His coffee had been piping hot when he’d started deliberating over a rhyme, but now he actually came to drink it, Floyd found it had gone stone cold.
It was difficult to put into words quite how he’d felt about the funeral, and as he agonised over how best to make his sentiments fit the rigid and awkward rhyme scheme he’d set himself, Floyd wondered if perhaps poetry wasn’t the best hobby for a spy.
If, perhaps, he’d taken up stamp collecting or wood carving, then maybe he might have fewer late nights like this.
As it was, the noise from the pub below him had finally stopped, and that meant that it was at least kicking out time.
Maybe the quiet would help him focus.
He drank the rest of his coffee down in one go, then got up and walked to the kitchen in his dressing gown to make himself another, all the while throwing words around in his head that might convey his discomfort and also rhyme with despair.
No more than three little bits of cheap instant coffee were needed for the drink, and the water that came piped in from the pub’s existing plumbing was piping hot once it had gone through the small heating coil situated just a few centimetres back along the hot water pipe, though there was less steam this time, he noted.
He would probably have to change the battery on that soon.
Floyd took a sip and made his usual groan at the poor quality as he headed back to the living room and took his pen out to write in the book he’d left on the desk.
Contraire worked fairly well, he decided, staring blearily at the little book and willing it to write itself.
Now if only he could come up with a line to make that word work.
He dipped the little pen into his inkwell, hovered it over the start of the line and began to write, sticking his tongue out a little as he did so.
When he came to the end of the line, he put the full stop in and drew a sharp breath as something icy cold, and with a needle-sharp point got pressed up against his neck.
“Stand up. Slowly”
He’d have been happy to never hear that voice again in his life, but there was no mistaking Angela’s voice, and as he looked at her shadow on the ground to his left, he could see the sword she had pointed to his neck.
Momentarily, he felt an urge to reach his paw over to his underarm, but he remembered that his sword was currently being worked on by the armoury, and so he thought better of it.
Instead, he got to his feet just about as slowly as he possibly could, just to spite her.
“Must feel heavy after getting used to that fancy one.” he growled, but Angela remained silent behind him, until he had finally stood up straight.
“Go to the phone and call Milo” she hissed, and without a word of protest, Floyd walked over to the telephone and began punching in numbers.
He considered dialling a takeaway, but realised that might end up getting them involved in trouble they didn’t need to be involved in, but nonetheless, he decided to play up just about as much as he could get away with, given the circumstances.
After all, Angela hadn’t just killed him yet, which meant that she was under strict instructions not to, and he’d be damned if he didn’t take the opportunity to test her patience.
As agonisingly slowly as he could, Floyd put in Milo’s phone number, even going so far as to pretend to have forgotten his phone number midway through, just to draw the whole process out as long as he could.
He felt her press the sword into his neck harder, but he just smiled to himself.
“Patience is a virtue, Angela” he said, coyly, whilst making a grand show of suddenly remembering the phone number he needed.
“Oh of course! Eight, three, six! How could I possibly forget!”
He continued putting the numbers in as slowly as possible, and after a full minute of dragging the process out, he finally pushed the button to place the call.
The phone’s loudspeaker chirped into life and broadcast the repetitive dialing tone, leaving him a moment to make a nice, snide remark at her.
“You know, this seems awfully petty of you” he said, but still Angela ignored him.
After five dial tones, Milo finally picked up and Floyd let out a little breath of relief that there wasn’t some other assassin on the other end, as Milo cheerfully answered.
“Hello” he said, and Floyd decided in that moment to play it as cool as he could, “Oh hi, cupcake, how’re things your end?”
“You’re interrupting the finale of Mayflower so there’s that, otherwise I’m alright, why the late call?”
He shrugged, “I don’t know, to be honest; turns out I’ve got an unexpected guest and she’s being very inconsiderate, I don’t suppose you’d like to have a chat with her, would you?”
There was a long pause and a palpable sense of unease from the other end of the phone, then finally, Milo’s voice came back through loud and clear, “Yes. Yes I would.”
He handed the microphone over to Angela and remained still as she talked to him.
“I have a sword pointed at your boyfriend’s neck. I will kill him right here and now if you don’t follow my instructions to the letter. Do you understand?”
There was another long pause, followed by a perfectly monotone “yes.”
“Good, we understand one another then. If you want to see him alive again, meet me in Kingsby city square in four hours and we’ll negotiate the terms of his release. It’s that simple.”
Floyd snorted with laughter, “so that’s it? You’re ransoming me? That’s your big plan?”
He got a nice reminder of the sword at his neck, but nonetheless, he continued laughing quietly to himself.
“Okay. Whatever you say” Milo replied, quietly, and then Angela hung up.
He continued laughing as he marched him through his kitchen and out to his bathroom, where he could see a huge hole had been cut in his wall, and beyond that, the attic of the Two Bears lay dark and uninviting.
“Move. I’ve got a schedule to keep” she warned, and he complied, but as he walked past his bath and onto the bare floorboards of the pub’s attic, he felt no fear, just something like schadenfreude.
“You realise what you’ve done right? You just held the one person in this world he cares for hostage. I hope you don’t like your tail, because he’s going to rip it right off the first chance he gets.”
Angela didn’t seem fussed, and simply ordered him to stop once they had got a little bit into the attic, before pulling him off to one side, where in the exceptionally dim light, he could just about make out the outline of a box of matches that lay open on the floor.
Still holding him at swordpoint, she reached into the box and pulled out a match, then planted a foot on the box to hold it still as she struck it, bathing him in blinding white light, before she wound it back and hurled it at his home.
It landed on the top of the shoebox, and he watched in horror as the flame took hold, beginning to spread over his home, consuming his little sanctum and all that he owned inside it.