Friday had been a horrible day for the black feline who was on his way back to Emerson’s. First there had been a conversation with Tepic that had not gone as well as he might have hoped and he’d collapsed into a fit apparently though he didn’t recall it very well anymore. And then to make matters as horrible as they could have possibly been Then Emerson hadn’t shown up on time for his bet.
He had spent the morning trying to control himself, and had just returned to the landing to find Emerson standing behind his desk, happy as could be.
“YOU!!!” Arnold lept up onto the desk quickly, his claws coming out and ready, he raised his claw and then…
He stopped himself, fighting for control over his rage. He’d already thought about this ever since last night. If he hurt Emerson no one would ever be able to say that he had done it while in his right mind. There would always be some lingering doubt the aether had caused him to lose all control, and perhaps they might have been right just now though he doubted it had anything to do with how he felt, but he wasn’t going to play that game either way. He was himself, and turning the man into a living mop would serve as punishment enough.
Emerson backed away, and then grinned with relief, “Ha… you startled me. Well, I’m back!”
“You’re late.” Arnold didn’t blink as he stared balefully at the man at eye level from the desk.
“Not true! Ask Sky and Scottie, they will send word to Victor on your behalf soooo… no mopping, or moping.”
Arnold didn’t know if the man knew what he’d intended, but the man had left while asking him if he knew how to use a mop so he supposed it didn’t matter, “You weren’t at the Murshin Durkin at midnight. You lost.”
“Victor never said I had to be at the bar… just back in New Babbage!” Emerson proclaimed very proud of himself. “And I was back in New Babbage at 11:50 pm. The Melnik’s are to be trusted.”
Arnold paused for a moment and then it slowly dawned on him what the man was saying, “…you actually won?”
“I did! I won with 10 minutes to spare.” Emerson winked and grinned almost completely oblivious to how close the man had come to losing several of his limbs, and possibly any dignity he might have.
“Do you have any idea how concerned I was about that?!”
“I can imagine,” Emerson chuckled as he looked about the clean desk searching for something. “I guess water doesn’t agree with you Or soap and mops for that matter.”
“Well, admittedly the most difficult part of it all would have been finding a bucket your head could fit in to be the mop,” He hadn’t meant to imply the man’s ego had inflated his head, but it would have been an appropriate addition at the time he supposed.
“Hey… I am very proud of my hair, and I don’t think your detergent would be good for it.” Emerson said, apparently unsure if Arnold was being serious or not.
“Your hair color would have made for a very convincing mop.”
“Yes… I can see that…” Emerson paused and then shrugged. “So you are free Mr. Arnold, though I would like to employ you again…your services I mean.” Arnold stared at the man blankly for about a minute before the man added, “At a fairer compensation.”
Arnold couldn’t help it, he threw back his head and laughed in his own way, and struggled to catch his breath.
“Sounds like you have asthma…by the way, it’s not Sir Emerson anymore,” Emerson drew himself up proudly. “It is Sir Sir Emerson.”
“I’ll call you Sir Mop at best, or Mr. Lighthouse,” Arnold said as he finally caught his breath and turned towards Emerson, the smile still upon his cat face. “And I also won’t have to scratch your face off or do all of the other unpleasant things the militia promised I could after they heard about your bet.”
Emerson chuckled, apparently thinking it an idle joke, “Come now Arnold, no harm done.”
Arnold stopped smiling or laughing at all and got very close to Emerson’s face and looked him directly in the eye, “No, I was being serious. I was going to hurt you if you lost.”
“Me lose? Never. It was never in doubt. Someone with my skills…” Emerson stepped back for some breathing room. “I’m sure Victor would have let you off easy.”
Arnold told him that it was very much in question, but Emerson just continued. “Malus didn’t return with me, he fell in love with a Queen.”
Arnold blinked once, and then stared at him blankly. After all the lies he’d ever been told by the man, did he really expect him to believe that? He said as much and Emerson added. “She is really a queen, I’m not sure if he is really in love.”
Arnold shook his head, “….Emerson, there is no way I’m going to believe you, even if I get a confirmation about that from that place. It’s just never going to happen, like my services ever being offored here again.”
Emerson went on as if he hadn’t spoken again, “I have proof for Victor… but not the cigars…I gave up smoking.”
“I don’t believe that either,” Arnold responded. “And I’d like to verify this proof, what is it?”
“Oh… that is a secret,” Emerson responded quietly and began to grin again. “And I have definitely given up smoking… unless someone offers me some,”
Arnold facepawed as his annoyance grew, “Why would it be a secret?”
“I found something that is proof beyond all doubt that I made it to my destination, so Victor can overlook the fact that I returned without the Sagrada Lucia’s,” Emerson explained.
“I guess it’s a historical landmark you stole or something,” Arnold responeded quietly and Emerson shrugged.
“I don’t steal Arnold, I’m honest to the core!”
Arnold stared at the man balefully, and in that moment he had something of an epiphany. He had once thought after getting out of his month long coma that he should give the man a chance and he should be nicer to him. In a way he did have Emerson to thank for a few things. He had come to the conclusion that he was still mostly the same cat that he was before, based on the way he felt about the man in front of him. The man was a lying, untrustworthy, weasel who might be outgoing and fun to be around for others but just annoyed the cat down to his very core.
For that he should have felt grateful, but the man hadn’t done it on purpose, so he just went on as if he hadn’t come to this realization. Instead he asked the one question that he had to before he left, “Okay, if you’re honest to the core tell me one thing. How could you ever believe I’d be your major domo ever again?”
“Would I lie to you… my trusted major-domo?” Emerson asked with a smile and then replied in all sincerity, “Because I am a great boss!”
“You bet a year of service from me, and you honestly believe that.” Was all Arnold could manage to respond with at first, but then he got off the desk and stood near Emerson who was much taller than the cat, “Emerson, here’s something I meant to tell you. I wanted to hurt you…badly…the minute I saw you.”
“But there was never any chance of me losing… and look at it this way,” Emerson responded, “If I hadn’t told you you would never have known… so you should thank me. And your welcome.”
“But that would be giving the dark aether what it wants,” Arnold explained as he started for the door. “So instead I’ve decided to leave you to the mercies of your new neighbor. He haunts your graveyard.”
“Dark Aether… I have heard about that…and a new neighbor? Did Book move?”Lighthouse looked around outside his back window.
“There’s a spirit of a dead madman that killed over seventy people wandering your graveyard, and Book’s gone missing thanks to him.” Arnold opened the door and just before he closed it he added, “Have fun.”
The last thing he heard from the man was, “Looks like I got back just in time to save New Babbage!”
As Arnold was walking back to the home in Clockhaven, finally free of the Landing for sure, he was very unhappy to run into that same apparition, who told him to meet him near the tracks around the tracks in a few hours…and to bring as many friends as he liked.