The Exquisite Corpse of Ava Cotto: Part 5

Hi- I’m Miss Rim, Welcome to Chapter 5!

Sorry I’m late! Let’s get to it!


St. John awoke peacefully, under an eiderdown comforter in a four poster bed. The curtains were open to let in the dappled morning sun. He noticed a budding tree gently blowing in the breeze outside the window,  and the singing of a bird.  Funny, he thought to himself. That sounds like a ….

ZAMBEEZIAN TULIP WARBLER!” he seemed to shout, and bolted up. The previous days events came rushing back. The explosion in LA, and a car ride, a woman named Monchot, She seriously was firing a bazooka! he thought. And Amelia.

Realizing he must have had an exceptionally vivid dream, St. John shook his head, and heaved off the comforter. It was then he noticed he was not in his bed in LA.

A heavy door creaked open. A small young woman of, he guessed, Southern Asian origin wearing and especially bright red shirt entered with a tray laden with tea pot, scones, jam and cream. She placed it neatly onto his bed and before he could open his mouth she gave a small bow and scurried out of the room, almost bumping into Monchot as she entered.

“Good morning Mukte,” she said to the young woman. ” And good morning to you, St. John.  You’ve had quite  a shock.  You’ll find you will not be able to speak for a few minutes, I’m afraid. We’ve had you under quite heavy sedation.”

She sat in an overstuffed  armchair that seemed to materialize out of thin air and began to pour tea. “You’ll need 2 sugars and plenty of cream.” Monchot seemed quite changed from the woman who was firing a bazooka yesterday. Or how long had it been? St. John opened his mouth to speak, but only managed a faint grunt.

Monchot smiled indulgently and prepared his tea with neat, crisp movements. She handed him the cup and saucer, and folded her hands in her lap. ” The English have a reputation for bland cuisine,” she said, “but I find there’s nothing quite like an English breakfast.” She paused. “Drink.” she suggested.

St. John took a sip of the warm, sweet tea and began to feel calmer.

“To begin with,” Monchot said in a comforting, almost maternal voice, “you have not had a dream. Someone indeed tried to kill you by blowing up your building in Los Angeles – you were quite fortunate to not be in the building! We indeed had a very action- movie -style car chase and you were scurried onto a private plane. We are in England, at Lord Bradley’s manor.  Your wife Amelia is very much alive and will see you after The Director’s debriefing.  It turns out there are some rather valuable artifacts connected to your father in law’s estate, and some  …. unscrupulous elements are after them. ”

In the distance, several short chimes, followed by a long one.

“SHIT,” said Monchot, seeming more like the woman he had met. She quickly re-arranged her posture. “I’m afraid I’ll have to cut this short.  You’ll find you’ll get your voice back in soon.  Please enjoy your breakfast, and you should shower and change in the adjoining bathroom. Mukte will escort you to your debriefing shortly. ”

She stood up, and poured him a second cup of tea. ” Really, do eat something.  It will make you feel much better. And take a shower – you’ve been asleep for about 4 days and frankly, you stink.”


Mukte appeared just as St. John was rifling through the rooms dresser for clothing.

“It’ll all fit,” she said.  ” Lioness and …well, they kept tabs on you so I just bought some stuff. It’s all in on the left side. I’ll just wait in the hall.”

St. John dressed quickly in jeans and a T shirt, and as he walked out the door grabbed a gray heather sweater that seemed to materialize on the hook behind the door.

“Sorry I can’t tell you much,” said Mukte, gesturing that he should follow her. “The Director is kind of eccentric, and I don’t have your clearance level, anyway.  How was breakfast SAINT JOHN?”

“It’s Sinjin ” he said, automatically.

” I see you got your voice back! That means you must have eaten your breakfast. Thank God, some people don’t eat after sedation and can’t get their voices back for a bit. Anyway, sorry. We usually use code names for people cleared over level 5 and I’m American. I just got here a few months ago.”

“And what is it you do here?” St. John asked.

” I’m what they call an intern.” Mukte said, leading him through a double doorway that led to stairs. She paused on the landing. “I was starting my Master’s – I wanted to be a Classics professor- and it turns out I was on the list but, like lower down, they just came and picked me up one day for safety’s sake.  There’s a ton of students like me.  We do cooking and cleaning in between classes and practicums. Kind of like a work study.”

She walked him quickly down several flights of stairs, speaking amicably. St. John couldn’t hear her over the clomping and echos of their shoes.  She stopped abruptly in front of a door ” …and  zoology.” She continued. “All the good animal names are taken. ”

She opened the door into a well appointed study, and nudged St. John in. ” See you,” she said to him. “Director, SAINT J…I mean Warbler is here for his debriefing!” she called into the empty room. St. John heard 3 short chimes. The room seemed to go dark for a moment. He heard a series of chimes, and then saw the study more clearly.

He looked about the room. There were several people sitting in the comfortable looking chairs, drinking tea. Two women were playing chess in a corner.   The scene was reminiscent of a pre war WWII English country house party, although everyone was wearing casual clothes.  There were no cell phones, no computers.  A man in what appeared to be in his late 50s entered, who resembled no one so much as Henry Rollins, St. John thought. He had on a T-shirt that said “Your Favorite Band Sucks,” whch St. john recognized as apparel from a satirical news website, The Onion.

“Welcome Warbler.” said The Director, an amused smile on his face. ” It is fortunate that you have been asleep for so long after your shock. Not only are you well rested for the work ahead, but we have had time to assemble most of the rest of the team. Your debriefing will begin shortly. But for now, I presume you’d like to reunite with your wife, who we call Lioness. And of course you must meet your daughter…..”