First, a word about my darling girl because, well, I was fourteen and every moment swirling around in a maelstrom of hormones. The look of fear and the tears streaming down Dimity’s face momentarily brought about a seismic collapse of my basic motor skills. I was electrified by a protective instinct but powerless to help her. Recognition and slight relief dawned in her eyes when she saw me. I think her terror of what a kidnapped young girl might be expecting was then morphed into the realization of being a simple hostage, a pawn used by powerful men to get something they wanted.
Lorenzo and his thugs had captured her and now we had no choice but to give them the latest brew.Ringo looked at me and darted his eyes at the box of empty wine bottles. One by one I grabbed a bottle and held up a tin funnel in the mouth while he poured the infusion, then we corked them.
Ringo didn’t bother with painting Saragossa on the side. I wonder if that was because he suspected the batch was inert, lacking the psychosomatic virtues that last night’s product had. Something was different about today’s product and we both knew it.
We had only enough for four bottles and we duly prepared them and handed them over in exchange for Dimity’s release. Once free she gave a backward kick with the heel of her Mary Janes into the shin of the gorilla that held her, then she ran to my side. The men prepared to leave.
“You see Reginald, the girl is unharmed. I’m not as much of a beast as you think.”
“You just knew I wouldn’t give you Saragossa for the asking.”
“Something like that. But one last thing. It’s too fantastical to believe and I may be showing my naiveté even in asking. My top mechanic in Bruges told me there were rumors that another Lancia D24 was in production last summer. It was never seen nor has anyone heard of it since. I don’t suppose you would know anything about it?”
“If I did, why on earth would you think I’d tell you, Lorenzo?”
The little man sighed and began in an oracular tone, “Because like me, you are man captivated by auto racing. Because the same blood and oil runs in our veins. It transcends common human exchanges and petty disagreements.” They stared at each other. Lorenzo raised a finger. “And because you owe me, don’t you. Ah, but I may be giving you too much credit.”
Ringo cut him off, “I’ll let you know if I hear anything.” They stepped across wet hay toward the barn doors tugging their collars and shifting their shoulders.
“Good day, gentlemen. And Miss, I’m sorry it had to come this. Perhaps your uncle will be more genial…when I return for more.”
“Yes, perhaps. Genial,” Ringo said. “Just like you were to Tom Nightingale.”
“I still haven’t forgiven you for Turin. Remember that Reginald.”
When they were gone Ringo turned to me with a clear note of intensity in his posture. Dimity had her forehead on my shoulder, calming, still taking deep breaths, gripping my hand in hers.
“What happened in Turin?” I asked. He shivered one rapid quake through his body and darted eyes at Dimity. “Ah, yeah so, this is Dimity St. John, my…special friend. Mitts, this my Uncle Ringo. Whom you saw earlier this morning. Briefly.”
“Good morning my dear.” He was terse.
“G’day, Mister Ringo. S’funny name. Better than Reginald.”
“An Australian accent? How charming. I have many friends there. I’m so sorry you had to be brought into this. But to business! I have to figure out what was wrong with that batch,” he said. “What could it be? I made it exactly like last night! Look here, the same vodka, dallis grass, greengage. Lessee…my phial of lavender tea, Marmite. It’s all here!”
“Did you cook it the same way?” I offered.
“Yes! Yes! Of course I did!”
His shoulders dropped. “No, I did not use the same spoon.” We all hesitated. Grackles cawed outside. The stale smell of rotting wood and algae returned to my senses.
“Do you think that would matter?”
“Ordinarily, it wouldn’t. But this is no ordinary beverage. What could be special about your mother’s wooden spoon? A regular kitchen spoon? A presbyterian spoon?”
I knew that spoon. My mouth went dry, my lips went rubbery and felt way too big for my face.
“I guess you could say it’s a special spoon. Special to me, anyway. It was the spoon my mother used to spank me with when I called my brother wankpuffin and my sister smeghead, which I used to do on a regular basis. It probably has microscopic fibers from the seat of my pants, or even molecules of my own flesh still embedded in the spoon bowl.”
He practically leapt into the air. “My God,” he screamed. “A talisman! The spoon a talisman! No ordinary spoon indeed! It was the vehicle that elicited your tears, wrought your pain, rent your flesh! An instrument of both justice and torture! That’s it! Why didn’t I see it? Of course, this explains everything. We have to go fetch that spoon!”
“Right. But…how do the three of us get back? We can’t fit three of us on the motorcycle.”
“Oh yes we could! But fortunately we don’t have to.”