As he made his way into the hallway that led to the study, Johnathan slowed to a walk to catch his breath. He knew that if he showed up in the study out of breath and sweating, he would just receive twice the scolding from his Great Uncle. He smoothed his shirt as he approached the door.
The door to the study was firmly shut. With no reason to aggravate the situation, Johnathan took a deep breath and knocked firmly on the study door.
“Come in, I’ve not got any time to waste today.” his Great Uncle said in his sharp tone, though it was not unkind.
Johnathan opened the door carefully, mindful of the possibility of papers or books lying about. The desk sat in front of the large eastern windows that covered most of the wall. While the desk itself was free of everything save the book his Great Uncle was reading, the rest of the flat space in the study was covered in stacks of paper, books, journals, or some combination of the three. There was one uncomfortable looking wooden chair that had been placed directly in front of his Great Uncle’s desk.
“Sit down Johnathan, I’ve some things to tell you, some things to ask you and work to get back to,” Edward gestured brusquely to the chair, “You’ve wasted too much of my time already,” he finished crisply.
As Johnathan sat down, he focused on the book his Great Uncle had been studying so intently, hoping somehow that might give him a moment to steel himself.
“Johnathan!” Edward barked, “Look up here! There’s nothing for you in this book, and I want to speak to your face, not the top of your head!”
Johnathan snapped his gaze up to meet his Great Uncle’s. As soon as their eyes met, Edward’s glare softened.
“It’s good to see you boy,” his Great Uncle began, “I haven’t gotten to visit with you as often as I might have liked in the last few years. I know a young man has other things to do besides visiting his quarrelsome uncle, but I would be lying if I said I hadn’t noticed your absence more than I thought I might.” Johnathan relaxed visibly.
“I feel the same way, Uncle Edward,” he said with genuine warmness, “It feels ages since we’ve been to see you. We shouldn’t have let ourselves put it off so long. I am truly sorry we haven’t come to see you sooner.”
“Well I understand that my Nephew sent you to me as a kind of punishment over your holidays. I feel that I ought to be offended, but oddly enough, I’m not.” His Great Uncle’s grin was less reassuring than Johnathan assumed it was meant to be. “As it turns out, my sentimentality aside, I’ve need of some assistance at the moment,” Edward continued. “I’ve begun working on a particularly exciting project that has been decades in the making, and I need a sharp mind and a strong back to help me.”
His Great Uncle’s gaze fixed him as Johnathan replied, “So you’ll be needing my help then? That’s more than I could have hoped for Uncle.”
“Actually, not only you, but your sweet young friend Elena will be assisting me as well. I can’t be bothered to keep notes on the work, arrange it, and do the heavy lifting all at the same time,” Edward said dismissively. Even so he noticed the glimmer in Johnathan’s eyes at the mention of Elena. “So you won’t be complaining about who you’ll be working with most often then, I assume?” Johnathan reddened. “Now, now, I think I’d be more concerned if you didn’t want to work next to that beauty. She’s only gotten prettier, you know.”
“I’m sure she has, Uncle,” Johnathan said quietly.
“Enough about her,” his Great Uncle boomed, “I’m sure you’ll be thinking of her as much as your work allows. Let me show you where you’ll be working.” Johnathan noticed that his Great Uncle’s eyes had gotten bright, as they only did when he spoke about his work.
Edward led Johnathan from the study, and began walking toward the far end of the North Wing. Johnathan had never been allowed down these hallways before. He’d always been shooed away by the serving staff any time he found himself here. Eventually he had begun to avoid it specifically to avoid the scolding.
The hallway ended in three doors, all firmly shut and locked.
“Straight ahead, that door leads to my basement workshop,” Edward began, “You should have no need to be in there, so it will remain locked. On the left, that is the conservatory. That is where you will be doing nearly all of your work. Here on the right is the library. That is where your belle will be organizing her work, though I suspect the two of you will manage to find yourselves in one another’s company more often than not.” Edward’s grin was still not entirely reassuring.
“Well Uncle, what will you be having me do?” Johnathan asked, “I must say that I’m quite curious to know.”
“I’m glad to hear that you’re eager to assist me, Johnathan,” Edward said, retrieving a large ring of old-fashioned keys from his waist, “I believe that not only will you be suited to this work, but I think it will interest you well enough to produce excellent results.”
Edward slid the key into the lock. It turned smoothly and a faint click as the lock disengaged was the only sound in the hall. Edward swung the door open to reveal a conservatory the size of a small house.
It was made of wrought iron and leaded glass that was kept spotless. There were plants of every shape and size lining the walls. There were so many different kinds of flowers that Johnathan hadn’t even seen pictures of some of them. A large space had been cleared out in the center of the conservatory for what appeared to be a glass bottle about twenty feet tall. It had a neck at the top with a ladder that led up the side. There was also a doorway on the side, the door also made of glass. Both openings had complicated looking latches and a reddish band around them.
“I see you’ve noticed my newest acquisition,” Edward said proudly “That is called The Killing Jar.”