Oboe shrank into the smallest mouse she could manage and tried to slip between the bars of her cage. Her fur bristled and there was a crack of magic that hurled her back. She snapped back to faun shape feeling sore all over.
“Argh! Let me out of here!!” She hurled herself at the bars and was sent bouncing off the walls of the cell. She crashed to the floor with enough force to make the bottles and shelves rattle.
Flip chuckled. “Never stops being funny. By all means, wear yourself out. It just goes to show why humans are the dominant species.”
Oboe found a rock on the ground and threw it at Flip’s head.
“OW!!” the witch grabbed at the fresh welt. “You insolent little heifer!”
“You’re going to be in big trouble when Theo finds out about this!” She said.
“The Deputy? Oh, spare me. The man is a dullard. Besides, it’s not like you’ll have the opportunity to tell him about any of this.” He eyed her up like a butcher at a meat market. “Harvesting fairy magic is not my specialty but I’m sure I can find a use for you.”
“Harvesting?” Oboe felt a lump in her throat as she looked at the ashen remains of the Crawlie. “…You’re tearing magic straight out of creatures. That’s…” She could not imagine a more painful way to die. “You can’t do that!!”
“As advertised, my wares are nothing like city magic.” Flip smiled. “Fresh squeezed and one-hundred percent organic.”
“You’re horrible!” Oboe said. “I hate you!”
“Yes, yes, I’m a monster, crimes against nature, blah blah blah.” He rolled his eyes. “I don’t need a FAIRY of all things to lecture me on morality. We all do awful things to get by in this world.”
Upstairs, a door opened and bell rattled.
“Speaking of,” Flip said. “I have a customer. Pardon me, would you?”
Oboe watched him climb the stairs to the shop front. She spun in place, looking for anything she could use to escape. There was nothing. There was nothing to do but eavesdrop.
“Wendy!” Flip’s voice was so honeyed and fake it made Oboe sick. “Lovely to see you again.”
“Oh, Mr. Flip, are you alright?” Wendy said. Oboe remembered her as the quiet little human she met at the village. “You’ve a nasty lump on your head.”
“It’s fine. Walked into a shelf. Never mind that. How’s your fiancé, the Alderman?”
“He asked me to fetch you. They found the ghast that killed Anthony.” She paused. “We know you’re an expert on… erm, euthanizing such creatures.”
“HELP!” Oboe shouted as loud as she could. “I’m trapped down here in a cage!!”
“Um. Mr. Flip? Is someone calling out for help in your cellar?” Wendy said.
Flip laughed. “It’s nothing. I keep a talking dog as a pet.”
“It said something about being in a cage, though…” Wendy said.
“Yes,” Flip said. “She hates it when I put her in the kennel.”
“I am not a dog!” Oboe said. “I’m the assistant to the Ranger Deputy! Let me out!!”
“My dog is also a compulsive liar,” Flip said.
“I see,” Wendy said. “How sad.”
“Let me gather my things,” Flip said. “We can discuss my fees when we get to the manor.”
“Of course, sir,” Wendy said.
Flip stood at the top of the stairs and peered down at Oboe. With a wink, he kicked the trapdoor shut and cast Oboe into darkness.
“Wendy! Don’t listen to him! He’s a bad man! Tell Theo what’s going on! Help! Wendy!!”
Oboe kept shouting, but it didn’t do any good. If Wendy could still hear her, she did nothing to help. Oboe could do nothing while Flip made preparations to execute an innocent ghast.