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3.

“I’m just wondering,” Lilah said to Marius after they left the other three and the cat in the front office on the excuse of making up a room for Lady Lucy, “why this is our case.”

“Why—?” Marius started. “I thought—! Well, Lilah, let me ask you what you think happened.”

“I think something got screwed up. I think there was a miscommunication or something. Maybe she got the coordinates wrong. There’s a million ways she could’ve got lost. This isn’t like that guy Naro kidnaping four-year-olds and growing them into his teenage concubines and then dumping them when they get pregnant.”

“No,” said Marius. “And I suppose it’s possible you’re right about how Lucy came loose from Endewith, though I hardly think it the most likely explanation. But supposing she can’t find her way back there because it isn’t there anymore.”

“But how could it not be there anymore? We are talking about a whole dang universe here.”

“I know. With perhaps millions of people. More than millions. An entire future.”

Lilah looked at him blankly. Finally she said, “But that would be murder.” Marius smiled. “Okay,” she said, “there you are.”

“There you are.”

“There I am,” said Lilah. “Okay, got a bed-making spell, or—?”

“Oh, for gosh sakes, let’s just make the bed,” said Marius, tossing the uncased pillows on the floor.

They returned to the front office, where Rob and Annelise were ironing out timing details with Lucy. Marius ordered dinner, and presently they were spelling back the table and setting it with fish and chips. A white wine flowed, dry as the desert. Discussion descended, or ascended, from the case at hand to the newest currents in alchemy, the history of Olvar, and speculation over what seas the fish had swum, and what soils the chips had grown in. Lucy excused herself to use the bathroom, and when she returned, the three detectives were laughing at a story from Marius about his school years.

“So we got punished, again,” he was saying. “Because we didn’t see the point of making a perfect potion for diluting dragon breath. And of course none of us showed proper respect for our robes. One does not feel the need to cut a fine figure in a pointy hat, in this day and age. I ask you! When my schoolmasters were young enchanters and enchantresses, they went about with people who wore chain mail. I’ve never seen anyone wearing chain mail who wasn’t in a play. At least I was still of the generation that felt the need to have a wand and a backup wand and a backup to the backup wand, and another wand that had been through the wars and was the worse for the experience, but which one actually used most of the time. Unlike,” and he smiled at Lilah, who rolled her eyes.

“You use a wand, Robert?” she asked.

“Sometimes,” said Rob. “I know you don’t.” He looked up at Lucy.

“I’m sorry to interrupt,” she said. “It was most amusing listening.” She came and sat back down, and picked up her wine. They were all smiling at her. “Ah,” she said, “I do not use a wand. I suppose it’s the alchemist, stirring and pouring and always needing an extra hand, or perhaps it is the influence of my druid friends. Could that be?”

“Or maybe,” said Rob, “you’re just modern, like Ms. Bay.”

“Of course my husband has to have his wand,” said Lucy. “It’s in his pocket, in his cape, in his sleeve, it’s never far from him, you would think he fought constantly, he was under constant attack, but of course we live very peaceful lives.” She took a drink. “Be honest with me,” she choked out, “was someone trying to get Henry? Is that what this is?”

After a moment, Lilah asked, “Why would you think that?”

“Oh,” said Lucy, taken aback, “I really don’t have any reason to imagine Henry would be in any trouble like that. I just—!”

“All right, all right,” said Lilah. “Forget it for now.” She finished her wine. “Mr. Marius, should we order up dessert and coffee?”

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