Mr. Croup tumbled, screaming, into the void, clutching a long strip of black material. Mr. Vandemar looked down at the flailing figure of Mr. Croup as it fell away from them. He, too, looked over at Door, but there was no menace in his gaze. He shrugged, as best as one can shrug while holding on to a table leg for dear life, and then he said, mildly, “Bye-bye,” and let go of the table leg.
Richard made another entry in his mental diary. Today, he thought, I’ve survived walking the plank, the kiss of death, and a lecture on inflicting pain. Right now, I’m on my way through a labyrinth with a mad bastard who came back from the dead and a bodyguard who turned out to be a . . . whatever the opposite of a bodyguard is. I am so far out of my depth that… Metaphors failed him, then. He had gone beyond the world of metaphor and simile into the place of things that are, and it was changing him.
The abbot raised his blind head, sniffed the air, and smiled. “The first part of the Ordeal of the Key,” he said, “is the nice cup of tea. Do you take sugar?”
So the day became one of waiting, which was, he knew, a sin: moments were to be experienced; waiting was a sin against both the time that was still to come and the moments one was currently disregarding.
“Well, yes, Mister Vandemar, once you put it like that. We want to hurt you both. We want to hurt you a lot. But that’s not why we’re here right now. We’re here to make things more interesting. You see, when things get dull, my partner and I become restive and, hard as you may find this to believe, we lose our sunny and delightful dispositions.”
Mr. Vandemar showed them his teeth, demonstrating his sunny and delightful disposition. It was unquestionably the most horrible thing that Richard had ever seen.
Richard was thunderstruck: it had been like watching Emma Peel, Bruce Lee, and a particularly vicious tornado, all rolled into one and sprinkled with a generous helping of a mongoose killing a king cobra.
“There. There,” said the marquis de Carabas, awkwardly, patting her shoulder. And he added, for good measure, “There.” He did not comfort well.
To say that Richard Mayhew was not very good at heights would be perfectly accurate, but it would fail to give the full picture. Richard hated clifftops, and high buildings: somewhere not far inside him was the fear—the stark, utter, silently screaming terror—that if he got too close to the edge, then something would take over and he would find himself walking to the edge of a clifftop and stepping off into space. It was as if he could not entirely trust himself, and that scared Richard more than the simple fear of falling ever could.
He was looking down at Richard, and still smiling; when he saw that Richard was watching him, he let go of the rungs with both his hands, and waggled his fingers at him.
Richard felt a wave of sympathetic vertigo run through him. “Bastard,” he said, under his breath,…
“There wasn’t any problem with the reservations, was there?” asked Jessica. And Richard, who was not much good at lying when faced with a direct question, said, “Ah.”
Richard had noticed that events were cowards: they didn’t occur singly, but instead they would run in packs and leap out at him all at once.