Chapter 1: Marge's Place
Weatherly was a quiet, sleepy sort of town. It was the kind of place that once served as the hustling workforce of the twentieth century-a booming town of mills and factories, the sweet smell of candy and cigars coating the area in a sort of nostalgic sweetness that stuck to your clothes no matter how hard you washed them. Course, that was back then. The skeletons of these factories were the only remainder, and with a population of twenty-five hundred, it wasn’t anywhere near the thriving workhorse it may have started as. But that was probably for the best for the folks of Weatherly.
It helped keep the town feeling more like a loved antique then a thriving city dying in slow motion. The old downtown looked the same as it did back in the early years and the brickwork, though chipped, stuck out to folks as charming in that sort of old fashioned way. It was a town that while small, stood proud and could happily call itself a happy, quiet little place to call home.
At least, before Marge Peterson had gone completely insane.
Nobody was quite sure what had triggered it. She had seemed like such a sweet, kindly woman. Always bringing over yarn she didn’t use for other women or tupperwares of casseroles she hadn’t finished (her kids had moved out of town for college years ago and nobody was about to tell her she should cook less since Mr. Peterson passed on.) To all who saw her in book club meetings or city council get-togethers, she had seemed like such a well put together person. Course, most were all too willing to write it off as just one incident. Just one little issue that came from an old widower living alone at home.
Most people were not Nancy Tethers.
Nancy was one of those people who probably could have gone places if that’s what she’d wanted. She was the type who’s smile lit up a room and could get every man in there to laugh with a whip-crack of a smirk and a sprinkling of sardonic wit over whatever conversation they had. She had graduated from college as a valedictorian and tended to know more then any other person in the room when it came to… well, just about anything really! Bit of a bookworm she was, hence why she’d at least known Marge enough to know this kind of… wild and manic breakdown she had happened was completely out of character for her.
She stops the car for a moment outside of Marge’s old home, a soft sigh leaving her as her eyes wander the caution tape strung about the house. Every window broken out from the inside, the forgotten shards glittering against the streetlamp light like early morning dew. Course she knew she had to get back home. Groceries were not going to put themselves away or start planning out the meal menu for this week, but...this whole situation bothered her to no end. Why had Marge snapped so badly? Why would she take it out on her home? And how, if the witnesses reports had to be believed, had she broken out every single window at the exact same time?
...Perhaps, at the end of the day, it was a wiser decision to leave the investigating up to the police.
...As stated earlier, Nancy was the type of person who probably could have done better for herself. She steps out of the car, counting on the early fall chill to keep the groceries cool, digging in the glove compartment until she finds a lone flashlight. She pulls her coat tighter around herself, glancing up at the house. “This...is...a very bad idea.” Nancy let out a soft laugh and turned on her heel, “The police searched the place from top to bottom! There really isn’t a chance of me finding anything new!” She paused, venturing a glance back, “...course, they also wrote Marge off as an ‘old loon’. Heaven forbid a woman have
going on in her life worth worrying about, right?”
“...” Nancy drummed her foot against the ground, fingers twitching against the flashlight switch, drumming on it, “But...if whatever got to her is still inside...n-not that anything did of course! That would just be…” She turned to face the house, “...Ridiculous…” She took in another breath and huffed it out her nose, looking between her car and the house. Her car and the house. Her still warm, inviting car with the promises of dinner and maybe some light reading at home… or the house-cold and empty-with it’s broken windows and constant risk of stepping on broken glass. If she stepped on anything she’d probably need a tetanus shot and those could be just so expensive sometimes!
There could also be answers. Answers that kept her hand off the car handle and starting up the creaking, worn steps of the old house. “Okay. Okay! Here’s what we do Nancy-” She put her hand on the doorknob, breathing in, “I-if it’s still locked, we just… go home and try to put this behind us.” She lightly turned the knob. It swung open with a gentle ‘ creaaakk’ , revealing a darkened home that stretched out before her, held back only by a flimsy few strands of caution tape. “...Okay.” Not giving it any more thought, she steps through the threshold.
It was so strange. To think they’d once held get-togethers here, over a newfound book or puzzle the other might have found. The absence, fresh enough to be felt in all the items sitting on shelves or collecting dust in corners. Nancy was sure if she opened the fridge, she’d still find the same jam jars or leftover casserole hiding within the freezer. She didn’t dare try-she was sure the electricity had been shut off for the time being and doubted anything that had remained was any good. There were photos of her children and late husband hanging on the wall, old copies of books on bookshelves in the living room, the remains of a puzzle sitting on the kitchen table. Idly, Nancy picks up a piece off the small pile Marge had gathered to set it neatly into place, for a moment, gaining a soft, sad smile.
Wonder if she would have shared this one when she finished, or if this had been one of the ones she’d completed first. She started to shine her light on it and gave pause when something glimmered on the side of the table, off of a cup on a saucer, reaching over to scrape a finger across it. The tiny, glittering sparkles shone a deep purple as the light caught on them, Nancy squinting in the dark, “What do we have here…?” It felt oddly tingly to the touch. Not on her skin, but almost like a quick static flicker to her brain. That wasn’t what stuck out to her in the moment however.
“Two cups set up?” Her brows knit, “Marge, were you actually alone, when…”
The static was enough to get her to brush her hand on her jacket, but the loud
that echoed down from upstairs got her to drop her flashlight with a squeak, covering her mouth as she leaned back on the table.
There was someone in the house!
Her mind screamed, still feeling the odd little pings from the dust, waving the last of it off her hand as she picked up the flashlight in one hand, holding it up as she dug in her pocket with the other, ascending those first few stairs. “M-maybe it’s just a raccoon…?” She mumbled to herself, hand gripping around a tube in her jacket.
There’s a little relief in that as she steps up to the second floor, the stairway splitting off into a three-way fork-the right to the bathroom, the left to the children’s old room and office, and forward for the master bedroom. For an instant she’s ready to brush off the sound earlier as a trick of the mind, flashlight sweeping across the top floor, before hearing footsteps coming from the bedroom and the rattle of it’s handle readying to swing open. Quickly, she ducks back, flat against the wall as the door opens up.
Of course it would have been smarter to just run back to the car the moment this happened. That would have been the best option in this sort of situation. But if this...whatever it was, racoon or not, had something to do with her friend… she had a moral obligation to get to the bottom of it, right? And… put a stop to it should she need to. Hoping this stuff packed as much of a punch as the nice man at the counter had said anyway. Course one didn’t need to worry about attacks in this sleepy sort of town, but you could never be too careful.
The footsteps come softly over the creaking floorboards, and in the darkness of the home, she can just make out the shape of a figure. Tall, long hair...bit on the skinny side. And far, far too quiet for her liking. She’d heard two footsteps earlier-if this person had a partner, why weren’t they saying anything? A quick heads up warning like “what was that squeak?” would have been scary to her, but a benefit to them, she assumed. That was when she caught sight of it.
It was hard to make out in the darkness, but she could swear she saw it clear as day. And it was so silly when she looked back on it-it felt like something she’d be more afraid of as a little girl. That tall, thin man with the hook for a hand, glinting brightly in the limited light as it gripped into the old wood right by her, his angular face leaning into view. “...Oh! Uh, didn’t expect anybody else in here! I’m Guybrush Threepwood, mighty PsyRAAAAAAAAAAAHGTH!!!”
She might have been a little too early on the pepper spray in hindsight. The poor thing letting out a pained wail as he stumbled back blindly in the dark, hook hand waving through the air for balance until it caught on a corner of the wall, “Yow!!! Did you have to use the whole can there?!”
The all too human voice got her to snap out of it, hand quickly going to her mouth as she dropped the spray, “Oh! I-I’m so sorry! Uh, young man??” She turned on the flashlight to get a better look at him, hissing at the redness around his face, “Ooh, yes, that might have been a bit too much, wasn’t it?”
“I think a tablespoon would’ve been too much!!” The man-Guybrush, what a funny name that was-hissed and writhed, tears streaming from pepper-sprayed eyes as he cursed in a way that would make the hardest sailor blush, “C-can you get like, some water or something??”
“I-I don’t think that’ll help??” She crouched down now that the threat was no longer that, flashlight in hand to look him over, “I’ve heard the only thing that can help is milk...milk and soapy water… now, the milk down there is spoiled, I’m sure, but it might-”
“Lady, I’ve already been pepper sprayed. I don’t think I need cheese culture in my eyes tonight, unless you wanna slap a tortilla on my face and call me a quesadilla-”
Nancy gave a fluttering, nervous laugh at the joke, hands still outstretched but not sure where to touch him to help, “Which I am. So, so sorry about, I swear-” She gave pause as her flashlight glinted off a strange badge on his chest, squinting in the darkness at it, “But I really, really need to know what you’re doing in this house-”
That was when the door opened the second time, hurried footsteps coming to a skid at the stairway, another figure nearly sliding off to fall down the stairs before just catching his balance, two fingers to his temples as the other hand half-extended out, “Freeze! Whoever you...are…?” Nancy blinked. The man blinked back, his posture deflating as he brought his hands down, eyes wide in the dark. He stepped into her flashlight view, “... Mom?! ”
” She stood up in an instant, eyes near identical to his widening as she nearly dropped the flashlight, “What are you doing in Marge’s house??”
“Strangely, I was about to ask you the same thing!” Nelson seemed to be looking for anywhere to look at that wasn’t her, “T-this is a crime scene, right??”
Nancy gasped, actually dropping her flashlight now, “You don’t mean…” Her hands clenched, narrowing her eyes in frustration, “I knew it! This is bigger then the police here, isn’t it?? It has to be with the FBI involved!”
“What?? No! This is…” He blinked a few times, suddenly looking more then a little nervous, “I-I mean, uh…”
“Excuse me!” Guybrush weakly patted a hand against the floor, “Loving the emotional reunion, really I am, but if anybody wouldn’t mind helping a pal out before his eyes melt out his skull, that’d be reaaaaal great about now…”
Nancy gave another gasp, “That man said nothing about pepper spray doing that !”
Nelson grimaced, “Mostly because it doesn’t??...far as I remember anyway.” He got down, helping the man up with an arm around his shoulder, “I think the main problem is a decrease in sensitivity.”
“Oh believe me, I’d love to be a little less sensitive about now.” Guybrush groaned. In the light of the dropped light, Nancy could just make out something on her son’s chest. A badge, identical to the one on the strange hook man. And she could make out some of the details on it too. A brain, with three curving points jutting out from it. A badge wholly unfamiliar to her at this state and time. And she didn’t have much time to consider it further, having to hurry up and help her son cart the other man down the stairs before he risked tripping down it again. Leaving the flashlight behind was just a loss she’d have to take for the time being, sure she could come back for it later as she got the two outside, questions bouncing through her mind.
Like, for starters, “When did you get into town??”
“Er, early this morning?” Nelson popped the cap off the milk before pouring it over Guybrush’s eyes, his whimpers becoming sighs of relief on the grass by Nancy’s car, “It was kind of a long flight. Sorta why we investigated later in the day.”
And follow ups like, “So this man is your…?”
“Partner, I guess?” Nelson offered, twiddling his thumbs nervously together when he got sat in the front seat, Guybrush half-sprawled in the back by the few groceries Nancy couldn’t fit in the trunk. “It’s...complicated, honestly.”
And who could forget such classics like, “So where are you boys staying?”
To which her son bit his lip and brought a hand up to fidget around his chin, “The inn near downtown. If you’re worried about the price, they got it-”
“Well tell them to refund one of the nights.” Nancy replied, checking her rear-view mirror before making a turn down a cobblestone road, “I still have your old room set up-makes no sense for the FBI to spend the extra funding if it can save a few dollars.”
He seemed to fidget at that, his shoulders tensing as he looked out the window, “You really, really don’t have to, mom-”
“I know.” She glanced back as she adjusted her mirror, “But I really do owe your partner an apology. Dinner and breakfast seem like fine ways to make up for it. As long as he puts down the cookies he’s holding, that is.”
Guybrush blinked, slowly putting the container back with a whistle, “Almost fell out of the bag!!” He gave a laugh, his eyes still red and irritated even with the milk they’d used, “Your mom is one heck of a crazy driver, eh Nelson?”
“She’s been going two miles under the speed limit.” Nelson stated with a look back at his partner, “Consistently.”
“Has she??? So hard to tell when you can’t see much, huh…” Guybrush scratched his chin idly with his hook, “Wonder why that is, eh?”
“Guybrush…” Nelson groaned and rubbed the bridge of his nose. And it struck Nancy just how funny it was to see her son like this. He’d been such a quiet child growing up-always off thinking about a puzzle or a maze he envisioned, then chattering on and on about them to whoever would listen. Usually it had only been her. A part of her wondered if he did that with this ‘partner’ of his, but...if he did, she couldn’t imagine him looking so irritated about it. And yet...his shoulders didn’t seem as tight, even when he was giving his partner mildly angry glares in the rear-view mirror. “...we’ll stay one night, but we really do have business in town here.”
Nancy brightened, “Well of course! I wouldn’t dream of letting down old Uncle Sam anytime soon, now would I?” She glanced back at Guybrush, ignoring the slight wince Nelson gave at the ‘uncle sam’ part, “And besides, your friend here looks like just the man for my pineapple upside-down pancakes in the morning!”
Guybrush once again put the cookies back in the bag to sit completely straight in his seat, eyes wide, the somewhat sour tone of his voice becoming syrupy sweet, “Nelson!! Why didn’t you tell me your mom was such an enchanting young woman?? And I do mean young because she has just the most youthful, charitable glow a woman could have, may I just say??”
Nelson looked ready to call him out again, but it seemed to be at odds with the thought of those pancakes, alternating between rubbing his neck and rubbing his hands against each other, fingers flexing, “...Dad won’t be mad about me dropping in unannounced, will he?”
Nancy gave a hum, “Well...we didn’t really have anything planned tonight. I’m sure seeing what you’re up to is gonna put a smile on his face, right?” She blinked, and gripped the wheel a little, “Oh dammit. I should have called him. He’s probably worried sick about me by now…”
Nelson was trying very hard to ignore the shocked look Guybrush had on his face from any Tether so openly cursing, clearing his throat before flicking a hand, the seatbelt on Guybrush seeming to tighten enough to hold him back, “Well it can’t have been too long, right?”
“I suppose…” She let out a sigh, “Just… this town has been so jumpy, what with what happened to Marge.” She glances his way, and works up a smile, “But, your father is tough. I’m sure he can’t have worried that much-oh dear.”
Nelson sat up, “What? What’s ‘oh dear’?”
Nancy tsked as she pulled the car into a cobblestone driveway, “No, no your father is definitely worried. See there?” She pointed towards his window at the neatly trimmed lawn and single pear tree that made up their front yard. Settled around the base of the tree was his dad’s collection. “He rearranged his gnomes.” She sighed, “I swear, I told him I wouldn’t be that long at the store. His nerves get the better of him sometimes… Nelson?” She gave pause when she looked towards her son, recognizing what the hand against his mouth meant with the wide eyes he sported. “Nelson, dear? Is everything okay?”
Nelson breathed in, shook his head, and cleared his throat, “C-course! It’s...it’s fine. I just...I forgot dad collected those uh...gnomes.”
“Oh yes. Has to be in the thirties by now. Least with the outdoor variety.” Nancy rested her hand on his arm, “He keeps most of them in his office now if it helps you feel any better.” He had a look on his face that said it didn’t, thumb tapping against his upper lip, “...I’ll tell him to put a tarp over them, okay?” She found it a little hard to believe. He used to arrange the gnomes to set up fencing puzzles back in the day. When had he gotten so terrified of them?
Or if he wasn’t scared of them, what was actually scaring him?
Chapter 2: The Tethers Household
Nicodemus lived a life most would call boring. He was chief among these people, but it was also how he preferred it. He’d retired a few years back, picked up a part time job working at the post office counter at the local office. He’d go in three days a week and come home at around four to help figure out dinner with his wife. He liked the routine. He found comfort in knowing things would be in the exact place he left them when he got home and he had a very specific order for his things.
Like his gnomes, for example. Their arrangement was something he had to re-think whenever a new member joined his collection, adding and subtracting shelves and display areas while gardening around his outdoor collection to fit the theme of the month and go with the seasons. Course some folks might find it strange that a fully grown man would be so invested in such a strange thing to collect, but he’d always found them rather… cute? Cute summed it up well. It also helped to focus on them whenever he was worried or concerned about something in lieu of actually thinking about it.
Tonight it was wondering what was taking Nancy so long. He paced the living room, a hand up to his mouth to fidget nervously with his mustache. She had called earlier of course back when he was at the office to ask if they needed anything specific, but that call had been well over three hours ago now. He’d since come home, biding his time, adjusting his collection as he tried not to think about where she could be. And why should he be so worried anyhow? She was a confident woman who knew how to handle herself. Nothing bad would happen to her.
Then he thinks about the incident with Marge recently and has to sit down, hands up on his cheeks and a foot rapidly drumming on the ground. Maybe the green-hat gnome with the clover would look better on the left then the right, he didn’t know what he was thinking earlier with that whole center-placement move. Who did that gnome think he was? Getting the center like that-that was a right claimed by the delightful chartreuse gnome sitting on a little mushroom. Now there was a gnome that needed the spotlight. Not that stupid green clover gnome that was foolish enough to lose track of his wife-
He stands a little too quickly when the door opens, heading for the foyer, “Nancy, are you-”
“Oh, so this must be Mr. Tethers!” Greets the red-eyed man with the hook for a hand standing in his doorway, the man giving a wide grin at him, “Sorry for keeping your wife held up, cute place you guys got here-” The hook handed man stiffens when he sees Nicodemus going for an umbrella, “Oh no no no I’ve been attacked once tonight, thank you!! Really, is it the hook hand? Cause I can get rid of the hook hand for tonight!”
“Dear, could you move, please?” The pirate quickly side-stepped so he was back against the wall, trying his best to look non-threatening, Nicodemus quickly focused off him anyway when he sees the two in his doorway. “Look who came home, Nico!!” Nancy says with a smile, her arms currently around that of his only son, visibly dragging him inside, “Isn’t that just such a surprise!”
Surprise was certainly one word for it. Other words included befuddled, baffled, perplexed, relieved, and, looking at Guybrush, suspicious. He glanced from the pirate to his son, fixing his eyes on his, “...Hey.”
“H-hey dad.” Nelson offered a weak wave. They could only maintain eye contact a few seconds longer before the both of them quickly focused elsewhere, much to the other’s relief. “See you’ve kept up your collecting! That’s...good!”
“Mm. Yep.” Nicodemus glanced to his wife, nodded towards the kitchen, and backed up into it until only his eyes and nose were visible by the kitchen entrance, the rest of him slowly slipping out of view.
“Oh dear.” Nancy waved a hand to the two younger men, “You two just make yourselves comfortable, okay? I think your father just needs a quick explanation-” She gave her best reassuring smile, waving again when the two didn’t move, “Go on! Nelson, show your friend around, I insist!”
With the newfound permission, Guybrush immediately went for Nelson’s room down the hall, with her son hurrying after him, “Hey!! She said let me show you around!”
Nancy gave a soft laugh at the two of them, then turned into the kitchen, focusing on her husband, “First, I know this is sudden for you.”
“Mm.” Nicodemus nodded. His arms were crossed, hands lightly gripping at the hairs on his arm, clasping around the arm and squeezing.
“Really, I didn’t know he’d be in town either!” She reached out, gently taking his hand to pry his fingers off, “You’re not upset about this, are you?” Nicodemus’ shoulders slumped, glancing towards the wall, then downwards, then back at her. She tsked softly, moving her hand to take his, “I know… I should have called sooner if I was going to be late. I...it wasn’t just our son that held me up either.”
“Hrm.” Nicodemus glanced her over, blinked, and crossed his arms with a frown.
Nancy hissed, letting her breath out in a soft laugh, “I know, I
I said I’d leave the whole thing with Marge alone but… Nicodemus, I think it really is serious. What happened to her.” She took a glance out the kitchen, checking if Nelson was still nearby, before leaning back over again, “Where do you think I found our boy?”
His brows furrowed, considering the implications of this, then widened in alarm, “The FBI?”
Nancy nodded quickly, “He told me something about an investigation. Which means I was right before! Something did happen to her! She didn’t just ‘go crazy’ out of nowhere!” She tapped her chin, “Although, the fact they’d send the FBI does make it quite serious… unless the police were lying about the case details.”
Nicodemus nodded, gave pause, then huffed as he crossed his arms tighter, “You still promised.”
Nancy stiffened a moment, then closed her hand with a hum, “Yes… alright, I did. I wouldn’t investigate further.” Nancy conceded with a sigh, “It just… it felt like nobody cared about it anymore, they were just… so quick to write her off. I couldn’t just sit back and let her be forgotten, could I?”
Nicodemus’ frown turned less upset, more conflicted, brows lifting as he gave a soft sigh, “I just… don’t want you getting hurt either.” He reached back out, taking both of her hands now, “And they did send somebody to check it out, so… leave it to the FBI now, okay?”
“... Going to be awfully hard if our son is the main investigator.”
Nancy squeezed his hands, giving a laugh, “I’m teasing, dear! I’m sure he can handle it.” She pulled him down a bit to kiss his cheek, “I’ll try and keep my nose out if it helps you feel better, okay?”
“...Mm.” Nancy loved this part about her husband the most. When right after getting kissed, his face ended up completely red and his eyes would look like a pair of saucers behind those glasses. He cleared his throat, nodding slowly, “Okay.”
“There we go.” She rubbed a thumb across his hand, “Want to help me fix up dinner? I could use a nice strong hand to help me with the groceries anyhow.”
There was that blush again, and she grinned when he tried his best to hide it and give another nod, heading out first to help her out. She didn’t truly need it most of the time, but it was worth it to see him get so shy sometimes. Reminded her of their first date… And kept her mind off of what she found for the moment, tabbing it under ‘discuss with Nelson later’ in her mind. No matter how much she loved Nicodemus, she wasn’t letting go of this just yet. Not until she learned exactly what happened.
And she wasn’t the only one in the house intent on finding things out tonight.
“Wooooow…” Guybrush had his hand on his hip and his claw to his chin, “See, I had this ongoing thought that, like, you grew into being this much of a nerd, but I guess it kinda gets coded in there early, huh?”
Nelson’s room had been kept mostly the same since he went off to college. That was a major problem for him given the current situation. There were twin bookshelves crammed with puzzle boxes from top to bottom, broken up here and there by the occasional figure or novelty statue of a game piece or trophy from a puzzle-based event. Posters spread and placed even thicker then the ones in his current office-favorite superheroes or bands or Puzzle Sensei’s magazine pullouts that seemed to have had the creases neatly ironed out. His bed still had the same crossword themed quilt his mom had made for him and the whole room smelled like she’d kept up on keeping everything clean and tidy, right down to the lavender dryer sheets she still used.
Nelson either wanted to scream or groan, so he made a mix of both against his hands as his face burned. “Why did I say yes? Why did I say yes?? ”
“I dunno, cause your mom seems awesome??” Guybrush stepped over to the bed, turned around and flopped back on it, “Plus, pancakes and all-Ooh! Is this memory foam??”
“I had trouble sleeping with spring beds-” Nelson quickly pinched himself to focus, hands outstretched to grasp at the air, “Why couldn’t they have just given this to Manny and Eddie instead?? Truman knows my hometown-I told him myself!”
“Which probably got you picked by default, Nelson!” Guybrush sat up, “Think about it-would it make more sense to send an agent who’s never been or an agent who knows this place top to bottom?”
“Sure, it’d make sense -” Nelson rubbed his temples, “But it’s a complete conflict of interests. A personal investment in the case is just going to make things worse-” He moved his hand from his head to rest at his mouth, “let alone having my family here to get involved in it.”
“Nelson, Nelson, buddy-” Guybrush placed a telekinetic hand on his shoulder and pulled him over to sit on the bed by him, “Look, did your mom have any idea we were coming?”
“And did you tell her we were going to investigate that place?”
Guybrush patted his back, “I don’t know why she was over there, but chances are even if Manny and Eddie had been sent here, she still would have gotten involved with this. It sounds like the victim was a friend of hers to boot.” He slung his arm around his shoulder, “So what’s really bothering you?”
“I…” Nelson breathed in, letting it out slow, “It’s just… it’s been a few years now since I visited. If we’re gonna be honest, I… kinda lost track of keeping in touch, what with everything that happened. So they’re probably out of the loop on some parts of my life that I really, really don’t feel like talking about.” He mumbled under his breath, “ Plusallthegnomesmakemejumpynow. ”
“My point is-” Nelson began, hands outstretched, “Is it’ll be better in the long run to spend the least amount of time here as we can. We’ll spend the night, stay for breakfast, and then it’s right back to the case at hand, okay?” Nelson turned to his partner, gripping his hand tightly, “Which means you absolutely, one hundred percent, can not tell them about how weird my life has gotten.”
Guybrush gave him a somewhat disapproving look, “Oh yeah? And what do I get out of this, huh?”
Nelson bit his lip, squeezing his eyes shut as he sighed, “I’ll...let you ask them whatever you want about me. Or them. Just… don’t tell them about me being psychic or getting fired from the FBI. That’s all I’ll ask.”
Guybrush’s brows went up, “Like anything I want?”
Nelson nodded, his expression pained, “If you do, please be gentle about it at least?”
Guybrush tsked, “I dunno… I could probably levitate a plate over during dinner…”
“Alright, alright!” Nelson waved his hands, “Don’t. Okay, you can ask anything. No matter how embarrassing.” He crossed over his heart, “I promise.”
Guybrush grinned at him in such a way that Nelson immediately regretted promising anything to the man, without any chances for take-backs as Guybrush hoisted him up and locked his arm in firmly around his shoulder, “Alright! Long as you promise! So how’s about giving me that tour, huh?”
Nelson’s shoulders drooped, “Okay, okay, just. Give me a second.” He had to get himself together again after getting so worked up, fixing his tie and clearing his throat. “Well, I’m assuming you already found out this was my room.”
“Nooo, how could I have come to that conclusion?” Guybrush offered with a glance to the Puzzle Sensei posters.
“Would you just let me finish?”
“Right! Right! Serious...now!” He waved a hand over his face so he looked like he was taking things seriously, claw going to his hip as Nelson breathed, then continued. He stepped back out into the hall, shutting the door behind them in the meantime as he started up.
“So if they haven’t re-arranged anything since my last visit, down the hall we have the office, my parent’s bedroom, and the door to the garage. That’s usually where they both do their crafting work when they’re not busy.”
“Your dad too?”
“Most of the gnomes outside didn’t come to him painted. I think mom got him into it a few years ago.” Nelson lead the way down the hall, opening the garage door. Inside sat a washer and dryer, the laundry area off to one corner while the rest of the garage stayed open for two workstations. One of them with various bolts of fabric or scrap pieces on a wooden table, a sewing machine set up in front of a comfortable stool. There were a few quilts hanging on the nearby wall or folded on top of plastic bins no doubt full of other crafting supplies. The other station was built into the wall-a simple bench with an even simpler stool set up at it, a small variety of paints in tubes on the desk while brushes hung to dry on the walls. A heavily stained mug full of paint water read ‘STAMPMASTER’ on the side of it, and looked like a very easy way to drink your daily dose of lead if you weren’t paying attention.
“So your mom sews?”
“And knits and paints and crochets, yes.” Nelson gave a soft laugh, “She’s sort of a jack of all trades since she retired… Does a lot of reading and research in her spare time.”
Guybrush smirked, “Gee, where have I heard that from?”
“Shhsh.” He shut the door, guiding them back out, “Alright so both bedrooms and dad’s office. Don’t need to look in those.” There was a soft creak of the office door opening, Nelson waving out a hand as it slammed shut on Guybrush’s hook, “I said no need to look-”
“Aw cmon! They can’t be hiding more secrets then you already do-” Guybrush leaned back at the tired look of frustration Nelson cast at him, “... At least the office?? Your mom said he had a pretty big collection inside, right? I’m sure he’d be happy to have it admired by somebody!”
Nelson gave a brief huff, considering the best way to go about this, “...Okay, just a peek. No entering.” He wagged a finger at Guybrush as he gently pushed the door open, “And no freaking out either.”
“Freak out??” Guybrush glanced into the office, “Why would I freak ouOUGH!” He took a step back, eyes wide and haunted, “How...How many are there?”
Nelson shut the door, “Too many. Moving on?”
“Smart man.” Nelson led him to the living room, Guybrush giving pause along the way at some of the framed hangings besides family photos on the walls.
“Hey Nelson, what’s up with all the framed blue screens?”
Nelson blinked, turning to see what he was looking at with a squint, “Framed blue…” he frowned, a look of embarrassment spreading to his ears, “Oh god, she kept those?? Those were my All Sky puzzles.” He leaned in for a better look, “...Yep, this one is thirty-seven. You can tell ‘cause of the cloud in the right corner here. I will say she did a great job gluing it together.”
Guybrush gawked, “Did you say thirty seven?? How many of these did they make?”
”Oh nothing big-“ Nelson waved a hand, “I fell out of it around seventy-five.”
“Anyway-“ he waved out to the parlor, “The living room is over here.” To his credit, his mom was not the type to plastic wrap her furniture. The couches were nice but they were clearly well-loved, centering in around a coffee table by a warm and toasty fireplace. A few of his father’s ceramic gnomes had managed to escape office containment to rest on either side of a photo of himself. All dressed up for his college graduation. So young, so oblivious to the card life would deal him. It got a little sigh out of Nelson, snapping out of it only when he heard a clatter.
“Guybrush, what’d you break?” He asked without turning.
“Now hold on, I didn’t break it! I caught it fine!”
Nelson breathed out, turning, “Okay, good. If you’d broken something I don’t know how I’d-...Guybrush.”
“You...caught the photo.”
“With your hook.”
“...” He reaches up to rub very slowly at his face, “...Alright, which one was it?” He held out his open palm until Guybrush pried it off his hook, his hand clenching at the sound of busted glass cracking, before taking it for a closer look. “Oh! Oh isn’t that nice-“
He waved a hand over the older photograph, a woman leaned nearly all the way back in her chair as she worked a phone line board, her face now replaced by a large hook hole going right through it. “You got the antique. ”
Guybrush gave a nervous smile, “You are...very calm about this!”
“Yes, well, my dad startles easily.” He clapped a hand on Guybrush’s shoulder, “If it wasn’t for him, I would have lost my voice a good ten seconds ago.”
Guybrush held up a hand, “I can fix it!”
“Oh can you??”
“...” Guybrush looked off, “N...Nooo...but I can fix up an illusion around it! We just flick it with TK before we go tomorrow and she’ll just think it broke on impact, right?”
“You’re planning to hold that up all night?”
“Just when they’re in the same room! They won’t even know anything happened to it!”
“I think the giant hole indicates something happened to it!”
Guybrush looked over the photo, “Who is the babe in the photo anyhow?”
“ My mother, you complete-“ he breathed in quickly, posture drooping, “...it's not worth it to get mad. How fast can you do this illusion?”
Guybrush tsked, puffing up his chest, “How fast can I do it? Why don’t you take another look at that photo?”
Nelson glanced down at the thin air in his hands, looking up at his partner, “Well I can’t see it. That’s a pretty good illusion.”
“Okay I’m panicking a little!” Guybrush put his hand to his temple, “Okay, I’m all focused now…so here we go…there!”
Nelson took another look down. While the frame did look unbroken and the photo did lack the hole Guybrush gave it, a small detail stuck out to him, “Did you give her my face ??”
“I was blinded for most of our meeting! Cut me some slack!” He waved a hand, “Besides you guys are practically twins!”
“My nose is at least an inch longer then hers!”
“She won’t even notice!”
“Notice what, boys?”
Nelson slapped the photo to the wall and turned with Guybrush, the two of them doing their best attempt on a casual lean on the wall, “Just how adorable this place is, Mrs. Tethers!” Guybrush exclaimed, laying the charm on thick as he waved a claw over the place, “Really captures that home grown charm of the Midwest!”
Nancy laughed at that, her hands full with a tray of cookies and a thermos of coffee, finger hooked around a few teacups, “Oh Nelson, your friend is quite the card, eh?”
Nelson spoke through his teeth, “Tell me about it…”
“Anyway! It may be a minute for your father to finish supper so I thought we could have a treat while we wait!” She set the tray on the table, “I’d love to know how my boy has been doing, more about your partner-“ she pours herself a cup of coffee and takes a sip of it black, eyeing the two over the cup with a serious expression as she lowers her voice a bit, “-and about the case at hand.”
Nelson stiffened a moment under that gaze, Guybrush glancing between the two, giving a disarming laugh, “What uh, what case ma’am?”
“Well the case!” She waves a hand out to the couches, “That has to be why you two were investigating Marge’s house, right? Which is why you probably have more information on it then I might.” She blinked when they made no move to sit, waving a hand with a smile, “Dears, I’m really not going to bite! Please, sit, sit!”
Guybrush glanced at his partner, making the first move as he grabbed a seat at the reading chair while Nelson sat opposite his mom on the other couch, hesitantly taking one of the earl grey shortbread his mom had made, pausing at the shape, “...Did you know I was coming?”
“I always cut them with the puzzle cutter!” She winked, “Nearly use every part of the dough when I do.”
“Mm-hm.” She had to be lying. No woman could line up a cookie cutter that perfectly. But Nelson was in no position to argue it as he nibbled on the rounded edge of one.
“So...just so we’re all on the same page here-“ Guybrush looked like he wanted to put a hand to his temple, paused, and reached over to grab a cookie across the table, “-why are you interested in this er…”case”, Mrs. Tethers?”
She knitted her hands together, looking off with a worried hum, “Marge was a friend of mine, from our book club. I can’t exactly say we were close or best friends...but we were close enough that I can say this is out of character for her.”
“Which is precisely why we’re investigating, mo - Mrs. Tethers.” Nelson cleared his throat, “The case with Mrs. Peterson doesn’t make much sense from an outside perspective. She didn’t have a criminal record or any signs of previous mental problems. The witnesses report also struck us as suspicious. It would have been impossible for someone of Mrs. Peterson’s caliber to break every window simultaneously.”
Nancy quickly nodded, gripping her cup tightly, “I don’t think she was alone at the time.” She continued when the two of them looked up at that: Guybrush leaning forward in anticipation while Nelson seemed to recall something, fumbling quickly until he’d pulled a familiar tape recorder from his jacket. The sight of it got a chuckle out of Nancy, a hand going to her mouth, “You just love that old thing, don’t you Nelson?”
Nelson looked sheepish for a moment, blinking owlishly before clearing his throat and starting the recording, “What makes you believe there was another person there, Mrs. Tethers?”
“Oh! Well-“ she took a sip of coffee, set the mug down, and held up two fingers, “It looked like Marge had been talking with someone at the time. On her countertop, there were two tea cups set up there. Someone had to have stopped by to visit her… but I think foul play may be afoot.“
Guybrush snickered, “Oooh, when’s the last time somebody used ‘afoot’? When’s the English detective busting in?”
“ Guybrush- “
Nancy waved her son off with a chuckle, “It is a little classic mystery, isn’t it?” She hummed, standing and heading for the coat rack, “But I do think something or someone did something to her.” She brought back her coat, holding it out for the two of them to take a look, “One of the cups had this strange powder spilled out from it.”
That got Nelson’s attention, taking her coat and looking over a few fragments left behind, brushing his finger across the purple, glittery substance. “Hm…Guybrush, this feels sort of familiar, right?”
Guybrush leaned over, squinting at the dust with his claw on his chin, brushing a little off to rub between his fingers, “Hm...it does …where have I felt that before…?”
Nancy sat up a bit, “Well, what is it?? Is it poisonous???” Had Marge honestly been poisoned??
“No, no I don’t think so…” Guybrush, well known for his quick wit and thinking over the situation to the last detail, tasted the powder.
Nelson startled at that, “Guybrush!! Did you just-we don’t know what’s in that!!”
Guybrush glanced over with a raised brow, “Awfully big talk coming from mister ‘gum recycler’ here.”
“Oh, Nelson honey are you still-“
“N-no!...at least not currently-Guybrush why on earth would you put that in your mouth?”
“Well, last I checked, Psitanium can’t exactly hurt us, can it?” He tried a little more, then perked up, “Plus it’s sweet!”
“Sweet?” Nelson rubbed a little between his fingers, his eyes widening as they got a little stickier from his own body heat, “Wait a sec...sugar?” He looked to Guybrush, narrowing his eyes, “You do realize if you’d been wrong, you could have been poisoned, right?”
“Psssh, Cmon Nelson! You’ve never had a little poison from time to time?”
“... No??? ”
Nancy felt a little out of the loop as the two talked, yet intrigued all the same. Psitanium sounded like something she’d heard about ages ago, in some sort of newspaper article or museum somewhere. But, as she’d understood since hearing about it-“Isn’t that a type of rock, dears? Is it supposed to be sweet?”
Guybrush made a face, “Unfortunately not. Learn that the hard way, believe you me.”
“It’s a type of psycho-reactive mineral.” Nelson leaned over for a napkin to brush his hands off before he inadvertently followed his partner’s steps, “It’s a rarer mineral, but there is enough of it someone could have taken some to grind into a powder. Dust it small enough and you could easily mix it into something like sugar and you wouldn’t know the difference.”
“Oh my…” Nancy’s brows knit, “So you’re saying somebody used this on Marge?”
Nelson nodded, standing now, “To most people, it can cause irreparable effects just by being in close contact with it for extended periods. To ingest it though… that would probably cause a much faster reaction then just close contact…” his hand went to his chin, “The real question now is who was Marge with during the incident? ”
Guybrush looked over as Nancy raised a hand, “Uh, I don’t think you have to raise your hand, Mrs. Tethers.”
“Oh! Sorry!” She giggled, “I just got so caught up in the briefing… but ah, Nelson, dear? You said this affects most people, right?”
Nelson hummed, “That’s right, at least two thirds of the population would probably be affected.”
“Yet it doesn’t seem to be bothering you or your partner…” she said with a glance to Guybrush, “So… who isn’t affected exactly? And what does psycho-reactive mean?”
That question clearly put Nelson on the spot, his eyes widening like a deer in the headlights. “Well...I…” he glanced at Guybrush. His partner was glancing between him and his mom, raising a brow as he made a rolling gesture with his hand towards his mom, his face just saying, Well? Are you gonna tell her? “I uh…”
His savior came in the form of a gruff cough from the kitchen, his dad poking his head out of it and glancing over the trio for a moment, “...Soup’s on.”
Nelson wordlessly scrambled into the kitchen soon as the opportunity presented itself, Nicodemus raising a brow but saying nothing as he followed his son inside. Nancy stood up to call after him, “Oh! Make sure you wash your hands, dear!” Her own hand dropped once he was out of sight, resting it on her cheek with a hum, “Well...that was strange.”
Guybrush gave a sigh as he stood up, “Ma’am, you don’t know the half of it…”
“I suppose not…” Forget about Marge for the moment - What on earth was her son hiding?
Chapter 3: The Kitchen
It turned out that Nicodemus was a very literal person. When he said soup, soup was what they found at the table. A large pot had been set in the center with a basket of dinner rolls, bowls filled with the stuff still steaming as the group sat down for supper. It was probably the best meal option since Nelson looked like he wouldn’t have the stomach for much else. Frankly, he looked like he would have taken the first chance to bolt back to his room if the opportunity presented itself.
Thankfully (or maybe unfortunately) he had a partner to help fill the dead air that had come up, “I must say, Mr. Tethers, I didn’t expect you to be the kind of guy who’d eat Orzo of all things! But really this lemon chicken soup is phenomenal! I’ll have to get the recipe from you later - Elaine would love this I’m sure!”
Nicodemus glanced up, “Married?”
Guybrush gave a laugh, reaching around his neck to show off the gold ring on a leather string, “Well, not to brag or anything, but yes, she did finally say yes to me.” He gave a happy little sigh as he tucked it back under his collar, “She’s a pretty amazing woman - kinda like your wife, huh?”
Nicodemus gave a gruff hum, taking a sip of soup. But his face betrayed what he really thought as red creeped into his cheeks.
Nancy leaned over to pat his shoulder, but her eyes were stuck elsewhere. Mainly on her poor boy as he idly nibbled on a roll. She could just remember when he was a little boy, feeling like she was the only one he really talked to about whatever secrets or troubles he was having. Of course he was grown up now and had made some friends his own age, ones he was probably better equipped to tell his secrets to, but…a part of her was missing those times of trust. It was obvious that whatever he’d hesitated to say earlier was giving him grief, and if he just spilled the beans, he’d probably be a whole lot better. The question that came to her next was how to get him into that spot.
Nico had banned her talking about the case (at least while he was in the room) so getting to that conversation beat was out of the question. Even if she did, Nelson was on guard now-he wouldn’t bend so easily to her prodding.
...What about his partner? “So! Guybrush, was it?”
He perked up at the sound of his name, making a clicking sound as he gestured a pistol finger at her with a grin, “Hey! Got it right in one! You know, not a lot of folks do that off the bat!”
Nancy smiled, “Well, it’s a very unique name! It’d be just rude if I got it wrong, wouldn’t it? But ah, Guybrush? I wanted to ask you something.” She glanced towards her son, “I’m sure you know my son is what they call a Puzzle Agent over at the FBI-I was curious what division they have you in to get you both assigned together!”
Guybrush’s friendly smile went to a strained one, Nelson’s eyes turning to him with a warning look as he took another bite of bread. Guybrush looked back at Nancy with a slight laugh, “Eheh...what division? That is, well, uh…” His eyes frantically searched the room, landed on his jacket like he just realized he was wearing it, and quickly looked back at her with renewed confidence, “ Historical Recreation, ma’am!”
“Oh my! Now that does sound interesting-” Nancy picked up her coffee to take a sip, “Historical Recreation...so you must use history as a guide to solving cases, I take it?”
Guybrush beamed, making another click and point gesture at her, “Man, you pick up on it right away! Pretty apt, Mrs. T! Yeah, the old boys in blue call me in when it comes to things like really old towns or buildings-give us some idea of what kind of freaky stuff might have gone on to make a place what it is!” He was searching now, sweeping across the room, hand fiddling with his claw, “Which...is...why we were investigating that old house! Probably a good clue or two based on the uh...everything about it! Past history and all that!”
“I see!” Nancy gave a soft laugh, “Well, that is very interesting, isn’t it? Especially since Marge’s place was only built about five years ago, huh?”
Guybrush stiffened like a statue, his eyes wide, speaking through the strained smile, “Is. That right? Wow!”
“I know, I know - I can still ask what they were doing snooping around, can’t I?” Nancy offered her husband, “I’m not picking at the case - just doing my neighborly duty!”
“Mm...hm…” Still, Nicodemus seemed to take the answer well enough, turning back to his soup. The short talk had given Guybrush a small window of recovery however, as he quickly cleared his throat to speak again, “The land!! It’s the land history we were sent about!”
“Oh?” Nancy blinked, “What was so special about the land?” Her eyes caught her son starting to stare intently at his partner now, and she hid a small smile behind her cup as she took another sip.
“Well! Fascinating you ask that! It...uh…” Guybrush was sweating a little now, tugging at his collar with his hook, “It has...ghosts.”
“Ghosts, yes! Of…” His eyes were searching around the kitchen again, Nelson now sitting up to very pointedly stare at him, his brows knit in what looked like intense concentration or increasing frustration. Guybrush settled on another of the Blue Sky puzzles hung in the kitchen, and it didn’t take Nancy long to figure out which one as he clasped his hand over his claw with a nervous smile, “Doves.”
Nancy blinked a few times, bringing up her cup again to hide a grin, “So...the FBI sent you and my son to investigate Marge’s house...because of dove ghosts possibly causing it.”
A long silence stretched from Guybrush. “...Yes.” Oh dear, the poor thing was sweating a lot now. She’d have to bake him an apology cake once this was all over. Maybe write something nice on it like ‘ Apologies for using you as a way to get my son to open up ’, or something that wouldn’t need print so small like ‘Sorry for the pepper spray.’
Speaking of her son, he had now set down his roll to rest his face in his hands and seemed all too comfortable to stay like that. He only looked up when Guybrush, for whatever reason, kept talking, “You know, ghost birds really can’t be underestimated though! I mean, it’s probably a pretty strong contender for why all those windows got shattered! Have you ever had a bird fly into a window?? Well! Ghosts have much higher strength then they did while they’re alive, right?! So a bird doing that is just-well-much bigger potential to uh… destroy… windows.”
Nicodemus slowed his chewing until he swallowed the bite he’d taken at the start of this whole tirade, looking over Guybrush for a beat, “...He’s got a point.”
Nelson’s eyes shot up, “He does????”
Guybrush’s eyes widened, face gaining a look of shocked delight, “I do?????” He blinked, then puffed his chest out with a laugh, “Of course I do! I mean! Uh...why do I have a point again?”
“Couple weeks back, with the shed window.” Nicodemus took a sip of water, looking point blank at the FBI agents, “Crack looked like an owl. Not a lot of owls around here since they cleared some of the trees for new houses. Maybe he’s got a point about the ghosts.”
“Honey, that was just from that delivery of yours.” Nancy patted his arm, “The shape of the crack was unrelated, dear.”
“Mm…” Nicodemus narrowed his eyes, “Still doesn’t sit right.” And then he didn’t elaborate any further on it in favor of having more soup.
“Look, can we please stop talking about bird ghosts!” Nelson finally spoke, “All you have to know is the FBI sent us to investigate her house and that! Is the main reason we are here! Okay? Okay??”
Nancy tsked, “Dear, it’s really nothing to panic over. I’m sure the FBI has the right idea in mind sending your poultry-giest expert to solve problems here!” She smiled a little when her pun got Guybrush to nearly spit-take his drink and grin to Nelson, nudging him with a ‘you get it??’ eyebrow waggle. “I can’t be just a little curious about your line of work?”
“No, you can’t, because it’s technically classified information.” Nelson was taking a considerable effort to remain calm, hands coming together, “And we could potentially lose our jobs speaking up about it. And that’s ignoring the threat to national security talking about it could risk!”
Nancy gave a hum, “Oh dear, here he comes again.”
Nelson blinked, hands lowering, “Huh?”
“Old Nervous Nelly, dear.” Nancy tsked again and set her cup down, “I mean really, do you think I’m off gossiping about FBI cases? I know how to keep my lips shut!
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry Mrs. T-” Guybrush had leaned in now, with a far wider grin on his face then he’d had most of the night, “ What did you just call him?”
Nelson’s serious and collected expression had changed to one of pure horror, looking absolutely mortified as he covered his face with one hand and groaned into it. Sorry dear, this is for your own good. She thought before continuing.
“Oh! I can’t believe he didn’t tell you-” Nancy waved a hand, “My poor boy just had the worst anxiety growing up - almost everything would make him nervous to some degree or another. It didn’t matter what it was really - if it was the woods at night or shelved items being out of order at the store, he was my nervous little Nelly during those times. Oh, you should have seen just how cute he was as a young man.” She turned to her husband, “Nico, we have pictures somewhere, don’t we dear?”
“Probably.” Nicodemus offered, waiting until Nancy nodded her head towards the living room before he gave a little huff. He got up without a word to go for the living room to try and find one of the old photo albums, while Nancy glanced back to admire her handiwork, Guybrush waiting until her husband left to finally let out a laugh.
“Is that why you hated that nickname idea???” He covered his face with a hand, wiping away a tear, “Ohoho man , Nelly! I do not blame you, my man!”
Nelson covered his face with both hands now, looking out from between his fingers at his mom, “If this is for not calling more, I’ll fix that after the case. I promise.”
Nancy hummed, “Well, you could stand to do that more too…” She brushed her thumb across the rim of her cup, “Of course, you could also just tell your poor old mother about whatever you’re keeping from me.”
He covered his eyes again, mumbling against his hand and sinking lower into his chair, “It’s classified.”
“And I’m sure I could think of an even worse story to tell your friend.” Nancy added.
Nelson just curled further in on himself, his face buried into his palm.
Guybrush’s laughter had died down, looking over his partner now as he tried to hide in himself. The humor started to creep out his face, glancing between him and his mother for a moment, “...Nelson, why don’t you just tell her?”
His shoulders hunched now, body looking so stiff from being held in that position, a hand pressing to his temples. Was he getting a headache?
Nancy’s smile dropped to a frown, “...” He couldn’t be in trouble, could he? The last time she’d seen him so stressed was waiting for the results from his FBI screening. He’d been so knotted up over the wait he’d gone through an entire bulk bag of gum before he’d eaten something substantial (until she’d forced him to anyway.) Most of all, he just seemed...so scared to tell her.
She took her hands off the cup to knit them together, pursing her lips “You know...we might have teased him for his nerves, but I hope you don’t think that he was cowardly by any means, Guybrush.” Nelson still kept his face covered, but it didn’t stop her from continuing. “Of course he was anxious when he was growing up. There were a lot of things he didn’t understand about the world back then. Yet for all his times something panicked him, he didn’t give up because of it.”
“He really could be quite brave when he put his mind to it. So many times he helped others or figured out an impossible challenge because he held to his guns and worked past his fear to get it handled.” She set a hand on the table, not touching is but keeping it there like an offer to him, “Whatever he’s scared to tell me about now, I’m sure he’ll come around and tell me eventually, right?”
It was so hard to tell what her son was thinking with his face covered up. He kept his head down when he finally uncurled himself to stand, breathing in and speaking on the exhale, “Thanks for dinner.” He rubbed at his eyes, “It...was a really long flight today. Sorry.” There was a tinge of regret on his face, hard to make out with his head down as he turned to quickly head back for his old room and shut the door.
Guybrush had his brows knit, letting out a sort of disappointed sigh, hand curling on the table. He glanced to Nancy, who’d drawn her hand back to look into her coffee instead, “Look, don’t let it get to you, Mrs. T.”
“It’s not-” She looked up, a sad, tired smile on her face, “He’s right. You two have been on your feet all day and here I am! Pushing my luck on the whole thing!...” She let out a soft sigh, “It’s hard sometimes, remembering that he’s...well, all grown up now. There’s a whole life he’s off living and I won’t know a thing about unless he says something.”
“Well, yeah, but that doesn’t mean he has to keep it from you.” Guybrush waved his hand at the air, “I mean, I don’t think he even knows how good he has it here! I mean, sure you pepper sprayed me when we first met, but you also seem like a really cool mom! Heck, if you were my mom, I’d totally want to keep you posted!”
Nancy patted his hook, “And you’re a sweetheart for that, dear.” Her face saddened again, “I realize he probably told you not to tell me-“
“Pfffffff whaaaaaaaat??” Guybrush gave a laugh, rubbing his neck, “What would make you say that???”
Nancy fixes him with a raised brow and a flat line for a mouth, “Dove ghosts, dear?”
“.....Ah.” He lowered his hand, “That… would be a pretty good indicator.”
She nodded, “I’d dare say a very good indicator.” She rubbed a thumb across the back of her hand, “But if you can’t tell me much, can you at least tell me he’s not in any sort of danger?”
Guybrush gave a small hum, “Well… none as far as I know.” He looked hesitant for a moment, before setting his hand across hers, “I can tell you that our partnership is uh… fairly recent? So it’s not like he’s had this in the works for years and just didn’t say anything.”
Nancy gave a small chuckle, “I guess that does help a little.”
He smiled at that, then the frown returned in full force, “...But still!” He gestured with his claw now, “I don’t even know what he’s so scared of! You guys seem like nice parents! Like I haven’t even known you that long but I can tell you like him - you wouldn’t just drop him if he told you something new and weird, right?”
Nancy blinked, leaning in a bit, “Like what, dear?”
Guybrush blinked, giving a laugh, “Well, you know, like uh… maybe he stopped liking puzzles?”
Nancy sat up with a startled gasp, eyes wide, “Oh I wouldn’t dare believe something so terrible! Is that what he’s hiding??”
“Okay, okay! Really bad example!” He raised both hands in defense, fingers curling as he brought them back, “What about like… like if he likes guys or something?”
Nancy blinked, giving a hum, “Well, he did experiment a little in college, but I thought he wasn’t one for relationships...least the last time he said anything about it.”
“Wait, seriously?” Guybrush blinked, “That would explain a bit… but okay! Not puzzle related or sexuality, just… some big secret along those lines. You wouldn’t like… reject him outright, would you?”
Nancy sat up again, “Of course I wouldn’t!” And he knew that...was that really the only thing scaring him so bad? That couldn’t be all of it…
Guybrush was still talking as she spaced out, nodding quickly, “Right?? I knew you wouldn’t!” He rolled his eyes, frustration clear on his face, “Like I keep telling him it’s not a big deal or anything! I mean, I’ve been psychic my whole life and I’ve been just-“ skidded to a halt before he hit the proverbial wall he’d been racing towards, clapping a hand over his mouth and glancing to Nancy with wide eyes.
Nancy blinked back at him, “Did… you say psychic?”
“...noooooooo?” He shook his head a little too quickly, “I said... sci… kicks… like uh, martial arts, but with Star Trek!” He was sweating bullets, moving back in some effort to escape the conversation, “It’s like cross fit but less religious! You get what I mean, ri-“ Before he’d even realized it, his elbow hit one of the fine china coffee cups. He was already concentrating on keeping the photo together, so he was forced to just about fall off his chair to try and physically catch it.
But it didn’t hit the floor.
“Really? That can’t be all he was worried about…” Guybrush stared as the cup hovered up and over, following it’s path with his eyes to sit himself back down and stare as it landed in Nancy’s open hand. She checked it over for any cracks, rotating it in her hand, then looking pleased to see it was in one piece. She focused back on Guybrush, “I mean, I always assumed he’d be more like his father, but…”
She blinked a few times as Guybrush stared at her, jaw threatening to hit the table at this rate, “Dear? Are you alright?”
Guybrush breathed in, held it as he seemed to remember what Nelson said about his father, and put a fist to his mouth as he breathed out, then quickly pressed a hand to his temple as his eyes bugged, YOU’RE A PSYCHIC?!
Nancy winced, “Dear, please , inside voice.”
He sat up again with alarm, “So he had even less reason to hide it!”
“In all fairness, Guybrush, it’s not something he readily knows about.” She hums, hand to her chin, “Although here I’d assumed he was well aware of it. I didn’t exactly hide my abilities around him when he was younger, mostly just from his father. Of course mine aren’t anything that special to begin with… but to think he’d develop them so late?”
Guybrush just let out a breath of relief, “Ohhh my god, you have no idea how hard it was not to say something about it.” He sat up a bit, “You didn’t know, did you??”
“Like I said, he took more after his father then me personality-wise for the most part.” She shrugged, “I mostly assumed it would be the same in the power department. And before you ask, it’s incredibly rude to read someone’s mind if they could just tell it to me themselves.”
Guybrush gave a slight laugh, moving his hand down from his head, “Well… how did you know I was gonna say that if you didn’t read my mind!”
Nancy sipped her coffee, “Guybrush, you’re not especially good at hiding your intentions. Especially not for an “FBI” agent.”
“Ah.” His posture was slowly deflating like a balloon losing air, “So you saw through that too.”
“There is a Historical Reformation section but Recreation is reserved for actors.”
“Is there any difference??”
“Many, but that’s not important.” She leaned forward again, “What I would like to know is what section of the FBI has that peculiar badge you both have on.”
Guybrush has another nervous smile on his face, about to answer her before taking pause, spotting Nicodemus in the kitchen doorway, standing stock-still and a tad wide eyed as he looked between the two, “...come to think of it, have you ever told your husband about your powers?”
Nancy blinks, “Well, I don’t think I was trying to hide them or anything…” So it was a bit of a surprise when the book dropped out of the man’s hands, followed shortly by said man as he fainted.
Chapter 4: Nelson's Room
Nelson had been pacing between the door and his bed for roughly twenty minutes now. There were probably better things he could be doing with his time. He could probably go apologize to his mom first off for worrying her so bad. But there was also the option of hurrying for the garage. If he took the side door outside he could probably just make the fence and walk back to the hotel before he ever had to worry her more and things would turn out much better in the long haul!
...or he could shoot down that idea, tsk, and pace back towards the bed, head in his hand as he rubbed his eyes. Of course Guybrush would crack. His mom didn’t let these things slip past her-she wasn’t above taking a person for a loop if it got her answers. It made their resemblance all the more obvious, especially when he got stuck on a case of his own. But really, he’d thought the guy would’ve held it better then that! He was supposed to be a secret agent, wasn’t he? Secret was part of the name!!
Course, maybe he was just so frustrated over the whole debacle because of how right Guybrush was. That thought got him to groan, turn on his heel and flop back on his old bed with his hands to his face, rubbing his forehead in some vain attempt to ward off an oncoming headache. If he had just said something sooner or written or called back when everything had gone upside down, maybe things wouldn’t be as complicated to explain now. It wasn’t even that it was just his powers to worry about now. It was all the little things that had jumbled together and were crashing down on him. He didn’t even know where to start…
...did he even want his family involved? Had the FBI even called them when he got fired?? Did they both know and just...hadn’t said anything to him???...maybe he really would be better just sneaking out when he had the chance-
“Nelson?” There was a soft knock on his door, and it creaked open a moment later. Nancy Tethers poked her head inside right as the light flicked out, giving a half smile when she saw her son in bed, “Dear, you know I won’t fall for that ‘pretend to be asleep’ trick.”
It was quiet for a moment, Nelson eventually reaching back over to turn on the Rubik’s cube lamp again, letting out a sigh, “What gave me away?”
“You never took your shoes off.” She made her way over, taking a seat on the bed by him, “Plus a mother has her ways of reading her kid.” She scooted back to give him room when he’d sat up, eyes on the ground and a hand to his chin, fingers tapping against his lips for a moment. A classic thinking posture from the man.
“...listen, mom, about earlier-“ He stopped himself, bit one of his nails for a moment, then let out a sigh, “I mean...with running off, or being cagey or…” he grimaced, “I swear I ran this over in my head- “
“Nelson-“ her hand took one of his, her grip firm but reassuring at the same time. “Can I show you something before you apologize?”
He blinked when he was cut off, looking a little relieved that he wouldn’t be fumbling over his words for a minute or two. For a second or two, she was almost a little worried he might react like her husband did, hoping for the best as she focused, hand outstretched, “I assumed you would have known about this, but your father proved otherwise, so…”
He raised a brow at her phrasing before his eyes popped open rather owlishly as a Rubik’s cube floated off the bookshelf and over into Nancy’s open palm, setting itself down. For all intents and purposes, a bluebird might as well have flown in and landed on her hand with the look her son was giving her. “...wait.” He croaked, “You mean...you too? Is...is dad-“
She shook her head with a soft laugh, “Just me.” Nancy rubbed over the cube as she spoke, eyes on it, “I figured after a while that you’d taken after your father...most times they develop at a very young age, if they ever come at all.” She held up the cube to him, “Of course, mine are very basic. You wouldn’t mind showing me yours, would you?”
Nelson sat back a bit. His eyes were fearful almost, mostly unsure as he looked between his mother and the toy. His hand settled for his temple, moving the one under his mother’s hand to keep his fingers open. Then, he focused. The cube hovered out of Nancy’s hand, and slowly it began to move with his fingers. A twist to the left, then it rotated to turn right, clicking and shifting into place. Nancy’s eyes widened as she watched, and she couldn’t help but feel a swell of pride in her chest as the cube solved itself, the red side landing back in her open palm.
There were tears in her eyes as she looked back at him, reaching up to cup his cheek and use her thumb to brush under his eye, wiping away the tears he’d gained, “Do you feel better now?”
He swallowed, nodding as his face steadily got redder and the tears came a little harder, readily leaning in to hug her tight when she offered. He’d been so busy keeping everything under wraps he’d only noticed it now, as he hugged her tightly, the waves of energy coming off of her. It was something that should have been so obvious if he’d been looking for it, it was almost laughable that he was just feeling it now. Auras were hard to really describe, but if he had to put it into words, his mother felt warm: like sun kissed laundry or waking up to breakfast in bed. Just warm and soft and loving against the sharper contrast of his own.
Nancy held him close and rubbed his back, feeling how he trembled with his silent crying, “There we go… take as long as you need to, dear…” She could still feel how anxious he was. It didn’t take a psychic to feel the tension in his shoulders or how a part of him still held back from openly sobbing. There was still something she was missing here… but getting him to open up here was a major step in the right direction. “I’m going to guess your friend is also..?”
He nodded against her shoulder and gripped a little tighter. “...” his shoulders dagger against an invisible weight, “We...also don’t work for the FBI.”
Nancy blinked, leaning back now, her hand moving to Nelson’s cheek to keep his heavy head steady, nodding for him to go on.
Nelson breathed in through his teeth before letting it out, turning his gaze away when he couldn’t keep eye contact, “I got fired. And...and the reason is convoluted and hard to believe, honestly, but...another organization picked me up right after.”
“You mean the Psychonauts?”
“And I know it’s gonna sound insane but they seem like a-“ Nelson blinked as his brain caught up with itself, head snapping up to look at her, “...” he squinted, “Did you...did you know the whole time???”
“Not the whole time, dear, no!” Nancy patted his cheek, “But if you wave around a badge long enough, someone has to recognize it eventually. And that definitely wasn’t one of the FBI’s.” She gave a chuckle, “It just happened around dinner when your friend began to slip up. Bless his heart, but he is a very loud thinker.”
Nelson groaned, “ Guybrush…”
“He is your friend though, right?” Nancy reaches up to take both his cheeks now, partly holding him in place, “They’re not keeping you there?”
Nelson hummed, “I...I don’t know, honestly. He’s a bit of a wildcard sometimes...” He put a hand on hers, “But I’m safe though, don’t worry.”
Nancy gave a smile, letting go of his face to grip his hand, “Now, onto business-“
“You’re taking the “fired from the FBI news really well-“ Nelson murmured before finding his mother’s gaze right on his.
“Let me help with this case.”
Nelson’s brows knit, holding her hand, “Even if you are psychic, you’re still in your sixties.”
“Oh you know it’d take a lot to bowl me over.” Nancy gained a somewhat sly look, “And frankly, my dear, you need me.”
“The victim was not only a friend of mine, but we also frequented the same club and I have ties to the majority of our mutual friends-or in layman’s terms, the suspects .” She tapped her cheek, “And some folks around town might recognize you as my little Nelly-“
She nearly reached out to pinch his cheek before Nelson turned red, gently blocking the oncoming attack with a hand, “Can you. Retire that nickname?”
“Absolutely not.” She looked back at him, “But if folks see somebody like your friend there, I don’t know how willing they would be to give you information. A strange hook-handed man isn’t exactly a friendly figure without somebody to back him up, even with the former crossword club president in town.”
Nelson blinked at her, staring at her for a beat as it began to sink in, his eyes gradually growing wider, “So you’re saying we need you if we want to solve this case?”
Nancy smiles, “Now you’ve got it!”
Nelson leaned back to rub his temples, letting out a long sigh, “And you’re probably going to investigate on your own if I say no…”
“Which would potentially put your poor mother at an even greater risk…” Nancy glanced sidelong at him, following him down as he slowly laid himself back on the bed with a long breath.
“...okay.” Nelson covered his face, “You can...come along when we’re gathering information. ” He emphasized before pointing at her, “But if we need to do a confrontation, stay put . Okay?”
Nancy brightened, leaning over to give his cheek a peck, “Of course I will! Now you ought to get some rest-we’ll have a lot of crime solving to do, won’t we Nelly??” She patted his chest as she stood up, setting the Rubik’s cube back on the shelf.
Nelson made a noise half between an unsure groan and a whine, keeping his face covered. Maybe this is why he got fired. Hard to keep an FBI agent around if he got ordered around by his own mom.
“I heard that, Nelson.” Nancy said, flicking off the light switch as she went, “Don’t be so hard on yourself, dear…”
Nelson peeked out between his fingers, “Don’t read my mind without asking…”
“Oh I didn’t. I’d just recognize that frustrated groan anywhere.” She starts to shut the door, peeking in with a small smile on her face, “It’s good to have you home, dear.”
Nelson blinks once, twice, then covers his face again with the same groan as she shuts the door with a soft laugh, headed down the hall to check in on her husband and guest.
When she entered the living room, it was a rather amusing sight that greeted her. Guybrush was moving his hands back and forth quickly, doing his best to keep them from staying in one spot too long, then holding both out towards a still fairly rattled Nicodemus on the armchair, “Okay-where’s the hook this time?”
Nicodemus had a hand on his head, beads of sweat sticking out on a wrinkled brow, reaching out and drawing his hand back again, debating it with himself. After a solid three minutes (Guybrush’s smile notably waning) he picked out the left hand. Guybrush gained a sparkle to his eyes, “Let’s see-all chips on the left hand!”
He flicked his wrist and like a fog clearing, the hook appeared, held within his actual hook hand to vanish into thin air, clapping his hand to it with a grin, “Nice job, pal!”
Nicodemus made a quiet noise in the back of his throat, crossing an arm around himself. He only sat up and looked over at a floorboard creaking under Nancy’s feet, stumbling much faster then she’d seen him move to quickly wrap his arms around her, Nancy reaching up to brush his hair back with a soft sigh, “Well now, it wasn’t that bad a trick, was it?”
Guybrush twirled the fake hook on his own, his hand on his chin, “No, no, he's right. I could’ve gone way overboard.” He snapped his fingers, making three more fake hook hands to idly try juggling.
Nicodemus looked at Nancy with wide eyes, “How come you never told me??”
Nancy gave a hum, “Well, I didn’t exactly try to hide it around you, Nico.”
Nicodemus frowned, his brows knitting up as he gave her a sort of helpless look, before he gave a soft huff and turned his head, arms crossed.
“I really didn’t, dear!...though I suppose I could have mentioned it a bit more…well, directly.” She looked off with a hum, hand on her chin, “I mean even Nelson was surprised by it and I could have sworn I’d used my abilities around him when he was just a boy. And now that he has his powers you’d think he would have connected the dots-“
As Nancy spoke, Nicodemus’ eyes popped beneath his glasses, hands going to his head, “ Our son too??? ”
“Of course Nelson too!” Nancy held up her arms, “Why else would he join the Psychonauts if he wasn’t also psychic?”
“ HE DID WHAT???”
Nancy hissed through her teeth. She could see the way her husband’s fingers trembled, bringing one of his hands down to curl his fingers inwards and press the knuckles against his mouth, his eyes wide and desperately searching the area as his breathing quickened. She reached out, gingerly resting a hand on his arm, “Nico, lambchop, I know this is a lot to take in at once-“
He drew his arm back to curl tighter in on himself.
She firmly grasped his arm now, “Nico, look at me.” She cupped his cheek, “You’re fine. I’m fine. Our son is fine. Take a deep breath.” Nancy’s eyes locked on his, holding them there as she rubbed her thumb across his arm.
Even if Nicodemus wasn’t a psychic like she was, auras could still be picked up on in subtle ways.
Nicodemus couldn’t see it or feel it in a way her son or his friend might have, but he could sense it. That sort of warm, comforting presence that he’d always felt around Nancy, that made it just a little easier to breathe when his chest clenched up like a vice and didn’t let go. He took a shaky breath in and let it out slowly, repeating the process until his breathing began to steadily even out. Moving his hand back from his mouth to rest over hers. When the anxiety bled away from him, he just had a tired look in his eyes with just a tinge of fear coating it. She didn’t have to read his mind to know what he must be thinking right now.
Nancy tsks, giving him a calming smile while she stroked his cheek, “I know you’re worried, dear… but I’ve been a psychic for years and that won’t be stopping anytime soon. I have a handle on this.”
He gave a small huff through his nose, his hand moving to land on hers, raising a brow just a smidge on that sad face of his.
Nancy gave a nervous laugh, her shoulders shrugging, “Guilty as charged!” She leaned a bit closer, “But… you know why I can’t just let this go with Marge now, right?”
Nico sighed, slowly nodding his head. He was still trembling slightly, turning a shade pink as he crossed his arms just a bit tighter, “I know… you got a handle on things. You can take care of yourself, but… I wanna take care of you too.”
Nancy smiles, leaning in to gently kiss his nose, “I promise I won’t do anything you wouldn’t do.”
Nicodemus did look reassured at the thought, his mouth gaining a tiny uptick of a smile, glancing back towards the pirate in their living room, trying to sneak a peek at their conversation and ending up dropping the hooks on his head to vanish back into the ether, turning before either of them noticed him (they both had. That was obvious enough.) Nico gave a sigh, looking back at her with that worried knit of his brows and waving a hand towards him.
She gave him a look back as she puffed out a breath, “Well why else do you think I want to come along? My son needs all the help he can get from the look of things.”
Nico nodded, holding her hand in a firm grip, his eyes softly pleading with her, but accepting at the same time. Stay safe it said in that way he preferred to.
She kisses his hand, “Of course, dear.” Nancy looked over, “Guybrush?”
He stood up straight soon as his name was uttered, bringing the hook up to clonk against his head in a salute, “Yes ma’am?”
“Stand down!” Nancy laughed, “I was just going to ask if you want me to set up your room yet or not!”
Guybrush blinked, “You mean I’m not staying in Nelly’s?”
“Not unless you want to spoon him, dear. It is a twin bed after all.” She gave Nicodemus a fond look and rubbed a thumb across his hand before she went to Guybrush to take his own, “I was just going to set up an air mattress in one of our spares if you’re alright with that. Figured you’d want your privacy as much as my son.”
Guybrush smirked, “Well hey, sounds like the lap of luxury! I’ve slept in some worse spots though, Mrs. T-“ he gave a long stretch where he stood before wandering his way over to her, “-but yeah, probably about that time, huh? Pretty late and all…”
Nancy let out a breath, looking towards the clock reading 9 PM on one of the walls, “You can certainly say that again, dear.” She leaned over, giving Nico’s cheek a single peck, “I’ll go to bed soon if you want to meet me there?”
With a gruff puff of air and a nod, a red faced Nico made his way down the hall towards the bedroom. But not without looking back at Guybrush with an ‘I’m watching you’ motion before stepping into the room.
Lucky for Guybrush, he was fairly used to people making threatening gestures at him. The threat slid off like water on a duck’s back as he followed Nancy down the hall, helping her grab the air mattress alongside a pillow, some sheets, and a very cozy-looking quilt, “Sooo, where are you setting up Chateau du Guybrush at, eh Nancy?”
“Oh I figured I’d set you up in the office. Nico won’t be using it tonight.” She blinked, glancing back when she felt a spike of anxiety off of Guybrush, looking back at him and the strained smile he’d gained, “Is something wrong?”
Guybrush straightens, waving a hand, “What?? Nooo! No! I’m fine! Just a normal office, right??” A nervous laugh bubbles out of him, hands going to his hips as his bundle of blankets hovered in the air, “If Guybrush Threepwood can’t handle a little office, he’s not much of an agent, right??”
Nancy raised a brow with an amused smile, “Nancy would like to know where the third person angle came from…?”
Guybrush swooped over to help carry the rest of the stuff, “Ahaha! Just a little statement to clear up who means what!! Common practice at the, uh, the Psychonauts!” With another laugh he headed for the office, “Just an office after all, right??”
Nancy gave an amused laugh, the dryer smile still on as she followed him down, “As far as I’m aware, dear…”
Chapter 5: The Kitchen (Breakfast time)
To his credit, Nelson slept fairly well in his old room. It could probably be accounted to a need to sleep off the jet lag or the exhaustion of all the emotional beats catching up with him, but it had taken only minutes after his mom shut the door to fall deep asleep. It was likely he would’ve stayed asleep too were it not for a vision around four AM.
He saw a kitchen table, round on all sides. Older women were laughing and chattering with each other, copies of the same book sliding into view around the table. A large, silver tray was set in the center. It was stacked high with...something. The vision was beginning to blur and ebb. Something like vanilla and cardamom wafted past his nose. A well manicured hand landed on his shoulder, the sharp, black nails just about digging into his shoulder.
“Well dear? Go on and try one.”
Nelson awoke with a start, but enough cognition to clap a hand over his mouth before a scream could come out of him. Not that the vision was that horrifying considering the ones he’d had before though. He must’ve been wound up a little tighter then he thought.
He waited till his breathing had steadied before moving his hands back, letting out a sigh and leaning over his jacket-hung up on the bed’s backboard-digging in the pocket until he’d found the tape recorder. His brows knit when he realized just how little he’d put on it yesterday. He’d have to get the tape up to speed.
“Our investigation at the Peterson place wasn’t as informative as I had initially hoped. The place was remarkably clean for any clues of what caused the psychic blowback. Local witnesses claim they heard Mrs. Peterson scream before the windows blew out, but we have yet to nail down what the rest of her day had been like before the incident.”
He cleared his throat, “On a sidenote, however, we did find someone else there. One Nancy Tethers, who decided to investigate the scene herself. Apparently she knew the victim personally through a club the both of them attended. We’ll probably be interviewing it’s members today with her assistance. She also uncovered our only clue so far-sugar spiked with Psitanium dust…”
He squinted as he thought back on it, holding the image in his mind, “This morning, I received some sort of premonition. A woman with sharp nails is going to offer us something on a platter.” His brows knit, “I don’t know why, but I have a feeling she has something to do with the case somehow. Perhaps she’s even the suspect we’re looking for. But I’m just theorizing for now. I’ll report back when I have more details on the case at hand. Agent Tethers, out.”
Well, he could try to go back to bed, given how early it was… but that wouldn’t be very productive in the long run. Not if he wanted to get this case figured out and keep his mom out of what he reasonably could.
It takes some digging around on his old desk before he finds a stack of post-it notes and a pen, finding a fairly flat spot on his bookshelf to start laying out what they knew so far. The recorder still in hand, he rewound the tape, setting it on an empty shelf and tapping the play button. He could still hear the engine of the get in the background as he started writing down case details to pin up.
“Agent Tethers here. This is the audio recording for the Weatherly, Pennsylvania case regarding Mrs. Marge Peterson. My partner and I-“
“Oop! That’s me! Agent Guybrush Threepwood, reporting in!”
“Guybrush, you don’t need to report in too.”
“But that’s what you did!”
“I don’t even know if the Psychonauts will use these or not. It just helps me get my thoughts in order.”
“And that’s totally fair and valid of you, I’m not gonna fight that!..... buuut why’d you introduce your name if I can’t too, huh?”
“It’s. It’s just a force of habit, I-I don’t know why I-look, you can introduce yourself too, I guess? Just, don’t interrupt again, okay?”
“Trust me, these lips? Zipped tight. Not a peep getting out!”
“Like totally silent. Dead men tell no tales-that kind of silence!”
“And if I say one more thing, then by all means you can just put your foot down and tell me not to even bother, just let you do all the talking and I just…”
“...anyway. The Psychonauts are sending us to Weatherly, Pennsylvania to investigate a possible psychic phenomenon. Mrs. Peterson was by all accounts considered a non psychic until this event. Witnesses reported the woman screaming loudly before blowing out every window in her house-probably through the use of telekinetic force. When officers were called in to investigate the noise complaint, Mrs. Peterson was found in some sort of trance. A lack of cognizant response over the course of a five hour interrogation sent her to a local hospital. Come morning our first course will probably be conducting an interview to see if we can gather any more information. If they allow us to get close to the victim at any rate.”
“Wait, just five hours? That’s all it took to label her crazy?”
“Not crazy, just… unresponsive. Awake but catatonic.”
“She wasn’t aggressive or anything though, right? The file said she’s not taking visitors?”
“Weatherly isn’t a very modern town. A psychic incident like this probably has the officers pretty confused about ways to help.”
“But did they know she was psychic?”
“...hrm. That is a good question. Only reason we got alerted is… well, an anonymous tip off.”
“Oooh. Spooky! ”
“It’s not spooky! It might just mean the witness wanted to remain anonymous is all, or another psychic who knew what a telekinetic blast looked like.”
“So we’re coming over here because somebody we don’t know with knowledge on the Psychonauts enough to have our number left us a tip?”
“...well. I guess when you spell it out like that…”
“Yeah… sounds legit to me!”
Nelson shut off the tape because he remembered this part. He’d had a back and forth with Guybrush over the whole case and how to tell a suspicious circumstance or tip-off from a non-suspicious one. But it at least gave him some proper information to go off of, and he had a fairly impressive web of post-it notes on his bookshelf by the time a soft knock hit the door, feeling the aura coming in with it. “I’m up already, Guybrush.”
The pirate entered, his coat and shoes off, hair out of its ponytail to lay loosely along his shoulders, giving a yawn as he shut the door behind him, “Why are you up so early…?”
“Could ask you the same.” Nelson didn’t look up from his notes just yet, finishing one before clicking the pen, giving a pleased smile as he examined his work, “I just got woken up by a nightmare and couldn’t fall back asleep,” he turned to face his partner, “what about yoAH!” He jumped, hands coming back to curl by his face in a defensive position, “Guybrush! You look terrible!”
Guybrush blinked unevenly and scratched his chin, his eyes still red from yesterday, sagging under a tired weight as he gave another yawn, “Couldn’t sleep.” He held up a hand, “Sidenote: did you know your dad owns about ninety three gnomes in his office alone?”
Nelson lowered his arms to squint at him, “How would you know-...” his eyes widened, and all at once he was very thankful they’d kept his old room intact. “...ah.”
“And that most of them are angled downwards to look at you?”
“ Ah. ”
“Yeah.” Guybrush stretches again, popping a stubborn kink in his back before taking a sleepy glance over the wall of post-it’s, “So uh… What’s… ” he made a vague gesture with his stump, “All this then?” He said before lazily scratching at his goatee with the same stump, a move Nelson thought rather counterproductive.
“Oh! Right, okay, so!” Nelson turned back to the notes at hand, thankful for a jumping off point to angle into the case at hand, instead of daring to think about his father’s collection. “I was putting together all the details from the case that we know about. I added on what we discussed on the plane as well as that sugar my m - that Mrs. Tethers found at the scene.”
Guybrush nodded as he rubbed over the hint of blonde shadow that had creeped onto his face during the night. “Right, right, the Psitanium stuff…” he hummed as he leaned for a closer squint, his arms crossed, “So did you sleuth out anything?”
Nelson tapped his foot, “Honestly, I’m not sure… I do have a strong suspicion that our culprit is a psychic themselves. Or at the very least a strong potential to become one, if they’re able to handle psitanium enough to grind it that finely.” He tapped one of his notes, regarding the tip off they’d received, “They might be behind the call the Psychonauts got as well. Question is, what do they want with us then? Because you’re right - a town this old fashioned wouldn’t jump to psychic powers as the first answer to the incident with Mrs. Peterson. It has to be someone with enough knowledge about the agency to contact them directly and properly describe what happened.” He turned back to Guybrush, “Perhaps even a former a...gent…”
Nelson gave his partner a firm look, reaching over and snapping his fingers under his face a few times until the man startled back awake, “I’m up! I’m up! It’s uh…” he swallowed, yawning, “It’s uh the... psycho agent whatsit behind it. Cool cool cool…”
“Hm…” Nelson crossed his arms, “Most of the places we’re headed today won’t be open till midday. Maybe you should try sleeping in my bed for-“
Before he could finish the thought, Guybrush was gladly flopping into the twin bed, his feet dangling off the edge as a deep snore came out of him - conked out the moment his head had touched the pillow. He winced in sympathy, his thoughts for a moment going towards Guybrush’s poor wife if he snores like that on a daily basis, before turning back to his wall of notes. And cursing himself for even offering the idea, since there was no way he was gonna focus with the newfound noise in the room. He sighs as he shakes his head, grabbing his jacket and tie again and buttoning it up to hide how wrinkled his shirt had gotten in the night, stepping out of the room. Maybe he’d have a little more to work with if he had some coffee in his system.
The house is still dark when he gets up, yet light enough outside that the street lights have started to click off, leaving the house barely lit until whenever the sunrise comes over the horizon. He felt carefully along the wall to head for the kitchen, stiffening when a photo or framed puzzle would shift under his hand, careful not to drop any as he kept onwards. He blinked when he smelled coffee already brewing, wondering for an instant who could be up so early until he caught a glimpse of the open paper on the table and the small reading lamp, moved from the living room to the kitchen table as Nicodemus Tethers read the morning news and sipped his coffee.
Nelson suppressed a grimace. His mom had figured him out immediately on the powers front. Had his dad been the same? Did he have powers too? He hadn’t said anything about it, and if he’d read his mind, he’d know, right?? Was he just waiting for Nelson to say something?
He attempted to get out of his own head by pouring himself some coffee, dropping in three sugar cubes, hesitating, and plunking in a fourth. He swallowed as he glanced at the kitchen table, his father turning the page, then folding the paper over and grabbing a pen. The crosswords page was open, and he was scrutinizing it under the lamplight. To anyone else, this might have been nothing to think too hard about. He’d just finished the paper and was starting in on the crosswords to make his mind up.
But to a Tethers? To Nelson? His dad flipping to the crosswords had always been one of the few times they could actually talk without the plagues or anxiety wearing on their minds. It was the equivalent of him holding up a big sign that said Let’s talk, son.
Nelson didn’t want to exactly. His father had always been a hard man to read, and under the dark light of the kitchen before dawn, he looked even more imposing then he had normally. But he also had to tell himself that he wasn’t a child anymore. He could easily have a one-on-one conversation with his father without getting nervous about it.
Which is why like a confident man he took a seat on the other side of the table to avoid direct eye contact while he sipped his coffee.
Nicodemus tapped his pen against the page, his brows knit in focus as he read over the clues on the page, “...Ten letter word for a talented kid.”
Nelson blinked up at that, glancing back to his coffee, “Precocious.” Was that what he considered Nelson? Or...had considered Nelson… “Dad, did mom-“
“Mm.” Nicodemus held up a finger as he scribbled it down, tapping his pen tip on the page, “Six letter word meaning admiration.”
“C-cajole?” Nelson drummed his fingers on the mug, bringing his chair a little closer, “Dad, I… I’m sure mom told you about my powers but. But I got fired, is the thing.”
Nicodemus pauses his tapping.
“And I know-I mean-I hoped you were proud of me when I graduated-and when I got into the FBI and-“
Nicodemus was glancing up at him, frowning just a sliver when Nelson tried to look away.
“-and I felt proud too! My job was-it was a job I could do . Something made for me and not a lot of folks can get that and… and I swear, I was doing good. I was doing the right thing! And I just-“
He could feel his dad’s eyes drilling into him now, the lingering stress from his nightmare culminating into a tight feeling in his chest that made his coffee taste bitter despite the sugar. He swallowed, and felt a cold sweat starting to form on his palms, rotating the mug in his grip. What could he be thinking? If his mom wasn’t here, that had to mean his father could give his honest two cents about it, and Nelson wasn’t sure if he was just digging himself a deeper pit to throw those coins into or not.
“I just… I know I saved a lot of people. I have to. And I don’t have anything to show for it but…” he put a hand over his badge, eyes casting back at his coffee, letting out a small huff through his nose. His chair let out a soft creak as he moved to stand up and have his coffee in the living room instead, “I… I’ll let you focus-“
“The action to receive or take something offered.” Nicodemus tapped his pen, looking down until he could catch Nelson’s eye halfway down and hold onto it, “Ten letters.”
Nelson gave a sigh, “Acceptance.” That one was easy. His dad must’ve not woken… up yet… Nelson looked up, blinking slowly in that owlish way of his towards his father. “... Acceptance?”
“That’s the word, isn’t it?” Nico responded gruffly. He scribbled the answer in, then paused, setting his pen across the page and reaching up, taking off his glasses to set against the paper, “...Nelson. I can’t say I know everything you’re going through. And what I do know, I can’t say I get it… but at the end of the day, you’re still my son.”
He kept his eyes on him, but Nelson didn’t feel the pinprick or anxiety anymore seeing that look. His dad might not have felt it, but Nelson could feel the waves of calm coming off of his father-pointed like his own, but softened somehow. Less like the sharp angle of a knife and more like the natural point of a tall pine tree. He felt it even stronger as his dad reached across the table and offered his hand. And Nelson sat back down, moved his chair closer, taking it like he was afraid he might break it.
“That being said… I don’t want my son afraid to talk to his father.” In a move Nelson didn’t expect him to do, felt the secure squeeze of his callused hand grip his own firmly. He didn’t fully know what to do with his fingers, switching between splaying them over his hand or gripping like he was about to give him a handshake. “Whatever happened to you… you can talk to me. If nothing else… I’ll listen.”
It was awkward and clumsy. It was also the most comforting gesture Nelson had ever gotten from his father. He could tell the man was struggling to even maintain eye contact, and he kept giving unsure glances down at his hand. Nelson flipped his palm and squeezed his father's hand, “...Okay.” A glance down at both of their hands, and he cautioned a smile at his dad, “I’ll keep it in mind. Thanks dad.”
Nicodemus cautioned a smile back. Then he cleared his throat, reaching down to put his glasses back on and pick up the pen, clicking the tip into place. Nelson assumed that meant the conversation and that moment was, effectively, over and done with. Until Nicodemus rotated the page to face both of them, tapping number twelve across, “Largest rodent, eight letters.”
Nelson blinked a few times up at him, a half, dry smirk coming to his face, “Capybara. Trying to give me something easy?”
Nicodemus huffed, “Mm.” Still, he had that same half smirk quirked under his moustache, writing down the word and pointing out another one to test his son with. As they worked through the crossword, the rays of the sunrise started to peak in through the cracks in the blinds, and the dark air the kitchen had carried when he’d first entered faded away with it, leaving behind empty coffee cups and a sense of ease Nelson had hardly felt since he’d taken that fateful nap at his old office. As they finished the crossword and began work on the sudoku, he almost didn’t notice his mother come in until his dad had stopped, gotten up, and gone over to give her a good morning kiss.
It was funny how even in his forties, seeing his parents kiss still felt like a weird thing he shouldn’t be seeing, covering his face a bit to avoid looking right at them. But maybe that was just Guybrush rubbing off on him. He held up his mug a bit in a sort of awkward toast, “Morning. Sleep well?”
She chuckled as Nicodemus pulled back and moved to get more coffee for him and a mug for her, laughing still as she took a seat at the table and leaning over to take her son’s hand off his face, “Absolutely not!”
He blinked, “Huh?” She looked plenty well rested to him-
“Oh I got a solid two - three hours perhaps.” Nancy waved him off when he started to say something about reading his mind, “That was enough for me - I’ll nap later if I must - but the case!!” She reached into her robe and pulled out a small spiral-bound notepad that had been filled front to back with writing to the point where it’s sides had an almost zebra stripe look to them. “I had to write down what details I knew and dozed off the minute I finished.”
“I see…” Nelson took the notepad to give it a scan through, squinting as he deciphered his mother’s expertly done cursive to his best ability, “And… what kind of information is this, exactly?”
Nancy looked to see if Nicodemus was listening before turning back to him, her voice a hushed whisper, “ The suspects. ”
Marked down in the pages of that book were club times, events over the last few months, descriptions, and names - painting a picture of five very distinct women, each one with a name older-sounding then the last. Nelson looked up in surprise, “The other club members? You think one of them is behind the incident?”
“Oh I know it’s one of them.” Nancy said, picking up the cup when it was handed to her to take a sip of coffee, Nicodemus retreating to the front yard when he caught wind of the case discussion to start watering his flowers. “They had the opportunity, the means, and the motive to ambush Marge.”
Nelson, innocent to the cutthroat world of older women’s book clubs, asked, “A motive?”
Nancy bobbed her head, her face a grim mask showing just how dire the situation is, taking another sip of coffee before setting it down to look at Nelson, hands folded together, “Besides myself and Nancy, the club has four other members on it. Most of them are longtime residents of this town.”
Nelson sat up a little straighter at her expression, fumbling through his pockets until he found his beloved recorder, fast forwarding to start it up when the tape had a clear spot, “Can you tell me more about these other members?”
Nancy’s serious look melted in an instant to coo at him, “Oh! You still use your recorder?? You do know it’s all cds these days, right Nelly?”
Nelson cleared his throat, “Stay on topic, Mrs. Tethers.”
Nancy pouted, “Oh rain on my parade, why don’t you?... but, fair enough. This is for your work after all.”
She flipped through the pages of her notebook until she settled upon one of the first real entries, tapping it before she began, “Paige Wittacker. She’s co-founder of the club and one of the original members. Older then dirt and just about as palatable to deal with. We mostly put up with her because she’s loaded enough to buy us copies of whatever book we’re reading. Her own ‘charitable contribution’ she calls it.” She made quotes around the phrase when she said this, rolling her eyes before turning to another page.
“Deborah Moss. Now she’s a card. Always one to joke around and tease and pull little jokes on us. Quite a skilled crafts woman too. One time she went ahead the night before to the community center and she actually sewed whoopie-cushions into the actual cushions! It was practically seamless! She joined around the same time Marge and I did. Between you and me, I think she mostly jokes around to hide her own problems, but don’t we all, eh?”
She flipped to another page and gave a sigh, “Bridget Aubergine. Now there’s a woman you don’t want to annoy. She’s older then Paige and she’s the one who started the whole book club to begin with. I suppose she is a kind enough woman, but it’s all an act. She’s the kind of person who would make Cruella shiver. A real tyrant.”
Nelson raised a brow, “Of a book club?”
“Oh Nelly, you don’t know the half of it. Book clubs all boil down to compromise. If one person doesn’t agree on the chosen material that week, then the whole club goes out of balance! Everything from the baked goods to the meetup location to whether we want to bring our spouses that week-everything must be decided in advance and it brings so much pressure to the whole affair...maybe that’s why Bridget always seems so worked up… at least to me…”
“So… why keep going if it’s so much trouble?”
Nancy looked back towards the entryway, seeing if Nicodemus had come back in yet, before turning back to Nelson with a smile, “Why, for the drama, dear!”
Nelson blinked about five times before he made a face he couldn’t quite describe, “ What? ”
Nancy laughed, “Oh! Oh if only a tape could capture that expression!” She raised a brow at him, “You’ve never once thought about women your age or twice that getting into petty squabbles daily? The kind of hot pot of rumors, intrigue, and betrayal that you could mark a calendar by?”
Nelson blinked again and knit his brows, “No!” Then again, he’d probably had his fill of interpersonal drama from Scoggins alone and then some.
Nancy snickered at that, a hand going up demurely to her mouth, “Oh dear… and this is the same Nelly who wanted to solve folks issues all over town? Really?”
Nelson blushed a bit and gave a huff through his nose, “That's different . That’s not just watching drama for the sake of drama.” He raised a brow, “And aren’t you friends with these women?”
“Oh of course I am!” Nancy said, hand going to her chest, “If you can’t fight with your friends, well, who can you?”
Nelson found it hard to wrap his head around. He gave a hum he hoped wouldn’t show up on the tape before he looked back at her, “You said there was a fourth person, right?”
“Oh! Right… I got sidetracked!” Nancy knit her fingers together again, “Saffie Carbrink. She’s the youngest member of our group. A real sweetheart of a woman… I’m not sure what drew her to us old biddies to tell you the truth. I imagine she must be fairly lonely in a sleepy town like this.” She glanced at her son, “Not a bad looker either, if you’ve any interest in that market?”
Nelson blushed a shade redder and cleared his throat, “Can’t say I am, unfortunately, Mrs. Tethers…”
She snapped her fingers and gave a smile, shrugging, “Can’t blame a girl for trying, can you?” She gave a little sigh that ended in a laugh before tapping the page again, “Anyway-I feel like just about all these women would have a reason to sabotage Marge.”
“I still find that hard to believe…” Nelson said, tapping his fingers against the table, “I mean, what could be so serious about a book club to drive another woman to insanity?”
“Well, you’re just a mere outsider, unfortunately, but… hm. You may have a point…” Nancy hummed, tapping her fingers against her lips a moment as she mulled it over, eyes shutting for a moment, “Hmmm...” They popped open, making a fist to tap against her open palm, “Ah! I got it!”
Nelson sat up a bit, recorder up and ready to catch it, “Really? You do??”
“We could go ask her ourselves!”
Nelson gave a soft sigh and his best effort at a reassuring smile, “If it was that easy, they wouldn’t have called us. The last we checked, she wasn’t accepting any visitors.” He glanced at his coffee as he spoke, catching just a glimpse of his badge in his reflection, fixing it with a touch of telekinesis, “We could state we’re interviewing on behalf of the Psychonauts, but our investigation is kind of under wraps as-is. They might not let us in.”
“Well…” Nancy traced her fingertip around the mug before settling a hand back on its side, “That is true. But perhaps… we don’t need to enter specifically as agents?”
He’d started sipping his coffee when she spoke, raising a brow at her over the rim of his mug.
“After all, your friend seems to be quite adept at making illusionary objects…” she began, looking right at Nelson now as she said, “Can he disguise people at all?”
That got the man to pause, eyes wide for a moment, as he struggled down the coffee and set his mug back on the table with a little more force then intended, “Mom… I need you to be very clear that you’re not suggesting what I think you are.” He hissed through his teeth.
Nancy waved a hand, “Nelson, dear, please! I wouldn’t dare even dream about it!” She tapped her fingernail against the mug, making tiny ‘tink tink tink’ noises as she continued, “I mean really, me? Suggesting we, perhaps, impersonate a doctor and his aides to sneak into Marge’s room and get the information we need ? Well that would just be immoral, wouldn’t it?”
“It would, which is why we’re not doing it.” Nelson said quickly, taking a half glance out the nearby blinds to see if Nicodemus was somehow listening in. He seemed to be intently watering some roses, and fixing up one of the gnomes guarding the thorny bushes. Doing everything he could not to spy on the two of them. He shut the blinds, “It’s risky enough that you’re coming with us at all before we even think about getting the police involved!”
“Of course that’s assuming we get caught.” Nancy said, calmly sipping her coffee.
“The answer is no. ” He stood up to get more coffee, turning back to her as he began to refill his mug, “And I’m sure my partner is going to agree!”
“Agree to what?” Guybrush looked a little more bright-eyed as he glanced into the kitchen, his hair back in it’s classic ponytail and his hook looking freshly polished. And seeing Nicodemus wasn’t in the kitchen, he put a hand to his temple to start putting together a mug of coffee for himself while he was thinking about it, tilting the kettle in Nelson’s hand to pour for him. “What’d I miss?”
“Well Mr. Threepwood,” Nancy turned towards him, “how confident are you in your disguise skills?”
“Well, I mean-” Guybrush rubbed his claw against his chest and reached out to take the mug as it hovered over, a smirk on his face as he took that first sip, “-I don’t want to brag, but I’d dare say I’m one of the best in the business. Why?”
“How confident are you about impersonating some doctors?”
“Medical or surgical?”
“ Guybrush!! ” Nelson quickly set his mug down to hurry to his partner, putting both hands on his arms as he gave a desperate grin his way, “Come on, you’re my partner, remember? And as partners, we need to back each other up, right??”
Guybrush blinked once, twice, and gave a grin to Nelson, gesticulating with his hook, “Ahhh… yeah, I getcha!” He threw his arm around Nelson’s neck and beamed at his mother while Nelson quickly moved to catch his mug before it shattered on the ground, “The doctor doesn’t matter long as we help your mom out, right? I can give it a shot!”
“Ye-NO!!” Nelson squirmed out from his grip, set the mug on the counter, and stared intently at Guybrush, raising a brow at him. In turn, Guybrush blinked innocently, tilted his head, and gave a little huff as he raised a brow. That got Nelson to rub over his face, groan, and jab a finger at Guybrush with a glare on his face. Which made Guybrush give a gasp, hook to his chest, glaring right back and giving him a few prods with his own finger.
“Boys, if you have something to say, I’d prefer I don’t have to read your minds to get it.” Nancy said from the table, taking another sip of her coffee as she stared between the two of them.
Nelson stared back like a deer in the headlights, awkwardly clearing his throat and straightening back up, putting his hands together as he took in a deep breath, “I just think this is a bad idea that could go very, very wrong.”
“You’ve done ten times weirder stuff on our other missions!” Guybrush insisted, waving his hand and hook in the air while rolling his eyes, “And we have the Psychonauts on our backs! If something does go wrong, which it won’t, they can cover for us after the fact!”
“Yes, after the fact! In the meantime we could endanger my mother for no reason!!” He crossed his arms, “If we don't talk to Mrs. Peterson ourselves, we’ll… we’ll find another point to investigate. Maybe talk to mom’s other club members-”
“And miss out on a prime witness!” Guybrush stuck his hands on his hips now, eyes narrowed on his partner, “Not to mention, your mom could probably get more info out of her then either of us could!”
“She was driven insane by the incident!” Nelson snipped back, putting his foot down, “We could be putting my mom at unnecessary risk and not even get any valuable leads from it!”
“We’re secret agents! It’s in the job title to take some risks!”
“Not with a sixty year old woman on the line, Guybrush!”
There was a heavy ‘CLINK’ at the kitchen table as Nancy set down her empty mug and stood up, her eyes on the two of them as she walked over. It was the sort of face Guybrush was more familiar with seeing on Elaine, and Nelson hadn’t seen on his mother in quite some time, not even noticing Guybrush ducking behind him to avoid her stare. “Let me get one thing perfectly clear with you two.” She said, looking between the both of them with that steely gaze, “I’m coming with you whether you two like it or not. And if it will help your case and Marge, I’m not going to just sit at home and wait because it’s safer for me.”
She leveled her gaze on Nelson, watched him squirm for a moment, glancing away from her as she breathed out, “At the end of the day, your partner is right. And you know he is. This may be your best opportunity to get some information beyond just tainted sugar. And I may be old, but that doesn’t make me useless.”
Nelson managed to look back at her, “I-I didn’t say you-”
“You didn’t mean to.” Nancy cut him off, her shoulders slouching a bit, “I know…” She breathed out, quiet for a moment as her expression softened, from one of cool anger to a slight disappointment, “...I don’t want you to worry about me, Nelson. I can take care of myself yet.”
Nelson grimaced, biting back the surge of guilt that expression made him feel, like a pit opened up in his stomach. He was forced to look between her and Guybrush, and Guybrush wasn’t making things much better, with the rather emotional look he had on his face as he tried his best to sniff back a tear, with his hook under his eye in some vain attempt to catch it. Nelson shut his eyes firmly, breathed in again through his nose, and breathed out, “Alright, alright. We’ll give this plan a shot-” As the two brightened, he quickly raised a finger, “- if they don’t let us visit on our badges alone! We try the safer option first , alright?”
Nancy seemed far more sunny again as she reached up and pinched Nelson’s cheek, “Oh of course, dear! The big agent knows best, doesn’t he??”
“Ow ow ow! Are you still mad??”
“Just give me about… there!” She let go of his cheek when he had a nice red mark left behind, clapping her hands as she turned to Guybrush, “Now that that’s settled! I believe I was going to whip up some of those pineapple upside-down pancakes of mine, eh? How would you like to help out, dear?”
That got the man to perk up in snap, the bright grin coming to his face as he snapped his fingers towards her, “Only as long as you share the recipe!”
“Hah! Awfully clever, aren’t you?” Nancy chuckled, taking Guybrush’s hand to guide him over to the fridge to get started on cooking.
Nelson grabbed his mug again, topping the lukewarm coffee up with some hotter brew from the kettle and took a seat at the kitchen table. He stared at himself while his mom and partner idly chatted as they cooked. His eyes still looked wide and tired, and a lingering guilt made the coffee taste a little more bitter then before. At the end of the day, his partner was right. He had done riskier moves then just sneaking past hospital staff disguised as one of their own, so… why has that bothered him so much?
The question kept on circling in his mind. As it has since last night: when had he gotten so scared of screwing things up?
And was this a justified fear?
Chapter 6: The Hospital
“Agent Tethers reporting in. After a rather… engaging night, we’ve begun our further investigation into the Weatherly case regarding Marge Peterson… you may hear noise in the background. That is from my partner, agent Threepwood, and our main witness, Nancy Tethers… relation to myself.
As stated in a previous tape, our first destination will be the local hospital, the Weatherly Wellness Clinic, to try for an interview with the victim. According to our last known research, Mrs. Peterson was being kept in the psychiatric ward at the local hospital following a police investigation after being found in a catatonic state. Currently we’re not aware if she has come out of this trance nor if the clinic is allowing visitors in her room. If we’re lucky, we’ll have the law on our side to gain access and she’ll be responsive enough to tell us if there was another person at her home on the night of the incident.
...I’m also thinking about that premonition I had. My m-Mrs. Tethers has suggested four other suspects in the case: Mrs. Moss, Mrs. Whittaker, Mrs. Auburgene, and Mrs. Carbrink. Mrs. Tethers, Mrs. Peterson, and all other suspects are members of a particular book club. It’s probable that one of them could be the suspect, but… their motive is still beyond me. Why would they spike one of their own with psitanium? And to what end? Were they hoping to cause a psychic awakening or… was this more akin to a poisoning?”
“Nelson, dear, you’re missing out on the tour!”
“Yeah! This is valuable stuff here, Nelly!”
“Agent Tethers out.”
Nelson stuck the recorder back in his pocket before leaning up to look through the open spot between the driver’s seat and shotgun, squinting from the mid-morning sun shining through the windshield window, “The town doesn’t look all that different.”
“Now now, there’s been a lot that’s changed since you left home!” Nancy insisted from the driver’s seat, pointing out a shop as they passed that contained a whole variety of prom dresses, “That used to be a bridal shop, remember?”
Nelson squinted a bit harder as they passed by, a hum coming out as he sat back in his seat, “They still sell dresses. Is that really a big enough change for a town tour?”
“Nelson, Nelson, Nelly-belly-“ Guybrush pokes his head through the gap to look at Nelson, his claw just pricking the seat back as he rolled his eyes, with a sort of “can you believe this guy?” smirk on his face, “-you’re missing out on all the history this town has!”
Nelson raised a brow as he sat back, “Oh yeah? Like what?”
“Well… like that big store over there!” Guybrush said, Nelson moving back in his seat to avoid Guybrush jabbing a finger in his eye when he pointed, “Apparently that used to be a big factory sorta place!”
Nelson nodded, “And then it became a J-Mart, which…” he blinked a few times, looking back through his window, “...Is actually a little surprising. Felt like that place was always having a closing down sale going on when I was applying for college.”
“Oh yes, they made it a whole big hullabaloo.” Nancy said, taking a turn down the brick and mortar streets of downtown Weatherly onto a scenic road, passing by older ivy-grown homes and wooden picket fences, “I’m pretty sure the manager of that place just bought the whole building and decided to run it as his own place.”
“Huh. Good for him.” Nelson made a quick mental note to check the place before they left back for HQ. They had always had fairly nice ties. But his mind was quick to wander as they passed through the shady, quiet neighborhoods of his old town. Past trees that would have stood as saplings when he was a kid, now keeping the few kids out and about cool from the rays of sunshine coming through, while they kicked around pristine piles of the leaves starting to fall. It was the kind of scene that had its picture painted and slapped on the side of a jigsaw puzzle box.
There was a sort of unease that came with it.
He could recognize so much of this town. From the old highschool which still stood since it was built in the twenties to the fire hydrant on the corner he would have used as a marking point on his walks. The same graveyard where his father’s father was buried and the faint, burnt sugar odor of cigar shops long closed that still cling to the air. In small ways, it was comforting to be in the sleepy little community here in Weatherly. But in others, there was still that sense of unease. Of the last time he’d dealt with a small town mystery expecting simple answers.
And while Weatherly wasn’t blanketed in snow, miles away from any real civilization, he felt like he was still waiting to see something. Something to justify the creeping sensation on the back of his neck that made what hair he had stand on end.
“Nelson?” He blinked back to consciousness at seeing his mother’s eyes on the rear view mirror, looking back at him, “Are you alright dear? You look pale…”
Nelson rubbed down the hairs on his neck and worked on a polite smile, “Ah, I’m fine mom. They usually have me on a-a lot of paperwork back at HQ is all.”
“Oh yeah, your kid is like-“ Guybrush made a sweeping motion with his arms, like he was summoning up a rainbow, “-a paperwork whiz! I swear I’ve caught up with way more cases since I got him!”
Nelson let out a half chuff through his nose, “I wouldn’t have had to if you just did it right the first time.”
“Y’know, Elaine tells me that all the time!” Guybrush tapped his hook to his chin contemplatively, “No clue why though…”
“Mom, how close are we to the hospital?”
“We should be pulling up in just a few minutes, Nelson.” Nancy turned down a leftside road towards smoother streets, freshly paved compared to the older ones in those quaint little neighborhoods. “I’ll drop you boys off by the front and find us a good parking spot.”
Nelson sat up to get a better look, rolling down the window to stick his head out a bit, “You don’t have to do that.”
“I don’t mind, honest!” Nancy gripped the wheel when she laughed, giving a smile at the rear view mirror, “It’s exciting, in a way! Feels like I’m the getaway driver! Plus, you two can check if they’ll allow an agent in before we enact our top secret sneaking in plan!”
“That we’re only doing if they don’t let us in with our badges!” Nelson reminded, looking back out the window as the hospital came into view. It was one of the newest buildings in town: with gleaming windows, a freshly painted exterior, and a bright neon sign that clearly read ‘WEATHERLY MEMORIAL HOSPITAL’.
Guybrush leaned forward in his seat for a better look, flipping up the sun visor with his hook, “Somebody big die around here?”
“Oh no, no such thing.” Nancy said, beginning to pull into the paved parking lot that led to the front entrance, “I think they just called it that to stretch out the name a bit. Make it look good for the brochures.”
“This is a pretty small town…” Nelson said as he pulled his head back inside, already unbuckling as the car pulled around, “Where’d the money for this new sparkling hospital come from?”
“That I’m less sure about.” Nancy pursed her lips, bringing the car to a stop, “I sat in on a few town meetings when the talks of this place started coming around, but beyond that, the budget is something of a mystery to me. I can say the doctors were very nice when I stubbed my toe something fierce.”
“Oooof, been there.” Guybrush hissed in mutual sympathy, “Course, I stubbed my hand more or less.” He held up the hook with a shrug, “Well, maybe not ‘stubbed’ so much as ‘stumped’, eh? Eh??”
Nancy gave a little giggle at that, which was enough to make Guybrush nearly try for another, before Nelson opened the door for him so he fell back on the asphalt instead, Nancy looking back at her son with a gasp, “Nelson!”
Nelson drew his hand back from his temple and looked off rather innocently as he opened the door, “I’ll relay what’s going on to you as soon as we have more information, and know if we’re allowed inside or not.”
Nancy was giving him a disapproving look as Guybrush picked himself up off the parking lot and dusted off his coat, letting out a little breath. She nodded, “Alright… The minute you know, Nelly!”
That got another snicker out of Guybrush while Nelson tried his best not to blush, waving his mom off once his partner had joined back by him. He waved his hook to send the older woman off, flicking his wrist to make it look like a normal hand before fixing his badge so it was nice and visible, “You know, I dunno why you were so embarrassed about her, Nelly - your mom is a pretty cool gal!”
Nelson had been waving her off, but his hand curled inwards like a dying spider as he side-eyed his partner with a frown, “You calling me ‘Nelly’ now is reason enough.” He made sure his own badge was pinned on his coat lapel, looking up at the gleaming hospital entrance. Through the clear sliding doors was a view of the lobby - a pristine white setup with the occasional splash of color from tropical indoor plants or padded benches the color of mahogany. There were a few patients or family members in waiting sitting around, reading magazines or tapping idly at their flip phones, but it seemed to be a fairly slow morning. A large, rounded desk served as the main hub of this lobby, with three nurses manning the station.
As the two agents walked inside, one in particular caught Nelson’s eye. She was sitting up in front, checking over a clipboard in her hand. Despite how new this hospital looked, they had a dress code akin to something out of a 1950s portrait, with clean white dress aprons over collared shirts and sharp cornered hats (perhaps as a way to appeal to the older generation that stuck around this town - a thought Nelson put a pin in under ‘irrelevant, but interesting’.) Unlike her peers, this one had opted to wear a facemask, as well as blue latex gloves. Nelson could see just a peek of strawberry blond hair moved back to tuck under her hat, but it was hard to really get a read on when he saw her eyes.
With her pointed hat, elegant body, and almost heart-shaped face, well… she looked like a statue owned by a frequent shopper of fancy feast. Making it all the stranger that it was her eyes that stuck out the most. Catlike and large, staring directly at him with a curious glint, like a pair of turquoise gemstones. Like she knew something.
He could safely say that she was a very attractive young woman. Definitely enough to make him swallow, but not solely because of it. There was something strange about her. Something about that look was striking him as oddly familiar, almost threatening, like a hunter seeing a mouse for the first time. It was a thought he had to shove backwards, flailing off a cliff and screaming, the moment his partner stepped up to lean on the counter and flash a charming grin, “We-he-hell, hello there madam!”
She looked up, and gave a pleasant smile - he hoped, anyway. It was hard to get a read of her expressions with the mask and hat on, “Oh! Hello there sir! Welcome to Weatherly Memorial Hospital - got an appointment with us today?”
“In a way, I do.” Guybrush continued, putting his hand on his cheek, “I’d dare say I have an appointment with destiny after seeing you from the doorway.”
She giggled in a girlish, high sort of way and waved a gloved hand, “Flattery will get you everywhere!” She glanced down at her clipboard, “Jokes aside though, name? Are you visiting today?”
“We are-” Nelson elbowed in before Guybrush could make another run at it, adjusting his badge as he cleared his throat, “-actually here on some official business.” He gave Guybrush a few more nudges before the man straightened up, showing off his badge in a similar way. “We need to see Mrs. Marge Peterson? I believe she’s staying here at your hospital.”
“Oh! Well, she is, but…” She looked between the both of them, “Are you two members of her family?”
Nelson blinked, and he cleared his throat, again fingering his lapel to show off the badge, “Well, not technically, but we are on some official business regarding her case…”
“I don’t recognize you from the department… the police have been by a few times for her - do you have your precinct badges on hand?”
Now Nelson was beginning to deflate just a bit, his brow creasing as he moved his hand off the lapel, tapping the pin, “You… don’t know what this symbol means, do you?”
“I know it’s a pretty nice pin you two have!” She gave a faint cough before setting the clipboard down, folding her hands over it, “But Mrs. Peterson is only accepting family right now.”
Nelson let out a soft sigh, his shoulders slumped, taking a peek around the desk, “Okay, but… do you have anything on file about her? How is her condition?”
“Are you… seeing anyone, recently?” Guybrush jumped back when Nelson stomped down on his foot.
The nurse was starting to look just a little concerned now as she glanced between the two, “Oh dear… I’m really sorry, but I’m afraid that information is classified. Doctor/patient confidentiality and all.” She glanced at Guybrush, took a quick peek back at her fellow nurses, and leaned a bit on the counter, the corner of a smile just peeking over her mask, “As for you… I’m taken. But it’s sweet of you to offer, sugar.”
He gave that charming grin back, a bit muted given he was currently trying to get the blood back to the squashed part of his foot, “H-hey, hard to resist a cute face like yours, right? Though… it’d probably be cuter without the mask on.”
“Oh, you’re sweet, but…” She paused, giving another slight cough before waving a hand, “I’m getting over a cold. I’m fine at reception long as I keep my mask on!”
Nelson glanced down, “The gloves too?”
“...yes.” She looked over the both of them, “Is there anything else I can help you gentlemen with?”
Trying his best to hide his frustration and mounting disappointment, Nelson shook his head and gave a polite smile, “Thanks for the help anyway…”
She shut her eyes when she smiled, picking up the clipboard again and a pen to settle back to work, tilting her head to the side with a small nod, “Of course. Have a good day, sirs!”
Guybrush snapped his fingers at her and smirked, “You too, beautiful!” He didn’t get to get another word out as Nelson took the man by hooking an arm through his to drag him back out the front, the wannabe pirate only getting one more wave in before the doors slid shut behind them.
Nelson pinched the bridge of his nose once they were outside, glanced down to the pin on his chest when the sunlight glinted off it, and rubbed over his face, “What’s the point of us even having these badges if they don’t do anything?”
“Well, first of all-” Guybrush waved a hand over it with a flare to catch the light reflecting off its surface, making Nelson squint due to it, “-they look extremely cool. And they get us into some places!”
Nelson frowned, crossing his arms, “Like where exactly?”
Guybrush blinked, scratching his cheek, “Well… one time Elaine and I wanted to get a pizza and I was a couple bucks short. So I showed them the badge and they gave us a discount!” At Nelson’s judgemental stare, Guybrush scratched the back of his neck, “I mean… it wasn’t very good. And uh… I think they might’ve thought it was because I was a marine biologist? The pizza place had a whole ‘grotto’ theme going for it and I guess he thought it was brain coral or something because-”
A frustrated groan came out of Nelson before he could stop it, “Guybrush, Guybrush, I don’t care if your badge got you a free pizza-”
“Whatever it was!” He looked back at the hospital, at the nurse working on paperwork behind that main desk, “My point is what good is it being a secret agent if we’re so secret nobody even knows who we are!”
“Awww hey, hey, buddy-” Guybrush slung an arm around him (his hook arm, judging by the light poke on his chest where his hand landed), and gave him a look of sympathy, “-cmon, I thought you’d be used to this by now.”
Nelson let out a deep breath, “I guess I should be, shouldn’t I?… doesn’t change how frustrating it is though.”
“Truuuue… Buuuuuuuut-” Guybrush grinned now, nudging his cheek lightly with his elbow, “-not all hope is lost for our interview now, is it?”
Nelson looked over his partner, raising a brow, “We walked in with no information and we left with no information.”
“Oh, did we now?”
“But… did we really? ”
Nelson squinted at him, “I mean… if your goal was to try and get her number… and aren’t you married anyway-”
Guybrush leaned back with a scandalized gasp, “Nelson! I wouldn’t dream of deceiving Elaine!” He clutched his hands on his chest and twirled on one foot, nearly fainting back dramatically, “Why, if I did that, you might as well string me up and leave me to dry before she had the chance to exact her horrible but justified revenge!” He poked Nelson’s nose as he leaned backwards, “No no no, I wasn’t after her number-” When he stood back up, one of his hands de-materialized, turning into that golden hook once again… with a single small scrap of paper torn off and jabbed into the tip, “-but that doesn’t mean I didn’t get a number.”
At that, Nelson’s eyes widened just a bit, grabbing the hook and pulling the scrap of paper off, “You got Mrs. Peterson’s room number??”
Guybrush grinned, “ Yep! By the way, thanks for keeping her distracted - it’s a little draining to keep a hand looking normal and invisible at the same time-” He winked, “-just a little trick from the ol’ Threepwood guidebook I figured I’d take advantage of!”
Nelson looked up at him with some skepticism, “And you’re positive this is hers?”
“Sure as anything!” Guybrush tapped his noggin, “Leaned over myself for a better look - it was a lucky thing she was on the page when we walked in, huh?”
Nelson blinked. His brows knitted, tucking the paper in his coat pocket, “Lucky… or very convenient.” He hummed, “But even if we have her room number, we’re still not getting in for a visit…” He had a hand up to his chin, tapping his pointer finger to it as he thought, slowly realizing that Guybrush had yet to move his arm from Nelson’s shoulders. And he was looking at him with an increasingly wider grin stuck on his face, “...what?”
“C’mon Nelly…” Guybrush’s grin crept a little higher, “Don’t tell me you forgot your promise already, huh?” He tapped his claw on his chest, “Breakfast wasn’t that long ago, eh?”
“My pr-...” That was when Nelson remembered. His eyes slowly widened, as if he’d just watched his cat get run over by a car, and he grimaced, “...Oh no.”
“Oh yeah.” Guybrush nodded.
Nelson began to duck out of his grip with a soft groan escaping him as he whined, “Guybrush-”
“Ohohoho yeah -” Guybrush pulled him in, his arm ending up around his neck for a moment, “You promised! If your plan didn’t work-”
“Gagh! I know what I said, but-”
“Nooo going back on your word now, Nelly-belly!!”
“N-Nelly-be-hey! Don’t use the hook!!”
“Oh?” It was right when Guybrush was trying to noogie the squirming Nelson’s head that Nancy finally walked up, just a bit winded as she stepped onto the curb, “Well, you boys are in fine spirits I see. How’d it go in there?”
Nelson managed to slip his way out from Guybrush’s grasp to give his mom a reassuring smile that one might give before telling someone their home burnt down, “Fine!! Fine enough!! Did you have trouble finding a space?”
“Boy, I’ll say.” Nancy took a look back at the parking lot with disdain, “It felt like there were hardly any spots close by that were open…” She glanced back at Nelson and raised a brow, “... Are you quite sure of that?”
“Actually,” Guybrush stepped forward now, a grin on his face as he showed the reclaimed scrap of paper, “We got a lead on what room your friend is in, Mrs. T!”
Nancy brightened at that, reaching over to take the paper for a quick scan before she gave a bright grin at Guybrush, “Well! That’s wonderful news, dear!” She then glanced sidelong at her son, her smile turning a little bit more sly, “Although… if you two are out here, and not in there, well… I’d dare say we have to go with my plan then?”
Nelson squeezed his eyes shut, his shoulders dropping as he let out a long sigh, “...I… did make a promise…”
“Yes you did.” Nancy put a hand on her chest as she opened her eyes a little wider, looking at Nelson in mock surprise, “To your own mother, no less!! Surely something you wouldn’t dare go back on, right?”
“Yeah Nelly-” Guybrush put an arm around Nancy and grinned like a fiend, “-wouldn’t want to go back on a promise to dear ol’ mom, would ya?”
Nelson rubbed both his hands slowly over his face, pulling along his eyelids with them until he let his hands drop to his side, glancing to the sky as if hoping God might have a reason that he allowed these two conspirators a chance to meet. An idea struck him as he stared at the clouds for a moment, and when he looked back at the two, there was a smile on his face, “Well! We don’t know what her doctor looks like! It would be awfully difficult for us to sneak around the hospital if we look like a pair of random doctors instead of well known ones!” He crossed his arms and gave a more pleased grin with himself, head held high. “So, we’ll just have to figure out another way around-”
At that moment, a pair of doctors returning from a well-needed coffee run walked up to the front steps, one of them turning to his colleague, “So how goes it on the Peterson case?”
“Eh? Could be better, could be worse.” The other doctor replied, the doors sliding open to let the both of them in.
Nelson felt the majority of his blood turn to stone.
The only thing he could really move was his eyes, which he just managed to twitch towards the downright sinister grins coming off of Guybrush and Nancy Tethers, the two looking like they might burst into laughter if it wasn’t by
the universe had decided to give him.
I really miss my old office.
He thought to himself as the two grabbed him and dragged him out of sight of the main lobby.
Moments later, a pair of doctors and a nurse arrived and began walking quickly through the lobby. The more enthusiastic of the pair waving to the occasional patient and nurse he passed by, while his cohort had a look on his face like a broken man, nudged along by the nurse at his back giving it the occasional comforting pat. A few of the patients and waiting room folks looked a little puzzled at doctors they could have sworn they saw walking in, but it wasn’t something they were willing to linger too long on. After all, they had more important things to worry about then twin doctors and the older nurses that loved them.
When the trio piled into one of the elevators, Nelson gave a jump at the cool hook landing in his palm, letting out a hiss through his teeth. He glanced at his partner, raising a brow at him as a peek of his blond goatee showed through his brown, fuzzy beard, “I thought you said you could handle this?”
“I mean-” Guybrush gave a half laugh, shutting his eyes for a moment to focus, the blond turning back to fuzzy beard as he let out a breath, “-kinda… not used to doing three at once, admittedly…”
“Well I still have to use my powers too you know.” Nelson could feel the cool wash of Guybrush’s illusions wobble and roll over him like a wave, shaking off the start of a shiver and rubbing his arm, “Which floor was it?”
“Should be… the fourth floor. Four-o-two.” Nancy said, fixing her hat a bit, then patting Guybrush’s arm, giving him an encouraging smile. She squeezed his hand, “You’re doing very good so far, dear. You can drop it once we get to Marge’s room, okay?”
“Thanks Mrs. T…” Guybrush side-eyed his partner, “Would be nice if somebody could appreciate my work a bit more…”
“Well, if you can get us out of here in disguise, I probably will.” The elevator moved slowly upwards, pinging through each floor. It was through sheer luck that they managed to stick to just the three of them in that elevator. As they got closer, Nancy’s brows furrowed, the smile dropping off her face as she gave a low hum.
“Oh, that isn’t good…”
“Hm?” Guybrush was trying hard to keep his ponytail from popping out of the illusion, “Something up, Mrs. T?”
“You can’t feel it?” As the elevator opened on the fourth floor, Guybrush had to force down a shiver, squeezing her hand a little tighter. Nancy looked his way, raising a brow, “How about now?”
“Hooooo… yeah that’s uh… that’s not good.” Guybrush chuckled nervously, stepping into the hall with the both of them. “Stay close.”
Nelson was looking between his mother and his partner now, his brows going up as far as they could manage, “Am I missing something here?” He took a glance around the hallway as he was tugged along. For all intents and purposes, it seemed to be a normal hospital hallway. Clean and sterile, with the occasional cart or gurney set against the wall here and there, littered between the available rooms set up along the hall. Everything seemed about right to him.
...of course, there was a strange sort of weight to the air. Something Nelson quickly tried to blame on a storm rolling in. That often came with atmospheric pressure, didn’t it?... but then he had to remind himself that it had been a perfectly sunny autumn day when they had entered the hospital earlier. And still showed such through the few windows he got a glimpse at. His two cohorts tugged him along before he could linger longer then he needed to, dragging him quickly into room 402.
Guybrush pulled the privacy curtain closed behind him, just in time for the illusion to sputter out like a lit match. He puffed out a breath with a whistle on the end, Nelson clapping a hand over his mouth and taking a quick peek to see if anyone heard. “Marge…?” Once the coast was clear, he looked back at the room to see what they were dealing with.
Nancy had stepped up to the bedside of a woman near her age. Maybe just a hair older, but not by much. Her dark hair was splayed out on the pillows, hooked up to an IV drip and oxygen mask. She had a troubled expression on her face, but her breathing was calm, the only sound in the room besides the gentle ‘blip’ of the heart monitor by her side.
Nancy took a seat by her bedside. It was with caution that she reached out, taking her hand in her own as if it might shatter at her touch. It was strange to see his mom - a woman normally so strong, with a smile on her face and her chin held high - look so despondent in an instant. Her thumb carefully rubbing over the wrinkled back of her friend’s hand as she looked down on her. “Is...is this your first time visiting Marge?” Nelson asked after a minute of silence had passed
Nancy slowly nodded, “They claimed they were only letting family visit her but… when Greg passed on, that was it. Her children had work, families… it’s hard to drop that quickly. Especially if your mother isn’t on death’s door so much as… well… this. ” Nancy reached back to rub one of her eyes, “A part of me thinks I could have stopped this.”
“Hey hey,” Guybrush stepped forward, waving a hand, “what could you have done, Mrs. T? It’s not like you’re a mind re-“
Nelson cut him off before he could bury himself deeper, “He’s partly right. You can’t blame yourself for her attack, mom.”
Nancy gave a small laugh, “I know, I know, but...I just think back to those damn teacups…” Her smile faded off to a frown as she squeezed Marge’s hand, “She was talking with someone that night… and I don’t know what about. Was it something she could have confided with me about? Something she wasn’t telling me?”
Guybrush scratches the back of his neck with his hook, then places it on his chin, his brain working, working - ding! - he looked up with his epiphany, “I mean… could always find out the old fashioned way?”
Nelson looked back at him, blinked, and tilted his head a bit, “Read her mind?”
“I was thinking a bit more-“ Guybrush dug into his pocket, the psycho-portal hovering in his hand as he held it aloft, “-in depth?”
Nelson’s eyes widened, “You wanna jump into her head??”
Guybrush blinked and cocked his head to the side, “Was that… Not the plan??”
“Not as far as I gathered!” Nelson said in a whisper that was trying its hardest not to become a yell, “But, we haven’t been following my plan since the start, so sure! Might as well put ourselves in even more risk!”
“Sheesh! Nelson, calm down - this is like, our job here, buddy!” Guybrush stepped over to Marge now, “It’ll be an in and out thing! Nothing to panic about!”
Nancy set a hand on Nelson’s, “Dear…”
He looked at her, shutting his mouth. It seemed to take some effort for him to breathe in through his nose, shut his eyes, and calm himself down, “...I don’t want to leave my mom alone, Guybrush.”
“So don’t.” His partner set the portal gently on Marge’s head, “It’ll be an in and out thing. Just ask her what happened and hop out. Maybe it’ll give me a better idea of what happened to her.”
“Nelson,” Nancy squeezes his hand, “If you need to go in there, don’t let me keep you from it.” She gave a half smile at him, “I swear, I’ll be just fine out here. I can handle it.”
Nelson looked like he didn’t quite believe it. He thought of the look she gave him earlier - that moment of disappointment that still stuck in his mind - a look he wasn’t soon about to forget. It was a stupid thing to worry about what his mother thought of him. There was no way she had any authority over him now - he was a grown man after all. And she could clearly handle herself. Yet he still looked at her and thought of the folks back in Scoggins. Grown men and women who probably thought everything would be fine… right up until they vanished without a trace.
He felt her squeeze his hand again, and he let go of the breath he was holding, squeezing in kind. “Don’t… don’t go anywhere, okay?” He asked, looking back at her with a sort of pleading expression on his face, “We’ll be right back.”
Nancy tsked, patting the top of his hand, “Dear, really… you worry too much. I swear, I’ll be fine.”
He looked less and less sure by the minute, his partner having gone around to the other side of Marge’s bed, the portal floating in his hand. It seemed clear that even if Nelson didn’t go in, he was going to. So he relented, giving his mom one last tight hold before he got up and went around to his partner’s side, grabbing a nearby chair to sit down in. Once he was set, he gripped Guybrush’s hand and a silent nod was shared between the two of them before the psycho-portal landed on Marge’s head. Their eyes slipped shut, and Marge watched their astral projections slip away, deep into Marge’s subconsciousness, watching her face twitch for just a moment before relaxing as the door shut.
Leaving Nancy alone with her friend.
It made it much easier to drop her brave face and bring both her hands around hers, holding it close, let a few tears run over and try to steady her shaky breathing, giving a small laugh, “You… you probably can’t tell what’s going on right now Marge. That was my little Nelly that went in there… he’s grown a lot since college, hasn’t he?” She let out a breath, “He got so busy… I know, I shouldn’t be upset at him. Going off, doing these big, bold missions for the state of the world. He… he takes more after me then Nico, it turns out. Aha... “ She swiped her thumb across her hand, giving it a firmer squeeze.
“As it turns out, Nelly did get my powers. It’s hard to think how excited I was when he was younger. I thought… well, I thought maybe he would seek me out. Ask me what was going on with him. And I could show him how they worked, how many people are out there like us… “ She sighed, “... I know you were never as open about yours as I was. If you could call me ‘open’. But… I figured he would understand, at least…”
Nancy swallowed, glancing towards the window, the blinds shuttered over it, making the room feel dark as pitch. She reached out a hand, and psychically pulled the blind just a bit. Just enough to let a little of the sunshine in. “There we go… not so dreary now, is it dear?” Nancy pet her hands, took a look around the empty, sterile space, and took in another shaky breath, “...I don’t think my son remembers you as much, but… try to cooperate with him. He wants to help you. So does his friend. We want to know what happened to you that night.” She squeezed her hand in both of hers, bowing her head, “Please, Marge, before this happens to someone again, just… tell us who did this. Please...”
She stayed like that, her head bowed, her hands around Marge’s, before she felt just the slightest twitch. Nancy sat up, watched the hand twitch, fingers curling. A gentle grip, and a tired voice that came along with it, “Nance…?” Marge was bleary-eyed, her head tilted slightly to the side, the door still shut on her head as she tried to focus on the woman holding her hand. Neither of them said anything for a moment. She looked around the room, confused and exhausted before she settled her gaze on Nelson and Guybrush by her beside. Marge’s grip became stronger, and she finally worked on a smile and a dry chuckle, “Couldn’t keep the gum out of his hair…?”
Nancy blinked, and then sputtered into a laugh and a grin, a hand coming up to cover her mouth and wipe another tear away, patting over Marge’s hand, “Oh hush, you old bat. ” She spoke with affection in her voice, “He started doing it himself around highschool!”
“Hah!” Marge laughed, ending in a wheeze as she turned her head to grin at Nancy, “But Nico’s still got a full head of hair? What’s the world coming to?”
Nancy’s laughter died down to a snicker, glancing from the portal to Marge again as her smile dipped. Both her hands came down to clench on her friend’s, “Marge… I would love nothing more then to catch up, but… but I need to know what happened that night. Who were you with?”
Marge blinked a few times, her brows creasing, “Who I was… with?”
Blip… blip… blip…
“Please, Marge.” Nancy had a grimace now as she remembered her house, the club… how many more people were at risk of going through what Marge went through? “I need to know who was using that other teacup. Was it someone we know? A member of the club?”
“I…” Marge squinted, the heart monitor beginning to quicken it’s relaxed pace as she focused, “I don’t… I don’t know if I remember…”
“Can you try for me?” Nancy looked her in the eyes as best as she could, “You were in your home. You had tea or coffee with someone. You used the nice china, they… they gave you something you shouldn’t have had. Who else was there with you?”
Blip.. blip.. Blip.. blip.. blip..
“I…” Marge squeezed her eyes shut, focusing, trying her best to remember. Pressing the base of her palm against her temple. She almost touched the door on her forehead, before her eyes snapped open as wide as they could go. She sat up with a start in her bed, gripping Nancy by the arms, “You can’t trust her.”
Nancy bit back the pain from how tight her grip felt, looking back at Marge as she held her arms, “W-who? Which one, Marge?? Tell me!”
“ You can’t trust her. She says she’s one of us but she’s not-she’s not human-” Marge insisted. Her voice trembled, her heart monitor filling the room with loud blips, one right after the other-
“A name Marge!” Nancy insisted, hearing the sound of doctors and nurses starting to run for the room, alarmed by the sudden increase in her pulse. “We need a name! Something! Please!”
Marge’s nails dug into Nancy’s arms as she pulled her in close, her dark hair wild around her head, her voice a haunted whisper as she stared into her eyes with her own - wide and bloodshot - “She has horns, Nancy-”
Nancy’s breath caught in her throat, blinking once, twice, ignoring the pain in her arms as she swallowed, “S… she has what?”
It looked like Marge was going to say more, but she was cut off. An unnatural light that came from behind Nancy, lighting a single stripe on her face. All the blood seemed to drain out of her face, and for a moment she stared at Nancy. Something akin to regret in those wide, horrified eyes.
Then they shone.
A brilliant purple light filled up her eyes and she let go of Nancy to fall back with the chair, gripping her head and letting out a piercing scream. The door on her forehead shot open and spat out the two projections, sending both men back into their bodies with enough force to knock them against the window. Nelson cracked the glass with his head to land with a hard ‘THUD’ on the floor, while Guybrush narrowed in more towards the linen closet, sending towels and spare hospital gowns falling on top of him. As Marge’s screams grew in pitch, her dark hair began to float and flow around her like an octopus, writhing in the air. That heavy feeling was beginning to pound down as psychic force swept through the room.
The out of control heart-monitor sparked before it popped in an explosion of sparks. Liquid in her IV bag began to bubble and melt into a puddle on the floor. The light fixtures flickered and sparked wildly, sending showers of sparkling light down on the group, as outside the room, yells and emergency staff footsteps grew louder and louder.
Guybrush had barely gotten himself together again when the window exploded outwards in a rain of glass, and Nancy ran over, hefting her son as best as she could to grip onto her waist in his semi-conscious state, turning to Guybrush, “Can you levitate?!”
Guybrush blinked and shook his head out like a dog trying to dry off after a shower, “Uh, last I checked?”
“Alright, good, good - How about from the fourth floor?”
“I mean, I’m not exactly the best at acting under pressure, but-” Before he could get another word out, Nancy was stepping out the window with her son. Forcing Guybrush to quickly fall out after the both of them right as doctors burst into the room. All along the way down, nearby windows cracked or exploded outwards, that psychic tension driving out in waves to follow them down to the rapidly oncoming parking lot. Nancy gripped her son tightly as she waited, and waited.
… Then quietly let out a breath of relief as their descent halted, then slowed to land them on the sidewalk, Guybrush with his arm around her middle, trembling like a teacup breed during a thunderstorm as he heaved out the first gasp of many. “Okay… okay… I’m… starting to get Nelson’s point… a bit!”
“Worry about that later, dear-” She thrust her son into his arms, quick-stepping towards the parking lot, “We have to get driving now. ”
Chapter 7: Inn the Car
“Are minds normally this full of…” Nelson reached out, tugged on a string, and watched it jitter and tremble on for seemingly miles, shining off of the other colorer strands of its ilk off into the distance, “...Cobwebs?”
“None as far as this…” Guybrush backed up into him, tugged lightly on a strand with his hook, and put it to his chin with a hum, “The one day I don’t bring my duster too…”
Nelson snapped back to look at him, “You
“I wasn’t thinking about card collecting this mission!” Guybrush waved a hand, “That’s like cadet-level stuff, alright? Plus I uh…” He pressed his claw and fingertip together before looking off, “Might’ve uh… left it with our stuff. Back at the hotel.” He glanced sidelong at Nelson, “How about yours?”
“I… Might have also left mine behind.” Nelson whipped around at a ‘snrk’, “It’s bulky! And cumbersome and… very, very hard to fit in a suit jacket from place to place, okay?”
“You don’t just keep it in your head, Nelly?”
“I can do what now?”
“I’ll uh...I’ll give you some pointers later.” Guybrush said with a grin and another pluck of his claw against the tangled mess surrounding them.
Their situation was sticky to say the least. This mind looked a lot like the actual home Mrs. Peterson had resided in, albeit with a rosier glow to it. Like something out of a home and gardens magazine, with picturesque tile flooring, smooth countertops that sparkled, brand new mixers and microwaves, and a cute flower box seen just outside a four-panel window showing a beautiful day outside. It was the cutesy home of a 50s housewife to a T.
That was utterly infested with mental cobwebs.
“I mean…” Guybrush plucks at another few strands with his hook like he’s working the chords of a guitar, “I’ve seen them get big in the minds of unstable patients, but never this bad… did your mom say anything about Marge being… y'know?”
“Not as far as I know...? Can you please move your elbow back a few inches?” The cobwebs were so pervasive, the minute they’d transported into the homey little kitchen, they’d been boxed in by them - back to back, with barely enough room to move an arm or leg out. “There isn’t some other way to cut through this? Like a knife? Could we burn it?”
“Mmmm, we could but… we’re kinda stuck in the middle of it.” Guybrush dragged his hook down a few more chords, going high up on G and letting it vibrate down the web, “Burn us too, eventually.”
“Okay well, what about cutting it? How about that?” Nelson was currently tugging on a few of the webbing strands, trying to see if he could tear through them.
“I mean-“ Guybrush waves his hand through the air, and a cutlass seemed to form within it, testing his blade against a few strands while he made a sawing motion, “I’ll give it a shot…” he glanced back at Nelson, “What’s up with you anyway?”
Nelson let out a frustrated huff when his efforts bore no fruit, letting go of the webbing with a harsh ‘TWANG!’ “What do you mean?”
“What I mean-“ Guybrush slashes at the strands, staggering back when the webbing springs back into place, putting a hand on his jaw to stop his teeth from jamming together, “-is you’ve been jumpier then normal since we ran into your mom.”
Nelson looked back at him, “Wh-no I haven’t!”
“You have !” Guybrush tried going the opposite way, bringing his sword around to try and cut towards himself. “Like… I thought after you guys had your big talk last night, maybe you wouldn’t be on eggshells around her, yknow?”
Nelson blinked a few times, turning fully towards him, “Were you spying on me?”
“No!!” Guybrush looked back, gesturing with his hook as he worked on sawing at the webbing, “But I figured, yknow, she would’ve told you she was psychic, accepted you, cleared up all those big bad paranoid fears of yours, big happy loving family deal!”
“I mean-“ Nelson planted his foot down on some webbing and tried pulling at it again, “-we did!...I guess! Do all that!” He gritted his teeth as he pulled on a strand with all his might, “Even my dad accepted me!” He let go when the strand refused to break, taking a little longer to get his hands unstuck from the mental fibers.
“Wow!! See, that’s really cool!” Guybrush grunted, leaning back in time to avoid his blade swinging back to hit him in the face, shoving Nelson into the cobwebs, “That’s a lot of progress for one day back!”
“Thanks??” Nelson tried to pull himself out from the webbing to look back at the man, “So why are you getting mad at me?”
“Hey hey, I’m not mad at you!” Guybrush stuck his sword in a particularly thick patch of webbing and leaned back on the hilt, “I just don’t get why you’re still on edge! It’s not like you have anything to hide anymore, right?”
“It’s not-” Nelson planted his shoe on the web and tugged a little harder, “-it’s not just that it’s-it’s a lot of things that aren’t any of your business-”
“I’d dare say it is!” Guybrush waved his hook in the air, “If we’re partners, then we need to look out for each other! And calling each other out if one of us starts acting weird! And you’ve been acting weird since this morning! Like…” He looked back at his cutlass, gripping the hilt again to try and saw through a patch, “I know you care about your mom and all, but she knows what she’s doing… If she knows the risks, what you went through, like… it’s fine, right?”
Nelson had managed to pop a hand out when he stopped at the question, his eyes going a bit wider. His mouth shut, focusing on pulling his other hand free, quiet for a while longer then Guybrush expected.
“...You… did tell her everything, right?” Guybrush asked, “Cause… cause you know, all that stuff that kinda stuck around in your head, like-“
“ Don’t .” Nelson breathed in through his teeth, started to give one last tug to pull his hand free, and avoided eye contact, “All she knows is I got fired from the FBI for doing the right thing. She doesn’t need to know her son is crazy on top of things.”
Guybrush blinked, letting out a short laugh of disbelief, “Nelson, you’re not crazy-“ Before he could get out another word, Nelson let out a sharp hiss, finally drawing his hand back to clutch to his chest as he eased back on Guybrush. Guybrush did his best to turn around, eyes widened, “Whoa, whoa, you alright??”
“Just a cut…” Nelson clenched his hand tight for a moment, easing it open to look over the cut across his palm. A thin, straight line, like a paper cut, blood pooling from it to drip onto the fine tile. Right above the cut however, Nelson noticed something standing out on his palm, swiping a finger across to look at it. “Guybrush?”
Guybrush looked up from his injured hand, “Hm? Yeah Nelly?”
“I don’t think these are mental cobwebs.” Nelson rubbed the fine purple residue against his fingertips, watching it shimmer in the light of the kitchen. There was a ‘TWANG’ sound by his head, and he grimaced, “Quit playing that - it's not gonna sound like a guitar, Guybrush.”
“T-that uh. That wasn’t me.” Guybrush said. His eyes were locked behind Nelson, fumbling backwards for his cutlass, only to unintentionally shove on the hilt, sending it tumbling through the dense webbing to land on the floor.
Nelson blinked at his partner’s panicked actions, while strings around them softly twanged and shimmered in the kitchen lighting. Guybrush bumped up against him again before he could turn around, “A little space, Guybrush?”
“Uhhh-“ Guybrush eased out a nervous laugh, as Nelson found himself having to stumble forward, pressed right up against his partner, “-not much space to offer, Buddy…”
It was with a start that Nelson realized the webbing had begun to close in around them, pinning them in together in an increasingly tighter and tighter space, Nelson letting out a soft hiss as another strand sliced against his hand and he drew both back to keep close to his sides, Guybrush still had his eyes looking right over Nelson’s shoulder, slowly widening at something or other. As the twanging of strings grew closer together, he heard it.
That first, soft ‘click’ of heels on tile, and a voice that bordered on sensual, oozing with syrupy sweetness, “ Come into my Parlor, said the spider to the flies. ”
Nelson blinked, his brows furrowing. Why did that voice sound familiar? “M-Marge? We-we came to ask you some questions-“
“I-I don’t think that’s Marge, Nelly…”
Nelson glanced up at his partner, and reached out a hand enough to grab his hook, taking a look through his eyes.
The figure bore no resemblance to Marge as she laughed in that sickeningly sweet way. She was the tall, curvy silhouette of a woman, dressed so tightly in something that it clung to her body like shrink wrap. Her manicured hands were winding and twisting around bits of webbing, tugging them even closer together.
Nelson still couldn’t make out all of her as she stepped closer, her head tilting to one side as she looked them over, “You guys aren’t very bright, huh? I’m so sorry… Marge can’t answer anything right now.”
Guybrush blinked a few times, tried to squint to get a better look at her, “That voice… wait-“
Her hand had reached out now, gripping over his mouth and chin, black nails digging into his skin while she giggled, “Now now, you can’t figure me out so soon. Where’s the fun in that?” Her smile turned lower, into a sort of disdained grimace as she squeezed on his jaw, “...Still. I thought the Psychonauts would send more then… just you two.”
“Not exactly a big crime you pulled off.” Nelson spoke up. Guybrush’s eyes were trembling, making it a lot harder to look right at her, but his own eyes narrowed as he spoke, “What did you do to Mrs. Peterson?”
“What’d I say?” Her thumb jabbed into Guybrush’s cheek, earning a wince from him, “Patience… you two will know soon enough.” She stared at Guybrush for a moment, and grinned, a surprisingly girlish giggle coming out of her, “Especially you .” she giggled a little more, pinched his cheek, and stepped back from the two of them.
Nelson tried to move, to put a hand to his temple, to do anything , but the strands of webbing were closed in so tightly around them he could barely move, forced to press his face against Guybrush’s chest as her ‘click click click’ of heels moved back from the two of them, “Unfortunately, I can’t have you two hanging out in here. It’s got a two person occupancy, sooo…” She wound her hands around two clusters of webbing and grinned at the two of them. “Bye-bye~”
The webbing grew tighter and tighter around them, cutting into their skin, Nelson trying to keep looking through Guybrush’s eyes. All he could catch a glimpse of was the huge eyes the shadow sported, before they lit up a bright purple. Then everything in the room shone with that same blinding light and-
-and the webs were carving them up into pieces and-
-and he was back in the hospital room and-
-someone was screaming-
-pain bloomed behind his eyes as his skull cracked-
-he saw the curtains parted for just a moment, those same eyes staring at him, turning to run, and then, a soft giggle-
It took much longer then he would have liked to open his eyes, especially when a beam of sunlight peeked in through the car window and sent pain and fireworks dancing across his eyes. He squeezed them shut with a groan and felt a hand on him, easing him to sit back up, “Easy, easy. Keep it elevated…”
Nelson tried to open his eyes again, to focus beyond the throbbing ache at the back of his skull and instead on his worried partner, his face slowly coming into focus as he let out a breath. His grin was shaky as he put a hand on his arm, “There we go, buddy. That’s it. That’s good! How’re you feeling?”
Nelson slowly rolled his head to look at him, “...Like I got hit with a car?”
“Well… good! Better then feeling nothing, right Mrs. T?”
“If that’s how you want to look on the bright side, dear.”
Nelson moved his head back to blearily take a look around. He’d been buckled into the back of his mom’s car to keep him upright, a bag of frozen vegetables acting as a pillow to the back of his hastily patched-up head. Guybrush was sitting next to him, sans his coat, which he’d thrown over Nelson as a kind of makeshift blanket to give him some kind of comfort. His mom was in the front seat without her cardigan on, and Nelson’s eyes widened a bit, sitting up with a start.
“Mom, your arms-ngh!” He winced and sank back against the seat as his head throbbed - a painful reminder that he shouldn’t move so fast.
“Nelson, I’m fine.” She insisted, sticking a band-aid on one of the last nail marks, grabbing her cardigan again to cover up the deep, purple bruising on her arms, “It looks worse then it is, really.” She managed a light chuckle as she waved a hand, “I just bruise like a peach these days.”
Nelson leaned back into the frozen veggies with another soft groan, shut his eyes for a moment, and squinted them open to look at his partner, “Did we find out anything in there?”
“I mean…” Guybrush rubbed the back of his neck, his claw moving to pull the jacket up on Nelson, “I think we know who did it? Sorta??”
“Yeah…” Nelson shut his eyes, remembered those turquoise eyes, and let out a breath, “...But that doesn’t help us much.”
“Well,” Nelson sat up very carefully, a hand coming up to hold the bag against his head, “we didn’t get a name for her. And we have no idea what her motive is.” He swallowed, trying to contain a sudden nausea that passed over him, breathing through his nose, “Plus, I’m guessing the hospital isn’t very safe to go back to right now…” he glanced between the two of them, “Am I right?”
“Unfortunately…” Nancy hummed, “I got out of there the minute cops were beginning to pull in.” Her hand moved back to grip her other, biting her lip before she spoke again, “Marge blew out just about every window.”
“Do you know if she’s okay?”
In response, Nancy squeezed her hand a moment longer, then turned around to grip her steering wheel, her mouth a tight line as she looked out the window.
Nelson stared back at her, let out a soft breath through his nose, and leaned back on his seat, “Okay, so… that leaves us with no witness, no victim, and no real perp we can put an ID to. And since we technically weren’t supposed to visit her to begin with, we would probably get questioned if we went back to check on her.”
The car went silent as the group sat back - Nancy with her eyes looking out the driver’s window, Guybrush with his hook gently rubbing against his other arm, and Nelson keeping the peas against his head - shutting his eyes for just a moment.
Least that’s what it felt like.
But when he opens them again, the car is moving, and it takes a minute or so of looking out the window to realize that they’re headed back through the downtown streets towards the more rural areas of Weatherly.
Guybrush has moved up to the front seat again, and seemed to be looking at Nancy, a worried expression clear on his face. He’s doing the thing he often did when he used telepathy, his expression shifting in subtle ways. Eyebrows going up or down, eyes shifting to glance around the front windshield. Nancy was glancing back to him from time to time, giving the occasional nod or knitting her brows a certain way. She wasn’t nearly as telling as Guybrush was, but it was obvious to anyone with eyes that the two were having a conversation.
Just not aloud.
Nelson sat up as quietly as he could manage and pressed a hand to his temple, biting his lip as his brain complained about working so soon. Listening to a thought was hard enough as it was for him - trying to listen to a conversation was even harder. Like tuning a radio that had been pulled from the bottom of a lake. But try he did, his eyes squeezing shut as he focused-
-I know - you - he’s been like this-
Nelson grimaced as his headache got worse, breathing in slowly and trying again. The next sentence comes through clearly:
We can handle this ourselves.
Nelson sits up at that, his eyes widening a bit. He sits back as he keeps a tight grip on the signal, watching the surprise on his partner’s face.
He blinked twice, and tilted his head with a sort of nervous smile, Huh?
Right now he’s hurt. Nancy gripped the wheel tightly, That was my fault. But a concussion can take a week to heal and I suspect we don’t have a week to spare.
Guybrush bit his lip, his brows creasing, Yeah… I know, but-
But nothing, Guybrush.
Nancy gave him a sympathetic glance,
I’m not letting him get hurt any further. You and I are both capable enough psychics. Enough to feel what my son didn’t back at the hospital.
Guybrush shivered as he clearly did, chewing his lower lip, I mean, I could probably gather info on my own…
And if you get ambushed?
…I mean… won’t be the first time, but- Nancy let out a soft sigh through her nose, and Guybrush backpedaled, eyes widening a bit, Look, I appreciate it, a lot Mrs. T, but Nelson would kill me if you got hurt even worse.
Guybrush. I understand you’re worried, but… I’d hope you’d give me the credit my son doesn’t.
Guybrush had taken a hold of his hook and was twisting it occasionally, left and right, glancing back at Nancy with some doubt, his eyes cast downwards.
I won’t even take any of the credit. Nancy continued, gripping the wheel, But I can’t sit idly by anymore. Not when it’s so... personal. We have to make sure whatever is happening stops before it can go a step further.
Guybrush glanced sidelong out the window, twisted his hook, and glanced back,
you rag on Nelly for it, but aren’t you doing the same thing he is? Running into danger to protect somebody you care about?
Nancy let out a puff of air and gained a somewhat dry smile as she glanced back at him, I guess we’re both rather hypocritical that way, eh?
Nelson watched Guybrush suppress a snicker, claw to his mouth, take a quick glance to the rearview mirror and see Nelson - his shaky hand on his temple, staring back at the two of them. He had a look on his face like he’d gotten caught with his hook in the cookie jar, something Nancy picked up on enough to glance back. Nelson was about to make some excuse - itchy scalp, migraine, something in his eye. But the words didn’t come out right. They came out a garbled mess of scrabble pieces getting shaken around in a bag, and it was with a sort of odd calm that he realized his nose had started bleeding.
The world went dark before he could see how they reacted next.
There was a puff of white dust in the air. As the picture came into focus, sunlight shone through a nearby window, birdsong chirping outside. A pair of delicate hands loomed over him, pressing downwards. He felt soft, pliable, easily moved and shifted, squashed beneath her rolling pin, her hands getting flour and purple sugar under her black nails as she cut out cookies and folded latticed crusts onto pies and whipped and frosted and baked.
There was that aroma again, of vanilla and cardamom, with an undertow of something else now. Like hot ozone, dirt, and metal. She brushed glaze onto a lemon tart, humming a song to herself, and he was wrapped in burning, searing heat for a moment as bird chirps and her sing-song voice flowed through the oven. Her voice was soft and as delicate at her hands, but the voice betrayed something else to it. Some darker tone that dripped into it like a snakebite. Again, struck with that sense of familiarity as he baked alive and hardened.
She pulled the tray out and set him aside, icing melting from the smoldering heat. She didn’t seem to care. She kept singing as she took a hold of his stiffened arm and snapped it at the shoulder, crumbs of himself falling to scatter on his form. He must have made a face, because she was laughing down at him as she took his other arm, crunching it between sharpened teeth and wrapping her hand around him. Her fingernail pressing to his throat, sending crumbles down to scatter on his melting tie.
He couldn’t move. He couldn’t do anything but stare as her mouth widened, her fangs closing down on his neck with a sickening CRUNCH-
Nelson sat up in bed with a start and not enough awareness to stop himself from letting out a terrified scream, hands on his chest. Distinctly human hands, which he took some relief in rubbing over his face, then settling where someone had stuffed tissue in his nose. With his heart pumping, it gave his head enough of an excuse to pulse behind his eyes, nearly sending him crashing back down. He grit his teeth and stayed up, feeling back gingerly to see how his head had been treated. A gauze patch had been hastily applied to the back, and it thankfully didn’t seem too damp. The bleeding must have stopped. Probably because half of it had come out his nose judging by his shirt, but one issue at a time.
There was something else on his shirt too. A note, safety-pinned to his shirt-
Your partner and I are going to continue the investigation. I know you’re apprehensive about this, but I’ll be okay. Your mother can handle more then you’d think. And I’ll have Guybrush as backup, so don’t worry. We’ll be back once we have more clues.
With love, Nancy Tethers.
Nelson hissed as he read it, resting a hand on his temple and just squeezing his eyes shut, “Guybrush, you went along with this…?” He laid back down in bed when another throb caused him to wince in pain, squeezing his eyes shut as he hissed through his teeth. He blindly felt behind him until he grabbed one of the pillows to put over his face and block out some of the sunlight coming through the window.
...hang on, what window?
And hadn’t his bed been a twin?
The realization gives him just the awareness he needs to sit back up and take a look around the room. It didn’t look quite as rustic and charming as the pictures had made it out to be.
Guybrush must have directed her to the inn.
The pillowcases and blankets were faded and torn in a few spots. The heater left a dusty odor wafting throughout the room. The sink had a leak that still ‘drip drip drip’ed from the bathroom. For some reason, he got the feeling he and Guybrush wouldn’t exactly have been the most comfortable here - mostly because there was only one bed. Course Guybrush probably wouldn’t have minded sharing, though with how cozy he and his wife were, he doubted he’d be used to taking a couch for the night either. But it made sense he supposed - a sleepy little inn like this was a little more out of the way and secluded. It was a good spot to send a pair of secret agents so they’d be out of the way from prying eyes.
It was also one of the last places Nelson wanted to be.
While the inn was near the downtown area of Weatherly, it was also just ‘near’ it. It was nearly on the outskirts of the downtown area and a good way from the hospital or home. A rental car hadn’t been deemed an especially necessary expense with how small the town was, so they had relied mainly on foot travel or taking the local bus system. Nelson could usually hoof it when he had to, so it wasn’t something he’d minded at the time. Now he was kicking himself for not insisting on a car when the issue came up, especially when he wasn’t in much condition to walk around freely. Probably wasn’t in much of one to drive either, but he’d worry about that later.
Course, that didn’t mean there wasn’t some benefit to ending up back here. Nelson had wanted to check the scene of the crime soon as they’d landed, so they’d simply dropped off their luggage and headed for Marge’s place upon arrival. Which meant he could stagger over and dig through his suitcase for the necessities. He hadn’t brought too much - few change of clothes, toothbrush and toothpaste, a bag of bazooka gum, migraine painkillers, a coat if it got too chilly, and a few of the Psychonauts toolkit that he didn’t usually keep on him. Things like the cobweb duster, which he made sure to pull out and set aside lest he forget it again.
And his gun and holster.
The last one wasn’t the usual part of the Psychonauts tools. Most agents were fairly proficient with shooting off a psi-blast or two to stun an opponent. Nelson couldn’t put himself in that category, and he’d dealt with too many unexplainable things to be as comfortable with just his mind to defend himself with. He set it by the cobweb duster at the little side table, alongside his tape recorder, which he set to record as he took a seat on the couch to start getting changed, ignoring the throb of his head as he hit ‘record’.
“I wish I could say this is the first time I passed out and woke up in a motel room. At least this time it wasn’t from any drugging… although I can’t say the circumstances are any less dire. Our investigation at the hospital proved only that Mrs. Peterson’s psychic incident was no accident. Rather, someone else is clearly pulling the strings. Literally, if her mindscape was to be believed.” He started on loosening his tie next, squinting when his vision wobbled and swayed, shaking his head. “The suspect appears to be female. She sounded… familiar. Though I can’t put my finger on why… What I can say for certain is if Guybrush and Mrs. Tethers are going to investigate on their own, I might as well see what I can dig up. With any luck, Guybrush should keep her from getting into too much trouble.”
He thought back for a moment on their conniving grins, and swallowed, “Of course, I could be wrong about that…” He cleared his throat, taking off his bloodied shirt, “I need to find out more about that hospital. Why would a small town like Weatherly have such an advanced facility built this soon? And what were my mo-Mrs. Tethers and Guybrush picking up on back there? If I can piece together more about that, I might get a sense of our suspect’s motive.” As he dug through his suitcase for a new shirt, he found himself pausing, raising a brow.
“Didn’t I pack two shirts?” He hadn’t expected one to get quite so dirty, nor them to stay too long, but he was sure he packed more then the one button-up. His answer came to him in the form of a secondary note - this one pinned to the back of his jacket, that he only just caught a glimpse of flipping it over, looking for his lapel pin. A note in busy, yet elegant hand-writing that might have fit better on an old scroll then a post-it note:
Borrowed one of your shirts - Nance thought we should have disguises after the whole thing with the hospital blowing up, and I’m feeling kinda wiped so sorry! Left you a shirt to make up for it! Be back soon!
PS- it’s in the bathroom.
“Of course it is.” Nelson let out a brief sigh and grabbed the migraine pills while he was at it, dragging himself upright for the bathroom. The t-shirt was sitting just on the edge of the leaky sink. A part of him wondered if it had been leaking when they dropped him off or only just started after they’d cleaned him up, moving it aside before the damp spot on the corner could get any bigger. He knocked back three of the pills with some water, checked his pupils, and when he could avoid it no longer, pulled the shirt on and suppressed a shiver at the cold fabric on his skin.
He was just considering looking for a hair dryer in the bathroom when he caught his reflection, blinked a few times and raised both brows, planting his hands on the sides of the sink, “Wait… they’re going where? ”