'Pleochroic' is the fifth part of Cilla McQueen's Serial, which is being published on this blog in small sections every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

The preceding chapters were:

1. Higgs

2. Hotdog

3. Birdie

4. Inflation

Next week we begin chapter 6 - 'Tête à Tête'.


The woman in the red coat walked away. Walter screwed up the paper bag and threw it in the bin. Waste of time.

Spray from behind the sea wall found the back of his neck and trickled between his shoulderblades.

At Digby’s, sponging chicken juice off his jacket, he guessed at his bank balance. Three weeks at the most. The furniture had some value. The rest in the car.

The cottage had a numb feeling. The bedroom was clean, Digby’s possessions in two suitcases beside the bed and on the dressing table. Jean had taken most of the books. All yours now, good luck.

Not much left of Digby, Walt thought, picking up a hairbrush. Only a bit of DNA. In every flake.

He put on Digby’s glasses, frowned at the mirror and looked around the room, his sight enhanced.

From the window he could read his numberplate. Plumes of spray sprang above the sea wall.

He admired the markings of a moth on the window frame. Crepuscular.

Puffing dust from a book cover he recognised the fiery peacock colours of the Lightning Ridge Black Opal. The air spangled.

He saw again the kindly, remote smile of his father studying rock samples with a magnifying glass.

Time out. He opened the wine and sat on the porch, leafing through pages. A feature of the chrysoberyl, he read, is the occurrence of twinned crystals in the shape of a heart, giving the mineral a pseudohexagonal appearance.

He grunted, recalling the last time he saw Beryl, asleep at her birthday table, her cheek resting on a pizza. He had closed the door gently and found somewhere else.

Pleochroic Beryl, displaying different colours depending on the angle at which she is approached.

His voice startled a cat, poised half-way along the fence. It froze, its eyes amber crossed with gold; as it jumped down a blackbird fluttered away.

Alexandrite, he told the cat, was first discovered in the Urals on the day Alexander of Russia celebrated his birthday. Alexandrite has the fascinating property of changing its colour from green to a raspberry red when viewed under artificial light.

He took off Digby’s glasses and the world softened.

Digby’s bed had an electric blanket. Walt thought he should take the sheets off and use his own sleeping bag. As he removed the fitted sheet, a wad of money fell on the floor.

Lifting the mattress he noticed a slit in the bottom of the cover, closed with two safety pins. Inside among the complicated springs he felt a canvas bag.

A hundred thousand on the kitchen table and five hundred on his knee. The wine was nearly finished. From a standing start, he thought, the light has turned green. Out of it.

Red and Green Haiku (by Walter, drinking wine)
"On a long drive alone, stasis.
A friendly wave from the Stop/Go man."

Car number plate, 1951
Reference Number: 114/274/09-G

Chinese textile relating to Chee Kung Tong (Chinese Masonic Society)
Reference Number: F-089

Man and rocks, 2 May 1951
Reference Number: 114/289/03-G

Sledge hauling on ski, by Edward Wilson
Reference Number: B-071-001

The Archibald Centre, Wellington Zoo, photographed by Jon Hargest
Reference Number: EP/1990/3194/7-F

Umbrella tree trainer, c 1905
Reference Number: Eph-A-HORTICULTURE-Buxton-1905-01-113

Albert Percy Godber's grandson Norman Hartwig, on his 4th birthday, 12 October 1940
Reference Number: APG-1464-1/4-G

Mason bees nest, photographed by William Price
Reference Number: 1/2-000628-G

Mathematical curves produced by Henry Perigal
Reference Number: PA1-o-190-10

James Hair's baby, c 1870
Reference Number: 1/4-008218-G

Embroidered linen bookcover belonging to Katherine Mansfield
Reference Number: Curios-018-1-009

Embroidered postcard from Lance/Sgt Walter Henry Saunders to Olive McDuff
Reference Number: Eph-A-WAR-WI-1917-05

Four women wearing hats, 1908
Reference Number: 1/1-009888-G

Ornamental kauri gum brooch belonging to Katherine Mansfield
Reference Number: Curios-018-1-004

White Terraces destroyed by eruption 1886
Reference Number: E-068-003

CE Gold, Rocher Bayard, Duraut-sur-Meuse, Belgique, c 1865
Reference Number: A-288-023

Sheila Ormond on 'The Wasp' at the Puketapu sports day, 1930
Reference Number: 1/4-021335-G

Geological time-scale by AH McLintock
Reference Number: A-191-004

James McAllister, Horse with a trotting sulky and driver, 1910
Reference Number: 1/1-009583-G

Photograph of a cave made for shelter by men working on the Korokoro Road, 1933
Reference Number: 1/2-C-024610-F

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