35

Felix made a noise that would not have been out of place in a necromancer's lair. Immediately, a blurry Emily-shaped figure was by his side. A hand rested hesitantly at his arm. The voice that followed confirmed his suspicions that the blurry Emily-shaped figure really was Emily.

"Wallis? How do you feel?"

Felix blinked groggily until Emily swam into focus. He was lying on his back on a settee, head elevated by several cushions. Emily knelt by the settee, concern written across her face. For a moment, Felix wondered why she was worried. And then he remembered standing on a roof and believing he would survive a nose-dive off the roof and being poisoned by a deadly poison. Which probably wasn't a poison after all, if he was still alive enough to suffer a pounding headache. He groaned, and covered his face with his hands. He now had empirical evidence that it was impossible to die from embarrassment. "Like an utter twit."

Emily smiled tiredly, some of the concern melting away. "If it's any consolation, you weren't the only one drugged. I seemed to have caught some of the residual drug from you. We think it washed off you and when I caught you, I ended up getting it over my hands. Probably absorbed it through my skin."

"...did you also try to leap off a roof?" More importantly, Felix seemed to be thinking, who was there to stop you from leaping off said roof?

"No," Emily patted his arm in reassurance. "I decided to test out my supposed immortality by asking the first person I laid eyes on to marry me."

Felix propped himself up on his elbows. "Who did you ask? Did he say yes?"

Emily raised her eyebrows, and when Felix's head swam from sitting up too quickly, she helped him back against the cushions. "You're missing the point, Wallis."

"Why is it," Felix sighed, slumping back into the cushions, "that we were both drugged with the same thing, and yet you went with a less dangerous method of testing out our madness?"

"Perhaps I have to be sensible enough for both of us."

Felix muttered something under his breath and Emily only heard the words 'brain cells' and 'common sense'.

"Or," Emily continued, "I received a lighter dose than you. I only got the residue you were already soaked in, after all."

Felix's eyes were closed again. "Was that supposed to make me feel better?"

"Does it?"

"Hm. A bit. Why am I so dizzy?"

Emily didn't answer immediately. "Did you know that Lingonberry carries tranquilisers about his person?"

"No, I didn't." Felix deigned to open one eye to glare balefully at Emily. "He allowed you to stab me with one of them?"

"He actively encouraged it."

Felix sighed in resignation. "Of course he did."

"To be fair he was a bit preoccupied with finding an antidote to Butler's serum of not-immortality. He didn't exactly have time for anything else."

"So have we been given the antidote, then?"

"No."

"And yet," Felix commented wryly, "I no longer feel the urge to stick my hand in open flame."

"We think it wore off. Took effect quite quickly, and wore off just as fast," Emily replied, then narrowed her eyes at Felix. Her gaze darted briefly to the lit fireplace. If it really came down to it, Emily believed she could wrestle him away from the fire. "You felt the urge to stick your hand in open flame?"

"Not anymore."

Emily snorted. It was an unladylike noise. "Good grief, Wallis. Are you certain you're feeling alright?"

"Nothing I can't sleep off."

Emily huffed a sigh, and made herself comfortable on the floor next to the settee. She turned her back to Felix and leaned against the settee. A moment later, soft fabric bundled at her back and she looked over her shoulder in time to see Felix draping a blanket around her.

"Wallis, those blankets are meant for you-"

"I have spares. Take this one."

"Thank you." Emily wrapped the blanket more securely around her shoulders. It smelled of cinnamon. Almost everything in the Thompsons' mansion smelled of cinnamon. "It was you, by the way."

"Me?" Felix sounded drowsy again. He was lying on his side, head pillowed on his own arm.

"I asked you to marry me."

"Oh. Oh." Felix cringed, now wide awake. "I'm so sorry Greene. I can't remember. What did I say to you?"

"You… you said the right thing." Emily tugged lightly at a loose thread on the blanket. "I think you don't remember and you were drugged out of your mind, but thank you all the same."

"Oh, no, what did I say?"

"You were… you were very…" Emily paused to think about it. "Well, you."

"Greene, that isn't reassuring in the least."

He'd told her she had pretty eyes. He'd said he wanted her to stay. Don't go anywhere, he had said. "What you said doesn't bear repeating."

"I was that awful?"

"Yes," Emily said seriously, then just as she could see the panic building in Felix's eyes, added cheerily, "you had no idea what metaphors were."

Felix managed to look both relieved and annoyed. "Oh, the horror. Did I mistake them for similes and shake the very foundation of education itself?"

"Go to sleep, Wallis."

CG

I was trying to make small talk by mentioning Magnolia Cottage, although now I understand that it is a failed effort.

Inspector Wallis wishes to tell you that he never thought you were brain dead, only mildly stupid. Granted, he was recently injected with a tranquiliser meant for horses but I believe he was mostly lucid when he made that observation.

Now that I have written that, I shall expect a most explosive reply from you. If you wish to continue this particular spat of yours with him, I suggest that you address such letters to him directly.

For my part, I must confess that I am relieved you did not sell all of RI to Mr Kley. I have only met the man once and I do not trust him at all.

If you thought brawling with a kelpie was inconceivable, then you are entirely unprepared for last night's events.

Sincerely,

EG

...

Whatever had been in that syringe had been particularly strong.

Throughout the entirety of the next morning, Felix remained groggy, only half aware of his surroundings. He was vaguely aware of being bundled back onto a train, bundled off the train, into a cab, out of a cab (presumably the same cab he'd entered) and then into the Brownstone. Arguably, it wasn't until late in the afternoon when he clambered out of his bed (which he did not recall falling into in the first place) that things snapped back in place.

He stumbled into the dining room to find Emily with a book laid out on the table in front of her. She held a notepad in one hand while the other tapped a pencil against her chin in a thoughtful rhythm. There was no tea in sight - the dining table had been taken over by several piles of paper.

"Oh, Wallis!" She brightened at his appearance. "You're up. How do you feel?"

"Much better. What happened to the dining table?"

"Lingonberry did. Or Mr Butler's research notes did. Well, technically not-Butler, if you want to be specific."

"Not-Butler?" Felix asked hesitantly. "Do we know for certain?"

Emily nodded, "Yes. Lingonberry saw fit to call upon Mr Butler's home while you and I were sent back here with Not-Butler's research. Do… do you recall any of that?"

"Somewhat," Felix admitted. He remembered returning to the Brownstone. He just didn't remember it well. "What did Lingonberry find out about Mr Butler?"

"Mr Butler has retired. Or rather, he sent a letter of resignation to the Thompsons a week ago."

"And I suppose it never arrived?"

"The Thompsons never received it. And when 'Mr Butler' arrived to work as usual, they thought nothing of it."

Felix scrutinised Emily. She seemed quite blase about the whole matter, but he would much rather know for certain. "What of the original Mr Butler, then? Is he alright?"

"Oh, he's perfectly fine." Emily moved the sheet of notes she'd been reading and added it to a growing stack of papers. She moved onto the next waiting page. "Did you know that apparently last night he was looking after his grandchildren?"

"I did not." Felix eyed the towering stack and wondered if he'd imagined the slight wobble. Mr Butler certainly seemed old enough to have grandchildren. "Then we were truly chasing after a shapeshifter last night?"

"Oh, definitely. I must admit I am relieved to learn that the Mr Butler we encountered was a fake. Both Mr and Mrs Thompson were quite upset at the thought of their faithful friend betraying them."

"Where is Lingonberry now?" Felix decided to err on the side of caution and carefully straightened the pile of papers.

Emily nodded her thanks. "Lingonberry is going over the Thompsons vault to make sure nothing else has gone missing. So far he's mentioned that the Cutlery of Certain Doom is gone."

"Certain Doom?"

"Anyone who's ever used it has died." Emily said flatly.

Felix was not impressed by this particular piece of news. "Allow me to hazard a guess - from old age?"

"Yes."

"So it's a regular set of cutlery."

"Yes. Quite a valuable set of silverware, I am told."

"Good grief," Felix sighed, and rubbed at his temples. "So our shapeshifter is a petty thief as well."

"Yes." Emily lowered her notebook. "Speaking of shapeshifters, I've had a thought."

"...yes?"

"Shapeshifters can only change their bodies, right? It doesn't extend to their clothing?"

"Well… I didn't think so. Why-?" Felix broke off. The butler had changed his appearance easily enough, and that included the clothing. In fact, the clothing had shifted as easily as his facial features. "Oh. Oh, no."

"Does that mean," Emily asked tentatively, the same way one might ask a question and hope for the answer to be a resounding 'no', "that during the whole time we chased him, he's been-?"

If it didn't mean permanent damage or certain death, Felix would have gladly scrubbed his brain with bleach. "Greene, do you really want to know the answer to that question?"

"Not really Wallis, but you must admit the question has occurred to you."

"It hadn't. Until you mentioned it."

"Sorry."

"If it makes you feel any better, I'll be sure to add public indecency to his list of charges."

Emily laughed a little hysterically. "I can't believe we chased a naked man across a rooftop and lost him."

A grin twitched at Felix's lips. "Not to mention he made his escape on a bicycle. While… er, well, you know."

Emily was not in possession of male anatomy. This did not stop her from wincing.

"I suppose I can be thankful for one thing." Felix continued.

Emily raised an eyebrow. "And what would that be?"

There was a glint of something mischievous in Felix's eyes, and Emily wasn't disappointed by his next statement.

"That we didn't have a tandem bicycle on hand. Then we would've chased naked man on a bicycle and lost him."

Emily managed to refrain from laughing. "Wallis."

When Emily had gathered her dignity about her again, Felix asked, "Have you eaten yet?"

"No," Emily shook her head. "Wallis, I- I think..."

Felix froze at her voice. There was no trace of the good humour just moments before. "Greene? Are you alright?"

Emily put down the notepad and pencil and clasped her hands together. "Wallis, may I speak plainly with you?"

It was a habit, Felix understood suddenly. Emily folded her hands together so she wouldn't fidget. He looked - took a closer look - at Emily, and saw the stiffness in the way she sat, the way her back was straight and unyielding.

Felix sat in the chair opposite to her. He rested his hands on the table, close enough to Emily's hands so that she could reach out if she wished to. "Of course, Greene. Is something the matter?"

"I-" Emily hesitated. "I have a craving for watermelon, and I hated that, so very much."

Felix blinked in confusion. Not that he was craving watermelon, but watermelons were generally nice. He hadn't been about to suggest that they have watermelon for a late lunch. He didn't think anyone could hate watermelons, and so he thought he had better be certain it was watermelons Emily was talking about. "Hated what, exactly?"

"Being stuck together with you. It was awful - that's not a reflection on your character, by the way. You're a perfectly wonderful person, if a bit… stiff."

Felix wondered if he ought to feel insulted anyway. "...thank you?"

"It almost felt like.." Emily trailed off, biting her lip. Felix waited patiently and after a moment, Emily continued. "I couldn't move, you couldn't move, and there was an awful whispery voice that I'm almost certain wasn't you."

"Well..."

Emily looked at Felix in alarm. "Oh, good heavens! It was you? That's what you sound like?"

"No, no!" Felix protested. "That wasn't why I- I thought- I heard the same voice. I thought I imagined it."

Emily shifted uncomfortably in her chair. "What are the chances of both of us imagining that voice?"

"Not very likely."

"...so was it from your brain or mine?"

"I think either of those answers would be equally unflattering," Felix managed diplomatically, and when Emily gave him a wry look, he added, "and I have no idea which one of us it came from."

Emily swallowed nervously. She started to wring her hands together. "Wallis. You… you don't think it's possible..."

"Greene?" Felix placed his hands over hers.

Emily stopped wringing her hands and grasped onto his tightly. "You don't think it's possible that Blight's still in me, do you?"

Blight's gone, Felix wanted to say, but then Emily continued on.

"I didn't even want watermelon before we merged. Did you want watermelon?"

Felix thought back to the night they broke into Oakston Museum. He had been more anxious than anything else. "Not particularly."

"Oh, good lord," Emily said in a horrified whisper. "I didn't want watermelon either. That wasn't either one of us, then."

"So there's something hidden in one of our minds, it has a raspy voice and wants watermelon." Felix rose to his feet, Emily's hands still in his. "Perhaps we can remedy one of those issues ourselves before we take it to Lingonberry. Come with me to the marketplace?"

"Wallis," Emily almost looked a little bemused, "this is hardly a joking matter."

"I am not joking. I believe the marketplace may still be open. If we hurry," Felix added as he glanced at the grandfather clock, "we might still make it."

"Ah, Felix, Emily, I wasn't expecting you both to be still awake at- is that watermelon?"

"Yes." Felix offered the plate of watermelon slices to Lingonberry. "Would you care for any?"

"Ooh! Thank you kindly. Now, what did you want to see me about?"

"Not that we're doubting your abilities to create miracles while under pressure," Felix began, "but can you be absolutely certain that you've removed Blight from all of us?"

"Blight? You mean that hive mind plant a while back?" Lingonberry asked between bites of his watermelon. "Of course I am certain. Why do you ask?"

Emily glanced at Felix. Felix made a sort of well-go-on-then gesture. Emily decided it wasn't worth the effort of giving Felix a no-you-tell-him look. "We're hearing voices."

Lingonberry blinked. He lowered his slice of watermelon, and glanced about the attic quickly, as if he was searching for something hefty to use as a weapon. "Oh. I see. And, ah, what exactly are they telling you to do?"

"I- stop looking at us like that," Felix snapped. "Not the sort of voice that tells us to do horrible things. Maybe."

"We don't hear it anymore," Emily clarified, before Lingonberry could press the point. Or pick up the nearby ladle and use it for unintended purposes (causing bodily harm). "It was earlier, back when Wallis and I were fused together. I could hear Wallis. Wallis could hear me. And there was a third voice. Do you know what it might have been, then, if it wasn't Blight?"

At this, Lingonberry became remarkably less worried. He shrugged. "I have no idea."

Felix regarded Lingonberry suspiciously. "Truly?"

"I wouldn't lie to you about this. Come to think of it, I don't think I've lied to you about anything."

"Unless you believe us to be dangerous."

Lingonberry nodded and took another bite of his watermelon. "Exactly."

Felix and Emily shared another glance, and came to the decision that if someone was willingingly eating watermelon they'd brought after learning about hearing a third mysterious voice, that someone probably really believed they weren't dangerous.

"I really have no idea why there is a third voice," Lingonberry continued thoughtfully. "You two are the only pair who've been melded together for longer than five minutes - that I know of. I don't have a lot of knowledge in this area. Maybe hearing a third voice is normal, for all I know."

Lingonberry glanced down at the slice of watermelon in his hand. "Is that why you went and got yourselves watermelon? Because the third voice demanded it?"

"Well," Emily admitted, "yes. But it didn't say anything. It was more of a leftover feeling."

"Fascinating. I should really take notes," Lingonberry muttered. He added, a little louder, "I don't believe this is anything to worry about, especially if either of you haven't heard the voice since you split. This watermelon's quite delicious, by the way."

For a moment, all was quiet, save for the sound of contemplative chewing.

"You know, I think that third voice of yours might've been onto something."

EG STOP

WHAT HAPPENED STOP

CG STOP

CG STOP

EVIL BUTLER ESCAPED STOP

EG STOP

EG

Alas, you accuse me of being a poor correspondent. You do realise that 'evil butler escaped' explains very little of your situation? And for your information, evil butlers escaping is a lot more believable than fighting a kelpie.

I will assume that you are both alive and well, especially if the inspector was well enough to insult my intelligence in your previous missive, and you well enough to transcribe it.

Yours truly,

CG

...

CG STOP

ASSUMED CORRECTLY STOP

MOSTLY STOP

TEA NEXT WEEK AT BSTONE QUERY

EG STOP

EG STOP

TEA AT MY OFFICE IN OSTON STOP

NEXT TUESDAY STOP

CG STOP


AN: Aaaand that's about it for now. Until next time.

UP NEXT: Felix is roped into attending the local theatre with Lingonberry. Emily visits Calvin for tea. Tremors have terribly good timing. And by terribly good we really mean bloody awful.