Whispers in the Dark

Chapter eleven

Ratigan's thugs were never the brightest chaps in London. To some, even, the very notion of the word "think" was completely foreign. But at least they did their job and they did it for a surprisingly small fee. In Ratigan's opinion, that was a rather nice compromise. Still, every now and then, miracles would happen and one thug or another would wake up and break that unwritten rule.

"KIAAAAAAAAAA!"

And after all, you didn't have to be a genius to know that when someone screams, there's usually a very worrisome reason for it.

"Basil!" when the scream erupted out of Basil' room, Midget wasted no time in bursting through the door to his charge's room, fully ignoring the dishes that scattered all over the floor in his haste. ""Tective! 'Tective, are ya' all-right? Wha' happened!"

The response was instantaneous… And filled with frustration. "What in the name of all there's logical on this earth does it look like happened? Jesus, boy! Use your eyes!" she most certainly would have continued had her voice not failed her just then and a very nasty cough ravished her body.

But still, one couldn't say that such a reaction could not be expected given the circumstances. But of course, due to certain aspects – like the ones listed above – Midget was at a loss. He saw Basil clearing her throat, barely containing another ear-piercing scream as she did so, grinding her teeth and clutching that right leg like someone was about to take it away from here any second now and all in all, was puzzled. He though something bad had happened…

"Erm… you's like tha' scream?" A shoe came flying his way.

"NO, I do not like to scream! Who does!" To her horror, Midget looked ready to respond. Why did that damn shoe miss its target? "Don't dare answer that."

"But then wha's wrong?" The child was obviously not getting it, fact which shouldn't surprise Basil too much … but even so, it did. Basil didn't know if she should try to relax, curse or attempt to strangle the child. Since the third option was most certainly out of the question – no matter how tempting – and the second one wouldn't help any, she tried to settle for the first… after mentally repeating herself that there was no way of getting away with murder.

"In case you haven't noticed, dear Midget, my foot doesn't quite look how it should … so I am attempting to fix it." That's right girl. Stay calm – What's that boy doing?

Curiously, the boy was now approached her with a very odd look on his face; looked at the troublesome body part and attempted to touch it. Basil drew it back, mortified. "What do you think you're doing?"

"Thinkin' tha' touch it?"

That much was obvious! "Why were you thinking of touching it?"

"Cuz… erm… I donno?" Basil felt a migraine coming… "Can I's still touch it?"

"NO!" she cried out, jumping out of the child's reach, action which did her little to no good, for in her rush to get away from more pain… "KIAAAA! Confound it!…" She accidentally stepped on her damaged foot. "Why you –"

She so wanted to yell at the boy. She wanted to scream, wanted to hit, wanted to tear him to ribbons! But she instead tried to calm herself. She needed to keep the act on, to stick to the plan. She had to! This was a once in a lifetime opportunity! If she could manage to win this little guy's trust, make him believe she was a… Friend, then she'd have her inside man. Ratigan thought he had all the aces in this game, did he? Well, if she knew how to play her card right, then maybe she could just steal one.

She only hoped it was worth the effort…

Then the boy started to giggle.

"What… I ask… Is so funny?"

Still giggling, Midget pointed at her. "You's voice! T'is so girly! You's sound just like papa does whenever mama's running after 'em armed with a spoon." Basil wanted to hit herself for not controlling the tone of her voice! "You's so funny!"

Forget all she said earlier. This was certainly not worth it.

"Maybe I should just quit my life altogether just to humor you further. If my pain gives you so much joy, then my death would undoubtedly make you cry of the overdose." Basil said in the most high-pitched voice she could utter, attempting to smile at her young caretaker, though she feared her smile came out as being a grimace more then anything else. Don't kill the kid, don't kill the kid, don't kill the kid…

Despite the morbid message, Midget kept on giggling almost uncontrollably. But he did manage to respond with a: "That's not a nice thing ta' say, 'tective"

A muscle jumped subtly on her face, as if she were restraining a grimace – or a laugh. "If people were judged by how nice are the words they utter are then I fear that even a saint would end up being called a sinner."

His reaction was a wholehearted laugh. "Ahahaha… You's right! Right! Right! Right!" Basil sighted. She was never going to understand children. One minute you seem to know what's going on in their head, the next they wreck all borders of logic by blurting out the silliest of things. "But er … Wha's a sant?" Just like that.

…Wha'?

"I said 'saint' not 'sant', child. There is a difference." She scolded lightly, hoping that would clarify matters a bit. Apparently, it did not.

"I's said sant." He responded with confidence… But really now, didn't she say the exact same thing? "I's never 'eard tha' word b'fore. What's it mean? Is it a desert?"

For a good couple of minutes, Basil was speechless. The boy's inquiries were so innocent, his tone so completely honest that she couldn't help to smile. She definitely would never understand children.

"Well, uh, a saint is a person who gets recognized by a group of people or an institution, mostly by the Christian Church, for his or her holy virtues they showed during their lifetime." Better keep the explanation as easy as she could.

"'Oly vitues?"

Patience girl… "Acts of kindness, goodwill, tolerant towards other people, generosity, patience…" she practically cringed at the word. "In other words, all that would mean being good to the ones around you. Someone who's, in a word … nice."

The boy made a thoughtful sound then completely shocked her by asking: "Is ya's a sant then?"

"… I… beg your pardon?"

"You no need tha' say you's padon. You did nothin'. But is ya' a sant? Me thinks that you shoud be. That is tha's what a sant is. You's a nice, after all. Nicer then most guys I's know. And ya's gave a crumpet. Nobody's gave me a crumpet b'fore. And if tha's not genewosity then noth' is. And you's funny too, you is!"

The child's logic baffled her. Her? A saint? Had anyone else tell her such she would have though that someone was delusional, but such words coming from this boy – she felt sorry for him. Had nobody showed this child even a little bit of kindness?

"Dear boy, I am not a saint." She was forced to say. Using this boy to outwit Ratigan was one thing, but she couldn't let him live in such deep ignorance. Even she couldn't be that heartless. "Far from it in fact. I'm a detective, or at least, that was what I was until I lost a few things along the way." She wanted to say more, but found her throat to be uncooperative for the moment.

"What things?"

Freedom, dignity, my ability to hide my voice better then now, maybe even some aspirin… "Well, there'd be the deerstalker cap which I have no idea where it vanished, my magnifying glass which was in my inverse cape – the one that I left in old Rat-face's throne room to dry" she coughed and shivered slightly. "Fact which I now regret."

"You's cold?"

She considered lying. Basil never enjoyed it when people where fussing about her health. She even started to shake her head, but stopped and eventually responded with: "Maybe only a little bit."

The boy suddenly became very excited. "Then come on! Let's go get yer' stuff!" And so, for the shock to be utterly complete, he very casually – yet very eagerly – grabbed her hand and practically dragged her out of the room, much to her cries and protests (as well as the ones her leg were giving her).

Of course, several minutes later, after Basil convinced Midget that it would be best if she first were to at least bandage her foot, and after Midget assured her that the boss wouldn't mind – "It will fully be on your head, boy." – they were on their way towards Ratigan's quarters. But first, Midget wanted to take the all but forgotten (until then) dirty dishes to the kitchen. And he also wanted Basil to meet Cookie, an old mole serving as Ratigan's personal cook and "the greatest and smartest guy you's ever gonna meet!", but also blinder then the blindest bat there ever was.

"So, I take it our guest was hungry?" Cookie asked little Midget as soon as the bat announced their presence in the kitchen, a cozy little room which always smelled of cheese. Now, Cookie himself was a tubby critter, wearing the most enormous pair of glasses Basil had ever seen. Thanks to the spectacles, his small, almost unnoticeable eyes looked almost gigantic. But even with the aid of the ridiculous things, he did not seem notice Basil, just as much as he didn't appear to have noticed that he placed the cheese he was holding on a fire log.

"Aha!" the bat replied joyfully, placing the dishes away in a cupboard before Cookie insisted they needed cleaning – they lost too many dishes that way, was the boy's whispered response to Basil's obvious inquiry. It didn't matter that they were still dirty. And the ants couldn't get in the cupboard, so better there then besides the pile in the sink. "Tha' food was most yummy. You'd done a good job, Cookie."

It was a lie, of course, in more ways then one, and Basil looked at Midget in a very disapproving manner. The bat merely shrugged. But at least Cookie didn't seem to catch the lie. In fact, he looked positively trilled. "Oh, goodie! It's always an honor to see that my experiments work! After all, that's what cooking is all about, my boy: trial and error! Or was that what they did in chemistry… Or, no matter, they are one and the same, after all. Oh, but now dear Midget –"

"I'm over 'ere, Cookie." The boy chirped after both bat and mouse witnessing the mole speaking to his spoon.

"Oh, dear, how horrid of me! Now … Aha! Here you were! Now, as I was saying, dear boy…" Nether one of the two have the heart to inform the old rodent that he was now speaking to a chair. "Time for our little riddle of the day…"

"Tha'd be Cookie's favorite game." He explained to Basil in a whisper. "He gives ya' some clues and you's gotta figure out what he's talking about. If ya's guess, then ya's get a treat from 'em. I's not getting 'em right all the time, but you's know: every bit of food counts!"

"Now …" Cookie coughed a bit to clear his voice. "'Tis true I have both face and hands and move before your eye; yet when I go my body stands, and when I stand I lie. What am I?" Midget made a grimace. Basil felt like laughing.

"A plate?" Cookie simply laughed, and Basil couldn't help joining him on it.

"You were very close, dear boy. Very close indeed … but wrong all the same." Midget stuck his tongue out, which thankfully Cookie didn't see… For he was addressing the pot. "Think on it for a bit and tell me if anything comes to mind –"

"A clock" Basil responded, taking Cookie by surprise.

"My - that's right! Well done erm… Who are you, by the way? I don't quite remember your voice." So close yet so far… Basil though as she eyed Cookie examining a broom a few feet away. She tapped his shoulder to get his attention.

"That's because I'm new here, Mr. Cookie. The name's Basil, sir."

Cookie was beside himself all the same. "Dearest me! Has manners too! Oh, welcome, welcome to our family, my dear!" he said, catching her hand and, instead of shaking it like normal people would have done, kissed it most fondly. "I'm Cookie, the cook, and this little rascal down here –" he pointed at a stool "is Dedecus, but we all call him Midget." On her right, Midget giggled. "Welcome! You know, you really should get something for that cough. It wouldn't do for a young lady such as yourself to get ill now would it?" …Lady?

What could have happened? Had she really gotten this careless? How could… But then Cookie surprised her yet again by pulling her closer to him and gently whimpering in her ear: "Don't worry about anything, my dear. We'll look out for you?"

Now that really did creep her out. And to make matters worse, when Cookie pulled away, her eyes caught the shape of a symbol engraved on the spoon he had tied with a string around his waist. Upon seeing it, she felt her legs grow week and the room around her started to spin.

"Cookie, you silly old mole. Don' 'barres my charge." Midget peaked in, completely oblivious to Basil's unease.

"Watch it critter!" Cookie scolded a teapot. "I may not see clearly, but I'm not blind!" That should certainly be under debate. "After all, this fine example of society's finest is more then just a prisoner. This is our guest, and we should always make our guests feel welcome here."

"Whateva' ya' say, Cookie, but we betta' go get yer' stuff, 'tective. T'is getting pretty cold and me's not wantin tha' see you's gone ill." Before Basil actually had a chance to say anything, Cookie decided to speak his mind.

"Now that is more like the kind of attitude I want to see from you Midget. Mighty thoughtful of you, my boy. Mighty thoughtful indeed. And yes, we wouldn't want to see our guest here feeling uncomfortable. Oh, and before you go, serve yourself with some tart. It's freshly backed. Oh! Midget, don't wallop them all! Save some for our guest!"

"Erm… I think I'll pass." for even if recent events were not to have taken place, those things certainly didn't look like tarts…

"Suit yourself, but feel free to come down here anytime you want." She most certainly would… But first she had to unstuck Midget off of those 'tarts' before she would really start to panic. One final pull and – Yes! "Oh, and er… Basil?" Confound it! But wait. Maybe she could pretend to have already left… "One final word of advice for you child: don't let the boss frighten you out. I assure you he wouldn't hurt you if he'll manage to see in you what I do." - Out of all the things she was prepared to hear, that was something she did not expect. But even so, she was not in the mood to make inquiries, so after paying the old mole a quick good-bye, she and Midget left the room towards Ratigan's quarters.

Nether got to hear Cookie mutter the words: "Thank you very much for being here, child."

"Midget?" Basil finally asked once they have reached a reasonable enough distance from the kitchen. "Did you ever notice the symbol on Cookie's spoon?"

"What spoon?" he asked simply.

"The one he keeps tied around his waist." Basil explained. "There was a star in a circle in a triangle engraved on it. I'm sure you must have noticed it."

"Ah, tha' one. Well, can't say much about 'et 'cept tha' Cookie said it's tha' keep one safe from fire. Never got' tha' know what 'e meant by tha' though." After a pause in which he politely waited for another of Basil's coughs to subdue, he continued. "Cookie's a nice guy and all, as well as bloody brilliant most of tha' times, but at times I ain't getting even half tha' things 'e says. Ya' know, there are times when 'e has that far, far away look in 'es eyes. Like 'e be remembering somthin' tha' happened long, long ago. 'E always looks so sad when 'e does that. Once I asked, ya' know, and 'e said tha' e remembered tha' hunt."

"The hunt?" The boy didn't seem to know any more on the matter, so after he shrugged and changed the subject (namely asking if he could have her tart) she puzzled on the matter for a while. That is, until that fairly suspicious looking thud appeared snooping around just as they reached Ratigan's rooms. Basil studied him for a bit before she dared to smirk.

"Midget, would you mind if you go see if Rats is prepared for another encounter with me?" With a enthusiastic nod, Midget vanished behind the doors. Taking advantage of her lack of company, she dared to approach the suspicious looking thug from earlier.

The mouse was certainly a sight to be seen. A beard was covering most of his face along with an incredibly large pair of glasses that looked so much like Mr. Flaversham's (but not quite like Cookie's). Concerning his clothes though, she had to admit that she wasn't certain if they wanted to be the ones of a drunken Russian sailor of those of a penniless London street urchin.

"What?" the thug asked her in a deep, Russian accent. Very well. Drunken Russian sailor it is.

"Oh, one would only wonder what such a fine man such as yourself would be doing in such a run-down side of town, my dear Inspector Clawes."

In less then a moment, the thug looked shocked, then surprised, followed by amused and then ended with mirth. "Mr. Basil, I swear on the name of the Almighty that there must be something human about you!" he said, barely managing to contain his laughter. "How did you know it was I?"

"Quite simple really." Basil responded, hoping she could mask her no longer Basil-like voice by using that often annoying (to others) aloof tone of hers. "One: I recognized your voice. And two: I was expecting you." She paused to clear her voice. "I have deduced that you would figure out by now that the reason for my absence for this morning's meeting was due to reasons I could not control. Naturally, you being the conscious inspector that I know you to be, I 'guessed' you'd eventually find me."

Clawes, bless his modest soul, actually blushed. "T'was nothing Mis-…ter Basil. Ahem! Plus, you practically did all the work for me. That mud-covered rock you slipped into Dr. Dawson's pocket saved us a lot of running."

The "us" did not escape Basil's notice. But just then, the door to Ratigan's room creaked open, revealing a very enthusiastic, then very puzzled looking bat.

"Erm… Boss be sleeping Basil. So me not guessing 'e'll mind you comin' but … who's you's?"

For one full minute, both bat and mouse simply looked at one another, none speaking, none blinking, none breathing … until the silence was broke by Clawes yelling out a very distinctive, very threatening "YOU!"

Sensing danger, the boy turned on his heals and dashed back into the room at full speed. Clawes ran off in hot pursuit in an instant. Basil simply sighted and placed a hand over her eyes. Were she not so tired and her body suddenly decided to play a natural joke on her, she would have definitely laughed. She moved in to make sure those two didn't murder each other (or get each other murdered), but paused when she noticed another figure coming closer to them. There was something very familiar in that step of his though. She decided it was best to great him.

"Good to see you to, Inspector Vole. Do come in. And my! Finally decided to take note of my suggestions concerning the practical use of a disguise while on a case? I must admit that I am flattered, though I do believe that a pillow tied around one's middle section is a bit much. Fat certainly doesn't become you." The confirmation of her deductions came in the form of a low growl… and a pillow in the face.

"Shut up! In case you didn't notice, I'm risking my neck for you here! The least you could do is not make things harder then they already are. Merde!" Yup, that was Vole all-right.

"Let go of me you creep!" Ah, and there we have the screams darling little Midget, coming from his new spot - in Clawes' grasp. As for the Inspector – he looked simply horrified by something he was eyeballing close to the fireplace. Basil's eyes traveled down to his source of nervousness, stepped closer to it, examined it a bit, then nodded as to inform the young mouse that everything was all-right. That seamed to ease his nerves considerably.

In the meanwhile, Vole was becoming more and more annoyed with the little bat that was still addressing his subordinate in such a foul language. "Let me god, before I turn you to mush!" he took a swing for him, but instead of hitting his target, he managed to somehow hit himself.

"Shut it, kid! I'm not in the mood for you!" Vole barked out in the most hostile tone Basil had ever heard him use. It was clear he was not happy.

"Then you's just gotta get in tha' mood, cuz I ain't gonna give in! And you! Didn't ya' hear, ya' bloody idiot? I said let me down!" The child started trashing again, much to Clawes' dismay. Basil did her best not to laugh as the other mouse looked as one who was slowly counting to ten… Repeatedly. Vole looked no better.

Finally, Clawes had enough. "Boy, I would be eternally grateful if you would be so kind as to mind your manners in the presence of your betters."

"Ha!" the boy laughed. "If you's be betters then I's be the bloody Pope! Now let me down, will ya'!"

"As you wish, your Holiness." Clawes responded as he most ungraciously dropped the boy on the floor. As for the boy… Well, safe to say that he did not look too pleased as he was muttering death threats. The inspector simply smirked. It was clear he was enjoying himself.

"You's a bloody sadist, you is!" The boy exclaimed as he scrambled up to his feet. He looked at Vole. "And just what do ya' think you's doing, old man! Tha' boss is gonna feed ya' tha' Fellicia when he finds out, he is! You too!" he finished by pointing at Clawes.

"Oh. I am so afraid." Vole mocked. "Why, Clawes, look at me. I'm shivering! Now listen here kid -"

"I's not a kid! I's six! And I's also in charge of tha' 'tective, and while I's on watch, ya' ain't gonna get 'em!"

"I've had enough!" Vole cried out as he reached to grab the child, but Midget was quicker and ducked behind an armchair that was placed close to the fireplace. As Vole lunged to capture him, Basil took her time to enjoy the warmth of the fire, as well as that of her dear (and dry) inverse coat and fluffy green scarf. She could hardly remember the last time she felt so content just being warm again.

"B-B-Basil!" Vole's sudden cry had startled her more then it should, for she already knew what he must have found. "It's him!"

"Ah yes, the great Professor Ratigan himself. And I must admit: I never quite expected him to be one to snore." And indeed there he was, slumped over his chair much like a cat, mouth slightly open and snoring soundly. The rest of the room was utterly devoid of life, just like it should be.

"Dr. Dawson wasn't joking … He's actually here … and actually alive …" Basil frowned. Was Vole's voice shaking? She turned to Clawes. He merely shrugged. "Basil, is this really the guy who almost killed you now less then a year ago?"

She couldn't help but giggle at his frightened tone. "Relax Vole, he isn't of any danger to us now, so quit your shaking."

"How can you be so sure?"

She smirked then threw the pillow Vole had so gracefully passed on to her at the rat, hitting him square in the face – much to the inspector's utter horror. Ratigan simply pulled the pillow off oh his face, turned, and then started snoring soundly again.

"P-point taken mi – erm, uh - sir." Clawes stuttered then tried to get his breathing under control. Basil allowed herself to grin.

Giggles came from the fireplace. Apparently, Midget decided to honor them with his presence.

"Now, erm … can we perhaps continue this conversation in less … worrisome company? Like … Baker Street?" Even Vole looked hopeful at that, and he rarely ever looks hopeful at anything.

Basil though about this: Baker Street, home. Oh, she would have said yes to that in even less then a heartbeat – even if she would never admit that out loud. She wanted to go home, to get away from the cold and pain – from the rat – but she knew that she still had a job to do. She doubted the two inspectors that were now looking at her with such pleading eyes would ever understand why. She herself didn't fully understand why. But she had a feeling that no matter what it would take, she just had to get to the bottom if this mystery that took place right underneath their noses.

Oh, she must have gone at least a little mad for thinking of a stupid case given her current situation, but if her trade taught her anything, it was that if you ever forgot the point you chose to reach, if you go astray from the path you began to walk, you'd end up loosing yourself among billion other roads and even more such points. To feel lost in the world, to just find yourself there, and not know why you were actually there.

She turned her gaze slightly towards Midget. The little boy, still partially hiding behind Ratigan's armchair was watching her with such anxiety, such sadness, that Basil felt her heart break. Though nobody had noticed, not even her at first, the boy was lost. He had no real purpose in life, just like she had no purpose. Oh, she did try and make herself a purpose – to solve cases, to crack codes and make puzzles; to just be useful to someone – but even so, without that little sanctuary she create for herself, she knew she was nothing. She couldn't be like Vole or Clawes, could not be like Dawson or Mrs. Judson, could not even be like Mr. Flaversham or little Olivia. She could not live so carelessly like they did, she could not walk her own path, because apparently, she had forgotten how which that was. Overall, she found that she was more like Midget: she accepted to walk the path which others brought her to, depended on others to give her a reason to life, and now, when she was finally given one, she would stop at nothing to see it to the end. If it meant that for that one reason, for that one strange reason she would have to always shock and annoy the world around her, if she would have to be cruel and merciless to others, then so be it, for she remembered feeling lost, remembered not knowing, remembered being weak and helpless… And she never wanted to have such an experience again.

Maybe Dawson was right when he said that she was downright messed up in the head.

"My dear inspectors, I must admit that nothing would please me more then to return to my warm sitting room and enjoy a pipe or two or even three in the company of people who do not wish to kill me. But even so… I cannot." There, she said it, and knew – from the moment she saw the looks on the inspectors' faces – that she will truly have to fight for her purpose this time.

And speaking of the inspectors: one should point out that the best adjective to describe the two at that precise moment would be 'shocked'. For indeed, they were shocked – one more then the other.

"What do you mean you 'cannot'?" Clawes had asked finally, trying to determine if what he heard was true, or if he was hearing things.

"Just what I said. Now, I do not wish to appear ungrateful, but due to recent developments it has become impossible for me to leave for the moment." Best be as cold as possible, for if she knew these men even a little bit, then she also knew that leaving without her in tow was definitely out of the question. She had to annoy them, had to make them hate her if she had to, but she had to get them out of this place – and fast! For apparently, Ratigan has been turning in his sleep.

Vole was already livid. "Basil, what the hell was that supposed to mean?" Basil sighted. This was not going to end well. And Ratigan was stirring again…

"Did I stutter, Inspector Vole? I said I cannot leave now." While Vole was busy swearing most colorfully in his native tongue, Basil moved her foot a little. The little fixing that she did on it didn't seem to help much.

Clawes used this moment to step closer to her. "M-sir, maybe you should listen to the chief-inspector for once. If anything, it might shut him up." He attempted to be humorous, but Basil sadly – tiredly – shook her head. At that, Clawes frowned, until his eyes rested on her wounded leg. "Sir, if it's because you're hurt it wouldn't be a problem for me to carry you."

Basil shook her head. "No, it's not that." She turned to look at the now closed door, hoping Clawes was perceptive enough to understand her message. The young inspector followed her gaze till the door, then looked back at her – back to the door, then finally back to her. Suddenly, and idea sparkled in his mind. Basil smiled.

"Then what is it, for God's sake?" Trust Vole to eavesdrop only to bellow a moment later. "If you think that we'll run into someone on our way out? Well, despite what you think, Clawes and I can take care of a few thugs before any would have the chance to raise the alarm."

She sighted. This was not the message she was aiming for. "Vole, do you seriously think I didn't think about that? I may not trust people with many a things, but do you honestly think that I have that little faith in you?"

"Then why Basil?" Basil wanted to cry in frustration! She was tired, she was hurt, she was experiencing one of the greatest headaches of her life and these two weren't helping her at all! Couldn't they bloody see that she was doing this for them? Couldn't they see what was at stake here? No of course not! They never saw it! She always had to spell it out for them!

…Spell it out?

She was such an idiot! But of course she had to spell it out for them! So quickly, but cautiously, she started searching among Ratigan's discarded clothes.

"Erm … Basil? What are you…" She ignored Clawes' obvious question. Now, if she was a lighter, where could she… Aha!

"This, gentlemen, is your 'why'." Basil said, trusting a small silvery object into Clawes' hands. Vole approached to see as well. "Tell me, what do you see?" After a short examination, Clawes stared at her with wide, attempted to say something and then felt unusually faint as he handed the item to his superior who reluctantly picked it up.

"It's a cigarette lighter." He said, stating the obvious. "And judging by the rather large 'R' on it, I take it this is the rat's. So what?"

"Can you not see anything else?" Vole stared at Basil, clearly confused. Then he turned to back to study the lighter, attempting to apply the detective's deduction methods. Hmm… Apart from the fact that it was old, overused and the owner had thrown it at two or three henchmen, he couldn't see anything unusual about it. What was he missing?

Almost like she was reading his thoughts, Basil brought a little light on the subject by drawing his attention on a certain part of the device. "Look at the mark under the R. Does it tell you anything?"

Well, Vole had to admit: Basil had really good eyes. On first glance, said mark looked more like nothing more then simple scratches, but on better examination Vole could tell it was indeed something there. A five point star trapped in a circle, everything inside a triangle … it told him nothing.

"Very well, I see it. I will admit, you are extraordinary … Now tell me what it is that I see"

"I honestly haven't got the slightest idea." The inspector stared. "That would be your job, inspector. That mark has appeared on the murder scene of every one of those ladies that were murdered these past few days. The ones from your 'spontaneous combustion murderers' one?"

"You saying Ratigan's the murderer?" He suddenly cried out. Basil clapped her hands over his mouth.

"Whas' a murderer?" came the shy voice of Midget from behind Basil. She never even noticed when he got there. Clawes took it upon himself to gently take him away from the two and promised to explain all he wanted to hear if only he wouldn't make a fuss.

"I'm not certain." She responded in a whisper. "That's why I need to stay here. To be positive Ratigan really is behind it all. You yourself said that have good eyes. If Ratigan is up to something, then I'll see it. And Ratigan won't even know I'm looking. For all he knows, I'm just his prisoner and nothing more, when in fact, he has a spy among his men, a spy that hides in the one place absolutely nobody will think to look. Now, can I trust you not to bellow anymore?" A nod. "Good"

"But what if he does notice? He's bound to get suspicious if you start snooping around. Ratigan isn't exactly dumb you know."

"Be that as it may, this is a risk I am willing to take. Plus, who says I'm not complaining? And I also already tried to escape once and he didn't murder me yet." Maybe she should have added the 'yet' in there. "But for now, he knows I made a promise to stay and that I now have to abide by it." And most certainly shouldn't have used the word 'promise'.

"Have you gone completely and utterly mad, Bassu? You're saying that you'd stay here, in the midst of the most retched bunch of cutthroats this side of Thames, rather than leaving with us and letting the police haul them all to jail now that we know who the murderers are and where their hideout is? And all because of a promise? Don't take this the wrong way, but I don't think you even know the meaning of the word."

Clawes quietly reassured Midget that Vole didn't want to hurt his charge, but also looked like he wanted to say something to his superior. He didn't have the chance.

"Vole, for god's sakes, just trust me on this one. Please. I cannot break this promise, not yet at least. If I leave now there could be catastrophic consequences on the whole of London... I think."

"You THINK!" The inspector hollered, for he simply couldn't believe what he was hearing. Clawes looked defeated and Midget was getting wrestles. "For all that is holy, do you have any actual proof to support your thoughts? You can't go sticking your neck out every time you get paranoid thoughts, Basil. You're the most wound up person I know when you're not on a case, so is it in any way possible that you're seeing a mystery here when there is only the risk of death, or worse?" He would have continued had Basil not tied her scarf around his mouth.

"Yes, I do. Yes, I can. No, it isn't. Jesus, Vole, I have no idea who's been feeding you aresen but you need to get a grip on yourself! Now, will you leave before Ratigan sober up enough to notice you raising your voice in his private quarters?"

Almost like some divine force was trying to make her point known, Ratigan stirred and yawned in his armchair, then almost painfully slow, opened his eyes.

"Darn it all…" he muttered to himself, trying to get the sleep out of his system.

"Good morning Sleeping Beauty. Having a nice hangover?" He could recognize that annoying voice anywhere.

"Shut your trap, Basil. I am not in the mood for you." By the fireplace, Basil looked up from the book she pretended to be reading. From the corner of her eye, she saw Vole and Clawes hiding behind a broken table. She discretely signaled them to lay low, then – despite the ache in her foot – gracefully approached the grumbling rat.

"Well, I did say that you needed to lay low on the brandy, did I not?"

"I thought I said to shut your trap!" Basil smirked. Annoy him just a little bit longer and he'll start to… Dear god… She was hallucinating… Please! Let it be a hallucination! That – the thing she saw sneaking into the room was NOT Thinker! "And bear in mind you little bastard, that few things are stopping me from braking you skinny neck."

Ratigan kept on speaking, but Basil didn't quite catch what he was saying. She was rather preoccupied trying to mouth the words "The bee" to Clawes – which luckily he understood and stopped Thinker before she flew right in Ratigan's face. Basil was finally able to breathe again.

"Have you been listening to even a word I said?"

"What?" She can't believe she let her guard down like that. "Oh, my apologies professor, but I was never one to listen to my teachers much." Ratigan growled, but she took that as a god sign. "But I must admit that you surprise me. Reading philosophy? I didn't quite though you to be the type who would read The Republic while not plotting evil schemes and such."

"And I don't remember bloody asking you!" With that, he snatched the book out of Basil's grasp and got up, most certainly to put it back among the other volumes. Basil turned to the inspectors and tried to signal them to get out. "But now I'm asking you: how come I find you roaming inside my private quarters without my permission for not only the second, but for the third time today?" Only to signal them to lay low less then a second later.

""E's ere with me, boss." God bless that deranged little critter! "You's said I's tha give ya' owerly reports on our guest. And I's listening. And Basil was saying that she'd be bored, so I's though: why not take 'em with me? So here we are." Basil didn't knew where did the little bat come from, but she was glad that she did, for somehow she doubted she could invent a plausible excuse on such short notice.

Ratigan was still able to critique that response. "Already calling our 'guest' by name? Oh, my dear little helper, that is so sweet of you… and I despise sweet things." Basil pulled the bat out of Ratigan's reach just in time. To be on the safe side though, Basil didn't stop Midget when the child attempted to fly away, but nether could she stop gasping when in his haste he accidentally hit the painting above the fireplace.

"AHHH!" Basil didn't knew Ratigan had so good a' lungs. "You blubbering idiot! Look where you're flying!" He said, running to see if anything happened to his painting, almost like a father was checking over their newly-born baby. "Oh, my precious, has that little vermin hurt you?"

Basil had to roll her eyes.

Again, she turned to the inspectors and saw to her great surprise that they seamed to take advantage of the situation and were slowly making their way out. She almost felt like dancing, but didn't think that would go to well with her le-… Hello? What did we have here? Lying on the floor, exactly at her feet, was a very old peace of paper. Casually, she picked it up, but to say that she was surprised with what she found would have been an understatement. It was a portrait of Ratigan and even if she was not so familiar with arts, Basil could tell that it was not the work of a professional. There wasn't even a signature. And what's more, the paper looked so very… old and –

"What do you think you're doing?" Ratigan practically spat as he yanked the paper from her hands. You would have said that he caught her adding poison to his dinner with that reaction!

"I was not aware looking had suddenly become forbidden." She shot back.

"It is when we're talking about my private documents!" Private what? Very interesting…

"Private documents? You –" she pointed a slender finger at the rat "must still be under the influence. That was nothing more then a doodle, your Noseness!"

"It was NOT a doodle! It is art of the very best quality!" Riiight… And she was the most beautiful mouse in London. "But even if it wasn't, you shouldn't have been snooping among my things! What where you doing around Terra's portrait anyway?"

Now this was very interesting. "The portrait? It was lying on the floor!"

"It must have fallen when that bat hit it."

And this was ridiculous. "And how could I know that?"

"Enough!" It was about time too. She was getting tired of this argument. "Just… Just…" And apparently, so was Ratigan. "Oh, curse you, Basil. Why must you always get your big nose into my business? Why can't you, let's say, be annoying for somebody else for a change?" That must have been a trick question. "Never mind." He sniffed. "It's too early to…" He sniffed again, and again… and again… and he was getting a bit too close for comfort.

"Something wrong?" she finally asked, interrupting Ratigan in – dare she say it – his sniffing of her person.

"Why do you smell of blood?"

Oh bugger! "Well, I've been in…" Don't babble girl! Think! Think! "It's not what you may be thinking. I'm just – Ouch! Damn leg!"

That last part wasn't intentional. Really it wasn't. But it seamed to have done the trick though, for Ratigan's entire attention shifted to her wounded member. Commanding her to sit, then threatening to feed her to Felicia were she to give argue with him just one more time, he most unexpectedly started to examine it. He made a couple of characteristic remarks along the way, such as "See you couldn't quite put it back in place… Typical" or "Wining already? My, Basil, I never knew you were such a porcelain doll" – but there were also some things that he said… which made her wonder if he really was still under the influence: "You have surprisingly small feet for such big shoes" or "You really shouldn't force your feet when their healing" (but at least that last one was followed by a "otherwise if I ever let Felicia play with you she'd get terribly bored").

A question needed to be asked, and it was asked eventually, but only after she glanced one more time towards the place she last saw the inspectors. They weren't there. "Why are you doing this, Ratigan?"

For a moment, she could have sworn that he was caught off-guard. "Well, as you know, I'm not one to be comfortable when in debt, so I'm just returning the favor. You did, after all, did a pretty much – Aham! – helped me when I had been facing certain difficulties. And regardless of what you think of me, I am an honorable man."

There were many times when she was struck speechless in her life, but for the very first time since she could remember, she did not know what to think. She didn't know what surprised her most about Ratigan's small speech: the fact that he answered; the fact that he was honest about it… or the fact that he was indirectly helping her. No matter the reason, a small part of her suddenly wished she was wrong and that he wasn't responsible for all those murders that were going on in London. "Now – " a sniff "Get ready pipsqueak. On the count of three, I'm going to pop you leg back into place. Ready? One…"

"AAAAAHHHH! What ever happened to two and three?" … Forget all she just said.


After a unacceptably long absence, WitD has returned with a brand new chapter. Hopefully the one chapter every two weeks update shall return to it's proper place in my agenda, but I am not making promises. Also, I must warn you that this chapter hasn't been properly beta-read yet, so a few changed might come these next following days. But nothing big, mind you. Until then though, questions are bound to arise. Firstly - what in heaven's name is happening here! And If Thinker just appeared, then what happened to Olivia?

For the answers to these questions and more, stay toned for the next update!

Reviews are - as always - welcomed and greatly appreciated!


p.s. many thanks to daughterofBarricade for giving me the idea for the ending ;
p.s.s. even more thanks go to Shas-O-Suam from DeviantART for beta-reading it for me (you're the best!)