"Ray used to be a plumber, you know," said Nicole, as she bustled backwards and forwards about her huge kitchen with its impressive array of sleek-looking modern appliances. Harold and Teatime were seated at the kitchen table. Ray had just gone out with the dogs to the local watering hole, as he called it, to get some celebratory alcohol.
Ever since they had arrived, Nicole had not stopped fussing over Harold and Teatime like some modern-day Florence Nightingale. Were they hungry? (A definite yes in Harold's case, Murder at the Blood Drive being neither appetising nor sustaining) Thirsty? Too warm? Too cold?
At first it had been a bit of a novelty to be so nicely treated, but now her and Ray's overly solicitous attentions were beginning to grate just a little. Harold half-expected her to ask for his autograph.
She plonked a generous plate of trail mix down on the table in front of a somewhat bemused Teatime (who had been hoping for cake, to be honest). "Ray calls this stuff 'parrot food'", she laughed, "But the kids used to love it so I keep some around for when they visit. Have I showed you Cathy, Caitlin and Carrie - my triplets, my Lord?" she asked, and when he didn't answer immediately, "My Lord?"
To distract himself from Nicole's inane chatter, Harold had been thinking of triplets of an entirely different kind: in his head another new piece (he was going to call it A Chill Wind's a-Blowing) had been getting born just nicely, but it disappeared with a disappointed silent pop as he realised that Nicole was actually addressing him directly and that she actually expected an answer of some sort.
"Er, yes, I believe you did." he answered, lamely, "Fine-looking children, they were too."
"Tell Nicole you want a bath," whispered Teatime. If there was not to be cake, then they might as well get down to brass tacks and start getting organised.
"But I don't need a bath, Teatime," said Harold, somewhat puzzled. Demons' vessels did not sweat and bacteria could not live on them in any case, so bathing was rarely necessary. Surely Teatime knew this?
"I know you don't, old button," replied Teatime patiently, "but we need to talk – preferably in a quiet place where we won't be disturbed. Honestly, old shoe, do I have to explain every little detail?"
Harold shrugged, "Er, Nicole?" he said.
Back at Aunt Aggie's, Agent India was almost ready to hug herself with satisfaction. She had been absolutely on the money. OGS had been a little lax and had not followed its own procedures properly. India liked procedures, they minimised the variability of human decision-making and kept things nice and controllable. Now India knew that the slip-up was probably because of the last-minute change of plan imposed upon Joshua squad by Director Opal, but all the same, procedures were meant to be followed even if – especially if – something unusual cropped up. In this instance, however, she was pleased to note that, just as she'd thought, the demon's bag had not been searched very thoroughly at all. She looked down at the device in her hand. On its screen, a little red dot was glowing steadily.
"Bubbles are always perfectly spherical, aren't they?" mused Harold as he soaked in the scented water of Ray and Nicole's massive marble sunken bath. He'd seen people bathing on TV and had had the odd shower himself, but this! This was really pleasant. No wonder humans enjoyed it.
"Yes, it's because surface tension exerts an equal force in all – " Teatime stopped himself, mid-lecture, "Look here, old sock, I didn't mean for you to actually have a bath, merely to ask for one."
"I know," said Harold lightly, "But now I'm here... Anyway, how come we were slumming it at the Sleezee when we could have come here and lived it up?"
"That's part of what I want to talk to you about," replied Teatime, "Now listen."