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Specs Chapter 2

by  Freebird

Posted: Thursday, September 17, 2009
Word Count: 1310
Summary: Jumps to a different set of characters in a different location. Back to Barnaby in Chapter 3
Related Works: Specs • 


The mirror in the tower room was old, and covered in splotches of green, like fungus growing on cheese. Lucille Black bent forward and examined her reflection: vibrant orange hair sprayed immaculately into place; snowy skin smooth and flawless. She smiled, a slow smile like a cat about to pounce on a mouse.
A frown wrinkled her mask-like features. A hair out of place in her eyebrow, so carefully plucked and pencilled that morning. How dare it grow where she had not given her permission? She tweaked it out with her blood-red fingernails and flicked it into the dusty grate.
The heavy wooden door creaked open.
“Knock first!” shrieked Lucille.
A thin voice squeaked round the edge of the door like a rusty hinge. “Lucille! I’m sorry, I forgot. I’ll go out and come in again. Most humble apologies.” The door closed, settling into its frame with a thud that sent a small puff of dust into the room. Lucille wrinkled her nose and brushed at imaginary specks on her woollen suit.
There was a knock at the door.
“Who is it?” Lucille grated, knowing perfectly well who it was.
“It’s only me, Mr. Sneck.” The speaker lingered on every ‘s’, giving the impression of a snake. “Lucille, I have them! They are right here in my hand!”
Lucille leapt to her feet. “Enter!”
The door opened again and a tall man entered, bending forward at the waist and craning his neck as though the floorboards were the most interesting thing he had seen all morning.
“Give them to me!” commanded Lucille, holding out her hand, talons curving like the poison fringes of a Venus Fly Trap.
Mr. Sneck shuffled forwards and placed a spectacle case on Lucille’s outstretched palm.
“At last!” she breathed, her hand trembling as she closed her fingers around the case. “The Seeing Spectacles.”
“Indeed,” said Mr. Sneck, nodding and smiling. “These spectacles are like nothing you have ever encountered before. When you wear them, you will be able to see people as they truly are.”
“No more guessing, no more horrid disappointments.” Lucille pressed her hand to her chest. “We shall know from the beginning.”
“No-one will be able to hide a wicked heart,” said Mr. Sneck.
“Or a wretchedly kind heart,” snarled Lucille. “With these Seeing Spectacles, I shall at last be able to find a true heir to my riches.” She smiled at herself in the mirror. “Someone utterly, thoroughly, absolutely wicked. For,” she dropped her voice dangerously low so that Mr. Sneck had to lean in close to hear it, “no-one else will do!”
When Mr. Sneck’s ears stopped ringing, he picked himself up from the fireplace and dusted himself down. He tiptoed towards the door.
“Where do you think you’re going?” barked Lucille. “How do I know they really work?”
“They work, all right,” said Mr. Sneck. “I tried them this morning on our... guests.”
“And?” Lucille stepped forward, her stiletto heels ringing out like gunshots on the bare floorboards. “What did you see?”
“Sickening,” replied Mr. Sneck. “Absolutely disgusting. I never thought I’d live to see the day. Not a single one of them bad right through.”
“Not a single one?”
“Not one, Madam. They all had a little bit of good in them somewhere.”
Lucille’s chest heaved, her nostrils flared. “But this is outrageous! It’s preposterous! We must find the right one... and soon!”

Down in the cellars, Ophelia was dancing. Up and down the stone-flagged floor she pirouetted, never straying too far from the thick wooden door studded with rusty metal rivets. The dank corridor was lit at intervals by light bulbs coated with dust. Ophelia stepped from one pool of light to the next, imagining them to be spotlights. She twirled and spun, bowing and smiling to her invisible audience.
“What do you think you’re doing, niece?” Lucille stepped out of the darkness.
Ophelia stopped, flushed pink and pretended she wasn’t out of breath. Her vast, heaving chest betrayed her.
“I’m sorry, Aunt Lucille,” she panted. “It’s the Nutcracker.”
Lucille pursed her lips. Behind her, Mr. Sneck rubbed his hands together with a sound like sandpaper.
Ophelia smiled shyly at him. “It’s a ballet,” she explained. “I’m being the fairy who guides the children on their way to the land of ice and snow.”
“I know what it is,” snapped Lucille. “But I fail to see how you can guard our guests while you are prancing about in this manner. Act your age, for goodness sake. You’re not a child.”
“We have come to inspect the guests,” said Mr. Sneck. “Are they behaving?”
“They’re fine,” said Ophelia. “They haven’t caused me a jot of trouble since they’ve been here. Not like the last lot.” She grimaced.
“Ah, yes. I had such high hopes for them,” sighed Lucille. “They really were a horrid bunch weren’t they? Even so, they weren’t bad enough.”
“Except Anthony,” ventured Ophelia. “He was a nasty piece of work.”
Lucille smiled. “Dear Anthony. He may well be the one, the natural heir to my fortune. Though of course we need to see if he really is as unpleasant as we think.”
Mr. Sneck tapped Lucille on the shoulder. She recoiled as if a slug had crawled across her jacket.
“What is it, you odious man?”
Mr. Sneck held up the case containing the Seeing Spectacles. “Now that we have these, we can check for sure whether Anthony is bad all through.”
Lucille nodded. “Indeed we shall, when he returns. As you know, he is going to help Ophelia with her next task.”
Ophelia sighed. “Do I have to? I hate that job. I get so attached to...”
“Don’t tell me you are developing a conscience?” demanded Mr. Sneck. “I thought better of you, Ophelia. Perhaps you would like to volunteer yourself to test these?” He opened the glasses case and drew out a very ordinary looking, round-rimmed pair of glasses. “I’m sure it would be very illuminating to turn the full gaze of our scrutiny on you.” Mr. Sneck’s tongue flickered in and out.
Ophelia seemed to shrink to a quarter of her considerable size; all the colour drained from her cheeks.
“No?” Mr. Sneck sneered. “I thought not.”
An eerie wail drifted into the corridor, starting low and swirling into a high pitched keening.
“What’s that?” Lucille jerked her head up. “Open the door!”
Ophelia rummaged in her voluminous skirt and found a ring of keys. She fumbled to insert a key into the lock. It wouldn’t budge.
“Sorry,” she mumbled. “Wrong one.”
The wailing sound rose and fell like the tide.
“What the devil is it?” roared Lucille. “Get that door open at once, or I’ll throw you in there with them.”
Her hands shaking, Ophelia tried another key. It grated in the lock. The door creaked open to reveal another corridor, pitch black beyond the entrance. Water dripped down the walls, dark as blood.
The sound grew louder.
“Are they in pain?” asked Mr. Sneck, his eyes glinting.
Ophelia cocked her head to one side. “They’re singing.”
“Not for long,” said Mr. Sneck. “We need the space for our next lot of guests.” He spat on the floor, but accidentally hit his own shoe instead.
“Shut the door,” ordered Lucille. “Ophelia, you know what to do. The next group. Within the month, if you please. And this time, we had better not be disappointed!”
Without waiting for a reply, she stalked away down the passage. Mr. Sneck followed, hopping on one leg as he tried to wipe his shoe on his trousers.
Ophelia heaved the thick door shut with a thud, deadening the noise. But she could still hear it, like the mewing of a kitten locked in a cellar.
“They’re singing,” she repeated, shaking her head.
She blinked. Her eyes were wet. She must be allergic to dust.