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Every Little Thing

Guest Gypsy & Will Fan

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Story Title: Every Little Thing

Type of story: long fic

Main Characters: A young Irene and Barry

BTTB rating: A

Genre: Thriller/romance

Does story include spoilers: No

Any warnings: V/D SC L

Summary: There is a serial killer in Summer Bay and Barry is the prime suspect. Irene comes to town with the Carnival. She too has her dark secrets. Irene is targetted by the Summer Bay Ripper. Can they solve the mystery, prevent further murders, share their secrets, confront their demons and find each other in the process?

Chapter One.

It was a smell Barry remembered from childhood: candy floss and sausages and onions mingling with sweat and dust to create the aroma that could only be found at a carnival. The odor wafted past, sweet and pungent, almost nauseating – and still oddly comforting.

The dusty pathway he walked was crowded with happy people who strolled shoulder to shoulder and thigh to thigh. Bobbing heads were lit by the red lights of the Ferris wheel and the multicolored sparkle of strand after strand of Christmas lights that hung haphazardly above the path. Here it really was Christmas in July.

He saw a lot of familiar faces in the crowd, many of them people he’d known all his life. Born and raised in the small town of Summer Bay, Australia, he knew most of the carnival goers well. He’d eaten at their tables, dated their daughters, delivered their newspapers and mowed their lawns. More recently, he’d written them parking tickets or let them off with a warning, broken up their fights or escorted their unruly teenagers home. He’d changed countless flat tires and driven one very pregnant woman to the hospital.

And now when they saw him their bright smiles faded and they turned away, some of them shunning him with open animosity, others obviously embarrassed to catch his eye.

In the beginning he tried to defend himself – for all the good it did. When his protests had been ignored or scoffed at or met with barely veiled disbelief, the rage buried deep inside had built to the boiling point. It hadn’t taken him long to realize that giving in to that rage would only convince the townspeople that they were right; that Deputy Barry Hyde – ex Deputy Barry Hyde – was off his rocker.

It had been a stupid idea, following the whispered instructions that had come to him over the phone. I know the truth. Meet me at the carnival. No name, no details. The phone call was someone’s idea of a prank, someone with no doubt watched right now, having a good laugh at his expense.

“Tell your fortune?”

He turned his head toward the husky voice and saw her standing in the entrance hall of a small red and yellow and green striped tent lit with yellow lights; more Christmas lights, it seemed. She stared right at him, ignoring the other carnival patrons. The crown poured passed closely taking care not to brush against him.

She didn’t move, not to motion to her tent, not to turn her gaze to another, more welcoming prospect. For a few long seconds he didn’t move either, as if she’d paralyzed him with those eyes. Well, his feet were paralyzed; his heart, on the other hand, beat furiously.

He returned her stare; maybe because she wasn’t afraid, maybe because she was so damn pretty. Her face was finely sculptured, flawless from his vantage point. Dark hair hung over her shoulders, and wispy bangs brushed a pale forehead. She looked like a Gypsy, wearing a flowing purple and green caftan and red lipstick as bright as the stripes on the tent that framed her.

“No.” He shook his head and glanced at the sign planted on her side, a sign shaped like a giant hand. The words Lady Roberta were painted on the palm in an elaborate script, red on yellow. When he returned his gaze to the Gypsy, her knowing smile flustered him a little, and he turned away from her to rejoin the flow of the crowd.

He ignored the hawkers and their racket games, as he’d tried to ignore the fortune-teller. Exhausted children cried, and teenagers walked arm in arm or sprinted past with a joyous shout. People, strangers and folks he knew well, looked at him and then turned away. Calliope music from an old fashioned merry-go-round contrasted sharply with the other sounds, discordant and dreamlike. Horses in every color carried small, laughing children as they circled and rose and dipped.

The synchronized screams of the brave patrons who rode the roller coaster reverberated in his brain, the noise piercing and oddly distant. This is a mistake. He knew that to be a fact, and still he searched the crowd, hoping to spot and miraculously recognize the anonymous caller.

“Change your mind?”

Somehow he’d come full circle to stand once again in front of the fortune-teller’s tent. The Gypsy woman looked as if she hadn’t moved, but had been standing there waiting for him to return.

He shook his head.

She crossed her arms over her chest, and the full sleeves of her bizarre outfit fanned out, wing like, as she observed him with casual indifference. Exotic and mysterious, she was unlike any woman he had ever seen. He couldn’t take his eyes off her. After staring for a moment too long, he stepped forward and away from the disturbing woman… and right into a little boy who held a giant cup of orange drink in one hand.

The drink exploded up and out, soaking Barry’s trousers and splashing into the kid’s face. Crushed ice crept under the tongue of Barry’s shoes as the soda saturated his jeans and dripped to the ground, as orange liquid dribbled down the boy’s cheeks.

Worst of all, the kid started to bawl. “My drink!” he screamed. “I spent my last two dollars on that drink and now it’s all gone! Mum, dad!” No parent appeared, but the child looked up at Barry with huge, accusing eyes. “This man knocked my drink right out of my hand!”

Even on his best day he wasn’t good with kids, especially unhappy ones. He definitely didn’t need a bellowing kid accusing him of assault; he was surrounded by a crowd who would just as soon lynch him as look his way.

The fortune-teller was there before he could decide what to do or say to calm the noisy child. “You poor baby,” she crooned, squatting down beside the little boy in a fluid motion, all grace and brightly colored silk. She reached into the folds of that silk, into a hidden pocket of her caftan, and withdrew a five-dollar bill. “It’s not so bad. A little orange soda never hurt anybody.” As she offered the bill to the boy with one hand, she wiped the offending liquid from his cheeks with the pale, red-tipped fingers of the other. “Get yourself another drink, and some candy floss, too.”

The kid sniffled and studied the bill in his hand. The end to his wailing was strangely sudden. “Okay,” he said suddenly as he turned away.

“Ungrateful brat,” Barry said under his breath as he reached for his wallet so he could repay Lady Roberta.

She reached out and took his hand as if he were yet another child to be dealt with, and the simple contact – her hand to his wrist – sent a flash of warmth shooting through his entire body. Without a word she led him toward the striped tent. Long fingers tipped with brightly painted nails wrapped around his wrist in a subtle yet firm manacle.

As they reached the entrance she spoke. “I’ve got a towel inside. We’ll get you cleaned up.”

Barry drew his hand away, easily breaking the attachment. “No, thanks. I’ll be fine.”

She laughed, an unexpected sound as husky and smoky as the words she spoke. “You’re soaking wet, and you’ve got orange soda in your very expensive tennis shoes.” She turned to confront him. The eyes fixed on him were bright and unflinching. “You’re not afraid are you?” She looked like a woman who had never been afraid.


“Then it would be silly of you to stand here dripping wet when I have a towel in my tent.”

She must of seen his surrender, because she turned her back to him and walked into the tent without taking his hand again. He followed obediently.

She took a seat at a round table that was covered with large scarves in many bright colors. More soft yellow lights were strung high in the tent, bathing Lady Roberta in a warm glow. She reached beneath the table and snapped out a white towel emblazoned with a chain hotel logo, and she tossed it at him.

Barry snatched the towel from the air and rubbed it briskly over his soaked leg, against hopelessly drenched denim from thigh to ankle. He had to sit down in the chair that placed him directly opposite the palm reader, to remove the trainer that squished with every step. The metal folding chair was flimsy and not firm on the ground. One leg rocked perilously, and the seat creaked. Tiny ice crystals fell on the grassy floor of the tent as he shook his shoe. Out of the corner of his eye he could see that the woman watched his every move with a serene and knowing smile.

This entire night had been a complete disaster. He should’ve ignored the taunting call and stayed home; he should be accustomed to isolation by now.

Ready to escape, he stepped into his damp shoe and handed the towel across the table to Lady Roberta.

“Let me tell your fortune,” she said, her sultry voice a soft caress. “Let me read your palm.”

Barry shook his head. “I don’t think…”

She flashed a smile, white teeth sharply brilliant against blood-red lipstick. “Come on, it’s been a slow night. The place is full of kids, and kids don’t care about the future. They’re to busy with right now. I get terribly bored on these hot, slow nights. You don’t want me to be bored and restless, do you?”

He hesitated, and her bright smile faltered. Just a little. “Trust me,” she whispered in a smoky voice Barry was certain was he’d dream about tonight.

He sat down and placed his hand on top of the table. He wanted to leave, he told himself, to escape the smells and the noise of the carnival, to leave behind the happy screams that were muffled and distant as he sat before the fortune-teller. But there was something about her smile that made him stay; something in her eyes that made him obey as if she were the teacher and he the student, eager to please. Besides, he reasoned, what would it hurt to let a pretty girl hold his hand for a few minutes?

She took his hand in hers as if it were an inanimate object, unattached and lifeless, cradling it with warm fingers that brushed across his wrist. She studied his palm for a moment before she lifted her head and looked into his eyes. Her eyes, he noticed, were a very fetching shade of pale green, and heavily lined with black. The too-long lashes that framed those eyes were certainly false.

“You’re unhappy,” she said, and then she turned her eyes to his palm once again. “Your life is in turmoil.”

“Isn’t everybody’s?” He tried to sound casual, but she was a difficult woman to fool, this Lady Roberta. She lifted her eyes to his to deliver a censuring glance he felt to his bones.

“Maybe. But yours is in turmoil most of the time.” She cocked her head and stared at him boldly. “That’s not normal.”

He’d heard enough. He pulled his hand out of her grasp and reached for his wallet. “How much? I don’t have any tickets.”

“On the house.”

He opened his wallet and pulled out a crop five-dollar bill. “For the clumsy kid,” he explained as he dropped it onto the scarf-covered table.

She pushed the five towards him, and inch or so. “Keep it.”

“I can’t”

“He’s the owner’s son. I paid him to run into you,” she explained matter of factly. “So keep your money.”

Barry raised his eyebrows. He shouldn’t be surprised. This was just a carnival con, as rigged as the racket games that lined the dusty path beyond the brightly covered tent where Lady Roberta dazed and amazed unsuspecting innocents. He’d come here blindly searching for answers, and had found a cheap swindler.

But why had she told him the truth? Why wouldn’t she take the lousy five dollars? That was the surprise, the unexpected move on her part.


“I wanted to look at your palm,” she explained, as if that made everything alright, as if her curiosity justified any action. “I did ask nicely the first time. And the second time, as well.”

He left the five-dollar in the center of the table and stood, trying to ignore the fact that his shoe squished uncomfortably when he put his weight on it. “Did you see everything you wanted to see? Was it all you expected?”

She seemed not to notice his sarcasm, as she rose to her feet with a satisfied smile on her painted face. It would be ridiculous to say that stood face to face, because he was just over six feet tall and she could have been much more than five-five.

“Come back tomorrow,” she said, her voice whisky smooth.

“I can’t…”

“Of course you can,” she said, preempting his refusal. “I’ll expect you.” She cocked her head, and a strand of black hair fell across one cheek. “You didn’t even tell me your name.”

He really shouldn’t. Maybe she’d heard of him, and when he told her his name those luminous eyes would change. Then again, maybe not. “Why do I have the feeling that if I don’t come back tomorrow night you’re going to hunt me down?”

She smiled. Not a sultry, exotic smile this time, but an unexpected wide and steady smile set in a Gypsy face. How long had it been since a woman had smiled at him like this? A very long time… too long… forever. It was worth the five dollars. It was worth more, much more.

“Maybe I will,” she said softly.

“Barry,” he said. “Barry Hyde.” He waited for the change to come, for her smile to fade and her eyes to fog over in distaste or fear or curiosity. It didn’t happen, and he felt his mouth form an answering smile, or at least the beginning of one. “And you’re Lady Roberta.”

She wrinkled her nose in obvious distaste. “Irene. Roberta is just better for business – more mysterious than plain old Irene.”

He looked into pale green eyes and studied, too closely perhaps, lush red lips. The flowing caftan that should have disguised her body completely molded to her skin when she moved quickly, hinting at a perfectly shaped form beneath. Her smile made his heart damn near stop, and her voice was huskily enticing, the sleepy whisper of a seductive woman. Plain old Irene? not likely.

“You’ll be back tomorrow night?” she asked, as he turned away.

“Maybe,” he muttered. He glanced over his shoulder just once before he stepped out of the tent and into the humid night, fragrant with the smell of sausage and candy floss.

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