Questions and Schnapps

Dipping a pen in golden ink, she drew a diagram in the air. Both gazed with an intense focus as they circled it.

“Very elegant,” he said.

“Danke,” she replied.

A moment passed.

“However…”

“I know.”

“Schnapps?”

“Please.”

Monsieur L’Horloge poured two small glasses of a pale blue liqueur and handed one to Frau Schlüsselherrin. They clinked glasses and looked each other straight in the eyes. The diagram floated upwards to join its siblings bobbing at the ceiling.

“I really wish we could examine the device.”

“That would be very risky.”

“True, but still…”

“I know, I know.”

“It is safe?” she asked.

“Extremely so.”

“And you don’t know where it is?”

“I do not.”

“And the young woman who inherited this sack of trouble?”

“She is also hidden.”

“And you don’t know where?”

“It seemed prudent.”

“I understand, but…”

“Yes, it is frustrating.”

The key mistress sat down and threw back her schnapps and shuddered. It burned with an aftertaste that made her recall playing in the snow as a child. The clock maker pulled some of the diagrams down and overlaid them in a variety of patterns but none of the combinations satisfied him. He then sat and sipped his drink.

“I don’t think we can do this,” he said.

“We don’t have all the pieces,” she replied.

“No.”

“But getting them would be dangerous.”

“For many, many reasons.”

“Still…”

“I know.”

Frau Schlüsselherrin got up and poured herself another while Monsieur L’Horloge continued to slowly sip. They sat there, each mulling over their options. The workshop behind the key store was filled with mélange of silence and deep thought with a strong undercurrent of frustration.

Getting up to stretch, the clock maker cracked his neck and heard something out of the corner of his ear. A faint tap, tap, tapping. He closed his eyes and listened. It came from… Left and up. Turning toward that direction, after opening his eyes, he saw a shadow at the window.

He looked at Frau Schlüsselherrin, held his finger to his mouth and moved to the window. She picked up a heavy, cold iron tool and stood ready to act. With a quick movement, he opened the casement and something flew in.

“Wait!” he cried.

She lowered her improvised mace as the winged serpent, made of paper landed on the back of Monsieur L’Horloge’s hand. He unfolded it with his quick and narrow fingers and read it out loud.

Drágám ,

Something odd has happened. This may mean nothing but as my nagymama would say, measure twice, cut once. A grad student came into the library requesting The Folio of Mechanical Fabrication. It is well outside his thesis and there was something about him that is… Odd. Likely this is nothing, I hope it is, if so then go on with your work. But I did wish you to know.

Szeretet,

Zsófia”

Grabbing his greatcoat he said, “Come with me.” They rushed out of the store and through the crowds to the Velo-pede stand, leaping into first empty one.

“Thirteen West Rue du temps,” he barked to the driver, “Ten silver notions if you get there in five minutes!”

After a harrowing ride through bewildering path of side streets, alleys, stairways, and one extremely narrow bridge, they arrived at Monsieur L’Horloge’s residence. If there were more time, the key mistress might have admired the intricate stained glass and brass work on the front of the narrow town house, as well as the fact that the street resembled a row of books but as time was at a premium, they dashed in.

On the second floor, in his study, The Folio of Mechanical Fabrication lay undisturbed in it’s steel and crystal case. However, the body that lay in front of it was most assuredly dead.

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