Sunday, 19 May 2019, Afternoon
Paxwood, Whatcom County, Washington, USA
Eyewitness: Kerry

Soon enough, we had the cedar jewelry box sitting between us, Sly back on the cashier’s side of the counter. She opened a drawer full of miscellaneous tools and shuffled through them. I tried a simple sweep of my finger around the seams of the velvet lining, but I found nothing latch-like.

“This is one whole continuous piece, no seams, no break in the wood grain pattern. I think the carpenter must have carved this out of a block of wood instead of putting panels together like you’d expect. That doesn’t seem normal.”

“That would eliminate the possibility of an external compartment,” Sly mused. “The maker crafted a functional false bottom inside the box. Otherwise, we’d see a seam on the exterior.”

“Unless it’s magic.” I meant it as an offhand joke, but… Magic was actually real. And Florence Paxwood enjoyed the occult. She could have done actual magic.

“Ha, ha,” Sly said, though. “Probably a blood sacrifice, right?”

I gave a forced chuckle. “It’s probably something mechanical,” I conceded.

Sly pulled the box back toward her and traced the top edge with a thin metal probe, gentle. “I’ve heard of spring-loaded triggers hidden along the top edge of a box.”

“Springs, even in the early 1900s?” I asked.

“Springs have existed for a long time.” Sly shrugged, though. She set the probe aside and drew out a magnet bar. “I do research into puzzle boxes and hidden compartments sometimes when I’m exceptionally bored during the off-season. At least I get paid, even when I don’t find a secret compartment full of millions of dollars in gold bullion. Maybe a magnet lock. Less common than springs, but… Here.”

I took the magnet. “What do I do?”

“Guide the magnet over the box. When it connects with anything, draw it slowly in each direction to pull the mechanism.”

I moved the magnet bar slowly against the front of the box, then around one side. It snagged when the magnet passed over the back side of the box, beneath the hinges. Weak resistance. When I found the place where the magnet’s pull was strongest—to the right of the center—I stopped.

“I’ve got something.”

“Can you pull it loose?” Sly leaned in.

I tried pulling to the center. It followed, at first, but then the magnetic hold broke.

I tried upward. Again, nothing.


Also, no.

Further to the right?

Even less pull than any of the other directions.

“I felt it move for a second when I moved it this way, but…” I retraced that right-to-center line.

“Want me to try?” Sly offered.

I passed the magnet over to her, and she followed my guidance and started trying for herself. As she did, I mused.

What did I know about the Paxwoods? If this was Lady Paxwood’s own possession, and it had a magnetic latch, how would it function? How would it reflect her journey?

“The Paxwoods’ journey.” I said aloud. “They came from the East, out to the Northwest. Most people who made that journey traveled to Missouri first, then headed northwest along the Oregon Trail. So…”

I held my hand out, and Sly passed the magnet back to me. I moved the magnet back to that starting position and pulled it from the right—no, the east—to that center point where I lost resistance last time. But this time, instead of continuing to pull the magnet straight, I traced it up toward the Northwest.

The magnetic piece hidden inside the box stayed with my magnet until I hit the Northwest corner of the box. Then the box gave a small click.

“Okay, now, that was clever,” Sly said.

Both of us leaned in at the same time to lift the false base, but then Sly pulled back.

“You solved it. You do the honors.”

I pulled the base panel up slowly.

A glass cat, crystal clear, with a red heart glinting in its transparent chest, rested inside the surprisingly deep hidden compartment. It laid there, curled up in a sleeping crescent, delicate tail curled around it.

“Beautiful.” This was a treasure.

“Did you get to the part in Luella’s journal where she complains about how much her oldest sister, Marjorie, loved the Oz books and how silly they are?” Sly asked.

It seemed completely out of left field. I nodded, though. “Yeah, read that.”

“The Glass Cat. Bungle.”

I raised an eyebrow. Sly clearly expected me to understand the reference.

“You didn’t eat that series up as a kid?” she asked. “There’s a magician with powder that makes things come to life. He has a pretty glass cat with a ruby heart and emerald eyes and decides, hey, this cat could probably help keep mice out of the house. After he brings it to life, though, it declares that it is much too delicate to chase mice. It’s made of glass, after all.”

“I remember the Powder of Life from the Return to Oz, where they use it to make the weird sofa creature fly,” I supplied. “But the roller skating monsters freaked me out. I never gave the books a chance.”

Sly snorted. “You don’t insist the book was always better?”

“When you move a story into a different medium, it becomes an entirely new creature.” I looked back at the glass cat. “So, Bungle the Glass Cat, from the Oz books. You think it has emerald eyes, too?”

“Only one way to find out.”

Sly scooped the glass cat up between her two hands. She and I both expected a solid object, but the little glass cat’s tail suddenly draped down in a curl around her hand.

Sly yelped but somehow refrained from throwing the figurine away as it uncurled itself and yawned a surprisingly loud, very cat-sounding yawn. It blinked emerald green eyes up at Sly, then sprang from Sly’s cupped hands down to the countertop and started along the edge in a stately stroll.

“It’s… walking.” Sly stared, wide eyed. “How… is it walking?”

I met Sly’s gaze and repeated what Rowen said to me.

“So, magic is real.”

14: Curiosity Freed the Cat

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