Seymour set Crowlinger’s boots, now spotless, on the kitchen floor beside their owner’s feet. “Here you are, sir.”
The inspector leaned over them and wrinkled his nose. “They smell.”
“Not a whole lot worse than they smelt before.”
“Listen, de Winter. I have no intention of wearing clothing that reeks of your vomit. Either get the smell out, or find me a new pair of shoes to wear.”
Seymour thought for a moment. “I could douse them with perfume. That ought to mask it.”
“Well, sir, I’d lend you some of my own boots, but frankly, they’d look like clown shoes on you. Wouldn’t be very comfortable, either, I’d imagine.”
Crowlinger got up and padded over to the door. “What about these?” he asked, gesturing at Lord Henry’s boots, which were leaning haphazardly against the coatrack.
Seymour blanched. “No, those won’t work.”
“Why not?” the inspector asked, picking the left one up to study. “They look about my size.”
“I can’t let you take them. They don’t belong to me.”
Snorting, Crowlinger turned the boot over in his hands. “Clearly they don’t. This is some nice leatherwork. And…silver buckles. You couldn’t afford even one of these if you saved up for years.”
“Exactly,” said Seymour. “Put it down, please.”
He set the shoe back down on the floor and straightened up. “But then what is it doing in your flat, merman?”
“A friend of mine left them here. Temporarily.”
“Shoes aren’t the sort of thing one just leaves at a friend’s house, de Winter. And since when have you had friends? Let alone rich friends?” Crowlinger raised his eyebrows and began to scan the room. “I see your ‘friend’ left his cloak and his hat here, as well. And his gloves.”
Seymour found himself frozen in place. “What of it?”
“I’m going to deduce, merman, by means of the gentleman’s shoes by the door and the gentleman’s cloak on the rack and the gentleman’s hat and gloves on the table, that there is a gentleman somewhere in this flat. And seeing as the only part of your flat not visible from here is your bedroom, then, unless he escaped through the window using a rope made out of your tied-together linens, there is a gentleman in your bedroom.”
His throat felt suddenly too dry to speak. He swallowed and stumbled backwards a step.
“What is a gentleman doing in your bedroom, Mr. de Winter?”
“With all due respect, Inspector, that’s none of your fucking business.”
“Isn’t it my job to report crimes?”
“I thought you had no intention of forfeiting such an invaluable asset over something so trivial as an interspecies relationship.”
“Perhaps I’ve changed my mind,” Crowlinger said, striding for the bedroom door with his arm outstretched at knob-level.
“Don’t.” Seymour stumbled towards him in an attempt to intercept him. “Please don’t.”
The inspector placed his hand on the doorknob. “I can’t help but be curious, de Wi—”
The door growled.
“He has an attack dog,” said Seymour.
Crowlinger stepped backward, but the door opened anyway, revealing Henry—sloppily dressed and wearing one of Seymour’s scarves around his head in such a manner that his face was concealed but for his right eye—standing in the doorway with his left hand in Lupe’s collar and his right on the hilt of his sword. “She’s bred to kill,” he whispered. “As am I.”
Smiling uncomfortably, Seymour reached past Crowlinger and shut the door gently in Henry’s face. “Very well. Has your curiosity been satisfied, sir?”
Crowlinger stared blankly for a moment at the closed door. “That’s some strange taste you’ve got, merman.”