Bringing down the house

From the beginning

“Were these actually used to cook in?”

Jodie sat cross-legged on the hearth of the great hall fireplace facing the back of the firebox. She looked up into its black, soot-stained throat.

“The logs they burned must have been ginormous,” she mused, her voice echoing in the capacious chamber.

Flynn had jumped up on the mantel. From his perch, he could see across the expanse of the hall and remembered when it was filled with music and dancing.

“There was once a cast iron chimney crane attached to the wall, you can still see the holes were it was bolted into the brick,” Flynn hung his front paws off the mantel, looking down at Jodie. “A kettle that hung from it was filled with water for brewing tea, or there usually was a pot of stew simmering.”

“The andirons were fitted for a spit,” he continued. “The firebox is big enough to roast a whole suckling pig.”

Jodie leaned back on her elbows, looking up at Flynn.

“How on earth could you possibly know all that?” She frowned at him.

“I read,” he said before leaping over Jodie to land softly on the arm of the oak chair sitting by the hearth.

“I want to restore the fireplace to its original state,” Jodie sat up, wiping her dusty hands on her jeans. “I want to restore the whole manor.”

Flynn plucked at the chair’s upholstery with his unsheathed claws, careful to not pick the nap of the brocade fabric.

“Can I afford that?” Jodie spun around to face her familiar.

Flynn stopped mid-knead.

“Cost is no object,” he said, precariously stretching out on the arm of the chair.

“Do I want to know where all this money is coming from?” Jodie said, scooting closer.

Flynn hopped down to settled in Jodie’s lap, kneading her legs like he did the chair before curling into the bowl of her lap.

“The funds were legitimately secured, and are yours to do as you see fit,” he said. “There is still a lot I need to tell you about our partnership, but suffice it to say, you are an affluent young lady.”

Before Flynn finished his sentence, a raucous scraping sound erupted above them, as if a gigantic creature was clawing at the roof.

“Holy crap!” Jodie jumped to her feet dumping Flynn onto the floor. “What the hell was that?”

Pieces of roof tile flew past the windows, crashing in a bone-jarring explosion on the courtyard below.

“It’s that damn white squirrel again,” Flynn stomped over to the window only as a cat could.

“Cyril?” Jodie ran to Flynn to survey the damage outside.

Flynn cast a wary eye at her, his hackles raised.

“You know who Cyril is?” More of an accusation than a question, Flynn tilted his head slightly. “How do you know Cyril?”

A look of confusion brought Jodie’s brows and corners of her mouth down into a bewildered frown. She opened her mouth to reply but had no words.

“Well?” Flynn used his annoyed parent voice to coerce an answer.

Jodie crossed her arms defensively over her chest and deepened her frown giving serious thought to her familiar’s question.

“I really don’t know,” she said. “I’ve seen a white squirrel around the grounds but thought he was only an oddity. I didn’t even think to ask you about it, but when you mentioned him just now, his name suddenly popped into my head. It was as if I had always known him.”

Flynn reluctantly composed himself, hoping to keep any unease out of his voice.

“I suppose it’s time,” he heaved a great sigh, “to make some introductions.”

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