18. Life Gives You Bruises

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Words of wisdom ...

Sometimes in life, clouds aren't lined with silver. Inside there's just more cloud.

Frequently, crime does pay. It's getting caught that is the problem.

The truth will not necessarily set you free and in some cases, can get you locked up.*

Take Princess Ashley, who desperately wanted to investigate the ghostly chill on her neck. If she told the guard and Sommelier the truth, that she suspected a Princess-abducting, chardonnay-stealing ghost, there was a decent chance she'd end up in a padded cell wrapped in a white coat with restricted arm mobility.

She would not at all be set free—quite the opposite.

But Ashley had little experience with lying, having been a truthful, kind, non-judgmental servant for most of her life.

"I'll be right up," she said. "I ... uh ... forgot my ... uh ... scepter." Scepter? Okay, this was a pitiful lie. She didn't even own a scepter.

"Princess? I hadn't realized you'd brought a scepter with you," the Sommelier said tactfully. "May I assist in your search?"

The lie, being an utter failure, forced Ashley to think up another way to investigate the ghost without raising questions about her sanity. "Uh, no thanks. I remember now that I left it with the Polishing Department. It was looking rather tarnished. And with all the visiting royals, I wanted my scepter up to snuff. Can't have the dullest scepter in the bunch, right?"

"No, Highness."

"Could you see that a case of chilled chardonnay is sent to the Jacuzzi room?"

"Of course."

"And guard? Please locate Terrowin. I would like him to be in charge of the search for Princess Blanche."

The guard bowed. "Yes, Princess."

Ashley let out a huge breath. At last, she had the wine cellar to herself. Inching across the room with her head bobbing like a pigeon, she concentrated on snatching the icy sensation from the air. But she couldn't find it.

Perhaps she'd imagined the whole thing due to utter exhaustion. As she was about to leave, a frantic scratching sound echoed from behind a rack of wine. Ashley stooped down and peeked beneath the dusty, cobweb-strewn shelves to discover a tiny mouse whose tail pinned in a trap. "Help!" it squealed.

"Oh, poor thing," Ashley squeaked back. She'd ordered the traps to be removed from the kitchen but had forgotten to mention the wine cellar. Extracting the trap from a cobweb, Ashley blew off the dust and pulled the sharp point out of the mouse's tail, managing to prick her finger in the process.

"Eeeeeep," it screeched, bolting off her hand and collapsing on the floor.

"I'm sorry," she said, sucking on her finger, wrinkling her nose at the coppery taste of her blood.

"No, it's okay. Thanks for helping me," the mouse said, its little body twitching. "You're nice. If there's anything I can do in return, let me know."

She smiled down at the mouse. As if something so tiny and vulnerable could solve her problems. But wait! Mice are small. Practically invisible. And they can go anywhere, even squeeze through a hole the size of a shilling. Best part? Most people can't talk to mice, so there was very little chance any humans would find out about her ghost theory. "Actually," Ashley said, "there might be something."

"I'm all ears," it said, wriggling its adorable, velvety ears.

Ashley smiled. "Did you see a princess in here a little while ago? Lips as red as roses. Hair as black as ebony. Skin as white as snow? About yay high? Maybe tussling with an ... um ... ghost?"

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