The cluttered studio just left a clear space around her most recent work.
A rollers on a stand held a large beige expanse of Aida fabric stretched for the work in progress, and her work was well underway. She had skeins of the best floss neatly arranged by color, and needles, scissors, threaders, magnifiers, and other less obvious tools neatly arrayed where they could be reached.
The scene was in a swamp, and depicted moonlight reflecting off the still water. Selectively leaving out stitches achieved a shining light effect, letting the light fabric and change of texture contrast with the dark blues, browns, and purples of the water. The stitching technique was impeccable, with every cross formed the same way and pulled exactly flat without puckering the fabric. The back side of the work was as neat as the front, and it was possible the work was intended to be seen from either side.
The technique involved to produce perfectly even stitches on both faces was unusual and difficult.
Especially since it is clear that the two faces are not actually the same image. One is the scene by moonlight. The other is the same scene by sunlight. In each scene, the plants are nearly identical except for different placement of the sprays of tiny lavender flowers, but the critters found in and around are typical of each time of day.
The frogs on both sides are striking yellow and black, with the distinctive markings of D. leucomelas. Not a frog you want to mess with casually, and they know it from their willingness to sit out and bask in the sun where any predator could make the serious mistake of eating them.
The embroidery really is exquisite.
One might expect that the frogs could almost hop right off the fabric.
The portrait hung at a place of pride in the main hall, depicting triumph over the long odds of his survival. He survived, he flourished, and there were few indications that this would change for years to come.
He had seen what everyone had seen, and had been unafraid of acting on what most knew.
Most everyone before him had assumed that there was no chance of success, and avoided even trying.
He defied those naysayers and struck out to establish himself in society regardless.
His place and esteem rose rapidly. His bat sanctuary became a fashionable charity, with nearly everyone claiming to contribute at least a little. He had the wisdom to keep his true nature a secret all the while, and the outside experts hired by the charity realized swiftly that talking about the ways these bats differed from the norm was not a good career move.
The commoners seemed to be oblivious to the occasional disappearances and unexplained murders. Seeking explanations could only lead to discovering answers, and everyone had seen what happened to people who learned too much.
The bodies were a little inconvenient when they turned up, drained completely of all blood, but the message was clear.
The child sleeps peacefully, but after what must have been a significant battle with the bedclothes and the monster under the bed. The monster lies, slain for tonight, on the floor. A fierce teddy bear stands guard against its possible return to life. Some of the other stuffed animals were casualties of the battle.
She sleeps now, illuminated only by moonlight filtered by the tree outside her window.
Reading the evidence at hand, we can see that earlier the tree had been a focus of her alarm as its shadows loomed large and its branches moved threateningly in the wind. That emboldened the monster under the bed, which attempted to catch her while her attention was on the monsters outside the window. The monsters in the closet might have been involved, their door was ajar, but had retreated when Teddy took action.
A breeze outside rustles the leaves.
She mumbles something unintelligible.
Teddy turns and watches for a moment, but remains alert and on guard.
The cage hung from a hook in the corner of a perfectly appointed room. It was gilded, as one would expect from the level of taste and sophistication shown throughout the other furnishings; gilded and ornamented to the point that any songbird kept inside would die of shame. The rest of the room was a riot of silk brocades, tapestries, rugs, tables, and decor. The room did not even attempt to speak with a coherent voice. It had no story to tell beyond the obvious “my owner has no taste.”
The cage was empty, its door standing open, a single yellow feather the only memento of its occupant.
No cat was evident, other than from the feather.
Not that finding the cat in this room even if he was sitting in plain sight would be easy.
The room alone is not the whole story.
Or even the whole storey. Wandering the rest of the house, there is indeed a cat. He is not happy, as the bird’s owner is convinced the cat ate the bird. Cat claims innocence. but struggles to explain a second yellow feather found on his jaw.
Meanwhile, in the attic, a small yellow bird gloats.