Tag Archives: Nathan Milford

Annabelle the MMA Goddess and the Mystery of the Missing Pots

Annabelle Bechamel and I have been friends since basically the day I arrived in Nagspeake. I have been a regular at Magothy Treats, the eponymous confectionery shop on Bay Byway, if not every day then at least every third day. Annabelle has heard every gripe I’ve had for the last two years, and I’ve listened to plenty of hers. You share enough of Annabelle’s liquors with somebody and you get to be friends or you start worrying about blackmail; Annabelle and I became friends, something we’d probably have done even without the drinks, and I can’t imagine this city or my life in it without her. But something happened a couple of weeks ago that drove a bit of a pike into our friendship. Actually it was two things: 1) my husband a care package to Nagspeake, and 2) Annabelle and I joined Twitter.

Before I explain how these things caused the rift they’ve caused, let me explain that Nathan mailed the package to me in care of Magothy Treats because my apartment in Creve Coeur is notorious for “losing” mail. Creve Coeur is one of the slightly less-squalid neighborhoods of Shantytown, but it’s still Shantytown, and it’s just better–safer–if you keep a post office box someplace else. Annabelle offered her shop as my post office box, which was wonderful of her until this particular mailing. I’m sure she had no intention to steal anything, but suddenly a flurry of tweets from Annabelle’s account demonstrated a sudden fascination with mixed martial arts, which suggested to me that she just might have gotten into my mail. My husband, you see, is a mixed martial arts geek, and was concerned that I might have been missing our domestic evenings at home with a few beers and the complete history of the UFC, which we were working our way through. So he mailed me every single one, including a bunch of other promotions he particularly likes. I suspect that if Annabelle has been plowing through them as fast as her growing obsession would indicate she’s almost done with them, at which point Nathan’s care package will miraculously appear and make its way to me. That’s fine. I have plenty to keep me busy. Annabelle of course denies that she intercepted my mail, although she has more or less admitted to the crime on her website. Whatever. I’m willing to accept her apology along with the DVDs whenever she’s done with them. But someone out there who was reading our tweets back and forth, which anyone would be forgiven for reading as evidence of animosity between the two of us, then called me anonymously claiming to have Annabelle’s long-missing collection of antique copper pots in case I wanted them.

Now, if you’re not in Nagspeake or if you are and somehow have missed the fact that Magothy Treats hasn’t sold caramels since last winter, here is the quick background. Annabelle has always been justifiably famous for her seasonal caramels. In the spring she makes Bouquet Caramels, flavored with things like rosewater and orange flower, hibiscus and lavender and plenty more exotic blossoms. In the summer she does some amazing thing she calls Saltwater Caramels, which are like a weird hybrid of taffy, caramel, and summer honey. In the fall and winter they get warmer, flavored with spicy liqueurs and things like clove and ginger and cardamom and whatever more interesting spices she happens to have on hand. I was heartbroken that she didn’t make them this year, because they were going to be my Christmas presents to just about everybody. And the reason Magothy Treats has been without caramels (and plenty of other things it usually stocks) is the disappearance of Annabelle’s heirloom copper pots and pans.

You will have to get her to tell you the story of where they were made and how they came to her. I have suggested over and over that she write it down somewhere. The tale involves romance, smuggling, ciphers hammered into the surface of a turbotiere that lead to the negotiation of a very secret treaty by codes based on flavored candies made in the same pots Annabelle now uses to make her confections. In honor of her collection of pots, Annabelle had plans this year to introduce a gift box of Treaty Caramels, reproducing as faithfully as she could the candied correspondence that enabled the Magothy Concord and set Nagspeake on the path to becoming the great city it sort of is. But everything went to hell when she took a nap at the counter one day and woke up to find her kitchen pillaged.

Annabelle claims she knows who did it. If she does, she’s never named names, probably because it’s a little unnerving to have somebody waltz past you and steal a truckload of metal without making so much as a sound. She also claims she knows how they did it, and you have to know Annabelle to understand why this would be a logical conjecture on her part, but she says the thieves must’ve used a Hand of Glory to do their dirty work.

A Hand of Glory. Where to start? Well, like any good sinister bit of old European weirdness with any kind of history to it, there are plenty of variations. Some say you use the left hand of a hanged man. Some say you want the hand of a murderer, and it should be the one that committed the slaying. It’s used for home invasion, basically; either the hand is lit like a candle, or it’s made to hold a candle that can only be put out by very specific means. As long as the candle’s lit, whoever you rob will sleep, enabling you to abscond with her copper pots without having to worry about noise. Whatever variation you make your Hand of Glory according to, though, there are other tricky ingredients to source before the Hand will work. You need, for instance, a substance often translated as Lapland Sesame. There is supposed to be no such thing. Annabelle, being obsessed with weird spices, actually went looking for Lapland Sesame not too long ago. She hadn’t found it, but she thinks somewhere along the way in the course of her search she must’ve talked to someone who not only knew what she was talking about, but knew what it actually is and what it was used for. She clearly also thinks she knows who that person is.

I think I know who that person is, too. There just aren’t that many people in Nagspeake who both wish Annabelle ill and seem likely people to know about the arcane history of strange spices. I can think of two off the top of my head: John Pinnard, owner of Nagspice, Bayside’s premier spice shop; and Salvie Edmondson, owner of Cryptic Messages, a psychic parlor a few mileposts down the Byway from Magothy Treats. Neither sound precisely like the strange voice that called me a week ago offering the pots up for sale, but then both of them could safely assume I’d recognize their voices if they weren’t disguised. Of course, there could be an unknown dark horse out there whose grudge against Annabelle or her landmark candy shop I don’t know about. I presume, though, that whoever it is has read our Twitter conversations but not my Expat archives, or they’d have understood our spat for a spat rather than any kind of real animosity. My money’s on Salvie because although Pinnard’s a pretentious bastard, I don’t think he’s got a shred of real evil-spiritedness to him. Salvie, on the other hand, is a real bitch. She also happens to have recently been divorced by Annabelle’s brother Ted. We’ll see. I’ve arranged a hand-off meeting to buy the pots this evening. I have an itemized list from Annabelle to make sure I get the whole lot, and in my correspondence with the anonymous caller I’ve hinted strongly that if he/she is willing to sell the secret to stealing a heap of metal without waking a sleeping confectioner, I will pay extra. We shall see what it all turns up. More to follow!

(From 14 January, 2009)