Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

3.

In the morning, Lilah and Annelise had coffee and split a cinnamon roll and a grapefruit. Then they went and knocked on Zinnia’s door. Zinnia answered, in a bathrobe.

“Ready?” asked Lilah.

“Give me five minutes,” Zinnia replied.

“George in there? Lucky for you I don’t have a rule against dating your fellow officers.”

“I’m not an officer,” came George’s voice from within. “I’m an independent technician.”

“Lilah,” said Annelise.

She and Lilah retired to the front office, and in about three minutes, Zinnia was coming out, in a long formless black dress with a long necklace of silver and seashells around her neck. She had several jars of powders and a little book and a little mirror. “Ready at last!” she said.

They went down the hall to the room where Andre was staying. It was the guest room, so it was the room Lucy had slept in. Lilah knocked, then opened the door a crack. “Hey Andre,” she called in.

There was a thump, then Andre came stomping to the door. He opened it, smiled vaguely, and went past them into the hall, in some sort of pajamas. “I’m up,” was all he said.

“We need to use your room,” said Zinnia.

“Sure, go ahead. Need coffee.”

He shambled down the hall—not at all ghostly, rather smelling like someone who’d just gotten up. The room smelled a little that way too, not too much, just a little. They went in, and Annelise made to shut the door.

“No, leave it open,” said Zinnia. “It must’ve been open, right?”

“She opened it,” said Lilah.

Zinnia looked at a loss. “Okay,” she said, “I guess leave it open. Okay. Now where did she—she was checking her suitcase or something, right?”

“You know,” said Lilah, “some other version of Henry 1 may be trying to get her to his beacon.”

“I took care of that already,” said Zinnia. “I put up a shield on time space beacons. Ha-ha! You didn’t know I was clever, did you?”

“Oh, I knew.”

Zinnia went to the bed. “All right, fine, so she was by the bed?”

“When?” asked Annelise.

“When she heard the voice,” said Zinnia. They looked at each other with incomprehension.

“When,” said Lilah as if saying it more slowly would help, “she heard, the voice.”

Annelise blinked. Then she said, “Oh. OH. Oh, I know what you mean. Yeah. I think so.”

Zinnia looked at the bed, then at the door, then said, “Okay. I think we’re ready.”

Long ago but not far away, Lucy was escorted to the guest bedroom by Marius, who bade her good night and sweet dreams, and then left, his smile lingering behind him as a feeling in the air. Smiling herself, she picked up one of her two suitcases and put it on the bed, which was still made from whenever. She opened it up and began to gently paw through it, and then she stopped and cocked her head.

“Lady Lucy,” came a woman’s voice from the air.

Lucy didn’t say anything. But she attended. Her muscles felt odd, as if they were constrained to move very slowly, or as if the clock were slowed way down. The words from the air, in that unfamiliar voice, were not slowed down: perhaps they were coming very fast.

“Lady Lucy,” said the voice, which belonged to someone whose name happened to be Zinnia Rose. She then explained something complicated. Lucy’s expression changed as she took in what was said: from confusion to skepticism to confusion to wonder and finally to joy.

“Yes,” she said in a low voice, “oh yes, yes, of course!”

“Even though he has done very ill? Which he did because of his jealous love for you?”

“Even though,” said Lucy. “Even though.”

“If you really mean that,” said Zinnia, “then just open the door and come through.”

“Do I need my suitcases? Should I write a note?”

“No to both,” said Zinnia. “You’ll have anything you need, and we’ll know what you decided. We may not solve this in the first place if you do leave a note. Anyway, there isn’t time.”

Lucy wiped her hands on her dress and said, “I’m ready.”

“And you can change your mind after, at any time, but if you do, you can’t change your mind back again. Do you understand?”

“I won’t change my mind,” said Lucy. “I’m ready.”

“All right, then, come through.”

And with a pop, the voice was gone, and time seemed to resume. Lucy looked around, wondering perhaps if what had just happened had just happened. Then she advanced to the door, opened it and saw the flat black of mystery. With one more look behind her, she walked through.

Advertisements