When Mr. Palmer and Mumsy Abigail returned to Ruthorford House from the Excelsior on Thursday morning, the old woman looked around suspiciously, sniffing the air.
“JUNIPER!” she bellowed.
A few moments later Junie descended the steps lightly toward her aunt, humming softly to herself.
Mumsy watched her neice carefully as Mr. Palmer assisted her in removing her coat.
“You’re too cheerful. You look like a fool, child.”
Junie ignored the insult and watched her aunt with a slightly amused expression.
Mumsy continued. “Was the exterminator here?”
Junie nodded. “Yes, he was. He arrived shortly after you left last night.”
“And did he take the problem in hand?”
The younger woman thought for a moment. “Yes, indeed.”
“Well?!” Mumsy was almost beside herself with impatience. “Are there still rats?”
“Ohhh…you know, Aunt,” her neice replied calmly, “New Babbage rats are the worst. I saw another one scurrying near the foundation earlier this morning. The exterminator might need to pay another visit to try again.”
“Hmph!” Mumsy snorted, and then mumbled to no one in particular, “inept young people with their gadgets…should have been done right.”
Junie smirked slightly, shrugged and walked back upstairs as Mumsy called after her. “BENZENE! He should have doused the carpets with benzene! It kills everything!”
Mr. Palmer escorted the old woman into the sitting room and began preparing a kettle of water for tea.
“You know, Mumsy,” he said quietly, “I do believe your neice is stalling the construction on your home for some reason. She ordered the exhumation stopped earlier this month and it hasn’t yet resumed. Do you know why?”
She scowled at him as she considered his question.
“Isn’t that your job, Palmer? To watch out for my interests? What am I paying you for, I’d like to know?”
Octavius Palmer shook his head to himself as he clattered china in preparation for tea.
“I’m afraid that some answers aren’t easily learned, Madam.”
“Well,” she spat, “have you spoken with the undertaker? Wasn’t he the man in charge of the operation?”
Palmer nodded. “I have. He was tight-lipped though, wouldn’t divulge anything useful. He simply said that they’d run into some sort of bureaucratic snag.”
“What about City Hall?” Mumsy asked.
“Not yet,” he answered. “There has been a great deal of excitement in town recently due to some sort of crisis. I don’t know the details, but there is a certain buzz about the city.”
Mumsy watched his inexpert efforts to set the table for tea, rolling her eyes as he fumbled.
“Have you been to the cemetery? How far along is it?”
Palmer shrugged. “I’ve not seen it since the operation ceased. Perhaps I will take a stroll by later to evaluate the situation, and confront Ms. Ginsburg tonight.”
She nodded with approval and added, “there is no ‘perhaps,’ Palmer. There is only ‘must.’ See it done.”