The whole idea of continuing seemed ludicrous. It might have been entertaining to search for answers, even exciting to learn the truth, but, once the threat from Mary Adell’s suitor had time to settle, I realized just how far from sane this whole pursuit was.
Two days. That was all the time, Donaghey Cross felt I needed to recuperate and our agitated guest to cool off. Two days after the incident in the lab and Cross was back, ready to continue his investigation, as if nothing had happened.
If he had bothered to listen, I might have convinced him that two days was not long enough for the tear in my knee to heal, which meant, most assuredly, it was not long enough for our guest to calm down. Yet, in the short time I had known Donaghey Cross, it was more than abundantly clear that once he made his mind up, what anyone else thought, didn’t matter. Sanity, I found, was not a quality that Cross was concerned with preserving.
Try as I might to put the whole ordeal of meeting Cross and every chaotic adventure we’d been on out of my mind, it seemed no matter where I went, I was not to be parted from him. At the start of term, I had managed to secure some rooms a short walk’s distance from the University. Here, at least, I hoped to have time to put, not only the pain of my injury behind me, but the disturbing episode with the suitor in the lab.
But, when a familiar knock echoed through my sitting room, a very familiar knot—that formed when we crossed into unfriendly areas of town in search of an unfriendly suitor—reappeared in the base of my stomach. I limped to the door, knowing who was standing on the other side, but praying in earnest that I might be mistaken.
Upon opening the door, the familiar knock was replaced by a familiar sly grin and a set of familiar, piercing eyes. Cross was ready to resume the trail we had lost two days prior.
“Come, Martin, I think I’ve found where our amiable friend has been hiding these last few days!” The excited energy rippled from him.
I moved away from the door, hobbling toward the nearest chair. “Then go, I won’t keep you.” As I lowered myself into the seat, Cross took several agitated steps into the room.
“Surely, you won’t want to be left out?”
“I won’t be much help.” He gave me a searching look. “This leg of mine, I’m afraid, isn’t quite ready for another adventure.”
“But, if we don’t go now, I fear that we may lose the only chance we have.” A sudden, panicky indecision settled on his face. Almost at once, he began pacing the short space of my sitting room.
“Go, if you must. But, I won’t be accompanying you.”
He stopped and faced me with an imploring look. “You wouldn’t mind being left behind?”
“Of course not! In fact, I think I’d prefer it.” I had intended that my scoffing tone relay my desire to be left behind entirely, but, as I often found, Cross was not so easily dissuaded.
“Right, then, I shall go and I’ll bring back any information I find!”
The door to my sitting room slammed shut before I had the chance to assure Cross that I had no desire to learn anything more about Corbet Adams and his unfortunate death.
I don’t know the hour of night the disturbance occurred, but it was surely no earlier than one or two in the morning. The furious pounding on my outer door, woke me, of course, but so heavy had sleep fallen upon me that evening, that in the fuzzy state of my waking I had no way of discerning the gravity of what had happened.
I stumbled through the rooms and upon reaching the door, it finally struck me that something horrible had occurred. The furious pounding on the door had all but stopped. And, as I turned the doorknob, the nearly unconscious body of Donaghey Cross fell into my arms. As I lowered him to the floor, the strong odor of charred flesh and smoke flooded my nostrils. In the stream of light drifting in from the hallway, I could see his entire frame dusted in dark, smoky ash and a deep, bloody gash set above his left eyebrow.