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Of course, the Detective had to get rid of the two heavies. It was a nuisance, but nothing more. The sort who would break into a house for supernatural artifacts also tended to be the sort who didn’t get reported missing. Art hoped that he would be reported if he went missing, though.

In the trunk of the Champagne Abomination, the Detective had fuel cans and two Peruvian pots that were too hot to sell yet wrapped in Dora the Explorer blankets, so he put the unconscious men in the backseat, buckling them so they wouldn’t flop around too much.

While he drove, he called the Veranda Inn and Restaurant and canceled his dinner reservation.

“Would you like to change it to a later time?” the hostess asked. The Detective liked how she said later. It was something like lyter, but with a lot more vowels.

“Tonight just won’t work, I think. Can I reschedule for . . . Thursday?” He took the exit for the Sarah Ridge Parkway.

He hung up the phone, put on the Kinks, and drove out along the parkway. He took turn after turn until the rental car’s GPS was hopelessly confused. With the rental car, he made his own path into the woods past a copse of no trespassing signs (Art had never regretted paying for the additional damage insurance on a rental). He parked in a small, idyllic clearing, rolled down the window, and cranked up the stereo.

He had just climbed out of the car when his phone rang.

The Detective picked it up. “Do you know who those men were?” he asked in place of a greeting.

Ferdinand’s voice was frenzied. “I told you. I told you there were others there.”

“You did,” the Detective agreed. He unbuckled Polo Shirt’s seatbelt. “Are there more?”

“Of course,” Ferdinand said tragically.

The Detective switched to Missile’s side of the car. With effort, he pulled him off the seat and onto the damp ground. “Where are they coming from?”

“The readings! The machines! Anyone can follow the readings,” Ferdinand said. “We’re not the only ones with geophones lying about.”

In the background, the Kinks sang about demon alcohol. “How is it that you knew this thing existed, again?”

“Same way we know anything. Rumors. Old books. Greedy old people. What is that sound?”

“The Kinks.”

“I didn’t know you were a fan. In fact, it’s strange to think of you listening to music at all. Wait. I don’t know why I said that. That sounded terrible.”

The Detective didn’t bother to be offended. It meant that Ferdinand thought of him as a thing instead of as a person, which meant that he might not predict disobedience. For a moment, they both listened to the Kinks sing about port, Pernod, and tequila.

“Will you be able to work around those two?” Ferdinand asked. “Will they be a problem?”

It took the Detective a moment to realize that he was referring to Missile and Polo Shirt.

“No,” the Detective said. “They won’t be.”

“You’re good,” Ferdinand said. “It’s why you’re the only one.”

“Yes,” the Detective agreed reluctantly. “Would you say that this thing is a box?”

“No, I wouldn’t say that, because I don’t know. Would you say that?”

“No. Probably not.”

“Why did you ask, then?”

“If it was a box, I could stop looking at things that weren’t boxes.”

“If I’d thought it was a box, I would’ve told you to look for a box. Would I say it’s a box. Why do you have to be so damn mysterious all the time? Do you get off on it? You want me thinking about boxes now? Because I am. I’ll look it up. I’ll see what I can find.”

Hanging up, the Detective assessed the scene. Missile and Polo Shirt lay in a heap, missing their shoes, their phones, and their wallets. Art considered, and then typed a note into Missile’s cell phone: Next time it’s a bullet. He set the phone on the man’s chest to make sure he noticed the message.

In a fortunate world, the threat would be enough to send these two on their way. But in a world where employers paid their pawns by reneging on deadly threats instead of offering a paycheque, it seemed unlikely. If they showed up again, Art would have to frame them for something or other. Maybe something they’d actually done, just to be fair. But that would get Art’s name involved, of course.

In a way, knocking them out and dumping them on the outskirts of town was simpler.

The Detective frowned and checked his watch. Hopefully these were the only bodies he’d have to dispose of in Henrietta, but one could never say.