“About what, Pinsnip?” Junapa asked, her quiet voice cutting through the silence like a knife. Pinsnip looked sick.
“Look, we all know…” He coughed. “It’s plain to see that… most of us are going to have to change our… plans for the coming months, what with… Now that… I don’t see how…”
“Don’t be a bore, old boy,” Wislydale rolled his eyes again, shifting creakily in his seat. “We have plenty of time to discuss family business later, after we’ve enjoyed each other’s company, what?”
“Oh don’t start throwing that humbug around,” Tunansia muttered, setting her spoon down on the table. “No one is enjoying themselves here, and we all know it. We know the situation, and we just have to live with it.”
“I don’t see why,” Wislydale said, licking his spoon. “There’s always room to maneuver, if you know where to look.”
“Tricknee should really be here,” Pinsnip muttered.
“Why on earth do you want that old olfactory offense around?” Kolb sputtered, placing his hands on his hips as he leaned back in his chair. “He’s barmy as a Brazilian bat, and twice as ugly.”
“At least he says what he means,” Pinsnip snapped back. “My ears don’t have to do cartwheels to understand what he says.”
“That’s probably what got him in such trouble with the rest of your family, isn’t it, Wislydale?” Junapa asked, her eyes still firmly locked on her plate. Wislydale gave a small cough.
“I assure you, as… uncomplicated as my dear father is, the rest of my family were far more troubled by his experiments than his behavior. They were worried some unpleasant questions might be asked–questions the old boy would have no choice but to answer, if you take my meaning.”
“Didn’t I hear something about…um… wasn’t the Church getting involved?” Pinsnip asked, a wry smile flashing under his mustache like a shy lizard. “Well, I don’t think I’d want anyone around who attracted that kind of attention, either.”
“If we’re discussing flaws, Pinsnip,” Wislydale cocked his head. “I rather think attracting attention is the forte of your nature, what?”
“And what… what’s that supposed to mean?” Pinsnip’s eyes narrowed, and he leaned forward over the table.
“It means your hobbies tend to make newspaper headlines,” Tunansia jumped in, glaring through her bangs at Pinsnip.
“Well… yes but no-one can… nobody’s ever linked them to me,” Pinsnip muttered sullenly
“Regardless,” Junapa smoothly interjected, resting her hand lightly on Pinsnip’s, “perhaps Pinsnip is correct. It is about time we laid our cards on the table.”
“You couldn’t perhaps think of a better time?” Tunansia grumbled. “In private?”
“I wouldn’t dream of spending any time in private with you, Tunansia,” Junapa snapped. “I’d be too concerned about maintaining my self-respect. Besides, there is far too much at stake for us to keep pretending we don’t know what’s going on. Matron obviously figured something out about someone’s scheme, and now all of our plans are in danger.”