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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

Hidden Secrets - 4. Page of Swords

Important news is coming your way.

'You look tired,' Cynthia said, at breakfast.

'I didn't sleep. My brain was spinning around and around. But I managed to come up with this.’

I showed her my scrawled list, hoping she would be able to read my writing.

'Not much to go on, but plenty to discover. I shall take Nipper for a walk today and pop into the public library. They have an excellent local history section, and Internet access.’

'You can use the Internet?’

'But of course. Google is my friend. I am what you call a silver surfer.’

'Here's my second question. May I cut up a couple of your coat hangers to make some dowsing rods?’

The traditional tool used by dowsers is the forked hazel stick, the two ends held under tension, the natural springiness of the rod holding it level. Modern dowsers often use 'L' rods instead. These can be easily made from a pair of wire coat hangers. You simply use the straight bottom part of the hanger as the long arm of the 'L', and about ten or eleven centimetres of one side as the shorter part, which you then give a ninety degree bend. One rod is held loosely in each hand. The long arm of the rod should be just below the horizontal, so that it can respond easily to any muscular twitch. When the rods cross, X marks the spot, so to speak.

Contrary to popular opinion, there is nothing particularly magical about dowsing. You don't have to be psychic, or believe in the supernatural, although it does help if you believe you will truly find whatever it is you're dowsing for. Dad taught me when I was about ten, in our back garden.

'What you're doing is learning to read the signals your body sends. Learn to trust your instincts. Our ancestors did, whether they were hunting animals, or searching for water.’

I felt awkward at first, and my wrists ached.

'Remember when you started to ride your bike without stabilisers? You were trying too hard, going too slowly and you kept falling over. Then suddenly you relaxed. You trusted your balance and you got it. That's what learning to dowse is like.’

It took a while, but once I'd got the hang of it - once I'd learned to relax - it worked surprisingly well. Dad got me to track the course of the water main all through the garden. But after a few months I gave it up because I wasn't as good as he was, never mind that he'd been at it for twenty-five years. I didn't start again until I was in my late teens. Then, during my years with Cliff, I stopped a second time. It's very hard to concentrate on dowsing when someone is tickling you or trying to make you laugh. Or making fun of the expression of concentration on your face.

'What use is it?' he'd say.

'My dad earns good money from dowsing.’

'What do you mean by good money? Thirty grand a year? Forty?’

'Of course not.’

'So what use is it?' Cliff wanted the sort of lifestyle he read about in the Sunday supplements. He was quite happy to work hard to get it and for a while, I became convinced I wanted the same. I left the cinema business and took an office job, nine to five, so we were always off together at weekends. It was fun, at first, because it was very different from how I'd always lived. My parents taught me that you earned enough to pay the bills and put a bit away for a rainy day. Mum bought most of her clothes in charity shops. Dad fixed things if they went wrong. Nothing was ever thrown away or replaced unless it was worn out or totally irreparable.

Living with Cliff was a different story. We had the bathroom revamped because the tiles he wanted didn't match the existing bath. We changed perfectly serviceable carpets for laminate flooring, because that was ‘what everyone had these days’. We paid for someone to landscape the garden in the style of that year's Chelsea Gold Medal winner. Everything we earned was eaten up by the need to keep up to date and impress people. After a time, I found it exhausting and empty of meaning. But I loved him and I knew that was what made him happy, so I pretended I enjoyed it all as much as he did.

One day he said to me, 'Is there something you aren't telling me, Terry?’

I thought he was insinuating that I was having an affair. ‘Like what? Am I playing around? Is that what you mean?’
‘No. Of course not. But are you really happy?’

'Of course I am. You’re everything that I need. We love each other. We have great sex.’

'Yes, but what else do you want from life?’

'Nothing. I'm happy just to be with you.’

He sighed. 'That's the difference between us both. You don't really want very much from life. I do.’

'There's nothing wrong with that.’

'But I'd like to be able to share it with someone.’

'I thought that was what we did already,' I protested.

'It's just sometimes... you don't seem very enthusiastic. Like last weekend, when we went to choose a new sofa.’

'We have a perfectly good sofa. It's comfortable. It's in good condition. It's the right size for the room. Why do we need another one?’

‘It’s not the latest style. I’m bored with it.’

'So if you get bored with me, would you trade me in for a new model?’

'That's not the same.’

We started to argue. It wasn't the first time, nor would it be the last. I never saw the point in that either. Why couldn't he just accept we had different views on life and leave it at that? Why did we have to like exactly the same things?

'Because I can't enjoy it if I don't think you are.’

So I gritted my teeth, bit back my views and carried on spending money as if there was no tomorrow. Pretended I was having fun. It wasn't all bad, of course. I loved the exotic holidays; travelling to places I'd never thought I'd see and wouldn't have paid to go to if I'd been on my own. I enjoyed having new cars, rather than old ones like dad’s, bought for a few hundred pounds and kept going by mechanical ingenuity and spare parts from the breaker’s yard. We kept on, until I began to have the dreams.

Sometimes I wonder exactly why I didn't say anything. Was it really for the reason I've always told myself; that Cliff didn't believe in premonitions? That he would have laughed, at first, before becoming annoyed? There was that, of course, but I’d also learned to bury that aspect of my life. Hunches weren’t real. They should be ignored. So that was what I did.

I took my newly fashioned dowsing rods in to the cinema on Wednesday morning, forgetting it was Seniors’ day. By the time I got there, a queue of blue rinsed ladies and retired men wearing sensible plain shoes, ties and jackets were gathering outside. They tried to follow me in.

Sylvia called out from the retail area. 'Don't let anyone in yet. The urn's not boiled.’

I had to shut the door. They all resumed their former positions and tutted with righteous indignation.

'If the tea's not made, they'll all complain,’ she grumbled. ‘And they know the doors open at ten-thirty, so why they're all here so early I've no idea.’

'Maybe they enjoy queuing? It must remind them of the war or something.' Very appropriate as the film they would be seeing was about Hitler, albeit when he was still on his first career as a painter, rather than a megalomaniac dictator.

‘I don’t know about that, but they love complaining. Tea’s too hot, tea's too cold. The sugar's not sweet enough. The biscuits are soggy.’

'There you go then. It's their weekly chance to moan at a captive audience.’

'I just hope I don't end up like that,' she said darkly. 'They give old people a bad name, that lot do.’

I opened screen one ready for the onslaught, then went and turned on the plenum. It was chilly this morning and the huge fan moaned as loudly as any irate pensioner while it slowly built up speed. Screen one felt a bit cold. I should really have set the boilers to come on earlier. They'd probably complain about that too.

By the time I got back up to the foyer, voices babbled loudly and cups clinked in saucers. I decided there was enough time to spare and I would run no risk of being disturbed, so ducked into screen three to begin dowsing.

At first, I felt foolish and kept glancing back towards the door. That wouldn't do at all. I held the rods ahead of me and looked at the pattern of the carpet, swirls and spots, interspersed with black dots of chewing gum. I cleared my thoughts, then concentrated on visualising running water and walked slowly but steadily from one side of the auditorium to the other, alongside the front row of seats. Not a twitch.

I took a step sideways and re-crossed. Nothing again. All the way down to the bloody screen, where the carpets were still damp and not a sign.

Of course, water can seep, or run, for some distance from the spot where it emerges. There was no room to walk behind the screen, so I knew I'd have to try behind the partition wall; in the front stalls of screen one. And I'd have to do it quickly before the more infirm of the seniors took their seats for the show.

I counted my steps from the screen end to the door, then counted the same number in the passageway between the two minis before I levelled my rods again. It might be because I was hurrying that it wasn't working. Nothing works well if you think too much... twitch.

I watched the rods move slightly, took another step forward into the stalls. And as I reached the spot where I always felt that weird prickle on the back of my neck, they crossed. X marks the spot, all right. I'd been sensing the bloody well all this time without trying!

Later in the day, I checked my mobile to find Cynthia had left a message. 'I've found out a few things. Phone me when you can.’

She answered on the third ring. 'This sleuthing is all very exciting.’

'So what did you find?'

'Well...' I heard the rustle of paper. 'The cinema conversion took three months, from August to November of nineteen seventy-five. The grand re-opening was held in the presence of the Mayor. There was a report all about it in the local paper's archive.’ She cleared her throat. ‘Here you go. "Among the guests were various local celebrities, prize winners from a competition held prior to the re-opening and the wives and families of the builders who had worked so hard to complete on time." The company was called Luard Construction. They're a local firm, still going strong. And guess what? The son of the owner was the brave lad who rescued your cinema cat from a watery doom. Robert Luard, same as his father.’

'Well done.' Robert Luard. He must be the ‘Bob' Maurice had mentioned. Bob the builder.

Cynthia continued. 'I've had copies made of the relevant pages. There are a few pictures as well as the report. The cat looks extremely fed up.’

'I'll bet.’

'Did you find anything?’

'Yes. That I've been an idiot.' I told her about my discovery.

'So, what now?’

'I need to ask some more questions at the cinema. You might find out if there have been any mysterious disappearances. I'm sure the local papers would have made a meal out of something like that.’

Sylvia was busily stocking the shelves when I went through the foyer again. 'Many complaints?' I asked.

'Hardly at all. A couple of them said they thought the film was depressing.'

I leaned on the counter. 'My aunt found that newspaper report. The one you told me about, with the cat.’

She beamed.

'I was just wondering if you could tell me any more about it. What the cinema was like in those days. I like to know the history of a place where I'm working and Colin isn't very talkative. Did he work here back then, by the way?

'Oh yes. Him and Maurice both. He was sour that Maurice got the promotion ahead of him, but anyone except Colin would have seen why.’

Fascinating as projection room politics was, I was after a different story. 'So who was the chief when it was tripled?’

'Now, was it Jack or George?’ She fluffed up the corner of a shiny red pack of Maltesers as if that might jog her memory. ‘I think it must have been Jack. He made Colin look like mister sweetness and light. He used to come down here ranting and raving, slamming the office door. Half the time he was drunk, but I think we all preferred him then. It was when he couldn't get a drink he turned nasty. We were all happy when he went and George got the job. Then after George retired, Maurice was promoted up. That would have been about nineteen eighty-six, I think.’

I suddenly had a thought. 'Was Jack a violent man?' My imagination provided vivid pictures of a fight upstairs, a mistimed push. Someone falling down those steep concrete stairs, bashing his head. Accidental death needing a hasty cover-up.

'I don't know. He used to shout a lot, but them that shout don't always hit, do they? I reckon he was all mouth myself.’

That put paid to my theory, unless Sylvia's recollection, or her perception of Jack was totally wrong. More finding out to do. I was going to have to speak to Colin. But would Colin speak to me?

The office door banged. Both of us gave a guilty start as the duty manager came out; not Dan today but Karen, one of the assistants.

'I've been trying to call you,' she said, brandishing her walkie talkie as if it were a weapon.

'I'm sorry,' I apologised. 'I left mine in the box.’

‘It's not much good in there, is it? You're supposed to carry them at all times.’

'Well, you've found me now,' I said, trying my best not to match her sourness. 'What can I do for you?’

'I need to fax your trailer list to head office right away. Can you bring it down to the office a.s.a.p.’

With that, she stalked back to her lair.

'Miserable cow,' Sylvia said under her breath. 'Don't mind her, she's always like that. I don't think she's ever got over the day the company decided we were all going to be on first name terms.’

'I'd better go and sort out this list for her. See you later.’

Karen was sitting at Dan's desk, surrounded by paper. I have a theory some people like to scatter paper trails to make themselves look more busy than they actually are. From the way she pointedly shuffled the sheaves, I bet she was one of them.

'Here you go,' I said, handing it over.

She scanned it with pursed lips. 'Well, I suppose that will have to do. Although how anyone can read your writing is beyond me.’

'I could do it on the computer, if you want.' There was only one computer in the office and she was sitting in front of it.

'I'm afraid I'm using it right now.’

'Oh well, they'll have to try and decipher my scrawl then. I'm sure they've seen worse.’

'It should really be done by Tuesday lunch time at the latest.’

No one had mentioned that before. 'Okay. I'll remember in future.’

'And one of the customers complained it was cold in screen one. That's why you need to carry your walkie talkie at all times. Colin never does, and Maurice was always forgetting, too.’

I patted it, just to show I was being a good boy. She reminded me a bit of a teacher I'd had in my last year at junior school. I turned to leave, then thought of something. 'Will Dan be in later?’

'It's his day off. Was there a message you wanted me to give him?’

'You can tell him I think I've found where that leak in screen three is coming from.’

She raised her eyes to the cracked office ceiling. 'I've heard that one before.’

'No, I really have. There's an old well…'

'How can you possibly know where that is when you've only been here for three days.’

'I... I just know, that's all.' Somehow, I didn't think she'd be the sort to tell I'd been dowsing.

She looked back at her computer screen. It was obviously far more important than I was. 'Well, if you don't mind, I have a lot to do.’

‘So do I.' I left the office and went back up to the top box. Everything was running smoothly. I’d checked Zorro and there were no sound problems. Colin had been glad to swap shifts as it meant he had three days off in a row. That might make him slightly more amenable next time we met, I hoped. There was nothing left to do but to make a cup of tea. Idly, I wondered just how many pots of tea had been brewed over the years in the staff room. I had names now for those who had preceded me. Maurice, of course, I already knew. Then there was the nasty Jack and his successor George. Maybe Colin would tell me more about them, if he was in a good mood?

As I drank my tea, I couldn’t help think about Dan. He’d been pleasant enough so far and I was definitely interested in him, but was the interest reciprocated? He hadn’t given me any reason so far to think it might be, but maybe he was just keeping a professional distance. He might not even be gay, of course and even if he was, he might already have a partner. I wondered if any of the staff would know one way or another. In cinemas, everyone loves to speculate about relationships. I was surprised no one - most likely Sylvia - had asked me yet if I was ‘seeing’ someone. If anyone front of house knew anything, it was most likely to be her. More questions to be answered another day.

Copyright © 2022 Mawgrim; All Rights Reserved.
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This story will update every Monday

Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

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It is with great sadness I must announce the death of Mawgrim, Promising Author on GA. He had been in declining health for some time and passed away on Christmas Day. Mawgrim worked for decades as a cinema projectionist before his retirement and was able to use this breadth of knowledge to his stories set in cinemas. He also gave us stories with his take on the World of Pern with its dragon riders. He will be greatly missed and our condolences go out to his friends, family, and his husband.
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Perhaps a convo with 'Bob the Builder' rescuer of missing, unhappy cats...there seem's to be more than meets the eye here

Cat symbolism in Tarot, in my view, honors the mystery inherent in the cards. For untold centuries the cat has stood nobly as a symbol of aloofness – a savvy keeper of secrets. Cats have long been viewed as vessels of magical power, never revealing their motives (does anybody really have any idea what motivates the feline to some of its antics!?!).

This calm, cool exterior bleeds over into the Tarot to convey a sleek mood of secretiveness and obscurity. The cat is an ultimate authority of its own inner realms. It needs no permission to behave in one way or another – therefore the cat must be given full reign to rule as it sees fit.


Edited by drsawzall
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Whew, that Karen sure is passive aggressive! Colin has competition for the most annoying cinema worker. 

Both Terry and Cynthia seem to be having fun playing detectives, I can't wait to see what else they uncover. I don't even wanna come up with any theories just yet, I'm just enjoying everything being slowly revealed bit by bit. 

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I remember being taught dowsing as a child, but who taught me is a curious blank spot. Could have been my uncle or maybe our gardener.

Lots of new suspects or sources to talk to.

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1 hour ago, drpaladin said:

I remember being taught dowsing as a child, but who taught me is a curious blank spot. Could have been my uncle or maybe our gardener.

Lots of new suspects or sources to talk to.

I learned from a library book! Yes, plenty of potential suspects, or at least people who were around at the time the cinema was tripled and who may know something.

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1 hour ago, Mawgrim said:

I learned from a library book! Yes, plenty of potential suspects, or at least people who were around at the time the cinema was tripled and who may know something.

It's more interesting to learn in person. I was a precocious and skeptical child. I vividly recall the cut limb twisting so insistently it exposed the green under the bark.

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Interesting chapter revealing more mysteries of the old theatre. Also gained another aggravating antagonist in Karen.  Silvia is a sweetheart.  

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