catch her unawares and sting her.
‘Mother? You don’t sound like her. Who are you?’ the boy said. ‘Are you a playing a joke on us?’
‘No, I’m – your…’ she was about to say “rescuer”, but realised that such a concept may sound ridiculous to the boy. ‘I’m alive, I didn’t go down with the plane. I wasn’t on…People sound different so far away in Tasmania,’ she rambled.
‘Your three minutes has expired, would you like to reconnect?’ an officious sounding voice cut in.
With a clunk, the other end of the phone went silent.
She glanced from Frieda to Wilhelm, then waved the phone receiver in the air. ‘It cut out on me.’
Frieda snatched the handset. ‘They only give you three minutes for interstate calls. Don’t you know that?’
‘On Mirror, there’s no time limit on calls,’ Letitia replied wistfully.
Will sighed, ‘Mirror? What sort of world is that?’
‘Told you, the future.’ Letitia handed the rest of the phone and the tangled cord to Frieda. ‘That’s where I’ve been. That’s why you couldn’t find me. Till now.’
‘Oh,’ Wilhelm said.
‘Time travel?’ Frieda bundled the phone and cord in her arms. ‘How’s that possible?’
With a shrug, Letitia stared out over the river, the glimmering lights bouncing off the inky water. Night had finally fallen. ‘Liam, the younger boy answered. So what’s the plan? Any more intel on what happens next?’
© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2021
Feature photo: Eve on Hobart town and Derwent River © L.M. Kling 2016
More than before?
Read the mischief and mayhem Boris the over-sized alien cockroach gets up to…
Click on the link to my new novel, The Lost World of the Wends
Or discover how it all began in The Hitch-Hiker
And how it continues with Mission of the Unwilling