Lockwood sat at his desk, reading a report from a Type Two case. It had been six months since—
no, he didn't want to think about that. It was too painful.
In the past six months, Lockwood & Co. had grown quite successful in the past six months, and now it was so large that it rivalled Fittes, in size and talent; not that their agents weren't equally talented to start with, but, well, good PR had done wonders for their public image, and the days of just barely avoiding arrest were long gone.
They had since become a famous agency, hiring more than Rottwell, and their Talents where unparalleled. Agents from Fittes, Atkin and Armstong, and Tendy and Sons (to name a few) were flocking by the dozens on a daily basis to become part of the best Psych Agency in Britan. Though he was happy that the agency was growing, it also meant Lockwood, once an intrepid head of the team on cases, got stuck with a desk job, sorting through application forms in his office.
He quickly skimmed over the information in a file entitled Maria Evans, and grabbed a stamp from in front of him, quickly marking the file Declined—Insufficient Talent and put it in a box that would be delivered to the offices downstairs, leaned back in his chair and propped his feet up on the desk, boredom taking its toll.
While he would admit that there are certain perks to being the head of an agency, it was hardly a walk in the park. Actually, a walk in the park would be more interesting—at least there was a chance that he might run into a Visitor, whereas in his office, there was no way that anything remotely Otherworldly would get to him, as it would first have to get through the guards, then the lavender, then the running water under the glass floor on Level One, then through iron and silver-filled walls, and finally, just as an extra precaution, his office was lined with bronze.
A cool breeze blew through the window, ruffling the leaves and petals of the potted lilies on his desk. Out of the corner of his eye, he spotted a scarlet bookend and froze. Scarlet had been her favourite colour. His hands shaking slightly, he picked up the bookend and tossed it into the trash-can standing in the corner—
a knock on his door caused the shot to go wide, the wood of the bookend making a loud clatter as it hit the wall and then fell to the floor, and he uttered an oath before calling out, "Come in!"
A petite girl of about thirteen years entered nervously. He instantly assumed it was bad news—George did so love to send in the younger agents with the bad news, taking a sort of perverted humour in watching them squirm. Honestly.
"W—well, Mr. Lockwood, sir, there's been a grave robbery at," she swallowed, then continued nervously. "At Highgate Cemetery, and...and Mr. Cubbins thought you might be interested!" she squeaked, throwing a file at his desk and dashing out as if pursued by a Raw-Bones. Damnit. That wasn't a good sign. Usually, employees didn't run away from him, but Lockwood could practically smell the fear and anxiety rolling off the agent in waves, which meant it had to be really bad news.
Well, he figured he'd better get it over with. After all, anything was better than wasting away in a stuffy office. Sighing, he opened the file and flipped through a few pages of George's usual—
and then what the girl had said finally struck him. Highgate. He rushed to the end of the file and was confronted with a devastating news clipping.
Highgate Cemetery Grave Robbery, it read in bold black letters, and he prayed that it wasn't what he feared it was, dread rising. He quickly read the DEPRAC statement, the truth of the situation setting in like a poison.
It had been her grave.
Rage bubbled up inside of him, threatening to burst out any instant, like a river of lava. He read on, learning that the grave-robbers had only taken one thing: the necklace. His vision went red, and he had to grip the table to keep himself from smashing something. How dare they?!
He'd hunt them down and make them pay for defiling her grave, the way that they'd spat at her memory. When I find them they will pay, he vowed silently. His thoughts were interrupted as the door opened and George walked, carrying a tray of tea in fine china tea-cups. One look at Lockwood's face told him exactly how the other felt, apparently, because he quickly set down the tray and backed out of the room.
He sipped his tea, fingers tightly clutching fingers constantly in danger of breaking the fine china tea-cup. He felt so angry, so furious he couldn't think. Presently, it occurred to him that he couldn't track down someone he'd never seen. Lockwood didn't know who the grave robber was, but he knew someone who might.
He snagged his long black coat, the one with the claw-marks from the Bickerstaff case, when Lucy'd—
Shut up! he yelled at the part of his mind that insisted on dredging up the most painful memories as if in some sort of sadistic ploy by his subconsciousness to punish him. He stepped out of Lockwood & Co.'s headquarters, reporters and press people descending instantly like a pack of hyenas on a downed gazelle. As one of the two most famous people in Britain, this wasn't out of the ordinary, but wasn't fun by any measure.
He cursed internally at having, in his haste, forgotten to disguise himself properly. Tamping down the urge to stab something that had become more and more common in the last half year, he gave the reporters a blinding smile, hoping that it would sate them. Unfortunately, luck was not on his side today.
"Mr. Lockwood, what do you think of the grave robbery at Highgate?" one reporter shouted, and his smile grew noticeably fixed.
He grit his teeth and turned up his smile to a dazzling 350%, and said, "This is a dark age we live in, relic-men defiling graves and Visitors turning up at every corner. But you need not fear. We agents are working hard to discover the Source of the Problem. Now, if you'd excuse me, I have a rather important meeting to get to. Good day."
He made his escape as quickly as he could, taking shortcuts and dodging into darkened alleys to make sure he'd lost his tail, and let out an internal whoop of joy. Technically, he hadn't lied; it was an important meeting—he simply hadn't specified what sort, but the idiots had thought he'd meant Penelope Fittes; the real one, after an exorcism and the destruction of Marissa's remains.
He could not tell say long he walked for—it seemed to be both an eternity, yet also no time at all. All he could say was that after some time, he was talking with Flo, the smell of the Thames filling his lungs. Apparently, there had been rumours of a bronze necklace to be auctioned at a relic-mens' ("And women's!") meeting, the time and place of which Flo would not divulge of until bribed with a large packet of assorted liquorice.
Sighing, he produced the desired item from within the folds of his overcoat, having made an emergency stop along the way just in case.
Back at home, 35 Portland Row, after a strong cup of tea, he crashed into bed, not even bothering with the lights, and fell into a restless sleep.
He was standing in a place remarkably like the true Screaming Staircase of Combe Carey Hall. In front of him, Lucy stood, her eyes glassed with Ghost-Lock. He knew, from the first time around (Lord, it had been hard to think with that screaming), that the Visitors were tempting her with promises for the screaming to end, if only she would just step off the edge and into the well. He wanted to yell, to do something to snap her out of it, but he was frozen, forced to watch, as Lucy stepped off the edge, and plummeted down, down, down. It was only then that he was able to move, and screamed in anguish, his voice adding to the others in the well and—
He woke, drenched in sweat, and stumbled down to the kitchen, making himself a cup of coffee, and glanced at the clock. 2:15.
He'd gotten roughly two and a half hours of sleep. While he was no stranger to insomnia, in the past he had been able to manage at least four hours of sleep. Nowadays, though, he was lucky if he got two.
He only had half an hour to give DEPRAC an anonymous tip-off for a relic-mens' meeting at three, get to said meeting, retrieve the necklace before DEPRAC arrived and get back. He downed my coffee in one fortifying gulp, grabbed his sharpest, most durable rapier, and a change of black clothes, and a nondescript black knee-length trench-coat, left a note for George, and stepped out of the flat, fading into the shadows.
He was running just as fast as he could, trying to avoid the relic-men who were chasing him. Long story short, he'd gotten the necklace, but accidentally revealed his presence to the relic-men, resulting in a far-too-early-morning chase.
He hailed a Night Cab, hurriedly gave the location, and prayed that the relic-men would be apprehended soon by DEPRAC. When the cab got within a block of the house, he hopped out, paid the driver, and made his way to the house at a more sedate pace.
Unlocking the door, he entered, stepping lightly as to avoid the creaky floorboards and set the necklace down on the Thinking Cloth before going into the kitchen for another cup of coffee. When he turned around, he quite nearly jumped out my skin, for there, sitting at the table was Lucy Carlyle, doodling on the Thinking Cloth.
"Fetch!" he yelled at the top of his lungs, hoping George would hear him—he had, stupidly, left his rapier on the table, and the iron, silver, lavender, magnesium flairs, and chains were all down in the basement. His breathing sped up began and the next thing he knew, he was sprawled on the floor, pain blooming from the left side of his jaw.
"Lockwood, you idiot," Lucy said, "Do I look like a ghost to you?"
At that point, George saw fit to appear, though he reacted to Lucy better than Lockwood had. "Oh, hello Lucy. Nice punch."
Lockwood stood up and rubbed his jaw gingerly. "Hey!" he protested, giving George a glare, "What am I, chopped liver?"
"Yes!" Lucy and George chorused.
"This is so surreal," Lockwood said. "This is a dream. Lucy's dead, George is sleeping, and I'm dreaming." This resulted in a definitely real punch on the shoulder, courtesy of Lucy. "Can you stop doing that?" he asked, annoyed at being used as a punching bag.
"Eh," Lucy shrugged. This time though, she leaned in, pressing her lips against Lockwood's.