3. A Man of a Thousand Pieces

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Sprawled upon a cotton mattress in my scant and cheerless attic room, I lay awake beneath the beams for many hours that night, conveying the same, constant string of worries through my mind

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Sprawled upon a cotton mattress in my scant and cheerless attic room, I lay awake beneath the beams for many hours that night, conveying the same, constant string of worries through my mind.

I dreaded first and foremost for Frederic's safety. So shaken by a second encounter with the unexplainable in two days, I had not lingered at Glasten clock tower long enough to see his lamp in the upper window of his home. I decided I would visit him again at the lab on the morrow and tell him of the ghastly thing I had seen.

Two, were the urgent and indignant words left by telegraphic dispatch from Nina, my sweetheart, who had somehow uncovered that I'd stayed yet another night injured in hospital without telling her.

In combination it spelt my second sleepless night that week, but despite it I arose early with the waning winter sun, dressed in a mid-grey three piece with trousers of the kind donning a fashionable crease down the front, and a crimson tie about my collar. Though I lived at no particularly refined address, I clothed myself so that the average passerby assumed no differently. I combed my hair and let it fall into its naturally off-centred parting – though now grown past my jawline, Nina liked my hair longer.

I descended the stairs, addressing Mr Rawlings' housemaid without accepting the usual tea she'd prepared for me.

I could not decide which task would fare me worst: my sweetheart's wrath or my accomplice's dismal findings on yet another elusive, nightly horror. Heading north from Clement Street would lead me by the de Veyra estate; heading east would take me close enough to Saint Kristopher's Chapel to warrant visiting Corgaine's laboratory, built so purposefully close to its cemetery. After toying with the outcomes of both, I determined that I should first head north and save my relationship.

Yesterday's rainstorm was unrelenting, and the weather remained wet, overcast and dismal. Its gravity was no rival to the guilt I felt, however, towards the only woman to know and love most of my peculiarities and still found it within herself to forsake the dream of marrying the perfect gentleman husband, bearing his children and playing out the rehearsed roles of a traditional betrothal. We were to be wed in time, of course, though the decision had not been wholly mine to make. The arranged Mrs Nina Redding may never have the happily-ever-after every little girl dreamt of, but she did not resent me for it.

On the contrary, Nina resented me more for the parts that I could control ... such as lying, gambling and other general indulgences, though I'd learnt that the less she knew of these, the better it was for me.

I rounded the laurel hedges of the grand de Veyra estate, which held prime location overlooking Minster Park in the midst of flawless, two acre gardens. I nodded towards Remi, their single groundskeeper with the golden tan, as I walked the long path to a lavish, 17th century, three storey mansion designed by no less than Henric Dozier himself.

I took the steps up to the front door two at a time, seeming better in spirits than I otherwise felt. I held my chin aloft as I pulled on the doorbell and waited for Nina's answer, though in truth I felt a kinship with the scolded dog hunkered before its master.

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