“Uncle Walter, you’re doing it again.” Ella complained as she pushed a stray hair from her young face. She had two blonde braids, one on either shoulder, which had been done in a rush by her Aunt Liv earlier that morning. Moments later they had bolted out the door. Ella had learned long ago that when Aunt Liv’s phone rang, it meant she had to go.
“Doing what, dear?” Walter asked, a slightly crooked smile creasing his aged, but warm, face. He chuckled to himself quietly as he relaxed into a well-worn green lounge. He didn’t realise that he had a sizable dollop of whipped cream on his chin as he scooped strawberries and cucumber into his mouth.
“You’re eating weird stuff and taking funny, just like last time.” Ella said as she pulled herself up so she was seated on the nearest flat surface; which just happened to be Walter’s stainless steel operating table. Astrid immediately lifted the girl and placed her onto the nearest desk. Astrid knew exactly how many corpses and strange, unexplainable things had rested upon that table.
In fact, just hours earlier a woman who had been rendered temporarily invisible had laid upon the spotlessly clean, stainless steel surface. Astrid would never forget seeing (or more accurately, not seeing) the procedure Walter had conducted on the woman.
Apparently, she had absorbed a rare bacteria into her skin which had spread like a rash, causing her translucence. Walter had later decided that the bacteria behaved like a chameleons scales, perpetually blending in with its environment as a defensive mechanism. Astrid wished she could say that the invisible woman was one of the stranger things she had seen while working with the FBI.
“Last time?” Walter questioned as he carefully balanced his bowl of assorted fruits and vegetables on his knee. Astrid had given up on trying to control Walter’s culinary experiments, especially when he smoked Brown Betty as he had earlier that morning.
“Yeah, last time you told me a detective story with Peter and Aunt Liv. The one with the glass heart.” Ella said with a cheeky grin. “You are good at telling stories. You should tell me another one!”
“Oh, I don’t think we have time.” Walter said evasively, which made Astrid grin.
“Olivia and Peter are in Wyoming on a case. They won’t be back until tomorrow morning.” Astrid said, hoping that Walter could be kept occupied for the afternoon with Ella while she tried to tidy up the lab and catch up on some critical paperwork. Watching Walter was a full-time job. Luckily, it was a job which she loved.
“Oh, well. In that case… Astro,” Astrid rolled her eyes lovingly at the old man who never seemed to be able to remember her name. “Would you gather the Red Vines from the storage cupboard? Ella and I will need sustenance for this story.” Walter winked, sharing a conspirator’s smile with Ella as Astrid wandered off to fulfil his request for candy, shaking her head in amusement as she went.
Walter leaned forward in his chair. “Now, this story is one of trickery, thievery and malicious intent. I hope it’s not too frightening… Are you sure you are up for this?”
Ella rolled her eyes. “Yes, Uncle Walter.”
“Alright.” Walter began as he pulled two Red Vine’s from the jar Astrid offered. He handed one to Ella before continuing. “It begins on a hot, summer’s night in 1960…”