The Higgenbottom Manor was just as quaint as Miss Fidelia had remembered it to be as she approached the estate; well, at least from the outside. Unassuming yet immaculately well-kept, the brick country house stood proudly on the corner of Cherry Street as its breathtakingly enormous cathedral windows granted any passerby with just a teasing glimpse into their urban legend Miss Higgenbottom’s inner world. A polished cherrywood piano stood upright and close to her well-loved writing desk, in which she would religiously pen a letter or two mid-afternoon as her young assistant dutifully filled the room with beautiful music.
This day, the room was occupied by someone entirely different. This someone scoured the modest room as though it had something to hide, frantically making quite a mess of things as she carelessly crumpled up bits of stationery she didn’t seem to find important. If she meant to out herself as a person who most certainly did not belong, she was making short work of it with her black catsuit and a mask to match, making plenty of noise and performing conspicuously beside the tall windows. Already the neighborhood was beginning to watch as though they were witness to a play, the whole thing was such a spectacle to behold. Calling the authorities hadn’t yet occurred to anyone; and yet, she had counted on this reaction all along.
“Blast and damn,” muttered the woman as she stood in the center now, surrounded by spilled ink and letters both old and new, the parchment blotched to an almost indiscernible degree. The rest of the room had somehow become involved in her perpetual hurricane; the picture frames turned sideways, and every stature, every mantle piece, knocked about every so slightly. Lingering for just a few moments, she shook her head impatiently as her eyes darted about with paranoia at the slightest details of the dainty little drawing room. “What on earth ought I tell the boss now?” she continued, shaking her head in panic. “He will have my bloody head for this.”
“Surely you would rather I have you for lunch instead?”
The woman dramatically pressed her hands to her chest as she spun and met her master’s gaze. She couldn’t help but smile sheepishly at him, his eyes still searching the room masterfully even as he spoke. “And just where on earth have you been, Abernathy! You got me in such a tizzy here, I’ll have you know.” Out the corner of her eye she noticed a young woman with primly curled chestnut hair and eyes that couldn’t help but glitter with curiosity as she stepped slowly into to the room. “Well now, I see you brought someone new,” she said with a devilish smirk. “Is she the…you know, the new new?”
“Well, as it happens–”
“Miss Higgenbottom’s letters!” the new new herself gasped involuntarily as she beheld the disaster before her, stepping forward with indignation. “Do you have any idea what Miss Higgenbottom will do once she sees the mess you’ve made?!” she scolded, pointing in the masked woman’s direction.
Two policemen began knocking on the door and shouting for them to surrender. Stunned and confused, Fidelia stared desperately into the woman’s eyes. “Relax, kid.” Snapping once with her fingers, she began rubbing her index and middle fingers together as though they were kindling. Moments later, the world seemed to move around them without their being directly involved, as though it were part of an alternate universe slowly traveling backwards. The quicker the woman’s fingers moved, the quicker the sequence as Fidelia stood in shock. Seconds later, they were standing in a perfectly situated room, apparently untouched since Miss Higgenbottom’s…well, rather conspicuous absence, as it happens. Usually she is at home around this time, tending to her garden, Fidelia thought.
Having lost his patience, Abernathy put his hands on the woman’s shoulders and spoke gravely. “There is no time, Victoria. The day we feared has come. Let’s have lunch, all of us. Your abilities will help us enormously here, and in fact will play a vital role. We will go incognito, so that no one may find us.”
Suddenly, the phone began to ring. Answering immediately, Fidelia was surprised to learn that it was, indeed, Miss Higgenbottom. “My dear,” she began urgently, “I’m in a spot of trouble that I’m not…quite sure how to get out of, now. But you and what I am sure has to be a total of three people beside you by now can assuredly assist me.”