Dearest Callister's Petting Zoo

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Jackie Von Tombs
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Dearest Callister's Petting Zoo

Post by Jackie Von Tombs » Thu Jan 24, 2019 12:01 am

"Don't worry, Mrs. Tapack. Tell your niece that there will be a casket and a grave for her son," Jackie soothed the old woman, grimacing. Mrs. Tapack exhaled, leaning into Jackie, grateful and dabbing at her eyes with an embroidered handkerchief.

"Thank you, my dear. It was all so sudden. So horrible. We're all so poor, we... didn't know what we could do."

"We'll be there tomorrow after the service," Jackie promised, "Then we'll have him prepared for the funeral by morning. I'll leave the directions to the cemetery."

"Thank you so much," the old woman squeaked, squeezing Jackie's hand. Jackie smiled, easy warmth, and let Mrs. Tapack murmur a prayer before the girl patted her hand and moved off. Once her back was turned, Jackie exhaled, shaking her head. There were entirely too many little ones passing on in that little backwater village.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Over the summer, and often beyond, Jackie was a common sight in the slums and backwoods towns around the main city. With her gang of Parkour super villain cosplayers, they used what they'd discovered on their runs through the city to help out those in need.

All too often, it was for the last deposition of a loved one. Jackie would make a plain but decent pine coffin and find space in the nearest cemetery, dig a grave, and help transport the body. This time, it was for a small child.

The family lived in one of the very low tech suburbs of the city, which gave Jackie the opportunity to bring out a newly restored children's hearse. It was a rare and beautiful horse drawn vehicle she had found while free running with her friends. Half the size of a typical hearse, it was white, carven with a floral motif, with glass sides and heavenly blue velvet curtains.

Daisy pulled the little hearse somberly through town, a plume of matching blue feathers on her head stall. Desdenova drove the little nightmare, appropriately garbed in a black suit, top hat, and gloves. Jackie rode alongside the boy, wearing a deep purple skirt and blouse, mourning for a girl from the 1900s.

The little house where their client waited was dark and gloomy. The family had gathered for the wake along with the neighborhood. They all removed their hats as the hearse pulled up.

"Thank you both so much. We just … we don't have any money and..." the boy's father whispered as he walked to meet Jackie and Desdenova. Jackie shook her head, giving the perfect mortician smile, a strange blend of comfort, sorrow, and warmth.

"This is what we do, Mr. Ismil," she assured him, "We'll go in and move him to the coffin, now. Perhaps you and your wife should go say your goodbyes."

Mr. Ismil nodded, exhaling, his head hung for a moment before he turned back to the house. Jackie and Desdenova watched him go, both with the sad-comforting smiles on their faces.

"Ugh. I hate these. But he'll be happy playing with new friends, soon," Desdenova sighed as he helped Jackie pulled the disturbingly tiny coffin from the hearse. Jackie nearly fumbled the coffin, blinking several times. Desdenova stared at her.

"There's nothing dead here," she whispered sharply.

Desdenova's brows knit. He looked around, then carefully opened his mind to scan around the little house. Jackie had received the lion's share of their father's abilities, such things came to her easily. Desdenova had to focus.

"...There isn't. Then... what's going on?" he responded, indicating the quiet group of people waiting out front, "None of these people want to hurt us. They're just sad."

"Follow my lead," Jackie responded, gripping the leather hand holds on the tiny coffin. Desdenova helped, but it was mainly for show. Jackie was stronger than she looked. They entered the house slowly, both looking around for anything out of place.

The parlor had been draped and the windows and mirrors all covered in black cloths. There were a few flowers, mostly boughs of cedar and pine and ivy decorated the table where the child was lain out. He wore his best clothes, which were still shabby and worn. He had a few toys set out with him.

His mother, heavily pregnant, knelt by his head, sobbing inconsolably. His father helplessly tried to comfort her.

"She's in bad shape," Desdenova hissed to Jackie. He moved as she set the coffin onto the floor.

"I know. Later," Jackie responded quickly before she pulled her mortician smile back to her lips, "We're going to move him now. Why don't you take Mrs. Ismil to your room? My brother wants to see her later, he can heal her."

"Why can't you heal him?! Why can't you heal my baby?!" Mrs. Ismil wailed. Desdenova flinched and stepped back, wide eyed, but Jackie simply smiled, helping Mr. Ismil get the poor woman to her feet.

"He's going to try. But you need to lay down."

"Jackie!" Desdenova hissed. He could often bring back the dead, but it wasn't easy, and it wasn't fair to give false hope.

"There is nothing dead here," Jackie reminded him curtly. Desdenova frowned, biting his lip and nodding. He watched as Mrs. Ismil tottered to her room, then exhaled heavily. He looked over the child, his brows knitting. When Jackie returned, he shrugged to her.

"There's nothing alive here, either, Jackie. I mean, this may as well be a bundle of sticks and leaves," he told her in an undertone, indicating the child's body. Jackie eyed him oddly, then moved to lift the boy's head.

It came off in her hands. Jackie and Desdenova stared flatly at this. Jackie's fingers flexed.

What had seemed to be a little boy's head of some four years crumpled into a dirty cloth bag filled with leaves and trash. Stunned, Jackie grabbed for the body, only to have it come undone in her hands, as well. Just a lot of sticks bound together in a rude human form.

"...Crap," Jackie whispered, wide eyed.

"...He's been kidnapped. Maybe by fae? This is a changeling," Desdenova pointed out, shuddering, "What do we do? When they do this, they aren't going to give him back."

"Is there fae magic on it?" Jackie asked, rubbing her brow with her fingers. She tossed the 'head' back to the body. Desdenova regarded it keenly, then shook his head.

"No. It wasn't glamour, it was a spell, and not a very good one. It broke apart when you touched it, probably because you're a necromancer."

"And probably because they didn't expect a necromancer to handle the remains. Fuck. What do we do now?" Jackie hissed. Desdenova exhaled, wide eyed. Then he said something monumental, something which had rarely left the lips of any Jones, let alone a Von Tombs.

"...Call the Police. I mean. Call. Like. Katt. She'll get real cops, detectives, over here."

Jackie exhaled and nodded, pulling her phone out. She waited as Desdenova put in Katt's phone number, and then stepped away to talk.

Desdenova blew out a quantity of air. He turned as Mrs. Tapack stepped in, indicating the dummy haplessly. She stared, her handkerchief at her lips.

"I knew it," she whispered, though she was still stunned, "I knew there was something weird going on with Jannes. He didn't know me. He didn't know anyone."

"Jackie's calling for help. He must have been kidnapped," Desdenova explained, "I don't know what to do, he still might be dead, there's been no ransom demand, and these are poor people..."

So many terrible things could happen to a poor child snatched from the slums like this. Desdenova winced faintly.

"First off, we've got to get it around that he was kidnapped. There's been … ten children in the past year or so who have inexplicably died like this. But that happens around here. I wonder how many of them have rags and sticks in their graves...?" Mrs. Tapack whispered, "I'll go tell everyone."

"I'd better tell the parents. She's in a bad way, she needs to be healed or her and the baby won't make it," Desdenova nodded, drawing in his breath slowly.
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Jackie Von Tombs
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Re: Dearest Callister's Petting Zoo

Post by Jackie Von Tombs » Sat Jan 26, 2019 2:38 pm

Mrs. Ismil kept a precise and neat diary. Mr. Ismil gave it to Desdenova and Jackie to read some time later. The siblings left Mrs. Ismil laying in bed with her new born, somewhere between terrified and hopeful. At least with the new baby to comfort her.

Jackie flipped through the pages of the diary, frowning, leaning to Daisy's shoulder. The nightmare muttered, shifting her hooves. Desdenova climbed to the hearse and released the hand brake.

"Home all day, Jannes plays in the yard. Home all day, Jannes plays in the yard..." Jackie reported as she read, "No mention of strangers or people acting oddly..."

"Nuffin's been here bad," the nightmare announced, clopping a dainty hoof.

"Went to Dearest's lovely petting zoo. I could scarce believe it, it was free for children under ten. There's so few places we can afford, but I saved up the admission for me, it was only ten coppers, and we had a lovely time. Why, there was even a bear, but I didn't have the money for Jannes to pet it. It is kept apart from the other animals. I promised Jannes we would return soon," Jackie read, frowning.

"Under ten free? That's the bread and butter for outfits like that," Desdenova pointed out, "Especially if the adult admission is only ten coppers."

"Yeah. It's all we've got. I'll take this back to Mrs. Ismil, she can show it to Katt's people when they get here. What is and where is Dearest's petting zoo?"

"Passed it on da way here," Daisy called, shifting in the harness, "C'mon."

"Hang on," Jackie replied, swinging to the seat. She picked up the reins and gave them a shake. Soon, they were returning the way they'd come, heading back for the city proper. A long stretch of roadway ran between the city and the small town, dirt but maintained well enough. Along the road were random homes, some made over into businesses.

A carpenter, a truck farm, a junkyard, and then, what at first looked like another junkyard turned out to be the zoo, 'Dearest Callister's Petting Zoo' painted neatly onto a white washed board sign. It was open. A few families were milling around in the enclosure with the animals.

Daisy came to a halt, and Desdenova and Jackie regarded the place. It was on about a half acre of land, surrounded by a ten foot chain link fence topped with barbed wire. That looked as if it'd been scavenged from the junk yard, it was rusted and crooked.

A doublewide trailer hunkered at the back of the property, rusted and bent as if it'd been abandoned for some time before being reopened, more or less. It was as shabby and rusty as everything else. Two old garden sheds, cheap tin, sagged between the house and zoo.

The petting zoo seemed typical of most petting zoos. There was a four foot fence enclosing a small area, a few canvas sun shades stretched overhead. Several feed vending machines were fastened to the petting zoo fence. However...

The animals all looked weary and thin. There was no sign of a larger enclosure for them to exercise in, no sign of stables. They lived in that small enclosure their entire lives. Most hung out by the feed vendors, and greedily gobbled down the small handfuls of food they were offered, but were too weak to really push or shove for the feed.

A few of the animals seemed to have given up entirely, and sat miserably by the water troughs. A small spectacled bear cub was chained in a small space away from the others. It groaned unhappily as it sat at the end of its short tether.

"Oh Lady Fate. Call animal control," Jackie snapped, appalled.

"For what good that will do. They'll take these away, and she'll just get more," Desdenova pointed out dryly, "And it will take animal control a while to get on this."

"There's a dog. Go talk to it," Jackie noted, picking out a sad eyed basset hound laying with a pair of large gray tabby kittens. The poor thing looked hellish, dispirited.

Desdenova slid off of the hearse seat, removing his gloves, then dug out ten coppers. He started to walk for the zoo, and to his surprise, was met at the front gate by a gaunt gray haired woman. She had been sitting by the petting zoo, taking money, but moved when Desdenova moved.

She looked like a kindly grandmotherly sort, her hair in a bun, wearing a fussy print dress under a flour sack apron. Steel rim glasses, twinkling gray eyes and a kindly smile finished off the look. Desdenova regarded her solemnly.

"What a lovely little pony. I don't suppose she's for sale? I've been looking for a new pony since poor Sugar passed away. She'd have a lovely life here, I've got two miniature horses and a miniature donkey. And she'll never have to work again. Just get petted and have fun," the woman crooned. Desdenova eyed her, then looked into the petting zoo enclosure.

Sell Daisy to the lady? A fun way to steal a little cash, horrify Daisy, and stick it to the old lady, but that wasn't why Desdenova was there. He bit back the impulse for evil.

"Ahhh, no, we need her," he replied slowly, "We're just taking a break, I thought I'd come look at the animals."

"Oh. Oh! You must be here for that little Jannes Ismil boy. Such a shame. He was just a skinny little thing. He and his mum stopped by here a week or so ago. Well, if you've got the coppers, lad, come on in." she replied, going from a mournful little moue to a beaming smile.

Desdenova eyed her sidelong. The woman had a mouthful of some bright white teeth. They looked like old fashioned dentures made with radiated enamel.

"You're Dearest Callister?" he asked, handing over the change. She smiled again, eyes obscured when the sunlight gilded her glasses.

"I am, I've been running this petting zoo for oh, decades. Sometimes we pack up and go here or there. Going to be joining the circus for a spell in fact, so we'll be gone after next week. Better get in your petting now."

"Yeah, I guess so," Desdenova nodded, eying her a moment longer before he went to the set of gates to enter the petting zoo enclosure. Two gates, to prevent the animals from escaping. He slid through and walked past the other animals to the dog.

Both kittens climbed Desdenova hysterically, trying to burrow under his clothing, clinging tightly as they could, which was a considerable amount more than Desdenova was used to from kittens. He winced and stifled a few yelps as he knelt beside the dog.

"Now don't be thinking you're going to sneak my kittens out of here, lad! You can have 'em when they're grown, though!" Dearest caroled. Desdenova waved back at her, nodding. He touched the dog's head.
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Jackie Von Tombs
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Re: Dearest Callister's Petting Zoo

Post by Jackie Von Tombs » Sun Feb 10, 2019 6:29 pm

Misery. Utter Misery. The dog was in deep mourning and distress. Desdenova woofed softly, glancing back to see where Dearest was. The animal turned immensely sorrowful eyes to the boy, a few soft chuffs and whimpers escaping her.

Desdenova stared at the dog, horrified. After a long moment, he nodded, then carefully dislodged the kittens from under his coat. They spat and growled unhappily at him, but he petted them and tucked them under the dog's head. She groaned, cuddling the kittens to her.

The bear cub was far too small and skinny. All of the animals were. He frowned faintly as he wandered through the small enclosure. He made sure the animals by the water all had a good pile of feed to eat, protecting them from the more able ones until they had fed, and then wandered out.

"Is there a bathroom I could use?" Desdenova asked Dearest, doleful and blushing.

"Yeah, necessary's over there. Don't you pee on the seat, now!"

Desdenova shuddered faintly, then more, as he realized she'd pointed out an ancient portable john. It did not look safe, and smelled worse. The kid vomiting just outside the door did not enhance that smell.

It did give him opportunity to look the property over, however.

A large animal trailer was parked behind the sheds. A truck that looked like it had been dredged out of a river ten years ago was hooked up to it, half under a decaying canvas cover. A midden pile of animal poop and household waste was to the west of the doublewide. It had overtaken the chain link fence, in fact.

Despite the fact that the animals seemed to be kept in the petting zoo enclosure, there were three large wooden hutches huddled around the back of the trailer home. An awning stretched over them. Desdenova glanced back, realizing that Dearest was starting to watch him. Sighing deeply and holding his breath, Desdenova ventured into the old port-a-poddy.

His head was still spinning when he returned to his sister and Daisy.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Now what?" Jackie asked, frowning. Desdenova exhaled, climbing to the hearse. Jackie reached over for his hand to pull him beside her. Once he settled, she clicked her tongue, and Daisy started off.

"Prolly get into trouble, but we really need to move fast. Dearest is getting ready to leave here, to join up with a circus, and you can bet that's just as bad as this, and from what the dog says, she'll have eaten all of the 'puppies' before then."

"She ate the dog's puppies?" Jackie asked, making a face.

"The dog's a little crazy," Desdenova explained with a wry grimace, "Her name's Juno. She was bought to guard the property. Dearest was kidnapping kids and shoving them into hutches..."

"Hutches? Really? And fattening them up?" Jackie put in, incredulous. Desdenova shrugged.

"It happens."

"Go on," she responded, aggravated.

"Juno believes human children are puppies, and when she realized Dearest was eating the children, Juno tried to protect them. Dearest did a bad magic to Juno, that's all I could get from her, and since then, Juno's been locked in the petting zoo," Desdenova explained, shaking his head.

"Any idea how powerful Dearest is?" Jackie asked with a thoughtful frown. Desdenova shrugged again.

"Probably not as powerful as she'd like people to believe, but there are some heavy blots of evil on the lot. What did Katt say?"

Jackie shook her head, her lips pressed together.

"I had to leave a voice message, so I think bad things are going on with her, too."

"So, what do we do?" Desdenova asked slowly. Jackie rotated her jaw side to side, her eyes narrowing.

"Dearest needs a new picture pony, does she? I need to make some calls once we get back to the RhyDin house. You see if you can get hold of Sard," she finally announced.
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