Mr. Shobbinton Arrives

“I underestimated you,” He said, quietly. He was wearing his bowler hat, and a long black coat. Edmund stepped backwards down the steps as Mr. Shobbinton advanced, the large briefcase in his hand thumping gently against his shin. His right hand shook rainwater off of the drenched umbrella.

“I wasn’t doing anything,” Edmund said, quickly as Mr. Shobbinton continued his descent, forcing Edmund back into the tomb. Mr. Shobbinton’s mouth drooped sadly.

“Of course you were,” he said, leaning his collapsed umbrella on the wall as they entered the stone room. “And here I thought you wouldn’t have figured it out yet. I must say, though I am ashamed for my mis-estimation, I am also feeling something very akin to pride at the moment.” He paused, looking up at the damp stone ceiling, and then nodded. “More for myself, I suppose, than you. I did teach you the finer points of finance which no doubt led you here. Of course, I would have found the entrance soon–I had surveyed the rest of the Hall and it had to be under one of the statues… In your case, it must have been luck.”

“What do you mean?” Edmund asked.

“You mean to say you don’t know?” Mr. Shobbinton’s eyebrow rose slightly. “Nonsense. I’ve been giving you page after page of the Moulde’s family accounting for weeks now. You must have noticed the accounting errors.”

“The Mouldes are poor,” Edmund nodded. “I figured that out.”

“Yes,” Mr. Shobbinton smiled wanly in the dim light, “but it’s much more than that. I have been the Moulde’s family solicitor for years, and as their solicitor I have had access to their accounting books for just as long. It didn’t take much time at all to see that some dodgy financial practices had been used, and I dare say a lesser accountant might have missed them all-together. Fiendish they were, quite fiendish.”

“I also dare say I’m quite perturbed about you being here,” Mr. Shobbinton gently set down his briefcase, and looked down his nose at the crumbling skeleton of Orpha Moulde. “I have spent the better part of a year surveying this entire estate, looking for this place, and you manage to find it in less than a month. If I hadn’t been right behind you, I would find your good fortune… quite unjust.”

“I followed the poem,” Edmund began, only to stop when Mr. Shobbinton waved his hand impatiently.

“It doesn’t matter how you came to be here,” he said, brusquely, “Only that you are here. Now, help me find the money.”

“There isn’t any.” Edmund sighed.

For a few moments, the only sound was the lantern as Edmund continued to turn the crank. Then, Mr. Shobbinton turned to face him, his monocle glittering in the light.

“There isn’t?” He said, slowly.

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