The Princess Detective: Excerpt 6

Cordelia, thought the Princess, would love nothing more than to provoke a princess to fight. The Princess wouldn’t give Cordelia the satisfaction.

Finally cutting Cordelia’s throat wasn’t what she needed to do. Focus on what you need, her father always said, not on what you want.

She hadn’t wanted to be a princess and she didn’t see how she or anyone could need her to be. The Princess sighed and stared into the woods. Cordelia’s house behind her. Not doubt Cordelia was watching, but the Princess wouldn’t turn to see.

Night fell early in the woods. The Princess pulled her black cloak tighter and chose her path. She wished she had a way to know if the wolves were hungry.

*

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The Princess Detective: Excerpt Five

The Princess inspects her knives before she leaves her home. The one she keeps in her boot is dull, and she takes the time to sharpen it. You can’t be too careful at the edge of the woods.

When the Princess approaches the candy-colored house, music drifts through the windows. The woman the Princess wants to see works in her garden, thrusting the spade into to soil, a pile of lilies waiting nearby.

“Hello, Cordelia,” the Princess says from the gate. She doesn’t enter without being asked.

Cordelia, frail and fair, nods, but she doesn’t stop the rhythm of digging holes in the earth.

“Your garden is beautiful as always,” the Princess says. The garden is always beautiful. The flowers there never stop blooming, even in winter.

“I know why you’re shadowing me, Princess. I’ve nothing to say about the Prince.”

“You were the last to see him alive.”

“You were the first to see him dead,” Cordelia says. “And I’ve never had blood on my hands.”

The Princess looks away, and Cordelia stops her work. She walks over to the Princess. She reaches up and pulls a strand of hair from the Princess’ neck.

The Princess flinches. “You’re not innocent, Cordelia.”

“I only said I don’t have blood on my hands.”

“You don’t know anything about my hands.” The Princess resists pulling back on her hair.

“I know when I dream my hands are clean.” The flowers around Cordelia are bright.

The Princess doesn’t know where she wants to look, but she forces herself to look at Cordelia.”That’s because when you dream nothing but lies.” She holds Cordelia’s gaze. “And you were the first person to see the Prince dead. You and I both know it.”

Cordelia laughed. “There’s so much you don’t know, Princess. The Prince was right about you.”

*

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The Princess Detective: Excerpt Four

I talked to the knife dealer today. He hates me. I can tell by the way he watches me pass by. He evades my questions even though he knows he must answer. Everyone must answer–I’m searching for the truth.

I asked him if any knives had gone missing. When he couldn’t tell me I asked what kind of dealer he was not to know such a fact as that. Every knife from one end of the forrest to the other has to be accounted for. It’s the law. I don’t make the law.

The knife dealer said he didn’t speak to the prince the day he died. But I knew that already.

I know who the prince spoke to that day. I’ll go talk to her next. Maybe then I’ll be ready for the wolves.

The Princess Detective…continues

This series should alternate–in no planned way–between a narrator and the princess. The introductory passage was from the narrator. This bit is from the princess.

My grandfather told me that in his day a princess had to be pretty and nothing else. A good princess, he said, is ornament. I think he’s making it up.

Everyone knows a princess is meant to lead the fight.

The princess sharpens wits as well as knives. Yes, beauty is for the first day of the year, the first day of her reign, but the wolves never wait for a girl to pin up her hair. How romantic that would be.

People ask if a wolf or jealousy killed my prince. The rumors could wrap the forrest a hundred times. I found the body. Of course, I did. Who else is allowed to approach a prince in the woods? Only a princess. And a murderer.

I guess I shouldn’t joke. When I saw his body, I couldn’t tell where the blood spilled from. Then I stepped closer. The gashes could’ve been from a wolf. That seems the easiest answer, but many different knives have owners in these parts. I know exactly which blade looks like a wolf bite and I know who owns it.

But that man was drunk at the time of death–drunk and passed out on my mother’s floor. Oh, pretty rumors surround that, I can tell you.

I inspected his knife and it was clean. Shining even. Only a fool though keeps her knife dull and spotted. Clean knife, clean kill.

Too many people around here know how to imitate a wolf bite. I suspect I shall have to go to the wolves and see what they know. Providing they don’t see me.

The Princess Detective

The locals, having perhaps lived too long in the Asylum’s shadow, chose a new prince and princess every year for the winter festival. The couple wear icy white, and the princess carries a basket of the reddest apples.

The farmers and gardeners compete to have their apples chosen.

The children stand along the parade and hope for a kiss from the princess. Or the prince. The kiss, they say, will bring good luck through the winter. The children think this means Santa will favor them. The parents think this means good health through the flu season.

They also say the girl chosen for a princess will never marry, or she will marry but never give birth. Some girls hide on the day the princess is chosen. Others pray or bribe officials for the title.

Nothing much is said about the prince.

A few years ago a prince was found dead, either with a dagger through his heart or a wild animal’s teeth through his throat. Odd how that fact has not yet been made clear, nor his killer found, but many eyes look in the Asylum’s direction when his death is mentioned.

The princess from that year vow she’ll find the killer, and when she does she’ll tell us everything that happened.

We All Were Children After All

Orangeberry Books

I’ve never understood people who say they don’t like kids. They were once kids after all. Did they like being so easily dismissed by grown ups?

Not to mention I thought we were raised to avoid gross generalizations. There aren’t that many groups left you can publicly and happily state you don’t like. And what is to be gained from dismissing an entire group? You miss out on some interesting individuals that way.

Anyway, recently I met–in a cyberspace sort of way–a woman working on an anthology of stories from childhood. Dr. Niamh Clune is part of a new publishing venture that this week is coming out with their first book: Every Child Is Entitled to Innocence.

The proceeds will go to Child Helpline International, an organization that works to establish global helplines for children.

Perhaps you’d be interested in the book or at least passing this news on. You could friend Orangeberry on Facebook if you like, tweet, or participate in their Light-a-Candle campaign.

Somewhere between the time I was three and a stranger shot our family dog and ten years later when a strange man appeared at my bedroom window, I learned the world isn’t a safe place. We can’t protect children from every heartbreak in life–and if we did how would they learn empathy and develop as full human beings? But too many things children don’t need to experience, and I wish all us grown ups would give more thought to that.

Can’t I Just Ignore the Question?

My son woke up around 7am the other day–which he usually does when there is no school–and instead of coming to wake my husband or me up, he turned on the TV. The TV is set to come on to the Science Channel.

How dangerous can the Science Channel be at 7am?

Well, the show my 8-year-old son happened across was a forensic science show and they were investigating murders. One murder–my son later told me–was about a man who killed a taxi driver. This was sad, my son thought, but since he can easily avoid being a taxi driver, it didn’t worry him.

The other story was about the murder of a mother and daughter.

My son didn’t tell me the circumstances but their story–and I assume there must’ve been a reenactment–kept him from going to sleep. “It’s okay during the day,” my son said, “but in the dark it’s different.”

This lead to questions about why murder happens, how murderers choose their victims, and what would keep something bad from happening to us.

As for the last question, my simple answer of, “We live in a nice area,” was answered with, “But bad things happen in nice areas too. Just because it looks nice doesn’t mean anything.”

Well, true. Terrible things can happen anywhere. But this is not something I’m eager to tell my child.

Sigh.

We talked about why people kill–which I don’t claim to have an answer for but I have to say something. We talked about emotions out of control, the influence of drugs and alcohol, greed, and a lack of empathy for others.

We talked about how murderers choose victims–and I can’t be sure of this either, but I tell my son that people are most often hurt by people they know, people they have an emotional problem with, but also criminals choose people who won’t be missed or seen.

This is a terrible conversation but he has questions. To say, “This is not something you should think about” feels false and unhelpful because my childhood taught me that these things are possible…just unlikely. And we talked about that. Life is unpredictable but certain things are unlikely.

I told him that we can’t live our lives afraid of all the terrible possibilities. We wouldn’t live if that were the case.

What can an 8-year-old be expected to understand?

So I told him an extremely watered-down version of a story about a student at my school. My point was to tell him that even though this young woman had been through many difficult things, she came to school, went out with friends, laughed, and was thoughtful and friendly. Here is someone who has every reason to live in fear, and yet she doesn’t.

Then my son and I decided he needed to read something funny before bedtime.

I certainly needed something funny.