Fright Night

“Norris was exhausted when he fell asleep,” Robin said, his voice soft. He looked up from the report and then frowned. “When he woke, his hair was milky white, his eyes wide, his mouth frozen in a scream.”

“That’s what the report says, my dear Robin,” Alaric said. He reached out and took a lock of Robin’s hair between his fingers. “Is there something wrong? Something strike you as… off?” He was close enough that his breath was hot on the back of Robin’s neck. He could smell the fresh, flowery smell of the herbs Robin worked with.

“That he woke with his mouth frozen in a scream,” Robin said, arching an eyebrow. He batted Alaric’s hand away from his face. “Focus, my lord. Focus.”

Alaric chuckled and then settled back in his chair once more. “Of course,” he said. He flipped through the folder and then drew a picture out of the pile of papers. “There,” he said, tapping the photograph with his finger.

Robin set the report down and looked at the photograph. “Dear me,” he said. He lifted it to give it a closer look. Just as the report said, Master Norris’s hair was a pure, milky white and his eyes were wide with fear. His mouth was opened wide, as he were screaming.

“What do you make of it?” Alaric said. He frowned and shook his head, silently indicating that he was at a complete loss. “I’ve never seen the like, myself. I mean, I’ve heard tell that fright can do something like that to a man, but… Really?”

“Not simple fear,” Robin said. He shook his head and set the picture down. He tapped the page, then he stood and swept away from the table. He moved over to his bookcase and began scanning the shelves.

Alaric watched him in silence. He knew better than to interrupt Robin when he was thinking. No, it was better to simply sit back and admire the view. The tunic he wore around the shop covered his rounded backside nicely. His bare feet were lovely, with perfectly formed toes that Alaric longed to…

“Ah,” he said, interrupting Alaric’s thoughts.

Blinking, Alaric forced his gaze upward as Robin turned to face him. “What’s that?” he said, giving his partner a sunny smile. “Find something?”

Robin opened his mouth to speak and the bell in the shop rang. Sighing, he set the book down on the table. “Read this,” he said. Then, he whirled away and hurried through to the main room of his shop.

Alaric tuned out the murmur of voices, focusing on the book in front of him. It was opened to an article about death spirits, he noticed. His brows furrowed. As he scanned the page, he found that one, in particular, fit their purposes. Anyone who heard her shrill cries was so frightened that their faces were locked in a perpetual expression of fear. Most often, their hair was turned white as well.

He frowned and looked towards the door. He listened for a moment. He heard the bell ring a second time and stood, taking the book with him. He paused in the doorway and glanced around. Robin was standing at one of the shelves that lined the walls. He was straightening the bottles there. At least, he seemed to be. Alaric was aware that he was also counting them.

“You have much trouble with thieves around here?” he asked, his brows furrowing. When Robin turned to face him, he shook his head. “You know that you needn’t remain here. I would be more than happy to set you up in a shop in a better part of the city.”

“And what would these people do for an apothecary, then, my lord?” Robin said, his voice soft. He shook his head. “No, I will remain here… but I thank you for the offer.”

Alaric nodded. “Do you think that’s what happened to Norris?” he asked, frowning. “That he heard this… death spirit? Will he recover?”

“Few do,” Robin said. He looked thoughtful and paced around the room to a set of shelves that were behind the counter. He lifted a bottle off a shelf and held it out to Alaric. “If you give him this, he may – provided he doesn’t hear her cries again. He needs to be moved from that home, my lord.”

“I’ll see to it,” Alaric said. He tucked the bottle away in his jacket. Then, he asked, “Indications?”

“Two drops added to a glass of wine, three times a day,” Robin said. He gave Alaric a faint smile and nodded towards the bottle in Alaric’s pocket. “It’s on the bottle, my lord.”

Alaric nodded. He set an arm around Robin, settling his hand at the small of his back and drawing him in close. He leaned down, stealing a kiss as Robin squirmed in his arms. He broke the kiss and said, “You, my dear Robin, are a treasure. I would be lost without you.”

“I’d have a great deal more peace without you, my lord,” Robin said. He pushed away from Alaric. Then, he snatched Alaric’s cloak and hat off the stand by the door and held them out to him. “Good day, my lord,” he said, his tone firm.

“Good day, my lovely,” Alaric said, laughing. He drew on his cloak and settled the hat on his head. Then, he hurried out into the streets. It didn’t take him long before he reached his home. He gave the bottle and the instructions for the medicine’s use to a servant. Then, he said, “See to it that my sister knows they must leave the house. Extend my invitation that she come visit me. Her husband must not remain another night in that house.”

“Of course, my lord,” the servant said. Then, he spun away and hurried out towards where Alaric’s sister lived.

Alaric watched after him a moment longer than was necessary. Then, he headed back to his office and settled down at the chair behind his desk. He sighed and lifted the telephone handset to his ear. He dialed a number he knew well. “Arden,” he said, when the person he’d called picked up. “Do you have any way of capturing and containing a death spirit?”

“Perhaps,” Arden said. “Why?”

“One’s been bothering Norris,” Alaric said. His brows furrowed. “He and my sister should be on their way here. See to it that the spirit is taken care of.”

“Sure,” Arden replied. He chuckled and then asked, “Are you ever going to tell us where you get your information, Erik?”

Alaric smiled and then chuckled softly. “Maybe,” he said, his voice soft. “Maybe, someday, I’ll introduce you all to my dear little bird. Only time can tell.”

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