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The Final Puzzle

Chapter Text

The scene seemed too familiar to Luke. All too familiar. He was standing at the docks again. And was heading “home”, to America, again. And he was tearing up, again.

 

"I don't want to go back, Professor. I-I want to spend Christmas here with you." The boy choked out, fighting a losing battle against his emotions.

 

"Luke, you've spent nearly five years here. I'm sure your parents would love to see what a handsome young man you've grown into, too." His mentor reasons calmly, reaching up to grasp the brim of his hat against a particularly strong wind gust.

 

"Mum might, but Dad,” Luke wiped at his eyes, “not so much. He never sounds happy when he writes to me. And most of the time, I find myself wondering why I even bother to write back."

 

"Luke, your father does care about you. He just…” Layton lifted a hand to his chin as he searched for the proper phrase. “…doesn't express it in the most obvious manner. But I can tell you from what he told me, he does love you more than anything.” 

 

"I just wish he'd tell me that personally.” Luke sighed, focusing on a ship off in the distance, wondering almost with amusement if the professor would be reminded of a puzzle.

 

Layton straightened his hat. "Perhaps he will tell you. Now, you need to get going or you'll miss the boat."

 

“Is-Is this considered public, Professor?" Luke asked suddenly, his tone taking on a different emotion. One the professor didn't recognize.

 

The older man was rather surprised, and in lieu of his slight alarm, he continued cautiously. "Well, I suppose, though we are rather away from the crowd. Why do you ask my boy?"

 

"Then this might not be considered gentlemanly." The boy said with a sad smile as he embraced his mentor in a warm hug. Luke clutched the soft fabric of Layton's dark coat in his clenched fists, which only coaxed more tears from his already bloodshot eyes. The professor found tears brimming the edges of his own eyes as well, but he hurriedly blinked them away.

 

Layton gently placed his hands on his apprentice’s back soothingly in a rare display of affection.

 

Luke was startled by this sudden change in the professor's mood. But the realization that he, Professor Hershel Layton, the stoic English gentleman who didn’t believe in emotional displays, was hugging him only brought more tears to his eyes. His mouth opens and he emits a terrible guttural sound somewhere between snorting and sobbing as he completely breaks down.

 

Hearing Luke's sobs and the feeling of a growing patch of something warm and wet on his shoulder brought Layton back to the present. Clearing his throat awkwardly, he had visible difficulty assisting the young man in standing upright again and then straightened his hat to look into the boy's dark, tear-filled eyes and salt-stained cheeks. It took all of Layton's willpower to refrain from hugging Luke again.

 

"Now Luke, I could never see you as ungentlemanly. Seeing as how we're good friends. But I think it's best if we keep the physical contact to a minimum." Layton said, though a part of him really didn't want to let go of Luke at all.

 

"I-I'm sorry. I'm acting like a little kid again. This just feels so much like last time and I'm not sure when I'll be able to return. If my parents don't allow me to come back, it'll be another year until I see you again. I just don't want to leave." Luke sniffed, trying to wipe the tears from his eyes.

 

"That's very touching, my boy. And I would love for you to stay here as well, but regardless, your parents have requested your presence for the holidays. It's only proper for you to oblige. Think about it from their view, they haven't seen you in nearly five years, Luke. I'm sure they just want to catch up."

 

"But what if they tie me down and don't let me come back! What if I meet someone there and start to forget about you! What if-!"

 

"Luke, stop. If they keep you for a year, then so be it. I'll still be here when you return. As for if you meet someone, please don't be afraid to bring them along as well. I'd love to meet them. And I can't predict the future, but I do know that you won't forget what we've been through together. It resides in your heart, and no one can take that from you. Now, run along, or you will miss that boat." Layton finished his speech with a light chuckle and a wide grin spread on Luke's face in response. It was as though the sun hadn't shined in a year, and it just shined through the clouds when Luke smiled.

 

"Thank you, Professor. So long! I promise I’ll be back!" Luke exclaimed, feeling rejuvenated, as he picked up his trunk and took off towards the stairs that led to his boat.

 

"So long, my boy." The professor murmured after him. He watched the boy board the boat and disappear up onto the deck. He appeared a moment later at the railing and gave a wave to Layton, grinning something mad. The man waved back enthusiastically and just then, the ship's horn blew loudly, announcing it's departure. Luke tipped his hat one last time to the professor before he turned and just caught the sight of the professor tipping his own top hat in the boy's direction before lugging his trunk across the deck and into the lobby with red carpets, shiny golden pillars, massive floral displays, and it's many huge crystal chandeliers. He immediately boarded the elevator that would take him to the third floor, where his suite is. 

 

"346… 347… 348… 349… aha! 350!" Luke slid his key into into the lock with ease and turned it with a resounding click. Pushing the door open, he strode into the breathtaking room. The floor is polished wood and an emerald green patterned rug stretches beneath the bed. The bathroom is nearly half as large as the room itself and the shower takes up nearly half of that space. The walls are a comforting beige-brown color with green floral accents along the ceiling edges. At the far end lies a lone sliding door that opens out onto the deck that overlooks the ocean. The vast… boring… blue... ocean. Most people would be thrilled at having a chance at an excursion such as this, but Luke, the single exception, got shivers just thinking about his destination.

 

The young man immediately began to unpack his belongings on the queen sized bed with the green fleece sheets with puffy goose down pillows. He had basically packed half of his wardrobe, seeing as how his clothes in America were about four years too small for him now. He might get away with a few pairs of larger underwear and old pants that might work as shorts now, but nothing other than that. So he'd need to go shopping as soon as he arrived. Besides, American styles and British styles were quite different. Not to mention the fact that Americans speak funny. They're too lazy to say whole words so they just say " 'sup" and "lol", though the boy supposed it was partly just the annoying teenage slang, and he himself had used the words a few times (against his better judgement, of course) but it was something he would still need to practice and know by heart if he were to start schooling in America. And that was all assuming that his parents even wanted to keep him around. Ugh. It was so much more complicated than last time, not to mention that he'd be crossing the Atlantic Ocean all alone.

 

I'm spending my first week alone. Truly alone. And I'm spending it on the one of the nicest cruise lines in Britain. No one to call, no one to hang out with, no one to write to. This is going to be the worst Christmas ever. The boy groaned and flopped onto the bed, annoyed at how nice it felt.

 


 

 

Luke spent the next four days sitting in his room and ordering things from his complimentary room service menu. His parents went a little overboard with his deluxe cruise ticket. Even he knew he was being pampered, but in reality, they shouldn't have to bribe him to come home. He would go home when he wanted to and that was the way it should be. But not according to his father. Luke was sure from the moment he saw the ticket that it was his father's idea to give him the cruise home. It was his mum's idea to bring him home for Christmas. Reading the letter that accompanied the ticket only proved his suspicions and made him want to go home all the less.

 

Why can't I just do what I want? I swear, seventeen-year-olds get no freedom these days. Luke snorted angrily as he tosses a pillow up at the ceiling. It was then, for some odd and spontaneous reason, that he decided to look out the window. His eyes widened. No matter how thin it was, it was definitely there, Luke was sure of it. At the very edge of the horizon, he could see the American coastline. He knew from past experience that even if the land was just a sliver on the blinding horizon, the ship would be coming into port soon.

 

Here we go again. I'd guess I have around an hour or two. The boy thought exasperatedly. 

 

He pulled the cruise ticket from his pocket to read the benefits again. Apparently, it included a free full massage/spa treatment, and a free night at the casino.

 

Well, I can't just let it go to waste. It might benefit me somehow after all.

 

The young man strode from his quarters with his ticket in hand and straightened his blue suit jacket as he walked into the elevator, a dangerous smile playing at his lips. Why not spend a night out and let down his gentlemanly guard for just a bit? Maybe it'd be fun.

 

He reached the lobby and walked confidently into the Aloe Vera Spa with a small spring in his step. Upon showing his ticket he was shown to the sauna and allowed privacy to strip off his clothing and wrap a towel around himself as a cover. Taking a deep breath, the boy felt the thick steam flowing freely around his body and realized how long it had been since he was able to let go of every gentlemanly instinct in his bones and just… relax. He let out a sigh of contentment and reveled in the calmness of the atmosphere.

 

Around a half an hour later, a man in a suit came to retrieve him. Luke regrettably left the comfort of the steam and followed the man to the next room, which contained a hot tub, and where he was handed a men's speedo. At first glance, it looked as though the man was handing him a pair of shiny underwear. He reluctantly took them and put them on before hanging his towel on a nearby hook.

 

Good grief, this thing is tight… Luke tugged at the waist of the garment in discomfort. Is it a privacy thing to have people wear these? Is this what Americans do? No, wait, this is a British cruise line...

 

The man left Luke to the bubbling water and the wispy steam that was twisting and curling around in the air. It almost seems to be calling to the him, beckoning for him to come closer. Luke cautiously lowered himself into the very warm water and winced as the water seeped into every pore in his body. He gave a small sigh of relief as the initial sting subsided and was replaced with a refreshing cold feeling. The water almost smelled sweet but when he looked down at it, he was appalled to see that the water was brown.

 

At that moment, the suited man returned to retrieve him. He gestured for Luke to get out. The boy begrudgingly obliged, taking the towel that was offered and using it to dry himself before shuffling to the next room where he was met with the sight of a massage table and shelves...and shelves...and shelves of lotions. The man patted the table, a signal to lay down. Luke complied in a trance-like daze from all the sweet smelling lotion fumes. He found his eyes drooping and was aware of a rubbing sort of pressure on his shoulders before he completely drifted off. 

 

The next thing Luke knew, he was laying on the massage table with his clothes beside him.

 

I suppose it's over… hmm, I do feel a lot better now though, albeit a bit tired. I wonder how close we are to docking now. The boy mused, his mind still foggy from sleep.

 

He groggily got up and peeled off the swimsuit to put on his dry underwear. He put on the rest of his clothing and finished with a satisfying head shake and hair flip before placing his blue hat at it's rightful place atop his head. Running his fingers against his arms, his found his skin felt softer than silk and not a single pore was visible. Taking a quick glance in the nearby mirror, he smirked proudly at his reflection.

 

I actually look a bit like a model. Luke thought in amusement, posing as though he was standing in front of a camera and laughing at his idiocy.

 

As he left the spa, a voice came over the intercom, "Ladies and Gentlemen. We will be arriving in Massachusetts Bay in just under an hour. Please remember to pack your bags and we hope you had a wonderful stay on the Crown Petone International Cruiselines."

 

For once, I did enjoy myself on a cruise. The realization was met with a harsh slap from reality. I suppose I should go pack up now… And with that Luke raced back up to his room to repack his bag.

 

After finishing shoving the many items back into the bulging suitcase, he dragged the thing into the elevator amongst all the other passengers who were, like him, eager to leave the ship.

 

Luke reached the exit and took one last look around at the interior of the ship, allowing himself a single moment to marvel at the architecture and decoration of the whole place before walking down the stairs and onto the paved streets of Boston, Massachusetts.

 

"Might as well get this over with." The boy muttered under his breath, bracing himself for whatever would come of the next few weeks… and hopefully no longer.

Chapter Text

Layton watched in solemnity as the boat slowly propelled itself out into the ocean, taking his beloved apprentice with it.

 

With a single deep sigh, he cleansed his mind of all of it's emotional stress and walked back to his car. As he reached the vehicle, thoughts of the boy came flooding back into his head. The dull red paint on the Laytonmobile seemed even more dull than usual without his bubbly apprentice constantly chatting and making random comments.

 

What's happening to me? Is it because of Luke's departure? No, no. When he left last time I was fine. Then, what is this feeling that I keep getting in my stomach that feels like a constant side cramp? The professor thought helplessly as he climbed into the classic red car.

 

Even the car itself seemed to miss the overly-enthusiatic and easily-excitable boy, seeing as how it refused to start for a solid ten minutes. But then, after the clock hit the ten minute mark, the engine groaned and grunted to a whirring start, it was almost as if it suddenly realized that Luke wasn't going to be riding home in the passenger seat.

 

The ride back to his flat seemed even more bumpy than the ride to the docks, even though he was merely traveling the same roads over again. Layton also noted how loud the engine is in the small rounded vehicle. It almost made it hard to focus on the road. Maybe a trip to the repairs was in order...

 

"I guess Luke talks a lot louder and much more extensively than I had previously thought." Layton muttered mindlessly.

 

Plucking the key from the ignition, he held his top hat steady as he stepped from the car and strode up the walkway to his doorstep. He quickly unlocked the door and closed it harshly behind him as he walked inside. The booming sound of the door closing shook the walls as it echoed through the extremely under-decorated flat. Layton immediately headed for his office. Rosa, the housekeeper, was already waiting for him.

 

"So, Luke's gone home for the holidays, hmm?" Rosa asked, wielding a duster and wearing red gloves.

 

"Yes, he has." Layton replied flatly.

 

"Will you be alright?"

 

"What do you mean?"

 

"You, know, for the time he'll be gone."

 

"…of course. Why wouldn't I be?"

 

"Oh, no reason." Rosa sighed as she exited the room, shaking her head in exasperation. "Stubborn as a mule, he is." She muttered under her breath before heading off to the main room to finish her cleaning there.

 

Layton sat down at his desk and took a moment to look at the many artifacts that he and Luke had acquired on their many adventures together. After they came back from each one, Luke had always insisted that they put something on the blank shelf amidst his other archaeological artifacts from previous years of working at dig sites. Layton smiled at the memories of Luke pleading with him to let him start the collection and then the indecision of what to put in the collection. 

 

His eyes slowly roamed over the shelf's contents. There was Luke's filled-cover-to-cover notebook which documented every last detail of their travels in Misthallery, the mask from Monte d'Or that Randall had given him as a thank you, a mini model Bostonius air ship and egg shaped item called a popono from their adventures unlocking the secrets of the Azran, a wooden golden apple and a picture of Flora to represent the time they took a trip to St. Mystere, a small model train car and a used train ticket to serve as a memento of their trip to Folsense, and finally, a broken pocket watch and his spare top hat to remind him of the day London was nearly destroyed and of… his eyes lingered on the hat. 

 

Layton abruptly stood and walked briskly to the shelves with the many mementos that always filled his mind with the most uncanny sort of joy whenever he laid eyes upon them. He reached up and snatched the top hat from its cozy perch amidst the other dusty collectables (as Luke affectionately calls them) and blew a large cloud of dust from the top. Few people knew of his spare, and actually, in truth, the supposed "spare hat" was the hat Claire gave him. Layton had the genius idea to get an identical hat for wearing purposes and keep the gifted hat safe amidst the other shelf items so that if they are forced to undertake a particularly difficult task, such as one with high winds or something that would require fast movement, if his hat blew away or became lost in one way or another, he wouldn't be all that sad because he would still have Claire's gift nestled safely at his flat (since it was moved to there from the table in his office at Gressenheller seeing as how he was now spending more time at his flat and out solving mysteries than at his office).

 

It was a nostalgic moment for the beloved archaeology professor. His mind overflowed with the memories the hat brought, memories that were both good and bad. Many were bittersweet and caused Layton to shed a tear or two. The memories ranged in time from the day they met to the very last time Layton would ever see her alive, which was the day she gave him the hat. A shaky sigh escaped his lips and Layton set the hat down on the nearby tea table. He removed the hat he is currently wearing and replaced it with Claire's gift.

 

He had just barely set the hat atop his head when something sharp pokes his head. Wincing, he removed the hat and peered inside. There, set just far enough inside to not be seen at first glance, resided a single orange letter.

 

"That's odd." Layton spoke openly to the empty room. "I wonder if Rosa put it there…"

 

Retrieving his letter opener from his desk, he sliced the envelope open and the crinkling of paper could be heard as Layton unfolded the letter. His eyes scanned the paper and he reads the first few lines with no difficulty at all, but then when his eyes come to the third and fourth lines, he froze. Rosa definitely didn't write it. He looked up, his small eyes much larger than they should be and his mouth hanging agape before shutting promptly, just allowing Layton to gulp loudly.

 

H-how on Earth did-… no, it isn't possible… or… is it? Layton's usually organized, focused mind spiraled out of control and the poor man became extremely flustered. 

 

His hands shook and his throat tightened almost to the point of inhibiting his breathing.

 

Deep breaths. In, out. In, out. In-oh good lord, what is going on? This has to be some sort of sick joke!

 

Hastily, he snapped the paper, commanding it to sit stiffly in his pale, shaky hands. He reread the letter ten times over only to come to the same conclusion. It made him sigh loudly and fold the paper back up, tucking it into his coat pocket. No one could know. Raising a hand to his chin and closing his eyes, he started to ponder the letter. A glorious solution popped into his head a moment later. He bounded to the door of his office and poked his head out the door.

 

"Rosa! Rosa, where are you!" The professor yelled into the hallway.

 

The housekeeper rushed up to him. "What? What's going on? Is something wrong?"

 

"Could you go out and buy some more milk? We're out." Layton said smoothly.

 

"Uh, of course, Professor. Are you… okay?"

 

"Better than okay, my dear." Layton said, grinning and praying that his lie wasn't as blatant as it seemed.

 

"That's good to hear. I'll get that milk right away." Rosa smiled and scurried off.

 

The slamming of the front door could be heard a moment later. Layton let out a sigh of relief, though guilt was now gnawing at his stomach for lying to his housekeeper.

 

He hurried back into his office and picked up the phonebook. He searched the pages before finding the desired number. Keeping his finger firmly placed under the number, he picked up the phone and dialed the number before holding the receiver to his ear and listening to the annoying sounds of the phone ringing at the other end before a gruff voice answered.

 

"Oi! Layton. Good to finally hear from you. I trust you're doing well?" The voice huffed and the clinking of silverware could be heard in the background.

 

"Yes, I am. And you as well?" Layton replies, his voice as smooth and cool as a polished trilobite fossil. It just so happened that a particular fossil had caught his eye on one of the many shelves filled with artifacts...the swirls were positively mesmerizing.

 

"Just dandy. The misses is fixing me dinner, the sweet woman. So what do I owe the pleasure of this little chat? Surely you didn't just call me up for small talk."

 

"Hahaha. No, I did not, but there is something rather pressing that I need to ask of you."

 

"Oh? And what might that be?"

 

"I would appreciate it greatly if you would do me a favor…"

Chapter Text

"Six hundred and seventy one, six hundred and seventy two, six hundred and seventy three…" A man muttered in his normal emotionless stupor as he continuously counted the drips of god knows what from the ceiling and watched them slowly pool on the cement floor near his feet. The leak had started around a month ago and counting the drops was the only way he could keep himself from going absolutely mad from the mere echoing sound of them.

 

"Six hundred eighty one, Six hundred eighty two…"

 

Faint footsteps could be heard from the hallway, slowly approaching the dank cell that consisted of a metal cot with a lumpy, two-inch thick mattress (he measured) and a measly, stained blanket for winter months, a small, vile, brown paint-splotched toilet (at least he hoped it was paint) next to a sink that was barely to his waist in height. The sink itself had so much grime (most likely from previous inhabitants) caked onto its once glossy white sides that the bowl was now a disturbing orangish-green color.

 

The cement walls of the room were stained with wavy black streaks from former leaks hailing from the room above. It was absolutely revolting.

 

All of a sudden, the thick, metal barred door opened harshly and the young man's head snapped up and he watched in silence as a heavy set guard stiffly strode into the room and stared down at the prisoner, the burlier man's eyes boring holes into his thinner, less significant skull until a lopsided grin appears on his chunky face.

 

"You're in luck. You're being released." The big man announced.

 

The prisoner was confused, and it showed in his voice. "H-huh?"

 

"Are you deaf? You're being put on parole!"

 

"… what for?"

 

"Dunno. Some crazy thing about the police wanting you free, though. But someone out there's on your side at least."

 

"… oh." The police? What do they have to do with this?

 

"So come on, then."

 

"Now?" Are paroles even a same day thing?

 

"Yes, now. What'd you expect? Me to walk up here to tell you you're getting out, but then not let you out?"

 

"I entertained the idea…"

 

"Ha! Young kids like you have your whole lives to fix whatever the heck it is that you did to land yourself here. They wouldn't keep someone your age here unless they tried to, like, bomb London or something."

 

The smaller, more inferior man visibly tensed. Well, that's pretty much what I did...

 

Standing up, he slowly made his way toward the door. The bulkier man shuffled backward to allow him room to pass, and after the prisoner stumbled out, the guard followed him patronizingly down the surprisingly well lit hallway.

 

The two men reached the lobby and the heavier man handed the younger a bundle of clothes. The younger ran his calloused, dirty fingers over the tightly sewn fabric of his old blazer and pants, memories flooding the back of his mind. Memories that were both pleasant and painful.

 

"The bathroom's to your left. And there's a taxi waiting for you outside. The destination is none of your concern." The guard grunted as he disappears back down the hallway the two men came from, probably to head back to his post. Leaving the, now, ex-prisoner alone.

 

Sighing, the man entered the bathroom and proceeded to change outfits. His chestnut colored hair was quite a bit longer than it was when he was admitted, seeing as how it no longer had shape. Now, it hung limply without form, framing his grime-covered face at nearly chin length. And his chin now sported a good amount of gristly stubble as well, which gave him a tired, aged look.

 

But back then, when life seemed livable, the young man had cared about getting out. As time passed, he slowly let the hope of leaving behind him and tried to accept that no one cared anymore. He never even believed for a second that he would ever leave the retched place until the last breath left his body. In his mind, death equaled escape.

 

He calmly marveled at his reflection in the mirror for a few minutes and realized that he could barely remember what he looked like before admittance. The man's mind had grown slow and empty from all those days sitting in that horrid cell and counting how many times the ceiling dripped. He could remember his life and why he was there, but couldn't figure out why he's getting out. After all, he was given a life sentence for trying to essentially murder the Prime Minister...and all of London too...but that was in the fine print. He wasn't even sure that it was possible to override something as serious as that.

 

And a taxi? With a preset destination? Since when did that happen? Wasn't the whole point of getting a taxi is so the passenger could tell the cabbie where to take them without the passenger having to drive himself/herself?

 

The young adult sighed loudly in exasperation. Trying to figure out what just transpired will only send me into an even deeper pit of worry and constant anxiety. And I honestly can't afford that, not with how unstable I am right now.

 

He picked up the prison jumpsuit and tossed it in the trash can. He may never be able to forget any of the experience, but he did  finally have a chance to truly start over.

 

Exiting the bathroom, he strode toward the door that was the only barrier between himself and freedom. But for some reason, he was not excited at all.

 

The sunlight burned his sensitive eyes as he walked outside for the first time in two years. Seven-hundred and some odd days...

 

Most people would be kissing the ground about now, but maybe I'm still an emotionless monster, because I don't feel any different than I did when I was locked like an animal inside of that cell. Does that make me heartless?

 

But before… he was an animal. He was dangerous. But as much as he hated to admit it, that "animal" was a part of who he is. And now, it sleeps dormant deep inside of the twenty-four-year-old's soul, just waiting for the next moment to come alive and wreak havoc on his mind once again.

 

He stumbled slightly on a rock and his eyes came to rest on the taxi. It was just a normal taxi. At least, that's what it appeared to be. Swallowing his apprehension, he opens the door and climbs inside.

 

"You're Mister Dove, correct?" The cabbie asked, his tone laced with boredom.

 

"… yes. That's me." The man in the backseat murmured quietly.

 

"I have direct orders to take you to one Professor Hershel Layton." The driver said, almost with a hint of pride. But who wouldn't, if they had been given orders from London's best detective and puzzle solver to ever live?

 

His jaw dropped open. Well, there was the destination-plain and simple… but now the question was… why?

 

"May I ask why?" The passenger inquired.

 

"Afraid not, kid. He told me not to." The cabbie answered as the vehicle lurched forward from it's resting place and began to transport the ex-convict to the flat of the man whom he owed his life.

 

The man in the backseat sighed and shifted his gaze to the scenery flying by outside. 

 

Layton's the one who got me out? Why? And how? Something must be up. Releases like mine aren't this sudden, and cabs don't have "preset" destinations. Something is definitely up. The man in back pondered as the cab continued down the street.

 

>line break here<

 

"Here you are, kid." The cabbie said with a grin.

 

"… thanks." The younger answered hesitantly and exited the taxi. He walked up to the door and reluctantly rang the doorbell. His heart-rate skyrocketed as he heard the bell rings resound throughout the house.

 

What am I going to say to him when he sees me, or when I see him rather. The man on the doorstep thought, nerves getting the better of him as he began to fidget awkwardly.

 

When no one got the door, the man was about to turn around and leave when a thought hits him harder than a blow to the stomach. If I were to leave, where would I go? He began to worry, his heart sinking. Everyone in London knows who I am. I'm a criminal. And I am probably the most infamous wrongdoer the world has ever seen, yet what am I doing? Standing at the door or of London's most esteemed puzzle solver without a clue as to why. That's what.

 

A clicking noise from behind alerted him from his thoughts. He turned back to the door and saw the very man standing there in his usual garb, an orange shirt beneath his newly worn brown coat, and his normal brown pants. The only thing he was without was... his hat?! 

 

What on earth is going on here? From the research I've done, the man doesn't go anywhere without that top hat of his! His mind ran wild with the possibilities.

 

Then the younger noticed it, the strange, almost maniacal, glint in the professor's eyes. The glint that was just too familiar… but it vanished before the ex-convict had time to fully analyze it.

 

"Ah, Clive. Glad you made it safely. Please, come in." Layton said all too calmly for a man with a freakishly devilish look in his beady eyes, and stepped aside to allow the younger man to walk inside the room.

 

Clive sucked up his apprehension and tried to hold his head high as he walked by Layton and down the hall, when he soon found himself standing in the living room, which was quite empty except for the small brown sofa and armchair that sat facing each other. A small tea table was placed equidistantly between the two pieces of furniture.

 

Layton walked out from behind Clive a second later.

 

"Take a seat, Clive. I'll put on a pot of tea." Layton said, smiling warmly at the younger man before hooking a right into another room, which Clive assumed was the kitchen.

 

The ex-prisoner sat down and allowed himself a minute to compose his scattered thoughts. He's treating me like an old friend. Not like I just got out of prison. Sure, he's a gentleman, but I'm not sure if this is feigned kindness or the real thing.

 

Clive found his gaze wandering. The only three pieces of furniture in the whole room were the brown sofa (that he was currently sitting on), the well-worn mahogany colored leather armchair (which he guessed was Layton's), and the tea table between them. The only other thing is the green and brown, somewhat florally patterned rug that sits beneath the furniture.

 

From what I know, he spends next to no time at his flat. Unless he actually has time to, that is. He practically lives at Gressenheller. But I guess that he's started spending some time here, judging by the stains on the tea table and footprints near the door.

 

At that very moment, Layton emerged from the kitchen carrying a tray with the tea kettle and two teacups. He placed it down on the little wooden table and took a seat in the armchair. For the next minute, the only sounds in the whole house were the clinking of the teacups and kettle as Layton poured one cup for each of them respectively.

 

The professor handed Clive a cup of the steaming liquid, which he accepted gratefully. Both men then proceed to sip their tea, embracing the relaxing silence that ensued. It almost felt comfortable, but Clive couldn't quite get over the strangeness of the situation.

 

The parolee cleared his throat. "So, if I am allowed to ask, why exactly am I here?"

 

"I have a favor to ask of you."

 

"That's it?"

 

"But of course. I only require your assistance with something." 

 

Assistance? With what? Why? What help am I to you?

 

"Oh… so… no lecture or motivational speech or… anything of that sort?"

 

"Hahaha. Of course not, dear boy."

 

"… oh. Well, what exactly do you require my assistance with?"

 

"Well, I've had my suspicions, but earlier today, I received a letter that confirmed everything. And I have a plan as to how I can prove my theory… but I am going to need your help to do it…"

 

Clive tensed slightly. He was rightfully apprehensive toward Layton's plans, since the circumstances were shady to say the least, but the man had saved his sorry ass twice before, and probably again just today, so Clive sort of owed it to him.

 

Sighing, he gave in. "What sort of help do you require?"

 

Layton smiled. "You've always been curious Clive. I love that about you. I only need you to do one tiny thing for me, but with your history, I'm sure that it won't be troubling at all."

 

"Alright… what do you need me to do?"

 

"Clive, I need you to…" Layton then launched into a highly-detailed plan of how he would prove his earlier theory.

 

Ten minutes later, after the man was done explaining, Clive could only stare straight ahead, stunned into silence.

 

He wants me to WHAT?!

 

Sure, Layton had saved him, but what he had just asked Clive to do crossed the line. An unsettling feeling had manifested itself in Clive's stomach the moment Layton let him inside the flat, and now it was gnawing away persistently at his insides, and the young man still had no idea as to what it was. But at that very moment, it all seemingly clicked into place. 

 

That feeling was, and is, fear. For the first time in his whole life, he, Clive Dove, ex-convict, the near destroyer of London, was actually afraid of someone. And that someone was Professor Hershel Layton. But the younger man knew, deep down inside, that he did owe it to Layton to do this. So Clive lets out a submissive sigh and resolved to meet Layton's intense gaze.

 

"So, are you up for it?" Layton seemed to desire a verbal contract. He intended to have Clive promise.

 

"Yes. I'll do it." Clive answers, surprised at the amount of solidity in his voice. And as unreassuring as it was, the only comfort to his frazzled mind was the knowledge that he owed it to Layton to help by doing what was asked of him; no matter how horribly depressing the request was.

Chapter Text

Luke quickly located his parents through the sea of people on the docks. His father's suit jacket and tie complete with his wrinkle-free black pants were rather easy to spot, not to mention that his poofy slicked back chestnut hair kind of stood out as well. His mother was first to greet him with an enthusiastic wave. She was wearing a black, ruffled long sleeve shirt and an elegant green skirt with shiny black boots. Her skirt flowing in the crisp winter breeze, she ran over and swept him up in a loving hug.

"Welcome back, darling!" she exclaimed cheerily.

"Thanks, mum." Luke replied, embracing her back wholeheartedly.

Though Luke towered over her now at his height of 5' 7", and her height of 5' 2", he still looked up to her for the patience and knowledge that comes from years of parenting a difficult child. It had taken years of reflecting, pondering, and so much practice at becoming a gentleman for Luke to finally realize how difficult he must've been to his parents when he was little.

Luke only wished that he'll be as good a father someday as the professor has been to him. It was almost as though his real father was the family friend, and the professor his father, not the other way around. Speaking of which, he noticed his father stalking regally over to him and his tired eyes roam over his child's toned, muscular build in a patronizing manner.

Luke wasn't the thirteen year old child the couple remembered, everything about him had changed, save for the fact that his hair spikes up naturally at the back and he still wears his trademark blue hat (though it is a bit small and worn now).

"Well, Hershel seems to have been treating you well." His father said cooly. Luke had to grit his teeth to keep from snapping back.

"Yes, he has been. It's nice to see you too, dad." Luke grunts out.

"Oh Luke! We've planned a huge Christmas party to celebrate your arrival! Everyone's going to be there! We even invited the professor!" His mother babbled excitedly.

"Huh? But I thought-"

His father cleared his throat. "Well, I did want to catch up with Hershel as well. We haven't seen each other in nearly seven years. As hard as it is to believe, I have missed both of you." Clark said, his voice still unnaturally flat. Luke was almost tempted to believe that it was just the way his father talked now. Things certainly had changed.

"So he's coming over too?" Luke felt his heart lifting.

"He certainly is! We invited Flora, Arianna, and Tony too. And a few of your black raven friends as well. Aren't you excited? We haven't had a gathering like this in ages!" Brenda said, giving her son a warm, encouraging smile.

"Mum, of course I am. And I ought to apologize." Luke's smile disappeared.

Brenda almost affectionately waved him off. "Can you save it for the car, dear? We really should get going before the traffic gets bad."

Luke nodded silently and he followed his parents over to the parking garage.

The Triton family proceeded to pile into the large shiny black car. Luke took a moment to marvel at the neat, unstained upholstery, and the heavily tinted windows that allowed for extra privacy.

"So, what were you saying at the docks, darling?" Brenda prompted.

Luke gulped. "Well, I need to apologize. I thought you were trying to bring me home for good or something and requesting my presence for Christmas was just a good excuse to get me back. I'm sorry for assuming that. I was wrong."

"Luke, I appreciate your apology and it is accepted, but darling, know this, your father and I love you more than anything. We only want you to be happy. But we do still want to spend time with you as well because we've missed you over the years." Brenda smiled sweetly.

"I understand." Luke finished humbly and proceeded to end the conversation by turning his head to watch the many buildings and shops that line Boston's streets fly by in a blur of lights and bricks. The whole ordeal sent the boy into a trance-like state of mind and he felt his eyelids beginning to sag…

Luke's eyes snapped open and he realized that he was in his old room. The walls were still the same baby blue, the bed sheets made in a shade just a twinge darker, his wall map still sat above his head on the wall, and well, it was exactly the same as he left it. His violin and a few other trinkets sat on a shelf above his mahogany dresser, which contained a few outfits from when he lived here before… nearly five years ago. The boy sighed and turned over in the bed… his bed, rather, and began to drift off but something kept him awake. His highly sensitive ears picked up voices from the room next door. It was his parents' voices, and they sounded strained. Whatever they were talking about, it must be important. He pressed his ear to the wall and tried to make out the conversation.

"You did the right thing, Clark. He needs this." Brenda spoke softly.

"But how do I know he'll even accept it? He might just push us away further when he leaves to head back to London." Clark seemed upset.

"You have to try. You won't know unless you try."

"I guess you're right."

"Goodnight, dear."

"… Brenda? Is throwing a party the really right way to go about this?"

"I'm not entirely sure." Brenda yawned. "But the boy should be so overwhelmed with euphoria that at least when he leaves, he'll have good memories of us."

"That's true. And Luke always has enjoyed parties, whatever the occasion. He just has that life about him."

"Mm hmm." Brenda yawned again. "G'night, darling. My last request is that you tell him about what you and I talked about earlier fairly soon."

"Alright. And Brenda?"

"Yes?"

"How much of this do you think Luke heard?"

"Knowing him, I'd say just about all."

Luke had to cover his mouth with his hand to keep from laughing.

Clark sighed. "Oh well. Goodnight, love."

"Night…"

Luke removed his ear from the wall and laid it back down on his pillow. A small smile tugged at his lips, begging to be set free. Luke gave in and allowed his lips to curve upward into an unmistakable smile. It was more of a grin, really. His eyes drooped closed.

I guess he does care after all.

Chapter Text

Luke forced himself to sit up in his bed, yawning in a grand display with his arms curled over his head. I must have been more tired than I thought yesterday. I hardly remember even getting here...

 

He took a look around the room and bit his lip, suddenly developing the humiliating urge to cry.

 

Maybe I have missed this place.

 

He forcefully swallowed his emotions whole and stood up. The wooden floor chilled his feet a substantial amount and the boy wondered why he had even bothered to get out of the warm, cozy environment that would be his bed for at least the next few weeks.

 

He opened the door and emerged out into the hallway, clad in an old white t-shirt and his shorts of yesterday.

 

An amusing thought entered his mind as he descended the stairs. This place is an almost exact copy of what we had in Misthallery. The country feel to it is actually quite relaxing.

 

The teen reached the kitchen and froze just outside of it. He knew his mother was cooking pancakes. He could smell the crisping sugar in the dough from the entrance. The smell was uplifting and nostalgic. It made him happy.

 

"Morning, mum." Luke said, smiling.

 

“Ah!" His mum turned around in a hurry and stared at him in alarm. "Oh. Luke, dear. You startled me.” Her hand came up to press against her chest, a simple gesture of surprise.

 

"Are you alright?" Luke inquired, concerned for his mother. She wasn’t one to be easily alarmed.

 

“Oh yes, I'm fine.” She waved him off. "You go relax. Breakfast will be ready soon.” She smiled but it didn't feel sincere.

 

Something was definitely up. Luke suddenly remembered the night before and the conversation he had overheard. Was her behavior related to that?

 

Luke flicked his gaze over the hodgepodge of ingredients strewn across the counter. Various dry ingredients had presumably tipped over at some point or another, judging by the small mounds of powder now on the floor. "Need any help?” He asked, still skeptical of her behavior. Maybe he could get her to open up if they spent some time together...

 

"Um, it's not needed, darling. Thank you for offering though.” Her tone was much calmer and clearer now. Luke decided to chalk her strange actions of earlier up to honest surprise, as she said, and not the late night conversation.

 

"Oh. Ok, mum." Luke mumbled and left the room and heads to the living room. He draped himself down over the couch and snatched the tv remote from the nearby coffee table and began to flip through the channels. The boy saw Christmas film after Christmas film and a laundry list of news reports on everything and anything under the sun. Though, he became so involved in his task of browsing that he was completely unaware of the phone ringing, and his father coming to answer it. He had no idea what was happening until his father thrust the phone in his face, his face pale and slack. Nothing good ever came of a face like that.

 

"T-take the call, Luke." Clark stuttered.

 

Well that was odd. The young man mused as he slowly took the phone. Dad never stutters…

 

"Hello? Luke speaking?" Luke calls into the phone, though it was not meant to be phrased as a question.

 

"Luke? Boy, it's Inspector Chelmey.” A gruff voice answered from the other end.

 

"Oh. Hello, Inspector. What a pleasant surprise." The boy tried to keep his cool for as long as possible, for the Chief Inspector of Scotland Yard didn't usually call just to exchange pleasantries.

 

"Well, your friend's here. I think I should let you talk to her.”

 

"Okay?" Luke's brow furrowed. What friend? It's a girl?

 

There was a bit of static and the overlapping garble of voices in the room before the dull clicking sound of the receiver being transferred hands.

 

"Luke? You there?” A familiar high-pitched female voice asked, her voice oddly flat.

 

“Flora?!” What in hell’s name is going on?! Luke’s mind went wild, going through every single worst case scenario that he could imagine to explain Flora's presence at Scotland Yard with Chelmey.

 

“Yeah… It's me..."

 

"What's going on?"

 

"Well, Luke, something's happened…"

 

“What?" The boy practically yells into the receiver. “What is it?"

 

"I-It's the professor..."

 

"What happened?"

 

"The p-professor's… d-d-dead Luke!" Flora wailed.

 

...what? Say what?

 

"…” Luke struggled with finding a way to respond. "Um, Flora… can you repeat that?"

 

"Professor Layton's dead, Luke."

 

What?

 

"This… this isn't a joke?"

 

"No, I'm sorry Luke. This… this is for real. H-he's g-gone!" At that, Flora broke into a blubbering fit of desperation. Luke pinched the bridge of his nose.

 

No way. It can't be. There has to be something going on here. She wouldn't just call me to say that he's dead. Just like that. I’m a rational person. All I have to do is approach this rationally… that’s what he would say…

 

His resolve cracked.

 

He dropped his head into waiting hands. Luke rubbed his forehead in a rather methodical manner, trying to force his mind to grasp what has just been revealed. The young man's uneven breathing was the only sound to be heard in the silent house as the realization began to dawn on him… as Flora's words finally began to sink in.

 

Could it really be? Could the great Professor Layton actually be dead?

Chapter Text

The journey back felt shorter than ever, and Luke spent it aimlessly pacing back and forth in his room. But at the same time, it felt like an eternity. There was nothing waiting for him when he returned now. Absolutely nothing to look forward to. So, subsequently, of course the young teen did not wish to really go anywhere. Much less back to what he considered home...but who was he kidding. What even was home anymore anyway?

 

When the ship reached dock, Luke made sure that he was the first one off. He looked desperately all around and he caught sight of a familiar woman rushing toward him. Gratitude and relief flooded his system and for the first time all week, Luke felt a bit lighter. The reunion almost felt...natural. Normal, even.

 

"Luke!" Flora's shrill voice called out.

 

"Flora!" Luke yelled back, the lump of earlier suddenly returning to his throat. The two embraced as Flora began to sob. Luke fought the urge to break down along side her, remembering how he had cried himself when he had left for the first time. It pained him to even think about it now.

 

So he elected to just wait it out. But it didn't take long, only a few more moment of sniveling before she sniffed loudly and stated, "Okay, I'm alright now. The car's out front. We need to go to the Yard…"

 

"Yeah, okay." The words that left Luke's mouth in response were empty and bland, there was no trace of anything within them. They were just that. Words.

 

The ride to the station felt excruciatingly long, mainly due to the lack of words that were exchanged between the two old friends. There were countless things they really ought to have discussed: the upcoming school term, Luke's trip, Flora's latest cooking escapades, yet neither of them said a single word. Flora was usually a joyful chatterbox without a kill switch around Luke, so for her to have been silent on such a day made the young man understandably uncomfortable.

 

Flora pulled the car into an open parking space outside of Scotland Yard and exhaled stiffly, looking rather pale. Her knuckles were nearly white from how hard she had been gripping the steering wheel.

 

Luke smiled understandingly and laid a gentle hand on her shoulder. "You can wait here if you want to. I'll only be a minute."

 

She nodded in silent thanks, giving him the tiniest of smiles. Police stations had never really been her thing. And she likely didn't want to be reminded of their current situation any more than he did, but Flora could survive one step removed from everything, whereas Luke could not.

 

Steeling himself, Luke got out of the vehicle and shut the door behind him. His eyes scoured the familiar brick building before him, the way one would observe an old friend. The countless number of visits he had made here begin to weighed heavily on his shoulders and he had to forcefully shake himself away from the feeling.

 

It took six sets of steps before he finally grasped the door handle and pulled it open. The entryway was eerily empty, save for the single guard standing at the end of the hall and the old man reading a magazine on the leftmost bench. Neither of them so much as blinked at Luke's arrival.

 

Luke became only more confused as he walked toward the guard, for the tall man still did not even move to acknowledge him, much less offer any assistance as was per usual for the receptionist guard. Suddenly, it hit him. The guard was asleep! Frowning, Luke gently nudged the man with a polite "excuse me" and had to duck a second later when the alarmed officer abruptly flung his arms about him and started yelling indistinguishable gibberish.

 

Luke assumed that it was a defensive response, though the movements were so sloppy that it very well could've been a rather lax stretching regimen instead. All things considered, he wasn't really sure what to make of it, so as the man slowly calmed down, Luke cleared his throat to announce his presence once more and the officer turned two squinty eyes in his direction. "Who're you?" The rotund man asked groggily.

 

Luke straightened up, feeling a surge of confidence at finally having been noticed. "Luke Triton. I'm here to see Inspector Chelmey."

 

"The inspector's out right now. Come back later." The guard yawned and waved a hand in his face.

 

Luke frowned again. "Would you even actually know if the inspector was out? Seems to me like sleeping on the job isn't the best as far as gathering information goes."

 

"I was just closing my eyes! I wasn't sleeping." The guard seemed flustered.

 

Luke was nearly ready to outright insult the man and tell him off for being so lazy when his job was to be a defender of public safety...when he remembered something that made his tongue catch. It wasn't his intention to remember what a certain gentleman would have done in this situation, nor was it his intention to remember the exact words his mentor had said to him in response to a time when he had overstepped his bounds.

 

A gentleman never actively works to humiliate others, Luke...

 

Damn it all, Luke thought as his chewed his cheek to prevent any hotheaded words from spilling out. It took all of his willpower to refrain from insults when he looked back to the guard, only to find the lazy git smirking down at him.

 

After a moment of mentally blowing off steam, Luke sighed. "Could you direct me to the Inspector's office then, at least, so I could wait?"

 

"No can do, sonny. I'm afraid minors can't go unattended past this point."

 

Sonny? Minor? I'm a legal adult! Luke was fuming by that point, but he refrained from doing anything that might further bar him entry from the Yard. He desperately needed to make a good impression on any law enforcement personnel if he was to take this case...

 

Flashing ID at this point would likely only anger the guard further, so Luke merely turned on his heel and made for the row of open seats near the front of the room. But just as he was about to sit down, a voice yelled, "Blimey, Joe, did you fall asleep on the job again?"

 

Everyone's attention, which was a grand total of three people's, shifted to the hallway behind where the guard was posted, and in the opening stood a very angry, and very gray, Inspector Chelmey.

 

So the man had been here the whole time! Luke almost wanted to shove it in that officer's face, but he chose to address the older man in the hallway instead. "Inspector--" Luke started, but he was cut off by another accusation from the old man.

 

"Well, did you?!" Chelmey barked, glaring at the guard, who shriveled in fear.

 

"Y-Yes, sir..." The guard, whose name had been revealed to be Joe, replied sheepishly.

 

"Well, I can't very well have my officers napping on the job, now can I? The commissioner'll give me hell if he hears about this. Don't let it happen again."

 

"Yes sir!" Joe saluted Chelmey stiffly.

 

The inspector's attention shifted. "Luke."

 

The boy in question stood as tall as he could manage and looked the inspector square in the eye. "Yes...sir?"

 

"Let's go." And with that, the old man turned on his heel and stalked back to the old staircase. He made no motion for Luke to follow, but it was understood inherently, and the boy took the silent implication as though it was second nature.

 

They skirted around stacks of boxes and piles of papers on the way to Chelmey's office, and Luke silently took note of the clutter. Spring cleaning, perhaps?

 

Chelmey almost seemed to read his mind. "The station's being renovated soon. That's why it's a mess up here."

 

Luke found himself slightly taken aback by the inspector's perceptiveness, but he made no comment to show it.

 

A moment later, Chelmey made a sharp left turn and opened a door with a small plaque that read: Inspector Chelmey. Luke followed the man inside and was met with the sight of a room he felt he hadn't seen in ages.

 

The shelves were filled with books, trinkets, and various awards from days past. There were a few picture frames hanging on the walls--the paper upon which was peeling dreadfully--and the ceiling had dark rings which Luke deduced was a result of water damage. He could definitely see why the place was in need of renovation...

 

"Shut the door behind you if you wouldn't mind." Chelmey's command cut through Luke's musing and the boy started at the sudden speech.

 

He reached for the brass doorknob and pushed the door until it clicked shut. The knob wiggled quite a bit as he let go. Luke stood awkwardly in front of the door.

 

Chelmey pointed to the wooden chair in front of his desk as he sat down in the tattered office chair behind it. "Well, have a seat." The chair groaned loudly in discomfort as he sat down.

 

Luke took the suggestion gratefully and sat down in the chair, only then realizing how uncomfortable the backing was. But he made no show of it. "So, may I ask what we know about the situation?"

 

Chelmey folded his arms. "I was about to ask you the same thing."

 

"Huh?" Luke raised an eyebrow.

 

"We hardly know anything. What I told you over the phone is the bulk of it. And there's nothing we need to do in terms of investigation as we already have the C.O.D. and the criminal."

 

"So...why did you call me here, then?"

 

Chelmey looked around the room, almost as though to assure that they were alone. "...does the word Enigma mean anything to you?"

 

"Enigma?" Luke ran his memory for any recognition. "No...should it?"

 

Chelmey sighed. "Oh well, you were our last hope. I just don't know what to make of it..."

 

"What is it?" Luke asked.

 

"I was really hoping that you'd know something with Layton being your mentor and all..." Chelmey seemed almost to be lamenting it all.

 

Luke became tense. "How does the professor factor into this?"

 

"It was his..." The room faded into a tense silence as Chelmey seemed to realize something. "Oh...you didn't know..."

 

"Know what?"

 

"It was Layton's favorite case file. He'd been working on it for years and pulled it almost once a week—well, until he demanded that we put it into the confidential section, that is...so he never told you about it at all?"

 

"...not that I can recall."

 

"Then he must not have wanted you involved. There's no other explanation. The only question is why--"

 

“Can I see the file?"

 

Chelmey frowned. “If he didn't give you permission, then—“

 

“If the professor was working on something, then it’s my job to see it through. I am—" Luke gulped. "...was his apprentice, after all.”

 

The old man sighed and his tone became...almost sympathetic. “…you want to see it that badly, eh?”

 

Luke nodded.

 

Chelmey sighed and picked up the phone, roughly dialing in a number. “Chelmey, here. I need the files we put away earlier—!”

 

“…” Luke couldn't quite make out what the other person was saying, though the growing look of annoyance on Chelmey's face forced the boy to stifle a laugh.

 

“No, I don’t need to tell you why and yes of course I have clearance.” Chelmey retorted, frowning.

 

“…”

 

“Which ones?! You’re the one who put them away! You know which ones!” He was rather angry by that point.

 

“…”

 

“How in god’s name am I supposed to remember the locker combination? What idiot decided to lock them up anyway…”

 

“…!” Luke heard garbled exclamations.

 

“Oh. I did? Well then…”

 

“…” There was a laugh from the other end.

 

“Oi! Don’t laugh at your superiors! I could have you fired for that--”

 

“…” It seemed that the person was finishing the conversation.

 

“Yes, goodbye.” Frowning, the inspector laid the receiver down in its cradle and sighed in obvious exasperation. “I swear, young people these days. Thinking they know everything..."

 

A minute later, after they had both sat in a very tense silence, there was a knock on the door. Chelmey stood up, still grumbling and went to get it.

 

"Well, 's about time..." He muttered as he opened the door.

 

A young man who looked to be in his mid-twenties came into the office, with not even so much as an "excuse me" and holding a single yellow folder in his hand. "I think this is the one you wanted." He held the said item out.

 

"You think it's...oh why bother." Chelmey snatched the folder from his errand boy, and flipped it open. "Yeah, this is it..." He sighed and began to walk back to his desk. "You're dismissed. And shut the door when you leave this time!"

 

The young man from the archives smiled and gave a sloppy salute. "Roger, that." After shutting the door, Luke listened intently as the footsteps faded as he walked down the hallway.

 

Luke looked back to Chelmey, who had, in the moment Luke had spent observing the strangely charismatic errand boy from archives, set out the folder and neatly arranged its contents to make viewing easy.

 

But...the only problem was that there weren't really any contents to speak of at all. Just a halfway filled-out investigation card, a phone number on a small paper from a notepad, and a single piece of yellowed paper.

 

Luke fought with his annoyance for a moment. Where was the rest of it? He tried to keep a level tone."Um...you said he'd been working on this for years, right?

 

Chelmey sighed and sat back in his chair, folding his arms again. "That's right."

 

Luke continued to speak very slowly. "Uh, I don't mean to be precocious or anything, but...aren't lengthy cases like this a little more...I don't know, bountiful?"

 

Chelmey shrugged. "Your guess is as good as mine. Layton hardly ever talked about Enigma. I hadn't even looked inside the file myself until a week ago."

 

Luke sighed. “Enigma? So that’s the file's name?”

 

“That’s what Layton called it anyway. Said it was some kind of organization. I didn’t really take note of the details, though. There wasn’t all that much evidence, as you can see."

 

Luke pulled the case card toward him and pointed to the section titled "affiliations". “It says here that Enigma had influence over Targent. Were there any connections?"

 

“We cleared up Targent years ago, but most of it’s members went missing before we could get in there and play maid. It was written off as just another anomaly. No one came filing missing persons reports so we didn’t dabble too much in it. And the members we did manage to track down claimed no knowledge of anything by the name of Enigma."

 

Luke sighed. The course of action was clear, but at this point, it was above him. External assistance was required. “…would you mind if I made a call?”

 

Chelmey stood up with a grunt. “Sure, go ahead. Phone’s all yours. I was going to make a coffee run anyway. Just don’t go poking around too much. Room’s gotta stay clean and all.” In an instant, he was out the door with nothing but his receding footfalls in his wake.

 

Luke eyed the receiver dubiously and steeled himself as he picked it up. He took a breath and dialed the number.

 

“…” The line beeped. “….” Another beep. “…” It beeped again. Luke was growing impatient, but just as he was about to hang up, a chipper female voice finally answered with, “Hello?"

 

“Emmy!”

 

“Oh, Luke! It’s been forever! How are you?”

 

“Well, actually, I have some news I have to tell you.” Luke proceeded to launch into the recounting of the past few days in vivid detail. He told her about how he had gone home for Christmas, the professor's death, and how he came back.

 

There was a long silence on the other end before, "I can't believe this is actually happening..." Emmy's voice was oddly flat.

 

Luke forced himself to push through the wall of feelings that had been building up in his mind. "I couldn't either, but we can't dwell on it too much now. There will be time for grieving later. Right now, I have a favor to ask of you."

 

Emmy gave a small sigh before she murmured, “Of course. Whatever you need.”

 

“I need you to look up a name--"

 

"Ah, hold on one sec...paper...now where did I put the pen...aha!! Okay, ready."

 

"The name is Enigma. E-N-I-G-M-A. Have you heard of it before?"

 

"E-N-I-G-M-A. Hmm, not that I know of...what is it?"

 

"According to the professor, it's some kind of an organization that's connected to Targent."

 

"The professor knows--er, knew about it?"

 

"He had a case file at the Yard on it."

 

"Oh good, so there's some info, then."

 

"Unfortunately no, the file's..." Luke hesitated for a moment, suddenly wondering if he could trust Emmy. This was connected to Targent after all... So he decided to play it safe. "...practically empty."

 

"Really? That's strange..."

 

"Why?"

 

"Because the professor told me last time we spoke that he was close to a breakthrough on his new case...but that can't be possible if the file's empty...oh!"

 

"What?"

 

"...the file must've been emptied before it reached you."

 

"You're saying someone stole the evidence? Why? The case's been open for years, it'd be practically cold by now..."

 

"Not necessarily. Remember Targent, Luke. That investigation lasted a long time as well. This one is presumably no different, especially if it is indeed connected."

 

"..."

 

"Luke? You still there?"

 

"Ah, yeah, sorry."

 

"I'd like to see the file as well."

 

"...right."

 

"I think you should take the evidence with you. Or whatever's there. I'm not sure we can trust the Yard anymore."

 

"Okay."

 

"Should we meet at your place?"

 

Luke choked back the tears at the realization that came with her words. The professor's house likely would become his. Heck, if it wasn't already. "Y-Yeah."

 

"I'll see you in a few hours, then. In the meantime, you should go get some rest. You're probably tired."

 

"Right. I will."

 

"Bye, then."

 

Luke said goodbye and put the phone down, finding that his eyes gravitated to the case file. He reached over the desk and grabbed the single stained paper. It was rough to the touch and smelled old.

 

At the top of the case form was the elegantly written word: Enigma. It was obviously the professor's penmanship. Luke bit his cheek and narrowed his eyes. His head buzzed with unanswered questions that he know could never be said aloud.

 

Just how much can I trust her?

 

Was the file evidence really stolen?

 

Why does she know about the case?

 

Luke swallowed as the final question made his blood run cold.

 

So...why didn't the professor tell me?

Chapter Text

Luke wasn't entirely sure what he was supposed to think about the situation. Should he feel scared? Nervous? Should he feel anything? Should he even be this confused over it all?

With a sigh, he clenched his fists and looked back to the open file on Chelmey's desk that seemed to glare up at him--mocking him and literally daring him to just reach out and take its contents.

He allowed his fingertips to ghost over the papers within the yellow folder, but he refrained from grabbing them. There was a war going on in his head. A battle between his head and his heart. Between morality and obedience.

What was he supposed to do?

On one hand, he could take the contents and sneak out. But where would that leave him? Sure, Emmy, Flora, and he would now have unrestricted access to the evidence (or what was left of it)...yet what would it do to his reputation? Scotland Yard likely wouldn't be the most thrilled at a young adult like himself taking evidence for a confidential case whether it was hot or not.

But on the other hand, he could leave without the papers, incur Emmy's wrath and jumpstart the actions that would likely only lead to her coming to the Yard and outwardly taking the file herself.

No matter how he organized the order of events, the single constant seemed to be: trouble. There was no way around potentially bending the law in order to further their investigation as an independent party.

Scowling, Luke gathered the papers within the folder and arranged them so that they would fit into the small pack that he had brought with him. With a deep breath, he opened the bag's flap and placed the papers inside, praying that he wouldn't be caught.

He calmly stood up and dusted himself off, readjusting his pack as he did so. The empty yellow folder was hauntingly obvious atop the old desk, but there was nothing he could do to assuage that fact. So with a heavy heart, he turned on his heel and started for the door, being careful to avoid all of the precariously stacked boxes out in the hallway.

Luke was nearly halfway down the stairs when he ran into an obstacle. Coming up the staircase was Inspector Chelmey, holding a small bag in his left hand and a cup in his right. He seemed to be as surprised to see Luke as the poor boy had been to see him. Chelmey didn't waste any time in speaking, however.

"Heading out, Luke?"

Something sparked in Luke's mind. He had been meaning to ask a question for a while but the timing had never been right. "Um, Inspector, is Clive in custody right now?"

"Hm." Chelmey pursed his lips. "Yes, he is. But things are slightly difficult, unfortunately."

Luke was surprised, and a bit happy, but he didn't dare let the inspector pick up on that bit. "Why's that?"

"Well, he got himself a damn good lawyer--oh. Speak of the devil. There he is." Chelmey gestured to the base of the stairs at the tall man that was passing by. The guy was quite a spectacle. His black hair was slicked back in sharp gray-streaked waves and he wore a deceivingly expensive navy blue suit. He also seemed to be tuned to their stares, for when he was even with them, he turned ever so slightly to give them a smile. But his eyes were cold.

Luke shivered and Chelmey stiffened, but the man turned back and paid them no mind as he continued his walk down the hallway.

"His name's Wright. Crazy bloke but he sure knows what he's doing. Dove's certainly lucky." Chelmey stated gruffly.

Luke fought the amusement that bubbled in his stomach. "Would it be possible for me to see Clive?" He needed to talk to the man.

"Actually, Dove asked to see you. That's why I came to find you in the first place, but I didn't want to hold you up if you needed to go."

Luke shook his head quickly, maybe a bit too enthusiastically, for Chelmey raised an eyebrow at him, but he seemed to not pay too much mind as he took to the stairs again.

"Just wait for me down there."

Luke nodded and started descending the staircase once more, the guilt weighing heavily on his shoulders. He took a seat in the waiting room and his thoughts came back full force and it took an incredible amount of will to suppress the urge to run away right there. He was about to go meet the man who had a death wish for all of them. The man who very well could have been Luke's future self had things turned out differently.

The boy smiled to himself as he remembered the way he used to justify being different from Clive. I've never broken the law. He ran his fingertips over his brown shoulder bag. So much for that. It almost gave him a sense of pride to feel elevated from the general public. He felt special for daring to do something that wasn't allowed. Was that the way all criminals felt?

"Let's go, then." Chelmey's voice drew Luke out of his mind and alerted him to the inevitable. There was no time to run now. Chelmey started down the hallway and Luke followed in his wake. They stopped a few steps later outside of a room with a metal door and two uniformed men guarding it.

Chelmey waved the guards aside and placed his hand on the handle, shooting Luke a questioning glance.

"If anything happens, you run right out, got it?"

Luke nodded. He had already convinced himself that he would do this.

The entire building seemed to go silent as the door creaked open to reveal a rather sterile looking concrete room.

With a gesture from Chelmey, Luke tentatively stepped inside the interrogation room, both exhilarated and terrified of what he was walking into. His inquirer sat cuffed to a metal chair pulled up to a desk that was bolted to the ground.

Luke gulped.

Clive looked as mischievous as ever, his thin lips curled into an unmistakeable smirk. When he laid eyes on Luke, his face broke into a large grin. "Luke. Good, they let you in here. I was afraid that I wasn't even going to be granted a last wish."

Luke gritted his teeth and clenched his fists, suddenly overcome with a wave of rage. "Did you do it?"

"Do what?" Clive asked.

Luke shut his eyes, begging himself not to cry. "Did you kill him?!"

Clive sighed and his chair groaned loudly as he leaned back. "Luke, I think you should calm down. And that isn't really the issue at hand, is it?"

Luke took a breath and tried to keep a level tone. "Are you...the reason for all this...?"

"Would I be here if I wasn't?" Clive seemed to enjoy messing with Luke.

Frowning the younger boy relinquished his anger and chose to take a different angle. "What did you need to tell me?"

Clive grinned. "Oh yeah, that. It's pretty important so I'll only say it once."

"O-kay...?" Luke was growing tired of this game.

Clive stayed silent for a moment, almost as if building the suspense, and in that second, Luke let his guard down. Which was a complete mistake. For in the next instant, less than a blink in time, Luke found himself roughly pinned with a hand to the neck to the concrete wall of the interrogation room. The hand that held him was Clive.

Luke could hear yelling from outside the metal door to his left. The men outside were presumably fiddling with the door (as it seemed that they had managed to lock themselves out...except without using the key).

"Isn't this going a bit far?" Luke chokingly asked as he glared up at Clive, though he couldn't deny that he was slightly scared by this point.

"Nah, I have to put on a good show, after all. It was part of the deal." Clive took a deep breath and leaned close to Luke's ear to deliver the punchline. "12, 23, 16, 3, 20."

What?

The guards finally burst through the door and restrained Clive, who now wore a rather pained expression. Luke stumbled away from the wall and took a moment to catch his breath, but in that small moment, Clive had already been led away. The room felt awfully cold and it made the boy uncomfortable. Sighing, Luke exited and found Chelmey standing just outside the doorway.

"Inspector," he started.

"Hm."

"When is Clive's trial?"

"Tomorrow at four." Chelmey's expression grew dark. "Why? Did the bastard tell you something?"

Luke thought back to the numbers and then to Emmy's words during their conversation on the phone.

We can't trust the authorities anymore...

He chose to hold his tongue. "No, he didn't. But I need to be going. Thank you for your time, Inspector."

I think I know what I have to do now.

And with that, Luke left.

Chapter Text

The walk down the hallway and out the front door provided no more obstacles and Luke moved quickly down to the curb where Flora was still parked in the little red car.

 

"A few minutes, eh?" Flora muttered as she turned the ignition and the car lurched to life.

 

"Sorry." Luke replied breathlessly, fidgeting under her piercing gaze. If anything had changed in the last years, it was Flora's disposition. She had grown quite a bit as a person, seeing as how her naivety was all but gone, and it meant that Luke felt a slight bit inferior around her at times.

 

It was a solid few minutes before Luke dared to speak again. The tension in the car was positively electric and he knew it would spark even more discord between them if it stayed silent much longer. So when he opened his mouth to start the much-dreaded conversation, his voice shook terribly.

 

"S-Say, Flora, w-would you be mad if I told you I had stolen something?"

 

Flora sighed and Luke could literally feel her annoyance poking at his conscience. "You took a file, didn't you?"

 

"Yeah." Luke could hardly bear to breathe. He had only half-expected her to blow it all off. But those were the kinds of things he couldn't hope for anymore. Not when it was this important.

 

"What was it on, then?" Flora prompted, her tone oddly level.

 

Luke gulped. "...the professor's investigation on an organization called Enigma."

 

Flora's grip on the wheel tightened, though her irritation no longer seemed geared toward Luke. "I didn't know he was investigating something."

 

The boy silently thanked his lucky stars that she had directed her wrath elsewhere, and had taken a viewpoint similar to his own at the same time. He sighed in relief. "Neither did I. But I think it's our job to finish it." He felt his energy restored.

 

"Luke..." Flora started but her voice rapidly lost confidence and trailed off.

 

The teen in question turned to her expectantly. "What?"

 

"...Oh never mind." She shook her head, lips in a taut line. Something was obviously up.

 

Luke immediately became suspicious. "Flora, what?" he persisted.

 

"Don't worry about it. It's nothing. I was just...remembering."

 

Oh.

 

Luke knew exactly what she was referring to, and immediately changed his tone to one of sympathy. "Oh, okay. I got it."

 

They had already silently agreed to not pressure each other any farther than absolutely necessary, since memories were something dangerously personal and still an incredibly tender subject for them both. So, with a quick glance from the corner of his eye to check Flora's emotional state, and after deeming it safe, Luke quickly pulled the conversation back on track in terms of their pending investigation.

 

Luke cleared his throat. "Emmy's going to be meeting us as well."

 

Flora inhaled sharply and adjusted her hands on the wheel as they pulled into the driveway of...their house. "...When will she be here?" she asked as she killed the engine.

 

"She said a few hours...a few hours ago. So she should be here soon."

 

The young woman threw her companion a look of annoyance—presumably in follow up to the fact that Luke had left Flora sitting in the car for nearly two hours.

 

"Wonderful." Her voice dripped with sarcasm. "Then you can explain what on earth took you so long in there to the both of us."

 

Flora went stiffly to the front door and unlocked it, giving the knob a little shake before yanking it around and pushing her weight into the door itself. It reluctantly opened under the pressured with a loud groan. Luke flinched at her roughness, and the young woman appeared to notice his unease as she stepped inside.

 

"The door's a little sticky now," she said rather matter-of-factly. Luke nodded tensely at the statement and followed her in, closing the door behind them.

 

As Flora flicked on the lights, it was as if Luke was thrown into a memory. He remembered days long past of returning after a particularly long mystery and coming into the foyer of their little single story home...despite the thin layer of dust that coated the whole place it still shone like new. It was home.

 

But now, the only thing he felt at seeing the peeling paint on the walls and the many stains that had never caught his eye a few weeks ago, was regret. Instead of being washed over with that familiar euphoric feeling of safety and relief, a barrage of negative emotion took hold of his heart and prodded at all the old scars. He remembered how he had struggled in school as his attendance was continually lacking and his teachers seemed to give him twice the work of any other student... he remembered how he had never managed to make any friends, and the ones he did make were only interested in him for his connections to Gressenheller. It had been tough playing apprentice for all those years.

 

A voice startled him from his reverie. "It's been a while, huh... since the two of us were in this place at the same time, I mean."

 

Luke shook himself back to the present and noticed that Flora was standing at the end of the hallway, wearing a sympathetic smile.

 

"Yeah... it really has." He chuckled sadly at how many memories there were contained within the walls of this house. And that was all they would be from now on. Memories.

 

Flora made a sound of agreement as she turned to leave. "I'll put on a spot of tea. Take your time."

 

"...Thanks." Luke murmured after her retreating form.

 

He sighed and glanced over to the coat rack mounted on the wall and found his old blue pullover still hanging there next to his raincoat. Clicking his tongue, he reached over and removed the old garments from the hooks, coughing at the dust cloud that appeared before him. But what he was searching for lay behind the clothes hanging. Dropping the coats to the ground, he began to tear down the other pieces of clothing as well, until his goal became visible. Below the many jackets was a single black frame that held a picture, the first picture the three of them had taken together after they got home from Flora's village. Luke, being the short boy he was, nailed the frame to the wall without really thinking of the location. And when Flora opted to have a coat rack put in a few months later and Luke offered to take the photo down, the professor had clearly told them that it was unnecessary. When Luke had challenged the statement, Layton had replied that it was the thought that counted, so the image was welcome to stay in it's location as moving it would destroy the meaning.

 

Luke gritted his teeth and shakily reached out to grab the frame and pull it from its hook, running his fingertips over the glass. In the darkness behind the many coats, the picture had remained in perfect condition. An untouched memory.

 

If he tried really hard, he could almost see the color between the black and white lines and grasp the little bit of life that bad been captured in the photo.

 

With heavy heart, he replaced the frame and smiled through the sadness.

 

It'll never be the same again...

 

But I need to move on. We have a case to solve, now.

 

A hand slipped into his bag and he confidently walked beyond the entryway, heading straight for the dining room table, which Flora had already set for three people. He almost thought that it was like old times, but caught himself and amended the statement. The third place was for Emmy.

 

It was the start of the new times.

 

He proceeded to dump his messenger bag's contents out onto the far end of the table, away from the place settings, and began ruffling through the many notepads, pens, candy wrappers, and random baubles of days gone past. An old emergency toothbrush. A strange rock from some strange land (he honestly didn't remember where it was from). A bent hair-clip that had once been used to unlock a door on one of their trips... the list went on and on. The pale yellow case file was at the base of the pile and pulled it free of everything else, taking it with him and sitting in a seat at the other end of the table.

 

Flora emerged from the kitchen a moment later with a tray of tea and sandwiches. Cucumber sandwiches. She smiled when she saw Luke sitting at the table, making a little gesture to the papers next to him.

 

"So 's that it, then?"

 

"Yeah."

 

"Right. Hand me your cup." She set down the tray in the center of the three seats and grabbed the kettle.

 

Luke handed her the cup and she poured it slowly. For the first time, Luke noticed how bad her hands were shaking and he felt another wave of regret. She moved to pour her own cup but Luke reached out at the last minute to steady her grip, wrapping his hands over her own and guiding the kettle's spigot to the cup with ease.

 

She chuckled lightly, though it felt forced. "Thanks, sorry."

 

"Um, yeah. Anytime." Luke retracted his hands and moved to face forward in his seat again, his cheeks hot.

 

Flora opened her mouth to say something but a knock at the front door cut her off. The two teens shared a knowing glance and Luke stood abruptly, dashing off to answer it.

 

A cold feeling washed through his body as he came in sight of the door. It would be the first time he had seen Emmy since she had left nearly six years prior. Sure, the professor had met with her once or twice over tea but Luke had never attended. He hadn't quite ever gotten over the way she had double-crossed them back in the days of Targent.

 

Luke took a deep breath. I'm over it. It was six years ago. Targent's not around anymore. She's on our side now...

 

He reached for the door and gave it a rough twist like Flora had earlier. It creaked open to reveal a familiar woman with wavy brown hair in a yellow trench-coat.

 

Emmy Altava.

 

"Luke! Oh Luke, it's so good to see you again! You've grown so much!" Emmy raced through the doorway to embrace the boy, catching him remarkably off guard.

 

"Y-Yeah, I guess I have..."

 

As Emmy pulled back, Luke finally got a good look at her. The only thing that was truly different were the stress lines that were etched into her forehead.

 

Maybe I wasn't the only one who's been worrying about the past...

 

"We're having tea if you'd like some," Luke started with a smile and stepped aside to let her through.

 

There's nowhere to go except up at this point. I can't stay stuck in the past forever.

 

Emmy grinned. "Yes please, I'm absolutely parched!"

 

Luke closed the door and they walked into the dining room where Flora was patiently waiting. She stood and walked to meet them halfway with a tense nod. The room descended into a serious air as they all took their seats at the table and took their tea in silence.

 

Flora finally broke the silence as she set her cup down. "So, Luke, why don't you start by recounting what happened at the Yard." She looked to Emmy for approval, who gave a simple nod.

 

"It's as good a place to start as any," Emmy added.

 

Luke nodded at the two expectant faces waiting for his story and began. He recounted his entire conversation with Chelmey, the mention of Enigma, the case file, the call to Emmy... and then he started in on the meeting with Clive and the numbers, at the mere mention of which immediately made everyone freeze. Luke paused in his rendition, curious as to the reason for their adverse reactions to his experience.

 

"What?" he inquired cautiously.

 

"Well...you, um, how much can we...actually believe?" Flora replied carefully, her eyes swimming with doubt.

 

"But—" Luke started.

 

Emmy cut in. "I agree with Flora."

 

Luke furrowed his brows. "What reason would he have to lie?"

 

"What reason would he have to tell the truth? And how do we even know the numbers represent anything real?"

 

Luke slammed a hand on the table. "I just know, okay! Trust me on this!"

 

Emmy seemed slightly taken aback at Luke's outburst and narrowed her eyes at her teacup, which trembled in the aftermath of his yelling. "... Okay. So what's next? Do you have any idea what they mean? And what else is in the file? We might as well start going through it all."

 

Luke nodded and opened the cover on the folder. "I've no idea what the numbers mean and the file's basically empty." He fanned the contents out across the table, which wasn't much. The file paper itself and the blank half-sheet. Nothing else.

 

Emmy rubbed her neck. "... So we're essentially back to square one?"

 

"Unfortunately, yes." Luke sighed. "I was hoping you might have some ideas."

 

"Luke." Emmy pursed her lips. "I'm a reporter, not a detective. If anything, you knew Hershel better than I did, so I would think that you—"

 

"Um, sorry to interrupt," Flora murmured suddenly, bringing the attention of the room completely onto her. "But I think I may have an idea."

 

Emmy sighed and shot a sidelong glance to Luke, who was glaring back at her. "Well from the way this is shaping up, we could use all the ideas we can get. So fire away, Flora."

 

The young woman in question pointed to the half-sheet. "This paper here... it was certainly blank when you got it, right?"

 

Luke nodded. "As far as I know, yes. Why? What are you thinking?"

 

"I... guess you could call it a hunch," Flora said with a wry smile as she stood up and walked into the kitchen, starting to rummage through the drawers. Luke and Emmy exchanged a glance and the two of them got up to move closer to her.

 

Flora finally pulled out a small box of what appeared to be matches and ran back to the table to grab the paper, Emmy and Luke not far behind. A match was lit and touched to the candle in the table's centerpiece, igniting the wick. Flora held the paper a few centimeters above the cone of the flame, close enough to catch the heat but far enough to prevent burning.

 

"Flora...what are you doing?"

 

The girl blushed a bit. "Well... it's a long shot but the professor showed me how to make heat-sensitive ink once a-and once it's been used the paper get's kind of off-color and rough like this one so..."

 

"So you thought that there might be ink on it but we just couldn't see it," Emmy continued, her eyes fixed on the paper.

 

"Exactly." She nodded.

 

Luke shook his head in disbelief. "Brilliant."

 

Flora laughed. "Yeah, that's only if it works."

 

Everyone observed in awe as tiny dark lines began to become visible on the paper. Flora smiled and began to move the sheet around until most of it was covered with crisscrossing lines.

 

"Amazing..." Emmy murmured.

 

"What... what is it?" Luke asked breathlessly, tracing a finger delicately over the lines.

 

"It looks like a map..." Flora whispered, beaming as she extinguished the candle flame.

 

Luke tried to imagine where such a complex street pattern would be seen. "You think it's London?"

 

"Looks like it...wait. What's that?" Emmy pointed to a particularly dark marking on the paper.

 

"Burn from the flame maybe?" Luke offered.

 

Emmy shook her head. "No, it couldn't be, it's far too consistent around the edges. Look how round it is... Could it be a marker of some sort?"

 

"What does that place correspond to?"

 

"Hmm, I don't think it matches any buildings or anything...it's just a spot in the middle of the street."

 

"You're sure there's no buildings there?"

 

Emmy reached into her pocket and pulled out an official map of London and spread it across the table. Luke gave her a skeptical look but she shook him off. She began searching for the section that the paper scrap corresponded to. She traced every single line until she pointed definitively to a spot that matched the place where the mark lay. "If it was something, it would be right here."

 

Luke peered at the spot, and realized that Emmy was right. There was nothing there.

 

"Then it must just be a mistake," Luke said, turning away from the paper.

 

"... Must be." Emmy sounded a bit discouraged.

 

Luke immediately jumped back into the investigation, rummaging through the papers to find the number sheet. "So the next question is what the numbers mean."

 

"What numbers?" Emmy asked.

 

"The numbers Clive gave me!" Luke exclaimed, running to grab a pen and notepad from the pile of junk from his satchel before hurriedly scribbling the numbers of earlier.

 

Flora eyed the boy warily and cleared her throat. "He...gave you numbers?"

 

"Luke—" Emmy started.

 

"Could it be a code of some sort?" The boy paid her no mind as he scrutinized the numbers, his eyes alight with renewed excitement. "Like the Caesar Cipher or something?"

 

Emmy slammed a hand on the table. "Luke!"

 

"What?" The boy turned to look at her, confused.

 

"Maybe," she started, clenching her hand into a fist. "...What if it doesn't mean anything?"

 

Luke folding his arms. "Huh? Why wouldn't it? Clive went to all the trouble to tell me—"

 

"You said he pinned you against the wall, right?" Emmy pressed.

 

Luke snorted. "Yeah but what's that got to do with—"

 

"He's insane, Luke. People who kill others... they... it changes them." Flora murmured, earning her an angry glare from Luke.

 

"He might not have meant anything by it at all. What if it was merely something to mess with you?"

 

"...even if that's true...I can't accept that it means nothing. Why would he have asked for me personally if it wasn't important?"

 

"Luke..."

 

The boy's fists clenched and he gritted his teeth. "It's fine."

 

"Then what do you think we should do? We have a map and a bunch of numbers. It's not exactly much to go on." Emmy folded her arms.

 

Luke looked back to the paper. "I think the numbers are a code that we're supposed to break."

 

"...code-breaking can take years." Emmy rubbed her temples.

 

"Then I guess we're going to be here for a while," Luke snapped, venomously.

 

Emmy eyed him skeptically and he gave her a glare as well, the tension between them rising once more. The room was alight with the lighting bolts between them as the ghosts of the past erupted from their hearts and burst forward in a swift wave of heated emotion.

 

Flora sat silently beside them, waiting with wide eyes to see who would explode first.

 

Luke bit his cheek, rapidly clenching and unclenching his fist under the table to relieve a bit of the anger flowing in his veins.

 

Why did I think that anything had changed? Who am I kidding? It wouldn't matter if it had been a hundred years since we had seen each other. Time doesn't heal all wounds.

 

His heart seized as he remembered who had said those exact words to him in a particular alley on a snowy London evening after their last adventure together. He remembered the sting of the snow on his bare hands and the way his mentor stiffly walked away from the scene, and how tired he seemed. And when Luke had inquired to the true nature of the situation, the reply had been strained.

 

"Time...doesn't heal all wounds, Luke."

 

Defeatedly, he unclenched his hand for the last time and lifted it up onto the table. It felt as if the anger from days past had, at some point without his knowledge, turned into an intense longing for what no longer was. He never knew how much it had hurt him to lose so much so quickly. For so long he had been running from the pain and using it to propel himself forward.

 

"I'm...I..." he tried to speak but there was a pesky lump in his throat that signaled the coming flood. Immediately he averted his eyes.

 

A hand gently came to cover his own and he turned back to see it was Flora's.

 

"We're all in this together, Luke. We always have been. We just... don't want you to make any assumptions."

 

Luke choked past the lump in his throat. "Thanks." He turned his gaze to Emmy. "But if either of you don't want to do this, then you can leave. This case is my responsibility and—"

 

"No," Emmy interjected with a raised hand. "It's our responsibility. We're your family Luke, don't shut us out." She wore a sad smile.

 

Luke smiled back and the lingering tensions began to solidify into something more reliable as the trust from days past began to return to them. Flora smiled and retracted her hand from Luke's, knowing full well that her work was done.

 

"So, where do we start?" she asked brightly.

 

Luke cleared his throat. "Well, I want to take some time to examine these numbers." He pointed to the small sheet of paper with the roughly scrawled digits.

 

Emmy nodded. "That's a fair plan. I'll keep looking at maps to figure out exactly what this square pertains to."

 

Flora piped up as well. "I'll look in the professor's study for anything relating to the case. Perhaps he kept some evidence here."

 

Everyone silently turned to their respective tasks. Flora left for the study, Emmy went to grab her bag and Luke sat down with his numbers.

 

So what do these mean? 12, 23, 16, 3, and 20...

 

What if I assign each a letter? Perhaps it's a word? L... W... P... C... T... LWPCT?

 

No no. That can't be right. Could it be an acronym? But no organization that I know of has such a benign name. It doesn't even flow right.

 

Maybe it is a Caesar Cipher...but in that case the possibilities are endless because I have no formula. Any one of those numbers could be the addition, subtraction, or multiplication factor... Might as well get started trying them.

 

Three hours passed without Luke even knowing, and by the time he had come up with his last word set, which was HBMJR, it was nearly dark outside.

 

Emmy gave a great sigh and leaned back in her chair with a yawn. "Well, I figured out what the map shows. It's this section right there." She lazily outlined a square of the map with her finger.

 

Luke raised his eyebrows and turned to look at her. "How did you do that?"

 

She placed her arms behind her head and stared pointedly at the ceiling, her gaze strangely vacant. "Well, I kept wondering to myself why there were horizontal and vertical lines all across the map. At first I thought it was a result of the ink pooling at the creases, but then I suddenly thought they could be intentional dividers, you know, the kind they use on city maps. So I pulled out an old copy I had of a London map plan and sure enough, I found the exact spot easily. The edges are awful smudged but there's even some numbers that act like coordinates—"

 

"Coordinates? No way..." Luke murmured to no one in particular.

 

"Yes, way. Look." Emmy said, thinking the comment was directed at her, as she thrust the paper into his face. "See?"

 

"No, not the paper. I mean, no way that's actually what they are."

 

"Well what else would they be?"

 

Luke eyed the paper carefully, his gaze coming to rest on that irritating blotch in the bottom right. The proverbial light bulb went off in his head. "Emmy...what exactly are the coordinates of that spot?"

 

"The spot? Well it's at... 12... 23... 16. Why? Does that mean something?"

 

Frantically, Luke grabbed the paper in front of him, now complete with his many copies of the alphabet that were marred with little crisscrossing lines as he had counted out each letter set for the last three hours. Tears of joy started to form at the corners of his eyes and he licked his lips excitedly.

 

"Emmy... you're not going to believe this."

 

"What now? Have we spent these last three hours doing all this in vain?"

 

"Quite the opposite actually... the numbers, or the first three at least, they... they match the coordinates." Luke shakily pointed at the paper, a giddy smile appearing on his face.

 

Emmy rocketed out of her chair faster than Luke could blink and she scrambled over to snatch the paper from his hands. "Oh my God, Luke. Oh my God." She hurriedly turned back to the map, finding the place to which the spot corresponded and reading the tiny text beside it. "It's... the courthouse?" The excitement faded. "Luke are you sure that—"

 

But her comment was not heard by the intended audience, for Luke was already running down the hallway to the professor's study and yelling Flora's name at the top of his lungs the whole way.

 

The girl in question came out into the hall with a loud, "I haven't found anything yet, Luke."

 

But she was caught mid-step by none other than Luke, who grabbed her shoulders firmly and asked breathlessly, "Did the professor ever use a different kind of stamp? The metal kind that go in ink instead of wax?"

 

Flora blinked in surprise at his sudden excitement. "W-Well, yeah. Only on his professional documents, though. I don't think that he used it for—hey!"

 

The boy pushed past her into the office and began searching the drawers for his prize, which he found rather quickly. A small oblong stamp whose tip was so black that the design wasn't even visible.

 

"What do you need a stamp for..." Flora started to ask but her voice trailed away and Luke turned to see her standing in the doorway with a look of incredulity. "You don't think that—"

 

"Grab an ink well and come on!" He took off again, this time heading for the dining table, where Emmy was staring at the map and presumably triple-checking her numerical calculations on the coordinates.

 

She abruptly stood as he entered with Flora close behind him. "Luke how can you be sure that—wait. Why do you have a stamp? Luke what's—"

 

"This is the final piece!" Luke exclaimed as Flora set down the inkwell and unscrewed the cap. He dipped the tip of the stamp in and pushed it down onto his number paper, making a clear mark.

 

"Luke..." Emmy gasped as the realization hit. "You can't possibly be thinking that—"

 

"I am." Luke grabbed the notepad and moved to compare it to their map fragment, his companions peering anxiously over his shoulders to see the results.

 

No one spoke as the meaning was completely clear. The stamp and the mark on the paper matched perfectly.

 

"So... what does it mean?" Emmy asked.

 

Luke shifted his posture nervously. "...he wants us to break him out."

 

"What? Who?"

 

"Clive."

 

"Pfft. Where'd you get that idea?"

 

"Look. It's obvious." Luke pulled the notepad with the numbers on it closer and pointed to the sequence. "The first three numbers are the coordinates and the second two...are the time. He wants us to wait at this spot on the map, the same as the coordinates, at 15:20, which is when the truck will be passing by."

 

"Luke...we can't just go breaking a criminal of his record out. And what if he just wants us to get caught? What if it's a trap?"

 

"It's not a trap."

 

"How would you know that?"

 

"I..." Luke paused. How did he know? In reality, did he know? "I...don't."

 

"Then what would be the point of risking it?"

 

"We might not know if it's not a trap...but I don't think it is. Why would Clive work for the police in order to shut us up? There's nothing to shut us up about. Or at least not yet. I think there's something else going on here..."

 

"And why would he go to all the trouble of marking this paper—which was locked away in the archives at the Yard? And using a stamp not even his own, no less."

 

"I...don't think Clive was the one who marked it."

 

"Luke..." Flora started.

 

Luke turned on her, his gaze icy. "Flora, I know what you're going to say—"

 

She cut him off. "No you don't. I'm saying I think you're right. There's only one other person who could have made that mark. And we already know the reason why."

 

"...yeah." Luke sighed.

 

"Hold on a second, you two, what do we know?" Emmy held up a hand to try and stop the conversation before it got out of hand.

 

Flora looked to Luke, who gave a conceding nod. He was granting her permission to make the final observation clear—to make it real. She took a deep breath to collect herself. "The professor made that mark because he wanted us to get Clive."

 

"Whoa, whoa, we're jumping around a bit now. It's the professor's seal, sure, but how do we know it was he who—"

 

Luke took the opportunity to jump in. "Because Clive gave me the numbers personally and Chelmey gave me the case file. The professor knew all of this was going to happen. Because... the three of us were always meant to take this case."

 

"But up until now, we had assumed that Clive was the killer so why would we—"

 

"He wasn't."

 

"And how do you know that?!"

 

"Because I just know, Emmy. The professor wouldn't have set this up if Clive was the one who did it."

 

"Fine, let's say for one moment that he isn't the killer. So what in Heaven's name does any of this have to do with Enigma?"

 

"I don't know. But I think that Clive is essential to figuring it out."

 

Emmy thought hard on Luke's answer, frowning deeply. "... you're sure about this? What you're proposing... we'd be breaking the law."

 

"I know full well what it means," Luke said clearly.

 

She sighed. "Then we're going to need a plan."

Chapter Text

Emmy was the first to offer a sarcastic remark regarding the strange developments of late. She folded her arms and sighed, a smirk tugging at her lips. “So what’s our first step? Now that we’re dead set on becoming wanted criminals.”

 

“We’ll need disguises—Yard uniforms, more like,” Luke mused.

 

“And just where are we going to get those from?!”

 

“I…might know someone who can help us.”

 

Luke and Emmy both turned to regard a fidgeting Flora who held a small address book in her hands. She had it turned to a consistently dog-eared page that held only a single smudged phone number. No name was visible.

 

"Flora...where'd you get that?" Luke reached out to take the book and she gave it willingly.

 

"It was in the professor's office," she answered. "H-He told me once that if I ever needed help...to call this number."

 

Emmy folded her arms. "So are we going to call it, then?"

 

Luke shrugged. "Might as well."

 

He walked into Layton's office for the first time and had to grit his teeth to keep from losing his composure. It bothered him to see how orderly everything was - a stark reminder of how much he still had to learn. When he got to the desk and took hold of the receiver, he felt a wave of inescapable loss that nearly made him collapse as his vision went spotty.

 

"Luke? You okay?" A hand was placed on his shoulder.

 

As his vision came back, he found that he was hunched over the desktop and his knuckles had turned white from gripping the phone book so tightly. Flora stood behind him with a worried expression and helped him to right himself.

 

"You're awfully pale." Her hands moved to his shoulders and he leaned subconsciously back into her touch. "I could make the call if you want -"

 

His resolve snapped back into action and he felt as though he had suddenly grown a protective shell around his heart. It was suddenly so cold. So…unbearably cold. "No. I should do it."

 

Flora's hands disappeared and he heard her walking away. Her voice floated back to him, laced with compassion and all those underlying things between them that had gone unsaid since he returned. "...yell if you need something, okay?"

 

“I will.”

 

The study door clicked shut and Luke let out the breath he had been holding, setting his gaze upon the phone. The very same phone that his mentor had been using for so long. Another harsh reminder that nothing in this life was permanent.

 

This is silly. Snap out of it already. Move on.

 

Luke grabbed the receiver and began to dial in the number, the slow clicks as the dial came back around were excruciating in the dead silence of the study. The line began to beep as his call was routed through and he found his gaze wandering. Judging by the disorderly state of the room - there were papers were everywhere, textbooks haphazardly stacked around the room’s perimeter, and various artifacts sat abandoned on the desk in the corner - it was clear Layton hadn’t seen any of this coming.

 

This wasn’t all just some cruel trick.

 

Even though it had only been a few short days since he had been in this very room, everything from the pens strewn across the desk to the books only half-way arranged across the shelves felt alien to him. It felt like a thousand years had passed and the only proof he had that any of this was even happening was that silly case file. And even then that wasn’t much to go on.

 

As the rhythmic beeping continued, Luke sighed and raked a hand through his hair, wondering if the number Flora had given him was merely a red herring. Just before he was ready to hang up, a gravelly voice breathlessly answered.

 

"Don's Alterations, how can I help you?"

 

Luke paused and swallowed the lump growing in his throat. It was now or never. "Uh, yeah, hello, this is L--"

 

"Luke?” The voice at the other end exclaimed. “Is that really you, boy?"

 

“Sh-should I know you?“ Luke choked out.

 

"You don't remember me, kid?” A cough. “I’m offended. "

 

Luke pondered it for a moment, the man's tone was…familiar, and just as he was about to say no the image of a tall, spiky haired individual from days long gone resurfaced within his mind and he nearly dropped the phone receiver in surprise. There was only one person who would still refer to him as ‘kid’ this many years later… "D-Don Paolo?!"

 

"The one and only,” Don Paolo assured him with a dry chuckle. “And I assume this isn't just a ring to say hello, so what's Layton need this time?"

 

"Y-Yeah, erm, about that. The professor...he...he was murdered a few days ago."

 

“…” Don Paolo sighed. "Poor bastard. He deserved better."

 

“Er, right. But that's not why I called. I need a favor."

 

“Sorry. Can’t help you.”

 

“What? Why not?”

 

“Sorry Luke, I’m a busy man. Sewing machines don’t run themselves and I’ve got customers—”

 

“The professor said you’d help us if we ever needed it,” Luke cut in desperately. “Please. You’re our only hope.”

 

Don Paolo audibly groaned from the other end. “You get a gold star for dramatics, Luke, I’ll give you that.” He paused. “So, what is it this time?”

 

Luke smiled. “How are you with costumes?"

 

"Kid, I run an alteration business. Of course I'm good with costumes. Besides, I spent all those years fooling Layton, didn't I?" Don Paolo's irritation was palpable through the phone. The thought of the devilish looking man with a face like a tomato had Luke fighting to suppress a laugh.

 

"The professor wasn't ever fooled, you know," he retorted.

 

A snort from the other end. "Yeah well, that's in the fine print. So whaddya need?"

 

Luke cleared his throat. "Scotland Yard uniforms, preferably low ranking. Three of them."

 

"Oho, planning to do a little infiltration of the law, are we?"

 

"...More or less."

 

"Hm." A long pause. "I'll have them on your doorstep by morning."

 

“Wait!" Luke's grip on the phone tightened. "You...don’t need measurements or anything?”

 

"What can I say? I'm a professional."

 

Luke raised an eyebrow. “I’m…not as short as I was the last time I saw you.”

 

“Can it shortstack. I’ve got it covered. Anything else before you start weeping again?”

 

Luke chuckled, shaking his head and preparing to deny but a thought entered his mind at the last moment and a wave of unease swept over him. “One last thing, actually,” he started, peeking out the doorway to see Flora and Emmy conversing politely at the table.

 

“Sure.”

 

“I’m…" he hesitated, "still not sure who to trust right now, so if you could keep this a secret that would -"

 

“Eh?" Don Paolo interrupted. "What're you on about, Luke? Didn't you just call to have a coat hemmed?"

 

Luke found himself grinning as a relieved sigh escaped his lips. "Thank you. So much. This really means a lot."

 

Don Paolo huffed. “I’m not doing it for you kid. Now Layton and I are even. And tell Flora I said hello if you would."

 

“Yeah. You got it," Luke murmured as the line clicked dead.

 

Well that was unexpected. A whole lot of unexpected.

 

He leaned back with an exhausted huff, eyes drawn back to look at the page with the number on it. Running a thumb over the smeared ink numbers, Luke whispered a curse under his breath before tearing it out and into shreds. If his intuition served him correctly, this was only the beginning. And if their new plan worked, they were about to become the world’s most wanted fugitives. Destroying evidence was going to be paramount if they wanted to get through this alive…as much as it physically pained him to do it.

 

A gentleman never destroys evidence, Luke.

 

His mentor’s old words echoed back to him as he stared at the scraps of paper in his palm. It vaguely reminded him of the photo fragments they had searched for during the Elysian Box incident. Luke chuckled. How ironic it was to think of such a thing now, after the professor’s recent death. Just as Dr. Schrader had been killed trying to figure out the box’s secrets and the professor had run off to find answers without a second to waste, Luke was practically doing the same thing.

 

Same story, just a different day.

 

The office chair groaned in protest as Luke pushed back away from the desk and stood up. He tossed the note page scraps into the waste basket and took one last longing look about the study. A strange sense of foreboding flooded his senses and he realized with no small amount of fear that this could very well be the last time he would stand in this room. If they succeeded tomorrow, no, when they succeeded, their lives would never be the same.

 

Inhaling deeply, Luke tore his gaze from the past and pushed out the door, bringing himself back into the present once more. Emmy and Flora must have heard him coming since they were already on their feet and stiffly awaiting the news by the time the young man rounded the corner into the living area.

 

Luke bit his cheek. "I, uh, don't really know where to begin."

 

"Well?" Emmy asked pointedly. "Whose number was it?"

 

"...Don Paolo." The words slipped from his lips before he had decided if he even wanted to tell them. Too late now.

 

"Eh? Why him?" Emmy looked ready to hit someone.

 

"I...don't know." Luke ran a hand through his hair and sighed. "He runs an alteration business now. He's getting us uniforms."

 

Emmy snorted. "Psh. Anyone else find it odd that just when we need some disguises we find someone to make them?"

 

She turned her attention to Flora.

 

"Flora," Emmy started. "Did you...know the number belonged to him?"

 

"Of course not!" Flora scowled. "As if I'd ever need to call that number anyway."

 

"Still." Emmy examined a nail innocently before looking back at Flora, gaze icy. "It's rather convenient considering our situation."

 

Luke jumped into the conversation, bristling. "Are you accusing her of setting this up?!"

 

"You tell me." Emmy shrugged.

 

"She had nothing to do with this, Emmy. You know that."

 

"We can't rule anyone out, Luke. You should know that."

 

"In that case," Luke replied stiffly, "where were you when this all happened, Emmy?"

 

Emmy groaned. "Oh please. I was working! And then I drove straight here."

 

"Good. Flora was at university and I was at home with my parents. We all have alibis so let's stop crossing one another and get a move on. We're wasting time." Luke threw a sharp look toward his old companion.

 

Emmy remained silent and it was Flora who finally broke the silence. "So now that the uniforms are taken care of, what's our game plan?"

 

Luke strode to the table and ran his hand along the map, finger lingering on the inked place of attack. "Obviously it all goes down here. I vaguely remember this intersection, it's flanked by a large square which makes getting away a lot easier. We need to find a way to create some kind of diversion."

 

"There's a lot of foot traffic in that area so we need to be careful no one gets hurt." Flora sighed. "Explosions and gunshots are out of the question."

 

Emmy chose that moment to interject. "Unless the explosions aren't deadly and the guns aren't loaded."

 

"What're you implying?" Luke turned back to find her wearing the most peculiar of expressions.

 

"Probably something you won't like," she admitted with a wry grin. "You two just work on a way in and out of there. I'll be right back." And with that, Emmy took off out the front door without so much as putting her shoes on.

 

Luke refrained from commenting and merely shook his head. Flora seemed to pick up on what he left unsaid and offered reassurance.

 

"She is militarily trained, Luke. Her expertise will be invaluable to us here."

 

The boy huffed. "I know, you're right, but still..."

 

"Trust is a two-way street, Luke."

 

The small slice of wisdom left Luke breathless. He was crazy to think that she hadn't changed in all the time they'd spent apart. What had started as naivety had at some unknown point morphed into some steadfast wit. At some point, Flora had grown up. Now, it was almost like she was starting to protect him. The thought made him smile.

 

The tables are finally turning, I suppose.

 

Flora's voice brought him out of his reverie. "Well, let's focus on our part of the work. So let's say each of us were staged at a different part of the intersection. You would create the diversion while Emmy and I broke into the truck."

 

He nodded. "I could stand at the north end and you and Emmy could wait in the crowds in the square. The truck will be going left here to get around the back of the courthouse, so we'll have around thirty seconds to get in and get out."

 

"There'll undoubtedly be a ton of police surveillance, too." Flora leaned back, hands on her hips. "This won't be easy."

 

"No, but with these it'll be a little easier."

 

Emmy suddenly flung a sack of what sounded like rocks onto the table in front of them, motioning for Luke to open it. He reached inside and pulled out a metal sphere about the size of a tennis ball, with strange purple markings curling about it. A bomb. And not just any kind either.

 

"Where did you get these?! I thought we used the last of them in the battle with Targent."

 

Emmy shrugged. "I had a few rigged up just in case we had some defectives. Glad I hung onto 'em. Effective, painless, and just what we need."

 

"Yeah...they are." Luke murmured, mind drifting back to Flora's words. Maybe it was time to trust a little more.

 

"Sorry...but," Flora cut in as she pointed to the sack of spheres, "what are those?"

 

"Dormis Soporis mushroom bombs," Emmy announced proudly. "More commonly known as sleeping gas bombs."

 

Flora nodded, still peering at the metallic objects with unadulterated interest. Luke watched from the corner of his eye and smiled.

 

Well, maybe not everything has changed...

 

Emmy grinned as she reached into the bag herself and brought out a hand pistol. "And then there's this beauty," her tone grew soft as she ran a finger down the barrel. She mock aimed it at Luke. "Never once missed its target."

 

Luke ignored the twinge at the back of his mind, that same niggling sense of unease that came and went in regards to Emmy.

 

All of this is feeling rather convenient. Too convenient.

 

He wanted to trust her desperately, his eleven-year-old self told him he was overreacting, but the thirteen-year-old within reminded him of how fast it had all changed...and how it had never really been what he thought it was in the first place.

 

"So what did you guys come up with?" Emmy finally inquired.

 

Luke opened his mouth to reply but no words came, a fact that Flora quickly picked up on and she jumped to fill the silence.

 

"We were thinking we'd split up around the intersection to attack from multiple points. Luke would create a diversion and cover us as we went in to break the truck open. Then we'd run off through the square and get in the Laytonmobile to drive off. All in the span of about a minute."

 

Emmy nodded. "I like that plan except for one thing. I want Luke to be the one breaking the truck open."

 

"Why me?"

 

"Because you know Clive the best. He'll be most likely to trust you."

 

Luke turned to Flora, looking for any kind of backup.

 

Flora shook her head. "She has a fair point, Luke."

 

"Fine. I'll do it," he conceded.

 

"Good," Emmy affirmed. "So what's the diversion going to be, then?"

 

"We...didn't get that far. Perhaps a gunshot?" Luke tried.

 

Emmy wrinkled her nose. "A random gunshot? Too risky. They'd be on us like moths to a flame. We'd be too exposed."

 

Flora offered, "What if we staged a breakout?"

 

"Uh, Flora," Luke began, "I hate to be the bearer of bad news but that's what we're already trying to do. What help would staging it be if we're already going to do it anyway?"

 

"No, I mean, we're already going in to break him out, so what if we stage it like an accident? If one of us could use a bomb to knock out the truck driver, then we'd be able to start a panic that Clive is going to escape, that someone's going to break him out, so we rush in while Luke fires blanks in the crowd to keep attention off of us." Flora dragged a finger along their route across the map. "And then we'd escape while the police were still trying to figure out what was going on!"

 

"That's...actually not a bad plan," Luke muttered.

 

Emmy let out a guffaw. "Careful Flora, you're talking like a true criminal, now!"

 

Flora smirked. "Maybe this is just my real form, Emmy."

 

"Uh huh, and I'm the queen of England."

 

"In that case," Flora said with mock-seriousness and a curtsy, "your majesty."

 

There was a second of hesitation before they both fell into a fit of uncontrollable, snorting laughter. Flora doubled over, mouth open in a silent giggle as her body trembled, while Emmy had to grip the table to keep from falling over.

 

A light suddenly shone somewhere in a darkened corner of Luke's mind and a feeling of great joy nearly swept him off his own feet. Nostalgia hit him like a hurricane and had him grinning like mad as he started laughing with them.

 

For the first time in what felt like a lifetime, it truly felt like the good old days. With Emmy and Flora by his side, it suddenly felt like he could do anything. Like things really weren't all that bad.

 

"Well," Emmy breathlessly started, eyes shiny with tears of joy. "I don't know about you two but I'm famished! I could eat a horse."

 

Flora suddenly beamed. "Oh! I know this great new recipe for crumpets, Emmy! Come on I'll show you!" She darted around the corner into the kitchen.

 

"Hold on, wait, Flora! I don't know if you should be the one to - Flora, be careful!" Emmy yelled as she took off after the younger woman.

 

Yeah, maybe things are going to be okay.

 

Chuckling, Luke turned back to the table and started gathering up the mess, knowing full well that Emmy could handle whatever it was Flora was going to dish out. He finally pulled out the case file from beneath it, flipping it open to reveal the same disturbingly empty description sheet; but this time, he slipped the map in beside it along with the ink stamp and a few extra candles and matches in case they were necessary later. It amazed him how little evidence and information they had. Clive had better have some more information for them. Singing, he closed the awkwardly bulging manila folder, but the name remained with him. It glared at him from the name tab at the top left corner.

 

Enigma. It felt chalky on his tongue when he spoke it. And as much hate as he felt for it, he also felt curiosity. It was like it was challenging him to figure it all out.

 

Challenge accepted.

 

"Luke!" Flora called from the kitchen. "Would you prefer crumpets or cucumber sandwiches? I need to know!"

 

"Flora can't we just make some toast or something, well, easier?"

 

"Where's the fun in that, Emmy?"

 

Luke found himself smiling as he tore his gaze away from the folder and made for the kitchen, grinning wider as he listened to the incessant bickering of his friends over their dinner options.

 

Don't worry, Professor. I'm going to finish what you started if it kills me.