Whispers in the Dark
Regardless of what anyone says, the bumblebee is by no means inferior to the greatly-treasured honeybee. Of course, it's a well-known fact that the latter's ability to make the most delicious honey in existence may give it a small plus on the invisible scale of the animal kingdom, but even so, that does not mean that the bumblebee, regardless of its tendency to get itself into trouble and make a mess out of things, doesn't have its own 'plusses'.
But for some reason, nobody seems to notice these things.
"Come on, Mr. Bumbles! We can't keep them waiting too long!"
For starters, one may notice how dreadfully territorial they can be. Trespass on their land and they would be just as dangerous as a full-grown raccoon. Most would simply jump to the conclusion that they were 'born that way', which in all honestly wouldn't be a false statement, but it was not necessarily the fact that they were territorial that made them so, but because they were loyal.
"To the park? Are you sure?"
Yes, though unknown by most, bumblebees are very loyal creatures. For their queen and clan they would do absolutely anything, even give their life if the need would arise. 'Protect your family and protect your queen, avenge thy brother's death or may death conquer you' was their saying. But still, one would be wrong to think that they would be loyal only to their own kin.
In short: you can think of bumblebees as the 'dogs' of the insect world … or occasionally the mouse one.
"Well, can't say it's quite what I was expecting, but I guess it's better than an old, dark, damp sewer pipe. One time was good enough for me."
Letting out a puff of hot air, Thinker looked around. Snow was covering most of what lay around them, including trees and bushes that still had a few brown leafs stuck to their branches; and what it didn't then ice did. How the little mouse the bee was now hovering over managed to talk it into going on with this plan was beyond its comprehension. Bees simply dreaded cold, but then if this was 'better' (and Thinker would wager her wings that somehow the kid wasn't exaggerating) then Thinker could do nothing more then nod in agreement.
"Well Mr. Bumbles" said Olivia, folding the map she had inspected only moments earlier "we best get going now. Basil and Dr. Dawson are most certainly waiting for us."
That Thinker doubted with all its heart.
The little girl - whose name Thinker believed was 'Olivia' - apparently had some sort of rescue plan all set to save the two older mice (well, the girl wasn't listening so when could it tell her that the doctor was already saved?). It was a simple enough one: sneak into the 'cellars', spring them out and be back home in time for tea… A very simple plan...
But it was also a stupid plan - and childish, very childish in fact… but "stupid" was still the best word to describe it. "Suicidal" would be another, but that would be a little too pessimistic.
As it listened to the little girl chatter on about one thing or another, Thinker could not stop remembering what Fat Mouse said when he found Thinker contemplating on a flower now a few days ago. He said that he knew the perfect new 'queen' for Thinker - a lady who would be acting so much like a man that most would talk to her as such. All Thinker had to do was to take care of her.
Well, it sounded as a good enough deal at the time – at least it would have a home to spend the winter - but Thinker had no idea what it was getting itself into.
The beginning of it all was… eventful, and one cannot say that they had started on the right foot. Said lady whom everyone was calling Basil didn't seem to like Thinker in the slightest, but Thinker had a job to do and was determined to do it. But since the bumblebee luck is worldly famous for being nonexistent, nothing worth mentioning came out of that… Ok, maybe a near heart-attack on Basil's part and other life-threatening complications, but other than that …
The wind picked up then and neither Thinker nor young Olivia were able to surpass a shiver. Winter had come too fast, and nobody was prepared for it, least of all a small child and a little bee. But Olivia was doing a very fine job trying to convince Thinker otherwise.
"This weather is horrible, Mr. Bumbles, and it seems to be getting colder and colder… but don't threat. I've come prepared!" Olivia cried out as she pulled out something from one of her ridiculously big coat pockets. It was a piece of… was that wool? Well, to Thinker, it looked like it, or at least it looked warm. "Here, you put this on, Mr. Bumbles. It will keep you warm." And with that, she practically smothered poor Thinker with it. The intention was well off… the method on the other hand, was brutal. And now Thinker looked like some miniature poodle!
Well … at least it could still fly. And Thinker had to admit that it did feel warmer.
"There, wouldn't want my partner to catch a cold now, could we?" Olivia said while blowing steam into her freezing paws. "It's been awfully cold last night and I doubt that big old rat would have made Basil and Dr. Dawson too comfortable … " for a moment, the little girl's eyes darkened, as if some unpleasant memory had suddenly emerged in that head of hers, but it was only for a moment. "Now, let's go save them!" and with that, the little girl was off… in the wrong direction.
Thinker shook its head. How could someone be so naïve? Well, at least nothing bad could happen while they were still in the park, right?
"Oh, dear me, kind sir! You are simply too much for me!" Thinker frowned. That was not Olivia. Curious, she looked around and eventually its eyes found two figures walking hand in hand down a narrow path. Apparently, said figures were mice, a boy and a girl from what Thinker could see. The girl looked nice… but he didn't quite like the boy. To the eye, he did not look unordinary, but Thinker had a feeling. There was something there, something Thinker felt on that squirrel's visit from yesterday that made all its instincts scream for caution.
Thinker looked down towards where Olivia had vanished before hiding underneath the frozen leafs of a nearby bush and waited.
"Why do you say so, my dear?" the man asked the girl in a teasing tone. "You know very well that my heart belongs to you, so naturally I would like if you would do me the honor of trusting me with yours."
A giggle came from the girl as she tried to break out of his grasp in a childish fashion. "Yes, but never have I thought that you would mean it quite so literally."
"My dear lady! You must know that by now all I say is to be taken quite literally." There was something in that statement that made Thinker anxious. There was something wrong here, something very wrong indeed.
Said lady seemed to have similar feelings. "Nobody takes everything literally all the time, Alfred." She said, trying to put on a smile as she continued her attempt to get out of his grasp.
The man smiled. "I feel that you shiver. I believed that living with that baker would make you feel warm wherever you went." The woman did not appear to like how things were going. She started getting more nervous and more frightened with each passing moment.
"Life with John is a hard one, Alfred. It makes me resistant to hard work, but never have I heard that life with a baker would keep one warm no matter the weather."
From its place among the frozen leafs, Thinker simply sat and watched with huge, unbelieving eyes. This was certainly not like with the squirrel. Thinker was just contemplating on leaving when a drop of water hit her on the nose. On instinct, the bee looked up, and was amazed on what it saw.
The ice on the leafs was melting, so was the snow around the two mice. Also, the air had become unnaturally stuffy, especially for this weather. Now even more edgy then before, Thinker turned its attention back to the couple only to find the same kind of despair on the girl's features. The man, on the other hand, appeared quite at ease and maybe even a bit cheerful at the whole scene. Almost humming, he slowly pulled a knife out of his inner pocket with his free hand, twirled it a bit in his fingers then looked at the girl.
"Has anyone told you before that you have a most wonderful shade of green in your eyes?" At the hearing of those words, Thinker wished for nothing more than to flee, to be as far away from this place as possible, but somehow, it found that its wings couldn't move.
"A-Alfred?" the woman, now a step away from hysteria, practically screeched. At her frightened tone, the man laughed – a hard, menacing and practically-unearthly laugh. Then he turned back to the girl with a maniacal smile on his face: "Oh, don't get too frightened, girl. I wouldn't want you to overburden my heart before I tear it out of your chest. You were serious about it belonging to me, right?" The man twirled the knife between his fingers and then slashed it towards the girl so fast it just seemed like the girl's sleeve tore open because of the pressure of the blood spurting out of the slash along the girl's left arm. "The pain should kick in right about…"
The girl screamed, but the man swung the blade out towards the girl with frightening speed and the scream was abruptly cut short. "Oh, sorry, were those your vocal cords? I was aiming for the jugular." Thinker sprinted from its hiding place, then few as fast as her tiny wings could carry it. The sound of the unearthly voice cackling while using the sharp knife with the ease of a professional spurred it into a mindless run for her life. The last it heard before knocking into Olivia was a strange, crackling sound. As if something was burning.
"Mr. Bumbles!" Olivia cried out, taken by surprise as the bee hid under her cap. "What has gotten into you? And did you hear that?"
Hear it? Thinker all but witnessed it!
"It sounded like a scream. Maybe someone is in trouble."
Thinker did not know those small wings of hers could support both her and a child mouse for five minutes straight. Still, that thought had crossed the bee's mind only after they had landed in the snow next to the riverbank, for until then, all Thinker could think of was the fact that that male mouse had glowing red eyes, and he had stabbed that lady without the slightest sign of remorse.
"Wow, Mr. Bumbles…" Olivia said, frozen in place. "You are one strong bee, you are… even if you don't really look like one. All full of surprises. Just like Basil's full of surprises." She attempted to get up then, but found her legs to be too uncooperative at the moment, so she decided to just lay there, her upper body propped on her elbows, breathing rather heavily. "I hope he's all-right. Last time Ratigan came very close to killing him and the doctor. But then Basil did something and the whole plan back-fired! You should have seen it, Mr. Bumbles! Basil was simply outstanding! Got himself free with the smallest of efforts! Though Dr. Dawson did give him the proper motivation, or so I guess… you see, I was stuck in a bottle and couldn't quite hear what they were saying."
Thinker looked at the little girl. They were in the park, lying in the snow, a murderer close by and on their way to rescue Basil from a very big rat that tried to murder her … and this girl was contemplating on past events? Could the situation get any stranger?
The confusion must have been evident on the bee's features for Olivia almost immediately started giggling. "No, Mr. Bumbles, I'm not mad quite yet. And I know perfectly well what we're getting ourselves into."
That Thinker doubted even more.
Suddenly, Olivia's face hardened, much to Thinker's further confusion. For a moment, Thinker feared that the murderer had somehow found them, but that wasn't the case (Thank the lord). Olivia was looking rather intently at something in the snow. The bee tried to see what it was, but all it could find were some small dots here and there.
In an instant, Olivia pulled out Basil's magnifying glass and scrambled to those 'dots'. What she was seeing and Thinker didn't, Thinker didn't know, but it must be something very interesting if this girl was peering at them so … Basil-like.
"Mr. Bumbles … do you know what these are?" Thinker shook its head. "These are spider marks. I know because one almost ate me once – so I've done quite a bit of reading on them." Thinker didn't know if it was more surprised because this child knew how do identify spider tracks… or because she claimed she could read…
"Aha!" The girl cried, jumping to her feet. "I knew it! These, Mr. Bumbles, are the tracks of a nuctenea umbratica, or more commonly known as an evening spider." She pointed to a set of tracks. "And these here –" she pointed towards another set of tracks ... which – to Thinker – looked somewhat bigger the then others "– belong to a brachypelma smithi, or to a creature we all know as: a tarantula! And look at this!" She zoomed a few feet further away. "These tracks here show that the spiders were going in this direction, almost like they has a purpose in their wondering, but these here –" She stopped to point "– show that they stopped. Something stopped them dead in their tracks …. And judging by their other tracks they seem to have become undecided. See here? They actually split up over here." She ran back over to Thinker. "Do you know what this means Mr. Bumbles?"
Thinker shook its head – very slowly.
"It means that we need to be more cautious from now on. Evening spiders are quite harmless, but tarantulas are dangerous. I hear that they eat mice!" Incredible… "And what's more – before the spiders became confused, they were heading towards our destination." Even more so … "But don't worry, Mr. Bumbles. I know what we must do now!" Really? "It will be a minor setback on our initial plan, but it will hardly matter. The result will be the same. But first, we need to see if we can find some wasps you can make friends with."
Olivia could just as well have sprung another head and Thinker would still be less surprised then she was in that moment.
"Trust me, Mr. Bumbles. I know what I am doing here." That's what worried Thinker. "I read in Dr. Dawson's stories that Basil does these things all the time. And if he can do it, then so can we." What was with the 'we'? "But now come. We're on a rescue mission, after all, and as Basil likes to say: the game is still afoot!"
Thinker shook her head, but all the same could not help smiling at the little girl's enthusiasm. She was as mad as a hatter, that she was, and if it didn't know any better it would actually go on and say that this girl was actually related to Basil. That was not quite the most reassuring thought in the world, but hey, a bee couldn't be picky concerning one's hive. Thinker only hoped that the older mouse wouldn't suffer a heart attack upon discovering who the 'rescue team' was.
Irony of the situation though: that was exactly what she was feeling at the moment.
"Curse this retched body of mine…" muttered one Basil of Baker street as the pain in her left arm and torso finally gave away. It had been odd, to say the least, how just as her escort had left the room she felt as if a knife was being trusted into her chest with her left arm starting to burn with pain as well. In a moment of pure panic, she was certain that that was exactly what it was. Still, when the pain began to lessen, she found that there was nothing there to cause such pain. Thinking the matter over, she almost could still detect no reason for pain. For one brief moment, she thought that maybe her heart was finally failing her – stress and a dive in freezing water can do that to a mouse – but then immediately banished the idea. This was not how a heart attack was supposed to feel. Well, she supposed that this was not how a heart attack was supposed to feel. If anything, this was just a sign that she did catch something in her dip in the lake and that she needed to take it easy for a while. Yes, that was all. Nothing else.
But even so, the timing was just perfect.
"Why does it always seem to let me down in the worst of times?" Naturally, nobody was there to answer her question, which in itself proved to be rather odd as well. Where was Thinker? She remembered asking that pesky bee to remain here… Oh! That lizard was saying something about a "killer bee" being after him when she ran out of Ratigan's rooms. The silly fool – he most probably gave the bee a greater fright then her Thinker could ever give him.
… Did she just refer to the bee as "her Thinker"?
Simply marvelous! The insect was starting to grow on her! And now that she finally stopped finding it overly impossible to live with, it goes and vanishes just like that. Up until now she had done all that stood in her power to keep it away from her and now when it was finally out of her fur she goes and misses it. Wasn't life simply magnificent?
"Life is a very bitter, my dear. It will try to hit you with its worse, and hit you it shall – but you must always rise again despite the pain. People come and people go, that is but one of life's greatest hits. That is why you must remember never to take anyone or anything for granted…" Brother Myerricroft's words echoed in her mind, as clear as they had done now almost thirteen years ago. He was right of course. Brother Myerricroft was always right. But then, why did it still hurt whenever she…
NO! This was not the time to go there! Memories were of no use to her now! She had to keep focused.
"'Tective?" a small voice came from the doorway, dragging her from her thoughts. Upon turning to the source of said voice, she noticed it to be a boy: a small bat with a bandage covering his right eye. It was a scrawny little thing, much like most of the less fortunate children of London, but unlike most of those less fortunate children, Basil knew this one. This boy was the thief that tried to steal Clawes' wallet the other day.
"Boss said you's has to eat this." He said simply, placing a tray of food on the floor then taking a few steps back. For the longest of time, Basil merely stared at the fellow. What was Ratigan playing at?
"Where's Fidget?" she asked at last, her tone demanding. The boy was fidgeting.
"Boss gave him a job. I's taking over." That much was obvious. "Boss said I's gotta guard ya', feed ya' …" his stomach growled. "And take care of ya' till cousin Fidget's back." Basil raised an eyebrow. This was interesting.
She moved closer to the tray and took a good look at what lay on it: two loafs of bread, some cheese, a bowl of pea soup and a glass of water. It was a modest meal - one fit for a prisoner – but even if that soup looked ever so tempting, she currently had other plans.
Under the child's gaze, she picked up the glass of water, sniffed it and then looked at said child with a scowl on her face. He gulped. She snorted. "Well, tell your boss can wait till the dawn of the next century, for I possess no wish to honor his request." Was her response as she placed the glass back on the tray, none all too gracefully.
To say the child was shocked was a terrible understatement. "You's not eating?"
"Yes, 'I's not eating'. On the contrary, in fact, and I ask: why would I eat anything that rat sends me? For all I know it can very well be filled with poison!"
"But … but … but it's food!" the child was obviously missing the point. "And boss will be mad if the food's not all gone. You's had to eat it!"
Basil rolled her eyes. "I don't have to do anything. It was by my choice that I am here, and it is also by my choice that that food won't be eaten by me. But if the contents of that tray have to be devoured then why don't you just eat them yourself? It's not like anyone is going to know it was not I who ate it."
"Your boss might just as well go and hang himself for all I care!" She finally yelled out, hoping that this child would finally understand that she didn't care what 'the boss' said.
"That lowlife, downright, miserable, no good…" she kept on muttering to herself, slowly pacing the room from one side to the other, taking extra care with her leg. Why did she save him? Really now, why did she bother saving that slimy sewer rat? It seemed like the right thing to do back them, but now she found she very much regretted it. The professor was still impossible, she was still her prisoner, London was being terrorized by something and there was nothing she could do about it.
… Or maybe she was jumping at conclusions here.
She pulled out her notebook again (It was a good thing she managed to find it again after all that happened) and looked at the symbol she copied from the prison floor: it was exactly like the one in that portrait above Ratigan's fireplace. Coincidence? Impossible. There was a connection between the professor and whatever it was that was going on in London – of that she was certain. Question was: what?
Basil allowed herself to smile. Now this was definitely a very interesting development.
Think! Now, murder was not beneath Ratigan's level - that was something everybody knew. Neither was manipulation – or sending others to do his dirty jobs for him. But usually his crimes had a motive: either to gain wealth or to dispose of a threat (or an annoyance). But with this … it didn't really add up. What could he gain from murdering poor baker girls? Could they have annoyed him in some way? Or maybe they resorted to blackmail? That was highly unlikely. According to Clawes and Vole, they were simple young women who were earning their living by providing London's mice population with bread and cakes. That wasn't a reason for Ratigan to wish for their death. And it was clear that they didn't have the brains necessary for blackmail or to inconvenience the professor in any way, so revenge would be out of the question. And of course, there was no proof that there actually was a connection between the two girls – other than the obvious ones. Plus, had that been the case, then why kill the ones who did the actual murder? Had they been ether paid assassins or simple puppets that wouldn't be a reason to…
Or were the real targets the 'murderers' themselves? The possibility existed, however unlikely it sounded. If she knew Ratigan at all, then she knew that he liked toying with his prey. Maybe those poor souls angered him somehow so he hires them to kill the girls then… But is still didn't make any sense! Ratigan is one that sticks to simple yet effective plans. Something so complex is most unlike him, especially if it's just to eliminate a few unimportant targets. If all he wanted was to 'clean up', then why go through all the trouble of devising such a troublesome cover-up?
That gave her an idea. Now, Ratigan was certainly taking his time being 'dead' – which in itself was certainly not like him. The professor was a sucker for attention – he practically craved it – so then why the secrecy? There was a plot afoot, she simply knew it. What if all of this was just a diversion, a complex cover to mask his true intentions? The murders had the Yard's full attention, so whatever he was scheming could go unnoticed. It certainly sounded plausible… But if this was merely a diversion, then she shuddered to think of what the real thing could be like. And how did Lord Henry's murder fit in with all of this?
Basil sighted. She needed more data. But where to get it?
With the corner of her eye, she saw the boy actually listened to her advice and was currently munching away on the pea soup. Hmm… Maybe…
Leaving the child to his food, she turned and retrieved a crumpet from her bag that up until now had been lying forgotten on the floor. She sniffed it, took a bite and slowly chewed, enjoying the flavor. After taking another bite, she looked towards the boy. Just as she predicted, he was done with the food and was now looking at her with wide, hungry eyes. Or… not as much at her as at the crumpet in her hand. If he would have been looking at her it would have been creepy.
"Something the matter?" she asked the boy innocently. He shook his head, yet his eyes didn't leave the crumpet, not even when she moved it from one hand to the other.
After what seemed like an eternity - and another bite from the crumpet – the boy asked: "Where did ya' get that?" Basil smirked. She had him.
"The crumpet?" the boy slowly nodded. She shrugged. "Oh, my landlady gave me a few before I left home the other day. She can be most insistent at times …" Basil took another bite. "Yet I am forced to admit that in all my years I have yet to taste a finer treat." That being said, she threw the remaining piece of the crumpet in the air and much to the boy's dismay, caught it in her mouth and swallowed. "Yes, that really hit the spot… far better than Ratigan's pea soup, I reckon."
At the mention of the soup, the boy turned to look at the now empty bole, stomach growling loudly. When he looked up again, Basil was right in front of him, holding up another delicious looking crumpet.
Unable to resist, he leaned in to retrieve it, only to have Basil move it out of his reach.
"Tell me boy –" Basil said with a chuckle. "– do you want this crumpet?" Smiling, the boy answered with a nod of his head, only to change it to a shake. "Now, I don't believe that. Nobody can say 'no' to one of Mrs. Judson's cheese crumpets. Especially when they are still so fresh…"
The child was practically drooling. "What do you want for it?"
Basil chuckled softly. "You're quite perceptive I see, dear boy. Most of your fellow colleagues wouldn't catch on so fast. Yes, I indeed wish for something, much like any who'd happen to be in my position –"
"I's not gonna' lettin' ya' 'scape for a crumpet."
A single eyebrow went exceedingly high at the conclusion of the little bat's statement - if only to hide Basil's amusement. "Child, what leads you to believe that I seek to further anger your master after my most foolish escapade from earlier? I very much prefer to remain alive to catch another Christmas, thank you very much. No, what I want, my dear boy; is merely to be kept informed with the comings and goings of this place."
"'Comings and goings'?"
"What's Ratigan doing, who he's employing, who he's dismissing, if he's having any plans set out for me - those sort of thing." Basil cleared her throat in order to shake out a cough she felt was coming. "Simply put: I just want to chat with you and maybe find out what's happening around here. Being left in the dark is never a pleasant experience. Not to mention that it's terribly boring…"
The boy looked from her to the crumpet. "And ya's gonna' give me tha' crumpet?"
"And I'm going to give you the crumpet." It took some hesitation before the boy finally approached her and took the crumpet from her outstretched hand. As soon as the treat was in his possession, he started munching away, a dreamy look in his eyes.
Basil chucked warmly at the child's actions. "I take it you like?" A nod. "My landlady would be most pleased to hear that."
By this time the crumpet was more than half devoured. "T'is so yummy! Never ate somethin' like this before!"
With a roll of her eyes, Basil cleared her throat in order to gain the child's attention once more. "As you can see, I covered my end of the bargain. Fancy covering your own?" The boy actually smiled as he replied: "Ask what ya' want!"
It was time to test a theory: "Well, then, before we actually start, mind telling me your name?"
The look of absolute and total confusion on the boy's face was priceless. "My name?"
Basil smiled. "Well, I can't keep calling you 'boy' forever, now can I? I doubt that would be very comfortable for you. It certainly isn't comfortable for me talking to someone whose name I don't know."
"I guess …" For a moment the boy appeared uncertain of how to answer, only to make up his mind a moment later. "Well, my mom calls me Dedecus (1). Dedecus H. Brown when she's mad." Basil frowned at that particular piece of info but decided to keep her thoughts to herself on the matter. "But tha' guys around 'ere call me Midget cuz' I's the smallest of tha' lot." He concluded with pride. Basil didn't dare shatter that small ray of self-esteem the boy still possessed… even if it was wrongly-placed.
"That's… quite interesting… Midget." That felt odd. "Now, concerning the matter at hand –"
"What's yer' name?" The abrupt and carefree nature of the question caught Basil completely off-guard.
"Well, I's can't call ya' 'tective forever, now can I?" Trust a child to throw her words right back at her… She was supposed to see it coming! Maybe she should have eaten more than a crumpet after all…
But still, at least that confirmed her suspicions concerning the boy – or at least strengthened them. Dawson told her about these children, but she didn't believe she would ever actually have the honor of meeting one. (2)
"You ask a rather odd question for a jailer, dear boy. I was under the impression that one such as yourself was supposed to know as many things about their charge as possible."
By now, a sly, knowing smile was fully displayed on the bat's face. "Ya', they told me'. But they don' talk much 'bout ya'. Seems to upset the boss or somethin'. I's guessing you's something my mom calls a 'taboo' round 'ere. Back in the begin' of my stay with cousin, sometime in fall, one of the guys slipped and started talking about ya'. Didn't see him the next day…" Basil could imagine why. "But when you's appeared again Cousin Fidget told me a bit about ya'. Said you's a detective that kept messing tha' boss's plans. But 'e also said you's mean, and big, and bad, and strong, un-trustful, and that you's gonna eat the heads off of poor, unsuspecting, 'onest men like us whenever ya' can."
… How did one react to such a description?
"But you's not eaten my head off yet, so I think he's just been pullin' my leg. After all, before 'e left, Cousin first just say that I's to watch after a basil and report back to the boss every hour or somethin'. And I was asking myself, I was: why look after a plant (3)? But then I remember tha' boss yelling 'basil' whenever he talks to ta' … It was just now that Bill told me I's to take the food to tha' 'tective and get back to watching ya'. Why is everyone calling ya' a plant? That can't be yer' name." He finished with a giggle.
"Yes… Well…" it took Basil some time to make sense of the boy's words, and even more to actually find the proper words for a reply. "Despite how hard it may be to believe, 'Basil' is in fact my name."
The boy's giggling stopped abruptly and beneath the grey fur the detective could see a blush forming. "Oh… erm… sorry 'bout that then."
Basil sighted. The things she would do to for information. "Well, no harm done. Looking back, I can say that I've been called worse –"
"And what?" Basil just looked at him, arms crossed, tapping a finger against her upper arm. "I mean… it feels wrong ta' call ya' like a plant and… I's two names!" He held up two fingers. "Ya'… ya' has just one?" Now he looked even more ashamed of himself, especially when Basil put her head in her hands and sighted very deeply. "Or… do ya' –"
"Sherrignford" Was the blunt reply. Basil was not going to give the child the chance to start rambling about such things again. Children these days….
"Huh? Oh! S-s-Shewinfog?" ... could be completely incorrigible. "No, that didn't sound right. Erm … She- Sherliworth! Er … Shellingdude?"
Now I know how young Miss Flaversham must feel like. "Just call me 'Basil' or 'detective' like everyone else does. Despite what you may think, I do not mind sharing a name with a… Asian herb."
The conversation had indeed taken an odd turn, but despite it all, it did present one or two points of interest. "But I am curious, child: how did you know that 'basil' was a plant? True, cooks may be familiar with it but for a child such as yourself it is hard for me to imagine how you came to know of it, especially when I know for a fact that neither one of your parents nor your other relatives are in the culinary business. Your mother, at least, doesn't appear to possess much talent in the area."
Midget gaped. "How did ya' know that?"
Basil smirked. "Oh, now that would be telling." She finished with a wink.
Several minutes later she seated herself on the floor and gave her leg a very quick inspection. It had been troubling her for some time now – even more since the interrogation began – and she believed it was high time she tended to the member. No doubt that if Dawson were here he would say something like: "you need to set out your priorities better!" or "why did you wait this long? This is your body, we're talking about here!"
But at least it was for a good cause! Throughout the child's silly babbling she managed to deduce several things: one – Midget had been in Ratigan's service for no more than three months since he moved in with his cousin due to some… complications; two – this boy was currently working in the kitchen, helping the cook with one thing or another; three – Bill's mouth smelled like unwashed socks; four – ever since Midget joined Ratigan and his thugs they haven't done any big jobs, only a few small robberies and pick-pocketing every now and then to keep in practice and probably the most important one, five – every couple of days Ratigan would organize meetings, discuss, plan, then dismiss his men without another word. Apparently Midget wasn't welcomed in these meetings so he had no idea what they were about. Not even his cousin would tell him anything about them. Seems she will just have to crash in on one of them.
And speaking of crashing… maybe it was time actually to attend to that troubling leg.
Now, first fact she could determine: it hurt like hell when touched, but she didn't think it was actually broken. Most certain then not it was only dislocated.
Basil looked around her to see what she could work with. The room was bare save some straw, a few splinters that were coming out of the floor and some bandages she nicked from Ratigan. She was certain she could move the bones back in place in no time flat and tie some of those splinters to keep them in place. It would be painful… but she knew it had to be done.
"That looks bad…" Midget muttered as he positioned himself closer to the detective. Remarkable how fast this child got comfortable with her.
"I've seen worse, child, I assure you." She would have said more had a particularly nasty coughing fit not taken her breath away.
"Erm, 'Tective? I need tha' take the tray back to the kitchen. Ya' need anythin'?"
How such an innocent little creature ended up in a place like this will forever be a mystery for her … "No, I'm fine. You just see to your things and don't worry about returning to an empty cell. This thing here –" she pointed at her leg "– will certainly make it difficult for me to move properly."
It was a pretty shabby fact one could use as reassurance, but Midget seemed pleased so mere minutes later, when Basil could hear no more steps coming from outside the door, she finally turned back to her leg. Now, if she was to twist this right back how she supposed it should have looked…
(1) Dedecus = lat. disgrace
(2) Here Basil is making reference to the mental disorder "epidemic" caused by intense Industrialization and population growth throughout the 19th century. Among many other symptoms unpredictable mood swings, a tendency for violence, childish behavior, low level of intelligence, clumsiness, trust issues with other people and even exaggerate affection shown to the ones who show the sufferer any sign of understanding and/or kindness were very among the most common signs of such a disorder.
(3) Basil, apart from the one we all know and love, is also a tenderlow-growing herb (Ocimum basilicum), of the family Lamiaceae (mints). Is a culinary herb prominently featured in Italian cuisine, and also plays a major role in the Southeast Asian cuisines of Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. The plant tastes somewhat like anise, with a strong, pungent, sweet smell.
After more then a month of absence, Whispers in the Dark has been updated. Unfortunately, regular updates won't return till I will be done with my exams (wish me luck!) - but they will come, this I promise you.
So, returning to the fic - what do you think Thinker really saw back there? What's Olivia planing (and where did she learn all those things?)? And what is it with the spiders? And what will Basil do now? And what of Midget? Is he an ally, or a enemy? Or nether?
For answers to these questions and more, we'll see each other again in the next chapter!
Reviews are welcome and deeply appreciated!
EDIT: new beta-read version now up thanks to the wonderful Crazy Laughter! Thank you my friend for ever and ever!