Although Lexington Argyle Liverpool the 12th had officially retired more than ten years before, there was still an unwritten decorum to be followed; thus, Andrew Haynes found himself standing outside Mr. Liverpool’s quarters, his hands coated with nervous sweat despite his many years of dedicated service. He was 25 years old the last time he felt that nervous. He had eventually gotten use to Mr. Liverpool’s rough nature, at times even enjoying it in a twisted way.
“Mr. Liverpool, this is Andrew Haynes,” the servant announced.
“Who?” The old man stood in the doorway, cane in hand, squinting at the bright light of the corridor.
“Andrew Haynes, sir. I was your personal assistant before you retired.”
“Oh yes, that Andrew Haynes — did I like you?”
Andrew’s lower lip fell and quivered like a drowning fish as he tried to think of something to say. In the end, he just ignored the question.
“I got a hit on that old website I set up for you.”
“Somebody killed your website? Why?”
“No,” Andrew replied, “nobody put a hit out on my website. Somebody has accessed it.”
“So? Isn’t that the point?” Mr. Liverpool raised his eyebrows.
“Yes, but it’s been decades since I set it up. It’s the website about Circulus Nubis. It was an attempt to find your crystal. Do you remember now?”
“Yes, I remember. I’m not senile, you know,” Mr. Liverpool answered in a nasty voice and smacked the side of Andrew’s leg with his cane. He started breathing harder, fatigued from his brief episode of exertion.
“Come in, Mr. Haynes,” he said as he turned around and made his way to a recliner. “I may not be senile, but I am old.” He motioned for Andrew to take a seat.
“As I recall,” he continued, “that website has had visitors in the past.”
“Yes, sir,” Andrew replied, “but never like this.” With a silent stare as the only proof of Mr. Liverpool’s attention, Andrew cleared his throat and continued, “All of the criteria are present.”
“That’s never happened before?” Mr. Liverpool’s stare intensified as he frowned.
“No, sir.” Andrew cleared his throat again. “I’m quite certain this is the real deal.”
Mr. Liverpool raised his cane and rested it against Andrew’s nose. “That or something similar to it has been said many times over the past 12 generations of Liverpools.” He pushed against the cane, squishing Andrew’s nose. Andrew did his best to maintain his posture, allowing his head to move back just enough to ease the pain.
“Don’t let that be the last thing you say to me, Mr. Haynes.” The old man’s voice was surprisingly soft.
Andrew stared cross-eyed at the cane, taking several deep breaths. The power wielded by the head of the Liverpool family was not to be underestimated; however, it wasn’t to be second guessed either. Mr. Liverpool ran out of patience while waiting for Andrew to formulate his next sentence.
“Don’t keep me waiting,” he yelled, throwing the cane to the floor. “What was the criteria?”
Andrew hid a smile behind his hand while he rubbed his sore nose. The old man will not admit that he forgot, he thought.
“The most important criteria,” Andrew said after a few moments, “was that both Latin words were used in a specific keyword search. Many visitors in the past used only one of the words, suggesting that they were stu—”
“Yes, yes,” Mr. Liverpool interrupted. “Go on!”
“Another one is the amount of time spent on the page,” Andrew continued. “The page was designed to be read quickly. Most hits in the past were barely long enough to read it. This time the page stayed open long enough to read the page twice.”
“That’s happened before as well,” Mr. Liverpool added.
“Yes, but in most of those cases, the page was left open long enough that we believe that the user walked away from the computer. Not so in this case. There was another search, which involved a criteria we weren’t even looking for 30 years ago.”
Mr. Liverpool raised his eyebrows and leaned forward. “I’m listening,” he said, his voice barely above a whisper.
“The next page brought up was a local chapter for the Myths and Legends Society.”
Mr. Liverpool laughed loudly, clapping his hands slowly and deliberately. “The Millers may be able to hide well in a crowd, but it is easy to spot when one of their cohorts sets up shop.”
Switching to his previous serious mode, he asked, “Where?”
Mr. Liverpool nodded and tapped a touchscreen on the arm of the recliner. “Yes, sir,” a voice was heard throughout the room.
“Is this Fourteen?” Mr. Liverpool asked with a genuine smile.
“Yes, Grandfather,” Lexington Argyle Liverpool the 14th replied.
“I assume you have been briefed.”
“A team is ready to go on your orders,” Fourteen said, anticipating the next step.
“You’re in command now. You give the order, Fourteen.”