August 22nd, 1921.
I did not find anything at the pawn shop.
August 23rd, 1921.
Worked today. It was dull as doldrums. Typed. Typed. Typed. Did not go to pawn shop.
August 24, 1921.
Wanted to go to pawn shop all day today. It was rainy and gray. My hat melted.
Typed some more.
Did not go to pawn shop.
August 25, 1921.
What is the point of keeping a diary when nothing happens?
August 26, 1921.
I nearly threw a book at Mr. Levy today, just so I would have something to write about.
Did not throw book. Nothing happened.
I must go to the pawn shop tomorrow.
August 27, 1921.
I went to the pawn shop today. Feel much better about everything.
Since you are a diary and don’t know anything about pawn shops, I will have to explain this one to you. Even if you had a seen an ordinary pawn shop, diary, you would not understand this one.
It is called McGillicuddy and Murder’s pawn shop, and it’s like nothing else you’ve ever seen.
It’s not just a small dark room, with things gathering dust. It doesn’t have the glass counters and sour faced owner that you typically expect.
McGillicuddy and Murder’s pawn shop is three stories tall, in an old brick building on East 68th street. The sidewalk outside is bustling, but when you step inside, you feel as though you’ve been trapped in time, like you’ve stepped into one of your grandfather’s bottled ships.
I love the feeling. I feel like something eerie is going to happen to me every time I step inside.
When I am feeling blue, and when I want to throw Mr. Levy, my boss, straight out the window, I go to the pawn shop. I can’t afford the strange green globe lamps or bronze statues, and a tiny bit of gray lace won’t do the trick, but I am looking for something in McGillicuddy and Murder’s pawn shop. I want to take some of the feeling home with me. I’ll know the right object when I see it.
I want something weird to carry around with me in my pocket. I want to look at it at work, to bring some mystery into my life while I type. And type. And type.
August 28, 1921.
The strangest thing happened in McGillicuddy and Murder’s today.
I was browsing their collection of gloves, pink ones and mulberry colored ones, and one pair that was emerald green and glistening like lizard skin. And then just like that, a man popped out from behind the hat rack.
I do mean popped. He wasn’t there one minute, and all of a sudden, there he was. To be fair, I was a bit dazzled by a pair of gloves with real peacock feathers all over them, but I can’t see how I missed him. Unless he was crouching in the fur coats, he appeared out of nowhere.
He looked just as startled to see me as I was to see him.
He had curly black hair, and these colossal hazel eyes. The green in his eyes was so bright it almost reached out and smacked you in the face. He wore a dark suit and one of those newsboy caps—you know—and his suit didn’t quite fit. It was rather appealing.
Besides all that, he was appallingly handsome. I mean he looked like a British lord and I almost got down on one knee and proposed to him right then and there.
He looked at me as though… as though I was a little bit dangerous. The feeling gave me a pleasant shiver all over. He said, “Excuse me,” in this quiet delicious voice, and then he was gone.
I am now hunting two things in McGillicuddy and Murder’s, and I daresay I don’t have enough money for either one of them.
August 29, 1921.
Where does McGillicuddy and Murder’s get their merchandise? I don’t think women have ever worn peacock feather gloves.
August 30, 1921.
I started looking more thoughtfully at the pawn shop today. Some of the things I found completely defied reason.
There was a red coat with gold buttons, and it looked like a British uniform from the Revolutionary War. But it was clearly for a woman, with flared hips and a dramatic collar. I tried to read the tag, but there wasn’t any tag, just some name written in ink on the lining. And it wasn’t even a real name. It said, Minerva Sweeney Wren.
No one is named Minerva Sweeney Wren.
I’ve also started to question the wealth of the place. They’re got nothing but curiosities and things of grandeur. There’s a dark red piano in one corner, and I found a lizard in a jar the other day. It looks like they raided a scientist’s shop, and a theater, and a castle in the 1300s. They’ve got nothing ordinary, like the bicycle or bed sheets a poor family might have traded in for food.
August 31, 1921
Who the dickens has the last name of Murder, anyway?
September 1, 1921
I had a dream last night. A most peculiar dream. The flavor of it has stayed with me all day, the way the taste of a Coca Cola stays on your tongue.
I dreamt about the young man from the pawn shop, the one I keep hoping to see again. I dreamt that I was standing near the fountain downtown, and all of a sudden, he was there, too.
I was embarrassed, because for some reason in the dream, my nose had turned into a rutabaga. I dashed away from the fountain, into a quiet side street, and hoped he wouldn’t notice me.
But of course, because it was a dream, he came right after me. I stood flat against the wall and hoped he’d pass me but instead of looking at my rutabaga nose, he collapsed onto the pavement.
His coat had fallen open, and his shirt was bloody. I stooped and lifted him onto my lap, and it was all terribly romantic.
He’s got such a handsome face. He did in my dream, anyway. He looked pained, and he labored for breath. Then he reached up and held the back of my head. He himself up a little.
He whispered in my ear, in that soft, low voice, “Don’t let them win.”
And then—he died!
September 2, 1921.
I’d hoped my dream was a sign, that I’d see the young man again in the pawn shop, but no luck so far. I waited around yesterday, and today I plucked up the nerve to ask if they employed any young men, but I got all flustered and turned pink.
They said they didn’t employ any young men, no.
I’ll probably never see him again, but since my life seems to be made up of tragedy and boredom, that sounds about right.
Pretty soon, McGillcuddy and Murder’s is going to think I’m shop-lifting. Why else would I visit them so much?
September 3, 1921
I found it today. After all this time of searching, and hoping, and poking around, I found my little piece of McGillicuddy and Murder’s.
I have to confess, I’m completely terrified of it.
It’s small piece of china, and I do mean a piece. It’s a broken chip of something, about the size of a silver dollar. You can’t see a pattern of anything on it expect for… well, except for a bright blue human eye.
I saw it in the corner by the checkout counter. It was just lying there by the golden bracelets, and I felt like it was looking at me. I mean, actually looking at me, like it had moved just before my eyes fell on it.
I asked the old man behind the counter how much it was. He came around and looked at it. He picked it up, and a strange smile spread across his face. He seemed to love the old broken eye, and that made me feel a little less nervous about it.
He told me it was free, that it had broken off of something. He said I could have it.
Free is exactly the sort of price I’m looking for. He dropped it into my hand, and I felt the strangest sense of dread. It was worse than when my Aunt Charlotte told me my parents were dead, or when Henry Hubert proposed and I knew I was going to have to say no.
I stared down at the eye, and I felt like something dangerous and magical was going to happen if I took it home.
Needless to say, it’s sitting on my bathroom sink.
We hope you’ve enjoyed episode one, Pilot, of McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn shop. McGillcuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop is written and performed by Minerva Sweeney Wren, all rights reserved. Please subscribe, share it with your friends, and support Minerva Sweeney Wren on Patreon.
McGillccuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop will continue next week with episode 2, The Eyes that Glowed in the Dark.
The Eyes that Glowed in the Dark
September 4, 1921.
Last night, there was a thunderstorm.
I woke up to a loud BOOM of thunder, and I sat up in bed.
I felt singed with electricity, all over, like the lightning had struck me and zapped me awake. I decided to visit la salle de bain, now that I was alert. So I got up. I walked across my apartment in my nightgown, got cold feet, and opened the bathroom door.
My tiny china eye was sitting on the left side of the bathroom sink.
I can’t be sure, but I don’t think that’s where I left it.
I think I left it on the right side.
It sounds perfectly ridiculous, getting all particular about what side of your sink you left broken dishes on.
But I’m sure I left it on the right side.
How did it get on the left side? Unless I was visited by a very neurotic thief, I’ve got no explanation.
I’m tempted to bake myself a cake and sit there, gnoshing, in the hopes that I’ll see my specter eyeball go floating through the air.
Can you imagine?
I’ve probably made the whole thing up. It’s too much to hope for that something weird could be happening to me. Maybe I got up in my sleep and moved it, just so I’d have a story to tell.
September 5, 1921.
I feel funny today.
I hope I’m not catching anything serious. If I don’t feel better by tomorrow, I’m going to see the doctor.
September 6, 1921.
I feel terrible this morning. My symptoms are hard to put into words, but I feel like there’s something wrong with my blood. Like it’s turned to ice, or a vapor, or… something that isn’t right.
I don’t have a headache, nausea, or a fever. I just feel like something is eating me up from the inside.
Going to see the doctor after work today. Will write again later.
It’s later, and I’ve seen the doctor. He said there wasn’t a single thing wrong with me, that I was in perfect health.
I think doctors are a perfect waste of time.
Oh, well. Maybe it was something I ate.
September 7, 1921.
It’s five o’clock in the morning.
I’m sitting at the train station, wrapped in my coat, hoping most of these men on their way to work will leave me alone. I’ve settled into a corner and I’ve wrapped myself up in newspapers, so I’ll look homeless. People never bother homeless people.
I’ve been writing as fast as I can, but now I’m too scared to write what comes next.
My apartment is haunted.
I woke up at four o’ clock in the morning, and I couldn’t fall back asleep. I decided to get up and check the eye, just to see if it’s been playing ring around the rosie with me again. I went into the bathroom, and the eye was right where I’d left it. I stumbled over in the dark and picked it up. But when I looked up into the mirror, there was something behind me.
Something with eyes that glowed in the dark.
I screamed right away, of course, and shot out of the bathroom like a Bat out of Hades, but I can still see those eyes. They were human irises. They glowed pale blue, with a tiny hole in the middle where the pupil would be. That was all I saw in the mirror. Just… eyes.
There was nothing in the bathroom when I turned around and looked.
Perhaps this thing, whatever it is, is the opposite of a vampire. Vampires can’t see their reflection. Maybe this thing only shows up in mirrors.
Well, as you can imagine, I’m never setting foot in my apartment again. I’ve come to the train station to wait things out before work. After work is over today, I don’t know what I’m going to do.
I wonder, am I going mad? Is that why my blood feels so funny?
I used to say that typing all day would make me go mad, but it’s not funny anymore. I feel scared. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. Maybe there isn’t something wrong with me—maybe it’s real.
Maybe it’s the eye, my little piece of McGillicuddy and Murder’s. Maybe the piece of china is haunted.
I did say I wanted an adventure.
September 8, 1921.
Spent the night with friends. I wouldn’t tell them why I was scared to go back into my apartment, and they’re convinced it was just a large black spider. Honestly!
Although to be honest, I probably would have spent the night somewhere else, if I’d found a large black spider.
I stopped in at McGillicuddy and Murder’s today. I asked about the china eye I’d taken. But it was a different employee today, and she said she didn’t know anything about the eye. I stood there gawking, wanting to blurt questions about hauntings and demons, but I don’t want to get carted off to the loony bin. It’s bad enough that I hang out in a peculiar pawn shop every day.
I gave her my card, and I said, “Please tell me where the eye came from. I’d very much like to know.”
She sniffed, like she thought I wanted to buy the rest of piece and couldn’t afford it. Where did the eye come from, I wonder? The piece of china is curved slightly. It might have been from a bowl, a cup, an urn. Probably an urn, considering the size of an eye.
I can just see a pale white teacup, with a single human eye in the center. Can’t you just picture a group, wearing black capes, sitting around and sipping eye-ball tea?
I mean that the tea is served in eyeball teacups, not that the tea was steeped in human eyeballs. Blech.
But I wish I knew where my broken china eye came from. Maybe then I would understand what’s happening.
Still don’t know what to do about the apartment. I feel like everything’s been going wrong. Maybe I should have married Henry Hubert. Then at least I wouldn’t have to work. Mr. Levy has been as cross as can be, and I want to bring a frying pan to work, just to whap him over the face with.
To make matters worse, I cut myself this morning! I was slicing some toast for me and the girls, and my friend Susan, who owns the apartment, hasn’t got a proper bread knife. Well, the knife I was using slid, and I cut my finger. I had to rush into the bathroom and hold it over the sink. I pressed my hanky into the cut for five minutes, and it stopped bleeding. It’s all bandaged up now.
My finger throbs, my hanky is covered in dried blood, and I can’t even sleep in my own bed. Everything is awful.
I thought getting a little piece of McGillicuddy and Murder’s would be wonderful and exciting. Now I’m either going crazy, or something evil has slipped into my apartment, brought in because of my china eye.
I’ll probably return to my apartment, to find it overrun with ghouls and specters.
I can’t keep staying at Susan’s place. Maybe I should leave the eye at work and hope it starts haunting Mr. Levy instead.
September 9, 1921.
Does it count as September 9? It’s probably midnight, or a little before. It might still be September 8. Anyway, it doesn’t matter. I’m sitting in the little living room of Susan’s apartment, scared to death.
I started sniffling in bed, because Susan has got a cat, so I reached into my bag for my hanky. I pulled it out, and it was glowing bright blue.
Take a minute to pause, dearest diary. My handkerchief was glowing blue.
What have I been saying?
My blood’s been feeling funny.
My blood’s been feeling funny ever since I brought home the glass eye.
I covered my handkerchief in my own blood.
I saw glowing eyes two nights ago in my own apartment.
But they weren’t phantasm eyes. They weren’t something behind me. My apartment is perfectly safe, and I can go back there anytime I wish.
My blood, and my eyes, have started to glow in the dark.
We hope you’ve enjoyed episode two, the eyes that Glowed in the dark, of McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn shop. McGillcuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop is written and performed by Minerva Sweeney Wren, all rights reserved. Please subscribe, share it with your friends, and support Minerva Sweeney Wren at Patreon.com/sweeneywren.
McGillccuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop will continue next week with episode 3, The Old Man Vanishes
The Old Man Vanishes
September 9, 1921.
I am bound and determined to find out what’s wrong with me.
It’s not every day you wake up and realize you glow in the dark. Perhaps I can monetize this. Is it cheaper to use human blood instead of glow in the dark paint? I can give up a few pints of blood at a time and voila! Easy money.
Or would giving up pints of blood kill me? How many pints have blood have I got?
Well, anyway, it doesn’t matter. I am a freak and a monster, and I confess I feel rather giddy this morning.
What’s next? Will I learn how to ride broomsticks? Will I make the china cabinet levitate? Perhaps I will be able to change my appearance at will.
I am trying to keep my thoughts light, dearest diary, because anything else is a nightmare. I’d love to ride a broomstick, or be able to turn mice into pumpkins. What if it’s worse than that, though? What if I’m dying?
The friend of my cousin got horribly sick after working for the Radium Luminous Material Corporation. She used to paint the tiny dials on the glow in the dark watches, but she quit after she started to get sick. The company said there was nothing in her claims, but she was sure the job was killing her slowly.
Tiny things that glowed in the dark were poisoning her. Well, what if it’s the same for me? What if I’ve come in contact with something, and now my poisoned blood has started glowing like a Radium watch?
What if it’s worse than that? What if I’m turning into a ghoul? Something evil and spectral that lurks around rotting Egyptian tombs?
What if I’m doomed?
I’ve always been a dramatic person, but in this situation, I think I have every right to be. What’s happening to me? I’m going to wring it out of McGillcuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop if it’s the last thing I do.
Well, diary, it’s later, and I’ve been to McGillcuddy and Murder’s. Right now I’m curled up at home, in my own little apartment, with a cup of tea and a warm towel wrapped around my head. I’ve been worrying so much all day my head is throbbing.
I went to McGillicuddy and Murder’s after work. When I stepped inside, I didn’t get that pleasant, bottled-ship feeling that I usually do. I felt just terrified, like I was in a medieval castle, on my way to be executed.
I stepped up to the counter, and the old man still wasn’t there. It was the woman I’d already talked to. I knew she was no help, but I was determined to try anyway.
“Good evening,” I said. “When will the old man who works here be in?”
“The old man?”
“I don’t know if we employ any old men.”
“Well, you do.”
She gave me the evil eye. She brought out a slim leather book and flipped through it.
“It looks like he’ll be in tomorrow,” she said.
“Wonderful!” I said, but I didn’t mean it. Tomorrow isn’t soon enough. “May I have his telephone number, too?”
“I can’t give you his information,” she said.
“Why not?” I said.
“Because. I can’t.”
This was the most intelligent argument I’d ever heard.
“It’s important,” I said.
“I’m sure it is,” she said.
I huffed. “Well, can you ask him to call me?” I said. “Give him a ring tonight and please, tell him it’s important. He can call me if he wants to.”
The woman looked at me, like she was sizing me up. Once again, I felt like a threat. It’s not as though I have a cannon strapped to my head. What exactly are these people afraid of?
“I suppose I can do that,” she said.
She reached down and picked up another book, and then she brandished a pen.
“Name?” she said.
Have you noticed, diary, that I never sign my name? It’s not just an attempt to be jaunty and unfamiliar.
I turned to face the woman, heroism high in my heart.
“Melinda Maudie Merkle,” I said.
The crescendo of shame began. The woman scratched my name into the booklet. She didn’t pause when writing down, Merkle, but I turned vermilion.
Melinda is a beautiful name. It was my mother’s name, and I save it for special occasions. I go by Maude in every day life, even though my legal middle name is quite literally “Maudie”—my father was just that sort of person.
Maude is nice. I like Maude. But what I cannot forgive my parents for is bringing me into this world with the last name of Merkle, and then naming me with all Ms to top it off.
Honestly, when Henry Hubert proposed, I considered saying yes for three whole seconds, and do you know what the reason was? Melinda Maudie Hubert at least sounds better.
Once I’d given the woman my telephone number, there was nothing else to do.
I doubt she’ll even call the old man, and if she does, I doubt he’ll call me. Tomorrow is Saturday, however, and I intend to spend most of the day at the Pawn Shop. I have to find out what’s happening to me.
September 10, 1921.
It’s impossible. It’s completely impossible.
But it happened. I’m sure of it.
I went into McGillicuddy and Murder’s today. The old man was in, just standing there behind the front desk. I nearly strode right up to him and demanded to know why my eyes were glowing in the dark, but I lost my nerve. All of a sudden, rotting away in an insane asylum seemed much more real to me.
Since I couldn’t bring the subject up outright, I wandered up to the front desk and began playing with the golden bracelets. The old man seemed bent on ignoring me.
Suddenly, I stood up. “Did you try to call me last night?” I said.
“I?” he said.
He was saying “I,” as in, “Me, myself, and I” but I heard “Eye”, like the one on my bathroom sink. I turned green.
“Why would I call you, my dear?” he said.
This was really too much. He’d seemed to know all about the eye when he gave it to me, he’d touched it like he loved it. Then he’d given it to me like he’d wanted to pass on a curse. Didn’t he know about what it was doing to me?
“I love the china eye you gave me,” I said.
“Oh!” he said. Softly. He was most definitely being creepy and mysterious.
“Yes,” I said. “And I just wondered where it came from?”
He smiled at me. “You know, I’m not sure. I don’t know where it came from. I’m sorry, my dear.”
He was refusing to tell me anything. There was a strange look in his eyes, like was keeping something from me.
I was thwarted, but not for long. I devised a plan.
I wandered around the Pawn Shop. I found what I was looking for—a small back room. It was full of odd statues and trinkets, and there was no window. The only light came in through the propped open door.
I hurried back to the old man.
“Could you tell me the price of something, please?” I said.
“Bring it here and show me,” he said.
“Well, it’s rather heavy,” I said.
He got up. My heart started beating faster. The old man followed me to the small dark room. I pointed at a random statue near the back.
“It’s that one, there.”
As soon as he stepped into the room, I shut the door on us both!
We were in complete darkness now, and I waited for him to turn around.
“So sorry,” I said. “I kicked it accidentally. Can you help me get it open?”
I waited, but the old man said nothing. I waited.
I’ll tell you my idea, diary: my idea is that the old man has eyes that glow as brightly as my own. If he saw my eyes, and I saw his, he’d have to tell me what was going on.
But the old man said nothing. Finally I grew skiddish in the darkness, and I opened the door.
The old man was gone.
I stared, open-mouthed. I looked around the room for a hidden door. Unless he tiptoed lightly through mounds and mounds of tiny statues to reach a secret door, then he simply vanished into thin air.
Either I’m going crazy, or I’ve hit on something spectacular. The young man with the hazel eyes. He appeared out of nowhere, too.
We hope you’ve enjoyed episode three, The Old Man Vanishes, of McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn shop. McGillcuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop is written and performed by Minerva Sweeney Wren, all rights reserved. Please subscribe, share it with your friends, and support Minerva Sweeney Wren at patreon.com/sweeneywren.
McGillccuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop will continue next week with episode 4, The Man with the Color Changing Tie.
The Man with the Color Changing Tie
September 11, 1921.
My eyes are changing color.
I don’t just mean that they’ve started to glow in the dark. I mean they’re turning hazel.
They used to be gray, but the middle part is turning browinish, now, and there’s a distinct green rim around my irises.
I don’t know how I’m going to explain it to my friends. They’re bound to notice, of course. Even Mr. Levy stopped today and looked at me, like he was sure something was wrong. He stared at my face, and then he said with a stammer,
“Have you… changed your hair?”
I think it’s the first time Mr. Levy has ever looked at my face.
“No,” I said innocently, and he went away confused. He’s sure something is different about my face. And he’s right. He’s just never noticed me before, so he can’t figure out what’s different now.
I’m stuck with changing eyeballs, the ability to write cryptic messages with my own bodily fluids, and no idea why.
After the old man vanished in McGillicuddy and Murder’s, he never reappeared. I half expected him to be right around the next corner, but I searched high and low throughout the pawn shop, and he was nowhere. He left the place completely unguarded! I could have walked out with anything I wanted.
I think his eyes do glow in the dark, and he was desperate that I not see them.
I don’t know where to turn next. I have a sneaking suspicion the old man will never return to McGillicuddy and Murder’s. Either that, or I’ll be barred from future entry. He knows I know something, and he’s determined to tell me nothing.
What did he do? Vanish into thin air? I think he must be a warlock.
In anycase, I don’t see the point in returning to the Pawn Shop. If he’d wanted me to know why my eyes were glowing in the dark, he could have just told me.
If there’s anyone who can help me now, it’s my knight in the shining newsboy cap. HE vanished into thin air, or rather, he appeared out of it! And his eyes are the same color as mine. I think he’s one of them—excuse me, one of us, whatever we are.
Did the old man have hazel eyes? Possibly. All I really noticed was the long gray beard, which is very uncommon, even in a man of his age. If his eyes were hazel too, then we’re all one and the same. I wonder, can I pop from place to place at will?
Well, diary, I just tried it, and no luck so far. Maybe I’m missing a magic spell.
September 12, 1921.
Diary, do you know who I was three weeks ago? I was a normal, upstanding girl. I worked for a respectable, boring, bland, mundane man named Mr. Levy, and I typed all day long. Apart from sore fingers, I had no problems. I made a good income and slept in a nice apartment and had normal friends and had even refused an offer of marriage.
I am sitting in the police station.
It’s all a mix-up, and I’m sure they’ll let me go soon, but what a tragedy I’ve befallen! My knees are all scraped up, and I’ve lost my handbag.
Some crook in a red tie stole it from me. I was walking home after work, and when I turned a corner, this man jumped out and snatched my bag. I screamed and clawed at him, but he was away like a flash.
Naturally, I ran after him. I dodged through people on the sidewalk, shrieking “Thief! Thief!” like some demented bird. I lost sight of him for a minute, turned a corner, and then I spied the back of his head. He stood beside a fruit stall, smelling a peach, acting like he hadn’t just been running away!
I lit into him, slapping the back of his coat and yelling and demanding he give back my bag. He turned around and—oh dear—his tie was yellow.
I’d been slapping the wrong man! My thief had gotten away, and the man in the yellow tie was so angry I ended up at the police station. I’m a cute little thing, and I can’t imagine they’d really keep me here overnight. Once I explained about the handbag, the policemen asked me more about the thief than about my misdirected assault and battery.
But isn’t that the limit? I keep thinking things can’t get any worse. And then I lose my handbag. Pretty soon I won’t have a job and I’ll be living in the alley behind my apartment.
I wouldn’t mind this adventure so much… if someone would just tell me WHAT is going ON!
September 13, 1921.
Things keep on getting weirder. The man with the yellow tie called on me at my apartment today, while I was at work. He left flowers with Mrs. Kubler, and I’m staring at them right now.
They’re yellow and pink and blue, and they look like a fairy postcard. They’re in a short little blue vase, and they burst out around the top of it like a ball. The fragrance is heavenly. The card says, Hector Renfield, and it’s got a phone number on it.
I wonder, have I attracted a suitor? He was mad as hornets when I hit him on the street. I suppose he found out about the handbag incident later, and feels bad about it.
Well, I’ll assume they’re apology flowers and leave it at that. I’d be too embarrassed to call and thank him, just in case he asked me out for dinner. He seemed at least fifteen years older than me, and I don’t think I want a marriage like that.
Look at me, jumping to marriage, just because I got some flowers.
They are very nice flowers though. So was his suit. He’s probably terribly rich. Maybe I can marry him and buy everything in McGillicuddy and Murder’s.
Do you know I miss that old pawn shop? I feel like my life’s one little window of goodness and adventure has been shut.
McGillicuddy and Murder’s doesn’t want me back. And now that something really weird, really remarkable, has happened to me, I’m not content to stroll around and look at statues anymore. I want the real thing. Real mystery. Real intrigue. Real passion. Real life! But I have no idea how to get started.
September 14, 1921.
Mr. Renfield called on me tonight.
I was just about to put on my slippers, read a book, eat peanuts, and enjoy the company of no one at all, when Mrs. Kubler knocked on my door.
“That gentleman is here again to see you, dear,” she said.
I jumped out of my skin. I had just enough time to powder my nose and reapply my rouge before he stepped in my door.
He wasn’t carrying flowers this time. He was carrying a book.
Mr. Renfield is a handsome man, almost six feet tall, with a thin little mustache. He wore a pinstriped suit, so clean it looked glossy. His tie was yellow, just like the other day when I attacked him.
“Ms. Merkle,” he said. “I hope this is a convenient hour for me to call.”
“Er…” I said. “Yes. Please, come in.”
Mrs. Kubler made rather a show of leaving the door open, so I knew she’d be keeping an eye on me. I felt safe enough.
“Won’t you… sit down?” I said.
He did. When he sat down on my sofa, I felt my heart go belly-up.
“Ms. Merkle, I have a confession to make,” he said.
I was sitting there and hating the sound of my own name, when all of a sudden, his tie changed colors right in front of my eyes. It went from yellow to red.
Never mind that this man could perform magic tricks with his tie. Never mind that something impossible had happened right before my eyes. I was focused on something else entirely.
I yelped, hit by a flash of insight.
“You stole my handbag!” I cried.
Mr. Renfield shrugged, in a mute apology.
“I needed your address.”
This fiend had snatched my handbag, then changed the color of his tie, then stood there looking at peaches! He’d known I hadn’t gotten a good look at his face. I’d attacked the right man after all.
I stood, ready to stand and scream for Mrs. Kubler. Mr. Renfield stood too, and he opened the book.
The page revealed the drawing of an eye, just like the one on my piece of china.
“I know what’s happened to you,” Mr. Renfield said. “Please. I can explain everything.”
We hope you’ve enjoyed episode Four, The Man with the Color Changing Tie, of McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn shop. McGillcuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop is written and performed by Minerva Sweeney Wren, all rights reserved. Please subscribe, share it with your friends, and support Minerva Sweeney Wren at patreon.com/sweeneywren.
McGillccuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop will continue next week with episode 5, The Night Enthusiasts.
The Night Enthusiasts
September 14, 1921, continued.
“I know what’s happened to you,” Mr. Renfield saud. ‘Please. I can explain everything.”
My hands started to shake. Here at last was the answer! I was going to find out what I was! Find out why my eyeballs had almost given me a heart-attack, when they made me look like a ghoul in my own bathroom mirror!
I would know why I was so strange, why I had started to change. I would know what my mission was, what the purpose of this transformation would be. Perhaps I’d pack my bags and sail to Peru, or India, or Egpyt, and live out my days as some magical woodland creature that deals in blessings and curses.
Mr. Renfield opened his mouth. I leaned forward on the couch.
“You’ll have to close the door,” he whispered. He glanced out into the hall, as if afraid someone was listening.
I know better than to let a strange man into my apartment without the door open, but I didn’t care anymore. I had to get answers.
I got up, and I shut the door.
“Quick,” I said. “Mrs. Kubler will have my hide if she catches this door shut. Hurry up and tell me.”
I vaulted back onto the couch. Mr. Renfield cleared his throat. I thought my blood vessels would burst from the suspense.
“You’re what’s known as a Magic Unusual,” Mr. Renfield said. “And the old man at McGillicuddy and Murder’s made you this way by giving you that china eye.”
A magic unsual. It has a lovely ring to it, doesn’t it? And that dastardly old man! Not even asking me first if I wanted to glow in the dark like a Halloween decoration!
“I guessed the eye was where it started,” I said. “But how? Is it some magic spell?”
“Sort of,” Mr. Renfield said. “McGillicuddy and Murder’s is a cryptic place. They’re dangerous over there. I’m incredibly grateful I got to you first. If they’d asked you to join their ranks—” He shuddered. “Miss Merkle, please listen. There is something you must know.”
Suddenly, the lights went out. Mr. Renfield and I looked at each other, our eyes both glowing in the dark.
“Quick,” he said. “You’re not safe.”
I leapt to my feet. The room was dark, and all I could see was light spilling in from under the door. I heard loud footsteps on the other side. Someone pounded on my apartment door.
“Mrs. Kubler?” I said.
“Quiet!” Mr. Renfield barked.
The voice on the other side of the door was not Mrs. Kubler’s. It was a man’s voice. He shouted at us, then hammered on the door again.
In the darkness, Mr. Renfield snatched my hand and vaulted towards the window. He whisked the window open and clambered out onto the fire escape.
“Quickly!” he said.
I thought in a flash of all the things I wanted to pack but couldn’t. I wondered, in a flash, if this was all just some bizarre kidnapping scheme.
But Mr. Renfield’s eyes were glowing too, which meant he and I were one and the same. And the men on the other side of my apartment door didn’t exactly sound friendly. I clambered out the window, still wearing heels, and clanged down the fire escape.
When we reached solid ground, Mr. Renfield took my hand, and ran with me down the alley. My lungs were full of night air, and my heart pounded. I felt so deliciously alive. How can terror be so wonderful?
“Do those men want to kill me?” I said.
“Worse,” Mr. Renfield said. “They want you to join their ranks.”
We burst out onto the wet, shimmering street, and Mr. Renfield hailed a taxi. A taxi sloshed up in a spray of reflected city lights, and I clambered in first. Renfield jumped in after me and slammed the taxi door.
“The Purgatory Club,” he said to the Taxi Driver. “Daniels and Fifth Street. Hurry!”
The taxi driver stepped on it, and I leaned back. My head swam.
“What was—“ I started to say, but Renfield silenced me with a wave of his hand. He looked significantly at the taxi driver.
Secrets cannot be discussed in front of taxi drivers. I’m a real adventurer, now. I ought to learn these things.
So we sat in silence. Rain pattered against the windows, and the taxi wove its way towards Daniels and Fifth. I’d never heard of the Purgatory Club, but I’m not much of a club girl.
The taxi came to a stop a few minutes later and Renfield got out. He paid the taxi driver while I stood there in the rain, feeling bedraggled and lost. My vanity got the better of me, and I hoped we weren’t about to set foot in the Purgatory Club, because I looked like a wet sheep.
Alas, my vanity was due for a punching, because we walked straight in.
I tugged at my skirt and flattened my hair, but no one even looked at me. The club was loud with music and foggy with smoke.
The walls were red, and glassware glittered all throughout the room. A girl at the back was earning her living in a very interesting way. Renfield didn’t even glance at the club, however. He strode towards a curtained alcove on our left.
The curtains were shut, and I was shocked and embarrassed when he tore the curtains apart, because there was a couple necking inside.
“Get out,” Renfield said to the couple.
The girl began to chatter and gripe at him, but the man only blushed and slunk away, taking the girl with him. When they were gone, Renfield beckoned to me, and I stepped inside with him. He shut the curtains.
The air smelled a little bit like incense. And if I’m being honest, like wet dog. It was not a majestic place to spend an evening. But. I suppose Purgatory wouldn’t be.
Renfield turned and faced me with grave eyes. “This is how you can reach us,” he said. “If we ever get separated again.”
He stepped up to a painting on the wall, and he spun it upside down. The woman in the painting looked at me with mournful, upside-down eyes, as if begging to be set right again.
Behind the painting, a small doorway opened. Renfield gestured to me, and I hurried into the darkness. He followed close behind me and shut the door.
Then we were alone in a musty smelling place. I felt tired, and I wondered when I was going to wake up from this dream that was starting to be rather a bother.
I found that I could see fairly well in the dark. Renfield slipped ahead of me and lead the way. A few twists and turns later, and lights began to glow in the walls, candles flickering behind green panes of glass. Roots hung down through a red brick ceiling. The air smelled chalky, and a little bit like iron.
“Where are we going?” I asked.
“You’ll see,” he said.
On my left, A skull grinned out of the wall. Where were we? A tomb?
My heart began to beat a little faster.
I love danger. I love adventure. I love the unexpected and the bizarre. But I don’t love evil. I love defeating it, in theory anyway. I don’t know if I’ve ever defeated anything in my life, but I do not intend to prove a villain. I felt like I was walking into a witch’s lair, something sinister to read about, or even something exciting to fight against. But to join?
I didn’t know what this place was.
Was I becoming a creature of the night, now? Something a little bit wrong and twisted?
Did I not have any choice in the matter?
Renfield reached a door at the end of the corridor. He opened it, and a strange smell wafted towards me, like oranges and crisp fresh paper, and pine. It smelled like Christmas morning.
Renfield stepped into the room beyond, and I knew that when I followed, things would only get stranger.
I stepped into a large cave.
The sides of the cave were piled in oddities and wonders—much like the items in McGillicuddy and Murder’s. There were paintings, bird cages, and other strange things scattered across the floor, including a carousel horse, its mouth open in a scream.
In the center of the cave, a large black gazebo sat, purple lights shining around its rim. Inside the gazebo, twelve men and women sat, watching us with pale faces and unmoving eyes.
“Welcome,” Renfield said. “To the Society of Night Enthusiasts.”
We hope you’ve enjoyed episode Five, The Night Enthusiasts, of McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn shop. McGillcuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop is written and performed by Minerva Sweeney Wren, all rights reserved. Please subscribe, share it with your friends, and support Minerva Sweeney Wren at patreon.com/sweeneywren.
McGillccuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop will continue next week with episode 6, Stranger than a Nightmare.
Stranger than a Nightmare
September 14, 1921, continued
I stood staring at the black gazebo, at the ring of purple lights. In the center of the gazebo, one of the people stood up and beckoned to me.
I didn’t move an inch. I stayed rooted to the ground, and I decided I hated adventures, and I hated china eyes, and I hated Renfield and this cave. The carousel horse on the floor looked like it was in pain.
I wanted an adventure to get away from the nightmare of my life, not make it worse.
“You said you wanted to know what’s happening to you,” Renfield said. “They’re waiting to tell you. They’re waiting to tell you what a magic unusual really is.”
I looked at Renfield. His face looked haggard and ugly in the half-light. I felt a shiver. I knew I couldn’t run. I could try, of course, but I doubted I’d get far. I had to walk across this cave and meet the strange faces underneath the gazebo, and whatever happened next, I’d have to face.
I can’t, I thought, I just can’t.
Imagine, diary, the worst disappoint you’ve ever suffered in your life. You’re a diary, so of course you don’t have any feelings, but try to imagine that you do. Picture that disappointment, diary. Multiply it. Feel it swell like the crashing waves of an ominous sea.
That is what I felt in this moment. The worst disappointment of my entire life.
I was not brave.
I expected to be brave. I expected to have the courage I needed, as soon as an adventure arrived. When I was a little girl, and I was afraid to walk down the cellar stairs, I would tell myself that if goblins really waited behind the barrels below, I’d magically be holding a sword when I met them. If the goblins were real, then anything could happen. If the impossible could happen in a bad way, then the impossible would happen in a good way. I might see goblins, but if I did, a sword would appear in my hands.
There wasn’t any sword. Not in real life. Here I was on the threshold of my adventure, and I didn’t have the stomach.
Nervous, and jittery, and feeling like the child no one wants to play with at school, I walked towards the black gazebo. The twelve people seated inside the gazebo stood up.
They weren’t dressed in large black cloaks, if that’s what you’re thinking. It seems like they should have been wearing capes, doesn’t it? They wore ordinary clothes, or almost ordinary. Most of them wore a bit of green or purple, but they predominantly wore black. I looked around the sea of faces, and who should I see on the left but newsboy-cap-man, my hazel-eyed friend from McGillicuddy and Murder’s?
I stared at him with my mouth open. He cocked his head slowly. He seemed to remember me, at least a little.
“Miss. Merkle?” said a small woman in the center.
I turned and looked at her. Her voice was wavering and thin, and her face stretched back into a chubby smile.
“Yes?” I said.
“Are you happy, Miss Merkle?” the small woman asked.
“Uh… no,” I said.
“Have you ever stood on the bottom of the sea, Miss Merkle?” the small woman said.
“No,” I said.
“Have you ever died, Miss Merkle?” the small woman said.
I stared at her. My heart thumped so fast I thought I would faint.
“No,” I said. “No, I have never died.”
“Good,” the small woman said. “Tonight, you will have the chance to answer yes to all three of those questions.”
Yes, I am happy.
Yes, I have stood on the bottom of the sea?
Yes, I have died.
“We are the Night Enthusiasts, Miss Merkle,” the small woman said. “We thirst for blood. We search through tombs for life, and we embroider that life on the fabric of the world. We make more of our lives than we were originally given.”
My mouth was dry, so I merely nodded.
“Tonight, if you pass our test, you too, can become a Night Enthusiast,” the small woman said.
I glanced over the young man from McGillicuddy and Murder’s, the appallingly handsome one….. and he looked down at the floor.
I turned back to the small woman. “Do I get a say?” I said.
My voice was small and scratchy.
The small woman smiled. She looked up at me, and she said, “Magic Unusuals are born, not made. Their powers can be unlocked by a gift, a gift from another Magic Unusual. Once the gift is given, and the powers are unlocked, then you are doomed to be a Magic Unusual for the rest of your life.”
I didn’t like the use of the word, doomed.
“You have been brought to us,” the small woman said. “You have been given a chance to join the ranks of the Night Enthusiasts. It’s an honor few receive, Miss Merkle. You will take our test. You will do as you are told. And if you pass, then you will become a member.”
“And if I don’t pass?” I said.
“Then you will die.”
Before I could respond to this spectacular declaration, the small woman folded her hands together, like school mistress preparing a lesson.
“Shall we begin?”
Members of the circle rose.
I found myself looking at the young man. He shifted in his seat, then looked at me, meaningfully.
He stood up. “You may have my seat, Miss Merkle.”
While The Night Enthusiasts began preparing something in the center of the gazebo, I slipped into the young man’s chair. He stood beside me, eyes facing forward. I waited, sure he was going to say something.
“My name is Noble James,” he said. “I’m sorry if you’re frightened.”
“Mr. James,” I said. “What’s the test? What happens? Is it hard?”
He glanced at me, then looked away. “It’s harder for some than for others.”
“What does becoming a Night Enthusiast do to you?” I said. “Will I… become different?”
He adjusted his newsboy cap, as if part of him wanted to hide underneath it. “A part of you has to die, in order to become a Night Enthusiast. That’s where—we get out powers from. Other Magic Unusuals get their powers differently, but the Night Enthusiasts are sure this is the best way.”
“There are other groups of Magic Unusuals?” I said.
He looked at me, concerned, and even sad. “You didn’t know?”
I’d known nothing, until Renfield showed up and tricked me into coming to this place. Who were those men who came to my apartment door? Had they really been my enemies?
Now I was here, and I had no choice. I was going to become a Night Enthusiast. I was going to kill part of myself. Somehow.
I turned away from Noble James, and I looked towards the center of the gazebo. The Night Enthusiasts had dragged in a large contraption. It looked like a copper tuba, and a lemonade cart, and the inside of a giant clock. It whirled and sputtered. A tank of bright green liquid glowed on the left side.
The small woman turned to me. “Your eyes have not yet changed color, Miss Merkle,” she said. “So you cannot teleport on your own. Instead, we will be feeding you some of this bright green liquid. It will take you to where we want you to go. When you arrive, you will have ten minutes to kill the creature you face. If you fail to kill it, you will die. If you succeed in killing it, you will join the ranks of glory, and become a Night Enthusiast.”
I swallowed. What was I going to do, punch her in the stomach and run?
Be brave, be brave! I told myself, but all those days of never killing my own spiders, and never saying no when other people wanted me to say yes, and never doing something when doing nothing was easier… had prepared me for a life of indolence. I wasn’t brave, because I’d never tried to be.
The small woman lifted a glass to my mouth. The inside frothed and bubbled with glowing green liquid.
“Drink,” she said.
The liquid touched my lips.
We hope you’ve enjoyed episode Six, Stranger than a Nightmare, of McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn shop. McGillcuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop is written and performed by Minerva Sweeney Wren, all rights reserved. Please subscribe, share it with your friends, and support Minerva Sweeney Wren at patreon.com/sweeneywren.
McGillccuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop will continue next week with episode 7, Death at the Bottom of the Sea
Death at the Bottom of the Sea
September 14, 1921, continued.
I stood in the black gazebo, and green light from the bubbling contraption made my hands look like witch’s fingers. The small woman pressed the drink against my lips.
“Drink,” she said.
I knew she’d force it down my throat in a minute, so I decided to drink it on my own. I always think it’s better to choose whenever you can, even when your choice is nothing but beastliness.
I drank the green liquid. It was foul, like gasoline. It didn’t burn my throat, though; it went down smoothly. I felt dizzy as soon as it hit my stomach, and my knees wobbled. I felt sure I was going to faint, and then I remembered—the potion wasn’t to make me pass out. It was to transport me.
Just like that, I left the black gazebo of The Night Enthusiasts. It was a welcome change. Instead of the dark, salty-smelling cave, I was in a… well, a dark… salty-smelling cave. But this one was on the bottom of the sea.
Water was being being kept out by another one of those devices. It whirred with copper cogs and wheels, and large blue glass bubbles glowed along its surface. I stood ankle deep in sea water, and the sides of the cave were rank with seaweed, but I could breathe.
A clear glass window was built into the side of the cave. I stepped up to it. I could see out into a world of dismal gray fish and pale sand. The fish flicked in formation, their drab sides reflecting the light.
I really was on the bottom of the sea.
I know that the sea goes down deep, too deep for light, but I wasn’t that far. I could still see a flicker of light. Daylight? It had been night in my city. That meant I was nowhere near my side of the world.
I felt a little bit of courage rise. I didn’t want to die, not at my age, having never done much with my life. But what a way to die! At the bottom of the sea? In a mysterious cave? Halfway around the world!
“Well,” I said, and my voice echoed eerily in the chamber. “I’m not dead yet.”
At that moment, water began to pour into the cave. That infernal device was letting it in.
“No!” I said. “Stop! Desist! Stop that!”
I tried to plug the hole with both my hands, but it was no use. The weight of the entire ocean was on one side, and there was just me on the other. Water gushed through. The cave was quite small, and I’d drown in only a few minutes if the water didn’t stop.
I took back every thought I’d had about dying being adventurous. This wasn’t adventurous, this was ghastly. And it doesn’t matter that you’re halfway around the world when you’re suffocating to death.
“All right, what’s the test?” I shouted. “Come on!”
They’d probably forgotten to set it up, and now I was going to die, due to lack of planning.
At that moment, a beam of light flashed above my head, and a little creature landed on top of a glass bubble.
“Hello,” she said.
She had wings! She was a tiny pixie, or something like a pixie. She had a long nose, and long hair, and a long white dress. Everything about her was white, bright white, like a star.
“Hello!” I said. “Are you my test?”
“I’m afraid so,” she said.
“What do I do?” I said.
“You have to kill me, I’m afraid,” the small pixie said.
I stared at her, open mouthed. “I don’t want to kill you,” I said. “I don’t even kill spiders.”
“I’m not a spider,” the pixie said.
“No,” I said.
We stared at one another.
“I’m the test,” she said. “You have to kill me in order to become a Night Enthusiast.
“You’re a part of me?” I said. “The woman said I had to kill a part of myself. What part of me are you?”
“I’m not allowed to say,” the pixie said. “If I did, it wouldn’t be fair.”
I was thinking just the opposite, but I didn’t say anything.
“And once I kill you,” I said. ‘I never get you back?”
She could be anything. Sanity. Hope. Joy. Common Sense. Appreciation of Beauty. Dignity. Courage. Kindness.
How could I live the rest of my life without any of those things? Well, all right, I’d never had much common sense to begin with, but I doubted she was my common sense. The small woman had said Night Enthusiasts thirsted after blood. What if this pixie was, plain and simple, my sense of what was good?
Once I killed her, I might not understand what was wrong.
I had a keen mental image of myself, bending over a body with a bloody knife. Was it possible to commit horrible things, and to not care about them?
Was that my future if I joined The Night Enthusiasts?
I looked at the pixie. “What happens if I don’t kill you?” I said.
“Well,” the pixie said. “You haven’t learned to teleport on your own yet. In fact, you can’t, because your eyes haven’t completely changed color. So if you don’t kill me, the Night Enthusiasts won’t let you back, and you’ll drown in this cave.”
I stared at the pixie. What a rotten test! I had a friend once ask me, back in school, if I would kill a butterfly for a trip to Europe. She’d heard the question from a friend, and she thought it was ridiculous. Of course she’d kill the butterfly, she said. It was just a bug, and what was a bug compared to Europe?
And really, what was my sense of moral decency, compared to my life? Wouldn’t I rather live as a bit of a monster, instead of not living at all?
The problem was, I didn’t know what part of me the pixie represented. I didn’t much want to lose my moral compass, but what if I’d only lose my ability to feel toothaches?
I stepped up to the pixie. “I don’t have a weapon,” I said.
“No,” the pixie said.
“Am I supposed to… use a rock or something?” I said. I stared at her, and a deep ache grew in my chest. I felt like I’d be murdering my childhood self, my sense of all that was innocent and right in the world. I felt as if, once I killed this tiny fairy, I’d no longer jump up in excitement at the thought of an ice cream cone, or admire the way sunlight dappled a window. I’d lose my sense of life as it was supposed to be.
“I don’t want to kill you,” I said.
“There aren’t any rocks in this cave,” the pixie said, in answer to my first question. “You’ll have to use your hands.”
I opened my mouth to say something, and then I stopped. A sense of peace came over me.
“I wouldn’t kill the butterfly,” I said. “My friend said I was ridiculous, but I don’t think I could have enjoyed Paris or Prague when I’d done something merciless and selfish to get there. It’s only a butterfly, maybe, but it says something about me, and I don’t like what it says. I’m not going to kill you, little Pixie, whatever you are. I hope you aren’t fear or misery, or something I’d like to get rid of. Since I don’t know what you are, and since I don’t trust The Night Enthusiasts any farther than I could throw them, I’m going to let you live.”
I paused. “Of course, you’re going to die anyway, because I’m about to die. But it’s the principle of the thing.”
I sat down on the floor of the cave, right into the sea water. It was cold! It came almost to my shoulders, and I nearly stood back up again in a panic.
I looked over at the pixie. It was one thing to decide now that I wouldn’t kill her, but what would I do when the water was over my head? I’ve felt murderous when people wake me up too early in the morning. When I was dying, wouldn’t I snap the neck of a tiny pixie, just to stay alive?
People aren’t rational when they’re about to die. I didn’t know how much control I’d have over what I was about to do.
The water got closer and closer, until it trembled around my nose and mouth.
We hope you’ve enjoyed episode Seven, Death at the Bottom of the Sea, of McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn shop. McGillcuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop is written and performed by Minerva Sweeney Wren, all rights reserved. Please subscribe, share it with your friends, and support Minerva Sweeney Wren at patreon.com/sweeneywren.
McGillccuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop will continue next week with episode 8, Fresh Murder.
Sept 14, 1921, continued.
I sat in the cave at the bottom of the sea, ready to drown to death. The water bubbled around my nose and mouth. I’d been sitting down, in a dramatic show of accepting death, but as soon as the water reached my scalp, I stood up sputtering.
I was really starting to panic now. I’m claustrophobic, and the cave was filling in with water. It eddied around my waist.
The white pixie fluttered around my head. “There’s still time to kill me,” she said.
“No!” I exclaimed. “I made up my mind!”
My teeth were chattering. The cave smelled like salt and seaweed, and I began to grow nauseated.
“I wish I’d never come here,” I thought. “I wish I could go home.”
The water came to my chin. One more time, I considered killing the pixie. I considered becoming a broken, darkened thing, just for the chance to hold onto life a little longer.
It suddenly seemed stupid to deny myself life, just to maintain the moral high ground.
But the choice. The choice. That was what stalled me. They hadn’t given me a choice. This was some twisted game, some brutal manipulation.
Suddenly, I knew I would die. I knew I wasn’t going to kill the pixie, the piece of myself. I couldn’t let someone else direct my fate like that. I couldn’t live as a pawn. I had to die as myself.
The water gushed up under my chin. I stood on tiptoe. The cave was filling faster now. With a helpless gurgle, I was submerged.
I stood in the water, breath held, knowing things were about to get nasty. I had a few more moments of clear-headedness, before I would gulp for air, and gulp in water instead.
I wished for a place that wasn’t this, a safe space to die. I wished for a sunset, or a seaside bungalow, or what was still my favorite place on earth: a pawn shop.
In a wordless, tiny flutter, I wished for McGillicuddy and Murder’s.
I crashed down onto my knees, sopping wet and gulping for breath. But breath! I could breathe! I opened my eyes, and I wasn’t in the cave at the bottom of the sea. I was on the second floor of McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop.
I rolled onto my side, coughing and heaving. My dress was so wet, I lay in a puddle on the dark wood floor. After a few more minutes of heavy breathing, I shifted onto my back and stared at the ceiling.
McGillicuddy and Murder’s was dark. It was closed for the night. I could hear automobiles pass on the street outside, but the pawn shop was deliciously quiet. I felt safe and soothed.
I got up onto my knees. I could guess what had happened. I had transitioned into a fully formed Magic Unusual, just as the water rose over my head. I could now teleport to anywhere I wanted, with a simple thought.
As soon as I realized that, I wished to be in my apartment.
The room was still dark, the door shut, the way Renfield and I had left it. The window to the fire escape was open.
Quickly, I grabbed my bag, stuffed this diary, a change of clothes, money, and a few toiletries inside. Then I wished for McGillicuddy and Murder’s once more, and I landed back in my old puddle.
I sat down. I held my bag against my knees and wondered what to do next.
Renfield and the Night Enthusiasts would come for me. They’d keep looking for me, until I was back in their power. I couldn’t go back to work for Mr. Levy and behave as though everything were normal. Everything was not normal.
I was a fugitive.
I was fugitive who could travel anywhere on earth.
I don’t know how The Night Enthusiasts expected to catch me, if I could just pop over to China and spend the rest of my days in the orient. If I could teleport to anywhere in the world, how would they know where to look?
But perhaps they anticipated my problem, and my problem was this: I needed to know more.
I was like a firework waiting to go off. Surely there were limitations to what I could do. What if there were also dangers, serious consequences? What if my organs melted if I teleported three times in the same day?
I needed to talk to another magic unusual, and the only other Magic Unusual I’d ever met was the old man from McGillicuddy and Murder’s.
I couldn’t go off and live in Paris until I’d spoken to the old man. First I had to find out what I was, and he was my only hope.
First things first, I found a quiet corner, behind a few racks of dresses, and I dragged a loveseat back there. I propped it up with pillows, found a nice quilt, and then got changed. I hung my wet dress up to dry, snuggled down on the loveseat, and began this diary entry.
It's about two hours later! I’ve written so much I think my hand is going to fall off. But I’m too wired to sleep, and I had to get it all out. This morning, my life was normal, but the dawn of September 15th, tomorrow, will bring a brand new world.
I still don’t know what to think, or what to do.
I don’t know if I can trust the old man.
I certainly couldn’t trust Renfield.
But I’m going to have to take my chances. I don’t understand why the old man teleported away from me, or why he refused to tell me anything about Magic Unusuals. Maybe he’s an old grump, and he wants to keep his magic to himself.
But Renfield said that Magic Unusuals unlock each other’s power. The old man recognized a Magic Unusual in me, and that’s why he gave me the eye. He made sure my powers broke free.
So why do it, and then not tell me anything?
Well, diary, I’m starting to get a headache, and my vision is blurry. If the Night Enthusiasts show up, they can just take me back into their clutches, as long as they let me sleep through it.
I hope I wake up before the Pawn Shop opens tomorrow.
September 15, 1921.
I did wake up before the Pawn Shop opened. Sort of. I heard voices on the first floor, and I woke up in a flash. Waking up quickly has never been my cup of tea, and I felt nauseated and ready to bite off someone’s head. I packed my dress from the night before, which had dried. I put my shoes back on, and then I just sat on the loveseat, heels together, ready for someone to get too close. If they did, I’d teleport.
It wasn’t Night Enthusiasts downstairs, just some Pawn Shop Employees. They were preparing to open for the day, and I grew painfully bored, waiting for 10 o’ clock when the Pawn Shop opened.
At about 10:15, I finally stood up. I decided to wander around and see if I could find the old man.
I walked downstairs, looking as innocent as possible. You can’t see the front door of the Pawn Shop from the counter, so really—any one employee who saw me should assume I came in the regular way.
The woman behind the counter was new, and I felt a pang of terror. What if the old man had quit, and she was his replacement? What if I’d never be able to find him?
My life was about to become inexpressibly lonely, unless I could find someone else like me. I wandered out into the street, to get a bit of fresh air, and to remind myself that people still existed, even if I wasn’t quite a part of their world anymore.
A newsboy caught my eye, a boy about eleven or twelve, waving one of his papers in the air.
“Murder! Murder! Read all about it! Young woman murders relative!”
Young women never murder people! I was intrigued! A line had formed around the boy, promising a long wait, but I spotted an abandoned paper on a bench. I went and picked it up.
YOUNG MURDERESS SHOCKS CITY, the headline proclaimed.
Underneath the headline was a picture of me.
We hope you’ve enjoyed episode Eight, Fresh Murder, of McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn shop. McGillcuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop is written and performed by Minerva Sweeney Wren, all rights reserved. Please subscribe, share it with your friends, and support Minerva Sweeney Wren at patreon.com/sweeneywren.
McGillccuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop will continue next week with episode 9, An Invitation.
September 15, 1921 continued
I stood on the sidewalk, completely baffled. The headlines were talking about a murder, a young murderess. And there was my face.
But I hadn’t killed anyone.
When I was a little girl, I fell down the stairs. I hurt myself rather a lot, but for the first few minutes, I just sat there. I didn’t feel any pain. I just couldn’t think straight. My knee was bleeding, but I wondered if I should get up and walk to the drug store anyway.
After the shock faded, I realized I couldn’t walk to the drug store with a knee dripping blood. And then, the pain set in. I spent the next hour yowling on the sofa.
I felt a little like that now. My brain didn’t work. I stared at the picture of my face, and I didn’t understand. What was I doing on the front page of the newspaper?
The first clear thought that came to me was, “Someone is going to recognize you.”
I coughed into my fist, to cover the lower half of my face, and to keep my head down. I hurried into an alley. Then I stood in a doorway, tucked out of sight, and felt my knees turn to jelly.
The Night Enthusiasts had power, that much was certain. They couldn’t find me with magical spells or anything like that. If they could, they would have done so already. They’d done the smartest thing possible in a tough situation: they’d made me a wanted woman. I might even be recognized in Europe after this. If they could get a fake story into the newspapers by morning, why couldn’t they make me wanted for murder, all around the world?
Sooner or later, I’d end up arrested. And then they would come.
I felt such a spike of anxiety, I almost threw up. I’d fallen into a trap, tangled with a group so ruthless they’d stoop to this.
Well, one thing was certain. I needed to keep my head down and my face out of sight. I looked up and down the alley, and then I wished for the back corner of McGillicuddy and Murder’s.
I landed neatly on my couch, and I sat there, quivering. I felt just like a rabbit that’s escaped a round of bullets. I needed to shiver in my burrow for a good hour before coming out for air.
Will write more later. For now, will shiver.
Well, diary, it’s later, and I’ve learned a thing or two about my new powers. I’ve got to be careful. I was lying on the sofa listening to the morning quiet of McGillicuddy and Murder’s, wishing for a pork bun from the shop on fifth avenue, when all of a sudden, I was on fifth avenue, standing in the noonday sun.
I was so scared I stood there like a sheep. I probably looked about ten years old. Hapless and timid. I couldn’t move a muscle, and when I got my brain back, I wished for McGillicuddy and Murder’s.
But I wouldn’t go. I shut my eyes and concentrated, wished for the exact spot I’d been a moment ago. I even tried to remember a blemish on the floor, just to make it extra specific. I would not teleport.
I was terrified. I was wanted for murder, and here I was standing in broad daylight, at a busy intersection. I finally covered my face with both hands, like a girl about to sneeze, and I dashed into an alley.
As soon as I was out of sight, I wished again. This time, I popped straight back into McGillicuddy and Murder’s, right where I wanted to be.
I have no one to explain teleportation to me, but I think I understand now what was happening. I can’t teleport if anyone is looking at me. In the same way, I suspect I can’t arrive anywhere if someone would see me.
I can teleport into a crowded area, just like I did the other day by accident, but I’ll land in a particular spot that no one is actually looking at at that particular moment.
That’s a relief—I can wish for Paris and be assured that wherever I end up, no one will see me land. There would be quite a few awkward questions, wouldn’t there?
It will get a bit tricky though if I want to get away—Suppose I’m running from the police? If they have their eyes on me for the whole chase, which they certainly would, then I’d have to let myself get arrested, just to teleport out of the cell.
I feel a bit better knowing my limitations. It makes my powers seem more real, somehow, now that I know the ways they won’t work. Instead of being magic, vague and impossible, it seems a little bit more like science.
Of course, it is magic. It’s magical, marvelous, explosive magic, and I’m still waiting to wake up and realize it hasn’t been real.
I wonder, do I want to wake up?
Get my old life back? No longer be on the lam? Go back to work for Mr. Levy and type all day and sleep alone in a tiny apartment and…. No.
I much prefer this.
Even though I’m not quite sure what “this” is yet.
September 16, 1921
I had a lovely day today. Being a fugitive is positively delicious.
I went to Paris. Yes, I did. I just wished for the Eiffel tower, and then I went sight-seeing all day, soaking up the French sunshine and eating patisserie. Tomorrow I think I might see the Taj Mahal.
Things will get a little tricky when I run out of money. Despite how ludicrously easy it would be to rob a bank, I don’t think I want to be that kind of fugitive. I’ll have to think of legitimate ways to earn money, without getting recognized.
It’s probably impossible, but I’ve been accomplishing the impossible quite a bit lately.
For now, I am back in McGillicuddy and Murder’s, because I still want to talk to the old man. He wasn’t in again today. I’m not sure what I should do, or if this waiting around for him is perfectly hopeless.
September 17, 1921
Dearest diary, my heart will not stop beating like a drum. I saw Noble James this afternoon, the kind young man who is nevertheless a Night Enthusiast.
And he saw me.
I was buying dinner from the corner store. I was in disguise. In the wee hours of the morning, I’d teleported to a wig shop, chosen a blonde wig, and left money on the counter. I’ve also got a pair of round spectacles. The disguise is good enough that I feel comfortable leaving McGillicuddy and Murder’s, for short lengths of time.
Well, I was in my disguise, waiting for a hot sandwich, when Noble James and a group of men entered the store. They all wore black, with slight accents of purple and green. Night Enthusiasts. Noble James looked up from the center of men, and he saw me.
He locked eyes with mine. I almost dropped my handbag. I felt my heart sink to my shoes, no—further than my shoes, into the basement—and I waited for all hell to descend.
I couldn’t teleport. Noble James was looking at me, and besides, half the people in the shop would notice. I stood rooted to the ground. The other Night Enthusiasts would look over and notice me in just a second, and even with my disguise, they’d recognize the girl they were hunting. Noble James had.
But instead of shouting and pointing at me, Noble James turned away from me and pointed to something down an aisle. The men looked there. I ran around the corner.
I stood for a moment among jars of food, paralyzed with shock.
I’d escaped. Noble James had diverted the attention of the other Night Enthusiasts and allowed me to get away.
Had he done it on purpose? He must have done it on purpose.
I looked left and right, ready to teleport back to McGillicuddy and Murder’s, when Noble James strode right past me.
He was alone. He grabbed my hand as he passed, and he tucked a slip of paper into my palm. Then he walked around the corner.
The coast was clear. I teleported, fists clenched, and arrived in McGillicuddy and Murder’s. I sat down on my hidden loveseat, and I unfolded the paper.
9 pm. The Iron Lion Bridge. I’ll be alone.
We hope you’ve enjoyed episode Nine, An Invitation, of McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn shop. McGillcuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop is written and performed by Minerva Sweeney Wren, all rights reserved. Please subscribe, share it with your friends, and support Minerva Sweeney Wren at patreon.com/sweeneywren.
McGillccuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop will continue next week with episode 10, Blood.
September 17, 1921 continued
I stared down at the slip of paper from Noble James.
He wanted me to meet him at 9 pm at the Iron Lion Bridge.
I’m not very good at detecting lies and stratagems, so I sat with both my hands over my head, feet tucked together, heart racing, and I tried to figure it out. I felt like I was doing an arithmetic problem at school, only this time my life depended on the right answer.
What was the point of this? This note, this arranged meeting?
Did Noble James really want to speak to me privately? His note said he’d be alone.
Would he really be alone, or was this a trap?
My reasons for trusting him were slim to none. He’d been kind to me, and I was head over heels infatuated with him.
I had been head over heels infatuated with him. I wasn’t anymore. Let’s not get carried away.
Those were the only grounds for my trusting him.
He was a Night Enthusiast. Like all other Night Enthusiasts, his primary objective was to capture me. They were looking all over for me.
And yet he’d seen me, and he’d deflected attention away from me.
Why? Did he want to help me? Truly?
Or was it a ruse? Were the other Night Enthusiasts just playing along in the shop, so Noble James could win my trust?
Perhaps they’d feared that a public abduction wasn’t the best idea. Instead, they’d gotten Noble to slip me the note, and they planned to nab me tonight at 9 pm, when the Iron Lion bridge would be safe and cozy for their little crime.
I don’t know what to do. Should I show up?
It’s hard to be afraid of anything when you can teleport. I’ve been to Paris. I’ve proven that teleportation works no matter how far you want to go. All I had to do was learn the name of some tiny pub in Ireland, and I’d be safe and away in a twinkling if Noble James got too close.
My biggest worry is this: I still don’t know how a Magic Unsual’s powers work. What if there’s some kind of device or spell that lets Magic Unusuals track each other? If I get too close to Noble James, will he somehow know where I’m teleporting to next?
It’s a risk I don’t want to take.
But I’m also curious. What if Noble James really is a friend, an ally, and he wants to help me? I need help. I need things explained to me. I need friends. I’m going to shrivel up and die of loneliness in a month or two. What if meeting with him opens up new opportunities, new options?
I’m willing to risk a lot, just for the chance to have things explained.
Am I going to meet him?
I think I’ve already decided. I think I’m going to do it.
September 18, 1921.
Last night, I went to the Iron Lion Bridge to meet with Noble James.
The night was chilly and wet. I had goosebumps, and they wouldn’t go away. I teleported near the bridge, and then I found a convenient tree. I watched the bridge from a distance. I couldn’t see Noble James, and it was 9:02 pm. Was he hiding, waiting for me to show up? Or had he decided not to show up?
Things began to feel more and more like a trap. I had an icy feeling all over, like something terrible was going to happen, but now that I’d come, I couldn’t walk away. This was my chance for adventure, and knowledge, and even if I landed in the belly of the beast, I had to take this risk.
I stepped out from behind the tree, and I strode towards the Iron Lion Bridge. There was no one in sight. The lights shimmered on the water, and a cold wind picked up and ruffled the collar of my coat.
It would serve me right if I stepped under the bridge and saw not Noble James, but the small woman, the head Night Enthusiast.
It’s a trap, I thought. My heart began to beat hard. It’s a trap.
I reached the bridge, and I stepped under it. It was dark down there, and I could barely see. I backed against the wall, so no one could sneak up behind me. A peculiar smell was in the air: a nasty, wet smell that I knew I’d smelled before. I couldn’t remember what it was, but it made me a little sick, and it made me uneasy.
I inched sideways down the bridge.
“Hello?” I called. “Talk to me if you’re here, I’m about to leave. You’re making me nervous.”
Nothing. I got a gut sense. If Noble James was here, he would have spoken. I felt sure of it, the way sometimes you know you’ve just picked up a cold. Noble James wasn’t here; he wasn’t hiding in the shadows. I checked my watch. It was 9:06. Either he was being very tardy, this was a trap, or he’d decided not to come.
Perhaps he’d been delayed. If he was meeting me behind the back of the Night Enthusiasts, he might have had some trouble getting away.
I decided I should try to wait, but with every minute I spent under the bridge, I felt my hairs rise further and further in alarm. I was like a cat, about to jump up and disappear.
The longer I waited, the stronger the smell grew. The scent was heavier to my left, and I took a few steps deeper under the bridge. I stooped. The ground was covered in something wet, something raw smelling.
I removed my glove, and I dipped my finger into the puddle. I brought my finger to my nose.
It was blood. Of course I knew the smell. I looked down, leaning so that light from a lamppost could hit the ground. The blood had pooled near my feet, and a trail was running off into the river.
I felt like a ghost rose up and wailed inside my chest. This was real. This was significant. This wasn’t the blood of some poor criminal, left here by coincidence. This was Noble Jame’s blood. I knew that, somehow.
The bible says that the life of the body is in the blood. I never quite understood that. Our life is in our blood. Did that just mean, if you lost enough blood, you’d die? We all know that.
Or was the meaning of that scripture deeper? Was some of our essence somehow entangled in our bloodstream?
Was I somehow holding a bit of Noble James, touching a wet blur of his soul?
I knew it was his blood. In a moment, I was sure, because as I rubbed the blood between my fingertips, the blood dried.
It started to glow.
This was the blood of a magic unusual. Apparently our blood didn’t glow when it was wet, but I could see my fingertip, faint blue and iridescent.
I stood up.
Noble James had been wounded in this spot, then, presumably, teleported elsewhere.
Someone had attacked him. That meant they knew he was here, they didn’t like him, and they wanted to stop him.
And they’d be coming for me in just a moment.
I turned, wiping the last bit of Noble’s blood onto my hankie. I backed up against the bricks, heart thumping, and I pictured McGillicuddy and Murder’s. I tried to teleport.
I couldn’t teleport.
You see what this means, don’t you, diary?
I was being watched.
I looked down into the darkness of the bridge, so terrified my heart physically ached in my chest. I retreated out of the bridge slowly, my back against the wall, my hands grasping the bricks. I looked out into the night, where street lamps lit the side of the river.
All I had to do was get around the corner of the bridge, and I’d be out of sight of whoever was watching me. Then I could teleport. I could land safely at McGillicuddy and Murder’s and forget I ever took this stupid risk.
For a moment, I was so frightened of the unknown, I felt as though I’d vomit. I thought I heard a scratching sound from underneath the bridge. Whoever it was, whatever it was, it was getting closer.
I decided to make a run for it. I turned my back on whatever was under the bridge, and I ran. I shot towards the corner of the bridge as fast as I could.
I scrambled up the grassy slope, and then I made the mistake of looking back. I didn’t teleport instantly, the way I should have.
As I turned to look, someone seized my wrist.
We hope you’ve enjoyed episode ten, Blood, of McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn shop. McGillcuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop is written and performed by Minerva Sweeney Wren, all rights reserved. Please subscribe, share it with your friends, and support Minerva Sweeney Wren at patreon.com/sweeneywren.
McGillccuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop will continue next week with episode 11, Graveyard.
September 18, 1921, continued.
Diary, I’ve never been more frightened in my life.
I’d escaped the eerie darkness of the bridge, where Noble James’s blood lay spilled on the ground. I’d made it around the corner, where I should have been able to teleport safely. But someone reached out and snatched my hand.
It was a startled, bird-like little scream. It died in my throat. I looked at the face of my attacker, and it wasn’t an enemy at all. It was the little old man from McGillicuddy and Murder’s.
“You!” I exclaimed.
“Hush!” the old man said. “You’re not safe here!”
He patted my hand, still holding me by the wrist, and he drew a photograph out of his pocket.
“Look. See this room? I want you to imagine it. Now, quickly! Teleport with me!”
I stared down at the photograph in the old man’s hands. It was a room filled with whirring clocks, clocks with gears bigger than my head. I stared at him, stupefied, and he gripped my hand.
“Now!” he said.
The old man disappeared. I was terrified. I felt like I was falling. Then I spun around. I realized I didn’t want to lose sight of the old man for anything in the world.
He had answers. And he’d finally found me!
I shut my eyes, imagined the strange room of clocks, and I teleported.
I landed in a stumble. I yelled. I felt someone grab my shoulders, and I heard the old man say, “There, there! You had a bit of a drop! That happens sometimes, when you don’t know a place very well.”
I looked up at him.
“Who are you?” I said.
“I?” he said. He blinked at me. “I am H.P. McGillicuddy. I should have thought that was obvious.”
“Why did you make me a Magic Unusual?” I said. I hugged my arms.
“Well, you already were a Magic Unusual, my dear,” he said. “I unlocked your powers, it’s true. I’m sorry that I didn’t stop and speak with you, that day in the Pawn Shop, when you cornered me. Your tactic was so aggressive…. I thought the Night Enthusiasts had gotten to you already.”
“You thought I was a Night Enthusiast?”
“And you’re the enemy of the Night Enthusiasts?” I said.
“Sadly,” Mr. McGillicuddy said, “they have chosen to make themselves the enemy of me.”
“Why do the Night Enthusiasts want me so badly?” I said.
“Because you have a rare power,” Mr. McGillicuddy said. “All Magic Unsuals have the power to teleport. But some of us have extra powers as well. The powers are very random, highly unusual, in every person. Your skill would be highly valuable, and highly dangerous, in the hands of The Night Enthusiasts.”
“What’s my skill?” I said
“If I told you, you’d lose it,” Mr. McGillicuddy said. “You’ll have to discover yourself, accidentally.”
“Oh,” I said. I was deeply disappointed.
“Once you know it, you can tell anyone you like,” Mr. McGillicuddy said. “But you have to discover it all on your own.”
That was hardly convenient, but I ignored it. I needed to talk to Mr. McGillicuddy about what to do next.
“I’ve been hiding in McGillicuddy and Murder’s,” I said. “Waiting for you. The Night Enthusiasts are after me.”
“I know,” Mr. McGillicuddy said. His face was sad. At first I thought he simply felt bad for me, but then I realized it was something else. Mr. McGillicuddy had bad news for me.
“What’s why I’ve been avoiding you,” Mr. McGillicuddy said. “The Night Enthusiasts are too close to you. If I help you, they could discover the secrets of what we’re doing at McGillicuddy and Murder’s. They could find me. We are like light and dark, the Night Enthusiasts and us. What they destroy, we heal. What they attack, we protect. They have no idea how to find me, or the center of our operations. I am working desperately on a way to include you, safely. But it’s more complicated than it seems. I can’t speak to you, be near you. If they catch us together, all is lost. And they’re hunting you too heavily.”
“So you’re not going to help me?” I said. “Please, Mr. McGillicuddy, I’m not a spy. I’m not working for them. You can trust me.”
He squinted into my face. “I believe you,” he said. “But you are one of many, and I’ll abandon the one to save the majority. I’m sorry, Miss Merkle. I can’t endanger the others.”
“How can you leave me? How can you afford to not protect me?” I said. “I thought my powers were dangerous, if the Night Enthusiasts got ahold of me.”
“Oh, they are,” Mr McGillicuddy said. “Very. But you can protect yourself. Trust me, Miss Merkle, you are safer alone.”
But I don’t want to be alone, I almost blurted. I’ve been alone ever since my parents died, and I don’t want to be alone anymore.
“Miss Merkle,” Mr. McGillicuddy said. “I am doing my best. I came after you tonight, after Noble James was attacked.”
“Did you stab him?” I said.
“Me?” Mr. McGillicuddy said. “Of course not! Listen to me, Miss Merkle, we don’t have much time left. The chamber that you’re in right now is created by a special set of Magic Unsuals. They have the power to manipulate time. No time is passing out there. You and I will return to the world the split second that we left it. But these chambers last less than an hour, and ours is about to disappear. I want you to know, I am working to protect you from The Night Enthusiasts, I am trying to get you into our inner circle. In the meantime, you must stay away from them. Stay strong. You will be connected to us one day, but you have to wait.”
One of the clock dials heaved and clattered. Mr. McGillicuddy looked up at it.
“Goodbye, my dear,” he said.
“But Noble James!” I said. “Can I trust him?”
Mr. McGillicuddy shook his head, his eyes thunderous. “Noble James is a fool,” he said. “Stay away from him.”
I opened my mouth.
A small metal spring shot out of the wall, and one of the clock wheels collapsed.
Mr. McGillicuddy looked around.
“Listen to me, my dear,” he said, “There is a slim chance that the Night Enthusiasts cast a skull spell when you were under the bridge. They stabbed Noble, they may have laid a magic trap for you and I. A skull spell lets them see your next teleportation wish. If you wish for the zoo, they will see the word zoo written down by their machinery. If you wish for the hospital on 53rd street, they will see the words, hospital on 53rd street. Their spell only lasts for one teleportation, you’ll be clean after that. But I highly recommend wishing for “home” whatever that may mean to you. That way, they have a vague word. It teaches them nothing about your patterns, habits, or knowledge.”
“So, I should wish for home?” I said.
“Yes,” Mr. McGillicuddy said. One of the clocks fell off the wall, shattering with a loud gong. “And you should do it, now! Goodbye, my dear! If you would just… shut your eyes…”
I did. When I opened them, he’d disappeared.
“All right,” I said to myself. “Home. Go home, Maudie.”
I didn’t know what home really meant to me. Was it my apartment? Could it possibly be McGillicuddy and Murders, where I was currently staying? I closed my eyes and wished.
When I arrived, I found myself kneeling in damp grass. The wind was cool. A tree rustled somewhere nearby.
I opened my eyes. The landscape was dark. Gray. City lights twinkled on the horizon.
I was in a field of grass, surrounded by oblong stones. The moon shone down and lit the two stones in front of me.
Peter Alonso Merkle and Melinda Hepzibah Merkle.
The night was quiet. I felt a sense of stillness, a silence that connected me to the silent wooden coffins below.
I touched my father’s gravestone with two fingers, stroking the rounded edge. This was the man who’d loved me so dearly, loved me so at first sight, that he’d given me the middle name of Maudie, because only a pet name was good enough for me.
I didn’t know what else to do, so I curled up between the gravestones and lay there, looking up at the moon alone.
We hope you’ve enjoyed episode 11, Graveyard, of McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn shop. McGillcuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop is written and performed by Minerva Sweeney Wren, all rights reserved. Please subscribe, share it with your friends, and support Minerva Sweeney Wren at patreon.com/sweeneywren.
McGillccuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop will continue next week with episode 12, Accidental Mischief.
September 18, 1921, continued.
I left the graveyard and returned to McGillicuddy and Murder’s. I still felt raw and aching.
I sat down on the love seat, kicked off my heels, and unwrapped a sandwich I’d saved from earlier. I munched disconsolately.
I had no idea what to do next. Mr. McGillicuddy had said wait. He would contact me when he could, but for now, my only job was to stay away from the Night Enthusiasts.
Noble James had been stabbed. I wondered if he was dead.
Mr. McGillicuddy said Noble James is a fool. Stay away from him.
Did that mean Noble had meant to betray me? Hang it all and send everything to purgatory! Why couldn’t he just have been a nice young man? Why couldn’t we have met, over there by the coats, when I first saw him, and he was so handsome and royal and quiet and my heart fluttered helplessly.
A sandwich still in my hand, in a fit of romantic sorrow, I wandered out to the spot where I’d first met him. I imagined him there, with his shy eyes and newsboy cap, and I spun on my heel.
“Wait, don’t go,” I said to the imaginary Noble James. “You’re very handsome. Would you like to have tea with me? Or dinner? Or something very refined?” I sighed, and I let my shoulders slump. “Or maybe just wander along the river and laugh at seagulls and eat peanuts?”
I sat down on the floor. It was the worst thing in the world that he wasn’t normal, and neither was I. Well, all right, I didn’t want to be Mr. Levy’s secretary anymore, but this Magic Unusual business was very isolating. Why did Noble James and I have to be caught up in the same weird conspiracies? Why did he have to be the enemy?
I sat up straight. What had he been doing in McGillicuddy and Murders that day? If he was a Night Enthusiast, had he been looking for Mr. McGillicuddy? To trap him? And hadn’t he found him? The man worked right here!
My head hurt.
I lay down on my back, feeling very sorry for myself. Why wasn’t I the kind of girl who got nice young men in newsboy caps? Why did Henry Hubert have to be the only one who ever proposed? I was the kind of girl who MET nice men in newsboy caps. Dear me, yes. And they thrilled my heartstrings.
And THEN, they turned out to be evil conspirators with magic powers.
I thought again of his blood, all over my fingers.
“Oh, please don’t be dead,” I whispered. “You’re such a nice young man. Even if you are part of an evil cult society.” I shut my eyes. “Please don’t be dead.”
I finished my sandwich, sadly, sitting on the floor. Then I was tired. Terribly, terribly tired. I wasn’t just tired from tonight. I was tired from the last six years of my life. I had an ache in me so deep I didn’t know what to do with it.
It is all very well to be magic. But it’s not very good to be magic, all alone.
September 19, 1921
Diary, I have ruined everything.
I am an idiot. Mr. McGillicuddy said, “Stay away from Noble James! He’s a fool! You can protect yourself!” he said, “You’re safer alone!” he said.
Well, I’ve gone and damned everything.
I had the funniest experience in the world today. I was waiting in line for lunch. I wasn’t in Germany, or anything. I was just getting lunch from a place across town. I’m afraid to leave the city, in case Mr. McGillicuddy can’t find me ever again. My last thread of human connection is here, and I’m not going to break it for anything in the world.
So I wasn’t far. Just across town. Wearing a disguise. I was getting a soup and sandwich lunch, and feeling a bit nervous, because believe you me—my money is running rather thin. I said I didn’t want to rob banks. But I’m not sure what I’m going to do next. I’ve been avoiding the papers and any mention of my murder case, because egads—it’s appalling to have your reputation ruined by a flock of criminals.
At least my life isn’t totally ruined. I don’t have too many people whose opinion I cared about. In other words, I didn’t lose much. Just a few friends. But friends who would turn me in to the police if I showed up on their doorstep.
Getting lonely. I’m going to stop writing about this.
Anyway. My life. My life is ruined, and possibly the life of the young woman I was standing next to in line.
Did I implicate her in my murder scandal? No! It was worse than that. Can you imagine anything worse than being implicated in a murder scandal? Well, there is, and I did it.
I made her a magic unusual.
I didn’t do it on purpose! I was standing behind her in line, minding my own business, when she turned around. As soon as I saw her face, every hair on my arms stood up. Goosebumps! I didn’t know what was wrong. For a split second, I thought she was a Night Enthusiast, and my Magic Unusual senses were clueing me in.
But then I looked at her eyes, and I saw they were brown. Sweet, ordinary brown. She hadn’t a drop of magic in her. I looked around at the rest of the line for the trace of an eerie Night Enthusiast, but spotted none.
The girl went up to the counter for her soup. She fished around for change for several seconds, and everyone else in line began to fidget.
“I’m sorry,” the girl said in a stammering voice, to the man with the soup. “I’m afraid I’m lacking a nickel.”
“Oh, I’ve got one, please,” I said. I stepped up to her with a smile. WHY did I not just hand the nickle to the man with the soup?
No, I had to give the nickel to her, and that is what I did wrong.
The girl took the nickle with a smile, and I got the most peculiar feeling when I handed it over. I felt like my fingertips had frozen off. I shivered from my head to my foot, and then felt warm, deliciously warm, like I’d just wrapped up in a warm towel.
I realized I was still staring at the girl, and she was still staring at me. Had she felt it, too? I had no idea what it was. She left with her soup, I paid for my soup and sandwich, and then I scurried out to a back alley, where I could teleport safely back to McGillicuddy and Murders. I’d become very cavalier with what I did with McGillicuddy and Murders, when I let hot soup smells waft through the second floor, and all that. No one ever came into McGillicuddy and Murders. I once saw an old woman looking at earrings. That was all. It’s always completely deserted, and completely safe, so I went back with my food.
I landed in my secret corner, listened for the sound of anyone on the second floor, and settled down comfortably when I was sure I was alone. I crunched the wax paper around my sandwich and sighed with contentment as I brought the soup to my lips.
Then, suddenly, in the peace and quiet, I let out a scream.
No, diary, I was not being attacked. I was perfectly safe. It wasn’t a blood curdling scream—please don’t get the wrong idea. It was a scream of surprise and shock. A little yelp of regret.
I realized what had happened with that girl in the soup line.
She was a magic unusual, and I’d just unlocked her powers.
That’s why I’d felt the tingle of electricity from her, even though her eyes weren’t hazel. She hadn’t yet become one of us.
This seemed wrong to me. I had a twisted feeling in the pit of my stomach, as though I was part of a sick joke. Nickels should not make magic unusuals. It was too haphazard. It was ridiculous. Surely we had to do it deliberately, or something.
I guess not. I’d just doomed a girl to a life of confusion. I didn’t know how to reach Mr. McGillicuddy, to tell him to find her first. If the Night Enthusiasts found her, the way they’d found me, then she was doomed to the same cruel riddle I’d been forced to face on the bottom of the sea.
I could find her myself, of course. But what good would that do? I was wanted by the Night Enthusiasts, and finding her all by myself was like painting a target on her back.
But if I didn’t get to her first, surely the Night Enthusiasts would.
We hope you’ve enjoyed episode 12, Accidental Mischief, of McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn shop. McGillcuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop is written and performed by Minerva Sweeney Wren, all rights reserved. Please subscribe, share it with your friends, and support Minerva Sweeney Wren at patreon.com/sweeneywren.
McGillccuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop will continue next week with episode 13, Melinda Merkle Strikes Again.
Melinda Merkle Strikes Again
September 20, 1921.
Have you ever gone to the park to pester pigeons? Naturally, you have not, because you are a book, with a spine made of thread and glue. Unless, of course, I took you to the park and threw you at pigeons. Then, technically, you would be pestering pigeons.
Don’t worry, diary. I am not going to throw you at fat, gray birds.
My point is that I like to pester pigeons. It’s not terribly mean-spirited. I bring old bread crusts for them to enjoy, but then I try to hit as many pigeons in the head as I can. I usually miss, and even when I hit, they merely fluff a bit, look around, and then start eating. It’s about as mean as being hit with a pillow. The pigeons don’t seem to mind, and it keeps me occupied.
Well, I was at the park pestering pigeons. I was in disguise, of course. A man came and sat beside me. He unfolded his newspaper with pizzazz, and he jammed his nose into it. I glanced over, and my heart jumped into my throat.
The headline said,
HAS MELINDA MERKLE STRUCK AGAIN?
Did they have to go and mix my name into it? I wanted to punch the man reading the newspaper. In fact, I wanted to stride down to the Police station and set the record straight. I hadn’t murdered anyone. What kind of idiots were they?
I sat there, in a heated frenzy, until the man got up. Blessedly, he left his paper. I snatched it up and read the front page story.
In the end, it was all fluff. Some woman had gone missing and her uncle thought she might have been murdered, and the press was pinning the whole rumor on me. They didn’t have a leg to stand on; they just wanted to sell copies.
It didn’t matter, though. Soon there’d be a real live body (excuse me, a real dead body) and everyone would be sure I’d done it. I’d be a double murderer. I’d be wanted for life. I’d get the electric chair the second I was caught.
I pressed my fingers into my forehead. The Night Enthusiasts were playing psychological chess with me. I’d refused to join their little operation, because I didn’t want to give up my sense of right and wrong. Now, they were taking my life away from me. How much longer could I bear this loneliness and confusion, before I decided, hang it all, let’s kill a pixie, I want some friends!
I was not in a good place, diary. But if you think that tidbit about the paper and the pigeons is why I’m writing, you’re wrong. Something much more interesting happened. It was nothing short of magic, and I took it as a sign.
The girl from the soup line, the one I’d accidentally turned into a Magic Unusual, went walking past.
At first I thought I was dreaming! I stared at her, my eyes bugging out of my head. What were the chances? That of all the people, in the entire city, she walked right past me when I was sitting on a park bench?
We weren’t even anywhere near the soup place! She had miraculously showed up near me once again.
My heart hammered, and I found it difficult to breathe. In some ways, I felt as though I should leap up and run after her. She was right here, and surely—this was my last chance. If this girl ended up in the hands of the Night Enthusiasts, I would be to blame for not shielding her when I had the chance.
Despite my inclination to run after her, shrieking, however, I stayed where I was. I still didn’t know if I should meddle. Alone, she might escape the notice of the Night Enthusiasts. Mr. McGillicuddy might get to her first.
With me, she would absolutely come to the attention of the Night Enthusiasts.
And I didn’t know what to do.
The girl walked on a little ways, then stopped and looked up at a tree. She seemed to be examining a bird’s nest.
Come on, Maudie, I said to myself. She’s even stopping. It’s like she’s waiting for you. You need to go tell her what you did. What she is. Explain how her eyes are going to start glowing in the bathroom mirror.
But I still couldn’t get up. It was the worst dilemma of my life. It’s one thing to risk your own life, but it’s entirely different to risk someone else’s.
I began to feel hot all over, certain I was going to blow it. The only problem was, I didn’t know what blowing it would be. I just knew that, whatever I did, it was going to be wrong. I could hardly breathe, let alone move.
And then, in some cosmic sign, the girl came back towards me. She flashed me a shy smile, then sat down on the other side of the bench.
“My feet hurt,” she said. She smiled again, a little awkward and shy, and took off her left shoe. She massaged her arch and stared at the pigeons.
Ordinarily I wouldn’t be so rude, but I didn’t say a word to her. How could I? I had a frog in my throat the size of grapefruit.
She kept glancing over at me, too, like she was waiting for me to say something. Finally, she said.
“Do you live around here?”
“Oh!” I said. “Sorry, no. I’m just visiting a friend.” My hands grew hot. Why was I lying? I’m a terrible liar. When I start lying, I fidget and my tongue swells to twice its normal size.
“Oh,” the girl said.
There was silence again.
“I’m Ariana,” she said. She offered me her hand. “The park is nice, isn’t it? I live near here.” She swung her left foot, then glanced over at me. “I’m sorry for staring, but have I met you before?”
I felt myself turn pink. “Well, now that you mention it,” I said. “I think maybe I was behind you in line yesterday. At the soup and sandwich place.”
“Oh!” the girl said, with a shrill note of pleasure in her voice. “That was you! You gave me a nickel!” She whipped out her handbag and started fishing around. “I’ll pay you back right here—how lucky!”
“Oh, you don’t have to pay me back,” I said.
“No!” she said. “It’s fate! And besides, a nickel will buy at least one ice cream soda, and I can’t just have you giving up an ice cream soda, can I?”
I grinned. I felt comfortable with her. Something about the way she moved—it was a little awkward and eager and relaxed all at once. She held up a shining nickel.
She dropped it into my hand, smiling. I took it and slipped it into my own purse.
“Do you ever get lonely in the city?” she said. She stared out across the park. “I think it’s one of the loveliest and most devastating things about a city. You’re surrounded by people, but you know no one.” She burst into nervous laughter and sat up straighter. “I’m sorry. It’s just that I haven’t made any friends yet, and I know you’re nice.” She glanced at me. “You’re very easy to talk to, do you know that?”
I smiled. The truth was, I was enjoying her company as much as she was enjoying mine. It was like sunshine, or like diving into a cool, glassy-clear pool when you’re parched with thirst. It was so lovely to have a friend again.
“I’m sorry to be so personal,” she said. “But can you recommend a good doctor to me? My blood’s been feeling funny lately. Ever since yesterday. And I’ve been having funny dreams.”
I looked at her, and I saw myself, just a few weeks before. I’d been alone, but she didn’t have to be.
To be honest, diary, I’m still not sure I made the right choice. I’m not a safe friend.
But I extended my hand. “Ariana,” I said. “My name is Maude Merkle, and I’m afraid I’ve got a funny story for you.”
We hope you’ve enjoyed episode 13, Melinda Merkle Strikes Again, of McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn shop. McGillcuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop is written and performed by Minerva Sweeney Wren, all rights reserved. Please subscribe, share it with your friends, and support Minerva Sweeney Wren at patreon.com/sweeneywren.
McGillccuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop will continue next week with episode 14, The Deadliest Spider.
The Deadliest Spider
September 20, 1921 continued.
I told Ariana all about Magic Unsuals. I told her why her blood was feeling funny, how her eyes would start glowing in the dark in the next few days. I told her about The Night Enthusiasts, and what had happened to me. I left out the fake murder, of course. I didn’t need her running up shrieking.
The longer I talked, the more silent she became, and I felt sure that she thought I was mad. Soon, she’d get up and run away and that would be the end of it. At least I’d tried.
But when I’d finished, Ariana simply said, quietly, “Why should I believe you?”
I stared at her. I took a deep breath. “Well,” I said. “Look in the bathroom mirror tonight. If your eyes aren’t glowing in the dark by the end of the week, then you know I was lying to you.”
Ariana leaned back with a frown. She wasn’t running yet, which I decided was a good sign. I began to grow nervous, and I glanced over my shoulder. No one else was in the park. I couldn’t see any Night Enthusiasts lurking behind trees. But this felt too good to be true. I was waiting for something to come along and ruin it.
“I always knew I was different. I always wanted to be different.” Her eyes looked a little wild, and I felt like I was meeting a wolf or a hyena. She glanced at me. “This is what I’ve been waiting for my whole life. Are there more of you? Is there a community? Or are we alone?”
“Well, there are the Night Enthusiasts,” I said.
“Yes, you told me about them,” she said. “But the good ones. Our people. Are there more of us?”
“Yes,” I said. “I don’t know how many. There’s Mr. McGillicuddy, of McGillicuddy and Murder’s, and others, but I’ve never met any of them. Mr. McGillicuddy is waiting until the Night Enthusiasts leave me alone, or he can find a safe way to include me. Until then, he’s keeping me at arms length.” I paused and looked up at the blue of the sky. “You should stay away from me. For a day or two. In case Mr. McGillicuddy finds you. Don’t trust anyone wearing all black, especially not if they’re wearing purple or green.”
“The Night Enthusiasts, you mean?” she said.
“Do you think Mr. McGillicuddy will find me?”
“Maybe,” I said. I sighed. “He didn’t find me.”
“But what about you?” Ariana said. “If I join Mr. McGillicuddy, won’t you be all alone?”
“Yes,” I said.
She frowned at me.
“But you’re not safe with me,” I said. “The Night Enthusiasts want some special magic power I have. I don’t know what the power is, yet, but apparently it’s good.” I felt proud and terrible of this fact all at the same time. “The Night Enthusiasts won’t stop looking for me. If you can join Mr. McGillicuddy, you’ll be safe. You’ll have a home and a family, and I daresay there are classes and everything to help you understand what you are.”
“But you’ll be alone,” Ariana said.
“Yes,” I said.
She tilted her head and looked at me. “Why can’t I just stay with you? Right from the beginning?”
“Because… it’s not safe….” I said.
“You’ve been fine,” she said. “You’ve been safe, all on your own. Maybe ten people couldn’t hide safely from the Night Enthusiasts, but I think two can. If one can. Why couldn’t we be a pair?” She took my hands, suddenly, impulsively. It was sweet. “You’ve been terribly lonely, Maude, haven’t you? I think Mr. McGillicuddy is a selfish old cow for not letting you join his ranks. I’m sorry, but I do. Maybe, if there were two of us, he’d see reason. He’d want to protect both of us, and he’d take the risk. He can ignore you, but he won’t be able to ignore the two of us as easily. And in the meantime? We can make our own way. We can hide out together. I’d much rather chart things out with another girl my own age, hiding in our own way, instead of meeting with a bunch of stuffy strangers. What if they’re all old men with beards?” She laughed. “Honestly, I don’t think it’s fair that you have to struggle through this alone. Why not do it with a friend?”
“I can’t ask you to do that,” I said.
“You’re not asking me,” she said. “I’m volunteering. Honestly. Can’t you see a volunteer when she’s waving under your nose? I’ll come and stay with you. You can teach me everything you know.”
“That’s not much,” I said. “And besides, I’m not staying in a real place. I’ve been camping out secretly in the Pawn Shop. McGillicuddy and Murder’s.”
Ariana’s eyes gleamed. “Now, see that sounds interesting. Is it spooky at night?”
“A little,” I said.
‘Good!” she said. “I bet my eyes will be glowing by tonight.”
I laughed. “I doubt it. Mine didn’t glow for four days.”
“That you know of,” Ariana said.
We decided she would walk with me to McGillicuddy and Murder’s, because she couldn’t teleport yet. I hoped no one pointed at me along the way and shouted, “Murderer! Murderer!” because I hadn’t told Ariana about the fake murders yet, and it would have made things awkward.
Ariana got up, and she linked her arm with mine. She looked around with an air of contentment. “Sometimes, you sit on a park bench because your feet hurt, and when you get up, your life has been utterly transformed.”
“Yes,” I said. “Hopefully for the better.”
“Most definitely,” she said.
We stopped at her apartment and packed a small bag of her things. I was nervous the entire time, and I felt strange. I kept looking at the tiny porcelain dogs, the books, the lace trim on her tables and thinking… this woman is a refugee. And I’ve made her one.
But Ariana is all brightness and excitement. We took the trolley across town and walked to McGillicuddy and Murders. We’ve made ourselves a nest on the third floor, behind a clock face that’s seven feet high. I’ll try to write again later, but for now, I’m going to talk to my new friend.
September 21, 1921
The eeriest thing happened last night.
There was a thunderstorm, and rain shook the roof of McGillicuddy and Murder’s. Ariana and I sat on a large red couch, beneath the light of a spindly lamp, and we ate caramels. The shadows around us flicked and shivered, and the strange Egyptians statues in the corner seemed to be leaning closer.
We were chatting about animals when it happened.
“Which is deadlier?” Ariana asked. “A spider or a wasp?”
“A wasp,” I said. “They hurt more.”
“To a human,” Ariana said. “I mean on the whole. As a species.”
“Well… still a wasp then.”
“No,” she said, shaking her head. “It’s a spider. Because a wasp is yellow and black and buzzes, and you know it’s coming. A web is invisible. All of a sudden, you’re lost.”
At that moment, the power went out.
The lamp behind Ariana and I snuffed out, and the entire Pawn Shop went dark. I looked across at her, and her eyes were glowing like two moons, eerie and white in the darkness.
“What?” she shouted.
“Your eyes!” I gasped. “Your eyes, I’m sorry. They’re glowing.”
“Oh,” she said, in a curious voice. “Are they glowing already?”
They were. Her transition into a Magic Unusual was moving so much more quickly than mine. By morning, her eyes would be hazel, peculiar with their green rim. She’d be able to teleport.
It was so fast. I should have been pleased about it. It could only help us that Ariana was mobile, fully developed. But the haste of her transition struck me as ominous. It felt wrong. Eerie. Like something had been twisted.
I felt like I was sitting across from a ghost. Once again, I was reminded of how eerie the eyes looked, floating alone in the black. I shivered. But I looked the same.
Her transition should have been good, but it felt like a bad sign. It felt rushed, agitated. It felt like the end was coming, soon, and the magic was rushing to help us prepare.
We hope you’ve enjoyed episode 14, The Deadliest Spider, of McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn shop. McGillcuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop is written and performed by Minerva Sweeney Wren, all rights reserved. Please subscribe, share it with your friends, and support Minerva Sweeney Wren at patreon.com/sweeneywren.
McGillccuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop will continue next week with episode 15,Witch Hunt
September 24, 1921
Things have been absolutely lovely with Ariana.
I can’t tell you what it’s like to while away the evenings playing cards or swapping stories. We giggle quietly, or stifle our laughter in pillows. When it was just me, I always hid in the back corner, behind the coats, and I kept myself separate from the rest of the Pawn Shop. I didn’t explore. I wanted to feel tucked away, safe. Ariana is just the opposite. As soon as the Pawn Shop shuts down for the night, she wants to be out doing things. She wants to explore, and poke around, and make use of all the furniture.
And it’s finally fun. Imagine how boring and dismal it would be, no—creepy, even—to wander around with your trembling candle, alone, finding mummies in the corner. And yes, we really do have a mummy in the corner. Ariana and I found it last night. It’s just propped up next to a sarcophagus. I don’t think it’s real, but it’s just as chilling.
We’re been finding the most interesting things.
Just last night, after the power went out, we decided to go exploring, and I found a treasure chest filled with paper mache masks. They all had long noses with a wicked upwards tilt, and I felt like I’d stumbled across a stash of gremlin corpses. With Ariana there, it felt exciting and shivery. Alone, I would have been jumping out of my skin.
Everything is strange and new. This is the sort of life I was waiting for, when I first became a Magic Unusual. Finally, I have hope again. Once things are sorted with The Night Enthusiasts, I’m going to have the most wonderful life. I already do. Ariana and I have plans to visit Ireland tomorrow, and we’re going to explore ancient ruins all afternoon.
I can’t help feeling like something is missing, but I don’t know what. I suppose it’s just certainty. Ariana and I are having a lovely time, but in our own way, we’re trapped on a deserted island. We can Swiss Family Robinson and make the best out of it, but until the big ship comes and we have the chance to go home, I’m going to be watching the horizon every other minute. Even with Ariana here, there’s a sense of transience to everything we do. We’re just waiting. Things have to change sooner or later, and we don’t know how they’ll change. And that’s frightening.
The good news is, McGillicuddy and Murder’s will probably entertain us until the day we die. There’s plenty to see.
Ariana is voracious. She wants to discover everything. A few nights ago, she spent two hours in one of the little rooms, looking at statues. Every time she found a funny one, she’d hold it up with a laugh, or ask me what I thought it meant. She’s always doing that. Asking questions, wanting to know more. It makes me wish I was more of a teacher. I barely know how being a Magic Unusual works myself! We’re really just the blind leading the blind over here.
September 25, 1921
I was all chipper spirits yesterday. How could I not be, with caramels melting on my tongue, and Ariana and I tucked into a cozy red and gold room on the first floor? We were enjoying everything. We were surrounded by Asian tapestries and statues, seated on mounds of red cushions. Last night, the world was ours. McGillicuddy and Murder’s seemed safe. Interesting. The best place on earth.
Now, I’m not so sure.
Something strange happened tonight. We just got back from Ireland. Yes, we were in Ireland all afternoon! It’s hard not to feel like the Queen of the World when you can visit Ireland at will. We spent the day enjoying the salt tang of the sea, and after our feet hurt and our faces were flushed, Ariana flirted a little, and we had a remarkably lovely evening in a pub with two young Irishmen. We laughed and talked all night long, they bought us a delicious, hearty dinner, and I’ve now had more than my fair share of Irish beer. The fun of it! We didn’t break any hearts; they knew we were leaving that night, but were happy for our company anyway.
I would never have thought of reaching out to strangers as a cure for my loneliness. That was all Ariana. She made all four of us the best of friends in about ten minutes. I wish I was like that. I wonder why I’m not. We had a lovely time, and so did those boys. It started out as flirting, but it ended up being delightfully… human. I felt like their equal, which I seldom do with men. Were they special? Did they treat me differently? Or am I acting differently? Am I a different kind of woman now? One who’s taken seriously and treated like a peer?
Diary, I ramble. As wonderful as Ireland was, it has nothing to do with this entry. I’m writing about the strange thing that happened, after we got back.
We were both a little damp, and very tried. Truth be told, Ariana was a little tipsy. Buttered. We teleported onto the ground floor of McGillicuddy and Murder’s, into the silent blackness. Giggling quietly, we were about to head upstairs and go to bed.
When we heard voices.
Ariana froze, her amusement gone. She clutched my hand. I turned slowly. I couldn’t make out where the voices were coming from. For a moment, I thought they were coming from the floor, and I had visions of secret dungeons beneath McGillicuddy and Murder’s. Then I realized the voices were coming from the street, and Ariana and I crept up to the window.
Outside in the street, men were clustered around a car. They stood on the running boards and hung onto the sides, like gangsters ready for a shoot-out. I thought they were gangsters for a minute. Then I saw them holding newspapers and about a hundred flashlights. Gangsters didn’t go flashing lights into buildings at 2 am; they’re a bit more subtle. These men were hunting someone down.
“Maudie….” Ariana said in a low voice. She ducked out of sight, beneath the window, and clawed at me until I joined her.
“What?” I said. “What is it?”
“Those men are holding a newspaper,” Ariana said.
“So, your name is in the headline.”
Oh, no. I covered my eyes with my hand. I hadn’t told Ariana about the murders yet. She and I had hit it off beautifully. She believed every word about the Night Enthusiasts. She knew Magic Unusuals were real, because she was one of them.
But I thought I was going to lose my dinner as I told her about the fake murders. Ariana sat very still, looking like she wanted to vomit. (Although that might have been the Irish stout.) She hiccuped once I was done, and stared off into the distance.
“Well,” she said. “The Night Enthusiasts are beasts. And apparently, Maudie, you’ve murdered someone else this afternoon.”
“What?” I hissed.
Ariana gestured furiously out the window. “That’s what the paper said. Melinda Merkle takes second life. Those men out there are thirsting for your blood.”
I didn’t ask Ariana if she wanted to come with me. I stood straight up and hurried for the staircase as quick as I could go. It occurred to me later that I could have just teleported, but magic powers do take some getting used to.
I was petrified. Those men out there were looking for me. I found the corner where Ariana and I had made our sleeping nest, and I buried myself under a blanket. Then, for good measure, I crawled under a table and buried my head in the floor.
It was like a witch hunt. They were searching the streets of the city for me. Egads, what was I supposed to have done this time? Murdered an orphanage?
I sat up, suddenly more angry than frightened. These blasted Night Enthusiasts were not going to get the best of me. I didn’t know what they wanted from me. I didn’t know what they wanted from the world! Something about power and blood. I recalled, vaguely, what the small woman had said,
“We are the Night Enthusiasts, Miss Merkle. We thirst for blood. We search through tombs for life, and we embroider that life on the fabric of the world. We make more of our lives than we were originally given.”
At that moment, Ariana entered the room. She flicked on the light, which was all right, because there weren’t any windows.
But she was staring at the floor like she’d seen a ghost. There, on our blankets, was a copy of tonight’s paper. Melinda Merkle Takes Second Life. Neither Ariana or I had put it there.
We hope you’ve enjoyed episode 15, Witch Hunt, of McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn shop. McGillcuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop is written and performed by Minerva Sweeney Wren, all rights reserved. Please subscribe, share it with your friends, and support Minerva Sweeney Wren at patreon.com/sweeneywren.
McGillccuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop will continue next week with episode 16, The Lady in Disguise
The Lady in Disguise
September 25, 1921 continued
Ariana and I spent the next hour searching the Pawn Shop. We were sure we weren’t alone. We’d come back from Ireland, a perfectly lovely day in Ireland, only to dodge a crowd in the street that was trying to murder me, and come upstairs to find today’s newspaper laid out on our beds.
We searched the whole pawn shop from top to bottom. We didn’t find anyone. Ordinarily, Ariana is brighter, more optimistic than I am. But this time, she seemed just as chilled as I was. She opened a can of peaches, because she said she was hungry, and she sat nibbling a soft, slimy end of peach. I was nervous, so I ate one with her. The nectar got all over my fingers, and I felt better.
But how can you feel completely better after something like that? Diary, I felt sure we’d lost our only home. The presence of that paper had scared me to death.
It couldn’t be some bum who’d sneaked in here off the street. For one thing, bums don’t leave newspapers lying around. They stuff them into their jackets. It’s true. If I was a bum, I’d have a whole suit made out of newspapers. Personally, I consider it very practical of them. The point being, newspapers are a blessing when you need an extra winter coat. This one was crisp and unread, unruffled. Ergo, no bum.
The paper also had my name on it.
That’s what gets me. It wasn’t just an add, passive-aggressive hint from Management. Ooh, look, we found your hiding spot. Instead of calling the cops, we’re just going to leave today’s newspaper on your hidden beds and let you freak out until morning when we chuck you out. No, indeed. Management would have rolled up our bedding and… well, I was going to say tossed it outside, but all the bedding is from McGillicuddy and Murder’s, so they’d probably just put it back on the shelves.
So it was not a bum, and it was not management, and what I strongly suspect… it was someone who knows my name. Knows I, the fake murderer, am camped out behind this giant clock.
The thought fills me with dread. Why not just report me to the police? Why leave a newspaper? It almost seems like a warning from a friend
--here, you’re in danger, the police think you’ve killed yet again!
But what friend knows I’m here?
It could, of course, be Mr. McGillicuddy. It could even be Noble James, if he is a friend, and if he survived his stab wound. Perhaps they want me to know about the new fake murder, so they crept in here and left a copy.
But the newspapers’ presence doesn’t feel friendly. It’s terrible news, and it’s terrible news I would have learned on my own tomorrow. It feels less like a warning and more like a taunt.
And if it’s a taunt, then it means The Night Enthusiasts know I’m here, and they’re waiting. For some reason, they’re waiting, hovering over me like vultures, letting Ariana and I get acquainted when all along, they’re just waiting to spring forward and seize both of us. But in the meantime, they wanted to let me boil until I burst, like a frog. They’v dropped the paper to say… see? We know where you are. Here’s what we’re doing to you. Sit tight.
Diary, it’s a little bit later, and Ariana’s had an idea that soothed me. She pointed out that neither she nor I know very much about our magic powers, and what they do. Since it’s unlikely that the Night Enthusiasts could have found our nest and then neglected to strike, she thinks perhaps the paper magically appeared.
It’s true that I should know what’s happening to me, what the papers are saying. Perhaps the paper magically appeared when I needed it, through an unconscious summoning. Nothing like this has happened before, but there’s a first time for everything.
It’s a good thought. It’s a much better thought than the alternative, which is: Night Enthusiasts.
Well, diary, it’s almost four in the morning, and my head is throbbing. I’m going to go to bed. Ariana offered to keep watch, which I think is sweet, but I expect she’ll just nod off in a minute or two. The morning, if all goes well, will find us sound asleep right here.
September 26, 1921
I didn’t sleep through until morning. I woke up about an hour later, at about 5 in the morning. It was still dark outside, and I shifted onto my back. The room felt strangely empty. Ariana’s warmth and breathing were absent, so I patted the place where she usually lay. She wasn’t there. I smacked around for her with my hands, which would have been very unpleasant if she had been there, getting walloped by a half asleep Maudie. But Ariana wasn’t lying next to me.
Our hiding place suddenly felt chilly and moon-swept, and I got up. My head was reeling with sleep, but I needed to find Ariana immediately. Perhaps she was only in the bathroom, but I feared the worst, after that newspaper. I couldn’t bear the thought of her being taken away from me already.
I stumbled out from behind the clock face, and I hissed, “Ariana!”
She appeared just a few seconds later. She looked confused and concerned, her face lit blue from a weak moonbeam.
I couldn’t help it. I rushed for her and seized her with both arms. I picked her up off the ground in a fierce little hug.
“Maude!” she said breathlessly.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “I thought you’d been taken, that something bad had happened.”
I felt Ariana wilt a little in my arms. She was touched. She froze for a minute, and then she hugged me back. Fiercely.
“Maude, I’m sorry,” she said. “I really am.” She paused. “I really am.”
“It’s all right!” I said.
She seemed crushed somehow. I rubbed her arms. “Come on! You just gave me a scare.”
Ariana smiled. She tilted her head, then looked back at the dark Pawn Shop.
“I thought I heard a noise, so I went to investigate. It’s just the drain pipe dripping. We’re right as rain.” I smiled. Ariana continued to look guilty and sad.
When we went back to bed, lying at right angles to each other, our pillows close, Ariana said to me, “Maude?”
“You know I think you’re the best friend I’ve ever had?”
“Oh?” I said, pleased.
I heard Ariana nod fervently in the dark. “I always kept to myself before. In some ways, people didn’t want to be friends with me. And I was all right with that. But I think… I think I didn’t understand what having a friend was really like. And I’m sorry.”
“You’re sorry?” I said, with a grin.
“Oh, gosh, sorry, no! That’s not what I meant!” Ariana giggled. “I meant thank you.”
“I think, my dear,” I said. “You’ve spent too much of your life apologizing.”
“Haven’t we all?” she said.
That was last night. After the fearsome Ariana disappearance, we slept.
This morning after breakfast, which was biscuits and cold sardines (which I hate, but Ariana said they’d be practical) Ariana read the paper. All about me.
I hid in the next room. When she was finished, she called, “All right, you can come out now!”
My stomach had turned to jelly. I sincerely regretted the sardines.
I tiptoed in, and Ariana looked grave.
“What is it?” I said. “Just get it out. Tell me.”
“Well,” Ariana said. “It’s… well, it isn’t the murder that’s troubling me. It’s this bit here.”
“What bit?” I said. “Please, Ariana, for heaven’s sake, tell me.”
She squinted down at the paper, then read aloud in a trembling voice, “We have reason to believe that Melinda Merkle is living in the city, disguised. Please be on the lookout for women who match her picture, wearing glasses, wigs, and even false noses.” Ariana’s voice trailed off. “They’re tightening their noose around you, Maudie.”
I sat down, feeling my heart crash through the floor. So they were.
We hope you’ve enjoyed episode 16, The Lady in Disguise, of McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn shop. McGillcuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop is written and performed by Minerva Sweeney Wren, all rights reserved. Please subscribe, share it with your friends, and support Minerva Sweeney Wren at patreon.com/sweeneywren.
McGillccuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop will continue next week with episode 17, Trapped.
September 26, 1921 continued.
I sat beside Ariana as we continued to discuss the paper. The Night Enthusiasts were getting good. Besides having murdered two people, I was now reported to be living in the city, using disguises. Not only did this mean I couldn’t leave, but it also meant I had to be extra careful in McGillicuddy and Murder’s. If someone stumbled across Ariana and I, they’d see my face, and we could never hide out in the Pawn Shop again.
“What else?” I said.
Ariana folded the paper placidly.
“You’ve killed another person,” she said.
“Who was it this time?” I said. I paused. “Who was it the first time?”
I’d been avoiding my murders like the plague. I didn’t want to know anything about them. Which was cowardly, because I needed to be up to date on what the Night Enthusiasts were trying to do.
“Well, you killed an old woman the first time,” Ariana said. She tutted her tongue. “So shocking. For shame, Maude.”
I smiled, while feeling green. “Go on.”
“This last time,” Ariana said. “You killed a young man who was finishing his doctorate. And you cut off his thumb.”
“No!” I said.
“Yes!” Ariana said, taking a little too much pleasure in the gore. “They’re calling you a serial killer, now. A madwoman.”
“Wonderful,” I said. “I’m now going to be the subject of nursery rhymes and ghost stories.”
“Children will imagine you coming out of their closets at night,” Ariana said, with a nod.
“Ariana…” I said. “Ariana, these people aren’t actually dead, are they?”
She looked at me, gravely. “Well, you didn’t kill them Maudie.”
“Well, I know that. But are they really dead? I assumed the murders were fake, because the murderer was fake. But… are the Night Enthusiasts going around killing people?”
Ariana leaned forward and took my hand. “You’re not to blame, Maudie. You know you’re not.”
“If I’d said yes to their stupid riddle, on the bottom of the sea, then those two people would be alive right now.”
“Yes, and then the Night Enthusiasts would have you murder other people with your own two hands,” Ariana said, dryly. “Come on, cheer up! Maybe they were murdered anyway, by some random psychopath. Maybe the Night Enthusiasts are only pinning real murders on you, not murdering people fresh for your conviction.”
“Maybe,” I said glumly.
“Cheer up!” Ariana said again. “Today, we’re going to go exploring! This place has secrets, and you and I are going to discover them!”
I told Ariana that I shouldn’t go exploring during the day, that even pretending to be a customer wasn’t good enough now. I needed to get out of the city. I needed to hide until tonight.
“Don’t make that face at me,” I said.
“I’m not mad at you,” she said. “I’m mad at the Night Enthusiasts. Honestly, who’s running that show? This is a mess. You would think they could stick to a single plot line, but NO.”
She sighed. I laughed at her, and then she laughed with me. We resolved to go to Iceland, since Ariana had a postcard in her pocket. I thought it was very strange that she had a postcard of Iceland, but it was lucky, because it meant we could both wish for the same location.
We arrived within two blinks of each other, and we stood on a beach in Iceland. Iceland is beautiful. When I was a little girl, I thought Iceland was the third North Pole, you know, with Penguins and seals and no human life. Then someone told me people lived on Iceland, and I assumed they were Eskimos. I daresay the average adult still thought Iceland was populated by penguins.
Beside me, Ariana took a deep gulp of the air. It was truly magnificent. It smelled of the sea, and it was a wilder fragrance than anything I’d smelled before. The greenery, and the sharp, sneezy scent of rock were all mixed in with the scent of the ocean, and I was enthralled.
“This is my favorite place in the entire world,” Ariana said, softly. She looked over at me, eyes vulnerable. “I dream of this place. When I hate myself and I hate my life, I come here.”
“You come here?” I said, with a laugh.
“Well, in my imagination, I mean,” she said. She tugged nervously on the tip of her nose, then laughed. “I suppose that makes me sound like an idiotic child.”
“You mean, this is your favorite spot in the world, and you’ve been able to teleport for days, and you’ve never been here?”
She blushed. “No, I have never been here before.”
I couldn’t imagine Ariana ever hating herself, and I said so.
“Well,” she said. “You know. Sometimes it’s hard.”
“Well, it shouldn’t be,” I said. I put my arm around her.
“You’d be surprised,” Ariana said.
We spent the day in Iceland. We wandered around all day, enjoying the scenery, just talking to each other. It was hard to be afraid of what came next, when the world seemed still and beautiful and pristine. The threat of the Night Enthusiasts seemed to melt away, and it was just Ariana and I on the cusp of an adventure.
That night, late, we returned to McGillicuddy and Murder’s. The Pawn Shop was dark and silent. Ariana strode boldly up the staircase, back to our spot, but I had an eerie feeling.
This is going to sound strange, diary, but to me, the Pawn Shop smelled different. Have you ever drunk from a glass that you thought was your own, only to realize it was someone else’s? You know right away, too, because the taste is slightly different. That happened to me once with a glass of water. I picked up the glass of some boy at a high school party, and I drank his water instead of mine. Water tends to taste the same no matter where you go, and besides, I’d been drinking this water a moment before. But his glass tasted different.
I’m no scientist, but I assume that was the taste of his saliva. I’m used to my own, so I don’t notice it. But his was different, and I knew right away that I was holding the wrong glass.
Well. I felt like I was standing in the wrong Pawn Shop.
The smell was different. It was like our Pawn Shop had been tainted with the presence of someone else.
“Ariana!” I called softly.
She turned around, halfway up the stairs.
“You don’t have to be so quiet, you know, it’s—“
I cut her off. I hurried closer. “I think there’s someone else here,” I said.
She squinted at me. “Come on, Maude, don’t be so suspicious.”
“I can smell them,” I said.
Ariana looked at me like I was as crazy as a bat. She glanced upwards, listening. “You smell them?”
“Come on, let’s rent a hotel,” I said, the coward in me blooming to the surface.
Ariana glowered. “I’m sorry, you smelling someone isn’t a good enough reason for me.”
“The air feels different,” I said.
Ariana sighed. She looked me once over. “Well, let’s investigate,” she said.
She started climbing the stairs. “Are you still spooked about that paper?”
“Aren’t you?” I said.
“Not really,” she said. “I still think it was just magic. I think you summoned it accidentally.”
I wished I could summon her same peace of mind.
“Just help me look, all right?” I said.
Ariana and I began to explore the Pawn Shop. We didn’t have any lights with us, and that was a mistake. I’d never explored the Pawn Shop in the dark. I’d always explored during the day, before the whole Magic Unusual business, and Ariana and I had explored at night, but with candles and laughter and a feeling of safety. Ariana split apart from me on the second floor, and I had to walk past the large mummy alone. I felt like everything around me was moving.
Just when I was about to give up, because everything was giving me the creeps, I noticed a children’s train car hidden underneath a table.
I got down on my hands and knees and dragged it out. It was the size of a loaf of bread, made of wood, and brightly painted. A little man made out of wood frowned behind black bars.
The thing moved in my hands. I almost dropped it, until I realized it was wound up like a clock. You know how sometimes, when you pick up a music box, it starts to tinkle? I suppose this was the same thing.
The little man writhed and held up a little wooden sign. Help me, he said. I’m trapped.
I had the most disturbing feeling, like I was holding a real human soul in my hands.
We hope you’ve enjoyed episode 17, Trapped, of McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn shop. McGillcuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop is written and performed by Minerva Sweeney Wren, all rights reserved. Please subscribe, share it with your friends, and support Minerva Sweeney Wren at patreon.com/sweeneywren.
McGillccuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop will continue next week with episode 18, Cracked Mirror.
September 26, 1921 continued
I showed the peculiar little man to Ariana. She picked up the wooden train car and held it. The wooden man moved slowly from side to side. His wound-up movement was starting to slow. Lazily, helplessly, he waved his little wooden sign that said,
Help me, I’m trapped.
“That’s disgusting,” Ariana said. She handed the train car back to me.
I felt a shiver. I wondered if she felt it too: that this little wooden man wasn’t just a toy, that there was a human being inside of here somewhere, enchanted and trying to get out. But then Ariana kept talking,
“Why is this a toy?” she said. “What’s funny about that? About someone being trapped in a train car?” She pressed her fingertips against her eyebrows. “I’m sorry. I know I’m overreacting. I’m just viciously cranky and I want to go to bed.” She looked at the train car again. “I know it’s meant to be cute, like the man wandered into the circus and got locked in with the giraffes or something and now he can’t get out, and it serves him right for snooping, but… I don’t know. Something about it gives me the creeps.”
“I know,” I said.
“People always want to mock other people,” Ariana said. “People always want other people to be stupid, and inferior, and the butt of their jokes. China-men and Negroes and stupid little wooden men in train cars. That’s what I love about Magic Unusuals. It doesn’t matter who you are. Where you’ve come from. Everyone’s got brown eyes with a bit of green, even if green is impossible for them genetically. The color of our soul-windows all blends, and we’re all the same thing.” She stopped. She turned away.
That’s quite true, diary. Half of the people you’ve met already in this story are very much not Caucasian, although I shan’t tell you who. People are people, and I’m not sure it should make any difference.
“Ariana…” I said.
“I’m sorry.” She was crying, actually crying.
“Ariana,” I said. “What’s going on?”
“Maude, I hate this!” she said. “You’re so good! You’re so lovely! I had no idea that life could be like this before I met you. You’ve changed everything!”
“Ariana, darling, don’t cry. You’re all right!”
But she hadn’t finished. “I hate that little man because I feel the same way! I feel trapped! I feel stuck in one spot, in one way of living, and what if I don’t want it anymore? What if I want to be someone else?”
“You feel trapped because you’re here?” I said. “With me? You feel trapped because you’re in hiding with me?”
It was everything I was afraid of.
Ariana was silent for a very long time.
“I shouldn’t have said that,” she said.
“Ariana, you’re allowed to regret this,” I said.
She barked out a laugh. “I don’t regret this, Maude. Being here with you is the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”
It occurred to me then that I knew Ariana very little. I had no idea why she felt trapped, or hated her life, especially since she insisted I was the best part of it.
“Well, I’m not going anywhere,” I said. I rubbed her shoulders, soothingly, the way my mother used to.
She hiccuped. We laughed a little, and then we left the little man and his train car on the table. I decided now wasn’t the time to tell Ariana about my weird feeling, about the wooden man somehow being alive. I left him in his circus train car, under a bit of moonlight. He wiggled feebly, like a final wave.
Ariana and I searched the rest of McGillicuddy and Murder’s, but only halfheartedly. I had a funny feeling, like the trapped man hadn’t been here before tonight. Maybe his was the presence I’d felt. Maybe he was the new odor in McGillicuddy and Murder’s.
We didn’t find anything, and we decided to go to sleep for the night. I lay awake for a long time. Finally, I drew you out, diary, and I’ve been scribbling by the light of a streetlamp, just a few windows away from me and Ariana’s hiding spot.
I’m worried. I’m wondering if this is the right choice. Staying here at McGillicuddy and Murder’s. I want to be close in case Mr. McGillicuddy finds a place for us in the group. And to be honest, I can’t think of a single other place we could stay. I can’t rent hotels or apartments. I’m a wanted murderer. I suppose Ariana could rent an apartment somewhere, and I could just teleport into the living room. But she’s a magic unusual now, and I feel like anyone with an address is easier to track. We wouldn’t want the Night Enthusiasts to come knocking at our door.
We’ve been safe here. But something is closing in, and I’m not sure how much longer we can stay. The place is becoming ominous to me. The newspaper. The train car. The Pawn Shop has been a place of refuge, but now it’s beginning to feel like a trap.
I took a short break, diary, and I went over to the train car. That was an absolute mistake. The train car is even more disturbing when you’re all alone. I stared down at the tiny wooden face. It stared back at me, with droopy, deformed painted eyes. I felt like the train car was evil and twisted, and I felt like it was a message for me. That it belonged to me somehow.
I do feel that. I feel like the man in the train car was left here for me. I stroked the painted wood with my fingers and I whispered, “I wish you were free. Whoever you are.”
Who would lock a human soul inside a prison of wood?
The little man swayed feebly. It gave me the creeps. I put the train car back on the table and returned to this diary entry.
I think I’m going to sleep now. Best of luck, Melinda Maudie Merkle, with whatever tomorrow brings.
September 27, 1921
Ariana and I bickered good-naturedly this morning about where to go. I say we bickered good-naturedly, and we did: we had smiles on our faces, and we tossed pillows at each other as we folded up our bedding.
But there is a tension behind everything we do now. I wonder, can she feel it too? I feel like something is closing in on us. I feel like something is about to descend. We’re all smiles, and we’re faking being lighthearted, but really… it’s all denial. We’re both fighting hard to act all right. Because once we lose McGillicuddy and Murder’s, once we lose our link to Mr. McGillicuddy, I don’t know what we’re going to do.
Well, diary, the bickering wasn’t the worst part of the day. I’ve got a cold feeling in the pit of my stomach, and I think I might have realized what my secret Magic Unusual Power is.
You know. Mr. McGillicuddy told me that some Magic Unusuals have special skills, extra skills, and you can never tell what they’re going to be. Mine is valuable and the Night Enthusiasts want it.
Well, if my skill is what I think it is, I can understand why.
This morning, after another breakfast of tinned sardines, I went to go check on the train car again. It had become a kind of morbid fascination with me. You know how you want to know exactly where a wasp is, if there’s a wasp in the room? It was like that. I wanted to see what the train car had been up to, as though the little wooden man was going to get out from behind the bars, and run around like a mouse on the floor.
Well, he hadn’t been running around like a mouse.
When I reached the train car, it was gone. All that remained were shattered bits and pieces. Wooden wheels and splintered edges lay on the ground. The little wooden man was nowhere to be seen.
Behind the destruction, one of the mirrors in McGillicuddy and Murder’s had cracked into twenty different pieces. It looked like it had been stabbed or punched. Jagged lines gleamed outward from a central impact.
I put my hand over my nose and mouth, terrified.
I think I did this.
We hope you’ve enjoyed episode 18, Cracked Mirror, of McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn shop. McGillcuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop is written and performed by Minerva Sweeney Wren, all rights reserved. Please subscribe, share it with your friends, and support Minerva Sweeney Wren at patreon.com/sweeneywren.
McGillccuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop will continue next week with episode 19, The Man From the Train Car.
The Man from the Train Car
September 27, 1921 continued
As soon as I saw the destruction of the train car, and the absence of the little wooden man, I ran to fetch Ariana.
“Maude!” she said. “You look like you’ve seen a ghost!”
“It’s the train car,” I said.
She frowned at me. “That thing again…. Maude… what’s…”
I took her by the hand, because she wasn’t moving fast enough for me. I dragged her across the Pawn Shop, and we stopped in front of the demolished train car.
“No,” Ariana breathed.
She had to sit down. Her reaction was strong, and it frightened me, almost as if she knew something I didn’t. Ariana grasped my hand and looked down at the destruction.
“Where’s the little man?” she said.
“Who did this?” Ariana said. She turned her face towards me, eyes scared. “Someone else was in the Pawn Shop last night, and they did this. We weren’t alone. And they stole the little wooden figurine.”
“Ariana,” I said. “I don’t think it was a wooden figurine.”
“I think…” I said. “I think it was a real human soul. I think I let them go last night. I held the train car in my hands and I said, out loud, ‘I wish you were free’ because at the moment I did. If there really was a human being in there, how sick and cruel would that be? But now that person, whoever they are, is loose.”
Ariana squeezed her eyes shut. They stayed shut for a very long time. I wondered what she was thinking.
“Do you think they’re still in the pawn shop?” she whispered.
“They might be,” I whispered back.
She looked over at me accusingly. “How could you have let him out?”
“I think that’s it…” I said. “I think this is the power Mr. McGillicuddy said I had. He said he couldn’t tell me what my power was, that I had to discover it on my own. But I think I have discovered it. I think I can undo enchantments, just by talking to them.”
Ariana stared at me, her eyes grave. “That’s a very dangerous skill, Maude.”
“Yes,” I said.
Ariana put her chin in her hands. “No wonder the Night Enthusiasts want you so badly.”
At that moment, we heard a sound.
The Pawn Shop wasn’t due to open for another hour. We were supposed to be quite alone. But unless the mummy had decided to go for a stroll, then there was someone else in the Pawn Shop. We heard their footsteps on the stairs.
“Hide. Hide!” Ariana said.
We scrambled for cover. Ariana gestured to a large wooden wardrobe, and we climbed inside as silently as we could. She held the door and closed it slowly, leaving half an inch of light. A few minutes later, someone entered the room.
They were whistling. From the weight of the footsteps, I guessed it was a man. By now, I had my suspicions on who was strolling through our Pawn Shop, and I wanted to see.
Light came into the wardrobe from a tiny keyhole, and I squatted down so that my eyes were level with it. My view was not good, but I could see enough. The whistling man walked across the keyhole, and my stomach curdled at the sight.
It was a man, six feet tall, wearing a black coat. The coat had red horizontal stripes on it, and the man wore fingerless gloves and a top hat. He looked like a circus performer. He walked with a slight limp, but his shoulders were buoyant, as if he was happy.
I couldn’t see his face, but I mentally began to beg him to turn around. I needed to see his face. I would know, somehow, if this was the man from the train car if I saw his face.
Well, he turned around, and even Ariana could have told you who he was.
Half of his face was still made of wood.
From his scalp to the bottom of his left cheek, the man’s face was wooden. It was slightly carved, like the face of a Pinocchio, and you could see the spiraled grain of the wood.
He had a garish false eye that whirred around inside the wooden half of his face. The eye was painted with red eyeshadow and furry false eyelashes. It wasn’t even a human eye, it was the eye of a puppet. It spun sideways, mad, as if searching the room for Ariana and I.
I didn’t breathe. How could I breathe? The man continued to whistled, and then he struck the side of his head. The wooden eye snapped back into an upright position.
It blinked, right at me.
Whistling low, the man from the train car left our floor of McGillicuddy and Murders, and climbed to the floor above us.
“Ariana,” I whispered. “Did you see?”
“It was him, wasn’t it?” Ariana said, in a tone of dread. “Maude, we need to leave.”
“I agree,” I said.
“Do you think he’ll still be here when we get back?” she said.
I didn’t know why she was so afraid; unless she’d seen his eye.
“I think he’ll be here, or out in the street terrorizing everything with his wooden eye.”
“He has a wooden eye?” Ariana whispered.
All right, she hadn’t seen his monstrous physique. Why was she so frightened?
“He might not be an enemy,” I said.
She paused. “That’s true. I’m sorry, Maude. There’s just something about hiding in wardrobes that makes a person feel afraid. And I can’t help feeling… well, if he was trapped in that wooden train car… don’t you think he deserved it?”
I cast Ariana the evil eye from across the dark wardrobe. “No. I think he ran into the wrong people. Probably the Night Enthusiasts. And they didn’t like him, so they cursed him. Ariana, good people would never punish someone like that. Whoever he is, he got on the wrong side of the bad guys. Which probably makes him a good guy, or at the very least, a victim.” I paused. I was starting to feel ashamed of myself. Who was this man, that I was judging him so harshly? I wanted to run away from him, simply because his eyeball scared the living daylights out of me.
“Well, let’s go,” Ariana said. “Please.”
I nodded. “All right.”
“The park,” Ariana said. “Where we met. I need to talk to you.”
I felt suddenly concerned, but I agreed. We both teleported out of the wardrobe, and in a few seconds, we were both standing in the park. I hurried up to her.
“Ariana,” I said. “I can’t stay here. Why did you want to come here first?”
“Maude,” she said. “I’ve got to go somewhere. Alone. Just for this afternoon. Is that all right? I’m sorry. I’ll come back this evening.”
“Come back where?”
“Well,” she said. “Let’s go back to the pawn shop. If he’s still there, we’ll figure something out.”
I squinted at Ariana.
“I’m all right!” she said. “I’m sorry. I’ll explain later. Will you be all right for the day?”
“Of course I’ll be all right,” I said.
“Good,” she said. And she teleported.
I was left alone.
I went and sat on the bench, feeling restless. The truth was, I’d been meaning to try something for awhile. With Ariana, there’d always been someone there to talk me out of it. Well, now there was no one there to talk me out of it.
I wanted to try to find Noble James. I wanted to see if he was still alive.
One of the worst places in the city for me was probably a hospital. When you’re not supposed to be in a hospital, you get noticed. And I couldn’t afford to get noticed.
But still. It had been itching at me for days, and with Ariana gone, the temptation was too great.
The closest hospital to the Iron Lion Bridge, where Noble James had been stabbed, was St. Lukes. I took a deep breath, and I teleported there. As I teleported, I felt the words show up clearly in my mind. St Lukes.
I arrived on the sidewalk in front of the hospital. I stared up, and I wondered if I was making a terrible mistake.
Just then, a man brushed past me in the crowd and slipped a paper into my hand.
Startled, I looked up, but he disappeared into the sea of heads. I stood in the middle of the busy crowd, and I looked down at the note in my hand.
The Man from the Train Car is a Murderer. You must stay away.
We hope you’ve enjoyed episode 19, The Man from the Train Car of McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn shop. McGillcuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop is written and performed by Minerva Sweeney Wren, all rights reserved. Please subscribe, share it with your friends, and support Minerva Sweeney Wren at patreon.com/sweeneywren.
McGillccuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop will continue next week with episode 20, The Deathbed of Noble James.
The Deathbed of Noble James
September 27, 1921 continued
I stood in the crowd outside of St. Luke’s hospital, and I stared down at the note in my hand.
The Man from the Train Car is a Murderer. You must stay away.
I nearly sat down on the pavement. Someone had given me this note. Someone had known I was here. Who knew I was here? I’d been here one minute. St. Luke’s was one of the last places The Night Enthusiasts or Mr. McGillicuddy could expect me to arrive. Had someone cast a skull spell on me, when I left the park? I had heard the words, St. Luke’s hospital, very clearly in my head as I’d teleported. It was possible then, wasn’t it? Someone had cast the spell, and they’d heard my next location.
But who had known I was at the park? No one. There was no one near Ariana and I. No one could have cast a skull spell on me.
I didn’t know how this note had ended up in my hands. It spooked me. Besides that, the message was chilling. The man from the train car was a murderer, was he?
Could I trust the note? Who had given it to me, and were they a liar?
I didn’t know, but I was scared. I felt that same sense again, that the world was tightening in around me. Something was coming. Time was running out. It had something to do with the man in the train car, and my powers, and Ariana and I, and possibly Noble James.
I wondered if he was here. If I’d been stabbed, I would have teleported to the nearest hospital. But I’m fairly new to this business. A professional like Noble James probably would have teleported to a hospital in another city, just to keep his enemies off his back.
Still. It was the only clue I had, my one shot in the dark.
I entered the hospital, and I considered simply asking at the front desk if Noble James was upstairs. But he might have left a false name. And the nurse might take one look at me, scream, and call the police.
I decided to sneak upstairs instead.
I followed a group of medical students up the steps, holding a notebook as thought I was somehow a part of their group. The hospital was busy, and no one questioned me. After the group of students reached the second floor, I paused and pretended to fix my shoe. They walked away from me, and I was left alone.
I paused in the middle of the white, clean hallway, not sure of where to go next. Less than a minute later, a nurse charged towards me, brisk and clipping in her high heels.
“Are you lost?” she said.
“Oh, yes,” I said. I put on my most innocent voice. “I think I took a wrong turn. I’m here looking for a friend. He was stabbed. Uh, well…. Ten days ago.”
The nurse blinked at me. “Name?”
“Uh, Noble James,” I said.
“Oh,” she said. “He’s in ward 3. You’ll want to go that way. Ask again if you get lost.”
I paused, petrified. Oh, no no no. It was not supposed to be this easy. It was not supposed to be this easy. This was a trap. Something was wrong. Noble James was not supposed to be right here, in this hospital, having given his real name.
But I was here, and I was curious, and I felt a certain inevitability about this moment. Trap or not, someone had been expecting me, and I wanted to know what was going on.
It had been ten days since Nobel James was stabbed. I knew nothing about stab wounds, but I assumed they didn’t heal in ten days. He was probably sitting propped up in a bed somewhere, bandages across his abdomen, bored and waiting for his gut to grow back together.
I was sure he would be fine.
You can imagine my shock, then, when I asked for ward 3, and a nurse gestured to a sign that said, “Hospice.”
I spun. “No, no,” I said. “That’s not right. That can’t be right. He’s not dying.”
“Who?” she said. She picked up her list of patients.
“Noble James,” I said.
“Ah,” the nurse said. She looked up at me with a sad smile. “Didn’t anyone tell you? Yes, I’m afraid he is dying. His wounds became infected. There’s nothing we can do.”
“Oh,” I said.
It felt less like a trap now. Now it just felt like a giant tragedy, a mistake.
I stepped towards the door. “Are you sure you want to go in there?” the nurse said. “Normally we don’t…”
“I’m sure I want to go in,” I said. “Thank you.”
I stepped into the hospice ward, and I immediately hated the smell. It smelled like bile and rubbing alcohol.
I looked timidly from bed to bed, and then I spotted Noble James by the window. He looked like he was made of glass. His eyes were shut. I hurried over, and I paused at the foot of his bed.
“Did you… know him well?”
I jumped. The nurse was behind me. She offered me a chair, and we set it down beside the bed.
“He was a friend,” I said.
The nurse left me alone, and I wondered what to do next.
I sat down and folded my hands. It really was Noble James. It wasn’t some manikin or total stranger. I watched him labor for breath, and I suddenly felt very foolish.
Had I come all this way because I was infatuated with him? I couldn’t think of anything more ridiculous. I didn’t know this man. I wished I had known him. But I didn’t.
Then he opened his eyes, and I knew I wasn’t there because of some crazy love-story. I was there because I needed to know why he’d asked to meet me at the Iron Lion Bridge. The desire to know surged through me the split second our eyes locked.
He frowned at me. “Who… Miss Merkle?”
“Hello,” I said.
He smiled and shut his eyes. “What are you doing here?”
“I wanted to find you,” I said. “After what happened at the bridge. You wanted to meet with me, and I wanted to know why, and I wanted to see if you were still alive.”
“Just barely,” Noble said, weakly with a hint of humor.
“Are you safe here?” I said. “Has anyone tried to attack you again?”
“My unique Magic Unusual power is not being found, when I don’t want to be found,” Noble said. “No one can reach me here if I don’t want them to.”
I paused. That meant he didn’t care if I met with him, and I took that as an encouraging sign.
“What happened?” I said. “Are you really dying?”
I felt terrible as soon as I said it. It was rude, somehow, to ask someone if they were dying.
“I’m afraid there’s nothing the doctors can do,” Noble said. “The knife that I was stabbed with was cursed. I should have been able to heal, but I can’t. There’s magic that’s keeping my body from properly mending.” He sighed. “And that’s it.”
“This is because of me,” I said.
“No,” he said. “This is because of me! I chose to meet with you.”
“I wish this hadn’t happened to you,” I said.
“Well, thank you very much,” Noble James said. He paused.
“Would you mind?” I said. “Meeting with me now? Telling me what you were going to tell me then?”
“Of course,” Noble said. He strained to sit up a little further. He grimaced with pain.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “I’m a selfish beast. You shouldn’t have to talk when you’re like this.”
“For heaven’s sake,” Noble said. “I’ve been lying here for ten days wishing we’d met and talked. Now at least I’ll die satisfied.”
I leaned close to him. He looked up into my eyes with his beautiful, poetic hazel ones, the green showing brilliantly in contrast to his skin.
“You’re in danger,” Noble James said. “I know the plan of the Night Enthusiasts. They’ve switched agendas. Someone had to warn you. There’s—”
At that moment, I heard a low hiss from across the room.
I looked up.
An old man was staring at me from his hospital bed. He looked vicious. He pointed a long, crooked finger at me.
“Murderer…” the old man hissed. “Murderer…”
We hope you’ve enjoyed episode 20, The Deathbed of Noble James, of McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn shop. McGillcuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop is written and performed by Minerva Sweeney Wren, all rights reserved. Please subscribe, share it with your friends, and support Minerva Sweeney Wren at patreon.com/sweeneywren.
McGillccuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop will continue next week with episode 21, The Murderers Meet.
Never Come Back
September 27, 1921 continued.
Well, diary, I was in an awful strait.
The old man in the hospice ward continued to hiss at me. I smiled at him, weakly. I hoped that a smile would demure him, make him be quite. Alas, no such luck.
“Murderer!” he said. His volume began to increase. “Murderer!”
“He recognizes me,” I said, low, to Noble James. “From the newspapers.”
Noble nodded. He glanced over at the old man.
“It’s all right,” he said to the old man. “You’re all right.”
It pained me to hear how weak Noble sounded. You could tell, he meant to sound warm and reassuring. But he only sounded husky and exhausted. He was dying, after all.
“Murderer!’ the old man began to screech. “Murderer!”
“Do you think you should leave?” Noble looked at me, concerned.
I bit my lip. If the nurse got a good look at me, after hearing shrieks of murderer, she’d probably put two and two together. If she realized who I was, then all was lost.
“I’ve got to go!” I said. “I’m sorry! And we were so close!”
Noble James looked up at me, pained.
“I’ll try to come back!” I said. “I’m sorry!”
“Be careful!” he said.
I got up and hurried out of the hospice ward. I ran into a nurse on my way out.
“Oh, good!” I said to her. “There’s an old man in there, he keeps shouting about a murderer. I think maybe you’d better take a look at him?”
The nurse gave me the evil eye for telling her how to do her job. She bustled into the hospice ward, and I dashed to the woman’s lavatory. As soon as I was behind the door, I teleported.
I teleported to a lake I’d visited once with my parents. Except it wasn’t a lake, now it was a quarry full of workers. I stared down, disappointed and disillusioned. My knees started to buckle, and I found a log and sat down.
I was feeling light-headed. In fairness to myself, I’d been through rather a lot lately.
Birds trilled above me. A mosquito settled on my arm, and I slapped it, vicious. There shouldn’t be mosquitoes in September.
Diary, I felt awful. What a thing to experience. Finding Noble James and then having our conversation broken off at the last minute. He’d gotten part of his message out of course, but it only made me feel worse. He said I was in danger. He said the Night Enthusiasts had changed their plan. What good did knowing that do me, if I didn’t know what the plan was?
It was almost worse, having gotten so close, only to be thwarted again. I wonder if I should try to return to the hospital today? Maybe the nurse hasn’t put two and two together. Maybe she tucked the old man in and assumed he was delusional.
I felt sort of bad about scaring a dying old man. But I didn’t do it on purpose.
Well, here I am, on this log, with a rather wet rump, wishing I knew what was going to happen next. I’ve had rather a lot to write about today, haven’t I? From the Train Car to Ariana wanting to leave, to Noble. And to think, I used to complain about not having enough to write about. It seems like ages ago, doesn’t it? A different person ago.
September 28, 1921
I finished that diary entry yesterday, and then I sat for almost an hour just watching men work in the quarry below. It was sad to hear the ping of metal tools, slowly grinding out the bones of my favorite lake. I felt dismal about everything, and ready to cry. It isn’t fair that Noble James is dying because of me. It isn’t fair that he never got to tell me what he wanted me to know. What he risked his life to let me know.
I wonder, is he an elaborate liar? Is he still, after all this time, working for the Night Enthusiasts, laying an elaborate trap for me? If he is a Night Enthusiast, hasn’t he lost part of his soul? And if he has lost part of his soul, how can he really be good? Can he be good? Aren’t I an idiot for trusting him at all?
I feel inexpressibly lost. I’m not the sort of person who can handle these things. I’m… I’m passive, and flighty, and I’ve got dead parents, and I’ve been too afraid to make anything of myself since their death. That’s me. Uncourageous. A dreamer. But a dreamer who doesn’t have the courage to make her dreams happen. I sit around and feel sorry for myself, but when the rubber meets the road, I sit. I always sit. I don’t get up and make a choice.
So you see the dramatic irony (is it dramatic irony? Oh, whatever) of me continuing to sit. I could have gotten up and gone back to the hospital. I could have run off in search of Ariana. I could even have gone down to the Night Enthusiasts’ lair and attempted to do battle.
I was less afraid of doing these individual things, and more afraid of the actual doing. Does that make sense? I was afraid to be. I wanted to sit quietly and forget that I existed, like the coward I am.
But, as fate would have it, there was nothing quiet about what happened next.
My diary, well, you, began to burn in my hands. I dropped you, startled, and stared in dismay at the curls of smoke that rose from your cover.
“It can’t be!” I murmured.
But there was no doubt about it: your cover was on fire. I stooped, determined to put you out, as all loyal journalers would do, when I realized it wasn’t your cover that was smoking. It was the china eye.
All this time, diary, I’ve assumed you knew: but you don’t have eyeballs, so perhaps you’ve been in the dark. I tucked my broken bit of china eye into your front cover. I didn’t want to leave it where it might get lost, or have it in my pocket all day, so I slipped it between the leather of your binding, and it’s been there ever since.
Well, now it was on fire. That was about right, for how my day was going.
I stooped and plucked it out with my hanky. It hopped into the grass and lay there smoking. As I stared, letters began to form on the back, in rather bad handwriting.
Ms. Merkle. Urgent. Meet me at the Iron Lion Bridge. Sincerely, HP McGillicuddy.
Oh, now things were getting interesting. I stared at the writing, until the letters cooled and remained black, disfiguring the surface of my china eye. I picked it up and tucked it back in your binding, and then I sat there for three seconds.
“Get up, Maude, you old lump,” I said. “You have an adventure to go on.”
I teleported to the Iron Lion Bridge, and I landed squarely underneath. I had bad memories of the underside of that bridge. It was daylight, and I could see just fine. There was no one waiting for me under the bridge, so I hurried out into the sun.
Mr. McGillicuddy stood on the brow of the hill, his eyes crazed with panic. He took one look at me, hurled a pocketwatch in my direction, and vanished.
“What?” I shouted.
The pocketwatch lay at my feet. I picked it up, thrust it into my pocket, and ran to the spot where Mr. McGillicuddy had stood.
“Mr. McGillicuddy!” I exclaimed. “Mr. McGillicuddy! What is the matter with you?”
For the life of me, I thought he’d thrown the pocketwatch at me in a rage. I kept expecting him to come back. But after five minutes ticked by, it became clear that he wasn’t going to. He’d left me with nothing by my curiosity and a pocketwatch.
I decided to open the watch, finally, and I was horrified when I did. I dropped the watch with a startled scream. Inside the watch’s face was the face of Mr. McGillicuddy, and he was shouting at me.
“You have been betrayed!” His watch-face eyes, frightened, looked into mine. “You must leave the city at once! You must never come back!”
We hope you’ve enjoyed episode 21, Never Come Back of McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn shop. McGillcuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop is written and performed by Minerva Sweeney Wren, all rights reserved. Please subscribe, share it with your friends, and support Minerva Sweeney Wren at patreon.com/sweeneywren.
McGillccuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop will continue next week with episode 22, The Murderers Meet.
The Murderers Meet
September 28, 1921 continued
I stared down at the watch. From inside the face, behind the delicate ticking hands, Mr. McGillicuddy continued to shout at me.
“You have been betrayed!” “You must leave the city at once! You must never come back!”
The phrase began to loop, and I realized that Mr. McGillicuddy had left this watch here as a message for me. He wasn’t miraculously contained inside this pocketwatch. It was pre-recorded somehow, almost like a movie, but with color and sound. I shut the watch, and his shouts faded with a click.
I sat down on the bank and watched the ugly, oily water of the river swim along. Behind me, children shouted in the park. A bird sang in the tree. How dare they behave as though everything was normal? Didn’t they know the world had been turned upside down?
Our ordinary days are always the worst day of someone else’s life. Our ordinary days might be the best day of someone else’s life, too, but I was in a dour mood, so I didn’t think about that. I’ve had these days before, where my world has ended, but everyone else’s just keeps spinning on. It’s the strangest thing in the world.
I held the pocketwatch, and I didn’t move. Remember what I said before about sitting? I was ready for a long, long sit. I was ready to turn into a statue, here on this river bank, because I didn’t want to take action.
I wouldn’t get to say goodbye to Ariana. I would never find out what Noble James had meant to tell me.
Noble James! Was he the cause of this disaster? Had I, in fact, walked into a trap, and now all was lost? Should I be in Russia at this very moment, training my bones for unendurable cold? When a master like Mr. McGillicuddy tells you to run, you ought to run.
But I didn’t want to. So instead of choosing between my heart and his wisdom, I sat.
I supposed you think me a great coward, diary. It’s all right. Go ahead. But this is my life’s biggest weakness. I doubt life so deeply that I’m afraid to venture into it.
I was still sitting on the bank, still wasting precious time, still wondering if I should leave now and never come back, when a sudden longing for Ariana’s friendship came over me. I missed her. I knew then, that I couldn’t leave without saying goodbye. Even if it meant ending up in the hands of the Night Enthusiasts.
I got up, feeling cheered. Knowing what you want to do, and then acting on it, is its own kind of medicine. My anxiety melted, and I felt a sense of peace. Mr. McGillicuddy would call me a fool, but I was going back to the Pawn Shop tonight. Perhaps I would run into the man from the train car, and perhaps he would murder me with his wooden puppet eye, but at least I would be able to say goodbye to Ariana.
I felt a strength in the pit of my stomach. People are what matter. People are what give you the courage to do things. I’d been without family or true friends for so long, I’d forgotten that.
I went to the most boring place on earth, a hole-in-the-wall lunch shop that all but shuts down after 4 pm, and I ate a sandwich and tried not to look too hard at my soup, and I sat. I had to wait until tonight, until the Pawn Shop closed, but then I would talk to Ariana, and in all likelihood, never come back.
It was too dangerous to visit Noble James. Not only because of the old man crying murder, but because of Mr. McGillicuddy’s message. If someone had betrayed me, I felt fairly certain it was Noble.
It was sad. I’d felt a connection to him. But I supposed I would never see him again.
After the lunch shop shut down at 8 pm, I wandered outside, took a deep breath, and teleported. I landed in the main lobby of McGillicuddy and Murder’s.
Standing right there, staring at me, was the man from the train car.
It felt like fate. I stayed where I was.
“Hello,” he said, in an odd voice. “You’re the one who let me out.”
I decided to be civil.
“I… how did you know it was me?”
And inside, my brain stammered, He’s a murderer, he’s a murderer, he’s a murderer.
“Oh, I can tell,” he said. “I…” he reached out and grasped the air. “I had a sort of sense…. Of your face… when I was being let out. It was wonderful.”
“Oh,” I said.
“So thank you,” he said. He grinned. His teeth protruded, and he looked like a fox.
“What’s your name?” I said.
“Hester Rathbone, but you can call me Wrath,” he said. “What’s your name?”
“Maude Merkle,” I said. I felt like sitting down. “What are you doing here, Wrath?”
“Oh, I’ve been waiting for the people who put me in that train car,” he said.
“Are they coming here?” I said.
“They must be,” he said. “They don’t really want me out and about.”
“Wrath…” I said. “Why were you imprisoned in there?”
His face began to twitch. The wooden eye rolled, so fast it was a blur of color.
“Did you commit a crime?” I said. “Did you murder someone?”
Wrath looked up, his single human eye gleaming.
“Oh, I’m not a murderer,” he said. “But I will be. You spend three years in a little wooden box, and you don’t really like people anymore. I don’t really like people anymore.”
“Who imprisoned you?” I said.
“The Night Enthusiasts,” he said. “The Night Enthusiasts.”
At that moment, he cocked his head. He sniffed.
“How can you…”
“Shh! Shh! Secret skill. I know. I know someone is coming.” He suddenly seized me, so hard I’d have a ring of bruises around my arm. He drew me into a dark corner.
“Shh. Shh,” he said. “Let’s just stay here together, you and I.” I could hear his wooden eye clicking and rolling behind me. “Let’s see who it is!”
It was Ariana. She teleported into much the same spot that I had, landing in view of the entire pawn shop, by the front doors. She tucked her hair behind her ears, looking around.
“Maude,” she hissed. “Maudie. Are you in yet?”
I knew nothing about Wrath, except that he’d been imprisoned by the Night Enthusiasts, and that he claimed he hadn’t killed anyone. Technically, I had no reason to doubt him. I no reason to fear him. He said he wasn’t a murderer. But I felt sure, as his wooden eye rattled from side to side, that he was hunting Ariana. He was the predator, she was the tiny brown creature about to split open in blood and fur.
Trembling, I whispered to Wrath, “She’s all right, she’s my friend. She doesn’t mean us any harm.”
Wrath began to chuckle. Slowly and softly, in a way that made my blood feel wrong inside my veins.
“She wants to kill you, little one,” he said.
“Shut up,” I said. “I’ve had enough of this. Let go of me. If you want to go murder the Night Enthusiasts, be my guest. But leave my friend out of it.”
In response, Wrath let go of me. But he didn’t slip further into the shadows. He strode out, his black and red coat billowing softly. He removed his top hat and held it in the crook of his arm. He strode towards Ariana with a spring in his step. As soon as Ariana saw him, she paused, horror etched into her face. She recognized him. And I realized, with a sick feeling in my stomach, that she didn’t just recognize the man from the train car. She recognized Wrath, as a human man.
“Hello, Ariana,” Wrath said.
Ariana’s eyes flickered over to me. She took a breath, nostrils flaring. Then she swore.
I strode from the shadows.
“Ariana….” I said.
Wrath and Ariana both stared at each other. He was gleeful; she was defeated.
“Have you met?” I said.
“Oh, Ariana and I know each other very well,” Wrath said. “From before I ended up in that train car. Don’t we know each other, Ariana?”
She swerved her eyes away from his, looking sullen.
“How?” I said.
Ariana stared at me, and her eyes suddenly filled up with tears. She opened her mouth like she wanted to speak, and then she shut it.
“Didn’t you know?” Wrath said. “Ariana is a Night Enthusiast.”
We hope you’ve enjoyed episode 22, The Murderer’s meet, of McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn shop. McGillcuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop is written and performed by Minerva Sweeney Wren, all rights reserved. Please subscribe, share it with your friends, and support Minerva Sweeney Wren at patreon.com/sweeneywren.
McGillccuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop will continue next week with episode 23, The Murderers Meet.
September 28, 1921 continued.
“Didn’t you know?” Wrath said. “Ariana is a Night Enthusiast.”
I frowned. I looked over at her.
“Ariana, you didn’t run into anyone today, did you? You didn’t run into Renfield, or—” My throat closed up. I laced my hands together. I was starting to shake, starting to be unable to talk. “You didn’t accidentally… you didn’t deliberately… you didn’t run into any Night Enthusiasts today, did you?”
“Just the one in the mirror,” Wrath said.
“Shut up, Wrath,” Ariana said.
Her quick use of his name made my stomach cramp up.
“Ariana.” I said.
“I didn’t become a Night Enthusiast today, Maude,” she said.
We stared at each other.
“I made you a magic unusual,” I said. “Your eyes were brown when we met. They weren’t hazel. You didn’t have the green. You weren’t a Night Enthusiast. You weren’t even a magic unusual.”
Ariana stepped towards me softly. In the dim light, I could still make out the color of her eyes. They were brown.
“You can’t make someone a magic unusual by handing them a nickel, Maude,” she said. “You have to do it deliberately. That was all rigged. I can change my appearance at will, in small ways. That’s my special power. I changed my eyes so you wouldn’t know what I was, and I became your friend, and—” Ariana stopped. “And I really did become your friend. I’m sorry.”
The words of Mr. McGillicuddy crashed back into me, as well as the words of Noble James. The Night Enthusiasts had changed their plan, and I had been betrayed.
For days, they’d had no intention of capturing me. Of kidnapping me and dragging me back to their lair. They’d been spying.
“You wanted to get to Mr. McGillicuddy, didn’t you?” I said.
Ariana nodded. “We felt sure he’d try to contact you. Especially if he thought you had a vulnerable friend.”
“So I was bait?” I said.
“And a prize,” Ariana said. “We want you, too.”
“Is that supposed to make me feel better?” I said.
“Don’t look at me like that,” Ariana said.
“Why?” I said. “Because you don’t deserve it? Because you do deserve it. You’re a Night Enthusiasts. What did you kill?”
“What part of you is dead? What part of your soul is missing? Loyalty? Empathy?”
“It’s not empathy,” Ariana said.
“What happens now?” I said. “Now that you know Mr. McGillicuddy is never coming? Are you going to kill me? Are you going to lock me up in the Night Enthusiast’s cave?”
Ariana shot Wrath a venomous look. “It wasn’t supposed to happen like this.”
“No,” I said “I suppose not.”
I had a half-mad, half-wooden man to thank for the fact that her plan was ruined.
“Ariana,” I said. “Mr. McGillicuddy said I should leave this city and never come back. I came back first because I didn’t want to leave you. But now I’m leaving somewhere you’ll never find me, and you’ll never see me again.”
Before she could stop me, I stepped behind a wardrobe and teleported. It was as simple as that. They could no longer see me, and I was free to go.
I landed outside the Vatican, because that was the only specific place, far away, that I’d been able to think of. I sat down on the cobblestones and bawled my eyes out.
Sitting here now, alone, writing this entry. There’s a grim inevitability to all of this. When my parents died, I felt like loneliness had worked itself into my bloodstream. That no matter what I did, on some level, I would always be deeply alone.
For a few days, I’d believed differently, and it was a trick of the Night Enthusiasts, and I don’t want to be anymore. I don’t want to be, or do, or think, or possibly write in this diary ever again.
September 29, 1921 continued.
Dry up, my little Maudie.
That’s what my father always said to me. Dry up, my little Maudie, and let’s see what we can do.
When you’re still a girl, and you lose your parents, you don’t know how to pick yourself up. They always did it for you. On some level, you believe that you will never pick yourself up again. They’re not there to show you how. So how can you do it all alone?
But I’m writing again, so you must imagine—things have picked up.
I wandered the Vatican, feeling lost and bewildered. The statues of the saints didn’t seem reassuring, up there, looking down at me. They would have if I’d been on vacation, like they were standing up there waiting to welcome me up to heaven after death. Hello, down there! Your parents are up here! You’ll be home again, someday!
But I was so far from home, from being reunited with anyone, that the saints all seemed to be staring awkwardly down at me, like they didn’t quite know what to do. I sat down on a bench and watched the pigeons waddle past, and I wondered if I’d find a life, or if I’d turn into a homeless old street urchin.
I was in the Vatican. Maybe I should become a nun.
I did not become a nun, or a pigeon nanny, or any of the other things fate might have been cruel enough to dole out. Instead of sinking into eternal apathy, I looked up at the sky and said a prayer.
“If I’m meant…” I said. “… to have a life again, to have a family again, to not be alone anymore…. Then please send a sign. Something really, really obvious. Because I’m not sure I’ll have the courage to find that life unless I know it’s out there.”
No more disappointments.
Well, the timing was impeccable. A troupe of Night Enthusiasts landed across the courtyard from me.
For a minute I just stared, stupefied. Then I spun around and hid behind the bench.
The Night Enthusiasts were some distance away; they hadn’t spotted me yet. I watched them as they spread out.
Ariana had cast a skull spell on me, the little minx. They knew where I’d teleported to next. That was probably my fault for announcing that I was going to leave and never come back. I was envious of Ariana. All this time, she’d known how to cast skull spells, while I knew next to nothing. She was the one who’d cast the skull spell on me in the park. She’d sent the man to hand me the note about Wrath being a murderer. She wanted me to think he was a murderer, so I’d stay far away and never learn who she really was.
Well, I knew. And at that moment I spotted her in the courtyard. She’d come with her crew of Night Enthusiasts. They went left and right, but she just stood there. She let the other Night Enthusiasts disperse, and then, when it was just the two of us, she strode forward. She’d known where I was the whole time.
I stood up and faced her. I felt slimy and confused, because I loved this girl like a sister, and she’d turned out to be something completely different.
“I came back for you,” Ariana said.
“To put me in a cell somewhere,” I said.
“Well, yes,” Ariana said. “But also because I couldn’t let you leave. I really am your friend, Maude. I’m your enemy because I’m a Night Enthusiast, but as a person, I’m your friend.”
“You’re very good at lying to me, Ariana,” I said.
In response, she dashed across the courtyard and seized me in a hug. I hugged her back, not sure what else to do. I was reminded of all the times she’d seemed torn or confused in the Pawn Shop, and I wondered if she really was my friend. She hadn’t expected to become one. But had she? And now we were on opposite sides of a subtle war, and friends or not, for the time being, she was choosing the war over me.
“We’re going to take you back to the cave,” Ariana said. “The Night Enthusiast Headquarters.”
“What if I escape you again?” I said.
“I already cast a skull spell on you,” Ariana said. “If you leave from here, we’ll know where you’re headed next.”
“Not if I teleport six times in a row.”
Ariana held my hand. “Maude, please. Stay. Listen to me. I think you should come with us.”
“Give me one good reason.”
“I’ll give you ten!” Ariana began to talk, slowly, almost as if she was talking me down from a cliff edge. “When I was young, I had no one. I was lonely, like you. Then, I met the Night Enthusiasts.”
“And they were evil.”
“And they were evil,” Ariana nodded slowly. “That’s right.” Something felt odd about the way she was talking to me, like I was being lulled to sleep. Too late, I looked behind me.
The whole troupe of Night Enthusiasts had been sneaking up on me. I was surrounded.
We hope you’ve enjoyed episode 23, Betrayed of McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn shop. McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop is written and performed by Minerva Sweeney Wren, all rights reserved. Please subscribe, share it with your friends, and support Minerva Sweeney Wren at patreon.com/sweeneywren.
McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop will continue next week with episode 24, And Now We Wait.
And Now We Wait
September 29, 1921 continued.
I looked left and right and turned in a circle. The Night Enthusiasts were all around me.
“I’m not taking my eyes off you, Maude,” Ariana said.
No one had seized me yet, but I was as good as trapped. I looked across at Ariana, and I felt suddenly full of infinity. I knew this moment was important, that this moment would change everything. I might have lived the rest of my life as a Magic Unusual alone. I might have become a hermit. But I didn’t, because I’d stayed and talked to Ariana.
I didn’t struggle as two of The Night Enthusiasts came up behind me and tied my hands behind my back. One brought a glowing vial out of his pocket. He uncorked it and shoved it between my lips. I pulled my head away, struggling.
“She’ll drink it on her own,” Ariana said. “What are you, thugs?”
Ariana smacked the Night Enthusiast, and she took the drink from him. She held it delicately, then stepped up to me and offered the drink. “It’s all right, Maude,” she said softly. “It will just take you back to the Night Enthusiast Headquarters.”
We locked eyes. I missed her, suddenly.
I didn’t have a choice about the drink, whether I had some or not. This all felt vaguely familiar, as I tipped my head gently back and let Ariana guide the drink down my throat.
Like the last time, the drink held some magic property, and it transported me against my will. An involuntary teleport. I landed in the cave, a few paces from the black gazebo.
Renfield was there. As soon as I arrived, he strode towards me. The other Night Enthusiasts began to arrive, popping into existence left and right. Ariana arrived. She hurried to my side and reached me just as Renfield did.
“Ah, Miss Merkle,” Renfield said. “So pleased you could finally join us.”
The small woman, the one who had spoken to me the last time I was here, strode forward.
“Miss Merkle,” she said. “So pleased you could finally join us.”
“Maude,” Ariana said. “So pleased you could finally join us.”
The other members of the Night Enthusiasts all flocked around me, and they murmured the same phrase.
So pleased you could finally join us.
“But I won’t,” I said. I felt small and defiant at the same time. I folded my hands together.
The small woman smiled. “We will not force you this time, Melinda Maude Merkle. If you wish to join the ranks of the Night Enthusiasts, you may do so.”
“I don’t wish it,” I said. “I never will”
“Never is a strong word,” the small woman said.
“I never will,” I said.
“You do not understand life yet, Miss Merkle,” the small woman said. “You still have the mind of a child. You think that everything can be good and pure and without sorrow. In the real world, in the realm of adults, we kill small pieces of ourselves daily, that we might survive another year. You will not be violating some law of nature when you join the Night Enthusiasts. You will be doing what all humans must eventually do. Let go of a bit of their goodness. But you will do so with quick, painless precision, and you will find yourself a being of power.”
“I don’t want to be a being of power,” I said. “I don’t want to be a Night Enthusiast.”
The small woman stepped up to me and put her hand on my shoulder. It felt strangely violating.
“It is time to grow up, Melinda Maude Merkle,” the small woman said. “It is time to live in the real world.”
I stared at her.
“My answer is still no,” I said.
“We will wait,” the small woman said.
“And in the meantime?” I said.
“And in the meantime,” the small woman said. “I think your fate is to become a novelty. To join our plunder, here on the cave floor. Renfield, please escort Ms. Merkle to the cage, where she will no doubt rest comfortably, as a child that has not yet woken up.”
Renfield took me by the elbow. Remember, my hands are still tied, but he led me by the arm over to a cage.
I do mean a cage. It was a gigantic bird cage that probably could have housed an ostrich. They untied my hands, locked me inside, and here I sit.
It’s dark in this corner of the cave, and I’m surrounded by other oddities. I’m face to face with a glass-eyed owl even as we speak.
I’ve been here for hours. Maybe even half a day. Night Enthusiasts come and go. They brought me terrible food about an hour ago. I’ve been writing in you, diary, for the last hour, catching you up on everything that’s happened. I feel, in some ways, that this is the end. For right now, anyway. I’ve reached the end of an Act. I am the girl in the cage, but the girl who at least made the right choice. I wonder what that choice will cost me, and I wonder what will happen next.
I still have unresolved questions, and I don’t know what to think.
Who is Wrath? Who was he? Why was he a victim of the Night Enthusiasts, and does he really mean to murder them all in revenge? He might have been a good man once, but I don’t think he’s safe anymore. I think he’s completely mad, driven insane by being in that train car, and in an odd, metaphorical way, the wooden half of his face reflects it. In some ways, he’s still trapped in a box of wood, and I don’t know what he’s going to do next. But I don’t think it will be wise. And I don’t think it will be subtle. And I think it may hurt a lot of people. I feel responsible, leaving him unsupervised in the Pawn Shop. I hope Mr. McGillicuddy will find him and make things right.
Mr. McGillicuddy. I rather hate the man. He did his best, with the pocketwatch, and trying to save me in time… but there’s something wrong about him expecting immediate trust from me, when I barely knew him. I wish I knew more about his organization. I wish I knew about McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop. Who is Murder? Where do all the novelties come from? The fake mummies and opera masks and marble balls three feet high? What is that place, and how is it connected to what Mr. McGillicuddy is trying to do?
Who is Noble James? Is he still dying in that hospital bed? Is he dead already? Part of me really believes he was my ally. Does that mean he ceased being a Night Enthusiast? Can you do that?
Can Ariana do that? Can she become herself again, the Ariana who never killed a piece of her soul?
I don’t know. I don’t know that it matters, either, because I’m in a cage, in a cave, and I’m waiting for the rest of my life to begin. I think they’ll have me take the test again, on the bottom of the sea. Once again, I’ll refuse to kill part of my soul. And then I’ll die. Or I’ll be locked up in this cage forever. There’s a plus side to dying, and that’s that at least I wouldn’t have to eat this food they keep giving me anymore.
The small woman said I could wait. Well, I’ve got her beat on that front. I’ve been waiting for my life to begin for so long, I can jolly well keep on waiting. I’m very good at waiting.
And I believe, at some point, I will be able to escape.
We hope you’ve enjoyed episode 24, And Now We Wait, of McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn shop. McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop is written and performed by Minerva Sweeney Wren, all rights reserved. Please subscribe, share it with your friends, and support Minerva Sweeney Wren at patreon.com/sweeneywren.
This ends Season 1 of McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop. Season 2 of McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop will continue in April of 2019.
McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop
Here We Are Again
October 1st, 1921
Well. It’s more comfortable than you might think, to be sitting in a cage. Not much has happened since I last wrote, diary. I am convinced that none of the Night Enthusiasts can cook. The food is appalling.
When I last wrote to you, I felt that things had ended. That I’d come to the end of an era. I still feel that. It’s only a day later, but from here forward, I’m in Act Two of my journey as a Magic Unusual.
Things are much the same as the last time I wrote. The Night Enthusiast’s cave is chilly. I can see the purple light of the gazebo glowing, spectral in the darkness. During the day, Night Enthusiasts come and go. They hand me abysmal porridge. At night, everything is so quiet I can hear myself think. I think I can hear the stones thinking, too.
The cage they left me in—the giant birdcage, you remember. The one big enough to fit an ostrich. Well, it wasn’t very comfortable at first, but then I learned I could stick my legs out through the bars, so I’m sitting like Miss Muffet having a pout, my legs stretched out in front of me. I fell asleep last night sitting up, and that worked all right, except that my toes got cold.
Things have been bearable, with the Night Enthusiasts, so far. For the most part. They ignore me, all but the small woman, the ringleader. She always passes me with a superior expression that makes me want to bash her nose in.
They’re just waiting. For me to get sick of being a pretty polly (brawwk). Today, they sent in reinforcements, and I’m rather steamed about it. Hence the diary entry.
The reinforcements were Ariana. Of course they were. I bristled at the sight of her, then glared as she sat down opposite me. She had the nerve to sit down cross-legged, relaxed, like we were twelve-year-olds on a picnic.
“Well,” Ariana said. “Here we are again.”
“I beg your pardon,” I said. Speaking of Miss Muffet having a pout.
“You and me,” she said. “Together.”
I rolled my eyes. “Ariana, if you think you can sit down here and act all sweet, and convince me that you and I are still friends—”
“We are still friends.”
“No, we’re not.”
“Yes, we are.” She exhaled. “Maude, I’m your friend. I’ve always been your friend. I know that friends don’t lie. I know that friends don’t betray each other. But I really and truly became your friend, and think about it from my perspective. You aren’t a part of my family, yet. My wonderful family that makes so much sense, that changes the world in their own magical, marvelous way. I want you to become a Nigh Enthusiast. Of course I do. Why wouldn’t I? And I know that the deception wasn’t fair to you, but I didn’t do it to hurt you. I did it because I want you here. On my side. Where things make sense.”
“Nice try,” I said.
“What do you mean nice try? I’m pouring my heart out over here.”
“Actions speak louder than words,” I said. “I’d prefer a nice rescue attempt, instead of some self-flattering preaching.”
Ariana growled at me, then sulked. “Maude.”
With a sigh, she got up.
Honestly, the nerve of that woman. I think you never get mad at strangers, not really, the way you can get mad at people you love. When the man sitting next to you on the trolley is munching a bag of peanuts, you’re annoyed, but you excuse him for his bad manners because, ultimately, he’s not your problem. You’ll never see him again in another ten minutes. But when your brother or sister or spouse is sitting right next to you and munching a bag of peanuts in your ear, you want to strangle them sometimes. It’s cause for second-degree murder. Or is that first degree-murder? Anyway, you feel like you have cause for some degree of murder.
It’s so much worse when someone you love is a pain. Or a Judas.
I glared at Ariana, feeling lonely in the pit of my stomach. I wished, for an instant, that I didn’t feel so frightfully alone in this cave. Or in the whole world. I don’t have Mr. McGillicuddy, not really. He did his best for me, and now I’m on my own. I didn’t run away, far far away, when he’d told me to, so my being a prisoner of the Night Enthusiasts is on my own head.
I don’t have Noble James, because by this time, I am quite sure Noble James is dead.
I just have Ariana, and she’s more of an enemy than a friend.
“Well,” she said. “If you change your mind. I’m here if you want to talk.”
We glowered at each other, like two sisters having a feud. Ariana left.
I got out you, diary, to vent. Now that I’ve finished griping about Ariana, the cave is strangely silent. Of course, caves are always silent in their own way, but this silence feels different. It’s like the darkness is holding its breath.
I wish I could get out of this cage. This whole situation is sort of giving me the creeps. Pretty soon I’m going to grow a long white beard, and then my bones will turn to dust. Before that, I should probably try to escape. I should also try to escape before whatever’s lurking in this darkness descends and gobbles me up.
Speaking of the darkness gobbling me up, I think I just heard something.
It’s probably just my imagination. That’s the problem with being locked in a giant cage. There’s not much to do, except let your imagination run rampant.
There. No. I definitely heard something.
Diary, I have the shivers.
There. Just now. I saw something.
I should probably stop writing, but I think if I let go of your pages I’ll go mad with fright. This way, at least I can feel like a brave reporter or explorer or something. Writing down what I see, as it happens.
What am I looking at, exactly?
It’s hard to tell, in the darkness. There’s a shape moving. In the shadows. It’s either a person bent over, or a very very large rat.
My question is, why are they hiding? The person. Or the very large rat.
A Night Enthusiast would stride proudly through the cave. Anyone who was here to rescue me would have said hello by now. This person (or very large rat) seems to be hiding from me. They don’t want to be found at all.
Diary, is it necessary to say that, by now, I’ve tucked my legs safely back inside the cage, safe from nibbling rat teeth?
Speaking of rats, this intruder is definitely human. I can see a head.
Oh my giddy aunt, they’re getting close. I can almost—
I apologize for that dreadful smear of ink, diary. The fact is, I broke off writing because I screamed.
It’s not a rat. In the darkness, as I stared into the misty-half light, a head reared itself and looked at me. It wasn’t a human head. Oh. No. It was half a human face, and half a wooden one. A furry puppet eye rolled and blinked at me.
After I finished screaming, I sucked in a breath.
“Wrath,” I said.
“Oh,” he said. He shuffled closer, still on his hands and knees. “It’s you. I didn’t know what you were. I thought maybe you were a guard dog.”
“No,” I said. “It’s me.”
Wrath crawled over and crouched outside my cage, grinning. “The Night Enthusiasts are awful, aren’t they?”
“Yes,” I said.
“They’ve gone horribly wrong in the head,” Wrath said. “They see puppets everywhere. That’s why I’ve come here.”
“You’re here because they see puppets?” I said.
“I’m here to kill,” Wrath said. “To kill and kill and kill and kill.”
“Oh,” I said.
I don’t like the Night Enthusiasts much. In fact, I hate the Night Enthusiasts. But with Wrath’s breath smelling like old cheese right in front of me, I felt like I had a duty to humanity to sound some kind of alarm.
“How did you get in here?” I asked suddenly. If he could sneak in undetected, maybe I could sneak out! It was, of course, impossible for me to teleport. Don’t think I didn’t try that in my first ten seconds of being in the cage. I’m not sure what kind of magic binds me inside the cave, but I can’t get out through teleportation.
“I came in with powers and trinkets, and I’m here to steal their powers and trinkets,” Wrath said. “And then I’m going to kill every single one of them.”
“You’re here to kill the Night Enthusiasts?” I said. The subtext of that was, You’re not planning on killing me, are you?
“I’m here to kill the Night Enthusiasts,” Wrath said. “Starting with Ariana.”
We hope you’ve enjoyed Season 2, episode 1, Here We are Again, of McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop. McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop is written and performed by Minerva Sweeney Wren, all rights reserved. If you enjoy this podcast, please consider taking a moment to share it with your friends. A social media share, facebook tag, or in person recommendation do more to market this audiodrama than anything Minerva Sweeney Wren can do on her own. She relies on you. Visit MinervaSweeneyWren.com to share the story with other people in need of an adventure.
McGilicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop will continue with Season 2 episode 2, Murder, Murder, Everywhere
Murder, Murder Everywhere
October 1st, 1921, continued
I felt every hair on my head turn white.
When Wrath said he was going to kill every one of the Night Enthusiasts, starting with Ariana, I felt ready to bend the bars of my cage and run out to find her. The rush of emotion surprised me. I felt ready to leap in front of a train.
She is my best friend, I suppose.
Drat. I don’t want Ariana to be my best friend anymore. But she is. Because I can’t stand the thought of her being harmed. In any way. My stomach clenches up, like a mother bear going on the attack.
“Oh,” I said, pleasantly, to Wrath. “Are you going to kill her tonight?”
“No,” he said. “First I have to steal some power from them. I have a plan. A long and complex plan. And it starts right here.”
I was about to beg Wrath to tell me how he’d gotten in. What magic did he use? Could I use it, too?
But before I could ask, Wrath grabbed hold of a wooden carousel horse, and he disappeared.
A red light filled the air, and a weird smell wafted towards me. At first, I thought he’d just teleported, but the more I thought about it, the more I felt like I’d just witnessed something else.
He’d grabbed hold of the carousel horse with both hands, very deliberately. We don’t need to be touching anything in order to teleport. Just thinking of our next destination.
So what was with the horse?
Besides that, teleports never left an odor. This one had. The air smelled scummy and metallic. Well, to be perfectly honest, it smelled like blood.
I wondered what Wrath had done. In the darkness, I looked around at the hundreds of strange objects strewn across the floor. The carousel horse. A chandelier. Two wooden monkeys holding one another by the arms.
This was the only thing that The Night Enthusiasts, and McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop seemed to have in common. Strange and beautiful objects. And not just one or two. Hundreds. A collection.
I leaned back, the gears of my brain spinning furiously. I felt alive. Electric. I felt that cozy, wiggle-your-toes kind of feeling that comes when you’re perfectly content. I was about to figure something out. Something important. I was about to have a revelation that taught me more about what it meant to be a magic unusual. All I had to do was watch and wait, and sooner or later, the Night Enthusiasts would give away the secret. They’d reveal their magic trick, accidentally. And I’d learn more about what it meant to be a Magic Unusual.
That’s all for now, diary. I will watch and wait.
October 2nd, 1921
Ariana came to see me first thing in the morning. I was very glad she did, because I needed to warn her.
“Good morning, Maude!” she said.
“You can skip the sugar-coating,” I said. “Wrath is trying to kill you.”
She blanched. “That... is a joke, right?”
“No,” I said. “He was here last night.”
Her eyes widened. “He was here?”
Ariana spun around, in search of another Night Enthusiast. The small woman, the ringleader, was off in the corner, and Ariana hurried towards her.
I watched in amused silence. It was fun to see the Night Enthusiasts panic. I wanted Ariana to be safe, of course, but this bit was nothing but fun. The small woman ran one way, and Ariana ran another. Who is Wrath? They were acting absolutely petrified of him.
A minute later the small woman came dashing up to me.
“You said he was here?” she said.
“Yes,” I said.
“How did he get in?”
“I tried to ask him that, but he wouldn’t tell me.”
She ran her hands across her face. She looked wildly around. “Which object did he use? Which one?”
“I don’t understand what you mean,” I said. Come on, Maude. Play it carefully and she might end up telling you something.
“The murder objects, the murder objects!” the small woman exclaimed. “Which one did he use?”
“I don’t know how to use a murder object,” I said, low.
She growled at me. “Before he teleported. What object was he touching?”
Now was my chance to lie and lead them on a wild goose chase. But for Ariana’s safety, I said, “The carousel horse.”
The small woman nodded. Then she grabbed the carousel horse with both hands, shut her eyes, and vanished.
Once again, there was a flash of red light. Once again, the odor of blood hung in the air.
I stared, stupefied. I felt a little bit chilled, down in the marrow of my bones.
Murder objects? What did that mean?
I didn’t get much of a chance to think more about it, because Ariana came skulking back.
“Thank you for telling me,” she said, sulkily.
“Well, I might not like you very much,” I said. “But I don’t want you to die.”
“That’s nice of you.”
“It’s more than generous of me, yes.”
We stared at each other.
“He was really here?” she said. “And he said he wanted to kill me?”
“He said he was going to kill all of the Night Enthusiasts,” I said. “Starting with you.”
She was trying to sound blasé. But she wasn’t. I could tell.
“Ariana, he scares me,” I said.
“He scares me, too!” she said. “Never mind the madness and the furry puppet eyeball. He’s always scared me. He scared me before we put him in that train car.”
I paused, dislike festering in the pit of my stomach. “You did that?”
I stared at her with newfound horror.
“You put him in that train car?”
Ariana looked miserable. “Just shut up about it, Maude, will you?”
She left me alone.
I waited for another hour, too antsy to write, too bored to do anything else. I stared at the ceiling, at the heaps of valuables that surrounded my cage. Were these all murder objects? What in the world did that mean? Murder objects, murder objects….
Diary, I can feel that I’m going to get out of this cage soon. This is Act 2, after all, and heroines don’t spend all of Act 2 sitting in cages. Assuming I am the heroine. I think I am.
You know that my Magic Unusual power is to break spells, simply by speaking against them. Well, I started to try it.
“I wish this cage were unlocked. I wish the enchantment that keeps me from teleporting was broken. I—”
I was cut off by the small woman returning. Coughing and covered in mud, she popped into existence right next to the carousel horse.
She strode over to me, anger in her eyes.
“Are you sure he was touching the horse? Were you lying to me?”
“I wasn’t lying to you,” I said.
The small woman dug her fingers into her hair. She’d always seemed sort of snide and in control; it was fascinating to see her at her wit’s end.
“What can he want in 1916?” she moaned. “What can he be looking for?”
I stared at her, completely bewildered. 1916? Was that the name of a hotel? The small woman strode off.
It soon became apparent that I would get no more peace and quiet. At first I was grateful to Wrath for at least making my life more interesting with his little murder plot, but now I’m irritated with him. After the hullabaloo died down, the cave emptied, except for three Night Enthusiasts who were left to guard the carousel horse. They're near me at all times now. They’re waiting for Wrath to get back. They’ve got guns. They seem tense.
When the small woman teleported back into the cave, with the flash of red light and the smell of blood, she’d returned to the exact same spot. And now the Night Enthusiasts are waiting for Wrath to return in the exact same spot, as though he has to return that way. That’s not like normal teleportation.
I wish I knew what this was all about. Smell of blood…. Murder objects… what, do you kill someone to make these teleportations possible? We don’t have to kill people for our other teleportations to work.
The small woman said, What can he want in 1916?
She couldn’t possibly have meant… 1916… as in, the year, could she? Do the objects let you travel in time? Is that why there are so many of them, strewn everywhere? Does each individual object lead to an individual place in time? Are they collected, so Magic Unusuals can travel to any point in time they wish to?
Hang on. I think I’ve just figured something out. You know how I keep wanting to know who the Murder, of McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop is?
I think that place is filled with Murder Objects.
McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop.
We hope you’ve enjoyed Season 2, episode 2, Murder, Murder, Everywhere, of McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop. McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop is written and performed by Minerva Sweeney Wren, all rights reserved. If you wish you were a magic unusual, fear not. When you subscribe to or review this podcast, you perform a magical deed by making it far more attractive to potential listeners. You can also gain magical powers by becoming a $1 patron at patreon.com.sweeneywren. Results are not guaranteed.
McGilicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop will continue with Season 2 episode 3, Gas Mask
October 2nd, 1921, continued.
It’s a bit later, diary. I am bored stiff. As a matter of fact, all of me is stiff. My legs are stiff. My arms are stiff. Pardon me for being vulgar, but my tutu is the stiffest of all. Pretty soon I’m going to grow into this cage, I’m going to meld with it, and that will be the end of it. I’ll never get out.
The three Night Enthusiasts are still lounging around, waiting for Wrath to return. The wooden carousel horse, with its twisted expression of pain, looks up at them reproachfully.
At this point, the Night Enthusiasts have calmed down a bit. They were extremely tense for the first hour, as though Wrath was going to appear any moment. Now they’re getting bored. They’re sitting. One of them is lying down. I’m thinking of chucking bits of spit-paper into the nearest one’s hat. I’ve got nothing better to do.
I wasn’t doing a very good job of escaping before these three guards showed up, but now that they’re here, I’m doing even worse job.
I just tried teleporting again. I shut my eyes and wished for McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop. I’ve done that before, of course. It doesn’t work. It isn’t possible to teleport. But I keep trying.
The thing is, I’m not entirely sure how my unique Magic Unusual power works. I can break spells just by speaking. Wonderful. So far so good. But is it that simple? What if there’s a particular phrasing I have to use? I released Wrath from his train car, but I don’t remember what I said exactly. That’s the only time I’ve ever broken a spell. What if it comes down to cadence, inflection, number of words used? How am I supposed to know how it works?
And there’s no one to teach me how to do it right, because I’m the only Magic Unusual in the world who has this power.
So, I keep trying things. Saying words over and over, in a different way, with different patterns, in case I can break the spell. There’s some kind of magic keeping me in this cage, or in the cave itself. If I can just break whatever spell the Night Enthusiasts used to trap me here, I can get out.
But they know about my power. They’ve known about it for some time. It’s why they want me on their side, so they can exploit it. If they knew about my power ahead of time, surely they were prepared? I think perhaps they found a way to block my power. Somehow. I wish I knew how they did it.
But. In case they didn’t block my power, I’m going to keep trying to teleport. I’ve been muttering under my breath for the last minute or two, and a few of The Night Enthusiasts have looked over, annoyed. Honestly, they’re treating me like a sheep in the zoo.
Diary, it’s a bit later, and if it’s possible to feel worse, then I do. The Night Enthusiast guards, bored, began to talk about things. Mostly stupid things like who’s winning at baseball and whether or not one of them, named Fred, is going to propose to the girl he likes. But then they started talking about… well…
“Did you hear about Noble James?” one asked.
“He turned traitor, didn’t he?”
“I don’t know about that. All I heard was there was an accident. He was stabbed.”
“Yes, but that was weeks ago. I mean, did you hear the new news.”
My heart plunged into my shoes. I shut my eyes. In a way, I’d known it already, but it felt awful to hear. Poor Noble.
That, on top of everything else, made me desperate to escape.
And then, all of a sudden, I got an idea.
Let me recount for you, my dearest diary, what I’ve been noticing so far about this cave.
One. None of the Night Enthusiasts have teleported out of it.
That’s quite true. It took me awhile to notice it, because we’ve all teleported into the cave. People arrive all the time. But when they leave, they take the door. Always. Unless they’re me, being force fed a potion, or Wrath and the small woman, using a murder object.
I think perhaps the cave has a spell blocking anyone from teleporting out directly. So far so good. That makes it a worthy prison. You can come but you can’t leave.
But I’ve seen two people leave, and that’s by using a murder object.
The cave’s spell doesn’t apply to murder objects. When you use a murder object, the cave lets you out.
Of course, it looks like you can’t get back any other way. But I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.
First things first, I’m going to get my hands on a murder object.
October 3rd, 1921.
There were no murder objects within reach of my cage. Of course there weren’t. The Night Enthusiasts would have thought of that. But I spotted a tiny crystal ball, blue and green like the ocean, just out of my grasp.
My plan began to take shape.
“My back itches!” I wailed.
One of the Night Enthusiasts looked over at me in complete stupefaction.
I tried to be as whiny as possible. Which, let’s face it, is not very difficult for me.
“I can’t reach the itch,” I fussed. One of the Night Enthusiasts looked at me with a snide grin.
“I could probably reach it, sweetheart.”
Honestly. The nerve.
“Get me a stick or something,” I said. “Ow! Ooh!”
I fussed and dithered and made myself as annoying as possible, until one of them, with a groan, got up and handed me a pen from his jacket pocket.
“There,” he said. “Will that shut you up?”
“Yes,” I said. I took it meekly as he passed it through the bars. For show, I scratched my back.
He waited for me to return the pen. I grinned, impishly.
“Now I can draw pictures on my hands,” I said. “Thanks a lot.”
“Hey!” he said.
“I’m bored in here,” I pouted. “It’s the least you can do.”
With a sign, he wandered back to the carousel horse. And I had what I wanted.
I waited for the Night Enthusiasts to grow bored and start talking again. Even better, they soon started a game of cards. Two of their backs were to me, so only one of them could see me. I shifted and yawned and wormed my way over to the left side of the cage. Then, with the pen extended in the tips of my fingers, I reached my hand through the bars.
Two things happened at once then. I hit the small crystal ball with my pen, and it rolled beautifully, obediently towards me.
The second thing that happened was that Wrath came back.
I was about to pick up the crystal ball, when The Night Enthusiasts suddenly shouted. One screeched as if he were in pain. Wrath, laughing hysterically, bounded into the cave.
Once more, the room was filled with the syrupy, metallic scent of blood. Wrath stood inside the circle of Night Enthusiasts, still laughing. They pointed their weapons at him. They shouted. Wrath held a large metal canister, as well as a leathery mass in his left hand.
“Put it down!” One of the Night Enthusiasts shouted. “Put it down!”
Wrath, with a grin, flopped the leathery thing onto his head. It was a mask. It had giant glass eyes like an insect.
Wrath turned a knob on his metal canister. One of the Night Enthusiasts screamed.
Yellow fumes poured from the canister. It was gas. Wrath had gone into 1916 to bring back gas.
One of the Night Enthusiasts fired. The bullet struck Wrath, but he seemed to be unaffected.
“Sorry, boys! More wood than flesh, now!” Wrath looked over at me, light glinting in the mask’s giant, bulbous eyes. “I’d leave if I were you!” he said.
I snatched up the crystal ball, and I wished to get out. Anywhere.
With a lurch in the pit of my stomach, I left the cave of The Night Enthusiasts.
We hope you’ve enjoyed Season 2, episode 3, Gas Mask, of McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop. McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop is written and performed by Minerva Sweeney Wren, all rights reserved. Visit Minervasweeneywren.com to see photographs of the real McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn shop, and learn how you can support the show, keep it advertisement free, and explore more stories by Minerva Sweeney Wren.
McGilicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop will continue with Season 2 episode 4, Safe to Return
Safe to Return
October 3rd , 1921, continued.
Oh, diary. The most frightful thing.
I’d just seized hold of the crystal ball and wished to be elsewhere. With that wish, I was transported, but I had no idea what to expect when I arrived. I had my theory, of course, that the murder object would take me back in time.
This proved to be the case.
I stood in a dark, cold room with gray walls. A whistling sound echoed around me. In a flash, I spotted pale, smooth faces, staring at me, silvery in the light.
They were statues. Beautiful statues, perched on tombs.
I was in a crypt.
My breath clouded in the air in front of me. Outside, twilight was falling, but a little light came in through a latticed window.
I stood very still and tried not to touch anything. The floor and walls were like ice, but the chill seemed a little haunted, too. The way the statues stared at me… the crypt seemed lit with an other worldly light, blue and silver, and I questioned whether I was in the land of the living at all.
Then, curiosity of curiosities, I spotted the crystal orb. But it wasn’t in my hands. It was perched in the hands of a statue. I hadn’t put it there.
I went up to touch it, and that was when a horrible feeling came over me. As if drawn to it, I touched the lid of a sarcophagus—or whatever they’re called—you know, the giant stone caskets inside of crypts—and I pushed it open.
Inside the sarcophagus lay a girl. She was freshly dead. But she wasn’t sleeping peacefully in the stone coffin, which is how you’d expect a corpse to be laid out. She was curled up, on her side. And her hands were raw.
I quickly touched her neck, to be sure she was really dead. But her body was stiff. And icy cold.
Someone had shut her up in the sarcophagus, alive.
I put my hand over my mouth. Murder objects. Murder. That crystal orb was connected to a murder, and I was looking right at it.
I had to get out. I felt horrible for the girl, and also irrationally terrified that it was going to happen to me. I turned and found the door of the crypt. The door was iron. Frost melted against my skin when I touched the handle. I pushed, and it was unlocked, so I hurried outside.
I was in a graveyard at twilight. It was snowing. Soft, gentle feathers flurried down and brushed my face.
I felt rejuvenated by the snow. In the distance, bells began to toll. I took a deep breath, and my exhale clouded across the snowy landscape.
A village glittered nearby in the dusky light. From the look of the village, I’d landed somewhere in the 1800s. The beautiful, snowy, innocent 1800s, where a girl had just been shut alive inside a coffin.
I took off across the landscape, but my thoughts were on the tomb.
Who was that girl?
Did a Night Enthusiast kill her? Do magic unusuals have to create a murder object on purpose, with a murder? McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop also houses murder objects, and they don’t go around murdering people. I feel fairly certain of that.
I don’t know how the whole murder object thing all works yet, but I know that I feel cold in the pit of my stomach, and when I go to sleep tonight, I’m going to cry tears for that girl. Even though she died a hundred years before I was born.
My feet grew cold in no time at all. Honestly, why is snow so wet? It doesn’t stay frozen. It just sort of… sinks into your shoes and makes your socks all slimy. I couldn’t wait to reach the village.
At the same time, I was in heaven. Imagine, sitting for days in a cage! A cage where you don’t even quite fit. I hadn’t lain down in a very long time, and I couldn’t wait. I was going to have my first proper sleep since I found out Ariana betrayed me.
The snowflakes were wonderful, like cooling kisses. I reached the village, and I stopped at the outskirt. I helped myself into a barn, said hello to a curmudgeon of a cow, and climbed up into the hay loft.
It’s very snug up here, if a bit itchy. The animals keep the place warm. I am wrapped in a blanket and buried in hay, and it’s pleasant to write by the light of the moon.
You know I told myself that I was going to nap. That I couldn’t wait to go to sleep. And yet you find me here, writing to you instead. Why am I doing that, diary?
I tried shutting my eyes. I tried listening to the drip drip drip of my socks as they hung up to dry. But as soon as I shut my eyes, I saw Wrath in that horrible gas mask, his bulbous eyes glinting.
More than that, I can hear those Night Enthusiasts screaming.
You heard the horror stories about the gas, of course. A weapon so torturous that they actually outlawed it. I think Wrath could have killed those Night Enthusiasts in a lot of different ways, but he wanted to use that one.
I’m mad at Wrath. Why shouldn’t I be? He had no idea that I’d sneaked that pen, that I was able to grab hold of a murder object. For all he knew, I was stuck there for life. His little quip about, you’d better leave… he was going to let me inhale poison, trapped in a cage, and he just didn’t care.
If it wasn’t for that fellow’s pen, I would be dead.
I guess I can keep that fellow’s pen.
I feel a little bit like I tasted the war. Not really, of course, not the way the nurses and soldiers did. But those deaths, witnessing the horror of gas… it’s scaring me. And Wrath just stood there. Is this what Act 2 of my adventure is going to be like? A war? Am I caught in the cross fire of something large and violent? I just saw three men die today.
Part of me wonders if I should go back. How long does gas stay in the air, especially in a cave? Will it still be killing people in three or four days? That sounds stupid, but gas is the modern height of science. It’s practically witchcraft. I don’t know what gas does.
If I was feeling brave, and resilient, and clever, I’d somehow find that perfect slot of time, when the gas dissipates, but the rest of the Night Enthusiasts haven’t returned to their cave yet. Then I’d sneak out and be free in the real world, instead of 1800s France, or wherever I am. (I should ask the cow if it speaks French.)
But I don’t know how to find that perfect time slot, so instead, I’m going to wait in this time period for a very long time. Weeks. Maybe months. Maybe. Finally, when the Night Enthusiasts have stopped looking for me, I’ll come back.
And then I’ll dash up the staircase into the real world, or at least, you know, the time frame I really belong in, and then what?
Can you see why a poor girl can’t get to sleep?
October 4th, 1921
Diary, that date is a lie. It’s probably 1818 in Brussels or something. I don’t know. So far, I haven’t been discovered in this barn. I sneaked down early and milked the cow (sorry farmer!) and that made a very nice breakfast. I’d never milked a cow, but my father used to tell me all about how to do it. I’m very pleased that I didn’t get kicked in the face.
I think this afternoon I’m going to teleport all around the world and see what it’s like in 1818.
All right, well it isn’t 1818, it’s 1797, and people aren’t very nice to you when your skirt comes to the middle of your calf instead of to your boots. I didn’t have a very good day.
This barn is colder than it was last night. I’m hungry. I want to go home and suffer in 1921.
October 5th, 1921
Well, diary, I walked back to the crypt. My plan was to take a peek, just a peek, at the Night Enthusiast’s cave and see what was happening.
The walk was nice. It was snowing again. Once again, my boots soaked through, and my hands turned to raw, red, numbness. I was feeling chilly and alive.
I opened the door to the crypt, and Ariana was standing right there.
“Hello,” she said. She looked freezing. “I’ve been wondering when you were going to turn up.”
We hope you’ve enjoyed Season 2, episode 4, Safe to Return, of McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop. McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop is written and performed by Minerva Sweeney Wren, all rights reserved. If you enjoy this podcast, please consider taking a moment to share it with your friends. A social media share, facebook tag, or in person recommendation do more to market this audiodrama than anything Minerva Sweeney Wren can do on her own. She relies on you. Visit MinervaSweeneyWren.com to share the story with other people in need of an adventure.
McGilicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop will continue with Season 2 episode 5, The Ariana Trade
October 5th, 1921, continued.
I stared at Ariana in stupefaction. “What are you doing here?” I said.
“Oh, come on,” she said. “Don’t ask stupid questions.”
“It’s not a stupid question,” I said.
“Well, I’m obviously here for you, Maude.”
“Yes, I got that, thank you. I mean what do you want with Maude? Why did you come to bother Maude? Was it to bring Maude a warm winter coat and a nice bowl of soup? Or was it to drag Maude back to the cave she just escaped from and make her eat gruel?”
Ariana’s eyes, to my surprise, filled with tears.
“Maude, Wrath killed three of our men,” she said.
I softened. “I know.”
“I thought you were dead,” Ariana whispered.
She stumbled up to me and seized me in a hug.
I hated Ariana so much in that moment, because I loved her enough to crush her ribs. She sniffled into my neck, and we held each other in a tight hug.
“I missed you,” she said.
“I’ll bear that in mind, Judas.”
Ariana groaned and pulled out of our hug. “We’ve been looking for you,” she said. “After we found them. You know. The ones who died from the gas. Wrath was gone, of course. And so were you. But we knew you couldn’t get out of your cage. And I found the pen and I figured you used a murder object. We all started looking, trying to find out which way you’d gone. They were all preoccupied with the objects right next to your cage, but this one, the crystal ball, had rolled five feet to the left. I found it. I came here after you, and I just had a sense. I’ve been waiting for about twelve hours.”
“And now you’re going to let me go,” I said.
“No,” Ariana said.
“Yeah, no, you really are,” I said. “I’m this close, Ariana. I’m not going back in that cage.”
“Maude, I need you on my side.”
“Yeah, well, I need you on my side,” I said. “But you don’t hear me whining about it.”
“Ariana, I will punch you if I have to.”
She pulled out a gun.
“Oh, we are not friends,” I said.
“We are,” she said. “We’re just also enemies right now.”
With the gun still pointed at me, Ariana gestured to the crystal ball. I grabbed it, so mad steam was coming out of my ears. I returned in a flash to the cave of the Night Enthusiasts.
The smell of blood was all around me this time. I stepped back and coughed. Quite a few Night Enthusiasts were in the cave this time; they looked up as I entered. Ariana arrived a split second after me.
“You found her!” the small woman called to Ariana. “Good! Good! Maude, get back in your cage. Ariana, report to Smithers.”
“What’s going on?” Ariana asked.
“Wrath is coming back,” the small woman said. “He said he would surprise us tonight. Now, don’t stand there talking. Go report to Smithers. We have a lot of spell work to do.”
Ariana, tight-lipped, ran off to see Smithers. I stood there for a minute as the Night Enthusiasts rushed around me, wondering if the small woman seriously expected me to walk back into my cage.
So. They were expecting Wrath. He’d been busy, while I’d been away. The Night Enthusiasts were scared. Like ants moving in the darkness, they shivered and scurried all across the cave. I didn’t know what they were doing, but every group seemed to have a plan, an occupation. They feared Wrath like the bubonic plague.
A man walked up to me, his black hat pulled low over his face.
“You really care about her, don’t you?” he said.
I turned. I screamed.
“Shh. Shh.” The man put his finger to his lips. He took me by the arm and led me towards my cage. Loudly, he said. “That’s it, back in the cage, no fussing.”
It was Wrath. The hat mostly concealed his wooden face and puppet eye, but even still, there must have been a spell working in his favor. He’d been running around with all the Night Enthusiasts, undetected. Then again, it was very dark in that cave.
“How did you get in here?” I said.
“Yes, they are very stupid, aren’t they?” Wrath said. “But I want to know, quite seriously, Maude. Does Ariana mean something to you?”
“Yes, she does,” I said.
“How much? Are you friends? Lovers? Cousins? Give an estimate of your affection.”
“Sisters,” I said. “I love her like a sister, despite the fact that she backstabbed me.”
“Sisters,” Wrath said. “All right, thank you very much. Thank you very much, Maude.”
He let go of me. We were halfway to the cage, and I swerved. Wrath walked one way, and I walked another. Keeping to the shadows, sidestepping through piles and piles of murder objects, I made my way to the door.
I was almost there, too, when Wrath ruined everything again.
He’d made his way to the center of the cave. Right beside the black gazebo, he set up shop. The cave suddenly exploded in a burst of fireworks. The Night Enthusiasts screamed. Purple pinwheels shrieked through the air, and all eyes turned to look at Wrath, who was now lit from below with a bright yellow light.
He removed the hat with a flourish. “Thank you, thank you, thank you! Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Hester Rathbone, but you can call me Wrath.”
Dead silence descended. I decided this would be a bad time to try to bolt for the door.
“I’m the fellow who got put into a train car three years ago,” Wrath said. “By you lot. And now I’m here to kill all of you. Unless of course, we can find some sort of compromise.”
Every Night Enthusiast stood perfectly still. I didn’t breathe. Then, from the darkness and the stillness, the small woman strode forward.
“Wrath,” she said. “You may not kill the Night Enthusiasts. You have to answer to me.”
“I’m afraid I only barely remember you,” Wrath said. “From when you murdered me. There was another fellow in charge when I got put into that train car.”
The small woman drew herself up to her full height. Which wasn’t very tall. But my stars, the way she held her shoulders, her spine so stiff. Even I was afraid of her, all the way in the corner.
“I am Dawn Mumungus,” she said. “I am the head of The Night Enthusiasts.”
Oh. All right. That was her name. Dawn Mumungus.
“Oh, hello, Dawn!” Wrath said. “Do you know why I’m here?”
“To get revenge,” Dawn said.
“That’s right,” Wrath said. “To get revenge. It’s going to be fun. Now I want you to think very carefully about me, Dawn. I might have been encased in wood for the last three years, but I could still think. And when you can think for three years, you get very, very good at magic. You’ve all been rushing around here for the last hour, when I was here with you all along. Now don’t you think you should be, at least a little bit, afraid of me?”
Dawn Mumungus watched Wrath in silence.
“And if you should be afraid of me,” Wrath said. “Then things don’t look very good for you, do they? I want to kill every single one of you. Like cockroaches. Squish. You should be very afraid.”
We didn’t know what Wrath was going to do. No one was moving. It was like he had a cannon aimed at all our heads. Maybe he did.
“The thing is,” Wrath said. “I love to stir things up, so why don’t we compromise? If you hand over one of your own, willingly, a life for mine, then I’ll consider that enough revenge. That’s justice, you see. You ruined my life intentionally. If you intentionally ruin the life of one of your own, then I’ll call it fair.”
“You’d let us trade one for many?” Dawn Mumungus said. “That’s right,” Wrath said. “I promise to spare the lives of every Night Enthusiast… if you let me murder Ariana.”
We hope you’ve enjoyed Season 2, episode 5, Dawn Mumungus, of McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop. McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop is written and performed by Minerva Sweeney Wren, all rights reserved. If you wish you were a magic unusual, fear not. When you subscribe to or review this podcast, you perform a magical deed by making it far more attractive to potential listeners. You can also gain magical powers by becoming a $1 patron at patreon.com.sweeneywren. Results are not guaranteed.
McGilicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop will continue with Season 2 episode 6, The Ariana Trade
The Ariana Trade.
October 5th, 1921, continued.
I stared in horrified silence at Wrath.
I wasn’t alone either. The rest of the Night Enthusiasts all stared in horrified silence at Wrath as well.
He’d just proposed to trade Ariana’s life for the lives of all the other Night Enthusiasts. He wouldn’t go around slaughtering them all; he’d let them live, as long as he got to murder Ariana.
This was the man who, five minutes before, had asked me how deep my affection for Ariana was. I’d told him I loved her like a sister. Which as everyone knows, is about as close as you can get to someone, without being a spouse. He asked me. I told him. Now, knowing how much I loved a particular Night Enthusiast, Wrath chose that particular Night Enthusiast to murder.
I was about to walk up and strangle him.
The hush that descended on the cave was something truly spectacular. Everyone watched in pained silence. Some of the Night Enthusiasts began to twitch and look around, and I knew they were thinking… maybe Ariana should take a hit for the good of them all. They were hoping she’d be dragged out of here screaming while they got to sit like fat cats for the rest of their lives.
I knew better, however. No leader, no matter how evil, would surrender one of their followers like a sacrificial lamb. They’d hold out. They’d fight. Wrath was in the Night Enthusiasts’s grasp: he was surrounded. This night would most likely end with Wrath lying in a bloody heap.
I was angry with Wrath. But I wasn’t worried. I had faith in Dawn Mumungus. Ariana would be all right.
I looked over at Ariana just then. Of all the tense energy in the room, hers was the worst. She stood ram rod straight, eyes fixed on Wrath and Dawn Mumungus. I felt as though, if anyone touched her, they’d get an electric shock so bad they’d shoot across the room.
“If we gave you Ariana’s life…” Dawn Mumungus said slowly. “You would leave us all in peace? Forever?”
“You have my word,” Wrath said.
“Done,” Dawn Mumungus said. “Take Ariana. Kill her however you wish. I just don’t want to see your face ever again.
The room changed. A murmur swept throughout the cave. Half of the Night Enthusiasts relaxed, relieved and elated that Dawn Mumungus had saved their lives so soon. The rest looked around, stupefied. Guilty and pleased, like a child who realizes the cookie jar is all his if he hurries.
Ariana spun around and looked at me. I couldn’t imagine what she was thinking, all of what she was feeling, but I saw a bit of it in her eyes. She latched onto me. She was furious, ready to rip someone in half, I think, but she loved me. She had a look of revelation, like she knew she should have been trusting only me all along.
After a betrayal like that, Ariana was remarkably quick. She slowly changed her face.
You remember, diary, that Ariana’s special Magic Unusual power is to change her appearance at will? I’d only ever seen her change the color of her eyes, but she can do a lot more. She changed her face into someone else’s. A different girl. Then, her expression very carefully controlled, she walked towards me.
You have to understand, it was very dark in that cave. Most of the Night Enthusiast’s eyes were still fixed on Wrath, who had gone into a monologue about all the ways he wasn’t going to kill them. I thought it was a very strange time for Wrath to be talking his head off, but Wrath was a very strange man.
Ariana reached me, and without looking at me, she took my hand. I felt a film of magic glide across my face. Ariana had changed my appearance, too. Then, together, disguised by her magic, we walked towards the door. The other Night Enthusiasts let us go. To them, we were two girls getting nervous and trying to leave. We weren’t the prisoner and the girl who was going to die against her will for all of them.
We opened the door at the back of the cave, and then we ran back through the eerie tunnel. It’s only been a few weeks since I traversed that tunnel, with its green glass and candlelight, but it felt like ages. For a moment, as I smelled the damp, I was old Maude. I was scared, shy, pathetic little Maude, following Renfield into a cave of Night Enthusiasts, not knowing what Night Enthusiasts were.
I felt suddenly giddy with how far I’ve come.
Ariana still held my hand, and she dragged me down the tunnel. I could hardly run fast enough for her taste. I felt all of her anger and fear in her hand: she was practically squeezing the life out of mine.
No Night Enthusiasts followed us. We soon reached the end of the tunnel, climbed the stairs, and came out into the private alcove of the nightclub.
No one was in the alcove, and the curtains were drawn. Ariana turned and looked at me.
“We can teleport now,” she said. “I’m going to Buckingham Bleeding Palace if you want to come with me.”
For a moment, I thought she was going to wait for me. It was clear that she wanted me to come with her. She wanted us to be fast friends again. She wanted to be able to trust at least one other person on the God-forsaken planet.
But then… she didn’t want to wait. I saw it flash through her eyes. She looked wounded. And she didn’t want to wait for me, in case I said no. In case I never wanted to see her again.
Of course I wanted to see her again. She teleported. And I teleported on her heels. To Buckingham Bleeding Palace. Because she might have been a little Judas, but she was still my Ariana, and I was going to see her through this next stage of life.
I teleported to Buckingham Palace, parenthesis, in general. When I stood outside the gate and peered in, feeling a little green, I noticed that Ariana was nowhere to be found. She’d probably teleported into the palace itself. That was idiotic. How was she supposed to know if I was out here?
There was nothing for it but to sit down. The afternoon had been rainy, apparently, because everything was wet. The fountain was glistening, and the flowers were bright and jeweled with moisture. I found a stone bench, sat in the wet, and took off my shoes. My feet hurt. Not too long ago, I’d been trudging through the snowy countryside of 1797.
About five minutes later, Ariana popped into view. She had the expression of a rat sniffing for food. Sort of hopeful and skulking.
I waved, a little sarcastically.
She came bounding over, joy in her eyes. “You did come,” she said. She seized me in a very awkward, very well-meant hug. “Come on, I’ve found a bedroom that’s all locked up. Not being used at the moment. We’ll teleport straight in.”
After Ariana drew me a crude visual sketch, I teleported with her into a locked bedroom of Buckingham Palace.
It was very frilly. There were a lot of roses everywhere. And gold. And lace.
Ariana sat down on a curved sofa, and looked at me with sheepish eyes.
“What do you say we steal food from the kitchens?”
“Ordinarily, I’d object,” I said. “But I’m hungry, and I’m tired, and I don’t really want to think right now.”
“I don’t want to think right now, either,” Ariana said. “I’ll go steal us food.”
“All right,” I said.
We were blatantly avoiding the issue at hand, but for once it felt very good to avoid the issue at hand. While Ariana was gone, I ran myself a bath and submerged everything but my head in fountains of bubbles. After living in McGillicuddy and Murders Pawn shop, then living in a cage, and then living in a barn, this bath was heaven on earth.
I was just admiring the glisten and sheen of the bubbles when Ariana knocked softly on the door.
“Maude?” she said. “When you’re out, I want to talk to you about something.”
“I don’t think I want to be a Night Enthusiast anymore.”
We hope you’ve enjoyed Season 2, episode 6, The Ariana Trade of McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop. McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop is written and performed by Minerva Sweeney Wren, all rights reserved. Visit Minervasweeneywren.com to see photographs of the real McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn shop, and learn how you can support the show, keep it advertisement free, and explore more stories by Minerva Sweeney Wren.
McGilicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop will continue with Season 2 episode 7, Mr. McGillicuddy Again
Mr. McGillicuddy Again
October 5th, 1921, continued.
When I got out of the bath, I wrapped my wet hair up in a towel. It was sort of unpleasant, after feeling so clean, to put on the same dirty clothes I’d been wearing before, but it couldn’t be helped. After dressing, I stepped cautiously back into the bedroom.
Ariana was seated on the floor in front of a roaring fire. She’d stolen quite a bit of food, all of which was laid out on a blanket. She hadn’t touched it yet, which I took as a gesture of good will.
“Hello,” she said. “Did you have a nice time?”
Her whole demeanor was awkward, on edge. I didn’t quite know what to say, but I sat down opposite her, crosslegged.
“Ariana….” I said slowly.
“Here,” she said. “Have a mushroom.”
She thrust a seasoned mushroom into my face.
“Ariana,” I said. “We need to talk about what happened.”
“No,” Ariana said. She popped the mushroom into her mouth. She hugged her knees and stared into the fire. “We need to talk about why you’re here.”
A sort of quietness passed between us.
“Because you asked me?” I said.
“Yes, but why did you come?”
“Because I care about you.”
“And that’s the problem,” Ariana said. “I’ve had awhile to think, while you were finishing your bath. I’ve got a lot going through me right now, Maude. I’m terrified that Wrath is going to break down that door any moment and slaughter me. After how quickly Madam Mumungus just handed me over, like a rabbit to be chopped up and boiled for dinner, I feel like I’ve been stabbed in the chest. And I’m wondering why the hell I gave up my life for those people, if this is how much I mean to them. But that’s not important. That’s my problem. That can wait. The problem for you and I… is you. You shouldn’t be here. You should have laughed in my face, spat in my face, and walked away.”
“Yes, I probably should have,” I said.
We stared at each other.
“So you’re going to leave?” Ariana said.
“No,” I said.
“You’re being a martyr,” Ariana said. “You’re being unkind to yourself, by being too kind to me. I know you want to be there for me, and that’s jolly for you, but you need to stop. I have so much roiling inside of me I think I might go commit my own murder. Maybe I’ll go kill Wrath. Maybe I’ll go get killed by Wrath. But I should be on my own, because that’s what I deserve.”
“If you’re trying to get me to abandon you,” I said, “It won’t work.”
“Listen to me!” Ariana said. “I am trying to get you to do the right thing. You are sweet and kind and too trusting and too charming, and that’s why people like me stab you in the back. In every fiber of my being, I want you to stay with me, because I am more alone than I’ve ever been in my entire life. But you should not be friends anymore with the girl who betrayed you. I used you. It was unacceptable, and I’m going to leave now and never come back. I’m not going to tell you where I’m going.”
“Ariana, you’re forgetting one thing,” I said.
“What?” she said.
“I forgive you.”
Ariana looked at me, her eyes large and sad. “Really?” she said.
I hadn’t really meant it until this moment. But I did forgive her. Forgiving is not the same as trusting, and Ariana still needed to earn my trust back. But she had just lost her family, and Night Enthusiast or not, she needed me. And, what was just as important, I didn’t think that being her friend would endanger me. Not anymore.
Forgiveness is a very intimate thing, when it’s done properly, and the tension diffused between Ariana and I. She gave me a hug around the neck, and we sat close to each other, eating dinner.
“I can’t believe she did that…” Ariana murmured.
“Who?” I said. “Dawn Mumungus?”
“Madam Mumungus, yes,” Ariana said. “I can’t ever go back there, Maude. I can’t believe it. I still can’t believe it, but I can’t. I’m not a Night Enthusiast. Or at least… I am still a Night Enthusiast. Do you stop being Catholic if your priest stabs you in the back with a bread knife?”
“Probably depends on the person,” I said.
“I don’t think I can stop being a Night Enthusiast, even if I wanted to,” Ariana said. “I… killed a part of myself, you know. My soul is different, now. But I don’t think I can go back there. With them.”
“You still have an altered soul,” I said. “But you don’t work for them anymore? Is that maybe a good way of putting it?”
“Yes,” Ariana said. “Because how can I work for anyone who would betray me like that?”
I was immensely pleased. All of a sudden, faster than I ever could have hoped, Ariana was no longer my enemy. At least, she was no longer working with my enemies. I didn’t know what the future held for us, or how much her soul was truly damaged, but I didn’t have to worry about her dragging me back to the Night Enthusiasts lair anymore, and it felt like Christmas morning.
“So,” Ariana said. “Now what?”
“Now what?” I said. “Now we go to bed. That mattress looks quite fluffy, and I haven’t slept in a bed in weeks.”
Before retiring, diary, for a nice slumber in Buckingham Bleeding Palace, I’ve written all these many pages to catch you up. You’re getting quite fat. Plump with ink and scruffy with well-loved pages. And that’s just as you should be.
October 6th, 1921,
Oh, it was so exquisite to wake up in a real bed. I’d forgotten what it felt like to not be sore in the morning.
Ariana wanted to steal breakfast the same way that she’d stolen dinner, but I refused. I said we could buy something from a shop. We fixed our hair and very graciously made the bed, and then we teleported out of our secret room in Buckingham Palace. Why didn’t we get caught that whole time? I have no idea. Did the servants hear us? Probably. Did they think someone was having an affair and decided the door was locked so it was none of their business? Possibly. Either way, we made it out just fine, and we stopped and got eel pies for breakfast. Not really my thing. Very oily.
“Well?” Ariana said. “Where to?”
In some ways, things felt perfectly normal with Ariana, the way they were before. In other ways, everything felt strained and hesitant.
“Where else?” I said. “The place where it all began. The wonderful place, the magical place, the one and only McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop.”
Ariana grinned. “Why there?”
“Because we have to find Mr. McGillicuddy,” I said. “I am fed up. I am finished. That man is going to let us into his magic unusual club if it’s the last thing he does.”
“Do you know where to find Mr. McGillicuddy?” Ariana said.
“No,” I said. “But I’m starting to have an idea. And the Pawn Shop is the best place to start, because his name is on the sign.”
Without further ado, Ariana and I teleported to McGillicuddy and Murders.
My stomach flopped as soon as we arrived.
Do you know it felt like coming home? The smell is so unusual. Normally when you smell the scent of home, you think of pies cooling in the kitchen or dried flowers or the smell of old paste beneath the wallpaper. But I smelled old stone, and old books, and dusty, ancient mahogany. It felt just right.
It was early morning. Birds trilled outside the window, and misty sunlight came in through the windows. Needless to say, it was quiet and shut up. No customers yet. Ariana sat down, and I began to pace.
“Mr. McGillicuddy!” I said. “Mr. McGillicuddy, Ariana and I are here to see you. You know. Ariana. The Night Enthusiast. She’s not with them anymore, and I’m not in their cage anymore, and I demand you show yourself and finally help us out.”
There were three ticks of silence, and then all of a sudden, Mr. McGillicuddy arrived.
I heard a gentle bang upstairs, and then--he teleported right in front of us.
“Sssh!” he said. ‘Not here!”
We hope you’ve enjoyed Season 2, episode 7, Mr. McGillicuddy Again of McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop. McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop is written and performed by Minerva Sweeney Wren, all rights reserved. If you enjoy this podcast, please consider taking a moment to share it with your friends. A social media share, facebook tag, or in person recommendation do more to market this audiodrama than anything Minerva Sweeney Wren can do on her own. She relies on you. Visit MinervaSweeneyWren.com to share the story with other people in need of an adventure.
McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop will continue with Season 2 episode 8, Secret Hideout
October 6th, 1921 continued.
‘Not here!” Mr. McGillicuddy said. He stood a few feet in front of us, next to a giant obsidian statue. It was so odd to see him again.
“Not here!” he said again.
“We need your help,” I said.
“Come back next week!” he squeaked.
He put his finger to his lips, looking miffed, and then he teleported away.
I blinked, unsure of what had just happened. Then it all settled in. Mr. McGillicuddy was afraid of us, afraid of who we might have tailing us. Once again, he wasn’t willing to stick his neck out. Once again, he was going to let us fend for ourselves.
Not on my watch. I was fed up. I was sick and tired of being left on my own by Mr. McGillicuddy. To his credit, the man had helped me. He’d met me by the Iron Lion Bridge, he’d warned me a few times. He wanted to be cautious. I understood that. I respected that. But I think, ultimately, he was being a coward, and I wasn’t going to let my life dangle out in the open anymore.
I was like an orphan out in the snow with a terribly high fever. It was true, if Mr. McGillicuddy let me into his nice, snug cottage, I might infect him and his family. He didn’t have to open the door and let me in. It was usually what you did, if someone was in danger of dying, unless you were a terribly squeamish person. I had a feeling Mr. McGillicuddy was that terribly squeamish person. He wasn’t going to let me in. But I was sick of freezing to death, and I’d reached the point where I was going to kick the door down.
So I did. I turned and faced Ariana.
“Ariana, my dear,” I said.
“Maude, my understanding wench.”
“I have an idea,” I said. “Follow me.” And then, because I was feeling snide, I said, “And don’t tell the Night Enthusiasts about it.”
“That was low!” Ariana said, as we hurried up the stairs.
“But you deserve it,” I said.
“Is this my life now?” Ariana said. “Being pestered forever about handing you over to them?”
“You’re a Night Enthusiast,” I said. “About to enter a camp of Non-Night Enthusiasts. You will be surrounded by ex-enemies. Every minute, you’ll be aware that you are something that they’re not, and that your identity is centered in opposing them.” I paused and looked back at her. “I don’t know where you stand, Ariana. Where you honestly stand. So I make mean jokes about it, because I’m uncomfortable. I’m sorry. I won’t do it anymore.”
“Forgiven,” Ariana said. “And shut up about me being A Night Enthusiast. I want to forget.”
So did I. Did I mention that the orphan freezing in the snow with a terribly high fever also had a venomous viper in her pocket?
We reached the second floor, and we stood right by the coats. I recognized a few of the treasures I used to pore over—peacock feather gloves, odd red coats that had Minerva Sweeney Wren written in the lining.
This was the same spot I’d first met Noble James. Do you remember, diary? He seemed to appear out of thin air, and we were both startled. We looked at each other, and I fell madly into infatuation. I felt chilled now, I mean I got absolute goosebumps, thinking that he was dead.
But that moment. That meeting. I’ve had two theories skimming around in my brain for some time now, and here they are.
Noble James tried to help me, and in the end, he was stabbed to death by Night Enthusiasts. Why would he help me, and why would he work against them? I think he turned on his crew. I think he started spying for Mr. McGillicuddy and working secretly against the Night Enthusiasts. Risky, yes, but that’s my suspicion. Because otherwise, I can’t explain why a Night Enthusiast would be casually popping up in McGillicuddy and Murders Pawn Shop.
So far so good. That’s one of my theories: that Noble James was betraying the Night Enthusiasts and working for Mr. McGillicuddy on the sly. That explains why I saw Noble in the pawn shop.
Here’s the other half of my theory.
Noble James hadn’t merely stumbled out of the coats. He’d teleported, but not in the usual way. I think… and this was my hope… that Noble James had been using a murder object.
I don’t recall smelling any blood, but… I don’t know. Maybe I missed it. Because, the thing is… if I was a highly skilled magic unusual, I wouldn’t teleport straight onto the second floor. Not while the Pawn Shop was open. I’d risk running into cute little Melinda Maudie Merkles, and then where would I be?
But maybe Noble James didn’t have a choice. Maybe he couldn’t teleport into a nice dark closet, because the murder object he was using was out in the open.
Why was he using a murder object? This is where it gets good.
My theory, from top to bottom, from start to finish… is that Mr. McGillicuddy, and his crew of magic unusuals, have a secret hideout. Just like the Night Enthusiasts. This secret hideout is where all the good magic unusuals live. And the secret hideout isn’t located in the pawn shop. Not technically. The secret hideout is hidden back in time, and it can only be accessed by a murder object.
And… if the murder object hadn’t been moved since Nobel James used it… then Ariana and I were standing right beside it.
“Start picking things up,” I said. “See if they’re a murder object.”
“Maude, you daft idiot,” Ariana said. “Everything in this pawn shop is a murder object.”
“What?” I said. “Everything?”
I’d already suspected that the Pawn Shop was filled with Murder objects. Hence McGillicuddy and Murders. But I’d also assumed some of the objects were a cover. You know. Mixed in with the murder objects for appearance’s sake.
“What?” I said. “You mean all of these things were… I mean… murders… and…”
“They were all in the room when someone was murdered,” Ariana said. “That doesn’t mean they came off a corpse’s back. Not all of them. When someone is murdered, then anything in that room becomes a murder object. Any magic unusual can use it to return to the scene of the crime.”
I had questions. So many questions. I suddenly felt a little bit green, being connected to something so ghastly. It suddenly felt like everything was about murder, that the core of being a magic unusual was murder. Did we kill these people? Why was our power connected to death? To an unnatural, horrible death?
I wanted to know, but I didn’t have time. I turned to Ariana and made a joke.
“So everything in here in a murder object?” I said.
“So that dust bunny is a murder object?”
She paused, knowing she’d been defeated. “…Yes.”
“Ah,” I said. “Well, good. Go try the dust bunny first.”
Ariana snorted, and we looked around at the objects nearby.
How did we pick one? If everything we touched could lead us back in time, then it would be essentially impossible to pick the right one. Too many options. Because my guess was that the object wouldn’t take us straight to the Magic Unusual hideout; We’d have to walk six blocks to get there, or something. The possibilities were endless, so it would be impossible to choose.
“Your guess is as good as mine,” Ariana said.
I felt like my head was going to explode. This could take months. So much for kicking down Mr. McGillicuddy’s door.
“Um…” I stepped behind a rack of coats. I could hardly remember that day when Noble James first appeared, but, if my fading memory served me correctly, he’d sort of tumbled out from behind this coat rack.
And, if I ran a rare and unusual pawn shop, with my secret hideout hidden somewhere inside, I wouldn’t choose something valuable to be the murder object. I wouldn’t choose something that could be placed in a pocket or handbag. I would choose something dusty, and in the corner, and not worth the attentions of a kleptomaniac.
I stepped behind the coat rack, and there was nothing there. I paused for a moment, disgruntled, until I spotted it.
A nail jutted out from the wall, crooked and black. The wood around it had been worn smooth and glossy. This nail was touched, very often.
“You said anything could be a murder object?” I said to Ariana. “Anything at all?”
“As long as it was present in the room, during the murder,” Ariana said. “Yes.”
“Wonderful,” I said. “I think I’ve found it.”
We hope you’ve enjoyed Season 2, episode 8, Secret Hideout of McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop. McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop is written and performed by Minerva Sweeney Wren, all rights reserved. If you wish you were a magic unusual, fear not. When you subscribe to or review this podcast, you perform a magical deed by making it far more attractive to potential listeners. You can also gain magical powers by becoming a $1 patron at patreon.com.sweeneywren. Results are not guaranteed.
McGilicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop will continue with Season 2 episode 9, Trap Door
October 6th , 1921 continued.
It was a sheer stroke of genius, when you thought about it. I had to hand it to Mr. McGillicuddy. It was a hidden hideout like none other.
The Night Enthusiasts don’t do a very good job of hiding themselves. They just take a secret doorway down to a cave. Then again, the Night Enthusiasts are the aggressors. So they can afford to hide poorly.
Mr. McGillicuddy knew he had to hide his magic unusuals very carefully, and he had the foresight to choose a murder object, which was clever enough. A hideout hidden in time? Very difficult to find.
And then, Mr. McGillicuddy took this murder object, and he placed it in a giant pawn shop, a pawn shop stuffed from floor to ceiling with odd and fascinating murder objects. And then, he made the real murder object a nail, and he hammered it straight into the wall.
All in all, it was brilliant, and it was next to impossible to find. Of course, I’d found it. But no Night Enthusiast had found it yet.
Apart from the one I was about to lead into it. I felt dizzy all of a sudden, and sort of like an idiot.
“You don’t know where Mr. McGillicuddy’s hideout is, do you?” I asked Ariana.
She snorted. “Goodness. If I’d figured that out, I would have been everyone’s hero. What do you think I was doing all that time, while you and I were hiding out in the pawn shop?”
“Stabbing me in the back,” I said.
“Besides that,” she said cheerfully. “The Night Enthusiasts, and I, were also hoping Mr. McGillicuddy would show you and I the hideout. That he wouldn’t suspect me and let us both in. The Night Enthusiasts have been trying to get their hands on his hideout for decades.”
I turned and looked at her solemnly. “Ariana, I’m going to find McGillicuddy’s hideout. I’m going to meet those people and join their side. I’m going to find my magic unusual family. I’m also not going to leave you out in the cold, where Wrath can find you and murder you. But I don’t know how these Magic Unusuals will feel about me dragging a Night Enthusiast into their lair.”
Ariana sighed and looked at the ceiling, like she was trying not to appear as hurt as she was. “So?” she said.
“So they might tie you up and put you in a cage,” I said. “They may never let you leave again.”
“I’m not a Night Enthusiast anymore,” Ariana said. “I don’t work for them.”
“All right,” I said. “I’m just warning you. This isn’t going to be easy for you.”
“I’ll come with you, Maude,” Ariana said. “I don’t want to be alone, and even if Mr. McGillicuddy nails me to the wall by my ear, I’d rather come with you.” She added, low, “It’s about time I tried the good side.”
Ariana was right. The good side probably wouldn’t trade her life at a moment’s notice. They also weren’t going to nail her ear to the wall, but I figured she knew that already.
“All right,” I said. “Do you swear it? Because I know where their hideout is.”
“Wait, how long have you known?” Ariana said.
“I just figured it out.”
She gave me the evil eye. “How come you weren’t working for me all those weeks? I tried so hard.”
“Because I am a good person. Do you swear you won’t reveal the location? To anyone?”
“Maude—” She took my hand, like she was going to shake it. “I solemnly swear that I will never reveal the location of McGillicuddy’s hideout to any Night Enthusiast, even under torture. And if I do reveal it, you personally will have to come and kill me.”
“Har har,” I said.
We shook on it. Ariana had promised, although I wasn’t sure how much her promises were worth. At any rate, what’s done was about to be done. I was going to enter the hideout. And I was going to send Ariana ahead of me.
“You go first,” I said. “Grab that nail. That’s how you get in.”
She looked at me, confused, then spotted the nail in the wall.
“No,” she said. “No.” She leaned closer. “That is BRILLIANT. Aug.”
“You first,” I said, again.
Ariana looked all around the Pawn Shop. She might not have been a Night Enthusiast anymore, but she must have still treasured this moment. To be entering your old enemy’s lair, unawares… it was the sort of thing that curdled the blood, in the most delicious way.
Ariana grabbed hold of the nail, and teleported.
I felt a hush descend over the pawn shop. I took in this moment. After weeks of loneliness, after having no idea how to reach Mr. McGillicuddy, I was about to find him. Assuming my hunch was right. I thought about all those nights, feeling so alone, feeling so separate from the rest of the Magic Unusuals. Could the entrance to the hideout have been here, all along? Had they watched us? Did they know we were hiding in the Pawn Shop? We’d been so close, and yet so far, for so many weeks. It was like finding out there was a castle in your own backyard.
I grabbed the nail, pinching it between my fingers, like it would anchor me to this moment. Then I teleported.
Ariana was right there, but no one else was. As exciting as it would have been to teleport straight into a mess hall full of magic unusuals, we didn’t. We stood in a plain, boxy room. The walls were rough, unadorned wood. The floor was old and damaged, but it had been beautifully made once. I smelled cinnamon and cedar wood.
There was no body, at least not I could see. Whoever had been murdered here wasn’t lying in a heap for all to see. That made sense. I doubted the magic unusuals wanted to see a corpse every time they entered the hideout. But the room wasn’t plain, and it wasn’t devoid of grisly features. Across the wall in red paint, someone had smeared,
DEATH TO ALL MICE.
I do mean Mice. M-I-C-E. For a minute, I was about to burst into laughter, imagining that the murder that gave this room its power was a tiny gray mouse that had died in a trap. Something told me that this wasn’t the murder scene of a mouse, however. I didn’t know what MICE were, or why someone wanted them dead, but I guessed that they were human, and one of them had died in this room.
“Now what?” Ariana said. She turned to me.
“Uh…” I said. “It should be beyond here.”
I stepped up to the only door in the room, and I cracked it open. It led outside, into a blustery night.
It was a beautiful evening. I recognized where we were. We were in the very same city, in the old brewery district. I stood on the threshold of a large brown brick building. A brewery, I think. The air was blue and misty with twilight, and golden lanterns glowed across the street. The street was all brewery on this side, and all beautiful, wooden mansions on the other. The mansions were painted in soft shades of blue and dark pink, and old fashioned metal lanterns glowed on the porches.
I took a breath. It was lovely. I smelled green things, and horse dung, and sweet sawdust. I hadn’t known the city could smell so much like a farm.
“I think we might be in the 1850s,” I said to Ariana.
“Better squat so your skirt looks longer,” Ariana said. “Or you’ll get arrested.”
Stupid skirt. I’d had quite enough of that already, thank you. Me and my shockingly attractive ankles.
“Do you see anything that might point us in the right direction?” I said. “A secret symbol or a…”
I suddenly had another flash of insight. If I were hiding a secret base, I wouldn’t let anyone walk outside. Not in their 1920s garb. Not in front of a bunch of mansions.
I turned back inside. There were no other doors in the room. There wasn’t even any furniture. Then I spotted what I was looking for. Another nail, hammered into the far corner of the floor. It wasn’t much, but as soon as I noticed the nail, I noticed slits in the wood around it that formed the shape of a trap door.
We were almost there.
We hope you’ve enjoyed Season 2, episode 9, Trap Door of McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop. McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop is written and performed by Minerva Sweeney Wren, all rights reserved. Visit Minervasweeneywren.com to see photographs of the real McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn shop, and learn how you can support the show, keep it advertisement free, and explore more stories by Minerva Sweeney Wren.
McGilicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop will continue with Season 2 episode 10, Prisoners of the Estate Room
Prisoners of the Estate Room
October 6th, 1921, continued
I squatted on the floor and looked down. I wasn’t wrong. A trap door was there, hidden in the curvature of the wood. I could feel cool air wafting up. Something was below this. Of course, there were several things it could be. A tomb. A pantry. A secret stash of booze, although this was the 1850s and alcohol hadn’t been illegal back then.
It could be the hiding spot of a few neighborhood tomboys. It could be an amphitheater for grisly sock puppets. It could be a underground lake, full of zombies or pirate corpses. It could be a pagan ritual site for leprechauns.
But I knew it wasn’t any of those things. I felt fairly certain it was a secret basement entrance to a group of people from the 1920s called Magic Unusuals, who all had eyes that glowed in the dark.
I tugged at the nail, and the trap door rose. “Brilliant,” Ariana said, and I took a deep breath. As the trap door lifted, the smell of rose, and mahogany, and rich sea salt rose to meet me. It smelled like an old mansion, built on a sea cliff. I took a deep breath, shut my eyes, and opened the trap door the rest of the way.
“Why are your eyes shut?” Ariana said.
“Because I want it to be there so badly,” I said.
“Go ahead and look,” Ariana said.
I opened my eyes. I found myself looking down at a staircase built of stone, with letters carved into its blue-green surface.
You are entering the secret home of magic unusuals, the letters said. Enter at your own risk.
I felt quiet and elated all at the same time. Enthusiasm eventually won, and I stood up with a squeal.
“You go down first,” I said. “Just ahead of me.”
“Why?” Ariana said, in a slightly sour tone. She knew why. She just wanted to hear me say it.
“So you can’t run back to the Night Enthusiasts,” I said. “And trade this information for your life.”
Ariana exhaled, and she went down ahead of me. I sort of wished I didn’t have to follow her. It was my first time seeing the place, and I wanted to soak up the experience by going first.
But I followed Ariana down the staircase. The further down we went, the darker it became. There were no lights at the bottom. To top it off, I’d shut the trap door on my descent, and we could barely see. Then, all of a sudden, in the darkness, we heard laughter.
It wasn’t eerie, right beside you in the dark laughter. It was muffled, coming from one room away.
My head shot towards the sound. It sounded natural, homey. The fact that someone was laughing, and we were out here in the dark, made me feel bad. They had no idea we were coming. They were going to panic.
Ariana looked over at me, and her eyes glowed bright blue. My stomach clenched at the sight. I felt like I was hiding in the shadows with a wraith.
“Where’s the door?” Ariana whispered, and then I just decided to jump in with both feet.
“Hello?” I called. “It’s Melinda Maudie Merkle. I’m a magic unusual and I…er… come in peace.”
We heard a single loud noise in the other room, and then everything went completely silent. I held my breath. Three seconds of silence ticked before Ariana hissed, “What did you do?”
I looked around. I couldn’t see a thing. There seemed to be even less light than before, if that were possible.
“They’re going to stab us in the dark,” Ariana said.
“Oh, for heaven’s sake,” I said. I wished she’d stop talking. I couldn’t hear anything, and I wanted to be able to hear even the faintest scratches.
Then, all of a sudden, I heard a voice shout, right in front of me,
Lights snapped on. Arms reached out and grabbed Ariana and I. I yelped and struggled. We were surrounded. Fifteen or twenty magic unusuals had teleported into the corridor with us, and now everything was brightly lit. Someone held my arms firmly behind my back. Ariana was being constrained in the same way. A young man stepped forward, one side of his face lit in the light of a lantern.
“What did you say your name was?” he said.
He was staring at me, boring into me with his eyes. I stared right back.
“Melinda Maudie Merkle,” I said.
Some of the tension in the room diffused.
“What, the murderer?” a girl said, cheerfully.
“Oh, Maude,” the young man said. “All right. I know who you are. Noble James was—”
There was an awkward pause.
“Never mind Noble James,” a girl said. “We trust you, Maude, you’re all right. I mean, I suppose you’re all right. We’ll have to keep you in the estate room until Mr. McGillicuddy explains how you got here. No one was told you were coming.”
“I may have…. Sneaked in,” I said. “I figured out how to find the entrance, on my own.”
A few of them cast me suspicious glances.
“Estate room, then, I think,” the young man said. “I’m sorry, Maude, but we just can’t be too careful. You understand.”
“I do,” I said.
There was another awkward silence, during which every pair of eyes slid slowly onto Ariana.
“And who is this?” the young man said.
“Ah….” I said. “That… is a Night Enthusiast.”
Whoever was holding my arms behind my back tightened their grip. Some of the magic unusuals hissed and gasped. Ariana didn’t help matters much. She glared at all of them like a tiger.
“Put them in the estate room,” the young man said. “Now! And blindfold the Night Enthusiast, for God’s sake.”
“Should we blindfold her, too?” said a girl’s voice, behind me.
The young man looked at me, eyes sharp. “You know what? Yes. Get out a blindfold.”
Someone handed the young man a handkerchief, and he stepped up to me. He placed the blindfold over my eyes.
“I don’t know what you were thinking, coming here like this,” the young man said. “But I think you’re absolutely mad.”
With a sharp tug, he knotted the blindfold, and I could no longer see.
And with that, Ariana and I were ushered, blindfolded, to the estate room.
What happened after that? I have no idea.
Well, I know that they removed our blindfolds and locked us in here. The reason I don’t know what happens next is that I’m currently living it. I’m camped out on the floor, scribbling away. Ariana is pacing like a tiger in front of me, and it’s driving me absolutely batty. I’ve caught you up, diary, but I have no idea what happens next.
The estate room is very interesting. I haven’t seen any other part of this underground lair, but I like the look of this room. It’s got rich, deep green wallpaper. There’s a dark, gleaming table in the center of the room, and high bookshelves. The bookshelves are inlaid with mirrors, and things are gleaming and reflecting all around the room, in a peaceful, gloomy sort of way.
It smells like old carpet and moss and…. cedar.
They’ve left us water, in a crystal pitcher, and two crystal goblets. There’s no food, so at least they aren’t planning on leaving us in here overnight.
I do wonder what Mr. McGillicuddy is going to do with me, when he finds us here.
Let us recap, diary, since I am in a contemplative mood.
I am now more or less sure what murder objects are. They are anything that was present at the scene of a murder. Magic unusuals can use them to return to the scene of a crime. How that magic works exactly, I don’t know. Timelines are also complicated. Ariana tried to explain it to me, but I don’t know if it will ever make complete sense. It’s too much to wrap the human noggin around. When someone uses a murder object for the first time, time unlocks and starts moving forward, inside the murder object. Time has been progressing inside this secret basement for years. When we arrive now, it’s years after the murder was first committed, because magic unusuals have been inside the murder object moving time forward. It seems a bit daunting to understand, but Ariana said you get used to it.
Murder objects. They are fascinating. McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop is filled from floor to ceiling with them. No wonder the place gave me such a beautiful, whimsical feeling. Every object in it was an object of power. With a story. With a sadness.
Wrath is still at large. I wonder if he accepted the Ariana trade? She’s gone now, so did he say no to the trade after all? It’s hard to murder a girl who’s missing, so it hardly seems like a fair wager. Is her life in danger? Or has Wrath forgotten all about us?
Who are these people, these pawn shop magic unusuals who locked Ariana and I up? And, can we ever be friends?
I am not sure, but I remain forever yours, Maude.
We hope you’ve enjoyed Season 2, episode 10, Prisoners of the Estate Room of McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop. McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop is written and performed by Minerva Sweeney Wren, all rights reserved. If you enjoy this podcast, please consider taking a moment to share it with your friends. A social media share, facebook tag, or in person recommendation do more to market this audiodrama than anything Minerva Sweeney Wren can do on her own. She relies on you. Visit MinervaSweeneyWren.com to share the story with other people in need of an adventure.
McGilicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop will continue with Season 2 episode 11, Questions and Plans
Questions and Plans
October 7th, 1921.
Well, I had a good sleep.
And by that, I mean I woke up on scratchy green carpet with a crick in my neck. Honestly, diary. Why am I cursed when it comes to sleeping in a bed? I sleep in cages and barns and then get one night in Buckingham palace, and then I spend the night on the floor. And it smells a little bit like mothballs. And crypt.
Ariana tried to sleep on the table, because she said the floor was too scratchy. But I thought that made her look like a pagan sacrifice in the making. She finally gave up and slept upright in a chair. Needless to say, neither of us slept very well.
Before we went to bed, one of the Magic Unusuals came in around nine o’ clock and brought us sandwiches. She said, “Sorry, but Mr. McGillicuddy won’t be back until later, and we can’t let you out until then.”
I said I understood. Ariana sulked. But what else was there to do? I ate a sandwich.
They were good, too. Full of beef and cucumber.
That was all last night. At this point, I’m getting terribly bored. I wonder when Mr. McGillicuddy will be back, or if he went on a tour of France and won’t return until next year.
I think I might try hammering on the door, and begging someone to talk to me.
Well, diary, it’s later. Much later, actually.
I tried listening at the door, but that was fairly boring. I heard people pass and greet each other cheerfully in the halls. I heard water run through pipes and doors slam. The Night Enthusiasts meet only occasionally in a cave. They seem to live separate lives, only gathering for rituals and cult meetings. These Magic Unusuals all seem to live here, like an underground boarding school for adult Magic Unusuals. It’s a charming prospect, but there’s only so much of it you can listen to, before you become more stir crazy than ever.
Finally, when I was ready to start doing butterfly loop knots with Ariana’s hair, someone came in.
It was the young man from last night, the one who insisted we get locked in here. In good lighting, I saw that he was about nineteen years old. He carried himself very somberly. He was lean and had a large nose.
“I’m sorry that this is taking so long,” he said.
“Don’t mention it,” I said.
“Do mention it,” Ariana said.
The young man cast Ariana a hostile glance.
“Pardon me, but I wasn’t talking to you.”
Ariana glared at him.
“We’ll be sending more food shortly,” the young man said to me. “My name is Rupert. I’m sorry that I can’t be of more assistance, but there’s protocol. I’m sure Mr. McGillicuddy will release you when he arrives. But until then, I’m going to keep things as they should be.”
“Why do you trust Maude so much?” Ariana said.
The young man’s lip stiffened, and he stared at the wall.
“Are you just going to act like I’m invisible?” Ariana said.
“The Night Enthusiasts killed my friend, and I’ll never forgive you,” Rupert said. “I don’t respect, speak to, or tolerate Night Enthusiasts. You’re lucky that you’re here at all.”
Ariana lay back in her chair and shut her eyes, furious.
I wanted to know who the Night Enthusiasts had killed, but I’d just met Rupert, and it didn’t seem appropriate to ask.
“You said you knew who I was,” I said. “Last night.”
“Well, yes,” Rupert said. “Assuming you are who you say you are, then you’re Maude Merkle, the one the Night Enthusiasts set up as a murderer. That was quite the scandal down here, with us. We were shocked that even the Night Enthusiasts would do something like that. They killed real people, you know. For no reason, expect to hang your name on the crimes. We were outraged. There was even a conspiracy down here, to go and fetch you, expressly against Mr. McGillicuddy’s wishes. I was not part of that conspiracy, but I did sympathize with you.”
I made a mental note, to find out who had been a part of that conspiracy, and go befriend them.
“So, anyway, Maude, if there’s anything I can do to make this waiting game easier on you…”
“There is,” I said.
“Yes?” he said. “What would you like?”
“What would I like?” I said. “I want to learn how to cast a skull spell. I want to know exactly who Noble James was. I want to know why he stopped working for The Night Enthusiasts and starting working secretly for Mr. McGillicuddy.” I paused, and I cast an awkward glance at Ariana. “I want to know how he regained the part of his soul that he killed, if he did regain it. I want to know how he became good again.” Ariana stared fixedly at the ceiling. “I want to know who you all are, and what you call yourselves. Day Enthusiasts? Light Enthusiasts?”
“I want to know what it is you do, and what makes you different from the Night Enthusiasts, and when that rift began. I want to know what part of themselves Night Enthusiasts kill, if you know the answer to that.”
This time, it was Ariana’s turn to cast an awkward glance at me.
“That’s too many questions,” Rupert said. “But once you’re free to move about the Basement, we’ll teach you how to cast skull spells. And everything else. It may seem daunting at first, but there aren’t many spells you can cast as magic unusual. They tend to revolve around teleportation only. Most people have a unique magic unusual power, and that’s how we specialize and really get things done. Otherwise, you can teleport, can skull spells... not much else. And if you don’t mind,” he said, casting a cruel glance at Ariana, “I’d rather not talk about Noble James just now.”
“All right,” I said.
“But as to what we’re called?” Rupert said. “We’re not so pretentious that we have a name. Not officially. We say, “I belong to the Pawn Shop.’ You know. If someone were to ask you, ‘Oh, are you a Night Enthusiast?” you’d say, “No, I belong to the Pawn Shop.”
I liked it.
“Do you have an initiation ceremony?” I said. “Something dangerous on the bottom of the sea?”
“What do you think we are, a cult? Rupert said. “You belong to the Pawn Shop if you want to. And if you’re willing to keep all the bits of your soul alive. We’re not the only good crew of Magic Unsuals out there. And the Night Enthusiasts aren’t the only crew of bad magic unusuals out there. Magic Unusuals are all over the world. Some communities are better than others. Personally, I think we’re the best of the best. But in this part of the world, we’re the ones in conflict with each other. The Night Enthusiasts, and the ones that belong to the Pawn Shop. We’d be happy to mind our own business, but someone has to keep the Night Enthusiasts in line. The Night Enthusiasts are more dangerous than most groups. And they can do more magic than we can. Because… well, because they do things they shouldn’t to get that power.” There was an awkward pause. “I’m sorry, do you need anything else? More food? Water?”
“Some blankets and books might be nice,” I said.
“I’ll see to it,” Rupert said. He nodded to me, ignored Ariana, and ducked out.
I heard him lock the door, and then I heard him say, “What’s that?”
I shuffled closer and laid my ear against the wood. A girl was talking to Rupert in low tones outside.
“You know you shouldn’t,” the girl said.
“Shouldn’t what?” Rupert snapped.
“It’s dangerous having her here,” the girl said. ‘I think we should tell her to leave.”
“Mr. McGillicuddy never intended to throw her out,” Rupert said. “He intended to get her here, eventually, when it was safe. Well, she’s here. This is what he wanted, in the long run. He’s not going to kick her out. She’s one of us.”
“It’s not safe to have her here, and you know it,” the girl said.
They weren’t talking about Ariana, they were talking about me. I’m not used to being the center of attention, and I keep forgetting how dangerous and important I could be, if I chose. A magic unusual who can break spells and curses with a single spoken wish?
Not that I know what I’m doing yet. I couldn’t get out of that Night Enthusiast cage. But sooner or later, I’ll be a force to be reckoned with.
Does that thought give you the shivers, diary? It does me.
Suddenly, in the hallway outside, someone new joined the conversation.
“Mr. McGillicuddy is here,” a boy said. “And he’s mad.”
We hope you’ve enjoyed Season 2, episode 11, Questions and Plans of McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop. McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop is written and performed by Minerva Sweeney Wren, all rights reserved. If you wish you were a magic unusual, fear not. When you subscribe to or review this podcast, you perform a magical deed by making it far more attractive to potential listeners. You can also gain magical powers by becoming a $1 patron at patreon.com.sweeneywren. Results are not guaranteed.
McGilicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop will continue with Season 2 episode 12, Magic Unusuals, Dead and Gone
Magic Unusuals, Dead and Gone
October 7th 1921, continued
Diary, I feel like waxing philosophically.
Do you know what the worst thing about being a Magic Unusual is? It’s the sense that you’re not quite human anymore.
Now, before I became a Magic Unusual, I always felt like I wasn’t quite human. My head had stars in it, and I never thought the way anyone else did. I felt things, saw things, wished for things that seemed too peculiar for an ordinary person. Take me and the Pawn Shop. I was drawn to it. Because I’m odd.
But back then… I relished the idea of not quite being human, because it was a joke. I had fairy blood in me, I would say. I was part pixie. I belonged to another world, not this one, and it was fun to think about.
Then it all became terribly real. It doused me in cold water, the idea that I was in fact unique. And with that idea came joy. But also terror.
Because if you’re not quite human anymore, then who do you belong to? Hobgoblins and ghouls? Their images line the pages of my fairytale books, and I can’t curl up with them anymore than I can curl up with the moon. The worst thing about being a magic unusual is that sense that you’ve been abandoned by humanity. And until that moment, you never knew how precious humanity was.
Diary, today I greet you as a girl who no longer feels that way.
Mr. McGillicuddy came. I expected him to charge into the estate room, rail at me, spew at Ariana, panic and fuss and make a scene and interrogate us both. Instead, he didn’t come into the estate room at all. He talked in low tones to Rupert in a nearby room. I could hear them talking, but not what they said.
Then, after several minutes, Mr. McGillicuddy came around to the estate room. But he still didn’t come in. He unlocked the door and stuck his head in and said, “Yes, that’s Maude.”
Then he shut the door again.
Ariana and I sat together on the end of the table, and by the time Rupert returned to tell us our fate, we were holding hands, terrified of the answer. Rupert stepped into the room and cleared his throat and said,
“Maude, you’re free to live in The Secret Basement of McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop. You’re free to leave the estate room, and ask for classes, and find a bedroom of your own.” He turned to Ariana and said, “Night Enthusiast… you have the protection of Mr. McGillicuddy. He wants you to stay here, until we know what Wrath is going to do. However, if you remain here, he requests that you stay in a locked room. We have one ready and prearranged.”
“Locked room like what?” Ariana said. “Locked room like this?”
“No,” Rupert said. “It has a bed, and underground window, and access to the library.”
“Why weren’t we staying in there already?” Ariana said.
Rupert turned to me. “Maude, if you’d like to leave.”
“What about Ariana?” I said.
“Her room will be ready in fifteen minutes,” Rupert said. “You can visit her whenever you wish.”
I looked at Ariana. She shrugged. “One of us may as well go free,” she said. “I’ll see you later?”
“Of course,” I said.
She gave me a real smile as I was led out. The second my feet crossed the threshold, my heart started fluttering. So this was what it looked like out here! The walls were dark wood paneling, almost black in places. Red curtains hung here and there, and hundreds of pictures lined the walls. The most appealing thing, for me, was the way the hallway led off in six different directions from the place I stood. I could see into a large living area, where a few magic unusuals played cards, seated on dark pink couches. I could also see a staircase going up, and a staircase going down. From the look of it, this place promised a hundred small rooms, a billion nooks and crannies.
“Do I have a room?” I said to Rupert, as he locked the door.
“I already told you, you’re free to find one,” he said.
“But… what does that mean?” I said
Rupert handed me a small copper rectangle. My name was etched onto the surface. Melinda Maudie Merkle.
“Well, the place is pretty extensive,” Rupert said. “We lose track of all the rooms. If you find a spot you like, and there isn’t a name on the door, go ahead and claim it.”
Even they didn’t know how many rooms were in this place? I was going to love it here.
“Thank you,” I said.
“Chin chin,” Rupert said. He walked off.
Now I was free. He’d left me perfectly alone to do whatever I wished. Perhaps I ought to have looked for Mr. McGillicuddy, or gone and introduced myself to all the other magic unusuals here. But I wanted to be alone, and I wanted to explore, so I clutched my copper nameplate, and I took the staircase going up.
The Secret Basement of McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop is exactly what would happen if someone bought everything from the pawn shop, and used it to furnish a beautiful old mansion. An old mansion, that is, that mostly consisted of hallways. Doors were scattered everywhere. A few had name plates on them, and those I left alone, but anything unclaimed I flung wide open.
I didn’t understand this place, or how it worked, but I was mesmerized. Every room was completely unique: cluttered with beauty and whimsy. One room was nothing but leather bound books. Another was made of glass, and it looked out on the rolling, cold waves of Norway.
It was just an extension of the Pawn Shop. The secret part of it. The home part of it.
I grew so excited I started running. I could still hear laughter echoing from the center of the secret basement, but I felt deliciously alone and secretive as I flitted from room to room.
I passed by two rooms that were too pink, and one that was too mustard-colored, but really, I was ignoring those rooms because I still felt too close to the others. I wanted my room to be up and away, like the secret corner of a secret attic. Near everyone, and yet far enough away to be entirely mine.
I had just climbed another small staircase, ascending into cinnamon-scented darkness, when I found something that frightened me.
Noble James was staring at me out of the wall. Except it wasn’t Noble James. It was a portrait of him, done in oil paint. His eyes looked sad. Poetical. Once again I thought he looked like a British Lord. Someone regal and lonely who wrote poetry on soggy river banks.
The oil painting was framed in a dark red cloth. Two candles burned on either side of it. I stepped closer, reverent. On a small plaque was written,
In Loving Memory of Noble James, killed while masquerading as a Night Enthusiast, in the service of his fellow man. He belonged to the Pawn Shop.
I stared, transfixed. Noble James had never been a Night Enthusiast. He’d been a spy.
We hope you’ve enjoyed Season 2, episode 12, Magic Unusuals Dead and Gone of McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop. McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop is written and performed by Minerva Sweeney Wren, all rights reserved. Visit Minervasweeneywren.com to see photographs of the real McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn shop, and learn how you can support the show, keep it advertisement free, and explore more stories by Minerva Sweeney Wren.
McGilicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop will continue with Season 2 episode 13, Wrath Returns
October 7th, 1921, continued
I’m not sure why the revelation floored me so much, diary. But it did.
Noble James had never been a Night Enthusiast. He’d been a good man all along. He’d always belonged to the Pawn Shop. He’d been stabbed by the Night Enthusiasts because they’d found out what he was.
Why did they find out what he was? Because of me. Noble James had been undercover, successfully and brilliantly masquerading as a Night Enthusiast, discovering secret plans and sending valuable information over to the pawn shop. He’d probably worked for years on getting that position. It was dangerous, and delicate, and then he’d gone and ruined it for me.
I wasn’t worth that. I wasn’t worth Noble James risking discovery. He’d wanted to help me, because I was alone and being pinned for murder. So he’d reached out to me, but the Night Enthusiasts had caught him. It explained so many things. Who had stabbed him that night under the bridge and why. I suddenly understood who he was.
Two thoughts sprang to my mind. The first filled me with stupefaction. Night Enthusiasts kill a part of their soul. How had Noble James accomplished that? Had he really killed part of himself? That was quite the act of dedication. Or had he managed to trick the Night Enthusiasts somehow?
On the heels of that thought, the second thought came crashing down on me. Ariana. I still held out hope that she could be normal again. Healed. Repaired. Made whole. That whatever she’d killed in that cave under the sea could be restored to her. I’d always looked to Noble James as an example, proof that what was wrong could be made right. Noble James had been a Night Enthusiast. He’d seen the light. He’d reformed. He was proof that Ariana could cease to be a villain.
But now that hope was gone. Noble James had belonged to the Pawn Shop since the beginning.
I felt desolate, but I decided not to despair too quickly. Ariana might still recover her lost soul bits one day.
I tiptoed out of that hallway to find another corridor. I didn’t want a bedroom that was haunted by the oil painting of Noble James.
A few hallways later, I found exactly what I was looking for. It was a quiet, dark little room with a high latticed window. The window looked out onto a twilit manor in Britain or Germany… The view was nothing but leafy green trees, and I could see one corner of an ancient stone house. People moved in the windows. It was better than the motion pictures.
There was a large sofa, big enough to turn into a bed. The room was full of floating shelves and blue glass orbs. When I tapped on the glass of one orb, it lit up.
“Oh, yes,” I said. “This will do nicely.”
I walked outside and laid my nameplate against the wood of the door. It adhered itself to the wood for me. And just like that, I had a bedroom.
After that, I went back and joined the other magic unusuals, to see about meeting people.
Meeting people Yes. Things were a bit awkward at first, as you can imagine. I mean, I’m not just a new magic unusual. I brought Ariana. I broke in, when I wasn’t supposed to. These people have had fights about me for the last few weeks, about whether or not I should be admitted at all. I’m the stuff of legend!
I sat down on the couch, in the living room area, and I just looked around the room, hoping and praying someone would speak to me. There was a group over by the fireplace, and they just stared at me. I honestly never encountered anything like that before in my life. It wasn’t cruel or malicious. It wasn’t kind either. They just didn’t acknowledge my existence. I wasn’t one of them, therefore I did not exist.
But then, a pack of other magic unusuals entered, and they brightened up at the sight of me.
They invited me to join them for dinner, which we had in a beautiful old dining room, full of black wood and peacock feathers. The food was good, and I decided I wanted to volunteer to help in the kitchen from time to time. We had a roast chicken and baked sweet potatoes, and someone made a blueberry pie.
I felt much better about things after that.
After dinner, I climbed back up to my room, and what do you suppose I found next door to it?
A bathroom. But not just any bathroom. Everything inside of it is black, which sounds miserable and dark, but it isn’t. Tiny black tiles cover the floor and half of the wall, and they shimmer in tones of green. There’s a huge claw-footed tub, and an iron wreathed window that looks out on a starry sky. The whole room smells like juniper.
When you step inside, music starts playing. It completely had me creeped at first, but then I realized that the music came from a few peculiar objects in the room. When one object goes silent, another one starts up. The music was beautiful, and emotional, and a little bit haunting. The perfect place to take a bath.
I took a bath, of course. The water smelled like tropical fruit, and it stayed foamy. The room was lit with black candelabras, and everything felt clean and quiet and shining. Add to that that I was up in the far recesses of the secret basement. It feels like I discovered a room that no one else knows about.
Baths make me contemplative, especially when there’s haunting music. Do you know the thought I had? So hard to write about, so peculiar to explain?
I am who I want to be.
I am. I don’t know what to do about it. I wanted to be a girl who had adventures, who discovered unusual places, who lived an unusual life. I wanted a community. I wanted a story. I wanted to know that I belonged somewhere, that I had something to fight for.
And now I do! And do you know what? I don’t know how to cope with that. I always assumed that I would be different on the inside when things changed outwardly for me. But deep down, I still feel like a coward. I still feel stupid and afraid of my own life and a little bit… yellow. Like down in the depths of me, I’m the wrong color. I thought finding this life would make me the right color on the inside. But I still feel a little bit… like the color of earwax.
Well, at least one thing is positive, and that’s that things feel damn near perfect on the outside. What a life I’ve stumbled into! Now if I can only convince myself that I deserve it, then all will be well.
Diary, do you know where I am right now? I am curled up in my new bed with damp hair, nestled under an enormous comforter, feeling like the Queen of Sheba. And now to bed, and now to bed! I will write again in the morning.
October 8th, 1921.
Good morning, diary:
Let me see. What are our plans for the day? Eggs. Definitely eggs. Learning how to cast a few magic unusual spells? I should say so. Finding out which ones of the magic unusuals here wanted to go abduct me when I was lost and on my own, expressly against the wishes of Mr. McGillicuddy? Befriending them will definitely be a part of our day.
The things I’m most excited about this morning are—
Diary, I’ve got to come back, I’m sorry. They’re shouting downstairs. Something about Wrath. I think he’s done something horrible.
We hope you’ve enjoyed Season 2, episode 13, Wrath Returns of McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop. McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop is written and performed by Minerva Sweeney Wren, all rights reserved. If you enjoy this podcast, please consider taking a moment to share it with your friends. A social media share, facebook tag, or in person recommendation do more to market this audiodrama than anything Minerva Sweeney Wren can do on her own. She relies on you. Visit MinervaSweeneyWren.com to share the story with other people in need of an adventure.
McGilicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop will continue with Season 2 episode 14, Train Cars Again.
Train Cars Again
October 10th, 1921.
There were only rumors. We waited the whole day in an agony of suspense. I started to make friends but I’ll have to tell about them later, there isn’t time.
Mr. McGillicuddy finally returned. We congregated in the living room. Have you ever been by the water late at night, and you leave a bit of food out in the open? If you sit very still, rats start coming. They creep out. And more rats than you ever thought existed are suddenly scrabbling for the food. They were there all along, in nooks and rocks and crevices, but you had no idea. It’s eerie. You were surrounded, and you didn’t know it.
I felt like that now. I had no idea so many magic unusuals lived here, in the secret basement of McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop. I’d seen maybe fifteen of them. Well, there were at least fifty. All different ages, from eighteen to eighty. We congregated, and we all stared with blanched faces, looking at Mr. McGillicuddy. He stood very still by the fireplace.
“Oh, hello, Maude,” he said. He nodded to me. “How are you assimilating?”
He looked tired, but kind. I was grateful for the kindness. I had endangered his crew. But he seemed resigned to me now, more or less relieved that I was here at last.
“Fine, thank you,” I murmured. I hated the feeling of every eye in the room looking at me.
Mr. McGillcuddy cleared his throat. “Well, you’re all here now, no thanks to those of you who can’t take news calmly, and insist on shrieking and running from room to room.” Mr. McGillicuddy glared at select magic unusuals. “What you’ve heard is true. Hester Rathbone is back, and he’s… well, Maude, you’ve seen him more recently than I have.” He looked at me. All of a sudden, every pair of eyes was back on me.
I exhaled slowly.
“Uh…. Hester Rathbone is calling himself Wrath,” I said. “He killed three Night Enthusiasts in front of me, using gas that he acquired by going back in time to a battlefield of the Great War. He’s partially made of wood now. He’s very… mad. He wants to kill all the Night Enthusiasts. Last I heard, he was willing to kill Ariana, the girl we have hidden here, in exchange for all their lives, but then Ariana and I escaped. I have no idea what his plan is, if he still intends to kill her, or if he’s moved on to something else.”
“At this point, I think he’s moved on to something else,” Mr. McGillicuddy said dryly. “Wrath has taken five Night Enthusiasts, including the leader, Dawn Mumungus, and he’s put them inside of murder objects.”
I paused. Everyone else seemed to know what this was. They were horrified by it. I had no idea what he was talking about.
Rupert caught my confused expression, and he came closer. He started to mumble to me, under his breath,
“Putting someone’s soul inside a murder object is when—”
Mr. McGillicuddy cut him off.
“Rupert, why are you mumbling?”
Rupert stood up very straight. “I’m sorry, Sir, I only thought it was unfair that Maude didn’t know what that meant.”
Mr. McGillicuddy sighed. “Yes. Well. I suppose we ought to explain.
“It’s a horrible form of magic. Only a Night Enthusiast would stoop to a spell like that. It ruins souls. It destroys minds. It locks a human’s soul and flesh into a murder object. They’re trapped inside. That’s what the train car was, the train car that Wrath was imprisoned in for three years. It was a child’s toy, present at a murder scene. The Night Enthusiasts caught Hester and bound him into that murder object. Now, he’s done the same to them.”
“Can they be broken out of it?” I said.
Mr. McGillicuddy narrowed his eyes at me.
“Normally,” he said. “Spells such as those can’t be broken. They’re a death sentence. A very cruel one. There have only been eight recorded instances, in all of magic unusual history, where a human soul was locked into a murder object. In time, seven of those eight souls departed, consumed by the object. Wrath is the only one to ever survive.”
The way Mr. McGillicuddy looked at me made my flesh creep.
“I’m the only one who can get them out?” I said.
“Yes,” Mr. McGillicuddy said.
The magic unusuals all began to talk at once. I heard snatches of conversation. “What will we do with them afterwards?” “Is it too late? Will they still have their minds?”
Thank goodness no one was saying, “They’re evil, let’s just leave them in there.”
No matter how twisted the Night Enthusiasts might be, no of us wanted to see another human being lost to a fate like that.
“Will you get them out, Maude?” Mr. McGillicuddy said. “Are you willing?”
“Well, of course I’m willing,” I said. “I just don’t know if I know how.”
“You used your power to release Wrath.”
“Yes, but I’m not sure how my power works.”
“If you’re referring to why your power hasn’t worked on certain things,” Mr. McGillicuddy said. “It’s because not everything is a spell. You couldn’t say ‘I wish to escape from the Night Enthusiasts cave’ because that teleportation barrier isn’t a spell. It was someone’s magic unusual power. A Night Enthusiast, long ago, used their unique magic unusual power to create that barrier. You can’t combat magic unusual powers. My unique magic unusual power is borrowing doors. That’s why there are so many rooms in this basement. When I collect a door, the door’s history turns into a room. I only have to attach the door to some hinges, and the room appears, filled with beautiful things. It’s rather addictive, as you can imagine. But you could never remove one of my rooms with your wish, because your power cannot break other powers. It can only break spells.”
‘So I can say, ‘I wish’ to any spell, and it will break?” I said.
“That is correct,” Mr. McGillicuddy said.
“Can I say it now?”
“You have to be near the spell, physically, for it to work,” Mr. McGillicuddy said.
“So all I have to do is reach the Night Enthusiasts who are trapped inside murder objects, and break the spell?”
Mr. McGillicuddy suddenly looked uncomfortable.
“Once you reach them, things should be fairly simple,” he said. “Assuming the Night Enthusiasts have the decency to let you walk free afterwards. The only problem is…”
“What?” I said. “What is it?”
“Wrath is holding them hostage,” Mr. McGillicuddy said. “He’s guarding the murder objects so they can’t be stolen. He is hiding out in the Night Enthusiast’s own cave. He wants to lure the remaining Night Enthusiasts to himself, so he can kill them. He thinks the Night Enthusiasts will come to rescue their leaders. In that, I think he is mistaken. I think the Night Enthusiasts will never set foot in their cave again, as long as Wrath is standing in it.
“Wrath is no longer one of us. He has done things that someone who belongs to the Pawn Shop would never do. He needs to be stopped. He is now our highest priority, our most important mission. Maude, we will be bending all our skills towards getting Wrath out of the Night Enthusiasts cave. He won’t be easy to trick, and he will be impossible to remove by force. If we attack, he could kill dozens of us before we killed him, and I will not have that. We will have to remove him through wit and trickery. That is the only way I will agree to. Once we’ve gotten him out, your job will be to sneak in and break the spell. We’ll only be able to remove him, I think, for one or two minutes at most.”
“How will I get in undetected?” I said. “If there’s only one entrance, he’ll see me going in when he’s going out. He knows I have the power to release them, he won’t let me pass. Unless I should teleport?”
“I am afraid that Dawn Mumungus personally and singlehandedly controls who teleports into the cave,” Mr. McGillicuddy said. “With magic of her own. Since she is currently made of wood, that way is shut. You cannot teleport into the cave.
“I have heard, however, that there is a second, secret entrance to the Night Enthusiast cave. A kind of priests’ hole that can be accessed in times of emergency. If you can gain access to it, if you can find a secret way down into the cave, then you will be able to watch and wait for the very instant that we get Wrath out. You can break the spell and return to the priests hole within that window of time. I don’t know how to find that secret entrance. I doubt Wrath knows that it exists. Discovering it will be up to you.”
“All right,” I said.
“We will begin at once,” Mr. McGillicuddy said. “Maude, I suggest you start hunting down the secret entrance immediately.”
“Mr. McGillicuddy?” I said. “What are the murder objects? The ones the Night Enthusiasts are trapped in?”
“Ah,” Mr. McGillicuddy said. “Toy train cars. Wrath has made new train cars for them.”
We hope you’ve enjoyed Season 2, episode 14, Train Cars Again, of McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop. McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop is written and performed by Minerva Sweeney Wren, all rights reserved. If you wish you were a magic unusual, fear not. When you subscribe to or review this podcast, you perform a magical deed by making it far more attractive to potential listeners. You can also gain magical powers by becoming a $1 patron at patreon.com.sweeneywren. Results are not guaranteed.
McGilicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop will continue with Season 2 episode 15, Well Met, Dear Ghost
Well Met, Dear Ghost
October 10th, 1921 continued.
After that, we all dispersed. Magic unusuals ran right and left, while Mr. McGillicuddy stood in the center and looked at his watch. He muttered something into it. Sending a message to someone, perhaps? He’d scared the living daylights out of me with his message a few days ago. Perhaps someone else was about to see a magical recording of Mr. McGillicuddy, his face like a moving picture inside a watch.
“Mr. McGillicuddy,” I said. I stepped up to him.
“Yes, Maude?” He clicked the watch shut.
“How long do we have?”
“Oh,” Mr. McGillcuddy said. “We’re probably already too late. For no damage to occur to them, that is. I don’t really know. Do I wish we could rescue them right this minute? Yes. We will be flying from one idea to the next until we get this right, but I don’t think we’ll hit on the right idea tonight. And once we have the idea, we’ll have to arrange its execution. I think you have at least twenty-four hours, my dear. Hopefully not much longer than that.”
“I will find the secret entrance before then,” I said. “I swear it.”
Mr. McGillicuddy smiled, in a patronizing kind of way. I wonder if he found me too eager.
“You’d best hurry,” he said.
I stepped to a corner of the room and rubbed my arms. I wasn’t going to sleep for awhile, that was certain. I pinched the tip of my nose and stared into the light of a candle, to help myself wake up.
“Think, Maude,” I said. “you dizzy-headed fish. Where would you start finding a secret entrance to the Night Enthusiast’s cave?”
Ariana, of course.
I asked to gain access to her room, and I was let inside. The girl in charge of the key locked the door behind me, but she did send me in with a plate of cookies.
Ariana’s prison was a larger room, red and pink, with tones of russet and gold. Like most of Mr. McGillicuddy’s borrowed doors, this door had created a room with windows. The view was magnificent. Whirls of snow and dark chattering trees.
“Ah, you’ve brought cookies,” Ariana said. “Is that to bribe me?”
“Yes,” I said. I went and sat down on her bed. “How are you so far?”
“Feeling like a girl trapped in a train car,” she said.
“Now’s not really the time to make jokes about that,” I said. I explained what had happened, and that I needed to know about the secret entrance.
“My head is spinning,” Ariana said. She pressed her fingertips into her temples. “But whichever side I’m on, I want you to get them out of those train cars.” She looked up at me, her eyes earnest. “I wish I knew where the secret entrance is. But I don’t.”
“You don’t?” I said. I had twenty-four hours, and Ariana was my only lead.
“No, but I have a very slight clue,” she said. She popped a cookie into her mouth and started chewing. “I once saw Madam Mumungus in the old Oslow Cemetery. She looked secretive and grumpy, so I hid behind a tree and didn’t let her see me. There are no Mumunguses buried in Oslow Cemetery, and trust me, I would have noticed a tombstone with a last name like that.”
“What did she do?” I said.
“Well, that’s just it, she was leaving,” Ariana said. “So I didn’t get to see what she’d been up to. But Oslow Cemetery isn’t far from The Purgatory Lounge. If you ask me, I bet there’s a secret entrance hidden inside one of the crypts.”
I got up. “Thank you! I’ll start there.”
I got up, put a cookie in my pocket, and then stood there awkwardly.
“Thank you for bringing me here, Maude,” Ariana said. “It’s ….better.”
“You’re sure you’re not bored?” I said.
“Oh, I’m bored,” she said. “But it’s still better than the life I had before I met you. I’ll work something out.” She gave me a quick hug. “Off you go then.”
I nodded. I wished I was bringing her with me.
I left Ariana’s room and made my way to the entrance of the secret basement. Mr. McGillicuddy and some of the other Magic Unusuals were in the living room bent over maps and papers. I left them to their planning, and I slipped up the staircase.
It felt strange to be leaving again so soon. I pushed open the trap door, and I once again entered that strange room, saw the red lettering, DEATH TO ALL MICE. After a little searching, I located the nail, and I gripped it. With a gentle tug of teleportation, I found myself once again in McGillicuddy and Murder’s.
The Pawn Shop no longer felt empty. It felt like the gentle, beautiful shell that housed everything I’d been looking for.
I’d been past Oslow Cemetery before, so I shut my eyes and imagined the spot. I teleported outside the gates, into a cold wind. I felt bitten into, like the night was a sulking ferret that wanted to get me back.
I looked left and right, and then teleported directly inside the cemetery. There’s something peaceful about a graveyard at night. In the past it would have also been terribly spooky, but I’m the ghost now. My eyes glow in the dark, and I can vanish any time I wish. It’s hard to be afraid of anything when you can disappear in a split second.
I wandered up and down, feeling cold and lost. And purposeless. What was I supposed to do, walk up to every crypt and knock on the door? I took back my previous thought about graveyards no longer being spooky. Knocking on someone’s sepulcher was something entirely different. I could envision a harrow-faced, blue, glowing, gloomy old man coming to the door and staring at me with the eyeballs of hell.
I selected a crypt at random and walked towards it. What if this was a complete waste of my time? What if I searched all night until my fingers were numb, and this cemetery had nothing to do with the secret entrance to the Night Enthusiast cave? What if Ariana had been pulling my leg, mad at me, mad at the Night Enthusiasts, ready to send me on a wild goose chase to get revenge on all of us?
I was feeling frustrated already, when I stepped up to the crypt, and saw something inside.
It was a light. A small puff of orange light. For a moment, I thought it was the eye of the evil dead, winking at me, and then I realized it was a match being struck. Ghosts don’t strike matches. Someone was inside that crypt, lighting a ciggy.
I froze, not sure what to do next. Had they seen me? I could see into the crypt through a small glass window, and whoever was inside could probably see out. Was it too dark, or could they see me? Was the moon out? Oh, never mind, my eyes glowed in the dark. They’d seen me.
They also appeared to have dropped their match.
I shut my eyes and waited. I wasn’t sure what to do next. If it was a Night Enthusiast in there, would they retreat into the secret entrance? I was acting ridiculous! It was probably some street urchin wanting a private smoke. There were no glowing—
Oh! Nevermind. There were the eyes.
I felt, in a strange way, like I was looking into a mystic mirror. Beyond the iron framework of the door, eyes like mine glowed back at me.
Finally, I decided I’d had enough indecision. I grabbed the cold handle of the crypt door and tugged. I stepped into the stale air beyond and said,
“Who are you?”
There was a startled silence. I could hear the other person breathing. Based on how tall they were, I guessed they were a man.
Then, the other Magic Unusual lit their match again and tipped the flame into a candle. Our faces were suddenly illuminated.
“Oh,” the man said. “Maude.”
I stared. I gaped. My heart did somersaults, and I felt the thrill anyone feels when they come face to face with a ghost.
The person in the crypt with me was Noble James.
We hope you’ve enjoyed Season 2, episode 15, Well Met, Dear Ghost, of McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop. McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop is written and performed by Minerva Sweeney Wren, all rights reserved. Visit Minervasweeneywren.com to see photographs of the real McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn shop, and learn how you can support the show, keep it advertisement free, and explore more stories by Minerva Sweeney Wren.
McGilicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop will continue with Season 2 episode 16, An Unexpected Twirl
An Unexpected Twirl
October 10th, 1921, continued.
Noble James was alive. Staring at me.
I was still gaping. It wasn’t very suave. I had had quite the crush on Noble James once. I say once. It was only a few weeks ago. In that time span, I’d realized he was evil, realized he was trying to help me, he died, and then I realized he’d been good all along. And now he was alive again. Staring at me.
I assumed he was alive. He might have been a ghost. He seemed solid. And he smelled like mint!
All that to say, I wish I could have acted suave. Because not too many days ago, the sight of him would have made my heart go pitta pat. I wanted to be dashing. Charming. As it was, my heart did go pitta pat, but only because a dead man was standing in front of me.
“Well,” Noble James said.
“Hello,” I said. And then, very eloquently, I added, “I thought you were dead.”
“Well, I am dead,” Noble James said. “As far as everyone else is concerned.”
I very nearly poked him in the arm, to see if he was solid.
“You’re a ghost?” I said.
He smiled. He was laughing at me. But in a nice way.
“No, I’m not,” he said. “And that’s thanks to you.”
“I’m sorry?” I said.
“That day in the hospital,” he said. “I was lying there dying. You probably remember. I couldn’t heal from my wounds, because the Night Enthusiasts had cursed the knife that stabbed me. My wounds wouldn’t heal, because of a spell. You said you wished it hadn’t happened to me. And then, it hadn’t. You broke the spell on the knife and I healed. I got up off that bed within twenty-four hours.”
“But everyone thinks you’re dead,” I said.
“That’s because I want them to think I’m dead,” he said. “I was undercover for almost a year, pretending to be a Night Enthusiast. Now, the Night Enthusiasts know I wasn’t one of them. And I’d like to keep my skin. Also, you can go pretty much anywhere and do pretty much anything when you’re dead. No one is expecting you.”
“But there’s an oil painting of your dead carcass in the basement of McGillicuddy and Murder’s,” I said.
“Is there?” Noble said. “I’m rather flattered.”
“So everyone thinks you’re dead?” I said.
“Even the Pawn Shop?” I said.
“Even the Pawn Shop,” he said.
I cracked a sly smile. “So I ruined your plan.”
He grinned. “Yes, you are trouble, aren’t you? I guess I won’t be able to let you out of my sight. I can’t have you revealing my secret to anyone.”
“Well, if I’m going to stay in your sight,” I said. “Then you’re going to have to change your plans to my plans.”
I told him about the train cars. About the 24 hour deadline, and how I needed to find the secret entrance before then. Noble looked very grim.
“I knew Wrath once,” he said softly, and that was it.
“I’m hoping this is where you say, ‘I know where the secret entrance is. Come along now. I’ll take you.” I said.
“Sorry,” Noble said. “The secret entrance was reserved for the elite, the most important Night Enthusiasts. Dawn Mumungus knew about it. Maybe two others. That’s it. Most Night Enthusiasts only knew it as a rumor. The fact that McGillicuddy knows about it at all is due to me. I still haven’t been able to find it.”
“That fact that you were looking for a year and still haven’t found it doesn’t bode well for my twenty-four hours,” I said.
And let’s face it. My twenty-four hours were dwindling.
“But you at least have my year’s worth of experience on your side now,” Noble James said. “I’ll help you start looking.”
“Is the secret entrance here by any chance?” I said. “Ariana said that she saw Dawn Mumungus here once, near a crypt.”
“Ariana saw Madam Mumungus entering this crypt,” Noble said. “But not for the secret entrance, I’m afraid. The secret entrance, I know for sure, is physical. It’s not reached by teleportation or through a murder object. In my year of looking I learned that much. The entrance is near the Night Enthusiast cave. It leads directly into it through a series of passages.”
“You’re sure there’s no trap door in here?” I said.
“Sorry,” Noble said. “No.”
“Well, what’s this crypt?” I said.
“It leads to the Night Enthusiast prison,” Noble said.
I paused. A feeling of dread settled over me. “The Night Enthusiasts have a prison?”
He paused. Noble James wasn’t much of a talker. I wanted details.
“But they locked me in a bird cage,” I said.
“And you’re lucky,” Noble said. “They put you there because they wanted you to join. The prison is for their enemies, people they want taken out of the equation. If they ever get their hands on Mr. McGillicuddy, that’s where he’ll go. It’s where Wrath was, in his train car, for a very long time.”
“Do you know who put Wrath in McGillicuddy and Murder’s?” I said. “The wooden train car wasn’t there for more than a few days. It was like someone wanted me to find it, wanted me to release him.
“I don’t know who put him there,” Noble said. “But it had to have been a Night Enthusiast. No one else would have had access to the prison.”
“But why would a Night Enthusiast want Wrath released?” I said. “He’s been murdering Night Enthusiasts left and right. He’s not exactly a commodity.”
“It’s a mystery,” Noble said. “And probably one with a troubling answer. But as for our secret entrance, no, it isn’t here. I know this goes to the prison and nowhere else.”
“Were you about to enter the prison?” I said.
“No,” Noble said. “I was leaving it. I was in the prison because I was hiding. Damp and filthy cells are the perfect spot to hide a murder object, and yourself within that murder object, for a few days while you establish your death.” He squinted at me. “It was all so perfectly arranged. My hiding was nearly flawless. I considered myself untraceable. And yet, here you are. You know, if I didn’t know any better, I’d say you’d been sent here to meet me.”
We smiled at each other.
“I am on the good side, I assure you,” I said.
“You know, I believe you,” he said. “You fought the Night Enthusiasts tooth and nail. I doubt they would have gotten you on their side.”
“They didn’t,” I said. “I think the planets just aligned. I need your help, and here you are.”
“So we’re adventure companions,” Noble said. “Good. I think I know how to start looking for that secret entrance. But it isn’t going to be quick. And it’s not exactly safe.”
“Not really what I want to hear,” I said.
“Sorry. But I still think we can find it in twenty-four hours. If we’re lucky.”
Noble opened the door to the crypt. Together, we stepped out into the chill. We walked briskly through the graveyard. He patted his front shirt pocket, as though looking for something.
“Do you know Soapstress corner?” Noble said.
“Yes,” I said. “I think.”
“Meet me there in two minutes,” Noble said. “I’ve got to go grab something.”
“All right,” I said.
He smiled and disappeared. I felt giddy, and nervous. I teleported to Soapstress corner, which worked out all right, and then I stood there, holding my arms.
And then, unexpectedly, I twirled.
Why did I twirl? I had no idea. Night Enthusiasts were trapped in wooden train cars. Wrath was on the loose, being his miserable evil self. Ariana was in bleak conditions, unsure of where she stood, and stuck in prison until she figured it out.
And yet I twirled. Like a ten-year-old girl attending a private dandelion dance in the woods.
Something was in the air.
We hope you’ve enjoyed Season 2, episode 16, An Unxpected Twirl, of McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop. McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop is written and performed by Minerva Sweeney Wren, all rights reserved. If you enjoy this podcast, please consider taking a moment to share it with your friends. A social media share, facebook tag, or in person recommendation do more to market this audiodrama than anything Minerva Sweeney Wren can do on her own. She relies on you. Visit MinervaSweeneyWren.com to share the story with other people in need of an adventure.
McGilicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop will continue with Season 2 episode 17, Merkle the Murderess.
Merkle the Murderess
October 10th, 1921 continued.
After my unexpected twirl, Noble James arrived a few minutes later.
“Sorry,” he said. “I wanted to stop by my place and get this.” He strode towards me, smiling. He held up a photograph.
It was a nice clean shot of Dawn Mumumgus. Suddenly, I realized that Dawn Mumumgus may have been an actress once, or may still have been an actress. In the photo, she wore fake flowers in her hair, and had heavily painted eyes. She had that austere, savage look that actresses are sometimes able to pull off. She looked quite beautiful.
“Why do you have a photograph of Dawn Mumungus?” I said.
“So we can ask inside restaurants and clubs about her!” Noble said. He started walking briskly. “If the secret entrance is near here, then someone may have seen her from time to time. Maybe going into a doorway, or always heading towards an alley. This is my idea. We can circle all around the Purgatory Club until someone recognizes her photo.”
“Yes, but why do you have a photo of Dawn Mumungus,” I said. “You said you got it from your apartment.”
Noble opened his mouth, and then shut it again. “Weeell, I’ve got photos of most the leaders in my apartment.”
“Are you sure it’s not because you’re completely infatuated with her?”
Noble gave me a look that would have withered lesser women. He said, very sulkily, “Yes, I’m completely in love with Madam Mumungus.”
“Do you say goodnight to her photograph?” I said.
We laughed a little, and then we entered the first open establishment, a small, dirty café that was clearly serving liquor in its teacups.
“How can I help you?” the man behind the counter said.
“We were just wondering if you’d seen this woman,” Noble said.
The man glanced at the photograph.
“Oh, sure,” he said. “That’s Dawn. She’s got a small office in the back here. Uses part of our courtyard for something.”
Surely not. Surely we weren’t getting our answer so soon. It was heavenly.
Then the man glanced at me. “And we… what did you say your names were?”
“We didn’t,” Noble said.
Noble glanced at me, and then I swear every hair on his head stood up. He realized it at the same time I did. In unison, our eyes swiveled.
And then I spotted it, pinned to the wall near the door. KEEP YOUR EYES OUT FOR THIS MURDERESS. MELINDA MERKLE, KILLER OF MANY.
Honestly. I’ve never hated my name more than when I see it in print. Merkle. A lot of girls dream of being rescued from poverty or boredom by their future husband. I don’t need to be rescued from anything, with the possible exception of my last name. Of course, if his last name is even worse than Merkle, we can talk about it.
But now wasn’t the time to complain about my name. Now was time to teleport and get out.
The only problem with that was the little man from behind the counter, who kept staring at me. You can’t teleport when someone is looking at you. So Noble and I were stuck right where we were, because his eyes were glued to us.
“Winnie!” the man called. “Go and lock the door! Go and lock the door now, I meant it!” He glared at me. “I know who you are. I know exactly who you are. And you’re not going anywhere.”
At this point, other members of the café had begun to stare. Some of the bigger men looked eager, like they were hoping for a fight. Two women gawked at us, too interested to do anything but clutch their cups and stare.
“I’m going to call the police,” the little man said. And he did. We waited.
At least Noble didn’t say anything idiotic like, “No no, there’s been a misunderstanding” or “she’s my cousin from Burbank and she only looks like Melinda Merkle.” Everyone in that café knew who I was, and there was no sense in lying about it. Instead, Noble just stepped close to me and muttered,
So was I. “Act like you don’t know me,” I said.
“Why?” he said.
“Just do it.”
“Oh, all right!” I snapped to the occupants of the café. “I’m Melinda Merkle. So what? You’re all idiots. You know how many people never recognize me? Well, bully for you.” I turned and faced Noble, jabbed my finger at him. “And you. Who did you think I was? Did you really believe that stupid story about me looking for my lost aunt? You’re quite the prodigy, aren’t you?”
“You’re the killer? You’re Melinda Merkle?” Noble said, doing his best to look both innocent and jilted.
“Yes,” I said.
“The police are coming!” the little man said. He slammed down the phone’s receiver.
Noble murmured, just to me, “I think I can create a distraction long enough for you to get behind the counter and teleport.”
The last thing I needed were tales of me being a modern witch as well as a murderess. “No, I’ll wait until I’m in a cell,” I said.
“You’re willing to let it get that far?” Noble said, surprised.
My twenty-four hour deadline was looking bleak.
“I think I have to let it get that far,” I said. “Maybe they’ll leave me alone in the back of the paddywagon.”
“Just go now!”
But no. I didn’t want to risk it. If I left Noble behind in the mess, he might get arrested in my place. And even if he got out, by teleportation or lying, his face would be marked with my murders forever. He needed a clean slate. I had to give it to him.
“No, I have to do it this way,” I said. “But you should go.”
He shook his head. I had to admire Noble through all of this. He stuck by me, resolutely. He didn’t have a self-flattering air of martyrdom or heroism about it, either. Some men can be very brave, but you can see their chests puffing up the whole time, like their ultimate motive is their ego. Noble was just doing what he thought he had to do, matter-of-factly. Which was, be Noble.
I’m sorry for that pun, diary. I couldn’t resist.
“Don’t try any funny business!” the little man hollered at us. Noble resumed looking at me with a mixture of awe and betrayal, playing the part of the poor duped innocent bystander.
“And put your hands on your head while you’re at it!” one of the men said. He stood up. Several of the other men stood up with him.
I hoped this wasn’t about to get ugly. I clamped my hands down on my head and scowled at the room, trying to look evil but nevertheless not threatening. I wanted them all to sit down again.
I couldn’t believe our luck. It was like something out of fiction. The man had recognized Dawn Mumungus immediately. Her secret entrance was behind this very café. We had found it, on our first try. And now, I was being carted off to prison.
This was why the Night Enthusiasts had done this to me. They had made it impossible for me to live a normal life, to even work for the Pawn Shop, without getting stopped and arrested. They had completely crippled my existence.
I had to get rid of these murder charges. When, or how, I had no idea, but I was going to get rid of them.
But that was a long term project. My immediate need was to get behind this café and look for the secret entrance. And I couldn’t do that if I was in prison. And Noble couldn’t go ahead without me. He didn’t have the power to release the train car victims.
“Can you draw a picture for me?” I whispered to Noble. “Of the secret entrance, if you can find it? That may be enough for me to teleport straight there, after I get arrested. It would save time.”
Noble nodded. He glanced towards the back entrance.
“I think I’m going to be sick!” Noble suddenly called out. “Oh, Oh, I think I’m going to be sick!”
“Go to the washroom, you idiot!” the little man exclaimed. Instead, Noble rushed for the back door. He was gone for almost two minutes. I began to be hopeful.
Then, he came back. He looked grim.
“It’s no good,” Noble whispered, speaking as he walked past me. “The door won’t let me through. You have to be a Night Enthusiast to get inside.”
We hope you’ve enjoyed Season 2, episode 17, Merkle the Murderess, of McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop. McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop is written and performed by Minerva Sweeney Wren, all rights reserved. If you wish you were a magic unusual, fear not. When you subscribe to or review this podcast, you perform a magical deed by making it far more attractive to potential listeners. You can also gain magical powers by becoming a $1 patron at patreon.com.sweeneywren. Results are not guaranteed.
McGilicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop will continue with Season 2 episode 18, Prison Break.
October 10th, 1921 continued.
“What?” I said.
You had to be Night Enthusiast to get into the secret entrance? I was flummoxed, but Noble walked right past me before he had a chance to explain. He couldn’t stay near me and have a conversation. He had to pretend he didn’t know me, that he was scared of me. He kept walking. I groaned and watched him go.
To hear that little teaser of horrible news, and wait. It was infuriating. We couldn’t get through the doorway! What were we supposed to do? Become Night Enthusiasts? For a moment, I very seriously considered giving up. The Night Enthusiast leaders would just have to stay inside wooden train cars forever.
But of course that wouldn’t do. I couldn’t leave them there. Even if I had to run out in plain sight of Wrath, I’d still try to set them free. But we needed that secret passage. If Wrath saw me at all, he’d know what was coming. He knew I had the power to undo his spell. He’d shoot me before I walked three feet. Vaguely I rehearsed schemes in my mind, of me being rolled into the cave inside a barrel, or tucked into a coffin. Or maybe I could go in wearing a bubonic plague mask. It was all no good. How could everyone else get into the cave without arousing suspicion? Our plan barely worked with the secret passage. In my mind’s eye, it seemed to fall apart in my hands the moment the secret passage failed.
If we couldn’t enter the secret entrance, then all was lost. But we weren’t Night Enthusiasts. I couldn’t see a way around that. I wanted to ask Noble what he had done before. He’d tricked the Night Enthusiasts into thinking he was one of them. He’d never killed part of his soul, but they believed that he had. How had he done that? And could he do the same thing now?
I was making plaintive eyes at him, desperate for some more information, any kind of good news. I wanted to know if he had a plan, anything. But at that moment, the police arrived.
The police! Oh, being arrested is the worst. I’d never had any sympathy for criminals before. There’s always that far-away supercilious sense of… Oh, they deserved it. But being arrested is awful, and it shouldn’t happen to anyone. I know we need to lock real criminals up, but we should do it by somehow managing to never arrest them. Everyone stares at you like you’re an animal, and the police are rough, and all I can say is, I was grateful I was a girl, because I think they might have hit me if I wasn’t. Police are supposed to be knights in shining armor, coming to our rescue, but I think they’re just angry, tired people who want to let off steam. Humanity can be such a grumbling mess.
Well, I was escorted into the back of the paddywagon, and news of my arrest must have spread like well, speaking of the bubonic plague. People ran after the police car. They pointed. I’d had some vague hope of teleporting out of the back of the car, but of course I couldn’t. Police officers stared at me all the way there. Not to mention, I was being stared at through the windows. For some reason, I’d been picturing the sort of wooden van you put stray dogs into. But I was a person. So I had to sit in the back of a police car. There would be no teleporting until I was left alone in a cell.
I knotted and unknotted my hands all the way to the police station, and I told myself over and over that you can’t kill someone without a trial, and I wasn’t about to be taken straight to the electric chair, which, as you probably know, diary, is that rather new form of torturous death that doesn’t always work the first time.
I didn’t even know if they would kill me. Maybe they’d send me to a mental institution. I pictured padded cells and gibbering, horrible housemates.
“Calm down!” I told myself. “You can teleport! You can get out of anything.”
But what if I was under twenty-four hour surveillance for the next ten years? I couldn’t teleport if they kept looking at me. But I could escape. No matter what. Everyone blinks.
Even so, diary, magical powers or no, it was pretty frightening to finally be arrested. I felt a pang for my old life, for my public image being dragged so disgracefully through the muck. When we rolled up to the police station, I was shaking, and I couldn’t stop.
They escorted me upstairs into —yes, oh, heavens, yes—a private cell. They locked me in and walked away. The only trouble was, the guard across the hall kept staring at me. I couldn’t get out quite yet. But at least there were no burly-armed miscreants in here with me.
I stepped up to the far wall and looked out the window. There were real, honest-to goodness bars in the window, and I clutched them and looked out mournfully, feeling a tad dramatic. As I looked out and surveyed the scene, there, down on the street, was Noble James. He paced back and forth on the sidewalk. I stuck my arm out through the bars and started to wave. He still didn’t look up. He just stalked up and down the sidewalk with his hands in his pockets. I felt like an idiot for waving at him, my arm like an eager snake sticking out of the bars, but I didn’t know how else to attract his attention. I was afraid if I yelled the guard from across the hall would come over and shout at me.
Noble finally looked up, and his face brightened. I pulled my arm back through the bars and smiled at him.
He gestured. He pointed at himself and then at me, looking hopeful. I frowned for a second, but as he continued to gesture, I realized he meant, Is the coast clear? Can I teleport up there?
I glanced behind me. The guard was still there, looking at me with a sour and somewhat creepy expression. I turned back to Noble and gestured an emphatic “No.”
Then Noble started gesturing something very complicated, and I started to laugh. We must have looked ridiculous. Me, up in the prison cell window, him down on the sidewalk, energetically making motions so complicated they didn’t make any sense. I couldn’t figure out what he was talking about.
Then, I heard a scuffle behind me. I turned and looked. The guard had gotten up to walk down the hall. I felt satisfied, delighted, the way you do when you finish a good meal. I teleported down to the sidewalk, next to Noble.
“Hi,” I said.
“Come on,” he said. “We should probably get out of here.” He grabbed my hand. “Let’s go to my apartment. We can talk there. Uh, here’s a picture.”
I glanced down at a snapshot of Noble’s apartment, so I would know where to teleport to. I felt absolutely giddy. Diary, have you ever been arrested, glared at, stuck in a cell, and then teleported straight out onto the sidewalk? I was looking up at my cell from below, an impossibly magic girl.
We had problems, of course. The entire city was about to be thirsting for my blood. A prison break that was impossible to explain? I would be hailed as a bogeyman for the next century. I was the stuff of legend.
Noble teleported, and I teleported right after him. We arrived in his apartment. The lights were out. It smelled like mint and pipe tobacco.
He turned on a lamp, and we sat on a small brown sofa together. We talked hurriedly in low voices.
“We’ve got roughly twenty hours, yes?” Noble said.
“Something like that,” I said.
“The way I see it,” he said, “We have two problems. We can’t get through the Night Enthusiast’s secret entrance. And. You’re going to be wanted everywhere. You won’t be able to show your face. The second we show up near the café and try to get into the secret entrance, someone is going to try to arrest you again.”
“I’ll wear a giant gray beard,” I said. “That’s the least of our troubles. How will we get through that entrance?”
“Well, it so happens,” Noble said. “I know a man who can kill part of your soul for twenty-four hours.”
We hope you’ve enjoyed Season 2, episode 18, Prison Break, of McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop. McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop is written and performed by Minerva Sweeney Wren, all rights reserved. Visit Minervasweeneywren.com to see photographs of the real McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn shop, and learn how you can support the show, keep it advertisement free, and explore more stories by Minerva Sweeney Wren.
McGilicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop will continue with Season 2 episode 19, The Magician
October 10th, 1921 continued.
Dearest diary, you cannot imagine the shock I felt.
Here was our answer. Perfect. Available. Immediate.
But how twisted. How frightening.
Noble knew someone who could kill part of our souls for twenty-four hours. That was all we needed. We could become temporary Night Enthusiasts, and we could enter the secret passage, and we could rescue the train car prisoners.
But I was scared. Of course I was scared.
“But how?” I said. “Is it safe?”
“Well, I’ve done it twice before,” Noble said. “And my soul came back just fine both times. It’s not a spell or something that can go wrong. It’s someone’s unique magic unusual power. It’s an old man who lives in Germany. For a fee, he will use his power on anyone who asks. It’s very secretive, and the Night Enthusiasts have no idea he exists. He removed a portion of my soul twice, once when I first joined the Night Enthusiasts, and once when they started to get suspicious. They have equipment that knows whether or not someone’s soul is whole or not. I passed their test both times. And within twenty-four hours, my soul returned.”
“How do the Night Enthusiasts not know about him?” I said.
“Well, he isn’t a magic unusual to them,” Noble said. “He’s barely a magic unusual to himself. He thinks he’s the only magic person in the world, and he doesn’t like being told otherwise. He realized once, a long time ago, that he could help people stop feeling things by simply wishing it for them. He can make people duller. Make people care less. And some people will pay, over and over again, to have bits of them removed. It only lasts for a day, but they keep coming back.”
“So he think he’s a magician?” I said.
“Well, technically, you’re a magician, too,” Noble James said. “But yes. He thinks he’s something old fashioned and impossible. He’s set himself up as some kind of soothsayer, and even if the Night Enthusiasts did hear about him, they’d consider him some kind of charlatan. He acts like a charlatan. But it works. And he doesn’t care who pays him.”
I shivered. I wondered how it would feel to have part of my soul removed. “All right, well, let’s go.”
“If you’re willing,” Noble said.
“As long as you promise that it comes back,” I said.
“It does,” he said. He smiled sadly at me.
“Before we do this,” I said. “I have to check. I have to make sure this secret entrance isn’t just blocked by a spell. I’m not going all the way to Germany and undergoing a magical surgery for nothing. If the barrier on the secret entrance is a spell, I can break it with a word. But if some magic unusual out there has the power to block doorways based on select criteria, then I suppose we’re going to Europe.”
“I suppose,” Noble said. “But do you really think you should be teleporting back to that area? You mentioned something about a gray beard.”
“Yes,” I said. “Do you happen to have a large gray beard?”
“Do you know,” Noble said. “It’s surprisingly difficult to get a fake beard. Or hair dye. Or a wig.”
“Well, I partially stole a wig last time I needed one,” I said. “but I think you’re right. There really isn’t time. I’ll wrap my head in a towel or something.”
Noble got up and began to throw things at me. I mean that quite literally. It startled me quite a bit, because he’s so quiet and reserved, and then I realized he was trying to make me laugh. He tossed me a muffin from his kitchen, which I caught beautifully, and then he dashed around grabbing a few more things. He brought me a dark pink silk scarf and tiny, grandmother spectacles.
I wrapped my hair up in the turban, and looked rather fetching. And eccentric. Especially once I put on the glasses. With a muffin in my pocket, I teleported back to the secret entrance, and Noble came with me.
I didn’t teleport right onto the scene in question, simply because I hadn’t seen it yet and couldn’t. I aimed for the café instead, and arrived right outside it. Clearing my throat and walking briskly, I came around behind the café. There was a little yard, muddy and grassy. Noble stood there, waiting for me.
“It’s just here,” he said. He gestured at a rusty door. It seemed to lead inside an old stone shed.
I hurried up to the door, glancing over my shoulder. Already, someone in the café was looking quizzically out the window at us. We didn’t have much time at all.
“I think we should have disguised you, too,” I said to Noble.
Noble turned his back to the window, and I reached the threshold of the door.
“I wish this spell would break, and Noble James and I would be able to pass as we are,” I said.
I stepped forward and opened the door. It opened easily, and I looked down at mossy stone steps. I strode forward, but an invisible force inside the doorway shoved me back. A tiny curl of paper fluttered down. I stooped and picked the paper up. It said, Get Away, Enemy of the Night.
“So it’s not a spell,” I said. I turned to Noble. “I can’t break it.”
Behind us, someone shouted in the café. I looked over and groaned. Fingers were being pointed at us. They recognized us.
“We’d better get to Germany,” Noble said. He hurried behind the shed, out of sight, and I hurried after him. No one could see us at the moment. As long as we could teleport before the occupants of the café came running out at us, we were all right. Noble rifled around in his pockets, pulled out a snapshot of a cozy German street, and showed it to me. With the location in my mind, we teleported.
During the war, we’d… I don’t know. We’d been told to think that Germany was somehow evil. But arriving here now, it made me sad. It was war-torn, worse than what I was used to. It made me miserable to think of living on a street like this. It was like it hadn’t quiet recovered from a wound. A few buildings still lay, gutted, not rebuilt yet. There was trash and filth, like everyone was just too tired to pick it up.
At the same time, the street seemed ordinary. As a young woman, I’d thought the Germans must be some kind of troll. You know. Not human. They killed and caused needless suffering, and of course it was all their fault. They were the enemy. I expected Germans to have little pointed ears or something. But they didn’t. The people walking past Noble and I looked like people. Because they were people. I felt like I was in my own city, looking at people who might start speaking English any second.
That surprised me, in a way. That the old enemy was just as human as I was.
I turned and looked at Noble.
“Now what?” I said.
“He’s through here,” Noble said. He pointed at a narrow little building with no door. A brown cloth hung in front of the entrance. We stepped inside and found ourselves in a narrow shop front. It smelled like old glue and dusty wood. A comforting smell. The walls were lined with shelves, and the shelves were mostly bare. No one was behind the desk. Noble stepped up and rang a little silver bell.
We waited. Noble glanced at me, his hands in his pockets.
“I should warn you…” he said. “It doesn’t feel very nice.”
“It hurts to have it removed?” I said.
“It doesn’t feel nice afterwards,” Noble said. “When it’s gone.”
At that moment, a frightful looking little man appeared.
We hope you’ve enjoyed Season 2, episode 19, The Magician, of McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop. McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop is written and performed by Minerva Sweeney Wren, all rights reserved. If you enjoy this podcast, please consider taking a moment to share it with your friends. A social media share, facebook tag, or in person recommendation do more to market this audiodrama than anything Minerva Sweeney Wren can do on her own. She relies on you. Visit MinervaSweeneyWren.com to share the story with other people in need of an adventure.
McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop will continue with Season 2 episode 20, The Twenty-Four Hour Death
The Twenty-Four Hour Death
October 10th, 1921, continued
I felt my whole body seize up. I’m surprised my skin didn’t shrivel up like a raisin. I couldn’t look away from the frightful looking little man, because part of me felt as though he wasn’t real. He was made of wax, surely, and he would melt before my eyes sooner than he would speak and prove himself to be a normal human.
But he wasn’t wax. He was real. He was a real person with dull, moist eyes that looked like glass inside their sockets. His skin was puffed and taut, and a little yellowed. He looked like a corpse that had started to go south for the winter. Nothing about him looked real. Even his hair looked like it was made of flax.
“Mr. Muntz,” Noble said. “My name is Noble James, do you remember me?”
“No,” Mr. Muntz said. “I don’t.”
“Well, I’ve come here twice before,” Noble said. “And I’ve brought a friend this time. And we’d both like to pay for your service.”
Mr. Muntz snorted. “Come inside,” he said.
He spoke English well, with only a slight accent. He held open the door. Noble went into the back room first, and I followed.
My stomach sloshed as soon as we stepped inside. The smell wasn’t good. I’ve never smelled the flesh of dried up lizards, but I imagined it smelled something like this. Or maybe I was smelling the dried snakeskin that was pinned to the wall.
The walls were black, the curtains were black, and the skulls of dead things lined shelves all around the room. It wasn’t beautiful or neatly arranged, either. It was a haphazard mess of decay.
I thought about what Noble had said, about how Muntz acted like a charlatan. Here were all the gimmicks and tricks of his trade, the haunt and the spectacle. They didn’t make me feel any easier about what we were about to undergo.
“Sit.” Mr. Muntz said. “You have money?”
We did not sit. The chairs also seemed to be in a state of decay. Noble pulled out his wallet and handed Mr. Muntz quite a bit of money. Mr. Muntz didn’t seem to care about the money being foreign. He took it and seemed satisfied, and that’s when I realized Noble had paid for me as well.
For a split second I felt like a girl on a date, being paid for by her suitor, and it made me feel awkward. I wanted to pay Noble back. It was almost more intimate, more suggestive, because of the secrecy of what we were doing.
“I’ll pay you back,” I said to Noble.
“When you can,” he said. “No rush.”
Mr. Muntz began to rifle through a pile of black stones on the mantel. He picked one up and eyed it. He clearly didn’t know we were magic unusuals. He seemed to be preparing his charlatan act, his fake show of magic.
“You must sit,” he said to me.
So, I sat. I took a look at the chair before making contact with it, however. It was black and threadbare, with a brown stain in the center. On closer inspection, the brown stain was just the material wearing away, and despite looking dreadful, the glossy black upholstery was clean. When I sat, however, it didn’t feel clean. I felt like the darkness of the chair was going to cover me like soot. It was all in my head, but it made me feel dirty.
“I shall begin,” Mr. Muntz said. I got the feeling that he was going to do this to me whether I wanted it or not, now that he’d been paid.
“What part of us dies?” I said to Noble. He seemed to sense that I was nervous, and he stepped closer. It made me feel better, having a friend nearby.
“Empathy,” he said. “It’s... more complex than that, but that’s most of what gets taken away.”
“Empathy?” I said.
“Our ability to feel for others, for the world, and more importantly, for ourselves. Murdering our empathy dulls the pain. We stop caring. We stop seeing people as human glories, and instead we start to see them as human refuse. We no longer revere, we disdain. It hurts too much to care. The Night Enthusiasts remove their empathy. This… procedure removes empathy as well.”
I thought of Ariana. Her selfishness made a bit more sense, now.
“So I won’t care about anyone?” I said. “For twenty-four hours?”
“Oh, you’ll still care,” Noble said. “Just not as much. The soul-murder dulls you. It inhibits empathy. It doesn’t completely remove it. You’ll feel… cranky.”
I smiled. He smiled back. Mr. Muntz gave us a glare. I sensed that he was used to another kind of customer, one that wanted spectacle and creep. We were disrupting the spectacle and creep.
Mr. Muntz began to mutter nonsense words under his breath in a wild voice, and I rolled my eyes. I gripped the edge of the chair and waited for it to be over.
Then, all of a sudden, it was. He was still in the middle of his spiel, his charade, but I’d felt that little bit of my soul leave me.
I felt light.
The stress and anxiety of a hundred different colors had faded to gray. My soul was bleached. Chalky. I was removed from myself, and I suddenly realized how exhausted I was.
It didn’t feel good. Not quite. I didn’t feel a rush of joy, a rich pleasure, a connection to the world around me. I’d lost my ability to feel those things. I’d lost my ability to feel. And that was what was wonderful.
The pain stopped. The pain, I guess you might say, of loving people. I felt the weight of the Great War, my parent’s death, Ariana’s betrayal, my loneliness, all leave me. I was empty inside. My grief no longer hurt, because I no longer felt it.
Mr. Muntz finished his act, and I stood up, like someone in a dream. Noble sat down and underwent the same procedure. I looked around the room, feeling strangely disconnected from myself. All I could think was what a relief it was. I had been so stupid before. So blind. So childish. This was the best way. This was the only way to live your life and still get things done. This was the only way to get through life in one piece.
Of course, I realized how ridiculous that thought was as soon as I had it. I couldn’t exactly get through life in one piece if I wasn’t in one piece to begin with. But this way, this partially damaged way, would prevent future damage. It was perfect.
Mr. Muntz finished with Noble, and then he clunked down the skunk skull he’d been using in his fake ritual.
“All right, you’re finished, get out,” he said.
Noble stood up, and he hurried out of the back room without waiting for me. I followed. We stood side by side in the shop front.
Noble was different. He seemed skeptical. Unsure of me. He bristled a little bit, and I bristled a little bit, and we stood and regarded each other for a moment.
“It will pass,” he said.
“I feel like I’ve got a hangover,” I said. “Like I’m ready to snap at everyone for no good reason.”
“We should go to the secret entrance,” he said.
“Yes,” I said.
We glanced at each other, and then we teleported. We arrived right outside the Night Enthusiast’s secret entrance, in the backyard of the café.
The only trouble was, the place was a madhouse. People shouted on the street. I heard footsteps dashing about inside the café. Boys were running and calling on the other side of the fence. Noble and I had only been gone for about ten minutes. Melinda Merkle, the murderess, had been spotted here ten minutes before. Now everyone was trying to find her. Trying to find me.
As long as Noble and I could rush down into the secret passage before we were spotted, we’d be all right. If we were spotted, however, things would get difficult. The person would probably keep staring at us, never take their eyes off us. We wouldn’t be able to teleport, and I doubt the secret entrance would let us enter when a non-magic-unusual was watching.
Noble opened the door and dashed into the secret passage. So far so good. But then, before I had a chance, a girl behind me let out a scream.
We hope you’ve enjoyed Season 2, episode 20, The Twenty Four Hour Death, of McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop. McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop is written and performed by Minerva Sweeney Wren, all rights reserved. If you wish you were a magic unusual, fear not. When you subscribe to or review this podcast, you perform a magical deed by making it far more attractive to potential listeners. You can also gain magical powers by becoming a $1 patron at patreon.com.sweeneywren. Results are not guaranteed.
McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop will continue with Season 2 episode 21, There Rust and Let Me Die
There Rust and Let Me Die
October 10, 1921, continued
Noble opened the door and dashed into the secret passage. So far so good. But then, before I had a chance, a girl behind me let out a scream.
I knew I’d been spotted. I spun around and looked at her. She was about fifteen. Her boots were muddy. She stared at me like I had the plague, too petrified to move.
I did. I laughed at her stupid, scared little face. I was so angry and bitter and it felt so good to have someone to grind under my heel.
And then I frightened myself, because I’d never been that mean-spirited in my life.
Come on, Maude, a voice at the back of my head said. You’ll be done with this soon. Just go do what you have to do, and then you’ll get your soul back, and you’ll feel like yourself again.
The girl rushed off, presumably to tell someone I was here. I didn’t waste a second. I hurried into the shed and shut the door behind me.
Before, when I’d tried to get into this secret passage, I’d felt an invisible barrier. It had felt almost like colliding with a giant spider web. Now, I whisked in easily. The doorway had detected my lack of soul and let me pass.
I tumbled down dark, stone steps. I soon reached an underground hallway that led downwards at a steep incline. There were no candles or gloomy portraits here. It felt like a sewer. It dripped like a sewer. It even smelled like a sewer.
As I hurried on, I heard Noble in front of me. He hadn’t waited for me, but we were both too cranky to care about his not being a good adventure companion. I reached him, and he nodded to me.
“You’ll have to forgive me,” he said. “I feel even less like myself when I’m with you.”
That vaguely offended me, because I felt a little bit more like myself when I was with him.
We came to the end of the hallway and found ourselves face to face with a rust colored door. A smoky pane of glass rested in the center, and I peered out. I could see into The Night Enthusiast cave. I could see Wrath. He paced inside the gazebo, the wooden train cars lined up around him.
I knew the area of the cave that I was looking out from, and to an inside observer, there was nothing here, no doorway or furniture or anything. My guess was that the other side of this door was cleverly disguised as part of the cave wall, and that a slab of fake stone would open on a hinge when we went out.
Noble and I waited. I had no way of contacting Mr. McGillicuddy, and I wished I did. There was nothing to do except watch, and wait, and hope they would provide our diversion soon.
I watched Wrath. He paced back and forth in the semi-darkness. Now and again, he paused and crouched beside the tiny wooden train cars. He chuckled and peered into them. He spoke to them. Then he started pacing again.
I was tired and my feet hurt. Noble and I took turns standing watch. We waited for what seemed like hours.
“I wonder if he ever sleeps,” Noble said softly.
I glanced up at him. Noble seemed as spooked by Wrath as I was. The man was half wooden, and had that changed him? Was he now no longer human? Did he need to sleep at all? Was he a man? Was Hester Rathbone even in there, or were we dealing with a deranged puppet that wore Hester Rathbone’s face?
All of a sudden, Noble jolted. He beckoned to me. I stood up. We peered through the window together and saw Wrath staring, intently, at the main entrance.
All this time, I’d had no idea what Mr. McGillicuddy was going to do, to get Wrath out of this cave. Now I knew. It felt a chill creep down my arms. Someone was singing. Noble and I could barely hear it, but it held Wrath transfixed. He stumbled towards the main entrance, like someone caught in a dream.
The song was sung by a woman, and it hummed and throbbed in my bloodstream, casting a haunted tone over everything we were about to do.
Wrath reached the door. He opened it and stepped into the hall beyond, seeking the source of the music.
Noble and I had a minute. We had to move quickly.
Noble thrust open the door, and I rushed out. I ran as fast I could towards the black gazebo, towards the wooden train cars. I reached them, my stomach fluttering.
After that, time seemed to slow down.
I noticed the train cars. I noticed every detail. There were five of them, each one a little bit different. With a shudder, I wondered how Wrath had obtained these train cars. They were murder objects, so they’d been in the presence of a murder. But how often were wooden toys witness to a crime scene?
Had he, perhaps, created the murder himself?
Each train car was a little bit twisted, disjointed, not quite whole. It made me think that Wrath had had them specially made. They were crafted in tones of purple and black. One had tall, sharp angles that made it look like the hunched wings of Dracula. Another was shaped like a coffin. Inside each one, a little wooden person stood.
One looked white, and crooked, and it leaned out of its window in defeat. Another was splotched in red, and I wondered if the Night Enthusiast had been stabbed before his imprisonment.
I could see the figure of Dawn Mumungus, her painted face smeared like a ruined doll, standing locked inside the largest train car. She stood, slumped, holding a little wooden sign that said:
I Will Kill Again
Was it Wrath’s message? Or was it hers? A promise that she would kill Wrath once she was released? That she would kill others?
When Wrath had been imprisoned in his train car, his sign had been a plea for help. It had been his words on the sign, not the words of the Night Enthusiasts who imprisoned him. I could only assume that this was the final, most important message Dawn Mumungus wished to pass on, her epitaph. That she would rise again, and she would kill. She would return in order to kill, to continue to feast on the theft of human life.
As much as I could have felt pity for Dawn Mumungus, for the other Night Enthusiasts, I thought instead of the ostrich cage they’d left me in. I thought of the way they’d ruined my life with the false murder charges, and for what? So they could get my magic unusual power on their side? I thought of the bodies that Melinda Merkle had supposedly left in her wake, bodies that the Night Enthusiasts had created themselves. They’d gone on a killing spree, slaughtering innocent strangers, an old woman and a young man, in their quest to pull me to their side.
These Night Enthusiasts didn’t deserve to live. Dawn Mumungus was mocking me to my face. She was holding a sign that promised she would continue to kill and ruin lives if I let her out of this train car.
Well, I wasn’t going to let her out. I was going to let rot in agony.
This moment, this one-minute chance, and it all came down to me. The ones who belonged to the Pawn Shop had all agreed. I had agreed. We were going to set them free.
Mr. McGillicuddy had struggled for hours to achieve this distraction. It was my only chance, the last flicker of hope for these wooden souls.
And I turned my back on them and walked away.
A line from Romeo and Juliet sprang to mind. I’m not sure why. O Happy dagger, Juliet says. She stabs herself and finishes, There rust and let me die.
Melinda Maudie Merkle with a whole soul would never choose this. But Maude with half a soul had chosen this. I would kill who I had been for this decision. Here let me rust and let me die. I was not going to let them out. I had the keys to heaven, to deliverance, and I was going to leave them in hell.
We hope you’ve enjoyed Season 2, episode 21, There rust and let me die, of McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop. McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop is written and performed by Minerva Sweeney Wren, all rights reserved. Visit Minervasweeneywren.com to see photographs of the real McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn shop, and learn how you can support the show, keep it advertisement free, and explore more stories by Minerva Sweeney Wren.
McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop will continue with Season 2 episode 22, The Burden of a Living Soul
The Burden of a Living Soul
October 10th, 1921 continued
After that, after I chose to leave the Night Enthusiasts locked in their train cars, everything happened very quickly.
I returned to the secret entrance. I had just shut the door when Wrath returned. He was alone. He looked furious. He strode towards the gazebo, fuming, and he picked up a train car. He flung it across the room. It cracked, rolled, and rattled, but it didn’t split in half. Wrath went over and picked it up. He shouted at the little wooden man inside. Then he slumped suddenly, and he carried the train car back to sit with the others.
He sat down and buried his head in his hands. I watched him for a moment. Suddenly he looked up and grinned, and he pushed a train car over with his finger, like a little boy.
I turned away. For the first time, I really faced Noble, who had been watching the entire time.
“What happened?” he said. “Did you run out of time?’
“No,” I said.
“What do you mean, no?”
“I left them there,” I said. I started to cry, and I didn’t entirely know why.
“After all of that?” Noble said. “You changed your mind?”
“I think they deserve it,” I said.
“I should be angry,” Noble said. “But I’m not, really. I think I’ll be angry when I wake up.”
I glared at him. “Oh, shut up.”
Noble glared right back. Then, together, we left the secret passage. As soon as I was up inside the shed, I teleported. I didn’t know where Noble was going and I didn’t care. He wanted everyone to think he was dead. Well, he could go hide out and have done with it.
I teleported to McGillicuddy and Murder’s, and I found the rusty nail that led to the secret basement. I teleported through it into the DEATH TO ALL MICE room, and then I hurried down the trap door.
No one else was back yet. Of the few magic unusuals who had stayed behind, most were off doing something, nowhere in sight. I ran into one girl. She looked at me, hopeful. I didn’t say a word and stormed towards my bedroom.
I felt like an eight-year-old having a temper tantrum. My whole soul was itchy, and it was making me furious.
I shut and locked the door and even considered removing my nameplate so no one could find me. I cried and hissed into my pillow, overwhelmed by a guilt I couldn’t understand.
Finally, I grew tired. I’d been awake for a very long time, and I wanted rest. I took off my shoes and curled up on my bed. I buried myself in a blanket, tucking it up to my chin so I could hide from the world. Then, I fell asleep.
When I woke up, I didn’t feel any better. Twenty-four hours was a very long time to wait for your soul to return. I tiptoed up to my door and listened. No one was outside. No one was hammering on my door, demanding that I leave, because I’d just betrayed humanity and all its best ideals. By now, they knew, but they left me alone. So I left them alone. I spent the day brooding. I thought about writing to you, diary, but I didn’t want to.
I went to bed again, and by the time I woke up, my soul was back. I threw up, and then I cried and then I sat down to write to you. It is so brutal to feel again. To care again. I cried for the Night Enthusiasts who I left imprisoned, but I mostly cried for me, because getting my whole heart back has been like getting hit with a thousand bricks. But I’m still so glad it's here.
I’ve been writing for so long I think my muscles have turned into rubber. I was going to wax eloquently about how I feel, about all of this, about myself, but I’m tired. I want to be finished for now.
October 11th, 1921.
Time to wax eloquently, diary. Things have changed.
When I first woke up, I was horrified. I felt like I’d committed a murder, and essentially, I had. Not just a murder, but several, grisly, indescribably cruel ones. I thought my soul was going to rip in half. I ignored the feeling as long as I wrote to you about everything that had happened, but then it had to come out, and I had to feel it.
I understood the Night Enthusiasts, more than I ever had. I had committed an atrocity while under the influence of a ruined soul. I no longer hated the Night Enthusiasts. I no longer feared them. I had been them, and that made all the difference.
For a moment, that had been me. That, I think, is the real nightmare of committing a murder. Suddenly realizing who you are, what you’re capable of.
But there’s a key difference between a murderer and me. For a murderer, it’s too late. They can never wash the blood off their hands.
I still had a chance.
I left my bedroom and went quietly down to the living room. A few of the magic unusuals gave me sad smiles in the hallway. That’s when I realized, they didn’t know. They thought I’d failed, that the mission had gone badly. They had no idea I’d ruined things on purpose.
I found Mr. McGillicuddy. He was seated in the living room, wearing spectacles, scribbling in a notebook. He looked up.
“Maude,” he said.
“I left them there,” I said.
“I left them,” I said. “It’s a long story. But I am going to go back and set things right.”
“I am working on another tactic,” Mr. McGillicuddy said. “But it may not work, and it will be several days before we can execute it.”
I nodded. “If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go for walk.”
Mr. McGillicuddy nodded to me, and I left the Pawn Shop. I returned to 1921. Not knowing where else to look for Noble James, I returned to the crypt where I’d found him. I was in luck. He was right there, eating an apple and sitting on the floor.
When I arrived, he scrambled up. He stepped right up to me and hugged me, which I wasn’t expecting. I hugged him around the neck for a moment.
“I was hoping you’d show up here,” he said. “Are you all right?”
“I feel like I woke up to find my soul nothing but lumps and bruises.”
“I’m so sorry,” he said. “I should have warned you. I should have been clearer about how awful it is. About how awful it feels when it comes back.”
“Awful but good,” I said.
Noble nodded. “It’s my fault. Completely and entirely. I wasn’t thinking straight. Of course you chose to leave them in there, when you had a fractured soul. It was a stupid idea on my part.”
“Noble, I could have pulled through,” I said. “And anyway, I made the decision to remove my soul, just as much as you.”
“I just wish we hadn’t failed,” Noble said.
“Oh, no,” I said. “We haven’t failed yet. Last time was the safe way. The way that left me alive. This way might leave me alive, too, but it also might not. I’ve let those Night Enthusiasts rot in train cars long enough. I am going back into the Night Enthusiast cave right now, and even if Wrath shoots me, I am going to release them.”
“Does Mr. McGillicuddy know you’re doing this?” Noble said.
“Oh, he has no idea,” I said.
“You’re going now?” Noble said.
“And you have a plan?” Noble said.
“No plan,” I said. “Just doing what I know I need to do.”
I was not going to rust and die in what I had done. I was going to undo it.
We hope you’ve enjoyed Season 2, episode 22, The Burden of a Living Soul, of McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop. McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop is written and performed by Minerva Sweeney Wren, all rights reserved. If you enjoy this podcast, please consider taking a moment to share it with your friends. A social media share, facebook tag, or in person recommendation do more to market this audiodrama than anything Minerva Sweeney Wren can do on her own. She relies on you. Visit MinervaSweeneyWren.com to share the story with other people in need of an adventure.
McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop will continue with Season 2 episode 23, Wrath Confronted
October 11th, 1921 continued
There are a few reactions Noble might have had to my declaration. I said, “I’m going to go get myself killed by confronting a mad man with a puppet face, in an attempt to undo the evils I have done.” Noble might have responded with, “That is stupid.” He might also have responded with, “I won’t let you.” Instead, he did neither. He said,
“Well, if you’re going to go, then I’m coming, too.”
“What if I don’t want you to come?” I said.
“You don’t want me to come?” he said.
“No, I do want you to come,” I said. “I mean what if things end badly for you and it’s all my fault?”
“I’ll take the credit if things end badly for me,” he said. “Besides, if you go alone, who will you have to drag out your bruised and bleeding corpse?”
“Oh, you're too kind.”
I stepped outside the crypt and Noble followed. The cold wind stung my cheeks.
“I’m not risking this with a damaged soul again,” I said. “We’ll go in the ordinary way. Down through the purgatory club.”
Noble nodded. And with that, we teleported. We landed inside the purgatory club, in the back alcove. We turned the painting upside down and scurried into the secret tunnel underground. My heart was thumping. Nothing seemed real yet. I’d made this decision, thrust myself into it head first. It was like leaping into the sea, and deciding you’d learn how to swim along the way.
Before I had time to blink or breathe, or so it seemed, we reached the door that led into the Night Enthusiast cave. I was shivering. Noble looked back at me.
“You look like you could use a good scare,” he said.
“The opposite of that, I think,” I said.
“No,” Noble said. “A good scare is like a shot of bourbon. It steadies you. Gets your adrenaline going.”
“Would you like to pop out from behind the corner and give me a scream?” I said.
Noble grinned. “No, I think you’d better just go in.”
“What will you do?” I said.
“I’ve got a gun,” Noble said. “And I’m going to come in after you. If you can, turn him around, so his back is to this door. That way, if things go badly, I can shoot without him seeing me.”
“He can’t be shot, you know,” I said.
“He can be shot,” Noble said. “He just can’t be shot everywhere.”
I nodded. I didn’t want to think about this. I didn’t want to plan. I didn’t want to edit it too much in my head, because I was afraid that would make me give up. So I pushed open the door and strode in.
“Hello, Wrath!” I said. It was no good keeping quiet. He would see me either way.
Wrath turned around and looked at me. At first, his face was all puzzlement. Then slowly, a grin spread from ear to ear.
“I know why you’re here,” he said.
“No, you don’t,” I said. “I’m here because of what you did with Ariana. I wanted to talk to you about it. About your trade for Ariana’s life.”
I strode towards him as fast as I could. My heart beat like the wings of a little bird inside my chest. I couldn’t help feeling like I was about to face a monster. Not the man Wrath, but the diseased puppet that was locked up inside of his flesh and blood.
“The Ariana Trade?” Wrath said.
“Yes,” I said. I reached him. I stepped into the gazebo, and I sat down on the table that he’d set the train cars on. He turned to face me, and he turned his back to the door.
“You were unnecessarily cruel,” I said. “And it made me angry. You asked me if I loved Ariana, I said yes, and then you picked her deliberately as bait.”
Smiling, Wrath shook his head. “Stupid. You really can’t see it? My plan is to kill every Night Enthusiast. It always has been. But I like you, Maude. I am indebted to you. You set me free. You said you loved Ariana, so I decided that she would be the one Night Enthusiast I let go. Choosing her for my trade insured that her own people, her own kith and kin, would betray her and throw her to the dogs. Who would stay after something like that? I never planned on killing her. I planned on killing all of them but her. I was kicking her out, for you.”
Wrath stared into my eyes. His left eye whirled inside his head, rattling around like a tiny rabid animal, but his human eye stared straight into mine. He was telling the truth. He had been merciful to Ariana. It was genius, and unexpected.
“Oh,” I said.
“And stop beating around the bush,” Wrath said. “We both know why you’re really here. You don’t like what I’ve done. You don’t think it’s just.” He leaned forward. “But I tell you it is just. It’s exactly just. It’s an eye for an eye.” He slapped the wooden side of his face. “These are the ones who put me in my train car. And now they’re all where they belong!”
I looked down at the floor. “What about Ariana?”
“She said she put you in the train car, too.”
Wrath snorted. “She was a coffee girl. You think she had anything to do with my imprisonment? Ariana was the one who brought me my last meal the day I died. She stood to the side and blubbered the whole time they were doing it. She was there, but she was sorry.”
I looked away. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Noble, who had sneaked into the cave by this time. He was near us, a little to the left, and his gun was drawn.
“I know you don’t like it,” Wrath said. “But I don’t care if you don’t like it.”
“I’m going to set them free, Wrath,” I said. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Noble wince. I wasn’t exactly being cryptic, was I?
“Go ahead,” Wrath said.
I paused. This surprised me.
“Go ahead?” I said.
“What will you do if I do?”
I stared Wrath in the eyes. He grinned slowly. I turned to face the train cars, and I said, “I wish you were all free.”
Then I waited.
I waited for my words to work, for the prisoners in the train cars to break free. But nothing happened. For a terrible moment, I thought my powers were gone, that I could no longer break any spells.
Wrath started laughing. “You see? It takes awhile!”
Of course. He hadn’t suddenly leapt out of his train car, when I’d released him. It had happened sometime during the night. Good grief. This might take hours.
“Are you going to stand here and wait?” Wrath said. “Because when they come out of their train cars, I’m just going to put them right back in.”
“I won’t let you,” I said.
Wrath snatched me by both shoulders. “Oh yes. You will!”
From behind us, Noble shouted Wrath’s real name. Wrath set me down slowly and turned around.
“Oh,” Wrath said. “Hello, Noble.”
“Hester, leave her alone,” Noble said.
“Oh, I don’t think so,” Wrath said. “I think you’d better leave, Noble James.”
“This isn’t you,” Noble said. “You don’t want to do this. The man I knew would never do this.”
“But that’s just it!” Wrath tapped the wooden side of his face. “I am doing it! So where does that leave us? Either I am not really doing it, or I am not myself. And which do you think is true? If I’m not Hester Rathbone, then where did Hester Rathbone go?” He snarled. “I’ll tell you where Hester Rathbone went. He died in a toy made of wood. And do you know what I’m going to do to you, if you don’t get out of here right now? I’m going to put you each into your own train cars.”
We hope you’ve enjoyed Season 2, episode 22, Wrath Confronted, of McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop. McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop is written and performed by Minerva Sweeney Wren, all rights reserved. If you wish you were a magic unusual, fear not. When you subscribe to or review this podcast, you perform a magical deed by making it far more attractive to potential listeners. You can also gain magical powers by becoming a $1 patron at patreon.com.sweeneywren. Results are not guaranteed.
McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop will continue with Season 2 episode 24, Death to All Mice
Death to All Mice
October 11, 1921, continued.
I hadn’t been terrified of dying when I entered the Night Enthusiasts’ cave to confront Wrath. Scared, yes. Terrified, no. But when he mentioned putting Noble and I into train cars, I was terrified. It was the perfect threat, because there was no solution. If I was gone, no one would be able to deliver any of us. Death changed suddenly into eternal damnation.
I didn’t know what the process was like, being put into a wooden train car, but I guessed it was quick. Wrath had done it to five Night Enthusiasts, and they must not have been able to put up much of a fight.
Wrath picked up a wooden train car and eyed me keenly.
“What do you think, Maude?” he said. “Do you want to be bunk mates with Dawn Mumungus for all eternity?”
I needed a rescue. Behind me, Noble, despite the fact that he had a gun, still hadn’t shot, and I knew why. He’d only have a handful of bullets in that gun. Wrath was half made of wood, and it was impossible to know where to aim to hit flesh. Most importantly, there was the very real chance that Noble would hit me instead.
So instead of hoping for a miracle bullet to save the day, I took things into my own hands, and created my own rescue as best I could. I shouted the first thing that popped into my head.
“Death to all mice!” The words from the wall, in the secret basement of McGillicuddy and Murder’s. “Death to all mice!”
I meant the words as a distraction. Something to confuse Wrath while Noble got a little bit closer. I had no idea they would do what they did.
At the sound of the phrase, shouted in the darkness of the Night Enthusiast cave, six figures appeared. They wore opera masks with long noses. No, bird beaks. They were plague masks. I had just been joking about plague masks and now they were standing in front of me. Long, sharp beaks and huge bulbous eyes. The figures wore capes as well. They stared at Wrath, Noble, and I in total silence. We stared back.
No one should have been able to teleport into this cave. What were they?
“We were summoned?” the bird nearest to us spoke.
“We just wanted to get out of here alive,” I said.
“You may go,” the bird said to me. “We have been hoping that Wrath would summon us for some time.”
Wrath looked petrified, but the figures all bowed to him, like he was worthy of respect. I was still staring when Noble touched my shoulder. My wits sprang back into my body, and Noble and I rushed out of the cave.
“What were they?” I gasped, as Noble and I dashed down the tunnel.
“I have never seen them before,” he said. “I thought you knew. You summoned them.”
“I just yelled the first weird thing that came into my head,” I said.
Noble looked back over his shoulder. “Well, whatever they are, they seem to think Wrath is wonderful. And that probably means they’re not.”
We reached the end of the tunnel and scurried up the stairs, desperate to get up into the purgatory club where we could teleport.
“Where did you hear that phrase anyway?” Noble said. “Death to all mice?”
“What are you talking about?” I said. “It’s the red paint in the secret basement of McGillicuddy and Murder’s. The room with the trap door. It’s on the walls. Did you never read it?”
“Maude,” Noble said. “There is no writing on those walls.”
Well, diary, I think it’s time to panic and hide under a blanket, which is precisely what I’m doing. Tomorrow will bring new adventures, but tonight, I am curled up with you in the living room of Mcgillicuddy and Murder’s secret basement, about to play a game of acting charades with some soon-to-be-friends of mine.
Noble is still in hiding. I had to tell Mr. McGillicuddy the whole story, pretending that Noble wasn't a part of it.
Mr. McGillicuddy, when he heard my story, took a group of Magic Unusuals over to the Night Enthusiast cave. Mr. McGillicuddy was still unwilling to risk Magic Unusual lives for Night Enthusiasts, and he didn’t want it to turn into a skirmish, but they thought they would at least go and see if there was something they could do. They found the trains cars abandoned, with Wrath nowhere in sight. The Death to All Mice figures were gone, and Mr. McGillicuddy thinks that they took Wrath with them.
Did Wrath go willingly? He left the train cars behind. Either the Death to All Mice took Wrath against his will, or they suddenly offered him something so much better than the train cars that he abandoned his previous plan. I’m honestly not sure which is worse.
The good news is? We grabbed the train cars. The Night Enthusiasts hadn’t yet emerged. We locked them securely in a very nice prison that is, of course, nowhere near here. We don’t want the Night Enthusiasts discovering our hideout. We know where there’s is, they have no idea where ours is, and we want to keep it that way. We are going to try to negotiate a truce once they emerge. We also want to be sure they’re still sane and safe to release. We don’t want to set another Wrath loose on humanity.
The game of acting charades is about to begin, and someone is cooking food for the party. I can smell it. All in all, spirits are very high. People feel like celebrating. Ariana is not permitted out here with us, but as time goes on, maybe I can convince the others to let her join in. I have more empathy for her than I ever have before, and if there’s a way to get her soul back, then I’m going to. For now, she’s safe, and if Wrath was telling me the truth, then I’m indebted to him for the fact that Ariana is no longer on The Night Enthusiast side.
I still have questions. Of course I do. Questions seem to be my lot in life.
What do the Night Enthusiasts want me for? They seem to have some awful scheme up their sleeves, and I don’t know what it is. I have no idea what their larger purpose is. They need me to break a spell. I think it’s high time I found out what that spell is.
I can see writing on the walls of McGillicuddy and Murder’s, and no one else can see them. DEATH TO ALL MICE. Noble had no idea what those beings with the plague masks were. Mr. McGillicuddy, if he knows, made no explanation to me.
What have I stumbled into? And could it possibly be worse than The Night Enthusiasts themselves?
If I’m the only one who can see the phrase, Death to All Mice, then do those beings have something specifically to do with me?
I have a lot to figure out. I have a lot to do. Currently, the streets are swarming with people hungry for my blood, or hungry, at the very least, for me to be put behind bars. If I’m to live an effective life as a magic unusual, I am going to have to find a way to end these false accusations. Whatever it takes, I will find a way.
Diary, it is the eleventh of October. I bought you in August. I first inked your pages on August 22nd. That is less than three months. Now look at me.
It is glorious to be alive, it is glorious to be myself, and it is glorious that things will be dangerous tomorrow.
I remain eternally, and devotedly yours, Maude.
We hope you’ve enjoyed Season 2, episode 24, Death to All Mice, of McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop. McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop is written and performed by Minerva Sweeney Wren, all rights reserved. If you enjoy this podcast, please consider taking a moment to share it with your friends. A social media share, facebook tag, or in person recommendation do more to market this audiodrama than anything Minerva Sweeney Wren can do on her own. She relies on you. Visit MinervaSweeneyWren.com to share the story with other people in need of an adventure.
This concludes Season 2 of McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop. Season 3 of McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop will premier in January of 2020.
Transcripts are updated monthly (not weekly), so come back soon!