It took Caligula waking up screaming for food that finally let me quiz the Professor on my mysterious babysitter.
Elizabeth went to give little Caligula his midnight snack of toad in the hole. It’s his favourite and he sleeps through most of the following day after it, so it’s worth my while keeping the toad traps baited.
When she left, I made no small talk or diplomatic approach but cut directly to the chase.
“How do you know this woman?” I asked.
“Liz?” The Professor took a sip of whisky. “She’s a sort of cousin, I suppose. Only ever met her at family funerals before.” He winked. “There are suspicions she might have been the cause of one or two of them. Unproven, of course.”
“That’s a hell of a coincidence then, her turning up here just by random chance.” I don’t like random events. They usually have a damn good reason to happen.
“Oh, Liz is Uncle Toby’s youngest daughter. She’s Blackthorn through and through. I doubt she ever does anything random.” The Professor smiled and swirled his glass. His smile vanished when he realised it was empty.
“There’s some kind of plan going on?” If there’s one thing I dislike more than random events, it’s a plan involving me that I know nothing about.
The Professor rose from his seat, strolled past the drinks cabinet and returned to his seat with a full glass. I still don’t know how he does that.
“Inevitably.” He swirled his glass very gently because it was a little too full to swirl fast.
“What kind of plan?” I made a mental note to add a few more deadbolts to my bedroom door.
“No idea.” He took a sip of whisky. “But if she’s here, there’s a very good reason. Maybe she’s taking a liking to you.”
“Me?” The idea seemed absurd.
“Hey, better that than she takes a dislike to you. You really don’t want that to happen.” He downed his whisky and stood. “Well I’d better be going. I seem to have a house full of ghosts now and I really should be studying them.”
“Now? But I need to know more about this Blackthorn woman. About the family in general.” I pursed my lips. “They sound interesting.”
“They are hard to find. They’ve put distractions all over the internet and throughout libraries. There are stories out there, written as fiction, in which some of them appear. Those stories can be hard to find too. This is a smart family, as you’d expect.” He grinned and put his glass on the table.
“Why would I expect that?”
“Because they are related to me, of course.” The Professor shook my hand. “Thanks for the whisky and the chance to chat with a rarely-seen cousin. I’ll see you again.” He opened the door and turned to speak over his shoulder. “As long as you’re careful not to annoy Liz, that is.”
I slumped into a chair and listened to his chuckle fade along the corridor. I had to get to the bottom of this, and soon.