For just a moment, Daphne caught a glimpse of a dark-haired figure in the living room, an unkempt figure with dark, darting eyes and black hair and a strong jaw, covered in stubble. He wore a long coat of some kind, neatly pressed, and an old-style hat was askew on his head. Off in the distance, framed in the doorway, was the second figure, something darker still, and hairy, and most certainly not human.
A picture is worth a thousand words, so they say. But Rumpelstiltskin had only words to give, thousands upon thousands of them, and they marshalled in neat rows and orderly files, to answer Daphne's questions and give her their aid.
Books do not see, but this book knew its buyer. Large hands, men's hands, that cradled and caressed the book and held onto it as though to life itself. Hands that had plucked the book from its second-hand store, brought it out into the world to tell its stories. It was a book of tales, faerie stories of the Brothers Grimm and older still, stories as they were once told in fireside and darkness.
Those large hands had opened the book, and every page had been turned, every word had been read. But Rumpelstiltskin was the story that interested those large hands, the one story which was read not once, not twice, but a dozen times over. And those hands took notes. Neat, orderly lists, written in pencil. Lists of names. Lee, Chen, Chang, Wu, Chao, Sun...
Not written all at once, but slowly, crescendoing over the course of the month. Then near the end of the month, only to begin again in increasing fervour as the month progressed. This had happened in December, culminating on the 27th, and in January, on the 25th, and finally in February, the most desperate lists, names written and rewritten in the hundreds, on the 24th. Three days ago.
The men inside had fallen quiet, but Daphne could hear them moving. They turned things over, rifled through papers, conducted the search with all the skill and nervous energy of people who were indeed on a schedule, which was pressing close.
"Found something, Pietro." The rumbling voice said suddenly. "Divorce..."
"....married?" The Italian-accented voice said, then chuckled. "Poor idiot."
"...anymore." The rumbling voice said, dry. He sighed, a basso exhalation of breath, like the sound of some rumbling animal. For a moment, Daphne could hear everything. "Wish the Russkie told us more. Damn you, Pike, where are you and where's the kid."