On the other side of a forest, a mountain range, and two rivers, Seymour de Winter poured a shot of cheap brandy into his tea and waltzed into his bedroom, beverage in hand.
Rosalind groaned and rolled over.
“I’m leaving in a few minutes,” he said, shaking her gently by the shoulder, “and I need you to leave with me or before me, so I can lock the door when I go.”
“I’m awake, I’m awake.”
Seymour took a swig of tea and set it down on the bedside table. “If you aren’t up in five…well, drastic measures will be taken.”
“Your five minutes begin,” he picked his pocket watch up off the top of his chest of drawers, “now.”
Yawning and stretching, he made his way over to the washbasin, bent over it, scrubbed his face clean and rinsed his mouth out with diluted mint extract. Then he sat down on the edge of the bed to comb his hair. Meanwhile, Rosalind’s breaths had lengthened audibly as she drifted off back to sleep. He took another few gulps of spiked tea and glanced at his pocket watch again.
“Rooosaliind,” he sang, standing up. “It…is…near…tiiime to go, and I…must…be…foooore, uh, the wind, uh, drags…me…ooouut the door…”
He paused his tone-deaf recital to pull the covers off the bed. She squealed and curled up in a ball in response to the sudden draft of cold air.
“And…I…am…much afraaaaid…that the…things…that get me laaaaid…aren’t the...same…ones that get me paaaid…so would you…please…do as I saaay, because we must awaaay!”
“Your neighbors must love you,” she grumbled, rolling out of bed and picking her clothes up from the floor.
Seymour looked up at the ceiling. “Sorry, neighbors!” he shouted.
“I’m sure that fixes it.” She pulled on her petticoats and fastened them about her waist. “What’s got you so cheerful this early in the morning?”
“Well, I just drove an old creep out of my apartment using my wits alone, so I’m riding a bit of a high right now, even though I’m going to have to go out and meet up with him again shortly—let’s not think about that—plus, I have a murder case today, and do you know what that means?”
She didn’t seem terribly interested. “What does it mean?”
“Money,” he said, rubbing his long webbed fingers together. “Money is what that means.”
“Good for you. Can you help me with my corset?”
“Would be my pleasure.” He took the strings in his hands and began to tug on them. “Tell me when it’s tight enough.”
“Keep…going,” she whispered, winded. “More…There, stop.”
“Corsets are the worst,” said Seymour.
Grimacing, she pulled on her dress and fastened the button at the back of her collar. “What would you know of them?”
“More than you might think, darling.” He finished off his tea in one swallow. “Are you ready to go?”