The Eighth Guest

Chapter Seven

by TT (a.m.tilmouth.s99 at
"Come on, Tessa, the food's here."
Tess blushed and returned to her seat. God, she hoped she was wrong about hearing him; this was the last way she wanted to start the evening. She picked up her fork and began the delicate process of trying to move the food from the plate into her mouth without making a complete mess.
She remembered the first time she'd heard about him. Her dad had brought out a bunch of old storybooks from the back of a chest, originals from The Strand magazines, bound together as if to trap the words by a sober young gentleman called Edward Moriarty. That night he'd read them until she fell asleep, and again, and again for every night after until they were finished. He had been her bogeyman, her Captain Hook, the reason to be afraid of the dark, the movement in every shadow, her mind screaming, 'The Professor is coming'. And when they'd seen news about the new master criminal, her father had warned her, "Lock your doors, bar your windows, then be ready to fight; he's out."
Then that night, the fire -- her parents had been so worried about her; she'd had to travel from the training track to their house. They wanted her to be safe...and their sacrifice and hers had failed to provide such a thing as safety. Not from the 'Professor'. The only thing that could provide even slight comfort was his nemesis, now wrapped in conversation, eyes blazing, long face taking in all in the room, his meal yet untouched...Holmes.
At least that's what she imagined him doing. The blur seemed more distant than ever before and the confusion of familiar voices was deafening. A door shut and she jumped.
Ling laid a hand on her arm. "All right, Tess; it's the greeter, Fiona."
She nodded -- tugged the fingers of her gloves, a nervous habit she'd picked up recently.
Fiona walked up to Lestrade and tapped her politely on the shoulder. "Telephone for you, Miss."
Lestrade got up and flashed a glance at Tessa who nodded; she was not going to go missing with her friends around. "Sure, I'm coming."
Tess heard footsteps and the door shut again; she shivered. Something felt wrong, something strange. She prodded her food, mind working as the seconds ticked by. Why would anyone phone Lestrade? Who would she have told she was coming here? Practically everyone she was close to already had invites, and she always had a palm phone on her for work emergencies. Still not ready to panic, Tessa got up slowly. Check it out, her mind was screaming at her, go now.
"I think I need some fresh air."
She could almost her Peter frowning. "Are you all right? You look...."
"I'm fine," she snapped, not willing to waste time. "I just need air."
The footsteps were still there as she hurried along. Using the wall as a guide, as she got closer she could hear the voices. "This way, Miss. The phone is just there on the desk." She heard the click of buttons, and Lestrade's impatient sigh and foot tapping. "I can't seem to find it. The call was here a second ago."
"Move out of the way; I'll see what I can do." More button tapping, followed by quick footsteps and then suddenly a crackle. Tessa tried not to yelp as she heard a heavy thud, like a body hitting the floor.
She waited -- all she could do was wait -- and eventually she heard a cloth rustling and movement. There was the beep of a phone, followed by a muffled voice. Fiona responded. "Yes, I have her, she's unconscious...What? About fifteen minutes...Yes, I can get her outside...You have the tapes? Hello!" The greeter cursed a show of strength Tessa wouldn't have attributed to her size...she heard the unmistakable interrupted dragging as what could only be Lestrade's body was moved out of the room and into the unknown.

On to Chapter 8!
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