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“Pretty sure nobody’s been in here for a while,” Amos choked.
The small, windowless room was brimming over with paper, books, notes, empty tobacconist pouches, pipe ash and any other manner of mess. The contrast between the small, cluttered office and the stately and efficient shop below was blatant. Only his worktable, pressed against a back wall, was meticulous and organized. The tools hanging from a peg board were clean and cared for and hung in an almost surgical order. Unfinished projects had been left in such a way as to keep them safe until their creator returned.
Nym looked at Amos, “Well, I guess just start anywhere and share anything that seems unusual.”
Amos picked up what appeared to be a small, oddly shaped, two handled hammer and held it up for Nym’s review, his eyebrows raised. Although unspoken, they both understood the behemoth task before them. Marcel’s inner world was entirely unusual.
Nym sighed and began clearing a space for her notebook and tools. She needed to be methodical despite the mess. It was dire that no clue be missed-a thought that discouraged her given the state of things.
Hours passed with the two in silence, only occasionally interrupting each other to question something they had found. Nym reading, sometimes scrutinizing, but always curious as to whether the object she was currently investigating had any meaning. She kept record of everything that she touched -no matter how mundane it appeared. Amos took a less clinical approach creating two very unequal piles. One he called ‘curious’ and the other, ‘junk.’ For the most part he became distracted by the countless pre -inventions he came upon in the cluttered room.
Amos happened upon a box of very small automaton men, who- when activated- behaved very much as chess pieces. He delighted in setting them on one another in a pseudo battle of good and evil. He was so enmeshed with the toys that he didn’t notice when Nym appeared behind him. She cleared her throat gently and politely. Amos turned posthaste and tried to hide the men behind his back. When the tiny piece that was the bishop would not stop shouting for the rook to advance, he pushed them all onto the floor behind him, hoping that she had not noticed.
“Amos, um…” Nym was quiet and cautious.
“Yea, Peach?” he stammered embarrassed.
Nym said nothing more, just held up a photograph. It was an aged foil of two children happily engaged in a farce. The girl dressed as a bride and the boy as a groom. Amos’ face flashed a softness of recognition – but only for a moment. Promptly he became cold as stone and he turned half way back to the chessboard avoiding her eyes, “Yea? What of it?”
“It’s you, isn’t it?” she asked. “There is a box of photos like this. There are so many of this girl and sometimes of the boy, of Mayor Perryn and his husband.” Nym looked again at the photo and confirming turned it back to Amos, “I know it’s you. Look at the eyes…”
Amos did not look, did not answer. He busied himself collecting the mechanical men.
“Amos, I know it must be hard to talk about your dad…”
“My what?!” Amos snapped around and snagged the photo from Nym’s hands and tore it in two. “Marcel Ghostraven is not my father, but thanks for the conjecture. I ain’t got no people, Peach. None. It’s just me. So you can stop trying to find connections where there ain’t none.” He stuffed the ripped image back into Nyms hand and turned back to his fallen soldiers.
Nym walked, slightly bruised, back to her work space and continued her search through the photos. She did not think it wise to mention any of them to him again, even though many made her curious and smile. The boy holding a cricket bat next to a smiling Marcel, the boy building a model ship with Marcel giving him instruction, the young man working behind the shop counter as Marcel and a strange man she did not recognize shook hands, so many images of a boy that was unmistakably the young Amos DeVile.
When Amos finally approached her, Nym was digging through a pile of papers furiously. It was his turn to extend polite formalities, though he did so with considerably less tact. She felt slightly angered with him for his shortness of temper, and his sulking and brooding which filled the space with an uncomfortable energy -even as the images of him as a boy brought a tenderness to her heart.
“I grew up in the Meiville Orphanage, ” He said without warning, staring at the collection of photos stacked near Nym. “She,” He pointed to a photo of a pixieish young girl with a broad smile and a shock of messy hair, ” was like a baby sister to me. Before she was adopted by the mayor’s family -I guess you could say we stuck together. I always kinda thought maybe they would take me in someday, but it didn’t happen. I went visit her once in awhile though – when it was allowed. I guess you could say they was like a surrogate family to me, in their way. The Captain weren’t my dad though. I ain’t seen none of them since I was about 15 and went to sea.”
Nym stared at Amos as he spoke, realizing that these long hours they had spent together had not helped them to understand one another at all. He seemed a stranger to her now, perhaps even more than he had when they had met that first time in the Meiville jail.
“Anyway, the Captain and the Mayor were mates. Friends. Served in the Absinthe Wars together I think. I didn’t get the chance to be round them all too much- but when I was, the Captain was good to me. Suppose it’s why I decided to help you,” He gave Nym a half smile, trying to lighten the mood, “Though helping a pretty dame ain’t no bad way to spend a day, even if she is a crackpot.” He smiled broadly and Nym blushed a bit despite herself.
“Anyway, If the Captains in trouble… well. I wouldn’t want that.” Amos pushed around a stack of receipts on the table in front of Nym distractedly.
“I guess I heard something later about her going to work for Marcel. Like an apprentice. She was always real good at making things.” He picked up a photo that appeared to be taken at a science fair and showed it again to Nym. The girl held a trophy almost the size of her tiny body. The boy Amos held a small ribbon. The mayor stood behind the girl brimming with pride. The man who was Marcel Ghostraven stood behind Amos, and appeared equally proud of the boy.
“She got that fancy trophy for building a theoretical time machine. She was maybe 8? Smart kid. Always on about time travel and dimensional rifts and things. Mad, she was.” With that statement, Amos seemed to exhaust himself of the walk down memory lane and flippantly tossed the photo back onto the waiting pile.
Nym took a chance in the moment, understanding that it was hard to relive such memories, and placed her warm hand on top of his as to comfort him. Their eyes meet in the still of the vault- a moment of tenderness that passed between them awkwardly. As if suddenly realizing what she was doing, he retracted his hand and became aloof and defensive to her, “No reason to be getting sentimental, Peach. I ain’t no broken thing and I don’t need consolation. It’s the past. Leave it there.”
He started to walk back to his side of the catastrophe of paper and metal when Nym thought to ask him one final question, looking again at the young girl smiling up from the photos, “Who was she Amos?”
“Her name is Emily DeLuna.”