Styx fidgeted in Shroomsworth’s claws, but there was nothing to be done about that. He couldn’t quite reach anything while being held out at an arm’s length; Shroomsworth had made sure to disarm Styx, bracing him in such a way that neither forearm had much room to wiggle.
“Malt, do you... oh! Malt, please escort our dear client Twigs whence he has managed to end up. It appears to be... somewhere up there. I get the feeling checking Miss PK’s room first would--”
Malt sighed. “Yeah okay, I figured as much. Hold on.”
Suddenly, Shroomsworth realized that he was not entirely sure what to do with Styx. He hardly wanted to hold a Meowth like this for more than a minute or two, but realized that Twigs might give Malt an even more difficult encounter than Shroomsworth himself had had to deal with. And if he just put the kid outside? Well, who was to say he wouldn’t just dart back in and cause even more
trouble? No one. Because that is precisely what Styx would have done, and Shroomsworth was very aware of this. He had a fantastic nose for troublemakers, a sense finely honed over the years.
Styx, no longer permitted to physically manifest his whirlwind of terror, began to speak. “If you don’t watch it, maybe I’ll sic him on you, too. When his crown’s all broke.” Styx turned his head around as if to look Shroomsworth in the eyes, but... didn’t. He was clearly looking at Shroomsworth, there was no doubt about that, except he also wasn’t. His eyes were on Shroomsworth’s, yet they hardly appeared to be focused on him. It was badly disorienting, and reminded him of the dismissal Twigs had so casually given moments after they met. It was almost like Styx was denying his existence. Maybe that was absurd, but that was the feeling that overcame him as this little cat spoke his gibberish.
“When the sky castle falls we’ll say hi to the other guy. That’s what he said. Lethe won’t let them go, but they can come out if it happens, nyeehee. I think everyone wants that.” Styx continued to speak, but it was apparent he wasn’t speaking to anyone in the room.
Oh... oh! How could he forget? This was the Meowth who had gone slightly mad! Twigs had paid a large bounty for anyone to get Styx to come to his senses and return home, for the poor fellow had been swimming in a lake, fancying himself a Magikarp. It was as good a job as any, and so he had it posted.
As such, it was hardly a surprise that the half-wit was speaking utter meaningless garbage.
“And when the big beastie from the ground is slain, I could maybe find that one. I’d break his, and maybe I could get a ride on his back. I think he said he’d do that if I broke it.”
Still, that didn’t stop it from chilling Shroomsworth a mite.
Happily, and not a moment too soon, Malt had retrieved Twigs and they were now descending the stairs together. Twigs could not possibly have expressed any more how much he disliked Malt’s mere presence. Shroomsworth nearly wanted to laugh at how comical he found Twigs’s face, but was quite beyond being so rude. (His heart ached mildly as he thought that Miss PK wouldn’t have held back, not at all, were she around. Indeed, he suspected she would have told the sorry pair to “beat it” very early on. Shroomsworth wouldn’t have been very unhappy for the loss at all.) What a grimace that miserable cat wore!
“I suspect you did not, as expected, find Miss PK?” Shroomsworth asked drily.
“Do not toy with me. Where has she gone? And do put Styx down. You’re going to make him a headache to deal with later.” Twigs had reached the bottom step and was eyeing Shroomsworth with a large degree of distrust.
“Ah...” Malt interrupted, answering in his stead, “We really don’t know where she went. She didn’t tell us, and Shroomsworth actually never even saw her before she left...”
“Shroomsworth? It was to my knowledge you had quit. You’re Shroomsworth?”
“Yes... I was on, ah, a break. Studying another village’s economy, you might say. I assure you, we do not know where she is. I will write you post-haste the moment we do.” Suddenly, it dawned on him that in all seriousness, he had no idea what Twigs needed from PK, nor why he was being so demanding over it. Before Shroomsworth had left, Twigs was fine simply corresponding his needs to Tao. They had never actually met face-to-face, and he was hardly sure that PK even knew Twigs was a client. Shroomsworth himself kept up on all of the mail, with all of the letters...
As he thought about it, Malt clearly had taken over those duties without much of a problem. Malt wasn’t very good at managing, but he was great at accounting and organizational work behind the scenes. Two things Miss PK had hardly been very good at-- wait. What did Twigs want, again?
“In any case, what exactly did you need of her? I will relay the message the moment she reappears.”
Twigs stared at him blankly, almost matching the void on Styx’s face. Just briefly. “I have no desire to tell you. It is her and my business solely.”
Shroomsworth was losing the last scraps of tolerance he had managed to hold onto. Still, he maintained his gentlemanly demeanor as best he could. “All right. That is your business, then. But, do know, I will be sending a bill your way the moment you leave this establishment. Your... brother, he has caused a great deal of lost profit today. The draperies, as well.”
“Eh, as usual, yes. I know. Next time, do answer the door sooner.”
“Ah... yes, well, please wait for opening hours, next time, if you’d rather avoid incurring an expense.”
Twigs prowled over to the entrance, and looked back. Expectantly. Suddenly, Shroomsworth realized he was still holding Twigs’s brother hostage and released the dumbwit from his grasp.
Twigs spoke, perhaps to Styx, but more likely to himself: “I suppose I will just have to get a portrait done without her, then.”
Shroomsworth dwelled on this. It didn’t quite add up. What on earth made him get the impression Miss PK would ever tolerate him?
The two cats departed, and Shroomsworth looked around the shop, troubled. He felt nearly on the grasp of some large, jarring realization, but nothing really fit together nicely. The pieces were there, but broken and jumbled, like the glass shards lining the ground. And as with the shattered bottles, he tossed his half-formed thoughts into the refuse.
“Why does he think she would do that, I wonder?"
Malt kept quiet.
Part 11 of "Complementaries"