. ❖ . 𝓑eginning the first chapter with all manipulative boredom, the weather has been set as to report that the sun is shining outside during this fine spring of 1892 and is radiating across the well-worked, steam-driven society. Puffs of white clouds decorated the youthful blue sky. Everything seemed to be processing as normal. Even the roundabout news was of silly-trivial things that were only categorized as such due to their unoriginal appearances. Missing persons happened from time-to-time, and thus, they were starting to be placed under this redundant soap opera of musings. However, this particular set of missing persons was indeed part of a larger class of mysteries that were only being advertised in a less-than interesting manner in order to keep the masses from seeing through the smokes and mirrors that contrived their make-believe society.
𝒜fter paying the paperboy with an average tip and opening local paper and flipping through several pages of some important details and other less than important details, a bloke will find himself casually glancing at several pictures of missing persons. One such person will be showed underneath this block of text. He was a man of strangely outstanding citizenship. Unfortunately, his citizenship was so outstanding for his young age that he never stood out in a crowd, and therefore, his whereabouts were politely unnoticed. However, his very personhood has become the center of attention to a string of unsolved mysteries pertaining to many such kidnappings and robberies with fingerprints that are completely invisible to the untrained eye. This is where our protagonists, Lady Alyssana Grey and Lord Finnegan Oaks enter into the mix of debauchery to play their part in the shenanigans plaguing the clockwork city. Only time will tell how their parts shall read, but before we begin the missing persons must be introduced:
𝓣homas O'Dolly was not the first in a string of the Missing Persons to go missing. (As already has been noted above his Missing Persons advertisement.) However, he has been filed into the beginning of the line, but the line itself has extended to quite a dishonorable length. It has been brought to the attention of several individuals in society about the incidence causing some sort of commotion within the general population; and for such a reason, underground professionals have been hired to if not put an end to the news, at least make it so the layman public quiet their rumors around these subjects. The rumors are so small it's almost vanity to think that someone would go through so much length to nip these rumors in a bud. Yet, the society is quite pristine in such a political manner. For this reason, among the professionals, as who have already been mentioned by name, Lady Alyssana Grey Lord and Finnegan Oaks are among those who have been more-or-less summoned. Both prospective characters have a sibling who shall play almost equally important roles in the solving of this mismatched genre of mystery; adventures, cozy, criminal, suspense — all sparkled with logical, scholarly, and absurdist solutions.
𝓘f by chance you are only a reader (thus pronounced as another unnamed character of the game) and not a player of this particular game, the narrator of this particular post would like to wish you many cheers along your adventure and perhaps even a small hat tip for helping break the fourth wall. In the mean time, the alternative characters whom all shall make appearances will be in various degrees of different types of professions and faces of fashion. One or more of the characters introduced shall be the culprit who has lead the mystery's beginnings. Some characters may know little to nothing or nothing at all, but the rumors are known by several innocent bystanders such as the paper boy, wearing his brown wool cap and camel coloured knickers. His rosy, flushed cheeks are probably part of the problem the rumors have even started. In fact, somewhere in the evil mechanics of all that has been said and done, the poor boy is wanted dead for having such a big mouth, but then again, killing off an unnamed character is something only characters such as Madame Sophronia know how to do in this game.
𝓐h, but who is Madame Sophronia, you ask?
𝓞r maybe you did not ask a thing.
𝓜aybe you have not a thought of wonder or curiosity left by now. Or, perhaps, you are still wondering who Lady Alyssana Grey and Lord Finnegan Oaks, are. Whatever the case, if by chance, you still have hold on such a playful mind of wonderings and imaginings, keep reading to find out. (And never you mind that murdering the paper boy would cause rumors to only spread like wild fires.)
𝓣he day was a Saturday afternoon, and the Le Parfum Operando was closed, as it usually closed at noon on Saturdays. After the closing of Le Parfum Operando, Lord Finnegan would head down into the basement to work on his potions and alchemy that kept the foundations of his business afloat. His younger brother, Lord Walter, had recently taken up a position as his an Assisant and was learning the trade to the best of his sickly ability. The two men had been working for only a couple hours, and in all of Finnegan's attention, the powder and perfumes had caught more of his interest and less of Walter's own intrigue. In the quietest form of a tantrum, he decided to make his opinion known.
“It is that much more accurate to say that you are a mad scientist than a perfumist, my dear brother,” Lord Walter commented as he held in his hand a small glass vile of some pale liquid. His hazel eyes studied the contents as he raised it higher and closer to his face, allowing the lighting from the window to reflect through its bodice. It was most peculiar to him as he tried to spot a translucent colour turn with an amberish revelation inside the container. He thought the colour reminded him of something, but he could grasp no words to accurately describe it. Instead, he awed in a stupified manner as he allowed the mixture to mesmerize him, but all too soon, he was interrupted by his brother.
“No, no. Walter,” Lord Finnegan quickly glanced at his brother, as if a cue had prompted his sudden awareness of his brother’s remarkable clumsiness. His voice cut through the silent ambiance that had taken hold of the room hours ago, “Away from the light. It is far too acidic to be held —” his voice was reprimanding the other man as some sort of pet such as a puppy dog was opposed to as a human being.
“Ah,” Walter quickly turned away from the window and cupped the glass container in his hand, trying to shield it all too well from the sunlight. His face was flushed as his emotions exaggerated through his movements. He wearily looked towards his brother, who had pulled his attention away from his own potion making and was looking sternly.
Finnegan’s own gloved hands were fiddling with a dropper and a flask, and around his wavy, sandy blonde hair, a leather strap was looped with goggles, accentuated with various magnifying glasses. “... so closely to the light,” Finnegan’s lips parted to say something more but his demeanor softened at the pitiful sight of his younger brother, peaking under his own raspy brown hair.
The poor younger man had nothing better to do but be curiously dangerous in the most innocent manner possible. Finnegan looked to the counter and placed the flask in its rightful position. His fingers twiddled inside his gloves before he removed them. All the while, Walter was keeping watch on his brother and looking to place the vile back where he had found it. There had been so many beautiful things inside the laboratory, and here he thought this to be the most harmless thing to do.
“Let us take a break. We should sip some tea.” Finnegan pressed his bare hand into the pocket of his waistcoat and pulled from it a gold locket. His thumb pressed the bow and the embroidered cover lifted to reveal the time. It was a quarter till three. He quickly closed the pocket watch and placed it back inside his slate-grey vest. If not Walter, he needed a rest. He normally could smell his brother’s intentions, but in that instance, he felt a bluntness had overcome him. His hands quickly lifted to the set of large spectacles worn over his eyes, and he removed them, slipping the straps from his head, “We shall water the plans afterwards,” he noted as he looked around the observation room.
Glass ornaments were hanging with various potions and ingredients of all various sorts. Trinkets and other thingamabobs were placed in delicate manners. The study was set up in a beautifully chaotic fashion, and if anyone were to try and rummage through it all, they might get lost even if there was an entirely rational method of organization to all the madness. It was obviously a place of research and discovery and not with which to be tampered, anyhow. The whimsical design of clean metal and reflective glass not only served as a purpose of appreciation to finer philosophy of aesthetics but as a design for security. To anyone who had the privilege of stepping foot behind the door of the alchemist’s workshop, had commonly been noted to say that the true mystery is how such a glorious room was capable of being used for such an elaborate business model.
“Sounds fair,” Walter agreed. His finger was adjusted the glass vile’s position in a brass tube holder. It was sitting in a shaded corner underneath a metallic tree with several glass ornaments and a timer that anticipated the cycles of each potion’s desire. For only a brief moment he admired the tree’s vehicles and whistles, but he thought it better to mind his brother more closely. He was about to send an apology to his brother when he was interrupted, yet again.
“Of course it does,” Finnegan smiled under his carefully trimmed mustache and let out a small breath from his nostril in pompous amusement. Walter had an unwavering desire to validate his decisions, and in all of Finnegan’s show-and-tell, he always agreed with Walter, even if it was in some ways a snuffed position that Walter continuously enjoyed reliving, “Come. What shall we have? I shall have whatever you decide.” He raised an a thick brow as he placed his goggles on a wooden hook, nailed to the wall, and he took a fine whiff to make sure everything was in place before deciding to clock out.
“Whatever I want?” Walter felt finicky, having his own voice in the matter. It was something he often despised yet often times yearned. This sort of situation always caught him in a fight within himself. He would rather have not been asked than asked. Although, if truth be told, there were a few things, or maybe less than a few — just one thing in particular that he had a prominent opinion over and which he wished to be asked. However, such was not a time for this one peculiar thing as he had yet to make it known to barely himself. His mechanical toys and dolls had no idea he was hiding anything from them. He hid this emotion so well inside himself as someone learned from his newly ordained manhood as a strength in boldness even if feigned. “I am not sure.”
Finnegan turned towards Walter, “Very well. Perhaps, Madame Sophronia will have some recommendations, at The Papillon Tea Room.” His eyes trailed down Walter, who was standing dumbfound, but he thought nothing of the situation for the time being. Whatever was ailing his brother was often things that he learned on which to not let his mind linger for anything but a brief moment. He had more than enough on his mind. One of them had to do with one of Madame Sophronia’s youngest sister. While she was most likely not at the Tea Room this afternoon, it never hurt to make a decent conversation with the proposition’s wiser, more mature sibling, “I’ll meet you upstairs. I need to freshen up.”
Walter watched as Finnegan’s steps placed one foot in front of the other with a strange, militant pep, as he walked towards the winding staircase. A small smile grew on his face with a sigh of relief. He let Finnegan take his exit before he followed suit, not thinking once that Finnegan had noted the strangely slow pace that his brother took on his own younger drumbeat to heart.
𝓣ℎ𝑒 𝓟𝑎𝑝𝑖𝑙𝑙𝑜𝑛 𝓣𝑒𝑎 𝓡𝑜𝑜𝑚
𝓐 door chime jingled as the red painted door allowed Lord Walter and Lord Finnegan to enter The Papillon Tea Room. Carpets were strewn across a checker tiled flooring; and wooden tables of different sets and styles scattered around the room. Each table had a different patterned cloth and mismatched chairs. Even the dinnerware being used by the guests were of different brands and fashions. There was not one matching thing in the entire area, and to make things even more dizzy, the walls were mirrors. The Papillon Tea Room looked much more akin to a more sophisticated house of mirrors, and if it were not for the finely tuned violin orchestrating in the background by a decent young woman stationed in the far corner, the entire scenario might as well have been far too chaotic for comfort.
“Madame Sophrina and you have similar style,” Walter mentioned as he removed his cap upon entering the building. His palms held tightly to the cotton as he took his turn at eyeing all the intricacies. He meant the comment in the lightest way possible. The Perfumery was quite organized, but the laboratory was something of a different nature.
As Walter turned to hang his hat upon the rack that was fastened to the wall left of the doorway, Finnegan asked him what he meant by his comment. The question was rather enthusiastic sounding with no leads as to why Walter would have alluded to such a conclusion, “I meant it in the nicest way possible,” he made a small smile, sweet in its nature but stiff all the same.
“You both...” He paused as he saw a woman whose frilly collared blouse was encompassed by an enormous brooch. A brown and black pinstriped corset hugged her waist and pressed her black frills like that of a singing bird. Her skirt was equally tight and accentuated the right parts of body, clinging to her skin, and she was so sharp looking in her tight pinstripes and neutral tones that she sauntered almost unnoticed through the vicinity. The only thing that kept Walter’s attention was the glimmering charcoal brooch and ticking gadgets that hung from her girdle.
The woman extended a black satin gloved hand and instead of first giving Walter her hand, she played gently with the brown and creamy floral corsage clipped to the front of her long, curly blonde hair. A peck of a smile glistened on her bright red lips as her hand dipped and draped forward for Walter to greet the younger men, “Welcome to The Papillon Tea Room. I am Madame Sophronia Locke. I do not believe we have met, yet.” Her painted eyes made a daring whisk of a glance at Finnegan and quickly minded the attention of Walter, “I see you have brought Lord Finnegan Oaks with you...” Her mouth moved as if she was sucking on something, “And you... Are you Lord Finnegan’s most talked about brother?” Her sealed smile widened, “I say that in the nicest way possible... of course.” Her hand slipped suddenly from Walter’s reach wagged a quick finger at him before her body turned as if she was making a dance, which positioned herself right in front of Finnegan, “I have been expecting you,” her chin turned to the side and an eyebrow raised. Her carefully contoured and blushed cheek was raised slightly and ready for a tap of his lips upon her pale, powdered skin.
Walter turned quickly, feeling his face redden. His forehead felt heated with embarrassment, and he thought to excuse himself momentarily, but he remained with locked legs as he watched his brother gracefully lay two kisses on Madame Sophronia, one for each cheek, “Charming and witty despite your age,” Finnegan looked down at her, “I would say as a fine wine, but I think it is more suited to say a black tea considering the venue,” his eyes were reading her Cheshire smile and with his own wit, he quickly glanced at Walter who was standing like a stray puppy, pleading for his brother to make ends meet with the conversation as to allow them some sort of rest. He much preferred being in the laboratory being scolded for dumb mistakes than stand in the public's eye as a jesting misnomer.
“Ah, why thank you, M’Lord, and you,” her eyes looked down at his attire and back to the pompous style of the face he was wearing, “As playfully aware of your intentions to woo any woman you come across due to your inability to make commitment.” Her shoulders straightened as she winked at him, “I jest. Come along, now. I have a hefty conversation for the both of you to be heard... in private, of course.” She pressed her arms together and motioned in a sultry way with her upper body as she over articulated a certain word. The movement caught Walter by surprise, and Finnegan reached out a hand to hold his brother's arm, all the while, holding his own emotions as a stoic badge of blissful ignorance as to why the Madame would ever make such an idiotic commentary about his relations with disappointing women who never failed to try and bore him to death.
“This is my younger brother, Lord Walter,” Finnegan turned to him and watched as the younger man nodded to Madame Sophronia who had both of the men’s attention now, “It would only be right that I allowed him a proper introduction.”
Madame Soprhonia churned her thoughts as she tried to keep the same sarcastically sweet smile pinned on her face. Finnegan was not one of her favorite clients to remember, but in all due respect, she had an unfortunate debt that kept them in contact. The madame extended her satin gloved hand once again, and with a small tip, she bitterly allowed the younger gentleman to make his respect with her. All the while, under Finnega’s sinfully hawkish gaze that mocked her biological makeup, “The pleasure is mine,” Walter spoke with the most sincere politeness, and in all of Madame Sophronia’s humanity, she felt a softened by the boyish gentry.
“Of course,” she withdrew her hand quickly, bringing it to her chest for the blink of a second and quickly glanced at Finnegan, “Come, come. To the back room. I will order some tea to be prepared for us, at once,” she shook her head, brisking the long curls that draped almost down to her waist, “My youngest sister is out of town,” she glanced back at Finnegan, “You poor thing,” a feint of pouts with puckered lips set in a frown stared at him.
“A shame, her company would have been well suited for Walter,” he glanced at Walter, who immediately turned to stare at the closest thing of material interest. Madame Sophronia quickly turned her attention from Walter and pushed back curtains to the backroom. A living room of sorts was fashioned with plush couches and a tea table, low to the ground. A small kitchenette was to the side and had more of a bar setting than a proper bubbling nature of a tea staff.
Finnegan pushed aside the hanging cloth and let Walter go ahead of him. Walter stopped short after the entrance and looked around, marveling at the back room. It was seemingly less ornate than whatever decoration she had prescribed the Tea Room, and yet, he still felt all the more puzzled at it, “Take a seat, darling,” Madame Sophronia ushered with her hand waving briskly, “And you too, Finnegan, dear,” her smile puckered at the sour face that Finnegan made upon entering, “I take it you're not a fan of my favourite soap?” she shook her head and at once, took her seat, not in the least bit likely minding that her smell was not well fancied by one of the city's most famous (or was it infamous?) perfumists.
With a serious tone and face Finnegan replied to her comment a beat or so later, “The aroma is quite strong.” He grabbed hold of his brother's arm and guided him forward, “Sit,” he said quietly before taking his own seat, adjacent to the Madame.
Walter sat down under the belief that his brother to sound tamer under whatever scent it was, and he wondered if the scent was affecting him, as well. He wet his lips with his tongue and looked around the room once more, unable to keep his focus very clearly. Everything seemed so odd, and nothing of the afternoon had gone as planned, including the timing of their tea break. It was fifteen minutes early, not that he really cared, but it was something he had noted in all of his clumsiness.
“Might I implore you both to try a Twiggy White Needle Tea? It's the latest in the darker skinned regions of the Third World countries. The rules are the only ones allowed to have any, and with that said, they are quite stingy about how much is exported. It is thought to be a crown of high status worn in a cup,” she smiled and eyed both men, “I believe we are all of the correct social status to enjoy something so fine and delicate, yes?” Her voice was stiff with mockery at them both as she began weaving her reasoning for bringing them into the backroom.
“It sounds delightful,” Finnegan spoke sternly through the soft concern that he was exposing to the patronness.
“I agree, Madame Sophronia. The tea sounds wonderful,” Walter made a hesitant smile that almost whistled with a strange anxiety masked by a charade of the boyish glee that made her like him so much upon first meeting him.
“I believe your brother said 'delightful,' not 'wonderful,'” Madame Sophronia shook her head, “Such a—,”
“That's enough,” Finnegan barked at her, “Why have you brought us back here, again? I seem to have lost track from all the money you spend on cheap perfumes to cover up whatever is lying beneath the floorboard. Or, is it the dead body in the cupboard? I cannot cannot tell you which is worse aside from the fact that both have probably been there well over a month's time...” He shook his head, “Which is in all honesty, bad taste for a murderer even of your class. Perhaps, you should stop drinking African tea and try something a little bit more relaxing and cleanly—”
“Are you saying Madame Sophronia is a murderer?” Walter interrupted while shuffling awkwardly in his chair. His face had grown paler. His mind was trying to piece together exactly what had just been conspired around him, but he was drawing blanks.
“Oh, stop being such pansies, you both. You are acting as if I was going to put some in the tea,” she shook her head and faked a sadness, “I know you know my business, Finnegan. Please, stop flattering me. I have no dead anything worthwhile that you need to know. Besides, only someone with your keen of scents would ever notice, and not just anyone is allowed back in these quarters,” she looked around the room lovingly, admiring the oddities while taking a deep breath of the musky, sour air.
“You have the most peculiar way of going about your business, Madame Sophronia. It smells awfully wretched to say the least. I'll pass on the tea, unless Walter cares for any. We should be going back to the laboratory soon. What is it you have with us?” Finnegan had pressed his hand into his vests's pocket and taken a peak at his pocket watch during his charade. He was feeling a bit stuffy in her presence and wanted an outlet. He generally tried to be gentlemanly about these things, but his pride was wearing thin of looking at the patronness' cupid smile.
“As you wish,” from underneath her glove, she pulled a small piece of folded paper and slid it across the table to Finnegan, “All yours,” she raised both her eyebrows in anticipation for whatever was to come from any of them and then quickly minded her way to Walter, “Are you having tea, again, my dear? My memory escapes me,” a small, inaudible giggle puffed her as she opened her smile brightly.
“I am decent. Thank you for your time,” Walter ducked and quickly began collecting himself as Finnegan picked up the paper. He was about to say something about it, but Madame Sophronia interrupted him.
“Well then. Pooh on you. Close the door on your way out,” she made a bubbly giggle and waved her hands backwards. A bell had found its way nestled in between her fingers, and when she did this-and-that with her hands, it chimed several times.
Finnegan was in the middle of verbally testing her about the whole ordeal being over a simple piece of paper when she chimed the bell, and two large men stepped out from another room, “Oh, silly me!” Finnegan retorted, “And here I was mistaken in believing, this was an elaborate ordeal of overbearing sisterhood to keep me from Julianna.” His body pushed from the wood table as his hand swiftly pushed the paper into an inside pocket of his overcoat. Walter made a small gasp as he tempted to make himself follow Finnegan's silent orders.
“You best be going on your way, Sirs,” a large man in an overcoat, vest, and tie commented. His hands were held in a folded position over his burgundy high waist pants. His hair was combed over and gelled nicely. Walter thought him to have been a guest when he first saw him in the Tea Room.
“Right you are,” Finnegan looked up at the large man and attempted to pat the man but was quickly hurled a parry of a backhand that halted anything that could result in Finnegan turning a simple gesture into an assault, even if his gesture was of pompous arrogant innocence, which eventually ended with Finnegan thanking the Madame for sharing her time.
With that, the two men left the Papillon Tea Room with a chime and an ended remark spilled from Walter, which went as thus: “You never meant for us to go to The Papillon for tea did you?”
It was a Saturday, the first since young Walter had started helping his brother Finnegan at the perfume shop. Lady Alyssana Grey decided that she could take a break from grading papers and worrying about the string of vanished urchins long enough for a visit.
It was a lovely spring afternoon, a nice break from the week of rain that had just passed, and instead of walking across town Alyssana fetched her wings from the cabinet that held them. Once she had them in hand it was an easy matter to use her machine empathy to guide them to the sockets on her back, after undoing the three small buttons that held the flap in her blouse shut. The metal connected with a brief tingle of energy, and as she rolled her shoulders her wings responded in kind, metal feathers sliding to their ready position. within moments her wings had tripled in apparent size, and she was ready to take to the air.
Her home was three stories above a bookshop, and she had easy access to the roof from her upstairs parlor. The moment of weightlessness before her wings caught her and carried her aloft was a tiny freedom, and quietly exhilarating. Alyssana watched the world fall away below her, the streets and alleys, the clustered buildings, the patches of greenery with flowers blooming, and let the view push her concerns aside, at least for the duration of her flight.
All too soon she spotted Finnegan's perfumery, and spiraled down carefully to a lower altitude before committing to a shallow dive that set her down at the entryway. The city was not really built for fliers, though those with wings learned to navigate the narrower streets or else stuck to the open areas and rooftops for their landings. Now firmly on the ground, Alyssana went around to the side entrance and knocked firmly upon the door. The shop might be closed, but Finnegan should be present, working on one thing or another. Hopefully his brother would still be about as well.
𝓦ith several knocks on the door, which ruffled the air through the downstairs laboratory, the two men sat on long legged chairs that stood at a table with even longer legs, decorated in the fashion of Queen Anne of the Satyr-Masque Period. Both men were looking intently at a piece of paper, recognizable as the one that Madame Sophronia had somewhat-of-the-sorts handed Finnegan in a discreet manner, at least, in regards to the public’s knowledge.
Walter was the first to acknowledge the sound, and with tight lips, he turned his attention towards the sound with a cautious, shy eye on his surroundings and found no reason that the knock should go unnoticed. Finnegan had his brows furrowed trying to decipher whatever was written upon the letter. He looked too immersed in the riddle to be bothered, but Walter interrupted him, without too much hesitation, “Do you want me to answer the door, Finny?” His left finger tapped lightly on the wood table, feeling the texture as he occupied the boyish parts of him that knew his question would take more than several moments of recognition.
However, Finnegan proved Walter wrong, and immediately pulled himself away from the parchment. His eyes looked boldly at Walter, “It is Lady Alyssana.” A small smile plucked under his mustache, “What?” His hands quickly cupped over the paper and began folding it into a square once again, “You look as if something has bitten you?”
He eyed Walter, who swallowed and made a small smile to Finnegan. Working at the Perfumery had been difficult in a way he had not thought. His brother was quite unpredictable, as usual, but in some ways, he found him colder and less trustable as a master than a brother, “No, I…,” he paused while fishing for words, “I am happy Lady Alyssana is visiting. It is my first week, afterall. Is Christopher with her, by chance?”
“Go find out,” Finnegan leaned back into his chair, with a leg folded over the other. The folded paper’s corners were tapped on the table, in a similar rhythm as the one Walter had done with his fingers only seconds earlier.
Looking as a puppy desperately wanting to please his owner, “I shall,” Walter said affirmatively and excused himself from the table. He straightened the collar of his shirt, adjusting feintly the tie around his neck and the suspenders, holding his slacks and quickly made his way to the door.
“Lady Alyssana, it is a beautiful surprise to see you!” The younger man exclaimed after he opened the door, “Finnegan and I were not expecting you. Please, come in. It is an honor to have you travel all this way, especially… by yourself,” he managed a cheery smile. He wished Christopher had been at her side, but he was still happy to see her. However, he was too caught in the moment of making sure that Lady Alyssana felt welcome in words that he mentioned nothing more out of strict etiquette.
“Lovely as ever,” with his usual air of shenanigans, Finnegan interrupted the end of Walter’s welcoming, “Your timing is impeccable, as usual.” As he peaked his line of sight to the outdoors in a quick cautious and gentlemanly manner and proceeded to usher Lady Alyssana into the study, Walter bit back his thoughts and stepped aside, ready to close the door behind her. “What honor do I have that your presence has been summoned?”
He felt a little foolish having not thought to ask her for help sooner. If she had not shown her face, he might have forgotten that he had such an angle of dashing wit and intelligence. He would prod her for helpful alliance, but first ... — he was more concerned about her than the actual case folded in his hand.
"Good afternoon, Walter," Alyssana greeted the young man when he opened the door for her. She would have said more, but Finnegan inserted himself into the conversation. "Thank you, Finnegan." Why her timing was beneficial he didn't say, but she knew he'd get to him in time. "Actually, I'm here to see Walter." She gave Walter a bright smile that, while still small, was as close as she ever came to beaming. "Congratulations on your first week. I had hoped to hear about how it went, that sort of thing. And I'm sorry Chris couldn't make it," she added, as she removed her gloves and tucked them in a pocket of her flying jacket, then offered it to Finnegan. "He was up to his eyeballs in his latest project, last I checked, and his poor housekeeper's found it a chore even to pry him away long enough to eat." She sighed. "I'll bring him along next time. By then he should be less totally absorbed in his work, and he won't resent the interruption. But you know how he gets."
𝓛ady Alyssana heard from Finnegan as she stepped inside and prompted him to help her remove the light, brown coat that was altered for her wings. Meanwhile, Walter was feeling a little silly and awkward standing there, having tried to make himself the proper host when Finnegan, as per his usual boastful self, had set such a stage for Walter to enter, only to watch as the younger brother failed once again to make himself anything but a beaming face, another decoration for Finnegan to by chance enjoy and show guests...
The younger Lord Oaks thought to himself as he stepped aside, fumbling with all of his thoughts but this particular one, and still, he kept his chin upwards to keep in fashion that he was minding them: Lady Alyssana’s generosity is something that ought to be noted.
“I wonder what has Christopher’s attention so much,” Finnegan asked after hanging the tailored brown coat upon a wooden coat rack behind the door. The coat rack looked more like a thin tree with chandeliers for branches, but enough about the chandelier because if it were not for the costly glance of eyes that locked between Finnegan and Walter, the chandelier may have taken the conversation a different direction.
“Yes!” Walter chimed, “Christopher is clever and creative. I could not resist wanting to know what he would be working on, as we speak. His inventions always amaze me, even when…” He paused and looked at Finnegan, feeling that same awkward lump fill his throat and press his lips together when he knew he was about to say something less than chery, “He is not proud of them?”
“Yes,” Finnegan agreed, “We all make mistakes. Brilliant Christopher included, and young Walter, as well, but we learn from our failures. For instance, I will never ask Madmoiselle Evelyn Ashton on a date, again,” his face sweetened when he looked to Lady Alyssana, not minding one bit that Walter was supposed to be the lead in this particular visit, and Walter more-or-less awaited patiently for another entrance into the conversation, “Would you like anything? A glass of water… or tea, even?”
Unfortunately, Walter was the type of man who when not directly being entertained could often drift into a deep trance of imagination as he pondered here and there and everything far inbetween. Many of the things he discovered have been left unspoken and undiscovered by the outside world. Finnegan knows of several of these plights and has shown some vague interest, but often time, he keeps his distance from such gazing, for he thinks it is the result of a desperate attempt for attention when he is not the spotlight. (The sickness might as well have been something to cover-up his selfishness, and therefore, Finnegan believed, Walter working in the Perfumery would do him good.)
"Tea would be lovely. Why don't you go make some, while Walter tells me about his week," Alyssana suggested, neatly splitting the two brothers apart. While Finnegan headed to make tea, she had Walter take her back into the lab. She'd been there before, and knew to be careful of the various vials and tools.
However, her demeanor changed into something less amicable and far more serious once in the lab proper. With Finnegan off making tea, she'd earned herself several minutes without him butting in. "Walter, while I do want to hear about your week, I must confess that is not my only purpose in coming. I want to know what exactly your brother did to poor Miss Ashton. By all accounts she's an intelligent woman, yet she could barely string a proper sentence together when he introduced her to me." It had been painful to witness, painful to think of, and the matter had been bothering her for some time. If it was Finnegan at fault, she'd need to find a way to make sure he understood the gravity of the sin he'd committed.
“As you wish,” Finnegan said after a small split pause, mentally asphyxiated on his loss. Slightly bothered, he went through the usual litany of asking what type of tea she would like, and Lady Alyssana remained faithful to her usual stance in taste, much like the fashion she so boldly assumed, even during ballroom dances (that will come eventually in later chapters). After such a quaint conversation, the man left the room but not before making a quick glance at Walter, who in all of his manhood was still standing a bit too boyish in his burgundy suspenders, button down shirt, and a hand tucked into his darkish slacks.
He followed Lady Alssyana into the laboratory, much like a puppy without his owner, “Oh…” His thoughts were still lingering on Christopher, and he decided not to prod. She would have addressed the question if it was meant to be said as opposed to being shuffled aside for her to...
...Seek revenge on Finnegan, “I beg your pardon?” Walter was in the middle of working his line of thankfulness while introducing the ins-and-outs of his week to her and found himself caught off guard, “I…” He looked around the laboratory, all the fragrances stirred momentarily, and his eyes marveled at all the things he was just beginning to learn. These things were merely just the beginnings of beginnings, which meant wholly nothing about what he was going to learn about his brother and most interestingly, he was finding out, his own self discovery.
Drawing in a deep breath, he mustered up a puff of an answer, “A lot has happened in the past week.” His eyes continued gazing the laboratory. The last woman he had just encountered was Madame Sophronia, and Lady Alyssana, while still just as sharp if not sharper had the scowl of a lifetime that could send the most mixed messages of frightening confusion, he knew he ought to be less airheaded with her. Her question about Madamoiselle Evelyn was certainly something he wanted to avoid, but as the woman had proved to Finnegan, there was no skirt-tailing details, “Honestly, I think I have spent most of my time in here. I like it. There’s a lot of wonderful things to see and do, and there are far less people who come and ask silly or stupid questions,” he chuckled a little at his own interpretation of Finnegan’s interactions with customers, “As for Miss Ashton,” he tilted his head and tried to feign some happiness, even if sarcastic in nature to hide the following plea:
"You must." Alyssana's tone did not encourage debate. "It's one thing for him to toy with ladies' feelings, and quite another to reduce someone to little more than a vacant-eyed fool. He's lucky the effect wasn't permanent, or I would be having a few very pointed words with him." She took a breath, reining in her anger. Walter was hardly at fault for this, and while she did mean to have a word with Finnegan she didn't think he'd respond well if she pushed him too hard. Better to simply remove the temptation -- and that's why she was speaking to Walter.
Already he'd confirmed her suspicions, that Finnegan was at fault. If that wasn't the case, Walter wouldn't be trying to protect his brother. Perhaps she was taking advantage, just a little, but she was used to Christopher's wavery moral compass and the need for a firm stance. "I need to be sure he won't do something like this again. It's a terrible violation of a lady's free will."
𝓦alter lifted his wrist from his pocket and quickly glanced at his watch
or two or three or was it four?
𝓕innegan always has enjoyed Lady Alyssana’s willful nature... 𝓑ut I dare think at this exact moment, it is too much for me?
...Standing several measures away from Alyssana, Walter stared at her and studied her demeanor. She was unwavering and stiff in personality over the matter, and he felt a small flush of something forceful stroke over his forehead. Walter Lowered his wrist, and with his lips pursed together in some sort of contemplation, he shook his head lightly and gently nudged the brown curls of his hair with his fingers as if to recomb his hair. This gesture was done in all actuality on the accord that he needed some sort of touch against the racing thoughts of his mind, “I doubt that he will do anything of the sort, again, Alyssana.” He tried to assure her.
There was so much contradictory in her statement, and this statement was the least he could say to mediate the situation. Her dowse had been by accident, “It was by mistake,” Walter gently pushed the excuse from himself. It came as some sort of recited verse, like he had stared at himself in the mirror and rehearsed those four words over and over until he might as well have sounded like some mechanical doll the middle class could afford.
He recognized this in himself as the words were spoken to Lady Alyssana, but he still believed them to be true, and with a bit of gumption (not often seen in Walter unless defending his brother, such as in this exact scenario) he continued with his justification, “Finny is quite wonderful.” His let a small smile perk on his face, hoping for some sort of empathetic reaction from Alyssana, but her visage remained stern, “He is not perfect, and sometimes, I believe… He did very much enjoy Miss Ashton.“
His eyes averted Alyssana’s at this moment, “I am quite happy they are no longer together, though,” he paused, feeling that he must have crossed a line of bad etiquette. His eyes perked back to Alyssana’s impatience, again, “Finny is, as well,” his smile brightened feintly. There was no use mourning over spilt milk, and he thought that Alyssana was being too hard on his brother. Afterall, Finnegan was although a cunning man, quite confused when it came to his ordeals with women — uncertain of what his wants and needs were. His spoiled upbringing could be to blame, but Walter never held it against his brother (most likely out of sharing a similar struggle albeit displayed in an almost entirely different shop front).
"I don't care if he enjoyed Miss Ashton," Alyssana retorted, before making a visible effort to calm herself. It wasn't Walter to blame, nor was he the one she was angry with. "Mistake or not, it still happened, Walter." She sighed, brushing a loose strand of hair back from her face. It had escaped its pins on her flight over. "Look, I'll make you a deal. If I can destroy whichever scent it was that he used, I won't confront Finnegan over this." It was a generous offer, to her mind, letting Finnegan go without a single word. Then again, she was sure Walter would report to his brother about her irritation, and her demand. Slightly underhanded, perhaps, but the offer was still a good one. Alyssana avoided breaking her word once she'd given it. "The offer's good until he joins us. If I don't have it by then, Finnegan gets the sharp side of my tongue. I need to be sure this won't happen again."
Walter’s smile flickered for just a brief moment as he contemplated what Alyssana had suggested, “Hmm…”
He quickly turned his head to the side, as if to make sudden conversation with himself, in the privacy of his own mind:
Whatever would Finnegan do? Ah, yea. He would distract himself with something or another. A tidbit or whatever is closest.
After making this assessment, he then spoke aloud, “I don’t know…” his body turned and examined a clear ornament hanging from a mechanical tree fixture, set atop a counter. The light was reflecting through it and making a prism of sorts with the cerulean liquid. His fingers carefully manipulated the glass, as he leaned himself forward.
This went on for only several seconds, as he felt like a fool toying with his own personality, especially in front of Alyssana. His hand lowered and began tapping on the wooden table, as if he was playing several keys on a piano, “It is awful that he does such things,” he began, again and slowly turned towards Lady Alyssana. He wished that Finnegan would hurry with the tea order.
And, Finnegan would have hurried with the tea if he had any suspicions about Lady Alyssana’s vengeance. There were certain things that Finnegan could not sense from her, even after all the years of them knowing each other, and for such a reason, the young man was standing just a little outside the doorway of the kitchen, where his only servant Lance was making small talk.
Lance was the sort of man who had perpetually thinning blonde hair. Since he was in his later forties, no one referred to him as going bald or balding as that would be rude, even though his status was not quite worthy of such fine etiquette. Whatever the real case rests, it was assumed his hair would be thinning until the day he died. It was also assumed that he would be Finnegan’s manservant until his time of departure, as well.
But, enough about receding hairlines and back to Lady Alyssana and Lord Walter, “He did not mean to indulge Miss Evelyn so heavily, Alyssana. I promise you that he was most annoyed with himself already about it. He even mentioned self-sabotaging his own date and that he would have had a much better time…” Walter made a small masking whimsical smile, reflecting back on his own feelings when he was somehow set aside from attending the ball. The whole intricacies of the conversation held between Finnegan and him still made little sense, but in Finnegan’s defense, the younger brother had not even the gumption to get out of bed that day.
He had his reasons for believing in his depression…
“Very well. It shall not hurt anything if it is destroyed,” his whimsical smile turned into a real smirk, and he felt whole next to Lady Alyssana, “It’s actually right over here,” his arm extended to outwards, motioning towards a cabinet with a glass, see-through display. A bottle, with a pretty gold rose topper plugged inside of it, rested with several other interesting bottles. (Some were decorated, as well; and some were plainer than plain; and some were inbetween)
Walter took several steps towards the cabinet and tugged on the lavish baroque knob and acted surprised when the cabinet door opened, having not been locked, “I was half-expecting it to be locked,” he eyed Lady Alssana with a slight mischevious nature. He had not felt this feeling with anyone but Finnegan before now, “I suppose he is not so concerned with anyone tampering with it, then,” he pulled the glass container out and quickly handed it to Lady Alyssana, “It’s in your hands, now.”
As if to wipe his hands clean, he tucked them into the pockets of his slacks and took a step back from Lady Alyssana. His eyes were still focused on the potion as he tried to hide any guilt. Finnegan was usually a fanatic with trying to keep things orderly and out of reach from anyone but himself. It served him right, though. Walter agreed this time for more than one reas—
“Not so fast!” Finnegan maneuvered himself around Walter, who stood sturdier than usual, caching Finnegan off-guard, which was the third time today that such a thing had happened. The first being Madame Sophronia’s bodyguards, the second being Lady Alyssana’s cunningingness. He was about to say something like, “Hand it over,” in a stern masculine way, but having expected Walter to be a push-over when he in fact was not being one in this precise moment, caused Finnegan to take several steps too many to catch himself and thus, knocked him right into Lady Alyssana, who being caught off-guard all the same, ended up spilling the potion all over Finnegan.
Oh, Mercy! Walter’s mouth opened with a sudden sense of horror and dread that spoke, This is all my fault.
Alyssana waited. Walter was like Chris when her brother tried to avoid things, but she knew patience would bring her an answer. Hopefully it would be a good one, but she could confront Finnegan if that was the option left her. Fortunately Walter capitulated, going to open the lock. She wasn't sure if his surprise was genuine, and decided she suspected not. He wanted out, but sometimes a firm stance was needed.
And then the potion was safely in her hands, or so she thought. Finnegan burst into the room, trying to take the vial from her. He stumbled, fumbled, knocked her hand. She lost her grip on the vial, and while she was fast enough to get herself out of the way of the spill, Finnegan was not.
Alys's eyes were wide, her mouth an O of surprise and just a bit of horror. She never would have deliberately chosen this path, and yet...in a way, it served Finnegan right. "Well then," she managed. "Finnegan, are you quite alright?" Perhaps, immersed in the perfume business as he was, he'd built up a tolerance to his own products. And she had to admit that she was worried -- if a few sprays could so affect Miss Ashton, what would a dose like this wreak?
“𝓗ere...” Walter leaned forward in a rush, quickly removing Finnegan's jacket. The process was done with a strange ease that would have caught Walter off-guard, if he had not been so flustered and embarrassed into the crooked corners of his mind's worriment over what had just happened.
“No...” Finnegan paused. The word was spoken softly and gently with a small flutter of his eyes as he tried to remain somewhat... coherent?
“Dollymop,” he heard himself try to say, with soft lips barely parting correctly, but the words sounded more like a negative two letter word from the English vernacular. The word also came out less arguably angry and more gentle. Confusing... At least, he was still speaking the same language, yet flustered still, he found himself suddenly dazed and caught in some sort of trance that happened far too quickly for his liking, causing him to nearly stumble, yet again. However, instead of stumbling, his brother held sturdy to him as he removed his jacket, and by golly, the most he could do was smile at Walter's swift, caring movements. Unfortunately, Walter was moving in too fast of a movement for him to do too-too much of a nod and a smile, and so when he tried, Finnegan's eyes landed on her.
His eyes glazed over, staring at Lady Alyssana, as Walter tried to pat down Finnegan's torso, “S..stop it... Stop...” He attempted to swat Walter from him, as if the younger man was some sort of pest or a fly. All of Walter's bumbling and buzzing about his brother was what Finnegan was going to refer to as, “being a dish...traction.” His hand was lifted and set a bit away from his body, as if to keep his balance. He looked much worse than Miss Evelyn ever did. Surely, the Perfumist had a tolerance, but to be doused so profusely in something so potent was beyond his willpower, and this was the first time the sandy-blonde haired man had such an accident bestowed upon him. (Surprisingly enough!)
There were times when he had definitely tested his contraptions upon himself, but this particular potion, having been a complete failure, was being stored away for whatever purpose that might allow some sort of usefulness. (Now was certainly not the time.) If anyone wanted to use extremely logical reasoning, Finnegan had been extremely careless with the way he handled everything. The unlocked cuppard served him right, if not for what Lady Alyssana had spoken to Finnegan.
“You should really take a nap...” Walter shook his head as he gently grabbed hold of Finnegan's hand and lowered it back to the man's waist, “Alyssana, I am so sorry,” his head shook, and nervously, his spare hand fidgeted with his necktie while the other kept a good grasp on Finnegan, “This is really, really quite embarrassing, even for you to...” He closed his lips minding his words as a small emotional outburst tried to overtake him, “You best be going,” his eyes looked around the laboratory, as he felt the tug of Finnegan's muscles trying to leave his weaker grasp, “And the murder...” He accidentally found himself saying.
His eyes widened, “Dollymop!” Walter suddenly gasped as he turned his brightest attention towards Lady Alyssana, figuring that since he were here, he might as well get her involved. It was not as if Finnegan was going to keep anything from her, and -
“Walter. Walter... Walter, exsactly what I was s-saying,” Finnegan patted his brother on the shoulder, “Wonderful.” His head stiffed quickly to gain the scent of Walter, but his nose sense failed him miserably, which was beyond him one of the most confusing disarrays of feelings he had ever felt. It was so confusing that his mouth dropped open with disbelief as a hand came forward to feel his properly groomed mustache and of course, make sure, his nose was still in its rightful place upon his nose.
“Good Heavens. I...” Walter pressed his lips together, “How are you feeling, Finnegan? Finnegan?” He learned himself closer, “This isn't going to end well at all. No, no... I misspoke,” he muttered to himself before looking at Lady Alyssana, again:
Seeing Finnegan in such a state hurt more than Alyssana expected. She hated seeing anyone when their mind betrayed them. He did this to others, she reminded herself sternly. He reaps only what he himself has sown. And yet he looked so pitful, fumbling for words, that it was hard to keep from feeling for him.
Walter mentioned a murder, and Alyssana's focus snapped to him, but at his plea for help her gaze softened. She sighed. "Let's find a place to sit down, shall we?" she suggested, turning to lead the way. Once the three of them were settled, she considered the men before her. Walter was fluttering even now that he'd sat down, worried about the state of his brother. Finnegan was acting half-drunk, but at least seated he wasn't likely to fall over. She'd removed her wings and set them aside so that she might sit comfortably, and now Alyssana sighed. "There's not much I can do, Walter." Perhaps if she'd been a little faster, but no -- she was selfish enough to wish to avoid being affected herself instead of trying to spare Finnegan. "My guess is it will wear off eventually, but until then I suppose we'd best keep an eye on him." She paused. "Now...you mentioned something about a murder?"
𝓑ut oh, how lovely she was! I had never seen her so beautiful as on this fatal day...
... 𝓦ell, I am not going to go into ecstasies over her, but I will just say this: she is one brilliant exception to her whole circle; such a beautiful nature she has, such a firm, right-minded character, so strong in her righteousness and purity of soul that I am just like a little boy before her, like a younger brother; although she is...
Finnegan seemed lost in some other world of thought, yet still focused on the matter of hand. It seemed all too similar if not even worse in appearance than whatever had befallen Miss Evelyn. It was something tragic in all due respect to the debacle, as the man was usually perhaps too astute and keen with his senses, but at the very sight of his current state of mind, he was a... a mess.
“Wear off?” Walter looked hesitantly at Lady Alyssana. He was still holding Finnegan's jacket and offering his assistance, which translated to as offering a hand on the back of the chair that his brother was using to keep himself up right. “According to my calculations and the looks of everything, Miss Evelyn was quite under the influence for, for...” his wrist tilted slightly, unvieling the multiple wrist watches adorning him, “Heaven only knows, Alyssana...” He glanced at Finnegan, who seemed far less than himself than the months ago fiasco when some pretty young woman broke his heart, and he wound up drinking himself silly.
“Ah, yes,” Finnegan smiled drunkenly at Alyssana. He had never felt more open to her (even after hearing his brother relay the embarrassment of his overzealous potion-making). He had an urge to be very clear to her, and if anything he was about to say sounded anything less of being doped, was because it was indeed true that by all means, in the softest truths that his martyringly distracted heart could muster under such a stupefied situation was that he never meant to fake his advances with Lady Alyssana. Finnegan's body relaxed into the chair, oddly inviting of the pretty figure standing in front of him, “I was planning to tell you..”
“You were?” Walter asked with a sudden stress of disbelief, having not seen, yet again, for the second time of the day that Finnegan had a secret plan being concealed from him. His dark eyes narrowed, uncertain how to treat the situation. He dare not raise any passion of harm against Finnegan, yet there was a desire under the older man's newly cast spell to treat him with some sense of distrust and unworthiness as opposed to elaborate pity over the situation. However, he remained steadfast in his loyalty. His brother looked far too pitiful in his current state, “A-and, here I was so under distress that I had misspoken and given too much information away...”
He shook his head and again, looked to Lady Alyssana with the same yearning eyes. There was jealousy within him, but he kept it hidden, like his watches being tucked back under his blouse sleeve. This was not the time for such quarrelsome matters.
“Of course, W... alter.” Finnegan made a dazed smile under his mustache. He seemed to be committed to some lazy joke that prodded his body to try and stand, only he kept failing miserably and proceeded to sink further into the cushions supporting him. An elbow (clothed in damp fabric) was propped on the armrest, and he rested his blushed cheek on the knuckle of his hand, “I-I owe her. Always. Such a... such a....” his mind wandered for the right words, fishing and struggling to catch at least the tails of his tripping romantic advances. He was obviously having some outstanding trouble with his language, but finally, before Walter could turn the attention, Finnegan continued, “Such a... a lovely creature, always. Always.” His head turned over from his knuckle, as if wanting to collapse into the arm of the chair. Walter made a jerky movement, afraid that his brother would outright fall from where he was sitting!
Yet, again, Finnegan continued in his unabashed style, “Standing in her usual b-...eige and br-brown,.” a small mock of a laugh burst from him in a hazy, jesting manner -- instigated for all the times he had heard the gossip of her ordinarily neutral tones be spoken through the boring voices of naked fingered fashion goddess who spent too much time in the toiletry powdering their cheeks with two-faced political speeches.
“Yes....” Walter said quickly, agreeing and nipping his lips closed, feeling a sudden rush of embarrassment for his brother. Finnegan was making very little sense to the outside world, unfortunately. Walter's eyes shot at Lady Alyssana, once again, “There have been some disappearances of specific persons around the S-..”
“Enough, Walter... I....” Finnegan suddenly pushed himself from the chair and surprising Walter stiff, again.
“Oh...” Walter held out a hand as Finnegan's body stood a little staggered. Despite all, Finnegan's keen constitution at least was suddenly allowing him some mobile stability. Walter was staring unable to decide if this was for better or for worse. He thought, there was no telling how long Finnegan would be able to stand like this and that it to be the worst. After deciding all in the lickity of a split second, he reached himself forward, but his face was caught by the clumsy backhand of Finnegan trying to make some erroneously flirtatious gesture at the poor Lady Alyssana, “Ahh...hh...”
“Oh, sor'y, Walt-ter, I....” Finnegan turned to look at Walter and made a small squint of his eyes, “By golly, is your? You nose... Is it bleeding?” He quickly whipped with strange precision from his pocket a small cream handkerchief and tried to dab his younger brother's nose, only to be told that Walter's nose was in fact, not bleeding, and he was merely seeing things. All the while, Walter had gone from believing his nose had been bleeding to realizing his brother was absolutely out of his mind.
Always, he thought his brother was out of his mind. This time inparticular was much different, though.
“I am fine. I am -- I am fine, Finny. Please, please sit back down,” Walter tried to calm his brother's strange efforts to alleviate some none existent nosebleed, “Please, Finny, I beg of you." Finally he placed a hand upon Finnegan's shoulder to calm him down.” He looked at Finnegan long and hard, studying his brother's eyes. They were glossed over, and he thought that he did not truly recognize him anymore. Walter felt a drop of hopelessness within himself place itself on the center of his heart, like an ink pen bleeding on damp paper, “I am fine, Finny. Really. If you planned to speak to Alyssana about the murders, we--”
Finnegan turned suddenly with a strange twist in his wobbling ankles, lacking of agility. Obviously, he was too preoccupied with the Lady to mind Walter. Just the mere mention of her name had caused him to lose interest and focus, like a thin twig snapping under quick pressure; and for the second time that day, Finnegan tripped and fell upon Lady Alyssana. There was nothing Walter could do, except watch as they both tumbled to the ground.
“Really...” Walter said with a sigh, “We really... ought to speak about the murder?” His head shook as he strangely tried to hold back tears that a man of his age truly should not have over the current situation, “This is hopeless.”
However, right before Walter could sink too far into his spirally depression there was a jingle from the chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. Their ornamentation chimed against each other, and the small potions hanging from the various decorative faux-table sized trees slurred in their containers. A small whiff of the powders and elixirs scented through the ruffling of the air.
And then there was another...
“Fin--?” The sound of a strong woman's voice began but quickly trailed away at the sight of him collapsed atop another woman. It was not just another woman, no. It was Lady Alyssana! The bitter faced woman had no use for any man aside from her strange brother, and here, seeing the boringly dressed woman crumpled underneath the likelihood of her Finnegan.
At first, Walter was dumbfounded that the door was unlocked, or perhaps, Finnegan had stupidly given this woman a spare. Either way, the second he recognized the look on the guest's face, dawned with light powder that was evenly blushed on both cheeks in a pastel Spring Fashion. Her lips were painted in a nice colour that matched her flamingo pink silk serge and polonaise basque over a white underskirt. She was flowing like a desert of sorts, but whatever the expression she was making said the complete opposite of her character.
“It's not what it looks like!” Walter suddenly snapped as he managed to grab hold of Finnegan, who -- only Lady Alyssana was sure of what he was doing. Walter felt ashamed for both of them, and he had not any plans on how to make whatever was happening any better. If anything, it was all getting worse by the second, and he saw nothing of it getting better anytime soon. The best he could do was conceal Finnegan, but such was not the case.
Finnegan began with the most disinterested style of speech Walter had ever heard him use when speaking to someone of the opposite sex.
It didn't matter that Miss Evelyn had been incapacitated for an extended period. The fact was that in all likelihood the potion had a certain half-life, and that while Finnegan was certainly severely affected, the effects should not last significantly longer for him than it had for his unfortunate date.
Finny tried to flirt, but he was entirely off his game. Alyssana felt a prickle of annoyance to go with the pity, but suspected his thoughts were beyond helping. It was like tales of Cupid's arrow -- he'd seen her first, and so his obsession was with her. He hardly owed her anything, save perhaps sense that he never quite managed to show.
And then he tried to stand, and ended up colliding with Walter. The younger man was unharmed, and yet Finnegan seemed to think otherwise. Now Alyssana felt guilt. She might have pulled Finny out of the way as well as herself. She was fast enough, most likely. But her distraction slowed her as Finny stumbled forward, landing atop her in her chair before she could rise to catch him. Nor was he any help in untangling himself -- and as if things weren't bad enough already, the door opened and Lady Sylvia entered.
Walter tried to excuse the situation. Alyssana herself couldn't care less what the new arrival thought, though she knew that gossip could be cruel indeed. At least Finnegan was sufficiently distracted that he stopped flailing, and she was able to straighten him up, turn him round, and escort him back to his chair. "Now is not a good time," she said shortly, not bothering to look at Lady Sylvia. "Lord Oaks has had a...minor laboratory mishap, and is in no state for entertaining guests." She didn't say the other woman should leave, but she hoped Walter would, and gave him a pointed glance. Alyssana would do it if needed, but it should come from one who actually owned the place.
“Yes! Right now is not the time...” Walter hurried in his response, grabbing hold of Finnegan's hand. His hand was warm, and Walter felt uneasy in more ways than he wanted to count.
“Not the time?” Lady Sylvia raised her head, tilting such dominion of her attributes as she peered down at Lady Alyssana. It appeared all too well that the story might as well have been the truth. She had no reason to think otherwise, but with the vile creature that she sometimes let roam loose, especially during the political times of bringing down a potential adversary, the madamoiselle decided not to mind truth. She was willing to slip another card under her wrist, especially if it meant pulling the metal feathers from the wings that kept Lady Alyssana afloat.
She really had no use for the woman.
And, instead of saying something so catty that makes the audience go, Oh heavens, no! Lady Sylvia merely said the blatant obvious words that were so fresh on her mind, “I really have no use for you.” Of course, she did not stop there. It would have been much too trite if she did. In fact, she cut her tongue through anyone who tried to interrupt her, like Finnegan's strange stance that was aggravating her to a point of indisposable annoyance. “If anyone is going to help poor Finnegan with an accident, it should be me.”
Walter made a deer-in-the-headlight-half-smile, trying to think of what Finnegan would do if he was not so out of his wavy haired mind. He was drawing dimwitted blanks, as usual, “To be honest, I think it best no one... uhh, not even Lady Alyssana be around him, at this point in uhh, time,” he looked to Lady Alyssana, unable to tell if the face he was making was reading correctly. He did not really want Lady Alyssana to leave, but then again he was uncertain if she understood. Oh, oh, yes and was his face being so brutally honest that --
“There's been more than just an accident, has there not?” Lady Sylvia's eyes narrowed. There was a hint of disgust in her voice, trying to hide some pain that Walter thought she was too slow to have not caught any of the social cues.
“Y-you smell...” Finnegan raised his hand slightly in front of him, as if holding his fingers to play an instrument such as a lute or a harp or perhaps even just to tap at some invisible door chime as a gesticulation of the situation, "Lady Sylvia, you smell..." The title, name, and two other words were all he could say for several seconds and then a snap of the wrist with a closed fist, revealing that he had finally found his momentum to continue his speech, to everyone's dread.
“Sit dow-” Walter attempted, but was merely lead off his track.
“No, no. Lady Sylvia needs to hear this. It's so important for her well-being,” Finnegan began. His hand lowered to his side with the other gently making its way to cover the bum on his pants (insinuating that perhaps he would get a huge spanking through his trousers if he ever so believed that he would have not gotten away with being so disrespectful to a young woman, as high-class and fashionable as Lady Sylvia), “She smells,” he said very factually, “Not the good type of smell because everyone smells. I say this because I can smell her fear. It's so unbecoming, unlike Lady Alysanna's fear. It's as if Lady Sylvia has never once looked at herself in the mirror without any powder upon herself. She's never truly embraced herself. If anything, she's run and hidden herself from her fears. They have grown so unattended that they smell moldy, and... Oh! Oh! How the mold has grown!” Finnegan held his closed with the hand that was once behind him, and with his other hand, he was mocking a fan as to explain the stench that had just now plagued his laboratory upon Lady Sylvia's arrival.
“Y... you should really--” Walter made another attempt, but he was interrupted by Lady Sylvia, who encouraged Finnegan to continue. She was reddening in the face, which said much about the amount of make-up she had chose to wear. Perhaps, if she had not worn any blush...
“Good,” Finnegan responded to Lady Sylvia, “Everyone ought to hear this! I may mock and jest with boyish kind that Lady Alyssana stinks upon occasion, but the fact of the matter is, I could not be further from the truth! The woman smells absolutely delightful, as a flower. I could never truly replicate her precious aroma. It's as a jasmine and a rose and even say... a gardenia, a sweat pea and most importantly, human. That's right. One of the most gorgeous smells I have ever smelt was that of a human, which is beyond me why most humans smell as animals. I say it's because they act as animals, and dare I say some animals smell even better than their human counterparts? I shan't dare, but I shall spill the truth. Most humans are animals, and I believe Lady Alyssana to be the most human of them all. There is no aromatic gem that I could possibly conjure to make her--”
“Enough!” Lady Sylvia suddenly cried out, “I've heard enough...” She swallowed and fumed from her nose. As much as the woman thought she could mind the words, “I am uncertain as to what sort of what is happening here. I believe this to be more of a circus than a perfumery,” her words were hesitant but held an under-oath of cursory, “You're acting more as a ringmaster than anything, right now, and I shan't stand to be mocked as an ignorant audience.” Her hands raised as she made a sarcastic clap, “But, for you, Lady Alyssana, the biggest clown in the room. I am sure Mommy and Daddy will hear all about this.”
Before Walter could say anything, Lady Sylvia shot him a glance that shot daggers at him, and he was left speechless.
As for Finnegan, he was, again, bound to the nursing affects of his own contraption, lost in a soothing lull, stifled (or is it sniffled?) by Lady Sylvia's presence, but nonetheless cured by the one of Lady Alyssana.
Alyssana had no interest in whether Lady Sylvia cared for her or not. The suggestion of the woman looking after Finnegan instead of Alys was met with a frown, but also a shrug. "It's all the same to me, but don't you think it would be better to let Walter decide?"
Walter suggested that neither lady be involved, and that was fine with her. She was, after all, at the perfumery to see Walter himself, and not his elder brother. If Walter wanted help she'd be there, and if he wanted to handle Finnegan on his own that was fine as well.
Finnegan started speaking, and Alyssana was quite frankly shocked by what came out of his mouth. He'd never spoken so to a woman so far as she could remember, harsh and honest and not a hint of flirting. The bit about her was no doubt due to his recent dousing, but the rest -- it was rather satisfying to see him taking Lady Sylvia down a peg.
And then he kept going, to her acute embarrassment. Oh, the gossips would have a field day if this got out -- and she had no doubt it would. Fortunately for everyone, Lady Sylvia had had enough, and cut in with mockery and a threat that meant little to Alyssana.
"If you do not care to be a part of this 'circus', then perhaps you had better leave," Alyssana said at last, after a silence left long enough to grow uncomfortable. She had no issue with it herself, but it was useful to know how much of a delay made the other person wonder if their remarks had hit home or not. There was no need for a retort beyond that. Whatever the outcome, she'd deal with it when it happened, and better to let Sylvia feel she'd scored than extend the matter further by bickering. Alyssana lacked the vested interest in her social standing to truly suffer from minor scandals, and if she wasn't invited to parties in one circle, the school circle more than made up for the lack.
"Well then," Alyssana said, once the door swung shut behind their uninvited guest. "Finnegan...I am sorry. I should have tried to get you clear. But it will wear off." She sighed. Was he safe to be left to his own devices? No, best stay where they could keep an eye on him. "Walter...you said something about a murder?"