“Ahem,” Miss Buxombottom called into the Gangplank from the entrance to the bakery where the temporary civic office of Mr. Osgoode Underby had been established until such time as the City Hall was rebuilt. “I expect Mr. Underby should be here shortly to review important city business,” said, the personal secretary to the mayor’s personal assistant. “Please ensure there is a freshly steeped pot of tea available. Also, if you would be a doll and pick up some fresh cut flowers for me. Mr. Underby likes a little colour on his desk.”
Emerson barely looked up from his stool at the bar as he finished tamping down his pipe, stuffed with a double measure of dried and crumbled purple sage. He detested pipes but had no other option as Miss Buxombottom had hidden all his hookahs—even the little tesla powered handheld he affectionately called The Bolt.
“Excuse me,” said Miss Buxombottom a little more sternly. “You have been warned repeatedly: you are not permitted to smoke that stuff on the premises so long as this facility is housing the temporary civic office of the mayor’s personal assistant. Must I write-up a formal reprimand?”
“Miss Buxombottom, I would step outside if it did not pain me so to deprive myself of your presence?” Emerson struck a lucifer. “So feel free to join me at the bar if you care to indulge.”
Emerson had enjoyed no more than two puffs off the pipe when Petharic appeared at the door and quickly stepped inside.
“Here comes a buzz-kill,” said Emerson, jumping to his feet and stepping closer to Miss Buxombottom.
“There is a man only minutes away who is coming here to kill you,” said Petharic. “Stand by the window where people on the street can see you.” Petharic unholstered his weapon “When he comes for you I’ll get him.”
“You’re using me as bait?”
Emerson held up his hand. “I have a bit of a problem with at least a portion of your plan.”
Petharic pushed a table to the side so that he might more easily peer through the window. As he searched the faces of those passing in the street, Miss Buxombottom leaned close to Emerson and dropped her voice. “Is that man a friend of yours?”
“Hardly,” Emerson whispered back.
“His manner is insufferable,” she waved her hand in an exaggerated fashion. “Still…” she paused mid-thought, eyes up and to the left, as though searching for the precise words, “…there is a certain rugged manliness about him, wouldn’t you agree?”
“Miss Buxombottom, there is absolutely no chance for us, is there?”
“Mr. Lighthouse, do you carry a weapon?” She asked by way of a response.
“No,” he replied.
“I didn’t think so,” she casually reached for her purse and withdrew a large handgun.
“That’s a pretty big piece,” Emerson observed.
“Cooper Pocket double action five-shot percussion revolver,” Miss Buxombottom replied. She then took aim at Mr. Petharic, calling across the room, “Sir, you will turn around at once or I will shoot you for trespassing on civic property!”
Petharic turned and took aim at Miss Buxombottom. The two of them stood, no more than ten feet apart, weapons drawn and aimed at the other. No one spoke. The tension mounted with each tick of the cloth, until a second Petharic appeared at the door, surprising everyone by ending the stand-off with a single shot to the first Petharic’s head.
Miss Buxombottom, only mildly flustered, pivoted and took aim at this new intruder.
“That was the doppelgänger,” Petharic rasped as he strode from the door into the Gangplank. “He realized I was following him. He was waiting for me; he would have killed you both.” Petharic stopped in front of Miss Buxombottom. “That’s a nice gun you’re holding,” said Petharic, holstering his own weapon. “A Cooper Pocket double action five-shot percussion revolver. Do you mind if I take a closer look.” Before she could protest Petharic reached out and disarmed Miss Buxombottom.
“What happens now?” asked Emerson.
“Something that should have happened a long time ago.” Petharic body-slammed Emerson to the floor, straddled him then pressed his left hand into Emerson’s throat, closing his fingers firmly until Emerson was unable to breathe. With his right hand he took aim at Miss Buxombottom, causing her to freeze where she stood.
Emerson thrashed about on the floor of the bar but to no avail. His eyes began to bulge and his ears began to ring. Miss Buxombottom’s cries of, “Stop it! You’re not permitted to kill him on civic property,” swirled about his brain, leaving sparkly trails of fairy dust in their wake. He would have smiled had he been physically able to do so. Maybe she does care.