The Beaumee Wood
After a day at the Beaumee Preparatory School, Lorelei was bone tired. So tired, she wasn’t up for going for a walk after school. As always, her best friend, the ever peppy Toralie Peipay, was there to drag her on a walk. “Come on slowpoke, you don’t want it to be sundown, do you? We’ll miss curfew then, and I know how much you enjoy being in the Beaumee Woods, no matter how tired you are.” Toralie had a point. The radiant beauty of the Beaumee Woods was irresistible. Lorelei held up a hand, signalling to Toralie that she would need 5 minutes to get ready.
“I’m ready, let’s go!” Lorelei called. They went off, behind the dark and foreboding poisoned trees, which smelled like the chemicals that had killed them long ago, to the beauteous landscapes that waited ahead.
Toralie was swift when they entered the woods. Not a single twig cracked underfoot for her. It was as if she became impossibly graceful, while outside of the woods, she was incredibly clumsy. Lorelei was embarrassed at how awkwardly she stumbled through the forest. Toralie raced ahead, but then stopped in her tracks, leaving time for Lorelei to catch up. Silently, she put a finger to her lips. There were men’s voices up ahead.
“Blast it all, Felix, blast it all. Majeure foxes are no more real than unicorns are.” There were two men, conversing. The other man, Felix responded. “Derek, VivaZee is bare of nature. Rancid flowers and dead animals aren’t going to do the Market well. Beaumee is our best bet, and majeure foxes will get business booming. Now help me set the traps.”
Lorelei was aghast at the thought of animals getting trapped. By the look on Toralie’s face, she was just as appalled. In the shadows, they watched the foul men. After the men left and were well out of earshot, Toralie took a deep breath. “I thought they could hear me breathing!” Toralie exclaimed. Toralie’s troubles were not on Lorelei’s mind at that moment. “I thought they could hear me too, but please, can we dismantle that trap?” Lorelei asked.
Toralie agreed and together, they carefully dismantled the trap. It was well past sunset when they got back to their houses.
“Lorelei, you’re never late, so what happened today?” Lorelei’s mother (Amy) asked, looking up from where she was cooking their dinner. Amy was very protective and she was very concerned at her daughter being out in the woods after sundown.
“I saw something in the Beaumee woods… two men. They were trying to trap foxes, majeure foxes, I think. Toralie and I had to wait then we disassembled the trap they laid.” Lorelei explained to her mother. Amy’s eyes narrowed, and she looked mad. After dinner, she asked a final question. “Did they mention something called the Market?”
“Y… yes, actually. Something about getting business booming again.”
“I hoped that while you and Toralie were out there, you wouldn’t discover anything like this. I just let you go and hoped you would be safe. Lorelei, let me know if this happens again and please be careful.”
“Okay,” Lorelei responded, wondering why her mother looked sad.
The next day, Toralie was less peppy than usual. She was sad, and when Lorelei asked her what was wrong, Toralie just went white in the face and changed the subject.
When school ended, Lorelei was the one to drag Toralie out to the forest. Even though Toralie resisted, Lorelei persisted. Eventually, Toralie ended her resistance and went with Lorelei.
“This is so beautiful. Thank you, Lorelei,” Toralie said as they walked from the poisoned trees to the wonderland that they saw almost every day. Toralie visibly relaxed among the plants she called a second home. They acted like it was their first time in the woods again, reliving all the joy and wonder and forgetting the darkness that had occurred yesterday. Their little bubble popped as they heard the voices from before, the voices that had made Toralie so scared in the first place.
“Argh! Felix, someone was here after us. The trap is damaged. I’m sure that no animal is capable of this. We need to find the culprit.” Felix turned to Derek, and the girls ducked behind some bushes with several colourful flowers adorning them.
‘Relax, Derek. Have you forgotten that we are in Beaumee, not VivaZee? Even if we don’t find a majeure fox, the people here have accepted and saved nature here. Look around you! There are enough rare species here to stock the Market for a century or more. Either way, we win. Not the people here in Beaumee. Us!” Felix finished his huge speech and Lorelei and Toralie struggled to keep silent.
Derek and Felix left after setting a trap. As soon as they were out of earshot, Toralie burst into tears.
“Toralie? What’s wrong? Are you okay?” Lorelei asked her. Toralie tried to stop sobbing so that she could respond.
“Lorelei, I can’t even imagine who these people are and why they are doing this to the animals and plants. This is so unfair and it feels like we are powerless to do anything about this” She said between sobs.
Lorelei pondered their problem and realised that the solution was easy. “Well we aren’t powerless, are we?” She was beginning to have an idea.
“Lorelei,” Amy began. She stopped and looked closer at Lorelei. “It happened again, didn’t it?” she asked her.
Amy was an expert at reading people, and it was obvious that Lorelei was concerned about something. Lorelei replied as soon as Amy asked.
Amy was outraged when she heard the whole story from Lorelei.
“How dare those Marketers come and ruin Beaumee like they ruined VivaZee! I can’t believe that they’re still up and running. I should’ve stopped them while I could. But did I? No. And I now regret it.”
Lorelei was confused about Amy’s knowledge.
“Mum, how do you know about VivaZee?” She asked.
“I used to live in VivaZee, did I tell you that? I was born in Beaumee, but I lived in VivaZee. While I was there, I came across something called the Market. Come inside and I’ll tell you more.”
Once Lorelei and Amy were inside, Amy began to tell her story. “The Market was a secret organisation that took plants and animals and sold them to billionaires so they could enjoy nature while people who didn’t pay lost their greenery. Over time, they lost all the fauna and flora to the billionaires and VivaZee became a concrete jungle. Before any drastic changes, I moved to Beaumee for an understanding of my home and because the greenery was fresher here. People were less likely to let this place turn into a concrete jungle. I thought the Market stopped when flora and fauna in VivaZee stopped, but I was so wrong. I regret it, every single day.”
Lorelei couldn’t believe that people were that cruel. She had lived her life in Beaumee and couldn’t imagine life any other way, and in VivaZee they were doing that until the breaking point.
“We have to stop them,” Toralie said as they sat down for lunch. As Lorelei told Toralie about how Amy had tried to stop them – and hadn’t succeeded – Toralie used a tiny fork to pick up her noodles and dropped half of it on the table. She also told her about how they stripped VivaZee of nature, as Toralie cleaned up the food she had spilled. Lorelei had thought about her grand plan and she was now confident that they could defeat the Market and keep them from Beaumee – and everywhere – forever.
“Can you just tell me what your plan is?” Toralie asked for the umpteenth time. She was being dragged around by Lorelei, who was too preoccupied with setting up to tell her the plan. Toralie just gave up and followed Lorelei without complaint after a while.
“Derek, I’m telling you, people know who we are and they’re trying to expose us. We need to move. Now.”
“Felix, no. you said it yourself. Beaumee is a treasure trove and we need to take advantage of it.”
“Is it worth exposing the Market, which we’ve been raised in our whole lives? Is it worth uprooting the organisation we’ve worked for and put our lives into?”
“Is it worth it? Yes, it is. Felix, you said it yourself. Were your exact words not ‘There are enough rare species here to stock the Market for a century or more. Either way, we win!’? We do this, we risk a little, and we keep the Market in business.”
“Well, we get caught, and there will be no Market to keep in business. It won’t be hard to catch us; all they need is our first name and description. People are watching. Remember Amy Reihe?”
Lorelei tensed at the mention of her mother’s name. “She never stopped tailing our colleagues. She never stopped until they were put straight in jail. It was all we could do to keep the Market together.”
“But we made it.”
“Barely. It was lucky Amy moved to Beaumee when she did. We wouldn’t have survived.”
The men walked off, arguing all the way. Toralie and Lorelei tried to catch their breath silently while pondering what they just saw.
“That was a full confession.” Toralie pointed out. “We could’ve gotten that as proof.” She sighed when she realised, they missed their chance.
“Well, who said we didn’t?” Lorelei asked slyly.
“Ohmygoodness, Lorelei, how on earth did you…” Toralie began.
“You’ll see,” was all she responded.
“Wow. Lorelei, you are amazing,” Amy announced as she watched the footage. The men were shown clearly on the screen and the quality of the sound was pristine. Lorelei did have a lot of brainpower and she could problem-solve like a champion when she put her mind to it.
“Was this what you were planning all along?” Toralie asked. When Lorelei smiled at her, she figured it out. “It was, you trickster!!” She yelled. Amy watched, deep in thought.
“Toralie, that was extremely dangerous. What if they found out?” Toralie’s parents asked.
They often worried about Toralie’s safety, especially because the two girls together were unreliable. They took a bunch of risks without giving much thought to what might happen if they weren’t careful.
“I know, but I couldn’t let them hurt Beaumee.” She claimed defiantly. Her parents had to agree.
“Well, Amy, now that we have the proof, what are we going to do about it?” Toralie’s mother, Tina, asked.
“Tina, the answer to that question escapes my understanding,” Amy replied.
“Oh goodness, Toralie and Lorelei, you have no idea how lucky you were. If they caught you, there’s no telling what they would’ve done to you,” Officer Leheren told them as he watched the footage of Felix and Derek arguing about the future of the Market.
While he talked to them, Lorelei couldn’t stop her mind from wandering and looked around the office. Officer Leheren had been catching criminals for years, and he had a plain office, probably because he spent all his time in the field and had no time in the office. There was a bare desk, about 1.5 metres long with a desktop monitor on it. The cables from the monitor fell through a hole in the desk and plugged into the desktop.
Officer Leheren stopped talking and noticed that Lorelei wasn’t paying attention. “Girls, I hope you know how smart you are. I’ve been trying to catch the Market for years and you did it in the span of a few days.”
“Derek, I told you.” Felix said, frowning as they were surrounded by police officers.
In a jail cell, Felix got a call. “There are a lot more of us. Don’t worry, you will just never tell them where the Market is and who is involved. We aren’t going down without a fight.” The caller said.
“Come on, let’s get to the woods,” Toralie called. The men were in jail and were being questioned about their involvement with the Market. Lorelei still hesitated when it came to the woods, but after a while her fear disappeared.
“I forgot how calming this place is,” Lorelei admitted once they were past the layer of dead trees.
“What did I tell you?” Toralie asked. They were in the middle of the forest when they heard something.
“Even though our Beaumee based members have been caught, we have a majeure fox and we aren’t giving up on Beaumee…”
“Oh no!” whispered Toralie and Lorelei in unison.