Continued from §.07.
Oeric Adair read and reread the Ersentwyer Evening Standard as he waited in the drawing room of his newly purchased manse for Cerelia to greet him. His nerves such that the paper jittered in his hands, which, in erratic interludes, would irregularly flutter down to the tabletop to tap in rapid succession as his shoes clacked upon the hard surface of the polished marble floor as if modulating the pedals of a great and invisible organ.
After several minutes of timorous tapping, Aldwyn shut the novel he was reading and threw his friend a look of vexation.
“Thou shalt scuff the floor with thy clacking.”
Adair sighed and threw the paper on the table and withdrew a cigarette from a small silver case in his inner jacket pocket, lighting it with the pumpkin-scented candle Cerelia had given him along with the stolen corvine coat.
“Apologies. I know not what to do.”
“What is to be done?”
“They herald me now as a hero… Cerelia, if she’s read the paper, doubtless thinks likewise.”
“Demelody knows thou wert absent the shipyard.”
“Aye, yet the ministry has no outlet of its own as The Standard. Besides, they’ll keep all information pertinent to the investigation within their walls until the matter is concluded; giving more primacy to the apprehension of the assassin than to the enlightenment of the public on all details pertinent to his capture.”
Aldwyn raised a brow, grave concern plain-writ upon his face. Moments later, Cerelia Wealdmaer burst into the drawing room, swaddled in a peacock-feathered overcoat, followed by a tall, powerfully-built man, expensively attired in a gold-trimmed waistcoat, dark-blue suit and checkered breeches.
Adair nearly gave an audible groan. After the travails of the day, the last thing he wanted to see was the perpetually scathing visage of Serlo Wealdmaer.
Cerelia smiled and dashed towards Adair, throwing her arms about him in loving embrace, as Serlo slowly made his way to the middle of the drawing room, where Aldwyn sat, sipping tea, novel upon his lap.
“My hero returns!”
“Hero?” Adair replied with amusement, taking the woman about the waist and setting her down upon his lap, “Hardly, hardly.”
“Oh, Aldwyn, how rude I am! Wert thou present when the blackguard beset our man?”
Aldwyn looked up from his book uncertainly. Adair thought that if his eyebrows moved any higher, they’d fly right off his face.
“No, I was at Mazrak’s. Destrali was playing.”
“Ah. When I read the paper,” Cerelia continued breathlessly, “I could scarcely believe it.”
“Neither could I,” Serlo declared, turning full toward the master of the house, “Wherefore the departure?”
Adair perked up, “Hm?”
“The theatre. Why didst thou depart?”
“Oh, that. The concert simply wasn’t what I had expected. So I sought some air, and in seeking, made way to the cargo yard where the villain attacked.”
Serlo looked to Aldwyn who nodded blankly.
Adair rose, swaggering arm in arm with Cerelia, and addressed Serlo confidently.
“Since thou shalt shortly be my brother, thy presence I should be overjoyed to retain.”
“Nay. I’ve matters to attend to. Shalt thy accompany me, Cerelia?”
“After all that has transpired, certainly, I must stay a while. Oh, Serlo, stay.”
With a grimace he turned to the door, “Take care, sister. Goodday, gentlemen.”
As soon as the door had shut behind the man, Adair turned to Cerelia with exasperation.
“Why didst thou tell me not of thy brother’s accompaniment?”
Cerelia was much taken aback, “After what had transpired, wherefore thy vexation, dearest? A killer nearly pinned thee to a cargo crate; I shall not travel alone whilst freely yet he lurks.”
Adair’s face fell slightly, for, during the interim from his departure to the theatre and return to his villa, he had in no wise considered Cerelia’s safety.
She’s right, he thought in self-reprimand, the cutthroat was after me, but that means not that those who sent him are after me only. Surely, the root of the matter lays with my family name. How thoughtless I have been, and how unworthy I am of poor Cerelia, who handles the matter with all the reserve of a baroness! And how more nobly than I does her scowling brother attend his blood…
Aldwyn rose from his armchair to address Cerelia.
“Perchance our goodly hero shall bring the rogue to justice.”
Adair puffed out his chest.
“Perchance I shall.”
Continued in §.09.