Margaret's Clock

A Beauty and the Beast You-Choose-the-Path Adventure

Written by: Beth Druhan
Editing & Pinch-Hit Writing: Shannon O'Connor
Produced by: Dragonback Publications

From the Qfer:
Published: June, 1991
Character focus: V/C
Rating: PG-13
Digest zine, 64 p. No interior art.

Additional Information: The story lets you choose between forks in the narrative at several points, picking how the story will go, and centering around a proposed gift for Father: a clock Margaret once owned which has been sold at an auction.

*End note by the authors: A note to the curious: Our cover was achieved through image scanning, a PC paint program, a photocopier, a black pen, and much angst. (Don't ask.)

Here’s How It Works!

As you read Margaret’s Clock, remember that YOU will make the choices for Vincent and Catherine. Begin on page 1 and continue until given a choice; there you will be presented with the following choice:

If you
think Catherine should give up the search, turn to page 35.

If you think Catherine should keep trying to find the clock, turn to page 10.

Make your decision and follow the story as it develops. Here’s a hint: There are 7 places where you must make a choice, along with 6 different endings to the tale – and YOU WON’T LIKE THEM ALL! Remember that you can always go back and take a different path. And please – if you enjoyed this story format and would like to read more You-Choose-the-Path adventures, please write to Beth and Shannon and let us know. We’d love to hear from you. Enjoy!

NOTE regarding this web presentation:
All instructions to "turn to" a page have been replaced
with "Click Here" to choose your direction.


The adventure begins:

Late one evening, "far below the city streets"...

"How about a chess set, one of those carved marble ones? He's got the rose-box set, but maybe he'd like another for the study." Catherine lolled on Vincent's bed, her chin propped on her interlaced fingers, gazing across the room at him inquiringly. Her hopeful smile faded as she met his dubious look.

"No? Why not?"

"I don't think it would be quite...gallant to give Father a chess set, Catherine."

She began to grin as she followed his thought. "I guess you're right. Kind of like giving Lancelot a replica of the grail." He smiled, cocking his head in that endearing fashion that always made her want to tweak his nose.

"We could go back to the bookends," he ventured.

"He lets his books lie where they fall, no matter how many shelves and ledges Cullen makes," she pointed out. "And anyway, we always give him something to do with books."

Vincent nodded. He couldn't deny that. They both knew that beyond the consuming role of Patriarch of the Tunnels, Father didn't do anything except read and lose at chess. "What about some new medical journals?"

Catherine made a face. "That's no fun, Vincent."

"Not to you," he agreed mildly. "However, Peter gives him journals that are only a couple of months old."

Catherine frowned, chewing on the end of one finger. Day blended unnoticed into night here, as though the world Below were a bubble caught outside of time. It took gritty eyes and an aching back to remind her that it was the end of a gruesome Monday. None of the legal wrangles Joe had thrown at her today had caused half the aggravation of her present problem: what to give Father for his birthday. Something he doesn't often get, she mused. Something outrageous, something decadent...

"A fifth of scotch?" she wondered.

Vincent's eyebrows rose at that. The idea had possibilities. At length, though, he shook his head. "He'd just save it for medicinal uses."

She heaved a gloomy sigh. "We're well and truly stuck. Maybe we could ask Mary for ideas?"

Just as she spoke, a cuckoo clock across the room whirred to life with brisk mechanical noises. The minute window flaps in the top of the "Swiss chalet" popped open, emitting a tiny bird which whooped eleven times before it vanished. Catherine glared at the clock.

"Don't remind me, you," she muttered, and glanced over to see Vincent silently laughing at her. "I have no idea what possessed me to foist that clock on you."

"You said you wanted me to get 'a little cuckoo' every now and then."

"Did it work?"

"Not yet."

Catherine muffled her grin behind one hand. In actuality, she'd given him the clock—originally a gift from her father after a European trip—because every time it announced its presence, Vincent smiled. And she so rarely saw him smile. "Well, he likes music. Maybe we could get him—"

"What, Catherine? Still here?" Father had arrived in the doorway without either of them sensing his presence.

Catherine's eyes met Vincent's in shared alarm. Had he heard them conspiring over his birthday present? If so, he certainly made a masterful play at concealing his knowledge.

"It's late, as Vincent's contraption has just informed us. Were I you, I'd have started that long walk by now." Father grimaced as his afflicted hip protested being settled into a chair. "Then again, a long walk to me is probably just a stiff constitutional to you," he continued, smiling at Catherine.

With a sigh, she levered herself off the downy comfort of Vincent's bed. "No, you're absolutely right. I should have been home an hour ago. We to talking." Her eyes danced for one moment on Vincent's before she demurely dropped her gaze.

"I'll walk you home," Vincent said. He glanced at the older man as he reached for his cloak. "Did you need something, Father?"

"No, no. I Just wanted to hear about your progress excavating that new access tunnel. I daresay your 'roommate will keep me company until you return," Father said, eyeing the now-silent cuckoo clock. It hung from a metal stud driven into a fissure in the rock wall to his right. "Charming little thing, despite all the noise. Where did your father happen to come upon it, Catherine?"

"In Gstaad, I think," she said, smothering a yawn.

Vincent helped her find the armholes of the bulky sweater she'd worn to ward off the chill Below. "Dad never could resist anything that had over ten pieces to it. He and Mouse would have been kindred souls."

"Margaret had a beautiful clock that she kept in our bedroom," Father said suddenly. He so seldom spoke of Margaret that Catherine shot a surprised look at Vincent, and both stood still, waiting for Father to continue. "It was French, an antique even then," he mused, still gazing at the cuckoo clock. There was something in his voice that tore at Catherine's heart.

"It was a table clock that faced upward, made of brass and gold, with etchings in the sides. It was quite old—it had come to her from her grandmother—and Margaret was forever misplacing the key to wind it, so It lost a lot of lime. But then, so did we, in that room."

There was an odd, tender look to Father's face as he spoke—not quite a smile, nor a mask of pain, but something in between. He reached to tug on the chain that raised one of the clock's pendulous weights. Catherine found herself hyper-aware of Vincent's warmth and solidity, two paces behind her. He was there, close, as though he had always been and always would be—yet the young Jacob Wells and his Margaret must have believed that they, too, had forever...

Catherine shivered, until Vincent's hand enveloped hers in a strong, reassuring grip. "What happened to the clock, Father?" she asked. Her voice was soft, tentative—she feared causing him pain.

"Oh, heaven knows. She took it with her when she...left." His words stung. For a moment they stood in silence, the old man webbed in memories of a long-ago love, the young couple caught up in his tale. Then Father shook himself and cast off his mood. "Enough woolgathering. You two go along now. Good night, Catherine."

"Good night, Father." She went to kiss his cheek, giving his shoulders a sympathetic squeeze. She again laced her fingers with Vincent's as they left the study behind, walking leisurely through the soft-lit tunnels.

"I wonder if we could find It," she murmured to herself.

"Find what?" She looked up at her tall companion as excitement sparked in her eyes, driving out lingering sadness.

"Margaret's clock. After her death, all her possessions not left to specific beneficiaries were auctioned. I don't remember a clock among the bequests, so it must have been sold. I could contact the company we hired to conduct the auction, and find out what happened to it. It's the perfect birthday gift!"

Vincent smiled at her enthusiasm. "Margaret may have sold or given away the clock before her death," he reminded her.

"It may have held sad memories for her. You don't let go of sad memories any more than happy ones," she told him firmly. "I'll find that clock."

"Father would love to have it. If there's any way I can help, you know I will."

Catherine's alarm went off at an obscenely early hour. She slapped at it, and it meekly quieted. *Get up (No) warm bed sleepy tunnel Margaret* Get up! (No) * clock blue eyes warm * GET UP NOW!

Ugh. Catherine sat up and yawned hugely, rubbing the sleep out of her eyes. Coffee, she decided vaguely, and swung her legs over the side of her bed.

"I hate Tuesdays," she announced, and shuffled off to the kitchen. What had she been dreaming about? Something she'd meant to do today...

"Looks like it's snowing in here, Radcliffe."

Catherine looked up at her boss with narrowed green eyes. Her desk did, indeed, resemble a snow bank more than furniture, so covered was it with files and papers. "And whose fault is that?" she demanded. "You put all this on my desk after I left yesterday, so I couldn't defend myself."

He grinned, unremorseful. "Have a good time with it. That's all we ask."

Catherine's face went suddenly blank. "Time? Time!" She reached for her Rolodex, beaming at him. "Thanks, Joe."

As she checked a number and began to dial, a baffled Joe Maxwell stuffed his hands in his pockets and walked away, muttering. "Once—just once—I'd like to understand that woman. Ask a straight question, get a straight answer. But no-o-o, life would be too easy..."

Catherine had already tuned Joe out. Margaret's clock! She had promised Vincent she would try locate it, and there was no time to procrastinate. Father's birthday was Saturday.

As executor of Margaret's will, one of Catherine's tasks had been arranging the sale and auction of the tangible assets not left to specific beneficiaries. A few phone calls to a realtor and an auction house had begun the process that eventually produced a tidy fortune for Father and the tunnels. Now, what was that man's name, the one who'd handled the auction for her...

A few moments later, Catherine had reached Mr. Spencer Junot of the Delbert, Junot & Crane Auction Gallery, and was listening with disbelieving ears to his tale of woe.

"Ms. Chandler, we're really terribly sorry. All of our transaction records for the past year were destroyed in the fire, a tremendous loss. I've told the others many times that we ought to be computerized, but—"

"There's no other way to trace the purchaser of the clock? Perhaps through bank records?" Catherine pressed. She knew already that it was hopeless.

"I'm afraid not, Ms. Chandler." An apologetic silence hung, before he offered timidly, "Our appraisers probably have records on the clock, but they would have no way of knowing to whom it was sold. I can give you the telephone numbers of our cashier and auctioneer. One of them might remember the piece, if you can describe it?"

Catherine took the numbers and spent a fruitless five minutes assuring Mr. Junot that she quite understood; that these things happen; thank goodness no one had been hurt; and of course she would allow Delbert, Junot & Crane another chance to attract her business in the future. When she hung up, she had the beginnings of a champion headache, and the sure feeling that Margaret's clock was lost forever.

Wearily, she rubbed her temples with her thumbs, trying to get the pain to ease off. Perhaps she should give up the idea of locating the clock. There remained just four days to find Father's gift. Her time might be better spent shopping for one of the other items she and Vincent had come up with—bookends, or perhaps a new cane. Yet she couldn't forget the soft, yearning look in Father's eyes as he'd told them of Margaret's clock.


If you think Catherine should give up the search, CLICK HERE for page 35.

If you think Catherine should keep trying to find the clock, CLICK HERE for page 10.


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