Patches fixed Eugenia with a patient glare, and in clipped,pained, syllables said simply “That’s a candle, Eugenia. Fontanello is a being of unspeakable evil. This is not a situation where mood lighting will help!”
“Says the adorable kitty who transforms into a world-renowned gentleman burglar? Calm your britches, ducky.”
Spluttering, Patches had nothing to say to that, which left Decca and Eugenia bonding through shared laughter.
“You don’t ‘alf make a pretty picture, mate!”
Trying and failing to recapture at least a little sangfroid, Patches asked what precisely the candle did in a more respectful tone.
“Why, you silly boy! It rewrites history, to a certain extent. Its range only reaches back two weeks, of course – it’s a candle, not a miracle worker – and those standing within its glow retain their memories of the original timeline – which is lucky, because if I thought that I suddenly wouldn’t remember meeting your charming friend Mr. Decca, I wouldn’t let you use it. What makes the situation even more delicious – Fonty gave it to me before I ended things. And I’m certainly glad, now, that I did.” Eugenia simpered at Decca, pursing her lips in a way that she thought was coquettish, but came off more grotesque. Decca made alarmingly cute little love snaps back, but Patches interrupted the scene before things could get too twee.
“That’s very generous, Eugenia, but I fail to see how resetting events would help with the Fontanello situation. Even if it allows us to escape this island, he’ll still be out there – it’s only a matter of time before we all run afoul of him again!”
Visibly annoyed, Eugenia stopped flirting long enough to snap “You really haven’t figured it out?” An irritated sigh as she set Decca down, then she stood and looked Patches directly in the eye. With clenched fists, she began to explain. “Look, darling. Angeline. Fontanello. Mr. Johnson. Even that mad surgeon – even your erstwhile master. They’re all tied up in this together. Did you think that running from peril to peril like this wasn’t planned? There’s a much bigger plot going on, and we’re all merely pieces on the board. I’m supposed to be looking after you – and I assume you have similar duties, don’t you, turtledove?” This last was to Decca, who grinned.
“That’s right, heartsblood.”
“Fontanello is pulling the strings for the opposite team, Mr. P, and we’ve been keeping you in the dark about our own side – it’s part of the plan, you know. But at this point, I really think we ought to clue you in to what’s going on.”
With a flicker of his customary smugness, Patches protested – “None of this makes a damned lick of sense.”
“Language, mate!” snarled Decca. “And ‘ave a bit o’ respect fer the lady! Carry on, my dear.”
Eugenia lit the candle, then offered it to Patches. “Make a wish, Mr. P, go on.”
A flicker of colored lights and other assorted special effects – and they were in Patches’ own front hallway, minutes where Dustin, Patches’ former master, and Eugenia herself stood. Eugenia – the Eugenia who had just traveled from the future – winked at the Eugenia who was daintily wiping blood from her lip. “Trouble?” Past-Eugenia asked sharply, ” It was bad enough for you to use the candle, dear? You know we don’t have that much of it left.”
“Absolutely,” her future incarnation replied. “We don’t have much time before Patches – your Patches – gets back with that steak for you. When he does, attack the boy – Sorry, Master, you’ll need to fake your death – and wait for Past-Patches to run. Mr. P,” turning to the present – future? – version of the feline “In a few short minutes, you should have a better idea of what’s been going on.”