“Twin daughters,” Doctor Fantastik said. “That’s very sad. A friend of yours?”
“I bring him spices from the Southern Isles when I come up from there. Saves him on the merchanting mark-up.”
“And the duty, no doubt,” Doctor Fantastik said.
The sailor shrugged. “I’ll give you the address, and you tell ’em Cyril sent ya. They’ll see to my fee. They’re right desperate.”
“At least one of the girls been turned poltergeist,” Cyril said.
“I wouldn’t believe it of Ellie, she was sweet as punch,” Cyril said. “But that Kim, she was a handful and half of hellion. If the poltergeist’s one of them – and the timing’s right as rain for that – my money’s on Kim.”
“I’ve extracted poltergeists before,” the doctor said reflectively. He fingered the pin on his lapel.
The girl leaned close. “You detach them,” she said.
“You put them in bottles.” Her breathing quickened and she licked her smile wider.
“Parts of them, certainly,” the doctor said. “I capture certain effluences that are useful in some experiments.”
He looked at the sailor, who was taking quick gulps of his fish tea. Dots of green seaweed clung to his moustache.
The girl pursed her lips as the doctor turned back to her, ignoring the man. His tone when he addressed her was as firm as though he were instructing a dimwitted and unruly child. “Go and find us a place to sleep tonight, Charlotte. Make sure that the rooms are clean and that the fees are under a silver apiece.”
She slid from her seat with an attitude of resignation, ignoring the newspaper, which the man was currently folding into a new shape as though to catch her notice. Her silk skirts rustled, nigh-inaudible – or perhaps that was her sigh? – as she moved back to the door.
The man gave up on folding his newspaper and laid it down on the counter in front of him, extracting his cup of fish tea from among the folds. “She your apprentice?” he asked.
Doctor Fantastik shook his head, indicating with a delicate shudder the impracticality of such a notion.
“Charlotte is a patient who I am treating for a pronounced and malignant affliction,” the doctor said mournfully.
“A ghost affliction?”
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