Many thanks to LaCorelli, my wonderful, beautiful wife for her help with this. I could not have done it without you, sweetheart.
A Trip through the Looking Glass
Amanda King sat in a small room with a file folder on the table in front of her, brow furrowed trying to concentrate. Outside, Lee stared at her for a moment before turning to the man at his side.
"You do realize that despite her security clearance and her involvement in the Mongoose case, she doesn't have any training in this kind of thing, don't you?"
"It doesn't really matter at this point. The man's brain is scrambled and getting worse, and we've already had trained experts in. Hell, you know we've got the expert here, and he's the one who requested your Mrs. King. And don't kid me, Stetson; I know your gang likes their secrets, but I've got connections of my own, and I know your agency isn't the only one using her talents, though I swear all of you keep your opinions close to your chest, but I do know one man with UNIT who was willing to admit to her being useful at Bromfield Hall."
"What?" Lee exclaimed.
The commissioner waved a hand. "Fine. Keep your secrets, but the important point is that time is running out on this case, Mr. Stetson; we're down to desperate measures, and well, he believes she's got a chance to succeed where the others failed, and I'm not in a position to argue."
"I still don't like it," Lee said. "The man is dangerous and deranged, and you're planning on putting her in there alone with him."
"We'll be right outside."
"And right outside may not be close enough if he goes off."
"Violence isn't really his forte," the older man said. "He's a neurophysicist not a thug. Mind-control is his thing; after all, the reason we're in this mess is that he scrambled his brain with his own equipment. "
"That's not exactly reassuring; a woman is missing because of him," Lee said. "Do you really think Lily Quenton's still alive?"
"We still have hope."
"What is her connection to him anyway?"
"None that we know of."
"Then why did he take her?"
The commissioner sighed deeply. "The man is insane. He doesn't need a reason."
The overhead lamp highlighted the silvery strands of his unkempt hair and deepened the lines of his furrowed brow. He kept his narrow eyed gaze fixed blankly on the floor seemingly oblivious to her presence.
Amanda stood by the door for a moment before making her way to the table and settling into the chair at the far end across from him. She cleared her throat nervously. "Uh… hello," she said. "My name is Amanda King."
He remained silent and motionless.
Gingerly, she sat in the chair at the opposite end of the table. "Mr. Tetsch?" she said just above a whisper.
The response was subtle but dramatic. He raised his head and looked at her with his wide, bloodshot eyes. He half smiled as he said, "Oh... oh my... you know me. You remember me. I am flattered, your Majesty."
Amanda looked at him carefully; clearly he was either confusing her with someone else or he was taking her name as a title. It would be wise to figure out which. After all, she knew he was obsessed with the works of Lewis Carrol, and in his scrambled mind he could be retreating to the worlds of Alice. She was glad that she knew the books so well from her childhood, to the point that she felt that her current life was sometimes a trip through the looking glass to a warped world where a housewife turned spy. But in any event she must be careful when dealing with this man, not too bold until she could start to understand where he was coming from. So cautiously she said, "Oh, there's no reason to call me that. The name may be King, but I'm not really royalty, Mr. Tetsch."
"Oh my, oh my. A queen a king, a king a queen!" He looked over at the one-way mirror and then back to Amanda. "How curious, your majesty. I don't know which side of the looking glass this is." His smile dissolved and he began to wring his hands nervously.
Looking glass? Amanda thought and then looked down at her white outfit. Could he think I'm the White Queen? Pulling together her memories of Through the Looking-Glass, Amanda said, "To be honest, I'm not sure either, though I used to be able to believe six impossible things before breakfast."
He seemed to relax a bit, but only a little. "I dare say you still could, your Majesty. I know you used to practice a half-hour each day. Yes, yes, you are a queen who could be a king."
"And you are the king's messenger," Amanda said slowly. "Aren't you, Mr. Tetsch?"
Smoothly, he eased his chair back and stood. Smiling, he bowed with a flourish of his hand. "Hatta, messenger of the White King, at your service, your Majesty." His look then became serious. He moved across the narrow room to stand in front of the mirror. Slowly, he moved a hand over the mirror, just above the surface, seemingly taking care to not touch it. "Tetsch? Tetsch? I... I... yes, yes... I think so. Yes. But only on this side of the glass."
Another turn, he was sinking further into the Looking Glass World where he had another name. "Of course," she said quickly. "Sometimes I forget which side of the glass I'm on. Sometimes I get all turned around. However, I need your help to unconfuse a confusion." It wasn't really from the books, but it seemed the best thing to say.
"I am, as always, pleased to be of service."
"And I am in need of your services," Amanda said, trying to find the right way through this conversation.
Tetsch walked back over to the table where he stood next to his chair and smiled expectantly at Amanda. "By your leave, Majesty?"
"Oh, of course," she said, catching on to his meaning, "be seated."
He sat. After a moment, he straightened, adjusted his collar, brushed off the lapels of his coat, and set his intertwined fingers on the table. Tetsch tilted his head slightly, clearly waiting for her to speak.
Amanda drew a deep breath, which she hoped didn't seem too nervous. "My kitten. My imperial kitten. I don't know where my Lily is."
"Oh," Tetsch breathed. "Oh... oh my, oh my, oh my, oh my." He pulled his hands back to his lap. "Lily. I... I... I remember... something... .yes, something about... Lily." Slowly, he rocked back and forth back and forth. He closed his eyes and breathed uneasily through clenched teeth. "There was... something... something about Lily."
Amanda eased her chair closer. "Something? What something?" she asked gently. "What something, Hatta?"
"Oh dear oh dear oh dear." He opened his eyes and, without warning, tears began streaming down his face. "Something about Lily. Something... something that happened. Something," he looked squarely into Amanda's eyes,"something I've done."
Amanda tried to think. This was a topsy-turvy world she was navigating through. "You know that things that are done can be undone and some things don't have to be done at all."
"Done, done, and done. Something I've done. Something I haven't done. Something I will do. Done and done. Oh, Majesty! I know... I know there was something... something I was to tell you. Tell you about Lily. Your kitten... your kitten."
"Done and done," he kept mumbling over and over.
Still unsure of what to do, Amanda did the only thing that seemed right. She slid over a little closer and placed a hand on Tetsch's arm. "Hatta, do you know where Lily is? I would so like to see her."
Tetsch pursed his lips and shut his eyes tightly. "Done and done. Something I've done. Somewhere, Lily is somewhere. I... I... I know, but I can't remember. Oh, Majesty!" He cried harder. "I am so befuddled! Poor Lily. Something I've done. How to undo what I've done when I can't remember what I've done. What I haven't done. What I will do." Tetsch looked imploringly at Amanda. "What will I do?"
Amanda closed her eyes for a moment to gather her thoughts. She felt she was close to finding the right path. She hoped she was at least. Opening her eyes, she looked at Tetsch. "Well, you don't have to do what you haven't done yet, if only you can tell me where Lily is. You know things go backwards for me; perhaps if you go backwards too, we can go forward and find her then."
"Backwards? We can go backwards? Undone and undone? What I haven't done!" Tetsch smiled warmly, hopefully. "Through the looking glass, Majesty? Undone and undone?"
"Undone and undone," Amanda replied.
"Oh, Majesty! Your kitten. Your Lily. I know. I do know where your Lily is, but I can't remember. Can't remember where she is. I know that I can't remember, and I can't remember what I know. Oh dear, oh dear, it is a poor sort of memory that only works backwards and poorer still when it won't work at all," he said, some anxiety creeping back into his voice.
"It's all right," Amanda said reassuringly. "Living backwards always makes one a little giddy at first. But the great advantage is that one's memory works both ways. What sort of things do you remember best?"
Tetsch's eyes darted over the table as if hoping something would appear. After what seemed like a long time, he looked back to Amanda. "The fish," he mumbled.
"The fish and the dish. I remember the fish. The fish I caught."
Oh, of course, Majesty. That is always first. First the fish must be caught. That is easy: a baby, I think could have caught it."
"And the fish must be bought," Amanda said, recognizing the White Queen's riddle, hoping she could remember at least enough of it.
"That is easy," Tetsch continued, "a penny, I think, would have bought it."
"Now cook me the fish," Amanda said coaxingly.
"That is easy, and will not take more than a minute. Let it lie in a dish! That is easy because it already is in it." Tetsch became more and more animated, speaking faster and louder. "Bring it here! Let me sup!"
Amanda joined him in reciting it.
"It is easy to set such a dish on the table," they went on together, "take the dish-cover up. Ah, THAT is so hard that I fear I'm unable! For it holds like glue, holds the lid to the dish, while it lies in the middle. Which is easiest to do, un-dish-cover the fish, or dishcover the riddle?"
"Hatta? Where is Lily?"
"Don't you see, Majesty? She is on the dish."
"Un-dish-cover the fish! Dish-cover the riddle! Lily is on the dish! Undone and undone! What I haven't done!"
Lee had been having a hard time keeping still behind the mirror. What were they thinking letting Amanda in with a man who'd scrambled his own brains. Besides no matter what they thought, she didn't have the experience, and frankly he was starting to worry about the number of people who assumed she knew more than she did. Yes, it was useful, but it was also dangerous, like now.
It didn't help that the ridiculous brooding character in the corner just stood there quietly watching Amanda's interrogation without saying a word. Hell, Lee wasn't even sure he was breathing.
Things didn't get better as he watched Amanda exchanging nonsensical lines with the prisoner. It was clear the commissioner had no more idea than he did if Amanda was getting anywhere with the prisoner. They exchanged a confused glance as Amanda and Tetsch started quoting some riddle together. The "undones" and "dish-covers" were making his head hurt. He was about to insist on going in when the shadow in the background finally spoke.
"That's it, Commissioner."
"Send your men to Pearl Moving & Storage Facility, Unit 106."
The door creaked open and in stepped Gordon. He looked from Tetsch to Amanda. "We have it."
"Oh, I see. Good." She started to get up but sat back down. "Hatta..."
"Undone and undone?" Tetsch smiled but it was a sad smile.
"Undone and undone," Amanda said softly. "Thank you, Hatta. Thank you for helping me find Lily."
Tetsch's gaze shifted to where Gordon stood. "They are still coming. They are still coming for me, aren't they, Majesty? What I've done. They will take me away, won't they?"
"What I've done," he murmured resignedly. "They won't hurt me, will they, Majesty?"
"No, Hatta." Amanda looked sternly at Gordon and then to the mirror. "They won't." There was no mistaking that she telling them all they had better not.
Tetsch stood and moved behind Amanda to hold her chair for her as she rose to go. "Goodbye, Majesty."
"Goodbye, Hatta." She had hardly placed a hand on the door when Tetsch called out to her.
"Thank you for believing in me, Majesty."
"Of course. After all, you believed in me first."
Amanda stepped out of the interrogation room. Once the door closed behind her, she let out a tense breath.
Lee quickly moved over to her side. "Are you okay, Amanda?"
"Oh, yes. I'm fine."
"That was some impressive work, Mrs. King," Gordon smiled warmly, clearly impressed.
"You actually know where Lily is?" Amanda asked.
"We'll see in a few minutes," Gordon replied. "We have men moving to her supposed location right now."
"Where is that?"
"It's a place on the west side of town," Gordon looked down at the notepad where he had hastily written the information, "Pearl Moving and Storage, he told us to look in Unit 106."
"Now hold on a minute," Lee interjected. "That makes no sense. I listened to every cockamamie word that came out of that character's mouth and your man..."
"He is not my man," Gordon bristled slightly.
"I'm supposed to believe that he figured out the place based on what that guy said in there? How exactly...," his voiced trailed off as he looked to the now empty corner. All three looked around but he was gone. "How did he do that?"
"Do you mean the solution or the disappearing act?" Gordon asked, somewhat amused by Lee's befuddlement.
"I get it!" Amanda exclaimed.
"You do?" Lee asked incredulously.
"It isn't so hard once you know the answer to the riddle. It's an oyster."
The two men exchanged confused looks.
"Don't you see?", Amanda continued, looking from one to the other. "A baby can pick one up from an oyster bed, a penny is about what one would have cost when Lewis Carroll lived, it cooks quickly, it lies in its own dish, it is easily placed on the table, but the 'dish-cover' is hard to raise because it is held to the dish by the oyster in the middle."
"And pearls are found in oysters," Gordon added, realization dawning. "But what about Unit 106?"
"Those are the numbers on the Mad Hatter's hat. It's the price tag, ten shillings and six pence."
"That's crazy!" Lee exclaimed.
"That's brilliant!" Gordon chimed. "Absolutely amazing, Mrs. King. That was really something."
"Oh, it was something all right," Lee said impatiently. As they walked toward the door, he looked back over his shoulder to see a couple of men handcuffing Tetsch and escorting him out. I don't know exactly what, but it was something.
The hotel elevator finally stopped at their floor. It had been a long, quiet ride and Lee and Amanda both sighed with relief when the doors opened. Lee motioned for Amanda to go first. She smiled and nodded her thanks.
Slowly, they made their way down the hall to their rooms. At length, Lee broke the silence. "Long day, huh?"
"What? Oh... yes. Very," she replied, keeping her gaze straight ahead.
"Going to be a long one tomorrow," he continued awkwardly.
"At least now we can get some rest."
"I certainly hope so."
They stopped near the end of the hallway. "Well... this is me," Amanda said, indicating the door behind her.
"And this is me," Lee said, pointing to the door directly across from hers.
"Anyway... I'll see you in the morning."
"Yeah, see you in the morning." Amanda inserted her key, opened the door, and stepped inside. "Good night," she said and went to close the door.
"Amanda," Lee exclaimed.
"Today... the whole thing with Tetsch... that was a pretty good job."
"Thank you." Amanda looked away for a moment, genuinely embarrassed.
"I... just wanted to tell you that, and..." Lee said hesitantly.
"And... good night, Amanda."
"Good night, Lee." She closed the door, set the chain, and made her way to the sitting room of her suite. She sank into one of the plush chairs, kicked off her shoes, and, for a few minutes, she closed her eyes and listened to the distant sounds of the city far below. Here in the stillness of her room, everything that had happened that day played out again and again in her mind. It seemed strangely unreal and yet it was true.
She rose and crossed the room to the balcony and pushed the curtains wide open. She slid one of the doors back and stepped out to the rail. Below her, the city glittered. Skyscrapers stood like towers of light in a maze of streets. Again, she closed her eyes, enjoying the cool wind.
"We found Lily."
Amanda started at the deep voice behind her. She spun round and there, only a few feet away, was Batman. "Oh my," she breathed. I'll never get used to men appearing out of nowhere.
"I thought you would want to know." His voice was matter of fact.
"Yes, yes, thank you, yes," she half-stammered. She looked at him, expecting him to say something else, but he didn't. He made Lee look positively chatty in comparison. "You knew where I was staying?"
Batman's eyes narrowed ever so slightly.
"I mean, of course you would know. I mean, you are... uh... is she okay?"
"She's shaken up but she'll be all right, eventually."
"And what about Mr. Tetsch?"
"What about him?"
"Is he going to be all right?" Amanda asked.
"He'll get the medical attention he needs," Batman replied flatly.
"That's not exactly what I meant."
"No. I didn't think so." Batman glided over to the railing of the balcony. For a moment, he looked out over the city in silence. "I don't know," he finally said without looking back. "I don't think anyone does."
"I suppose not." Amanda said, looking away uncomfortably. "I just hope... ," she started but her words failed when she looked back and saw empty space where he had been only a moment ago. She looked about the balcony, all up and down the side of the building, and lastly, over the rail into empty darkness below. Like a phantom, he'd simply vanished.
"Oh my gosh."
To be concluded...