Emery Meets the Twills

This chapter occurs between chapters 16 and 17 in The Glass Magician. It reveals part of what Emery did after sending Ceony to stay with Langston. (Back to Deleted Scenes.)

Hand on the doorknob to Mg. Aviosky’s home, Emery watched Langston’s car drive away through a window until it vanished beyond the scope of the panes. He squeezed the knob in his hand, resisting the urge to strike something. His stomach rumbled, igniting a small but sharp pain there. That woman had probably given him an ulcer, not to mention insomnia and a headache. Despite all the beautiful things about Ceony, she could be such a fool!

He let out a long breath. Thank the heavens they had found her unharmed. Thank the heavens. Emery had prayed for the first time in his life last night that he would find her whole. Whatever God watched over him had certainly been merciful.

Alfred came down the hall. “I have my auto coming,” he said. “Do you know the Twill residence?”

“I know the address,” Emery answered. He had never been there himself. “I’d like to come with you.”

Alfred nodded.

Not precisely the way Emery had wanted to meet Ceony’s parents, but he supposed none of that really mattered—or should have been at all important—given the circumstances.

“I as well,” Patrice called as she descended the stairs.

“Delilah?” Emery asked.

“I sent her to the school,” Patrice replied. “I’ve given her enough homework to last her another year. What, pray tell, have you done with Ceony?”

“She’s taken care of for the time being,” Emery said, and he left it at that. Patrice opened her mouth to say more, but she quickly closed it. Perhaps Emery’s disdain for the conversation showed on his face—his aunt had always told him his eyes expressed themselves too well.

Alfred’s driver brought his automobile and Emery held the passenger door for Patrice, remaining silent as he did so. Emery directed the driver to Whitechapel and the Mill Squats. Alfred seemed amused, but withheld comment.

“Here is fine,” Emery announced when they grew close. No need to draw attention to themselves.

They stepped out of the auto onto a narrow street barely wide enough to fit one, lined on either side with box-like flats all compressed in such a way he couldn’t tell where one started and another ended. The brickwork on the road had cracked, strewing potholes up and down its length. Weeds grew up through more cracks in the sidewalks, and the buildings themselves looked centuries old. A thin woman sat on a set of steps outside, watching her two boys bat a pill bug around with sticks.

“Charming,” Alfred said. Turning to Patrice, he added, “Would you find a line and get the location to the others? Tell them only to send a few, please.” Then, to Emery, “It’s a little late for mail birds to look commonplace.”

Emery nodded.

Patrice headed down the sidewalk, back the way they had come, her short heels clicking against the pavement.

Emery led the way to the Twills’, checking building numbers and street signs until he found the address registered under Ceony’s profile, the one he had received a week before she began her apprenticeship. It was a single-story house wedged in between two others, made of rusty brick chipping at the edges and a roof in dire need of re-shingling.

A past conversation came to Emery’s mind as he approached the door.

“Could I borrow a few shillings for a buggy? Please?” Ceony asked.

Emery looked up from the letter he was drafting. “Didn’t you receive your stipend last week?”

“Yes . . . but I sent it away already.”

Sent it away. Here, no doubt.

He thought of the letter she had sent him when she entered Tagis Praff, after he’d donated a scholarship rile Sinad Mueller.

It has been my dream since I was a young girl to learn the secrets of magic, but due to my family’s financial situation and some bad luck on my part, I had truly believed only a few days ago that my dream was unobtainable.

He knocked on the door. Ceony would hate further charity on his part, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t lend her family some help behind her back. He resolved to do so, once this mess had been dealt with.

A woman answered the door. She looked to be about Patrice’s age, with auburn hair pulled back into a ponytail. A worn apron stained with what looked like some sort of fruit preserve hid most of her faded dress.

Alfred said, “Mrs. Twill, I presume?”

She raised an eyebrow. “Yes. May I help you?”

Alfred stepped forward and offered his hand. “My name is Alfred Hughes of Criminal Affairs, Magicians Cabinet. May we come in? You know Magician Thane, of course.”

The woman’s eyes widened, and she grinned. “Magician Thane! No no, I haven’t had the pleasure.” She released Alfred’s hand and shook his own, her grip surprisingly firm. “Ceony has told me so much about you . . . though I didn’t think you’d be so young.”

Emery smiled. “Good things, I hope.”

“Oh, mostly,” she said, then laughed. “Mostly. You’re a better dresser than she claims. Yes yes, please come in.”

Mrs. Twill opened the door wide and gestured them into a small living area, divided into both a living room and a dining room by a long couch that had obviously seen many years of sitting and rough-housing. A narrow kitchen extended beyond that, and a hallway that likely led to the bedrooms. The flat couldn’t have fit more than two.

“Magicians Cabinet,” Mrs. Twill repeated as she shut the door. “Oh dear. Has Ceony done something foul?”

Beyond foul, Emery thought, but he said, “I’m afraid the situation is more my fault than anything else, Mrs. Twill.”

“Oh, call me Rhonda,” Rhonda said. Her face fell. “Is . . . everything all right?”

“Mom, who are they?”

Emery turned to see two children in the hallway, a boy of about ten and a girl—a spitting image of Ceony—a couple years younger than that. Marshall and Margo, if Emery remembered correctly. Ceony had mentioned them on multiple occasions.

“Oh nothing,” Rhonda said. “Go to your room.”

“But—”

Now,” she added, and the two children frowned and scurried down the hallway.

Rhonda gestured to the couch, but Alfred waved it away with his hand. He asked, “Is your husband at home?”

“No . . . he’s at work,” Rhonda said, fiddling with her apron tie. “And Zina—my other daughter—is still at school. Is there a problem?” She glanced to Emery.

“I’m afraid I can’t disclose much,” Alfred said, “but I will need to relocate your family for a short time.”

Rhonda’s eyes bugged. “Relocate? Whatever for?”

Stepping forward, Emery said, “We have reason to believe you may be in danger. A slim chance, I assure you, but it’s always better to play the safe card. Consider it a . . . paid vacation.”

The words didn’t soothe her. “What about Ceony?”

“Oh, she’s perfectly fine, studying for midterms,” Emery lied. “The arrangements will be for a few days, a week at most.”

Alfred harrumphed. Emery ignored him.

Chewing on her nail, Rhonda looked around the house. “But I . . .”

“All will be explained later,” Emery assured her, though the statement wasn’t necessarily true. “Please, pack your things.”

Alfred said, “If you tell us where we could find your husband and daughter, I’ll see that they’re brought home safely as well.”

Rhonda chewed her lip, eyeing Emery. After a long moment, she said, “She trusts you. I suppose I will too. God knows we could use some time out of this house, but . . .”

She didn’t finish the statement, only hurried down the hall, calling out to Marshall and Margo to “get ready for a trip.”

Turning to Alfred and keeping his voice low, Emery asked, “Where will you send them?”

“Probably Portsmouth, but that’s yet to be decided,” Alfred answered.

Someone knocked on the door, and Emery took the liberty of answering it.

Three men in police uniforms stood there. Alfred told one to wait outside the door and the other to circle the block, to keep an eye out. The third he invited inside.

Emery stepped outside so as not to overcrowd the room. He ran his hand through his hair.

“I would still like to speak to you regarding Miss Twill,” Patrice’s voice said beside him. He hadn’t noticed her there.

“You address little else, these days,” Emery said, sliding his hands into his trouser pockets. He felt exposed without his coat, which he had left at Patrice’s home. He’d need to retrieve that. “What is it?”

“I’m considering Miss Twill’s welfare as an apprentice, Magician Thane.”

“You think I’m mistreating her?”

“Quite the opposite, in fact,” she huffed. She pushed her glasses higher up on her nose. “I think it to be more conducive to Ceony’s studies, and her well-being, if I reassigned her under Magician Morse.”

Emery glanced straight ahead and folded his arms. “Magician Morse has an apprentice.”

“Not for much longer, and I believe—”

“I would think you’d trust me regarding my own students.” Emery said, looking down on her. “After all, you are the one who made the assignment.” And to a broken man like myself, no less.

“Considering recent events . . .”

“This is neither the time nor place.”

Patrice frowned. “There is never a time or place with you, Magician Thane.”

He turned to her, and she took a step back, surprisingly. “I have the strangest inkling that this isn’t about the Excisioners, Patrice.” He kept his voice low, not wanting any of Ceony’s family to overhear.

Patrice actually flushed. “No, not entirely. I worry about the consequences of the incident concerning your . . . collapse, three months ago.”

“This is an awfully large bush to beat about.”

Patrice scowled. “Do not mock me for being proper.”

Emery inhaled deeply and rolled his shoulders back, trying to relieve the tension in them. The third police officer stepped out of the house and jogged down the street toward his car, likely off to rescue the rest of the Twill family.

“Tell me,” he said, “have you ever completely opened your heart to someone?”

Patrice took several seconds before answering. “No . . .”

“I have,” Emery said, staring at the bland building across the street, at the Y-shaped crack running up its side. “It may not have been by choice, but it’s done. Once something like that happens, one tends to see the world—and the person—a little differently.”

Patrice didn’t respond.

“I will take care of Ceony,” he said, glancing at her. Her lips were pressed into a thin line, but she seemed somewhat defeated. “She will earn her magicianship at the end of two years, or you may personally have me expelled from the Magicians’ Alliance.”

Patrice’s mouth form a small O. Alfred exited the house and flagged down one of the policemen. After asking him to retrieve the auto, he said, “They’re almost ready. Emery, if I could speak with you.”

Emery stepped away from Patrice without so much as a nod, but before he reached the door, he spied something small and white tumbling over the building across the street—a mail bird. Stepping into the gutter, he held his hand out to it, and the paper crane circled about his fingers and landed in his palm.

“Cease,” he commanded it. The bird went still, and he unfolded it, glancing over the message inside, written in Ceony’s hand.

“What is it?” Alfred asked.

Emery slipped the paper into his pocket. “Nothing,” he said, and followed the Siper inside. Two packed bags already sat on the dining-room table.

“I have a proposition for you,” Alfred said, hushed. “Something I need done while we deal with Grath.”

“I’m listening,” Emery replied.

(Back to Deleted Scenes.)