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The Photograph and the Laudanum (Part One)

A couple of weeks ago, the 22nd of January to be exact,
Hyde found himself roaming the halls of the Essex House, looking for the
owner. As a part-time resident, he felt obligated to spend the night
there at least once in awhile, if only for the sake of occupancy.
However, with both Mr. Wright and Beryl accompanying Ms. Heinrichs in
the North, it seemed like a good idea to stay nearby if anything went
wrong in their absence. The issue here, at the present moment, was
whether or not Moldylocks was fully aware of this arrangement.

Moldylocks herself was spotted soon enough, leaning against
the railings on the back patio, watching the last flurries of winter
settle onto the ground. She left one of the dining room doors wide open,
curiously enough, allowing the perfect opportunity for anyone to sneak
up on her. Like Hyde himself for instance.

“Moldy, you really shouldn’t leave the doors open like
that,” He told her, startling her from behind, “Who knows what you’ll
let into the hotel.”

Moldylocks insisted that she only left it open during
dinner, which had just ended by the time Hyde got there. He didn’t mind,
though, he already had something to eat before he left Jekyll’s home.
Still, she wanted to serve him something to make up for it, so she led
him to the small library for some drinks. Three fingers of bourbon,
Hyde’s usual choice.

The conversation in the library began with the recent news.
Hyde only related what he knew; The giant spiders that were plaguing
port had been voluntarily shipped out to Avariel’s warmer climates,
Avariel herself had gotten lost in the north after what was rumored to
be a vicious monster attack (What sort of monster, Hyde could make no
guess), and an expedition team had left the city in search of her. Now,
Moldylocks was surprised to hear this news. Hyde assumed she had either
been drinking or just does not keep up with events around town. He also
noticed that she seems to avoid dreadful subjects, as she quickly
changed the topic as soon as there was a lull in the conversation.

“So,” she said, “How are you finding your room upstairs?”

Hyde shrugged. “Well enough for me. Except that clock. Honestly, what scrapyard did you pull that hunk of metal from?”

She sighed, “Really, Hyde. All your taste is in your mouth. That’s a very expensive work of art.”

“Expensive art? Looks like a bored foreman’s side project to me…”

At this point, a dog that was lying peacefully at Moldy’s
side suddenly raised its head and barked. Turning to see what was the
cause of the poor dog’s distress, Moldy and Hyde saw the man only known
as Count Bologna stride down the staircase and into the room. “Loxy!” He
grinned in greeting, “Hyde… Good evening!”

“Ah, Count!” Moldylocks smiled back, seemingly thrilled by
his presence, “Lovely of you to join us! Please help yourself to the

Hyde was less than amused by his presence. “What?! You?!?

“Yes, me,” Came the Count’s smug reply as he poured himself a snifter of cognac.

“Gentlemen,” she told her guests, “You’re both tenants here and I expect a little decorum.”

Tenants… Hyde cursed under his breath as the
irksome count made himself comfortable and insisted he didn’t say
anything at all. Why on earth did Moldylocks take a shine to the count?
He was clearly some kind of idiotic mountebank, or at least to Hyde.

“In any event,” she tried to lighten the mood a bit, “I hope the expedition will be a success.”

“Expedition!” The count lit up with excitement. “Treasure, is it?”

Hyde rolled his eyes, answering that dumb question with sarcasm. “Yes, Lunchmeat, they were looking for the treasure of Ima Hogg.” Something in that answer made the count shudder, much to Hyde’s amusement.

Moldy finished off her wine before she turned to face Hyde. “You didn’t answer my question earlier, Hyde.”

“Moldy,” he replied, “Remind me what question you’re talking about?”

“How is your room? I don’t think I’ve seen you since last week.”

“Oh. I told you. I liked it. Comfortable enough.”

“Good, good” She looked into her empty glass, longingly.

“And I take it, he got the room with the
two-headed cow?” Hyde pointed at the Count, who had taken off his helmet
for a moment to reveal a head of blonde, unruly hair that contrasted
with his dark handlebar moustache.

“Well, yes.” Moldy nodded, “Would you like me to have a
trophy put into your room too? There are several left over from my
husband’s library.”

“Which husband?” Hyde remembered that either she or Wright mentioned that she was widowed thrice.

But she ignored the question. “I’m selling the estate back
home, So things are slowly getting shipped over… At least the things I’m
keeping. There will be an estate sale in April. And then… no more
ties to the British isles!”

Hyde smirked at her last comment. It was much easier for
him to erase himself from England. All the land he had to his name there
was a rented out apartment. Compared to Jekyll, Hyde felt his needs
were few in terms of personal belongings. “Interesting… Best of luck to

“Thank you,” she grinned as she got up to serve herself another drink, “I hope to do well.”

The Count had been studying Hyde’s face as he spoke to
Moldylocks. This was the first time he had clearly seen Hyde without a
winter scarf covering his face. The Count continued to look on with
fascination as Hyde took notice of his behavior. “What are you staring

“I see now why you wear your scarf pulled up so high all the time…” he finally mused out loud, “What a frightful mug you have!”

Hyde frowned. “Gee. Thanks. At least my facial hair matches the hair on my head.”

Moldylocks sighed at the bickering men. “Honestly you two…”

To be continued…

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