Now when Chloe said let’s go round to Ted’s place, she didn’t mean where Ted actually lived. Ted had been offered a place to stay at the castle when Hans had first met him, but he felt he was imposing himself on Hans, so he moved out of the castle fairly soon after and into a small flat on the village high street. The thing was that there wasn’t all that much to go round there for. The only furniture that was in the house was a cardboard box that Ted slept in at night, he’d never recovered enough from all those years of sleeping rough to dare sleep in a bed. The one time he’d tried it he’d kept having nightmares of it falling into the sea, despite Avysmere being almost 100 miles from the coast.
Hans had taken to checking up on Ted every few weeks as he usually seemed to be a bit down. He’d found it really difficult to make any friends in Avysmere. Any men he’d talked to seemed to all be very homophobic and as soon as he mentioned he was gay they would avoid him like the plague. And any women he talked to would think he was trying to chat them up, even when he told them he was gay they thought it was just a line he was telling so that he could later say that they were turning him straight as a chat-up line.
In fact many a person would have thought of Ted as suicidal, except that Ted had no intention of committing suicide. This wasn’t because he felt he had anything in particular to live for, but more because he didn’t believe in any kind of afterlife and simply ceasing to exist would have been a bit of a waste really.
Moreover, he was actually afraid of most things that you have to do to yourself to kill yourself. He hid behind a cushion when watching people being stabbed and covered in gore and blood in horror films, so he was hardly going to stab himself or slit his wrists. Likewise he couldn’t even look over the edge of a tall building let alone jump off it. In fact the only thing he wasn’t afraid of was hanging, but that was no good as he couldn’t tie a noose to save his life, which ironically saved his life on a few occasions. Instead he had vowed to try and make his like as useful as possible to other people and kept himself occupied with various projects of varying merit from fairly useful to completely and utterly pointless.
Thus there was a further reason they shouldn’t go to Ted’s flat, which was the somewhat more relevant reason that Ted wouldn’t be there. He’d been virtually living at the village library in recent weeks. He’d discovered a taste for website design, at the moment he was working on developing a search engine that helped you narrow down your search when you’d searched for something and it had come back with 7 million hits. His idea was to allow you to exclude things that definitely weren’t relevant. Thus say you were looking for a pizza takeaway in Avysmere, you could filter out anywhere else in the world called Avysmere so you wouldn’t end up with a load of addresses of pizza takeaways in somewhere random like Peru. He thought he was onto a winner for a change.
Hans and Chloe (Jane would have come too, but as they were about to get in the car she embarrassingly realised that she was still wearing her pyjamas) found him sat at one of the public computers in the library and asked him to dig out what information he could on Transformation Inc.
The screen lit up with the company’s homepage, a glossy coloured thing with a corporate video introducing them as the finest wholesalers of quality ducks, with a worldwide distribution network which allowed them to purloin the rare ducks from the furthest corners of the Earth. The company logo sat in the top corner of the page, with a list of the upcoming events where their wares would be exhibited and finally across the bottom of the screen ran the words “Quality produce, where and when you want it. We won’t duck the task.”
“Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” asked Ted as he turned around to look at Hans and Chloe.
“Yeah,” replied Hans, “I thought that was a crap slogan too!”
Ted held his head in his hands for a moment, then answered, “No, look closer at the screen. See the events, they’re exhibiting in Avysmere tomorrow at the duck festival with the majority of their sales team there.”
“Okay, so we can go investigate and check them all out tomorrow then, agreed?” asked Hans.
“No,” Ted felt like screaming, instead he remained calm, especially given that he agreed with Hans but it pained him to have to explain the somewhat obvious reason why they should investigate them. “Look just below it, the world duck show in Milan is happening at almost the same time. Now it might just be me, but surely that is more of an important event than a small duck show in some Scottish village, something fishy is going on here, maybe we should check out this duck show?”
“Okay then,” said Chloe, “Can you find out where about in the village its held?”
After tinkering with the computer for a while, then losing his temper and whacking the monitor for good measure he turned back to Hans and Chloe. “I guess it doesn’t have a website then,” said Ted, “and if it doesn’t have a website I can’t tell you that much of anything about it.” Then added, “I’d imagine the Professor would know.”
Now when you think of a professor, you’re probably thinking of a fairly old man, whose quite thin and frail, sprouting little clumps of grey hair from his head around his ears, wearing spectacles and a lab coat who sits muttering to himself a lot. And in this case you’d be exactly wrong.
Sophie had been nicknamed the Professor because she knew pretty much everything. She was like a walking encyclopedia. But she looked nothing like you’d expect a professor to look like. She was instead 16, petite with long blonde hair. When she’d finished school two months ago she’d immediately taken over running the library. Almost everyone had told her that she should have gone to college and university to make the most of her talents. But she much preferred being here where she could guard over the books she adored.
“Did one of you say my name, or something?” asked the Professor.
“Yeah,” answered Ted, “You know there’s supposed to be this duck festival starting tomorrow in Avysmere?”
“You mean the 5th bi-annual Avysmere Duck Show, founded by the late Roderick S. McCormack as a way of celebrating fine cuisine and the art of duck grooming. Initially it was held on the McCormack pasture fields to the north of the village. However, two years ago after Roderick McCormack’s death his son got planning permission for a theme park on McCormack fields and the show instead moved to McGregor’s farm where it will take place this year with a range of internationally renowned exhibitors.”
“Ah okay, what happened to the theme park, I don’t recall seeing it?” asked Hans
“Of course you wouldn’t, he wanted to build a theme park dedicated to Gone With The Wind – who’d want to fund that let alone actually go to it! Now did you have any other questions or have you asked me enough trivial nonsense for the day.”