Authors note: Sorry we haven't uploaded in a while! We took a rather length Christmas siesta!)

Chapter Three

By Robin Mask


The Undertaker stared hard at the foot that rested on the makeshift 'ball'.

It took a long minute to recognise what was happening. He was still bent rather low and his arm was still outstretched, his eyes narrowed expectantly on the skull he had been using to knock over an array of beakers, but the skull – instead of continuing on its perfect pace and accurate trajectory – was trapped under a well-shone shoe. He wasn't used to people intruding on his games, but in this case he found himself a little intrigued. It was more than possible to lose a match but win a game.

He looked curiously at the boots the owner of the foot wore, admiring the red-and-black pattern and the slight heel at the back . . . practical and yet fashionable, enough to give the illusion of height but wide enough not to throw one off-balance in battle. The boot moved up to a leg cloaked in a sensible pair of trousers, a slight bend to the knee as if the owner sought to make a simple action into a flamboyant pose, and that went up further to a rather thin – well looked after – torso wrapped in a beautifully blood-red coat that seemed to make the body beneath as fragile as a spider's web draped with morning dew. The red-hair fell about the owner in a shower of satin.

The Undertaker smiled dangerously and stood up to full height. He steepled his fingers together in front of his face and looked over them with eyes hidden behind his shaggy fringe, and as he looked he giggled in such a manner that it caused Grell's expression to change drastically. The redhead's head lowered, his green eyes narrowed in anger whilst his eyebrows came upwards as if in pain, and he seemed to pout just slightly . . . in an almost adorable way . . .

"My, my," the Undertaker said darkly, "the lady does not look pleased to see me."

"I don't typically make it my place to socialise with violators and deserters."

"Only demons and children, I take it?"

Grell flinched visibly. His green eyes seemed to flare for a moment before he kicked the skull hard directly at the Undertaker . . . there had been a time when the silver-haired man would have caught it cockily in his hands, or perhaps even allowed it to hit him, because he willingly seemed to take any abuse given to him when it was more convenient than actually stopping said abuse. He had once even gone so far as to let Grell steal his clothes and bury him in salt. How things had changed . . .

The silver-haired man spun quickly to one side, allowing the skull to fly past him and smash into a glass jar that held within its depths a human kidney, and upon impact a stream of foul liquid spewed out upon the floor whilst the kidney hit the ground with obscene splat. The skull itself broke into pieces. No longer would soliloquies be said to it, no longer would it symbolise the process of death . . . no longer would the Undertaker be able to turn it upside-down upon his desk and use it to hold his pencils and pens as he worked upon his paperwork . . .

"Now that wasn't very friendly, was it?"

His smile faded into a faint upturned line; something that by definition was a smile, but yet held a dangerous glimmer of anger and frustration. He looked to Grell and instinctively reached inside his black cloak to pull out a long sotoba, the gesture was fluid and graceful, and he couldn't held but notice the twitch of Grell's eye as the scar just underneath his eyebrow stretched in a rather interesting way. The redhead changed his expression quickly though, so that now his teeth were bared like a smiling shark, and his hands brought out his chainsaw as if from air.

"Oh? You want friendly?" Grell asked with a sort of bloodlust in his eyes. "I would have thought inserting a hard object into a lady's skin, breaking through that barrier, and taking without permission something that cannot ever be fixed was as far from 'friendly' as one can get . . . shall I mark your face with an ugly scar, too?"

"Ugly scar? Oh? I'm hurt. Am I really that ugly?"

The Undertaker pushed back his hair and exposed his green eyes. Grell at once blushed and turned his head to one side with a frown, caught between wanting to throw himself on the silver-haired man and eviscerating him with his chainsaw. It was such a pure mixture of love and hate that made the Undertaker laugh in amusement, thrilling sadistically in the conflict that waged in Grell's mind.

"Why, I could wrap you around my little finger," the Undertaker said, lifting his left hand to wave his scarred pinkie finger at Grell. "Shall I try?"

"I would be delighted if you did. I owe you for marring my beautiful face!"

"Anyone else would say it's an improvement, my lady."

"Then allow me to return the favour!"

"Please. Amuse me."

Grell was the first one to make a move.

He revved his chainsaw and bent forward as he ran at the Undertaker with a fast pace, his chainsaw pulled backwards so as to came full force at the other man's chest, but the silver haired man had expected this much. The Undertaker pulled to one side and raised his sotoba to – rather than block the oncoming attack – divert the attack, causing Grell to fall forward and his scythe to knock to one side, allowing the deserter to spin around and come behind him, taking advantage of his blunder.

The sotoba fast became the scythe that it hid, and with this scythe the pale man drew it back ready for a fast and deadly blow, willing to rip apart the man from behind in a rather poetic way . . . he aimed his scythe for the scar of the coat, for the ripped back where it had been sewn together rather hastily and amateurishly. He would slice Grell where Grell had sliced Madame Red, where the Undertaker had stabbed Sebastian, and he would relish in the act. He would stab him in the back. He thrust forward his scythe and aimed perfectly for his desired spot, a low laugh muffled behind his lips and he smiled almost warmly, waiting for the blade to hit . . .

It was then that something knocked him back.

His scythe had been poised to hit, but something large and red had came from nowhere and struck his scythe hard enough to force him backwards, leaving Grell safe from harm as he fell hard upon the ground. The redheaded man rolled over onto his back and looked across the funeral parlour to the Undertaker with a beautifully submissive stare, before glaring harshly and climbing to his feet with a growl. Ronald posed in front of him with a cocky laugh.

The blond boy looked over his shoulder and winked to Grell, using his hand to come up into a rather arrogant 'V'-sign for victory. He leaned against the bar of his lawnmower as he looked across to the Undertaker as well, waiting for his superior to climb to his feet before making a move or a sound. Grell merely flicked his chainsaw and cricked his neck, observing their opponent carefully as the two men stood side-by-side, looking like a perfect team. They remembered well the obstacles they fought when they battled last time, but last time there had been a demon interfering, this time there would be an equal match.

"You didn't think Sempai would come alone, did you?" Ronald asked.

"So William finally sent you to collect me, did he?" The Undertaker let out a long giggle as he wandered around a medical dummy, holding it from behind akin to a shield or possibly even a lover. "Now that is amusing! Does he really think that the two of you can cart away me? I wonder if he knows the risk. I wonder if he is aware that even Death must die . . ."

"Sadly we're not here for that," Grell snapped.


"Yes, although I would love to have you bound beneath me as I interrogate you for any and all information I think pertinent to our case . . . I wonder what sounds a man like you would usher. They say loud men like you are often the most quiet when it comes to . . . obtaining information. I wonder how fast I could make you spill?"

The Undertaker laughed to himself as he observed Ronald's reaction. The blond Shinigami slumped his shoulders and narrowed his gaze to his older colleague with a twitching eyebrow, his frustration seeping through in waves as he patiently – and maturely – held his tongue and refrained from chastising the man whom was ranked higher than him. They made a good team: Ronald kept his companion in check, Grell kept his friend alive. They balanced each other well and brought out the best in one another. He was almost disappointed that they didn't want to fight.

"Miss Sutcliff," Ronald said calmly as possible, "we talked about 'professionalism'?"

"Oh please! You're not one to talk! You just posed for goodness' sake!" Grell disposed of his death scythe and flicked his hair over his shoulder. "You can't declare victory with a colleague on the floor anyway! That's not a victory, that was basically a stalemate!"

"Youngsters today," the Undertaker chirped in, "no sense of professional style, eh?"

"No one asked you!" Grell and Ronald snapped.

The Undertaker lifted his hands up in a mock gesture of surrender, after returning his scythe to its previous hiding place. The two Shinigami seemed mildly frustrated with one another, more so with him, and he had to admit to an equal feeling of annoyance where the two were concerned. Thanks to them and Sebastian his test had been compromised and his results were now completely unusable, he owed them just as much in terms of revenge as they perhaps owed him.

He slid upwards onto his desk and watched the two silently as they stood bickering with one another, Ronald pulling out a list as he insisted that Grell check it, both of them sending nervous glances over to the Undertaker as they did so, making sure he was still where they left him. He waved. Grell scowled and returned to looking at the list. It was times like these where the Undertaker wished he still had access to the list, because it was certainly frustrating that someone else was privy to information that he was not, especially when it drove them to his funeral parlour when he was essentially in hiding. It made him curious.

"I'm surprised it took an anomaly with your list for you to come find me," the Undertaker said softly with a soft laugh at the end. "It's enough to make a humble, old undertaker feel so very unloved . . ."

"Well, it isn't like Miss Sutcliff would really want to drag you in now," Ronald said curiously, handing Grell the list flippantly whilst the redhead snatched it away. "Plus Mister Spears says we have bigger fish to fry right at this moment. It's what we came here to talk to you about . . . long shot, I'll admit, but I'm still young so for me the cups are half full! You know how it is."

"Hmm, indeed. Still . . . a lady can never forgive a scar upon her face, especially not when it mars her beauty so cruelly . . . why would a lady forgive such a man enough not to wish to drag him in for questioning?"

"Well, you know what they say," Ronald said cheerfully, "you got to best her to bed her – hey! That hurts, Sempai!"

"Serves you right!"

Grell smacked Ronald again hard across the head with a blush.

He clenched his hand in a tight fist and kept it positioned before him as he glared at his subordinate; his other hand sat upon his hip as he cocked his body to one side, his eyes glared darkly at Ronald with a passionate fury. He was clearly furious, but equally embarrassed by such a sensitive confession to their acknowledged foe, and yet there was something rather handsome about the blush upon his cheeks.

The Undertaker laughed quietly to himself as he watched the pair curiously, sliding from his desk to make his way around to the kettle that sat by the area set aside for dissections. He filled the kettle and watched as Ronald rubbed his head childishly in pain and apologised profusely to the redhead in embarrassed tones, whereas the redheaded man simply folded his arms and looked away with his head high and his nostrils flared. Red hair, red coat, red cheeks . . . the Undertaker laughed as he thought about why a man so in love with the colour red would also be so in love with the concept of passion, before reminding himself of the shade that passion often took in the midst of its height . . . the human body was capable of so much!

He carefully poured the tea and arranged some biscuits upon a plate, watching from the corner of his eyes as the two men bickered and fought. It was difficult to make out details from the distance, – being pathetically shortsighted as the rest of his kind – but he could see their general shapes well enough and he had memorised their appearances during their close encounters during their previous meetings. Still, regardless of the bad blood that was no excuse for being a bad host. He knew well that more flies were caught with honey than with vinegar.

"Would you both care for some refreshments?"

He carried the tray over to them, at which point Ronald seemed to brighten up and smiled wildly, his green eyes half-closed in delight as he cocked his head to one side and raised his hand high in a signal of thanks. It was only when he reached out to grab a biscuit that Grell hit his hand hard and moved to stand in front of him, both hands resting on his hips as he practically growled at the blond.

"Why do I always get paired with you?" Grell snapped. "You don't accept 'treats' from people during work, especially not from someone who previously tried to kill you! Oh, it's so frustrating being paired with a greenhorn . . . it's like you want to be poisoned! Luckily for you Grell-sempai is here to teach you! You're my darling, little Ronald and I'll protect you from the big, bad man!"

Ronald looked longingly at the tray. The tea was steaming hot and seemed to be a rare blend, albeit served in a strange looking beaker, and the biscuits looked so fresh and crisp that they were surely freshly baked and homemade. He wasn't one to let his stomach rule his head, nor was he one to watch his figure, but he had worked really hard the past few days – especially with all the overtime – and he wanted just one little break. It hardly seemed fair to decline what was being offered, but Grell was probably right . . . he shouldn't be accepting treats from the Undertaker of all people.

"I suppose you're right," Ronald said forlornly.

"Of course I'm right!" Grell snapped, reaching out for a biscuit on the tray. "Those beakers he serves the tea in he uses for dissection –"

"I do disinfect them first," the Undertaker said with a hint of sadness.

"Not the point!"

"I have mugs somewhere," the Undertaker said, removing one hand from the tray to touch his lip in thought, "I can get some of those if the lady prefers? If it's a touch of class that one wants I could even find some teacups and saucers . . . I think one of my clients' relatives left some in a box of their possessions. I haven't gotten around to donating them to the workhouse yet."

"See, Miss Sutcliff!" Ronald chirped. "We can have tea in cups! Come on, it'd be a nice break and we could be here for a while anyway. Plus I think that's Earl Grey in there, he's even serving the good stuff!"

"Do you even know what the words 'it could be poisoned' mean?"

Ronald frowned as he watched Grell take a bite of the biscuit. His colleague could be such a hypocrite at times, always chastising him for things that he himself did, and even Mister Spears seemed to share the philosophy of 'do as I say and not what I do', but – to Ronald – it was highly unfair. He wondered if it was a seniority thing, where just because they were older that they thought they knew better.

"You're eating the biscuit though," Ronald said in an almost whine. "Why can't I?"

"Oh, hush you!"

Grell grabbed another biscuit and shoved it roughly into Ronald's mouth. The blond glared darkly and dangerously to his superior, but he merely accepted the biscuit and began to munch upon it happily. He looked from the two long-haired men to the tray, then shrugged and grabbed a beaker of hot tea, before wandering over to a coffin and sitting down to enjoy his snack.

Grell let out a long and heavy sigh as he dropped his head and rubbed a hand threw his hair in exasperation, he seemed genuinely frustrated by Ronald and yet at the same time had an affectionate liking towards the boy. It was what had made the Undertaker's battle so much easier to win that day on the Campania . . . any attack upon Ronald would have his 'mentor' furious, he would quickly chastise Ronald for any perceived mistake, but then quickly come to his rescue. The Undertaker had assumed this was just their dynamics in battle, but it seemed to control their professional and personal lives too.

The Undertaker walked around to his desk and placed the tray down, waving over Grell who – with a reluctant sigh – followed suit. The redhead threw himself down into a dusty chair, throwing his legs over the arm as he draped his head backwards with a long moan, lamenting over his situation. The Undertaker began opening cupboards and boxes before he found out the teacups in mention, and after washing them he proceeded to give tea in a manner he could not object to.

"Enjoying your poisoned tea, Miss Sutcliff?" Ronald called over.

"Oh, will you just shut up!"

"If it is poison we're in the best place considering," Ronald chirped again. "Still, this is something we'll be leaving out of our reports, right? I don't think Mister Spears would like to know we accepted afternoon tea at the Undertaker's."

Grell sat up abruptly and pulled himself into an actual sitting position, his feet on the ground with his legs crossed in an elegant and feminine manner. He sipped his tea politely and watched as the Undertaker came up beside him, sliding onto the desk and leaning a little into his personal space . . . it was rather creepy, but – if he remembered his time as Angelina's butler well – he knew that the silver-haired man enjoyed making others uncomfortable. He especially seemed fond of touching Ciel and making the aristocrat squirm, he seemed to know what irked others and what got under their skin . . . it was certainly a 'talent' of sorts.

"Let's just get to work for once, shall we?" Grell snapped.

The redhead forcefully put the teacup down and pulled out his list. It was just his luck that the damned tea spilled and small patches of liquid dropped onto his thigh. He growled loudly, trying to hold back the urge to rip out his death scythe or scream abuse at the Undertaker, because the Undertaker was now laughing and no one laughed at Grell! It was just plain offensive that someone could find his stained clothes amusing, especially when that person was a traitor!

It was only when the laughter suddenly felt a lot closer, and he felt a rather curious pressure on his thigh, that he looked away from the list to see the Undertaker's green eyes right before his face . . . and his hand rubbing a cloth against his thigh, in a rather inappropriate position that left Grell blushing all the more. The redhead had enough. He punched the Undertaker hard and growled aloud.

"What the hell do you think you are doing?"

"The lady had a little spill," the Undertaker giggled out. "I wouldn't be a gentleman unless I helped her to clean up the mess I helped to make, or would you prefer to rub it out yourself?"

"You -! I should paint you red! You vermin!"

The Undertaker was rubbing his jaw where the redhead had punched him, still laughing with a dangerous smile when Grell's hand scrunched the list up in his tight fist and he stood abruptly. He was shaking in rage and his face was flushed a dark red. It was hard to tell if he was enraged by such presumption that the Undertaker found it okay to touch him to clean up the mess, or if he were actually rather embarrassed by the fact he liked such a close proximity and assertive presumption. The Undertaker could only giggle as he prepared himself for a very hard and intense fight.

"Miss Sutcliff!" Ronald called over, downing the end of his tea. "We have work to do. The sooner we get it done the sooner we can get out of here, I have a party with the office girls later on tonight! How am I supposed to get a hangover unless I'm on time to drink the night away first? You can save your fight for later, right? Just I really want to get this over with!"

"You're lucky," Grell spat. "I could have ripped you to shreds."

"Hmm? Your scythe doesn't seem that scary to me," the Undertaker said as he held his chin and gazed away in thought. "Now if it were as large as mine I'm sure it could easily cleave me in two, but as it is I doubt you could even make me feel it, let alone 'cut me to shreds'. Do you still want to try?"

Grell seemed sorely tempted, enough to pause for a long moment to consider the implications of fighting their foe in the midst of the funeral parlour, but as he caught sight of Ronald – standing to intervene should the need arise – he stopped and instead resorted to behaving . . . indeed a last resort. He flourished forth the list and waved it rather manically and violently in front of the Undertaker's face.

The silver-haired man took a hold of the paper between two long, black fingernails and observed it with a rather cold stare. It was clearly a 'to-die' list, but from immediately looking upon it there was very little of anything unusual, unless of course you were familiar with the underground and the recent news . . . it wasn't surprising that someone like William would have noticed the discrepancies and odd means of demise, but what was odd was that the Shinigami felt it their place to get involved. It had to be the suspicion of demonic activity that drew them to it, but with such circumstantial evidence this seemed to be going overboard.

He signalled for Grell to take a seat, waving his hand a couple of times rather indifferently, and – much to his amusement – he saw Grell fall to his seat and lean both elbows upon the desk, his head in his hands as he looked up at the Undertaker with wide eyes and a rather innocent expression. It would have been adorable had it not been for Ronald coming behind Grell, resting a hand on the back of the chair, and giving the Undertaker a very dark look.

The Undertaker hadn't realised until that moment that he had been staring with curiosity at Grell, and it seemed that Ronald both had the wrong impression and was highly protective of his mentor. He smiled to himself and tried his best not to let his muffled giggle turn into outright laughter. In a gentle movement he leaned inwards and made to hand Grell the list . . . the list that Ronald snatched back.

The Undertaker frowned.

"So what can you tell us about the names highlighted on the list?" Ronald asked.



"Nothing . . . without something in exchange for my services."

"You want payment?" Ronald hung his head and sighed. "Can we claim reimbursement for that, Miss Sutcliff? It's got to count as work-related expenses, plus I've got to buy at least one round at that party later . . ."

"He doesn't want money," Grell said tersely. "He wants a joke."

The Undertaker let out a creepy laugh as he leaned across the table into Grell's personal space, wagging his finger in front of the man's face as Grell glared daggers at him. Ronald watched with a morbid interest, but his gloved hand tightened considerably on the back of the chair and he leaned forward too, his eyes never moving from the silver-haired man in case some form of attack came suddenly and unexpectedly. Grell started to feel claustrophobic.

"Don't worry, I know how to make someone laugh," Grell said with a smile.

"Yeah," Ronald said, leaning back with a confused pout, "problem is I don't think you do know when you're making someone laugh, Sutcliff-sempai. I mean it's that difference between laughing at someone and laughing with them . . ."

"Look, if he wants a joke then I'll give him one!"

The Undertaker looked at the redhead in amusement. The other man stood up so abruptly that Ronald was forced to jump backwards in order to avoid being knocked in the face by Grell's head, but soon he was on his feet with one hand on his hip and his devilish smile piquing the silver-headed man's curiosity. He tried not to smile too much as Grell sauntered around him, hips swaying so that he looked rather tempting, and he couldn't help but swallow as Grell trailed a hand over the Undertaker's chest as he walked, almost stroking him languidly as he strolled to the other side of the room. It was a rather tempting sight as much as it was interesting.

The redhead stopped before a cloudy mirror that hung on the wall, and as he stopped he withdrew some lipstick from his coat pocket and painted his lips, before puckering in front of the mirror and winking at this reflection. He then spun around and leant against the wall beside the mirror. He gave the Undertaker such a sultry look that the silver-haired man shuddered and giggled just a little . . .

"I know a joke when I see one," Grell said softly, one hand on his hip stroking a path upwards where he began to loosen the bow upon his neck. "I wonder if our friend here sees a joke too? Look in the mirror, Undertaker. There's the joke."

Grell stopped his sensual teasing and used both hands to point to the mirror on his left, the mirror that was now directly opposite the Undertaker. The silver-haired man saw his own reflection and heard the low groan of disbelief from Ronald, heard the cocky laughter from Grell, and heard his own rumbling laughter starting low and deep in his chest, bubbling forth into a dangerous chuckling. He leaned back against the desk and grabbed a hold of its edge with both hands . . . staring hard at Grell.

"It's funny that you would dare to say such a thing, my lady."

"Then you find it funny. I win." Grell came forward and stabbed the Undertaker hard on the chest with a pointed finger. "Now, as per the terms and conditions of the usual agreement, I want information. Now."

The Undertaker sighed and sat on the desk with a half-amused smile. The redhead had undone his bow enough that a slither of skin was visible at his chest, and he was so furious that his cheeks were flushed a visible red. He looked handsome, and he was the only person willing to fight the Undertaker or stand up to him in such a manner, and he seemed so unafraid too . . . it was curious indeed. It made him wish to withhold information just to see what Grell would do, but something told him it would be better to stay on the man's good side . . . just this once.

"Very well," the Undertaker replied. "What do you wish to know?"

"Well," Grell said, pouting just a little, "whatever you know would be great. It seems that there's been a spate of murders across the country, but they're all been committed by demons . . . or as far as we can tell. The trouble is that not one soul has been consumed by those foul beasts! I mean, who does such a thing? No one spends that long devouring their food only to spit it out at the last minute, a demon should at least be polite enough to swallow whatever soul it ejects from a body."

"Wow," Ronald mumbled, "I didn't think even you could make murder into an innuendo. You've outdone yourself, Miss Sutcliff."

"Why, thank you!"

The redhead smiled warmly and flicked a lock of long, red hair behind his back. He seemed pleased with himself, almost as if he had achieved some great feat, and the way he turned his body was almost feminine and rather arrogant. It was as if he didn't feel the Undertaker was worthy enough an adversary to keep an eye upon, and yet the way he looked so admiringly over those red glasses at the Undertaker gave the silver-haired man shivers. He felt as if he were being devoured visually. He let out a genuinely amused laugh and tried his best to stay still, refusing to let Grell know just how interested he truly was.

"What I can tell you is simple," the Undertaker said in sudden seriousness. "I hope that you both realise that 'need' and 'want' are very different things, though. I can tell you what you want, but not what you need . . ."

Grell turned and bent forward a little so that his eyes were at level with Undertaker, who was still practically sitting on the desk. His red hair fell forward so that it now rested upon the leather of Undertaker's boot, trailing down his thigh and slightly beneath his knee, and when Grell let out a grunt of frustration and pulled back the Undertaker took his chance and took a hold of that hair.

The redhead was suddenly pulled forward again, almost as if on a leash, and suddenly he felt a spark of fear . . . it wasn't the fear he felt when Sebastian aimed for his face, or even when he was in battle with a man set to kill him, it was the enjoyable sort of fear . . . the adrenaline rush one got with fear, but the knowledge that one was safe. It was a relinquishing of control, but without truly being controlled. He gulped when the hand reached further up, virtually near the root, and it was only when he saw a foot in front dangerously in front of his face that he screamed and suddenly the hold on his hair was completely removed.

"Don't touch Sutcliff-sempai so freely," Ronald snapped, lowering his leg and ignoring the Undertaker as he rubbed his hand in pain. "You want to touch him then you'll have to pay the price like everyone else."

"Bastard! What do I look like to you? A hooker?"

"Ah! That came out wrong, Miss Sutcliff! What I meant was that –"

The Undertaker frowned as he watched the redhead beat the younger boy about the head, yelling all sorts of abuse at him as the blond backtracked considerably, desperate to make amends and explain just what it was that he meant. It turned out 'pay the price' meant 'earn his friendship', but a lack of good rhetoric had soon become the least of Ronald's problems as Grell eventually spun around with arms folded and began to sulk.

"You! Talk!" Grell snapped, pointing a finger at the Undertaker violently.

The Undertaker looked to Ronald who was rubbing his neck in embarrassment, the poor boy didn't need any more hassle than what he already had: "Hmm, I suppose I can give you some information."

"Ah, that's a relief!" Ronald gasped.

"If you must know," the Undertaker said, picking up a globe and spinning it in his hand for the sheer pleasure of doing so, "it isn't just missing persons that you ought to be looking into. Humans are so strange . . . a rose by any other name . . . it's as if you change the name and you change the soul, but I wonder if that is true? My lady here was so depressed and sad when she played the role of a butler . . ."

"I'll be playing the role of your mortician if you don't hurry up!" Grell shouted.

"Hmm, well," he said, lifting the globe high to stare into its depths, "if the lady puts it like that . . . there has not only been a glut of corpses, but a glut of absent living souls too. You see . . . there have been an equal amount of disappearing persons as there have been mysterious murders, but you see not one of these bodies have been identified . . . but nor have any of these missing people been found. It makes you wonder if somehow these missing people are connected to these dead bodies?

"Not only that, but you are correct. There has been demonic involvement. It's not possible to say which demon or why, simply that the attacks were . . . demonic. If what you say is true then it is suspicious indeed that the demon in question has been leaving the souls for the Shinigami to collect, it's almost as if he or she wants to be caught, but . . . it makes your job easier."

"I don't see how," Grell said bitterly. "The dead don't talk."

"No, but they do paint a portrait."

The Undertaker put down the globe and walked about the room, his hands tracing every surface as he went, small giggles escaping his lips as he wandered about. Grell's eyes never left his frame, he watched the silver-haired man with a keen interest, whilst Ronald – on the other hand – seemed to glare daggers at the man, only watching him insofar as to judge his movements and anticipate any potential attacks. It was nice to be the centre of such attention . . .

He stopped in the centre of the room and dropped down besides a coffin. It was freshly polished and freshly varnished, and inside was a fresh corpse . . . there was something of a foul stench when the Undertaker reached down and slid open the lid, a mixture of the iron scent of blood and the bitter stench of disinfectant. Grell winced and covered his nose with his sleeve, whilst Ronald pulled a face that should have belonged on a child half of his age. The Undertaker merely laughed and lifted the body to a sitting position, whereupon he sat beside it and wrapped his arms around it like an old friend, supporting its weight as if it were entirely natural to do so.

"Have you forgotten about the cinematic records?" He took a hold of the body's hand and made it wave at Grell. "How else do you think William and I have such certainty of demonic involvement?"

"The cinematic records!" Ronald and Grell shouted in unison.

"I can tell you this for certain," the Undertaker said, laying the body back down to rest, "that demons certainly have been busy recently killing a variety of people from all walks of life, but that these people also have two lives. Jekyll and Hyde never had it so good! Look how beautiful she is, how at peace, no one lies in death although she certainly is lying." He chuckled at his own pun and closed the lid. "Her body speaks only the truth, from it I can read all records of her life without any fear of half-truths. If you want to know more then you'll have to pay the price."

"Another joke?"

"Hmm, do I want to hear another joke?"

The Undertaker came forward and stood before the two Shinigami with a wide and disarming smile, his fingers coming together in a steeple as he cocked his head to one side and chuckled under his breath. He observed the pair carefully for a long moment. There was a lot to be said for a joke, but there was also a lot to be said for making connections and obtaining information . . . he had been close enough to Vincent Phantomhive to learn all he needed to about the inner workings of the aristocracy, but surely an inside link to the Shinigami would be useful as well?

"No, I think not." He reached out and took a hold of Grell's chin firmly, before snapping it to one side in disdain. "Revenge would be sweet, but information would be sweeter still . . . the lady is welcome to come back alone should she require more information, but for now I have work to do. I am sure you both have work to do too, do you not? Please, come again soon! Repeat customers are what I live for!"

"Let's go, Miss Sutcliff. We have enough to make Mister Spears happy for now, and personally I don't trust this guy . . . if he wants a repeat performance then it sure won't be from either of us, right?"

"Yes, I suppose you're right . . ."

Grell sighed and ran a hand threw his hair, before heading to the door of the funeral parlour. Ronald followed obediently, albeit he cast a final dark glare at the Undertaker, as if warning him what would happen should he follow the pair, but the Undertaker merely stayed in place and watched the pair as they left with the information that they needed. The redhead cast a strange glance back at him before leaving the building, and it assured the Undertaker that the redhead was definitely wrapped in his web ready to be captured.

"Bye, bye," he said as a final parting, "please visit my humble abode again soon."

He laughed heartily as the door closed . . .

"I'll be expecting you."