16. A Man of a Thousand Pieces

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We did not involve the police

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We did not involve the police. We never had. Back when Glasten's less than savoury characters broke into and took from the secluded laboratory, we boarded up the property out of our own pockets. A police detective might have asked too many questions, so Corgaine and I were in agreement from the day we bought the place that the police should never arrive at its door.

It was born of this tradition and its discretion that, even this time, Frederic and I did not involve the law. As it happens, by the time we were done sterilising and emptying the lab of its broken artefacts and equipment, if the police did happen upon the old house, it would seem as if nothing was amiss.

Not even Corgaine's strangely mute sweetheart made the call. No.

It was mine.

At the time I had had other ideas as to why Nina urgently requested my presence at the de Veyra estate some days after the incident. I dressed well despite the ceaseless fatigue that had turned my insides to stone; even greeted Remi, the gardener, with a cheerful 'Good day!' as I took the steps in twos as I so habitually did. I thought naively that perhaps Nina had missed me, or after somehow hearing of everything I had been through, felt the need to take me in her arms and console me. It was not so. For when I stepped inside the gallery, before me stood Nina, beautiful as always with her hair done up in loose curls ... and in the Chesterfield armchair beside her, with his arm in a sling, sat Jonathan Corgaine.

Seeing them both was an uncomfortable feeling of affection and hostility, and my heart did not deign to make the distinction between the two. Uncomfortable, because I did not know how best to react when they dropped their small talk and turned their gazes towards me, anticipating a greeting that did not come. In the same heartbeat I longed for nothing more than to share with my sweetheart an unrestrained moment of passion, all the while wishing to deliver a swift fist to Corgaine's face and shake his hand at the same time. I did not know where to look. To the woman I was promised to marry, or the man to whom I'd presumed, and wished, dead?

Nina was the first to speak. "Joseph ... It's good of you to come."

I hardly heard her, and the grin on Corgaine's face infuriated me sooner than I could keep myself at bay. "Why are you here?" I blurted in his direction. "What the Devil happened to you? We were looking for two days –"

"I'm surprised to hear you cared at all, Redding. Quite remarkable."

"That is not the matter," said I, willing myself not to raise my voice again. "What concerns me most is why, of all the foul pits of Glasten you belong in, you would dare show your face here at the de Veyras'."

Corgaine rose to his full height and straightened the creases from his immaculate black coat. "What matters is that you have awarded me your attention, Redding. Would you have agreed to meet me if it had been I that had sent you word and not your fiancée? Egads! You know I'm no such fool. Besides, meeting at the de Veyra Estate appears somewhat less suspicious than your proposed ... foul pit now that the town's law enforcement has linked us both with murder."

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