“Oh yeah,” said Arnulf. “Riiiight,” said Cloudius. “I was the one who was listening at the door,” said Tom. Eva just mraowed.
“You heard it again,” said Daphne.
“Of course I heard it again,” said Angelica; Natalie said, “We heard it this time.”
“Where—?” several of the teenagers began.
“I’m telling you, okay?” said Angelica. “We weren’t even in the basement.”
“We were on the roof, actually,” said Rachel. “Well, they were,” said Natalie.
“We were cleaning up in the Illusions lab,” said Angelica. “Professor Shag and one of the third years had to go down to the cellar to put some equipment back. It was Barney, Barnaby Rundke.”
“He’s a sleaze,” said Pinhead.
“He’s just good at illusions,” said Angelica. “And he was clearly under a gag order from Shag. They didn’t say a thing after they got back, but Shag gave Barney about three Serious Looks and then sent him off to help Donati do filing.”
“And Shag?” asked Daphne.
“He creeps me out,” said Pinhead.
“Shag was really happy with himself,” said Natalie. “He got rid of ol’ Barney and he was all humming as he cleaned flasks and stuff.”
“I heard him burst out laughing over by the sink,” said Ange. “He was talking to himself and shaking his head and laughing. Then we saw MacMorris walk by in the hall on the second floor. Real fast. He went through the maintenance door at the far end.”
“Which locks automatically,” said Cloudius. “I tried it before.”
“Not if you catch it before it closes,” said Natalie. “They don’t call them sneakers for nothing.”
“And MacMorris didn’t notice?” asked Cloudius.
“No, he was far too interested in getting onto the roof as fast as he could. We had a chance to weave an illusion of emptiness. Shag would have been proud, except that he was on the other access stair, also listening in.”
“So, do you know what a Deep Voice looks like?” asked Daphne.
“No,” said Angelica. “But it sure is Deep. I mean, air, you’d think it’d be a freakin’ angel, but it’s not.”
“A spirit of Air,” said Ahir. “A djinni perhaps.”
“Do you have them in Iran?” asked Cloudius.
“In the south, but they infest Saudi Arabia.”
“So do they talk about debts and promises and stuff a lot?” asked Angelica. “Because this one really had a thing about debts and promises.”
“What do you mean you couldn’t see it?” asked Daphne.
“We couldn’t see it,” said Angelica. The other two nodded. “We could see MacMorris’s back but there were obstructions and things, and I couldn’t tell where the voice was coming from.”
“So let’s see what we’ve got,” said Arnulf. “It wants its debt repaid, it wants to talk on the roof this time, it could make itself unseen, Mac hurried to meet it; what did he say to it?”
“They argued. Just like before,” said Angelica. “Except for one thing.”
“Which was?” asked Daphne, after Angelica and Natalie grinned for just one second too long.
“It wasn’t real,” said Angelica. “It was just Shag tossing illusions.”
“What the? This was all Shag’s hoax on Mac? The whole Deep Voice thing—?”
“No, no,” said Natalie. Angelica said, “That wouldn’t make sense anyway. Mac had to be afraid of the Deep Voice to begin with.”
“So what did it say?” asked Arnulf.
“Oh,” said Natalie, “it was all vague and all about how Mac had failed and he’d better find another method of payment or he’d get to meet worse than he knew. ‘It’ll be worse than you can possibly know,’ those were its exact words. It said possibly exactly the way Shag does.”
“He was saying those exact words,” said Angelica. “Over by the sink. And barely containing himself.”
“And MacMorris didn’t realize it was him?” asked Tom.
“Shag didn’t push it,” said Natalie. “He made a few vague threats and cheesed it. He was all, ‘You do not know what you’re getting into,’ and then he said he’d be hearing from higher ups and he vanished in a lovely Peabody swirl.”
“A what?” asked Pinhead.
“Peabody swirl,” said Jen Chang. “It’s named for Ariel Peabody, she was Director of Illusions for the Smithsonian in like 1870. It’s, like, this spiral thing.”
“He glinted wonderfully,” said Natalie. “It was all I saw of the Deep Voice. A burst of swirling diamonds, but just enough like sand to be sand. Shag’s a pro.”
“Uh, hey,” said Arnulf. “Is anyone worried about this at all?”
“That Shag knows MacMorris’s relationship to the Deep Guy well enough to use it against him? He’s getting some kind of revenge, or maybe he’s just trying to blackmail MacMorris for his own fun and profit, but if Shag knows—?”
“And what happens,” asked Daphne, “when the real Deep Voice shows up?”
“Well, it goes to show,” came Anne Ash’s voice from down the stairs, “that certain people bear watching.” The kids in the hall pushed into Tom’s room, and the mistress, flanked by her cat Kenneth and the house ghost, filled the door. “And clearly some of the best watchers are here. Goodness knows many of you bear watching.”