Chapter 7: Take Out Night

I’m fine, okay, let’s just drop it.

Corpulent rivulets drooped down Dove’s forehead, the damp tips of their unbrushed hair sticking to their skin. Their usual olive complexion had soured into an afflicted filmy gray-green, and they clutched at their stomach like someone suffering through a bout of particularly heavy food poisoning. Only, rather than expelling the sickness from their body, that sickness insisted they devour more. While Charlene had gone out on her own fact finding missions, Dove had only left the room once or twice for ice or a snack from the bending machine, always in the dead of night. The chocolate bars and salt n’ vinegar chips they ate tasted about as good as normal—better, if anything, it appeared their taste buds had reverted to childlike abundance. They accomplished nothing but blithe comfort and further awareness of how hollow they felt. The food went through their system as it was supposed to, it didn’t just sit in their stomach like a rock, it was just that they no longer had any need for the scant nutrients contained even within cheap snacks. It was all just an absurd pantomime.

Yeah, I could drop it, but I don’t wanna come back here in a couple days to find I’m living in a Frida Kahlo painting because your body couldn’t help picking it back up, tsk.” Charlene clicked her tongue as she leaned against the bathroom door frame, dressed in green plaid pajama pants and a Hello Kitty shirt. “Look, Dove, you have my utmost sympathy here. No one bothered to ask you, ‘hey, do you wanna upend your entire life to become a fucking dracula?’ Yeah, your old life might have been shitty, sure, but only a cruel shitter would slap you across the back and say ‘go get ‘em tiger, knock ‘em out!’ In your head you might still be thinkin’ ‘this isn’t real,’ but that shitter is only giving you the choice to dip your toe in or dive headfirst into the kiddie pool.

I’ve been real tempted to just find you something, a squirrel or a rat, that I could bring back to you here,” she walked over to the bathtub stained with soap scum, her yellowing white socks leading her to sit on the rim, thus granting a better vantage point to meet Dove’s downturned gaze. “You know, like takeout.

Ah, and that would count as ‘dipping my toe in’?

Yeah!” Charlene popped her patented manic grin, “something tells me, though, that it ain’t the challenge of procurement that’s daunting you. ‘Least, it’s not the main issue. Doesn’t matter if I paralyze the bugger or transmogrify it into a big, juicy beyond burger. You’re a smart one, you’d still know what it really was and you’d still feel like a wild animal, just one that’s being kept in its own comfy aquarium. But you know what they say: give a bitch a fish and she’ll suck it down in one bite, scales and eyes and all, pulling it out with the spine and the skull and then using it as a comb or something or…

Okay, the point is I want to teach you, be your spunky coach, and then you can hunt and feed however the fuck you want.” She pulled her hand down her cheek, briefly causing her lower right eyelid to droop, “but sweetie, regardless of how you do it, you gotta do it and do it soon.

Does, uh,” Dove stammered out, their eyes raised to the bulb in the cracked bathroom ceiling, “does this town have like a blood bank or something?

No.” She shook her head, her blonde locks swaying back and forth, “the closest hospital is three miles out of town if you’re thinking blood bags. Look, I’m loving the initiative, but I can’t say that’s the right play even if it were on the table. That shit takes pull, and in the long run it’s got its own unfortunate consequences.

Like what?

Well, people need that blood for transfusions and you could just eat a rat and call it a day. Or put it in a cage for the sun to air fry it, either is fine. Maybe it wouldn’t make a huge dent in the long run, just taking what you need, but eventually you’ll have to face the fact that at least one person you’ll never know had to die in order for you to live. Do you really think you’d be okay with that?

Oh you’ve got it all fucking figured out, huh, Charlene?!” Dove snapped at them, their breath low and husky, “You’re like goddamn Dexter over here, you’ve got all the logistics mapped out on the inside of your brain. So just tell me exactly what I need to do, okay! Do you have a fucking plastic poncho stashed away for me somewhere? Did you stock up on club soda? Might as well start ironing polos and get a padlock for my family shed, ‘cause now I’m the NBK.

Charlene tentatively placed a hand on Dove’s thigh, rubbing the peach fuzz on their skin with the grain. Those hairs stood up from the shock of skin-to-skin contact, the first they had felt since they woke up dead. Her hand was warm against their clammy flesh, pleasant and empathetic far beyond the touch of a practical stranger had any right to be. Dove wondered whether or not this was Charlene’s first time playing ‘coach.’

Look, Dove, neither of us are strangers to being different. We know what it means to have different desires, to have a body and mind that don’t work how you were always told they were s’posed to. We’ve been told that the only options are to acquiesce to their demands or to become the monsters they already see us as. I don’t need to tell you how many times I’ve been stuck between those paths, but eventually I learned to take Mr. Frost’s advice. Forge your own path. It’ll probably suck for a long time, and you’ll find yourself circling back to the same fork at the trailhead, regardless of your intentions. But, one day, you’ll wake up and realize that you’re happier and smarter than all the other idiots.

She gave Dove a wide, earnest smile that emphasized the crease of her dimple, one that looked even goofier because of the way her fangs awkwardly jutted out. They would have chuckled if they felt like they had a bead on this woman’s actual personality. Did she just have the one, or was it a roulette? How many people had ‘Charlene’ eaten? Did she have the kind of ‘pull’ needed to just buy blood, if she wanted to? Or maybe she was just so used to her ghoulish existence that she could easily work out every angle in seconds. Dove felt sick considering the bare fundamentals. Well, they already felt sick, but thinking about this too much definitely wasn’t helping.

Regardless of how Dove dealt with Charlene, though, they knew that she was basically correct. They weren’t accomplishing anything with their indignation. Taking their phone from their jacket pocket, they sneered at it. They had to rely on all the conflict minerals in the little skinner box even more now that they couldn’t even see their own face without a camera. Ha! Imagine telling their younger self that they’d miss fucking mirrors. Through the lens they stared at their own sad sack expression turned away from the one dim lightsource in the lavatory. Their eyes had retreated deep into the cavities of their skull, the whites just two headless halos in a sea of shadow. The eyes of a killer. Nab. Bite. Kill. They were a reticent predator, one hexed with a capacity for sympathy and pretensions of compassion. If a hawk was struck with a bolt of sympathy for the rabbit in its claws, would the hawk let it go? What if someone implanted a utility calculator in its skull? The rabbit could breed many more of its kind, on sum produce more pleasure and depth of experience piecemeal than even the most epicurean raptor. Would the hawk allow itself to starve, or choke down its meal lamenting its net contribution to a more painful world? The real monster was the douche who beamed Peter Singer into a bird’s brain. It was only a human fiction, the ‘great chain of being’, that saw the bird of prey above the hunter’s game, and both above the loathsome parasite. Since Dove was now a leech, perhaps it was best that they study the leech’s ethics.

Okay, fuck it.” Dove slapped their shorts and peeled themself from the toilet seat, “put me in, coach.

Haha, yes!” Charlene sprung up and nearly bounced against the bathroom door when she grabbed the handle, “ouch. This is gonna be fun, birdie. Just give me a minute to change into something more comfortable and we’ll be on our way.

Fucking please,” She had already shut the door behind her, “don’t call me ‘birdie.’

They heard a loud creak and a shuffling noise from the room adjacent. What they could only describe as a “high-pitched” smell of lilies flooded their nostrils before immediately dissipating. Dove propped open the door and scanned for Charlene, but it seemed she had pulled a sequel to her disappearing act. Did they spot any loose cat hairs? No. Instead, a black mass popped right in front of their face and swallowed them in a bevy of feathers. Swatting them away, Dove heard a rapid series of sharp squawks that they soon realized was the crow guffawing on top of the disheveled bed covers. She raised one wing over their mouth, attempting to stifle her laughter.

Yeah, this is about what I expected,” Dove rubbed their eyes, a trickle of clear snot rolling down their nasolabial trough, “I’d be really fucking shocked if you just changed your goddamn clothes! Please, please, though, be careful if you’re gonna do this animorphs shit. I have an allergy to feathers.

Did you ever read those books as a kid? They were actually really good, like, science fiction horror for kids!

And I-ah ah,” Dove sneezed into their sleeve. “Sure you were a huge fan.

Bless you,” She was devoid of guile, “I read a few of them.

The two of them walked out into the balmy summer night of the motel parking lot. Well, more waddled, in Charlene’s case. Crickets and cicadas filled the air with a barrage of angry clicks and chirps. Dove could count the occasions when they’d stepped outside on one hand, but it was still a bit shocking to see the place desolate every time. They had never interacted with any staff or heard any tenants in the adjoining rooms. That seclusion was probably for the best. What if a maid had come around to change the sheets and Dove mistook them for breakfast? Perhaps no one else could come into town the same way that they couldn’t get out. That said, someone must have been running the place, otherwise there would be no running water or electricity.

So, do you have a spot in mind?

Just head in whatever direction you like, I'll fly around in circles for a while wherever you walk. If I spot anyone heading towards you or some decent victuals, then I’ll come down and give you a heads up.

Yeah, cool, thanks for the air support,” Dove gave her a thumbs up.

They opted to just head in the direction of the commercial center of the town. From the looks of it, that consisted of a McDonalds, a Wendy’s, an Arby’s, a laundromat, a convenience store, a dollar store, a rundown bowling alley, two bars, and an antique shop. It might’ve been safer to head towards the woods, but Dove still wanted to stick around human edifices. It felt more ‘fair’ (and, admittedly, easier) to snatch a scavenger who made a gamble on some trash rather than an unsuspecting doe. Of course, they knew that made little sense under any further scrutiny. Charlene had made it abundantly clear with regards to the blood bank scenario. They just needed some kind of logic, any sort of reasoning beyond the brute opportunism of sheer hunger. The paradox being that, if they simply gave in, then they could just let it happen as an act separate from the continuity of their own agency. The problem was that it would still be their choice. You had to have some humanity in order to feel ashamed for betraying it.

The yellow buzzing of the street lights, the humming of air conditioning units, and the thrumming of generators contributed to a calming atmosphere. It brought to mind the soundscape of the town where they had grown up, at least three times the size of Blake, but comprising a similar nightlife. Dove would pull the old caper at their Seven-Eleven, utilizing their height to get a hold on some cases of tasteless light beers with a chilled mountain painted on them. They’d park their pimply ass out on a swing with rusted hinges, choking back one-or-two beers at the busted down playground before stashing the rest in the cubby hole of a tree stump. God, they had only been sixteen, eight fucking years ago. They had only come to the realization how messed up that all was when they were lying back on a table getting two studs as lip ornaments. The pain had brought back fond memories of the fuzziness packed into those beers. It wasn’t like their parents bothered to chide them off of such self-destructive habits. Boys will be boys, heh. That could’ve been the header of the unspoken contract between them and their parents, where dear ‘ol mom and pop couldn't care less what Dove did as long as they never heard that they were gay. In the event of that misfortune, Dove would have had to camp out under the aluminum slide, ‘cause they definitely were never gonna touch their own bed again. Honestly, if they had been up to what they were doing right now, hunting for an easy meal in the backstreets, they’d probably have much less strong words than if they saw their pride and joy turned into a non-binary carpet muncher.

Hey Birdie!” Charlene landed on the window sill of Neilson’s Bar, “there’s a nice, plump squirrel in the next alley on your right, think I saw it wearing a little red armband, so are you ready to rid the world of Furhardt Heydrich?

Charlene, I know you’re just trying to help, but I’m not gonna LARP through this. Do you have any actual advice?

Oh, well, before you enter the alley, try to sniff it out. You seem pretty hungry, so you might just pounce it on instinct like a stray cat.

Wow, thanks,” Dove pinched the bridge of their nose, “if that’s the case, why aren’t I grabbing at your perfumey feathers? I can smell you pretty damn well.

It’s not like we never eat each other,” She tilted her head, “but it would take a lot more than a couple days for me to look like a flying porkchop… or, uh… head of cabbage?

Is it really so fucking hard to think of appetizing food that isn’t meat?

Kinda, like, I have eaten so many peasants, it’s crazy, and every one of them would have killed to eat a tin of spam… It probably would’ve killed them too, but they would have died happier.

Okay, now I know you’re bullshitting me,” they rolled their eyes, “I need to get this shit done anyway. Just remind me to fix you a decent plate of pasta when we’re out of this town.

Ten-four, good buddy,” she motioned her wing up in salute.

Dove’s corvid companion returned to the sky, buoying in lazy circles around Dove’s head like a wide, black halo. Dove tried their best to convince themself that they had already convinced themself, but their doubts only grew louder and enunciated better the closer they got to the act itself. In that moment, had the choice simply been between killing starvation, then they would have just chosen starvation. But the real choice was actually a fun new spin on the trolley problem: kill one helpless creature now, or who knows how many later. Even if they let themself supernova in the daylight, before they gave into frenzy, that would have just left Laura to do all the killing in their stead. For all they knew, she was keeping Dove here to put together her own little coven of freaks. They still weren’t sure they could trust Charlene and her devil may care attitude to stand up against the mall goth tyrant, especially by her lonesome. Even if Dove could trust her one-hundred percent, they also figured that their hand would be necessary in ending this fiasco if it was necessary in bringing it about to begin with. They had to keep living. They had to be strong. They had to stay themself.

Taking Charlene’s advice, Dove sniffed at the air before rounding the corner into the alleyway. Whatever they had been expecting, it was not what they got. The smell wasn’t exactly unpleasant, but it was definitely heady, like a thin haze of musk. Though they could not literally see it, the stench followed a path, one with turns and contours and variances in thickness. Was this how it felt to be a bloodhound? Letting the rest of the world fade away until there’s nothing left but you and the trail to your prey? Could they do this to a human being? Yes. With a little practice, they could easily pull this on a person, just trailing them through the scent of sweat and deodorant before attacking them in a moment of vulnerable isolation. It disturbed them to think about, and it disgusted them how easy it was to picture themself doing just that.

Peeking around, it didn’t take long to spot the squirrel hunched before an overturned garbage can, chittering as it nibbled on something in its tiny hands. It looked kinda cute. Ugh, no, Dove had to think like a predator, it was not ‘cute’, it was just meat. If they were a predator who found their meals cute then that would only make things worse. Their brain starts making connections like that and they’d be the Black Dahlia of butches by next Tuesday. They willed their mind to upturn their thoughts, waiting until the tiny thing turned its back to the trash before making their way towards it. Crouched down, they felt incredibly light, the steps they took and their shallow breaths muffled through unseen padding. Only their heartbeat rang through their ears, pushing them ever closer. Dove’s hands were so close to the ground, palms flat, that it was like their body priming them to bound after the fleeing morsel on all fours. Before that could happen, however, Dove managed to squeeze their springlocked fingers around its chest.

The frequency in Dove’s ears switched from their own heartbeat to that of the animal’s, which pounded like a sewing machine. They could feel the hot bag of skin and muscle squirm against their grip, its eyes huge in disbelief as it stared up at them. Just eat it. They had to close their fucking eyes and get it over with. They brought it close to their mouth, and they could smell the rodent’s seething blood. The syrupy, palling sweetness was incessant, like the first piece of birthday cake they had ever been sliced. Saliva greased their tongue. But, in spite of all that, their mind was still there, fully aware of the depravity interred in their own body. Charlene had been wrong. The hunger was rioting within them, pushing their slobbering jaws open, but it still could not take full control. Dove almost forced themself to let it go then and there, just to prove that they could, but that would just prolong the matter further. Closing their eyes, they allowed their mouth to move forward and bite down, a mouse trap without even the common courtesy to offer cheese. Oh god, the snap. Filtered through mangy fur, blood started to fill up their maw, pooling against their tongue. It was just as sweet as it had smelled, like they had bitten straight into a packet icing, yet with a hint of mild spice that brought to mind cinnamon candy. They could feel and hear the involuntary motion of themself slurping it, like a hyperactive child with an icee. Scalding tears snuck through their lids and stung them with the salt, and they could little more than let go, allowing the creature to hang limp from their mouth while their quaking hands tried to maintain balance. They hated it. They hated how their body savored it. They hated that they would have to keep at this for who knew how long. They, meaning Dove, wanted to throw up, but their body was unwilling to give up the precious sustenance.

Lord Jesus, what are you doing?!

There was a stranger in front of Dove. A woman holding a pack of cigarettes and staring at them terrified. She was a stout woman in a stained t-shirt and jeans, her brown hair kept high with some aerosol spray. In the hand which clutched the unopened container of Marlboros, inside her exposed neck bearing a pewter cross, and within her sunburned face Dove could see the blue and red wires that knit together beneath her skin. Fuck. Fuck, why could they see that?!

Who are you?” She took a sharp inhale, “dear God, what is wrong with your eyes?!

What? Was there something up with their eyes? No… obviously there was something wrong with their eyes. They let the squirrel drop in a little pile from their outstretched jaw. Before their torqued knees could spring them on the poor woman, Dove turned around scrambled on all-fours out of the alley. What if she had a gun? What if she was going to call the cops? Bullets still had to hurt, right? Even if they didn’t, they were too flooded with adrenaline for a rational appraisal. They needed somewhere to hide out for a few hours, to make sure the coast was clear. Swinging their head back and forth to survey the empty street, they spotted Charlene flapping her wings and standing in front of an ajar glass door. Barrelling through, they grabbed Charlene like a football and dived around the store counter. Peering back over their shoulder, they tried to spot anyone who might be following them.

Hey, Dove, calm your ass,” Charlene cooed as she returned to a standing position, “you’re fine, no one's gonna follow you in here.

Don’t tell me that, Charlene, she fucking saw me! She saw me tear into that poor animal, she may have even watched me crush it with my fucking teeth! Oh fuck, oh god, is there something wrong with my eyes?!

They look fine to me, love,” She craned her head to get a good look at both eyes, “healthier, even, less receded.

Come on, you should look on the bright side here, you’re fed now, so you won’t have to hunt again for at least a week. You can lay low in the motel, and it’s not like there’s really any evidence, y’know, ‘cause you swallowed it all. What’s she gonna tell the cops? ‘Oh jesus mary fuck, I saw a feral queer eating varmints out past the larder!’ That’s even assuming there are cops here, ‘cause I sure as hell haven’t seen any pigs snorting around. She’ll probably just write it off as a bad dream.

Oh, but there was evidence. They had just taken the blood and left. How to tell that to Charlene? Here they were, apparently hiding away in an antique store. China, Silverware, old electronics, wheezing furniture, and a huge grandfather clock. Yeah, they had to guess that this was the antique store. Basically a thrift store for the upper middle class.

Dove,” The crow woman cocked her head, “You did actually eat it, yeah?


You didn’t, Dove, what you’re telling me is that you didn’t.

Yeah, guess I was a bit too worried about the random woman staring at me to swallow a whole goddamn squirrel.

Dove, I really don’t know how long we have before that thing gets back up and starts chewing on necks instead of nuts.

But I’m sure I snapped its neck when I bit into it!” Dove smacked both palms against their face, “that doesn’t count for anything?!

I don’t know what to tell you, we tend to heal real fucking fast. At most, we still have like half an hour, maybe, but the longer we stay here panicking the bigger a problem squirrelferatu becomes.

Fuuuck!” They slid further down on their back, “I knew this was gonna be a complete disaster! This whole situation is a nightmare!

Come on, we can fix this situation, pick yourself up kid.

Dove said nothing, instead staring at their dusty hands and hyperventilating.

Okay, so you’re not really in any state for that, that’s fine, I can take care of this,” the crow sighed and ruffled her wings, “I’ve been a pisspoor coach, anyway, worse than the PE teacher who called me ‘chunks.’ Just hang out here for a minute or so, calm down, and I’ll have everything cleaned up.


Charlene had already flown out the door by the time Dove had regathered their voice from where it had shattered. They still couldn’t say what their exact feelings were about her. At scale, their feelings about the whole state of reality were up in the air. On the Charlene front, they basically agreed with their initial assessment: Charlene’s cynical humor and cold sobriety to her own predicament was clearly preferable to Laura's lunatic sadism. In those moments where Dove forgot what Charlene was, when they simply saw her as an average woman, she could be funny, kind, even decent company. But eventually a reminder would rear itself up and buzz like a hateful wasp. When she’d make some dry comment, bringing up stories of past lives, people who both were and were not her, and their darkest secrets like some quaint bar story. She had used her laptop to help distract Dove that first day. They had watched the first season of The Wire, since neither of them had seen it before, and for some reason Charlene could remember most everything from past lives except entertainment media. After watching the scene where the two homicide detectives figured out how D’Angelo had shot a girl through her kitchen window, Charlene recalled how she had once been an assassin for a Russian tsar. “If McNulty had been on any of my cases, I’d probably have spent the next fifty years in a cell. I never bothered to clean up, just figured all the sweetmeats nailed to the walls would be enough to confuse ‘em.” Dove had managed a polite chuckle. But they later had to tell Charlene that they were not comfortable watching any more crime dramas together. She, of course, took it in stride and suggested they watch some classic musicals next.

Maybe that was just how she had to be, though, with so many conflicting values and memories and beliefs shoved in the closet of her unconscious. How could Dove say what that was like? How would it affect her if she tried to sit down and process the complex emotions that came with each errant memory? Dove didn’t even wanna do that themself. Was there such a thing as a vampire therapist? Both of them needed one. Considering the earlier events of the night, it still bothered Dove how impassionately pragmatic Charlene was towards matters of killing. A part of them could sorta see why, after what they had just been through, but they also knew they didn’t want to see the world that way. Even if it just got in the way, even if the ways they tried to alleviate were just convenient lies, they could not look at any living thing they fed on as just meat. After tonight, it had become a little easier to compartmentalize how they thought of Charlene. For the most part, they honestly did like who she was, all of their mixed and negative feelings came about from what she was. And, considering that the case, those feelings were about the same towards what Dove was too.

Another train of thought was in order. It was dark, and they thought that everything seemed uniform in the shadows, blending together into an indiscernible lump of mass. The only exception was the grandfather clock they had spotted earlier, whose face gleamed in the scant slats of moonlight. It looked to be the only thing worth buying in the whole establishment. Flipping themself over to get to their feet, they held onto the counter as best they could to stand up and approach the wooden tower. It was almost as tall as Dove, intricately carved and recently varnished from the way smidgens of light would slide across its sides. It brought to mind that one that had sat at the top of the stairs in their grandmother’s house. That one had fascinated them too. The way all the gears clicked together under its emotionless portal, the little intricacies in its rosewood carapace, the sharp corners, the tight spirals of its feet. Back then, Dove had not been big enough to look up and read the time, but they did see their own face submerged in the fairy lights of the crystal cut glass. Its weighted lungs sat behind them, and its pendulus tongue swung lazily back and forth like an overheated old mutt. When their grandmother went to live in hospice care a few months before the end of her life, she had been forced to leave the monument to chronos behind. Dove never found out what had happened to it, probably passed onto some hidden cousin inscribed into her will. For all Dove knew, the clock standing in front of them now could’ve been the exact same one, the cruel strings of fate puppeting it to the same destination.

Tracing its thin golden fingers, the time it read was 3:34. It had stopped. Were the owners selling a broken clock, or had they just disabled it while on display? Curious, Dove leaned forward and cracked open the grandfather’s chest. Examining down there, it became evident that this could not have been the clock from their childhood, not unless it had undergone heavy modification. Crouching for a closer vantage, something about the pendulum enthralled them. It should have been too heavy and thick to swing without massive force. They wrapped their hands around its hefty stem. Warmth spread through Dove’s hands. They were holding iron, pure iron, and they wanted to take it. A tantalizing belladonna that called them to stare deeper into its siren sheen. Sliding down to their knees, they noticed a faint etching in the cast center. It was a symbol that had seared itself into their very being: the wheel. Did this clock have something to do with them? With the anomaly of this town? What and where did that symbol come from? Before they could dwell on it further, they heard a slow, piercing tap sounding from somewhere behind them. They sprung back, hitting their spine against the counter before twisting their torso to check if Charlene had returned.

I believe that you are trespassing on private property which happens to be owned by my person,” a tall, broad shouldered man in the black suit of a funeral director spoke to them in a low graveled voice. He stared at Dove for a few ghost ticks of the dead clock, perhaps expecting something, simply nodding when it failed to happen.

Who are you?” Dove swept their eyes around him, desperate to spot Charlene.

My name is Bill.” His shock of charcoal black hair stood above his brow, while his chalky face was a slate free of any blemishes. He swung his left hand up from behind his back to reveal a squirming black shade suspended by the neck, “I believe you are looking for this one?

Let her go you fucking creep!” They spat at him.

With a single, slow blink of his half lidded eyes, Bill fulfilled their request and dropped Charlene in a short arc to the floor. Charlene shook her feathers and limply hopped onto the counter and beside Dove. Too exasperaterated to consider the consequences of speaking to her in front of this goliath, they bent down to check on her as their nose ran amuck.

Are you okay? what happened?

My pride’s more bruised than anything else,” Charlene shot her head back to stare accusatory daggers into the ominous antiquarian, “I was just about finished hocking down our mutual friend when Lurch here decided to wring me up like a game hen!

My apologies, dear madams,” Bill bowed his head down and cranked it back to its original position in one slow, mechanical movement, “neither of you are to come to any harm in my care. I believe that you are the lord and lordling that my master has been expecting. He requests an audience with you both.

Your master?” Dove was flabbergasted after being misgendered twice in opposite directions.

Yes. I believe that I will take you to speak with him once the lord has changed into something more presentable.

What?!” Dove’s mind was reeling until they caught Charlene in their eye and it clicked into place, “oh.

The man turned his back to them, his girth blocking any way through the doors. Dove wondered if they could just smash their way out a window or sneak out some back entrance. At the moment, they felt a striking kinship with their cornered dinner. However, looking back to Charlene, it almost seemed that she was smirking.

What are you thinking?” Dove whispered to her.

I’m thinking that we play along, my dear Watson.

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