The Tall Man rose from his seat. His head vanished into the shadows. He turned away to look at the fire. Theodore kept a hand on the hilt of his knife under the table, just in case.
“The curse on this ring lets you know where your victim is,” Theodore said. “Even a secluded spot in the wilderness.”
“Would you believe…” The Tall Man did not look up from the fire. “That it was a symbol of friendship? A sign of trust between man and ghast. Yes, I was aware Anthony died, but I was not there when it happened, and there was nothing I could do.”
That sounded rather convenient. “The curse stops working when the afflicted dies,” Theodore said. “I find it hard to believe that you knew where and when your friend died and you chose to report nothing.”
“Deputy,” The Tall Man said. “Do you think that it is safe for a ghast, any ghast, to admit to knowing the time and place a man has died?”
“But it looks way worse that you kept quiet!” Oboe said.
“You are a citizen,” Theodore said. “The law ensures you would be under no more suspicion than a human or fairy in this situation.”
“A Laien citizen. Fair and equal.” The Tall Man’s laugh was a rasp. “…No, Mr. Grayweather.” He turned toward them. “I could not have gone to the authorities without implicating myself.”
Something was going on. There were two corpses already and Theodore could not risk a third. “I’ve heard enough. You will come with me to the watch station. You can explain yourself there.”
The tall man stared down with shining black eyes. “Your fear tastes of peppermint. A bold façade. …You are certain I did it, and are frightened. I will not follow you into a death sentence.”
Theodore kept his fist clenched. “If you’ve nothing to hide, I can promise no harm will come to you! Are you going to cooperate or not?”
“No.” The Tall Man upended the tea table.
Theodore toppled backwards in his chair as the bogeyman advanced. He stumbled get away, panicking. It was happening again. A ghast was attacking him. He was going to die.
“Oboe!!” Theodore said. “Help me!”
Oboe jumped between them, fists out.
“Hold it, big guy!” She shaped herself into a tiger. “Play nice, and I won’t have to hurt you!”
The Tall Man’s hands grew larger, his arms longer, until he filled the room. He snatched Oboe off the ground and lifted her high in the air.
“Whoa! Hey!” Oboe squirmed in his grip. “Uh? This isn’t good!”
“Get out!” The Tall man said, reaching Theodore.
Theodore tried to get away and slipped in a puddle of spilt tea. Before the Tall Man could grab Theodore, a bright light burst around him. The Tall Man howled in pain and dropped Oboe onto the floor. Theodore lifted the talisman out from under his shirt and found it glowing white.
“I see.” The Tall Man said, shrinking back to his normal size. “If I cannot force you to leave, then I’ve no choice.”
The Tall Man receded into the darkness. Theodore gave chase, and almost ran straight into a wall.
“He’s gone!” Theodore said, groping at the wall. The suspect was loose. He failed.