The purple scooter sped through the streets of Birmingham, with Purple lady at its controls. Giggling to herself, she could feel the little hedgehog behind her on the seat. The hedgehog was holding on to her belt, trying not to fall off. Pudgy was not expecting the scooter to lean as she turned and maneuver it, so he had his eyes closed and face buried into her back. The woman had just got out to the market for a bit to get some odds and ends, when she pulled up to the intersection. Seeing the hedgehog, complete with pack and helmet scurry across the crosswalk, she knew it had to have been Pudgy. She was smiling from ear to ear underneath her helmet and face shield.
Although she had to wonder, just why he was back here in Great Britain? As she navigated the roads, she pulled up to the road that led to her apartment complex. While the buildings looked like normal houses, the upstairs and downstairs of the house were separate apartment units. It was a short trip, and soon she was pulling into her assigned parking spot. With the side of her foot, she put the kickstand down, and then turned off the engine. As she took off her purple helmet, her red hair fell out in many directions. Reaching behind her while taking the key out of the ignition, her other hand found Pudgy still there on the seat behind her. His quills were so soft as she gently grasped him, moving him around her body so she could look at him. The hedgehog’s nose twitched, while his little eyes peeked up at her. “Pudgy, I am so glad you came back to visit. We are going to go inside, but I wanted to let you know, I have a cat. Is that going to be a problem?”
The hedgehog shook his head no and held onto her hand as she dismounted the scooter. Opening a plastic compartment, she pulled out a plastic bag labelled Sainsbury’s. Once her belongings were collected, and hedgehog in hand, Purple Lady walked through the parking spaces, and towards the exterior stairs that led up to her second-floor apartment. As she passed the familiar brown brick exterior, she started to climb the stairs. Pudgy looked around while he was being carried and watched as his friend placed the key into the door locks. The familiar click as the deadbolts were undone, she opened the door to reveal her living room. As she scooted inside, the door was shut with a shake of her hips against the door. The door slammed shut, and she continued through the living room, past an overstuffed tweed chair, and a brown plaid couch. White walls, with the occasional piece of artwork was about the apartment.
Entering the kitchen, Pudgy was placed on a smooth white counter, along with the bag from the grocery store. The hedgehog watched his friend toss a black clutch purse onto the kitchen table with its distressed top. Turning to look at him, “Pudgy, I’ll be right back. You be good.” She turned and left the room, leaving the hedgehog alone. The critter sat down and looked at the kitchen. He remembered it from before when she helped him to recover from his trip to space. A large white and grey fluffy cat padded slowly into the room and looked up at Pudgy. Pudgy waved back, and the two critters started to talk to one another. Animals speak is a shorthand language, that is meant to convey information quickly. It also helps, when dealing with different types of animals. Pudgy could understand most animals, but had trouble with exotic animals, so it required more attention.
In 5 minutes, Eddie the cat, and Pudgy had an understanding, and Pudgy was advised where he could and could not go within the area. Of course, Purple Lady could override such rules at any time, but if the hedgehog followed there would be no issues. The cat wandered off, to go sun himself in the warm spot by the window. The woman came back, and had pulled her hair back into a ponytail, with a white scrunchy, and returned to the counter. Patting Pudgy on his head, she opened the bag from the grocery store. “I was going to make some bubble and squeak today and needed to get some items. I could not believe it when I saw you wandering across the crosswalk with that elderly gentleman. Do not get me wrong, I am overjoyed you are here. Pudgy, why are you here again?”
The little hedgehog took a deep breath and began his grand story of all that had happened to him since he had left her. As the critter acted out parts, Purple started to get ready for supper. The hedgehog stories were fantastic, and fun, to listen to. Soon they were joined by Eddie the cat, and he too listened. When Pudgy got to the part in New Orleans, and what happened on lake Pontchartrain, she frowned. But the return to Pennsylvania story, where the boat broke down, and Cobalt had to save them brought back her smile. She continued to cook and nodded while she dipped a teaspoon into the mixture and tasted it. She added some seasoning, and then began to set our portions on a plate, as well as a teacup saucer. She carried the plates to her kitchen table, and then retrieved utensils from a dish drying rack that was adjacent to Pudgy.
Then she opened a cabinet, and retrieved a can of food for Eddie, setting it out into his favorite bowl. Turning, she knelt and sat the bowl on the floor in his favorite spot. Normally aloof, the cat was here today most likely due to the hedgehog’s presence. Standing back up, she washed her hands in the sink, dried them off with a red towel, and then gently scooped up the hedgehog to carry him over to the table. She set him down beside the saucer, and then sat down on her kitchen chair. Pudgy sniffed the food in front of him and realized it was potatoes and cabbage, along with meat. He started to nibble, and it tasted particularly good. Purple smiled, and then began to eat as well. The critter ate quickly, and when he was finished rubbed his belly. She was not done yet, so Pudgy began the next part of his story, of the events that led him to Great Britain.
While she finished her meal, her eyes went wide at the description of the red coat ghost soldiers chasing after Cobalt, Pudgy, and Argente. The part about Valley Forge was especially interesting, with how the ghostly scene unfolded, and Pudgy being whisked away by ghostly courier to New Jersey. She had finished her meal and was moving the dirty dishes to the sink. Soon also moving Pudgy to the counter, so she could listen while she cleaned up. His trip through New Jersey and New York was intriguing, as she was not yet familiar with Brenda or Lori but had chatted occasionally with them. Soon the story was over, and the dishes were done.
The woman scooped up the hedgehog into her hands and smiled as his soft quills tickled her skin. She carried him into her living room and sat down on the couch. Pudgy stayed still while he was being carried and looked up at her smiling face the entire time. As he bounced into her lap, he sat on her leg and looked up at her. “Pudgy, that was quite a story, you certainly are a remarkably busy hedgehog. Steamboat adventurers, voodoo possession, new friends, and now a revolutionary war adventure. What do you think the next part is?” Pudgy had still been wearing his pack, and helmet, so he took off his pack, and started to open it. The critter pulled out a blue sapphire stone, with a silver clasp and chain. “Every time Pudgy use stone, British troops appear. They want stone, but there is a second stone somewhere. General Washington told Pudgy, if can find second stone, something will happen. Pudgy may need to destroy stones. Stone get extremely hot when Pudgy uses.” The woman nodded and reached her fingers to clasp the stone. The hedgehog let go and looked at her as she inspected it.
“Pudgy, there is a museum close to here, that may be able to help. It is in Birmingham.” She watched as the critter looked up and bounced, “Pudgy need to go there, that’s where painting is!” Pudgy started to re-explain about the museum in New York city, and the woman’s eyes went wide. “That painting was just put on display Pudgy, about 2 weeks ago. I met Starry there with her children for a museum get together. That reminds me…” She took out her phone, and snapped a picture, then tweeted it. Soon her phone was starting to vibrate and make bell sounds like crazy. “Pudgy, Cobalt is talking to me now.” So after a brief conversation with the worried man, Purple explained that Pudgy was in Great Britain with her, and he was safe. Pudgy also asked her to send some messages, which she gladly did. Soon though, her phone began to ring, and she answered it. “Oh, hello Starry. Yes Love, Pudgy arrived earlier today. Yes, we can do a video call.”
She picked up Pudgy and sat him on her shoulder, which the critter bounced happily and snuggled against her cheek. She had her big rectangle phone with a purple sparkly case in front of them, and soon a big video appeared of Starry-Eyed Girl, and two excited boys packed in close together. They started waving frantically, “HI PUDGY!” Pudgy waved back, shouting, “Hi!” Purple smiled, “Starry, do you remember the museum? That new painting?” Starry nodded, “Yes, and it was always crooked, why?” Purple smiled, “Pudgy needs to go see that painting. There is some sort of clue, that will lead him somewhere. He is on a grand adventure that took it to our neck of the woods.” The boys started bouncing, “can we go too! We want to see Pudgy!” The two women laughed, with Starry nodding, “Yes I think it would be ok. How’s your schedule tomorrow looking Sarah?” Purple nodded, “my day is free, so mid-morning to mid afternoon sounds good?” Starry nodded, and after some goodbyes, the call ended.
Pudgy looked up at her, “who’s Sarah?” Purple giggled, “that is my real name Pudgy. I’m sure Cobalt has a real name too?” Pudgy nods, “yes, Pudgy calls him something different when we’re not in public. Pudgy think Sarah is a pretty name.” The woman giggled, and gently scooped him up again, and started to hug the hedgehog. After a few quiet moments passed, she set him down beside her, and using the remote control, turned on the television. They were joined by Eddie the cat, who sat on the opposite side of her. Without realizing it, Pudgy’s eyes fluttered closed, and he fell asleep beside the woman. She did not catch it at first, until she asked a question, and the little critter did not respond. After her show ended, Sarah stood up as gently as she could without disturbing her furry guest. Turned off the television, and then headed to bed herself. Tomorrow was going to be a busy day, and she too needed to get some sleep. Although, once in bed, it was hard to fall asleep at first. She was going to be on a Pudgy adventure, so she did not know what to expect.
Pudgy slept soundly on the couch and did not wake up until morning. The sunlight filtered through the window blinds and cast lines of light upon the floor. As the hedgehog yawned, he rubbed his eyes with his paws. His hostess was already at the kitchen table, sipping a tea, and looking at her phone. Pudgy scooted and climbed down from the couch. Taking care to avoid the areas that Eddie told him to avoid, Pudgy maneuvered the apartment to reach her foot. Her toenails were painted purple, which Pudgy noted as he tugged at her pant leg. She looked down, “Oh! Good morning Pudgy!” She giggled, while watching the hedgehog climb her chair leg. She lowered her arm, and her hand gently grasped him, and brought him up to rest on the table. Pudgy waved, and bounced, watching her pout hot tea into a tiny cup. “I was going through an old box I had and found my tea set from long ago. Who knew the cups would be hedgehog sized?” Pudgy smiled, and picked up the teacup, and sipped slowly as it was hot.
Sarah smiled, “so today we will head to the museum in town. Starry should join us too, and I expect her children as well. Pudgy, when we get there, and find the painting, what do you think will happen?” The hedgehog nodded, and sipped his tea, “Pudgy use stone, and look at painting. Painting will point in direction need to go.” The woman nodded, “Well, I need to finish getting ready. Then I will drive us to the museum on the moped.” Pudgy covered his eyes, which drew a smirk and a laugh from his hostess. “Hey, I am a good driver!” Pudgy peeked at her, and bounced happily, which drew another smile from her as she walked off. The tea was good, and extraordinarily strong, bordering on coffee strength. Pudgy noted to himself, this must be what they mean by proper English tea.
As the time passed, soon Sarah returned, having finished dressed and putting her makeup on. She slung her purse around her body, letting it rest on her left hip. Looking at the table, she did not find the hedgehog. Scanning the room, she saw him on the couch once more, putting his pack and helmet on. Giggling to herself, she checked the hob, to ensure it was off, and then headed over to the couch to scoop up the hedgehog. “Eddie, I will be gone for the day, you be good.” The cat was not seen but was indeed there. With Pudgy in her hand, she headed to the front door, and unlocked it. Opening the door, she exited her apartment, and then shut the door behind her. After securing the door, she headed down the stairs, to where her moped was parked.
Mounting the scooter, she placed Pudgy on the seat behind her, and put the key into the ignition. As the engine turned on, Sarah could feel the hedgehog holding onto her belt again. Giggling, “ok Pudgy, hold on!” She backed out of her parking spot and headed off down the road. The hedgehog was ok when she was driving straight, it was the leaning during the turns that made him a bit scared and would bury his face into her lower back. As they entered the main highway, Pudgy looked at all the cars and trucks passing by. He did not recognize any of the logos, and they were not like the vehicles from back home. The only think he did recognize was the W on some cars. Those were Volkswagens, and they were bad. Cobalt’s father worked in the plant where Volkswagens were made back home a long time ago. They had been lured to Pennsylvania with tax free status for 10 years, with promises of further assistance later. At the 10-year mark, they laid off the whole plant, and moved to Mexico. Pudgy did not understand why, but it was a Cobalt family rule, no one could buy a car from that company.
The trip to the museum was not long distance wise, but the traffic leading into the city proper was a bit difficult at times. So, as they hit congestion, it resulted in a lot of stop and go traffic. Looking around, he saw an older BMW pulling up beside them, with two bouncing boys in the back seat. Pudgy looked over and waved, watching as an exasperated dark-haired woman was at the wheel. As she turned, she got a big smile and waved too. The horn went off once, and Purple looked over waving. Starry and her family were in the vehicle beside them. The children were pointing and mouths moving a kilometer a minute. As traffic started to move once more, Purple pulled her scooter in front of Starry’s car, and got into the turning lane to head to the car park. As the traffic flowed, she peered into her rearview mirrors on her handlebars, watching Starry trying to calm her children. She laughed out loud, though it was muffled by the helmet. Thankfully, there were enough spots, and found two spots side by side. As she signaled and pulled her scooter into the smaller of the two, she watched as Starry’s car pull up beside her.
As Pudgy watched, a gray blue back door flew open, and two bouncing boys almost fell out of the car. “HI PUDGY! HI PUDGY!” The two boys stammered out excitedly, with their mother opening her door, “Oh come on now, don’t get hurt falling out of the car! Pudgy is not going anywhere. Hello Pudgy, “she said with a wave. Sarah hung up her Purple helmet onto the handlebar and withdrew the keys from the ignition. Waving, “Starry, I couldn’t believe it when you pulled up beside me.” The one little boy grabbed Pudgy much rougher than he expected and hugged him tight. The other swatted at his brother’s hand, and grabbed Pudgy, and broke him free of his brother’s grasp. Pudgy started to not feel good, and went limp in the little boy’s hand, and a stream stuff came out of Pudgy. The hedgehog’s quills went rigid and started to prickle the child’s hand.
Starry snapped at her son, “Hey, you do not do that! Pudgy is a little hedgehog, you must hold him carefully! Pudgy, are you ok?” The hedgehog looked up and nodded, which drew a bit of wailing from the children, who started to apologize. Starry being a mother, had a wipe in her purse, and cleaned up the hedgehog, and then tossed the cloth in a nearby green waste receptacle. Starry gently scooped up Pudgy and hugged him gently. “I’m sorry, my boys were excited. They have been bouncing since last night. So, I understand we have to go to the museum?” The hedgehog nodded, “There is a painting inside, that was in New York. It has a clue, Pudgy need to find next stone.” While the group walked, Pudgy gave the short version of the story to Starry and her children. The boys listened with wide eyes and bounced around them. Sarah tried her best to corral the boys, but sometimes Mom powers are required. A couple loud commands brought the boys back into focus, and then they could cross the street to get to the museum safely.
Pudgy could see the museum, in the distance, and was calming down from the rough handling from before. His quills had relaxed and were so soft in Starry’s hands. The one part of the museum resembled a Greek temple, with stone columns that surrounded all sides, and triangular parts at the top. There was a tall clock tower, whose clock hands were positioned to read 11:05 am. There were discreet signs placed about, which lead the way to the ticket booth / entry doors. So, in a short time, they reached the entrance, and the gather group entered the building. The ticket counter was staffed by several people dressed in red museum uniforms. An Indian woman with long black hair smiled at the group. “Welcome everyone, how many in your party?” Starry paid for one adult entry, as well as two children. Purple smiled, one adult, and one hedgehog. The Woman looked at Pudgy, “and how old are you little one?” Pudgy pointed at himself, “Pudgy 10 human years old.” The woman blinked and watched as Starry set him on the counter. He stood up and wiggled, waving at the woman. She waved back and processed the transactions.
The ticket woman watched as Sarah scooped up Pudgy into her hands. “Umm, before you go … Pudgy … how did you get here?” Pudgy bounced, “Pudgy dug tunnel!” The group laughed, and they were waved in. Like with New York, this museum held grand displays. Rare artifacts from all over the world, and from Britain as well. An exasperated young man walked by, as he was being berated by an older gentleman, “come now Nigel, every single day! I have told you repeatedly, straighten that painting!” The young man looked back at the older man, “I keep telling you, something is moving it!” Sarah blinked, and looked down at Pudgy. “I wonder if he means?” The two arguing men had come from the fine arts wing. Sarah headed down a hallway, with intricate tile work in a triangular herringbone pattern of various red, brown, and cream colors. The wood carved, and bronze coated statue of the angel was again pointing down the hall towards the paintings, instead of forward. A big sign was placed, “Please do not move the angel!”
As the woman passed, Pudgy turned to look at the angel. It was almost as if it was looking at him. Pudgy waved at the angel, and then watched as the paintings filled the room’s walls on every side. There were more paintings here than Pudgy had ever seen before. Pudgy looked up at Sarah’s face, making sure not to look at the other part of Sarah that he could get in trouble for looking at. “The painting we need to find is called an Evening in a New Land.” Sarah nodded, and started to scan the painting titles. Starry overheard Pudgy, “ok boys, help us find one called an Evening in a New Land.” The boys nodded, and bolted, up and down looking at the names of the artwork. Starry shook her head, “I hope I did not unleash two bulls in a china shop.” Sarah laughed, “Well you did bring your credit card. Just make them pay it off.” The two began to laugh and nodded when one boy pointed. “Here it is!”
As everyone rendezvoused at the painting, all noticed it was hanging crooked. It was a picture of an English woman in a fine dress, before a land of farms and forests. The placard read this was the wife of William Tyron, the governor of the colony of New York. Pudgy wiggled, and started to open his pack, pulling out the blue sapphire gemstone. He looked through it, and at first the vision was dark. Starry looked at Pudgy as he was using the gemstone, and her eyes went wide as the stone started to glow. Sarah looked down, feeling the heat from the stone, “Pudgy, are you, all right?” The hedgehog nodded, “Pudgy see, something in lower left corner of painting. It looks like….” As The hedgehog was speaking, the painting’s frame started to crack, and splinter. A second blue sapphire gemstone fell out of the frame and landed onto the ground. One of Starry’s boys ducked under the velvet rope and grabbed the stone. It was warm to the touch, and as he stood up, he walked over to Sarah. “Pudgy, I found the stone, now what?”
As Pudgy looked up, he watched the gemstone fly out of the boy’s hand and float directly in front to Pudgy’s stone. The hedgehog reached out, and grabbed the second stone, which too was burning hot. Not realizing it, he floated out of Sarah’s hands. As he spun around slowly, he could see her worried eyes looking at him. The other museum patrons shrieked out as the hedgehog was floating in the air, with two glowing gemstones. Starry shouted, “Pudgy, what is going on?” The hedgehog was transfixed on the stones, feeling for a brief instant, that he had power. Power to do whatever he wanted, power to rule the world. But why would he want to do that? The thoughts conflicted in his mind, but without warning, he was flung down the hallway, and then made a sharp right and flew up the hallway. The two women and two boys immediately took off to follow the flying critter, and in a short period of time, found the hedgehog floating in front of the bronze angel. The statue’s eyes were glowing, and white beams shot out to connect to the stones, forming a misty wall of vapor. They could see through it, and Pudgy was hanging onto the stones with his paws.
The exasperated young man had been walking up the hallway behind the angel, with a hammer and level. He dropped the tools, watching the scene that unfolded in front of him. The older man, “oh Nigel, you have made a …. mess…. Of … things….” The two men watched in disbelief, as the angel began to turn by itself. The hedgehog was still floating on front of the angel, and the stones with their beams of light moved the misty scene along the walls. Eventually a large castle started to come into focus, and Pudgy looked, “Mister Angel, is that were we have to go?” The angel did not say anything, but the beams of light turned into tight beams, almost like a laser. The two stones started to fuse into one, and then shrink to a form that Pudgy could grasp easily. As Pudgy turned to look at Sarah, he smiled, then the room was filled with a flash of light.
The smell of ozone was heavy in the air, and as everyone rubbed their eyes, the boys were the first to call out. “Pudgy’s gone!” Sarah looked up, and the room was empty, with even the angel having gone missing. As the boys raced up to inspect the platform, the two museum workers too quickly arrived to inspect. As Starry and Purple arrived, the older man in his tweed jacket looked at them. “What is the meaning of all of this?” The two women looked at each other, “Well …” Two grey uniformed security officers arrived and blocked the path out of each exit to the room. Sarah nodded, “that was Pudgy, our friend from across the pond. He found a gemstone, which led him here to get the other gemstone in a painting. Now he is gone.”
The older man was the director, and soon was leading everyone back to the wing where the painting was. It was now hanging perfectly straight, with a broken bottom frame. Nigel laughed, “see I told you it wasn’t hung wrong!” The director shook his head, “Ok, I want the full version, now.” Starry nodded, “yes, but can se get some drinks, for my boys?” The security guards nodded at the director, and soon their group was led through the museum, and to where a small cafeteria was. As Starry picked up several cans of iced tea and water from the small cooler beside the cash register, Sarah and the others were led to a series of plastic tables. Everyone was sat down, and as the director pulled his chair over, “Ok, I want the full version, from start to finish.” Sarah nodded, and started to talk. Pudgy was her friend, but she was a subject of Great Britain, and was duty bound to reveal what was going on.
As she talked, the whole room grew silent, and listened to all the events that led Pudgy to the country. Tales of ghostly British soldiers chasing after, and attacking Cobalt and Pudgy, and then later Brenda as he traveled eastwards. The director’s mouth was open, while he listened, and as Sarah drew out what the stones looked like on piece of paper, he quickly snatched it up. Studying it, he got a look on his face of realization, recognizing the stones. “Commissioned by King George the First in 1716, those stones resemble something I studied a long time ago. They are known as the eyes of the king and were rumored to grant the power of far sight to the monarchy. They were lost during the time of King George the Third. It was a series of three stones, inlaid with a silver chain. The artist was a jeweler of high renown through the European lands and did not come cheap if the stories are to be believed.” Starry blinked, “did you say three stones?”
The older gentleman nodded and shook his head. “what utter rubbish?” Nigel walked over and handed him a can of iced tea. As the younger man opened his can, and sipped from it, “but director, we both saw the two stones that the hedgehog had. The angel turned and disappeared with him. What is that about?” The director sipped from his can of tea, “well, that is on loan to us from Warwick Castle. Which…if my memory serves correctly, is where the stones were cut. It is almost as if the stones are going home. Pennsylvania, to New York, to Birmingham, and now off to Warwick.” The security guards had wandered off during the story, as they had work to do. But all talk of the stones subsided, and the location, as the one guard moved off to a separate corridor, he got out his cell phone. Dialing a number, he spoke in hushed tones. “The stones are back, some hedgehog found two of them. Yes, a hedgehog, from the colonies. Yes, in Warwick Castle. Goodbye.” The officer tucked away his phone into his belt, and then resumed his rounds.
As the guard looped back, he saw the assembled group of women and children leaving the cafeteria. The director was still talking. “If you are heading to Warwick, I have a colleague there, she is a tour guide. Ask for Elizabeth, and she will be able to help you. I want my angel statue back, and the stones too. I will need to report these losses as theft within a couple days but will delay the paperwork. I will also have Nigel head that way as well, he needs some field work every now and then. But don’t mess it up like Stoneleigh!” The younger man nodded, “I won’t director, I promise.” The guard started texting on his phone discreetly, until he was caught by the director. “hey now, none of that while on duty!” The guard looked up, “sorry director.” He put the phone away into his belt. The director walked out the group to the exit and waved as he headed back to his office. The older man needed something stronger than tea, from that bottle in case of emergency under the desk.