Snowflakes drift in lazy circle in the air and only are disturbed from their descent from the skies by the flutter of the breeze. From a distance, Big Ben chimes the hour of three. Horses neigh while their hooves clatter on London's streets. Cars hum and beep their way through traffic. All matter of people strolls and runs on the streets. Either they linger in the December air or they rush with the excitement of the holidays.

Perhaps the most striking of this collection is a blond-haired girl decked from head to toe in pink: Elizabeth Ethel Cordelia Milford. Her waist long hair is up in two big dills except for a slightly curled cowlick that hangs beside her right eye. A pink, headband peeks from beneath her hat with a pink bow the dominate feature of the accessory. Glittering in the young woman's ears are golden earrings with a teardrop sapphire in the center of the gold.

"Snow makes everything look so cute!" squeals Elizabeth. Her green eyes shine with joy. She holds her gloved hands out and watches several snowflakes drift into her hands. The fact the crystallized ice melts into small water dots on her gloves does not diminish the blond-haired girl's delight.

"My lady, we should be making our way back."

Elizabeth turns from her study of the snow to a woman several inches taller, who has pale skin and deep brown eyes. A black hat sits on top of her long brown hair. Over the woman's burgundy dress and white apron is a brown coat while over her hands are black gloves. Elizabeth pouts cutely.

"Paula, it's still light out," exclaims the young woman. She points to the sun that is low and approaching the horizon. "There're plenty of shops we haven't stopped at."

"You're expected home at 5:30 for dinner," Paula protests. "If we're late, I'll be scolded."

Elizabeth makes a face before a sigh escapes. "Just one more shop, please, Paula," pleads Elizabeth, making big puppy eyes at her maid.

Paula hesitates at the expression of her mistress. A heavy sigh leaves her, making her shoulders slump.

"One," Paula agrees. "Which one do you wish to stop at?"

Elizabeth puts a finger on her chin, frowning. She looks around the streets. Her face lights up.

"So, cute!" Elizabeth declares before she flies across the street.

Paula gasps at her mistress' dash, but the young lady seems to have a second nature at weaving through the traffic. Relief makes Paula smile briefly before she hurries across when she spots a break in traffic. Elizabeth stands with her hands pressed against the glass. Displayed in the window is a handsome boy's set of clothing in midnight blue.

"Cute!" exclaims Elizabeth. "Ceil would look adorable! Let's buy it before the shop closes!"

"But my lady, Lord Phanthomhive has been gone from his manor for five years," protests Paula. "It would not make sense to buy it."

Elizabeth freezes with her hand on the door knob. Her face falls from happy to sad. She releases the door knob slowly and steps back.

"Oh…I'm sorry…I didn't mean to upset you," stammers Paula.

Elizabeth turns to her maid, smiling sadly. "I know you didn't. It wouldn't be in you. It's just… It's just that I want to make Ceil cute when he comes back. I want to be ready."

Paula is silent for a moment before she takes a deep breath. "My lady… Your father and mother have been looking at other families for eligible matches. If they are looking, then they must think—"

"No! I won't believe Ceil would break our engagement!" Elizabeth declares. "We've been engaged since we were babies."

"But no one has seen or heard from him, not even his staff. Perhaps you should consider other options. I want you to be happy, my lady," Paula tells her mistress.

"Then something must have happened to Ceil." Elizabeth says. "I'll find him myself if I must."

"Excuse me, young ladies," a wheezing voice speaks from behind them.

The young women turn. An elderly man with a wispy beard stands leaning heavily on a cane. He stands just outside of the alleyway between the two buildings. Half-moon glasses highlight his watery gray eyes and perch on his crooked nose. His entire is entirely black except for a red handkerchief in his breast pocket.

"I couldn't help but overhear your conversation," the elderly man continues speaking. He reveals very small teeth with the slightest hint of fangs at his canines. "I might be of some service to find your missing fiancé."

"Who are you?" asks Paula, stepping to shield Elizabeth from the man.

Elizabeth steps around Paula, asking earnestly, "Can you? How?"

"I'm Mr. Vile Price, a peddler of special books," the man answers with a slight bow.

"Special books? How can books help?" asks Elizabeth, frowning.

Vile reaches into his jacket and produces two pocket sized books.

"I'm picky of who I show my merchandise to, but I have a feeling that you're a special person, Lady Elizabeth Ethel Cordelia Milford."

"You know me? How?" The blond-haired lady inquires, puzzled.

Wheezing laughter escapes Vile.

"A peddler always picks up odds and ends in the streets," proclaims the elderly man. He displays the two pocket sized books. One of the books is black with a red pentagram on it. The other book is gray with a black pentagram. Vile continues speaking, "If you follow the directions in one of these books, you'll acquire the services of an extraordinary servant that can do anything your heart desires."

"But I have Paula."

"Has your Paula found your missing fiancé?"

"No but that's because…"

"She's your personal maid, which I'm sure she does her duty well enough," Vile answers carelessly with a dismissive wave of his cane in the air. The peddler lowers his cane to lean on it. He holds the books up, stating, "Following the directions correctly, before you will appear a servant capable of searching the ends of the earth and the realms above and below for your missing loved one."

Elizabeth mulls over the man's words. "What's the difference between the books?"

"My lady, you're not—"

"There are certain classes of servants," Vile cuts in. He fans out the black book, saying, "This is the greater version of service that costs 200 pounds." The elderly man's fingers switch his grip to make the gray book the dominate one in his hand, adding, "This is the lesser class of servants for 100 pounds. I take it you're interested in one of my wares, Lady Milford?"

"Paula, what do we have left?" asks Elizabeth, turning to the older woman.

"85 pounds."

"That's not enough, I'm afraid," Vile says. He puts away the black book with the red pentagram away. He pauses from putting away the gray book with the black pentagram away, remarking, "Unless the lady can offer up something to cover for the remaining 15 pounds."

Elizabeth perks up before she reaches to her ears where her earrings wink in the fading light. She hesitates before she resolutely takes her earrings out of her ears.

"My lady, those were from—"

"Mr. Price, would these cover the remaining expense?" Elizabeth inquires, holding forward the earrings for his inspection. He bends over to inspect the earrings, his crooked nose nearly brushing Elizabeth's gloved hands.

"They'll suffice for the lesser services book," Vile answers, straightening up. He switches the earrings from Elizabeth's hands to replace it with the gray book. The elderly man holds out his hand. "The remaining 85 pounds if you please, Miss Paula."

"My lady, is this what you want?" asks Paula, looking at her young mistress.

"If I can find Ceil and bring him home, then it's worth every single shilling," Elizabeth states firmly.

"I don't know if this is a good idea. Your father will scold you if he finds out you made this purchase."

With nothing in addition other than a sigh, Paula produces a bag. The money clinks inside the bag when Paula hands it to Vile. Both the bag and earrings disappear swiftly into the pockets of the elderly man.

"A word of advice," the elderly man says, shifting on his cane. "If you wish to get your servant to start your search quickly, you better read the book this evening. There is a particular time you can get the best the book has to offer."


"Read the book," Vile answers. He bows, saying, "Good day, Lady Milford, Miss Paula."

Turning, Vile walks into the alleyway, seemingly fading into the darkness.

To Be Continued…