Crouching back down next to the Toby, who was selflessly offering his tummy up for scritches, Wood tilted his head to continue talking to Joseph. “He’s a sweet little guy. How old is he?”
Joseph, clearly amused at Toby’s shameless behavior, stood next to Wood. “I’m not sure, Toby was full-grown when he adopted me.”
“I’ve two of my own, Bert and Ernie.”
“Do they follow you around? Toby’s my personal shadow.”
Stopping the hysterical giggle threatening to escape me by biting down on it. I watched two pivotal pieces of my life that I’d always presumed would remain poles apart make banal chitchat over another impossible thing.
If I find four more before breakfast, I’ll tie the White Queen’s record.
The stray thought stole the breath from my lungs.
Can you imagine seeing six impossible things before breakfast? My paradigms feel fractured at a mere two.
Pulling up the cuff of my coat to expose my watch face, I nearly wept when it read half-past one. It’s a brand new day that makes my next meal breakfast. I don’t care if I’m still stuffed to the gills from our moon bathing nibbles, we’re hitting The Alter for coffee and danishes.
This madness must end.
Glancing blankly up at the sound of my name, I did my best impression of Dickens. “Huh?”
Wood, placing the back of his hand against my forehead for a second, caught me up to speed. “Joseph asked if I could watch Toby while he spoke to you in private for a minute. I said it’s fine with me if it’s fine with you.”
Giving him a reassuring smile, “Yeah, sorry, it’s okay. He’s the guy I came here to talk to tonight.”
Nodding, we both watched Joseph issue Toby his marching orders, “This will take a few minutes. Please stay here with Dourwood.” At Toby’s yip of agreement, Joseph turned to me, I shot Wood a quick smile, and then he and I wordlessly headed towards the back of the Manor and out of earshot.
Sinking onto the top step, resting my elbows on my knees, I watched Wood and Toby dash amongst the rose beds having a grand old time together.
Joseph has a dog.
Clearly not the most spectacular gap in my knowledge about the man, but I found it unsettling all the same.
“So Nevermore has four-legged Residents?”
“Not Residents, Resident. Toby’s unique in Nevermore though that might change with the pet cemetery annex.”
“Any other Residents I’ve not met yet?”
Glancing over my shoulder, I saw his poker face in place. “More than one but less than twenty?”
Knowing that was the best I was going to get, I moved on. “HOW is Wood playing fetch with a Resident?”
“Just a trick, Toby learned.”
“What like rolling over?”
Chuckling at my sarcasm. “Toby knows that one as well.”
“Can other Residents perform this ‘trick’?”
Joseph shook his head. “No, just Toby.”
“Okay, then how are you doing it?”
Joseph gave me a little shrug and a maddening sphinx-like smile.
Rotating my head slowly, stretching out the tight muscles in my neck, I vacillated between wanting to flick him in the forehead and cutting loose a mammoth-sized sigh. Sensing my perturbation, he swept both unhelpful impulses aside by slipping a thick leather-bound book onto my lap.
“A copy of the Conventions as requested.”
“Are you sure?”
Joseph laughed at my disbelief.
“Yes, I’m sure.”
“You realize it looks nothing like any other copy I’ve ever laid eyes on.”
Cracking the spine, I carefully leafed past the endpapers to the cursive filled first page. Sadly, the poor lighting on the porch and the slant of the handwriting made it difficult to decipher on the spot.
I have a feeling this book could benefit from an index.
“Do you think it will help Nevermore?”
“No idea, but it stands to reason if both my and Ira’s copies went walkabout there’s something salient inside. Speaking of walkabouts, Orin’s Errant….” Letting the impossible issues drop, as I’d learned a clam has looser lips than Joseph, I filled him in on Abraham’s antics, intelligence, and our plans.
His face didn’t turn grave until the protests came up.
Of course, he knew of them, they’re literally on Nevermore’s doorstep. However, he’d been unaware of the extent of unrest Little Ben’s plans had churned up in Rye. “The silver lining in all this bad press and protests is they work in our favor. Not only are they pointing out what Nevermore would lose with the demolition and deforestation, but they will also cause delays.”
Staring up at the stars, he quietly asked, “Does everything rest on finding Big Ben?”
“Not everything…Okay, everything.” Stroking the leather book sitting in my lap. “I’ll find a Plan B.”
“I know you will try Phoebe.”
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