Thursday Doors, StoryADay May: Steffie in The Red Barn

This post is part of StoryADay May (https://storyaday.org/) #StoryADay #StoryADayMay @storyadaymay #freeshortstory #ThursdayDoors

The Red Barn

“I said I want to work alone from now on,” Steffie told Pete, her handler.

“Sorry,” Pete said. “There aren’t many solitary agents who also work well with others, but you and the team you’ve been with lately have been so successful, the Agency wants you back together again.”

Steffie didn’t sigh. She didn’t waste breath she might need for running. Besides, she had to admit she had enjoyed working with the team. They could follow instructions, but they also showed initiative. Rare combination, and invaluable.

“What’s the assignment?” she asked.

“Let’s wait until the others get here.”

He hadn’t quite finished the sentence when the door opened and Agent Teagan came in from the alley behind their meeting place, opening the door all the way to the right in order to detect and trap anyone who might have been hiding behind it. Immediately behind her came Agent Resa, covering Teagan’s left with her water pistol filled with extra-strength Mr. Clean, a technically legal chemical weapon she favored. Agent Lois backed in, covering the others’ sixes.

They were meeting in the back room of Oddment World Food, a restaurant with an eclectic menu. In spite of all other options, they were sharing group portions of fried shrimp and fried mushrooms, wearing thin non-Latex gloves to avoid leaving greasy fingerprints behind.

“All here,” Pete said. He placed a small device on the table. “Dan in IT gave me this. It’ll squelch any video or audio from this room so we can be certain of our privacy.”

“So what’s up?” Agent Teagan asked.

“There’s a high-level conference tomorrow on national security, and a physicist who could hold the future of non-invasive threat detection in her hands will be there. She’s also a member of a group called The Society for Creative Anachronism, a group that studies and recreates society in the Middle Ages – for a given value of “recreates”. There’s something they call a revel being held this afternoon, and she’ll be attending. It’s a public event, a perfect place for an assassination.”

“Don’t let her go,” said Agent Lois, practical as ever.

“If we don’t let her go,” said Pete, “the bad guys will know she’s important. As it is, we aren’t sure they know how irreplaceable she is. The Agency needs for you four to infiltrate the event and keep an eye on her.” He indicated a box large enough to hold a microwave that stood in a corner. “There are your costumes. You’ll have to come up with your own Medieval names.”

Steffie had done theater in college, and she envisioned floor-length gowns in brocade with sleeves so long they covered her fingertips. Instead, she found flat shoes, thick stockings, whatsits, and thingamabobs, to simulate page boys livery for all three of them. There were belts with bags hanging from them, perfect for communications equipment and small-caliber weaponry.

“You can change into them in the van,” Pete said. “Memorize our ‘client’s’ picture, and I’ll let you out in the parking lot of the Red Barn.”

#

They weren’t the only characters exiting cars and vans in the parking lot. Everyone was in costume. There were some pages, some haughty-looking characters dressed pretty much the same but behaving as if they were miles above them in importance. Steffie heard the words, Herald, Seneschal, and asshole following some of these guys’ progress toward the Barn.

The men were dressed in some version of trousers and colorful tops, as were some of the women. Most women, though, were dressed as Steffie had expected, in dresses simple and fancy, but all long and full. Some of them wore headdresses or tiny hats with feathers sticking up.

Inside, they were just in time to see their client, dressed in chain mail, blue jeans, and boots, walk to the middle of the room.

“I challenge any and all to single combat! Who dares cross arms with me?”

Behind Steffie, Teagan said, “She said what, now?”

“Ho!” A deep voice shouted. “I accept your challenge!”

Steffie saw, in her excellent peripheral vision, Agent Resa half-extract her water pistol, ready to halt the proceedings on Steffie’s go-head.

Steffie held up a hand to stop the agent, because the “arms” were made of wood wrapped in silver duct tape.

The two combatants donned home-made helmets, squared off, and began whaling at each other with what appeared to be technique, judging by the onlookers’ appreciative cheers.

She spoke to the other three over her shoulder: “Check out the rest of the building and assess threats and danger zones.”

They found no lurkers, recognized no known agents of the bad guys, and noticed nobody acting suspiciously or taking too much interest in their client. They were able to keep her under observation until it was time for dinner service.

Strange smells had been coming from the Barn’s kitchen facilities for a couple of hours. The aroma of frying meat didn’t couple well (to Steffie’s taste) with the scents of cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, and hot fruit.

One of the haughty assholes tapped Steffie on the shoulder. “It’s time for the tables and chairs to be arranged.”

“All right,” she said.

After a couple of beats, he said, “Do it, page.”

She saw that others dressed as she and her agents were, were staggering under the weight of folding tables and armfuls of folding chairs. After a quick consultation with the other agents, she picked up one end of a table. They would do their pagely duty to avoid attracting undue attention, but they would unobtrusively take turns guarding the doctor while the other three set up tables and chairs and spread cheap plastic tablecloths.

Their client, who had won every challenge, was seated at the high table, next to the “king” and “queen”. Resa went to stand behind her, saying she thought a champion needed a page of her own. Steffie approved, since she, Teagan, and Lois were all informed it was their job to carry the food out to all 150 attendees as quickly as possible.

They were told to serve the high table first, then work their way down the heirarchy.

Between revelers helping themselves to the offered plates by stabbing two or three portions with their knives and others bellowing for service, Steffie wondered, if this was a recreation, that more Medieval banquets didn’t end in wholesale murder.

The king and queen had their own pages, but Lois and Teagan had to tag-team to grab random servings and offer them to their client. Poison in a crowd was not above possibility.

Dessert was mincemeat pie, which reeked of all the smells Steffie had objected to together, baked in 9X11” casserole dishes, and to be served two to a table. Each person at the high table would get another version, small, individual pies.

A parade of pages marched down the room, each holding a pie. Lois took her place to serve their client, but another page muscled past her and put his pie down in front of the doctor.

Suspicious, Lois “Accidentally” knocked the pie to the floor and replaced it with the one she carried.

The fury on the face of the thwarted page told her all she needed to know.

When she reached for him, he turned and ran, knocking pages to either side and sliding under tables. Resa turned her post over to Agent Teagan and joined the chase, with Steffie blocking the door. He fought like a cornered rat, but he was no match for three trained agents and a face full of Mr. Clean.

The other diners cheered and stomped and pounded the table, under the impression that the whole thing was a planned part of the revel.

Steffie called Pete, Lois retrieved the fallen pie to see if any clues as to its origin could be garnered, and Teagan and Resa stuck to the client until Pete arrived and they could hustle her into the van. At that point, secrecy was moot.

The doctor took her pie to go and, to Steffie’s undisguised disgust, ate it.


Thursday doors is under the direction of Dan Antion, photographer extraordinaire and critter daddy. Visit his site, enjoy his wonderful photographs, follow his directions, and enter a world of doors.

MY PROMPT TODAY: Steffie, and a picture of The Red Barn, where I attended many a SCA revel.

MA

About

I was born in Louisville, Kentucky, but now live in the woods in southern Indiana. Though I only write fiction, I love to read non-fiction. The more I learn about this world, the more fantastic I see it is.

You may also like...

One thought on “Thursday Doors, StoryADay May: Steffie in The Red Barn

  1. Dan Antion

    May 31, 2024 at 8:25am

    I would have been safe, as I doubt I could have forced even a ‘no thank you’ portion of mince meat pie. Still, it would be comforting to have agents, Teagan, Lois and Resa around. A hat tip to the IT Guy, always the unsung hero.

    Permalink  ⋅ Reply
    • Author

      Marian Allen

      May 31, 2024 at 9:51am

      I LOVE mincemeat pie, which is an odd thing for a picky eater to like. I even came up with a vegan version, but it makes a helluva lot, and nobody else I know likes it.

      Permalink  ⋅ Reply
  2. lois

    May 31, 2024 at 10:27am

    I wondered about the mincemeat pie! 😆 This group has the most fun adventures. We have a Renaissance fair here in town every year. I will be keeping a close watch on the goings on…

    Permalink  ⋅ Reply
    • Author

      Marian Allen

      June 1, 2024 at 7:08am

      Good! Those bastards cabbage up all the turkey legs and leave none for anybody else.

      Permalink  ⋅ Reply
  3. Teagan Riordain Geneviene

    May 31, 2024 at 2:01pm

    Oh! Thanks for your footnote about your revels. I was amazed that you thought of the Ren Fest setting. I used to love those things when I lived in the southeast. I hadn’t heard “The Society for Creative Anachronism” in years, and just thought you must have run across the name while researching. This was a stroke of brilliance, Marian.
    LOL, and thanks for saving me from having to run after the culprit! Hugs.

    Permalink  ⋅ Reply
    • Author

      Marian Allen

      June 1, 2024 at 7:14am

      This wasn’t at a Ren Faire, although I’ve enjoyed any of those I’ve been to. SCA — at least it did when I was active in it (if “active” is ever an appropriate word for me) — just rented a large empty space, preferably with kitchen facilities, and set up housekeeping inside around the walls, leaving the center clear for battles and dancing. We slept on the floor. My bones still ache!

      Permalink  ⋅ Reply
  4. acflory

    May 31, 2024 at 9:42pm

    A fun story to end the month! But what’s wrong with cinnamon and the other spices???? I love cinnamon, especially the Cassia cinnamon. Sprinkle it on porridge. Yum. 😀

    Permalink  ⋅ Reply
    • Author

      Marian Allen

      June 1, 2024 at 7:16am

      One more story for the month. And I love the spices I mentioned. I love mincemeat! But Steffie thinks the smells of meat, “Christmas” spices, and cooked fruit are nasty together.

      Permalink  ⋅ Reply
  5. Maureen O'Hern

    June 1, 2024 at 11:37am

    Mincemeat pie is one of my favorite things of all time, and I can never figure out why people hate it. Ditto fruitcake. Last Christmas, my daughter-in-law made vegetarian mincemeat, and it was WONDERFUL. Need I say I laughed out loud when I got to “Oddment World Food”? My kitchen is much more oddment than global, but I appreciate the possibilities. I loved the setting for this. Well told!

    Permalink  ⋅ Reply

Leave a Reply, If You Ple-az

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.