“What—are you serious?” Eduard asks, jumping forward to look at the paper. Sure enough, there is a blank space right where Harlem points. “What are you going to do about it?”
“I was hoping you’d know?” Harlem says, looking up at Eduard.
The door swings open and the boys jump, turning to look at the man walking into the office. The light falls eerily upon his mask, the shadows dancing over it as he walks farther and farther into the room, and closer and closer to Eduard and Harlem.
Quill looks at Harlem first as he stops in the center of the floor, and then at Eduard, his body tensing up for a moment before relaxing again.
“Quill, you have three appoint—why are you two in here?” Thomas strides in with a clipboard in his hands, tapping a pen on the metal clip impatiently.
“Dad said I could come in here,” Harlem says uncomfortably as he looks between his father and Eduard. He hasn’t stopped staring at him, no matter how many times Eduard has looked away. His heart beats fast and he wants to be away from this man, whether he really is an imposter or not. “Remember? You were there.”
Thomas looks at Quill, who takes a second to break his gaze from Eduard to look back at him and he nods. Quill points to the desk where Harlem dropped the travel logs, and Thomas walks over to grab them.
“Why do you have these?” He asks, holding the papers up with one hand and the clipboard in the other.
“I wanted to know something,” Harlem shrugs and stuffs his hands in his pockets. “Is that such a crime?”
“It could be if I decide to report it,” Thomas says, his voice thick with attitude. “I want you out of this office—”
Quill holds up a hand to Thomas, cutting him off. He shakes his head and turns back to the boys. The sounds of his feet touching the floor echo off the walls as he gets closer to Eduard. He starts to back up as the man in the white mask picks up speed.
He’s against the wall with a gloved hand around his throat, Quill staring at him and looking him over. Does he recognize something about him or something? He couldn’t. Eduard is wearing a different mask. It’s been a month… he couldn’t remember…
Suddenly, he lets go, feeling the exact opposite as Banshee as he coughs and sputters to regain the oxygen lost in the moments it had been taken from him. How could Banshee keep calm after he did that to him? Eduard is freaking out…
Quill strides over to Thomas and takes the clipboard. He writes something down and shows it to his monkey, handing it back to him. Thomas looks up at Eduard suddenly, and then back at Quill, who nods his head and writes something else down.
“What’s he saying?” Harlem asks impatiently as Eduard rubs his throat.
Thomas looks up quickly after finishing reading what Quill wrote, and pulls the clipboard to his chest.
“Nothing you need to be aware of. Just know that your father is planning to have dinner with you tonight at the house, not the room in the Light Clan’s living quarters. He expects to see you at six o’clock sharp, like you used to do when you were young.”
Thomas turns on his heel and walks briskly out the door, Quill hesitating a moment to take another look from Eduard to Harlem before walking out the door.
“You alright, Eddie?” Harlem asks, rushing over to Eduard. “That’s so unlike my father… kind of.”
“Kind of?” Eduard asks, his voice raw. “What do you mean, ‘kind of’?”
Harlem shifts uncomfortably and shoves his hands into his pockets. “That’s not a story for right now.”
“I think it’s a great time for a story, Harlem. What am I going up against? Who is Quill Henson, Harlem?”
“Not that guy, but whoever he is… he seems so much like him…” Harlem’s voice trails off as he faces the door, lost in thought.
“Harlem, if there’s something I need to know about your dad—”
“I’ll tell you. In the mean time, I need to find a way to bring you to that dinner.” Harlem turns back to the desk and starts to put the travel log away.
“What—why? I don’t think your dad likes me very much, to be honest. And I don’t think I can wear another mask, because it’d be kind of weird, I think… What if he tries to kill me?”
“He won’t do that.”
“How do you know? If you say that guy isn’t your father, how can you predict how he is? How can you tell what he is and isn’t capable of, Harlem?”
“But what if I’m wrong about him?” He asks, tucking the papers back into the drawer he got them from. “What if it really is my dad, and he forgot to fill in the blank, what if he didn’t fill it out because he didn’t want anyone to know he was gone?”
“Then I’d say we’d have to figure it out. We’d have to try and make sure if it’s him or not, and if it is, we have to find out where he went and why he went where he did. If he’s not him, then we have to find out who it is and what happened to your father and why.”
“So many things to do…”
“Hey, Eduard says, walking toward the door. “If you want answers, you have to dig, no matter how dirty it gets, no matter how much the truth hurts, and no matter how many cuts and bruises and bullet holes you end up with—you have to dig. Are you in?”
Eduard’s hand is on the door, ready to leave with or without Harlem. If he says no, Eduard will be alone, and he will have to figure it all out on his own. He will face danger by himself. He won’t drag Mikey into it, he won’t drag the Maskless into it.
But if he says yes… that’s a whole other story just waiting to be told.
Harlem stands awkwardly behind the desk, trying to figure out what he wants to do. Eduard can almost see the thoughts going through his body as his muscles tense and relax, trying to decide what to do.
What a big decision.
What an awfully big adventure.