Despite everyone’s best efforts, Trowa had looked unhappy pretty consistently lately, and no wonder. Duo knew that, in addition to being upset about Quatre’s condition — and actively afraid for him now his absence had been cast into such an ambiguous light — Trowa had also been seriously considering, even rethinking, aspects of his own character, which could induce a somber mood in anyone. At the moment, though, Trowa looked more particularly unhappy than usual, with traces of disturbed agitation and some annoyance in there as well.
Duo went over to him and threw a friendly arm across his shoulders. “What’s going on, Trois?” he asked. “What’s wrong?”
Trowa’s faint facial expression deepened into a definite scowl. “I had a soap opera in my guest room last night. Given what’s going on right now, it was… difficult to listen to.”
That second statement made Duo feel slightly guilty. “You OK?”
“Yes,” Trowa sighed. “After what I found out about Quatre yesterday and then that, I was very upset last night… but I’m doing much better now.”
“Sorry,” Duo said, squeezing Trowa’s shoulders. “I should have warned you… Sano called us last night trying to figure out where that exorcist boyfriend of his was, and then he stormed off to tell him what he thought of him going to hide out at your house without telling Sano where he was going.”
“Well, he did that,” said Trowa. “And ‘boyfriend’ now appears to be the correct term, though it wasn’t before.”
This time Duo couldn’t restrain his grin. “I was so curious. Man, I wish I could have heard that conversation.”
Trowa shook his head dourly, but before he could make any further comment, the door opened.
Heero and Duo, as instructed by Trowa, had stationed themselves after work in Quatre’s office, in the hopes that divinations about Quatre would be more successful in a room that bore his psychic imprint. Trowa, when he’d arrived just a few minutes ago, had brought a box of candles — Duo wasn’t sure whether they were preserved from the old house or newly purchased — and set it on Quatre’s desk, so they were about as ready as they could be and only waiting for the actual diviner.
Now, as she entered, Duo felt his own tenseness increase. None of them knew whether Dorothy could be any help here, or, if she turned out to be, what they would learn from her divinations this evening — but Duo had his fingers crossed. This was, of course, in part because he loved having the ability to cross his wonderfully separable fingers, but the wish for good luck, for a positive answer to both questions, was also sincere.
Dorothy was accompanied by a girl of perhaps eight, who looked around the room with curious, calculating eyes. Duo smiled at her, but her gaze crossed him too quickly for her to notice (or at least to return) the expression. One thing he might be willing to admit he missed about the long doll years — if in a sort of paranoid, almost superstitious reluctance to do any such thing he was willing to admit to anything positive about the experience — was the opportunity to spend so much time with children. Happy as he was with his life now, he sometimes regretted that loss.
“Why don’t you sit here?” Dorothy suggested, having pulled one of the chairs beside Quatre’s desk into a position from which its occupant could easily watch whatever went on in the office in the next few minutes.
The little girl nodded her red-haired head and took the place indicated, folding hands in her lap and fixing her attention on the others in the room in a remarkably mature-looking gesture. Dorothy’s gesture, on the other hand, was remarkably predatory-looking as, satisfied with her niece’s behavior, she turned toward Trowa.
“Mr. Barton,” she said. “I can’t tell you how happy I am to meet you. Ever since I heard about the amazing work you did for the Whitley family — I think I was still in high school at the time! — I’ve wanted to meet you. Dorothy Catalonia.”
Trowa accepted her warm, lingering handshake with a nod. “I can’t say I appreciated the Whitleys publicizing that,” he said, “but it’s over and done with now. Hajime tells me you’re a very good diviner.”
“I wouldn’t have thought there was anything I could help you with,” Dorothy replied curiously, letting go of Trowa’s hand at last, “though I’m certainly happy to try.”
“My divination is very weak,” was Trowa’s blunt response. “Normally that wouldn’t be a problem, but right now I need to know where Quatre is.”
“I’m impressed that someone as powerful as you are is willing to admit weakness in some area.” Dorothy’s expression held genuine admiration, and she’d clasped her hands together so tightly they’d drained of what color her pale skin had. It was, Duo thought, a little creepy.
“I’m not necrovisual at all either,” Trowa said somewhat dryly, and turned toward the desk. “I don’t know if candles are your style, but I brought what I have.”
“Oh, excellent.” More businesslike now, Dorothy moved to join Trowa. “Heero told me someone is blocking.”
“I assume it’s deliberate, but I could be wrong,” Trowa nodded.
Dorothy gave him another appreciative look, but quickly transferred her attention back into the box on the desk. “And what are these?”
“All the records I have of the group I believe is blocking.” Trowa lifted a slim book and a manila envelope from among the candles and set them on the desk. “I think Quatre may be with them.”
Briefly but carefully, Dorothy flipped through the stiff pages of the old book. Then she lifted her eyes, clapped her hands, and said, “All right! Let’s have the whole story!”
As Trowa told it, Duo moved restlessly around the room, impatient to get started but knowing this was a necessary step. Trowa explained about La Confrérie de la Lune Révéré and what he knew of them while Duo looked out the windows onto the parking lot and nearby buildings; about the artifact and its creation and destruction while Duo reexamined the digital picture frame on the desk, picking it up and putting it back down again; about Quatre’s possession by the power of the artifact brought somewhat to life or undeath by the hypothetical anger of La Confrérie while Duo looked over the books — mostly corporate literature — on Quatre’s shelves; and about the most recent emails Quatre had sent before he disappeared while Duo tried again to get the little girl in the chair to smile at him.
In the latter endeavor he succeeded this time, but the kid’s smile was as calculating as her initial glance around the room had been. Duo was starting to think she might be every bit as creepy as her aunt.
Heero, who hadn’t spoken and had barely moved in quite some time, now took Duo’s hand and drew him to stand at his side — undoubtedly wishing Duo would hold still. Duo squeezed the hand and didn’t let go, and tried to stop fidgeting.
“So this group…” Experimentally Dorothy said the name, and her French pronunciation sounded better than Trowa’s, though Duo couldn’t be sure. “When they learned that Quatre destroyed this artifact they practically worshipped, it’s possible they kidnapped him for some kind of revenge.”
Trowa confirmed this summary with an emphatic, “Exactly. He’s alive — or was when I asked an hour ago — but I need to know where.”
In the same experimental tone she’d used to speak La Confrérie’s full title, but now in the magical language, Dorothy said, “Where is Quatre Winner?”
Everyone in the room was tense and silent for a long moment, and Duo struggled not to start moving aimlessly again. For his part, there was no answer whatsoever to the divinatory question, and when he glanced at his boyfriend he received a shake of head to indicate that Heero was having the same experience.
But a slow, fascinated smile had spread over Dorothy’s face as her strange eyebrows contracted somewhat and lowered. “Did you feel that?” she wondered.
Trowa nodded. “It’s the same as before.”
Again in the magical language she asked, “Where is La Confrérie de la Lune Révéré?”
This time Duo thought he could faintly make out what they were talking about: a dim muffled feeling, as if some answer should be manifesting but was cloaked from his senses. Not being a diviner himself, he’d never before, as far as he was aware, personally encountered divination-blocking, so this made for a fascinating experience.
Dorothy chuckled in triumph and increased interest. “Yes, it’s the same block. How stupid — if they don’t want anyone to know they’re connected with Quatre somehow, they shouldn’t have the same person blocking divinations about him and divinations about them.”
“Maybe they only have one diviner capable of blocking,” Trowa mused.
Purposefully, Dorothy started unloading candles from the box. As she did so, Duo was able to see that they were, in fact, the same ones Trowa had employed for the useless ritual he’d performed in March trying to figure out how to break the curse. Oh, but it hadn’t been entirely useless, had it? Now that Duo thought back, he recalled that it had been their first indication of Heero’s magical talents. He threw a grinning glance at his boyfriend, who returned the smile wryly.
When Duo turned back, he found Dorothy holding an armful of candles toward him. “Set these out,” she commanded.
Moving forward to take them from her, in which he was joined by Heero, Duo noticed there were more than five; Trowa must have brought the whole collection, which probably amounted to ten or fifteen. “Do you want them aligned or staggered or what?” he asked.
Dorothy glanced critically at the position of the furniture in the room, then pointed rapidly to five different spots. “Aligned.”
As Heero and Duo shifted chairs (including the red-headed girl) and arranged the candles in as even a set of five points as they could manage, with a second just inside the first, Dorothy went on. “Mr. Barton, can you temporarily disable the smoke detectors in here?” And when Trowa had considered for a moment, then cast a spell, Dorothy clasped her hands in delight once more. “Oh, I wouldn’t have thought to do it like that!” she said. “I would have based the fade on the presence of the candles, but your way is so much better. You really are impressive!”
“Are we ready?” was Trowa’s only response to this.
Again Dorothy gestured to spots in the room, within the double pentagonal shape formed by the candles and one of which was already occupied by her niece. “Four points, please.” And as the others took their places, she moved to the end of Quatre’s desk, roughly in the center of them all. Having pushed the few items that rested there out of the way, she leaned back against it so she was half seated, crossing one ankle over the other and looking around still with that intrigued and purposeful smile.
“Now, Mr. Barton, you may light the candles.” She stretched out interlaced fingers and cracked her knuckles in a gesture both casual and preparatory. “Let’s break this amateur div-block and find our Quatre.”
How upset was Trowa last night? Why is he doing better now? Read Consummate Timing to find out.