46: The Reclusive Writer
“Well, you see, I was wondering if, perhaps, you might have spoken to Mr Orpheus regarding his remote viewing capabilities yet. It’s just, there’s a chance he used them to eavesdrop on a debriefing last night, and I was thinking to myself that such an ability would absolutely one-hundred percent support our efforts to expose the powers behind this egregious facility.”
Shelley could feel Alonie freeze at the mention of astral projection (or ‘remote viewing’, as Phoenix labelled it—why did she always have to enforce her own silly names on things?). “I haven’t,” she replied. “We—we’re not on good terms.”
“So I’ve heard,” said Phoenix, fixing Shelley with a scowl. “Well, if you’re unwilling to put aside your differences, I can at least ask how your own remote viewing abilities fare, yes? Am I correct in assuming that it allows you to visit locations of your choice in an out-of-body fashion?”
Shelley realised that she was, inadvertently, clutching Denny’s spoon as if it were a knife. “It’s complicated,” she replied. Too bloody complicated fer someone like you tae understand, that’s fer bloody sure!
Past Phoenix’s shoulder, Alonie stumbled towards the stairs. Phoenix, catching Shelley’s gaze, noticed a second too late to stop her.
“Really,” she said, turning back to Shelley, “this whole establishment is under the thrall of a fiendish organisation, so could you at least take things a little more seriously, please?”
Maybe ye should send someone out tae play some more card games or something. Shelley mumbled an apology. At least we dinnae go round acting like we’re chiefs of bloody Seelie!
“Good, then you will consider speaking with Mr Orpheus, yes?”
Phoenix sighed. “I guess that’s the most I can ask for, isn’t it? Very well, then. Thank you for your time, Ms Eoghan, but I’m afraid I have an operation to oversee and can’t dally. We shall speak later, yes?”
Not bloody likely!
After Phoenix took her leave (finally!), Shelley gathered her things and made for her room. As expected, Alonie had already locked herself away in her own.
“It’s a bloody nightmare,” she said to nobody at all. “A real bloody nightmare.”
Sitting down on the edge of her bed, she pulled out a piece of folded paper from her coat pocket. The paper itself had seen better days, but the picture was as clear as it had ever been. Carved from the wild strokes of a practised hand, the image of the black beast looked back at her and, as Shelley closed her eyes and calmed her breathing, she could almost see him there, standing in front of her, twin tails swishing in the perpetual dusk.
Almost, that was, until she could. Until she was there.
Dante Orpheus, curled up in the chair by the fire, looked up from his drawing board with a frown. “You shouldn’t make fun of them,” he said. “You never know when they might catch up with you.”
“Dinnae worry about me,” said Shelley, balancing her latest story on her knee. “Me mam’ll sort ‘em out if they try anything.”
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In earlier drafts, this chapter was entirely made up of flashbacks. In others, it was written as a first-person diary. It’s been through a lot!