Fandom: Professor Layton
Word Count: 3,658
Disclaimer: I do not own Layton or his Top Hat of Awesome.
Summary: First chapter can be found here. When something unexpected happens, Luke's situation becomes a case of one step forward and a mile-long jog back.
Two days had passed.
Two days since the doctor’s initial visit and Layton’s first conversation with Inspector Chelmey regarding Luke’s mysterious appearance. And there was no change, no new information, no nothing to help them solve the puzzle of Luke and his memories and what had befallen him. The boy was quiet, withdrawn, and still prone to that wild-animal shyness.
It was with all of that and more hanging like a weight on his shoulders that the Professor went and answered the door that afternoon. He was startled when he opened door and saw who had knocked, as he had not been expecting anyone. “Inspector Chelmey! To what do we owe the pleasure—“
“I have some information for you, Layton, and I think you’d better hear it right away,” Chelmey cut him off in a curt voice. “Mind if I come in?”
The Inspector did have a tendency to be rather gruff and short, Layton knew, but this seemed even more so than was normal. And it concerned him, especially because the only reason that Chelmey would be stopping by at this point in time was because of the situation with Luke. If there was something bad happening with that situation…
Layton stepped aside and gestured for the man to enter. “Please, come in.” They made their way into the study. The children were upstairs, so there was no immediate chance of being overheard—although the more he thought about it, the more the Professor realized that he really wouldn’t be able to call them children for very much longer.
“I apologize for being sudden, but I spoke with Luke’s parents this morning,” Chelmey said as he took a seat, having just waved aside an offer of tea. “His mother had quite a bit to say, and I thought you should hear it.”
“Of course,” Layton said. “Especially if it’s something that could help us figure out this whole mess.”
“Well, I don’t know how much help it’ll be, but here’s what she said,” the Inspector pulled that same portfolio out and opened it and began to read his notes. “As I believe you already know, his mother reported him missing. The boy said goodnight and went up to his room to go to bed. A while later, his mother heard a noise. She went in, found the bed empty and the window open.”
Layton nodded. “That’s what you told me before.”
He went on, “Well, what I didn’t know at the time was that her first thought was that he had run away. It wasn’t until she saw the note and some signs of a struggle that she realized that might not be the case, and called the police.”
The Professor’s eyebrows leapt towards his hairline in surprise. “That seems a bit odd. Why would she believe him to have run away?”
Chelmey hesitated, then sighed. “I hate to tell you this, Layton, but…the fact is that your boy, Luke, has not been settling in well in his new home. Not at all. Making trouble, not doing well in school, acting out, all sorts of things. He’s actually gotten into some pretty big trouble a couple of times. When he was gone, his mother thought that this was just another stunt.”
It was one of the few times in his life that Layton found himself at a complete loss for words. Luke? His apprentice, Luke? Making trouble? He just gaped at the man across the desk.
“And when the police were called, they were told the boy’s history, and their first instinct followed the mother’s,” Chelmey said, continuing his brusque habit of referring to Luke as simply ‘the boy.’ “They had an expert take a look at the note left at the scene, and compare it to a known sample of his handwriting. They were able to confirm that he did not write it. His parents and a few friends were also eliminated.”
“My word…” Layton breathed.
“Further examination of the scene also revealed that none of the boy’s belongings appeared to be missing,” the Inspector kept going, flipping a page of his notes. “As near as his mother could tell, the only clothes missing from his closet were the ones he had been wearing that day. And the detectives also found scratches on the window’s lock, a sign of forced entry. All the signs pointed to a forcible removal, rather than a willing exit.”
“And that’s when it officially became a kidnapping, instead of a runaway or a missing person?”
“What did the note say?”
“A ransom demand. A sizable sum of money, to be left in a certain location. If the money wasn’t paid, or if the drop-off site was monitored, then the boy would die,” Chelmey said, flipping another page. “Naturally, the police watched the site.”
“And the money?”
“Vanished, somehow,” the Inspector said. A disapproving tone slipped into his voice. “The officers on scene said that no one approached the drop-off point, which was a locker in one of the train stations. But long after the appointed time, they looked, and the money was gone. But there was another note.”
“What did this note say?”
“It said that they had the money, and appreciated the cooperation. But that’s where it all gets even stranger. They said that the boy would be returned to his parents at a later date,” Chelmey went on. “They said that they needed to keep him for a while longer, though they did not explain why. There has been no further contact from them.”
“That’s all the sergeant in New York told me.”
Layton looked down at the desk and raised a hand to massage the bridge of his nose as he tried to process everything he had just been told. “This makes no sense at all.”
“I admit that I’ve never seen a case like this,” Chelmey admitted. He closed his portfolio. “A boy goes missing from his room in New York, and months later falls down on an old friend’s doorstep on the other side of an ocean with no memory of who he is or how he got there.”
“It sounds more like something out of some novel, doesn’t it?” Layton mused. “A storyteller’s concoction.” He sighed. “Forgive me, but I’m having difficulty believing what you told me about Luke. How he’s been behaving.” He shook his head. “That just…does not seem like the Luke I know. Or rather, the Luke I knew.”
The faintest flicker of sympathy moved across the Inspector’s face. “Moving that far away had to be a shock for him, Layton. Fact is that something like that can be enough to change anyone’s behavior.”
“Nothing about him right now seems to be the young man I taught,” Layton said quietly.
Chelmey looked off to the side. “Every harlot was once a virgin, as the saying goes. People change. Sometimes for the better, and sometimes for the worse. Model children can grow up to be murderers.”
Layton didn’t reply to that. The idea of Luke growing up to be a killer was one he did not even want to entertain, not even in a jocular or hypothetical sense. That was a far cry from what was happening now. The current events were more than enough for him to puzzle and worry over.
“I feel sorry for you, Layton,” Chelmey said, standing. “This whole thing has to be very trying for you. Dealing with the kid when he’s like this has to be troublesome. Don’t know how you’re managing it.”
“Not really,” Layton said. “It’s more perplexing than anything else. And goodness knows that I have always been one who enjoys the baffling.” He stood. “Thank you for stopping by, Inspector. Please let me know if anything else comes to light.”
“Likewise. Call me if there are any developments,” Chelmey agreed. A walk to the door, an exchange of farewells, and the man was gone, leaving Layton to further ponder over the situation with his former apprentice, and the odd circumstances that had led them to where they now were.
Luke carefully crept away from the top of the staircase and tiptoed down the hall towards the bedroom that had been slated as his for the duration of his stay here. Instinctively, he made certain to step around a certain floorboard. It felt like a habit of some sort; he suspected that the floorboard in question was a squeaky one, which could betray a person’s location. A particular nightmare if one was trying to be stealthy.
How he knew this, he did not know.
Regardless, he made it back to his room without alerting anyone to the fact that he was sneaking around, and closed the door. He had come to think of this pleasant room as his haven of sorts. Once he walked in and closed the door, it was safe and private; neither the Professor nor Miss Flora ever entered without knocking and receiving permission. If he did not invite them in, the door remained closed.
Their respect for his privacy was merely one on a growing list of reasons why he was letting himself trust the two who had opened their home to him. It was the physical demonstrations of concern for his well-being that had convinced him. His instincts had been telling him that since day one, but on a purely mental, defensive level, he had been unable to do it.
He still wondered if perhaps he was giving in too soon.
But now he was saddled with a new idea, courtesy of the Inspector. Chelmey was his name, wasn’t it? He was the one Luke had met the morning after he had woken up in a house that was both familiar and alien to him, the one who had told him that he would help him find his parents. He did not doubt that much, at least, because the man was a police officer and the police were there to help people in trouble. Luke knew that much, at least.
Except now the Inspector’s words were bothering him. He hadn’t mean to overhear the end of the conversation between the Inspector and the Professor, truly he hadn’t. He had just been on his way to the stairs to go down and see if he could find some tea or milk or something to drink, and he had heard the strains of conversation. Not wanting to interrupt, he had waited and involuntarily listened.
…was it true what the Inspector said? Was he really troublesome to the Professor?
Luke sat down on the edge of the bed for a moment before he let himself tilt over sideways. The quilted blanket was a deep burgundy color, and the fabric was soft and worn. It smelled oddly nice, Luke decided as he took a deep breath. Right now, it was sort of tempting to just curl up in that blanket for a while and try very hard not to think too much.
The Professor and Miss Flora had been so kind to him, from the moment he had woken up in the study, laid out on the floor beside the fire with a warm blanket tucked around his soaked form. But really, as he thought about it, they had been kind to him before that. He had fallen in the doorway; they had to have moved him, presumably because it was warmer and safer than lying prone on the threshold.
They had opened their home to a stranger (at least, he felt like a stranger, but they seemed to know him—it was a small comfort to think that at least someone knew who he was when nothing else in his world made sense), taken him in, made certain he was cared for. And they had asked nothing in return, unless one counted his company and conversation. Not that he really had anything to give, but…
Knowing all of that made the Inspector’s words sting even more painfully.
Was he really that much trouble to the Professor?
The more he thought about it, the more it made sense. Professor Layton had been forced to deal with so much since he’d made his unexpected arrival: doctors, police, contacting Luke’s family, keeping an eye on him, dealing with him with that seemingly unending patience, and whatever else had gone on around here that Luke was not privy to.
And somehow, even if it was true, he doubted Layton would tell him so if he were to work up his nerve and ask directly. Layton was a very kind man; he would not want to further burden one whose shoulders were already buckling beneath the world’s weight.
It was with those cold thoughts chilling him down to the pit of his stomach that Luke fell asleep. He dreamed strange dreams of Ferris wheels and chasing cats.
When Layton walked back into the study, he was only slightly surprised to see Luke curled up on the couch with a book in his hands. A closer glance proved that it was a puzzle book, and a very old one at that. It was one that had been a favorite of Layton’s when he was young, and one that he had subsequently shown to Luke, who had loved it just as much.
This was getting to be a much more common scenario than it had been. The first few days of Luke’s unannounced stay with them had more or less consisted of Luke hiding in the guest room, emerging only when necessary. Sometimes he didn’t even stick his head out for meals.
But time, patience, kindness, and the Professor’s almost eternal good humor seemed to have earned the young man’s tentative trust. The first common ground had been puzzles; mindteasers shared late at night, just before bed, had formed a very careful bridge between them, and it had gone from there, although very slowly.
He was beginning to come out of his shell here and there. He still remembered very little of himself, but he was becoming more social. Layton counted it as a great blessing, and encouraged it. So Luke had taken to spending much of his time sitting in the office, reading or engaging in quiet conversation with his temporary guardian. Most nights, Flora would join them.
It was a lot like what had been in the old days, before Luke had left. Things were even starting to feel the same. Luke himself was even smiling now and then. They were all happier than they had been since that first night. Lighter. It felt like a family again.
Flora was also enjoying a book, albeit a slightly different genre of novel. There had been an earlier discussion between Luke and Flora as to how she could read that stuff (after he had flipped through a few pages—something about a girl and a vampire and a mention of sparkles), and her simple explanation of asking if he and the Professor ever thought about anything other than puzzles and riddles, so leave her alone thank you very much.
Layton was in his usual seat at his desk, enjoying the comfortable quiet tempered by the gentle flutter of turning pages. It was a pleasant evening, and for a little while, at least, they could all forget the cloud hanging over the little brownstone: the mystery of Luke’s memories, of his arrival there, and of what was going to happen next.
Such a wonderful peace.
The Professor was just about to suggest a cup of tea (and perhaps some biscuits or sweets as a treat) when the calm was completely shattered. It shattered at the same time the window did.
Luke and Flora both immediately and instinctively dove forward to escape the shower of glass raining in on them. They dropped to the floor, hands and arms flinging upwards to cover their heads. And there was a loud clunk as a large rock hit the floor beside the two.
Layton was on his feet in a heartbeat, diving past the desk and rushing to their sides. “Luke! Flora!” When they both glanced up at him with wide eyes and assured him that they were all right, he leapt towards the window and looked out through the gaping hole in the glass, searching the darkened street for any sign of a culprit.
There was no one there. The sidewalk was void of people, although he did hear some voices out of sight asking what that sound was. No sign of a vandal or ne’er-do-wells or anyone else who might have been responsible for the destruction. Granted, Layton had been living in this building for a good number of years, and he had never known vandals to strike this neighborhood. It was a pleasant place, relatively free of crime or problems. Which left him to wonder if maybe…
He glanced back at the two children still on the floor, and at Luke in particular. Then his eyes again went back to the window. Was there a connection?
A chill ran down his spine, a feeling he had long associated with being watched. It was a very unpleasant sensation, and he stared out into the twilight, trying to find the source of it. But he saw no one. Still, he knew that someone was watching him. Someone who was decidedly not a friend.
While the two teenagers stared at the large rock on the floor in horror, Layton stepped back from the window, his foot bumping into the stone. He glanced down at it, cleared his throat, and nervously said, “Well, ah…I don’t think that goes there.”
Luke’s face was ashen; he shakily got to his feet, glanced at Flora, and let out a panicked squawk. He pointed at her with one finger. “Flora, you’re bleeding!”
Given her overall shock at the crash and the broken glass and everything else, it wasn’t really surprising that she had not noticed it yet. It was only when Luke let out his exclamation of surprise that she seemed to belatedly realize that there was something warm and sticky running down her cheek from a deep gash on her forehead.
If nothing else, the renewed sense of panic over Flora’s admittedly minor injury provided a very welcome distraction from the destruction as both professor and apprentice rushed to alert the police and the doctor.
Doctor Kelly finished securing the bandage over the deep cut Flora’s forehead and patted her shoulder in a paternal gesture. “There. You’ll be good as new in no time at all.”
She winced at the pressure, but nodded. “Thank you.”
“I do appreciate you coming out here so late, Doctor,” Layton said solemnly.
The Doctor stood and removed his spectacles, still smiling. “Oh, no trouble. It’s fortunate that I live close by. And I very much doubt that she’ll have a scar or anything. So no harm done.” He glanced towards the damage and frowned. “Well, perhaps except to your window. Hershel, have you called the police?”
“I have. They’ll arrive soon, I’m sure.”
“How is the young man?” Kelly asked, turning his glasses over in his hands. “Still in good health? Any new developments? Has he remembered anything at all?”
“Luke is fine, or as fine as can be expected,” Layton said. “He still remembers nothing.” He sighed. “He was getting better. More comfortable, at least. He was starting to act more like himself. Now…”
“…he’s regressed?” the doctor suggested.
“He’s withdrawn again,” Layton said. “I hate feeling this helpless. I just wish I knew what to do for him. It feels like we’re taking one step forward and two steps back.”
“I understand why you would feel that way, but it might very well be that there is nothing you can do right now. Just be patient, Professor. Things will get better sooner or later,” Kelly said.
“I hope you’re right.”
Kelly yawned and returned his spectacles to his breast pocket. “I’d best be off. It’s quite late. Call me if there’s anything else I can do to help.”
“Of course, doctor. Thank you,” Layton said. He saw the man out, and was just in time to answer the door for the officer sent out to take a look and take down a report on the incident.