“Will it help?” That was sigh-worthy, so she did sigh. “I don’t know, not about the long run,” Senga admitted. “In the short run, what it’s done is, uh. You saw.”
“Mistress everything,” Chitter agreed. “He’s like — he’s like some sort of puppet or something. Like he’s pulling his own strings.” Chitter wrinkled her nose. “I don’t like it.”
“I don’t either.” Senga took her friend’s arm and led her down the stairs, whispering softly. “I don’t want to talk about it where he might overhear, okay? Because it might make it worse. And I don’t want to talk about it where anyone else can overhear, because it might give them something-”
“Geeze, what, do you think I’m an amateur? I’m offended, Senga.” Chitter wrinkled her nose up at Senga. “Come on, ‘no eavesdroppers’ was like the first Working I learned. Did you really think I wasn’t going to use it everywhere around this place, with the creepy butler and — hey, why didn’t you quiz the maids?”
“They’re…” Senga stumbled. “Shit. I should have quizzed the maids. It’s just, uh.”
“They helped raise you, when you were a baby, didn’t they? But it’s not like uh. It’s not like the butler guy didn’t do the same thing, and you—” Chitter looked at her wide-eyed. “Oh. You didn’t. So why didn’t Erramun quiz the maids?”
“That’s a very good question. Maybe he is waiting to sneak up on them unawares. I mean — did I just say ‘unawares?’”
“Are you reading mystery novels again? Because you know that makes you see crazy men in rubber masks everywhere we go.”
“No, Chit, that was you.” Nobody else could get away with calling Chitter Chit. Ezer had almost lost his nose to it once. But Senga and Chitter went way back, more than the rest of the crew did. “Remember, after that cartoon marathon…?”
“Yeah, well, you read all those mysteries, and you remember what happened then.”
“We actually found out who was behind…. Chitter.” She stopped on the bottom step of the grand staircase. “Someone murdered my great-aunt.”
“Well, yeah? She was dead, right? Fae don’t just uh, fall over. And you checked to be sure she was really dead, right? That’s just Cartoon HIjinx 101.”
“I checked. I did check. And so did Erramun and — you knew my aunt was murdered?”
“Well, I figured, yeah. I mean, like I said. We’re fae. We don’t really drop dead from old age; okay, I’ve heard of three cases of that, but that means that that’s the exception that proves the rule,” she flapped her hands. “So the point is, I figured you were processing. I mean, she was — is, let’s be honest,” she thumped the railing “– she’s a huge part of your life. I mean. She killed your parents. She kept you safe. We know all this. So I figured you just needed some time to chew on it before you really accepted it. Grieving and all.”
“…Oh.” Senga tried to work her mind around that. Had she been – had she been even thinking about the whole thing? People trying to kill her, yest, but that was nearly comforting and familiar in her line of work. Generally, it meant they were getting close to something interesting. “I… guess I was having trouble processing it.”
“Well, to be fair, you also moved back into your childhood home and… got a boyfriend? A new pet? What is even the way to say that? I mean…” Chitter shook her head so much her whole body shook. “A new guy, either way. So there has to be uh, a little bit of a distraction going on. Anyway. Someone murdered your great-aunt.”
“They did. They killed her. And they very well might have uh. They might have gotten something in her will.”
“Considering it really looks like she likes attaching strings to everything, I kinda hope they did. Something with a caveat like ‘if you killed me, this will blow up horribly and you will never know why.'”
“Chitter, have I told you recently that you are a dangerous woman?”
“Not in at least the last week. So, come on.” Chitter took Senga’s hand. “Pizza. Come on. It’s in a not-entirely-fancy dining room and everything and Ezer already has paper spread out all over the place. It’ll be just like home.”
“Ha.” Senga shook her head. “All right. Here we go. ‘Just Like Home.'”
She remembered the informal dining room, or, at least, her feet did, although it took far fewer steps than the last time she’d been here. She remembered the table, and the place where she had accidentally broken a table leg while riding on her tricycle around the downstairs.
She remembered the way her father had spoken to her, calm and soft, and shown her the magic that mended the table leg.
She remembered him showing her a Working that would make her tricycle have a “bumper” of air in front of it so that she wouldn’t break any more legs, table or family or anyone else.
She blinked her eyes, pushing away tears that she did not want to deal with, not now. Not in front of everyone, not-
The smell of pizza and wings assaulted her nose. Senga caught her breath and straightened herself up.