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The Anomaly: Part Five


by jokerhahaazzz

--------

It finally occurred to Lisha as they were making their way across the cold grey fields in the carriage, on the way to Mr. Daley’s house. She glanced over at Lockwood; he was sitting lazily, coldly amused across from her with his impeccable black suit and white cravat, not a hair out of place, looking as he always did. It was confirmation enough for her.

     “I understand!” she exclaimed aloud.

     “May we turn around, then?” her companion replied rather acidly.

     “Oh, no – I don’t meant about that. I mean about you. At least I think I do – no, I am sure I do, at least partially.”

     “How enlightening.”

     “Ah! You are not even curious.” And this, she realized, was perfectly true; he had none of that interest which she herself would have been unable to hide. She knew that Lockwood was generally uninquisitive, but he was also intensely selfish – and in any case this was more than a lack of curiosity; it was a fixed determination to be totally uninterested.

     “You know,” she persisted, “I was honestly convinced that you were simply too arrogant and indolent to bother yourself about this case. I assumed that it was not grand enough for your taste.”

     “I see you have given this a great deal of thought. How flattering!”

     “Then I realized that I had been mistaken. It isn’t really anything to do with the magic that you don’t like, is it? I think it is Mr. Daley himself who does not appeal to you.”

     “That is not very extraordinary. I do not imagine that Mr. Daley has appealed to anybody in the whole course of his life.”

     “Perhaps not,” she conceded, “but you had a special reason for disliking him, didn’t you?”

     Lockwood simply stared back at her, daring her to proceed.

     Lisha did not altogether like his look, but she felt a peculiar sense of triumph at having caught him at a disadvantage, and in any case there was no point in stopping now. “I think it was simply the fact that he was connected to your family at all. I knew you must have some sort of ulterior motive when I considered the fact that you had certainly read this book.” She set Magic by Andoren delicately upright on her lap. “I of all people ought to know that you can’t keep your hands off a book of magic! Once I realized that you must have known all along, it was really quite clear that you were actively opposing any sort of solution.”

     “Perhaps you believe that I remember every word I read?” he asked sneeringly. “I assure you I have never given that much thought to Henry Daley, now or in the past. You attribute to me charming qualities which are not mine.”

     “Oh, you may not have actively remembered, but I am quite sure it should have occurred to you to look there. Small wonder! You dislike your cousin, you dislike your house (beautiful as it is, and it really is beautiful), you don’t even like your first name! I can’t help but remember how odd you were when I first asked you what it was. You were also unaccountably annoyed when you discovered that we were coming to Knightfield, which I have never once heard you mention – that or, for that matter, your parents or your childhood...”

     “This is marvelous evidence that you have compiled, although I confess I am not sure to what end – pray tell me, have you any more?”

     “One thing. I may have heard about the earldom, but since I have known you I am certain the subject has never crossed your lips. I hardly think modesty prevents you! In short, I am not at all surprised at your disinterest in finding out what happened to Mr. Daley. And what is more,” she added, reverting to a subject upon which she was extremely clear, “I think it’s incredibly selfish of you.”

     “And I am not surprised by your momentous discovery.”

     “Because I am right. You must admit it, Lockwood.”

     “Because you are wrong. You have systematically misread my character from the moment we met, and I can hardly expect you to stop now.”

     Even Lisha was obliged to admit that there was some truth to this – and yet she believed in spite of it that she was correct, for there was a certain flat irritation in Lockwood’s manner which indicated quite clearly that she had struck a nerve.

     “I am right,” she repeated, settling back into her seat.

     “As far as I can tell, you cannot possibly be right about anything, for you have asserted nothing. What, precisely, is your point?”

     “That is for you to answer. Maybe you’re hiding something.”

     “What could I possibly have to hide? In any case,” he resumed, unruffled once again, “I have never heard you mention your family, your childhood or your hometown either. Perhaps we are plotting something very sinister together.”

     This rendered Lisha rather thoughtful, and as to the why of Lockwood’s behavior, she had no answer. She rather felt it to be true, than had any reason to believe it. As she pondered it over the remaining minutes of their trip, she at last decided that Lockwood found anything connected with his family disagreeable for the very reason he had given her the day before: he did not like to be tied unconditionally to anything at all. It did not quite satisfy her, but it would simply have to do.

     ***

     Mr. Daley was most remarkably pleased to see them both, and found himself very sadly caught between professions of his gratitude and offers of tea.

     Lisha stole a glance at Lockwood and came to the conclusion that it was unsafe to trust him to act. Therefore she spoke herself: “If you don’t mind, Mr. Daley, we would like to speak to you alone.”

     “Of course!” the Kacheek exclaimed. “Naturally! I am so very honored – nothing could be more agreeable to me! Oh, you are all kindness; come into my humble study here; -”

     They followed him into a lavish, cluttered study full of trinkets and mirrors (and very few books) and the housekeeper reluctantly turned away from what promised to be an interesting encounter, to attend to her dusting.

     Lockwood removed his coat. “Sit down, Mr. Daley.”

     Mr. Daley sat immediately, startled to silence by his tone. For a moment Lisha thought that Lockwood was angrier than he had seemed, and that he intended to take it out on their subject; then she realized that, wishing to get it over with, he was simply behaving in the most efficient manner possible. Her estimation of his merits perhaps heightened by her recent diatribe on faults, she was slightly ashamed of having suspected him of any such sentiment. If Lockwood had a shining virtue it was his temper – she had never known him to lose it, and had a presentiment she never would. Nor had he ever, even during the peak of her hatred, appeared inclined to resent her for her pointed dislike. Lisha did not regret speaking as she had, but she was determined to keep herself in the right and to do him justice.

     Conveying her sentiments through a brief, anxious smile, Lisha handed Lockwood the book of magic and took the less agreeable explanations upon herself. “Since you claim your innocence, we would like to help you prove it. If you will consent to a few simple spells, we should be able to do it quite quickly.”

     “Well,” Mr. Daley replied in agitation, beginning to stand up again, “I am not altogether certain – that is, I most humbly flattered and honored by your attentions, Lady Borodere, Mr. Lockwood, but I am rather – I do not know what I think about this. Could you not simply have a word with His Majesty –”

     He managed to proceed no farther, however, for at that moment he quite suddenly froze.

     “That is terrible misuse of sorcery,” Lisha said reprovingly. Lockwood, studying Magic by Andoren, only arched an eyebrow in vague, sarcastic amusement.

     “It really is,” she muttered, half-inclined to pursue the matter; after a moment, however, she was comforted by the idea that this was all for Mr. Daley’s own good. “Do you see how to do it?”

     “That is a question I cannot answer until something goes catastrophically wrong. Shall we begin?”

     “Yes,” she said a little nervously. In truth she much preferred the theory of magic to the practice, and this was quite unlike anything she had done before. She also had a niggling feeling that if this were to go wrong, the results would be truly disastrous.

     Lockwood, in no mood which might incline him to dawdle over particulars, began their work. If he performed his part correctly, the possessing spirit would theoretically be brought before them – that was where the difficulties would really begin. It was his personal opinion that anybody who wished to invade the mind of Henry Daley would be totally beyond the reach of any sane persuasion.

     Lisha shivered as he started, and reached rather daringly for Lockwood’s exquisitely tailored overcoat. He only spared a moment to glare at her, with a cordial, “I was going to use that.”

     “I thought you loved the cold,” she retorted.

     “I despise the cold,” he replied acidly, somehow contriving to keep one eye on the spell book as he looked up at her. “Your interruptions inspire great joy in me, but I am afraid they are also slightly counterproductive.”

     Lisha was silenced as much by a certain sense of shame as by a desire to see the magic completed; she was perfectly aware that she should be doing this instead of him. She told herself that it would be a learning experience for Lockwood, but even she was not convinced. Her innate fairness inquired why she should be labeled his teacher, and her innate stubbornness could supply no answer...

     Lost in her thoughts, it took her a moment to notice that something had happened; and that was, that a small fire faerie had appeared before them and was hovering there with strikingly apparent aggravation.

     “What do you want?” the faerie cried shrilly, crossing her arms and looking murderously at each of them in turn.

     Lockwood exchanged a somewhat doubtful glance with Lisha, then shrugged and replied. “You could do worse than a precise account of what you are doing with Henry Daley.”

     “Oh! That stupid little Kacheek! Surely two sorcerers like you are not interested in him!”

     “Humor us,” Lockwood suggested coldly. Truthfully, he found himself oddly taken aback – as though, after all their pains, he had never really expected to discover anything at all (particularly such a very vocal anything).

     The faerie regarded them warily as though estimating their abilities. “Well, why not? I have nothing to be ashamed of. I meant to get back at that horrible earl, and I did it too. He was very rude to me, you know – of all the arrogant, heartless Lockwoods the absolute worst, as befits his rank I suppose! – and then as I was sitting on a lamp post trying to think how to pay him back for it, I espied this pitiful little creature” – gesturing carelessly toward the still-motionless Mr. Daley – “and decided I would take it upon myself to do the world two favors simultaneously.”

     Lisha could not restrain a smile at the mention of Lockwood’s family, reflecting that the faerie could not possibly realize who he was; but, as he did not appear inclined to set the faerie straight, she determined not to interfere.

     “And that was that, really. I slipped into this idiot’s mind, which was almost frighteningly easy, and we went to the honored Earl of Harcourt. I did him a favor – it was undoubtedly the most inventive day of his life! I imagine it is the only noteworthy thing he has ever done. The burden was all on me, for I assure you that inhabiting his thoughts was quite disgusting.”

     “Why didn’t you – er – slip into the Earl’s mind, instead?” Lisha interjected. “It seems as though that would be been simpler, and you might have avoided getting an innocent third party into a lot of trouble.”

     The faerie did not seem to follow this; evidently it had never occurred to her to consider Mr. Daley’s side of it. “An earl is much too important – the greater faeries would have been after me in no time. Besides, I was quite pleased to hear that this one would hang for it.”

     “Well, he won’t,” said Lisha with a certain degree of triumph. “You may be sure of that. You should be grateful that we discovered the truth before that happened; you would have had an innocent man’s life on your conscience forever!”

     The faerie laughed, mystified. “As to all that, I am not quite sure what you mean. But I’m certain you will agree that it was all very good fun.”

     “No!” snapped Lisha. “No, I won’t! How you can be so thoughtless is entirely beyond me!”

     Lockwood, with a sigh, removed from the desk a jar being used to hold several wilting flowers. He turned it upside down to spill the water on the floor and caught the small fire faerie with it quite neatly.

     She beat furiously against the glass with her fists and shouted something indistinguishable as she was set down on an end table.

     “Shall we go?” Lockwood proposed calmly.

     “Yes,” Lisha agreed. “Let’s. But what should we do with her?”

     “Oh! let the housekeeper decide.”

     With that they exited the house, Lockwood’s coat having been restored to its rightful owner. They were silent for some minutes. The weather had taken a sudden and quite delightful turn, as though aiming specifically to please them, and the winter sun presented Knightfield at its most appealing.

     “You know,” Lisha remarked pensively, after a short while, “I can’t help feeling that that was rather anticlimactic.”

     “A great deal more climactic than it deserved, I assure you. We would have done far better to let the whole affair alone from the start.”

     She cleared her throat. “You did a good job with the magic. And I’m sorry I was so... critical, earlier.”

     “I am quite used to your being critical; it would alarm me to be addressed in any other fashion.”

     “I am not always - !” she began indignantly, then shook her head and smiled. “I suppose being critical and hot-tempered runs in my family, just as arrogance and heartlessness runs in yours.”

     “I will deprive you of that excuse,” replied Lockwood, “by asserting that Jeran is neither.”

     “And Cecilia certainly isn’t arrogant or heartless – Harlan,” she added wickedly. “I can call you that now, then, since you claim you have no aversion to it?”

     “I would prefer it if you did not,” he said rather hastily. “In the meantime, now that this little anomaly is cleared up, we may return to Meridell Castle in time for New Year’s Eve.”

     “You don’t celebrate holidays,” scoffed Lisha.

     Lockwood, meanwhile, found himself in remarkably good humor. As they walked together from the carriage to his house, where a loving sister no doubt sat waiting, he felt a surge of goodwill toward Lisha and the world in general. And it occurred to him to ponder something else.

     “I wonder,” he said slowly, “how one goes about entering somebody else’s mind...”

The End

 
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Other Episodes


» The Anomaly: Part One
» The Anomaly: Part Two
» The Anomaly: Part Three
» The Anomaly: Part Four



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