In a flash, the transformation takes shape. The cook’s legs straighten not unlike stiff boards. His hands shoot down at his sides, unmoving from the side of his thighs. His entire body becomes rigid.

“Blah! What is going on?!”

Just as he yells, he loses his balance and falls on his face. At some point I should start trying to catch the people I trap like this.

I take a step forward, placing my foot upon his back.

“I do not have time for games. I have done nothing since my arrival, except put my energies toward stopping this evil. Your own master has tried such tactics as you and conceded to me.

“I do not wish to argue. I do not wish to fight. But if you do not tell me what I need to know to save everyone in this building, you will learn of what I am capable.”

I get in close, almost whispering in his ear for what I am about to say.

“The things I can do would drive even a strong man like you to the worst kind of nightmarish lunacy. So, please, where is Lance Welling?”

The man beneath my foot shook. I didn’t think I was terribly terrifying.

“You surprise me, detective.”

Detective? Interesting word.

“Surprising? I worried you thought me terrifying.”

“You win. I will tell you where the boy is. But I’m not sure you will like what you hear.”

Terrifying to terrified. A rather quick transition on my end.

“The boy went to fix his mistake. He seemed worried about failing the master, but I told him things can always be made right.”

I lift my foot off the cook. The energy binding him releases as the gem in my hand loses its glow.

He went back to room after that foolish undercook told him the best way to stay out of trouble is to hide his tracks. Now, the cook didn’t know what he was referring to, but curse it all if he didn’t give that child the most dangerous plan possible.

I turn and run back through the mansion, not even stopping to have the maid guide me back. Despite the maze of a building trying its best to trap me, this is too important, and I strain my mind to remember the way back.

As I sprint, I’m trying my best to dodge every piece of furniture and hired help in my way. The labyrinth-like upper halls stalled me longer than I’d have hoped.

But I find it.

Those double doors to the study where I left Con with the spirit. The creator only knows what I’ll find behind it. Time for action. I push open the doors with all my might, the force causes them to swing and bang against the walls.

“CON! Are you-” I’m stopped in the middle of my exclamations by the sight in front of me.

Con was standing, holding Lance Welling by the back of his shirt. Lance was slumped, either unconscious or just defeated, being held up solely by the will of my young apprentice. The spirit in the middle of the room looked horrified. I haven’t the slightest idea what transpired here.

“Hey, Branner. He tried to rush me.” Con was very calm. And I suppose he answered my question. Well, let’s see if I can speak.

“…Well done, Con. Yes, it seems Lance is hiding something. I don’t know if the spirit is truthful in his earlier tale, but Lance certainly knows something. What did you do to him?”

Con looked a little proud of his achievement.

“Just socked him in the face. He was a bit loony. Tried saying sorry right before attacking me.”

He finally set the unconscious boy on the floor.

Now, what will I do? He’s merely a boy. One whose brother has been killed. He could be the one to have done it. He could also be falsely accused, and more painful prodding would be unwarranted. I must tread lightly.

I cross the room to my bag I’d left in the room, reach in and pull out some smelling salts, to wake Lance from his trauma induced state.

“Con, bring him over here and prop him against the wall.” I point to the far end of the room, away from the spirit.

Con grabs the boy under his arms and does as I instructed. While he does so, I reach into my pocket and grab the jade gem. I might be relying upon it too much. It is bound to reach its limit soon. And yet I cannot think of a quicker, safer way to incapacitate the boy if necessary.

I crack the vial, releasing the smell into the air. I quickly place it under the nose of our stunned friend. As he regains his sense, I do my best to put him at ease.

“Lance, are you feeling well? I want to make sure you’re all right.” I speak slowly, and with care. I watch as he goes quickly from unconscious, to groggy, to alert in mere moments.

He looks back and forth from Con to myself, and back again. I can only assume he is frightened. Con defended himself, and in doing so, injured the boy. I can’t imagine it is a very pleasant feeling.

“Branner! I-I have to leave. At once. Please let me-”

He tries to stand, but I put a firm hand on his chest.

“I’m afraid I cannot. You’re involved in this mess, aren’t you?”

The boy stares at me with a look of absolute horror. His thoughts must be racing. Deciding how much trouble he is in. Or thinking of a route to escape.

“Lance?” It came from Marcellus. The person Lance might have been considering.

“…Mars?” Lance was emotional, the reunion with his brother bringing tears to his eyes. “I’m so sorry, Mars. It wasn’t my fault. I-I was trying to stop it. I just wanted it to end! I’m so sorry!” I stand back letting the boy stand up. He slowly shuffles over to the ghost.

“What happened? Why did you attack me?” The spirit implored.

Lance could barely hold himself together.

“I didn’t! It wasn’t m-me! I told him to not let you leave the room! I was so close t-to ending this. Please you have to understand, I was only trying to help…”

…No. No that boy didn’t do it. He couldn’t have.

I speak up. “Lance, did you summon the second demon?”

He quickly turns, as if the thought I was in the room had crossed his mind for the first time.

“…I did.”