“Douglas, stop it,” Martin said for the third time. “ You’re going to hurt yourself, or more likely, me.”
“Martin. It’s not even pointed it at you.” Douglas hadn’t had a balisong knife in years, but when he did, he use to be able to flip it open and shut with one hand.
“Well, you are pointing it at all the delicate flight equipment around us and I don’t want to explain to Carolyn why there is a folding knife lodged in the instrument panel.”
Before he could point out to Martin the likelihood of that happening, Arthur walked in. “Hello chaps! Oh Douglas, a balitune knife. Those are brilliant.”
“It’s called a balisong knife, Arthur,” Douglas said.
Martin didn’t look up from his pre-flight checks. “Those are dangerous and goodness knows why Douglas wants to fancy himself some kind of gangster, I wouldn’t want to get too close to that.”
“Don’t worry, Skip. Mum showed me how to handle a knife, I can even do that thing where you open it with one hand.” Arthur’s accompanying hand gesture looked less like opening a knife and more like chucking a rotten trout at someone.
“Should we be concerned that Carolyn is teaching you how to handle knives?” Douglas asked sarcastically.
“Don’t see why. Mum taught me how to use all kinds of weapons, back when she ran the sweet shop.”
“Oh. I see, Arthur. Utility knives and such,” Martin said.
‘Well no, not exactly. More like machetes and balitunes and jackknives.”
“Arthur,” Douglas said, not bothering to correct him again, “when you say sweet shop, did Carolyn actually sell sweets?”
“Well, sometimes, when she wasn’t too busy with her other clients.”
“Doing what, exactly?” Martin asked.
“Well, Mum said that sometimes, when people are really really mean and even hugging them and giving them all your airplane stickers won’t help, you have hire someone to take care of them.”
“And by take care of them, you mean with knives,” Douglas said, suspecting where this was going, but not quite believing it.
“Not just any kind of knives. Big knives! And sometimes guns like in James Bond! Mum is brilliant with a sniper rifle.”
Martin tried to keep the mocking pitch out of his voice and failed miserably. “And Gordon?”
“Oh. Dad too, before he got the glass eye. Actually, that’s how they met, on a job in Sydney, but Mum tells it better than I do.”
“I tell everything better then you, dear.” Martin jumped and Douglas certainly did not jump when Carolyn walked in. “Arthur, where did you get that?”
“Douglas got it.”
“Let me see.” Arthur flipped the knife closed with a quick twist of his wrist and handed it to Carolyn.
“Douglas, you’ve been had. Something this cheap would break in pieces the moment you hit bone.”
Arthur nodded. “Yeah, that’s what I thought too, but it's so pretty.” Arthur flipped it open again and Martin flinched back against his seat.
“Arthur, go make the coffee.”
The flight cabin was silent. “You haven’t had any of Arthur’s mystery soup?” Carolyn asked. “Because you both look a little flushed.”
“No! No. No, we’re fine everything's fine, nothing you need to take care of-I mean worry about.” Martin flicked the radio knobs unnecessarily.
Carolyn sighed. “I see the light of my life has been telling tales again.”
“Yes, something about the sweet shop?” Douglas said, turning in his seat to stare at Carolyn. “ Why did it go under again?”
“Not enough business.”
“Because you were running...another business.”
Carolyn arched one eyebrow. “Extermination.”
“Right,” Douglas said, ignoring Martin’s squeak. “Machetes and rifles seem a little-” like overkill but he resisted, “excessive for rats.”
“I took care of extremely large rats.” There was a sharp twist to her smile, the same kind she gave them when she made wagers she was sure to win.
“Of course.” Douglas took a moment to imagine; his thoughts on the matter looked less like James Bond and more Pussy Galore. Then, “Were you any good?”
“One of the best.”
“Why stop?” He’d always assumed her previous wealth came from Gordon, but now it occurred to him she must have pulled a tidy sum on her own.
“Arthur. He took to his lessons well enough but he has no amplitude for the business. Not a whit of deception or malice. Flying, he likes. Frankly, I was getting too old to be laying about on rooftops with an ACW. Now, how about you two actually do the job I’m paying you for and get us out of here.”
“Yes, yes of course, right away, ” Martin said as Carolyn retreated to the cabin.
“Ask Arthur to give me my knife back,” Douglas called out after her.
There was a whoosh-squeak and Douglas jumped. Martin froze, then pointed wordlessly at Douglas. Wedged in the back of the co-pilot seat was the knife, buried in all the way to the hilt. Douglas looked back, Arthur stood at the far end of the plane, one hand covering his mouth.
If Douglas and Martin spent the next few months being partially nice to Arthur and extra attentive to Carolyn’s requests, no one spoke about it. Much