Seymour de Winter escorted the mages back to their carriage around midnight. The full moon was now hanging low and large on the horizon, but the raven still sat perched upon the tavern’s wooden sign, its creaking call echoing ominously in the silence of the night. He felt strange, as if the floor of his world were about to drop out, leaving nothing in it but himself and a vacant shell of a city.
“Your lordship?” he blurted out as Henry was stepping up into the carriage.
Well, now that he’d started, he might as well carry through with it. “I was wondering if I could have a word with you. In private.”
Henry hesitated, then stepped back down onto the street. “I’ll be just a moment,” he said over his shoulder to the other two mages.
“Thanks.” Seymour nodded across the empty street, whence the MacQuarries, the driver, or anyone else would be less able to eavesdrop, and they crossed over to it. “May I call you Henry, or is that too informal?”
“You may, currently. Not in public, though.”
“All right.” He sighed, looked down at the cobblestones, then raised his face to the smoke-stained sky. “I have to ask you—and don’t take this badly—”
Henry waited, his body nearly frozen, as if some part of him knew what was coming next. “Yes?”
Leaning toward him slightly, Seymour lowered his voice to just above a whisper. “Henry, are you gay?”
The mage’s mismatched eyes widened, and he blushed so deeply, the detective could almost feel the heat off his face. “What?”
“I’m not accusing you of anything, Henry.”
“What are you doing, then?”
He sighed again and anchored his thumbs into the sides of his belt. “I’m just bi and lonely and half-dead inside, and I noticed you looking me over earlier, so I thought we could maybe hook up or something.”
“I mean, I generally try to avoid establishing those sorts of relations with clients, but I can make exceptions…”
Henry stammered a few jumbled syllables, still blushing, then gave up and resorted to bobbing his head up and down and breathing raggedly.
“Does that mean you want to?”
“Y-yes. But what do I tell the MacQuarries?”
“Tell them that we have important logistics to work out concerning your brother’s case, and they should return to your lodgings without you, since this discussion might take a while. And tell them not to wait up for you, either. You aren’t sharing a room with them, are you? No, of course you’re not,” Seymour answered himself before Henry could. “You’re rich. In the morning, I’ll do my best to return you before they notice your absence.”
“All right,” Henry said, nodding. “But I’ll have to take my dog.”