Meanwhile…

In the small room of a nondescript home in the middle of a busy street, a young man perfectly fills up a blank book. The characters are all in a straight line, all within equal distance of each other. No one would ever think they’re written by a human hand.

This is his favorite pastime. In fact, it’s his only pastime. He enjoys the order and the uniformity. Everything lined up perfectly. No messy scrawls. No letters dancing chaotically on the page.

His home is just as organized. Every little detail in its own place. It’s why he barely entertains any visitors. Those who do come are careful not to disturb his belongings, for the young man has quite the temper when things are in disarray.

A soft rap on his door causes him to pause his work. He sets his fountain pen down beside his book and invites the person on the other side to enter.

The door opens a small crack and a figure glides in, accompanied by the sweet smell of apples. On their first meeting, he found the scent irritating. He would always search for an escape or an open window from which to get fresh air. That changed the longer they worked together.

Beneath the cloak, a voice hisses. Sinister, but also mesmerizing; all characteristic of an Ophidian. “Higgenbottom has been arrested, and the girl has been taken into the fold.”

The man stands and drifts over to his floor-to-ceiling bookshelf. It’s filled with copies of the same book he’s been writing on. Black leather covers all aligned, all bearing his initials on their lower spines.

His eyes methodically scan the rows until he finds the exact book he’s looking for. Carefully, he pries it from its place and then flips through the pages.

FIDELIA JOINS THE DETECTIVE AT VERY LARGE is written on one. Lines of instructions above it have been neatly checkmarked.

A few more pages after that are the words: MISS HIGGENBOTTOM IS IMPRISONED. He brings the book back to his desk and, with a great deal of satisfaction, marks it.

The man is pleased with how smoothly his plans are coming to fruition. Best of all, no one except he and his colleague knows that he is pulling all the strings.

Several other events are set to happen before the grand finale, and from what he’s seen, they should be unfolding soon and in a most dramatic fashion. He simply has to sit back and watch the dominos he fastidiously arranged continue to ripple out. 

For while the man may hate chaos, when he’s the mastermind, he absolutely loves it.

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In Which the Crisis is Somewhat Introduced

Fidelia used this spare moment to tidy up her appearance–pat down the wild mane of her hair, brush off the bit of dust from her skirt. That was sufficient enough to deem her presentable to the Detective, she supposed. She rocked back and forth on her heels and waited for Himself to appear.

The door opened, revealing Augie once again. Fidelia straightened as if to show she had remained perfectly well-behaved in his absence. “Do come in, Miss Fidelia. Mister Nathaniel is preoccupied at present but shall grant you audience in the great chamber.”

This was the first Fidelia has ever stepped foot in the club. “Office girls” such as she were not permitted entry. Only those who held the distinction of Detective could gain access. Therefore, this was a rare opportunity that both excited and worried her.

Every concern she held disappeared at the sight that greeted her. She knew not where to rest her eyes–the intricate patterns on the wall, the ornamented furniture, or the antique displays?–for every design and decor beckoned her gaze. It was quite the contrast from its rather nondescript exterior.

But nothing she’d seen thus far inspired more awe than the grand hallway. Hanging from the walls were the painted portraits of all the great Detectives of history. Fidelia recognized nearly every one: Sir Theophilus Edmund Penhale, who single-handedly dismantled a notorious crime organization in a matter of days; Mamsyr, whose picture was but a vague silhouette for their identity was a complete mystery; Cleophane Higgenbottom, Miss Higgenbottom’s great-aunt and the most decorated Detective of her time.

One day, Fidelia swore, she will have her own framed portrait added to this impressive lineup.

Augie reached the entrance of the great chamber and invited her to enter first. The room was equally as magnificent as the rest of the club. Displayed right in the center of the room was an impressive reconstruction of a city skyline made entirely out of matches. At the last second, she noticed Himself leaning comfortably against an ornate desk.

“Mister Nathaniel, I’ve brought Miss Fidelia here per your request,” Augie announced. Then, with a deep bow, he left the room. 

“Pleased to make your acquaintance,” Fidelia curtsied.

Mister Nathaniel was the club’s most popular Detective. Quite the bumbling buffoon in public, he seemed to solve cases more out of pure luck than genuine skill. But his record thus far was unmatched and, clumsy though he may be, he always got the job done.

“I come with a letter from the Agency,” she continued, handing the sealed envelope over to the Detective. He wasted no time in slicing it open with a thin silver blade he procured from atop the desk. He made agreeable hums and harumphing noises as he scanned its contents.

“Sounds like quite the spot of trouble we’ve found ourselves in,” Nathaniel observed. “Terrible! Most distressing! However will we get out of this?”

And then, from somewhere within the matchstick construction, a soft voice spoke, “You have such a flare for the dramatic, Paddy.”

Nathaniel–Paddy?–grinned as if pleased with himself. “I try, young sir. I find it good practice for when the media gather to report on our endeavors.”

Whistling a jaunty tune, Paddy pushed himself off the desk and approached the source of the voice. He held out the letter, and a small hand appeared from the center of the miniature city to grab it.

Then the small hand turned into an arm and then a body until finally a young child materialized out of the tiny wooden construction.

In a dramatic booming voice, Paddy said, “Introducing the real Nathaniel Erasmus Baldrick Bracegirdle, Detective at Very Large.”

Fidelia gaped at this small, gangly-limbed boy. Was this really the genius who captured the Star Jewel Bandit and solved the Serial Ghost Murders at House Marfleet? He was but a mere bubtion!

“He’s not very large, is he?” she remarked.

“Physical attributes contribute little to the workings of the mind,” he responded patiently. “But I propose we focus on the pressing matter at hand. I have read what is written on this letter, and Paddy’s initial reaction may not be too far off the mark.

“There is an awful plot brewing in our city, and I fear only the three of us in this room will be able to stop it. What say you, Miss Fidelia? Will you help save this city?”

In Which a Wall is Momentarily Broken

“It is not so much a desire as it is a necessity,” she answered. Patches remained in defensive mode, ears still pressed flat against his head. She, however, regarded him with disinterest. Her eyes fluttered, pupils narrowed into thin slits. This particular time of day was set aside for naps–for to her, the threat of gray aliens and faceless shooters paled in comparison to the damage that lack of sleep would do to her brilliant white coat–and yet she was being put upon to explain such a simple plan to their fallout boy.

Sensing some mild confusion, she turned her head and explained, “He is called thus because his fate is the result of Fontanello’s schemes. The reference stands. I shall accept no questions on the matter.”

Curious, Patches gazed in the direction she faced. He knew not to whom she was speaking, for all he saw were the shelves of books that lined the Library’s walls. Perhaps there was an audience hidden in those shadows, but he had more pressing concerns at the moment. “There must be some other form I can take!” he beseeched. “Perhaps a winged unicorn or a majestic phoenix. Something that flies!”

“Vampires fly to some degree. I have done extensive research.” Her hackles raised for a brief moment as she recalled the time spent poring through such literary drivel. “This will work most effectively against that villainous oaf. The decision has been made. If you do not accept it, then you shall be dismissed from our service.” She daintily licked a paw but her claws–and the implied threat–were apparent.

Patches’s ears drooped in resignation. He supposed life as a vampire boy was preferable to having no life at all. “May I at least know the name of the immaculate beauty who is sending me to my sparkly doom?”

“Yes, I do believe you are owed that much. I am Violetta Browne, Marchioness of Sligo, First Chair of the Council of Librarians, Great Felyne Oracle, Guardian of the White River. Like all those beneath me, you shall address me as Lady Violet.”

“Fairest Lady Violet.” Patches again graciously bowed. “I wish we met under more fortunate circumstances.”

“Believe me, Sir Patches, if it were more fortunate circumstances, we would have never met at all.” The mystery in her voice, meant to dissuade any sort of affection Patches might feel, only further encouraged them. Of all the beings he has ever met, none were as captivating as the one before him.

His adoration was interrupted by the echoing creak of the opening doors and the pitter-patter of Mr. Wickles’s feet against the marble floor. “The preparations are complete,” he announced.

“Excellent,” Lady Violet purred. “Take Patches and begin the transformations. We mustn’t delay any further.”

Wickles motioned for Patches to follow, and so Patches trailed after his friend. Glancing back one last time at the angel who has captured his heart, he mewled softly as he saw her curled on top of a red velvet pillow, as if the softest and fluffiest of white clouds descended from the sky to rest right where she lay.