Brian crossed the gymnasium to his twin sister, who was early to Interfacing training, Inky perched on her shoulders.
“Gigi,” Brian said, “have you seen Sky?”
“Hm? He’s not in tentaclebeast quarters?”
“No. I was wondering if maybe he came to the gymnasium before I went to collect him.”
“I haven’t seen him. Inky is listening for him now.”
“Thank you.” Brian shifted uneasily from one foot to the other.
“We’ve reached him. He’s on his way.”
“Great. Where was he, anyhow?”
“I’m not certain. Maybe he just forgot training hour?” Gigi suggested.
“Maybe. Thank you, though.” Before Gigi could ask any questions, Brian began some warm-up exercises. Other SPOT agents began to crowd into the gymnasium. Just as Christopher strode into the room, Sky made his appearance. Brian held out his arms and Sky reached out with thin, blue and fuschia tentacles to Interface with him.
Where were you? Brian asked Sky.
Sky flashed an image of the conservatory into their shared mind.
It was not my intention to cause you distress when I said that we must end flight practices, Brian said back. Sky was confused by the sudden profusion of language, and Brian had to think of another way to express the idea.
When we stopped flying, Brian thought, recalling the day to Sky with imagery, you were good. To reinforce “good”, he brought to mind another occasion on which he had praised Sky.
Thank you, Sky said, carefully echoing the phrase of gratitude he’d learned from human interaction.
Therefore, there is no need to hide from daily training, Brian thought. I’m not cross with you. I’m pleased with you.
Thank you, Sky said again, sending a pleased feeling back in return.
Why do I get the feeling, Brian wondered, that I haven’t truly made myself understood? But there was no time for any additional attempts, because Christopher was calling out names, and Brian realized they were being divided into groups for another exercise.
* * *
Will Hastings, longtime butler to the Hedley family, was most frequently the man to answer any knock at the door of Thousand Candles, as Albert Hedley saw no need for additional footmen. An older man with warm eyes and salt and pepper hair, he moved slowly but with a proud carriage.
Will Hastings was the man to answer the door the day Mayor John Carrolton arrived, accompanied by four policemen, their tall blue hats casting a shadow over the mayor, who stood a good head or so shorter than the men who accompanied him.
“Good day, Mayor Carrolton—” Will began.
“None of that. This is no social call. I’m here on government business, and you will let me pass.”
“May I be of assistance, sir?” Will said, a bit taken aback.
“Yes. Fetch your master. I’m here to arrest Albert Hedley.”