The Thelion estate stood, or, perhaps it’d be more polite to say it slumped. It was just far enough out of the city that it could rest on a small mound by the beach and consider itself ‘viewing the sea,’ maybe with a dash of sad irony. In a happier New England area it’d have a nice steep cliff, or maybe even a lighthouse, to reckon with, but no, not this one. No, the multistorey house, with its old world charm, had to content itself with the slow discolouration of the rooftiles on one side of the house that spoke of the spray of salt.
A police car was parked at the front gate, and slouched against the hood, phone in his hand, was a lone cop. Sparrow rolled the car into park and sat back, patting his pockets in his seat.
“He’s not gunna ticket you.” Eris groused. “You’re parked legal.”
“Yeah, but I’m a brown kid and I look pretty queer. Plus too short to drive. Just saying, I keep my details on me around cops.”
Jude unfolded from the back seat, tucking his hands into his coat once he was standing. “Come on.” He said, his words a little misty cloud over Sparrow’s head. “Let’s go talk to the officer…” a momentary squint and an adjustment of his chest camera, “And see what’s going on.”
Crunch, crunch, crunch. The dirt and stone of the path by the home’s low wall was cold enough to crunch like snow, but they’d fortunately left behind that polar excess back in town. “Officer.” Jude murmured as he stepped forwards, almost unconsciously holding an arm out and behind himself, as if he expected Eris to leap on the man out of principle.
He wasn’t really wrong to assume that, but still.
“Mornin’,” he said, sipping his coffee and thumbing his phone locked. “You got some business in these parts?”
“Just a meeting with James Thelion,” Jude said, smoothly. “Naturally they’re kind of rare.”
“Yeah, I can only imagine. Sorry, though, think the old man’s schedule’s been knocked out for the day.”
“Ah?” Jude’s expression was a study in silent.
“Yeah, sorry. You’re a bit late for the ambulance. Mr Thelion’s son just killed himself – I’m just here in case anything comes up, and ah, to keep the business down out here.”
“Ah, right neighborly of you,” Jude said.
“Right neighborly?” Eris sputtered behind him.
“We’re not treating this as a suspicious death, y’know.” The cop said.
“Then it doesn’t matter what we talk about, right?” Jude asked.
“Hey, don’t make me out to be the asshole here,” the cop raised his chin. “Just like… someone died up there last night. Most accounts he was kinda a decent guy, just a bit busted in the head.” Then he paused, blanching a little. “Just a little screwy, okay?”
Ten steps away, Jude contemplated the path of progress before them. Eris grumbled as she jammed her hands into her pockets and leant forwards. “Think we should come back another time?”she peered through the gate.
“Ms Mycroft does pay us for results.” Jude said, walking over to the gate buzzer. “Worst case scenario, she says no.”
“The client?” Sparrow muttered.
“No, that’s not the worst case.” Jude murmured. “I’ve very rarely been called upon to break any important laws for Ms Mycroft, and this is just a curiosity at this point.”
Gloved thumb mashed a buzzer. A moment passed, then came back, then sat there amongst the three, until it had grown enough to be a solid five minutes of waiting. Jude put his thumb to the buzzer again and pressed once more. Another long wait.
“Listen, I’m gunna go sit in the car.” Sparrow pointed across his body. “There’s gotta be something fun to do while I wait.”
“Fun?” Jude asked, an eyebrow raised.
“… You know what fun is, right?”
“I’ve heard of it.”
“Yeah, it’s what people do when they’re not buttling or beating the dudleys out of Ohioan meth dealers.”
“Wait, what?” Eris asked, glancing up at Jude. “You like, fight things?”
“… What do you think Jude has all that Jude even for, Eris?” Sparrow asked, pulling open the car door and slouching inside. “It’s not for reaching high shelves.”
Jude stopped at the back seat of the car, nostrils flaring as he reached for his phone. “I reach high shelves just fine.”
Four in the afternoon, the cop walked over to the car where they’d been sitting. Rapped on the window. Told them he’d be doing another pass back, and he was going on his way, because things seemed nice and quiet. And it was oh-so-clear as he did, that he wanted to give Jude the stink-eye just out of general principle.
And nothing happened.
“What are we even waiting for?” Eris groused.
“Ms Mycroft’s aware of what’s going on.” Jude said, hands resting in his lap.
“And whassat mean?” Eris flopped backwards, setting the car seat back as far as she could and putting her feet back up on the dash for the third time today.
“Don’t do that.” Sparrow mentioned for the third time today, looking at his phone, turning the page, rereading the same book for the second time. “Jeeze, these two are just asking to get eaten by a monster girl…”
“It means that if she wants us back, she’ll call us back.”
“You haven’t like, worked with many people on Ms Mycroft’s stuff before, have you, Jude?”
“Didn’t really figure you’d been workin’ on Ms Mycroft’s stuff at all,” Sparrow muttered, turning the page on his phone.
“And what’s that supposed to mean?” Eris asked, blushing hot.
“Hang on, why are you annoyed?” Sparrow looked up in surprie.
“Hang on, why did you think he’d be annoyed?” Eris pointed at Jude.
“Just to remind you both, Ms Mycroft is recording this conversation,” Jude said. “And owns a riding crop.” He turned to look up at the building, expression cryptic.
“Next time this happens, I’m bringing my walkman.”
“Always bring your walkman, then.” Jude said. Then he stopped and looked over at Eris. “Wait, a walkman?”
“What of it?”
And then the phone rang
Jude fished into his pocket. He answered it, and the only words to come through, before he could speak, were the clear, crisp words of Ms Mycroft. “Look at the second floor veranda, right now.”
In the half-light of the evening, with only a small light in the building, a light lifted… and lowered in the gloom.
“Yes, Ms Mycroft,” Jude said, to the phone, which had already hung up. As he piled out of the car, Eris asked behind him, “Okay, that was basically magic.”
The nurse sighed, leaning against the front porch of the building, cigarette in her hand. Her name tag said Eden but it was stitched into a white outfit, and quite a nice one at that.
“Sorry ‘bout the earlier part of the day,” she said, as the trio drew close. “The old man used up a lot of his energy talking to the police, and we needed to clean up a lot once they okayed it.”
“Very sorry to hear about it,” Jude mumbled. “Is Mr Thelion going to be available to talk the rest of the night?”
“Honestly…? Probably not.” She shook her head. “Man lost his son this morning. He’s not one of your heartless old rich jerks, either. Just a real rough time.”
“Hey, uh.” Eris piped up.
“What kind of care you giving him?”
“Palliative.” She shook her head, sighing, as she waved her hand, cigarette smoke tracing a line in the air. “Sorry, I’m a bit shook up by this.”
“… Aren’t you a nurse?” Eris asked.
“Yeah, I’m an aged care nurse. You don’t normally deal with these kind of things with the elderly.”