Petra clicked her heels together, standing behind Mr. Lighthouse and Miss Ginsberg, and saluted briskly. ‘Petra Flax, reporting for duty, sir!’ she called out, waking up Arnold, who had been dozing on the nearby sofa.
The couple turned. ‘Hey kid.’ Emerson responded casually, while Junie beamed ‘Evening Petra!’
Petra tipped back her scarlet helmet, tapped her old gnarled baseball bat on the floor, and looked up at them both. ‘I would like to draw your attention to the ‘stablishment next door, which did not have me working security… while you do, and… the Gangplank still stands.’ She bowed slightly.
‘Worth every penny.’ Lighthouse said. ‘And, right on time… I’ve been having premonitions.’
Petra’s lips curled slightly. ‘You oughtta have Doc Sonnerstein look at that… I think my pop had that before he croaked. Is it itchy?’
Emerson continued, ‘Petra, would you hesitate if it came to cracking an really old man one in the head?’
The girl broke into a grin, as if this was the stupidest question she had ever heard. ‘Sir, I would love it, sir.’ she said. ‘You’d have to hold me back, I swear it.’
Emerson looked at Junie. ‘I like kids these days.’ he said.
‘Hey!’ Petra called out. ‘I’m almost thirteen.’
‘That’s right,’ Junie said. ‘Petra’s an adult.’
The girl nodded, petulantly. Emerson chuckled briefly. ‘Oh, right, I had forgotten.’
‘Did you have someone in mind, sir? Or should I just start clocking all the oldsters who enter?’ Petra asked.
‘Well…’ he said, slowly. ‘…not if they’re paying.’
Petra nodded. ‘Makes sense.’ she mumbled, scratching her head under the helmet. She looked up at Emerson. ‘Speakin of oldsters… are envelopes worth anything?’
‘Depends on what’s in them.’ Junie said, at the exact same moment Emerson did. They looked at one another, then he said: ‘Were you reading over my shoulder again?’
Petra pulled a folded and battered envelope from her pocket, looking at it in wonder. ‘There’s stuff inside? It seemed so flat, I never thought of that…’
Emerson’s gaze turned from Junie to the envelope.
‘Messenger said it was for me… I never got an envelope before.’
‘Do you know who gave it to the messenger?’ Emerson asked.
‘She said it was some old guy… that’s what made me think of it.’
Emerson’s eyes narrowed slightly. ‘Open it, open it!’ Junie said, excited.
Petra looked down at the envelope, then thrust it toward Junie. ‘I don’t know what to do, will you open it Miss Ginsberg?’
Junie took it with relish. ‘Sure!’ she said, looking it over. ‘It’s a bit battered, isn’t it?’
The girl nodded. ‘I’ve had it for a few days… I forgot bout it, till Mr Lighthouse mentioned ol’ geezers.’
‘You’re not just toying with me, are you Petra?’ Emerson asked. ‘After I mentioned my premonitions?’
‘I’d never toy with a sick man, sir.’ she answered, as Junie slipped a nail under the flap and tore it open.
‘What kinda stuff is usually inside an envelope?’ Petra asked, then offered an optimistic guess, ‘…Candy?’
Junie pulled a slip of paper out. ‘It’s just a note, Petra.’
The girl slumped. ‘Oh.’ she said. ‘Well, that’s useless, keep it.’
‘Don’t you want to read it?’ Junie asked, holding the page out slightly. Petra waved at it, dismissively.
‘Read it, Junie.’ Emerson said, his brows furrowed slightly.
Junie adjusted her spectacles, then held the page toward the fire. ‘It says, “Watch yourself, little girl. New Babbage is a dangerous place.”‘
Petra’s eyes blinked open wide. ‘Little girl!’
‘Sound menacing.’ Junie said, looking the page over for clues as to who may have sent it.
Emerson said, ‘What kind of person would send a message like that to a little g- ah, I mean young adult? Shameless.’
Petra swung her old bat up onto her shoulder. ‘They’ll have to get through Mr Lightninghouse first.’
Junie looked at the girl. ‘Through who?’
Petra held out the old gnarled bat, which had a few rusted nails driven wildly through its business end. ‘Mr Lightninghouse. That’s my bat’s name.’ she said.
‘Oh?’ Junie asked, curiously.
‘Lightninghouse…’ Emerson mused.
Petra looked at the bat with fondness. ‘Cause it never strikes the same place twice, ya see.’