Mr. Shobbinton Explains

Edmund shook his head, the thick wad of paper pressing against his armpit. Mr. Shobbinton walked slowly around the room, inspecting the rotting caskets, and then sighed.

“You know,” he said, casually, “I never thought you were stupid. Yes, I misdirected you, used you, but I never lied to you.” He paused, staring at the ceiling again. “Not nearly so blatantly. I respected you that much.”

Slowly, Mr. Shobbinton moved to his briefcase, opening it with a snap. His hand vanished into its inky depths, and reemerged with a knife that glinted dully in the lantern light. It looked very sharp, and the shadows made it look serrated on both edges. He looked at it thoughtfully for a few moments, and then turned to Edmund, raising the blade higher in the gloom.

“I’m not lying!” Edmund protested, backing away from the advancing blade.

“I thought we understood each other,” Mr. Shobbinton said, the glass lens over his eye glowing in the dim light. “I thought we had an accord.”

“We did!” Edmund squeaked, dodging behind the large stone throne. “Honestly! There’s no money here!”

“I thought you smarter than that, Master Edmund,” Mr. Shobbinton’s smooth voice drifting into a singsong lethargy. “The Moulde Family was rich and powerful for its entire history, and then out of nowhere the entire family collapses. The other Mouldes think like you–they still think that the family has money. They think Matron’s sitting on piles of lucre, just hording it away like… like they would.”

“She isn’t?” Edmund tried to keep Mr. Shobbinton talking. If he was talking, he wasn’t doing anything worse. “Then another Moulde must have taken it! It’s been over a hundred years–it makes sense!”

“I thought of that,” Mr. Shobbinton smiled, “but I don’t trust anything, even what makes sense. So I looked at all the family’s ledgers. They go all the way back to the twelfth century, and track each and every financial transaction anyone in the family ever made. Everything adds up until Plinkerton, and then the money vanishes!”

“Where did it go?” Edmund asked. He had the sneaking suspicion that Mr. Shobbinton had been wanting to tell all of this to someone for a very long time. He pointed the knife like a finger at Edmund’s nose.

“That’s the question! It wasn’t investments, or bonds. I thought the books may have been cooked, so I spent half a year in the Brackenburg bank, studying everything they had, and there was nothing! No investments under the table, no secret loans to the city, or any purchase of foreign stock… the money just vanishes!” Mr. Shobbinton wiggled his fingers in his free hand like a dispersing cloud.

“Well it isn’t here,” Edmund tried again. Somehow, he had to convince Mr. Shobbinton that he was telling the truth.

“You’re right” Mr. Shobbinton said calmly, his eyes narrow. “There isn’t any money here. Let’s see if we can find where you hid it.” Quick as a snake, his free hand shot from his side and gripped Edmund by the hair. Sharp stabbing needles of pain flooded Edmund’s brain, flashing red before his tightly shut eyes.

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