Mayor John Carrolton could not be more inordinately pleased with himself if he’d tried. Well, and truly, he had tried. He thought of his prisoner—delightful phrase!—his prisoner, a guest of the local precinct. He thought of the countless letters of congratulations and gratitude that would accumulate from his happy constituents. He thought of the guaranteed re-elections, and his eventual legacy as a beloved mayor, the best in Thorthrope’s history, and tugged on his mustache with a grin, envisioning his future statue in the town square. The Mayoral Mansion would be forever after known as Carrolton House, and future Mayors would look up to his portrait and strive to emulate his example.
But one thought outshone all of these happy possibilities. He lifted a brief note off of his desk that had been delivered by his assistant earlier in the day.
An invitation to the Governor’s mansion. Now you want to speak to me, eh Frederick Clark? he thought, running a finger over the broken seal of the letter and sighing with satisfaction.
His assistant entered the room. “Sir, I’ve brought your fresh shirt from the laundress.”
“Excellent. Hang it on the coat hook there and I’ll change when I’m ready to depart.”
“Yes, sir,” his assistant said, bowing and taking his leave.
John thought of each detail of his journey to the Governor’s Mansion in turn. His freshly-pressed shirt. His newly-shined shoes. His neatly oiled hair and impeccably waxed mustache. The single marabelle flower he would purchase on the way and pin to his lapel—just as a reminder of their last encounter.
You wouldn’t dare put me out now that I’ve solved your problems, would you? John smiled to himself, sure that an increase in salary was on its way. Perhaps I can even run for Governor one day, he mused.
John readied himself, changing his shirt and arranging his jacket. He rang for his assistant and had him summon a carriage. He brought his pocketbook to purchase the marabelle. The ride to the Governor’s mansion was filled with pleasant thoughts of the future and peppered with self-righteousness.
He ascended the steps to the mansion, squared his shoulders proudly, and lifted the ornate knocker, a lion’s head, rapping three times and waiting expectantly.
A footman answered the door. “Mayor Carrolton, please, right this way. The Governor is expecting you. May I take your coat and hat?”
“You may, thank you,” John said graciously extending the items.
The butler arrived, the same man that had been obliged to put him out on his last visit. “Mayor Carrolton, the Governor is expecting you in his study. Please follow me and I can show you right in.”
“Thank you, good chap,” John said cheerfully. Oh how the times do change! he thought, smiling broadly at the butler.
They made their way to the study, where the door was already open, and the Governor sat at his desk.
“Sir, may I present Mayor John Carrolton,” the butler announced.
“Thank you, John, do come in,” Frederick said with a wave of his hand. “That will be all, Barnabas.”
“Very good, sir,” the butler said, bowing and making his exit, pulling the door closed behind him.
“Come in, John, be seated,” Frederick continued.
John settled himself in one of the brown leather and wooden chairs, of which two faced the desk, for visitors. Momentarily, Frederick set down whatever piece of business he’d been working on at that time.
“Alright, John,” Frederick began. “I’m going to give you the opportunity to explain yourself.”
John blinked. “I beg your pardon?”
“I will say this one last time. I am going to offer you the chance to explain to me why you independently arrested Albert Hedley, without so much as a by-your-leave to my office. And it had better be a damned good explanation,” Frederick added.
“Albert Hedley is a known danger to this city, to all of Aldershire! The activities of this agency of his are a public menace and have led to the injury and death of numerous citizens—”
“But where,” the Governor began in a low and threatening voice, “did you ever conceive of the notion that you might act independently on this matter?”
“You’ve no authority over me,” John said indignantly. “I’m not some servant to be ordered about!”
“Careful, John Carrolton, be very, very careful in what you’re saying to me right now. It will determine what is to become of you over this matter.”
“What is to become of me? I expect I will be hailed as a national hero after the trial!”
“There will be no trial.”
“There—there what?!” John sputtered.
“Owing to your utter imbecility, I am going to give you a very simple explanation,” Frederick said slowly, “one that just may be within your limited capabilities to comprehend. Do not interrupt me,” he said warningly as John began to sputter once more. “The situation at Thousand Candles is a very sensitive one, that must be handled with great care and precision. Powers far greater than yourself have already been dealing with this matter. Your rashness and utter idiocy may have compromised that entire operation, opening every citizen of this province, including yourself, to greater dangers than ever before. Can you work through that on what little capacity your parents endowed you with?”
John stared at Frederick, agape, the shock and insult vying for dominance in his response. “How—how—” he began, unsure if the end of that sentence was “—dare you?” or “—are you dealing with it?”
“It might be a bit much for you to sort out, so I’m going to make it even easier for you,” Frederick continued. “You are going to have your little goons release Albert Hedley immediately. You are going to beg his forgiveness, both in person and later in writing, for any inconvenience you may have caused by this terrible mistake. You will summon a carriage, paid for in your own coin, to take him home in comfort. Finally, you will sit in that little yellow house of yours, stay the hell away from anything having to do with Hedley or SPOT or tentacles, and pray that I am merciful with regards to your punishment!”
John blinked again, shaking his head in confusion at a response so utterly opposed to what he had expected.
“Do I mistake your reaction for disagreement, John? Or are you simply reminding yourself never to have such a lapse of judgement in the future?”
“I…I will do as you have said,” John finally managed.
“Excellent. I’m glad to see that we understand each other. Of course you also understand that my orders are to be carried out immediately?”
“Yes,” John said, his head hung low.
“Very well. I trust you can find the door without Barnabas to assist you?”
“Yes,” John said again, and made his way to the door.
“Yes, Governor Clark?”
“The next time you steal anything from me, you’ll be the one in a cell.”