The news from Massachusetts was grim.
It had been delivered quietly that morning by a grim gentleman in a gray bowler hat. “The injuries are grave,” her uncle had written, “and when he wakes he is half out of his mind with infection. I’ve sent word to Mama Daniels, we will keep him until she arrives, as you requested. But I feel that if his state does not improved markedly than we must consider committing him to Taunton. I dare say they’ll make good use of him there. You’ve done your duty in sending word by telegram to look for him, but I think you should consider finally washing your hands of him my dear. If ever there was a time suited to that, it is now.” and it was signed in solid block letters: Benjamin Wickentower.
In her trunk, Phaedra found her little black pouch which contained her cards. She sat in her chair, dumped them into her hand, and started to shuffle.
If Yoyo was indeed down, perhaps for good, then she had lost her partner in more ways than one.
She started laying out the cards.
Lionheart was proving himself useful, but he was hardly to be trusted with such delicate matters. Bill was a useless child, good only for simple tasks. Macbain was out of the question, as was that little group of friends of hers: the Melniks, Dagger and, most unfortunately, Anatra. Namori was a fool and that husband of her’s no better, despite a fine parentage. Malus and the Builder boys were mostly untouchable: the risk was too great that she’d burn herself, literally.
So who was left? Boris? Perhaps. Baroque? Almost certainly if she could assure herself that he’d answer to her and only her. She knew at least two people had a claw in his back, and she wasn’t comfortable acting to gain him as a true associate until she knew who the second person was. Miss Faulkner certainly had easily exploited weaknesses. Tripsa could prove useful, though it seemed unlikely she would ever willingly aid Phaedra.
Phaedra turned the cards over, scanning their images for meaning, looking for a sign. The pieces, it seemed, were in stasis: waiting for her to give signal. What she wanted she couldn’t have, not yet. Victory was possible, if she only waited.
The noose, she knew, was hung loosely around the Clockwinders neck and until she started tightening it, he’d hardly be aware of it. She wouldn’t dare to start pulling until she was sure the time was prime. To strike too soon would be folly.
It would be best, she mused, if she had two allies. Things always worked better when there were three involved, but, she supposed, she could manage it alone easily enough. She’d managed things well enough on her own before.
She swept the cards back into their pouch and penned a quick letter, “Uncle,” She wrote, “Do not commit my husband to Taunton without my consent, or I shall be forced to come to Massachusetts myself and things are too delicate here to be left alone. I’d hate for my soup to boil-over and scald. Mama will manage him, she’s seen worse I’ve no doubt. The one who attacked him must be found, I cannot risk him coming here with the intent to murder me as well. With love, Phaedra.” She folded it over and sealed it, pinned her favorite hat to her head and, with her market-basket over her arm, went to find the man in the gray bowler hat and to buy the ingredients for lemon petits fours.
She only hoped she could find a few good lemons, she was tired of almond.