You’re not sure when your scuffling with the Twilight Scoundrels ended up with you being tied to a chair in someone’s apartment, but you figure hell, you can’t remember what happened after Delinquent slamming what felt like a train in the back of your skull.
You look around a little hazily. It’s pretty dark, but there’s a light on in the other room that shines a bit into the one you’re in. The curtains are drawn over the windows. You’re sitting next to a rickety card table in one corner covered in a nice lacy tablecloth with a withered bouquet in a vase. Every other surface in the room is covered in hardware and tools and gadgety looking things that do not look friendly at all mixed in with some toy jacks and lipstick tubes and other puzzley doodads.
You squint at the doorway again when a shadow blocks out the light. The man is very tall and very thin, and looks like a stiff wind would knock him over. He flips on a light and you recognize the Pernicious Innovator.
“Hello Detective,” he says faintly, like he’s not used to talking at all as he drifts forward across the room. “Such a pleasure you could drop by. I was going to call myself, but this is much more convenient.”
“Izzat so?” you slur slightly. You’ve probably got a mild concussion; that light is making your head throb unpleasantly. “Glad t’be of service.”
Innovator nods courteously as he slides into another chair on the other side of the table. “So, Detective,” he says, “How are you, this fine evening?”
You just stare at him. “I’m… well,” you say after a significant pause, eyes narrowed. “Yourself?”
He looks frightfully engaged. “I’m well, thank you,” he says gravely. “Are you fond of tea?”
On cue, a teakettle whistles in the kitchen.
Deciding the situation can’t possibly get any stranger, you inquire if he has some oolong.
What follows is an incredibly strange hour sipping tea next to a wilted bouquet with someone who seems more than a little deranged. Innovator carefully unties one of your arms so you can sip the tea he gives you in a lovely porcelain cup, but makes sure to cheerfully drape you with several wreaths of Christmas lights that he glitches to show you are actually thick bands of electrical wire ready to fry you at the press of a button thing he calls a “remote”— “These aren’t practical for street use, Detective, but very handy at home— see how they plug into the wall socket?” It makes for a rather stilted conversation.
He listens attentively to your answers; he’s asking all of the questions, and seems to have an endless supply. He inquires everything from your opinions on the weather to whether you find the daily crosswords in the newspaper entertaining or not. You’re still not feeling very well, but the tea is impeccable.
At some point you manage to turn the conversation to his work at this dingy apartment. “What sort of things do you create here, besides Christmas lights that fry conifers?” you ask, not simply in pure professional interest.
Innovator breaks into a stammer. You could swear he’s blushing purple. He hems and haws, suddenly incredibly and awkwardly shy. He rambles for a bit about chainsaw lipstick tubes and candy-dispenser Uzi’s before trailing into an equally awkwardly shy silence. Just as you grope for something else to say to keep him talking, because you’d rather not, Innovator breaks it by getting up, worriedly mentioning something about getting more biscotti from the kitchen.
You hear him fumbling about in the kitchen and eye the Christmas lights that have started to feel uncomfortably hot. Your half-empty cup of tea is almost too cold to drink, making for an irksome temperature contrast.
The Innovator is back in mere minutes. He sets the biscotti on the table and motions for you to take one.
“So,” he says stammeringly as you crunch it gingerly, “I was w-wondering if you’d p-p-perhaps consider dropping by ag-g-gain, Detective?”
You eye him narrowly and cudgel your concussed brain into coming up with a suitable response to being held forcibly for a tea party more than once. “This was pleasant, Innovator,” you say warily. “Unfortunately my schedule is rather hectic at the moment… we have several different cases we’re working on at the moment.”
“I’m s-sure you can find the time.” The faintest of smiles is gracing the shadowy tinkerer’s face. “Something so enjoyable should take a… prominent part in one’s life.”
You blink at him. The fuzziness is making a reappearance and it’s getting hard to ignore the headache. “True. But I’m afraid I am rather busy right now.”
“Oh that’s quite all right, of course,” Innovator says, sounding even fainter. “So. Same time next week then?”
Things drift out of focus, and the last thing you see is that ghostly smile.