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“This can't work.”

“It can.”

“We've made it work before.”

Don Paolo still looked skeptical at the two men, but Flora's only concern seemed to be, “How may I help?”

“Stay here,” was Des's first reaction. “Stay here and stay safe.”

Flora's expression turned obstinate and she stomped her foot. “I'm not safe no matter what! We've had this discussion time and again, but still—”

“The lady stays with me,” Raymond declared. He stroked Keats as he spoke, the cat sitting happily in the older man's lap while Des leered at the animal. “She and I can distract the men long enough for the two of you to infiltrate.”

“I'll take the south entrance,” Des declared.

Don Paolo huffed. “Northeast for me, I suppose.”

“It's closer to the ground,” Des reasoned.

“You saying I can't get up to the south entrance?”

“I'm saying I know I have a talent scaling tall buildings.”

“How long you been on bed rest again?”

“Which entrance would you prefer to take, exactly?”

Don Paolo made another noise of dissent. Then he grumbled, “Northeast is closest to where the other two will be entering anyway.”

While they continued mapping out the plan, Flora listened intently and gave input when prompted. The general idea was simply: Raymond and she would cause distractions so as to allow Paul and Des time to get in and search. She and Raymond would be in disguise, but if all their covers were blown they were to flee while Paul and Des handled it. She wasn't sure she liked that plan, and she knew for a fact Raymond didn't either. While the other men bickered over methods of stealth and operating large machines, he leaned in and whispered, “How comfortable are you staying with me while I wield a weapon.”

She uttered back in kind, “I can fence if that's of any use.”

His eyebrows lifted enough to show his eyes. “Who taught a young lady to fence?” She nodded towards the two still arguing too much to notice their conversation. Raymond nodded. “I see.” The statement was not one of disapproval, but one of . . . pride, it seemed. Leaning back in his chair, Keats meowed before purring once more.

Flora smiled at the cat and asked, “How'd you come by your friend?”

Raymond smiled, explaining a little louder over the bickering, “We had met before during our travels with Professor Layton. Once Master was unable to fight and I was left to my own devices, I ran into him again and employed him as both friend and ally.”

“You employed a cat?” That sounded oddly like something Luke would do.

“He is a remarkably bright cat, and a loyal companion. Too bad the lady he once served kept going on longer and longer vacations. She should have taken him with her.”

Flora nodded, she and the elder of the gentlemen waiting for the other two to stop fighting long enough to settle their approach to the situation.

(:)

They had really outdone themselves in his capture this time. Fortunately he knew exactly where they were based on floor patterns, ceiling structure, and space in general. An abandoned factory, it seemed, remained to be the least likely place for anyone to suspect undercover insidious organizations. At least, organizations continued to think this. It would probably be better if the police actually suspected such operations to take place and kept a lookout on warehouses and such, but so far he'd had no luck in being found. That led to the unfortunate realization that his captors had doubled down on security. Of course.

They had not been too rough with him as of yet, and they had been remarkably quiet. This led him to believe they bore him ill will. As if the kidnapping weren't sign enough. It was not like he hadn't considered himself kidnapped for information, but in his experience usually he was just knocked out and woke up with said information stolen. This was also most certainly not a scare tactic. He knew this in the way the ropes around his wrists were expertly knotted rather than loosely done and easy to slip out of. No, he was going to need some help with these binds.

His head ached. So far that was the only injury he had: a sore head. If he stayed much longer, however, he was certain there would be more to come. Of all the things he feared for, however, he did not fear for himself. He'd already set his mind on getting out of here in one piece and he intended to hold to it. It was the others he worried for. Desmond was not going to handle this well. He would revert back to old methods. Granted, that wasn't such a bad thing, but then there was Flora and . . . he needed to focus on getting out, not worrying. The sooner he got out, the sooner he could ensure they had done nothing foolish. And he had the sneaking suspicion that the men who had captured him knew Descole as well. Oh dear, Desmond was probably losing his mind at this point.

Layton didn't pull on the binds. That would only tighten the knots and rub his wrists raw. He needed to shift carefully and find a sharp enough edge to work at the ropes. Only then did he have any hope of escaping. Once out, he could probably guess the layout of the edifice and flee based on assumption. The trick was getting free of the ropes. That was his task. That was his puzzle.

If he lost focus on that, his insides would cease to function and he would be rendered useless. There was not a puzzle he had not solved before, and he wasn't about to leave one unsolved now.

(:)

Des pulled his old outfits out of hiding. A new coat complimented a sewn up shirt and otherwise undamaged outfit. Getting those on wasn't as tricky as he'd thought it would be. He supposed that was because he was avoiding all mirrors in the home at the moment.

It was upon slipping off his glasses and taking the mask in hand his fingers started shaking. Palms sweating, he gripped the object a little harder than he intended. Closing his eyes, he took a deep breath and slipped it on. It shouldn't have struck him how easy it was to assume this role again. It shouldn't have surprised him at all. But it did. It really did feel like another personality was bleeding its way into his head and crawling over his skin like lukewarm water.

When he opened his eyes again, he was smirking and ready to resolve this issue.