The circus was bombastic, with bright colours wherever you looked: rainbow balloons and dancing clowns, vibrant pink fairy floss and large green lollipops. It provided a nice colourful contrast to the city in which it was being hosted: Monte d’Or, a city already known for its colours during the carnival, but the carnival was for the night, and the Cirque occupied the day. The Cirque Du Mystère had become world famous, touring across Europe, America and wherever the demand was highest. Despite its reputation, Hershel would visit it once a year for a very special reason.
Hand wrapped around Emmy’s shoulder, the couple strolled past the fantastical variety of stalls: of ridiculous circus games with hammers and balls and moving obstacles, to puzzling mind games the likes of which Hershel was familiar: a little diorama with three wolves and three chicks crossing a river with a raft, to matchsticks that formed different shapes and animals, and even a table that tilted to direct a ball to the end of the maze – and even brain-melting riddles. The circus was distinct in its focus on the mind. Those who visited never left without learning a thing or two, even if it just left their head hurting afterwards.
Emmy stopped as she directed the pram around a child who had tripped over, wailing for her mummy and daddy who didn’t seem to be in the area. Hershel stopped to help the little girl up, holding her hand, telling her he would keep her safe until they found her parents. Soon enough, a bewildered couple sprinted through the crowd, calling after their Florence, and Hershel raised a hand. Their relief was immediate and they thanked Hershel generously.
“It is quite alright,” Hershel beamed, gesturing at the pram beside him. “I know what it’s like to raise a little one.”
“What’s his name?” the father asked.
There was a rattle followed by a thud and Emmy roared.
“ALFENDI! You don’t hit mummy with your rattle! Bad Alfie!”
Hershel chuckled lightly and then bade farewell to the parents, waving to the little girl who was sucking on her thumb. Once they left, he fell in place beside Emmy and they waded their way through the throng until they found what they were looking for: the Tinkerer’s Tent. It was shaped like a large cannon, and wasn’t really a tent at all, but the door was wide open and the sign displaying its name was loud and inviting.
As Emmy just managed to manoeuver the pram through the small opening, Hershel entered a scene of pure chaos and delight. Inside the wide space of the Tinkerer’s tent lay dozens of weird and wonderful contraptions, more than half of them completely different to the ones he had seen on his last visit. Large shelves housed hundreds of smaller contraptions, and Hershel noticed a large glass orb in one corner of the room, eerily reminiscent of the bubble ship he had travelled in in his quest against Oliver Strapping.
Seated at the centre at his table filled to the brim with spare parts, cogs and gears, was the Tinkerer himself, tongue hanging out, goggles strapped on, an intense look on his face as he hunched over a circuitry board, soldiering it together.
“Don Paolo!” Hershel exclaimed, gaining the attention of the ex-arch rival, and now good friend. Unlike his previous attire consisting of a menacing purple coat and devil-horned hair, Don Paolo now sported a suit, and more streamlined hairstyle, though it wasn’t quite as ordinary as that. The suit was purple, a call back to his coat, but it was filled with tiny little embroidered stars, and a green handkerchief hung loosely out one pocket. His sleeves were pulled up and he was wearing large black gloves. His hair, though not the respectable slicked back style he sported in Gressenheller, was a little wild, though that was only because he cared more about his inventions than his appearance. Already Hershel could see this new suit was burned in several places and was stained heavily.
Don Paolo glanced up, his eyes abnormally large, magnified by the goggles. Alfendi squealed delightedly and Don Paolo realised what he was laughing at, removing his goggles so they rested atop his forehead. Standing, he flung his arms wide and approached his friends.
“Ah, Hershel and Emmy! How delightful it is to see you!” After he had let go of the two adults – Emmy breathing a sigh of relief as the stench made her dizzy – he leaned over the little boy with the thick mop of red hair.
“Look at you! The last time I saw you, you were this high!” He held his hand a few inches off the ground, and Alfendi frowned.
“The last time I saw you,” he countered, stumbling over some words. “you were less smelly!”
Don Paolo fell back in bedazzlement, and Emmy covered her mouth, laughing hysterically.
“That’s a… a good one,” Don Paolo admitted, brushing off his sleeves before leaning over to whisper to the parents. “You’ve raised a witty one, certainly. I daresay he’ll be as smart as you, Hershel.” He noticed Emmy’s narrowed eyes and he fixed his statement, fumbling awkwardly. “A-and you of course, Emmy.” She nodded her approval and he wiped an imaginary bead of sweat from his forehead.
“Why do you have to whisper his compliment?” Emmy inquired.
“If the lad knew just how bright he was, he’d never let me hear the end of it!”
He peeked over his shoulder and gasped to see the young boy’s eyes narrowing at him, just like his mother.
“Yes, definitely like his mother after all.”
Stepping back, Don Paolo flung his arms back, knocking over a beacon. He darted his hand out to grab it, missed, and knocked over circuit boards and various items onto the floor. As he scrambled to pick them up, he exclaimed at the sight of a little handle with a protruding stick. Turning back to face his friends, he held his hands behind his back and grinned nervously.
“Anyhow, what device have you come to see this time?” He rummaged through the disaster that was the table, sighed and reached for a box, placing the item in his hand back in before holding it out again. “This clever thing is an extending arm. You just…” Squeezing the trigger, the stick shot out, a metallic pole shooting out into space. It stopped just shy of the tent’s roof. Sending it back into its handle, he poked at his moustache with it and sighed. “It currently can’t do anything much, but I plan to fix that. Oh look!” From a shelf he held up a hat which at the flick of a button, a pair of sunglasses folded out in front of the eyes. “And this!” He ran to the opposite side of the room, sorting through another rubbish heap until he produced a little earpiece. Attaching it to Emmy’s ear, he grinned, explaining it could translate any foreign language into English, and he cleared his throat.
“Je m’appelle Don Paolo,”he stumbled in French. Emmy raised an eyebrow and waited. The little earpiece began to flash and a robotic voice chirped in her ear.
“I am a duck.”
“I think your machine is broken,” Emmy tutted. Don Paolo pulled at his moustache and shook his head. Emmy glared at him before smirking. Removing the earpiece, she clipped it into Don Paolo’s ear.
“Être con comme un balai,” she spoke in fluent french. The little robotic voice translated.
“You are as dumb as a broom.”
“That was mean,” Don Paolo grumbled.
“At least it got it right this time.”
Alfendi’s laughter grated at Don Paolo and the Tinkerer turned back to find his next invention.
As Emmy threw the ear piece back into the mountain of spare parts, Don Paolo retrieved a claw-like device and held it out proudly.
“This is magnetic! It grips onto an object, and if it is metal, it squeezes tight with a vice-like strength.”
Hershel crossed his arms, smiling patiently at the inventor. Don Paolo got the hint and chucked the claw and extending arm back onto his desk and beamed at Alfendi.
“Does young Alfendi wish to see my exploding bubblegum? Don’t know why I thought that was a good idea… Actually it’s horrible. Maybe he’d like to see my tinker’s tool that can fold out and become almost any tool you need, from a screwdriver to a hammer, and even a spoon!”
Hershel coughed, turning Don Paolo’s attention back to him.
“Unfortunately we’re not here to see your ingenious devices. The Cirque is a big place, and Luke is always hard to track down. Could you perhaps tell us where he is currently?”
Don Paolo dropped his eyes and sighed.
“I see. I’m just a means to direct you to master Luke.”
Emmy shook her head, patting the man’s shoulder.
“There there. Of course we wished to see you. In fact, I wouldn’t mind a demonstration of some dangerous contraption you’ve got there. One that, you know… works.”
Don Paolo’s eyes shot wide open, a mad glint in his eyes and Hershel smiled.
“Nothing too dangerous,” Hershel cautioned. “I am sure Alfendi wants to keep his eyebrows this time.”
Don Paolo swallowed bitterly and then shrugged.
“Eyebrows grow back… But I see your point.”
Alfendi ran his fingers over his eyebrows and glanced up at his parents, terrified.
“He burned my eyebrows off?”
Hershel chuckled and lifted Alfendi from his pram, meeting his eyes directly.
“Only slightly. You cried for twenty minutes. Only your mother managed to calm you down.”
Alfendi gulped and Don Paolo giggled.
“You see, not so silly am I? I can turn a Ferris wheel into a deadly homing device!”
“Yes, I recall your stubborn pursuits of Luke and I with your… modified Ferris wheels.”
Don Paolo huffed.
“Those were the good old days.” Emmy glared at him and he corrected himself. “Uh, what I mean to say is they were adventurous, but I regret my grudge. At least my Ferris wheel was creative. Not like what happened on the Eye. That was so unoriginal!”
Hershel grinned, placing Alfendi back down in his pram.
“I’m sure we could reminisce about old times, but we really must be seeing Luke.”
“What about my demonstration?”
Hershel nodded, relenting.
Like a giddy child, Don Paolo dived into one of his boxes and removed a large propeller. Next, he reached onto his desk and grabbed his multitool, transforming it into a screwdriver with the flick of a button, and he adjusted a few screws before running over to one of his shelves. He ran his hand along the various devices until he found what he was looking for, gasping and pulling down a container the size of a large incubator. He spent a minute attaching this to the propeller and then placed the object on the ground.
“Now, I’m going to need a small volunteer. Any takers?”
His eyes scanned the room, passing his guests twice before resting on Alfendi. Lifting the boy into the cockpit of this little machine, he strapped him in and then pushed a few buttons. Immediately, the blades whirred into life and the little ship began to hover in the air. Alfendi gripped on for dear life, but his eyes were shining. As he rose ever higher, almost reaching the roof of this large canon tent, he was squealing joyously.
Emmy gripped Hershel’s arm tightly. Usually she was up for a bit of risk and danger, but not when it involved her own son.
“Is it safe?” she yelled over the roar of the propeller.
Don Paolo didn’t hear her at first, and once she repeated the question, he paused.
“Ha ha, you see, I’ve never tested it out with a live specimen. It’s meant to be a flying pram for children. No pushing around heavy, clunky things like that beast you’ve got there. This will follow you along, landing safely at the press of a button.
Emmy felt queasy, and she called for it to be turned off.
“Ah… about that. I haven’t quite worked out the quirks yet. Landing has always been… Shall we say, temperamental.”
Emmy felt like she would faint. Instead, she put a firm foot forward and grabbed Don Paolo by the collar.
“You better get my son down safely or there’s gonna be trouble! Trust me, you were defeated by my husband and got off very lightly. I’m not my husband. You can bet there’ll be a good whooping!”
Don Paolo laughed awkwardly and nodded, stepping out under the hovering machine, reaching his hand up tentatively. The machine swayed up and down and he flinched. Emmy hit him, hard, in the shoulder.
“This is no time to be cautious! Get my son down now!”
While Don Paolo gulped and stumbled over the problem, Hershel did not stand by idly. Glancing around, he found multiple items he could use, and those he couldn’t. Without pause, he retrieved the two he needed, attaching the magnetic claw to the stretching arm device Don Paolo had showed off earlier. Aiming it up, he shot out the now extending claw, the device whizzing up and clamping on to the rising ‘pram’. Activating the trigger once more, the claw slowly reeled back in, dragging the ship down gently with it. As soon as it was close enough, Emmy pulled her son from the machine and Don Paolo shoved his hand into the control panel, flicking a switch, deactivating it at once. The device seemed to hover in the air a second more before falling to the ground with an almighty crash, nuts, bolts and random parts shooting out in all directions. Emmy shielded Alfendi, and Hershel pulled Don Paolo aside as a particularly large hunk of metal soared past where he had just been standing.
There was a long stretch of silence before Don Paolo stepped cautiously forwards, prodding at the fallen machine with his foot. It gave a hideous hiss and then shook and rattled before falling apart even more.
Emmy approached Don Paolo furiously, jabbing a finger into his chest repeatedly as she made her point.
“You call that a safe device for children?”
Don Paolo blushed, holding up his palms defensively.
“I said I had some quirks still to work out…”
“And yet you still put my son in anyway!”
Don Paolo was about to counter that she hadn’t objected, but Hershel could see this would only get uglier from here, and he interjected.
“What’s done is done. No one is harmed. We should be thankful that Don Paolo invented the items that resulted in Alfendi’s rescue.”
Emmy frowned at Hershel.
“Oh yes, and I suppose that should forgive him for the dangerous one that almost killed our son!”
Don Paolo had been passive before, but now he put a foot down.
“That couldn’t have happened! The cabin is fitted with airbags on all sides in the event of an emergency.”
As if to make a statement, the airbags all opened at once, and the machine split into four pieces, collapsing into a heap. Emmy raised an eyebrow and Don Paolo laughed nervously, kicking at a fallen hunk of metal.
“Maybe it’s best if you go and see Luke now.”
“I agree!” she huffed.
“Right. You’ll find him in the merchant’s district. That’s where we’ve set up the animal shows.”
Alfendi, feeling a little more confident after his scare – it was his parents acting so mortified during his flight that had removed the fun for him – grinned widely.
“It’s called the Wide World of Wonders. You’ll see what that’s about. You can’t miss it. Always draws a big crowd. That’s why I’m all alone right now. A show should just be about to start. You’re in luck.”
Hershel nodded his thanks and heaved Alfendi back into his pram. He took the reins from Emmy this time, and she threw her arm around his shoulder. As they reached the doorway, Emmy glanced over her shoulder, gesturing with two fingers that she was keeping her eyes on him. He gulped, waving, and then sighed once he was left alone again. It was always good to see the Laytons, but Emmy was a powerful woman. She was right. If he had been chasing her, and not Hershel, he feared his plots would have been foiled from the very start.
Back outside in the smiling crowd, Hershel noticed that there was a steady stream of people heading in the direction of the merchant’s district, and he grinned knowing Luke’s attraction was still gaining the numbers.
An excited voice rose above the noise, a hand shooting up and then Clive stumbled through the crowd that moved against him. In his right hand was a hot dog and he munched on it as he approached.
“Come on!” he called. “We’re not gonna get good seats!”
Hershel and Emmy joined up with their son, Clive reaching over to ruffle his little brother’s hair.
Emmy pursed her lips, reaching over to wipe a ketchup stain off Clive’s cheek.
“Where is your sister?”
Clive gestured over his shoulder, a devious smirk on his lips.
“Where do you think? If she hasn’t gotten front row seats, she’s on stage with him.”
The three began to join the tide of the crowd and Emmy shook her head.
“Why do you always tease her? She’s absolutely in love with that boy. It’s beautiful the devotion she shows to him.”
Clive waved her concern away, taking another bite of his hot dog, talking with his mouth full.
“I schknow, I schnow. I jush ike to tease.”
He swallowed, burping happily.
“Where are your manners?”
Hershel spoke then, an amused grin playing at his lips.
“I have tried, and failed, Emmy. Clive grew up an independent spirit.”
“That’s what you said the other night at dinner,” she retorted. “It still doesn’t excuse him.”
Clive and Emmy got into an argument over manners, Clive arguing that he had his own apartment now and could make his own rules, with Emmy countering that she was still his mother. Hershel kept his smile, looking ahead, eager to see his friend after so many months. Luke was Clive’s age during the Angel adventure, and he still could not get over how all his friends had aged. Very soon he expected Luke to propose to Flora; they had already moved in together.
Once they cleared the archway, they were astonished to see hundreds upon hundreds of people all forming a circle around a large open area, decorated to look like an animal enclosure. There was a large stage set up by the Cirque with a sign displaying: ‘Wide World of Wonders’, and a spotlight was fixed on the middle of the curtains, despite it being early afternoon.
Fortunately, they had seats reserved for them, and they pushed politely through the horde, taking their seats, Hershel siting Alfendi on his lap. They still had a few minutes until the show started, and Hershel turned to Clive, asking if he had any further developments on their latest case.
“I think,” Clive mused, scratching at his chin. “that old lady Ariadone is hiding something. Her story about the cheese factory just doesn’t add up.”
“How fares Barton in his search?”
“Splendid! I just had to mention cheese and he was bursting out the door!”
Hershel grinned, but despite the many jokes that could be made about the Detective’s appetite, he was a sharp mind, and his police work was beginning to rival that of Chief Inspector Chelmey himself. Once, at the formation of The Mystery Room, Chelmey had stated that Barton would one day run the Yard. More and more every day, that was becoming a fast reality.
“Are you still having fun?” Hershel asked his son. At this point it was a recurring joke, an endearing statement between the two.
A drumbeat started, silencing the crowd, and as it crescendoed, the curtains swung open, revealing the lone figure of Luke standing in the dead centre, looking like a true performer. Emmy tapped his shoulder, pointing at the corner of the stage where Flora stood, watching her boyfriend with the same spark in her eyes she had for him all those years ago.
“Welcome ladies and gentleman!” Luke called, white teeth showing in his broad grin. “Prepare to be amazed! We share this world with a plethora of creatures that are as spectacular and fascinating as the length of Professor Layton’s top hat.”
Laughter rippled throughout the crowd, and the few surrounding the Laytons that recognised him applauded his way. Hershel met Luke’s eyed and he accepted the joke in good humour.
“I have made many friends,” Luke continued, walking forwards, stopping by a tree in a little garden area, complete with a grassy hill, beautiful flowers and a pond. “over my years as both assistant to the Professor, and as an archaeologist with the Los Angeles Archaeological society. So many friends, as such, that I knew I wanted to share their talents with the world. And so when the Tinkerer himself, Don Paolo, and your fine city’s mayor, Randall Ascot came to me with their idea for a travelling troupe about the puzzling, the mysterious and the wonderful things in our world… Well, I couldn’t say no.
“Every animal you shall see here today, ladies and gentleman, has kindly agreed to share their unique skills with you all. They only ask that you be amazed!”
Another wave of applause met Luke, with a few whoops – mainly from Clive – Hershel’s clapping the loudest of them all.
“I would first like to introduce my good friend, Geoffrey. He is a reclusive old fellow, preferring to hunt mice and stay out at night, but he has made an exception for you here today.”
On cue, Geoffrey soared down from some hidden alcove, landing on Luke’s outstretched arm, before fluttering over to sit snugly on one of the tree branches.
“Geoffrey isn’t particularly useful in any way,” Luke smirked, taking a jab at his old friend. “He is really only good for complaining and puffing his wings out to let others know he is the best owl around.” Another round of laughter and giggles, mainly from children, met him. “But jests aside, he is still a proud and loyal friend, and he has helped me on many adventures, from the Angel crisis almost ten years ago, to accompanying me on many archaeological excavations, his eyes an invaluable asset in our quest for knowledge. In fact, he can see more than you’d care to realise.”
Luke proceeded to point out what distant members of the audience were doing, chatting with his old friend, silently brushing aside Geoffrey’s complaints that he was above this – for secretly Geoffrey lived for the attention – and impressed with his facial feathers, Luke commented, which could pick out distinct sounds from up to seventy-five feet away!
When Geoffrey’s time was over, Nightshade shortly followed. Using her impressive sonar abilities, she was able to fly through obstacles courses, and even tell how many fingers audience members were holding up behind their back, Luke translating for her.
He moved through an assortment of animal friends, from new and exotic friends he had picked up on his travels: a singing tree frog; a lyrebird which copied anything an audience member said, a rhinoceros beetle which could lift extremely heavy objects almost ten times its size, and a family of Basilisk lizards which skimmed along the surface of the pond in a synchronised dance on water.
Some Hershel knew: a talking rabbit known as Mr Rabbit, or as he sometimes liked to be called, Hops. Luke had a silent conversation with Mr Rabbit, continuing on from how he communicated with his past animal friends, but when the once grouchy Subject 3 spoke, the audience gasped, unable to believe their ears, picking at them as if the problem lay there.
Shiverfang was up next. The courtyard was silent at first, and many wondered what was happening, murmurs rippling through the crowd. Then a little girl – the same one from earlier, Florence, pointed at the far left corner. Sure enough, a delicate web pattern was being formed across two tree stumps. Very shortly, the web spread out until it was as large as a car, but that wasn’t what was impressive about it. On the web itself, ingrained delicately, were the words ‘Thanks for coming’.
Riotous applause rippled throughout the crowd, and Luke was met by a standing ovation. He bowed, but Hershel noticed a mischievous smile on his old friend, and he rested his arms atop each other, waiting for the surprise grand finale he knew was coming.
Sure enough, Silence hovered onto the scene, her tail whipping her through the air until she landed on Luke’s shoulder. People were stunned into silence, and Luke grinned.
“Oh, it seems Silence didn’t want to be forgotten. Like all the other animals here today, Silence is an extraordinary creature, but like Mr Rabbit, she possesses far more… unique abilities than the average snake. Not only can Silence fly using her tail, but she can…”
On cue, finally in control of her ability, Silence vanished from sight, and people practically fell over themselves. Eyes poured over every inch of the stage, but no matter how hard they looked, none could spot the snake. She had simply… vanished from existence!
Chuckling, Luke pointed towards an audience member at the front. Silence exploded into sight, and the poor man fell back screaming at the sudden appearance of a flying snake before his eyes. The audience caught onto the act, and soon Luke was pointing in different locations, Silence vanishing, before reappearing in front of another unsuspecting person. Many screamed in surprise, and some children laughed enthusiastically. At one point she appeared around Alfendi’s neck and he clapped delightedly. Emmy would have been worried if she didn’t already know Silence was as harmless as a fly. After two more magic gestures, Luke accepted his old friend back on his shoulder, and this time he bowed for real. He was drowned in the applause, but he didn’t’ stay long, disappearing behind the slowly closing curtains.
Once the audience calmed down, finally starting to file out, Hershel placed Alfendi back in his pram and he walked with Emmy and Clive to the back of the stage, lifting the pram atop the wooden decking and finding their way past Cirque volunteers to the man of the hour.
They found Luke in the midst of the rocking hug with Flora, and she was chatting animatedly.
“Each show is as terrific as the last!”
Luke’s cheeks reddened.
“Each show is certainly different,” he mumbled.
Emmy coughed, and Luke turned.
“And why is that?” she said.
Luke didn’t hesitate, throwing his arms around the Professor and Emmy. When he finally let go, he tried to act like he wasn’t so desperate to see them, but the truth was, despite their yearly visits, and constant letters, he missed them terribly.
“Well,” he smiled, fixing Alfendi with a playful grin. “I’m always finding new friends on the road. Some stay, but many leave. I don’t own any animals here. I make it clear that they are here of their own free will, showing off their skills to an appreciative audience.”
Flora linked her fingers into Luke’s hand.
“It’s kind of hard for Luke not to make friends. He stops to talk to every critter, every bird and insect that will listen.”
“I can’t help it,” Luke laughed, sensing Flora’s mild irritation. He knew she got quite impatient sometimes. “I have an obligation to use my gift to help animals in need. And if they don’t need help, hearing their stories is still inspiring.”
Hershel beamed at his old apprentice, though Luke still saw himself as the student.
“You lead an extraordinary life, Luke. You never cease to amaze me.”
“Cor, Professor. You have saved the world over a dozen times, faced the impossible and you’re telling me my life is extraordinary.” Luke winked to let the Professor know he was only speaking lightheartedly, and he approached Alfendi, bending down. “Hello, Alfendi. Do you remember me?”
Alfendi nodded vigorously.
“Yes. You’re Luke,” smiled the boy. “Mummy and daddy say that you are a t-true gentleman, a-and a hero.”
Luke felt his cheeks begin to burn and he scratched at his hair.
“Oh I don’t know about that. I think I’ve got a long way to go before I can call myself a true gentleman.”
“Uh-uh,” Alfendi said, shaking his head. “Daddy says that a true gentleman is someone who tries their best to be kind to others and help those he can. You’re helping all those animals!”
Luke glanced up at the Professor, and Hershel nodded.
“You always doubt yourself, Luke,” he smiled. “But you have always been a true gentleman. From the beginning. I saw it every day I was with you. You never lost your smile for too long, and you touched everyone who entered your life with your shining personality and infectious grin. You never had to prove yourself. You were an incredible soul that burned brightly despite all that sought to tear you down.”
Luke had to blink back tears, and he hugged the Professor tightly.
“Oh, Professor. You always know what to say to change a life.”
“You changed my life, Luke.”
Flora wiped away a tear of her own, and she rested her head on her brother’s shoulder. Clive, usually in a playful mood, allowed his sister’s display of emotion, and he smiled. Though not siblings by blood, the two were always there for each other. Flora fussing over Clive’s eating habits and hygiene, his education – because she felt he could still do with some touching up after all the missed years – and Clive, always chasing after Flora as she moved further away from him. Sometimes Clive would even visit when he could, just to make sure his little sis was doing OK and hadn’t forgotten about him. She reminded him on those occasions that it was impossible to forget the brother who at one point had tried to destroy London with a robot of mass destruction. He would then comment that those were darker times.
Now he observed the affectionate display before him, between Professor and apprentice, student and teacher… the greatest of friends, and he nodded proudly. When he first met Luke, he had been impressed with that small boy’s courage and heart. He never stopped being impressed, even to this day.
As the two broke apart, Luke looked around, laughing as he wiped his tears on his sleeve.
“It’s just like old times, eh? The gang. I suppose we’re the Mystery Room now, right?”
Hershel nodded energetically.
“You’ve always been a member.”
“You don’t suppose there’s a mystery for me now?”
“As a matter of fact…”
The little girl, Florence, poked her head through the curtain and immediately pulled it back. They all stared until a moment later she stuck her head back in, followed by her whole body. She approached Luke cautiously, brushing a lock of dark hair from her eyes. She sneezed then, and apologised.
“I’m sorry,” she whimpered. “It’s just… I really wanted to say hello to… to Shiverfang. And Mr Rabbit!’
Luke glanced at his friends, smirking. Turning back to the girl, he bent down and nodded.
“Of course. I shall call for them now. And what of my other friends?”
Nightshade, flapped down onto his shoulder, evidently listening in to the whole conversation.
“Yeah,” she huffed. “What about me? Does this girl want a good ear biting?”
Luke scolded his friend.
“Now now, Nightshade. You don’t bite little girls’ ears!”
Florence yelped, covering her ears quickly.
“S-she wants to… bite my ears?”
Luke chuckled, reassuring the young girl with a pat on the shoulder. She flinched as Nightshade drew nearer.
“She says that about everyone. She’s really a very nice girl. Much like yourself.”
Just then, the curtains ripped open and the same parents from before stepped in.
“We apologise,” the father mumbled, gripping his daughter’s hand. “Florence has a tendency to wander. She’s… She always bedridden, so any chance she gets to go outside she lets her legs carry her to unknown destinations.”
Luke waved away his concern.
“Really, it’s fine. I was just about to show Florence here some of the animals. It’s always cool to see them up close. I just know they’d love to meet you!”
As Florence jumped up and down in excitement, she sneezed twice more and her father looked ready to take her away, but Luke was in control of the situation, expertly summoning Shiverfang, silently gesturing with his eyes for the scurrying beast to clamber up her back and rest on her shoulder. Usually that would scare even a grown man, but he could tell this girl was brave – despite a fear of ear biting – and he was proved right when she almost screamed with joy to see her favourite animal up close.
It went like this for a little while, Luke introducing little Florence to the other animal friends. When she stroked Silence, Luke explained that unlike many of the other animals, Silence stayed with her old friend, Alexandros in America. But Alexandros allowed his friend to travel with Luke sometimes when he would visit his father.
All the while Alfendi grew impatient, seeking attention. Emmy had to hoist him on her shoulders for a piggyback ride, but then she gripped her stomach, wincing and she had to put Alfendi down.
As Luke waved Florence and his family away, he turned, noticing Emmy’s discomfort and he rushed over, seeking to help.
“What’s the matter?” he asked sternly. Hershel was already helping his wife to find a seat. Guiding her gently onto a nearby bench, he turned to Luke.
“I suppose we should tell you now. We planned to reveal it at the Cirque’s closing celebrations, but now is as good a time as any.”
Flora pursed her lips.
“Tell us what…?”
Emmy took a few deep breaths and then stroked her belly, winking. Flora immediately put her hands in front of her mouth, and silent gasps sprang to lips. Luke cheered, and Clive arched on the Professor, his face a picture of indignation and delight.
“You didn’t tell me! How could I not have seen?”
Emmy chuckled, reaching for Hershel’s hand. He took it and sat beside her. Alfendi tugged at his knee and he helped his son up to sit on his lap.
“To be fair,” she said, brushing aside a stray lock of hair. “You don’t see much of me anyway. You see Hershel at the Mystery Room, but I’m always travelling for the World Times. Only now I have to take it easy. Besides, I do my best to cover it up, telling people I need to lose weight. She’s coming soon, I can tell.”
Flora squealed a little too high-pitched.
“It’s a girl! This is the most exciting news ever!”
Clive laughed, resting an arm on her shoulder.
“You said that when you found out about Alfendi, sis.”
Flora narrowed her eyes at him.
“News of any baby is a momentous time in anyone’s life.” She quickly forgot her apathy and beamed at Emmy. “Have you decided on a name?”
Emmy and Hershel met eyes, nodding.
“We have,” Emmy sighed. “I never really knew my parents. The only thing I have is a memory of my mother’s name. Hershel and I agreed that it was a beautiful name. Katrielle. Or Kat for short.”
Alfendi approached his mother’s stomach, reaching out a tentative hand. Emmy nodded and he laid it on her stomach. Something kicked and he yelped, snapping his hand back quickly. Everyone laughed, but he didn’t see the humour.
“That’s right,” Hershel grinned. “You’re going to have a little sister.”
“W-will she… be mean?”
“Mean? Never! She’s a Layton! That means she will be as beautiful as your mother, and as clever. And she will be kind like Flora, witty like Clive, and brave like Luke.”
“Aren’t… aren’t I those things?”
Emmy nodded, glancing at all her friends. Clive threw his arm around Luke’s shoulder so now he was resting on both him and Flora, but both quickly pushed him off.
“That and more,” Emmy continued. “Those aren’t qualities restricted to just one person. If you possess even half of those, you’re already on your way to becoming a true gentleman.”
Alfendi seemed enamoured with the idea, but then he shook his head firmly.
“I want to be a detective! Like daddy and Clive!”
“But don’t you see? You can be both!”
Alfendi’s eyes shone with wonder, with the possibilities. He met eyes with each member of his family. For they all were family, and then he grabbed his daddy’s finger.
“Then I want to be a true gentleman… and a detective, just like you. I want to leave no puzzles unsolved! That’s what you always say, daddy!”
Hershel could not contain his smile, and he threw Alfendi into a fierce hug.
“You can be that. You can be a true gentleman. It’s always been inside you.”
Meeting eyes with Luke, he nodded, his apprentice nodding back. No words needed to be said on their account.
Once Emmy was ready to stand, Luke spoke excitedly about the next act which was over in Carnival Square. It was known that Randall would set up a show when the Cirque settled in his home city.
“Randall’s illusions are just as convincing as when he was the Masked Gentleman! Even better!” Luke added, breaking off into a jog. “We’ve dallied enough! Come on! I think he’s about to do the disappearing statues!” Flora laughed, running after him, and the others followed on, Hershel watching Luke run, his old vivacity and spirit never lost on him, and he smiled. He strolled along at his own pace, Alfendi choosing to walk, to hold his father’s hand. As always, he held Emmy, keeping her close. At one point, he glanced down at Emmy’s stomach.
Ah, Katrielle, he thought warmly. You will be born into a bright and wonderful world. You will have your own adventures. I daresay you’ll be saving me one day. But regardless, I know you’ll have a blast. Soon you shall meet you dashing brothers and your incredible sister. Luke and Randall and Don Paolo and so many more. You will find a bold and impossible world; yours for the taking.
You shall see the world as Luke did. Still does. With those same inquisitive eyes, always looking ahead, always learning and making the most of everything. You will flourish, and you will soar. But most of all, you will see the world and why it is worth fighting for. Because it is. We fought to keep this world free from all those who sought to harm it, and so shall we continue to do. For Luke, for your mother, Flora, Clive and Alfendi, and…