The letter was clenched in my hands and a quick examination revealed the digits were, indeed, stained with the black ink from the pen I'd shakily used to address the letter. It was only a short note. Well, compared to the others. An excuse to get away, pushing past men with gold monocles and women in their furs. I half-nodded to the constable, watched him give me a once over before returning to his post outside of his car. Outside of my home. Damn. Damn damn damn. I could only hope Jeremiah and Francois had the whole thing under control. One slip, a glance backwards showed the constable with his binoculars, and it was all for naught. But, oh, we were trying. We were most definitely trying. My shoes slap against the rough stone streets. It's different out here. Here, the people aren't decked in 'missing' jewels or clothed in the skin and fur of animals both endangered and undiscovered.. or generally thought of as 'untouchable'. In the Emporium, we cater to one and all. Anything your heart could desire. It's there, on our shelves in our little shoppe disguised as a home. A large home, antique and falling apart, but a home nonetheless. There aren't many who live there, just myself and my love and our two shoppe boys. It's easier to keep the secrets that way. If the Emporium were to be breached, it is not just we who would fall. Francois keeps a very accurate guide to all of the items and to whom they disappear to.
I stop to adjust my top hat in the restaurants window, ignoring the looks from the patrons as I slide it into a more proper place, pushing my glasses up higher onto my nose. I always look so frantic when you are gone. I think that, more than anything, tips them off to our going-ons. Or, maybe, just to the fact we have goings-on at all. They would never, not in a million years expect that Alfred Bodley, the fifth, would be involved with anything too torrential without any sort of tip off. No, never. All of the Bodleys, including the Alfreds prior to myself, were quiet, tall, thin and frail looking men with soft blonde hair that often went prematurely grey. We're a very nervous, gaunt looking bunch who walked quickly and kept our nose out of gossip and drama. Quiet, nervous, the appearance of one of those light posts in the middle of the night. All of this is in my genetics, as it will be in the Bodleys after myself.
All of the previous Alfred's had been bookkeepers. It was supposed to be my lot in life, too. It still is. I do keep the books. I just keep other things, as well. Dangerous things, illegal things. Horrifying and rare things. Special deliveries and special requests for common place things that had to be made out of much less common items. A necklace to be fashioned with the eye of an Iberian Lynx, papyrus scrolls from ancient Egypt that supposedly hold the secret of the meaning of life, bags and shoes and jackets fashioned with leather of human skin, water from the rumored 'fountain of youth'. Things that do not look extraordinary, but, oh, they are.
It isn't always requests to bring things back. Sometimes, we are sent to do things. Drop a penny into the original, true 'wishing well' and make the wish for that person, scatter ashes out in some far off area, find out if something or someone still exists. Some people don't want to have things, they just want to know things. That is where you come in, my love. You travel this earth, know everyone on it. You steal if you must, haggle and bet on the others. If we are paid in advance, that is used to buy whatever was requested, or used to travel to whoever we might have you go in order to fetch it. A cursed scarab from a mummy's tomb, Atlantian gold, paintings from civilizations long since past. You've found it all. Some people barely believe it, come in as a joke and expect us to fashion what they might expect. But I know you. I know you and I know what you give to them is never a lie. But if that is what they believe, the object become one of our collection pieces until someone else needing one comes along. Saves you a trip, in the end.
Shaking hands deposit the yellowed envelope into the postbox. I was to come along on this one. It was an anniversary gift. We were to go on 'vacation'. It was going to be exotic and fascinating for me. You were just happy I'd come along with you on one of your trips. I am always home, you say. I am always home and I have experienced none of this world. You want me to see your world. You could never stand to be in mine. It's too bookish and dull. You need to stretch and grow and spread out across all of these lands. Amazon one day, Egypt the next. The arctic, the city, the forests and the deserts. Even the sea. They all belong to you. I am content with my somewhat large home, except when it is filled with men with gold monocles and women in their rare furs. That is not my world, not anymore, and I am antsy and more frantic than usual when thrust into it. You would not have me any other way, you said. You love that I am homely and quiet and bookish and too tall and too thin. I am your opposite. Yin and yang.
I miss you far too much.
Far more than I can handle right now.