I was summoned to Mr. Locke’s office at one o’clock sharp without further instructions. It appeared Mr. Locke either preferred giving instructions to me face to face, or he didn’t deem this meeting important enough to give any details about it beforehand.
Either way, I was in front of his office door on the second floor of the right wing of the mansion at exactly 13:00 and knocked.
“Come in,” Mr. Locke spoke behind it.
I opened the door. Mr. Locke was sitting in his chair at a mahogany desk at the back of the room, under the windows. The table was the largest size available in its type. He was alone in the lavish room, which clearly was meant to show off his wealth. The shelves of the matching mahogany cabinets on both sides of the room displayed various trophies, among which a horn from an Incubus, and jewelry made by Celestials. The centerpiece of the room was a solid golden statue of a naga warrior holding a trident — it appeared to be representing a younger version of Mr. Locke.
I stepped inside the office and closed the door behind me.
“You wanted to see me?”
“Yes. I suppose you didn’t see my son on your way here?” Mr. Locke asked. He looked annoyed when he glanced at the door.
“I didn’t,” I replied. “I can make a sweep for him and locate him on the premises.”
He gestured for me to go ahead. “He is being late on purpose. But I’ve had enough of his disrespectful behavior. That is why you’re here.”
“As you wish, Mr. Locke.”
I scanned the area, finding Tobias Locke in the hallway. “He is walking this way, Mr. Locke. Do you want me to intercept him in the hallway, or let him come?”
“Let him in,” was his order.
I nodded and walked to the door, opening it right as Tobias was reaching for the handle. Then I stepped aside to let him in.
Tobias stopped to stare at me for a second. Then his expression turned annoyed, bordering on angry.
“Why is he here?” he asked sharply, pushing past me into the office.
“I take it you two have met already?” Mr. Locke asked, failing to hide his own annoyance when he looked at his son.
“We ran into each other last night, yes,” Tobias spoke, avoiding his father’s gaze while sitting down on a chair next to his desk.
“Then you might know why he is here,” Mr. Locke said, but didn’t give his son time to answer. “You might also know that Zed is my new bodyguard, but he is also responsible for the security in our home. That also includes your safety.”
“I’m fine, thanks,” Tobias replied, crossing his arms.
“Yes, you will be,” Mr. Locke said, looking content for the first time today. “Because it’s now his job to make sure you are following my orders.”
“What is that supposed to mean?” Tobias asked, the hostility in his voice increasing.
“I told you already that you will follow my rules from this day forward,” Mr. Locke said with a scoff. “For one, he will make sure you do as I say, when I say. No more being late to these meetings,” Mr. Locke said, and again, before Tobias could speak, he continued, “Two, I know you’ve been sneaking out, and that stops now. You are not leaving this mansion without an escort. Three, you are not allowed to invite guests into our home. Yes, I was aware of your late-night visitors.”
“I’m an adult!” Tobias yelled. “You can’t do this to me!”
“As long as you’re living under my roof, you will follow my rules. Zed here is making sure of that,” Mr. Locke spoke with an uninterested expression on his face.
“Then I’ll move out,” Tobias hissed, standing up.
Mr. Locke sneered at him. “Are you now? Are you going to live in a lake?”
“I… Of course not! I’ll find a place to stay, or I’ll just ask Mom if she’ll take me!”
“When was the last time you heard from her, hmm?” Mr. Locke asked.
Tobias didn’t reply to him. His anger and frustration were clearly increasing. “I’ll find a place to stay, don’t worry.”
“Where would you find a house suitable for a mermaid? Last time I checked, the mermaid community isn’t taking a hybrid like you in with open arms.”
The drop in Tobias’ expression indicated that Mr. Locke’s words had hit a sensitive spot. This time he didn’t reply to his father.
“I’m the only one who can protect you against poachers, son,” Mr. Locke spoke with a cold voice. “If you leave, it is only a matter of time before you’ll get caught and forced to spend the rest of your life in some collector’s aquarium as a trophy. Or perhaps you’ll be sold to a factory, forced to transform over and over again so they can cut off your fins for medicine. Is that what you want?”
Tobias glared at him, then let out an angry growl before storming out, slamming the door shut behind him.
A silence fell into the room, Mr. Locke turned to look at me. “No humanoid has ever been successful at making him follow my rules. Do not disappoint me. Now go.”
“Yes, Mr. Locke,” I replied and exited the room to follow after Tobias.
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