Book of Watts and the Dwat
Copyright Carolyn Horn 1993
All Rights Reserved

Chapter 5.

Early on Sunday morning, anonymous telephone calls were received by the town's main news media; the Postleton Globe, the News on the Wold and Radio Over-Wold. The three editors replaced their handsets and sighed; another crackpot, no doubt; the museum - who would steal from that place? But then again, who'd make up such a silly story?
        Tansy Callicott emerged from a 'phone booth in Postleton East, looking very pleased with herself, and trotted off to teach her two goddesses the mysteries of modern underwear.

Jim Fester was just staggering out of the museum's entrance on his way home, when his aching gaze focused on half a dozen people who bounded up the steps. He blinked, nipped back through the doors and barricaded them. Not for nothing had he lived for sixty years in Postleton East. He knew a mob when he saw one. There! They were hammering on the cracked oak panels now. One of them shouted: "Mr - er," there followed a whispered consultation, "Mr Fester, we just want to talk to you about-"
        "Me rent's paid!" Jim shot back. "It's a liability the way you lot hound honest people. The hole in the shed roof weren't none of my doin'."
        More whispering. The voice said: "Mr. Fester, you don't understand-"
        "It's you don't understand; I ain't responsible for what Hetty downstairs did with that tax-man. I didn't know a thing about it till afterwards. Don't you think you can hang anything on me!"
        "No no, we just want to interview you. We're from the newspapers, radio, TV; we're journalists."
        Jim paused for a minute. "News men?"
        "That's right."
        He risked a peep through one of the missing slivers of door. "You ain't from the Council? Not from the landlord?"
        "No, we promise you. We just want to take photos in the museum."
        Jim looked around him in surprise; at the shabby foyer and the unused counter. News people here? "Nah. You are from the Council."
        "No! Look, didn't something strange happen in this place last night? Here, this is my card; you can see we're bona fide."
        Jim took the dog-eared card which had flipped through a gap. He picked it up; it bore a picture of a smart, clean-shaven, eagle-eyed young man and proclaimed him to be Murdo Goshawk. It had a lot of words on it. Jim wasn't much of a reader but he could swear that there was nothing about any Bonna Fiddey on it. "Anyway," he said aloud, "what's a Bonna Thingy do when he's at home?"
        "Oh dear," the voice said. "I mean we are genuine news reporters. You can see it says so; `Freelance journalist'"
        Jim played his trump. "Can't read," he said, "so there."
        Another bout of whispering resulted in a wodge of blue notes appearing in the gap. "Can you read these?" asked the voice. Murdo Goshawk had worn a bit round the edges, too, in the five years since that picture had been taken. He had learned something about human nature. "They say we want to come in."
        Jim grabbed the notes and pushed open the door. "Why didn't you say so before?" he asked. "Though I dunno what you want with this place."
        The reporters had gathered around him. A brisk woman asked: "Is it true that someone broke into the museum last night and exchanged some items?"
        Jim rubbed one ear cautiously. "Might 'a' done - any time I wasn't here, o'course. After the Boss had been maybe." He had a vague memory of something unusual happening and some revelation which escaped him for the moment, but he wasn't about to tell this lot.
        They had pricked up their ears. "The boss?" Several pads were scribbling and a tape machine hummed. "This would be Mr. Watts? Can we see around? The Egyptian room was mentioned."
        When the news hounds finally left they were grinning broadly. It was a scoop all right. The three groups all edged away from each other. To each came the thought that for sure, whoever was responsible for the green posters which now littered the town had been behind this job; all they had to do was find the culprit for their own particular editor.
        "Well we'd better get back," they said in unison and wandered nonchalantly off in different directions. Murdo Goshawk took his team to interview the local art critic; as Murdo said, they might as well get a different angle. There wasn't much point in joining the others, who would end up scowling at each other in front of Bryarus' house.
        Those lesser reporters did in fact all converge on that very place - just as Cicely was stomping home from church.

Cicely had been having a trying morning.
        It started when she got up. No matter what her brother and his awful roistering friends were doing this morning, she thought, she was going to do her stuff and sit in church. The neighbours expected it of her.
        In this mood of righteousness, Cicely got up before the lark and opened the bathroom door. "Ooooohh!" she gasped. A huge vile bird's head sat at a jaunty angle on the toilet seat, opened its beak and leered at her out of one eye. She slammed the door shut again and leaned against it. It couldn't have been, she told herself. Even Bryarus wouldn't do something that revolting. Or - well if it was real it must be dead, mustn't it? She opened the door a crack and peeped in. The head was still there, motionless, with its cruel curved beak shut; some horrid brown substance hung from its neck over the side of the toilet. She sidled in and got the bog-brush; she gave the head a push and it toppled onto the floor with a slither and a thud. A groan quivered through the air and she froze. Nonsense, she thought. It's all your imagination.
        A bath; she had to tub herself, regardless. She turned to pull back the curtain, reaching for the taps; and then she did scream. It was a scream to end all competition. It was a scream to be proud of, to wake the dead with. It didn't wake the pinkly hairless body in the bath, though.
        "Wha's going on?" A bleary-eyed Bryarus appeared in the doorway, wearing hair which was rumpled with sleep; long hairy legs; and a badly- tied, bright blue housecoat. That garment was an old friend although it tended to show a little too much of its wearer. Cicely was unable to produce her usual shudder at the sight, however. She simply stood pointing at the bath, with her mouth opening and closing soundlessly.
        "Murderer!" she finally managed to whisper and she backed away as he shambled over.
He rubbed his eyes, and yawned. "Good lord. It's real. So that's where Djehuti got to, the old renegade," he said and sat on the edge of the bath.
        "Is that all you can say?" Cicely had found her voice again. "You murder someone and leave him - like that," she made an expressive gesture with her hands, "it-it's disgusting!"
        "Well he looks peaceful enough; quite a work of art, to me. I could call it `body and bath'." He looked at her with a gleam in his eyes. "I wonder whether I should try a piece entitled `Two bodies entwined'..."
        She backed away, her hands thrust out. "Keep away from me," she gasped, "I-I'll get the p-police..."
        "Cicely! Don't be ridiculous!" Bryarus was on his feet. "You don't seriously think that I'm likely to go around murdering people, do you? Snap out of it, girl. This chap's just had too much to drink, that's all. Come on. Help me to heave him out of there." He bent over, revealing even more of himself to the world.
        Drivula's voice spoke from the doorway: "Well, I'll be...! What a sight to greet a gal on her way to bed."
        Bryarus snapped upright and turned to see the vampire grinning in the doorway. A thin trail of blood ran from a corner of her mouth. He blinked. "Where...?" he asked
        "Abattoir," she answered. He shuddered.
        A heavy groan echoed from the bath and a pink head wavered up from its depths. Djehuti squinted at the light, put his head in his hands and groaned again. "Is this -ah- what mortals suffer when they die? Was the elixir indeed only alcohol?"
        Bryarus considered him. "Come on. You need something for that hangover. There was an old recipe in one of my alchemy manuals; something involving raw eggs, pepper and honey..." Djehuti regarded him with revulsion.
        Cicely drew herself up. "I shall leave you and this - this - woman to get that man out of there. I shall have nothing to do with it," she said and swept out of the room. The effect was spoilt somewhat when she tripped over the beak of the ibis-head.
        This delay meant that she had to rush breakfast. She was flustered; she knew that by the time she reached the church she was not presenting her usual pristine coolness to the world. She was positive that her hat wasn't straight; Susie Blott kept looking at her and then whispering to Cyril Blott with a half-smile. Or perhaps her makeup had become blotched. Cicely went through agonies during that church service.
        On the way out the reverend Willey shook her hand and said in his vague voice: "Dear lady, so charming, as always. How is your brother? Fine, fine." He nodded without awaiting her reply. "Perhaps I may come over sometime soon? We must discuss the jumble... Thank you, thank you," and he had turned away before she could think of one good reason to put him off.
        She dragged herself home, hot and annoyed; and now here she was surrounded by crazy newspaper reporters, all clamouring to know about some burglary at the museum.
        "Go away. I don't know what you're talking about. You're mad," was all they could get out of her before she slammed the door in their faces.
        She stormed into her sitting-room and pummelled some cushions into shape. That museum has to go, she thought. Old Barney will have to get a move on; he'll get a big enough cut out of it. She jabbed at a fatly stuffed scrap of silk and flung it down. It exploded; feathers confettied everywhere. Cicely burst into tears.

The reporters tried to look into the windows of the house, but when they went around the back they were faced with an enormous, fierce-looking bull of some sort. When they tried peering into the lounge a voice called from above: "Get 'em, Uraeus!" and the most dreadful stench of liquefying fish-guts enveloped them. They couldn't even look up to see what it was that was poisoning the air, their eyes smarted so. At last they staggered away. Maybe it wasn't that great a scoop after all.

Thus it was that Olwyn, returning home on Sunday evening, was unable to buy an evening paper that gave much more detail than the news bulletin on her car radio.
        She read about it as she climbed the creaking stairs, and chuckled. "What a sense of humour someone must have, eh, Bast?" She glanced down at the graceful animal while she fumbled for her key and let herself in. "It's not much I'm afraid, my lady, but it is home. Welcome."
        Codswallop was washing himself on the windowsill and he looked up with a glad little "Frrrp!" He jumped down and then he caught sight of their guest. He stopped dead. All his fur puffed out; he stared at Bast, rumbling deep in his throat. Bast sat and watched him.
        "Oh dear," said Olwyn.
        Both cats ignored her. Bast stood up slowly and insinuated herself toward the tom, while he continued to rumble; under Olwyn's disbelieving stare, she wound herself around him, rubbing his fur flat with the side of her body. And then, Olwyn realised: "Why, you're purring, Coddy! Well thank goodness for that."
        When her belongings were stashed away again in the depressed cupboards and the cats had begun their after-dinner wash, Olwyn finally kicked off her shoes and collapsed into one of the shapeless chairs to read her paper.
        After a while, she looked up and gazed at a patch of peeling wall-paper and wondered. Just what magic had she used, out there on the road? Bast jumped up onto her lap and gazed deep into her eyes. She stroked the cat and murmured: "The museum! Of course; the very place. They could have all sorts of weird stuff about ancient myths or magic or whatnot. I might find something there on my kind of powers. Well, that's where I'll go tomorrow."
        The next morning Olwyn sat in her car (which had sprouted a graffiti moustache) and grumbled at the determined cat beside her. "This isn't a journey, silly; I'm only driving Gertrude because I have to go to both ends of town. The museum's no place for a cat." She sighed. Bast was sitting upright, tail curled around toes, and just staring. Olwyn shrugged, gave a wry grin, and said: "Well, don't blame me if you hate the town." She put the car in gear, and chuckled at Bast's loud answering purr as she drove through Lower Postleton's rubbish-strewn streets.
        Olwyn walked into the museum's silence and her nose wrinkled. "This doesn't look very promising - owww!" She started, as Bast jumped easily onto her shoulder and remained balanced there. "You might have given me some warning." She peered around the massive, dismal foyer and giggled nervously. It had been made gloomier by the recent addition of three stone statues which wore expressions of varying degrees of horror. She averted her gaze and spotted a corridor. "That looks like a useful sign; `Shop'. here goes."
        She entered the shop and blinked at the scene which the sun struggled to light through a lofty, grubby Georgian window. The granite walls stared greyly back at her through a network of oak shelves. A curly-haired brunette was clearing books from a heap in the middle; she jerked around at the sound of Olwyn's footsteps and nearly dropped a box of books on her own foot. "Big Boss - Arlo!" she gasped, "A customer!" Two figures loomed from the dusty shelving behind the counter and stood in a watching huddle.
        Olwyn moved forward, uneasily aware of the intense gaze of three pairs of eyes. Somehow she was convinced that there were even more in the room; she turned quickly and could have sworn that there had been a movement among the racks by the wall behind her. She cleared her throat and the three jumped. "Have you - are there any books about... Well, about magic; witchcraft, myths, that sort of thing? A book that would show a few spells too would be interesting..."
        "My dear Madam! I'm sure we'll have exactly what you're looking for," said the long, untidy man. "Please, just step around here, and you can have a look at our shelves. Take your pick."
        A faint whisper sounded from the shadows, on the edge of hearing: "Bast! Hey, B- urgle." the sound was choked off before Olwyn was sure she'd heard it. She shook her head. The cat wobbled round on her shoulder and glared at the corner.
        The man looked down at Olwyn. He was staring, she thought; what was wrong? A spot on her nose or something? She blushed, gazed directly into his eyes, and found herself startled by their expression. They managed to look wistful, dreamy, and desperate all at the same time. She felt her heart warm to him and looked away.
        He said: "This shelf has most of our really unusual books on the magical crafts and philosophies. Would that be the sort of thing?"
        "Wow!" she said, "there's at least a day's worth of rummaging to do here. I just haven't the time to make a proper stab at it now. Could I come back sometime? Are you open at weekends or in the evenings ever?"
        "Oh, most evenings one of us is still here until eight or so; usually me. Saturdays, too. You can't drag me away from the place; I love it." He flushed. "Actually, I own it."
        She glanced around the room at the timeless solidity of the walls. Peace seeped into her. She sighed and said dreamily: "Oh yes. I'd love it, too, if it were mine." She glanced at her watch and shook herself. She was brisk again: "I'd better go now. I'll be back; thank you."

Bryarus watched the woman's graceful exit. She pushed her heavy hair away from her face and behind one ear as she went; a nervous gesture. The light caught at the deep auburn highlights and gleamed on the black cat draped on her shoulder.
        He whistled to himself. Wouldn't mind seeing her again, he thought. I wonder if she's as sensitive as she looks? Well, there's one good way to start finding out - get what she wants and discuss it with her. He skimmed his eyes along the shelves. "Anyone know of a book of myths and magic? with spells of course," he said to nobody in particular.
        Ra's deep cracked voice cackled: "Trying to impress her, eh?"
        Djehuti ambled out of the shadows and blinked pinkly. He had been persuaded to leave his bird's head behind, with its flaccid attachment of his tanned "skin" and loincloth. He was respectably if baggily dressed in borrowed jumper and trousers. "I'm sure I can -ah- find you a good spell-book," he said. He walked off in the direction of the Egyptian room. Bryarus looked at him and sighed. At least this one looked okay, but the other gods were going to have to be let loose on a clothing store sometime. Bryarus blenched at the thought. He followed Djehuti and found the god humming to himself as he ran his fingers along a wall of hieroglyphs.
        "Now -ah- where did I... I know it was amongst these, somewhere. Aha! Here we have it." Djehuti did a rapid pass with his hand, it shimmered, and a book fell out of the wall. "That should -ah- please the young lady," he said.
        Bryarus was amazed. He held the crisp papyrus book and looked up, puzzled: "I thought it was always scrolls you had in Egypt," he said.
        "-Ah- yes well, we were starting to experiment when those Greeks came and -ah- ruined everything." Djehuti shook his head. "It was a terrible time. The old religious festivals lost all their old -ah- colour... Oh well." He shrugged. "We just picked up all our -ah- wisdom and books and left. This one contains our newest magic; including Dimension Manipulation of -ah- higher orders."
        Bryarus leafed eagerly through the pages. They were covered in fine hieroglyphic script. "Hmmm," he said, "she won't be able to read it..."
        "You can -ah- translate, perhaps?" Djehuti nudged him in the ribs.
        Bryarus grinned. The two of them were laughing as they left the room, so they didn't hear the tinkling sound of whispering Dwatters.

"Hey," Drott's nervous tinkle rose from his picture-frame, "all these strange sounds - does anyone know what's going on, for Dwat's sake?"
        "Shush," Dwurt's voice was petulant; "it's your fault we got into this. You and your `gods are dead, gods are dead' routine. Well, now we're stuck here and only Djehuti knows how long."
        "Oh leave him alone, Dwurt." Dwish's voice was weary. "It doesn't help anyone to slang at each other."
        "I wish I'd stayed and taken Matron's dwivvling like a Dwatter," Drott said miserably.
        "Drott! you don't know what you're saying!" Dwish's voice rang out in a clear tone, and he got a series of shushing noises from all around. He lowered his voice and said: "Look, Drott. None of us enjoys having to stay still, but the great Djehuti commanded us specially. He never told us off for coming here; he was very kind, treating us like Nobles. Look at the beautiful decorations he's given us! It stands to reason that he'll let us go sometime and then we can carry on exploring. Who knows," he went all dreamy again, "we may find the answer to the philosophers' riddle of the universe..."
        "Dwog-shit," said Dwurt.

Go on to Chapter 6
Book of Watts and the Dwat
Copyright Carolyn Horn 1993
All Rights Reserved