"What have you got against NHS food?" I demanded.
"Nothing. But it's not as good as this pancake!" She slid the pan cake onto a plate and handed it to me. "Remember, the first batch is always the worst."
"But that's your fifteenth batch." I heard David shout from another room.
Before I could take a bite, a large knock on the door sounded. I made a bemused face, we weren't expecting visitors, and Professor Orchard was on holiday.
"I'll get it," I heard Steve shout from the living room. I sighed, and looked down at the pancake, to see it having already got cold. "I'll bin this one," I said, "can you make me another?"
"Sure." She said. "Bin that and put the plate here."
I dropped the pancake into the bin and placed the plate on the worktop next to a petri dish of fir needles. I heard the sound of someone coming in, so I told Suzy I'd be back in a minute. As I turned around, I knocked my plate ever so slightly, so I pulled it back and entered the hallway.
Now, to be fully honest, accents aren't my area. I know all the names of all the accents, and have heard them all, but I can't match them.
So when the Steve and two rain covered ladies conversation came into earshot, I couldn't decide whether it was Irish, Scottish or French! Luckily, their names gave it away. Sylvie O'Connel and Elise O'Hallain. They were French. According to Steve, they were students of English, having moved here from the Village D'Poisson in the Jura and Alsace Region. I thought it was weird they'd come to Accrington, but I didn't voice my query.
They were on their way back from the university campus when Sylvie's car had broken down, about three miles down the road. They'd walked all the way down the road until they found the first student accommodation, our place, and now Sylvie was asking for either A: shelter or B: a phone to make the call to a garage. We offered her both, and she very politely accepted the latter, and, thanks to Suzy, Elise got my pancake.
Which is quite unfair on me, if you were to ask me.
"Thank you, very much." She said, obviously the English classes were paying off.
I nodded and told them we would be in the kitchen or the back room, should they need us. "Just give us a shout." I added.
I was playing with David's voltage stabiliser when Elise summoned us back. But she didn't give us a shout. Oh no! She gave us a scream.
Steve was the first out of the back room, running to the front room like the valiant leader of the Pine Resistance he is. I followed him, with David on my tail, the gas tank for his welding torch following us on a trolley. Suzy was already there, the frying pan in her hand, and the door was kicked open. Elise was cowering in the corner and the room was wrecked, with the furniture, the books and the magazines ripped up and thrown across the room. It looked like a bomb site, apart from one simple fact.
This time the corpse wasn't blow to smithereens. It was sliced to them.
The dead body of Sylvie O'Connel lay in the centre of the room, with hundreds and thousands of cuts and slices made by something evil, the clothes torn to smithereens.
And it was obvious what had caused the damage, only one thing it could have been. A Christmas Tree. You could see the pine needles that stuck out of the cadavers stomach and, should you have been an expert in- what google translate named-Habentes Abietem, you could have told the telltale sign of a paranormal Christmas Tree.
Steve went over to Elise, attempting to calm her, whilst I went into the back room and grabbed one of the guns that Professor Orchard had given us at Christmas. It was a double barrelled rifle, with half of the two barrels sawn off. This meant it could conform to a much higher standard of bullet, the one I chose going to a grand calibre of fifty. Had I been using a handgun, the best I could have got, in my opinion, would be a Desert Eagle, with action express rounds.
But enough about guns. I grabbed one for Suzy and, as I came back to the hallway, passed it to her. "Have you got the keys?" I asked.
"No. David had them last."
"They're in the fridge!" David shouted, his brilliant ears having picked up our conversation.
"Fridge?" I asked to Suzy.
"Well it makes sense." She replied.
"Can you explain to me?"
"The trees can't move to well in the cold climates. That's why Lapland and the like don't have gigantic armies of PC's roaming around."
"Police constables?" I asked, as I retrieved the keys from the fridge.
"Paranormal Christmas Trees."
I resisted the urge to ask why not call it PCT's as I went back into the hall and unlocked the seventeen locks that locked the door beneath the stairs. They all clicked open and I pulled the door, revealing the dark stairs that led to the prison beneath our house.
A few days after the battle of Dobbies, me, Orchard and Suzy were exploring the woods where I was first attacked. The way we saw it was that the arm that attempted to kill me must have had a body, thus it was probably still in the forest. And it was.
We managed to get it into the back of the van and it's been in the basement ever since. When the professor wan't on holiday, he'd interview it and study as to whether or not it had any weaknesses. I'd been worried it'd escape, and it seemed it had. But why kill a random person. That was my main question, and I was going to get my answer.
The basement was old and like a tunnel, with bricked off walls at either side and a curved roof. In the centre, within four spotlights, there was a Christmas Tree, with chains wrapped around it, sat patiently. It was called Specimen One. As the professor had pointed out, it wasn't a human being and wasn't likely to be respected, thus giving it a true name would be, in a way, equalising it to our level. And we didn't want that.
I pulled a chair up and asked Suzy to sit down on it. I pulled up another and sat on that as well. We looked at Specimen One, in a sincere, dangerous way. There was a filing cabinet on the far wall with one file in it. Suzy went and got it and brought it back, flicking off the strap and opening the leather pages. Inside it were sixty two sheets of compressed paper, thirty one filled with the Professors terrible handwriting and the other thirty one filled with typed up versions. Suzy started to read from the seventh typed sheet. "'Specimen seems to have terrible rage issues. This is evident from the branch stump. It would seem specimen one was trapped and, when attempting to free itself, broke the branch off, with signs of a violent impulse, when it realised what it had done.' That was written from looking at your stump alone, Specimen One. It's obvious you're violent. It's obvious you can work yourself into a frenzy. But so violent that you'd kill a stranger?"
Specimen One remained silent.
"Why did you kill the girl, Specimen One?" I demanded."Tell us, or we'll hurt you, real bad."
"Why did you kill the girl, Specimen One?" I demanded again. "Do you want to die?"
Yet again, the tree said nothing.
I didn't ask again. If it failed to answer twice, it would fail to answer a thrid time. I nodded to Suzy and she produced her secret weapon. If you were to take a lump of calcium and bond it with nitric acid, you would find yourself with calcium nitrate. This compund is commonly used in fertilisers, although it has other uses, such as waste water cleaming.It's purpose is to destroy the metabolism for sulfates, which is, apparently, quite important.
And you'll never guess what! In some cases, according to 'realtreetalk.blogspot.co.uk,' some Christmas Tree water has gone weird, with little sulfates popping up all over it. Thus, the calcium nitrate would extinguish the sulfates which, in turn, would not help the moisture and hurt the tree.
I looked again. 'I did nothing.' The Professor's tree translation system was a master stroke. He hadn't explained how it properly worked, yet, but as long as it did, I didn't care.
Suzy read out the next answer. "'I swear, I did nothing.' What rubbish!"
"Come on, Specimen One. Be straight with me." I said. "Why did you kill the girl?"
I heard the whirring of the printer. Suzy handed me the printout. 'Why don't you believe me?' It read.
"You really think we're going to believe that?"
"'You believe Christmas Trees can kill.'" Suzy read.
"Because that's the truth!" I replied.
The printer whirred one more. "'If you believe the truth, why don't you believe me?'" Suzy quoted, with a melancholy tone to her voice.
A strange idea came into my head. What if he wasn't lying? What if, in all honesty, he hadn't escaped and killed Sylvie? That begged an obvious question. Who had?
I dragged Suzy out and up the stairs, stopping before we got to door. "Look Suzy," I started.
"No, you look. I don't think he did it." She replied.
"No, I don't."
"Brilliant, neither do I."
"You don't! Superb! I guess we just need to sell that to the others."
I reached for the doorknob, but suddenly filled with despair. One of two things must have happened. A: the others had come to the same conclusion as us or B: the murderer had taken control, because the door wouldn't open and we couldn't escape.
I turned to Suzy. "We're trapped."