25: Burrowed into its bamboozling heart

“Hello, Cadbury Fife”, the voice was disconnected, pointedly sexual, yet with some type of indeterminate undertone.

Cadbury: I do not like your indeterminate undertone. Is there a light or any sort of illuminating substance in here?

Cadbury preferred to control the lighting levels. He stood in the doorway and smacked at the inside wall until something happened.

The light came on to reveal a woman sitting up in a bed with hair less frizzy than frazzled, eyes less sunken than scuttled, and an outfit less dragged from a dumpster than lived in by a family of feral hamsters.

Cadbury: You’re looking crazier than usual, Selia. [Stepping forward] What has Gullet been doing to you?

Gullet: [Stepping into the room] Madam Selia has been through a lot.

Cadbury: Yes, I see. What have you put her through, some type of feather duster torture?

Selia: Cadbury Fife, why do you speak so harshly of our mutual friend, Mr. Gullet? How many times has he saved us both from the world and ourselves?

Cadbury: He has also saved the world from me more than once. However, we are not here to discuss the dazzling promise of Mons Gullet’s underpants, we are here to the matter of… the business of… the case that we have… with you.

Gullet: It’s the Case Of The Missing Self madam. Here, Epstein has a warm drink for you. Also, a shiny new pillow.

A waiter robot stumbled forward with the drink as Gullet propped Selia up in her bed with a pillow.

Selia: [Taking the drink] This better be loaded. [Tasting it, then falling back satisfied, propped on her new pillow] Good then. Let’s go. What is the news?

Cadbury: Not so much news as a mess of confusion… which is appropriate as we are in the messy mid-game of this case. Would you like a fish?

Selia: A fish?

Cadbury: Yes, a fish. A trout perhaps. Or, what is tasty? Barracuda?

Selia: Salmon?

Cadbury: You would like a salmon?

Selia: Sure, if you have one.

Cadbury: Well, see, that is what we call ‘the thing’… I do not have a salmon, unfortunately. Or any other fish. [Pauses] However we can catch our own… through the magic of fishing!

Selia arched her eyebrows at Cadbury.

Cadbury: I assume you enjoy fishing!

Selia: You are somewhat prone to erroneous assumptions. [She looked at her bandaged hand] In any case, I believe you need working hands to do fishing.

Cadbury: I doubt it. Don’t even worry about the details, Gullet will work them out. He’s good at details… obsessed with them, maddeningly so. Keeps jars of details in intricate cupboards, the identification of which is detailed in some sort of monstrous catalog of indexes. Bathes in details, eats them, makes passionate noises at night all alone with them. So really, really stop fretting about it – fishing will be great, I assure you.

Selia arches her eyebrows at Gullet, seemed to be thinking, but then falls back into her pillow.

Selia: Yes, well. Were you here to discuss something?

Cadbury: I hope not.

Gullet: [Filling a quaint, though sullen, silence] Your case is progressing madam.

Selia: Progressing!? My case is progressing? What does that mean? [She shook her hand as though it was in some pain] What?

Cadbury was also looking at Gullet as if to beg the same question. He arched his eyebrows.

Gullet: If I may describe it, in the agency parlance…

Cadbury: [Interrupting with a flourish of an arm] ‘Parlance’? No. Cobblerot! Listen, here, and I will speak.

Pausing and stepping back, Cadbury then proceeded to pace in a circle while giving his account.

Cadbury: We have come nose to nose with the soul-corroding core of this rotten, rooting, business. We have burrowed into its bamboozling heart. We have isolated its tenaments, and within them we have interrogated the residents, who have spoken to us in twisted tongues of the most manifest mindlessness imaginable. To summarize: we had everyone dance, while we held position, and we collected what shook out… Gullet put all the pieces in a sack… and let’s just say that soon… soon we will be having a party.

Cadbury stopped talking and swivelled to look at Selia.

Cadbury: But first you really need to clean yourself up. Seriously.

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