The acolytes brought up three chairs as Ashford went to sit behind a huge wooden desk. The room seemed enormous, with clusters of furniture placed here and there, like the lobby of a hotel. The irregular illumination provided by the candles added to the spookiness, since it was difficult to see the walls.
My employer lit a cigarette as we sat down, and she leaned back in her chair.
"I need to ask about a visitor you had last night," she said, "named Åsa, of the Jinx."
Ashford looked puzzled, leaning back in his ornately carved chair. The girl came forward and gave him a cigarette, and the boy lit it for him.
He glanced at both of them before replying.
"I don't know anybody by that name, I'm afraid."
She shrugged. "It's possible you know her under another name. She is about five foot six, with short hair, dyed blonde, and her eyes are pale blue. She is quite thin, and her skin is pale. She is probably around thirty years old."
He smiled. "She sounds delightful. I hope she does come to visit us someday, but I'm afraid I don't know anybody of that description."
My employer levered herself to her feet. "Åsa came here the night before last, and she left in a weakened state. She may have come before that also, we don't know. But we do know that she came back last night and left this house injured and bloody and unable to make it all the way home."
"And I've told you that I've never met her," he said mildly. "So, is this where you threaten me?"
Jan Sleet shook her head. "What's the cliché? 'This isn't a threat, it's a promise.' I don't do either. This is a mystery I've decided to solve, and my track record speaks for itself. And, when I do–"
"Excuse me," Christy said, stepping forward. "Miss Sleet will not threaten, but I will." She stood directly in front of Ashford's desk and leaned forward. "I am here with a message from Dr. Lee of the Jinx. If you have harmed our sister Åsa, the Jinx will descend upon this house in force, all of us, and we will destroy both you and it." She turned and left, walking slowly up the wide stairs and out.
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