“It’s not fair,” the werewolf said. “I know we’ve got our own customs, and they’re fine, but what you have is different and I like it. Is that so wrong? I just want to have the experience!”
“Deputy, are you listening?”
Theodore snapped his attention back to the werewolf couple. He was distracted, staring at the small toy knight on his desk again. He coughed and reshuffled the papers on his disheveled desk. Work piled up while his mind was elsewhere.
“I’m sorry, could you repeat that?” He said, embarrassed.
The werewolves glanced at one another. The male was named Barghest and Theodore was familiar with him. He was a large black shaggy breed with big red eyes. His mate was smaller, with sleek gray fur and a long narrow snout. Theodore spent most of the meeting skirting around the fact that he’d forgotten her name. Barghest had spent the last ten minutes struggling to articulate the reason why the two of them had come.
“Erm, so as I was saying…” Barghest’s face went blank. He turned to his mate. “What was I saying again?”
“The short version, then. You humans have nice weddings. Singing, fancy clothes, chapels—”
“Sweet cakes!” Barghest said.
She sighed. “Yes, my love. With crème frosting, yes. I know.” She folded her clawed hands in her lap. “They’re beautiful ceremonies. We ghasts have our own, of course. Barghest and I had had our shadows joined by candlelight years ago. But this oaf has wanted a human wedding ever since he heard about them.”
Barghest looked hurt. “I thought you wanted it too!”
“I think it’s a lovely ritual, if a bit silly,” she said. “This is your idea, but I know how happy it would make you.” She rested a hand on him. “That’s why we should do it.”
There was her name. Relieved, Theodore resolved not to forget it this time. He picked through the mess on his desk to find a clean piece of paper and something to write with.
“Do you have visas?”
Lola grimaced. “He does. His haunting territory is near the North gate. But mine is all the way up the trade road, so they won’t give me one. No working need, they said.”
Theodore started a list of things needed to make this happen. “You’ll need a short-term pass cleared for the ceremony. I can get that for you, but it will be a challenge to pick out a venue or rehearse if you can’t come and go as you need. Then there’s catering, musicians, florists…” Theodore scratched his stubble, frowning. “Most will refuse to work for ghasts. This is going to be tricky.”
Barghest tugged at his chin hairs. “Maybe we can’t do this. It’s too hard, and we haven’t got much money.”
“Shut up!” Lola shoved him. “I don’t want to hear talk like that. You’re worth it. Now Deputy, I know this is a lot of work, but can you help us? Can you make this work?”
Theodore mentally ran through the logistics of planning a wedding alongside the backlog of other cases, and felt a pang of guilt. “I’m sorry.” He sighed. “It will be a long time before I can even try. I’ve fallen very behind since I lost my partner.”
Barghest jumped out of his chair. “Oh! I’m so sorry! Oh my devil. I can’t imagine losing my mate.” He pulled Theodore into a crushing hug. “You must be so sad! And here we are telling you to help us.”
“No, no. You misunderstand,” Theodore said, flustered. He wiggled free and straightened his shirt. “It’s a professional relationship. She’s my assistant.”
Lola looked around at the state of the room office and opened her mouth like she’d solved a puzzle. “You miss her.”
“I’m just worried,” He said with a huff. “She left very suddenly and I’ve heard nothing in days.”
“Then why are you here?” Barghest said. “If you’re concerned then you ought to go make sure she’s okay!”
Did Oboe want to be found? She was so upset when she flew off. Theodore thought she needed space. He hoped she would come back once she had time to cool off, but that hadn’t happened. Now he was staring at his desk and arranging the pencils to work off fresh worry. “I want to look for her, but I have a lot of work to do.”
Lola reached over and flicked a pencil away. “You’re no good to us like this. Go find her.”
Barghest nodded. “We can wait. If your friend is missing, you should check on her!”
They were right. There was no denying his work performance was unacceptable. It was irresponsible of him not to resolve this sooner. He stood up.
“You’re right. Thank you. I promise I’ll look into your wedding as soon as I have the opportunity.” He pinned his badge to his chest, pocketed his travel stationary kit, and fixed his tie.
“Go on!” Barghest said. “Get out there!”
Theodore slipped the toy knight into his chest pocket, and stepped out his front door into the Whirlwood. Oboe was out there somewhere. Now it was a matter of finding her.